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THE DOOMSMAN

PART 13

Elrond sat propped up against the headboard of his bed enjoying the peace and quiet.  He was thumbing slowly through an old favorite of his tomes: the first book of poetry his husband had gifted him as an anniversary present.  Oromë had written all of the poems in it.  Despite the fact that the Vala of the Hunt was not meant to be a bard, Elrond treasured the gift nonetheless.  The awkward poems were filled with more honest love than the grandest epic Lindir could spin. 

In the middle of turning a page, the half-elf was startled by the sudden thump of a body into the bed causing him to bounce and almost rip the delicate paper.  Setting up a stern glare Elrond turned to look into a pair of bright silver eyes shining with more joy than he could ever remember seeing before.  Without warning or invitation, Elladan nestled close to his father's side practically humming with happiness.

Curiosity stilled his ire instantly.  Elrond gently set his precious book aside before wrapping an arm around his son's broad shoulders and pressing him close in a half-hug.  Elladan responded by snuggling even closer. 

As his son did not seem disposed for immediate conversation, the elder half-elf took a moment to study the younger elf.  There was nothing physically different except for the deeply rooted relaxation that had so obviously settled into Elladan's bones.  Elrond was glad to see it for it seemed that his eldest son had only been growing tenser the longer he and his beloved remained at odds.  The elder elf did not need his husband to tell him what was really going on. 

"I take it Mandos has finally bonded with you," Elrond said softly holding his son close to his chest.  He felt the nod against his shoulder.  Elladan was far too happy to even question his father's intuitive discovery.  He had long ago come to depend on his father simply knowing everything, and had never tried to hide anything from him.  The open, honest relationship was one he depended on as much as the one with his twin.  But unlike Elrond, his honesty with his twin wasn't always by choice. 

"Do you feel better?" Elrond asked needlessly.  It was obvious that his son was doing better, but Elrond wanted to make sure this wasn't only a surface healing.  Looking a little closer, he could just make out the shine of his son's spirit.  Few elves could actually look at the soul of another, but Elrond could.  It was a talent he generally kept to himself, but used whenever performing a healing.  Dark weapons killed by finding a hold in the spirit and slowly poisoning goodness and light.  If Elrond could not see the wound, he could not treat it. 

Now he was almost blinded by the sudden strength of Elladan's warm soul.  It was obvious that Námo had left some trace of his power upon the half-elf after their joining.  Elrond knew he would never be able to see the same in the Vala, simply because he was far too powerful for Elrond to see his spirit clearly but he did not doubt that Elladan had left his own mark of the Doomsman.  After giving himself a moment to adjust to the stronger spirit of one touched by a Vala, Elrond looked closer.  Where before Elladan's spirit was always restless with energy, there was a new peace to him.  Little holes were now filled.  Elrond had not the knowledge to note them though, but his instincts told him that something missing before was now found.

"Much better," Elladan mumbled in answer to his father's question.  His eyes were closed, and his face looked more peaceful than Elrond could ever remember seeing his son.  But then Elrond realized he had never seen his son remain so still before.  Smiling, he settled more comfortably against the headboard, gratefully holding his son close.  There didn't seem to be anything else needing to be said.

The two remained quiet for a long time, long enough that the shadows in the room had noticeably shifted when Elladan finally opened his eyes to look at his father.  "Daddy?" he asked quietly.  Elrond, who had closed his eyes and begun to drift, looked down at the other elf with a raised eyebrow.  It had been a long time since either of the twins had called him that.  "Did you and Tauron ever bind souls?"

"Of course."

"When?" Elladan asked, no trace of his usual hesitancy when asking something so personal.  But then Elladan probably knew with unacknowledged certainty that Elrond had no problem answering these questions.

"The night of our wedding, actually.  It wasn't exactly what I was hoping for that night, but more satisfying than I had thought it would be," Elrond said with a wink.  Elladan barely blinked at that, and only a shadow of his usual blush stained his cheeks in what would normally have been a mortifying statement to hear. 

"Did it . . . stay?" Elladan asked, clearly struggling for words.  But Elrond understood exactly what his son was asking. 

"It, ah, settles, but it doesn't go anywhere," he said, knowing Elladan was referring to the incredible sensation flying through his veins at the moment, trying to find the right harmony between the half-elf and the Vala now vying for attention.  The Vala would recede to Námo, since that's where it belonged.  Elrond didn't claim to be an expert but he knew that there was a reason that he was a half-elf and Oromë was a Vala, and it was best that they did not aspire to be anything other than they were.  But then, neither had ever wanted to be anything else. 

Elrond remembered the feeling though.  He remembered having the senses of a Vala, the all-encompassing understanding of his surroundings.  It had been a little heady, but he knew that if it had not receded he would have been overwhelmed and disoriented.  The comprehension had remained, doubtless the whole intent, and that was what mattered. 

