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In The Bitter

Chapter Text

It all started with the rather controversial news that Maeglin was coming under the purview of Lord Elrond.

Glorfindel was righteous indignation incarnate, looking quite prepared to take on another balrog or fifteen. Marching through the halls, he came as close to stomping as an elf can, and everyone with any sense of self-preservation scattered. Which explained why Erestor was not only not scattering, but purposefully following the one-elf hurricane.

Glorfindel stormed his way through the halls, unnoticing of his surroundings until a dead end. He huffed and turned, only to find Erestor shaking her head at him.

"I thought you said you had forgiven him."

Glorfindel kicked the ground.

"Forgive is one thing. Forget is another, I believe you have told me that before. Besides, just because I forgive him does not mean I desire to see his face every day, or his presence here."

Erestor watched him carefully, thoughtfully. Glorfindel scowled at her, and it felt strange on his face. He hadn't needed to frown much recently. Valinor and Erestor kept him very entertained. Now though, she was in full-on analysis.

"Erestor…"

"Glorfindel."

It said a thousand things, none of which he wanted to hear. But then she sighed and muttered "Idiotic, stubborn males" and stepped forward, grabbing his hand and pulling him along. This was a new development he had not appreciated. The healing of Valinor had increased her strength, and so between that and her own stubbornness, Erestor had begun pulling him places. Still, she didn't abuse the new ability, and he allowed himself to be led.

Once again they rushed through the halls, and no one hesitated to move for a second time. It was general consensus that avoiding Glorfindel and Erestor together was better for health, physical and mental.

Swiftly they reached Erestor's office, where she pushed her companion into his overstuffed chair. With a wave, the tea was ready and she pushed an over-sugared cup of it into Glorfindel's hands. He sighed and obeyed the unspoken command, savoring the silence (although not the tea. Had she dumped in the entire sugar bowl?).

Finally, he spoke. Or ranted. It was long, and rambling. It mentioned many times over how many lives had been lost, how much pain the actions of one elf had caused.

"I can forgive him the hurts he cause me, but I have no right to forgive the hurts he cause others. And truthfully, I do not trust him with the safety of Lord Elrond." And collapsed, taking another sip of tea. Still warm of course, thanks to Erestor.

"Glorfindel," she began slowly, measuring her words, "you were listening when Mithrandir explained about Eöl, were you not?"

"I-" He stuttered to a stop. "No," he confessed, and Erestor pinched her nose, and her brow wrinkled as if in pain.

"Right. Then allow me to do so." She took a delicate sip of tea in a way that told Glorfindel she was steeling herself.

"Eöl was a dark elf. I do not mean that in the way Calaquendi do, I mean that he was bad. His one light area was his wife, and even that was grey at best." Glorfindel moved to speak, but her Look froze the words.

"Now, I do not doubt that he loved her, but it was in the same vein he loved anything: it was his. Possession of a beautiful object, sole ownership, mastery, if you will. When his son was very young, he had no purpose for him. A child was a distraction, it kept his wife from devoting her full attention to him. Older though, that was different. It held promise."

Erestor's hands shook, and she set the teacup down.

"He did something very terrible, and very foul. Evil. To his own son." Deep breath. "He split hisfëa, and place part of it within his son. He then used this to influence and eventually, take over his son."

Dead silence.

"In the Halls of Mandos-"

"You forgave him, yes. And neither is Maeglin completely innocent. He knew his father had done something, and he told no one of the things whispered in his mind. He feared death, pain, and allowed himself to be taken over by his father. He did not fight until it was too late, although it did help prevent the death of Elrond's father, when Eöl would have slain Eärendil and taken Idril. Indeed, it was Eöl who loved Idril in the first place, seeing in her a resemblance to his dead wife."

"But it was not Maeglin who betrayed the city. Not completely."

"Correct."

Silence again. Glorfindel sat as his world realigned. Not innocent, but not wholly guilty either.

"We killed him."

"You killed them, rather. Eöl as much as Maeglin, perhaps more so."

"But Gondolin fell because of the combined efforts and failings of father and son."

"Yes."

"Augh!"

