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be still, and let the dark come

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There’s a shift in the air, something like the crackle of lightning before a storm and outside, for a moment, Feanor can almost feel the wind shift, wrap tight around the walls of Formenos like a vice and then it is gone.

He sighs, pressing fingertips to his tired eyes. He needs air, a walk to clear his head.

It’s an itch under his skin like some sort of madness settling in, and he’s been inside for too long. Finwe would tell him as much, lingering in the doorway to his forge, one hand resting upon the frame and the other almost reaching for him, as if he could drag Feanor away from the fire himself.

Yes, a walk. He stands, eyes going to the window as if looking for some approaching storm, the tell-tale signs of rain, and through the open window it seems darker, but the curtains do not move. There is no breeze, no wind.

Each step to the door is heavy, filled with apprehension and he tries to shake himself free of it. It is nothing but the trick of my mind, a weariness with this idleness. A long walk, and he takes a breath, feels his chest ache with this terrible thing, a weight on his shoulders and so he rolls them, hand reaching for the door.

There is someone on the other side.

He can feel it again, a spark over his skin and he nearly withdraws. Feanor, son of Finwe, has never been afraid.

“It is nothing.” He tells himself, reaches for the door again and there’s the shift again, the curtains fluttering out of the corner of his eyes and the smell of petrichor drifting in. He thinks, for some wild moment, that perhaps it is Manwe on the other side and he feels his teeth grind together, pulse racing in his throat.

Of course it would be. Here with a chastisement on his lips, tears in his dark, unblinking eyes. Oh Feanor, he would say, you do not know how this hurts me.

“Oh?” He asks the wood, “What do you, o Elder King, know of hurt?” His hand tightens upon the latch and he thinks he should walk away. Wait for the Vala to call upon him and ignore the knocking. Were it anyone else they would announce themselves and, if his mood lifts, he might answer, or perhaps he might take his walk some other time.

No. No, he will not hide within the confines of his own home, a prisoner of his own fortress. He would not, and so the latch turns, the door creaks open.

He knows him, and the rebuke dies in his mouth, breath catching in his chest. The muscles in his arm twitch, telling him shut the door, shut the door and yet he stands there, eyes wide and near-gawking.

“Feanor,” His name sounds steeped in honey, in wine, sweet and potent. “Did I catch you on  your way out?”

“No,” He lies, but is it a lie? His thoughts seem far away.

“Fortuitous.” Melkor says, standing upon his step. Melkor , and he wants to look away, wants to shut the door and swear him away, bid him to leave. How dare any Vala pollute the sanctity of his home, and this one not least of all. And yet, and yet.

And yet he opens the door just a bit wider, takes a step forward.

Feanor, first son of Finwe, knows no fear.

There’s some part of him that is curious, a flicker of flame and he reaches his fingers towards it. A flicker, a spark of some thing that he sees reflected in the deep and black of the Vala’s eyes and he does not look away, feels the corner of his lips twitch up and he inclines his head in a half-nod. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

It seems to catch Melkor by surprise, perhaps waiting for the very rebuke that Feanor had toyed with, but it would seem they are both curious things. There’s a flash of a smile, of white teeth and Feanor has to blink, tries to count them again because there are too many, too sharp.

“Is it not in the habit of my others to pay visits to the Eldar? How often has my own brother come to his favorites, to even your own father, to spend time with the blessed children of Our Father, Eru?”

“And what invisible strings he attached to such visits.” Feanor counters, already tired of this. “Never more than adding another layer of gilding upon the cage wrought for us.”

At this Melkor leans closer, the distance between them closing in and Feanor nearly takes a step back, as if to retreat. He will not run, from Melkor, from Manwe, from any of them, ever again.

“Ah, there is that fire.” Melkor says, and that spark is a flame, dancing behind the darkness of the Vala’s eyes. Feanor is transfixed, staring, and Melkor moves even closer now. “I had feared that your time in solitude might have dampened it, might have crushed that spirit of yours, but it seems your mother named you well.”

