Sorry I should have posted this ages ago, but I kind of couldn't think what to write. This is the last chapter of the story, but I am going to write a sequel. Well a sort of sequel. About ears. (If the elves don't distract me. I only ever intended to write young Estels but then I got a bit side- tracked.) I will probably make efforts at finishing off a few more stories before starting more though. I mean there are some I'm happy to carry on writing forever (Elrond's Boys) but the others need tidying up. Oh out of interest, I'm using Ammë for say "Mummy" because I liked the look of it and the dictionary thing listed it. Nobody has complained overmuch about it so I figure it's OK.

Thank you for reviews. They don't exactly inspire me to write, but they do give me the confidence to post more of what I do. This story is for Kia - thank you.



The child had been accepted into his family. Even Gilraen was settling in, beginning to seek out the company of female elves, and offering opinions. But the barrier was still there. He could feel it in his thoughts, see it in every movement he made.

~*~

"Ammë!" Estel called in a shrill voice pointing at the basket of rolls. "Bread."

"Bread?" Gilraen asked, waiting her hand poised above the basket. "What do we say when we want something?"

Estel sucked on a finger and looked at his brothers for help. He was picking up elvish fast - if fact he would soon know more words in Sindarian than Westron, for he was eager to understand his brothers' conversations, and this was increasing the speed of his learning.

"Bread please." Elrohir said in a stage whisper, laughing as Estel took up the look of one who had been especially cunning.

"Bread." Estel called in a loud voice. "Please."

Gilraen handed him a bread roll, splitting it into child-sized chunks.

"Thank you." Elrohir whispered as he ruffled the dark curls.

The Lord of Imladris smiled as the tiny mortal remembered the familiar words and turned to him with a proud smile. He had long considered that men grew too fast to master their bodies or minds, but watching Estel absorb all that went on around him, he had to admit that he may have been mistaken. Although he could attribute it to the elvish blood in the boy.

"Very good Estel." Elrond turned to his eerily silent right side, where his eldest son was scowling at his plate, slowly crushing an eggshell with his fork. "You are quiet this morning Elladan."

Elladan's stormy grey eyes flicked up absently, his mind still fully occupied with the problem before him.

"Oh I am fine!" He asserted a little too quickly. And he was fine. It was the prospect of the long scouting expedition to investigate orc activity in the Redhorn Pass that bothered him. Seeing his father's doubtful expression he quickly waved vaguely at the breadbasket. "Could I have some bread please Ammë?"

The room fell into a chilly silence as Elrohir stared at his brother perplexed, hurt reflected in his grey eyes. Elladan shuffled uncomfortably and hastily corrected himself, his cheeks as red as his twin's were pale. Awkward again in the hostile atmosphere, Gilraen handed him the rolls, earning an angry glare from Elrohir.

Rather surprised at the sudden venom from the quieter twin, Gilraen busied herself with her breakfast, wondering what could possibly have happened in this family to provoke such a response to what amounted to a slip of the tongue.

She knew that Elrond had been married once of course, and those books that mentioned it held a scanty sentence that Celebrian, daughter of Galadriel had passed over the sea. Arathorn had known a little more, but beyond justifying the twins' presence in the battle against the orcs by mentioning that their mother had been attacked by the foul creatures, he had not passed on the information to his wife. She could only imagine that they had been as close to their mother as their father.

Elrond silently pushed back his chair and strolled over to the window, gripping the window-ledge tightly as he stood in a stiff shadow against the light. He would have words with Elrohir later about that look - taking out his own anger on their guest, their own family. The child had done nothing.

But yet he would have happily seen her suffer.

It should have been his wife sitting there at the breakfast table, his Celebrian umpiring the morning fight over the rolls. He should have woken up this morning to be greeted by a hug and a kiss, but instead he faced an age alone. And while he did not feel that the girl before him deserved to suffer that kind of torture, he would have happily seen her bruised and bleeding in captivity to have Celebrian at his side again.

And he did not feel that he felt as much guilt for the thought as he should.

~*~

Elrond watched his family out in the gardens, a lonely figure on the terrace as he stared down at the group gathered on the lawn. It seemed someone had decided a game of catch was in order, and with a few minutes to spare before they had to depart for their daily tasks, the twins had joined in. They, in an attempt to even up the fairness of the game, appeared to be catching the ball while struggling to out-do each other by twisting themselves into ever more complex positions.

