Theme: Yuletide Exchange
Elements: Erestor, dawn, ochre, salt
Author's Notes: They would not cooperate with dawn, dear. I really hope you enjoy this.
Beta: E. Moulan
Summary: Erestor and Gil-galad take a mental health day at the beach.
Word Count: 2,012
The sun was warm and the skies clear, but the breeze off the ocean was cool. It was a perfect day for the beach, or at least Erestor had thought so. It hadn’t taken much convincing for Gil to come with him either. Their lives in Tirion were busy and filled with endless social responsibilities, so it was a treat to schedule a day with absolutely nothing to do. With some help from Galadriel, they decided on a picnic lunch and a visit to a nice, quiet cove outside of the city.
Erestor sat on a yellow ochre blanket on the sand, legs tucked up to his chest and his arms wrapped around them. The water glittered in the sunshine and the waves came frequently, lapping against the shore. As Galadriel had promised, this stretch of beach was quiet and there were few people to share the view with. Their day had been spent wandering along the beach, climbing the rocks and looking at the many and varied shells that were scattered along the sand. Now he watched as Gil waded to shore after a leisurely swim in the ocean. The waves pushed and pulled at him, but Gil only laughed and kept going, striding out of the water and onto the beach. It was like something out of a fantasy, Erestor thought, but it was real: Gil was real.
He came to a standstill in front of Erestor, who looked up at him and said succinctly, “Don’t even think about it.”
“No?” Gil grinned. Water drops slid down him and he ran fingers through wet curls before giving himself a good shake.
“You don’t want to come join me?”
“No, I am quite content right here. That water is cold.”
“You’ll get used to it fast.”
“Do you really miss Námo that much?” Erestor asked, eyebrow raised.
Gil laughed. “I don’t think he’d be much impressed with me on his doorstep again.”
“I don’t think so either.”
Erestor scooted over, making space on the blanket. Gil stretched out beside him and relaxed, letting the sun dry him.
His arm was folded behind his head, and to Erestor’s eyes, he looked quite content. He was glad for this, the whole point of this outing had been to give them both a break from court life and a bit of time to themselves.
“Was there any food left?”
Erestor shook his head and looked over to the wicker basket beside them. He had filled it with bread, cheese, fruit and some very good wine for their beach-side lunch. “I fed the birds what was left of the bread. But there’s wine.”
Gil grunted. “You’re going to spoil them and they’ll be unbearable for eternity.”
“You’re thinking of the ones in Lindon.” Erestor leaned over and rummaged in the basket for the wineskin. He found a small leftover piece of cheese wrapped in paper and handed it to Gil. He kept the wineskin for himself.
“Fat, spoilt gulls.” Gil said. He propped himself up with an elbow and unwrapped the cheese. As if on cue, a bird landed nearby and hopped across the sand to investigate them curiously. Gil tossed the piece of cheese in his mouth. “None for you. Don’t want you hounding me in the future each time you hear the crinkle of a wrapper.”
Erestor laughed at him. “I thought you said I was the dramatic one.”
“You are, of course. I’m the sensible one. We agreed on this.”
Erestor stared at him, his hand poised to uncap the wineskin. “We did? Why don’t I remember this?”
“You might have been drunk at the time.”
“Oh, I thought that’s what it was,” Erestor smirked, untwisting the cap, “It doesn’t count then.” He took a long drink.
“In wine there is truth.” Gil held out his hand for the wineskin. “Though to be fair, that wasn’t wine, that was dwarf whisky.”
Erestor frowned. “How long ago was that? That whisky is damn rare. Gimli’s made a small fortune off the stash he brought with him.”
“What he’ll sell of it.” Gil crooked his fingers, a reminder to hand over the wine. “I think he’s working on making his own too.”
Erestor passed the wineskin over to him and then stretched out on the blanket as well. The wine, the sun and the sound of the water, the steady presence of Gil beside him, all left him feeling flushed and content. “I remember now. My birthday - I was homesick and you had this grand idea to invite everyone over to our new house…”
“Yes. And you were happy to be out of the palace anyway.”
“I still feel like one of the help there.” Erestor shrugged. “Even living with you part-time in one of the many royal suites didn’t help much with that.”
Gil made a noise low in his throat but wisely left it alone. They’d gone around and around on that one. “That’s one of the reasons we moved, yes,” he said equably. “Plenty of people showed up, there were enough gifts to please a hobbit and lots of laughter at the party. It went well, I thought.”
“Even Gildor showed up, yes, for all of an hour, before he had somewhere else to be.” Erestor rolled his eyes. “But it was nice that he showed. I hope you aren’t insinuating I’m a hobbit, by the way.”
“Well, let me check your feet…” Gil made a show of trying to look and Erestor smacked him on the shoulder.
“Just because I’m on the short side for an elf does not mean I’ll ever stand for hobbit jokes.”
“I would never seriously compare you to a hobbit. A dragon with your pile of shiny things, maybe.” Gil’s mouth twitched in that way Erestor knew meant he was laughing at him.
“You’re lucky I’m fed and uninterested in all the effort it would take to hurt you.”
