It was rare that the boys wept, these days; when they were children, they cried frequently and intensely, but it had been years since they feared their captors. Indeed, now in the throes of adolescence, their weepiness seemed to have abated almost entirely, replaced instead by fleeting fits of anger.
Maglor was thus surprised to hear quiet sobs coming from the twins’ room. Cautiously, he crept closer, peering through the crack in the unclosed door, wondering if he ought to leave them alone or...
But only one of the peredhil was there. Right—Maedhros had taken Elros out riding, leaving Elrond behind for music lessons with Maglor. Elrond was a gifted student, and the lesson had ended hours ago when he begged to go on a trip to the nearby village to play for the mortals. Maglor had indulged him, trusting in the guards he set to always secretly trail the twins when they left the keep to ensure his safety.
He should’ve been there for some hours yet. Peredhil aged differently than elves or mortals, but the twins seemed to be in the stage of their lives where friends and flirting were the most important thing to growing lads, and Maglor had not expected him back until supper, when Maedhros and Elros were set to return.
So why was he crying in his room?
“Elrond?” Maglor said, hesitantly opening the door a little further. “What’s wrong?”
Elrond froze for a moment in his position kneeling at his bedside. “Nothing...” he mumbled unconvincingly. “Go away...”
Maglor paused. Years ago, when he had first taken the children under his wing, he would have badgered Elrond to tell him what was wrong so he could fix it. A few years after that, when the peredhil were first starting to accept him as a caretaker, he would have left immediately to show he respected Elrond’s boundaries.
But now it had been some years since that time, and Maglor thought he was getting the hang of this parenting thing. If it was important to Elrond that he was left alone, he would go, but Maglor suspected he was simply ashamed to be caught in his emotions, and would benefit from gentle coaxing into a conversation about feelings.
“If you really want me to leave, I will,” Maglor said softly, “but...do you want to talk instead, perhaps?”
Elrond fell silent for a long moment disrupted only by sniffling. “...Yes,” he admitted.
“You could wait for Elros—” Maglor began, and was astonished by the swiftness with which Elrond responded.
“No!” he snapped, twisting his head around to glare at Maglor with red-rimmed eyes.
Maglor took a deep breath, then went inside, closing the door softly behind him. He sat on the edge of Elrond’s bed, laying a gentle hand on his shoulder.
“Alright then,” he said. “What’s the matter? Did you fight with your brother?”
Elrond buried his face in his arms again. “I feel so stupid.”
Maglor tsked. “Now, don’t insult my most talented student,” he warned lightly.
Elrond let out a watery laugh. “It’s not—about music, or history, or anything,” he muttered. “I just—” he hiccuped— “I thought that, maybe—”
Maglor hummed softly. He wasn’t much of a healer these days, not after all the blood he’d spilled, but he knew a few soothing songs that still worked on Maedhros, and anything that could seep into a mind as damaged as his brother’s could easily calm someone as innocent as Elrond.
Elrond trailed off, some of the tension in his shoulders loosening. He turned his face to look at Maglor, his eyes miserable pools of blue, and Maglor’s heart panged. The poor lad. Whatever it was could certainly not be world-shattering, but a youth’s heartache was felt just as intensely as a warrior’s wounds.
“I just...” He sighed. “I thought maybe Medlinor liked me, as a sweetheart, but I—I asked to dance with him today, after I played a song for him, and he just...he laughed at me, and he said that if he was going to fool around with a half-elf he’d choose the one who—who remembered he was half-man, too!”
Maglor bit back a smile. Ah, young love. This was a problem he felt he could help with.
“That’s dreadful,” he commiserated. “Medlinor is the hairy one with the longbow, right?”
Elrond scoffed. “Hairy! He’s just got a beard, that’s all!”
“My apologies,” Maglor said, glad his teasing remark had given rise to some emotion other than despair. “But you know how we elves are about hair.”
Elrond rolled his eyes. “Maedhros said your grandfather had a beard!”
