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THE DOOMSMAN

PART 4

The early morning sun painted the river into a ribbon of gold.  Silver fishes jumped out of the slow-moving current, glinting like coins in the sun.  Along the edges were rows of purple and blue flowers, orange butterflies fluttering around their colorful petals. 

Elladan stood quietly near the forest edge, an empty wicker basket in his hand.  Despite the fact that he was feeling more and more foolish the longer he stood there, a feeling of relaxation was swimming through his veins.  It was a beautiful day, and he just let the sun soak into him like some ancient tree.  Even if Námo did not show, it was worth coming out today.  But Elladan was curious what the Doomsman would look like in the light of bright day.

The sun was rather high overhead when Elladan finally tired of waiting.  He was rather disappointed when he finally turned around to head home.

Only to find Námo watching him from the tree line. 

Elladan blinked in surprise.  Námo made no move.  A thick cloak wrapped around him from head to toe hiding his features from view.  It was strangely reminiscent of the Black Riders. 

"Um, hello," Elladan said, unsure what to do.  But that seemed to be the norm when he was around the great Vala.  Námo inclined his head in response.  "Have you been here awhile?" the half-elf asked.

"Since daybreak, as you requested," Námo's voice came from somewhere deep within the dark fabric.

"Oh," Elladan said, not sure what to think about that.  It seemed odd that Námo would not make himself known, especially as his time seemed so valuable.  "Well, then should we start?" he asked, not sure what else to do.

Námo gracefully raised his delicate hand, pale against the black of his raiment, and gestured for Elladan to precede him.  Slowly, they walked along the edge of the golden river.  At first, they were silent.  Elladan didn't know how to start a conversation and Námo seemed absorbed in his own thoughts. 

Awkwardly the half-elf would point to a flower and ask quietly what Námo could tell him about it.  Elladan would take a sample of those his father would be most intrigued about and tried to file away what Námo said about each.  A few he recognized after his companion named it, a few he wasn't certain about, but there were a few that he was sure were new.

Elladan had just about given up hope of using this outing to get to know the brooding Vala, resigned to simply collect plants, when Námo suddenly stopped and turned to look at him.  Elladan gave him a questioning look, but said nothing.

His companion seemed to be debating something.  The air seemed heavy with serious reflection and Elladan was loath to interrupt.  For a moment he felt out of his depth.  Námo was too far beyond him, far too powerful and all-knowing to be interested in a mere half-elf.

"You are wrong," Námo said.  "There is much about you that interests me."

"There is?" Elladan asked, wondering if Námo was thinking along the same lines he was.  Námo merely nodded gravely, which gave Elladan no sense of his thoughts.

"I have spent this previous night in deep reflection, as my kinsman Oromë suggested, and I have come to the conclusion that he and Vairë are correct.  It was irrational of me to deny the destiny they both accepted, and now that I have looked deep into His Thought, I see glimmers of it too.  I must ask for your forgiveness that I should have denied you so long," Námo said.

Elladan's eyebrows drew together in a familiarly confused expression.  "Um, okay.  I still have no idea what you're talking about."

Námo stiffened slightly as if in surprise.  "You do not?  Surely you must know that you and I are destined for each other."

"We are?" Elladan asked incredulously, his eyes widening to the size of dinner plates.  Sure, he had hoped to progress in catching the elusive Vala but he had hardly thought it would be this easy.  Indeed considering that Námo was married, Elladan had been very certain he was going after the unattainable.  That Námo could so readily, so casually talk about being each other's destiny seemed surreal and very suspicious.  Elladan must have heard wrong. "You mean like father and Tauron were meant to be?" he asked warily.

"Yes.  Though it is not exactly the same, the outcome seems to be similar.  We will bind our souls together as they did before the eyes of the One." Binding souls.  That meant marriage. 

Elladan needed to sit down. 

He dropped his basket and moved to the shade of the trees.  Námo watched him with concern.  The half-elf leaned against the tree but almost immediately whirled back to look at the imposing Vala.

"So, you're telling me that you and I are going to get married, just like that?" he demanded.

