Melpomaen cleared up from the meal, stacking the bowls tidily together near the fire; they would eat the rest of the soup in the morning. When he had finished, with his face averted he said, "Shall I take the first watch?"
"Come here." Haldir held out his hand.
Neither of them had pulled on more than a pair of still-damp leggings before they ate, and that mostly for comfort in sitting on the uneven ground, for the evening air was still and warm. So when Melpomaen's reluctant feet took him to Haldir, it was the bare skin of his torso around which his lover's arms were wrapped. There was a comfort in it despite Haldir's words.
"Forever. Love can last forever, perhaps, but nothing else. The sun rises and sets, the seasons turn, and a tree that was once a tiny shoot pushing out of a half-buried nut grows great, but at last falls or is felled. All things change, Maen."
"The Wood does not," said Melpomaen stubbornly.
Haldir sighed and said, "The Lady wills it so. . . but even she cannot keep time at bay forever. And she knows this. Was not her own daughter lost to her? Though that may be why she wishes to keep Lórien unsullied," he mused aloud, before returning to his theme. "I know you did not mean that you truly wished to stay here forever, but even as a jest it is a poor one. A Man, perhaps, may think that something lasts forever, but his time here in Middle-earth is such a little span that he does not see past it. An Elf sees more clearly. Things will and must change."
"But they need not be forced to change," said Melpomaen, "before their time. Is it not better to enjoy the gifts of each day, and hope that they will continue until one is ready to give them up? That, I will acknowledge, must be the case."
"It is not wrong to take pleasure in each day as it passes, no," Haldir said.
"Nor do I think it wrong to take pleasure in you, Dír, and in our lovemaking, and wish it to continue," said Melpomaen. "That is what I meant."
"I see," said Haldir, striving to keep doubt from his voice.
"So shall I take the first watch?" Melpomaen asked.
"It does not matter to me tonight. Whatever you prefer."
"I will, then." Melpomaen unwrapped Haldir's arm from around his waist and rose. "You should rest now, or you will not be ready to take your turn."
Obediently Haldir lay down and drew the blanket around him. It was almost too warm now, but he would be chilled by mid-night if he slept uncovered.
"Rest well, Haldir," said Melpomaen, turning away to add wood to the fire.
In the grey light of dawn Haldir looked at Melpomaen's sleeping form. His lover's dark hair fanned out, a few strands across his face stirring with every exhalation. Melpomaen's left arm was flung out, palm upward, the limp fingers curling towards the thumb. Haldir's heart turned over at the sight of Melpomaen so vulnerable.
Leaving him there for a last few moments of slumber, Haldir went down to the stream to collect the now-dry garments and fold them for stowing in their packs. He carried the armful back, then returned for water to make hot tea. Chamomile, today, he decided, with a pinch of clover. He gauged Melpomaen's sleepy stirrings, and had a cup ready for him when he lifted his head and blinked his eyes open.
"Goo' morning," Melpomaen yawned, taking the cup. "Oh, thank you, Dír."
"Good morning, Maen," said Haldir. He sat cross-legged beside Melpomaen on the blankets and drank his own tea. "I think today, if we find any path heading westward, we should go to the river."
"You said so yesterday," Melpomaen reminded him.
"And you have almost finished packing up," said Melpomaen, looking around. "Are you in a hurry to leave? Are you worried about supplies, and want to be sure we find a village soon? Because we are low, but there is enough for several days, and we could always do a bit of hunting."
"No, I packed because I do not want to leave in a hurry," Haldir said. He put his cup aside, reached for Melpomaen's, and set it down as well.
Melpomaen's eyes widened as he took Haldir's meaning. "Ah. Yes. Just a moment – that tea, you understand."
When Melpomaen returned from tending to necessity, Haldir was waiting for him. "I want you to know how much I love you, meldanya, and this is the most direct way I can show you so." He took Melpomaen in his arms and kissed him, running his tongue between Melpomaen's teeth and lower lip, then tugged him down to the blankets.
Haldir held Melpomaen against him, his belly to Melpomaen's back, his right arm draped around Melpomaen's waist, fingers rubbing gentle circles as he spoke. "I love you, Maen."
"I know," Melpomaen began to say, but Haldir held a finger to his lips, bidding him be still.
"Since I was younger than you are now, before you were born, I have waited – hoped – to find you someday. And then there you were, by great good fortune not only in the same guard company, but made my partner. I could scarcely have asked for more; to have you real and present with me was almost enough, more than I had believed would ever happen. When you told me that you had found no understanding with Caranfíniel, I thought that perhaps, if I was very fortunate, you might come to return my feelings," said Haldir. He was quiet for a few moments and Melpomaen again tried to speak and was silenced.
