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Lord and Guardian - 10 & 11

Part 10 - Bittersweet remembrance

Celeborn had not wanted to believe it, to accept the fact that it might be real, that what he had just seen could actually be happening, and yet now... How could he banish the picture of Haldir and Elrohir wrapped in each others arms, bodies pressed together, blissfully asleep?

I was wrong. As the thought slipped through his mind, his feet found the ground and he felt glad for its solidity. Yet his hand sought the tree's trunk to keep himself from falling - just barely. How could I have been so mistaken in what I saw? What I thought I saw... His vision clouded slightly and he knew not where he went, nor did he care to know. It did not matter right then, nothing mattered except that he loved and he had lost. Tears slipped down his pale cheeks as he moved through the forest, silent, unseen and unseeing.

When Celeborn had left his room after midnight, Tinendel had silently followed him. He knew that the Lord intended to visit Haldir, to talk with him or have some kind of confirmation of his suspicions and Tinendel feared what the answer would be. He had analyzed it over and over in his mind. Extremely receptive to others' feelings, thoughts, and body language, which bordered on mind reading when he could look into their eyes, he felt almost certain Celeborn would encounter a scenario he did not want to see. He had waited in the shadows, watching him enter Haldir's talan. When he saw him stumble out again he knew at once what had happened. Seeing Celeborn run into the woods, he followed swiftly, afraid of what would happen to him.

Celeborn managed to make it quite a distance without tripping, perhaps from luck or his natural grace. But finally he lost his footing and sprawled silently onto the ground. He did not get up, finding it easier instead to lie there, face pressed against the grass and leaves that littered the forest floor.

When Celeborn fell, Tinendel rushed to his side, kneeling beside him. "Oh, meleth-nin," he said tenderly, carefully turning him over and placing Celeborn's head in his lap. Silvery hair covered his Lord's face and Tinendel smoothed it away, cradling him gently.

Celeborn turned away from him, not wanting to see Tinendel, not wanting to see the knowledge written there on his face. He did not want to admit to being wrong, that... He did not say anything, curling up on his side once more, body shaking slightly with silent sobs.

Tinendel removed the dry leaves from Celeborn's hair, trying to wipe dirt and moss from the wet face. Then he just embraced him tightly, rocking slightly back and forth with the Lord of Lorien in his arms. "There, there, love," he whispered into the pointed ear beneath the silvery hair, nuzzling him gently.

"How foolish of me to think that this could work." Celeborn sniffled quietly after a few long moments, still not looking at Tinendel. He felt drained in more than one way, not even knowing what to say to the one who had been his best friend for uncounted long years and remained so in many ways.

Still nuzzling Celeborn's ear and hair, Tinendel let him take his time. He could feel the pain radiating from the other Elf's body, and his heart bled for him. Oh, my love, how can I help you? "Did they see you?" he asked slowly, trying to decide the best way to deal with this situation.

"They did not," Celeborn answered quietly, closing his eyes as he slowly tried to gather himself together again. He could not go on like this, not as he had been, not now. It would do himself and everyone else no good, for them he had to be strong. So Haldir loved another, then so be it. He had been given his chance and he had allowed it to pass without seizing it.

Carefully stroking his hair, Tinendel gingerly tried to turn Celeborn a little to look into his eyes. Still undecided as to how best to deal with the situation, he sensed it would prove less hopeless than it seemed and needed to know Celeborns true feelings. Is he shutting down? "You should still talk to him," he finally suggested.

"Little point remains in speaking with him now," Celeborn replied, sitting up. He kept his back to Tinendel as the other brushed the silver hair away from his face. "What would I say? He made his choice and nothing can be said. It is obvious that they have found happiness together. I would not jeopardize that..."

Finally starting to form a theory, Tinendel placed his hands firmly on Celeborn's shoulders, turning him around and looking deep into his sky blue eyes, still wet with tears. "Do you really believe that? I do not think it is that simple. How can you be so sure about what he thinks and feels when you never speak to him? Perhaps he is just seeking comfort - to get over you. Have you thought of that? You cannot let this misunderstanding between you continue."

"Does it truly matter now?" Celeborn pulled away from Tinendel. "It could not have worked out been between us, knowing full well the reaction of the people. Yes, some would accept it and others would not. You personally saw how such realtionships fared before." Celeborn caressed Tinendel's cheek gently. "It is better this way, no one else will be hurt, least of all him."

Not liking this change in Celeborn, Tinendel tried to read his eyes again, but found them closed to him now. That alone gave him strong clues of what went on inside the silver-haired Elf. "You speak of hurting other people, but what of yourself? You have loved him for many, many years, and never cared about his station before. I do not believe you when you suddenly worry about the acceptance of others." Holding Celeborn's face with both hands, Tinendel stared intently into his eyes. "Do not shut me out, meleth-nin. How do you feel? What turmoil stirs within your heart?"

Celeborn tried to pull away from Tinendel, emotions still too near the surface, too flimsily bound for them to not break free easily. How could he say that this did not hurt? That he had not cared for Haldir for so long only to find - now when he thought perhaps the object of his longing might prove obtainable - that it would not be. "What does it matter what I feel, Tinendel? My wants and needs have never truly mattered, only what served the people best." He closed his eyes against Tinendel's searching gaze. "I cannot tell you that I do not love him. You know full well that I do." His voice shook slightly in the saying of it, and the knowledge of its truth. "What does it matter now? I can hardly go to him and say 'Haldir, long have I desired you with all my heart, body, and soul. Forgive me for the misunderstandings that have come between us... I had thought not to tell you, but I must for my own sanity at least.' " Celeborn shook his head slightly, eyes opening again. "I could not do that to him, not now that he has found someone... someone else who can accept him."

Tinendel's gaze softened, and he stroked Celeborn's cheeks tenderly, wiping the last remnants of tears and dirt from them. How I have longed for him to be free from this yearning, to perhaps turn to love me again. But I cannot not this way. For a moment he could not speak, simply embraced Celeborn, burying his face in his hair. I love him more than life itself. I cannot watch him make the same mistake I made. He will regret it the rest of his life. As I have.

With a heavy sigh Tinendel caught his beloved's eyes again. "Meleth-nin, you would sacrifice yourself for his happiness, I know that. That shows the measure of your love for him. But you saw his eyes clearly that fatal morning. You witnessed the hurt in him then, and I felt it today in the reception hall. He still cares for you, but walls those feelings away, just as you do now. Did you not notice that second when he looked into your eyes? I observed him when he nearly fell apart... Just for a moment, before he turned to ice again, he seemed unhappy."

"As I know how much it must hurt you to stay here for me, to watch this," Celeborn whispered, nothing hidden as he looked into Tinendel's dark blue eyes. "How much things have changed," he breathed, an almost lost look playing across his face as he leaned forward to brush his lips gently across Tinendel's. "We are all hypocrites, advising each other to do what we our selves cannot - or could not - do when we had the chance." He laughed almost bitterly, breaking Tinendel's gaze as he pulled him into a hard embrace. "Mayhap he does still feel something for me. He will get over it and find another. Already he had turned his feelings towards Elrohir, that much I found obvious even when we met earlier. You cannot tell me that you did not see that as well, Tinendel, for even I saw that... Ne, my friend, it is better this way." Gently, Celeborn pulled away from him with a nearly infinite sad look on his face. As he walked over to kneel beside the stream and splash cold water across his face he felt old in a way he had not before.

