And waited. And rapped again. And waited.
Turning to retrace his steps to the main court, unsure how long he should wait, Melpomaen was relieved to see the king coming along the hallway toward him.
“King Thranduil. I fear I was early.”
“No matter, we had set no time. I wished to finish today’s business first, and it took rather longer than I expected.” He opened the door and went into the chamber, leaving his guest to follow hesitantly.
The room was appointed as befitted the king of the woodland realm of Mirkwood. A thick carpet woven in a design of vines in scarlet and green softened the stone floor, and though a number of chairs were set to permit conversation, there was no question which was the king’s: it stood nearest the hearth, brave with gold leaf on its intricate carvings, its seat softened with velvet cushions embroidered to match the carpet. Thranduil seated himself there and indicated that Melpomaen should sit opposite.
A pale Elf came out of the next room. Thranduil asked Melpomaen, “Have you eaten? I have not, yet, and if you wish you may join me.”
Melpomaen assured him that he had, indeed, eaten.
“In that case, Guilin, bring a glass of wine for my guest, but my usual luncheon.”
Guilin nodded and left the room silently.
Thranduil said, “My son tells me that you have offered to take up the duties of the company clerk for the time being, is that so?”
“Yes, I did; I have not much practice in such matters, but I am doing my best. At the moment I am trying to put everything in order, and am nearly through with that. Then I can bring all the accounts up to date. I understand that the fellow who usually does this had to take a leave of absence for family reasons, but is expected to return in the spring. In any case I am happy to help where I can, until my arm is fully recovered and I can shift to guard duty, or whatever Captain Legolas chooses to have me do.” Melpomaen realized that he was speaking rather much and too quickly, and fell silent.
“Indeed.” Thranduil leaned back comfortably and rested his elbows on the wide arms of the chair, steepling his fingers together. He looked for a long time at Melpomaen, saying nothing. Just as the dark-haired Elf was about to speak again out of sheer nervousness – though not knowing what he would say – the door opened and Guilin returned with Thranduil’s meal. He also had a decanter and two glasses on the tray, and poured for both king and guest before setting the decanter on a small table at the king’s side.
“Thank you, Guilin, that will be all for now.”
Bowing, Guilin withdrew.
Thranduil raised his glass to Melpomaen, and sipped. Hastily the other did likewise, and found that the wine was excellent, but potent. He decided that he had better take care of how much he drank in the king’s company.
“So, then, Melpomaen, tell me of yourself and your friend while I eat. As I remember, you said you came from the south and had an errand in Dale.”
“We did, my lord. Quite far to the south. I had never had the pleasure of seeing your forest before this journey, nor had I been in any town of Men such as Dale before.”
“But you had seen Men, surely?” Thranduil lifted a spoonful of stewed fruit to his lips.
Melpomaen was not certain how to answer this. He had not, in fact, ever seen a Man while in Lothlórien, but he knew that saying so would be tantamount to admitting that he came from the Golden Wood, and he remembered that Haldir would prefer to reveal as little of themselves and their errand as was compatible with courtesy. Carefully, he said, “Yes, I had seen Men before we reached Dale.” He did not mention that the Men he had seen were distant figures in their fields, or – for the last part of their journey – a few fellow-travelers on the road.
“I had never met a Dwarf before coming north, no. I do not believe they travel often in the southern parts of the land.”
“They do seem to prefer the northern regions, and the mountains,” agreed Thranduil. He spread soft cheese on his bread and bit into it. When he had finished chewing, he added, “I did not think that many Elves lived to the south, either, except in the lands ruled by Celeborn and Galadriel.” He looked closely at Melpomaen, who kept his face calm.
“Some Elves wander yet. Not all of the Silvan kindred wish to huddle together and be ruled always by a lord, wise and good though he may be.”
“So you and your friend Haldir are two such, then?”
Melpomaen merely nodded.
Thranduil said nothing more until he had finished his meal and set the tray aside. Taking up his glass, he turned it idly in his fingers.
“You would be wise to be honest with me, Melpomaen.”
“I have told you nothing but the truth,” came the protest.
“That may be so, but you are not telling me all the truth.”
“It is not all mine to tell,” Melpomaen said with dignity. “You are my host, but not my king, and I may not tell you what is not your right to know.”
The king half-smiled at that. “Can you tell me what errand brought you to Dale?”
“It was not my errand, nor even Haldir’s – he undertook to deliver a message for someone else, who could not make the journey himself.”
“So you made a long journey yourself, for no purpose but to keep your friend company? Very noble of you. Or will you be rewarded as well when you return?”
Melpomaen could not quite control the expression on his face at that.
Thranduil noticed the flicker of dismay in Melpomaen’s eyes, and swiftly said, “So you will not receive any repayment for your labor? Or is it that you will not return to your employer?”
“We will return; Haldir bears a reply and it must be delivered.” Melpomaen swallowed. “I expect no compensation for myself. I made the journey so that he would not have to travel alone and unaided.”
