Modern setting AU. Maedhros/Fingon. Maedhros owns a bookstore. Fingon is in grad school. Expect appearances from varied members of the House of Finwë. Except Finwë--he's already dead in this story. This is a modern take on how Maedhros and Fingon meet and develop a relationship. Obnoxious brothers, prying little sisters, echoes of canon and an overall need for this not to all end in flames.
Categories: Fiction Characters:
Amras, Amrod, Aredhel, Caranthir, Celegorm, Curufin, Erestor, Fëanor, Fingolfin, Fingon, Finrod, Maedhros, Maglor, Nerdanel, Turgon
October 06, 2017 Updated:
April 21, 2018
My thanks to Cheekybeak for her beta work on this and to ziggy for encouraging me to post it here.
Many thanks to Spiced Wine for adding the lovely artwork my friend @cinemairon created for this story. I was too technically challenged to manage it!
1. Chapter 1 by NelyafinweFeanorion
2. Chapter 2 by NelyafinweFeanorion
3. Chapter 3 by NelyafinweFeanorion
4. Chapter 4 by NelyafinweFeanorion
5. Chapter 5 by NelyafinweFeanorion
6. Chapter 6 by NelyafinweFeanorion
7. Chapter 7 by NelyafinweFeanorion
8. Chapter 8 by NelyafinweFeanorion
9. Chapter 9 by NelyafinweFeanorion
10. Chapter 10 by NelyafinweFeanorion
11. Chapter 11 by NelyafinweFeanorion
12. Chapter 12 by NelyafinweFeanorion
13. Chapter 13 by NelyafinweFeanorion
14. Chapter 14 by NelyafinweFeanorion
15. Chapter 15 by NelyafinweFeanorion
16. Chapter 16 by NelyafinweFeanorion
17. Chapter 17 by NelyafinweFeanorion
18. Chapter 18 by NelyafinweFeanorion
19. Chapter 19 by NelyafinweFeanorion
20. Chapter 20 by NelyafinweFeanorion
21. Chapter 21 by NelyafinweFeanorion
22. Chapter 22 by NelyafinweFeanorion
23. Chapter 23 by NelyafinweFeanorion
24. Chapter 24 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Chapter 1 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Fingon stepped out of the monorail station and looked down at his phone again. Finrod had enthusiastically recommended this newly opened used bookstore in Formenos. While browsing there, Finrod had discovered an obscure book on Esperanto that he needed for his research and had been unfailing in his praise of the store ever since.
It had been years since Fingon had been to Formenos. Life was so busy with college and now grad school. True, Formenos was only a half hour away by train but it seemed more distant than a suburb somehow. He turned left towards the town square. Formenos had changed. He remembered it as a sleepy little bedroom community with a few quaint shops and a nice river walk but not much more.
Now the whole street leading to the square was lined with stores—coffee shops, vintage clothing stores, antique shops, and bistros. On this gloriously sunny, autumn Saturday there were people everywhere. He made his way to the central square, which was buzzing with a large farmers market, and followed a side street down one block. There it was—Beleriand Books.
He shoved his phone in his pocket and went in. He had expected it to be a typical used bookstore—small and cramped. This was completely different. It was laid out more like a conventional bookstore with large bookshelves, wide aisles and cozy chairs and sofas scattered at the ends of the aisles and in the open area in the center of the store.
The smell of good coffee hit him and he made directly for the small counter to his left. Coffee in hand, he wandered about the store, taking it all in, before focusing on the Art and Architecture shelves.
He was disappointed that Safdie's book was not on the shelf but not particularly surprised. It was an out of print, obscure architecture book that one of his professors had mentioned in passing but it had piqued Fingon's interest.
He wandered to the back of the store and was surprised to find this section was all used vinyl albums. Riffling through the racks made him smile as he recognized so many of his parents' old favorites, including some truly execrable 70's albums.
Glancing at his watch, he realized he had spent far more time browsing than he had expected. He headed to the shop doors, tossing his empty coffee cup in a trash bin and was about to exit when he stopped. It wouldn't hurt to ask the clerk at the desk if he had heard of the book. It hadn't been available on Amazon but maybe there was another source for it in the used book world.
The redheaded clerk was seated behind the counter, reading a book himself. He looked up when Fingon approached, leaving his book on the counter. "Can I help you?" he asked in a low, melodious voice. He gave Fingon a smile and stood up.
"I'm looking for an architecture book. It's kind of obscure—there's a store online that has it but not at a price a grad student can afford," Fingon said.
"What's the title and the author's name?" the clerk asked, turning to the computer monitor on the desk near him.
" 'Beyond Habitat' by Moshe Safdie," Fingon replied. "S-a-f-d-i-e. M-o-s-h-e."
The clerk nodded and typed it in. Fingon looked at him, now that he was absorbed in the computer search. He was extraordinarily tall. Fingon was tall himself at six feet but this clerk had to be at least 6"5 by the look of him. He had dark red hair caught in a man-bun. Fingon hated man-buns—they were so pretentious—but he had to admit it looked natural on this guy. He was wearing a comfortable looking gray sweater and jeans. Fingon thought he might be about the same age as himself. Likely an English major or grad student working for extra cash, he thought.
"I don't have it on the shelf. I saw Harrington's has it online but yeah, that's a bit of a steep price." The clerk clicked on the keyboard a few more times then turned to look directly at Fingon.
He had unusual gray eyes, almost silver in color, their intensity not dimmed by the narrow tortoiseshell glasses he wore.
"Pardon me?" Fingon said, belatedly realizing he had missed what the clerk had just said.
"If you give me your number I can ring you up when I track down a copy. I'm sure I can find you a cheaper one but it might take a little while." The clerk repeated the words Fingon had missed.
"Oh yeah. Sure. That would be great." Fingon gave his name and phone number and watched him type it into the computer.
"I might have some info for you later today—is it ok if I call or would you rather I wait until Monday?" he asked Fingon.
"It's fine to call anytime. I don't have any plans," Fingon wondered why he had said that, as if this guy cared if Fingon had plans or not.
The clerk smiled in response. "Yeah, same here. Just working this weekend." He bent down behind the counter and then handed a card to Fingon. "Here's my business card. Thanks for stopping by and sorry I didn't have what you wanted in stock."
Fingon took the card and looked down at it. Beleriand Books, Maedhros Finweon—owner, and then some phone numbers.
"What's your name?" Fingon asked the clerk. "Just so I know who to ask for when I call."
The clerk laughed. "That's me. I'm Maedhros. I own the store."
Fingon could feel his face heating up. "I'm sorry . . . I just . . ."
"You assumed I just worked here. No worries, happens all the time," Maedhros replied, an amused expression on his face.
"You just looked kind of young to own a bookstore—I thought you were my age . . ." Fingon stopped awkwardly, realizing he really wasn't helping with his words.
Maedhros smiled at him. "I like to think I'm still young," he said. "I'm twenty-nine."
"I'm twenty-five," Fingon said, belatedly realizing that Maedhros hadn't asked how old he was.
"Grad school?" Maedhros asked.
"Masters in Architecture at Cuiviénen," Fingon replied.
Maedhros smile grew wider. "I graduated from Cuiviénen too. Classics. Undergrad and PhD."
Fingon just nodded, his mind a blank.
"The usual response is 'so what's a PhD like you doing in a place like this?'" Maedhros said, raising one eyebrow at Fingon.
"Um, you like books?" Fingon answered awkwardly.
"Exactly," Maedhros smiled broadly again, making his whole face light up, especially his eyes, Fingon thought. "Academia was an option but when I unexpectedly came into some money last year I decided to do what I've wanted to do since I was a kid—own a bookstore. So here I am—owning a bookstore."
"It's a great bookstore," Fingon said. "Most used bookstores are cramped and small. This one makes me feel relaxed. I could stay here all day," Fingon inwardly groaned. He sounded so . . . ridiculous he finally decided, although pathetic would probably work just as well. He usually was so much better at conversation than this. He could chat with anyone, anytime, and now he was stumbling over his words and making completely inane comments.
"That's why I chose this space and designed the interior this way!" Maedhros said, placing his elbows on the counter and leaning forward slightly. "I could have had a store on the square—there's lots more traffic and walk-ins there—but the rent is high and the spaces are much smaller. I preferred being a bit off the main trail but with a better space." He looked around the bookstore, a satisfied expression on his face. "I make enough to pay the bills and I love coming to work every day. It's all good," he said, his eyes catching Fingon's again. "Except for not having your book, of course. I hate to disappoint a customer."
"I'm not disappointed," Fingon said, without thinking. He clutched Maedhros' card, flustered again. "I'll call you . . . I mean you'll call me when . . . if you find the book that is." What was with him today? He had basically lost the ability to string words together in a coherent sentence structure somehow.
"I'll call you if I find it. When I find it," Maedhros corrected himself.
"Call me either way," Fingon heard himself say. "Whether you find it or not, just so I know."
"I'll call." Maedhros gave him a lopsided smile and tapped the computer monitor. "I've got your number."
"Thanks again." Fingon stepped back from the counter he had been leaning against, nodded at Maedhros then headed out the shop door to the sidewalk. He carefully put the business card in his wallet, looked at his watch and started walking in the direction of the monorail station. Time to get home and get back to work on his project. He'd need to watch his caffeine intake. Beleriand Books served strong coffee—his heart was still racing from it.
Chapter 2 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Maedhros watched Fingon leave, then turned back to the computer. He would find the book for him, if only for a chance to chat with him again.
He had finished his PhD last year, before opening Beleriand Books. Maedhros loved the store, the trips to the estate sales and garage sales looking for books, the conversations with the customers, the relaxed pace of the days at the store. He found he did miss the time with his fellow students, the camaraderie of his colleagues at Cuiviénen and the social life though.
Truth be told he hadn't had much of a social life since deciding to open the bookstore. Months searching for a location, planning the layout, obtaining inventory, categorizing his collections, painting, trolling flea markets and yard sales for comfortable furniture—it had taken up a lot of his time but he didn't regret it.
Things had finally settled down a bit. He still took his inventory-finding expeditions but the bookstore was turning a small but steady profit each month. He didn't need to be there every day—he had employees and brothers enough to man the place but he liked it. He liked being there. He had created his ideal bookstore and it felt like home.
It would be nice to talk to somebody other than his family though. He kept in touch with his former professors, mostly by email. Almost all of his colleagues in the Classics program had scattered around the country, scrounging for the few positions available in academia or toiling away as adjunct professors halfway across the country.
Except for Azaghâl. Azaghâl had taken the adjunct position at Cuiviénen that Maedhros had turned down when he decided to open the bookstore. Azaghâl was busy—trying to impress as an adjunct in the hope of a permanent, tenure-track position, a baby girl at home and juggling Telchar's variable schedule as a nurse—all that left him very little time to spend with Maedhros.
Azaghâl would come to the bookstore about once a month; they would grab coffee or lunch and it almost felt like old times, when they roomed together. He and Telchar would have Maedhros over for dinner once in a while, when Telchar wasn't working night shifts. Maedhros would babysit little Narvi and give them a night out here and there. He loved children, despite the fact that he had practically raised his six brothers. Narvi was such a quiet, easygoing child that Maedhros quite enjoyed watching her for them.
It was nice having his own place, even if he had to share it with Maglor and Tyelko. Maedhros liked living in Formenos but it was just far enough from Tirion that it was a bit of a hassle to go downtown just for dinner or a night out. Not that he had ever really gotten into the nightlife in Tirion anyway, even when he lived on campus or in the apartment he shared with Azaghâl.
But he did miss the gatherings at his place, staying up late into the night having intelligent and sometimes fascinating conversations with his friends, the weekends playing Ultimate in the parks, heading to the bars to watch the games, seeing foreign films at the restored cinema downtown. He missed the events on campus too-concerts, visiting lecturers, watching Tyelko play hockey, the theater productions at Cuiviénen and downtown. Formenos certainly had things to do-if you liked to shop, to eat, to go out on the lake. It was a great place for families with kids; he had loved the summers here at the lake house that he had now inherited from Grandfather. But with only one cinema and theater in the summers only, it didn't provide quite the same variety of entertainment as Tirion.
Maedhros didn't want to move back to Tirion. The commute was only a half hour with the monorail but still. He liked having the bookstore in Formenos. There were so many bookstores in downtown Tirion, used and new, that Maedhros was sure he would be struggling to pay the bills each month if he had opened the store there instead. Rents were higher than in Formenos too. No, it had been a great idea to open the store here. With the added ease of a house he owned nearby it had really been a perfect option.
Maedhros hadn't really made any friends in Formenos yet either. He had met some people since he had opened the store. His neighbors by the lake were all nice, mostly families with young children and a few retired couples, but they didn't have much in common other than where they lived. With the exception of some local shop owners, almost everyone who lived in Formenos actually worked in Tirion.
He had gotten to know many of the shop owners, meeting them at the gatherings the city business development council held periodically. Maedhros was the youngest one there by at least a decade and he knew they found him a little odd. They knew the story and many quickly realized he didn't actually have to work to make a living and the fact that he did, and seemed to enjoy it, puzzled them. They were polite and friendly but their interactions didn't go much beyond that. Others had openly expressed surprise he hadn't stayed in academia and were perplexed that he was "wasting" his education on a used bookstore. He didn't talk to those people at the gatherings much anymore.
As far as anything beyond friendship? It had been awhile since he had been interested in anyone that way, he had to admit.
Maedhros shook his head and turned back to his computer. He would find this book for Fingon and for less than the ridiculous £125 that Harrington's had it priced. This was the challenge he loved. He had a chance to convert a disappointed customer to a satisfied one. And to be honest, he was really looking forward to seeing Fingon again.
Chapter 3 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Fingon let himself into the apartment and groaned at the sight of his roommate and his brother sprawled in front of the television, snacks in various bowls around them and on the floor as well, both of them in the process of shouting at the screen.
He had already wasted too many hours today searching for that book in the store in Formenos. Well, not so much searching as enjoying the peace and quiet of the store itself and the conversation with the owner. He had work to do now though and there was certainly little peace and quiet to be had here.
He leaned against the doorframe and glared at Finrod and Turgon. "Seriously? You couldn't watch this at a bar?"
"It's Man U. versus Arsenal. No bar around here is going to show that!" Fingon's brother Turgon said, through a mouthful of popcorn.
"That's why we got my dad to pay for the premium cable, remember?" Fingon's roommate Finrod added.
"I've got to work on my project. I can't do that anywhere but here. Are you going to be here all night?" Fingon knew he sounded whiny but he really didn't care.
"It's Crystal Palace versus Manchester City after this, so yeah," Turgon answered.
"Haven't they already played these games today?" Fingon asked testily.
"Well, I wasn't going to get up at dawn o'clock to watch them," Turgon said, between sips of his beer. "So Finrod taped them and here we are."
"Fine," Fingon shook his head at them and went to his room. Days like this were the reason he had noise-cancelling headphones.
He was used to Turgon being irritating. Currently a senior at Cuiviénen, Turgon's schedule was pretty light for the fall semester. He had his own place on campus, being a Resident Advisor, but he had taken to hanging out at their place with Finrod a lot more since school had started this year. Fingon hoped that would change next semester when his brother had an internship and more responsibility. It wasn't that he disliked Turgon; it was just irritating to have him around as a distraction so frequently.
Finrod was Finrod. He was in his second year of a Masters in Romance Languages and at the rate he was going it was likely going to take him years. He might study during the week, but weekends were a different story.
Not too many years ago Fingon would have joined them—for the game, for the bar scene, for a night on the town in Tirion. But architecture grad school was nothing like college. If he expected to land a job with any of Tirion's prestigious firms he needed to stay focused.
Hours later he pulled off his headphones and meandered into the kitchen. It was dark outside but the glow of the television lit the living room and he could hear Finrod and Turgon talking, their conversation occasionally punctuated by a shout.
He heated up some left over lasagna, inwardly thanking his mother for her intermittent food deliveries, and then he walked out to stand behind the sofa.
"Hey," Finrod said. "Join us? You done with your model building for the night?"
"I've done as much as I can," Fingon replied, sinking into the recliner next the sofa, plate on his lap.
"Beer?" Turgon asked, reaching down to the cooler on the floor next to him.
"May as well. I'm done for the night," Fingon replied, deftly catching the can Turgon tossed at him. He made a face as he looked at the label. "Went all out, didn't you?"
"Hey, it's beer. Not worth the extra cash for the microbrew, beer snob," Finrod said.
Fingon settled back with his mediocre beer. Despite his earlier annoyance with them he was glad to now relax in their company.
Finrod turned to him at the half. "Did you find the book you wanted at that bookstore?"
Fingon shook his head. "No, they didn't have it. I didn't think they would but the owner said he would check around and let me know if he finds a copy."
"Redhaired fellow with the glasses?" Finrod asked.
"It's a nice store. Nice selection of books, nice layout, nice looking staff," Finrod replied, raising his eyebrows at Fingon.
Fingon felt his face grow warm and was suddenly relieved that the room was so dimly lit. "I liked the layout," he said neutrally. "They've got a lot of space. I'll bet the rent is a bitch that close to the square though."
Finrod laughed. "Oh, he's got no worries about money."
"Who?" asked Turgon.
"The owner. Maedhros Finwëon," Finrod answered. "He's got cash to spare, especially after that settlement a few years ago."
"Settlement?" Fingon asked.
"Don't you remember the story? It's been a few years now but the settlement came out, what, two or three years ago? I think we were still in high school when the case was filed." Finrod reached for another beer as he spoke. "His grandfather owned Noldor Pharmaceuticals. He sold it around the time we were in high school and made heaps on it. Trust funds for all the grandkids, charitable donations all over the place, a wing at the med school named after him or something."
"So it's all trust fund money, then?" Turgon asked.
"Sure, some of it is. But soon after selling Finwë was hit by a truck as he was crossing the street. Hit and run but there were plenty of witnesses and the driver was found. Finwe's son filed a wrongful death suit against the trucking company and when it was settled they got millions," Finrod answered. "Don't you guys remember this? It was on the news all the time. I thought your dad's firm was part of his legal team."
Fingon remembered now. They had been in high school and his father had rarely been home for weeks on end. He never talked about the case but the evening news and newspapers had been full of photos of Finwë, his grieving family and Finwë's furious son. So that was where the money came from for Maedhros to start the bookstore right out of his PhD program, Fingon realized.
"I talked to him the day I bought that Esperanto book," Finrod continued. "He opened the store with some of the settlement money the family got."
Turgon turned up the volume of the television again, as Manchester City returned to the pitch and their attention was focused on the game once more, the bookstore forgotten.
Chapter 4 by NelyafinweFeanorion
It was Wednesday by the time Maedhros had located a copy of "Beyond Habitat." He found it at a New York City used bookstore, in good condition, and he had paid $25 for it, a much better price than the one at Harrington's.
He was about to check the box for ground shipping in the order window on his computer but he stopped. Two-day was more expensive but it would get the book to his shop by the weekend. He knew Fingon was a grad student; he had mentioned it when he had told Maedhros about the price of the book online. He likely wouldn't have time to come to Formenos during the week but he likely wouldn't want the two-day shipping surcharge either.
He stared at the screen for a moment then checked the two-day box anyway. With the upgraded delivery the book would arrive Friday afternoon or with the Saturday morning deliveries, at the latest. This way Fingon might be able to pick up the book as soon as this weekend. He clicked through to the screen with Fingon's contact information, hesitated over the desk phone, then pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and called on that instead.
It went to voicemail—not unexpected for a school day—but Maedhros felt a twinge of disappointment nonetheless. He left a message and his cell phone number for call back.
It was after five o'clock when Fingon got out of the studio Wednesday night. He had silenced his phone for class, as he always did. He checked it and found he had missed a call from his mother and an unknown number. He had a few texts from his sister, Aredhel. Her field hockey team from Elmoth College was going to be in Tirion to play Cuiviénen the following weekend. Could she crash with him, rather than the hotel, and could he come to the game?
He clicked through his schedule and sent her an enthusiastic "Yes!" to both questions, putting the details of the game in his calendar.
Fingon missed Aredhel. He had hoped she would choose to follow him and Turgon at Cuiviénen but she had liked Elmoth and his parents had liked the scholarship money there even more.
He couldn't wait to watch her play again. She had no fear and a no-holds barred style of play—fierce, aggressive, dominating. It was a joy to watch but nerve wracking as well—ever since she had broken her ankle playing in a high school match Fingon had found himself flinching each time she collided or took a hit. She had long ago stopped worrying about it herself but he still remembered seeing it happen.
He threw his drawing supplies into his messenger bag and left the classroom to walk to his apartment. There was a voicemail from the unknown number but he could listen to that at home.
Finrod had spread an astounding amount of books all over the dining room table and was immersed in French translation when Fingon arrived. Finrod nodded at him as he came in.
"I made pasta," Finrod said, motioning vaguely towards the kitchen.
"Great. Thanks. I'm starving."
"Yeah, I had an early day today and actually remembered you had studio tonight," Finrod said, regarding the table bleakly. "You'll have to eat in the kitchen though. I've not left any room here."
"No worries." Fingon headed to his room, dropped his bag and was soon settled in the kitchen with a large bowl of pesto pasta. He leaned back and clicked through his emails on his phone when he was done eating, his legs stretched out under the table. Another study group meeting next Tuesday night, a visiting lecturer next Thursday.
He noticed the voicemail he hadn't listened to yet but shoved his phone in his pocket and cleaned up his dishes, as well as the mess Finrod had left in the sink, before heading to his room again.
He kicked off his shoes, turned on some music and lay back on his bed, propped on his pillows, and hit the play icon on his voicemail.
"Hey, Fingon," said a vaguely familiar voice. "It's Maedhros from Beleriand Books." Fingon's hand gripped the phone a little tighter. "I found the book you wanted—it's due in from New York Saturday morning at the latest. Way better price than Harrington's, I promise. Head over anytime this weekend if you have time—we're open both days. If it's less of a hassle for me to ship it to you just let me know—I'll have to charge you for it but it's no problem to do. Let me know."
Fingon put the phone down and blinked. Aredhel wasn't coming until next weekend. It would still be much easier to have the book shipped to him, rather than spend half a day schlepping out to Formenos to pick it up this weekend.
But he wanted to pick it up. He wanted to go back to Beleriand Books and pick it up in person and not only to save on the shipping costs. He thought about those silver-gray eyes behind those tortoise-shell glasses. He could see that unusual shade of red hair, the light freckles over the bridge of Maedhros' nose.
"What the hell?" he said to himself, sitting up on the side of his bed. Why was he thinking of the guy's freckles? What was with him?
He picked up the phone to call Maedhros and tell him to just ship the damn book, he'd pay the surcharge. But he realized he had no idea how much the book was going to cost him in the first place and he really didn't want it shipped, did he?
He wanted to see Maedhros again. He was interested in talking to him, seeing him again, interested in him, period. It had been awhile since he had felt this way, since he had time to feel this way. He actually didn't have time to feel this way, he reminded himself—this was his last year in the program—he had to focus.
Fingon had an internship next semester, his senior project to finish, all sorts of applications to fill out, interviews to set up. He ran his hands through his hair. What the hell was wrong with him? He was just going to pick up a stupid book, not jump into a relationship. He was being an idiot.
He looked at his phone again. He would text Maedhros. That was a far better idea than calling. He had been a bumbling mess talking last weekend so texting was a far safer option. Decision made, he added the unknown number to his contacts and then sent a brief text telling Maedhros he would be there on Sunday.
It didn't take long for his phone to ping back with an answer.
"Looking forward to seeing you." Maedhros had texted. Yeah, Fingon was looking forward to it too.
Chapter 5 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Fingon got through the next few days and Sunday found him back on the monorail heading to Formenos. He didn't pause to look at any of the stores in the square this time but walked briskly straight to Beleriand Books.
Maedhros wasn't at the counter this time. A dark-haired clerk sat there, flicking through a stack of vinyl albums. He looked up as Fingon approached the desk.
"Can I help you?" he asked Fingon.
"I'm looking for Maedhros," Fingon said. "He's got a book he ordered for me."
"Sure. He's in back. I'll have someone get him." He slipped out from behind the counter and called over to one of two red-haired boys who were carrying boxes a few aisles over. "Amrod! Go find Maedhros in the back."
"I know he's in the back, Maglor. Who do you think is making us slog away, carting all these books in?" the redhead answered.
"Well, then go get him," the clerk—Maglor, Fingon corrected himself—said again.
"Why don't you go get him yourself?" the other redhead asked, walking by with a box full of books. "We're working."
"Because I'm manning the desk," Maglor growled. "Now one of you go get him, so we don't keep the customer waiting."
The redhead, Fingon wasn't sure if it was the one Maglor had addressed as Amrod or the other, rolled his eyes, sighed and dropped the box of books on the floor with a thud. "It's not enough always having Mae boss me around but now you're being just as big a pain in the ass, Mags," he said, as he turned to walk to the back of the store.
"Sorry," Maglor said to Fingon. "I don't know why Maedhros thought it was a good idea to have the twins help out on weekends. They're more trouble than help."
"Are they related to you?" Fingon asked.
"They're my brothers. Maedhros' and mine," Maglor explained.
"You're Maedhros' brother? So do you own the bookstore too?"
Maglor laughed. "No, this is all Mae's deal. I just help out for the extra cash and to keep the vinyl organized. My name's Maglor"
"I'm Fingon," Fingon replied. "So you're only here part-time."
"Yeah, I'm in grad school at Cuiviénen," Maglor answered.
"I am too. Architecture."
"So you've got no life!" Maglor laughed again. "They work you guys hard. I'm in the Music program—Composition and Performance."
"They must work you guys just as hard," Fingon said.
"I'm in my last year. All I'm doing this semester is polishing up the piece I composed for my Masters performance and looking for a real job when I graduate," Maglor said.
"Are you telling Fingon what a lazy ass you are?" Fingon turned at the sound of Maedhros' voice behind him. Maedhros looked much like he had the previous week—glasses, man-bun, dark brown sweater this time, and a very amused expression on his face.
Maglor rolled his eyes. "Shut up, Maedhros. It's just an extra semester, not a whole year."
"So far. Thanks for covering, Maglor-I've got the desk. You can go hide back in the music section," Maedhros squeezed his brother's shoulder affectionately and Maglor grinned up at him before heading to the back of the store.
Maedhros turned his full attention to Fingon now, a smile on his face. "I found the book in New York. It came in yesterday." He moved behind the counter and pulled the book from a low shelf. "It's in pretty good condition, just a few creases in the dust jacket, but the rest of it is in good shape." Maedhros leaned across the counter to hand the book to Fingon.
"I don't care what it looks like. I just wanted to read it. My professor said it was ground-breaking work in urban design when it came out, a very personal work, and I've wanted to read it ever since he mentioned it."
"Is urban design your ultimate goal?" Maedhros asked.
"In a way. I'd like to work primarily on urban design, but focusing on sustainable architecture, " Fingon replied, grateful to have completed a coherent sentence. He looked down at the book in his hand and flipped through the pages. It really was in good condition. He hoped it wasn't going to be too expensive. He would hate to have put Maedhros to all the trouble if he couldn't afford it.
"How much do I owe you?" he asked Maedhros.
"It was twenty-five to buy plus the shipping. Let's say thirty dollars," Maedhros said, choosing not to mention the two-day shipping that had run him a bit more or the fact that he was actually taking a small loss with this price.
"Really?" Fingon asked. "I'm sure the shipping cost more than five dollars so you can't even be breaking even on it."
Maedhros rested his elbows on the counter and leaned towards Fingon, his chin resting on his left hand. "How about you treat me to a cup of coffee and we call it even?"
Fingon felt his mouth drop open and he scrambled to shut it quickly. "Yes, I'd like that," he said, then groaned internally at how eager he sounded. He reached for his wallet and fumbled for the cash. "Here, let me pay you first." He handed Maedhros the thirty dollars in cash and felt a warm flush on his face as Maedhros' hand touched his as he took the money.
Maedhros stashed the money in the drawer, then grabbed his jacket from below the desk before he stepped out from behind the counter to stand near Fingon. "Let's go." He nodded toward the door of the bookstore.
"Not the coffee shop here?" Fingon asked curiously.
"No, let's get out of here. There's a great little coffee place right on the square." He shrugged into his leather jacket and gently tapped Fingon on the shoulder. "Maglor!" Maedhros called out.
Maglor came to the center of the store. "Yeah, what's up?"
"You're on desk. I'm going out for a bit," Maedhros replied, tilting his head at the counter. "Make sure the twins don't make a mess of the science fiction shelves. I sorted everything before I boxed it but you know how they are."
Maglor sighed. "I know." He looked at Fingon and raised an eyebrow. "Have fun."
Maedhros gently tapped Fingon's shoulder again and made his way to the doors. He turned to look at Fingon over his shoulder, a smile on his face. "Are you coming?"
Fingon nodded and followed him onto the sidewalk, hands jammed into his pockets, the book safely tucked into his messenger bag and his heart racing. He was not going to look at his watch. Most of his work was done, the last train was in two hours, and he deserved a little time off. He smiled back at Maedhros as he stepped beside him.
Chapter 6 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Maedhros opened the door. The coffee shop was unique, Fingon had to admit. Artwork hung on all the walls and sculpture pieces were scattered between the tables. A girl was seated on a small riser near the counter, playing her guitar. The walls were painted an icy blue and the ceiling a much darker midnight shade with glittering stars embedded in it.
They ordered and then Maedhros steered them to a booth near the back. Fingon settled into the plush, sapphire blue banquette across from Maedhros, his hands wrapped around his steaming coffee mug.
They were silent for a few moments, soaking up the warmth.
"So your brothers work for you?" Fingon asked.
Maedhros leaned back, resting his head against the banquette behind him. "Just a few of them. I have six, you know."
"Six!" Fingon exclaimed.
"Six. Maglor and the twins are at the store part time. Maglor does a great job for me with the vinyl. He finds all kinds of albums at sales and he knows so much about the music. It's rare that a customer leaves the music section empty handed." Maedhros took a sip of his coffee. "I only have him on weekends though, due to school."
"And the twins?" Fingon asked.
Maedhros sighed. "They work for me mainly because my mother wants them out of the house for a few hours on weekends but they need supervision. They get into a fair amount of mischief on their own." He took another sip of coffee and then added "My brother Moryo is still in college at Cuiviénen—he's getting a degree in Accounting so he does the books for me."
Fingon did the quick math in his head. "And the other two?"
"Curvo's at Cuiviénen as well—studying Chemical Engineering. Tyelko works as a Strength and Conditioning Coach for the hockey team—also at Cuivienen."
"So he's out of school then too," Fingon said, somewhat unnecessarily.
"Got his Athletic Training degree two years ago and then got certified for strength and conditioning. He played hockey at Cuiviénen so he had the contacts there," Maedhros said.
"My sister is in the Athletic Training program at Elmoth. She plays field hockey for them."
"Sounds like she and Tyelko would get along," Maedhros replied.
"Maybe we should get them together," Fingon said, with a laugh.
"Aredhel usually scares her boyfriends off."
"Tyelko keeps falling for girls who are totally wrong for him—these quiet, ethereal types who look like the wind will knock them over or serious, artistic ones that totally confuse him."
Fingon laughed again. "Aredhel is the same. She finds these bookish types who have no idea about or interest in sports or these brooding ones who just exude doom and gloom."
"Sounds like we should get them together over winter break. Is she coming home then?" Maedhros asked.
"She'll actually be here next weekend," Fingon said, his pulse quickening a bit as he contemplated his next words. "She's got a field hockey match at Cuiviénen but she's staying with me." He swallowed and then just kept on talking. "You could come watch the match if you like, with your brother, and maybe we could get dinner after?" He had said it. He hadn't stumbled over the words and now it was out there between them.
"What day?" Maedhros asked, pulling his phone out of his pocket.
"Next Saturday. At two. Match should be over by four. She'll need to clean up, obviously, but we could head out to dinner after that." Fingon spoke casually but his pulse had not slowed down, if anything it was speeding up.
Maedhros looked up and met Fingon's eyes. "I'd like that. I'll text Tyelko to see if he's free. Maglor should be able to cover for me at the store or even Moryo."
"Great," Fingon was tapped out of words, now that he had succeeded in scheduling another meeting with Maedhros. It had been awhile since he had felt so exhilarated in someone's presence. It was nerve-wracking but in a good way.
"So, I've told you about my brothers and you've told me about your sister. It is just the two of you?" Maedhros leaned forward over his coffee.
"No, I've got two brothers. Turgon is a senior at Cuiviénen-Ethics and Public Policy. He was thinking of law school but that's on hold for now. I think he's hoping his internship next semester gets him a job." Fingon took a sip of coffee and continued. "Argon is a senior in high school. He's brilliant-wants to study medicine but hasn't decided where he's going to go for undergrad yet."
"Everyone in my family went to Cuiviénen," Maedhros said. "Even my parents."
"Mine too. Aredhel is the first to go away to school," Fingon replied.
"I'm just hoping the twins get in," Maedhros said, shaking his head.
"They aren't exactly the most studious."
"They usually count the legacy factor, though. You've had enough family go there so I'm sure they will take them."
"It helps that my dad is on the Board. At least I hope it helps," Maedhros looked down at his coffee again.
"I think . . . " Fingon started. "I think my dad knows your dad."
"He's a partner at Mithrim and Hithlum. I think they worked on a case for your dad," Fingon said.
Maedhros face went very still and Fingon noticed his hands were white-knuckled as they tightly gripped his coffee mug.
"For my grandfather's wrongful death suit," Maedhros said, his voice very even and very low.
Fingon felt like an idiot for bringing it up. "I'm sorry. I never should have brought it up. It was a stupid thing to say. I'm so sorry."
"No, it's fine. Everyone knows the story and we're grateful to the firm for handling it so well," He paused and looked up at Fingon. "It was just a rough time for us."
"I'm sorry," Fingon repeated, berating himself for mentioning it. Couldn't he have found anything else to talk about?
Maedhros reached across the table and put his hand over Fingon's. "Don't worry about it. It's in the past and you didn't mean anything by it. I know that."
Fingon's hand tingled where Maedhros' skin touched his own. He looked down at Maedhros' hand as it lay over his. Hardly breathing and surprised at himself for doing it, he slowly lifted his fingers off the table and intertwined them with Maedhros' coffee-warmed ones, giving his hand a quick squeeze.
Maedhros leaned further forward and a slow smile came across his face as he gently squeezed Fingon's hand back. Neither one pulled away and they stayed that way for a minute, blue eyes meeting silver-gray ones.
Maedhros broke the silence but not the handhold. "Do you want to go for a walk around the square?" He tilted his head as he spoke.
"I'm fine here, I think," Fingon said, squeezing Maedhros' hand again.
"There's also a lovely park by the river. It's quite peaceful there," Maedhros said, his thumb rubbing lightly over Fingon's.
Fingon tilted his head in an unconscious imitation of Maedhros. The town square was definitely not as intriguing as sitting in the coffee shop holding Maedhros' hand, but the river walk was a different story.
"I like that idea better. I haven't been to the river walk for years."
"Then let's go," Maedhros said. "We won't have too many of these nice fall days left, now that it's November."
Fingon shivered. He hated the cold winters, ever since he had fallen into the lake years ago while ice-skating with his family. His father had pulled him out and his mother had wrapped herself around him for warmth but he had never forgotten the frigid blue world below the ice as he had plunged in, when the ice had unexpectedly cracked under his feet.
He had clawed at the edge of the ice, unable to get a grip, shards breaking under his frantic fingers. His heavy winter clothes had dragged at him, preventing him from being able to keep his head fully above the water. It had been such a relief to feel his father's strong hands gripping him and pulling him out but he would never forget the chill as he lay sodden and heaving on the ice.
The hospital had warmed him and declared him unharmed, not even frostbitten, but it had been a long time before he could look at the frozen lake or think of the pleasant side of winter. He hadn't skated since then.
All this ran through his mind and he almost forgot he was sitting at a table in a warm coffee shop. He shivered again and pulled his attention back to Maedhros, who was looking at him with a concerned expression.