“He did,” Maglor agreed, “but your Medlinor far outdoes Mahtan’s tasteful goatee.”
But that, it seemed, was the wrong thing to say. Elrond’s shoulders slumped, and he turned away, wiping his eyes. “He’s not my anything. He doesn’t want me.”
“Then clearly he’s not good enough for you, even with that beard,” Maglor said firmly. “Or at the very least, you would not have been a good match.”
Elrond scoffed. “As if you’d know anything about being turned down. Who could say no to the greatest musician in all of Arda?”
“Daeron never managed to win Lúthien’s heart,” Maglor said modestly, and when Elrond groaned, he was swift to add, “but I have had my fair share of heartbreaks, too.”
“Who?” Elrond asked, his eyes brightening and shifting from blue to green in the way only the peredhil could. (Maedhros thought it was the strain of Melian within them.)
Maglor pretended to sigh and sulk, just to give him the pleasure of wearing him down with continued pestering, until at last he exclaimed: “Alright, alright! I’ll tell you a tale that will put Medlinor’s rudeness out of your mind...”
He cleared his throat. He was a bard, after all, and his stories were just as entertaining as his songs, he hoped.
“Once in the light of the Trees there was a golden-haired young nér I set my sights upon,” he began. “He was tall—not quite as tall as Maedhros, but close—and he had a bright laugh and strength that was the marvel of all Tirion.”
“What was his name?”
“Laurefindil,” Maglor sighed, remembering his old crush with some fondness. “You would know him better as—”
“Glorfindel?” Elrond exclaimed. “Of—of the House of the Golden Flower? Who knew my father, and his father—?”
Maglor winced. Ah. Yes. Perhaps this was not the best story to spin, after all.
“Yes,” he admitted. “Though he was not the lord of anything back in the day.”
“What was he like?” Elrond asked eagerly. “Did he—there weren’t any monsters to fight in Valinor, but did he win tournaments? Did he have a craft?”
“He placed second in the Games, once, I think,” Maglor said, struggling to remember, “but, oh, Elrond...I don’t know. Perhaps I should tell you another tale? The long and short of it is that Laurefindil never looked twice at me even despite my songs, for he had a flautist lover who played his heartstrings better than I could my harp.”
Elrond muttered something under his breath Maglor did not quite catch, but even despite his disappointment, Maglor was cheered to see some life return to him. “You’re no fun. And that’s hardly a heartbreak; it doesn’t even sound like you were friends.”
“Well, then,” Maglor grumbled, casting about for another story that might be more suitable. “Ah! I have it. And she was even a mortal, too, like Medlinor.”
At this Elrond laughed and crawled up to sit next to Maglor on the bed. “You were turned down by a mortal?”
“On several occasions, from the same woman,” Maglor sighed. “Her name was Arasdil. She was a woman of Bëor’s people, though not of his line, but she was taken from her home by a roguish man who fathered children by her.”
“And how did you meet her?” Elrond asked.
He shrugged. “They dwelt not far from the Gap. I was out hunting one day and came across a crying, heavily pregnant young woman—of course I helped her. Eventually she and her children fled her brute of a husband, and I took them back to my keep.”
“And she fell madly in love with you and had your children next?” Elrond joked. “Oh, wait, this is a story about heartbreak...”
“I admit I grew quite fond of her,” Maglor sighed, remembering Arasdil’s sharp wit and bright smile. “But she was quite done with anything male-shaped, and no matter how she made my heart dance as it had not since...well. It was never going to work out, even if she had returned my feelings.”
The words hung in the air unsaid: She was mortal, and I an elf. No one quite knew what being peredhil meant for lifespan, and it was Elrond’s own elvishness that had turned Medlinor away from him.
“Well, that puts my drama in perspective, I suppose,” Elrond sighed, but it was not in the defeated, self-deprecating way that had so consumed him earlier.
Maglor tugged Elrond into an embrace. “It’s alright, little one,” he murmured, for all Elrond and Elros had sprung up like weeds and were not little any longer. “There will be other boys for you to kiss.” Maybe even elvish ones, he did not add.
