Birds singing... warmth... comfortable... light...
Those were the impressions that registered with Elrond when he woke up the next morning. He lay on his side, resting on an impossibly soft mattress and surrounded by mountains of white pillows. The soft curtains that surrounded the bed were so light that they floated in the morning breeze.
Elrond rose in one elbow and looked around. The bed was huge, ridiculously so, and the headboard was decorated with swans and flowers. He stared at it, entranced by the perfect handwork, until a noise drew his attention. He fought to free himself from the tangle of sheets and slid off the bed. He wavered for one second but the weakness soon passed. Elrond was surprised by it; it had been some time since he last felt this sure on his feet. Then he finally turned to see the room and he gasped in shock.
It was the most beautiful bedroom he had ever seen. And it was huge! It reminded him not only of his own private quarters in Imladris, but also of the one he had occupied in Lindon. It had everything he loved: tapestries, paintings, statues, perfectly matched dressing table and sofa. There were flowers everywhere, some he knew and loved and some he had never seen before.
He walked around, dazed, until he came to a balcony that had a table and some chairs, a lounge; the whole outer wall was covered in ivy and tiny flowers. Birds where everywhere, their singing had stopped and they looked curiously at him.
"Hello," Elrond whispered, a bit disconcerted. The birds resumed their singing then and he relaxed. He looked around and almost jumped out of his skin when he saw Ereinion standing near the door. "Hum... hello to you too," Elrond murmured, blushing so much that he could feel the tip of his nose burning.
Ereinion did not answer, just smiling softly at him. He was not very sure what to do; it had been a long time since they had last talked. Ereinion had desired Elrond back in his life for more than three thousand years, but now he did not know what to say.
"How do you feel?" he eventually asked, coming nearer the balcony.
"I am fine, thank you." Elrond smiled shyly, painfully aware of what he looked like. Hair mussed from sleep, twenty pounds thinner and clad in a dark green gown. He probably looked like a scarecrow...
"Did you...hum... did you like the room?" Ereinion gestured around them. "I made it for you."
"For me?" The Peredhel's smile widened. "It is lovely."
They gazed at each other and Elrond tried to resist the impulse to run his hands over his hair. He felt vulnerable and awkward. It was silly though; Ereinion had certainly seen him in a much worst state than this. But even so the silence between them stretched until it became uncomfortable.
Elrond felt torn. He knew Ereinion loved him and he knew he would always be safe with him. But he felt insecure; he felt as though he they were meeting for the first time. He wanted to make a good impression but he did not know how to do it without making a fool of himself.
He raised his eyes to Ereinion, pleading, and he was not disappointed. Ereinion strode forward and took Elrond into his arms. They clung to each other desperately, the irrational fear that they might be separated again rising.
"Don't leave me, don't leave me, don't leave..." Elrond moaned, not really knowing what was coming out of his mouth. He was clutching Ereinion, clawing him, so frightened he could barely breathe.
"I won't," Ereinion answered, arms around Elrond's waist. He picked Elrond up and carried him to the bed, sitting down with the Peredhel on his lap. They rocked together, murmuring nonsense into each other's ears. "I love you, Elrond."
"I love you, Ereinion." It was then that the tears came. He had not cried when Ereinion died, afraid that if he started he would not be able to stop. Now, in Ereinion's arms again, he cried.
Elrond cried for everything, for their love that had to end, for their parting that had been so abrupt. He cried for their years apart and for the chance they had been given. When it was over, he felt drained and a little embarrassed by his display of emotion.
He raised his head and was a little startled to see that Ereinion had shed his own tears. Elrond caressed the beloved face tenderly and smiled.
"Ah, I managed to get a real smile from you this time, my Peredhel," Ereinion said softly and laughed when Elrond's face flushed. "Can I still make you blush, my love?"
"Can you not see that it is so?" Elrond glared at him but it soon abated. He rested his head against Ereinion's chest and sighed. "It has been a long time since I had a true lover."
