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Flawed and Fair: 7. Only Fair
Lord Turgon's waiting room was long and narrow, perfect for nervous pacing—as Egalmoth and Glorfindel were currently demonstrating. Ecthelion watched them, surprised to see Glorfindel, usually so serene, displaying overt anxiety. He himself was not tempted to join his friends-, not because he didn't fear banishment, demotion, or sewer duty, but because he was preoccupied with other matters.
Since the debate in his office, Ecthelion had made several attempts to untangle the moral implications of Glorfindel's proposal. Each time, however, he had become distracted by the same minor point: the question of exactly what a reenactment of the Incident would entail. Engrossed in perfecting an answer, he had failed to resolve his real dilemma. He had not even decided whether he would feel worse if he accepted the proposal or if he refused.
Now, as he watched Glorfindel walk back and forth with his usual grace, Ecthelion was rapidly reaching the conclusion that the reenactment was almost certain to take place, if not at some convenient time agreed upon by both parties, then at a moment of weakness. He could imagine several possible scenarios, from the aftermath of another drunken gathering to a cold night spent in the wilderness after being chased from the city. Really, banishment sounded almost appealing.
He no longer felt guilty. Like a sailor who has blundered into a storm and is buffeted about by forces beyond his control, he had no time for self-reproach. He was too busy attempting to evade disaster—to maintain an air of detachment even as Glorfindel met his eye and gave him an unsteady smile of reassurance.
When the door to the throne room finally opened, Ecthelion was the last to notice. He caught up with his friends as they filed in to stand before their lord.
Turgon barely acknowledged their bows. He spoke slowly, weighing each word. "I charged you with guarding my sister. You failed in this when you let her wander off without escort, however briefly. Your presence might have protected her not only from outside dangers, but also from the rash impulse that led her to strike out alone."
Ecthelion saw the justice of this accusation; the familiar feeling of guilt returned as he waited for the verdict. However, Turgon seemed in no hurry to deliver one. Instead, he leaned forward in his seat, as if they were in his private study and not in a formal hall.
"All three of you accompanied my family out of Valinor," he said. "You have witnessed first-hand our courage, our fortitude, our willingness to attempt the impossible. Qualities I am proud of, glad to see echoed in my people—and in my sister, who has always had them in abundance—but that, at their extreme, can lead us to take reckless, thoughtless, regrettable actions.
"However, there is no room for such behaviour in this city, where we need to temper even our valour with forbearance. That is the only way we will survive. I know that it is not easy; I can sense that many feel trapped or bored. And now..." He closed his eyes briefly. "And now my sister has departed the city, and ridden headlong into danger. What sort of example does this set for the restless youngsters?"
A bad one, certainly, but Ecthelion could not see how this was relevant.
"It will not do," said Turgon. "And so, I have decided to tell no-one of Aredhel's flight. I will expect you, as my captains, to confirm that you lost her in the Valley."
The phrase 'as my captains' leapt out at Ecthelion. It implied forgiveness, and this implication was confirmed when Turgon went on to speak about work schedules and the need to keep new recruits occupied. He did not mention Aredhel again, and it seemed that their public punishment was to consist mostly of working longer hours.
Ecthelion, who had been planning to do so anyway, if only to sort out the mess their absence had wrought, found this more than fair. And yet the thought of covering up for Aredhel disturbed him. A lie is still a lie, regardless of the motives behind it—and the benefits of this particular falsehood seemed meager. When the audience was over, he walked out of the palace in an unhappy daze.
His friends seemed to share his discontent, although for reasons of their own.
"Politics," Egalmoth said with disgust. "I suppose I would feel better about being asked to protect the tattered reputation of the Finwions from further damage if my own skills as a tracker were not being called into question."
"I am sure that something else will happen to take everyone's mind off our failures." Glorfindel sighed and readjusted his sling. "In a century or so, perhaps. In the meantime, I need a drink."
