4. Scars and Short Tempers
Findekáno heard Maitimo moving slowly and carefully to the door of the small room that had housed the two of them for more than five days. He speculated that it was at least two, maybe three, hours past dawn. His rest had been broken twice during the night by Maitimo's nightmares. Holding Maitimo in his arms like a child, he had sung lullabies and finally sentimental love songs from their youth until Maitimo fell asleep again. Findekáno was careful to avoid the air he had sung at the foot of the cliffs of Thangorodrim. At dawn he had awakened briefly once, relieved at the sounds of Maitimo's brothers finally departing to return to the other side of Lake Mithrim.
As Maitimo slipped into the hallway, Findekáno heard him quietly greet Tadiel. The healer's young assistant and Maitimo took care to avoid waking him and Findekáno pretended to sleep. He controlled his desire to jump from the bed, to support Maitimo as he walked, to assist him in relieving himself and with whatever ablutions his beloved required to prepare for the new day.
But numerous troubling incidents of the preceding few days still bothered Findekáno. It hurt him that Maitimo increasingly disliked revealing to him any signs of his remaining debility. He listened to the conversation in the hallway. Although their voices were muffled--they spoke in Sindarin and Findekáno was half-asleep--he could make out the gist of it. Tadiel offered to help Maitimo bathe and her proposal was accepted. Shortly, Findekáno heard the slosh of water in the adjoining bathroom. He dozed for a short while and awakened again when he heard fragments in Quenya coming from the bath. Findekáno recognized the resonant, if slightly tense to his ear, tones of his younger brother's voice. Apparently Turukáno was in the bathroom talking to Maitimo. What? The annoying man will let my brother visit him in his bath, despite their lack of understanding or scarcely a remnant of past affection for one another, when he shoos me away? A light laugh from Maitimo and a reluctant-sounding, answering one from Turukáno next reached Findekáno. At least they are talking.
Three full days with all seven of Fëanor's sons had gone a long way toward unraveling Findekáno's newfound hopefulness. Not to mention what it had done to his temper. Due to them, the days immediately after Thangorodrim had turned into a barely tolerable ordeal for Findekáno. Not only had the brothers completely occupied Maitimo's attention, but they overwhelmed him with their idiosyncrasies, their dependency upon him that alternated with rebelliousness, and worst of all, the display of an increasingly obvious passive resistance to every suggestion relating to moving forward toward the reunification of their people. Given the wearing effect of all this upon Maitimo's continued recovery, Findekáno found inadequate comfort in indulging recurring fantasies of punching one or another of the Fëanarion brothers in one of their handsome, wide-eyed, open-mouthed faces.
All purported to agree with the plan to give horses to Nolofinwë and further to restore possessions recovered from the ships that belonged to anyone left behind, along with sharing supplies, grain, and foodstuff from their stores. In the end, Tyelkormo had followed Maitimo's instructions to the letter, albeit thin-lipped and unreadable throughout, except for his constant requests for clarification of the most inane and trivial details. Curufinwë proffered the unsolicited opinion that Maitimo proposed to hand over far too many horses and too much of their stores. Even the twins nagged that specific horses chosen would unnecessarily interfere with a breeding plan they had recently developed in collaboration with Tyelkormo. Maitimo listened and responded to these complaints smoothly, although Findekáno noted over the last half-day a tightening of his jaw and narrowing of his eyes that belied his lover's patient tone. The signs of persistent pain revealed by the small lines around Maitimo's mouth and the stiffness in how he held his neck added to Findekáno's ire. Couldn't they see he needed to rest?
While Macalaurë contributed supportive and useful suggestions in general discussions among Maitimo, Findekáno and Findaráto, he appeared to have shrugged off like an ill-fitting cloak the tasks of implementation that he had handled so ably in his brother's absence. Maitimo had not sufficiently recovered to cope with such details himself and Findekáno feared that if he attempted to step in he would be regarded as a usurper trading on their brother's love to gain power and authority. Findekáno thought with a grimace that those were the last things to interest him under the circumstances. He wondered if they reacted thusly to the first token offerings of reconciliation, how might they respond to the second stage of Maitimo's design?
Nor did Findekáno accept his growing aggravation with Maitimo's brothers without mourning his once easy tolerance of the worst they had to offer. Dating back to his childhood, he had loved each of Fëanáro's sons on his own merits. Of course, his love for Maitimo burned uniquely even then. Yet, he had grown to cherish Macalaurë as a true brother, unconditionally, as he had always wished he could have accepted his own brother and never had; perhaps he particularly loved Macalaurë because he was Maitimo's favored one and shared Findekáno's adoration of Fëanáro's eldest.
