Erestor stood at his office window and sighed. “I wish I knew what was bothering him, Elrond. You do not think he could be ill, do you?”
Elrond shook his head as he joined his mate at the window. “No, it is not possible, my love. Like the Elves, the Dúnedain do not suffer from illness. I too have seen his melancholy mood in the last weeks.” He watched his fourteen-year-old foster-son as he sat high above the ground in a tree, long legs swinging.
“He looks so sad,” Erestor said quietly. “His mind can hardly focus on his lessons these past few days. I just wish we knew what ails the child.”
“What ails whom?” Elladan asked as he and his twin entered the room and joined their father and stepfather at the window.
“Oh, Estel,” Elrohir said, seeing his young foster-brother in the tree. “You two are surely too long from your own youth if you do not know what his problem is,” he added with a smirk.
“Speak clearly if you know what is wrong with him, Elrohir,” Elrond said, raising an eyebrow at his son.
“Ada,” Elladan said softly, answering for his twin, “our little brother is growing up. His…body…is changing.”
“Oh, dear,” Erestor whispered. “I think the time has come to have a talk with him.”
“Would you like us to do it, Erestor?” Elrohir offered. “It might be easier for him – coming from us, I mean.”
“Elrond, are not your sons nearly three thousand years old? Surely too long removed from their youth,” Erestor said smugly. “Or have they grown younger while I was not looking?”
“I will speak with him,” Elrond said firmly. “I will talk to him as a healer, not as his father.”
“You might not have to, Ada,” Elladan said, pointing to a small elf who was crossing the lawn to Estel’s tree with his gaze fixed on the young Dúnadan. Hiking up his robe, the lithesome elf was up the tree in a moment, joining Estel on his branch, shorter legs swinging beside the youth’s long ones.
“Melpomaen,” Erestor said, nodding in approval. Although married to Glorfindel, Erestor’s assistant was well under four hundred years old. He was both empathetic and gentle, and did not yet fully appreciate his own worth because of his history. Captured by human slavers when he was just past his majority, Melpomaen had spent two hundred years in captivity before being rescued by Erestor and Glorfindel a mere hundred years past. Although he had been horribly mistreated while a slave, Melpomaen’s soul had remained full of goodness. The small elf had a loving heart, and Estel was dear to him.
The young Dúnadan and the elf sat in the tree in companionable silence for long moments before Melpomaen began speaking. The elves watching from the house could not hear the words, but they were not concerned. Estel remained sitting dejectedly, his head hanging down, but it was easy to see that he was listening to Melpomaen’s words when he tilted his head and peered up at the elf.
An elf walking past the open office door was intrigued enough to halt his journey to the kitchens and inquire what the others were gazing so intently out of the window at. Upon hearing that it was Estel and Melpomaen, he entered the room, although it may have been the heavily laden and largely untouched tea tray on the desk that interested him more.
"Melpomaen told me he was going to talk to the lad," Glorfindel said, snatching a piece of buttered bread from the tray and shoving it into his mouth. "It is easy enough to see what is ailing him," he mumbled around chewing. "Hungry. Missed breakfast and luncheon. New recruits." A second piece of bread followed the first, which was followed by the cooling tea remaining in Elrond's cup.
"Easy enough if one was looking and was not afraid of him growing up,” Erestor said with a sigh. “I should have noticed earlier.”
Glorfindel refilled Elrond’s cup with tea from the pot, grabbed a large piece of cake from the tray, and stood at the window with the others. “Is he not beautiful,” he whispered, looking at his lovely little husband up in the tree. Estel was now talking and gesturing with his hands, appearing to ask question after question, which Melpomaen calmly answered. “Remember the day we found him, Erestor? That was a day!”
“Ai, do not remind me! ‘Twas good our hearts were breaking for him or the stench would have been unbearable!” Erestor said
“It certainly did not stop you from running up to that platform without a care in the world. Those men were eyeing you for their next prize. I always thought you had more sense than that,” Glorfindel responded.
“And why should I have been worried? You were there and I knew as well as you did that our guards were hidden all around us!”
Elrond and his sons raised their eyes and sighed. The argument had gone on for a hundred years with no victor. “Should you not be seeing to your new guards, Glorfindel?” Elrond asked, eyeing the tea tray as the captain snatched another piece of cake and refilled his teacup once again.
“Left Maenion in charge,” Glorfindel answered before taking a big bite of the cake, referring to his second-in-command and Melpomaen’s warrior father. “Hungry.”
Elrond smiled. “Yes, I can see that.”
“They are coming!” Erestor exclaimed. Melpomaen had smothered the boy in a hug before they both dropped to the ground and headed back to the house. “All of you – out of here before he figures out that we have been watching him!”
Glorfindel picked up the tea tray to take it with him, oblivious to Elrond’s raised eyebrow as the Elf-lord watched his tea disappear, saying he would have the kitchens send a fresh one since he was still headed there for his meal.
Elladan and Elrohir hurried out of the room. As they walked down the hallway together, Elrohir whispered conspiratorially, “We are still going to talk to our little brother.”
“Of course we are,” Elladan whispered back. “Was there ever any doubt?”
Glorfindel stifled a sigh as his stomach rumbled again. It was the mid of night and Melpomaen was wrapped in his arms, his head resting on Glorfindel’s chest. He was loathe to waken his sweet little husband just because he was hungry again. After his afternoon meal, he had returned to the training grounds where he had stayed until late in the day, missing his supper even though Mel had brought him out a tray. Nearly all of it had gone into the stomachs of the new guards who had stayed after training to ply their famed commander with questions.
