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Lord and Guardian - Parts 2 & 3

Part 2/?

A fateful happening


Celeborn and Haldir love each other, but cannot express their feelings. An old friend of the Lord of Lorien arrives and misunderstandings abound. 

Two days had passed since the night at the hot springs. Haldir had been on duty almost continually after that, both because with large bands of Orcs pouring across their borders it had become necessary, and from his own choosing. He needed time to think about what had happened that night and the simple life in the forest gave him time to organize his mind. Still, he could think of nothing else. His brothers, who often shared his watches with him, had tried to make him tell them what was on his mind, but he had been distant and reluctant. Due to the rotation of the guards, he and his brothers had been stationed at separate posts this morning, and for once he felt glad, meaning he could have peace to sort out his feelings.

First, he had chided himself for having become too emotional. Haldir feared that he had almost let Celeborn know how he felt, and he had deeply regretted his rash actions. Then, he had started analyzing the things Celeborn had said to him, things he had not quite grasped in the heat of the moment, being so absorbed in his own misery, brought about by Celeborn's insistent questions about his lack of a partner. But slowly he remembered that his lord had hinted several times that a possible lover could be nearer than he thought - and also that he felt alone. And then, there were the touches and caresses, something Celeborn had never done to him before, and... The kiss.

Could this mean that perhaps... No, he dared almost not to think that thought, but still... Could this mean that perhaps Celeborn could be attracted to him? To Haldir? No, it could not be. He, a lowly guard, could not even allow himself to believe that his lord would look at him that way... But he could not get that thought out of his mind, and it grew ever stronger.

Having come this far in his chain of thoughts, Haldir felt that he needed some acknowledgement that it could really be so. He needed to see Celeborn again, to just look into his eyes and find the answer to whether this was a figment of his imagination, or if it really could be true. So when his captain this morning needed a person to go to the lord's talan to pick up the new set of orders from the seneschal's office, Haldir had volunteered.

As he ascended the long stairways to the large talan, his heart sped up, his palms becoming damp with anticipation. He quickly collected the packet of parchment from the seneschal, and chose the path that lead past the reception hall, hoping to get a glimpse of his lord. The hall stood empty, and his heart fell in disappointment, but then he heard voices emerging from the library next door. Anxious just to catch a glimpse of his lord, he approached the open door.

Only the night before had Celeborn heard word of Tinendel's return to the woods of Lothlorien and for a time his heart grew lighter than it in many days. The thought of seeing his old friend, a friend from childhood and indeed a good one, seemed able to alleviate a bit of the darkness that had seemed to hang about him of late. He smiled, able to sleep that night unplagued by dreams of blacker things, a sleep he much needed. Though still early morning, Celeborn rose, pushing back the sheets, and then bathed and dressed.

He had a light breakfast brought to him in the gardens below, enjoying the song of the birds in the trees and the warm sunlight on his skin. Celeborn was lost in thought when a cheerful voice brought him out of it, calling his name. Looking up, he smiled in response to the sight of the lean, dark-haired figure moving towards him. Tinendel had never known how to do things slowly or properly, that was for sure. Even when they had been children he had always been more rash than the others, jumping when everyone else thought about it first. Now as he bounded through the forest unconcerned with the looks he got, he showed the same spirit he had as a child. It had been that spirit that had called him away from the forest when Celeborn would have much rather had him stay. He had known he could not ask it of him, even though Tinendel would have remained if he had requested it. Just as he could not ask Haldir to stop guarding the borders for fear he might be hurt. That very spirit made him who and what he was. Tinendel had always lived for fighting, travel and adventure, and it was that need and the slow pace of life in the forest that had drawn him away.

Now Celeborn hoped that perhaps he might stay, seeing as things no longer remained so quiet or safe in the Golden Wood. Rising from his seat, he moved towards his friend, caught up in a warm embrace before any words could be exchanged. He was not overly surprised when Tinendel did not stop with the hug, but caught his lips up in a warm kiss. Indeed, he returned it with his own measure of feeling. They had always been close, and at one point they had been lovers. Though each had gone their own way, there still continued a good measure of love between them. True, it did not have the strength it once possessed, but close friends they had remained and would probably always be so, unless something drastic happened to change that.

After a prolonged moment, the kiss ended, though the two stayed in a warm embrace for a few moments longer before Celeborn pulled away. "Come eat with me, Tinendel, tell me of your journey," he said smiling. "I have long missed your company. Pray tell me everything."

Tinendel laughed - a glorious sound in the early morning air, clear and ringing, and looping an arm around Celeborn's shoulders, they made their way back to the table. Celeborn, however, decided perhaps it best to take the conversation inside, knowing some things they would undoubtedly speak of should not be widely known. Not that he feared overly much someone eavesdropping, but sometimes one could not help but overhear discussion. So, the two of them made their way in companionable silence into the talan, to the library

"Were I to tell you of everything that has happened my friend, I fear we would be here till even we are old."

"Some would consider us old already," Celeborn pointed out with a chuckle as he poured another cup of tea for his friend. "But enough, tell me then some of what has happened since we last spoke. It is good to see you have not lost your smile along the way."

"Aye, but I see that yours has faded, since then," Tinendel noted, taking a sip of the lukewarm liquid. "In truth, there is little to tell, except of fighting and such. I traveled far and saw much, but most of it is not worth telling except for the love of one lad..." For a moment his eyes were dark, rather sad. "But I was foolish there."

Celeborn reached over to lift Tinendel's eyes to his own. "Tell me of him," he prompted gently.

"Ne, I will not speak of such matters. 'Tis a happy occasion." Tinendel's smile returned in full force. "Speak to me of yourself. What has happened in the wood since I left? For I return to find the tidings darker at least than what they told me at the border. What of the Lady?"