"Mmm, good," Elladan murmured, rubbing his nose into the velvet of his father's light summer robe.  He seemed to settle down again, half-asleep.  Elrond had just closed his eyes again when another sleepy question drifted his way.

"Daddy?"

"Mmm?"

"Was it difficult for you when Tauron started courting you?" Elladan asked, silver eyes blinking up at his father.  Elrond pondered the question, letting his fingers gently stroke his son's long hair.  The younger half-elf leaned into the caress.

"It was difficult, but not necessarily in the same way as you are finding it difficult.  I was very young when I met your stepfather, and . . . well, my life had been no bed of roses up until that point.  I suppose I was a little overwhelmed by his attentions.  But there were also times when Tauron said or did something that seemed a little . . . off to me.  Doubtless nothing like what Mandos has been doing, but little things that reminded me we weren't on the exact same wavelength.  I don't think Tauron ever noticed them, and I never said anything, not sure of myself with him back then."

"What did you do?" Elladan asked after a long pause.  Elrond looked down at his son, marveling at his new-found patience.  He gave him a quick, one armed hug.

"You muddle through, I guess.  I can't say that everything between you and Mandos will be fine, but I also can't see you having these problems forever.  Eventually you'll begin to recognize what your lover will do, if not always why, and he'll do the same for you.  And you'll understand that you don't really need to know everything.  Some things are better left alone.  You'll learn to understand the things you need to know in order to understand you're husband."

His sage wisdom was not immediately answered.  After a few minutes a sleepy mumble of "good" reached his ears before Elladan's breathing evened out into a peaceful sleep.  Elrond smiled fondly at him, surreptitiously reaching for the blanket folded at the end of the bed without disturbing his son.  He gently tucked the light fabric around them to warm against the evening chill.

It was the third time he was just drifting off only to be interrupted.  But this time the culprit appeared at the door.  Elrond knew long before the door even opened who it was, and so he was not surprised when his caller did not identify himself.  However when he finally managed to pry open sleepy silver eyes, he was surprised to see the look of astonishment upon his husband's heavenly features.  Nothing surprised his Vala.

"Tauron?" he asked quietly, hoping not to disturb his son.  He needn't have worried.  Elladan was completely out, sleeping as though he had never known it before now. 

His husband dragged his gaze away from the sleeping half-elf cuddled into his father's embrace.  Elrond raised a delicate eyebrow to reinforce his query.  Oromë seemed to shake himself but quickly walked to the side of the bed, settling comfortably by his husband's side studying the two of them.  He was silent for a long moment, and Elrond gave up ever being answered.  He could sense that, whatever it was, it was one of those Vala-things he had warned his son about.  But it was about his son, that much he was certain, and he was a little conflicted as to whether to push the issue or not.

"I see the mark of the One upon him," Oromë said in response to the thoughts tumbling through his husband's head that he only half-consciously acknowledged.  Elrond cocked his head to the side, never having heard his husband speak in such a hushed, awed whisper before. 

"The One?" he asked mentally, having felt his son stir slightly beside him.  The mental voice seemed to snap Oromë from the last vestige of the trance holding him.  He sat back, looking extremely thoughtful.  Knowing that look, Elrond gave him up as a lost cause.  But he did not allow himself to drift back to sleep.  Instead he simply basked in his husband's presence, letting it soothe him as surely as the bonding had soothed his son.

The shadows had lengthened further before Oromë roused himself, making it hard to see his face clearly.  It must be near dinnertime, and Elrond tried to remember who was cooking tonight.  A warm laugh startled him from his musings.  He looked up to see a wicked sparkle in his husband's cat-eyes.  He raised his eyebrow again.

"You have noticed that Elladan and Námo have bonded?" Oromë asked needlessly, laughter bubbling along their connection.  Elrond nodded.  "All must not have gone well.  At least that is what I can read of the situation."

"What do you mean?" Elrond asked, concern for his son overriding the certain knowledge that he had in his heart that his son was well.  Hearing his disquiet, Oromë quickly sent a soothing pulse between them.

"I mean that my dear brother, despite his best intentions, has once again run into trouble.  Elladan hardly knows enough about binding to have had any control over the process, which means that Námo had to lead him.  So when Námo's fears and doubts assailed him, the binding, um . . . well, it must have faltered.  Elladan probably had no idea anything was wrong, and could do nothing to fix it.  So the One stepped in to help.  At least that's the most plausible explanation I can come up with," Oromë said, his spirit once again radiating awe and laughter. 

Elrond gave his husband an incredulous look, more for his reaction than his explanation, but then looked down at the serene face nestled against his shoulder.

"You never could do anything the easy way, could you?" he murmured affectionately, brushing a kiss on his son's forehead.  Elladan mumbled something in his sleep, but settled more firmly into place.  When Elrond looked up again, he found Oromë's expression had softened in fondness as he watched the scene before him.

