The Search

Chapter 18: Apologies

by Jay of Lasgalen

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As he reached his rooms, Elrohir closed the door behind him and leaned against it with a long sigh.   Despite his deep weariness, and continuing concern about his brother, he could not prevent the smile that crept unbidden across his face.  Elladan was awake and alert, and had finally been convinced that his twin lived.  He would recover.  For now, that was enough.  There would be time later to worry about the injury to Elladan’s arm, his inability to move his hand or fingers, the possibility of muscular damage – and Beregar’s unexpected accusation.

Ignoring his bed – he was desperately tired, but knew if he so much as lay down he would sleep until the next day – Elrohir went instead to the bathing room, drawing a deep, hot bath.  He unbound his hair, noticing that in places it was still caked with dried blood and mud from when the horse had kicked him, and stripped off his grimy, travel-stained, blood-stained clothes, kicking them into a corner to deal with later.  He realised with faint disgust that he had been wearing the same things since he, Elladan and Legolas had left Marla and Dacy over two days ago. 

He lay a long time in the deep water, revelling in the warm, sybaritic luxury, letting the aches and pains of their long journey, and the endless day and night he had just endured, soak away.  Finally rousing himself,  he ducked his head beneath the water, washing his hair thoroughly, rinsing away the blood and dirt from their journey.

At last Elrohir felt clean.  Leaving the now lukewarm water, he wrapped a towel about his waist, dressing swiftly in fresh, clean clothes, and combing and braiding his hair while it was still damp.  He did not know how long Elladan would sleep for, and did not want him to awaken alone.  As soon as possible, he returned to the infirmary.

He arrived to find the door to Elladan’s room slightly ajar.  Pushing it open, he expected to find his parents, or Arwen, or Legolas, or possibly one of the healers.  Instead, he saw a familiar, though unwelcome, dark haired figure leaning over Elladan, his back to the door.

A momentary panic and distrust flared through him.  “Beregar!  What do you want?  What are you doing here?” Elrohir snapped.  “Leave Elladan alone!”

The figure straightened, startled, and turned quickly.  “Lord Elrohir!  I – I was just – I did not hear you come in,”  Beregar stammered.

“I said, what are you doing here?” Elrohir demanded again.  He crossed to the bed, and glanced down at Elladan.  He relaxed slightly as he saw that his brother still slept peacefully, and appeared undisturbed.  Turning, Elrohir glared at Beregar again.  “Well?” he asked suspiciously.

Beregar did not meet Elrohir’s gaze, and dropped his head to stare at the floor.  “I – I thought you might be here.  And … I came to see Elladan,” he explained hesitantly.  “I did not know what had happened.  I did not know he was so ill.  And – I came to apologise for my words to you.  For my outburst yesterday.”  He lifted his gaze from the floor, and finally met Elrohir’s eyes.  “Lord Elrohir, forgive me.  I know that you would never have allowed any harm to come to Bereth if you could have prevented it.  I –I spoke in grief. And anger.”

His earlier mistrust faded, and Elrohir regarded Beregar with sympathy.  He knew the brothers had been very close, although Bereth had been many years younger than his siblings.  Beregar looked, and sounded, very downcast.  And fearful, too – with good reason.  In many ancient Elven societies, an accusation such as he had made – especially against his Lord’s family – could have resulted in exile.  Such laws had never been repealed, although they were no longer used in Imladris.  “You are forgiven, Beregar.  Although I pray I never know your grief, I do know what it is to love a brother – and to fear for his life.  Of course I forgive you,” he said gently.

Beregar let out a long sigh.  “Thank you, my Lord.  Thank you.  And – I hope Lord Elladan will be well.”

Elrohir smiled for the first time since entering the room.  “He will be.  Beregar, I have a request.  After a day journeying together, I managed to persuade Bereth to stop calling me ‘Lord’ Elrohir.  Will you do the same?”

Beregar nodded.  “Yes, my Lord.”  He flushed, nodded again,  and added “Yes, I will try.  Good day.”  He left the room hurriedly.

Still standing by the edge of the bed, Elrohir stared after Beregar, then looked down at Elladan again.  For a brief, insane moment,  he had  really believed that Beregar meant to harm Elladan.  Shaking his head in disbelief at his own suspicions – his exhaustion and anxiety was making him irrational – he released a long sigh, and took his now customary position beside his twin, leaning against the bed head.

“I hope you did not hear that, El,” he murmured.  “It was not one of my finer moments – you would not have been proud of me.  I am not particularly proud of myself.  What was I thinking?  I know Beregar would never harm you!  Thank the Valar I stopped short of saying anything more serious.”  He fell silent, and closed his eyes, still weary. 

A thought occurred to him, and he opened his eyes again, taking Elladan’s injured hand in his.  Although Elladan could not move his hand himself, any movement of his fingers and wrist would strengthen the muscles and aid his recovery.  Gently, not wanting to awaken him, Elrohir began to carefully flex his brother’s fingers, straightening and bending them, using his thumb to massage the palm of Elladan’s hand.  Very carefully, not wanting to pull at the healing incision on his arm, he turned the wrist as well, moving it up and down.  Finally satisfied, he finished by monitoring Elladan’s pulse.  It was nearly normal, and his temperature, too, was close to what it should be.

As he worked, Elrohir reviewed the conversations he had had with Beregar – both that morning, and the previous day.  He could not fault Beregar for his words – his own reaction at finding Beregar standing over Elladan spoke eloquently of the effect fear, grief and worry could have – but he realised that he would have to speak to Aeluin again.  It had been discourteous to have left so abruptly, especially as Aeluin had offered no censure of him, and had accepted his explanation of her son’s death.

