Himring was cold. It was always cold, especially now, in winter. The chill had a way of sinking into Fingon’s bones, no matter how many layers he wore. The weak sunlight glinted off his soldiers’ mail, caught the buckles on the bits in their horses’ mouths. Foggy breath streamed in the thin air as the horses slowed, then stopped. Fingon shifted in his saddle, and waited.
They had traveled for some time, and the gate of the fortress, grim though they appeared, were a welcome sight.
They had been visible long before they arrived, and so it was but a short while before the gates opened and the sentinel strode out to greet them.
“Hir nin,” she said, bowing to Fingon. “My lord. Hail and well met.”
Fingon inclined his head. “Well met…”
“Tirdis,” she said. “We are most glad you have arrived, my lord. We are in sore need of the healers you have brought us.”
She led them through the gates. It did not take long. Fingon’s retinue was not large.
Fingon found Maedhros waiting for them in the receiving hall, reclined in his seat with a sort of louche grace. The grace was real enough, but Fingon highly suspected that the insouciant attitude was less so.
He had half expected that Maedhros would greet him coolly, but Maedhros rose from his seat and strode over to Fingon with a scarred smile stretched across his face.
It was the first time Fingon had seen Maedhros since he had lain prone on a cot, sweating from fever, crying out in the night at invisible threats. The place where his hand had been, swathed in red-spotted bandages; his cheekbone shattered and his ears notched.
Maedhros grinned lopsidedly. “Hail and well met, cousin! Long and long has it been since last we saw each other.”
He drew up next to Fingon, uncomfortably close. “And you come with aid! Truly it is good to see you.”
Fingon retreated into formality. “To Maedhros Feanorion, lord of Himring and protector of his realm, hail and well met! We are come at last with the healers you have requested. We are glad to aid you in your fight against the Black Foe, may his name be ever cursed and his plots ever foiled.”
Maedhros stepped back. Something in his eyes shuttered closed and Fingon cursed inwardly.
“Your retinue will be shown to their quarters; if there are any problems they may approach my steward. The two of us shall adjourn to discuss the logistics and purpose of your visit. My brother Maglor is here as well and eagerly awaits your presence.”
Fingon had been unaware that Maglor had been visiting. If he had been, he might have timed his visit differently. One Feanorion was more than enough.
Maedhros’ steward Aeglas lead Fingon’s retinue from the room, and a wave of Maedhros’ hand dismissed his guard as well. Now it was just the two of them, the two of them and the silence. Fingon felt he had to do something, anything, to break the quiet that lay between them like a dead thing.
“I have missed you, Maitimo,” he said softly. Even as he said it, he knew it fell flat somehow. Maedhros grimaced.
“I am hardly Maitimo, dear,” he said drily. “Not anymore.”
Fingon shook his head. “You are fair still, you know. And I have missed you. Very much.”
“Well,” said Maedhros, “my beauty--or lack of--is an argument for some other time. My brother waits, and I grow hungry. What say you?”
Although he had not wanted to mention anything, Fingon was indeed hungry. It had been a long journey, and some time since he had eaten anything but lembas and whatever scarce game they had managed to catch; yet still he would rather dine in the soldiers’ quarters than face a meal alone and seated between Maedhros and his brother. He knew his role as dignitary and diplomat, however, and he owed it to Maedhros to attend. He followed Maedhros from the room. How bad could one meal be?
The halls were silent, the walls covered in tapestries designed to muffle sound and insulate from the cold. Fingon was unused to the quiet. His father's halls were open and airy, filled with laughter and song. So different than forbidding, chill Himring.
Maedhros had walked with an uneven gait ever since his stint in Angband, but was deceptively quick and agile. They reached the dining area with Fingon taking two steps to match one of Maedhros’. As they swept through the doors, Fingon steeled himself.
“So, Findekano, how have you been?”
Maglor sat at the table, boots atop the pitted surface.
“Um,” said Fingon.
Maglor leaned in conspiratorially. “Such songs I have heard about you, Finno...Surely all the maidens swoon over noble Fingon and his valiant deeds.”
Fingon cast his eyes at Maedhros desperately. He rather suspected he knew which songs Maglor was referring to, and none of them said anything about maidens--in fact, quite the opposite.
“Maglor, stop tormenting poor Fingon.” Maedhros looked sideways at Fingon. “He's just bitter because his own wife left him and because you had the balls to do what he was too afraid to do.”
Fingon cast his eyes at the door desperately.
He had forgotten how terrible bickering Feanorions could be, and how terrible to be caught between them. He was no stranger to arguments--had accepted them as a fact of life since his youth in Valinor--but he had grown used to the formal civility of his father’s court.
“Come now, Maglor, we are making our poor cousin uncomfortable. Why don't we have a song from the greatest bard of the Noldor? And if you play the Noldolante again, I shall not be responsible for my actions.”
“Why,” said Fingon, “why don't we eat instead?”
“Very well,” murmured Maglor, “if you care not for song or conversation, I suppose we can eat instead.”
But when the food arrived, Fingon froze. Their server was heavily scarred, missing a nose and large clumps of hair. This was not what gave Fingon pause, however.
“Maedhros, you are not being wise,” he hissed out of the corner of his mouth once the elf had left.
Maedhros glanced at him with a dangerous expression. Fingon once again felt that he was saying all the wrong things entirely but forged ahead.
“You take into your service elves who escaped Angband? You know that is unsafe. You cannot trust them! How can you know they will not turn against you?”
“ I escaped Angband, Findekano . Tread carefully, now; I am grateful for the healers you have brought us and for the good that you have done me, but ‘ware, cousin. You overstep your bounds. Now lower your voice: I'm sure the guards at the door are fascinated by your thoughts.”
