The movement disturbed Haldir and his eyes opened to see Melpomaen looking back at him.
“Good morning,” murmured Melpomaen. “Did you rest well, meldanya?” He kissed Haldir’s brow.
“Well enough,” said Haldir, resting a hand on his partner’s chest.
“Have you reached any decision?”
“Not yet. . . but at the moment I am inclined to agree. I want to be sure that I will be comfortable with it, though.”
Melpomaen smiled. He felt certain that Haldir would now eventually say yes. Gently he reached out and tucked a lock of hair behind Haldir’s ear, drawing his finger along the curled flesh and down the smooth skin of his jaw and neck. “I understand. Just tell me when you know. If you can do so before we talk with Legolas next, that would be best, I think, but I will leave it up to you.” He leaned in for another kiss and felt Haldir’s lips yield to him. “Not now, love, there isn’t time. Tomorrow night, all right?”
“Mm. All right.”
For the rest of that day and the next, Haldir thought hard in every spare moment. The idea of being unclothed in front of his captain did not bother him, for what purpose did clothing serve except warmth or appearance? He understood that Men thought differently about this, but the ways of Men were not as those of Elves. It was rather the nakedness of the soul that concerned him. The joy that he found with Melpomaen was a private thing; if it were shared, would it be lessened?
In the end, Haldir made his choice more from love of Melpomaen than for any other reason. If this would please his lover, he would do it. He might feel somewhat awkward, but it would not be shameful for him. And, of course, Legolas might choose to decline. Haldir only hoped that Melpomaen could think of a way to broach the question that would not embarrass Legolas too much.
When he told Melpomaen what he had decided, his lover showed little surprise, but was clearly pleased.
“I hoped you would come to agree with me that this is a trial worth making,” Melpomaen said. “Now, we are to meet with Legolas tomorrow night, are we not?”
“Tomorrow, yes, in his quarters after the evening meal. Speaking of which we had best get to our meal tonight, or we will miss it. I think perhaps an hour in the common room after would be enough of an appearance, don’t you? Given that you keep changing shifts every few days, it’s only natural that you would want to go off to bed early.”
Melpomaen smirked slightly. “That serves for my reason, but what about you?”
“Oh, no one will notice if I leave early,” said Haldir.
“Except the captain.”
“Except the captain,” Haldir agreed. “Who will say nothing of it.”
The first part of the evening passed as planned, and the two Elves returned early to their room and latched the door behind them.
“Come here,” said Melpomaen, sitting cross-legged at the top of the bed. “Wait, take your tunic off first.”
Obediently Haldir removed his shirt, folding it into the clothes-press, and sat in front of his partner. Melpomaen tugged loose the thong that bound his hair and unraveled the braids, then began to draw a comb through the golden tresses. When the heavy mass lay smooth and silken down Haldir’s back, Melpomaen parted it and moved one half to hang down each side of Haldir’s chest. He reached for the flask of oil on the table beside the bed, poured a little into his hands, and began to rub Haldir’s shoulders, neck, and back with long, firm strokes.
“I was thinking,” he said as he pressed his thumbs into a knot of muscle between Haldir’s shoulder blades. “If we are going to make this suggestion to Legolas tomorrow night, we had better be prepared to act on it, don’t you suppose?”
Haldir made a soft noise of agreement.
“He might have to think about it, of course, as you did, but it’s possible that he would be immediately willing. So – perhaps we should practice what we would do?”
Haldir turned his head slightly, keeping it bent forward so that his hair would not fall down his back, and peered at Melpomaen over his shoulder. “What did you have in mind, Maen? I can tell you have some idea worked out.”
“Well, yes, a little,” admitted Melpomaen. He used the back of his wrist to push a stray lock of his own hair out of his face. “Since the purpose of this is to show Legolas that pleasuring oneself need not interfere with a bond, at least one of us will need to do that to begin with. If not both, then it should be you, I think, for it is you that he was – is? – attracted to. He will be able to think himself into your place more readily than if it were I.”
“All right,” said Haldir, “if you think that is best. I would rather it were both of us, though.”
