Author's Notes: Hints of maybe slash, if you look at it that way; can be read otherwise with ease, whatever's your kink. This may be the longest thing I've ever written, singleshot wise, for fanfiction. I like feedback. I like feedback a lot. Especially because this is the first time I've ever written Fingon at any length and the first time I've written him and Maedhros together. I know Thorondor technically took them both back, but I played with it a little.
The journey back was longer, and harder, than he'd ever imagined it might be. Somewhere, he'd never thought about the way back. Somewhere, he'd assumed they would simply ride in triumphant, heads held high and proud.
Fingon had never expected his friend to ask for death. That one thing had nearly shivered his resolve. But not enough to keep him from denying it, vehemently, and dragging Maitimo away from hell, half shattered.
When at last they paused to rest, when Fingon dared to stop their reckless flight away from that hellish place, Maedhros had been too exhausted to eat, falling almost at once into a helpless sleep, like death. Grimly, Fingon wondered when the last time he'd slept had been, and kept his own eyes open, to watch.
It also gave him his first chance to survey the damage Morgoth had wrought upon the body of his friend. First and most obvious, of course, was his right hand, lost at the wrist, wrapped clumsily to stem the bleeding but already stained through. They would have to reach somewhere a proper healer could tend to it, and soon; he would not risk having the wound fester. He was thinner, certainly, and on an already slender Elf he'd had little enough to lose. Where his back showed, stripes of scars were marked in stark lines. The invisible damage to the muscle of his shoulder, the strain – Fingon tried not to think about all the things that could go wrong, and inched a little closer, listening determinedly to the darkness.
And his face…his face was drawn and thin, hollows below the cheekbones and deep circles around his eyes, a ghastly face he hardly knew, even in the grey eyes that were now full of shadows and nightmares.
The anger, here, took on a personal edge. Seven years. Seven years had He had Maitimo and his cousin still hadn't broken.
At first the night passed quietly. There was no warning before Maedhros jerked half upright with a wild yell of fury, his voice lost in a garbled string of words that could not be understood. Fingon slipped his arms around his waist and held him, but he fought that embrace as if he did not know it, the yell building to a scream of horror and sick, gut-wrenching pain.
He couldn't listen to that. Hating himself for it, with an effort and repeated callings of his name, Fingon shook Maedhros awake. The redheaded elf went limp with exhaustion once woken, falling half onto Fingon, who caught him with ease, so light was his frame.
"Findekáno?" He rasped, hoarsely, in a voice nearly lost, and Fingon felt his gorge rise, feeling sick, and turned his head away.
"'Tis I. Be easy. You are safe."
"No," Maedhros said, "No, never that," and then lapsed dizzily into unconsciousness once more.
He didn't wake for the next day and a half, except to scream and fight the restraining arms that held him back from breaking himself again. Fingon began to despair, wondering if Maitimo would ever come back in full, as himself. As the Elf he remembered and loved.
He didn't let the thought matter; held his cousin through the nightmares or memories or whatever they were, dragged him on and off the horse each morning and night, and rode with only his own dismal thoughts for company, and the growing feeling of nauseous worry and pain in his belly.
They were four days from the Enemy's stronghold before Maedhros spoke his name again. "Findekáno?" His voice was clearer, though he was still slumped limply before Fingon on the horse's back, head lolled back on Fingon's shoulder. But he spoke, and it sounded almost coherent.
"I'm here," he said, simply, and didn't stop the horse, not daring to. There was a long silence.
"My right hand is gone," he said, eventually, in a voice slightly rough-edged. "It feels like it's still there. But it's gone."
Fingon felt a lead pit settle in his stomach and fought to control it. "I had to. To free you. The chain would not break." He had a sudden vision of Maitimo's hand, dangling in the handcuff, from that cold and windswept cliff, swaying in the breeze. He wanted to retch and did not.
Maitimo coughed, a little, his body curving so his spine pressed into Fingon's belly and sternum, but he didn't care. "A hand or seven more years. I think I'll take the hand," he said, and then laughed hoarsely and briefly. Fingon felt his spine crawl.