His nails dig into the wood of the door, scraping grooves into the design of it, and he feels his jaw clench tight. “Why are you here?”

And at this, Melkor takes a step back. Holds his hands up, as if to placate, the smile slipping from his face into something almost apologetic. “I am here because I have an offer for you, Feanor, son of Finwe.”

“Twice now you have spoken of my parentage, and twice now I have felt the warning of your intent within me. Speak now, or leave. Why are you here?”

Melkor’s lips part and there is a flicker of a half-smile. “You seek an escape from your cage, Feanor. I can give it to you.”

He falters, the air rushing from his lungs all at once and he feels like a child with some prize dangled just out of his reach. Wide-eyed he watches the Vala now, waiting for the terms, for the trap. He can feel the heave of each breath, the rise and fall of shoulders and chest, the harried beat of his heart in his throat.

Melkor presses his lips into another smile, a slight quirk of a dark eyebrow, and the veil of jewels like stars glitter in the void-black of his hair. “May I come in?”

He knows he shouldn’t, knows better, and yet his hand moves as if with a mind of its own. He turns away, holds the door open and waits. Melkor slips past him like a whisper of wind, carrying the scent of rain-soaked earth with him inside and Feanor cannot help but wonder what have I done?

The door closes behind them both.

He should offer him a chair, something to drink. Ever a prince, a host, a product of customs and fealties that feel like chains and yet he find himself going for the tray, for the crystal glasses there and turns them over with hands that tremble.

“Speak quickly.” He says, “I do not have the patience for idle chatter.” Uncorks the wine bottle and pours them both a glass. He withholds it, be it hubris or defiance, he will hear the offer first before they drink to anything.

“Nor do I.” Melkor says, looking at ease even here. And yet he does not take liberties, does not clasp his hands in false supplication, does not reach for him to entreat of him anything. “You are shackled, and you suffer for it. So do your people, your father’s people, your kith and kin. I know the things in your heart, Feanor, though you may not believe me for it. You wish a freedom not only for yourself and your sons, but for all you hold dear. You think your salvation lies beyond the sea, and you look to it with a thirst that aches within your very spirit. I can give this to you.”

Feanor takes a drink, the other glass still upon the tray. “How?”

“I have been across the sea, and you know this. I can show you the way.”

“Why?”

Melkor laughs then, a sound like the shatter of glass upon stone. “Why not?” He asks in turn. “You and I are not so unalike.”

He thinks he should bristle at this, should take an offense. And yet, something within him is subdued. He takes another drink of the wine, sweet and potent and when he closes his eyes he can taste his name on Melkor’s lips, the slow purr of it, what bid him to not close the door when perhaps he should. “Are we?”

“Have you not been banished unjustly?” Melkor says, and when did he move so close? Feanor has to tilt his head back to see into the Vala’s eyes now. “Have you not been wounded for the desires of your own heart, with little more reasoning that they are wrong? Do you not want to be free, as I do?”

“And you are caged?” Feanor asks, and perhaps the wine is muddling his thoughts but he finds that he moves closer, the other glass in his hand now, holding it out. Would that his father could see him, them, like this, what would he think?

He does not care.

“Perhaps it is a cage of my own making this time.” Melkor says, and their fingers touch as he takes the wine from him, a brush of skin against skin.

Feanor has looked at the stars many nights, looking up at them shining so bright, so far away. A twinkling of pale white light in the darkness and he wondered at them; did they burn hot as fire, or were they shards of ice placed so high above them?

A brush of skin, and he thinks that it is both, and he has touched them.

“But if the heart of Feanor is yet free and bold as his words in Tirion, I will aid him.” Melkor says, his voice almost a whisper, and yet he feels it like the stirring of a storm, a wind feeding the fire within him. “And I will bring him far from this narrow land.”

He wants to ask why , or how , or anything and yet the words stick in his throat.

