The Grey Shores

by Nefertiti

Disclaimer: No rights claimed, no income earned.

Feedback: Yes, please, but don't bother to tell me that Gandalf having sex squicks you. I am unrepentant. (If you tell me that Gandalf having sex squicked you before but no longer does, you will make my day.)

Summary: Despite a joyful reunion at Imladris, Mithrandir and Glorfindel find themselves on opposite sides of a debate at a meeting of the White Council.

Author's note: Book-canon. This story takes place in 2851 of the Third Age, when the White Council met in Imladris. It is based largely on a mention of this meeting in the chronology in Appendix B of LotR, plus a brief draft of an argument between Saruman and Mithrandir that takes place at the end of that meeting; this is from the section "Concerning Gandalf, Saruman and the Shire" in the Unfinished Tales, and part of the dialogue and description is taken directly from that draft.

Endless gratitude goes to beta extraordinaire Elanor for her inspiration, encouragement, and plain old good advice. Many thanks also to Sarah for her more-than-generous comments and yet more encouragement.

Chapter 4

Mithrandir urged his horse into a faster pace as they reached the foot of the steep mountain path. The night before had seen darkness overtake the Istar still high up, and he had been forced to camp in a small cave. Now, however, he was approaching the path down into the hidden enclave of Imladris. He was glad he was approaching it from the east. From the west the paths were complicated and hidden, but here the mountain road led fairly directly to the main path down into the valley.

The wizard was eager to arrive at the Last Homely House. It had been many months since he had seen Glorfindel, and he knew those months had been a time of worry for his beloved Elf. Both had known when Mithrandir departed for southern Mirkwood that he was pursuing one of his most dangerous tasks ever, the investigation of the interior of Dol Guldur. Messages concerning the outcome of those investigations-and his own safety-had been sent to Imladris via bird messengers, but he knew that the anxiety that Glorfindel had undergone would make him all the more eager to be reunited with his lover.

Thinking ahead to that highly anticipated reunion, the Istar felt his desire intensifying, and, thinking also about how they might initially satisfy their longing for each other, he realized that he had not had a chance to bath since he started over the mountains. He hardly wanted to greet Glorfindel in his current rather scruffy condition. Reluctantly he decided to stop beside a small waterfall, where he could wash a bit and take some breakfast. That way he could perhaps go straight to the Elf's room, and they could be alone for a while before they had to greet and dine with the other members of the Wise who were gathering for the upcoming meeting of the White Council. At least the sun was now high enough to shine through the pass behind him and warm the little clearing where he had chosen to refresh himself.

As he washed and ate, Mithrandir anticipated seeing Saruman again and sighed at the battle of wills that would inevitably take place at the meeting. The Grey Wizard was not at all confident that he could persuade the other members to vote his way-despite the fact that the danger of not acting on his advice seemed obvious. Getting Elves-or indeed members of other races-to act to their mutual benefit was almost inevitably a ponderous process.

Shaking off such thoughts, he looked around appreciatively at the lush foliage of late spring that clung to every crack and bit of soil on the precipitous sides of the deep dell. Visiting Imladris was always a joy, but at such a splendid time of year and with such weather, it was particularly glorious. He looked forward to long walks with Glorfindel, and perhaps to a bit of open-air love-making in the more secluded areas of the woods surrounding Elrond's rambling house. At that his thoughts returned to his more immediate desires, and he hung his small bag on the saddle and remounted for the short remainder of his journey.

When he arrived at the main entrance, he turned his horse over to a groom and quietly went inside. One of Elrond's sons greeted him. "Shall I let Elrond know you are here? He is in his study, consulting with Saruman, who arrived yesterday."

Mithrandir tried to keep a small frown from crossing his face. "I think I shan't interrupt them, Elladan. I am here early enough in the day that there will be time later for conversation. Now, though, as you can probably imagine, I would like to find Glorfindel."

Elladan smiled. "He was in the library a little earlier this morning, Mithrandir. I wish you joy in your reunion."

Nodding happily to the dark-haired Elf, Mithrandir strolled quickly along the corridors to the large, long, book-lined room that lay in a quiet area at the back of the house, nestled up against a steep bluff. The thick wooden door swung open silently on well-oiled hinges, and the wizard poked his head in. Glorfindel was seated at a table, flipping slowly through a large volume and skimming each page. He did not hear the door open, and Mithrandir stood for a moment admiring the sheen of his pale yellow hair and the graceful shape of his back as he leaned forward over his task. Soon the wizard moved inside and pushed the door shut hard enough for it to make a muffled thump.

Glorfindel spun around and with a joyful grin leaped to his feet immediately. The book fell shut, completely forgotten in the Elf's utter delight. Before Mithrandir could take more than two steps into the room, Glorfindel had hurried across and pushed him back against the door, seizing his head in both hands and pulling the wizard into a deep, devouring kiss. After a few seconds, Mithrandir, who had been holding his hat, bag, and staff in one hand, made a vague attempt to toss them in the direction of a nearby table. Given his somewhat constrained position, however, all three fell short. The staff clattered briefly on the tile floor, but the pair ignored it. The wizard slipped one arm tightly around Glorfindel's waist and cupped his buttocks with the other, pressing their hips together so that their rapidly growing erections rubbed against each other.