"Another warms her bed now," Celeborn replied rather bluntly.

There was a moment of pause and slowly Tinendel nodded his head. "And what of you? Have you found another? Or do you still long after the one you will not speak to? Is that why?"

"In part, yes. However, it was not only I who wished for another. 'Tis better this way."

"And you still have not spoken with him?"          

Celeborn laughed humorlessly. "Do you think I have spoken with him?"

Tinendel shook his head. "You have not, you fool. Can you not see that he shares your feelings if only you would have the nerve to tell him?" There was a hint of rebuke in his voice. "Trust me, you have waited far too long as it is, for now you have no lady to hide behind no one else who will save you, except for yourself. For if you do not go to him, then I will and I will tell him all that I know."

"It cannot be... I am fool to think that there could be something more."

"You are fool for dwelling on it if you truly believe that there is no hope."


"No more excuses!" Tinendel stood up, leaning across the table to hook his fingers through the front of Celeborn's shirt, pulling him closer. "Do not tell me that you know not what to say to him," he commented softly, leaning closer, his hand moving to the Elf lord's chin instead of his shirt, tilting his face up a little. "You need not say anything if you do not wish it," he purred, lips mere inches from Celeborn's. "All you need do is go to him and do as I do." That said Tinendel leaned forward to capture Celeborn's lips once more, with a quite pointed kiss that bordered on something not so friendly as the first.

Hesitantly approaching the library door, Haldir could hear Celeborn's voice, and also another, unknown male's. Unable to make out the words, and not wanting to interrupt any conversation, he cautiously entered the open doorway, finally getting a good view of the two persons standing in the room. His lord was there, standing very close to a tall, dark-haired, extremely handsome Elf, their faces almost touching. The unknown Elf seemed almost to be purring, and the next second the two Elves kissed each other thoroughly, in a manner that was nothing but purely sensual.

For a moment it seemed as though lightning had struck Haldir right where he stood and his whole body froze. His eyes stayed wide open, but he could not move or even breathe. The next moment the reality of what he saw came crashing down on him, and he gasped for air with a half-choked sob. For a split second, he met Celeborn's eyes over the other Elf's shoulder, and then he knew nothing more except to get away from there as fast as possible. He turned and fled, blood thundering in his ears, mouth dry, eyes unseeing, stumbling down the long stairway and throwing himself at his horse, Nim, like he grabbed for a life line. The next moment Nim carried him away as fast as he could run.

For a brief second Celeborn was too surprised to move. He had not expected to see Haldir, right there and then. He could not help but see the hurt in the other Elf's eyes. He felt Tinendel's hand on his shoulder. "Do you doubt me now?" his friend asked softly, before pushing him towards the door. "Do not let him get away from you."

Celeborn hesitated for a moment before leaving the library. Tinendel followed a little farther behind to be there, but not intrude. He intended to disappear should anything happen he felt unwise to be privy to. He cursed softly when Haldir mounted his horse and rode away, seeing Celeborn pause at the foot of the stairs.

Celeborn had not been certain what he had expected when he ran out the door. Indeed, he had not expected anything, just knew he had to talk to Haldir. He could not longer put it off, not after the emotions he had seen so plainly displayed in Haldir's eyes upon seeing him and Tinendel together. Celeborn had a very good idea of what was going through his mind right now in response to that. I should have told him that night, he thought, finding it almost funny after his thoughts the previous nights. "Haldir!" His voice rang out through the forest as he watched the blond Elf ride away. Slowly, Celeborn came to a stop at the bottom of the stairs, feeling emotions warring within himself.

Haldir heard nothing but his own heartbeats and the hooves of his horse thundering through the forest. Quite a distance into the wood, he halted Nim, trying to collect himself. Still out of breath, he rubbed his eyes and face harshly, getting angry with himself. You stupid, stupid fool! What did you expect? Getting your hopes up like that! Of course he did not have any interest in you! He was just lonely. That beautiful Elf was the one he had longed for, and now he has come back to him.

He got off the horse, intending to wash his face in the brook nearby, but could not stand on his shaking legs, sinking to his knees. You fool, this serves you right! Nevertheless, the pain in his chest felt near to killing him, crushing him, choking him - he had allowed himself to hope, and now that hope had been crushed... His breath came in great, hitching gasps as he bent his head, letting heavy, warm tears fall to the forest floor.

I want to tell you... Celeborn thought in anguish, wishing quite fervently that he had simply given into the desire to tell Haldir that night. It had been such a strong one, especially when those eyes had watched him with something more than pity - understanding. He could picture it perfectly clear in his mind, so much so that it brought tears to his eyes. Celeborn did not even realize that Tinendel had come up behind him till the other Elf wrapped his arms around him.

"I told you before that he loved you, even though he did not yet realize it. Give him some time and when he returns, speak to him, tell him the truth. What is in your heart and what is between us. If he will not believe you, I will swear to it," Tinendel said quietly, gently pulling Celeborn back up the steps.

His mind was in too much turmoil, regret, fear, and longing to realize exactly what was happening. He almost rode out after Haldir immediately. Yet something in Tinendel's words rang true. It would do neither of them any good to talk when their emotions still raged so strongly. Forgive me Haldir, this is my fault, he thought leaning back against the wall. He let his tears fall freely as the cool darkness of the talan wrapped around him like Tinendel's arms. It had been many years since Celeborn had cried freely, something he had only done in Tinendel's presence, and once briefly in Galadriel's arms. He had long prided himself on being in control of his emotions, but now he found that a single look could bring him to tears as years of longing began to come to a climax.