And Melkor seems to see within him, those black eyes peering into the secret places of his mind and finding his thoughts to hold no offense. “Am I not Vala? And more than those who sit in pride in Valmar, I have ever been a friend of the Noldor.”

There is a protest, he can taste it like rust behind his teeth and yet he cannot  find the words. Melkor takes a drink of wine, watching him over the rim of the glass like he knows he’s won some victory here today. Feanor thought for sure that freedom would taste like something golden, and yet he bites at the edges of his tongue, tasting blood and iron and fire. Sparks from the the forge, alighting on the backs of his hands and burning bright for a moment and then gone. He feels dizzy, overcome, everything he thinks he might want within reach, the brush of fingertips against the pale hands before him, clutching one of his glasses, drinking deep from it.

The world tilts, and they drink again, some unspoken pact, and whether he agrees or sends the Vala away the world has changed already.

It changed the moment you drew your sword.

His thoughts do not feel like his own and yet they are his words, his own voice, smooth and quiet in his ears.

“And what price do you put upon such aid?”

Melkor seems to flicker, starlight hidden away for a moment by cloud. Feanor thinks for a moment they have switched glasses, drinking from the others in some pact he’s not ready to make even as he drinks again.

“What price would you assume of me? Shall we not be friends? You have rattled the bars of your cage for so long against any words that come with strings attached, why should I now deceive you when I offer you reprieve from that very same?”

“Because I know you.” Feanor says, and his words seem almost slurred. “I know your kind.”

“You know my brother.”

“Vala, are you not?” Throws his own words back at him, “What makes you different?”

“Because I understand.”

Something breaks within him, and more than anything he wants to believe. How easy it is to just let go, to just let this -- whatever this is -- happen. Maybe they’re doomed to failure, maybe it’s a trap, but what is the consequence if he does not try .

The shame, the humiliation rises dark and bitter within him. If it is a trap then what, and does it matter? Cursed he is, should he not earn it? It moves within him, some serpent undulating between his ribs and Melkor seems to breathe, as if the wine affects him too. His lips part again, as if he means to say more and then, with a thought, twitches them into a smile. “Your victory is my victory,” he says at last, “you failure would be my failure, in turn. And you see, Feanor, much as yourself, I hate to lose.”

“How will we do this?” The words tumble out of his all at once, before he can bite them back and he finds he does not care. Somewhere, in Formenos, his father stirs, moving from room to room and he thinks they do not have much time. But if Melkor is concerned, he does not show it, gestures to the plush chairs as if he is the master of this home and not Feanor, and yet Feanor moves, bidden, to sit upon his own and hold his wine like some holy symbol, like a shield between himself and the Vala, slipping with every passing heartbeat.

“You tell me.” And the itch is back, bone deep and he wants to stand, to pace, to shout and scream until his throat is raw and his lungs are bloodied. You have no more a plan than do I , and yet he holds himself poised. Were he on the other side, would he not ask the same?

No, no.

And yet, and yet.

He does not have a plan, a glimpse through an interstice caught and for a moment, willing to put himself in the hands of another. Willing, and almost desperate for something, for anything, something real and solid, a flicker of hope. A spark, caught on the back of his hand that he can watch until it fades to ash.

The room seems to darken, the two of them the only pinpoints of light within. His breath seems loud, a rattle like a sword unsheathed and his pulse the beat of a drum.

He thought freedom would taste of gold, but it tastes of iron and blood, a cold uncertainty and a desperation surging within him. Like touching stars, so hot it seems cold for a moment.

Melkor looks at him, those black eyes full of flame. “Tell me.”

And does he have the upperhand? Why does victory taste like gnawing on the bars of his cage but all the same he drains his glass, licks the bittersweet from his lips. “How shall we seal this?”

“Tell me.” And it is up to him to make the first move. It is up to him to pry open the door of this gilded cage and he can feel laughter bubble from within him.

