A/N – Set entirely before Thingol finds out about the kinslaying. Warning for non-linear narrative, het romance. No character is mine.
Thanks to Nol, whose very kind words made me complete it way before schedule. :)
I Am Two Fools
I am two fools, I know,
For loving, and for saying so
In whining Poetry.
-- John Donne, The Triple Fool.
You sit far apart. The distance between you is most appropriate, exactly what the rulebook says that unchaperoned royalty must abide to. You're uncertain. It's something that you know nothing about. You fidget.
It would take time if you had to sit and think about him. He's rather distracting. To put it simply, of course. But you can't say that. Because to call him simply distracting would be like calling a maze simply complicated. Adjectives – they have to mean something.
He's watching you. It would help if he moved, because then you wouldn't be the only animate thing there.
"Say something." Your voice sounds deeper than usual.
"What do you want me to say?" He seems a bit surprised, because he did not expect you to break first. But then, neither did you.
If you wished him to proclaim that he desires you, he would. If you wanted a vow of faithfulness, he may. If you demand undying devotion, he may not. He may just be amused, then rueful, and leave. No, that cannot happen. You will not allow it.
At last, movement. He lowers his head, looks at his hands and then at you, and says, very quietly, "I cannot match you."
You look at him, stunned. He is not diminished by what he just said, as others would have been and have been. He did not have to think about it, you realize, did not have to allow himself to say that. He simply said it, and so proved himself to be either incredibly superior or incredibly pathetic. Artanis, have you met anyone like this before?
He inclines his head in response; if there was ever a naturally aristocratic gesture, it is that. The man has an odd way of holding his head. It's the way he sits in the hard-backed, uncomfortable chair, legs stretched in supine elegance. It's the way uses his hands while he talks, or rests his finger against the bridge of his nose when he thinks. Only Maedhros has ever been, and still is, so blatantly royal, but unlike Maedhros, Celeborn never strikes you unless you look.
"What?" He asks, laughing. "You stare, and then disappear. Am I that unentertaining?"
You don't feel like telling him that even his presence is enough to fill an entire evening, never mind his monosyllabic conversation. It would give him too much, and you too little. It weighs heavily on your mind – you feel it later, of course, because being around him does things to your brain – that you thanked him for something that you have never thanked anyone for admitting before. So you smile distantly, graciously (just like you were taught), and tell him that your mind is distracted, that you need some air.
It is a liberating wildness. You feel that you can go to any part of the dark wood, it will not matter if you shout or sing or curse or weep – it will still exist, and you will still be there when it is over. Perhaps it is because that, here, there is that possibility of over.
He understands, but with a strange indulgence. Ordinarily you would have thought you were being patronized – you detest nothing as much as that – but not so now. There is no laughter in his eyes when you speak of immortality.
One day, you head off on a lonely sojourn. It would not be safe, and he has told you in no uncertain terms of the dangers of the forest. You do not know he has followed you until he makes his presence known, and overtly loud rustling that shows he is tired of stealth.
"Why?" You ask, in slightly annoyed tones. "I am safe. The Girdle is there."
He laughs at you from his throne on a high branch, like a flood of moonlight caught in a tangle of leaves. "I just came to watch."
His arms and torso are bare, and he is wearing something that look like half-breeches, except that they are of a material that drape over his hips and barely reach the knee. He appears less slender, muscles clearly defined along the slope of his shoulders. He is lying on a carved bench on top of a pile of thick black fur; a stark silhouette of white against black. You can see his eyes are closed, body elegantly sprawled.
He is being painted, canvassed in silver. A young elf smoothens the fine, transluscent lines over his chest with a brush; an intricate, invisible picture that can only be seen provided the angle of the light is right.
Your breath catches. It crosses your mind that if you did not belong here earlier, you do now.
You want to be the one wielding the brush over his body. You want to trace the thin silver lines that overlap some scars. You know he will shiver when you do that.
The boy hands him a mithril belt, carved with flowers. Your mouth dry, you can admit that it is the only jewelry he needs.
His eyes open suddenly, and he sees you. He stares hard for a minute, watching absolutely everything; then closes his eyes once more, allowing the boy to continue with his work.
He is more beautiful than anything you have ever seen.
He rises when finished, making no move to wear anything else; pale, water-bright, shining.
'Come' Celeborn holds out a hand, lips curved in a mysterious smile. 'I shall show you some of our wilder ways.'