"But I did not anticipate that it would come about the way that it did," Haldir at last continued. "I waited for you for hundreds of years; I ought to have been able to be patient still, more so since I knew who it was I had awaited. I fear that I took advantage of you, Maen, that if I have not led you down paths you might not have chosen to take, that I have nevertheless hurried you along them without giving you time to consider and choose knowingly. A pebble in the right place can turn aside a river, and all our actions may have consequences we do not foresee and may not intend. Do you understand what I mean?"
Melpomaen lay still in Haldir's embrace. "I understand that you love me, and I love you, Dír," he said, "and I would not change that. If there is one perfect mate for each of us, and I am yours, then you must be mine, is that not so?"
"Yes, but would you have chosen me, if the circumstances had not forced awareness of my feelings upon you?" Haldir frowned, though without ceasing his caresses. "I cannot lose the sense that being as precipitate as we were was not the wisest thing to be; we have had an opportunity I certainly never expected, but it may not have been an unalloyed blessing. I had hoped only to have you return my feelings someday. I did not anticipate what a joy it would be to make love with you as well as loving you; and if I who have thought about such matters for so long now find myself torn between different desires and responsibilities, how much more difficult must it be for you?"
"It is not easy," Melpomaen admitted, "but I made the decision first to love you and then to follow you home, because you want me to, and I will hold to that."
"As you say," said Haldir, though he was not wholly convinced. "I am not certain how I came to say all that. I meant only to remind you how deeply I love you, that I am complete now that we are together – whether or not we can be intimate. When we traveled with the Dwarves I missed it, as you well know," he smiled against Melpomaen's neck," but I was nonetheless happy in your company."
All the time they had been speaking, Haldir had been stroking Melpomaen's chest and belly. Now he allowed his hand to drift to Melpomaen's groin. "As I am happy now, albeit in a different manner," Haldir whispered, his breath tickling Melpomaen's ear. He touched softly, insistently, and felt Melpomaen harden in response. Haldir pressed light kisses over the back of Melpomaen's neck and his shoulder, all he could reach without moving. Melpomaen's skin tasted faintly of salt and more of woodsmoke, and he arched back and twisted to let Haldir's lips reach the hollow of his throat.
Haldir sucked fiercely, marking Melpomaen's skin where the red blood had been drawn to the surface. He pushed up to lie half on top of Melpomaen, wanting to feel a connection from head to foot, and ran his toes along Melpomaen's instep.
Melpomaen let out a whuff of laughter. "That tickles!" he protested.
"Ah, well then." Haldir reversed himself so that his head was at Melpomaen's feet, and kissed the place his toe had offended. "Is that better?"
"Much better," said Melpomaen. "Feel free to continue."
Haldir kissed him there again, then the other foot, and gradually worked his way up Melpomaen's legs, kneeling over him, until he was past Melpomaen's knees. At that point he realized the position he was in, for Melpomaen had been unable to resist the temptation of proximity, and had begun to move his tongue across the loose flesh that hung so deliciously close. Melpomaen enclosed the whole of Haldir's pouch in his mouth and hummed with pleasure, sending a ripple of delight up Haldir's spine. Haldir cried out wordlessly as Melpomaen tugged his hips down and licked from there back to the tight wrinkled entrance.
He had done this once before – kissed Haldir so – and this time again he was distantly surprised that he felt no repulsion; but all he could think of was how much pleasure he was bringing to his partner. Melpomaen pointed his tongue and teased Haldir with it, pushing just beyond the opening. Haldir's legs were quivering under Melpomaen's hands, and Melpomaen realized that his lover would not be able to hold there much longer. He drew back and wriggled out from underneath Haldir, pushing him down to the blankets and crouching between his spread legs to resume.
After only a few moments, though, Haldir said, "Wait, Maen."
Melpomaen said, "Are you not enjoying that?"
"Yes, but. . . I had something else in mind, if it is all right with you." Haldir rolled over onto his back, legs apart, and reached out for Melpomaen. "Can you reach the oil-flask? I set it down on that side."
"Here it is," said Melpomaen, handing it to him.
Haldir poured a little into Melpomaen's palm. "We will need to buy more, when we replenish our supplies," he remarked.
"Yes," agreed Melpomaen with fervor. He dabbled his fingers in the thick liquid and brought them thus coated to where his tongue had been just before, ensuring that the way was open. What remained on his palm he spread along his own member.
"Now," said Haldir, and drew his knees up, holding his legs open and wide. "Come into me, and kiss me as you do."
