1. Last Alliance
Haldir made his way through the throng using his bow to clear himself a path and ducking occasionally to avoid an arm, or a piece of armour that seemed to be thrown around casually. He felt frantic as he searched, in case he did not see the Man he searched for before the battle, but did not want this to show, so was forced to slow his steps. He had travelled nearly halfway across the busy camp before he briefly spotted his quarry entering one of the tents. He stopped for a moment for a better look and watched through the small gap, unminding of those around him.
Isildur was not particularly tall, certainly he was shorter than his father, yet he was still imposing. Even the long battles they had been fighting had not changed this, although his dark hair now hung around his head in clumps with dirt streaked through it and his eyes seemed much whiter. It had been weeks since any of them had a chance to wash or change their clothes, and cleanliness was now more of a fading memory for all of them. The skin of the Men had darkened and even the Elves were covered in ash for much of the time.
However, Haldir did not mind Isildur's unwashed state, for he could see the muscles in Isildur's arms flexing as he struggled to buckle the well-worn straps on his armour. He was reminded of softness between hair and the strength he felt under his hands when there was less clothing between them. After a minute Isildur turned his back, spoiling Haldir's view of one part of him but providing him with another. Haldir took a couple of deep breaths to steady himself and clear his mind. Upon doing so, he was reminded of those around him and hoped they had not noticed the way he had been openly staring at a Man. His admiration of Isildur was making him careless.
He realised there was no-one to help Isildur: the other Men around had problems of their own. He reassured himself he was unimportant to these Men and found his journey to the tent much easier than the far longer one he had taken across the camp. Still being able to think clearly, he closed the canvas flap behind him and placed his bow on the table inside, bringing himself into Isildur's vision. Their eyes met and Isildur's held no surprise in them. He smiled, not looking away, although Isildur returned to his troublesome armour.
From here, Haldir could do more than just watch. He took hold of the straps on the left of the vest, absently noting how one hole had been so stretched it was nearly to the next. There would be time enough to mend it later. Buckling them, he could not help but brush his hands lightly against Isildur's side through his shirt. Isildur squirmed as if tickled, and Haldir shivered at the touch and the memory of previous caresses. Though the armour had quickly fallen into place he did not move away. He would likely not get the chance to be this close again and he wanted to remember the warm feeling beneath his fingers. When he looked up at Isildur the Man had closed his eyes. Haldir did not stop and he felt Isildur's skin move with his breath, which had quickened with Haldir's touch.
At length Isildur turned: Haldir's too short moment of introspection was lost and he pulled away. The tent was large enough for many but Isildur was still close enough for Haldir to reach out and touch once more. Although Haldir did not dare move forward, he could not bring himself to step away and their hands brushed as they reached for their weapons. Haldir worked hard to fight the urge to close his fingers around Isildur's. He should not be here and the last thing he needed was more temptation to stay.
They faced each other but were both busy examining their respective weapons. Isildur took hold of his sword, testing its balance. The swish sounded perilously close to Haldir's ear and he could swear he smelt the sickening stink of orc blood on it. He knew Isildur was too good a swordsman to hit him so he still did not step back. Instead, he busied himself with his own bow. He knew it was fine - it always was - and his compulsive testing was purely nervous. Satisfied, he looked up to find Isildur gazing at him.
"Thank you," Isildur said.
Haldir inclined his head in response. "Good luck. And..." His voice cracked and he paused, swallowing and taking a deep breath. When he spoke again, Isildur had to lean towards him to hear. "Don't get killed."
Isildur smiled. "I'll try."
The next thing Haldir was aware of was the other's lips against his. For that moment it no longer mattered if they were discovered. All Haldir could hear now was his breathing and his heart, which beat faster. He could taste the lembas that had been the last meal for both of them; he could smell metal and earth; he could feel the handle of his bow pressing against his palms and digging into the skin. But most of all he could feel Isildur's lips and mouth and tongue; he never wanted to forget it. He only loosened his grip on his bow when he felt Isildur pull away. Opening his eyes, he found the scene was as before. He licked his lips, imprinting the familiar taste on his memory.
There was silence once more. Haldir tried to commit Isildur to memory but they were so close all he could see was his own reflection.
"I love you, Isildur," he said, taking one hand off his bow and placing it to grip Isildur's sword hilt along with him.
Isildur turned one hand over to press their palms together and interlock their fingers. The Elf knew his skin was roughed from many battles, yet it felt soft and smooth against the Man's bigger one.
"If I die, remember me when I am gone," Isildur told him.
Haldir nodded. There was something he needed to know but did not want his fears confirmed. "This war," he said, hesitantly, "was the best and worst time of my life."
"And mine," Isildur agreed, "in its own way."
Haldir continued, ignoring Isildur's interruption, although his heart skipped a beat at his words. "I will always remember you, even as you must forget me." He tried to pull his hand from Isildur's but the Man's grip was tight. Haldir looked down, not wanting to see the expression on his face.
"I understand the life you have to go back to and I understand no-one can ever know. But to me, this is real."
At that, Isildur allowed him to pull free. Haldir took a step back before he could look up once more.
"I wish-" Isildur began, but stopped when Haldir slowly shook his head.
"I should go," he said into the suddenly uncomfortable silence.
Isildur nodded, although Haldir could no longer tell whether he really wanted him to leave.
Hesitantly, Haldir turned away. He desperately wished they had more time but forever would not have been long enough. He paused in front of the entrance, his hand outstretched to open the tent flap. If he touched it he would forget the feel of Isildur, and the Man himself along with it. He heard a movement from behind and brought his hand back towards his side before finding the strength to resist temptation.
Voices passed by outside and Haldir knew that being discovered would be worse than him leaving, at least for Isildur. He managed one step outside the tent and the second a moment later, before he followed the other Elves to the battlefield. He had taken a few paces when the sense of Isildur's eyes on him were overwhelming and he looked back. Isildur was stood at the tent entrance and the pale sunlight reflected off Isildur's armour onto this face, lighting up his eyes. Haldir had never seen anything so beautiful.
Haldir blinked and did not open his eyes but the image stayed with him. He turned away. The result of this battle would either be the end of Middle-earth or the beginning of a new Age. Yet even the best outcome would take Isildur back to his wife and children, and a life that could not include Haldir.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.