"Good idea—a drink might take our own minds off it all, at least," said Egalmoth. "Let us go to the officers' drinking hall and flaunt our newly restored positions."
They made their way across the city. Walking beside Glorfindel, Ecthelion found his newfound conviction that they would someday be committing an unnatural act irritatingly exciting. He distracted himself by analyzing the curious glances and raised eyebrows provoked by their passage, and concluded that his friends were right: public opinion had turned against them, to some degree. Still, he did not mind. All he cared about was the respect of the men of the Guard.
The drinking hall was unusually full, given the early hour, and so noisy that nobody marked their arrival. At the center of the hall stood Salgant, poised with his harp in his hand as if he had just concluded a performance. When he noticed Ecthelion's attention, he smiled in an oddly self-satisfied fashion, causing his audience to turn and notice the newcomers. The silence that descended then felt strangely abrupt and, somehow, embarrassed. Scanning the crowd, Ecthelion recognized many of Egalmoth's erstwhile guests, and even a few of his own men. Most of them seemed unwilling to meet his eye.
Such an atmosphere did not seem conducive to peaceful drinking. Still, an early departure was unthinkable; it would seem a cowardly retreat.
"You two find us a table," said Glorfindel. "I will get the drinks."
Ecthelion recognized the strained, uncertain tone as the one Glorfindel used when trying to conceal distress, and this bothered him far more than Salgant's smirk or the awkward silence. "How would you carry them all in one hand?" he asked. "I will go."
Just as he had expected, Salgant intercepted him at the bar.
"Greetings, Ecthelion," he said. "Let me get you a drink. It might help dull the memories of your frightful ordeal."
"What frightful ordeal? Oh, do not concern yourself. We were too late to hear you sing."
The words were out before Ecthelion could stop himself. Salgant's eyes widened, but a glance at his appreciative audience helped him regain his composure.
"A pity," he said. "For I would dearly like to hear your opinion of my latest composition. If I may?" Without waiting for an answer, he struck up a song. Ecthelion had no choice but to listen.
The tune was mild, inoffensive; the lyrics, meanwhile, told the story of three gay butterflies—one silver, one gold, and one multicoloured—that fell into a fluttering panic whenever they spotted a spiderweb. Ecthelion could not decide what outraged him more, the indecency of using music for such a malicious purpose, or the expectation that he would be hurt by such horribly clumsy imagery. Still, the temptation to strangle Salgant with his own harpstrings was far weaker than the less natural temptations he usually faced, and so maintaining an expression of polite interest proved rather easy.
"I do like it," he said as the final chord died away. "Perhaps because I have always enjoyed the Sindarin air it so closely resembles. Still, I can think of several improvements. If I may?"
He pulled the harp from Salgant's weak grasp and picked out a variation of the melody, a cheerier, catchier tune that soon had the audience nodding along.
"That should make those silly butterflies sound even more idiotic, which is your aim, is it not?" Ecthelion handed the harp back to a speechless Salgant and picked up the drinks. "Of course, you will do as you see fit. As for me, I will go drink to your continuing musical development."
He made for the corner where he had spotted Egalmoth's bright cloak. Several of the men he passed greeted him with cheerful respect. The change pleased him, but he forgot all about it when he reached the right table and noticed that Glorfindel was nowhere in sight.
"On the one hand, nicely done." Egalmoth took two of the drinks from his hands. "On the other hand, did you really need to make that accursed tune more memorable? Soon the whole city will be singing it."
"Well, that should please Lord Turgon. It is a song about tempering one's valour, after all." Ecthelion looked around. "What happened to Glorfindel?"
"He went home," said Egalmoth. "When Salgant started singing he said that he had to get out before he committed, if not a kinslaying, then at least a kinbeating."
"Glorfindel threatened violence? And the thought of Salgant's difficult childhood was not enough to restrain him?" Such uncharacteristic behaviour was surely evidence of great inner turmoil. Worried, Ecthelion glanced at the door through which Glorfindel had presumably departed. "Did the song really bother him so?"
