T.A. 2952 RhÓw (Winter)
Elrond stared out into the frosted valley of his home. His eyes did not see the beauty of snow-toped trees or the perfectly formed icicles that hung from his balcony. Elrondís thoughts were on the one who had left more than a year ago. Ereinion. No word had been heard of the once High King; it was as if had disappeared off the face of Arda. Elrond had been sure that Ereinion would have returned to Lothlůrien, but a messenger from the Golden Wood had known nothing of this. Elrond had been too proud, too stung by Ereinionís departure to make direct overtures to Mirkwood and the Havens. No, his pride would not allow him to admit to any that Ereinion had left him.
Elrond wearily leaned his forehead against the cool glass. The only thing that had kept him from complete despair had been the instinctive knowledge that he would have known if Ereinion had once again passed to the Halls. He had sent Glorfindel into the woods after the fleeing Elf, but Gil-galadís trail had been lost. There were moments when his thoughts began to torment him, and he felt his fragile hold on his emotions begin to unravel. Elrond did not know which fear was worse, the terror of never seeing Ereinion again, or the panic that gripped him when he looked upon the re-born Elf?
It had never been his intention to make Ereinion flee from him. Ereinionís return had sent him into a panic that had not since abated. Oh, he knew that the Valar had told the re-born Elf that he was being returned to Elrond because the half-Elf had suffered so much loss. Elrond had seen their design when he first looked into Ereinionís midnight-blue eyes, but Elrond did not believe the Valar.
No, he knew their real reason. It was to face the shadow that once again was rising in Middle-earth. Why else send back one of the fiercest warriors in the history of Elvendom? One who had faced the Dark Lord himself, one who had led the Last Alliance that united the races of Man and Elves? No indeed, he did not believe the Valar could be so concerned with his great loss and suffering.
Elrond knew he could not do it again. He could not stand and watch Ereinion consumed by the Dark Lordís flame once more. The first time had almost destroyed him; he surely could not withstand the second. Elrond could no longer see the dark indigo eyes full of love, but only the charred remains of belovedís body. With each glance, each touch, his mind was swept back to the slopes of Barad dŻr and the horror of watching Ereinion burn. Was it so very wrong to try and protect himself from such hurt? Elrond did not know the answer to that. He hurt now; pushing Ereinion away had not prevented this pain.
It was true, what he had so coldly told Ereinion. Neither Galadriel nor he had seen any signs of the former Kingís presence in future conflicts with the Shadow. His head told him that, but Elrondís heart refused to listen. His pleaís had not brought Elros back or receded the tide of mortal death from his beloved twin. Nor had appeals to the Valar protected Ereinion upon the slopes of Barad dŻr, and there was no Valar intervention given to ease Celebrianís suffering after her abduction and torture by the minions of shadow. So, how was he now to convince his aching heart that this time, the Valar thought of his happiness?
Elrond sighed and dragged himself away from the frosted window. The dinner hour was approaching, and he had to once again present himself in the main dining hall. His frequent absences at mealtime and the increasingly loose fit of his robes had finally brought both Glorfindel and Erestor to see him. He had endured their concern and fussing, promising to take better care of himself, but the guilt of pushing and pushing Ereinion until he had finally fled Imladris ate at him, and made that difficult. Elrond jerked as the door was abruptly opened and, Glorfindel breathlessly appeared.
"Elrond, the gwanŻn have returned, and Estel is with them!" Glorfindel rushed out in the same speed he had entered, Elrond quickly following in his wake.
Elrond sped after Glorfindel to the torch lit courtyard. His eager eyes focused on his returning sons. Elrond skidded to a halt, however, upon spying who had arrived with Estel, Elladan and Elrohir. Curses filled the air as the twinís complaining companion was helped from his horse.
"Elrond!" Gil-galad shouted. "Only you, Peredhel, would raise sons more ornery than yourself," Gil-galad continued to curse as he was helped, limping, towards the Healing wing.