Glorfindel slung his cup across the room, barely content with the delicate tinkle of porcelain shattering. Erestor merely sighed and conjured up a plate, heavier, and handed it to him. He threw this as well, and felt satisfied with the fuller sound.

"But for him to stay here-"

"Who said anything about him staying? You truly were not listening to a word anyone said, were you? Of course not, I should not ask such foolish and obvious questions. Listen! To! Me!" and she stabbed him with a tea spoon with each word. "He will come and speak. With you. With any elf who desires it. Afterwards, he will return to the Gardens of Lorien. He is staying with us, yes. For a few days, or however long it takes. Then he will leave. Possibly never to return until the remaking of the world. He is not exactly popular, you realize. There are few places he could stay."

"Oh."

"OH is right, you great idiot. Honestly, you killed the balrog by sheer stupidity, I just know it. Or perhaps it was TALKING to you, and threw itself off the cliff from frustration when it proved the same as talking to a wall. In which case, it did a service to Middle Earth."

He shouldn't have found it funny. He was tense, and referencing his death immediately after a crisis concerning the cause should have been massively inappropriate. Instead, Erestor had somehow known him well enough to poke at him without inciting his ire, and Glorfindel realized he was laughing, and sitting down, and drinking terribly over-sugared tea.

"Perhaps you are right, m'dear." Her grumble was token at best, which told him she was going easy on him due to his upset.

"Still. I do not wish to spend much time with him," Glorfindel admitted a moment later. Erestor shrugged.

"Then do not. I doubt anyone expects the two of you to be the best of friends. Just do not try to throw him off any walls, and all will be well."

"I will be watching him carefully."

"Of course," and she rolled her eyes at him, but she also held his hand, and didn't fuss (too much) when he forced her to eat seconds at dinner, and take off work early to go walking in the garden.

Glorfindel still felt unsettled, but it helped.

Chapter Text

Glorfindel was an elf on the run, and not ashamed to admit it.

Erestor had been hounding him for days, insisting that he "Just talk" with Maeglin for "Just one moment". She was incredibly persistent, and even when she acquiesced to his pleas for peace, her very presence seemed to remind him that she was expecting something of him.

What she was expecting and why, he wasn't sure. Or at least, preferred not to think on.

Still, it had led him here. 'Here' was an oval room, filled with murals from ceiling to floor. Even the furniture was incorporated into the theme of a wild forest, complete with the rather unsettling feeling of being watched by fey creatures in the woods. Glorfindel felt right at home with their disquieting green-eyed stares, having been subjected to a more personalized one for going on centuries. Erestor was unlikely to look for him here, knowing his preference for actual woods rather than painted ones. Which left him right back at where he had started. Why he was here.

He may have been trying to avoid her, but he couldn't help but wonder about it. Or rather, him. Maeglin. The elf disturbed him, but Glorfindel was not sure why, exactly. He had forgiven him- hadn't he?

He thought it over carefully, examining his feelings on the matter. Prodding them, he found no hatred, merely a vague distrust and unwillingness to forget completely what Maeglin had cost him and his friends.

The rather discomfiting thought that 'Perhaps this is how Erestor felt all those years ago,' crawled into this head, and wouldn't dislodge itself. How exactly had she gotten over it? Was it time, or actions, or a combination? The obvious person to talk this over with was Erestor, who would of course tell him what he wanted to know, but would likely lecture him on speaking with Maeglin.

Who was currently standing in the doorway, watching him.

"Hello," said Maeglin.

It should have been the smallest of words, but it seemed much more due to its import. 'The Significance of Hello: A Study' seemed the sort of thing Erestor would be caught reading.

"Greetings." Oh, and didn't he sound incredibly formal? Still, it was politely neutral, and considering how much time he had recently devoted to avoiding the elf standing before him (in front of the only non-window exit), he felt justified in not being overtly friendly. At last he hadn't thrown him off any walls, true? What more could one ask for?

Said elf in question looked nervous, but did not remove himself from the doorway, instead he seemed to be giving himself a pep talk.

"Lord Glorfindel, I understand that we are not friends by any interpretation, but I do wish to converse with you." He gave a hopeful glance, which took Glorfindel by surprise in that it bore little resemblance to his father, as it had ages past. Rather, it bashed over the head with how much like Aredhel he looked.

