Celebrian shifted restlessly where she stood, rocking her weight forward and back from her heels to the balls of her feet and back again. She hadn’t been this restless since she was young, at least since her wedding day. Her eyes were focused on the faint outline of sails against the horizon, she focused in on the bond she shared with her husband, dormant now from lack of use rather than distance. He was so close she could almost sense him, but five centuries of disuse had left their bond faded and dimmed. She was so intent on the bond she didn’t notice the frown forming on her face until she felt a large hand with woodsman’s calluses come to rest on her shoulder. She stopped rocking and turned to look at her companion, a smile replacing the look of displeasure. Until what seemed like very recently, the former lady of Imladris would have jumped to feel someone touch her skin; especially there where one of thicker scars from her capture still marked her shoulder, but the touch was familiar and those dark memories no longer tormented her as they once did.
Her companion returned her smile, his fair hair glinting in the early morning sunlight. This was another victory, Ereinion, once known as High King Gil-Galad, at her side outside their small woodland cottage. Celebrian knew he didn’t entirely want to be there, he was less-than-fond of company most of the time, but he was there to welcome Elrond and that was what mattered. She leaned against him for a moment before beginning to rock again.
“Celebrian, you know that’s not going to make the boat get here any faster.” Ereinion’s voice was soft and low in her ear.
She shrugged, “I know, but at least I can feel as if I’m doing something melindo. The waiting is the worst part.”
“I imagine Elrond feels rather the same way about it. He’s probably pacing the deck, knowing him.”
“Or twisting one of his rings on his finger. He used to do that when he would get impatient in council meetings, or when he was fretting about something.” She smiled at the memory, remembering how many times she had slipped her hand into his to stop him from doing just that.
Ereinion laughed, “Or both. Hopefully we can get him to relax some when he arrives.”
Her laugh echoed his, “I doubt it, at least not for a while.” She sighed slightly and leaned against him more, her attention wandering back to the ship that now seemed somewhat closer at least. Ereinion understood, his attention was only half on Celebrian, the other half was firmly latched onto the slowly approaching craft.
Slowly a larger crowd began to gather to greet the incoming ship, people with family still on the Far Shore who hoped for news if not the individual themselves. The whispers slowly grew to a dull roar as the ship came closer, speculation hanging in the air like a fog. As it came closer there were exclamations from those closest to the docks as they began to recognize those on board. Sure enough, to both Celebrian’s and Ereinion’s amusement there was a dark-haired figure pacing the deck at the prow of the ship, pausing occasionally to stare out at the dock as though trying to pick out a single face in the sea of people that had formed. An equally recognizable figure, at least to Celebrian, stood near the prow as well, silver-gold hair caught in the sea breeze as she gestured for the other to stop for a moment and really look. At that moment Celebrian began to jump and wave like an elfling and watch as both figures waved back, the dark-haired one finally ceasing to pace and stand at the prow with his eyes locked on the shore.
It was finally midday by the time the ship docked and for all their excitement and anticipation Celebrian and Ereinion moved back from the press of the crowd. Neither fancied having their reunion amidst a thrumming mass of people. As a result, it took a moment longer for Elrond to reach them, and when he did his first action was to throw his arms around his wife and hold her close to him. Ereinion took a step back, letting the two of them have their moment.
For the first time since Celebrian sailed Elrond let himself cry, his tears wetting her hair and dress, and her eyes were far from dry where she pressed them against his shoulder. For both the feeling of having the other in their arms again was something beyond their most precious dreams. At some point Elrond shifted his grip on her and lifted her, spinning them both around and pressing a kiss to her lips.
“I cannot tell you how much I’ve missed you vesseya.” His normally even voice cracked with emotion and Celebrian couldn’t help but smile and laugh as he set her down again.
