The Rhythm of Love
Lindir hesitated at the courtyard entrance, his bag packed and ready to leave. He looked back towards the House and then all around the courtyard filled with people. Only a few looked back at him with mild curiosity. It seemed his mysterious contact had not yet arrived. He slid his leather satchel off his shoulder and fished inside for the scrap of paper he'd placed into one of the small pockets. The handwriting was strong, confident with a quill and he still felt a bit surprised as he read it over again.
Meet me in the courtyard tomorrow, midday. Bring lunch.
The note had been left on his chest of drawers; he discovered it when he returned after a late night in the Hall of Fire. One of his fellow musicians, Egladhon, had run off with a doe-eyed brunette for the night and after a vow to arrange setup in the Hall for the next month, had left his instruments in Lindir's care. With twice the amount to carry, opening the door was a struggle for him and he did not notice it immediately. His housing was a somewhat organized chaos, but he knew where everything was and could tell when something was out of place. It wasn’t long before he saw the note, but his flute and violin, dear to him, were put away carefully first, years of discipline showing through. It was only after he had settled for the night that he broke the dot of wax sealing the paper, reading the few dark lines.
Lindir absently checked the back and front of the note again, but he knew no more than he did last night. It was simply put, written well and spoke of confidence that Lindir would do what was asked. There were a great many people who could have gone by G and he had immediately discounted several, Glorfindel being one of them. He had a student named Glivalen as well and he sincerely hoped it wasn't her. He didn't have time for dealing with crushes and he was quite sure her parents would be after him for influencing his young, impressionable student. He needed the money from the lessons, it went toward his savings and took the edge off some of his expenses.
He had his own hopes, of course. He would have been thrilled if Gildor came strolling out the east entrance and took him away, but there was no sign of him, and Lindir knew the chances were low. They had talked before, and Lindir had enjoyed his company, but Gildor was - well, Gildor. He never stayed in one place for too long, his company seemed to be people of like mind. He was in Imladris only for a brief time, and Lindir had heard talk of them moving on to one of the early summer festivals in the South. Lindir heard everything. People talked to musicians.
He wasn't sure what it was, perhaps it was the escape he provided for others with his music and tales of times and places long ago. It endeared him to people (mostly - there had been a few bad experiences now and then). He learned long ago to listen more than he talked, that one could miss a perfectly good story if they never shut their mouth. He was still trying to teach Egladhon that particular quality, but he seemed far more interested in chasing skirts.
He shifted from one foot to the other and watched a blacksmith work, listening to the clank of metal against hot metal. It was a steady beat, rhythmic in its own way. His fingers tapped against the leather strap of his bag and he entertained himself by humming a tune, weaving in the noise from the smithy, although it was soon halted by the apprentice stumbling in and interrupting the smith. He sighed and scanned the area again. Still nothing.
He felt a tap on his shoulder and turned, bag in hand. Looking up slightly, he met the grey-blue eyes of Gildor. He couldn’t have been more surprised if Ulmo had appeared and greeted him. It showed on his face, he could tell, but all he managed was "Um, hello?"
Gildor laughed , then greeted him the more traditional way. "Hello, Lindir."
Lindir took in the easy smile with a glance, noting the confidence. He'd had to learn that, it hadn't just come when he picked up a harp. Easy with people, that's what Gildor was. He held up the note, wordless, and Gildor took it from him, putting the piece of flimsy away in one of the many pockets hidden in his clothing.
"Oh good, you got it," he drawled, laughter gone but that amused look still lingered in his eyes. It was warm and stomach fluttering, Lindir couldn’t tell if he was laughing at him or just laughing at life.
"Yes, I did." Lindir eyed him consideringly. "But how did you get it into my rooms?" He meant it to sound more indignant, but instead to his own ears he merely sounded curious.
“I have my ways – though, I’ll admit I had help. Adrena, the maid who cleans your rooms? She’s a helpful girl." Gildor grinned and gestured for him to follow him out of the courtyard. "Come, we're leaving the House, taking a trip further out in the valley."