"Are you all right? I think you drifted away from me for a moment there. Is it too cold?" Maedhros asked, the concern apparent in his voice. "We can stay here, where it's warm."
Fingon smiled at him, banishing the thoughts of the ice as he looked at Maedhros. "No, it's fine. I'd like to see the river and the park. You just got me thinking about winter. It's not my favorite season."
"Understood. I feel the same way. But really, it's fine if you'd rather stay here. It's your day off—I don't want to make it miserable for you." Maedhros had a crease on his forehead that Fingon wanted to reach out and smooth away.
"Seriously, I want to go. " He pulled his hand reluctantly from Maedhros' to stand and put his jacket on. "Show me this park of yours."
Chapter 7 by NelyafinweFeanorion
The river walk was only a few blocks away. It was almost as nice a day as the previous Saturday, when Fingon had first found Beleriand Books. Had it really only been a week, he wondered.
As they walked, they spoke about how much Formenos had changed over the years. Fingon learned that Maedhros had spent many summers in Formenos; his family had a lake house on the outskirts of town. Maedhros lived there now, with Maglor and Tyelko. Moryo and Curvo were in the dorms at Cuiviénen and Amrod and Amras, the twins, lived with their parents in Tirion.
The family still came to the lake in the summer, mostly on weekends but occasionally they would take a whole week to be together there, like they used to years ago.
Maedhros and Fingon reached the river walk and took the path along the river until they reached the small park. Benches were set up facing the river and Maedhros moved towards one and sat down, motioning Fingon to sit next to him.
The river sparkled and glinted in the light of the late afternoon sun. Fingon leaned back, enjoying the sound of the water and the peace of this little park. The sun was setting so the colors in the sky were mingling orange, pink and shades of purple ahead of him. It was lovely.
They sat side by side in silence, but it was a comfortable silence. Fingon didn't feel the need to say anything. He was just content with the view, the quiet and the company.
He didn't know how much time had passed, as they sat together by the river, the shadows growing and the water becoming dark as the sun shifted position. The wind picked up and Fingon gave another small, involuntary shiver as it gusted around them and ruffled his hair.
"Are you cold?" Maedhros asked, shifting closer to Fingon on the bench.
"Not really," Fingon answered, shifting himself closer to Maedhros in turn. His hands were in his pockets but for some reason he pulled them out and rubbed them together briskly.
"You are cold," Maedhros stated, moving even closer. Their legs were next to each other, their thighs just touching now. It felt right, Fingon thought.
"Just my hands," Fingon finally confessed. "But it's lovely out here. I don't want to leave quite yet."
"It will get a lot colder in a few minutes when the sun goes down," Maedhros warned, casually reaching for Fingon's hand and grasping it with his own. Maedhros' hand was so warm—it surprised Fingon.
He interlaced his fingers with Maedhros' and put his other hand back in his pocket. "We can go when the sun sets," he said.
The wind picked up as the sun sank down across the river. "Let's go, before you freeze." Maedhros said, pulling Fingon up by his hand as he stood. He kept hold of Fingon's hand as they walked in the dim light, back to the square.
They stopped at the street leading to Beleriand Books. "I've got to get to the monorail station," Fingon said. Maedhros hurriedly looked at his watch and frowned at Fingon.
"It's Sunday," Maedhros said. "I'm so sorry. I didn't even think. I made you miss your train! The four o'clock is the last one on Sundays."
Fingon's eyes widened. "Shit," he said. "I've got to get back." He looked around the square. "Is there a bus or a taxi or something?" How could he have forgotten about catching the train? He realized he hadn't checked his watch in hours and even the setting sun hadn't triggered thoughts of the train. "Shit," he said again, dropping Maedhros' hand and looking at his watch. "It's 5:15 now."
"I'll drive you home," Maedhros said.
"No, really I can't let you do that," Fingon protested. "It's such a hassle for you."
"It's not a big deal. I drive to my parents place in Tirion all the time. Seriously. It's my fault you missed your train. The least I can do is drive you home."
"Thanks," Fingon said, relief flooding through him.
"I'm parked by the store, " Maedhros said, looking at his watch again. "Maglor will have closed up already. Let me just text him that I'm running you home." He bent his head to text and Fingon looked at his profile in the light of the streetlamps. His hair looked darker but his face, even shadowed, looked paler, almost as if he were carved from marble.
Maedhros' phone pinged back almost instantly. He grimaced as he texted back. "He said the twins just left. He offered to call them to head this way and pick you up, but I told him not to bother," He looked at Fingon, the light highlighting his face now. "I'd still have taken you home myself, even if they were here. I wouldn't trust them with you. They're terrible drivers." Maedhros' eyes softened as he looked at Fingon and he touched his shoulder as he had earlier in the day. "Follow me."
They walked past Beleriand Books to the small parking lot down the street. Only one car was left in the lot. "This is it," Maedhros said, clicking his key fob to unlock the dark green Subaru. "Sorry, It's a complete mess," he said, lifting a box of books from the passenger seat and motioning to Fingon to open the back door for him. More boxes were already stacked in the back seat and in the trunk as well. "Sorry, " Maedhros repeated. "I went to a couple of sales Friday and never got around to taking the boxes in the store." He bent down and grabbed some loose papers from the floor of the passenger side and tossed them in the back, then moved out of the way so Fingon could sit.
The drive to Tirion took more than half an hour but it seemed like no time to Fingon before they were pulling up in front of his building.
"This ok?" Maedhros asked, double-parking his car.
"It's perfect. Listen thanks so much for everything—for finding the book, for the afternoon and for driving me home." Fingon turned to look at Maedhros. "Really, I had a great time."
"I did too," Maedhros said, leaning towards Fingon. His phone pinged again and he pulled it out to check it. He looked at Fingon with a huge grin. "Tyelko's free next Saturday and he would love to come to the match."
"Great. So it's a date." The words were barely out of Fingon's mouth when he realized what he had said and how stupid it sounded. "I mean hopefully we can set up a date—for Aredhel and your brother," He tried to recover, knowing it was pretty hopeless at this point.
Maedhros was still smiling. "It's a date works for me," he said, his silver eyes looking at Fingon intently.
Fingon held his gaze, not saying anything to ruin this perfect moment. Eventually he put his hand on the door handle and stepped out of the car. He bent down to look at Maedhros one last time. "I'll see you Saturday then. I'll text you this week about time and place. Thanks again. For everything. I think I still owe you another coffee for the shipping on the book."
"I'll take you up on that," Maedhros said as Fingon stepped back to shut the door. He stood on the street for a moment, a ridiculous urge coming over him to wave as Maedhros' car pulled away, but he kept it under control and turned to his building and resolutely walked in without looking back.
Maedhros glanced up at his rearview mirror and saw Fingon enter the building. He turned the corner to head back to Formenos. It was going to be a long week. Saturday couldn't come quickly enough.
Chapter 8 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Maedhros came home to Tyelko and Maglor watching football in the darkened living room. Maglor looked up as Maedhros entered and pointedly looked at his watch. "That may be your longest coffee break ever." He raised his eyebrows at Maedhros and looked particularly amused. "I might have to tell the boss to dock your pay."
"The least I could do was drive him home after he missed his train," Maedhros said, sinking down into the sofa next to his brother.
"It was your longest coffee break on record, even before you drove him home," Maglor stated, looking at Maedhros appraisingly.
"It was nice to have some intelligent conversation for a change," Maedhros bumped Maglor's shoulder.
"Did your 'intelligent conversation' get you any action, Mae, or are you still in your interminable dry spell?" Tyelko asked.
"Shut up, Tyelko," Maedhros said.
"I'll take that as a 'no' then. How could I forget—you never put out on a first date anyway." Tyelko gave him a huge grin and dodged the pillow Maedhros threw across the room at him.
"Did you two make any dinner or are you subsisting on beer again tonight?" Maedhros asked.
"The twin terrors brought bountiful bowls of Mom's food," Maglor said. "It's in the frig. At least what's left of it."
"That's about the only thing those two are good for—food delivery," Tyelko grumbled.
"They have been somewhat more surly lately," Maglor agreed.
"Surly?" Tyelko interjected. "They're assholes."
Maedhros rolled his eyes and sighed. "You were just as mouthy at that age, Tyelko. You all were."
"I was never 'mouthy,'" Maglor disputed.
"No, you were just all emo and gloom," Tyelko said. "Valar above, you were depressing as hell to be around."
"You weren't much better," Maglor said testily. "I wasn't the one who punched a hole in my bedroom wall."
"You didn't have to share a room with Moryo," Tyelko retorted. "Not all of us were lucky enough to room with Saint Maedhros. Moryo was a little shit."
Maedhros stood up. "I'm going to get some dinner." He could hear them continue to bicker as he made his way to the kitchen. Neither one would give on this topic and he wasn't in the mood to launch into a detailed discussion of what pains in the ass they both had been. And still were.
He settled in the relative quiet of the kitchen with a plateful of his mother's food and tuned out the voices down the hall.
He loved his brothers. Fiercely. Loyally. Completely. But that didn't mean they didn't irritate him fairly consistently. Annoying as they were, he had to admit it was still better than living alone. Even though Maglor and Tyelko got on each other's nerves and were fairly vocal about it, they were still good company. Most of the time. Even quarrelling brothers were better than being alone, especially out here on the lake, away from the relative bustle of downtown Formenos.
Maedhros absentmindedly washed and dried his dishes, his mind going back to those quiet moments by the river earlier in the day. It had been comfortable, sitting with Fingon, even when they weren't speaking. There was just something very soothing about him—like a cool breeze on a hot day.
Maedhros had felt the attraction when he had first locked eyes with Fingon. Even though he was sure they had never met before—there was no way he could ever forget a face like Fingon's—there was a magnetism about him yet still a comfortable familiarity as well.
It had been a long time since Maedhros had bothered to follow up on an attraction like this. Tyelko's joke about his long dry spell was far more accurate than he liked to admit. He couldn't really recall feeling anything quite like this before, so instantaneous.
It was not like he had never been in a relationship before. But nothing serious, nothing long term, nothing that had the ease of his interaction with Fingon. He could still almost feel the cool touch of Fingon's fingers interlaced with his own.
He had not expected that when he had reached out to reassure Fingon at the coffee shop. He had certainly felt the attraction and was fairly sure it was mutual but he had never expected such a swift confirmation of it.
He had surprised himself later, when he had taken Fingon's chilled hand by the river. He was not usually so demonstrative or so bold, so soon. He would need to be a bit more controlled Saturday, with Tyelko and Fingon's sister around. Even though he had been exhilarated when Fingon had referred to it as a date, he knew this was supposed to be about Tyelko and Aredhel . . . at least on the surface.
Maybe the time together Saturday would give Maedhros an indication if there was potential for another time—one that focused on the two of them instead. He certainly hoped so.
It was Friday afternoon and Fingon was finally done with classes. He had just dropped his bag on the floor by his bed when a text alert sounded from his phone. It was Turgon.
TURGON: "U going to Arry's match tomorrow?"
FINGON: "Yes. She's staying here after."
TURGON: "Why not mom and dad's?"
FINGON: "Argon interview at Eldamar for accelerated MD program. Mom and Dad going with him."
TURGON: "He'll ace it. Match at 2?"
FINGON: "Yes. Done by 4. You going to show up?"
TURGON: "Yeah. Can't hang out after. Have a DATE."
FINGON: "You? Seriously?"
TURGON: "Shut up. It's one more date than you've had this year."
FINGON: "I'm too busy to date. What's your excuse."
FINGON: "Shut up."
TURGON: "C U tomorrow."
Fingon put the phone down. Technically, it was not a date. He had just invited Maedhros to the match so that Aredhel could meet his brother. Tulco? Tyelko? Whatever his name was. He and Maedhros were just going to be there to facilitate the meeting and monitor the results. That's all.
But he had referred to it as a date and Maedhros hadn't seemed to mind, he told himself. Fingon lay back on his bed and looked at the ceiling fan. He should probably figure out exactly what he was feeling before tomorrow. He didn't want another afternoon of stumbling conversation.
So was it a date? More importantly-did he want it to be a date?
He most certainly did. He couldn't recall ever feeling such an instant connection. He had dated in high school and college, nothing serious, nothing long lasting, nothing that really meant all that much to him.
It was pleasant to have a companion, someone to talk to, confide in, someone to hold, someone who could hold him; but even the sexual relationships he had previously experienced had not brought this rush of exhilaration, this feeling of such easy familiarity and, he hated to admit, this level of utter awkwardness on his part. Awkward was not a word people usually associated with him.
He was undeniably physically attracted to Maedhros but it was more than that. Despite his temporary lapses into incoherence in his presence, it wasn't actually Maedhros that made him uncomfortable—it was the intensity of his reaction to Maedhros that was throwing him off.
Fingon knew this wasn't the best time for him to be contemplating starting a relationship. But if there was any chance of a relationship with Maedhros then he really didn't give a damn about the timing, did he? Sorting out his feelings had been easier than he had expected. He wanted this.
He sat up and grabbed his phone. He should text Maedhros the details for tomorrow. Text or call? Definitely text, he decided. It was still the safer option. He quickly sent a text, detailing time and place and asking if Maedhros had any preferences for where they should go to dinner.
The reply came back moments later, along with the suggestion of a Mediterranean restaurant that Fingon was familiar with—it was just down the street from his apartment.
He made an online reservation at the restaurant and sent the confirmation link to Maedhros. Tirion could get busy on Saturday nights—best to plan ahead. He lay back and stared at his ceiling fan again. Tomorrow couldn't come soon enough.
Chapter 9 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Fingon sat in the bleachers watching the Elmoth players warm up. Today was definitely typical November weather. The sky was gray, a thick, low layer of clouds hanging over the fields and a brisk wind blowing. He had gone back and forth about a hat but was now glad he had worn it, as well as the scarf and gloves. The wind was making his eyes water. He tugged the hat further down over his ears.
There wasn't much of a crowd yet so there were no human barriers to the wind. He hoped Turgon would show up soon. As if on cue Turgon appeared, climbing the bleachers to reach him.
"Hey," Turgon said.
"Hey," Fingon replied.
"Shit, it's cold," Turgon said, jamming his hands in his pockets as he sat next to Fingon.
"Why aren't you wearing a hat?" Fingon asked.
"Valar above, Fingon, you sound just like Mom when you say stuff like that, you know?"
"It's a valid question," Fingon retorted.
"I told you. I have a date. I'm not going to go on a date with hat head," Turgon snapped.
"Well, it's not like she's going on a date with your hair," Fingon said. Turgon rolled his eyes and stared at the pitch.
"Who did you get to actually agree to go on a date with you?" Fingon asked.
"One more person than agreed to go on a date with you," Turgon said.
Not really accurate, Fingon thought but left it unsaid. "Shut up, Turko, it's a simple question."
"Fine. Elenwë. She's the RA on the floor above mine. She's an art student so her hours are weird but I've been talking to her at the RA meetings and decided to ask her out," Turgon replied, his cheeks taking on a flush that did not seem to be related to the wind.
"You really like her," Fingon knew his brother well. Turgon was a romantic under his flippant talk. When he fell for someone he usually fell hard.
"Well, of course I like her. Why would I ask her out if I didn't like her?"
Fingon shrugged. "You know what I mean."
Turgon narrowed his eyes and then let his shoulders sag as he looked at Fingon earnestly. "I really do like her. A lot."
Fingon leaned into his shoulder. "Then I hope it goes well tonight. What's the plan?"
"Safe bet. Dinner and a movie. I went conservative."
"Good move. You going to come over tomorrow?" Fingon asked.
"Yeah. I thought I'd stop by and see Aredhel before she leaves. When's her flight?"
"I think she said one. You can grab breakfast with us." Fingon gave him a sidelong look. "You can tell us how your date went and I can tell you if Aredhel's set-up went well."
"What set-up?" Turgon asked curiously.
"The guy from the bookstore is bringing his brother to the game to meet Aredhel. He sounds like just her type." Fingon confided.
Turgon gave him an appraising look. "I thought you just met this bookstore guy that one time. How did setting up a date for Aredhel come up?"
Fingon could feel a flush coming on his face. "Just happened to chat about siblings with him when I went to pick up that book last weekend. His brother seemed to have a lot in common with Aredhel so it seemed like a good idea at the time."
"So his brother's not all emo with nerd glasses?" Turgon scoffed.
"No, idiot. He sounds nothing like her usual type, which is why I thought it might be a good idea. From his description he sounds just like Aredhel," Fingon replied.
"Seriously? There are guys that might actually be compatible with Arry? I'm almost frightened," Turgon said.
"Shut up. Here they come." Fingon had spotted Maedhros' unique shade of red hair in the growing crowd. Maedhros was scanning the bleachers so Fingon stood up and tried to catch his eye. He knew Maedhros had spotted him when a huge grin spread across his face and he nodded at Fingon, motioning to his stocky, fair-haired companion to follow him. That must be the brother, Fingon thought.
"Hey," Maedhros greeted him as they reached Fingon's bleacher. He sat next to Fingon, his tall frame providing an excellent temporary wind block. "Fingon, this is my brother, Tyelko." The blonde had seated himself next to Maedhros and now leaned forward to grin at Fingon, his long hair whipped by the wind into a bright halo around him.
"Hey, thanks for the invite." Tyelko said.
"Thanks for braving the cold," Fingon replied. "This is my brother, Turgon," Fingon nodded to his left where Turgon was seated. "Turgon meet Maedhros and Tyelko. Maedhros owns that bookstore Finrod's been raving about." Turgon nodded at the brothers.
"I'm crushed," Maedhros said drily, as he turned to look at Fingon, his silver eyes shining down at him. "I found your book for you, at a great price I might add, and you're not raving about my bookstore?"
"I suppose my 5-star review on yelp wasn't good enough?" Fingon answered, grinning back at Maedhros and shifting slightly closer to him on the bleachers, so their shoulders just brushed.
Maedhros laughed and almost imperceptibly shifted closer to Fingon, their knees just touching. Fingon felt warmer already.
"You should have worn a hat," he said to Maedhros. "It's going to get even colder."
Maedhros gave him a slow smile. "I think I'll be warm enough with you here . . ." he paused as Fingon's eyes widened, "to buy me that coffee you still owe me," he finished, the amused expression Fingon was finding he was becoming quite familiar with on Maedhros' face again.
They looked at each other, the rest of the crowd dimming into the background as Fingon's view narrowed down to just those silver eyes, until the shrill whistle of the referee starting the match dragged his attention away from Maedhros' face.
"Which one is your sister?" Tyelko asked.
"Number 23 for Elmoth," Fingon answered. They watched in silence for a few moments as Aredhel blocked a shot on goal by the other team and then bulldozed her way past several of Cuiviénen's defenders.
"She's a beast," Tyelko said appreciatively.
Turgon laughed. "No question."
Cuiviénen never had a chance. Elmoth dominated and four o'clock found the four of them standing near the sidelines to congratulate Aredhel on her team's annihilation of Cuiviénen.
She spotted them and headed over, tackling Fingon and enveloping him in a huge, sweaty, smelly hug. "Finno!"
He lifted her up and spun her around, setting her down so she could greet Turgon, who having witnessed her bear hug, stepped back and paused her enthusiasm with an arm thrown in front of him.
"What the hell, Turko?" Aredhel said, batting his arm away and hugging him anyway, reaching a hand to mess up his hair.
"Now you've done it!" Fingon laughed, as Turgon scowled and beat her hand away from his head. "Turko has a date tonight—don't get him all sweaty or mess up his hair!"
Aredhel turned her grinning face to Turgon. "A date! Is that why you're ditching me tonight, Turko?" She punched his arm affectionately.
Turgon had the grace to look uncomfortable. "Really, Arry, if I could have changed it to tomorrow I would but I just asked her out and . . ."
"Oh, shut up, Turko," Aredhel went on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. "You're so cute when you are crushing hard. Have fun, be good and I'll see you tomorrow?"
Turgon gingerly hugged her back. "Tomorrow, promise." He nodded at Fingon and the rest, then headed to the parking lot.
"These your friends, Finno?" Aredhel asked, turning her attention to Maedhros and Tyelko. Fingon was gratified to see Tyelko was grinning at Aredhel.
"My friend Maedhros and his brother, Tyelko." He turned to them and nodded at his sister. "Meet Aredhel."
"Great match," Maedhros said. "You destroyed Cuiviénen."
"You were fierce!" Tyelko added.
Aredhel grinned back at both of them. "It was nice to smack them down. Just because we're a smaller school doesn't mean we're a weaker team."
"Bad idea to dismiss any team, just because of school size. Elmoth has great teams," Tyelko said. "I remember playing their hockey team."
"Who do you play for?" Aredhel asked.
"Cuiviénen," Tyelko answered. "Well, I did. I'm the strength and conditioning coach now."
Aredhel looked ready to follow up with another comment but Fingon broke in. "Hey, sorry to interrupt your conversation, but are you ready to go, Arry? It's freezing out here."
"Oh. Yeah, let me get my gear. I'll be right back," She ran off, returning moments later with her bag.
Fingon put his arm around her shoulders. "Let's get you to my place so you can clean up. You are rank!"
Chapter 10 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Even though Fingon's apartment was not far from campus he was still grateful for Maedhros' offer to drive them all there after the match, as the weather had become even colder and the wind had picked up.
"Is there going to be room for all of us?" Fingon teased, as they walked to the parking lot.
"I made a point of cleaning the car out," Maedhros confessed, with a laugh. They had ended up walking next to each other, as Aredhel had followed up on her questioning of Tyelko about his job. It took all his effort not to reach out for Fingon's hand as they walked but this wasn't the time or place.
There was no sign of Finrod when they reached the warmth of Fingon's apartment, which did not surprise Fingon in the least, knowing how his roommate liked to spend his free time. Aredhel disappeared to shower while he, Maedhros and Tyelko sat in the living room, watching a game on the television as they waited, and drinking the craft beer Fingon had bought for the occasion. He had made quite sure Finrod had known it was off limits for him.
Fingon settled himself on the recliner, leaving the sofa to Maedhros and Tyelko. He had to remind himself this was for Aredhel and Tyelko but he couldn't keep his eyes from straying to gaze at Maedhros.
The brothers shared few similarities, he decided, other than in facial structure. Tyelko was solid and muscular, close to Fingon in height but much broader in the shoulders. He had clear grey eyes and a mane of wavy, silvery-blond hair that brushed his shoulders. If Maedhros hadn't introduced Tyeko as his brother Fingon might not have made the connection that they were related.
Aredhel appeared in what Fingon regarded as record time for her. She perched on the arm of Fingon's recliner, ruffling his dark hair affectionately. "I'm starving," she said.
"Then let's go. I've got reservations at the place just down the street." He looked at Maedhros. "You have such a good parking spot and the restaurant is so close, why don't we just walk to dinner?"
They made their way down the street, Aredhel arm in arm with Fingon this time, her black hair blowing around her face and her blue eyes sparkling at him as she spoke.
He had missed her. Even though the age difference was larger than the one he had with Turgon, he and Aredhel had always had the closest bond. He would cover for her with their parents, pick her up when she had been partying too hard in high school or had gotten herself into awkward situations. He was her sounding board during her frequent relationship ups and downs with the string of boyfriends she had through the years.
She made him laugh-with her stories, her jokes, her irrepressible spirit, and her irreverent outlook on just about everything. It was good to have her at his side again.
They sat next to each other in the booth at the restaurant as well, Aredhel sliding in across from Tyelko and Fingon across from Maedhros. That suited Fingon just fine. Dinner was lively. He had been right; Aredhel and Tyelko were kindred spirits, exchanging stories, banter and laughs all through dinner with some humorous additions from Maedhros at times.
Fingon took another chance to look across the table at Maedhros when Tyelko launched into a story about a hockey road trip that had Aredhel laughing. Maedhros met his eyes and gave him a grin. He took a quick look at his brother and then winked at Fingon.
"Seems you were right," he said, leaning forward, his voice pitched so low as to not be overheard by the other two.
"So it seems," Fingon replied, just as quietly.
"How is the book?"
Fingon groaned. "I've only managed to read a few chapters. This week has been so blasted busy. I really like what I've read so far." Fingon paused, a thoughtful expression on his face, before he continued. "It's a book about architecture but it's also about community and culture and how that plays a role in creating spaces."
Maedhros nodded at him. "I scanned a bit of it when it arrived," he said. "It seemed more autobiographical and focusing on abstract ideas about architecture rather than textbook discussion."
"Exactly," Fingon replied. "It's fascinating that this is about a Masters thesis project." He tilted his head at Maedhros. "I'm working on my final project now for my Masters and it's interesting to read his thoughts as he went through the process of actually building the structure he designed for that."
Aredhel snorted as she overheard Fingon, her attention on him now. "Don't get him started talking to you about his project," she admonished Maedhros. "He'll never stop talking! He starts going off about 'concepts being actualized' and 'social architecture' and then he's completely incomprehensible." She smiled fondly at Fingon's outraged expression and put her head on his shoulder. "It's adorably dorky, but I love you anyway," she said, smiling up at him.
"So what am I allowed to talk about?" Fingon inquired.
"What are we going to do after dinner?" Aredhel answered. "You can talk about that."
Fingon looked at her blankly. He hadn't thought about any plans for after dinner. He wasn't much for the Tirion night scene anymore-that was Finrod's specialty. He wracked his brain trying to think of anything Finrod might have mentioned recently but nothing came to mind.
"Maedhros?" he asked. "Any ideas?"
"I'm so out of the Tirion loop anymore," Maedhros said, echoing Fingon's thoughts.
"Not that you were ever really into it anyway, Mae," Tyelko pointed out. "Let me think," Tyelko said, his fingers drumming on the table. He looked at his watch and then narrowed his eyes at Aredhel. "How old are you?"
"Twenty," she said, coolly staring back at him. "But I have ID that says I'm twenty-two," she added confidently, kicking Fingon under the table as he started to speak, so he contented himself with glaring at her instead.
Tyelko shook his head. "No, bad idea. The bouncers around here are pretty slick."
Maedhros made a funny sound, half laugh and half snort, as Tyelko scowled at him. "Tyelko would know first hand," Maedhros explained. "He's been tossed out of enough bars and clubs around here."
"Shut up, Mae," Tyelko frowned at his older brother and turned back to Aredhel. "There are some great all-ages clubs so don't bother with the fake ID." He gave Maedhros another sharp look and then continued. "But it's way too early to hit the clubs. We have a few hours to kill until then."
"We could go back to my place," Fingon offered, with a swift look at Maedhros.
"Boring," Aredhel interrupted. "Seriously, Finno, that's lame."
Maedhros gave Fingon a wry but sympathetic look as Aredhel turned her attention back to Tyelko. "Come on, Tyelko. Think of something fun."
But it was Maedhros who spoke up. "There are a few coffee houses and artsy pubs up on Nevrast Avenue. They have live music on weekends or we could see what's playing at the Campus Film Board?"
Tyelko made a face. "Maglor loves those coffee shops but it's usually some weird folk music scene."
"Not always," Maedhros said. "Maglor usually finds the more unique options, I'll admit, but most just have acoustic guitar or local bands playing. It's that Avallone place Maglor likes so much and we can certainly avoid that one."
Tyelko had his phone out and was tapping at the screen. He looked up with a huge grin. "Film Board was a brainstorm, Maedhros. They're showing Holy Grail tonight!"
"You mean Monty Python's Holy Grail?" Aredhel clarified.
"What other one is there?" Tyelko asked, perplexed.
"I'm in!" Aredhel said.
Maedhros leaned across the table to Fingon. "It's a family favorite."
"Ours too," Fingon said. "Sounds perfect."
They spilled out of the campus cinema a few hours later, still reciting lines from the movie to each other and laughing as they stood in the street together.
"Where to now, Tyelko?" Aredhel asked, having relieved Fingon of his activity planning duties. She leaned over Tyelko's arm as he scrolled through his phone.
Fingon stepped closer to Maedhros. To his regret he had not managed to sit next to Maedhros in the theater, Aredhel and Tyelko having seated themselves between their respective brothers.
"I hadn't seen that movie in awhile," he said to Maedhros.
"You seem to have remembered it fairly well," Maedhros responded.
"Seems we share an obsession with it," Fingon said.
"Nargothrond!" Tyelko exclaimed.
"What's that?" Aredhel asked.
"It's this club I've been wanting to check out," Tyelko answered. "It's in the warehouse district. They've made it look like an underground cave. It's supposed to have multiple dance floors, set up in different caverns." He looked up from his phone. "It's all-ages but it's a bit of a haul from here."
"Finrod's been going on and on about that place," Fingon added. "It's closer to downtown."
"I'll drive," Maedhros said. "I've no need to drink tonight-I'll be the designated driver."
"I can always drive us home," Aredhel offered. "No drinking for me-underage and in season."
"Let's go then!" Tyelko said, with a grin.
Nargothrond lived up to its reputation. Fingon found the walls were rough in texture and actually looked like stone, with glittery pebbles embedded here and there to look like gems. Archways, painted to look like carved stone, separated the various caverns from each other. Fake torches were set in the walls to provide light, additional illumination being provided by the colored dance floors lighting up below their feet.
He humored his sister by dancing with her when they first got there but she soon switched to dancing with Tyelko and he was free to stand near a darkened alcove with Maedhros and simply people watch. As usual for the Tirion clubs, it was too loud to indulge in any meaningful conversation but for now he was content to be near Maedhros and periodically make eye contact that left him a little breathless.
They had moved to stand shoulder to shoulder, watching the dance floor when they weren't smiling at each other, occasionally catching sight of Aredhel's white sweater and Tyelko's wild hair. Maedhros put his hand on Fingon's shoulder and Fingon looked up just as Maedhros leaned down to speak to him. Their faces were very close and Fingon could feel Maedhros' exhaled breath as he leaned close to Fingon's ear.
"Our plan seems to be working well," Maedhros shouted. Fingon nodded, the height difference between them too much for him to reach Maedhros' ear to respond and their faces were far too close now for him to risk turning his head. Maedhros straightened up again but his hand lingered on Fingon's shoulder and Fingon felt himself lean towards him, shifting until his body was touching Maedhros' side. Maedhros slid his hand to Fingon's other shoulder and Fingon moved closer still, their bodies next to each other, a tingle going down Fingon's spine at the contact. They were in the relative dark of the alcove so he allowed himself to relax into the warmth of Maedhros next to him. Fingon saw Maedhros smile as he darted a quick look at him and Maedhros' hand gently gripped Fingon's shoulder.
It wasn't long before Aredhel signaled to Fingon from across the dance floor and made her way over towards them. Maedhros shifted slightly away from him at her approach and dropped his hand to Fingon's back.
"I'm hot-going outside to get some air. I'll be right back," she bellowed in Fingon's ear, giving his arm a squeeze. Fingon followed her with his eyes, as Maedhros moved close to him again once she was gone, and he noted Tyelko walking out after her.
Aredhel felt the cool night air on her flushed face and took a deep breath before she tapped the shoulder of a girl near her. "Got a spare?" she asked, motioning to the girl's cigarette.
The girl nodded and handed her one, lighting it for her before moving on. Tyelko found Aredhel a moment later, leaning against the cold brick wall, cigarette in her hand.
"Don't you know those are bad for you?" he asked her, as he sauntered up and leaned his shoulder against the wall, facing her.
Aredhel shrugged. "One or two aren't going to kill me," she said, taking a drag.
"Can I bum one from you?" Tyelko asked.
"Sorry, I bummed this one myself." She looked around but the girl was already gone. "I'll share what's left?" she offered.
"Deal," Tyelko said, taking it from her hand and putting it to his mouth.
"This dance club is great," Aredhel said. "I'll have to come back here over Winter Break."
"Yeah, this is my first time but I wouldn't mind coming here again." He handed the cigarette back and moved closer to her.
Aredhel looked up at him. It was time to figure out exactly what was going on tonight, she thought. "I don't think your brother is too into me," she said to Tyelko, watching him closely.
Tyelko looked at her in surprise. "Is he supposed to be?"
"Well, I got the idea Fingon was setting me up with a friend of his," she explained. "And he seems to be the friend, because you hadn't met Fingon before today. But he's older than I expected, which kind of surprised me," she continued, with a sidelong look at Tyelko. "Not that he isn't hot . . . " She gave Tyelko an appraising look. "He seems more interested in Fingon anyway."
Tyelko moved away from the wall and frowned down at Aredhel.
"What?" she asked. "Sorry, I know he's your brother . . ."
"It was actually me they were setting up with you," Tyelko said stiffly.
Aredhel's eyes widened and she gave him a brilliant smile. She'd given him an out and he hadn't taken it. And he hadn't denied his brother's interest in Fingon either.
This was working out far better than she had expected. "Well, that's all right then." She tossed the cigarette to the ground and crushed it under her boot heel before grabbing him by his shirt and pulling him down towards her and kissing him. "I like that idea better," she said as she pulled back to look up at him. Tyelko found his heart racing and his face breaking into a huge smile of his own.
"I'm glad you prefer this option," he said, bending down to kiss her in turn, his arms going around her. They paused to take a breath and Aredhel linked her arm in his.
"Dance with me again?" She looked up at him.
"I thought you'd never ask," he replied, as they made their way back inside the club.
Chapter 11 by NelyafinweFeanorion
The seating arrangements had definitely changed for the ride back from Nargothrond. Aredhel and Tyelko commandeered the back seat and Fingon found himself in the passenger seat next to Maedhros.
Maedhros periodically glanced in the rear-view mirror but made no comment on the muffled conversation, laughter and periodic silences that emanated from the back of the Subaru, other than to catch Fingon's eye and raise his eyebrows.
"You want to come up and get some coffee for the road?" Fingon asked.
"No, thanks. I'll be fine," Maedhros replied, regretting the words once he said them. But it would just be awkward, with Tyelko and Aredhel around, when he would rather just be alone with Fingon, he thought. Best to just go home. "I've got to work tomorrow," he said, as an excuse.
Fingon nodded, at a loss as to what else to say. They were nearing his apartment and he was drawing a blank as to how to set up another time to be with Maedhros.
Maedhros was drawing a similar blank, to his frustration. They were now only a few blocks from Fingon's place. The traffic light ahead turned red and for once he was grateful for the temporary delay.
"I'll be in town next week . . ." he began.
"I've got a crazy week but . . ." Fingon said at the same time.
They looked at each other and Maedhros continued. "Don't worry about it. I remember how the last weeks before break are."
"No, I didn't mean to cut you off," Fingon said. "I do have a crazy, busy week but what I meant was . . . if you are around . . . it's always good to have a reason to take a break." He looked at Maedhros with an apologetic shrug that made Maedhros wish they were alone so he could lean in and kiss him.
Maedhros kept his voice steady as he replied. "I don't want to bother you or distract you from your work," he said very carefully.
"You won't. I'd be more distracted if you didn't call I think," Fingon admitted. "I'm sure I'll need to take a break at some point and I can't think of a better reason to."
The car horn beeping behind them brought their attention to the fact that the light had changed to green.
Maedhros double-parked in front of Fingon's building. He turned the full intensity of his silver gaze on Fingon, his face very serious. "I'll text you but you must not hesitate to tell me if you are busy. We can always get together another time, over break, when things are more settled down."
"I'll tell you if it's not a good time," Fingon agreed, matching his gaze to Maedhros', his eyes taking on a smoldering look. "But I will find the time, so don't stop trying."
Maedhros nodded and his sudden smile made Fingon's chest feel warm. "All right then. I'll talk to you this week," he said. Fingon reached his fingertips out to lightly touch Maedhros' forearm before he stepped out of the car.
He knocked on the backseat passenger window. "Let's go, Aredhel."
"We should do this again," Aredhel said to Tyelko, making her way out of the car, Tyelko following closely behind her. "I'll be back in a few weeks."
"I'll call you," Tyelko said, as she gave him a hug and smiled up at him brightly.
"I'd like that," Aredhel said, moving to take her brother's arm as Tyelko slid into the front seat recently vacated by Fingon.
Fingon and Aredhel watched the Subaru drive away until it disappeared around a corner and was lost to sight.
