52 First Age, Doriath
“Be careful – we are hunting boar tonight, not grouse. I would not have you shred your silk or worse, your skin, on its tusks.”
Thranduil could not resist the barb – Celeborn invited it. Kin he might be, yet Doriath was large, filled with oak and beech, acorn and ash. There were adventures enough to be found for an industrious youth, and adventures Thranduil had found. The hunt kept him occupied, his father had often fondly remarked, and out of the trouble he was otherwise certain to get into at court. Also, it kept their larder well-stocked with fowl and venison. Cook was happy with the steady supply of provision brought in by Thranduil and his friends, and in turn, Oropher was pleased to remark on his son's marksmanship whenever he hosted a feast for one of the other lords of their protected realm.
And just such a careless remark of his father had burdened Thranduil with the company of Celeborn, a distant cousin who seemed to excel at everything Thranduil hated. A born politician, Thranduil thought and gave Celeborn a derisive look, then bit his lip and quickly looked away again, cursing himself for a fool.
Born politician he might be, with all that the word implied – placid, congenial, calm, little given to passions – but also, Thranduil thought and inwardly cursed again, far too beautiful to spend his days near Thingol like all the other lackeys of the court. His hair was the pure, brilliant silver of the royal house of the Sindar; it reached past his waist and swayed with the motion of the horse, tempting Thranduil to reach out and test whether it would truly feel as luxurious as finest silk as it slid through his fingers.
What would it take to break through that calm? Not his barbs, it would seem.
“I am not afraid of a boar, but please do not worry on my account. Your father led me to believe that you know what you do; and I brought my bow, in any case.”
Celeborn smiled at him, and Thranduil bit back another curse. There was something to Celeborn that made his skin itch, though whether it was with the need to hit him or kiss him he could not say.
"I know that you think this is a bad decision," Celeborn continued calmly, and even had the nerve to keep smiling. "But I assure you, I have hunted boar before, and just because you think I am one of the King's lackeys who shies away from any danger-"
"Aren't you?" Thranduil asked, then cursed himself. Ah, ever the bumbling fool - his father thought little of those who whiled away their days among Thingol's courtiers, hoping for the hand of his daughter in marriage or at least a higher position at court, but even he would be disgusted at his son's lack of manners. Thranduil sighed. "I am sorry; that was uncalled for. Still, you must admit that we do not usually see one of the courtiers with weapon in hand. And a boar is no pheasant. I might not like the thought of taking you with us on the hunt; but even less I like the thought of returning with you wounded, or worse...."
"Worry not," Celeborn said and gave him another of those tranquil smiles that ignited a sudden, irrational anger in Thranduil. He clenched his teeth. Could nothing shake Celeborn's damnable calm?
"In truth, though you think you know me, you know very little of me, cousin. I spend my time with men of power not because I am a craven lackey, as I know you think. But where is the use in fleeing their company, spending all my time in the wild as if there were no greater concerns? The time of change has come upon us; I can feel it. I go where I feel I must go; and for now, it is the circle of men who have the power to affect a change. You touch no one's life, out here in the forest."
"Power then?" Thranduil said bitterly. "Then you are not so different from the other courtiers after all. They all want power; and sometimes I think that those who desire it are the ones least equipped to wield it. What wise man would desire power?"
"I am not content to sit and wait and let others decide my fate. I, too, have ideas and plans. Oh, I am not saying that I would make a better ruler than Thingol, who has, after all, protected us for a long time. But there will be change - I can feel it, and I am certain so do you. You must be a fool if you deny it. When it comes, I want to be prepared. I do not want others to make my decisions for me."
"Not so tranquil after all, then," Thranduil said and raised a brow. "I had not thought that it would be talk of power that roused you so."
"What do you know of what rouses me?" Celeborn breathed and forced his horse to stop next to Thranduil's bay, so close that their thighs were pressed together.
Thranduil looked into his clear eyes that seemed to him as deep, as cold as an icy pool, betraying nothing of what Celeborn might feel. There was a smile still on his lips, and again Thranduil felt an irrational anger rise.
"Is that what rouses you in other ways, too? Having power? Yielding power?"
