Disclaimer: I own nothing. Everything belongs to Tolkien.
Summary: Oneshot. A couple years after being brought to Rivendell, Estel is still intimidated by Elrond. But when an incident traps them together, will Estel discover what he needs most– a father?
Characters: Elrond and Aragorn/Estel, features Glorfindel, Erestor, and Elladan/Elrohir, mentions of Lindir, Arathorn, and Gilraen
Author's Note: Loosely based on an actual occurrence. This takes place after little Aragorn's mother dies while in Rivendell (I know it happens when Aragorn's older, but like many, I love exploring the father/son dynamic between Estel and Elrond), but he hasn't quite warmed up to Elrond being his father figure yet. What chaos can ensue? Plenty. No slash at all in any respects. Reviews are welcome, just no flames please. Enjoy!
penneth– young one
mellon-nín– my friend
tithen pen– little one
ion-nín– my son
Somehow, Elrond knew it was going to be one of those days.
He had gotten little sleep the night before since Estel, the five-year-old human child he had taken in after the death of his father and whose mother had recently passed away in Imladris, was having dark dreams about the event. The young boy's only comfort had come from Glorfindel, himself accustomed to sleepless nights plagued by haunting memories, who had sat up with him, telling him stories until he fell back asleep. Aragorn had never stayed asleep for long though, woken again by another nightmare of Orcs and arrows, and Glorfindel would do the same thing since he was never far away. The twice-born warrior had done so without a single complaint and with the utmost patience, the child's solace his first priority since he had been fond of him ever since he had arrived in their home.
Not that he was not. Elrond was concerned for Estel's well-being now that he was under his care and was determined to keep him safe and hidden, but the child hadn't responded as openly to him as he had to the other Elves in Imladris. Estel loved his sons, Elladan and Elrohir, who had helped him adjust to life in Rivendell even before his mother died. They played with him, helped him with basic lessons if his chief advisor, Erestor, was too busy to attend to them, and had truly become brothers to him. There had not been a day since Estel had arrived where the three of them could not be found running through the halls or outside playing some sort of game, their laughter echoing through the house. He had been spotted close to Lindir on many occasions, for the young minstrel's music, singing, and stories in the Hall of Fire always brought him joy. Estel had also attached himself to Glorfindel, the lighthearted and good-natured Balrog Slayer, especially as of late as he trusted him with his nightmares. He could often be found following the golden-haired warrior around as he performed his daily duties, asking many questions about what he was doing or about the finer points of Imladris. He also was known to help the twice-born warrior in his pranks against Erestor, but despite the annoyance, even he was clearly pleased to have the child around.
Elrond, though he had been nothing but kind to Estel, had not received the same acceptance from the mortal boy. He had not spent as much time with him as the others had, though, since he was often kept occupied with the duties he had to attend to throughout his realm. He had spoken with Estel a few times about matters of formality, but never alone, as the boy still seemed to be somewhat intimidated by him. He had been since he had arrived, but it did not offend him. The child was young and unaccustomed to his often stern demeanor, and once he was not so occupied, he planned on spending more time with him so they could each grow more comfortable with the other. It wasn't the easiest for the Elf lord either, since it had been quite some time since young children could be found in Imladris.
Though it had been Elrond when Gilraen first brought her son to Imladris to keep him safe after Arathorn had been killed who had taken the sleeping boy in his arms and gave him the name of Estel, for he felt that not only would the child be a hope for his own people, but for his house as well. They had suffered a great loss when his wife, Celebrían, had sailed to the West after all that she had endured, and the presence of Estel would lighten their hearts once more. He had already brought joy to those close to him.
Elrond sighed as he stood from the table, bringing his half-eaten soup bowl up to the counter. The cooks took it warily before looking at the Elf lord with unspoken concern. Elrond nodded slightly to them in return before he turned and walked away, knowing they were only worried about him since he hadn't been eating much since Celebrían had departed. But he ate enough, and he rubbed his tired eyes as he left the kitchens.
Lunch was over, and now, it was back to work in his study. He had a long day ahead of him.
Elladan and Elrohir were not due to return from their hunting trip until that evening, Erestor was occupied with some extra paperwork, Lindir was distracted with a few odd tasks that needed to be seen to, and Glorfindel was leading a weapons training session.
