I'll be Yours if You'll be Mine by NelyafinweFeanorion
Summary: 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
Content: AU
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 41 Completed: No Word count: 146929 Read: 5967 Published: October 06, 2017 Updated: December 02, 2018
Story Notes:
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

25. Chapter 25 by NelyafinweFeanorion

26. Chapter 26 by NelyafinweFeanorion

27. Chapter 27 by NelyafinweFeanorion

28. Chapter 28 by NelyafinweFeanorion

29. Chapter 29 by NelyafinweFeanorion

30. Chapter 30 by NelyafinweFeanorion

31. Chapter 31 by NelyafinweFeanorion

32. Chapter 32 by NelyafinweFeanorion

33. Chapter 33 by NelyafinweFeanorion

34. Chapter 34 by NelyafinweFeanorion

35. Chapter 35 by NelyafinweFeanorion

36. Chapter 36 by NelyafinweFeanorion

37. Chapter 37 by NelyafinweFeanorion

38. Chapter 38 by NelyafinweFeanorion

39. Chapter 39 by NelyafinweFeanorion

40. Chapter 40 by NelyafinweFeanorion

41. Chapter 41 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.
End Notes:
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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.

"Yeah."

"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.
End Notes:
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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."

"Really? How?"

"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."

TURGON: "Liar."

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
Chapter 9

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

Chapter 10

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
Chapter 11

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 what?"

"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?"

"What?!"

"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
Chapter 12

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 did."

"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.
End Notes:
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Chapter 13 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Chapter 13

TYELKO: Hey

AREDHEL: Hey

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?"

"What?"

"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.

"I know."

"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?"

"Yes."

"And?" Finrod asked.

"And what?"

"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
Author's Notes:
My thanks to Cheekybeak for helping me get the focus right in this chapter.
 Chapter 15

"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.

"What?"

"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?"

"Sounds good."

"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.

"What?"

"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?"

"What?"

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.

"How?"

"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
Author's Notes:
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 . . ."

"But what?"

"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?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"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.
End Notes:
Art by Cinemairon.


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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."

"I'm sorry."

"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.

"Pretty much."

"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.

"Sorry."

___________________________________________________

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.

MAEDHROS: Sorry

"He texted me," Fingon said quietly.

"And?"

"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?"

"Yes."

"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
Author's Notes:
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!"

"What?"

"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.

"Russandol."

"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.

" 'K."

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.
End Notes:
______________________________________

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
Author's Notes:
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?"

"Miss what?"

"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."

"Here?"

"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.

"They're fine."

"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."

"Thanks."

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.

"Maedhros?"
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.

"Done what?"

"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.

"Ok."

"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?"

"What?"

"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?"

"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.
End Notes:
Thanks to Cheekybeak for the positive reinforcement on this chapter and the request for more kissing.



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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.

"A bow!"

"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.

"Definitely."

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."

"You're on."

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.

"Horrible."

"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.


“What?”

“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.

“What?”

“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.
Chapter 25 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Fingon was back on the train to Formenos, messenger bag and backpack on the seat next to him. He checked his watch. It was almost four o'clock. He had debated with himself all morning about if he should leave earlier but had eventually decided to wait until closer to closing time for the bookstore. He didn't want to hover all day--that would certainly make Maehdros more apprehensive than he already was.

He had reiterated his plan on the drive home the night before. Tyelko had opted to take Aredhel home on his own, which gave Fingon time to have Maedhros to himself. He knew the whole idea of him staying over unsettled Maedhros but he had still agreed to try it.

Fingon had texted his usual goodnight late last night but had felt a tingle of anticipation that he would get to do it in person tonight. He had been restless all morning; attending to his neglected laundry had completely failed to distract him. He had finally gone to the Rec Center and worked out--running on the treadmill to clear his mind.

Now he was on his way. His goal was to make Maedhros comfortable--he would take his lead from him. This was a vulnerable situation for him; even though he insisted that Fingon was in the more precarious position it really wasn't true. Maedhros was opening himself up to a something he obviously dreaded. Fingon would have to be careful how he approached this; if he misjudged the situation tonight he might not get a chance to try again.

It would be easy to distract Maedhros with physical intimacy but that wasn't fair, Fingon thought. How appropriate would it be to offer that when Maedhros so obviously needed distraction and would likely be desperate for a diversion, any diversion?

It wouldn't be. It would be taking advantage of his unsettled state, just as if Maedhros' judgement was clouded by alcohol; it would be an interaction driven by sheer emotion and Fingon would not do that, no matter how much his body craved that kind of contact. He just needed to focus on being supportive, encouraging and most of all aware of boundaries.

Satisfied with his logic, he collected his belongings and exited the train at the Formenos station. He pulled his hat down low over his ears. It wasn't far to Beleriand Books but the wind had definitely picked up.

Maedhros looked up when he heard the door open. He had been expecting Fingon since he received the text that he was on the train. There he was-- eyes bright, face reddened by the cold, that smile that went straight to Maedhros' heart. And then he was in his arms, eyes only for him.

"You're freezing!" Maedhros said, as Fingon's cold lips briefly brushed his. "You should have let me pick you up from the station."

"No way. It's a five minute walk and I needed the exercise," Fingon said, as if his run that morning had never occurred. "I'll just sit here and wait for you--don't let me interrupt what you're doing." He squeezed Maedhros' arm and then dropped his bags next to the nearest armchair, shrugging off his coat and pulling off his hat. "I've got some reading I can do." He gave Maedhros his brilliant smile. "Pretend I'm not here."

Maedhros rolled his eyes. "Easier said than done."

"I'm not here to distract you." Fingon winked and settled himself in the armchair. Maedhros groaned, shook his head and made his way back to the desk.

It didn't feel like much time had passed but then he felt a hand touch his shoulder and Maedhros settled himself on the arm of his chair, his hand sliding around Fingon's back as he leaned down. "I'm ready to close up," he said. "It's six o'clock."

Fingon closed his laptop and stowed it in his bag. He watched as Maedhros dimmed the lights and shut down the computers. They walked out together and Maedhros locked the store up for the night.

"You ok eating here in town?" Maedhros asked, as they stood hand in hand under the streetlight in front of Beleriand. "We can leave your things in my car."

"Whatever you want to do," Fingon answered cheerfully. Whatever made Maedhros comfortable--that was his only directive for the night.

Once they had stowed Fingon's belongings in the Subaru they made their way to the Thai restaurant Maedhros liked.

"So how did you spend you free day today?" Maedhros asked, after they had ordered.

"Mainly with laundry," Fingon laughed. "But I did manage to go running--not something I've had time for recently."

"It's been awhile since I've run," Maedhros said. "We've got a whole workout room at the house, thanks to Tyelko, but I haven't made the effort much lately."

"I went to the Rec Center. I'd much rather go running outside but not this time of year." Fingon gave an involuntary shiver at the thought. "You a runner then?"

"I was," Maedhros said, his voice a little brusque. "I prefer the treadmill though. When I run, that is."

It was only a momentary shift but Fingon noticed. There were times when Maedhros withdrew a little--certain topics, certain situations. Now that he knew about the nightmares Fingon wondered if it was all related. The parking quirks. His grandfather. The distant look that came over him in the middle of a conversation. The running comment just now. They seemed disparate enough topics but his response to them all was similar.

He dragged his thoughts back. It was irrelevant what he thought. Maedhros would tell him when the time was right. Fingon had no reason to pry or speculate on it. He had told himself he was going to respect Maedhros' privacy and he intended to follow through on that.

Of course he was planning on insinuating himself into the privacy of Maedhros' bedroom tonight, but that was different, wasn't it? He felt his face heat up and he was momentarily thankful Maedhros seemed preoccupied with his thoughts as well.

"Is this usually a busy time for the store?" Fingon asked, shifting to a more neutral topic of conversation. Maedhros always seemed more relaxed when he was talking about his beloved bookstore.

"It's busier from Thanksgiving to Christmas but not the intensity you would get at a chain bookstore. Used books are a bit different. People tend to buy them for themselves, not so much as gifts unless it's a first edition or a rare book." Maedhros paused and looked thoughtful. "I haven't been doing this very long--it's only my second holiday season as a bookstore owner." He crossed his arms on the table and leaned forward. "I did notice something last year though and it seems to be following the same pattern this year. More people come in to buy children's books this time of year. All kinds--from board books to young adult novels."

"Why do you think that is?" Fingon asked.

Maedhros' face grew more serious as he answered. "I don't have hard data to back this up--this is just an observation--but I think more people come in this time of year to buy presents for their children because they can't afford the prices for new books. Ours are often half the price or even less." He tilted his head. "I know Christmas is hard for people when money is tight. They have to make difficult choices, especially when they have kids. Kids don't know or understand about budget constraints."

"They still expect Christmas to be Christmas you mean--like all the hype on TV--even if their parents don't have the money for that."

"Exactly," Maedhros replied. "It's hard to afford the electronics or newest toys on a limited budget but books are a lower price point in general and you can buy more of them--especially used books--with less money."

"Meaning more presents under the tree," Fingon said. "I hadn't thought about it that way."

"I didn't get a lot of business last year so I had the opportunity to notice that uptick in sales," Maedhros said. "It's been a similar trend so far this year. Kids books are my number one seller right now." He gave Fingon a smile. "So I decided to run a sale on them this week."

Fingon looked puzzled. "But why would you lower your prices on your number one selling item?"

Maedhros ran his finger in circles on the table. "I know it doesn't make sense. Moryo thinks I'm an idiot. But I don't really need the money. The store does fine. Even if it didn't, I've got a comfortable amount saved and in investments." His expression hardened momentarily. "Grandfather looked out for us all and the settlement after his death did the rest." His finger continued to trace patterns on the table but his expression softened again as he resumed speaking. "I opened the store because I wanted to--I don't really need the income--it's just something I always longed to do." He looked up at Fingon. "It's worth it, if kids have a better Christmas because their parents bought them books on sale at my store. Next year I'd like to team up with some local schools and shelters and give books away for free."

Fingon really didn't need any more reasons to love Maedhros--he was well on the way to being completely in love with him already--but this likely would have tipped the balance if he wasn't already there. His chest felt tight and he reached out to interlace his fingers with Maedhros'. "I think it sounds like a lovely idea. I don't think you're crazy at all."

They were still holding hands when their meal arrived a few moments later. They turned their focus back to dinner but Fingon felt a warm glow that had nothing to do with the spicy food. He loved learning more about Maedhros--all these little facts that made up the whole of him--each part more endearing than the last.

Maedhros could get used to having someone look at him the way Fingon did. He never questioned his quirks--his parking issues, his reticence at times, his unorthodox business practices, or the reason he was here with him tonight--his nightmares. Fingon just accepted him as he was and made him feel comfortable being who he was. It was just one more thing to love about him on a list that was daily growing longer.

He had been apprehensive all day--the thought of Fingon in his room, in his bed, alternately overwhelmed him with trepidation and filled him with longing. It was an unsettling sensation and he wasn't quite sure how he was going to get through it, other than he had no intention of sleeping tonight. He wasn't going to risk letting himself fall asleep the first night Fingon tested his theory.

They were both quiet on the drive to the house, enveloped in their own thoughts and the scent of leftover Thai food.

Maglor and Tyelko were already home, sprawled in front of the television, watching a hockey game. Maedhros and Fingon situated themselves on the other sofa, the brothers greeting them and exchanging glances of their own. Maedhros had hesitantly informed them of the plan the night before, red-faced and uncharacteristically jittery as he did.

They had both come to his room, separately, later in the night--Maglor worried, apprehensive, protective. Tyelko had been worried too but had layered it in enough profane suggestions of how he and Fingon should spend their time together that he had left Maedhros laughing instead.

His brothers retreated to their rooms as soon as the game ended, Maedhros well aware how unusual that was and Fingon blissfully oblivious.

He delayed and hesitated, flipping channels, stopping at old movies and sitcoms, feigning interest until Fingon finally yawned and put his head on Maedhros' shoulder. "I'm going to fall asleep here," he said quietly, looking up at him with drowsy eyes. "And I don't want to fall asleep here. Stop avoiding it. Let's just go to bed."

So he had been that obvious. Maedhros exhaled and pulled Fingon off the couch as he stood. Fingon took a quick detour to the laundry room to retrieve his backpack and then the inevitability of the situation finally dawned on Maedhros as they climbed the stairs together, Fingon's free hand in his.

No matter. He could get through it. He was tired, yes, but too keyed up to sleep. That had been his plan all along anyway. He wasn't going to let himself fall asleep.

It was understandably awkward, Maedhros thought, changing into a t-shirt and pajama pants in his bedroom, as Fingon did the same in his bathroom. He paced near the bed as he waited. Fingon appeared, moments later, the sleepy look still on his face, clad in similar attire.

Fingon looked at the bed and then at Maedhros. "Looks like you're on the left side." He nodded and then went to the right side of the bed, sliding under the comforter and eyeing Maedhros. "Come on, Maedhros. We can do this." He reached out a hand and Maedhros slid under the sheets on the left side of the bed, heart racing.

Fingon's hand stretched across the empty space between them and grasped his. "I'm just going to be over here, ok? This is a huge bed. I've got all the space I need, all right?" He squeezed Maedhros' hand. "Turn the light off. We'll be fine, ok?"

Fingon hadn't been sure how to handle this part. He had considered snuggling up to Maedhros, he had considered making out first too, but as tense as Maedhros was it was probably better to be as minimally intrusive as possible. That was the point, right? To let Maedhros get comfortable with the idea and with him. Having someone wrapped around him, when he was already worried about inadvertent contact, probably wasn't the best idea.

He squeezed Maedhros' fingers again and slowly let go of his hand, leaning over to quickly press a kiss to Maedhros' forehead and then gently brushed a kiss to his lips as well, before withdrawing to his edge of the bed. "We've got this. Trust me. Sleep well," he whispered, turning on his side and pulling the comforter up to his ears. He concentrated on his breathing--calm and slow.

He was tired--he had been honest when he had told Maedhros he was--but the proximity of Maedhros and the whisper of his breathing so near to him was having anything but a calming effect. He breathed in and out, his eyes closed. The moments ticked by and he started to relax.

He could feel the tension radiating off Maedhros from across the bed; he yearned to reach across the space and rest his hand on his shoulder, to let him know they could do this. But he didn't dare. He knew Maedhros was awake--he suspected he was going to stay awake all night but he had allowed him to think he didn't realize that. He wasn't going to risk this nascent trust by reaching out. He knew Maedhros feared his own unconscious behavior. He trusted Fingon would protect himself, as he had assured him he would. Reaching out now, even if Maedhros was awake, wasn't the course they had determined as the safest to avoid triggering his reactions. Even though he was sure he wasn't sleeping, touching him unexpectedly would violate that trust--Maedhros had made it very clear what could happen if he was startled out of sleep. If Fingon reached out now it might affect that fragile trust Maedhros had in him.

No. He would lie here, breathing in and out, until he fell asleep. It was only the first night. They had many nights ahead to make progress. Tonight was about trust and boundaries and Fingon was going to prove himself worthy of that trust.

Maedhros switched off the light and lay rigid, staring at the ceiling. This was ridiculous, he thought. He was next to Fingon--well basically two feet of empty space away from him--and he seriously thought Maedhros would be able to sleep? The sound and scent of him was distracting enough but Maedhros inched himself closer to the edge of the bed anyway. He had no intention of sleeping but it was still better to be cautious.

His eyes kept straying to the clock. There was no way Fingon was going to get any rest tonight, with him here. He hadn't told Fingon of his intent to stay awake, knowing he would object--that it wasn't part of the plan. Maedhros staying awake would mess up the variables. But he was sure Fingon planned to stay awake--it was the only way to keep himself safe, if Maedhros had one of his nightmares tonight. It seemed neither one of them would be getting any sleep.

Maedhros didn't care about the variables. His goal was to keep Fingon safe, not follow some protocol Fingon had come up with for this experiment of his.

He closed his eyes and took a few deep, calming breaths. And that's when he heard it.

A snore. A very quiet snore but a snore nonetheless. He darted a glance at Fingon. It was hard to see much in the dark but Fingon was there, sprawled on his stomach, face resting on the pillow, facing in Maedhros' direction--relaxed and unmistakably completely asleep.

His mouth was partly open, resulting in the little snores, his hair falling across his forehead messily.

Maedhros didn't think he had ever seen anything quite so astonishing. Fingon was asleep. Asleep. As if he wasn't lying next to an unpredictable, violence-prone, anxious mess of a person. As if he wasn't concerned. As if he was perfectly comfortable and trusting.

Any doubts that may have lingered about Fingon, about his sincerity, about his utter trust in him, about his love for Maedhros, dissipated as he watched him sleep so peacefully next to him. Maedhros ached to reach over to brush that hair off his forehead, to lean down and kiss that mouth. But no, he couldn't do that. He would let him sleep--Fingon had trusted him enough to let his guard down and fall asleep. Maedhros would honor that trust and let him be.

He turned on his side and watched Fingon, until a part of him decided that was perhaps a bit creepy. What would Fingon think if he woke up to Maedhros staring at him like that? He shook his head and rolled onto his back again. He would stay awake, as he had planned but there was a comfort to having that sleeping form next to him.

________________________________________________

He woke up slowly, stretching his arms and bringing his face deeper into the pillow before opening his eyes. Sunlight was filtering through the blinds.

Maedhros was on his side, silver eyes gazing at Fingon, a hint of a smile on his face.

"Hey," Fingon said, shifting closer to Maedhros. "We made it," he said as he shifted even closer. "You been awake long?"

"Long enough," He looked very tired, Fingon thought.

"Meaning since last night? You didn't sleep at all, did you?" Fingon asked.

He received a crooked smile in return. "Not really." A fingertip reached out and gently brushed Fingon's hair away from his eyes.

He moved close enough to put an arm around Maedhros' chest and buried his face in his shoulder. "It would have been fine if you had," he mumbled into his shirt.

Maedhros' arm slid around his waist, the warmth of his skin noticeable where Fingon's shirt had drifted up. "I just couldn't risk it," he whispered.

Fingon pulled his head back to look at him, a fierce expression on his face. "If I can trust you then you can trust yourself, ok?" His arm tightened around Maedhros.

"But Fingon. . ." his words were interrupted as Fingon half sat up and covered his mouth with his own.

He pulled back and gave Maedhros a frown. "No. I trust you. Do you understand that?"

"But. . ."

Fingon kissed him again, longer this time, his mouth sliding open and his tongue finding Maedhros'. He pulled back, his expression just as intense. "I can take care of myself, Maedhros. I know what to expect and what to do. Stop protecting me from yourself. Have some faith in me. I can handle this. I mean it."

"You make it sound so simple."

"It is simple. We've talked it through. You have to give us a chance to get through it. If you keep staying awake we won't be able to get this to work," Fingon objected. "You can't keep questioning yourself and berating yourself for something that hasn't even happened and that may not even happen." Fingon was glaring at him now. "We know you're going to have nightmares. Worrying about what might happen when you do is pointless. It doesn't help with anything and you know it."

His face moved closer and Maedhros' vision was filled with intense blue eyes. "I know what to do and what not to do. We will deal with what happens when or if it happens. Not in anticipation of something happening. Agreed?"

Maedhros wondered if Fingon would kiss him again if he argued once more. It was tempting to disagree for that reason alone. He couldn't help the smile that came across his face as he opened his mouth to speak again.

Fingon swooped down, his lips and tongue making their own declaration, his hands moving over Maedhros, his body pressing closer. It was distracting and Maedhros knew he was doing it on purpose. He hadn't even intended to say anything that time--he had honestly been pretending to argue this time just to get Fingon to kiss him again.

It appeared to be working to distract Fingon also, as he showed no inclination to pull back and lecture him again. Maedhros leaned into the contact, his fingers drifting under Fingon's shirt to lightly run up his back.

It seemed they both could play at the distraction game, he thought, as Fingon shivered at his touch.

They were slightly breathless by the time they pulled apart, foreheads touching, as Fingon closed his eyes briefly.

"You have anything more you want to say, Maedhros?" he asked, eyes open again and challenging.

"Quite a lot of things actually, but most are wildly inappropriate."

"Try me."

Maedhros laughed and kissed Fingon. His face grew serious when he leaned back though and he sat up. "Don't stop me this time, Fingon, please."

Fingon looked up at him expectantly. "I won't."

"I appreciate everything you are doing and saying--believe me--I do. But also believe me when I say I can't just let it go." Maedhros ran a hand through his disheveled hair and sighed. "I've had years of dealing with this my way. I can't just switch gears overnight. I'm going to worry. I'm going to be anxious about it." His forehead creased. "You want me to trust you. I do. You've done nothing to make me question that trust." The crease deepened. "I can't say the same about myself though. I do doubt myself and I have reason to. Just ask Tyelko, Maglor, even Azaghâl." His eyes were on Fingon's. "I'm willing to keep trying but you have to be willing to let me come to terms with my doubts and to take whatever precautions I need so I can keep trying, ok?"

Fingon's face was clouded over with guilt. "I'm sorry. I wasn't being fair to you. It's a lot to get through all at once. I realize that." He sat up to face Maedhros. "I'm just trying to change the circumstances but I didn't handle that well. It wasn't my intent to try to make you change."

"I know that. That's why I'm telling you this."

"But you can't go all week without sleeping, Maedhros," he said. "You can't. I won't let you do that."

"I told you I'd try. I never promised to sleep," Maedhros said.

"I realise that," Fingon said. "But you have to sleep sometime. You won't be able to function if you don't."

"I can go without sleep better than most people," Maedhros insisted.

"Still, the whole point is to get through the nightmares, if they come, with me here," Fingon said, his voice gentle. "It's to get you comfortable enough to sleep with me by your side and to let me learn how to deal with them when they come--because we know they are going to come. Maybe not tonight. Maybe not tomorrow. How can I show you we can handle this--that I can handle this--if you don't let yourself fall asleep?" He moved closer. "I know you can't do that right away--that's completely understandable but don't totally rule it out as a possibility." Fingon's shoulders hunched forward. "I'm looking forward to a time when I can sleep in your arms," he admitted, his eyes darting to Maedhros' as a hint of color came over his face. "And you can sleep in mine," he finished, his voice barely audible.

Maedhros closed his eyes. That was exactly what he had envisioned, that night at the hotel in Brethil. The possibility of that. And then the vision of Tyelko transitioning into Fingon had wiped it all away.

Those visions wiped all the happy images away. He wanted Fingon to be right but the chance that he wasn't would devastate him. Again. He was tired of this. Tired of the repetition of the nightmares and the aftermath that left him feeling so alone.

It was almost as if Fingon read his mind. "You don't have to do this alone, Maedhros. I'm here for you. Give me a chance to prove that we can get past this."

He wanted this. Damn it, he wanted to get through this so badly. The thought that he could actually be with someone, without the spectre of the nightmares hanging over him, was so enticing.

"It's going to be hard for me to relax, knowing what can happen," Maedhros said.

"I know. That's the next step then. Getting you to relax," Fingon answered, scooting closer to Maedhros, so they were sitting side by side, their backs resting against the headboard. He turned and dropped his head on Maedhros' shoulder, his arm around his waist. He felt Maedhros' arm circle around him and he leaned in to the embrace. "So how am I going to get you to relax?" he asked.

Maedhros brushed his lips over Fingon's forehead. "I can think of some options."

Fingon looked up at him, brows coming together as he searched for the right words. "I can think of some too but I don't want to push you to do that just because you want to avoid something else." His frown deepened. "I want that to happen because you want it to, not as a distraction."

Maedhros hadn't quite expected that but it made sense when he thought about it. Just as he did not feel comfortable increasing their intimacy if he wasn't being completely honest, Fingon seemed to feel uncomfortable progressing if it was simply meant as a diversion.

"There are other ways to relax," Maedhros said. "We've got time to figure out what works best. If you're still determined to spend your winter break working on this."

"I can't think of anything I'd rather do."

"Then I'll keep trying too," Maedhros agreed. He raised an eyebrow. "Maybe we crack open another bottle of wine tonight and see if that helps. Or something stronger."

"You do seem to loosen up quite a bit when you drink," Fingon agreed, a ghost of a smile coming over his face.

"What do you mean?" Maedhros looked confused. "I haven't had much to drink around you at all."

Fingon's smile grew wider. "No, you haven't. But you've certainly talked to me when you were pretty wasted and it was definitely illuminating."

"What?" Maedhros sat up straight and stared at Fingon. "What are you talking about?"

"You don't remember calling me from Brethil?"

"Of course I remember calling you. It was the day of the wedding. I wasn't drunk though." They had had a short conversation a few hours before the ceremony. He certainly hadn't been drinking that early in the day. He'd had one hell of a hangover from the night before anyway.

"You don't remember!" Fingon said. "I wondered if you did but you don't, do you?"

"Remember what?" Maedhros asked, a tinge of apprehension coming over him.

"You left me a voicemail the night before."

The night before? He had spent that evening in the bar with Azaghâl and the rest, drinking shots and downing beers. And then he'd gone to bed.

Oh. Oh shit. He couldn't possibly have drunk dialed Fingon.

"I could tell you were wasted," Fingon continued. "Just by your voice. And how you were talking."

Apparently drunk dialing Fingon was exactly what he had done. Shit.

Fingon found Maedhros' stunned, wide eyed look incredibly amusing and honestly quite adorable but he needed to put him out of his misery.

"Listen, you left me a long, rambling message that is likely one of the most adorable things I've ever had left on my voicemail," Fingon looked at him fondly. "I don't know how many times I've listened to it since you left it."

"You kept it??"

"Of course I kept it. You might have been rambling but it was nice rambling. Didn't you wonder why I came to see you at the bookstore that week?"

He had wondered. He hadn't expected it, after they way things had ended the week before. His eyes widened as he realized--that's when Fingon had stopped being so easily flustered around him, had been so much more confident and direct. He nodded in answer to Fingon's question, not quite sure of what to say.

"You might have been drunk but you were a lot more communicative in that state. You made it pretty clear how much you missed me. I liked hearing that. It made me realize what I was feeling wasn't one sided." He reached out and lightly touched Maedhros' forearm. "I don't know who bought you all the drinks but I'm glad they did."

"It was Az. But mostly me. I was pretty unhappy about how we'd left things," Maedhros admitted.

"So maybe some wine tonight is a good idea," Fingon said, a smirk on his face now.

Maedhros buried his face in his hands. "Now you know why I don't drink often." He shook his head and looked down, his hands returning to his lap.

Fingon scooted even closer and and brushed Maedhros' hair away from his face. "Don't be embarrassed. You have no idea how much it meant to me, hearing you say those things." He kept his fingers gently running through the strands of hair. "It's been so much better since we've started talking things out more. Don't regret it for a single minute."

Maedhros raised his eyes to Fingon's and once again what he found there was kindness and compassion. And something more. Something that made his heart beat faster. His hands found Fingon's and he interlaced their fingers tightly. "I want you to stay tonight. I want to keep trying.

"Are you going to insist on not sleeping?"

Maedhros closed his eyes and scrunched his face before answering. "No, I'll try to just let whatever happens happen. Including sleeping. Ok?" His eyes were open again and met Fingon's. "We'll work on getting me to relax or be distracted or whatever I need to do to be able to fall asleep."

"Wine will be a good start. I'll try to come up with some other ideas to keep you distracted."

"I can give you some suggestions for how to do that," Maedhros said, a smile on his face now.

"I think I can come up with some on my own," Fingon said, his smile growing.

"I may not want to sleep at all, if you go through with that."

"Damn it. Stop making my threats sound so meaningless," Fingon complained.

"Come over here and make me," Maedhros said with a grin.
Chapter 26 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Chapter Text



Fingon saw the advertisement as he waited to catch the train to Formenos.

SPAMALOT

Vinyamar Theatre

One week only!


He searched the theatre website on his phone once he was on the train. It would be staged the first week of March and there were good seats available.

He had wondered about a Christmas gift for Maedhros. They were so clearly far beyond the friends stage and although they hadn't necessarily said it in so many words it was clear that they were together. Spamalot tickets would be a perfect present for him—not only was Monty Python a shared interest of theirs but it was also a reminder of one of their first unofficial dates-watching Holy Grail with Aredhel and Tyelko all those weeks ago. Fingon clicked over to the calendar icon on the website to select a date to book tickets and then paused.

March. Two months from now. A wave of warmth came over him as he realized he was about to buy tickets to an event two months away for someone he had known for just over seven weeks. His finger hovered over the screen and then he smiled as he clicked on the Saturday date. He would be well into his internship by then and if he wanted dinner out with Maedhros before the show and a lazy morning sleeping in the next day then it would have to be a Saturday. He felt his heart beat faster as he realized just how confident he felt that they would still be together then.

He completed his purchase and ticked the "Will Call" box. He should have time to pick up the tickets from the theatre this week—it would make a nicer gift to have actual tickets rather than a computer printout.

Christmas was just a week away. He had finished most of his shopping for his family but the fact that he hadn't found anything for Maedhros had been weighing on him. Seeing the advertisement today had been a relief. He still wanted to get him something tangible though—something small perhaps but an actual gift nonetheless.

Fingon checked his watch. Almost four o'clock. Maybe he would wander around the shops along the square today before heading to Beleriand Books.

He sent Maedhros a text when he arrived and set off to explore the shops near the station. It was certainly his lucky day as he found the ideal item in the third store. It made him laugh when he spotted it. He stowed it deep in his back pack and resumed his walk.

He arrived at Beleriand to meet Maedhros just before six.

"You look cold again," Maedhros said, as he pulled him into his arms and gave Fingon's chilled nose a quick kiss. He locked up the store and then they were on their way to the square—dinner was at the pub tonight. It made more sense to eat in town; it gave them some time alone before heading to the house and the company of Maedhros' brothers.

"You said your internship starts in mid-January?" Maedhros asked, as they seated themselves across from each other in a booth.

"January 13th," Fingon said. "Three weeks from now."

"And you're at Barad-Eithel, right? That's a well-known firm."

Fingon nodded. "It was my first choice. Dor-Lomin was a close second." He leaned back against the booth. "I've been reading up on Barad-Eithel's principal architects and their current projects a bit. I won't know who I'm working with or which projects until I get there but I wanted to familiarize myself with them before I start," Fingon explained.

"Good thought. Weren't they a big part of that theatre district restoration?"

Fingon shook his head. "That was Dor-Lomin. Barad-Eithel is doing the new children's wing at the hospital and that Modern Art museum on the North side."

"I must have mixed them up. There's quite a few good architecture firms in Tirion," Maedhros said, reaching for the chips the waitress had placed in the middle of the table.

"No question. I'll be lucky to get a job with any of the ones I've applied to, but Dor-Lomin and Barad-Eithel are my top choices. That's why I hope this internship works out and I can transition it to a full-time job," Fingon said.

"You're planning on staying local then?" Maedhros asked, his eyes drifting down to the menu in his hands as he asked, his voice a little huskier.

"Yes. I've only applied to Tirion firms." Fingon was gratified to see Maedhros look up at him when he answered. He thought he caught a relieved look on his face and that made his breath catch. Maedhros was looking forward to him staying here—that was good to know. "I hope one of them works out. There are good firms in Brethil as well but I really don't want to leave Tirion."

He was rewarded with a bright smile. "I'm glad to know you're planning on staying," Maedhros said. "Any firm in Tirion would be lucky to have you."

"Any except Gorthaur and Associates. I didn't apply for a job with them," Fingon said, contempt in his tone. "I hated what they did with the Angband Industrial Park and that Thangorodrim skyscraper is an eyesore—who puts a skyscraper out in the middle of nowhere? I can't believe the city even approved that design."

He had been so caught up in his disdain for Gorthaur's architectural designs that he hadn't noticed Maedhros' look right away. But there it was again, that distant, closed-off look.

"Not a fan myself," Maedhros said, his tone clipped and short. "They do a lot of work for Morgoth Industries and their subsidiaries." He pressed his lips together tightly and briefly looked away.

Fingon stayed quiet. It was a good decision. Maedhros' eyes flashed back at him, a spark of anger visible for an instant before he blinked it away. He looked at Fingon as he chewed on his lower lip, as if he was trying to decide if he wanted to say more. He straightened his shoulders and then spoke again. "Morgoth Industries was responsible for my grandfather's death," he said. His gaze stayed on Fingon, who was barely breathing at this point. This was not a topic Maedhros usually chose to talk about. He kept his eyes on Maedhros in return. "It was a hit and run. By one of their subsidiaries' trucking companies," Maedhros continued.

"I'm sorry I brought Gorthaur up—I didn't realize the connection. I know you don't like talking about that," Fingon said, reaching across the table to rest his hand on Maedhros' clenched fist.

"It's not your fault. You weren't to know they were linked. It just brings back some . . . unpleasant memories." Maedhros opened his fist and laced his fingers with Fingon's. "It was years ago but I can't quite let it go." He looked down and then at Fingon again. "Morgoth Industries eventually settled his wrongful death suit but they didn't make it easy for my father, or any of us." That look was back, a hardness in his words. "That's where the settlement money came from." He frowned at the table, his fingers tightening around Fingon's, his tone far more bitter now. "It's why the bookstore profits aren't that big a deal to me—between grandfather's estate and the settlement we're all financially secure on our own."

Fingon nodded. There didn't seem to be a good way to respond to that statement that wasn't awkward so he opted to just squeeze Maedhros' hand.

It was the right choice. Maedhros squeezed back, blinked, exhaled and then looked at him again. "And yes, you're right. Those architectural designs of Gorthaur's are abysmal. I'm glad you won't be working for them."

Their meal arrived and further conversation on that topic was diverted.

Maglor was the only one home when they arrived at the house. He was curled up in one of the armchairs in the library, headphones on and a notebook in his hand. He waved at them as they walked by but didn't remove his headphones or make any effort to speak to them.

"He's working on a composition," Maedhros explained. "Best if we steer clear of him for now." He walked in front of Fingon, towards the game room. "Tyelko's with the team tonight—I think he's back tomorrow." He turned to look at Fingon over his shoulder. "Pool or table tennis?" It appeared there wouldn't be any snuggling on the sofa tonight, Fingon thought. But he was content to follow Maedhros' lead-it hadn't steered him wrong yet.

They were surprisingly well-matched at table tennis although Maedhros' longer reach resulted in him winning more often than not. Fingon had the definite edge at pool. "It's all those nights at Taeglin's with Finrod," Fingon confessed, as he beat Maedhros for the second time that night.

"Or the spatial capabilities you have with your architecture background," Maedhros pointed out. "Don't sell yourself short. Pool isn't all technical skill and accuracy—it's predicting the vectors and three dimensional spatial relationships and you've got me beat on those."

Maglor drifted in later that evening, declining to play but sitting on a barstool to watch them. He didn't say much but Fingon could feel his eyes following him, a thoughtful expression on his face.

They all went upstairs at the same time, Maglor darting glances at his brother, a questioning look in his eyes now.

"You go ahead," Maedhros said to Fingon, briefly resting a hand on his shoulder. "I'll be there in a few minutes."

Fingon made his way to Maedhros' room and was already beneath the comforter by the time he returned.

"Everything all right?" Fingon asked, as Maedhros shut the door behind him.

"It's fine," Maedhros answered, sitting on Fingon's side of the bed. "He's just worried. Like you, he's concerned about me not sleeping. Like me, he's worried about you being in the line of fire if I do let myself fall asleep and something happens." Maedhros shrugged. "I told him you have a plan and so far, so good."

"Well, you know my plan is based on you actually sleeping sometime," Fingon said, sitting up and leaning back against the headboard.

"I know," Maedhros replied. "You've made that clear." He stood up abruptly. "Let me get changed," he said, making his way to the bathroom.

Fingon stayed sitting up as he waited. Maedhros returned a few moments later and slid under the covers on the far side of the bed before switching off the light.

Fingon shifted down to rest his head on the pillow. He took that as a fairly clear signal Maedhros wasn't interested in discussing the issue further.

He was mistaken in that assumption.

"Listen," Maedhros' voice came out of the darkness. "I've told you how difficult it is for me to fall asleep with you here, under the best of circumstances. I can guarantee there's no way I'm falling asleep tonight." He hesitated and then Fingon felt Maedhros reach his hand out towards him. He slid his own across the open space to take it. "So, I was wondering, since I'm going to be awake anyway, if you really need to be all the way over there tonight." He turned his face towards Fingon, his dim outline barely visible in the dark of the room.

Fingon let go of Maedhros' hand and scooted across the bed until he was pressed up against him, his head tucked under Maedhros' chin. "I'd rather be here," he admitted, his voice husky with emotion.

Maedhros slid one arm around his shoulders and the other around his waist. Fingon reached his arm around Maedhros' chest and a small sigh escaped him. There was a part of him that didn't regret the fact that Maedhros was staying awake tonight. He knew that wasn't fair but if Maedhros wasn't going to sleep . . . he'd rather be here than all the way across the bed.

"I don't like talking about events relating to my grandfather's death," Maedhros' voice whispered. "It was . . . a difficult time for me . . . for us. His death and the whole . . . aftermath."

Fingon drew even closer and buried his face in Maedhros' neck. "I'm sorry," he murmured. He seemed to be saying that a lot today but it was really the only thing that made sense.

"I know."

Fingon wanted to know more but this wasn't the time to ask. Maedhros had actually told him far more today than he ever had before. He could sense his reluctance to talk about it but Fingon was still convinced, that with time, he would open up even further. He just had to be patient.

It had to all be related, Fingon was sure of that now. Maedhros had basically confirmed that tonight, so sure he wouldn't be able to sleep after discussing his grandfather. It seemed that was a trigger.

He relaxed into the warmth of the arms around him and the gentle caress of Maedhros' hand on his back. He was so tempted to trail a line of kisses down along Maedhros' neck but he held back. There had been grief in Maedhros' voice, in addition to the underlying tension. He just needed to know Fingon was here for him—steadfast and solid. That he wasn't going anywhere.

Maedhros kept his hand on Fingon's back, gently tracing circles with his fingers. He could hear his breathing grow more even and then he heard that little snore that confirmed he was asleep.

Asleep in his arms. He had imagined this just a week ago, in his hotel room in Brethil. He had envisioned it but had doubted it would become a reality. But here he was, awake, but with Fingon in his embrace. He hadn't realized quite how much he had craved this until tonight. Until the possibility became a reality and he allowed himself to hope.

He had never had a serious, long-term relationship. Dating yes. Brief encounters, sure. But something profound and significant, something this all-encompassing and trusting? Certainly not.

It had been awhile since he had experienced any kind of contact, even brief and superficial. It was easier to be aloof, unencumbered, distant. He still wasn't sure what had compelled him to reach out to Fingon, to take him on a coffee date so soon after meeting him. There had been an undeniable physical attraction of course—that had been what had initiated it all. But it was so much more than that.

He hadn't wanted a transient physical relationship, a meaningless encounter. He had made a connection and that was far more precious.

It was hard to believe, even now, that Fingon was here, in his bed, in his arms.

He had avoided bringing anyone home these past few years, even before he had moved to the relative isolation of Formenos. If he was at someone else's place he had the freedom to leave, whenever he chose to—to just walk out whenever he felt like it. Not something he could do in his own home, nor could he easily ask the other person to leave.

He had been honest with Fingon—he had slept with others before, not frequently but often enough. Perhaps not in the last few years. Those interactions had been fewer since. . .

He had let a girl stay over, just before he had moved to Formenos, when he was still in the apartment in Tirion he had briefly shared with Maglor, after Azaghâl had moved in with Telchar. He had never let anyone stay again. Until now.

It was disruptive and unwelcome. And a risk for whoever was there with him. He didn't dare let himself fall sleep with another person at his side, just couldn't be himself with another person sharing that space. After that one time he had never allowed that to happen again. Formenos had made it easier to avoid—so far from the city there was no need to ever bring anyone home.

But now, not only was someone here, he wanted Fingon here. He longed for Fingon to be a part of his life—more than he had wanted anything in a long time. He had dreaded telling him about his nightmares, his sleeping issues; he had prepared himself for a disappointment that never came.

His lips skimmed Fingon's hair, leaving a breath of a kiss on the crown of his head. He craved more, ached for it. But he still feared that in the languid aftermath of a more intimate encounter he might accidentally allow himself to fall asleep. He couldn't let that happen. Not yet. Not yet.

Fingon's idea did make some sort of sense. If they took this step by step then perhaps it would become second nature and they would both adapt. And then Maedhros could tell him the rest. It wouldn't be hanging between them anymore, an invisible curtain of too many things left unsaid.

____________________________________________

Fingon woke up to warmth. He shifted slightly and felt Maedhros' arms around him still, just as they had been when he had fallen asleep the night before.

"Mmm," he mumbled into Maedhros shoulder. "I like waking up this way." He glanced up to find Maedhros looking at him, his silver eyes soft but so very tired. "You said you weren't going to sleep. You didn't, did you?"

Maedhros shook his head. "No. But I don't mind." He kissed Fingon's messy hair and smiled. "It was worth it to have you wake up here."

"Mmmph." Fingon snuggled in closer. "I could get used to this, you know."
Chapter 27 by NelyafinweFeanorion
It was getting to be a pattern. Home to Tirion in the morning—a run at the Rec Center, a shower, then back to Formenos in the afternoon. He'd finally managed to cross paths with Finrod after his run.

"I haven't seen you since Friday night," Finrod said, surprise on his face at actually finding his roommate home. Fingon had been in the kitchen, regarding the sadly depleted state of their refrigerator, when Finrod showed up. He decided to make some pasta; there was really nothing else to eat.

"You hungry?" he asked Finrod. "This is all we've got," he said, shaking the box of pasta at him.

"Yeah, sure." Finrod pulled out a chair and sat at the table as Fingon set down dishes and silverware. "So how did the Formenos weekend go?"

His answer took most of their lunchtime, as Fingon gave his roommate the condensed version, hitting the highlights and his disastrous attempt at skating.

Finrod leaned back in his chair when Fingon was done talking and shook his head. "Well, it sounds like he's got a valid reason for not staying over. Can't blame him." He narrowed his eyes at Fingon. "So, you've stayed at his place every night since Saturday?"

Fingon nodded. "I'm just trying to get him comfortable with me there. I know there's more to the story than just the nightmares. I just don't think he's ready to share that yet."

"I'm sure there's more to it than just the nightmares. It's probably related, like you said." He gave Fingon an appraising look. "You're not usually this patient."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You know what I mean. Third date's usually a long time for you," Finrod pointed out.

"Shut up."

"Not that the first date is that unusual for you either," Finrod continued, warming to the subject, his grin widening at Fingon's obvious irritation. "Or first and only meeting, if I'm remembering the start-of-school party details correctly." It was definitely a smirk now.

"I can say the same about you," Fingon said, irritably. "And you did it a lot more frequently." He narrowed his eyes back at his roommate. "Really, it was only that one time."

"More than once but I think you at least knew their names, the other times," Finrod said with a laugh.

"Your fault. We started drinking way too early that night."

"Speaking of drinking. New Year's Eve. We have a reputation to uphold. You're not going to ditch me, are you?" Finrod asked.

Fingon had completely forgotten about their annual New Year's Eve bash. "Maedhros and I haven't made any plans yet."

"You're graduating in May so it will likely be our last one, other than the end-of-year party," Finrod said. "You can't miss this. Have Maedhros come with you. You can invite his brothers too. I'm sure the hockey player likes to party."

"Maybe I will," Fingon said. "It is tradition, after all."

"Maybe that means you'll finally get laid," Finrod suggested. "That's a tradition at the parties too."

"Maybe," Fingon said noncommittally, standing up to take the dishes to the sink.

Finrod moved next to him, leaning against the kitchen counter. "You are really serious about this guy."

"I am. I told you that." Fingon leaned on the counter, facing Finrod. "I don't want to rush things though."

Finrod raised an eyebrow. "It's been two months, hasn't it? I wouldn't call that rushing."

"Shut up. I mean it." Fingon frowned. "You know I dated around but it never was anything serious. A few weeks, maybe a couple of months. Then I'd take a break for a while until someone new showed up." He crossed his arms and his brow creased. "It didn't mean anything. It was just having fun. This is different. I want him to trust me first, you know? I want him to understand I'm here and I'm not planning on going anywhere." He shrugged. "If it's casual sex then the whole thing is casual, right? And I don't want that." He groaned and ran a hand through his hair. "This is the first time I've thought about what it would be like to wake up to him every day. To come home to him every night. To watch movies, make dinner, do the dishes, I don't know—live together even."

"You've done dishes with me but I've never seen you look this interested in it," Finrod said.

"Seriously, Finrod. Do you have any idea what I'm saying?"

Finrod smiled, his blue eyes lighting up. "I do." He reached over and put his hand on Fingon's shoulder. "You're in love. Completely, hopelessly, utterly in love with Maedhros." He pulled his roommate into a hug. "I'm so happy for you," he said as he pulled back, his face radiating the same cheerful emotion as his words, his hands firmly on Fingon's shoulders. "Now don't fuck it up."

"I'm trying not to—I was worried for a while that I had," Fingon admitted.

"I recall," Finrod said drily. "But it seems you've gotten over that. You're going there again tonight?"

Fingon nodded. "Yeah, all week if I can. I've got to go to Mom and Dad's for the weekend and they want me to stay through Christmas. He's doing the same with his family. But at least until Friday, we're going to try this."

"Stay in touch," Finrod said. "Don't forget I'm spending Christmas in Alqualondë—my grandparents' present to the family. I leave Saturday-back in a week." He raised his eyebrow and winked. "I'd better get the word out about the party before I go."

________________________________________________

It wasn't just being patient, Fingon thought, as he packed his backpack for the night in Formenos.

This time he was adamant about intimacy being tied to trust. He trusted Maedhros and he thought Maedhros was beginning to trust him, maybe did trust him, but there still was a distance between them. He'd opened up but Fingon knew there was more to the story than Maedhros let on.

That was part of it. But the other part was even harder to think about.

He knew the nightmares were upsetting for Maedhros, not just the fact of them but likely the reason behind them also. They didn't seem like just a random occurrence, especially not when coupled with some of his other behaviors and revelations. Something must have triggered them initially. Something traumatic.

His idea of getting Maedhros used to them sleeping in the same bed was to allow Maedhros to not feel so alone in this. But if he wasn't letting himself sleep the nightmares couldn't come. Fingon hated himself for wishing they would come; it was unfair to Maedhros and selfish. But he really wanted Maedhros to understand they wouldn't scare him off. He couldn't prove that to him if he didn't experience it—he needed to know what Maedhros went through, how he should behave during them and what he could do to make it better. And show Maedhros he would be right there, by his side, no matter what.

But there was another fear. Deeper down. One that related to the issue Finrod had addressed. He was afraid to get intimate with Maedhros before one of the nightmares came. He needed a nightmare to occur while they were like this, close but not to the next stage. If the first nightmare came on the night they had sex for the first time would Maedhros then see that as a trigger? Would he? How could they move on from something like that? It would make the situation unimaginably worse. It could destroy this emerging relationship that was growing between them, if that happened. It would taint it irrevocably, he thought. And that was something Fingon couldn't let happen.

__________________________________________________________

It was almost six o'clock by the time Fingon arrived at the station. He had texted Maedhros that he would just meet him at the restaurant—the Japanese one around the corner from Beleriand.

"Sorry I'm late," Fingon said, as he slid into the seat across from Maedhros.

"You're not late," Maedhros replied. "I just got here."

"Good day at the store?"

"Lots of kids' books sold today," Maedhros grinned. "And I got Maglor to finally sort through all the vinyl I bought last week."

"Is he working at the store more now that he's on break?" Fingon asked.

"When I need him to. He's been focused on some new composition of his and from what I can tell it's frustrating him." Maedhros' eyes widened. "I hope he works it out before this weekend. It'll be a nightmare if he's in a mood over Christmas, with the whole family there."

"It must be lively with all of you home."

"I'm not sure 'lively' is the right word," Maedhros observed. "Chaotic, vociferous, argumentative might describe it more accurately." He leaned his head against his hand. "And Maglor gets a bit short-tempered when his musical endeavors aren't going well."

"I take it there's not much sympathy to be had for his predicament?" Fingon looked amused.

"Maybe from Mom," Maedhros admitted. "The rest of us will likely just bait him ceaselessly." His smile faded a bit as he continued. "But I probably shouldn't give him a hard time. He's stressed about finding a job. He's got a TA position for the spring, along with an independent study in composition. But he hasn't heard back from any of his job applications yet."

Fingon felt a cold weight settle in his stomach at Maedhros' words. "I can relate. I haven't heard back on any of mine either." His casual self-assurance in conversation with Maedhros yesterday seemed overconfident now, as he thought about it.

"Sorry. I didn't mean to do that," Maedhros said, belatedly realizing he had stirred up Fingon's anxiety about his own job search. "I'm sure you'll hear from them after the holidays." He brightened as another thought came to him. "They're probably just waiting to contact you after you start your internship. That makes sense—you'll have more insight once you start work at a real firm and they'll have practicing architects to give them recommendations, rather than professors only."

It was kind of Maedhros to try to make him feel better but there was still an undercurrent of uneasiness at the thought now.

"Shit. I've totally freaked you out now, haven't I?" Maedhros said apologetically.

"For once you're actually right," Fingon said, laughing despite himself. "Yes, I'm going to let you take the blame for this one, Maedhros. Just this once." He leaned forward across the table, a roguish expression wiping the worry off his face. "Now you've got to figure out how to make it up to me." He raised an eyebrow. "I'm expecting you to put forth your best effort."

Maedhros tilted his head, his eyes lighting up to match Fingon's. "I'm sure I'll think of something."

The food was good, the conversation even better. Before long they were on their way back to the lake house.

"Tyelko should be home tonight—unless he's with your sister again," Maedhros said, as they drove along the long driveway that led to the house.

"She didn't say anything when I talked to her earlier but it was mainly about the weekend and Christmas planning," Fingon replied.

The house was empty when they arrived, no other cars in the garage. A note was taped to the back door.

At Avallonë seeing Daeron tonight. Home late. –M

"Maybe that will cheer him up," Maedhros said, pulling the note off the door. "Or it will just get him more worked up, depending on how Daeron's performance goes tonight."

"Who's Daeron?"

"Maglor's best friend and biggest rival. He's in the music program with him. He plays at Avallonë fairly regularly," Maedhros answered. "I think Maglor would like to be invited to play there too but that hasn't happened yet."

"Was Daeron playing the night we were there?" Fingon asked, shrugging out of his coat and hanging it up in the laundry room.

"No," Maedhros said.

"Good," Fingon gave Maedhros a grin and wrapped his arms around him. "Because I didn't notice anyone but you that night."

Maedhros leaned down and caught his lips with his own, his mouth moving languidly, Fingon's mouth opening as their lips glided over each other.

"I only know that because I looked at the sign when we walked in," Maedhros said when they paused for breath. "I didn't notice anything else either."

