The Grey Shores

by Nefertiti

Summary: Glorfindel grieves after the death of Mithrandir but later is reunited with his reincarnated lover.

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.)

Disclaimer: No rights, no income.

Author's note: Book-canon. The action begins at Imladris in February of 3019, after the death of Gandalf the Grey. The Minas Tirith section takes place on 1 Lithe, the eve of Mid-year's Day of the same year; passages describing the arrival of Elrond's party at the city gate are taken directly from the end of "The Steward and the King." The last two scenes take place in September of 3021, just before the end of the Third Age.

Elanor, my dear, thank you once again for superb betaing for this whole series-oh, and I owe you another wizard-hobbit orgy.

Chapter 6

At first there was nothing but black despair. Later Glorfindel realized it must have been three days that he sat in his room, barely moving, his mind unable to wrench itself away from one endlessly repeating thought: Mithrandir was dead. Dimly he was aware of others coming to him with food and drink, speaking to him, and leaving him in the solitude he desired. As he sat, he realized that the agony of soul that he felt was akin to what he had experienced in the Halls of Mandos when first he had arrived there-loss, fear, hopelessness. Eventually he became capable of other emotions. Anger at his lover for having neglected the Elf's final warning and gone into such danger. Agonizing guilt over the idea that he should himself have gone with the Fellowship, to save the Istar, even if it meant dying in his place. Or if he failed to do that, at the very least he could have taken over as Frodo's guardian, striving to see Mithrandir's crucial goal reached. Had he learned nothing from the great loss of Gil-galad, he wondered. Bitterly he thought that the Istar had been right: the Elves were too cautious. Why had he stayed here, guarding a place that no longer meant anything to him in his loneliness?

That thought opened a crack in his overwhelming grief. Believing that Imladris now meant nothing to him betrayed his lover's trust. The Istar had always put their missions in Middle-earth ahead of their love. He had refused to promise his heart to Glorfindel so that both of them could focus as fully as possible on their tasks. That the Elf had secretly already given his heart, completely and irrevocably, was no fault of Mithrandir's. He struggled to steer his mind back to protecting the hidden valley. He could not, however, do so, since hope for Middle-earth seemed non-existent to the Elf. Mithrandir had been their great hope, and he had pinned his upon a Hobbit. What chance was there now of Frodo succeeding? Much though the Elf loved and admired Aragorn, he could not imagine the Ranger being able successfully to guide Frodo to the Mountain.

Eventually Glorfindel's mind drifted into another obsession as he speculated over and over on different ways that he might, be it eons in the future, somehow meet Olorin again. For Mithrandir no longer existed, and what was left of him now was only the Maiareme spirit. Perhaps, somehow, somewhere in the Undying Lands . . . and with such thoughts he suddenly realized that a dim ray of hope, as if emitted by the smallest star in the sky, had entered the darkness of his mind. If ever he did meet his lover again, he would want to be able to say that he had kept trust with him and gone on protecting Imladris to the end.

That evening he forced himself to join the others in the dining hall, and though he was not able to speak to anyone, he managed to eat a little. Afterward Glorfindel moved as if to return to his room, but Elrond took his arm firmly and stared at him with infinite pity when he tried to pull away. The dark-haired Elf led the blond one to the Hall of Fire. Glorfindel sat unmoving on a bench along the wall. Suddenly his eyes focused on the fire itself, and a vision of the horrible death Mithrandir must have suffered, surrounded by the flames of the Balrog, came to him. He cringed and swung to sit sideways, with his temple pressed against the wooden panel, struggling not to weep. He had forced into a neglected corner of his mind his memory of being enveloped in pain and finally oblivion during his own fatal struggle with one of the powerful creatures, but now it came rushing back to him. He sat for hours. When the evening finally ended, Glorfindel had no idea what had been said or sung that night-nor even noticed when the last instrument was lowered and the music quieted. The music in his own heart had long since ceased.

After that evening, the other Elves of the household tried to draw him into various activities. He could return their greetings but nothing more. Resistant to anything that distracted him from his grief, he took to walking out into the valley each day, wandering through the cold aimlessly, wincing when he came upon a place where over the years he and Mithrandir had strolled or sat and talked or, in a few cases, made love. Whenever he recognized such a place he paused, vivid memories rushing into his mind and leaving him more forlorn than before. Gradually, however, the bleak beauty of the valley in winter worked upon him, and his desire to protect it returned. Thereafter he abandoned his walks and stayed at the house, struggling to focus on the day-to-day routine of keeping Imladris safe-the reports from various scouts who patrolled the north, his meetings with the Rangers who visited regularly for his aid in coordinating and advising the activities of the remnants of the Dunedain.

Until nearly four weeks after the arrival of the message from LothLorién that had ripped his world apart, he managed to carry on in this way, attending to his duties with a bitter determination. On some evenings he went to the Hall of Fire with the others, but just as often he returned to his room and sank back into his grief.

One morning he was dressing, and his thoughts were just beginning to grope toward recalling what tasks he had for that day when he heard running feet. The door burst open, and Elrohir leaned against the frame, panting. There were tears in his eyes, but his face wore an expression of joy. "More news from Lorién-and this time welcome news, my dear friend. Mithrandir has been rescued! He is alive."

Glorfindel stared at him. He began to tremble, and he found that his chest was so constricted that he had to force air deep into his lungs in a great, shuddering gasp. The ghost of a smile played briefly about his lips, but he was too stunned and puzzled for full joy to seize him yet. "How . . . how could he have survived? Where has he been this long, dreadful month?"

"We know little more. Galadriel sent Gwaihir with the message immediately after he carried Mithrandir to the Golden Wood. According to Gwaihir, he had been lying on the mountaintop where he finally slew the Balrog, dreadfully injured, burned-no wait! Remain calm . . . She is tending to him and hopes to restore him fully. She will send another message when she learns more from him, but for now -"

Glorfindel looked around the room in some confusion. "I must go! I have to join him there and-"

Elrohir stepped quickly to him and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. "No, no, Glorfindel! Please, do not do anything rash. Galadriel begs you not to try and go to Lorién. She knows that Mithrandir will want to continue with his journey and his mission as soon as he is able-almost certainly days before you could possibly arrive there traveling over the mountains in the middle of winter." Glorfindel had quieted to listen to him, and now he stood as if dazed, torn between his elation at the news and his aching disappointment of not being able to hasten to Mithrandir's side. Elrohir squeezed his shoulder and shook him slightly. "She also promises that as soon as he has healed a little, Mithrandir will himself send you a message. I fear that you must be content with that. But be joyful! That is enormously better than what we have thought. He lives, and you will see him again, I am sure of it. Now we all can rejoice, for this news brings us renewed hope that the Quest can succeed."

Glorfindel managed to nod, but at once he leaned forward and wept against the other Elf's shoulder for long minutes. Elrohir embraced him and waited patiently until the tears finally ceased. Glorfindel lifted his head and whispered, "He is going on into still greater danger, and joy will be overshadowed by fear for a long while to come." He managed a shaky smile. "Still, as you say, fear is far better than grief." He crossed to a pitcher and basin near the window and splashed some cold water on his face to help erase the traces of his weeping. Drying himself, he turned to Elrohir and let out a great sigh, then smiled with delight and relief. "Now I can truly begin to live again. Let us go to Elrond and talk over what is to be done next."