This left Estel alone.
The five-year-old boy wandered the second story of the house he had been living in for some time, having never ventured to this part of it before. His curiosity had gotten the better of him, and since he had seen the twins and advisors often come here, he wondered what it was. He walked down the hallway and came to a room on his right, pushing open the door to look inside.
It was a large room with two filled bookshelves on the left wall, a third one on the right wall, and a desk across from him in front of the high open window. Estel glanced up and down the hallway to make sure no one was coming before he stepped inside, shutting the door behind him again before looking around. He made his way across the room to the desk, climbing up onto the chair to see better. A thick open book lay on top of it, surrounded by piles of paperwork and a map of Middle-earth.
The boy began to reach out to take the top paper from a pile to look it over better, but he paused and gasped quietly when he heard the door handle start to turn. He quickly looked around, jumping down from the chair and running across the room to a slightly open closet next to the bookshelf, slipping inside just as the door of the room opened.
Elrond began to turn the door handle of his study, but he paused when his sharp hearing picked up a quiet gasp from inside. His eyes narrowed slightly, pausing when he heard a thump before a series of quick footsteps. Someone was inside his study.
The Elf lord quickly pushed open the door and looked around, seeing the room appeared to be empty save his work. He stepped inside, shutting the door again behind him before gazing around, seeing if anything had been disturbed. He could hear the quick, anxious breathing, so he knew whoever had come into the room was still there. Elrond slowly crossed to his desk, his eyes quickly scanning it to ensure everything was still in its proper place before he turned to the closet across the room from him, able to now feel the child's presence there.
"Come, Estel," he said. A small smile appeared on his face when he heard a quiet squeak, just able to make out Estel's small form watching him through the slightly open door before he shrank back into the darkness. But then, the Elf lord sighed, realizing what the boy may have thought.
"You are not in trouble, penneth," Elrond continued, ensuring his voice contained a more gentle tone as he started to walk toward the closet. "I simply need to get back to work. Please come out, Estel."
When this tactic still had no effect, Elrond inwardly sighed as he approached the closet, reaching a hand out and pulling it open a little more so he could fit in the doorway. With his sharp eyesight, he was able to see Estel crouched at the back of the closet among the shelves of paperwork and containers of maps, a nervous look on his youthful face as he looked up at the Elf lord.
"I assure you, you are in no trouble, penneth," Elrond repeated, another smile on his fair face as he took a couple steps into the closet and held his hand out toward him. "Come, Estel. Mayhap the gardens would be a more suitable place for you to play on such a beautiful day."
Aragorn looked back at him for a long moment, considering his options, before he slowly began to reach a hand out to him. Elrond nodded encouragingly, taking a couple steps closer to him so their fingers were nearly touching.
Perhaps he had offended Eru in some way, or perhaps Fate thought it would be humorous to meddle with the Elf lord. Either way, what Elrond did not notice was the hem of his robe had caught on the corner of the closet door, and as soon as Estel set his smaller hand in his foster father's palm, it was pulled shut behind him.
Elrond quickly turned around, his eyes gray wide. He immediately tried pushing on the door, but to no avail. With his sharper eyes, he found the doorknob and anxiously turned it a few times before he felt the half he was holding come off in his hand. The Elf lord brought it up to his eyes, glaring at the cursed object before tossing it to the floor. He pushed on the door again, but it still stuck fast.
This particular door had been giving him trouble for ages, and he had never closed it since he knew this would happen. He had told Glorfindel and Erestor to arrange for it to be repaired, but as busy as both advisors were, they apparently hadn't gotten the chance yet. Elrond leaned against the wall beside the door, putting his hand to his head as a long string of Elvish curses quietly left his mouth.
Estel looked up at Elrond with slightly wider eyes. Though he did not understand the words he was saying, he could tell by the tone of his voice it was not something pleasant. He had never seen the Elf lord in this state. "What's happ'ning, Ewond?" he asked.
Elrond lowered his hand and turned his gaze to the boy, able to feel his concern. "Nothing, Estel," he answered, a small smile appearing on his face to attempt to reassure him. "Everything is all right."
"Oh." Then, Estel's worry instantly melted into a sense of excitement. "Is it a game?"