Maedhros pulled away once Tyelko was safely belted in. He gave his brother a quick, appraising look. Tyelko had a very satisfied expression on his face and his eyes lit up as he turned towards Maedhros.
"Never thought I'd be thanking you for a set-up, Mae," he said.
"Didn't think I'd ever find someone who could tolerate you long enough for one," Maedhros replied. "Although from what I saw in the rearview mirror it was a bit more than tolerating you."
Tyelko's smile only grew wider at Maedhros' words. "I can't wait to see her again," he said, failing to respond to Maedhros' teasing for once. "The team's at Elmoth next week," he continued. "I'll try to catch up with her when I'm there."
"She'll be back at break," Maedhros said.
Tyelko frowned. "It sucks that I have away games over Winter Break." He gave Maedhros a sidelong glance. "Usually I'm glad for an excuse to get away from all that family time with you assholes."
"The feeling's mutual," Maedhros said drily.
Tyelko laughed and they drove in silence for a time.
"Fingon seems nice," Tyelko said.
"He does," Maedhros said, noncommittally.
"Aredhel thought you were into him," Tyelko added, watching Maedhros closely.
"Did she?" Maedhros could tell Tyelko had turned to look at him but he kept his own eyes fixed on the road ahead.
"I told her I thought Fingon was way more into you." Tyelko was gratified to see he had Maedhros' attention, as Maedhros shot him a quick, curious look.
But all Maedhros said was "Did you?" in that same steady tone of voice.
Tyelko wasn't going to give up that easily. "I'm totally grateful for the set-up to meet Aredhel, Mae," he said. "But I think next time you guys might have more fun if it's just the two of you." Tyelko studied his brother's face.
Maedhros' eyes widened but he didn't turn to look at Tyelko or say anything right away.
"I'll keep that in mind, Tyelko," he finally responded.
"You don't always have to do things for other people, Mae. Do something that makes you happy for once," Tyelko said, closing his eyes and leaning back in his seat.
Fingon set up the pillows and extra blankets on the sofa for Aredhel and after saying goodnight to her he made his way to his own room.
It had been a good idea to introduce Tyelko to Aredhel he thought, as he got ready for bed himself. It would have been nice to spend more time talking to Maedhros but he really didn't have much to complain about. If all went well he'd be seeing him in a few days.
He did not expect to find Aredhel, wrapped in a blanket and seated on his bed, on his return from the bathroom a few minutes later.
"What are you doing?" he asked. "The sofa's pretty comfortable, I thought."
"Oh, come on, Finno. Seriously? You're just going to dump me out there on the sofa, by myself?" She grinned up at him. "We're not going to stay up and talk?"
Fingon smiled at the memories that came. Aredhel had often come into his room to talk—after games, after parties, after dates—to download her impressions and frustrations to him, when he had lived at home and later when he would stay there over summer and winter breaks.
He stretched out on the bed next to her and she snuggled up to him, her head on his shoulder and his arm around her. "So tell me about it . . ."
She launched into her usual joking recap of the night but then looked up at him with a serious expression. "Thanks, Finno."
"For this," she said, waving her arm vaguely around the room. "For tonight. For finding a guy I might actually really like."
"Lucky guess," Fingon said. "I just went on Maedhros' description of him and the fact that he sounded nothing like any of your previous boyfriends—ow!" he exclaimed as she kicked his leg. He smiled down at her and rested his cheek on her dark hair. "I'm glad you had fun. You want to see him again?"
"I'd like to," she answered. "He'll be at Elmoth next week and then I'll be home for Thanksgiving. Winter Break is only a few weeks after that. I'm sure we'll try and hook up." She swatted Fingon as he sat up suddenly, an affronted look on his face. "Not like that, you dumbass!" She glared at him until he settled back on the pillows again. "Just get together. I've no intention of sleeping with him right away."
"I should hope not," Fingon said with a frown.
"Seriously, Fingon, you sound just like Mom," Aredhel complained.
"That's the second time today someone has said that to me," Fingon said irritably.
"You need to get out and have some fun, Finno. You're getting all stodgy and serious, like Mom and Dad."
"I am trying to finish my Masters degree. I am not getting stodgy. I'm just focused," Fingon grumbled.
She sat up and looked at him thoughtfully. "When are you going to see Maedhros again?"
"You heard me. When are you going to see Maedhros again?" She made a dismissive gesture as he sat up and tried to speak. "Shut up, Finno. I saw the way he looked at you." She smiled and touched his arm. "And how you looked at him."
Fingon fell back on the pillows and exhaled loudly, staring at the ceiling.
"Maybe this week," he finally admitted.
"Good," Aredhel put her head back on his shoulder. Fingon put his arm around her and she was soon asleep.
It took him a while longer to do the same.
He saw the text message from Maedhros after his Wednesday studio.
MAEDHROS: Hey, I'll be in Tirion Friday. Any chance you're free? I'll be done close to 4. No worries if you're not.
Fingon scrolled through his phone calendar and went through his to-do list mentally. If he used the upcoming weekend to work on his project and the Thanksgiving weekend for job applications he would be mostly caught up. Certainly a Friday night outing would be a good way to relax before a weekend slogging on his project, wouldn't it?
FINGON: Done with class by 4 Friday. No other plans. Where do you want to meet?
MAEDHROS: Do you have time for dinner? If not, we can just grab coffee again.
Fingon paused over his phone. He had no plans for Friday night. The possibility of a whole evening alone with Maedhros made him smile.
FINGON: Dinner sounds great.
MAEDHROS: I can pick you up at your place. I'll be near there.
Fingon paused again. Would Finrod be home Friday night? He had barely seen him last weekend, but that wasn't unusual for Finrod. He always seemed to have plans. He shook his head. He'd have to ask. He never knew anymore if Finrod was going to be out or not, with this new girlfriend he had, but he was certain that he did not want any possibility of Finrod tagging along to dinner. No matter. He could deal with Finrod, whatever his plans were.
FINGON: Sounds good. See you Friday.
Maedhros shifted the boxes of books into the trunk of his car. The meeting had taken longer than he expected. The retired Art History professor had parted with a number of books in great condition. There was the possibility of more books in storage but that was a trip for another day. He certainly wasn't going to complain about opportunities to come to Tirion.
He scanned his watch. He had texted Fingon earlier and confirmed he would be at his place by 5.
He had wracked his brain thinking of what to plan for the evening. The weather had turned snowy earlier in the week so his idea of walking through the sculpture park was a bust. It was too cold and it would now be too late. Even with the sculpture park lighting he did not want to be there at dusk or once the sun went down.
Dinner was easy but he really wanted something concrete to suggest for after. If he had some of Fingon's time he wasn't going to waste it by calling it a night too early.
Even though Nargothrond had been fun, tonight Maedhros wanted to be in a place where he could actually talk to Fingon and not be drowned out by the music. The idea of sitting next to Fingon in a movie theater was appealing but he was more interested in getting to know him better, rather than just watching a movie with him.
He had finally broken down and gone to Maglor for advice the night before.
"You want to know about the places on Nevrast?" Maglor asked, giving Maedhros a dubious look. "Are you asking academically or are you trying to make conversation to distract me from something or are you actually considering going out and having a good time for a change, Maedhros?"
Maedhros frowned at Maglor. "Maybe I'm just interested in hearing about the clubs on Nevrast."
"You've never been interested when I've talked about them before." Maglor was eyeing his brother intently. "Why the sudden interest?"
"I'm just curious, all right? Thinking of trying something different for a change," Maedhros said defensively.
"Something different. That doesn't sound like you at all, Mae. You're a creature of habit." Maglor narrowed his eyes at Maedhros. "Are you going to see that guy from the bookstore again?"
Maedhros rubbed his right shoulder absently, something Maglor knew he did when he was stressed. "Maybe," he admitted.
Maglor grinned. "Good," he said and then launched into a painstakingly detailed analysis of the clubs on Nevrast.
Maedhros shut the trunk of the Subaru, brushed the loose strands of his hair back with his hands and pushed his glasses up. He was nervous, he realized. Excited but still nervous. He really wanted this more than he expected.
He sat in the drivers seat and pulled out his phone. A few taps later he clicked the reservation box. They would try the Indian restaurant and then find that Avallonë club on Nevrast Avenue that Maglor liked so much.
this story is also posted on archive of own own under the same author name-my friend cinemairon did some spectacular illustrations of the characters for chapters 1 and 5 that are worth a look! I can't seem to post them here.
Chapter 12 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Fingon was home just after four o'clock. He saw Finrod's coat hanging on the hook by the door as he placed his next to it. Confirmation of his roommate's presence came when he walked down the hall to his room and heard Finrod's singing over the sounds of the shower.
Fingon looked at his watch. No point in showering now if Maedhros was coming for him at five. Finrod was likely to be in there for a while. Despite his irritation with Finrod's timing he had to smile; his roommate was obviously in a good mood, judging by the volume and song selections emanating from the bathroom. Finrod did have an exceptional voice, even with the poor acoustics their bathroom provided.
He considered and rejected two shirts before finally deciding what to wear. A quick glance in the mirror confirmed he was long overdue for a haircut—his dark curls were sticking up and out haphazardly despite his best efforts to subdue them. He gave up.
Fingon leaned on the wall in the hallway, waiting for Finrod. He had made sure to mention his plans to his roommate the night before and thought he had made it abundantly clear that Finrod was not welcome to tag along tonight, but reiterating that point wouldn't hurt.
It was 4:30 before Finrod appeared, startled at the sight of Fingon loitering in their hallway.
"Hey!" Finrod grinned. "Didn't hear you come in." A towel was wrapped around his waist and his golden hair lay in damp curls on his shoulders as he regarded Fingon. "Oh shit!" His eyes widened in realization. "Tonight's the date with Maedhros, right?" He shook his head apologetically, spraying water droplets on the walls and on Fingon. "I totally forgot. Sorry for hogging the shower." He shrugged. "It's free now."
"It's fine," Fingon replied. "No time now." He narrowed his eyes at Finrod. "You are going out, right?"
"Yeah, yeah. I am." Finrod tilted his head and gave Fingon a mischievous look. "But not 'til later. I thought I'd stick around to meet your friend."
Fingon groaned. "Seriously? No. I'll go wait for him downstairs." He glared at Finrod. "I'm not going to have you hovering around like my mother."
Finrod laughed. "I won't hover. I just want to say hi. I am responsible for you meeting him, you know." Finrod walked to his bedroom door and looked over his shoulder at Fingon. "And I should probably make sure to tell him not to break your heart." He grinned at Fingon's outraged look and ran into his room, slamming the door shut behind him.
It was probably better to wait downstairs anyway, Fingon thought, as he stepped out of the apartment twenty minutes later. This way Maedhros wouldn't have to find a place to park.
He rocked up and down on his toes, waiting for Maedhros on the sidewalk in front of his building. It was colder than when he had walked home an hour ago and the snowfall had picked up considerably. He was beginning to regret not wearing a hat when the green Subaru pulled up.
Maedhros was surprised to see Fingon waiting on the sidewalk. He pulled up and opened the passenger window. "You must be freezing!" he said as Fingon pulled open the door and sat in the passenger seat.
Fingon turned to him with a smile and Maedhros' breath caught at the sight of him. Melting snowflakes were scattered in his dark hair and caught on his eyelashes. He was flushed from the cold but his blue eyes were sparkling as they met Maedhros' own. He was stunning. Maedhros blinked at him and realized he had missed whatever it was Fingon had just said.
"Sorry?" he said, with an effort to get the word out.
"No, don't worry about it. You weren't late. I just wanted to get out of the apartment and I didn't want you to have to find a parking spot," Fingon replied, running a hand through those raven curls and sending droplets of water scattering.
"Thanks," Maedhros said, realizing one-word answers were about all he could manage at the moment.
"What's the plan?" Fingon asked, as Maedhros pulled out into the road.
Plan. What was the plan? Maedhros had come up with a plan. He distinctly remembered doing just that but his mind was a bit of a blank right now.
"Dinner," he finally managed, continuing the one-word answer theme. That's right, he said to himself. Dinner. Then Nevrast Avenue. That was the plan. He took a few breaths and then turned to Fingon with a smile. "I hope you like Indian food. I thought we could try this new Indian place. It got a stellar write-up a few weeks ago."
"Sounds great," Fingon said, settling back into the seat.
The restaurant lived up to its review and Maedhros found himself relaxing at the ease and comfort of his interaction with Fingon.
Fingon, finding a receptive audience in Maedhros, went into greater detail about his Masters project. He was used to his family and friends' eyes glazing over when he got into too deep a discourse about his project. But far from Maedhros' eyes glazing over, he was actually providing insightful questions and observations that made Fingon even more eager to discuss his own thoughts.
Maedhros felt a warm flush of gratitude as he listened to Fingon talk. It seemed they had finally gotten over the awkward phase and were getting more comfortable in each other's presence. At least as long as one of them didn't have snowflakes artfully dusting his hair, he admitted to himself.
He reveled in the passion Fingon had for his work and watched contentedly as Fingon's eyes glowed and his hands seemed to speak as he gestured to punctuate his words. Maedhros was surprised, when he looked down at his watch, to find they had been talking over dinner for almost three hours.
"What do you say to checking out the music scene over on Nevrast?" Maedhros asked.
"I'd like that," Fingon replied. "You going to trust your brother's recommendations or are we just winging it?"
"I was thinking the quieter places might be better, even if it is weird folk music," Maedhros leaned across the table. "I'd like to be able to keep talking to you and not have to be in competition with the music."
Fingon smiled back at him. "I'm all for that."
It seemed very natural for Maedhros to take Fingon's hand in his as they walked to the car. It was a short walk—Maedhros was very particular about where he parked and they were close to the restaurant.
"Nevrast isn't too far from here," Fingon said as they neared the car. "I don't mind walking." He squeezed Maedhros' hand and moved just a little closer to him.
Tempting as it was to keep holding Fingon's hand, Maedhros preferred to drive. "It's cold," he pointed out, knowing that would likely be enough reason for driving. "And it will get even colder later." He unlocked the car and with a shrug, Fingon got in.
The Nevrast parking situation was far from ideal. Maedhros couldn't find a space near Avallonë on his first pass and he wasn't interested in parking in the pay lots in the darker, less vibrant stretch of the street. Fingon pointed the lots out but Maedhros just shook his head and went around the block again.
After two more turns around the block, Fingon gave him a puzzled look. "I don't mind a bit of walk. Promise I'm not that bad about the cold, really," Fingon said.
Maedhros gave him a tight little smile and turned the corner again.
"There's some down that side street," Fingon pointed out. Maedhros looked at the dark side street, with the alleyways from behind the bars and clubs opening on to it, and he shook his head.
"We'll find something," he assured Fingon.
It took about ten more minutes and four more passes in front of Avallonë before a spot near the club opened up and Maedhros finally parked the car.
Avallonë definitely had an artsy vibe. It was dark and warm. Tapestries hung along the walls and curved booths hugged the edges of the space. Tables were scattered in the large central area with gossamer-thin ribbons hanging from the ceiling, almost making each booth and table its own island in the dim light. A stage ran along the back wall and Fingon could see musicians setting up.
Maedhros pulled him towards one the vacant, curved booths along the far wall, deep maroon cushions surrounded by the nearly translucent, iridescent ribbons hanging down around it. As he sank into the decadently soft cushions, Fingon decided it was more of a sofa than a booth. Maedhros slid in next to him, his legs stretched alongside Fingon's and their shoulders pressed closely together.
The music was a folk type but not loud enough to make Fingon need to raise his voice to speak. It wasn't long before Maedhros' arm went around his shoulders and Fingon leaned in to his solid warmth. His head was just at a level with Maedhros' shoulder so he let his head relax there, feeling Maedhros' fingers squeeze his shoulder lightly.
Maedhros felt Fingon's head drop onto his shoulder and it was as if a puzzle piece had clicked into place. It fit. From their ankles to their shoulders they were pressed together and Maedhros could not recall the last time he felt this content.
All he had to do was turn his head and his lips would be skimming Fingon's hair. Did he dare? His eyes scanned around them but in the dim light and with the ribbon curtains the tables were shadowed and indistinct, as theirs likely was to others.
He was not usually physically demonstrative in public, certainly not this early in a relationship. Was this a relationship, he asked himself. He breathed in the scent of Fingon's hair, felt the soft brush of those dark curls on his cheek and the warm solidity of his body next to him. Yes, this was a relationship, one that Maedhros wanted, desperately.
Fingon felt Maedhros tilt his head down to rest on his own and he looked up at him, just as Maedhros looked down. Their faces were so close Fingon could feel Maedhros' breath and his silver eyes filled his vision.
It was only the matter of a minor shift in his position and Fingon brushed his lips against Maedhros'. Fingon felt and heard Maedhros' indrawn breath of surprise but Maedhros did not draw back. Instead Fingon felt the soft touch of Maedhros' lips grow firmer on his own in response. His hand moved to the back of Fingon's head, his fingers buried in Fingon's hair, their lips moving over each other questioningly at first and then with more intensity.
Maedhros finally pulled back, pupils dilated in his silver eyes and his breath coming in a soft huff that Fingon thought might be a laugh. He met his gaze with a smile of his own, his face warming at the look in Maedhros' eyes.
Fingon gently traced Maedhros' jaw line with a finger and dropped his head back on Maedhros' shoulder with a soft exhalation, and a shift closer to his chest. Maedhros rested his cheek on Fingon's hair, his arm around him again, and Fingon turned his head up to whisper "I don't think I realized I was searching for you until I found you."
A warm glow centered in Maedhros' chest at his words, as he realized Fingon had verbalized exactly what he was also feeling. He gazed down at Fingon and whispered back "I didn't realize I wanted to be found."
Maedhros gripped his shoulder tightly and Fingon felt his lips and warm breath in his hair. He couldn't remember ever feeling this content.
They had walked into Avalonnë hand in hand, but when they left Maedhros had his arm around Fingon's shoulders and Fingon's arm was curved around Maedhros' waist.
They held hands in the car as Maedhros drove back to Fingon's apartment, Maedhros keeping his eyes on the road but unable to keep from looking over to smile at Fingon, as he leaned back in the seat, looking at Maedhros with his eyes half-closed.
"You want to come upstairs?" Fingon asked, as Maedhros pulled into a parking spot near Fingon's building.
It was tempting. In fact, it was more than tempting. There was nothing Maedhros wanted more at that moment than to follow Fingon into his apartment, to run his fingers through his hair, touch his body, feel his lips on his again.
But it was late. Fingon had a lot of work to do over the weekend. He couldn't guarantee, even to himself, that he would want to leave at all once he was in Fingon's apartment. And staying over wasn't a good idea. No, it was best to end the night here, keep from distracting Fingon further and make more solid plans to see each other again.
"It's not that complicated a question, Maedhros," Fingon said, his smile a little hesitant and Maedhros saw a small crease on his forehead.
"There is nothing in this world that I want more right now than to follow you upstairs," Maedhros said, his voice husky and low with emotion. "But I don't know that I'd want to leave," he confessed, rubbing his thumb over the back of Fingon's hand. "You need to work on your project this weekend and I've promised myself that I will not be a distraction to you. It's better if I just go home."
Fingon's smile faded and was replaced by a look so vulnerable and disappointed that Maedhros reached out and gently stroked his cheek, then curved his hand around Fingon's head as he leaned in to kiss him.
This was not as gentle or tentative as it had been at Avallonë. His mouth moved over Fingon's, his lips insistent and he felt Fingon's lips part under his own. The sensation of his tongue on Fingon's sent a shock down his spine. It was heat, sweetness, a pull of intensity that made his head spin, so he closed his eyes and let himself fall into the sensation. Fingon's hands threaded through his hair, pulling him even closer, his mouth matching Maedhros' intensity.
It took every effort for Maedhros to pull back, his breath coming quickly and his heart pounding. There was warmth flooding from his chest to his groin.
"I don't want you to leave," Fingon whispered against his lips, his eyes so close that Maedhros could see the silver glints scattered in the blue.
"I don't want to go," Maedhros whispered back. "But if I don't go now, I won't go at all." He pressed his forehead to Fingon's. "We have all the time in the world. Don't let me distract you. I can't stay. Not now. I'd never forgive myself." His eyes were locked on Fingon's, the emotion having made him reveal more than he intended. "When you have the time, I will be there." His fingers briefly tightened in Fingon's hair then he leaned back slowly, his hands sliding from Fingon's hair to lightly run down his arms until his fingers intertwined with Fingon's.
Fingon sighed. "You're right. I know . . . it's just . . . I . . ." he paused and looked at Maedhros.
"I'll call you every day until I see you again," Maedhros promised.
Fingon nodded, leaned forward to give him another breathless kiss and then, decision made, opened the door to step out of the car. He leaned down to look at Maedhros. "I'll hold you to that," he said, then shut the car door. He walked to his apartment building entrance, raising his hand in farewell before entering the building.
The house was dark by the time Maedhros drove back from Tirion. Tyelko's door was shut and there was no light coming from his room. Maedhros walked by Maglor's room; the door was also shut but he could hear music playing softly and a stream of light was visible under the door. He hesitated for a moment, then walked to his own room.
"You're back early," Maglor said, leaning against the frame of Maedhros' doorway, moments later. "Did you go to Avallonë?"
"We did. It was nicer than I expected. The layout is funky but I liked it," Maedhros replied, kicking his shoes off and sitting on his bed.
"Who was playing? Was it Daeron?" Maglor asked.
"Honestly, I have no idea," Maedhros said, a hint of color rising on his cheeks. "I didn't really pay any attention."
Maglor studied him. "You had a good time, then?"
"I didn't expect you back so early," Maglor repeated. "With the weather, I thought you might stay there for the night . . ."
Maehdros looked at him, his face stern now. "You know better than that, Maglor. You know I couldn't stay there."
"Don't you think it's time you talked to him about that?" Maglor said, frowning at his brother. "It's bound to come up, if you keep seeing each other."
"We've only seen each other a few times," Maedhros said. "It's not an issue."
"It will be soon enough," Maglor sat next to Maedhros on the bed. "If you keep seeing him, he's going to wonder why you won't stay."
Maedhros crossed his arms, rested them on his knees and looked at the floor. "I'll figure it out, Maglor." He stared at the floor for a moment before speaking again. "It's stupid and I thought I'd be over it by now."
Maglor put his arm on Maedhros' shoulder. "I still think you should tell him. It's not as big a deal as you make it out to be, Mae. I can't even remember the last time you had one of those nightmares. Maybe it is finally getting better."
"There's no knowing what I'd do, waking up in a strange place. I'm not going to risk it."
Maglor looked at his brother and then leaned his head on Maedhros' shoulder. "I know. But don't wait too long to talk to him about it. He's going to wonder if it's something he's said or done, soon enough."
"I know," Maedhros whispered.
Chapter 13 by NelyafinweFeanorion
TYELKO: I'll be there this weekend for the game. You around?
AREDHEL: Yeah. When?
TYELKO: Get in late Saturday night. Game 1pm Sunday. Leave at 6. Breakfast? Want to come to the game?
AREDHEL: Can I do both?
TYELKO: Hell yeah! I can meet at 10. Where?
AREDHEL: Celon Café. It's near campus and short walk to rink.
TYELKO: C U Sunday!
She could see Tyelko standing in front of Celon as she walked up. The wind was blowing his hair all around his face. A face that lit up as he caught sight of her and she felt herself lifted up in a hug that made her laugh. He was so warm and solid.
"I'm glad you were free. I thought you might have other plans," Tyelko said, as he put her down and smiled at her, his arms still around her waist.
"Season's over so my schedule opened up." She took his arm as they walked into the café. "Now it's just getting ready for finals."
He grimaced. "Exercise Phys and Stats finals sucked."
"I like Exercise Phys. It's Stats that kills me," Aredhel admitted.
Breakfast felt like it went by so quickly that Tyelko was surprised to look at his watch and see that it was almost noon. "I've got to get to the rink," he said apologetically. "You want to come with me or meet me there?"
"Don't you have to be with the team during the game?"
He shook his head and she was momentarily mesmerized by the fall of his golden hair on his shoulders. "No, I'm just strength and conditioning—nothing to do during games. I just help out with the equipment and being an ATC I can help out if there are any injuries." He smiled at her. "I just have to be able to get out on the ice if anyone gets hurt. You can sit with me rink side."
The café was walking distance from the rink. Tyelko took Aredhel's hand as they walked. "You doing the family thing for Thanksgiving?" he asked.
"Yeah, I'll be home Wednesday," she answered. "You?"
"No games so I'll be around." He gave her a quick look. "You think you'll have any time to get together?"
She squeezed his hand. "I'd like to try. I fly back Sunday. We usually stay home and avoid the Friday craziness but maybe we can get together Saturday?"
"I'd like that," Tyelko said.
"I get back the 12th for Winter Break. I'll be home for over a month," Aredhel said.
Tyelko frowned. "I've got some travel days with the team over Winter Break," he admitted. "Will you be in Tirion the whole time?"
"Yeah, we're staying home. Dad had talked about taking us somewhere warm but my little brother is still in high school, so he doesn't get as much time off," she said.
"Yeah, we usually stay home. My younger brothers are still in high school too." His face took on a thoughtful look. "We used to all spend Christmas in Formenos when my grandfather was alive, but we haven't done that in awhile."
"I was hoping for a tropical vacation to Alqualondë but now I'm glad we're staying home after all," Aredhel squeezed Tyelko's hand and smiled up at him.
It was a close match but Cuiviénen won in the end. Aredhel waited near the locker room for Tyelko to finish checking on his players.
He spotted her as he came out the locker room door. He took both her hands in his. "The bus leaves in half an hour so I don't have much time. I could walk you back to your place if it's close?"
"No, don't worry about walking me home. You'd have to run right back here to catch your bus. We can stay here." She gave him a grin and pulled him down another long corridor and then up a flight of stairs.
They found themselves in an empty hallway, behind the scoreboard. Tyelko looked around. "Where are we going?"
"Nowhere," Aredhel said, moving closer to him. "I didn't think you wanted to hang out by the locker room."
"You were right. I like this a lot better," Tyelko pulled Aredhel to him and put his arms around her. "I wish I had more time. I've been thinking about you all week." He smiled as her hands went behind his neck and her fingers ran through his hair.
"I like that you wear it down," she said.
He bent his head and kissed her, lightly at first, and then as she responded he intensified his efforts, pulling her body close to his.
She smelled like lemongrass—fresh, clean, exotic. He deepened the kiss and felt her lips part. She tasted of mint and the sensation made heat flare through him.
Aredhel pulled back first, leaving Tyelko breathing heavily and with jeans that suddenly felt way too tight.
"You probably need to go catch your bus," she said.
"Yeah," Tyelko nodded but didn't move.
"You know how to get back to the locker room from here?" Aredhel asked, with a smile.
"Yeah." He still didn't step away from her. "Aredhel—when you're home over Winter Break-I really want to see you again." His grey eyes looked at her intently. "For a real date."
"I'd like that too." She reached up and gave him a soft kiss and hugged him close.
He closed his eyes and pressed his face into her hair, breathing her in, before reluctantly stepping back. "Try to see you next week?"
"Next week," she said and walked down the corridor away from him, giving him a bold look over her shoulder before she turned the corner and disappeared from sight.
It was late afternoon Sunday and Fingon had been at his desk for most of the day. There was a tap on his half-open door and as he turned Finrod's face appeared around the door's edge.
"Hey, you been working all day?" Finrod asked.
Fingon looked at his watch. "Since about nine, I guess."
"You ready for a break? Grab some dinner?" Finrod asked. "I don't really feel like cooking," he admitted.
Fingon stood up and rolled his neck, stretching his shoulders back. "That sounds great. I am all for taking a break."
They stood on the street outside their apartment building a few moments later, snow falling around them. Fingon pulled his hat down over his ears and zipped his coat collar up. "Where to?"
"Mediterranean place down the street or should we go to Taeglin's?" Finrod asked.
"Taeglin's is closer," Fingon replied.
They were soon seated at a booth in the pub. "So how's the project going? I assume that's what you've been working on all weekend?" Finrod asked.
"I'm getting pretty close," Fingon replied. "I'll be able to submit it the week after Thanksgiving, I think. How about you? You haven't been around much this weekend."
Finrod leaned back and smiled. "I spent most of it at Amarie's."
"Do I get to meet her sometime or are you avoiding me on purpose?" Fingon asked.
"I could ask you the same question. Maybe you can meet her when I get to meet Maedhros," Finrod grinned.
"You've met Maedhros," Fingon pointed out.
"Not officially," Finrod stated. "How was your date Friday?" Finrod asked. "That's what—your third one?"
"Friday night. Third date. You've seen him three weekends in a row, by my count," Finrod ticked off the numbers with his fingers. "Friday night, last weekend with Aredhel, and the time you missed your train. That's three."
"Those were not dates," Fingon corrected, annoyed to realize his face was getting warm.
"Oh, please!" Finrod leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest, looking amused. "Come on, Fin. That set up for Aredhel was just a good excuse and you know it. And whatever you were doing the weekend before caused you to miss the last train from Formenos. It doesn't take that long to pick up a book." He raised an eyebrow at Fingon knowingly.
"It was just a cup of coffee," Fingon said.
"Date," Finrod replied. "Was there any physical contact?"
"Seriously, shut up," Fingon said, his cheeks heating up even more.
"So, I'll take that as a yes," Finrod smirked.
Fingon took a deep drink of his beer.
"So. Three dates," Finrod continued. "Are you going to see him this week?"
"I don't know. The holiday will make it kind of difficult, I think," Fingon admitted, then narrowed his eyes at Finrod.
"I think you should make the time," Finrod said, leaning forward now. "Don't you think?"
Fingon took another drink of his beer before replying. "Yeah, I do." He looked at his roommate. "I really like him," he admitted.
"What do you mean, you know?" Fingon said irritably.
"I can just tell. I don't think I've ever seen you so flustered and defensive about anyone before," Finrod said. "You knew I was going to be out Friday night and the weather was crap. Why didn't you just have him stay over?"
Fingon looked at his beer. He glanced up at Finrod, who was looking at him with a puzzled expression. "I did ask him to stay over," he said finally.
"And he didn't?" Finrod asked, raising his eyebrows.
"No, he didn't," Fingon said, more sharply than he intended. "And he was right. I had a lot of work to get done this weekend. It's just really bad timing . . ." Fingon started to say.
"Shut up. There's no such thing as a good time or a bad time. If it's worth it, you make the time." Finrod shrugged at him and took a drink of his own beer, then looked at Fingon, with a frown. "Does he know you're really interested in him? I mean, maybe he thought you were just asking him up for a cup of coffee, to be nice, whatever, and didn't get that there might be more to it than that?" Finrod asked.
Fingon frowned in turn. He really didn't want to be having this conversation with Finrod but he had been a little surprised that Maedhros had not at least come up to the apartment, even if only for a little while. He exhaled and then said "I think I made it pretty clear what I meant."
"Did you kiss him?"
"Seriously, I do not want to be having this conversation with you," Fingon said.
"Who else are you going to have it with? Turgon? Please," Finrod leaned back and studied Fingon. "So, did you kiss him?"
"And?" Finrod asked.
"Was that it? Just a quick kiss and then good night or was it more intense than that? Do I seriously have to drag this out of you?" Finrod was leaning forward again, an intent expression on his face.
"It was . . . let's just say it was most definitely a mutual making out thing, ok?" Fingon said.
"Have you been telling him all this crap about how busy you are and how you have this hellish project and all that?" Finrod asked, narrowing his eyes at Fingon.
"What? Well, not like that, but yeah I told him about my project and all the shit I need to get done before break," Fingon replied. "What's your point?"
Finrod rolled his eyes. "So you're hot and heavy with the physical stuff but then at the same time you're pushing him away if you're harping on how busy you are," Finrod shook his head. "Seriously, Fin. It's like you're giving him mixed signals. You bitch about how little time you've had together, you have at least had some initial physical contact but then you lay the 'but I'm so busy' crap on him. He's going to feel like he's distracting you from your work if you keep talking like that." He leaned back and shook his head again. "Shit, I feel like I'm distracting you from your work half the time."
Was that it, Fingon wondered? Was it just that he had made it seem like he was too busy and Maedhros had taken it that seriously? He had kept saying he didn't want to distract Fingon. Blast it. Finrod was probably right, he thought.
Fingon ran his hands through his hair and looked at Finrod. "I have been talking about my work a fair amount," he admitted.
"Well, stop it," Finrod said. "Your project's done when? Like next week? Fin, you are the most obsessive person I know when it comes to this kind of stuff. There is no way you aren't on top of everything right now. Lay off the school talk with Maedhros. He's been through this, it's not like he doesn't get it. If you keep harping on it it's only going to make him feel bad."
"Fine. You're right."
"Of course I'm right. I wish you had let me meet him Friday night. I would have told him exactly what a dork you are about your work and to not listen to you when you bitch and moan about it." Finrod said.
"Oh, right, like that would have helped at all. You probably would have said something just like that—which is exactly why I met him out," Fingon retorted.
"Well, someone ought to set him straight and tell him that you are totally into him," Finrod said. "It would be better if you were the one who let him know that, but I'm perfectly happy to step in and help you out here."
"I don't need any help," Fingon growled.
"Good. Then that's settled. Shut up about the schoolwork. Let your heart lead and tell your brain to shut up," Finrod advised. "You need to get this guy in your bed and get yourself laid, so you can stop stressing out about everything," Finrod stated.
Fingon decided it was long past time to steer the conversation in a different direction. "So, speaking of your heart—what's the deal with Amarie?" he said. "Just having fun like usual or is there more to it?"
It was Finrod's turn to blush. "It's definitely fun but it's more than that," he confessed. "I've had a lot of relationships."
"I know," Fingon laughed. "And a lot of one-night stands."
"But seriously, Fin. This is different," Finrod leaned forward, his hands on the table, his face looking earnest and open. "Usually I'm always looking for the next thing, something else to grab my interest—even when I'm with someone." He shook his head. "But when I'm with her—I just want to focus on her. I don't want any distractions." He gave Fingon a shrug. "I haven't been to a club in weeks."
"Seriously? Where are you all the time then? You're barely home." Fingon was surprised. Finrod's weekends were usually all about the latest hot restaurant, club or dance bar.
"I've either been at her place or the library, or just dinner and a movie with Amarie," Finrod said.
"You must be serious about her then. I've never known you to pass on hitting the clubs," Fingon said.
"I know. It's crazy, but I'm happy, Fin," Finrod leaned back and took another sip of his beer. "And I'd say it's time for you to be too."
Chapter 14 by NelyafinweFeanorion
It had been Aredhel's suggestion. She had given Fingon a swift wink and then casually mentioned to their mother that they could spend the next day shopping in Formenos. Anairë had loved the idea and so the three of them had found themselves driving to Formenos the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend.
Turgon and Argon had stayed at home with Fingolfin, to shovel the snowy driveway and sidewalks and to find the Christmas decorations, so they could set up the tree when the three of them returned from their shopping expedition. Fingon was sure they would return to find his father and brothers sprawled in front of the television, yelling at the screen instead.
Fingon had not seen how this trip to Formenos was going to result in him spending any time with Maedhros or Aredhel any time with Tyelko, if they were supposed to be shopping with their mother.
He had been sitting on his bed, in his old room at home, wondering what exactly to text to Maedhros. He was interrupted by Aredhel coming in and hopping on his bed with him.
"So I've got it figured out," she said, in a low voice. "It's all squared away with Tyelko."
"Did he come to Elmoth?" Fingon asked.
"Yeah—we didn't have a lot of time but we got together before the hockey game," she said, leaning against the wall and stretching her legs out. "He and Maedhros are back in Formenos today. He said Maedhros would be at the bookstore all day."
"And Tyelko?" Fingon asked.
"I'll meet him downtown at some coffee shop. You'll go to the bookstore to find Maedhros," she replied.
"What about Mom?" Fingon asked. "We can't just ditch her."
"We aren't going to ditch her. Didn't you say you had some applications or something to work on?" she asked.
