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to love none better than you

Chapter Text

The rain had been coming steadily for days now, winding through the valley as though it could create another river all its own. It had started as a simple thing, a late summer shower that had stretched on too long, and by the third day the winds had picked up, the pine branches at their mercy.

Tonight the storm was truly upon them, the low rumble of thunder in the distance the only warning that the rains would worsen, and then the howling of winds had come like some mad beast. The trees swayed, bent, the creaking and moaning swallow by the downpour. Thunder crashed, echoing even in the safety of Imladris’ halls. It covered his footsteps, the turn of the door handle -- Erestor was surprised, in a way, to find it unlocked -- and he thought to make some soft noise to alert the other that he was there.

“My lord,” He began, as a great flash of lightning lit up the sky like a bruise, “Is it safe to be out here in this?” The spray of the rain reached him even there just past the door, and Elrond was half-soaked with it. “Perhaps you should come in?”

Get inside or so help me I will drag you back in myself. He held onto the threat for now, turning it over in his mouth with the quirk of a smile.

Elrond seemed to not hear him, though the tell-tale twitch of his ears betrayed him. He stood at a railing, looking out into the open air of the observatory. At least he is not on the walkway, yet. And Erestor consoled himself with that much, though this was only passably safer.

“My lord?”

“Is it not beautiful?” There was something akin to wonder in his voice, like a small child seeing nature’s magnificence for the first time. “Look, just so.” He pointed, and Erestor took a step closer, squinting to see. The sky was black, and all he could see for it was the heavy rain falling. Another flash, another half-second of bright blue and deep purple -- but, oh, and there it was. Just behind the clouds he could see the stars there, shining like pale gems in the sky and for a moment he could see what kept Elrond here, fixed to the railing and staring. It was lovely, but it was also dangerous. The lightning was closer now, the thunder almost moments behind the flash.

“It is,” he was pulled from his own reverie, and when did he move so close to the other? He could reach out and touch him, and so he did, a gentle hand on his shoulder, not pulling, not yet. “But you are soaked to the bone and the storm is only getting worse.”

“You are right,” and for all his title of his lord’s advisor he could have marked this day down in a journal, so easily conceded. “There is just something about storms like this, the beauty in all the destruction and the promise of peace after that calls to me.”

Erestor nodded, though he did not know if Elrond could see. “Do you think, then, that this is the worst of it?”

Elrond turned to him then, something immeasurable in those dark eyes now upon him and yet it was more breathtaking than the sight of the stars behind the stormclouds. “No, I think it is only getting started. But come, I would not have you drenched on my behalf, and the storm above is getting closer, as you say.”

He nodded again, unable to do much else, and though he had come to fetch his lord he found himself now the one led gently into the hall, the quiet snick of the door closing behind them and Elrond’s hand was still upon his elbow, leading him on even now. They passed the time in silence, with only the music of the storm to accompany them, a whisper of rain and the rumbling beat of thunder above. At last they reached Elrond’s chambers, and here they must part, but he felt -- and not for the first time -- a sort of loss, a near frantic need to continue, to stay. Perhaps he could invent some reason to stay, to linger just outside a little longer. Something he could bring to his lord’s attention, something to make idle chatter about if only for another few minutes.

There was always tomorrow, but there was something electric in the air tonight, something like a brush of magic over the skin, soft like fingertips and yet there all the same. He opened his mouth, trying to think of anything, anything at all and yet no words came. He would bid Elrond goodnight, return to his chambers, spend another night throwing himself into some book or other until the sun rose behind the clouds and he had to try and make himself presentable again.

“The hour is late and we are both damp, but I find myself in want of company.” Erestor looked up, unaware that his gaze had fallen to the stone floor. “There is a fire within and I would share a glass of wine or two with a friend tonight, if you are willing.”

“I--” And he was, but of course decorum reared its head and he considered for a moment the very appropriateness  of it, considered his own motivations, cajoled them with duty . “Yes, that would be lovely.”

There was a flicker of something upon Elrond’s face that lit it up, for a moment, brighter than the lightning before. “I was hoping you would agree.”

The room was warm indeed, the fire crackling in the hearth and bathing the room in a comforting, flickering glow. He stepped in with a sort of reverence, as if he had not been within a hundred times or more, and yet there was something -- and, ah, that something again -- different about this night. They were sharing a moment, one that Erestor knew he would not soon forget, if ever.

“A moment,” and Erestor nodded yet again, finding himself at a loss for words, an unusual thing for himself, as he stood within the room, his hands folded behind his back.

He heard the rustling of fabric, turned his head and Elrond had stepped behind a screen to change, and wasn’t that something. He ducked his head, feeling heat rise to his face, and cleared his throat. Elrond emerged a moment later, in a heavy dressing gown, his damp hair unbound and over his shoulders. He could not help but to stare, his feet moving him when his heart and mind refused, carried him over to the little table, the two chairs set there as if just for them. A decanter of wine, two glasses, and he should be the one pouring but Elrond was never one to let another wait upon him, and so set the full glasses before them before taking his seat.

That silence fell between them, each considering the dark depths of their wine, and at last Erestor was the one to take a drink to calm his nerves. How many conversations had he in confidence like this with his lord, and why was tonight any different? He knew, oh but did he know, and there was an element of danger in it.

