Wilted

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Everything belongs to Tolkein.

Summary: Oneshot. "You don't have to be afwaid. I'm hewe now." When Glorfindel is gravely injured on patrol, he is nearly consumed by the shadows of his past. Can one small boy bring him out of the darkness?

Rating: T

Genre: Angst/Hurt/Comfort

Characters: Glorfindel and Aragorn/Estel, features Erestor, Elrond, and Elladan/Elrohir, mentions of Gliraen

Author's Note: My Glorfindel muse wouldn't stay quiet. Little Estel insisted on making an encore appearance. Voíla, you have this story. Written with some help from "Into the West" by Annie Lennox. No slash in any respects between any of the characters. Reviews are welcome, just no flames please. Enjoy!

"Why do you weep?

What are these tears upon your face?

Soon you will see

All of your fears will pass away

Safe in my arms

You're only sleeping..."

-Annie Lennox, "Into the West"


Elvish:

ada– father
penneth– young one
muindor– brother
hír-nín– my lord
daro– stop
ion-nín– my son
tithen pen– little one
hannon le– thank you
mellon-nín– my friend

"Lord Glorfindel!"

The anxious voice sounded distant as though from far away, though he knew the owner of it was beside him. But the only thing he was aware of was the intense pain in his side, burning steadily away at him, and the hard ground beneath his back. It was a familiar feeling, burning, one that would often wake him from his nightmares in the dead of night. But it was a feeling that would fade once he pulled himself from the visions of his past, only a mere haunting memory of a time long ago. The fires would be quelled, the lingering shadows would dissipate, and he would be in the safety of his room in his home in Imladris, far from the suffocating horrors of darkness. Of flames.

Of death.

But this pain was different. He knew this pain would not fade once he opened his eyes.

"Lord Glorfindel!"

That voice he knew sounded a bit closer this time, and Glorfindel slightly turned his head toward it, hoping that if he could grasp onto it securely enough, it would bring him out of this burning pain. With more effort than it should have required, he forced his eyes to open, squinting a bit in the faint light of the rising sun. There was an audible sigh of relief from near his ear, and his weary gaze landed on the youthful face of a dark-haired guard he recognized to be under his command.

"'Tis a relief you are awake, Lord Glorfindel," he muttered, giving him a small smile though his dark eyes flickered nervously to where the pain in his side was coming from. "You gave us a fright. You lost consciousness once more... We were afraid you would not wake again."

Glorfindel narrowed his eyes in confusion, the words not making sense to his weary mind. "What..." His voice, which sounded weak even to him, broke off. He could not remember what had happened or how he had come to suffer this burning pain. What the twice-born warrior could recall was that he had been leading a peaceful patrol back from Mirkwood. They had stopped for the night. He had started a fire. There were loud shrieks. Swords were drawn. It had happened so fast...

"We are near Imladris," the dark-haired Elf continued, and Glorfindel felt his hand, the fingers cold against his burning skin, wrap around his securely. "Hold on. We will be there soon. I have sent word ahead for Lord Elrond to be prepared."

But Glorfindel did not heed his words. Memories assaulted his mind. He closed his eyes tightly in effort to restrict them, but even then, the images were still clearly seen.

Smoke. Flames. Both surrounded him and oppressed his senses as he ran through the streets, his sword drawn. Gondolin was falling. The House of the Golden Flower was wilting. He pulled a terrified Elfling out from beneath a collapsing door frame before the flaming pieces could trap him, gently pushing him toward a few other exiles of the realm he was leading to safety. He straightened up and surveyed the destruction of his once beautiful home, screams echoing around him...

"Lord Glorfindel!"

"Lord Glorfindel!"

The voice of the guard beside him broke through his thoughts once more, but this time, Glorfindel found he could not grasp onto it even as the hand around his tightened. His hold on that familiar voice loosened.

He was suffocating, burning once again.


Heel. Toe. Heel. Toe. Heel. Toe.

Erestor glanced down on the dark hair of the restless five-year-old standing behind the railing beside him. The chief advisor had been charged with greeting the patrol as it returned, and the young foster son of Elrond had insisted he do the same.

"Calm yourself, Estel," he said with slight irritation. "He will not return any sooner because of your incessant bouncing."

Estel immediately stopped, casting his wide, gray eyes up to the slender Elf. "Sowwy," he replied. "I'm 'cited! Awen't you 'cited, Ewestor?"

Despite himself, Erestor felt a slight smile curl up the corner of his lips, and he turned his face away so his young companion would not see it. He was not surprised the child was anticipating Glorfindel's return. Estel had attached himself to the Balrog Slayer since he had first come to Imladris three years before, a love which was returned by the golden-haired warrior. And though the chief advisor would not openly admit it, Glorfindel was his closest, most trusted friend. He was glad he would be returning, as well.