"This is a good start to making me feel better," Fingon said as he went up on tiptoe, his hands curving behind Maedhros' neck as he pulled him down. Noses bumped, teeth clicked but then they found the right positions again, the pressure of their mouths and the slide of their tongues against each other heating Fingon's skin.

"We might want to get out of the laundry room," Maedhros murmured against Fingon's lips.

They broke apart long enough for Maedhros to take his coat off and then found each other's hands and mouths again, stumbling their way to the family room until they fell on the nearest sofa, Maedhros half on Fingon and half off the sofa.

Fingon's hands trailed through Maedhros' hair, the strands slipping through his fingers, his grip tightening as Maedhros deepened the kiss and ran his hands along Fingon's spine.

They hadn't kissed like this since that day at his apartment, Fingon thought. His skin tingled where it touched Maedhros and Maedhros' fingers trailed a string of electric shocks along his back, his arms, his chest, every point of contact.

Fingon's scent overwhelmed Maedhros, his hair brushing his face when he kissed along his jawline up to just below his ear, feeling Fingon quiver under his hands when he reached that sensitive spot. His skin was so warm to the touch when he moved his mouth to cover Fingon's again, his leg shifting for better purchase on the sofa, his hands skimming under Fingon's shirt.

"Seriously, you two. Get a room." Tyelko's amused voice startled them both, causing Maedhros to lose his precarious position and land on the floor with a loud thump.

Tyelko leaned over the sofa, a huge grin on his face as he looked at them both; Fingon still on the sofa and Maedhros sprawled on the floor. "You should see your faces," he said brightly.

This could not have happened again, Fingon thought. Seriously, what were the odds?

"Is Aredhel with you?" Fingon managed to croak out, moving to a sitting position while Maedhros picked himself up off the floor, his face thunderous as he regarded Tyelko.

"Nope, dropped her off at home before I drove back. Which is really too bad. I think she would have appreciated this." Tyelko was radiating amusement. He looked wide eyed at his brother, who was still glaring at him. "Hey, it's my house too, you know. I wasn't expecting to walk in to find you two grinding on the sofa."

"We weren't grinding," Maedhros objected.

"Whatever. Your face almost matches your hair right now, Mae, did you know that?" Tyelko successfully dodged the pillow thrown at him but it did nothing to diminish the merriment on his face.

As he looked from Maedhros to Tyelko, Fingon couldn't help it—he started to laugh. It was just too ridiculous. That must be exactly how he looked at Finrod a few weeks ago. He laughed harder. He buried his face in his hands and howled, tears coming to his eyes as his stomach started to ache from the laughter.

"Well, at least someone sees the humor in this," Tyelko said, comfortably leaning on the back of the sofa again and regarding his brother. "I'm glad your boyfriend has a better sense of humor than you do, Mae."

Fingon caught Maedhros' eye and the laughter just bubbled up again. "Now I know," he tried to say. "Now I know what I looked like when Finrod walked in." He drew in a deep breath and blew it out. "Sorry. It's just too funny that it happened again."

Maedhros sank down on the other end of the sofa, the laughter spilling out of him as well, his hands covering his face as his shoulders shook.

"Valar above," Maedhros finally said, as his giggling settled down. "I thought for sure you were going to freak out again," Maedhros kicked Fingon's leg from the other end of the sofa.

"Me? You were the one who looked like you were going to leap over the sofa and pummel Tyelko," Fingon responded, eyes wide and innocent appearing as he kicked Maedhros back.

"Because I thought you were going to get all weird about it again," Maedhros explained.

"Ok, I'm outta here. You two are a lot more fun when you're embarrassed than when you're arguing," Tyelko said.

"We're not arguing," Maedhros and Fingon said at the same time, laughing as soon as they realized they had spoken in unison.

Tyelko glared at them. "Please, no," he said, straightening up. "Please tell me you're not going to be one of those couples—the ones that finish each other's sentences, talk about what the other one likes incessantly and give each other those looks, because seriously I will not tolerate that at all."

Which only made them both dissolve into laughter again.

"You're hopeless. Both of you. I mean I already knew that about you, Mae, but I was holding out some hope for Fingon," Tyelko shook his head at them reprovingly but he couldn't keep the grin off his face.

"You're usually not that quiet coming in the house, Tyelko," Maedhros complained.

"I wasn't quiet!" Tyelko retorted. "I yelled 'hey' when I came in. I saw your car in the garage—I knew you guys were home. I thought you were watching a movie or something and didn't hear me. I didn't realize you were sucking face so hard that your hearing was impaired." He seated himself on the back of the sofa and regarded Maedhros. "Where's Maglor?"

"At Avallonë. He left a note," Maedhros answered.

"Maybe you should have left a note," Tyelko said. "Something like 'Humping my boyfriend on the sofa—steer clear of the family room', you know?" He smirked at them both. "Maybe put up a 'Men at Work' sign on the back door," he said, then his eyes lit up. "Or one of those 'Speed Hump' signs like they have at Cuiviénen. That's fucking perfect! Shit. I've got to steal one of those from campus and leave it in the garage for you." He threw his head back as he laughed.

He looked back down after a moment, taking in the sight of them seated on either end of the sofa now, their feet entangled together in the middle. "So, are you guys going to get a room, or what? We've got plenty of open ones upstairs. Go find one and let me watch TV in peace."

Neither one of them made a move to get up or shift their position on the sofa. Maedhros raised a perfectly arched eyebrow at Tyelko.

"No, damn it. I want to sit down here and watch TV. Why do I have to go?" Tyelko whined. "You've got a perfectly good room upstairs, Mae. Go feel up Fingon there."

Maedhros continued to give his younger brother an imperturbable look.

"Fine then," Tyelko scrambled over the back of the sofa and dropped onto their tangled legs, causing them both to hurriedly scoot out of his way. "I'll join you." He grabbed the remote from the table and gave Maedhros a triumphant grin. "What are we watching?"

Maedhros kicked him in the thigh but they both ended up comfortably sitting on either side of him as he flipped through the channels, giving them a running commentary on everything that flashed on the screen until he finally settled on a channel.

That was where Maglor found them a few hours later when he arrived home.

Daeron had put on a great show. The music selection was good, his pitch was perfect and the small crowd seemed to appreciate his efforts. He was happy for his friend but inwardly frustrated. He wanted a gig at Avallonë. It was just the right place for his kind of music. He'd chatted up the manager again tonight but no offer had resulted. Again.

He could hear the television and Tyelko's voice as he walked in. No chance of some quiet time for him unless he went up to his room.

Maglor didn't begrudge Maedhros this time with Fingon. It was good for him, even though they were taking some significant risks with this plan of theirs. Maedhros needed someone like Fingon, someone who could get past that wall of his. But it was wearisome to have people at the house all the time, especially now that Tyelko was bringing Aredhel over too. He knew he was being selfish but he liked the predictability of their old routine—always knowing what to expect when he got home.

If he was going to be honest he had to admit he was a bit jealous. Not of his brothers but of the fact that they both seemed to have found companions who paired well with them in a harmonious-and in Fingon's case in particular-a compassionate and considerate way. He hadn't had much experience with that and it was glaringly obvious to him as he watched both his brothers' relationships progress and deepen.

He may as well go in and join them. He recognized he had been distant each time he had come across them together the last few nights and he realized it was becoming noticeable, to Maedhros at least. It was rare for Maedhros not to sense his disquiet; he had spent too many years watching over Maglor to miss the signs.

"You're watching Star Trek? How many times have you seen this episode?" Maglor asked as he came into the family room and leaned against the doorframe.

Three faces turned at the sound of his voice. He nodded at Fingon and let his gaze drift over his two brothers and their relative positions on the sofa. "You sure you aren't getting in the way here, Tyelko?"

"You have no idea," Tyelko said somberly. "I walked in on these two getting it on. The image is now burned on my retinas. I was just trying to protect your delicate sensitivities from being exposed to the raw display of passion I walked in on earlier. You can thank me later." Tyelko was completely incapable of keeping the merriment tamped down as he continued to speak.

"He's exaggerating, of course," Maedhros said.

Tyelko turned to Maedhros. "How am I exaggerating? If I'd walked in five minutes later I'd probably have seen your bare-naked ass." He gave Fingon a side-long look. "Not to mention his," he added, nodding at Fingon. He looked at Maglor dolefully. "The things I do for you, Maglor. You might not have recovered from the sight of our incredibly uptight and proper older brother enthusiastically humping his boyfriend. OW!" Maedhros and Fingon had both kicked him. "You're doing it again!" he complained. "It's almost worse than them snogging on the sofa." He returned to addressing Maglor. "They're starting to talk at the same time, finish each other's sentences and mirror each other's actions." He shuddered. "It's nauseating." His grin contradicted his words and he was rewarded with another solid kick from his older brother.

"I was thinking of joining you," Maglor said. "But maybe I should just go to bed."

"Don't. It's exasperating to just have Tyelko here. We need a diversion from him," Maedhros said. "How was Avallonë?"

Maglor slumped onto the other sofa. "It was great. Daeron was great. Everything is great."

"That bad?" Tyelko asked.

Maglor sank further into the cushions. "No, really, Daeron gave a great performance. It's just that I've been trying to get them to hire me there for months and I've gotten nowhere." He closed his eyes and tilted his head back.

"Maybe if you played something more upbeat, you know," Tyelko started to say before Maedhros kicked him again. "Come on, Mae," he protested. "If he wants to play that depressing, emo, lovelorn shit he used to write they'll never hire him. No one wants to listen to that when they're on a date."

Maedhros secretly agreed with Tyelko but there was no way he was going to admit that to Maglor.

Fingon unexpectedly joined the conversation. "I don't know, Tyelko. It might make the date seem better, hearing a sad love song and realizing their own situation isn't all that bad in comparison."

"Ok, that's it. I'm going to bed," Maglor said. "Depressing emo shit was a bad enough description but that's even worse. My emo shit is so bad it makes everyone else's look good by comparison. Great. Just what I aspire to."

"I'm sorry," Fingon said, sitting up hurriedly and looking at Maglor apologetically. "That's not how I meant it at all." He frowned at Maglor and darted a look at Maedhros before continuing. "I'm not saying it about you. It's just if your songs are sad and romantic, like Tyelko made it sound, then that would make people appreciate what they have more. Your songs would actually make the date better that way, by comparison."

"No way. It would just depress the hell out of me and I'd wonder if my relationship was going to turn into as big a pile of shit as the singer's," Tyelko said authoritatively, turning to Fingon. "Trust me. I've heard his songs. You haven't." Maedhros kicked him again.

"We're just teasing, Maglor," Maedhros said, sitting up himself. "The music you write now isn't like that-it's so much richer and more complex. Daeron's may sound pretty but yours tells a story, with the words and the melody. It may not be what they're looking for at Avallonë but there are other clubs on Nevrast."

"No, it's what Salmar said when I played him this piece I'm working on. The melody is great. It's just that the story sucks." He stood up. "I'm going to bed."

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"Is he ok?" Fingon asked, as Maedhros walked into the bedroom.

""Yeah, he's fine now. He's just frustrated and Tyelko knows how to rile him up. Maglor knows how good his music is. He's stuck on a composition and that always pisses him off." Maedhros slid under the covers and turned to face Fingon. "He'll be fine once his creativity kicks in again." He shook his head. "It just might suck to be around him over the holiday."

"Speaking of the holidays-I don't know if you do anything special for New Year's or already have something planned-but Finrod and I usually throw a New Year's Eve party at our place. If you're free, I'd love to have you there with me," Fingon confided, putting his hand lightly on Maedhros' chest. It was warm, even through his t-shirt and he could feel his heartbeat.

"I can't think of anyone I'd rather spend New Year's Eve with," Maedhros replied, reaching out in turn to brush Fingon's hair away from his eyes.

"Then it's a date," Fingon smiled, remembering how flustered those words had made him when he had first said them to Maedhros all those weeks ago.

"Definitely a date." Maedhros was thinking back to that same moment. He could never have imagined, that night, that he would be here now.

It was so comfortable, just lying in bed, gazing at Fingon. It felt so much less awkward now. He was getting used to it far quicker than he had expected.

Fingon's hand was gently rubbing his chest now. He looked at Maedhros, those brilliant blue eyes soft and sleepy. "Can you try to sleep tonight, Maedhros?" he whispered.

Fingon saw Maedhros' jaw clench momentarily at his words and then his face relaxed again. "I can try."

"That's all I ask," Fingon said. "Please. You haven't slept since Sunday night." His eyes sharpened with concern now, the sleepy look driven away. "I worry about you driving. You haven't slept in days. I don't want anything to happen to you. You can't keep going without sleep like this." He scooted closer, burying his face in Maedhros' shoulder. "I can stay home tomorrow. So you can get some sleep. I know we can do this but I don't want to keep going if it's going to put you at risk."

Maedhros closed his eyes and stroked Fingon's dark hair, his fingers smoothing out the tangles. What a pair they were, each more concerned about the other than themselves. His heart stuttered a bit as the full realization of what he had just thought came over him.

He was in love with Fingon.

He had realized he was falling for him but it was way beyond that now. This was it. After all these years he literally had it in his grasp. And the most stunning part of it all? He was uncharacteristically confident that Fingon felt the same way. His heart was thumping in his chest as he finally answered him. "No. I don't want you to go. I like having you here with me," he whispered back, his lips just brushing Fingon's ear. "I promise I'll try."

Fingon tipped his head up to smile at him and Maedhros' heart stuttered again. It was in his eyes-all that they hadn't said to each other in words yet. When Fingon looked at him like that Maedhros knew. He hoped Fingon could see it in his eyes too. He couldn't quite bring himself to say the words yet.

"Thank you, for trying." Fingon touched his lips to Maehdros', warm and soft. He pulled back to look at him, his hand on his chest still. "I'll be right here. No matter what. Trust me."

"I do."

Fingon trailed his fingers down Maedhros' chest and then scooted across the bed, back to his side of the mattress. "Turn the light off, Maedhros. I'll be right here," he repeated, his hand finding Maedhros' hand and lacing their fingers together across the open space.
Chapter 28 by NelyafinweFeanorion
This takes place immediately following the last chapter. It's just a moment later.
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Right. If he was going to actually sleep he needed to put as much space between them as he could. Maedhros shifted back to his edge of the bed, missing the warmth of Fingon in his arms from the night before. Falling asleep with Fingon in his embrace tonight was a bad idea, if he was truly going to try to sleep. He knew that. A part of him regretted Fingon's current distance but he was gratified at how Fingon had taken his words to heart and was doing exactly what Maedhros had told him he needed to do to protect himself.

He didn't let go of Fingon's hand though. It was an anchor for him, the warmth reminding him of why he was doing this, why they were doing this. He concentrated on his breathing, in and out, slow and deep. He would try.

He could hear Fingon's steady breathing next to him as the minutes ticked by. He listened carefully and he smiled to himself when he heard the tell-tale snore that signaled that Fingon was asleep. He loved that sound. He treasured the trust it represented but it was endearing on its own, a tiny imperfection in this otherwise flawless person laying next to him.

The light was dim but he could make out the outline of Fingon's profile as he slept. Maedhros watched him, no closer to sleep himself. He was exhausted-Fingon had been right about that. He hadn't taken any time to steal a few hours of sleep during the day; he was needed at Beleriand, Erestor taking these few days before the holiday off so Maedhros could take part of the weekend and the days up to Christmas away from the store himself.

He turned to look at the clock, Fingon's fingers slipping out of his. It was just not that easy to fall asleep. He was too restless; he didn't want to toss and turn and disturb Fingon in the process. Maedhros stared at the ceiling, the minutes dragging by. Hadn't he said something to Fingon the other day about having a drink before bed, to settle him down? Maybe that would help, he thought.

He got up as silently as he could and made his way downstairs. He scanned the wine rack but it seemed wasteful to open a whole bottle just for him to have a glass or two. He drifted into the dining room and looked over the selection on the sideboard. Maedhros wrinkled his nose at the rum and vodka-not what he was looking for.

There it was. He remembered this bottle. His father had remarked on it the last time he was here, remembering when he had bought it-on his last trip to Scotland a few years ago. Maedhros couldn't figure out how it had ended up here instead of at the Tirion house but no matter. It would serve his purpose tonight. He poured a generous tumbler full of the Scotch and leaned against the sideboard as he drank it, the warmth washing through him as he did. He poured a second one a few minutes later and downed it.

He felt more relaxed and even a bit drowsy now. He yawned as he put the bottle back in its place. Maedhros made his way to the kitchen to rinse his glass out. He looked at the clock; one thirty in the morning. It was time to go back to bed.

He felt a little fuzzy as he went up the steps, the rapid double shot of alcohol kicking in now. He made it to his bed and slid under the covers as quietly as he could. Fingon was still in the same position, the little snores more intermittent but no less adorable.

He took a few deep breaths as he stared at the ceiling, his eyes closing on their own now. He was asleep a few minutes later.

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Fingon wasn't sure what woke him up but he was cold--he noticed that right away. Likely due to the fact that he had no covers on him anymore, he thought, as he groggily came into awareness. There were sounds coming from Maedhros' side of the bed-small moans and garbled words. He quickly turned his attention to him, coming to a half-seated position.

The covers were tightly wound around Maedhros and he appeared to be struggling against them, his head tossing from side to side, the indistinct words and moans getting louder as he did so. Fingon's hand involuntarily reached to pull the sheets away from him but he stopped it just in time. He was witnessing one of the nightmares, he knew it. He had promised Maedhros he would stay back, would not interfere and let the ordeal run its course.

It was harder than he expected to do that.

Maedhros was becoming more agitated, resulting in the sheets tightening around him even more. Fingon longed to do something, anything, but he just bit his lip and sat, leaning against the headboard on the far side of the bed, his arms tightly clenched around his drawn-up knees.

It felt wrong, to be here. He had forced himself into this most personal struggle of Maedhros' and he felt like a voyeur, witnessing something so private.

He shook his head. He was being stupid--if he was going to share Maedhros' companionship, his bed, his life, then he needed to deal with this. Wasn't that the point-the very reason he came up with this plan? He clenched his fists and continued to chew his lip, waiting for this to end. If Maedhros could handle this, night after night, so could he. But it broke his heart to see him like this and feel so helpless.

It was getting worse now. Maedhros' struggles were becoming more violent and the sheets were finally loosening their hold as his movements became wilder, more desperate.

He was startled and involuntarily drew back even further when Maedhros surged up to a seated position and shook the remainder of the covers off with a strangled cry. His eyes opened and he looked as startled as Fingon felt. Fingon tried to relax and compose his features into a calm expression, belatedly realizing it was so dark that Maedhros would likely only see his outline and be alarmed by that even.

Maedhros looked around, his head whipping to the sides rapidly, his breathing erratic. He seemed to be awake but Fingon wasn't about to reach out to him, not yet. He had to be sure.

Maedhros caught sight of Fingon and his shoulders sagged and he exhaled. "I'm sorry," he said, burying his face in his hands.

That was Fingon's signal to move. He was at Maedhros' side instantly, his arms tentatively reaching around him. He made no sign of resistance so Fingon strengthened his grip. "It's ok. You're ok," he repeated over and over, gently rocking Maedhros in his arms.

Maedhros sighed and his arms went around Fingon in turn, his head sliding down to rest on Fingon's chest. He was still breathing quickly and Fingon rubbed gentle circles on his back, his voice continuing to murmur reassurances. He wasn't sure what he was even saying, just repeating "You're ok," over and over until the words seemed to lose their meaning and become just sounds, even to him. Still he said them, breathing them into Maedhros' hair, knowing it wasn't the words themselves that mattered but his actions and his presence.

Maedhros' breathing slowly settled and Fingon felt a little of the rigidity go out of him. He kept up the murmured words, the soft touch, intermittently placing breathless kisses in his hair, just letting Maedhros know he was there.

He was astonished by the fact that Maedhros had actually fallen asleep in the first place. Awed and humbled by that show of trust. He brushed another kiss, on Maedhros' forehead this time.

He looked up at Fingon. "I'm sorry," Maedhros said again.

"There is nothing for you to be sorry for," Fingon whispered to him. "I'm sorry you have to go through this. You have nothing to apologize for."

"I didn't hurt you, did I?" Maedhros' voice was very low, his words barely audible.

"Of course you didn't. You told me what to do--well, more accurately what not to do--and I did exactly what you said." His hand moved up to smooth the hair away from Maedhros' eyes. "We got through it. We can do this, Maedhros." He smiled down at him. "We did it."

The arms around Fingon tightened and Maedhros buried his head in his chest, as Fingon continued to stroke his hair. They stayed that way, arms around each other, as the minutes went by.

"I didn't think I could do it," Maedhros confided, his words muffled by Fingon's shirt.

"You did though. You got to sleep."

"I couldn't sleep earlier. I went downstairs and had a drink," Maedhros said. "Well, maybe more than one."

So he hadn't been able to do it on his own, Fingon realized, a bit of disappointment welling up in him. He pushed the feeling away. He was being unfair. He had wanted Maedhros to sleep, he had wanted them to experience this, to go through it together. All of those things had happened-he was not in a position to complain about how that was accomplished. It was much better than the scenario he had agonized over, where the nightmare would come after their first sexual encounter. At least they had avoided that.

It was probably not a good idea to make drinking a habit for falling asleep, despite their earlier jokes about Maedhros doing just that, Fingon decided. It could likely be a trigger for the nightmares.

They could do better. Now that they had gone through this, with none of the contexts that they had each dreaded, it should be easier the next time. He knew there would be a next time, based on what Maedhros had told him, but he would be even better prepared to face it when it inevitably occurred.

"Drinking may not be the best method to get you to sleep, in the long-run," Fingon said, his eyes meeting Maedhros', a small smile on his lips. "Even if it does make you so much more talkative." His smile grew.

"You're right," Maedhros admitted. "I was just grasping at something to help." He rested his head against Fingon's chest again.

Fingon looked at the clock. It was four twenty-three. "Do you think you can go back to sleep? Do you ever got more than one in a night?"

Maedhros shook his head. "No, that's never happened. It's rarely ever been two nights in a row even. It sometimes used to be, at first, but . . ." his words cut off abruptly before continuing again, his voice a little hoarser as he spoke again. "No, it shouldn't happen again tonight."

Fingon nodded, forgetting Maedhros couldn't see him do so. "Do you think you could go back to sleep?"

"I can try."

"Come on then," Fingon said, pulling him down onto the pillows. "If it isn't going to happen again then you can stay close to me." He could feel Maedhros stiffen in his arms. "Maedhros. You just told me it's never happened twice in one night. Relax. I've got this."

He didn't relax. He looked up at Fingon, the anxiety present in his voice as he spoke. "But what if it does? I know it hasn't but that doesn't mean it can't happen this time."

"Hey," Fingon said, stroking his hair again, the repetitive movements calming him as well, as he searched for the right words. "It hasn't happened before. Odds are it won't. What did I tell you about worrying about things that might happen? Don't do that to yourself, Maedhros. Please." He kissed his forehead. "Just relax and get some rest. I'll be right here. If it makes you feel better I'll stay awake, ok?" His arms tightened around Maedhros. "It'll be ok."

Maedhros wasn't going to let it go that easily. "But you need to sleep," he objected.

"Actually, no, I don't. I've got nothing to do all day. I can take a nap when I get home, if I'm tired. I've gone on less sleep than this working on projects. Don't worry about me."

"You'll stay awake?" Maedhros asked.

"I promise you I will," Fingon replied.

Maedhros shifted position. "Are you ok like this?" Fingon asked.

"I was just wondering if I could hold you instead?" His head came up to look at Fingon. "Not that I don't like this, really I do but . . ."

"It would be easier if you didn't have someone confining you?" Fingon finished for him.

Maedhros finally relaxed against him. "Yes," he exhaled. "That's it exactly."

Fingon removed his arms from around him and moved down to nestle his head underneath Maedhros' chin, resting his hand gently against his chest. "This better?" he asked.

"Thank you," Maedhros whispered. He murmured something else that Fingon couldn't quite catch as he circled his arms around him. Fingon tilted his face up and touched his lips to Maedhros' neck softly.

Maedhros bent his head down and met his mouth with his own. It was soft and slow, all the tenderness he couldn't put into words. When he pulled away he rested his head on Fingon's with a small exhalation.

Fingon felt his chest rise and fall, slow and steady, until Maedhros finally, astoundingly, went to sleep.

The hours to daylight passed quickly to Fingon, content as he was in Maedhros' arms again. Tonight had been a breakthrough. He had been right-they could do this. He felt much more confident now that he knew what to expect. He could handle this. Maedhros had said it wasn't an every night occurrence. They had both managed to get some sleep and if they continued like this it was highly unlikely that Fingon was ever going to have a Tyelko moment and find himself with a broken nose.

It might still be hard for Maedhros to sleep anywhere other than his own room at Formenos and Fingon understood that. He was content to keep sleeping here, as long as he could. That would have to change once he started his internship though. Taking the train to Tirion every day could be a bit of a hassle. But they would have weekends and maybe a night mid-week here and there.

He frowned. It would be difficult to have only one or two nights a week after a winter break where they spent so many nights together. Fingon had no intention of changing their plan. They would both be stuck at their parents' places over the holiday but he had two weeks after that before his internship started and he'd be damned if he didn't spend those nights here. If Maedhros was ok with that, he amended. He burrowed closer to Maedhros. Fingon didn't think he would have too many objections.

Maybe he just needed to buy a car.

He was thinking about the travel times and the emancipation from train schedules that a car would give him when he felt Maedhros begin to stir.

"Mmmph." Maedhros made an unintelligible sound as he shifted against Fingon. His eyes opened slowly, a look of surprise momentarily in them as he caught sight of Fingon.

"Good morning," Fingon said, resting his chin on Maedhros' chest as he smiled up at him. "Did you forget I was here?"

"No, it just surprised me to realize I was actually waking up to you. I've thought about doing that so many times," Maedhros mumbled, then his eyes opened wide as he realized he had said that out loud.

Fingon put a finger on his lips. "I like hearing that. I've been looking forward to it too." He shifted up until his face was level with Maedhros'. "This also." He moved to touch Maedhros' lips with his own.

It started soft and slow, but they were both soon completely awake and aroused. Fingon swung his leg over Maedhros' knee, his thigh wedged between Maedhros' legs. His tongue swept through Maedhros' mouth and he was gratified to hear him make a small sound of pleasure at the sensation.

Maedhros' hands were under his shirt, tracing lines of heat along his back, his shoulders, down his sides. He slipped his own hands under Maedhros' t-shirt, running them up the smooth skin of his abdomen, following the curve of his pectorals, tracing small circles around his nipples. Another muffled sigh escaped Maedhros at his touch and his hands tightened at Fingon's waist.

Fingon could feel the surge of heat in his groin, the answering firmness against his leg as it lay across Maedhros. He trailed his lips down Maedhros' neck, savoring the sensation and the small sounds he was drawing out of him.

Fingon had longed for this contact; wanted it, craved it. He had held off-building trust was far more important than transient physical pleasure. But that trust was finally there now. For both of them. They had proven it to each other this night. They could keep moving forward. His fear of a nightmare subsequently marring an encounter did not seem quite as pressing anymore.

Fingon sat up and pulled his shirt off, tossing it to the side of the bed, then leaned on his arm and looked down at Maedhros. His fiery hair was spread across the pillow, framing his face, his skin flushed and warm.

"What time is it?" Maedhros asked, his voice deeper than usual.

Fingon eyed the clock. "Half past seven. Store opens at 10?"

"Mmm hmm."

"Then we've got plenty of time," Fingon said, lowering his mouth to Maedhros' lips again, the pressure more intense and firm as Maedhros responded in kind.

"Time for what?" Maedhros asked, as he pulled back, one eyebrow raised.

Fingon tugged at his shirt and Maedhros obligingly sat up and removed it, pulling Fingon down on top of him again once it was off, their bare chests sliding over each other as they resumed exploring each others bodies.

"For this," Fingon whispered, his lips leisurely trailing down Maedhros' neck, across his chest and then even more slowly down his abdomen. He stopped, just above the waistband of Maedhros' pajama pants and looked up at him. "Is this ok? Do you want me to keep going? I want this Maedhros, but only if you do."

Maedhros looked at him, a softness in his eyes that Fingon hadn't seen before. He wanted to see it again and again, he decided. Maedhros reached out and stroked the side of Fingon's face. "Are you sure?" he asked Fingon in turn.

"I've been sure for awhile now," Fingon admitted, feeling the heat on his face but keeping his eyes on Maedhros. He would not look away, not now. "But I can stop, if you're not ready."

"Don't stop," Maedhros whispered, so Fingon didn't.

______________________________________________________
for Ziggy, who thought it was about time for something to happen
End Notes:
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Chapter 29 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Maedhros had never been late to work. Technically, he wasn't late to work yet but it was going to be a close thing.

Tyelko had left, to join the team in the weight room, long before he and Fingon had ventured downstairs. There was no sign of Maglor but his car was still in the garage and his bedroom door was shut--likely a continued creativity crisis.

Maedhros hadn't bothered to cook breakfast; cold cereal while leaning against the countertop with Fingon suited him just fine. It was quick and easy and gave him the time to wrap his arms around Fingon again before they had to leave.

They kissed in the kitchen, Fingon's arms circling around him, as Maedhros rinsed their dishes in the sink. They lost more time in the laundry room, Maedhros pulling Fingon's hat on for him and dragging him close, their lips tracing lines of heat on skin already warm from their coats. It seemed natural enough to kiss again once they got in the car, his hands dropping from the steering wheel before starting the Subaru, as Fingon leaned across to catch his lips one more time.

They had their longest goodbye in the Formenos train station parking lot, as Maedhros dropped Fingon off there, before heading to Beleriand. He was so tempted to just drive him home to Tirion, anything to prolong their time together, but Maedhros was the one opening the store this morning so there was no other option. He contented himself with the thought that it would be less than twelve hours and Fingon would be back in his arms.

"It's close to ten," Fingon mumbled into his lips.

"Mmmph." Maedhros kept his lips drifting over Fingon's but opened his eyes long enough to glance at the clock on the car dashboard. 9:42. "I've got time," he mumbled back.

Fingon pulled back, his fingers still caught in Maedhros' hair, and smiled up at him, his brilliant blue eyes dizzyingly close. "I'll be back tonight, you know."

"And then you'll be at your parents the rest of the week," Maedhros said, trailing his mouth along Fingon's jawline and down his neck.

Fingon brought his lips to Maedhros' ear. "We'll be together again Saturday."

"Too many people," Maedhros breathed into his neck.

"Then we'll go to dinner. Just the two of us," Fingon answered, gently pushing Maedhros back and lightly kissing his nose. "You need to get to work. It's nine forty-eight!"

"You sure you don't want to just spend the day here instead?" Maedhros rested his forehead on Fingon's.

"I need a shower and clean clothes."

"Not a good enough reason to go. You already showered and there's loads of clothes in all kinds of sizes at the house." Maedhros bent down to bring their mouths together again, his hands finding their way under Fingon's coat and his tongue well on the way to completely distracting him again.

"You are going to be late," he exclaimed, reluctantly pulling himself back, leaning fully away from Maedhros this time and pointing at the clock.

9:52.

Maedhros grinned at him. "You're too distracting."

"Which is exactly why I am not going to work with you." Fingon said, unable to resist kissing Maedhros one last time before rapidly backing out of the car door. "I'll see you tonight, ok?" He dazzled Maedhros with one more smile and then he was gone, backpack bouncing on his shoulder as he ran for the train.

9:55.

Maedhros arrived at the store at 10:01. He let himself in, turned on the lights, got the coffee machines started, and powered up the computers.

He sat behind the counter as the computer booted up, smiling to himself. Fingon had been right--he could do this. They could do this. He had fallen asleep with Fingon there and nothing had happened.

Well, nothing bad had happened, he amended, his face heating up at the memories from this morning. They had made it through the nightmare, he had been able to fall asleep again after and he had woken up with Fingon in his arms. That in itself was cause for celebration but it had only gotten better from there.

Maedhros shook his head. He was at Beleriand, he reminded himself. Granted there were no customers and no other employees there yet, but still. He should probably try to keep his mind focused on work.

He turned his attention to the computer in front of him. Maedhros clicked the keyboard, finding the website he wanted and entering his information. He refreshed the page. The tracking was updated: the parcel had arrived at the main Tirion post office but was not marked 'out for delivery' yet. He groaned. He usually didn't mind having items shipped from overseas but he really needed this delivery today, tomorrow at the latest. He hadn't had an interest in obtaining obscure architecture books that were primarily available overseas before he met Fingon.

Not that he minded searching out obscure architecture books now, mind you. But this one was his Christmas present for Fingon. He needed it delivered.

He still wasn't sure when he was going to give it to him, what with both of them spending the holiday with their families. Likely after, so maybe he didn't need to stress so much about when it would arrive. But he would like to have it in his possession, just in case.

It wasn't a big deal of a present--just something he thought Fingon would like. He didn't expect anything from Fingon, although he realized they were unquestioningly well into full-blown relationship status. They may not have said it in so many words yet but it was certainly evident in their actions--especially this morning's activities.

His face flushed as he recalled it. He had not been completely surprised at how things had progressed; he and Fingon had been slowly moving towards such intimacy for days now. Sharing a bed was an act of intimacy in and of itself.

What surprised him was how comfortable he felt with it. Trust had been a difficult subject for him, these last four years. He trusted his parents, his brothers, Azaghâl. They knew and he had nothing to explain to them. But until now there had been no one outside that small circle. He hadn't trusted anyone else.

It was not that he didn't want someone. He craved closeness, physical contact, companionship. But that came with the added weight of trust and openness and that was something he had not been willing to cede. Until now.

He had kept most interactions to casual acquaintances; it was just easier that way. Of course he had friends from college and grad school. Good friends. Good people. They knew him well, just not completely. For that he had his family and Azaghâl--they were all the support he needed.

Physical release, whether on his own or with a partner, had been intermittent but perfunctory--a necessity to assuage the urge but lacking in anything more than that. Casual, short-lived and superficial had worked best--not for the deeply buried need for companionship and love he longed for, but doubted he would ever find--but enough to satisfy the short term urges.

Until now. He had definitely felt desire for Fingon--on many occasions, in fact--but the realization that this truly had potential to be more than casual had held him back.

Not anymore though. He had already opened up to Fingon more than he had to anyone outside his circle. The progression to intimacy of a physical nature felt right--he had already let Fingon be with him in a far more vulnerable situation and he had experienced only support, understanding and love.

"Are you ok?" Maglor was standing across the counter in front of him, looking at him curiously. Maedhros hadn't even heard him come in. "You've got the goofiest expression."

"What?" Maedhros straightened up quickly, his face reddening again.

"You were just staring off into space with this dreamy grin on your face." Maglor leaned in closer and dropped his voice. "Seriously, Maedhros. You need to get some sleep. I can man the store if you want to go back home and take a nap."

"I don't need a nap. I'm fine," Maedhros said, turning his attention to the computer again.

Maglor crossed his arms, leaned on the countertop and just looked at him.

"Stop that," Maedhros said irritably. "I told you I'm fine."

"I'm not doing anything."

"Not anything useful. I don't remember hiring you to just stand around staring at me. I'm sure you have something more important to do?" Maedhros continued.

"What's more important than keeping an eye on my older brother? If I didn't know you better I'd say you looked like you finally got laid."

It really was unfortunate that he blushed this easily, Maedhros thought for probably the thousandth time, as he glared at his younger brother.

"Ah. Looks like I was more accurate in my assumptions than I thought," Maglor leaned in more, a probing look on his face now. "Maedhros?"

"It's none of your business, you know."

"Right. But I can correctly assume you've been finding other activities to keep you occupied, since you're not sleeping?"

"You sound like Tyelko."

"No, if I was Tyelko I'd be asking if there were bare asses involved. I'm far more refined than Tyelko."

"You do realize we are at work, right?" Maedhros whispered.

"I'd forgotten your face could turn that shade," Maglor said thoughtfully. "It's not your best look."

"I'm beginning to think having you work here was not one of my better ideas."

"Ingrate. Your music department would suck without me. Who in their right mind would want to buy that much 80's alternative?" Maglor was grinning now. He tilted his head to the side, a fond look on his face as he smiled at his older brother. "I don't know what you two were doing but I do know that whatever it is, it's making you happier than I've seen you in years. That's reason enough for me to be grateful to Fingon, for coming into your life and into your bed. And in other ways as well, it seems." He winked and walked back to the music section, leaving Maedhros to drop his heated face in his hands and wonder why he thought having his brothers as roommates had ever been a good idea.

The morning mail delivery came and went with no packages. Maedhros uselessly refreshed the tracking page but the delivery status remained unchanged. What if Fingon had bought him something? And he had nothing to give him in return, now that this blasted book wasn't arriving in a timely fashion?

It was Thursday now. Christmas was on Wednesday. Surely the book would arrive before then, if it was already in Tirion? It should not take more than a day to make it to the Formenos post, even with the increased holiday business. It should definitely arrive tomorrow.

But he wouldn't be in Formenos after today. Other than Sunday, that is. But there would be no mail deliveries on Sunday. If the blasted thing didn't arrive by Saturday he'd have to make another trip back next week to retrieve it. Maybe he should have had it sent to his parents' home.

This was stupid. There was nothing he could do about it. It would arrive whenever the post chose to deliver it.

Maedhros looked at his watch. Maybe Maglor would cover the desk for a bit so he could scour some of the stores in town, to find at least something for Fingon. A token, if nothing more. He refused to be caught empty handed, on the off-chance Fingon had gotten him a Christmas gift. He could always give him the book later, explaining about the vagaries of international shipping.

He wandered over to the music section in search of his brother, finding him inventorying the latest vinyl acquisitions on the computer and sticking price-tags on the stack of albums in front of him.

"Hey," Maedhros said, leaning on the rack next to Maglor.

"This was a good haul," Maglor said. "Where did you find all these?"

"Retired music prof from the university. Downsizing to a condo. He'd already transferred all of these to digital files so he was getting rid of almost everything," Maedhros replied. "I knew they would be in good condition, coming from someone like him."

"Like new." Maglor looked up at him, raising an eyebrow questioningly. "Enough about the albums. What's up? You've got that concerned look."

"I do not."

"You do too. Trust me, I've seen it enough. You get this weird crease between your eyebrows." Maglor attempted to demonstrate, drawing his eyebrows together but it looked more like a scowl than concern to Maedhros.

He rolled his eyes at his younger brother. "Can you cover the desk for a bit? So I can go out?"

"I thought Fingon went to Tirion for the day."

"He did. I just need to get some things done downtown, before we head to Mom and Dad's tomorrow, ok?" Maedhros said. "An hour at the most."

"Yeah, no problem. Not like I have anywhere else to go. You want to grab me something to eat, while you're out? I forgot to bring anything," Maglor said.

Maedhros nodded. "I'll get something from Himring. I forgot to bring lunch too."

"You were probably pretty distracted," Maglor grinned.

"Don't start that again," Maedhros warned.

Maglor put his hands up and shook his head. "I'm not starting anything. Just stating the facts. I told you--I'm grateful to Fingon. I've said it before--I think he's good for you." Maglor paused, his face more serious. "I really do like him. You deserve someone like that. It's about damn time, Maedhros."

The crease disappeared from Maedhros' forehead and a gentle smile came over his face at Maglor's words. "Thanks."

He found it in the third shop. It made him laugh and that was enough to convince him to buy it. It was nothing really, just a winter hat, but it struck Maedhros as just the right thing when he saw it.

________________________________________________________________

Tyelko was the last one in the locker room. He took one more quick look around and then grabbed his gym bag, digging his phone out of the side pocket. There were a few emails from the coach, some Athletic Department schedules, and a text from Aredhel. He swung his bag over his shoulder and headed to the lounge, dropping into one of the comfortable chairs to text her back.

TYELKO: We still on for Saturday at Thargelion?

AREDHEL: Yes! I told my parents not to expect us around that morning. Can't wait! Turgon and Argon are in. I'm sure Fingon is too. ;-)

TYELKO: Yeah, no doubt. I've got a game tonight. I'm in Tirion tomorrow. You free for dinner or a movie or something? I want to see you again.

AREDHEL want to see you too. Saturday better-Mom will want us all here tomorrow night, I'm sure. First night everyone's home.

TYELKO: Shit. You're right. I'm sure my mom will want us all around tomorrow night for dinner too. Not like we don't see each other all the time, but whatever. Holidays. Mom always gets all sentimental.

AREDHEL: Mine too. She gets all camera happy when we're all together too.

TYELKO: Ugh. Same.

AREDHEL: I'll talk to you tomorrow. Tell me what time for Saturday, ok?

TYELKO: Will do. Miss you.

AREDHEL: Miss you too.

Tyelko slipped his phone back in his pocket. He had a month before Aredhel was back at school. He fully intended to spend as much time as possible with her, while she was home.

Maedhros was occupied with Fingon and work, Maglor with his compositions and job search. He hadn't really had a chance to talk to either of them alone recently. Home this week was going to be chaos, as usual. It was unlikely he would find any time to have a one-on-one conversation with any of his brothers, let alone have much time to himself.

Not that he needed to have a one-on-one with any of them, he told himself, although he knew that wasn't really true. Maedhros always took the time to listen but Tyelko didn't really want to bother him--he was dealing with enough on his own right now.

Things were good for Maedhros finally. For all his teasing, Tyelko really was happy for his oldest brother. He had been through shit for long enough. He deserved some good times. And from what he'd seen, Maedhros was definitely having some good times.

Fingon was a decent guy. A really decent guy. Tyelko was usually pretty open-minded about people but he wasn't naive. He'd seemed too good to be true at first but Fingon had proven himself to Tyelko. He had made so much progress with Mae, more than anyone had in years, and it was obvious how much he cared for him. Damn, he hoped Mae didn't fuck it up somehow, but he wasn't as worried about that as he had been a few weeks ago. Maedhros wasn't behaving like he usually did with someone new and that was a big deal in and of itself.

Maglor was surprisingly good with advice, despite being an absolute dumbass when it came to his own relationships. It was almost as if he were blind to his own actions while being completely on target when observing others. It really was too bad. That last girl had messed with his brother's head.

It's not like he needed advice. Things were going fine with Aredhel. A hell of a lot better than fine.

He'd never dated someone so easy to read. At times, it was almost unnerving. He usually said the wrong thing, or took a joke too far, or wasn't sensitive enough about something but it wasn't like that with Aredhel. She matched him--joke for joke, innuendo for innuendo, touch for touch. He'd been the one holding back this time, restraining himself. This wasn't casual. He wasn't going to treat it like it was.

And that was the reason why he wanted to talk to one of his older brothers. He had never felt quite like this before. He'd take anyone up on a good time, no questions asked. But not this time. He wanted to go slow, savor every kiss, every touch, every . . . seriously what the hell was wrong with him?! He sounded like one of Maglor's fucking emo songs. What the hell?

Timing and location had been on his side so far. There really hadn't been anywhere to be private with Aredhel, except the time she stayed over in Formenos and fortunately Fingon had ended up stranded there that night too. That had totally put a damper on any amorous escapades. He had no interest in getting Fingon riled up about his little sister.

But with a whole month ahead of him that might change. He grimaced. Shit. He sounded just like Maedhros had a few weeks ago except he didn't have as good a reason. What was with him? Normally he would be finding ways to get Aredhel alone at the Formenos house during the day, while his brothers were out.

Great. This was it then. He'd thought he'd been in love with some of those other girls before but obviously he'd been wrong. That was infatuation, generalized horniness, the haze of desire.

This was something else completely. A cold shiver went through him. It may be for him but was it anything like that for her? She was still in school, three years younger than him, still having fun with everything and everyone, certainly not interested in anything more serious, right?

Maybe she'd said something to Fingon. Maybe he really did need to find a minute to get Maedhros alone this week and talk to him. Shit. He was in way deeper than he had thought.

__________________________________________________________________

Fingon heard his phone ping as he sat on the train, nearing the Formenos station. He could see the snow falling outside even the though the sun had already set, the snowflakes huge and sticking to the window intermittently.

MAEDHROS: I'm at the station. Look for my car.

FINGON: not having dinner in town?

MAEDHROS: Yes dinner in town. Snow coming down pretty hard-didn't want you to have to walk. It's cold.

Fingon smiled as he looked at the message on his phone. Maedhros was so conscientious about Fingon not getting cold. Another message came in as he was still staring at his screen.

MAEDHROS: Italian place right outside of town tonight for dinner. Thought you'd gone long enough without pasta.

Fingon laughed outright this time, as he slipped his phone in his pocket and grabbed his backpack to make his way to the train platform.

It had been less than twelve hours since they had last been together but Fingon couldn't wait to see Maedhros again. He smiled at the thought but then it faded as he realized it would be their last night together for almost a week.

He'd gotten quite used to this. Of course, they would see each other Saturday at the park and dinner; he was sure they would find some time to get together again in Tirion before the holiday, even if it was only for a cup of coffee. But it wouldn't be the same. They had spent almost every night this past week together. They had survived one of Maedhros' nightmares unscathed. They had taken their relationship one step further this morning. Another step in the right direction, not too fast, but definitely further than before.

He wanted to see Maedhros like that again--completely relaxed, aroused, all his attention focused solely on him.

The cars in the parking lot looked the same in the dark but he spotted Maedhros, leaning against his car, unconcerned at the snow falling all around him. Maybe he should have gotten him a hat instead of that t-shirt, Fingon thought as he walked over to him.

Or not, he decided, as he regarded Maedhros when he reached him. The streetlight highlighted his hair, the snowflakes clinging to it. He'd been wearing it down almost all the time now, knowing Fingon liked it that way. No, Maedhros was just fine without a hat, with that fiery hair cascading down, sprinkled with snowflakes and that look in his eyes.

He found himself in Maedhros' embrace, warm arms around him and Maedhros' soft lips touching his own, heating him up despite the blast of wind that swept across them both. He leaned into him, thinking again how well they fit together like this, his arms sliding around Maedhros' waist, pulling him just a little bit closer.

"Hi," Maedhros said, a few moments later, his breath ghosting in the air.

"Hi," Fingon replied, looking up into those silver eyes, the wind forgotten. He tightened his grip around him and tucked his head under Maedhros' chin. This was where he wanted to be.

He felt Maedhros' lips brush his hair, his breath warm. "There are warmer places we could go, you know," Maedhros said. "Nicer places than a parking lot too."

Fingon laughed, burying his face in Maedhros' coat. "I'm fine anywhere you are, honestly," he mumbled into the fabric.

Maedhros squeezed him one more time and then stepped back, opening the car door. "Come on, get in. I'll get the fire going when we get home and we can take up where we left off."

"Who's going to walk in on us tonight, you think?" Fingon asked, as he buckled his seat belt and looked over at Maedhros. "Maglor or Tyelko? My money's on Tyelko again."

"You'd be wrong. He's got a game tonight," Maedhros replied. "We've had enough people walking in on us, don't you think?" He smiled over at Fingon. "Might just need to go to bed before they get home this time." His face broke into a grin as he reached out for Fingon's hand and squeezed it once. "I'll need both hands on the wheel with this snow and these roads," he said, reluctantly pulling it away again to start driving.

The restaurant was just on the edge of town, on the road that led to the lake house. Small, warm, not very crowded for a Thursday night. As usual, they chose a booth and sat near the back.

"I thought you might be having some pasta withdrawal," Maedhros said, as he perused the menu, an amused expression on his face.

"Very funny. Pasta is not all I eat, you know. It's just all I know how to cook," Fingon replied, then got a thoughtful look. "Well, I guess ramen counts as pasta too, doesn't it, being noodles?" He sighed. "Maybe I do eat a lot of pasta."

Maedhros reached his hand across the table and laced his fingers with Fingon's. "I'm just teasing."

"I know," Fingon looked at him fondly. "Since you're the expert cook, maybe you can give me some lessons in non-pasta cooking."

"I'm not an expert," Maedhros countered.

"You can cook venison. And lava cake," Fingon stated. "Which makes you an expert to me." He leaned forward. "I would gladly find the time to mess around in the kitchen with you."

"I could take that to mean a number of things," Maedhros replied, his eyes sparkling mischievously at Fingon.

Fingon met his gaze with a smouldering intensity. "Take it any way you like."

Maedhros laughed. It wasn't a sound Fingon had heard often enough, he decided.

Dinner passed quickly and they were soon on the road to the house.

"Aredhel texted me about Saturday. We're still on for this mysterious game of yours, then?" Fingon said.

"Nothing mysterious about it. Just fun," Maedhros replied. "I think Tyelko's got it squared away with the others. Thargelion Park but I'm not sure of the time."

"Then dinner, just the two of us, right?" Fingon asked.

"Yes, I'd like that," Maedhros said, glancing at him as he spoke. Fingon was leaning against the car door, a radiant smile on his face as he looked back at him. Maedhros dragged his eyes back to the road.

It was probably time to tell him, Maedhros thought. Not just that he loved him but the whole story. He deserved his honesty and Maedhros was for once confident that opening up wouldn't result in loss. Fingon would be as steadfast as he had proved to be all those other times. He wouldn't make Maedhros feel naive or idiotic for letting himself get in that situation in the first place--he was sure of that now.

"What are you thinking about?" Fingon asked.

"What? Oh, nothing really," Maedhros stalled. "Why do you ask?"

"You just had a look," Fingon said thoughtfully, his eyes on Maedhros. "Like you wanted to say something."

"Oh."

"Did you?"

"Did I what?"

"Want to say something?" Fingon said.

This was not the time or place for confessions of that kind. What he had to say was better suited to sitting in front of a warm fire, or curled around each other in his soft bed. But he could feel Fingon's eyes on him and that fond expression was still there, along with something else, something more than fond. He had to say something, he decided.

"Yes, I suppose I do," Maedhros said slowly, as he turned into the long driveway leading to the house. He swallowed and darted a sidelong look at Fingon again. "I just wanted to tell you--you were right."

"About what?"

"About this," Maedhros gestured vaguely with his right hand. "About us. About being able to do this and have it be ok." He took a breath. He could admit this now. It was easier than the other things he wanted to say. "I agreed to try it. I didn't really think it would work but I wanted to try, for you. Because you believed it could." He kept his eyes on the road. "I've never been so gratified to be wrong," he finished, giving Fingon another sidelong look.

Fingon reached over and rested his hand on Maedhros' thigh. "Thank you for trusting me and trusting this," he said quietly. Maedhros took his right hand off the steering wheel and grasped Fingon's hand. The garage was just ahead. He intertwined their fingers and squeezed once. He knew he didn't need to say more than that.

Maglor's car was in the garage. Maedhros and Fingon made their way into the house, hand in hand, as they walked through the kitchen into the family room. Maglor was on one of the sofas, music playing from the speakers, his notebook in his hand. He looked up as he heard them come in.

"Hey," Maglor greeted them. He actually looked pleased to see them, Maedhros noticed.

"This yours?" Maedhros asked about the music, nodding in the direction of the nearest speaker.

Maglor nodded. "Yeah, but I can turn it off, now that you're home. I'll work on it upstairs."