For that matter, his entire appearance seemed quite different. Much less like this father, the sharp edges seemed fuller, closer in resemblance to the delicately noble features of his mother. He also wore robes very different from the darker colours of his first life, but not the blinding white his mother preferred. And whereas before he had been the epitome of calm and collected, now his feelings were telegraphed with every move. Maeglin endured the close and blatant scrutiny in silence, apparently expecting it and carefully watching Glorfindel's reactions.

"That is quite…interesting," Glorfindel finally said, very lowly. He was still heard.

"It is partially of my own request. I am not the same person I was then. The rest is simply the result of time spent in the Halls. Plus clarity of mind. It is only myself in here, my facial expressions are mine alone, my thoughts are untainted by another's, and my actions are the result of my desires, and no others."

Glorfindel nodded. His parents, while easily recognizing him, had though him changed after his death and rebirth, but only a little. Of course, he had not remained long with them, soon after returning to Arda Marred to fulfill his oath to the line of King Turgon. But wasn't he maudlin today? Maeglin still stood, waiting patiently for an answer. Glorfindel waved a hand, gesturing towards a chair. Maeglin hesitated only a moment before seating himself.

"Lady Erestor said I would find you here, and said to tell you…" and at this, Maeglin- well, he did not squirm, exactly, being an elf. But Glorfindel had seen this sort of aborted movement before in Erestor, and recognized it.

"Allow me to guess, it involved calling me an idiot and a vague reference to a threat of blackmail if I did not behave myself and listen?" Maeglin looked incredibly relieved.

"Exactly." Oh dear. Were those tears in his eyes?

"Was it Erestor, or the prospect of telling me that terrified you so?" Glorfindel asked. Maeglin sunk down in his seat, an unfamiliar gesture- In Gondolin, he had always been rather uptight about his appearance and movements.

"To be completely honest, I am not sure. I dare say both." The candor sat well with Glorfindel.

"I cannot speak for my part, but I can certainly commiserate with you. Erestor is frightening in a way that leads elves, men, hobbits, and dwarves to do very desperate things to avoid her wrath. Even Lord Elrond has been known to avoid actions that could possibly cause her anger to be directed at himself."

This brought to mind one particular incident that had left Glorfindel holding the bag, so to speak, when Erestor had come searching for the victim of her vengeance. The actual item had been a badly stained and somewhat burned parchment, the sole copy (not meant to leave her desk until it was NOT the sole copy) of the accumulation of almost a years worth of work. Fortunately, Glorfindel had been allowed last words to explain his innocence.

Still, it brought shudders to his spine recalling the occasion. Maeglin eyed him in careful concern.

"Are you well, Lord Glorfindel?"

"Aye, I was simply caught up in a bad memory." This seemed to distress his companion even more, as he started fiddling with his sleeve.

"If my presence is disturbing you, I can leave. And I will be sure to inform The Lady that you were quite willing to listen, it was just poor timing." Oh. Of course. Had Maeglin always been so sensitive?

"No, it was not a memory of your doing. I was remembering a time when my dearest Erestor's wrath nearly rained down upon my head without censor." This did not appear to settle his companion very much, but at least he looked less pale.

"Lord Glorfindel." Ah, the serious part was about to begin. "I have attempted to apologize and explain to any who wish it of me for my part in the fall of Gondolin." He tapped one hand with another in a nervous pattern. "And I know we have talked before, but I wish to say it again that I am sorry for my role. I should have been stronger, and trusted more the people who helped and trusted me, but I did not and we all paid for it."

He looked very small and very old, and more than a little bit hurt. Erestor was right, curse it all.

"Maeglin, I accept your apology. I forgave you a long time ago." It hurt his pride just a touch, but he figured that it was, after all, Erestor's job to wound his ego, so continued. "And I should have spoken with you sooner. We did make peace before, and while I have not been comfortable with your presence here, I realize that I have avoided you for my comfort and apologize in return."

Maeglin seemed very surprised by the turn of events, and just a touch frozen.

