15. Chapter Fourteen
Haldir stood watching Legolas for maybe fifty heartbeats, torn between staying and going: at last he said his name from a little distance away but Legolas didn't appear to hear him, neither then nor the second or third time he said it. At last Haldir walked round to stand where Legolas couldn't avoid seeing him, and after a long moment the prince raised his head and gazed at him.
'Haldir,' said Legolas wearily. 'Is there nowhere I can go to avoid you? What do you want of me?'
'I…I want…you,' said Haldir, hoarsely, scarcely able to believe he was saying the words.
There was a long, aching silence, and then Legolas said,
'Only a fool would believe you, Haldir. You say you want me, but you also want Faron and Thalion and as many others as you can have whenever you choose. Maybe I was a fool, for at first I deluded myself that you had singled me out. But you were quick to show me how mistaken I was: indeed, you took pleasure in it. So tell me, Haldir, why should I give myself to you now, so that you can take what you want from me and then cast me aside, like a fruit that's been plundered for its flesh, and its skin thrown away to rot on the midden?'
Haldir looked down at his beautiful calm face, its fine lines illumined by the pale travelling light, and had no answer.
'But you desire me also,' said Haldir at last. 'I've felt it. I felt it the first time I stood next to you by the anvils, and…at the council table…and…and every other time we've been together. Even tonight when you told me it was the end, even then you wanted…'
'Yes, I want you,' said Legolas harshly, standing up abruptly and looking him straight in the eyes. 'I want you very much, Haldir.' He stopped suddenly, and his breathing was ragged with desire. Haldir saw what it was costing Legolas not to reach out and kiss him there and then, and a part of him began to hope again.
'But I'm not a beast, who simply ruts according to the season,' went on Legolas, as though explaining something to a child. 'When I couple with another, I offer more than just a moment's pleasure…'
Strung out with tension, Haldir burst out laughing. 'A moment's pleasure? Is that all the act is to you, Legolas? Now I begin to understand you better. You've never known more than this, and would not risk giving yourself to me for so little reward. That would be wise if it were true. But it's not true. I promise you that with me your pleasure would last a great deal longer than a moment, and be worth all the doubts you might have about my character.'
'Haldir…' said Legolas angrily, but Haldir ignored him.
'But I suppose that since you've never known what it is to have real pleasure, freely given without conditions, now you'll invoke the veil of love, or companionship, or the needs of the heart or the soul or the gods to cover up your lack. How many times have I heard that argument! 'And after that you'll vilify those of us who aren't afraid of the pleasure of the body, and who refuse the guilt you would have us feel for taking our pleasures with simplicity.'
'What you were doing in that tent with Thalion was taking your pleasures with simplicity?' said Legolas, contemptuously.
'If you hadn't refused me, I would never have gone to him!' shouted Haldir, flaring up at once.
'Haldir, even if I had given myself to you, it wouldn't have stopped you going to him later if you wanted to. You're like a child: you feel desire and it must be met, at whatever cost. But I'm not just a body, for you to use and then forget.'
'Legolas, it wouldn't be easy to forget you…'
'But you would find a way,' cried Legolas. 'On this auspicious night when you have become Guardian of Lorien you want me, because you don't like to be refused by those you wish to conquer, and because it's the festival and you deserve your pleasure. You want me, but tomorrow you'll leave Mirkwood and you'll take away nothing with you but the triumph of making another submit to you. While for me, Haldir…'
He stopped talking and looked away.
'Legolas, this is pure fantasy,' said Haldir sharply. 'What else can we have but a single night of pleasure? Our lands are separated by great distance and custom. Even were we the truest lovers since Beren and Luthien, there would be no hope for us.'
'But at least I count myself capable of conceiving such a love,' said Legolas, turning back to him. 'Do you, Haldir?'
'I? Why would I want to?' demanded Haldir. 'It's the last thing I would choose. Those I've known who have loved in this way have found nothing but pain and destruction. Only a fool would willingly seek it.'
'A fool?' said Legolas quietly. 'No, Haldir, there you are wrong. Only a fool would think that the counterfeit you describe could ever satisfy one who has known real love. What you describe is a game: a skilled game, I grant you that; but it asks very little of you and very much of the one who submits to you. How many have you left broken-hearted over the years, with your careless seductions and your magnificent beauty, Haldir of Lorien? When you admire yourself, your alluring eyes, your fair face and your flawless body, what do you see? Do you see one who has the courage to meet another truly, to know him as an equal, to touch him tenderly and be touched? Or do you see what I see, one who is afraid, so afraid that he can't let anyone come near him, can't let himself be truly known and loved, and can't bear the touch of another? Haldir, you are a true and courageous warrior, but since first I saw you I have wondered whether in matters of love you might really be a coward.'
Haldir's fist flew out so quickly that Legolas didn't see it before it struck him in the face, felling him to the ground. He lay still, his hair covering his face like a wide golden curtain while his heart beat hard in his chest. All around him rose the smell of the damp earth and leaves on which his bruised cheek rested. Haldir stood motionless above him but his breath was coming in harsh gasps, as if he had just been running.