Mithrandir pulled his mouth reluctantly away, looking around the room to make sure that no other scholars were present in the shadowy corners of the room and that they were indeed alone. As he attempted to survey the library, Glorfindel made things very difficult for him by sliding his lips across the wizard's cheek and nibbling insistently at his ear. "Why are no beds provided in this library?" the wizard murmured, flinching with pleasure as Glorfindel's hand cupped his erection and kneaded it through the stretched cloth of his trousers. He moaned. "I certainly cannot make it all the way to my room if you keep doing that sort of thing. It's miles away."

Glorfindel chuckled softly into his ear and agreed in a whisper, "Miles indeed, but I am not going to stop doing this sort of thing. We'll just have to find the means here," he added, reaching with one hand over the wizard's shoulder to slide the elaborate iron bolt of the door into place.

Mithrandir laughed, leaning his head back against the wooden panel as Glorfindel nuzzled under his beard and licked his throat wetly. "What if someone needs to do some important research?" he asked.

"I suspect we would not delay him long," Glorfindel replied, raising his head and shaking it slightly to free his silky hair from the clinging beard. He glanced at the nearby table. "That looks about the right height. Would you rather take or be taken, my dearest Istar?"

The wizard draped his arms around Glorfindel's neck and smiled up at him, thrusting slightly against his hand. "Given my long journey, I am a trifle tired. And you seem very energetic! Perhaps I should let you do the hard work, and I shall reciprocate later."

"I fear, though, that I have nothing to ease the entry," the Elf said regretfully, looking around.

"Don't worry. I have all my luggage here," Mithrandir said, moving to the table and picking up his bag as he went. He turned, placed his hands on the surface, and heaved himself up slightly with his hands to sit on the table, kicking off his boots and then fishing a familiar little jar out of the bag. Glorfindel moved between his spread knees, opening his own trouser-front and pulling out his rampant cock. The wizard leaned forward, and they swirled their tongues together as he coated Glorfindel's member quickly. As he did so, the Elf unlaced his trousers. Mithrandir raised himself slightly on his hands to allow his companion to pull the trousers off, then lay back on his elbows and raised his heels to the edge of the table. As swiftly as possible, Glorfindel dipped two fingers into the jar, then slid them inside and prepared the wizard, making him clench his teeth and throw back his head as the fingertips stroked the front of the velvety passage firmly.

Soon Glorfindel leaned forward to kiss the Istar hard, then slipped the tip of his erection inside. "Keep going. Not quite . . . wait," the wizard instructed between gasps, bending his knees more as he slid his hips slightly toward the table's edge. The Elf began to thrust again, and Mithrandir started and groaned, "Oh, yes, that's it." At first Glorfindel set a moderate pace, but soon the wizard was whimpered with eagerness.

"Shall I not delay our pleasure a bit?" Glorfindel asked softly, though the film of sweat on his face and his uneven panting testified to his own rapidly mounting need.

Mithrandir shook his head. "Later," he growled. "But now . .."

"So impatient," Glorfindel murmured with a smile as he switched to a faster pace, pushing in harder and stroking the wizard's bobbing erection swiftly. Almost at once Mithrandir came, writhing on the smooth wooden surface and sending ribbons of his come onto it. His movements pulled at Glorfindel until he too erupted, groaning and savoring each sharp little jolt of pleasure as his climax slowly subsided. Producing a handkerchief from an inner pocket, he wiped them both clean as he carefully withdrew. The wizard's legs relaxed and hung over the edge of the table, and Glorfindel stood breathing heavily and watching him gradually refocus his eyes and look up to smile at his partner.

"Welcome to Imladris, Mithrandir," Glorfindel said teasingly as he tied up his elegant grey trousers. He leaned over to swab the semen off the table.

"Do all of the visitors to Imladris receive such an . . . exhilarating welcome, my dear Elf?"

Glorfindel grinned. "Hardly."

"I thought not. If they did, the overgrown paths leading into this valley would be much easier to find-beaten down by a heavy flow of regular traffic." He sat up, and Glorfindel handed him his trousers, which he pulled onto his legs before sliding off the table to fasten them.

Glorfindel loosely embraced the Istar and stared into his eyes. "Joking aside, it is wonderful to have you safely back here. I hope I need not tell you how much I worried and wondered during those terrible weeks when you were investigating the Dark Tower of southern Mirkwood."

Mithrandir gave him a gentle kiss and pulled away, leaning over to pick up his hat and staff. When he straightened up, he shrugged. "It was necessary-and it is over. I only hope I can convince other members of the Council that action is now vital." He looked doubtfully at the Elf, for he was not at all sure how Glorfindel would vote once all the arguments had been presented. He could hardly expect the Elf to take his side simply because they were lovers. They were both too honest to tolerate such bias.

Glorfindel looked down at the floor and sighed. "I cannot say. It is such a crucial issue-one of the most important that has faced us in this age of Middle-earth."

"True. Well, I shall not press you for your opinion now. You should hear everything I have to tell the Council . . . and everything that Saruman and the others have to say, of course, before deciding. Let us simply take advantage of the fact that I have indeed returned safely, as glad to see you as you are to see me. I would suggest that I go and say hello to Elrond briefly, then join you in my room. And then we can be patient and take a little more time over our pleasure."