"It has been more than three thousand years I had one," Ereinion confessed easily.
"Really?" Elrond asked, secretly delighted. During their years together they had been completely faithful to each other. "You know about Celebrían?"
"Yes, I have met the Lady," Ereinion said lightly. Her presence did not intimidate him anymore. "She told me about the circumstance of your marriage."
"Did she tell you about the one she loved?" He could tell his lover was not aware of this detail by his surprised face. "She is called Aranadhel and she sailed with Celebrían; you probably know her."
"She is one of her maids..." Ereinion trailed of with a confused look. That was not something he had expected. "So she prefers she-elves?"
"And I know you had only been with me before you married her." Ereinion shook his head and looked at his beloved. "May I ask you something really embarrassing?"
"How did we manage to have three children?" Elrond smiled and answered lightly. "It was a mixture of good timing, a lot of wine and healer knowledge."
"I beg your pardon?" Ereinion asked scandalized.
"I know exactly how many times we had sex," the Peredhel muttered bitterly. "I felt like a widower and she felt married to someone else. It was not an easy relationship; it took us many years to find out how to make it work."
"You do not know how relieved that makes me and how ashamed I am for feeling this way," Ereinion murmured, hugging his lover close.
They stayed together, just savoring their closeness. Elrond was almost dozing off against Ereinion's chest. He was so relaxed that his body felt weightless. He closed his eyes and committed the wonderful feeling to memory.
"My love?" Ereinion asked gently and, when Elrond lifted his head to look at him, he continued, "Would you like to have a bath? Breakfast perhaps?"
Elrond nodded his head but snuggled closer. He was in the mood to be taken care of. It had been a long time since he was comfortable enough to let someone else take care of him. In fact, the last one had been Ereinion. He felt, simply put, pliant.
His lover was not discouraged by his lack of enthusiasm. He simply lifted Elrond in his arms and maneuvered around the bedroom to ring a bell. Elrond hid his smile, delighted. The young elf that entered the room to answer the call was clearly confused to see Elrond being carried around like an overgrown child.
"Hum... you called, your Highness?"
"Yes, Nindalf. Lord Elrond would like to take a bath and have breakfast," Ereinion said and could not resist rocking Elrond back and forth just like one would do to a distraught baby.
Nindalf's mouth was hanging open and he stood transfixed until Ereinion cleared his throat. He snapped back to attention and hurried out of the room to do as he had been bid. Once he had left Elrond started to chuckle. It was a contagious sound and soon Ereinion was laughing too.
It was not even that funny but it was a relief for their pent up emotions and they laughed so hard Ereinion was forced to sit on the floor.
"Why are you laughing?" Elrond asked breathlessly. "True, your servant's face was priceless, but we have done much worse in our years together."
"I do not know, beloved, but it feels good to laugh with you again." Ereinion smiled. It was also a good distraction for Ereinion's worries. Elrond felt too light in his arms, skin and bones and nothing more. It was not the body he remembered and he feared for Elrond's health.
Nindalf returned shortly, accompanied by two other servants carrying dishes and other supplies. They spread around the bedroom, setting a splendid table for breakfast while Nindalf disappeared behind one of the doors to the right side of the suite. He came back and went to another door, coming out this time carrying clothes with him. The younger elf laid the clothes by the bed and once everything was ready Ereinion ordered the servants away.
"I will tend to you myself, beloved," he murmured affectionately before standing and helping Elrond to his feet.
The first door led to a bathroom, one which was a very good replica of his own back in Lindon. There was a fire burning in a narrow corner hearth. Shelves and benches lined the walls all in light golden wood, and on them were stacked towels, robes, cakes of soap and bottles. The windows were painted to deceive the morning sky with all its bright colors. A half-sunken oval tub, full of bubbly water, steamed in the center.
Elrond smiled his approval, but frowned deeply when Ereinion started removing his own clothes. He thought of averting his eyes but Ereinion stood before him so completely comfortable in his own body that Elrond was compelled to look at him.