Tinendel had loved Celeborn all his life and had lost him because he had been a fool how he regretted that mistake. Long ago in Doriath, when he had left him for adventures, Tinendel had intended to come back to his lover. But Celeborn had misunderstood, thinking he had left him forever, and so he had let Galadriel take Tinendel's place in his heart. When Tinendel returned it had been too late. He had seen Celeborn happy with Galadriel and backed away never telling him how much he still loved him, not wanting to disturb their happiness. Only much later had he understood that the love between Galadriel and Celeborn might not prove as strong as he had believed and then it been too late. He had sacrificed his own happiness for that of his beloved, and had never had the chance to rectify the misunderstanding.

Now Tinendel had a chance to focus Celeborn's love towards himself again, after all this time. He had never wanted anything so strongly in his life his heart cried out for him. Yet he could not do this at the expense of his beloved making the same sacrifice he had made over a misunderstanding. I want you more than anything in this world my love, but I cannot take advantage of this situation. Oh, what will I do?

As Celeborn moved away to wash in the stream, Tinendel allowed his own walls to fall momentarily. For a second, his heart burning with the agony and his mind spinning in turmoil, he almost lost his control as tears and pain erupted. With clenched teeth and fists he fought them back, turning his back on Celeborn.

Celeborn knelt beside the water for a time, eyes closed - just listening and being, never feeling. It hurt too much to sense anything more than his surroundings at times and this moment had become one of them. Celeborn knew or suspected what troubled Tinendel, though he had never had the heart to face that in his friend - nor did he possess such strength at the moment to face him. Celeborn knew how easy he would find it to simply stand up and walk into those arms - to lose himself in his friend and take up where they once had been, telling him that he loved him. In many ways he still did, yet he loved Haldir, too. Celeborn wondered if a person could possibly truly love two people at the same time. Slowly, Celeborn ran a wet hand through his hair and then looked up at the stars in the sky above, wishing they could give him the answers to his questions - even though he knew they would not.

Do I always fix my eyes on what I think I cannot have because I cannot have it? Or do I simply take what I can have as it becomes available, because I believe what I want cannot and never will be? Is that why what existed between Galadriel and I did not last? If I were to do as you long for, Tinendel, would it last or would I only hurt you more? I know for a long time I have loved Haldir, yet is this love true... Or is it merely because I can not have him that I love him, and once I do have him, if it were possible, would this feeling fade as it did with Galadriel? Celeborn knelt lost in thought, not knowing any more which way to turn or where to look for the answers.

Finally, Celeborn turned to look at Tinendel, whose back remained to him and the sight of those bowed shoulders almost broke his heart as much as seeing Haldir with Elrohir had. He cared deeply for his friend, and yet he knew that no matter what he did he would hurt one of them. He could not please everyone, no matter how much he wanted it. Why did things have to turn out like this? he thought bitterly. He brushed new tears away from his cheeks, searching for answers when he knew he would get none. Standing, Celeborn walked over to slide his arms around his friend, pulling Tinendel back against himself. "Forgive me," he whispered softly, chin resting on Tinendel's shoulder.

Tinendel turned slowly, unable to hide the pained expression still in his face. Seeing new tears on Celeborn's cheeks almost crumbled what control he had left, and he could not stop tears from rising in his own eyes. He did not want his own pain to cause his beloved more distress, so he hugged Celeborn tightly, hiding his face in his hair. "Forgive you for what, melethron? For making the same mistake I made? I will not allow you to," he breathed.

"It was not only your mistake but my own for taking the easy way out," Celeborn replied, his hand gently running through Tinendel's silky, dark hair. "Ah, it would be so easy now to simply lose myself in you. I know you would have it, though you would not invite it..." Gently, he tilted Tinendel's face up, his own feelings too open on his features for his own tastes, lips only a few inches away from Tinendel's. "Would you even have me now, if I turned from him all together and embraced you?" he whispered in a nearly inaudible voice.

Upon seeing Celeborn's feelings so openly displayed on his face, all his pain and tears revealed, and his eyes open to the depth of his soul, Tinendel knew his own face and eyes must be just as open. They read each other's innermost feelings in that moment. Overwhelmed by the surge of it, he closed his eyes, tears slipping out from under dark lashes, trembling visibly from his inner fight to kiss those beloved lips and say... yes, yes! Not able to maintain control any longer, he captured Celeborn's lips with his own, tenderly at first, then passionately as his heart swelled in him, clinging to Celeborn as if he drowned. After a few moments he tore himself away, pressed his face against his beloved's shoulder, and fought for control, his breath hitching.

Finally, he whispered, "Would I have you, my love? I love you more than life itself. I always have. What you ask of me seems unbearable... I want you with all my heart and would wish for nothing more. But I will not claim your heart for I know you love Haldir more and would regret giving him up for me for the rest of your life if you did." Nearly inaudible, he added with the last of his breath, "Do not ask this of me, meleth-nin. I would die for you, if that could make you happy with the one you truly love."

Celeborn had vowed not to break his word that he would not have another if he could not have Haldir. He had promised it to himself when Galadriel had left, yet now... Celeborn felt sorely tempted to break his word to himself, to pull Tinendel closer, kiss him, and tell him all would be right in the world - that he would not leave again. He could do that - could take Tinendel - let Haldir be happy with Elrohir and give his friend what he needed, but even as he thought it Tinendel's own words came back to him.

Celeborn sighed softly, brushing his lips gently against Tinendel's. "Stay with me tonight and let me hold you one last time as I did before," he whispered quietly. "Let me be the one to kiss away your tears this time... If you will not allow me to turn away from him, at least let me do this thing for you, will you not?"

Tinendel slowly raised his head and gazed at Celeborn, trying to comprehend what he read in his eyes and finally nodded. "Yes, I will, my love. But will you promise me then, that you will never give him up? You love each other and belong together. Will you let me give you this last gift in return? Allow me to help you get back the one you long for before I leave you? Oh, my love..." His voice failed him, and he pressed his face to Celeborn's shoulder, body trembling from withheld emotion.

"I do not know if I can face him again," Celeborn admitted quietly, closing his eyes against the new tears that wanted to come. Torn between his feelings for Haldir and those for Tinendel, the knowledge of what it must have been like before and even now for his friend dawned in him.

Tinendel held Celeborn tight, his eyes tightly closed, still fighting his emotions. He stroked the silvery hair over and over, contemplating what to say. Without lifting his head from his friend's shoulder, he finally suggested, "Let them have a day to themselves to sort things out. Then ask Elrohir to come for dinner the day after tomorrow. After dinner, I will talk to him and try to find out both the reason for his grief and the depth of his relationship with Haldir. There might be a connection there for we do not truly know what lies between them. I suspect Haldir may just be seeking comfort where available, but we have no idea of Elrohir's motives yet. Perhaps if we understood these things, we might know if anything might change between them."