"Aye, Estel," he finally muttered. He shook his head slightly when Estel grinned and looked out at the trees again, his anxious bouncing returning immediately after.

Heel. Toe. Heel. Toe. Heel. Toe.

Then, Estel suddenly stopped, his face lighting up. "Howses!" he exclaimed, smiling up at Erestor as he pointed at the single black steed that had ridden into view from the direction of the gate. "Howses, Ewestor! Gwowfy's coming!"

Erestor met the boy's excited gaze for a moment, nodding once. Estel's smile broadened as he ran down the few steps that led up to the porch toward the approaching horse to wait for his beloved friend. But as the chief advisor glanced back at the soldier who had returned first, his dark eyes narrowed as he leaned forward on the railing. There was clear fear and concern on the other dark-haired Elf's pale face.

"Wait, Estel!" Erestor shouted, hurrying after the child. Something was wrong.

Estel stopped and turned around in confusion as the horse stopped beside him, the guard hardly acknowledging the boy's presence as he leapt fluidly to the ground.

"What has happened?" Erestor asked anxiously when he approached them.

The soldier met the chief advisor's gaze, but his eyes moved down to Estel when the child reached out and pulled on his sleeve to get his attention. "Gwowfy?" he wondered expectantly.

Erestor took Estel's hand and gently turned his face to him. "Not now, Estel," he muttered before turning to the soldier again. "Now. Tell me what has happened."

Estel looked from Erestor to the second dark-haired Elf when he started speaking in quick Sindarin, not able to understand what he was saying. The only thing he was able to pick out was Glorfindel's name.

However, it was Erestor's response to whatever was said that frightened him. The stern advisor stiffened, and though his fair face remained impassive, it grew a shade paler. "Send for Lord Elrond," he ordered with authority. The guard nodded and hurried past them into the house.

"Why is he going to Ada?" Estel looked up at the dark-haired Elf with wide eyes.

Erestor sighed as a couple guards approached them to take the horse back to the stables. "Come, Estel," he said quietly, picking up the child into his arms and quickly walking back toward the house.

Estel struggled in his hold, twisting his small form to look back over the chief advisor's shoulder. "I want to wait for Gwowfy!" he replied adamantly, trying to escape from his arms. "Pwease, Ewestor? We wewe s'posed to pway when he got back!"

But Erestor's hold on him was strong despite his lithe frame, his step unhindered as he walked up the few steps and into the house despite Estel's protests. "There will be time for that later, Estel," he told him firmly as he walked down the hallway to the boy's room. He pushed open the door and entered, setting the little mortal down on the bed. "I want you to stay here until I say otherwise. Do I make myself clear?"

"But–!" Estel began to argue, but he immediately stopped when the chief advisor's dark eyes narrowed. "Yes, Ewestor."

Erestor did not move for a long moment, waiting until Estel lowered his gaze before he sighed when he heard the defeat in his voice. He did not enjoy being so stern with the child, but he knew if Glorfindel had the choice, he would not want him to be there when he was returned. It would be better this way. Erestor then leaned forward, setting his hand lightly on top of Estel's dark hair.

"It will be all right, penneth," he murmured. "You will see."

Estel looked back up at him, and the chief advisor felt his heart almost break at the frightened look on his face. "Is Gwowfy awl right, Ewestor?" he wondered in just above a whisper.

Erestor gave him a sad smile and took a deep breath before he lightly kissed his forehead. "Aye," he finally said just as quietly, brushing some stray strands of the child's dark wild hair back from his face. Then, he turned away to hide the thin line of tears that had formed in his eyes as he walked toward the door.

Once the slender advisor left the room and shut the door behind him, Estel jumped off the bed and hurried over to the window to look outside. He stood on his toes to gaze over the sill, seeing the rest of the patrol had arrived since he had been brought inside. The boy looked around at the horses who had gathered, searching for any sign of his friend as Elrond and Erestor hurried out to greet them. Then, his eyes widened as he gasped when he found the twice-born warrior.

Glorfindel was sitting on a white horse in front of another soldier under his command, leaning back against him for support. His face was pale, his eyes were closed, and there was an alarming amount of crimson staining the right side of his light riding tunic. Elrond reached up to help the seemingly lifeless Balrog Slayer down from the horse, and that was all the confirmation Estel needed.

Something was very wrong with his friend.

"Gwowfy!"

Estel ran from the room and down the hallway, gray eyes set intently on the door that would lead outside before him. He reached his small hands out, but before he could reach it, a pair of arms grabbed him from behind.