His fingers tighten over yours when you place them in his. In the light of the threshold, you cannot tell where the silver ends and he begins.
He walks ahead, not because you need to be lead, but because it is his territory and you would have done the same in Tirion. There is an almost feminine grace to the way he moves, like a young, brash, confident stag, not lowering his head to look at the ground when he steps. The lone garment he wears sways with the rhythm of his gait, muscles of his back lit with silver shadow.
There are others in the room – Elu as well, except that he wears a deep blue. You feel overdressed, suddenly uncomfortable, although your beauty has bedazzled Doriath. You inspire envy, and women do not like that. Melian does, Lùthien does, but one is a goddess and the other is the daughter of a goddess.
He dances like he talks when he is in a good mood. Freely. Once, you had chosen another partner just to annoy him, an elf named Lotharan more graceful than he, and a better singer. You watched him discreetly the entire night, your eyes flickering to where he was standing every time there was no one obtruding your line of vision. You wanted jealousy. You wanted to see him clench his fists and set his jaw in that beautiful, hard line, and the cold fire in his eyes that was the first spark of a rather volatile temperament.
In the middle of one of the many dances that night partners were swapped for a step or two, and you just happened to be his. He caught your hand, impersonally, amiably smiling like you were one of his pet foals. "It seems you are occupied tonight."
You smiled, and wanted to scratch his eyes out. "There are so many things to learn."
In a whirl of soft, dim light, people glided behind each other, and he was gone. Lotharan returned, but he had no silver hair.
This evening is the not the same. He meets your eyes often and smiles, this wonderful, tiny smile that is nothing more than a slight upturn of his mouth. You do not blush because you have forgotten how too. Both of you think nobody notices.
A light touch on your shoulder, and you turn to find Melian, regarding you with slight amusement – who ever thought that the divine could look so human? Laughter is for those who can die. Has Melian ever laughed? You can't seem to remember.
You think of her, and Elu. About all the stories – Nan Elmoth, stars, destined love, niphredil, wards, tapestries, lust, magic, stilled time. Does her spirit feel the strange constraint of a body? Did Melian know Olorin? You will ask her later, when her eyes are not piercing grey sparks in the darkness, when she is not pulling your mind apart piece by piece, slowly, probing into darker depths that you know exist.
You hate her, then. What right does she have to know? None. No, but she does. For a moment, you consider telling her everything. Now, when she is standing behind you with a half-smile on her ephemeral face, the twilight a reverent shadow to the goddess.
Melian has smiled, but never really laughed. Her laughter is when her daughter dances, when Elu sits on his cave-throne, dominant, overwhelming, beautiful – laughter stronger for its silence. Elu, Elwë. Celeborn, nephew of Elu. Melian, she… understands.
Of course. Who else would understand the helplessness of it all?
She reads it. And this time there is no need to probe the mind; it is written on your face. You look away, to Lùthien, to Daeron, anyone. A moment later you look back up, a sincere apology forming in your head, but she is gone. Conversation gathers momentum; you are drawn into a dance by a silver lord adorned with silver paint.
As the music fades, he permits himself to roll one lock of your hair around his finger, and your knees become weak.
It was bound to surface one day or the other: the question of his other women. Other lovers. Is this jealousy? He looks at you, then back to his papers. You can practically see the smile on his face.
You are in front of him; he sitting, you standing. It is the only way you will ever have to bend your neck to look at him – it pleases you. He leans back and tilts his head even further so that he will have to look up at you – it pleases him too. You realize then that matching height is just another affirmation of destiny.
But he avoids the question, and you don't appreciate that very much. "Well?"
"Why don't you tell me what information your lady-in-waiting has garnered, and I will endeavour to correct it?"
You had stopped underestimating him a long time ago, but neither was this some brilliant flash of premonition on his part. You raise an eyebrow, and say nothing, merely stare at him. He begins to smile. Something flutters in your stomach. For a moment, you seriously regret beginning this line of conversation. It's his confounded smile.
Your voice has traces of anger in it. "If I set much by palace gossip, I would regale you with tales of what they say about you and me."
"But you did not ask about what I have heard about us, you asked another question entirely."
"I want to know."
"This isn't just curiosity, is it?"
"Wouldn't you want to know mine?"
"They say that Fëanor was your lover."