Fingon subsided, though he was full of misgivings. Escaped thralls were usually harmless: tormented souls that had escaped unspeakable horror. They were broken, but not twisted. Usually. Sometimes they were changed, sometimes Morgoth bent them to his will and released them into the world to do his bidding.
There was no way to tell the difference. And thus was mercy repaid with ill, and kindness returned with cruelty. Morgoth took the Quendi’s noblest impulses and played upon them, and no longer were those who escaped his dark fortress welcome among their brethren.
They ate without speaking after that. When they were done, Maedhros rose and silently left.
Fingon turned to Maglor. “I know you have little cause to love me, but if I have done you wrong I am sorry. For the sake of diplomatic relationships, can we at least set aside our differences? And for Nelyo’s sake as well. He is much changed from the man I once knew, and I worry for him.”
Maglor grimaced. “I don't hate you. How could I? I'm grateful to you, which is worse. And yes, do let's be civil. At least for the duration of this visit. My brother will be in the training yard if you want him.”
He rose, and left the room. Fingon sat in silence, and thought hard. Then he too rose, and walked out of the empty room.
The fortress’ halls seemed wider and emptier without Maedhros there. Fingon cursed nearly every step of the way, cursed the way he always seemed to say the worst thing possible. He had a diplomat’s training: he was a member of the House of Finwe, but when it came to his cousin, his smooth tongue deserted him. And now Maedhros, shattered, brilliant Maedhros with his copper hair and gap-toothed grin, was wounded because of him.
He did not think he was in the wrong. Accepting escaped thralls was high folly, truly, and he did not like to see Maedhros place himself in danger so heedlessly.
He would try to set things right between them. He could do it. He had faced death in the eye. He had traveled to Angband with little more than a harp and his dagger. And he would not go to sleep that night without healing whatever rift had grown between them.
A hand shaped rift, a rift shaped like years of ice and darkness. A rift that tasted like betrayal.
Rounding the corner with new purpose in his step, he strode confidently through the chilly halls. He made it to the training yard without seeing another soul save the guards posted here and there. They nodded to him, but did not greet him.
And then--a whirl of braided hair, footsteps falling sharp and hard on the packed dirt. Breath huffing in gasps, teeth bared in a snarl. Maedhros.
Fingon almost spoke, but thought better of it and watched instead. Maedhros fought like a wild thing, a thing possessed. It was almost frightening, the intensity with which he stabbed and feinted at imaginary enemies.
A dance, with Maedhros calling the time and the tune. Fingon felt almost as though he was watching something terribly intimate; almost as though Maedhros was stripped naked, torn open. It felt like Fingon was watching something that he was never meant to see.
Maedhros lunged, swung, parried. And then he made a motion with his right hand, as though he had forgotten that he no longer held a sword in those fingers. Fingon thought, with a terrible clench of his heart, that it seemed as though Maedhros had forgotten he no longer had those fingers.
Maedhros dropped to the ground and clutched his arm to his chest. He rocked back and forth, his head bowed. Then he stood, and shook himself like a dog ridding itself of water droplets. Rising, he resumed his position and the fight against his shadow foes.
Fingon shrank back into the shadows. He could speak to Maedhros tomorrow, he reasoned. It would doubtless upset him to realize that Fingon had been spying on him.
When they were young, they had watched each other fence all the time. But this was different. And so he walked back to his rooms alone, hating himself with every step of the way.
Morning dawned clear and sharp, sunlight streaming through the windows to rouse Fingon from an uneasy sleep.
Maedhros was in high spirits that morning. He stood at the table, surrounded by his council. Maglor stood at one hand, Fingon at the other.
“...And if my scouts are correct, the party of orcs is not that far off. Saelreth, Linuil, Dagdir, you will gather the soldiers and prepare for a raid. At last! Something to do! This place has been getting frightfully dull of late.” He rattled off a list of commands, organizing the raiding party. It was the most animated Fingon had seen him since they had greeted each other at his arrival.
After the meeting, Fingon’s captain, Acharniel, stepped up behind his shoulder.
“My lord,” she murmured, “I fear there is something amiss here. People talk, and you--and your cousin, and your men and his--are not safe here.”
“What is it?”
“Not here,” she said. “The very walls have ears.”
Fingon grimaced. “I'll find you alone then. Tomorrow, after you return from the hunt, find me in my rooms.”
She bowed and left the room. He never saw her alive again.
“Ai, my lord, I cannot bear to speak of it.” Belaith’s voice was tight and his eyes silvered with silent tears. They trickled down his face and puddled in the hollow of his collarbone.
“I am sorry, Belaith, but still I must ask you for your report. What happened? How did she die?”
Belaith stared at the ground as though it held salvation. “We were...we were hunting, this you know. And then they were there, orcs, and some wolves besides. Acharniel was at the fore, and fighting like one possessed, when--” His voice broke.
Fingon put an arm out to steady him. “Shhh,” he murmured. Not “it is all right,” for it was not, nor “you will heal past this,” for Belaith had long loved his captain and would likely carry the hurt of it as long as he stayed on this side of the sea.
Belaith took a deep, shuddering breath. “She faltered, and her movements slowed. It was as though she were underwater. We could not help her in time. And she fell off her horse, and they fell upon her, and good my lord, ask me no more. The orcs are all fled, and my captain is gone.”
He bowed his head, and Fingon let him leave. Then he rose, and ran to Acharniel’s rooms.