"Dinner is almost ready," the Vala said, hearing Glorfindel cursing as he reached into the oven, which usually heralded his most recent burn. 

Elrond glanced down at his son.  "I think I will stay here," he thought quietly as if his mind could disturb the quiet moment.  Oromë smiled.  He stood up, and leaned over to give his husband a quick kiss.

"I shall save you some dessert," he promised before leaving quietly.  It took only a few minutes more before Elrond finally joined his son in sleep. 

******

The slightest chill on the breeze was the first herald that summer was finally ending, and with it a relief from the oppressive heat.  But the shade of the trees was still a welcome retreat from the sun.  It was also a perfect sanctuary for the Judge of the Valar to collect his thoughts. 

Námo stood at the edge of the clearing, gazing steadily at his brother's unimposing home so unlike the abodes of all his kin.  It was as simple and uncomplicated as the Hunter himself.  Which was a complication in itself, Námo thought wryly, a lesson well learned over the last few weeks.  He was still coming to terms with the idea that he would soon call this simple structure home.  Oromë's gesture had touched him deeply with its unselfish generosity, and left him humbled.  He could never picture any of his other brethren doing the same thing.  It was those little acts of generosity that none of them even considered that seemed like such an integral part of the Hunter, and in some ways set him above them.

Námo had never really appreciated the quieter wisdom of the Hunter, and he doubted his kin had either.  Of course they acknowledged his role as Hunter and Forester, and called upon his strength when battle could not be avoided.  But his almost complete command of elves was overlooked.  Indeed, Námo wondered if his elf-like tendencies had relegated him to the sidelines.  It was sadly plausible that some of their kin would be arrogant enough to see his accommodation on his husband's behalf as a weakness that diminished his standing among the Valar.  The thought grieved the Doomsman.

And yet, if he had learned anything in the past weeks, Námo was reasonably assured that Oromë didn't give a damn what his brethren thought of him.  And that only made the dark Vala more aware of his own need to satisfy his kin, to fulfill their expectations.  Even Manwë, who knew the most of the One's plan and loved the younger races more deeply than he loved anything else, had never made any real effort to understand them.  He would watch their antics with fond amusement or, in times of crisis, deep sorrow on their behalf.  It was a wonder to Námo that given their continuing obstinacy in this area that they could help their sister races at all. 

Perhaps that was why Ulmo always drew away from his kindred.  The Doomsman had always thought it was because he was stubborn, haughty in his own views of what should and should not be done.  Námo was fairly sure that his brethren viewed him in the same light, as someone who could be more a thorn in their sides than a rational devil's advocate.  Now, Námo wondered if the water-Vala wasn't an embodiment of the resentment and frustration the younger races felt at always being undervalued and misunderstood, and if he wasn't so abrasive simply because the rest of their kin refused to see the truth in him.

Or possibly Námo was completely overanalyzing everything and giving Ulmo way too much credit.

The thought caused a small smile to consider playing across his mouth, but he didn't give it free rein, sensing the presence of his brother coming his way.

"You're here early," the Hunter thought, appearing out of the foliage as if an extension of it.  Námo nodded in greeting.

"I had some thinking to do," he replied.  For some reason his comment caused a wide grin to split across his brother's face.  The Doomsman canted an eyebrow in question.  Oddly Oromë's moment of humor vanished instantly into profound silence that left Námo even more confused.  He frowned at the Hunter.

"I saw Elladan," the Hunter said erroneously.  It would seem odder if he had not seen his stepson since last Námo had visited his brother.  But the Doomsman understood his kinsman's meaning.  Still he waited.  "I see you took my advice."

"It was indeed the correct course of action.  Thank you," Námo replied with quiet dignity.  He tipped his head in a show of respect he rarely afforded anyone.  Oromë cocked his head to the side, clearly studying him.

"There was something odd. . ." he began hesitantly.  The Doomsman could hear his thoughts swirl on spiritual eddies.  With a slight push, he gave his brother permission to tell him whatever it was he noticed.  Oromë waited a moment longer, but then tentatively he shared his memory of Elladan curled against his father and his own conclusions.

"Ah," Námo said, realizing he shouldn't be surprised that Oromë had noticed.  Without hesitation the Doomsman shared his own memory of the joining.  The Hunter's surprise at his openness was blatantly obvious, but Námo no longer felt the need to be so private.  Joining had made him aware of many little insecurities that he had studious denied he even had.  Now, he let them go.  His brother was absolutely right; their experiences were meant to be shared, and something as wonderful as a joining was certainly nothing to be ashamed of. 

