22. Uncommon Ideas
“That is an odd idea they have here,” said Melpomaen. “Who could have ever thought that someone would believe that pleasuring yourself would keep you from finding a partner?”
Haldir leaned against his lover’s shoulder. His hair brushed Melpomaen’s neck as he shook his head. “I agree – I’ve never heard such a thing before.” He smiled into the fabric beneath his face. “It’s just as well that it clearly isn’t true!”
“Mm.” Melpomaen began to stroke Haldir’s head. “Why did you never tell me before about your dreams?”
“Of course I couldn’t have told you before we became lovers; I suppose I just haven’t thought about it since. I haven’t had those dreams in many years.”
“What were they like?”
Haldir let his fingers trail along Melpomaen’s thigh. “They were. . . erotic. Dreams of seeing you unclothed, of kissing you, of making love with you. What I think bothered me most when I first had them was not even the idea of being with another benn physically so much as loving one – it was the emotion that frightened me. Which doesn’t make much sense, does it? No one ever said that I could not love my friends, whether they were biss or binn.”
“Oh, it makes sense, Dír. Because without the emotion, you wouldn’t have the physical experience, would you? Which is what creates the bond, and that bond is what our folk would disapprove, so that is why it would frighten you. As the eldest in your family you must have felt that you should set the example for your brothers, no? Behaving in a way that would not be acceptable to our people, without your own volition, and all that – I can see why you would have been troubled.”
“Yes. Perhaps you’re right,” said Haldir thoughtfully. He lifted the cup to his lips and swallowed the last drops. “Shall we go to bed?”
“What, exactly, do you mean by that?” Melpomaen teased gently. “Did you want to relive your old dreams, now that I know about them?”
“Not tonight. . . you will not be back on night duty tomorrow, will you, but the next day? I just want to lie with you and hold you tonight. Talking with Legolas made me realize again how much I love you, Maen, and I was sorry that he has no one to be with as we are together.”
Lying in their bed, with Haldir’s warm body against him, Haldir’s chest rising and falling in smooth rhythm with his own, Melpomaen thought about Thranduil’s son. The captain had certainly treated them both with great courtesy, and though it was clear that he regretted their bond and had a more than friendly interest in Haldir, Melpomaen could not fault his behavior on that score. Haldir, while obviously uncomfortable with the circumstances, seemed also to be sympathetic to Legolas and even flattered, but again Melpomaen had no complaints about how his lover had acted, and no real doubts as to Haldir’s affection for himself. He wondered if there was anything he might do to ease the situation in which they were all entangled, and fell asleep at last pondering it.
The next morning, Haldir stood with the other three members of his squad on guard duty at the main entrance to the caverns. It was cold, with pale sunshine sifting through the leafless trees, but the wind was slack. A short while before they were to take their bread and cheese for nooning, a Man appeared escorted by one of the other patrols, and was taken inside to speak with the king. Haldir noticed that the stranger looked haggard, even distraught, and was only partly surprised when a messenger brought word to bid him come to Thranduil’s presence.
As he had speculated, the new arrival was Baldor, Vida’s husband; when Haldir arrived in the great hall he saw them embraced and weeping unashamedly together as the king waited to speak with them. Melpomaen was present already as well.
“I am not sure why we are summoned,” he said to Haldir in an undertone. “We have told the story to the king, as much as we know.”
When the first storm of reunion in sorrow had passed, and Vida looked up, she tugged at Baldor’s arm to lead him over to the two Elves who had brought her into Thranduil’s halls.
“Baldor, this is Haldir, and this Melpomaen, who found me the morning that our son was lost.”
Her husband bowed deeply. “I thank you for rescuing Vida – in the circumstances, she might well have perished of grief and loneliness. I owe you both a great debt.”
“Do not think of it again,” Haldir spoke for them in Westron. “I am only sorry that we could not have found and saved your son also.”
“King Thranduil has told me a little of what happened, and of course I read the message you left. Is there anything more known of this creature, this murderer?” The woodsman’s face was drawn tight with grief and anger.
“I fear not,” said Haldir regretfully. “Not that I am aware of, at least. Perhaps the king has other news?”
The king’s face was grave. “I sent out patrols to see what they could discover, but all that has been found is that you are not the only ones to suffer such a loss. There is some new evil abroad in my realm, something that slips past in the night, steals from nest and den and home that which is most treasured. The Elves are searching, but whatever it is, it is wary and cunning, and knows well how to hide.”
Baldor looked down at his wife, then gazed back at his king. “Might I join in the hunt, my lord? I have not your men’s experience, but I am not unskilled in tracking and wood-craft – and it is only meet that I should help as I can.”
Thranduil nodded, even as Vida cried out and clutched at her husband’s arm. “When the next patrol returns – in a week or two, I expect – if you wish to join them, you may.”