They stared at each other, breathing heavily, their lips only inches apart, and yet Thranduil was not certain if he wanted to kiss him or push him to the ground and give him the beating of his life. All around them, the forest was quiet. His friends must have ridden onward, giving Thranduil the space to quarrel with his cousin while they looked for game. Even the birds had fallen silent, and all that could be heard was the wind rustling in the birch leaves.
Then there was a sudden rustling, a loud, angry sound that was half grunt, half roar. Thranduil's horse shied, jostling Celeborn's good-natured gelding who squealed and tried to turn, only to find himself face to face with a fully-grown, maddened boar charging at him.
Everything happened quickly then. Thranduil found himself holding his spear in his hand without even remembering how it got there, he drew his arm back, aimed - and found that he could not throw. Celeborn was between him and the boar, and Celeborn's horse panicked as it found himself face to face with the razor-sharp tusks. Desperately, it tried to jump out of the way; it stumbled, it fell, and Thranduil cried out in fear when he saw it take Celeborn down with it.
The boar vanished in the bushes that lined the other side of the path they had followed, and only then did Thranduil realize that he still carried the now useless spear in his hand. He let it drop to the floor, his heart thundering in his chest, and hurried to Celeborn's side.
"That was... not how I imagined it would go. I truly fear that I have proven you right now." Celeborn's voice was breathless and tight with pain, but Thranduil could see no blood. Celeborn had managed to roll to the side as he went down with his horse, and had just barely managed to avoid being buried beneath the bulk of his gelding.
"Are you well? How do you feel?"
Thranduil touched a muddied cheek in concern, then gripped Celeborn and rolled both of them to the side when the horse, with another panicked squeal, tried to get to his feet, threatening to squash them once more. There was a loud crack and Celeborn cried out, so that Thranduil scrambled to get free to look at him, his heart threatening to shatter from fear that it might have been a bone, or worse, his back...
“My bow!” Celeborn complained and made another pained sound when he pulled a splintered, pointy piece of golden wood from beneath his body. Thranduil laughed.
“Your bow! I feared that was your back!”
He kept laughing when Celeborn glared at him, unable to stop now that shock was met with relief. He could not even appreciate glacial Celeborn showing true feelings all of a sudden, all he could do was laugh in relief until tears ran down his cheeks while Celeborn sadly handled all that remained of the once beautiful weapon.
“It was a gift, and dear to me! The trees that yielded the wood for this bow do not grow in Doriath!”
“Better your bow than your back, cousin!” Thranduil said and moved to embrace Celeborn, giddy with relief. “See, nothing happened! Even your horse seems unharmed! And if you are truly so attached to your bow, let me make it up to you – I will make amends whichever way you desire.”
“Truly? Whichever way I desire?” Celeborn's voice was soft, the words breathed against Thranduil's lips, who felt his heart contracting in his chest with sudden, unexpected need.
"My bow was very dear to me," Celeborn murmured suggestively.
"I cannot believe it."
"What?" Another of those infuriating smiles.
"Are you trying to entice me?"
"Stop repeating my words," Thranduil said against Celeborn's lips, and then felt with a sudden shock an answering hardness press against his own. "This is not some game at court. You want me, damn you! Say it! Say it, and I will make up for the loss of your bow. Continue to play your courtiers' games, and I swear I will leave you here for the boar to find you."
Celeborn laughed softly. "You have been playing with me ever since you heard your father demand that you take me with you to the hunt. Am I not allowed my revenge for all those thinly veiled insults? But no, I do not fancy a return of the boar. I like my lovers none too gentle, but not quite that rough."
Thranduil stared at him in wide-eyed surprise for a moment, then, slowly, despite his anger and relief, and even though he still felt that he would never understand the man before him, he began to laugh as well.
"My, my, such words from tranquil Celeborn, the darling of the council. Not very diplomatic, is it?"
"I was told you are not a diplomatic man, Thranduil."
"So this is a ploy to do - what, exactly?"
"Mostly to make you stop sneering at me," Celeborn admitted with astonishing honesty. "Because I think I might like you, cousin. Because I know that I desire you. If this is a ploy, then only one to get into your bed."
Thranduil shook his head. "That is more honesty than I would have expected. Perhaps you are right. Perhaps I truly do not know you. Perhaps-"
"Perhaps you desire me, too?" Celeborn smiled against Thranduil's lips, moving his hips very slightly, but it was enough to make Thranduil bite back a groan.