Upon the very Eve of Midsummer, when the sky was blue as sapphire and white stars opened in the East, but the West was still golden, and the air was cool and fragrant, the riders came down the North-way to the gates of Minas Tirith. First rode Elrohir and Elladan with a banner of silver, and then came Glorfindel and Erestor and all the household of Rivendell, and after them came the Lady Galadriel and Celeborn, Lord of LothLorién, riding upon white steeds and with them many fair folk of their land, grey-cloaked with white gems in their hair; and last came Master Elrond, mighty among Elves and men, bearing the scepter of Annúminas, and beside him upon a grey palfrey rode Arwen, his daughter, Evenstar of her people.

As soon as the sentries had announced that the riders had been sighted in the distance, many had come down to the gate of the city to watch their arrival and greet them. Mithrandir and Frodo came, riding together on Shadowfax. The wizard lowered Frodo to the ground and then dismounted himself, looking around at the considerable crowd that had gathered. "Frodo, let us go up onto the wall and gain a better vantage-point from which to view the procession up to the entrance."

Knowing that the wizard wanted to see Glorfindel as soon as possible, Frodo smiled and followed him up a long set of stone steps that hugged the inner side of the wall to the broad pavement atop it. They approached the battlement, and Mithrandir leaned his staff against the wall and lifted Frodo to sit cross-legged in one of the broad crenels and look down upon the approaching group.

At once Mithrandir saw the beloved face, since Glorfindel was close to the front of the group. He waved, and the beautiful blond Elf quickly spotted him and smiled up so luminously that the Istar felt tears come to his eyes. Soon the van passed below them, into the great arch, and they watched as the rest rode forward. When Frodo saw Arwen come glimmering in the evening, with stars on her brow and a sweet fragrance about her, he was moved with great wonder, and he said to the wizard, "At last I understand why we have waited! This is the ending. Now not day only shall be beloved, but night too shall be beautiful and blessed and all its fear pass away!"

Despite the fact that his thoughts were bent on Glorfindel, Mithrandir blinked and turned to the Hobbit for a moment. That was something that the young Mr Frodo Baggins of Bag End would never have said. Frodo had become more reflective and insightful as a result of his experiences, he realized-and even a bit poetical. He smiled and nodded, putting his hand lightly on the Hobbit's shoulder. Soon the last of the riders disappeared beneath them, and Frodo scrambled down. They walked together back to the top of the long flight of steps. Below them, the King welcomed his guests, and they alighted; and Elrond surrendered the scepter, and laid the hand of his daughter in the hand of the King, and together they went up into the High City, and all the stars flowered in the sky.

As the group of Elves and the nobility and citizens of the city moved to follow the King and his bride, Frodo began to descend the steps. He looked back in puzzlement, for Mithrandir did not follow him but still stood looking down at the crowd. "My dear Frodo, it will be quite some time before Elrond's and Galadriel's people can make their way up through the throngs and the winding streets to the palace. Would you be so kind as to mention to Glorfindel that I have stayed up here? I would prefer that our reunion not take place amid such a bustle of activity."

Frodo chuckled and nodded, descending the steps. Mithrandir turned with a slight smile and strolled over to a nearby sentry station, briefly glancing in through the open door. He walked slowly back to the crenel and looked out across the fields of the Pelennor, now empty but for a few tardy farmers who had paused to watch the beautiful group pass by and had now resumed driving their animals back toward their barnyards. The moon that was just rising, the glow of dusk in the west, and the myriad stars above bathed the scene in a soft white light. The Istar closed his eyes and beat his open palms lightly on the flat stone as he listened, then turned as he heard soft footsteps approaching. Soon Glorfindel appeared, running lightly up the steps. He paused at the top and stared at Mithrandir.

Both had dreamed many times of this reunion, and both had expected to rush into each other's arms in a fierce embrace. Now they stood, however, separated by the width of the thick wall, barely moving, their eyes shining. Simply looking at each other seemed joy enough for a little while. Glorfindel's neck worked as he swallowed hard, and Mithrandir sighed and removed his hat, placing it carefully on the deep stone opening behind him. Finally Glorfindel's gaze went slowly down the Istar's body, now clothed in the same spotless white as he himself, and back up to his face. The Elf looked a trifle uncertain. In outward facial and bodily appearance, his lover looked no different than he had before-yet the power that he had always sensed as hidden in the Istar now seemed to radiate from him, adding a glow to the scene that did not come from the sky.

Slowly they walked toward each other, reaching out and clasping hands, curling their fingers tightly around each other. Mithrandir lifted Glorfindel's hands, side by side, up to his mouth and lightly kissed the knuckles, one by one. The Elf looked curiously at him, seeing him now from so close. "I feel in awe before you, as I once did, long, long ago when I first met you upon the other side, after my reincarnation. It is not I who have become small again. You have grown high above me. You have changed."

Mithrandir pulled the Elf's hands against his chest and continued to hold them tightly as he stared into his eyes. "Not in my feelings toward you, my dearest Elf, believe me." He smiled the impish little grin that Glorfindel remembered so well, and suddenly he began to recognize in this powerful being the man he loved.

"Is that true? After all you have been through? I remember my own death, and the long dreary time after. When I was finally granted pardon and allowed to be embodied once more, I found myself so transformed that I thought my friends would scarcely recognize me-not transformed in my appearance, but in nearly every other way. Perhaps death has transformed you as well. That is what I have feared, at any rate."

"Really, Glorfindel? What would put such fear into you?"

"As we traveled south, we naturally passed through Lorién to visit and to allow those who were there to join our group. Galadriel talked much with me, telling me of your death, your return and rescue, and your recovery. It was then that I began to get an inkling of how you had changed-from humble grey to pure white. The White Istar. She told me of your new power, your greater ability to see things far off, and your deeper wisdom, to understand and counter the strategies of the Enemy."

Mithrandir pulled Glorfindel toward himself and rubbed the side of his head against the Elf's. "Surely she did not hint to you that I had changed so much as to forget my darling Elf?"

Glorfindel hugged him and laughed softly. "Oh, no, I think that worry was entirely my own invention. I had been cut off from you for so long, had grieved for you for so long. Well, a month, a short time in the greater scheme of things, but to me it seemed as if my misery occupied an age of Middle-earth." The Istar stroked his head with one hand, holding him tight with the other, and turned his face slightly to nuzzle into the fine blond hair. The Elf fell silent for a moment and closed his eyes, feeling the sharp nose and warm lips brush against his neck. "So long," he repeated quietly.

"You did get the messages that I sent, I hope," Mithrandir said quietly into his ear.

Glorfindel pulled back to smile at him. "Yes, the one you sent from Lorién to reassure me about your recovery-and the one from here, asking me to make one of the group with Elrond and Arwen and the others. Do you know, when I first read that, I said to myself, 'What can he be thinking? He knows I cannot leave Imladris unprotected.' I had to laugh at my foolishness, for now of course I was free at last to do just that. It has taken some getting used to. Being able to leave, to travel on the continent that you have crisscrossed so often in pursuing your mission. To follow you, for once, as I have so very often wished to do, and soon to ride beside you back to Imladris, confident that we shall find it untouched by dark forces."

Mithrandir said softly. "I was not able to speak long with them of private matters , but Elrohir and Elladan told me something of that black month of despair for you. I am so sorry that that had to happen to you, but . . ." He sighed. "Well, it is over now."

On common impulse they leaned forward into a long, gentle kiss, brushing and sucking at each other's lips, then teasingly withdrawing to move on. They took turns softly skimming their mouths over each other's cheeks. After minutes of such tantalizing caresses, their mouths met again, this time gradually surrendering, opening, and beginning to invade.

Glorfindel finally broke the kiss. "I wondered when-and indeed if-you would get around to this."