“I must, Vida,” Baldor said, gently taking her hands in his own. “You know I must.”
She pulled away and ran out of the hall, her face tear-streaked as she passed Haldir and Melpomaen.
“She will come to accept it, my lord,” Baldor said. “She knows what is right.” He turned and thanked the two Elves once again for their assistance in bringing Vida under the king’s protection, before leaving to find his wife and ease her pain as best he could.
“You are free to return to your posts now,” Thranduil said. “Baldor would not delay his gratitude to you. I hear that you, Melpomaen, have been able to take up more regular duties, is that not so?”
“It is, sir, three days of the week, and I am glad to be in your service.”
“Good, good. I have not forgotten that we are to speak again, one of these days. Perhaps some time when you are both off-duty; I should enjoy conversing with you, too, Haldir. I have not traveled beyond this forest in years, except once to fight at the Lonely Mountain. I would like to hear of the lands to the south from one who knows them well. When I have time, I will send for you, eh?”
They bowed in acquiescence, and departed, each back to his tasks, able only to steal a quick touch of hands and a smile as they left the hall.
“What was that all about?” asked Meneldil when Haldir returned to the gate.
“That was the husband of the woman that Melpomaen and I brought with us the day we arrived; the woman whose son was lost. Being away on a trading trip, he only just received the news and came to find her. The king called me to hear the Man’s thanks for the little help we were able to give,” Haldir shrugged.
Meneldil nodded. “I see.”
Haldir added, “He – Baldor – even asked if he might join the patrols that hunt the creature responsible for his loss, and the king agreed.”
“He agreed? How surprising. Usually he does not like mixed patrols. I suppose the king considers this a special circumstance. I’d rather like to be on the hunt myself – far more entertaining than guard duty.” Meneldil shrugged. “Ah, well. Here,” he held out a half-loaf of bread and a wedge of cheese, “I saved your meal for you.”
When Haldir returned to the room to wash up quickly at the end of his shift, he was surprised that Melpomaen was not waiting there for him, since the records room had been dark and empty when Haldir had visited the armory to leave his spear. It was not yet so late that they ran any risk of missing the evening meal. But indeed, Melpomaen had gone on to the mess without him, as Haldir found when he went in and saw his lover sitting near the end of the table, next to the captain.
All the places nearby had been taken, so Haldir merely nudged Melpomaen’s shoulder in greeting as he passed and moved on to seat himself with the other members of his squad. After he had eaten, deliberately not hurrying through the meal, he accompanied them to the common room and joined a group telling old legends.
It was a tale of the time under the stars, before the coming of the Sun and the Moon, that was being told tonight.
“They were persuaded,” said Belegorn, a silver-haired Elf with a twinkling gaze and a quick hand on the bow, “that safety lay to the west, and that they should follow Araw as he would lead them. (1) But our fathers wished to be free, and so though they traveled for some way, reluctant to be parted from their friends and kin, in the end they remained here.”
“And for the best,” added Meneldil as he drew up a chair, “for did not some of those who left, later return after all? Our king among them?”
Haldir listened to the discussion that followed with interest. His own lord and lady, Celeborn and Galadriel, were of those kindreds that had gone into the west, and had returned to take up rulership long after. He had heard vague rumors that they had been forbidden to leave the mortal shores again, but did not know if there was any truth to those stories.
“What do you think about traveling west someday yourself? I have heard that there are havens on the western shore, where Elves yet dwell and build ships for the journey, for any who wish to make it,” he asked Belegorn at a moment when the conversation fell into a lull.
“Me, travel west?” Belegorn laughed. “Why would I want to? What could I find there that is not here? Would you leave all you know for a fairy-tale land?”
Haldir hesitated, unwilling to say anything that might offend.
“I would,” said a voice quietly, and Haldir recognized Legolas as the speaker. He had not seen that the captain and Melpomaen had joined the group.
“Oh, come now. Leave your home? Leave your father and family? Whatever for? We have made this land our own, we have fought for it, dwelt in it long years. And you would leave it?”
“There is more to the world than this small corner, more to life than its defense, Belegorn,” Legolas rebuked him mildly. “I would not leave now, no, but someday I might. I do not know if I would travel into the uttermost west, but I would like to see the Sea, someday.” He looked over at Haldir. “We have those here who have traveled well beyond our Wood, even beyond Dale and Erebor to which many of us here have gone. Is it not worthwhile, to see more of Middle-earth than this small part?”
“It is,” affirmed Haldir. “I would also choose to go west, sometime, at least as far as the Sea. I have known of those who made the journey across it,” he avoided looking at Melpomaen as he spoke, “and though their kin regretted their departure, still I would not despise their choice.”
