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Elladan groaned.  His body felt pleasantly sore in a way that he had not felt for far too long.  He shifted, feeling the rough leather of his pants brush along the sensitive new grooves on his hips.  Elladan blinked.

When had he dressed?  And for that matter, why were their birds singing in the Halls of the Dead?  And when did the bed grow grass? 

Elladan's eyes snapped open, which caused him to groan again as he found himself starring straight at the sun through the canopy of trees.  Flinging an arm over his eyes, he slowly sat up once again feeling that pleasant ache deep within.  He could tell he hadn't been here long, and he couldn't have had sex more than a few minutes ago.

Moving out of the sun, the half-elf scanned his surroundings.  He was in the woods, in a familiar little meadow not more than a mile from home.  Puzzled, and a little hurt, Elladan leaned his head back against a strong oak tree.  He tried to figure out what had happened.

The day had started out fine.  Námo had greeted him near the river where they usually met up.  Somehow Elladan had hit on the idea of visiting Mandos so he could get to know the Vala a little better.  From all their conversations, the half-elf had learned that Námo's whole world seemed wrapped up with caring for the dead.  His role was important to him. 

Elladan respected that, and thought that seeing the place would give him some insight into the staid Vala.  He hadn't really planned on having sex, but Elladan was a go-with-the-flow kind of guy and the moment just seemed right. 

Námo hadn't seemed to mind; he had gone with the flow too.  A pleasant shiver went through Elladan's spent nerves as he recalled the encounter.  He had never felt anything that intense in his life.  The whole thing had been mind-blowing, from beginning to end.

It seemed with all of the effort he'd been putting into trying to bridge their vastly different personalities, Elladan had forgotten what had attracted him to Námo in the first place.  When they had been sitting on the bed, Elladan remembered the peace he had found when looking at Námo's beautiful face right after his rescue.  He rediscovered that delicate beauty all over again, remembering the look of concern sparkling deep within those onyx eyes. 

Námo's features had softened for a moment, making him more approachable, letting Elladan look at his beauty without the ever present thoughts of inadequacy such beauty brought out in him.  When the half-elf had peeled away the layers of thick velvet, he had been unprepared for the complete perfection that lay beneath.

The Vala's skin was clear as glass, no blemish or mark upon it.  He could not describe the feel of it; it had been completely smooth, but softer than anything he had ever touched before.  It definitely felt like skin, and yet it was nothing like.  Námo's skin was pleasing to the touch, that was all Elladan could really say about it.  He was not gifted with enough art to give the Vala justice with words.

But, as Elladan thought about it, he realized he had felt the texture before.  Oromë's skin felt the same.  The half-elf had not recognized it at first because he had only ever touched the skin on his stepfather's hands, which were slightly rough from hunting and foresting.  Námo's hands were untouched from any kind of manual labor.  Elladan wondered if the rest of Oromë's skin was slightly rough like his hands, or if it was as baby-fine as Námo's, but quickly stopped that line of thinking with a shudder.  It immediately led to thoughts of his father touching such skin in the same manner Elladan had done with Námo, and that was a thought he could do without.

Still it was a curious thought.  Námo and Oromë were not elves, so it made sense that they might not be built the same way.  Elladan licked his parched lips, remembering the exotic taste of Námo's skin, the sweet, almost honey taste of his kisses.  Did the Hunter taste the same or were the Valar as unique in this aspect as their powers were distinctive one from the other? 

Finding his thoughts straying down unwanted avenues again, Elladan quickly got up.  Even if he didn't really want to know the answer to that question, there were others that he needed his stepfather to answer.  Unfortunately it was Elrohir that met him first.

"Elladan, where had you been?" his twin demanded.  "And how come I'm the last to know you're seeing a Vala?"  Elladan winced; he had hoped to tell his brother about Námo himself, but he was too tired and upset at the moment to even wonder how Elrohir had found out.  He knew it wasn't Oromë because the Vala would never break a confidence. 

Elrohir looked like he would go off into a rant when he stopped and looked thoughtfully at his brother.  "You look awful," he observed.  "What's wrong?"

Elladan sighed, leaning against a tree.  "I need to speak with Tauron," he said quietly. 

"Oh, of course," Elrohir said, sensing some of his brother's inner turmoil through their bond.  But the flash of hurt that crossed his face did not go unnoticed by his twin.  Quickly Elladan reached out and grabbed Elrohir's slender hand.

