Disclaimer: All events and characters belong to Tolkien Inc.
Dedication: Happy birthday, Sothis!
Warnings: AU, Maedhros/Fingon slash.
I will not die, Findekáno, Maedhros tells him one night.
No, Fingon says. No, of course not.
No, Maedhros repeats. That is not what I mean. I mean that – I cannot be killed.
Fingon is silent.
I learnt it in Angband, he tells him. I learnt that I would not go unless I chose it for myself.
Fingon moulds himself to the length of Maedhros' body, listening. And what of me, he asks finally, in a small voice.
Maedhros turns, smiles, and presses his cheek against the black hair, marvelling as always at the warm, boyish scent of it. You are me, he says.
It begins in Aman, where they indulge in strange rituals. Love, they say. We love. We love each other. It begins in a rainstorm, where they take shelter in a cave. Then the beach, where their hair tangles together as they lie close, and the sea-water dries off it.
Your hair, Maedhros says, curling it around his wrists. It smells like cinnamon.
Fingon smiles shyly, trembles as his elder cousin runs a finger down his spine, reverent, incredulous.
I love it, Maedhros says.
They walk hand in hand through the fields of Valinor, glowing with something secret and animal. You are mine, Maedhros says, and Fingon nods. They go swimming again, and this time Maedhros bruises himself against the rock bottom of a shallow pool.
Fingon looks troubled, hurt; his lashes tremble with tears.
They are bound together when Maedhros says the words, the light in his eyes silver and steady. And things are thought and done that become a spell, powerful magic passing from one to the other. We are bound now, they say in their innocence. Lying beneath the trees in Lórien, kissing and touching, each revels in the echo of the other's pleasure that he feels within himself. Bound, Maedhros says. Half my fëa is yours. Bound. And half yours is mine. Bound. Our bodies belong to each other.
He is dead, Maglor says, his beautiful voice cracking, tired. Dead. We lost him in Angband.
No, Fingon says.
Maedhros is dead, Maglor says. But Fingon's fëa is whole, his body alert. He wonders at the alarming pain in his body. Every day, the Ice made him feel beaten, and frozen. Everyone else felt the same way.
He wondered at the welts the hailstorms raised on his skin.
And the Ice made manacles around limbs. Fingers, toes, lost to frostbite. Ankles, wrists, chained with bitten iron. It hurts. It still hurts.
He would know.
Raising his head, desperate, angry, No! Fingon shouts across the tent. He is not dead.
Maedhros on the rock, shivers uncontrollably, begs for warmth, any warmth.
Take my hand, he says, fighting for calm as Maedhros gasps, biting his tongue. Give me your pain, he says, the blood roaring in his ears. Maedhros' face is ashen. So is Fingon's.
There is another wave of pain, and Maedhros struggles to breathe through it. His fingernails, broken and filthy, drive so hard into Fingon's flesh that he thinks they will cut through to his bones. The blood oozes through the punctures and drips to the floor, blackening gradually.
When Maedhros gets better, Fingon stays with him as much as he can, helping him with simple things, learning to eat, dress, write. By and by they take up their swords again.
Fingon begins to use his left hand.
Fingolfin dies, and Maedhros goes to Hithlum to pay his respects. There, Fingon is wasting away, living from day to day in a haze of grief as all about him, life goes on silent and fearful, stepping around him carefully to avoid his sudden spurts of anger. With no one's permission, Maedhros goes to his room, locks the door, and lies down next to him, holding him close. There, Fingon weeps for the first time after the battle.
In the days after, he works slowly, determinedly, allowing no on else near them, bringing him back to life. And Fingon responds, and allows himself to be led, once again, back to the land of the living.
Why did you come, Fingon whispers into his neck. Because I had to, Maedhros answers. Because your pain is mine. Half your fëa is in me.
In the baths, before Maedhros leaves, they lie together in a cloud of steam, arms locked around each other. Bound, they think, and renew their faiths. Bound, leaving their marks on each other's skin. Bound. Plunging into the depths of their soul.
Maedhros' squire is an Avari, a small-breasted, long-legged woman, deadly with her bow. She was found washed up on the river bank where they were hunting, tortured by orcs and left to drown. Another one who did not die. He took her in and had her nursed back to health. See, I too can save life, he smiled at Findekáno when he came to Himring.
She came around slowly, and they stuck together, the one-handed prince and his act of charity. Her name is Nellas, but no one knows this. Sometimes he calls her Morwen for her hair, dark and oddly glossy for a Moriquendë. Sometimes he calls her Duiníel, river maid. More often she is simply hína, child. She speaks very little.
It is she who travels across the desert of corpses, past the high, smoking mounds of disintegrating bodies, across to the remnants of the camp attempting to flee to Balar. She finds who she is looking for, and beckons to him.