"Sorry? You…" He jumped up, agitated, which was interesting to watch. When Erestor was pacing, she did it very evenly, almost counting out each step, purposefully measured to maximize space in a room seen only be herself. In comparison, Maeglin was nearly turning over chairs and spinning away from walls and windows just in the nick of time. It was fascinating to watch, and Glorfindel found himself wondering what he would almost hit next.

"But!" Ah, and there was the sputtering. From what he remembered, Maeglin had always been very eloquent. Apparently, that was either a talent gained solely from his father, or deserted him completely in times of distress. He wondered what it was that made Erestor turn into a master of verbal skewering in times of distress while the elf before him was busy starting and stopping.

"Please. You...Everone else...I mean yes, some havebeenangry but most..." And Glorfindel couldn't ignore that plea, heard in it the cry of someone desperately seeking guidance.

"You are not the same as you were. Even before you spoke your apology, I could tell. Yes, you could have possibly have prevented some things. But Gondolin was doomed the moment we settled there. You were the spark, yes, but the dry kindling was ready and waiting long before you were born."

Maeglin took this in, tapping his foot as he did so. With a sharp nod, he looked up.

"It does not help much."

"Such is the way of guilt. Only do not let it destroy the chance you have been given."

"I will try. Thank you for listening to me." He seemed more self assured, though this time it felt as more of a mask for the turmoil within. Glorfindel was much better at seeing through such things after his time with Erestor.

"You are welcome. I am sorry it took so long." Glorfindel laughed suddenly.

"Is something amusing, Lord Glorfindel?"

" Not amusing, but I am merely reminded that it is easier to tell someone to do something than it is to do it yourself. I was rather unfair to Erestor for many years, and the road to peace and trust between us was a long one. And we seem to have switched roles." He sighed deeply. "Do you think we could keep it between us that she was right? Then and now?" Maeglin looked rather panicked at the suggestion.

"Lord Glorfindel, I do not know if one could hide anything Lady Erestor wanted to know from her. Not for very long, anyway." Glorfindel gave a great sigh.

"You have learned this fact of life rather quickly, which does you credit to your intelligence and survival instincts." There was a brief span of silence, but it was not uncomfortable.

"Lómion."

"Yes?" Glorfindel was confused at the non sequitur.

"I do not feel like Maeglin anymore. I am not sure I am Lómion either, but I know for certain that I am not Maeglin. That was my father's name for me." Disgust was clearly visible on his face, and Glorfindel considered this.

"You are who you forge yourself to be." Maeglin gave a dark laugh.

"I would rather not forge anything, thank you all the same. I prefer to think that I am walking my own path. Hopefully one that leads to less destruction."

"Well, it could hardly lead to more."

Glorfindel cringed inwardly even as he said it, but- Lómion did not take offense.

"True." He fidgeted once more with his sleeve, and Glorfindel took pity on him.

"Do not despair. Dark thoughts lead to darker thoughts. Keep your mind on the opportunities before you, and I think you will go much better than before." Maeglin considered this and nodded finally, then bowed.

"Thank you. I will remember your words." He hesitated, and Glorfindel could feel him turning words around in his head. At last he spoke. "Lady Erestor is a very unique individual, is she not?"

That was the understatmeant of the century, but Glorfindel agreed.

"I think you are very fortunate to have her as a friend. And not just because she would make a terrifying enemy." He gave wry smile which Glorfindel returned.

"A wiser thing has never been said."

With that, Lómion took his leave. And Glorfindel realized that he was a free elf, no longer needing to hide from Erestor.

Realizing how much he had missed her, he decided to go looking for her.

Chapter Text

Erestor was taking tea with Maeglin. Or rather, Erestor was taking tea while Maeglin eyed her across the little decorative table.

"Lady Erestor, I think it is generally unappreciated just how terrifying you actually are." Erestor gave him a cool, even look.

"And what would ever make you say that?" She asked, taking another sip.

"You mean, apart from the fact that over this past week I have heard Lord Elrond, his two sons, Lord Glorfindel, the minstrel Lindir, three kitchen staff AND Lady Galadriel threaten to send you after someone. And after doing so, those elves they were threatening complied immediately. Four began weeping. One fainted."

"Truly?"

"Yes. This apart from certain rumours I have heard-"

"Almost certainly exaggerated, or even outright lies."