“You don’t need to, veruya. I’ve missed you too. But before we get too caught up in our reunion there is someone else you should greet.” She smiled gently and gestured for Ereinion to step out of the shadows. When he did Elrond’s eyes filled again,
“Gil-Galad? How?” He looked as though he wished to continue but his voice failed him. Celebrian released him and let him go to the former High King.
Ereinion just shook his head and took his once-Herald into his arms for a tight embrace. Celebrian smiled and went to find her mother in the crowd.
Their reunion was equally tearful and both women made promises to visit when there was time to sit and talk properly. They both had much to tell the other, but that moment was for the joy of an unexpected reunion alone. When she finally managed to separate herself from her mother she was rather bombarded with embraces and calls from Imladrin elves that had traveled across the sea with their lord. As happy as she was to see them, Celebrian wished to return to Elrond and Ereinion. Before returning to them she stopped to speak with those who were helping to unload the ship to ensure Elrond’s belongings would make it to their home, grabbing the pack she recognized as his as she departed.
They had hardly moved from where she left them and she shook her head. “Come on, my lads. We have somewhere more private for this. People will start to stare.”
Her voice seemed to shake Ereinion from his daze and he parted from Elrond with a faint smile. “My apologies, melda. We seem to have forgotten ourselves.”
The term of endearment made Elrond look between the two of them in confusion but Celebrian interrupted the questions she could see burning on his tonguetoungue. “Not here, veruya, at home. You are weary and need to rest.” For the first time since Elrond had stepped ashore she let herself wonder about her children and why they were not here with their father, but it would not do to start asking her own questions after she had hushed Elrond’s.
Fortunately for all the trip to their home took only a few hours, though it was beginning to grow dark when they reached home. Celebrian and Ereinion had long since determined the swiftest routes to their secluded home. Celebrian walked between the two men, holding tightly to their hands as they wound through the trees on the way to cabin that would now be home to the three of them.
As they grew closer Celebrian stepped away to open the door for Elrond, a wide smile splitting her face. “Welcome home, veruya.”
The cabin itself was modest and comfortable, filled with furniture Ereinion had crafted and draperies Celebrian had woven. The main area opened onto a kitchen and eating area, from which the smell of cooking stew was wafting, with a few other rooms blocked off by doors. The walls were broken up by wide windows from which they could see the forest around them. Celebrian set down Elrond’s pack and she and Ereinion leaned against each other with wide smiles on their faces as Elrond took it in.
“Do you like it? I am aware it’s less elegant than anywhere you’ve lived for some time, but it suits our needs. We hope that it suits yours as well.” Ereinion kept his voice soft, as if unwilling to break some spell that lay between the three of them.
“It’s…wonderful. I can see both of you, and somehow myself as well, here, living a quiet life.” Tears glistened in the corners of Elrond’s eyes again as his throat tightened, cutting off any more words he might have wished to say.
Celebrian moved closer, wrapping her arms around him again. “Are you happy?”
“Need you ask?” Elrond turned to look at her, “I never could have imagined…all this. The two of you. How?”
Ereinion moved to wrap his arms around both of them, “It is a long story, Elrond. Are you sure you would not rather wait until you have had time to settle in?”
The dark-haired elf shook his head, “No, if I wait the confusion will gnaw at me. Please, I would like to know now.”
Celebrian and Ereinion both nodded before guiding Elrond to sit on the soft couch that faced the fireplace in the North wall, Ereinion settling there with Elrond while Celebrian remained standing. “I’ll start, then. I met Ereinion some years after I arrived here, I was still troubled but had started to venture out of my cousins’ house. Ereinion was at a party someone had decided to throw and he approached me. He didn’t realize I was your wife at first, he recognized me only as my parents’ daughter. I was…startled, it was still difficult for me to interact with people and it was uncommon for people to start conversations with me in any situation but we continued to talk and eventually we realized who each other was.” She laughed softly, “I believe I gave Ereinion the shock of his life when I told him about our children…” her mind drifted back to her own questions about her children and their fates but she pushed them aside when she heard Ereinion’s soft laughter.