Melpomaen found it slightly awkward, but managed, helped by Haldir tilting his hips further. He leaned forward and brought his mouth to Haldir's as he slid slowly into the slick warmth.
"That's it, yes," murmured Haldir when Melpomaen broke the kiss. "I want to see your face this time, meldanya." He watched the expression on his lover's face alter as Melpomaen moved in and out, his back arched, his hands braced on either side of Haldir's torso.
Entering Haldir's body, looking into his beloved's eyes filled with love and desire, Melpomaen felt torn between joy and grief; he had meant it when he said that he could stay like this forever. He knew it to be impossible, even knew that he would someday wish to have things change, but for now that was his true will. And so he closed his eyes and let the pleasure of the moment take him instead, each movement carrying him further along the stream of passion until like a dam it burst, and he cried out with mingled loss and delight.
As Melpomaen withdrew, Haldir let his own posture relax. He had enjoyed the novel position less than he expected, and wondered how Melpomaen had found it, who was now slumped over him, his breath still fast and hot against Haldir's chest, his softening organ damp and sticky against Haldir's hard ache. In a moment, though, Melpomaen rolled to the side, leaving his left leg draped over Haldir's, and began to fondle him with a teasing, feather-light touch.
A few minutes of this and Haldir could bear no more. "Please," he begged, and covered Melpomaen's hand with his own, urging Melpomaen to hold him more firmly, stroke him more rapidly.
Melpomaen acquiesced briefly, then pushed Haldir's hand aside and instead turned around and let his mouth embrace Haldir's member, tongue wrapping around the tip of it. Again he was deliberate, only slowly licking further down the shaft. Moving almost pore by pore, Melpomaen used lips and tongue and fingers to explore the hot skin before him, the whole traceried map from navel to thighs. He could hear Haldir's panting breath, almost hear the blood as it pulsed through Haldir's body and throbbed in the yearning organ before him.
Restlessly, Haldir's hands moved, touching both himself and Melpomaen without distinction between the two of them. He brushed over Melpomaen's hip and the swell of his buttocks and felt it as if he himself had been touched there, and he gasped at it.
Now Melpomaen at last took all he could of Haldir into his mouth, relaxing his throat to take him deeper still, and rubbed his fingers hard against the base. The unexpectedness of it lost Haldir whatever control he might have been able to muster, and he thrust twice, three times, unable to hold back, spending in a rush of bitter seed.
The sun was by now well up, and bright in their eyes as they lay. "I suppose we must go on," said Melpomaen presently. "Is there anything to eat?"
"Your soup from last night," said Haldir.
"Maybe today we can take a rabbit, or something," said Melpomaen. "Roast meat would make a nice change."
"We can certainly try," Haldir agreed.
They followed the little stream that day, as it flowed westward towards Anduin, but did not reach the river that night. In the early evening, they stopped and fashioned a few snares, when Melpomaen spotted a likely warren. They sat at some distance and waited to see if they would have any luck, and by good fortune caught a fine large buck-rabbit within a quarter of an hour.
"Shall we try for two?" asked Haldir.
Melpomaen assessed it. "No, I don't think so. You said the river should be close, and that there are villages; no need to carry more than we must."
Its meat was tender and tasty, and the night passed well.
The next morning they came across a small hamlet, no more than a dozen cottages. Inquiring about supplies from a red-bearded man, they were told that if it was supplies they wanted, they would do best to go on to Stonyford, along the path and upstream a short way, whose weekly market would be held the following day. Haldir thanked him for the advice, and they moved onward.
"I don't think we should stay in the village itself," Haldir said as they walked. "I imagine there is an inn, and they are doubtless used to both Elves and Dwarves passing through, but we do not have that much coin and it seems to me best to spend it cautiously, on necessities. We can camp perfectly well, as we are accustomed to."
"Are you certain? We could sleep in a bed." Melpomaen smiled. "Or not sleep."
"But in an inn of Men? Probably with bugs in the mattress and no more than a thin wooden wall between us and the traveler in the next chamber?" said Haldir. "I do not think I would be comfortable with that."
"Maybe not," Melpomaen said, and sighed. "It would be nice, but I suppose you are right, you usually are."
Haldir saw the wistful expression on his lover's face, and said, "If it means so much to you, Maen, we can try it; we can at least see how much they will charge, before we decide."
Dale had been a city of Men, but where Dale was fashioned in stone, Stonyford's buildings were cruck-built of timber, their frames filled with wattle and daub and their roofs mostly thatched. The inn was similar, if on a larger scale, and the whole settlement seemed to Elvish eyes ramshackle and malodorous, with middens and cess-pits out of sight but not out of smell behind the several crooked streets of houses.