Fingon frowned. "Yeah, but what's that got to do with going to Formenos?"
Aredhel rolled her eyes. "It means after looking at a few stores with Mom, you go to the bookstore with your laptop and work using the free Wi-Fi."
"I don't know if they have free Wi-Fi at Beleriand," Fingon said.
"Seriously, Finno! Stop being an idiot. Who cares if they have free Wi-Fi? You aren't really going there to work." Aredhel gave him an exasperated look. "That's what we tell Mom," she said, enunciating slowly and clearly. "What you do once you get there is up to you." She raised her eyebrows at him. "But I hope it's something more exciting than those applications of yours!"
"Oh." Fingon blinked.
"I'm sure Maedhros would give you the Wi-Fi password if you really prefer to work on your laptop rather than work on him," Aredhel said drily. "Or maybe not," she added with a mischievous smile. "Maybe he's not as dense as you."
Fingon threw a pillow at her but he was smiling.
"What about you and Tyelko?" he asked.
"Well, obviously I can't shop for mom and she can't shop for me if we're together. We'll split up and I'll meet Tyelko for a bit," Aredhel explained.
"I feel kind of bad for Mom," Fingon said.
Aredhel threw the pillow back at him. "Finno, why do I even bother trying to help you with your lame love life?"
"I don't need any help," Fingon replied.
"Listen, if it makes you feel any better we can tell Mom about them on the drive over and introduce her to Tyelko and Maedhros," Aredhel said, with a gleam in her eyes, but her expression suddenly changed, becoming more thoughtful.
"What?" Fingon asked, noticing the change.
"Well, maybe it would be a good idea for Mom to meet them. Then she would know about them before Winter Break," Aredhel explained. "Then we could see them a bit more over break or even have them over?"
That was how Fingon found himself seated in one of the comfortable armchairs at Beleriand Books, working on applications with the free Wi-Fi, while he waited for Maedhros.
"Hey," Maedhros said, coming to sit on the arm of Fingon's chair. "Sorry, I had that appointment set up before I knew you were stopping by today." He looked apologetically at Fingon. "I'd promised to go through those books with him and didn't have a chance to reschedule."
"Don't worry about it. You're working and I can't expect you to just drop everything at the last minute." Fingon smiled up at him. "I'll take any spare minute you have but I don't want to disrupt your work day, especially not on the busiest shopping weekend of the year."
Maedhros put his hand of Fingon's shoulder. "You up for helping me move some books or are you still working?" Maedhros asked.
"Happy to help. Can I stash my laptop somewhere?" Fingon asked, closing his screen and putting his laptop in his messenger bag.
"My office. Follow me," Maedhros said. He followed Maedhros to the back of the store. Maedhros opened a door and ushered Fingon into a small room, dominated by a large desk. Bookshelves lined the walls and filing cabinets took up a section of the far wall. "You can leave your things here," Maedhros said, pointing to the desk.
Fingon dropped his bag and coat on the empty desk and looked around the space. "I somehow expected it to look like my old Art History professor's office," Fingon laughed. "Piles of books and papers untidily scattered around."
"It will look like that in a few weeks, when Moryo comes to do the year-end books with me and I pull out all the receipts and invoices," Maedhros admitted.
"It's a nice desk," Fingon said, running a finger over the smooth surface. "It's huge—I'm surprised you got it in here."
"It came in before we put up the drywall to make this an office," Maedhros said with a smile that didn't really reach his eyes. "It was my grandfather's." He reached out a hand to touch the desk. "I used to spend hours at this desk when I was little—sitting across from him drawing or doing homework, while he went over paperwork, or sitting under it when he went to meetings." Maedhros had a distant look in his eyes as he studied the desk. "Anyway, I wanted it here to remind me of him."
Fingon didn't say anything. He had come to realize how strong Maedhros' feelings for his deceased grandfather were. He walked over to the large glass window that made up the front of the office. "This looks like an editor's office in those old movies about newspapers," he said. "You can see what's going on in the store while you're still in here?"
"I'm not in here that often but I didn't want to shut myself completely away," Maedhros explained, coming to stand next to him. "It helps if people know I'm aware of what's going on and I think it makes me more accessible, if anyone needs me."
Fingon grinned at him as he moved to stand closer to Maedhros. "No privacy, though," he said, raising an eyebrow.
"Good point," Maedhros said, looking down at him with his silver eyes, an amused expression on his face now. "I'll have to get some blinds put up."
They were standing very close to each other, close enough that Fingon could feel Maedhros' exhalation and the warmth of his body just a fingerbreadth away from his own.
Maedhros leaned down. "You have no idea how much I am regretting that window right now."
Fingon laughed. "I am too." He reached out to gently place a hand on Maedhros' chest. "You had some boxes you wanted me to help you move?"
"Books," Maedhros replied. "They're at the front desk." He reached for Fingon's hand and grasped it in his. "This way," he said, pulling Fingon out of the office and shutting the door behind them.
He found himself following Maedhros into the storeroom a few moments later, a box of books in his hands. Maedhros led him to some empty shelves in the very back of the storeroom. Fingon placed the box on a shelf and turned around, bumping directly into Maedhros, who had silently moved to stand behind him.
Maedhros' arms went around him and he pulled him close. "There aren't any windows here," he whispered and bent his head down to brush Fingon's lips with his own. Fingon leaned into the kiss, his lips parting, his hands running down Maedhros' back to come to rest on his hips.
Maedhros' fingers tangled in his still-too-long hair and Fingon returned the kiss with growing intensity, his tongue sliding over Maedhros' own, the heat of Maedhros' body pressed to his.
His slid his hands under Maedhros' shirt, hearing and feeling the sudden intake of breath against his lips. He caught Maedhros' lips with his own again and let his fingers run up his back, feeling the smooth skin, so warm to touch.
Fingon could feel Maedhros getting hard through his jeans and he was responding similarly himself. He pressed himself even closer to him, rubbing against Maedhros' thigh. He hooked his fingers into Maedhros' waistband and then ran them forward to his abdomen, brushing the fly of his jeans, causing Maedhros to gasp and pull back.
"Not here," Maedhros choked out. "Someone could walk in." But Maedhros didn't step back, just tightened his grip in Fingon's hair and moved his lips over Fingon's again.
He obligingly moved his hands to Maedhros' back again, his attention focused on the sensation of Maedhros' lips, Maedhros' tongue, Maedhros' skin under his fingertips, and the progressive tightening in his own crotch.
The sound of a door opening and Maglor's voice saying "I think Maedhros is in the back," caused them to rapidly spring apart; when Maglor made his way to the back he found them both pulling books out of the boxes in front of them and placing them on the shelves.
Maglor narrowed his eyes, noticing Maedhros' untucked shirt and Fingon's disheveled hair. Good, he thought to himself silently and proceeded to tell them that Aredhel and Tyelko were waiting at the front desk.
They made their way to the front desk a few minutes later, Maedhros having tucked his shirt back in and Fingon having failed to notice the state of his hair. Tyelko caught sight of them first and raised his eyebrows at his brother, as a slow smile came across his face. Maedhros ignored him, focusing on greeting Aredhel instead.
"Hey, Maedhros," Aredhel said. "Finno. Mom's going to meet us at the coffee shop in a few minutes." She smiled up at Maedhros. "I think we should all go together. I'd like Mom to meet you both."
"Can you take a break, Maedhros?" Tyelko asked. "Or have you already taken one today?" he asked, eyeing his brother and Fingon suggestively.
Fingon felt his face get warm but kept his expression neutral.
"I'm sure Maglor can cover me for a bit," Maedhros said. "Let me get my coat and Fingon can get his things from my office."
Maglor was willing to cover for Maedhros. "Is this going to be like your last coffee break with Fingon?" he asked drily. "Just so I know what to expect."
"No," Fingon answered before Maedhros could, looking Maglor in the eyes confidently. "Aredhel and I need to get home soon, so he'll be back before closing this time."
Maedhros took Fingon's hand as they walked out of the store and made their way to the same coffee shop as last time. He hadn't noticed the name when he had been here before with Maedhros but he looked up to see it today—Himring.
Anairë was at the counter ordering when they walked in and they all soon found themselves seated at a table near the front of the café.
"I've heard such nice things about you both," Anairë said politely, a small smile on her face as her eyes drifted to her children and her gaze intensified; Fingon had no doubts that she had instantly taken in the sight of Tyelko's arm around Aredhel and Fingon's hand in Maedhros' when they had walked into Himring. It was clear that there would be a lot of questions on the ride home, as neither of them had said all that much about their new 'friends' on the ride to Formenos.
Tyelko soon had Anairë laughing with his stories and Maedhros caught her interest quickly, as she had dabbled in Classics years ago when she was at Cuiviénen, before she had decided to major in Art History.
The time passed rapidly and soon Maedhros looked at his watch. "I probably should head back and relieve Maglor."
"I'd love to have a quick look at your bookstore, before we go," Anairë said, standing to put her coat on. She looked at her watch in turn. "We've got a bit of time before we're expected back. You said you just got some new Art History books in, Maedhros?"
Chapter 15 by NelyafinweFeanorion
My thanks to Cheekybeak for helping me get the focus right in this chapter.
"Hey, don't forget I'm at Bor's wedding this weekend," Maedhros said, as he and Maglor cleaned up the kitchen after dinner.
Maglor looked at him wide-eyed. "I can't cover the store this weekend. I've got to go to the undergrad recitals."
"I know," Maedhros replied. "That's why I have Erestor there full-time. I need somebody consistently available when I have to go out of town or need a day away from the store. He’s fine working this weekend."
"You might have me full-time if I don't find a job," Maglor said, gloomily.
"You'll find something. Didn't that adjunct position open up for next fall?" Maedhros asked.
Maglor grimaced. "Yeah, but I don't know if I want to commit to a non-tenure track position." He sighed. "I haven't heard back from the Tirion Symphony either. I was hoping to get the position as assistant to the Music Director." He frowned at Maedhros. "So you may be stuck with me."
"You just interviewed with the Symphony a few weeks ago. I'm sure you'll hear back," Maedhros said soothingly. "But I'm not getting rid of Erestor, even if you don't find a job," he warned. "He's my right hand man--he's got a Library Science degree and he's worked in bookstores before. I pay him more than any library would because I can't afford to lose him."
"I know, I know. I'm no substitute for Erestor," Maglor agreed. "He may know what he's doing but he's far grumpier than he should be, for what you pay him."
"It's his job to be grumpy. He keeps my enthusiasm and crazy ideas in check," Maedhros smiled. "He's likely the reason the place is actually making money."
They worked in silence for a few moments.
"Oh crap!" Maedhros said, slamming his hand against the counter top.
"What?" Maglor asked.
"I've got to call Fingon. I told him we'd get together this weekend and I totally forgot to tell him I'd be out of town," Maedhros said, shaking his head.
Maglor leaned against the counter. "You tell him yet?"
Maedhros gave him a swift look. "Tell him what?"
"Maedhros. I saw you in the storeroom yesterday, you know. And even if I hadn't, it was pretty obvious that you weren't just filing books, from the looks of you both." Maglor said.
"What's your point, Maglor?"
"You know what my point is! Your relationship is progressing and you owe it to him to be honest about why you won't stay over at his place if he asks you to. By the look of things yesterday, it's pretty likely he's going to ask you to stay the next time you guys go out, if he hasn't asked already," Maglor said, watching his older brother intently.
The blush on Maedhros' face gave it away.
"He's asked you to stay over already," Maglor stated.
"Not in so many words, no," Maedhros answered, his face flushing even more.
"Which means he has and you're dodging it." Maglor crossed his arms and glared at his brother. "I know you like him. I don't think you want to hurt his feelings, even if it's unintentionally."
"It hasn't really come up and I will deal with it if it does," Maedhros snapped. "Thanks for your interest, but I think I can handle my own relationship."
"Suit yourself," Maglor said. "At least it won't be an issue this weekend if you're out of town."
Maedhros sought the privacy of his room to call Fingon.
"I was just thinking of calling you," Fingon said, when he answered the phone. "I'm pretty much done for the night."
"How's the project?"
"It's basically finished. I officially turn it in Friday but it's as good as it's going to be," Fingon replied.
"How's your week?" Maedhros asked.
"Pretty much crap, with the other things I've left to the last minute so I could get this blasted project done," Fingon admitted, instantly regretting the words, as he remembered Finrod’s advice too late.
"I forgot to tell you I'm going to Brethil this weekend for a wedding," Maedhros said. "I'm leaving Friday and won't be back until Sunday." He paused and then continued, his tone apologetic. "I'm sorry I can't take you out Friday night to celebrate your project being done."
"Oh," Fingon was surprised how disappointed he was at Maedhros' words. He hadn't made definite plans with Maedhros this week but he had somehow assumed they would manage to see each other. Like they had the past four weeks, he realized.
"I'm sorry your week is so crazy," Maedhros' voice echoed Fingon's disappointment. "I'm sure there's no time for me to stop by before Friday?"
"No, really, it’s not actually that bad," Fingon amended, putting Maedhros on speakerphone and scrolling through his calendar. He clicked speakerphone back off and put the phone to his ear again. "I don't have studio Wednesday afternoon," he said. "I couldn't make it a late night but I'm free then. You'll be working though?"
"I've got a full-time guy I hired a few months ago, so I've got coverage. I could drive out at lunchtime?" Maedhros suggested.
"You always come up here. Why don't I take the train out to Formenos?" Fingon offered. "We can grab coffee if you have time, or I can help you in the storeroom again, if you like," he teased.
"I could always use your help in the storeroom," Maedhros laughed, but then his voice took on a more serious tone. "I don't always drive up there. You've got a tough week and I don't want you to take more time than you should, just to get out here. You have a lot more going on than I do."
"I could read on the train," Fingon said. "As long as I don't miss the last one back I should be fine."
"I can drive you back. Whatever time you need. Or I can drive up there. I'd rather do that than have you waste your time traveling out here," Maedhros said.
"Does your office have blinds yet?" Fingon asked.
"Does your office have blinds yet?" Fingon repeated.
"Oh. No, not yet," Maedhros admitted.
"Fascinating as your storeroom is, I suppose it might work out better if you drive up. I'll be able to spend more time with you that way, rather than spend it on the train," Fingon replied. "Now, if your office had blinds I might have been tempted to make the trip."
"I'll get right on that. For future reference," Maedhros offered. "So I'll see you Wednesday around one. Your place?"
"Can't wait," Maedhros said.
"Me too," Fingon replied.
Fingon clicked the phone off. Next week was the last week of the semester. He would have a month off, with his internship starting the third week of January. There would be plenty of time to spend with Maedhros over break. He couldn't wait.
Maedhros found a parking spot about a block away from Fingon's building. The snow had finally stopped but the wind had picked up. He made his way to the apartment building, turning his collar up and rewrapping his scarf as he walked.
He checked the number on the foyer mailboxes just to be sure and then made his way to the apartment door.
Fingon heard the knock, just as he checked his watch. One o'clock, right on time. He smiled as he made his way to the door, opened it and then just stared at Maedhros.
"Hey, there," Maedhros gave him a lopsided smile. He realized Maedhros probably had no idea how he looked, standing in the doorway, his face flushed by the cold, his glasses slightly misty, his brilliant red hair tumbling in disarray from the wind. Fingon registered the thought that he had never seen Maedhros with his hair down before. He was breathtaking.
"Come in," he stammered, moving back from the door to let Maedhros in, but unable to take his eyes off him. Blast it; must he always lose his ability to speak coherently when Maedhros looked particularly attractive? Which was basically all the time, he admitted, but this was beyond even his usual.
Maedhros made his way in, closing the door behind him and looking at Fingon curiously. He took his steamed-up glasses off and put them in his coat pocket. "Are you ok?" He suddenly looked alarmed. "It was today, right? I didn't text before I left, I was in a hurry to get on the road, to get here as soon as possible." Maedhros was frowning now. "Did you forget I was coming over?”
Fingon found his voice. "No, I remembered it was today." He couldn’t stop staring at him. He realized he had never seen Maedhros without his glasses either. "You really have no idea how you look right now, do you?"
Maedhros' expression was puzzled. "How I look?" he repeated. "That bad?" he said, with an embarrassed laugh. "I'll blame the wind."
Fingon moved closer to him, reached up to bury his hands in that hair and pulled Maedhros' face down to his own. "You haven't got a clue," he said as he tiptoed up to brush his lips to Maedhros', increasing the intensity of the kiss as his lips made contact.
Maedhros' arms came around him and pulled him closer, then moved to rest on the small of his back, his lips parting and his tongue finding the sweet warmth of Fingon's mouth. It was a few moments before he paused for a breath, looking down at Fingon, his silver eyes shining. "You have to tell me what warranted a greeting like this, because I need to know for next time."
Fingon ran his hands through Maedhros' hair and tilted his head, narrowing his eyes, as he looked him over. "Basically just show up at my door," Fingon said.
"Not buying it. I've shown up before and you've never done that," Maedhros said, pulling him closer and resting his forehead against Fingon's.
"I've never seen you with your hair down before," Fingon admitted, “Or without your glasses.” His eyes focused intently on Maedhros. "It . . . surprised me."
"Good surprise, I hope?" Maedhros said, leaning down to kiss him again.
Fingon came up for breath and answered "If you consider being rendered speechless a good surprise, then yes."
"Snowflakes," Maedhros said, with a grin.
"The night I picked you up outside--you had snowflakes in your hair when you got in the car and I lost the ability to form a complete sentence. Didn't you notice?" Maedhros asked.
"Considering I've barely been able to string two words together coherently since I met you, I would have to say I didn't notice," Fingon replied.
"That was more than two words," Maedhros pointed out.
"This is one time I'm ok with not talking," Fingon said, capturing Maedhros' lips with his own again and maneuvering him onto the living room sofa.
Maedhros sat up briefly to toss off his coat and scarf and then his hands slipped under Fingon's shirt, the heat of them making his skin tingle. His lips and hands were on Fingon, on his hair, his face, his torso. Fingon buried his face in Maedhros' neck, his breath coming faster as hands tangled in his hair, his jeans feeling far too tight as he grew more aroused.
Fingon didn't register the sound of the door opening until he heard Finrod's exclamation of "Whoa, sorry!" and then the sound of the door slamming shut. He sat up quickly, his face scarlet, Maedhros hurriedly sitting up next to him.
Finrod was grinning at him from behind the sofa, a girl with long golden hair standing a few paces behind him. He looked from Fingon to Maedhros, an amused look on his face and then addressed Maedhros. "I'm Finrod, Fingon's roommate. We met a few weeks ago at your bookstore but I don't think we've been officially introduced. Nice to finally meet you."
"I'm Maedhros. Nice to meet you too," Maedhros said politely, his cheeks flushed.
Finrod turned his face to Fingon. "This is Amarië," he said, pulling the girl forward.
"Hi," Amarië said, "Finrod's talked so much about you, it's so nice to finally meet you."
Fingon gave her a tight smile. "Feeling's mutual," he said, keeping his voice smooth. He then proceeded to direct a glare at Finrod, as his roommate crossed his arms and rested them on the back of the sofa, continuing to look far more amused than the situation warranted, and apparently in no hurry to end their conversation.
"You home for the afternoon?" Fingon asked him.
"I am. You know Wednesday's my early day. I thought you'd be at studio 'til late," Finrod raised a questioning eyebrow at him.
"No studio this week," Fingon replied.
"Obviously not," Finrod said, continuing to look amused and making no effort to hide it.
"We were just heading out," Fingon said, standing up. Maedhros grabbed his coat and scarf from the floor and stood up as well.
"From the looks of you, I assumed you were staying in," Finrod said, the amusement fading, as a puzzled look replaced it.
"Plans change," Fingon said bluntly, continuing to glare at Finrod, willing him silently not to say any of the stupid things he had mentioned saying to Maedhros when they had discussed him at Taeglin’s.
Finrod straightened up and looked at Fingon intently. "Seriously, you don't need to go. Amarië and I can just hang out in my room . . . "
Fingon could tell Amarië and Maedhros were both uncomfortable now. He took a deep breath in and reminded himself that Finrod was used to being the only one home on Wednesdays. It was his early day and Fingon had neglected to tell him about his own cancelled studio and about Maedhros' plans to stop by.
He was irritated but it wasn't fair to take it out on Finrod. Or Amarië for that matter. He should just get Maedhros out of here before Finrod decided to say something Fingon would regret.
Maedhros had put his coat on. Fingon reached out and grasped his hand. "Let's go, Maedhros."
"Fin," Finrod said, frowning now.
"Don't worry about it, Finrod. I forgot you come home early on Wednesdays. My fault." Fingon shook his head and shrugged at his roommate. "I'll see you later, ok. Nice to meet you, Amarië. I'm not usually this crabby."
Amarie gave him a shy smile but didn't speak. Finrod was still frowning at him.
"Nice to meet you both," Maedhros said, as they headed to the door.
They made their way downstairs in silence, Fingon still holding Maedhros' hand. He stopped in the foyer and gave Fingon a look.
"What?" Fingon asked. "Listen, I'm sorry about that. I totally forgot he is usually home on Wednesdays. I never am, so it slipped my mind."
Maedhros continued to look at him, a small crease on his forehead.
"What?" Fingon repeated.
"Are you mad because you thought we would have the place to ourselves or are you embarrassed they walked in on us?"
Maedhros asked his question again.
"I guess a bit of both but why does it matter?" Fingon asked.
"I'm just trying to figure out if you were embarrassed to be caught making out with me," Maedhros said.
"You're joking, right? All I want to be doing right now is making out with you, certainly more than arguing about it in my apartment foyer," Fingon replied. "It's not like you weren't embarrassed at the thought of someone walking in on us last weekend," Fingon pointed out.
"That was different," Maedhros said.
"Because that's where I work, Fingon. I own the store," Maedhros sighed. "Because I would expect my employees to refrain from making out in my storeroom and it's a bit of a double standard if I don't."
"You were the one who started kissing me, if you recall," Fingon said, wondering how on earth they had gotten to the point of arguing. He regretted his words now that he had said them, as he saw the stricken look on Maedhros' face.
"You're right," Maedhros said. "I shouldn't have done that at work."
"Maedhros, stop. I don't want to be doing this. I don't want to be arguing with you about something like this when we have so little time to be together," Fingon was still holding Maedhros' hand and he squeezed it now for emphasis.
"I don't like it either, Fingon. But I need to know if you're embarrassed about this. About us."
"What are you talking about? Embarrassed about us?" Fingon was the confused one now. "Why would I be embarrassed about that?"
"You got pretty pissed off at your roommate for walking in on us. I've lived in a house with six brothers and very little privacy. I've lived in a dorm. So have you. I've had a roommate. So have you. I can't tell you how many times I've walked in on someone doing something like that. Or been walked in on myself. You bitch about it for a moment, you laugh it off and you take it somewhere more private," Maedhros frowned at Fingon. " So I'm just wondering if you're embarrassed because it's me. I’m just wondering what you’re so upset about?”
Fingon stared at him. "I am absolutely not embarrassed because it's you." He squeezed Maedhros' hand again and stepped closer to him. "I don't really know why I got so pissed off. Maybe because that's the second time it's happened in a week. Being interrupted by someone. And I hate it." He moved to put his arms around Maedhros, looking up at him, his face just inches away. "I hate distractions when I'm with you. I barely get to see you as it is, with school and your work, me here, you in Formenos."' He tightened his hold on Maedhros. "Because I never seem to have enough time with you. Alone. I know it will be better over Winter Break but with you gone this weekend and finals next week I'm not going to see you for a while. I know that sounds stupid but I've gotten used to seeing you every few days."
"It seemed like you were avoiding having me meet your roommate too."
"Seriously? Why would you think that?" Fingon asked. Had he been that obvious about avoiding Finrod? Maybe he had.
"He wasn't around that first time when Tyelko and I came over. You've been outside waiting for me rather than have me come in. You were ticked off when he came home today. I just wondered if there was some reason you didn't want me to meet him." Maedhros said, his silver eyes filling Fingon's vision.
"He's almost never around on weekends," Fingon countered. "And he was going to hover and say something stupid that day you came by, and I didn't want to deal with him so I just came downstairs." He had a frown of his own now. "I've invited you up more than once, when he was sure to be home and you've turned me down both times." He looked at Maedhros more intently now. "I could ask you why you never want to come over, after we go out. I made it pretty obvious I wanted you to--I asked you to stay and you chose not to. Why is that, Maedhros?"
"I've told you why," Maedhros said. "You've got a lot going on and I won't be a distraction."
"I think at this point in my life I'm capable of figuring out what is a distraction and what isn't. I wouldn't ask you if I thought it would interfere with my work. It wouldn't and I think I'm the better judge of that than you are," Fingon said, his brain reeling at the fact that they were really having a disagreement like this. "I don't want to argue with you," he said again, resting his head on Maedhros' shoulder. "I just want to be with you." He thought he had made that clear. He wouldn’t suggest it if he didn’t want it. Didn’t Maedhros see that?
Maedhros reached up and stroked Fingon's hair. "I think we need to talk this out." He kept his hand running through Fingon's hair. “I want to be with you too,” he whispered. “But not at the expense of your coursework.” Hadn’t Fingon repeatedly pointed out how busy he was? Maedhros was trying to be respectful of his time—he had a good idea how crazy this semester was for him—isn’t that what Fingon wanted him to do?
Fingon lifted his head from Maedhros’ shoulder and looked up at him. "Then let me make it clear, Maedhros. There is absolutely nothing about being with you that embarrasses me. There is nothing I want more than a chance to spend time with you. Trust me when I say I have the time.” Fingon tightened his arms around him. “I want this more than I've wanted anything," he admitted.
Maedhros stared down at Fingon. "I want this too," he said and bent his head to kiss him.
"What now?" Fingon asked, a few moments later, looking up at Maedhros. “Much as I like kissing you, I don’t want to stand in the foyer all afternoon.”
"We could go back upstairs . . ." Maedhros suggested.
"No, this is my time with you. I don’t want to waste it talking to Finrod. I'll talk to him later, when Amarië isn't around and apologize. Not now.” He breathed in and then sighed. He wanted nothing more than to be somewhere alone with Maedhros but he really didn’t want to go back to the apartment right now. He didn’t need Finrod stepping in to ‘help’ him. Fingon had just told Maedhros how much he wanted this. He didn’t need Finrod to do it for him. “Since we’re down here, we may as well go out?” he said.
"May as well,” Maedhros agreed, perplexed again. He had just offered exactly what he thought Fingon wanted—to go upstairs and he had turned him down. He would just try and follow Fingon’s lead today—he didn’t really know what else to do.
Chapter 16 by NelyafinweFeanorion
sorry-angst is creeping in. These guys are just magnets for it.
A multitude of thanks/gratitude to cheekybeak for the amazing beta help on this chapter.
They ended up at Taeglin's, because it was close and neither one of them really had any better ideas. It was a much quieter meal than any they had shared before, both periodically getting lost in their thoughts.
Finrod had been right, Fingon thought. Maedhros had put a lot of stock in his comments about how busy he was and he was now regretting every single complaint he had made about his coursework. He thought he had just been venting but it seemed that Maedhros had taken it as a signal not to press Fingon for time. That wasn't what he wanted at all but how was he going to correct that impression?
Maedhros, however, was completely confused. He realized Fingon wanted more time with him, based on what he had said just now, but it seemed to contradict the fact that every time Maedhros asked him if he was free Fingon told him about all the work he had to do. Maedhros didn't want to pressure him for time. He couldn't help wanting more of it though and maybe that wasn't fair to Fingon right now.
Maedhros looked at him thoughtfully. Fingon had mentioned Maedhros coming over after dates. Was that how he wanted more time with him? Maglor might be right about that—maybe he was more upset about Maedhros turning him down than he had indicated. But that wasn't really a negotiable point. It was too risky to spend the night but maybe . . . maybe he could just go to his apartment for a little while sometime? Maedhros chewed his bottom lip. He would just have to make sure he didn't let himself fall asleep there.
He reached across the table and put his hand on Fingon's. As he had that first time at the coffee shop in Formenos, Fingon laced his fingers through Maedhros'.
"I'm sorry," Maedhros said.
"No, I'm the one who should apologize. To you and to Finrod too. I don't know why I snapped at him. Well, I do. I told you. I just hate anything that interferes with our time together," Fingon said. "I really can't wait for Winter Break."
"I'm sorry I'm out of town this weekend," Maedhros said.
"You shouldn't be. We both have commitments and plans that come up. I just hope we have more time once this semester is over."
"I intend to spend as much time as possible with you," Maedhros replied.
Fingon squeezed his fingers and gave him a tentative smile. "Well, we've had our first argument, I guess, and we survived it."
"It's definitely the first and even though I hope it's also the last, I know that's unrealistic," Maedhros said, looking thoughtful.
"Promise me this," Fingon said. "Keep doing what you did today—make me talk it out. I don't always do that and it ends up being a problem down the road."
Maedhros' forehead creased. "I do the same," he said slowly, his eyes clouded. "There are things I need to say but . . ."
"Nothing," Maedhros said, with a shake of his head. "I just meant I have a tendency to hold things in, not talk them out." It had been an opportunity to open up about the issue Maglor was hounding him about, but Maedhros just couldn't get himself to do it. He'd deal with it head-on if it came up again. He wasn't going to waste this time with Fingon on dreary subjects.
"You have to get back anytime in particular?" he asked Fingon, changing the subject.
"Not really. I have early class tomorrow and a few notes and schematics to review before then," Fingon replied. "I just need to make it an early night."
"What do you want to do for the rest of the afternoon then?" Maedhros asked.
"Just be with you."
Neither of them had felt like returning to Fingon's apartment after lunch. Maedhros briefly thought about driving out to Formenos. His brothers would both be out until dinnertime but they would waste an hour on the drive time there and back.
It was still too cold for the sculpture park. He didn't want to go to a movie. He just wanted to be somewhere with Fingon, preferably alone, but seeing as that wasn't an option he needed to think of something to do.
He found himself driving them to Sirion Mall. The parking lot was not as crowded as he expected, midweek likely being a slow time, even with the Christmas holiday a few weeks away.
"You done any Christmas shopping?" he asked Fingon.
"Actually none at all. I skipped out on the stores in Formenos last weekend to come to the bookstore, remember?" Fingon answered with a smile. It was back to his usual brilliant grin and Maedhros was grateful for that.
"I'm behind this year too," Maedhros said with a grimace. "Too many brothers to shop for," he explained.
They made their way through the mall, holding hands again. It had been a good idea to come here, Maedhros thought. It had lifted the mood and the seriousness of their conversation.
It was a few hours before they returned to the car, laden with bags.
"I should take you with me every time," Maedhros said. "You don't even know them all but you still had better ideas for my brothers than I did."
"Maybe it's because I don't know them," Fingon offered. "Blank slate so I can be more creative?" He moved closer to Maedhros and linked his arm, briefly resting his head on Maedhros' shoulder. "Thank you for doing this. I feel better now."
"Christmas spirit and all," Maedhros smiled. "Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men and such."
"Home?" he asked, as they reached the car.
"No, not yet," Fingon said. He sat in the passenger seat and bent down over his phone. He looked up as Maedhros started the Subaru.
"Where to?" Maedhros asked.
"Head over to Taniquetil."
Maedhros parked near the summit of Taniquetil hill. The sun was setting as they got out of the car and walked to the cathedral there, the city of Tirion spread out before them from this height. They were alone at the balustrade that circled the cathedral courtyard. The wind whipped Maedhros' hair and the chill came through his coat. He was not surprised they were the only visitors.
There must have been a reason Fingon wanted to come here. He stayed silent, leaning his elbows on the stone wall, shoulder to shoulder with Fingon. As the wind picked up Fingon gave a small shiver that vibrated through Maedhros, so he put his arm around him and pulled him close.
Fingon leaned into him and then looked up, his eyes so close they filled Maedhros' vision. He leaned down to kiss Fingon softly, all the frustration from earlier draining out of him with the contact. Fingon gently kissed him back, and then pulled away to lean on his shoulder again.
"Aren't you cold?" Maedhros questioned.
"I am. But I just wanted to be someplace quiet and peaceful, alone with you," Fingon replied. He straightened up and tugged on Maedhros' arm. "Come on. Let's go inside."
They walked into the cathedral and Maedhros was surprised to hear chamber music being played.
"They have concerts on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons," Fingon whispered to him. "My grandmother used to bring me here when I was little. She lived just down the hill." He pulled Maedhros closer to the music, choosing a bench near the back. There were a few people scattered among the seats, but not more than half a dozen.
"I was fairly lively as a kid," Fingon breathed, pulling him down a little so his words could reach him. His breath wafted through Maedhros' hair and he shivered as Fingon's lips touched his ear while he spoke. "Grandmother would bring me here for the concerts. It was about the only way she could get me to sit still for more than a few minutes." He took Maedhros' hand in his own, his fingers chilly as they had been by the riverside weeks ago. "I come here sometimes, when I need to think or when I just want to let everything go and empty my mind." He leaned his head on Maedhros' shoulder and looked at the musicians, his body relaxing into Maedhros' side.
The tranquility washed over Maedhros as well. The music was Baroque in style but he couldn't place the composition. Maglor would have known right away but Maedhros wasn't as familiar. Even he could tell that the acoustics were phenomenal for such a big, open space. He felt himself relax, his free hand unclenching and his head dropping to rest on Fingon's.
The music continued. It must have been at least a half hour before the concert was complete and the cathedral grew silent. Fingon made no move to leave and Maedhros was content to follow his lead so he stayed still, holding his hand.
Eventually Fingon lifted his head and turned to smile at him. "Thank you for coming here with me," he said. "I don't drive Grandmother crazy with my rambunctiousness when I visit her anymore so she hasn't brought me here in years. But I come alone, when I need to; I've never brought anyone with me before."
"Thank you for sharing this with me," Maedhros said. "I can see why you find it calming. The whole atmosphere is so peaceful up here, quiet in a way that's different. But when you add the music . . . "
"Exactly," Fingon agreed. "The music takes it to a different level." He stood up. "Ready?"
"I suppose so, but I can see why you come here." Maedhros reluctantly stood as well.
They held hands in the car, on the way back to Fingon's apartment. Maedhros parked and turned to Fingon. "I've got no plans for the rest of the evening," he said. "I know you need an early night but I'd love to take you to dinner or whatever you have time to do."
"I don't want to go anywhere," Fingon said. "I don't care if Finrod's still at home. Just come upstairs with me and we can hang out—we really haven't gotten to do that at all." He squeezed Maedhros' hand. "I can always make dinner if we get hungry."
They made their way to the apartment and found it empty. There was a note taped to the refrigerator. "Sorry for earlier. Out with Amarie. I'll be back at 9 so you know and won't be surprised again—Finrod."
Fingon bit his lip as he read the note. Finrod rarely left him notes—it was usually to report some faulty appliance or plumbing issue around the house. They had a vague idea of each other's schedules but had never had to be this specific before.
He really couldn't ask for a better roommate, Fingon thought, as he opened the refrigerator to look over their options for dinner later. Finrod cooked, he cleaned up after himself—well, most of the time- -and he had been a solid friend to Fingon for years. It was impossible to stay irritated with him for long. He found he really wasn't irritated with him anymore. He had been annoyed at being interrupted and had convinced himself that Finrod was going to say something stupid. But that really wasn't fair to Finrod, was it? He wouldn't have said anything, Fingon realized. Finrod knew how important this relationship was to him.
Maedhros leaned on the counter, watching Fingon, seeing he was lost in thought as he stared into the refrigerator. He looked at his watch—it was almost seven o'clock. Two hours before Finrod came home. Maedhros thought it would be best if he left before his return. It would likely be less awkward that way.
"Fascinating food choices?" Maedhros asked.
Fingon shut the refrigerator door and grimaced at Maedhros. "No, it's mostly just leftovers." He reached up to open a cabinet. "I can always make pasta."
"I'm really not hungry."
"Neither am I," Fingon admitted. Was it too much to suggest going to his room? Should he suggest watching television? Why was it suddenly awkward, Fingon wondered, now that they were finally alone.
