21. Evenings of Two and Three
He missed sitting with Melpomaen at dinner – though they had no chance then for private conversation, it was comforting to not be solely among strangers. Legolas was not so much a stranger any more, of course, but he was wary of seeming to be too close to the captain. When the latter caught his eye across the table the evening after their first conversation, raised his eyebrows, and nodded toward his quarters, Haldir glanced around the room and gave a tiny shake of his head. Legolas closed his eyes for an instant and then opened them, exhaling with a nod of resigned understanding.
Melpomaen, meanwhile, rather enjoyed the change; he had done his best with the company records, but never felt quite comfortable with them, and was happy to relinquish even a hint of command to Lasmir. Since his injured arm was still stiff and needed careful exercise before he could draw bow, he had been placed as a door guard for the time being, and whiled away the hours with the three others stationed there by telling stories. Following Haldir’s suggestion, he kept to ancient legends that would not give away his origin in the Golden Wood.
Nevertheless it was a relief to him after three nights to know that he would again be able to see Haldir and spend time together with his partner. He slept through the morning, but worked on the accounts during the afternoon hours until it was time for the evening meal. Melpomaen went back to their room first, intending to wash the dust and ink off his hands before going to the mess.
When he entered, though, Haldir was waiting for him, and swept the dark-haired Elf into a tight embrace before he could say a word.
“I missed you so, meldanya,” Haldir said, his breath warm in Melpomaen’s ear.
“I, too,” Melpomaen replied, drawing his hands down his lover’s back to his hips, pulling them together so that thigh thrust between thigh. A grin of pure mischief crossed his face. “It was nice not to have you taking up the whole of the bed, though.”
Haldir’s jaw dropped for an instant, then he realized that he was being teased and responded in kind. “I? You are the one who rolls over with the blanket until there is none left for me. Perhaps we should ask Legolas to keep us on different watches, then?”
Melpomaen laughed and hugged Haldir more firmly. “I don’t think so, Dír.”
“That reminds me, though. I spent the first evening you were on duty with him, at his request. . .”
“I knew he would ask,” interjected Melpomaen, and Haldir nodded.
“You were right. We had a pleasant conversation, you can guess what about. But he had a request. Not tonight – I hope – but perhaps tomorrow night he would like to spend with both of us, if you would be willing.”
Melpomaen let a grimace flicker across his face.
“No? If you really do not wish to, we can refuse.”
“Oh, I suppose I might as well. It cannot hurt. I would just prefer to spend the time with you alone, you understand.”
“We cannot disappear together every night, Maen, at least not until later in the evening.”
“No, and speaking of that we had better go on to supper, before we miss it. Let me wash my hands and I’ll be ready. But this evening. . . how about staying for one game of cards, perhaps, or one round of songs, and then leaving?”
Haldir was easily persuaded to agree. In the common room after the meal he caught Legolas aside and told the other that they would meet with him not that night, but the next, at whatever hour he chose.
“Perhaps it would be best if I came to your quarters, if you don’t mind?” said Legolas with a hint of diffidence. “I will be a good guest and bring along something to drink.”
“If you wish,” said Haldir, and passed on to spend half an hour with a group telling stories, before discreetly relinquishing his seat and slipping out.
Melpomaen had left a few moments earlier. He had stripped down and was in the bath when Haldir reached their room. “Come join me,” he called, hearing the door to the corridor close and the latch fall into place.
Stepping into the warm water next to Melpomaen, Haldir put one arm around his lover’s waist and rested his head on Melpomaen’s shoulder. “I could grow to like this too much to want to leave,” he said, regretting the words almost as soon as he spoke them. He did not want to spend the evening talking about their future, whatever it might hold. Hastily he added, “I told Legolas that he might come here tomorrow evening; I hope that is all right with you.”