Elrond wiped his eyes, but sank further into Maglor’s arms. “Thanks,” he whispered. “I just had hoped...”
“There is still hope,” Maglor said firmly, though he did not think that applied to himself. “You are young, Elrond. You will find love, if that is what you want—and it will find you, perhaps even if you don’t.”
“Where have you been?” Maglor demanded when Elrond walked into his room, soaked to the bone. It was the middle of the night, and a dreadful storm raged on the coast of Lindon; he had only recently returned to his foster-son’s side after centuries of lonely wandering, and to have Elrond disappear on him like that...
But Elrond did not look harmed. Indeed, he wore a grin wider than his shirt was wet, and had a dreamy look in his eyes Maglor had last seen the likes of only when—
Oh. Oh, dear. If he was right about this—he was going to have some words with Ulmo.
“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Elrond said, shrugging out of his shirt. Maglor rushed to get him a towel, and realized that Elrond was humming something eerie, something powerful. A shiver ran up his spine.
“Elrond, I was worried,” he fretted, but Elrond only laughed gaily.
“I’m a full grown elf,” he said. “I can do what I wish in my free time.”
“It’s the middle of the night—”
“Well, a herald doesn’t often have free time in the day, now does he?” Elrond slipped into his nightclothes, returning to that ominous melody.
“I’m...” Maglor took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I know you’re grown, and I know I wasn’t there for you when I should have been, but...”
Elrond’s eyes refocused slightly, and he offered an apologetic smile. “And you only just got me back, when you thought I’d hate you after...everything. I understand. I’m afraid you’ll run away, too.”
“I won’t,” Maglor promised. “Not again. Elrond, I...”
But Elrond had stopped listening, going back to that haunting tune. He flopped down on his bed, staring up at the ceiling, a silly smile on his face.
Maglor’s blood ran cold. He hoped he was wrong, but...
“Elrond,” he said cautiously, “what were you doing out in that storm?”
“Mm? Oh, nothing in particular...” Elrond sighed, turning to face the bolted window.
“I know you’re part Maia, but you’re part mortal, too, and not invincible to the elements,” Maglor scolded.
At the word Maia, Elrond tensed. Maglor’s heart sank. It seemed his suspicions were correct.
“What would you know about Maiar?” he snapped. “My foremother Melian—”
“It’s not her I’m worried about,” Maglor interrupted. “It’s you. And the storm Maia you’re...playing around with.”
Elrond flushed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Is it Ossë?” Maglor growled. “I thought I warned him to stay away from now on, but—”
“It’s not Ossë,” Elrond snapped, sitting upright. “Their name is Raumolírë and they’re just—enchanting. They’re teaching me their songs, and take me out to sea, and keep me safe when I’m sailing—”
Raumolírë was not a name Maglor was familiar with, but dread settled in his stomach all the same. If they were anything like Ossë had been (and from their name, “storm song,” he thought the two Maiar were of the same ilk), Elrond was in grave danger.
“—and they told you they were in love with you, and that together you could be wildly powerful, and leave all your cares behind to dance on the open seas,” Maglor finished tiredly.
Elrond stared at him, eyes narrowed. “How do you know that?”
Maglor leaned against the wall, not meeting his eyes. “Maiar are...not like us,” he said.
“I know that.”
“They do not see the world as Eldar do,” he continued. “And Ulmo’s Maiar...there are peaceful ones, like Uinen, but even she is terrible when she is angry. I remember the sea after Alqualondë...many of my father’s people died, drowned in her rage.”
Elrond glared. “That was then. And Raumolírë is not Uinen.”
“No. But from what I gather, they are one of the storm Maiar, like Ossë and Salmar.” Maglor bit his lip. “And those Maiar are particularly dangerous.”
“I can take care of myself,” Elrond insisted. “And Raumolírë would never hurt me.”
