“Perhaps this is one of the beds meant for three Dwarves?” suggested Melpomaen, and Haldir laughed.
“You could be right. It’s wide enough, just not long enough.”
The door was latched; they would not be disturbed. Haldir had drawn the shutters to stand just ajar while Melpomaen had lighted the candle in its squat stand from the lamp in the hallway, before fastening the door. Now they lay face to face, looking into each other’s eyes by its dim and flickering light.
Melpomaen shifted, and the bed creaked. He grimaced. “That could be annoying.”
“Will anyone hear?” said Haldir, and as if to reinforce his words, a gust of noisy laughter and a snatch of song drifted in through the window from below. “We are at the end of the hall, and below us is the common room. There is only one room next to us, and its occupant is probably down there, drinking and singing.”
“Such disregard, Dír, from you? I’m surprised,” Melpomaen said.
“There is none here to know us, or care what we do,” said Haldir. He reached out and stroked Melpomaen’s face, tracing with the tip of his finger from the corner of one eye down along Melpomaen’s cheek and jawline, pausing at his chin before moving up to his lips. “Is there?”
Melpomaen ran his tongue along the line where Haldir’s fingernail joined skin, then took the first joint of Haldir’s finger into his mouth and suckled it briefly. Raising his own hand to take Haldir’s, he answered, “No, there is not.”
“We thought that Thranduil’s caverns might be our last bed for a very long time,” said Haldir, “but I am glad that it is not. You were right to suggest we should stay here, Maen.” He frowned slightly, and added, “Even if we are prickled by the hay of this mattress.”
“It’s no worse than the ground. And certainly softer. And most of all, neither of us need keep watch,” said Melpomaen.
“A good point.” Haldir slipped one hand under Melpomaen’s waist, and with the other drew their bodies closer. The bed creaked again, but they ignored it to kiss. It was not a kiss of passion, yet; for all that Haldir had said he found himself distracted by the noises coming through floor and walls. While in Mirkwood many others slept nearby, there they were kept apart by walls of stone, ensuring privacy. “Let me just hold you for a time,” said Haldir. “I have missed this since we left the caverns.”
Melpomaen curled up so that his head rested against Haldir’s shoulder, but his feet no longer dangled over the foot of the bed. He could hear the beat of his lover’s heart making an interesting counter-rhythm to his breath, and one part of Melpomaen’s mind noted the fact and tucked it away to use some time perhaps when composing a new tune. For now, though, he let himself enjoy the close contact, which he too had felt the lack of in recent days. He hoped that when they were back in Lothlórien, this would be one kind of touch they could continue.
For Haldir, embracing Melpomaen so brought a sense of peace and contentment that he had but rarely found in his life, and he said as much.
“Why is that?” asked Melpomaen, nestling closer.
Haldir stroked Melpomaen’s loose hair. “You know, Maen. I knew that I was drawn to other binn from an early age, and that always made me feel set apart.”
“I know, you dreamed of me. Before I was born, even before my siblings were born. That is something I do not understand, Dír.”
“Nor I.” Haldir was silent a moment. “Since I did not know who it was I dreamt of, only that it was another benn, I chose to join the rangers. There, I hoped, I would be safe.”
“Safe?” said Melpomaen. “Being a ranger hardly seems like a safe thing for you to have Chosen as a youth.”
“Well, at that time there was little trouble on the borders, so it was much less dangerous than it has been lately. Remember this was almost eight hundred years ago.”
“I often forget how much older you are than I,” Melpomaen admitted.
Haldir touched Melpomaen’s lips. “I know, Maen. But as I was saying, I thought I would be safe from my dreams in the woods. Once I had met the other rangers, and knew that the stranger I saw in dreams was not among them, I need not fear, and I would face no questions from my family that I showed no interest in finding a spouse. I’ve told you of my friend Lalvenna before, have I not?”
“I think so,” said Melpomaen.
“When I desperately hoped that I was mistaken about where my desires lay, I tried touching myself and thinking of her, to condition myself to want to be with her, or with any bess. It was a disaster. My mind kept sliding away. . . to you, I know now. That was before I joined the company, of course. Once I had done so, my dreams slowly ended, and my desires no longer troubled me in the same way. I believed I was shaking off the taint that afflicted me – that was how I thought of it. It was not until my cousin Andúniel explained to me about lembas that I realized it was that, rather than myself changing, that was the cause,” Haldir said. “All of my self-doubts returned, and I could speak of them to no one, ever.”