"Yes."

"But what about Vairë?" Elladan asked, thinking back to the imposing woman in purple.

"She has already given her permission to the union.  It was she who first foresaw it.  She is happy for us both . . . I thought you would be pleased," the Vala said softly, but Elladan could have no idea what he was feeling.  It was the bloody hood, keeping him from seeing Námo's face.  That guard made it worse; Námo was laughing at him under there, it was just some kind of joke, something was wrong.

Sensing the confusion he had sent Elladan in, Námo hesitantly stepped forward but stopped short, unsure.  After a moment his hands moved to his hood, gently lowering it to reveal his beautiful face.  Elladan looked into his eyes, not knowing what he hoped to find there.  There was no duplicity, no amusement or cruelty, only a deep concern, which could only mean one thing.

Námo was telling the truth.

Elladan couldn't think.  He leaned back against the tree, going back to his childhood days when his father had taught him to draw comfort from the world around him when he felt lost.  The ancient trees were a source of great wisdom and strength, their long enduring years a testament to the triumph of life and light over adversity.

The trick worked, the trees' solemn calm working through the half-elf, calming him.  Námo remained silent, sensing the work of nature upon Elladan's soul.  He had dared to move a little closer, hoping to offer solace though he had no idea why the half-elf had reacted as he had.

After several long minutes, Elladan took a deep breath and turned back to face the imposing Vala.  "So you and I are going to get married," he said again, his voice steadier, his soul calmer. 

Námo nodded, not sure what to say since his words had caused such trouble for the half-elf.  Elladan shook his head in amused exasperation.  Really there seemed to be no other possible reaction for these strange Valar.

"You know, you could at least go through the motions of courting me," he said, moving to close the gap between them.

"Do you wish me to?" Námo asked, seeming surprised.

"Well, yes!" Elladan said emphatically.  The Vala studied his face for a moment, before turning away slightly.  The wicker basket was suddenly in his hands.

"Very well," Námo said, handing the half-elf the basket.  "But I fear I do not know much about the ways of elvish courting."

Elladan took the basket, and managed a small smile.  "Don't worry.  I'll help you through it."

By silent agreement, the two returned to walking along the riverbanks.  Neither said anything, lost in their own thoughts but not yet willing to have the other out of their sight.

******

"Finished," Elrond said, gently setting the book aside.  He had stayed up all night rereading it, meticulously making marks in another ledger.  Oromë was sitting quietly before the fireplace in their bedroom, merely soaking up his husband's contentment. 

Now he opened his eyes to look at his beautiful husband.  "Will you now seek out Erestor and give it to him?" he asked.

"Perhaps later," the half-elf said, stretching his hands over his head and cracking the bones along his spine.  Yawning, he slowly stood up and moved to the door.

"Beloved," Oromë said, stopping him.  Gracefully the Vala stood up and gestured his husband closer.  Elrond raised an eyebrow but obediently came. 

"Close your eyes," the Vala commanded and Elrond complied.  The half-elf could feel his husband begin to slowly circle around him.  When Oromë was behind him, his warm hands reached around to gently slip Elrond's outer robe off.  The heavy fabric fell to the floor with a soft thud. 

But the Vala was moving again.  Elrond could feel the heat of his body though nothing else.  Now he was on the right, now on the left.  The half-elf felt his husband lean closer, as if to whisper something, but only a whisper of cool air reached his delicate ears.  Elrond shivered, but Oromë moved on.

A hand ghosted over his silk-covered arm, but then was gone.  A slight shift nearer brought the Hunter's unique scent of pine and lilac into Elrond's delicate nose.  A slow inhale reached his ears, and Elrond could picture those cat eyes darkening with desire.

Oromë stopped again, this time in front of the half-elf.  There was no real feeling, no sense of the Vala's hands working at the buttons, but Elrond felt cool air on his chest, suggesting his shirt had fallen open revealing his pale skin to his husband's gaze. 

