Disclaimer: see first chapter, please!

Betaed by my dear friend Trinka. Thank you so much. You rock!

I know this update is more overdue! Sorry, RL was a mess! :) Now, without further delay, on with the story! Hehe…

Song parts used at the beginning of this chapter are from "Butterfly" by Mariah Carey. 'sniff' such a beautiful song…


Mother and Child Reunion – Chapter 2

When you love someone so deeply
They become your life
It's easy to succumb to over whelming fears inside
Blindly I imagined I could
keep you under glass
Now I understand to hold you
I must open up my hands
And watch you rise

Spread your wings and prepare to fly
For you have become a butterfly
Fly abandonedly into the sun
If you should return to me
We truly were meant to be
So spread your wings and fly
Butterfly

I have learned that beauty
Has to flourish in the light
Wild horses run unbridled
Or their spirit dies
You have given me the courage
To be all that I can
And truly feel your heart will
Lead you back to me when you're
Ready to land

Spread your wings and prepare to fly
For you have become a butterfly
Fly abandonedly into the sun
If you should return to me
We truly were meant to be
So spread your wings and fly
Butterfly

I can't pretend these tears
Aren't overflowing steadily
I can't prevent this hurt from
Almost overtaking me
But I will stand and say goodbye
For you'll never be mine
Until you know the way it feels to fly

Spread your wings and prepare to fly…

Gilraen picked her son up and held him tightly for a moment.

"Did you miss me?" she asked and kissed Estel's brow again. The child simply nodded vehemently and grinned wildly, slinging his tiny arms around her neck.

She laughed and rubbed his back, her eyes travelling towards Elrond who had come to a halt a few metres away from them as if afraid to get any closer. He inclined his head in a respectful greeting but she could tell he was avoiding her questioning gaze.

What was wrong with Elrond? she wondered. He had agreed, even approved of Estel's and her reunion, but right now he appeared to be far from happy.

Cautiously Gilraen approached the Lord of the serene haven that was Imladris, only to be stopped dead in her tracks by Estel's delighted voice.

"But now you're goin' t'stay forever, nana!" the boy exclaimed happily, burying his nose in the collar of her gown and inhaling deeply.

Slightly shocked, her eyes again sought out Elrond - whose head had snapped up sharply upon hearing the innocent statement from the small human boy. What she found in those deep grey eyes staring back at her made her heart clench painfully in her breast: Hope. Hope that Estel was right, that she would stay here for all time – and with her, naturally, her son.

But that was not her plan. He knew that. She had told him so when they had discussed this reunion. She did not belong here. Her place was with the rangers of the north. Her husband, their chieftain, might be dead, but her home was still wherever the rangers chose to stay. They were her people. She belonged to them.

A dead silence fell upon the courtyard as human and half-elf, mother and foster father, Gilraen and Elrond, stared at each other in a silent battle of wills. Where her eyes filled with determination, a small spark of remorse, and an unvoiced apology; his filled with hope, a plea, and so much pain that Gilraen was sure she could feel it crawl up her own spine, threatening to snap it any moment in his heart's stead.

"Nana? Ada?" Came Estel's uncertain voice. He was young and innocent, yes, but even he could not have missed the tension between the two he beheld as his parents.

Gilraen averted her eyes, unable to bear seeing the plea in Elrond's seemingly bottomless orbs anymore, for she knew she would falter if she looked at her son's keeper a moment longer. She was not willing to give up on her son. Not now, when she had finally come to claim Estel back.

A brief flicker of fear at the thought of losing her son again crossed her face, which did not go unnoticed by Elrond. And in that moment he gave up. He had no strength left to ask of her what he could not even say out loud. She had lost so much already. So had he. Like her, his spouse was also waiting for him on a different shore. But unlike her, he had so much more - his immortality, two brave sons and his beautiful daughter. And more than that, he was old, ancient even. His heart had learned to deal with loss. The Valar knew at what cost, but he had learned, nonetheless, to get used to the heartache until it was no more than a butterfly's fluttering against his breast. On the other hand, there was Gilraen, and she was young, so very young. And Estel was all she had. No, he could not ask of her what his heart demanded him to do.

Oh, little darling of mine,
I just can't believe it's so.
And though it seems strange to say
I never been laid so low
In such a mysterious way
And the course of a lifetime runs
Over and over again.