"You are magnificent, my love," Elrond murmured. He was the same tall and well muscled elf Elrond remembered from his past. Even some of his old scars were there and Elrond ran a hand over his lover's chest.
Ereinion's smile could have lit up a room. He caught Elrond's hand and brought it to his lips to bestow a light kiss on it. He tugged at the hand he held until Elrond raised his eyes to him.
Elrond knew his lover wanted him to take off his clothes but he felt extremely embarrassed by his body. His lover looked the same but he was older, thinner and paler. He had never thought himself beautiful but he had always taken great care of his body.
"I have already seen you naked, beloved," Ereinion said gently. "There is nothing to be ashamed of."
Elrond nodded, not trusting his voice. He tugged the gown loose and stepped away from it when the garment slid to the floor. Elrond looked anywhere but Ereinion and even so he could feel his lover's eyes on him.
"Do you think so little of me beloved, that the fact you are thinner now would lessen my love for you?" Ereinion asked, lifting Elrond's face with two fingers under his chin.
Elrond managed a weak smile before escaping his lover's fingers and practically jumping into the bathtub. The water was hot and laced with soothing oil and Elrond felt the tension on his shoulders beginning to abate.
It did not last long; Ereinion joined him in the tub, carrying a cake of soap, wash cloth and a bottle with him. Elrond reached for the soap and cloth but Ereinion shook his head. "Let me."
Bathing was an absurdly mortifying experience for Elrond, though Ereinion seemed to be enjoying himself. He ran the soapy cloth over every inch of Elrond's body slowly, much more of a caress than actually washing. Had he been more comfortable, Elrond would be painfully hard by now. As it was, he could feel the tips of his ears burning with humiliation.
Ereinion ignored his furious blushing and moved to clean his matted hair. When he was satisfied that Elrond was thoroughly cleaned he left the tub to retrieve a towel. He came back and held it open for his lover.
Elrond was so hasty in his attempt to move that he tripped at the edge of the tub and fell against Ereinion. They were lucky Elrond was twenty pounds thinner or theyboth would have ended up sprawled on the floor. This time, though, Ereinion managed to catch him without much effort.
"This silliness of yours could have got you hurt, beloved," Ereinion said softly, but there was a hard edge in his voice. He wrapped Elrond in the towel and left him sitting on a low stool near the fire.
"I apologize," Elrond murmured, gripping the towel around him. He did not wish to anger Ereinion; if anything, he wished their reunion to be perfect. He jumped when Ereinion used another towel to dry his hair and tried to offer a smile to his lover.
"You were like this the first time we came together; shy and jumpy," Ereinion said while rubbing the towel over Elrond's long hair. "I could not understand it back then and I certainly can not understand it now." He urged Elrond to stand and guided him back to the bedroom. "Do you not know how beautiful you are?"
"I am not much to look at." Elrond tried to keep his smile but it was a little frayed.
"Are you trying to denigrate the elf I love?" Ereinion asked with mock severity. He puffed his chest and said, with an obviously arrogant voice, "You are beautiful to me and I always thought that my opinion was the only one that counted."
Elrond could not help but chuckle at his lover. He relaxed, admitting that he was being a little silly. He had always wanted to look his best for Ereinion, but if he did not mind a few more ribs showing, then Elrond wouldn't keep broaching the subject.
"Nindalf does not know yet what you like to wear, beloved. Will those robes be fine?" Ereinion asked, pointing to a set of formal velvet robes, tunic and underwear.
Elrond wrinkled his nose in distaste at the bright yellow robe embroidered with silver flowers centered with pearls. Yes, he liked yellow; he liked silver and pearls too, but not all at the same time. It even was trimmed with white fur. He turned to Ereinion, trying to find a nice way to say how hideous he thought they were when he saw the mischievous glint in his lover's eyes.
"Ereinion..." When Ereinion burst out laughing again Elrond lost his temper. "I prefer to walk around in this towel. I will not wear these things!"