"No, I'd like to hear it," Maedhros assured him, squeezing Fingon's hand in a silent question.

"Yes, I would too," Fingon added, squeezing back in response.

"Really? It's still pretty rough," Maglor said, but his face lit up as they sat on the sofa across from him.

Maedhros positioned himself at the far end of the sofa, Fingon next to him, their fingers still interlaced between them. He looked at Maglor expectantly. "Start it from the beginning," he instructed his brother.

So Maglor did. It was a complicated piece, the piano having the most prominent part but with violins coming in and out of the composition. No vocals, Maglor explained; that was the part he was still working on. He warmed to his subject, his words coming at a quicker pace as he explained the melody patterns to them.

It was a longer composition than Maedhros expected. "This isn't one of your pieces for Avallonë, is it?" he asked.

Maglor shook his head. "No, this is one I'm hoping to use for my independent study next semester. I need to have a few compositions ready for the spring recital. I still have to decide if I want to play the piano part or sing the vocals. It would be too challenging to do both." He sighed. "Of course there aren't any vocals written out yet."

"Do you need vocals?" Fingon asked.

Maglor tilted his head. "I had envisioned it that way. A three part piece--the piano and vocals making up the bulk of the melody with the violins providing harmony and a second melodic component." He looked at Fingon questioningly. "Why do you ask?"

"It's just lovely the way it is. I'm sure vocals will just add to it but it doesn't sound like it's missing anything at all," Fingon replied, sliding closer to Maedhros as he spoke and leaning back to rest on his chest, Maedhros' arms coming around him.

Maglor frowned in thought. "I can certainly consider leaving the vocals out. It would make it easier for me to perform." He leaned back onto the sofa. "I do need to have at least one composition with vocal elements, though." He started the music from the beginning, narrowing his eyes as he listened.

Maedhros hand gently rubbed Fingon's back. The heat of the fire nearby washed over him as he lay in Maedhros' arms. The combination of that, the gentle music playing, and the pasta he had consumed earlier, was making him sleepy. He burrowed his head further into Maedhros' shoulder. He loved these moments in Maedhros' embrace, content and comfortable.

Maedhros looked down at the relaxed body resting against his chest. Fingon looked like he was about to drift off. Not the night to have long conversations or drop a declaration of love on him. Better to save that until after the holidays, when they would have more time together again. Maedhros rested his cheek on Fingon's head for a moment and then spoke softly to him. "You ready to call it a night?"

"Hmm." Fingon murmured unintelligibly into his shirt.

"I'll take that as a yes," Maedhros replied. He looked over at Maglor. "We ate at Taras' tonight," he explained.

"Carb coma," Maglor said knowingly, nodding at Fingon.

"Pretty much," Maedhros answered. He nudged Fingon who then sat up and blearily blinked at Maglor.

"Sorry. Didn't mean to drift off like that."

"No worries," Maglor said. "Just don't tell me if it was the music, ok? Let me keep thinking it's because of the food and Maedhros keeping you up all night." He grinned at Fingon, who sat up looking much more alert at that comment, as if he were about to respond. Maglor put a hand up warningly. "But don't tell me what he's been doing to keep you up all night, ok? I don't need to hear about that." He was amused to see Fingon blush almost as much as Maedhros had earlier in the day.

"And on that note, I think we'll head up for the night." Maedhros stood up, pulling Fingon up into a standing position and letting him lean against him as he spoke to his brother. "I'll take Fingon to the station in the morning and check in with Erestor at the store but we can head to Tirion after that. We taking all three cars to Mom and Dad's?"

Maglor considered that. "I'd like to be able to get away from the house, you know? If the need or mood arises. You've got to come back Sunday, don't you?"

Maedhros nodded, his hand still absently rubbing circles on Fingon's back as he leaned against him, Fingon's arms around his waist. Maglor had noticed how much more at ease they were with each physically over the past few days. It was even more obvious tonight. "I told Erestor I'd come in Sunday. Just splitting the holiday week that way. Then we'll all take our cars. I'm sure Tyelko wants to have his, in case he and Aredhel have plans," Maedhros said.

Maglor considered his brother and then made the offer. "I can work on Sunday for you, you know. I don't mind. I've got nothing else going on and I'm sure I'll be ready for a break by then."

"You don't have to do that. It's your vacation time too."

"Well, just think about it. Really, I don't mind. Just let me know," Maglor repeated.

"Thanks, Maglor." Maedhros walked behind the other sofa, pausing to ruffle his brother's hair affectionately before leaving the room with Fingon.

A few moments later they found themselves in Maedhros' bed, Fingon curled up in the middle as Maedhros switched off the light. He slid under the covers and moved closer to Fingon, who immediately pressed himself against Maedhros with a contented sigh.

Maedhros kissed his forehead and slipped an arm around him, momentarily surprised to feel Fingon's bare skin. He must have been too tired to bother with pajamas. "Good night," he whispered into Fingon's hair. He closed his eyes, reveling in the heat of Fingon's body next to his. He wasn't expecting to feel warm breath on his neck and the touch of Fingon's lips traveling up his jawline. "I thought you were almost asleep," he said.

"Not that sleepy," Fingon answered, somehow moving even closer, his hand sliding under Maedhros' shirt to tantalizingly trail his fingertips across his chest. Maedhros shivered at the touch. Fingon's lips found his and he slid his tongue across them as Maedhros opened to him, a small sound escaping him at the contact.

He tugged at Maedhros' shirt, as he had the night before, and Maedhros stripped it off, tossing it to the side before turning his attention back to Fingon. He traced a finger down his jawline, down his neck, fingertips gently brushing down his chest.

They were laying on their sides facing each other. It was too dark to see anything clearly but Maedhros could just make out the dim outline of Fingon's face and shoulder. His hands drifted lower, feeling the taut muscles of Fingon's abdomen, his hipbones, making him shiver in turn at his touch. Maedhros could feel his arousal pressed against his thigh and his hands traveled further down.

It seemed Fingon had dispensed with pajama pants as well, as all he encountered was smooth skin as his touch drifted lower. Fingon moaned against his mouth as Maedhros skimmed by his groin. Maedhros turned his full attention to Fingon's neck, then moved his lips down his chest to slowly press heated kisses along his skin.

Fingon's hands slid down to the waistband of Maedhros' pajamas, gently circling his waist and tugging at the fabric before whispering "Maedhros?" in a questioning tone of voice.

Maedhros murmured a quiet "Your turn tonight," before continuing to slide down Fingon's body, coming to rest between his legs before pausing to look up, Fingon's fingers now threaded through his hair. "If you want me to, that is."

"I want you," Fingon whispered back, his fingers gently stroking strands of hair off Maedhros' face.

Fingon could feel the heat of Maedhros' mouth on his lower abdomen, the slick swipe of his tongue tracing a path further down. "Finno," Maedhros breathed, as he felt him tremble beneath his hands.

It was silent, other than their breathing and the soft sounds Maedhros was drawing out of Fingon, his hands tightening their grip on his hair until he gasped out a quiet "Maitimo!" before shuddering once, twice, and then falling bonelessly back against the bed, his breathing uneven now.

Maedhros moved up to rest his head against Fingon's chest, feeling the rapid beat of his heart under him, Fingon's fingers gently and slowly stroking through his hair. He had not expected to hear a nickname from him. He wondered where that had come from. Maedhros' lips moved silently and he breathed into the warm skin he touched.

Fingon murmured something he couldn't quite hear, the beat of his heart drowning out all other sounds. He could feel Fingon's hands slowly still as his breathing evened out and he fell asleep, the tiny snores that signaled it following soon after.

"I love you, Finno," he whispered into the darkness, curling his arms around Fingon's sleeping form.

__________________________________________________________________________

Linguistics note: the suffix -timo is a superlative. My assumption is that Fingon has looked through some of Finrod's books or had some late night discussions on word origins with his roommate, hence the nickname. ;)
Chapter 30 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Maedhros woke in the middle of the night, momentarily surprised to find himself still sprawled on Fingon's chest. A week ago he could never have imagined having someone in his bed all night, let alone in such close proximity. What a difference a week made.

What a difference Fingon made, he amended. He never would have dared any of this if Fingon hadn't suggested it, hadn't believed in him, in them, in this relationship.

Fingon's heartbeat was slow and steady below him, his body cooler than before. Maedhros shifted position to pull the covers over them and moved to Fingon's side now, curving his arm around his waist.

It would only be a few days and they would be here together again. He was looking forward to that. They would somehow find time to see each other in Tirion and being with family would provide some distraction, at least for a little while.

A smile crossed his face as it dawned on him that he didn't need to take Fingon to the station in the morning. With all three of them driving to Tirion he didn't need to wait on Maglor or Tyelko; he could sleep in, take Fingon with him when he went to the store to speak with Erestor and then drive him up to Tirion himself. This day was already looking better.

He shifted a little closer to Fingon and brushed a kiss into his hair. Maybe sleeping in wouldn't be all they would do this morning, he thought, warmth flooding over him as he considered it.

He breathed in the scent of Fingon's hair and closed his eyes.

____________________________________________

They had been awake for some time, sharing languid kisses. Fingon was tucked under Maedhros' chin, tracing lazy circles on his bare chest. Maedhros' arm was warm and solid as it curved around him.

They had woken slowly, to the sun filtering into Maedhros' room, their bodies just touching at first before moving closer together instinctively. They were content to be like this, Maedhros' brothers' voices in the hall an effective antidote to any more exuberant physical activity.

"So," Maedhros said, his fingers gently twining in Fingon's curls. "Maitimo?"

Fingon groaned and buried his flushed face in Maedhros' shoulder.

"No, stop. I like it, really I do. I was just curious as to where it came from," Maedhros continued.

"I just came up with it," Fingon mumbled into Maedhros' shoulder, resolutely not looking up. "Your brothers call you 'Mae' and I liked it but it didn't seem right for me to call you that too."

"But I call you 'Finno'," Maedhros pointed out. "And your sister calls you that," he continued slowly. "I just made things weird, didn't I?" Maedhros said, his voice causing Fingon to look up at him. He was wide-eyed and looked a little stunned.

Fingon shoved him. "Stop. You did not make things weird. I'm used to Finno—I like it when you call me that. It's more . . . intimate when you do it." He paused and then groaned again. "Ok, yeah now it's weird." He buried his face in Maedhros' shoulder again, laughing this time.

He looked up a moment later, meeting Maedhros' silver eyes with his own. "So, anyway, like I said, I liked Mae but felt weird calling you that. Finrod was going through some linguistics work at home one night and it just seemed like 'Maitimo' sounded right."

Maedhros pressed a kiss to his forehead, then looked down at him with an amused but fond expression. "You do realize I know what it means, right? I had to take those linguistics classes too, you know." He laughed as Fingon yanked the sheet up to cover his now scarlet face. "You'll have to tell me if you think it's accurate or not," Maedhros added, eliciting a muffled curse from Fingon.

He pulled a corner of the sheet down and Fingon's flushed face emerged, glaring at him now. "I wasn't really thinking clearly at the time," he said hoarsely.

Maedhros grinned. "I can understand that. I wasn't thinking quite clearly then either."

Fingon made an irritated sound then discarded the sheet; he ran his hands through his hair as he shook his head. "You do realize how embarrassing this is, right?"

"To you or to me?" Maedhros asked. "That's a tough name to live up to." He turned on his side, facing Fingon, and traced a finger along his exposed shoulder. "But I do like it."

"I would say 'well-shaped' fits you just fine," Fingon said, turning to face Maedhros. "At least from my cursory examination. I may have to do further research into the matter. You know, to confirm my hypothesis." His grin made Maedhros catch his breath and then Fingon's lips found his again.

_____________________________________________

They made it to Beleriand before eleven, Fingon at his side as Maedhros went in search of Erestor. The part-time student he had hired a few months ago was manning the desk. Erestor was deep in conversation with a customer, near the back of the store, amidst the history books.

"I can't say I've heard of that one, but I'd be happy to look online and see if I can order it for you," Erestor was saying. He caught sight of Maedhros and nodded at him but kept his attention focused on the customer. "Why don't you come up to the desk with me and I can look it up." He raised an eyebrow at Maedhros as he walked by, the customer following him. "I'll be right back, Maedhros," he said.

Fingon and Maedhros made themselves comfortable in the armchairs in the middle of the store, as Erestor tapped away at the front desk computer. "And here I thought you were going out of your way to be nice to me, when I first came in looking for a book," Fingon said. "But it seems like you provide that level of service to everyone." He couldn't keep the grin off his face as he said it though.

"Not everyone," Maedhros grinned back. "I don't provide free rush shipping to just anyone," he said with a wink.

"I knew you'd done that! I even asked you and you just asked me out for coffee instead."

"Would you rather I charged you the two-day shipping?" Maedhros questioned.

"I'd have paid it and still treated you to coffee, you know."

"But I couldn't be sure of that, could I?" Maedhros said, his eyes taking on that soft look that Fingon loved.

"No, you're right," Fingon admitted. "I could barely string a sentence together around you then."

"Hey, Maedhros," a voice interrupted them. Maedhros looked up to see Erestor approaching them. He stood up, Fingon doing the same.

"Fingon, this is Erestor, my store manager, right-hand man and the reason I have days off." He nodded at Fingon. "Erestor, this is Fingon."

"I finally get to meet the reason you want all those days off," Erestor said drily. He shook Fingon's hand. "Nice to meet you. I'm glad he's finally found a reason to take some time away from the store. He just gets in the way when he's here too much," Erestor deadpanned.

Maedhros groaned. "He gets these ideas," Erestor explained to Fingon. "They make no financial sense half the time. What you get when you have a Classics PhD try to run a business," Erestor's fond look contradicted his verbal indictment of his employer.

"I happen to like his ideas," Fingon said loyally.

"At least someone does!" Erestor said. "What's up, Maedhros?" he asked, turning his attention back to him. "Aren't you supposed to be doing the family thing today?"

"I'm leaving for Tirion from here. I just wanted to check in about a few things before I go-some deliveries that are supposed to be coming in, things like that," Maedhros said.

"We get deliveries every day, Maedhros. I think I've got that part of the job figured out," Erestor said.

Fingon studied Maedhros' manager. He was not as tall as Maedhros but had similar coloring to Maglor, with dark hair and grey eyes. He certainly had a much more serious countenance. He didn't look like someone who laughed much, Fingon decided.

"Fingon, would you mind grabbing a couple of cups of coffee, for the road?" Maedhros asked.

"Oh, yeah, sure. Be right back."

Erestor raised an eyebrow at Maedhros as Fingon walked away. "I can see why you've been so preoccupied."

"Shut up, Erestor, you're getting to be as bad as my brothers," Maedhros said. "Listen, I'm waiting for a package from the UK. It's an architecture book. The tracking has it as 'arrived in Tirion' but the blasted thing hasn't been delivered yet. It's my Christmas present for Fingon. Can you text me if it comes today? I'll be back Sunday but I want to know either way. With my luck it won't come in until Monday and I'll have to drive out to get it next week." He looked around but Fingon was still by the coffee machines, fitting lids onto their cups.

"Don't worry about it, Maedhros. I'll let you know if it gets here today. If it doesn't turn up, I'll bring it to you when it does. You know I live in Tirion-it's no big deal for me to drop it off." Erestor bumped his shoulder. "I'm on it, no worries, ok? Just have fun. If it doesn't show up by Monday I'll call up to the post office in Tirion. I don't mind being an asshole to them about it. It'll be fun."

"You have a strange definition of fun, Erestor," Maedhros laughed.

"To each his own. I'll text you. Don't worry about it." Erestor cracked an unexpected smile before making his way back to the desk.

Fingon came up, two coffee cups in hand. "All good?" he asked.

"All good," Maedhros replied. "So do you feel like grabbing some lunch when we get to Tirion?"

"I've got nothing to do today except pack a bag for Mom and Dad's and make it to their house by four," Fingon said. "I'm all yours until then."

"I can't tell you how much I like the sound of that," Maedhros grinned.

_______________________________________________

Tirion Saturday morning: Thargelion Park

"So what do you call this game again?" Aredhel asked Tyelko as they walked to the snow covered playing fields in the park near her home in Tirion.

"It doesn't really have a name, " Tyelko admitted. "We started playing it years ago and it's just gone from there."

"So it's like rugby?" she asked.

"Similar," Maedhros said, as he and Fingon walked near them. "The point is to get the ball across the goal line," he continued. "But it doesn't matter how—you can throw a pass, run it in, kick it across, pick up another player who is carrying the ball and toss them past the goal line, whatever."

"So how do you stop someone?" Fingon asked.

"Any way you can except no face grabs," Tyelko explained. "You can tackle, check, trip, push, block, whatever works but no face grabs." He grinned at Aredhel and threw his arm around her shoulders. "Got to protect our good looks."

"Not that we haven't ended up with black eyes and teeth knocked out," Maglor grumbled.

"Unintentional, Mags, you know that," Tyelko stated. "You can't predict where an elbow will end up on a tackle. It's the intentional face grabs that are illegal, not the accidental hits."

"Is Azaghâl going to show up?" Moryo asked Maedhros, as they walked.

"No, he and Telchar are spending the holiday in Belegost, with his family," Maedhros answered.

"Damn. Az rocks at this," Moryo replied. "He's usually the only one who can take Tyelko out."

They reached the fields and stood in a close bunch. Fingon's brothers were there in addition to Aredhel, along with Maedhros and all six of his brothers.

"Why the snowballs?" Turgon asked, looking curiously at Amrod and Amras, who were now on their knees at either end of the field, making large piles of compact snowballs.

"Winter modification," Maedhros explained. "We came up with that when the twins were too little to play. They sat on the sideline and pelted anyone within reach with snowballs. Distraction tactic."

"It makes scoring more challenging if you get hit with a face full of snow," Curvo added. "So we kept it."

"I'll take one team and Mae can take the other," Tyelko stated. "Moryo, Curvo—you make the goal lines. The twins will have the snowballs ready at each side line." He looked around at his remaining brothers and Fingon's family. "You pick first, Mae," he offered.

"I should probably just take everyone who hasn't played before," Maedhros said thoughtfully.

"No, that's not fair," Maglor objected. "You'll get creamed. They'll learn better if they're with veteran players."

"Fine, I'll take Fingon," Maedhros said, putting his hand on Fingon's shoulder.

"You sure you wouldn't rather have him on my team so you can have a good excuse to tackle him, Mae?" Tyelko asked with a grin, enjoying the faint blush his words brought to both Fingon and Maedhros' faces. "That's why I'm going to let you have Aredhel."

Aredhel shoved him and he staggered in the snow. "I wouldn't want to be on your team, Tyelko! I'm here to whip your ass." Aredhel laughed as Tyelko enveloped her in a hug and kissed the top of her head.

"We'll see about that. Fine, then I'll take Curvo." Tyelko looked down at Aredhel fondly. "You'll never know what hit you," he warned her.

"I'll take Aredhel," Maedhros said.

"Moryo," Tyelko replied.

"Maglor," Maedhros said.

"Turgon," Tyelko added.

"Argon," Maedhros said.

Tyelko frowned. "No, then it won't be fair—I'll have to take the twins." Aredhel gave him a puzzled look. "They have to be on the same team or they cheat—they look exactly alike so they play both sides when they're on different teams. That's why they dress the same when we play. It's super annoying," he explained.

"Shut up, Tyelko," both twins said, in unison, as they returned from their snowball endeavors.

Tyelko ignored them. "I'll take Argon, Mae. You take the twin terrors. That makes it more even."

"How does that make it even?" Fingon questioned. "We have one more on our team this way—we've an odd number of players," Fingon pointed out.

"Yeah, but you have Maglor and he sucks, so it's a wash," Moryo said, as he rejoined them.

Maglor punched Moryo in the arm. "Watch out, Moryo. You might find yourself with a face full of snow."

Maedhros rolled his eyes at his brothers. "All right—my team this way." They moved to one of the goal lines Moryo and Curvo had stomped into the snow, the cleared line of brown, wilted grass making a stark contrast to the white surrounding them. "Maglor, you are on snowball duty." He gestured to the pile of snowballs on the sideline. "Ok, so the rest of you—Tyelko usually carries the ball. If he comes close enough Maglor will nail him with snowballs to the face to slow him down. I'll try to get the ball from him and the rest of you just block the others for me. Don't bother trying to tackle him-it'll be like hitting a brick wall."

Maedhros pulled his hair up and out of his face as he spoke, securing it into a ponytail. Fingon watched him, following the line of his neck as he tilted his head, mesmerized by the sight. He shook his head and pulled his attention back to the instructions Maedhros was barking out. "Any of us can score if we cross their goal line with the ball. Pass anywhere, anytime. Watch out for Moryo—he'll trip you. Curvo likes to come from the side or behind to smack the ball out of your hands." Maedhros looked over his team and flashed a fierce smile at them. "Ok, scrum time. Let's do this!"

Even fifteen minutes of play later it still seemed like complete chaos to Fingon. Tyelko had scored on his first run but they had managed to keep him mostly blocked since then. Maedhros flipped the ball to Aredhel, who dodged Curvo, shoved Moryo with a shoulder block while Maedhros rammed into Tyelko, to keep him from tackling her.

It didn't slow Tyelko down enough. He threw Maedhros off and barreled right into Aredhel, head down. He grabbed her around the waist, threw her over his shoulder, ball and all. Maedhros yelled at her to toss the ball to Fingon, to anyone, but Tyelko ran her all the way past the goal line and went down in a tumbled heap with her in the end zone, before she could throw it to any of them.

"Score!" Moryo yelled, as he and Curvo high-fived each other.

"How is that a score?" Fingon asked. "He didn't have the ball."

"He had her and she had the ball," one of the twins explained. "It's not how you get it across, it's just that you get it over the line."

Aredhel was pelting Tyelko with snow as they lay in the end zone. He leaned over and kissed her in a vain attempt to get her to stop. "You bastard," Aredhel said fondly, as she laughingly dumped more snow on his head.

"Come on, Tyelko," Moryo shouted.

"Seriously, Tyelko—I'm going to call the score back if you keep doing that," Maglor grumbled.

Tyelko pulled Aredhel up and they all converged at the center of the field for another scrum, with the exception of Argon and Maglor who were replenishing their dwindling snowball arsenals.

This was a ridiculous game, Fingon thought, as he shoved against Curvo in the scrum, but he loved the wildness of it. Aredhel wrestled the ball away from Moryo when she managed to successfully kick him in the shin. Maedhros took off down the field to get in position to catch her throw. He was running backwards, calling out to her that he was open as he neared the far goal line.

He hadn't noticed Turgon had fallen back, near the end zone, behind him. Just as Aredhel went to throw to him Argon nailed Maedhros in the face with a snowball, his glasses plastered with snow temporarily blinding him.

No way he can make a catch now, Fingon thought, as he raced down the field, next to Aredhel, trying to block Curvo from reaching her.

Maedhros shook his head to unsuccessfully try to dislodge the snow coating his glasses and yelled to Aredhel one more time. Turgon, seeing the snowball hadn't effectively stopped him, tackled Maedhros from behind, grabbing his arms and pinning them behind him.

Fingon heard Curvo swear and swerve away from Aredhel, running towards the far goal line instead. "No, Turgon!" Tyelko bellowed, as Maglor echoed his words from their end zone, both of them racing towards Maedhros, the pursuit of the ball forgotten.

Fingon was momentarily puzzled, as he didn't think that was an illegal move-Moryo had done that same thing to him on the last play. He caught sight of Maedhros then and he slowed to a stop.

Maedhros exploded in Turgon's arms, throwing his head back wildly to smack him in the face, his legs kicking back to trip him and his now freed arms whirling to elbow Turgon in the abdomen and face. Turgon went down in a heap, blood streaming from his nose, Maedhros straddling him to pin him down. His red hair was floating around his face now, escaping his pony tail; his glasses were gone and his chest was heaving.

"Hold on, Mae," Tyelko reached him first and with Moryo's help pulled him off Turgon.

"What the hell?" Aredhel barked, kneeling in the snow next to Turgon, as Fingon slowly came closer. Argon dropped down in the snow on Turgon's other side and helped him sit up. Fingon mechanically searched his pockets for his abandoned hat and tossed it to Argon, who used it to stem the flow of blood still pouring from Turgon's nose.

Fingon stood there awkwardly, halfway between Turgon and Maedhros, his eyes darting back and forth between them. He couldn't seem to get his legs to move; even if he did get them moving he wasn't quite sure which one of them he should be walking towards.

Moryo and Tyelko had their hands on Maedhros' shoulders as he knelt in the snow, Maglor standing in front of him and gently stroking his hair, murmuring words Fingon couldn't hear.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Maedhros was saying over and over, shaking his head as if to clear it and breathing heavily. Moryo and Tyelko let him go but the rest of the brothers had formed a protective circle around him. Tyelko walked over to Turgon.

"You ok?" he asked.

"Yeah, but what the hell?" Turgon said indistinctly, as Argon held a handful of snow to the bridge of his nose.

"Sorry, man. I didn't think to warn you not to grab Mae from behind. It's . . ."

"Enough, Tyelko," Maedhros stood near Turgon now and reached a hand out to help him up. "I'm so sorry, Turgon," he said, his face so contrite and pale that Fingon thought he actually looked worse than Turgon, even with his brother's snotty, bloodstained face. "I'm so sorry," he repeated again. "It just startled me . . ."

Turgon was standing now, holding Fingon's bloodstained hat to his nose. "I'll be fine," he said.

Fingon noticed Maedhros' brothers were still clustered close together, looking at Maedhros with expressions ranging from concern, to worry, to pity flashing across their faces. Maglor had moved to Maedhros' side again, the others hovering nearby. One of the twins was holding his glasses.

"You ok?" Fingon asked Turgon, taking a step towards his brother, bringing him nearer to both Maedhros and Turgon now.

Turgon pulled the bloody hat away. The bleeding had stopped but his face was streaked with blood, snow and snot. "Yeah, I'm fine. I just thought anything goes in this game."

"It usually does," Maedhros said. "I am so sorry. You caught me by surprise but I never should have lashed out like that."

Turgon gave him a long look. "It's ok. It's probably safer for me to be on your team next time."

"I think we probably should get Turko home," Argon said. "Ice packs will work better than snow."

Fingon took another step. He squeezed Turgon's arm reassuringly; then he turned and reached out to touch Maedhros lightly on the arm. "Call me later?" he said to him quietly. "We are still on for dinner, aren't we?"

Maedhros gave him a miserable look, embarrassed and frustrated in equal measure. "It's ok if you'd rather not tonight," he said, his voice low and strained.

Fingon looked up at him with a frown. "Why would I rather not? Come on, Maedhros. It was an accident. Things happen, especially in games like this. I've done worse to him myself." He put his hand on Maedhros' shoulder and stepped even closer, his words for him only. "I can't wait to have you to myself tonight. I'll call you." He went on tiptoe and brushed his lips to Maedhros', not caring that it was in front of all of Maedhros' brothers and his own siblings.

Maglor gave him a grateful look. Argon's eyes widened in surprise but he was wise enough not to say anything. Fingon felt Maedhros' cold fingers brush by his own briefly and he reached to grasp them firmly. Fingon smiled up at him reassuringly and squeezed his fingers, his other hand still resting on Maedhros' shoulder. "I'll call you," he repeated, slowly sliding his hands away. He joined his waiting siblings, turning back once to raise his hand to Maedhros in farewell.

Maedhros watched him until he was out of sight, then without a word to his brothers, he strode over the trampled snow in the direction of home. Maglor exchanged a knowing look with Tyelko and nodded once before taking off after Maedhros.

He slowed his pace when he reached his brother, trying to match his strides to Maedhros' longer ones. He knew better than to say anything; there was nothing he could say right now that would make Maedhros feel any better and a multitude of things that might make him feel worse.

They were almost at the house before Maedhros even glanced at him. Maglor knew their brothers were purposefully staying far behind, giving them as much privacy as possible before they all ended up back at home. It had been years since Maedhros had reacted this way-not since the early days of his recovery.

But they had all known what to avoid, after the first few times it happened. It was never a good idea to approach Maedhros from behind. Maglor cursed as realization hit him; no wonder Maedhros had suggested taking all of Fingon's family on his team. This never would have happened if they had just listened to him and realized why he had suggested that. They should have known better. Maglor should have known better-Maedhros wasn't going to spell it out for them, not in front of Fingon's family or Fingon himself. They didn't know. But Maedhros' brothers knew; they had failed spectacularly at reading him today and at protecting him from something like this happening.

Maglor swore again, not realizing it was out loud this time. "It's not your fault," Maedhros said, eyes straight ahead and his pace picking up again.

"It most certainly isn't yours," Maglor replied, pacing faster to keep up.

Maedhros turned to look at him, his face rigid and his eyes cold. "Of course it's my fault. Who else's fault could it be, Maglor? I'm the one who freaked out. I'm the one who hit Turgon. I'm the one who knew better but went along with it because, once again, I mistakenly thought I could handle it." His voice rose, the tone harsh and unforgiving. He turned his gaze forward again, fists clenched at his sides.

"We didn't listen. I didn't listen. I know why you suggested having all of them on your team-I didn't get it at the time and that's my fault." Maglor sighed. "I let you down. Again."

They walked in silence for a few more minutes, turning the corner to their street before Maedhros spoke again. "I got complacent. There's no excuse for it. Things have been going so well recently I actually thought for a minute that maybe I could get away with it, maybe things would be ok this time."

"It was just an unfortunate accident, Maedhros. Everyone knows that."

"I don't know that. It's not an accident when you suspect something like that is going to happen, Maglor. When you make adjustments so it doesn't happen. Don't tell me you all haven't altered how you play because of me?" Maedhros bit the words out.

"Maybe we have. And maybe it should have been our job to make sure they knew that, not yours. Everything doesn't always have to be your responsibility, Maedhros, just like everything isn't automatically your fault," Maglor growled. "It was a fucking accident, ok? It wasn't intentional. It could have happened to any of us. We've done worse to each other playing and you know that. Even Fingon said that."

"Don't bring Fingon into this."

"He's already in this. Would you just tell him, Maedhros? It won't freak him out, you know that. Nothing you've said or done has freaked him out. He loves you. This isn't going to change that."

Maedhros gave him that cold, distant look again. "Maybe it won't change how he feels about me. But it doesn't change how I feel about this, how I can't change this, no matter how hard I try. It's part of who I am now and I hate it." He turned away and broke into a jog, leaving Maglor behind.

The door to their old shared room was shut when Maglor arrived home a few minutes later. He knew better than to knock. He slid to the floor and leaned his back on the door to wait.

Tyelko found him there. Maglor shook his head, motioning for Tyelko to be quiet. His brother joined him on the floor.

"Taking it pretty bad?" he whispered, as he scooted closer to Maglor.

Maglor nodded.

Tyelko sighed and tilted his head back. "It's my fault," he whispered. "He asked to have all of them on his team and I didn't think about why until after it happened." Tyelko punched his fist into his other hand. "So fucking stupid of me," he hissed.

"Shut up," Maglor breathed back at him. "It wasn't just you."

"It just pisses me off, Maglor. He's been through so fucking much and it just won't let him go," Tyelko's voice was low but his tone was furious. "Fuck Morgoth. Fuck Angband. Fuck them all."

They sat shoulder to shoulder in silence after that. Moryo poked his head up the stairs, saw them and ducked his head at them sympathetically. "I'll keep them downstairs," he mouthed at Maglor. "Mom and Dad are still out."

"Thank the Valar," Tyelko muttered. "All we need is Dad trying to rationalize all this again and Mom getting that look." Maglor silently nodded.

It took them by surprise, about twenty minutes later, when the door behind them suddenly opened and they both ended up clumsily sprawled on the floor. Maedhros looked down at them. "If you're going to sit there all day you may as well just come in."

They scrambled to their feet and into the room, Maglor shutting and locking the door behind them. Maedhros was sitting sideways on his bed, leaning against the wall. His two brothers sat across the room from him, on Maglor's old bed.

Tyelko finally broke the silence. "I'm so sorry, Mae. I know what you were trying to do with the teams and I'm sorry I didn't get it. Seriously, Mae. I'm such a fucking idiot-I didn't even think about it until Turgon went for you."

"No, it's my fault. I should know better by now," Maedhros replied.

"Fuck that, Mae! That's bullshit. You shouldn't have to always be thinking about it, adjusting for it, adapting your life because of it. It's not fair."

Maedhros looked at him calmly. "It's just how it is, Tyelko. It's about time I came to grips with it. I thought I had come to grips with it but I guess I just let my guard down. I obviously can't afford to do that."

"You're wrong, Mae. It has been getting better. It is getting better. I can see that." Tyelko shoved Maglor. "Right, Maglor?"

Maglor looked at his older brother. Maedhros was pale but the cold look was gone. He didn't particularly like the current look on his face any better though. It was closed off, distant. Determined. It unnerved him. "Maedhros?"

"I never intended to drag Fingon into this," Maedhros began and Maglor's stomach clenched painfully.

Shit. Here it comes, Maglor thought. He's got the most amazing thing happening with Fingon and he's going to run away from it. Shit. He held his breath and waited, hurriedly dropping a hand on Tyelko's thigh and squeezing it painfully, anything to keep his irrepressible brother quiet. For once Tyelko seemed to get the hint, sucking in his breath but thankfully not speaking.

"But it seems Fingon has no intention of staying out of it. And I'm grateful for that," Maedhros sighed and his face took on a tinge of color. "I've thought about stepping back, considered letting him go, making him go-you both know that. But that's not what I want. I want to be with him. I can't imagine my life without him anymore." Maedhros narrowed his eyes at his brothers. "So if I have to make adjustments, if I have to open up about things, if I have to do anything to make this work, then I will do it." He tilted his head and his eyes softened. "I can't let my guard down but I also can't just let life pass me by."

Maglor let out the breath he hadn't realized he had been holding.

Tyelko collapsed back on the bed. "Shit, Mae-don't scare the fuck out of me like that again. I thought for sure you were going to chuck it all," Tyelko said, his voice shakier than Maglor had heard it before.

"So you're going to see him tonight, like he wants?" Maglor needed clarification.

"Part of me doesn't want to. Part of me wants to hide in here all night and avoid the whole thing. But that's not fair to him and I've realized it's not fair to me either," Maedhros said.

It was determination Maglor had seen in him, just not the way he expected. He wanted to high-five Maedhros, fist bump Tyelko, shout down the stairway at the others that it was all right, but he contented himself with letting out his breath in another big exhale and saying "Thank the Valar," before dropping back on the bed next to Tyelko in relief.

"You really had no faith in me on this, did you?" Maedhros asked, a hint of disbelief in his tone.

Tyelko sat partway up and regarded him. "Seriously, Mae. Have you met you? I was expecting you to be second guessing yourself and moaning about this for at least a week. Thank the fucking Valar for Fingon. I thought I'd have to shake some sense into you this time because I am not letting you fuck this up."

Maglor sat up, met Maedhros' eyes and just smiled. It was gratifying to see Maedhros smile back. "I can try," Maedhros said. "That's what Fingon always tells me to do and he's right. If I don't try, I won't know." His face grew serious again. "I think I totally fucked up their Christmas pictures though. Turgon's going to look like shit for at least a week."

"Way to make a first impression on the family, Mae," Tyelko said and the absurdity of it all just made them laugh.

It was going to be ok, Maglor thought. His brother was finally going to be ok.
End Notes:
Had to include the reference that Maitimo means "well-shaped" or comely in Quenya.
Chapter 31 by NelyafinweFeanorion
At least Aredhel waited until they were out of earshot of Maedhros and his brothers. "What the hell was that, Fingon?"

He kept on walking, his eyes on Turgon and Argon just ahead of them.

"Fingon," she repeated, smacking him on the arm to get his attention.

"What do you want, Aredhel?" he snapped.

"I want you to tell me what the hell happened back there and what the hell is wrong with your boyfriend."

Argon glanced back at the two of them and then leaned towards Turgon. "He's really Fingon's boyfriend? When did that happen?"

"Yeah, he is. Right before Thanksgiving, I think," Turgon confided, his voice sounding thick and indistinct from the swelling.

"There's nothing wrong with Maedhros," Fingon answered Aredhel.

"Are you serious? He fucking goes to town on Turko, for no reason, and you think there's nothing wrong with that? What the hell!" Fingon darted a look at her as she spoke. Aredhel's eyes were flashing and her expression was furious.

He frowned at her. "It wasn't intentional. It was just an accident. Lighten up, will you? I've done worse to Turko and so have you."

"Give me a break. What happened was totally uncalled for." She caught his eye and glared at him. "I can't believe you're defending him."

He stopped and turned in her direction. "I am not going to have this conversation with you, ok? He got startled, he hit Turgon, he apologized, and Turgon's going to be fine. End of story." It was his turn to glare at her. "If you can't handle some roughhousing maybe you shouldn't play."

"Did you seriously just say that? To me? What the hell, Fingon!" She shoved him hard enough to make him stagger and stalked off towards her other two brothers.

Turgon stopped walking as she drew near him. "Ok, everybody hold up," Turgon said. He waited for Fingon to approach before he continued speaking. "Aredhel, thanks for the concern but I think I can handle this myself, ok? It was an accident. Kind of a freaky one but whatever. It happens. Stop harping on it."

"Are you serious?" Aredhel turned her fury on Turgon now. "You're just going to brush it off? Fingon's dating a guy who can turn violent like that over nothing and you're not concerned?"

"It's not over nothing!" Fingon roared, startling them all.

"Then what is it?" Aredhel asked.

Fingon stared at her, the fight abruptly going out of him. His shoulders hunched as he jammed his fists in his pockets. "I wish I knew," he said, his voice lower now.

"What do you mean, Finno?" Argon asked.

"I don't know. And I wouldn't tell you if I did, it's not my place." Fingon met Argon's eyes. "I just know something happened to him, something bad. It's not something he's over yet but I don't know any more than that." He looked at Turgon. "I'm so sorry you got stuck in the middle of it, Turko. It's probably why he wanted all of us on his team, so something like this wouldn't happen." He exhaled. "I know he worries about losing control."

"And you're ok with that? Him just losing control?" Aredhel asked. Her brows were drawn together, her fists clenched at her sides as she glared at Fingon but she couldn't keep the bewilderment out of her voice.

"Of course I'm ok with it," Fingon snarled at her. "It's not who Maedhros is. It's just something that happened to him that's left its mark. It's not like he can help it." He scowled at her. "I'm not going to judge Maedhros about things he has no control over."

She opened her mouth to answer him but was interrupted by Turgon.

"Aredhel, drop it," Turgon spoke again, his voice far sterner than before. "I'm not upset about it. I'm more worried about what Mom's going to say when she sees me. You know how she is about the blasted Christmas photos. So, can you please just shut up and let me go home and get some icepacks?" He met her eyes, his gaze as icy as her own, until she gave him a brief, furious nod.

"What are we going to tell Mom?" Argon asked.

Turgon rolled his eyes. "We're going to tell her we were playing snow rugby and I got an elbow to the nose. Which is exactly what happened. Don't you start too, Argon."

Argon backed up a step, hands in the air. "I'm not starting anything, promise. I just wanted to make sure we were all on the same page before we got home. Don't snap at me, Turgon."

Fingon sighed. He put an arm around Turgon's shoulder. "Thank you," he whispered to his brother. "Thank you for understanding."

Turgon nodded at him. "I get it. Don't worry about it. I know it wasn't intentional." He dropped his voice as he leaned into Fingon. "You're sure everything's ok with you guys, Finno?"

"It's good. Better than good," Fingon whispered back. "There's nothing to worry about, Turko. Really." He squeezed his brother's shoulder.

"If you say so," Turgon said quietly. He tilted his head at Fingon and smiled. With the smears of blood and dried snot still on his face it came out looking more menacing than reassuring. "Now, can we finally go home so I can wash this shit off my face, please? It feels disgusting and I'm sure it doesn't look any better."

"Fine," Aredhel said, crossing her arms over her chest and leveling a stare at Fingon. "But this discussion is not over, Finno, not between you and me."

___________________________________________________________________

Fingolfin hung up his coat and wandered into the kitchen. "I'm back," he said, smiling at his wife and kissing her as she turned from the sink to smile back at him.

"You finally finished your Christmas shopping then?" Anairë asked, raising an eyebrow at him.

"I'll have you know I had most of it done before today."

"Right. That's why it was imperative that you have time to shop by yourself today?" She grinned up at him. "I know how busy you've been. And I know you. It's not like this is the first time you've done this. You're actually ahead of schedule this year." She went up on tiptoe and kissed him on the nose.

"I didn't say I had all of it done before today, just some of it," he said, sliding his arms around her. "Kids home?"

"They are. And about that—they were out with friends this morning playing some crazy snow game. Turgon got clocked in the nose." She waved off Fingolfin's attempt to interrupt. "He's fine, it'll probably be bruised up by tomorrow but it's not a big deal, so don't make one out of it, ok?"

"Your lack of faith in me is not reassuring," Fingolfin replied.

"Like I said, I know you." She poked him in the chest. "Don't harp on it."

"Fine, I won't even mention it."

Anairë rolled her eyes. "You can mention it, just don't dwell on it."

"Who were they out with anyway? Finrod and his crew?"

"No, Finarfin and Earwen took them all to Alqualondë for the holiday. Remember, I told you I met some new friends of Aredhel and Fingon's around Thanksgiving? They were out with them," Anairë said, leaning back against the counter.

Fingolfin reached up into the cabinet to grab two glasses. "Have I met them?"

"No, although Aredhel mentioned having them over sometime while she's home," Anairë said, watching her husband open the bottle of wine he had pulled from the small wine refrigerator under the counter. "Any special reason for that bottle?" she asked.

"I'm home, I don't have to go back to work until after the holiday and I have my whole family here. That's something worth celebrating," he replied, pouring wine into a glass and handing it to her.

"I like the sound of that. How did you get any days off next week?"

"Another settlement instead of heading to court. Now I just wait for the paperwork from their side." Fingolfin clinked his glass to hers before drinking. He tilted his head as he looked at her and frowned. "When is Aredhel having this guy over?"

"She didn't say yet. Why do you have that look?"

"I just want to make sure I meet him. You remember what a creep that last guy she dated was. I thought I was going to have to threaten him with a restraining order or something. He was getting into stalker territory there, with all the phone calls, texts and unexpected visits after she broke up with him." Fingolfin's face darkened at the memory.

Anairë put her hand on his forearm. "I know he was. But he's out of her life now." She squeezed his forearm and added. "This new guy seems nice. Very straightforward. Granted I've only met him once but he and his brother were charming."

"What's his brother got to do with Aredhel?"

"His brother is seeing Fingon. Didn't I tell you that?"

Fingolfin made a vague gesture with his hand. "You said he was seeing someone. But usually Fingon's relationships don't last long enough for me to bother remembering anything about them."

Anairë laughed. "That's not a nice thing to say!"

"It's true! You know that as well as I do. You think I'll actually meet this one?"

A thoughtful look came over Anairë's face. "I think you will. It's different somehow, this time. Anyway, they met the two of them and all their brothers this morning over at Thargelion Park. Other than Turgon's nose, it sounds like they had a good time."

"All their brothers? How many brothers do these guys have?" Fingolfin laughed.

"Six or seven I think. Big family of boys."

Fingolfin's face grew serious. "Six or seven brothers?"

"Something like that."

"What were their names again?" The serious look was still on his face, a crease forming between his eyebrows.

"Maedhros and Tyelko. I don't know the names of the other brothers."

"I was afraid of that," he said, taking a large sip of his wine and pouring more into his glass.

"What do you mean, Fingolfin?" Anairë was looking at her husband inquisitively.

He met her eyes. "Is Maedhros a tall, striking red-head?"

"He most certainly is." Anairë started to smile but it faded as she saw the concern grow in her husband's face.

"They're Fëanor's sons. I'm sure of it now. He has seven sons and two sons with those exact names." Fingolfin pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers before meeting his wife's eyes again. "I'm sure they're nice boys but I'm not sure I like the idea of our children dating them." He sighed. "You know they've had some rough times in that family. Especially . . ." He stopped. "Never mind. Let's just leave it at that."

"What do you mean?"

"Just that. That family just can't catch a break. Oh, I know they're fine financially and all but things have not been easy for them since Finwë was killed." He took another large swallow of wine. "I don't know really know Tyelko at all but Maedhros. . . never mind. I shouldn't be talking about this. I'm just not sure this is the best idea."

"I think you're overreacting. It's been years since Finwë's death. I'm sure it wasn't easy for any of them but time helps with things like that." She took Fingolfin's hand in hers. "I haven't had much of a chance to talk to Fingon yet but Aredhel says he's quite serious about Maedhros. She's pretty smitten with Tyelko herself but you know how she is about admitting that kind of thing." She touched his jaw lightly. "Hear what they have to say before you say anything, Fin. I know you're concerned. But unless these boys are a danger to our children I think you should back off."

He exhaled and squeezed her hand. "They're not a danger. That's not my worry. Is the family eccentric? Yes. Volatile? Definitely. Troubled? Most certainly, but dangerous? No, they're not dangerous. Just more of a challenge than I'd like to see for my children, I suppose. There's a lot of baggage with that family. Our kids aren't used to that."

"I think at this point it's their decision. They are adults, as much as you would like to forget that."

"I know." Fingolfin rubbed his forehead. He was starting to get a headache. "Listen. You know I worked on that case."

"How could I forget? You worked so many late nights back then." Anairë moved closer to her husband and gently stroked his hair back. "What are you getting at, Fin?"

He took her hand and intertwined their fingers, his grip tightening as he spoke. "There's a lot that went on, a lot I can't discuss. Attorney-client privilege."

"Yes?" She questioned. "But what does that have to do with who our kids are seeing?"

Fingolfin tilted his head back to look at the ceiling before meeting her eyes again. "Do you remember why I got taken off that case?"

"You and Fëanor had one of your famous 'differences of opinion.' Did you really think I would forget that?" She looked at him curiously. He had been incensed at the time, furious and hurt, but as she recalled it now there had been a depth to his frustration that seemed more than just professional or even personal outrage. She had not thought much of it at the time, grateful that his change in status meant he was home more, but it appeared that something still lingered from that confrontation.

"That's one way of putting it," Fingolfin said, raking a hand through his hair. "Fëanor and I had our . . . difference of opinion, as you say, before the case finally settled. He did not particularly like my ideas about settling and we had a bit of a falling out." He sighed. "More than a bit, if I'm going to be honest."

"That doesn't surprise me," Anairë said. "We haven't been close to them since college, but you've always known he was never one to keep his opinions to himself. If you disagreed with him about something important I can imagine things got heated." She touched his shoulder gently. "But he has always been like that, Fin. Even about trivial things. I remember the 'debates' you two would have when he was the grad assistant for your classes at Cuveinien. His bark was always been worse than his bite. I can't imagine it's gotten any better in the years since then. Likely worse."

"It was a bit more than heated," Fingolfin asserted. "The falling out isn't my point. I just know it was a hard time for his children, some of them more than others. I can't say much more than that but experiences like that leave scars." He shook his head. "I need to stop talking."

Anairë looked at him with concern. "If it's that important to you, then just talk to Fingon and Aredhel." She squeezed his shoulder tightly. "See what they have to say."

"I don't think these relationships are a good idea, Anairë."

She gave him a probing look. "Fin, you just said they aren't a danger to our kids. Other than an unfortunately misplaced elbow, I don't see a problem here." She tilted her head and stepped closer. "Unless there is more you haven't told me?"

Fingolfin exhaled. There was more but it wasn't his story to tell. Papers had been signed. Agreements had been made. Non-disclosures and settlements that he had written up. Being taken off the negotiations hadn't meant he was taken off the documentation side of things. That was his specialty, after all. He knew exactly what happened that summer and after. It had been the catalyst to finally settle the damn case.

Anairë gently touched his face to get his attention again. "Fin. Just talk to them. I know you're worried about something and it's fine if you can't tell me about it. I understand that." She looked up at him, the concern evident on her face. "But please don't let your past with Fëanor cloud your judgement. These are his sons—not Fëanor himself—don't inflict your issues and opinions on our children." Her look sharpened. "Those boys don't deserve to be judged based on their father's actions, Fin. You know that."

He frowned back at her but didn't respond.

"Fin?" Anairë questioned him again.

"Fine! Fine. I'll try to talk to our two a bit and feel them out." He squeezed her hand. "I understand what you're saying, Anairë. I just don't want them to get in over their heads or get hurt, that's all." He ran his hand through his hair again. He caught her dubious look and spoke again. "I'm a lawyer for good reason—I can be subtle and I'm really good at asking relevant questions. Trust me."

She pulled him into her arms and rested her head on his shoulder. His arms tightened around her. "I do trust you," she said. "I do."
_______________________________________________________________

Turgon looked up at the knock on his half-open door. Aredhel was leaning against the doorframe. He took his headphones off and motioned her in.

"Are you ok?" She asked him, not moving from her position on the doorframe.

"I told you before. I'm fine. Are you going to come in or not?"

She sat down on the edge of his bed, resting her elbows on her knees, glaring at the carpet in front of her.

Turgon sat up, moving his legs to give her more room. "What, Aredhel?"

She turned her head to look at him. "You look terrible."

"Did I miss a spot?" he asked. "I thought I got all the blood and snot off." He grinned at her. It didn't improve his appearance any.

She leaned towards him. "Your nose looks too flat." Aredhel narrowed her eyes and gave him an appraising look. "Or maybe that's just because the rest of your face is so swollen. At least we'll know which Christmas these photos are from."

Turgon just looked at her. "Fingon was right, you know. You've both bashed me worse than this and I don't recall you being all that upset about it at the time." He tilted his head questioningly. "What's this really about, Aredhel?"

She returned her gaze to the carpet.

"Arry?" he asked again, scooting closer to her.

She was chewing her bottom lip, unaware of how much she looked like Fingon in that moment. Turgon shook his head. "Spit it out. You know you're not going to settle down until you do."

She turned to look at him and her earlier fierceness was gone. She frowned then shifted to sit cross-legged on the bed, facing him. "Why aren't you more pissed off?" she questioned.

"What's the point? How would that help?" Turgon asked her. "It was an accident." His eyes met hers. "I think the real question is why are you so ticked off?"

She glared at him and then hunched over again, her eyes back on the carpet.

"Aredhel. What's this really about?" Turgon repeated. He had an idea what was bothering her but he wanted to hear her to say it.

"I'm just worried."

"About me? I'm fine. I already told you that."

"I know you're fine, you idiot. I swear you have the slowest reflexes, Turko." The glare was directed back at him.

He just regarded her, not saying anything, crossing his arms as he waited.

"I'm worried about Finno," she finally said.

There it was, Turgon thought. The real reason she had been furious at all of them. He kept his eyes on her, his silence encouraging her to continue.

"It's just that he's never been like this about anyone before, Turko, and it worries me. He's totally crazy about Maedhros and I get it, really, I do." Her eyebrows drew together, a crease forming in the middle of her forehead as she continued to speak. "But that stuff he was saying? There's something going on with Maedhros, Turko, and I don't like it. I don't want Finno getting hurt."