You catch the back of his neck, seizing the strands of white – no, silver - hair.
A tremor runs through his body, and it hits you, suddenly, that this is hurting him, but that the pleasure is in the pain, that he allows himself to be hurt by you. Power rushes through you, thrilling, exciting, exalting.
His neck arches, and his eyes meet yours. You can see a blurred image of yourself in the widened blue irises.
Then he suddenly lifts himself up and kisses you. Hard. Harder. Your power becomes his; you can feel it leaving you and settling in him. He tastes like water, steel and morning. Now it is you who are destroyed, you who feel that a thousand fires have been lit inside and are burning you alive with their heat. Valar, he can hurt you.
Eventually breaking away, you wonder if you look as windswept as he does.
It had been a mistake to let him see the scar. But it happened by accident, and there was nothing either you or fate could do to prevent it. You shiver. A close call.
"What happened?" he asks softly. If his concern wasn't so genuine, and his demeanor so single-minded, you would have been able to change the topic very easily. Blasted, over-clever elf.
You pull the hem of the dress over the boots after you had laced them up. "Nothing. I was running down the stairs, caught my dress in the railing and fell." A pause, and you mentally curse yourself because it is a deplorably unconvincing lie. "My foot broke the fall, but there was a deep cut and the scar remained. It's fading now."
"It's too deep to be a minor injury."
"It happened to me, and not you." You say off-handedly.
"The truth can't be so humiliating. Out with it."
"You presume that I am lying?"
"I never presume. I either know, or do not."
You shrug, slightly exaggerated. "That is the truth."
"A statesman cannot afford to be such a bad liar, my dear."
"Stateswoman" He acknowledges. "How will you rule the multitudes --' his voice became mocking, dry – 'how on earth will you educate them, as your brothers so placatingly said, if you cannot tell either blatant lie or blatant truth?"
You had not expected anger. But it came, a flash between your eyes that made the world go red and hot. "Watch your words, Celeborn. I will not tolerate it."
He raises an eyebrow, infuriatingly calm. Later, you will learn that this is a sign that he is angrier than ever. But lessons learnt later are lessons failed now. "You will not tolerate what?"
"I grow tired of your bantering." He paused. "And I grow tired of your lies."
"There are none."
"Then you would tell me the truth. About everything."
You force yourself to ignore the skip in your heartbeat. "Keep out of things that are of no concern to you. I do not presume to make judgments vocally, and if I did, there are many things I could say--"
"Then say it."
Diplomacy, thou hast failed. Artanis, attack. "For a loud-mouthed, tactless princeling, it is surprising that Elu trusts you with any political matter at all."
"I think he does precisely because I am loud-mouthed and tactless. Two things you very obviously lack."
You avert your face, mouth drawn in a hard, bitter line. "What I lack and what I do not is not something I will discuss with you."
"Very well." He turns suddenly, and heads for the door. Just before he steps over the threshold, he stops and says caustically, "While some ardent suitor will provide you with the sympathy you crave, and call me a bastard and a fool and a lout just to make you feel better, do remember that while I am all those things, I am also smug, unsociable and cannot abide pretentiousness. Just in case you forgot."
He walks out; leaving you with decidedly unladylike curses on your lips, and a lingering memory of the ice that caused the scar when you walked on it barefoot.
He comes after four days, and knocks on the door. You recognize his knock. Isn't that silly? You're tempted to turn him away, but – a harsh, resigned smile- that is not an option. Just like going to him was not an option.
He enters, and is wearing red. Silver hair, and red. Oh, Eru.
"You want me to apologize?"
You turn away.
"Are you hiding something, Artanis?"
Such an easy lie. You've said it thousand times to thousand people. Why was it so difficult to say it to him?
"Then what is it?"
"Think what you want to think. After all, I am no one to put words into your eloquent rhetoric."
He lifts an eyebrow. "Eloquent rhetoric? You are angry."
He circles around your chair, and faces you. The temerity of the man. He even looks disturbed. The red cloak swishes around him like the dust of sandstone. You avert your eyes. Conscience, you bitter, bitter thing.
"I have never heard a less sincere apology."
"What would you like me to do to make it sincere?"
The way he says it, the sudden change in his tone, makes you glance at him out of the corner of your eye. He is smiling now, a guileless spark in his eyes that is just short of playful, almost as if he is enjoying this.