Ereinion kept laughing but guided him to another door. He pushed Elrond gently inside. "This is your wardrobe, beloved, choose as you see fit."
‘I could get lost inside this thing,' Elrond thought, a little intimidated. It was not a wardrobe, but an adjoined room filled with clothes, shoes and a thousand utter unnecessary things. Clothes were arranged in color, shoes by kind and jewelry was everywhere. It came to his mind that Arwen could spend the rest of her life inside this room happily. Celebrían would probably be glad to spend a millennium there.
Elrond shrugged his shoulders and found a blue robe with silver embroidery that seemed warm. Then he located some soft underwear and a shirt and went hunting for a set of slippers that wouldn't clash with everything else. Some minutes later he was looking at himself in the mirror.
"Not bad," he said to himself. "If I put some weight back on, manage to take ten to twenty lines away from my face and put the light back to my eyes I will be presentable." He sighed. ‘Well, it could always be worse,' he thought.
He left the room, feeling a little more like himself now he was covered. Ereinion was sitting at the table, waiting for him so they could have breakfast. Elrond eyed the food with little appetite.
"You should eat, beloved," Ereinion informed him, piling bread, cheese, fruits, omelet and other delicacies onto a plate.
"I have not eaten a decent meal in over a month, Ereinion; I do not think I can eat all that," Elrond said, but accepted the plate nonetheless.
"You will need your strength, Peredhel. I expect your grandparents here as soon as Nindalf announces that you are awake."
"My grandparents?" Elrond asked, raising one of his eyebrows. "What are you talking about?"
Ereinion did not have time to answer. Nindalf barged into the room breathless and excited. He ran to their table, bowing as politely as he could.
"My lord, the High-King is coming!"
"The High-King?" Elrond turned to Ereinion, his already raised eyebrow rising even higher. "I thought you said my grandparents were coming for a visit. And will you ever introduce us?"
"Beloved, may I present you Nindalf." Ereinion gestured to the excited young elf, practically vibrating with anticipation. "He will be the one to serve you. Nindalf, may I present you Lord Elrond Eärendilion."
Elrond nodded to the young elf, remembering very well that it had been him who had chosen the yellow robes. It seemed this young one had absolutely no experience as a servant. All those who had served him in Imladris had been told to leave the city and head for the Havens almost one moth before he did. His sons claimed they did not require servants; they would spend the rest of their limited time in Middle-earth traveling.
It would not be an easy task to find all of them; many had lived in Imladris. They had not only been Noldor but Sindarin and even some Wood elves. They were probably scattered around Valinor, trying to find lost relatives. Elrond sighed, but posed no objections.
"I will serve you well, my lord; you will not be disappointed," Nindalf said brightly. Then he tilted his face in confusion. "You are not wearing the robes I selected, my lord."
"Ereinion does not like to see me in yellow," Elrond answered lightly, ignoring completely Ereinion's scowl. "He says it does not look good with my complexion."
"Ah, I will pay closer attention from now on." Nindalf nodded sagely.
"Where would you like to meet them, beloved?" Ereinion asked.
Elrond's hand immediately shot to his messy, unbound hair. Oh, wonderful! To meet the High-King of the Noldor clad in a simple robe and with his hair standing up like the fur of some beast. He opened his mouth to scold Ereinion when he received the second shock of the day.
Someone knocked on the door and, before Elrond could flee to the bathroom as had been his intention, some of the greatest elves of Arda came into the room. Elrond easily recognized them; his library in Imladris had been filled with their descriptions and pictures. He stood up, not knowing what to do and looked at Ereinion for guidance.
"My dear Elrond, may I present you the High-King of the Noldor, Lord Finarfin, as well as your grandparents." Ereinion did not even take the trouble of rising to his feet.
It seemed superfluous to introduce his grandparents; Lady Idril ran to Elrond and took him in her arms. Elrond was speechless; seldom had he been embraced like that, especially by someone he had never met.