Mithrandir looked at him quizzically. "What do you mean, 'if,' my lovely Elf?"

Glorfindel hesitated. "I must admit that I had visions of you being such a lofty, spiritual being now that you no longer would have any 'urges.'"

The Istar laughed loudly. "You seem to have imagined all sorts of strange things about me. I assure you, my urges are quite as strong as they were that wonderful night at the Havens. Shall I prove it to you?"

"Please do. I long for reassurance . . . a great deal of reassurance."

They resumed kissing, but now their mouths pressed together more urgently until at last Glorfindel struggled free, gasping. "I have gone so long without this sort of thing-for months. You are exciting me so much, Istar-too much for such a public place."

Mithrandir stared into his eyes, panting slightly with passion, surprised. "Months? That is strange. I too. Ever since the Ring went into the fire, there has been no one else. I have felt that I am utterly yours, and I could not bear to be with another-much though I felt I needed to at times. Indeed, it has been very difficult. After a while, the very thought of you was enough to . . . Well, let us say that not even Aragorn looked forward to this day more than I did."

The Elf's eyes widened during this. "Exactly. Yes, from when the Ring was destroyed. Even in Imladris, we sensed when the end of our great enemy occurred. It was an event that shook the continent, in a thrilling and exhilarating way. Soon we set out to journey here for the culmination of everything-for the wedding. During all that time, I too found it impossible to desire another. I have waited."

Mithrandir turned and looked at the moon, brightening from dusky orange to pure white as it climbed above the clouds still hovering over the Black Land. He looked back at Glorfindel, then laughed softly. "For hundreds and hundreds of years I have waited for the moment when I could bring my heart forth from its hiding place and tell you that it is yours for all time and hear those same words from you. And now I discover that the exchange has been made already-when we were far, far apart, each thinking of other things, not even realizing what had happened. Not that I consider the result any less wonderful because of that."

"No. A gift given freely, without thought or words, can be as generous as one given with elaborate planning or speech. I believe you are right, Istar, we now have each other's hearts in our keeping . . . for all time."

They embraced and stood tightly pressed together, unmoving. Finally Mithrandir began to kiss the Elf, more deeply than before, and his hands roved over the muscular body eagerly. Glorfindel responded immediately, and soon each was aware of the other's rapidly growing erection. Mithrandir released him and said with a breathy little laugh. "Even knowing that we now have a great deal of time to spend together . . . I cannot delay our fulfillment. I have never wanted you so much!" His hot tongue moved over Glorfindel's neck and ear, and he found one nipple through the soft cloth and pinched it.

"I can certainly tell that! I hate to mention this, but shouldn't we go on after the others?"

"Hardly. It is a long way, though narrow streets, and with such a crowd, the newcomers will not even have reached the uppermost level of the city by now. Then there will be the business of settling in and preparing for dinner. Things will be quite hectic up there for a while."

"Well, if you're not going to stop doing that, we need some privacy. Where are you living?"

"In a house-far up, nearly at the top of the city. Very far, and through streets crowded with people. And as dinnertime approaches, that house will be full of Hobbits, and most likely a certain Elf and Dwarf of your acquaintance. That whole area is perhaps the least private place in the city right now."

"So, you are proposing that we satisfy our desires here on the city walls?"

Despite his arousal, Mithrandir laughed. "Well, in a sense. Not on this very spot, however. There are people living in those houses opposite-a few of whom seem already to be exhibiting quite a bit of curiosity about our activities. No, I shall provide some privacy. Not all of the sentinels' stations that you see along the wall are occupied. Less guarding is needed now, naturally. And I have noted carefully that that one over there in particular is empty. We can hide ourselves away from this crowded city for just a little while."

"Aha, you have planned this carefully. True, a skillful seducer scouts out the ground."

"Oh, I don't think I should need much seductive skill to get what I want from you."

The Elf laughed with the sheer joy of the moment, wanting to savor just a little longer the prospect of their lovemaking. "No, I don't suppose you would, and yet it seems a pity to let all that skill go to waste. What if I held off and were coy, what would you say to persuade me?" He grinned challengingly at the Istar.

Mithrandir smiled as he thought, but the smile faded as he studied Glorfindel's face. "I would say that I had forgotten just how beautiful you are."

After a pause in which he expected the wizard to continue, the Elf gave a tiny snort of laughter and looked at him in genuine surprise. "Is that all? Where has your honeyed eloquence gone? And besides, if you have not changed toward me, how could you have forgotten what I look like, after all these years, after all our times together?"

Mithrandir shook his head slightly, tracing a fingertip slowly down the center of the Elf's face, from the top of the forehead, between the eyebrows, and down the nose as he resumed, "Neither the imagination nor the memory can hold onto such beauty. It astonishes me anew every time I see you. Your face is so perfectly shaped, with such precision of brows and cheeks and nose and lips. You are like some newly finished statue, fresh from the chisel of the greatest artisan who ever lived, carved from the fine white stone of Mount Tanquetil itself-but far more breathtaking than any statue could be, because of the starlight that shines in your eyes even on the darkest night and the smile that pulls those perfect features into life and warmth and joy."

Glorfindel's mocking little smile had disappeared as the Istar spoke. "And desire," he whispered. By now Mithrandir's moving finger had slid past the end of the nose and down the philtrum to the center of his lips. They gazed into each other's eyes as Glorfindel slowly kissed the tip of the finger, then tilted his head to rub his slightly open mouth down and up its length, finally drawing it inside and sucking with a growing hunger.

Mithrandir's breath quickened again, and he nodded. "And desire." He reluctantly withdrew the finger and grasped Glorfindel's hand, turning briefly away to pick up his hat and staff. Now they moved more rapidly as Mithrandir led the Elf along the short stretch of wall until they reached the deserted sentry station, a small, round enclosed room of the same stone as the wall. Once inside, Glorfindel pushed the door closed behind them and locked it as the Istar quickly lit a lamp on a small wooden table in the center. In the height of summer, it was still somewhat hot and stuffy inside, but neither complained of that as Mithrandir returned and pressed Glorfindel against the wooden panels and kissed him. The Elf opened wide to him, cupping his hand at the back of the wizard's head and pulling him more ravenously into the kiss as he sucked at the insistent tongue delving into him. His other hand gripped Mithrandir's buttocks until their hips were grinding together, their erections striving to meet and rub at each other through the layers of white cloth sandwiched between them. Glorfindel raised one leg and crooked it around the Istar's thigh, thrusting harder without his cock finding enough contact.

Finally, frustrated, they pulled apart and quickly surveyed the tiny room. The table and two heavy square stools looked singularly unsuited to lovemaking, and there was no other furniture. "How--?" Glorfindel began.

Mithrandir chuckled. "I have scouted the ground, as you say, and I think this would serve." He picked up one of the stools and placed it below the barred window and just to one side. He beckoned to the Elf and turned him to face the window, standing on tiptoe to nuzzle briefly into his neck before flipping the back of Glorfindel's knee-length tunic up and tucking it into the tie at its waist. The front of the tunic slid up into thick folds bunched against the Elf's lower belly. Glorfindel leaned against the sill with one hand and stroked himself slowly, twisting to watch the wizard. Quickly Mithrandir reached around to undo the loose white trousers, letting them slide down to pool around the ankles of Glorfindel's soft suede riding boots. As he did this, he thrust his member rhythmically against the Elf's buttocks, gasping with need.

Seeing what the Istar purposed, Glorfindel lifted one leg from the trousers and placed the foot firmly on the stool, edging his other foot away until his cheeks were well parted. He then grasped the bars of the window with both hands, shifting impatiently as he longed for the wizard to probe his most intimate part. "Hurry!" he gasped, resisting the temptation to pump his own cock hard and relieve his pounding arousal immediately.