“Perhaps not intentionally,” Maglor conceded, “but you of all people should know how rare it is that a union between an elf and a Maia is a happy one. How Thingol tamed Melian, I do not know, but it has never happened again.”
“That we know of,” Elrond countered. “And do not I, an elf of Thingol’s blood and Melian’s spirit, stand a better chance than anyone?”
Maglor shook his head. “You remember Eönwë. You remember Sauron, and the Balrogs of Morgoth, and the river spirits who helped to drown Beleriand. And who killed my father Fëanáro? Who killed Finrod, and Fingon, and even mighty Glorfindel? Maiar, all of them! They are not to be trifled with!”
“Nor am I,” Elrond said, his eyes flashing, changing color from sapphire blue to ice white. Maglor shivered despite himself.
“You will do what you will do,” he said softly. “But you should know I, too, believed I could bind a Maia to myself. A Maia very like your Raumolírë.”
“You mean...” Elrond trailed off.
“I wandered the coast for a long time, Elrond,” he said drily. “I am well acquainted with storm Maiar, though I learned few of their names. And I know Ossë better than most.”
“What happened?” Elrond asked, gripping his bedpost with white knuckles.
Maglor sighed. “He...saved me, after a storm. I should have died—I wanted to drown. It was not long after...everything.” Reflexively, he curled and uncurled the fingers on his burnt hand. “But Ossë tossed me from his waves and let me live.”
“Raumolírë rescued me from wrecking my little ship,” Elrond whispered. “That was how we met.”
“Every few years I would see Ossë again.” Maglor closed his eyes, remembering. “And I grew...attached. I thought if I was unwelcome among elvenkind, perhaps I could find company with a Maia. Ossë was...exhilarating company. Wild, free, unrestrained; he did not listen even to Ulmo or Uinen, most times.”
Outside, the storm continued, rain pounding against the windowpane. Elrond drew a blanket around himself, looking truly uneasy for the first time since his arrival.
“I was wrong.” Maglor stood tall, looking at Elrond sternly. “I was very wrong. Ossë had his fun with me, and then he left. I was alone again. I forswore him, and any dalliance we may have had, but then like the tides he would return and take me with him into the sea. Again and again—I wandered for centuries, Elrond! It was not until recently...until you found me again...that I had the strength to at last tell him no, and make him understand it.”
He drew a shaky breath. “I do not want the same thing to happen to you.”
“I...” Elrond took a shaky breath. “I’m sorry. I did not know. But—Raumolírë is not Ossë. They care about me, truly, I...”
“Make your own choices, Elrond,” Maglor said softly. “But please, be careful. I do not want you to be hurt as I was.”
“I will be,” Elrond promised. He paused. “And...thank you for sharing with me, about Ossë.”
“I’m nervous,” Elrond admitted, pacing the length of the tent. “I don’t...what if I mess it up? What if she changes her mind? What if—”
Maglor chuckled, pulling him into an embrace. “It will be alright.”
“But...what if not having my birth parents present messes it up, somehow?” Elrond fretted. “I mean—” He grimaced guiltily. “I mean, obviously, I am glad you are here, and grateful to Glorfindel for standing in for my other parent, but...”
“You know the ceremony is only a formality,” Maglor chided, trying to hide how nervous he was that it was Glorfindel who was stepping in for Elrond’s mother. But this was Elrond’s day, not his.
Elrond wrung his hands. “That’s not reassuring! What if I mess up that part?”
“I don’t think you will.” Maglor smiled. “Besides—do you think there were parents present at the wedding of Maedhros and Fingon? And the songs sung of their love are many.”
“Because you wrote most of them,” Elrond grumbled, but a weight seemed to lift from his shoulders. “I just...I think I’m comparing myself, my family, to Celebrían’s.”
“Don’t worry,” Maglor said. “Artanis will focus all her irritation on me, and completely forget to intimidate you.”
Elrond huffed out a laugh. “Sometimes I wish we could just do it the way your brother did, run off into the woods and have it all done and over with.”
