The sun had just come up over the horizon when two riders emerged from the gates of Forlond. They made a stunning picture: one blond, slim and wiry on a mare as black as a moonless night, and the other dark-haired, strong and well-muscled, atop a grey so light he was almost white. The horses snorted, their breath steaming in the cold autumn air, and the pair laughed out loud for sheer joy.

After all these years of war, destruction and loss, down to the demise of the land that had been their home, this past year had been the first of what could pass for a normal life. The survivors of the destruction had settled around the Gulf of Lune, with three larger settlements slowly growing into cities. Here, at the North, most of the Noldor had remained in the newly founded Forlond at the High King's court, and here also Gildor had made his home among his kin. Thranduil's father Oropher had chosen instead to follow Lord Celeborn to Harlond, to establish the Sindar on the other side of the Gulf. He wanted his son to follow him as soon as he was allowed out of the healer's care, but Thranduil didn't intend to cater to the wishes of a father who had become even more distant after his son had 'suffered injuries which were disfiguring as well as crippling', at least in Oropher's perception. Elrond, who still supervised Thranduil's recovery despite having been ordered to a military position at his court by the High King, had insisted the Sinda remained under his care even three years later with the excuse that Thranduil had a lot of adaptation to do to get used to his blind eye, and to regain the use of his left hand. But eventually, even this pretence couldn't be kept up any longer, and he finally had had to release Thranduil out of his care.

This had been two weeks ago, and the couple was now escaping on a final trip together before winter set in, and before the confrontation with Oropher became unavoidable. Thranduil had already made a place for himself at the High King's court and found support among Gildor's kin, not to speak of the equally deepening friendship with Elrond. But he knew his father well enough to know it wasn't going to be easy. He didn't even know which had been worse: that he chose to live among the Noldor and at the High King's court, or that he chose a male partner - a heavy blow for a father who expected his only son to do his duty towards the ambitious plans of his sire.

But that was for another time - now the forest called, and Thranduil had no intention to let this call go unheeded. He turned his head when Gildor called out to him - he was, as usual, riding on the right, so his blind side was covered by his partner. With a laugh, he caught the apple Gildor was throwing, closing his slightly clumsy left hand over the fruit.

"See? You caught it," Gildor smiled. "All that training has paid off after all. I knew you were able to learn it again." He urged his horse forward and rode off.

Thranduil nodded, giving his beloved a fond smile. The most difficult thing to learn had been - no, still was - the adjustment to the loss of three-dimensional vision, but he made up for what he could no longer do either with relentless training or with sheer stubbornness, and sometimes with a clever device Elrond had come up with. But it didn't matter, like the scarring on his cheek and hand nor the stiffness of both, or the fact his whole left side ached in humid weather, or that he still couldn't see well enough to read and write. The only thing that mattered was the love he had found, the other half of his soul, somebody who completed him in a way that meant that together, they were much more than two single beings combined. He loved trees and earth and stones because he could feel the music of the Ainur in them, and now, he could feel it also in his very soul.

"Ai, Gildor, wait for me!" Urging his mare on, he followed with a happy laugh.

~ The End ~