Summary: Estel gets hurt, but it's Elrond who feels a true pain.
A/N: No time for a beta, and English is not my first language, so please forgive any mistakes
“Can’t it wait a little longer?”
“He needs to learn.”
“But he’s still just a boy…”
“You think because you see him every day. He’s growing fast.”
“Elladan and Elrohir were much older when you did that with them.”
“But as mature as he is now. Men grow up faster.”
“He may be ready, but I don’t know if I am,” Elrond sighed.
“You will. Just don’t tell lady Gilraen, or she will kill us both.”
“Mind your feet!”
“Step and parry!”
“Don’t follow the sword with your eyes! You need to feel where it is all the time!”
“Enough of warm-up, let’s fight for real!”
Elrond averted his face from the scene. Hiding in the shadow of the balcony, he was watching the usual morning training routine Estel had with Glorfindel, knowing it it’s not going to be so usual this day. He looked at the table with healing supplies. He had everything prepared. Any moment now…
“Do not stop!”
“But you cut me!”
“And I will cut you more if you allow it! Pick up your sword and fight!”
“I’m bleeding! I need to see Ada!”
Elrond gritted his teeth. Everything inside him screamed to rush down there. His child was hurt. But he knew he can’t do that. He would ruin Glorfindel’s lesson. And that lesson might save Estel’s life someday.
“Pick up the sword!”
“But it hurts! I can’t move my hand!”
“You can and you will! It’s just a surface wound!”
Clang of steel on steel. Glorfindel attacked and Estel had no other option than to lift the sword quickly and parry his blows.
“That’s unfair!” the boy’s voice sounded shakily after a short exchange. Elrond looked down. Glorfindel had him on the point of his sword, his blue eyes cold and unrelenting when he met Estel’s grey ones.
“Fair? Do you think a fight is fair? It’s just a training when you stop after getting hurt, not a real fight. Do you think the enemy will stop when you ask him? Do you think you can put your guard down because you are hurt? A fight is not an exercise. It doesn’t matter who has a better technique. What matters is who walks away alive at the end. Technique is just a means to that goal. Determination is another, and pain is just a distraction. You must learn to not let it distract you. Now pick up your sword and fight!”
Now Estel understood the lesson. Elrond could see it from the tightening of his jaw and fast grip on the sword. Blood was running down his hand, staining the blade. Just a flesh wound, Elrond reminded himself. Glorfindel know what he was doing, he would never cause any serious harm. It was still painful, having to watch as his child was hurting, and not being able to do anything. But he also felt a surge of pride when Estel assumed a battle stance against Glorfindel. There was something in his eyes that revealed a future man in the boy, something as strong as steel. He hissed in pain once as their swords met for the first time, but made no other sound after that. He fought in silence, meeting Glorfindel’s attack with full focus, feeling the pain, but not letting it distract him.
It was Glorfindel who ended the lesson after a while. “That’s enough,” he said softly. “You learnt well. Now let Elrond take care of you…”
“Thank you,” Estel said seriously, and only after Glorfindel took the sword from him, he looked at the cut on his hand. He studied it for a while with a morbid fascination before going inside to find his foster father.
Elrond rushed down the stairs and met him right at the end of the hall. “Come,” he commanded, leading him to the room with prepared healing supplies. Estel took it in one look – the supplies, Elrond’s expression, the view from the window.
“You knew,” he said. “You planned this with Glorfindel.”
Elrond sighed, thinking it an accusation. “I merely agreed to it. It’s a lesson every warrior needs to learn. I hoped it won’t be that soon. I’m sorry…”
“No, it’s alright,” Estel shook his head. “Glorfindel was right, I took the sword fighting as an exercise. But once I will have to fight for my life, won’t I? I won’t stay at home all the time…”
Elrond knew he is right, but the truth of those words made his heart clench. “No, you won’t…” he whispered. You will grow up, he thought, and then you will face many fights and dangers. I can’t protect you forever… He wished the time of Estel’s childhood to last longer, but already he could see the maturity in his look, a hint of greatness to come. He cleared his throat. “But you are home now,” he said. “So enough of talking, and show me your hand.”
“No,” Estel said.
“What? You are not little anymore, to be afraid of healers…”
“No, I’m not. I want to do it myself. Someday I might get hurt when you are not around. I may be alone. I want to know how to do it on my own.”
Elrond looked at him with sorrow. He wished it wouldn’t be true, but he knew in his heart that Estel is right. There may come a day when he is hurt and alone, far from help. The lesson was not over yet.
“There,” he pointed to kettle with hot water, bandages and herbs, forcing himself to slip into the mode of a teacher of healing arts. “Tell me how you assess the wound and how you are going to treat it.”
“It’s a surface wound, clean and not too deep. It will need cleaning first, and… a few stitches to heal without reopening?”
“It will. Do you still want to do it yourself?”
Estel looked uncertain for a heartbeat, but then the resolve returned into his eyes. “Yes.”
Elrond nodded, and let him take care of his own hurt, only guiding him with advice. It took much longer than if he would do it, but at the end, the result was almost the same. The wound was cleaned, stitched and neatly dressed.
When he was finished, Estel’s face was pale, but there was a tired pride in his eyes. Elrond sighed with relief, as if he has been hurt and tended to himself. He embraced the boy. For a moment it seemed Estel will resist the embrace, but then he gave in into it, relaxing his tenseness with Elrond’s soothing touch. It was enough of self-reliance for one day.
“I’m proud of you, my boy…” Elrond whispered. “It hurts me when I see you in pain and can’t help you… but I’m still proud of you. The day when you will leave this house to fight your own fights is still far, but when it comes, you will be ready. Until then though, I’m always here for you,” he said, but in his heart, he knew that day will come sooner than he would like, and then he will know the true pain of powerlessness.
Behind the door, Glorfindel smiled sadly. The next lesson will be to not stop when hurting the opponent. And some day, the boy will have to learn to kill. Then he will not be a boy anymore.