Melpomaen considered pursuing the question of leaving, but decided to leave it alone for the time being. He shrugged, the movement making Haldir’s hair float outward in the rippling water. “If he wants this conversation, we might as well have it sooner than later, and I don’t really care where. Need we talk about Legolas now?” He bent his head to kiss Haldir’s lips, his tongue teasing them open.
Haldir yielded to Melpomaen’s searching at first, then reciprocated, thrusting his own tongue to explore his lover’s mouth, familiar now, but still exciting.
“It is my turn this time,” he murmured as he pulled away and sat up. “I have been thinking of something for tonight.”
“I am at your command,” said Melpomaen, his eyes bright with anticipation.
“You have done this to me, once. I thought perhaps you might enjoy it yourself. But first, let us just wash quickly.”
There was just enough room for them both to wash bodies and hair at the same time, stretched out to rinse off the herbal soap. Haldir stood, sluicing the water from his torso with his hands and wringing out the excess from his hair. He posed for an instant to let Melpomaen admire him – which the other did – then wrapped himself in a towel and picked up another to dry off his lover.
“So what are you planning to do?” Melpomaen inquired.
“Patience, meldanya. Patience. Come with me.”
Haldir led Melpomaen out into the other room and seated him on the bed. “Wait.” He went to the chest and brought back a pair of the scarves that they had been issued for outdoor gear.
“Ah. . .” Melpomaen felt a flush of heat through his body as he guessed what his golden-haired partner had in mind.
“First – you liked this before, I remember,” said Haldir. He drew Melpomaen’s hair back from his face and carefully tied one scarf around his eyes.
“Now, this I am not sure about. If it disturbs you, I will take it off again, just tell me,” and he held Melpomaen’s hands together, binding the wrists.
“It does not hurt,” said Melpomaen, lifting and lowering his arms and flexing his hands experimentally.
“No, but I found the constraint unnerving, after a time. So do not be troubled if you wish it removed.”
“I could never wish for your bond removed,” whispered Melpomaen, as Haldir sank to the floor between his knees and began to run warm fingers across the skin of his chest. He raised his arms and looped them around Haldir’s neck.
Kneeling, Haldir pulled Melpomaen close so that he sat on the edge of the bed, legs spread apart. He began by circling his fingers in a sweeping motion over Melpomaen’s chest, teasingly coming close without quite touching his tight nipples.
Melpomaen could feel each inch of his skin heating as Haldir passed over it, the warmth spreading down to his groin in pulsing waves. Involuntarily he tried to press closer, but Haldir held him back, saying, “Remember. You said you were at my command – and my command is to have patience.”
“I remember.” He relaxed, trusting that Haldir would make this a memorable night.
In return Haldir edged forward so that Melpomaen’s growing erection just grazed his own chest, while continuing to stroke and pet him. He tilted his head and darted out his tongue to circle first the left, then the right nipple, and was rewarded with a gasp. He smiled to himself and withdrew his mouth again. Sinking down onto his own heels, now he turned his attention to the base of Melpomaen’s belly, his thighs, and the creases at the top of his legs, careful to keep the pressure light enough to stimulate but firm enough so that it would not tickle.
As Haldir shifted downward, Melpomaen moved his hands to his lover’s head, hoping to encourage him to use his mouth and tongue again, but again he had to practice patience.
Haldir ceased his motions and looked up. Melpomaen’s head was tilted slightly back, his throat making a beautiful line in the lamplight.
“Up,” Haldir said, lifting Melpomaen’s arms. He stood, shaking out his legs briefly, and then urged Melpomaen to lie back on the bed, swinging his feet up so that his lover lay at full length before him. Now he reclined on one elbow and used his free hand to run along the contours of Melpomaen’s shoulder, ribs, hip, sneaking across to make glancing contact with his hard member.
