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Lord and Guardian - Parts 0-1

Part 0/?
Please read this before reading "Lord and Guardian!"

Celeborn and Haldir, Lord and Guardian
"Night" by The Theban Band

This story is an RPG, a joint creation made by Jaya and Blue. It is a work in progress, currently being posted to the Yahoo! group

Every time sufficient posts have been made, they will be compiled and presented here. By permission from both authors, it can also be archived elsewhere.

Disclaimer: We don't own the Tolkien characters, although we would like to. We're just borrowing them, and will bring them back safe and sound. The original character Tinendel is created and owned by Jaya.

Rating: Currently R, but up to NC-17 in later chapters.

Summary: Haldir and Celeborn want each other, but will they ever learn the others feelings?

Contains angst, ust, slash, twists and turns.

For those who might not be familiar with RPG stories: An RPG is a Role Playing Game, meaning that each author (called the character's mun) roleplays one or more of the characters. The mun can only move or speak with her/his own character. That means that a story containing many characters could be written by many authors.

Each interacting character posts her/his own point of view of a mutual event, meaning that sometimes the same event may be described more than once. Because of that, each scene may also go back and forth more between persons than in a story written by one author. Once you get used to reading it this way however, it shouldn't be a problem.

Jaya plays the parts of Celeborn, Rumil and Elrohir while Blue plays Haldir and Orophin. Jaya created and played the original character, Tinendel, in the first parts. Both Jaya and Blue, depending on whom he is interacting with, will later play his part.


Part 1/?

A walk through the wood

Currently R, but up to NC-17 in later chapters. See part 0 for details.

Haldir and Celeborn want each other, but will they ever learn of each other's feelings?

Contains angst, ust, slash, twists and turns.

It had been a long day, longer than usual. Perhaps it was the fact that he had not slept the night before, or just everything combined. Not often in his long life had he considered any day longer then the last, but this day qualified. Most of the guests had already left, going their own ways with lovers or loved ones. Galadriel herself had already departed for another part of the wood, though Celeborn did not begrudge her the company she chose to seek out. For in truth, their relationship had cooled over the years. He still loved her, but it was not what it had once been. For this reason they had agreed to allow each to seek another's company should they wish to do so. He could not fault her that the company he wished to seek might not be receptive to him, or even share his feelings.

Celeborn sighed, ran a hand slowly through his long silver hair and stared out at the moonlit forest. Despite the tired longing of his body and soul, he could not deny the night's beauty. Slowly, his gaze came to rest on Haldir, the Guardian of the Wood, who stood near one of the main entrances, his back to him. That did not matter, for it allowed Celeborn a few moments to study the object of his desire before quickly averting his eyes. Beautiful he is... Could he return my affection?

Surely the wine affected his mind. It must be, for normally he would not have done as he did this night. Resolutely, he crossed to the door and stopped beside Haldir, who watched the night and the silver shadows dancing as the wind blew through the trees. Celeborn studied the carefully sculptured features painted in moon and candle light, the shining hair, and cloth clinging slightly to his guardians body, showing off - to an extent - what lay beneath.

After the celebration dinner, the guests begun leaving slowly, drifting past Haldir in small groups of two or three, still talking happily to each other. He could hear small bursts of laughter coming through the branches from the stairway beneath. Lady Galadriel had walked by him some time ago, smiling warmly at him and wishing him sweet dreams, but he noticed her husband did not go with her.

Haldir had grown tired from standing his post near the door throughout the party's long hours. Many times his gaze had drifted to his lord, seated at the end of the table next to the Lady. Celeborn had looked somewhat lost in thought, as if he not enjoying himself as much as the others. Haldir held his lord in deep affection, perhaps more than for the lady. Often she chose to spend her nights away from the couple's talan, and because of this, he worried his lord's heart would grow heavy. He looked out through the branches at the full moon shining brightly above him, enjoying the cool breeze that caressed his face and blew his hair around his head.

"Haldir, would you walk with me this night?" Celeborn asked softly after a moment, turning to look at the other directly for the first time.

When the gentle question came, Haldir, lost in thought, gave a start. His heart jumped a little seeing Celeborn standing there, his silvery hair shining in the moonlight.

"Yes, certainly, my lord. It would be a pleasure to walk with you," he replied.

Celeborn brushed a free strand of hair from his face where the wind had knocked it from its original place and gave him a smile. "Then come, my friend," he replied, his hand coming to rest lightly on Haldir's shoulder for a moment, giving it a squeeze before letting it fall away. Celeborn studied Haldir for briefly before turning to walk slowly but purposefully away from the hall and down towards the forest floor. There was something to be said for the view from the hall, but at the moment he wanted nothing more to do with it, wanted to be free of it.

