The leaves of the ancient trees formed a thick canopy that filtered the morning light. It had been years, centuries to be more accurate, since Elrond had allowed himself to lie down on a forest floor. His dark hair spread around his face, mixing with the grass and fallen leaves, and he felt nothing like an elf lord.
He watched quietly as the birds went on their daily business flying from tree to tree in search for food and nest. Those last few weeks in his tiny cabin in the woods he had lived much like those birds. Concerning himself with surviving and enjoying one more day.
Elrond turned his head to the left and smiled when he saw that a very green cricket had landed on the sleeve of his tunic. He closed his eyes and tried to sense the small creature. For a moment everything was dark behind his closed eyelids but then something flared and he felt it. Such a tiny life, so fragile and simple...
Concentrating more, he could feel the nearest tree. There was a sense of stillness and eternity to it. He finally opened his eyes and sighed softly. His powers were coming back, seeming to seep from the quietness that surrounded him in this timeless forest to crawl slowly inside his soul.
Back in Imladris he had been a source of power and it had flowed from him to envelope the valley. He had fed his powers to his home until he had nothing more to give. Now nature seemed intent in giving it back.
He no longer tired so easily nor felt so morose. Elrond laughed quietly. In fact, he felt absolutely sensuous. He was acutely aware of each little sensation: the soft caress of the wind against his face, the prickly feeling of the grass against his hands, the warm glory of the sun where it touched his skin.
Inhaling deeply, Elrond felt the green lush scent of growing plants and moist soil. The distant lulling sound of a peaceful forest brought peace to his heart.
The blazing soul of Ereinion that brushed the edges of his awareness
Elrond rolled to one side, using one arm to pillow his head, and folded his legs. The little cricket moved with him, landing somewhere in his hair. Focusing his mind on the feel of his beloved, the Peredhel allowed himself to be surrounded by that love. It was such a complicated emotion, filled with too much pain and unbearable hope. Pain at their brutal separation and hope that one day they would share that complete intimacy that had once been present between them.
"Sorry, little friend, time to go," Elrond softly apologized to the cricket and stood up.
They had learned much about each other during those few weeks apart from the rest of the world, but they had both been surprised by the changes they perceived.
What they had once shared, in the millennia they had been together, was something that every couple wished they could have. They knew each other so well, trusted each other so completely and the fire between them had never died. They also had problems, as any couple had.
Ereinion was fast to anger and usually lost his temper in a spectacular fashion. He was equally fast to forgive, forget and move on. Elrond himself never lost his composure but only a decree from the Lady Elbereth would make him forget an offense. They used to live a very delicate balance. By day Ereinion became High-King Gil-galad and, though Elrond was his most trusted councilor, herald and heir, all decisions ultimately belonged to the King. By night, they left their titles behind and were equals.
And sure as rain, by night they fought a lot about the decisions made during the day. Elrond was first a diplomat and healer, while Ereinion was above all else a warrior. They usually were able to come to a solution that pleased both of them but it took its toll. Nevertheless, no matter how bitterly they argued, there was always the knowledge that they loved each other and nothing would change that.
Now Elrond still loved Ereinion and knew that Ereinion loved him too, but they were no longer so sure where they stood.
Walking back to the little cottage, Elrond noticed that his lover and Nindalf were still hammering away in the so called stable. They had managed to build a good enough shelter for the horses in the first few days, but Ereinion had insisted that they could make it better.
Inside their new home there was a basket filled with fresh apples that Gladhwen, the village's healer, had brought in her last visit. The young she-elf was fascinated with his knowledge of herbs and came to see him at least once a week. He considered the beautiful red fruits for some seconds and decided to bake a pie.
Elrond snorted; he had never thought that he would learn how to cook after six thousand years. He had learned how to prepare a rabbit over a fire as any decent warrior should but no more than that. He was glad that he had some talent in that area otherwise things would have been rough. Nindalf was a terror in the kitchen and Ereinion had absolutely no interest in learning how to cook.
Soon the fresh aroma of baking pie brought Ereinion and Nindalf back inside the house. They ate in comfortable silence and, as soon as Nindalf finished, he moved outside to take care of the hens.
"Don't stay too long on the sun," Ereinion ordered, still distracted by his tea and apple pie. He raised his head when Elrond laughed softly by his side and he grinned ruefully. "I sound like a doting parent, don't I?"
"Yes, well, he is our little boy." Elrond shook his head with a fond smile. "I know you worry about him and most of the time you treat him more like a son than a servant."
"I do worry about him and I guess... I grew fond of him. Though he does try my patience most of the time." The former king gave his lover an inquiring look. "Is that how it feels to have a child?"
"That is part of it, but it is also much deeper." Elrond shrugged his shoulders in a helpless way. "It is too hard to explain. It is one of those things that change you so completely, changes the way you look at the rest of the world."
"It is one of the things that separate us now," Ereinion said with a sad smile.
"What do you mean?" the Peredhel asked quietly, reaching out to take one of Ereinion's hands in his own.
"There was a time when you were completely focused on me; I was your whole world." Averting his eyes with an embarrassed frown, Ereinion continued, "I know it sounds selfish and immature but it will never be like that again. I will never be owner of your heart "
Elrond nodded his head; there was nothing he could say about that. He loved Ereinion, but there was a part of him that belonged solely to his children now.
"I never had to share you before; I suppose I will have to get used to doing so from now on."
"I imagine there are a number of things about me for you to get used to," Elrond murmured in a soothing voice. "I am older now, more powerful, I have seen and done things on my own for many years. I married a wonderful lady, fathered three children, and lost my daughter. But you are still my world, Ereinion. That has not changed."
"How can you say this?" Ereinion shook his head, disbelieving. "You have changed, you just said so."
"I have changed and yet my heart is still yours." The Peredhel stood up only to sit on Ereinion's lap. Ereinion looked up at him, surprised. "I have reached a part of my life, my beloved Ereinion, where I own nothing to anyone but myself. I have fulfilled my oaths and obligations; I have won all the battles I decided to fight. And you are my reward."
"Listen to me, my stubborn Noldor king, I love you. You and no one else can make me happy. Until the day you walk away from me, you shall be my whole world." Elrond touched noses with Ereinion, fixing him with a level stare. "And I do not mind the fact that we are so different now. It is only our habits that have changed and we are probably a little bit wiser now. Our souls are the same and you are the other half of mine."
Fixed with that level stare all Ereinion could do was believe in his lover's words, and he felt a weight being lifted from his heart.
"All right," he whispered with a wide grin.
"I talk until I am completely out of breath, baring my soul to you and all you can say is 'all right'?" Elrond asked, but a smile was tugging at the corner of his lips.
"Now *that* is an answer that makes everything worthwhile."
To Be Continued...
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