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Elladan kept a firm hold of Námo's slim hand as they walked through the twisting corridors.  He didn't say anything, but he was uneasy.  Being back in Mandos reminded him of last time, and unfortunately it wasn't the great sex that was foremost in his mind.  But he didn't want Námo to know that. 

The Doomsman had spent the last few weeks really trying to make up for sending him away.  It was obvious he felt horrible about hurting Elladan, and it was also obvious that he was still struggling with some of his own issues.  The Vala had visited Elladan every day since then, even setting dates for the next day without the half-elf's prompting.  Námo wasn't quite up to flowers and candy, still lacking the fundamentals on elvish courtship, but he was showing interest in the things that Elladan liked. 

He must have mentioned something about enjoying fishing because Námo surprised him with a fishing pole from Ulmo.  The Doomsman had looked a little uncertain and maybe even nervous.  Elladan had of course thought it adorable, but it was only later when he had been showing the pole to Elrohir that the elder twin realized his intended had let him see those emotions. 

Námo had stopped hiding, at least as much as he was able.  Elladan knew that his cloak of aloofness was a very necessary shield to help him deal with the dead and the Mystery, and all those other Valar things he did.  The half-elf certainly didn't begrudge him that, and he also knew that the shield was also a part of his personality.  But Námo now understood that such barriers were harmful to their burgeoning relationship.  That he would make an effort to lift them touched Elladan more deeply than any other gesture the Vala could make. 

The half-elf wanted to reciprocate, but couldn't find a way to be any more open and honest than he already was.  But he was trying to be more patient, trying to understand his intended as much as an elf could a Vala.  He knew initially he had always avoided thinking about Námo being the Vala of the Dead.  Of course his occupation seemed to rear its head every time they spoke, but Elladan never really let the knowledge settle into his bones.  It was the same with the idea of Námo being a Vala in general.  It was better not to think about it. 

If the last few weeks had taught him anything, it was that that was a huge mistake.  Elladan had mistakenly believed that if he treated Námo as a powerful elf, he'd be on the right course.  Oromë had made it clear that Námo was far more than merely a powerful elf; he was wholly other, thus their problems. 

Elladan felt he was doing well now on this score, no longer assuming he understood how Námo saw the world.  But the half-elf was still uneasy about his intended's role as the Doomsman.  Námo was the Judge of the Valar, proclaiming dooms when asked.  For some reason the idea was really creepy to Elladan.  He didn't like the unquestioning attitude Námo had about the future.

The job itself was grim, and Námo's function as a judge seemed another obstacle destined to keep some wall between them.  Elladan knew he could no longer avoid the issue but had to learn to accept his intended's roles in order for them to find happiness.

Thus his current presence in the Halls of the Dead. 

This time Námo made sure he remained as solid and visible as Elladan could like.  He seemed to have some specific purpose in mind as he quickly led the half-elf deeper into the maze of hallways.  Elladan had never seen his intended do anything quickly before.  It almost seemed as though Námo wished to bring Elladan somewhere but wasn't keen on him having to go through Mandos to get there.  Very curious.

After several minutes Námo finally led Elladan into a large room.  The half-elf stared at it in wonder, unconsciously letting go of the Vala's hand as he slowly wandered around.  The room was so unlike the rest of Mandos.  It was touched by time, the stone pillars rotting and decaying like broken tree stumps, the lairs of dust an indication of its age.  Elladan looked down at his feet, seeing his footprints in the soft dust and dirt where the black mirror tiles were cracked revealing the earth below.

It seemed to him that the apparent cause of the ruin were delicate vines wrapped around every surface, their roots digging their way under the tiles to the nourishment below.  Elladan could have no idea that this was the same room where Oromë had spoken to Námo only a few days ago, and that there had been no plant-life then. 

The half-elf glanced back at his intended.  Námo stood quietly by the entrance, simply watching Elladan.  He seemed pensive and unsure, so Elladan immediately went back to his side.  Without thinking he reestablished their hand holding, both drawing comfort from the connection. 

"Námo?" he asked hesitantly.  "What is this place?  Why are we here?"

