Elrond woke up suddenly to the sound of someone crying. He glanced over at Elros in the next bed, but his twin was sound asleep, eyes closed, hand flung over the edge of the bed. He was definitely not the one crying.
He listened again. The wind was different tonight, and it whistled around the tower like a harbinger of oncoming winter. But there again, was the cry of someone in deep distress or pain.
Slipping the covers off, he dropped to the floor. The stone was freezing cold, even through the warm wool socks he was wearing, and he tiptoed as lightly as he could over to his slippers. He glanced up at his dressing gown as he put them on, already shivering, then grabbed that off its hook and put it on as well.
The door was heavy, oak and steel, but he managed it. They'd been living here for nearly a year and in that time, Elrond had gone from not being able to open the door at all by himself to just being able to do it. He carefully let it shut again, as soundlessly as possible.
Out in the hall, he couldn't hear the crying quite so well. The walls made it more faint, deadened it, he realised. It must have been one of the rooms in line with theirs.
Maglor's room was next door on the right. But when he pushed the door open slightly, he could see only the moonlight illuminating the empty bed, unmade with its covers thrown back. He let the door fall back into place, holding it all the while to be sure it wouldn't slam.
The next room down was Maedhros'. Elrond paused before the door, more sure than ever that the crying was coming from there. His heart was beating fast. Maedhros was a little scary, with his scars and his missing hand, and the way he avoided ever looking at Elrond or Elros, as if meeting their eyes would reveal too much.
But Elrond eventually squared his shoulders, raised his head, and opened the door, peering around it.
Maedhros lay on a large bearskin in front of the hearth, his head in his hand. He was clutching a fragment of blue cloth that looked like it had once been some sort of shirt, finely made, with small stitches and delicately woven embroidery. He was curled up around the cloth like he was protecting it, his tears soaking into it as though he meant to drown it. Maglor was nowhere in sight.
Elrond padded over softly. Halfway across the room, he made a slight shuffling noise with his slippers, which were just a little too loose for him, and Maedhros whirled around, clutching the cloth protectively to his chest. Seeing just Elrond, he relaxed a bit, letting go of the blue cloth.
"Elrond, child, why are you out of bed? Couldn't you sleep?" His voice was rough with recent sobbing but more gentle than Elrond had ever heard it before. It put him in mind of his own father's voice, the few times he remembered hearing it. The accents were similar - both were Quenya-as-a-first-language, rather than his mother's Doriath-accented Sindarin.
"Are you all right?" he asked, still slowly moving toward Maedhros.
Maedhros almost began to lie, almost nodded, but then clearly thought better of it, and shook his head. "No."
"Why?" Elrond reached the bearskin, and crouched down to get closer to where Maedhros lay. "What's wrong?"
"It's...it's a bad night for me, this one," Maedhros said. "On this day many years ago, something terrible happened, and I can't forget it."
"Oh." Elrond said. Something in Maedhros' eyes was beseeching, yearning, and Elrond quickly moved close, tucking himself in to Maedhros' side. The blue cloth lay discarded on the bearskin next to him, and as he put his arms around Maedhros and hugged him, he glanced at it curiously.
It was a banner, and what small part of it Elrond could see showed a blue field with silver and white stars on it, tattered and a little ragged at the edges, but holding together well. It mainly bore the marks of tears like tidal waves, dried in places and still wet in others.
"Is this the sigil of...someone you loved?" he asked. Maedhros was warm and slightly damp, smelling faintly of tears or sweat. Slowly he relaxed against Elrond, putting his own arms around him, his one hand firm against his back.
"Yes," he said softly. "My best friend."
"Don't cry," Elrond said. "You'll see him again someday."
Maedhros' eyes, wide and tear-wet, focused on him curiously. "Do you think so?"
"I do," Elrond said. "He died, right? But he was Elvenkind like you, not mortal like my Grandfather Tuor? So you'll see him again. Your fates are not sundered."
"You're very young to know of sundered fates," Maedhros said, but his voice was growing lighter. "Who taught you this?"
"I've always known it," Elrond said. "Elros and I are the children of those whose fates might be sundered. Our own are in doubt. How could we not know?"
"True," Maedhros said. "But my fate might be sundered from Fingon's, too. I'm certain that he can go back out happily into the light of Valinor, forgiven and free, whereas when I die, whether by weapon, by torment, or by grief, I will linger long in the Halls of Waiting beyond the world's edge, and walk no more in the woods where I was born."
Elrond looked up at him. "Will that not be your own choice to make, when the time comes? Your fates need not be apart."
Maedhros sighed. "I suppose you may be...." he began to say, but at that moment the door swung open.
"Sorry to take so long, brother," Maglor said, a mug of something steaming in his hand, and then, "Why, Elrond! You should be in bed."
Maedhros let go of Elrond and both of them sat up. "We have a little philosopher-healer on our hands, Káno," he said, smiling sheepishly. "He distracted me completely."
Maglor set the mug on a nearby table, and knelt down beside Maedhros. "Brother, I didn't think it possible for you to smile." He ruffled Elrond's hair. "And we have this little one to thank for it."
Elrond yawned, swiftly followed by Maedhros. "Oh, you should go back to bed now," Maglor said, catching himself beginning to yawn as well. "You both should."
Maedhros quickly wrapped his arms around Elrond once more. "Thank you," he whispered, for Elrond's ears alone, then helped him stand. Maglor rose also, and took him by the hand.
Allowing himself to be led off, Elrond looked back at Maedhros from the door. He was still sitting on the bearskin rug, but was quietly and carefully folding the blue cloth up. As Elrond watched, he got to his feet, and laid it firmly in a drawer, then turned to take his mug of tea.