Moving back slightly, Mithrandir quickly undid his own trousers and pulled out his iron-hard, purple erection, which bobbed in front of him as he fished the small jar out of his pocket and began to prepare the Elf. With a moan, Glorfindel leaned forward and arched his back slightly, giving the Istar even greater access to his puckered entrance, pressing back as one slick finger entered him. The Elf's arousal, already at fever pitch, soared as the wizard skillfully pressed and manipulated his sensitive spot, and he whimpered in abject need. "Now, please," he managed to say.

Mithrandir was coating his own shaft with his free hand as he pushed a second finger inside the Elf to press and swirl and stretch. "Too soon, my love, you are not quite ready."

"I'm ready enough! Now!" Glorfindel begged.

After an instant's hesitation, Mithrandir removed his fingers and gripped his own erection, placing the tip against the tight ring of flesh. Slowly he pushed, but Glorfindel gave a hoarse groan and abruptly impaled himself down half the wizard's length. Mithrandir grimaced and froze, willing himself not to spill immediately as the moist heat seized him. Glorfindel grunted briefly in pain and waited, sensing how close the Istar was to finishing. As the Elf's pain faded, he began to keen pleadingly. Mithrandir stood panting a few seconds longer, his eyes screwed shut, then finally opened them and began to thrust in small increments deeper into the Elf's passage, finally burying himself entirely. Glorfindel soon was drifting in ecstasy, beyond making any sounds except the hissing of his ragged breath through clenched teeth. The Istar slowly rocked his hips and reached around to stroke the Elf's member, which was twitching each time the invading cock's tip pressed along the front of its velvet sheath. At last Glorfindel was trembling with excitement, and he felt the wizard's thrusting falter somewhat as again he sought to stave off the end. "No, I need to finish now! Harder!" the Elf gasped.

At once Mithrandir gripped the Elf's waist tightly to brace himself as he switched to rapid, short, sharp jabs against the prostate, his tight fist pulling at Glorfindel's erection. After a short time, Glorfindel uttered something between a scream and a groan as his climax hit him with dizzying force, and spasm after intense spasm sent his seed splashing against the stone wall. As the Elf's ecstasy slowly faded, Mithrandir pulled back until only the head of his cock was inside, then pushed it all the way in, repeating a few such long, hard strokes until he too toppled over into rapture, throwing his head back and continuing to thrust as his come spurted deep inside the Elf.

Glorfindel released his grip on the window and crossed his forearms on the sill, leaning his head upon them, still dizzy after the searing climax. Mithrandir settled against his torso, panting and rubbing his cheek slightly over the cloth covering the muscular back. They stayed there for long minutes, until the Istar felt his shrinking penis about to slip from the Elf. He dug in his pocket and produced a cloth, gently wiping his lover as he withdrew, then rubbing his own cock with it. Glorfindel resumed his trousers and sat on the stool that had recently supported his leg, and Mithrandir moved the other against the wall and sat down beside him. They joined hands, leaning blissfully against the cool stone and smiling at each other. Glorfindel glanced at the pearly trickles of liquid that were slowly running down the wall. "Perhaps you should remove that little decoration as well, in case anyone does want to use this room."

Mithrandir leaned over to swab at the stone with the cloth. "I would imagine that this is not the first time that these walls have been so adorned, but I suppose we must not sully the room's elegant furnishings."

"At least it comes supplied with two stools. Just the right number."

"Yes. I don't fancy walking down those stairs to find Shadowfax quite yet. I should probably topple off. Very dangerous, those steps, with no railing."

"Exactly. A hazard to lovers still a bit unsteady on their feet." The Elf grinned.

"Do you know, I shan't say that I would not have preferred for you to arrive sooner, but this was certainly worth waiting for."

"Yes, you have convinced me beyond any doubt that your transformation has not removed your urges. If anything, it seems to have made them even more powerful. Or at least your actions while satisfying those urges."

Mithrandir raised his eyebrows. "Oh, probably just a matter of long abstinence. Still, it would be lovely to think that now I could give you even greater pleasure than before, my sweet Elf. We must experiment a bit later. As always when we meet, we have a great deal of lost time to make up for."

"Yes, well, at least we can hope that this has been our last long separation."

The Istar nodded and leaned his head back against the wall, closing his eyes peacefully and with a very pleased smile. Glorfindel took advantage of the moment to study his lover's face in the combination of lamplight and soft moonlight streaming in the east-facing window. He had always seen an underlying beauty in the aged face, but with the long toil and worry and fear drained from the Istar, replaced by joy and contentment, that beauty seemed more apparent than before. Mithrandir had aged slowly but distinctly during his long time in Middle-earth, and yet now he looked no older than when he had stepped off the ship at the Grey Havens.

After about ten minutes, Glorfindel rose and leaned down to kiss the wizard's cheek. Mithrandir opened his eyes and extended a hand to him, and the Elf pulled him up from the stool. The Istar stretched. "Well, that will certainly help me to sit quietly next to you during the wedding tomorrow. I worried that somehow you might be delayed and arrive just before the ceremony, and I pictured us next to each other, squirming and perspiring with pent-up desire."

Glorfindel laughed. "I find that quite easy to picture myself. Well, I am glad you found us this charming love nest. Perhaps later tonight things will quiet down at your house, and we can conduct a few experiments. Right now, though, I think we should hurry if we are not to miss dinner."

Mithrandir picked up his hat and staff, moving to the door. "Yes, although I'm sure that Shadowfax and Asfaloth will carry us to the highest level quickly, now that the streets have cleared. The others will have moved at a much slower pace."

Once outside, the pair paused to enjoy the breeze after the stuffiness of the sentry's station. They looked up at the levels of the city stretching away above them, gleaming in the radiant moonlight. Mithrandir said, "You have never been here, have you? Well, it is still somewhat scarred by the siege, but the citizens are making remarkable progress in repairing it. Come, I fancy we have just enough time to go up to the house, wash a bit, and still be in time for dinner. First, though, let me introduce you to Shadowfax."

A few minutes later, as they were riding up the stone streets toward the palace area, Glorfindel asked, "Mithrandir, presumably now that your great tasks are accomplished, you have begun to think about your departure from Middle-earth. Elrond and the others have talked much about that, and of course I have begun to long for it very much myself. They seem to think that it will be some years yet before the situation here is stable enough for the Elves to leave in any great numbers."

"Yes, a year, two or three perhaps. Soon, though, in relation to how long we have struggled toward this moment."

"In the meantime, how had you thought to occupy your time? Will you stay here and advise Aragorn?"

"Oh, not the whole time. He has grown into his full wisdom and strength now, as you will soon see, and I do not believe he needs much more help. Undoubtedly I shall return here a time or two to make sure, but I have great confidence that he is ready to assume the burden of Middle-earth. Indeed, I have told him so. No, I have thought to use my remaining time much as I did my early time here-in traveling about, not with any specific purpose now. More simply to check on the state of various peoples and places now that the War is winding down. And to say farewell to the many friends that I have made in all these many years. I would love to be able to have you with me. It would be a shame for you to leave never having seen so many of the beautiful things that the continent contains. Your company would also help to console me for I shall part with much that I have grown very fond of-and alas, no doubt find that some of my old friends have died since last I passed their way."

"I would love nothing better than to accompany you, of course. I feel that my duties at Imladris are over, and Elrond has agreed with me. The north is not utterly safe even now, but between Elrond's forces and the Rangers, they should be able to cope quite well."