"I have no taste for games, cousin," he murmured and then hungrily kissed the maddening man beneath him, thrusting his hands into the silver silk of his hair, thinking with a shiver of how it would feel pooling on his naked skin. If he had thought of enjoying Celeborn's charms - and of course he had, he could not deny it - then he had always imagined it to be quite different. Never would he have thought that one day, he would have Celeborn beneath him spattered with mud, clad in worn leather and linen instead of the fine, embroidered clothes of the court.
Celeborn, either way, was as lovely and refreshing as a clear, deep pool. Not the frigid ice-melt from the mountains he had likened him to at all, but the clear water of spring, sweet with promise of growth, and the warmth that was to come.
"You are a mystery to me. I do not know what you are thinking at all – but there will be no more games now. Will you share my tent with me tonight?"
Celeborn made a soft sound of pleasure and wrapped an arm around Thranduil's neck to pull him close once more. "My fierce, rough hunter. Will you find out for yourself what rouses me, then?"
"Oh, I already know it," Thranduil breathed and claimed another kiss, and then proceeded to show the truth of his claim.
3433 Second Age, the Vales of Anduin
How was it possible, Thranduil thought with a startling amount of melancholy as he studied the encampment that had sprung up with surprising efficiency before him, that an Age had passed since he had last been in the company of Celeborn? The world had changed around them, and yet Celeborn still remained as infuriatingly closed to him as he had always been. Once he had believed that there was more hidden beneath that calm demeanor, that there was more to Celeborn than the desire for power. Of course, he had been proved wrong in such a way that the memory still hurt to this day. Celeborn had tried to use him, as he used everyone around him, and Thranduil was sick of games and politics. When Doriath fell, he and his father had built a realm in a forest far from their former home, blessedly free of Noldorin influence. A simpler life – a better life, Thranduil thought, a life where delight could be found in the fresh green beech leaves in spring, a successful hunt, a plentiful supply of berries, or the mumbling of a brook. No, he was happy where he was now, and the life among their Laegren people suited him far better than life in the protected forest of Doriath had.
Let Celeborn be happy with his Noldorin wife then. From what he had heard, she was as mad for power as Celeborn was – a pair well-matched, and he did not put it beyond Galadriel at all to grow covetous of his father's kingdom in the Greenwood as well, in time. They would have to be careful there. Noldorin influence had once seen the utter destruction of his home, and that was a memory terrible enough that neither he nor his father would allow it to come to pass again.
“I am willing to make amends,” Celeborn said with what almost sounded like despair, reaching out towards him right there in the midst of their encampment, with men of both their armies watching. Thranduil laughed, although there was little humor in his voice, yet nevertheless he led Celeborn towards that part of the encampment where his own tent stood and where security was higher.
“Amends? It is a little late for that, don't you think?” He stopped at last and touched Celeborn's cheek with surprising gentleness, then grabbed a hank of silver hair, not caring what spectators would make of that gesture. “You once told me that an apology wasn't going to suffice, but that there were other ways to make amends. Well then. For now, for the good of all our people, we will be forced to work together. You shall have your chance then - you will make amends. I will demand no more than what is my due, the same way you once asked amends of me. And I will show as little compassion as you showed me!”
A shiver went through Celeborn at Thranduil's command, and though there was anger in his eyes, he still submitted and fell silent, even when Thranduil grabbed his chin and kissed him with little gentleness.
“Good,” Thranduil then said, before he turned and strode away to his tent. “Come!
“How have I angered you, Thranduil?”
Thranduil exhaled, taken aback by the sudden bitterness that rose in him with force at the question. He had often thought of what had passed between them, yes, and had sometimes even dreamed of giving tranquil Celeborn a taste of the harsh pain of rejection and betrayal. But now he was nearly trembling with anger, while another part of him felt weak and even now thought of sending Celeborn away, rather than give in to the weakness that made him want to bury his hands in the silver tresses and make Celeborn beg and plead for him.
“You have refused to talk to me, ever since, and I--”
“Silence!” Thranduil repeated, still fluctuating between anger and a strange, insidious despair. He clenched his hands when they stepped into his tent, and led Celeborn through the ante-chamber towards the main room of the spacious tent, made as comfortable as was possible for an army on the march.