'No-one uses that word to me,' said Haldir in a strangled voice. 'Not even a King's son.'
Legolas didn't move. All at once he was unutterably weary, and in that moment wanted nothing more than to close his eyes and sleep, to shut out the pain in his body and the sharper one in his heart. The silence stretched out between them, and Legolas felt the first chill of the night air begin to sink down into his bones.
'Legolas!' cried out Haldir, sudden and harsh. 'Get up!'
Legolas heard the anger in his voice, but somewhere deep in him he felt the note of anguish that vibrated below it. Slowly he sat up, pushing his hair out of his face with both hands before resting his fingers gently on his injured cheek. It was swelling up and he could feel his left eye already beginning to close. Tasting salt in his mouth he realised he had bitten his lip as he hit the ground. Carefully he got to his feet, swaying a little, then righting himself.
They stood facing each other, Haldir trembling with anger.
'Take back your words,' he said, dangerously quiet.
'I will take them back,' said Legolas slowly, 'if you are willing to prove them wrong.'
'You have no right to ask me such a thing!' shouted Haldir.
Legolas looked at him, seeing the confusion in his eyes and the fine sheen of pain-sweat that was just beginning to break out on his forehead. Somewhere deep in him Legolas knew this was a moment of turning. Part of him was broken, defeated by what Haldir had just done, and he no longer cared what he did. But part of him was willing to take a great risk to reach him, and so his fingers went to the clasp of his cloak and he began to undo it.
'I have no right,' he said. 'But maybe it's the only way to settle this matter between us once and for all, Haldir.'
The clasp was undone and he swung the cloak round his shoulders and laid it out on the ground under the tree, reaching for the laces of his tunic.
'Stop,' said Haldir hoarsely.
'You wouldn't wish to prove my words to be the truth, Haldir? I'm sure you're a most skilled lover,' said Legolas, his voice shaking suddenly. 'But what is the value of your skill when you never give yourself? Surely you're not someone who takes what he wants but has nothing to offer in return?'
Haldir stared at him, unable to speak. Never had any of his lovers challenged him in this way, and never had he cared for anyone's opinion as much as he cared for Legolas' in this moment. Legolas sighed, and continued to undo his tunic in silence. When the laces were loose he dragged it over his head and started on his linen shirt.
'It's too cold…' said Haldir desperately, still trying to avert what was coming.
'It is not,' said Legolas, 'not now that the tower is empty and the shadow has gone.'
The shirt joined the rest of his clothes under the birch tree and kicking off his boots, he quickly undid the lacings of his breeches and pushed them off, throwing them on top of his other clothes, and, stripped naked, stood quietly before Haldir.
'You say that you want me, Haldir: take me, then,' he said. 'But you must know what I am offering you. Not pleasure with simplicity, as you describe it, after which you will forget this night as if it had never taken place: but something else. I offer you myself, not only my body, but my whole person. I want to know you and to be known by you. I want all of you, not just your flesh, your beautiful mouth, your dazzling eyes, but your heart also. I will fight to have you, Haldir. I have passion and strength. I am not weak, but I am tender, and I offer you the chance to learn tenderness with me.'
His voice was completely calm, but tears glittered in his eyes.
Haldir stood motionless, the breath gone out of him. Slowly he let his gaze travel from Legolas' face, down his strong shoulders and the graceful arch of his collarbones to his slender waist and below, to the secret place he had dreamed about but had never before seen. Here, especially here, where there curled hair of a darker shade of blond than that on his head, Legolas was comely, more comely than anyone Haldir had looked on naked before today. Haldir found himself marvelling at his beauty, at the perfect balance between strength and grace, and at the lightness with which he held himself. His skin was smooth and unblemished, and although Haldir could barely wait to touch him yet he held back, admiring the curve of his neck and the planes of the strong muscles of his chest and his belly, and his long well-shaped legs.
Haldir was seized by the strangest desire to kneel down at Legolas' feet and wrap his one good arm around his waist, and to rest his cheek lightly against his belly.
'Do I displease you, then, after you have pursued me for so long?' said Legolas, his voice less than steady.
Haldir smiled slowly. 'No, indeed you do not,' he said, and he reached out and pulled Legolas one-handed against him. Their bodies fitted against each other perfectly, as if they were two halves of the same whole. Legolas let out a long breath of relief, as if finally he had arrived at the place he had most longed to be. For a long time neither moved, breathing gently together, but then Legolas reached out and laid his hand on Haldir's cheek, and turning his face, pressed his lips to the angle of Haldir's jaw.