Mithrandir glanced at him with a grin. "I'm afraid all this would involve quite a bit of camping. There will not be cozy inns along every road for many years to come."

The Elf sighed, then looked fondly at the Istar. "I realize that. I am sure, however, that you will offer me many compensations for any discomforts I may undergo."

They emerged through an archway into the street outside the house where Mithrandir was living with the Hobbits. Once they had seen their horses safely stabled, Mithrandir turned to Glorfindel. "Well, our romantic little interlude has allowed enough time for most of the activity to die down. Let us go in, and you can reacquaint yourself with the members of the Fellowship. I can also show you the bedroom-and bed-that we shall be sharing."

Glorfindel stared at him in mock incredulity. "Make love in a mere bed? What a novel idea, my dear Mithrandir! Surely, though, there are more nooks and crannies hidden about the city where we could snatch a moment of passion, safe from prying eyes."

The Istar laughed and took his hand, drawing him into the brightly lit house and the babble of excited Hobbit voices.

Late on a September evening of 3021, Mithrandir and Glorfindel arrived at a prosperous inn in Frogmorton, a village in the East Farthing of the Shire. They were gradually making their way west, heading for the Grey Havens but still traveling at the leisurely pace they had maintained for over two years now, as Mithrandir bade farewell to the continent that he loved and showed its beauties and pleasures to his dear Elf.

The innkeeper came bustling out, waving and shouting, "Gandalf! Welcome!" and arranging for the stabling of their horses. Quickly they went inside and depositing their sparse luggage in the one room in the inn-seldom used-which had man-sized furniture. When the pair returned to the common room for some ale and dinner and conversations, not everyone recognized the wizard, but the older ones hailed him cheerfully. Glorfindel felt a bit out of his element with these little people, who seemed to him noisy and even boisterous, and he spoke little, leaving all the arrangements to the Istar. Still, he had learned something about Hobbits from Frodo and the others who joined the Fellowship. He gradually struck up conversations with some of the more forward ones. He noted that most were uncharacteristically shy with him, but Mithrandir came over to him briefly and whispered, "Hobbits tend to be a bit awe-struck by Elves. You are, after all, so very beautiful, and I'm sure most of them have never seen anything remotely like you. Remember how Sam reacted to being in Imladris?" Glorfindel chuckled at the memory and realized that the Hobbits were as uncertain as he was himself. He relaxed somewhat and enjoyed the company far more.

Eventually he sat back and simply looked on, sipping the good Shire ale that he had rapidly come to appreciate. The Hobbits clustered around Mithrandir-Gandalf, as they called him-asking for magic tricks and exotic tales. The wizard obliged them with some simple magic, at one point turning the ale in their mugs a startling shade of bright blue-though, as they all admitted when they tentatively tried it, not affecting its taste at all.

Glorfindel's mind drifted back over the travels that would soon come to an end. Once the Elves and Hobbits had returned to Imladris and Mithrandir had set out to accompany the Hobbits part of the way back to the Shire, Glorfindel had spent a little time wrapping up his business and packing what little he needed to take on the road. He had then made his way to join Mithrandir in the house of Tom Bombadil. That extraordinary meeting had been the first of a long string of visits to the many people and places of Middle-earth that he had never encountered and that the Istar knew so well. They had remained at Tom's house for a few weeks, taking long walks, talking at great length in the evenings with Tom about the woods and the creatures that dwelt therein, then retiring to make love and lie in each other's arms as the wizard slept and Glorfindel dreamed, perhaps more peacefully than ever before in their long time together.

When they had moved on, they headed eastward again, stopping only briefly at Imladris, where Glorfindel enjoyed the novelty of being merely a guest. They had crossed the pass over the Misty Mountains and turned south, stopping for a longer stay in LothLorién. There plans concerning the final departure at the Grey Havens were confirmed, and they enjoyed splendid banquets and the timeless beauty of the mallorn groves. Galadriel and Celeborn and a few other Elves had ridden with them to display the ruins of Dol Guldur, which Galadriel had destroyed at the end of the War of the Ring. Glorfindel had been touched by the quiet mutual pleasure that Mithrandir and Galadriel took in the fulfillment of all their early plans and hopes as they walked slowly around the grim rubble.

One day Mithrandir had taken him deep into the forest, up onto a isolated flet high in the forest canopy. There they had undressed each other and made love with exquisite, tantalizing slowness for hours amid the breezes and shifting shadows of the leaves. Eventually they had eaten a leisurely meal of fruit and bread and cheese and wine, and at dusk made love once more before the Istar fell asleep and Glorfindel slid into dreams that were no more perfect than what he had just experienced. Looking back, Glorfindel remembered that as perhaps the most splendid of the many wonderful days they had shared.

They had gone south then, and Mithrandir delighted in visiting Fangorn Forest and introducing Glorfindel to Treebeard and some of the other Ents. The Istar clearly had a great admiration, verging on reverence, for the Ents, and Glorfindel immediately saw why. He found them enormously moving and felt privileged to see them at last for himself. Treebeard, in his slow, quiet way, eventually made it apparent that he immensely enjoyed Mithrandir's company. "The only wizard who really cares about trees," the old Ent remarked to Glorfindel a number of times. Thinking of Saruman, the Elf could only nod thoughtfully. Later, when he told the Istar what Treebeard had said, Mithrandir smiled fondly and replied, "Oh, he always says that."

After they left Fangorn, the journey became more purposeful, as Mithrandir kept his promise to Aragorn and returned to Minas Tirith for a long stay. There he offered all the advice he could to the new King, but clearly he expected Elessar to think and make decisions for himself. As far as Glorfindel could tell, most of Mithrandir's counsel was of a rather obvious sort, and the Istar treated Elessar like a beloved son who had finally reached manhood. His pride in the King's competence and wisdom was apparent. Glorfindel deliberately stepped into the background during this visit, allowing the Istar to spend as much time as possible with Elessar. Clearly their impending separation would be difficult for them both, and the Elf could do little but offer Mithrandir his support and comfort. He did not witness their final parting, but Mithrandir returned from it withdrawn and fighting tears. He sat long that night staring into the fire, and Glorfindel simply remained nearby, ready to offer solace but not extending it. They departed early the next morning, before dawn's light, riding far in nearly total silence, and it took days for the Istar to recover his accustomed cheerfulness.

From there they had traveled briefly to Ithilien, where Legolas and other Elves were busy transforming the battle-scarred region into one of the most beautiful forests in Middle-earth. Glorfindel was particularly fond of that visit, for the area seemed to represent one of the most obvious signs of Middle-earth's regeneration. He and Mithrandir had wandered far amid its groves and even ventured up to the foot of the mountains surrounding the Black Land. He also enjoyed meeting Faramir, whose youthful admiration for the wizard reminded Glorfindel of his own time as a friend and follower of Olorin long ago in Eldamar. The Istar seemed somewhat relieved to find that the marriage of Faramir to the Lady Eowyn was quite blissful, though he would not explain to the Elf why he would have been concerned about that.

Then their travels had taken them northward through Mirkwood, where they visited the Istar that Glorfindel had met only a couple of times, long ago: Radagast. The Elf had never felt that he knew the quiet old man well, and Radagast had eventually stopped coming to Council meetings. He seemed a pleasant enough fellow, but Glorfindel found it hard to believe that he had ever been a being on the level of Mithrandir. Radagast was completely obsessed with the birds and beasts of the forest, but he lacked the enthusiasm and friendliness that had led Bombadil to share his insights about them with his visitors. They nevertheless spent a pleasant interlude with him, but when Mithrandir hinted that the time for a return to Valinor was approaching, his fellow Istar seemed singularly uninterested. Clearly he was too devoted to his home and the creatures living there to want to return in the ship with the others. Mithrandir was puzzled and a little disturbed by the other Istar's attitude, but he eventually abandoned his attempts to persuade Radagast to change his mind. When Glorfindel questioned his lover about this, Mithrandir simply shook his head sadly. Both were relieved to move on.