"I think he's old enough to take care of himself, Aredhel. It's not like he hasn't been in relationships before."

"He's never been this serious about anyone before."

Turgon leaned towards her. "Fingon's not one to do anything stupid."

"It's not him I'm worried about," Aredhel replied.

"What? But you just said . . ." Turgon started.

She interrupted him. "I know what I said! I'm worried for him but I'm more concerned about Maedhros. Look what he did to you today."

"Come on, Aredhel. Stuff like that happens. Tell me you haven't gotten clocked on the field like that before. You're reading way too much into it. You seriously think Maedhros is going to hurt Finno?"

"Maybe if he loses control."

"Finno wouldn't be involved with him if that was an issue. He thinks things through. You know that."

"Do I? It doesn't seem like he's thinking this through. Did you know he's been spending every night with Maedhros in Formenos? Tyelko told me."

"I didn't know but I don't really see how it's any of our business where he spends his nights. You spent a night there too, you know. No one's giving you a hard time about it." Turgon pointed out.

"This is different!"

"How?"

She groaned in frustration and punched her fist into the mattress. "Because it just is. I don't want him to be involved with someone volatile, unpredictable. He deserves better than that."

"What are you really trying to say, Aredhel?"

She pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them, resting her forehead on her bent knees. He was going to have to say it for her after all, it seemed.

"You're thinking of him, aren't you?" That damn ex-boyfriend of hers again.

She nodded. "People aren't always what they seem, Turko."

"I don't think Maedhros is that kind of control freak, Aredhel."

"You heard what he said, Turko. There is a control issue here. Fingon even said so."

"Not the same thing. He said Maedhros doesn't like losing control. Not that he's controlling. That's completely different."

"I know." She lifted her eyes and met his. "I know. But it still worries me, Turko. There's something going on that Finno isn't telling us. What happens when Maedhros 'loses control'? Have you asked yourself that?" She hugged her knees tighter. "I think that's what happened today."

He sighed. "Didn't you hear Fingon, Aredhel? Maybe it's not his story to tell." He put his hand on her arm and shook it lightly. "I don't know what's going on with Maedhros but I do know he's had some rough stuff go on with his family. Maybe that's part of it. Finrod told me what he knew, which wasn't much. Has Tyelko said anything to you?"

She shook her head. "No. He mentioned they inherited the house from their grandfather who died. Nothing else."

"I get that you're worried," Turgon said. He mirrored her position, knees drawn up and arms wrapped around them. "I'm not going to say I'm not a little concerned. I am. But I don't think you're giving Fingon enough credit. I trust him to know what he's doing."

"It's not that I don't trust him, Turko. I told you, I just don't want him to get hurt," Aredhel said.

"Then maybe he's the one you should be talking to right now, not me."

"He left already. He had plans with Maedhros."

"Then try to talk to him tomorrow. It's probably better to take a breather before you do anyway. Yelling at him isn't going to make him want to talk to you about this, you know."

"I know." She gave him a small smile and kicked at his foot with her own. "Thanks, Turko. I should be trying to make you feel better, not dumping all over you. You've had a shitty enough day as it is."

Turgon shrugged. "Don't worry about it. I get it, Aredhel. Really, I do. But I think you're underestimating Fingon."
Chapter 32 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Author's Notes:
bit of a longer chapter. They have a lot to say to each other. My thanks again to the steadfast cheekybeak!
Maedhros had been uncharacteristically quiet when he picked Fingon up that evening and he had not said much through dinner either. He seemed preoccupied, almost distracted; Fingon couldn't clearly identify what was occupying his thoughts, but he suspected it was the events from earlier in the day. He had repeatedly assured Maedhros that Turgon was fine, his nose not broken and the bruising minimal at best. Even that hadn't seemed to help much.

Somehow, they made it through dinner, though Fingon was exhausted from his unsuccessful conversational efforts by the end of it. They had all consistently fallen flat this time, Maedhros' responses halfhearted at best. There were moments when Fingon had the feeling that Maedhros wanted to say something but was holding back. There would be a pause and he would lean forward—and then nothing. Maybe he would be more candid in private. Restaurants were not the best place for serious conversations.

But to his surprise Maedhros initially resisted Fingon's suggestion that they watch a movie at his apartment.

"I should just go home," he said.

"It's early still," Fingon said, grasping his arm tightly as they walked to Maedhros' car after dinner.

Finding a parking spot right in front of Fingon's apartment building made it easier to convince Maedhros to at least come upstairs for a drink.

Finrod had left for Alqualondë earlier in the day so it would just be the two of them, no risk of interruptions. Much as Fingon was starting to enjoy the camaraderie and verbal sparring of Tyelko and Maglor he was glad to finally have Maedhros completely to himself tonight, even if his mood was still somber.

He gave Maedhros one of the few good bottles of beer that still remained in his neglected refrigerator and at Fingon's suggestion they curled up to watch a movie together on the sofa. Maedhros' arm slipped around him and eventually his head relaxed to rest on his. He didn't say anything, just leaned into him. This was more like it, Fingon thought, content for the moment at their closeness. Maedhros would talk to him when he was ready, he was sure of it.

This night had been so uncomfortable, Maedhros thought. It had all seemed so straightforward, when he was in his room at home earlier today. But it wasn't easy trying to find a way to start talking about it. He had thought of a number of things to say but none of them seemed right anymore and all of them were definitely awkward. As the minutes ticked by his resolve to say anything at all began to wane. Maybe it wasn't the night to do it. Maybe when they were together back in Formenos. He felt a twinge of uneasiness at that train of thought. That wasn't what he needed to do. He had held off speaking about it for long enough. It was past time to tell Fingon the whole story. But where to start? How to start?

"Will you stay?" Fingon whispered to Maedhros, as the credits rolled on the screen in front of them.

"No, I probably shouldn't." Maedhros said, sitting up. Now that an excuse for leaving had presented itself he found himself reaching for it. Coward, he berated himself, even as he continued to speak to Fingon. "I'm sure they're expecting me at home." Likely, but not something a text to Maglor wouldn't solve. Why couldn't he do this?

Fingon chewed his lower lip as he thought. The words had just come out. He wished he could take them back, now that he had said them. He wasn't being fair. He was being selfish. He had promised himself he wouldn't press the issue and here he was, doing just the opposite. He knew what a sensitive subject this was for Maedhros, he knew that today had been a horrible day, likely bringing up triggering memories again. Yet here he was, pressuring him once more. Had he not learned anything from this week? He needed to stop, change direction.

"Maedhros," Fingon touched his arm. "What I mean is there's no need to go yet." He moved closer to him, curving his arm around him and laying his head on Maedhros' shoulder. "It's Winter Break. It's Sunday tomorrow. I have no plans and I know the bookstore doesn't open until noon." He pressed even closer. "Don't go just yet. I've gotten used to being with you. And it isn't even ten o'clock." He snuggled up to Maedhros' side. "Watch another movie with me and let's just be together." He leaned in and kissed him softly.

Maedhros' lips melted into Fingon's. He didn't want to leave. He wasn't sure he should stay. He was so muddled right now; everything had been so right yesterday but today. . . today had started so well but it certainly had gone rapidly downhill from there.

But it wouldn't hurt to stay a little longer, would it? He had gotten used to the warmth of Fingon's body against his, the sound of his breathing at night, hearing his heartbeat as they lay together. He rested his head on Fingon's and relaxed against him. "I'd like that," he finally said.

Maedhros had curled up on his side partway through the second movie and Fingon had suggested he use his thigh as a pillow. Surprisingly, Maedhros had agreed and Fingon had been combing his fingers through that dark red hair for the last hour, feeling him slowly relax. Fingon hadn't seen this movie before but he found he couldn't really concentrate on it—too many other thoughts were running through his head.

Maedhros' head rested in Fingon's lap. He had stopped paying attention to the movie a while ago. Maedhros let the images just flash on the screen in front of him as Fingon gently ran his fingers through his hair. It felt so good. It was the most soothing thing that had happened to him all day. His eyelids started to drift closed and he forced them open. He shouldn't fall asleep, he told himself, as Fingon's light touch skimmed his hair again, the repetitive motion so comforting. Don't fall asleep, Maedhros thought, but he couldn't quite muster the energy to sit up. His eyelids felt so heavy, it wouldn't hurt to close them for just a minute. Just a minute. No longer than that. . .

Fingon dragged his fingers through Maedhros' hair again. He could feel the tension slowly draining out of Maedhros, his shoulders slumping, his fist unclenching and his breathing becoming slow and steady. At least this movie was distracting him, letting Maedhros stop thinking for a bit.

Something had happened today on the field. Fingon had been turning it over in his mind all day. He had seen how Maedhros' brothers had responded; they had known something was going to happen as soon as Turgon tackled Maedhros. They had expected a response like that. Why? They knew what had set Maedhros off but they had all closed ranks, even Maedhros.

Maedhros had not been himself tonight. He had been much quieter and far more distracted than he had been any time before. This had to tie in with the nightmares. Fingon had refrained from asking too many questions, had been very careful about prying, wanting Maedhros to open up on his own, without putting undue pressure on him. It was getting harder not to ask though.

He kept his fingers sliding through Maedhros' hair but eventually he realized the pressure in his bladder needed to be relieved. This was the most relaxed Maedhros had been all evening. He hated to say anything--he was sure Maedhros would just take the interruption as an opportunity to leave. It was not surprising he wasn't saying much--he'd been like this most of the night. Perhaps the movie had been the best way to take his mind off things.

Fingon leaned down, gently squeezing his shoulder. "Maedhros, sorry but I need to get up. Too many beers earlier, I guess."

It never crossed his mind that Maedhros might have fallen asleep. He was so careful about things like that-Fingon hadn't even sensed it.

But Maedhros had fallen asleep and Fingon's words did not have the effect he anticipated.

He did not expect Maedhros to spring up off his lap, spin around on the sofa to pin him down, one arm hard across his chest and the other hand gripping at his throat. Fingon stared into his blank silver eyes for a few seconds and then realization came into Maedhros' face and he fell back, grabbing his head in his hands and repeating "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," over and over again.

Fingon took a couple of deep breaths and willed his heart rate to slow down. This was what Maedhros had been fearing all this time, a reaction like that. He never would have startled him if he had known he was asleep. Fingon cursed himself-he had promised to be alert, to be cautious, he had told Maedhros he would take every precaution but he had let his guard down and by doing that he had let him down.

He would have to make it up to him. Maedhros would be expecting him to be scared, angry, upset. But he wasn't. He was startled, shaken, a tight sensation in his chest and throat. His heart was racing. But he realized he'd been anticipating something like this happening all week. He took another deep breath and blew it out. This was just one more facet of the nightmares that Maedhros suffered and if Fingon was going to share his bed and his life he better get used to every manifestation of it. It had surprised him but he had no one to blame but himself.

"Hey." Fingon said, sitting up next to him. "Maedhros." He repeated his name when he didn't respond. "Maedhros, look at me." He put his hand firmly on his knee, where he knew Maedhros could see it, and squeezed. "Look at me."

Maedhros looked up then, his eyes red-rimmed and his face anguished.

"Maedhros. You have to talk to me. You haven't been yourself all night." Fingon moved closer and laid his hand on Maedhros' shoulder, feeling him shudder at his touch. "Maedhros. Please." He very gently put his arms around him and laid his head on his shoulder. "You haven't been yourself since the thing with Turgon." He closed his eyes. "Please talk to me."

Maedhros let out a shuddering breath and kept his head in his hands. Fingon held him, not speaking, just letting him know he was there. Eventually Maedhros started to speak, so quietly that Fingon had to lean in to hear him.

"This is what I told you would happen. I told you it wasn't safe to be around me. I thought it was working, you knowing what to expect." His voice was raw with emotion, hoarse and rough. "I can't believe I let myself fall asleep, I never do that, I know better than that." He rocked back and forth in Fingon's arms.

"Stop," Fingon said. "Don't say that. You've had a shitty day. You fell asleep. These things happen. Stop blaming yourself for that. I should have known better than to startle you. You warned me, you told me what not to do and I didn't listen." He rubbed circles on Maedhros' back, slow and soothing. "But I know the nightmares aren't the whole story, Maedhros."

"I should have told you before. It's stupid and I don't know why it still affects me. I can't help it. It's just never gone away. I keep thinking it will get better, that it will just fade away but it doesn't. Something triggers it and I'm back there," Maedhros whispered, his hands clenched into fists, resting on his knees.

"Back where? What happened, Maedhros? Triggers what?"

Maedhros turned to face Fingon, his face pale and his eyes flat. "You remember you talked about the case? When we first met? My grandfather's wrongful death suit?"

Fingon felt a cold shiver down his spine. "Yes. I felt like an idiot for bringing it up. I know it bothered you." He had suspected all along that all of this had something to do with Maedhros' grandfather. He always became withdrawn when the subject came up.

"You weren't an idiot and I probably should have said something then." Maedhros ran a hand through his hair. "The thing is there was something that happened that wasn't in the news, that didn't get in the papers. Something that made Morgoth Industries settle the suit out of court."

"What was that?" Fingon felt his stomach clench in anticipation. "Maedhros?" Moments of silence stretched out between them until Maedhros slowly started speaking again.

Maedhros' hands were covering his face once more, his words coming out slightly muffled but still clear enough for Fingon to understand. "The trucking company whose driver hit my grandfather was a subsidiary of Morgoth Industries. The lawsuit named all of them, subsidiaries on up to the parent company." He paused to take a deep breath. "They didn't like the bad publicity but they weren't willing to settle. They threatened my father. He didn't take it seriously—who would?" His hands fell into his lap and he looked up at Fingon, his eyes clouded over.

It took him a few moments to resume speaking. "Then the letters started coming to the house, threatening to burn the house down, to hurt my mom, to hurt us. They couldn't trace them but the attorneys thought it likely was coming from someone Morgoth had hired to shut my father up."

"Maedhros," Fingon breathed. He took Maedhros' hands in his own, rubbing his thumbs over the backs of them.

"Mom moved everyone to Formenos, to get away from the Tirion house. Maglor and I were at Cuivienen by then so we just stayed where we were." He took a deep breath and looked at Fingon. "I used to like to run on campus. I'd go from my apartment, across the park and then loop around to circle back to my place. I ran the same route three times a week. One afternoon I went out a little later than usual. It wasn't dark yet and I knew I'd be home before sundown."

He looked down at his hands and then back up at Fingon. "I always listened to music when I went for a run. I was just past the park and about to cross the road when a van came out of nowhere and pulled up right in front of me, blocking the crosswalk. There's not much traffic by that section of the park so it surprised me. I stopped and went to run around the back of it, to cross the street and keep going."

He took a deep breath and Fingon put a hand on his back again, warm and solid. "But then the side door opened and two guys just jumped out, right in front of me. That. . . That freaked me out. I turned around . . . but suddenly everything went dark. . . someone grabbed me from behind and pinned my arms behind my back."

A vision of Turgon tackling Maedhros and pinning his arms behind his back came to Fingon. "Oh, Maedhros," he said.

"I didn't hear the guy behind me because I had the stupid earbuds in. He put a bag over my head, I couldn't see and he pinned my arms and started dragging me over to the van." He swallowed and Fingon's free hand squeezed his in sympathy. "I just freaked out. I started flailing and kicking and trying to get my arms free. I don't even know what I was yelling. I just fought him off as hard as I could but I couldn't see anything. I think. . . I think I knocked the earbuds out then because suddenly I could hear them." The words were tumbling out now, his previous reluctance overshadowed by the need to get this out, the sentences running into each other as he spoke.

He looked at Fingon bleakly. "I could hear them swearing and yelling at each other to get me in the van. One of the other guys must have come over because I felt someone trying to grab my legs." Maedhros' grip on his hand was painful but Fingon didn't flinch.

"The guy behind me kept saying things in my ear, things they were going to do to me in the van and at the place they were going to take me." Maedhros closed his eyes briefly then opened them to look at Fingon. "I went nuts. There were three of them but I was fighting so hard they couldn't get me in the van. The hood thing they had over my head fell off and I could see them."

He took another breath and then exhaled it. "I must have hit the guy behind me pretty hard with my head because I got my arms free. I was crazed—I just reached out and got the guy in front of me in a chokehold. But the other guy still had a hold of me and we all went down."

"I didn't even realize my right shoulder dislocated when I fell. I didn't even feel it, I just lost my grip on him but I kept thrashing around, trying to get loose. Then someone must have hit me in the head because everything went dark." Maedhros closed his eyes and Fingon felt a shudder go through him.

He kept his hand on Maedhros' back, a gentle repetitive motion. It was as much to calm himself as it was to soothe Maedhros. It wasn't long before Maedhros spoke again, his voice husky and low. "I woke up in the van. They had the hood thing on me again and my hands were tied behind my back. My shoulder was on fire, but there was nothing I could do about it."

"Oh, Maedhros." Fingon kept rubbing his back, unsure what else to do. This was so much worse than he had expected. He hadn't known what to expect but this . . . this was far beyond what he had imagined.

"They took me to some storage facility or something. I don't know how long I was there. Hours, I guess. My head hurt, my shoulder hurt. I couldn't see anything, with the stupid hood thing on me still. Only one of them talked to me, the guy who jumped me from behind." Maedhros shivered as he spoke. "I knew his voice, he was the only one who had talked to me directly before." He shuddered again. "He kept talking about how boring it was going to be, waiting to hear from my dad. How maybe they'd have to entertain themselves. Maybe I'd have to provide the entertainment." Maedhros head dropped down as another shudder went through him. "I can still hear his voice sometimes, the things he said they'd do. And I couldn't do anything to stop them if they tried. Hands tied, legs tied, a dislocated shoulder and not able to see. I was completely helpless."

Fingon didn't want to hear more, didn't want to know what else had happened to him. But Maedhros, now that he had started, kept on going.

"I owe it all to Az. I don't know what would have happened if he hadn't been there. He was riding his bike in the park and saw it happen, just didn't get close enough in time to stop them. He called the police, gave them a description of the van, the license plate number. I didn't even know until later."

Maedhros' hand clenched into a fist, Fingon's fingers curling around it as he maintained the contact. "They traced the van right away and they found me a few hours after that." He raised his head to look at Fingon. "I'm lucky, you know. If I really let myself think about it—it could have been so much worse. I ended up with a concussion, a dislocated shoulder and a lot of bumps and bruises." He paused and looked down again, his voice dropping to a whisper. "But somehow I still can't get it out of my head."

"I can't believe I don't remember hearing about this. How did they find you?" Fingon's hand moved up to gently stroke Maedhros' hair off his face.

"They were stupid enough to use a company van. They traced it back to Morgoth Industries when they ran the license plate number. That's why the police thought to look for me at Angband. The guys were just criminals hired for the job so they ratted them out for a lesser sentence. It never got in the news and your dad's firm used the incident to get Morgoth to settle the whole thing and then some."

Maedhros shrugged. "We were supposed to be under police protection when it happened-the Tirion police department was pretty keen on the story not making it to the media. Cuvienien felt the same way. A kidnapping on campus wasn't the kind of publicity they wanted." Maedhros' shoulders sagged. "So now you know. It's been four years now but I still can't shake it."

"What happened after?" Fingon asked quietly.

"I was in the hospital for a few days." He regarded Fingon, his jaw clenching. "You know what I'm like. You've seen the nightmares. You've seen how paranoid I am about parking. You saw how I freaked out on Turgon today and then on you just now." He pulled his hands away and buried his face in them again. "I'm so sorry. I would never hurt you, you have to know that, Fingon. I was just startled when you woke me up . . ."

Fingon reached out and wrapped his arms around Maedhros again. "I know that. I know you didn't mean it, not this morning with Turgon and not now either. I should have known better—I startled you tonight. You couldn't help yourself, I realize that, Maedhros."

"This is what I was afraid of, what I did tonight. That's why I never wanted to stay, why I didn't want you to stay." He grimaced, then covered his face with his hands once more. "I thought I was doing better, really I did. I don't know what came over me tonight—I never let myself fall asleep like that."

"I know," Fingon said soothingly. "I know."

"I didn't want to risk hurting you and now I've done it anyway. I should have left hours ago. I never should have let myself fall asleep." Maedhros mumbled into his hands.

"Maedhros. Look at me," Fingon whispered. "Look at me. I'm fine. You didn't hurt me." He leaned into him. "I know you would never hurt me." He stroked Maedhros' hair. "Look at me," he repeated.

Maedhros looked at him and Fingon could see the desolation in his face. "You were going to have to tell me sometime. There was no way we could keep going without you telling me." He met Maedhros' eyes, his gaze strong and steady. "I'm glad you fell asleep here tonight. I'm relieved it finally happened—now you won't have to worry about it anymore—it's happened and we can move on." Fingon reached out to cup Maedhros' face with his hand. "I'm in this for the long-term, Maedhros. I want to be with you. But we can't make it work if we keep things from each other." Fingon's voice was low and gentle. "This was bound to happen, sometime. I'm just thankful it happened now, here, when it's just the two of us."

He kept his gaze on Maedhros. "All I know is what happened in the past is in the past. What truly matters to me is a future that has us together. I don't care where you park. I don't care if you won't run outside. I don't care if you wake up like a maniac. I don't care about any of that."

"All I know is that I want to be with you and it's been killing me to think I can't be with you the way I want to . . . because I'm afraid of waking up in bed with you and lashing out." Maedhros said, his eyes intently fixed on Fingon's.

"You don't have to worry about that anymore. It doesn't matter if you do or not. All I care about is being with you. I can handle all the other stuff. You can handle it. With time, it may even get better, but if it doesn't I don't care. I love you, Maedhros. Just the way you are." He had said it. He'd been nervous before but it just came out this time. He loved Maedhros. Fingon hadn't even needed to think about it because it was true. "I love you," he repeated. "I should have told you before now."

"I love you," Maedhros said, his rigid back muscles finally relaxing under Fingon's hand. "Everything about you, but most of all because I can be myself with you." It was true. He loved Fingon. He had said it to himself so many times over the last few days, had said it when Fingon was asleep, had whispered it into his skin. It was such a relief to finally say it out loud.

"I love you," Fingon said again. "For so many reasons." He stretched his neck up to kiss him. Maedhros shifted and then his hands were in his hair, his lips were on Fingon's, his tongue was pushing past them to touch Fingon's own.

Fingon leaned back on the sofa, Maedhros following him down, lying on top of Fingon as they kissed again and again.

Fingon wasn't sure how much time had passed before Maedhros pulled back, a puzzled look on his face. "Why did you wake me up anyway?"

Fingon laughed. "I had to go to the bathroom and you were laying right on me. I told you, I didn't think you were asleep." He smiled up at Maedhros. "Now that I think of it, I never actually got to take a piss after all."

Maedhros dropped his head on Fingon's shoulder. "Are you asking me to get off of you so you can go?"

"Yes, but reluctantly. Just don't go anywhere. I'll be right back. Promise."

Maedhros sat up on the sofa and leaned his head back, relaxing into the comfort of the cushions. This was not how he had envisioned telling Fingon the truth behind the nightmares. It was actually about a hundred times worse than any of the scenarios that had run through his head earlier today about telling Fingon. It was not how he had envisioned telling Fingon he loved him either, actually. But he'd take it. Messy, awkward, clumsy—he'd take it. Fingon loved him back and that was all that really mattered.

There was nothing to hide anymore, nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to regret. Fingon knew it all. They'd gotten through it, just as Fingon said they would.

"Where were we?" Fingon sat on the sofa next to him, that dazzling grin of his on display. "I seem to remember lots of kissing." He pulled Maedhros towards him, falling back on the sofa with Maedhros in his arms, their bodies pressed together, their mouths and tongues unhurriedly sliding over each other, Fingon's hands traveling up to sink in Maedhros' hair.

Maedhros' head fell onto Fingon's shoulder as they lay on the sofa and he sighed at the sensation. It was like that night at Avallonë—something just clicked into place and he felt as if he never wanted this moment to end. Fingon's fingers were stroking through his hair again and he could feel the brush of lips on his forehead. He tightened his grip around Fingon's waist as he nuzzled his neck.

He didn't know how long they rested on the sofa together like that, the warm comfort of Fingon's body next to him, his voice murmuring words of affection and reassurance to Maedhros, his own arms holding Fingon close-never wanting to let go. He was safe in Fingon's arms and even the past couldn't touch him there.

It must have been hours later when the silence was broken by Fingon. "Stay with me," he breathed in Maedhros' ear.

Maedhros pulled back to look at Fingon, with such love and tenderness in his face that it made Fingon catch his breath.

"Always," Maedhros said, before moving to claim Fingon's lips again, his hands sliding down Fingon's body, slipping under his shirt then up his chest, light touches alternating with a stronger grip as they pressed together, closer, closer.

He tightened his grip on Maedhros' hair. "Spend the night. Here. With me," he murmured against Maedhros' lips.

Maedhros pulled back to look at him again, pupils wide and face flushed. The crease between his eyebrows appeared as he looked down at Fingon.

Fingon brushed his fingers on the crease, trying to smooth it away. "There's nothing to worry about. We've been through the worst of it already."

"I know." Maedhros dropped his head down, so that he and Fingon were forehead to forehead.

Fingon could feel the warmth of his body, all along his. He could feel Maedhros' hardness against his thigh and felt his own answering arousal pressing against his jeans.

He smiled at Maedhros. "I never said anything about sleeping, you know. I just asked if you wanted to spend the night." He shifted his hips slightly and felt a shudder go through Maedhros at the sensation.

"Are you trying to distract me?"

"No. I can think of all kinds of ways to distract you, but right now I want your full attention," Fingon said.

"You have it."

"This sofa is not that comfortable."

"I hadn't noticed."

"I have a perfectly good bed that's going to waste, you know," Fingon pointed out.

"Are you suggesting we move?"

"What do you think?"

________________________________________________________________________

There were too many thoughts running through his head and it had been the kind of day that he knew would likely bring the nightmares again, if he let himself sleep. He would stay awake. It wasn't anxious thoughts that were keeping him up this time. Maedhros had not felt this hopeful, peaceful or content in a long time. He had told Fingon. That in itself was an accomplishment.

Slivers of moonlight came through the blinds as he lay in the bed. Fingon's head was resting against his chest, his breathing slow and even as he slept, exhausted from the day and their activities in this bed just a short time ago. He smiled as he looked down at Fingon's dark hair, gently touching one of the curls resting on the back of his neck. He loved the soft feel of Fingon's hair, the scent of it, the darkness of it against his fair skin.

He loved him. He would never have believed it possible a year ago, six months ago, two months ago. He closed his eyes and breathed in, his body relaxing even more against the sheets as he did.

Maedhros had been surprised to realize how much he missed Fingon's presence at night, after only a short week of being together. But even in his old room at his parents' house, the night before, he had missed that smile, that warmth, the comfort of him at his side.

But he really didn't need to worry about that anymore. Oh sure, there would always be times when they couldn't be together, like now over the holidays. But they were finite, short-term. Now that he had told Fingon everything he felt lighter, the weight of that hidden history dissipating. It wasn't gone, not by any means. They would have to deal with it, time and again, of that he was certain. But it would be different confronting it together.

Where they stayed for the night shouldn't be an issue anymore, Maedhros decided. Fingon could come out to Formenos whenever he wished and Maedhros could now stay in Tirion, with him, without as much concern anymore. That would probably be easier for Fingon, once he started his internship, he realized.

Granted Finrod would be at the apartment in Tirion too but somehow that didn't bother him as much as it might have a few weeks ago. And maybe, just maybe, he could let himself actually sleep at Fingon's place.

Maedhros ran his fingers gently over Fingon's bare shoulder as the thoughts swirled through his mind. There were a few things that he knew set him off. It was inevitable that conversations like the one tonight would bring the memories back and end up disturbing his sleep. But the need for those kinds of conversations were thankfully few and far between anymore.

What else? Talk of Grandfather, of course. Anything to do with Morgoth, Angband. He thought back on the glorious stretches of time that he went without nightmares. What had given him such a long reprieve, before he met Fingon?

His eyes widened as he made a tentative connection. He hadn't really been going out much at all in the months before he met Fingon. Nights home with his brothers mostly, some family gatherings but none of the long nights with the grad school friends he used to indulge in when he was in school—nights spent in conversation, debate and the consumption of cheap wine and good beer. He ran through the last few weeks and it seemed there was a common thread—he'd have to think about that. He was willing to do anything to keep the nightmares at a minimum.

Even go back to therapy, he decided. He had hated it at the time but perhaps enough time had passed that it might do some good now. Maybe. Something more to think about.

He gently brushed his lips against Fingon's hair, reveling in the warmth of his body heat and the sensation of him. His breathing slowed and his eyes closed. His body relaxed against Fingon's, his fingers slowly going still, as Maedhros gradually and unexpectedly drifted off to sleep.

He woke up to Fingon, sleeping in his arms, their bare legs intertwined under the sheets. Maedhros blinked a few times and looked around him. He'd actually fallen asleep. In Fingon's bed. After that whole middle-of-the-night introspective internal monologue about why he wouldn't be able to do it, he'd actually gone and done it. And nothing had happened. No nightmares.

Maedhros shifted his hips slightly. He was sore but in a good way. He pressed a kiss to Fingon's forehead and felt Fingon shift closer to him. His eyes opened to look up at Maedhros and Fingon gently swept his disheveled hair to the side as he reached up to kiss him. "You're here," he said, his lips gently brushing against Maedhros'. "You didn't get any sleep, did you?"

"I actually did. You must have worn me out more than I realized," Maedhros gazed down at him affectionately, a spark in his eyes that made warmth rush through Fingon's chest. And other places.

"I think we need to try that one more time," Fingon said, that brilliant smile of his lighting up his face, as he went up on one elbow to look at Maedhros. "Practice makes perfect."

"I thought it was pretty perfect myself," Maedhros said, an answering smile on his face.

"I'll need to try it again to be sure," Fingon said assertively. "It might take me awhile to be absolutely certain we're doing it right." He moved to straddle Maedhros, his bare skin warm on Maedhros' own. "You might want to let Maglor know you'll be late." His hands moved over Maedhros' chest, light touches sliding down, each one making Maedhros shiver in anticipation. "On second thought, maybe you should just take him up on his offer to work for you today." He leaned down to cover Maedhros' mouth with his own, murmuring into his lips, as his hands drifted lower. "I think you've got better things to do."

Maedhros agreed but he really didn't have the capacity to say so, as Fingon moved over him, their bodies sliding against each other, heartbeats speeding up, breath mingling. Fingon fumbled a hand towards the nightstand, his lips never leaving Maedhros', his free hand keeping Maedhros' attention focused solely on him.

Of course, that left both of Maedhros' hands free to distract him, which meant that soon there were more than just panting breaths coming from Fingon, as Maedhros' lips moved to his neck, and Fingon found himself repeating his name over and over as the sensations washed over him.

He knocked something over on the nightstand. It didn't matter, he thought, as his hand finally found the items he had been searching for; he'd figure it out later. He had more important things to occupy him right now. To occupy both of them, he amended, as the activity of Maedhros' hands caused him to shudder again.

He pulled back, resting a hand against Maedhros' chest.

"Do you want me to stop?" Maedhros asked him, his silver eyes meeting Fingon's blue ones.

"No. I never want you to stop." Fingon shifted so he could rest his forehead against Maedhros'. "I just wanted to look at you, my Maitimo, to convince myself you're really here. I've imagined this too many times."

He noticed how Maedhros' eyes crinkled in the corners as he smiled up at him. "I'm really here," Maedhros said, his hands moving to trail across Fingon's back and press him closer. "Shall I prove it to you?"

"I think you're going to have to convince me. Have any ideas how?"

Maedhros reached a hand to where Fingon was still clutching the items he had clumsily retrieved from the nightstand moments before. "I've got some ideas."

It was quite a bit later before he remembered to text Maglor.
Chapter 33 by NelyafinweFeanorion
"I'm falling, the ice below me cracks with the weight of all that came before.

But you catch me.

The cold unravels me. All my insecurities exposed.

But all you say as you hold me is 'This is where I've wanted to be.'

And I realize that this is where I always want to be."


Maglor ripped the sheet of paper out of his notebook, crumpling it irritably before he tossing into the already overflowing wastebasket under his desk.

He couldn't get the damn lyrics to work. They sounded stupid, no matter what he did. Those two lines were perfect—just as he'd heard Maedhros say them last week but he had been wrestling with them since then, trying to make them fit, trying to make them convey the emotions he knew they represented.

The framing just didn't do them justice what with the ice imagery that kept creeping in, thanks to Maedhros and his day with Fingon.

He was glaring at the blank page in front of him when his phone chimed with a text. From the ringtone he knew it was Maedhros.

He'd gotten a brief message from him last night, letting him know that Maedhros was staying over at Fingon's. That had done much to settle Maglor—things had to be going well if his brother was actually going to risk spending the night away from home.

He glanced down at the text.

MAEDHROS: your offer to work for me today still open?

Maglor's eyes flicked to the time above the message. 9:52. He had more than enough time to shower, eat and drive to Formenos by noon.

He couldn't help the grin that came over his face. Things must be going quite well for Maedhros to even consider skipping work.

MAGLOR: yes. Happy to do it. Song writing is sucking mightily right now so a change of venue would be most welcome.

MAEDHROS: Thanks. Appreciate it. So does Fingon. ;-)

Maglor stared at his phone. Maedhros had seriously just typed that? So matter of fact? He'd thanked the Valar before today for Fingon. He did it again now as he typed his response.

MAGLOR: TMI. Save that for Tyelko. I don't even want to know why you can't go to work.

MAEDHROS: :)

MAGLOR:
Maybe you should just get back to Fingon.

MAEDHROS: On it. Or him, I should say.

MAGLOR: SHUT UP. Do you not understand what TMI stands for?

MAEDHROS: Thanks again. I'll make sure you get a Xmas bonus for this.

MAGLOR: I was hoping for time and a half. Holiday pay, you know.

MAEDHROS: Nice try.

MAGLOR: Stop texting me. I've got to get ready to go do your job and I'm sure you've got "things" to do.

MAEDHROS: since you mention it . . .

MAGLOR: SHUT UP AND GO DO FINGON!

Maglor put his phone down with a laugh. There were no more responses from Maedhros.

If anyone deserved a little happiness it was his older brother.

Not long after, showered and dressed, Maglor made his way to the kitchen.

He was not particularly surprised to find his mother seated at the table, the newspaper in front of her and a mug of coffee in her hand. He was a bit surprised to find her alone.

"Good morning," she greeted him brightly. "The coffee's still hot and I've got muffins on the counter."

"Thanks, Mom," Maglor said, kissing her cheek as he walked by her. "Anyone else up?"

"Curvo's in the shed with your father, tinkering with something. Tyelko's out for a run." She leaned back in her chair, both hands wrapped around her mug. "It snowed again so I sent the Ambarussa out to shovel." Her eyes softened as she smiled at him. "So only Moryo and Maedhros unaccounted for."

"I'm sure Moryo's hiding out until everyone else is out and about," Maglor responded.

"Maedhros can't still be asleep?" she asked, her eyebrows drawing together. "That's not like him." Her frown deepened. "Did he not sleep well?" she asked, her voice dropping lower.

Maglor shook his head as he filled his mug and grabbed one of his mother's pumpkin muffins. "Nothing like that," he reassured her, gratified that her expression softened again at his words. "He just decided to spend the night at Fingon's."

Her eyebrows shot up this time and she leaned forward. "He did? That's good. I'm surprised but it's a good sign, I'm sure." She sighed as she met Maglor's eyes. "Are we going to meet this mysterious Fingon anytime over the holidays, you think?"

Maglor thought back to the girls he had brought home to meet the family over the years. His relatives meant well, really. Well, most of them did, he amended. He wasn't so sure about the Ambarussa.

His family was just so intense. It often made for awkward first meetings. At least it had for everyone he had brought home.

But somehow Maglor couldn't see Fingon being so easily intimidated. He and Tyelko certainly hadn't fazed him one bit. Maglor hoped to be in attendance when Fëanor met Fingon. That would be worth seeing.

He realized his mother was still looking at him expectantly. "Sorry. Thoughts just got away from me. I'm sure Maedhros will bring him by sometime before Fingon's internship starts next month." He tilted his head and smiled at Nerdanel. "I'm sure you'll like him, Mom. He's a great guy and he's really good with Maedhros."

Nerdanel's face relaxed and her eyes crinkled in the corners as her smile widened. She pushed back the wisps of unruly hair that had escaped her messy bun. "I'm glad to hear that. Maedhros hasn't said much but what he has mentioned, he's said in such a way that I knew this was different."

Maglor was seated across from her now, munching on his muffin as he spoke. "It is different. I haven't seen him this happy in awhile." He paused to sip some coffee before continuing. "I mean, he was happy when he opened the bookstore but this . . . this goes beyond that." He frowned as he searched for the right word. "He seems content, although I don't think that's even a strong enough word to describe it."

Nerdanel nodded, her eyes taking on a fond look. "Content is good, Maglor. It's so much better than . . ." she let her words trail off.

Maglor couldn't agree more. He glanced at his watch. Probably time to get on the road.

"Where are you off to today? Not staying home?" Nerdanel asked, noticing his motion. Mom didn't miss much, he knew that.

"Shift at the bookstore. I'll be back by 6:30, as long as the roads are clear and we don't get more snow."

She nodded. "I'll hold dinner for you. I don't get all of you here at home together often enough," she said wistfully, as she stood up to hug him goodbye.

______________________________________________

Aredhel had made tentative plans with Tyelko for Saturday night but she had still been far too irritated at the whole Turgon incident so she had begged off, offering to meet him for lunch or coffee today instead.

In truth she was still troubled by Maedhros' behavior the day before and Fingon's apparent lack of concern. She knew Fingon hadn't come home last night. She had texted him late in the evening, receiving a curt reply that he was at his apartment and intended to stay there for the night.

It was so rare that she and Fingon were at odds with one another. She didn't like it.

She brushed her hair, her strokes fast and hard, her hair bearing the brunt of her bad mood. She would be no good meeting Tyelko in this frame of mind. It wasn't like any of this was his fault.

She put the brush down and took a deep breath. She was upset but Aredhel knew Turgon had hit fairly close to the mark when he brought up her ex. There was no question some of her disquiet stemmed from that experience of her own.

And from what she had witnessed of Fingon and Maedhros' relationship so far Maedhros wasn't like that. Fingon looked so happy when he was with him and Maedhros looked the same. She rubbed her forehead. Maybe Turko was right. Maybe she was projecting a little bit.

Tyelko wasn't like that either; even this early in their relationship she could just tell.

She had never dated someone who made her laugh as much as Tyelko did, who treated her like Tyelko did. She could be herself with him and he reveled in it. He just got her—her irreverent sense of humor, her fierce competitiveness, her focus on her independence. It was just so easy to be with him.

She made a face at herself in the mirror then rolled her shoulders to release the tension. This really didn't have to be so hard. She wanted to see Tyelko and maybe, just maybe, he'd put her mind at ease about all this.

_____________________________________________

Tyelko pulled up in front of the house and ran a hand through his hair. This was the first time he had felt even a twinge of apprehension about a date with Aredhel.

He had been disappointed at the change of plans the night before. Her texts had seemed a bit more perfunctory than usual too.

Ugh. He needed to stop over thinking this. He was getting to be as bad as Maglor and that was a really terrible sign. Enough. Yesterday had ended up being a shitty day for everyone involved but it was over and done with now.

Tyelko got out of the car. He would be fine. They would be fine.

He crunched through the newly fallen snow on the sidewalk and made his way to the front door. It opened quite rapidly after he rang the bell and he looked up at a man who unquestionably was Aredhel's father.

He looked uncannily like Fingon—same intense blue eyes and black hair, just cut shorter.

It had always been Aredhel's mother or Aredhel herself who had answered the door previously. Well, he knew he was bound to meet her father sometime.

"Hi. I'm Tyelko. I'm here for Aredhel. Nice to meet you." Tyelko reached his hand out to the man.

A firm grip met his handshake and the force of the gaze only increased. It surprisingly reminded Tyelko of his father.

"I'm Fingolfin, Aredhel's father. Nice to finally meet you." He paused, squeezing Tyelko's hand one more time before letting go. "I knew your parents at Cuveinien," he added, the intensity of the eyes meeting Tyelko's sharpening even further.

Tyelko grinned in response. "You must have some good stories about him. Mom says Dad was a handful back then."

Fingolfin's eyes widened and he found himself unexpectedly returning Tyelko's grin. "You could say that," he said, with a wry look. "I certainly won't be passing any of them on to you though. I know your father too well to risk that."

Tyelko laughed.

"Come in," Fingolfin said, his gaze softening as he motioned Tyelko into the house. "I'm sure Aredhel will be down in a minute."

Tyelko scraped his wet shoes on the mat, avoiding the hardwood floor. "I hope Turgon's feeling better," he said, deciding his best option was to face that uncomfortable subject right away.

Fingolfin raised his eyebrows. "He's looked better but we'll always know which Christmas these photos are from."

"I heard my name," a voice said as Turgon wandered into the foyer. He nodded at their guest. "Hey, Tyelko."

His face was still swollen and there were shadowy bruises under his eyes but he actually looked far better than Tyelko had expected. "Hey, man, I'm so sorry," Tyelko apologized. "Someone always gets an elbow or a fist in the wrong place when we play but the face hits really suck."

"No worries. It was actually a blast until this happened. Just make sure you put me on Maedhros' team next time, ok?" Turgon said.

"Next time you can pick your own team, Turgon, seriously. Just to make up for this time," Tyelko said earnestly.

Aredhel was standing at the top of the stairs. None of them had noticed her yet but she was actually gratified they hadn't. Watching Tyelko interact so easily with her family was soothing her far more than the pep talk she had given herself while she was getting ready.

She took a deep breath. This was between Fingon and Maedhros. And Fingon and her, if she was going to be candid about it. There was no reason to taint what she had with Tyelko with her concerns or with her own troubled memories.

"I certainly don't want to be on your team next time, Tyelko," she said as she came down the stairs, her heart beating faster as she saw Tyelko's face light up at the sound of her voice. He turned his head up to give her his sparkling gaze. "I still owe you an ass-whipping next time around." She flashed her own grin at him as she reached the bottom of the stairs, her hand darting out to lightly touch his forearm.

He shifted his arm to grasp her hand, his fingers interlacing with her own.

"Have fun, you two," Turgon said, with a wave of his hand as he moved off to the family room.

Aredhel went on tiptoe to kiss her father on the cheek. "I'll be back later," she said.

"Home by dinnertime," he admonished. "Your Mom's trying some new recipe tonight and she expects you all here."

"I'll have her home on time," Tyelko promised.

Fingolfin turned to him. "It was nice to meet you, Tyelko," he said, and then hesitated, his face taking on a more serious expression. "Tell your father I said hello."

"Will do!" Tyelko grinned again. "Hope you change your mind on sharing some of your stories sometime," he added with a wink.

Aredhel snorted. "Good luck with that. You forget what my dad does for a living. He's not big on 'disclosure.'"

Fingolfin rolled his eyes and shook his head as he watched them go out the door. He leaned against the wall, his eyes still on them. Tyelko seemed like a nice kid. He had lit up when Aredhel had made her appearance and Fingolfin had caught the answering regard in his daughter's face.
_________________________________________________

They had decided there was no good reason to leave the bed, now that Maglor was covering the bookstore shift. Languid and relaxed after their morning exertions they were content to hold each other close, gently exploring the bare skin beneath their fingertips, exchanging soft kisses that grew more heated with time.

Maedhros pulled back a few moments later, a crease on his forehead. "What?" Fingon asked, running his fingers along it to smooth it out. He had wanted to do just that since the first time he had seen it on Maedhros' face, months earlier.

"What about this Finno business? I've made it creepy now. I don't want to be thinking about your sister when I call you that."

"I don't want to be thinking about my sister either," Fingon said, smoothing his hand back from Maedhros' forehead to tangle in his hair. "I guess you'll just have to think of something on your own."

"Do you have a middle name or something?" Maedhros asked. He did not expect Fingon to look flustered again. "You do, don't you?" Maedhros half sat up, resting his head on his arm as he looked down at Fingon. "You know you have to tell me now."

"How did this suddenly get worse?" Fingon complained. He frowned at Maedhros. "Ok, I know you are going to laugh. It's what I get for having parents who married young and were too influenced by their college majors."

"I am utterly intrigued now, having been plagued by parents who married early and made some questionable decisions about their offsprings names as well," Maedhros replied, an amused look on his face.

"Did they give you names from an obscure, dead language?" Fingon questioned.

"Well, yes, as a matter of fact they did."

"What? Your name isn't some ridiculous Quenya relic!" Fingon argued.

"Well, no, Maedhros isn't. But my birth certificate has more than one name on it," Maedhros confided.

"Spill."

"I asked you first."

Fingon huffed in annoyance, crossed his arms over his chest and leveled a severe look at Maedhros.

"Fine. It's Nelyafinwë," Maedhros said.

"You're not serious."

"Would I make that up?" Maedhros answered. "Your turn."

"Findekanó," came the whispered response.

Maedhros couldn't help it. The laugh just bubbled out of him and he flopped back on the bed, giving himself up to the mirth.

Fingon sat up and leaned back on the headboard, giving him a stern look, arms crossed over his chest aggressively. "I never should have told you." He kicked Maedhros' leg under the covers. "They did it to all four of us. That's what I get for having a dad who majored in Classics and a mom who majored in Art History."

Maedhros had recovered himself and struggled to compose his features. "I'm not laughing at you."

"You could have fooled me."

"Guess what Maglor's Quenya name is."

"How am I supposed to guess that? I don't know any Quenya—just some bits and pieces, prefixes and suffixes I've picked up from listening to Finrod drone on about it."

"Ok, fine I'll tell you. His name is Kanafinwë." Maedhros looked up at him, suppressed mirth in his eyes and a grin on his face again.

"Ok?"

"Kanafinwe. Findekano." Maedhros raised his eyebrows. "You guys practically have the same name. Linguistically speaking."

Fingon just stared at him. This was just like Mom and Dad. That was something they would find just as amusing. He had not quite realized how well Maedhros was going to get along with his parents. He had charmed his mother already, that day at the bookstore, but Fingon hadn't really given much thought to all the interests he shared with his father.

"Oh." Fingon frowned down at him. "Won't it be all weird now, if my name is like your brother's?"

Maedhros shook his head. "No one uses that name, not even Mom and Dad." Maedhros scooted closer to Fingon and moved up the bed to rest his head on Fingon's shoulder and drape an arm across his chest. He regarded Fingon for a moment before speaking again. "Names don't matter. All I know is that I want you." His arm tightened and he reached up to catch Fingon's lips with his own, deepening the kiss as Fingon finally relaxed and slid down to meet his mouth.

"My Kanó," Maedhros whispered against his lips. Fingon shivered at the sound of his voice, aroused and intrigued by this new nickname. He definitely wanted to hear it again. He knew just how to make that happen, he thought, as his hands roamed lower, his lips trailing heat down Maedhros' body.

Fingon could get used to this.

"Kanó!"

_______________________________________

Aredhel wrapped her hands around her coffee mug and leaned forward towards Tyelko. "I'm sorry about cancelling last night."

He shook his head. "I get it," he said. "It was kind of a fucked up day."

"No kidding."

"Turgon didn't look too bad," Tyelko said.

"Argon's been torturing him with the ice packs. It's helping with the swelling but it's sometimes a real pain in the ass having a little brother who's a wannabe doctor," Aredhel said.

"You'll be grateful someday, when you can just call him instead of going to a clinic to get things checked out," Tyelko said. He took a drink of his coffee and then looked at her, his face far more serious than it had been a moment before. "Listen, I'm really sorry things ended like that yesterday." He frowned and then continued. "I should have told Turgon not to try that with Maedhros. He doesn't do well getting confined like that." Tyelko looked uncomfortable as he spoke.

"Has that happened before?" Aredhel asked.

The look of discomfort on Tyelko's face intensified. "Listen I can't really talk about it. It's not my place to. But I can tell you Maedhros has had some rough times in the past and he's over it but they've left a mark on him, that's all I can say." He shifted in his seat. "He's really not like that, you know. You've met him. He didn't mean to hurt Turgon—I hope you realize that."

Aredhel met his eyes. "I guess I do. I wasn't really sure what to think yesterday and I really don't like the idea of my brother being with someone that volatile."

Tyelko frowned at her. "He's not volatile," he said, his tone a little sharper than it had been previously. "Maedhros isn't like that at all. Turgon just startled him and he lashed out. That's all it is."

"If you say so."

Tyelko's frown deepened. "Listen, Aredhel. I don't quite know what you're getting at but Maedhros doesn't do stuff like that out of the blue. Turgon grabbing him just triggered something. He's got his reasons, and as I said, I'm not going to lay it all out for you. It's not my place." His eyes focused on hers intently. "Fingon's not in any danger, if that's what you're worried about. He knows there's a history there and he's fine with it."

"I guess I'll have to hear it from him to know that for sure," Aredhel said.

Tyelko looked frustrated. "You don't believe me then?"

It was Aredhel's turn to shift in her seat. "I'm not saying that."

"Then what are you saying?"

"That I'd like to hear directly from my brother that he's not concerned about this."

"You didn't talk to him about it yesterday? If you are so concerned? He was planning on meeting Maedhros out for dinner, you know." Tyelko said.

"I know that," Aredhel snapped. "That's why I didn't have a lot of time to talk to him about it."

"So you did talk to him about it," Tyelko persisted.

"I did. He said he wasn't concerned," Aredhel admitted.

"But you don't believe him?"

"I didn't say that." It was her turn to scowl at Tyelko. This really wasn't going well. She had promised herself not to do this but here she was, doing it. This was between her and Fingon, Aredhel reminded herself. "Listen, I just want more than five minutes with him to hash this out." She sighed, her features softening as she did. "He's totally crazy about your brother and I really don't want him to get hurt. And I don't just mean physically."

"You think Maedhros isn't just as into him? He is. I've never seen him care about anyone like this. You haven't been around the two of them as much as I have, Aredhel, but I can tell you this—they're really good together. I mean it. I'm no expert but from where I sit this is the real deal." He reached across and took her hand in his. "I'm being completely serious. I've never seen my brother like this with anyone else and I've never been happier to see him like this. Your brother is amazing with him and I'm so grateful he's part of Maedhros' life."

"You really mean that," Aredhel said, tilting her head as she studied Tyelko.

"I do. I've hoped he'd find something like this but I was skeptical it would happen. But it's not just Maedhros. Talk to Fingon. I think you'll see he feels the same way. Maedhros is one of the most caring, conscientious, kind people l know. I don't tell him often enough but he's been the best older brother to me and the rest of my brothers."

Tyelko sighed and continued. "Things weren't easy for any on us for awhile but Maedhros always made sure we were ok—no matter how crappy things were with Mom and Dad—he was always there for us." He looked at her and squeezed her hand. "I couldn't ask for a better brother and Fingon's lucky to have him. Just as Maedhros is fortunate to have Fingon."

