~ Outlier of the Storm ~
~ The front door opened abruptly, Maglor came through into the living room, Auli beside him, tongue lolling in the grin of a dog satisfied by his walk. Vanimórë scratched his ears.
‘It is a beautiful evening.’
Maglor’s face was cold, closed. ‘I am surprised to find thee here. In fact I wonder why thou doth not stay in the hotel every night.’
‘A delicious thought, I admit.’ Vanimórë tucked a smile into his mouth. ‘Sadly there is not enough of Sören to go around, and Dooku has preference and precedence.’
Spinning on his heel, Maglor strode though to the kitchen, Auli following him. There was the rush of a tap, the sounds of a thirsty dog lapping at the water bowl.
Vanimórë closed the journal. He went to the connecting door, leaned against the jamb, watching as Maglor bent over the sink, the knuckles of his hands white.
‘I am not going to refuse Sören, my dear,’ Vanimórë said gently. ‘In my boots thou wouldst not, as thou wilt not, in time, and had thou my history, most certainly thou wouldst not.’
Maglor turned his back, straight and proud — and hurt. Vanimórë crossed the room, and slipped his arms about Maglor’s slim waist, feeling the vibration of stress all through him, the need to pull away colliding with the desire for touch, for comfort.
‘It will not be forever, beauty, this waiting time,’ he murmured into Maglor’s neck. ‘And it will be worth it, I promise. I shall not be here much longer, but thou and Sören, thou wilt be.’
A long exhale of breath. Maglor turned in his arms. His eyes were dark a silver as mercury. ‘Thou art leaving?’
‘I do not know how thou wilt all manage without me,’ he smiled. ‘But yes. I came here for thee, and for Sören and once matters are resolved to my satisfaction — and thine — I will leave.’
‘Thou doth not, as yet, but thou wilt.’ They were of a height, and he lifted his hands, drew Maglor’s head down to kiss his brow. ‘In a few months, thou wilt see this time was necessary, for Sören and for thee. I know it hurts. I do know, but it hurt him too. And I know how much thou doth hate that he and I have an...arrangement. But it is only temporary. Friends with benefits. He thinks about thee a great deal. Far more than is comfortable for him.’
A spark in those beautiful eyes, then the coldness returned. Maglor disengaged himself, went to the fridge and drew out a bottle of champagne. He drew out the cork, holding the force in one palm. ‘Drink.’
The golden bubbles fizzed bright trails in the glasses. Maglor handed one to Vanimórë and then drank.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I loathe thinking of thee with him. It eats me up inside. I know exactly how he is in the throes of passion. Of course I hate it.’ His look challenged. ‘Does that make thee feel good?’
‘No. I do nothing to hurt thee. Sometimes I actually do certain things because they give me pleasure.’ He swept his eyes up and down Maglor’s tall, slim body and winked.
Maglor stiffened, hissed, ‘I can sense him all over thee, his scent in the pores of thy skin—‘
‘And yes, I may also have wanted to slap thee into a reaction.’ Vanimórë showed his teeth. ‘And art thou likewise jealous of Dooku?’
The question brought a flush into Maglor’s white cheeks. He seemed to fumble for the right words. ‘I do not...he met Dooku after he and I separated. The thing was already done when I came back here. Dooku looks after him, he is protective.’ He sipped again. ‘A little, yes. But I like him.’ The revealing comment seemed to confuse him even more. His mouth hardened. ‘I do not resent his being with Sören as much as I hate Sören being with thee.
‘Sören has a great enough heart to love more than one person,’ Vanimorë murmured. ‘And —‘
‘Why wouldst thou think that?’
‘I do not think it, Maglor, I know it.’
Maglor went past him into the living room. Vanimórë picked up the champagne bottle and followed him.
‘I do not think it, and neither do I deserve it, were it true. This is a mess, Vanimórë. I would be the worse kind of man if I wanted to break what Sören has found with Dooku.’