Findekáno often found Tyelkormo sweet and generous although giving voice to that opinion on occasion often had been met with laughter or disbelief. One-on-one, even testy Curufinwë proved himself to be a pleasant companion with his sharp wit and appreciation of beauty in the oddest things. Singly or together the twins could be refreshingly bright and amusing, bighearted and loyal, though they tended slip into bickering in the presence of their elder brothers. Even strange Carnistir seemed more social and observant when alone.
Although Findekáno spent little time with his father during the course of those days, their few encounters had been reassuring. Nolofinwë had visited Maitimo and graciously accepted apologies less guardedly than either Maitimo or Findekáno had expected. Maitimo intimated to his uncle that he had much more to discuss, but that he needed to recover his strength and wits before he would be able to fully engage in such negotiations. Nolofinwë left his son and his cousins to their own counsel. Findekáno found himself surprisingly impressed with his father's wisdom and self-assurance.
Nolofinwë's men had rowed Tyelkormo and a squire back across the lake the first day after the Fëanorians had arrived, while the other brothers stayed, never fewer than two of them, often more, in Maitimo's room at any given time. The next day Tyelkormo and his companions returned with the horses--an event that perceptibly lightened the mood throughout the settlement and lessened the number of harsh and bitter looks directed at or through the Fëanorians.
Macalaurë and Tyelkormo made an impromptu, near-formal public presentation of the horses to Nolofinwë on behalf of their brother. Their remarks were couched in pretty words and affirmed that their brother, despite his state of convalescence, functioned and was accepted by the Fëanorians as head not only of the House of Fëanáro but High King of the Noldor on this side of the sea. Nolofinwë's acceptance speech subtly affirmed that he and Nelyafinwë Maitimo Feanárion had made their peace and implied that, for the moment at least, he chose not to make an issue of the claim of kingship by the latter.
Findekáno concentrated harder on the sounds issuing from the adjoining room and could pick up fragments of conversation. "...let me help you with..," followed by, "...thank you, next to the door...." Another laugh--Maitimo again--and more splashing seemed to indicate that Turukáno was helping Maitimo extract himself from the high-sided tub. An unintelligible murmur by Turukáno, barely a trace of truculence left in his voice, was followed by an expression of gratitude from Maitimo.
Their voices, switching back into Sindarin, were joined by the higher, brighter tones of a woman again. Now this is ridiculous. Findekáno rankled at the thought of Maitimo dripping and naked in the company of his brother and that Sindarin girl while he had been all but banned from viewing his beloved unclothed except in the soft light of the moon or a dim candle placed discreetly across the room. Fuming, he struggled from the bed, banged his shin on the chair in front of the window and swore stridently. Findekáno tossed and shook the bedclothes about until he recovered a wrinkled robe and marched over to the bathroom door.
Intending to charge into the bathroom, the sight of Maitimo, alone now with his back to him, stopped Findekáno cold before he had passed halfway through the doorway.
Maitimo stood with his weight shifted onto his left leg, no doubt to remove strain from his still tender right shoulder and injured arm. He no longer presented an image of emaciation; all of the slackness and flaccidity had disappeared in the four short days since Findekáno had rescued him from the cliffs of Thangorodrim, leaving only a winsome slenderness that recalled the dashing youth who had first captured Findekáno's heart as a child. The contrast between flexed and relaxed muscles, the elegance of proportion, his slightly elongated legs, broad upper back and shoulders, gracefully bent right knee, the tantalizingly rounded buttocks struck Findekáno as heart-achingly beautiful.
True, in his newly recovering state, Maitimo hardly represented the ideal of a sculpted elven male of near-Valarin perfection, but there was something touching in the naturalness of his stance and the refinement, just short of delicacy, of the slim figure that Findekáno now viewed. From Findekáno's perspective in the doorway he could not see the bandaged limb. The sling had been removed for Maitimo's bath. Crisscrossed scars covered Maitimo's back and thighs; ones that had burned red a few days earlier had faded to silvery white already and the crusted scabs of others had healed, although the skin over those still looked inflamed and raw.