"Got it!" Estel squealed in triumph and surprise as he managed to catch a soft throw, the movement involving his whole body and ending with him tumbled to the grass, the ball clutched between his chin and curled up knees.

"Excellent!" Elrohir removed his left foot from behind his right elbow and dropped to the ground to tickle the little boy into submission. Estel was a little reluctant to surrender the ball once it was in his grasp.

Not to be outdone, Elladan quickly unravelled his limbs and began leading Gilraen around the garden in a very energetic victory dance, quickly leaving both little brothers paralysed with laughter. As planned. Elladan did not intend letting his brother dwell on his mistake.

Elrond watched their antics, even smiling a little. He had seen so many of those victory dances, as much of a trademark for his eldest son in moments of joy as were his depression and tantrums in moments of failure. It had almost certainly been an embryonic victory wiggle that had sent him crashing to the floor seconds after managing to pad uncertainly between his and Glorfindel's outstretched hands for the first time.

Then his eyes fixed on Gilraen, suddenly looking very much her age as she danced around a tree, the laughter bringing back colour to her cheeks and a sparkle to her eyes. The haggardness had turned back into her natural slimness, and with her delicate features she could easily pass as an elf - if a short one - on passing.

There was no excuse for his thoughts that morning.

~*~

"May I come in?" Gilraen hovered uncertainly at the door to the sitting room, not really wanting permission to sit as much as a place to sit. Almost every seat was strewn with weapons - a large, heavy looking sword, a bow and its quivers of arrows, a spear - even daggers on the small table where a meal was set. The owner of the small armoury was spread-eagled across the final bench, bent over the plate.

"Mmm." Elladan took a huge bite of a thick roast beef sandwich and made some confusing motions with his hands before giving up and getting up to shift his equipment himself, still chewing at the enormous mouthful.

"Thank you." Gilraen sat down, trying to ignore the spear that was now balanced against a bookcase just above her head. Elladan returned to his seat with an apologetic smile and swallowed a boiled egg in two mouthfuls, causing Gilraen to ask sympathetically "Did you miss lunch?"

The dark head shook vigorously as the mouthful was chewed and swallowed.

"Snack."

"Oh." Gilraen watched as another sandwich was demolished in three bites. She had heard rumours that elves needed no shelter or sustenance, so it had been a pleasant surprise on arrival at Imladris to find that her fears of survival on crumbs of cracker had been ill founded. The Sons of Elrond appeared to have particularly healthy appetites, enabling her to have her fill at every meal without once risking appearing greedy. "The weapons?"

"We ride next week." Elladan paused to eat some cheese before continuing in a voice that reminded Gilraen unpleasantly of the formidable captain. "I like to be ready."

They talked of the upcoming festivals for a little while until Elladan finally remembered to offer Gilraen some food that she declined. She needed all her concentration to ball up her courage to ask her question.

"Elladan, this morning?" Gilraen hesitated. "Elrohir was . . . angry."

Elladan set down the apple on which he had been munching and shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

"He is not angry with you. It was. . . I think he was angry with me." The elf's face was suddenly serious and he could almost see the thoughts passing across his face. There seemed to be little joy to be found there at present.

Gilraen opened her mouth to ask the obvious 'why?' but before she could make a sound Elladan continued.

"He misses our mother." For a second the elf's thoughts seemed to drift away, then he spoke again with confident reassurances. "He is not angry with you. Not with you Gilraen."

There was a pause, the only sound the crunch of bites of apple. Gilraen knew that she would be safest to leave it, to change the subject to something neutral like the gardens. But she wanted to know. And she couldn't resist the curiosity.

"And do you, do you miss your mother?"

Elladan immediately froze, his apple slowly turning brown halfway to his mouth.

"Of course." His voice was calm and controlled when he spoke at length. Taking a deep breath he then continued hurriedly and as if that explained everything. "But I cannot do anything."

Gilraen caught a quickly suppressed flash of anguish in his eyes. It could not be easy being over six and a half foot and made of muscle, but finding yourself powerless to help those you loved.

"What. . .happened?" She saw him flinch slightly at the question and subconsciously his hand lowered to grind the remains of the apple into the tablecloth.

"It was. . ." Elladan took a deep breath and began again. "My. . . our mother was captured by orcs as she rode to Lorien. We rescued her but . . . Ada could not mend her spirit. She passed over the sea the next summer."