After a long while, Haldir finally lifted his head. The sun's rays flickered through the leaves, shining on the glistening tears on his cheeks and the disheveled blond hair, long wet strands still clinging to his face. With red, bleary eyes, he looked for Nim and found him grazing by the brook, carefree and happy to have a nice break after the hurried ride. Still sniffling, wiping his eyes and nose with the sleeve of his tunic, Haldir made his way to the brook and splashed the cold fresh water on his face to wash away every trace of emotion. He then undid his braids, combed his hair with the tiny comb he had in his pocket, and rebraided it. Straightening his clothes, he finally checked his reflection in the water, making certain no trace remained of his emotional storm. With soothing words to Nim, he mounted and rode away.

His heart still felt heavy as stone, but an ice-cold feeling settled over him for he now knew for certain how stupid his thoughts had been. A new, hardened look reflected in Haldir's eyes, and he sat straight as a steel spring on his horse, his head held high as he rode to his captain's camp to deliver the requested documents. Without uttering a word to his fellow guards, he returned to his post at the border, to guard the route leading into the wood.


Part 3/?


The visitor

Note: This is a part of a larger RPG, where most of the action takes place in Rivendell, around the time of Elrond's Council. In Rivendell, Elrohir loved the elf Shadow, an original character. Their affair ended when Elrohir woke up after their night of love to find Shadow gone, leaving him a letter saying he had to leave to help an old friend, not knowing when or if he'll ever return, but if he doesn't, he is probably dead. Elrohir is devastated, and his arrival in Lothlorien takes place shortly after these events.

Elrohir smiled slightly to himself as the wood finally came into sight below him. It was almost a sad little smile, as he pulled his horse to a stop with a sigh. He wished that his brother had agreed to come with him when he'd asked him. Though it had been Elladan's idea to take this trip, he had declined to come with him. Elrohir knew his brother wanted to be close to Glorfindel, that he loathed leaving his lover, and he sighed. While he understood, part of him also suffered jealousy, though he would never admit it to Elladan. He loved his brother more than any other with a bond between them no lover could ever replace or take away. He knew that as surely as he knew that Elladan worried for him and would have come had he pressed for it. Pushing his hair back from his face, he shook off his thoughts, knowing now was not the time nor the place to simply sit and lose himself.

He had seen too much evidence of Orcs and other not so savory creatures of late. Having managed to avoid them so far did not guarantee his continued safety should he let his guard down. Elrohir had traveled the world enough to know this, and found putting such thoughts from his mind the best he could do at this time. His brother, his lover of shadow, and all that had transpired only a few short weeks ago in Rivendell, felt nearly an eternity away so close and yet so far. Still they shone brightly in his memory as they would always, no matter how much time passed.

Urging Tel forward with his knees, Elrohir rode down towards the waiting forest below wondering who would greet him when he reached the forest's edge. Some time had passed since he and Elladan had last been here. He did not doubt they already knew of his coming and waited for him, for he had nothing to fear from the inhabitants of the forest, only those outside of it. Well Elladan, I have the reached the forest, will this help? I do not know. Part of me wished I had stayed longer, were he to come back and find me gone. What would he think of me then, that I had given up so easily on him? Enough... Elrohir admonished himself, finding it was not so easy to banish his thoughts as it had once been.

Haldir and his two fellow guards had spied the lone rider miles away, and with their bows aimed, they waited silently in the shadows. As the rider approached, Haldir recognized him as a son of Elrond, and signaled to his men to lower their weapons. This was the first time he had ever seen any of them alone as they had always been together, and silently he wondered what had made one travel separately. The twins had often visited their grandparents in Lothlorien, and Haldir knew them fairly well without being a close friend. They had always treated him well, enjoying their talks with him, and when they had been smaller he had given them archery lessons. Still, he had to wait until the lone Elf had almost reached the forest edge before he could tell which one had come to visit.

He climbed down from the small watch talan, stepped from the shadows to stand in the middle of the path, and greeted the young lord with a slight bow and a smile. "Greetings, Lord Elrohir. Welcome to the Golden wood!"

"Greetings to you as well, Haldir of Lorien," Elrohir replied quietly with a slight bow - as it must be from horseback. "I thank you for your welcome."

Elrohir found something comforting in being greeted by a familiar face. He had always liked Haldir, though he did not know the Elf as well as he would have liked. When they had talked, he had enjoyed their conversations. Brushing a wind blown strand of hair back behind his ear, he slid off of Tel's back.

"The lands between Imladris and Lorien are very dangerous these days, and there are many vile creatures around our borders. It is a miracle you have arrived safe and unharmed, Lord Elrohir. How come you to travel alone?" Haldir voiced his concerned, fearing an entourage had accompanied Elrohir when he set out from Imladris, and that something might have happened to the others. "Where is your brother?"

"It seemed safer to travel alone. There is a better chance of avoiding that which one might not wish to encounter," Elrohir commented quietly. Though he'd had a few run-ins, he had been lucky overall to get away with no more then a few scratches. "Elladan stayed within the borders of Imladris this time as he had much to keep him there. He did not wish to accompany me, and since few others could make the journey and were otherwise occupied with Father's business I came by myself." He shrugged, running his hand along Tel's flanks.

Haldir noticed Elrohir's fatigue, and tenderly stroking Tel's muzzle, he nodded towards the watch talan. "Please, Lord Elrohir, come and join us in our talan. Share some food and wine with us. When you have rested, I will accompany you to Caras Galadhorn myself. Due to increased Orc activities, I fear we must take another route, much longer route than usual. We will not arrive until tomorrow afternoon." Haldir made a hand sign, and a rope ladder was thrown down from the talan, the two other guards silently appearing on the ground. "Latanir will take Tel to our own horses and tend to her there." The Elf guard approached, and stopped next to Haldir.