At once Haldir tensed, sensing that same disorientation he always felt when Legolas touched his bare skin. He was filled with a desire to pull away, but at the same time the feel of Legolas' body against his was so immeasurably sweet that he could not do so. Confused and aroused, he held Legolas even more tightly, letting his hand slide slowly down his back until it reached the curve at the top of his buttocks. Legolas sighed and turned his face just as Haldir had hoped he would, and Haldir kissed him deeply, tasting the sweetness of his mouth and the yielding tenderness of his lips.
For a while this was enough, and both had the pleasure of the other without distress, but then Legolas reached for the clasp of Haldir's cloak and undid it, exposing the empty left arm of his tunic and shirt.
'No...' said Haldir.
'Yes,' said Legolas, and spreading out Haldir's cloak beside his, began to undo the laces of his tunic.
'There is a knot here,' he said, leaning close and working at it with his teeth.
'I couldn't tie it properly one-handed. Rumil must have missed it,' explained Haldir lightly, but within him his desire was mixed with a great terror, and he didn't know if he would be able to face it.
'There,' said Legolas and carefully drew off Haldir's tunic, doing the same afterwards with his shirt. He laid his hand gently on the thick bandage that covered nearly the whole of Haldir's chest and left shoulder, binding his arm tightly across him.
'I didn't know the wound was so grave,' he said, and then he reached out for the laces of Haldir's breeches. As soon as Legolas touched him through the cloth, Haldir lurched against him, immediately aroused.
'Maybe I have more skill than you give me credit for,' whispered Legolas into his ear, then curled the tip of his tongue around its delicate point. Haldir jerked and groaned, and reaching down to touch Legolas, found that he was already hard. In that moment Haldir forgot every word that Legolas had spoken to him and was carried away in a flood of desire and triumph. Here he was, about to conquer a King's son. The sweetness of the moment intoxicated him and with expert skill he touched Legolas, caressing him first gently and then more firmly, feeling the sweet juice already flowing from his cock and anointing the length of him with it.
Legolas stumbled against him and they fell together and stretched themselves out on their cloaks under the white birch tree. Even one-armed Haldir was very strong, and he pushed Legolas down and lay across him, still working him with his hand. Legolas pulled his head down and kissed him and Haldir felt a flare of strange joy rising up within him. Whatever Legolas said, he would not forget him, especially since the chase had been such a long and arduous one. It was then Haldir realised he was taking things too fast, and he slid his hand away from Legolas' cock and up onto his chest, grazing one nipple until he felt it swell and harden beneath his fingers. He leaned down then and took it into his mouth, biting on the sweet flesh, and Legolas gasped and arched his back up to meet him, murmuring incoherently. Slowly Haldir let his hand slide down the prince's side and on to the taut muscle of his rump, grasping hold of it hard.
'Legolas, you are perfect,' he gasped, feeling the tight curve of it which led to the prince's long thigh, and then gradually slipping his fingers sideways until they reached the cleft between his buttocks.
Reaching down Haldir oiled his fingers with his own juices, then slid his middle finger into the prince's body. Legolas cried out softly and parted his legs so that Haldir could touch him more deeply. Languorously Haldir worked him, his tongue still flicking Legolas' hard nipple.
But now Haldir was ready to move on and, shrugging off his own breeches, carelessly he slid off Legolas and began to turn him, thinking how easy it had been and how foolish he was to have been so worried. Of course he wasn't a coward: Legolas should never have dishonoured him by saying such a thing.
Yet although Legolas was giving himself willingly and opening himself fully to the pleasure that Haldir's skill was giving him, yet Haldir still felt the core of steel at his centre, and knew that he hadn't conquered him. So he redoubled his efforts, pushing himself up on his elbow and kissing him more passionately, touching him even more deeply, and when he heard Legolas' breathing become more erratic, he judged that he was ready for Haldir to enter him.
Whispering incoherently into his ear, Haldir shoved Legolas roughly into position, taking his gasp for one of abandoned pleasure, and began.
Almost immediately Legolas pulled violently away from him and cried out, and for a moment Haldir's heart was filled with triumph: so potent was he that Legolas could not bear his touch for more than a moment before reaching his climax. But then he saw Legolas' face, and it stopped his breath in his throat, for it was not pleasure that had conquered the prince, but pain.
'Haldir…' whispered Legolas, 'what happened to you? Where did you go?'
Haldir stared at him, uncomprehending.
'Go? Nowhere! Where would I go in the middle of…'
'You couldn't hear me, Haldir. I was talking to you, but it was as if you weren't there. Haldir, where do you go when you're making love?'
'Making love?' whispered Haldir, as if he had never heard the words before.
Legolas looked at his face for a long moment, and gradually his eyes filled with tears. Carefully he drew away from Haldir, and turning his back on him, pulled up his knees so that they were tucked against his chest, covering himself with the edge of his cloak.
'Legolas…' said Haldir, bewildered, but the prince interrupted him.
'I was wrong, Haldir,' he said, brokenly. 'I wanted something from you that you can't give me. You told me so, and I'm sorry I didn't believe you. It would have saved us the pain of this moment.'