She squeezed back. "I'll talk to him. I feel better talking to you about it." She hesitated, looked down at her coffee and gripped the mug tighter. "I didn't mean to do this to you. I told myself I'd hash it out with Fingon and wouldn't put you in the middle of it."

"Hey," Tyelko said. She looked up at him and was gratified to see a soft, fond look on his face. "You needed to talk about it. I could tell something was bothering you and I assumed it was probably this." He leaned forward. "I love my brother. I trust my brother. I would never lie to you about that. I care about you and respect you too much for that." He reached out and took her other hand. "I don't want this to get in the way of what I've got with you but I can't let you think about Maedhros that way and not say anything."

She squeezed back and then gave a short laugh. "I'd be doing the same thing for Fingon, if things were the other way around. I get it."

"We're ok then? You and me?" There was a look of concern in his eyes that made her stomach clench. Had she really made him doubt that?

She laced her fingers into his. "We are more than ok," she whispered then scooted her chair closer to his. "More than ok," she repeated and leaned in to kiss him.

He sighed into the kiss as he returned it and she felt the tension drain out of him. He pulled back a little, pressed his forehead to hers and looked deep into her eyes. "You mean a lot to me, Aredhel," he said. "You really do. I said I haven't seen Maedhros like this before . . ." he paused and closed his eyes tightly for a moment before opening them and continuing. "But I haven't felt this way about anyone before myself and I don't want to mess this up."

Her lips curved into a smile as she leaned in to kiss him again. "You aren't messing anything up," she said, her lips brushing his as she spoke.

_________________________________________________
End Notes:
My apologies to Maglor for the crappy lyrics I saddled him with at the start of this chapter. He's having a bad bout of writers block at the moment. The person writing him isn't helping him much either.
Chapter 34 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Author's Notes:
This chapter was a struggle to write-I had all the ideas but I was planning on opening with Fingolfin's POV and he was just not cooperating! I finally switched the initial POV to Feanor and that seemed to make Fingolfin behave enough to be part of the chapter.

my thanks as always to cheekybeak for her beta work on this and also to ziggy for letting me vent about this chapter and Fingolfin!
chapter 34

Even after all these years the sight of Nerdanel could still take his breath away.

Fëanor had been at work in her studio, Moryo and Curvo assisting him, putting finishing touches on the surprise he had planned for her there. The work now complete, he had left his sons to clean up while he sought out his wife.

He had found her in the kitchen and he had silently paused in the doorway, gazing at her as she sat, unaware of his presence. Fëanor's eyes caught the tumble of her brilliant red hair as it cascaded down her back, the sharp angle of her profile, the curve of her hand as she rested her chin on it. Her attention was fully focused on the cookbooks in front of her.

It had never been easy—not since the early days. But despite the hardships they had experienced, the tragedy, the pain—having her by his side had made it all surmountable. As long as they had each other they could meet adversity and defeat it.

Even the times when they were at odds with each other, rather than the outside world, they had still managed to come through it together.

They were in a good place again now and the sight of her warmed him. He moved to wrap his arms around her waist, grinning at her surprised huff of breath and dipped his head down rest it on her shoulder.

Nerdanel leaned back into him. "Are you finally done? Am I going to be allowed back into my studio?"

"All in good time," Fëanor said, as she turned to face him. "Moryo and Curvo are tidying up and I am here to escort you there."

She had no idea what he had been up to—the studio had been commandeered by Fëanor for the weekend and made strictly off limits to her. She itched to get back there. Nerdanel had been somewhat disconcerted at the invasion of her space by the men in her life. Fëanor had stonewalled all of her questions, maintaining all would be made clear in time.

"Well, let's get on with it then!" Nerdanel said. "It makes me twitchy having you boys among my things."

Fëanor laughed. She tugged on his hair in response. "You know how you hate me tidying up your workspace," she pointed out.

His eyes widened in mock horror. "You don't tidy up—you wreak havoc!"

"Which is why I don't go in there anymore," Nerdanel responded. "You should do the same. The Valar only know what mischief you have stirred up in my space."

"Oh, stop fussing," Fëanor said. "We couldn't make it any messier than it already was—dust and clay and bits of stone all over the place." He pulled her close and rested his forehead on hers. "I promise it's just as untidy as you left it. Moryo and Curvo are just clearing away my tools and removing all evidence of our trespassing."

"I'll be the judge of that, I suppose," Nerdanel said. "I can't imagine what possessed you to spend the weekend messing about in there."

"I never 'mess about'," Fëanor said stiffly, then broke into a grin again as she rolled her eyes at him. "Come on, then. Don't you want to see it?" He pulled her after him to the attached studio he had built for her years before, when they had first moved into this house with their five young sons, the twins not yet part of the family.

His own workspace was more sequestered—a separate structure away from the house and with its own backup generator. With five children under the age of ten when they had first moved in, Nerdanel had not been about to risk any childhood calamities. Her chisels and mallets could be locked up. Fëanor's more flammable experiments needed to be well away from curious small hands.

As she and Fëanor walked to the studio they passed her two sons, carrying Fëanor's toolbox and a giant trash bag as their made their way out of her sculpture workspace. Moryo and Curvo didn't speak to her, just shuffled past into the house itself, matching grins on their faces.

Fëanor stopped her before she entered the room itself, dark and dim, before her. "Don't touch the light switch," he said, motioning her into the room. She gave him a puzzled look but stepped across the threshold, surprise crossing her face as all the studio lights came on at her entrance.

"What did you do?" she asked.

"Just some modifications," Fëanor linked their hands as he explained. "Things I should have thought to do for you long ago. The technology has finally caught up with my ideas." He waved his free hand around the room. "The lights are motion activated. You don't need to touch the switch—if your hands are full or covered with clay."

She leaned her head on his shoulder. "I like it." Her gaze caught sight of something on the far wall. "New blinds as well?"

"Remote control. One touch to go from natural light to artificial. You can keep the remote in your smock pocket while you work."

It was a thoughtful gesture—attuned to her needs and undoubtedly faultlessly executed, seeing it was Fëanor doing the work.

"Thank you," she said, going up on tiptoe to brush her lips to his.

"That's not all," he answered and she caught that look of subtle pride on his face, the one he reserved for those times when he managed to catch her by surprise.

"There's more?" she asked.

He pulled her over to the sink and she noted the shiny new fixtures. "They're lovely, Fëanaro, but you know they'll be caked in clay within the week."

He shook his head, his smile becoming a bit more of a smirk. "I don't think so. They're automatic faucets. You'll never have to touch a handle again." He waved his hand over the faucet and watched the water turn on automatically.

He was outright grinning at her now. Nerdanel loved it when he was like this—simply enjoying what his creative mind and skill had accomplished.

"Moryo and Curvo helped?" Fëanor nodded. "Curvo's always loved doing work around the house with me and Moryo is as reliable as they come." His eyes widened. "The twins would have likely flooded they place changing the fixtures out but not Moryo. He may not have the ingenuity to come up with ideas but he is flawless in execution."

She waved her hand over the faucet to turn the water off. Turning towards Fëanor, she slipped her arms around his waist. "Thank you. It seems my Christmas gift came early this year."

His arms went around her and pulled her closer. "Nonsense," he said. "This isn't your gift. I just finally had some time and two willing assistants. I was going to get it done over Thanksgiving but I didn't have all the parts I needed." He kissed her forehead. "You haven't even seen the best part."

"There's more?"

He walked her toward the utility closet and she saw a circular device embedded in the wall next to the door. "What's that?" she asked.

"Central vacuum. More accurately an in-wall vacuum. No more having to drag the vacuum cleaner in here to clean up all the dust and particles you scatter everywhere. The canister is in the closet. All you have to do is hook up the hose. You should be able to reach the whole room." He definitely looked pleased with himself although she caught him looking at her, trying to gauge her response. He'd never gotten over his need to please her, her opinion of his work the only one that mattered, other than his own.

"You know me so well, Fëanaro," she laughed.

"I would hope so, after all this time, Nerdanel. I would think I'd finally figured you out."

She poked around the workspace a while longer, assuring herself that they hadn't done any irreparable harm to her equipment; her mind finally at ease they walked back to the main house hand in hand. Nerdanel made coffee for them both and they settled themselves at the kitchen table.

"The house is so quiet this morning," Fëanor said. "I suppose it's not actually morning any more. Where are they all?"

Nerdanel tilted her head. "Maedhros and Tyelko are out. Maglor's at work." She ticked her sons off on her fingers. "I assume Moryo and Curvo went up to shower. I sent the Ambarussa to the store. I'm sure they'll forget to buy half the items on my list but it got them out of the house for a while."

"Did Maedhros even come home last night?" Fëanor asked. "I don't recall hearing him come in or seeing his car this morning."

"No, he didn't," Nerdanel said, her eyes shining. "He was out with that young man of his. I really can't wait to meet him."

"He hasn't said much about him, has he?" Fëanor said. "At least not to me. Has he said much to you?"

"Not much. I just get the feeling that this relationship with Fingon is far more serious than his previous ones. There's a softness to him when he mentions his name, something I haven't seen from him before." Nerdanel leaned back in her chair, hands cradling her coffee cup. "It's good to see him happy."

"Fingon, you said? That's his name?" Fëanor frowned.

"Yes, Fingon. Maglor says they've been spending a lot of time together lately. I hope that means we get a chance to meet him soon." Nerdanel's face turned thoughtful. "It's been so long since he's brought someone home."

"Fingon," Fëanor repeated.

"Yes," Nerdanel's eyes narrowed as she regarded her husband. "What is it, Fëanor? You've got that look on your face."

"It seems unlikely," Fëanor said to himself then he looked up at her, his eyebrows drawn together.

"What's unlikely?"

"Fingolfin's son is named Fingon. But it couldn't be him, could it?"

Nerdanel felt her stomach roll at his words. "What's the likelihood of that?" she said, keeping her voice as nonchalant as she could.

"Where did they meet?" Fëanor asked. "I haven't heard him say much about it."

"You know that's how Maedhros is, Fëanor. He rarely talks much about this kind of thing. Maglor's the one who usually can't stop talking about his relationships—the good ones and the bad ones."

"Seem to have been more bad ones than good," Fëanor said, under his breath, before continuing in his regular tone of voice, the crease between his brows becoming more pronounced as he spoke. "But what if it is Fingolfin's son, Nerdanel?"

"So what if it is? It's not your concern, Fëanor."

"It most certainly is my concern."

"It is not," Nerdanel said, her tone sharp. "He's free to choose as he likes."

"I don't like the idea."

She shook her head and reached across the table to grasp his forearm. "I don't care who it is, Fëanor. And neither should you. He's happier than he's been in a long time. And if that's because of Fingolfin's son then I'm fine with that." Her grip tightened. "And you should be too. We've both wanted him to be happy for years now. I'm not going to question it."

"I believe I have some questions for Maedhros when he gets in," Fëanor said. "He's spending nights with him now?"

"Fëanor, stop it." The genial mood of moments before was gone. The mention of Fingolfin was enough to disturb Fëanor but the added concern regarding their respective sons wasn't helping any. The last thing Nerdanel needed was a confrontation between her eldest son and her husband regarding this relationship. Not when Maedhros was finally looking better, when he finally seemed to be content, as Maglor had said. She was not going to let Fëanor affect that. "You are not going to confront him about this, I won't allow it."

"I never said I was going to confront him, Nerdanel. I said I had questions."

"I know what you are like, Fëanor. It will be more like an inquisition." Her gaze hardened. "You aren't talking to him about this without me there, do you understand?"

His lips thinned as he returned her gaze, openly frowning at her. "I do not need a chaperone to talk to my son."

"You do this time. I am not going to let your dislike of Fingolfin taint this relationship, Fëanor. You don't even know if Fingon is Fingolfin's son. But it doesn't matter if he is or isn't. Maedhros is an adult. Your opinion is not relevant in this." She glared at him.

"Fine. Join me if you like. But I need to know, for my own peace of mind," Fëanor replied.

"Why can't you let it go, Fëanor? Fingolfin's never been anything but helpful and caring to us, to you. Keep your distance, if that's what you need to do for yourself but don't expect the rest of us to do so. There's no rational reason to dislike him so."

"No rational reason? You can seriously say that, Nerdanel? Knowing that he could have put Morgoth away for what he did to Maedhros? For what he did to my father? Fingolfin let that opportunity slip through his hands. I'll not forgive him that." Fëanor slammed his hand on the table, making their coffee mugs rattle.

"You know that's not how it went. You know he didn't have the evidence to bring him in, not for Finwë or for Maedhros. He got them to settle, he kept Maedhros' name out of the papers, kept his ordeal private and ended the impasse." She leaned forward, eyes narrowed. "You should be grateful for that."

"I would be grateful if he brought the perpetrator to justice. But it seems he can't even do that properly." Fëanor stood up.

"You will not talk to Maedhros about this without me, Fëanor."

He walked away from her, towards the kitchen door.

"Fëanor," she repeated.

He stopped, his shoulders bunching up as she watched him. "Fine. Be there if you must. But if this is Fingolfin's son . . ."

She interrupted him. "If this is Fingolfin's son you will be pleasant about it. Because he means something to your son, Fëanor. Your son, who has never quite been the same since it happened. And if this boy in any way makes life better for Maedhros then I wouldn't care if he was Morgoth's son himself."

_______________________________________

Fingolfin wandered into the kitchen to find Anairë. She was poring over a cookbook, pen in hand. He walked up behind her, putting his hands on her shoulders gently. She looked up at him. "Hey you."

"I just met Aredhel's boyfriend," he said.

She spun around in her chair. "Tyelko! Isn't he sweet?"

"I don't know that I would choose the word 'sweet' to describe him," Fingolfin said crisply. "Loud, maybe. Brash, perhaps."

"Oh, come on, Fin. He's a nice boy. Stop trying to find reasons to dislike him."

"I'm not."

She leveled a glare at him.

"Fine, fine. I suppose he seems like an agreeable young man," Fingolfin grumbled. "He seemed quite taken with Aredhel, at any rate."

The smile was back on Anairë's face. "She's quite taken with him too."

"I noticed."

"Oh, Fin," Anairë laughed. "Stop trying to be all glum about this. You probably liked him more than you want to admit and that's why you're making such a fuss."

He really never could get anything past his wife. Fingolfin sighed. "You're right," he admitted. "He did seem like a nice kid." He made a grimace. "If only he wasn't Fëanor's son."

"Oh, stop. It's not that big a deal. It's not like they're getting married, so stop moaning about it. It's just a boyfriend." She tilted her head as she looked at him. "And you know the best way to get Aredhel to dig her heels in is to tell her not to do something."

"I know. If I question her about it too much she'll likely run off with him just to annoy me."

Anairë laughed. "Tyelko doesn't look much like Fëanor so at least you won't be reminded of him when you look at him."

"No, no he doesn't," Fingolfin said thoughtfully. His eyes got a distant look.

"Fin?" Anairë questioned.

He shook his head, as if to clear it. "I just realized who he does resemble," Fingolfin said. He could see the portrait of Miriel, at the top of the stairs in his godfather's home; a position of prominence, visible from the foyer as soon as one entered the house. It had been years since he first laid eyes on it, Miriel long dead even when he was a young child. It had been something he and Fëanor had initially bonded over-the loss of Fingolfin's father and Fëanor's loss of his mother. Tyelko might have Fëanor's facial structure but his coloring was all Miriel. "He's so like Miriel," he said.

"Miriel?" Anairë repeated.

"Fëanor's mother," he explained. "She died long ago. Tyelko looks like her."

"You ok, Fin?"

He nodded. Unexpected memories but he pushed them aside. "Yes, I'm fine." He changed the subject. "I came to see what you were up to." He peered over her shoulder at the book on the countertop.

"Planning dinner. I'm going to go to the store in a bit to pick up some things. I think I'll take Argon with me. He's been holed up in his room all morning—it'll be good to get him out," Anairë said.

"I'll stay with Turgon. I haven't had much of a chance to talk with him one-on-one since he's been home," Fingolfin said.

"Make sure he puts some ice on his nose again," Anairë said. "Argon's been on him about it but it really is making a difference, I think."

"I'll make sure." Fingolfin leaned down to kiss her and went in search of his son.

He found Turgon in the family room, head bent over a book. "How are you feeling?" Fingolfin asked, leaning over the back of the sofa, eyeing his son's still swollen and bruised face.

"I'm fine. Headache's better today," Turgon answered, looking up at his father. Faint shadows of bruising were visible under both eyes.

Fingolfin settled down on the sofa next to him. "Sounds like an interesting game."

Turgon laughed. "You can say that. I wouldn't mind playing again, now that I know what to watch out for."

"Hmm. Maybe not right away though," Fingolfin recommended. "You should be presentable by the time your internship starts next month, at least."

"At least." Turgon's smile faded. He knew his father was disappointed at his shelved plans for law school. They had managed to avoid the topic so far this break but there wasn't an easy escape to the conversation now, it seemed. He had been cornered. May as well get it over with.

"Listen, Dad. I know you aren't thrilled about this whole internship and . . ." Turgon started.

"Hey," Fingolfin interrupted. "That's not why I brought it up. We've been over your reasons and I respect them, ok?" He put his hand on Turgon's shoulder and gripped it. "All I meant was that it's just not great for first impressions to show up for a job looking like you were just in a bar fight. It's a good thing you've got a few weeks is all I meant by it."

Turgon frowned. "You're really ok with it then?"

"I'm really ok with it," Fingolfin replied, a frown coming over his face. He paused, choosing his next words with care. "It's not my intention to push you to follow my path. I realize you need to make your own choices. I'm looking forward to hearing about your experiences once you start work." He watched his son's face closely.

Anairë had been right about this after all. Fingolfin had interrogated Turgon in detail when he had first mentioned the interest in Public Policy and he had questioned his son's decision not to apply to law school. He had done it to satisfy himself on Turgon's reasoning and to educate himself on the field.

He had not realized that his characteristic thoroughness had given Turgon the impression that he disapproved of the whole endeavor. He had scoffed when Anairë had mentioned it but it seemed that once again she was correct. It wouldn't do to have Turgon think that.

Fingolfin had never intended to be overbearing or forceful about the direction his children took in their lives. He had seen how Fingon and Aredhel had gravitated to fields that followed their interests and strengths.

He had encouraged Argon in his pursuit of something completely outside Fingolfin's own personal experience.

But Turgon had never been as focused as the others. He had drifted from subject to subject, none holding his attention for long. Fingolfin had suspected Turgon's law school discussions were more to give himself a goal and a touchpoint with his father rather than a true interest of his own.

He had been a bit lost between the dedicated, focused Fingon and brash, determined Aredhel. Argon's natural brilliance had only made Turgon feel even more overshadowed, Fingolfin realized.

Law school had been a way to draw attention to himself and keep his father's interest. Fingolfin was glad Turgon had recognized the folly in that before he was committed to that career path.

Truth be told there had been more spark in Turgon's eloquent reasoning for Ethics and Public Policy than in any of his previous interests. It was a welcome change.

How did he make sure his son understood that Fingolfin was supportive of his choice? He thought he had made it abundantly clear but Turgon's words made him doubt his own certainty.

"I am excited for you, Turgon. It's a field I'm not familiar with, as you know, so I expect to get an education on it from you. I'm looking forward to that. I can see how much it interests you." He held his son's gaze and nodded at him. "I want what's best for you, Turgon. It's what I want for all of you. If this is what you are passionate about then you have my unwavering support."

Even with the swelling and bruising Turgon's smile lit up his face. He bumped Fingolfin's knee with his own. "Thanks, Dad."

They sat in companionable silence for a few moments and then Fingolfin gave Turgon a sidelong look. "So, I want to hear more about this girl of yours," he said. "Are we going to get to meet her anytime soon?"

Turgon's face flushed. "Elenwë. She's home with her family for the holiday." His eyes softened. "She's amazing, Dad. I really do want you and Mom to meet her. I know we haven't been dating all that long but there's just something about her, you know?"

"You'll have to bring her around after break then. I'd like to meet her." He shook his head. "I've met Aredhel's Tyelko already and they haven't been together as long as you and Elenwë."

Turgon brow creased in thought. "No, you're wrong there." His face cleared and he smiled at Fingolfin. "It's funny, but actually Aredhel's first date with Tyelko was the same day as my first date with Elenwë. I hadn't really thought about it before." He laughed and continued. "Which means, for once, Fingon's been dating somebody longer than either of us."

Fingolfin looked puzzled. "Fingon?" he asked. "That can't be right."

"No, it is right. He had already met Maedhros—he and Maedhros were the ones who set Aredhel up with Tyelko." Turgon's face grew thoughtful again. "It might have actually been their first official date too, come to think of it." He grinned at his father. "How's that for coincidence—all of us going on our first dates on the same day. Weird."

"Weird," Fingolfin repeated. "So, it's been a couple of months for Fingon then?"

"Yeah, amazing, isn't it? I think it's a record for him—I can't remember him dating anyone this long," Turgon said, confirming Fingolfin's own thoughts. "But it's not like his previous relationships at all. He's totally gone over Maedhros."

"You really think so?" Fingolfin questioned.

"I know so." Turgon's eyes brightened. "It's the way he talks about him, the way he looks at him. I've not seen him look at anyone like that before. He makes time for him, which is completely unlike Fingon. Relationships were never a priority with him before, which is probably why they never lasted too long."

"Hmm," Fingolfin said diplomatically. Turgon seemed to be comfortable discussing his brother's love life and Fingolfin wasn't about to interrupt. This was useful information.

Turgon looked at him appraisingly. "I think you'd like Maedhros, Dad. He's a lot like you," he said, startling Fingolfin.

"We'll see if Fingon brings him around," Fingolfin said diplomatically. It wouldn't do for Turgon to find out that Fingolfin was already acquainted with Maedhros. Certainly not before Fingon found that out.

It looked like he was going to have to have a conversation with his eldest son. Sooner rather than later.

__________________________________________

"You're sure you don't want to come in for a bit?" Fingon asked. Maedhros had driven him home and they were parked outside Fingon's house. There was plenty of time before he was expected home for dinner. Fingon had made sure to get back early, even if it meant cutting short his afternoon with Maedhros. It wouldn't do to have his parents irritated right at the start of the holiday break; not if he wanted to spend as much time as possible with Maedhros.

"No, I should get home myself. I've hardly been there at all. And your family is waiting for you," Maedhros said.

"All right. Next time then. I'd like you to meet my Dad. I think you two would get along splendidly." Fingon's smile lit up his face.

Maedhros had never mentioned the fact that he had already met Fingon's dad. It had been a few years prior but they had met. More than once, in fact. He debated whether he should reveal that fact or not and decided honesty was the best route with Fingon; it hadn't failed him yet. There was no good reason to keep this a secret.

"Um, you know, actually, I . . . ah . . . met your dad a few years ago, I think?" Maedhros said, stumbling over the words a bit as he spoke.

"You did? Really? You've never mentioned it . . ." Fingon looked puzzled and a little hurt.

"Yeah, I realized after you said he had worked on the case, way back when we first met. I recognized the name."

"Why didn't you say so?" Fingon asked, genuinely perplexed.

"I don't know," Maedhros said truthfully. "I really didn't know how to bring it up. We met under awkward circumstances, first with Grandfather's lawsuit and then again after . . . after my incident."

"My father knows about that?" Fingon asked slowly, his forehead wrinkling at Maedhros' words.

Maedhros nodded, his mouth dry. Had he made a mistake telling Fingon this? He should have told him before, he berated himself. He should have told him everything long ago.

"Oh."

"Listen, I'm sorry. I know how this must look, like I've been keeping things from you. I mean, I know I have been keeping things from you. But no more. It was stupid to do it in the first place and I don't mean to anymore," Maedhros paused and took a breath. "I thought you should know," he finished.

Fingon just looked at him, his expression unreadable.

"Fingon?"

Fingon kept looking at him and then spoke again. "Is there anything else I should know, Maedhros?" he asked quietly.

Damn it. He'd managed to make Fingon question his reliability again. After everything he had done for Maedhros, his support, his own forthrightness; now Maedhros had made Fingon doubt him, once more. No, that wasn't true. Fingon had never doubted him. Fingon had always believed in him, believed him. He was the one who had doubted Fingon, who had strayed away from directness and candor once again.

"I'm sorry, Fingon. It's totally my fault. I should have told you from the start but I just couldn't, just couldn't bring myself to open up, not until I really got to know you, to trust you. And I do trust you," he said hurriedly, seeing the uncertain look on Fingon's face at his words. "More than I've trusted anyone in a long time."

"Is there anything else I should know, Maedhros?" Fingon said again, his voice lower.

Maedhros shook his head. "I met your father when Dad first brought up the lawsuit for grandfather. He came by the house one night—just a brief 'hello' nothing more." Maedhros continued. "He knows what happened to me. I spoke to him again after . . . when I was in the hospital, after everything. He was part of the legal team and he had questions for me and advice about what to do next. That's all." Maedhros sighed. "It's not an excuse and I'm not trying to make it one but that was not an easy time for me. I wasn't in a good place. I did my best to try to forget about it. But it wasn't right to keep you in the dark about it. It was all tied into . . . into the other situation. I'm sorry." He met Fingon's eyes and hoped the intensity of his gaze conveyed the seriousness of his emotions. "I can't think of anything else that I haven't told you."

"Ok." Fingon kept his eyes on Maedhros. "I can understand not wanting to talk about that time. I can understand not trusting me at first. I know it took a lot for you to open up, Maedhros, I get that." He sighed. "I'm grateful you finally did trust me." His brow creased. "But I need to be able to know I can trust you too. That you're honest with me, like I am with you. I'm not angry about it. I'm just surprised and disappointed, I guess."

"I know," Maedhros whispered, dropping his head onto the steering wheel.

He felt Fingon's hand touch his shoulder and start to rub circles onto his back.

"Hey." Fingon said, leaning so close that his breath shifted Maedhros' hair. "I said I was surprised and disappointed, not that I was angry or upset. I'm not sure I understand your reasoning but I know now and it's done."

Maedhros turned to look at him, their faces in near proximity. "And?"

"And I love you, you idiot," Fingon said, his blue eyes dark and intense. "Don't do that again. You can tell me anything, I've told you that. I mean it. Trust me, Maedhros. You can trust me with any of it and all of it. I love you, every part of you."

"I am an idiot," Maedhros said.

"Yeah, you are. But you're my idiot," Fingon said, a ghost of a smile crossing his face. Maedhros could feel his hand on his back still, the warm weight of it comforting.

"I'm sorry," Maedhros said again, turning to Fingon, his hand reaching out to rest against the side of Fingon's face, his fingers trembling slightly as he reached out.

Fingon's hand moved to cover Maedhros'. "No secrets. No doubts, ok."

Maedhros nodded and Fingon closed the distance between them, their foreheads touching.

"I love you," Maedhros whispered. "I'm so lucky to have you in my life, Fingon."

"Just don't shut me out, Maedhros. Let me in. Don't keep things from me."

Maedhros nodded, "I won't, I promise I won't."

"Shut up and kiss me," Fingon said, his lips meeting Maedhros'.

It was a few moments before Maedhros pulled back, resting his forehead on Fingon's again. "I'm sorry," he said again.

"I know," Fingon replied.

"We're ok?"

"We're ok."

"Ok. I should let you go in."

"Text me later, ok?"

"I will. I love you, Fingon."

"I love you too, Maedhros." Fingon's' fingers traced Maedhros' jawline and then he turned to open the car door to get out. He leaned down to look at Maedhros again. "Tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow. I'll talk to you later tonight."

Fingon nodded and then shut the door.

Maedhros watched him make his way to the garage door and into the garage. He let out the breath he had been holding and dropped his head onto the steering wheel again. No more. He wasn't going to hold back anything anymore. It wasn't worth it—there was nothing worth holding back from Fingon. It had been stupid to not mention knowing Fingolfin. It had hurt Fingon and that was something Maedhros wouldn't allow himself to do again.
Chapter 35 by NelyafinweFeanorion
I'll be yours if you'll be mine chapter 35

thanks to the amazing Cheekybeak for her beta work on this!

Anairë looked around the table and felt contentment wash over her at the sight of her children and her husband gathered together. It didn't happen often enough anymore.

Her children had all been out of sorts yesterday-Turgon understandably but Aredhel and Fingon had been also.

There had been an underlying tension between her eldest son and her daughter that was unexpected-they were usually far more in tune with each other. That discord was still evident in their interactions today although Aredhel seemed in a far cheerier frame of mind after her outing with Tyelko.

The same could not be said about Fingon. He was uncharacteristically quiet during the meal and more than a little distracted. It might be worth finding some private time with him later, she thought. Tonight would not be an auspicious night for her husband to have his talk with Fingon. She hoped Fingolfin realized that.

Fingolfin did not realize that at all. He had noticed his daughter's cheerful demeanor and he had picked up on Fingon's more subdued presence. Something was troubling his son; it seemed this was as good a time as any to get some answers and get to the bottom of Fingon's mood.

After dinner, as they were all milling about the kitchen cleaning up, Fingon felt his father's hand grip his shoulder. "Up for a game of chess tonight? It's been awhile," Fingolfin asked.

Fingon smiled. His father had a unique way of connecting with each of his children, especially when he sensed they needed to talk.

With Aredhel it was always something active-going for a run together, a hike or a bike ride. With Turgon it was their shared love of Premier League, their undying support of Manchester United-conversation was easier somehow when their eyes were on the television screen in front of them. Fingon frowned as he realized he didn't know how his father bonded with Argon-he had effectively moved out when Argon was only eleven or twelve. Even the first few summers he had spent at home after moving out hadn't revealed that to him.

For himself it had always been games-puzzles when he was young or complicated Lego sets, chess coming in the later years. It was easier to talk with the distraction of the game.

He became aware of the fact that he hadn't answered his father's question, the weight of his father's hand still on his shoulder and his curious gaze still fixed on Fingon. "Sorry," Fingon said. "My mind wandered for a minute there. Yes, I'd love a rematch. I need to redeem myself for losing to you last time."

Fingolfin smiled. "Don't be so sure you'll win this time. I've got a new chess app on my phone now. If I can beat that, I should be able to beat you." He squeezed Fingon's shoulder affectionately.

Fingon snorted. "Kid's game. I've had that on my phone for years, Dad. Just you wait."

"I"ll go set up the board in the living room. Find me when you've finished here," Fingolfin said.

"Way to get out of clean-up, Fin," Anairë said as she came up behind her husband and bumped her hip against his.

He turned away from his son to wrap his arms around her and kiss the top of her head. "You've got all these helpers. I'm just in the way."

"Nice try," she responded. "I'll let you weasel out this time since you're taking up space and not really making yourself useful." She glanced behind him, noting Fingon had moved to the sink a few feet further away from them. She pulled her husband back, towards the pantry, putting even more space between them. Anairë leaned forward, her breath ghosting over Fingolfin's ear and lowered her voice enough to have her words audible only to him. "Don't you pester him tonight, Fin. I know what you're doing and I don't think he's in the right frame of mind for an inquisition tonight."

"You underestimate me, my dear. He's got something on his mind. This is the best way to get him to open up." Fingolfin breathed into Anairë's ear, following his words with kisses along her jawline. That drew a snort from his daughter, who was watching them from across the kitchen and an eye roll from his youngest son. Good. Let the kids think this was just one of their ridiculous flirtations and not a serious, clandestine conversation.

"I promise I won't push. If I don't get anywhere then he's all yours, ok?" Fingolfin added.

Anairë kept the flirtatious vibe going as she ran her hands up into his hair, the slight warning tug as her fingers tightened their grip unseen by the others. "Don't pull a Fëanor," she whispered, grinning as he pulled back to glare at her. She tugged at his hair one more time, winked and walked away, leaving him stunned as he stared at her.

Turgon caught the look and started laughing. "You sure you and Mom don't need some private time tonight, Dad?"

"Ugh," Argon groaned. "Do you seriously have to say stuff like that, Turgon?"

"I think they're cute," Aredhel said, walking up to pat her father on the cheek. "It shows love can survive into old age, even with troublesome kids about."

"Who are you calling old?" Fingolfin sputtered, his glare now directed at his unrepentant daughter.

"I thought you had a chess board you were supposed to be setting up," Fingon said, a brighter smile on his face than Fingolfin had seen all night. "Unless, of course, you've had second thoughts about taking me on?"

Fine then. He could take a little humiliation if it brought a smile to his son's face. "I certainly am not sticking around here," Fingolfin said, as Aredhel stuck her tongue out at him. "I'll see you shortly, Fingon. Game on."

Despite his apparent earlier distraction Fingon was holding his own in their chess match, much to Fingolfin's delight. Fingon was making him work for every move and he was relishing the challenge.

Fingon checkmated him four moves later. The game had lightened his son's mood as Fingolfin had hoped it would. "Another game?" he asked Fingon.

"I'm up for it. See if I can finish you off with fewer moves. You made it challenging tonight."

Fingolfin set up the pieces. The rest of the family was in the family room; watching a movie, based on the sounds emanating from that room. He was glad he and Fingon were alone.

"You excited about your internship?" he asked casually, as he lined up the white pawns in front of him.

"I am. I was lucky to get such a good firm for it," Fingon replied.

Fingolfin met son's eyes over the chess board. "You know it's not luck, Fingon. You're at the top of your class. They were lucky to get you."

That made Fingon smile again. "I'm hoping I can turn this experience into a job offer."

"You think Barad-Eithel would be a good fit?"

"I'm hoping it is. I won't know until I spend some time there, of course, but I really liked what I saw when I interviewed. Barad-Eithel or Dor-Lomin-either one would work." Fingon looked down at the chessboard before continuing. "I'd like to stay in Tirion, if I can." His eyes flicked up to meet his father's.

"You mother will be thrilled to hear that," Fingolfin said.

"And you?" Fingon asked.

"I'm ecstatic to hear that. I know you each need to find your own path in this world but I can't help wanting to keep you close." A fond look came over his face as he spoke. "Barad-Eithel is a as good as it gets around here."

"I know. That's why I hope this whole internship thing works out and I can come out of it with a position there." Fingon picked up a black knight and twisted his fingers around it. "Which reminds me-I think I need to look into getting a car, Dad. I don't think public transportation is going to cut it, especially if I have to go on site visits. I don't want to be the guy who always needs a ride, you know?"

"I think that's a good idea," Fingolfin agreed. "I'm impressed you've managed this long without one. I got one as soon as I moved out of the dorms."

"The apartment is so close to campus that's it's never been a big deal. I don't go out that much and Finrod has a car. It's never been a necessity before. But now-I think it will make things easier with the internship and give me more flexibility with my schedule-not having to rely on the trains."

The trains? That was an odd statement, Fingolfin thought. He would have expected Fingon to mention the buses or the metro not the trains. The trains were mainly for travel out to the suburbs, to Formenos.

Oh. Formenos. Of course. Maedhros lived in Formenos. That's where the bookstore was. He remembered Anairë telling him that. And that's where Finwë's lake house was as well. Perhaps work was not the only reason for Fingon's sudden interest in acquiring a vehicle.

Well, it was as good an entry point as any, Fingolfin decided.

"So you want to look at cars with me while you're home? So we can get one for you before the start of your internship?"

Fingon nodded. "I'd like that. If you've got the time, Dad."

It brought a pang, hearing Fingon say that. There had been many years when he didn't have the time, when work had consumed him. When the goal of being a partner at the firm had been his main focus.

Fingolfin had always strived to carve out time for his family, even with the supercharged life of a busy attorney. It had been hard and he had missed more things than he liked to admit. But he had made the effort and had been present at most of the crucial times. There had been some tough years, yes, but since he had become a partner he had regained more control of his schedule. He ran his mind through the events of the coming week. He would make time for this with Fingon.

"I've got nothing planned for tomorrow or Tuesday. I'm not due back at work until after Christmas. I'm sure your mother won't mind us checking out cars for a few hours. I would expect the dealerships are trying to meet some year end quotas. We might end up actually getting you a good deal." Fingolfin leaned forward. "You have any plans?"

Fingon's face flushed at the question. Interesting. "Nothing definite. Might just try to see Maedhros a bit but that shouldn't be an issue. He's off those days too, so whatever works for you."

"All right then. Why don't we go tomorrow morning? We'll get an idea of what's out there and what you're looking for."

"With my budget used is probably my best option," Fingon said wryly.

"Don't be so sure," Fingolfin chided him. "I'm happy to help in any way I can, including financially."

Fingon shifted in his seat. "You already cover my tuition, Dad. And my rent and other expenses. I can't ask you to buy me a car too. I've got money in my savings account and I can get a loan-maybe." He frowned. "Maybe not without a job."

"Don't worry about the money, Fingon. You know your tuition is mostly covered by scholarships you earned. I told you all long ago that Mom and I would cover the expenses while you were in school so you wouldn't have the distraction of having to find time to work and study at the same time."

"I know, Dad, and I appreciate that. But a car is an added expense-plus the insurance and maintenance costs."

"Six months from now you'll have a job and you'll be able to pay for all that yourself-your rent, the insurance on the car. All of it. For now, let me help. I'm willing and able to do it." Fingolfin paused, considering if he should mention the trust and deciding it was the right thing to do. "You do remember your trust fund became accessible to you once you turned twenty-five."

Fingon shifted again. "I know. I just haven't wanted to tap into that." He frowned. "Although I probably should, shouldn't I? You're paying for all three of us and Argon soon enough."

Fingolfin reached across the table and tapped Fingon on the knee. "Stop. Don't think about it that way. I've wanted you to live as if your trust fund didn't exist for a reason. I wanted you to use it for the really important things-a down payment on a house, a vacation you really wanted to take, a fund for your own children." He tapped Fingon's knee again. "I'm willing to pay for a car for you Fingon but I'd rather you bought a new one. If you're concerned about the cost and are determined to pay for it yourself then let's compromise a bit. Let me pay at least half of it, leave your savings alone and pull a little bit from the trust to make up the difference."

"You're pulling your negotiating skills out, Dad," Fingon said, leaning back in his chair to regard his father thoughtfully. "My turn to negotiate back. I don't really need a new car-there are plenty of quality used cars that are as good as new. Let's find one and I'll agree to split the cost with you."

"And if you can't find a good used one in the amount of time we have?" Fingolfin asked.

"Then I'll get a new one," Fingon acquiesced.

"And still let me pay for half?" Fingolfin asked.

"Yes," Fingon said hesitantly. "But I pay all the expenses and upkeep myself."

"Deal." Fingolfin reached his hand across the table.

Fingon shook it. "Thanks, Dad. I don't think I say it often enough. I really appreciate all you do for me."

"Hearing you say that makes me feel like maybe I am doing something right," Fingolfin said, watching Fingon place the knight back on the board.

His son looked at him quizzically. "Why would you even question it? You've always been there for us."

Fingolfin's face clouded as he thought back. "Not always. There were times when I was too caught up in work, too many late nights that I spent at the office, too many things I missed."

"You never made us feel that way, Dad. We always knew your work was demanding. But we also knew that when you were home the focus was all on us. I never felt like I came second to your job-because when you were with us it was all about us."

"Thanks, Fingon. It means more than you know to hear you say that." Fingolfin's face cleared as he looked at his son and Fingon thought about how vulnerable his father looked in that moment-open and tentative-not an expression he was used to seeing on his face.

"It was enough, Dad. It was more than enough." Fingon believed every word he was saying to his father. There had been nights when Fingolfin had come home long after they were all asleep. There had been missed games, plays, events that he had not been able to be a part of; but the times that mattered, the times that really counted? Fingolfin had always made the time for those. Time for one-on-one chats, times when he was a sounding board, a shoulder to lean on, times when he gave advice and times when he was simply a solid, stable presence they could rely on.

It was odd and vaguely disturbing to see this side of his father, a side filled with doubt and regret. It was also uncannily familiar. Fingon realized again just how similar he and his father were-in so many ways.

He regarded the board in front of him, the pieces all set up, ready to move in the complex patterns he and his father would choose for them. "Your move?" he said, gesturing to the board.

A smile came over Fingolfin's face as they settled into the routine of play. He had gained a greater insight into his son's growing need for independence tonight. Not the independence of a teenager looking to spread his wings but of a man ready to take on responsibilities and the consequences of them.

He moved his chess pieces, countering his son's moves but once again it appeared that Fingon was thinking far ahead of him, his own pieces rapidly diminishing and his king harried by Fingon's attack. Fingolfin was likely only delaying the eventual checkmate. He was on the defense by default, unable to man any kind of offensive tactics.

Fingon had leaned back in his chair, at ease, a look of satisfaction on his face and his eyes far more alert that when Fingolfin had first suggested they play.

He hated to dampen the mood and he had told Anairë he wouldn't push but there was no guarantee he would get time alone with his son like this over the next few days. He had questions and only Fingon would have the answers.

It was checkmate. Fingolfin set up the pieces again.

"So, we'll look for a car tomorrow morning then," Fingolfin said, repeating his earlier statement. "You mentioned you'd been relying on the train schedules a lot recently. What's in the suburbs that's caught your interest?" he asked.

A tell-tale flush colored Fingon's cheeks again. "Maedhros lives in Formenos. I thought I'd mentioned that."

"I'm sure you did. Your mother said something about it also but I haven't heard you talk about him much," Fingolfin quirked an eyebrow at him questioningly.

Fingon's brow creased. "I suppose I haven't talked about him a lot." He paused, his eyes meeting Fingolfin's. "It's something special and I guess I've kept it fairly private."

"Are you ok with telling me a bit more about it?" Fingolfin asked. "After all, I've heard Turgon gush about Elenwë earlier today and I met Aredhel's Tyelko as well. It's only fair I hear about Maedhros too."

The look Fingon gave him was an appraising one and it made Fingolfin uncomfortable; as if Fingon was weighing his options before deciding to speak.

"Well, you already know him, don't you?" Fingon finally said, watching his father closely.

That was not what Fingolfin was expecting him to say but somehow he was relieved that Maedhros had obviously already broached the subject of their acquaintance. He had been unsure if he would do so, considering the circumstances of their interactions. So how much did Fingon know? He would have to tread lightly here-there was a fine line between attorney-client privilege and sharing personal information with his son.

"So Maedhros told you we were acquainted?" Fingolfin asked, keeping his tone casual.

"He did. It surprised me, actually. I suppose I knew you had worked for Finwë and then on the lawsuit but I hadn't realized you two would have met," Fingon said. He was finding his earlier annoyance at Maedhros not sharing this information was bleeding into his current conversation with his father.

"Yes, well the circumstances were a little . . . well, awkward to say the least." Fingolfin realized he was flailing a bit and internally cursed. He didn't know how much Fingon knew and he wasn't going to reveal anything if Fingon didn't know. He needed to be cautious.

Fingon narrowed his eyes. "Yes, I am aware of the circumstances."

"Aware in what context?" Fingolfin asked carefully.

Fingon regarded his father. He was finding his earlier irritation with Maedhros was fading while his vexation with his father was growing. Maedhros' interactions with Fingolfin had ultimately been associated with his kidnapping, Fingon realized. Now that he was somewhat removed from the conversation it was easier to understand Maedhros' reluctance to speak of it.

But his father? He could have mentioned that he knew Maedhros. He could have said he met him during the lawsuit and left it at that; Fingon knew his compunction for confidentiality. He most definitely would not have elaborated further and Fingon could respect that.

Perhaps, he amended. Would he truly have let it go at that? Or would Fingon have gone to Maedhros for answers? He probably would have and things might have gone differently between them, that early in their relationship. Maedhros may have retreated completely and they would not have what they had now.

HIs father was looking at him curiously. "Fingon?"

He had allowed himself to get distracted. He shifted his attention back to Fingolfin. "Context? I know what happened to him, if that's what you're asking."

"Ah." Fingolfin rested his elbows on his knees and steepled his fingers together. "I wasn't sure how much you knew about that."

What had Maedhros said? A settlement had been reached after his kidnapping. The information had been kept away from the press. Fingon suddenly realized who was probably responsible for that. He knew what a formidable negotiator his father was.

"It was you, wasn't it?" Fingon asked "You got Morgoth Industries to settle. You kept the whole thing quiet, didn't you?"

A pained look crossed Fingolfin's face. "You know I can't talk about any of that, Fingon."

"I can always ask Maedhros but I'm sure you had something to do with it," Fingon replied, his anger at his father fading as the more rational side of him sifted through the information.

Fingolfin was a paragon of discretion. He would never compromise an attorney-client confidence, even if his son was dating said client. No, it wasn't fair to be angry at his father. It wasn't in Fingolfin's nature to share what he considered privileged information-even something as seemingly innocuous as having met Maedhros-it would have led to questions he couldn't and wouldn't answer.

"You can ask him whatever you like. It's his story to tell, after all, not mine," Fingolfin said. He opened his mouth as if he were about to speak again, leaning forward towards Fingon, but then he closed his mouth, an uncertain look coming over him.

It faded and a more determined countenance took its place. "How is he?" he finally asked Fingon. There was genuine concern in his voice.

Fingon softened, all his sharp-edged irritation fading away at his father's tone. "I'm sure much better than when you last saw him," he answered. "He still has issues-nightmares and flashbacks. Not often, not all the time, but enough. It's still there." Fingon considered his next words. "I think the bookstore and the move to Formenos have been good for him."

"I'm glad," Fingolfin said. "And you?"

"Me?" Fingon looked perplexed. "What about me?"

"How are you about all that?"

"About what happened? Or the flashbacks?" Fingon questioned.

"Both, I suppose."

"I'm just there for him, whenever he needs me to be," Fingon explained. "The nightmares, the flashbacks, they're part of him now. But that's just one small bit. They are troublesome and frustrating for him-I think that's what bothers me the most-how they make him feel."

Fingolfin couldn't help himself from asking the next question. "Is he getting help? Seeing a counselor or psychologist?"

Fingon shook his head. "No, not since . . . right after." He hesitated, not sure if he should share what Maedhros had confided in him. But there wasn't anyone more circumspect than his father. "He did mention it might be time to try again." He looked at Fingolfin closely, to gauge his response.

Fingolfin leaned back and seemed to relax a little. "I think it would help," he said. "I don't know if he ever took me up on it but I had suggested he see Finarfin."

"Finrod's dad?" Fingon was surprised. He knew Finrod's father was a psychologist but he hadn't expected to hear his name in this context.

"Yes. Finarfin has a lot of experience treating patients with PTSD. It's really the focus of his practice."

"He's an expert in PTSD?" Fingon asked.

"He is. Primarily in abuse and rape contexts but I do know he has significant experience with war veterans and others with atypical PTSD causes. I've had clients referred to him before." Fingolfin tapped his fingers on the armrest. "He's very good at what he does."

"I'll keep that in mind," Fingon said.

They sat in silence for a few moments; Fingolfin pressed his lips into a thin line, his fingers continuing to drum on the armrest. He hesitated, shaking his head before speaking again. "Fingon, I don't really know how serious this relationship with Maedhros is . . . "

"It's serious," Fingon interrupted, a hardness coming into his blue eyes at his father's words.

"Ah." Fingolfin shifted in his chair. "I still feel I need to tell you this." He took a deep breath and plunged ahead. "I don't think it's the best idea for you to get too serious. There's a lot of background with Maedhros and I know it's not going to be an easy thing, being with him."

Fingon's gaze had become positively frigid but Fingolfin had to get this out. "He's not the most stable, even from the little I know and from what you have shared. I don't want you getting in too deep."

"I believe that's my decision to make, not yours," Fingon's tone was as frosty as his gaze.

"Fingon, truly, I am not trying to meddle."

"Aren't you?" Fingon interrupted. "It strikes me that's exactly what you're doing."

"I'm just giving you my opinion, my advice," Fingolfin said.

"And it is just that-advice. Advice I am not obligated to follow. I would think with you being aware of the situation you would be more understanding."

"Fingon, I feel for the boy, really I do. I just don't want to see you get dragged into his drama." Fingolfin saw Fingon clench his jaw and grip the arms of his chair hard enough that his knuckles whitened.

"Dragged into his drama? You truly think that?" Fingon leaned forward, his eyes flashing with indignation, his tone clipped and cold. "Maedhros has done everything in his power to keep me clear of any drama. He's been reluctant to tell me about any of this, reluctant to let me in because he's ashamed of it. Because he, like you, seems to want to protect me from the ugliness of it all." Fingon slammed his fist onto the armrest. "I'm the one who dragged it out of him, pushed him to open up because he means so much to me and I am not willing to watch him suffer through this on his own. I want to help him in any way I can." His eyes narrowed. "I won't have you putting that on him too."

"Fingon . . ."

"No, Dad. You don't seem to understand. I love Maedhros. With no reservations. I know his past and I will do anything to help him. No one 'dragged' me into anything and I resent the implication. This relationship is the best thing that has happened to me. He is more than I ever hoped for. We are good for each other. And there is no way that I'm going to back away from this, no matter what you say."

Oh, shit, Fingolfin thought. He should have listened to Anairë. It was usually Aredhel who dug her heels in, not Fingon. Shit. Shit. Shit. He should have steered clear of this conversation. He should have watched and waited to see how this relationship went . . .

A cold realization derailed his self-condemnation. Did Fëanor know about Maedhros and Fingon? There was no way Fëanor could be at ease with this turn of events, not if he knew Fingon was Fingolfin's son. Maedhros would likely get an ever sterner talking to, if not an outright ban on dating Fingon.

"Fingon, please. Just hear me out. I'm not asking you to end the relationship. I'm just asking you to be cautious." Fingolfin ran a hand through his hair and grimaced. "Maedhros' father and I . . . well, let's just say Fëanor and I have a strained relationship, at best. I can assure you Fëanor won't be pleased to hear his son is involved with you. I can say with confidence that Maedhros will get far more of a lecture than you have gotten from me. I'm not trying to break up your relationship but I can't promise that Fëanor won't tell Maedhros to break it off when he realizes who you are." He gave Fingon a pleading look. "I don't want you to get hurt, Fingon. It may very well happen through no fault of your own, but more so because of who you are."

"So are you planning on having this same conversation with Aredhel? Because she happens to be dating one of Fëanor's sons as well. Does this warning apply to both of us?" Fingon's tone was terse.

"I may have to speak to her," Fingolfin admitted. "I'm sure Fëanor will be giving Tyelko a piece of his mind also. Fingon, please understand-I have nothing against Maedhros-or Tyelko, for that matter. I just know there is a high likelihood Fëanor will make things difficult for them and by extension you. Not due to you but because of me."

Fingon's eyes widened. "Maedhros hasn't said anything about his father." He chewed on his bottom lip. "How bad are things with you and Fëanor? Is it just generalized dislike or are we talking Capulet/Montague type hatred here?" He gave a weak smile to go along with his attempt at humor.

Fingolfin let out an involuntary bark of laughter. "Definitely not that extreme," he said but his countenance quickly grew more serious. "We just don't get along-that's probably the best way to explain it."

"That's a pretty vague way to explain it," Fingon countered.