"Slow down, muindor."

Surprised, Estel found himself looking into the fair face of the younger twin son of Elrond. Even at his young age, he could tell his foster brothers apart. "Ewohir?"

Elrohir smiled, picking him up into his arms while Elladan lingered near the open doorway, silently watching what was happening outside with a grim gaze. "Come, Estel," the former said, attempting to keep his tone light. "It will be lunch soon. How about I sneak you in the kitchens for a pastry beforehand? A strawberry one. I know they are your favorite."

For a moment, Estel's face brightened up at this idea. A strawberry pastry sounded appealing, even more so that they were going to sneak one. But then, he remembered what he had seen outside, and he anxiously turned back to the doorway. "Ewohir, Gwowfy's out thewe!" he told him, looking back at his brother with fear. "Pwease let me see him?"

The younger twin's smile faltered slightly as he exchanged glances with Elladan, who gave him a sad look with a brief shake of his head. He sighed. "Now is not a good time," Elrohir replied carefully. "Let us get you that pastry instead."

Estel glanced over Elrohir's shoulder as he walked as quickly as he could toward the kitchens, watching as Erestor joined Elladan before he saw nothing more when they went around the corner. There was a moment of silence that passed between them before the boy looked up at the dark-haired Elf.

"Ada says to tewl the twuth," Aragorn muttered, reciting one of his foster father's lessons. "Is Gwowfy awl right?"

Elrohir met Estel's intense gaze, forcing to keep the smile on his face as he considered his next words. "He will be, Estel." He could see the confusion on the child's face, but he pushed open the door to the kitchens before his foster brother had the chance to ask any more questions. "Come. You may help me make your pastry."


"We were ambushed by Orcs as soon as the sun set. It was unexpected. And... Lord Glorfindel saved my life. I was unprepared, and he took the blade that was meant for me."

Glorfindel heard the words, he recognized the voice of the young guard under his command who had been at his side when he had opened his eyes, but he could not make sense of what he was hearing. An Orc attack? Surely he had not been so unprepared. Never once had he been caught off guard in a battle with those foul creatures.

But the burning in his side told him otherwise, that burning pain that was starting to spread through the rest of his body. He feared it would soon consume him if he continued to allow it to spread, but he could not escape from it.

Just as he could not escape from it the first time.

"Peace, I do not put you at fault."

Glorfindel knew that kind, calm voice immediately, for he had heard it many times when the haunting memories of his past threatened to overcome him since he had returned to Arda. Elrond was near, he could feel his presence now. It was almost as though a soft glow was ebbing its way into the shadows of his mind, and he attempted to focus on it, wishing to reach it in order to be pulled from the suffocating darkness.

"The Orcs that ambushed you, were they slaughtered?" The strict tone of Erestor was heard as clearly as the others and was steady as it always was, but Glorfindel could catch the subtle worry in it. It was not something he heard often from the chief advisor unless the situation they were facing was dire. It was only in those moments he always caught the nuances of the slender Elf's concern that were meant for him.

How he wished he could reach out to Erestor, to Elrond, to assure them he was all right. But he was sinking too far.

"Aye, after Lord Glorfindel fell."

"Very well. You have my leave."

"Aye, hír-nín."

Elrond...

Glorfindel once more attempted to grasp at the familiar presence of the Elf lord, but he always seemed to be just out of reach of him. The soft light was beginning to fade. The shadows were claiming him as they had done before. He was beginning to fall...

"Help me remove his tunic."

At Elrond's command, Glorfindel felt two pairs of hands working to remove his riding tunic, having to carefully cut it away from the wound in his side. Though even when the garment was finally removed, the flames that were spreading through his body from the stinging laceration were not quelled. He wanted to scream, to escape from the agonizing pain, but he did not have the strength to do either.

There was a quiet hiss which he assumed was from Erestor before a gentle hand he recognized to be Elrond's landed on his abdomen beside the wound. "'Tis deep. It already appears to be infected." The lord of Imladris' mild voice was burdened with concern. "It should have been cleaned before now." His hand lifted from his stomach before resting lightly on his forehead. "He is with fever."

Fever. Flames. He was burning again. Burning from the inside out. A different feeling, yet hauntingly familiar. He could not let it happen again. Not when he had suffered it once...

A cold hand gently wrapped around his limp one, and he instantly recognized the slender fingers to belong to the chief advisor. He willed movement into the muscles of his own hand, to grasp onto the one that was keeping him from falling completely into the abyss that awaited him.

But his fingers would not move.

... Erestor...

The light completely faded, leaving him alone with the flames that were spreading through him.

He could not burn again.