"Oh, my child." Lady Idril pulled away just enough to look into Elrond's eyes. "I am Idril, my son, and I am your grandmother!"
Elrond's breath hitched in his chest and he finally returned the hug. Aside from his dreams and visions, he had no clear memory of his parents, and even the images of Elros were starting to become fuzzy. To be able to meet one of his family was much more than he had ever expected.
"Grandmother..." Elrond choked, trying to control his tears.
"You are so much like you father!!" The lady was beaming helplessly. She beckoned to her husband to come closer. "This your grandfather, my son, this is Tuor."
Tuor reached for him, claiming Elrond in a bear hug. Elrond noticed immediately where the family looks came from. Tuor was a tall man with strong features that Elrond had not only seen in himself, but also in his sons.
"It is good to finally meet you, my child." Tuor smiled brightly. He took a step back and gripped Elrond's arms in a warrior's greeting. "We have heard much about you."
"Grandfather, I am honoured." Elrond smiled shakily.
"You will have to call me father, my son," Tuor murmured, a look of sadness coming over his face. "I will never be able to see my Eärendil again, and to have you near us now is liking holding a part of my son."
"Father," Elrond agreed, happy beyond measure to finally be able to give the title to a real person and not a star in heaven. He then turned shyly to Idril. "May I call you mother, then?"
"That would make me more happy than you will never know..." Idril whispered, tears of joy filling her eyes.
"Now that this is settled, greet your grandfather, my son," Lord Turgon said, smiling broadly. The former King embraced Elrond too; pleased to notice his grandson had inherited the tall build of the family. "Let me look at you, young Peredhel." He took Elrond's face and examined it closely. "You are definitely a Noldo. I will be very glad to assure Thingol that you have nothing of that line in you."
"Do not pay attention to him, son," Tuor said, laughing. "He has a wager with Thingol as to which one of the lines you would resemble the most." He waggled his eyebrows outrageously. "You look much more like a descent of Men to me."
"Nonsense, Tuor! He is Noldo through and through." Turgon glared at his son in law. "You just have to look at him to know where he belongs."
Elrond stood helplessly between the two great lords while the argued good naturedly. Idril was snickering behind her hand before suddenly turning him to greet the other lord in the room.
"My son, this is Finarfin."
If Idril had not been holding his arm Elrond might have dropped to his knees. He had a very well developed sense of propriety and decorum; it was unthinkable to him to greet the High-King of the Noldor without showing the proper respect. It seemed, though, that this branch of the family was not very fond of protocol. Finarfin, too, greeted him with a warm hug and much petting.
"Let me look at you, my nephew!" the High-King said, turning Elrond's face this side and that. "I can see a lot of Noldor and Men in you, young one, but this particular shade of gray in your eyes must come from Thingol's family."
"I would not know..." Elrond smiled.
"Do not pay attention to Turgon, nephew. Our family ties are vast and complicated, but I am sure that there is some Sindar in these big gray eyes of yours."
Elrond almost jumped back when Finarfin gave his raucous laugh just before kissing him soundly on the cheek. He gave Ereinion a pleading look and his lover took pity on him.
"Now, my lords and lady, we should give Elrond some time to rest." Ereinion smiled and pulled his lover to him. "He is still a little tired."
"He must be much more than tired, nephew, after wielding a Ring of Power for an Age," Finarfin stated, eyeing Elrond critically. "I shall send a healer to take a proper look at you, young Peredhel."
"This is not necessary, my lord," Elrond whispered embarrassed.
"Yes, it is," Turgon intervened. "We worry about you, child. You may be old to those that dwelled in Middle-earth, but to us you are our youngest child. Allow us to take care of you."
It was only when his family left that Elrond allowed the tears to flood his eyes. He turned in Ereinion's embrace, hiding his face against the strong chest.
"Beloved?" Ereinion asked gently.
"It is too much," Elrond choked, clinging to his lover. "We are together again and now I meet my family. It is too much."
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