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Once A Guardian by Laurelin

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Story notes:
Writing prompt: protection
Chapter notes:
In the Pilgrim universe, this takes place in the first winter of Elessar's reign. Place of action is Thranduil’s court in Mirkwood, where Haldir and Legolas have just arrived for an extended sojourn / hibernation.

There was joy between these walls again. Mirth and merriment had found their way back to the halls that had long been bereft of music and laughter, and Galion could not help but whistle to himself as he padded along the now abandoned corridors. Life at court would resume its normal course in an hour or so, but as of yet, all was still shrouded in silence, awaiting daybreak.

Galion was not bothered by the earliness of the hour. He had served the Mirkwood crown for as long as anyone could remember, and as head butler, he had walked these morning rounds since long before the birth of the Prince, whose triumphant return had been so extravagantly celebrated the night before. His allegiance to the new King had long kept Legolas in Gondor, but the first winter winds had finally brought the Prince home, and his new husband along with him.

Galion drew his robe a little more closely about him, the keys at his belt jingling with every step. He was just approaching the Prince's quarters, a section of the palace that had not been part of his daily itinerary for quite some time. Leaving his torch in its metal ring beside the door, he searched for the proper key while listening quietly at the door for a moment or two. Once convinced that all was silent inside, he soundlessly unlocked the door and entered.

Having no difficulty finding his way in the dark, Galion glided across the room, eyes discreetly avoiding the silent forms on the bed. He knelt before the fireplace and placed some fresh logs on top of yesterday's cold ashes, using his tinderbox to get a little fire started and shuffling the logs about until the arrangement was to his satisfaction. With contentment he watched the flames lick greedily at the wood, allowing himself a moment to enjoy the warmth before heading out into the chilly corridors again. As he rose to his feet and turned away to leave, tucking the tinderbox back into his robe, his gaze involuntarily swept the room and this time, his eyes could not help but linger on the sleeping pair on the bed.

Galion was not a voyeur by nature. His job required that he be discreet about the things he witnessed in the private chambers he visited every day. A good butler operated like a shadow, soundless and unseen, and did not pass judgment on the things he saw behind closed doors. That was the code of honour and Galion followed it strictly, but he was not made of stone, and the endearing tableau that greeted him this morning made him forget himself for a moment.

The two warrior-elves slept in close proximity of each other, facing away from Galion, away from the hearth. The Prince was enveloped safely in the Marchwarden's arms, the latter's body wrapped protectively around that of his younger companion. Underneath the blankets both were unclothed, but it was such a peaceful and tender scene that Galion felt unashamed looking at them. They were beautiful together, and how could one not be fascinated by beauty? Although the Prince and the Galadhel had been romantically involved for many years, Haldir had never visited Mirkwood in the capacity as the Prince's lover, and no one had ever had the opportunity to see them interact on that level until last night. The Marchwarden was not the sort of elf who generally enjoyed being the centre of attention, but he had borne himself remarkably well, considering the amount of public scrutiny he had been subjected to, and it seemed likely that he would soon be as well-loved as he was respected. The large scar that ran parallel to his spine was clearly visible and Galion could not help but look at that as well as he drew closer, both horrified and intrigued by this dreadful souvenir of the Helm's Deep battle that Haldir would be carrying with him for the rest of his life. That battle, and more specifically Haldir's return from the Halls of Mandos, was already legendary, and would no doubt inspire poets and minstrels for years to come.

Smiling, Galion was about to turn away and leave the two lovebirds to themselves, when Legolas stirred and murmured something Galion's ears didn't catch. Under the mistaken impression that the Prince had awakened and was speaking to him, Galion instinctively leaned in closer, not noticing the shudder that ran through Haldir's body until it was too late. Suddenly a strong hand closed around his throat and squeezed his windpipe shut, cutting off all oxygen. Startled, Galion gulped desperately for air as he scrabbled blindly at Haldir’s fingers, but damnation, that elf had a hand like an iron vice. In fact, Galion’s struggles only seemed to make his predicament more dire, as Haldir throttled him ever harder, his eyes open but glazed over, staring at Galion without recognizing him. His handsome face was contorted into a snarl, one that was clearly meant for someone only he could see. Galion’s vision was starting to go dark around the edges and he might have fainted, had not Legolas woken up and intervened.

“Haldir,” the Prince urged softly, touching his mate on the arm. “Let go, meleth. My father will not look kindly on you murdering his butler.”

“Butler?” Haldir repeated blurrily, his grip slackening somewhat.

“It’s Galion, he is a friend. There are no orcs here, Haldir, no enemies of any kind.” Legolas’s voice dropped to a whisper, soothing and affectionate. “This is home. Do you remember?”

Haldir hummed something inaudible, but he did let go at last, causing Galion to fall forward panting and gasping.

“Please allow me to apologize on my husband’s behalf, Galion,” Legolas said, smiling gently. “Old habits die hard.”

Galion raised himself up with some effort, struggling to regain control of his breathing and of himself. Amazingly, Haldir was unaware of the commotion he had caused and seemed to have gone right back to sleep, if indeed he had been truly awake to begin with. “It is nothing, my Prince,” Galion rasped, feeling his throat gingerly. “I… Forgive me for intruding, I did not mean—”

“Is it very late?” Legolas interrupted him lightly, stretching himself. “We may have shamefully overslept-- it’s been a while since we partook in such debauchery as last night’s celebration.”

“The sun is not yet out, my Prince. Stay abed as long as you please.” Galion glanced furtively at the sleeping Marchwarden, lowering his voice to a whisper. “Is… is there anything I can get you before I take my leave?”

Legolas shook his head as he gazed at his silver-haired mate with a beatific smile on his face. “No, thank you, Galion,” he said. “I already have everything I need right here.”