4. At the River's Edge
The pot of soup that Melpomaen had prepared the evening before still sat near the last embers. They had fallen asleep, entwined, after their second lovemaking, and never eaten. Haldir carefully rebuilt the fire and set their breakfast to heating. He glanced at his partner – his lover, now, he thought tenderly – and decided to go to the river to wash before waking him. He felt a little sore from the unaccustomed exertions of the previous night, and hoped that it would make no difference in how far they would be able to walk that day.
Now, at the end of summer, the water level was low, and Haldir made sure to choose a spot where the grass grew close to the edge of the water, so that he would not immediately become dirty when he came out again. He laid a cloth on the bank to dry himself with later, and slipped into the water.
When he returned to the spot after a stimulating swim up the river, then a leisurely drift back down, nothing was there. Haldir guessed the reason but decided to pretend not to notice, simply sluicing the water from his torso and legs with his hands, and began to walk back to the camp. As he passed a clump of alder the cloth was suddenly tossed over his head and shoulders.
"Would you like me to dry you off?" came Melpomaen's voice, and Haldir was turned around to face him as the cloth fell.
Melpomaen caught it before it reached the ground and held it up invitingly, a teasing grin on his face.
Haldir smiled in return. "Why not? Or would you rather have a swim yourself, first? The water is most refreshing."
"If you'd be willing to go back again, certainly. I made sure that the fire was in no danger of spreading before I left," said Melpomaen.
Unlike Haldir he had put on his leggings before venturing down to the river. Haldir claimed the opportunity to undress his lover. Slowly he peeled the brown cloth away from the smooth white skin, caressing Melpomaen's buttocks and legs as he went.
Clothing removed, Melpomaen took Haldir in his arms and kissed him. "Mm, when I woke up I was unsure where you might have gone. But after a few minutes I guessed you must have come here. Are you not glad I followed?" he whispered.
"Oh, yes," said Haldir, sliding his hands down Melpomaen's back. "But I thought you wanted to swim?"
Melpomaen rolled his eyes. "Are we in a hurry today?"
"No. That's why I suggested the swim." Haldir cocked an eyebrow in return. "The water is cool, and you seem to be getting a little warm already."
"As if you are not," said Melpomaen, stepping back and looking pointedly at Haldir's growing erection. He waded into the river. "Come on in, then, and swim with me."
They swam for some time, racing each other upstream – Melpomaen won – and then floating back toward where they had entered. The sun was well up by now, and the rippling surface gleamed in the light, reflecting luminously from Haldir's skin and hair as he stood in the waist-deep water.
"Now, what were you saying about getting warm?" he asked as Melpomaen drifted past him.
The younger Elf aimed a splash of water at him, then dove beneath the surface to grab his feet and tip Haldir into the water. They wrestled amiably, each delighting in the way the other moved, the water letting them slide smoothly between and around each other's limbs. Each time they rose above the surface they kissed, tongues and lips lingering lovingly together. Haldir could feel the blood racing through his veins. Cool though the water was, his skin grew flushed with warmth and he hardened with desire.
Melpomaen, too, was becoming excited by the gentle caresses. He tugged Haldir to his feet and pressed the length of his body against him, feeling the answering hardness against his own. He turned his head and rested it on Haldir's shoulder, relaxing for a moment into the simple pleasure of contact.
"It feels so good, just to hold you like this," he said softly.
"A good thing, since that is probably all we will be able to share after we return to Lórien," responded Haldir. "Shall we make the most of our present opportunities, love? I don't think this stony riverbed is the ideal place, though."
He drew Melpomaen to the shore.
"Here, though..." Haldir spread out the cloth he had brought to dry himself on a relatively smooth patch of grass. "Stand here."
He knelt before Melpomaen and began to kiss and caress each leg, beginning at the toes and working upward. Carefully avoiding the other's eager member, he shifted to the arms, then the back, then the chest, lavishing caresses on the damp skin.
"Haldir..." growled Melpomaen, running his fingers through the golden hair.
Finally Haldir trailed his kisses back down the torso. He breathed warmly onto Melpomaen's groin, then carefully used teeth and tongue to nibble and lick until the other could scarcely remain standing, such was his pleasure.