“Nonsense,” Maglor said, “Curvo had a very fancy wedding, with half of Tirion present—and Fingon confessed to me one half-drunken night that he and Maedhros consummated their marriage in a little cave by the Bay of Eldamar, which is hardly a forest”
Elrond made a small noise of acknowledgement, but his eyes were distant and unfocused. Maglor sighed. It was normal to be nervous on the day of one’s wedding, he supposed, but Elrond was a naturally anxious lad. Well, he wasn’t a lad any longer, Maglor supposed, but he would always remember the boy with wide, color-changing eyes who could charm even grim and stoic Maedhros.
“It doesn’t matter if the wedding is a disaster or not,” Maglor said, tugging lightly on Elrond’s braid. “All that matters is that by tonight, you’ll be married, and Celebrían will never leave you.” Long-buried sorrow pricked his heart, and he couldn’t help but add, “Even a perfect wedding will not ensure a perfect marriage. But you and Celebrían are good people, unlike myself, and I know you will be happy together.”
Elrond jerked his head to stare at him. “I forget, sometimes, that you’re married, too,” he murmured. “You don’t...carry it with you, the way others separated from their spouse do.”
“It was a very long time ago,” Maglor said quietly, though he still remembered Ezellë’s laughter, the feeling of her hands on his skin, the way her words could light a fire within him. “And our parting was...mutual. She would not go with me to Middle-earth, and I would not stay with her in Aman. But she had not even followed me to Formenos. We both knew things were...coming to an end.”
“What if that happens to me?” Elrond whispered.
“It won’t,” Maglor said firmly. “You won’t make the same mistakes I did. You have no father to swear an Oath to—”
“I have you,” Elrond interrupted.
Maglor’s heart ached. He’d always wanted children, but Ezellë never had; in a way, caring for Arasdil’s children and then for Elrond and Elros had been cathartic, fulfilling that desire. But it was never more than an act, playing at fatherhood. The twins never called him “Atar.”
“I’m not your father,” he said gently.
Elrond stuck out his chin. “But you’re standing in my father’s place. You’re here for me, when he isn’t.”
“I...” Maglor shook his head. “And that is my fault, Elrond. I know it was a very long time ago, and that you were very young, but do not forget that it was I who killed your nurse, and I who drove your mother off the cliff’s edge, and I who burned your childhood home.”
“I’ve forgiven you that a thousand times over,” Elrond said. “You know that.”
“Glorfindel would be a better father figure for you,” Maglor muttered.
“You’re so mean to him,” Elrond complained, switching topics suddenly. “Why is that? I thought you liked him. At least, from the stories you told me when I was younger.”
“He broke my heart,” Maglor said dramatically, and when Elrond rolled his eyes, Maglor ruffled his hair. “Well, not truly. I doubt he even knew I nursed such feelings for him! But he is very...” He scowled. “He is, like you, a good person. He died valiantly, and was returned to life—and granted a second chance here in Middle-earth, even! How can I not admire that, and wish I had been so pure of heart?”
“It sounds like you still like him,” Elrond teased—and Maglor let him, because he wasn’t stressing about the wedding any longer.
The ceremony came and went, smoothly as Maglor had known it would, and when Elrond and Celebrían disappeared with blushing faces into their private chambers, Maglor was only a little melancholy remembering his own wedding night with Ezellë. Especially when Glorfindel slapped him heartily on the back and insisted he play a song for the assembled guests, and Maglor was forced to remember something other than dirges and laments, and even then managed to pick the one song Artanis knew better than him.
But this was Elrond’s day, he reminded himself, and he knew that Elrond was happy.
Imladris was a wonderful place to live. It was safe in a way the other Havens Maglor had known were not (in part, he remembered ruefully, because he had made them so), and homely in a way he had not felt since Valinor. The people were pleasant, for the most part, and the lord kind as summer, and Maglor found himself slipping into the kind of quiet life he’d never before been able to have.
Except, of course, when Glorfindel decided to bother him.