Though he hesitated for a few seconds, Elrohir patted Tel's flank lightly. "Go on," Elrohir softly told the mare when she turned to look at him. "You will be well cared for." As if she understood - and perhaps she did - Tel moved forward a couple steps to nudge the guard lightly with her muzzle. "I am in no hurry. Tomorrow afternoon will be soon enough for me," he replied to Haldir.

Watching Latanir lead Tel away, Haldir motioned for Elrohir to climb the ladder. Following him up to the talan, Haldir went to the packs stowed against the light wall that sheltered the talan against the wind. Producing a couple of thick furry sheepskins, he placed them on the floor next to the wall, then placed a bottle of wine and a plate with bread, butter and ham and a basket of fresh fruit next to it.

"Please, take a seat, Lord Elrohir. I am afraid we cannot offer much comfort out here, but please accept the best we have to offer." Haldir smiled gently at Elrohir, sensing he seemed to be a bit tense. "Pray, tell me of Imladris and Lord Elrond."

Taking a seat, Elrohir returned the smile. "This is better than traveler's fare," he commented simply, pulling the edges of one of the furs up around him, not so much cold but for the heavy, comforting feel of it around him. "There is much happening in the world, and dark tidings of many things. Much of which I fear I am unable to speak of, at least not in this place." He glanced around, accepting a cup of wine and a piece of buttered bread, his stomach reminding him that he had been lax about his eating habits on the trip. Elrohir pushed his renewed hunger pangs to the side. "But what of yourself?" he asked quietly, wishing to distract the conversation from himself.

"We can speak of it some other time," Haldir replied lightly, not wanting to push the young Elf lord. "I fear I cannot tell you much new about myself. I am, as always, a Guardian in these woods, and nothing much happens here, except our skirmishes with the Orcs and other vile beasts." He fell silent, the tiniest sigh escaping his lips, and then he turned to look out to the trees, where butterflies fluttered about in the bright sunshine. Hesitating, he cast a glance at Elrohir, wondering why he seemed to be as troubled as himself.

Elrohir sat quietly for a moment, before looking up to meet Haldir's gaze. "Yet I feel something troubles you," he probed gently. Not often could one could hide what they felt from him, for he could sense those very feelings, if not the source of them. If something else caught his interest they might go unnoticed due to his own lack of attentiveness, but now nothing else dissuaded him from his thoughts except to focus on Haldir. "You do not have to speak of it though, if you do not wish." He took a sip of his wine. "And how has Lothlorien faired with the increased traffic of the foul beasts?"

Haldir liked the young Elf lord, and was not unwilling to have a closer, more personal conversation with him at a later stage. Evidently something troubled Elrohir and he would probably need to lighten his heart a little. As his brother was not present, he might want to confide in Haldir, and Haldir would not mind forgetting his own troubled state for a while. He cast a quick glance down to the forest floor, where his two fellow guards stood discreetly by the foot of the tree, not disturbing the conversation, but hearing every word said. "Perhaps we can talk more about that later in our travel, when we are alone," he said, silently nodding towards the sentries. "My guards will stay here while I escort you, because many Orc bands raid around here. We have a hard time training enough guards to fill all watch talans, and more are needed."

"I can take care of myself if you should wish to stay," Elrohir offered quietly, though he hoped that Haldir would not take him up on the offer. In all truth he had had enough of his own company and would not mind that of another, if only to distract him from his own thoughts now and then.

Haldir motioned towards the fresh fruit. "Would you like an apple, Lord Elrohir? They are very sweet and juicy."

"Ne, but thank you." He glanced down at his bread, setting the wine aside and taking up the loaf.

"No, I will follow you," Haldir said plainly. "You do not know the new route that must be taken to avoid danger. The Orcs constantly travel through our woods now, going southwards, and we have to take a long detour to avoid their favored paths." Noting that Elrohir did not seem overly hungry in spite of his long trip, he added with a concerned look, "Perhaps you seek solitude?"

"Ne, not overly," Elrohir replied with a tired little smile. "I have been traveling on my own since I left Imladris. It will be good to have company the rest of the way. But had you wished to stay, I would have continued on my own." He shrugged slightly. "Only so much solitude is a good thing.'

"Ai, that is true," Haldir agreed, looking down, lost in thought. He shrugged and turned to Elrohir. "I see you have finished your meal. Would you like to rest awhile, or would you rather prefer we start on the travel through the forest?"

"It matters not to me," Elrohir answered, ignoring the brief silence, though it became more obvious than before that something bothered Haldir. His reluctance to speak of it now did not go unnoticed either and so the younger son of Elrond waited, biding his time. 'If you wish to move now, then let us move and perhaps find a place to rest earlier in the evening."

"Then we shall go now." Haldir started bundling some sheepskin together, at the same time taking one of the full food packs. "Please, follow me." He climbed down the ladder, exchanged a few words with his fellow sentries, leaving Latanir in charge, then made his way to where the horses were kept, hearing the soft steps of Elrohir behind him. Without speaking, he went to his horse, Nim, and greeted him warmly, nuzzling in his mane and stroking his muzzle and neck tenderly, then fastened the packs and furs to his back.

Elrohir kept his pack on his own back. He found it easier that way and always traveled that way. Greeting Tel in his own fashion, though he had only just recently said goodbye to the horse as well, he found her a good companion and friend. Elrohir had ridden the mare for many years now and the two of them got along well. Leading her out, he waited for Haldir to join him.

Taking the lead, Haldir rode in a moderate trot along the path for a while, and then turned away from the path into the wilder forest. The forest here was very old, and the underbrush thick, making it unlikely Orcs would choose the route when following the road proved much easier. After about an hour, the underbrush grew so heavy and the branches so low that staying on horseback became impossible, so he dismounted and proceeded to walk on foot leading Nim. After a long while the trees suddenly opened up, and they came to a clearing, the sunshine pouring down, and the ground covered with the lovely elanor flowers, shining like gold. A tiny brook trickled midst the flowers. Haldir turned to Elrohir and smiled widely. "This is one of my favorite spots. Very few know of this place."