Elrond could only watch, stunned, as Gil-galad was led off by Estel. He turned opened-mouthed to observe his smirking sons. "W-what, W-where?" he stammered.
"We had to practically tie him to his horse to get him to return here with us," Elrohir said, approaching his Adar. "Really Ada, whatever did you do to the Elf to make him dislike Imladris so much?" Elrohir pulled his mute, shocked father into his arms, hugging him tightly.
"I, he, uhm, left angry-" Elrond mumbled as he accepted another strong embrace from Elladan.
"Obviously," Elladan remarked with a raised brow, pulling back from Elrondís arms.
Elrond struggled to gather his scattered wits, his eyes moving to the Healing wing. "Is he injured badly?" he asked, voice quivering.
"No, Ada, Ďtis only a sprained knee from a spooked horse. Come, we will see if Estel has need of your assistance," Elrohir guided Elrond towards where Gil-galad had been taken, exchanging a concerned glance with his twin. Neither of the twins had seen their father this shaken since Celebrian had been rescued from the Orcs.
The trio entered the wing only to hear Estel arguing fiercely with an annoyed Gil-galad. "I do not want to stay here! Now move aside, Estel, I will not remain where I am not wanted!" Gil-galad shouted.
"Ereinion, stop tormenting Estel. He is just trying to assist you," Elrond said appealingly as he entered the room where Gil-galad had been taken.
Gil-galad was sitting upon one of beds resisting Estelís efforts to uncover his injured knee. "I would if he would stop trying to get my leggings off me!" Gil-galad fussed, slapping Estel hands away from the ties at his waist.
Elladan and Elrohir both roared with laughter at the blush that covered Estel's face.
"Out," Elrond ordered. "I will see to Ereinionís injury. Estel, you and your brothers need to clean up, and I am sure you could use some food." Elrond did not look at Ereinion as he moved about the room gathering the supplies he would need. He ignored the suddenly concerned looks that his sons directed at him as they vacated the room. Silence descended as Elrond and Gil-galad were left alone.
Elrond approached the bed where Gil-galad sat. "Ereinion, you will have to remove those leggings for me to see how badly you have sprained your knee." Elrond struggled to keep his voice detached and calm. But, he could not stop his eyes from greedily roaming over the former King, eagerly assuring himself that Ereinion was here and whole. Surprisingly, this time when he looked upon his former mate, he did not see the burning and ashes, but instead deep indigo eyes that followed his every move, frustrated desire in their depths.
Gil-galad said nothing as he stripped off his pants and modestly covered himself with a corner of the blanket on the bed. He watched as Elrond flushed and looked down at the swollen limb extended for his inspection. Gil-galad felt a perverse satisfaction as he observed the sign that his absence had affected Elrond. The Peredhel had lost weight, his robes much looser than when Gil-galad had left, and under his bright gray eyes were purple shadows that told of sleepless nights. Gil-galad flinched as Elrondís badly shaking hands fumbled at his sore knee. Gil-galad frowned and without thought grabbed the Peredhelís trembling hands in his own. "Why are your hands shaking, Elrond?"
Elrond looked up into Gil-galad eyes, unaware that his own revealed all the heartache he had gone through when Gil-galad left. He did not answer Gil-galadís question. "I am so sorry, Ereinion. I never meant for you to leave Imladris," he whispered, dropping his gaze once more to tend to Gil-galadís knee.
Gil-galadís eyes had narrowed at what he had seen deep in Elrondís gaze. He saw *fear*. "Elrond, what are you afraid of?" Gil-galad pleaded, his tone beseeching Elrond to finally open up to him.
Elrond halted what he was doing, his hands no longer stable enough for such delicate work. Here was his chance to make Gil-galad understand, but could he face his fear? Would he look up only to see, instead of his lovers face, a burnt- out shell? Elrond felt the tears begin sliding down his face. He had not cried when Gil-galad had left, but now faced with him once more, he could no longer hold the tears in.
He looked up finally, his eyes gray pools swimming with misery. "I cannot watch you burn again, Ereinion."
To be continued...