He wished he could stop and remove the robes of state, to replace them with something more comfortable, but he did not. He had long since grown accustomed to wearing them, moving about in them, so they did not hinder him as they had once. His keen ears listened for the almost silent movement of Haldir just slightly behind him. Though he wanted nothing more then to turn and gaze at him, to look into those eyes and see his emotions mirrored in their depths, he did not.

Haldir felt warmed at Celeborn's unexpected touch upon his shoulder. Often had he dreamed of that touch, of that silvery hair shining like a halo in the moonlight - but he had never dared to think further. Haldir met his lord's sky blue gaze for a moment, and then modestly dropped his gaze to the ground. Once Celeborn moved toward the stairs, Haldir followed him. They descended slowly, and Haldir enjoyed the sight of the tall, stately shape before him, watching the muscles of his shoulders and back move through the robes thick fabric. Wanting to savor this sight, he wished the stairs would go on forever, but too soon they reached the forest floor.

Celeborn smiled as he felt the soft springy ground of the forest beneath his feet. He smiled to himself, listening to the song of the stars and the life around him that mingled with the music of the Elves dancing nearby in the forest. Absently, he wondered what it would be like to dance with the silent shadow behind him, if his choice could even be coaxed to dance with him. Despite the slight haze of the wine, he concluded tonight would not be the night to test that out. That it would prove too soon for such a revelation - no matter how much he might wish it. Instead, he picked another path that which led away from the more inhabited parts of Lothlorien, into the wilder areas closer to the border. He did not intend to go that far however, as times had become less peaceful than they had once been. Celeborn would have liked to look outside the forest, to visit that which had once been open to his people as the forest's heart remained. Times had grown darker now, and though he wanted to, he knew it unwise to go further without a larger party than the two of them--not that he did not trust Haldir's skills or his own.

They walked for a few minutes before coming to a stop near one of the smaller, rivulet-fed pools. Celeborn watched the silver moonlight play off the dark water. He glanced over his shoulder, finding Haldir still there with him.

Haldir had silently followed a couple of steps behind his lord, wondering where he would lead him on this beautiful night. Seeing that they headed out into the wood, he automatically raised a hand behind his back to check his quiver and his bow, while his other hand rested a moment on the large, curved sword's pommel at his side. The moonlight shimmered through the moving leaves on their path, glimmering on Celeborn's hair, shiny and heavy, as it fell like a cascade of light around his shoulders.

"How have you been?" Celeborn asked quietly, though he already knew much. "We have not had the time to talk much of late."

Stopping by the small pool, Haldir turned to face Celeborn as he spoke to him, unsure why he had led them to this place. "No, we have not, and I regret that, my lord, but I have been on duty most of the time. We have had to reinforce the guard due to the increased activity of the Orcs, and as we are still somewhat short of guards, the more experienced of us take double watches."

Celeborn nodded, already aware of the situation though he did not like the idea of anyone taking on more then their fair share as it would leave them weary should something happen. He also knew the necessity of it with the way things had been of late and their ranks wearing thin. His gaze strayed back to the water, drawing him forward to kneel and dip his fingers into the water, watching the ripples spread out in rings from the touch.

"We must be more careful now than ever. We cannot afford to lose anyone else," he commented quietly almost more to himself then to Haldir. "But I fear darker times approach, that in the future we will face some much more menacing then we already have... Something worse than Orcs."

Celeborn would not put a name to his fears, a darkness he had long suspected of moving. Only Galadriel and Elrond knew of his dread, for they had all shared it in the last years, but more so recently. For a few moments the water's blackness held his gaze, as if trying to pull him into the depths to lose him there and never let him go. Finally, he drew away and stood, water dripping from his fingers. He glanced back at Haldir once more, allowing a little smile to curve his lips. This time he openly let his gaze rest on his Guardian, watching for a reaction. "But what think you, Haldir?"

Haldir had not moved from where he stood, watching the tall Elf kneel by the water, then rise again and turn to him. Haldir held the look firmly, without hesitation.

"These woods have not seen so many Orcs for hundreds of years and they all head south. I sense a deep evil behind this, but know not its source. We have tried enlisting as many new guards as we can, but still cannot stop them. Last night a party of two hundred crossed the Nimrodel. Fortunately, they held a course that led them away from our homes. I fear soon it will become unsafe to move outside the city gates at all. Do you know more of this, my lord?"

"Perhaps I do..." Celeborn admitted quietly. His gaze traveled slowly along Haldir's body, taking in his form's beauty, before glancing away from him by sheer force of will. That beauty he would have noticed even if his feelings and attraction had run no deeper then friendship. "There is naught that we can do against this except hold them from our shores, if at all possible," he added this time his gaze serious. He held Haldir in more trust than all but his lady in the Wood. However, in this matter he could not share his suspicions of the truth with any other then the few already aware, despite Haldir's own intuition, or how right he might be. Celeborn's voice held a somber note as he spoke again. "Take care, Haldir. I would not have something happen to you out there in the dark." He said no more than that, letting Haldir take it as he would.

