Fingon lay on his back and gazed at the stars above Aglon. They were almost there, at their destination; it could be little more than one day’s journey ahead. All day, the ground had been rising steadily, the hills loomed higher, and in the evening, he had seen it: Himring, enthroned on the highest of those hills, oddly small because of the angle and the distance, but clearly outlined against the darkening sky.
In some ways it might be useful if this meeting were held in Himring, if I may suggest a location, Maedhros’s letter had read, provided, that is, that the journey would not represent too much of an inconvenience?
In this case, I feel that the potential benefits will outweigh any inconvenience, he had replied, carefully matching circumlocution with circumlocution—and felt rather smug that he had managed to refrain from shouting ‘Yes! Finally!’ or, most unroyally, running all the way down to the stables to saddle a horse and head straight out east. Now he was having second thoughts. It would have been both difficult and extremely ill-advised to commit his true feelings to a letter, but perhaps he ought to have permitted himself to sound just a little more enthusiastic?
There were things he had said to his cousin—and perhaps even more significantly, other things that he had failed to say—when they last saw each other. At no point had he precisely forgotten this—but at home, in Barad Eithel, it had not seemed so hard to deal with, once they met again. They knew each other so well, after all! And, befuddled as he had been, he was sure he remembered falling asleep, that night, still holding Maitimo’s hand. There could be no barrier between him and Maitimo that they could not overcome!
But as each day’s journey in the Marches took them farther into unfamiliar territory, traversing lands he had not set foot in before although this was the very region that had taken up so much of Maedhros’s life over the past centuries, his confidence had faltered. He had laid eyes on Himring for the very first time—and somehow, to his anxious eyes, it had looked just as remote and inaccessible as it had seemed, for all those centuries, from the other side of Anfauglith. That sweet torment of longing that had served to keep him focussed, helped to hold him together over the past year—Maedhros, his cousin Maitimo, the one he longed for so passionately dwelt here, in a place such as this, triple-walled, on a bare, cold hill-top.
You invited me here, Maitimo.
As he lay gazing at the stars above Aglon in the night, Fingon clutched at that invitation. He could not fail. He would learn what to do, he would do and say whatever it took, and Maitimo would be his. There would be no walls between them.
And meanwhile in the remote, inaccessible castle of Himring, Maedhros was cramming the official schedule with meeting after meeting so that Findekano would not have to talk to him privately if he did not want to, was trying not to upset his housekeeper by pestering her unwontedly about each individual menu, was feverishly collecting any items in his rooms that Findekano might appreciate or like the look of and carrying them across to the royal guest chamber himself. That night, standing alone in front of the wide bed—the bed that Fingon would not, in effect, end up sleeping in—Maedhros folded up suddenly with a small sound of pain and rested his forehead on the sumptuously soft white counterpane.
It was all wrong. He was wrong, so very wrong. But he had had to put it to the test. And now the best he could hope for was that Findekano would pretend it had never happened.
Once they had worked their way past those initial misunderstandings—it was their second night together—Fingon demanded: ‘Teach me everything!’, hearing in his mind, as he did so, a faint resonance across the years, harking back to childhood lessons long past.
‘Everything?’ answered Maedhros, lifting his head and smiling a little. ‘You did not think you had netted yourself an expert, dear heart? I do not want to make light of it—at the time, it was painful and embarrassing enough—but a kiss here and there, a bit of very awkward fumbling in corners… If I had not been the eldest grandson of the king, I rather doubt, you know, that those few botched attempts at lovemaking would have earned me the reputation of being dangerous or a heartbreaker.’
‘They would have called you a dangerous heartbreaker, even if you had kissed nobody at all’, replied Fingon with certainty. ‘It’s that look that you have—that you had…’
‘Look?’ asked Maedhros. He shifted a little and touched his own cheek, wonderingly. ‘What do I look like now?’
‘Just don’t…don’t look at anyone else like that’, said Fingon.
‘Why would I?’
Maitimo wasn't even teasing him, Fingon thought. He cleared his throat.
‘All right, if you are going to pretend to inexperience,’ he said, returning to the earlier subject, as he pulled Maedhros closer again, thrilled that he could, ’I guess I will have to teach myself and then teach you. And I will, too!’
‘I’m learning’, said Maedhros. ‘But, Findekano, …’
There was nothing soft about Maedhros’s hand. Despite the native elegance of its bones, his fingers were lean and calloused, the skin slightly mottled with fading scars. His caress on Fingon’s face, nevertheless, felt feather-light. The restraint, the anxiety not to exert too much pressure—as soon as Maedhros put his assumed habits of command and persuasion aside—came, Fingon thought, from way back and deep within.
‘Just at this moment, I find myself sadly lacking in ambition’, Maedhros murmured, apologetically. ‘I just want to be with you. Bear with me?’
A long time, a very long time ago, Fingon remembered, he had used to snuggle up to Maitimo’s side as he was telling bedtime stories and fallen fast asleep while listening to his voice. This, now, seemed more complicated. Maitimo’s arms and legs were so long—and both their bodies seemed to have acquired a lot more angles since then. But they managed to sort out where to put their elbows and lay entwined, Maitimo’s head tucked against his shoulder.
‘This is good’, said Fingon.
Because it was.
Maitimo made a muffled sound of assent and pressed his face against his neck.
Fingon lay on his back and looked again at the stars over Aglon.
He had said farewell to Maedhros in front of his assembled escort and half the population of Himring. Maedhros had stood looking up at him, as he sat on his tall bay horse, ready to depart, and smiled—the very image of poise and courtesy and confidence, glowing in the morning sunshine, when only a few hours earlier, he had been pleading, pleading for another touch, another kiss—although Fingon was already showering him with ardent kisses—as their imminent separation finally broke through that old fear of asking too much, until Fingon, almost in tears, said: Beloved, I'm doing what I can. If you did not know, you could not have guessed it now.
Fingon was bone-tired—aside from the politics, the deliberations, the planning, he had tried to cram the loving of a whole life-time into a single week. But nevertheless he lay trying to absorb the feel of the ground underneath, the look of the sky overhead, for these were, after all, still the Marches of Maedhros; he had not entirely departed yet, was not entirely gone.
Nevertheless, he slipped into a dream and Maitimo came to him as if he had consciously summoned him, veiled in shadow.
‘It is an ill chance, a strange fate to love Maedhros, son of Feanor’, Maitimo's voice said in his ear.
‘It would be a worse fate not to be allowed to love him’, answered Fingon silently.
And he felt, in his dream, once again the gentle pressure of Maitimo’s head settling against his shoulder.