"Maitimo, are you-"
"Don't ask me," his friend said, harshly. "Don't ask me to talk about what happened, and don't ask me that. At least not for another seven years, when I might be able to answer you." Fingon felt his gorge rise again and fought it down, not thinking of the shadows around Maitimo's eyes.
"I won't ask you," he promised, and they were both quiet for a long time, neither quite sure what to say. Maitimo seemed to be slipping back toward unconsciousness.
"I'm sorry," he said eventually. Fingon frowned.
"Making you rescue me." Fingon tightened his arms around Maedhros' waist and pulled him upright, frowning.
"Don't be stupid," he said, sharply, and nudged his horse into a trot.
A few days later Maedhros showed some interest in food, for the first time. When Fingon removed the remainder of the meager rations he'd brought, he eyed it and then said, carefully, "I'll try some," with the wary air of someone unsure how his body will betray him. His hand shook badly lifting the first bite to his mouth, as though he almost didn't remember how to do this.
Fingon watched him closely but didn't offer to help, settling for thinning his lips and frowning until Maitimo sighed, set down the spoon, and looked up ruefully.
"All right, Findekáno," He said, quietly, and allowed Fingon to feed him spoon by spoon. He still talked little, and when he did it was too quietly, but at least it was coherent most of the time. And when he woke screaming, he sometimes knew where he was. It was progress. Fingon would take progress. It was better than nothing.
"How are you feeling?" He'd learned which questions were allowed and which weren't. That one could usually slip by, when it was one of his better days.
"My shoulder hurts. And my hand itches." He made a strange choking sound. "My right hand."
Fingon glanced at where his friend's arm ended, just above the wrist, and frowned. He'd never heard anything of the like before, but then, he'd never known anyone who'd lost a hand before. He deliberately did not apologize, even for the slight twinge of guilt. "Would you like me to see what I can do?"
Maedhros closed his eyes, weariness sinking into his bones again, like a net closing around him. It was almost visible. "You can hardly make it worse."
Fingon stood and knelt behind Maedhros, bringing both hands to his right shoulder, trying to massage and ease the muscles there. He felt his cousin shudder a little and paused, but "No," Maedhros said, and he continued, feeling the swelling where his arm joined his body and frowning in concern.
"It can't be far to Mithrim. You need to be cared for properly." Maedhros made a small sound.
"I don't know that I want anyone to touch me," he murmured blurrily, "Other than you," and Fingon sighed, and held him as Maedhros drifted into sleep. It was the first night he slept without waking, though he cried out often in his sleep.
They rode in silence the next day, for a time. It was Maitimo who spoke first. "I never thought to see you again," he said, hoarsely. "At Losgar-"
"Forget it," Fingon said, almost too harshly. "It doesn't matter. It's past. My father's host is here now." There was another long silence.
"And my brothers?" Maedhros sounded almost fearful. And well he should, with that company. Fingon felt his mouth thin again and did not keep it from doing so; brothers who would not risk rescuing their own kin, he felt, were not much of brothers at all, even disregarding their other faults. And to Fingon's eye, they had plenty of those.
"Are – well." Or alive, at least. More than he could say for his own littlest brother, but brooding on that was useless. "They argue, mostly. Makalaurë does his best to keep them in line, but I'm sure you can imagine how well it works. They need you." They need you whole. If nothing else, perhaps that could be motivation for his weary, shadowed cousin.
It at least coaxed the flicker of a smile from him. "Moryo listens to no one, Kurvo only listens when he wants to, and Tyelko only listens when Kurvo does, or when he's not thinking about something else. Yes, I can imagine." The smile was gone quickly, though. "I am…relieved they tried nothing foolish. If not that you did, Findekáno."
He shrugged. "It is not folly if one knows that one will succeed." Of course, he hadn't known. But at the time, it hadn't really mattered, either. "I think we'll be riding in tomorrow."
"I'll try to look presentable," Maitimo quipped, and Fingon resisted the urge to cuff him lightly, suspecting that his cousin was still far more fragile than he would allow himself to look.