"I want you there too," he said, and felt relieved when his brother's face lit up.  Elladan really did need his twin right now, reminding him of that unshakable bond that flowed between them promising that neither would ever be alone. 

They turned to go into the house, only to find Oromë standing in the doorway watching them.  There was an inscrutable expression on his handsome face that reminded Elladan far too much of Námo.  "Um, I need to speak with you," Elladan said, for the first time feeling nervous in front of his stepfather.  He felt a comforting squeeze to his hand.  Oromë nodded as if he had been expecting as much, and stepped aside to let the twins enter.

Elladan couldn't shake the feeling of being an errant child ducking inside for a scolding.  No one was in the hall, so Elrohir directed Elladan to sit by the dormant firepit.  Oromë made himself comfortable on the floor.  It was such a mundane thing to do, but Elladan couldn't picture Námo sitting on a floor and it made him feel better. 

"What happened?" Elrohir asked, looking curiously at his brother.  Elladan took a deep breath and then told them everything, albeit glossing over some of the more intimate details.  Oromë's face remained perfectly unreadable, as it usually was when he listened.  But there was something different this time.  Normally when Elladan would talk about Námo, there would be an amused sparkle in Oromë's eyes.

The Hunter was not amused now.  Indeed, Elladan glimpsed some of that legendary passion in his stepfather's eyes, now directed in anger.  He hoped he never saw him truly enraged.  The half-elf got the impression that it would be extremely terrifying. 

"He just dumped you?" Elrohir asked, disbelieving his ears.  Elladan shrugged.

"Looks that way . . . I guess I went too fast," he mumbled, feeling even more miserable than he had before.  He looked at Oromë, hoping he would tell him what he'd done wrong. 

"I do not know why Námo did what he did," Oromë said, sensing the question.  His voice was unusually grave, no trace of his usual good humor.  "But, I believe that the answer may be found in the details you omitted."

Elladan gulped, not looking forward to telling his stepfather about his sexual experience with a being Oromë considered a brother.  Hearing his thoughts, a smile finally twitched at the corner of the Hunter's mouth albeit a sad one.  "You needn't tell me," he said, giving a gently push to Elladan's mind so that the half-elf understood his intentions.  "I will not take this memory unless you allow it," Oromë said seriously, anticipating Elladan's fears.  It was a measure of respect from the Vala that he never ventured into private domains unless bid to.

The half-elf took a deep breath, but nodded.  He remembered the encounter from the moment at the river until he woke up.  Elladan did not hear Oromë's presence at all; it just felt like he was thinking about his memory the same way he did any other memory.  Oromë's expression remained unchanged, as if hearing such thoughts were perfectly normal.  It made Elladan wonder what exactly the Valar heard through their mental links.

When Elladan had finished recalling everything, Oromë's expression turned introspective, his gaze distant.  Neither twin was willing to disturb him though both were itching to ask him what had happened.  Finally Oromë sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"You did nothing wrong," Oromë began, knowing it was the foremost worry in Elladan's mind.  "If you had waited centuries, the outcome would have been the same."

"Why?  What's wrong?" Elladan demanded, close to tears.  He didn't know what was wrong but he feared he'd screwed up everything.

"He is afraid," Oromë said matter-of-factly. 

"Huh?" both twins said.  Neither could picture the cool, calm Vala of the dead as afraid of anything.  Hearing their thoughts, Oromë gave them another of his sad smiles. 

"You are correct that Námo fears little.  Indeed that is part of the problem.  He has never feared anything before.  But love makes fools of us all," the Hunter said quietly.

"Well, what is he afraid of then?  Why did he send me away--that is what he did, isn't it?" Elladan asked heatedly.  Oromë nodded slowly.

"He did send you away, but it was because he encountered something that he cannot deal with.  It is with him that lays the problem, not you.  Something has unsettled him, and he has doubtless gone to meditate on it."

"But what is it?  What is he afraid of?" Elladan insisted, growing frustrated.  Couldn't Oromë see this was no time to play games?

"I can only speculate-," the Vala began hesitantly.

"Then speculate," Elrohir cut him off.  Elladan added his emphatic nod.

"I do not wish to do you a disservice," Oromë said cautiously.  If he were wrong, it would be even harder for Elladan to understand his mate.

"Don't hide behind that," Elladan hissed.  He couldn't deal with this.  He needed to know what was wrong so he could fix it.  After all this time, Námo was his.  He wasn't going to lose that. 