“You did indeed.” His arm had wrapped around Elrond’s shoulders and he pulled the other close, “I had built this home fairly soon after I was reborn and regained my memories, but I remained the only person to live here until I properly met Celebrian. I offered her a place here, I had a spare bedroom and wanted to offer some refuge to her. Not only as your wife but as herself.”
Celebrian smiled, the tips of her fingers on one hand running gently over the edge of the scar that still marked her shoulder and collarbone as she thought, “I accepted. It was nice to have someone that did not expect me to recover at a specific rate, or to completely recover into the person they thought I should be. My cousins meant well, and I still see them, but I needed a different kind of help than they could provide. It was not an easy time, I still flinched at loud noises and woke in the middle of the night screaming, but slowly Ereinion helped me to recover.
“One day we were sitting by the river and we started talking and, as often happened, the topic of you came up. We started to share our favorite memories of you, and it seemed to us that we loved some of the same things in you.”
Elrond was smiling, leaning against Ereinion though his hand reached out to Celebrian, “One of my thoughts was often the three of us together after I first met you, vesseya.”
“We know.” They both smiled, speaking simultaneously as Celebrian moved to settle next to Elrond, opposite Ereinion.
“The feasibility came up later, after something of a…drunken escapade on your wife’s part.” Laughter laced Ereinion’ voice as he reached over to brush a fingertip against Celebrian’s arm where it pressed against Elrond’s shoulder. “It was not an easy conversation, but I cannot complain about the outcome.”
“Nor can I, melindo.” Celebrian settled in, one hand straying across Elrond’s lap to tangle with Ereinion’s free hand. “What you see now is the result of quite a number of difficult conversations on many topics I would have originally considered tangential.”
“We want you to be happy, Elrond. If this troubles you we can stop, though both of you are still welcome here as long as you wish.” Ereinion shifted away slightly to look Elrond in the eyes.
“How could this trouble me? It is…everything I have wanted out of life. I had not imagined that Valinor would be this…ideal.” The half-elf’s voice stuttered off again as tears slid down his cheeks leading both the elves beside him to press kisses to his cheeks and hold him even tighter. He swallowed past the tightness and turned to Celebrian, “You are recovered as completely as I could have hoped, vesseya. You are even wearing your scars with pride. I could not have imagined seeing you as radiant as you were on that dock.” He turned to face Ereinion, “And you…I thought I would never see you again. I thought that horrific parting was the last memory I would have of you Gil-Galad,” a soft noise from the other elf made him pause and correct himself, “Ereinion. I’m still baffled that this is even possible.”
“It is, melindo. You have my word. Now, I believe your wife as a few questions of her own if you do not mind.” Ereinion smiled gently, running his fingers over Elrond’s cheeks.
Elrond returned his attention to Celebrian who had curled up slightly beside him. “I will answer them if I can, vesseya.”
“Our children? My father? Why did they not sail?” There was no more putting it off, instantly the questions that had plagued Celebrian since she had greeted the other elves that had sailed with her husband and mother sprang to her lips.
Elrond sighed, looking down for a moment. “Your father and our sons will sail, but not yet. Our sons were not ready to leave, but they will come.”
“And Arwen?” She feared the worst, somewhere in her heart she knew something had happened.
“She fell in love with a youth I fostered in his childhood, a descendant of Elros. He is the new King of Gondor and Arnor. She has chosen the path of Luthien.” His voice cracked again and they fell into each other’s arms while Celebrian let that information settle in. While they sat there Ereinion got up and made some tea for the three of them.
Somehow the knowledge that she would not see her daughter again settled easily for Celebrian, some part of her had known that she said her last goodbyes to her youngest child when she sailed. This realization did little to ease the pain, however. She clung slightly to Elrond, only shifting when Ereinion returned with the tea. His gaze was sympathetic; he had listened eagerly to Celebrian’s stories early in their friendship and knew that the loss of her daughter hit her no less hard than it had Elrond.