"I am not sure, but Salgant's behaviour towards you certainly did. Look, Ecthelion..." Egalmoth looked ill at ease, as if he were about to ask for a loan. "Look, Ecthelion, is there anything going on between you two?"
The room darkened as all the blood left Ecthelion's head. "No." Although his vision was hazy, he glared in Egalmoth's direction, hoping to lend additional emphasis to his forceful words. "No, there is not."
Egalmoth shook his head. "Bad answer."
"What are you talking about?"
"That is a much better answer, although you might try to show even more confusion." Egalmoth looked down into his cups. "Not that I think anyone else is likely to ask, but..."
Ecthelion understood then that Egalmoth knew, and steeled himself to a face a comrade's disgust. "I am sorry," he said, feeling inadequate.
"You should be. Such a fine piece of gossip, and I cannot share it—it nearly breaks my heart. But never mind. Maybe now I can finally get some attention from the maidens."
Although he spoke lightly, Egalmoth could not meet Ecthelion's eye. Still, Ecthelion felt deeply touched by this awkward affirmation of friendship and discretion. And, at the same time, very determined to change the subject. He sat down.
"Do you have any particular maiden in mind?" he asked.
"Not yet." Egalmoth sent Ecthelion a grateful smile. "But it should be easy to find one. All I require in a woman is that she be beautiful, stylish, and easily impressed. Do you have any suggestions?"
They discussed the matter at length. As they spoke, much of the tension seemed to dissipate, so that they were able to finish their drinks without discomfort.
It was only afterwards, when he was walking through the city once more, that Ecthelion began to wonder about the nature of the suspicions he had implicitly confirmed. He soon developed the disturbing impression that Egalmoth's conjectures about What Was Going On were far more solid than his own. All Ecthelion had were scraps: an intense, mutual, unnatural attraction; Glorfindel's theories about the inspiring power of such passions; the way the two of them fought together, as if every move were part of a practiced dance; and that new awareness of a strength that matched his own. Oh, and his guilt, of course. But what did it all add up to?
Ecthelion suppressed a ridiculous impulse to run back and ask Egalmoth for an explanation. Instead, he paused, and noticed where he was headed: towards Glorfindel's house. He hesitated, but, recalling Glorfindel's distress, did not turn back.
He dragged his stiff leg up the familiar staircase, one step at a time. At the top, he paused, resting—and listening to the strange scraping noises coming through the door. When he knocked, there was no answering call of, "Come in!" Instead, after a few moments, the door swung open.
"Ecthelion." Glorfindel leaned against the frame. "I heard you on the stairs."
"I heard you moving about inside." Ecthelion took in Glorfindel's clothes, which were slightly askew, and frowned. "What were you doing? Rearranging the furniture?"
"Yes, some of it. I had been practicing my swordplay—it always clears my head—but when I realized that you were coming by to cheer me up, I decided to tidy the place. And myself." Glorfindel brushed at his cheek, dislodging a damp strand of hair, and straightened his tunic. "Whatever you do, do not look under the bed. Now, what brings you here?"
"As you seem all too aware, I wanted to cheer you up."
Glorfindel's nonchalance vanished, replaced by surprise. "Ecthelion, I was only joking." He smiled brightly. "Anyway, you have already succeeded."
"Oh." The sincerity of that statement was undeniable, as was the effort Glorfindel had gone to on the behalf of his visitor. Ecthelion became aware of the importance he held—had long held—in these rooms. The feeling was intoxicating. Everything wobbled slightly; even Glorfindel seemed to sway towards him. Ecthelion closed his eyes. When he opened them, Glorfindel was gone from the door and walking towards a large chest. The mute departure felt like a dismissal, both of Ecthelion and of his absurd flight of fancy.