Later, during the height of the mid-afternoon heat, Saruman and Elrond stepped out onto a covered, raised porch outside the Elf's study. It overlooked a long strip of garden and lawn, sloping down toward the rocks above the river, the rushing water of which could be dimly heard. To one side there was a large tree which contained a platform in its lower branches. From most vantage points foliage would screen the platform from clear visibility, but Elrond's porch faced a gap in the branches. Saruman saw two figures seated on a bench with a high back. He recognized Mithrandir immediately, and his eyes narrowed. The other Istar was lounging in a relaxed fashion against a cushion in the corner of the bench where the arm met the back, and leaning against him was an exquisite blond Elf. Here in this enclave of mostly dark-haired Elves, this lovely figure was all the more striking. So was the fact that he and Mithrandir were kissing in a leisurely fashion, sucking lazily at each other's lips. The wizard's left arm encircled the Elf's shoulders, and his fingers played softly over his companion's cheek. It was perfectly obvious that the two had recently made love until both were blissfully satiated.

As the pair pulled apart briefly to gaze into each other's eyes in fond contentment, Saruman recognized the Elf as Glorfindel. He had initially met the Elf nearly two thousand years earlier when he had arrived at the Grey Havens, and Glorfindel had been very helpful in orienting him and guiding him to Imladris. He had encountered the Elf only a few times since, when the White Council met in the Last Homely House. Glancing out of the corner of his eye, Saruman saw that Elrond was smiling at the sight of the lovers. Inwardly the Istar was seething. He had grown increasingly jealous of Mithrandir over the years and not just sexually, although he had found himself strangely curious about the other wizard's love life. He was also envious of his colleague's enjoyment of such trifles as good ale and smoking, his ease at making friends of all sorts, and his ability to command the respect of the others among the Wise, even when they disagreed with him. That respect often seemed to exceed that which they accorded to Saruman. And now he found that Mithrandir also had this maddeningly beautiful Elf for his pleasure. The White Wizard vividly remembered lusting after Glorfindel when they had met in the Havens, but it would never have occurred to him to approach the Elf in such a fashion.

Saruman's control of his voice was superb, and he easily managed to sound quite casual and amused as he turned to Elrond. "Mithrandir seems to have found quite pleasant companionship here in Imladris, Lord Elrond."

Elrond's smile broadened, for he sensed none of the prudish disapproval and jealousy lurking behind the Istar's remark. "Oh, neither one makes any secret of the fact that they have been lovers since Mithrandir arrived in Middle-earth."

Saruman mentally cursed the many spies that he had had following Mithrandir over all these years. His agents had from time to time told Saruman of the Grey Wizard's liaisons with various Elves and Men and even, ridiculously enough, Hobbits, but they had entirely missed this long-running affair with one of the most powerful Elves of all. Admittedly his agents had no ability to enter Imladris and keep tabs on Mithrandir while he was there, and Glorfindel never came to the Council meetings held elsewhere. Nevertheless, Saruman was irked by this disturbing discovery. His jealousy flared even hotter upon learning that Mithrandir had had this enticing creature all along. Not only was that galling in itself, but it might also give Mithrandir a strategic advantage in the Council meeting the next day and generally in the future.

He responded in a tone of carefully calculated surprise, "Oh, really? I had received the impression that Mithrandir had lovers in various places over the years. I seem to recall that he has been quite friendly with at least one Elf at Lorién when the Council has met there."

Elrond continued to smile, but his brows formed a puzzled little frown as he glanced more closely at Saruman. The Istar seemed quite friendly, however, apparently more pleased at his colleague's good fortune than merely hungry for gossip. Elrond nodded, "True, unfortunately Mithrandir and Glorfindel are seldom able to be together, and I am the one who attends the meetings when they occur in the Golden Wood or Orthanc. Often these two must be apart for months and even years. Yet their affection for each other has remained strong despite these other relationships. Perhaps, if all our strategies eventually bear fruit, they will no longer have to be apart. At least, I believe that is their hope."

At this juncture Elrond was summoned away to greet Galdor, who had just arrived with a small group from the Havens. Saruman sat down and stared at the couple on the bench, no longer bothering to suppress the annoyance that he felt. Mithrandir had apparently drifted into a doze, his head on Glorfindel's shoulder, and the Elf was gently stroking his hair. Saruman pressed his lips together. He was not sure which he envied and desired more. He let his mind wander into fantasy, picturing Mithrandir asleep in that same fashion in the White Wizard's bed, reduced to this limp, blissful state by Saruman's own persistent, skilled lovemaking-fawningly grateful for such ecstasy, unable to oppose his fellow Istar in any of his policies. How much easier and more pleasant his life would be under such circumstances, with his main opponent effectively tamed. It was far from the first time that his thoughts had strayed in that direction.

After a few minutes of this, his imagination drifted to the idea of seducing the glorious Elf away from Mithrandir, fucking him so skillfully and often and vigorously that Glorfindel would forget his devotion to the Grey Wizard and attach himself instead to Saruman as an acolyte, supporting his aims as he now presumably supported Mithrandir's. Finally he sighed. Both fantasies were quite arousing, but neither was remotely likely to come true. With so much experience, Mithrandir was undoubtedly a better lover than he, and he was hardly likely to abandon this beautiful Elf in favor of a colleague with whom he was on somewhat tense terms at the best of times.