"Aye, perhaps that would be better..." Celeborn agreed quietly. "Will you stay with me till then?" He stared into the dark shadows of the night playing around them, saying nothing for a time. "Perhaps they seek comfort in each other, but what if it is not so?" Celeborn could not help but ask the question, it had to be said.

"You must make that decision yourself, when your heart finally knows what it truly wants," Tinendel whispered in his ear. "But I will stay with you as long as you need me, melethron." He slowly lifted his head and gazed into Celeborn's eyes with an infinitely tender look. Butting their noses lovingly together, he then brought his lips to Celeborn's, gently nipping at the soft lips. Gradually, he captured them fully and passionately, pouring all his feelings into the deep kiss, losing himself in his beloved.

"I am sorry, meleth-nin..." Celeborn replied as the kiss ended, forehead still pressed gently against Tinendel's. "I sorrow that I cannot be what you want... what you need..." His arms tightened gently around his friend's body, pulling them closer. He vowed at that moment that if things did not work out with Haldir, he would do his best to provide whatever Tinendel needed - what he wanted - the one he loved and to love him back. Pushing the thought from his mind, Celeborn kissed him again gently and lovingly. If he must give time to Haldir and Elrohir, then he would seize what time Tinendel and he had as well...

Enjoying Celeborn's kiss, Tinendel closed his eyes to allow himself to sink into the sensation, yet feeling his eyes moisten again. "I know you cannot, but let us share this night as a last gift to each other to keep as a remembrance of what we once were and could have been," he murmured into the sweet lips, not wanting to move, snuggling into his arms. After a while, he shivered in the cool night air, and gently folded an arm around Celeborn's shoulder. "It grows cold, love. Perhaps we should go back inside?"

Celeborn took a slow deep breath, trying to control the turmoil in his soul once more. He settled his arm around Tinendel's shoulders in return. "Aye, we should do that," he agreed softly, pressing a loving kiss to Tinendel's cheek before slowly leading the way back through the forest towards the city. Celeborn felt uncertain of what would transpire between them or exactly how he would respond later to what he had discovered between the one he truly loved and his grandson. It hurt too much to think about it right then, so he let himself be content in comforting Tinendel, finding it easier to focus on someone else's hurt, someone else's need than his own. Yet despite his promise to himself, he would give his friend what he wanted - what they both wanted - for Celeborn could not say in all honesty that he did not want to share this last night with his friend. How he wanted to be with the one he had once loved more than any other. He could almost find it amusing how things could change in such a short time.

They said nothing more as they entered the city and climbed the stairs to the large talan. Tinendel let Celeborn lead him to the Lord's lonely bedroom. Galadriel, as usual, was nowhere to be seen. Once inside, they stopped and embraced, still not speaking. Tinendel's emotions fluctuated between joy and grief. His joy awoke because he had yearned to hold Celeborn for so incredibly long, ever since their youth in the forest realm of Doriath, before the world changed, before the young Noldo Galadriel had arrived... The grief welled because he knew this would be the last time they would ever share a night of love, a closure for all that had been between them, giving them a jewel to treasure in their memories that would allow them both to move on. Celeborn needed to concentrate on his love for Haldir and Tinendel knew he must leave Celeborn and try to find happiness elsewhere.

Celeborn did nothing for a time, simply studying the tall, dark-haired, beautiful Elf in the silver shadows dancing around the room through the large windows and laced curtains. The moonlit shadows hid yet exposed all the two felt yet attempted to keep from showing to others. Gently, Celeborn pulled Tinendel into his arms, kissing him lovingly upon the lips. Much that had once been had changed between them and yet at the same time much remained that had been in the past and would always be the same. Some things learned can never be forgotten, all the more so for Elves as they cannot forget no matter how they might wish such forgetfulness. "I would that you could find contentment..." Celeborn said quietly after a time, his hands traveling along Tinendel's back.

"So wish I that you had the same, meleth-nin," Tinendel mumbled in his ear, relishing in the loving touches so long missed, yet so familiar. "I promise to do anything I can to help you resolve the misunderstanding with Haldir to return him to you if it can be done. Let that be my last gift to you before I leave you," he sighed, unable to keep his hands from Celeborn, caressing his hair and face tenderly, nipping at his lips.

"And what would I give you? For it seems I have given you nothing but pain with no remedy..." Celeborn's fingers came up to caress Tinendel's face gently as he looked into his dark blue eyes. "I..." He could say nothing more for Tinendel knew and had seen the pain and the loss in his eyes, knew for himself how it felt. But he did not voice his vow, aware how wrong it would be to give hope when none might be present. "Enough talk of Haldir and of other things. Tonight he does not exist, tonight you and I only breathe for each other..." Celeborn said gently, carefully locking Haldir away in the back of his mind, though he could not do so completely. For the fair-haired Elf was in some way or another always in his mind, in his heart, and in his thoughts...

"I will treasure this night forever, meleth-nin. Some pain will be inevitable no matter what we choose. This night will truly prove a great gift and help us to move on." Tinendel knew that Celeborn now recognized how it had always been for him and hoped that the Lord of Lorien would choose not to go down the same path Tinendel had chosen. Holding him tight, bestowing feather light kisses upon the pale face shimmering in the moonlight, he whispered into the soft skin, "I hope I can bring you some comfort too, my love... I am so glad you will share this night with me."

"You bring comfort to me simply with your presence, as you always have," Celeborn replied gently, eyes half closed as Tinendel's lips brushed across his face. His hands slid down from Tinendel's face to his shoulders, brushing gently against the smooth skin visible along the neckline of his tunic. Celeborn's hands moved lower to his friends waist, then burrowed beneath the fabric of his clothing to rest gently against his skin. "I have no words to express how much I appreciate what you have done for me in the past and in the present..."

Tinendels breath caught as he felt the warm touches he had yearned for, his skin tingled, making him flush. Relishing the sensations coursing through him, his lips moved slowly along the line of Celeborn's jaw, tracing his tongue along the earlobe and up to the delicate pointed tip, tasting it, blowing gently on it, treating it the way he still remembered would undo Celeborn. "Oh, melethron, I have no words for what you do to me in the present," he breathed into the delicious ear, before continuing his ministrations.

Celeborn chuckled huskily, tilting his head to the side, breath hitching softly in his chest as Tinendel continued to tease his ears. Slowly, he began moving the two of them towards the bed, unsure how much longer he could stay on his feet like this. "And you still know how to drive me crazy..." Celeborn murmured softly, pushing Tinendel's tunic up as his hands ran gently along his skin.

"Ah, so do you, my love," Tinendel gasped as Celeborn's roaming hands brushed his nipples. Shifting a little to allow his beloved to slide his tunic over his shoulders and drop it to the floor, he deftly opened the front of Celeborn's tunic and pushed it aside. In awe, he stared for a moment at the pale, firm chest, memorizing every inch of it. Then, he gently ran his hands along the skin, savoring the feel of it, allowing his fingers to rest on the pink nipples that rose to meet his touch.