"How beautiful," Elrohir exclaimed softly, turning in circles as he tried to take it all in at the same time, a hint of wonder on his face. He had been to many places in Lothlorien, but he could not remember having been here before. It was a new wonder, one he gladly beheld, stowing it away as a happy place in his mind, a bit of light in the recent dark. He could not help but note his companion as well, the way the sunlight seemed attracted to him, to practically glow off his hair and skin. "Thank you for sharing it with me..." he whispered.

Haldir released Nim, letting him graze among the flowers, and approached Elrohir. The young Elf lord definitely looked troubled, and he could not help but note the sad tone of his voice. Taking on the same caring behavior as he had used when Elrohir had been a young Elfling, following him around, learning to use the bow, he gently placed his hand on his shoulder for a short moment. "Why not let Tel taste the sweet elanor, and enjoy this place for a moment? The little brook here joins the Nimrodel further down, and it has the same healing effects. Come, Lord Elrohir, and sit by the water - let it ease your heart a little."

Elrohir glanced over his shoulder at Tel before shrugging. "Go on," he gently urged, patting the horses nose. "I know you will enjoy the company anyway." Elrohir glanced back at Haldir, looking away after a moment with hint of a sigh. "I think perhaps that I am not the only one troubled," he commented. "But I would like that," he admitted, glancing around again.

"Perhaps you are not," Haldir whispered almost inaudibly, turning away to walk over to the brook. He sat on the grassy edge, removing his boots and outer tunic, and placing his feet in the water. Leaning back on his elbows, he closed his eyes and turned his face to the sun, stretching out like a cat. "Mmmmmmm..." he hummed softly, smiling contentedly.

Dropping gracefully into a sitting position next to Haldir, Elrohir slipped off his boots and rolled up his pants before slipping his feet in the water. Leaning forward, he rested his elbows on his knees staring at the clear, beautiful water. "My brother suggested I come here seeking solace to get away from things that were that could not be changed...." he said quietly.

Haldir opened his eyes and sat up silently, pleased that Elrohir seemed to want to share a little. Not wanting to push the other, he casually turned to the side, picking an elanor flower, smelling it and admiring how it seemed to reflect the sunlight. "This place always soothes my heart whenever it feels heavy," he said at last. "Perhaps it may also bring some peace to yours. Would you like to unburden your heart, entrusting some of your troubles with me?"

Glancing over at him, Elrohir laughed softly, tucking a braid away from his face before reaching up to simply begin undoing them, knowing little hope remained of keeping it in place as he had left them in since he had redone them a few days ago. "I do not even know where to start anymore," he began softly, not looking over at Haldir. "A great deal has happened and when in telling it, it seems like so little and yet it is not to me, and I..." He shrugged.

Seeing Elrohir trying to groom his hair, Haldir searched his pocket and silently handed him his tiny comb, smiling encouragement at him. "What happened to you then?" he asked cautiously. "Does it have something to do with your brother not being here? Did someone cause you pain?"

Elrohir smiled his thanks. Setting the comb on his knee, he continued to work the braids from his hair, quiet for the moment. Part of him wanted to tell, share with someone who did not know all involved, who might.... He closed his eyes, and then picked up the comb after he worked all the braids out, undoing all the knots and tangles that had accumulated there. "Elladan did not wish to leave his lover's side," Elrohir admitted, though he would not look at Haldir now. "But I can not fault him for that. I would not have wished to leave either, except I was not given the chance, nor the option."

Looking down at the water streaming around his ankles, Haldir pondered his words. It was obvious Elrohir spoke of a lover - a lover that had not allowed him a choice. "You are here,' he said slowly, "because someone did not give you a chance to decide whether you wanted to stay or leave... Are you trying to get away from a lover, or are you the one who was left behind?" He lifted his hands to Elrohirs hair, seeing he fought with a knot. "Allow me?"

Elrohir hesitated for a few moments before relinquishing the comb and strand of hair to Haldir with a sigh. "He left without Without even the certainty that he might come back, but with the warning that if he did not return then I should seek another to find out of his death," Elrohir replied, biting his lower lip as he refused to let the tears come that threatened even now at the thought. He could still remember the one night he had shared with Shadow, the short time they had together after they finally found each other. The whispered promise that it would last, that they would always be together, only to wake in the morning and find that... Elrohir closed his eyes, trying to put the memories back in their place.

Haldir took the comb and with gentle fingers brushed through the rest of the soft, dark hair. It shone in the sunlight and fell like a cascade of silk around Elrohir's shoulders. Seeing the young Elf struggling with tears, he felt a wave of tenderness towards him, and stroked his hair soothingly. At the same time, the obvious pain also affected his own state of mind, as it reminded him of his own heartbreak the same morning. Not being able to speak for a moment, he inadvertently continued stroking the soft hair. Finally he found his voice. "That was a cruel thing to say. Perhaps he did not mean it that way, but it must still be devastating for you," he whispered.

"Perhaps it was not," Elrohir replied, but he did not know for sure, did not know what to say, was not sure he wanted to say anything. "Now I do not know what to think or what to do. Whether to hope or to let go." He sighed. "But enough of me. Would you care to speak of what troubles you?"

"So you came to Lothlorien to escape the memories of him," Haldir concluded thoughtfully. "Memories hurt. To see the places reminding you of your loved one..." He swallowed, and looked down at his hands, whispering, "I understand - much better than you think, Lord Elrohir."