Vanimórë held up a hand. ‘Before I was interrupted, my dear, I was about to say, some people are not suited to monogamous relationships. Sören is one of them. He has too much passion, too much fire for one person. Thou wilt discover that soon enough.’
A look of doubt. Of hope?
‘Thou art more than ordinarily cryptic, today.’ Maglor sat down, stretching his long legs. ‘Dooku is suspicious of thee, didst thou know it?’
‘He is clever that one. Yes, of course I know it. He was a barrister for many years. I must be waving a veritable forest of reg flags. Likewise, he is no doubt suspicious of thee and thy family.’ He widened his eyes at Maglor. ‘Well, that too will be explained soon. My part in this draws to an end.’
There was a long silence, not entirely uncomfortable, as if the loneliness in both of them found a common meeting-ground.
‘Where wilt thou go?’
‘Back to where I came from. The Timeless Halls. Dagor Dagorath draws close.’
Maglor turned his head, brows crooked. ‘What will happen?’
‘I do not know. There is one wild card. Eru. Or rather two.’ The Flame Imperishable. And he does not know how much power he has, focussed, controlled.
He took a swallow of champagne, felt the bubbles burst in his throat. ‘I will do all I can to protect the Elves, but they deserve this, Maglor. In any and every universe where thou wert doomed and damned, thou doth deserve this end game.’
The flush deepened on Maglor’s high cheekbones. He looked wild suddenly, vengeful, the magnificent prince of House Fëanor who had stood beside his father to swear the Oath, who had ridden into battle and war in a land long sunk beneath the ocean.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Yes. I wish—‘
‘Thou art already there, another version of thee, but not so very different to this one,’ Vanimórë teased. And in any reality I could never get enough of thee, of him... ‘Dagor Dagorath has not yet occurred in this universe.’
A longer silence then. Maglor was the incredibly intelligent son of the most brilliant mind ever to be born and one could see him considering, thinking.
‘Hast thou thought of telling this to Sören?’ he asked at last. ‘Whom thou art in truth?’
‘Yes, but the time is not yet ripe.’ He smiled. ‘And when dost thou intend to tell him about thyself, hmm?’
Maglor shifted, shook his head. ‘I cannot do that, Vanimórë. Even if any kind of forgiveness was possible — on Sören’s side, even if—‘ He flung out one hand. ‘I will have to leave him one day. What would it gain either of us save a few more years with heartbreak at the end of it?’ He drained his glass. Vanimórë refilled it.
‘I wish thou wouldst stop questioning what is possible, when the very fact that I came here from a different reality negates many impossibilities.’
Maglor’s eyes lowered to the rising bubbles. ‘Art thou not lying to Sören also?’
‘Concealing something, lying by omission perhaps. But there is no other Van Apollyon. I am he, in this world.’
‘Better than telling him my family wished me to marry to continue the line,’ Vanimórë said dryly.
‘I should never have become involved with him in the first place,’ Maglor exploded.
‘I do not think — in fact I am sure — that there was no choice in the matter. There are forces in the universe that are irresistible. In another reality, two, in fact, thou art very close to a lovely young woman named Claire. Thou wert full of internal warnings about becoming involved with her. Nevertheless, it happened.’
Maglor’s expression became arrested. ‘How— ah, thou art there, too, no doubt. Art thou stalking me, Vanimórë?’
Vanimórë threw back his head and laughed. ‘I suppose I am. Shall we say that I am ever concerned about thy wellbeing, beauty.’
‘Perhaps thou couldst refrain?’ Stiffly. ‘I am not in need of thy solicitude.’
‘Thou art, and what is the point of having any power at all if one does not use it to the advantage of others?’ He raised a brow. ‘It began with thee, my beautiful Maglor, it always does, but they came into the equation. Sören, Claire, Dooku. Dost thou understand? I want their happiness also.’
Maglor stared at him. ‘Didst thou help me, in those other universes?’
‘In one of them, yes. The other I have only observed.’