The Elf lord hesitated, unsure of what to say. "Well..."
"It is!" Estel got to his feet, a broad smile on his face. "Hide and seek!" Then, his voice dropped to a whisper as his expression became serious. "No one wiwl find us, Ewond."
Elrond gave the five-year-old another small smile, but it vanished as he slowly sat down on the floor against the wall. They would have to be found, he reasoned. He was the lord of Imladris, and sooner or later, his advisors would realize he had gone missing and would come looking for him. It would only be a matter of time.
Estel sat down next to him, his gray eyes still brimming with enthusiasm. "We have the best hiding pwace," he continued. "We'we gonna win!"
"Aye, penneth," Elrond half-heartedly agreed. He knew well that it wasn't a game of hide and seek, but if Estel believed that for as long as they were stuck in the closet, it may not be so unpleasant. But he was also painfully aware that a mortal child's attention span was short, and he did not think it would be long before the excitement wore off.
His suspicion was soon confirmed.
Estel began to shuffle restlessly beside him. "Have we won yet, Ewond?" he wondered.
Elrond looked back down at him, able to feel his sense of agitation. "They have not found us yet, have they, Estel?" he posed. He was not able to tell how much time they had spent waiting in the closet yet, but he knew someone was bound to come searching for them soon.
However, his words did nothing to appease the child. Instead, they made him anxious. "They'we not gonna find us!" he exclaimed, his eyes wide. "We'we stuck!"
The Elf lord was slightly startled by the boy's sudden change in behavior. "Estel, we will be found soon..." he began.
"No!" Estel got to his feet as he shook his head, tears forming in his eyes. "We'we never gonna get out!"
Elrond sighed, putting both hands to his head for a moment as he closed his eyes, trying to remain patient. He may have had no way of telling how long they had been locked in the closet, though the child's yelling wasn't helping, but he desperately hoped and prayed to Eru that it wouldn't be long before they got back out. Someone must have noticed by now that he was missing.
"We'we stuck! We'we stuck!"
Once he regained his composure, Elrond slowly lowered his hands and looked up at Estel, noticing a couple tears had fallen from his eyes. He held his arms out to the clearly panicked child, and he immediately sat close to the Elf lord, clinging to his robe as Elrond wrapped his arms around him securely. "We will be found soon, Estel," he repeated calmly. "Do not fear, penneth."
"Soon?" Estel looked up at Elrond hopefully.
"Aye, Estel," Elrond confirmed with a slight smile, carefully wiping away the remains of the tears on his cheeks. "Soon."
Estel seemed slightly encouraged by this, and he straightened up as he leaned back against the wall behind him. He watched as he wiggled his small feet for a moment before looking back at the Elf lord. "How soon, Ewond?" he asked.
Elrond shook his head slightly. "I know not, Estel," he muttered.
"Oh." The boy went back to watching his feet, his restlessness once again returning.
Elrond sighed as he rested his head back against the wall, looking up at the dark ceiling. He was already missing the feel of the wind, the sound of the trees, the sight of the sun, being deprived of them in a smaller, cramped room with hardly any light unsettling to him. He was even missing being able to sit and do the paperwork that needed to be completed, just for the fact that he would be able to do something instead of waiting doing nothing. He did not believe his seemingly endless patience had ever been tested quite this much, though there had been many times where it had come close.
Estel soon grew tired of sitting, and he got to his feet and began to pace the closet. He wandered over to one of the containers near the back, pulling out one of the rolled up maps it contained. "What's this?" he asked.
"A map," Elrond answered without much feeling. He wasn't exactly sure which one the child had pulled out, but since it was near the back, he assumed it was of one of the areas surrounding Moria.
"Can I... Ahhhh!"
Elrond quickly looked up at the sound of Estel's sudden scream. He heard the boy stumble, successfully knocking over the container of maps he had been standing beside before he bumped his head on the shelf above him. The Elf lord immediately rose to his feet, closing his eyes with a sigh of frustration when the organized stack of papers that had been sitting on it fell in sheets to the floor. Estel ran through them, the map dropping from his hands as he rushed to his foster father, his small body shaking when he wrapped his arms around his leg tightly.
"What happened, penneth?" Elrond wondered, setting one hand on top of the child's head.