How could the other wizard be so open and easy about such things? Saruman had frequently eyed not just Glorfindel but also the other beautiful Elves he encountered, initially at the Havens and later on in Imladris and Lorién. He had fantasized about doing many things with them. The thought of actually approaching one of them, however, always appalled him. It was one thing to coerce some of the Men who were his subordinates at Orthanc into submitting to his desires, as he did fairly often. Those trysts were quite secret, with his partners sworn to silence. To confess such desires, such needs to high-born Elves seemed shameful. He watched as Glorfindel's hand hovered over Mithrandir's fluffy white hair, barely touching it as he tenderly caressed the sleeping wizard. Even in his fantasies he could not fathom how one would go about gaining the love of such a splendid being. His teeth ground slightly against each other, but then he snorted slightly. Why should he envy Mithrandir for being so undignified as to indulge openly in such low desires? Let him have his pretty Elf. He, Saruman, would win out in more important matters. He had little doubt that the upcoming Council debates would go his own way. Mithrandir would not prevail there, where it really counted. And someday, if he managed to obtain the object that was increasingly occupying his mind, he would gain great power over his fellow wizard and over all the others as well. He took a deep breath, rose, and with one last glance at the peaceful couple, went back into the house with a stately gait-thinking of how he could get one of the Dunlanders from his escort to suck his cock in his room, while he closed his eyes and imagined that Mithrandir or Glorfindel was the one pleasuring him so compliantly.

In the mid-afternoon of the next day, the Council was beginning to wind down toward the crucial vote. For much of the morning Mithrandir had described his daring visit to Dol Guldur and the evidence he had found there for Sauron's reviving power. Time and again he had urged an attack on the fortress, arguing that Sauron's strength could only increase over time. The questions of many among the Wise, however, showed a skepticism and perhaps an underlying fear that boded ill for the Grey Wizard's success. Glorfindel sat sadly, feeling the air crackle with tension as the debate became more acrimonious. During lunch, Mithrandir had been withdrawn and silent, answering questions with a polite smile and a brief comment only.

After lunch the Council resumed. Saruman took the floor now, presenting his own belief that caution was necessary, and that they had little way of knowing whether their strength would be enough to overcome Sauron. By waiting, they might themselves invent some weapon that would be more effective than any they now possessed or devise some more sophisticated stratagem that would foil their enemy. Upon returning to the room, Mithrandir had sat not at the Council table, as before, but moved to a chair near the cold fireplace. He listened without glancing at Saruman as the White Wizard laid out his position and promised that he personally would devote himself to the devising of effective weapons and stratagems. His melodious voice made his words a pleasure to hear, and most of the questions that he received were couched in a more friendly and deferential way than those of the morning. Saruman's increasing joviality reflected a genuine inward delight at his obvious advantage over his fellow Istar. Perhaps his belief that the other Council members had more respect for Mithrandir than for him was unfounded. He noticed the worried looks that Glorfindel occasionally leveled at his lover and wondered whether it might even be possible that by triumphing over the Grey Wizard now he could drive a wedge between the two that might lead to the lovely blond Elf becoming his. Nothing seemed impossible, given the unexpected ease with which Saruman was winning over most of his auditors.

Meaningful glances flew back and forth during the entire proceedings, but none more so than when Mithrandir sighed audibly and pulled out his pipe. All present were familiar with this absurd pastime that the wizard had picked up recently in the rustic lands off to the west, but it surprised them that he should pursue it here. Saruman looked at him, pausing awkwardly for a moment in his otherwise smooth flow of speech, then casting a look of amused exasperation around the group at the table as he resumed.

As the afternoon passed and Mithrandir refused to comment on the points that the others were discussing, Saruman became visibly annoyed. What was the other Istar up to, he wondered. Was he trying to make him, the head of the Council, look ridiculous by showing so little respect? Saruman had to try hard not to let Mithrandir's behavior throw him off his concentration.

By the time of the vote, the room was heavy with blue tobacco smoke, despite the gentle breezes wafting through the open windows. Saruman was glad that the meeting was nearly over. He feared that Mithrandir's actions would goad him into some unwise statement that could ruin the excellent effect that he had created so far. And, to the surprise of no one in the room, the vote went heavily in Saruman's favor. Only Galadriel sided with the Grey Wizard, then sat staring stonily at the table. Saruman was again surprised at how easily he had won, commanding nearly all of the votes-including that of Mithrandir's own lover. The idea occurred to him that he might somehow drive a wedge between them and gain one or the other for himself.

Once the outcome was decided, most of the others relaxed a bit, talking quietly among themselves. Some stood up to stretch, while others remained seated, as if pondering the events of the day with doubts still lingering. Mithrandir made no move but continued to sit and smoke in apparent peace. Saruman suspected that he should let well enough alone, but he could not help trying to put his fellow Istar at an even greater disadvantage-and to extract a little revenge for the rudeness of his behavior. He turned and stared at the Grey Wizard, then spoke with a cool irony that could equally have been friendly banter or quiet contempt. "When weighty matters are in debate Mithrandir, I wonder a little that you should play with your toys of fire and smoke, while others are in earnest speech."

