Sure As I'm Sittin' Here
Bobby was off on a supply run with Ellen, and Sam and Ash were doing something nerdy with Bobby's ancient computer and cursing his slow dial-up connection, and Dean... was bored. So he pulled two beers from the fridge and went to look for Maglor. After all, it wasn't every day you shared a house with an honest-to-goodness Elf, and Dean figured he might as well take advantage of it, pick up some lore or something. And besides, the guy seemed lonely.
He got as far as the living room when a gentle strain of quiet music coming from the porch caught his ear. When he got to the door, he found Maglor sitting on the steps with his guitar, playing and looking up at the stars. So Dean stood inside the screen door to listen.
And then Maglor began to sing.
It wasn't a song of power, like Dean had heard him sing before. If Dean had had to put a name to it, he would have called it a lament of sorts, though it was more melancholy than sorrowful. But when he closed his eyes, suddenly he could see the things Maglor was singing about, even though he didn't understand a word of the lyrics—the splendor of Valinor, the beauty of the Trees, the fierce light of the stars when they were still unshadowed, the joy of the Elves when the world was young and they had not yet listened to the Devil's lies, the love Maglor had for his brothers and parents and cousins. And underneath it all was deep, deep regret that those days were gone without recall and that Maglor had doomed himself to a life of solitary exile in a world slowly falling into darkness.
When the song ended, Dean was surprised to realize that he had tears running down his face. He quickly wiped them away and stepped outside.
Maglor looked around at him in surprise. "Hello, Dean."
"Hey. Thought you could use a cold one."
"Thank you." He held out his right hand to take the beer Dean held out to him, and Dean suddenly noticed the silver scars that covered his palm and fingers, almost as if he'd been burned.
"What happened to your hand?"
"The Silmaril." Maglor took a swig of beer and wasn't quite quick enough to hide his grimace at the taste.
Dean felt embarrassed as he sat down beside Maglor. "Sorry. This probably isn't as good as the beer you used to get back home."
"Nothing is as good as it once was," Maglor murmured. "But I have definitely had worse," he added more brightly before taking another drink.
Dean laughed and joined him, and they sat for a moment in companionable silence before Dean got up the courage to ask another question.
"So... you're immortal, right?"
Maglor shrugged. "By some definitions. I can be slain, and I do age, though Men's lives are too short for any to notice. But I will not die of old age or disease. What will become of us at the end of all things, even the wisest cannot say, for beyond it all foretelling is vain."
"So what happens if you... I dunno, lose a limb? Do you grow another one, like starfish?"
Maglor smiled wryly. "Maedhros never did."
"My older brother. He was captured by Morgoth, who hung him by his wrist on the side of Thangorodrim. My cousin Fingon had to cut off his hand to free him." He stared at his beer for a moment. "I sometimes wonder if that was why he jumped. He had, as you would put it, already been through hell and never quite recovered, and he couldn't bear the thought of losing the use of his other hand. I did recover mine, but the healing was slow, and the memory of the pain has never left me."
While Dean was still trying to formulate an adequate response to that, he suddenly got a mental image of himself, tortured and broken, surrounded by shadow and flame, and then being grabbed by someone who looked an awful lot like Castiel, burned by his brightness, pulled out of Hell... later finding a scar on his shoulder that was clearly a handprint, later still remembering fully what he'd been through and trying desperately not to reveal it to a Sam who had changed, whose whole demeanor screamed one who consorts with demons even though Dean had gone to Hell to try to save Sam, and Dean himself despairing to the point of being suicidally reckless when the war went so pear-shaped, he didn't know which way was up...
"You remind me of him sometimes," Maglor continued, pulling Dean back to the present.
"Of... of Maedhros?"
Maglor nodded. "In many ways he desired to be like our father and to finish the task Ada had set for us, but in temper he and I were more like our mother than the others."
Dean snorted. "Sounds like our dads had a lot in common. Obsessed with revenge, not caring what it did to us." He paused. "The last thing my dad said to me was that I had to save Sam, and if I couldn't save him, I had to kill him. Who says that to his son?"
"Ada charged us to fulfill our oath and avenge his death—and Daeradar's, by extension, since his death was even more grievous to Ada than was the loss of the Silmarils. Mandos himself had warned us of what would follow, but Ada cared only for revenge."
"See?" Dean shook his head. "I loved my dad. I still do. And I know he loved Sam and me. But now that he's been gone... almost a year, I guess, I've... I've had to deal with the fact that he was wrong about a lot of things and dumped a lot of stuff on me that I should never have had to deal with. It wasn't fair, and I didn't deserve it."
Maglor reached over and squeezed Dean's shoulder. "You do well to admit such things. I know full well how hard that knowledge is. I could not truly come to terms with my father's folly for many yení."
