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Night was descending though there was no way of knowing which night it was; Námo could have floated for days in the void.  It had never troubled him as it did now; neither the dead nor the Valar had any sense of time, so they did not mark how long the Doomsman was gone. 

But Elladan would know how long they had been apart; it would matter greatly to him.  Námo had never had his presence matter so much to someone else. 

Elladan stood quietly by the river's edge looking out over the water, his whole being permeated with a stillness unnatural to him.  It disturbed the Vala, and he did not know how to approach the other.  Now it was he who thought his lover too remote to hold. 

"So you've come back," Elladan said suddenly without turning around.  It surprised Námo for Elladan had never noticed his presence before without the Vala's help.  Perhaps the half-elf was aware of more than he let on. 

The unusualness of Elladan's character made Námo hesitate before slowly moving closer.  His intended made no move to greet him, and that furthered the Vala's uncertainty.

"I must ask your forgiveness," the Doomsman said quietly, stopping a few feet away.  It seemed disrespectful to come any closer.

"You've been asking that a lot," Elladan replied, his voice continuing in its calm, steady beat.  It was emotionless, dead, and made Námo's skin crawl.  It wasn't right.  Elladan hid nothing in his demeanor.  He was as open and honest as a spring day.  It made the Doomsman's chest constrict to think that this was his doing. 

"Elladan?" he said softly, forcing himself to move a little closer, to reach out.  His hand hovered over the half-elf's shoulder for a moment as he battled with his uncertainty.  But then he did what Oromë had done, gently laying his hand on his tense muscles and turning him around to look him in the eyes.  He was disturbed to see the telltale bloodshot eyes indicative of crying.  Even now his beautiful silver eyes sparkled with tears.

"I am sorry," Námo said sincerely, opening his soul so that Elladan could feel the depth of the Doomsman's regret.  He was unsure how much Elladan would understand, but he was certain their bond would convey the sincerity and breadth of his feelings. 

A choked sound escaped from Elladan's throat right before he fell into Námo's arms.  The Vala held him awkwardly.  "I was so worried," Elladan whispered into Námo's pointed ear.  The Doomsman's arms tightened, but he could not speak.  Tentatively he sought out the fragile bond holding them together, following it back until he could feel Elladan on the other end.  His soul was as open as the rest of him, and Námo could feel the deep hurt and confusion he had thrown the younger half-elf into.

"I did not mean to worry you," he said quietly after many minutes had gone by.  "But I was . . . confused.  I needed to understand my turmoil."

"So you'll just leave every time you don't understand something?" Elladan demanded, some of his normal spark returning.  He lifted his head to look Námo in the eye, scrutinizing the other so closely that the Vala felt uncomfortable.

"I . . . I have no wish to burden you-," he began uncertainly, but stopped at the look on Elladan's face.

"Burden me-please!  Anything's better than waiting, than wondering what's going on, when you'll come back, if you'll come back."

"Elladan!" Námo said sternly, gripping the half-elf's shoulders firmly.  "I will always return to you.  Do not doubt that."

"Why should I believe that?  You abandoned Vairë easily enough just because someone told you to," Elladan said.  Námo sighed, pulling his lover to his chest.  Despite his protestations, Elladan readily surrendered to the embrace, obviously seeking reassurance and comfort. 

"Vairë and I were never bonded," the Vala said solemnly, accepting the truth even as he spoke it. 

"Huh?" Elladan said, frowning.  "But I thought . . ."

"So did I," Námo said gravely.  "My brethren Oromë has brought to my attention the error of my thinking.  To realize such things is exactly why I needed some time to contemplate."

Elladan gave the Vala a confused look, but seemed willing to let the matter of Vairë drop.  "And you couldn't tell me that?  You couldn't at least tell me that you felt confused, that you needed some time to think, that dealing with yourself was more important than saying goodbye or even 'gee, the sex didn't suck.  Let's do it again sometime'," Elladan said with growing passion. 

Námo's expression grew sad.  He soothingly rubbed his lover's back, hoping to calm him.  "You are right; I should have stayed.  I should have spoken to you.  I trust I have learned from my mistake, but I will not insult you with promises I do not know if I can keep.  It is arrogant of me, but I must ask that you trust me, that you bear with me."