Brushing fingers gently across new scars, pale in the moonlight, Celeborn wondered just how far his friend had gone while he had been away, wondered at all that he had seen. Part of him wished that he could have been beside him, that things had never changed between them. But they had and nothing could be done for it now. They could no sooner become who they had been then than they could return to the relationship they had once enjoyed. But we can have now... Celeborn turned to catch Tinendel's lips gently with his own, pressing a loving and passionate kiss to them.

Closing his eyes, Tinendel lost himself in the passionate kiss, feeling his body awakening, sending warm waves all over him. After all these years his body still instinctively reacted to each of Celeborn's touches, and knew how his old lover would respond to any of his. His heart swelled in him, rekindling all those old, suppressed feelings he had for this wonderful Elf in his arms. Silently, he pushed Celeborn's tunic off his shoulders and to the floor, and then continued to remove the rest of his clothes as they stopped next to the bed.

Celeborn slowly ran his fingers down Tinendel's body, touching his skin gently, lovingly. It seemed as if they had gone back in time, yet somehow differently - a soft sigh escaped Celeborn's lips as his fingers came to rest on the waistband of his old lover's leggings, loosening it. "Ah..." he whispered softly, as the last vestige of clothing slipped away to the floor. Celeborn gently pulled Tinendel against himself, letting both of them fall back onto the bed with Tinendel on top, his eyes full of tender love.

With infinite tenderness they made love over and over - in bittersweet remembrance. Every time they lay limp beside each other, their hands and lips began wandering anew hungry to rediscover everything that once had been between them. They relished the remembrance of all the ancient sensations, every touch, every emotion reawakened to be experienced anew, losing themselves in each other's bodies. Lingering, tender loving alternated with hot passion - often with laughter, a few times with tears. Utilizing every shred of their Elven endurance, they took care to enjoy this, their last night together, to the fullest, creating from it a precious jewel, forever to treasure in their hearts. Finally, sated in every way and utterly exhausted, they found themselves laying in each others arms, their eyes locked in a loving gaze, drinking in the sight of each other in their current state and memorizing every detail of the other.

They remained quiet for a few long moments, as they simply lay lost in each other's embrace once more. Finally, Celeborn sighed softly, brushing a tender kiss across Tinendel's lips. "I am glad we had this chance," he whispered quietly, sincerely. "I am glad, my friend." He pressed his lips gently to Tinendel's forehead this time.

Tinendel closed his eyes as Celeborn kissed him, enjoying the attention his lover had lavished on him, feeling extremely happy to have been given a night like this after having pined for him for so long. He had been in a state of pure bliss for hours as the very feeling of finally being granted his highest wish nearly overwhelmed him. However, unwelcome reality slowly started slipping back, little by little, reminding him that this would not last beyond this night. They would go back to their previous positions Celeborn wanting Haldir - and Tinendel, the faithful friend, helping and supporting him in obtaining that goal. Not wanting to let the truth back in just yet, he snuggled tightly into his beloveds face and sighed contently. "Yes, my love. I am so very grateful we shared this night. I will treasure it in my heart forever."

"You should find something else to treasure in your heart forever..." Celeborn said tenderly. He had not missed the look in Tinendel's eyes and knew the harsh truth had come back to him once more. Tightening his arms around his friend, he wished he could hold it at bay at least a little while longer. "You deserve something better than that." Than me... I was not good enough for you. I would have waited if I had been worthy, but I turned away from you more than once and now I cannot go back again...

Sensing the uneasiness in Celeborn's voice, Tinendel frowned a little, gazing at him. "I could never have anything better than what you have given me this night. I have always loved you so dearly. What you have given me has been more than I dared to dream about. If you knew how many times I have regretted bitterly that I left you back then. I had hoped you would ask me to stay, but you did not and I believed you did not want me. How foolish to ever leave you!" His emotions crashed over him, forcing his eyes closed as he pressed his forehead to Celeborn's.

"More the fool I, to let you go," Celeborn replied simply. Though both had their own reasons for what they had done, the past remained as simple as that. They could do nothing now to change things. Perhaps some reason lurked unseen for the way things had turned out. He could not see it yet, only hope it existed. "This gift you say will be enough... Even though I cannot give you what you want and need?" he asked softly, gently tilting Tinendel's chin up so that he could peer into his old lovers eyes. "And do not tell me that I can, because I cannot. You have already told me so yourself."

Clinging to Celeborn, not wanting to look in those beautiful blue eyes he loved so dearly, Tinendel slowly answered, "I know where your heart lies, you cannot change that even if you wanted to. I know you would sacrifice you own need to treat me well, but I will not allow you do that. Bad enough one of us made the wrong choice... Oh, my dearest beloved, I could not take advantage of your broken heart! You have given me all you can bestow on me tonight, and I will treasure this jewel in my heart, whether you want me to or not..." Voice failing, he pressed his face into the pillow.

Celeborn could not speak for a moment for the sorrow he heard in Tinendel's voice. Instead, he pulled Tinendel closer, voicing his own grief. "We both erred in the past," he finally managed, biting his lower lip for a moment. " 'Twas not your mistake alone, love, but mine as well..." His own voice fell silent, unable to continue, as he pressed his forehead against Tinendel's head. He felt the full weight of the whole situation come crashing down, the need, the worry, and the pain. Not only what lay between him and Haldir, but the burden of Tinendel's misery as well. "Ahh... Can there be no way for all of us to find happiness in this?"

Hearing Celeborn's desperate plea, Tinendel finally lifted his head a little to face him with moist eyes. "I remain a fool, meleth-nin, for letting you feel my pain. 'Twas your heart that broke tonight, not mine, for 'tis an old sorrow. I grieve, my love, that instead of easing your pain, I have given you another. If at all possible, I will bring Haldir back to you, to make you both happy." Placing a tender kiss to Celeborn's lips, he whispered, "Then I must leave you. I will not afflict you with seeing me every day, disturbing your happiness, knowing... " Fighting his emotions, he closed his eyes, a single tear running down his cheek. "Do not worry about me, I will find someone. I always do," he protested, his voice trembling slightly.

"Tinendel..." Celeborn whispered, turning Tinendel's head towards him. "Tinendel, you cannot tell me not to worry for you, for I will worry no matter where you go..." His lips kissed away the tear, his own voice none too steady as he spoke. "How can you claim to be a fool for wanting another to share your pain when I have done the same to you already? My own words and actions brought you back into my arms. We need each other to share our pain and our tears, to make it easier to bear and help to shoulder this. Only..." He stopped, blinking back tears as he looked away from Tinendel. I cannot help you... though he wanted desperately to. "It would be no burden to see you every day. Do not ever think or say that. If you feel you need to leave I will understand why you must do so, but do not go for that reason... Please."

Unable to hide his agony, Tinendel stared at him with a distorted face, new tears welling up. "You will always be my dearest friend as well as my first and greatest love... Yet, it would be like seeing you with young Galadriel all over again. I cannot... Oh, what do you want me to do?" Desperate, he hid his face in his hands, shoulders shaking slightly.

"I want you to be happy..." Celeborn whispered, drawing Tinendel close. "If leaving me and this place will ease you... Ai! Do not go because you think the sight of you would grieve me. Indeed, I cannot help worrying about you, but I would no matter if you lived here or not..." His voice broke as he held Tinendel closer. "I know no way to help you, my friend... Ah, but that I could..."