Their next visit was more cheerful. They spent a few days with Beorn, about whom Mithrandir had told him so much. The giant fellow had been instrumental in saving the wizard, Bilbo, and the Dwarves after their misadventure with the goblins in the Misty Mountains. Equally importantly, his had tipped the balance in the Battle of Five Armies. Mithrandir had always spoken most highly of him. By now Beorn was greying and had some younger Beornings living with him and helping him take care of his prosperous farm, but he seemed hale and happy.

Glorfindel initially felt a bit awkward meeting Beorn, for the wizard had never made a secret of the fact that he and this giant fellow had been lovers on those occasions when Mithrandir's travels took him to that part of the continent. Beorn had greeted the Istar with considerable delight and had examined the Elf closely when Mithrandir introduced them. Glorfindel was amused by the Man's approving little eyebrow waggle at the Istar, obviously congratulating him at his good fortune in having such a beautiful lover. A forthright fellow indeed, just as Mithrandir had always described him, and Glorfindel could hardly feel offended-or jealous. Clearly the Istar and Beorn had been good friends as well as bedmates. After that, the Elf relaxed and took great pleasure in the visit.

Glorfindel had mixed feelings about their subsequent travels eastward. He had visited Thrandruil's realm a few times in the distant past, consulting on strategies for protecting the northern regions east of the Misty Mountains, and he was happy to renew his acquaintance with his woodland brethren. He was less pleased by the Istar's determination to move on further east and visit the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain and the Men of Laketown. It had been one thing to welcome the occasional Dwarf, coming on official business, to Imladris. It would be quite another to be the only Elf in a city of Dwarves. Mithrandir sensed his doubts and teased him slightly about them. In the event, the visit had proved less tense than he expected, but he could not really say that he had ever become entirely at ease. He had to admit, however, that the Dwarven craftspeople had restored their underground realm with enormous skill, and he and the Istar wandered through its halls admiring the breathtakingly beautiful objects that filled them. Eventually he got used to the strange Dwarven music as well, though it sounded very lugubrious to him in comparison with the light, high tones of Elven playing and singing.

Now, watching Mithrandir gossiping and laughing with the Hobbits, he reflected that it had been the same everywhere they went. The Istar fell easily back into friendships with people that he had not seen for many years, and he seemed to know virtually everyone except the youngest. Quite apart from his great tasks, Mithrandir had spent his time in Middle-earth well. Glorfindel was delighted that he had finally been able to go with the Istar and see the many places that he had discovered and the many people that he loved. He was also glad, however, that their journeying was coming to an end. More and more his dreams were filled with the sea, and above all else he wanted to arrive with his lover at the Havens, to recall their early days together, and to depart for the lands that they both had missed so much.

As he sat thinking about all this, a stout, red-faced young Hobbit arrived with their meal, and Mithrandir excused himself from the group and returned to sit opposite Glorfindel. The food was simple and hearty, but well-cooked and tasty. The Istar began to eat with obvious pleasure, but he glanced up anxiously at Glorfindel to see if the Elf was enjoying the repast. They has eaten a great variety of types of cooking on their travels, but the Shire diet was somewhat heavier and less subtle than most. Seeing this anxiety, the Elf smiled at Mithrandir. "Don't worry so much. This is a very pleasant meal, and indeed, a pleasant place in general. Having known Frodo and the other Hobbits, perhaps I am finding it relatively easy to adjust to the Shire. I will admit that most Elves would probably not enjoy this sort of thing, but, knowing you as I do, I can definitely see now why you have found it so appealing all these years."

The Istar stopped eating and grinned. "I am delighted that you feel that way, my sweet Elf. After all, such people as these have made a portion of Gil-galad's ancient realm grow again, in peace and prosperity. As you know, Aragorn intends to see to it that the lands north of here are repopulated as well. Quite a contrast to the bleak, barren land through which we passed on our way back from the Battle of Fornost, is it not?" he asked, indicating the cheery scene with a wave of his fork.

"Yes. It is vastly better than anything we could have imagined during that discouraging time. True, it is nothing like the great Elven kingdoms of past ages, but . . ."

Mithrandir stared at him. "No, but the Elves' fate is to diminish and eventually leave Middle-earth. They have been fortunate in enjoying the beauties of this continent for so long, I think-though of course at the cost of great sorrow and much pain. As a home for the mortal races, though, this part of Middle-earth is doing quite well, I think. And that is in large part due to your long efforts and vigilance and bravery. The fact that I accomplished my mission here was obvious: the destruction of the Ring, the restoration of the monarchy in Gondor, and so on. Your mission, however, was also accomplished, in a quieter way, and you should be very proud, my dear Glorfindel. I know I am proud of your accomplishments, and I am sure that Gil-galad would be as well."

Glorfindel thought for a moment. "I hope so. Looking back, I am glad to say that I do not think I passed up any opportunity to preserve this part of Middle-earth."

A silence fell between them as they continued to eat, and each suspected what the other was thinking. At last Mithrandir spoke. "I do not know how to broach this subtly, Glorfindel, so I shall be simple and blunt. Obviously there is a distinct possibility that you will encounter Gil-galad when you return to Eldamar-if not soon, then almost certainly further into the future."

Glorfindel stretched his hand across the table to rest it upon the wizard's. He thought for a while, then replied, "True, I gave my heart once before-and that is a precious memory to me. That was all very long ago, and I assure you, after much grief I eventually had my heart again, and I gave it to you entirely and you have it still and will forever. I know that there were others for Gil-galad before me, though I never questioned him closely. I hope that after his great deeds he spent a short time in the Halls of Mandos and has been reunited with the one for whom he pined most. If I meet him again, as I hope I shall, I know that he will wish nothing but joy for me and for you."

A raucous burst of laughter from those gathered around the fireplace nearly drowned his final words, and Mithrandir glanced indulgently at the merrymakers, then leaned forward to say softly, "I'm sure that you are right. I love you, my dearest Elf."

"I know it well. And I you, for all time."

They finished eating in silence, listening to a comic song that broke out among the younger Hobbits. Glorfindel watched Mithrandir watching the Hobbits, chuckling from time to time with affection and delight, then glanced over and surveyed the ruddy, laughing faces himself. Suddenly the Istar pulled out his pipe and filled it. Most of the Hobbits were smoking already, and the Elf reluctantly had to admit to himself that he was a bit curious about this strange habit. Mithrandir saw this and smiled. He gestured to the barkeep, who fetched a long clay pipe to the table. Mithrandir snapped off the used end of the stem, filled the bowl with his own pipeweed, and handed the pipe to Glorfindel. The Elf looked a bit dubious but put the end in his mouth and drew a breath through it as Mithrandir lit the little shreds of dried leaf. The taste was quite unpleasant, and he exhaled the smoke with a quick puff. Seeing the Istar calmly sitting and sending various smoke shapes into the air, he tried again. Mithrandir glanced at him every now and then, sympathetically and with a trace of anxiety. Glorfindel tried again and again, managing to draw the smoke in and blow it out slowly, in reasonable imitation of the experienced smokers around him. The taste, however, did not seem to improve. His distress must have been obvious in his face, for eventually the Istar smiled and leaned over to grasp the pipe and pull it from his fingers.