Melpomaen turned and hugged Haldir close. “You must have been very lonely. I’m here now, Dír. You don’t have to feel like that ever again.”
Hugging him back, Haldir said, “I was lonely. It was a little better after my brothers joined the company with me, and also it became more common in our time and for some time after for folk to wait longer before they wedded, so that helped with my family too. But all I could see was year after year alone, without hope. I became good friends with several of my partners, but friendship was not what I sought, and none of them was the one I had seen in my dreams, long before. So I had a kind of satisfaction in carrying out my duties well, but never was there anyone in whom I could confide my true hopes, or dreams, or fears. I’m not sure you can understand what that was like, Maen, because as far as you have told me, you did not realize that you could love another benn as a life-partner until we had left Dale. Is that not so?”
“It is,” Melpomaen said. “I had never considered it. I thought I was in love with Caranfíniel, as I have told you.” He gave a quiet chuckle. “She also had a certain foresight; perhaps she saw you with me?”
“I hope not,” said Haldir, troubled.
“Oh, Caranfíniel would say nothing if it were so. She very rarely spoke of what she saw; once she told me that she feared that what she said might change those visions in unexpected ways, so she preferred silence. We both Chose to study music together when we were of age to do so, you know.”
“No, I didn’t. I somehow thought that the company was your first craft,” Haldir said. He paused, then asked, “Maen, how old are you? I never asked because it never seemed to matter.”
“One hundred and fourteen at the end of Nárië, at midsummer.”
Haldir sighed. “And I am eight hundred and thirty-nine, and for eight centuries I have borne my burden. It is not the age that matters, but the fact that I have been altered by the weight of my secrets and my doubts. You were able to come to me freely, but how do I come to you?”
“It does not matter,” said Melpomaen firmly. “You love me and I love you. We are bonded, even if many of our kin would not recognize it. That is enough.”
“I hope you’re right.”
“I know I am,” came the confident reply. “You said yourself that you had seldom felt such contentment or joy as you do now here with me. Does that not prove it?”
“Perhaps so,” said Haldir, shaking off his darker thoughts.
“Now, let me kiss you, Dír, and remind you of how to feel that joy. Mm?” Melpomaen suited words to actions, his mouth seeking Haldir’s with an enthusiasm that made Haldir forget all else for a time.
Hands calloused by bowstring and knife-hilt reached out to touch tender flesh. Haldir inhaled sharply as Melpomaen’s thumb swept across the head of his rigid member, nudging back the fold of skin. His own fingers tugged lightly on Melpomaen’s sac, gathering it into his palm and holding it while his knuckles brushed against the base of Melpomaen’s organ.
With his free hand Melpomaen stroked Haldir’s chest, tracing the lines of muscle. He pinched Haldir’s left nipple hard and felt Haldir’s cock twitch in response. He gave the nub of it another twist and then shifted to the right nipple, repeating this until Haldir was writhing under his touch and thrusting against his hand.
“What do you want?” hissed Melpomaen into Haldir’s ear.
“I want you to take me,” Haldir said, in a voice so low it was almost a growl. “Take me, Maen.”
Haldir waited impatiently as Melpomaen fetched the flask with the last of the sweet oil in it from his pack. When Melpomaen got back onto the bed it gave an alarmingly loud creak, but Haldir paid it no attention. He rolled over to let Melpomaen apply the oil to them both and bit back a shout as Melpomaen slid in, his warm hand once again wrapping around Haldir’s member.
“Do you like that? Do you?” panted Melpomaen as he withdrew and thrust in again, over and over.
Each stroke brought a new burst of pleasure to Haldir, who could scarcely answer in consequence. He managed a gasped, “Yes,” before he fell silent but for small moans, pressing back against Melpomaen, encouraging him deeper, closer.