"Rumours I have heard concerning you. Apparently you scolded Lord Celeborn in front of his parents."

"He knows what he did."

"And Lady Galadriel's father."

"To be fair, he started it. And it was his doing that led to me scolding Lord Celeborn in the first place."

"Lord Glorfindel's parents?"

"They had completely unrealistic expectations and they were ignoring him when he tried to explain. He was rather worried about hurting their feelings. I was…less so. Besides, he did most of the talking. I merely gained their attention, silence, and cooperation.

"I see. What about the Maiar?"

"It was not some random Maiar, it was Mithrandir. We know him- as well as anyone knows a Maiar, that is- and I was not scolding so much as…explaining. Vigorously."

"Explaining?"

"That he needed to visit more. The twins require someone around their maturity level occasionally, they get bored with only ancient elves around. When the twins grow bored, bad things happen."

"Ah. So you did not throw your shoes at him?"

"It was just one shoe and it was not mine. And it was to make a point. He was acting very foolish. 'My work is done! You do not require my services! I have to make sure Radagast does not try to breed birds and fish together!' Things like that. Ridiculous old man. Very stubborn. Although his last protest was legitimate; the last time Radagast tried to create a new animal breed they were…extremely carnivorous. Extremely."

"I begin to see why the city set for the elves of the third age is so far away from anything else."

"Which, all things considered, is extremely unfair. You were there, you know how many cities and towns were destroyed by First Age elves. But perhaps it is more for our safety than theirs," Erestor said, drifting off into her own thoughts. With a shake of her head she brought herself back.

"But yes, Mithrandir is exceedingly stubborn. Thought we would not want him around, and after all the times he forced his presence on us! Between you and I," and she leaned closer and lowered her voice, "I believe he forgot that he is not wearing the shape of an old man anymore. Oh, it was one of the funniest things! He tried going without his staff when he first changed to his original form, but he was so used to having it to lean against that he kept falling over!" Maeglin gave a surprised snort. "And sometimes when walking, he would go to put his weight on it and Crash! Down he would go!"

Erestor smirked to herself and took another sip of tea. Maeglin stopped laughing long enough to take a bite of pastry.

"Oh, and the first time he swore, it was in front of Eönwë. It was shortly after his first dozen times falling in his new body. Honestly, I thought it was impossible for any Maiar to be so clumsy, but Mithrandir has managed it. Ah, but I thought Eönwë was going to combust hearing Mithrandir. Apparently his temper grew shorter in Middle Earth." Erestor hummed merrily as she poured another cup for herself and Maeglin.

"Lady Erestor, you thought to distract me with tales of Mithrandir, but I do not forget so easily."

"If this is about that rumour involving myself and Lord Manwë, I will have you know it is patently false. I have never scolded, raised my voice, or even engaged in conversation with any of the Valar."

"I had not heard that one, actually. But I heard you visited the Halls of Mandos and spoke with my father?"

"I might have done."

"You walked into the Halls of the Dead and scolded my father."

"Perhaps."

"Why?"

"If it happened, it was because someone needed to."

"More importantly, HOW?"

"I have connections. And people owe me favors."

"Lord Mandos owed you a favor."

"No. But someone else did. I took care of a little problem – a couple, actually- and in the end, people in low places owed me."

"Low places?"

"Apologies. That makes more sense to humans."

"If you insist."

"It is actually a rather clever pun."

"Should I laugh?"

Erestor eyed him. He took a bite of pastry, managing to look both snarky and innocent.

"You have spent too much time around me. Or perhaps this is your time with Lord Elrond's spawn showing through."

"I prefer to think that the experience I have gained from you has transformed me into a much better person. You are my role model for all things sarcastic." Erestor sighed.

"Definitely the spawn," she decided. Maeglin laughed, but also began fidgeting with his sleeve.

"Spit it out, child, I have no patience for your squirming."

"I am older than you."

"Only in birth date."

"Years dead count!"

"Not for intelligence, Glorfindel proves that." Maeglin was about to argue more, but reconsidered.

"You are excellent at changing the topic."

"You changed it."

"See?! No, do not answer, I will ask my question. Before, when we first met, you said you had experience with having someone else in your head."