"Should I leave, then, seeing as my task is done?" asked Ecthelion.
"No." Glorfindel rummaged around in the chest, eventually extracting a bottle. "You should stay and have some wine."
He poured it out one-handed, head bent so that his hair fell forward. Seeking to distract himself from its treacherous brightness, Ecthelion accepted a glass and took a long sip. The wine was smooth, easy to drink, but strong; Glorfindel looked slightly flushed already. Fine, potent wine and privacy in an empty room. A risky combination. Ecthelion put his glass down.
"Look, let us be honest with each other. If I stay and drink, we will end up doing our reenactment sooner than we had expected."
"I do not plan to drink much. It is just that..." Glorfindel carefully swirled his wine. "I need a reasonable way of occupying my hand and mouth. I almost had a Finwian cousin moment, there at the door. And I need to talk to you."
Perhaps Glorfindel's high colour was not caused by the alcohol, after all. At any rate, no glass of wine, no matter how strong, could possibly prove as dangerous as that little confession. Ecthelion had to escape. "You can talk to me at work. I will return here when your arm is better, as we planned."
Glorfindel shook his head. "I need to talk to you in private. I have been thinking... Perhaps you were right, when we spoke in your office. Public opinion is a powerful force. Public censure..." He drank deeply, and grimaced. "I have had some small taste of it, lately, and I find it quite bitter."
Ecthelion felt astounded. By Glorfindel's reversal, certainly, but also by his unworthy sentiments. "You are being ridiculous," he said. "What was it that you told me about self-pity? Why are you so oversensitive to the disapproval of strangers?"
"Oh, am I? Or do you only think so because you yourself are immune to all disapproval, having inoculated yourself against it with your endless self-chastisement? But even you would hate it, I think, if Salgant were to immortalize us in one of his songs."
"One about Ecthelion and Glorfindel and their dueling swords?" Ecthelion had to smile, both at the idea and at Glorfindel's reaction to it: a shuddering breath drawn through parted lips. It felt so strange to watch someone else struggle with conflicting impulses. Strange, and exciting, to know that he was the cause. He reminded himself that Glorfindel's new attitude was the right one—even if his reasons for adopting it were infuriatingly wrong and would have to be overturned.
"Look here," he said. "We both know that Salgant lied in order to get out of escorting Aredhel. He has the courage of a paper soldier and the integrity of a wet piece of paper. How can you let the malicious actions of such a person affect you? How can you care more about his ignorant beliefs than about the promptings of your own conscience? How can you... diminish yourself so?"
Glorfindel stared at him, seemingly enthralled by the self-righteous outburst. Then he shook his head, as if to clear it. "No. Salgant is not the real problem, and you know it; you were the one who first brought up the question of public opinion."
Ecthelion decided to be honest. "Yes, but I only did so because I was trying to put you off by using your weaknesses against you."
"That was not very fair of you."
"What are you going to do, demand recompense?"
That last, evocative word hung in the air between them, forcing Ecthelion to see the situation clearly. "Glorfindel, this debate is pointless. Why fear for your reputation when all that is at stake is a single reenactment? How could anyone make anything of the fact that we met in private one time, exactly as we are doing now?"
"Exactly as..." Glorfindel looked around the room. "You are right. After all, it is to be just the once, is it not?"
He spoke as if stating a new notion, one that he could not quite accept. Ecthelion felt a rush of sympathy: no, of empathy, or worse, for he realized that he himself had not quite accepted the reenactment's finality, either.
"Right, it is just the once." At least he sounded as if he believed it.
"Just the once, then." Glorfindel put down his glass and glanced towards the inner room. "I thought we could use my bed as the shelter. My sheets are the right colour."
Yes, this was what the discussion had been about all along, under all the unnecessary words: not about virtue, or reputation, or some future act of atonement, but about their shared longing, and the possibility of its imminent satisfaction. Ecthelion felt the vague dread that it would all soon be over sharpen and solidify until it felt like there was a small weapon lodged just below his heart. Still, he resolved to copy Glorfindel's nonchalance.