'But…I don't understand…' said Haldir. 'You liked it, you liked what I was doing…'
Slowly the prince sat up and looked at him, his eyes very bright in his pale face.
'Haldir, I asked you to stop, and you didn't even hear me. I lost you, Haldir. I was with you, and yet it was as if I were alone.' His voice broke and a pair of tears rolled down his face. 'Valar,' he muttered, scrubbing at his cheeks with his hands. His left eye was completely closed now, and below the darkening bruise on his cheekbone, his lip had started to bleed again.
Haldir knelt beside him, feeling the same disorientation that he experienced so often in his presence.
'What shall I do?' he whispered.
'Go,' said Legolas dully.
'I don't want to go,' said Haldir. 'Can't you help me, Legolas?'
'No,' said Legolas, and turned away again.
Haldir let his head sink down on to his chest.
'We can't end it like this…' he said. 'This is madness.'
'No, the madness is in you,' said Legolas bitterly. 'The madness which must conquer others at all costs. Do you love anyone at all, Haldir, or is conquest your only goal?'
'I love my brothers,' whispered Haldir.
'And they love you, but even when you were wounded you tried to tell them what to do. Even that night when I held you, all you could do was tell me you were going to die. Death itself must bow before your wishes, Haldir.'
'It was you?' said Haldir, incredulous. 'The night I was wounded?'
'Yes, it was me, but I wish it hadn't been,' said Legolas, 'for it made me love you all the more.'
The words hung in the air between them, carelessly spoken, but heavy as lead.
'Legolas, don't love me,' said Haldir unsteadily at last. 'Love brings nothing but pain…'
'It's too late,' cried out Legolas, turning suddenly back to face him, eyes wild. 'I love you, Haldir, no matter what you may do. And as for the pain, I know it well enough.'
'Valar, I didn't mean this to happen,' muttered Haldir. 'It was just a game…'
'To you, maybe,' said Legolas, tears running freely down his face. 'But for those who love you, it is torment.'
For the first time in his long life, faced with the consequences of his actions, Haldir felt ashamed.
'Truly, I never meant to hurt you,' he said slowly. 'I like you, Legolas. You're strong and fearless and I've never had such a worthy opponent as you.'
'I'm not your opponent,' whispered Legolas. 'I would like to be your lover.'
'You can't, not in the way you want to,' said Haldir bitterly. 'I've always been the master. Anything else is unbearable to me.'
Legolas squinted at him through his undamaged eye.
'Then you're missing a great deal,' he said sadly.
They gazed at each other, and despite everything, both felt a thread of attraction grow and tauten between them again.
'Maybe I can help you,' said Legolas. 'But you'll have to trust me, Haldir.'
Haldir swallowed audibly. 'No…' he said quickly.
Legolas just looked at him, and Haldir began to lose himself in his eyes.
'No…' he said again, but Legolas had taken his hand and lifted it to his cheek, and Haldir was surprised to feel a twinge of pain echo through his palm from the dark bruise which he himself had put there.
'Touch me,' said Legolas softly, and like an unwilling child learning an unfamiliar lesson, Haldir let his fingers travel infinitely gently across Legolas' swollen eye, feeling the heat and the swelling beneath the skin. Somewhere deep in his heart something moved, but it was rusty and unused, and he was sure it would perish at once.
Slowly Haldir explored the planes of Legolas' face, the straight nose and the full, soft lips, and unable to help himself, he leaned forward and kissed him. Legolas sighed and returned the kiss, then gently placed his hand on the unbandaged skin of Haldir's chest and pushed him down so that he was lying on his back. At once the pain in Haldir's shoulder increased, and he felt the terror again as he lay looking up at Legolas' fair face above him, but Legolas said,
'Don't be afraid. I know you, Haldir. You are the most magnificent of all the Galadhrim, the most beautiful and the most desirable, but I am not in awe of you. I will not bow to you, nor will I ask your submission, for I am your equal. What I give to you has no price, and you will owe me no debt. But you must open to me.'
'I can't…' said Haldir, struggling to sit up, but Legolas pushed him down gently.
'This requires more courage than facing the dark lord at Dol Guldur, but you have that courage. Let me touch you, my dear,' said Legolas, and gently he laid his hand on Haldir's cheek. Haldir gasped and drew in his breath, as if ice had been laid on his skin. His eyes as he looked up at the prince were wide and dark with fear but he lay still, breathing hard, his pride forcing him to stay where he was.
Tenderly Legolas stroked his face, passing his fingertips across his furrowed brow and his silver fair eyebrows, then caressing his eyelids shut before trailing gently down his nose and finally letting the tip of one finger come to rest on his beautiful mouth. Haldir shuddered, his skin as pale as ivory. As Legolas continued to caress him, his delicate touch seemed to enter every nerve of Haldir's body, quivering through his lungs so that his breath caught in his chest, and squeezing his heart so tightly that it seemed about to stop, then began to beat so hard that he could hear the blood pounding in his ears. He felt currents of effervescent heat running along his flesh, and it grew so sensitive that he could hardly bear Legolas' light hand on him. The touch was exquisite, and at the same time it was torment. Light as a feather, it penetrated him more deeply than anything he had ever experienced before, in a place so secret he scarcely knew it himself. His head began to spin, and he felt his centre begin to fragment.