... help me...

They were getting further away from the flames, yet the heat was still so intense. Glorfindel paused from where he was leading the refugees out of their once beloved city, glancing back behind him as it burned. Their once beautiful realm, once protected since it had been hidden from enemies for so long, was burning before his very eyes. He had once believed he would never witness the fall of Gondolin, and now that it was wilting beneath the flames before him, it was an image that would haunt him for the rest of his existence.

When he turned back to the Elves who were fleeing, something in the tall grass beneath their feet caught his eye. Glorfindel walked forward and knelt on the ground once the last exile ran past it, his light gaze faltering when he saw the wilting golden flower. He slowly reached forward, gently cupping his fingers around the petals as he straightened the stem out a little again.

"Gwowfy!"

Glorfindel's eyes narrowed with confusion as he looked around when he heard the child's voice. He knew that voice... Yet no one was there...

"Gwowfy!"

The golden-haired warrior put his hand to his head as he slowly rose to his feet. That voice... It was not in his memory. Yet where it came from, he did not know. It sounded so distant.

But then, a much closer sound reached his ears, and Glorfindel quickly turned back to the fleeing group heading toward the cliffs as their screams echoed around him. His eyes widened at the monstrous sight before him, a dark creature with thick horns and massive black wings towering over his people. It opened its mouth in a roar, and he could feel the heat of the flames from where he stood.

It was a Balrog.


They did not want him to see Glorfindel, that much he knew. But what he did not know was why.

After sneaking the strawberry pastry and having only a small lunch since he claimed he was not hungry, Estel had been brought back to his room by Elrohir before he assured him that he would stay there. However, as soon as the younger twin left, the boy was out of the room and running down the hallway as fast as his short legs could carry him.

He first stopped by the door that would lead outside, but he found no one was there. Wondering where his friend could have gone, Estel ran up the stairs to Elrond's room, but this was also empty, as were Glorfindel's chambers. After thinking hard, there was one more place that came to mind, and he continued down the hall and around the corner to where the healing ward was. The door was open a little as quiet voices met his ears, and Estel slowed his pace, instead sneaking to the room and glancing inside.

Elrond and Erestor were standing on either side of one of the beds in the ward, both appearing concerned. The Elf lord took a cloth and dipped it in a bowl of water sitting on the small table beside him, wringing it out before setting it on the forehead of the bed's occupant, who Estel could not quite see. Erestor had one hand wrapped around one that belonged to who was in the bed. But the child did not miss the troubled look the two dark-haired Elves exchanged.

"If he survives this night, he should recover," Elrond muttered to his chief advisor, who nodded stiffly as his features remained impassive. "Though it is not the physical wound that concerns me. That will heal."

"What do you mean, Elrond?" Erestor asked quietly, his brow furrowing. Estel heard the hesitance in his tone. "What else ails him?"

Elrond met the other Elf's gaze, and Estel's eyes widened when he saw the downcast look that crossed his face. He had seen that look once before since it had been directed at him when he learned his mother had died. "Something is tormenting his mind, something I cannot mend," he explained, his voice lowering. "He is out of reach, even from me."

Erestor's gaze fell as he lowered it to the figure in the bed. He began to trace his thumb over the still fingers of the hand he held. "Is there nothing you can do?" he whispered.

The lord of Imladris slowly shook his head, what appeared to be defeat entering his gray eyes. "I know not." He then turned to the table again and picked up a glass of water before gently lifting the head of who he was caring for, bringing the glass to his lips to coax him to drink.

A flash of golden hair caused Estel to gasp with horror. "Gwowfy!"

Elrond and Erestor quickly turned to the door when the boy ran into the room, his gray eyes fixed on the bed before him. Before he could reach it, however, he was stopped by the chief advisor's thin arms wrapping around him and picking him up off the floor. Erestor ignored the mortal's struggling as he started to walk him back toward the door.

"Gwowfy!"

The Elf lord watched them for a moment before he took a deep breath. "Daro," he said sternly, his gaze faltering slightly when Erestor and Estel both turned to look at him. He then sat down on the bed beside the motionless Glorfindel. "He has to understand."

Erestor appeared hesitant, but he gently set Estel down on the floor as to his friend's command. The child glanced from Erestor to Elrond and back, confusion crossing his face since he was uncertain of his next move.

Fortunately, it was decided for him when Elrond held his arms out. "Come, Estel."

Estel looked at the bed as he slowly walked toward the bed, reaching out for his foster father. Erestor lingered near the open door as Elrond picked up the boy and set him on his lap, all three gazes moving to the golden-haired warrior. Estel's eyes widened as he looked his friend over more carefully, noticing just how pale Glorfindel's expressionless face was except for the flush that had settled in his cheeks before looking at the bandages wrapped around his midsection. He whimpered quietly, having seen a similar sight once before, and turned his face into Elrond's shoulder, wrapping his small arms tightly around his neck.