Maedhros sensed it too. He could tell Fingon was trying to decide something, from the expression on his face. "Should we see what's on TV?" Maedhros suggested. "Or do you need to get your reading done?"
"No, I don't need to get my reading done now," Fingon assured him. "I can do that later." He took Maedhros' hand, decision made. "Let's see what's on TV."
They sat down on the sofa in the living room, side by side, Maedhros' arm soon finding its way around Fingon's shoulders. He flipped through the channels, his head resting comfortably on Maedhros' shoulder. They finally settled on a cooking show, with Maedhros providing insightful commentary as they watched.
"I'm not sure I should have offered to make you dinner," Fingon said. "I can't make anything but pasta and from the way you're talking, you seem to be an expert cook."
"On the job experience," Maedhros said, with a laugh. "Comes from being the oldest of seven." He smiled down at Fingon. "Both my parents are excellent cooks but with their work they rarely found the time. Six brothers who were always hungry meant I often had to make dinner for them before Mom and Dad even came home." He laughed again. "There were a lot of failed experiments before I got good at it."
"I'm pathetic," Fingon admitted. "Finrod usually cooks. He's really good. He doesn't always have the time to be too complex but he does like to try some unusual things. I'm happy to have clean up duty. If we relied on my cooking skills we'd be eating spaghetti with sauce from a jar every day. Or carry-out." He shook his head at Maedhros. "I can't believe I volunteered to cook you dinner."
Maedhros grinned and then sat up, turning towards Fingon, his eyes shining with excitement. "You're done with classes next Friday right?"
"Come out to Formenos next weekend. We can spend the whole day together and I'll cook dinner for you. I haven't had a chance to be very creative recently. Tyelko and Maglor eat practically anything and my mom always sends food for us with the twins. I think she's forgotten how to cook for anything less than nine people."
Fingon grinned back at him. "I'd like that. A great way to start Winter Break—getting to spend a whole day with you."
They stared at each for a moment and then Maedhros leaned down to kiss Fingon. It wasn't like their earlier kiss on this sofa—this one was soft and slow but Fingon thought it was perfect. He slid his fingers into Maedhros' hair and leaned in. "Maybe we should go to my room," he whispered. "I've no interest in being interrupted again."
Maedhros leaned back to look at him, that small crease on his forehead again. "I should probably go before your roommate gets back, don't you think?"
"Why?" Fingon's stomach clenched. Was Maedhros going to leave again?
"I know you need to talk to him and I know you've got reading to do," Maedhros answered. "You don't want me here for that."
It was true. He didn't want to have a discussion with Finrod if Maedhros was around. That would be a disaster. Talking to Finrod could wait until morning.
Actually he had early class tomorrow, didn't he? Blast it. He could talk to Finrod tomorrow night then. But that didn't feel quite right either. He should clear the air, rather than wait. He owed Finrod that.
But didn't he owe himself some time with Maedhros?
"I don't have to talk to him tonight," Fingon decided. "I'd rather spend the time with you. I can talk to him tomorrow. Really."
Maedhros just looked at him.
"Maedhros. Please. I can talk to Finrod tomorrow. Tonight I just want to be with you."
"You need to talk to him," Maedhros said. "You don't want it to be hanging over you both."
Fingon frowned. "I think I can handle it, Maedhros. I've been friends with Finrod a long time." He narrowed his eyes at Maedhros. "I think you just don't want to stay. Again."
"It's not that at all," Maedhros protested. "You said I never come over but I'm here now, aren't I? We've had time, just the two of us today. I know you have things you need to do tonight, even if you're trying to convince me you don't."
"How can you be so conscientious all the time?" Fingon questioned. "You are so aware of my studies, my roommate, all the little things that I'm willing to let go."
"Occupational hazard," Maedhros gave him a shrug and a sad little smile. "Too many years keeping my brothers on schedule and balancing all their activities." His face grew more serious. "I've got an pretty accurate internal clock and a fairly low threshold for being a nag. Sorry."
"I appreciate the sentiment but I've got things under control. I told you before—I wouldn't suggest it if I didn't mean it." Fingon was getting frustrated and his tone was far sharper than he intended.
Maedhros looked at him, his face a little pale. "Right. Sorry. That was presumptuous of me. Obviously you can manage your own affairs." He nodded at Fingon. "Right. I should go."
"Maedhros, seriously? I just told you I'm not planning on talking to Finrod tonight and I really don't have that much to do for tomorrow," Fingon said, exasperated now. "I can get up early and do both in the morning."
Maedhros turned even paler, an expression of frustration briefly crossing his face. "I don't seem to be doing so well at this today," he said. "It seems I keep saying the wrong thing." He looked at Fingon, disappointment visible on his face. "I'm sorry. I really should just go. I don't want to argue with you."
Fingon stared at him. How had they gotten here again? Hadn't they talked this all out earlier? He wasn't going to give up this easily. "Maedhros, there must be some reason you don't want to hang out at my apartment. That's fine. Just tell me that. Don't make excuses for it."
If anything, Maedhros looked more distressed at Fingon's words. "That's not it, really it's not. It's not you, it's not your place, it's not your roommate. It's me. I just keep saying stupid things and I'm sorry." He stood, turned away from Fingon and grabbed his coat from the hook by the door. "I'm sorry," he repeated. "I don't want to argue with you, Fingon. Believe me when I tell you I really care about you. I don't want to be someone who causes friction between you and your roommate or distracts you from your work." He shrugged into his coat. "I shouldn't have had you make time for me this week. It was selfish. I just wanted to see you before I left town." He put his hand on the doorknob.
"Don't say that, Maedhros. You didn't make me do anything I didn't want to do. Stop taking responsibility for things that aren't under your control." Fingon came to stand next to him, putting his hand on Maedhros' arm. He could feel the tension in it. He made an effort to soften his tone. "I really care about you. I don't know how to make that any clearer. This is important to me and there are things I am willing to sacrifice in the short term for it." He moved closer yet, reaching up to brush Maedhros' hair off his face. "Let me be responsible for myself, ok? I won't have you feeling guilty for my decisions." Fingon ran his hand gently down his arm, Maedhros closing his eyes at the touch. "I can't say I understand what's been going on with us today. But I know we'll figure it out. I'm not giving up on that."
Maedhros opened his eyes and squeezed Fingon's hand tightly. "You're not?"
"I'm not." He gave Maedhros a small smile and attempted to lighten the moment. "You've invited me to Formenos next weekend and I'll be damned if I'm going to miss out on one of your gourmet meals."
A ghost of a smile came over Maedhros' face and he grabbed Fingon into a tight embrace which surprised him with its intensity. "Thank you." His lips brushed Fingon's hair.
They held each other for a long moment, Fingon's face buried in Maedhros' neck, breathing him in. He could feel Maedhros' breath in his hair. He didn't want Maedhros to let him go.
"Will you stay?" Fingon whispered, daring to ask one more time.
He felt Maedhros' arms go rigid as Maedhros pulled back to look at him, his distress showing plainly on his face. A cold shiver of disappointment went through Fingon but he felt a flare of anger now too. He stepped back and looked up at Maedhros, his face expressionless. "Seems I can't change your mind," he said, unable to keep the emotion out of his voice. "Fine. I'm not going to beg you to stay."
The color drained out of Maedhros at his words. "I wouldn't expect you to," he whispered then he nodded once, wrenched open the door and took off down the stairs.
"Maedhros!" But he was gone. Fingon could hear the front door of the building slam shut as he leaned over the railing, trying to catch a glimpse of Maedhros.
What in the hell had just happened? He closed the door and leaned on it wearily. This was not how he had expected this night to end. He covered his face with his hands and took a few shaky deep breaths. It didn't really help. His heart was still racing, the queasy feeling in his stomach worse than before. He curled up on one end of the sofa, his arms tightly wrapped around his drawn up knees, his head resting on them.
It seemed he was going to have the time to talk to Finrod after all.
Art by Cinemairon.
Chapter 17 by NelyafinweFeanorion
I'm not going to beg you to stay."
"I'm not going to beg you to stay."
The words repeated themselves as Maedhros made his way to his car. It took him two tries to get the key in the ignition, his hands shaking as he attempted to do it. He finally started the car; after briefly resting his head on the steering wheel and taking a few deep breaths to steady himself he pulled the car into the street and started the drive back to Formenos.
"I'm not going to beg you to stay."
Four years ago his father had said those exact words to his mother.
His home had never been a peaceful one. Maedhros' earliest memories, even before the tumult of numerous brothers, were punctuated by Fëanor and Nerdanel's intermittent clashes.
His parents were both very passionate, intense, brilliant personalities. During the good times they fueled each other's creativity, spurred each other to new endeavors and showered each other with love and admiration.
In the not-so-good times the arguments raged, neither one willing to compromise easily. At first it was the tension that he felt, then the painful intensity of their raised voices, the simmering rage in the way they looked at each other. When he began to actually listen to what was said it all became so much worse. The brilliant intellect that blazed in their creativity turned destructive when they argued. Their words were razor sharp, the insults meant to cut and wound each other, with the unintended effect of devastating those who listened.
When he was very young he would run to Nerdanel, less daunting in her fury than his father, and beg her to stop, wrapping his arms around her legs and looking up at her with his tear-streaked face.
At first that tactic seemed to work and the arguments would come to an awkward stop. But there came a day when Nerdanel bent down, unwrapped his arms from her legs, and told him very clearly that she needed "to finish this discussion." Maedhros had retreated to his room, covering his ears to try to shut their voices out.
He never was able to completely stop intervening. His direct appeals were rarely heeded but with time he, and eventually his brothers, learned that they could sometimes deflect their parents' anger at each other by distraction.
A lamp knocked over "accidentally." A staged sibling altercation. A not-so-staged episode of anxiety-induced vomiting. Some things worked better then others.
As the family grew in number, the frequency and intensity of Fëanor and Nerdanel's quarrels waxed and waned. So many times Maedhros would retreat to his bed, Maglor on one side and Tyelko on the other, both burrowing themselves into his sides, their hands over their ears and his arms protectively around them, as the arguments raged downstairs. Nerdanel's pregnancy with Moryo was plagued by near constant conflict between them.
Moryo, once he joined the household, proved to be a loud and often furious presence. Tyelko, at the time still very young himself, had questioned if Moryo was so loud and angry because of all the raised voices he had experienced when he was growing inside Nerdanel—perhaps that was all he knew to make himself heard? Tyelko's innocent question had resulted in complete silence at the dinner table.
Maedhros had noted his parents shocked expressions and for a time after the household was calmer—disagreements, when they occurred, were conducted in fierce whispers in his parents' bedroom, the garage or outside in the garden.
After the twins were born the conflicts were rarer, even if they were again far less contained. Hearing his parents argue still never failed to make Maedhros' stomach clench and his heart race, no matter how many times he had witnessed them do this.
It had gone on this way, periods of calm then paroxysms of conflict, for many years, even after Maedhros had moved out.
His grandfather's death had sent Fëanor into a downward spiral of grief and fury. His anger was not directed at the family but it still permeated their lives. The conflicts with Nerdanel had calmed over the years but they reached an unexpected peak, four years after Finwë's death.
He had thought himself fortunate at the time, being at Cuivienen and away from the house and his parents. He had not known about the letters until the summer weekend he had found himself at home, with all his siblings, soon after the end of the semester four years before.
All had seemed well until the morning the letter had arrived. In that moment, as his mother had read it with trembling hands, all the light and joy at having her boys around her had disappeared. The sound of her coffee cup crashing onto the tile floor had shattered the fragile peace of the morning. Nerdanel had been as white as the piece of paper she held.
Things had only gotten worse from there.
Within moments his parents had been at each other's throats and Maedhros' had felt his stomach clench as the all-too-familiar anxiety washed over him.
"I am done!" Nerdanel had cried. "I will not stay here and wait for something to happen. I am done, Fëanor."
The letter contained threats . . . very specific threats against his family, his brothers, each and every one of them. The letters had become a regular occurrence. His family was under police protection and he had not even known.
"It's all related to the lawsuit over your grandfather's death." Fëanor had explained. "We go to trial soon and these are intimidation tactics by Morgoth Industries to get me to back down."
"Intimidation tactics?" Maedhros had questioned his father. It all seemed far too detailed to just be a ploy.
"They don't stand a chance in court and they know it. They are not going to get me to back off. I owe it to my father to follow through on this." Fëanor's eyes had darted defiantly to Nerdanel as he spoke. "They're trying to scare us and I was confident it wasn't working."
Nerdanel had ignored him and turned to Maedhros and Maglor. "You've got to come with us. It's not safe where you are," She had reached out to grip both their hands.
"Nerdanel," Fëanor had said, sternly. "Stop trying to frighten them."
"Mom," Maedhros had exchanged a swift look with Maglor before he had spoken. "We're both crashing at Azaghâl's for the summer. Our names aren't anywhere—we're paying him the cash to sublet, not the landlord." He had squeezed her hand reassuringly. "We'll be fine. We'll be careful, but we'll be fine."
"You don't need to go to Formenos with the boys," Fëanor had said to her. "We are safe here, Nerdanel." He had reached out to put his hand on her shoulder and leaned in close. "I would never let anything happen to any of you. You are my life."
"I can't do it, Fëanor. I can't stay here."
"That's what they want you to think. That's why they're doing this!" he had argued.
"You can't let it go, can you? It's more important than anything, isn't it? Making Morgoth pay?" Nerdanel had snapped.
"You know it's not the money! It's the principle. They killed my father, left him in the road, drove away and then tried to cover it up. He didn't deserve that."
"And I don't deserve this. Our sons are in danger and all you can think about is that lawsuit." She had shaken her head. "Our sons are more precious than your revenge."
"You don't have to go."
"You can't change my mind."
"I'm not going to beg you to stay."
She had given him a long look. "I wouldn't expect you to," she had said, walking away.
A quick kiss on Maedhros' cheek and a hug for Maglor and she was gone.
His parents had not spoken to each other again until they were in his hospital room six weeks later.
Chapter 18 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Maedhros could see the lights were on at the house as he drove up the long driveway. He did not want to deal with either of his brothers right now but it was obvious someone was home. And awake.
He parked the car in the garage, took a few deep breaths, then ran his hands through his hair as he prepared himself to brush off any inquiries from Maglor or Tyelko. It should be easy enough to tell them he was tired and needed to go to bed.
It wasn't. Tyelko was in the kitchen, which meant Maedhros had to walk right past him to get into the house.
"Hey, Mae!" Tyelko said, as he caught sight of his older brother entering the kitchen.
"Hey, Tyelko," Maedhros avoided any eye contact and attempted to cross the space to the back stairs.
"You're home late," Tyelko said.
"I'm tired. It's been a long day. I'll talk to you tomorrow, ok?" Maedhros nodded vaguely at his brother, keeping his face turned away as he hung up his coat.
"Hey, were you in Tirion?" Tyelko moved from the sink to come closer to Maedhros, leaning on the doorframe. Of the doorway that led to the back stairs. Which was exactly where Maedhros was headed.
Maedhros sighed. It seemed Tyelko was in one of his talkative moods and not taking the hint. "Yeah," he said curtly, moving to the refrigerator now to avoid Tyelko. He knew how perceptive his younger brother could be.
"Seeing Fingon?" Tyelko asked, amusement in his voice.
Maedhros really did not want to be having this conversation. He wasn't hungry, in fact his stomach was still churning, but examining the contents of their refrigerator at least meant he didn't have to make eye contact with his brother.
"Yeah," he said again, intently focused on checking the date on the yoghurt container in his hand, before returning it to the shelf.
"Mae, are you ok?"
Damn it. Did Tyelko have to be in his observant mode tonight? He shut the refrigerator door a little more forcefully than he intended. "I told you. I'm tired. I'll see you in the morning, Tyelko." Without looking directly at his brother, Maedhros moved towards the kitchen door.
Tyelko knew better than to try to restrain Maedhros from leaving. He simply moved into the doorway itself, blocking him.
"Tyelko, get out of my way," Maedhros growled.
"I know that look, Maedhros. I've seen it enough times," Tyelko replied, crossing his arms as he looked up at his older brother's pale face. "Something's wrong."
"I don't want to talk about it," Maedhros said, forcefully pushing past Tyelko and heading for the stairs.
Tyelko followed him, tamping down his natural instinct to just grab his brother by the arm to stop him. He knew how bad an idea that would be.
"Hey. I know Maglor isn't home right now but it doesn't mean I can't listen," Tyelko offered, as he climbed the stairs behind Maedhros. "You've done it enough times for me."
Maedhros was on the landing already. He stopped, pushed his glasses up to rest on top of his head and pinched the bridge of his nose, his eyes closing as he did. "Where is Maglor?" he asked.
"Late rehearsal for the end of term performances," Tyelko replied, coming to stand next to Maedhros. "I know you'd rather talk to him about whatever is bothering you, Mae. But I'm here, if you need," Tyelko frowned up at him.
Maedhros opened his eyes, noting Tyelko's concerned look. "It's just been a long day, Tyelko," he repeated.
"Seriously, Mae, you know you're absolutely insufferable when you're trying to be all stoic and self-sacrificing," Tyelko complained. "You look like shit." He narrowed his eyes at Maedhros and continued. "I honestly can't remember the last time you looked this bad. What the hell happened today?"
Maedhros exhaled in frustration. Tyelko was nothing if not persistent. "I had a . . . I guess you'd call it a disagreement with Fingon," he admitted.
Tyelko's eyes widened and he gently put a hand on Maedhros' arm. "Shit, Mae. I'm sorry." His grip tightened as he continued. "Come on. We're going downstairs. I'm not going to let you hide in your room and wallow in this." He shook his brother's arm lightly.
"Tyelko, you've got better things to do. Just let me go to bed," Maedhros objected.
"Like you didn't have better things to do all those times you dealt with upset little brothers?" Tyelko asked.
It seemed Tyelko's thoughts had drifted to the same kind of memories that Maedhros had been reliving in the car.
Maedhros frowned down at him and then nodded. Tyelko gently tugged him towards the stairs. Once they were in the kitchen, he grabbed two beers from the refrigerator and motioned for Maedhros to sit across from him at the table. He pushed an open bottle towards him and clinked it lightly with his own. "Ok. Spill. What's going on?"
Maedhros took a drink from his beer and looked down, his finger idly dragging in the condensation on the table. "It's all just so stupid, really," he said, frowning. "Things were going really well, I thought, but I hadn't realized some things and it led to some awkward moments today."
"Mae. Could you be any more vague?"
"Fine. I snapped at Fingon today, after his roommate walked in on us."
"Walked in on you doing what?" Tyelko asked innocently.
"Shut up, Tyelko. It wasn't anything much."
"Maglor said you guys were pretty hot and heavy in the storeroom last weekend," Tyelko confided.
"What? Do you guys seriously sit around and talk about me like that?" Maedhros was irritated.
"When it's painfully obvious that you're finally showing a glimmer of happiness and look like you've actually found a great guy who could be really good for you," Tyelko grumbled. "Then yeah, we talk about you because we don't want you to fuck this up, idiot."
Maedhros put his head in his hands. "Well, I may have fucked it up."
It all came out in a rush then; the initial argument, the afternoon where things looked to be going better and then the ugly end to the evening.
"I thought it was better. You haven't had the nightmares as often," Tyelko said.
Maedhros just looked at him.
It was Tyelko's turn to sigh. "I know. You don't want to risk it. I get it." He took a long drink from his beer. "But if you haven't had any for awhile . . ."
"You, of all people, should know what can happen if I get startled in my sleep, nightmare or no nightmare."
Tyelko grimaced and rubbed his nose. "Twelve years playing hockey and I never broke my nose. The one time I try to wake you up from one of your nightmares and you break it for me." He shook his head. "I know what can happen if you get startled, Mae."
"Shut up. The doctor told us not to do that. It was my fault. I just reacted," Tyelko replied.
"I just can't risk that happening with Fingon," Maedhros explained.
"Yeah, but if he knows what to expect, what's the big deal?" Tyelko studied Maedhros' face. "Shit. You haven't even told him?"
Maedhros shook his head. "I can't. It's so stupid and weak."
"Fuck that, Mae." Tyelko was angry now. "How dare you say that? How dare you say you're weak? It could have happened to any of us. You're not fucking weak, Mae!"
"Fine. I'm not weak. I'm just a twenty-nine-year-old who has nightmares. That sounds a whole lot better, you think?" Maedhros snapped.
"Well, at least it's the truth!" Tyelko retorted. "You have nightmares for a good fucking reason! Shit. I had nightmares just thinking about it, Mae, and nothing happened to me!" Tyelko's voice had risen and he realized it too late. He put his hands over his face and took in a deep breath. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have shouted." He reached across to grab Maedhros' wrist. "It's nothing to be ashamed of and Fingon would never think any less of you because of it." His voice softened. "Mae, you are the strongest person I know." He squeezed Maedhros wrist a little tighter. "If you don't tell him he might think it's something he's said or done. Or that's there's something about him, making you hesitate."
"I know," Maedhros whispered.
"He said something like that already, didn't he?" Tyelko's voice was even gentler now.
"And you still didn't tell him? Aw, Mae, what am I going to do with you?" Tyelko sighed.
"I wanted to, a couple of times. I just couldn't do it."
"Avoiding it isn't going to solve anything and you know it," Tyelko said. "I can tell how much you like him and Aredhel says he's totally gone over you. Don't let this disagreement screw things up. This is a really good thing for you—just let yourself have it. You're worth it. And so is he."
Maedhros shifted his hand and gripped Tyelko's. "Thanks, Tyelko."
"I know I'm no Maglor . . . but," Tyelko started to say but Maedhros interrupted him.
"No, shut up. Thank you, for taking the time to talk to me tonight," he said.
"Text him before you go to sleep. Seriously." Tyelko made a face again. "I never expected to be giving you relationship advice. This is all kinds of screwed up."
Maedhros actually smiled. "You're doing a surprisingly good job at it. Maglor will be pissed."
Two beers later Maedhros was finally alone in his room. He looked at his phone. He pulled up Fingon's text message thread and then hesitated over the keyboard.
At a loss as to what to type he eventually sent just one word.
It was almost ten o'clock when Finrod opened the door and looked around cautiously as he walked into the apartment. Not seeing anyone in the living room, he hung up his coat and moved further in.
He was not expecting to find Fingon seated at the dining room table, textbooks and papers in orderly piles around him.
"Hey," Finrod said, leaning on the back of the chair across from Fingon. "You don't usually study out here."
"I wanted to make sure I heard you come in," Fingon explained, looking up at his roommate.
"What's going on?" Finrod asked, pulling out the chair to sit in it. "You look like hell."
"I just wanted to apologize for earlier. I was a jerk and I'm sorry."
Finrod shook his head. "I shouldn't have teased you."
"You didn't tease me," Fingon said. "You were just making conversation and I got all bent out of shape."
"Apology accepted," Finrod said, his eyes fixed on Fingon questioningly.
"What?" Fingon asked.
"Why did you get so pissy?"
Fingon put his head in his hands momentarily and then returned his gaze to Finrod. "Maedhros asked me that same question. I don't know. Lots of reasons, I guess. I was pissed that we got interrupted but if I'd just gone to my room it never would have happened. I was pissed that I forgot you were coming home—I should have known that."
"Um, I suppose I can get both of those, although honestly Fin—they're kind of lame reasons. You've walked in on me doing more than that and it was never a big deal," Finrod said.
Fingon glared at him. "Did you and Maedhros talk? Because you both basically said the same thing."
Finrod shrugged and leaned forward. "Maedhros said?"
"Yeah. He couldn't understand why I was so irritated either," Fingon admitted.
"So, why were you?" Finrod persisted.
"You heard me apologize, right? Why is this turning into twenty questions?"
"Because it's obvious you're still upset," Finrod said, leaning back and crossing his arms over his chest while giving Fingon an appraising look. "Upset at me. Seems like at Maedhros too. What's going on, Fin? Where is Maedhros?"
Fingon shoulders slumped. "He left."
Finrod just continued to look at him.
"Fine. We argued about why I was ticked off, ok? I told him I was worried you were going to open your big mouth and say something stupid—I was!" he reiterated, as he saw Finrod's expression change. "You said all that stuff at Taeglin's," he explained.
"Valar above, Fin! Did you seriously think I would do that?" Finrod's face clouded over and his blue eyes went frosty. "I was just trying to get through to you, you idiot."
"I know. I realized that later. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have doubted you," Fingon exhaled. "I just want this to work out and I think I've screwed it up."
"Screwed it up how?" Finrod asked, his eyes narrowing.
"I don't know exactly."
Finrod rolled his eyes. "Seriously, Fingon. Just tell me what happened?"
So, he did. From their departure from the apartment to Maedhros' abrupt exit.
Finrod frowned when Fingon was done talking. "So, it seems I was right about him getting the wrong message about how busy you are."
Fingon nodded. "Yeah, I know."
"There's got to be something he's not telling you about why he doesn't want to stay," Finrod said thoughtfully.
"I asked. He said it was just him."
"Which you don't believe?" Finrod asked.
"Well, what should I think? Either he doesn't want to stay because he doesn't want to get more intimate or it's something to do with me. Which basically means it's something to do with me either way."
"Why did he leave?" Finrod asked.
"I don't know. I asked him to stay again and he got all distant," Fingon frowned. "And then I got frustrated and maybe a little angry." He looked up at Finrod. "And then he left."
"I think there's something going on he's not telling you. Either because he thinks you won't understand or because he's embarrassed," Finrod said.
"Why would he be embarrassed?" Fingon asked.
"How would I know?" Finrod said. "You guys obviously need to talk, Fin."
"I thought we were talking today."
"Clearly not about the right things," Finrod pushed his chair back and stood up. "I'll be right back."
He disappeared into the kitchen, returning a moment later with two bottles of beer. "I thought tonight warranted the good stuff," he explained, handing one of the bottles to Fingon.
They drank in silence for a few moments and then Finrod spoke again. "Have you texted him or called him since he left?"
Fingon shook his head. "No. I didn't want to text or call while he was driving back to Formenos." He ran a hand through his already disheveled hair. "You think I should? I feel like I pushed him too far for some reason tonight."
"Are you seeing him this weekend?" Finrod asked.
"No, he's out of town at a wedding." Fingon took a long drink of his beer. "That's why he was here today." He picked at the label of the beer bottle, peeling it back as he spoke. "He invited me to Formenos next weekend but who knows if he still wants me to go out there now."
"I'm sure he still wants you to," Finrod said. "I think you should text him before you go to bed—so at least he knows you're not still mad." He leaned forward to look at Fingon intently. "Are you still mad?"
"No, I'm not. I'm just frustrated," Fingon said, shredding the beer label into tiny, sodden pieces. "You're probably right," he admitted. A blush crept up his face. "I haven't gone to bed without texting him goodnight in over a week."
"Even more reason then," Finrod said. He took a drink from his beer and then looked at his roommate again. "You genuinely thought I was going to micromanage your love life? With your boyfriend? Really, Fin?"
Fingon buried his face in his hands. "I told you. I don't know what I was thinking. He means so much to me . . . I just freaked out and overreacted. I want this to work, Finrod." His hands dropped to the table and a pained expression crossed his face. "I've never felt like this about anyone before."
"I know. Just text him and get this sorted out. I'll help in any way I can."
Fingon's phone pinged as he was about to answer Finrod.
"He texted me," Fingon said quietly.
"It just says 'sorry,'" Fingon said.
"So text something back!" Finrod ordered.
"Yeah, ok. Let me think."
FINGON: Me too.
FINGON: Are we still on for next weekend? I really need to see you again.
MAEDHROS: I need to see you too.
FINGON: is that a yes for next weekend then?
MAEDHROS: of course. I'll call you. Is that ok?
FINGON: Of course it's ok. I'd be disappointed if you didn't.
MAEDHROS: I'll call. I'm sorry about today. Tonight. All of it.
FINGON: We'll figure it out. Talk soon. Good night.
MAEDHROS: good night
Maedhros set his phone down and put his head in his hands. It was going to be a long week. But he could fix this—he had a chance to do just that next weekend.
A knock sounded at his door and he looked up to see Maglor peeking in. "Didn't I tell you this would happen, you bloody idiot?" Maglor said.
"Shut up, Maglor," Maedhros complained. "I'll get this figured out."
Maglor stalked into the room and sat heavily on the bed, next to Maedhros.
"I suppose Tyelko spilled?" Maedhros asked.
"As soon as I walked in the door," Maglor confirmed.
"That's the last time I talk to Tyelko. You're both pains in the ass."
"You're one to talk, dumbass," Maglor growled. "Is it too early to say I told you so?"
"Too bad. I told you so. More than once." Maglor bumped Maedhros' shoulder. "What now?"
"He's supposed to spend the day here next weekend," Maedhros confessed. "I'll talk to him then. Explain, I guess." He buried his face in his hands again. "I hate this."
"If he's spending the weekend here, you're going to have to tell him," Maglor said.
"Weekend? Who said anything about spending the weekend?" Maedhros looked at Maglor questioningly. "I invited him for the day—I thought we'd go skating on the lake. Then I'll cook him one of my dinners," Maedhros frowned. "I'll drive him home, since the weekend trains stop early."
"Are you really this dense, Mae?" Maglor was incredulous. "You invited him here—he's going to expect to spend the night." He saw the realization on Maedhros' face. "Didn't think of that, did you?"
"But why would he think that? I said 'come out for the day,'" Maedhros mumbled.
"Whatever you say, Mae. I don't see why he wouldn't at least think it's an option," Maglor said.
A wave of dread washed over Maedhros.
"Valar above!" Maglor swore, as he saw Maedhros go pale. "You're going to tell him, so what's the big deal? He'll know. That should make things easier." He scrutinized Maedhros' face. "You don't really think you can get away with not telling him? Didn't you just say you were going to?"
"I said I'd explain. I didn't say I'd tell him everything."
Maglor stood up. "You know what? I'm done. You're an absolute ass. None of this would have happened if you'd just listened to me." He walked to the door. "You're not giving him enough credit, you know. And that's a shame because he's worth more than that."
And he was gone, the door slamming behind him.
Maedhros fell back on his bed and stared at the ceiling. Maglor made it sound so simple.
Chapter 19 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Mentions of past trauma/mild flashbacks this chapter. My continued thanks to Cheekybeak! More notes at end of chapter.
It was a very one-sided conversation, Azaghâl decided. Even Classics Department gossip and cute stories about Narvi had elicited no more than monosyllabic responses from Maedhros, if that.
Azaghâl had been looking forward to this weekend for months; not only to see Bor celebrate his wedding and to reunite with so many grad school friends but mostly for the chance to spend some time with Maedhros. He and Maedhros had been roommates for years and friends for even longer than that. Azaghâl's work as adjunct faculty at Cuivienen and Narvi's birth had significantly limited the amount of time the old friends had to spend together any more.
He missed Maedhros. Their rapid-fire debates, scorching banter, heart to heart conversations. He had really been looking forward to this time.
But Maedhros was preoccupied, silent, withdrawn. It made Azaghâl uneasy. He had lived through the events four years ago and this Maedhros sitting next to him in the car today bore more than a passing resemblance to the one he had tiptoed around for weeks back then.
It was obvious something was bothering him and in typical stoic, infuriating, Maedhros fashion he would attempt to struggle through it on his own. Also familiar territory.
Azaghâl didn't think Maedhros had even noticed that he had stopped talking. He stole a glance at him, noting his tight-knuckled grip on the steering wheel and that all-too-familiar crease marring his forehead. He glanced at the clock. They had two more hours of driving ahead of them. He should be able to dig it out of Maedhros before they reached Brethil.
"Hey, Russandol," Azaghâl said, using the nickname he had bestowed on Maedhros, upon first meeting him in their Latin class freshman year, and that Maedhros only tolerated from him.
No response. "Russandol!" he said a little more forcefully.
Maedhros' eyes flicked over to him. "You need a rest stop?" Maedhros asked.
"No, I need you to actually talk to me. Have you heard anything I've said the last hour?"
"Of course I have," Maedhros said, frowning. "I'll have my hands full next time I babysit if Narvi's walking now."
"You saw her walking when you picked me up so you get zero credit for that answer," Azaghâl said. "What's going on? You aren't yourself today."
"I'm just tired," Maedhros replied.
It was Azaghâl's turn to frown. "Are you sleeping? Is it the nightmares again?" Azaghâl asked quietly.
"No," Maedhros said, too quickly Azaghâl thought.
"Russandol. You don't have to cover with me. I was there, remember?" Azaghâl said. "Are you still having them?"
"Not so much," Maedhros admitted. "I've got some things on my mind. Sorry I let my thoughts wander."
"So, what's on your mind?" Azaghâl looked at Maedhros searchingly. "We've got hours before we get to Brethil and I'm all ears. Spill."
Maedhros sighed. "Do you always have to be so persistent? You know how irritating that is."
"You know the answer to that. Stop sidestepping the question. What's going on?"
"I met someone . . ." Maedhros began, then paused.
Azaghâl's eyes lit up. "You did? Come on, tell me!"
Bit by bit Maedhros told his friend about Fingon, the words coming more easily the longer he spoke.
Azaghal nodded at all the right places, made sounds of agreement periodically and asked a few questions.
"So you haven't seen him since you walked out the other night?" Azaghâl asked, once Maedhros had gone silent again.
"No. I've texted him a few times. I said I'd call this weekend."
"Then you should," Azaghâl said. "There'll be plenty of down time."
"I will. I told him I would. I just don't know what to say," Maedhros said.
"You haven't told him, have you?" It was more a statement than a question the way Azaghâl said it. He had a good idea what Maedhros' answer would be.
"No, I just haven't been able to do it," Maedhros said, which was exactly the answer Azaghâl had anticipated.
"Would it be easier to tell him on the phone, rather than face-to-face?" Azaghâl asked.
"Ugh. No. Both options are awkward," Maedhros said. "Anyone who is close to me already knows so it's just difficult to figure out where to even start."
"Start at the beginning. That's usually what makes the most sense."
"Thanks, Azaghâl. Now why didn't I think of that?" Maedhros snapped. "You know what I mean. It's one thing to say 'I have freaky nightmares and can get a bit violent if I wake up suddenly' and another to go into the whole wretched reason for the nightmares in the first place. And admit I don't have any control over them."
"Why does it matter?" Azaghâl asked.
"Why does what matter?" Maedhros was perplexed.
"Why can't you just say that? That you have nightmares in unfamiliar surroundings and being startled awake can cause you to have intense reactions?" Azaghâl questioned. "Why do you have to go into the whole backstory?"
"But it's the reason why . . ." Maedhros said.
"Why do you need a reason? You don't have to justify anything. It's just something that happens to you."
"But that wouldn't be honest," Maedhros protested.
"Ha!" Azaghâl exclaimed. "Gotcha!"
"How can you be caught up in this whole 'honest answer' thing when you aren't being honest at all right now?" Azaghâl said.
Maedhros opened his mouth to respond and then abruptly closed it. He gave Azaghâl a sidelong glare. "You and your Logic class."
"Leave my Logic class out of this. You've tied yourself up in knots over this thing. You can give the simple reason with no backstory but you've somehow decided that isn't being honest," Azaghâl explained. "But not saying anything is being even more dishonest. Willfully dishonest. Quite the conundrum you've set up for yourself, Russandol."
Azaghâl shook his head and continued. "Relationships are founded on trust, communication and honesty. So far you're striking out on all three of those." Azaghâl's voice softened as he looked at Maedhros' distressed face. "You can fix this. First—trust that he's going to listen and understand. From what you've told me about him so far that sounds like a no-brainer, am I right?"
"You're right," Maedhros agreed. "He's a really good guy."
"Ok, so that's taken care of. Communication—that's the next one. You have to actually talk to him about why you've been reluctant to stay over and what he needs to be aware of, if and when you do," Azaghâl continued.
"Ok," Maedhros interrupted. "But what about the third one—honesty?"