There weren’t many elves from the First Age left in these lands, and by rights Glorfindel shouldn’t be here either, but he was, and he delighted in trying to drag Maglor out of his happy seclusion at every opportunity. If Maglor didn’t know better, he’d have thought Glorfindel was flirting with him, but of course he acted this way with nearly everyone. He was simply more intense with Maglor, because Maglor presented more of a challenge.
Every few years Glorfindel would enter his name in a chess tournament, or promise someone on his behalf that he would sing at their child’s begetting day party, or volunteer him to join some patrol with the Dúnedain. And Maglor would refuse, until Elrond gave him that look he had perfected since he’d become a father, and he’d grumble but fulfill the obligation Glorfindel had thrust upon him all while threatening his “friend” if he ever pulled such a stunt again.
And Glorfindel would apologize, all meek-like, but the sparkle never left his eye, and a decade later it would start all over again.
If he was being honest with himself, Maglor enjoyed such times. He was happiest when he was hidden away in a quiet corner of Imladris, reading and writing and spending time alone and with Elrond’s family, where no one who still carried resentment for him could find him. He was even glad to train young Lindir to become the official bard of Imladris. After all, Elrond could not openly proclaim that a Kinslayer was his bard.
But it got lonely, sometimes, and Glorfindel—bold, boisterous, beautiful Glorfindel—could always be relied upon to liven things up.
Still, Maglor thought that this particular entanglement had gone a bit too far.
“You cannot be serious,” he said when Glorfindel first approached him with false contrition.
“Absolutely not,” he insisted when he realized Glorfindel was, indeed, serious.
“You are in my debt until the end of Arda,” he grumbled when Glorfindel finally managed to dress him up in his fanciest robes and pull him onto the dance floor of the biggest celebration Imladris had hosted since its founding, as his date.
“I told Gildor I already had someone to go with, as an excuse to why I couldn’t go with him,” Glorfindel explained, dipping Maglor so low his hair brushed the ground.
“Couldn’t you have said Erestor?” Maglor hissed, taking back the lead from his...partner. (He had to admit, at least privately, that there was no better dancer in all of Imladris than Glorfindel. It was...exhilarating, to say the least.)
“Everyone knows Erestor doesn’t look that way to anyone,” Glorfindel dismissed, pressing just a bit too close to Maglor’s chest for comfort. Maglor tried his best not to blush. “And they know also that I look that way to lots of people! I couldn’t take him, or borrow his excuse.”
“So you picked me?” Maglor demanded, spinning Glorfindel out and almost letting him fly away—but Glorfindel only laughed and gripped his wrist, spinning right back into Maglor’s embrace.
“Of course I picked you!” he exclaimed gaily. “I’m the best dancer, you’re the best musician, we make a perfect pair!”
Maglor rolled his eyes, but Glorfindel did have a point, he supposed. “And what of anyone who remembers how you doted on Ecthelion, hmm?”
A little of the light faded from Glorfindel’s Tree-bright eyes. “He’s not here. You are. Besides, even if I return to Aman...before I left again, we agreed we could find other people, if we felt the need.”
“I’m sorry,” Maglor said quietly, slowing with Lindir’s music. Out of the corner of his eye he saw several couples leaving the dance floor; the marchwardens from Lothlórien were deep in their cups, the Dúnedain rangers flirting with the guards from Mirkwood... He even thought he caught a glimpse of Elrond and Thranduil deep in conversation, arms linked as they walked through the gardens.
Glorfindel shrugged. As the song changed to a waltz, his large hands settled on Maglor’s hips, and a strange feeling began to flutter in Maglor’s chest.
“It’s alright,” he said. “And, well, you only agreed to humor me for the one night. I know you’ve got someone back in Valinor, too.”
Maglor shook his head. “Ezellë and I...our separation was more permanent. For all my father’s feelings on the sanctity of marriage, his sons were never good at living up to his expectations.”
“Mm,” Glorfindel said.