“If you want me to, I will. Actually that’s probably better, since we would be able to move on into making love more easily then,” Melpomaen agreed. “What I do not know is whether he will wish to join in during that. I’m sure he would hold back later, he has better manners and better sense than to interfere with a bonded couple. But in the early stages – what is your sense of what he might do?”
“If he agrees at all – and that I’m wholly uncertain about – then I suspect he would join in to see for himself the result. Besides, if he continues to harbor any feelings towards me, even knowing I cannot return them, this would be perhaps the only way he could come close to expressing them. But that is something that we can only wait to see what happens.”
“True. Now, if he accepts immediately, I think that nevertheless we should return to this room, rather than stay in his – too many possibilities of interruption there.”
“And if he needs to think about it, we can suggest that this would be a better place, if and when,” said Haldir.
“My thoughts exactly. Now. . .”
“Now you need to figure out how to broach the question to begin with!”
“I have to do it?”
“It was your idea, Maen.”
“Yes, yes, I know. I’ll just try to work it into the conversation somehow. If you can help me turn it toward such matters, that would help.”
“Legolas did say that he would like to learn more about the differences in custom and belief between his people and ours,” said Haldir thoughtfully.
“That would do it. I doubt I will have difficulty bringing it up, then,” said Melpomaen, kneading Haldir’s neck muscles. “But now, Dír, I think we should really practice, don’t you?”
“All of it.” Melpomaen put words into action, sliding off the bed and beginning to remove his clothes. “Not that we have to do before Legolas exactly what we do now, but. . .”
“But practice makes perfect,” said Haldir, rising and unlacing his leggings. “Pass me the oil, will you?”
Melpomaen found that bringing himself to hardness was more enjoyable if he watched Haldir at the same time. Seeing his partner’s pleasure was half of his own. He wrapped one hand about his shaft and used the other thumb to rub across his nipples as he reclined on the bed. Slow hard strokes had him straining, his face flushed. Haldir knelt on the rug next to him. He, too, was using one hand to stroke himself, but he caught Melpomaen’s eye and turned sideways to let his lover watch as he slowly sank onto two of his own oiled fingers. Melpomaen felt a surge of desire and wished that Haldir were pushing onto him instead. That could come later.
Haldir asked, “Shall we?”
Nodding, Melpomaen matched stroke for stroke, his eyes intent on Haldir’s motions as his lover spent, shuddering, into his hand. As Haldir finished, Melpomaen let himself release his seed onto his own belly.
“Don’t move,” said Haldir, and leaned over to lick him clean, holding out his own hand to Melpomaen’s mouth.
Melpomaen suckled each finger in turn, ending with the palm. He reached out to draw Haldir’s face to his own and kissed him hard, thrusting his tongue into the other’s mouth. Haldir climbed onto the bed in one smooth motion, laying his body alongside his lover’s, pressed together as closely as if they were twins in the womb.
“And what shall we do now?” whispered Melpomaen.
“What would you?”
In answer Melpomaen slipped one leg between Haldir’s and rested the other on top, tangling them together, wrapping his arms around Haldir’s chest. “I would feel you as part of me, meldanya. Let our hearts beat time together.” He kissed Haldir again and again, on eyelid, cheek, earlobe, jaw, lips.
“We belong to each other,” Haldir breathed in his ear. “None other made this bond between us, and none may break it. We are our own.”
Suddenly Melpomaen drew back and Haldir saw that his face was wet with tears. “Is that enough?”
Bewildered by his lover’s abrupt change of mood, Haldir said, “Enough for what? I do not understand.”
“Enough for our future. Oh, I know there is no breaking, I grasp that, and just now I feel nothing lacking between us, but what of the time to come? No one can cut us off from each other, but will we be cut off from our people, our families? We can begin no family of our own, you and I. For all our love for each other, it is ultimately a sterile love.”
“Now, Maen, don’t think like that. It’s true that children are not possible for us, but I accepted that long ago – I am only glad that I have you, rather than the loneliness I feared was my lot. Think of it so. It is enough. It must be.” Searching for something more to say, he added, “We cannot change our own natures. Would you not rather be here, with me, espoused in all but name, than alone as Legolas is alone? You see his pain so clearly and want to give him what help you can, to accept what is and must be – how is that being cut off from those around us? Our families – how can we know for certain what they will think, until and unless we tell them how it stands between us? I know that my family loves me, and I have hope that will not end.”