Celeborn would not forbid him from fighting or keep him here at his side, although often the Guardian could be found there anyway. The Lord of Lorien knew that Haldir's fighting spirit could not be shielded or kept hidden, for it would only drive Haldir farther from him when he wished only to pull him closer. Closing the distance between them, Celeborn rested his hands on Haldir's shoulders. "Do not believe I mistrust you. This matter should not be spoken of lightly, even here in this sacred place."

"Then I will speak no more of it," Haldir replied. "But you can rest assured I will always stand ready to defend our homes and you, my lord." He stood still, his gaze locked on Celeborn's lips, feeling the weight of his lord's eyes on him, his sweet, warm breath upon his face, and the touch of his lord's hands on his shoulders. Never before had Haldir been so close to Celeborn. So close he swore he could feel those robes swirl around him, enveloping him as much as the warmth of his dear lord's hands, both sending shivers down his spine. For hundreds of years he had guarded his lord, always watching him, admiring his beautiful form and his gentle ways, growing more and more fond of him. Haldir had been aware of how his lord and his lady seemed to drift apart. His heart bled for Celeborn each time he glimpsed the hurt in Celeborn's eyes before the shield fell again. Often had he desired to touch him, to stroke his hair and offer comfort, to ease the pain when he sensed his lord's troubled heart. Yet he had kept these thoughts deeply hidden. With Celeborn so near he felt both confused and unsure. He cast his gaze to the ground, fearing his lord would see through his shell and glimpse the feelings hidden inside.

"I know you will, Haldir," Celeborn replied gently. He remained standing next to Haldir for a bit longer, allowing his feelings show in his eyes for the briefest moment. His fingers brushed against Haldir's cheek before he turned away. "You have long been by my side. I thank you for that. Oft I know not what I would do without you." He made the admission softly, perhaps too softly to hear - or perhaps not. For a moment he was tempted - oh so tempted - to suggest a midnight swim in the pool before them, merely to glimpse more of that perfect body hidden beneath the Guardian's robes. But he did not, uncertain how Haldir would take the offer or if he would be willing to share in the first place. Yet even as he pushed the thought away the water and the moonlight seemed to call to him. A better idea presented itself to him and he turned from the pool and deeper into the forest, knowing Haldir would follow him out of duty or his own free will. Either suited him fine - though he would have preferred the latter, of course. He headed for the hot springs, not far from here. Perhaps there

When Haldir had felt the brush of fingers on his cheeks he lifted his eyes again, surprised. What he thought he saw in Celeborn's eyes made his own midnight blue eyes widen. The next moment it had disappeared and Haldir felt uncertain he had seen anything at all. As his lord turned from him, he thought he heard a whisper. "Indeed, I truly do not know what I would do without you." His eyes closed briefly as his emotions swept over him, then lifted his hand to touch where the precious fingers had stroked him, still feeling the tingle on his skin. Haldir whispered to himself, barely audible through the wind in the leaves, "And I do not know what I would do without you."

Celeborn's attention this night confused him, making him fear the walls he had built around his feelings for his lord would crack. He had long ago realized his lord should never know of his regard. He must remain content just being around him, guarding him, giving his life for him. When he had smelled the wine upon Celeborn's breath, he felt it explained the change in behavior. Tomorrow it would all be forgotten. How foolish to believe anything else, he chided himself. But still, he cherished the unexpected notice, saving it close to his heart.

When they had arrived at the pool in the clearing, Haldir believed perhaps Celeborn wanted a bath, silently hoping to have a chance to see his body without layers of clothing. Therefore, when Celeborn left the clearing to go deeper into the woods he felt slightly disappointed. Not until he smelled the distinctive odor of sulfur did he remember the old hot springs bathing place and hope rose again.

Celeborn said nothing as they made their way through the forest. After the hectic day, he simply enjoyed the quiet peace and Haldir's unobtrusive company as he followed him like a shadow. For the moment that presence was enough. Though his ears had picked up Haldir's last comment, he decided it would be ill timed at present to bring it up in more detail. He would have liked nothing better then to do so if he had thought it would lead to anything. Perhaps there is hope, even if he is not yet ready for it...

But the hope of perhaps something more between them always lingered in the back of his mind. At the moment the desire to convince the object of his longing to join him in the hot springs hovered tantalizingly close. He paused for a moment, watching the steam rising from the water and waft toward them in the gentle breeze. The wine had already begun wearing off, his Elvish system not allowing the effects to last as long as among humans. Only if an Elf consumed a great deal more did they remain even mildly inebriated. Because of his returning sobriety, he almost did not make his offer as the rational part of his mind warned against it.