It took Dean a moment to remember that a yen was the equivalent of 144 years. "Damn, Maglor. I'm sorry."
Maglor raised his beer. "To surviving fathers who knew not what they did."
They clinked bottles and drank and sat in silence a while longer.
"So, Elvenhome. Is that, like, heaven on earth?"
Maglor shrugged. "It is as close to the glory of the Timeless Halls as can be found in Arda Marred. Yet even the heart of Valmar has not escaped sorrow and bloodshed. It, too, shall perish and be remade." At Dean's thoughtful nod, he added, "Do you not believe in Heaven or in God, Dean?"
Dean sighed. "If you'd asked me six months ago, I'd have said no. Now... I dunno. I'd like to."
Dean played with the label on his beer for a moment. "Mom always told me that angels were watching over me. It was the last thing she ever said to me. But she was wrong. Or... something. I dunno. All I know is, she died, and the angels didn't do a damn thing to help her." He paused again. "But now I've met one, briefly, and... I don't even know what to think anymore."
Maglor nodded. "The problem of pain. To that not even the Elves know the full answer. We can only trust that Eru will not permit His designs to be thwarted in the last, whatever scope there may be within them for the freedom of our wills. But on this I suppose I should refer you to a conversation my cousin Finrod had with a wise woman of the Edain, which Professor Tolkien translated some time ago."
"Thanks, but philosophy was never really my thing. Maybe Sam will want to read it." Dean paused. "What about you?"
Maglor shrugged. "It is no great thing to believe in what one knows."
"You... know God?"
"I have not seen Ilúvatar as with sight," Maglor said carefully. "But I have conversed long with the Valar and learned much from them. And I have beheld Yésu, His Son, the coming of the Old Hope which your ancestors long foretold and my people could scarce conceive. I chanced to be in Judea when He came."
Dean stared. It was all he could do. He knew Maglor was old, but... he'd actually seen...
"'The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,'" Maglor quoted quietly, "'and we have seen His glory, glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.' Thus He was."
"Did... did you see Him... after?"
"As the Risen One?"
"I did. He seemed at once both a greater vision of Ilúvatar than I had yet beheld in Him and a vision of the glory of Men undimmed by the calamity that befell them in the East before they fled westward toward Beleriand. Not even in the Peredhil have I seen its like." He shook his head. "Whatever may become of the Eldar when Arda shall end, the Redeemed among Men shall be like Him, and if we do not perish utterly, we shall see in you the greatness of the One and be amazed. For I do not think they lie who hold that Man was made in His image in a way that we were not, though we are close kin nonetheless." He set down his beer and began picking out a slow tune on the guitar again.
Dean was torn. He'd rebelled against organized religion in part because of his sorrow over his mother's death and in part because of his father's atheism, and there were rules that 'good' Christians followed that he didn't like, but... damn it, he didn't want to go to Hell, and even though he'd always had a problem with authority and liked making mischief, one of the things he'd always wanted most was to be good, to do right. He lied and stole because he had to, because the hunting life (at least according to John Winchester) left few alternatives, and he slept around because he liked sex and because being a hunter meant he couldn't have the stable, committed relationship he craved, never mind marriage... but he did wonder sometimes if it meant he was going to Hell. If he could ever be good enough for anything else.
Maybe he'd been more messed up by his father's lies and mistakes than he'd realized.
"Hey, um... do... do you think there's a chance..." Dean didn't even know how to phrase what he wanted to ask.
Maglor didn't say anything, but suddenly Dean recognized what he was playing: "Carry On, Wayward Son."
"If either of us has cause to fear the Everlasting Dark, it is I," Maglor said quietly, "for that was the consequence we called upon ourselves by the oath. I know not what Ilúvatar would say to thee were thou to stand before Him tonight. But thy deeds cannot have been so terrible as mine. Yet if..." His voice broke, and he stopped speaking for a moment to regain his composure. "If beyond all hope, I may gain His pardon, whom we named as witness to our oath, then surely pardon is available for thee. And such pardon I believe I saw in the eyes of the Risen One."
Dean swallowed hard and looked out at the stars. And he didn't exactly pray, but he hoped.
This conversation was inspired by Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth (The Debate of Finrod and Andreth), which appears in Morgoth's Ring. Maglor alludes to it when he talks about the problem of pain. There are also echoes of Dean's argument with his dream-self in "Dream a Little Dream of Me" and of "Houses of the Holy" and "Sin City" as well as Laws and Customs among the Eldar, another piece that appears in Morgoth's Ring, and Deborah Judge's fic "Bringing Gifts"—I've taken a very different tack with Maglor here, but it's a great story nonetheless.