They were small, her rooms, and warm, embers from that morning still glowing in her fireplace. He could feel her presence still, but Acharniel's fea had fled to the Halls. What was left of her body was being prepared for burial, and whatever she had been about to tell him had died unspoken on her lips.
He rifled through her papers. Nothing. Just field reports and schedule rotations, little notes and reminders. Parchment was scarce, as was paper, but Acharniel had always loved to use it in excess.
Nothing, nothing, nothing. He dropped down to his hands and knees. If he could but find a note, anything…
He crawled under her bed. There she kept books of strategies, her journals, private letters. He pulled out the most recent journal and flipped to the last entry.
Linniel most talkative after plying with wine, says there are rumors floating round, it read. Will talk with F on morrow. Unable to gauge how great danger is, but am wary. Spies? Assassins? Prob. not, but will warn regardless.
Footsteps. A creak, then the door opened. He jumped, his heart pounding. Standing at the door was a slight elf, grey eyes fixed upon him. “My lord Maedhros requests your presence in his rooms, my lord.”
Maedhros said nothing, and Fingon stood awkwardly before him, waiting.
Finally, he said, “I am sorry for your loss, cousin. Acharniel was a mighty fighter, and a good friend.”
“I hate it when they die,” said Fingon, voice muffled by his hands. “I hate it.”
“Finno. When you are a leader, it follows that you must sometimes lead people to their deaths. It is regrettable, but it is also necessary. Acharniel knew this. But in any case, I do not believe you are responsible for her death.”
“I should have known she was in danger. She was poisoned. Perhaps an escaped…”
“An escaped what, Finno?”
“From Angband, an escaped thrall, perhaps. I do not know. I fear we are all in danger.”
“We are always in danger, Findekano. I trust my people. They have nowhere to go but here. I will not turn them away now, simply because one person might be a threat. To evict hundreds of elves for the sake of the one? That I will not do.
“And besides,” he said, eyes glittering, “I escaped too. How do you know I will not kill you right--now--”
He drew out a knife. Fingon stayed perfectly still, his breath shallow. Maedhros prowled closer, moved the knife right under Fingon’s jaw. Right against the soft skin of his throat. Fingon made no move to defend himself.
A gentle upwards pressure from the knife forced him to his feet and back against the wall. Maedhros moved in closer. Close as a lover, or a murderer. His breath ghosted on Fingon’s cheek.
“You are always in danger, cousin, even from those closest to you. Especially from those closest to you.”
Fingon swallowed, throat bobbing uncomfortably under the knife. “That is what love does: it makes you vulnerable,” Maedhros whispered. “It makes you weak.”
Maedhros’ body was flush up against Fingon's own, and Fingon could feel the first faint stirrings of desire. Oh Eru, not here, not now , he thought desperately.
“What are you doing, Maitimo? My friend and captain has just died, and you are doing...what, exactly?”
The pressure on his throat eased. “Why, proving a point, dear cousin. And I asked you not to call me that.”
“Why did you summon me here, Maedhros? Of what purpose is this visit?”
“I thought you could use a distraction.”
“Maedhros. Why did you draw the knife?”
“Because I know how much you like it.”
Maedhros’ voice was silken and low and Fingon’s throat went dry. “Stop mocking me,” he snapped.
“That is not my intention, Finno. I propose merely a small bit of comfort. To help you forget your troubles for a time.”
“What the fuck,” said Fingon flatly. “What were you thinking, that I would want to be your pity fuck? This is not the sort of thing you offer lightly, Maedhros. Acharniel is hardly the first captain to die in my service and she will not be the last.
“You are being so fucking reckless. I tell you your life might be in danger and your response is to proposition me? I might have expected that from Celegorm, but Vaire’s tits, Maedhros, you've gone mad.”
“Angband has a way of doing that to a person. But. Finno. We cannot know when our lives will end, or when we will leave the halls of Mandos. We could die at any time. Surely we must take what we can get when we can get it, grasp at any sliver of happiness while it's still there. Come with me, Finno. I know you want this too.”
“You are not in your right mind, cousin,” said Fingon softly. “I will take my leave now. We will talk more in the morning.”
He left his cousin sitting at his chair and all but fled.
Alone in his room, Fingon dropped to his knees, shaking. He was achingly hard under his robes, and thanked Eru that his overcoat reached mid thigh. Although Maedhros had been close enough to tell; oh please Eru, let him not have noticed.
He locked the door and scrambled up gracelessly onto his bed. He clumsily undid his breeches, pulled them down and shoved them to the side. Biting his lip, he took himself in hand and closed his eyes.
It was true. He had liked the knife. In Valinor, it had represented a thrilling danger. On the Hither Shore, it was the one danger he could control. Maedhros knew that, but then Maedhros knew everything about him.
He dropped his head back, and trailed his fingers gently up his cock. He ran his thumb lightly over the slit and swallowed back a moan.
Already he was beading up, so aroused it almost hurt, a beautiful, painful pleasure. If Maedhros knew what he was doing right now… if Maedhros were to be there, watching …
The thought was overwhelming.
He loosely clasped his fingers over his cock and moved them up and down, up and down, too impatient to prolong his pleasure. He imagined copper hair tickling his shoulder, grey eyes staring into his. The weight of him, the faintly amused grey stare as cool fingers wrapped around him--Maitimo--
He came with a shudder, hips bucking into the mattress.
Then he rolled over and wept into the pillow until he fell asleep.
He saw Maedhros a week later, when all of Himring prepared to raid the orcs. He had been avoiding his cousin as best he could, dining with his soldiers and communicating through messages.
Now they all went out together.