"He still breathes, ion-nín," Elrond muttered, setting a comforting hand on the child's back when he realized what he was remembering.

After a moment, Estel backed up a little, looking up at the Elf lord carefully. "He's awive?" he asked.

Elrond nodded once. "He lives."

Estel sat more comfortably on his foster father's lap as he turned back to look at Glorfindel. By all appearances he did not seem to be living, but he trusted Elrond. If he said his friend still lived, then he lived. After a moment of watching the slight rise and fall of the Balrog Slayer's chest to assure himself, Estel slowly reached forward and set his hand on Glorfindel's forehead, but he quickly withdrew it.

"He's hot," he stated, looking up at Elrond.

The master of Rivendell nodded once again. "Aye, Estel," he confirmed. "He is afflicted with a fever."

"Oh." Then, a small smile appeared on Estel's face. "That wiwl go 'way."

Elrond raised a curious eyebrow. "What makes you say that, penneth?" he wondered.

Estel's smile broadened. "I had one," he explained, sounding proud of himself for his deduction. "Mine went 'way. So wiwl Gwowfy's."

Despite himself, Elrond chuckled quietly, though it contained a somber note. What the child said was true. Estel had suffered a mild fever when he had caught a case of the flu during the last snowfall. But the fever that was now raging inside Glorfindel was different.

Before he could bring himself to gently refute this point, Elrond glanced at the door when he slight movement caught the corner of his eye. Erestor had stiffened, a thin line of tears in his dark eyes. He nodded once, and his chief advisor let out the breath he must have been holding as he turned and hurried out into the hallway.

"Whewe's Ewestor going?" Estel had seen the slender Elf's abrupt exit, as well as the single tear that had escaped his eye. He had never seen that sort of emotion from Erestor before.

Instead of answering, Elrond wrapped his arms a bit more securely around his foster son as his gaze landed on Glorfindel. "Estel, I need you to listen to me, ion-nín," he murmured.

Estel looked up at Elrond, any lingering hints of his previous smile vanishing when he sensed the serious tone of the Elf lord's voice. "Ada?"

Elrond met his gaze, giving him a small smile of his own despite his sorrow-filled gaze. "There are certain things in this world, Estel, that are even beyond my control," he told him quietly, brushing some of the child's dark hair back from his face. "There are some things even I cannot mend."

Confusion crossed the small mortal's face as he looked up at the Elf lord. "But you can make ev'thing better!" he said confidently. "Ewwadan bwoke his ankwe when he fewl off his howse. Ewohir cut his hand in twaining. I scwaped my knee. You fixed us awl!"

Elrond felt a thin line of tears form in his eyes at the child's words. A broken ankle, a cut hand, and a scraped knee were minor ailments that could be easily tended. What their golden-haired friend was suffering now was not so simple, but of course, the boy would not understand that. He quickly closed his eyes so Estel would not see the moisture in them, but he was too late.

"Right, Ada?" Estel pressed, setting his small hand on his cheek. "You can fix an'thing!

Elrond wished that what his foster son said was true, but that was not the case. The child's faith in him made his heart break. Once he forced back the tears that threatened to fall, he slowly opened his eyes and was met with a pair of wide, gray ones. He set his hand on top of Aragorn's dark hair and sighed quietly.

"I cannot mend everything, penneth," the lord of Imladris whispered. When Estel looked at him with confusion, he turned his gaze to Glorfindel. "I did what I could for your mother before she left us, but it was not enough."

Estel gazed into his foster father's grave features for a long moment, struggling to understand what he was trying to tell him. "Mama?"

Elrond nodded once, remembering when Gilraen had passed away in Imladris a couple years before. Estel had not been much younger then, but they had been sitting much as they were now with him beside her and the boy on his lap. Estel had not understood then what had happened to his mother, and he was sure he did not fully grasp it still, other than she was no longer with them. How he could explain potential death of a being the child knew was immortal, he did not know.

"There are some things beyond my power to do, ion-nín," the Elf lord concluded gravely.

Seeming to make some connection between the reminder of his mother and the Balrog Slayer, tears quickly formed in Estel's eyes. "Is Gwowfy going to leave us, too?" he asked, clearly panicked. "Like Mama?"

For the first time he could recall, Elrond did not have an answer to give him. The wound in Glorfindel's side had been properly tended, but unless he could discover what else was tormenting the twice-born warrior, there was nothing more he could do. The rest was up to Glorfindel himself.