Warmth settled over his heart.  Behind his eyes Elrond could picture Oromë's hand hovering just over his chest, not touching, catching his heartbeat nonetheless.  Against his will Elrond felt the excitement drain out of him, his heartbeat slow.  His late night was catching up with him.

His nerves jumped when he felt his husband's hands gently settle on his flanks, under his shirt.  Oromë held him for a moment, his skin warming to Elrond's heat.  Then he gently pulled away, pulling Elrond's shirt out of his pants as he did so, leaving the shirt loose on his shoulders.  A stray breeze blew in the window, stealing beneath the fabric, finding any stray patch of skin it could.  Elrond shivered again. 

Oromë continued his path around his still husband.  He moved close to his ear again, this time darting out his tongue to lick the tip before moving on.  Elrond shuddered, his heart picking up speed again.  Soon his husband was once again behind him.  Warm hands settled on his shoulders.  They remained still for a moment before gently pushing his shirt to the floor.  The Vala's warm hands remained on his husband's arms, soothingly rubbing them.

"Keep your eyes closed, beloved," Oromë thought, his mental voice a growl of thunder.  Elrond tilted his head backward, feeling his husband press close against him.  The Vala gently kissed his pale neck.  His arms wrapped tightly around Elrond's trim waist.  His leg pressed gently against the back of the half-elf's thigh, forcing it to move.  He did the same thing to the other leg and Elrond perceived that Oromë was moving him to the bed.

It was a little disorienting to move without sight, but Elrond leaned back into this husband and trusted his guidance.  Soon enough they stopped.  Moving his foot slightly, the half-elf could feel the hard wood of their bed against his toes. 

Gently Oromë maneuvered his husband around so that he could sit down.  "Lay on your stomach," he commanded.  Elrond shivered at his words and immediately obeyed.  The sheets were cool against his bare skin. 

It was a moment before he felt the mattress dip near his hip.  Elrond felt his husband's weight settle over his thighs, straddling him.  A slight pop near his ear followed by the gentle scent of vanilla told him that the bottle of oil was near his head.  His breathing grew more rapid.

A warm hand settled over his heart and that odd feeling of lethargy settled into his bones again.  Moments later the hand was gone.  Elrond rested his head over his arms, listening intently in the hopes of figuring out what his husband was up to.

The feel of warmed-oil hands beginning to rub his worn muscles quickly answered that question.  Elrond relaxed further into the mattress and let out a contented sigh.  Near his ear he heard a soft chuckle.

"It amazes me that you can work yourself so hard over a mere book, love," Oromë thought, gently kissing his husband's pointed ear. 

"I'm impatient I guess.  I never could put a book down until I'd finished it," Elrond thought lazily. 

"For an old tale, I might understand.  But wasn't this the book about bird migration?  Surely the end is not so much more necessary than the beginning?" the Vala said, continuing his firm caress, massaging out the deep knots in his husband's shoulders. 

"It's better to take in the book as a whole so that you can appreciate the author's points better," Elrond responded.  Oromë chuckled in fond amusement.  He leaned down for another kiss, letting his nose graze the half-elf's warm cheek.

"Have I mentioned that I love you recently?" the Vala asked, warm affection coloring his mental voice. 

"Mmm, this morning," Elrond said, almost asleep.  Oromë said nothing more, hoping to lull his husband to sleep.

It was almost a half hour later that he felt all of his husband's muscles completely loosen.  Quietly Oromë moved away to sit on the edge of the bed.  He put the jar of oil away, and pulled the blankets over the sleeping half-elf.  It seemed he could never get enough of simply watching his husband. 

A slight noise near the door made him turn his head.  Elladan stood quietly near the entrance.  Oromë had been aware of his presence for awhile, but as the younger half-elf had made no move to make himself known, the large Vala had not addressed him.

Now he raised an eyebrow in silent query.  Quietly Elladan moved into the room, his eyes on his father lest he disturb him.

"Do you have a moment?"

"Of course," Oromë said, gesturing for Elladan to draw up a chair.  The half-elf hesitated.

"I will not disturb father, will I?" he asked.  The Vala smiled at his concern but shook his head.