"Bathe with me, Haldir?" he asked softly, turning fully to observe the pale-haired warrior behind him. "The day has been long for both of us. I do not doubt soaking in the hot pools would serve us well."

Haldir hesitated for a moment. His lord's suggestion of a bath seemed reasonable and enticing. A bath would have been a good idea in other circumstances. During the long hours of the party, as he stood on his post at the door, he had craved a lengthy, solitary moonlit bath to soothe his tired muscles. But a bath with Celeborn - that posed an entirely different scenario - although he could not deny the hot springs tempted him.

After searching the quiet surroundings and listening to the soft forest sounds, he felt reassured no danger lurked nearby. Slowly, he nodded to Celeborn. "You are right, my lord. They say the waters have a mild healing effect and will work wonders on a tired body. I cannot deny I have yearned for a bath after so long a day, but I will do that later, for we have come far from the city. I will guard you while you bathe, my lord, to ensure your safety."

His response did not surprise Celeborn. Indeed, he had expected it and had readied an answer before he had even asked. A hint of laughter wafted from somewhere in the distance.

"Leave your weapons and come, Haldir. We are quite safe here. Despite our distance from the city all incursions have been on the other side. The city lies between us and any danger and should anything happen other sentries around will give us fair warning." He reached over to take Haldir's hand and pull him towards the water. "Come and relax while we still can. There may not be many such times in the future. Please." Celeborn added the last word almost without realizing it, a hint of a smile playing across his face as he met Haldir's gaze easily. "Come."

At last, Haldir smiled a little, softening his somewhat stern look. "Very well, my lord, I will do as you ask of me, and lay down my weapons." With swift, smooth motions he loosened the bow, unstrapped the quiver and scabbard, then lay them on the ground near the water where he could easily reach them in a hurry. He straightened, watching Celeborn expectantly.

A smile graced Celeborn's features upon Haldir's agreement to bathe with him. Purposefully finding a place to sit, Celeborn removed his boots so he might more easily rid himself of his other clothing. More than happy to shed the heavy outer robes, he soon removed the rest of his clothes till only his breeches remained. His gaze strayed to where Haldir stood, then away again just as quickly as he pushed thoughts of other things from his mind. Celeborn slid out of his breeches, carefully folding them to join his other things in a neat pile on one of the rocks around the pool. Refusing to let himself look back at Haldir yet, he stepped into the shallows of the pool, sighing in delight at the warm water on his skin.

Haldir stood still, watching his lord undress, admiring the perfect body, shimmering pearly white in the moonlight. When Celeborn gave him a quick glance before removing his breeches, Haldir's breath caught a little. His lord finally stood with his entire body revealed beneath the moon and the Guardian took another involuntarily breath. He found his lord so beautiful, slender and lithe, his movements graceful as a cats, his silvery hair shining like a halo around him. He appeared almost celestial. As Celeborn stepped into the pool, Haldir came to his senses, finally able to release his breath. With nimble hands, he quickly removed his gray outer tunic, the black inner tunic and his boots. Folding the clothes neatly, he placed them next to his weapons, and then started loosening his breeches. Embarrassed, he discovered he had a little problem, and turned partly away from the pool into the shadows, while pinching himself viciously inside his palms. The pain quickly helped, and he removed his breeches swiftly and placed them with the rest of his equipment. Then he quickly stepped into the pool and sat down to let the water cover his body up to his chest, not daring to look at Celeborn.

Having already taken a seat, Celeborn had watched Haldir discreetly from the corner of his eye. Could you be embarrassed around me? he wondered absently, a teasing little smile playing across his face as the thought of that. Or perhaps it was something else. Celeborn liked that thought even more, and he was rather glad of the darkness and water covering his lower half. The brief glimpses of Haldir's perfect body had been enough to make him hard, though he had become good at hiding it. Like he had become good at hiding many other things. A skill he had been developed over many years, it had served him well as of late. Beautiful Haldir... With a soft sigh Celeborn averted his gaze, moving from the spot he had chosen to slide beneath the warm waters for a few moments. Letting the warm, quiet water close over him, he held his breath for quite some time before coming back up, and then stood for a minute, the water just covering him as he brushed wet hair from his face. He waded over to sit beside Haldir, who leaned against one of the warm, slightly slippery rocks.

Haldir had stealthily watched Celeborn dive under the surface and then emerge, water running down his body. His problem returned a vengeance and felt grateful for the darkness, which made the water opaque. But as his lord approached, he hastily slid completely beneath the water for a moment, soaking his hair before emerging and hoping the hot water on his face would explain his slightly flushed appearance. Relaxing little by little, his breath returning to normal, he leaned back against a large rock, meeting Celeborn's look.