"I thought that you might," Elrohir commented, turning to take Haldirs hands gently in his own. "I could see it in your eyes... Though he would not come with me it was Elladan's idea that I come here. I... I still wish in part that I had stayed on the hap chance that he might come back that... What if he were to come and find that I were not there?" Elrohir closed his eyes for a moment, forcing himself to breathe instead, to push the thoughts away. "Yet he made it sound as if he did not expect to come back." Pulling a leather thong from his pocket, he tied his hair back, not bothering to braid it, simply pulling it from his face.

"If he does return, your brother will tell him where you are, and he will wait for you, or perhaps even come here for you. But why would he not come back? Why did he leave you?" Haldir looked intently at Elrohir, carefully removing one of his hands from Elrohir's grasp, and placing it on top of his hand, returning the gentle pressure.

"He did not say where it was he went... only that..." Elrohir shook his head he would not say it, turning away from Haldir to look back at the river, though he did not pull his hands away from the Elf. "It does not matter."

Haldir nodded slowly. He understood this pain. To lose a loved one he had lost his loved one this very morning - although he had never had the chance to tell him he loved him. The memories almost overwhelmed him. He had tried to be strong today, to pretend that nothing had happened - but to be reminded of another's pain - similar in nature - hurt almost too much.

"You don't need to tell me," he whispered. "I understand."

Against his better nature, the gentle presence that Haldir seemed to offer reminded him much of his brother, putting him a bit more at ease than he might be with any other. Elrohir turned to slip his hands from Haldir's, sliding his arms around the other Elf, not sure if it was he who held Haldir or the other way around. Nothing else was said for the moment, though Elrohir felt as if nothing more needed saying, at least for now.

The simple, undemanding presence of another, sharing the pain and the emotions, was just what Haldir needed. Sighing silently, he closed his eyes and leaned slightly into Elrohir's shoulder, enjoying the comfort of the arms around him. For several moments he bit his lip, not wanting the trembling to give him away, and fought the emotions that threatened to overcome him, making his eyes damp behind his lashes. He could not speak, but no words were needed.

Elrohir wanted to ask to know what troubled Haldir, though he knew the nature of it, but he knew too that now was not the time to ask. Instead he let his hand move gently through the Guardian's blond hair, the way his brother would do with him when he was upset, the other moving in gentle circles on his back. And so for a time the sound of water beside them, the wind in the trees, and their own breathing became the only sounds in the glade, along with the occasional sound of the horses. Only the cry of a strange bird high in the branches of one of the trees startled Elrohir from the daze he had settled into. "Haldir?" he whispered softly, not sure if it was a question or only to break the uneasy quiet that seemed to have descended upon the place.

Haldir's eyes darted open, but he needed a moment to become fully aware of his surroundings Elrohir's silent comfort had felt so soothing it almost made him forget everything else. The sun had moved quite a bit, the shadows growing into late afternoon - they had been there much longer than he had intended. "It will be dark soon,' he said, pulling his feet from the water, wrinkled and almost numb from the cold, and started pulling his boots on. "We must hurry, lest we will not reach the talan before the light is gone. The underbrush is difficult to move through even in daylight, and with our horses we will not make it in the dark." Hurriedly, he put on his outer tunic, and stretched out a hand to Elrohir, to help him up. "Come."

Elrohir retrieved his own boots and put them back on, taking a moment to finish lacing them up before taking Haldir's hand. He let the other Elf pull him to his feet, not saying a word, calling Tel to him with a quiet whistle. He smiled as the horse trotted promptly over with a low whicker. "Then let us be off," he said, glancing at Haldir.

They led their horses between the trees again, and soon the thick underbrush almost covered them. Even with Elven nimbleness and Elven horses the journey proved a cumbersome one. The sun had already set, the landscape quite dark when Haldir halted under a large mallorn near a small clearing in the middle of the forest, the shrubs thick on all sides, like a wall surrounding them. "We will spend the night in this talan.' He pointed up to the mallorn, throwing a rope up into the lowest branches. 'Our horses will be safe in this clearing, with grass and a tiny creek for them." Quickly as a squirrel, he climbed up the rope, disappeared through the branches for a moment, and then a rope ladder tumbled down. Haldir appeared on the forest floor again, loosening the pack and the furs from Nim's back, stroking him and whispering soothingly to him.

Smiling slightly, Elrohir took a moment to take off Tel's bridle before shouldering his pack again. He used the rope that Haldir had left to climb the tree instead of the ladder, enjoying the feeling of doing something he not done in sometime. Climbing had been something he had had not enjoyed in a long time and at the moment he felt as if he had spent far too much time on horseback of late. Making it up into the talan, Elrohir left his things there, and then climbing back down, he jumped the last bit to the ground, landing in a crouch. "Can I help carry things up?' he asked looking over at Haldir.

"You can carry your own furs,' Haldir told him with a smile, a hint of mischief in his voice. 'My brothers always run off and leave all their packs for me to carry.' He handed Elrohir a bundle of furs, taking the other himself, and the pack on his back, before nimbly climbing the ladder and disappearing into the talan.

Elrohir laughed softly. Used to traveling with Elladan, they always shared the different chores when setting up camp or getting ready to get underway. It was something that was natural to him. Picking up the pile of furs, Elrohir moved after Haldir, back into the branches of the tree.

In a corner of the talan, sheltered by the light, braided windscreen, Haldir laid the furs out, making a comfortable bed. Lighting a small, sheltered lantern, he motioned for Elrohir to come and sit next to him, and proceeded to unpack the food, producing a bottle of wine, cups, bread, meat and fruit. "Dinner is served, my Lord!" he said with a smile and a light bow to Elrohir.