"Not a problem. You tell him about the nightmares. You tell him about your reactions. You tell him what to watch out for. And that's it, for now," Azaghâl suggested. "You can go into the rest of it when you're comfortable. Take it step by step. There's nothing dishonest about that."
Maedhros didn't reply. Azaghâl leaned over. "Hey," he said. "I didn't mean to give you a lecture."
"No, it's ok," Maedhros said slowly. "It makes sense." The crease on his forehead had faded and he had more color in his face, Azaghâl noticed. "You really think that's enough though, just telling him about them without going into the rest of it all?"
"It's far more honest than you're being now. It's enough." Azaghâl looked at Maedhros. "Why should the reason matter?"
A bitter look crossed Maedhros' face. "Because I never should have let myself get in that situation in the first place."
Azaghâl stared at him. "You bear no responsibility for that. We've been through this. There was nothing you could have done to prevent it. It wasn't your fault."
"I could have listened to my mother. I could have been more careful."
"Russandol. Stop it. Stop taking responsibility for things that are beyond your control," Azaghâl growled. "You didn't cause this."
"But I should be in control of how I respond to it, Azaghâl. And I'm not. I never have been," Maedhros argued.
"Listen. We've been through this before. I can't believe you're still blaming yourself," Azaghâl was frustrated now. "It wasn't your fault. It isn't under your control. It never was. You didn't make it happen. It just did." He glared at Maedhros. "And no one else is ever going to think you're responsible, no matter how much you might."
Maedhros just stared at the road ahead of him.
Azaghâl tried again. "If you think Fingon is going to think less of you, if you tell him the backstory, then you're a bigger idiot than I thought."
Maedhros gripped the steering wheel tightly but did not respond.
"What? What do you want me to say, Azaghâl?"
"Anything would be better than nothing."
"Fine, you want me to say something? I can't stand anyone pitying me. I don't want to see that look in his eyes, where he feels sorry for me. I couldn't take it. Not from anyone, but especially not from him."
"That's why I said don't tell the backstory. You don't need to. Not now." Azaghâl struggled to find the right words. "Maybe someday, when you know each other better, when you actually trust him enough to know he wouldn't do that."
"You really think just telling him about the nightmares will be enough?" Maedhros asked, his voice very low.
"It's better than telling him nothing, you know that," Azaghâl replied, his voice just as soft. "You think you can handle doing that?" Azaghâl asked.
There was silence for a few moments.
"I think I can do that," Maedhros said quietly.
They drove a few more miles before Azaghâl broke the silence.
"When do you see him again?"
"I've invited him out to Formenos next weekend," Maedhros said.
"Ok then. You've got a plan," Azaghâl said agreeably. "So can you stop moping now and actually try to have fun this weekend?"
"I was not moping," Maedhros argued.
Azaghâl grunted in reply.
"Fine. I was a little preoccupied, I'll admit that," Maedhros stated. "And I really didn't hear that much of anything you said before," he confessed in a low voice.
"I know. It was obvious, Russandol." Azaghal leaned back in his seat. "So do you want to hear what Rumil said at the last staff meeting?"
In the hotel bar after the groom's dinner Azaghâl had predictably bought the first round of shots but it was Maedhros who uncharacteristically bought the second round. And the third. Which was why Maedhros was now leaning unsteadily on his former roommate's shoulder as they made their way back to their hotel rooms.
Maedhros was far taller than Azaghâl but his friend was barrel-chested and stocky— being far more muscular than Maedhros he had no trouble holding him up, despite his height.
"You ok, Russandol?" Azaghâl asked as Maedhros fumbled with his keycard.
" 'M fine," Maedhros mumbled, closing one eye as he leaned against the wall in an attempt to steady his hand. He successfully got the card in the slot but it escaped his notice that it was upside down. Azaghâl took the keycard from him and slid it in the correct way, then ushered Maedhros into his room.
Maedhros immediately flopped onto his bed, kicking his shoes off. Azaghâl took a glass from the minibar and filled it with water from the bathroom tap. He set it on the nightstand next to Maedhros. "Drink that."
"Think I've had enough to drink," Maedhros slurred, closing his eyes.
"You'll feel better in the morning if you drink it," Azaghâl insisted, moving to open the door between their adjoining rooms.
"Where you going, Az?" Maedhros lifted his head slightly off the bed.
"Getting you some Ibuprofen."
Maedhros sagged back and then groaned as the room resumed spinning. He closed his eyes again, even though it didn't help much. This was why he didn't drink he reminded himself. Too late now.
"Maedhros," Azaghâl's voice was far too loud he decided. He opened one eye and saw Azaghâl standing next to the bed. "Sit up and drink this. Then you can sleep." Azaghâl handed him three capsules from the bottle in his hand as Maedhros sat up unsteadily. He swallowed them down. "Finish the water," Azaghâl ordered.
"You're too bossy," Maedhros complained.
"That's what I always told you," Azaghâl retorted.
"You always drank too much," Maedhros replied.
"And you're still a lightweight. What possessed you to drink all those shots tonight? That's not like you."
"Dunno. Seemed like a good idea at the time." Maedhros slumped back on the bed and waved his arm around vaguely. "Help me sleep."
"I'm going to leave my side of this door open. I'll close yours but if you need anything just come get me, ok?" Azaghâl said.
Maedhros heard the door close. He stayed on the bed, periodically opening his eyes to confirm that the room was still spinning, until the moment he realized his drinking hadn't only gotten him drunk but had also made him really have to take a piss.
He wove his way to the bathroom, relieved himself, one hand on the wall behind the toilet to steady himself. He finished, ran the tap and splashed his face with water before heading back to the bed. He patted his pants pockets in search of his phone and momentarily panicked, swaying by the bedside, when he couldn't find it.
"Shit." He blinked and slowly looked around the room, not daring to move his head too quickly. Where was his jacket? He finally spotted it, on the floor by the bed. He sat down on the bed and gingerly reached down to grab it.
There it was. He pulled his phone out of the pocket and touched the screen. Damn it. He'd missed two texts from Fingon.
FINGON: Project turned in!
FINGON: Hope you have a great weekend. Good night.
Maedhros swiped to reply and his finger inadvertently touched the screen a second time. Instead of pulling up the text message thread he accidentally speed dialed Fingon's number. He briefly considered hanging up but by the time he focused enough to push the button he could hear Fingon's voice through the phone speaker.
"Hey, Fingon," he said, then realized the call had gone to voicemail. He'd have to say something—he couldn't just hang up now. He put the phone to his ear and collapsed back onto the bed.
"Hey. Just got your texts. Nice to hear your voice even though it's the recording. You've got a really nice voice. I really like your voice. I miss your voice, Finno. Mmm. Miss you." Maedhros paused. "Miss lots of things 'bout you. Wish I'd asked you to come with me. Rather be with you. Don't care 'bout anyone but you." He frowned. "But you wouldn't be with me now, would you? Couldn't share a room. Know you think I'm weird that way. Not weird. Maybe I am weird. Just don't want to hurt you, Finno. Like you too much. Well, not too much. Never be too much with you." He opened his eyes, then closed them again as the room continued to spin. "Never felt like this 'bout anybody before. Haven't messed it up, have I? Tell me I haven't messed us up. I don't wanna mess this up." Maedhros sighed. "I want this. I want you. I just wanna be with you. Next weekend seems so far away."
"I want it to be good next weekend. Don't want to mess it up. Don't let me mess it up, ok? Gotta to talk to you, gotta say some things, make you understand. Been an idiot. Won't be any more. Az says I've got to do better. I'll do anything, Finno."
Maedhros put his hand up and rubbed his forehead, where his head was beginning to throb. "Better go. Probably sounding like an idiot. Too much to drink. Sorry I missed you. I do miss you. Good night, Finno." Maedhros scrabbled to hang up the phone. He opened his eyes again and sat up to set his phone on the nightstand. He ran his hands through his hair, thought about getting undressed and then decided that was way too much work. He got under the covers and turned off the light. He was asleep a few minutes later.
It had been good to see Bor and the rest of his grad school friends at the wedding. Maedhros had finally let himself relax. He was now back in the hotel room, getting ready for bed. He had steered clear of the alcohol tonight, having learned his lesson the night before. It had taken half the day for the headache to clear.
His phone pinged as he was brushing his teeth. He checked it as he sat on the bed.
FINGON: Hope you are having fun. Have a good night. Miss you too.
Maedhros smiled. He didn't recall having told Fingon he missed him, even though he did. It was nice to know that Fingon felt that way. Fingon continued to text him every night before he went to bed. Maedhros looked forward to that brief contact, even though it was rarely more than a few words and a good night. He smiled down at his phone and texted back.
MAEDHROS: Miss you too. Good night.
He connected his phone to the charger and placed it on the nightstand before turning the light off so he could go to sleep.
He woke up panting, his heart racing, tearing the sheets his arms were tangled in off him. He sat up on the side of the bed, turned on the light and bent over, head between his knees to still the nausea and trying to slow down his deep, gasping breaths.
Darkness. The feel of his arms pinned behind his back. The flash of pain in his right shoulder. He kept his eyes open so he could see the light and concentrated on his breathing. It was just a dream again. Just that same dream.
The nausea began to fade and he was able to sit up. It had been awhile but it seemed he was never going to be completely rid of them, was he?
He made his way to the bathroom, splashing cold water on his face. A face in the mirror that was pale, shadows under his eyes.
He eyed the door by the dresser as he walked back to his bed. Azaghâl was in the room next door. He knew Azaghâl had left the adjoining door open on his side. He had said as much to Maedhros when they parted in the hallway earlier in the night. Maedhros had nodded, brushing it off as unnecessary information. Well, it was still unnecessary. He was fine now.
He looked at the clock on the nightstand. 4:12 am. He rearranged the sheets and blankets and sat back down on the bed, leaning his head against the headboard.
It was ok. He'd gotten through it. It had been awhile and even he had held a glimmer of hope that perhaps it wouldn't happen again, perhaps it was finally, mercifully over. But it wasn't, was it? It might never be. A chill went through him and he burrowed under the blankets, staring up at the hotel room ceiling.
He had come to terms with it just being a part of him. Or so he had thought. If there was anything he wished he could change about himself it would be this.
It had been lingering in the back of every interaction with Fingon and he hated that. He wanted this relationship to keep moving forward. But that would eventually mean intimacy. And with intimacy came risk.
He closed his eyes. He let himself imagine what it would be like if Fingon were lying next to him. If Fingon's blue eyes were the last thing he saw before falling asleep. If Fingon's arms were around him, his head tucked under Maedhros' chin.
He wanted that. He wanted that so much. The contact, the comfort, the companionship. He could feel it. He could let it happen.
The mental image abruptly changed and instead he saw Tyelko, clutching at his face, blood dripping from his nose onto the white sheets. And in his mind Tyelko's face transformed to Fingon's. Maedhros opened his eyes and sat up, his heart pounding again.
The possibility of that occurring held him back. Fingon would be understanding. Fingon would be kind. But for how long? Anyone sharing Maedhros' bed long term would be subject to that risk. Each time.
Would Fingon have to explain those bruises to Aredhel? His broken nose to Turgon? To his mother? Would they believe Fingon's story? Or would they look at Maedhros with suspicious eyes, worried that something more sinister was taking place?
He couldn't bear that train of thought. He angrily rubbed away the tears that had started to form in his eyes. It was selfish of him to want this.
Cheekybeak raised the question of whether Fingon's phone would cut off Maehdros' voicemail due to the length of it. I can confirm it would not-having read all of Maedhros' drunken ramblings into my phone voicemail to check, much to the bewilderment and amusement of my kids, who I had not realized were listening to me while I was doing it.
Chapter 20 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Keep Maedhros' drunken state and his voicemail from the last chapter in mind when reading!
Maedhros had vacillated between elated and apprehensive since returning from Brethil. He couldn't wait to see Fingon again but a part of him dreaded the conversation that needed to take place.
There were moments he had himself convinced he could make this work and others, fortunately less frequently, where he felt torn—wanting this relationship so badly but convinced it wasn't fair to Fingon.
Azaghâl had sensed his mood on the drive home from the wedding, had once again unfailingly ferreted out his concerns and had then proceeded to treat him to a blistering tirade as a result.
"I don't see how you think you get to make decisions for other people, Russandol," Azaghâl said. "Fingon's an adult. He doesn't need you to protect him, least of all from yourself. Stop being such a conscientious asshole. You don't get the right to tell him what's best for him—only he gets to make that decision."
"I'm not making a decision for him, Az. I can make a decision for myself, that this isn't fair to him and give him the chance to get out before it gets too serious."
"That's bullshit and you know it. That's still you making a decision for him, convincing yourself it's all self-sacrificing and noble on your part, but still controlling the whole thing," Azaghâl growled. "Which doesn't make you the good guy, Russandol. It makes you the control freak asshole." He glared at Maedhros. "Mahal's balls! Have the decency to trust him to make his own choices. We've been over this. You care about him enough to protect him? Then show you respect him enough to let him make his own decisions about his own life!"
It was similar to what Fingon had said to him the last time they had seen each other. He tried to remember Azaghâl's words whenever he started to feel the anxiety mounting.
Work was a necessary and welcome distraction. With the end of the semester this week he didn't have as much help at Beleriand Books. He had given Erestor some well-deserved days off as well—he had taken on extra weekend and holiday hours so Maedhros could have the time free.
It was Wednesday afternoon. Fingon was coming to Formenos on Saturday. The snow had finally stopped but the temperatures had been continually frigid for weeks now. The lake was more than adequately frozen for skating; in fact, Tyelko had set up the ice fishing shelter while Maedhros was at Brethil.
He kept forgetting to ask Fingon if he had skates but it really didn't matter; there were so many pairs of skates in varying sizes at the house. He'd surely find a pair that fit Fingon.
Maedhros hadn't decided on what to cook yet either but he wasn't going to the store until Friday anyway. It had to be perfect—Fingon was under the impression that he was skilled, based on their conversation the week before, and Maedhros wasn't about to disappoint him.
The store was quiet and mostly devoid of customers. Maedhros was manning the desk, using the downtime to run through the store's profit and loss statements and balance sheets, in preparation for meeting with Moryo in a few weeks' time.
He was preoccupied with the numbers when he heard a customer make his way to the counter. "I'll be with you in just a second," Maedhros apologized, eyes on the screen in front of him still, wanting to save the data before he got distracted.
"No worries," said a familiar voice.
Maedhros rapidly turned his head at the sound, to find Fingon leaning on the counter, his brilliant blue eyes sparkling with amusement and that stunning smile on his face. Maedhros' heart raced at the sight of him. "Hey," he said, with an answering smile of his own. "What are you doing here? I was sure you would be swamped today."
"No studio today with end of term so I decided I could use a little study-break." Fingon tilted his head to the side as he looked at Maedhros. "That ok?"
"It's more than ok," Maedhros replied, a warm sensation flooding through him. It was so good to see Fingon. "I'm a bit short staffed today," he apologized. "So I can't actually leave the store."
"No worries," Fingon repeated. "I'm fine staying here."
Maedhros just gazed at him, enjoying the wave of contentment that washed over him at being in Fingon's company.
"I can sit and read if you have things you need to do," Fingon offered, motioning at the computer.
"No," Maedhros interjected. "Let me just finish this one thing—it will only take me a minute." He grimaced. "It's the end of year financial statements I'm getting ready for Moryo. I just need to save them and then I'm all yours."
"I like the sound of that," Fingon said. "I'll go get a cup of coffee." He grinned at Maedhros. "I'll get you one too. I'm sure I still owe you one."
"Perfect. I'll be done in just a minute, I promise," Maedhros watched him walk away, his heart continuing to race. He was not going to screw this up. It was good when Fingon was around. It was better than good. He dragged his attention back to the screen, determined not to waste any time they could be spending together today.
He had just closed down the files when Fingon returned with the coffee.
"Can I help at all?" he asked, leaning on the counter and sliding a cup of coffee towards Maedhros. "I'm pretty good at working in the storeroom." To his surprise Fingon actually winked at him as he said that.
Maedhros' mouth went dry. What was with Fingon today? He seemed so relaxed, so confident, considering he was in the midst of finals and that their last encounter had been so awkward, if not downright unpleasant. His demeanor caught Maedhros off guard.
Maybe he really was overthinking everything. Maybe it hadn't affected Fingon the same way. That was something to consider.
He realized he had been staring at Fingon and hadn't answered him. Well, he could do this too.
"I can't think of anyone I would rather have with me in the storeroom," Maedhros smiled, leaning forward on the counter himself now, his face inches away from Fingon's. "But I can't really afford to get that distracted when it's only me on desk duty, can I?"
"Distracted? You seemed pretty focused to me," Fingon laughed.
"You have no idea."
Blue eyes met silver. Maedhros' hand slipped forward to touch Fingon's. "I really wish I had back-up today. Are you ok hanging here at the desk with me?"
"I'm happy to be anywhere with you," Fingon responded, squeezing his hand gently. "Can I sit here or is there someplace else that would be better?"
"Sit here with me," Maedhros said. "There's another stool somewhere." He looked around and then stepped out from behind the counter and walked to the music section, returning with another stool. "Maglor gets lazy sometimes when he's sorting the vinyl back there," he explained, placing it next to his own and motioning Fingon to join him behind the counter.
They were soon seated side by side, Fingon's leg just next to his under the counter. Maedhros looked down at him fondly, his face relaxing. "I'm really glad you stopped by. Sorry to be so boring today."
Fingon tilted his head back as he looked up at Maedhros. "I'm not bored."
The way he said it made Maedhros' face heat up. He felt Fingon's leg bump against his and then come to rest against his thigh. Maedhros was very aware of the sensation and the warmth of Fingon so close to him. "You will be soon enough," Maedhros assured him, managing to keep his voice low and steady. "Midweek is usually pretty slow for us. That's why I usually head to estate sales or up to Tirion to meet with potential sellers during the week." He ran a hand through his hair. It was uncharacteristically out of its usual bun, much to Fingon's satisfaction. "My manager is usually here when I'm not but I wanted to give him some days off- he's been covering some weekends for me and holiday time too."
"Let me know if there's anything I can do while I'm here, since you won't let me help in the back," Fingon said, raising an eyebrow.
"I'm just happy to have the company," Maedhros said, deflecting the storeroom comment but not able to keep his cheeks from flushing again at the memory. "Usually when it's slow I go over inventory or balance sheets, sometimes I read a bit. I far prefer having you here."
"So tell me about your weekend," Fingon said. "How was the wedding?"
"It was great seeing everyone. I hadn't really kept up with people much after I graduated and opened the store," Maedhros got a faraway look as he continued. "Other than a few of the professors here and Azaghâl that is."
"That's who you went to the wedding with, right? Your old roommate?"
Maedhros' eyes focused on Fingon again and he smiled. "Azaghâl was one of the first people I met at Cuiviénen. We roomed together, starting sophomore year, all through grad school." Maedhros continued "I think I told you he's adjunct faculty in the Classics Department and married, with a baby. Actually, Narvi isn't technically a baby anymore—she's over a year old now."
"That's all too real world for me," Fingon said. "I haven't had many classmates get married yet but I suppose it's just a matter of time." He looked at Maedhros thoughtfully. "Do you miss it?"
"School. The friends. The classes."
Maedhros lowered his eyebrows as he thought about the question. "I miss some of it. It's certainly easier to make friends at school." His eyes met Fingon's again. "Although I have met some interesting people here at the bookstore."
"Yes, I have too," Fingon agreed, bumping Maedhros' leg again. "Tell me about Azaghâl."
"Az? How do I even describe Az?" Maedhros grinned. "Well, for starters, he's almost a foot shorter than me, so we look pretty comical when we're together. He's also a lot stockier than me, with this massive shaggy beard—really we're opposites except that he's got reddish hair too."
"But what's he like?" Fingon persisted.
"He's smart. He's funny. He can also be a complete asshole. He likes to think he knows me well enough that he can call me out when he thinks I'm being an idiot," Maedhros replied, the memory of his friend doing just that still fresh in his mind.
"And does he? Call you out, I mean?"
"Yes, it's completely aggravating." Maedhros complained.
"Is he usually right?" Fingon asked, with a mischievous look.
"He certainly seems to think so. That's why it's so blasted annoying."
"I hope I get to meet him sometime," Fingon said.
"I'm sure you will. He's looking forward to meeting you," Maedhros' eyes widened as he realized what he had just admitted.
"You've talked to him about me then?" Fingon asked with a wickedly delighted smirk on his face.
Maedhros felt his face heat up. He'd certainly walked into that one. But what was with Fingon? He was so confident, so assertive and jovial-turning Maedhros into the blushing, tongue-tied one. He wasn't used to this. "I might have mentioned you," he choked out finally.
"Finrod's like that for me," Fingon said kindly, changing the focus of their conversation, amused to see he had managed to fluster Maedhros again. It was typically the other way around. "We've known each other since high school but didn't really get to be friends until Cuiviénen. We started rooming together my senior year."
Maedhros hesitated but then decided to ask the question anyway. "Things ok, after the other day? With him, I mean."
Fingon put his hand on Maedhros' arm. "It's fine. Really." He regarded Maedhros intently for a moment and then spoke again. "I know you wanted to talk about some things and I know we need to, but it can wait for the weekend. We'll have time then." His hand squeezed Maedhros' forearm gently, then slipped down to grasp his hand. "I just really wanted to see you today, nothing more."
Maedhros twined his fingers with Fingon's, his mind turning over his words. When had he said they needed to talk? It was obvious they needed to but he didn't remember actually voicing that to Fingon. No matter. He squeezed Fingon's fingers back. "I'm looking forward to a whole day with you this weekend, not just a few hours."
Fingon sighed. "I am too. Just one more day to get through," He looked around the store and then gently slipped his hand out of Maedhros', leaning into his shoulder to keep the contact instead.
"Are you done tomorrow then?" Maedhros asked, confused.
Fingon's forehead creased. "No. Sorry. I didn't mean it that way. I've got a paper to turn in tomorrow. It's already done—just needs to be proofread one last time and printed-so I wasn't really counting that." He took a breath in and exhaled before speaking again. "Friday is when I actually present and defend my project-that's the day that really matters." His eyes widened as he continued. "And that's it! That's the end of it—just my internship next semester and I'm done with grad school." Fingon shook his head. He still hadn't had time to cut his hair and Maedhros was momentarily mesmerized by the cascade of his dark waves. "It's hard to believe. Now I just need to worry about finding a job," Fingon added.
"I'm sure you'll find one soon enough. Cuiviénen's architecture school has an excellent reputation and I'm sure your internship will help," Maedhros said encouragingly.
"Then I just need to be outstanding in my interviews and I'll be set," Fingon laughed.
"I'm sure you'll have no problem with that." Maedhros bumped Fingon's shoulder gently as he spoke.
Fingon leaned into him, moving his knee under the desk to press against Maedhros' leg again. "Your confidence in me is reassuring."
They sat in silence for a few moments. Fingon glanced at his watch. "When do you need to go?" Maedhros asked.
"There's no rush. I can stay a bit longer. I just need to catch the five o'clock train."
"I'd offer to drive you home but the store is open until six tonight," Maedhros said.
"You drive up to Tirion all the time. I'm fine taking the train back," Fingon turned slightly towards Maedhros. "Speaking of the train—what time do you want me to be here on Saturday?"
"Anytime is fine. I've got the whole day off so come whenever you like. Just let me know, so I can pick you up at the station," Maedhros replied. "We can have lunch here in town and then head over to the house after."
"Late morning sounds perfect. I've got plans to go out with Finrod Friday night to celebrate the end of the semester—I never know what to expect with him. It could be a bar, a club, a restaurant—whatever has caught his interest this week."
"Sounds like fun. You won't be too tired Saturday? I'm off Sunday too, if that's better for you," Maedhros offered.
Fingon fixed him with a penetrating look. "I do not intend to put it off one more day, Maedhros. I've been looking forward to spending Saturday with you since last week. Don't you even think about changing anything!"
Maedhros beamed back at him. "I wouldn't think of it."
They sat at the counter, the time passing in conversation. Maedhros had expected their reunion to be at least a little awkward, after the way they had parted the last time they had been together but it seemed the continued texting and contact had smoothed that over. That and the fact that Fingon seemed to be taking it all in stride, far more than Maedhros himself.
It was soon time for Fingon to head to the station to catch his train. Maedhros walked him to the door of the bookstore. "Thanks for stopping by today. It really made my day to see you," he said, as they reached the door.
"I'm glad I had time for a study break. I wanted to see you so much," Fingon grinned up at him. "I missed your voice too, Maedhros. I can only replay a voicemail so many times—it's much better hearing the real thing."
That was a bit of an odd statement, Maedhros thought. He had missed hearing Fingon's voice too but hadn't mentioned it, thinking it would sound too sappy. It didn't sound sappy at all when Fingon said it though. It made him feel treasured. It was touching that Fingon had that stupid old voicemail of his, telling him about finding the book, still saved on his phone. It made Maedhros wish he had a voicemail from Fingon to listen to, for those times when he felt the anxiety start to ratchet up.
He stepped outside the store with Fingon, his hand placed lightly on his back. "Until Saturday then. Text me when you board the train—I'll be there to pick you up on time that way."
Fingon turned, put his hands on Maedhros' shoulders and went up on tiptoe, landing a soft kiss on his lips. "I can't wait," he said.
Maedhros pulled him into his arms, breathed in the scent of his hair and whispered back "I can't either."
He stood in the cold, watching Fingon walk towards the square until he disappeared around the corner. Maedhros walked back into the bookstore. He would make this work. It was worth it.
He was back in front of his computer before he realized he'd forgotten to ask Fingon about skates again.
Chapter 21 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Fingon had texted Maedhros when he had boarded the train and now the Formenos stop was just a few minutes away. He slipped his book into his backpack—he hadn't really been concentrating on it anyway.
He was more exhilarated than apprehensive. He knew there were things the two of them needed to discuss but that core of uncertainty he had felt since Maedhros had walked out of his apartment over a week ago had progressively faded since Maedhros had left him that rambling voicemail.
Fingon smiled at the thought of it. He had known Maedhros was drunk as soon as he heard his voice—the usually crisp syllables slurred, the skilled wordplay reduced to repetitive mumblings. It had been frankly adorable and had done much to reassure him that Maedhros was as invested in this as he was.
He glanced at his backpack and the slightest twinge of doubt swept through him but he willed it away. He had debated over this the night before and into this morning, finally just packing pajamas, a change of clothes and a toothbrush into the pack and leaving his usual messenger bag behind. He had rationalized it to himself. The trains wouldn't be running late into the night. It was likely they would be drinking with dinner, rendering Maedhros driving him home a bad idea. The weather report was ominous as well; the snowstorm predicted all week was on target to come tonight. Packing an overnight bag made perfect sense when you thought about it that way.
Fingon, unlike Maedhros, had no qualms about spending the night. So, whatever happened, he was ready.
The train was slowing down as it approached the Formenos station. He grabbed the backpack and made his way to the doors. He could see the green Subaru parked in the nearby lot, Maedhros—bundled in a coat and scarf—leaning against the car, his eyes on the train. Fingon made his way down the steps rapidly, unconsciously reaching out his arms to him when he drew close enough.
He was gratified to feel Maedhros' strong arms around him, his breath stirring his hair. The touch said more than words could. They held each other wordlessly for a moment and then Fingon looked up.
"I missed you," he said, smiling up into Maedhros' silver eyes, his breath ghosting from the cold.
"I missed you too," Maedhros replied, reaching down to grasp Fingon's hand.
"So what's the plan?"
"Lunch here in town, I thought, then we can head to the house for the afternoon," Maedhros said. He stepped back, still holding Fingon's hand. "I know it's cold but the square isn't far from here."
"It's fine," Fingon said, pulling his backpack off and rummaging in the front pocket. He retrieved his hat and pulled it down over his ears. "If we're walking can I leave my backpack in your car? I'd rather not lug it through town with me."
Maedhros eyes had widened as he caught sight of the backpack Fingon swung off his shoulder. "Sure," he answered, turning quickly to unlock the car. Maglor had called it, he thought. He was by now familiar with Fingon's ubiquitous messenger bag and this wasn't it. This was a backpack. An overnight bag.
He opened the car door for Fingon as his mind raced. It was supposed to snow tonight. Maybe Fingon was just taking precautions in case the weather left him stuck in Formenos overnight. Shouldn't be an issue though—the Subaru was four-wheel drive and reliable in all kinds of weather. It would be no problem driving him home.
Maedhros took Fingon's hand again and forced a smile on his face as they started walking towards the square. But if he drove him home then the specter of staying at Fingon's apartment loomed. If the weather was bad he knew Fingon would balk at letting him drive back to Formenos in the middle of a snowstorm.
Fingon's voice broke into his thoughts. "It's finally a little warmer today," he said brightly.
"I was hoping it would be," Maedhros answered. "Likely means we'll get the snow tonight though."
"I don't mind," Fingon said. "Let it snow all it wants. I've got no plans for tomorrow." He squeezed Maedhros' hand.
Maybe it would be easier if Fingon did stay in Formenos, Maedhros reasoned. Then there could be no awkwardness about him leaving his apartment again. There might be awkwardness here too but Maedhros had more control of the situation here. The house was large—far larger than necessary for Maedhros and his two brothers. He could get Fingon set up in one of the many empty rooms and any awkwardness at that arrangement could be blamed directly on the presence of Tyelko and Maglor, he decided.
Good. That was settled. He squeezed Fingon's hand back, belatedly realizing he had been silent a bit too long and Fingon was giving him a quizzical look. "Are you ok, Maedhros? You kind of drifted away from me for a minute there," Fingon said.
"Sorry," Maedhros said, bumping Fingon's shoulder with his own and smiling down at him. "Just thinking about what I've got planned for us today. Didn't mean to get distracted."
Fingon's smile returned. "I'm looking forward to whatever distractions you have planned."
Fingon had not anticipated ice skating would be one of the day's activities.
Lunch at the pub had been comfortable. He and Maedhros had found themselves back to their usual conversational flow, savoring the contact and exchange of ideas.
The drive to the lake had been fairly short but Fingon had been startled by the destination itself. They had reached an imposing gate, set in an equally impressive fence. Maedhros had punched a keypad and the gate had opened onto a wide and exceedingly long driveway. It was actually more of a road than a driveway, Fingon decided. He was surprised again when he caught sight of the house. It was massive, flanked by what appeared to be a barn and then a smaller house to the far right.
"This is your house?" Fingon asked.
Maedhros shrugged and his face colored. "It was my grandfather's place. He built it just before the twins were born."
"It's huge!" Fingon said, his eyes traveling over it and the open property all around.
"It had to be," Maedhros explained. "There are nine people in my family, not counting my grandfather, you know. He wanted it big enough for all of us." His eyes met Fingon's. "I think I told you we used to spend summers here?"
"I think I was expecting more of a cottage or cabin," Fingon said. "I hadn't thought about how many of you there were."
They made their way from the garage into a room with shelves, lockers and coatracks lining an entire wall. A washer and dryer took up the far end of the room.
"Come this way," Maedhros said, motioning to Fingon. "You can leave your coat on the hook here and your bag on the bench."
Fingon complied and then followed Maedhros into the spacious kitchen. "You want some coffee or tea or something?" Maedhros asked.
"I want a tour," Fingon said, grinning.
Maedhros shook his head, an answering grin on his face. "It's just a house."
That was an understatement. It was all built on a large scale, from the kitchen to the dining room to the game room, complete with pool table, darts, table tennis, and even a pinball machine against the far wall.
The family room looked lived in—sprawling sofas arranged to face a massive television screen, gaming systems resting on the shelves that flanked it. A serene library, with floor to ceiling bookshelves, window seats, and armchairs that looked ready to welcome readers, came next.
"Just bedrooms upstairs," Maedhros said, as they concluded their walk around the main floor. "And an office."
Fingon raised his eyebrows. "It's lovely. Massive but lovely."
"Yeah, the three of us do rattle around in here. It feels more cramped when the rest of the family shows up."
Fingon was drifting back to the library. "I love this room," he said dreamily. "I could spend the whole day in here."
Maedhros laughed. "I often have. It's got the best chairs, a fireplace, a view of the lake, and all these books!" His eyes swept around the room fondly. "It's my favorite room too—always has been." He brushed his fingertips along the spines of the books on the shelf nearest him. "I used to hide in here when I was sick of having little brothers." He motioned Fingon over to the window seat, pulling him down onto it next to him, and then leaning back onto the far wall. He pulled his feet up and wrapped an arm around his bent knees, motioning to Fingon to do the same. They faced each other, leaning on opposite walls. "I'd sit here, with a book, and close the curtains around me," Maedhros pulled on a cord behind him and the curtains moved into place, enclosing the two of them in the window seat. "So no one could find me. Except Grandfather." He got a distant look in his eyes. "He always knew to look for me here."
"You were close to him, weren't you?" Fingon asked softly, scooting closer to Maedhros as he spoke, resting his hand on his knee.
Maedhros exhaled. "I was. He and I shared many similar interests. Even though he was a busy man, with the company, all of his boards and charities, he always found time for me."
Fingon leaned towards Maedhros. "I'm sorry."
Maedhros wordlessly pulled him towards him, Fingon's back ending up against his chest, Maedhros' arms around him and his cheek resting against Fingon's hair. "I am too," he said. "But I've got good memories of him here. It helps." They sat there, entwined in each other's arms on the cushioned window seat, cocooned by the curtains.
Maedhros inhaled the scent of Fingon's hair. It felt so good to have Fingon in his arms again. He briefly considered kissing him but restrained himself. There were too many unspoken things between them, things said and left unsaid at their last encounter. He couldn't keep falling back on their physical attraction. There was more to this relationship than that.
Fingon leaned his head back and looked up at Maedhros, who stared out the window at the snow-covered lawn and frozen lake beyond. All Maedhros had to do was turn his head and Fingon's lips would be there, to meet his.
At his movement, Maedhros did look down, his eyes meeting Fingon's. Even though he ached for that contact, Fingon held back from moving further. Communicating through physical touch was well and good. Well, it was actually better than good but it still wasn't a substitute for verbal communication. He couldn't keep avoiding the fact that he and Maedhros needed to talk by diverting himself to a purely physical connection.
They looked at each other for a moment, neither one speaking, neither one moving, and then Maedhros broke the silence. "I didn't invite you here to take a tour of the house. Sorry for getting sidetracked. I just wanted to spend time with you."
"This is spending time together." He turned slightly, still resting on Maedhros' chest. It was cold in the window seat but Maedhros was warm, his body radiating heat. He let his head rest against Maedhros' shoulder, both of them looking out the window now. "It must be lovely here in the summer."
"I like it in any season," Maedhros said. "It's not as peaceful in the summer, with all the traffic on the lake." He tilted his head. "I love it best in autumn, when the changing colors of the trees surround it."
"Mmm. That sounds lovely." Fingon pressed a finger to the glass. It was cold to touch and his finger left a condensation impression.
"Are you cold?" Maedhros asked. "There's a fireplace—I can start a fire for us."
"No, you said you had plans for today. I don't want to spoil that." He turned to look at Maedhros with anticipation. "What did you have in mind?"
"I kind of like what we're doing now," Maedhros admitted, raising his eyebrows at Fingon. "But we've got the whole evening ahead of us for that." He looked out the window again. "It gets dark early. We won't get much time to skate if we wait too long." And he didn't know how long he could restrain himself from kissing Fingon, if they stayed here like this.
Fingon tensed at the words.
"You are cold," Maedhros stated, pulling the cord again to open the curtains and causing Fingon to sit up. They separated and Maedhros stood to pull him to a stand. "Maybe skating will be too cold for you?"
"You sure the lake is frozen enough for it?" Fingon asked, standing up next to Maedhros now, his mind racing.
Maedhros laughed. "It's frozen enough. Tyelko set up the ice fishing shelter last week." His fingers found Fingon's and held them. "We could do that if you like instead, it's just a bit more time consuming."
Fingon's mouth went dry and he could feel his stomach start to churn. He wanted absolutely nothing to do with ice in general but he certainly had no interest in dealing with anything that involved holes in the ice. He pushed the uneasy sensation away, smiling up at Maedhros in what he hoped looked like his usual expression. "I'm happy to take a pass on the ice fishing."