Lindir stared at him a moment, unsure of where all this attention was coming from. But his options for the day were either to leave with Gildor or track down Egladhon from wherever he had fallen into bed the night before. He looked around him. The day was gently warm and bright, people went about their business cheerfully. If he was totally honest, he hadn't taken a day off to spend outside in weeks.
He shrugged, slung his bag over his shoulder and followed Gildor out past the gate. "Do you always get people to leave notes in people's rooms for mysterious rendezvous, or am I special?"
They passed more than the usual traffic on their way out, and Lindir remembered it was market day. He had completely forgotten. Many people in the House took time out of their day to walk down to the village and see the wares offered, picking up trinkets and treats. The produce carts had arrived earlier, delivering choice goods to the cook for the House's meals. Lindir would hear them in the mornings sometimes, his quarters weren’t too far away.
"Mystery is the salt of life, and I figured you needed a little in yours." Gildor stopped and greeted by name a young maid carrying brightly dyed scarves up to the path. Lindir paused, not sure of where they were heading. Gildor asked her if she was going to sell them to the ladies and she nodded. He looked through her wares, picked one ruby-bright scarf edged in silver thread and pulled coins from his belt. Lindir watched with interest as the money changed hands, quickly and efficiently, a slight of hand in itself.
“See to it that this is given to Lady Arwen, Lalaith." A quick nod and change of glances and Gildor turned back to him. "I know her mother, used to be in the company. And 'Wen does have a small weakness for pretty things."
They walked together, keeping each other company, as Gildor led and Lindir followed. When the trail forked, they took the left branch that disappeared into the forest on the eastern side of the valley. Lindir watched Gildor, who appeared as if he had his own inward compass. He never hesitated, he was confident of the road and did not waver. Lindir wondered if this was how a company formed around him, if this was what they saw in him as a leader.
Gildor interrupted his mental wandering and broke the companionable silence. "I enjoyed your performance last night, the tale of Iachon and Nimwen was well told. You truly have a gift."
"Thank you," Lindir said, flattered in spite of himself. He was sure Gildor had heard a great many bards in his lifetime. "One of my favorites. I get plenty of requests for it, I think it's the romance and adventure that everyone wants. No one likes the tragedies after the long winter."
"It's spring, the time of growth and brightness. New beginnings and new adventures." Gildor gave him a side glance. "Autumn is a time for the reflection and tragedies, I'd think."
"There are seasons and cycles for everything." Lindir agreed. "For musicians and wanderers."
"Aren't they the same thing?" Gildor's question was lightly asked, but it had an undercurrent of seriousness, or so Lindir thought. He looked around at their surroundings as he thought about the answer. The Last Homely House was now far enough for him to look back. It was built neatly into the valley side, the house expanding as the population grew. There was a sense of ordered chaos, as much a part of nature as the Mirkwood and Lorien architecture, though perhaps less obvious.
"I like to travel, I don't believe you can sing of things you've never seen, not in the way they are truly meant to be sung. I've seen the world from the northern heights to the southern shores. There are a great many places I'd love to see again." Lindir paused, searching for words, trying to explain. "But it's a comfort to know there's one place that's home, that I always have a place to come back to at the end of my travels and adventures. Similar but different, perhaps?"
"Imladris is home for you? Chosen or were you born here?" They separated from the trail then, off the beaten path through a break in the trees and past the underlying brush. Lindir noticed that a path existed but it was newer, the grass still faintly growing and not marked by any stones. He listened, trying to place where he was. Imladris had plenty of waterfalls near the Last Homely House, but it had grown quieter. Now, he could hear the faint sound of rushing water again, feel the energy underneath his feet.
"It's the place where I've settled. My family were from Lorien originally. But they sailed and I chose to stay on. Found my way to Lord Elrond's settlement and I've called it home since."
"Ah yes, Lorien – you do have the colouring. You didn't go with them?" There was no hiding Gildor's curiosity, and Lindir caught himself smiling just a little bit. It was not every day someone such as Gildor expressed that kind of curiosity in him. Surely there was no harm in letting himself enjoy it.
"No, I wanted adventure. The world was still very new to me, and Valinor has no hold over me.”
Gildor’s next question was quiet and thoughtful. “Did you find your adventure?”