Maedhros, he'd heard from his soldiers, had point blank refused to stay behind, despite his steward's pleading and counsel's caution.
“Ho, my lord.”
The soldier rode up behind him. “We have a bet on you, you know. What kind of pointless heroics will our prince engage in this time? My money's on wrestling a wolf by yourself. Belaith thinks you'll end up wading through corpses up to your knee, waving your sword aloft and shouting dramatic battle cries. I reminded him that there won't be enough orcs for that, but he says it's the principle of the thing.”
“I suppose we'll find out. I confess, I have long wished to wrestle a wolf. Maybe you'll win your gold after all.”
Fingon shifted his spear to one hand, started to run the other through his braids, but they had been tied up for battle.
“They'll see you all the way from Angband, what with the amount of gold you've braided into your hair,” said Fergenol.
“Oh hush, you should have seen what my cousin used to braid into his hair,” said Fingon. And then, “we're getting into formation, get into place.”
Fergenol saluted him lazily, and turned his horse away.
Maglor had gone over the strategies a few days before, claiming his brother was too busy to speak with Fingon directly, but his eyes were too knowing for Fingon's liking.
“So if we were to go here , they would be cut off and the rest of us could circle around easily enough. Nelyo wishes to take any survivors captive this time.”
Fingon had nodded. “A sound plan, my cousin. If that is all, I shall see you on the morrow.”
Maglor looked at him. "My brother cares for you, you know. Be careful with him. He has suffered overmuch."
Fingon had looked at Maglor bleakly. "He has an odd way of showing his affection."
"Mmm, yes, well. He's become reckless since Angband. He's quite a different man these days. But I expect you'll have seen that for yourself. Just… Be careful, is all. Well, good day then."
That had been then. Now Fingon rode at the fore of his soldiers, few though they were. The healers he had escorted remained behind, readying themselves for the first wave of injured elves. Behind him, the formation was complete. They were ready.
And then the battle was upon them, and the world narrowed to flashes of weak points--there a throat, now a weak spot at the chestplate. Orc after orc fell before Fingon, spitted on the bright point of his spear. A mad laugh bubbled in his throat.
This was where he felt it, that strange sense of peace. Of everything slotting neatly into place. Here was his spear, and here were the orcs, and this was what he was meant to do. It was all so easy.
It was at that moment, of course, that the wolves arrived, and Maedhros' army fell to rout. They had not expected so many--their intelligence had said there would be few wolves, easily dealt with.
One leaped for Fingon’s horse, ripping out its throat with its long, sharp teeth. He leapt clear of the falling steed, almost slipping in the mud and gore. He landed in a crouch, settling into a protective stance.The wolf snarled, and he snarled back. It looked as though Fergenol would win his gold after all.
But the wolf hung back, unwilling to step within range of Fingon's spear. Very well, then. He dropped the spear and drew his sword and dagger. Much more exciting this way.
Muscles shifted under a shaggy, blood-matted pelt as the wolf sprang. Fingon stepped deftly out of the way. "Come and get me," he hissed, and the wolf charged him.
An arrow sang through the air and sank into the wolf's side with a meaty thud, but it might as well have been a fly's sting for all it harmed the wolf. Good. The archers had begun their attack, higher up on the hill and--for now--safely removed from the fighting.
Fingon panted. Lunged. Time slowed. If he could just-- there -- ai, Aldaron --
The wolf whined, Fingon's dagger in its great yellow eye. It shook its head, whimpered. A cry on his lips, Fingon ran at it, dodged a weak swipe of its claws and drove his sword up through its jaw into its brain. The wolf collapsed instantly. Fingon's arm was drenched in blood as he wrenched his sword free, then tugged his dagger out of the wolf's eye. He surveyed the field. They still held the high ground, and after the initial shock had regrouped remarkably well. The ground was littered with corpses, but most of those were orcs.
The back of his neck prickled. He whirled and drove his dagger into the neck of an orc raising a hunting knife to stab him. Bubbling gore gouted from the wound, and he swiped hastily at his face before ducking back into the fray.
There were no more wolves now. The last of them fled from before the elves, running back to their dark master. The orcs were surrounded with no escape, and at the last they threw down their weapons in surrender.
He saw Maedhros then, soaked in gore and taunting the orcs in the Black Speech. His cousin was very beautiful, even then. Even despite his scars and the blood and the way his mouth caught and twisted on the ugly words of the Black Speech. Or perhaps because of that.
It was then that Fingon realized that the fair youth from Valinor was dead. Maitimo was gone. All there was now was Maedhros, and Fingon did not know if he loved the man his cousin had once been, or the grim, bloodstained warlord he had become.
Maedhros caught Fingon's eye and smiled. It was a familiar smile, conspiratorial, the kind of smile he had directed at Fingon a thousand thousand times before. His teeth were red with blood, but Fingon could not tell if it was his. He made as though he were about to walk over to Fingon, but apparently thought better of it and turned away. Fingon went to set his people to some semblance of order, and saw no more of Maedhros that day.
The ride back to Himring's fortress was a jubilant one. Very few elves had died, and miraculously, none from Fingon's retinue. It was at times like this one that the Doom of the Noldor felt very far away. Fingon refused to ride. His horse had been slain, and many others besides, and he would not ride when the injured needed the horses more.
The orcs remained under heavy guard. Maedhros wanted them alive, to interrogate them. Some of his soldiers whispered that he wanted them alive so he could make it hurt that much more before they died.
Fingon had no desire to believe that his once gentle, kind cousin had developed this sadistic streak, but he had not had much interaction with Maedhros since the latter had propositioned him, and indeed had not had any sort of intimate conversation with his cousin since Alqualonde.