"So, come. Tell me. Has there been no one in your life of late?" Celeborn asked, genuinely curious and not for his own sake alone. He had not seen Haldir with another often. Even then it had not seemed to last long, if indeed there had ever been anything more than friendship. In part that made him glad, yet it also made him sad to think of Haldir always alone after all the years that had passed. "A lover perhaps?"

"I do not have much time for such acquaintances, my lord. I spend most of my time in the forest guarding our borders, and in every fight I run the risk of being killed. I would not have someone be alone most of the time, fearing for me every time I stood duty. That is no life to offer a lover." He sighed softly, turning away from Celeborn for a moment to pensively look out at the dark woods. "I tried, once. It did not work. I do not want to bring another the same pain again. It is better I am alone." He lowered his gaze to the water, playing with the wet strands of his hair, splashing gently with his fingers.

Celeborn remained quiet for a time, understanding what Haldir had declared. "Is there none who would accept that? If they were willing to live with that risk, would you be able to accept that?" he asked quietly after a few moments. He reached over to brush Haldir's wet hair back from his face, tucking the strands gently behind one perfectly tapered ear. "It is not right for any to live alone at all times, no matter what life they lead." A light breeze wafted across the pool as Celeborn forced himself to pull his hand away, his gaze turned to the ripples of moonlight across the pool's surface. At least he watched them where they became visible as the steam changed, sometimes heavier in one area or another.

Haldir shivered slightly at the touch of Celeborn's hand, the breath catching in his throat as fingers brushed his extremely sensitive ears. In this setting he had become painfully aware of his lord's body next to him, the light touch sending warm pangs throughout his body. He drew his knees toward his chest, attempting to hide the evidence of his reaction and grateful for the steam rising from the waters surface. "I do not know, my lord," he replied slowly, forcing himself to concentrate on Celeborn's words. "I do not know anyone who would accept such a way of life, though I have not attempted to find such a one who would."

"And if you did find someone?" Celeborn persisted, reaching down to retrieve a smooth, round stone from the pool's bottom and rubbing his thumb across the surface of it. He let it rest in his palm, then brought it up to study it in the moonlight as its surface gleamed darkly with water. "Would you be willing to give them a chance?" Tempted to let the stone return to the bottom, he didn't and instead closed his fingers around it to keep them occupied.

Haldir looked at Celeborn somewhat puzzled, not understanding the reason for his persistence. "I suppose I would," he said at last, folding his arms around his knees and resting his chin on top of them. "It gets lonely sometimes. But I do not know anyone who would be interested in me." Turning his head towards Celeborn again, he looked deep into the sky blue eyes for a moment, trying to read his lord thoughts. Unsuccessful, he looked away again.

"Perhaps you will find someone. I would not give up hope if I were you," Celeborn replied mysteriously with a little smile. "I believe there is always someone out there who is willing to take the risk. You simply have to wait for them to find you, or you to find them." He would have liked nothing better right then than to admit to being that person himself and to ask Haldir if he would accept him. But he could not yet bring himself to do so, still uncertain as to Haldir's response. Celeborn wished he had thought to ask more about this lover Haldir had mentioned, wondering if the person had been female or male. Some of his distress would have been or could have been relieved right then and there. Yet he did not feel comfortable bringing it back up again, no matter how much he wished to know.

At Celeborn's words, Haldir's gaze inadvertently returned to his lords face and for a second he lost his carefully guarded defense, his look one of pure longing, baring his soul. A soft sound emerged from the forest as if some animal moved among the shadows. Haldir shifted and the moment evaporated as his defenses rose again. Flushing, he turned toward the sound. "It may be true that someone might want me as I am," he finally said, a sigh escaping. "But I cannot wish for what I cannot have." Filling his hands with water, he washed his face and stroked his hair back from his forehead before returning his gaze to the woods.

Celeborn frowned as he watched the mask return to Haldir's face, silently cursing whatever had broken their moment. He had not missed the look on those features, though it pulled at his heart even more. It made him want to gather Haldir close and make certain such sadness never wounded him so deeply again. Perhaps that someone is closer then you think, he thought, knowing the time for such things to be said had not yet arrived. "You dismiss the possibility so easily," Celeborn commented softly. "Is there none you would have by your side?"

Haldir sighed again, not looking at Celeborn. "Perhaps one," he admitted slowly. "But being together is not realistic. That person is not free and knows nothing of my feelings." He blew at the steam on the water, causing it to flutter away, then turned to the Elf beside him. "Why do you ask all this, my lord?"

He did not reply for a few moments, and when he did it was not exactly an answer. "Can I not worry about your comfort?" he asked, leaning back against the rock as he stared up at the leafy canopy above them. "Well-being means more then simply physical health." Celeborn inhaled deeply, pausing for a moment. "Forgive me if I have asked too much. You may do the same of me, if you wish. Ask what you like and I will answer as I can."