The inn, its sign proclaiming it The Great Bear, stretched with its stables along the main road. "Do you suppose that Frerin and the others stayed here?" asked Melpomaen.
"Probably; that stream we followed took us northward as well as west to the river. I think we've come back to the same road that we took through Mirkwood," said Haldir. "If so I imagine they have already moved on, however." The lintel of the door was high, and he stepped through with no need to duck into a surprisingly spacious, if dark, common room.
A heavy-set Man in a spotted apron bustled up to them. "Geleb at your service, good sirs. Were you wanting a room? A meal? Stabling for your horses?" His glance sized them up, and his smile did not touch his eyes.
"Perhaps a room and a meal, but we travel afoot," Haldir said. "What is the price?"
"D'you wish two rooms, or one? For I'll warn you that I've a large party of Dwarves in from the west, and space is tight just now."
"One," said Haldir firmly. "As long as the bed will hold two comfortably, one room will suit us."
"Oh, aye, all the beds are large enough for two Elves, or three Dwarves, or more in a pinch. That would be three silver pennies and a farthing, for the two of you, since you have no horses; with your suppers and breakfast and all," said Geleb.
Melpomaen worried that Haldir would decide the price was too high, but his partner shrugged and said, "Very well."
"Hael! Show these guests to the south end room. Hael!"
A lad came up whose appearance suggested he was Geleb's son. "This way, sirs." He led them up a set of creaking stairs and along a hallway punctuated by doors to either side, opening the last door on the left and gesturing them in. "Privy's out back behind the kitchen, chamber-pot for night under the table there. Do you need water to wash in?"
"Yes, thank you," Haldir said.
"I'll bring that to you then. You can come down for your supper when you like, but if you come sooner rather than later you'll be best off," said Hael, "what with the Dwarves in today."
Melpomaen nodded understanding and shut the door behind the boy. He looked around the dim room and stepped over to open the wooden shutters that covered the window, letting in fresh air as well as the last of the sun. "It seems all right," he said, dropping his pack to the floor with a thud and sitting down experimentally on the low bed.
Haldir flipped down a corner of the covers and ran his hand over the mattress. "Hay-filled, I've no doubt, but the ticking is sturdy; we should not be uncomfortable, I hope. And I see no bugs at present anyway." He stretched out beside Melpomaen. "It creaks, though."
"Mm. True enough."
It was only a short time before Hael was back with two ewers filled with water, one hot, one cool. He reminded them again that it would be prudent to come for their meal before the Dwarves did before clattering away down the hall.
Pouring water into the basin, Haldir washed his face and hands, then found his comb and began unbraiding his hair while Melpomaen washed.
"Let me do that," said Melpomaen. He sat on the edge of the bed with Haldir on the floor in front of him, and carefully disentangled the golden strands. When he had finished combing it out, he gathered Haldir's hair into a single braid down his back and bound the end with a bit of leather thong.
"Shall I?" Haldir held up the comb inquiringly.
In answer, Melpomaen moved to seat himself on the floor next to Haldir. He luxuriated in the feeling of the comb running along his scalp from brow to neck. With his hair hanging loose and shining like a dark sheet down his back, he stopped Haldir from binding it up. "Later, Dír. Remember Hael's warning; we should go to eat."
There were half-a-dozen Men already seated midway along the long benches when they returned to the common room. The two Elves chose places at the far end, away from the fire.
"It's roast mutton tonight," said Hael, appearing at Melpomaen's elbow, "boiled turnips, bread and cheese. Cider or ale as you please, but if you want wine that will be another farthing."
"Cider for me, please," said Haldir.
"I would like ale," Melpomaen said.
The mutton was on the greasy side and the turnips overcooked and underseasoned to Melpomaen's taste, but the bread was fresh and good and the cheese sharp, both of which they appreciated for having gone without them on their journey. They were mopping up the last juices of the meat when the door opened and the room suddenly seemed filled with Dwarves, all calling for ale.
"I think they may get a bit noisy soon," murmured Haldir to Melpomaen.
"Quite possibly," Melpomaen agreed, watching one Dwarf drain his mug in a single swallow, and noticing that the number of Men already present had been augmented by another half-score, evidently local inhabitants. Geleb and Hael were whisking in and out with flagons and platters held aloft. "Perhaps we should retire?"
"I'd hoped to learn something of the local roads, but perhaps that will be more easily accomplished tomorrow," agreed Haldir. He swallowed the last of his cider and rose, slipping through the crowd back to the stairs, followed by Melpomaen.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.