The welcome was not what he had expected. It was midday when they reached the outskirts of the camp – still too disorganized to be a city and certainly not anything more – and hardly anyone looked up. The sky was grey and overcast, a brooding flame on the horizon from whence they'd come. Maedhros had not made good on his promise to be presentable, and slumped limply on the horse's back, forcing Fingon to guide his steed with his legs, arms around Maitimo's waist just to keep him on. He was beginning to feel the effects of exhaustion like knives himself, from a week and a half of sleepless nights, or nearly.
They rode deeper, toward the Fëanorian encampment, slightly separated by distance and certainly by attitude. It seemed that little had changed. It was only as they drew closer to the pavilion where Maglor held what passed for court that heads began to rise, and whisper.
A dark, sleek head bent over a cup of dice lifted, looked at Fingon with annoyed disinterest, and then slid sideways. Fingon halted his horse and waited, freeing one hand to push some of Maitimo's hair back off his forehead.
It was the first time the name had been spoken, and Maedhros lifted his head, slowly, wearily, and turned it as though dazed. Fingon did not smile. He raised his chin slightly, allowing some disdain to show.
"Let no one say that the House of Fingolfin doesn't remember its friendships," he said, coldly, and nudged his horse forward, knowing well how quickly the word would spread.
"Wait," Maitimo said, hoarsely, stirring more than he had all morning, but Fingon ignored him and continued through the gathering crowd, uncertain whispers until it felt as though the whole host of the Noldor were staring. He ignored them, drawing up at the entrance to the pavilion. He dismounted, and pulled his cousin carefully down after him, shoved through the front of the tent supporting Maitimo with one arm around his waist, and stopped, letting his eyes meet Maglor's, the precise grey shade as those of the Elf he carried, weighed down with grief.
But no shadows.
The sudden and unreasonable anger surprised him. "What you said was impossible," he said, to the brother who had insisted that they could not risk a rescue, "Has been done. Have you a healer? Your brother needs one."
It was a bit of a blur, after Maglor understood, after everyone understood, and he didn't know if it was worse the ones who tried to take Maedhros away from him or the ones who tried to take him away from Maedhros.
"Your father wants-"
Damn my father, he almost said. He'll live. I don't know about my cousin. He twitched them off like a fly, trying to follow the Healers half carrying Maitimo away from him.
"My lord, if you would-"
"I wouldn't," he snapped, and sped his pace, watching the distinctive red hair. That, at least, he wouldn't lose. It wasn't far, though, and when he reached the tent and stepped inside only moments after they laid his cousin on a cot, still protesting weakly that he had to, no, he had to speak with his brothers, seven pairs of hostile eyes gave him the look that only a Healer interrupted can muster.
"I'm staying," he said flatly, and snatching a chair, sat down next to Maitimo's bedside, determined not to move.
He'd been followed. All four of them – it was still jarring to see the one lone redhead by himself, hanging slightly back – simply stepped in, ignored, as usual, everything that didn't suit them, and surrounded their brother.
Fingon noted that Maglor was not there. "You might wait," he said, crossly. "He needs his rest."
Moryo, the one who'd first named his brother, gave him a hostile, threatening look, and bared his teeth. "You can get out. We're his brothers."
"Don't be daft, Moryo," said the one he knew as Kurvo by his resemblance to his father – "He does have a bit of a right, you know."
The sound of Maitimo's voice silenced all their protests, along with any snippy remark Fingon might have been tempted to make. "My brothers," and Fingon saw him summon, for the first time and with Herculean effort, a smile. "I'm…glad you're here."
Then he closed his eyes, again, and Fingon did not wonder, spitefully, if they even knew the effort it cost their eldest brother to pretend to be normal. To pretend to be sane.
One of the redheads – whichever was left, he'd never been able to tell them apart – noticed first. "His hand…"
They all looked, and identically, their expressions went flat. Excepting Moryo, whose mouth twisted with rage. "Was that his doing?"
No need to ask who 'he' was. "No," said Fingon, "That was mine. A band of steel held him. I couldn't cut through it." Moryo looked about to spit poison, but looked away, back at his brother.
"And he's all right?"