“And as it turned out you were more hindrance than help, becoming injured,” mused Thranduil aloud. Melpomaen quivered at the accusation. “Though from my perspective that is a positive good, since it brought you both here to us for the winter, and I hear good reports of Haldir, and expect I will of you now that you are able to take up some duties.”
“Yes, my lord,” murmured Melpomaen.
Thranduil fixed his eye upon Melpomaen and said, “I suppose I had better let you get back to those duties, had I not? But we will speak again. I would like to hear more of your journey. I have been to Erebor not long ago, but further than that I have not been in an Age – responsibility holds me here.” He looked suddenly tired.
Melpomaen rose and bowed, saying, “Naturally I will be happy to speak with you whenever you wish, my lord.”
“Go, then, and if you see Guilin in the hallways, send him to me.”
As Melpomaen closed the door behind him, he shivered at the memory of the king’s eyes boring into him. He hoped he had not given away more than he ought; he would have to tell Haldir all he remembered of the conversation. It did comfort him to think that he had evaded any definite statement of their origins, at least.
Guilin was waiting on a bench just inside the great hall where the corridor joined it. On hearing the message from Thranduil, he hurried off.
Melpomaen wondered if the pale Elf could in fact speak; he had said no word in Melpomaen’s presence at all. Shrugging, he headed back for the records chamber. Although the day was wearing on, he could work for a while longer before the evening meal.
Delving through the ledgers was tedious, but by the end of the afternoon he had grasped the system that the clerk was using and begun to transfer the information from all the loose sheets that had accumulated under Legolas’s indifferent supervision into the books. Pushing his chair back, he stretched and rose, following the savory smells down the hallway to dinner.
Haldir arrived late, by which time all of the seats near Melpomaen had been taken. He repressed a scowl and sat down at the end of the table. A moment later his captain sat beside him.
“Have you seen the revised duty roster yet?” asked Legolas casually.
“No, I just returned.”
“You might want to look at it. You had been due to shift to the night watch tomorrow, but that’s been changed. You’ll be on my. . . the day shift for the next month.”
Haldir glanced over, but Legolas’s face remained smooth and unrevealing. “Yes, captain,” he said noncommitally.
“Do you play cards? I’ve seen you dicing.”
“Sometimes. Melpomaen enjoys cards more than I do. I prefer chess.”
Legolas’s eyes lit up. “Do you? So do I. Excellent. How about a game this evening?”
The guards’ common room was, as usual after supper, on the noisy side, but Legolas settled himself and Haldir at a small table in the corner with the chessboard. Melpomaen drifted over, rolled his eyes, and went away again, though first he whispered to Haldir that he did not expect to stay long in company that night. He joined a group playing dice, which he would be able to leave at any time he might wish.
Haldir was surprised by Legolas’s strategy and technique. He would have expected the other to think carefully about his moves, but instead the captain played a more daring game. It did not occur to Haldir that Legolas might be nervous.
Risk, this time, did not pay off – Haldir won the game, and Legolas apologized for his poor showing.
“I hope for a rematch soon, to show you what I can do when I’m in better form. Perhaps tomorrow, or the next night?”
“Tomorrow I’ve agreed with Erentar to do a bit of a swordplay demonstration, but the following night, if you will. Tonight I think I had better turn in; if I’m not to be going onto the night watch, I’ll need to be on time for the morning shift.”
Leaving the room, Haldir caught Melpomaen’s eye, and his lover nodded almost imperceptibly. Legolas caught the exchange and sighed to himself, but joined a group sitting near the fires and soon was caught up in an involved conversation about the best way to hunt goblins as opposed to giant spiders.
Melpomaen caught up with Haldir just as the latter was about to enter their room. He held back from taking Haldir in his arms until they were inside, a candle lighted, and the door closed.
They kissed, leaning against the door, until both were breathless. Melpomaen’s hands were busy at Haldir’s waist, loosening the ties that held his leggings. He pulled his lover over to the bed and stripped off Haldir’s clothes. As he began to remove his own, Haldir slipped under the quilt that covered the bed and watched, trailing his fingers down his belly to stroke himself lightly.
“I was going to ask you how your interview with King Thranduil went, Maen, but perhaps I’d better wait till later, hm?”
Melpomaen was disentangling a knotted lace and had to sit on the edge of the bed. “That might be a good idea. But he wasn’t the only one I spoke with today; Legolas came to see me this morning also. He definitely knows about you and me, Dír.”
“I know. And he’s going to leave me on the day patrol for the time being.” Haldir said nothing more till Melpomaen had crawled under the quilt with him. “That was the message I had last night, that he wished to see me.”
“To tell you that he was shifting your duty schedule? I’m surprised that he bothered to see you in person, instead of just leaving a message to see the new list posted.”
“No, actually he didn’t mention any change in schedule to me then.”
“So why did he want to speak with you?” said Melpomaen in some confusion.