Oromë listened to his thoughts, weighed his options and then made his decision.  "Very well, but I want it understood that I cannot be certain here.  Námo is as much a mystery to me as he is to you." Elladan gave an impatient sound but nodded.  "You must understand that the Valar are aware of much that elves are not.  We can hear far beyond what you can hear, we can see on levels you cannot dream of.  Our senses are not like yours.  I cannot give you a comparison, because you could only compare them to your own senses or those of animals, which you know only through extending your own ideas of sensation and applying them in the theoretical.  The senses of the Valar are far too removed to do that.  Your senses are not merely a water-down version of our own.  They are wholly other.  That is why it will be hard for you to understand what it is that startled Námo."

Oromë paused letting his words sink in.  He emphasized his speech with subconscious pulses to the twins' psyches, giving them the patience they would need to hear him out.  "You see the problem is not that you went too fast, Elladan, or that you were even bad.  The problem is that you were fantastic."

"What!  He left because the sex was too good?" Elladan demanded incredulously, but Oromë answered him with a solemn nod.

"Indeed.  You see, from what I can tell from you memories, Námo lost himself to the sensations that sex produces.  When he did that, he was cut off from everything else.  Such an experience would be truly unsettling for any Valar, on the deepest level.  The best example I can give you is if you were to suddenly go blind, or lose your legs in battle.  But that does not begin to describe it, for not only were the physical sensations cut off but so was the spiritual.  All of the Valar connect with each other and the world around us on a very spiritual level.  We are spirits first, so when Námo was cut off from anything but you . . . well, I cannot but think that it must have frightened him."

Oromë gave them another few minutes to digest this, willing to wait.  "So," Elladan finally said.  "I shouldn't have been so, um . . . overwhelming?"

"No," Oromë said emphatically.  "Otherwise you would always have to do such.  Námo had to experience this eventually.  It is better that it be now."

Elladan frowned, mulling over what he had learned.  His twin glanced between him and the Hunter.  Elrohir gave his stepfather a suspicious look.  "How come you don't lose track of the world around you like Námo?" he finally asked, unable to hide his curiosity. 

"The same thing happens to me as happened to him.  But I expect it."

"So, you can get used to this sort of thing?  The same thing happened to you?" Elladan asked.

"Well . . ." Oromë began, thoughtfully rubbing his chin with his hand.  "I was never so startled by it that I abandoned your father.  But then again the situation was not entirely the same."

"How so?" Elrohir asked curiously.  Oromë canted an eyebrow.

"Well, your father and I were the reverse of your brother and Námo.  Your father was very young when he and I met, rather, um, inexperienced.  So it was I who led and he who-"

"Stop!" both twins said, putting their hands over their ears.  "We do not need to know about our father's sex life," Elrohir said with a shudder.  His brother nodded emphatically in agreement.  Oromë's lips twitched in a smirk, his good humor returned. 

The twins took a moment to exaggeratedly recover from whatever horrible mental images his words had conjured in their minds.  But Oromë could hear their thoughts, and he saw no such sexual images.  His words had brought to their minds images of peaceful moments between himself and their father.  Watching Elrond curled in his arms before a fire, talking softly in the garden at night, or grooming Nahar, which ended with them wetter than the white stallion.  Such memories warmed the Vala's heart, and made him instinctively call for his beloved.  He and Erestor were once again in the garden, only with the added benefit of Glorfindel and Celebrían cheering them on.  Elrond informed him Erestor was two more snide comments away from throttling the cheerful blonde. 

"So," Elladan said tearing Oromë's attention back to the twins.  "I should have let Námo take the lead?"  Oromë was annoyed by the hesitant tone the elder twin used.  Námo had hurt him badly if he could make Elladan doubt himself.

"No," the Vala said, willing to spend the time to actually explain things to the half-elves.  Such a concept seemed beyond all of his kin.  "He would have been in control, and would not have let himself fall under the sway of his flesh."

"So, do you Valar not have sex ever?" Elrohir asked, shuddering at the thought.  Oromë could hear him seek out the bond that linked him to Erestor.  Although the advisor would not feel it as Elrond did, it still brought comfort to the half-elf. 