Fingon stood, suddenly, the anger returning in force. "No," he snapped, "No, you fool, he has been in the clutches of the Enemy for seven damned years. He is not all right. He-"
But he stopped himself, knowing that Maitimo would not want his little brothers to know how he had begged for death, to end the pain. He didn't want to know. So he closed his mouth.
"He needs rest," said Tyelko, eventually, something sensible (for once). Kurvo nodded once, his hand resting on Moryo's shoulder as though he thought he would kill Fingon right over his brother's prone body. Which perhaps he would. Fingon let his hand drift toward his sword as they stared at each other.
"We'll come back," Moryo snarled, though, and then turned and stalked out, followed by his brothers. The lone twin glanced at Fingon briefly, but only for a moment.
Fingon sat down again, slowly, and looked to Maitimo. His breathing was slow and even, too deep in slumber or unconsciousness even to dream. For once. He considered it a mercy, and allowed himself to move one strand of russet red hair from his friend's slightly sweaty forehead.
He would recover. He had to. Findekáno son of Fingolfin would not let him do anything else.
Fingon didn't realize he'd slept at all until he woke to Maedhros cries, fighting the healers gathered around him. "No," his cousin moaned, faintly, "No, no-"
He lurched awkwardly to his feet, legs cramped, and took Maitimo's shoulder. "It's me," he said, low and determined, "It's me, I'm right here. Be easy. You're safe."
He stilled, half opened his eyes, looking dizzy, pale, and sicklier than he had even before. "…illusion," he said, faintly, and Fingon felt his stomach and heart lurch as one, gripped his cousin's shoulder more tightly.
"No, never-" And he let his voice rise, a little, sang the same song that had let him find Maedhros in the first place, and miracle of miracles, he eased, relaxed, head dropping back onto the pillows, allowing the healers to tend to his bruised and swollen shoulder. Fingon glared at them as he let the song die away.
"Wake me. Next time."
They didn't answer, and he turned his back on them to bend protectively over Maedhros form, prone and either unconscious, asleep, or pretending to be both. It was impossible to say, and Fingon did not blame him. He couldn't imagine what life, what waking hours must be like now. Let alone sleeping.
He found his voice and began humming again. Perhaps it would not be much, but it might be something. Better some small thing than nothing at all.
It was three days after their return that the rumors started. Or perhaps before that, but it was that long before they came to his attention. He wasn't exactly sure who he was yelling at, but that didn't matter. The Elf had heard the rumor, and come to him, come here with questions, and it was only stupid luck that Maitimo wasn't awake at the time.
"No," he said flatly, and again, "No. You accuse me of being blinded by my affection; at least I am not blinded by my stupidity. The idea is preposterous. Get out of my sight."
When they persisted, Fingon threw him bodily from the tent. Corrupted, was the whisper. After so long…impossible he could still be alive, still whole, unless the Enemy bent him to his will. Better, more merciful, to rid themselves of a danger now, rather than have it fester in their midst.
Fingon suspected that if he ever heard anyone say so directly to him, he wouldn't be able to keep from killing them. He was grateful that the rumor didn't last long, and credited that largely to Turgon – or else to the general fear of the wrath of Maedhros' little brothers.
He was also grateful that Maitimo heard nothing of this. When his cousin thought Fingon was not looking, during the times when he was awake, he would lie and stare at nothing, eyes far distant, full of darkness and blank of light or life. That expression frightened him.
That was the other thing he never said to the rumormongerers, though. That he hadn't come back whole. Not even close to it. His cousin was in splinters and only just beginning to find all the pieces again.
But he kept his promise. Didn't leave the tent and didn't leave Maedhros' side. He slept short hours, sometimes, when he could no longer stay awake, and supervised the healers attempts, soothing Maitimo when he began to panic, until he was at last able to control himself, when he would simply stand hovering critically.
His brothers came through often. Fingon allowed them to talk in private at his friend's insistence only, and though he knew nothing of what was said, they always walked away looking troubled, and leaving their brother exhausted and sickly.