"Your mother has come to bring you home, Estel," he said softly, stepping closer to mother and child.

"Bring me home? I'm at home here!" Estel replied, confusion written all over his small face.

"No, Estel. Your home is where your mother and your people are. And as you know, they do not live here, my little one," Elrond explained, touching Estel's cheek lightly with his fingertips, trying to smile as reassuringly as possible for his son's sake.

Wordlessly the child reached out to him, holding out his hands to be swapped up in the arms, which had held him so safely for countless nights after he had arrived here.

Gilraen's and Elrond's eyes met again. Hesitantly she released Estel and let Elrond take him. Instantly the boy hugged him around the neck as if holding onto a life line.

"I don't wanna go, Ada. Please, can't we stay and live here, too?" Estel pleaded, hiding his face in Elrond's robe.

Gilraen swallowed. Elrond sighed, closing his eyes in a futile attempt to hide from his own pain, desires and needs. He rubbed small soothing circles into Estel's back, pressing his cheek against the curly head that rested upon his shoulder.

"My little darling, you want to be with your nana, do you not? You always miss her so much when she is not here. You know, she cannot stay here, she belongs somewhere else. As do you. You belong to her, to your nana, my brave little one. Do not be sad, my Estel. We will always be with you, right here." Elrond pulled back a little and gently placed his palm over Estel's breast, realizing with a start that his hand covered the child's whole chest.

How small Estel still was, he thought. How young and how vulnerable.

Swallowing around the lump in his throat, he added: "My darling, it is time for you to go with your mother. We will never stop loving you, and we will think of you everyday. But now you must go and be happy. Will you do that for me?"

Estel, his eyes filling rapidly with tears he tried to fight back with all his might, gazed up into his father's face. He knew his Ada would be saddened by an outburst of tears, so he tried his best to hold them back. But his eyes stung so much… and his chest felt as if it would burst any moment. For the first time in his short life his Ada's touch could not heal the pain he felt. Searching his father's eyes, he found only love and truth there. No rejection, no lie. Surely his Ada knew what would be best for him, didn't he? Yes, he decided. And since his Ada had told him he should go with his nana, he would do that.

Nodding, Estel hugged Elrond tightly one more time before he was handed back into his mother's waiting arms.

It took Gilraen every ounce of her strength to meet Elrond's gaze once more. In a mute plea he asked her to leave now, this instant, without further delay. Wordlessly he confided in her that he could not bear to prolong this farewell any longer – not without breaking down and shattering into a million pieces right in front of Estel. She nodded ever so slightly, signalling him that she understood and thanking him for his understanding in return. Estel looked around, his vision clouded by his yet unshed tears, and searched for his brothers, Glorfindel, Erestor, Lindir…

The three latter elves were nowhere in sight. They had already said their goodbyes to him the evening before, even gifted him with a toy sword and a book, but in his excitement about the presents he had not realized that it would be the last time Glorfindel would show him how to kill an imaginative Balrog, the last time Erestor tried to teach him how to write his own name properly, and the last time Lindir would sing and dance with him.

He sniffed, wiped his nose, still bravely fighting back his tears, and with great relief found his two brothers coming towards him just behind his father's back.

Elrond, his eyes cast down and his shoulders slightly slumped, stepped aside as he felt Elladan and Elrohir drawing close to say their farewells to their little brother.

"We will come and ride with your people as soon as possible, Estel. We will see each other often," Elladan said, but whether for Estel's sake or his own he knew not himself.

Still sniffing, Estel fiercely embraced first him, then Elrohir. The younger twin, who only moments ago had played and laughed with him in the garden so gleefully, repeated Elladan's vow in a low, sad whisper.

"Promise?" Estel asked, his small voice bordering on panic. The twins nodded mutely, fighting back tears of their own.

They hugged him close one last time and retreated into the shadows of the entrance of the Last Homely House.

Silently the dam, that had held back Estel's tears so far, broke. He knew it was only a few metres that separated him from his brothers, only a few swift steps even for one as small as him and he could touch his 'Dan and his 'Ro again. But for a reason he could not quite comprehend, to him his brothers suddenly were a million miles away. As if it would take him a lifetime to reach them ever again.

His mother cuddled his slightly shaking small form in her warm embrace, gently running her fingers through his hair.