Melpomaen sighed. “No. I just. . . there are moments when I realize what I am, and it is so different from what I had assumed all my life. It is hard to change my thinking sometimes. I had always looked forward to being a father, you see, and that is no longer possible.” He shook his head. “I will grow used to it. Remember that you have understood this about yourself for more years than I have been alive!”
Haldir hugged him. “I know, meldanya, although you’re right that I don’t feel quite the same way you do. You are a wonder to me.” He smiled wryly and said, “If I had been better behaved, that night out of Dale – I should not have let everything happen so fast, I should have talked with you about what the consequences could be. To speak truth I was not entirely certain myself, but I could have said something of the possibilities. That was ill-done on my part, Maen, and I apologize for it.”
“It would not have made any difference in the end,” said Melpomaen softly. “I had loved you for years too, Dír, I had just not understood that the love I bore for you was so different from the way that I loved my other friends and kin.” A spark of mischief shone in his eyes as he added, “And had I delayed, and we yet came to Mirkwood, I might have lost you to the goodly Legolas, is that not so?”
Relieved that Melpomaen was finding humor again, Haldir nevertheless answered seriously, “I do not think so. Remember, it was you that I had dreamed of since my youth. Dark hair and fair are not so interchangeable!”
“I was only teasing, Dír, you know that.” Melpomaen searched Haldir’s face and relaxed. “I’m sorry, I’ve broken the mood terribly, haven’t I? I’d better not do this tomorrow, or whenever Legolas is present.”
“If Legolas chooses to join us,” Haldir reminded him. “He might well not.”
“Hm. True. But I think he will be unable to resist the temptation. In any case, since I have rather interrupted the flow tonight, do you want to continue our practicing or not?”
“I imagine I could be persuaded,” said Haldir. “Do try.”
“Very well. Come with me, then.” Melpomaen led Haldir into the other room and had him step into the bath, telling him to sit and relax in the warm water as he washed himself first. Haldir watched appreciatively. After wringing the water from his hair, Melpomaen asked Haldir to stand again and rubbed the herbal lather all over his lover’s body, finishing with his hair.
“Now, let me see. This stone tub is not entirely comfortable, but. . .” Melpomaen looked around and decided that there were enough towels to sacrifice two temporarily. One cushioned Haldir as he reclined against the side of the tub, the other, folded, protected Melpomaen’s knees as he knelt with one on either side of Haldir’s thighs. He bent forward and met his lover’s lips, nipping playfully at them and then turning his head to rub their cheeks together.
“My mother used to do that,” remarked Haldir, which provoked a laugh from Melpomaen.
“That’s hardly a romantic thing to say,” he chided Haldir.
“I suppose not. But true. It felt rather different when I was thirty and my mother did it, though. Do go on and never mind me.”
“I always mind you. . . except when you are minding me,” said Melpomaen with an arch grin.
Now Haldir laughed. “It looks as though it is my turn to mind you, Maen, is it not? All right, turn and turn about.”
“Is fair play? Or in this case, foreplay?” He stroked Haldir’s lips with a wet finger. “I hope so.” Deliberately he brushed his cheek against Haldir’s again, then suckled on his earlobe, breathing warmly on the tender skin. He sensed rather than felt his partner’s pulse quicken and dropped down to bite at the hollow of his collarbone.
Haldir clasped Melpomaen around the waist to bring him closer, but Melpomaen resisted, so Haldir instead began to stroke his buttocks, working a finger along the cleft that divided them and flirting with the tight opening.
Melpomaen was moving his hands across Haldir’s shoulders and chest, pinching at the nipples until Haldir’s hips moved in response. Through the clear water Melpomaen could see his lover’s erection mirroring his own, and now he sank back onto his heels to bring them together, hardness against hardness, rocking subtly back and forth. He wrapped his arms around Haldir’s shoulders and kissed him lingeringly. The smell of him, the taste of him, familiar now but still arousing – Melpomaen moved his own knees a few inches further apart and pressed yet more firmly against Haldir.