The Doomsman was silent for a long moment, his eyes searching Elladan's face.  "This is where I meditate," he said quietly.  "And I have something I would like to do with you here."

Elladan heard the hesitation in his voice, and wondered what he wanted.  "Okay," he agreed easily, hoping to relieve his soulmate's mind.  "Whatever you want."  Unfortunately his acquiescence only seemed to make Námo more nervous.   Elladan gently squeezed his hand, hoping to remind him that he was there, that he was more than willing to listen to whatever was bothering him.

Námo inhaled slowly, visibly forcing himself to relax.  "I have spoken with your stepfather, and he suggested that it would be wise if you and I entered a soulbond."

Elladan frowned.  "I thought we were already bound."

"You and I are two halves of the same whole, but we have not yet truly reunited our souls."

"I don't understand.  I mean I agree it doesn't seem like we're bound, but I thought according to the Valar we were?" he said, not really sure he had made any kind of sense but trusting Námo to interpret.  The Vala cocked his head to the side as if listening to something.

"According to my kin, you and I are already wed because you and I are in actuality an 'us' before we are either of ourselves separately.  The Valar recognize the union as the true state that the soul strives for, and because it was the state we originated in, it seems to my kin that we are only returning to it.  Therefore we are already wed because we have already been connected in the most intimate way possible.  However there is the actual step of rebinding.  The Valar acknowledge and expect as much . . . but I wish you to know that I do not expect it.  I wish for it, but I will not take for granted that you might do the same.  I know that elves rarely perform this act . . . at least not in this way."

Elladan remained silent for a long moment, forcing himself to really think about this before blurting out the first thing that came to mind.  He had heard what Námo said and what he hadn't said.  The slight hesitations were unmistakable.  The half-elf wondered if Námo was ready for this step.  He didn't want him to feel obliged to do it.  Despite the Vala's reassurances to the contrary, Elladan still felt that he had somehow forced him into having sex, that Námo had felt obligated.  But Elladan trusted his stepfather implicitly.  Námo had said it was Oromë's idea, and Oromë had not yet been wrong about the two of them.  His advice and guidance were instrumental in the two of them still being together at this moment.  Elladan decided to put his faith in him, and nodded his acceptance.

"So what do we do?" he asked, glancing around the room as if it held the answers.  Námo gently squeezed his hand before guiding him into the center of the broken room.  Then he turned to face his intended, hesitating again before reaching out to draw Elladan into a firm embrace.

The half-elf gratefully returned it.  It was obvious to him that Námo was not used to any kind of touching, but since their disastrous union he had made a concerted effort to touch Elladan more often.  Elladan admitted to himself that he was a tactile person.  He probably inherited it from his father, who loved to give hugs and to be hugged. 

Elladan had never given it any serious thought until recently when he could see how Námo weighed each caress he gave him.  Was now a time for contact?  What kind of contact?  Hand on the shoulder?  Something more intimate?  How would Elladan react to it?  What was he expecting?

The half-elf could practically hear the thoughts in his Vala's head.  It was way overthinking it, if you asked him.  He touched whenever he felt it was the right thing to do, and invariably he always judged the intimacy correctly.  It was obviously very foreign to Námo, and Elladan hoped he was giving the Vala the right signals to tell him he was doing alright. 

At the moment he settled comfortably into the other's embrace, letting him set the pace.  Unaccountably he felt his eyelids grow heavy.  Soon the rest of him felt the same, weighing pleasantly in a way he had never felt before.  It was a detached feeling, as though the bulk he felt was not his own but rather a weight he was carrying.  Except he wasn't lifting anything, didn't feel the strain in his muscles; he was just aware of the weight, aware of it in the sense that it was something outside of himself.  When he felt it, there was no connection of self to it.  He didn't feel it and think 'that mass is connected to me, that's the normal feel of me'.  It was completely separate. 

But the intimate feel of this heaviness soon began to fade.  Oddly he still felt as though he was curled in Námo's arms, could feel his weight if not his own.  But the sensation was faint, far away.  The room was faint, far away.  Everything was receding except for Námo.  He was still there so Elladan wasn't worried. 