"Yes."

"Are you ever worried? I mean, I know my father cannot bother me again, and I assume the same is true for you and your situation?"

"It is."

"So, what I want to ask is, how do you deal with the worry that you still cannot trust the thoughts in your own head?"

Erestor watched Maeglin carefully.

"Is this something you worry about often?"

"Every day."

"I used to worry about it, and every once in a while I will have a bad dream, or a flash of memory, and wonder if I have been unduly influenced by him. So I do understand what you mean. At first, it almost paralyzed me. I was so taken with the worry that nothing would ever free me from him, that I was destined to follow his footsteps." She traced the pattern on the teacup in reflection. "But I realized that this would soon drive me mad, and then I really would follow his path." She paused, and grabbed Maeglin's currently forsaken pastry, ignoring his protest.

"Tell me, what keeps me from throwing this into the fire?" Maeglin stared at her.

"What?"

"What keeps me from throwing this into the fire? Perhaps I was raised to hate this kind of pastry. Why would I not throw it into the fire?"

"Because sane people do not go around throwing innocent desserts into fireplaces?"

Erestor gave Maeglin a disapproving look.

"Fine. Well, you were raised to hate it, but do you hate it? I mean, it is your choice to throw it away or not." As he said it, Erestor placed the abused pastry back on his plate and patted his head. Maeglin glared, but sighed. "I see."

"Do you? I tried to make it obvious. I chose not to destroy the pastry. I chose not to go insane with and for power. I choose every day not to strangle Glorfindel. What I choose changes everything. Granted, sometimes the choices are bad ones, or limited. But I myself control my actions. If I do not like something, if I think I am acting too much like Him, then I make the decision to change what I am doing. Part of this is knowing yourself. If you do not know what you believe, what drives you, then anyone, and not just your father, can control you."

"So, I need to know who I am."

"Yes. But- oh, do not look so solemn. It does not have to be all at once. Start small. What is your favorite food?"

"What?"

"If is a simple question, Maeglin."

"I enjoy carrots."

"Fine. There is something you know about yourself. Enjoy your carrots."

"But how do I know it is not just my father who likes them?"

"Eat some. Do you like the taste? The texture? Maeglin, even if you have some similarities with him, it is fine. I mean, he and I share some things in common. Dark hair, neither of us was born in Valinor, we prefer night to daylight- but that in no way means that I can or will become Eöl." She took the hand that had been nervously fidgeting with the pastry plate. "Listen to me. Think of it as a battle. Every time you find something you enjoy, or form an opinion you believe in, you gain ground. Every time you let fear of 'perhaps' rule your actions, your father does." Erestor gave him her fiercest glare, and part of her sighed in satisfaction as Maeglin shrunk away from it. "I had best not hear of your father winning anything, Maeglin. Or I will hunt you down and make you regret it." He nodded, and she released his hand and patted his head.

"Good little elf."

"I am taller than you."

"Physically, not mentally."

"Is that your winning argument for everything?"

"Physical victory is fleeting, sir. It is the mind that controls all. You more than most should know this."

"I suppose. But I think you really only decided that after realizing you would more closely resemble a Halfling than an elf." Erestor scowled.

"I preferred it when you were terrified of me."

"That was only before I realized you were a pushover on the inside."

"I do not suggest you test that theory, child."

"Yes m'lady."

Chapter Text

Glorfindel was watching Maeglin disappear into the trees. Not for good, though. With the tension eased between himself and Maeglin, Elrond had approached them with the thought that, perhaps, after Maeglin had finished with the rest of his penance trip, he could return to New Imladris to stay. Glorfindel had found no objection, and Maeglin had looked relieved. Apparently, the reunion with his mother's side of the family had gone very, very badly.

Not that Glorfindel had completely assented from the goodness of his heart. Maeglin had presented himself as an odd paradox of being both terrified of Erestor and completely reckless. For the last two weeks of his stay, he spent a great deal of time pushing Erestor almost to the breaking point, and then backing off and running away. Glorfindel had warned him that if he wasn't careful, he would find himself turned into a frog sooner rather than later, but he was laughed off. Of course, Glorfindel found Erestor's reactions amusing, and perhaps did not warn Maeglin as strongly as he should have.