Reluctantly, Maglor said, ‘What is she like, this woman?’
‘As I said, she is lovely.’ He considered Claire and his mouth turned up. ‘Rose gold hair. A sweet face. She is strong, clever, great-hearted. If I tell thee that, like Sören, she has a way of slipping through the barriers we put about our hearts, thou wilt know exactly what I mean.’
Maglor’s lips compressed. ‘Yes. it seems I am a fool in multiple universes.’
‘I have been a fool for love myself, but in Claire and Sören thou art not a fool. They are worth loving.’
‘Thou? Now, who has broken thy heart, Vanimórë? I had not thought it possible.’ There was a taunt in the question, which faded, perhaps because Vanimórë did not smile or react in any way. His voice changed, dropped. ‘Very well, that was uncalled for.’
‘No, why?’ Vanimórë returned lightly. ‘Yes, my heart has been broken. Many times. I am Sauron’s son. Heartbreak...it comes in many forms, not only romantic love, is that not so?’ Didst thy heart not break when thy father died? When thy brothers were slain, when Maedhros cast himself into the fire? ‘A child’s heart can break without love, Maglor. ‘
Maglor flinched. The silence this time was an oppression. He shook his head. ‘I do not forget,’ he said after a while. ‘whom thou art. And what it must have meant.’ He rallied. ‘But thou doth not make it easy for one to remember it, or to pity thee.’
‘I do not want pity,’ Vanimórë flashed. ‘Anything but that. Suffice it to say that thou art not a fool for loving Sören and, in other realities, Claire James.’
‘Why are we even talking about it?’ Maglor’s eyes glittered. ‘Those other realities, I will never see them. Didst thou have her, too, this Claire?’
‘This is not a competition between us,’ Vanimórë said sternly. ‘And no, I have not. The last time I saw her, spoke to her, she was vulnerable and ill. I would not have touched her.’
‘As thou didst not touch me when I was vulnerable?’ Acidly.
‘Touché. Nevertheless, it is the truth.’ His mouth was held taut. ‘I know thou hast a low opinion of me, but acquit me of raping a young woman who sick at the time.’
Their eyes clashed like two swords meeting in sparks. ‘Perhaps my opinion of thee would be higher if thou hadst not raped me.’
‘I forced thee yes. Well, am I not Sauron’s son? What wouldst thou, or anyone else, expect of me?’ he jibed, bitterness in his mouth. He had forced Claire, too, although not into an act of sex. He had forced her into immortality rather than see her die in agony. He would do it again, too. Like Sören, she was precious to him.
‘And after, all those nights when thou wert the one to come to me?’
‘I was not myself.’
‘Thou wert starving, Maglor, for touch, intimacy. So was I. It was so long, was it not, such a long, long time from the silk sheets of Tirion, from the high chamber in Barad Eithil—‘
‘It is not the same where I come from. Thou didst refuse thy father; the prohibition against incest was too great. And thou didst spend thy life after regretting it.’ Maglor’s face shook. ‘But Fingolfin, thou and he did find some comfort in one another, conjuring the face, the body, of he who was gone—‘
‘Enough!’ A pulse beat in Maglor’s temple. His voice cracked. ‘Enough.’
‘it could never be enough, Maglor, the three of thee.’ He reached out a hand. ‘And I have told thee: nothing is ended.’
‘How dare thee give me hope where there is none?’ Maglor cried, his voice breaking against the walls in power, his eyes blazing silver. ‘Thou canst not turn time back in its tracks! They are gone.’
Vanimórë absorbed the cry like iron. ‘And I tell thee that though the curse of gods lie upon thee from one universe to another, Age upon Age, that nothing is ended. There are powers that are stronger than the Doom.’
From the kitchen, Auli barked, as if upset by their voices. Vanimórë sent the dog a soothing mental caress. Maglor put a hand over his eyes.
‘It has been so long.’ He sounded weary to his soul.