How could he make it clear, Fingolfin wondered. How did you explain about friends so close they became godfathers to each other's children, as his father and Finwë had been? What could Fingolfin say about Fëanor, losing his mother when he was just a child?

He looked down at his hands and thought back, the memories overwhelming him.

He had been older when he had finally heard the full story of his god-father's beloved wife Miriel,-the cancer that had been diagnosed during her pregnancy, her staunch refusal of treatment-unwilling to risk any harm to her unborn child. The chemotherapy post delivery but the unfortunate devastating recurrence when Fëanor was only four years old. A recurrence that led to her death within the year.

He had witnessed Fëanor's guilt over it first hand, years later. Years when they were as close as brothers.

His own father had died when Fingolfin was seven. An aneurysm. Sudden death. He and Fëanor had grown close those years. Indis and Finwë had strived to find some normalcy for their boys, blending their families at holidays and vacations, the boys growing up as close as siblings, their three year age difference of no consequence.

That changed when they were teenagers. When Finwë and Indis' feelings for each other progressed from companionship to something more.

Something Feanor would not countenance. And Finwë, Fëanor's doting father and Fingolfin's loving god-father, put his son's wishes ahead of his own. He distanced himself from Indis and by default Fingolfin too.

The boys deep friendship had faltered and soured-Fëanor blaming Indis and Fingolfin blaming Fëanor.

They had regained some semblance of their former relationship during their years at Cuiviénen . An uneasy truce, helped along by Nerdanel and Anairë, punctuated by lively conversations and debates but also brought low by overriding competitiveness.

They maintained a very distant but overall cordial relationship in the years that followed. Until Finwë's death. Their shared grief had drawn them together-closer than they had been for years. They grieved together, sought each other out as never before, supported each other without the bitter undertones.

Fingolfin had been Finwë's trusted attorney for years before his death. It was natural for him to be the one Fëanor trusted with the legal matters after his death. But as the years passed and the case lingered unresolved an undercurrent of tension grew between them.

It all came to a head with Maedhros' kidnapping. There wasn't enough hard evidence linking Morgoth to the kidnapping directly. Any suit would fail at convicting Morgoth. The only result would be to force Maedhros to relive the entire experience in a public forum. It wasn't worth putting the boy through that, in Fingolfin's view.

Fingolfin's vociferous opinion and opposition again brought him into conflict with Fëanor. They had their most bitter and hateful confrontation. Words were said that could not be taken back and Fingolfin had found himself ousted as the head of the legal team representing Fëanor.

The only silver lining was the team's solid refusal to pursue futile legal action against Morgoth directly for Maedhros kidnapping. Citing the paucity of evidence they had finally accomplished what Fingolfin had been unable to-Fëanor reluctantly went along with their recommendations.

Fingolfin had skillfully negotiated behind the scenes. He obtained a settlement far greater than expected and an end to the years of legal wrangling.

He received no thanks from Fëanor for this resolution and their relationship appeared permanently fractured.

Looking back Fingolfin would have done nothing differently except push for an earlier conclusion to the legal battle, if only to save Maedhros from the suffering that would come.


Fingolfin, caught up in his memories, didn't realize that he had buried his face in his hands, keeping him from noticing the alarmed look that came over Fingon's face.

"Dad?"

Fingon's voice startled him out of his reminiscences and brought him back to the present. He looked up, his bloodshot eyes meeting his son's worried ones.

"Are you ok?" Fingon's voice was gentler than it had been.

He had not meant to alarm Fingon. The overwhelming onslaught of memories had been unexpected and left him profoundly unsettled. "Sorry. Talking about it just took me back." Fingolfin rubbed his forehead, noting the throbbing of his head with irritation. "I'm sorry," he repeated.

"No," Fingon said. "I didn't realize it was that upsetting to you, to talk about it. I didn't mean to be so flippant about it." Fingon looked at him searchingly. "I didn't know."

He would have to give him some explanation, Fingolfin determined. "Listen, there was a time, long ago, when Fëanor and I were close." May as well be honest about it. "As close as brothers. After he lost his mother and I lost my dad. Things changed as we got older and our relationship became more complicated. We did ok for awhile and actually became quite close again after Finwë died." Fingolfin pinched the bridge of his nose and briefly closed his eyes before continuing. "I was head of the legal team pursuing the wrongful death proceeding for Finwë. Fëanor and I had a falling out of epic proportions after Maedhros' kidnapping. Things have been strained, to say the least, since then."

"It was you," Fingon said, his words tumbling out. "I suspected you were the one who negotiated the settlement and kept Maedhros out of court. You got the police to keep it quiet. It was you."

Fingolfin's eyes widened in alarm. "Fingon, you know I can't talk about it."

Fingon interrupted, shaking his head. "You don't have to confirm it. I suspected it earlier, when we were talking about it. That's why you spent time with Maedhros after the kidnapping. I know how close you are to the police chief. It only makes sense that you were the one to keep it all quiet. I know how skilled you are at negotiating. I don't need you to confirm anything, Dad. I know it was you."

Fingolfin nodded silently, shoulders sagging in silent confirmation.

"I should have realized," Fingon said. "I was frustrated at both you and Maedhros for not mentioning you knew each other but that wasn't fair. You both had your reasons." Fingon moved to put his hand on his father's knee. "I realize you have your concerns but what I have with Maedhros-we can work through anything, even his father's disapproval." Fingolfin tilted his head up to meet Fingon's eyes. "I need you to understand, Dad. Nothing you say is going to change my mind about this."

"I see that," Fingolfin replied.

"I'll mention Finarfin," Fingon said and then moved to grasp his father's hand. "I'm sorry you lost a friend over this. It sounds like Fëanor meant quite a lot to you at one time."

"He won't like this, Fingon. It won't be easy for Maedhros when Fëanor finds out," Fingolfin warned.

"He doesn't have to like it. He just has to accept it."

Fingolfin made a strangled sound. "Fëanor doesn't just accept things, Fingon. It's not in his nature." He tightened his own grip on Fingon's hand. "For your sake and Maedhros', I wish it wasn't the case, but I've known him my whole life. He doesn't bend, not willingly." He stared down at their joined hands. "I'll be here for you, if you need me. If you love each other I can respect that. I'll do whatever I can to help."

"Thanks, Dad," Fingon said. "That means more than you know."
Chapter 36 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Author's Notes:
Family dynamics and sparks fly with Fëanor
Maedhros was still unsettled by his conversation with Fingon. He had not intended to keep his acquaintance with Fingolfin under wraps. He had realized who Fingon's father was early on, when they had first exchanged information about their families, months ago at Himring. He had not mentioned it then-it would have brought questions Maedhros would not have wanted to answer. At that point he considered Fingon an exceedingly attractive but temporary distraction-an intriguing, compelling one-but still just a distraction, both emotionally and physically, with no intention for long term.

It was a connection he needed from time to time. With that short-term viewpoint in mind, what did it matter that he was Fingolfin's son?

At that moment, Maedhros had not comprehended the depth of his attraction or the magnitude of his eventual deep emotional bond with Fingon. By the time he realized how singularly significant the relationship had become he had completely forgotten about his oversight at not mentioning his previous acquaintance with Fingolfin.

If Maedhros had learned anything these past few months though it was that Fingon craved his openness and honesty. Fingon wouldn't push for it, but he wanted it just the same. In comparison to Maedhros, he was an open book-earnestly revealing his heart to Maedhros in a way that was unexpected but endearing nonetheless.

A few weeks ago this same conversation about Fingolfin might have made Maedhros doubt himself or would have led to him wallowing in guilt or regret. And even though he might harbor some regret at his oversight, he was not about to let himself dwell on that mistake-they had dealt with it, cleared the air and now could move on. Moving on had always been somewhat of a challenge to Maedhros.

It was a testament to how much they trusted each other that he was able to move beyond that conversation this time. Maedhros was prepared to do anything to prove he merited Fingon's trust.

There was quite a bit he hadn't told Fingon; details of the kidnapping that were still challenging to talk about, his self-recrimination at allowing it to happen at all. Those moments in the hospital when his parents' discord had once again erupted; the resolution Fingolfin had calmly and steadily recommended that Maedhros and Nerdanel had wholeheartedly supported, despite Fëanor's vehement disagreement. There was so much. Even though he had given Fingon the big picture there was still so much he had not shared, hadn't even thought to share.

It was probably time to try counseling again. He had considered it, in the years since the event. The initial attempt had not been good, likely dooming any subsequent endeavors. Perhaps it had been too early, perhaps the therapists hadn't been right for him, perhaps Maedhros had not taken it as seriously as he should have-thinking he could manage on his own, as he always had. Fingon had suggested trying again. Maybe it was time.

It felt good, he admitted to himself, not to have the weight of subterfuge anymore or the voice of self-doubt in his head all the time.

He looked at his watch-time to get home. He drove down the street, reaching the roundabout near the park. It still surprised Maedhros that Fingon's parents and his own lived so close to each other-opposite ends of Thargelion Park to be exact.

It was even more surprising that he and Fingon had never crossed paths until Fingon's trip to Beleriand Books. But even though their homes were so close they had not attended the same schools. Maedhros' parents had home-schooled them all up until the age of ten. Fëanor always said the foundation for learning was what was most important; a thirst for knowledge and the skill of critical thinking were of paramount importance. Once that foundation was set, the rest followed and the environment was irrelevant, if one had drive and intellect.

Fëanor had enrolled them in the public school system at age eleven. The boys had all attended Himlad High School-Amrod and Amras were still enrolled there now.

Fingon, on the other hand, had attended a small, exclusive, private high school-Vinyamar Prep.

Fëanor had no use for Vinyamar.

"Elitist and vapid, " Fëanor had declared, years before, when Maglor had tentatively asked why they did not attend that school-with its lovely buildings, broad vistas and heavily endowed arts, science and literature programs. Maedhros, sitting next to his brother, couldn't think of anything that was unfunded at Vinyamar.

"An exemplary education can be obtained at any school," his father had said. "What matters is the will and follow through." His brow had furrowed in disdain as he continued. "And you can screw up an education, even at the best school. It's what you put into it, that manifests in what you get out of it." Fëanor had snorted in derision. "Those parents think they can pay to make their kids look good on paper. All they are doing is giving them a false sense of the world, their children rubbing shoulders with others just as shallow as themselves. That's not how the world really is."

"But their music program . . ." Maglor had started to say.

"Do you feel your music instruction has been inadequate, Kanafinwë?" Fëanor had asked. Time to be wary, when Father used one of their Quenya names.

"No, no, not at all," Maglor said rapidly. "It's just that they have such a lovely conservatory, soundproof practice chambers, an acoustically superior auditorium. Himlad doesn't have any of that."

"Do you not study with the best musicians at the Tirion Conservatory?" Fëanor asked. "Are those not the best facilities available?"

"Fëanor," Nerdanel had said warningly.

"I'm asking him a simple question, Nerdanel." Fëanor looked at his son. "The best musicians at the best facility, am I correct?"

"Yes, Father," Maglor whispered.

"Himlad is preparing you for the real world. Not everyone looks like you in the real world. Not everyone has the advantages you do. Others can't afford the vacations to Alqualondë, the ski trips to the Pelóri. Access to private music instruction or language lessons is something that is not accessible to everyone." Fëanor's eyes softened as he looked at his two eldest sons, seated in front of him. "I can provide all of that for you and more. But along with the luxuries and private lessons, I also want to provide you with a realistic outlook on the world around you. You have classmates who won't be able to attend college-who can't attend, despite their desire to-due to grades or finances or simply because they need to enter the work force now to keep food on the table at home. That may not be your lot but you would do well to understand and respect those whose lot it is. You have the privilege of your birth but I do not want you to ever be complacent about it."

Fëanor's expression turned serious again. "I can give you the opportunity to pursue the interests that fascinate you. I can provide whatever Himlad lacks, as far as your education is concerned. If I sent you to Vinyamar or Serech I wouldn't be able to as easily give you the glimpse at the reality your classmates at Himlad live every day."


It had been a valuable lesson and one that Maedhros carried with him as his education progressed-to Cuiviénen, to grad school, to the reality of being a business owner.

But despite Fëanor's valid points, Maedhros had come to realize that characterizing the entirety of the student body at Vinyamar as elitist and vapid was not only unfair but also untrue. Maedhros had met his share of graduates from that school over the years; Fingon, Turgon and Aredhel were just the most recent acquaintances. He found his father's assessment short-sighted and judgmental, not that he would tell him that.

He pulled into the garage at his parents' house, shaking his head to clear it. They would all be home this evening-there would be no time for quiet introspection tonight.

Maedhros walked from the garage into the laundry room. He could hear his brothers' voices from there. He stepped into the kitchen, smiling at the sight of his mother, hair disheveled, moving from oven to stove to refrigerator. "Need any help, Mom?" he asked.

"Oh, you are home!" He was enveloped in a hug, his mother tiptoeing up to leave a kiss on his cheek, before stepping back. "Did you have a nice night with Fingon?" she asked him, a mischievous gleam in her eyes as she studied his face.

He could feel the warmth come over him. Damn it. The ridiculous ease with which he flushed was really a problem.

It just made Nerdanel chuckle. "I'll take that as a yes." She gave him a knowing look. "I know Maglor worked your shift for you, you know." She squeezed her son's arm. "I'm so happy you've found someone you want to make time for, Maedhros. Now, am I ever going to get to meet him?"

"Thanks, Mom. Yes, I'm sure you'll meet him sometime over break, after the holidays. I'll come up to Tirion or you can take a day and come to Formenos."

"I'd like that," she said. "Now go find your brothers and see if you can settle them down. It sounds like a riot in there, not a board game. Dinner will be ready soon. I'm waiting for Maglor to get back." She looked at the clock on the wall. "Shouldn't be long."

"Are you sure you don't need help?" Maedhros asked. "Hiding in here sounds far better than refereeing a dispute between that lot."

"You should be used to it by now," Nerdanel said.

"That's the problem," Maedhros said. "Where's Dad?" he asked, stalling for time.

A wary look briefly crossed her face but she dragged out a smile to answer him. He had caught the look though-too many years of carefully watching his parents for subtle and not-so-subtle clues to their frame of mind and mood. "He's in his study. Always working on something, you know how he is. He surprised me this morning-he's been mucking about in my studio for days and today he finally let me see the upgrades he installed."

"Upgrades?"

"Motion sensor lights, automatic blinds, automatic sinks. All things that will make the space so much more convenient. Your father knows me well," Nerdanel's eyes crinkled in the corners as her smile grew.

"That he does," Maedhros said, hugging her and briefly resting his cheek on her head. "So you really don't need me?" he asked as he released her.

"I don't. I rarely get the chance to do this for you all anymore. Let me enjoy it." She tucked a strand of his hair behind his ear. "Go to your brothers. I'm sure they'll be happy to see you."

"Depends on what game they're playing. If it's Diplomacy I'm sure they'd be happier if I stayed in here," Maedhros answered.

"You usually win that one, don't you?"

"Always the diplomat," Maedhros said with an inclination of his head.

"Get on with you then," Nerdanel said, giving him a shove towards the family room.

He found them all huddled around the table, voices raised. It had to be Struggle of Empires or Diplomacy, seeing as they were all playing, even the twins.

Tyelko spotted him first, as Maedhros silently leaned against the wall, a smile on his face at the sight of his younger brothers' vociferous debate.

"Maedhros get over here and help me!" Tyelko bellowed.

Diplomacy then, Maedhros thought, as all eyes turned to him. That game wasn't one of Tyelko's favorites. Likely because he was abysmal at playing it.

"Just lose with some grace, would you, Tyelko?" Moryo growled. "You can't just pull Maedhros in because you're losing. It's not a team kind of game."

"This game isn't over and I'm not going to let Maedhros sit by, in isolation, just because he's late." Tyelko said, then he turned to Maedhros. "You're late," he informed him.

"It's not even five o'clock. Maglor isn't home yet," Maedhros pointed out, not realizing the tactical error he had committed until it was too late.

"You're right. Maglor isn't here yet, is he?" Tyelko asked, far too smoothly, making Maedhros regard him with suspicion. "I could have sworn he wasn't working this weekend. In fact, I remember him saying just that. I'm sure I remember you saying you were working today, Maedhros." Tyelko's eyes were shining now. "Did something come up?" he asked, the phrase laden with innuendo. "Or maybe more than one thing?"

His comment was clearly wasted on his audience, as the twins looked puzzled, Curvo looked pained and Moryo simply rolled his eyes.

"Tyelko, I know you're trying to distract us all from the fact that you are losing abysmally but seriously?" Curvo drawled.

Tyelko was unperturbed at his younger brother's words. He had succeeded in getting Maedhros to turn that particular shade of red so his work was done.

"Come sit down, Mae, and tell me what you've been into, or rather up to today." He corrected himself with an unapologetic grin.

Tyelko really was incorrigible, Maedhros thought and not for the first time. He took a seat next to his visibly gloating brother and proceeded to kick his ankle. Hard.

"Hey!" Tyelko exclaimed.

"Shut up," Maedhros ordered, looking intently at the state of the game on the table in front of him. "You do realize you've made a complete hash of this, as usual?" he said, eyeing Tyelko's pieces critically, ignoring the twins' protests at his involvement.

"You're such a cheat, Tyelko," Amrod complained.

"You know he's useless at this game on his own," Amras added, glaring at both Tyelko and Maedhros. "Of course he's going to beg Mae to help him."

"I'm not begging," Tyelko growled back.

"Can't remember which supply lines are his and what alliances he's made," Moryo grumbled, just loud enough for Tyelko to hear. "You have to pay attention in this game."

"Shut up, Moryo. At least I'm not tallying up numbers and boring people to death during my turn," Tyelko responded. "Seriously, it takes you an hour to go through the supply line calculations."

"You don't have to play if it's such torture, you know," Moryo snapped.

"Wow, it's so good to be home," Maedhros sighed, flopping back on the sofa. He eyed Tyelko. "It wouldn't hurt to keep a closer eye on those supply lines, you know."

"Ugh." It was Tyelko's turn to flop back on the sofa, mimicking Maedhros' position.

"We're getting nowhere now," Amrod said. "This sucks."

"Thanks for bringing the game to a complete standstill, Tyelko," Amras chimed in.

Tyelko turned to face Maedhros and rolled his eyes. "Why do I even try?" he asked his older brother.

Maedhros returned his look, an amused expression on his face. "Because they would pester you no end if you didn't play."

"They pester me whether I play or not, the assholes," Tyelko noted. "Hey! Moryo-done with that supply line tally yet?"

"Fuck off, Tyelko." Moryo said, before returning to his terse debate with Curvo. "No, I already counted that one."

"No, you missed that one and these two as well," Curvo said, eliciting more curses from Moryo. The debate raged forth again, the twins joining in, to Moryo's frustration.

The overwhelming chaos gave Tyelko the opportunity to speak to Maedhros without being overheard. "Dad's in a funny mood tonight."

Maedhros felt his shoulders tense and his jaw tighten. "Funny how?"

"The not jovial kind. I don't know what's up exactly. He seems tense, quieter than usual, which is always unsettling. He kept asking where you were and when you were getting home," Tyelko confided.

"Oh."

"Thought you should have a heads up. I'd steer clear, if I were you."

Maedhros gave him a withering look. "How well does steering clear of Dad ever work, when he's determined?"

Tyelko grimaced. "Never. Usually just prolongs the agony. You're right. You may as well just get it over with." He looked at Maedhros curiously. "What have you done this time?"

"Damned if I know," Maedhros answered wearily. "How's Mom? She seemed ok in the kitchen just now." He thought back on that brief wary expression that had flashed across her face.

"Watching Dad like a hawk," Tyelko informed him.

Great. One of those nights. Maedhros was fairly sure his father had something to say about his failure to sleep at home the night before but there was no need to discuss his suspicions with Tyelko.

But he was twenty-nine years old, damn it. He wasn't seventeen. He could sleep wherever he damn well wanted-he didn't need to answer to anyone. He had texted Maglor, so someone would know where he was, but he didn't owe them more than that.

His attention was pulled back to his brothers. Moryo's tally was now complete and by the smug look on his face and the grumpy expression on Curvo's, it seemed Moryo's calculations had been accurate after all. Tyelko roared back into the game and in unspoken thanks for the warning Maedhros tried to help him.

The time passed, but even Maedhros' skills were not quite enough to pull Tyelko back from the brink. The game had come to another temporary standstill, Curvo and Maedhros debating a point, when Nerdanel appeared. She stood behind the sofa, bending down to kiss the top of Maedhros' head and ruffling Tyelko's unruly pale gold mane.

"Can I drag you all away from this riveting game so you can eat dinner?" she asked, her bright eyes darting around the room, from one son to the next, the fondness in her gaze unmistakeable.

"Please," said Curvo. "Anything to get me away from this disaster."

"Shut up, Curvo. You're winning." Moryo said.

"It's not as fun when Maedhros isn't playing for himself," Curvo complained. "It makes it too easy to win." That earned him shoves from both the twins but he kept on going. "Even Mae couldn't save your ass tonight, Tyelko."

"No one's going to bother trying to save your ass, Curvo, when I get hold of you," Tyelko answered.

"Come on, enough already," Nerdanel ordered, rolling her eyes. "It can never be just a game with you lot," she muttered.

"Is Maglor home?" Maedhros asked his mother.

"He just got here. He went upstairs for a minute but he'll be right down." She scanned the room. "Come on," she repeated. "Your game will be waiting for you after dinner." Her eyes landed on Curvo. "Go tell your father dinner is ready, Curvo. He's in his study."

The meal had progressed without incident. Maedhros had been keeping a watchful eye on his father and he could sense some of his brothers doing the same. Fëanor was quieter than usual, perhaps a bit more acrid in his comments when he did speak but nothing they hadn't experienced before, when he had something on his mind.

Maedhros made it a point to help clear the dishes, trailing after Nerdanel to the kitchen. It appeared his father had a similar idea. Fëanor followed behind him, dishes stacked in his hands, no other brothers following. Nerdanel gave him a curious look. "These were the last of them," he explained, moving to the second sink at the island to start rinsing them off before placing them into the dishwasher, mirroring Nerdanel and Maedhros at the main sink.

"Would you like to see the upgrades to your mother's studio, Maedhros?" Fëanor asked, leaning against the countertop with his arms crossed, as he regarded his eldest son.

"Why, yes, I would," Maedhros said. He looked at his mother fondly. "You sounded quite excited about them, Mom."

"I am," Nerdanel said, tucking her arm around Fëanor's waist and resting her head on his shoulder. "Let's go look at them together, why don't we?"

He caught the quick look his parents exchanged, his father giving a minute nod to his mother. She let go of Fëanor and hooked her arm into Maedhros', walking at his side to the attached space she called her own, talking the whole time. Fëanor followed just a few steps behind.

Maedhros laughed as the automatic lights turned on at their entry and then obediently trailed after his mother as she showed him all the improvements. There was some back and forth question and answer with his father as he delved into more of the details about the methods and accommodations, due to it being a previously built-out space rather than a new construction.

Maedhros may have obtained his degree in Classics but he had received an eclectic education from his father in a myriad of things over the years; he was familiar with the terms and the skills necessary to complete the changes in this space. He and Fëanor had worked together at the Beleriand Books site, long before it opened, planning the layout and the amenities before Maedhros hired the contractors to do the actual work. Not that he and his father hadn't spent many nights and weekends working together there as well, long after the contractors had left for the day.

The lessons learned from Fëanor had been of use-Maedhros was a daily, hands-on presence at the job site and had caught quite a few minor oversights by the building team that he was able to correct before it was too late. And one or two major ones.

So far it appeared Tyelko's earlier concern was unfounded. Maedhros had followed his own advice-there was no use avoiding Fëanor when he wanted a conversation. It would only serve to annoy his father further, if Maedhros attempted to deflect him.

They had finished their tour and Maedhros had been able to examine some of his mother's sculpture works in progress as well. He was making his way to the door when his father's voice stopped him. "Maedhros. I would like to speak with you. I'd prefer to do it here, away from your brothers, if you don't mind."

So Tyelko had been correct after all. Maedhros turned to face his father. "That's fine," he said, darting a glance at his mother, fully expecting her to leave. Instead she leaned against her desk, arms crossed, a serious expression on her face as she regarded her husband. He returned her look but she continued to defiantly stare at him so he turned his eyes back to Maedhros.

"I understand you didn't come home last night. May I ask where you were?" Fëanor said.

Maedhros looked puzzled. "I texted Maglor I wouldn't be home."

"Yes, your mother told me that you had." Fëanor's gaze was stern. "But where were you?"

This was odd, Maedhros thought. But fine, if his father wanted it spelled out, he would be happy to spell it out for him. "Well, you know I've been seeing someone for the past few months." He waited for Fëanor to nod before continuing. "I had a dinner date with Fingon last night. We ended up watching movies at his place after and I was too tired and sleepy to drive home. I stayed there for the night," Maedhros explained. This was making him feel like a teenager again.

"I do expect notice, when the plan is for you to stay at our house, if those plans change," Fëanor said.

Maedhros looked at him, the confusion written on his face. "I did give notice, Dad. I texted Maglor. Was I supposed to text everyone?" He couldn't keep the annoyance out of his response.

Fëanor ignored his comment. "I haven't heard you talk about your boyfriend very much, Maedhros, and you certainly haven't brought him around at all." He leaned back against the sink, arms crossed, much like Nerdanel's.

Where was his dad going with this? He never delved too much into the details of their relationships, not unless something was looking serious and so far only Maglor had experienced that, none of the others. Fëanor usually left this kind of thing to Nerdanel.

"I know I've mentioned him," Maedhros said. "As for bringing him around, we met at a busy time in his semester and things have continued to be busy for Fingon up until now. He's got a little free time over break, before he starts his internship. I told Mom I would bring him around, sometime after all the holiday fuss," Maedhros explained, focusing on keeping his voice steady and maintaining his patience with his father's questions.

"Satisfied now, Fëanor?" Nerdanel asked. "He's not been keeping him from us, they've just been busy."

Fëanor ignored her, keeping his eyes on his son. "So since I have you here, why don't you tell me a little bit about him?"

"Ok," Maedhros said hesitantly, still not sure what the point of this conversation was. "Fingon's in his last year of Architecture grad school at Cuiviénen. He's doing an internship with Barad-Eithel next semester. He hopes to work for them when he graduates. He's from Tirion." Ugh, might have been better not to mention that, Maedhros thought, irritated at himself. If Fëanor asked which high school Fingon had attended it would end up a diatribe about Vinyamar again.

"Did he go to high school at Himlad with you?" Fëanor asked.

Damn it. "No, he didn't. We didn't meet until this fall." Hopefully deflected.

"So where did he go to school?" Fëanor persisted.

May as well get it over with. "Ah, Vinyamar," Maedhros said.

"Oh. I see." Fëanor frowned, but the usual derogatory comments didn't come this time. That actually made Maedhros more apprehensive.

"Have you met his family then?" Fëanor asked.

And there it was. Maedhros suddenly realized Fëanor knew very well who Fingon was, knew exactly who his father was. This was why he was having this private conversation, this was why Fëanor had not been diverted by the subject of Vinyamar. The larger object of his disdain had overshadowed his dislike of the school.

He knew his father's intense feelings about Fingolfin, probably more than anyone in the family, other than his mother. He had been exceedingly naive to think it wouldn't be a big deal. Or maybe he had just avoided thinking of it at all. Maybe that was subconsciously why he hadn't said all that much, had not made firm plans to introduce Fingon to his parents. He had somehow imagined he could side-step this.

"I've met some of them," Maedhros answered, keeping his answer intentionally vague. But some inner part of him rebelled against that. He was not ashamed of Fingon; he loved him.

Maedhros had liked Fingolfin, even under the dire circumstances of their previous meetings. Fëanor's personal issues with Fingon's father shouldn't matter. He boldly continued. "But I already knew his father, from before." Maedhros said. "You remember I met Fingolfin years ago."

Fëanor actually looked surprised that Maedhros had brought the connection up himself. "He is Fingolfin's son, then?" Fëanor asked.

"Yes, he is," Maedhros was getting irritated now. His father needed to get to the point, if he even had one. "I assume we are having this conversation because you knew that already, am I right?"

A part of Nerdanel rejoiced at the steel in Maedhros' voice. This boy must mean the world to him, if Maedhros was needling Fëanor like this. But a part of her grew apprehensive. Feanor appreciated and respected straightforward speech but he did not take well to being taken to task. She hoped Maedhros had made his point and that Fëanor had understood it. Unlikely, but she could still hope.

"If I did not already know that, you just confirmed it for me," Fëanor said. Nerdanel sighed. This was not going to go well. The question was when was she going to have to step in, to keep things from escalating?

"Ok, so I've confirmed I'm dating Fingon, who happens to be Fingolfin's son. Why does that warrant a conversation out here, Dad? Do you have a problem with it?" Maedhros asked.

And it was Maedhros getting to the point first, to Nerdanel's surprise. She watched her husband closely for his response, her fingers gripping her upper arms.

"I most certainly do," Fëanor said.

"And why is that?"

"You know how I feel about his father. You know how Fingolfin failed my father, failed me, failed you in our struggle against Morgoth Industries. He betrayed our trust. How do you expect his son to be any different?" Fëanor said. "I can't believe you let yourself become involved with him."

"How you feel about Fingolfin is your issue, Dad, not mine. Fingolfin was kind, informative and compassionate in his dealings with me. I don't know all the details of the legal wranglings but he must have had strong facts to back up his recommendations to us." Maedhros paused to frown at his father. "And even if that wasn't the case, Fingon is not his father. It really doesn't matter to me who his father is. I care about Fingon for his own sake." His eyes narrowed. "And as far as 'letting myself get involved with him'? I haven't 'let myself get involved' with anyone for years now, in case you haven't noticed. I haven't wanted to, haven't been able to. Fingon is the first person to come along who has made me feel like trying again, made me feel again, made me feel whole again. And your opinion isn't going to change that."

Nerdanel had taken a step forward as Maedhros spoke but stopped herself, before either of them noticed her. She could feel the tears come into her eyes at her son's words, at the depth of his emotions and the frank confession of what she had suspected but that he had not shared before. She would not interrupt. Fëanor needed to hear this and Maedhros needed to say it.

"How can you trust in him, after what his father did to us, to you, Maedhros? How do you know he won't do something like that to you, something to betray your trust? I think you are making a grave mistake. I can't condone this relationship. I can't support it. You should end it before it becomes any more serious and before you get hurt by this family again," Fëanor's words tumbled out, rough and harsh. "You need to end this relationship, Maedhros, the sooner the better."

Maedhros took a step forward, his hands clenched at his sides. Nerdanel found herself involuntarily reaching a hand out towards her son, even though he was across the room from her. "Actually, Dad, I don't need to do anything of the sort. In case you've forgotten I'm twenty-nine years old. When you were my age you already had three kids." He paused to let that sink in and Nerdanel could see a muscle clench in his jaw.

But he kept on going. "I am an adult. I've been an adult for awhile now, you know. I don't need your approval to date Fingon. I don't need your permission. I have a degree, I have a job, I own my own business. I own my own house. I am independent of you financially, thanks to the trust fund that Fingolfin set up for us from Grandfather and due to the settlement Fingolfin negotiated on our behalf with Morgoth Industries."

His eyes were cold as he looked at his father. "I do not intend to end anything. It's immaterial to me whether you trust Fingon. I trust him. I love Fingon. Finding him has unquestionably been the best thing to happen to me in the last four years, maybe the best thing to happen to me ever. I do not intend to jeopardize my relationship because of your unfounded concerns. Continue to hate Fingolfin, if that gives you some kind of comfort. But you don't get to dictate my feelings. Not this time." He locked eyes with his father and decided to keep going. He hadn't felt this angry with Fëanor in awhile and he was feeling bolder than he had in years. "I've been the dutiful son my whole life, done what you have wanted me to do since I was old enough to walk. I took care of my brothers, so you and Mom could work. I shielded them from your arguments, as best I could. I went to Cuiviénen, so I could still be close enough to help out at home. I've done everything you've ever asked me to do. I've only bucked your orders on two occasions-taking Fingolfin's advice on settling the suit and now, refusing to break this off with Fingon. I'm not backing down on this one, Dad. So you're going to have to deal with it."

"You are making a mistake, Maedhros. You will regret putting him ahead of your family . . ." Fëanor didn't get to finish his sentence.

There was a sensation building up in Maedhros, one he usually repressed around his parents. It was anger, pure unfiltered rage. He wasn't going to suppress it anymore. Not tonight.

"Putting him ahead of my family? You can't be serious. I've put our family ahead of everything my whole life, Dad. That's what we're supposed to do, as your sons, isn't it? That's the kind of loyalty you expect. I'm not putting Fingon ahead of my family, I'm putting him on equal footing because he's the person I want to be part of my family. He's someone I want to share my life with. I want to share him with all of you. Because I love him and he loves me."

"Does he though? Does he really?" Fëanor persisted.

"Fëanor, stop. You don't want to go there," Nerdanel finally broke in.

"Don't want to go there? He needs to hear this." Fëanor turned his attention to her. "He's making a mistake. It's an infatuation and I can understand that, but that's why it needs to end now."

"It's not going to end now, Dad. You've heard what I said. I'm not ending this."

"Then know this, Maedhros. He is not welcome in my home. I will not have him under my roof," Fëanor thundered.

"Fëanor, NO!" Nerdanel strode across the room and grabbed Feanor's arm. "You know you don't mean that. Don't say things like that."

Maedhros cut across her words. "If he's not, then I'm not either. Don't expect to see me under your roof if Fingon isn't welcome here. Is that what you really want, Dad? Is it really?"

"I want you to listen to me and stop seeing him, Maedhros. That's all I ask," Fëanor replied.

"You ask too much," Maedhros said. His face was stern, his eyes frigid as they regarded his father. "Shall I go pack my bags then?"

"Maedhros, no." The words dragged themselves out of Fëanor, his composure shaken at his son's question. "That isn't what I want at all. Can't we talk rationally about this?"

"I have been talking rationally about this. You're the one making demands and letting your emotions rule your words," Maedhros said, knowing it would sting for his father to hear that. "I am done with this conversation. I have nothing more to say. Fingon is a part of my life, whether you like it or not. If having him in my life is so abhorrent to you, that you will not even consider meeting him or giving him a chance, then perhaps you don't want me in your life either. The choice is yours, Dad. I've given you my side of things." Maedhros looked to Nerdanel, not surprised to see the tears running down her cheeks. He was grateful she had not interrupted him, that she had not tried to stem his words. He had needed to say those things, even if she was hurt by them. Even if Fëanor was hurt by them. He had hurt Maedhros with his disregard of Fingon, sight unseen.

"What will you do now?" Nerdanel asked.

"I'll go to my room, if I am still welcome under this roof for tonight," Maedhros said to her. "Forgive me for not socializing with the family. I can't tolerate it right now." He returned his gaze to his father. "If your feelings are unchanged on this matter in the morning I will pack my things and return to Formenos. I'll stop by on Christmas Day, for a bit, but I won't stay." His jaw tightened. "Let me know in the morning so I can plan accordingly." He turned and walked out of the studio, leaving his parents alone.

"Fëanor," Nerdanel started.

He raised his hand to stop her, his eyes burning with frustration. It took him a few moments to compose himself. Nerdanel had edged closer to him, her own eyes radiating indignation.

He put his hand down slowly and the torrent of words spilled from her. "How dare you even suggest Fingon won't be welcome here? Is your enmity with Fingolfin worth losing your son? Is it, Fëanor?"

"It won't come to that, Nerdanel," he said, rubbing his forehead wearily.

"It will, if you are stubborn enough to keep up this attitude," she retorted.

"I had not . . . " He uncharacteristically stumbled on his words. "I had not realized he had been so isolated still. I had not realized he felt so alone."

"Oh, Fëanor. You saw what you chose to see, Maedhros himself and whole again. And that's what he wanted you to see also. He's never wanted you to see him as less, as showing any weakness. I think that's why he's had such a hard time getting past this-he feels he failed you in some way, failed us, by letting himself be captured that day. He's wrong, of course, but his perception colors his view." She put a hand on Feanor's forearm. "He's found something with Fingon, something that has profoundly affected him. There's a spark in him that's been missing for a long time." She squeezed Feanor's arm harder. "It's never been easy for Maedhros, being the oldest, Fëanor. We've leaned on him and expected more of him than we should, we've not been fair to him. He's right about that. But now he's finally found something for himself. Can you not find it in yourself to let him have this, without your disapproval and conditions?" She did not notice the tears still running down her face.

"I don't know, Nerdanel, I don't know," Fëanor growled, frustration rising within him. He would have to choose-his bitterness at Fingolfin or his eldest son. It was not a choice, really. Fëanor's family meant the world to him. He would not fracture it, not even for this. But he had to think this through, he had to come to terms with it himself. And that would take some time.
Chapter 37 by NelyafinweFeanorion
In his fury, Maedhros had forgotten that at his parents home he shared a room with Maglor. He flung open the door of their shared bedroom, momentarily shocked at the sight of his brother seated on his bed, headphones on, pen and notebook in hand.

Maglor glanced up as the door slammed open against the wall and met his brother's eyes. He pulled his headphones off, tossed them down on the bed and stood up. "What happened?" he asked, walking to stand in front of his older brother. "Maedhros?" He tentatively put his hand on his brother's arm, feeling the rigid muscles beneath his fingertips. "Maedhros, what's going on?" he whispered.

Maedhros took a deep breath and then spoke. "It seems Father has taken exception to my relationship with Fingon."

"What?" Maglor's grip tightened on Maedhros' arm. "Why?"

"Because Fingon is Fingolfin's son," Maedhros said, his scowl deepening. "And that's not an acceptable match for a son of Fëanor, it seems."

Maglor stared open-mouthed at his older brother, finding himself uncharacteristically at a loss for words. He had known, of course, that Maedhros and Tyelko were both dating Fingolfin's children. It had come up the night of the snowstorm. He had heard that name often enough in the years after Finwë's death and Maedhros' ordeal.

He knew there was a deeper, unmentioned history between his father and Fingolfin but Maglor had not comprehended the depth of his father's disdain.

"What did you say?" he asked Maedhros, his hand still gripping his brother's forearm. Maedhros' face was pale, his jaw clenched tightly.

Maedhros snorted. "Likely not what you would expect me to say," he admitted. "I told him that it was his problem if he didn't like it. There is nothing he can say to make me stop seeing Fingon,"

"I would expect you to say that," Maglor said. "I know how you feel about Fingon. And how he feels about you," he added softly. "What did Dad say to that?"

Maedhros moved to sit down heavily on his bed, Maglor dropping down next to him, their shoulders and knees brushing. "He said Fingon was not welcome here, not welcome under his roof."

Maglor sucked his breath in. He had expected some bluster from his father but this was worse than he had anticipated. "And?" he questioned gently.

"And I told him if Fingon is not welcome, then neither am I. He can think about it overnight. If he still feels the same way in the morning then I am packing my bags and going back to Formenos. I'll come for Christmas Day but I will not spend another night under this roof," Maedhros said.

A chill went through Maglor. Maedhros was right-he had never expected such open defiance from his brother. He reached out to grip Maedhros' hand tightly. "Good for you," he said, the fierce pride he felt for his brother visible on his face.

Maedhros gripped his hand back briefly then dropped it to hug Maglor, resting his head on his younger brother's shoulder. Maglor wrapped his arms around the still-tense form of his older brother. It took more bravery than Maglor had in him to stand up to Fëanor when he was in a fury.

Maglor could feel the slow burn of a matching fury rising in him. How dare Fëanor say such things and to Maedhros, of all people? His father had never seen Fingon and Maedhros together-he hadn't seen the light of hope and joy rekindled in Maedhros' eyes. And now he never would-he had tossed away the chance. It infuriated Maglor.

He tamped his indignation down for the moment and concentrated on gently stroking circles on his brother's back, murmuring incoherent words of comfort, remembering how many times Maedhros had done this for him, for all of them.

Maglor's own anger was usually slow to burn, rare to flare. But he felt incandescent with rage on Maedhros' behalf. Once roused, Maglor's anger was implacable. He would not stand by and see Maedhros-and by extension Fingon-treated this way. He kept murmuring soothing words until his older brother leaned back, silver eyes heavy-lidded and weary.

"I don't even know what to say, Maedhros, just that he's so very, very wrong."

"I know he is, Maglor. But what's worse is he's not even giving Fingon a chance-he's just dismissing him," Maedhros said, leaning back against the headboard. He pulled his legs up and wrapped his arms around them, resting his head on his bent knees.

He looked so young like that, Maglor thought. How many times had he seen Maedhros draw up into himself, in just that way?

Maglor's resolve grew. "Do you need some time alone, Maedhros?" he asked. "I can go down and sit with the others for awhile."

"I don't want to chase you out-this is your room too," Maedhros mumbled.

"I don't mind and I'm thinking you need it more than I do right now."

Maedhros closed his eyes. "If you really don't mind, yeah, I'd like a few moments to myself."

"Consider it done," Maglor said, rising to his feet.

"Thanks, Maglor. You don't have to stay away all evening. Just give me about a half hour, ok?"

"Whatever you need. I'll take my phone-if you need more time just text me." An idea was taking shape in Maglor's head, focusing his anger on a singular point.

"Thanks," Maedhros repeated, opening his eyes and giving him a wan smile. "Go help Tyelko out. The others are killing him in Diplomacy."

Maglor sighed. "They always do," he said, a ghost of a smile on his face too. It faded at Maedhros' sudden look of alarm. "What? What now?"

"Tyelko," Maedhros said.

"What about Tyelko?" Maglor asked.

"Dad's going to find out Aredhel is Fingolfin's daughter-he's bound to," Maedhros said. "You know Tyelko isn't going to take an admonition from Father to stop dating Aredhel any better than I took the one about Fingon."

"Decidedly worse, I'd say," Maglor agreed, a shiver of dread coming over him at his volatile brother's likely response.

"I'll have to warn him," Maedhros said, starting to shift off the bed.

"Stop. You'll do no such thing. Leave this to me. Ok?"

"You're sure?"

"I've got this." Maglor tugged on a lock of Maedhros' hair. "I promise."

"Ok," Maedhros leaned back. "Thanks, Maglor. Don't let Tyelko freak out."

"I won't. Promise."

He shut the door behind him. He had absolutely no intention of joining the game or finding Tyelko right now. Maglor had one ultimate destination and that was a conversation with his father.

Apprehension swept through him but for once his anger was more than a match for it. He was resolved to confront Fëanor, even though direct confrontation was definitely not his style.

He made his way down, taking the back stairway to avoid his brothers. There was no sign of his parents in the kitchen. Maglor peered out the window: lights were on in his mother's studio and in his father's study. So they weren't together it seemed.

He really did not want to be sidetracked by his mother right now. He would lose whatever nerve he had built up to confront his father, if he stopped to talk to her. Silently, Maglor made his way to the laundry room, sliding boots on and grabbing a random sweatshirt from one of the hooks. With any luck it wouldn't be one of Tyelko's sweaty ones.

He slipped out the back door, darting a glance at the windows of Nerdanel's studio, the blinds still open so he could see in. She was pacing. Good thing he had avoided her; the expression on her face was stormy, to say the least. Maglor doubted Fëanor's would be any warmer.

He trudged across the freezing backyard to his father's workshop. He took a deep breath to steady himself, just outside the door to Fëanor's study. Maglor gave a single warning knock but opened the door seconds after. He wasn't going to let his father send him away.

Fëanor glared at him from behind his desk. "What is it, Maglor? I'm not much interested in company right now."

Maglor stepped into the space, his eyes never leaving his father's. "I need to speak with you."

Fëanor pinched the bridge of his nose. "Maglor. I am really not in any frame of mind for conversation tonight. Is everything all right or can this wait until morning?"

"No, actually, everything is most certainly not all right," Maglor said, using all his vocal training to keep his voice strong and steady. Fëanor raised his head to look at him inquiringly.

Maglor clenched his fists to keep his hands from visibly shaking. He levelled a steely-eyed glare at his father, who momentarily seemed taken aback by that. Good.

"It's not all right for you to question my brother's choice of partner. It is not all right for you to pass judgement on his relationship . . ." Maglor flung his hand up sharply in warning when Fëanor made to interrupt. "No, you've said quite enough tonight, Dad. I've got something to say and I need you to listen." He kept his hand up, internally floored by his own boldness. But this was for Maedhros. "It is not all right for you to pass judgment on Maedhros' relationship," he repeated. "But it is completely unacceptable when you haven't even met Fingon. Haven't even taken the opportunity to get to know him."

Maglor swallowed. Why was his mouth so dry? "I've met him. I've gotten to know him. And I can't imagine Maedhros ever finding anyone else even half as good as Fingon." Maglor licked his lips. Damn it, he was so parched but he kept on going, his voice rising in volume and intensity as the words tumbled out of him. "Fingon is caring, he is understanding, he is supportive. Haven't you seen how Maedhros has been? So empty? So detached? Did you even bother to notice how he is now or did you just rush in and crush his spirit without even a second glance?"

Maglor's cold gaze swept over his father. "He's happy, Dad. Something he hasn't been for a very long time. And he's happy because of Fingon." He took a step closer to Fëanor, a small part of his brain protesting at his audacity. "How dare you?" That same part of his brain progressed to screaming in warning but Maglor ignored it. "How dare you question his judgement, his choices, after everything he's been through?"

"Maglor, you don't understand. You don't know Fingolfin, you don't know that Fingon won't betray Maedhros' trust, that he won't hurt him in the long run," Fëanor said.

"I understand one thing, Dad. I understand that you are willing to jeopardize your relationship with your son because of an old grudge. A grudge I don't even understand." Maglor inhaled and then huffed the air out again. "Maedhros has been nothing but dutiful, loyal, supportive of you and Mom his whole life. And I do mean his whole life. You could do him the courtesy of supporting him for a change."

"For a change? How dare you even hint that I haven't been supportive?" Fëanor fumed.

"Because you haven't," Maglor said flatly. "Neither of you give him enough credit. Do you know what it's like to listen to you and Mom argue? Shout at each other? Hear you say unforgiveable things to each other? No, you don't." He shook his head at Fëanor's dismissive grunt. "You don't, Dad. Sorry to be blunt but you can't understand what that's like-you were too young when your mother died to have ever experienced something like that." He registered his father's look of shock. Fëanor's mother was usually a topic they all avoided.

There was no turning back now. "You have no concept of what it's like. But I do." Maglor paused to take a steadying breath. What he was going to say would no doubt bring him close to tears but he needed to stay strong while he said it.

"I do know. When I needed to be comforted, reassured, protected from that kind of thing it wasn't you doing the comforting. It wasn't Mom. It was Maedhros. Maedhros. My older brother, just two years older than me. He comforted me, he hugged me close when you and Mom argued, he covered my ears when you shouted at each other. Time and time again. And not only me-every one of my brothers too, again and again. But who did that for him?" His icy gaze locked on his father's face again. "No one. No one," he repeated. "Now he's finally found someone who will listen to him, who will hold him when he has a nightmare, who will comfort him when's he's upset and you dare question that? You dare deny him that?"

"Maglor," Fëanor's voice was softer but Maglor wasn't done.

"No, Dad. You need to hear me out. Fingon is the best thing to happen to Maedhros. They are good together and good to each other. If you can't accept that, can't give Fingon a chance, then I'm with Maedhros. I won't spend another night in this house either. If Fingon's not welcome, then neither am I," he said, unconsciously echoing Maedhros' earlier words.

"This is Maedhros' home, Maglor," Feanor said, an uncharacteristic wavering in his voice. "It's your home too, no matter what."

"Not if Fingon isn't welcome."

"Maglor." There was no force to his father's voice anymore. There was a tremble to it Maglor could not recall ever hearing before.

It almost got to him. Maglor hesitated for a moment but recovered. "I'm not the one laying down the ultimatums, Dad. That would be you."

"Maedhros' home is here," Fëanor repeated.

"You haven't made him feel that way, Dad. Not with what you said about Fingon," Maglor explained.

Fëanor's usually upright shoulders sagged and his hand covered his face. Maglor had never seen him look so defeated. It was so out of character for his father that Maglor found himself making his way to Fëanor's side.

Maglor hesitated to reach out, unsure of his father's response.

"Dad?" he said, his tone softer and gentler than before.

Fëanor reached to take hold of Maglor's shoulder, his grip tight enough to hurt. His father's eyes were closed.

"Why didn't Maedhros say anything, Maglor? Why didn't I know?" Fëanor asked. His father's eyes opened, stormy with emotion.

"Why didn't you know what, Dad?" Maglor questioned. "About Fingon?"

"No, about Maedhros. That he still had the nightmares." There was a haunted look in Fëanor's eyes.

Maglor sighed. "He wasn't going to tell you about that, Dad. He didn't want you to know. He didn't want us to know, but we live with him, so it was hard to keep it a secret for long." Maglor ran a hand through his hair. He had come this far. He could keep going. "He would never tell you about it. He was going to fight it out on his own, you know that. He's never wanted to disappoint you, Dad."

"He never has," Fëanor said.

"Have you ever told him that?" Maglor questioned. He took another deep breath and briefly closed his eyes as he added. "Have you ever told any of us that?"

Fëanor snapped his head up, his hard stare on Maglor. "You know I have nothing but pride in my sons, Maglor. You know that." His fingers, still on Maglor's shoulder, tightened their grip enough to make Maglor wince.

It took all of Maglor's remaining strength of will to speak. He might never get this chance again. "We don't know that, Dad. Whatever we do, it's never enough. We're never quite good enough."

"I don't expect more than you are capable of," Fëanor argued, pulling his hand away from Maglor's shoulder and crossing his arms defiantly. "I've never wanted to indulge complacency."

"Complacency?" Maglor burst out. "How could you even think we could be complacent, when what we did never seemed good enough for you? It's not complacency. It's resignation. Two completely different things." He frowned. "It's the realization that we'll never do well enough to meet your expectations. So we stop trying so hard." Maglor ran his hand through his already unruly hair again. "We're not you, Dad. We never will be-maybe only Curvo will ever even come close. It's hard, never feeling like you're good enough, never fulfilling expectations."

"I never meant to make you feel that way," Fëanor said, the edge gone from his voice. "That was never my intention. I wanted to motivate you." There was an unfamiliar uncertainty in his expression.

"It's more than that, Dad. None of us want to disappoint you. Maedhros feels he's let you down, over and over. By allowing himself to be captured, by having residual, lingering issues from that, by taking the settlement when you wanted to pursue the case. It's all those things. It's weighed on him and maybe that's one reason he can't get past it."

Maglor clenched and unclenched his fists and then continued. "If that wasn't a heavy enough burden, now you've heaped your disappointment about his personal life on him too, at a time when he's finally getting a chance at happiness. When he finally found some hope." Maglor's steely gaze returned. "I'm not going to let you crush that hope. He's been trying to deal with this on his own for long enough. It's selfish of you to put your feud with Fingolfin ahead of Maedhros' happiness."