Melpomaen bucked slightly at the unexpected touch, but said nothing when Haldir failed to continue there. Haldir ran his thumb along the line of Melpomaen’s jaw, then inward and over his lips, which parted willingly to allow entry. Melpomaen sucked hard on the tip of Haldir’s thumb, and when it was replaced by warm lips he greeted those with equal eagerness. Haldir continued the kiss even as he cradled Melpomaen’s neck and chin and felt the quickening beat of the other’s pulse there. He pushed his hips against Melpomaen, his own organ prodding insistently against the warm skin. Melpomaen moved his tied hands down as if to try to touch – whether himself or Haldir mattered not, as Haldir quickly moved to intercept him and instead took Melpomaen into his mouth.
After such a long wait, Melpomaen was more than ready. The warm moistness encircling him was exquisite – in his mind’s eye he could see Haldir bent over him, golden hair making a tent in which all manner of delights took place. “Dír, oh yes,” he cried out, and spent, unable to hold back any longer.
Holding Melpomaen’s hips and swallowing, Haldir licked clean the shaft, then continued licking and kissing his way back up to Melpomaen’s mouth. He used one hand to untie the bonds that held his lover’s hands.
As soon as his hands were freed, Melpomaen reached for Haldir. “Come to me, meldanya, yes, now.”
Haldir reached for the flask of oil at their bedside and poured a bit into Melpomaen’s hand. “Prepare us, then.”
Cool oil spread down his length as Melpomaen stroked him and then guided him to the place he sought. He slid in gradually, savoring the sensation, until he was fully sheathed in his lover’s tight passage. He began to thrust, feeling Melpomaen rise to meet him, until in sweet release he spilled his bitter seed deep within.
Still joined, they embraced tightly, then relaxed. Haldir reached up to pull away the cloth over Melpomaen’s eyes and asked, “Yes, Maen?”
“Oh yes.” Melpomaen smiled and stretched languidly. “Oh yes. I could almost feel sorry for Legolas right now.”
Haldir pushed Melpomaen’s shoulder. “You should. You and I have each other, and what does he have? Nothing and no one.”
“I know, Dír, and I do. I’m glad we are together – I love you.”
“I love you, too, meldanya. That will never change.” He sighed contentedly and held Melpomaen close. Pleasantly fatigued, they slept.
In the morning they each went to their separate duties. Haldir mused over what that evening’s meeting with Legolas might entail, until a second reprimand for inattentiveness made him shamefacedly put the matter from his mind. Melpomaen gave it no thought; he would learn what Legolas wanted to discuss soon enough. He only hoped that it would not occupy the whole of the evening. Haldir’s remarks about not wanting to give up some of the benefits of their present situation had encouraged him to hope that they might find another path for their future together.
At dinner, Haldir had some teasing to endure from the others in his squad about his apparent drowsiness earlier in the day. “Well, then,” he said finally, “I had better go off and sleep longer tonight, had I not?” Piling his dishes together, he rose and bowed ironically to them before stalking out of the mess.
“What’s the matter with him tonight?” asked Erentar. From the other end of the table Legolas looked up and listened.
Melpomaen shrugged noncomittally. “He gets moody sometimes, that’s all. I’ll talk to him.” He finished his own bowl of stew, wiping the last of the juices up with the crust of his bread, and returned to their room. There he found Haldir fiddling with the wick of the already bright-burning lamp.
“What is it, Dír?” he asked in mild exasperation. “Even the others at the table noticed your mood.”
“I don’t know.” Haldir flung himself across the bed and gazed up at the ceiling. “Worried about tonight, I suppose.”
“You accepted Legolas’s invitation,” Melpomaen pointed out. “You could have said no. I might have declined, but you didn’t want to. Or so it seemed.” He sat down on the bed and smoothed the hair back from Haldir’s temples. “So why the fuss now?”
Haldir moved his head back and forth under his partner’s hand. “I’m just. . . I fear this will be awkward. Back when I was young, I was always a bit uncomfortable when I knew that one of the lasses was interested in me, because I could not return the feeling. It is like that with Legolas, a little, except that I know in this case it might have been possible to return it, had you and I not already. . .” He swallowed. “That is not coming out right, it sounds as if I regret my bond with you, which is not the case at all. I suppose I see too much of myself in him, myself before I met you, and I know what he must suffer – only perhaps worse, since he sees someone he thinks he could love already joined with another. I never had that.”