Then, the lord of Imladris glanced up when he heard near silent footsteps as Elladan and Elrohir appeared in the doorway, and judging by the matching apologetic looks on their faces, he knew they had been searching for Estel. The older twin took a step into the room, his eyes on the child on his father's lap, but Elrond briefly shook his head to stop him.

If Estel noticed his foster brothers, he did not say so as the tears began to leak from his eyes. "No!" He then turned from Elrond to Glorfindel, reaching out and setting his small hands on the motionless Elf's arm. "Don't leave, Gwowfy! Pwease stay with me? We can pway when you wake up. I wiwl wait for you."

Elrond glanced at his sons standing in the doorway when he heard a quiet sob, seeing both of them had tears in their eyes as they watched their youngest brother, Elladan's hands grasping Elrohir's tightly. They were closer to Glorfindel than Estel was, and the Elf lord knew if the Balrog Slayer were to die, they would be devastated, just as Erestor would be. The twice-born warrior meant so much to all the inhabitants of his house, and it was nearly impossible to see their lives without his cheerful smile and his warm, caring demeanor in them.

With tears returning to his own eyes, Elrond gently pulled Estel back against him. "Go with your brothers now, Estel," he muttered. "I will do what I can for Glorfindel."

The boy rested his head on his foster father's chest for a long moment, his tears slowing as he listened to his strong, steady heartbeat. Once he settled down a bit more, he lifted his head to look at Elrond before kissing his cheek. "Tewl me when Gwowfy wakes up," he said with a small smile.

Elrond did his best to return it as he nodded once. He watched as Estel jumped to the floor and ran to Elladan and Elrohir as they released the other's hands and took the small mortal from the room before he rose to his feet, taking a deep breath as he began to pace. Aside from administering pain and fever reducing herbs, there was not much he could do now for Glorfindel. He was far out of his reach. It had happened before where the golden-haired warrior had been plagued by memories of his death, though they had merely been dreams, and Elrond was able to help bring him out of the shadows they left behind.

This time, the master of Rivendell was unable to do so, and it concerned him greatly. Deciding to focus on what he could do for him, he forced his tears back as he stopped at the small table beside the bed and began to prepare some herbs that would help continue to soothe the Balrog Slayer's fever.

But when Elrond glanced at Glorfindel, he paused when he noticed something different. He set down the small bowl of water and slowly walked toward the bed, not believing what he saw at first.

Though he had not opened his eyes, Glorfindel had turned his head slightly in the direction of where he and Estel had previously been sitting.


The heat was intense against his skin as Glorfindel fought with the monstrous beast. His head and limbs felt heavy as he avoided a strike from the Balrog's flaming whip. The smoke and flames caused it to be difficult for him to breathe, but he knew he could not stop fighting. To give up would surely mean to die, and he could not allow that.

But as he swung at the creature again with his own blade, something in the back of the golden-haired warrior's mind kept drawing him back to the child's voice he had heard before. It was so familiar to him, and the fear he had detected in it concerned him. He knew he had to somehow find that child. The voice was so familiar...

The rest of the battle was a blur to him. Glorfindel felt as though he were detached from his own body as his blade finally struck true. The Balrog's loud roar of pain fell faintly on his ears as it began to descend the cliff, and as hard as he tried to avoid it, the golden-haired warrior found he was falling along with it.

Falling... He was falling again...

An agonized cry ripped from his throat as Glorfindel tumbled with the beast, the flames from its body engulfing his own. He was burning again, the flames greedily consuming him as he fell into the abyss...

He had to find that child...

Falling...

... burning...

... the child...

... pain...

... dying...

... the child...

... darkness...

... death...


Estel walked into the dark healing ward, his gray eyes narrowed in concentration as he focused on the full glass of water in his hands while he slowly made his way toward the bed. Night had fallen, but not being able to sleep since he wanted to hear any news about his friend, he thought that Glorfindel would want some water since he suffered from a fever. Remembering how uncomfortable it'd been when he'd had one, he hoped it would help the twice-born warrior as it had him.

"This wiwl hewp you, Gwowfy," the boy muttered with confidence as he approached the bed. He looked around, spotting the small table Elrond had been using earlier and decided to set the glass on there until he climbed up on the bed.

But Estel had only started to lift it up when Glorfindel suddenly sat straight up, his light eyes wide, as a scream escaped from him. There was a loud crash as the glass fell from the child's hands, shattering into tiny pieces as the water spilled all over the floor.