Mithrandir moved around to sit beside Glorfindel on the bench in the dimly lit corner, slipping his arm around the Elf's shoulders and continuing to smoke and watch the Hobbits. Feeling the warmth of the thin body against his own, Glorfindel suddenly wanted to be in their room, making passionate love to the Istar. His lips slid inquiringly across the whorls of Mithrandir's ear. The old man cast him a fond look, then took a sip of ale. "Ah, so you are going to be standoffish, are you?" Glorfindel whispered in his ear. His hand was resting on Mithrandir's knee, and he slid it with soft caressing strokes of his fingers up the inside of the thigh. He sensed the wizard's quickening breath, but his lover continued to survey the room with a benign smile and smoke his pipe. He licked eagerly at Mithrandir's ear and moved his hand further up toward what he suspected was a growing erection.

"Keep going," Mithrandir whispered. "You are enhancing my reputation in these parts immeasurably. Too late, it is true, to be of any practical use to me in my romantic activities here, but still . . . An old fellow like me, being lusted after by such a gorgeous creature as you . . . I would like to think that I shall leave these lovers of gossip something to talk about for a long time!"

Glorfindel laughed quietly and nuzzled against the wizard's neck. His hand confirmed that his lover was quite interested in the same thing that he was. "Fine. I shall play the infatuated wooer, if you like. Just don't keep me waiting too long. I have ways of making you regret that, after all," he said, pressing his fingers slightly against the wizard's balls. Mithrandir flinched and grinned, soon tapping his pipe to empty it. A trifle ostentatiously, Glorfindel thought, the wizard rose, and the group quieted and turned toward him. He bade them a cheerful goodnight, going out toward the corridor leading to their room. Glorfindel followed quickly, sharing a laugh with the wizard after they exited and a loud choir of voices suddenly filled the taproom.

Several days later, early in the afternoon of a cool, damp autumn day, Mithrandir and Glorfindel rode down the slope to the Grey Havens. They saw an Elf wave from the porch and go inside quickly. Soon Cirdan appeared and came down the steps to embrace them both as they dismounted. "Come inside and have something warm to drink by the fire."

They followed him gratefully and were soon comfortably seated. Cirdan inquired politely about their journey, then turned to Mithrandir with what looked suspiciously like a mischievous little smile. "I see that you have used Narya well. Now are you convinced that I was right in not bestowing it on Saruman?"

Mithrandir responded with a reluctant, somewhat exasperated little laugh and shook his head. "I knew you would say, 'I told you so.' Yes, I am convinced, my dear Cirdan." He turned and softly stroked Glorfindel's hair. "On the other hand, perhaps another jewel that I received here has had just as much to do with helping me to stay true to my tasks and avoid Saruman's fate. If he had had such support, he might not have gone so badly off course."

Cirdan watched as the wizard's fingers toyed lightly with a strand of the pale golden hair. "Perhaps, but one must discover such jewels as this for one's self. The Istari, after all, arrived here with little to aid them in their tasks beyond some limited physical and magical powers and their own minds. In order to have the slightest chance of succeeding, they had to seek here for what they would need in order to carry on. From the very start, my heart told me that Saruman would never fully understand how to look or where. You, on the other hand . . ." He shrugged. "Well, you began looking the moment you arrived, and you never stopped. You were patient, and you looked everywhere. You found what you needed, and for the most part you found it for yourself."

As Glorfindel listened to them, he had to blink back tears, and at the end he leaned over and rubbed one cheek against the Istar's before settling back in the circle of his arm. The talk turned to plans for the ship's departure a few days hence, and eventually Mithrandir and Glorfindel retired to the room they were to share. The Istar looked around and laughed as they entered. "Ah, Cirdan forgets nothing. The site of my most pleasant set of lessons during those early days. I think I shall sit here on the bed and watch you undress, if you don't mind. I'm sure it will have the same effect on me now as it did then."

A few hours later, Glorfindel lay sprawled across the heap of pillows, his eyes closed and his blond hair in considerable disarray, uttering a satisfied little "mmmm." at intervals. Mithrandir lay draped over his torso, his cheek against the Elf's broad chest, staring through half-closed eyes at the erect dark-pink nipple that he was rolling gently around with his forefinger. When he switched to pinching it delicately, Glorfindel's body jerked slightly, and he opened his eyes and smiled in a blend of affection and tolerant amusement.

"You cannot be ready again so soon . . . unless the White Istar has new powers that he has for some inexplicable reason kept well hidden from me all this time." He felt little puffs against his chest as Mithrandir laughed gently.

"No, I am not trying to lure you into anything more vigorous just yet, but you know how I love your nipples. Maybe now that we shall have so much time together, you can at last let me play with them for as long as I want to." He rolled the little bead between thumb and finger.

Glorfindel grunted softly and stroked the white hair. "For hours? I have never been quite sure whether your claim to want to do that was an offer or a threat."

The Istar raised his head briefly to look indignantly into Glorfindel's mocking eyes. "I should hope that you would regard it as an offer, my dear Elf."

"Perhaps, but surely if you ever were to carry through with it, they would become quite sore by the end."

Mithrandir frowned skeptically as he studied the little peak. "I would never do anything to make them sore." He leaned forward and kissed the nub with a feathery touch.

"Even the lightest caresses would surely have that effect after hours. And you have not always treated them quite as gently as you are now."

"Not in the heat of passion, of course, but I have never noticed you complaining. Quite the contrary. Besides, even granting that you are right, wouldn't a little soreness be worth it?"

Glorfindel glanced down at him warily, but the wizard's head was down on his chest again. The Elf said cautiously. "Possibly."

Mithrandir shrugged as well as he was able to in his position. "There is only one way to find out."

The Elf stretched lazily. "Well, given that I have not the strength left at this point to stop you, and as far as I can tell, you would never stop on your own, this may be your opportunity."

During half an hour in which the Istar displayed considerable imagination in the ways in which hands and lips and tongue could play with nipples, the Elf became increasingly amused and eventually, somewhat aroused. By that point the wizard was pushing his half-hard member against the Elf's thigh. He glanced up hopefully and found Glorfindel smiling at him. "All right, but you will have to bring that to me. I'm not moving."

With a grin Mithrandir rose and pivoted until his growing erection was beside the Elf's face. He bent his knee so that Glorfindel could rest his head on his thigh and lick the swollen shaft. The wizard leaned on one elbow and returned to pinching and rubbing the Elf's nipples with his free hand. He moaned as Glorfindel pulled the head of his cock into his mouth and circled it slowly with his tongue. As it continued to harden, it pushed further into the Elf's mouth. The wizard chuckled. "You see, all this with minimal effort needed from you." He twisted his head to observe the Elf's own member swelling distinctly, and he shifted his elbow until he could lean down and run his tongue up the ridge on the underside of the slender shaft, managing still to pinch and roll the erect nipple. He was rewarded by Glorfindel's beginning to suck in earnest, faster and deeper, until the Istar groaned at the sensation of his cock's tip being pulled into the Elf's throat. Finally he removed his hand from Glorfindel's chest and grasped the base of his nearly erect cock, kissing and licking the head until the shaft was rock-hard in his grasp and he could taste the drops that emerged from the slit. He lowered his open mouth over Glorfindel's cock, drawing it in slowly to prevent the Elf from thrusting involuntarily into him. He heard a harsh groan from his lover, muffled by his own cock deep in the Elf's throat.

