Of all the seasons, winter befriends me
I come to you in friendship
And hold my breath against the snow
(Vienna Teng – Momentum)
It was the beginning of winter when Maedhros returned to them. He had written to Fingon frequently to ease his mind. He had wanted to come earlier but after his long imprisonment he had to sort out too many things with his brothers, which had postponed his journey west for months.
"I come to you in friendship, Uncle." Maedhros said, trying not to keep flickering his gaze towards Fingon who stood behind his father.
"Your father never honoured our family bands." Fingolfin replied haughtily.
"I am not my father." Maedhros assured him with a small, polite smile.
"Your journey had to be long and exhausting. I believe we can leave the unpleasant things for tomorrow." He laid a welcoming hand on Maedhros' shoulder. "My son will show you to your quarters. I hope you will stay for a while."
"Thank you." Maedhros answered with a husky voice. Fingolfin turned to go but nodded towards Fingon who moved forwards and embraced his cousin.
"You're bringing the winter with you." Fingon said, brushing a few snowflakes from Maedhros' hair. Maedhros' smile fell slightly.
"I did not intend to bring such unpleasant memories with me." He said quietly and watched Fingon's expression change with understanding.
"That you bring the winter with you, gives the cold and the snow a new meaning for me."
"Oh?" Maedhros tried not to let hopefulness cloud his mind. "Which one?"
"That my dearest friend has returned to me, that we are once again together after a long and perilous journey." His hand slid down Maedhros' right arm, caressing the stump. "That we both paid dearly for. But you are here and we have time to form new memories in the snow." He smiled invitingly and Maedhros followed him, walking so closely that either their hands or their shoulders brushed with every step. And each time they did, Fingon smiled at him.
Maedhros wasn't given a simple guest quarter but a room in the family wing, next door from Fingon.
"I know you're exhausted from the long journey." Fingon said at the entrance to Maedhros' quarters. "Are you hungry as well?"
"Yes, I could care for something to eat." Maedhros admitted. He longed for rest but if staying awake for dinner would mean more of Fingon's company, he would gladly sacrifice a few hours of sleep.
"Me, too." Fingon smiled happily. "I'll come by soon if you don't mind us sharing the meal in your rooms." Maedhros shook his head disbelievingly.
"Not too long ago you had to spoon feed me soup ever day. Why do you think I'd mind your company?" Fingon shrugged. "Maybe you are tired of me."
"Never." Maedhros answered without missing a beat. "I could never tire of you." It was the truth but it felt too honest. Fingon blushed.
"I'll see you soon."
At the door he turned around once more, not to say anything, but simply to give Maedhros one last smile before leaving him alone.
Maedhros exhaled slowly, like he had been holding his breath all this time, so great was his relief.
The morning came with Fingon informing Maedhros that Fingolfin still wanted him to rest from his journey and would see him tomorrow.
"Your father is going soft on me," Maedhros joked to Fingon when they ate a quiet breakfast in his quarters, away from the prying eyes of Fingolfin's household.
Fingon said nothing. He knew that for all of them, even for his father, the image of Maedhros when Fingon had returned with him from Thangorodrim was still fresh in all their minds and Fingolfin's feelings towards his nephew had grown warmer after that. And after Maglor's visit to Mithrim after Maedhros' and Fingon's return where he had explained that Maedhros had wanted to return the ships to them and hadn't taken part in their burning.
Fingon had often wondered why Maedhros, during the whole time he had been in Mithrim to recover, had never spoken of that, apparently content to keep the tarnished reputation Feanor and his other sons had and able to bear the resentment of his uncle and cousins for something he hadn't done.
"I've heard your father has given you Dor-Lomin?"
"If you stay long enough and the snow doesn't become too much we can ride there. It's beautiful although the air is cool and the winters harsh."
"I'd like to visit it with you very much." Maedhros said softly and smiled shyly. Fingon took Maedhros hand in his and squeezed tightly. "Then we will." They held each other's eyes for a long moment before Maedhros broke away first.
"Maybe I will take a walk along the lake later. I don't want to keep you from your duties too much."