"When was the last time you lost an argument?" he asks conversationally.
"Just because you staged your theatrical exit doesn't mean I lost an argument."
"All right" he concedes, "Regardless of my deplorable tactics in trying to get my point across, when was the last time someone managed to render you speechless?"
"I was not speechless."
"Silent, speechless, dumbstruck. The same, really."
You smile, dangerously. It is gratifying to see the uncertainty in his face. "When was the last time you got hit by a woman?"
"Are you planning to?"
"If you don't cease your prattling, yes." Your smile grows wider. "And believe me when I say that I know where it hurts."
He doesn't move an inch, and watches you with an insolent stare, all traces of surprise gone, reclined on a bench near you with a decidedly un-warrior like stance. You don't remember having asked him to sit down. Smokily, he says, "I believe you."
It's the cheek, you decide, the complete lack of politeness that he seems to have. This is why he has few companions and even fewer friends – because one can feel so irrelevant in his company. He will not place people on a pedestal, because he doesn't see himself on one. It is the most interesting aspect of his vanity – he will judge everyone the way he judges himself, and believe it to be absolute.
You smile again. But it is different – curious how he can rile you and calm you without even your realizing it.
"What?" He asks.
"I was just thinking about how you get away with your self-preoccupation, while my brothers are branded spoilt brats."
"They certainly dress like that." He looks amused. "Never have I seen so many jewels outshine such picturesque faces."
"You're calling them picturesque?"
"Why else would I use the word?"
"And what would you call me?"
He is about to speak – no doubt, a dry, sarcastic remark – then pauses, turns his head, and stares at the dagger on your side-table. You watch the profile of his face in the firelight. There is still a softness to his beauty, a youthfulness that is unrealistic for his age and his standing; suddenly he doesn't look Celeborn, Prince-lord of Doriath. He looks like Celeborn of the silver hair and blue eyes and devastating smile. He will mirror Elu one day – you can see it– taller, prouder, glorious in the sun and radiant in the moon. He is in deep thought now; he was made to brood. You want to kiss him so badly, but do not because it will disturb the quiet that settles around him.
The he faces you again, brevity gone, silence gone, replaced by a pensiveness that you don't expect.
"Can I call you Galadriel?"
"No!" You reply immediately, reflexively, slightly angry. He looks as taken-aback as you – did he realize what he was saying?
"I have a name."
Galadriel. Galadriel. No, no, no. It is Artanis. It used to be Nerwen; your brothers still call you that. The silver lord in the red says something else. Galadriel. Lady crowned with shining hair – hair, always hair. Another land, another name. A new name for every new land. Galadriel. Queen. Artanis was a nice name for a princess.
"Galadriel?" He says again, hesitantly, softly, as if someone would overhear it, steal it, and not let it be yours.
"Yes?" It is your voice. So it is done.
His eyes light up, and the look on his face is too breathtaking, too raw to be called delight. You fall in love with him all over again, and wonder when it began.
"I have something to ask of you as well."
He says nothing, waiting for you to speak.
"Do not wear red," You say neutrally, as if it were not the most pressing thing in the world and merely a passing whim. "Anything, but not red. I…do not like it."
He is surprised, but far too sensitive to challenge you on it. Later perhaps, yes – he will ask later. You will have an answer ready by then. "Very well."
This is where the difference lies. Nerwen would wear red even if no one else did. Artanis would wear red even if it were banned. Galadriel – oh! What a beautiful, beautiful name! - would wear red because she did not care for obedience, especially if someone expressly told her not too. Celeborn would listen – without question – and it was something he did not do every day. Celeborn would be tactless, cutting, infuriating, but he would listen.
Perhaps that is why this relationship is so inexplicable, and why you don't even understand what needs to be understood.
He says it casually, as if he were commenting on the weather. "We'll throw ourselves against destiny."
You laughed, a rich, deep sound that seemed to come from inside you, that reveals more than what you could say to him or the world. "My cousin Fingon said that once. Very grandly."
"We will time it so that destiny isn't watching."
"You're too self-assured to ever be listened to."
"Very few do."
"You are deplorably vain."
"Why is it that no one else does?"
"Because they all think my brain has been clouded with infatuation for you. Pining lovers rarely give sane advice."
"Infatuated with me."
"But you still give very sane advice."
"Sanity, sanity, sanity. A most overrated virtue. You are observant, though." He steps closer to you, and you feel a warm rush at the sight of his slight, slight smile. "Tell me."