“You are displeased with me then.”
Celeborn's gentle voice disturbed his thoughts, and Thranduil clenched his hands into impotent fists, hit the heavy wood of the table.
Silence followed his outbreak, and for a long moment, Thranduil refused to turn and look, even though it was he who had led Celeborn here. At last, it was the sound of rustling silk that made him turn, and then stare open-mouthed at the sight that greeted him.
“However I incurred your anger,” Celeborn said, and though the words were playful, there was a graveness to them that held Thranduil frozen to the spot for a moment, “I am willing to make amends.”
“You haven't changed at all,” Thranduil said, throat suddenly dry as he gazed down at Celeborn on his knees before him, naked and still so beautiful that Thranduil wished he could simply forget what had happened.
He had never minded if others knew about his dalliances. He was not ashamed of his desires, after all, and he would not have cared if there had been rumors about him and Celeborn, after their hunt. Yet instead of rumors, there had been the revelation that Celeborn had used him.
He had been interested only in political gain. It should have been obvious to him from the start, and yet, he had wanted to believe that there was more between them. Not love certainly, when they had only barely got to know each other, but there had been desire. As well as friendship, and affection – at least that was what he had thought.
“If only you weren't so beautiful...”
He stepped behind Celeborn, ran one hand over the silken hair once more. Yes. This was better. If he could not see his face, remembering his anger, his humiliation was much easier.
“You tricked me with your beauty once. Very well. I will ask for full remuneration now.”
“One – one condition only,” Celeborn said breathlessly, then gasped when Thranduil tightened his hold on his hair.
"You dare ask me for conditions?" Thranduil's hand slid down, lightly gripping Celeborn's throat, feeling him swallow. Celeborn would go nowhere now. He would make certain of that. "And I think that I told you to be silent. Perhaps I should gag you," he mused, laughing softly to himself when he felt Celeborn bristle at the suggestion, He did not even need to see his face to know the look that was in his eyes. Ah, no matter what had happened between them, this was still an unsurpassed pleasure - knowing that he had the power to shake that placid, bland calm. There was passion in Celeborn. He had felt it once, and he would called it forth anew today.
"Speak then. What condition would you dare to ask of me?"
He did not take his hand from Celeborn's throat. His touch was light, but there was threat in the very position itself. He liked the way he could feel Celeborn's fluttering pulse, his nervous swallows, and Celeborn, despite the hint of fear, canted his head just so, offering himself up to him.
"Only that after, you will let me talk," Celeborn whispered. "My lord," he added submissively, and Thranduil closed his eyes with exquisite triumph, and a need that was so old and so deep as the pain Celeborn had brought him.
"Very well. Afterward. For now, you are mine. I will have you the way I always wanted to have you. Here, in the light, to look upon you, to truly see you - all of you."
He let go of Celeborn's throat, then stepped in front of him once more, motioning for him to get up. For a long while, he simply stood and looked his fill. Celeborn did not tremble or blush; there was strength in him, and a quiet dignity that both pleased Thranduil and made him want to challenge it.
"How long until I can make you lose all composure?" he asked slowly. "Until I make you shiver, and beg, and weep? I'll have your full surrender today."
"Yes, my lord," Celeborn said softly, and Thranduil's eyes narrowed.
"Do you think this is a game? Just a role you play to get what you want, as you always do?" He gripped Celeborn's chin, glared at him, and was pleased to see him truly shaken at last.
"This is no game," Thranduil said, his voice hard, and then pushed Celeborn back with enough force to make him stumble and land on the bed - just where he had wanted to have him all along.
"No games between us two tonight," he repeated like a threat as he slowly stepped closer. There was curled rope in one of the many boxes, he knew, but looking at Celeborn breathless and beautiful on his bed he could not bring himself to bind that fair skin with coarse rope. Celeborn was a creature of silk and silver and moonlight, slippery and elusive.
But he would not elude him tonight...
He took up a long piece of embroidered silk meant to become his battle standard once they would finally face their foe. He had to shake his head at his own action, but had not Celeborn always brought out the unpredictable in him? Beech leaves painted onto fine silk, as was appropriate for the crown prince. He stroked across the slippery surface, then stepped towards the bed. Ironic, to bind Celeborn with the insignia that now denoted his own rise to power - a power he had never wanted, save that it meant a calm life with their Silvan cousins, far removed from the influence of those who had come and slain the inhabitants of his former home, be it man or woman or child.
