A short author's note:
This fic, unfortunately, fell by the wayside when I hit one of my frequent changes of fandom. I had written the end, and was going back and writing the middle chapters, and never got around to it. Here, though, is the finale. Just--imagine some parts in the middle where G&E were sweet and romantic and got to know each other and stuff.
The footprints of the orc Glorfindel was following joined those of another pair, which in turn joined a group of six. When the number rose to a crowd too large to determine, moving parallel to Imladris' border, he knew that he must take measures to insure that they were confronted by the hidden city's guardians. The size of the group had grown much too large for a single elf to fight, even one who had slain a Balrog.
He was trying to get one good look at their numbers, some solid information to give to Erestor to help preserve the lives of the warriors that would be sent out to kill the foul creatures, when a scream came to him through the night. It was a young voice, high and filled with terror, and Glorfindel recognized it at once, despite the distortion that pain and panic had made. The orcs had caught the small caravan of entertainers as they left Imladris. He knew that from the scream. They had captured an elfling.
He knew he was making a tactically poor choice. He knew it was madness to try to fight so many. He could not win, and there were enough of the dark creatures to threaten his home, his lord and the elf that he loved if they struck with surprise. Despite that knowledge, he found himself moving forward towards the screams, sword in hand and his feet silent through the underbrush.
For all their fierceness and base cunning, orcs are an undisciplined lot. In the brief moment of reconnaissance that he took, Glorfindel saw that they had made a circle around the object of their torment in a large clearing by the forest path. All their yellow eyes were turned towards their captive, and between the dark and ragged forms, he saw a flash of white hair in the moonlight as the terrified child was shoved or chased around the center of the circle. Beyond the circle he could see an overturned wagon, one horse still alive in the traces but trapped by the weight of the wagon and the corpse of the other horse it shared a harness with.
He could see nothing of the adult elves that had left on this trip, and he sent up a silent prayer to the Valar for their spirits, for even if they lived, he had no hope of rescuing them.
Sliding through their shadows, he was among the orcs before they knew he existed. Two died to the silent sweep of his dagger. When stealth failed, he dropped the smaller blade and went to the strength of his sword. He was a warrior without living peer, and he waded through them, cleaving their twisted bodies. Black blood sprayed the air. In the moment of their panic he snatched the child, who was bleeding from dozens of tiny wounds, off of the ground and against his chest. Tiny hands clutched at his shoulders.
The orcs were quick to regroup, and he was halfway to the horse when the sting of sharpened steel ripped across his shoulder-blade. With a snarl he turned, slaying three of the fell beasts as he fought towards the edge of the group, desperate to not be surrounded.
A rusty halberd swept down towards the child, and it was all he could do to twist so the strike sliced the arm that held him instead of Lindir's skull. Stab, twist, turn-duck-dodge. The world was a blur and the fire of battle was singing through his senses. A wall of cheerful blue rose up beside him and he realized he was at the wagon. He leapt onto the back of the remaining horse, clutching the white mane with the arm he had wrapped around the elfling.
A spear stabbed deep into his thigh as he sliced the harness. The dull thump of an arrow struck his back as the terrified animal surged through the mass of orcs. His sword fell from his fingers as he covered the youngling with his body, urging the horse through the now-scattering orcs. For a heart-stopping moment its hooves slipped on the blood-soaked leaves but it did not go down.
The orcish shrieking and gibbering faded behind them. The horse didn't look like it would slow anytime soon, but he did manage to get it pointed back in the direction of Imladris.
Waves of pain washed over him, along with a dizziness that told of too much blood lost. Lindir whimpered in his arms, and all he could do for his comfort was to hold him closer and murmur soft words in Quenya against his hair.
An elvish voice called out to him to stop, as they neared The Last Homely House, but he doubted if he could control the horse. An arrow passed over his back, and he curled around the elfling, using his larger body as a shield. He would have shouted a warning, begged for sanctuary or identified himself as an elf, had he the strength to raise his voice.