Melpomaen could tell that Haldir wanted him to command this lovemaking, and he responded by being rougher than was their usual practice, less careful in his movements. The novelty of it stimulated him, and Haldir’s cries urged him on. He bit into the sweat-sheened skin of Haldir’s shoulder, tasting the salt there. Haldir grasped Melpomaen’s hand and pumped against it in a frenzy, his buttocks clenching and relaxing, until with a last groan his seed spurted out, the heat of his release followed within seconds by Melpomaen’s.
They lay locked together, feeling their breaths and pulses slow. Melpomaen moved to withdraw himself and felt Haldir wince.
“Did I hurt you?” said Melpomaen with concern. “I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s all right. Just a little bit, perhaps, but I wanted it to be like that this time,” Haldir said. “Can you pass the towel?” He mopped up the stickiness from the sheets, then passed the cloth back to Melpomaen, who wiped himself and then Haldir.
“You’re bleeding.” Melpomaen showed Haldir the towel. “Are you certain you are all right?”
“Yes, really, I will be fine. But maybe it would be better not to travel tomorrow, after all. We can buy our supplies and stay here another night.”
“If you think that’s best,” Melpomaen said, hiding his worry. He put his arms around Haldir. “Dratted mattress. I’m still being prickled by it.”
“Mmm,” was Haldir’s only response, as they both drifted off to sleep.
The following day, after an adequate breakfast, they followed Geleb’s directions and easily found the marketplace.
“What do we need?” Melpomaen did not so much ask Haldir as think aloud. “Oil,” he smiled slightly, “some more dried foods, I think.”
“Perhaps a bit of bread and cheese,” Haldir suggested. “We cannot get a great deal, but there are other villages on our way southward, where we can buy more if we need.”
They had been speaking in their own language as they passed the different market stalls. While they retraced their steps back to the trader who seemed to be the only man selling oils, Haldir said, “You do the bargaining with this one, Maen. Your Westron has improved a good deal since last summer.”
Melpomaen protested, “But yours is still much better; I may not do nearly as well as you would for price. I’m not even certain what a reasonable figure would be.”
“No more than a silver halfpenny,” Haldir said.
“For how much oil, though?”
Haldir lowered his voice as they drew near the stall. “For the flask we have, refilled with sweet almond oil. If he doesn’t sell that, try for olive oil; best quality for a halfpenny, ordinary no more than a silver farthing, or three coppers.”
With reluctance Melpomaen stepped up to the counter, Haldir remaining a little behind him. He had to listen carefully to the man’s speech, which was more rapid than that of the Men he had encountered in Thranduil’s caverns. Sweet almond oil, it transpired, was indeed for sale; after some minutes of negotiation, Melpomaen was able to obtain a flask-full for five coppers, better than the price Haldir had named.
He hid his broad smile until the bargain was made and paid, and they had moved away. “I did it,” he said proudly.
“You did indeed,” Haldir agreed. “Would you like to do the rest of it?”
“No, thank you,” said Melpomaen. “I still think you will do as well or better. If you don’t mind?”
Haldir shrugged. “All right.”
Since they had decided not to move on that day, they spent it leisurely. Haldir purchased the supplies they had decided were necessary, and they carried everything back to the inn where Geleb was happy to take their coin for a second night.
During the afternoon they looked around the town of Stonyford, agreeing that it seemed less pleasant than Dale had been. A few inquiries of the locals informed them that there were few settlements on the east bank of the river to the south, especially as one neared Dol Guldur, but that there were scattered villages on the western side.
“We’ll cross the river here in the morning, then,” Haldir said. “Best to do so where there’s a ford anyhow.”
He looked at Melpomaen. They were back in the common room of The Great Bear, finishing a meal that differed from that of the previous night only in that the mutton was boiled instead of roasted. Tonight, though, the number of customers was smaller; the Dwarf-caravan having moved on. “Last night in a bed.”
“I know,” Melpomaen said. “We should enjoy it.”
Haldir shifted slightly on the bench. “Yes. . . with a little less enthusiasm.” He smiled, taking the sting from his words, and added in low tones, “Not to have to keep watch separately – to be able to share a bed – that is a delight in itself. Which does not mean I do not want more, as you do. Shall we?”
“Yes.” Tonight, Melpomaen resolved, he would let Haldir set the pace.
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.