Brokenly, Tinendel mumbled, "You have aided me in the gift of this night... That alone you can do..." Sniffling, he shifted to press his wet face into Celeborn's neck. "Just hold me... for the rest of this night... like we once were... like we have been now... Oh, meleth-nin..." His breath caught and he could say no more.

"I will be here when you wake," Celeborn replied and then pulled him closer. He loosed him only long enough to draw a light blanket up around their bodies. "If ever I can do more for you, meleth-nin, you have only to ask. Remember, I will do whatever I can for you..." He blinked back tears. For both of you...

Weeping silently, Tinendel closed his arms tightly around Celeborn and nuzzled deep into the curve between his shoulder and neck, brushing his skin lightly with shivering lips. I will do what I can to secure your happiness, my love... as I always have... oh, my love, if you only knew what sacrifices I make for you!

Haldir... Tinendel... Why must I choose between them? If only I could make both of them happy Celeborn's thoughts wandered as sleep slowly began to settle in. And if Haldir does not want me? Then at least I can make things right here. I could not forget all, forget neither the feeling nor the longing, but I could be... Ahh... Why must things be like this? I pray that you forget me and find someone who can please you, for I know I have brought only sadness when it comes down to it. Celeborn closed his eyes against new tears. Haldir... The hard coldness in his voice in the hall, the look in his eyes as he had run away flashed through Celeborn's mind. He shivered slightly, clutching Tinendel tighter, trying to bring the better images to mind. Yet it was not just Haldir that came to mind, but times before that as well.

Exhausted from both emotion and bodily pleasures, Tinendel finally felt himself drifting into dreams. Slowly, forgetting his saddened state, his dreams reminded him of the happiness he had shared with Celeborn this night, and blissfully he sighed and cuddled up against him as sleep engulfed him.

Celeborn's thoughts haunted him for a while longer before blissful dreams set in, dragging him down into their warm embrace like Tinendels comforting arms still around him. He pushed aside his own sorrows and worries to lose himself in happier dreams, dreams of other times and places, not all of which were real.


Part 11  - Shared fates


Elrohir had put off going for as long as he could without risking being late and even then he had to hurry. He had tried to convince Haldir to go with him but the older Elf had declined more than once and finally he had given up trying to convince him. Though he did not understand the reasons behind his stubbornness, he accepted that Haldir had his reasons and let him be for now. Elrohir, however, did not have the same luck or reason for not going; he would have liked to stay with Haldir for the evening and into the night, but for the moment it could not be. So he hurried through the city, trying not to think too much as he went.

When he arrived, the meal began with a few greetings and small talk. Celeborn seemed distracted to him as they moved into one of the smaller private rooms. Elrohir brushed a strand of hair back behind one of his ears as he glanced around the familiar room. A little smile played across his face as he thought of the pleasant memories of other meals and discussions this place held. Yet as the dinner proceeded, things became more and more awkward and the discussion less, till finally Elrohir rose from his seat with a slight bow.

"Please forgive me, grandfather, but I should go. These past few days have proven long and it seems as if you should get some sleep as well." He smiled slightly before turning.

"And I beg your pardon for that. A great deal has happened of late," Celeborn said gently while standing up to give Elrohir a hug before he could leave. "Go in peace, Elrohir."

"And you to sleep, my Lord." Elrohir smiled slightly before turning away and left the room without looking back.

Tinendel rose and followed Elrohir out in the larger hall, until Celeborn could no longer see them from the smaller dining room. He touched the young Elf's shoulder gently. "Elrohir... You must excuse your grandfather this night for he has been very tired. Would you care to join me in the library for a while? I would love to hear news from Imladris. How fares my dear friend Elrond, and you? Besides, they have lit the fireplace, the deep armchairs give comfort, and the first bottles of this year's production of cherry brandy just arrived... quite exquisite, I assure you." He gave Elrohir a warm smile.

Elrohir hesitated. He wanted to return to Haldir, to lose himself for a little while in his lover's arms, and yet... The dinner had worried him and it not only in regards to Celeborn. Something else bothered him, something he had not quite grasped yet. Yet he had known Tinendel most of his life, though they had never been exceptionally close, so he nodded. "All right," he agreed, returning Tinendel's smile with one of his own."

Still smiling, Tinendel led Elrohir into the library and indicated that the younger Elf sit in one of the large armchairs near the fire. Then he walked over to a cabinet by the wall to fetch two glasses and a decanter filled with a sparkling deep red liquid and placed them on a small table between their chairs. Tinendel filled both glasses, gave one to Elrohir, and then sank down in the other armchair with a contented sigh. He lifted his glass in a toast, then nipped slowly at the dark liquid. After a couple of sips, he turned to look at the young elf. "So tell me, how do things proceed in Imladris, Elrohir?"

"Much as one would expect with the times..." Elrohir replied. "As usual, they talk much of what will come and what must be done about it." He said nothing about the council or what had been decided, though he needed to talk to his grandfather about it, that issue had not been his main concern. "Otherwise things remain as well as can be expected." He took a sip of the cherry brandy and leaned slowly back into the chair with a soft sigh, letting his eyes close for a few moments. "And how fare you, Tinendel?" he asked softly, turning to look at the dark-haired elf.

With a light laugh, Tinendel waved a hand nonchalantly. "Oh, I... I remain as always... restless, staying for a time here or there, friend of many... ever-adventurous... nothing new to report about me. But I intend to stay with your grandfather for a while, to assist him in certain matters, for he has many things on his mind." Lifting his brandy to his mouth, he stopped before his lips met the glass and peered at Elrohir, his dark blue eyes narrowing. "No, I do not think everything remains as well as expected in Imladris," he said slowly, lowering his glass again. "I sense trouble within you, Elrohir. I know there must be a reason you came here alone, unannounced... and this concerns both your grandfather and I. Would you share what weighs on your heart with me?"

"'Tis naught, and nothing that effects the well being of Imladris. 'Tis simply my own problems and nothing more," Elrohir replied with an easy smile of his own. "It eases my heart that someone will be here to help him. Even I can see he has much on his mind," Elrohir added--meaning Celeborn of course.

"Hmm," Tinendel said, regarding Elrohir thoughtfully. "I find it interesting to see how similar you are to your grandfather... When troubled, you both tend to gloss it over, not wanting to talk about it..." He turned to stare at the sparkling liquid in his glass, tumbling it in his hand.

Elrohir chuckled softly, his smile almost genuine this time. "Are we in truth that much alike? It seems he can talk to you at least." He looked away from Tinendel, watching the fire dancing in the fireplace with a soft sigh. "Talking about it will not change anything, nor will it help. It only shares the misery and makes others worried. What is the point in that? Then I am not the only one troubled..."

"Well, your grandfather and I have been friends a very long time. We grew up together. He cannot keep anything hidden from me," Tinendel began. "I recognize him in you - enough to know you hurt, Elrohir. And I feel uncertain your stay here has helped you at least not yet even though I know you have a very good friend in Haldir." Reaching out his arm, Tinendel lightly placed his hand on Elrohir's shoulder for a moment, pressing it supportively. "I still feel your pain, dear friend. Who hurt you so?"

