"Would you have followed me from Valinor?" Curufin asked, and if Finrod searched for it, he could find a sliver of doubt in the question. Of course, in the searching, it may as well have been false.
Finrod delayed his answer with a long, sweet sip of heated wine. His head turned down but his eyes cast up, searching again for what he was sure must lie behind the question, this time in the shifting play of firelight over the angles of Curufin's face, rather than in the nuances of tone. It was easy enough to find there as well, that self directed doubt, that hopeful but ultimately disappointing comparison. "It wasn't your father we followed," he answered finally.
"No?" Curufin said, or just "oh." Difficult to tell. Difficult to tell, also, if that mocking smile was directed at Finrod or at himself.
"Mm. Not all of us were so taken with him." Finrod leaned back against his cushion as Curufin's smile soured and when Finrod met his gaze, he could hear reflections of thoughts from one mind to another. All in protest. Who could not be taken with Fëanor? Who could not be so burned?
Finrod had lied, of course, but there was some reward, some sharp pleasure in knowing Curufin had swallowed it down. None of the Great of the Noldor had been unaffected by Fëanor and all had been as drawn to him as Finrod found himself to be to his son. Curufinwë who must have inherited the Spirit of Fire, however diluted, Curufinwë who seemed stranger the closer Finrod got and so more fascinating. Curufinwë who Finrod knew, felt with a heaviness like dough in his stomach, would lead him from his throne.
"Then why did you follow?"
"We followed words, not a person." This, at least, was not a lie. At Curufin's skeptical look, he continued. "For what was left for us in the Blessed Realm?" Finrod's mouth twisted at the bitterness of his tone, the amusement without joy. It surprised him. This sentiment he hadn't put to voice in centuries, and when Curufin raised an eyebrow, he knew it had surprised him as well.
He'd been caught in a break of character of the role he'd hewn so carefully for himself in exile. A lord accepting, a lord regretful, a lord grateful for what he'd been given.
"Why cousin," Curufin said, his tone so delighted it made Finrod itch. "You sound positively impious."
Finrod ducked his head over his goblet, allowing his unbraided hair to fall forward and shield his face. A cheap substitute for a mask that came easily and he had no doubt Curufin would recognize it for what it was. "Perhaps even now," he admitted, "I still fall for the Enemy's lies."
"Are you so-"
"But I do not believe it," Finrod interrupted, leaning forward with an intensity that surprised himself and, if he was reading Curufin's widened eyes correctly, Curufin as well. There was a strain to his voice now, as he spoke, a roughness obvious to his own ears. "What was there for us, Curufinwë? Fertile land and fertile beasts and," he laughed, impious, even as he knew now was a time to quiet, "fertile wives?"
And of course, Finrod thought with a twist to his mouth, of course this was a surprise. He knew what people said of him. Finrod the Beloved, Friend of Men, Wisdom, a speaker of many languages and a teacher of them all. Benevolent king and generous kinsman. I am no saint, Curufinwë. "We were chained there, kept from our potential, glory hogged by-"
He stopped. Stayed where he was, leaning forward across the low table towards Curufin, but decided to speak no more. Not on this. If he let himself now, Finrod was sure he would never be able to stop. Impotent fury towards the Doom slept in him just as did the Oath in his cousin. Rage at Curufin, at his brothers, at Fëanor. At the Valar and at the One Himself.
But Curufin smiled, his expression as sharp as his knife, and leaned in as well. And when he opened is mouth to speak, it seemed, to Finrod, that his speech hovered for a moment behind his parted lips and raised tongue before being released. "Hogged by what?"
Curufin's voice blew light breath over a fury that Finrod hadn't quite managed to bank. His smile, his obvious satisfaction fueled it and it flickered in his chest next to something else, something hot and new, something to be ignored. Shoved back, only he was finding he couldn't. It was escaping and it was frightening. Finrod had made a sort of art out of repression, a refutation of the intensity locked behind mild smiles and offerings of food, wine, and cheer. But he leaned the rest of the way forward across the table and now
it should have been your brothers
we should not be so punished for the lives you extinguished
I will steal the heat you have deprived me of
all found expression in the press of his mouth to Curufin's, forceful (terrified), the drag of his teeth over Curufin's lip, vengeful, (regretful), the grip of his hand over nape of Curufin's neck, firm (desperate). Urging him backwards despite the table between them, threatening to spill the wine and disrupt their game. One of them made a sound, low and gratified, and both of them pushed. Pushed hard and needed hard and when Finrod felt the curve of Curufin's lips in a smile against his own, he bit down. No. This wasn't for him, this was for himself, he thought, and disbelieved the notion even as it crossed his mind. There would be no taking without giving, even if it was what he wanted. It was not.
A goblet overturned and Finrod's hand closed around Curufin's braid, tugging him closer and the borders of the kiss expanded until jaw lines and necks darkened with marks and fine silks that covered collar bones were damp from mouthing. Absently, he wondered if Curufin had expected this. The thought dissipated when one of Curufin's smith-strong hands climbed it's way up Finrod's stomach to his chest where he felt it, hot and pressing through the brocade, the weaving in the colors of his House.
And wasn't it funny. In all these months since Curufin had come to stay, in all these dinners and councils of breaking eye contact that held for just too long, in all these meetings where Finrod's hair rose and stomach heated from smirks that threatened and promised, in all this time, Finrod had assumed it would be Curufin who would close that distance first. (But not imagined. No, in his waking dreams, Finrod pushed his cousin up against walls and kissed his mouth tender, sucked his neck bruised, and bit his lips bloody. Drank him dry of the hot wine of his spirit, the spirit that Curufin had so abused, the spirit he had used to slaughter and betray and throw to the dogs) and Finrod shuddered. And pulled back, suddenly, positive that his thoughts when projected would echo in Curufin's mind.
It took him a moment to realize Curufin was laughing.
But his face was flushed and his lips were bruised and Finrod could find some satisfaction in that.
"Had it been his promises in your mouth," Finrod answered, "I would have followed you."
That night Finrod dreamt of Curufin kneeling at his feet, a supplicant, shame faced and begging for forgiveness. But then Curufin's face became his own and Finrod woken himself from a dream no longer his.
In bed, sharing breath, Finrod asked, "Would you have followed me from Valinor?" And Curufin laughed, with a smile, and turned away.