By now Melpomaen's eyes were closed, all his attention focused on the sensations that Haldir's loving mouth was producing. The sun burned redly through his eyelids, a fire that seemed only a pale echo of that in his own body. He cried out and clutched at Haldir's shoulders with both hands.
"Oh, my love!"
Haldir closed his lips firmly around the base of Melpomaen's erection, running his tongue up and down the length as he felt him shudder and reach his orgasm, spilling his seed into the warm and waiting mouth of his lover.
When Haldir released him, Melpomaen sank onto the fabric and reached for the other, kissing his eyes and face and mouth in a frenzy.
"Only you," he murmured. "Only you, Haldir, I could never feel this way with anyone else. I love you, I love you."
"And I love you," said Haldir joyously.
"Let me take you inside me, love, as I did to you last night. I want you to be that close to me," Melpomaen said.
"Not without the oil, Maen. I wouldn't want to hurt you," responded Haldir.
"Then let us go back to where we camped, first. If you don't mind the interruption?"
"If that is what you want to do, I can wait a few moments."
Melpomaen found his leggings and gathered them up, hanging them with Haldir's drying-cloth over one arm. His other arm slid around Haldir's waist as they walked back to the camp.
The flask of oil remained where Melpomaen had set it the previous evening. He picked it up and offered it to Haldir.
"Pour a little on my hands," Haldir said, and when that was done he used one hand to spread the oil over his own erection, while with the other he stroked between Melpomaen's buttocks, massaging it into the tight orifice there.
He kissed Melpomaen again, exploring his mouth with his own tongue, and then drawing the other's tongue into his mouth he suckled it.
Melpomaen reached down to stroke Haldir, but his hand was gently nudged away.
"If you do that I won't be able to hold back," Haldir warned.
"All right, then," said Melpomaen, dropping down onto the blankets. "Come inside me, now. I want you to feel how I felt."
"I have an idea," Haldir said. "If you come to your hands and knees, I'll kneel behind you. I think I'll have more control that way."
Agreeably Melpomaen did as Haldir had suggested. He felt Haldir's hand spread him wide, a well-oiled finger testing to make sure that there would be no resistance to entry. Melpomaen gasped as he felt once again the unexpected pleasure, and though he had so recently reached his own orgasm, his desire for Haldir swelled again.
"Please, now," he gasped.
Haldir withdrew his fingers and placed the tip of his organ against the opening, pushing slowly yet insistently inside. Melpomaen tensed briefly, then relaxed, allowing his lover to penetrate him fully.
"Is that what you wanted?" Haldir whispered behind his ear. He slipped a hand around Melpomaen's hips and stroked the waiting hardness there.
"Oh, yes," said Melpomaen, distracted by the doubled sensation.
"It is what I wanted, too," said Haldir, moving in and out, at first cautiously and then with greater force. "I have wanted this for a long time." When his climax approached he paused, not wanting to finish so quickly.
"I love you, Melpomaen," he said, holding himself still with an effort, although his hand continued its regular motion. "I think I fell in love with you the first moment I saw you walking through the mellyrn, all their silver trunks and golden leaves just a backdrop to show off your dark grace."
"I remember you hardly spoke when we met. I had to ask you to tell me your name," Melpomaen recalled. He could feel Haldir's member throbbing within him, pulsing in time with the rhythmic caresses his lover's hand was giving his own.
"You did? Bad manners I must have had. I was so distracted by you that I cannot remember what I said," said Haldir, leaning over to kiss the back of Melpomaen's neck, brushing aside the long dark hair. The hardened nubs of his nipples rubbed gently against the soft skin of Melpomaen's back, and he trembled and groaned softly at the sensation. "Just as I am distracted now," he whispered into his lover's ear.
Melpomaen turned his head, saying, "I wish I could say the same, that I loved you right away. But I have to admit I had no thought of such a thing. I did certainly like and admire you from the beginning, and held you as a good partner and friend."