'Legolas, stop!' he cried out, seizing his hand and struggling to sit up. 'Stop, I beg you. I can't bear it...When you touch me, I...I begin to lose myself. Your touch goes too deep; it…breaks me. If this is what you wish to teach me, we may as well stop now, because I can't learn it.'
'Haldir,' said Legolas, 'I know you're afraid...'
'I'm not afraid!' shouted Haldir.
'That's why you find my touch unbearable: you've never let anyone breach your defences before. Maybe that's why you're so magnificent a warrior and so callous and splendid a lover: because you're so expert at keeping others out. To you yielding to another is like…like a death. You've known nothing but conquest, and now you're terrified that the same treatment will be meted out to you. But I don't seek to conquer you, Haldir, but to meet you, and to love you…'
'Legolas, this is folly...' said Haldir angry and shaken, but Legolas laid his hand on Haldir's chest beside the white bandage, flecked high up now with a small uneven stain of dark red; and his fingers were travelling down the smooth corded muscles of Haldir's right side, grazing the skin so lightly that to Haldir it felt exquisitely painful.
Haldir gasped and jerked away from him, but Legolas immediately pulled him back and wrapped him right round in his arms, letting his hands rest flat on Haldir's back and pressing his head gently against Haldir's bandaged shoulder.
'Haldir,' he whispered urgently into his ear. 'I'm not your enemy. Don't fight me...'
Haldir's body was rigid in his arms, and for a long time they remained so, but at no time did he soften or yield in any way to Legolas' touch. At last Haldir wrenched himself away.
'I can't do it,' he said hoarsely, and began to snatch up his clothes from the ground. 'I'm sorry, but you've hoped for more than I can give.'
'Wait...' cried Legolas, reaching out to him, but Haldir said,
'There's no point.'
He dragged on his breeches one-handed and snatching up the rest of his clothes, stumbled off into the forest, not looking back. He walked until he thought he must be out of sight of Legolas, and then slumped down in the darkness under a tree. There was a strange unaccustomed weight in his chest, and his throat was tight and painful. He seemed to be choking, or was it laughing? But what did he have to laugh about? He had nothing to laugh about at all: and at last he had to admit that he was weeping, he who never gave a moment's thought to a lover once he had finished with him. What had Legolas done to him, that he was hiding half-naked in the forest, sobbing his heart out, on the night when he had received the greatest honour of his life, the night he had become Guardian of Lorien?
He wept brokenly for a long time, not understanding at all why he was doing so. For he knew he had done the right thing: Legolas had tried to wake in him that most fatal of emotions, love, and that on the eve of their parting. He had had a lucky escape. But at the same time as he tried tp reason with himself, another voice was whispering in his ear, one that was telling him that the pain of Legolas' touch was nothing to the pain of being deprived of it, and that if he didn't find him again at once, he would lose his very last chance to be with him.
And all at once he was running back in the direction he had come, searching frantically for the soft glow of the travelling light. He must have got lost or gone in a circle because he couldn't find it, and then it was there before him, and he could see Legolas curled up under his cloak, one arm drawn across his face.
Haldir cried out his name and instantly he was on his feet, his face blotched with tears, much as Haldir's had been only a few minutes before. Haldir stood mute and helpless before him, but Legolas with abundant kindness came and took his arm gently and drew him down to sit beside him on his rumpled cloak. For a long time Legolas looked into his face, and Haldir felt the tears gather again in his eyes.
'Touch me,' he whispered, and Legolas gave him a smile of heartbreaking beauty, and gently curved his fingers around Haldir's cheek. Haldir gasped, this time recognising Legolas himself in the touch. He closed his eyes and willing himself to open, let himself be held. It felt terrifying, like standing on the edge of a precipice without a rope, but Legolas was murmuring incoherently, close to his ear, and the vibration of his voice soothed Haldir, and something began to soften deep inside him.
He was lying down now, and Legolas' hand was drifting slowly across his cheek, and now one finger was tracing the contours of Haldir's beautiful mouth. Haldir tensed but again he willed himself not to resist Legolas. At last Haldir's lips parted and he swirled his tongue once round Legolas' finger before sucking it gently, drawing it into the warm dark space within. Legolas sighed with pleasure and let him take a second and then a third finger, and then leaned closer and kissed him deeply. Haldir's arm came round and held him tightly, and a little of the fear began to drain away as he felt the prince's strong body lying across him.
When at last they moved apart, Legolas began to kiss his jaw and his neck, trailing his tongue lightly across his skin. Haldir cried out with the unbearable tenderness of it and tried to push him away, but Legolas took hold of his hand and stroked him gently with his thumb while his mouth continued its journey down to Haldir's chest. For a long time he rested his cheek on Haldir's damaged shoulder, feeling the blood pounding thickly in the veins.