It was though they had never left the railing, had never stepped out of the storm.

“I find myself ill at ease of late.” Elrond began, shattering the quiet oh-so-softly that Erestor’s ears twitched to catch the sound. “I do not know what has come over me. It is not a longing for the sea, of this I am sure. And yet I find myself wandering within my own home, as if lost. I have no need for a journey, nor do I want to, and yet there is this restlessness that follows on the heels of an equally unsettling listlessness that has settled so deep within me I can feel it in my bones.”

“Is it the storm, my lord?”

“No, it is has long been troubling me.”

He waited for Elrond to continue, watching as the other held the glass within his hands as if he were afraid it might shatter. He wanted to reach across, to gently take the glass from him and hold his hands, find some words to ease his lord’s mind if only for a night. How had he not seen?

He had, in a way. There had been something he could not put words to, a restlessness of his own that had led him to look more and more for the other, to notice his absences and to worry, that same sort of concern that led him to go in search of him tonight. A half-fear, one that he dared not put to words and yet it lingered in the back of his mind and on the tip of his tongue.

He feared that Elrond would wish to sail, and he would be left here, alone.

He had no desire for the sea, and thought often that perhaps that longing would never come. That he would be here until the world passed its last age and everything faded away. It was not some love for the world, but rather a sort of apathy. The thought of seeing Elrond leave, seeing him off at the gate and knowing that he would never return, was a fear that was like ice in his veins.

It is not a longing for the sea, and so he comforted himself with that, at least, for now.

“I wish I knew what to say to ease your mind, my lord.” Erestor murmured, took a drink of wine to buy himself a little more time to think, but still nothing came. Across from him, Elrond raised a dark eyebrow, a ghost of a smile on his fair face.

“You? Without words? I think this might be a first.” And then he laughed, the sound a balm that eased the tension in the room. “But come, this is not a night for sad musings, let us talk of other things.”

“Shall we talk then of how you were half-drowned in the storm then?” Erestor teased, grinning, and there was that laughter again. How he loved it, longed to hear it, to be always a reason the worry fled from his lord’s face.

“Nay, I said no sad musings. You caught me in a melancholy, though I dare say it has lifted for the while. Let us talk of other things.” Elrond drank deep from his cup, color returning to his face and Erestor had to stop himself from resting his chin in his hands to merely stare. “What of your beast?”

“My -- you mean my cat.”

“That I do.” And the wine was affecting him, some Dorwinion vintage from their Silvan kin. “I disturbed her rest recently and she was less than pleased with me. She had taken as her bed a particular tome I had meant to finish and when I tried to gently shoo her away, she admonished me.”

“Sounds right. Be thankful, at least, that she did not see fit to use her claws. She can be as a dragon about her sleep.”

“Indeed!”

There was a warmth spreading through him, whether the wine or another influence he could not tell. There was no other sound for a while, save the crackle and pop of the logs in the fire, the storm as it lessened outside.

“The rain seems to be slowing.”

“It shall, deceptively. I have been watching the clouds approach from the east.”

“From the east?”

“Not that far east, for what little comfort that affords. But there will be a bit of peace for a while, and then the storm will return, worse than before. The clouds are a dark shadow, crawling across the horizon towards us with little sign of breaking.”

A chill went through him all the same, and he drained his glass. For all Elrond’s reassurance, his mind turned to other things, darker things he did not dare speak, for all the terrible memory they would bring. And yet he could think of nothing else to say. The moment had been there and then gone, the static in the air fading and he was aware now of the late hour, his lord’s need for rest when his mind was so troubled, his own failure to provide a lasting distraction.

“I fear I have kept you too long, my lord.” He said carefully.

There was another of those unreadable looks, some emotion he could not understand, almost as if disappointed, that passed over Elrond’s face. “Nonsense, it is I that have kept you. But we are both in need of rest this evening.”

And then there was a warm hand over his, fingers curled against his palm, and he looked up at Elrond, startled.

“We should do this more often, Erestor. I find myself -- it is though my thought are clearer, less troubled when you are here.”

“I am glad of it.” Erestor said, his tongue heavy and thick within his mouth. He wanted to read more into it, but he did not dare. Lord Elrond had always been easy with his words, his affections. He did not guard himself so, as Erestor or any other did. “And I agree, I much enjoyed our time together tonight. Perhaps another night, when you are not soaked through and in need of rest.”

A smile, brilliant as any star in the sky above, and Erestor felt himself melt there and then. “Yes, I would enjoy that very much.”

Elrond walked with him to the door, and there they lingered for a moment, as if both were reluctant to call an end to the evening. But that could not be, or so Erestor told himself, and so he bowed, bidding his lord a good night with a promise to see him on the morrow.

“Pleasant dreams to you, Erestor, should sleep find you tonight.” Elrond said, leaning against the door frame as Erestor turned to leave.

“And to you,” he returned, that same reluctance resettling, a wild sort of need to turn and march right back inside, to think of a thousand and one things to talk about until the morning bade them return to their duties.

But at last he turned away and made for his rooms, not hearing the door close until he had nearly rounded a corner.