Angband had a way of changing a person, he knew that. And that was why he was so desperate to help his cousin see that he could not trust the escaped prisoners. But if they could not be trusted, could Maedhros? What sort of man was his cousin?
He had seen something deep within Maedhros when he had spied on--no, watched --him, all alone on the training field. Something vulnerable, that Maedhros would doubtless hate to reveal to anyone. Not even him.
If the rumors were true, it was troubling. But he could not blame his cousin. He lay awake some nights, wondering what exactly Morgoth had done to Maedhros. Wondering if he should have listened to him and slain him when he asked, when he begged again and again for death.
When they arrived at the fortress, the prisoners were swiftly and unceremoniously interred in the dungeons. Fingon did not breathe easy until the key was turned in the lock and the orcs secure, snarling their hate and impotent rage, futilely tugging on their chains.
He stayed there for hours, watching them long after the guards had been posted and everyone else had retreated to lick their wounds and celebrate their victory.
"They're very quiet," came a whisper, and breath warm on the back of his neck. He started. "Usually they're a bit more… talkative," said Maedhros. "I'll have to deal with them personally. Come, let us leave them for now. Why don't we sit for a short while? Aeglas is supposed to meet me here shortly. I have some bread and a flask of wine.”
They stepped into an empty storage room to sit at the table.
Maedhros, when he spoke at the last, was unusually quiet.. "I should apologize to you, Finno," he said.
"For what," asked Fingon, although he knew full well what Maedhros was referring to.
"I may have… misread the situation, and acted inappropriately. I know I have offended, and perhaps even disgusted you. I am so sorry, Finno. Truly. I know how reckless I've been since Angband, but it is not fair to you. Can we, um, can we forget about it and move on? I know you've been avoiding me, and that's entirely my fault."
"You idiot," said Fingon. "And I'm an idiot too, I suppose. You know of my feelings for you, and I suppose I thought you were mocking me, or taking advantage of me. We can forget about it, if you so desire."
It was the first time he had openly admitted out loud the way he felt about Maedhros. But there was no way his cousin could not have known. Maedhros knew him better than anyone else.
"Feelings?" Maedhros said, his voice gone very soft. "I had thought--I mean, I knew you desired me, anyone with eyes to see could tell you as much, but I never thought you--and, and Losgar--I didn't burn the ships but I--"
Fingon leaned over the table and kissed Maedhros full on the mouth, catching Maedhros' muffled gasp of surprise. The edge of the table dug into him uncomfortably, but he found he hardly minded at all.
His breathing quickened, and his hand rose to cup Maedhros' cheek. Teeth caught his lower lip, and he could feel Maedhros smile against his mouth. "Findekano," Maedhros breathed at last, leaning back.
"Mai--Maedhros," he said.
"We can sit here repeating our names at each other for the rest of the night, or we can go upstairs," said Maedhros. "What say you?"
Fingon swallowed. "This is all very sudden," he said. "Are you sure this is what you want?"
Maedhros looked at him in disbelief. "Fingon," he said, "did you not forget that I propositioned you scarcely a week ago?"
"Well, yes, but this is not merely an assignation that you could have with one of your guards." He paused. "Is it?"
Maedhros looked at him steadily. "I have loved you since Tirion, Finno. This is not a mere fumble in the dark for me. And it was not last week, either. When you came for me, when I was on the mountain, I thought it a dream. A fair dream, but nothing more. Sauron taunted me with your face; he knew my heart. And now you are here, real and warm and alive, and you are not a dream." His eyes were dark with desire, the silver of his iris nearly eclipsed.
Fingon breathed out slowly. "What of the orcs?"
"There are guards posted outside. They will keep. Aeglas can always speak with me later, it is not of great import."
Fingon nodded once, then rose. He walked over to the other side of the table and extended his hand. "Come up to bed, then, meleth nin . My love."
The guards looked fixedly at the floor as Maedhros and Fingon swept past them. They had probably heard everything, but Fingon could not bring himself to care. Let them know. It scarcely mattered.
Maedhros' hand was warm in his own, and he squeezed it briefly. Maedhros tightened his fingers in response. They made it as far as a shadowed parapet before Maedhros leaned Fingon against the cold stone and kissed him desperately. There was more hunger in this kiss than the ones they had shared in the dungeons, and Fingon could feel his body responding.
He moaned into Maedhros' mouth, and Maedhros reached for the ties of Fingon's tunic. Clumsily, he undid them with one hand, then braced himself across Fingon with his stump. Long, callused fingers brushed up Fingon's side, and Fingon's knees went weak.
"Not here, Maedhros, it's freezing outside. Look, how can I get it up when I'm shivering?” The shivering was not entirely due to cold, but Maedhros didn't need to know that.
Maedhros slid a knee between Fingon's legs in response, and Fingon, despite the cold, felt himself begin to grow hard. He dipped his hands into the collar of Maedhros' shirt, and Maedhros yelped.
"Eru, you are cold. Very well, let us go to my rooms. We don't want to scandalize any of my guards, anyway."
They made it to Maedhros' rooms at the last, although they stopped every few minutes to kiss each other. When they finally stepped into Maedhros' sleeping chamber, Fingon breathed a sigh of relief and gratitude. There was a fire burning in the fireplace, and Maedhros' bed looked warm and inviting.
Maedhros put his hand on Fingon's shoulder. "You are sure you want this?"
"Yes, I am sure. Now shut up and kiss me." Fingon leaned into Maedhros and reached for the hem of Maedhros' tunic. Maedhros went still.