A hint of a smile played across Elrohir's lips as he set his furs down near Haldir's, before sitting down. He reached up to pull Haldir down beside him. "Dinner for two," he replied with a little grin.

Haldir laughed slightly, and sat down next to him, starting to cut slices of bread for them both, handing one to Elrohir, followed by the meat and a cup of wine. Not waiting for Elrohir, he nipped a sip of wine from his cup and took a deep, relaxed breath, leaning against the windscreen and stretching his legs out in front of him.

Pulling one of the furs around his shoulders, Elrohir leaned back against the railing that ran around half of the talan. He nibbled a bit on the slice of bread, setting the wine carefully next to him where he would not be apt to knock it over. Elrohir glanced over at Haldir out of the corner of his eye, feeling a little more uncertain than he had before, though he was not sure why or what it was that had changed between them. He felt closer to the other Elf and at the same time more exposed, knowing he could no longer hide behind a smile and a fragile excuse.

For the first time in many days, Haldir felt comfortable. Having company had distracted him somewhat from the dark thoughts that had continuously been eating away at his mind, although they still had almost overwhelmed him while resting in that clearing. The silent comfort Elrohir had offered, the arm around his shoulder, had touched him deeply, and soothed his pain. Elrond's son was a pleasant companion, and Haldir enjoyed his presence more than he would admit.

After a few moments Elrohir slipped off his boots, setting them off to the side near his pack before taking up his seat next to Haldir once more. He desperately wanted to ask and yet the mood seemed to have lightened a little since their last conversation, he loathed dampening it with that which weighed heavily on both their hearts. Overhead he heard the slight rumble of thunder, a sad little smile played across his face as he leaned over to peer up through the branches of the tree towards the dark sky above them.

Haldir glanced up as well, and reached out to his pack, extracting a thin, tightly woven textile impregnated in oil, with strings fastened to the edges. "The rain will start within minutes," he said. "Please give me a hand stretching this over the talan. Our horses will keep dry standing under the tree." He rose, starting to tie the strings to the branches surrounding the talan.

Getting on his feet silently, Elrohir gave Haldir a hand spreading the tarpaulin over the talan, tying it down so that it would not blow away. Bringing their things beneath it before slipping out from under it, Elrohir stood there for a moment. He wanted desperately to climb higher into the tree to watch the storm just before it hit. "I will be back," he told Haldir. Finally pushing the last of his warnings down, he moved up into the higher branches of the tree.

Haldir stood watching Elrohir climbing up toward the top of the tree, shaking his head slowly in wonder. Leave it to a son of Elrond to voluntarily want to stay in the top of a tree during a thunderstorm. He shrugged, and smiling slightly to himself, he went back under the canvas. Having spent most of his days out in the wilderness, Haldir had endured his share of rainstorms, and was not fascinated by them anymore, although he would admire the large lightning flashing across the sky. Taking a deep breath, he settled under the provisional roof, tidying up the remnants of the food, pouring himself another cup of wine. Taking off his boots and tunics, he settled on the furs, snuggling up against the wall with a fur around his shoulders and others tucked around him, and pulled his knees up towards his chest, burying his toes in the soft wool. Sipping his wine, he wondered if Elrohir would stay outside until he was soaked when it was so nice and dry in here.

When he finally did return, Elrohir was indeed soaked to the skin, but he felt somehow a little bit better after having witnessed and felt the fury of the storm. It often helped him to deal with his own inner turmoil to focus on that of nature. Crawling beneath the tarp, he glanced over at Haldir, wondering if the other Elf slept. Moving to his pack, he pulled out a clean pair of leggings, and then he slipped out of his wet clothes and quickly into the clean pair of leggings, though he didn't bother with a shirt or boots yet.

"Are you asleep, Haldir?" he asked softly as he settled down into a sitting position on the blankets near the other Elf, taking a sip of the wine he had left before.

Haldir had been slightly dozing, drowsy from the wine and the monotonous drumming of the raindrops on the canvas, but awoke when he heard light movements from the branches above, and the soft rustling of the fabric as Elrohir lifted it aside and entered the talan. Too lazy to move, he silently watched the dark-haired Elf undress, admiring the alabaster white body for a moment before Elrohir covered it in dry clothes. When Elrohir softly called him, he slowly sat up, wrapping the fur around his bare back. He shivered slightly in the sudden cold after the warmth of his bed and dragging more furs over his legs and chest, making himself comfortable. "I am awake now," he said, smiling a little, drawing the still lit lantern a little closer to the bed. "Did you enjoy getting soaked?"

"Forgive me. I did not mean to wake you." Elrohir brushed a damp strand of hair back away from his face. "Aye, I think I did." He chuckled softly, blushing a little as he pulled one of the furs up around his bare shoulders. Closing his eyes for a moment, he listening to the sound of the rain on the tarpaulin above them, the wind in the branches as it rocked the tree and talan slightly with the force of it. A hint of a smile played across his face though it did not stay there for long. "I have always found the storms soothing," Elrohir commented, turning to fix his gray eyes on Haldir.

"Well, you were not exactly silent when you came back," Haldir retorted dryly, but with a disarming smile, silently amused seeing the other one blush. "Why do you find storms soothing, when they are eruptions of vast amounts of nature's power?"

"Forgive me, I will be more quiet should it happen again," Elrohir said apologetically. "Perhaps it is simply being a part of that power, witnessing it and in a way feeling it... It helps cleans the soul in a way," he replied softly, thoughtfully, not sure how else to put it.

Haldir looked at Elrohir gently, and leaned over to touch his arm for a moment. "It is all right. I was not quite asleep," he confessed, looking him in the eyes. "I would not sleep anyway until I knew you were safe back inside again. Do you feel better now, when your soul is cleansed?" he added, absentmindedly playing with his pale hair, now falling loosely and unbraided around his head.