Lindir paused for a moment, considering it. They’d never had this much time to talk before. “Yes, I’ve had a few of my own. Though much of my life is creating adventure and romance for others.”
Lindir’s brow furrowed. “You do?”
Gildor shrugged and said simply, “I pay attention.”
Lindir flushed slightly and decided he didn’t want to think too deeply about that. It wasn’t good for him, wondering why Gildor was paying attention to him. “Where are you taking me? I hear water.”
“Oh, you’re very good. We’re heading to water, yes.”Gildor confirmed, their conversation forgotten for now. “Come, we’re close.”
Close meant another five minutes’ hike, but just when Lindir was thinking of complaining about the mystery being entirely too much for him, they came upon a lush, green, vibrantly alive clearing, with a rushing waterfall that fell to a deep pool, which then fed a creek that gurgled and disappeared into the forest.
“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” he breathed as he looked around. He felt Gildor’s eyes on him and turned. “How did you know this was here?” He paused and thought, ‘How did I not know this was here?’
“It’s a summer swimming hole for those lucky enough to find it. I didn’t know if you knew of it.” Gildor’s eyes were warm on him, and Lindir felt increasingly distracted.
“No, I didn’t, but…I work a lot,” he confessed, rubbing his neck. “Plenty of late nights, so by the time I wake up, I need to start thinking about lessons or I’m working on some of my music. I don’t always get the time to wander around the Valley when I’m here.” He fiddled with the fringe of his bag and walked closer to the edge of the water, a deep basin lined with stone and shale. The water was practically singing as it rushed over the rock. He closed his eyes and listened to the song.
“It happens, sometimes it’s easy to take for granted the wonders that are nearby at home.” Lindir opened his eyes again at that, nodding in agreement. His mouth dried up when he saw Gildor standing, feet planted evenly on the ground and stripping off his shirt, revealing tanned skin and a compact, muscular torso. His red hair shook loose and he folded his shirt quickly before dropping it next to where his pack lay. His hands reached for the ties on his pants when Lindir found his voice again.
“What are you doing?!”
Gildor looked at him, amusement plain. “I’m swimming, aren’t you going to join me?”
"Oh, yes of course." He chided himself for the flush he felt creeping up. He wasn't shy about his body, but Gildor's presence made him feel differently. He was used to attention, captivated audiences riveted on the songs he sung, the worlds he wove with words and music. But unlike them, Gildor wasn't enthralled by a song, his attention was focused solely on Lindir, and that knowledge felt like a coil of heat inside him, in his gut and on his cheeks.
He stripped down, folded his clothes neatly and placed them on top of a rock near the pool, worn smooth by time and out of the water's immediate spray. He heard a splash and turned to see Gildor disappear with a smooth dive. He dipped his toes in the pool, testing the temperature. The water was sun-warm and river-green, and clear enough Lindir could make out Gildor’s form underneath the rippled light. Gildor surfaced and called to him, hair deepened to a dark red, clinging to his neck. Close your mouth, Lindir thought to himself, then took a running leap off the bank and into the water.
The water was cold and dark below, clear and warm closer to the surface. They swam for what seemed like hours, splashing each other when the fancy took them and idly floating, the sun casting patterns through the overhanging branches of the nearby trees. Lindir's arms and legs started to feel as soft as butter, so he got out of the water, moved his clothes off and perched on the rock by the waterfall, his long, platinum blonde hair drying slowly under the sun.
He watched Gildor swim lazily, listened to the waterfall and tried to remember the last time he had enjoyed himself so much. His days were filled with music, with teaching on the side. He knew people, plenty of them, liked them all, but close friends were in short supply. A day out with someone, particularly someone as interesting as Gildor, was bliss.
A cold, wet hand wrapped around his ankle and he was pulled out of his reverie. “No,” he said firmly. “Don’t you dare.”
Gildor grinned mischievously, the water in that end of the pool only coming up to mid-chest. “No? Are you so sure? You must come back in, the fish miss you.”
“If you pull me back in, I will write the most terrible, scathing song about you having sores on your privates.”
“Love, that’s just cruel. And everyone would think you were a spurned lover of mine.”