However it was a private experience, something to be shared between lovers alone.  So it was understandable that Oromë was surprised that he would share the memory.  But Námo doubted his beloved would mind, and the Doomsman still had a few questions he wished answered, questions Oromë could only answer if he knew what happened.

He felt Oromë shy away from the intense intimacy, but his curiosity got the better of him when he felt Eru's intervention. 

"I, um . . ." the Hunter said, clearly not sure what to say.

"It's alright.  I don't mind.  It felt good to feel our Father's presence again," Námo thought quietly, still feeling Ilúvatar's warm reassurance like a winter cloak wrapped tightly around his spirit.  Elladan hadn't heard it, but Eru had spoken quietly to Námo, reassuring him that he had not failed, that He watched out for him as surely as He did His other children, and that He had a plan for him too.  Hearing his Father was as much a balm to him as finally bonding had been.

"See, I told you He's still watching out for you," Oromë said, sounding pleased with himself.  Námo smiled indulgently, which sent his brother into shock.  It took him a moment to regain his wits.  "Anyway . . . I'm glad for you.  You seem more relaxed now."

"I feel more relaxed.  You were right; I feel whole now," Námo said, letting Oromë feel the peace within him.  The Hunter smiled, but his attention was diverted as Elrond suddenly appeared at the kitchen door.  The Valar watched the half-elf slowly make his way toward the vegetable patch, which was adjacent to the herb garden, an empty wicker basket in his hand.  The half-elf took no notice of the hidden ainur as he walked slowly up and down the rows of vegetables, every now and then stopping to pluck something and drop it into his basket.

"I am happy for you and Elladan," Oromë said after a moment, his thoughts obviously distracted.  A small smile of understanding curved Námo's elegant mouth.  "And I would have you know that I am always here for you, for whatever," the Hunter said, turning to look at his kin with serious eyes. 

The Doomsman inclined his head in gratitude.  Oromë looked at him for a long moment before nodding and returning his attention to his husband.  He took a step forward, before hesitating and glancing at Námo.  "I shall see you at dinner?" he asked, his question more to ask if the conversation was over than anything else.  The Doomsman smiled, sensing his brother's anticipation to be with his husband. 

He nodded, releasing his brother from his formal obligations of etiquette.  Oromë returned the gesture before walking purposefully toward his husband, catching him unawares into a strong embrace and kiss.  Námo watched them silently, feeling the playfulness and love flowing between the two.

Closing his eyes, he took a moment to appreciate the feeling.  Námo realized that before his bonding, he had never really felt the connections of others.  There was always something in the way, making him an outsider looking in, never really grasping what he saw.  Now, though, he understood; he had felt it himself, knew its power, its depth, its strength, the total command it wielded.  Námo was constantly surprised by all that he had missed, all that he had arrogantly assumed was within his realm of understanding. 

Truly, no one knew how to humble better than the One.

Námo smiled at the thought, opening his eyes again to watch as Hunter and Half-elf made their way back into the house.  He noted the gentle blush on Lord Elrond's cheeks, a sure sign that Oromë was being his usual cheeky self. 

But Elrond paused at the door, turning to look at the woods.  Though Námo should be invisible to elvish eyes, he could swear that the half-elf looked straight at him.  Not only that, but Elrond's shrewd gaze seemed to cut straight to his soul.  Námo shivered, feeling an unfamiliar urge to fidget.  Thankfully the moment passed, and Elrond allowed Oromë to draw him back into the house and the preparation of dinner. 

Námo shivered again, the weight on that look still blanketing him.  He took a steadying breath, allowing for the first time that he might indeed be nervous about meeting his beloved's parents.  It seemed like a silly thing; Námo was the Judge of the Valar, older than Eä itself, and save for Manwë, no one knew more of Ilúvatar's mind, but . . .

But now that he had bonded, that small part of him that belonged to Elladan squirmed with the thought of meeting with the disapproval of his future in-laws.  It did not help that Námo held Elrond in great esteem.  Of all the elves, half-elves, and humans that he had met in his long service to Eru and Manwë, no one had impressed him more than Elrond. 

After all the tragedies in his life, all that he had suffered, Elrond continued to be giving and gentle.  Not only was his own disposition unmarred, but he actively sought to soothe the hurts of others.  His own harsh life made him far more empathetic to those in need.  Námo knew of no one turned away from the half-elf's home, whether in need or not. 

The Doomsman supposed that he respected Elrond so much because the half-elf had, purely by his own conscience, chosen a profession not dissimilar to Námo's own.  Knowing how difficult it could be made Námo appreciate Elrond's efforts and his success. 

Of all of Eru's children, Elrond was the only one Námo truly wished to be thought well of by.  And he had wanted that long before he had met Elladan.  Sighing, the Vala glanced up at the sky.  He took a deep breath, willing his deep reserve of calm to flow through him.  Somehow he knew he would need it to survive the coming night.

NEXT

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