There was a moment of stunned silence that filled the ward after the commotion where the Balrog Slayer studied his shaking hands as he took deep but quick breaths. He then looked around him, his heart racing, before he began to recognize the soft sheets and the dark walls of the room around him. He was safe in Imladris, not falling to his death with the ancient demon.

However, Estel took no notice of his friend. Instead, his fearful gray eyes were on the remains of the glass he had taken from the kitchens as the water pooled around his bare feet, tears forming in his eyes as he began to cry.

Not expecting the sudden sobs, Glorfindel quickly looked to his left, his eyes narrowing when he saw the child. "What... what is the matter, tithen pen?" he asked, his voice still weak between his gasps.

Estel rubbed his eyes to wipe away the tears that had fallen as more took their place. "I-I'm sowwy," he mumbled. "I didn't mean to dwop it... I just wanted to hewp... Ada wiwl be mad I bwoke it..."

Glorfindel smiled as he straightened up a little, his lacerated side protesting to the movement. He took a moment to focus on calming both his breathing and his heartbeat before he spoke again. "Do not fret, Estel," he told him softly but kindly. "Elrond will not be angry over one broken glass and a little water. 'Tis not difficult to clean up."

"Reawwy?" When Glorfindel nodded in reassurance, a small smile appeared on Estel's face as he sniffed. But then, his eyes narrowed in concern when he looked at his friend's face a bit closer in the soft moonlight. "Why awe you cwying, Gwowfy?"

The golden-haired warrior raised a hand to his cheek, seeing the slight traces of tears on his slender fingers when he pulled them away. In the incident with the broken glass, he had not even noticed the tears falling from his eyes. "'Tis nothing, Estel," Glorfindel said, quickly wiping the remaining ones away on his toned bare arm.

However, Estel was not convinced as he took a couple steps closer to the bed. He watched as the Balrog Slayer closed his eyes tightly and put his hand to his head before he slowly reached out, setting his small hand lightly on his leg. "Gwowfy?"

Falling... burning... shadows... pain... death...

Glorfindel gasped when he felt Estel's touch and heard his quiet voice, forcing back the memories as he turned to look at the boy. A small smile returned to his face when the child reached out to him, and he leaned over and carefully picked him up before setting him on the bed beside him. Estel scooted closer, getting close to the Elf's sweat-drenched face.

"Was it a bad dweam?" he asked.

For a moment, Glorfindel was unsure of what to say. Reliving his haunting memories had been terrible, but he did not want to expose the child to them. "Aye," he finally answered quietly. "It was... a dark dream... Nothing more."

Estel's eyes widened with worry before he reached forward and wrapped his small arms around the golden-haired warrior's neck. "It's awl right, Gwowfy," he muttered. "You don't have to be afwaid. I'm hewe now."

Glorfindel was surprised by the action as he looked down on the child's dark hair. But he strangely found he was filled with a sense of peace when he was so near. The shadows of his past were far behind him, the flames had been quelled. Estel spoke the truth, even if he was too young to understand. There was nothing left for him to fear now.

A smile gracing his fair features, Glorfindel wrapped his arms around Estel and pulled him closer, resting his chin on top of his head. "Hannon le, tithen pen," he whispered. He knew the child would not grasp the full extent of his words, but it did not matter to him.

Estel pulled back from him and gave the golden-haired Elf a smile. "You'we thewe for me," he told him. "I'm thewe for you."

Glorfindel chuckled quietly as he quickly kissed his forehead before the child closed his eyes with a yawn. "You should get some sleep, Estel," he said. "I promise you, I will be fine."

Estel looked up at him through exhausted gray eyes, though the smile lingered on his face. "I knew you wouwd be," he replied. "Ada can fix ev'thing!" When Glorfindel laughed again, Estel glanced down at his bandaged midsection with concern before meeting his gaze. "Can I stay with you, Gwowfy?"

After a moment's thought, Glorfindel leaned back against his pillows and held his arms out. Estel smiled as he eagerly moved into his friend's hold, resting his head on his chest and wrapping his smaller arms around him, careful to avoid the wound in his side. The golden-haired warrior watched the boy until his slow breathing confirmed he had fallen asleep, and his small smile returned. The quiet sound was comforting to him. He knew the shadows would no longer plague his mind, and he knew the flames would no longer consume him. He would rest peacefully until first light.

Then, his light eyes moved to the doorway of the room when Elrond and Erestor appeared in their robes, both looking concerned. He knew the other Elf lord and the chief advisor could not have been far from the healing ward with sleep eluding them, and they must have heard his scream and the commotion that followed. Glorfindel quickly put a finger to his lips before glancing down at the sleeping Estel in his arms, and matching smiles appeared on the dark-haired Elves' weary faces as they entered the room.