“That’s a chance I’d take.” Lindir noticed absently that Gildor wasn’t holding onto him to pull him down anymore, just touching his skin, thumb rubbing back and forth at the slimmest part of his ankle. He felt a shiver run through him. It had been some time since he had shared his bed with someone, and he felt an urge awaken in him, just barely beginning to stir.
“You’re very brave.” Gildor looked up at him, and Lindir resisted the urge to reach down and touch his face, see what he would feel like under his fingers. ‘Not brave enough,’ he thought. Their eyes met and Gildor knew what he had intended, he was sure of it. Something changed in his eyes, a flicker of heat, and Lindir was aware of how close they were.
Then Gildor let go of his ankle and swam over to the bank, water droplets rolling down his skin as he left the pool, slicking his hair back out of his face. He seemed so comfortable in his skin, self assured and confident. Lindir thought that this was perhaps how the Firstborn looked as they came out of the waters of Cuivienen, young and new to the world, no doubts or worries.
““The day is not over yet. I have one more thing to show you.” Gildor promised and Lindir quickly rose.
“No, Gildor, you’ve been so kind, I’ve had a wonderful day, nothing more is necessary.”
His stomach protested at that, grumbling loud enough they both could hear it. Lindir tried to remember what he had eaten for breakfast but if he were honest the morning had been a bit of a rush to get everything done so he could be in the courtyard on time.
“Besides food, you mean,” Gildor grinned. “Nonsense, we’ll eat after, this is best done on an empty stomach.”
Lindir was both disbelieving and curious at the same time. Gildor showed him the small path leading away from the waterfall, and they left their clothes and bags behind. Lindir had not wandered around naked like that since he was very young, but Gildor gave it no thought. He warned Gildor however that if he had any poison ivy or oak the next day, the wanderer would pay. Gildor laughed and promised him it would be fine.
Lindir trusted Gildor to know how to avoid the more interesting bits of nature, but he was not sure about what lay ahead. Gildor took him to the top of the waterfall, where a branch of the river met the end of the rock and fell to the pool below. He stood on a large rock that jutted out besides the waterfall and Lindir joined him, thinking it a pretty view.
“Why on earth would I jump off? Is it even safe?” The water rushed along, sounding entirely too cheerful to Lindir at this moment.
“Yes, of course it is. Don’t be ridiculous. I didn’t bring you up here just to get rid of you.” Gildor replied, sounding amused, if a little impatient.
Lindir just shook his head, disbelieving. His mother told him once as a child climbing trees that if he was meant to fly he’d have been given wings, and in this moment he had never agreed with her more.
“If you don’t jump, I’ll help you.” Gildor took a step towards him and Lindir decided that Gildor’s smile was no longer merely sexy but distinctly evil too. He eyed the distance one more time and then shook his head. He was no coward, he could do this.
“No, I’ll jump.”
Gildor moved out of his way, but not before Lindir felt his presence beside him for a moment, lips by his ear. “Trust me. ”
He couldn’t figure out which was more disturbing, the fact that he was about to jump off a perfectly fine rock or the fact that he did trust Gildor - after a fashion, of course. He heard Gildor instructing him - feet first, arms close to the body. He stood at the very edge of the rock and looked down, the sun glinting off the green-blue and the song of the water tickling his ears. He took a deep breath and then jumped.
His breath left him in a yell as the solid ground beneath him disappeared and all he could hear was the wind, the water rushing past and the pounding of his heart. He hit the water hard, plunging into cool, darkness. He opened his eyes underneath, saw the sun cut through the deep and felt a moment of utter stillness, adrenaline singing through his veins. Then he kicked up with his legs and rose to the surface.
Laughter bubbled out of him as he pushed water out of his face, looking up past the waterfall to where Gildor stood. A grin split his face, and Gildor called down to ask if he was all right.
“Yes, yes, I’m fine!” A shiver ran through him, the tips of his fingers tingled. He heard the shout for him to move out of the way and he swam closer to the bank. A moment later, Gildor followed him down, more smoothly and controlled than Lindir suspected his own descent was. As he rose from the water, Lindir scrambled up the bank.
“Come, let’s do it again!” he said, eager to experience the new rush. He turned to go back up the path, but not before seeing an answering smile on Gildor’s face. A smile perhaps, he thought, that is just for me.