Elladan did not immediately respond, and his spirit was shadowed from Námo's gaze.  The Vala waited, nervousness once again fluttering into his system.  He had not really appreciated that he could jeopardize their relationship; they were destined after all.  But Elladan was in a much better position to live without Námo than he was to live without the half-elf.  Elladan might not find his soulmate, but he had many admirers to choose from for companionship.  Námo really had no one else to turn to, but then he didn't want anyone else.  It was a realization that had come late, but it had come.  The Vala just wasn't sure what to do with that knowledge.

"Yeah, okay I guess," Elladan's voice cut into Námo's ruminating.  "But I want you to promise you will talk to me about whatever it is that bothers you."

The Vala hesitated, uncertain if Elladan could even understand what troubled him or if he should burden his intended.  But then Oromë's words reverberated back to his consciousness like ripples in a pond.  He needed to be honest and open with Elladan if either were to have any peace.  Remembering this, Námo nodded slowly in acceptance. 

Elladan studied him for a moment, as if trying to divine the truth of his agreement.  Námo opened his spirit as much as possible, hiding nothing.  It must have worked because Elladan suddenly gave him a brilliant smile and clasped Námo tightly to his chest. 

The Vala returned the embrace awkwardly but gratefully.  He wasn't sure what would happen now or what else would get in their way, but he decided for the first time in his whole life that he would not think about the future and just enjoy this moment.


It was quite late when Elladan finally wandered home.  Quietly he opened the door, hoping his presence would not wake his stepfather.  He knew the Vala sometimes indulged in sleep, but even so his senses were still keeping watch.  Elrond had once explained it like a wary guard dog that would scrutinize every disturbance but only bark when something urgent called for Oromë's attention; then the Vala would wake fully.

Elladan knew he could not avoid disturbing his stepfather, but he hoped his manner would alert the Vala that there was no need for him to leave Elrond's side.  The younger half-elf was a little embarrassed by how many personal problems he had already foisted on Oromë.  He was grateful for the help, and he knew his stepfather did not begrudge him his aid, but still . . . it was his problem to deal with.

But it seemed his silence was for naught, for he opened the door to a dimly lit room where his whole family was waiting.  Inwardly he groaned, and stayed close to the door in case he needed a quick exit.  From his mother's expression, that was a distinct possibility.

She sat in one of the fluffy couches that usually formed a semi-circle near the back of the room but had now been pulled up near the almost extinct fire.  Elrond and Oromë shared the large couch with her, the two of them curled up against each other and looking rather bemused.  Behind them, ever the sentinel, stood Glorfindel.  Erestor and Elrohir had retreated to another couch, angled slightly away from the door.  Even Ronyo waited patiently at his master's feet.

Whatever they had been doing, they immediately stopped when Elladan opened the door, and turned their full attention on him.  He gave them all a nervous smile. 

For a moment no one said anything, and Elladan wondered if he could get away with just going to bed.  Unfortunately his twin quashed that idea.

"So, how'd it go?" Elrohir asked eagerly, unable to hide his curiosity. 

"Yes, did Námo apologize?" Glorfindel asked, his eyes dancing with an amusement that Elladan couldn't comprehend.  Not when his heart had suddenly sunk into his stomach, beating his lunch back into his throat.

"You told them?!" he demanded, looking between Oromë and Elrohir though he suspected the latter more than the former.  His face burned with embarrassment.

"Surely you know there are no such things as secrets in this family," Elrond began drolly, his own wicked sparkle glimmering in his silver eyes.  "They will out rather quickly."  That didn't help at all.  Elladan thought he would start to hyperventilate in front of everyone, which would only compound his embarrassment.  Sensing this, Oromë spoke quietly into his mind.

"They know only the barest of facts.  That you were speaking of profound matters and were suddenly abandoned by your intended," the Hunter said mentally even as he said something else aloud.  Instantly Elladan felt better.  He didn't much mind Glorfindel, Erestor, or even his father knowing that he had had sex, but his mother . . . he really didn't need this right now.

"So what happened?" Elrohir persisted.  Elladan gave him an evil glare, and Elrohir looked a little chagrined.  He knew his twin would tell him everything in private, so there was no need to be so eager right now but . . . well, he had been the last to know about Námo, and he just wasn't sure where he and his twin stood.  It wasn't like Elladan not to tell him everything, and he feared he had done something to offend him.  He had thought they still spent a lot of time together, especially as they were the only two of their generation for a few miles around.  But maybe he had been neglecting his twin and not even realizing it. 