"Wait," he said. "I...I am no longer fair to look at. What they did to me..."
Fingon had seen his cousin naked, before. Covered in dried blood and vomit and his own filth. Wasted and weak, and unconscious. He had not paid any attention to Maedhros' appearance then, so concerned had he been about his cousin's health and the bleeding that just would not stop.
Maedhros was hale now, and to Fingon had never seemed more beautiful. "You are fair to me, my cousin, and I promise that whatever they have done to you, I will still find you lovely."
Maedhros nodded, and let Fingon pull the tunic, still reeking faintly of blood, over his head. Fingon stifled a gasp. Maedhros had not been exaggerating when he spoke of scars. Fingon trailed his fingers across them, and Maedhros relaxed. They moved across the room and fell onto Maedhros' bed.
"Is there a particular way you want to do this?" asked Fingon.
"If it were anyone else, perhaps. But it is you, and so I am comfortable with whatever you want."
Fingon pushed Maedhros down into the mattress and climbed on top of him. He kissed Maedhros up his abdomen. It was a very nice abdomen, and he made small noises of appreciation over it. When he reached Maedhros' nipples, he stopped and looked at Maedhros in question.
"You remember that time you pierced them for me?" said Maedhros. Fingon could indeed remember it vividly, it being a memory he was particularly fond of late at night when he was alone in his room. "They tore the metal right out of them. This is all that is left, I'm afraid."
Fingon stared at Maedhros in horror. Maedhros reached down and took Fingon's hand in his own. "It's fine now, Finno. It was some time ago, and you are here now. Kiss me again."
Fingon did as he was commanded. He kissed Maedhros right on the mouth, open and messy. Maedhros sat up suddenly, and flipped Fingon over. He tugged at Fingon's breeches, and Fingon obligingly pulled them down. Maedhros tugged down his own breeches while Fingon shrugged out of his tunic.
He laced his arms around Maedhros' neck and pulled him down. The weight of him, the warmth of his skin, nearly undid him. He nipped at Maedhros' neck, just behind his ear, and Maedhros melted against him. Fingon closed his eyes.
The weight against his body was abruptly gone, and he opened his eyes to see Maedhros' head positioned between his thighs. Maedhros looked up questioningly.
" Yes , Maedhros, if I need you to stop I will tell you."
Maedhros hummed a sound of acknowledgement and suddenly Fingon was enveloped in a warm, slick heat. He tilted his head back. "Ai, Eru Iluvatar," he moaned, and Maedhros laughed against him, the vibrations travelling up Fingon's length. Fingon’s hips arched up off the bed, seeking more, but Maedhros only moved back with Fingon.
Maedhros swirled his tongue against the underside of Fingon's cock, and pulled free. His wrists braced Fingon's thighs apart, and now he licked up the underside of Fingon’s shaft, tongue swiping gently over the tip. And then he bent his head down and Fingon forgot everything but Maedhros' tongue, which was doing something wicked to his cock.
"Maedhros," he gasped out in warning, and Maedhros looked up at him as if to say, so soon ? But he did not stop. Warmth curled in Fingon's stomach and he came with Maedhros' name on his lips. Maedhros swallowed everything, and when he was done, Fingon lay boneless on the bed.
With a tremendous effort, he pulled himself upright. "My turn," he said. Maedhros flopped down obligingly. His arousal was very evident, and when he saw Fingon looking at it, he smiled slowly. "They would have cut it off, you know. But they decided it was more fun to leave me intact. At first I wished they had cut it off, but now I am glad they didn't." And then, upon seeing the face Fingon made, "I'm sorry, that was morbid. I apologize, I am a terrible bed partner. I really should-- ahhhh ."
He cut off abruptly when Fingon sank down and took him first in hand, then in mouth. Maedhros was well endowed, and the weight of him pressed heavy on Fingon's tongue.
Fingon licked up Maedhros' shaft experimentally, and was rewarded with a shudder and a moan. He took Maedhros in, as deeply as he could, and devoted himself to pleasuring Maedhros as best he knew how.
A hand tangled itself in his long hair, and Maedhros made a small, stifled sound. Fingon sucked and licked and Maedhros’ head tilted back, his eyes fluttering shut.
“Findekano,” Maedhros panted. Then, more urgently, “Finno. ” Fingon looked up. Maedhros’ face was drawn. “I can't do this,” Maedhros said. “I thought I could, I wanted to, but I can't anymore.”
He looked tense, and anxious. Fingon’s heart clenched. “No worries, love. We don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. However quickly or slowly we go is up to you.”
Maedhros sighed, almost as though in relief. Reaching up, he flipped Fingon over effortlessly. He leaned down and kissed Fingon, slowly, lazily. “It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it,” he said. “I did. But--it’s too much for me, right now.”
“We have time,” said Fingon. Maedhros smiled, then, and ran his fingers through Fingon’s hair.
“We should have done something like this Ages ago,” he said, “or said something, before Alqualonde, before Thangorodrim,” and Fingon hummed his agreement.
“We were young, and very stupid. But we are here now, and here together, and that is what matters.”
“Quite,” said Maedhros, and then, “would you stay the night? You do not have to, but I would like you to.”
Fingon very much wanted to stay the night, had long dreamed of falling asleep and waking up beside his cousin, but he hesitated. “I should return to my rooms for the night,” he said reluctantly. “Belaith is the new captain of my guard, and he is to provide me with a report early tomorrow. It would not do for him to seek me out, only to find me in your rooms.”