"Are you infatuated with me?"
"Are you trying to stall?"
"You want to hear me say it?"
He is about to say something, stops and looks at you. You reach out and trace the tip of his ear. He turns his face fully, and places his lips against your palm. Your hand is cold and his mouth is warm.
"There," you say. "You have it."
His eyes flicker to yours, and he moves. "I still want to hear you say it."
"Wasn't it you who said that words are meaningless when you get down to the root of it?"
"It sounds like something I would say." He tilts his head, allowing unbound hair to fall over a shoulder, smiles, and asks 'Will you be my slave?"
"Gladly. Will you be mine?"
He returns from a trip to the Havens, and judging by the look on Elu's face, he has done his work exceptionally well.
He catches your eye, makes no move to come closer, and grins at you. It makes him look a boy, well pleased with himself after raiding the food stores and hasn't been caught. You reciprocate the gesture: slight, but enough.
When he has been properly greeted back as per court requirements and Elu has concluded his conversation, he casually strolls towards you. No hurry, no haste; he bows. "Dare I hope you missed me?" It is said in quiet murmur, he has not moved an inch beyond what propriety dictates. But his eyes say something else, and only you can see his eyes.
You sigh dramatically. "I pined for thee, lord."
"Ai, lady. How you hurt me with your wit."
A heartbeat, and he's gone again, dragged off by Lùthien who is infecting everybody with her euphoric mood. Aegnor - slender, picturesque Aegnor – arrives to rescue you from what he thinks is your suffering. "Another lovelorn doormat, sister?" Aegnor never minced words. But you say nothing, smile proudly, and your youngest brother thinks it is because he was right.
So you mingle, Aegnor at your side, and make polite conversation with an entire horde of Sinda and Silvan nobles, most of whom you have met before, and most of whom you are not particularly keen on meeting again. Finrod is no companion – his thoughts revolve around Nargothrond, and you do not wish to hear details of the miraculous plumbing techniques just now. Some of them are floored with your way with words, and remark wonderingly to Aegnor how wonderful it must be to have a woman in the family who is as beautiful as intelligent. Your brother waits for a cutting, icy remark, because only you can outdo him when irate. You give none. Aegnor raises a golden eyebrow, and wonders what is wrong with you tonight.
There is a call for song. Finrod sends for his harp, flushed with wine, moonlight and the prospect of enthralling an audience. Elu smiles at his newfound kinsman, but the King has another request.
"There is one who has not sung a while yet," He remarks. "Come, Celeborn. Sing… with the Lady Artanis, perhaps?"
If Elu were not so good a statesman, his shock would be more evident. Not so the everyone else – Oropher, Saeros, Ruidor, your brothers, so many more– a hundred, no, two hundred faces looking at you, each with an expression of its own, a unique study in emotive psychology. A giggle builds in your throat; did you really say it that loudly?
The King chooses his words carefully; you can hear the weight behind every utterance. Yet it is neutral, almost matter-of-fact. "And what new name is this?"
"Your prince is responsible, my lord." You are prouder, vainer, and more glorious for having said it, because there is everything in the name – sun, moon, stars and immortality. "Magnificent, is it not?
All eyes turn to Celeborn; he stands at the other end of the room, giving his slight, amused smile.
When he excuses himself, and bids goodnight to Thingol, you can see the fondness in the King's face. Elu says something, they both laugh, and you draw in a breath at the sight of it.
He arrives your side, and nobody makes a pretense of not staring. The sudden lull in conversation picks up, although you wish they would not talk quite so loudly, even if it is about you and him. He glances around, and says blandly. "You have the nerve of ten men."
"Are you angry?"
"Tomorrow you will be a charlatan and I will be a debauch." His eyes glint with severe laughter. "No, I am not angry."
"It will give them something to talk about."
"Ah, what philanthropists we are."
He leads you out into a smaller garden, away from the stares and the talk and the conjectures. The majesty of the night never ceases to amaze you; in Aman it was sightless darkness, here it is something that cannot be captured in all the songs of the world. He stops near a fountain, and the starlight reflected from the water shines on his face. Drawing you to him, he traces the path of your cheek, and says quietly, "You know what I said is true?"
He kisses you, you kiss him back; Doriath talks of silver and gold and Celeborn and Galadriel.