"I shouldn't think so.  He's been up all night reading."

Elladan managed a half-smile for his father's quirk but seemed preoccupied as he quietly moved a chair so he could sit by the bed. 

"How did your meeting with Námo go?" Oromë asked when Elladan made no move to speak.  The half-elf's head snapped up and he scrutinized the other's face.

"You know?" he asked.

"Námo told me last night that he was to meet with you today," Oromë said smoothly.  It was not exactly a lie.  The Valar spoke on many levels, not all of which were obvious. 

"Oh," Elladan said, looking back at his hands, which were absently playing with the edge of his tunic.  "Well, Námo had some interesting things to say to me."  The half-elf darted a gaze to his sleeping father, who had mumbled something quietly.  Oromë followed his gaze, a fond light entering his cat-eyes.

"Did you seek your father's advice?" he asked.  Elladan's head snapped back to look at him.  He studied him for a moment before shrugging.

"You'll do fine, I guess.  You seem to understand what's going on." Oromë laughed.  "And I doubt it'll be a great surprise to you," Elladan said darkly.

The Vala cocked his head to the side.  "I take it you were unduly surprised?" he asked.

"Apparently," Elladan said, looking up at the ceiling.  Oromë's eyebrow rose in query.

"Why don't you tell me what happened?" he coaxed, wondering how his kinsman had screwed up now.  Elladan took a deep breath before retelling the whole story from the start.  Oromë's lips twitched in amusement by the end and his eyes twinkled, but he kept his voice carefully steady.

"You will have to be patient with Námo.  He is used to speaking with his kin and with the dead, both of whom are removed from the ordinary concerns of the world.  He really has no idea about the mechanics of elvish relationships.  As far as he sees, two people are destined to be together and so they are.  There is no awkward period of adjustment in his mind.  I also think he has never had a real idea about what a couple does together.  To my knowledge he and Vairë have only ever worked together.  You'll have your hands full trying to get him to understand the concept of simply relaxing with the one you love, but I think you're up to the task."

Elladan frowned upon hearing this.  "You don't seem hugely surprised," he said at length.  Oromë shrugged.

"Well, I'm not.  You've been interested in Námo since he helped me rescue you.  And I know a thing or two about half-elven stubbornness.  It was only a matter of time before you snared him," the Vala said with a smile.  Elladan startled before returning the smile with a brilliant one of his own.

"Seems Ilúvatar's no match for us either," he said.  For any other Valar such a statement would have seemed profane, but Oromë only laughed.  It would be very interesting to see Námo, the straightest-laced of the Valar, with the irrelevant Elladan. 

"No, indeed.  I should hate to see Him matched against you."

Elladan laughed at the absurd notion, and Oromë could feel his stepson's spirit lighten.  He was glad of it.  With his supposedly unobtainable crush on Námo, Elladan had had a tough time adjusting to the Blessed Lands.

"You wouldn't happen to know any other 'obvious' parts of this destiny I should already be aware of, do you?" Elladan asked after a long moment.  Oromë shook his head slowly.

"It's best you find out such things on your own.  Your part in this destiny is to be yourself.  I'm sure if there is something more, Námo will let it slip out unintentionally," Oromë said with amusement.  He could never remember the unflappable Vala so out of his element before, and he found it hysterical.

"Well then, I heard Elrohir puttering in the kitchen.  I think I shall go and save us all from his cooking," he said standing up.  Oromë nodded in farewell.

"I'm sure everyone will be eternally grateful to you," he said, watching the younger half-elf leave.  With a smile on his face, he settled back against the headboard.

"Were you going to tell me about this?" a sleepy voice asked.  The Vala blinked in surprise, looking down to see silver eyes peeking at him from over Elrond's folded arms.

"How long have you been awake?" he asked.  Elrond shrugged, which looked odd from his position.

"Don't think I ever actually slept," he murmured, still looking intently at his husband, the question still volleying between their souls.  Oromë sighed, reaching out to stroke Elrond's soft hair.