"It is time, my darling," she said softly, then turned around and carried him to her waiting horse. Never letting go of him, she mounted her steed with the help of the two rangers that had escorted her to Imladris.

Oh, little darling of mine,
I can't for the life of me
Remember a sadder day.
I know they say let it be
But it just don't work out that way
And the course of a lifetime runs
Over and over again.

Elrond knew not what kept him on his feet. His knees constantly tried to give way, and it was only through the sheer power of will alone that he kept standing. However, he did not dare to look up from the ground, did not have the strength to see his son riding away. Slowly, a cold claw grasped his heart, clenching it with a force he had almost forgotten in all the years that had passed since he had last set one that he loved free.

Then, without warning, something else grabbed him, too. Something hot, something that sent his heart into a wild race, hammering against his chest as if demanding to be released of its cage… - he would never see Estel again. Could not. For if he ever did, he knew it would hurt him so deeply he might not survive it. To keep his sanity, he would have to tell himself that Estel never existed, that he had never known this child, that he had never seen this ray of light in these dark days. He would never see Estel again. Never look upon this sweet face or gaze into those bright eyes ever again.

Never, never, never, never.

Panic choked him, deafening, blinding panic. Knotting his stomach, paralysing his lungs, piercing his very heart. Frantically he turned his head - at least to see his Estel one last time.

Then, Elrond swayed. His mouth opened, wanting to cry out, but no sound came forward. Heartbroken, he fell to his knees and buried his face in his hands.

They were gone; already out of his sight.

Never again would he see his Estel, his hope, his light.

He thought he could feel his very life seep out of him that very moment. Too much. It was too much. There was only so much loss a heart could take, and with Estel's loss, Elrond had reached his heart's limits. He was thrown back into places, times and pains he had left behind so long ago; he could not help being overwhelmed by the freshness of his repeated heartbreak.

His father, his mother, his brother, his king, his wife, and now his son - not even sired by him but nonetheless his child. He could see their faces, all of them, right in front of him. They were so close, he need only raise his hand to touch them – and yet he could not reach them.

"Ada!"

That frantic cry pulled his wavering soul back into the here and now. His hands dropped into his lap, his back tensed and he looked up and stared into the direction that cry had come from.

He held his breath.

Then suddenly there he was flying toward him, his face wet with tears and yet smiling; running as quickly as is short legs would carry him.

Elrond did not bother to rise. Was in fact too weak to do so. He just spread his arms wide open and waited for Estel to reach him.

No, I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the father and child reunion
Is only a motion away.

His little son threw himself into his embrace, wrapping arms and legs, his whole self, around Elrond, sobbing, panting, shaking, laughing, all at the same time, his galloping heart beating against his and his Ada's chests. So close were they, one could not tell where one ended and the other began.

Behind Estel came his mother, still on her horse, weeping as well and at the same time smiling down upon Elrond and her child with such gentleness and peacefulness that he knew she would not leave again.

"My Estel," Elrond sobbed out, still trying to comprehend that his son was back safely in his arms, never to be released again. He shut his eyes but the tears came nonetheless. He thought his heart would break anew, only this time from sheer joy.

"Never le'me go again, Ada, please, never again," his small son pleaded, half whispering and half wailing - as only a child could manage to do.

"No, never, sweet little darling of mine. Never again," he answered, squeezing Estel even tighter, rocking back and forth. He opened his eyes again and wonderingly saw Gilraen dismount and give her horse's reins to Elladan and Elrohir, who were watching the whole scene unfold in a state of grief-stricken, joy-dazed disbelief.

Slowly she walked up to Elrond and came to a halt by his side. Expectantly he looked up, still rocking Estel in his arms.

Gilraen kneeled down next to him and the child. She placed her left hand comfortingly on her son's back, while her other hand cupped Elrond's tear strained cheek and gently wiped away his silvery pearls with her thumb.

"You were there for us in our deepest despair," she explained softly, "You were the light in our darkest hour." She swallowed hard, moved by her memories of everything Elrond and his family had done for her and hers. Smiling, she added in a whisper, "I could not take that light away from you now. And not from him, either."

He gazed at her for a long time, moved beyond comprehension by what she had done for him. What she had given up for him and her son.

Silence, then, "Thank you," he finally managed to say. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart."

We truly were meant to be
So spread your wings and fly
Butterfly

The End.