He wound it around Celeborn's wrists, then fastened them to the iron headrest by it. Celeborn lay motionless beneath him. With any other lover, Thranduil would have sought to give reassurance now, but Celeborn did not tremble or otherwise betray anxiety. And yet...
Thranduil touched one wrist, rested his fingertips lightly against the paper-thin skin, feeling the rush of blood beneath, the quickening pulse. Slowly, very, very slowly, he dragged his fingers downward, following the bluish vein, the strong sinew to the elbow. After a moment, he moved on. The skin at the underside of Celeborn's arm was soft as velvet - and sensitive, for it brought him an indrawn breath, and a tightening of the muscles in his arm. Thranduil smiled to see that despite his appearance, beneath that silken skin was the steel of muscle. Celeborn might be one of Amdír's lords of Lórinand now, had been of great influence in Eregion as well, but there was more to him than just the calm, unruffled diplomat. He was a warrior, too, with a body well-used to handling bow and sword.
Thranduil continued in his leisurely exploration of the body that was at his mercy at last. That one night in the past they had been hurried, and there had been but the light of one single candle to illuminate the pale canvas beneath his fingers. Now, there was the light of the sun that penetrated the walls of his tent, and it was enough to truly appreciate Celeborn's beauty in the full.
He rested his hand on Celeborn's chest, splayed his fingers, pressed down just a little to push Celeborn into the mattress, to let him feel that he was at his mercy now. It brought him another soft, indrawn breath and the first hint of something other than just calm acceptance in Celeborn's eyes.
How far could he push Celeborn, he wondered. Celeborn had given in easily, had called him lord and promised his full surrender, and yet Thranduil was still not certain whether it was an act - whether Celeborn was even aware of the full extent of what Thranduil might desire of him.
Had Celeborn done this before? His actions seemed to speak so, and yet...
Thranduil moved to straddle Celeborn's chest, yanking at the lacing of his breeches with one hand. "Open your mouth," he demanded, hard from the thought alone of what he was going to do, and yet a part of him could not believe that Celeborn would truly acquiesce, not to this, not like this.
And yet Celeborn did, and Thranduil could not help himself. He groaned when his erection sprang free at last, touching those tempting lips he had dreamed about, and Celeborn...
"Ah, sweet Elbereth!" he groaned in disbelief and terrible, aching need when Celeborn's lips closed around him. He made a sound that sounded much like a whimper, grasped the wrought iron bars of the headrest to hold himself up, and stared with unseeing eyes at the sight of his swollen cock disappearing between those soft, full lips.
The sight alone was enough to nearly make him spill, and he clenched his fingers around the bars of the headrest until it hurt, clinging to the pain as he watched, unable to tear his eyes away from something he would have deemed impossible mere hours ago. The heat of Celeborn's mouth, that slick, soft rasp of his tongue... Oh Valar, it was too good, it was too much, and yet he could not bring himself to stop, watching with aching hunger how he slowly slid in and out of that tempting mouth.
"Enough," he groaned at last and pulled away, panting for breath. His legs felt weak as he stood to disrobe, all the while unable to tear his gaze away from Celeborn on his bed, naked, bound, and more tempting than anything else Thranduil had ever been. His lips were swollen, gleaming wetly in invitation, and when Thranduil returned to Celeborn's side on the bed, naked skin pressed to naked skin at last, he kissed him, tasting his own musk on those tempting lips.
"What shall I do with you?" he asked softly, though suddenly, there was little liking for the game left in him. Instead, what he felt was a deep sadness at the thought that he would never truly know this man. Even Celeborn's surrender was not the triumph it should have been, but felt like another role Celeborn played to hide what he truly felt. Was there no way to set free the passion that must be hidden within Celeborn, too?
He settled himself between Celeborn's legs, leaned over him to let him feel his weight, his strength, and took another kiss.
"I weary of pretension... Don't you?" he asked softly and tugged on the silken banner that held Celeborn's wrists bound until it came apart at last and slipped to the ground. At the same time, he took hold of Celeborn's leg, pushed it up and to the side, and then simply slid inside with one strong thrust. He was still slippery from Celeborn's mouth, yet even so there was resistance. But instead of protest, Celeborn's arms, freed at last from their bonds, came to wrap around his neck as he arched his back, moaning with pain and pleasure at the intrusion.