They jumped several times after that; Lindir, with help from Gildor, learned little ways of holding his body, his jumps grew less wild and more sure. When Lindir started feeling dizzy from sun and lack of food, Gildor told him he needed to stop and eat, and Lindir didn’t disagree with him.
Gildor pulled out a blanket from his pack, laid it out on the long grass and Lindir spread out on his side gratefully, the afternoon sun drying him. He had long since given up self consciousness about being naked, Gildor’s free attitude was infectious and Lindir found himself relaxing in his company. He was interrupted from his contemplations as his satchel was tossed near his head.
“Lazy bones, we need to get the food out, then you can nap all you like,” Gildor commented, sounding just as laid back as Lindir felt.
“Oh, so you get to eat all the food while I’m sleeping. Yes, I’m onto you,” he teased as he looked through his pack. He pulled out wheat rolls, flecked with grains, and sharp cow’s milk cheese. Between that and Gildor’s wineskin, they had a fair lunch, but then Gildor pulled out a small cloth bag, stained with traces of purple. Lindir opened it and saw black gems of fruit.
“Cook let me have some,” Gildor explained, flashing a smile that Lindir assumed helped charm the woman into handing over some of the season’s last blackberries.
“Is there anything you cannot get?” Lindir shook his head. “I tried to get some of these but I was told they were for Lady Celebrian’s birthday.”
“That’s in another three days, isn’t it? Big dinner. Wasn’t planning on leaving until after that, yes.” Gildor got comfortable on his side of the blanket, splitting the food between them and settling. “Cook has a daughter living in Mirkwood, I pass news of her every time I come visit. She has a soft spot for me.”
Lindir considered. “I didn’t know that. You seem to know most everyone. And not just casually, like I do. I have a lot of short term friends everywhere I go, but it’s not the same.”
“I like people, they are very interesting. Different, depending on where you go, but somehow they’re all the same too.” Gildor bit into the cheese and chewed, continuing thoughtfully, “You don’t know many people who stick around, do you?”
Lindir paused in the process of loosening the cap of the wineskin. “…how do you mean?” The words hit him and his discomfort must have shown on his face because Gildor swore softly.
“For being such a people person as you say, I have a terrible habit of bluntness.” He looked contrite, smiling apologetically, his hands making a placating gesture. “I just have – noticed that everyone comes for the songs you sing, the tales you tell and then leaves when the story has been told.”
Lindir put the wineskin aside, picking up one of the rolls and tearing off a small piece of bread. He felt very still inside, and Gildor’s glance seemed too piercing. “It’s the life of a minstrel, I suppose. People want escape, grand adventures, stormy romances. Particularly the elves who live in the bigger communities; the more settled they are, the more they seem to appreciate it.”
Gildor was quiet, listening as Lindir pieced together his words. “But life goes on, their real lives. And I move onto another place or come back to Imladris. My first love has always been music and it doesn’t always leave me with as much time as I’d like for romance of my own.” He shrugged, he had known that for some time and come to terms with it, for the most part.
“Wandering isn’t always conducive to longer term relationship, either,” Gildor offered. “It’s the choices we make, the commitments we put before anyone else. But,” he continued, looking at Lindir, “There’s happiness to be found in moments too.”
Lindir watched the fall of rich red hair, almost fully dry, and his eyes met Gildor’s. They were quiet together for a moment. Lindir searched his face for answers and then finally said, “Why did you do…all of this?”
“I wanted to give you an escape for a day. Out here, experience something new. You give others the chance to leave their life for a night and experience something grand and wonderful. I thought it was high time someone did that for you.” He touched the musician’s arm, and Lindir sensed that he’d remove it after a look, but – he liked how it felt, shivery and warm all at once.
“Thank you,” he said simply, even though for him it wasn’t simple at all. “Today has been really wonderful, I – enjoyed it. I like that you thought of me.”
“I do, and I count myself lucky that you were here this time. Whenever we shelter here for a while, you are equally likely to be away from Imladris.”