A sharp note of uncertainty danced around the edges of his consciousness.  Elladan leaned in closer, trying to comfort his beloved, as he assumed the feeling was from him.  He got that a lot recently, suddenly feeling something so unlike his mood at the moment.  He had come to the conclusion they must be Námo's thoughts and feelings. 

But as he leaned closer, there was no resistance.  No press of muscle and bone against his own.  It seemed as though Elladan could fall right into Námo.  To his dismay he felt the Vala begin to draw away.  Elladan wasn't sure why this upset him so, but his instincts told him to follow his beloved and so he did without a second thought, somehow finding something to hold onto and grabbing tightly. 

He pulled the other man close, feelings of cold and loneliness drifted fleetingly into his awareness.  The only thing Elladan knew in that moment was that he was warm, and he could easily share that warmth.  He drew Námo closer, pulling him into himself, falling into Námo until there were no more barriers and the cold slowly began to recede.

In an instant the lethargy passed like a lightening bolt as Elladan felt himself fray along the edges.  For a fraction of a moment he thought about panicking, about fighting.  But the moment passed and he let himself float, his attention diverted by images of Námo's past.  His curious nature perked up, watching the memories float by. 

Most passed through him without making any real impression, thousands of silent years in meditation and waiting.  Oddly, even the interesting memories of great historical events like the oath of Fëanor and his sons, or the last battle against Morgoth that his father had fought in didn't make a dent in him either.  They happened several times, the words uttered long before there was a voice to say them, the battle fought and won long before his brother had fallen.  He had seen all of it before and it did not touch him. 

It was other memories that haunted him.  The heart-wrenching confusion of a lost Teleri child searching for her parents among the dead at Alqualondë, the cry of anguish from Finwë's spirit when his son burned to ash, the deep loneliness in Lúthien's spirit as she sang before him, the final fall of his brother from grace.  Far too few happy memories. 

Elladan drew away, suddenly aware of himself again, trying to find his own happy memories to share with Námo.  But they were lost somewhere, and his spirit was overtaken again.  The memories were stripped away, the first layer of the inner core.  Elladan gladly descended into the core, feeling a rush of familiarity that sent a thrill through him.  This felt right.

Another rush of panic tore through him, because he was disappearing.  But Elladan let the panic recede because he knew exactly where he was.  He was down there somewhere, secure in Námo's arms.  He was perfectly safe. 

Hesitant understanding floated by, and he realized the fear was not his, had never been his.  But he couldn't really separate it from himself.  That was okay though because it was easier to deal with Námo's fears this way.  Elladan was far too removed from them for him to be affected, and the fears soon disappeared into instinct. 

Layers of being shifted, gave way to Elladan.  Distantly he felt the same within himself.  The thrill of excitement thrummed louder.  He wasn't being cut into, he was opening himself up to receive a part of himself that was always missing though he had never noticed before. 

Finally the last layer fell away and there was nothing between him and Námo.  In an instant they flooded each other, no longer two people.  Nothing was hidden, the two halves discovering everything about the whole in a way they could never do of themselves.  It was honest and truthful, but it was also so reassuring, so uplifting, so freeing.  A deep loneliness was discovered and soothed. 

Soon the regular cares and worries of the everyday were forgotten; the whole world beyond was no longer important.  It was only them, dancing within each other until they were such a confusion of parts there was no knowing what had belonged to whom.  Neither cared.  They danced and laughed together for time uncounted.  Perhaps they could go on forever.

But there was a slight tug from below, and Elladan could feel that foreign weight again.  Another sharp panic hit him, the loneliness threatening to overwhelm them both.  It was so much larger than it had been before, where it had been forced into the deep recesses of the heart to be forgotten as much as it could.  Now that it was known, it didn't want to be pushed away again and it wouldn't go away.  Elladan felt like he might suffocate from it.  He couldn't stand to be alone, but he couldn't feel his twin or Námo or his father and he was drowning.

Until another presence appeared. 