They had at least got to keep the summer. One last chance to relive the memories of a happy childhood, free from knowledge of . . . such things. Licking his lips as he thought, Elladan continued, talking rapidly as he neatly switched the subject onto the less painful topic of his brother.

"Elrohir was very close to Ammë - our mother. They spent much time together, more so as we grew older. I preferred swords but Elrohir liked to sit and talk." Gilraen could tell from the look on the elder twin's face that he could still not understand this preference. "It hurt him greatly to see how they had hurt her."

"Was it Elrohir who found her?" Gilraen's heart melted for the sensitive twin. She could imagine his horror now, as he found his mother and saw the wounds without washing or dressing to hide the ferocity of the attack. No wonder he had reacted so angrily this morning - the memories could not have been pleasant.

"No. I did." It was much harder for a heart to melt for Elladan, especially when he was enclosed in a bubble to cool distant calm and was speaking in a carefully detached voice. Finally, as if it made everything better he added "But I am the older twin. I should protect him."

For a second Gilraen thought she saw a faint smile and look of satisfaction on Elladan's stony face, but it was gone so quickly that she could not really tell.

"Oh." She had so many other questions, but she could not bring herself to ask them. The cheerful face that the elf normally managed to display had vanished with frightening speed. "The memories must hurt. I am sorry."

"They are only memories. They are nothing." He stood up in one swift motion and grasped at his sword and sharpening stone. "Excuse me. I am busy."

Gilraen watched anxiously as he sat down with his back to her, and began working vigorously, pausing only to brush a fragment of dust out of his eye. He was going to take a finger off in a minute if he worked that fast and with that little concentration. She should leave.

Moving silently to the door she paused and looked back, just in time to see the carefully maintained façade buckle into raw grief. She should slip quietly away, but she could not leave him now.

"Would you like me to stay?" The question was uncertain, but so was the response - it taking some time for the elf to compose himself before nodding.

They sat in silence a while, conversation not encouraged by the more talkative occupant of the room having his face buried in his hands. Eventually he looked up, any evidence of his silent tears already dried on his cheeks.

"And Arathorn. Do you miss him?"

Gilraen didn't even have to wait the fraction of a second it took for her lip to begin shaking to know that she was not going to handle this with the cool dignity of her. . . friend.

~*~

It was the night of the dance in Imladris. Such events were held regularly, even if there was no special festival or event to celebrate, officially to welcome any guests that may be passing through - but unofficially to provide a method of socialising between the young elves, preventing excessive illicit meetings behind the soldiers' barracks.

Gilraen sat in the candlelight, curled up in a luxurious chair in a corner out of everyone's way. She still felt awkward in the company of large groups of elves, especially when she had her child with her, drawing much attention in a community that had not seen one so small for centuries. Instinctively she drew back further into the shadows as a tall figure moved to hover at the edge of her view.

"Is it not late for our little Estel?" Glorfindel reached down to ruffle the boy's dark curls. The child was already warm and flushed with sleep, for it was well past his bedtime and his mother's lap was a comfortable seat.

"Oh." Gilraen fiddled guiltily with the lace-trimmed edge to her sleeve. She had taken to bringing the child to such events, saying that it was for his amusement, but secretly wishing to have another mortal - however small - in the room. "He will soon be in bed. He enjoys the music."

Recognising the defensive lilt to her final comment, Glorfindel agreed placidly, pretending that he did notice the child's head was drooping rather than bobbing in time to the music as was his usual trick. Gilraen did not appreciate criticism of her parenting skills or what she considered attempts to mask the boy's heritage with elvish traditions.

"It is a pleasant evening. The young enjoy themselves." Glorfindel inclined his head towards the centre of the room where a large group of the younger elves stood talking, and sat down astride a bench, opposite Gilraen.

The girl looked up, and Glorfindel thought he saw a hint of regret in her eyes. The dancing elves looked no older than she did, although they could match every one of her years with a century of their own, and in their colourful dresses and gowns it was a merry sight.

"Tomorrow I fear my soldiers will turn up for training full of gossip and the worse for drink." Glorfindel observed, the crinkling around his eyes showing that despite his stern words he really found the whole thing rather amusing.