"I didn't mean to keep things from you.  Vairë visited yesterday and started the whole thing into motion and you were engrossed in your book.  I honestly had no idea what Námo would do.  He seemed to be denying his destiny, but now he's not.  And really it's Elladan's place to tell us."

"Hmm," Elrond said, closing his eyes under his husband's caress.  "I shall want a full account of what's going on anyway, including all those little Vala things you pick up."

"I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about, love," Oromë said affectionately, his hand sliding down to cup his husband's cheek.

"Indeed," the half-elf said, moving his head to kiss his husband's hand.  They remained silent for several long moments, simply enjoying each other's presence. 

Finally Elrond levered himself up.  "Come, Elladan's going to need backup," he said, flinging the sheets off.  He grabbed a clean shirt and headed out the door, Oromë at his heels.

******

"I am in need of your aid, brother."

"I thought you were going to learn from Elladan."

"I believe I may have . . . hurt him today.  I do not wish to do so again."

"You didn't hurt him, merely surprised him.  Now that he has some idea where it's all headed, he'll be fine."

"He may know where 'it's' all headed but now I find that I do not.  What he said . . . what he wants . . . I did not expect it, and I find I do not understand it."

"What don't you understand?"

"Why does he need to be . . . courted?  I thought courting was merely a means to find your soulmate.  It is already found in this case.  Why then does he feel it necessary?"

"It may be crystal clear to you, but it's not to him.  Elves don't simply accept destiny because someone tells them that that's the way it's going to be.  It has to ring true for their own souls.  That hasn't happened yet for Elladan.  You and he barely know each other."

"But he felt the pull on his soul the same as I.  He is already aware of our shared destiny.  Indeed he accepted it before I did."

"That means nothing.  And he did not accept it as destiny.  What he accepted is that he was interested in you.  Elves cannot always tell the difference between the stirring of their heart and the stirring of their soul.  Surely you know it is possible for an elf to fall in love with someone other than their soulmate.  Elves are not cerebrally aware of this, but in their hearts I believe they have some understanding of it.  That is why they do not immediately accept just anyone they find an interest in.  That is why it is important for them to take time to give their souls a chance to really speak to them."

"Time?  How much time?"

"It depends on the elf, on how in tune to their soul they are, on how exact they wish to be."

"Is there no way I can help my soulmate discover the truth within himself?"

"The best thing you can do now is to spend time with him, lots of it.  He will tell you what else he needs, but the more time you spend together, the better he will be able to judge the situation."

"But I have no such time.  I have the dead to look after, the Mystery to attune to."

"I thought you were going to let Vairë help out.  Isn't that what she wants?"

". . ."

"Besides, the Mystery has led you to Elladan.  Obviously the One wants you to learn more about elvish interaction.  Spending time with Elladan will be like meditating before the void.  Subtle answers will appear and will give you great insight into His mind if you have the presence of will to see it.  Indeed it is a great challenge set before you.  Few can see the great mysteries that are hidden deep within His creations."

". . .very well.  Elladan wishes to see me again tomorrow and I have accepted.  Perhaps I should go to him now if he needs more time with me."

"That you should not do.  You have given him a shock and he needs time to figure things out.  He needs time with you but he needs time to reflect."

"How am I to know when to be with him and when to give him space?"

"He will tell you.  He asked to see you tomorrow.  He will not expect you before then, so he will use the time in between to reflect."

"This seems very confusing."

"Yes, but it is perfectly normal to elves.  It is a confusion they understand and accept.  The wisest thing for you to do is to follow Elladan's lead.  If you are observant, he will tell you everything you need to know though not always directly."

"Well, as you deem appropriate.  I shall at least try.  Is there nothing else you could advise me on?"

"Only this: don't expect Elladan to know what you think he should know.  Elves discover things; that is part of their charm.  They don't just have them appear from thin air the way we do.  Courting is a time of discovery for elves, but I counsel that you let it be a time of discovery for yourself too.  Don't expect anything, don't look for anything.  Just let yourself flow."

". . . thank you for the advice, Oromë."

"You're welcome, Námo."

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