He said as much to Melpomaen, early one morning as they returned to their room to sleep.
Melpomaen yawned. “I think it’s just that being assigned to the evening shift, we sleep through the warmest and brightest part of every day. Perhaps when the schedule changes again after the solstice, you’ll feel differently.”
Haldir shook his head. “No, it is more than that. I have been on watches before that kept me from seeing daylight, at home in Lórien, and it was not like this. And don’t tell me that it was because the Golden Wood is further south,” he added, seeing his lover open his mouth to speak. “Thranduil keeps his halls far warmer than the open woods!”
“I was not going to say that,” said Melpomaen in a slightly injured tone. “Only to ask you, what then do you think is the cause?”
“I think. . . I think that we are,” Haldir almost whispered. “That is to say, I think that what I perceive is not something truly in the realm of the senses, but rather is an echo of someone’s feelings. I think it is despair that I sense, and I think I know whence it comes.”
“But you don’t know that, not for certain. Nor would he thank you for interfering, I think. Not that either of us has much opportunity for so doing – have you even seen the captain in the past few weeks? I have not, save perhaps once or twice in passing.”
“Nor have I.” Haldir’s tone was grave, and he held Melpomaen’s gaze as he slid into their bed.
Melpomaen blew out the lamp and joined him. “You think he is avoiding us?”
“I don’t know. It would hardly need to be deliberate, after all. When I was on the day shift I scarcely saw anyone on the evening watch, except when they relieved us at guard, of course.” He rested his head on Melpomaen’s shoulder.
Stroking Haldir’s hair, Melpomaen said, “Well, what do you want to do, then? Clearly this has been bothering you.”
“There’s nothing to be done today, but perhaps – I will retire earlier tomorrow, so that I can get up around midday and look for the captain, talk to him. He may be unwilling to say anything, but I would rather make the effort.”
“Shouldn’t I come, too? If he is in distress, is that not likely my fault more than yours? It was I whose idea it was to interfere, after all.”
Haldir laid one hand flat on the smooth skin of Melpomaen’s chest. “Not this time, Maen. Legolas might be more willing to speak to one person than two, don’t you imagine?”
“I suppose so,” said Melpomaen, and tilted his head to kiss Haldir. “Rest well, meldanya.”
The next day Haldir was as good as his word, leaving Melpomaen in the common room not long after their watch shift ended and going to bed. He shivered despite the warm woolen blanket as he lay there alone, waiting for sleep to come. This was no physical cold, surely, to affect him so. He longed for Melpomaen to be there, to warm him not just in body but in spirit, but finally he dozed off, half-rousing when his beloved partner came in and moving until he touched warm skin. Comforted, he slept.
He woke when he had intended, at mid-morning, and quietly slipped out from underneath the covers. After several months, he knew the position of every item in the room so well that he needed no light to move about it, though once in the bathing room he closed the door and lighted the candle.
Legolas, Haldir supposed, would be in his own rooms, which doubled as the captain’s office. But first, he would break his fast; though it was not a scheduled meal hour for the guards, he was sure he could wheedle something from the cooks.
Making a neat sandwich out of the dark bread and pale sharp cheese, Haldir ate quickly, washing down the last crumbs with hot mint tea. He carried his plate and mug over to the hatch and left them to be washed, then went in search of Legolas.
The knock at his door startled Legolas. He had not been expecting any interruptions this morning; he had already made a round of the guards, and with the deep snow it was unlikely that there would be any strangers who required his attention. He had planned to work on a report for the king today, and it was with more than a little impatience that he said, “Come in.”
Haldir entered the room, careful to close the door behind him. He noticed Legolas’s knuckles pale as he grasped the arm of his chair, but the captain spoke without a hint of disturbance in his voice. “Haldir. What brings you here? Should you not be asleep?” He gestured to a chair. “Sit down, do please.”
Sitting, Haldir said, “You ask what brings me here. Do you not know?”
“No,” said Legolas. His gaze was open and direct. “You are not having any difficulties with your duties, or Erentar would have reported it. I have heard of nothing amiss at all with either you or Melpomaen, rather the reverse; Erentar has spoken highly of you both.”