Mithrandir was noted for his enormous patience, and as he turned his eyes to Saruman, it was clear at least to Glorfindel that he had already resigned himself somewhat to the outcome of the vote. Presumably he was determined to try and display a good humor, hoping to have better fortune another day. He laughed and replied, "You would not wonder, if you used this herb yourself. You might find that smoke blown out cleared your mind of shadows within. Anyway, it gives patience, to listen to error without anger. But it is not one of my toys. It is an art of the Little People away in the West: merry and worthy folk, though not of much account, perhaps, in your high policies."

There was an awkward silence, for the gentle rebuke seemed aimed as much at the group as at Saruman. Why was Mithrandir raising such trivial, divisive ideas at this point, when everything was settled? All present could sense that Saruman, despite a somewhat fixed smile, was greatly irritated. His tone was cold as he said, "You jest, Lord Mithrandir, as is your way. I know well enough that you have become a curious explorer of the small: weeds, wild things, and childish folk. Your time is your own to spend, if you have nothing worthier to do; and your friends you may make as you please. But to me the days are too dark for wanderers' tales, and I have no time for the simples of peasants."

There was a tingling silence for a moment, for although all present were somewhat aware of the tension between the two most powerful of the Istari, it had never surfaced so openly before. They stood, almost afraid to breathe, as they watched the smile fade from Mithrandir's face during the White Wizard's speech. He did not laugh again, and he did not answer, but looking keenly at Saruman he drew on his pipe and sent out a great ring of smoke with many little rings that followed it. Then he put up his hand, as if to grasp them, and they vanished. With that he got up and left Saruman without another word; but Saruman stood for some time silent, and his face was dark with doubt and displeasure.

After a few moments the others moved about and began to talk again. Glorfindel continued to sit, torn with uncertainty. On the one hand, the insolence of Saruman's speech to Mithrandir was upsetting. On the other, he could not wholly banish the thought from his mind that Saruman might be right: the Grey Istar's smoking and indeed his general attitude could be seen as equally insolent, and for no good reason that he could see.

Shortly after Mithrandir had left the room, Galadriel rose wordlessly and hurried out. Glorfindel hesitated, wearing a worried little frown and looking after them. Abruptly he began to rise, but Elrond quickly put a hand atop his arm to detain him. "Let them have a bit of time to talk," he said in a low voice. "I do not think that you want to be one against those two at this moment."

Glorfindel looked at him uncertainly but sat back down. "I wonder if we have done the right thing," he murmured, glancing into Elrond's grey eyes.

The other Elf stared back at him briefly. "I sincerely hope so. Saruman seems so sure of his facts and strategy, and you know that Mithrandir is sometimes inclined to be a trifle reckless when he sees a chance to solve a problem quickly . . . wait, you need not defend him to me, Glorfindel. Perhaps he is right, but it simply seems a bit risky to me."

Glorfindel sighed. "It is he who has taken all the risk in seeking out this vital information in Dol Guldur. Perhaps we should trust him more, since only he has directly witnessed the things he described to us."

Elrond sat silent for a long moment. "I am not entirely happy with this vote, but I like the alternative even less. Well, go to him and offer what comfort you can-or what comfort he will allow you to. Make it up with him after Galadriel and he have finished their discussion."

Glorfindel sat sadly, thinking of the many little quarrels that he and Mithrandir had had over the centuries-always conducted in reasonably good humor, with banter and teasing rather than raised voices and harsh words. He realized that he had never thought of his having to "make it up" with his lover, and the idea frightened him a bit. "Surely it won't come to that," he said, though his tone was less sure than his words. He rose and went out slowly. Saruman's eyes followed him, though he concealed his flare-up of jealousy as he chatted casually with some of the other Elves at the far end of the room.

Glorfindel wandered about the house, finding no sign of Mithrandir until he spotted the Istar, still with Galadriel, through a window. They were standing in a little side garden by a fountain. Galadriel was listening as the wizard spoke animatedly and gestured broadly. She occasionally put in a brief comment but mainly nodded at intervals. Glorfindel sighed and watched for a short time, after which Mithrandir fell silent and walked quickly back into the house.

Glorfindel waited a bit longer, pacing aimlessly, and then went along the corridors until he reached Mithrandir's room. He stood uncertainly, then knocked. There was a pause, and he had almost decided that the Istar must have gone elsewhere when he heard the familiar voice say, "Yes?" in a less than inviting fashion. Glorfindel opened the door slightly and saw Mithrandir standing by the window, staring out, his hands clenched tightly behind his back. After an awkward pause, Mithrandir turned his face to the Elf. Although his features wore a relatively neutral expression, his eyes and stance hinted that he was far angrier than Glorfindel had ever seen him. How much of that anger was directed at him the Elf could not judge. "May I come in?"

"Yes, of course."

Glorfindel entered and closed the door behind himself. Ordinarily he would have moved across to the wizard, for the two almost never met, even after a brief time apart, without an embrace. He sensed, however, that Mithrandir was not in any mood for even a quick hug, and the Elf instead crossed and sat on the bed. "I am sorry to have found myself on the side opposing you, Mithrandir, and believe me, I debated internally long and hard, as did the others, I am sure. I simply thought that Saruman might well be right in urging caution for the time being."

Mithrandir frowned and expelled an small, exasperated snort. "Yes, Elves are nothing if not cautious."