"That's not a topic that comes up in everyday conversation, and I've never asked.  Nor do I intend too, but . . . Well, Manwë and Varda do have a son, but that might mean nothing.  I certainly don't remembering ever hearing her birth pangs, and I should think such pain would echo in the earth."  Oromë shrugged, never having thought of it before.  His reaction was a little like the twins when he almost told them about their father's sex life; way more information than he needed or wanted to know. 

Elrohir shrugged, not picking up Oromë's unease with the topic.  He turned to his brother, who was still looking thoughtful.  With his twin-insight, the younger half-elf knew his brother was still thinking about what he could have done differently.  He gently squeezed Elladan's hand.

"Don't be upset.  Tauron said it wasn't your fault.  Besides, if you had let Námo lead, you probably wouldn't have gotten anywhere," Elrohir said carelessly.  Elladan glanced at Oromë, and the Vala could hear his thoughts.  Perhaps it was not right of him to want something that Námo did not.  Such thoughts only made the Vala more annoyed with his kinsman.

"I have spoken to Námo before.  While it is true that the Valar depend more upon the spiritual than the carnal when expressing their bonds, none of us has ever thought ill of elvish practices.  Námo understood your desires, and he seemed willing to fulfill them."

"But he had no idea what that would mean, did he?" Elladan asked.

"No, I doubt he did."

"So, maybe . . ." Elladan began.  Hearing his thoughts, Oromë took his chin in his large hand and forced the half-elf to meet his gaze.

"It is true that there is some sacrifice in marriage, but you should not give up something so integral to yourself.  You would never be truly happy.  Soulbonds are not about compromise, not on this scale at least.  This is Námo's problem to deal with.  He did enjoy it, after all.  Just give him some time," Oromë said sternly.

Elladan looked him in the eye, searching for something.  Eventually he found what he sought and sighed, but nodded.  Oromë let go of him, pushing his hair behind a delicate ear.

"Besides," the Vala continued.  "Námo knows better than most the spiritual benefits that the physical can yield."

"What do you mean?" Elladan asked, some of his usual spirit returning under Oromë's reassurances and Elrohir's presence.  Oromë looked surprised at the twins, but then admonished himself for forgetting what elves knew.  It often happened, but Oromë blamed that on Elrond.  His husband had such an uncanny ability to figure things out that he generally knew more than the eldest elves living.  So Oromë sometimes forgot exactly what knowledge was readily available and known to others of the younger races.

"I mean that Námo is the guardian of the dead.  He helps heal them.  One of the ways he does this is to have them focus on happy memories.  A surprising number of such memories are associated with sex.  It is the most intimate act that elves perform short of binding souls, and it reminds dead spirits of their connection to other elves.  It is also one of the most fundamental acts that one can remember that reminds them that they lived.  You are never so aware of your body unless you are in pain.  Considering all of this, sexual memories are some of the best to coax spirits back to the living."

"Really?" the twins asked together, glancing at each other.

"I wonder what that means about Glorfindel," Elrohir muttered, which made Oromë snort.  But Elladan did not pay attention to his brother.

"So, Námo does know about sex?" Elladan clarified. 

"Yes, he helps each soul personally, listening to their lives and choosing those memories that will best help them adjust."

"You mean Námo actually knows all those, um, memories . . . intimately?" Elladan asked.  Oromë nodded, solemnly.  Elrohir sat up and glanced at his brother.

"You're saying he has all the sexual knowledge of every elf who's ever died?" he asked incredulously.  Internally, Oromë was laughing.

"Yes, but you must remember it's all theoretical to him.  And unfortunately until just recently it's been of no interest to him."

"That's . . . just wrong," Elrohir said. 

"You're jealous," Elladan said, glancing slyly at his twin.  "Now I bet you wish you had married a Vala."  Elrohir rolled his eyes.

"Says someone who is woefully uninformed about Erestor's ability to-"

"Hold that thought right there!  If I didn't need to know about father's sex life, I sure as hell don't need to think of Erestor having one," Elladan said, scrunching up his face as though he had just eaten something foul.  Elrohir stuck his tongue out.

Feeling that both twins were now fine, Oromë slowly stood and headed for the door.  "Tauron?" Elladan's hesitant call stopped him.  He turned, seeing an uncertain expression on the elder twin.  But the Vala knew exactly what he wished to ask.

"I will speak to Námo," he said.  Elladan instantly looked relieved and flashed him a brilliant smile before returning to his verbal sparing.  Oromë quietly left, and then did something he had not done in thousands of years.

He wished himself to Mandos.