“If he were really so likely to be made unhappy by seeing you and me together, why would he have asked that the three of us meet this evening?” asked Melpomaen logically. “I do not think you need worry that you will bring him undue pain.” He leaned over and kissed Haldir’s cheek.
Placing his hand behind Melpomaen’s head, Haldir drew him down to kiss his lips. “I know, I am sure you are right. But you must see that it will be strange for me nevertheless.”
“It will be fine, Dír. You should enjoy being the center of attention for once.” Melpomaen grinned, his eyes sparkling. “Think of it this way. When a couple weds, all their friends and family are focused on them for that time. We will never have that – this is the closest you will ever come. Rather an easy way out, actually.”
Haldir put out his tongue at his lover.
“You know I’m right. Come on. When is the dreaded Legolas supposed to arrive here, anyway?” Melpomaen asked.
“He didn’t say, but I would imagine soon.” Haldir looked around the room. “Does everything look all right to you?”
“We will need another chair, unless someone is to sit on the bed. I’ll go get one from the mess-room.” Melpomaen hopped up.
He was carrying the chair back to their room when Legolas walked around a corner with a pitcher and three cups.
“Melpomaen. I was just about to come visit you and Haldir.”
They walked together without further speech. Melpomaen opened the door and indicated that Legolas should precede him inside. The courtesies of pouring wine for them all smoothed over any initial awkwardness.
“Your father does know his wine,” remarked Melpomaen, sipping appreciatively.
“So he does,” agreed Legolas. “He prefers that of Dorwinion, which makes strong vintages that travel well. At one time he used to buy wines from Gondor, but they tended to sour more quickly than he liked – though I believe the kitchens were happy enough to have the best of vinegars.” He sat back and looked from one of his hosts to the other. “So. Is the present schedule working all right for you? It will only be for a few more weeks; I will try to do some adjusting as soon as Melpomaen is fit for full duties.”
“I’m glad to be able to do something besides book-work,” said Melpomaen. Glancing over at Haldir, he added, “Although naturally we’ll be happier when we’re both on the same shift all the time, whichever one is needed.”
Legolas was nodding. “Yes, of course.”
There was a silence. Haldir looked at the table, and Legolas gazed at Haldir. Melpomaen reached out and deliberately picked up his lover’s hand. With that, both Legolas and Haldir sighed, and a certain tension departed.
“Yes.” Legolas looked now at Melpomaen. “I understand.”
“I was sure you would,” said Melpomaen, entwining his fingers in Haldir’s. “You came here to talk, I think, sir – what would you like to talk about?”
“Haldir has not told you what he and I spoke of the other evening?”
“I would not presume to repeat more than the barest gist of a private conversation,” said Haldir with dignity, tightening his fingers on Melpomaen’s.
“I am sorry,” Legolas shook his head, “I did not mean to imply that you would be indiscreet.” He turned to Melpomaen. “I was asking Haldir how it felt to love a binn rather than a biss, and he said that I should ask you, for he had not that knowledge.”
Melpomaen’s eyebrows lifted. “And he said I had? I suppose perhaps I do – I did once think myself in love, before I met Haldir. Caranfíniel was her name. I offered indeed to wed her, and she refused me. At the time I thought my heart was broken, of course, but looking back now I think that I was more hurt by the failure than anything else. I do not know that the emotions differed because she was a biss; I would say that what I felt for her was less than what I feel for Haldir, but not on account of her sex, only that she was not in the end the proper mate for me. Does that make sense to you?”
Legolas frowned a little. “Not entirely. If you loved her, and now love Haldir – how would you define love, then?” He looked at them both with wide eyes. “Either of you? How can you know if you love someone?”