The stunned look on his father's face told him perhaps he had finally gotten through to him. "I didn't realize . . ."

Maglor closed his eyes and let his tense shoulders relax. "Well now you know, don't you?" He opened his eyes to regard his father again. "You said some harsh things to Maedhros tonight, Dad. Things I think you really need to think through. He's not going to back down on this."

"No, I suppose he isn't, not from what he said earlier," Fëanor admitted with a grimace. His silver eyes, so much like Maedhros' own, were clouded with regret. "I don't know what to do," he whispered.

These were words he had never thought to hear his father say. It appeared Maglor had gotten through to him, as astounding as that was.

"I can tell you what not to do," Maglor said. "Don't push him away."

"I'm not trying to," Fëanor whispered.

Maglor could feel his hands trembling, the delayed reaction to his confrontation finally catching up to him.

Fëanor took a step closer to him. "You've given me a lot to think about. I realize how difficult this must have been for you." Fëanor's eyes softened. "Don't hesitate to do it again, if I need it. Rather, when I need it," he corrected. "Ok?" Fëanor opened his arms and Maglor gladly went into them. "You are always enough for me, Kanafinwë," he murmured, the use of Maglor's Quenya name cementing the importance of that admission. "I will try to convey that better in the future. Do not doubt my love or pride in you."

He felt his father's lips brush his hair and then Fëanor stepped away. He turned to walk out, giving Maglor one last nod as he passed through the doorway. "I need to think, Maglor. Turn the lights off and lock up for me, will you?" Maglor nodded silently in response and then Fëanor was gone and he was alone.

Maglor's knees were buckling and he leaned heavily against the desk behind him. Somehow he had managed to do it and had survived.

He glanced at his phone. No texts from Maedhros and more than half an hour had passed.

Time to go check on his older brother. Talking to Tyelko could wait.
Chapter 38 by NelyafinweFeanorion
The door clicked shut behind Maglor. Maedhros closed his eyes and dropped his head back down onto his bent knees. He took a few deep breaths; in and out, in and out.

He had expected his father to have an opinion--there was little Fëanor did not have an opinion about, especially when it concerned his family. Maedhros had anticipated the Fingolfin connection to be a stumbling block for his father, no matter how hard he had tried to ignore that realization. Perhaps he should have acknowledged it earlier and told his father himself, rather than having Fëanor discover it on his own.

No. He stopped himself. He was not going to shoulder all the blame for this situation. His father's reaction was just that-his father's. Maedhros would not take responsibility for it. Playing alternative scenarios in his head was pointless. He was at a crossroads no matter what and would have ended up here regardless of the path.

He had known this confrontation was coming, he could admit that. It was inevitable. The truth was that he had not wanted to be the one to initiate it. Years of dealing with conflict had simply made him more eager to avoid it.

He was just tired of it. Tired of the years of arguments. Of being the buffer. Weary of always trying to keep the peace; the burden of gauging his family's undercurrents of temperament and reacting appropriately was exhausting. It was no wonder he excelled at Diplomacy--he'd long ago learned negotiation and soothing words kept the conflict at bay. Most of the time.

Maedhros ran his hands through his hair and leaned back to drop his head against the headboard of the bed. He didn't know what morning would bring. What he did know was that his parents were at this very moment quite likely embroiled in one of their heated exchanges.

He didn't live here anymore so refusing to stay under Fëanor's roof if Fingon wasn't welcome was more symbolic than realistic. But it would give his father a clear understanding of Fingon's importance in Maedhros' life.

As he sat on the bed, debating with himself if he should start packing now or hold off until morning and Fëanor's decision, Maedhros comprehended that even simple disdainful tolerance from his father was not going to be enough.

He wanted his father to truly see Fingon. Not as Fingolfin's son, not as a troublesome nuisance, not as a temporary distraction to his oldest son. He wanted Fëanor to see him for what he truly was--the brilliant, creative, kind, and valiant man that Maedhros loved.

Thinking of Fingon brought a smile to his face. He couldn't see Fingon letting Fëanor intimidate him. He had dealt with Maedhros' issues head on--Maedhros knew he was more alarming mid-nightmare than Fëanor ever could be awake.

He glanced at his phone. It wasn't that late. Fingon would likely be with his family but a quick text shouldn't be too distracting.

MAEDHROS: Hey. Hope you're having a good night.

It didn't take long to receive a reply.

FINGON: Had some rough spots but better now. You?

Maedhros paused before replying. This wasn't a conversation to have via text, especially not now, when he still didn't know quite how the situation would resolve itself.

MAEDHROS: Some rough spots here too.

FINGON: Should I call you? I've got the time.

MAEDHROS: No, hang out with your family. Nothing that can't wait for later. You have plans for tomorrow?

FINGON: Car shopping with Dad in the morning :-) Want to join us?

MAEDHROS: No, enjoy the one-on-one time with your dad. Remember Subarus are reliable cars and have great resale value.

FINGON: You are such a dork. But you're my dork.

MAEDHROS: Takes one to know one. You're my dork too. Have fun with your dad.

FINGON: Good thought on the Subaru. I'll need something that handles well in the snow for those drives out to Formenos. ;-)

Maedhros couldn't help grinning. It seemed Fingon was intending to continue his overnights, even after his internship started. Thinking back to his initial reluctance to have him spend the night at all Maedhros was thankful Fingon had been so persistent. Even after just a week sharing his bed, Maedhros found himself missing his presence at night.

Not just at night. What would it be like to continue to wake up to Fingon every morning? To eat breakfast together, cook dinner together, spend every evening at his side?

He shook his head. He'd let himself get distracted and had not answered Fingon's last text.

MAEDHROS: You handle everything well.

FINGON: I know what I'd like to be handling right now.

Maedhros flushed. His usual facility with words was no match for that kind of comment from Fingon.

MAEDHROS: Like I said-you 'handle' everything well. Any chance of you being free tomorrow afternoon?

The reply was immediate.

FINGON: Tell me where and when.

MAEDHROS: Just text me when you're done with the car stuff. We'll figure it out from there.

FINGON: Will do. I miss you.

MAEDHROS: Miss you too. Good night.

FINGON: Good night.

FINGON: Love you.

MAEDHROS: Love you too.

It still astounded him, how natural it was to say those words now. How real they were. He savored looking at them one more time before dropping his phone on the bed and wrapping his arms around his knees again.

It would be so much better when Fingon had a car. No more relying on the train schedules. Maedhros had never minded driving back and forth to Tirion to take him home but it would give them far more flexibility with their schedules if Fingon had his own car, especially for the nights he would have to spend at his apartment to do work for his internship.

An idea started to take form but his thoughts were scattered as a knock came on the door and Maglor poked his head in a few seconds later.

"Too early?" Maglor asked. "You didn't text so I thought it would be ok to come back up."

"No, come on in," Maedhros said. "Did you talk to Tyelko?"

Maglor settled on his own bed across from Maedhros and shook his head. "No," he admitted."He's with the others and it would be awkward. Plus we don't need him blowing up tonight. I'll talk to him tomorrow morning, when I can catch him alone."

"Or I can," Maedhros said. "If I'm still here, that is." His fingers picked at a loose thread on his sleeve.

"I don't think it will come to that," Maglor said. "Dad's stubborn but you know family always comes first, no matter what. He's not going to risk losing you over this. He'll settle by morning, you'll see." Maglor had no intention of letting Maedhros know he had confronted their father on his own. There was no need for him to mention it but he could still offer some verbal reassurances

"I'm not so sure," Maedhros said. "This Fingolfin thing is a big deal to him."

"Why is that, Maedhros? I've never understood it. I thought they grew up together," Maglor questioned. "At least that's what Grandpa said. Grandpa liked Fingolfin. He trusted him with all . . . all the legal work, you know?"

Maedhros wrapped his arms around his bent knees again, leaning back against the wall so he could face Maglor directly. "I don't know all the details," he confided. "Just a few things Grandpa said on occasion. I picked some up from Dad, when he was ranting about Fingolfin years ago and the rest from Mom." He rested his chin on his knee. "It goes back to Grandma Miriel, I think."

"Doesn't it always?"

Maedhros made a noncommittal noise before speaking again. "It wasn't just her. I guess Fingolfin's father died a few years later. I think Grandpa was really close to him. And to Fingolfin and his mom, after he died."

"What do you think happened?"

"I don't know for sure," Maedhros replied. He narrowed his eyes and frowned at Maglor. "But I suspect something happened between Grandpa and Fingolfin's mom. Or maybe Grandpa was just spending too much time with them. And Dad didn't like it."

Maglor looked unimpressed. "He's held a grudge all these years because of that?"

"If he saw it as replacing Grandma Miriel, yeah, he would," Maedhros explained.

"Replacing?" Maglor's eyebrows drew together in thought. "Oh."

"Right."

"But what would Fingolfin have to do with that?" Maglor asked.

"Got too close to Grandpa? I don't know."

Maglor hummed thoughtfully and leaned back against the wall by his bed, mirroring his brother. "Still think he's held onto it too long," he finally said. "It not relevant anymore."

Maedhros quirked an eyebrow at him. "When's that ever stopped Dad?"

____________________________________________

Nerdanel was still in her studio, the lights blazing bright as Fëanor walked up the path to the house. He rubbed his cold hands together. He had left Maglor and taken himself to the garden; walking in the deep snow, alone with his thoughts, until the frigid wind and cold overcame him.

He could tell Nerdanel was still furious--the expression he glimpsed on her face and the rate at which she was pacing clearly confirmed it. They had exchanged some heated words before he had retreated to his study.

He inhaled the sharp, cold air. No matter. He needed to speak with her, despite her irritation. As her husband and as a parent as well. Too much had come out in the conversations with his sons tonight. Too much he could no longer ignore.

The physical signs of Maedhros' ordeal had faded quickly--the bruises and cuts improving by the time he had left the hospital, four years ago. The concussion had taken a few weeks more to resolve, the shoulder a bit longer. He knew the psychological effects had lingered beyond that. He hadn't realized how long.

Once the psychologist appointments had ended and Maedhros had moved back into the apartment he shared with Azaghâl, things had seemed to be back to normal.

Or so he had thought. Fëanor rubbed his freezing arms as he stepped into the warm house, his thoughts reaching back to that summer four years ago.

He leaned against the laundry room wall, his hands coming up to massage his temples, eyes closing as he concentrated. Maedhros had been quieter, for a time. He had spent less time at home but the demands of grad school had seemed the likely cause.

His eldest son had rarely spoken of the events of that summer afterwards. In the intervening years he had been just as reticent about attachments, Fëanor did recall that. But those years had been overshadowed by Maglor's misguided love affair and Tyelko's own romantic misadventures.

He wracked his brain for clues he might have missed. The sudden comprehension that Maedhros had deliberately put just enough distance between them in those intervening years, so that Fëanor would not recognize those very clues, struck him with a cold chill.

They had been so close again, working on the bookstore together, but that too now seemed a deliberate distraction. Fëanor had the self-awareness to know how he was during a project--focused, diligent, single-minded. He would not have picked up any subtle hints in that state.

He stomped his wet shoes on the rug. He needed to speak to Nerdanel. To unravel this knot of frustration, anger and guilt that was overtaking him.

He stepped to the doorway of her studio and paused on the threshold. Nerdanel caught the movement and paused her pacing, her eyes flashing to him. "Have you regained your common sense, Fëanor, or are you here to argue with me more?" she snapped.

He shook his head. "May I come in?"

She crossed her arms and leaned back against the counter, eyeing him with suspicion. 'Yes," she said.

He found the stool she used when sitting to sketch and he sat on it heavily. "Nerdanel, how did I miss all this with Maedhros?"

She studied him for a moment before answering. "I told you, Fëanor. You saw what you wanted to see, what he wanted you to see."

He looked genuinely puzzled as he asked the next question, his voice uncharacteristically gentle. "How did you miss it then?"

Oh. The breath went out of Nerdanel and her head began to throb. It was one of the questions she had been asking herself as she paced. Fëanor wasn't quite right. She hadn't missed it completely. Nerdanel had felt the distancing, had noted the spark missing from her son's eyes. She had watched him withdrawing, step by step, eventually building his new life in Formenos.

Nerdanel had reached out time after time, only to be met with polite resistance at her attempts to dig deeper. Eventually, she had lulled herself into the same complacency she accused Fëanor of embracing. Her nails dug into her biceps as she answered. "I just . . . I just let it go, didn't push as hard as I should have. It was a mistake on my part."

Fëanor nodded, the crease between his eyebrows growing more pronounced. "Maglor came to find me."

"Maglor? Whatever for?" she asked, although she already had a suspicion. She knew how close her two eldest sons were. Maedhros must have shared the details of the earlier confrontation with his brother. No, she amended; more likely Maglor had noticed his brother's unease and had pestered him until he shared the story. That rang true.

"To tell me what a fool I'm being over this whole Fingon business," Fëanor grumbled.

"You are, you know. Being a fool," Nerdanel pointed out. "What did you say to him?"

After the Maedhros encounter earlier she doubted Fëanor had been reserved in his conversation with their second son. Maglor was not typically the confrontational type. He must have been in quite a state to take on Fëanor, knowing he was unquestionably already in a foul mood.

"I told him I didn't know what to do," Fëanor admitted.

Her eyes widened. Fëanor was never one to claim he had all the answers. He had encouraged his sons to question everything, as he did himself. He was the first to admit when he didn't know something, when the boys asked him a question, driving it into them that an honest admission of ignorance was far better than an incorrect or glib answer.

But on matters of the heart he was not so circumspect. His word had always been law to his boys. An admission like this, over a domestic issue, was unusual.

"I don't know, Nerdanel," he repeated. "I don't know so many things right now. So much I thought was true, was clear, was unquestioned, isn't so. And I'm not sure how to fix that." The frustration in his tone grew as the words left his lips.

She drifted closer, until she stood just in front of him. "What don't you know, Fëanor?" she asked.

He scrubbed his hands over his face then gripped his head in his hands, eyes downcast. "I don't know why I didn't see the pain in Maedhros still." His hands dropped to rest on his knees, his head still down. "I don't know that I can let this go about Fingolfin." His head tilted up until their eyes met. She was surprised to see tears in his. "And I don't know how my sons don't know how proud of them I am. How much I value them," he whispered.

"Oh, Fëanor," she said taking a step closer and putting her arms around his shoulders. Fëanor's arms wrapped around her waist as his head fell onto her chest. She stroked his hair as she resumed speaking. "It's not always as clear as you might think it is."

"But why?" came his muffled question. "Don't they see it? The whole world can see it. How could they ever think I would be disappointed in them?"

The conversation with Maglor must have been as intense as the one with Maedhros, more realizations and truths coming out. She shook her head. "They don't see it, Fëanor, at least not often enough," she explained. "That's what I see, what everyone else sees from you--your pride in them. But the boys don't get to see that side of you. They don't get to see the pride that's radiating from you."

He raised his head to look at her, the confusion apparent in his face.

She stroked his hair back. "They know you love them, they've never doubted that. But you rarely give them more than that. I know how much their achievements mean to you. You tell me, you tell your friends, you tell random people you meet. But you don't pass that along to them." She gripped his hair and tugged it gently as she made her next statement. "You just raise the bar."

"I encourage them, Nerdanel. I rejoice in their achievements," Fëanor protested.

"No, you don't." She shook her head again. "You challenge them to do more, to work harder, go further. You delineate where they could have done better. You provide feedback and criticism. That's not true encouragement and praise. Not if all they see is you just raising the bar again."

"That's what Maglor said," he muttered. His lips compressed and he looked down again. "I never expect more of them than they are capable of."

Nerdanel turned his face up to meet hers. "Perhaps not, but I don't know if you ever let them know they are enough as they are."

"They are more than enough, Nerdanel. Each one is infinitely precious to me," Fëanor admitted.

She leaned down to kiss his forehead. "I know that. But you need to work on sharing that with them, my love. We've talked about this before. You may think you are. But from what Maedhros said earlier, and now Maglor too, it's not as clear to them as it may be to you." Her fingers grazed through his hair. "This is definitely a situation you must rectify, Fëanor. But for now Maedhros is the more pressing issue. We need to talk about him." She placed her hands on either side of Fëanor's face, locking her gaze on his. "What do you intend to say to him in the morning?"

His hands reflexively gripped her waist tightly. "I don't want him to go."

"You know what you need to do then," she replied.

"But Nerdanel!" The spark flared in her husband's eyes and she dropped her hands to his shoulders. "Don't give me that look, Nerdanel. I do know what I must do but it doesn't mean I have to like it." The forehead crease was back. "You know how I feel about Fingolfin, You know how I feel about her. I've no idea what this boy is like. . . "

Nerdanel cut him off. "And you won't know until you meet him. And you won't get a chance to find out if you try to intimidate him when you do meet him." She chewed on her bottom lip as she contemplated her next words. "I know how you feel about Fingolfin and Indis, Fëanor. I know how you feel about how the lawsuit played out, how the settlement was handled. But I have been remiss for letting you hold on to all this misguided dislike for so long."

She put a finger to his lips as he started to protest. "No, Fëanor. You need to hear me out. You are risking not only your relationship with our son but my relationship with him as well. I can't condone that." She moved her hands back to his hair, the soothing motions bringing him more comfort than he was willing to admit.

"I will tell him this is his home, no matter what," Fëanor said slowly. "It's the truth. I will tell him Fingon is welcome in our home." He grimaced at her stern expression and grudgingly added "And I will be civil when I meet him."

She rewarded him with another forehead kiss. "You can be so charming when you choose to be, Fëanor. Give the boy a chance. He must be something special if he's managed to break through Maedhros' walls."

"Maglor certainly seems to think so," Fëanor said.

Nerdanel's eyes crinkled as she smiled down at her husband. "He must be exceedingly special then, if Maglor approves, as protective as he is of Maedhros."

"I'll speak to Maedhros in the morning then," Fëanor said. "Unless you think I should speak to him now?" he said uncertainly.

"No, you're worked up and so is Maedhros. One of you could slip up and say something unfortunate. You both need a bit of a break tonight. Just remember to be kind, Fëanor. Maedhros has always wanted to make you proud, to live up to your expectations. Don't make him feel like he is lacking something, or lessened by this, ok?"

"Ok."

"Should I come with you when you speak to him?" she asked gently.

She could see the mutinous fire in his eyes, the defiant set of his jaw, but then his shoulders slumped and the fire faded. His head fell forward onto her chest again. "Please," he said.

Her arms tightened around him. "All right then." They stayed in that position for a few moments, Fëanor gently breathing in her scent, Nerdanel stroking his back softly. His hands settled on her hips and he shifted his head to look up at her.

"There's one more thing," she said reluctantly, hands coming up to cup his face.

"What?" he asked, a guarded look coming into his eyes.

"I need you to promise me you won't confront him."

"Confront who? Maedhros? I already told you I wouldn't," Fëanor said irritably.

"You can't do what you did to Maedhros," Nerdanel cautioned.

"What are you talking about?"

"Fëanor, Tyelko is dating someone new too," Nerdanel stated.

"I know. Some athletic girl. Just his type, sounds like. What's that got to do with anything?"

"She's Fingon's sister, my love," Nerdanel explained.

Fingon's sister. Which made her Fingolfin's daughter. Bloody hell. He pushed back away from Nerdanel, his eyes wide and the strain evident on his face. "Fingolfin's daughter?" His voice cracked as he said the words.

Nerdanel nodded, an uneasy look on her face. "Fëanor."

He put a hand up to stop whatever was forthcoming. "Let me catch my breath, Nerdanel. It's bad enough one of them is involved with a child of Fingolfin's. Now I have to come to terms with the fact that two of them are?" His eyes narrowed and he pressed his lips together. "Tell me this is it, it's just the two of them. None of our other children are dating Fingolfin's spawn are they?"

Nerdanel crossed her arms and glared at him. "You are not making progress if you refer to them as 'spawn', Fëanor. Stop it. And no, none of our other children are involved with any of his other children. Just these two."

Fëanor massaged his temples and squeezed his eyes shut. "How do you know this?"

"When Tyelko was telling me about her he told me she was Fingon's sister," she explained, wisely refraining from mentioning her eldest son's role as match-maker.

"All right then," Fëanor said. "My oldest son is in a relationship with Fingolfin's son. My second son is completely supportive of this relationship, threatening to leave the house as well, if I have objections to it. My third son is dating Fingolfin's daughter." His voice was toneless.

"Yes," Nerdanel agreed.

"And I am going to accept this and let them proceed as they see fit," he added slowly, his voice unchanged.

Nerdanel laughed. "Yes, yes you are." She pulled Fëanor into her arms and kissed the top of his head. "They're grown men, Fëanor. You had one son already when you were Tyelko's age and three by the time you were Maedhros' age. You're in no position to pass judgement."

His arms circled her waist again. "I suppose you're right," he conceded grumpily. "Now can we be done with this conversation and just go to bed?" He looked up at her expectantly.

She traced a finger along his jawline. "Just one more thing," she whispered. "I'm not asking you to do it tonight but we need to talk about Fingolfin." She steeled herself to the stormy look he sent her way.

"I've nothing to say about him."

"Fëanor," she admonished. "That's not true and you know it." She tapped her forefinger on his forehead lightly. "It's been long enough. You need to talk this out. You need to let it out and then let it go." Nerdanel shook her head at his protests. "I don't know how serious these relationships are but you and I were married when we were younger than our two boys. You can't have all this bad blood with Fingolfin hanging over everyone. It's time to come to terms with it, like it or not." His flashing eyes met hers. "At least try, Fëanor. It's past time."

"I can't make any promises . . ." Fëanor said, his eyes scrunched and his jaw clenched. She didn't waver. He grimaced and shook his head. "I will try," he offered finally.

"That's all I can ask," she responded. "That you try." Nerdanel pulled him to his feet and wrapped an arm around his waist. "Let's go to bed. This night has been exhausting. You need to be up early to talk to your son." She looked up at him, a warning frown on her face. "I'd suggest you don't mention any of this to Tyelko. It won't end well if you do."

He nodded. "I've no stomach for an encounter like that. Maedhros and Maglor have been more than enough. I've never been good with Tyelko's rages and I've no interest in attempting to weather one of those now." Fëanor leaned down to brush his lips to the top of her head. "Thank you," he murmured into her hair.

"Don't thank me," she said. "You know what you have to do."

______________________________________

Fingon locked his phone and then unobtrusively slipped it into his pocket. He had joined the rest of the family to watch movies after his conversation with his father but he couldn't really concentrate on the film. His mind was drifting elsewhere. He didn't think anyone had noticed his few minutes of covertly texting Maedhros.

He glanced around and found Aredhel's eyes on him. It seemed she had noted his temporary distraction. He looked away from her.

They had not found time to have their promised private conversation after the events of the day before. Truth be told Fingon had been avoiding her. He really didn't want to endure another lecture from her. He wasn't at liberty to disclose much of anything and her insinuations about Maedhros frustrated him. Aredhel's own past experiences had not been benign and he understood that she was just trying to look out for him but it was still irritating, how quick she was to judge Maedhros without knowing all the facts.

His gaze darted in her direction again. She was still glaring at him. He rolled his eyes at her and turned his attention back to the nameless action movie on the television. Fingon couldn't remember what had just happened in the scene or who exactly the people were on the screen but it was better viewing than the looks Aredhel was giving him.

His kept his eyes on the television but his mind was still on Maedhros. He had learned enough about him over these last few months to know there was quite a bit unspoken in their text exchange. Fingon's 'rough spots' for the night were probably mild in comparison to Maedhros'. For Maedhros to even mention them meant they were likely quite significant.

Fingon wondered what had happened. He had been around the three brothers enough at Formenos to catch snatches of their conversations and references to their family. Maedhros had told him a little bit about the chaos that usually ensued when all seven brothers were under one roof. And he had hinted at the occasional volatile nature of interactions between his parents.

The holidays could be stressful he reminded himself. Grown children forced back into shared quarters. Lack of privacy. Intrusive questions from family. Forgotten quirks and previous quarrels rising to the surface due to the enforced proximity. That was probably what was occurring across the park with Maedhros.

He would find out more tomorrow. He was looking forward to even a few moments together. Fingon had not expected to miss Maedhros quite as much as he did. It was over two months since they had first met but the intensity of their interactions in the past week-t-he nights spent in Formenos, the visible manifestations of Maedhros' nightmares, the revelations of Maedhros' past that had surfaced, the initiation of their physical intimacy--all those things had managed to bring them so much closer. He missed Maedhros' warm presence, not to mention his physical touch. Fingon sighed, unaware now of Aredhel's continued attention on him.

Just a few more days and he would be back in that familiar bed in Formenos. And maybe, just maybe, he would be driving there himself for a change.
Chapter 39 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Maedhros woke up early. It was a habit and even vacation did not alter his internal clock. He chose not to get out of bed right away. He knew he should get up and speak to his father, preferably before the whole family was awake.

Instead Maedhros stared at the ceiling, noticing the small cracks and imperfections he remembered from years before. He dreaded the upcoming conversation. The cold fury of last night had left him. There was just resignation now at his father's anticipated decision.

Running through the possible scenarios and arguments in his head did nothing to diminish his agitation. He threw off the covers.

Enough. Even his eloquent words were unlikely to sway his father, if Fëanor's decision had already been made in the night. He may as well just go and get it over with.

Still he found ways to delay the inevitable. He took a shower. He returned to the room to find Maglor still burrowed in his blankets, his tousled hair barely visible within the cocoon he had made for himself.

Maedhros dressed and then regarded his other clothes. May as well pack, he decided. If he was going to stay true to his word and depart if his father remained inflexible then it would be better to just leave after his conversation with Fëanor.

He began to pack. Despite his attempts to be quiet, his movements soon woke his brother.

Maglor peeked out of the comforter at Maedhros. "What are you doing?" he asked.

"Packing," Maedhros responded.

Maglor sat up abruptly, scattering the blankets. "What do you mean 'packing'? Did you already talk to Dad?" There was a note of panic in his voice as he pushed himself up out of the bed.

"No," Maedhros replied. "I haven't gone downstairs yet." He stuffed a rolled up pair of jeans into his duffel bag. "I can't avoid it forever though."

"If you haven't talked to him why are you packing?" Maglor asked, hurriedly pulling on a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt.

"Just in case. I can make a better dramatic exit, if my bags are already packed." Maedhros mustered up a smile at his attempt at humor but it didn't reach his eyes. They were stormy, clouded with anxiety. Maglor could see the tenseness of his older brother's posture and the set of his jaw.

"I don't think Dad's going to be that bad," Maglor said, scrabbling under the bed to find his running shoes. "He cares more about you than who you date."

"You weren't the one who talked to him last night," Maedhros said.

That wasn't accurate but Maglor wasn't about to correct him.

Maedhros shoved a t-shirt into the bag and then looked at Maglor curiously. "You going somewhere?"

Maglor had layered a turtleneck over his T-shirt and was rummaging in the chest of drawers for socks. "I'm going for a run with Tyelko."

"You're doing what?"

"Going for a run with Tyelko." Maglor hopped on one foot as he put his sock on. He checked the time on the clock by his bed. "He usually goes around this time so I thought I'd join him."

"You hate running," Maedhros said, crossing his arms and leaning against the dresser to observe his brother. "What's this really about?"

Maglor gave him an exasperated look. "I told you last night. I didn't get a chance to catch Tyelko alone." He waved his arm around vaguely. "Didn't get to talk to him about all this Fingolfin business." He ran a hand through his already unruly hair. "So I thought I would catch him this morning. If you're going down to talk to Dad then I'm getting Tyelko out of here. The last thing you need is Tyelko listening in and flying into one of his rages."

Maedhros paled. "No, that wouldn't be good at all." He frowned at Maglor, annoyance radiating from him as he continued. "Which is why I wanted to talk to him last night."

Maglor looked up from tying his shoe. "Like that would have been any better? Come on, Maedhros. The only way we can avoid a Tyelko meltdown is if he's not here when you talk to Dad." Maglor stood up. "I'll talk to him. While we're out. Detonate the bomb away from home base, so to speak." He glanced at the clock again. "Gotta go, if I'm going to catch him."

He gripped Maedhros' shoulder as he walked by him. "Give Dad a chance, Maedhros. He may surprise you." And then he was gone.

It was a close thing. Tyelko was in the kitchen, drinking orange juice directly from the container, when Maglor found him.

"Seriously, it's disgusting when you do that and then put it back in the refrigerator," Maglor complained

"Who said I'm putting it back in the refrigerator?" Tyleko said, rinsing the container out before tossing it in the recycling. "This is early for you, no wonder you're being a pain in the ass. Why are you even out of bed?"

"I was going to see if you wanted to go for a run," Maglor said to his younger brother.

"You're kidding, right?"

"I am not kidding. Are you going for one or not?" Maglor asked.

"Short one today," Tyelko replied. "I need to head out to the stores for a bit."

Maglor gaped at him. "Are you still not done with your Christmas shopping?"

Tyelko flushed, which was unexpected. "No, I'm done with the family. I just wanted to get something for Aredhel, before I see her again." He continued at Maglor's curious look. "I wasn't sure if I should get her anything," Tyelko said, rubbing at the back of his neck and looking down.

He needed to clarify with Aredhel what exactly this was between them. But he hadn't dared to yet; he really didn't want to think about what a punch in the gut it would be if she considered this just something casual.

"And you decided to after all?" Maglor queried.

A darker flush came over Tyelko's face. "It's Christmas, you know? I thought I should get her something."

"You really like her, don't you?" Maglor said, a fond smile on his face.

Tyelko cleared his throat and rubbed the back of his neck again before meeting Maglor's eyes. "Yeah, I really do."

"Good. I'm happy for you, Tyelko," Maglor said. "So is it ok if I join you for a run?"

Tyelko's eyes widened. "You're serious."

"I just want to get out of the house and clear my head," Maglor said.

Tyelko's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Who's in for it?" he asked, tone clipped.

"No one's 'in for it', Tyelko," Maglor said, hoping his words remained accurate. "I just want to get out and thought you might like some company."

Tyelko's head tilted and appraising look came over his face. "Ok, then. Good thing it's a short run today."

They hadn't gone very far from the house when Tyelko gave Maglor a side-long look. He was purposefully keeping his pace slow, so Maglor could keep up. "Can I ask you something?" Tyelko said.

"If you want to go for a longer run then the answer is no," Maglor huffed.

"No, it's not that. I need to keep you alive for Christmas, after all," Tyelko said.

Maglor glared at him. Despite his joking words Tyelko looked more serious than Maglor expected. "What's up, Tyelko?"

"It's about Aredhel."

"Ok."

"She's a bit freaked out about the whole Maedhros thing with Turgon this weekend." Tyelko was frowning now.

"Ok. That's not too surprising," Maglor responded.

"She's got it in her head that Mae's 'volatile', Mags. She's all worried he's going to do some freak lash-out at Fingon." Tyelko gave him another side-long look. "I hate her thinking that about Mae. I told her he's not like that. But I'm not sure she really believed me."

They pounded down the pavement for a few blocks before Tyelko spoke again. "I don't know how to convince her, other than telling her about Mae but I don't feel like I have the right to do that. That's his business. I think she'd understand and not worry so much if she knew but I don't feel I can tell her. It's not my place."

"You're right. It's Maedhros' decision who knows, not yours, even if it's for a good reason."

Tyelko huffed out a breath of air. "That's what I told her. That it's personal." He frowned again. "She said she would talk to Fingon about it." Tyelko turned his head to look at Maglor. "You think Mae's told Fingon the whole story yet?"

Maglor knew he had. He and Maedhros had stayed up, late into the night, talking like they used to years ago when they had shared a room. Maedhros had confided that he had told Fingon everything.

"Fingon knows," Maglor said.

The tension sapped out of Tyelko at his words. "Good. Finally."

"Yeah. It is good," Maglor agreed.

"All right then. She can take it up with Fingon. Since he knows."

"I don't think he'd tell Aredhel either," Maglor pointed out. "Not unless Maedhros told him he could. It's not your job to convince her, Tyelko."

"It's my job to stand up for Mae," Tyelko said, slowing to a stop to face Maglor, who also paused his run. "It's my job to say something when people make assumptions about him." Tyelko's eyes were cold and hard. "I know what he's been through. I'm not going to stand by and let people say things . . . not even Aredhel."

"Hey." Maglor put a hand on Tyelko's shoulder. "I feel the same. Don't let this come between you guys. She's looking out for Fingon like you're looking out for Maedhros. She can take it up with Fingon."

"But I have to say something," Tyelko argued.

"Say the truth. Bad things happened. He has some involuntary reactions. He's not volatile. He's not dangerous. The reasons behind it are his business. End of story."

Tyelko deflated, shoulders slumping. "That's pretty much what I told her," Tyelko said. "I'm not so sure it made a difference."

"Listen, you did the right thing. If Maedhros gives you clearance to talk about it with her fine. . ."

Tyelko cut him off. "I am not going to discuss this with Mae," he stated. "That's the last thing he needs. You know he's already paranoid about what Fingon's family thinks about him. He doesn't need confirmation that he's on someone's shit list."

Maglor shook his head. "No, you're right about that--he doesn't need to hear about this from you." He motioned to Tyelko and resumed running, his brother a few steps behind at first but catching up easily.

This was probably as good a time as any to tell Tyelko. If Maedhros' conversation with Fëanor did not go well, Tyelko would hear about it anyway.

And if it did go well? There was still a chance that Fëanor would make some comment about it that would rub Tyelko the wrong way. Might as well avoid that. This is why he had him out here alone, after all.

They ran in silence for the next few blocks, reaching Thargelion Park and swerving to the right, to skirt around the park itself.

"You know Aredhel's father knows Dad," Maglor said casually.

"Yeah, he mentioned he was at Cuivienen with Mom and Dad when I met him," Tyelko answered.

"You met him?"

"When I picked Aredhel up yesterday."

Maglor jogged along as he thought how to present the next piece of information. "He was Grandfather's attorney."

"Why didn't I know that?"

"You wouldn't remember. It was awhile ago." Maglor wiped his forehead. "You weren't around much to know, but he was pretty involved in the lawsuit and settlement too."

"Oh." Tyelko's tone was clipped. "I take it Dad doesn't like him then. He never has anything good to say about any of that."

"No, Dad doesn't really like Fingolfin. For a lot of reasons--most of which I don't know or understand," Maglor said.

Observant Tyelko was in evidence today. "That's why Dad was asking about Maedhros yesterday, isn't it? Why you're talking to me about him now?" Tyelko asked. At Maglor's silence he continued. "I take it since Dad doesn't like him, by extension he doesn't like his kids."

"Something like that," Maglor agreed. "But . . ."

Tyelko interrupted. "That's why he wanted to talk to Maedhros. He doesn't like Maedhros seeing Fingon, does he?"

"No, he doesn't. But Dad and Maedhros are working through that."

Tyelko stopped. Maglor ran on for a few steps before he realized he had. "They're hashing it out now, aren't they? That's why you came out here with me."

"Tyelko."

"No, Maglor, answer me. Tell me straight. Stop skirting around it. What the hell is going on?" Tyelko's face was flushed.

Shit. This was not playing out the way Maglor had intended.

He paused to catch his breath before replying. "Dad and Maedhros had a talk last night," he began.

"A talk?" Tyelko crossed his arms and glared at his brother. "Which is why we never saw Maedhros, Mom or Dad after dinner? Or you, for that matter?"

Maglor cursed internally. Of course Tyelko would figure it all out. "Tyelko. Dad found out about Fingon being Fingolfin's son. He wasn't happy about it and wasn't happy Maedhros hadn't told him. Maedhros was pretty irritated at Dad about the whole thing. They're resolving their differences about the issue this morning." Maglor modulated his voice to make it smoother, more soothing. "There's nothing for you to be concerned about. Just a head's up. Dad may be a bit of a bear today. That's all."

"I'm going to assume Dad said something pretty raw to Maedhros if they didn't 'resolve' this last night." Tyelko narrowed his eyes at Maglor. "He told Maedhros to stop seeing him, didn't he?" He punched his fist into his other hand. "Damn it, Maglor. Tell me--is that what Dad said?"

Maglor's uncomfortable silence was answer enough.

"He did, didn't he? Without knowing anything about him, about them, without meeting him, without realizing what he means to Mae?"

"Tyelko," Maglor tried again.

"No, fuck that, Mags. Dad doesn't get to do that." He turned around. "Come on. We're going home. I've got some things to say to Dad."

"Tyelko, stop," Maglor raised his voice and grabbed Tyelko's arm. "You don't have to say anything to Dad. I already did."

"You already did?" Tyelko was incredulous.

"Yes, last night, after Maedhros told me about it," Maglor said irritably. "Maedhros doesn't know and so help me, I will beat you bloody if you tell him."

"I won't tell him," Tyelko said. "You actually talked to Dad? For real?"

"You think I would just sit by?" Maglor let go of Tyelko's arm. "Trust me, I got it across to him, far better than one of your explosions would. Just give it a rest. I took care of it, ok?"

"Give it a rest? How am I supposed to give it a rest? Fingon's the best thing to happen to Mae in forever and I'm going to sit back and let Dad fuck with that?" Tyelko stepped closer, his face inches from Maglor's.

"Tyelko. Shut it," Maglor growled. "I told you--I took care of it. Yelling at Dad isn't going to help and you know it. Dad's just blustering. He's venting whatever frustrations he has about his relationship with Fingolfin on Maedhros." He put his hand on Tyelko's chest and pushed him back slightly. "Let it go, Tyelko. It's under control. You aren't going to make anything better if you go toe to toe with Dad on this. It will only make things worse. Trust me."

The brothers glared at each other. Tyelko finally spoke again, grinding out his words. "So help me, Maglor, if Dad says one thing about Aredhel."

"He won't. Letting him resolve this with Maedhros means he'll drop the whole thing. That includes you and Aredhel."

"When has Dad ever dropped anything?" Tyelko countered.

Maglor raised his voice again. "He'll drop this. I told you. I spoke with him. It's not worth hurting Maedhros and Dad realizes that."

They regarded each other in silence for another moment.

"Come on, let's go," Maglor said. "I think you need a longer run today, after all." He shoved Tyelko's shoulder. "Don't let this get to you, Tyelko. And for fuck's sake, don't talk to Dad--it will make things worse. He's going to accept this so just be content with that, ok?" He moved closer. "Ok?"

"Ok," Tyelko finally said.

"Come on," Maglor repeated. "There's a new breakfast place at the other end of the park. My treat."

_______________________________________________

Maedhros zipped up his duffel bag and dropped it by the bed. No more procrastinating. It was time to go speak to his father.

The kitchen was silent and empty, his mother's studio the same. It was unlikely they were still in bed so they must be in his father's study, Maedhros surmised. He found his coat and boots in the laundry room and trudged along the short path to his father's workshop.

He put his ear to the door--no raised voices. He could hear the faint murmur of conversation. So they were both here. He knocked twice, waiting for his father's response before opening the door. Maedhros had walked in on them more than once in his youth and knew better than to barge in, even now.

His mother was seated on his father's lap, one arm curved behind his neck, his arms circling her waist. They appeared to be looking at something on his father's computer, his mother's free hand working the mouse.

Nerdanel slid off Fëanor's lap as Maedhros entered the room, moving to stand behind her husband's office chair, her hands on his shoulders. She met Maedhros' eyes and tilted her head, her warm smile encouraging him to come closer.

"Good morning, Maedhros," Fëanor said, as Nerdanel echoed his words. Maedhros responded in kind and then his father motioned to the chair in front of his desk. "Sit? Your mother and I were just reminiscing over old photos."

Maedhros sat down, somewhat perplexed at his father's mild demeanor and his mother's iron grip on Fëanor's shoulders; he could see her fingers digging in.

"Old photos of what?" Maedhros asked.

"You. Your brothers. Family," Nerdanel said, her eyes staying focused on Maedhros.

He wasn't quite sure how to respond to that but found he didn't need to, as Fëanor spoke up instead.

"You know how important family is to me, Maedhros," Fëanor said.

Here we go, Maedhros thought. "So you've said," Maedhros replied curtly.

"It was always been important to me," Fëanor paused and Maedhros saw his mother's hands grip his father's shoulders again. "Ever since . . . ever since I Iost my mother."

Maedhros felt a chill come over him; it was rare to hear Fëanor speak of his mother. He knew he was staring at his father but he could not come up with an appropriate response. Again he found he didn't need to do so.

"I don't know if I have always made it clear how important you and your brothers are to me," Fëanor continued, his silver eyes fixed on Maedhros' own. "I may not have always expressed it in the most obvious way."

Maedhros could see Nerdanel's fingers release their iron grip and gently stroke his father's shoulders instead. "Not always," Maedhros confirmed. He kept waiting for his father to bring up the unsuitability of Fingon but it appeared Fëanor had more to say before he got to that.

"It goes beyond that," his father continued. Fëanor tilted his head back and regarded the ceiling, as if for inspiration. "You are all precious to me as individuals but your happiness is as well." He returned his gaze to his son. "I have come to the realization--and your mother concurs--that I have not always made that clear either."

Maedhros nodded. Where was this going? This was not how conversations usually went with his father. Fëanor seemed almost hesitant--a word typically incongruous in regard to him.

"I know I push, sometimes too hard." Fëanor resumed speaking, Nerdanel's hands continuing their gentle, reassuring movements on his shoulders. "I demand much. I've never thought it was more than any of you could handle." Fëanor winced as Nerdanel's fingers dug into him again. "But I don't know that I've communicated that the effort was enough for me."

"Not the end result?" Maedhros questioned, his mouth feeling unaccountably dry as he spoke.

"No," Fëanor said. "The effort is what mattered. If the end result was a success, so much the better. I did not intend for you to view those efforts as utter failure if the objective was not fully achieved. It is my failure to communicate that led you to that belief." Fëanor took a breath and exhaled. "And for that I am sorry."

Maedhros gripped the arms of his chair tightly. "Thank you," he said. "For clarifying."

Nerdanel nudged Fëanor.

"About last night, Maedhros . . ." Fëanor began.

Here it comes, Maedhros thought, sitting up straighter, steeling himself for his father's next words.

"I realize, based on our conversation last night, how important Fingon is to you."

More like confrontation than conversation but Maedhros let it go.

"I am sorry if I was dismissive of your relationship," Fëanor said. "That was inappropriate and insensitive."

"It was," Maedhros agreed.

"I allowed my feelings about Fingolfin to overtake me. It is unfair to judge the boy by his father."

"It is," Maedhros agreed, realizing he was basically echoing his father's words back to him but unable to muster the ability to do otherwise. This was one of the most unusual conversations he had ever had with his father.

Nerdanel nudged Fëanor again.

"I am sorry I let my emotions get the best of me," Fëanor said, leaning forward, Nerdanel's hands falling off his shoulders as he did. "I love you, Maedhros. You are my son. My beloved son and this is your home, no matter what. Fingon is welcome here--it was wrong of me to state otherwise. I apologize for that."

Maedhros nodded, now at a complete loss for words.

Fëanor stood up and made his way around the desk to stand in front of Maedhros. He held out his hand.

Maedhros stood, reaching out his own hand, and was unexpectedly pulled into his father's embrace.

"I am so sorry, Nelyo," Fëanor said, using the pet name from his childhood days.

Maedhros' arms went around his father; he closed his eyes and relaxed against his frame. "I really care about him, Dad," Maedhros whispered.

"I see that," Fëanor whispered back, his grip tightening on his son.

Nerdanel rested her forearms on the back of Fëanor's vacated chair and watched them, heedless of the tears running down her face. She had expected to need to step in, to facilitate this reconciliation between her husband and her son.

But Fëanor had found his words, had spoken from his heart. And her son--always the one to strive for resolution and conciliatory behavior--had been met halfway by his father.

Fëanor let go of Maedhros and stepped back to look up at his tall son. "I mean it when I say he is welcome here. I would like to meet him." A wistful expression crossed his face. "His father was a good companion, before . . . " Fëanor shook his head. "Nevermind, I am all caught up in memories today, it seems. Thanks to your mother."

"I'd like you to meet him," Maedhros said. He glanced at his mother. "Both of you." His brows drew together suddenly and he turned back to his father, concern on his face. "Dad, you may not know this but Aredhel--Tyelko's girlfriend--she's Fingon's sister." His gaze hardened. "You can't be harsh to Tyelko about her, it won't go well. He really likes her and he won't . . ."

"He won't take it well," his father finished the sentence for him. "No, I doubt he would." He shook his head. "It was wrong of me to say what I said to you. I won't make the same mistake with Tyelko." Fëanor saw the tension lessen in his son's frame. "I never should have done that to you in the first place."

"No, you shouldn't have," Maedhros agreed. "But I should have thought to mention who Fingon was, knowing how you feel about Fingolfin." He looked down at his father, his gaze strong and steady. "Simply to inform you," he continued. "Although I think you were likely to have had the same response--whether you heard it from me or discovered it for yourself."

Fëanor grimaced. "You aren't wrong. But don't put it on yourself. I can't blame you for avoiding it, if you expected my reaction to be what it was. I am sorry I proved you correct in your assumption."

Nerdanel had moved to join them. She slipped her hand into her husband's. "Oh, Fëanor. You do let your mouth run away with you." She reached out to touch Maedhros' arm. "I've already told you I can't wait to meet Fingon. Please bring him by sometime soon." She gave Fëanor a side-long look and a nudge. "I can guarantee your father will not bark or bite."

"Good," Maedhros said. "Because if Tyelko hears about any of this I can't guarantee he won't."
Chapter 40 by NelyafinweFeanorion
It was a long, cold walk back from breakfast. Maglor kept rubbing his hands together but they were so tingly from the cold he could barely feel them.

"It was your idea to go to breakfast," Tyelko said, rubbing his arms. "We should have called Mae to come get us."

"I'm sure Maedhros had more important things to do, like talk to Dad." Maglor hadn't gotten a text from Maedhros. He could only assume things had gone well. Or at least had not resulted in Maedhros leaving for Formenos. Surely he would have called if he was planning on leaving.

Maglor shivered and rocked on his heels as Tyelko punched in the garage door code. They both ducked under the garage door as soon as it reached a reasonable height, not willing to spend one more minute outside.

Tyelko made it to the laundry room door first. He yanked it open only to find Maedhros on the other side, unbalanced by the abrupt door opening, almost falling into him as a result.

"I was wondering if you were ever going to come back," Maedhros said, steadying himself with a hand on the door frame. "I texted you," he said to Maglor.

Even with the garage door closed now Maglor could feel himself shivering. He gingerly pulled his phone out of his pocket. "Crap. I must have left it on 'do not disturb' from last night." He looked up at Maedhros apologetically. "Sorry."

"At least you're back," Maedhros said. "I got a bit concerned when you weren't answering. I found Tyelko's phone on the kitchen counter so I knew there was no point calling him." He jangled his car keys at them. "I was heading out to look for you. I couldn't imagine you had lasted this long on a run, Maglor."

"Much as I appreciate the sentiments, Mae, can we do this in the kitchen? It's cold as fuck. I can't feel my hands or feet and I swear my balls are retracting," Tyelko complained.

Maedhros put a restraining hand flat on Tyelko's chest. "Nope. Not until I talk to you. Your balls have been blue before and you've survived," Maedhros said drily. "Listen, did Maglor talk to you? About Dad?"

Tyelko's eyes grew stormy and his face flushed. "Yeah and I have a few things to say about that . . . "

"No, you don't. Not if you want to come inside," Maedhros said flatly. "Dad's backed down. There's no need to rehash it, trust me Tyelko. I've said my piece and from what I understand from Mom, so has Maglor." Maedhros' silver eyes swept over to his other brother.

Maglor knew that look. He would be getting a lecture, of that there was no doubt. Maybe it could wait until he warmed up? "Ok, Maedhros, we get it. Can we please talk about this inside?" Maglor asked, another shiver rippling through him. "I think even my balls have progressed to purple by now."

Maedhros continued to bar their entrance. "Tyelko?" Maedhros' stern looked returned to his fair-haired brother.

"Fine. I won't say anything to Dad today. Now will you let us come into the damn house? Neither of us will ever be able to father children if we stay out here any longer," Tyelko growled.

"Idiots," Maedhros said, as he moved aside. "Why didn't you just call me for a ride?"

"Thought you'd be busy with Dad or driving like a maniac out to Formenos," Maglor's teeth were chattering now, as he stepped into the house.

"I never drive like a maniac," Maedhros objected, closing the door behind him.

Tyelko and Maglor exchanged glances. Tyelko rolled his eyes at his eldest brother and Maglor just shook his head. "Figure of speech, Mae, figure of speech," Tyelko said, barreling past him to get to the warmth of the kitchen.

Soon the three of them were seated at the kitchen table, mugs of steaming tea in hand. Maedhros shook his head when Maglor asked for details of his conversation with Fëanor. "Not here, Maglor. Everyone's home and I don't need the whole family embroiled in this. You two are bad enough. We can talk up in our room later."
___________________________________________________

Maedhros cornered Tyelko while Maglor showered and Tyelko finally, grudgingly agreed to let the matter rest and not antagonize Fëanor any further. Assurance that there would be no repercussions about his relationship with Aredhel seemed to finally mollify him. He had left when Maglor had returned, to take his turn in the shower.

Maedhros turned his attention to Maglor. "Why didn't you tell me you talked to Dad?" Maedhros asked. His expression was guarded, his gaze intense.

"You'd had a rough enough night as it was-you didn't need to be worried about me," Maglor said, throwing up a hand warningly when Maedhros tried to interrupt. "No, let me say this," he continued, his voice strengthening and the timbre deepening as he spoke. "I know how you were before Fingon. And after. I see what the two of you mean to each other." He rubbed his hands on his legs and resumed. "You weren't going to tell Dad that. But I could give him a snapshot of it, a view that you wouldn't share. Maybe my insight as an outsider would make him rethink what you had already said to him." He narrowed his eyes at Maedhros. "I think I just reframed it," Maglor admitted. "And I think he had already realized he'd overstepped, by the time I got to him. He really didn't give me the kind of fight I expected." Maglor regarded Maedhros intently, fists clenched in anticipation of the lecture Maedhros had in store for him.

But instead he got one of Maedhros' smiles, those soft, fond ones he remembered from their youth. "You are a force to be reckoned with when you get riled up, Maglor. I'm glad it doesn't happen often and that I'm not on the receiving end." Maedhros' voice dropped. "Thanks. I know how much you hate doing that kind of thing. Especially with Dad."

"I'll do whatever I need to for you, Maedhros." Maglor kept his voice steady with effort.

"I know," Maedhros said. "And I would do the same for you."

"You've spent your whole life doing it already-for me, for Tyelko, for all of us. It was only fair for me to speak up for you, for once."
____________________________________________________________

Maedhros had left Tyelko and Maglor contentedly sprawled on the family room sofa, arguing about whether to watch a movie or play video games. This encroachment into what the twins considered their personal territory had engendered some indignant squawking from the Ambarussa but Maedhros had cheerfully made his exit anyway, leaving the four of them to argue amongst themselves. They could figure it out. He had plans with Fingon and he wasn't about to be late.