The warmth of Melpomaen’s touch and the warmth of the water mingled on Haldir’s skin until he could scarcely tell where one left off and the other began. He mimicked the thrust of Melpomaen’s tongue into his own mouth with the push of a finger into his lover’s nether passage. With no oil to ease the way, he was careful not to be too forceful. Melpomaen tensed for a moment, then relaxed around him, and Haldir was able to enter completely, caressing the tight channel and finding the spot that would bring the greatest pleasure. As Haldir touched him, Melpomaen groaned deep in his chest and stopped his kisses for a moment before resuming them with greater urgency.
Letting go of Haldir’s shoulders with one hand, Melpomaen reached down to fondle him, feeling the stones in their pouch pulled up against his body, his organ hard as wood yet with skin soft as a child’s. Haldir held his breath as the knowing exploration stimulated his desire further, almost to the peak. He pulled his mouth away from Melpomaen’s long enough to whisper to him to slow down, and followed his own advice by stopping the action of his hands.
They rested together for a few minutes to let their desires ebb a little, though still entwined. Melpomaen was the one to move again first, leaning back to look at Haldir with dilated eyes. “Shall we move out to the bed again, Dír?”
“If you like – it is yours to choose today.”
“Ah, so cunning of you, if Legolas agrees tomorrow then it will be your turn, no? Not that it matters.” Melpomaen cupped one hand around Haldir’s face and kissed him. “Come on, then.”
Quickly they wrung out the wet towels and took up fresh ones to dry off with, rather than soak the bed in which they would sleep later. “As we were in the bath,” suggested Melpomaen, and they resumed their earlier positions, but this time Haldir oiled his fingers and Melpomaen made certain that the flask was close by for use later on.
The sensations were different, out in the cool air instead of warm water, but soon enough neither of them noticed any chill. After a little Melpomaen asked Haldir to release him, and moved backward to replace his hand’s motion with that of his mouth.
Haldir leaned back against the pillows and closed his eyes, delighting in the moist suction of Melpomaen’s lips and tongue. He stroked the dark hair that spread over his hips and thighs and thought vaguely that he should do more, but the feeling was too intense. It was only by force of will that he was able to prevent himself from spending straight away, and with an effort he said, “Maen. . . I’m nearly there.”
Melpomaen gave one last loving sweep of his tongue over the tip of Haldir’s organ, and rose up. Haldir’s face and chest were flushed, his eyes half-closed, his breathing quick and shallow. Melpomaen shifted until he was kneeling between Haldir’s legs, rather than outside them, and reached for the flask. At the touch of the cool oil Haldir opened his eyes. “No, wait,” he said, and turned over, moving to rest on hands and widely-spread knees. Pleased, Melpomaen poured more oil into his hands, lubricating both his own member and Haldir’s waiting entrance. He teased them both by pushing in only an inch or two, then withdrawing, repeating this over and over until frustrated longing made Haldir press back to sheathe him fully. The sudden engulfing warmth pushed Melpomaen into a frenzy, thrusting until he spent. As he fell forward against Haldir’s back, he rolled them over onto their sides and reached across Haldir’s hip to bring his lover to the same peak. Haldir ground down against Melpomaen’s still-firm organ and muttered, “Harder, Maen, please,” as Melpomaen grasped him, rubbing his oil-slicked hand along Haldir’s taut shaft. A few more strokes and Haldir’s seed spilled through Melpomaen’s fingers.
“We should probably clean up,” murmured Melpomaen sleepily after a time.
“I suppose,” Haldir agreed. “Since we expect a guest tomorrow. I think there are clean sheets in the chest.”
“Let’s wait till morning for that. Just let me wipe you off. And braid your hair, or it will be impossible by tomorrow.”
“Yours, too. All right.”
Necessities attended to, they returned to bed.
“Meldanya,” said Haldir into Melpomaen’s ear.
“What is it, Dír?”
“I’m worried about tomorrow. What if Legolas says yes? What if he says no and is offended by the very idea?”
“He won’t be offended,” said Melpomaen confidently. “Shocked, perhaps, but I do not believe he will take offense. He is his father’s son, and Thranduil is a canny one. All will be well. Don’t worry.”