They danced quietly for the rest of the song, and Maglor let himself relax and enjoy the feeling of being close to another person. It had been a very long time since he’d felt this way—safe, with a friend, no matter his put-upon protestations.
When the song ended, Glorfindel let him go with a wink, offering to refill their drinks, and Maglor was surprised by a sudden pang in his heart. He didn’t want to let Glorfindel go, for some reason, and suddenly he realized—
As a youth in Valinor, he’d felt this way, for bright Laurefindil who never looked at him twice. And then again for clever Ezellë, who wrote him poems and listened to his songs, but left him when the world darkened and he needed her most. Then again for Arasdil, the practical mortal who took his help but not his hand; and again for Ossë, wild and dreadful and overwhelming.
And now, again, for Laurefindil once more, laughing and friendly and determined in his efforts to bring Maglor small spots of connection, of joy, pulling him into a dance he could not escape.
Maglor bit his lip, and rushed into the gardens, looking for the only person he could confide in.
He found Elrond still arm in arm with Thranduil, who narrowed his eyes as he approached. Ah. Of course, Oropher’s son remembered Doriath...and Sirion.
“I will take my leave for the evening, my lord,” Thranduil said smoothly, nodding to Elrond, who bid him farewell with a clasp of the hand that lasted just a moment too long. In any other circumstance, Maglor would have pestered Elrond about that, but he was all aflutter with his own dancing heart.
“Have you been enjoying the party?” Elrond asked, mirth sparkling in his eyes—brown, tonight.
Maglor gripped Elrond’s wrist. “I have, and that’s what troubles me,” he confessed. “I—I know Glorfindel is a flirt, but he—”
Elrond laughed, the little brat. Maglor swatted him on the shoulder.
“Don’t mock me!” he exclaimed. “Why my heart chose now, ages and ages later, to remember it once was sweet for Laurefindil is beyond me—”
“At last you admit it,” Elrond said, deeply amused. “I told Glorfindel that if you didn’t take the hint after he arranged a date with you—”
“You were in on this?” Maglor yelped. “Elrond! I trusted you!”
“Oh, this is nice,” Elrond teased. “All these years you’ve been giving me relationship advice, and now it’s my turn to admonish you for your foolishness. Yes, he’s been flirting with you in earnest for centuries now. He thinks it’s quite amusing, really, though he is quite fond of you and will be excited to discover you’ve figured yourself out at last.”
“But I...he...” Maglor sighed dramatically. “What was that with you and the Oropherion?”
Elrond, to his credit, didn’t flinch. “We are close,” he said simply. “We have both lost our wives, and will not see them unless and until we sail to Aman, which will not be anytime soon, if at all. Is it so strange we find comfort in each other?”
Maglor smiled at him, suddenly overwhelmed with pride. “You’ve truly grown up,” he said softly, reaching out to grasp Elrond’s shoulder.
Elrond pouted, like he was still a young boy whose heart was broken over a mortal’s shifting favors, and Maglor laughed. “You’re only just noticing?”
Maglor hugged him, and took strength from his solid warmth. “Thank you for...everything,” he whispered. “I don’t think I say that enough. I don’t deserve any of this—”
Elrond pulled back, clasping his arms sternly. “None of that. If even Glorfindel of the Golden Flower can forgive you enough to start this strange dance with you, it’s been long enough that you can give yourself a break. Let yourself have this joy.”
“Thranduil has not forgiven me,” Maglor pointed out.
“But he will, if I have anything to say about it,” Elrond said firmly. “Now go on. I’m sure Glorfindel’s wondering where you’ve run off to.” He smirked. “If you kiss him before the night’s over, I’ll win my bet with Erestor.”
Maglor spluttered as he turned away, but Elrond’s laughter filled him with a light and confidence he hadn’t felt since...he couldn’t remember. He floated back to the party, pulling his partner back into the dance, and decided that Elrond was right. It was time to move on, truly, and find joy again.
And if he could help his foster-son win his bet...well, that was just a bonus.