"Me too," Maedhros confessed. "It's not my favorite outdoor activity. I haven't skated yet this year—I thought I'd rather wait and do it with you anyway."
Fingon had to say something. Maedhros looked so happy right now. How had he not anticipated this? A house on a lake in winter. It had never crossed his mind that Maedhros would suggest ice skating. But he had and he looked overjoyed at the idea. Fingon took a breath in and answered.
"Well, if you've been waiting for me I shouldn't let you wait any longer." He could hardly believe he was saying those words.
"Are you sure? I know you don't like the cold but with the snow coming tonight it's not as cold or windy as it's been, so I thought it might not be too bad."
"I've got my hat, scarf and gloves. I'll be perfectly fine," Fingon assured him, his voice far more confident than he felt.
"Come on then," Maedhros said. "I kept forgetting to ask you if you had your own skates but it doesn't really matter—there's a dozen pairs at least in the garage—one's bound to fit you."
Fingon let himself be pulled along, back through the house, to the laundry room and then to the garage after they had retrieved their coats and his hat, gloves and scarf. He stumbled along, his stomach roiling, his mind numb, barely feeling Maedhros' hand.
They had reached the garage. "What size shoes do you wear?" Maedhros asked. He turned away from Fingon and began rummaging through a shelf of skates.
"Uh, eleven." Fingon said, a shiver going through him that had nothing to do with the temperature in the garage.
Ice skating. That was Maedhros' plan for the day. There was nothing he dreaded more, not even the conversation with Maedhros that was likely coming later in the night. How was he going to get out of this? He' had already basically agreed to it.
He bit his lip and clenched his jaw. Maybe he could try. He could try for Maedhros. It was stupid anyway, an irrational fear. It couldn't happen again. Could it?
Ugh. He needed to stop this train of thought. Facts. What were the facts? It had been below freezing for weeks now. So, the lake must be sufficiently frozen. If Tyelko had set up an ice shelter the ice had to be sturdy enough for skating, right? Right. Maedhros didn't seem worried about it at all. Maedhros should know—he had spent years on this lake. He' would know if it wasn't a good idea to skate. Right?
Maedhros turned back to Fingon, a pair of skates in his hand. "Here, try these."
"Yeah," Maedhros pulled another pair off the shelf and held them in his hand. "We need to know if they fit before we walk all the way down to the lake."
"Oh. Right," Fingon said, taking the skates.
He found himself sitting on the garage steps, mechanically going through the motions of trying on the skates, Maedhros' voice a dull murmur surrounding him.
"They fit?" Maedhros bent down over him to look.
"You'll have to tie them tighter than that when we go out there," Maedhros informed him.
Fingon nodded. "I got it."
"You have skated before, right? I didn't even think to ask you," Maedhros said, giving him a questioning look. Fingon's voice sounded a little odd. But if he didn't want to skate he would tell him, wouldn't he? Fingon had been forthright with him before. Maybe he didn't want to admit he didn't know how to skate?
This was his out, Fingon thought. Maybe if he told Maedhros he couldn't skate. It would be so easy to say no. It would make it all go away.
But Maedhros kept on talking before Fingon could answer him. "If you haven't, don't worry. I can teach you. I taught most of my brothers and if I can teach them, I can teach anybody." His eyes were shining as he smiled encouragingly at Fingon.
It wouldn't be honest to say no, Fingon thought. He wasn't going to go into this relationship with Maedhros and not be honest. About the big issues and the little ones. Fingon wouldn't have it any other way.
He took a breath to steady himself. Maedhros was looking forward to this and Fingon could get through it. It was irrational anyway, he'd been telling himself that for years.
"I can skate," he said, his voice a little unsteady. He cleared his throat and continued in a more even tone. "It's just been a really long time—not since I was a kid. I'm sure I'm pretty rusty."
Maedhros put a hand on his shoulder. "It will come back to you. I'll help, promise." That was what was bothering Fingon then—he was just out of practice. He squeezed Fingon's shoulder reassuringly and straightened up. "Go ahead and take them off and we'll head down to the shore."
Ten minutes later Fingon found himself sitting on a bench by the frozen lake, putting the skates back on. His hands trembled as he tried to tie them, tangling the laces in knots and forcing him to redo it.
"Here, let me help," Maedhros said, kneeling down in the snow and tying Fingon's left skate as he continued to struggle with the right.
Done. They were both tied and snug. Maedhros had his skates on already and stood next to him now. Fingon stood and found his balance, pulling his hat over his ears and tugging his gloves on.
It was only a few steps to the lake. It could have been a mile, as far as Fingon was concerned. He couldn't move.
"Hey, are you ok?" Maedhros asked, turning to look at him. Fingon's face was paler than usual but he had a determined expression. If he was feeling a lack of confidence in his skating it probably wasn't helping that Maedhros kept questioning him. Maedhros hated it when people did that to him. Once they were on the ice the movements would come back to him.
"I'm fine. Just getting used to the feeling." It wasn't really a lie. FIngon just was unlikely to get used to it. He clenched his fists and took a tentative step forward, feeling as if his leg was encased in cement. Ok. He did it. Now one more. His stomach rebelled and Fingon felt a wave of nausea come over him. The next step would get him on the ice.
Maedhros was already there and he reached back a hand to Fingon. "Take my hand. It will keep you steady while you get your bearings on the ice."
Fingon reached out, watching his arm move, as if it wasn't a part of him. He gripped Maedhros' hand. He looked into those silver eyes, gazing at him fondly, warmth and anticipation in Maedhros' look. He took the next step, wobbled until he put his other foot on the ice and then he was there, next to Maedhros, on the frozen lake.
It was a mistake to look down. The last time he had looked down at his skates on the ice years ago he had heard that sound—the sudden crisp crack and then the clatter like ice cubes tumbling into a glass—and he had been falling, freezing water in his mouth, his nose, his eyes, his fingers scrabbling to grip the edge and breaking off shards of ice instead.
He couldn't see anything but his skates and the ice beneath them. All his vision tunneled down to that. His breath came in gasps but he was unable to move, unable to lift his head.
"Fingon, are you ok?" Maedhros' voice sounded distant. He could feel his hand holding onto something still, clutching it to anchor him to something, someone.
A second pair of skates came into view. No. NO. NO! The ice couldn't hold them both, it was barely holding him. Panic pushed him into movement and Fingon stepped back, one step, two, then as his skate tangled in the snow he fell on his back, the open sky above him.
A thud next to him announced Maedhros' presence. "Fingon!" He could feel gloved hands on his face and Maedhros own alarmed visage came into view above him, blocking out the sky. "What happened? Are you ok?"
Fingon blinked up at him, taking deep breaths.
"Talk to me, Fingon." Maedhros voice was gentle, his hands staying on either side of his face, his eyes holding Fingon's. "It's something more than just a long time since you skated, isn't it?"
Fingon nodded. He didn't trust his voice quite yet.
"Ok, ok. Don't worry about it. Just take some deep breaths. In and out. Breathe with me."
Fingon mimicked Maedhros and over the next few moments his breath steadied. Maedhros leaned back, taking Fingon's hand now. "Can you stand up, do you think?"
"I'm ok now, Maedhros." Fingon pulled himself up into a seated position, noticing the chill from his snow-covered pants now. He put his face in his hands. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to freak you out. I thought I could do this."
An arm came around his shoulders. "Come on, let's get back to the house. You've got snow all over you and it's cold out here." Maedhros pulled him up and over to the bench, kneeling down to unlace Fingon's skates, despite his protest that he could do it himself.
They made their way to the house wordlessly, Maedhros keeping an arm around Fingon's shoulders until they got there. They hung their coats and kicked off their shoes; Maedhros eyed Fingon's jeans critically. "You're soaking wet. Let me find you something dry to wear." He searched through the nearby laundry basket and finally pulled out a pair of sweatpants and some socks. "It's clean laundry—I just hadn't taken it upstairs yet," he said, as he handed the items to Fingon. "Go ahead and get changed. Toss your stuff in the dryer and I'll go make something hot to drink. You want coffee, tea or hot chocolate?"
"Whatever's fine," Fingon said. "Thanks, Maedhros. I'm sorry I lost it out there."
Maedhros gave him a long look before he stepped into the kitchen, not the pity that Fingon expected but a look of such tenderness and compassion it almost took his breath away again.
Fingon changed clothes quickly, rolling the waistband over to adjust the length of the sweats, and threw his wet pants and socks into the dryer. He walked into the kitchen and collapsed in one of the chairs there.
Maedhros sank into the chair across from him and pushed a steaming mug towards him. "It's tea. It was the quickest thing."
They drank in silence for a few minutes and then Maedhros spoke. "You don't have to explain anything to me." His familiar forehead crease appeared again as he continued. "I'm sorry about suggesting the skating. I wish you'd told me you didn't want to." He looked at Fingon, his expression serious and intent. "I hate that I made you so uncomfortable."
"You didn't. It was all me." Fingon wrapped his hands around the mug, relishing the warmth. "I should have said something. I owe you an explanation." He paused as Maedhros' eyes widened. "No, really, it's something I should have dealt with by now and I just haven't." He frowned and then continued. "I haven't skated since I was a kid. I haven't wanted to and I've had a hard time even thinking about it."
He saw the pained and guilty expression cross Maedhros' face and he reached across for his hand. "No. You couldn't have known. I didn't even think about it myself—I should have realized—you live on a lake." He grimaced. "Really, it's stupid. Stupid and weak and something I can't seem to control." He brushed Maedhros' fingers with his own but his voice sharpened at Maedhros' expression. "Stop it. Don't blame yourself for suggesting it. I know that's what you're doing." Fingon shook his head. "Don't take responsibility for things that aren't your fault, Maedhros. I've told you that before, remember?"
Maedhros nodded but the stricken look didn't leave his face. "I'm sorry."
If anything, he looked even more tense at Fingon's words.
"Listen, last time I skated I had an accident," Fingon said, his words coming out in a rush, now that he had decided to speak about it. "The ice cracked and . . . and I fell in and nearly drowned." He paused and took a breath, his eyes focused on Maedhros. "I haven't been able to skate since then. I've been too scared to even try."
"I'm so sorry," Maedhros repeated.
"There's nothing to be sorry for. It's my issue. I'm the one who can't control it. It's stupid and irrational but it is what it is." He gripped Maedhros' hand tightly. "You're the first person I've ever talked to about this, other than my family. I try not to think about it. But that hasn't made it go away, has it?"
Maedhros paled and a strangled "Finno," came out of his mouth, but then he stopped.
"I know. I'm sorry I screwed up your plans for the day."
Maedhros just stared at him.
Chapter 22 by NelyafinweFeanorion
"Maedhros?" Fingon repeated. Maedhros had said his name, the name he had called him on that voicemail, and then had just stared at him silently. Fingon gave a slight shiver. Maedhros' expression was unreadable and it chilled Fingon.
That seemed to snap Maedhros out of it. "You're cold," he stated, standing up with a concerned look on his face, his previous expression wiped away. "Come on."
Fingon followed him into the family room, where Maedhros was starting a fire in the large fireplace there. He had it blazing rapidly and Fingon soon found himself settled on the floor, leaning against the sofa behind them. Maedhros moved to sit next to him, opened his arms wordlessly and Fingon settled himself in his embrace.
Fingon relaxed into him, the chill of outdoors and his memories fading as he did. He felt lips brush his hair and he slid his arm across Maedhros' chest. They sat there, gazing at the fire until Maedhros broke the silence.
"I wish you had said something," he whispered. "I'd never have suggested it, if I'd known."
"I know," Fingon replied, his face buried in Maedhros' shoulder. "I just thought I'd try. Sorry if I freaked you out."
"You didn't freak me out. I thought you were nervous but I brushed it off—just thought you were worried about being out of practice. I should have paid more attention."
"You're doing it again," Fingon said, looking up at Maedhros. "Not everything is your responsibility or your fault, ok?"
Maedhros looked down at him and then turned his face back to the fire. Fingon kept his head on his shoulder, the warmth moving through him, now that he was so close to the fire and ensconced in Maedhros' arms.
"I don't know if I could have done that," Maedhros said.
"Tried to skate again, like you did."
"Don't be thinking it was brave," Fingon chided him. "It was stupid. I don't know why I was embarrassed to tell you."
"It's nothing to be embarrassed about," Maedhros replied.
"I realize that. I should have known you would be understanding, if I told you. Instead I just screwed up the day," Fingon said.
"You definitely didn't screw up the day," Maedhros held him a little tighter for a moment, then relaxed his grip. "Being with you is good enough."
They sat in silence again but Maedhros' thoughts were racing, Azaghâl's words coming back to him. Was it time to tell Fingon? Could he meet him halfway, with a confession of his own? It would come up tonight, whether he wanted to confront it or not; Fingon had packed for overnight. Even if he hadn't, it was still something that hung between them, that they needed to discuss, before it led to another confrontation like last time.
Ok. He could do this. Fingon had dared so much today and had been so honest with him. It was time to let him in, at least a little bit.
"What are you thinking about so intently, Maedhros?" Fingon asked. He'd noted the silence but didn't think Maedhros realized how rigid and tense his body felt against his own. That crease in his forehead was back again.
Maedhros shifted and rubbed his cheek against Fingon's hair. "You," he answered truthfully.
Fingon smiled, his whole face lighting up and not just from the glow of the fire. "I like that. Go on. What about me exactly?" He raised one eyebrow at Maedhros.
It was now or never, Maedhros thought. He attempted to smile down at Fingon but the expression didn't reach his eyes. "I was thinking about how straightforward you are. How easy it is for you to say what's on your mind."
Fingon looked puzzled now. That wasn't quite what he was expecting to hear. "What do you mean?"
Maedhros shifted again. Fingon made to move over but Maedhros' arms stayed around him so he settled back on his shoulder instead and waited. Maedhros had mentioned needing to tell him something in his voicemail; was this what he had hinted about?
"I know things were . . . awkward that night at your apartment. I'm sorry about that. You were right—we do need to talk about it." Maedhros paused and then exhaled. "I'm not so good at conversations like this," he admitted. "I'm even worse at anything confrontational." His frown got more pronounced as he spoke. "It was always a bit volatile at home, with my parents. It just brought back some unpleasant memories and I overreacted."
"I'm sorry," Fingon said. He held Maedhros a little tighter. "I thought I'd said something wrong when you left so suddenly."
"You didn't say anything wrong—it just took me back to a place that wasn't so good." He ran a hand through his hair and then rubbed his forehead.
"Ok. I'll keep that in mind. I sometimes just blurt things out without really thinking about them, when I'm frustrated." Fingon admitted. "It's something for me to work on."
"No, really. It isn't you. I didn't mean it that way," Maedhros closed his eyes and leaned his head back on the sofa. "I just haven't been completely honest with you."
"Go on." A tendril of worry crept into Fingon at Maedhros' words.
"I know it's been bothering you that I don't come up to your apartment or stay over," Maedhros began.
"That's my fault," Fingon interrupted. "I shouldn't have pressured you or harped on you about it like that."
"That's not it. Fingon. Let me finish," Maedhros said, interrupting him in turn. "It's not your fault at all. Just let me get this out before I completely lose my nerve," he mumbled.
Fingon nodded, reaching out to thread his fingers into Maedhros', staying silent.
"It's never been you," Maedhros started. "There's nothing I would love more than to stay with you, fall asleep with you in my arms, wake up to you by my side." He squeezed Fingon's hand before continuing. "But the problem is me."
"Go on," Fingon encouraged, his voice low and steady, not betraying the anxiety he felt at Maedhros' words.
"I have . . . I have these bad dreams—nightmares, I should say." He darted a quick glance at Fingon, who was looking up at him. "They're . . . they can get pretty intense. I can't predict . . . I never know when. . . They just happen." Maedhros' frown deepened, his eyes not meeting Fingon's. "They tend to be worse when I'm in unfamiliar surroundings."
"I'd never have pushed if I'd known," Fingon whispered. "I can understand how that would make you uncomfortable."
Maedhros dared another look at him. No pity, no disappointment. Fingon's face was open, his gaze direct and kind. He could go on. He could tell him the rest.
Well, maybe not all of it. He really didn't want to go into the whole backstory, not right now. He had to hope Azaghâl was right and that this would be enough. He just had to get the next bit out.
"The nightmares themselves aren't the whole reason," Maedhros added.
"I tend to come awake violently. Aggressively. Especially if I'm startled or someone wakes me up."
"Ok," Fingon said again.
"Actually, no, it's not ok," Maedhros continued. "I broke Tyelko's nose and gave Maglor a concussion." He looked down at Fingon, his eyes huge and his expression desolate. "I would never want that to happen to you," he said, his voice husky with emotion. "I couldn't ever risk that."
"Maedhros. . ." Fingon felt some of the tension drain out of him. Maedhros' expression had made him fear it was something far more worrisome than this.
"No, Fingon. I could never forgive myself if I hurt you like that." There was an edge of desperation in his voice.
Fingon looked up at him and reached out to gently run a finger along Maedhros' jaw. "That's why you won't stay then?" he asked. "On the chance that something like that might happen?"
Maedhros nodded, words having abandoned him for the moment. He just kept his eyes locked on Fingon's.
"You don't have control over something like that, Maedhros. I understand that." He put his hand back on Maedhros' chest. "Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me."
Maedhros nodded again, not sure what to say.
"I understand your concern," Fingon said, his hand gently rubbing Maedhros' chest. He looked up, his eyes full of compassion. "But don't you think I get a say in it?"
"I understand there's a risk. It's not something you can control. But it's certainly something I can."
"What?" Maedhros repeated. "What are you talking about? You can't control this."
"I think I can," Fingon kept his eyes on Maedhros, his hand still on his chest reassuringly. "You just said it happens when you are in unfamiliar surroundings, when you get startled in your sleep, or when someone wakes you up, right?"
"Yes, usually." Where was Fingon going with this?
"So as long as we are in familiar surroundings and I don't startle you or wake you up suddenly, we should be fine, right?"
"What?" Maedhros repeated again. Fingon couldn't be serious. It wasn't that easy.
"Maedhros. I can't imagine what this has been like for you. How it disrupts your life, your sleep, your travel, your relationships." Fingon's face was very serious. "But that doesn't mean there can't be ways we can adjust for it. If you want, that is." Fingon's face suddenly flushed and he looked uncertain. "I didn't mean . . . I shouldn't have just assumed that you wanted to get more intimate. I'm sorry, that's not fair of me to just expect that." He sat up next to Maedhros. "That was out of line on my part."
This wasn't at all how Maedhros had expected this to go. Deep down he had expected pity, even if Azaghâl had scoffed at him for thinking that way. He had expected Fingon to feel sorry for him, to back away, to do practically anything but this. He had never expected Fingon would just acknowledge it, as a part of Maedhros, and immediately come up with a plan to adjust for it.
He reached out for Fingon's hands. "It's not out of line at all," he reassured Fingon. "Didn't I just say I wished I could wake up with you by my side? I hate the fact that I've had this hanging over my head, keeping me from being able to be with you the way I want to." He moved his hands to gently hold Fingon's face. "I just never expected that you would be willing to risk it, to deal with it, to make adjustments for it. I never expected that."
Fingon's hand went up to Maedhros' chest again, his eyebrows coming together. "What did you think I would say? Did you really think I would walk away from us because of that? This means something to me, Maedhros. You mean something to me. I thought you realized that." He moved closer to Maedhros again, his voice softening, but the concern on his face evident. "I've never felt like this about anybody before. I know it's new and maybe we're moving quickly but I've never wanted something so much. I'll do anything to make this work." He was so close to Maedhros' now. "It's not that much to deal with and it's worth the effort, ok? Do you understand that?"
"I understand that," Maedhros whispered.
"We can work on this together, ok?"
Fingon found Maedhros' lips with his own, hands tangling in his hair, melting into him as he felt Maedhros pull him closer. It started like their first kiss; gentle, tender, but with all of Fingon's reassurances in the sensation of their mouths meeting. Maedhros' hands moved up Fingon's back as his lips parted and the glide of their tongues made a wave of heat flash through him.
A wordless question had been asked and this was the answer. His fingers tightened in Maedhros' hair—he wasn't going to let this go. His chest felt hot, the warmth of the fire too much for him now, when added to the heat of Maedhros' body so close to his, but somehow still not close enough.
His mouth was moving on Maedhros', more insistent now but with a conscious effort he tamped it down, making his touches gentler again, not wanting to move too fast, not when they had made so much progress. Maedhros had opened up and he wasn't going to push him further. It was enough, for now it was more than enough.
Maedhros felt the softening in Fingon and followed his lead. He wanted to savor this; lingering touches, languorous kisses, sharing every breath and so much more. He had dared to take a step and he'd been met halfway. His heart pounded as he gently stroked Fingon's back, his fingers reaching up to thread through his hair, his mouth sliding over Fingon's in the way he had imagined since they had last been together.
He didn't know how much time passed before Fingon pulled back, breathless, his pupils wide and eyes heavy lidded, to rest his forehead on Maedhros' own. Maedhros couldn't keep the smile from his face as he looked at him, his own breath uneven from their touch. "This is where I've wanted to be," Maedhros whispered.
Fingon buried his face in Maedhros' neck and murmured "This is where I always want to be," so quietly that Maedhros almost didn't catch the words. He brushed his fingers down Fingon's back, wrapped his arms close around him and then rested his cheek on that soft, dark hair. They stayed that way as the fire burned low and the light grew dimmer outside.
It was only later that Maedhros realized Fingon hadn't even asked him why he had the nightmares.
Thanks to Cheekybeak for the positive reinforcement on this chapter and the request for more kissing.
Chapter 23 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Fingon's body may have outwardly seemed tranquil, his arms around Maedhros, enfolded in his warm embrace, but his mind was anything but.
A part of him was still in a state of disbelief that he had actually attempted to get on the ice. It would have been far more sensible to have just told Maedhros the truth upfront. It would have saved him some embarrassment and Maedhros some unnecessary guilt. But would Maedhros have opened up if Fingon hadn't dared to first? He wasn't sure. There was no question he was grateful for what they had accomplished today but one particular phrase Maedhros had uttered lingered in Fingon's mind.
"You don't owe me an explanation." Maedhros had said that earlier. It resonated now and Fingon was quite sure there was a story behind those nightmares, one Maedhros had not shared with him. The words had likely reflected Maedhros' own feelings perhaps far more than he was willing to admit.
He respected Maedhros' right to keep that information to himself until he was ready to share whatever troubled him. For now it was enough that Maedhros had admitted there was an issue at all.
It must be something of significance if it made Maedhros feel anything like the panic Fingon had experienced today on the ice. He was more than willing to have Maedhros come to terms with it at his own pace, knowing what that feeling was like.
But just as Maedhros had inadvertently revealed more of his inner thoughts than he had intended, so had Fingon. He didn't think Maedhros had actually heard what he said--he certainly hadn't acknowledged it. Perhaps the depth of Fingon's feelings for him wasn't completely out in the open. Not that he didn't want it to be; being more open with Maedhros was something he craved. But there seemed to be enough stress on Maedhros right now without adding that too. They were still learning how to communicate with each other and his revelation might be overwhelming. It would come with time. He didn't need to say it out loud yet. It was still early in their relationship, even if his heart felt otherwise.
He shifted slightly; content as he was in Maedhros' arms the floor certainly wasn't the most comfortable location--his left foot was going numb. Maedhros instantly glanced down at him. "You ok?" he asked.
"I'm better than ok," Fingon smiled back. "But this floor is a little hard."
"I'm sorry," Maedhros apologized. "I should have suggested moving to the sofa earlier."
"Stop that," Fingon warned. "I was perfectly capable of telling you earlier or suggesting it myself."
"Well, now I know," Maedhros said, standing and pulling Fingon up with him. He put his arms around Fingon, resting his cheek on Fingon's hair.
"Should I be expecting one of your brothers to walk in anytime soon?" Fingon asked.
Maedhros leaned back and grinned down at him. "No worries about that. Maglor has recitals most of the day and then some sort of reception tonight. I don't expect him back until later. Tyelko had practice with the team." Maedhros raised one eyebrow and looked amused. "I believe he had plans for dinner with your sister."
"Why didn't I know about that?" Fingon complained. "She just got home yesterday."
"Tyelko's been texting or calling her every day from what I can tell. He's excited to see her again."
Aredhel had mentioned Tyelko more in her texts over the last few weeks. It seemed Fingon would have to wait to get the whole story from her in person.
"I should probably start working on that dinner I promised you," Maedhros said, reluctantly releasing Fingon from his arms.
"I'm looking forward to it. Can I help at all?"
"I'd love the company."
They made their way to the kitchen hand in hand.
Fingon found himself seated at the table, a salad spinner in his hands, as he watched Maedhros confidently move about the kitchen. He probably had no idea how adorable he looked, Fingon thought--Maedhros' hair up in a ponytail now, his glasses periodically slipping down his nose, a wine-colored apron with an eight-pointed star covering his clothing and making him look remarkably professional and undeniably attractive.
Maedhros swept by him to retrieve something from the refrigerator. He looked down at Fingon fondly. "It works better if you actually spin it," he said, gesturing at the salad spinner.
"Oh. Right. Sorry. Told you I was pretty useless in a kitchen," Fingon said, vigorously spinning the handle now. "May I ask what we're having for dinner or is it a surprise?"
"Not a surprise--you're here watching anyway. Nothing that complicated-- just some venison steaks with a chestnut puree, vegetables on the side, a salad and dessert," Maedhros said, cracking an egg and expertly separating the yolk from the white as he spoke.
Fingon's eyes stayed on him, the salad spinner falling idle yet again. "I feel like I'm in a swanky restaurant with a menu like that. Where'd you get the venison?"
"Tyelko. He brought one down a few weeks ago. He usually gets one a season," Maedhros replied, continuing to pour ingredients into the bowl in front of him.
"So, he's a hunter too. All around outdoorsman?"
"Oh yeah. He bagged some quail too but I prefer the venison--it cooks quickly on the grill." Maedhros' voice was loud now to be heard over the mixer. "I'm also not a fan of picking out the buckshot out of quail."
"No buckshot in the venison then?" Fingon had gone camping and fishing with his father many times but he had no experience with hunting.
"No, Tyelko prefers to shoot deer with his bow." Maedhros had turned the mixer off.
"He's quite good actually," Maedhros admitted, pouring the mixture into some small pans. Fingon had no idea what he was making but it smelled like chocolate. "I'll let this chill while I do the rest." He passed by Fingon again as he put the pans in the refrigerator. "You getting anywhere with that salad?"
Fingon whipped the spinner back into action but Maedhros laid a hand on his shoulder and stopped him. "I'm sure it's fine," he said, taking it out of Fingon's hands.
He leaned back in his chair, free to observe Maedhros uninterrupted now as he crossed to the patio doors and stepped out to the grill that was nestled next to the house.
"Snow's really coming down," Maedhros said as he came back into the kitchen, stamping his feet and kicking off his shoes. "I'm glad Grandfather screened in that porch. Makes year round grilling so much easier."
"Can I do anything else to help?" Fingon questioned.
"There's a wine refrigerator in the pantry--can you grab a bottle from the top shelf?"
Fingon found the wine easily, perusing the label as he walked back to sit at the table again. "Odd name for a wine, isn't it? The Prisoner? Is it a red?"
"That particular winery gives all their wines odd names. It's actually quite a good vintage. It's a blend of reds-Zin, Cabernet, Syrah. It goes nicely with the meat. Is red ok for you?" Maedhros asked.
"Sounds great. I'm not too well-versed in wine," Fingon admitted.
"It was a hobby of my grandfather's," Maedhros said. "He always let us taste from his glass when we were growing up. He would tell us to concentrate on the nose--the scent of the wine-- and try to pick out the things we could recognize. It made the flavor experience more intense, trying to figure out what scent correlated with the taste," Maedhros explained. "My father shared his passion for wine and I suppose it just naturally passed on to me."
"I hope I'm able to appreciate it properly," Fingon said.
"That's why I picked this one--it's approachable, rich in flavor, but not too dry." Maedhros' smile became brighter. "Basically it goes down easy."
"I'll keep that in mind," Fingon said, unable to take his eyes off Maedhros when he smiled like that, the wine bottle forgotten in his hands.
The timer went off and Maedhros was suddenly a flurry of activity--pulling pans off the stove, sprinting to the patio, returning with the steaks. "You open the wine and I'll get the food plated. Bottle opener is on the counter behind you." Maedhros motioned to the far counter with a free hand.
Fingon managed to get the wine open without breaking the cork. He followed Maedhros into the dining room, bottle in hand. It was a large room; two place settings had already been set at the far end of the massive table.
Maedhros set the plates he was holding down at the place settings and took the bottle from Fingon, pouring wine into the two glasses. He took one, swirled it, tasted it and then set it back on the table."Sit. I'll get the other plates and be right back."
"This looks amazing," Fingon said, when Maedhros returned with the main course. The plates were artfully arranged-the steak resting on the chestnut puree, sauce drizzled in an abstract pattern on the plate and the green beans artfully criss-crossed.
"So I'm getting a good score on presentation then?" Maedhros asked, sliding into the seat next to him.
Maedhros lifted his glass and met Fingon's gaze. "Cheers. I'm glad I got the chance to cook for you."
Fingon raised his glass and gently clinked Maedhros'. "I hope it's just the first of many times."
"You haven't even tasted the food yet," Maedhros pointed out but he reached to take Fingon's hand. He laced their fingers together gently and his face grew serious. "Thank you for coming out here today. You've no idea how much it means to me."
"There's nowhere I'd rather be," Fingon answered. They both took a sip of wine. "This is good," Fingon said, sounding somewhat surprised.
"I'm glad you like it but you should try the food and see if you'll ever let me cook for you again," Maedhros said.
Every bite was sublime. Fingon could have been at any one of Tirion's top restaurants. "I'm considering trading Finrod out for you," Fingon said, then flushed as he realized how his words must have sounded.
But Maedhros just laughed. "I'd rather not commute from Tirion but thank you for the offer. We've got enough extra rooms so maybe you could just stay here if you like the food that much," His eyes sparkled with amusement as he continued. "But be warned--I don't cook like this every night--and we all take turns. You'll likely regret your decision when you taste Maglor's cooking."
"You'd probably get sick of always eating pasta, if I had to take a turn," Fingon said gloomily.
"It's still likely better than Maglor. He gets distracted easily so everything is either burned or undercooked," Maedhros said. He pushed back his chair. "Have another glass of wine. I've got to get the dessert out of the oven."
Maedhros leaned against the counter as he waited for the lava cakes to finish baking. It was good to have a minute to himself. Cooking was usually very relaxing for him but today had not been a typical day by any means and he really wanted this meal to be perfect for Fingon.
It seemed he wasn't alone in having issues. His heart went out to Fingon but a small part of him breathed a little easier knowing that they shared this similarity as well. He shook his head as he thought about how straightforward Fingon was and how challenging it had been for him to tell Fingon even the most basic part of his story. But he had done it. Somehow Fingon's determination and openness had let Maedhros take that step. It was a start. He didn't feel good about the fact that he was not being completely honest. He was still learning to trust Fingon though, more than he'd ever trusted anyone outside the family, other than Azaghâl.
Fingon poured himself a generous portion of wine. His face was still flushed and
the wine likely wasn't going to make that any better. He hadn't even had that much to drink yet and his mouth was already running away from him.
Still, he couldn't keep the smile off his face. It had been hellish for awhile today but overall it was going far better than he had expected, aside from his panic attack on the ice and the aftermath of that. Maedhros had trusted him enough to finally open up. Braving the ice was worth it just for that.
Maedhros soon returned with the chocolate dessert he had been concocting earlier. "Best to eat it warm, before the ice cream melts."
Fingon took a bite, closed his eyes and rested his head on the back of his chair. "This is incredible. You could be on one of those shows, you know."
Maedhros laughed again. "It's just a hobby," he said. "I find it relaxing to cook." He had a very fond expression on his face, his silver eyes focused on Fingon and a small smile on his lips. He leaned his head on his hand and watched Fingon eat. "I'm glad the meal lived up to your expectations."
"Surpassed them," Fingon mumbled around his last bite of cake. He drained his wine glass and leaned back in his chair. "I'm practically in a food coma."
"It's too early to fall asleep," Maedhros said, checking his watch. "It's not even eight o'clock." He stood up and picked up the plates nearest him. "I'll clean up."
Fingon pushed his chair back. "Absolutely not. You cooked. The least I can do is clean up."
They cleaned up together, the table first and then the kitchen, Fingon relishing the comfortable domesticity of the moment. He felt a tug in his chest as he leaned against the counter, watching Maedhros start the dishwasher. He moved behind Maedhros and wrapped his arms around him, resting his head on his back. He wanted this--this closeness, this domesticity, these easy comfortable moments. He could see himself coming home to this every night and oh did he want that.
"Thank you," he mumbled into the fabric of Maedhros' shirt. He felt Maedhros' hands come to rest on his and a small sigh escaped the taller man as he turned in his arms and they stood together, Fingon's head resting on his shoulder. Lips brushed Fingon's forehead and he looked up.
"You're welcome. It was fun to cook for you--you're far more appreciative and helpful than my brothers," Maedhros said. "Do you want to head back to the fire or do something else?"
"I'll fall asleep if I sit by the fire, after all that food," Fingon confided. And it was quite likely that at least one of Maedhros' brothers would be coming home sooner rather than later. He didn't want a repeat of the scene in his apartment from a few weeks ago. Better to play it safe. He looked up at Maedhros with a bright expression. "I'm not ready to go to sleep yet. Should we try the game room instead?"
"Pool or darts?" Maedhros asked.
"Pinball. I haven't seen one of those in years."
They had moved from pinball, to darts, to pool over the next few hours. It was nearly ten o'clock when they heard voices in the kitchen. Moments later Tyelko and Aredhel walked into the room.
"Finno!" Aredhel was in Fingon's arms. "Tyelko said you'd be here." She beamed up at him, her eyes sparkling. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her hair.
"Hey, Fingon," Tyelko said, nodding at him and then turning his eyes to his older brother questioningly. Fingon saw Maedhros give him a small nod and a smile and Tyelko's whole face lit up, as he appeared to receive the answer he was looking for from his silent question.
Aredhel tugged on Fingon's arm and he reluctantly pulled his gaze away from the brothers. "This is perfect, Finno. I told Mom I was staying with you tonight."
"What?" Fingon whipped his head down to look at her. "But I'm not in Tirion tonight. You can't stay at my place."
Aredhel grinned. "I know. But technically I didn't lie to her. I told her I was staying with you tonight but I didn't say where." She raised her eyebrows at him and her grin got even wider.
He narrowed his eyes at her. "What do you mean?"
"I mean we're both staying here tonight so I told Mom the truth--I am staying with you," Aredhel looked pleased with her logic.
"You're staying here?" Fingon repeated.
"Well, of course I am. Tyelko and I had dinner in Formenos. The roads are awful-it's a blizzard out there--and the trains aren't running at this time. I'm not going to let him drive me home and then drive back on these roads." She got that stubborn look that was all too familiar to Fingon. "You certainly aren't letting Maedhros drive you back in this."
"Leave me out of this," Fingon said, lowering his voice. He glanced at Maedhros and Tyelko but they appeared to be deep in quiet conversation themselves. "You can't spend the night here. You barely know him!" he whispered.
"Give me a break, Fingon. I can spend the night wherever I please. I don't need you bossing me around. If I choose to spend the night here that's my decision. If I choose to spend the night with Tyelko, that's my decision too. I don't see where you get any say in it."
"You've dragged me into this by telling Mom you're with me, so I most certainly get a say in this," Fingon whispered back, a stubborn look that matched her own on his face now. They silently glared at each other.