“I would say that there are many ways to tell,” said Haldir. “But there are many kinds of love, too. The love I feel for my brothers is not the same as the love I feel for friends, and different again from that which Maen and I have.”
“When I was with Caranfíniel, I thought mostly of settling down, having a home together, and someday children. But I did not think in very specific terms, either. Perhaps I was more in love with the idea of being in love, than really in love with her,” Melpomaen speculated. “With Haldir, the more time I spend with him, the more I want to. I would rather sit alone with him and talk than celebrate a festival with anyone else.”
“Loving someone – you want their happiness more than anything. If they are threatened in any way, you want to defend them. But it isn’t always that easy. There are choices that must be made, and not always choices that are simple,” Haldir looked sad.
“What of,” Legolas flushed, “what of physical desire?”
Haldir and Melpomaen looked at each other and smiled. Legolas almost regretted asking the question; the connection between the two was nearly palpable, and he felt a stab of envy over their bond.
“That is important,” Haldir conceded.
Melpomaen was nodding. “I have to admit that it was desire that first caused me to realize that I loved Haldir, not just as a friend, but as the person I wished to join with. He knew far sooner than I.”
“Well, I’d had a lot longer to think about it.” Haldir smiled slightly. “I told you, Legolas, that I did not have prophetic dreams, but Melpomaen had had them? That’s not entirely the case, but the only dreams of the future I have had were of Melpomaen himself.”
“What?” Melpomaen looked at his lover, surprised. “You’ve never told me that, Dír.”
“I dreamt of you before you were ever born. At the time I hated those dreams – it was in part to escape them that I. . . took up the work in which we met,” said Haldir, phrasing his words carefully so that their origins would remain concealed from Legolas. “They seemed to me shameful; I did not want ever to meet with the person with whom I did such things in my dreams. When I first met you, I was so shocked I could scarcely speak, but I knew that I had found the one I could love – if you loved me, too. Discovering that took quite some time.”
Legolas was looking from Haldir to Melpomaen in amazement. “You dreamed of him before you met, even before he was born? How remarkable!”
“I know. I can hardly believe it myself, when I think about it. But it is true. And despite my shame, I used to. . . well. Touch myself, you know, thinking of him.” Haldir heard the words leaving his mouth almost despite his volition. Having begun to talk of matters he had never yet spoken of before, he seemed unable to stop.
“Really?” said Melpomaen curiously.
“When I had the opportunity,” said Haldir, looking meaningfully at his partner.
“Did you not worry that by doing that you were preventing any possibility of being able to find a biss to love, instead? That you might become too focused on yourself to ever find a bond with another?” asked Legolas. “That is what is said among my people.”
“No, I was never told that,” said Haldir, and Melpomaen also shook his head.
Legolas said, “Different places, different customs. As we here tolerate such a bond as yours when your own people apparently do not. I wonder why such differences?”
“Who knows?” Haldir lifted the wine pitcher. “Would you like another? It was kind of you to bring this.”
“I had probably better not,” said Legolas with regret. “In fact, though I would like to speak further about these matters with you, I should probably leave you for now – it may not be that late, but Haldir said at dinner that he needed to sleep early tonight. So I will leave you, with thanks.” He pushed back his chair and stood, and the other two did likewise, still holding hands.
Melpomaen squeezed Haldir’s fingers gently, and raised an eyebrow at him. The fair head nodded in agreement.
“We would be pleased to talk with you again, whenever you wish,” said Melpomaen, releasing his hold and holding out his hand to Legolas, who took it. Melpomaen stepped forward to embrace him briefly; Haldir then did likewise, even more quickly letting go and putting an arm around Melpomaen.
Legolas kept his face carefully controlled, saying only, “I would enjoy that. Until later, then,” and went out, the door snicking shut behind him. When it was closed, he leaned for a moment against the wall of the corridor, swallowing hard, before returning to his own quarters.