It didn't so much arrive as made itself known.  For a fleeting moment Elladan was aware of it in the same way he had been aware of Námo a moment ago, on the spiritual level that had always been foreign to him before this.  He felt just the smallest part of this great whole that seemed to go on and on forever, so big his imagination couldn't comprehend it.  Elladan knew that it was best for him not to try.  This was too huge for him, and he had other problems. 

But suddenly he knew what to do.  The other presence didn't make much of an impression on him, but Námo seemed to soothe immediately.  Elladan followed his instincts, taking a firm hold of Námo's spirit and drawing it into his own body.  His flesh wasn't made to house the spirit of a Vala and he didn't intend to keep Námo there. 

It took only the slightest nudge from the unknown other being to show him where the connection between the two of them was.  They were still so blurred together that he couldn't see it.  But oddly he immediately trusted this other presence, gently pushing Námo through the connection while holding him close at the same time.  He didn't stop to think how desperate that hold really was.

After many long moments he found that Námo was no longer moving, but the immediacy of him was still constant.  Elladan could still feel him right next to his heart.  But now he could feel the tight arms around him, the quiet breath against his hair.  He cuddled closer, seeking the assurance that Námo was still there, that he was alright.  He felt the answering pulse in his soul, something he had never before given much attention to.  The two held each other tight, both reeling from the close connection now flared to life between them.

The memories, the certainties from the joining had gone back to their proper place.  Elladan no longer had the understanding of a Vala, and Námo no longer had the naïveté of the younger races, yet something of it remained in them.  The things Elladan didn't understand weren't so incomprehensible now, and he knew Námo was better equipped for elvish courting now.

His stomach rumbled fiercely, reminding him what had brought them out of their joining in the first place.  Elladan looked up sheepishly at his intended, ready to apologize.  But his tongue was stilled by the unusual expression on the Vala's face. 

His onyx eyes were softer than Elladan had ever seen them before as they gazed into his own silver ones, but it was the look of peace that startled him so.  Elladan now realized that he had never seen his Vala relaxed before.  There was always an air of sadness about him, easily passed off as solemnity.  But now Elladan saw it for what it was; hell, he had even felt it a few minutes ago.  It was a crushing loneliness and grief.  Námo was so good at his job because he felt every hurt, every grief of the dead, and he had a never ending well of compassion for them. 

Suddenly that ill-defined fear from before appeared again, but this time Elladan could name it.  He could see why he hesitated about Námo's occupation because now he knew Námo inside and out, and he knew the burden it was on him, even if the Vala would not recognize it himself.  Elladan vowed to do whatever he could to help ease that burden. 

Hearing the thought, Námo's face fell into a gentle smile that so lit his features as to take Elladan's breath away.  He had never seen Námo smile before.  Gently his Vala tangled his fingers in the half-elf's black hair and pulled them together.  It was their first kiss since their disastrous union, and it was the first that Námo had initiated.

It was slow, unhurried, but all-consuming nonetheless.  Elladan felt it like he'd never felt a kiss before.  Somewhere in the back of his head, he could feel Námo's pleasure and love.  He chased down the sensation, and the Vala opened up letting him inside.  Elladan gratefully curled into the other's spirit, so much larger than his own.  But after feeling that other presence, Námo no longer felt so imposing and overwhelming.  Compared with that, the Doomsman was just as small as Elladan.

His stomach growled again, more insistently this time.  They broke apart and smiled, Elladan's chagrined and Námo's fond.  "Perhaps we should take care of that," the Vala said, his voice dark and rich.  Elladan closed his eyes to let himself ride on the sound.  When he opened them again, he thought he saw a wicked twinkle in those onyx eyes.  Maybe some of his mischievousness had rubbed off on the Vala during their union.  Elladan's heart skipped as the gentle smile turned sly.

But Námo didn't act on what his smile promised.  His arm wrapped gently around Elladan's waist and he quietly guided his betrothed out of the broken sanctuary. 

Elladan snuggled into his side, noting absently that all of the twisting vines around the room were now in full bloom.  Their white pedals glowed against the black marble.  Smiling, the half-elf knew that this place of sanctuary where Námo had sought peace and solitude for years uncounted was now their place.  They would be back.