‘I know, beauty.’ His heart ached.
‘I cannot live with hope. Dost thou understand? Wilt thou just stop?’
‘No,’ Vanimórë said softly. ‘I will never stop giving thee hope.’
The gentle tick-tock of the clock measured the minutes as Maglor battled with his tears. When he looked up his eyes were dry.
‘One thing, then. Just one, since thou doth purport to care for me so much—‘
‘No.’ Vanimórë paused. ‘I will not stop seeing him. Thou must see — How can I?’ His own voice came with a flicking lash of pain; he was appalled. ‘He gives me something that I have had so rarely — for the short time that is left—‘ He lifted his glass to his mouth, tossed the champagne down. ‘I will drink it to the dregs.’
Maglor’s face hardened. ‘Wilt thou not talk about it? I know what he gives thee!’
Vanimórë could see through the glamour to the raging truth of him, the billowing cascade of ebony hair, the fierce, impossible beauty, so wholly Fëanorion, the light in the silver eyes that promised death or passion beyond description.
‘Good,’ he said. ‘I would hope so. But soon, a few weeks, and I will be gone.’
‘And Sören?’ The words were pushed through white teeth. ‘He is...fond of thee, and if thou wouldst use him and walk away from him—‘
‘He will have everything he desires by the time I leave,’ Vanimórë told him. ‘If he thinks of me at all, after, I hope it will be with kindness, but I am only a brief fling, Maglor. He likes what we do together, he was born to burn, he discovers that all the time. But Hells, he does not need me. I am nothing to him, nothing. Put aside thy jealousy for one moment and see clearly.’
Maglor’s breast rose and fell with his quickened breathing. He drank down the champagne, said, ‘Sören is not shallow, Vanimórë. Gods! he is the very opposite! I think he is a little in love at least with those he sleeps with.’
‘He desires some of them and desires and loves the others. And — trust me on this — what he had and will have with thee, with Dooku, is on another plane entirely from what he has with me.’
Maglor set the empty glass aside. ‘I do not understand thee.’
‘No, thou hast never looked past the hate enough to ever see me clearly, beauty,’ Vanimórë said wryly. ‘It matters not at all.’
‘Thou didst walk into Sören’s life so casually, picked him up in a club, and now stroll back here, lift a finger —‘
‘I am very good at sex, Maglor. I was trained to be so, and I trained myself to be so.’ He filled their glasses again.
‘And thou doth look like a god, walk across the worlds as if thou art a king—‘
He sliced a smile. ‘Only thou canst see that through the glamour, just as I can see through thine own, Macalaurë Fëanorion.’ He stepped closer. ‘I can see what thou art what thou doth need and like it or not, fight as thou wilt, I am going to ensure thou doth get it.’ He drove the vow into Maglor’s eyes, then turned away.
‘Why?’ Maglor’s voice stopped him. ‘Why dost thou even care?’
‘I am Sauron’s son. Perhaps I am trying to balance the scales a little. Perhaps I require...absolution.’ He did not turn around. And because, like any beggar, I sit below the rich mens’ table and eat any crumbs that fall from it.
He did not sleep often, even when the greater part of his power was left behind, but he was drowsing when the bedroom door opened, laying on his front.
Maglor said nothing, as he turned back the sheets, laying his naked body over Vanimórë’s. The silk-sheathed iron of his cock pressed hard between Vanimórë’s buttocks. Hands sifted through his hair, drew it aside. There were no words between them; as in Barad-dûr, Maglor was mute.
Maglor was one of the very few people Vanimórë would allow to have him. It had taken him long to battle through the sense that to allow it was acquiesce to his own rape. As he had, often. It had taken him longer to admit that, sometimes, he needed it. Needed the surrender.
Maglor locked his fingers through Vanimórë’s, binding their hands. There was hate there, and furysorrowfire. Gentleness there was none, it was raw and savage and hungry, and Vanimórë revelled in it.
Sometimes eloquence needs no words.