Haldir sighed. "I would not have expected anything more. Beyond any effect of the lembas, it is hardly acceptable to fall in love with another man. I began to suspect that I was unusual long ago, when I reached the age of a hundred and fifty and had never seen a woman for whom I felt the least desire. I found myself watching other men, instead, and admiring their charms more than those of the women. But it took a long to accept that this was the way I am. I cannot tell you how it was, when you arrived to join Lórindol's company and then were assigned as my partner." He began to move the fingers of his free hand in slow circles down Melpomaen's back, reaching around to stroke the other's chest.
"Try to tell me," urged Melpomaen. He sensed that Haldir needed the emotional release as much as a physical one at that moment, but the feelings evoked by the touch of his lover's hands on nipple and cock were too strong for him to hold back completely. He began to move under Haldir, hoping to bring the other Elf back to delight in the present through the pleasure of the body.
"It was torment – of an exquisite kind. I could talk to you, watch you, touch you – oh, I had no actual desire, the waybread prevented that, but I had the longing for it. And you accepted anything I said and did in full friendship, but with no hint of anything beyond. So I had great pleasure in your company, but also great frustration because of the unlikeliness that our partnership would ever be more than that."
Haldir paused, and pressed against Melpomaen's shoulder to hold him still. "Wait, let me finish speaking. I had decided that I would be alone and unjoined all my life, and was trying to reconcile myself to that. Then the opportunity for this journey came along, and I thought that at least it might give me a chance to say something to you, in private, so that if you despised me for my feelings I might persuade you to say nothing. I did not really expect you to return them."
Thinking of the long years of solitude, of near-despair, of the sudden arrival of Melpomaen and the conflicting reactions he provoked, and of his own vulnerability to his partner when he had finally admitted his love and desire, was suddenly almost more than Haldir could bear. He drew in a long, shuddering breath, and Melpomaen felt wetness as his lover's cheek pressed against his back.
"But I did. I do love you, Haldir," said Melpomaen softly, rocking back and forth. He shifted his weight to balance on one hand and used the other to reach through his legs and press Haldir more deeply inside him, gently touching the sac and feeling the precious contents within.
"I believe you; I just don't quite understand why," breathed Haldir. He began to thrust again into Melpomaen's body, relieving the tension of his feelings with his motion.
"Why? Why does any person love another? You fulfill me, that is why," said Melpomaen, groaning at the renewed pleasure. "Together we are more than separately. Is that not reason enough? Please don't worry about reasons. Let us just be happy that we have found each other."
"You are right," Haldir said. "And I am, I assure you."
He let go and placed both his hands on Melpomaen's waist, then withdrew almost entirely, making tiny thrusts, teasing, until neither of them could bear it any longer. Finally he allowed himself inside again completely and once more grasped his partner's organ, rubbing the oil-slicked skin, passing the pad of his thumb across the head.
"Are you ready?" Haldir gasped, his passion reaching a peak that was almost painful.
"Oh yes – now – please," said Melpomaen, almost whimpering as Haldir thrust once more, deeply, and released into his body. A last stroke and his own flood gushed forth again. His knees gave way and he collapsed onto the blanket, Haldir on top of him, still within him, as if their bodies had become one.
They rested quietly for a few minutes, savoring their union. Then Haldir reluctantly withdrew and reached for the cloth to clean up.
"I suppose we had better eat and move on," he said.
Melpomaen rolled over and stretched. "Can't put it off forever," he agreed. "Shall we have that soup I made, finally?"
"As long as it hasn't simmered away to nothing," Haldir replied, pulling on his clothes.
Once dressed, Melpomaen found a pair of bowls in his pack and carefully divided the soup between them.
"It's hot," he warned Haldir, handing him a bowl and spoon.
Haldir blew on the surface, then dipped out a spoonful. "But good. I thought you said you had little experience cooking?"
Melpomaen shrugged. "I haven't much. But I know that the longer a soup sits, the better it usually is; so maybe we should always make it the night before, and wait for breakfast to eat it!"
A laugh was his answer. "What then would we eat for supper, though?"
"True, that's a problem," Melpomaen acknowledged.
They finished the meal quickly and broke camp. Since they were to travel along the river for a few days yet, water should present no difficulty, but Haldir refilled their waterbags nonetheless when he went to rinse out the bowls and pot at the river.
"Ready, then? Let's go," he said, returning.