“You are as false as the day is long.” Feanor says, delighting in the cacophony of emotions that play across the Vala’s face. “And yet here you are, what shall I make of this? What would our kin would make of the same?” He feels giddy, almost manic. Here they are, bound in a secret, a mutiny and considering it so casually over a glass of wine. He stands, make for the bottle again and there is a hand on his arm, caught at his elbow and he turns.

Turns, drawn into that cold dark of the Vala, of Melkor , void between stars, that vastness.

Oh dark, dark, will we all go into the dark.  

There is a desperation that beats between the two of them, a need for the other to see their point of view, their own private struggle. A desperation, like the crackle of lightning, the sharp smell of petrichor and he leans into the touch.

A desperation, a parting of lips and the brush of the same. Skin against skin, a spark, static and cold and when he reaches for him, threads his fingers into the inky black of his hair he touches stars.

Oh dark dark, we all go into the dark.

It burns so bright that he shivers, static and wine in his mouth as he breaks for air, the heave and fall of his chest nothing more than muscle memory.

We are not so different , and for a moment he believes him, wants to believe him. Freedom tastes of molten gold over his tongue, behind his teeth as he moves again, skin against skin. It bites, too sharp with too many teeth, all rust and ruin and he cannot get enough.

We are not so different, and the world narrows to here, to now. To this, the fumble of fingers at clasps and the soft sound of a breath next to his ear. The fall away of fabric and the cold dark, that space between the stars but over his skin, touching. Neck to chest, throat to heart, fingertips trailing some path, mapping some promise over flesh and he arches into it. Anything, he promises, speaks it with each movement, anything, anything.

In some other life he said no. In some other life he shut the door, cast him away. In some other life he swore him away, banished him from his door and home in little more than a word.

In some other life the glass did not topple from his hand, cracking upon the floor. In some other life he did not taste his name, honey and wine, upon the Vala’s lips.

In some other life, he thinks, he did not damn them both.

Or perhaps he only damns himself.

Oh dark, dark, dark. We all go into the dark.

The words press against his tongue, his teeth. Get thee gone, and he nearly giggles with it, giddy, but when his lips part he sighs, a half-moan as too-long fingers work at the fabric of his clothes.

It presses him down into the plush of the sofa. Knees over shoulders, and somewhere he lost control.

Somewhere, he lost control.

And somewhere, somewhere, he stopped caring.

He blinks up at those dark eyes. The haze of wine, and he counts four, six, great dark holes in Melkor’s face and then he blinks again and there it is, that spark, that fire in the black. Closes his eyes, breathes with each movement; legs splayed, fingers pressing into him, and when he open his eyes it’s too many teeth, too wide a smile, a lolling tongue. Another blink, and sickly sweet lips against his own, wine drenched words of praise in his ears. The undulating dark, those vast spaces between the cold of stars and then the press of a warm body against his own until he can’t breathe, he can’t think.

Somewhere the narrative shifted.

Knees tight around waist, the burn of fabric against his back, the dig of nails into borrowed flesh and he doesn’t care, doesn’t keep score. The rush, the stutter of breath between teeth, finger scoring lines into skin and he arches against it, sin and hubris and everything he tells himself he’s fought for. Panting, skin to skin, the hot slick of sweat and dark eye to grey, the collide of two binary stars that want nothing more than to swallow the other.

And Feanor know when to feign defeat, draws a shuddering breath, ready to swear a thousand broken promises when Melkor shifts, pulls away from him and there’s a moment between them.

Skin to skin, flesh to bone. And each thinks, I cannot do this without you.

There but for a moment, a press of fingertips to lips, a flicker of tongue against flesh. Something meant to be obscene and then.

And then.

And then Melkor is sinking into the sofa, all sweat-slick skin, fingers tracing some design up the skin of Feanor’s calf.

“Tell me what you want,” and it is too earnest, too honest. Feanor gasps for air between another kiss, skin to skin and when they part the question is still there, hanging hot and heavy between them.

Tell me what you want.

When they breathe, they breathe together, something deep and dark and shuddering.