The horse was blowing hard, sweat soaking its hide and foam slicking its neck. Still it ran like a mad thing. In a fall at such speed he would be unable to land with grace, and more important, he wouldn't be able to guarantee the child's safety. Already the tiny form was growing limp in his arms and he feared his sacrifice had been in vain.
Angry shouts echoed as they blurred through the gate-house. The hooves of their steed clattered against the cobbled courtyard, but the animal had more fear than sense. It spun around, still seeking to escape. An elf-sized archway passed by, too close, and the sound of stone beneath them changed to the clop of soft earth. The scents of the garden rose up, and the horse slowed, comforted by the calm of the place.
With a groan Glorfindel slid off of the animal's back. Moving the arrow in his back caused a wave of pain that threatened to take his sanity. His wounded leg wouldn't hold his weight, and he fell to the grassy ground, landing so that the elfling was on top of him. His mouth opened in a silent scream, his throat so tight no sound could come forth. He could hear shouting from the outer courtyard. People were coming. Lindir would be cared for. Without his will, his instinct for secrecy overwhelmed him. He felt himself stumbling and crawling towards the secret passageway behind the rose trellis.
Deeper darkness enfolded him, safe and cool. He gave himself to it without a struggle.
The sounds of chaos woke Erestor; guardians were shouting in the courtyard, the sound of a horse galloping echoed through the covered walkways.
It was as if his years in Imladris had never existed, as if he had stepped off the battlefield yesterday and not close to two hundred years ago. His sword was in his hand, and he was striding through the halls towards the commotion, ready to fight whatever had shattered the peace of this night.
"There were two on the horse!" One of the guardians was insisting as Erestor reached the garden. The horse in question was standing head-down, breathing hard. It was covered in sweat and its back was spotted with a horrifying amount of bright red elven blood. Warriors milled around, searching for a target.
A cluster of healers swept out of the swirling chaos with a tiny body supported between them. Blood marked the small form, and Erestor felt a sinking in the depths of his stomach. "You!" He grabbed the sleeve of a guardian with some rank. "Find your captain. I want forty elves armed and armored and ready to ride at Elrond's command. The horse will be easy to track back to whatever has done this." The warrior was so surprised that he did not question the secretary's order and went off to find his superior.
He ordered the rest off, sending some to find Elrond, some to reinforce the gates against attack, some to protect the royal family. Someone took the horse away to the stables. The elves who were not warriors dissipated, many going with the guardians to prepare the gates for attack.
Only then did he do what he had most wanted to since he had entered the garden. He stepped behind the rose trellis and into Varyar's world.
He had not expected the reclusive elf to be so close to the entrance, and he nearly tripped on the tangle of long legs just inside the shadows. The smell of blood was heavy in the small passage. Fear twisting in his chest, he crouched beside the inert form.
He had never seen a living elf so grievously wounded. There was scarce a hand's span of skin or clothing that was not drenched in blood. The point of a crude orcish arrow protruded from just below his ribs. A deep gash on his arm oozed steadily. Erestor did not know where to begin treating such drastic hurts.
"Erestor..." the whisper was soft, and it caused Erestor great sorrow to realize that Varyar was still aware, with these injuries that must be so painful. "Forgive me, please forgive me...so much wasted. Again, wasted." Tears, hot and wet, slid down Erestor's cheeks. He pressed a blood-smeared hand to his lips. "I love you, Erestor. I should have been braver. I should have been wiser..."
"Be at ease," Erestor murmured, brushing a soothing hand over the fallen elf's forehead. "Be at ease, I will call a healer for you."
"No, please do not. I cannot be seen, I cannot be known...'tis only a scratch..." Eyes the color of spring skies were losing their focus.
"Damn you," Erestor hissed, torn between his need to take Varyar to a healer whether he willed it or no, and his respect for another's control over his own destiny. "Damn your vanity," he cursed. "Will you die for it?"
