6. Where you go, I will follow
His words hung in the air between them. Haldir had meant his statement rhetorically, but the reply he received suggested that his lover might have other ideas.
"I do not see how we can do otherwise," he pointed out. "Once we return to Lothlórien, we will both rejoin Lórindol's company. And all the rangers eat lembas on patrol; it has many virtues to sustain body and will, and it keeps long and requires no fire to prepare. Even in camp we eat it much of the time, for convenience."
"But there is no law that says we must eat the waybread," insisted Melpomaen. "It is, as you say, a matter of convenience. Could we not choose to eat other foods instead? To take something besides lembas with us on sentry duty, for instance?"
Haldir sighed, withdrawing from his partner and rolling over onto his back. He looked up into the green leaves fluttering above them in the breeze, the oak so unlike a mallorn of his home, yet beautiful in its own rugged way.
Picking up a cloth and dampening it to clean himself with, he said, "It would be noticed. You have helped bring in supplies for the camp; some is ordinary food, to be sure. But not much. And when we are issued rations for our turn on patrol Thalion does not ask what we wish to eat, but simply hands us as many packets of waybread as experience has taught him a pair of rangers will need for that length of time. If we asked for something else, it would seem strange."
"So what if it seems strange?" said Melpomaen, running his hand along Haldir's chest. "Why should we care? Everyone knows that we work better together than any other pair in the company – who will question us, if we want to eat something different for a change?" He took the cloth from Haldir.
"It matters not who. If anyone does begin to wonder, and speculate, there could be – difficulties. Few may know all the properties of lembas, but the captain well might. And if he or any other does, and our choosing not to eat it is remarked upon..." Haldir shivered. "There could only be one interpretation, that we avoid it so that we may enjoy physical desire. With no women about, the conclusion would inevitably be reached that we are lovers."
"What of that? I am not ashamed to love you."
"To love, no, there is no shame in loving – as a friend. But think, Maen. Did you know, back in Caras Galadon, of any bonded couples in which both were men, or both women? Our people will not accept such a thing. Friendship, aye, but nothing beyond," finished Haldir.
He sat up, hugging his knees to his chest, his head bowed.
Melpomaen had not consciously considered their situation in such terms before. He cast his mind back to his youth, and could think of no examples to contradict Haldir. Indeed, when he sifted through his memories carefully, he recalled a few sniggering comments made about Elves who had remained unwedded long past the usual time. Rangers were generally exempt from such remarks, since it was recognized that their devotion to their duty precluded an easy marriage; those who joined the rangers before they had wed were not encouraged to do so until they chose to leave their company. But Haldir was undoubtedly correct in saying that the people of Lórien would see their relationship as wrong, as a violation of the natural order of things.
As the full realization of their uneasy situation struck him, Melpomaen paled and turned away from his lover.
"I never thought – I never understood," he muttered.
Haldir reached to pull him close, embracing him and laying his cheek against the other's smooth skin.
"I know. And it is too late to change matters, now; once bonded, we cannot choose otherwise. And I would not do so if I could, meldanya. (1) You are the other half of myself."
Melpomaen's muscles were clenched against Haldir's touch. "How do we know that this is a true bond? I do not say this to hurt you, for you know I love you. But we are told that if one spouse is slain untimely, and the spirit travels to the halls of Mandos, that the other spouse is forbidden to marry again. Would this be true for us? And if not, can we say that we are indeed joined in this way?"
"I cannot say," Haldir replied, troubled. "I have never heard the question discussed, not even in philosophical debate. All I know is that the night that we first came together, I felt our spirits mingle in wonder and delight, as I have heard it said that the spirits of husband and wife do when they are wed and first experience the body's full pleasures. And were we to be parted, I would not ever wish to seek for another," Haldir said, gently smoothing Melpomaen's hair.
The dark Elf suddenly turned and clung to his partner. With his voice muffled against Haldir's neck, he said, "No, I felt the same. And whether the bond between two men is indistinguishable from that between a man and a woman matters little, for where you go, I will follow, and where you die, I will die too, and meet you again in Aman." (2)
Haldir pressed his lips to Melpomaen's, then drew a little away, saying, "But you see that we cannot avoid the loss of this part of our love, however much we might desire otherwise."
Melpomaen shook his head stubbornly. "I am not willing to accept that, though I see that my idea would not work. Would Eru have created us in such a way as to enable us to feel such joy with one another, if it were truly prohibited, or impossible to have? I cannot reconcile myself to such an end."
He lifted his hand to Haldir's face and tucked the loose strands of golden hair behind his ear, trailing his thumb down the white skin of his neck. Haldir caught his hand and kissed the palm fervently.
"I do not want to, either," he admitted. "But I can think of no solution. We have perhaps a month yet to travel, so maybe in that time together we can devise some course of action that will work."
He glanced at the sun, adding, "Nor do I think we will be traveling any further today; the shadows grow long."
An impish smile lit Melpomaen's face. "I am glad you say so. If we are unable to think of a way to allow ourselves passion once we return, I would as soon prolong this journey."
He turned to rummage through his pack. "Wait. Let me find... ah, here it is." He held up a wooden comb triumphantly, then became a little shy. "Will you permit me?"
Haldir nodded. Melpomaen knelt behind him and began to draw the comb through the heavy mass, teasing out each tangle as he found it. Haldir's hair seemed to him to hold the very light of the sun within each strand, a beacon that guided and directed his love to its object. It twined about his fingers like a living thing as he slowly smoothed each lock, and then made a plait above each ear to hold the rest back.