I do not have that many questions," Haldir began hesitantly. Celeborn's questions had reminded him of the impossible situation and his heart grew heavy."

"I but wonder at your queries about my lack of a life partner. You have never spoken about such things before. Have I not always done my duty to your liking? Why do you suddenly want me to find someone? Will I perform my duty better if I have a partner?" He looked at Celeborn with a sad, pained expression in his face, his voice catching slightly. "I can never have the one I want. Therefore, I will have no one at all. If you want me to resign because of that, I will." He turned away, placing his elbows on his knees, and resting his face in his hands.

"Have you nothing that you would ask other than that?" Celeborn laughed softly, though not in a mean way. He dropped the rock, and then reached over to gently touch Haldirs hands, shaking his head slightly. "Ne, dear Haldir, that is not why I ask. I do not doubt your ability to perform your job, nor do I question you in any way when it comes to what you do and who you are. You have never failed me in any way and I do not see how you ever could... I simply worry for your own well being," he explained earnestly, his hand coming to rest on Haldir's shoulder. As the other lifted his head, he held his gaze. "I do not like to see you so alone. Yet if you say it will always be so, it saddens me to think of you thus..." He hesitated for the barest of moments. "Might you tell me for whom you long?" he asked softly, uncertain what he hoped for in response to that question.

"I cannot tell you that, my lord. It... It is impossible." Haldir shook his head slowly. "I do not like to think of it as it saddens me. It can never be." Another sigh. "I am content to be your guard, if you are still content with me. That is enough for me."

Celeborn studied Haldir, his hand seeking the sorrowful face before him, gently moving his thumb back and forth across the soft skin of his cheek. "I would never be happy with another by my side," he commented softly, knowing the dual meanings in that statement, though he wasn't sure that Haldir would see them. He wished that Haldir had told him, and yet the fact that he had not gave him some hope that perhaps it was not another. "Often choices we believe are not possible have a strange way of revealing themselves," he hinted.

Haldir felt tired and sad. He had yearned for such a touch as Celeborn stroking his cheek for as long as he could remember. Closing his eyes, he inadvertently leaned into the touch.

A gentle look crossed Celeborn's face as he felt Haldir lean into the touch. He almost bent forward to kiss him right then and there, capturing those perfect lips with his own. Some fear or caution stopped him, but the response gave him hope perhaps things might work out between them after all. They sat there for a time before he reluctantly pulled away, his hand sliding down through the water to rest on Haldirs knee. Celeborn let it stay there, reclining against the rock once more and letting the silence hang companionably - between them.

Haldir slowly opened his eyes again. The touches from his lord had become almost more than he could bear. They made him hunger for more. He wished no more than to slide into his arms and snuggle his face close against that perfect alabaster chest, and just be held tightly. Although his lord's caresses made his heart beat faster and faster, they most likely stemmed from pity for his sad state. Yes, that emotion had to be the cause. Celeborn felt pity for him, nothing more that that. The thought deepened his sorrow, yet he felt his gaze drawn back the one sitting beside him. Seeing that Celeborn's own gaze had turned elsewhere for the moment, he let his mask slip to regard him longingly.

"Do not lose hope," Celeborn told him at last, his eyes closing for a few moments. Despite his words, he did not look at him. "Perhaps that which you long for is not as far away as you might think." His fingers moved lightly along the inside of Haldir's thigh, before retreating. Celeborn sighed softly, and opening his eyes, turned to look over at Haldir, his expression rather tired. Somehow everything seemed to be wearing thin of late, and sometimes his eyes showed it more then he liked, whether he realized it or not.

Celeborn's touch on his thigh had made his whole body tingle, and Haldir took a deep breath to regain control over his pulse. He did not know how much longer he could take being so close to his lord, with nothing but water between their bare bodies

But when meeting Celeborn's gaze, his looks softened with worry. His lord looked so worn out. Stupid me, he chided himself, being so absorbed in my own petty troubles - not being perceptive to my lord's feelings. My lord," he said, concerned. You look troubled. Is there anything I can do to ease your mind? Would you tell me of your worries?"

Looking away, Celeborn smiled wearily. "There is much strife these days and more to come in the days ahead I fear," Celeborn replied, touched by the concern evident on Haldir's face. Despite the cooling of his marriage, he missed Galadriel in his bed, not so much for her love as for her simple presence. At times every being craves a companion of some kind. He also had long kept hidden his love for the Elf sitting beside him. Even now, when he longed to tell him how he felt, he could not let himself do so. Of that he could not speak - yet. Celeborn still held hope that perhaps in the future a time would come when he could, and if it never happened... He pushed that thought from his mind. "The days grow dark for our people, Haldir. Our time will too soon come to an end. It saddens me."