The healer is an old elf, Fingolfin's most trusted confidant, the one who saved the most lives on the Ice. He follows her, fearing her silence, across the plain to Maedhros' camp, past tents and shacks to a dark room in the very heart of the place. There Maedhros kneels in silence.
Heal him, she says. Her voice is deep and pleasant, the Quenya accentless. Heal our lord, that we may honour him.
My lady, he begins, trembling, sickened. There is silence. She lays cool fingers on his wrist, and then a sword gleams before him. Do your work, she says quietly.
Maedhros watches, crazed with pain, as the healer begins his work, murmuring his prayers as he sets to with shivering fingers, peeling off the silk and metal scorched into the skin, cleaning the wounds, setting broken bones.
She brings him clothes, water, herbs. A comb. Name anything else you may need, she says.
After the elf, two men enter, doubtful, intimidated by the mighty presence. Now Maedhros, fever cooling, is able to speak more clearly, and tells them what he needs. They comply, not daring to ask why one of the Eldar should be so treated.
Great lord, one of them interposes, great lord, forgive us, but are not the hröar of elves useless without their fëar?
He nods, slowly. Correct, he says. But the fëa is cared for, do not worry. And you are the most skilled at the care of the hröa, or so we have heard. You will give us cause to believe it.
The men work through the night, creating magic like the greatest of artists, painting, smoothing, scenting. The room is cleaned, slowly, of the metallic blood-smell, taken over by a faint scent of cinnamon, pleasant and unobtrusive.
At last, their task is over. Taking leave, they set off for their camp in the grey dawn, bursting with gossip, just as two arrows come flying through the air, and they are fallen, dead on the road where the elf-healer's hröa has already crumbled, a little farther down.
Maglor blanches at the sight of the chest that accompanies them from camp to camp. He pleads with his brother. It is unnatural, he says. No use. He begs and reasons, then becomes angry. Fool, he says, enraged. Pervert. You disgust me, he says, tears running down his cheeks. I love you, please don't. Please don't.
Maedhros travels from one camp to another in silence, his body heavy, leaden. Tired. He never engages his brother in these quarrels.
The woman Morwen bathes herself and puts on a dark robe. Standing before her mirror, she raises fingers to her shadow-like hair and threads strands of gold into it. She stands before herself, staring. Then she goes to her bed and curls herself into a corner, rocking back and forth, alone.
In the next room, Maedhros sleeps the sleep of oblivion, sleeps in utter dreamlessness.
I am sorry hína, he tells her, as dusk sets over the blood-ruin of Doriath.
She continues to scrounge for arrows, saying nothing.
One day, the twins run into Maedhros' chambers accidentally, looking for a place to hide from their playmates. It is an old, disused house by the shore, hung with the remnants of Fëanor's finery. They look around, at the rich drapes that will not quite hide their small ankles, at the bed that is too low, and their impatience grows.
There, Elros points to the large box on a stand, maybe that will open.
As their chubby fingers try and prise open the lid, a shadow falls over them. They look up in fright, and realise it is Morwen.
What are you doing, she asks, her smile bright.
We need a place to hide, they tell her.
She shakes her head. Not there, she says. There is no place.
Their faces fall, but she produces a black cloak, long and trailing, and, draping it over herself, billows it so that they can hide, one on each side of her.
Come, she says in a stage whisper. Let us begone.
They leave the room on tiptoe, stifling their giggles.
The last burst of splendour, this fall of the mighty. The end of all things beautiful, the watching Noldor think.
He maintains a spark of his coherence even through the Silmaril-ache. At the last, he neither slides nor falters. His fall into the chasm has the air of premeditation, of inevitability. It is over before they know it.
From the ragged crowd on the nearby hill, the woman utters a single, sharp cry, makes as if to run down. They turn and hurry down the opposite side, try, and fail, to take her arms and drag her away.
She waits at the top, her keen eyes watching the fire rise out of the chasm, and spread across the surrounding plain.
Later, back in the deserted camp, someone finally breaks open the lock on the chest. The sea wind blows into the room, diffusing the faint tang of cinnamon in the air. Under the lid there are only scattered ashes.
So I was thinking about Tolkien's idea that elvish bodies disintegrate very soon after the fea flees. And then the vaguely-canon-more-fanon notions of souls bonded in marriage. Both the ideas got me wondering if there was any way they could be reconciled; this is the result of that. Feel free to disagree with this. My grasp of Noldorin metaphysics is admittedly none too firm.
Thank you to Tehta for a most stimulating beta. :) All mistakes are mine.
Celebdil will recognise some elements from her poignant and compassionate view of these characters; Thank you, C.! And, yes, at the very end, thanks to William Faulkner. For the basic idea.