"It does not truly matter now. He left and most likely will not come back, dead or alive," Elrohir said, keeping his gaze on the fire. He felt tempted to brush the hand off his shoulder, but something kept him from it. Everyone seems in pain lately. Does something connect it all or does some reason exist for all the sorrow that permeates our worlds? He sighed softly taking another sip of the wine.

Tinendel felt the tenseness in Elrohir's shoulders before he removed his hand again and shook his head. "Please, Elrohir. Can you not trust me? Remember when you were younger and fought with your brother? You used to come to my lap when you needed a shoulder to cry on and unburden your heart. I not only feel your pain, I also sense a great deal of confusion clouding your mind. Please, look at me," he pleaded, touching the young Elf's hand this time. "Why would someone leave you like that?"

"He deemed his friend more important, it seems. I could not question him for he would not even say goodbye, but simply left me with a letter." Elrohir leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees, though he said nothing else for a few more moments. "What more can I say? He left and now I am here and nothing makes sense anymore... And though I try not to let it hurt, it distresses me that Elladan would not come with me this time. That something else would prove more important than me. I know I should not say it nor think it, yet in part I am jealous that he could find what he wanted and needed while I..."

Tinendel's gaze softened to one of concern. It seemed as if Elrohir finally had let down the walls he had built around him and now his pain just poured out. Trying to sort the facts out, he held Elrohir's hand supportively while frowning in concentration. "You speak of a lover, one who left you without telling you, just leaving a note. How cruel of him Trust me, I know." For a moment, Tinendel stared grimly into the fire. "So you needed to get away from the pain and came here and Elladan would not come with you because he wanted to stay with his lover."

Elrohir hesitated for a moment. Finally, he simply nodded, refusing to look at Tinendel. "Aye, something like that," he agreed in a voice thick with tears, then set the glass down before he spilled it or crushed it in his hand. At last he forced himself to look over at Tinendel. "How... how do you know?" he asked, hoping it would not be the wrong thing to ask, knowing it could hurt.

 "I have been there myself. I awoke one morning and found my lover gone, with a letter on my pillow saying he had to leave to help an old friend, not knowing whether he would be back or not. He never returned..." Frowning for a moment, Tinendel turned to look at Elrohir. "Believe me, Elrohir, I know how much this pains you and I sorrow that you had to experience it. I hope this one returns to you."

"Perhaps, though part of me hopes that he will not come now... I do not know what I would say to him, or what I would do... it hurts. If he returned now, I do not know if we could even go back to what we were before..." He sighed, running his hands slowly through his hair. "I do not know what to think. I no longer know where anything in my life will proceed - I thought perhaps everything would finally work out... I had hoped for so long and then after only one night... I do not know what to think about it..."

"You had only one night with him? Then why these strong feelings? Did you pledge your love?" Shaking his head slowly, Tinendel took the last sip of his glass and put it down on the table. "Your tale reminds me of what happened to me... I behaved stupidly then... but he could be such a charmer. I resisted him for a while, until I could not withstand him any longer. When we finally had a night of love, my heart felt ready to burst, and I told him I loved him. He spoke so sweetly then, told me he loved me too and that we would always be together and then I awoke to find that note on my pillow..." Tinendel sighed heavily and turned to pour himself another glass of cherry brandy. "I suppose he feared commitment and ran because he became afraid when I spoke of love... I investigated his background later and found he leaves a trail of broken hearts behind him..."

"Ne, I knew him for some time, but I never thought that there could be anything between us. He befriended my brother and I for some time... Often, he would disappear, but he would always return. He fancied himself in love with Elladan and I knew it... But that night we talked and he said that he could love me - that he could give me the chance, that he would not leave - and I believed him..." Leaning back, Elrohir reached over to grab his wine glass and down the rest of its contents before setting it on the table once more. He rested his head in his hands, staring at the shadows the fire cast across the floor. "I thought maybe, I could believe him... He finally convinced me before we fell asleep and then when I woke..."

Something surfaced in Tinendel's mind. He tried to grasp it, but it submerged again. The descriptions Elrohir gave him... Something so familiar tickled at the back of his memories. The thought surfaced again and this time Tinendel seized it and analyzed it. No, it cannot be that happened many years ago. But still... With a quizzing look he turned to Elrohir and captured his gaze. "Who did this, Elrohir? What did he look like? Where did he come from? He would not happen to be called Shadow, would he?"

Elrohir continued to stare at the floor, surprised and yet not truly, as the name came off Tinendel's lips. So I am not the only fool. Perhaps it should make me feel better, but somehow it does not He blinked back tears. "He called himself Deltena, but aye, he went by Shadow... Not until he had gone did he leave that name with me... Said he had never truly fallen in love with anyone before, until me..." He stood up and walked over to the window, staring out without seeing the forest beyond. "What a fool I was to believe it, to believe that anyone could care for me like that... I had hoped for so long, tired of merely playing with love - of leaving and being left... I wanted to think that perhaps things would be different, that someone could..." But he could not finish saying it and leaned his forehead against the windowsill. "And now... now I am even more confused."

Tinendel saw how Elrohir struggled with tears, and understood how crushing this betrayal must have been for him. Rising from his chair, he went to Elrohir and placed a comforting arm around his shoulders. "Yes, he said that to me, too. That he had never loved anyone else... and he also sometimes used the name Deltena, but I know now he had used other names to other lovers, although the name Shadow seemed to follow him in each case." Stroking Elrohir's long dark hair tenderly, he continued, "Do not believe yourself a fool, Elrohir. You are not, and many would be overjoyed to love such a fine young Elf as you. Already you have Haldir. I have seen he cares for you and I feel certain he enjoys you as a wonderful lover and friend. I hope he helps you heal your heart."

He did not dare turn to look at Tinendel, leaning against the windowsill staring at the forest. When he began speaking again, his voice emerged nearly inaudibly. "Aye, perhaps he simply helps me to forget and find something else. Yes, I care for him, but not the same way - while I might live with that, I could not, for I know he does not truly love me. He might say he does or that he could, but I know he still loves another - I have seen it in his eyes. I have tried to encourage to speak of whom he cares for so that I might... might change things or at least find out the truth of what he believes, then at least... at least he could be truly happy. Yet if it proves the object of his feelings returns them... I do not know what I shall do! I came here seeking peace and now I find myself lost in another horrendous tangle I do not know how to unravel..." Elrohir did not want to cry, yet he found himself crying anyway - he had wept more often than he cared to recently, but the tears would not stop.

Not saying anything, Tinendel simply wrapped his arms around Elrohir and held him in a close embrace as he cried, just as he had done when the young one had been a child. Over and over he stroked the long soft hair and nuzzled tenderly into it, trying to bring some comfort to the sobbing young Elf. His heart bled for him. "There, there," he whispered softly into his ear. "I did not know of this nightmare you suffered, poor boy. I thought you and Haldir had found happiness..."