'You are in pain,' he said.
Haldir didn't answer, but for an instant he brought up his hand to rest on Legolas' hair.
Legolas lifted his head then and placed his mouth on the bare skin on the right side of Haldir's chest, where the most sensitive flesh lay just beside the edge of the bandage. Haldir's body jerked upwards and he gave a strange cry, but Legolas took hold of his hand again, and this time Haldir felt something beginning to loosen inside him.
'Legolas, stop…' he begged, but Legolas said,
'Trust me, beloved,' as slowly and tenderly he kissed his way down Haldir's right side and across to the curling hair like soft silver wires that nestled between his legs.
'Legolas…' said Haldir again, in a shaking voice, but now the prince was taking him up gently into his hand. Haldir cried out again, but almost at once he felt the pleasure of what the prince was doing, and the ice that was in him began to melt. Long and patiently Legolas caressed him, and after a while Haldir felt tears on his face; and when at last Legolas gently moved his body and came to lay behind him, Haldir began to tremble uncontrollably. The terror was still in him but now there was something new, a part of him that wanted to welcome Legolas, to be as close to him as it was possible to be, so that when Legolas said to him,
'Do you want this, Haldir?' Haldir nodded wordlessly, and felt himself pierced with infinite gentleness. Still he wept silently, and his heart beat hard in his chest. Slowly Legolas began to move within him, and for the first time in his life Haldir abandoned himself to another, and Legolas felt the change in him and the joy of the moment went into him. Then Haldir knew the ancient rhythm that he had never allowed any other to dance within him, and he felt the boundless relief of relinquishing control. The rhythm was stronger now, and Legolas was crying out his name hoarsely, and then he came, and Haldir felt him shudder deep inside him, and he welcomed his seed as it spilled out of him.
Legolas gave a great gasp and tightened his arms round Haldir, forgetting his injured shoulder.
'Valar,' said Haldir, biting his lip, but the pain seemed unimportant. Legolas held him for a long time, but at last he withdrew from his body and leaning across him, he kissed him deeply, laughing and weeping and talking incoherently all at once.
Haldir lay still, broken open and vulnerable, and the terror was as strong as the joy.
'Haldir,' said Legolas, breathless, 'now you must take your pleasure with me.'
'No, I can't,' said Haldir immediately, but Legolas said,
'You will not be master. We are one, we are the same. Love me, Haldir.'
So Haldir pulled him against him one-handed and kissed his mouth, touching with the tip of his tongue the place where Legolas had torn his lip when he had fallen. Legolas sighed and moved closer to him, and then Haldir kissed his bruised cheek, and his swollen eye.
'Forgive me,' he whispered, but Legolas only smiled and pulled him back down to kiss him again.
And although Haldir was most skilled in the arts of love, tonight with Legolas he was as tentative as if the prince were his first lover, and in a way he was, for never before had Haldir taken so much trouble to please his partner, having been so desirous of pleasing himself. So he watched Legolas face', and listened to his sighs, and to the different sounds of pleasure he made, and he saw his eyes go dark and liquid with desire, and then Legolas gasped,
'Haldir, take me. It's what you have wanted. Take me now.'
So Haldir entered him, and he felt held within Legolas' body in a way he had never felt before, and when he began to move inside him, it was with a strange wondering gentleness which brought him more tears. And when he came, his one good arm holding Legolas tightly against him, it was as softly as a wave hushing on to the shore, and yet deep within him something broke irrevocably, and love was born in him, and he was terribly afraid.
Afterwards he lay still, his limbs tangled up with Legolas', gazing up at the stars shining steadily between the bare branches of the trees, and he no longer knew himself.
'What have you done to me, Legolas?' he whispered. 'I'm no longer who I was.'
Legolas laid his fingers lightly on Haldir's lips.
'Hush, beloved,' he said, removing a strand of silver-fair hair from Haldir's flushed face. 'I know you, Haldir, even if you don't know yourself. You're the bravest person I've ever met.'
'No, I'm not,' said Haldir weakly. 'You give me too much credit. I'm full of terror, and I'm a coward, just as you named me.'
'That you are not, my beautiful Haldir,' said Legolas gently. 'You're the best lover I have ever had, and the last, for I will take no-one after you. I knew it would be so when I saw you that very first day. Do you remember it, Haldir? We were approaching you through the mist, battle-weary and ragged, and there you were, tall and magnificent, surrounded by your warriors, demanding to know who we were, and ordering us to show ourselves. Ordering us, in our own lands, Haldir! What mighty arrogance! From that moment I was yours, against all the warnings of my reason.'
'I am yours, Haldir, and will not give myself to another while we both live.'
'But…we can never be together…'
'I know nothing of what may happen to us. But I know that I love you, and will not seek another love. Do not concern yourself, for I ask nothing of you. I told you, there's no debt.'