"It is... It is no game, Thranduil," he gasped, every muscle in his body tightening as he was forced open so suddenly. "Oh Valar, please, more!"
Thranduil gave in to his own body's desires and began to move, feeling Celeborn relax around him gradually so that he slid even deeper inside. Celeborn groaned again then, head moving restlessly against the pillow as his fingers cramped around Thranduil's hair. Another thrust and he arched up, blindly searching out Thranduil's mouth with his lips, moaning into the kiss while his thighs came up to wrap around his waist.
"Thranduil," he breathed, and Thranduil shivered at the way that his name held such a deep surrender, deeper and more truthful than when Celeborn had smiled and called him lord.
"Yield to me," Thranduil demanded, kissing him, biting those tempting, swollen lips. "Yield, Celeborn!" He wrapped his hand around the smooth, hard length that pressed against his own stomach, teased the slick tip with the pad of his thumb until he felt another droplet ooze from the tip, then licked it from his fingers, his entire body tightening at that first taste of what was so intimately Celeborn. Then he groaned and moved to kiss him again, taking possession of Celeborn's mouth with as much aggression as he took possession of his body, feeling Celeborn yield truly to him at last, all of his body relaxing around him until he shivered and came with a cry.
Celeborn's essence was hot and wet as it dripped down his stomach, and it was the scent of Celeborn's release as much as the unguarded look of overwhelming pleasure on his face that drove Thranduil over the edge as well. Everything blanked out for a moment. There was just pleasure, overwhelming need and an intense heat that spread through his entire body, fanned to even greater heights by the kisses Celeborn pressed to his face and neck.
A long time later, he groaned. He felt exhausted, his muscles pleasantly sore from the exertion, and he thought with no regret and a lot of smugness that Celeborn must feel yet sorer. Still... He turned his face, raised an affectionate hand to his cheek.
"You are well?"
"Mmh... Very well." Celeborn yawned, then stretched. "That was good. Do you know that they have taken to call me Celeborn the Wise now in Lórinand? What do they call you in the Greenwood, I wonder? Thranduil the Virile?"
Thranduil laughed despite himself. "The Wise? They must mock you, and you are too vain to notice. Celeborn the Infuriating; that is more like it."
Celeborn smiled at him, still lying pleasantly relaxed by his side. Their faces were so close that their noses almost touched, and this time Thranduil could see true warmth in his eyes when he smiled.
"You promised you would listen to what I had to say. May I speak now, Thranduil?"
Thranduil sighed, wondering what was to come. More apologies? But he had promised to listen, and so he would.
"Speak then, if you must."
"What do you remember of that night we shared?"
Thranduil had expected several things, but that question was not one of them. His ardor cooled now, he very well remembered what had come to pass, and how Celeborn's betrayal had hurt then. It still hurt, if he was truthful.
"I remember many things. I remember that we indulged in wine, and that night we made love in my small tent. I remember that we forgot to put out the candle; I remember that to make amends for your broken bow, I pleasured you well into the night - with my mouth, with my body's surrender, until we were so exhausted neither of us could move anymore.”
"And then I woke in the morning to find you gone, as well as your friends, vanished deep into the forest, and not seen again until you returned to your father's abode more than a week later."
Thranduil laughed bitterly. "You forgot to mention who was waiting for you. Your dear friend Brégelon, deep in the King's trust, an honored member of his council of lords. Well, he must have told you my reaction when I woke well before first light and found him waiting at our fire with a servant. What use is it to recount what happened? It was your own plan - you must know it very well. It worked, after all, didn't it? Did you not join Thingol's council after that for a while?"
"Tell me, what he did he say to you?" Celeborn repeated, and Thranduil sat up, shaking off Celeborn's arm to rest his head in his hands.