So, when Maeglin did not run out of Erestor's office screaming two days past, Glorfindel sighed to himself. Praying that he would not be the next amphibian-elf, he ventured inside to find a glass tank on a little table beside Erestor's desk. Inside was a little brown frog, desperately croaking and jumping from glass wall to glass wall. Not that it could be heard, for of course Erestor had silenced him. Not even a soft thump of frog to glass contact. It had taken a bit, but eventually Erestor had returned the frog to his regular state. But only after pointedly discussing recipes for frog legs.

Indeed, Glorfindel was unsure whether Maeglin fell under the category of courageous or foolish. He did admit that Erestor seemed to find great enjoyment in practicing retaliatory spells upon the unfortunate elf, and he was also truthful enough to confess that it was nice having someone besides himself test Erestor's patience on a daily basis. It kept things fresh.

"You should stop thinking such dangerous thoughts, Glorfindel. They could lead you down a path that ends up fried in butter."

Glorfindel froze as he realized that Erestor was right beside him, and had apparently gained telepathic abilities. She smiled at him, which at this point was infinitely creepier than a smirk.

"No, I did not read your mind- at least not in the manner you fear. I read the thoughts from your face. You really are a poor liar, I hope you realize that." Well, that was partially good news. Still unsettling.

"Do you give lessons on striking fear into the hearts of others? I am sure as a master of the art, you must have many apprentices." Erestor pondered it exaggeratedly, pursing her lips and tapping her chin.

"No, but perhaps I should. Elladan and Elrohir seem to have a natural knack for it, and rightly so considering their ancestry."

"The Lady Galadriel I can see, but whom else?"

"Ah, Lord Celeborn of course. He rarely makes use of it, but sometimes he just looms silently, and looks upon you from the shadows. Then Lord Elrond, obviously."

"Obviously."

Erestor seemed to detect the disbelief in Glorfindel's voice, and did not appreciate it.

"You see him displeased with others less than I do, but mark my words! There was once a merchant who made…unfortunate remarks about Arwen." Erestor shuddered. "It ended poorly. I prefer not to think of the day myself. Think of Lord Elrond at his most intimidating. Do you have it in mind? Good. Now think of him without his normal restraint, a descendent of Noldor who crossed grinding ice, of men who were valiant without peer, and a half-Maiar maiden who threatened to disembody Sauron and then stole a silmaril from Morgoth's crown as he slept."

She had a point.

"I concede. We need not enumerate any others. Please?" Erestor tilted her head in graceful consent. "I had perhaps forgotten that Lord Elrond is rather fearsome. So you think his sons would make- No, no, no. I refuse to consider this matter any further. You will NOT create such terrible weapons, I will not discuss it."

Erestor shook her head and gave him a superior glance. Glorfindel watched her face carefully.

"We are avoiding the topic."

"Are we?" She asked idly, which was always a signal that it was incredibly important.

"Yes. Perhaps we should move somewhere a touch more private?" He offered his arm, and Erestor took it. Considering his options, Glorfindel decided to pick her office, reasoning that somewhere in Erestor's territory would relax her. There was little talk as they passed through the hallways, although they had spent more than enough time with each other to make reading the mood quite easy. Few elves were inside at this hour, it being a custom to take an early lunch outside during the spring months. Hopefully this would mean less chance of interruption, but Glorfindel still closed the door behind him as they entered Erestor's domain.


She had known this conversation was coming. That did not mean she was glad of it. The past was a very heavy burden, and not one she particularly enjoyed rehashing past death. Sighing heavily, she plucked at her clothes that were much closer to a dress than she particularly enjoyed, but until she learned how to say 'no' to pleading, adoring little elflings with eyes too big, it was a terror she had to endure.

She really was going soft, she just knew it.

Meanwhile, Glorfindel had been trying to start the conversation in a rather endearing but incredibly awkward and somewhat insulting way. Or at least she assumed, it had been a few minutes since she last paid him any actual attention.