Ereinion settled the tray of tea on a side-table and moved to rest a hand on Elrond’s shoulder, “If he had only a small part of the valor and strength of his ancestors he was a worthy man. I know it does not ease the pain, but I know you would not have left her if she was not happy.”
Elrond had not realized how much he missed the easy understanding he and Ereinion had shared and was deeply relieved to find that even time and death could not change that. “She was. I could not have stopped her; she was insistent to the end.”
That brought a slight laugh from Celebrian, “Your daughter to the end, veruya.”
“Our daughter, vesseya. You can be just as stubborn as I when the mood takes you.” A faint smile broke through the gloom that had covered Elrond’s face, despite this most recent loss more had been returned to him than he could have imagined.
Ereinion laughed at them both, “Both of you hush, have some tea. We all need it. It has been a long day.” He took his own cup and settled on the far end of the couch, content to let the two of them lean on each other for a moment before Celebrian passed her husband a cup and took the last for herself.
Elrond sat between them, letting the cup warm his hands as his mind wandered. A nudge at his elbow reminded him that the tea was for more than warmth and he took a drink, smiling sheepishly at Ereinion who laughed softly. The quiet settled easily over the three of them while they drank their tea, Elrond leaning against Ereinion while Celebrian settled into the corner made by the arm of the sofa. Eventually in the quiet Elrond drifted off to sleep, his head cradled by Ereinion’s shoulder.
Celebrian smiled at Ereinion and gestured at her sleeping husband as she gathered up their empty tea cups. “I do believe this is the first time he’s gotten a decent sleep since he left Imladris. Should we move him to the bed or wait for him to wake?”
Ereinion chuckled softly and ran a hand through Elrond’s slightly tousled hair, “We can wait for him to wake here. I have no complaints.”
“Of course you haven’t. Very well, he’ll likely wake before long anyway.” She leaned over and pressed a soft kiss to Elrond’s cheek followed by one to Ereinion’s, “I’ll clean up, then.”
He caught her wrist as she set the cups on the tray, “It can wait, melissë. Come sit. I know you need to feel busy, but you need this as much as he does.”
She smiled wryly, leaving the tray on the table, “Far be it for me to turn down such an enticing offer.”
Ereinion chuckled and shifted over, careful not to wake Elrond, so that Celebrian could settle in her now-accustomed place at his side. “You’re as bad as he ever was, vanimë.”
Celebrian laughed, reaching across Ereinion to take Elrond’s hand. “He’s still worse, melindo. Trust me. Time did little to temper his need to keep busy. He is absolutely hopeless.”
The hand not resting on Elrond’s waist skimmed up Celebrian’s back to tangle lightly in the silver hair so like his own. “Then I’ll have to work doubly hard on getting the two of you to relax.” He shifted his grip to nudge Celebrian’s face up to press a soft kiss to her lips, “Though it’s not often you need help with that anymore. I suppose I can let it pass today.”
“Your magnanimity is overwhelming, Majesty.” Ereinion’s old title dripped with sarcasm as Celebrian tried not to laugh, the titles the two of them had left on the far shore were rarely uttered in the seclusion of their woodland home except in jest.
His own chuckle rumbled in his chest, “Well it serves me well to keep my princess happy, does it not?”
Their combined laughter served to wake Elrond, who shifted to look at the two of them and blushed sheepishly. “Forgive me, I did not mean to doze off.”
Celebrian smiled and reached up to brush the backs of her fingers against his cheek, “Fret not, veruya. It is growing late and you needed the rest. Besides, Ereinion has no trouble being used as pillow.”
Elrond caught her hand and pressed quick kisses to her fingertips, drawing a giggle from his wife, “I can see that. I never realized how similar in color your hair is, I suppose I will ever be a crow among doves.”
“Hush, Elrond. ‘Tis not our fault you favor fair haired elves,” Ereinion chuckled and pulled Elrond closer before kissing him warmly. “A fact that I must say rather amused your lady wife and myself early in our friendship.”