“It is nothing to do with myself, or with Maen.” Haldir thrust his right hand out into the air between them, turning it slowly from palm up to palm down and back again. “For days now, I have felt cold, even when I stood before a blazing fire. Like a winter with no hope of spring thaw, despair and desperation have come upon me at odd moments – and there is nothing in my own mind that would cause this. Once, yes, indeed for many years these feelings walked with me always, but no longer. It is not my own suffering that troubles me. I think it might be yours, Legolas.”
Legolas’s eyes were closed, and he swayed slightly in his chair as Haldir ended his words. Without opening his eyes, he said, “Why do you think it mine, rather than another’s?”
“Who else? We – I – have disturbed you simply by being here, you cannot deny that, though there was no intent on anyone’s part to have it happen. I would not be so affected by any other person here in the caverns, save for Maen; there is none other I know as well.”
The sigh that Legolas gave might have traveled all the way from the soles of his feet. “I apologize, Haldir. I would not have troubled you for the world.”
“You need not apologize, truly. But can we not discuss matters, perhaps ease them? ‘A trouble shared is a trouble halved,’ as the proverb says.”
“You know my trouble, and I do not think there is aught you can do to assuage it.”
“Come, Legolas, you have lived longer in Middle-earth than I. You can master your emotions, if you will – this is but a fancy, it must and shall pass,” said Haldir earnestly. “I wish to be your friend, howsoever much I can, and as your friend I tell you this. Now tell me, does the evening you spent with us disturb you so much still? If that is the case, and there is anything you can think of that Maen or I could do to help you now, be assured that we will gladly do so.”
Legolas heard these words and knew they were meant in purest disinterested friendship, but his mind and heart were torn. He had been disturbed by watching Melpomaen and Haldir together, indeed, but what was more troubling to him was that he had to admit that he wanted to be with them again. He knew that this desire was unfitting – he could not interfere with a pair-bonding, and it was unwise to indulge himself in thoughts of what could not be. In the past few weeks he had, with some trepidation, brought himself pleasure on more than one occasion, but that pleasure was tinged with guilt over his imaginings of Haldir at the time.
“Legolas?” Haldir’s concerned voice broke into his reverie. “Are you all right?”
To his astonishment Legolas realized that he had bowed his head down to the surface of the desk and wrapped his arms around it without realizing he was doing so. He straightened, tucking a stray lock of hair back behind his ear, and grimaced ruefully. “Apparently not.”
Haldir moved from his chair, kneeling on the rug between them, and held out his hand to Legolas. “Come here.”
Hesitantly Legolas obeyed him, sitting cross-legged with his back straight and tense. Haldir moved around behind him and slightly to one side. Legolas could feel the other’s breath warm on his neck. Strong arms wrapped around his chest, and his heart tried to leap out of it.
“What. . . are you doing?” he managed to say.
Haldir raised one hand to stroke Legolas’s temple, then twisted around to press a light kiss to the same spot. “Nothing I would not do for my own brothers, were they in such need. Don’t think, Legolas. Just relax.”
And – most surprisingly – Legolas found that he could. He decided later that they must have spent nearly an hour so, breathing in rhythms that never quite matched. At first his mind had roiled with fragments of thought, desire and denial, uncertainty and understanding, longing and loss and love all mingling; but after a time, when Haldir made no move either to let go or hold him more closely, Legolas was able to free himself from the tumult of his mind and accept the touch without distress.
Patiently Haldir held him, waiting. He could feel the small movements in Legolas’s body as the other Elf shifted, sighed, and finally relaxed into something that seemed like acceptance. Still Haldir held him, until Legolas turned his head and smiled, a smile free from any hint of his earlier wretchedness.
“Thank you,” said Legolas softly.
Haldir kissed his temple once more. “You are most welcome, my friend.” He paused, looking carefully at Legolas’s face. “The love you long for will come to you, someday. Never doubt that. You are too fine a person for it to be otherwise. I believe there is a reason why you have not yet met the one with whom you will bond – I do not know what that purpose might be, but I am certain there is one. We both know that matters might have been different – but again, I say there is a reason why events have fallen out as they have. In the meantime. . . I want nothing but to be your friend, in whatever way you need and is possible.”
