It was well after midnight when Elrond, having struggled for hours to find sleep without success, finally decided that perhaps he would do better to invest his time in work, and crawled from his bed. As he pulled on his dressing gown and felt about with his bare feet for the slippers that he was certain he had left at his bedside on retiring after supper the previous day, he decided that he would go to the healing rooms and relieve the healer on duty until dawn.
With a frustrated sigh, he padded quietly out of his bedroom and down the passageway to the nearest flight of stairs. A few minutes later, he was in the healing rooms and listening to hastily prepared handover from the stuttering young elf who had been stationed there overnight.
The patients had not changed since the previous afternoon. There were still only two: a distressed new mother, who was apparently fast asleep; and the captain of the guard - Lord Glorfindel, who had apparently not slept all night.
"Why has he not slept?" Elrond enquired of the young healer. "Is he in pain?"
The youth blushed and shook his head. "He said that he was not tired and, I apologise, my lord, but I was too intimidated by him to try to order him to rest." He lowered his eyes when Elrond shot him a piercing look. "I apologise, my lord," he repeated.
Elrond nodded and dismissed the healer, telling him that he would see him the following evening. It would be unfair, he decided, to chew the boy out for not even trying to order Glorfindel around when he was just about to retire to bed. He would remind the youth of his duties as a healer when he next saw him.
He spent a few minutes reading each patient's case notes and filling in the gaps of knowledge that the younger healer had left out of his handover. The mother, if she felt well enough to return to her quarters and her newborn child, would do so tomorrow morning. Lord Glorfindel, however, who was lacking more than sleep and had suffered multiple traumas from a stray warg, would probably remain in the healing rooms for a few weeks yet.
After pushing aside the curtain across the entrance to the cubicle containing the young mother and confirming, as the young healer had told him, that she was indeed fast asleep, Elrond moved further down the corridor to the cubicle under whose drawn curtain he could see streaming a bright stream of silvery light, so bright that he could tell already that the elf-lord - for whatever reason - had switched on every single lamp at hand.
He paused just beyond the curtain and took a deep breath, then - exhaling - he reached out and drew back the curtain. On seeing the sight before him, he frowned.
Seemingly, the young healer had also failed to persuade Glorfindel to even get into bed. Elrond gazed curiously at the golden haired figure sitting before the open window in one of the healing room's wheelchairs, his back to him. Cradled in bandages from nearly head to foot, a supportive collar around his neck and brace around his torso, the elf-lord looked so far from his so-called infalliable image that it was almost comical.
"What are you doing out of bed?" Elrond ventured.
Glorfindel stirred and reached down to grasp one of the wheels of the chair. A half turn and he was facing Elrond, his eyes - normally bright, were a disappointing shade of washed-out gray. He smiled crookedly over the rim of the collar. "Elrond. Here to discharge me?"
Elrond snorted softly. "Nay." His gaze dropped to the small colourless bottle that was lying in the captain's lap, tucked between a hand and the part of his legs. It was empty. "A whole bottle of miruvor will do you no more good than a thimbleful of the liquid, my friend."
Glorfindel began to chuckle, then broke off with a wince. "And there, you are wrong. It may be used for medicinal purposes only, but it is still an alcoholic drink. And a very pleasant tasting one at that, might I add," he added.
"And an extremely precious one," Elrond replied, stepping forward to take the drained bottle from the other noble. He set it down on the floor by the curtain. "The percentage of alcohol is miniscule; you would have done better to get one of the guards to smuggle in a bottle of wine for you."
"I did ask them," the captain admitted, "but none of them have arrived with the goods." A resigned look entered his face. "My condition must have really frightened them."
"Your condition would frighten you if I withheld your next dose of analgesia," Elrond said.
Glorfindel's face clouded. "My condition already frightens me, Elrond," he said quietly. He turned his head slightly to look at the bed, a brooding expression entering his face. "I do not do wailing and crying well so I will spell it out to you; you are looking upon someone who is facing their worst fear."