'There may be no debt, but there will be a parting,' said Haldir, pulling Legolas to him and burying his face in his hair. 'How will I bear it? Legolas, how will I leave you now? Valar, you have unmanned me...'
'It didn't seem like that to me...' said Legolas, husky and deep, but Haldir clung to him, unspeaking, for a long while, as if he would not waste a single moment of the brief time they had left together, and which had suddenly become so precious to him. Legolas spoke to him softly, trying to comfort him, but he would not be comforted. At last he drew away from Legolas and the prince saw the pain clear on his face, but he did not flinch away from it.
They dressed then, Legolas helping Haldir. It was then that they noticed the stain on the bandage on Haldir's shoulder had grown, and for the first time in that long night he became aware how very bad the pain had become.
'You've brought some poppy juice,' said Legolas, but Haldir said, through clenched teeth,
'I was relying on the wine. I thought...the poppy juice had killed my desire. Little did I know you had drawn me so fully to you that no other could wake it in me.'
'Then we must go back,' said Legolas.
'No!' said Haldir. 'Legolas...'
'What is it?'
'I want to...wake with you beside me.'
Legolas smiled with incredulous pleasure. 'You want this, Haldir, who never sleep the night through with a lover...'
'How do you know that?' demanded Haldir.
'You would forbear to dismiss me now that you've had your way with me?' said Legolas, laughing gently at him.
'Don't jest!' said Haldir harshly. 'How could I send you away, now that we...'
He fell abruptly silent.
Legolas waited, but Haldir had no more to say. Instead he reached out mutely, and Legolas came into the shelter of his arm and was pulled roughly against him.
'You have only to come to my tent, or I may come to yours,' said Legolas, his mouth close to Haldir's ear.
'No,' said Haldir stubbornly. 'Stay with me, here in the forest, where no-one may cast curious glances at us.'
Legolas said nothing, but Haldir heard his thought.
'I will say nothing of this to anyone,' whispered Haldir, 'and I would ask the same of you. If I had taken you yesterday, you are right to think I would have told my conquest of you to any who would hear it, and I would have been only too pleased to be seen emerging from your tent at first light. But...in a single hour...you have...changed me, Legolas.'
His arm tightened around the prince. 'Stay with me,' he said, 'and in the morning we'll part, and I will oversee our preparations for our return to Lorien, and...and...'
'Haldir, there's no need to weep,' said Legolas softly. 'We'll meet again, whenever we can...'
But Haldir was overwhelmed, both with emotions that he scarcely understood and with the pain from his injured shoulder. Legolas helped him to sit down with his back against the white birch tree, and searching in the pocket of his tunic, found a small flask of miruvor and gave it to him. Haldir's hand was shaking too much to keep it steady, so Legolas held it to his lips while he drank deeply from it.
Afterwards Legolas drew Haldir against him and wrapped his cloak round them both, and it was not long before Haldir fell into a troubled sleep, his head resting on Legolas' shoulder. Legolas watched him through the silent hours of the night, stroking his damp brow whenever he began to mutter incoherently to himself, and remembering the last time that he had done the same thing, the night after they had defeated Sauron. And in the hour before dawn, he looked unflinchingly into the days ahead when Haldir would be gone far away from him, and though he saw grief in those days, he saw no regret, and he accepted his love for Haldir fully.
Haldir woke just as the eastern sky was growing pale, and he looked with wonder into Legolas' face, so close to his own, but had no word to say. In silence they walked back towards the camp, Legolas' arm resting lightly on Haldir's waist, but when they came in sight of the tents Haldir halted.
'What have we done?' he whispered.
'We have loved one another,' said Legolas. 'That is all.'
Haldir shook his head. 'And now we must part.'
'Yes, we must,' said Legolas. 'But parting will not divide us, Haldir, for we belong to each other. We are one.'
Haldir closed the distance between them and pulled Legolas against him.
'How in the name of all the Holy Ones can I leave you?' he said, trembling from head to foot.
Legolas enclosed him in his arms, stroking his hair gently.
'Now I'm Guardian I'm bound to Lorien,' said Haldir against his shoulder. 'How will we meet again?'
'That is in the hands of the Valar,' said Legolas, 'but I'll be waiting for you, my dear one, whenever it will be.'
At last Haldir drew away from him.
'Look what I've done to you, Legolas,' he said, touching his bruised face with the tips of his fingers. 'What will you say to those who ask what befell you?'
'I'll tell them it was a matter of honour, and perforce they will be unable to question me further,' he said, smiling a little.
After that there was no more to say, but Haldir stood helplessly before Legolas, unable to part from him.
'Go,' said Legolas, gently. 'Unless you wish me to leave you first.'
'No,' said Haldir sharply. 'I will go. That way I don't have to watch you walking away from me…' He turned away with a guardroom curse. 'Valar, truly am I the coward you named me, Legolas,' he muttered half to himself.