The debate continued around him, but he added no more to it, now free to gaze at Melpomaen unobserved. His lover sat still and silent for some little time on the other side of the loose circle of chairs, before murmuring a few words to Legolas beside him and rising to leave the room. Haldir caught Legolas’s eye; the captain raised a brow. At that Haldir too slipped away and back to the room.
He found Melpomaen curled up tightly on the bed. “What is it, meldanya? You’ve been acting oddly all evening.” Haldir sat down on the edge of the mattress and stroked Melpomaen’s shoulder. “Come on, Maen, if you’re going to go to sleep you should at least take your clothes off first. Or do you want to talk?”
Melpomaen uncurled under Haldir’s coaxing, and allowed himself to be undressed. “I. . . No. I mean yes. I don’t know. That conversation in the common room about going to the west. . . I miss my parents, Dír,” he said. “I do, I do not talk about them often but I miss them. When you said that you might also choose to travel west, what did you mean?”
“Just what I said,” Haldir answered, bewildered. “Sometime, I would like to go at least as far as the Great Sea. Perhaps further. But I do not have any immediate intention of doing so, and I would never go without you. You can’t possibly think I would?”
“No. . .” Melpomaen bit his lip and was quiet. Haldir looked at him questioningly for a moment, but when the face under the dark hair remained still and silent, he left the matter and drew Melpomaen after him into the bathing room.
“Here, would you like to soak in the warm water for a little? You seem very upset, and it might calm you.”
Passively Melpomaen let Haldir lead him into the great stone basin. As the heat penetrated both of their bodies, Haldir could feel his partner relax just slightly against him. He shifted their positions so that he was behind Melpomaen, and began to knead his shoulders and back. He was astonished at the tightness of the muscle, and wondered what Melpomaen could possibly be thinking to provoke such a reaction in his own flesh.
“Maen,” he said, after about a quarter of an hour. “Can you not tell me what is wrong? It must be more than just missing your parents. At least tell me something?” A quiver of the head was his only response, and the muscles that had begun to relax under his fingers tightened again.
Haldir thought about what he had seen that evening. “Is it something to do with Legolas?” he asked. Tension in the back before him.
“It is, then. Maen, meldanya, if you do not tell me, I cannot help you.”
Melpomaen turned his head slightly and Haldir was appalled to see that he was weeping. How could he not have realized?
“I think I’m no good at thinking, Dír. After we saw Baldor at noon, I went back to the records room and started thinking about his loss, and Vida’s, and I wondered how my own parents could have chosen to leave their children, grown though we were. But then I thought about you, and our bond, and realized that I would do the same for you as my mother did for my father, if it came to that.
“When I was nearly finished for the day, Legolas stopped by to remind me that I was expected on watch tomorrow night. He was trying to be cheerful, but there was pain shadowed at the back of his eyes, and I felt so sorry for him that I asked if he wanted to talk for a little. He said no, not then, but would I bear him company at the meal. I tell you, Dír, it was like sitting next to misery wrapped in skin – I could almost taste it. It was nearly enough to make me wish that there were some way he could find ease from his longing – but I do not see how that can be.”
Haldir put a gentle hand on Melpomaen’s cheek. “It is not your responsibility to heal Legolas’s pain, Maen.”
“Oh, but if I were not here, were not your partner, he would not have it, surely? And he is a worthy fellow – he has never said anything amiss, I can only tell he is hurting because I know I would feel the same.”
“You should not feel any guilt, though. This is simply the way things are – perhaps there is a reason why the captain has fixed on me, an unattainable object? Besides, remember that whatever Legolas may think he feels, I know that you and I were meant to be together. Else why would I have dreamed of you, so long ago?”
“I know. I know, meldanya. I had an idea, though, for something that might – perhaps – help him. I don’t know. I’m sure you’ll think it completely idiotic if not wholly offensive. . .”
Bewildered, Haldir asked what his lover could possibly be thinking of.
So faintly that Haldir could scarcely hear the words, Melpomaen mumbled, “I thought he might. . . be with us.”
Had he not already been sitting down, Haldir would have had to do so. In complete confusion he asked, “How? Such a thing is impossible, you know that.”
“Not to be part of our lovemaking, to watch. . .” Melpomaen’s voice was almost inaudible.
“Whatever made you think of that?”
“Well. . . it was seeing another pair of binn that made you realize that such a partnering could be all right, was it not? So, I thought, if we – I don’t know – demonstrated the joys of self-pleasure, and that it need not interfere with a bond to another?”
“Wouldn’t this, this,” Haldir swallowed the word “hare-brained” and simply finished, “this idea make matters worse yet? To see what he could not have?”
Melpomaen’s tears had ceased and he sat still under Haldir’s hands. “I suppose it might. You see, I told you I should not think. All I think of is foolish, Dír.”