"Glorfindel," Elrond muttered with clear relief as he sat down on the bed beside his friend opposite the child, placing his hand on the Balrog Slayer's head to look him over.

"How are you faring?" Erestor asked as he stopped behind the Elf lord. The smile had yet to leave his usually stern features.

The twice-born warrior met Elrond's eyes as he checked for his pulse. "Exhausted," he answered honestly. "My side still... burns somewhat."

Elrond caught the hesitance in his tone, as well as the silent message, and his eyes narrowed slightly with concern. "I will have to change the bandages on the morrow," he said thoughtfully. "Mayhap then the wound will be ready to stitch. For now, I will prepare some more herbs that will help the pain."

"Hannon le." Glorfindel watched the Elf lord as he stood and walked around the bed to get to the small table his supplies still rested on. Then, a small smile appeared on his face when Elrond paused, raising a curious eyebrow.

"What happened here?" the master of Imladris wondered, his gaze resting on the floor before him.

Glorfindel chuckled, knowing he had found the broken glass. "Estel was in the room when I awoke," he explained. "I... I must have startled him. He brought the water in here for me, I believe, and he dropped it. He was worried you would be angry, but I told him otherwise."

Elrond smiled as he looked back at the other Elf lord. "Good," he muttered. "One broken glass is nothing to be angry over. I will clean it up once I give you the herbs."

The golden-haired warrior nodded, watching as Elrond stepped around the mess and approached the small table. He faced it with his back to the bed, and Glorfindel realized he was giving him time with the chief advisor. He turned to the slender Elf, seeing the smile still lingered on Erestor's face, and grinned himself.

"I shall have to do this more often," he said playfully. "It gets you to smile."

Erestor was startled by the jest, the smile vanishing from his face as it was instantly replaced with his usual annoyed look. "Nearly getting yourself killed is not the way to go about getting a smile from me, mellon-nín," he replied sternly. But as he gazed at the smile that still lingered on Glorfindel's face, he sighed as his own returned. "But seeing you are all right will suffice."

Glorfindel's smile broadened. "I will keep that in mind the next time you threaten my safety when I am in the library," he muttered.

The thin advisor stiffened. "Do not press your luck," he told him. "Most of the time when you are in the library, you deserve what comes to you."

A moment of silence passed between them while Elrond took as much time as he could to prepare the herbs. Then, Glorfindel's smile waned slightly. "What would you do without me to keep your life interesting, Erestor?" he asked casually.

Erestor's smile faltered as well. "I admit it would be rather uneventful," he answered. When Glorfindel held his arm out, the chief advisor leaned forward and wrapped his arms around him in a light embrace, careful not to wake the sleeping Estel. As he held onto the Balrog Slayer, Erestor did not want to imagine what would have happened if his closest friend had not woken.

When they parted, Elrond walked around the bed and sat down opposite his foster son once more, a small bowl in his hand. "Here."

Glorfindel took the bowl from his hand and slowly sipped the semi-sweet liquid it contained while Erestor pulled up a cushioned chair that Elrond often occupied to sit beside the bed, not planning on leaving the ward for the night. Once he was finished, he handed the bowl back to the Elf lord, who then set his hand lightly on the side of Glorfindel's head.

"You do not have to fear the shadows anymore, mellon-nín," Elrond whispered, his knowing gaze kind. "The flames are long since quelled, as has the darkness dissipated. There is nothing to fear while you are here."

The twice-born warrior stared at Elrond in wonder for a long moment, seeing the small smile that graced his features. He was now certain the Elf lord knew what he had suffered, and he found himself grateful for it. It was much more difficult to bear the burden alone.

Glorfindel then glanced down when slender fingers wrapped around his hand once more, glancing down at Erestor's hand before moving his gaze up to the small smile the chief advisor was regarding him with. He returned the look before tightening his own hand around the stern Elf's.

He was not alone, he realized. Glorfindel moved his gaze from Erestor to Elrond to the sleeping Estel in his arms. He was surrounded by those who loved and cared about him, the ones he had come to call his family. The shadows of his past were far behind him.

The Balrog Slayer's smile broadened as his eyes began to droop, knowing Elrond must have slipped some sleeping herbs along with the pain reducing ones, as he laid back against his pillows and felt as Erestor maintained his light grasp on his hand.

"I can take Estel and put him to bed if you would wish," Elrond offered.

However, Glorfindel shook his head. "Nay, Elrond," he said in a voice hardly above a whisper. "He may stay..." His sentence slowly trailed off when the herbs took effect, and he felt himself fall into a light sleep as the Elf lord gently pulled the blankets up closer around him and the child.

Though this time, he was not afraid of what he would see.

The End