It took a long moment for Estel to stop shaking enough to answer. "I... I wawked into some stwing, and something smawl was cwawling on my face..." he explained.
Elrond immediately knew what the problem was. He hadn't cleaned the closet out for some time. "A spiderweb?" He paused, picking off a couple remains of the web out of the boy's hair. "And the spider is harmless, Estel."
Estel looked up at the Elf lord with anxious gray eyes, still not releasing him. "Can you kiwl it, Ewond?" he whispered. "Pwease?"
"It will not hurt you, Estel," Elrond told him. He was not fond of the idea of harming any part of nature, regardless of how little he liked spiders.
"It scawes me, Ewond," Estel muttered, looking toward the back of the closet nervously.
Elrond sighed, passing a hand over his face. He then lifted his hand off the five-year-old's head and walked past him, inwardly groaning when he saw the mess that awaited him. Sheets of paper were scattered all over the floor, the maps the knocked over container had held spread among them. By the grace of the Valar, when would this disaster be over?
Feeling Estel's eyes on him intently, the Elf lord knelt in front of the disarray and began lifting aside the papers, searching for the spider that had caused all this. He finally found it near the wall hiding under one of the sheets, and he couldn't help but smile. If this tiny thing had caused the child so much panic, he was grateful he wasn't in Mirkwood where the spiders were much larger.
Instead of killing it, however, Elrond slid the same sheet of paper underneath it, waiting until it was on securely before he rose to his feet. He then lifted the paper so it was resting high on the wall, watching as the arachnid crawled off and made its way toward the corner of the ceiling furthest from the door of the closet, where it was likely to stay.
"Did you get it?" Estel asked, looking up at Elrond expectantly when he walked back over to him.
Elrond smiled. "It will not bother you anymore, penneth," he answered, sitting back in his place next to the door to continue waiting for someone to find them. The boy sat huddled close to his side, clearly not intending to leave again.
The Elf lord was unsure of how much more time had passed before he noticed Estel starting to get drowsy without the stimulation of sunlight and fresh air. His head began to grow heavy, the movements of his feet slowing as his eyes started to droop. Elrond smiled slightly, knowing how the boy hadn't gotten much sleep the night before since his dark dreams had kept him awake.
Then, to his surprise, Estel yawned before he climbed onto his lap. Elrond watched, unsure of what to do, as he curled up, resting his head against his chest. A moment later, the child's breathing slowed, signaling he had fallen into a light sleep. The Elf lord looked down on him, his smile broadening as he ran his fingers through his dark hair a couple times and wrapped his other arm securely around him. The silence was welcome to him.
Soon, Elrond felt his own eyes beginning to feel weary, and he rubbed them in an effort to keep awake. He had gotten about as much sleep as Estel, and spending the day trapped in the closet had done nothing to refresh him. But he knew he had to stay alert, for he hoped someone would come looking for them at any moment. However, he felt his head starting to grow heavy as well, his eyes slowly starting to glass over in sleep.
"I have not seen him since lunch."
"And he did not come down to dinner. Most unlike him."
Elrond immediately perked up at the sound of the sudden voices. He was unaware how long it had been since he had drifted off, but regardless, he dared not believe what he was hearing for a moment. The voices belonged to his advisors, and by the sound of it, they were coming closer.
"I wonder where he could be?"
"I know not, but I am concerned for him."
Elrond glanced down at Estel, who was still lightly sleeping in his arms, and opened his mouth to call out to Glorfindel and Erestor when he heard the door of his study open.
The Elf lord paused, but then, he chuckled quietly. The boy had not been spotted running around the house all day. Of course his presence would have been missed. And it was not uncommon for him to often seek solitude for a day.
"Glorfindel. Erestor," Elrond said, loud enough for his advisors to hear him. "In here."
There was a moment of clear surprise before he heard the two Elves hurry over to the closet door. "Lord Elrond?" the voice of Erestor floated through to him. "What in the name of...?"
"I will explain later," Elrond replied, glancing down at the child again when he felt him stir, his gray eyes blinking wearily as they slowly opened. "Estel and I are both in here."
"Hold on, Elrond," Glorfindel told him. "We will get you out."