“And the current situation aside, veruya, you now have some concept of how I felt to be forever one of the pale-haired elves in the whole of the valley. But at least now I will know when someone has been shedding on my pillow again.” She smiled against Ereinion’s neck, “Speaking of which, would you like to see the bedroom, veruya? I am quite sure the bed will be large enough for the three of us.”
A faint blush appeared on Elrond’s face, to the amusement of the other two, “Oh come now, melindo, you’re not still shy, are you?” Ereinion laughed as he untangled himself from the other two, offering them both a hand up. “If you are, there is a spare bedroom as well. You need do nothing that would make you uncomfortable.”
Elrond shook his head, “No, it is not that. I simply…it has been some time since anyone spoke so plainly to me about that.”
Celebrian laughed as she collected his pack, “Well that is well, I suppose. Though it saddens me some that you were alone while I had company.” She drew close again and kissed him warmly, “You will not be alone again, veruya. I promise.”
He smiled and returned the kiss, “I know.” His response was whispered, half amazed still at his good fortune as Celebrian took his hand and led him back through one of the doors on the far wall, Ereinion following behind.
The door opened up to a spacious bedroom that held a simple but large bed covered in deep blue sheets. Celebrian left Elrond in the doorway as she moved toward a wardrobe and began unpacking the few things he had in his pack. After a moment, while Celebrian was still shaking the wrinkles out of a few things, Ereinion nudged Elrond with his elbow, as if to shake the half-elf out of his apparent trance.
“You can go all the way in, you know. It’s your room too, now.” The wry smile on the former king’s face was heartachingly familiar and Elrond found himself turning to hide his face against Ereinion’s shoulder without the conscious thought to do so. “Shh, it’s alright. It will get easier.”
Celebrian had moved from the wardrobe and sat at the foot of the bed where she had left Elrond’s sleep clothes so they would be ready for him, watching the two ellyn, wondering at the glimpse she was being given into her husband’s past. She would have sat longer had Ereinion not looked up from where he had turned his head to press a series of kisses to Elrond’s cheek to beckon her closer. She acquiesced with a smile, wrapping her willowy arms around both of them.
They remained that way for a time, until Celebrian pulled away with a sigh. “I think it best we all turn in early tonight, but first, dinner. I know neither Ereinion nor I have eaten much since morning, and I doubt you have either, Elrond. Fortunately, I had the forethought to put a stew on to cook during the day so that there might be something to eat tonight.” She smiled gently, “The two of you might stay here a moment longer, but I expect you in the kitchen before long.” She nudged them gently out of the way before making her way to the kitchen.
She hummed softly as she stirred the stew, making sure none of it had burned. She had come a long way from the first time she had cooked in this kitchen, now only her new food attempts came out poorly. Always light on her feet, she practically danced around the kitchen fetching bowls and spoons for the meal as well as the bread she had made last night. The routine gave her the chance to process the long day, somewhat easing the turmoil wrought by the emotional events.
Eventually as she started serving she heard a baritone voice echoing the song she was humming and smiled, turning to her husband. “Feeling better, veruya?” She handed him a bowl of stew and a soft roll of bread before pressing a kiss to his cheek and directing him to the table.
“Somewhat, yes. For the rest, I think I simply need food and sleep.”
“Then food and sleep you shall have.” Ereinion beat Celebrian to the reply that had been on the tip of her tongue and she shook her head in disbelief.
“You’d think he could read my mind how often he does that,” she laughed to Elrond as she handed Ereinion his own bowl of stew, though she batted his hand away as he reached for a second roll. “These have to last till tomorrow. You know better.”
He laughed and hummed the last few bars of the song Celebrian had started as he settled at the table and waited for her to join them. When she was seated he winked at her, “May we start now, my Lady?”
“I believe you outrank the rest of us here, Majesty. Perhaps you should indicate when we start the meal.”
