Elrond heard his sons rise also and felt their presence beside him at the window. "But not as much as you love Gil-galad," Elrohir whispered, no question in his voice just a simple acceptance of the truth.
"Yes," was all Elrond could say.
Elladan laid a hand upon his Adarís shoulder. "So why, Ada, did Gil-galad run from you and Imladris?"
Elrond turned to face his sons, his face grief-stricken. "I drove him away with my fears."
"What fears, Ada?" Elrohir asked.
Elladan interrupted before Elrond could answer. "Wait have you told Gil-galad of your fears?" he asked his Ada.
Elrond stared blankly at his eldest. That Elladan would even ask such a question showed the esteem the twins had come to regard Gil-galad with. "I-I somewhat... no, n-not really," he finally finished, both twins staring at their unflappable Adar in amazement.
"Why not, Ada?" Elrohir asked, moving close once more to touch his visibly troubled father.
But Elrond jerked away from Elrohirís hold and paced the room, suddenly furious. "I cannot do this again and again!" he declared.
Elladan and Elrohir watched their usually self-possessed Adar fling himself about the room, hands nervously waving about. This was as close to full-blown panic they had ever seen Elrond in, and it frightened the stout warriors. Elladan finally had enough and roughly grasped Elrondís shoulders, forcing him to stop. "Ada, enough! Talk to us! What is it that you cannot do again?" he asked.
Elrond looked to his sons, tears heavy in his gray eyes. "I-I cannot endure any more loss. I will not put myself through that again." Elrond all but collapsed in Elladanís hold and the twin led his father to a chair, seating him and moving away to pour a healthy dose of miruvor. He pressed the drink into Elrondís badly shaking hands and watched as he took a sip.
"So you will throw away this second chance to live with the only Elf you have ever truly loved because you are afraid?" Elladan asked, his tone sharply challenging.
"Elladan!" Elrohir scolded, shocked by his brotherís tone to their father.
"Hush, Elrohir. I am just asking Ada if he is going to be a coward and toss away this gift that the Valar have bestowed on him, or is he going to embrace this miracle and be happy?" Elladan took and held Elrondís gaze the entire time he spoke.
Elrond stared into the challenging eyes of his eldest. Never has Elladan spoken thus to him! He shook his head, unable to wrap his mind around Elladanís words. Elrohir seemed to come to understand what his brother was about, though, for he came and knelt at Elrondís feet, grasping his fatherís hands and gently squeezing them. "Ada," he implored, waiting until Elrondís attention focused on him. "Would you have given up any of your love for Gil-galad if you had known when you first met him that it would not be for eternity?"
Elrondís eyes widened. "No!" he exclaimed. "I cherished all the memories of our days together. I would not have changed anything of my time with Ereinion."
It was Elladan who asked the question that the brethren hoped would open their Adaís eyes. "Then why are you denying yourself this opportunity to make more of those precious memories?"
Elrohir gently continued, "Can any amount of loss take that gift of love away from you? Should you not rejoice in the very privilege of having known it and been giving a second chance to experience that love once more?"
Elrond stared back and forth between his sons with amazement. He felt a smile threatening at the corners of his lips. "When did the pair of you become so wise?" he asked, allowing that rueful smile to break free.
Elrohir looked up at his brother, brow crinkling in mirth. "Us, wise? What say you, Elladan? When did we gain wisdom?" Elrohir rose to stand next to Elladan.
Elladan shrugged his shoulders and replied calmly, but his eyes danced. "Must be some mistake, I do not recall any lessons in wisdom from Erestor."
Elrond laughed with the pair. "Better not let Erestor hear you say so," he warned and laughed once more at the pairís blanch of alarm.
Elrond led the brethren to the door. "You both must be dead upon your feet. Rest, refresh yourselves. I have some thinking to do."
Elladan and Elrohir bid their Ada goodnight and closed the door softly behind them, leaving Elrond alone with his thoughts once more.
The hour was late; long abed were the residents of Imladris when Gil-galad made his way through the halls. He stopped in front of one door, listening careful for any noise from inside. When none came, he quietly opened the door and slipped inside. His Elven eyesight adapted to the darkness as he made his way through the outer rooms towards the bedroom. Gil-galad halted in the doorway, watching the sleeping figure upon the large ornate bed. He leaned his forehead against the frame of the door and just watched. For how long, he knew not.
Loneliness and a need so acute that it had physically hurt him had driven him from his bed in the Healing Halls. Elrondís words from earlier that evening filled his head. Elrond had not said that he no longer **loved** Gil-galad. No, the Peredhel had admitted to a paralyzing fear of loss, a loss that spoke of deep want and need, not of indifference. The desire to be close, even it was only an illusion, drove Gil-galad. All those long agonizing months in the wilds, alone with only his memories of Elrond to sustain him, and now to be so close, but still to be separated by misunderstandings and fear, it gnawed at him, and hurt him. It no longer seemed possible to stay away. Surely he could hold the one he loved close, for just a little while? *I will slip away before morning,* he thought.
Finally, unable to resist the siren call from that bed, he moved stealthily towards it. His clothes barely made a whisper as they dropped to the floor, and the sliding between the sheets was just as silent. Carefully he pulled the sleep-warmed figure into his arms, unable to prevent his sigh of longing as the otherís firm flesh nestled in his embrace. Gil-galadís eyes greedily moved over the otherís features, made all the more lovely by Ithilís grace. The eyes were closed, something that Gil-galad mourned, not being able to gaze into their piercing depths during slumber. The chestnut locks were tousled and spread about the pillows as if the owner had not slept without some restlessness. The sheets were pulled down low and twisted about the otherís hips, leaving the solid expanse of the Elfís chest bare. With no small hunger and regret, Gil-galad let his eyes feast.
Gil-galad pushed those hungers away; contentment was found just in holding his love. Weariness won with the promise of peace in those arms, and Gil-galad unwittingly, drifted to sleep, a murmur, a slight whisper of a name upon his lips before sleep claimed him fully. "Elrond."
Anorís rays across his face pulled Elrond from slumber. Ignoring its call, he snuggled back into the warmth around his body. He felt such ease in the cocoon that embraced him that leaving the bed seemed an almost impossible task. Only gradually did awareness find him.
The facts invaded his senses one after another. No blanket could keep one this warm, nor did mere bed-covers provide safety and a sense of belonging. Sheets did not move under oneís head and no ordinary fabric would beat with the pulsing of a heart.
Elrond slowly lifted his gray eyes, feeling an almost unbelievable hope, despite himself, in his heart. The dark blue eyes that met his own were filled with their own hopes, fragile light shining from them.
"Ereinion," Elrond whispered, before covering the Elfís lips with his own.
To be continued...