Glorfindel could think of no reply. He had long known that the Istar found the cautious, defense-oriented strategy that Elves tended to pursue frustrating, while the Elves often shied away from the Istar's more active, daring plans. Elrond had once remarked to Glorfindel, "We must remember that Mithrandir possesses Narya, and it seems to make his nature more volatile and eager than it might otherwise be." Glorfindel, who had come to know the Istar intimately before he was given Narya, doubted this opinion, but he had not said so to Elrond. He was aware that indeed some of the Elves on the Council considered Mithrandir hot-headed and impetuous at times, and he had had little success in persuading them otherwise. No doubt they dismissed this as Glorfindel's bias in favor of his lover. He also knew that more recently there was another reason why his fellow Elves might be a bit skeptical of some of the Istar's more daring schemes, but he was reluctant to bring it up when Mithrandir was already angry over the vote's outcome.

Mithrandir began to pace slowly. "Caution is one thing, but I fear that inaction at this juncture will simply cause greater danger in the future and make all our tasks much harder in the long run. And who will bear the brunt of that additional danger and difficulty?" He paused and smiled briefly and bitterly at Glorfindel, tapping his own chest with his fingertips. The Elf felt his stomach twist. He had never encountered such bitterness in the Istar. That part of it should be directed at him saddened him greatly. The wizard went on. "I simply do not understand how you and the others can vote against both Galadriel and me."

Glorfindel hesitated, fearing that he would anger the Istar even further, but he felt compelled to be frank. "We all know, Mithrandir, that Galadriel nearly always votes with you, as much through her great admiration for you as because she agrees with you in any specific situation. Perhaps some see her as a bit prejudiced. Some listen to Saruman's complaint that her nomination of you to head the White Council was a bid on her part for greater influence."

Mithrandir stopped and stared at him, his great brows drawing together into a formidable frown. "He has said such a thing?" he asked with quiet anger. Glorfindel simply nodded. The wizard stood thinking for a moment, then resumed his pacing. He finally said quietly, "She certainly has little enough influence with him as head of the Council, despite her deep wisdom . . .. And speaking of influence, perhaps I am wrong, but Saruman seemed to direct many of his remarks to you today. He paid more attention to you than he has at past meetings where you were present-and certainly more so than he did to any of the others. I wonder why."

"Perhaps he sensed that I was more likely to vote with you than were the others."

Mithrandir turned to stare at him once more, though now with a slightly less clouded face. "Is that true? Were you seriously thinking of voting on my side?"

"Naturally, as I say, I considered my vote long and carefully, and I felt dreadful taking Saruman's side against you. I suppose Elves are overly cautious at times, but Saruman presented his case quite forcefully and persuasively, I must say. Though looking back on the meeting, I am not sure that his arguments are as well-based as they seemed."

Gandalf snorted again. "Yes, the famous voice of Saruman has its effect even on the Wise. Sometimes I even find myself beginning to think that he makes sense-but I, at least, am able to shake off that eerily convincing speech. Well, I know I am right, so I suppose it is easier for me. Somehow my voice does not seem to have that effect. Maybe it could if I tried very hard, but I would scorn to persuade others by such wiles rather than by logic and truth. I wonder to what extent Saruman does it deliberately. Quite a lot, I should think." He smiled sadly and sat down by Glorfindel.

Since the Istar seemed to be emerging from his angry reaction to the meeting, Glorfindel said hesitatingly, "If you will forgive me, my dearest Mithrandir, I cannot help but feel that you undermine your own case a bit by your demeanor at such meetings-at least today."

Mithrandir looked inquiringly at him.

"Well, as Saruman pointed out, your smoking so much during the meeting may hint to some that you take the proceedings less seriously than he does. After all, it is not very dignified to indulge in a trivial pleasure picked up on your journeys among silly, rustic little people like those in the Shire. And, well, I try not to think about it, but I must admit that it bothers me a bit to realize that you have probably had a Hobbit lover or two-or more. It seems very strange."

Mithrandir stared at him with lowering brows at first, then laughed bitterly and shook his head. "A typical attitude among high Elves. You must realize, Glorfindel, that I was not embodied as an Elf but as a Man. And there are probably several reasons for that, including the fact that I take a different attitude toward such things. Elves tend to be cut off from the larger world. They withdraw, they defend, they are self-sufficient. But I must take the opposite tack, understanding all the races and drawing them together-nearly impossible though it seems at times. I do not do this only because I must, but also because I genuinely find great attractions in all the races-Ents, Men, Beornings, Dwarves, and yes, Hobbits. Indeed, in the Shire I find the epitome of all the simple things I am trying to protect-not just the 'high' places like Imladris and Lorién and Minas Tirith. After all, you must remember that Elves have the option of leaving if things become impossible here. Mortals do not. And do not forget either that for the foreseeable future I am in that same position. Like all these mortals, I have no option of sailing to the West-not until my mission is accomplished. And someday, if the Elves do stay, as I expect they will, they will inevitably have to fight again, side by side, with these other peoples." He glanced over and saw Glorfindel's melancholy expression. He shrugged and laughed, but now not in bitterness.