Maedhros was actually early and had only been at the cafe for a few minutes when Fingon slid into the booth across from him.

"Hey," Fingon said, his eyes lighting up at the sight of Maedhros. He stretched his hand across the tabletop.

Maedhros linked their hands together and felt the calm of Fingon's presence settle over him. "How'd it go?" he asked, fingers threading through Fingon's, warming the other's chilled hand. "You find a car?"

"We found dozens of cars. Dad wants me to get a new one, even though I keep telling him used is fine." There was a note of exasperation in Fingon's voice.

"So nothing looked good, then?"

Fingon groaned. "They all looked good. But Dad isn't satisfied with new-he wants new and a deal on it. Not so easy a combo." Fingon's shoulders slumped. "He likes to haggle. It drives Mom crazy-he does it everywhere, all the time. When we're on vacation, with appliance purchases, home maintenance, everything. It never bothered me much-well, it did when I was a kid-we could never get through the street markets in Alqualondë without Dad trying to drive a bargain for something. But it drove me mad today-I just want a car, any car."

Maedhros laughed, his fingers tightening on Fingon's affectionately. "My Dad's the same way. I think he just enjoys the process." His face grew more serious. "Not just any car, Fingon. The roads to Formenos and around the lake get ugly in the snow. You've seen that with me. I want you in something safe, something with all-wheel drive, a car that handles well in all kinds of weather." He squeezed Fingon's hand again for emphasis.

"This kind of protective Maedhros I like," Fingon said.

Maedhros looked puzzled. "What do you mean? I'm just being sensible."

Fingon smiled. "Fine then. I love sensible, protective Maedhros." He rubbed his thumb over the top of Maedhros' hand. "I'll tell Dad I want the Subaru. He can negotiate the details to his heart's content, since he's bound and determined to do so." He leaned back, resting his head against the leather booth as his eyes drifted over the restaurant. "This place is new. I didn't even know it was here."

"Tyelko and Maglor found it this morning and mentioned it. It's close to your parent's place so it seemed like a good idea."

They put their order in when the waitress came and Fingon laughed at Maedhros' story of Maglor and Tyelko walking back home in the cold, too full of food to run back.

"So how was your night?" Fingon asked. "Usual brotherly chaos?"

"Something like that," Maedhros said but Fingon had caught his hesitation.

"You said there were some rough spots. What happened?" Fingon asked gently.

A troubled look briefly flashed across Maedhros' face but all he said was "You had some rough spots too, you said. You go first."

Fingon opened his mouth to argue but something about the set of Maedhros' jaw stopped him. All right, then. He would go first and leave nothing unsaid. Perhaps that would be the best way to encourage Maedhros to share what was bothering him.

"Family, you know. Close quarters, after living apart." He looked at Maedhros directly. "My Dad was quite curious to hear about you. I told him I knew you were acquainted."

"Ok," Maedhros said noncommittally.

Fingon continued, eyes on Maedhros to gauge his reaction. "He was more concerned about how your father was going to react to us seeing each other."

Maedhros' eyes widened. "Oh," he said, keeping his voice neutral.

Fingon met his gaze, his eyes steely now. "Stop it, Maedhros. This is me you're talking to. We need to be upfront about all of this because it affects us both, ok? I'm just telling you what Dad said."

Maedhros nodded. "Ok, so tell me."

Fingon drummed the fingers of his free hand on the table. "Dad was very reticent to say anything about meeting you before." Fingon shook his head. "Attorney-client privilege," he grumbled. "But he did admit he and your dad had been close, at one time, but have a pretty strained relationship now. That's why he was concerned about your father's reaction."

Maedhros withdrew his hand from Fingon's and dropped both his hands below the table, to his lap, where he could clench them unseen. "Did he object to us seeing each other? Did he ask you to break this off?"

Fingon's heart thumped. Careful now, he told himself. His father had suggested just that but he suspected Maedhros' reaction was due to a similar occurrence with his own father. Fingolfin had been persuaded to change his views. Fingon wondered if Fëanor had not.

"He was worried your father would object," Fingon said, reaching across the table to rest his open hand in front of Maedhros. "Did your father ask you to end it with me, Maedhros? Just tell me if he did. Please don't sugar coat it. I need to know."

The tension didn't leave Maedhros but his hand crept up from under the table to take Fingon's. "He didn't approve," Maedhros said slowly. "And initially, yes, he mentioned me breaking it off before it got too serious." He gave Fingon a half-hearted smile. "Too late for that, of course."

"What do you mean 'initially'?" Fingon asked.

"I said no when he said to break it off. I told him that you meant far too much to me. That I'd walk out on him before I'd ever leave you," Maedhros said.

A warm sensation rushed through Fingon at Maedhros' words but a sliver of apprehension too. His father had been right, Fingon thought. He had thought Fingolfin had been exaggerating, to make his point, but he hadn't been. He'd been right.

"He doesn't even know me," Fingon murmured. "It's all about his falling out with Dad, isn't it?"

Maedhros' grip on his hand was almost painful now. "It is about that. But he's ok with it now, despite that. Dad fumed initially and blustered. But I wouldn't budge. I didn't know it until today but Maglor gave him a piece of his mind, after I spoke with Dad." The grip on Fingon's hand loosened slightly. "I've no doubt Mom talked some sense into him too. Dad apologized this morning. He admitted he overreacted." Maedhros tilted his head and his eyes crinkled at the corners as he continued. "He said he's looking forward to meeting you." Maedhros' smile was crooked but the hard edge in his gaze had faded.

"Great. Not stressing about that meeting at all," Fingon said tonelessly.

"There's no way he can't like you. Even if he tries not to," Maedhros said, his smile softening as he looked at Fingon.

Fingon wasn't so sure. His fingers on his free hand drummed a faster beat on the table and then his eyes widened in alarm. "What about Tyelko and Aredhel?"

"No worries," Maedhros assured him. "We're a package deal. He's backed off over the whole thing," Maedhros said. He reached his other hand out and captured Fingon's drumming fingers in his, lacing their hands together to still them. "It doesn't matter to me what he thinks or says. You matter." He leaned forward, across the table. "He's willing to back off-this is my life, my decision." Maedhros rubbed circles on the back of Fingon's hands. "But are you ok with your father's concerns?"

Fingon gaped at him. "Are you serious, Maedhros? My Dad accept this, accepts us. But if he didn't-it wouldn't change anything between us. We're in this together."

The arrival of the waitress with their food put a momentary pause on their conversation, which they resumed as she left.

"Mom wants to see you again," Fingon said, between bites of his omelette. "And Dad does too. He's really looking forward to it, you know? I promised to bring you by some time, before I start my internship." He looked up at Maedhros. "Is that ok?"

Maedhros put down his coffee cup. "Of course it's ok. I'd like to see them again too. Your father . . ." he paused, his gaze moving down to the table, his index finger swirling through the drops of water dotting the surface. "He was kind to me. When everything happened. I appreciate that." He looked up, his crooked smile making Fingon want to reach across the table to hug him close. Maedhros picked up his cup and took another sip of coffee before speaking again. "My Mom really wants to meet you and Aredhel too. Maybe over break you can come over or we can meet you somewhere, find a time for you to meet Mom and Dad. Strength in numbers, right?"

Fingon slumped onto the table. "Aredhel is being more of a problem than the parents at the moment."

"What do you mean?" Maedhros looked perplexed but then his face hardened. "Did Tyelko do something?" he asked. "Is that why Aredhel is upset?" The concern in his voice was evident.

"No, of course not! Any fool can see he's crazy about her. No, it's nothing to do with Tyelko." Fingon sighed. "It's me. Or to be more accurate-you and me."

"You and me?" Maedhros repeated. "I thought she was good with this," he muttered and then sat up abruptly, his expression closed off and hard. "It's about Saturday, isn't it? He closed his eyes. "I knew they wouldn't think I was safe for you," he said.

"Maedhros," Fingon said. "Look at me."

Maedhros opened his eyes, the anguish evident again.

"Maedhros. She's just worried. She doesn't understand." Fingon ran a hand through his hair as he tried to sort out his words. "Turgon's not the issue-he's taking it in stride and not worried about it. But Aredhel. Aredhel's different." He frowned and clasped his hands together in his lap. "She's had some rough times with relationships and that's made her wary. I haven't told her anything about . . . about your past. I didn't feel it was my place to. You put your trust in me by telling me and I'm not about to violate that trust."

"She thinks I'll hurt you, doesn't she?"

"Maedhros," Fingon said again, a sterner tone to his voice. "She worried about that, yes, I can't deny it." A frustrated look came over him. "It irritates me no end that she won't take my word that we've got it under control."

"I don't know that I'd go so far as to say we've got it under control," Maedhros said gently. "It's not something that's going to go away so easily."

"But we have a plan for dealing with it. And it's worked so far," Fingon insisted.

"Fingon, think about it. What would you think, if you were in her position?" Maedhros countered. "It's obvious she cares about you too much to keep quiet about her concerns. I can't fault her-I would do the same, if it were one of my brothers."

"She may care about me but she's not listening to me when I talk to her. I wish . . . I wish I could. . . " Fingon stopped himself. It wasn't fair to ask that of Maedhros.

Maedhros knew without him asking. "It's ok if you tell her. I don't mind. Perhaps I would have, a few weeks ago." He pushed his plate aside and reached out to Fingon again, taking his hand. "You can tell her. As much or as little as you want. Whatever works for you. Whatever you feel you need to share."

"You sure?" Fingon asked. "I don't want to have to make you do this, just because Aredhel's bothered." He chewed his bottom lip and then spoke again. "She had a relationship that wasn't good. The guy was super controlling-had to know where she was all the time, didn't trust her, didn't like her talking to other guys or hanging out with her friends. She was still in high school at the time. They finally broke up and he was awful then too-threatening, stalking her on social media, following her around at school, showing up places she was at, texting her day and night."

"I'm so sorry," Maedhros said. "You don't have to tell me this, really you don't. I get why she's worried."

"No, I want you to know. I think you deserve to know, if I'm going to tell her about you," Fingon said. "Turgon finally got the whole story out of her one weekend he was home. He told Dad about it."

Fingon frowned. "I still feel bad that I didn't even realize something was going on with her. We were always so close but I was so preoccupied with the start of my Master's program . . . I just wasn't around for her." He shook his head. "Dad was furious. He made it clear to the guy's parents he would take legal action if it didn't stop and that ended it. But it's made her wary." He shrugged. "And I can't say I blame her." Fingon leaned his head on his hand. "I'm actually surprised at how taken with Tyelko she is. She's been pretty hesitant to seriously date anyone since then. But maybe it's just that he's so different from that other guy . . ."

"Thanks for telling me, Fingon. I'm so sorry she had that happen to her." Maedhros looked disconcerted. "Did she say if she'd told Tyelko about it?"

"I don't think she has. At least she hasn't said anything. Why?"

"He's had some tough relationships also. He would totally be sympathetic with this but I think it would be a good idea if he knew. As you said, it's affected her relationships." Maedhros exhaled. "I don't know if you realize how much he likes her. He's hard to read, because he's so brash and confident, making jokes and acting the way he does. But Tyelko feels things very deeply. If she's looking for something totally casual it's best if Tyelko knows that upfront."

Fingon looked startled. "I don't think she's looking for something casual. But you're right-it will lead to problems if they're not on the same page." He nodded his head. "If I'm going to talk to her about you then it may be a good idea to mention Tyelko and let her know she needs to be a bit more upfront about her past and where they're headed. For both their sakes."

"I think that would be a good idea," Maedhros said.

"Thanks for giving me clearance to talk to her. I know it will put her mind at ease."

"You think?" Maedhros said. "I don't know that I sound any less alarming when you know the back story. I'm still damaged goods."

"You aren't damaged goods," Fingon said, his voice tender and soft. "You're one of the strongest people I know. And the best thing that ever happened to me. You've had horrible things happen to you and you've kept on going. It's more than most people could handle." His fingers tightened on Maedhros' and a small smile came over his face. "I should probably follow your advice though."

"What do you mean?" Maedhros asked.

"About being on the same page. We've talked about it some but maybe I should just say it," Fingon's blue eyes were bright and his cheeks flushed as he spoke. "I am in this for the long haul. I love you, Maedhros and I can't imagine my life without you."

Maedhros grinned as he gripped Fingon's hand back. "We are definitely on the same page," he said. "Same paragraph, in fact."
___________________________________________________________

Maedhros pulled into the driveway at his parents home, having dropped Fingon off already. He felt as if a weight had been lifted from him. He had dreaded telling Fingon about his conversation with Fëanor but it hadn't been that bad. Both of them had dealt with parental concerns and had resolved them, at least for now. Meeting the parents would be its own hurdle, likely a more challenging one for Fingon, Maedhros thought. But that would come after Christmas.

Christmas.

Shit. He had forgotten to check in with Erestor, to see if the book had arrived at Beleriand. He put the car in park and pulled out his phone to text his manager.

MAEDHROS: any sign of a package for me?

ERESTOR: I was going to text you before I closed for the night. Packages came today. I checked them all. It's the Safdie book you were waiting on, right?

MAEDHROS: That's the one. You got it?

ERESTOR: Yeah it's here. You want me to drop it off after work?

Maedhros started to text 'yes' but then he paused. The amusing hat he had bought for Fingon on a whim last week was still in Formenos, damn it. He had been so sure he would be back there to pick up the book that he'd neglected to pack the hat with his things. He and Fingon hadn't really made Christmas plans. He had a present for Fingon, two in fact now, but he didn't want to just drop them off to him. He wanted it to be special, this first Christmas of theirs.

The book and the hat were both in Formenos. An idea started to coalesce in his mind and it brought a smile to his face.

MAEDHROS: No, I've got to run down to the house for something tomorrow. Why don't I pick it up from the store.

ERESTOR,: Remember we close at noon tomorrow.

MAEDHROS: I know. I'm the one that sets the time, remember?

ERESTOR: Whatever. You forget things sometimes.

MAEDHROS: What?

ERESTOR: One of us is working right now. Gotta go. See you tomorrow.

This was not a conversation he wanted to have with FIngon by text.

Maedhros dialed Fingon's number from his car, still parked in his parents driveway. It was a far quieter place than the house was likely to be,

"Hey," Fingon answered

"Hey " Maedhros replied, unaware of just how fond the expression on his face was.

"You miss the sound of my voice already?" Fingon teased. Maedhros could just imagine his amused expression.

He closed his eyes. "Not all I miss," Maedhros said.

Fingon groaned. "Are you even home yet? Why are we not making out in your car somewhere right now?"

Maedhros laughed. "Because we both have family commitments."

"Family commitments can go hang," Fingon said mutinously.

"Ok, I didn't call to get you all 'bah humbug' about the holiday," Maedhros said. "I know we're both going to be busy today and tomorrow. . . "

"Dad's taking me car shopping again tomorrow," Fingon said tonelessly.

"That's a good thing," Maedhros pointed out

"Spending Christmas Eve in a Subaru dealership haggling is not a good thing."

Maedhros snorted. "You won't be the one haggling. You'll be watching bad holiday cable TV in the waiting room while the sales guy makes a deal with your dad so he can get home to his own family. Good tactic there on your dad's part."

"You're so comforting" Fingon complained. "What are you calling about anyway?"

"Like I said, I know we'll be busy tomorrow and Christmas Day but I was wondering if you had plans for Thursday night?"

"I now have plans with you," Fingon said agreeably.

"Great. Are you ok coming out to Formenos? I thought we'd have more privacy out there-Maglor and Tyelko will be at my parents still," Maedhros made a mental note to make sure they would be-he was not above bribery.

"I like how this is sounding. Go on." Fingon said.

"Nothing very elaborate. I thought it would be nice to get some time ourselves, kind of our own Christmas celebration," Maedhros said.

"Our first Christmas together," Fingon said gently.

"Something like that," Maedhros agreed.

"I'd like that." Fingon said, smiling at the thought. "You're working, right?"

"Yes."

"Meet you at the store, then?" Fingon asked.

"If that's ok with you?"

"Of course it's ok. Are we staying there for the night?"

"If it's ok with you and you don't need to be home. . ." Maedhros said, a questioning lilt in his voice.

"I don't need to be home," Fingon answered decisively.

"All right then, it's a date." Fingon could hear the smile in Maedhros' tone.

"Yeah, it is."
End Notes:
thanks to cheeky beak for reinforcing it should be Turgon who discovers Aredhel's questionable boyfriend situation.

Also I am tired of spellcheck wanting to change Erestor to Erector. It's figured out the other names--why not this one??
Chapter 41 by NelyafinweFeanorion
Author's Notes:
Lots happening in this chapter.
Chapter 41

Tirion, Christmas Eve Day: Fëanor and Nerdanel's house


Maglor yawned as he peeled the covers back to give Maedhros a bleary, perplexed look. "Why are you up?" he asked, squinting as he darted a look at the clock on the nightstand between their beds.

Maedhros flushed, gathered his hair into a knot at the nape of his neck and then turned to look at his brother. "I'm heading to Formenos for a bit."

"I thought you were off until after Christmas," Maglor mumbled.

"I am. But I forgot something at the house and Fingon's Christmas present finally showed up at the store," Maedhros answered, wiping his glasses clean before putting them on.

"So you're going to pick up the present and coming back?" Maglor sat up in bed, his hair disheveled and sticking up. "Why can't Erestor just drop it off? He lives up here doesn't he?"

"Maybe he's got plans too? I don't mind driving out there," Maedhros smiled, his eyes softening. "I've got some things I need to do."

Maglor narrowed his eyes. "Like what?" he asked suspiciously. "Or are you just trying to avoid family time?"

Maedhros laughed. "No, it's not that." He gave his brother a speculative look and then sat down on the bed next to him. "I'm just planning something for Fingon." The color deepened on his face as he spoke. "Just a private Christmas celebration for the two of us," he explained. "I won't have time Thursday--I'll be at the store all day."

"So you're planning something for this Thursday evening?" Maglor asked, more alert now as he studied his older brother.

"Yes I am," Maedhros admitted and then his expression grew stern. "No coming down to Formenos, ok? You and Tyelko both stay up here, would you please?"

"Hmm," Maglor made a noncommittal sound. "Tyelko and I were just talking about heading home Thursday."

"Well think again," Maedhros said, a steely look coming over him. He narrowed his eyes. "I can make it worth your while to stay away."

Maglor hit him with his pillow. "Shut up, you ass. Of course I'll stay up here and let you have some romantic one-on-one time with Fingon. After what you've put up with from Dad you deserve every minute of it."

Maedhros caught the pillow and grinned. "Thanks, Maglor."

"You need any help? You want me to work for you Thursday?" A sly grin came over his face. "Or should I offer to work Friday instead in case you want to sleep in?"

"No, I can handle today. I'll just get the book from Erestor today. I was planning on take-out for dinner Thursday so I'll be fine working." Maedhros looked down a little bashfully.

"And?" Maglor prodded.

"I just thought I might make the house a bit more festive for Christmas, you know?"

"You are such a hopeless romantic, you ridiculous dork," Maglor said fondly.

Maedhros shrugged. "I can't help it."

Maglor put his hand on his brother's knee. "I know. I get it." His eyes grew distant and his voice became a little hoarser as he spoke. "Trust me, I really do." He glanced up in time to stop Maedhros from speaking. "No, don't apologize. You deserve this and honestly it does me good to see you like this. Seeing you happy makes me happy." He was able to give Maedhros a genuine smile. "Let's just agree I'm working for you Friday, ok?" He leaned forward to catch Maedhros' eye. "You're sure you don't need help today? You're not going to be dragging some enormous tree into the house or anything like that are you?"

"No, don't be ridiculous. Just make sure to tell Tyelko to stay away and make sure he keeps away!"

"That I can handle. He was talking about seeing Aredhel Thursday night anyway. I was foolish enough to promise to go shopping with him today because the idiot hasn't bought her a gift yet." He looked at Maedhros pleadingly. "You're sure I can't ditch him and come with you?"

"Valar no! You have to go with him. Knowing Tyelko he'd buy her a puppy or some completely unsuitable thing." Maedhros shook his head decisively, eyes wide. "Make sure he doesn't go overboard--I wouldn't want him to scare her off--so don't let him overdo it." Maedhros' expression had gotten serious. "Seriously Maglor--nothing really expensive or commitment oriented, ok? I'm not kidding." He frowned. "Maybe I should go with him."

"Shut up, Maedhros. You don't have to supervise everything! I am perfectly capable of handling this. No jewelry, no heavy duty gifts, no animals. Got it." He bumped his shoulder against Maedhros'. "I may not be great at the romance thing but I usually managed to pick appropriate presents." He grimaced. "Most of the time."

Maedhros squeezed his shoulder in sympathy. "There was no reason to think otherwise at the time, Maglor. It seemed right to you and that's all that matters."

"Yeah, keep telling me that." He kicked Maedhros' leg lightly. "Now get out of here and get your romantic Christmas squared away."
_________________________________


He should have let Maglor come with him. Maedhros had been unable to resist stopping at the tree lot as he drove to the house. In the romantic excitement of planning he had failed to remember that dragging a large Christmas tree into the house was a challenging endeavor for one person--especially when the tree was as squat and bushy as this one. There were few to pick from on Christmas Eve.

Maedhros had finally managed to drag it into the library, a trail of needles marking his path from the garage. His gloves were most likely ruined from the sap, he was a sweaty, disheveled mess and his glasses were smeared and fogged up as well.

He had fortunately had the presence of mind to drag the tree stand out of the attic before bringing the tree into the house. Getting the tree situated in the stand would have been comical if not for the fact that it was so damn hard.

He cursed as his fingers slipped again and the whole tree precipitately wobbled before sliding sideways in slow motion. Maedhros let it lay there on its side, shedding more needles as he cursed again.

He shoved the trunk into the stand as the tree lay on its side, centered it and forcefully screwed the four anchors in. He stood the tree up and groaned as he saw it canting to the left.

Fifteen minutes later he had accepted defeat; the tree would lean left no matter how he maneuvered it in the tree stand. Maedhros left it lying forlornly on the library floor as he went to ransack the garage. He found some fishing line and rigged up a support line to keep the tree from falling over; it was secured to an anchor screwed into a wall stud. It wasn't pretty but it would have to do.

Maybe it wouldn't be so noticeable once the lights and ornaments were up. He wiped his sweaty forehead with his sleeve and checked the stability one more time before heading back to the kitchen to wash his hands. He splashed water on his face for good measure.

Cooled off and cleaner, he made his way back to the library. He had brought down the boxes of lights and ornaments already. Maedhros pulled the lid off the first box and shoved the colored lights aside to pull out the white ones instead. He had always loved the simplicity of the white lights--it made it look as if the stars themselves had alighted on the tree.

He nodded. The tree looked better already, the white lights giving it a soft glow. Maedhros opened the next box to find ornaments, starting to place them one by one on the tree. He unknowingly smiled as his memories came flooding back.

How long had it been since they had spent a Christmas in Formenos? His father had not had the heart to bring the family there for the holiday after Grandfather's death.

Over nine years then, Maedhros thought as he paused to remember, eyes on the box of ornaments in his hands. No. It was likely longer than that. The images came to him--he must have still been in high school--the Ambarussa still young enough to be running around in footed pajamas.

He was lost in the memories until the chiming of his phone distracted him. He put the box down and checked his messages.

MAGLOR : Mission accomplished? Tyelko has dinner plans with Aredhel here on Thursday night so you and Fingon have the house to yourselves.

MAEDHROS : : Great. Thanks. Should be done soon.

MAGLOR : : Mom wants to know if you'll be home for dinner with it being Christmas Eve and all--she wants to do the photos.

Maedhros groaned. He looked at the time. Not quite one. He should be done in an hour. He glanced at the carpet. He'd have to vacuum. Make that an hour and a half.

MAEDHROS :: I should be home by 3:30.

MAGLOR : : You bought a tree, didn't you?

MAEDHROS : : Shut up.

MAGLOR : : You did. I knew it.

MAEDHROS: : Shouldn't you be helping Tyelko shop?

MAGLOR : : All done.

MAEDHROS : : And?

MAGLOR : : I"ll let you know when you get home.

Maedhros shoved the phone in his pocket and resumed his decorating with more purpose and less daydreaming. He paused for a moment to carefully hang the three blown glass ornaments his father had made years ago. The lights on the tree made them glow as if the light was emanating from the center of the glass. It had always mesmerized him, how the light did that to them. They were always the most noticeable ornaments on the tree and his fascination had not faded over the years.

Almost done. Just one more thing. He rummaged through the boxes, finally finding the thin flat box under a layer of tissue in the biggest bin. Another bit of his father's handiwork.

The eight pointed silvery star glinted as he held it in his hands. He reached up to the very top of the tree, almost too far a reach even for his height, but Maedhros managed to stabilize it there. He stepped back to admire the result.

It would do. It wasn't perfect but it would do just fine.

It was two-thirty by the time he was done with the tree and had vacuumed up the endless trail of needles shed by it. He put the wrapped book under the tree, thankful that Erestor had volunteered to wrap it at the store.

It was a lovely book and he hoped Fingon would like it. It was Safdie's magnum opus--a book that traced the last fifty years of his design work in sleek pages and stunning photography. Maedhros had pored over the pages at Beleriand until Erestor had grumpily taken it away, reprimanding him for getting fingerprints on it and then expertly wrapping it as Maedhros watched.

He took the now-empty ornament boxes up to the attic and on his way back down he stopped in his bedroom to retrieve the winter hat he had bought for Fingon. It was already in a gift bag, tucked in the back of his closet. Maedhros pulled it out to look at it and laughed.

Fingon's hats never seemed to stay on his head properly. This hat, with its earflaps and braided golden ties would hopefully do a better job of keeping him warm. The clerk at the store had assured him the soft alpaca wool would do the trick and that the hat was meant to stay put. He touched a finger to one of the golden yarn braids and placed it gently back in the gift bag.

Maedhros took one last look at the tree, the wrapped book and the gift bag nestled underneath it. He switched off the lights and checked his watch. He would make it home in time.

______________________

Tyelko was staring into the open refrigerator when Nerdanel came into the kitchen.

"Stop that," she said, moving to close the refrigerator door. "We're eating in just a couple of hours."

Tyelko turned to face her. "Mom. Even if I eat something now I'll be hungry by then. You know this. After seven of us this shouldn't be an issue."

Nerdanel rolled her eyes. He was right, of course. "Have an apple," she countered, knowing her athletic son wouldn't argue too much.

Sighing he made his way to the fruit bowl on the counter and pulled an apple from it.

"You and Maglor have a successful shopping expedition?" she asked. "Pretty late even for you, Tyelko." She was intrigued to see a faint color come to his cheeks.

"Just a last minute gift," he said, focusing his attention on his apple.

"For Aredhel?" Nerdanel asked, as she pulled the potatoes out of the pantry to start preparing them for their dinner.

"Maybe."

She smiled, her face turned away from him as she scrubbed the potatoes in the sink. She knew just what a romantic her third son was under his brash exterior. "Did you find something suitable then?"

Tyelko munched his apple before replying. "I think so."

She darted a glance at him. "You want to run it by me, see what I think?" she asked gently.

Tyelko shifted in his seat before meeting her eyes. "It was just hard to figure out--that's why I took Maglor with me. We've only been seeing each other for a short time. Long enough that I should get her something but not long enough to get her something serious, you know?"

Nerdanel nodded and waited. As expected Tyelko kept talking. He drew near to her.

"There's just something about her, Mom," he said. "It's different this time."

Nerdanel moved closer to him, tucking a wayward strand of his shining hair behind his ear. "Trust me, I know," she laughed. "It didn't take me more than a few weeks to know with your father, Tyelko. I knew there could be no one else for me." A thoughtful look came over her, as she gazed out the window in the direction of her husband's study. "We've had our trials and troubles, mind you," she said softly. "But there is no one I would want by my side other than Fëanor." She returned her warm gaze to her son.

Tyelko's expression had hardened, a far cry from the sunny openness she was used to from this son of hers. She dropped her hand onto his forearm, feeling the tense muscles there. "Tyelko?" she questioned.

"Dad had no right to badger Maedhros about Fingon, even if he's backed down now." Tyelko's expressive eyebrows were drawn together and his grey eyes were stormy.

This was her fierce child, the son who spoke without thinking things through, who could laugh the loudest but who also took things deeply to heart, hiding his hurt behind humor and bravado.

She pulled him towards her, resting her head on his shoulder as she hooked her arm around his. Soft words, soft touch--she had learned the best way to gentle Tyelko long ago.

"Tyelko, sweetheart, Dad spoke harshly, I won't argue that. But it's not so much to do with Maedhros or even Fingon. It's more to do with Dad himself and he's realized how out of line he was." Her hand rubbed up and down his arm as she spoke. "He can be hasty and his judgement lacking when he feels hurt. It doesn't make it right and I'm sorry Maedhros got caught in it."

She looked up at him, his stern profile silhouetted against the light. "He loves you all and wants the best for you." Nerdanel sighed. "Deep down I think he is concerned that the rift between him and Fingolfin would be too much to overcome."

"For him you mean," Tyelko said, turning to face her.

She put her arms around him and kept her gaze on his face. "For him and for Maedhros. Strife between fathers can come between sons, Tyelko."

"Only if he makes it a big deal. Not if he just lets us be. He can't go making judgements about people he doesn't know, just because of who they're related to," Tyelko growled. His jaw was clenched.

She frowned at him, not sure if she should share her next words with her volatile son but she plunged forward anyway. "He wants you to be happy, never forget that. But Fingolfin brings complicated emotions for your father. They were close as brothers once."

At Tyelko's stormy expression she continued. "It's true. When they were young." Her face grew somber. "There is still a bond deep down but their differences split them apart. There is much resentment your father has not allowed himself to let go. I will not excuse him--it is an estrangement that stems from him, not Fingolfin." She shook her head. "I think at the core he can't let himself heal because he won't admit to himself how much he misses the close friendship they had."

She moved her hands up to Tyelko's shoulders as she faced him. "Your father is not the best at making friends, as you may know. He doesn't let people in easily and he trusts precious few." Her grip tightened. "Fingolfin was one of the very few he let in and he feels that loss keenly. Although he is far too stubborn to admit that."

"I won't have him talking poorly about Aredhel. I won't stand for it, Mom," Tyelko said.

"He won't do that. He blundered enough confronting poor Maedhros. It won't happen with you unless you choose to charge at him in a fury and rile him up. Let him be. He and Maedhros have made their peace. You won't help by stirring things up."

"It's not so much me," Tyelko said. "I mean it is, in a way, feeling like I do about Aredhel but it's just too important for Mae."

"I realize that," Nerdanel said. "You, Maglor and Maedhros have made that abundantly clear." She reached up to stroke the hair back from his face, a soothing motion. "Anyone who means so much to you, so much to Maedhros, means as much to me. I know what it means to love someone so."

His face grew crimson at her words--he almost looked like Caranthir in that moment. "Mom," he complained. "I didn't say I was in love."

She smiled. "You didn't have to." She laughed at his chagrined expression. "Now will you tell me when I can finally meet this girl of yours?"

Tyelko's eyes widened. "She'll be here a few more weeks before she heads back to Elmoth."

"We should have her over for dinner. Fingon too," Nerdanel said.

Tyelko's face paled. "No, really, Mom, with the holidays and all I'm not sure we'll find the time."

Nerdanel's eyes narrowed as she stepped back and crossed her arms over her chest. "Tyelko?"

His head dropped. "Dinner's just way too much, Mom. We're all too much sometimes, you know that."

"She's met all your brothers already. How bad could it be?"

"Mom. She met Mae and Mags one-on-one and the rest at a game. It's not like hours here at dinner." He shuddered before adding "Or a game night."

Nerdanel brightened, a mischievous twinkle in her eye. "You're right, Tyelko. A family game night would be just the thing." She held back her laughter at the look of utter horror on his face.

"No, Mom. I couldn't think of anything worse. Especially if Dad's playing." In the larger scheme of things even Turgon's face hit was likely to be less traumatic that family game night, Tyelko thought.

She couldn't hold back. The laugh bubbled out of her. She beamed up at him. "I would never willingly subject anyone to family game night, Tyelko. I can hardly tolerate it myself. I was just teasing you."

The color flooded back into his face. Nerdanel continued. "I still want to meet her and Fingon too. Would it be best on my own perhaps, with you? Coffee or a meet-up at Beleriand."

Tyelko visibly relaxed. "That would work, Mom." He grinned. "I know you'll like her."

"I'm sure I will. I always liked Fingolfin and Anaire. I'm sure their children are wonderful as well." She matched his grin. "Now are you going to tell me what you bought for her?"


_______________________

Fingon hung his coat up and then walked into the family room. Turgon was sitting on the sofa, absorbed in a book.

"Have you even moved since this morning?" Fingon asked flopping down on the couch next to him.

Turgon looked up, the faint bruises visible under his eyes. "I'll have you know I made cookies with mom and did laundry." He tilted his head as he looked at his brother. "You get a car?"

Fingon snorted as he laid his head on the back of the couch and closed his eyes. "As a matter of fact, no. Dad was in intense haggle mode and the Subaru salesman wasn't going for it. They already sold the car we looked at yesterday and Dad didn't want to look too eager so after what felt like hours of back and forth we left, with Dad telling the guy we were off to look at Hondas."

"What did you do while Dad tortured the sales guy?"

"Watched 'White Christmas' in the waiting area. The lady getting work on her car wouldn't let me change the channel." Fingon groaned.

Turgon laughed. "So now what?"

"So now Dad's going to look up dealerships online, get a quote for the model I want and go back to the Subaru dealership closer to New Year's when they need to fill their end of month quota." Fingon said.

"He lives for this haggling thing doesn't he?"

"Every time."

They sat in silence for a few minutes before Fingon turned to look at his brother. "Where are the others?"

"Argon is at a friend's. And Aredhel is taking a shower. She just got back from the gym."

"Hmm."

Turgon shifted his legs. The current tenseness between his brother and sister was disconcerting; they were never like this. He considered leaving the subject undisturbed but decided the air needed to be cleared. If they weren't going to mention it themselves he may as well; It was partially because of him after all. "You guys talked at all, since Saturday?"

Fingon closed his eyes again. He knew Turgon meant Aredhel. "Not much," he confessed.

"I think you need to talk to her, Finno. She's really freaked out about the Maedhros thing." He put up a hand to stem Fingon's words. "I know you're not worried about it and honestly I'm not either. It wasn't intentional but I know you know more than you're letting on. I get it." He ran a hand through his hair. "But you've got to see her side--she's suspicious of him because of what happened with her. Just talk to her, clear the air and let's get back to the two of you being your usual ridiculous selves when you're together instead of all these terse interactions."

That's how Fingon found himself sitting on the floor across from Aredhel's room, waiting for the door to open. He didn't end up waiting very long. She opened the door soon after he sat down, her eyes going wide at the sight of him.

"Can we talk?" He asked. "Please?"

She nodded and he followed her back into her room. She sat on her bed, leaned against the wall and crossed her arms over her chest before looking at him expectantly. Fingon considered sitting next to her but decided to give her space. He sat on the floor across from her, leaning against her dresser.

"Listen, Aredhel, I'm sorry I snapped at you the other day. I know you're worried about things but really . . ." Fingon started to say before she interrupted him.

"Worried is an understatement, Fingon. Stop talking for a minute and let me say what I have to say, ok?" Her forehead creased as she spoke.

He nodded. "Ok."

Her piercing blue gaze met his. "I know you like him, I could tell the first night I met him. And I can tell he likes you. He seems like a great guy and I'm not going to argue that point. But I don't feel comfortable with his actions Saturday. There's an undercurrent of violence there that disturbs me, Finno. I know you talked about him having control issues. That worries me. If that's what he's like when he loses control . . ." There was a haunted look in her eyes. "If control is such an issue with him I'm concerned about where that leaves you."

Fingon met her gaze. "I get that you're worried. But I promise you it's nothing like what you're thinking. He doesn't have anger issues, he's not the controlling type." He exhaled and ran his hand through his hair. "It's more an issue of things triggering him and that results in certain behavior. It's unintentional and the reason behind it is totally valid."

"Triggers him?"

Fingon nodded. "I really couldn't fully explain it to you before because I didn't know the full story myself. We've talked it through now. Maedhros feels terrible about Turgon and the whole situation. But knowing what I know now, it all makes sense to me." He pulled his knees up and wrapped his arms around his legs. "I think it will make more sense to you too, if I tell you about it."

"Tell me what?" Aredhel asked, her crossed arms unclenching as she mirrored his position.

"Maedhros has had some pretty significant trauma. It's left him with what sounds like PTSD. Recurrent nightmares. Certain situations and subjects trigger reactions in him." Fingon leaned his head against the dresser as he considered where to start. The beginning was likely as good a place as any. "His grandfather was killed about eight or nine years ago. It was a hit and run. Maedhros' dad filed a wrongful death suit against the company that employed the driver who killed him. It was a years long legal wrangle--the truck company, parent companies, you name it were named in the suit. Not too long before they were set to go to trial Maedhros' family started getting threatening letters."

"Threatening how?" Aredhel asked.

"Threats of violence against family members, damage to their property, things like that. The threats were taken seriously enough that they got police protection at the main house. Maedhros was at Cuvienien at the time." Fingon frowned and clenched his hands tighter. It made him angry to even think about what happened to Maedhros, let alone talk about it. But he needed Aredhel to understand. "Maedhros went out for a run and was kidnapped." He saw her eyes widen. "They beat him up pretty badly. The police tracked him down a few hours later, thanks to an ID on the van that took him but he still ended up in the hospital for a few days."

He paused for a moment. Aredhel looked shaken, her face pale, her eyes huge. He needed to finish the story, so she could really understand. "They grabbed him from behind. Pulled his arms behind his back, just like Turgon did on the field. It was a completely unconscious reaction Maedhros had, to fight back like that. That's what he calls losing control--that moment, that position just triggered him and there was nothing he could do about it."

"Tyelko said it was his fault for not warning Turgon," Aredhel said quietly.

"It's not anyone's fault. Maedhros' brothers know better than to grab him from behind--it's just second nature to them. I don't think it even occurred to them to mention it. Maedhros tried to get all of us on his team at first--it makes sense now why he did that," Fingon said.

"I can understand why Turgon grabbing him made him react like that," Aredhel said slowly. "I wish someone had said something but it does make more sense now." She scooted to the edge of the bed to sit, facing Fingon. "But what else makes him lose control, Finno? You said nightmares and other triggers. Are you safe with him?"

Fingon stood up and moved to sit next to her on the bed, sliding his arm around her tense shoulders. "He gets nightmares. Not often but he still gets them. I know what to do when they come--he's warned me about them. The biggest issue is not startling him or waking him up abruptly from them. I'm not going to lie--he can certainly lash out if someone wakes him up like that." He squeezed her shoulder. "Tyelko and Maglor both have first hand experience with it, back when it started, when they thought they were helping by waking him up. They know better now."

Fingon wondered if he should tell her about his own experience. It would scare her but he was going for honesty. "Maedhros was avoiding the issue completely by never spending the night with me. Once I found out about the nightmares I offered to start sleeping over at his place, since it was a more familiar surrounding for him. I'd be more aware of what to expect and he'd get more familiar with having me around."

Fingon's free hand picked at the bedspread. "He wouldn't even try to sleep at first, he was so worried he would have a nightmare and freak me out. But we made it through one, with me doing exactly what he told me to do and we were fine." He exhaled. "And then I guess I thought I had it down. He fell asleep with his head in my lap Saturday night at my place. I didn't notice, didn't check if he was asleep and I did exactly what he was afraid I would do--I woke him up by accident."

Aredhel's hand gripped his knee painfully. "Did he hurt you? You better tell me the truth, Finno, so help me."

Fingon put his hand over hers and met her eyes. "He didn't. I startled him and he reacted but he didn't hurt me. He was devastated though. And I felt terrible because I hadn't taken his warning as seriously as I should have. It was my fault."

"How can you even say it was your fault? This is exactly what I worry about, Fingon!"

He gripped her hand. "It was my fault," Fingon repeated. "Maedhros told me what to expect, he told me what to do and what not to do. And I screwed up. He was asleep. No one is in control of themselves when they're asleep, Aredhel. It was totally on me. And with what happened to him I can't blame him for having the nightmares or for having violent reactions to unexpected situations like that."

"It's not that I blame him for it. What happened to him was terrible and I can understand that it's left it's mark on him," Aredhel said. "But I still worry he's going to hurt you, Finno. Not intentionally, I know that now," she said, interrupting him as he tried to speak. "But whether it's intentional or not, you're still putting yourself in an unsafe, unpredictable situation."

"It's not as bad as you think. There is a predictability to it--I told you there are certain triggers for him. He's identifying more of them as we work through this together. He goes months at a time without nightmares. They're far more rare than they used to be. And I know how to behave when he has them and to be more conscientious about paying attention too." Fingon ran a hand distractedly through his hair. "This is who he is, Aredhel. And I care about him, just as he is. To me this is no different than if he had a life-threatening allergy or some other kind of medical condition. It would be my place as his boyfriend to be aware of the concerns, be vigilant and be there for him. And that's what I intend to do in this situation. It's no different to me."

"You're sure, Finno?" Aredhel's eyes were wide and the worry was evident in them.

"Please trust me on this. If you can't trust Maedhros yet, trust me. I know what I'm doing and I'm not in danger. I've got this, ok?"

"I'll take your word on it, Finno but trust me--if I find out you aren't being upfront with me I will beat the shit out of you myself."

"I'll keep that in mind," Fingon said with a smile. He pulled Aredhel closer. "I know you worry. Trust me, Maedhros does too. It's taken everything I've got to convince him to let me sleep there. I told you--he wouldn't sleep at first, he was too worried about it."

She looked up at him with a small smile of her own. "Did you find something else to occupy your time instead of sleeping then?"

Fingon kicked her foot and smiled back. "We managed," he answered. "It's ok. I promise you. His only control issue is his own--trying to keep a lid on all of this and dealing with it alone. Not with me, ok? In fact he usually goes overboard on making sure he gives me enough space and time."

"It's not a great idea to deal with things like that alone," Aredhel said.

Fingon kissed her forehead. "I know. You did that for too long."

"I know. That's why I was so worried about you."

"I know that. But it's nothing like that, I promise you. I'm safe. He's safe. And we're working on it together. He's not going it alone anymore," Fingon assured her.

She slid her arms around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder. "He's lucky to have you, Finno."

"We're lucky to have each other. I really mean that."

She leaned back, looking at him speculatively. "Are you actually settling down in a real relationship, Finno? What's it been now--two months? That's some kind of record for you, isn't it?"

"It's not the amount of time that matters," Fingon said. "It's the connection. I've never felt this way about anyone before Aredhel. I want to spend more time with him. I miss not seeing him every day. Usually I'm all about my space and time but with Maedhros . . . "

She grinned. "I get it. I'm happy for you and relieved I don't have to worry about you so much." She shoved his shoulder. "Tyelko says you've practically moved into the Formenos house."

"Tyelko should mind his own business," Fingon retorted.

"It's kind of his business if you're in his house, Finno," Aredhel pointed out.

This was probably as good at time as any to bring up the other subject Maedhros had touched on. "Aredhel, speaking of Tyelko--what's the status with you two?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean is this a dating thing, a fling thing, a glorified flirtation?" Fingon asked. He caught the color rising in her face at his words.

"It's not a 'fling thing' Finno. I like Tyelko. I like him a lot." She tugged on a strand of her hair as she spoke. "I've never felt this comfortable with any guy I've dated before. The distance thing makes it a little weird but it's also making us take things slow, which is good. I don't want to rush anything because . . . I think . . . I think I would really like this to be a dating thing."

"Does he know that?" Fingon asked. "That it's not just a short term fling thing?"

"I've not come out and said that, no," Aredhel admitted.

"Do you think it's that to him?"

She shook her head, a fond look coming over her face. "No, he's been pretty clear it's not a fling thing to him."

"Don't you think it might be a good idea to let him know it's not a fling thing to you either?" Fingon questioned.

She sat up and frowned at him. "Why are you asking that? Has he said something?"

Crap. This is what happens when you meddle in other people's relationships, Fingon thought. Time to backpedal, clarify and get to the point. "No, of course not. Maedhros had just mentioned that Tyelko is a bit of romantic under that rough exterior of his. I think he doesn't want you breaking his brother's heart."

"Maedhros said that to me too." Her gaze softened again. "I wouldn't do that."

"Good. Because I think he's pretty crazy about you."

Aredhel grinned. "Good."

Fingon looked puzzled as he thought back on what Aredhel had said a moment before. "Maedhros told you not to break Tyelko's heart? When did he say that? Why did he say that?" he asked.

"The same night I told him to be careful with you," Aredhel explained. "The night I had to stay over because of the snow. You and Tyelko fell asleep. Maedhros and I took that as an opportunity to make some things clear."

"You totally threatened him, didn't you?" Fingon asked.

"I did not! I just told him he better not break your heart."

Fingon groaned and flopped backward onto the bed, his forearm thrown over his eyes. "I can't believe you did that. And I know you said something first, don't even try to deny it. I know you and I know Maedhros. There is no way he would have opened up the topic on his own."

Aredhel leaned over him and poked him in the chest. "Of course I said something first. You've never been this into anybody before and I wanted to make sure he wasn't just trying to get you in bed."

Fingon snorted. "Ha. You were so wrong about him. If anything I was the one trying to get him in my bed. But he kept avoiding spending the night, no matter how obvious I was being, because of the whole nightmare thing."

"And you told me you were fine taking it slow, when I asked you!" Aredhel exclaimed, shoving his shoulder roughly.

"I was fine with it. Because Maedhros was taking things slow and I wasn't going to push the issue. But I wouldn't have said no, if he'd wanted to speed things up a bit."

"Too much information, Finno."

He sat up, resting on his elbows as he looked at her. "So you promised not to break Tyelko's heart and he promised not to break mine? Is that how you guys left it?"

"Pretty much."

"Ok, well if we're going with full disclosure here I've got something more to confess," Fingon said, his expression turning serious.

"What?"

"I told Maedhros you were upset about what happened Saturday and that I wanted to let you know his backstory, to try to get you to understand there was nothing malicious about it," Fingon said.

It was Aredhel's turn to flop onto the bed and groan. "Ugh, so now he thinks I'm a complete bitch, doesn't he?"

"No, totally the opposite. He basically predicted this would be the response when you guys found out about his nightmares and such. He was sure you would worry about my safety and not trust him," Fingon stated.

"And I totally proved him right. Shit, Finno, I feel like a jerk."

"You shouldn't. Maedhros would think you were completely reasonable in your line of thinking. I told him it was bullshit but it seems he called it right." He exhaled and then pressed on. "But that's not all."

She turned her head to look at him. "What else?"

This was going to be the hard part, Fingon knew. "I told him you had some past relationship issues that made you more aware and apprehensive about situations like this. And that if you knew about his past it might make you understand his behaviour a little better."

"What exactly did you tell him, Fingon?" Aredhel sat up, staring down at him, her eyes wide and her face pale.

"Just that you'd had a boyfriend with some control issues and that it had gone poorly after you broke up with him," Fingon said.

"You told him that."

"I did and I'm sorry. I should have asked you first, before sharing. I was trying to let him know both had a bit of a commonality there but I should have asked first. I'm sorry, Aredhel." Fingon sat up as well. "He won't share it--that I can promise you."

She stared at him for a moment then nodded her head. "No, it's ok. I'm not happy you didn't ask me but I can see why you told him. It made me understand him a bit better, hearing his story so maybe it let him understand where I was coming from with my concerns about you."

"That's what I was thinking when I told him," Fingon said. He met her gaze. This was as good a time as any to broach the subject of Tyelko.

"So, it definitely made a difference to you, knowing Maedhros' back story, right?"

"Yeah."

"And it definitely made a difference to me, knowing what went on in his past and why he was behaving or reacting in certain ways that didn't make sense to me, before I knew," Fingon pressed on.

"Yeah." There was a questioning note to her response this time.

"I'm just wondering if it might not be a good idea to let Tyelko know some of what's gone on with you. In the past. Why some of the things that have gone on this week have been disturbing for you. It sounds like you've talked to him about it a bit."

She pulled her knees up and curled into herself before answering. "I did tell him I was upset about Maedhros. He said I had no reason to worry but it wasn't his story to tell."

"He's right, on both counts. Maedhros told me to tell you what happened to him," Fingon explained. "Don't you think it might make sense for you to tell Tyelko why the whole thing worried you? If you really want this to move forward it makes sense to let him know, at least some of it?"

"It wasn't the whole reason I was worried and you know that."

"I know. But it still plays into it, even if it's only a part of it," Fingon said gently.

She looked down and her brows drew together. "It just makes me feel stupid for letting it happen."

"You didn't let it happen. It happened because of how he acted. And it's worth telling Tyelko because like it or not you've got some triggers too," Fingon said.

She directed her glare at him. "I do not have triggers."

"Aredhel. This whole thing about Maedhros is just that. You wouldn't be this upset if the whole control thing didn't make you think about your situation, even subconsciously," Fingon said.

"I was just worried about you."

"I know that. But it didn't faze Turgon and he was the one who bore the brunt of it. It didn't make Argon worry."

Her frown deepened. "Argon's just a kid. And Turgon doesn't take anything seriously."

He mirrored her expression. "You know neither of those things are true. Argon's probably the most mature of all of us and Turgon takes almost everything seriously. You know that. I know you want to avoid talking about what happened but it still colors your perceptions of things, whether you like it or not."

"What, so are you going to suggest I go see Finrod's dad to 'work through it' like Mom and Dad wanted me to?" Aredhel growled. "I don't need to work through it. It's over and done and I'm fine."

"If you're fine then it won't hurt to mention it to Tyelko. It's important for him to know there are situations or occurrences that might bother you. Trust me communication makes a huge difference--I've found that out the hard way." Fingon put his hand over her tightly clenched ones. "I'm not saying you need to go see Finarfin. I'm just saying it might be a good idea to let Tyelko know this means as much to you as it seems to mean to him and it also might be a good idea to maybe let him know you've had some not-so-good experiences and the pace you guys are taking is working for you. Trust me, I'm pretty sure he's had some past relationships that aren't great too."

"What makes you say that?" Aredhel looked curious.

"Maedhros just said something to make me think that, ok? Tyelko might fill you in himself if you bring up the subject."

"I'll see," Aredhel said. "I'll think about it but no promises ok?"

"Ok. As long as you think about it." Fingon pulled her into another hug and was gratified that she returned. "I love you, even though you are such a pain in my ass sometimes."

"I love you too, you idiot," Aredhel said, resting her head on his shoulder.

Finarfin, Fingon thought. His father had mentioned him also. Maedhros had said he was thinking about trying therapy again. Maybe Finrod's dad would be a good option. How to bring that up would be the issue. But he could think about that later.