Gilraen glanced shyly at him, still rather over-awed by the mighty elf- lord, and back to the group, where Elladan and Elrohir had joined in the laughter at some joke. As they watched most of the group split into couples, and once the remainder had retreated safely to the sidelines, began dancing energetically in a jig. Elladan's dancing was particularly energetic, causing his partner to shoot him some ill-tempered looks as her toes did not move out of the way of his feet with quite the necessary speed.

"Is that Elladan's chosen maiden?" Gilraen tried to not look too interested in the elf.

Glorfindel leant forwards to look, his face lighting up with mischief.

"Nay, not she. I may not tell you who of course, but. . ." The blond elf pressed a finger to his lips and quickly flipped his eyes over to one of the elf maidens who had been left without a partner. Gilraen eagerly peered forwards, slightly disappointed to find a rather ordinary looking elf, distinguishable only by her bright red gown and the smattering of freckles across her nose.

"Why does he not dance with her?" Gilraen wondered aloud as Elladan's preoccupation with watching the other elf caused him to tread on the edge of his partner's gown.

Glorfindel chuckled, blue eyes twinkling in amusement, as he watched Elladan apologise profusely to his irritated and distinctly unimpressed partner.

"She will refuse. He was turned down once." Glorfindel turned to Gilraen with raised eyebrows. "I had to spend the evening in the gardens trying to coax him out of his sulks."

The memory of that evening still amused him. After more than a thousand years of being able to pick whichever maiden he wished - something that tended to come with being an elf-lord and powerful in the Imladris Guard - it had been quite a shock to find someone who would turn down him. . . the eldest son of Lord Elrond no less. Still it had done the boy some good - he seemed to be paying the maidens' desires much more attention now he was aware that their vocabularies contained the word 'No' as well as 'Yes'.

"And Elrohir, who does he admire?" Gilraen's eyes turned to the blue-clad elf, who was laughing as he spun his partner around by one hand.

"Ah." Glorfindel settled into a more comfortable position, resting his chin in one hand. "Now that is where it gets interesting."

Gilraen listened entranced as the blond elf continued. This evening was turning into far better entertainment than anything she could have hoped for.

"Now Elrohir admires that maiden with the blonde hair." Glorfindel pointed out what must have been the prettiest elf-maiden in the room. Unfortunately she was dancing with another, extremely handsome elf. "But she favours one of my master archers, him - muscles to envy that one. Of course I do not think she knows of Elrohir's desire - he will not speak to those he admires."

Gilraen giggled as right on cue, Elrohir shot the archer a glance that made this morning's effort seem paltry by comparison. Glorfindel however suddenly looked sad, remembering another evening of similar events. For Elrohir's affliction had been inherited from his father. Taking a bracing breath he continued.

"However there it becomes more complex. Now my archer, he has been enemies with Elladan since their heads knocked against my knees, and since he knows what Elladan desires it was only natural that he should chase it."

"So, he is courting her?" Gilraen gasped, wondering how it had happened that Elladan had not beheaded the archer before now. "Do they not fight?"

Glorfindel grinned, highly amused Gilraen guessed, by the little drama that had been played out before him.

"I always position them at opposite ends of the training field in any case." Glorfindel assured her. "But no, she will not accept him either."

"Why not?" Gilraen's eyes wandered back to the freckled elf, who had just accepted Elrohir's offer of a dance. The younger twin stumbled as he crossed to the dance floor, no doubt on some quickly withdrawn boot.

"Ah. Wait." Glorfindel drummed his fingers against the wooden bench, marking out a triumphant tattoo. Puzzled Gilraen watched the dancers, getting no answers until the dance finished and the girl returned to stand by the wall, politely declining the advances of the archer. Elladan too had chosen to sit out this dance, and came to join them, causing a hasty stop to the previous conversation.

Gilraen had to bury her head in her son's mass of curls to avoid laughing aloud as she watched first Elladan glance surreptitiously at the elf- maiden, and then when she was sure that he was not looking, her dark eyes would slip across the dance floor to where he sat. Glorfindel gave her a last smile that shared her amusement before slipping away in the silence between one dance and another, leaving Gilraen to make a mental note to allow him to watch Estel sometime. He appeared to have far too much free time.

"Gilraen!" Elladan seemed to recover from his vexation and bounced to his feet, offering a hand. "Come, dance with me!"

"But I . . ." Gilraen wondered if anyone would notice if she said no. "Estel."