The Elf lord listened as one of them tried the doorknob without success before looking back at Estel as he sat up on his lap and stretched. "Did you have a good rest, Estel?" he wondered, placing his hand lightly on his back.
"Aye, Ewond," the five-year-old muttered, rubbing his eyes. "What's happ'ning?" He heard the commotion from the other side of the door as the two advisors worked to try to get it open.
"We have been found," Elrond said with a small smile.
Estel's face brightened. "Did we win the hide and seek game, Ewond?" he asked.
The Elf lord chuckled quietly. "Aye, penneth," he answered, brushing some unruly strands of dark hair back from the child's face.
Then, they both looked up when the tip of a dagger blade appeared in the gap between the door and doorway near the knob to help get it loose. "Elrond, could you push on the door, mellon-nín?" Glorfindel asked. "Erestor is going to pull."
Elrond gently set Estel next to him before he rose to his feet, wincing a bit as his cramped leg muscles from the boy sitting on them for a long period of time protested to the movement. He approached the door, beginning to push on it. At first, it stuck fast, just as it had before. But then, the Elf lord nearly stumbled into an equally surprised Erestor when the door suddenly came free. The chief advisor was at a loss for words as he gazed wide-eyed back at Elrond for a long moment, watching as he squinted a bit in the sudden sunlight, and then back at Estel where he was standing in the doorway, rubbing his eyes with small fists.
Glorfindel laughed, sliding his dagger back in its sheath. "So, were you and Estel playing some sort of new game, Elrond?" he wondered, an amused smile in his bright, fair features.
"Hardly," Elrond told him quietly, his eyes narrowing slightly. "I believed I had stressed this door needed to be repaired."
"Of course, Lord Elrond, it will be seen to immediately," Erestor replied quickly, seeming slightly flustered. "But how is it you came to be stuck in there to begin with?" He paused, a smirk forming at the corner of his lips as he glanced at his fair-haired companion. "If anyone were to get stuck in the closet in need of rescue, I would assume it would be Glorfindel."
The twice-born warrior sent a glare to the chief advisor, but before he could retort, they both turned back to the closet at a sudden exclamation.
"Hello, tithen pen!" Glorfindel said with a smile, dropping to one knee and holding his arms out. Estel grinned as he wrapped his arms tightly around the Elf who he so affectionately said "kiwwed the Bawog." "I have missed you today."
"I missed you, too, Gwowfy!" the boy replied. "Ewond and I pwayed hide and seek!"
Glorfindel chuckled quietly. "Tell me all about it, Estel."
"So, Estel was in your study and hid in your closet after lunch?" Erestor asked where he and Elrond were standing at the desk after hearing the latter's account of how he and Estel had gotten stuck in the closet. "And the door closed when you went in to get him?"
Elrond nodded. "That is what happened," he answered quietly, glancing over at the boy as he excitedly told Glorfindel about how they had won the hide and seek game and as the Balrog Slayer responded appropriately in turn. "I only do not understand why he was in my study to begin with."
Erestor sighed. "Mayhap he was trying to reach out to you as you have been wanting to with him?" he suggested, dropping his voice. "The child needs a father, Elrond. That is something Glorfindel, your sons, Lindir, and I are unable to give him."
The Elf lord looked back at his closest advisor for a long moment before lowering his gaze, unsure of what to say. Before he could form a response, both he and Erestor looked up when Glorfindel approached them, his hand wrapped around Estel's smaller one.
"Estel requests dinner," he told them with a slight smile. "I believe that would be best for you after your day as well, Elrond."
"I am not surprised that you are hungry, tithen pen," Erestor replied with a similar look before turning to the Elf lord. "I must admit I am in agreement with Glorfindel."
Elrond sighed as he nodded, half-heartedly returning the smile. He was outnumbered. "Aye," he agreed. "Let us have dinner."
The kitchens were empty since the dinner hour had passed, but Estel led both Glorfindel and Elrond to a table against the wall while Erestor went to have the cooks prepare a couple extra bowls of soup. The twice-born warrior smiled when he saw the child sit across from him next to Elrond, the first time he had done so since he could recall. As much as the lord of Imladris had clearly disliked being stuck in the closet for the few hours with Estel, perhaps it had been what was needed for both of them.
