A/N Because I have very little time for "Glorfy," and other such nonsense.
It was storming outside, almost hard enough to bring Rivendell to its knees. The thunder rattled bones and threatened to shatter windows. Forks of lightning illuminated the night like the whips of Balrogs, breaking on the hard stone of the mountains and searing through the soft wood of trees.
The large sitting room at the heart of the Last Homely House, however, was marginally more sheltered from nature's wrath. The scene would have been a familiar one, that of lords and friends gathered round the hearth after a long day, had they not a new addition: the small and animated child that gamboled and laughed at their feet.
"The storm was frightening him," Elrond was explaining solemnly, though his eyes were warm as they watched the boy. "I could hear his caterwauling from my study. I had no choice – I could not risk Gilraen rising to comfort him."
"How is she?" Erestor asked, a look of skeptical wariness on his face as the toddling child strayed towards the parchments that lay on his lap.
Elrond sighed a heavy, healer's sigh. "Not well. I have done what I can for her body, but the states of her mind and soul are up to her."
The faces of his twin sons darkened with guilt as they, too, watched the manling at play. Elrond saw this and straightened slightly.
"It was not your fault," he said softly, heart aching for his sons.
"We should have been more vigilant," Elladan said hoarsely. "We were careless in our haste to return to the House. Any other day, any other circumstance, and we would have seen such a large group. We practically waltzed into their waiting arms!"
"And yet, you brought your entire party home alive."
Elladan turned his face from his father. "She lost her husband, kith and kin, hearth and home, the identity of her son, and now, you say, her health. The last on our heads be it."
"Were you to ask her, she would thank you for their lives, Elladan," Elrond murmured, but his eldest stood sharply and strode to the bookshelf under the pretense of perusing its contents. His back was stiff, his shoulders hostile. Elrond sighed again. The others averted their eyes.
Young Aragorn, however, had no such qualms, and tottered enthusiastically towards his father's friend and his own valiant hero. Stumbling, he caught himself on Elladan's leg, then hugged it tightly.
"Ey-dan, up!" he piped.
And there was no denying him. Elladan's demeanor softened as he lifted the child who remembered nothing of his friend's failings into his arms and cradled him there. Aragorn fidgeted for a moment until he commanded a bird's eye view of the room. He grinned and giggled as he waved at each of the room's inhabitants in turn and they waved back.
"You should not reward such a mispronunciation, Elladan," Erestor chastised sternly as the eldest son of the household returned to the warmth of the hearth and the circle of armchairs.
The others stared at him.
"He's a child!" Glorfindel protested as Aragorn used Elladan's hair to steady himself. "Barely out of swaddling!"
"Nevertheless, if you rear them with poor-"
"Nonsense, Erestor," Elrond chuckled, eyes bright again as he watched the boy. "I raised three, and never insisted on proper pronunciation until they were much older."
"And we turned out alright," Elrohir added softly with arms held out to Elladan's gleeful playmate.
"I, on the other hand, had to endure several decades of 'Rester,'" the councilor growled.
Aragorn had been watching the repartee from Elrohir's lap with interest, and now he cocked his head to one side and slid onto the floor to approach the lore-master. Erestor once again watched his progress with cautious eyes. The manling steadied himself on knees nearly as large as his torso and proclaimed proudly, "Rester!"
The others laughed, both at Aragorn's pronouncement and the look on Erestor's face.
Elrond's seneschal shifted forward in his chair to lock eyes with the boy and said firmly, "Er-res-tor."
"Rerester," Aragorn repeated diligently.
The child laughed, clapped his hands, and seized a lock of ebony hair. "RererereRESTER!"
"Elrond, it is hopeless," Erestor said decidedly, reclining in his chair once more. "The child is demented. He will never be able to take up his rightful place."
Elrond chuckled, but it did not escape him that his advisor's gaze had softened very, very slightly.
"Or he has gotten the better of you," Glorfindel said conversationally as he leaned forward in turn to observe the boy. "Look at the spark in his eyes – I would not be surprised to find out that he knows exactly what you wish and is handing you your dignity on a silver platter, my friend."