As Melpomaen worked, Haldir closed his eyes to enjoy the sensual pleasure that the unaccustomed attention brought. The glancing touches to his neck and ears especially stimulated him. Though they had but lately fulfilled their desires, he found that the talk of the possible end of all their ardor had made him eager to repeat it, as if in defiance of all the future. This time, though, he would lead and his lover would follow.
Braids completed and secured by a thread wrapped tightly around the end, Melpomaen reached to replace the comb. Haldir stopped his arm and plucked the comb from his fingers, moving around to kneel behind him in turn.
Not since he was very young had anyone else combed his hair, and Melpomaen was surprised by how thrilling it felt to have Haldir's fingers running along his scalp, lifting it and loosening the dark tangled strands before drawing the comb through. He sighed and relaxed, letting Haldir do as he would.
Haldir was enjoying his task nearly as much as when he had been the recipient, drawing his fingers through the silky dark length. He bent to press a kiss to Melpomaen's left shoulder, and then delicately traced his way up along his neck and to the sensitive ear. He licked at the curled edge, then nipped the earlobe with his teeth, still playing with Melpomaen's hair with his right hand. He shifted then from kneeling to sitting flat on the blanket, legs parted to enclose his partner, pressing up against his back. He trailed his left hand along Melpomaen's leg from knee to thigh to groin, where the evidence of desire awaited him.
As he touched the hardening organ, Melpomaen gasped and thrust his hips forward slightly. Haldir increased the pressure of his touch in response, pulling Melpomaen back against his own erection, and began a gentle rocking motion forward and back.
"Don't be in a hurry," he murmured, breathing into Melpomaen's ear.
Melpomaen turned his head to join his lips to Haldir's, reaching his hands around to clasp the other's buttocks, sliding along the silken skin.
"No hurry at all," he agreed as he ended the deep kiss and gave himself up to the ecstatic sensations. Haldir's loving touch was like a fire searing along each nerve of his body, healing even as it burned. He felt enveloped, cherished, and he embraced the knowledge that without this love, he would no longer wish to live as he had done before.
After a time Haldir turned his attention to the other ear, suckling the lobe and probing the canal with his warm tongue. He wrapped his right arm around Melpomaen's chest, grazing his thumbnail across the firm muscle, then pinching the nipple.
"Take care, meldanya," Melpomaen breathed, but the leap of his cock belied his words.
"I will always take care for you," Haldir told him, continuing the motion of both hands. "Does this not feel good?"
"Almost too good," was the response, and Haldir slowed his tempo.
"I would do anything to make you happy, love," he spoke into the dark hair that flowed down before him. "Anything."
"Take me then, Dír. Make me yours." Melpomaen leaned forward, bringing Haldir with him as he came to his hands and knees.
"Not that, not yet," and Haldir slipped through his legs to rest underneath him. He took his lover's hard organ into his mouth, relaxing his throat to envelop him as fully as possible. He used his tongue to stimulate Melpomaen even further, engulfing him with his own warm moisture.
Melpomaen bit his lip and clenched his hands into the blanket to hold back from reaching his climax right then. He drew Haldir's face gently away, saying, "If you continue that, I will spend now."
Haldir paused long enough to reply, "I want you to. I want to taste you on my lips and share that with you."
That idea excited Melpomaen, and as the gentle suction resumed, he let himself thrust deeply into Haldir's mouth, crying out with each motion, until at last he emptied his seed between his lover's eager lips. The flavor of it was acrid and salt on Haldir's tongue. He moved backward slightly and drew Melpomaen's hips down until they touched his own and he was able to kiss him, sharing the tangy moisture.
When they broke from that kiss, Haldir said, "That taste reminds me of how it is between us two: desirable and yet bitter, for all that cannot be."
Melpomaen looked into his eyes. "Let us not dwell on our troubles more tonight. For now we are here, together. Come now inside me and forget the future; we know not what yet might happen." He reached for the oil he had earlier set aside.
Haldir took the flask from him and poured a bit into his hand, spreading the fluid first on himself and then anointing Melpomaen's inviting aperture. Carefully restoppering the flask, he drew Melpomaen down to him and rolled them both over until the other lay underneath, smiling up at him in anticipation. He nudged Melpomaen's legs apart and upward, exposing him fully, then sank into him, leaning over to plunder his mouth.
Together they groaned at the delicious sensation and Haldir began to work himself in and out. With each thrust he enjoyed the tightness that embraced him. He shifted angles slightly until the ragged sound from Melpomaen's throat told him that he had found the most sensitive spot, then plunged more deeply as his lover's hips rose up to meet him.
Their earlier bout of lovemaking had taken the sharp edge from his need, and Haldir was able to restrain his passion from reaching its peak until the stimulation inside and out brought Melpomaen to a final erection as well.
"Ah, by the stars, Dír," he gasped. "You see what your love does to me?"
Haldir smiled to know the ecstasy he had caused. "And only you," he said throatily. "Now?"
"Oh, Maen," he cried, and with a last shuddering thrust they climaxed as one.
"We will always be together, somehow," Haldir promised as they lay entangled in each other's arms, delightfully weary. "I vow that to you."
Melpomaen kissed him on the shoulder. "I believe you, meldanya. Somehow." But he did not yet speak all he thought: that if it would be impossible to indulge in such expressions of their love while rangers in Lórien, then they must take a different path.
(1) "My beloved." This word is in fact Quenya, and the Elves of Lórien speak Sindarin, of course, but I speculate that the term might have been adopted, rather like "petit chou" being used in English.
(2) Yes, this is a paraphrase of Ruth 1:16-17.