"Sounds reasonable," he said before walking over to the bed. Suppressing a ridiculous impulse to look under it, he lay down. "All right. I am Glorfindel of the Golden Flower."
The mattress was more comfortable than his own. It gave way slightly as Glorfindel sat down beside him; when their eyes met, something seemed to give way inside Ecthelion's head. If this really was a one-time occurrence, then he would do it properly.
"Wait a moment," he said. He removed the clasps from his hair, combing it out to spill over the pillows. "Now, I am Glorfindel."
Glorfindel's eyes brightened with delight. His hand moved to trace the small waves left behind by tight braids. Ecthelion disliked that effect, disliked the way it made him look: like a fragile, decorative minstrel. He shifted slightly, so that the hair slid out of Glorfindel's reach.
Glorfindel laughed. "Be like that, then. Just keep in mind that, in a moment, I will be touching more than your hair."
It was odd how a show of confidence could affect Ecthelion just as much as a show of vulnerability. He suppressed a shiver and glanced at Glorfindel's hands, frowning as he noticed the sling.
"Yes, it is a bit of a problem," said Glorfindel. "Don't you now wish we knew the words to that 'Where Is His Other Hand' song? Well, we will have to make do. You had better sit up. And help me with your clothes."
Ecthelion obeyed. He sat up against the head of the bed and shifted his garments just as he had done for Glorfindel in the shelter: raising his shirt and pushing down his trousers. When the cold air hit his skin, he felt a strange tug at his pride. It felt odd to be bared in such an unusual way, as if for no purpose other than to expose need. He looked up with defiance, but Glorfindel did not notice; his eyes were sliding up and down Ecthelion's body. His hand followed, brushing across Ecthelion's chest, then down along his hip and thigh. Ecthelion was not sure whether he wanted to flinch away or push forward but, either way, it was a struggle to stay still and composed under the unaccustomed touch.
"I never did that," he said.
"Right. I forgot: since I am Ecthelion, I am supposed to be as efficient and impersonal as possible." Glorfindel shifted a bit closer, his fingers drifting back up to trace Ecthelion's jaw. "I cannot even kiss you."
Ecthelion looked away. Guilt burned deep within him, threatening to overwhelm desire. He had just opened his mouth—to explain, to apologize again—when Glorfindel kissed him and took him in hand all at once.
It was the kiss that ensured Ecthelion's defeat. While imagining this situation, he had pictured Glorfindel watching him, looking for small signs of pleasure that, to Ecthelion's humiliation, would slip past his iron control. He had not expected this tactic, an attack on two fronts; he had marshaled his forces all wrong. The result was an utter rout.
Within seconds, Ecthelion was shocked to hear himself moaning into Glorfindel's warm mouth, to feel his body rocking to meet Glorfindel's hand. He could remember that, during the Incident, Glorfindel had held tensely still, but he did not care. Instead of keeping his arms by his sides, as Glorfindel had done, he wrapped them around Glorfindel, running his fingers over smooth hair and taut muscle, drawing him closer.
Then Glorfindel paused. "Wait, this is not quite right."
For a moment, Ecthelion feared that this was a comment on his lack of restraint. He froze, trying to gather enough of his wits to promise to do better in the future. But Glorfindel was not so petty: he kissed Ecthelion again almost at once. He had changed his grip slightly. The new motion of his hand felt easier, somehow, more familiar; it was the motion Ecthelion had used in the shelter. As he wondered at Glorfindel's subtlety, Ecthelion realized that he was, once more, capable of coherent thought. Perhaps it was because a known attack is far easier to defend against; or perhaps it was because the small arrowhead of dread was now pressing against Ecthelion's heart, reminding him that this would end soon, and end forever. He had to act.