Maedhros broke the silence, speaking from across the room. "Tyelko says the roads are awful. Looks like that snowstorm they were warning us about all week finally came." He looked from Aredhel to Fingon, taking in their nearly identical stormy expressions. "I think you two should stay here for the night. Roads should be better in the morning, once the plows come out, and I can drive you both home." He paused, giving Tyelko a sidelong look before continuing. "We've more than enough spare rooms here so don't worry about it at all. We'll get you settled in no time."
Fingon felt a strange mixture of frustration and relief at his words. Aredhel's arrival had scuttled any plans he might have been contemplating for one-on-one time with Maedhros in surroundings that were familiar to his host, but it had also effectively put a stop to any plans Aredhel might have had to find herself in Tyelko's bed.
She tossed her head and smiled at Maedhros. "That sounds perfect."
This wasn't quite how Fingon had planned to broach the subject of spending the night but it would have to do. It was kind of Maedhros to offer to let them stay; there was no way Fingon was going to push the issue of someone driving Aredhel home, not if the roads were unsafe. If he insisted on her going home he would have to go home himself, to be consistent, and that had not been part of his plan for tonight.
"Thank you Maedhros, Tyelko. It's kind of you to offer. Sorry we're taking advantage of your hospitality," Fingon said, looking at Maedhros as he spoke.
Maedhros smiled back. "It's no bother really. The house is more than big enough and we've rooms to spare." He raised his eyebrows at Aredhel. "You and Tyelko ready to take us on in eight ball or are you tired?"
"I'm never too tired to play," Aredhel said. "You're on!"
Maglor found them all in the game room when he came home an hour later. It had taken him almost twice as long as usual to drive home from Tirion and he had the advantage of a four wheel drive car. The plows had not been keeping up with the snowfall and the roads had been treacherous. He was exhausted. His mood was not improved at finding the four of them gathered around the pool table, loudly arguing about Tyelko's last shot, when he arrived home. He had really been looking forward to sitting quietly by the fire, warming up and listening to some music. He'd assumed Maedhros would have left with Fingon earlier, to beat the snow and forestall any attempt at spending the night. It seemed he had been incorrect.
"I'm home," he announced, leaning against the doorway to the game room, his eyes moving over the two couples intently.
"How'd the recitals go?" Maedhros asked, coming near to him.
"Tolerable. Some of the undergrads have a modicum of talent," Maglor responded.
"You remember Fingon and Aredhel," Maedhros reminded him. They nodded at him from across the room.
"I remember. Good to see you again," Maglor said, nodding back at them, his tone a little grumpier than Maedhros expected.
"The roads bad?" Maedhros asked.
"That's what Tyelko said. I told Aredhel and Fingon they should stay here tonight. I'd rather not drive back and forth to Tirion in this weather," Maedhros said.
"Makes sense." Maglor looked at him closely. "Everything ok?" he asked in a low voice, as the conversation between the others resumed. Maedhros seemed uncharacteristically at ease with the concept of overnight guests.
His older brother smiled. "It's all good," he said reassuringly.
Maglor gave him a searching look. "You mean that?"
Maedhros gripped his brother's shoulder. "I do. It's fine. Really."
Maglor nodded at him, his face still registering concern. "If you say so. I'm going to bed. I'm beat."
"Go get some rest and I'll see you in the morning," Maedhros said.
"Sounds good," Maglor said, then raised his voice to the others. "Good night-I'll be better company in the morning, promise."
"You're always grumpy in the morning too," Tyelko said, grinning at his older brother.
"Shut up, Tyelko," Maglor said as he left the room.
They finished their game, Tyelko and Aredhel still disputing Fingon's call on the last shot, even though the shot was clearly good.
"Tyelko, come help me get the rooms ready," Maedhros said.
"Don't bother, Maedhros--just give us some sheets and Aredhel and I can take care of the rooms ourselves," Fingon offered.
"No worries," Maedhros said. "It'll only take us a few minutes." He nodded at Tyelko, who followed him up the stairs.
Tyelko matched his steps to Maedhros'. "I tried to stay away as long as I could, Mae. I'd have driven Aredhel back to Tirion if the roads weren't absolute shit," Tyelko said, then made a frustrated sound. "Damn. I probably should have driven her back and just stayed in Tirion with Mom and Dad tonight. Sorry, I didn't even think of it." Tyelko shook his head, exasperated with himself. "I know it's awkward having Aredhel here."
"It's fine, Tyelko. I knew you were coming home tonight." Maedhros pulled linens out of the hallway closet and Tyelko followed him down the hall.
"But you weren't expecting me to bring Aredhel along. Or have her spend the night. I should have texted you a heads up but I didn't even think about it." Tyeko's frown deepened. "Sorry to be such an idiot. I guess I thought you'd probably have already taken Fingon home, trying to avoid something like this happening."
Maedhros paused in the doorway of the first spare room and looked at his brother. "Tyelko, it's fine."
"Did you talk to him? Things ok? I mean you both look like you're getting along . . . but him spending the night here? Are you really going to be ok with that, Mae?" The concern was evident of Tyelko's face.
Maedhros nodded. "I talked to him. I told him . . . well, not the whole thing . . . but he knows about the nightmares and about me clocking you and Maglor in the head."
"You told him?" Maedhros and the linens found themselves tackled in an exuberant hug. "Good for you, Mae! I knew you could do it." Tyelko pulled back. "I told you it wouldn't faze him, didn't I?"
Maedhros sighed, but was unable to keep a small smile off his face. "Is this where I'm supposed to admit you were right?"
Tyelko grinned. "It does happen on occasion, you know. And now I get to say I told you so."
"You already did," Maedhros pointed out, starting to pull the sheets on the bed.
"Never can say it enough, when it comes to you, Mae," Tyelko smirked as he helped make the bed. "So, if you've told him then why are we getting the spare rooms ready?" He looked at Maedhros with an innocent expression on his face.
"What?" Maedhros looked at him sharply.
"Well, if he knows and isn't fazed by it, aren't you going to let him sleep in your room. OW!" Tyelko exclaimed as a pillow hit him across the face.
"I've told him about it but that doesn't change the risk he would take being in my room, Tyelko, you know that as well as I do. He may be aware of what to expect now but I'm certainly not going to just jump into bed with him tonight, in a house full of people, with his sister here, and risk anything happening. I'll cross that bridge when the time is right and I'd advise you to do the same." Maedhros was glaring at him now. "You better keep your ass in your room tonight, Tyelko, and not make any 'excursions' to this end of the hallway. Stay out of Aredhel's room!"
"Valar above, Mae, did you really think I was going to try and get it on with Aredhel with her brother in the next room?"
"Well, the thought did cross my mind. You certainly seemed to think I was going to," Maedhros retorted.
Tyelko's face was serious now. "It's not like that with her, Mae. I really don't want to mess this up by moving too fast."
Maedhros knew that look. Tyelko wasn't kidding. Seems he'd fallen hard too.
Tyelko shoved him. "You're losing your sense of humor, Mae. I was just kidding about Fingon." He gave Maedhros another bright grin. "But I'm sure it's only a matter of time now that you've told him. I've seen how you two look at each other." He was able to dodge the pillow flung in his direction this time.
Aredhel and Fingon were engaged in a similar conversation downstairs.
"Once we get up there I expect you to stay in your room!" Fingon ordered Aredhel.
She rolled her eyes at him. "Give me a break, Finno. I told you weeks ago I wasn't going to sleep with him right away and I meant it. That doesn't mean I don't want to have a little bit of fun. You're being such a spoilsport." She crossed her arms on her chest and looked at him appraisingly. "Don't tell me you wouldn't like a little time by yourself with Maedhros?" She leaned back against the wall behind her. "You're telling me you aren't going to sneak into his room tonight, at least for a little while?"
"I am not," Fingon said, truthfully. There was no way, with what Maedhros had told him today, that he would ever consider doing that but Aredhel didn't need to know his reasons. "I'm perfectly comfortable taking things slow with Maedhros and I wouldn't do anything like that with you and all his brothers here! I'd advise you to do the same."
Aredhel exhaled and rolled her eyes again. "Seriously, Finno. When did you get so boring?"
He was about to respond but heard Tyelko and Maedhros' voices. He contented himself with glaring at her but composed his face by the time the brothers walked in again.
"Rooms are ready but you don't have to head to bed yet if you aren't ready," Maedhros said. "We can keep going here." He looked at his watch. "Or we could watch a movie, if you guys are up for it?"
The four of them found themselves sprawled on the two large sofas in the family room, watching a movie until sometime after one in the morning. Fingon fell asleep long before it ended, his head on Maedhros' shoulder. Tyelko had fallen asleep with his head in Aredhel's lap; she had been stroking his disheveled hair while he was still awake and he had soon drifted off.
She turned to look across the room at Maedhros as the credits rolled by. "My brother really likes you," she said quietly.
He met her eyes. "I really care for him too," he said. Maedhros tilted his head as he looked at her. "I should tell you my brother really likes you too."
She regarded him seriously for a moment before speaking again. "I've never seen Fingon like this about anyone." Her eyes narrowed. "Don't you dare break his heart."
Maedhros felt the chill of her gaze but he kept his eyes steadily on her. "I've no intention of doing that. I told you I care about him too." He paused and regarded her coolly. "I'd ask you to have the same consideration for my brother. He gives his heart quite easily, I'll have you know. I'd hate to see him hurt."
She looked down at Tyelko fondly and continued to gently stroke his hair. "I've no intention of doing that," she said, echoing his words. She looked up at him, a small smile on her face now. "As long as we understand each other."
"I believe we do."
Her smile grew broader. "Then we'd best get these two to bed, don't you think?"
He nodded and gently prodded Fingon, who groaned and sat up, blinking at him. Aredhel elicited much the same reaction from Tyelko but soon the four of them were making their way up the stairs to the second floor.
Maedhros led the way down the hall and stopped in front of an open door. "Aredhel, I've got you here. Fingon's next door. These two rooms share a bathroom between--I hope that's ok." He grinned at her. "I assume you've shared before."
She laughed. "Unfortunately yes, but at least this time it's only for one night." She leaned in towards Tyelko and gave him a quick kiss. "I'll see you in the morning. I can't wait to go out in the snow!"
Tyelko put his arms around her. "G'night," he mumbled as he kissed her back, then made his way down the other end of the hallway, headed to his bedroom.
Fingon gave Aredhel a look as she made her way into her room. "Yes, Finno, I got it. Go to bed!" she said, shutting the door behind her.
Maedhros pulled him to the next room and opened the door. He put his arms around Fingon and gave him a quick kiss on the forehead.
"Well, there went my chance to try my familiar surroundings plan," Fingon mumbled. He looked up at Maedhros. "And now my sister's next door so I've no chance of convincing you to stay here, do I?"
"None at all. I made Tyelko promise to stay in his room so I've got to do the same," Maedhros said, looking amused.
"Told Aredhel the same thing." He went up on tiptoe and placed a kiss on Maedhros' lips. "I meant what I said earlier. We can work through this. Not tonight, obviously, but you know what I mean," Fingon said.
"I do know what you mean," Maedhros said, looking thoughtful. "I can try, that's about all I can say, Fingon. I can try. But I really don't want to risk anything happening to you," he said, his voice deepening with suppressed emotion.
"I'm willing to risk it. I know what to watch out for and so do you." He combed a strand of Maedhros' hair back gently. "We can do this. Trust me."
Maedhros breath stuttered for a minute and then he whispered "I do trust you." He leaned down and kissed Fingon, tightened his arms around him briefly and then stepped back. "Ok, I've got to go or I'll never leave."
Fingon put his hand on Maedhros' chest. "I'll see you in the morning. Thank you again, for everything." He watched Maedhros pull the door shut behind him.
He was asleep moments after his head hit the pillow.
It took Maedhros quite a bit longer to fall asleep. He hadn't dared to let himself feel hope like this. It made his heart race. Maybe Fingon was right. Maybe they could work this through together.
Chapter 24 by NelyafinweFeanorion
It was mostly Maglor’s fault. Maedhros had fully anticipated falling asleep as soon as he got to bed. He had not expected to find his brother, book in hand and headphones on, seated comfortably on his bed at 1:30 in the morning.
“I thought you went to bed hours ago,” Maedhros said, when he caught sight of him.
Maglor pulled his headphones off. “I wanted to talk to you.”
“You’ve been up here, waiting to talk to me, all this time? Why didn’t you just come get me?” Maedhros asked, sitting on the edge of the bed. Maglor scooted over and sat, cross-legged, book and headphones now in his lap. Maedhros moved to mirror his position, smiling at the memories it brought. How many times over the years had they ended up just like this at the end of the night?
“I didn’t want to make it obvious. I assumed you would be up here sometime, although I was starting to wonder if you were going to make it back to your room,” Maglor said, his eyes on his brother, his expression concerned. He went right to the point. “What’s with them spending the night, Maedhros?” He looked puzzled now. “You practically freaked out when I told you this might happen and now you’re fine with it?”
“It’s not like Fingon’s spending the night in my room, Maglor. I wasn’t going to drive them home in this weather and for once Tyelko showed enough judgement to not do it either. You were the one who said the roads were awful,” Maedhros tilted his head and gave Maglor a questioning look of his own. “What’s really bothering you?”
Maglor shifted his legs around. “I know the roads are shit and it makes sense for them to stay. But still. He’s here. Just down the hall. You’re ok with that?”
“Trust me, he’s not going to try to sneak into my room. Not that he would anyway but I did tell him. He knows,” Maedhros explained.
“All of it?”
“No, not all of it,” Maedhros' voice became a little sharper but then he sighed and hunched his shoulders forward. “I couldn’t tell him all of it.” He looked directly at his brother. “He knows enough, for now. He knows about the nightmares and what I’m likely to do if I wake up during one.”
“And he was fine with that?”
“Completely.” Maedhros smiled and Maglor was surprised at how young his brother suddenly looked. “It was no big deal to him. I thought . . . well, I don’t know what I thought he’d say honestly . . . I just expected the worst, you know?”
“I know,” Maglor said drily.
“Shut up. You know what I mean,” Maedhros continued, a slight flush of color on his face. “Maglor, it didn’t faze him at all. He just thanked me for telling him and then said we can work through this.” He shook his head and Maglor felt a sudden wrench in his chest at his brother’s expression. He looked so hopeful. He really couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen that look on his face. He pulled himself back to what Maedhros was saying. “And . . . and . . . I’d like to think maybe . . . maybe we can work through it. Together.” He gave Maglor a crooked smile and the tension Maglor had been holding onto over the last few hours started to slip away.
“Ok, start at the beginning. I need to know everything. How did you manage to tell him?” Maglor asked.
He listened to Maedhros’ rendition of the day, his breath catching when he heard about the botched skating attempt and the back story on that.
“So, you see, once I knew that, I thought he would understand,” Maedhros said. “I just told him.”
Maglor nodded. “You think you’ll tell him about the rest?” he asked softly.
Maedhros frowned, the crease in his forehead deepening as he thought. “I think I can . . .” he said slowly. “I just don’t know if I can do it right now.”
“You really like him, don’t you?”
“It’s more than that,” Maedhros said, his voice hushed. “Honestly, I’ve never felt like this about anyone ever . . . he makes me feel . . . I don’t even know if I can put it into words—like I could tell him anything and he’d be here for me, no matter what. That I can trust him. And that he appreciates me, despite everything. I know I’m rambling, I can’t really figure out how to say it."
“I get it. Have you told him that? How you feel about him?” Maglor asked.
“No,” Maedhros made a face. “No. I’d want to be open about everything before I tell him that. It’s not fair otherwise. It’s not honest. If I’m going to be open about my feelings for him I need to be open about all the other stuff—no halfway.”
“Has he said anything?” Maglor decided to keep going. Maedhros was more talkative than he had expected.
Maedhros shook his head. “No . . . I mean we’ve both mentioned how this isn’t like other relationships we’ve had but nothing more than that.” He looked thoughtful again for a moment. “It’s been different though, these last two times.” A smile came over his face and Maedhros flushed again. Maglor was struck once again by how young his brother looked. He’d never seen this kind of fond expression on his face, even when they were teenagers and confessing long-ago crushes to each other.
“You know how he was always kind of flustered at first?” Maedhros asked. Maglor nodded. “Since last week he’s not like that—there’s more confidence, he’s bolder about what he says, he doesn’t get all nervous or stumble over his words like he did.” Maedhros' eyes had a soft, far-away look. “It was cute when he was rattled but it’s so much better now.”
Maglor rested his chin on his hand. Maedhros was far gone, that was obvious. He felt like he should be worried about it but it had been so long since he had seen Maedhros look so content that he couldn’t really muster the will to question it. Maedhros had looked a bit like this when he had decided to open the bookstore. It was one of those rare occasions that he chose to just enjoy his brother’s happiness for a moment.
It was too much to expect it to last. Maedhros’ eyes widened as Maglor watched him and his face paled. “Shit!” he exclaimed.
“Bloody hell, Maedhros!” Maglor said irritably. “You actually looked happy for a minute. What did you just realize—something you need to be distressed about that isn’t your responsibility again?” Maglor’s face clouded over with frustration.
“Shit. Bloody hell,” Maedhros said, ignoring him. “I can’t believe I missed it. I didn’t even say anything.”
“Care to explain what the fuck you are stressing out about now?” Maglor growled.
“Fingon. Damn it.” Maedhros grabbed a pillow and crushed it in his arms, burying his face as he continued to mumble into the depths of it.
“I don’t know why I even bother,” Maglor muttered. “Valar above, Maedhros. One minute you’re all misty-eyed about him and the next you’re swearing incoherently. What are you going on about?”
“What he said. I totally missed it. I was thinking back on the good part of the day and it hit me. I didn’t even acknowledge it.” Maedhros' face popped up out of the pillow and then went back down.
Maglor took a breath and counted. Maedhros would get to the point eventually. He knew his brother. He had to get through the part where he berated himself and Maglor just had to be patient, which was why he was counting. It was always risky getting angry at Maedhros—he would either clam up completely, which was more likely, or he would explode into a white-hot rage of his own. It was rare that he did that, but it was best avoided.
He had just counted to thirty-two when Maedhros’ face lifted off the pillow again, his eyes wide and clouded with regret. Thirty-three, thirty-four, thirty-five, Maglor said to himself.
“Maybe I’m reading it the wrong way,” Maedhros said. “But I don’t think so. He’s so forthright I can’t think of any other meaning.”
Forty-two, forty-three, forty-four. Maglor was not going to interrupt him.
“So, you know, after I told him, we had . . . well, it was just a nice moment, ok?” Maedhros said.
Fifty-two, fifty-three, fifty-four. Maglor’s nails were digging half circles into his palms. He really wanted his brother to get to the point but there was no use in intervening now. He just had to wait for Maedhros to get it out at his own pace. Sixty-one, sixty-two, sixty-three.
“So, I said ‘this is where I’ve wanted to be’,” Maedhros said, color coming back into his face as he spoke. “And then he said ‘this is where I always want to be’ and I didn’t think about it at the time but. . .” Maedhros frowned as his eyes met Maglor’s. “But when I think about it now it seems like he was saying a whole lot more.”
Those would make good song lyrics Maglor thought. He’d been writing a love song—pointless of course, but that was what he did—composed songs. The melody was all worked out but he’d been struggling with the lyrics—he hadn’t wanted to be very obvious with the words. These phrases of Maedhros and Fingon’s would work well at subtly conveying the emotions.
He shook his head and pulled himself back to Maedhros, sitting in front of him, looking dejected. “What did you say to him?” Maglor asked.
Maedhros groaned, face buried in the pillow again. “That’s the problem,” he mumbled. “I didn’t say anything back. I didn’t acknowledge it at all. I didn’t even kiss him.”
Maglor thought about what he could say to make his brother feel better but all he came up with was “Oh.”
Maedhros glared at him. “That’s it? That’s all you can say? I’ve found someone amazing, who cares about me, who basically tells me just how much he cares about me and I miss it and the best you can do for me is ‘oh’? I thought you were the one who was supposed to be good at this!”
“How am I supposed to be good at this? You’re the one who’s so great with words. I can write songs but you know I’ve always sucked at relationships. You know that,” Maglor retorted.
“It’s never stopped you from giving advice. You’ve been all over me with suggestions about my relationship with Fingon,” Maedhros snapped.
“I said I’m not good at them. I never said I wasn’t good at observing them and pointing out the flaws,” Maglor said.
The brothers stared at each other for a moment before they both burst into laughter, the tension in the air dissipating.
“Observing others and pointing out their flaws is your specialty,” Maedhros said.
“Well, you’d already cornered the market on being a guilt magnet and shouldering outrageous responsibility for things beyond your control,” Maglor pointed out. He reached across and put his hand on his brother’s arm. “It’ll be ok. With everything else that went on today I think he’ll understand why you might have missed that.”
“You think so?”
“I’m sure. It was subtle anyway.” He watched his brother for a moment and then spoke again, quietly. “What would you have said? If you’d realized it at the time?”
“Oh,” Maedhros’ eyes widened. “I don’t really know. I’d probably just have kissed him.”
“Seems an appropriate response.” Maglor continued to study his brother. “Do you feel the same way?”
“Do I love him, you mean?” Maedhros said, his fair skin changing color again. “I haven’t known him all that long,” he hedged. Maglor just kept looking at him. Maedhros looked down and picked at a thread on the pillow. “I think I could,” he finally said. “I think I could let myself.”
Maglor leaned forward. “I think you already have.”
The crooked smile was back on his brother’s face and Maglor had never been happier to see it.
There was a muffled thud and the mattress bounced. “Wake up, Finno,” Aredhel’s voice said, just above his head.
He mumbled into the pillow and ignored her. She shoved him. “Come on, wake up! It’s stopped snowing, it smells like pancakes and it’s time for you to get up!”
Groaning, he sat up. She grinned at him as she sat cross-legged on his bed, watching him rub his eyes and run a hand through his messy hair. “Fine, stay here then. I’m going downstairs for breakfast.” She hopped off the bed and looked down at him.
“What are you wearing?” he asked, eyeing her loose t-shirt and plaid flannel pants.
“I found these in the drawer in my room. Unlike you, I didn’t pack anything.” She winked at him and picked up his backpack from the floor. “So, is this staying over a regular occurrence?” Aredhel asked, throwing Fingon’s backpack on the bed.
Fingon stood up and took the backpack with him. “No, it’s not a ‘regular occurrence.’ It just seemed like a wise idea to be prepared—what with the weather and the train schedule.”
She gave him an appraising look and raised one eyebrow.
“The answer is no,” he finally said, sitting back down and rummaging through his backpack for clean clothes.
“So, you aren’t sleeping with him?”
“Didn’t I just tell you that? Not that it’s any business of yours anyway.” He dropped the bag on the bed again and looked up at her. “I told you I’m not rushing into anything.”
“Ok,” Aredhel said as she sat down on the bed next to him again, bumping his shoulder. “Do you have to go back any specific time today?” she asked, moving to the next topic on her mind.
“No, no plans. Why?”
“Tyelko said maybe we could go cross country skiing or ice fishing today. I was hoping you didn’t have to go back early.”
“Sounds cold,” Fingon said. “I think sitting by the fire sounds like a much better idea.” He gave her an affectionate look. “But I know how much you love being outside.”
“I’ve never ice fished,” she said. “Too bad there’s so much snow on the lake it would be fun to . . .” she stopped and her brow creased as she looked at Fingon. “Sorry, never mind,” she added quickly.
“It’s frozen enough to skate,” he said. “But there’s probably too much snow on the surface.”
Aredhel gave him a puzzled look. “How do you know it’s frozen enough?”
He fell back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. “I went on the lake yesterday,” he admitted.
“What?” Aredhel’s face filled his vision as she leaned over him, concern on her features. “You did what?”
He exhaled loudly and closed his eyes. “Maedhros had planned a skating day. I didn’t have the heart to tell him—he looked so excited.”
“You seriously went skating, Finno?” Aredhel’s voice was shaky.
He opened his eyes. She was next to him, on her side with her head resting on her arm, worry broadcast all over her face.
“No. I tried to go skating. I failed miserably.” He turned on his side, mirroring her position. “I was trying to play it cool, not let on that I was freaking out and I ended up having a complete panic attack.” He shook his head. “I should have just told him but I was too embarrassed, I guess.”
Her blue eyes met his and she reached over to brush the hair off his forehead. “There was never anything to be embarrassed about and you know it. I’m proud of you for trying, Finno.” Her expression became serious. “What did he do when you freaked out?”
“Maedhros? He was incredible. He just took care of me—got me out of the skates, back to the house. Never even questioned me on why I panicked. I told him everything once we got inside.” Fingon smiled at his sister. “Like I said, I should have said something as soon as he mentioned skating.”
Aredhel studied him. “You really like him, Fingon.” It wasn’t a question, the way she said it, using his full name.
“Yeah, I do. I really do. I think . . .” he paused. “Let’s just leave it at that,” he said.
Aredhel had been correct about the pancakes but it was actually Tyelko cooking, not Maedhros. He had a stack already on a plate when Aredhel and Fingon arrived in the kitchen. Maedhros was pulling plates and glasses out of the cupboard. “Good morning,” he said. “Tyelko decided to impress you with his mad pancake skills this morning,” he said, smiling at his brother.
Aredhel rested her head on Tyelko’s shoulder briefly. “Cooking too? How did I get so lucky?” she laughed, as Tyelko rolled his eyes at her.
Fingon’s eyes met Maedhros’ and both their faces lit up.
They were soon gathered around the kitchen table, eating the enormous stack of pancakes Tyelko had prepared.
“Where’s Maglor?” Fingon asked.
“Still sleeping,” Tyelko answered. “He’s not really a morning person.”
“I heard that,” Maglor said, wandering into the kitchen, yawning. “Mmm. Pancakes. Trying to impress the guests, Tyelko?” He nodded at Aredhel and Fingon. “Thanks to you we get a real breakfast today.”
It didn’t take long to finish the meal and they soon found themselves on the sofas in the family room, Maedhros lighting a fire, while Aredhel and Tyelko decided what the plan for the day should be.
“There’s so much fresh snow,” Tyelko said. “No use trying to skate but we’ve got cross country skis if you’re up for it, Aredhel?” He put his arm around her and she rested her head on his shoulder. “Or we can just go hiking in the woods. I’m sure we’ve got snow gear somewhere in the garage that will fit you, don’t we Maedhros?”
“There’s some in the garage and loads more in the closet in the laundry room. Mom never gets rid of anything. The twins’ old snow pants should still be there and some boots too, I think,” Maedhros said.
“Too bad there aren’t enough of us to scrum,” Tyelko said, grinning. “It would be perfect for that.”
“You mean play rugby? In the snow?” Fingon asked.
“No, it’s this ridiculous game we came up with years ago,” Maglor explained. “It’s a lot like rugby but it really doesn’t have any set rules. It’s mostly an excuse to just get outside and beat the hell out of each other.”
“Sounds fun,” Aredhel laughed.
“You’re all home next weekend for the holiday, right?” Tyelko asked her.
“Yeah, we’ll be at my parents,” she answered.
“And we’ll all be at Mom and Dad’s, right Maedhros?” Tyelko asked his older brother.
“That’s the plan. We should be there through Christmas, if we survive without killing each other first,” Maedhros replied, moving to sit next to Fingon on the sofa now that the fire was glowing brightly.
“We should meet at Thargelion Park next weekend!” Tyelko said. “It’s not far from your house. You two can come and bring your brothers and we can all meet you there. It’ll be great.”
“I’m up for it!” Aredhel said.
Fingon looked up at Maedhros, as he leaned into him. “You working next weekend?” he asked.
“No, I took Friday and Saturday off. Erestor will be at the store. I’ll go in on Sunday,” Maedhros answered.
“So, let’s plan it,” Tyelko said. “It’ll be great.”
“And I’ll get to meet these other brothers of yours,” Aredhel said, bumping Tyelko.
“They’re not that interesting,” he said. “They’re even bigger pains in the ass than these two.”
“Didn’t you say you were going out, Tyelko?” Maglor asked.
“Right.” Tyelko stood, pulling Aredhel up with him. “Let’s see if we can find you some snow gear.” He looked at the others. “Anyone up for heading outside with us?”
Fingon shook his head. “I’m fine right here by the fire,” he said.
“Doesn’t seem like that’s the only thing keeping you warm, but I get it,” Tyelko laughed, seeing he’d successfully made the color rise on both Fingon and Maedhros’ faces. “Come on, Aredhel, we’ll leave the old folks sitting by their fire.” He was out of the room before the pillow Maglor threw at him made contact.
Maglor excused himself soon after, muttering something about some song lyrics he wanted to finalize, leaving Fingon and Maedhros alone on the sofa.
Fingon leaned his head on Maedhros’ shoulder. “Getting rid of them was easier than I thought it would be.”
Maedhros laughed as he looked down at him. “Now why would you be interested in getting rid of them all?” he asked, one eyebrow raised and a brilliant smile on his face.
“So, I can do this.” Fingon shifted and his lips met Maedhros’.
They were soon stretched out on the sofa, Fingon resting against Maedhros’ chest, much as they had been situated in the window seat the day before, Maedhros’ arms wrapped around him, his lips gently brushing Fingon’s forehead from time to time.
“Mmm. I could stay like this all day,” Fingon said.
“I’ve got no plans,” Maedhros responded, then held him a little tighter. He could say it now—something like what Fingon had said yesterday—but he held back. He wanted to speak, to say just how much Fingon meant to him. He hadn’t contradicted Maglor last night. He did feel the same. But it just wasn’t something to admit before he was completely candid with Fingon. He might be fine with the nightmares but that wasn’t the only baggage Maedhros was bringing to their relationship. Better take it step by step. He didn’t have to say the words yet.
Fingon’s voice broke into his thoughts. “What’s your week like?” Fingon asked.
“The usual. Work during the day. Off Friday and Saturday like I said,” Maedhros answered. “What about you?”
Fingon turned in his arms. “Absolutely nothing,” he grinned up at Maedhros.
“Nothing?” Maedhros asked. “What are you going to do to fill all that free time?”
“I was hoping you could help me with that,” Fingon said, the grin far more of a smirk now.
“What did you have in mind?” Maedhros had a fond look on his face.
“Mmm. I thought something like what we’re doing now. But with a lot less people around.”
“Less people would be good.” Maedhros brought his face closer to Fingon’s and found his lips. Their mouths and tongues moved over each other, slowly, each movement a tender exploration.
“This would be good too,” Fingon said, when they paused to take a breath. His face was serious now. “I meant what I said last night, Maedhros.”
Which part, Maedhros wondered, momentarily flustered, thinking back on his realization of the night before. Fortunately, Fingon kept on talking.
“I was thinking,” Fingon said, a bit hesitantly. “I was thinking about what you said yesterday.”
“What did I say?”
“What you said about the nightmares. How they’re worse in unfamiliar surroundings.” Fingon paused and Maedhros waited for him to continue, his pulse beginning to speed up a little. “I see how staying over at my place would a bad idea. I totally get that and I agree with you.” His eyes found Maedhros’ again. “But I thought maybe if we started with familiar surroundings, it would be easier.”
He had said something like that last night too. “Go on,” Maedhros said, not trusting himself to say more than that.
“So, since I don’t really have anywhere to be I thought I could try to stay here some nights—if that’s ok with you, of course,” Fingon added hurriedly, a little frown on his face now.
“Go on,” Maedhros repeated.
“Did you take Psych freshman year?” Fingon asked, completely changing the subject.
“Did you take Psych freshman year?” Fingon repeated.
“I did,” Maedhros answered slowly. “But I’m not sure where you’re going with this,” he said hesitantly, a frown coming over his face now. He had met with psychologists about it and he really didn’t like where this conversation was going. He didn’t want Fingon badgering him to try a counselor again; he’d done that. It hadn’t worked. He may as well tell Fingon that. It would be difficult to keep off the subject of the reason for his nightmares if they kept talking like this. He shifted his body on the sofa. He could feel his head beginning to throb. Reluctantly he continued, his voice clipped and sharper than he intended. “Listen, I’ve tried to work through it. Really. I’ve tried counseling. I’ve tried meds. It didn’t help.”
Fingon had noticed Maedhros’ arms becoming more rigid again, his body tensing. He hesitated but then kept going. They needed to talk this through. “Do you remember the part about exposure therapy?” Fingon continued, bypassing Maedhros’ comments about counseling.
This was not what Maedhros had expected him to say. “Exposure therapy. Yeah, I remember that. What about it?”
“It’s basically repetitive exposure to the triggering context, in a safe surrounding." The tension in Maedhros' arms hadn't lessened any. "Seems the idea of having me there is what's concerning you." Fingon kept his eyes on Maedhros. “The way I see it we are just going to have to get you so used to waking up to me that you don't lash out, because it's so familiar to have me in your bed," Fingon said, his eyes darting away now as his face colored again.
“It’s what I said last night—familiar surroundings. It happens to you less in familiar surroundings you said, so we’re controlling that variable—hopefully less frequency of the nightmares. All the other variables are constant. The only difference we’ll introduce is me.” Fingon colored a little more as he continued to speak. “If I’m there when you fall asleep, finding me there when you wake up won’t be as unexpected, right? If you keep falling asleep with me there, and waking up with me there, then I become one of the constants, just like everything else in your room. So eventually the likelihood of a nightmare should be no more frequent than if you were sleeping alone.” Fingon’s face was a mixture of concentration and hope.
“You’ll become a constant . . .” Maedhros repeated. His head was throbbing even more.
“Right. So, then the only thing we can’t control, as expected, is your response when they do occur. You didn’t say if anything in particular triggered them—we can certainly avoid anything that does. So, we know you have them, that waking you up during them is a bad idea and that waking up in general can lead to a violent response on your part, depending on the situation. You’ve determined having someone in your bed would likely result in a violent response when waking up.” Fingon frowned. “Do you have experience with that or are you hypothesizing based on your experiences having your brothers wake you up?”
Maedhros’ head was spinning. It sounded so clinical when Fingon described it. Facts and responses, expected outcomes and variables. Not like the chaotic mess it actually was. He blinked down at Fingon. He had missed the point of the last question. “Experience with what exactly . . .” he asked faintly.
Fingon turned a deeper shade of red and glanced away as he answered. “Have you had someone else in your bed and had that kind of violent response when you woke up to them there? Are you basing that on actual experience or just assuming the worst?”
It was Maedhros' turn to blush. “Ah. I um, well, I haven’t had anyone test that hypothesis out in so many words.” He closed his eyes and made his answer more direct, his face on fire now. “I haven’t gone to sleep with anyone there.” He cleared his throat and tried again. “I’ve had . . . oh well, shit.” He paused and then plowed forward. “I’ve had sex but I’ve never let myself fall asleep with someone there or let myself fall asleep at someone else’s place. If that’s what you’re asking.”
Fingon’s eyes darted back to him, a slight look of amusement in his eyes. “That wasn’t exactly what I was asking, but it answers my question.”
Maedhros dropped his arms from around Fingon, let his head fall onto the sofa behind him, closed his eyes and groaned. “I cannot believe I just said that.”
Fingon dropped his head on his chest and Maedhros could feel the vibrations running through him. He was laughing. He tilted his head up and looked at Maedhros. “That’s not usually how I ask someone about their past relationships,” he said, before burying his face in Maedhros’ chest again and continuing to laugh. “Ok, that was totally awkward,” he said, his voice muffled, “but at least we got it out of the way.” He made eye contact with Maedhros again. “What I’m trying to say it this: I’m willing to come over and spend the nights with you, to see if you can get used to having me around. I know what not to do, based on what you’ve told me. If the nightmares come, I let them run their course. If you start flailing around, I get out of the way.” A smile came over his face. “And if we feel like doing anything else to pass the time, then that works too.”
“Anything else?” Maedhros said.
“Anything at all,” Fingon replied. “I know you’re worried but I can handle this. Really. Trust me?” His voice had become just a little shakier as he said those last words.
Maedhros dropped his forehead to rest on Fingon’s. “I trust you,” he whispered. “It’s me I’m worried about.”
“I’m not,” Fingon whispered back. “We’ve got this. If you’re ok trying, that is?” His voice was so very low but Maedhros caught the words.
“I’ll try anything for you,” he whispered back.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.