"Don't worry, though, my dear Glorfindel, I realize that you can't help being an Elf! I shall not drag you off to the Shire and make you sit in a pub and smoke pipeweed. I can't quite picture that! You stay in your beautiful home and defend it, and let me come to you whenever I can." They smiled at each other with genuine fondness for the first time since the Council meeting had begun. "For there is another side to the Elves' caution and insularity and loftiness: their power and wisdom, their high dignity and beauty. All of that drew me to you in the first place. Do not fear that I shall never lose my taste for beautiful, powerful, wise Elves-and one in particular. I have seen almost all of Middle-earth by now, but I have never found anything more wonderful than you. Still, you must understand that I have come to love aspects of Middle-earth that apparently I shall never be able to share with you. Jokes and gossip and sheer unreserved friendliness of a type you can only find in a country pub in the Shire. These things may seem 'low' to you, but they are of great worth, I am convinced of it." He hesitated thoughtfully. "My heart tells me that these 'low' things will be just as important in the long run as all the great beings who sat around that room a short time ago and debated the fate of this continent."

Glorfindel followed every word of this speech intently, and after a short silence he replied, "Perhaps I can never quite grasp why you say all this, but I realize now that you have come to understand Middle-earth in a way that I never can-even though I have been here longer. You have discovered it so thoroughly that it baffles and amazes me. I am sorry that I reproached you merely for knowing things that I never shall. It makes me sad that we cannot share such tastes, but there it is. Your duties and mine again force us apart, in spirit as well as in space. I do not, however, want that to affect your . . . your feelings for me, or mine for you."

Mithrandir stood up and lightly kissed the top of his head, and Glorfindel breathed a quiet little sigh of relief. Mithrandir moved away, however, and settled down onto the window ledge, looking out moodily again. Despite having "made it up" with the Istar, Glorfindel felt sad and wistful. Glancing at him, Mithrandir noticed this. "What is wrong, my dearest Elf?"

Glorfindel smiled only briefly at this. "I was just thinking how very much you have changed since that lovely autumn so long ago, when a wise, brilliant, kind-and naïve and eager wizard stepped onto the quay at the Havens and started peppering me with questions about everything. Of course, you could not retain that fresh enthusiasm for every new experience over nearly two thousand years here-and yet obviously you are still occasionally discovering things that give you joy. Now I feel that I should be the one asking the questions. You are still many of the things you were then, but your enormous patience, that was so much in evidence as you learned the huge number of things that you needed to know, seems finally to have frayed distinctly."

Mithrandir stared at him with an enigmatic expression, then cleared his throat and looked out the window again. Finally he said, "Well, I shall not harangue you with all the reasons that I have become more than a trifle impatient at times. You are all too well aware of most of them. Saruman's obstructionism, though, seems to have increased recently, and it worries me-and, yes, annoys me. And to see so many of the Wise side with him . . . . It is as if I care more for this continent than do its inhabitants-I, who still long to leave it and return to my home. Why can they not see . . . well, there is no point in such speculation. At any rate, patience seems to yield little in such circumstances. Yet perhaps you are right, for impatience seems to yield no more! I hope you are not too disappointed in me, my lovely Elf. I realize that I am not exactly the Man you fell . . ." He hesitated as Glorfindel's head snapped up and the Elf stared at him in surprise. "Are we never even to be permitted to use the word, Glorfindel? I am sorry, but I am tired of dancing around it. The Man you fell in love with so long ago-and who fell in love with you."

Glorfindel felt his eyes grow moist as the pair stared sadly at each other. They had never allowed themselves to say this so baldly before, referring always to desiring each other, to being fond of each other, to enjoying each other, and such circumlocutions. Glorfindel had anticipated that if they ever did come to a point where they could speak more openly with each other, it would be a joyful moment-yet Mithrandir's use of the word had only made the uncertain future all the more oppressive. How much they both stood to lose, he thought, and he knew that the Istar was thinking precisely the same thing.

Finally Mithrandir rose and crossed to stand in front of Glorfindel again. "Well, let us forget all these solemn thoughts for a while. Right now, my dear Elf, I am far more in need of a bit of cheering up than of further argument." He smiled fondly, and Glorfindel's face lit up with relief.

The Elf slipped off his light shoes as he sat back against the headboard and spread his bent knees. The Istar paused briefly, admiring the grace of his relaxed posture and kicking off his own Elven shoes. With a weary sigh he climbed onto the bed and settled with his back against his lover's chest. The taller Elf settled his chin lightly on the white hair and crossed his arms over the wizard's slim, hard torso. Mithrandir rested his hands on Glorfindel's bent knees. They sat silently for a long time as the Elf felt the wizard's body slowly relax and shift slightly into a more comfortable position.

At last the Elf brushed Mithrandir's hair back behind one ear and gently tickled the lobe with his tongue. "Mmmm," the wizard sighed, twisting to present the side of his head more directly to Glorfindel's mouth. Slowly the Elf licked and sucked at the ear, finally digging the tip insistently into the opening. Mithrandir continued to hum softly with pleasure. Glorfindel felt a flood of joy at having finally coaxed the wizard out of his dark mood, and he opened a shirt button to slip his fingers inside and pluck delicately at the sensitive nub of the wizard's nipple. A faint moan was followed by a series of louder ones as Glorfindel pinched and rolled the little bead with gradually increasing insistence. "That's lovely," the Istar whispered blissfully.

