by Jacynthe Demorae

Elves built for light and air, even in the bathhouse. The rear wall curved 'round, covered with an exquisite tile mosaic. An Elven craftsman must have spent years putting it together; some of the tiles were as tiny as a newborn's smallest nail. The cool colors soothed and drew the eye towards the arched windows.

Outside and far below, the true sea mirrored in the mosaic rolled and foamed. Such a view I once had from Anduine, Elendil thought. His eye still sought the familiar curves of land--but Lindon was not Anduine. His home lay drowned under the wrath of the Valar, lost forever.

And my sons...

Elendil closed his eyes. The memory never lay far away, neverslept. The view from the wheelhouse, coming out into the first sunlight he'd seen in days. The waters still roiled, a restless, sullen blue-gray that spoke of Osse's discontent and the storm andwrath they had all just barely survived. All? No, not all... The waves made the four ships roll, challenging the sailors to keep their feet. The four ships...of the nine that had sailed out from Numenor. Of his sons' ships, he could see no sign...

"Do you not care for the view, my friend?"

Elendil opened his eyes, forcing back the surge of grief. Hiding true emotion behind a polite mask was a skill any Man of the Faithful learned early and well, living under the eyes of the King's Men. Ereinion Gil-Galad stood near the edge of the warm pool, garbed in a light robe of pale gray silk. His dark hair fell in loose waves to his shoulders. His attendant, a slighter Elf who managed to appear even younger, lingered nearby but out of direct range. The Elvenking's mouth quirked in a slight smile.

"On the contrary, lord," Elendil said. "The view is exceptional."

As soon as the words left his lips, he wished he could swallow them back. Gil-Galad's smile only widened.

"This room has one of the finest views," he agreed.

He made a slight gesture, and the attendant came to his side, setting down the basket he carried. The attendant drew off the king's robe, folding it and setting it aside oon a low bench. The Elvenking held out a hand and the attendant took it, supporting his liege as he stepped down into the warm water.

Elendil stared, unabashed. In Numenor, he had grown to manhood surrounded by the fairest youths of his generation, both male and female. He knew and appreciated beauty in many forms. Gil-Galad had skin unmarred by scar or blemish. Even Sun and wind seemed to give only gentle, warm color to Elven skin. His hair fell in a smooth sweep past his shoulders, looking as soft and dark as a summer night's shadows. All of the words in all the tongues of Arda inadequate to the task.

Gil-Galad's bathing attendant knelt beside the pool. Once Gil-Galad had immersed himself, the attendent wrung out a lumpy sponge and began soaping the Elvenking's body.

"'And is thy heart so strong, as for to leave me thus?"

Elendil straightened in surprise at the familiar address. He turned, met the Elvenking's gaze. The gray eyes darkened with pain, and an unutterable weariness settled on his shoulders.

"What is wrong?" Elendil asked.

"'And wilt thout leave me thus, That hath given thee my heart Never for to depart, Neither for pain nor smart?'" Gil-Galad recited softly, still with his eyes fixed on Elendil.

"I...do not understand," Elendil said, though he did. It cannot be acknowledged.

"I knew," Gil-Galad said, "the moment my Guard brought you before me. The glory and the terror of it live in my heart."

Elendil kept silent, mind racing. Gil-Galad moved towards him, sending gentle ripples through the water.

"I had thought at first that I had moved with unseemly haste, to press my suit so soon after such grief."

His suit? Blessed Yavanna, he has been courting me! The realization sent his thoughts tumbling together into a whole new form.

"Yet at no time did you refuse me. I spoke words of love by candlelight, by starlight, beneath both Sun and Moon. I offered you wine, and you drank it. I offered you bread, and you ate it. If you do not desire me, why did you not tell me before I offered you my body and my bed?"

"This would be enough, during exile and flight, to declare ourselves wed. Yet my feelings run too deep for a hasty coupling. Come to my bed tonight. Let me love you, as the true mate of a king deserves."

"Openly?" Elendil asked, unable to conceal his unease.

"I am the king. No-one will gainsay me, nor speak agaisnt you. Say you will come to me!"

"Such urgency...are all Elves so hot-blooded in love?" Elendil teased.

"Among the Noldor," Gil-Galad said archly, "hot blood is the norm. Give me your answer!"

Instead of speaking, Elendil leaned forward and pressed his lips to the Elf's. Gil-Galad's lips trembled against his own, then parted. The Elf's warm tongue slipped into his mouth. Elendil cupped his hand at the base of Gil-Galad's head, holding him still. The kiss grew fierece, with the Elf's body pressed tight against his own. Elendil could feel the other's hardness, an urgent press against his thigh.

"As I wish..." Gil-Galad put his lips to Elendil's ear. He began to speak, soft as the dawn breeze. Oh, but his words!

The Elvenking spoke of the pleasures of the bed, of the fierce dance of love between males. He described touches, tastes, the scent of beloved flesh, roused to sweet passion. Lastly, he spoke of his own desires, his longing for Elendil, and for the touch of spirit against spirit.

"You woo with a fierce heart," Elendil gasped. The images conjured by the Elf's words had him shaking.

Gil-Galad smiled. "Fierce as my need to win you."

"Ai..Ereinion Gil-Galad...I surrender. You have won."

Gil-Galad's hold turned gentle. "Narhel Ereinion, arato. Those are my names. Yet the one most precious from your lips will be meledhel."