Glorfindel seemed to have forgotten his weariness, rising onto his elbow and squirming slightly as he began to suck and lick eagerly, tickling the wizard's testicles with one hand and reaching around his thigh to insert a saliva-slicked finger into his tight opening. As it slipped further in and pressed at the front of the hot, moist passage, Mithrandir tensed and removed his mouth from the Elf's cock, managing to pump the shaft rapidly with his hand as he grimaced and groaned and spurts of thick liquid filled Glorfindel's throat. As the spasms slowly diminished Mithrandir licked the Elf's member, his panting sending little gusts over the wet skin and making Glorfindel shudder with need. As soon as the Istar caught his breath, he quickly drew half of the Elf's erection into his mouth and continued pumping the base with his fist as he sucked hard. Soon he was swallowing jets of Glorfindel's come as the Elf moaned and rolled his head hard against his thigh, clutching the sheet beneath the Istar's buttocks.

At last Mithrandir rose slightly and pivoted again so that he was lying alongside the Elf with his head against his shoulder. "Glorious," he murmured. He reached down and touched one pink nipple softly. "Not sore, I hope."

Glorfindel chuckled without opening his eyes. "No, not sore. Of course, that wasn't 'hours' either."

Mithrandir grinned. "Well, I'm not sure I would want to keep going literally for hours. On the other hand . . ." He leaned down and swiped his tongue slowly across one nipple. Glorfindel laughingly pushed him aside.

"Get away from there, you randy old fellow! Am I never to be left in peace?"

The Istar raised himself onto one elbow and looked at the Elf in mock exasperation. "Can I help it if you behave in such a provocative fashion?"

"I'm just lying here!"

Mithrandir grinned and shrugged. "Exactly."

Glorfindel wrapped his arms around the wizard's neck and pulled his head against the front of his shoulder, rubbing his cheek over the white hair. He blinked as the brightness of the sun, now low in the sky, shone directly through the window and into his eyes. "My sweet Mithrandir, the weather seems to have cleared. Do you feel energetic enough to go out and view the sunset? For so long we have been looking forward to sharing that again. I know we shall have a few more evenings here, but our last days in Middle-earth are so precious. And especially in this place . . ."

Mithrandir sat up at once and looked at the burnished globe, hanging low above the horizon. "Decidedly, yes, we must go out and savor that beauty-and all that it recalls."

The pair quickly washed, dressed, and went out, reaching the viewing platform while the sun was still a little way above the flat horizon. They noted that the platform's design had changed slightly as it was maintained and rebuilt over the years, but it was marvelously familiar nevertheless. Glorfindel, his heart filling with pleasure as he looked out over the waves toward the open sea at the end of the Firth, noticed a large white ship bobbing gently beside the quay far down the slope and to their left. He pointed it out to Mithrandir without comment. Each knew that the other felt a strong pang of the same longing. "Well, it will come soon enough," the Istar murmured.

"You seem sad, Mithrandir. Is it only because of your desire to depart for home?"

"Not entirely. I had long expected to go back with all the members of my order-or at least most of them. Not one is here. I suppose Radagast will be happy in the life that he has chosen. But Saruman. Despite all that he did, I cannot help but grieve at his downfall and wonder what caused him to go so wrong."

"Given that only one Istar has remained true to the end, one might rather wonder what caused you to endure so long without betrayal or abandonment of your mission. I have often pondered that question, in fact. Perhaps it was because your love for this place is stronger than any temptation that the Ring could offer you."

Mithrandir glanced at him, then looked thoughtfully out to sea as the sun touched the horizon.

Glorfindel went on, "Yes, you loved this place but cautiously. I suspect that all the others gave their hearts away rashly. Not to lovers, but in Radagast's case to the beauties of the forests and the living things he found there. Saruman, too, in a very different way, came to love Middle-earth but only to possess it and keep it for himself. Much though you loved what you found here, though, you never fully surrendered yourself to it-as Varda cautioned you not to. How you managed that, I do not know, but I am very grateful that you gave your heart only to me, and only when you could."

They indulged in a long, soft kiss before watching the sun disappear entirely. The pair looked at each other simultaneously and grinned as they realized that they were undoubtedly both recalling the same moment. After a short silence, Mithrandir chuckled. "Do you know, I came very close to not confessing my needs to you that night?"

"Were you embarrassed?"

"Somewhat, I suppose, but more unsure of how such things were viewed and dealt with here. You were very kind to take an old man into your bed. Of course, I already knew you were kind, or I would never have dared to ask."

"I told you, I did not think of you as an old man, even though I was a trifle amused when you first stepped off the ship. Not that the other Istari did not look like old men as well, but I simply had not known any of them on the other side. In the distant past, though, I don't believe I really had ever had much of a single visual impression of you. I thought of you more as a feeling, a voice inside me, even though I did occasionally see you in physical form. A wise being whom I admired and respected, to whom I was grateful for his patience, and who during that time was, I think, my best friend in the world. Despite being a bit taken aback by your revelation that first night, I soon realized that a sexual relationship could only enhance all the feelings that we shared."

"It has indeed done that-wonderfully." The Istar gazed down toward the white ship, then back at Glorfindel. "You know that I truly meant what I said to Cirdan this afternoon: that you have sustained me during all my long tasks and journeys here in Middle-earth. Your beauty, your warmth, your wit while we were together, and when we were apart-thoughts of you cheered me when little else could."

Glorfindel sighed and said simply. "I am glad, Mithrandir." He stared at his lover for a moment. "Is there any reason why you still keep Narya hidden?"

The Istar turned to him, startled, then smiled. "Not really. Its power is greatly diminished now. It is no longer invisible to all but a few-anyone can see it. And it is very beautiful, with its fiery red jewel. I suppose I can wear it now."

He reached deep inside his shirt and unfastened a little hidden pocket, drawing out the heavy ring, its band traced with foliage in Elven fashion and its bezel set with the great red stone holding a perpetual fire at its center. The wizard slipped it onto his finger, then shrugged. "There. Nothing hidden. Once we arrive on the other side, of course, I shall not wear it. Actually, I offered it to Cirdan, so that all three Rings could belong to Elves once more. He refused, however, and could not be persuaded. So, I intend to give it to you when we arrive in Eldamar."

"So that I may see your heart when you are away from me and comfort myself that you will return?"

Mithrandir smiled. "If you like to think of it that way. Certainly my love for you will burn as steadily and eternally as does the flame in the heart of this jewel. I have long thought that if you had been with Gil-galad at that great, dreadful battle, he might well have given Vilya to you rather than to Elrond. It seems fitting that the most glorious Elf I know should have such a Ring-though nothing can compete with your own beauty."

Glorfindel swallowed and said softly, "I shall treasure it." He hugged the Istar and finally pulled back to look into his face, holding his hands.

Mirthrandir gazed down at his aged hands, held in the graceful, youthful ones of the Elf. "Well, at least in future you will not need to put up with this old man's body. I can embody myself for you in a guise as beautiful as you yourself. Many different guises in fact."

Glorfindel raised his eyebrows and grinned. "That will be very pleasant. I suppose sometimes I can make requests and sometimes you can surprise me. Dozens, hundreds of beautiful lovers, and all of them you. Still, I hope that once in a while you will come to me as you are now, an old man. I have got used to this body--very fond of it indeed. I should hate never seeing it again, given that you were thus when we fell in love."

"Occasionally, why not, if you like?" Mithrandir reached up and stroked the Elf's cheek gently. "We shall have all the time that there will ever be in this world."

The end

This series is dedicated to Sarah, whose kindness and enthusiasm for wizard slash have given me tremendous pleasure and encouragement.