"Not truly - for I know he loves another and unlike me, the one he longs for most likely would be reachable if he would just try... And yet, if that happened, he would no longer be mine and I would be alone again... I would not wish to be selfish and yet I loathe letting him go." Elrohir leaned against Tinendel, pressing his face against his shoulder. "He makes me happy, but sometimes I feel as if I betray the love I felt for Shadow... Yet, if what you tell me is true, then... then it does not matter."

Still stroking the long dark hair, Tinendel pondered Elrohir's words. He needed desperately to know the truth of what he said that Haldir truly loved Celeborn. At the same time, he prayed for it not to be, knowing what that would mean for himself. "Has he told you that he loves another? Or have you simply guessed it? Does he still say he loves you? Perhaps he means it perhaps his feelings have turned from that other person to you? I have seen you two these last days, and you have both looked happy..." Frowning again, staring out the window at the darkness outside, he mumbled, "Do not think you betray Shadow. If he still plays the same games he played before, I would think he more likely betrays you."

"Haldir told me this that he could love me... Yet, why should he give up while a choice still remains for him, just for me? I would not feel it right for I would not want someone to ask it of me. How can I ask it of another?" Elrohir sighed softly and shivered slightly at Tinendel's words about Shadow - words that brought new tears to his eyes. He did not say anything as he pulled away from him, instead brushing the grief back almost angrily.

"But you do not know who Haldir loves... perhaps he does not have a choice anymore. Perhaps he has already chosen you?" Tinendel asked almost desperately. Seeing Elrohir's tear-stained face he softened, and reached in his pocket to give him a clean white handkerchief. "How did you two get together anyway? You seem so close, and yet Celeborn could not remember having seen you being close before. Are you perhaps using Haldir just to comfort yourself or do you love him?" Tinendel put his arm around Elrohirs shoulders again and sighed heavily. With an infinitely sad look on his face, he murmured, "I know how easy it is to confuse comfort with love."

Elrohir accepted the handkerchief and wiped his eyes with it, then continued. "I will not say that I love him as I thought I loved Shadow, but as a good friend and almost a brother. Yes, I know that perhaps I could love him more, if given the chance. Perhaps he does or does not have a choice. I do not know, for he will not tell me." Elrohir sighed softly. "He met me at the border and we talked much. We agreed to be together for a time to mend our broken hearts, both knowing that the other loved another - that... that we shared merely for comfort and nothing more. Now I do not know what to think, my head and my heart are filled with confusion." He turned to look at Tinendel for the first time, searching his eyes, as he slowly began to realize the import of all that had been spoken. "Is it possible?" Elrohir asked softly, saying no names, wondering if Tinendel would know what he was asking, without asking.

Tinendel shot him a quick glance, almost not daring to meet his look, dreading the dawning realization he read in Elrohir's eyes. His mouth went dry, and he knew not what to say. Without a word, he finally just nodded.

For a few long moments neither spoke, and in the space of time, Elrohir knew he had thought rightly. "I should have known before should have seen it all those signs..." he murmured softly to himself, turning away from Tinendel. "I will let him go. It will be better for all that way," Elrohir answered his own unspoken question, heading towards the door. "Thank you for speaking with me... for sharing." His gaze turned to Tinendel and searched deeply, with dry eyes this time, understanding the other Elf's situation all too well. "I can see it must be harder for you. You love him much more than I have had time to love Haldir. If you need a friend of your own do not hesitate to come to me."

"Elrohir..." Tinendel's voice held infinite sorrow as he went towards the young Elf standing by the door. "I have not claimed his heart, and I never will. He does not love me..." His voice trembled slightly, and with another heavy sigh he embraced Elrohir in a tight hug. "Thank you for telling me how it stands between you. Now I can put his heart at ease... although I will have to leave when this ends. I just cannot watch them together..." Snuggling into the dark hair, he mumbled, "Are you certain you want to release him? I know it will hurt you greatly... But I will be a friend to you as you will be a friend to me, Elrohir. We seem to share the same fate in this." He straightened and moved away a bit from Elrohir with a sad little smile.

Hesitating for a moment, Elrohir leaned forward to kiss Tinendel gently on the lips, a sweet tender kiss, then pulled away. "I will do what I can. I have not claimed him. How can I do anything but let him go?" He brushed a strand of dark hair away from his face. "Perhaps things will work out in time," Elrohir whispered softly. "Peace be with you, Tinendel. I would welcome you to travel with me when I leave, if you wish."

Tinendel gazed at Elrohir and smiled at him, reaching out to touch his cheek gently. "Thank you, Elrohir. I may just take you up on that if you should decide to leave after this. You have such a good heart, dear friend." Suddenly thoughtful, he added, "But we need them to talk to each other A misunderstanding lies between them that needs confronting and negotiation and no way of telling what will come of it."

"I know," Elrohir replied, simply giving him a tired little smile. "If no misunderstanding existed between them I think they would already be together, with no help needed from us. I will speak with him - perhaps we can figure something out."

"What will you do if he chooses to leave you? You came here to find comfort, and you have only found more pain and confusion" Tinendel gave Elrohir a worried look, and stroke his hair to give him support.

Elrohir shrugged slightly, moving further from him. "If he chooses to do so, then it will be the best for him. Whatever happens, will happen."

"You are right. But if you should feel lonely and need a friend, remember that we share the same fate... I will be lonely too." With a sad sigh, Tinendel hugged Elrohir again. "Good night, my friend. And good luck." Leaning in the doorway, he gazed despondently at Elrohir.

"Good night," Elrohir said quietly, not looking at Tinendel, fighting his own demons as he turned and left the room behind. Nothing remained to be said, for the moment at least. Slowly, Elrohir ran his hands through his hair, unsure where he would go, only that he must leave and so he went into the forest. He could not return to Haldir yet, knowing what he had to do. Elrohir knew he would be too tempted to say it did not matter, to simply let Haldir claim him and to leave it at that. But he was not going to do that, he had to do what would eventually be best for Haldir - and being with Elronds son was not the best solution for the guardian.