Aragorn laughed again and beamed at the golden-haired warrior.
"You try, then," Erestor said irritably.
Glorfindel smiled warmly and beckoned to the boy.
"Come here, manling," he rumbled. Aragorn tumbled into his enormous hands and was rewarded with a toss into the air for his obedience. He shrieked with the purest form of glee, causing several pairs of elvish ears to ring.
"You hear me, manling?" Glorfindel queried seriously once the child was safely settled in his lap, one hand secured to each of the warrior's thumbs.
Aragorn nodded, face glowing.
"I am Glor-fin-del," he said, very slowly. "Can you say Glor-fin-del?"
"Glow…fiddle," Aragorn answered after a thoughtful pause. Then he beamed at the familiar word. "Fiddle! Play? I listen! An' dance!"
Glorfindel laughed his full, golden laugh. "No, manling, 'tis my name. Glor."
"Perhaps you'd best be happy with 'Fiddle,'" Erestor observed smugly.
Aragorn, however, had once again wriggled out of a warm lap. One tiny hand patted Glorfindel's knee as he said, quite seriously, "Findle." A few toddling steps later, he touched Erestor's knee. "Rester."
The darkness over Elladan's face finally broke as he laughed and turned to look at his father.
"He is a quick learner, Ada!" he said brightly as the boy looked from him to the addressed.
Aragorn pattered across the room to his chair. "Ey-dan!" he crowed, the deciding hand once more on the Elf's knee. "An' Eyo-hir!" he added, moving to the twin. "An'-" He finally made his way to Elrond's chair, balanced himself on the last pair of knees, glanced once at Elladan, and said, "Ada!"
The room fell silent as the boy beamed up at the Elf-lord, who looked back down, an uncharacteristic expression of blank shock on his face.
Elrond finally bent forward to receive the child, who stood happily on his legs and patted his face between pudgy hands. "Ada," he declared again.
"No," Elrond said with a soft, but firm smile. "Your Da is Ada."
Aragorn looked puzzled at first. "Da?"
Aragorn gazed at him warily for a moment, then looked away to bury his face in the Elf-lord's shoulder. "Da go-way," he said softly through the thumb he was now worrying in his mouth.
A deeply troubled expression crossed Elrond's face as he put a tentative hand on the child's back.
"Your Da loves you, Aragorn," he murmured.
"I lub him, too," Aragorn sniffed. "He come home? Wi' me and Ma?"
"No," Elrond breathed. "No, not this time, little one. He loves you now from far away."
"I don' wan' him be far-way."
Elrond had no response to this, and simply stroked the mop of tangled curls and felt the little body breathe. Where his heart remained heavy, however, Aragorn's lightened as he was drawn into a game of peek-a-boo with Glorfindel.
"Close your eyes," the warrior ordered gently, miming the gesture. Aragorn obeyed with a giggle. This done, Glorfindel crept from his seat with absolute silence to hide behind the wide back of Elrond's chair just as the boy's patience let up and he opened his eyes.
"Findle?" he piped in question, nearly climbing over Elrond's head as he strained to get a better look at where his new friend had been moments before. "Where go?"
"Ask Rester," Elrond prompted, encouraging the distraction.
"Rester does not know," Erestor said haughtily with his eyes determinedly fixed on the parchment and his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Rester does not participate in juvenile escapades."
"Rester has also been overcome with senility and has taken to referring to himself in the mispronounced third person," a low voice muttered from behind Elrond's chair.
"Findle!" Aragorn screeched, now in danger of toppling over the back of the chair. Glorfindel stood with a laugh and tucked the child neatly under one arm.
"Your Rester gave me away," he growled in mock irritation.
Erestor snorted delicately. "'Twas your incessant wit, or lack thereof."
Glorfindel swung Aragorn upwards to sit on his shoulders, wincing slightly as the boy's hands fisted in his hair.
"You are jealous."
"Jealous?" Erestor repeated. "Jealous? Of you? Hardly!"
Smirking, Glorfindel plopped the manling into Erestor's lap – directly on top of the parchments – and said sweetly, "Your Rester needs a hug and a kiss. I've hurt his feelings."
Aragorn obliged him.