Gil shrugged his shoulder, rather like one of those lazy but dangerous panthers Erestor had seen once in Harad. “You could try, but I’m bigger than you, remember. You should feel honored that Gildor made an appearance anyway. He wouldn’t have come if he didn’t care about you still. Though it might have been more because he was curious who else showed up.”
“Checking out the guest list, yes.” Erestor recalled that night with a smile. “The whisky was later, though, much later. After everyone cleared out and we looked at the mess and decided to leave it until morning.”
Gil drank deeply, then capped the wineskin and tossed it over to the basket. He rested a hand beside Erestor and looked down at him, shielding him from the sun with his body. “Helped, didn’t it?”
“The whisky or what happened after the whisky?” Erestor smiled, a bit of husk to his voice.
“Both? Either.” Gil’s fingers brushed against his cheekbone, stirring warmth through him.
“The party, my friends, the whisky from my old home…the fact that I have a new home with you now,” Erestor said, earnest and quiet. “All of that helped.”
“Good. I want to help, I know learning to live here has been difficult.”
“A bit,” Erestor shrugged his shoulders and laughed quietly. “I’ll always miss Endor. And your family is crazy. I never expected to be spending so much time with royalty.”
“But they’ve got their own charm, you have to admit. And people are people at the end of the day, even if crowns are involved and all that fuss about bloodlines. You learned that with me a long time ago.”
Erestor covered Gil’s hand with his. “Yes, I did. I see where you get your brand of charm, too. Finduilas doesn’t have quite as much of it, but it still comes out at opportune moments, I’ve noticed.”
“Quiet but resourceful.” Gil’s smile was fond. Without thinking, Erestor touched it with his fingers, tracing the curve of his lips, fingers coming to rest at the corner of his mouth, near the dimple. Gil stayed still as he did this, steady blue eyes holding his.
Erestor moved his hand across Gil’s cheek and down to curve around the back of his neck and bring Gil’s face closer to his. Gil took the generous hint and kissed him, winding fingers through soft black hair. They kissed unhurriedly, taking their time with each other; with this rare day to themselves, they had all the time in the world. Erestor’s free hand moved restlessly over the broad expanse of Gil’s back, skin sunwarm and mostly dry.
It could have gotten more heated and almost did, but Erestor tugged on Gil’s arm and shook his head. “Not here, someone could come along. Later.”
Gil was clearly reluctant, but asked, “You promise?”
“Promise.” Erestor smiled.
They drifted apart after a few more kisses, Gil coming to rest beside him, lying with his arm stretched out and Erestor nestled in the crook of his shoulder. They listened to the water and the cry of the birds, and Erestor felt as though sailing had all been worth the upheaval of leaving, the wondering on that long journey, the displacement. All for moments like these.
“You’re like salt, you know.”
“Salt?” Gil sounded puzzled. “What are you on about, love?”
Erestor moved, propping himself up to look down at Gil and a hand resting on his chest for balance. “Well, like salt, too much of you can be awful…”
“Hey!” Gil grunted and looked unimpressed.
“Hush and listen. Sometimes you’re overbearing, yes, but just enough of you and life has a whole other dimension to it. Opens up the world. Like salt for food.” Erestor touched his warm skin, felt the strong, steady heartbeat under his hand. “And I lived a long time without you. I did find happiness and meaning in life again, with other people, for a time…”
“I never wished for you to be unhappy, you know,” Gil commented quietly. “I’m not that selfish.”
“I know, Gil.” Erestor’s smile was soft. “I know. But coming here, seeing you. It was like tasting food with salt after a long time without. The world’s brighter, everything tastes better, I go to sleep and I get to wake up next to you…”
“Careful, that almost sounds romantic.” Gil’s words were said lightly but the look in his eyes had no such lightness.
“Must be the wine. Quick, say something about your family.”
Gil reached down and pinched his bum. “Leave my family out of this moment and just tell me you love me. I think that’s what you were getting at with all those metaphors?”
Erestor glared at him. “Maybe. Or maybe not. Maybe I was just saying the Last Homely House had a bad cook.”
Gil laughed. “I doubt it. El always considered a well cooked meal a pleasure after all that camp life.”
“Fine, I love you.” Erestor tried to be gruff about it, but it came out altogether too soft at the end.
Gil’s laughter died away, leaving a smile on his face. “I love you too. After all this time…maybe some things are meant to be.”
“Yes, they are.” Erestor agreed, then sat up and looked around. “I think we should go home now, though.”
“Want to make good on your promise?” Gil asked.
“That, and I’m pretty sure those birds are back and eyeing us. We have no more food, we might be next.”
“I told you not to feed them.” Gil got up and stretched before reaching for his shirt. He shook the sand out of it and slipped it on, and then gathered the basket and put the wine skin away. Erestor sighed, his lovely view of Gil’s naked chest and broad shoulders hidden from sight for now, but he picked up the blanket and their shoes. He gave the sea one last look, glittering under the sun, waves curling and lapping against the shore, then reached out his free hand to Gil.
“Take me home?”
Gil took Erestor’s hand in his and leaned down for a kiss. “Always.”