“I know. . . and I thank you for that,” Legolas replied. “Just now I am not sure I know what that would be, but I appreciate your friendship – yours and Melpomaen’s both.”
Giving Legolas one last quick embrace, Haldir stood. “I had best go now, and let you return to your duties as I must go to mine. I will hope to see you at the mettarë celebrations in a few days?”
“Oh, of course. Everyone will be there for as many hours as they can – haven’t you seen the schedule yet? I made certain that the two of you would have the noontime shift, so that you would be able to be present for most of the celebrations, especially in the evening when we greet the first stars.”
“Yes, I am glad of that. I will see you then, if not before.” Haldir hesitated with his hand on the latch of the door, and added, “Maen would be pleased if you wished to spend time with us again, too.”
Heat flooded through Legolas’s body at that, but he said only, “When our schedules permit, yes,” and watched Haldir leave.
Legolas felt calmer now. Haldir’s words had not quite convinced him that he would find a mate someday, but he was grateful for the approbation they showed. More importantly, he realized that he valued the foreign Elf’s genuine friendship more than the impossible dream of bonding with him. With an eased heart, he turned back to his work.
Haldir paused in the corridor, considering. There were still several hours remaining before his shift would begin, and Melpomaen would be awake by now. He returned to their room.
Melpomaen had awoken earlier, reaching out sleepily to Haldir, then came abruptly fully awake as he realized that his lover was gone. It was a moment before he remembered that Haldir had gone to speak with Legolas that day. He hoped the conversation was going well, and decided that since he was awake and alone, he would tidy their quarters and bathe before Haldir returned.
As Haldir pushed open the door, he could hear splashing and snatches of song coming from the bathing room. He smiled to himself. Melpomaen was singing a tune that in Lothlórien was traditional to the winter festival.
“You’re a bit off-key, meldanya,” he said, leaning against the doorway into the bathing room.
Melpomaen put out his tongue. “Look who’s talking. I’ve heard you sing, Dír. A raven has nothing on you when it comes to croaking.”
“Oh, no?” Haldir was rapidly removing his clothes. “I beg to differ. I used to sing with Rúmil and Orophin and we always were praised.” He stepped into the water.
“That was their talent, not yours,” countered Melpomaen, pulling Haldir towards himself and kissing him deeply. Breaking free, he added, “You have other talents.”
“I do, eh?” Haldir drew one finger along Melpomaen’s jaw. “Such as?”
“If I told you, you would get a swelled head from all the praise. Although I fear it is too late,” Melpomaen glanced down, “to prevent swelling in other areas.”
“So it is.”
They drew together, legs entwined, torsos pressed close, simply embracing and drawing comfort and joy from the other’s presence.
“Your talk with Legolas must have gone all right,” guessed Melpomaen, speaking into Haldir’s shoulder. He felt Haldir shrug.
“I hope so. He has clearly been very troubled of late, but I think that may be past now.”
“What did you say?”
“I didn’t say much, really, except to reassure him that I am his friend. Mostly I just held him, tried to give him solace.”
“And that worked, did it? I’m surprised it didn’t backfire on you. If I were in love with someone unattainable, I don’t think that an embrace would be comforting; rather the reverse.”
“Legolas isn’t in love with me,” said Haldir. “He thought he was, but it isn’t so. He’s merely confused about his emotions because he is lonely, and something in me appealed to him. Which is why I am sure that he will someday find a partner, as I found you – he is not one to be alone forever, he enjoys the presence of others too much. I told him again that I am sure there is a reason why he has not yet bonded, even if that reason is not yet clear. I think he might have accepted that explanation this time.”
Melpomaen’s expression was disappointed.
“What? What’s wrong, Maen? Surely you’re glad that this seems to have been resolved and that Legolas will be less unhappy?”
“Yes, of course I’m glad of that,” said Melpomaen, “but I had rather wished. . .”
“I did hope that he might. . . visit with us again. I enjoyed that evening a great deal, but if he has realized that he really isn’t in love with you, then it seems unlikely.”