“Very well,” said Maedhros. “Some other time, then.” His voice was light and careless, and anyone who did not know him as well as Fingon might have thought he did not care much. Fingon forced himself to ignore the sinking feeling in his stomach as he tugged his trousers back on, pulled his tunic over his head. He felt more aware of his nakedness as he dressed than he had before.
Sitting on the bed, he cupped Maedhros’ scarred face in his hands. Gently, he kissed Maedhros’ lips, almost chastely. “ Mara lome ,” he said. “Good night, my love.” The Quenya flowed easily to his lips. It seemed more natural, somehow, in that moment.
With that, he padded out of Maedhros’ warm rooms, into the icy air of the cold stone halls. It was so quiet without his cousin’s laughter, so still without his presence. He told himself that he was being ridiculous. He would see Maedhros in the morning, in a matter of hours. Why was he behaving like a lovesick fool? Because you are one, said a voice in the back of his mind, and you have been one for years.
He had not expected to come across anyone on his way back, which was why he started when he almost collided into a tall, well built elf. It was Fergenol, standing alone.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“No need,” said Fergenol.. “You look like you could use a drink.” He offered Fingon a flask. Fingon tipped it back and swallowed, a warm fire pooling in his stomach.
“This is very good,” he said. “My thanks. Where did you get it?”
Fergenol shrugged noncommittally.
“Where is your partner?”
“Ah, he went to relieve himself. I expect he’ll be back shortly.”
“It would not do to leave you alone,” said Fingon.
“My lord, I’ll survive the few minutes it takes for my partner to return. No need for you to stay awake for me.”
“Still,” said Fingon. “Let me keep you company for a short while, at least. How have you been managing since we arrived?”
Fergenol shrugged. “It’s odd, seeing so many escaped slaves here,” he said. “Did you know, I used to be a slave in Angband myself.”
Fingon did not know that, and despite his diplomat’s training, failed utterly to conceal his shock.
“Nobody really knows, my lord. No need to pretend you’re not surprised. Keeping quiet about where I came from was the only way for me to join your father’s court without suspicion and hate.”
“I did not know,” said Fingon. “I am sorry.”
“No need to apologize for something you had no hand in, my lord. If I may, you look exhausted, and I expect my partner to be back any moment.”
And indeed, Fingon was feeling drowsy, a sudden sleepiness sinking into his bones. He yawned. “Good night then,” he said.
Fergenol bared his teeth in the semblance of a smile. “Sleep well, my lord.”
Fingon stumbled back to his rooms. A leaden weight seemed to press on his body. He should not have been feeling so tired, not that quickly. He felt his way to his bed, the floor tilting. This...this was not right. The drink…
He had to get back, had to warn his cousin. Something was not...not right…
The pin fastening his cloak was long. The pin was slim, and sharp. And the pin was easily pulled from his cloak. The fabric fell to the ground, but Fingon paid it no mind. He knew what he had to do.
He steeled himself, and then he drove the pin into his hand, through the skin, through the flesh, the blood running thick and warm down his arm. He gritted his teeth and the room stabilized. Focus on the pain . The searing agony helped him stay awake: he drew his knife and stumbled through the stone halls, careful to avoid the guard. But there were prisoners, he remembered suddenly. Many prisoners, deep beneath the halls. He stumbled a little faster.
There was blood on the floor that was not his own. A body lay crumpled in the corner. Fingon knew that elf, but her name receded to the back of his cobwebbed mind.
Somehow, he managed to find his way, barely conscious. Maedhros’ rooms. He raised his good hand, rapped weakly on the door. It opened. Maedhros stood framed in the doorway, knife in hand, his face lined with soft firelight. His eyes were half lidded and sleepy. “You just couldn’t stay away, could you,” he said.
Then he noticed the blood dripping down Fingon’s wrist onto the floor.
“Maedhros,” rasped Fingon. “Fergenol. From Angband.”
Maedhros nodded, and reached out to catch Fingon, who could no longer stand unaided.
“Drugged me. Acharniel…” He licked his lips. “Orcs. Dungeons--”
The room tilted crazily, and his vision tunneled. He could feel his body being laid out on the bed, but it was as though it belonged to someone else. Dim sounds filtered through. Maedhros, shouting for his guards, calling for a healer, roaring out commands. The pain in Fingon’s hand was dull, and then he couldn’t feel it at all. He closed his eyes.
Fingon’s mouth was dry, and he couldn’t open his eyes. “Mmphh,” he said.
“Ah, good. He’s awake,” said a cheery voice. Fingon swallowed. He knew that voice. That was...Maglor, he was almost sure of it. If only the pounding in his head would stop…
Someone poked him. Now he knew it was Maglor.
“Wha happen,” he slurred.
“Well, I’m fairly certain we all almost died horribly, but luckily you managed to warn us just in time. You’re lucky you’re a nice valuable prince, with lots of lovely bargaining power, or you’d be dead instead of unconscious right now.” His voice was horribly upbeat, and Fingon decided that he rather hated Maglor.
“ Nelyo ,” shouted Maglor, setting a thousand needles stabbing through Fingon’s skull. “Our sleeping beauty has woken!”
Fingon forced his eyes open. A tall, well muscled figure stepped into the room. “Maitimo,” he croaked, and this time Maedhros did not correct him.
“Nelyo was so worried about you,” said Maglor. “Really, it was quite sweet.” Maedhros, standing beside his seated brother, looked anything but sweet.
“I’m holding a knife right now,” said Maedhros gently, “and my patience is quite thin,” but there was no venom in his voice.
“Ah, he was ever so angry, you should have seen what he did to that elf of yours. Caught him slipping the key into the dungeon lock. Seems someone underestimated the fortitude of us exiles who’ve seen the Trees. And oh, I did not think dear Maedhros had it in him, but all his people are tiptoeing around him. Do you know, I think they’re scared of him now.”