"I know," Haldir agreed quietly. "With this great evil growing stronger, more and more of our people leave. We have known of the fading many centuries, for it has not recently begun, but has gradually increased. Nevertheless, I have seen you look more and more heavy of heart as of late. Might there be other worries troubling you as well, my lord?" Haldir turned a little where he sat, so he could face Celeborn directly, and looked him straight in the eyes, a gentle concern on his face.

Oh, how that look tempted him so deeply to simply speak to Haldir, to tell him the truth of his worries from start to finish and leave nothing out. But he still could not let himself do so, though his control slipped a little as he gazed into Haldir's eyes. "Aye, perhaps there is more. It saddens me to think that love even such as I shared with Galadriel can cool almost as if it never were. We still see each other, but nothing of that love remains between us but a caring for the other. It seems more often than not she absents herself from my bed with an abundance of lovers who would have her, yet..." He didn't finish the sentence, looking away from Haldir with a soft sigh. "Ah 'Tis not something I fear I should have spoken of," Celeborn whispered, taking the next few moments to build up his own walls again, free of the gaze of Haldir. To think that a simple look could do such to me, he thought, wondering if it had ever been so with Galadriel.

The look on Celeborns face almost broke Haldir's heart. Now I have increased his pain by asking this Oh, to be able to take him in my arms and comfort him. His heart bled when he heard the other admit what he had already understood - that his lady had forsaken his lord for the arms of others. As Celeborn struggled for control, Haldir could not help himself. As a simple guard he knew that one of his station should not touch his lord, yet he placed a comforting hand Celeborn's shoulder. "Be not afraid of what you have told me, my lord. I have seen it for myself. Whenever I guard your home, she leaves and does not return until morning. I have been deeply troubled for you."

For a moment Celeborn kept his face turned away before he chanced once more catching Haldir's gaze. "'Tis her right, for we both decided so, and yet sometimes I wish she would stay for at least a little while." He gave a rueful smile, his hand covering Haldir's on his shoulder. "I thank you for your concern," Celeborn told him. It touches me more then you know. But he did not say the last part aloud.

"I am sorry for speaking too freely, my lord, for 'tis not my place to speak of the relationship between you and my Lady. Tis only that I... I do not want to see you hurt, my lord..." Haldir looked down, blushing and ashamed for being so blunt, starting to pull his hand away.

Celeborn clasped his hand gently around Haldir's, not letting it go when he started to pull away, keeping it there. He reached up to touch Haldir's cheek gently with his other hand. "Think nothing of it. I would like to believe you a friend as well, Haldir," Celeborn murmured. And of such things friends should be able to speak more freely. He remained silent for a few moments. "It was not merely her choice, but my own as well."

Haldir raised his eyes again, enjoying the touch on his cheek, but confused about this new friendliness in Celeborn. What does he mean that it is also his choice that his lady stays away? He looked for a long moment into his lord's eyes, reading the pain that was still there, uncomprehending. In the end he spoke his concern. "If it is also your choice that it should be this way with your lady, why are you still in pain?"

A sad little smile played across his face. "Perhaps because it is not so easy to let someone go after spending many years with them. I can remember a time when we meant everything to each other, and when I look at what we are now - it saddens me, even though I know 'tis for the better. I would not hold her back while she desires another just as she would not do so with me. Yet there are times when I wish we could simply go back to the way it for 'twas easier." Celeborn stayed silent moment, watching the confusion on Haldir's face. "And because I, like you, am alone," he added quietly.

Celeborn's words touched Haldir deeply. Yet beneath those simple words something lurked, some deep emotion his lord did not voice. The meaning eluded him at first until he grasped what remained unsaid. There is someone else for him. The truth of it struck like a thunderbolt - and hurt deeply. He could hardly look at Celeborn, afraid of what he would hear if he dared to ask - but he had to. "There is someone else you want to be with," he whispered flatly, looking down.

He caught the note in Haldir's voice and it almost proved enough to allow him to reveal himself as he gently raised Haldir's chin. "I do not yet know if it is possible," he said softly. "Perhaps, yet I fear the one I want could not possibly feel the same for me." Celeborn sighed. "So you see perhaps I understand more of what you feel than you realize."

I would have you, even with the life you lead, Haldir. If I said that, would you accept me? Would you have me? Celeborn thought studying Haldir's features. Or is it truly another that your heart longs after as my heart longs after you?

So he truly does want another. The truth crushed him and Haldir tried to turn his head away, though Celeborn still held his chin. "I understand, my lord. Then you are truly in pain." The last words were merely whispers.

For the first time in a long time, words deserted Celeborn and he knew not what to say in response. He knew full well exactly what was going through Haldir's mind right then, yet he could not quite bring himself to tell him the truth. Celeborn sighed letting his hand fall to Haldir's shoulder. "No more than you," he said finally, this time the first to look away.