Melpomaen stirred, hearing the loud and long rumble. Lilac-grey eyes slowly returned to awareness. “Hungry, love? I know you shared your supper with the new guards again.”
“I am sorry I woke you, dear one,” Glorfindel said, placing a gentle kiss on his mate’s soft lips. “Go back to sleep and I will just run to the kitchens and scavenge for whatever is left over.”
“Mmmm…no,” Melpomaen said sleepily. “I will go with you.”
“You do not have to, Mel. Stay and sleep,” Glorfindel answered, kissing his mate one more time.
“Keep that up and I won’t let you leave,” Melpomaen answered with a grin as he forced himself to rise from the bed. Reaching for their robes, he hurriedly donned his own and tossed Glorfindel’s on the bed. “Hurry while everyone is still asleep.”
The two elves crept silently through the halls, arriving at the kitchens to find Erestor seated on Elrond’s lap, the two of them feeding each other strawberries and giggling like a pair of elflings.
Elrond looked up at his captain. His eyebrows were raised, but his eyes sparkled. “Hungry again?”
“I hope we do not disturb you,” Glorfindel replied with a smile. “My grumbling stomach even awakened Mel.” He swiped two strawberries from the bowl on the table and popped them into his mouth.
Melpomaen pushed Glorfindel into a chair at the table with Elrond and Erestor, smiled at his friends in greeting, and moved through the kitchen gathering food for his husband. Bread, cheese, and a jar of honey were quickly placed on a tray, and a kettle of water for tea placed in the hearth over the always-burning fire to heat. Considering the events of the day, Melpomaen reckoned they might be sitting and talking for a while. After placing the food in front of Glorfindel, he joined the others at the table.
“Will you share with us what happened with Estel today, my friend?” Erestor asked, making himself more comfortable on Elrond’s lap and pulling his robe closed a little more. “He came and spoke to me afterward, mostly about his studies. It was good to see him more lighthearted, but I did not wish to question him and make him uncomfortable.”
Melpomaen cut a piece of bread from the loaf and slathered it with honey as he spoke. “Estel is an intelligent lad, as we all know,” he said. “He knows the whys and wherefores of things, but was not really prepared for the changes he is going through.”
“We should have prepared him for this better,” Erestor told Elrond quietly. The Elf-lord nodded.
Melpomaen waved away Erestor’s words. “We are not used to humans maturing so quickly. The last time a group of Dúnedain visited, he heard the mother of one of the lads whispering to her son about going blind if he touched himself, or some such nonsense. So when …things…started happening to him, it made him feel like he was dirty.”
“What did you say to him?” Elrond asked kindly.
“I told him it was just a silly old wife’s tale. I do not think he believed me until I explained that it was how the One made the males of both Elves and Men, and it was a natural thing, not something dirty,” Melpomaen answered. He took a bite of his bread and honey, and then said, “Dirty was how I lived for two hundred years before Erestor and Glorfindel found me, in the dirt and mud and muck. I asked him how he thought I managed all that time on my own and I had not gone blind. I told him that touching himself did not make him dirty and that all males did it at one time or another, even…” Here he paused to clear his throat, and then added in a whisper, “Lord Elrond.”
Elrond snorted, Glorfindel chortled, and Erestor broke out into roaring laughter.
“I may have been known to indulge myself once or twice in my six thousand years,” Elrond said with a grin. “Go on, Mel. Finish your tale.”
“Well, he asked me some questions about things, like why certain things happen at certain times and how to control it, and I answered them as well as I could.” The small elf blushed. “And then I told him he must never share himself carelessly with anyone, for there is great joy to be had in saving yourself for the one you truly love.” He gazed at Glorfindel adoringly.
“There is indeed,” Erestor said, wrapping his arms around his mate and sighing contentedly. “That must be why he came to me after and asked me if I had had a lover before Elrond. I did not understand why he seemed so pleased when I told him no. Thank you, Mel. You did well with him.”
The smaller elf nodded his head, and then got up from the table to prepare the tea.
It was an hour or so later when Glorfindel and Melpomaen were once more back in their warm bed. Mel was just drifting off to sleep when a low, melodic voice whispered in his ear.
“Mel? You were never dirty, you know.”
“I was filthy, and I smelled,” Melpomaen responded sleepily.
“But you were never dirty. I could see your light the moment I saw you. Your heart and your soul were pure and good. You were pure and good. You still are.”
Melpomaen propped himself up on an elbow to look at his mate. “I love you, Glorfindel,” he whispered.
“And I love you, little one. Always.”
Elrond and Erestor quietly opened the door, peeking in on their foster-son. The boy was fast asleep, a contented expression on his face.
“He looks peaceful,” Erestor whispered. “Do you think he…?”
Elrond shrugged and smiled. “I do not think I want to know, my love,” he whispered back. “There are some things it is better that fathers are unaware of.” He carefully shut the door behind them and led his mate to their bed.
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Story notes: I decided to merge Glorfindel and Melpomaen from “Love Breaks the Chains” into this series because it fits so well. We’ll just ignore the fact that I mentioned Mel playing in a tree in Imladris when he was a child in one of the earlier stories in this series. Now don’t get the idea that Mel and Erestor are just hobbity little things when I say they are smaller. They may be shorter than Glorfindel and Elrond, who tower over them at well over 6’ – more like 6 and a half feet - but at 5’7” and 5’10”-ish, neither of my “small” elves are exactly I what consider small.
Love Breaks the Chains can be best read here: http://www.libraryofmoria.com/a/viewstory.php?sid=416&ageconsent=ok&warning=3
The rest of the series is here:
Beta: Phyncke. All remaining mistakes are mine.