Elrond did not say anything.
"I will not be an invalid, Elrond," Glorfindel added then. He suddenly turned his gaze back onto the half-elf, his eyes defiant, angry... helpless.
Elrond raised a hand placatingly. "I never said you would be," he said softly.
"Do not use that tone with me," the captain snapped, his face darkening. "I know that I am standing on the tip of a knife. That creature shattered my spine; when I was a youth, that spelled certain death. Healers have come a long way since that Age, but there is still no way to repair a snapped spinal cord. If the swelling goes down and I am still unable to use my legs, then I will kill myself."
Elrond's eyes narrowed. "Do you have a plan yet?"
"Aye, I do. And more than one, in case some well-meaning fool such as you who has not yet grasped the concept of quality of life tries to stop me," the captain hissed. "I did not choose to try a second time at surviving until the end of Arda in order to live as a paraplegic."
"Then why did you choose to return to Middle-earth at all?" Elrond asked coldly. "Why did you choose to accept the role of captain of the guard of Imladris and not some secure, sedentary councillor position in Forlond or the Havens?"
Glorfindel glared at him. "Are you telling me that this is my fault? That, somehow, I am to blame for my current condition?"
"Aye. Partly. That is exactly what I am telling you. You chose..."
"You sent me out there!" the captain snarled. "And now you have not only condemned me to live as an invalid for the rest of my life, but have the audacity to blame me for being attacked by that warg?"
"You agreed to go," Elrond said icily. "We weighed up the risks and thought that the mission would be safe, but we were wrong. And I am sorry - sincerely sorry - that this happened, and that I - ignorant of your feelings regarding the matter - sewed your body back together and revived you. But there is nothing else that I can do for you."
There was a long silence. Then Elrond exhaled and looked at the bed. "You should be in bed," he said then, his voice quiet again.
"Screw the bed," Glorfindel muttered.
Elrond sighed again and entered the room to pull back the covers of the bed. "I will help you," he said, looking back at the elf lord.
In response, Glorfindel shot him a sour look, then manipulated the wheel of the chair so that the vehicle spun away to once again face the open window.
Elrond stared at his back for a long while. Then, his shoulders slumping, he padded around the wheelchair and sat down on the window seat, in front of the captain. Glorfindel glanced at him resentfully, then looked back out of the window.
Elrond sighed. "Most elves would choose a different life from yours, Glorfindel," he said. "Most of them would choose to cherish Ilúvatar's gift by remaining in Elvenhome, by not taking risks, by electing to live a quiet life of caution and sameness. For most of us, myself included, that is enough to satisfy our lust for living. Not so you." He folded his arms and glanced out of the window, at the glittering stars and moon that cast the valley in a blueish-white light. Then he looked back at Glorfindel. "Elros told me that he would have rather lived the shorter life of an unblessed human than endure - as he named it - the suffocating monotony of elvish culture. After he made his decision, vitality seemed to be his ever constant companion. He was always fighting for something; always searching, always doing something with great energy and inspiration. Final death always nipped at his feet, yet that impending doom only increased his hope and - ironically - his will to live. Gone were the days when he would think - oh, I will delay that until tomorrow - and then say the same thing the next day, and the next, and the next. Elves can postpone everything everyday, can afford to turn down opportunities; humans cannot - they keep on fighting, even on their deathbed. Yet you, Glorfindel, you are as reckless - as indomitable - as a human."
Across from him, Glorfindel's gaze shifted back to him. The brooding anger had left the captain's eyes.
"You remind of Elros."
There was a long silence.
"Please keep fighting - for a little longer."
Glorfindel exhaled heavily and suddenly reached down to the wheels of the chair. He spun the chair around and drove it to the side of the bed before reaching down further to flip on the chair brakes.
"Help me," he said then, his voice quiet, resigned once more.