Perhaps things will unravel themselves in ways that neither you nor I expect them to." I pray that in the end they will finish where we both need them to finish, he thought, hand tightening over Haldirs for a brief moment before reluctantly letting it go.

Haldir could not take this anymore. Celeborn wished for another, just as much as Haldir wished for his lord. The sweet caresses he had bestowed upon Haldir during their conversation stemmed merely from pity for him, understanding his situation. He could no longer sit next to the person he wanted more than anyone in this world, knowing that he had cast his eyes upon a new love. His heart was breaking. All he wanted was to get back to his own talan and be alone.

Abruptly, he stood up in the water and brushed the drops from his body before moving to the edge of the pool. "I am very tired, my lord. I regret I must leave, for I stand duty tomorrow and need to rest." His voice trembled slightly, but he did not notice.

"Aye, tomorrow will come all too soon, Celeborn admitted, noting the slight quiver in Haldir's voice. Rising and following him, Celeborn had spoken softly. He only took the time to replace the lightest of his clothes, draping the others across his arm, to carry them back with him. "Sleep well, my friend," Celeborn commented quietly. Turning Haldir to face him, he did not think before he pressed a gentle kiss to his lips.

He pulled away almost as quickly as he had begun, then turned to walk away without looking back. If he looked back he would not be able to stop from returning for more, just as he had stopped the kiss before deepening it and proceeding to further intimacy. Sweet Haldir

Haldir had gone straight to his clothes without looking at Celeborn, and had just finished dressing when Celeborn suddenly had turned him around and kissed him. It stunned him completely. He could not speak or move and stood there, mouth agape in utter bewilderment. He stared as his lord disappeared between the trees. After quite some time, he drew a shaking breath and lifted his hand to softly trace his finger along his lips where Celeborn had kissed him. His eyes slowly filled with liquid silver, spilling down his cheeks.

When Celeborn returned to his quarters, the rooms stood empty, as he had expected. Somehow, they felt much more so after spending the last bit of evening with Haldir. He longed for another's company even more, particularly that of a certain blond Elf. Tossing the robes in a corner, Celeborn sighed, slowly running a hand across his face and back through his hair. He could still feel Haldir's lips against his own, the gentle pressure of his hand on his shoulder, the warmth of his skin beneath his own fingertips, so tantalizingly close yet so far away. As he remembered, the sad look in his Guardian's eyes still cut deeply, making him want nothing more than to vanquish it. Smile, Haldir. I wish only to see your smile, even if that which you seek is another, as long as you are happy...

Celeborn took a slow shaky breath of his own. Sitting before the mirror, he began to brush the knots from his hair, trying not to think of what had happened. Yet how could he not think of it when every little detail still burned so clearly in his memory - the memory of an Elf both a blessing and curse. Still he would not choose to forget anything that had happened even if he could. Celeborn remembered the gentle longing so evident on Haldir's face, which crumbled his walls even now. He clutched the brush tightly and slowly controlled himself to set it down instead of simply dropping it to the floor. How he had kept from doing as his heart longed to when faced with Haldir, if the memory of their brief encounter still had so much power over him? "Sweet Haldir, what I would not do for you..." he whispered to the silent empty room. "For it was you who replaced my lady in my heart, though you have yet to realize it."

Haldir had finally collected himself enough to gather up his weapons and stealthily, silently slip through the wood and up to his simple talan in the outskirts of the city. He had tried to shut out every thought in his brain, to be able to go to bed and fall asleep, but to no avail. As he lay on his bed, tossing and turning, he could not stop thinking about what had happened earlier that night. Over and over again he replayed every conversation in his mind, analyzing every word from Celeborn, every expression on his face, every touch. Every time he ended up with the kiss, feeling Celeborn closing in, pressing his soft lips to his own - reliving it over and over and over.

He had though it so simple - Celeborn pitying him because he bore the same situation himself - but the kiss The kiss did not feel like pity. Why had he kissed him? Thinking about the other caresses - quite unlike Celeborn - he had thought the wine to blame, but the effects of wine did not last that long - not long enough to explain the kiss. What could this mean - could the caresses mean something else than pity? Could they mean affection... or... maybe

The kiss... the soft lips... They still replayed in his brain when he finally fell asleep, totally exhausted.

Celeborn slept naught that night, though he lay in the bed for a time before rising, knowing it useless to attempt rest. Though tired, sleep would not come and he was not foolish enough to stay and wait for it. There remained little enough left of the night, the big empty room with memories of Haldir still playing through his mind - enough to drive one mad if he let them. So he left the silent rooms behind, making his way along the quiet paths of the forest, allowing the calm there seep into his soul. For the time escaping that which had long since haunted him. He did not go far from the city in the trees, knowing full well the danger - yet he did not worry about it. Were something to happen, the forest would warn him of it, and it was not as though he had no place to hide.

Lord and Guardian - Parts 2 & 3