Soon the wizard began to writhe slightly against Glorfindel's chest, and the Elf could see a slight bulge slowly forming at the front of his trousers. He reached down and caressed it through the cloth. The wizard was only half erect, and he spread his legs slightly to allow Glorfindel to unlace the trousers and pull out the swelling member, stroking it gently as it hardened, then pumping it more rapidly as he pressed his open mouth over the ear and lapped at it hard. Mithrandir struggled to remain still enough that he did not pull away from the Elf's lips or the hand inside his shirt. His body tensed as his ecstasy mounted, and he moaned with growing desperation. Pinching the nipple hard and putting on a burst of even greater speed, Glorfindel sent him over the edge, and long spurts of pearly liquid arced up and fell onto the bed between their legs. Gradually they diminished, and Mithrandir lay back heavily against his lover, panting.

At last he turned his head to glance up at Glorfindel. "I notice you managed to get all of that on my bed and not a single drop on your clothes."

Glorfindel grinned. "Always complaining these days. I suspect Saruman would not mind if I caused his seed to spray all over his bedclothes."

Mithrandir sat up and twisted to stare at Glorfindel more intently and with a surprised little smile. "Do you think he lusts after my precious Elf?"

Glorfindel looked at him a bit smugly. "For the first time, during this particular visit to Imladris, I have caught him looking at me in a fairly unmistakable fashion, though he always looks away when I catch him at it. Certainly he has made no effort to flirt actively with me. Mind you, I think he's lusting after quite a few of the Elves here-and quite possibly after you as well."

Mithrandir began to laugh, then stopped and stared at him quizzically. "Me? You are full of revelations today. Do you really think so?"

"It is hard to judge the way he looks at you, for he is skilled at hiding his feelings and he also seems to have a great many emotions mingled in his thoughts about you. I would not be at all surprised, however, to learn that he wants you. Don't worry! I have not been boasting to him about what a wonderful lover you are. As it is, I have enough competition for your affections when you are on the road to want to worry about your dashing off to Orthanc and Saruman's bed!"

Mithrandir grinned, also a bit smugly. He slid down until he was leaning against the inside of one of the Elf's spread legs, his arm draped over one thigh and his head just above the nearly erect cock. "I may be more impatient than I used to be in some ways, my sweet Glorfindel, but I am quite content to wait a long time for you to come. I shall prove it to you by making this last a good long time-assuming that you have not become dreadfully impatient yourself." The Elf grinned and shook his head.

The Istar began to lick and kiss the slender shaft slowly, using all his long-accumulated skill to tantalize Glorfindel. The Elf watched him at first with delight, until his heavy lids drooped and his head lolled back blissfully. Finally the wizard sucked at the tip and tongued it before drawing it slowly into his throat. Glorfindel flinched and tensed, then lay back again as Mithrandir moved his head up and down on the long rod. His lips and tongue dragged along the sensitive surface over and over, and the Elf drifted into a timeless haze of arousal that the Istar was content to prolong indefinitely. Eventually, however, they both heard a distant gong that was the first warning for dinner.

Mithrandir withdrew his mouth from Glorfindel's erection and pumped it slowly with his hand as he looked up at the Elf. "Ah, dinner-time. Since we are both so very patient, let us put off the rest of this exceedingly pleasant session until later, shall we?" and he made as if to rise. Glorfindel quickly caught at his sleeve.

"Oh, no you don't, my dear Istar! We still have five minutes, you know. I'm not that patient, and I want you to finish what you've started . . . soon."

"Really? But if you walk into that dining room with the look of utter bliss that will result from the climax I intend to give you, every Elf-and Istar-will surely be after me to do the same for them."

"I'm afraid that's a risk I must take. Please, I want your sweet mouth to do what it can do so well, quickly."

Without another word, Mithrandir again took the Elf's member deep into his throat and sucked quickly and insistently, stroking the clenching balls with his fingertips as Glorfindel soon spilled his ecstasy. The wizard swallowed and coaxed more shudders of pleasure with his swirling tongue, until finally Glorfindel bent over Mithrandir and stroked the white head and bearded cheek gently. "Who would not be impatient for that?" he whispered, hugging the wizard's head to his belly.

After a brief pause for Glorfindel to recover a bit, they rose and began to fasten and straighten their clothing preparatory to going to dinner. The Elf hesitated before he spoke. "You said you wanted cheering up. I hope that this has to some extent helped you to get over your disappointment in the result of today's meeting."

"Oh, to a considerable extent, yes, but not entirely. When I see a possible opportunity for defeating Sauron slip through our fingers because of what I see as undue caution . . ." He sighed. "Perhaps I am too hasty. Perhaps I see a chance of ending my mission, of being free of the burden, free to . . ." He gazed sadly into Glorfindel's eyes, and the Elf felt a thrill of joy. The Istar had seldom looked at him in quite that way, with a depth of longing that matched Glorfindel's own long-concealed hopes. He felt a sudden need to reassure his lover.

"I cannot believe that you could ever be reckless or hasty, much though it may seem to some that you are. I know all too well how many of your own yearnings and desires you have put aside in pursuing your goals. And you may be right about the high Elves. Of all the peoples engaged in this long struggle, we are the ones who can leave it behind, much though we may regret what we lose when we do so. The others, as you say, the Dwarves and Hobbits, stand to lose all. For ultimately we are not of Middle-earth, as you say. Not forever."

Mithrandir continued to stare at him for a moment and then nodded, stroking the backs of his curled fingers down the side of the Elf's breathtakingly lovely face before kissing his lover's cheek and replying simply, "No, not forever."