He opened his mouth to say more, but Maedhros put his hand over his brother’s mouth and looked at him threateningly. “That’s enough, Kano,” said Maedhros, and Maglor made a muffled noise of protest.
“Leave,” ordered Maedhros, and so Maglor left.
Maedhros sat down heavily. “I thought you were going to die,” he said. His face was expressionless, eyes red and swollen from lack of sleep. Not a flicker of feeling passed his face, but his voice betrayed him; it was not quite steady.
“ ‘m not dead,” said Fingon. “Don’t plan on dying any time soon.”
“When I saw you, with your hand bleeding all over you and your face so pale--and I mean, you’ve been in battle, we’ve all fought before, but this was different, we were supposed to be safe here.” He shuddered. “Please don't die.”
Maedhros was laying himself bare, deliberately, and Fingon hardly knew what to do with this rare gift. He tried to reach up, to stroke Maedhros’ cheek, and realized for the first time that his hand was heavily bandaged.
“Don’t worry,” said Maedhros, “the healers have tended to it. It should heal within a few weeks. In the meantime,” he smiled crookedly, “you get to see firsthand how I live.”
Fingon tried to smile back, but the effort proved too much. He let his head loll to the side, his eyes drifting shut. Maedhros pulled the covers up over Fingon’s shoulders and pressed a kiss to his forehead. Fingon heard the door snick shut, and then he was alone.
When he next opened his eyes, Maedhros was in the room. He was sleeping, long body awkwardly folded into the chair. Fingon decided against waking him, but the rustling of the blankets roused Maedhros anyway.
“How are you feeling,” asked Maedhros. His voice was conversational. Whatever emotion had slipped through the cracks before was now smoothed away.
“Much better,” said Fingon. He almost added, “now that you’re here,” but his throat caught on the words.
“I’m glad,” murmured Maedhros.
“I’m not going to say I told you so, but…”
“Shut up , you insufferable prick. This isn’t a joke,” said Maedhros. “And besides, Fergenol was one of yours, not mine.”
“If I could joke about cutting off your hand, I can joke about this.”
Maedhros looked at him blankly. “You have never joked about cutting off my hand.”
“Oh, that’s right, that’s Maglor I’m thinking of.”
“I’m not going to change anything,” said Maedhros. “With the escaped thralls. They have nowhere else. I won’t turn them all out into the wild just because one person might be held in servitude to Morgoth.”
“I didn’t expect you would,” said Fingon softly. “Just. Be careful, Nelyo. You’re not safe here anymore.”
“I promise to sleep with two knives under my pillow instead of one,” said Maedhros solemnly. Then, “in all seriousness, I will be more cautious. I alone will hold the keys to the cells. The guards will be posted in greater groups, with no elf remaining alone for a moment. My own guard I trust with my life. This will not happen again, Finno.”
“What of the orcs,” asked Fingon.
“I slew them all.”
“And Fergenol?” Fingon was almost afraid to ask.
Maedhros smiled. It was not a pleasant smile. “I slew him too.”
Fingon did not press further. He found that he did not want to know any more details. They lapsed into silence, and Fingon fell asleep again.
The third time Fingon woke, the room was empty. He rose from his bed and pulled on the tunic thoughtfully draped over the vacant chair. He stretched luxuriously, and set off to find Maedhros.
He walked barefoot through the halls, but the Feanorion he found was not Maedhros.
“Eru,” he said, “everywhere I turn there’s another one of you.”
“I’m here as a special favor for Nelyo,” Celegorm said. “He wants me to teach his soldiers new fighting techniques. Between the healers you’ve brought us and myself, Himring will be a force to be reckoned with.” He grinned, slow and satisfied.
“Do you know where he is now?”
Celegorm shook his head, the bones woven into his braids clacking against each other. “Why, whatever would you want him for?” His tone was insinuating, and Fingon ground his teeth.
“Is nothing sacred?”
“Not really,” said Celegorm. “And you know how soldiers like to talk, once you’ve got a few pints in them. But for the sake of diplomatic relations, I’m sure I have no idea what you’re talking about. If you’re looking for Nelyo, he’s probably in his rooms going over his reports.”
He waved cheerily at Fingon, and winked. Fingon shuddered.
Maedhros was in fact in his rooms, reading over a thick stack of paper. “We’re going to have to open trade for grain,” he said by way of greeting. “We’re not getting enough. And fruits, probably. We have ore, though, so that should suffice.”
Fingon swept the papers out of the way, but carefully. He perched atop the desk, looming over Maedhros. “Look, I’m taller than you now,” he said delightedly.
“Get down,” said Maedhros. “You look ridiculous.”
Maedhros reached up with his good hand and pulled Fingon into his lap. “You beautiful fool,” he said.
“Mmm. I am beautiful, it’s true. I’m also in your lap.”
Maedhros looked surprised. “Why, so you are! I hadn't noticed.”
“I ran into Celegorm earlier,” Fingon said. “He seemed to imply that we’re sleeping together.”
“I know,” said Maedhros. “He kept congratulating me on finally finding someone with poor enough eyesight to bed me. He stopped when I threatened to toss him out the window.”
“I don’t know how you put up with your brothers.”
“Neither do I,” said Maedhros, "but death threats seem to help. Now, here you are, and here I am, and we are wasting our time talking.”
Fingon opened his mouth to say something, but Maedhros bent his head down and kissed him before the words were formed. “Stay awhile,” he whispered.
And so Fingon did.