Erestor returned shortly after with one of the cooks, each holding a bowl of soup for Elrond and Estel. The boy began eating instantly, hungry after the excitement of the day, while the Elf lord ate at a much slower pace as his chief advisor situated himself across from them.
Glorfindel then looked up when the doors to the kitchens opened again, and a smile appeared on his face when he saw two identical dark-haired Elves enter the room. Elrond followed his gaze, a matching smile gracing his fair features when his sons walked toward them with their weapons still in hand.
"How fared your trip?" the Elf lord asked, rising to greet them while Erestor stood and went to the cooks once more to request them to prepare two more bowls for the new arrivals.
"Well, Ada," Elladan answered, smiling slightly as he embraced his father before Elrohir did the same. "We are glad to be home."
"And I am glad to have you home," Elrond muttered, his smile lingering as he set his hands on each of the twins' heads. He was always concerned when his sons went to hunt another Orc pack.
Estel looked up at the familiar voices, and a broad grin appeared on his face when he saw his foster brothers. "Ewwadan! Ewohir!" He jumped out of his seat and ran to them.
Elrond took a step back as the child dashed past, right into the younger twin's arms. "We have missed you as well, Estel," Elrohir said with a smile of his own, embracing him tightly.
"How fared your day?" Elladan wondered, wrapping the boy in his arms next.
Estel was all too ready to tell them about his adventure. "Me and Ewond won a hide and seek game!"
Elladan and Elrohir exchanged wondering looks before glancing at Glorfindel for confirmation. Their father, though loving, had never been one to play games such as that. "How did you manage that?" the latter asked with a chuckle.
The boy's smile widened. "We wewe stuck in the cwoset!"
Elrond sighed in defeat when he saw the matching menacing grins that appeared on the twins' faces. "Stuck in the closet?" Elladan repeated, looking up at their father almost wickedly. "Do tell, Ada."
Instead, Elrond walked past his sons without a word, their laughter mingled with the Balrog Slayer's echoing behind him as he left the kitchens. He knew he would never hear the end of it.
Elrond did not get anymore paperwork done that day. Instead, he spent the rest of the evening picking up the scattered maps and papers in the closet in his study, ensuring they were once again organized as neatly as they had been before cleaning up the cobwebs and dust at the back. He then took the most time to fix the handle of the door before moving onto the door itself, ensuring it would no longer stick like it had that day. Though he had arranged for it to be repaired, he felt more at ease doing it himself after that day's misadventure.
The Elf lord opened and closed the closet door a few times, a small smile appearing on his face when it worked with ease. He sat in his chair behind his desk, but he did not have much time to rest before Glorfindel came up to his study from the Hall of Fire, a sleepy Estel in his arms. It was time to put him to bed, as he did every night.
"Let us hope he sleeps more soundly tonight, aye, Elrond?" the golden-haired warrior whispered, handing the hardly awake child to the dark-haired Elf.
"Aye, we can hope," Elrond agreed just as quietly, glancing down at Estel as he rested his head on his shoulder. "If he should not..."
"I will be right there," Glorfindel assured him with a smile.
Elrond returned it, setting his hand on the other Elf lord's shoulder before he left the study, swiftly walking down the staircase that would bring him down to Estel's room. He moved just as quickly down the hallway, opening a door at the end and stepping inside. He walked to the bed, holding the child tightly in one arm as he pulled the covers back with the other before gently setting him down. He smiled when the boy looked up at him through tired eyes, and he brushed some of his dark hair back from his face as he laid down on his pillow.
"Good night, Estel," he said, covering him with the blankets. "May your dreams be pleasant tonight."
The Elf lord then turned and walked toward the door, but he stopped when he heard Estel's quiet voice behind him.
"Good night, Ada."
Elrond paused in the doorway, surprised by the sudden name. For the time the boy had stayed in Imladris, he had never addressed him as "father." He had always called him "Elrond." Until that moment.
The Elf lord slowly turned around, seeing Estel was smiling at him from where he was lying on his pillow. Elrond felt a thin line of tears form in his eyes, but a smile appeared on his face as he walked back to the bed, sitting down beside him. He reached a hand out, running it through the child's dark hair once before setting it on his arm, both of their smiles lingering as Estel's eyes slowly closed. He then leaned down, lightly kissing his head.
"Sleep well, ion-nín."