"It is only that this seemed somewhat personal to you. Plus, you did spend a great deal of time talking together- not that I was upset, although I was worried- but I have watched you when he was not trying to try your patience. I saw you, and I wonder why exactly you were so determined that he and I come to an understanding so-"

"Glorfindel." He stopped his rambled sputtering and focused. Now Erestor felt uncomfortable. When he forsook his carefree demeanor, having a Great and Ancient Reborn Elf Lord directing all attention at you was…disconcerting. Erestor was made of stern stuff, and continued.

"I have told you a great deal about my childhood. I do not think I ever shared with you one aspect, and not through intention to deceive." She drummed her fingers on the desk. "I spoke with you about Maeglin and what his father did." Glorfindel nodded. "I…have experience with such an occurrence."

"Continue."

"In my case, it was an accident. But it happened nonetheless. As a child, the evil one, Voldemort, came to kill me. He had split his soul several times before, and had intended to use my death as a sacrifice for another foul split. Instead, well. His body was destroyed, and I was left. Containing a part of him. It was over a decade and a half before I found this out, and before it was removed."

Glorfindel was unreadable, which scared Erestor in a way she hadn't felt in a long time.

"So, Maeglin and I have that in common, knowing what it means to have something else inside, to know the dirty feeling that accompanies the realization." Still, Glorfindel was silent. Erestor waited, unsure of what to say next. Was he merely processing, or was it disgust?

"It is rather painful, having someone else in your head. I could feel his emotions, see when he tortured his victims. If you were wondering, this was part of the origin of my insomnia." Erestor shook herself. Focus. "But it hurts, rather as if every inch of what should be you has been replaced by fire and ice." He looked disturbed now, and Erestor watched him carefully. Rejection? Acceptance? Indifference? No, hardly the last one.

"I see." He sounded troubled. Erestor sighed.

"What did Maeglin say of it?" Erestor wasn't sure how to answer him. Or she was, but it felt incredibly private, even though he had given permission to share his story with any who asked.

"Well, he said that he was terrified." And how he had trembled as he told her. "That it was horrible, and that death was actually a mercy."

Nothing was said for a long while. Shadows grew longer, and Erestor only moved to light a few candles. They weren't needed, not really, but she liked the comforting flickers of light. As she lit the last one, she turned to find Glorfindel smiling at her.

"You are well?" She asked, tilting her head to the side. He seemed…satisfied. He sighed happily.

"Yes. Are you?" Erestor waved away his concern.

"Of course."

"I am sorry."

Erestor was curious.

"Sorry for what?" Glorfindel took her hand and studied it in the candlelight.

"Many things. I did not doubt you, but I was…worried. And I hope you did not get the wrong impression, that I was judging you." Erestor remained silent. Glorfindel turned chagrined. "You did."

"Not for certain."

"But it was a worry."

"Yes."

"Then I am sorry for that. It was not towards you, that is, I was not upset with you. It was the people you were forced to fight." He rubbed her knuckles, and she shook her head at him.

"I understand what you mean to say. Do not worry, I cannot hold your concern against you. I am a little…paranoid at times, which is hardly your fault."

"Now."

"We are long past that stage, Glorfindel. No, the fear of persecution comes from habits ingrained long before I even knew you existed."

"Should my ego be hurt?"

"If it is not, I have not been clear enough." It was an obvious attempt to steer the conversation away from the more upsetting topic, but Erestor allowed it. Delving into childhood insecurities required much more time and tea (and patience) than she had right now. Glorfindel was ever sensitive to her moods, even if his ability to shift them was rather blunt. Blunt as a mallet. Blunt as a mallet pounding a rock. But still well intentioned. She kept that last bit in mind, and things worked out better. Allowances, she reminded herself, had to be made for elves as old as Glorfindel. Dotage, and all that.

"I know that face. THAT is your "Glorfindel is ANCIENT" face, which I do not appreciate."

"Glorfindel, I cannot understand your sensitivity to the issue. The Lady Galadriel is less touchy on the subject."

"Lady Galadriel is welcome to address the issue however she likes. I have different concerns."

"Vanity."

"No."

"Idiocy."

"No! I am the face of Gondolin, and an immortal Elf besides. My age has nothing to do with my visage."

"Lord Ecthelion of the Fountain is the face of Gondolin. You feature in 'How Not to Kill a Balrog' manuals."

"Amusing."

"Always."