He leaned forward and tried to maintain the kiss as his hands groped blindly, slipping along the sheets until they reached Glorfindel's thigh and traced it to its source. The resulting groan distracted him, reminded him that his was not the only will in the room. He decided to make sure that his behaviour was truly welcome. His lips sought Glorfindel's ear.
Glorfindel sounded impatient and hoarse. Perhaps they had a single will after all. As in battle, they moved in harmony, sliding down and rearranging themselves on the bed so that they could press together and feel pleasure without pain. Ecthelion balanced on one elbow, his fingers brushing Glorfindel's face, and saw his own need echoed in those green-grey eyes. Below, their hands were moving in unison, so that it was difficult to remember whose hand was whose. It did not really matter. What mattered was that this was no fantasy, that he was not alone, that if he kissed Glorfindel hard enough to hurt he would feel his kiss returned, just as desperately. And that it all brought such pleasure. The rush of blood to his head felt like a triumphant march as he came.
Ecthelion usually thought of a climax as a dark doorway, one that took him from a desperate place filled with lustful imaginings to one of unclean shame and utter loneliness. This time, however, he found himself somewhere new. As his head came to a natural rest on Glorfindel's good shoulder, he wanted to laugh with giddy relief. Instead, he lay silent and listened to Glorfindel's slowing heart.
"Do you realize what you have just done?" When Glorfindel spoke, Ecthelion could feel breath in his hair and deep vibration in the chest beneath his ear. "You have unbalanced the situation again."
"That was my intention, yes." Ecthelion heard Glorfindel's heart rate speed up at this declaration and smiled.
A few moments passed.
"You do not regret it now?" Glorfindel asked carefully.
"No. Not now. But I am sure that I will regret it—perhaps not all the time, but on occasion."
He felt Glorfindel's arm tighten across his shoulders. "I am so glad to hear you say that. Not that you will experience regret, but that you will... Oh, you know what I mean."
"I do." Ecthelion's hand moved up and down Glorfindel's body in a stealthy caress. "But what about public censure?"
"I shall do my best not to... diminish myself by fearing it. Doing so should be easy enough while in your presence, given that it tends to affect me in the opposite way."
Ecthelion groaned. "Glorfindel, that joke—"
"Ah, but it is no joke."
Indeed, Ecthelion could feel that it wasn't, just as he could feel his own hunger returning. This time, it would be less desperate; he would be able to savour the experience.
He sat up and stripped quickly before turning to help Glorfindel do the same. The sling made this simple task rather complicated, especially for two people who were far more interested in touching each other, in exploring the warmth and texture of bare skin, than in solving a logic puzzle. In the end, they simply removed it along with the clothes, until Glorfindel was left with only the dressing on his shoulder. As Ecthelion took in his golden skin and hair, luminous in the fading light, his heart clenched at the familiar sight.
This was where they had sat after Egalmoth's party. So much had changed since then. Or had it? He had learned that his desires were returned, yes, so that his perception of the situation had certainly changed, but what of its intrinsic immorality?
"Ecthelion?" Glorfindel touched his arm.
This, too, echoed what had happened then. There was only one great difference: this time, he had fallen. Even worse, he had made an implicit promise to fall again. And not in a moment of frantic desire, but in a moment of deeper weakness. He had been right to fear the insidious softer emotions. They were the thread that could link aberrant incidents together, make them part of the fabric of life.
"Ecthelion, no. Do not sink into regret." Glorfindel's face was set now, his back straighter, so that his nudity seemed more natural than seductive, as if he were sitting on a bench in the baths. "Be practical. Think of all the virtues you have cultivated to compensate for your flaws. If they are not enough, well, then, think of what a positive influence you can have on me. Think of all the good we can do together, when we stop wallowing in repressed desire like a pair of young recruits. Think of the good of the city."
Ecthelion shut his eyes. Really, Glorfindel's strange logic made him as dizzy as Glorfindel's touch. "Are you suggesting that, by repeatedly giving in to our unnatural longings, we would be sacrificing our souls for the good of Gondolin?"