Elrond laughed at their teasing, “It doesn’t matter who decides we can start so long as they do so soon. You were right, vesseya, I am hungry.” He smiled sheepishly, laughing at himself a bit as well.
“Then by all means start, veruya. Don’t let our banter distract you.” She smiled and reach out to squeeze his hand gently before he started to eat, only then starting herself. Ereinion seemed to have started before either of them, tucking in while the two of them were talking.
The meal passed in silence, each of them lost in their own thoughts. Elrond finished first, his exhaustion showing as he looked dazedly at the empty bowl. Celebrian shook her head slightly and cleared it with her own, nudging him until he stood and returned to the bedroom. She laughed to herself as she cleaned the dishes, “He always does this, he’ll keep going so long he doesn’t realize he’s exhausted and then he’s near useless.”
Ereinion laughed as he brought his bowl to the sink, “Did he ever tell you he once fell asleep walking to a council meeting in Lindon? I had to force him to rest. He looked nearly insulted by the implication that he needed to rest more than the full elves on the council.”
She shook her head, “No, but it doesn’t surprise me. He got better about that, but he was always sensitive about his differences.” She sighed, “Will you go check on him? I want to get cleaned up in here, but I’m not sure we should let him alone.”
Ereinion nodded and pressed a kiss to her cheek, “I’ll take care of him. But be sure you join us sooner than later. You’d have to be a fool not to see how much he needs you now, melda. And I know you are not a fool.” With that he stepped away and walked to the bedroom, leaving Celebrian to tidy up.
Elrond was still in his traveling clothes when Ereinion entered and the reborn elf shook his head, “Come now vuin, have you run yourself so ragged you cannot even get dressed? Come here, let me help.” Elrond moved slowly and pressed his face into Ereinion’s shoulder again.
“I am afraid all this is a dream. The longer it goes on the more afraid I am that I will wake and I will again be on the Far Shore, sleeping in a cold bed. And you and she will both be gone from me again. It has happened too many times, Ereinion. I could not bear it again.” His voice trembled throughout and Ereinion could do nothing but wrap his arms around Elrond, trying to reassure him through touch.
“Hush, elril nin. This is real, I promise you. We are here, so are you. You do not need to fear.”
They stood there for a while before Ereinion was able to calm Elrond enough that they could stand apart and dress for bed. By then Celebrian had returned from the kitchen and she wrapped her arms around her husband from behind, her head resting on his shoulder.
“I trust all is well, my lads?” She smiled and pressed a kiss to Elrond’s cheek. “I seem to be a bit behind the two of you. You two get settled in bed while I change.” Another kiss and she darted away to retrieve her own sleep clothes while Elrond and Ereinion laughed to each other.
By the time Celebrian returned the two ellyn were curled together under the covers, Elrond already half-asleep against Ereinion’s chest. The elleth smiled and curled up on the other side of Elrond, her arm resting below Ereinion’s around Elrond’s waist. Elrond hummed happily and drifted off to sleep almost immediately, with Ereinion and Celebrian smiling at each other over his shoulder.
Some hours later, Elrond awoke with a start, sitting up in a bed he did not recognize. It wasn’t the bed in his chambers back in Imladris, nor was it the hard bunk he had slept in on the ship to Valinor. His confusion lingered for a moment until a small, warm hand came up to press on his chest. A hand he would know anywhere.
“Relax, el nin, you’re home. You’re safe. Lie back down with us and go to sleep.” Celebrian’s voice was soft and drowsy.
An echoing rumble sounded from Elrond’s other side as Ereinion pulled him down, “You never did sleep enough, vuin. That changes, starting now. Relax, sleep.” Ereinion rolled onto his side, resting his head on one of Elrond’s shoulder while Celebrian took the opposite side.
Elrond laughed and wrapped an arm around each of them, a smile lingering on his lips as he drifted back into sleep for the remainder of the night.