Elrohir gently placed Elladan’s arm across his chest.  His brother still slept peacefully, although it was always disconcerting to see him with his eyes closed like that.  He knew that that was how Elladan had found him at Barlynch, and wished again that his memories of awakening to find Elladan caring for him were clearer, but his recollection of the moment was hazy, to say the least.  His thoughts drifted again to the endless, yet swiftly flowing days when he had been tending to the sick, and sadness swept over him as he remembered anew the children who had died there. 

As if on cue, the sound of laughter drew his attention to the window, which had been opened to greet the dawn.  Elrohir crossed the room to look down into a garden where elflings raced between the trees and swung, squealing, from the branches.  One of the older elflings suddenly saw him, and straightened, looking up at him contritely.  “Lord El!  I’m sorry, are we making too much noise?  I told them we should be quieter near the infirmary!”  He gestured at the others, still playing happily.

Elrohir smiled at the boy. “No, of course not.  Your laughter will do us all good – and that does look like fun!”  He indicated an elfling who was hanging upside down from a rather high branch.

“Oh, it is!” the boy agreed.  “Thank you, Lord El!”  The name had been coined by a rather bold elfling some years previously, and had quickly caught on.  With a wave, Elrohir turned from the window, and returned to the bed.  The shouts and laughter were soothing, not disturbing, and Elrohir listened, smiling, remembering the games and adventures he, Elladan and Arwen had had in their childhood.  He was skirting the edge of dreams when the door opened once again and Elrond entered. 

His father did not look particularly pleased to see him.  “I thought I told you to get some sleep?” he asked with resignation.

“You did,” Elrohir agreed.  “But I did not want El to wake and find me gone.  Not yet.”

Elrond nodded with a wry smile.  He should have known.  The twins had always been the same.  Whenever one of them had been hurt, they tended to revert to a habit from childhood.  When very young, they had been unable to sleep out of sight of the other.  “I suppose you would like me to ask someone to make up a bed for you in here?” he enquired.

“There is no need, I can use the couch again.  Arwen found a pillow.”  Then Elrohir looked at his father again.  “If you are going to be here for a while, I want to see Aeluin again – I owe her an apology.”

Elrond looked a little puzzled.  “Aeluin?  I think she is in the storeroom – she was making an inventory of the medicines and equipment.  Why an apology?”

Elrohir had forgotten that he had not mentioned Beregar’s accusation to anyone other than Arwen – and that had only been because he had been too shaken to hide it from her.  “Oh – when I spoke to her yesterday, I left rather suddenly,” he prevaricated.

“I understand,” Elrond told him gently.  “It cannot have been easy for you.  Go, I will stay with Elladan.”

Elrohir found Aeluin at the back of the huge room that held all their medical supplies, deep in her work, counting under her breath.  He waited until she had made a note on her record sheet, then said softly, “Aeluin?” 

She turned quickly.  “Lord Elrohir!  Is – is there any news of your brother?  I did not know about him until I came on duty this morning.”

“He will be well,” he reassured her.  “But Aeluin, that is not why I am here.  I came to apologise for my abrupt departure yesterday.  I am sorry for my discourtesy.”

“After what Beregar said?  I was afraid the two of you would come to blows.  He was wrong to say what he did.  I told him that,”  Aeluin assured him. 

Elrohir frowned.  “But I understand why he said it.  I understand his grief and anger,”  he admitted.

“Yes.  And I realise now that when you came to see me, you did not know if your brother would survive the night.  Yet you took the time to talk to me.  Lord Elrohir, there is nothing to forgive.  Not for anything,” Aeluin concluded firmly.

Elrohir felt a great weight fall from him as he realised fully that neither Aeluin nor Beregar held him responsible for Bereth’s death.  Not now. “Thank you,” he told her, then left her to her counting once more.

He returned to Elladan’s room to find his brother awake, looking mutinous.  “He thinks he is well enough to get up,” Elrond said grimly.  “He is not.  The fever has left him dizzy and disorientated.  Elladan, you are not to move from that bed until I say you are well enough!” he concluded firmly.

Elladan glared mulishly at the door after Elrond had left, then looked pleadingly at his brother.  “El, I need your help,” he begged.  “I need to go.  I need to go there,”  he pointed to the door that lead to the bathing room and privy.

“I see,”  Elrohir said carefully.  “And you think you can get that far?”

“Not on my own,” Elladan admitted.  “Which is why I need your help.  Please, Elrohir!”

Elrohir hesitated, looking in the direction their father had taken.  “Very well,” he said at last.  “But I hope Father never finds out about this.  Come on.”  He helped his brother to sit, then placed Elladan’s arm across his shoulders, and wrapped his own arm around Elladan’s waist.  As he stood, Elladan swayed a little, and Elrohir nearly repented.  “Are you sure about this, El?”

“Yes!  How would you like it?”

“Come on, then.”

Very slowly, Elrohir helped his twin across the room, taking more and more of his weight as they went.  It was rather worrying just how weak Elladan was.  At the door, Elladan disengaged himself, and leaned against the frame.  “Thank you.  I can manage now,” he said with exaggerated politeness.

“Of course you can,” Elrohir sounded disbelieving.  He watched as Elladan took a few steps towards the privy, leaning heavily against the wall, then added, “Do you need me to hold it for you?”

He watched with a grin as Elladan gave a snort of laughter, and managed to fling a damp towel at him.  “Shut up, little brother!” he ordered.  “Or I will tell Father that this was your idea!”

Elladan’s sense of humour was intact.  It had to be a good omen for his recovery.

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