Legolas turned him back gently to face him. 'If you were, you wouldn't have come back to me,' he said.
Haldir made a strange sound, half-gasp, half-cry, and without any word of farewell, turned and began to walk away from Legolas, stooping a little because of his wounded shoulder.
'My love goes with you, Haldir of Lorien, until the day you come back to me,' he heard the prince say behind him, but he did not, could not turn, so he continued to walk, one step following another, then another, and another after that, listening to his own breath shuddering in his chest, feeling the damp earth under his feet. Never had it taken so much strength simply to walk, but never before had he been bound to another with cords so strong that even now he could feel them drawing him back towards Legolas, so that it seemed he was walking against a high wind or a powerful tide.
Even when he had walked for some time he dared not turn to see if Legolas was still there, so he forced himself to go on, coming into the clearing where the embers of last night's fire still smouldered, waiting for the cooks to stoke them up again. Then he was across the plain, past the healers' tents, and approaching his own. Scarcely anyone was about and no-one looked at him, which surprised him, because he felt so changed he thought others would see it in him and be amazed. Now he was at the door of his tent, and now he was inside, and everything was orderly, his pack filled and laced up, his bedroll neatly strapped to it, his weapons and shield resting against them. Rumil had left him with nothing to do and he stood aimless, his thoughts running about his head chaotically.
He knew it was impossible to stay there alone and unoccupied so he turned and went out, and a few minutes later was shaking one of the Galadhrim healers by the shoulder, trying to wake him.
'Gelin, I need some poppy juice,' he said, and as he spoke the words he realised they were more than just a ruse to distract himself from the unbearable pain of parting from Legolas, because his shoulder was aching fiercely again.
Gelin got to his feet and, having helped Haldir to expose the wound, was scolding him at once.
'You take too little care of yourself, Guardian. How did it come to bleed so much?'
'I know not,' muttered Haldir, barely noticing Gelin's casual use of his new rank. Removing the bandage hurt but Haldir welcomed the pain, and when the wound was cleaned and re-dressed, he took only a sip of poppy juice, tucking the bottle away in his clothing. He murmured his thanks to the healer and went out, but he had no idea what to do next: he had lost his bearings, and was adrift in an unknown sea.
Rumil's voice saved him, calling out to him from some way off, then coming near enough to speak close beside him. Rumil asked him something and Haldir heard himself answering, but had no idea what he had said, and then Rumil had taken his arm and they were walking somewhere. Orophin was there, and he was putting something in Haldir's hands, some bread, he thought it was, and when he had eaten some of it he came back to himself a little, and saw how anxiously his brothers were watching him.
'Haldir,' said Rumil, laying his hand across his forehead. 'Are you quite well, brother? Is the fever returning?'
Haldir shook his head. 'The pain is bad today,' he said, thinking how true were his words. 'I am a little distracted by it.'
Neither of his brothers looked even slightly convinced and Haldir caught the troubled glance they exchanged, but they didn't challenge him further. When he had finished eating they went out of Rumil's tent to find the rest of the Galadhrim waiting with all their gear, ready to begin their journey. Some looked rather the worse for wear after the celebrations of the night before, but in every face Haldir saw the longing for home. In that moment, surrounded by his own, it seemed impossible that he was about to leave this place, turning his back on Legolas. Haldir felt their imminent parting like a blow in the gut, and seeing his face change, Rumil laid a hand on his arm, but Haldir shook him off. He was Guardian now: his duty was to lead his warriors home and take up the defence of Lorien. He had no other choice.
Strangely after that he found himself doing everything exactly as normal and yet with a peculiar sense of detachment, as if he were watching himself from some distant and impregnable place. Saelon and his officers had gathered to see the Galadhrim begin their journey home and the usual courtesies were exchanged. Haldir made his farewells to Faron and even to Thalion, who scowled at him, and then they were turning away and leaving the camp, heading south west towards Lorien. There had been no sign of Legolas, for which Haldir was grateful: for the first time in his life, he was not sure he had the self-control to maintain an impassive face.
It took them a day to walk to the edge of the forest and they camped that first night on the edge of the vale of Anduin, looking west towards the Great River. The pain in Haldir's shoulder had exhausted him and once the watch had been set, he rolled himself up in his cloak and slept without taking any food. But in the deep night when the watch changed he woke and, rummaging in his pack for the poppy juice, found something which had been fastened to the inside of the canvas: a small enamelled pin, beautifully-crafted in the shape of a young green beech leaf. And the echo of Legolas' hands was on it, and he dared not fix it to his cloak for fear the iron control he was imposing on himself would break down and leave him weeping and helpless with loss.
So he tucked it deep into his pack and got up to take his turn on guard duty, and for the next two days they crossed the vale of Anduin until they reached the Tongue, where boats were waiting to take them into Lorien, and after another two days of travel they stood at dusk at the White Gate of Caras Galadhon, and it was opened to admit them, and they came home at last.
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.