"I've traveled a lot lately, yes. Just between realms. It’s good for me to learn more stories, find new inspirations for songs…” Lindir kept talking, though his heart stored away the fact that Gildor had noticed his comings and goings. “I've always wondered - what are you and your company looking for?"
Gildor moved his hand down, lingering at his wrist, then reached for the wineskin. “New sights? There’s plenty left to see in the world. We pass news and letters between the realms when we can and help lost travelers find their way from time to time. It’s just – a different life. Home isn’t where you live, where your campfire is set. It’s the people you travel with and share life’s passing.”
Lindir brushed the bread crumbs off the blanket and lay down, arm behind his head. The sun filtered through the leaves and he wriggled until he got to a place where the sun wasn’t in his eyes. His stomach was pleasantly full, his head felt much better after the rest. “I like the thought of that. I’ve traveled in groups before, but your company has always sounded different, like family.”
He listened to rustling as Gildor packed up the remains of their lunch, turned his head and watched Gildor, lean muscle moving under tanned skin. The light made patterns on his skin and Lindir felt a stirring inside him, blood moving down and pooling. He froze, looked away and thought this was one of the reasons running around naked was not a good idea.
He was flipping through all the worst things he could think of - Egladhon wrapped in a bow saying ‘unwrap me, baby’, his grandparents that one summer night in the garden…when he felt Gildor lay down beside him and warm breath near his ear. “There comes a time when talking is very overrated, isn’t it?”
Gildor’s voice was warm and rich, like wine, warming Lindir from the inside. He knew there was a blush on his cheeks and resented it. He turned on his side and looked to Gildor, into blue eyes dancing to music of their own and saw a smile curving a most generous mouth, one he wanted to kiss quite badly.
He knew Gildor’s reputation, one of casual lovers, and Lindir couldn’t say much more for himself. If he had any doubts in his mind about what this was, it was hinted earlier. Neither of them had the space for a grand romance. But he leaned into Gildor, his mouth tilting up invitingly and he felt Gildor’s warm hand go around his arm to draw him close.
His breath left him in a hiss as their bodies touched each other, skin against skin. He felt Gildor against him, awakening and embarrassment left him, replaced instead with heat. His mouth found Gildor’s, lips pressing against his and Gildor hugged him closer, hand on his ass, and kissed him back. Kissing Gildor felt like jumping, air leaving him and falling, but he minded not at all.
Lindir opened the door to his rooms, flute in its case and tucked under his arm. Egladhon was drunk and giggling, but he was less irritating than usual, apart from the comment he’d made the other night about how Lindir really had needed to get laid. He sent Egladhon off and closed the door, sinking back against it. A bittersweet smile played at the corner of his mouth; the past few days had been absolutely wonderful. His body ached and tingled still from earlier that morning. He had awoken very early, the sun still not yet risen, tangled in Gildor’s sheets with a hot, wet mouth between his legs. Gildor made his body sing in ways it never had before and Lindir felt like an instrument being played by a true master.
He knew when they said their goodbyes, before Gildor left to oversee the company’s departure, that he would miss the wanderer. His presence in Lindir’s life had been welcome, had come at a time when Lindir needed to feel inspired again, and he had told Gildor with touch and a few words how much that had meant to him.
He tucked his flute away safely and went to lie on his bed, propping his head up on threaded, vibrant pillows. He knew they would soon be parted, that it was all just temporary, and he had been careful of his heart, but nevertheless he just wanted some quiet the rest of the afternoon. He even canceled his lessons with Glivalen, knowing he would be distracted.
He missed Gildor. He missed his smile, his laugh, his curious questions, the way he touched, his kisses. He decided to allow himself the afternoon to daydream, but then, no more. Life moved on; he would as well. Before his eyes slipped shut, to dream of blue eyes, red hair and a gorgeous body, they caught sight of a slip of white sitting on his chest of drawers.
He sat up, frowning, and left his bed. He stopped in front of the furniture and then laughed softly. A note sat perched on top, just where Gildor’s note had been before. He picked it up, unfolding the paper.
Look for me when the bluebells bloom again. Pack your bags, there’s a summer in the company ahead of you.
Lindir held the note in his hand, a smile spreading slowly across his face. Clearly he would have to tell Elrond he would need some time off next summer.