“Unexpected, at any rate,” Haldir murmured.
“Is it such a very ridiculous idea?”
“I just doubt it would be of use to him, and might hurt him more – although he would have to be the judge of that. I should think it would embarrassing to me, at least; would you not find it so?”
“Perhaps it would be pointless. . . but,” Melpomaen wrapped his arms around his torso and bowed his head, “would you consider it? Even though you say I bear no responsibility for Legolas’s unhappiness, it would make me feel better to know that I tried to help him. It would not shame me, not if he were willing.”
The initial surprise over, Haldir was able to think more calmly. It was a bizarre notion, truly, but seemed to be spurred by the same feeling of compassion he himself had towards the captain. He had always known that Melpomaen was impulsive, he just had not realized to quite what lengths the other might go.
“I suppose I can consider it, although I don’t make any promises. You will be on duty for the next three nights, and nothing can be thought of until then in any case.”
Melpomaen turned around and met Haldir’s gaze. “No, of course not. And if you decide that you think it’s simply too strange or shameful to even suggest to Legolas, I will not mention it again.”
“Very well.” Haldir stood up and reached for a towel. “Come on, Maen. Come to bed. I don’t want to think about Legolas any more just now.”
He found himself being rougher in his kisses and caresses than usual. Deliberately, he stopped, then began again, reminding himself that it was only an excess of sympathy that had led Melpomaen to make such a suggestion, not any lack of love for Haldir.
Melpomaen enjoyed the roughness as a contrast to the quiet of the night before. When his lover paused, and resumed his caresses with more tenderness, Melpomaen almost regretted the change. He responded to the shift in mood, though, and began to kiss Haldir back more deeply, running his hand along his lover’s side and down to his waist, drawing them closer together.
“Dír,” he murmured.
“I love you, you know.”
“I know.” Haldir traced the line of Melpomaen’s jaw with the pad of his thumb. “I know. I love you too, even when you come up with odd notions like this one. Because that is part of who you are.” He gave Melpomaen one swift kiss on the mouth, then pressed a whole series of kisses to his neck, trailing up to breathe in his ear. Melpomaen shivered pleasantly. Haldir whispered, “You are mine, meldanya, forever, just as I am yours.”
Melpomaen nodded and moved his hand from Haldir’s waist, around his hip, to rest between their two groins. “I am yours,” he agreed softly. “Always.” He held their members together, hardness against hardness, heat against heat. The pulsing blood under their skins throbbed in syncopated rhythm as he stroked. He felt a sudden yearning, and pulled away just long enough to reverse his position on the bed, so that he could take Haldir into his mouth, tasting the hint of bitterness at the tip, inhaling the scent of sweat and desire. He ran his tongue along the firm length and dipped down to lave the loose skin below before returning to suckle once again.
For a moment Haldir lay unmoving, enjoying the feel of Melpomaen’s moist lips and tongue, but the sight before him was tempting and he too took his lover into his own mouth, curling up to find a more comfortable angle so that he could fully engulf the jutting organ before him. Every touch, every caress, that Melpomaen bestowed upon him he duplicated. After a time, though, he found that his passion was rising so that he could not continue; he withdrew his mouth and began to thrust against Melpomaen’s with abandon.
Though the loss of Haldir’s touch left him longing, Melpomaen relaxed to the insistence of his lover’s desire. His throat opened to the flood of Haldir’s seed as the golden head was flung back in release. He swallowed, tongue moving to catch every drop and leave Haldir clean.
Haldir quivered at the tender touch, and pressed his lips against Melpomaen’s own organ.
“Wait. . .” Melpomaen changed places once more and reached for the oil-flask. “Haldir?”
At the nod of acquiescence, he smoothed the cool oil along his length. Haldir shifted onto his belly, legs opening, and Melpomaen used one oiled finger to test his invitation. He pressed slowly inside, and felt Haldir shiver as he penetrated. Withdrawing only slightly, he repeated the gentle thrusts over and over, knowing that this would bring his partner the greatest pleasure. He could feel Haldir moving against him, tightening and relaxing in time with his thrusts. The sense of unity that resulted was such that Melpomaen hardly cared when or whether he would reach his climax; all he wanted was to be joined with Haldir. But at last he did spend, deep within Haldir’s body, and half-collapsed across him, their sweat-dampened skins clinging together.
“Maen,” murmured Haldir.
“Just don’t try to persuade me. Let me make the decision alone.” Haldir was genuinely unsure about what he might choose to do, but for love of Melpomaen, he would consider sharing that love where Legolas could see – if the captain wished.
(1) Araw is the Sindarin name for Oromë, the Vala who discovered the Elves at Cuiviénen, and persuaded the Vanyar, Noldor, and Teleri to follow him on the Great Journey to Eldamar, Elvenhome in the West near Valinor.