Pale eyelashes fluttered. "Varyar!" he shouted, not caring who might hear. He must have consent for this. His hand closed around the point of the arrow, and gave it the smallest twist. It broke his heart to cause the one he loved such pain, but he must stay conscious.
The golden elf made a strangled cry, writhing as he made a mindless attempt to pull away from the pain. "Varyar, will you die for your vanity, or may I take you to a healer?"
Tears left tracks through the blood stains as the warrior wept. Pain and confusion and fear warred on the once-beautiful features. "Healer," he whispered at the end of his strength.
Praying that he was not causing further damage, Erestor slipped one arm beneath Varyar's knees, the other behind his shoulders, and carried him out into the light.
Elrond himself was striding across the gardens, heading for this secret passage, and Erestor could not imagine a better sight at this moment. "Elrond! Varyar, he's hurt. Valar, I have never seen so much blood!"
For the span of a heartbeat Elrond froze, grey eyes wide as he gazed down at the scarred and injured elf. "Here all along..." he whispered, and then seemed to free himself from the spell he was under.
The hours until dawn became a blur of blood and light as Varyar was taken to the healing house. It took all of Elrond's skill and no small use of his magic to ensure at last that the golden-haired elf would not pass into the halls of Mandos. Through it all, Erestor stayed at his side, holding onto his limp hand whenever he could.
"I have done all I can," Elrond informed him as he cleaned the last of the blood off of Varyar's hands. "His survival is up to the Valar and his own desire to live."
Erestor, numb and exhausted, still noticed the strange look his lord gave the sleeping elf before he stepped away. "I will return again at mid-day. Send for me should his situation change."
Awareness toyed with Glorfindel. Teasing snatches of sound or smell would brush against his senses. The quality of light beyond his closed eyelids changed, as if a candle was brought close then taken away again, but he could not find the strength to open them. He struggled to wake, and pain wrapped itself around him like leather bands, making it hard to breathe, to think. With regret he allowed consciousness to slip away from him again. He was safe and known, or he was hidden and dying, and neither situation would be changed by him waking at this time.
Thirst woke him the next time. He had no way of telling how much time had passed. He coughed and tried to rise, and Erestor helped him to lift his head enough to drink.
"Rest," the dark-haired elf urged him when he was done. "All is well, Glorfindel. Rest."
He tried to fight, to question the use of a name he had not heard in so long, but the room slipped away from him and he was once again engulfed by darkness.
A small warmth was pressed to his left side, the stir of another's breath against his elbow a strange distraction from the world of sleep and dreams. Curiosity got the better of him. With a ridiculous amount of effort, his opened his eyes and looked down. The sight of Lindir's white hair greeted him, and he lay back again. Tears slipped down his cheeks, tears of relief that the child was alive, that his pain had not been wasted.
"Shhh..." The tears were wiped away by gentle fingers. "Shhh, are you in pain? Should I move Lindir?" Erestor had not abandoned him.
"No..." The word was thick and heavy in his throat. "No, leave him be. He is...well?"
A strand of hair was brushed from his forehead. "His body is almost healed from his trials. His heart though, has felt more pain than many will ever know."
Glorfindel swallowed and closed his eyes once more. So many questions fluttered through his mind, leaves on a windy autumn day.
"Erestor," he whispers, "My third boon. May I have permission to court you?"
Those grey eyes narrow, the oddest smile flirts along Erestor's soft lips. "Is that not what we have been doing this past year?" He draws Glorfindel's hand up and brushes light kisses over his fingertips.
"Courtship is for those who are unsure where their hearts are leading them," the young elf murmurs. "Marry me instead."
"If you will have me," Glorfindel answers, "I will cherish you to the end of days."
And then Erestor is leaning low over him, and their lips touch for the first time.
Glorfindel is lost, and found, and at long last, home.