"You don't. Winter is a slow time for us and my duties are few." He grinned at Maedhros, "I've heard you fight with your left hand even deadlier than you did with your right one. Maybe you can best me in a fight now."
"Remember that I taught you fighting. I know all your tricks and bested you quite a few times in the past."
"Ah, but I've learned quite a few new tricks since then."
"We'll see, Fingon, we'll see."
"There has been bad blood in our family for a long time, "Maedhros started and soft, agreeing murmur swept through the room. "And our recent history has even made it worse." He kneeled down in front of Fingolfin, bowing his head so deep that his hair touched the ground.
"As the head of my line of the family I seek your forgiveness. I have never meant for such pain to happen to you and your people", Fingon could hear him choking on his tears and all he wanted was to lay a hand on Maedhros' shoulder to show him that he was not alone no matter what his father would answer. "The family I've always loved." His voice broke on the last word.
"Your brother Maglor told us many things when you were ill: that you asked for the ships to be returned for us and that you never took part in their burning." Maedhros looked up in surprise when his uncle said this. "You showed your loyalty and love and I trust that you will always remember these bonds." Fingolfin's voice became softer when he addressed Maedhros again, "Rise, nephew. You were forgiven long before you returned to us."
"Then there is just one thing I have left to do," Maedhros said and looked into his uncle's eyes. "If there lay no grievance between us, lord, still the kingship would rightly come to you, the eldest here of the house of Finwë, and not the least wise."
Fingon knew that this was only for the public, his father and Maedhros had discussed the question of kingship over the Noldor yesterday and the whole morning.
Later, after the official dinner when they were walking along the lake, Maedhros told Fingon that he was relieved to have passed the crown onto Fingolfin.
"I think you would have made a good king, "Fingon told him nonetheless but Maedhros shook his head.
"I can barely rein in my brothers, what king could I have been?"
"I've seen you lead people before and you did it well."
"Maybe, but Morgoth is a too great enemy and we need to be united if we want to fight him. Asserting my claim to the High Kingship of the Noldor after the things my family has done..."He trailed off for a moment, doubtlessly caught in unpleasant memories and Fingon touched his arm to make him come back.
"Sorry, "Maedhros smiled sheepishly. "It would've divided us even more. Also, "he looked in Fingon's eyes but his tone grew shyer. "As his liege I have reason to come here more often."
"Maedhros, "Fingon took his cousin's wrist in his hand, his thumb stroking over the soft skin on the inside. "You don't need an excuse to visit us. Even if my father would have disavowed you and banished you from Mithrim I would have always welcomed you in Dor-Lomin. If not family then surely we are still friends?"
"I have done you so much wrong." Maedhros looked away from Fingon.
"No, you haven't!" Fingon argued. "And even when I thought you did, I still came for you."
"Why?" Maedhros whispered.
"Because I love you more dearly than anything else." He laid his hand on Maedhros' cheek and tilted his head back towards him.
"We can't, "Maedhros told him brokenly. "It is wrong."
"No, the Valar said it was wrong but we left them. We are free and we can make our own laws now." Fingon told him fiercely and determinedly. "What I feel for you no one can tell me that it is wrong. It doesn't feel wrong, does it?" He asked Maedhros, his voice faltering slightly with the question.
"Don't tell me you left because of me."
"No, I left because of me. I wanted to be free and yes, that freedom includes you." He hesitated only for the fraction of a second before adding. "If you'd have me."
Maedhros laughed, broken but also relieved. "In what world, would I not choose you?"
Fingon shrugged, feeling slightly self-conscious all of a sudden. Maedhros' finger caressed Fingon's cheek when he said, "'Thou has me, if thou has me, at the worst; and if thou would have such a one, take me; and take me, take a soldier; take a soldier, take a king.'"
Fingon's lips brushed against Maedhros' and the world seemed to hold its breath for this momentous occasion. A snowflake landed on Maedhros' face, melted, and ran down his cheek like tear track.
"Not so much a king anymore, to be honest." Maedhros whispered and Fingon laughed and the world continued to move.
"I shall have you and I shall wear you better and better." He kissed Maedhros again, a kiss like a promise and Maedhros exhaled into the cool winter air when Fingon took his hand as the snow began to fall around them.