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Where Love Is: 6. Five
He will not allow me to touch his right arm near the wrist. I feel a fool for not noticing it until now. It is my own shyness that is to blame--I did not like to call attention to the missing hand, and so I avoided it, not out of repulsion or embarrassment, but an overdeveloped sense of propriety.
But today, forgetting myself, I kissed his arm near the wrist, and he gave me a look like a wounded animal, fearful and furious at once, and turned away from me.
I know the anguish he has been through. Was it not I who cut the living hand from his body, in the choice between agony and death? And I know the injury that has been done to his spirit, the anguish of memory that lies beneath his proud will. Would I could take that memory upon myself, and the wound also. But they are Maedhros's to bear, and I thought he was bearing them--his strength regained, his resolve firm.
Yet he will not let me kiss his arm.
"What, should I remove the rest of the arm, if you find it so unsuitable for my caresses?" I asked then, angrier than I had a right to be.
He did not answer, but fell upon the nearest seat, still not facing me.
"I do not like you to see me like this," he murmured after a minute.
"Like what?" I asked, sitting down beside him. "Without the hand that I myself severed? Or ashamed of it, of the mark of your survival? For that it is all it is to me, a mark, a reminder. Nothing can mar you in my eyes, Maitimo."
"Maitimo," he repeated. I can still see the ghost of a smile that flit over his face. "There is a reason I no longer use that name, Findekáno."
"What then would you prefer? Would you rather be whole and dead?"
"You know I would not. If that were so, I would have perished long before you reached me on the peak. Do not think me ungracious, Fingon. You risked your life for me, and the sacrifice means more to me than I can say. Alas, gratitude is no antidote for grief."
"Nor is anything else. There is only bravery in the face of grief. And I wish you, brave Maitimo, would be so brave as to bear the well-meant kiss of one who loves you." I rued these words at once. "But I do not ask you to bear them for my sake only. If such caresses give you more pain than pleasure--"
"Hush," said Maedhros. He kissed both my own wrists and pulled me close to him. Yet he made no sign that I should take his interruption as a sanction.
A fact I shall have to accept, then. Who would have thought that my kisses might inflict injuries as surely as steel? Yet I would not do him harm--above all I would not do him harm. I will not forget myself again.
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