"I was foolish then. But I was also young, which is my only excuse. You must have been aware, of course, that once it was dark outside, with the candle still illuminating my tent our shadows on the canvas wall made quite a spectacle for those who were there to see. Of course my friends cared little -- they might question my taste in choosing you, but they would never question my right to seek pleasure where I desire. In fact, I know that several of them spent the night in their own tents, doing much the same. But when Brégelon arrived - and what a coincidence that was. One of Thingol's courtiers, hunting in the deeps of the forest? What a transparent ruse! Still, why would whoever was guarding our camp at that hour deny him the comfort of our fire? And in the morning, Brégelon had quite a tale to tell when he saw me. It seems that he thought I would be embarrassed to have a witness to my abhorrent sexual tastes. That I would give in to his demands lest my father be told of all the many, disgusting ways in which I submitted to you that night."
"And you were, and so gave in to him," Celeborn said softly. Thranduil's head came up, disbelief on his face.
"What? No! Why would I do that? I did not care what he or my father thought. My father might wish that I were less wild and more of a diplomat betimes, but he would rather cut off his hand than see me become a lickspittle like Brégelon. No, I cursed him, and told him that he was free to tell anyone he wanted. Valar, I am not ashamed of who I am! What do I care for the opinion of spineless courtiers?"
"But then, why vanish? Why never speak to me again? Why return my letters unread?" Celeborn asked, and Thranduil snorted in scorn.
"How can you not see? You were in league! It was all a plan, for you to seduce me and then pressure me to influence my father to in turn use his own influence for whatever harebrained scheme or bid for power that had taken hold of both Brégelon and you. I cannot even remember what it was about, and that is not what is important anyway. You used me! You betrayed me! That I cannot forgive!"
“It was a plan,” Celeborn said slowly, and gently touched Thranduil's cheek once more. “I am sorry for that. But it was never my plan to seduce and blackmail you! Valar, how could you believe that of me? No, wait – I can understand, Brégelon was ever a crafty one, and in retrospect, I am not surprised that he played me as false as he played you. The plan was simply that Thingol, and a few of his councilors, would have liked me to become closer to you. For no nefarious reason, I promise, and I certainly did not have an order to seduce you! Thingol would have liked for us to become friends, for you were known to prefer the wilds to his court. We are kin, after all, and close in age, yet we did not truly know each other. I was intrigued by you, which is why I accepted your father's invitation to join your hunt. I thought it would be good to get to know you better. That was all, I swear it! I never knew what Brégelon had planned!”
Thranduil was silent for a long time. Celeborn looked at him, taking a breath once as if to speak, but then fell silent again. Thranduil rested one hand on his chest, atop his heart, feeling it beat hard and fast beneath his touch.
He could not have said what made him believe Celeborn. Perhaps it was simply that: the fast, panicked heartbeat beneath his fingers, and Celeborn's almost fearful waiting, resigned to his fate. It touched a part of him that he had thought lost, that of the young man who had found Celeborn an exciting mystery.
At last, he sighed. “Perhaps I should have given you a chance to explain then. But I thought you a spineless courtier just like Brégelon before, and his words only confirmed my earlier opinion of you. Also, I... I was truly hurt,” he admitted softly. “I had not known you long, but I thought that this one night, there was true affection between us.”
He cursed and raked his hand through his hair, then looked at Celeborn again. “In any case, what is done is done. I feel that this Age, too, is coming to an end. Soon, we will stand before the gates of Mordor, and who knows if we will ever return. Let there be peace between us until then.”
“Peace?” Celeborn gave him a smile, and if it was hesitant, it was none the less welcome for the warmth it brought to his eyes. “If you can truly find it in yourself to forgive me for that old misunderstanding, then let me stretch your patience by asking for a boon as well. Let there be no peace between us, but what passion we can manage to find, so close to the Land of Shadow. I fear that there will be little pleasure and much darkness waiting for us...”
“Celeborn the Wise indeed,” Thranduil said and laughed, then rested a proprietary hand on Celeborn's hip. “Let us rest now. I fear by now we might be the talk of the camp, and before I go out to meet the knowing eyes of my men, I would rather fortify myself with another taste of you.”
“This Age is coming to an end,” Celeborn said, his voice grave and his eyes filled with a bright light as he moved to straddle Thranduil in turn, his silver hair gleaming like the light of Ithil as it fell to surround them both like a veil. “I can feel it. But if it has to end, ah – what better place to wait for it than by your side?”
He lowered his head until their lips met, and then, for a long time, neither of them was able to think of war, of kings, or old misunderstandings.