“He told me also that he knew how it is with you and me, but that he would not say anything to anyone else if I wished that,” Haldir said, and hoped that would be enough.
“Why would he need to tell both of us separately? Was that all he said? Erentar mentioned at dinner that you were late this morning; you must have had a longer conversation than that.”
Haldir bit at the inside of his cheek. By just saying that Legolas has spoken, he had set himself up to have to explain everything. “No, that wasn’t all he said.” He tried to laugh. “You were right, Maen.”
“About Legolas. About him looking at me, and about why.”
Melpomaen sat up, dark hair spilling over his shoulders, and looked down at Haldir lying there with his head turned a little away, one arm flung up to cover his eyes.
“He spoke of that?” asked Melpomaen in disbelief. “I believed it was so, but I would never have expected him to say anything.”
Haldir nodded. “I think he couldn’t help it. He seemed miserable, Maen, and I felt badly for him. . . but there is little I can do, except talk to him, if he wants to, and I think he does. It sounds as if the customs here differ from ours in Lórien, but there are still some problems when two binn are open about loving each other – they may not be despised and ostracized, but they are still objects of pity, not quite accepted in society. Legolas reminded me a bit of myself, before I met you, meldanya.”
Melpomaen lay down again and drew Haldir close. “I understand, Dír. I know you wouldn’t want to hurt anyone, and I know you didn’t invite his attention. I can certainly understand why Legolas would be attracted to you – I’m just glad that we found each other first!”
Relief washed through Haldir at his lover’s acceptance of the situation. He kissed Melpomaen deeply again, his tongue probing into Melpomaen’s mouth, trying to convey his profound emotions through the physical contact.
Accepting that Haldir needed to take the lead now, though he had had other plans, Melpomaen relaxed back onto the pillows, enjoying the taste of his lover’s mouth, running his hands along Haldir’s sides and down to his hips, pulling the other even closer. He could feel Haldir becoming hard against his thigh as their kisses continued, and slipped one hand between them to run his finger lightly over the soft skin of the head.
Haldir shivered at that touch, and pressed more insistently against Melpomaen, moving over until he lay with his legs between Melpomaen’s and their two members pulsed warmly side by side.
Melpomaen pushed Haldir’s shoulders away a little, and whispered, “You had me say what I wanted yesterday. What do you want tonight?”
“I want you, Maen,” Haldir ground out. He reached for the oil flask, and as Melpomaen started to raise and spread his legs more widely, he shook his head and said, “No, not that way. On your knees.”
That caused Melpomaen some surprise, but he turned over and knelt, bracing his hands before him. He swayed as the mattress shifted under them, and said, “I think we will have to move to the floor, if this is how you want it. . .”
Impatiently Haldir tossed the quilt down to soften the stone, and when Melpomaen again knelt before him he poured some of the sweet oil into his palms, reaching around to tease Melpomaen’s jutting hardness with one hand as he spread him open behind. His own erection felt hard enough to batter down a wall, and he groaned as he slowly entered.
Melpomaen had his head down, breathing heavily. Haldir was now stroking along his inner thighs with one hand, while the other slid up and down his member, fingers and palm working together to stimulate every inch.
The feel of Melpomaen under him was almost enough to make Haldir spill immediately, but he held back, wanting this to last longer. He withdrew almost completely, then made short quick thrusts, moving just in and out of the tight ring of muscle, until he could stand it no more and sank in fully once again. Melpomaen gasped at that, and Haldir could feel his lover’s passage contract around him.
“Shh,” he soothed, pulling away, and continuing to stroke Melpomaen with both hands.
“No, harder,” and Melpomaen bucked his hips back to meet Haldir’s next push.
Abandoning restraint, they set up a rapid rhythm, almost slamming into each other as they gave way to the urgency of their desire. As he neared his climax, Haldir let go of Melpomaen’s cock and instead seized his hips, pressing in until he could go no further. He hung there an instant on the brink. At last he released, spilling himself in three shuddering pulses, and fell forward onto Melpomaen’s back.
Melpomaen let himself sink to the quilt and roll onto his side, carrying Haldir with him. He reached for Haldir’s hand and brought it back down to his own groin. Together they brought Melpomaen to his own orgasm, Haldir catching the seed and bringing it up to his mouth.
“Mmm. . . tastes like you, meldanya, tastes like love, bitter, but you can’t get enough of it.”
Melpomaen rolled his eyes at the whimsy. “Even with the quilt, this floor is even harder and colder than the ground outside was when we were traveling, Dír, don’t you think we should move back up to the bed to sleep?”
“Sissy,” said Haldir with affection, but moved just as quickly as Melpomaen back onto the mattress, blowing out the candle along the way. He wrapped his arms around Melpomaen and said, “I love you, Maen.”
“I love you, too, Haldir. . . and I must say that I’m pleased to have my taste in partners approved by the son of the king!” Melpomaen smiled in the dark and rested his head on Haldir’s chest as they fell asleep.