Elladan looked at the expectant faces in front of him and sighed.  "Námo did apologize.  We talked and sorted some stuff out," he said simply, not willing to go into details since he still needed to think over everything that had happened.  He was going to give Námo another chance, but he had to figure out how to make sure the Vala didn't screw up again.  The half-elf wasn't sure he could go through this again.

Perhaps his mother sensed his internal struggle with her maternal instinct, for she let the matter at hand drop.  But that didn't mean Elladan was out of hot water yet.  "So when exactly were you going to tell us about your new relationship?" she asked, managing to look down her nose at him even though he was standing and she was not. 

Elladan resisted the urge to slam his head against the door.  He looked beseechingly at his father and Oromë, but both were too wise to get involved.  Elladan should have known better; Celebrían lived for gossip.  She always had.  Doubtless she was disappointed that he had not trusted her with something so important.  Elladan knew she still felt a little out of place in the family, sometimes feeling like she didn't belong at Elrond's side now that Oromë was there.  His not telling her would only heighten her feeling of alienation.  That was the last thing Elladan wanted, but it seemed that everything about his destiny was a pure mess.  He really should have seen this coming.

"I was going to tell you as soon as it seemed real to me," Elladan said honestly, looking pleadingly at his mother for understanding.  How could he make her understand what he himself was still struggling with?

Celebrían frowned. "What does that mean?" she asked warily.  Her eldest son sighed, before moving to kneel in front of her.

"It means that this only happened a few days ago, and I keep expecting to wake up and find out everything was a dream.  I . . . well, I've been concentrating on everything that's been going on.  I was going to tell you all, really, when we were a little further along in courting.  The only person I talked to was Tauron, and only because I needed someone to translate Valar-speak for me," Elladan said sincerely.  Above his head, he heard his father snort in perfect understanding.  He really should talk to his father.  Oromë seemed to understand Námo, but Elrond understood what it was like to be in a relationship with a Vala.  Well, it was a thought for later. 

Celebrían pressed her lips together in thought.  Elladan glanced at his father who gave him a wink, which meant he had said the right thing.  Internally he gave a sigh of relief, but he still held his breath to see what his mother would say.

"Well . . . that's certainly understandable, but we would still like to be kept informed.  Your happiness is very important to us, and finding your soulmate is a very big step in any elf's life, and . . ." she trailed off.

"And understandably you want to share it with me.  I understand.  In fact . . ." Elladan hesitated, knowing that once he said it there was no going back.  But really, there was nothing else he could do to make his mother feel wanted.  "Námo and I wanted you to help with the wedding." 

Elladan almost winced as he said it, and he could feel Elrohir burning a hole in his skull from his incredulous look.  The elder twin had always been more emphatic in his desire for a small, intimate wedding.  It certainly seemed like he was throwing that away now, but seeing his mother's expression made it all worthwhile.

Tears glimmered on her long eyelashes, and the first real smile Elladan could remember seeing since her attack broke shyly upon her doll-like face.  "Do you mean that?" she whispered, and Elladan didn't know what had startled her more, the idea of a wedding or that he would ask for her help.  He prayed it was the former, and only because everyone had long ago given up on him ever getting married. 

"Of course I do.  You can go to town, plan whatever you want.  I mean, there's nothing but guys here; none of us know anything about weddings, even those who've already done it," he said perspicaciously.  He could practically hear Erestor roll his eyes and his father smirk, but neither said anything.  Elrohir was doubtless still giving him a look like he'd gone mad. 

"Oh, well of course," Celebrían agreed readily.  "You really couldn't trust any of them to do a proper job." She patted her son's hand before gracefully getting up.  Elladan could see the wheels already turning in her head, could practically see rows of pink flowers and white lace.  He held back a sigh just in time, but his mother was too preoccupied to have noticed anyway, mumbling under her breath about guest lists, proper clothes, and a banquet as she exited the room without taking proper leave, which was unlike her.

"Are you mad?" Elrohir hissed as soon as the door shut.  Elladan spared him an evil glare that shut him up in a hurry.

"As delightful as it is to be interrogated as soon as I get home, I'm going to bed," he said, getting up and following his mother's path to the back of the long hall.  He opened the door but stopped, and turned back to his family.  "If anyone bothers me, I'll make them eat Elrohir's cooking for a month."

He gave a firm nod and then left.  Elrohir scowled, crossing his arms over his chest, but not even he would dare to brave his own cooking for a whole month.