“Perhaps, perhaps not,” said Haldir. “I did tell him that you would like it if he would spend an evening with us, and he seemed to find the idea appealing. Who knows – perhaps having the complications of emotion lessened, it might be more attractive rather than less.”
“Mm, well then. I’ll tell you, though, what’s attractive to me right now is you, Dír. May I invite you to join me in bed for a while?”
“You may indeed, and I shall gladly accept your invitation.”
They gripped each other’s hands, bracing to stand up, and stepped out of the tub. Haldir tossed a towel to his lover, taking another for himself. Bodies dried though hair still damp, they moved out to the other room.
Haldir lay down on the bed, pulling Melpomaen to him and thrusting his left leg between Melpomaen’s, so that their hard members pressed into the hollows of each other’s hips. He sighed and embraced Melpomaen more tightly.
“I wished that it was you I was holding, this morning with Legolas,” he murmured.
Melpomaen was running his hands up and down Haldir’s back, the light touch sending shivers along Haldir’s spine and down into his groin. He hummed in pleasure as Melpomaen parted his buttocks to probe between them, and shifted to allow him easier access.
“I am here with you now, Dír. Do you want me. . .?” Melpomaen reached for the flask of oil as Haldir expressed his assent by turning until he was on his side, his back towards Melpomaen and his right knee pulled up to his waist. Melpomaen slicked oil on himself, then used two fingers to ensure that Haldir would be ready for him. He nudged the tip of his organ against Haldir’s tight orifice, pushing only slightly, until all at once Haldir relaxed and he slid into the hot silky sheath. He moved gently in and out, changing the angle of each stroke by a fraction until a gasp from Haldir told him where it would be best for his lover.
Haldir arched his back as Melpomaen entered him, all his attention focused on his partner and the pleasure they could bring each other. When Melpomaen rubbed his most sensitive spot within, he gasped involuntarily. Further thrusts brought more sounds from his throat, urging Melpomaen on. Haldir reached to grasp Melpomaen’s hand, bringing it down to soothe his swollen member. Deliberately he tightened himself around Melpomaen, eliciting a gasp in return, then let the pressure diminish again so that Melpomaen could continue moving.
Melpomaen nipped at Haldir’s shoulder. He propped himself up on his free elbow and with some difficulty brushed the golden hair aside, exposing a tantalizing expanse of neck and ear, and lapped at Haldir’s earlobe, exhaling warmly. Haldir squirmed under the tickling sensation, pushing his backside tighter against Melpomaen’s groin. Next Melpomaen trailed kisses down Haldir’s neck, causing Haldir to shiver as cool air evaporated the wetness. It sent a fire to his nether parts, though, and he tightened his grip over Melpomaen’s hand, wordlessly encouraging him to stroke harder and faster there.
Although he would have liked to lengthen their lovemaking, Melpomaen realized his partner’s need and responded to it, murmuring, “Now, Dír, yes, all right,” as he worked his hand up and down Haldir’s shaft, and Haldir shook as he spent in a long slow pulse into Melpomaen’s palm and the linen sheets.
After one last caressing stroke, Melpomaen grasped Haldir’s hip and thrust against him, deep and unhurried, reveling in the feeling of his lover’s passage open to him. He thought back to the evening that Legolas had spent with them, watching, and imagined the captain there again. The idea increased his excitement until he could delay his pleasure no more, and he clasped Haldir to him, a muffled moan escaping his lips as he felt orgasm overcome him.
“Too bad that we have duty today,” said Melpomaen eventually, after his breathing had slowed to normal. “I could happily spend the whole day here in bed with you.”
“So could I,” Haldir admitted, “but we cannot. There’s time to take a quick dip and wash off the sweat, and get a bite from the mess hall, but then we need to report to Erentar. It will be mettarë in a few days, though, and we’re down for the midday watch – so we’ll have most of the holiday free. It sounds as though the celebrations here will be most enjoyable, but I should think we can find a couple of hours for ourselves.”
“At least,” said Melpomaen, kissing him. “We may never have a holiday together again like this, so we should celebrate it to the fullest extent, wouldn’t you agree?”