"I was not, but now that you have said it—is that not something you would gladly do?"
Of course it was. But how much could two people—two fine warriors, even—really do for a city? Inspiring each other during sparring sessions somehow did not feel like enough. They would have to attempt something greater.
When the idea came into Ecthelion's head, it did not feel like inspiration, but like recognition: yes, here is one thing we could do better than anyone else.
"You know, Glorfindel," he said, "I have been thinking that we should have brought some of those spiders back with us."
"As have I. I rather liked the effects of their venom."
Glorfindel's comment was little more than a mutter. Ecthelion decided to ignore it and press on.
"I thought that we could breed them and use them to train the men in spider slaying. After all, while Egalmoth's Spider-slaying Ditty is certainly memorable, it is sadly inadequate as teaching material. But here is an alternative suggestion—I think we should teach ourselves to wield the weapons of the enemy. Whips, troll clubs, flails that mimic spider claws..."
"Right." Glorfindel was nodding, intent. "That way we can train ourselves—and others—how to best fight against them. It is certain to help the city, sooner or later; and then people might be willing to forgive us a few vices. And then, of course, such a shared project would provide us with an opportunity to spend a lot of time together." He looked at Ecthelion questioningly.
"True." Ecthelion took a deep breath. Yes, he could live with this situation, no matter how flawed and strange. At that moment, it did not feel any worse than going along with Turgon's deception. "It would give us an unshakable excuse."
Glorfindel smiled. "Wait." He got up and walked back to the other room.
Ecthelion watched him, just as he had done while waiting for the audience earlier that day. The growing awareness that, this time, he did not have to restrain himself made him feel like singing. He lay back, and worked on his balance of virtue by refraining from looking under the bed until Glorfindel returned with the wine glasses, still half-full.
They drank a wordless toast to something neither of them would name, and kissed to taste the wine on each other's lips—and then again, for no reason, pressing together to feel skin against skin for the first time.
"You know," said Glorfindel a few minutes later, "I have a suggestion, too, and coincidentally it is also spider-inspired. Do you remember how, when I got my spider bite, you—"
"Yes." Ecthelion touched the healing scar on Glorfindel's thigh. "I already thought of that—I do intend to brush up on my first-aid techniques."
"Good idea, but what I had in mind was quite different: another reenactment. Here, come sit on the edge of the bed—imagine that it is a spider corpse. You can be me again. I, meanwhile..." Glorfindel slid to the floor and placed his hand on Ecthelion's knee. "I have wanted to try this for... a rather long time."
"So have I." Ecthelion could barely get the words out as he looked down at this scene from dream and fantasy, deeply impressed by the cool courage with which Glorfindel faced the unfamiliar. He reached out to touch him, then stopped himself.
"Your hair. May I—"
Glorfindel said nothing. He simply took Ecthelion's hand and tangled it in the hair at the back of his neck.
0. This is so important that I am going to put it before the usual passive-aggressive pleading for comments. I do not believe that there is anything particularly unnatural about Ecthelion's desires. I do not even agree with Glorfindel's idea that they can compensate for their vice by being extra virtuous, because I do not see said desires as a vice. (Glorfindel's vanity and Ecthelion's obsessive introspection, on the other hand...)
1. I do so love to get comments. Compliments, certainly, but constructive criticism as well.
2. I adore all my helpful critics. Lyllyn, AfterEver, Earmire, Marnie, Dragonlady7, Elvinesse, Squirrel—thanks for commenting at HASA. Thanks also to all my ffn reviewers, especially to Ninmen, who pointed out a canon mistake, and to non-Silm readers CLS and L. And the Elves in my head would like to thank Maggie, who is the perfect beta in that she manages to combine extreme pickiness with ego-stroking encouragement, and who has certainly done a lot for my smut-writing skills.
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