"I will hold him!" Elrohir glided up, and hoisted the toddler onto his lap. Freed from the constraints of motherhood Gilraen skipped off to join in the fun, feeling happier than she had done for some time. When the music came to a halt however they found that the corner had been taken over by a large clutch of elf-maidens. Elrohir was sitting next to the blonde elf that had caught his eye with a slightly dazed smirk on his face. She was holding Estel, and for this reason Gilraen hurried forwards anxiously.

"He is so sweet!" The blonde elf exclaimed, dangling the sleepy boy above her lap. Estel began to grizzle in protest at such treatment. "Are you not precious?"

"His cheeks are so rosy!" Another elf-maiden leant forwards to pinch cheeks that were already wet with tears.

Angrily Gilraen elbowed her way through the crowd to lift her son back into her arms, just as someone burst out.

"But what is wrong with his ears?"

The young mother flushed as she heard the murmur of agreement of this. These elves would have her son grow up believing that he was disfigured or worse.

"I do not believe that there is anything wrong with his ears." Gilraen said frostily, her soft voice suddenly audible across the whole room. "But then I doubt I have the knowledge of biology that some of you hold."

There was an awkward silence as some of the elves drifted away, and some began regarding the pair with hostile eyes.

"So, he is a mortal child." The blonde elf seemed to be the spokesperson of the group, and with a contemptuous glance up at Gilraen's own ears, led the others away. Her hands shaking, Gilraen sat down, burrowing herself deeper into the shadows. This had been a mistake.

"I think that you owe an apology." It had been Elrohir who had spoken, but both twins now stood, flanking her sides. For the first time Gilraen realised just how large the twins were - something it was easy to forget when they behaved like children and were referred to by all and sundry as 'boys' - and their potential to become very very dangerous.

The group spun around, and unsurprisingly considering the matching icy expressions, muttered their apologies and escaped.

Left alone the twins flopped down onto the bench beside her, Elladan instantly relaxed again, but Elrohir still tense and angry.

"I am sorry Gilraen. I had no idea that she thought such things."

Gilraen nodded, smiling gratefully at the younger twin. It had taken no small degree of courage, she reckoned, to stand up to such a she-elf. Especially when it would mark the end of any hope of romance.

"It will not happen again." Elladan promised, clenching his fists aggressively. "If we hear of any hint of prejudice. . ."

Gilraen nodded, more worried with Elrohir's glum face. It was unfair that he should suffer so because of her.

"Will you not dance again? That maiden has no partner." Gilraen pointed to a shy looking elf who had spent the entire evening sitting on a stool, never moving her eyes from Elrohir's progress.

Elrohir glanced across before speaking in amazement.

"But that is 'Rei - we often work together in the library. I did not know she danced."

"Please Elrohir. She looks so lonely." Gilraen recognised that Elrohir was about to refuse. "I do not think she has had another dance all evening."

Elrohir sighed, obviously eager to make up for his mistakes of the day.

"Very well. But only one."

Gilraen smiled to herself as Elrohir's approach made the maiden's face glow with a beaming smile. The dance had not been a disaster. She even had two protectors, and she was sure that Elladan would defend Estel as fiercely as he shielded his brother. Something he would need if the general attitude of Imladris mirrored that of those elves.

The next morning Gilraen arrived to breakfast with her hair brushed over her ears, and never again during her stay in Imladris did she allow the rounded tips to be seen.

~*~

"I wanted her. . . I wished suffering and pain on her." Elrond whispered as he looked down at the dancing girl, before turning desperately to Glorfindel as if looking for judgement. "I would rather. . ."

"Shh Peredhil." The blond elf found the half-elf's arm resting on the balcony rail, and rubbed it gently to try and relieve the tension.

"But it was an evil thought." Elrond swept a hand through his hair so quickly that it must have caused pain. Glorfindel sighed.

"It is allowed to hurt Elrond. You are allowed to feel that." The blond elf waited for the response, some sharp comment with thinly veiled anger, but amazingly it was not forthcoming.

"Why does it hurt so much? When will it stop?" The Lord of Imladris leant forwards to rest his aching head on the cool polished wood of the rail. "I want it to stop."

Glorfindel shook his head sadly, and placed a firm hand on his friend's shoulder.

"It will not. You know that."



THE END



Sooo I finished a story. This was the first one I wrote. I think I have tied up all the loose ends, although some things are explained further in other stories (hint: I'll update Elrond's Boys tomorrow or the day after and there just may be a little elf-maiden featuring). Did you like it?