Most of his brothers, anyway. Four of them. Only Maglor never visited. Fingon saw nothing of him for weeks that passed after their return, weeks when he watched Maitimo's nightmares and did not ask if he was all right, or what he dreamed of, and brooded on his anger.
It was night and he was sleeping when Maglor came at last. Fingon had drifted off, and when he woke, someone was kneeling on the other side of Maitimo's bed, holding his wrist, head bowed. He jerked to his feet.
"Who are you and what are you doing?"
The figure looked up and Fingon recognized him, and fought the urge to snarl. "You." Maglor bent his head, again, his lips moving slightly, and did not answer. Fingon tensed.
"Get out. He's resting."
This time, he caught the words, hushed though they were. "Forgive me, my brother." His right hand clenched, spasmodically.
"You coward," he snapped, seizing Maglor's shoulder, dragging him to his feet, "Coward, you did not dare to rescue your own brother, you left him there, left him to madness, you have not heard how he screams-"
"I heard," Maglor said, in a voice that was far too soft. "I have sung him back to sleep twice this night."
Fingon, for a moment, hated himself for not waking. He brushed it away. "And you only come now, weeks, weeks after, do you fear having to face the fruits of your cowardice-"
"Don't, Findekáno." There was a strained note in his voice, now. "Do not. If anyone has the right to be angry with me, it is him. Not you." He stood up straighter, now taller than Fingon, if only slightly. "Enough is enough. He may be your friend, but he is my brother. And if I cannot know what he endured, neither can you, and neither can you know what I endured in deciding to abandon him to fate. Do not speak to me of cowardice. Not now."
Maedhros stirred, slightly, murmured, and Fingon was at his side in a moment, bending worriedly. Maglor stayed where he was, eyes deep and sad and dark. "In the morning, I will be here to take your watch. You will go, and rest."
Fingon frowned. "No."
"I will keep him safe," Maglor said, quietly, though his eyes flashed, "He is my brother. I failed him once. I will not do so again." Then he was gone, as silent as a shadow.
Fingon sat down slowly, frowning more deeply, trying to sort out his thoughts. Maitimo coughed, softly.
He stiffened. "Did you hear…"
"I heard that you won't be here come morning. It's all right. How long has it been since you slept properly? –no, don't tell me. I don't want to know." He sighed, heavily, voice full of endless pain and weariness. "There's something important…speak of this to no one, understand? I don't want anyone to know. No one. Not until it's the proper time." He took a deep breath. "Promise me."
Surprised by the earnestness of his cousin's gaze, Fingon nodded, carefully. "I promise." Maitimo would not have him promise to any foolishness. Not him.
"I am going to pass – the right of the crown of the High King to the House of Fingolfin." He paused, to take a breath. "To you."
Fingon's breath hitched in his throat. "Maitimo-"
"Don't. Argue with me. I've thought about it enough. It'll – mend things. Or start, maybe. It'll have to be enough for now." He swallowed, hard. "It's all right. I don't…I don't want it. Not anymore. I can watch my brothers – that's enough."
"For anyone," said Fingon almost ruefully, but Maedhros did not laugh, did not even smile, simply fumbled with his left hand to find Fingon's right, clumsily.
"There will be – I think we haven't seen the worst of it yet. Please…stay strong, Káno. No matter…come what may." He closed his eyes, shuttering the shadows behind the lids. "Come what may."
"We will," said Fingon, firmly, "We will stay strong."
Maedhros did not nod, hardly even stirred. "And speak of this to no one. His grip was loosening, though he squeezed once. "No one. Don't…blame Makalaurë for this. For me."
"Rest," Fingon told him, soothingly, moving to sit down, again. "I'll be here until morning." He deliberately did not address the last statement. It wasn't just him. Perhaps mostly, but not only him. The others as well, who had not stopped it and had done nothing after the fact.
"I know." Again, no smile. He took a deep, shuddering breath, though. "I trust you. My king."
He fell quiet again, and when he was sure that the rhythm of his breathing was genuinely that of sleep, Fingon found his hand and squeezed it once, laid the other hand on his forehead. "May your sleep be dreamless, Russandol," he murmured, "All of them. Always."
He bowed his head and waited for the dawn.