Finally, Elrohir stopped and leaned back against one of the trees to stare out into the night without really seeing it. He wished it would rain, for he needed a storm - something to distract himself, but the sky remained clear. Swinging himself up into the lower branches of a tree, he climbed as far as he could climb before stopping where the stars became visible through the highest branches. I knew when I started this thing that it could not last... It was too good... Too perfect, just like Shadow. He sighed burying his face in his hands.

~~~ ~~~ * ~~~ ~~~

Tinendel stayed in the doorway until he could no longer see Elrohir. When the young Elf finally disappeared between the trees below, Tinendel turned back into the library. He leaned heavily against the doorframe for a moment before he moved toward the fireplace, sinking heavily into his deep chair. He sat staring blankly into the fireplace for quite a while, not seeing the flickering flames as he drank deeply from his glass without tasting it or truly knowing what he did. It is true... Haldir truly loves him. The moment I have dreaded approaches and I must give my love up now. Oh, how can I? The harsh realization materialized as a painful knot in his stomach. He swallowed hard, trying to suppress the lump in his throat.

With a heavy sigh, he finally got up and left the room, heading for his lonely guestroom but instead found himself outside Celeborn's door. It was long past midnight, and he knew Celeborn would probably be sleeping, that they should talk of what he had learned from Elrohir the next morning, but yet... He probably sleeps. I should not disturb him... Oh, but how I yearn to see him, to have a last look at my beloved! The pain in his chest crushed him, yet he could not stop himself. Carefully, he opened the door and slipped inside.

Dark and quiet, the room flickered with moonlight that fell through the tall windows. The silvery light shone on the large bed and its occupant as Tinendel approached silently. Visions of their night of love in this very bed passed through his head as he stopped beside it to gaze lovingly at the peaceful figure. Celeborn lay fast asleep, his hair spread out over the pillow, shining in the moonlight like a silver halo around his head. His chest rose and fell quietly with each slow breath and his features appeared relaxed, surprisingly young, and tantalizingly beautiful. For long moments, Tinendel just stood there, drinking in and memorizing every detail of the beloved shape - until his vision blurred and warm tears spilled down his cheeks, gleaming softly in the moonlight like silver beads. I will remember you forever like this, my love... Tomorrow you will be his... May you always remain happy, meleth-nin.

Gently, he bent down to place a tender kiss on the beloved face, just brushing lightly over the full lips. This is good bye, meleth-nin Tears dripped into the silver hair as silent sobs wracked him. He could not leave, not this way. Oh, my love, how can I live without you? Tinendel knelt beside the bed pressing his face into the soft silver hair on the pillow as he began to weep silently.

Awakened by Tinendel's quiet sobs, Celeborn reached out a hand to tenderly stroke the dark head next to his, "Would you stay with me this night?" he asked, bright eyes looking at Tinendel in the moonlight, glowing with a light of their own, as he gently smoothed the dark hair beside him. "Please, Tinendel." Celeborn knew that Tinendel could not stay with him, but he had to ask anyway. He knew it was selfish of him to even ask, but he did not want to be alone, did not want to be left with his thoughts.

Tinendel could not answer... his voice failed him. Ai, my love, you do not know what you ask of me. After some time he finally lifted his tear-stained face to look at Celeborn, his breath still catching in his chest. Their eyes met for a few moments. He felt too exposed before his lover and wished he could somehow turn away, hide his gaze and keep Celeborn from seeing what he would rather he not. The quiet plea in Celeborn's question tempted him, but he could not believe it best for either of them if they dragged this out.

Celeborn sensed his hesitation, his agony of indecision. He wished he had not asked but he could not take it back now, it was too late. "Hush, mell pen. Stay for a bit, and let me hold you at least... Let me dry your tears one last time before you go," he pleaded, wiping the wet cheeks gently.

The dark-haired Elf turned into his beloved's arms, holding him tight, allowing himself the luxury of comfort for a few moments. Only gentle kisses passed between them, as if both knew they could not recapture what had gone before. With great reluctance, Tinendel drew away. But he could not leave just yet, there were a few more words that needed to be said. "I felt such terrible grief in young Elrohir, I fear for him..." he murmured, his voice husky with tears.

Brushing his fingers gently across Tinendel's cheeks, Celeborn saw exactly that in Tinendel's own eyes. "Did he speak of this grief?"

"Aye, he spoke of a grief we both share," Tinendel replied looking away from Celeborn, not wishing to share his pain with his lord anymore than he had to. He knew that Celeborn knew too much of it already and he did not wish to burden him more. "He had been left by a lover, one who also left me long ago..."

"I see..." Celeborn said with a soft sigh. He desperately wanted to ask Tinendel if Elrohir had spoken of Haldir, yet he could not quite bring himself to ask the question.

"He also said that Haldir does indeed love you," Tinendel added before he could think better of it, knowing what Celeborn wished to know without him asking. "Speak with him, explain to him what has come between you. Elrohir will let him go for your sake, as I do..." His voice broke slightly as he spoke, new tears trailing down his cheeks. I cannot stay this night, meleth-nin..."

"I know... Good night, mell pen. We will speak again in the morning," Celeborn reassured him, briefly caressing the wet cheek above him. How he wished he could kiss away the sadness on that dear face! Yet to do so would only lead to other things Things he could not promise would remain, for his heart truly belonged to the Guardian of Lorien and to give himself to Tinendel again would only make things worse in the long run--for the both of them.

"Good night, meleth-nin." With a last brush of his lips to the hand on his cheek, Tinendel rose, his hands clenched at his sides to keep from flinging himself on that delicious body stretched before him. With a last look at Celeborn, he turned and fled from the room, out past the library and then through the very door Elrohir had exited through earlier. He needed some time alone... Time to truly grieve for his lost love.

Despite the blurring vision of his tear-filled eyes, he climbed to a nearby branch and ran along it until it crossed with branches from adjacent trees. Moving from tree to tree in this manner quickly brought him out of the city into the forest, away from prying eyes and ears, until he was so blinded by tears he could no longer see and had to stop. He leaned his back against the trunk and sagged down on a branch. The intense pain inside was crushing him... he had to let it out somehow. Slowly he found his voice and began to softly sing a lament to lost chances, lost loves, and broken hearts. The tears streamed freely down his face as he sang, but too soon his voice faltered and died as shuddering sobs took over. Utterly lost and desolate, his heart shattered into a thousand pieces.

~~~ ~~~ * ~~~ ~~~

Elrohir did not know what he was going to do. No, that was a lie. He knew what he had to do, just not how he would accomplish it and keep his own sanity at the same time. He was not sure that he could tell Haldir that he had to let go - or that he could let go himself. Elrohir had allowed himself happiness again in Haldir's arms, and now that was once more being torn away from him. The loss hurt so much, adding to his old pain, that it burned deeply in his chest, making him want to scream. Elrohir felt tempted to jump from the tree, though he knew it would not help nor change anything. In all honesty he knew he could not do it anyway. Fool I am to believe that it is possible to have what I long for... Twice I believed it perhaps in my reach and twice it has been torn from me. I would ask why but there is no answer for my questions. His shoulders shook slightly as he began to cry silently.

It was then that a sweet singing voice reached him, laden with grief and loss, a voice that spoke to his soul. Through the branches, sitting in a tree some distance away he could see Tinendel, his eyes turned to the star-filled skies. Ai! What sorrow! How he must love Grandfather... Yet he too must put aside his feelings for the sake of Haldir and Celeborn... Can no one find happiness here? The misery in that lament brought tears yet again to his eyes and determination that he must find a way to let Haldir know he could have what he wished for. If Tinendel could have the heart to let go of one he loved so dearly so that his beloved might be happy, Elrohir knew it was not for one such as he to be selfish. He could never hold Haldir to him for his own happiness.

The lamenting voice trembled and faltered, then finally stopped to be replaced by keening sobs, as the elf in the tree curled in on himself. Before Elrohir's eyes, the evidence of lost love became apparent, and he understood things now so much better. He had to let Haldir go. With that he left Tinendel to his own grief; feeling as if he intruded. My heart feels your pain Tinendel. May we both find happiness in our own manner, he thought, slipping silently away back towards Haldir's talan, hoping that he would find his lover there.

meleth-nin - my love

mell pen - dear one

To be continued...

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