"For now perhaps," Elrohir admitted, glancing over at him curiously. "Had you wanted me to come in, you had only to say something." He added, "I would have come back in... Perhaps you should go out and see what the storm can do for you." He glanced towards the flap hanging down to keep the wind from blowing any of the excess water onto them.

'No," Haldir said with a shudder. 'I do not want to go out in the storm. I have spent almost all my life out in the woods, and I have had my fair share of rain and storms without any shelter while standing watch. This is one of the few occasions when I do not have to stay outside." He sighed softly and added, "Are you still wet and cold? Take one of these extra furs. No need to freeze."

"I'll be fine," Elrohir tried to protest, but something about Haldir made him want to accept the extra fur just to please him. Taking it, he smiled slightly, scooting closer to Haldir. "Thank you," he said finally with a soft sigh. "Thank you for caring and for listening to me when I know it must have been hard for you to hear me speak of what I spoke..."

"You have a broken heart, and I know how much it hurts. True, it is painful for me to hear you speak of it because it fuels my own memories, but it helps me to care for someone else than myself. I will be here for you if you need to talk about it," Haldir reassured him. "I think that might help to heal both your heart and mine.' He carefully adjusted the fur around Elrohir's shoulders, and pulled the extra furs up to better cover his lap and chest.

Reaching out to caress his cheek gently, Elrohir did the same for Haldir. "Talk to me,' he prompted gently. "Please." He knew it would be hard for him to hear for the same reason that his own words had been hard for Haldir, but at the same time he knew that Haldir was right. Perhaps together they could help each other; if they were to trust each other it was possible.

Haldir hesitated somewhat, fearing to even start thinking about his pain, but finally he began slowly. "I have loved someone for many years, yet have always known it could not be. A few nights ago, something happened that made me hope - that perhaps it could be possible - that he might feel love for me after all..." Haldirs voice had fallen to a small whisper. "But this morning I learned I was wrong... He has a new lover now...' The last words were almost inaudible, and Haldir swallowed hard, staring down at his hands, folded around his bent knees.

Elrohir stayed where he was for a moment before moving closer, pushing the furs back from his shoulders so that he could slip his arms around Haldir. Ignoring the nagging little thoughts and desire that jumped to his mind, he pulled the Guardian close. "Is it possible you misunderstood what you saw?" he asked finally.

Sighing, Haldir closed his eyes and leaned into the touch. The arms around him felt so good, so comforting, and yet - it was a long time since he had felt bare skin against his own. Pushing that thought out of his mind, he silently shook his head. "I have thought of that - in fact I have been able to think of little else this day - but I do not believe so. It is more likely I have imagined the whole thing. That he never had any interest in me in the first place. I have been so stupid!" The last words came with a resigned groan.

'Perhaps you should go and speak to him. No, not of your feelings if you do not wish, but if he does indeed share them... Then perhaps give him a chance to speak to you of them, and if you did indeed not misunderstand what you saw...' Elrohir scooted over to sit behind Haldir, pulling him back against his chest as he leaned back against the side of the talan and drew the blankets once more up around them. Shivering slightly, Elrohir dismissed it as nothing but the chill that had come up with the storm.

'No, I cannot speak to him, not now - perhaps never. He does not know my feelings, and it should stay that way. I have no right to interfere in his happiness. I I do not want to think about it anymore..." His voice trembled a little, and he felt his eyes sting behind closed lids. Haldir was slightly surprised when Elrohir pulled him back against his chest, but he faintly remembered having seen the twins sit like that when they were smaller, comforting each other. It felt so good, so safe. Haldir shed his last reservations of being only a guard while the other a lord, and leaned back against the other Elf's chest, tilting his head to rest his forehead on Elrohir's chin, biting his lip to hide the emotion that welled up in him. "You are so kind to me," he whispered.

"You were always kind to me," Elrohir answered, arms tightening around him. Besides he understood, in a way, how the Guardian felt, what it was like to love someone and no longer be able to have him or her. Though he knew it must be worse to know that they were still there, close by, only to think that they loved another after having thought that perhaps there was a chance. He kissed the top of Haldir's head gently. One arm encircling his waist, Elrohir brought his other hand up to brush it through Haldir's hair, soothingly. "It's alright to cry, you know... Everyone needs to sometimes."

Haldir had not wept in the presence of others since he was a child, not even his brothers. He had always stayed in control, waiting until he was alone. But this pain was so deep - his last shreds of control were bursting, confronted with this gentle tenderness from Elrohir. Silvery tears escaped from beneath his dark lashes and trickled down his cheeks. His throat burned, and his lips trembled visibly. Turning sideways in Elrohir's arms, he slid both his arms around the other's back, holding him tight, burying his face deep into the curve between shoulder and neck. His strained breathing turned into half choked sobs as he broke down in Elrohir's arms.

Holding him tightly, Elrohir felt his own tears begging to be let free as well. Though despite his own words to Haldir, he held them back for a while before giving in. Fingers straying through the Guardian's hair, arms tight around him, Elrohir pressed his cheek to the top of Haldir's head. Their tears fell like the rain that flowed from the sky onto the earth around them; Elrohir paid no heed to the storm that still roared around them in the night. Lost in his own pain and Haldir's.

Feeling Elrohir's body shaking, hearing his soft sobs, Haldir understood that also the young Elf lord was finding release, and pulled him even closer, stroking the long dark hair. They held each other tight until the rain stopped falling on the canvas, and the forest fell silent. Exhausted, not letting go of Elrohir, Haldir carefully eased them down on the furs, pulling the blankets up around them. Slowly, they fell asleep still holding each other tight.

Lord and Guardian - 4 & 5