At the sound of Findekáno's arrival, Maitimo turned. His brow furrowed as he pulled the large towel he had held loosely in his left hand up against his chest in an unsuccessful attempt to cover himself. Findekáno noted but ignored the regrettably now-familiar signs of self-consciousness and self-loathing evident in Maitimo whenever he was forced to display his marred body before him--his sworn lover, the other half of his soul.
Findekáno moved quickly to envelop him in his arms and kiss him. Maitimo returned the kiss with a tight smile but relaxed into Findekáno's embrace. Finally releasing a little of his dread of Maitimo's black moods, Findekáno reflexively traced one of the longer, deeper scars on Maitimo's chest.
"Let me rub some salve into these, love. Pilimor said it will help them to heal, leaving barely a mark of where they were," Findekáno said, reaching for a jar on the shelf upon the wall. Maitimo's lowered his eyebrows and yanked his head up from Findekáno's shoulder.
"Leave me alone. I've asked you to let me at least bathe and dress in peace. You are not a healer. I endure them because I must but I refuse to suffer your constant examinations and fussing as well. If you don't like what you see, you don't have to look," Maitimo said, his voice harsh with barely controlled anger.
"Don't start with me again, you bloody fool. You know nothing about how I see you. I was standing here admiring you. I would have never imagined you were so vain. Or that you could have the temper of a wounded boar. You can go fuck yourself." Findekáno whirled around and headed back out. Maitimo grabbed his arm, allowing his towel to fall in a sodden heap on the floor.
"Don't want to," Maitimo said almost inaudibly,
"What?" Findekáno shouted, hurling himself back around, fisting his hands and scowling.
"Don't want to fuck myself. I want you to fuck me," Maitimo said, his voice soft and steady, his mouth twitching upwards in the corners. Findekáno ducked his head, looking down at his own bare feet growing cold in a puddle of water on the floor, fighting the impulse to so quickly relent. Maitimo took his chin and lifted it up, reminding Findekáno that his lips were tightly pursed in a way that had caused his lover to laugh and tease him out of a bad temper in both the distant past and far too many times recently.
Findekáno could no longer withhold a smile. Maitimo grinned back and then kissed him like he had the first time they had ever kissed, tender yet skillful, wickedly sensual but completely non-demanding. "Don't leave me," Maitimo whispered.
"You truly are a bloody fool, aren't you?" Findekáno wrapped his arms around him.
"I think not entirely." Maitimo grinned again, all of the darkness leaving his eyes. "I am in your arms now aren't I?"
"By the way, what did my brother want?"
"He said, 'Thank you for the horses.'"
"I'm sure Atar ordered him to do so. He managed to forestall seeking you out until your brothers had left. Still, I bet he almost choked on it."
"He actually made a joke. He claimed he came because Findaráto threatened him." A huge smile lit up Maitimo's face. "He managed to be perfectly civil."
* * * * *
Back in their room, Findekáno considered the possibility of moving them to the large, well-equipped tent that he had spent a few hours each day preparing while Maitimo spent time with his brothers. He had worried whether it might prove insufficient to Maitimo's needs, but summer was upon them, he mused, and it should not be cold or wet. He had engaged a Sindarin carpenter to construct a real bed, which he thought might already be finished. He grimaced at the thought of the vanloads of things they had dragged across the ice. Stupid Noldorin sensibilities. At least his immediate family had not shown the excess in pride of possessions to the degree that Arafinwë's brood had. But now with Maitimo under his care he was grateful for the warm blankets, fine sheets and clothing that they had transported at the cost of such effort. Those, along with his personal cache of precious stones and gold, should enable him to provide every comfort for his beloved until he healed. And heal he would, of that Findekáno had no doubt. Although he strained to comprehend how the physical wounds disappeared so quickly while the shadows on Maitimo's spirit seemed to have only begun to reveal themselves.
He continued to massage the healer Pilimor's salve into the scars on Maitimo's back.
"That should be almost enough for now," he said. "You will permit me to do this thoroughly every day. Twice a day I think would be better."
"Humpf." Maitimo straightened his back and squared his shoulders.
In reaction, Findekáno grabbed Maitimo's head, jerked it around and planted a playful kiss upon his parted lips. "Don't forget that I still outweigh you. I intend to take full advantage of the situation as it is obvious now that it is time-limited."
Maitimo gave him a slow, crooked smile. "You are prone to exaggeration. You were never were much, if any, lighter--well not since you turned fifty. I am just beginning to realize that we do have time though."
"Indeed?" Findekáno queried, with a wrinkling of his forehead.
"The horse-breeding plan has great merit, for example." Maitimo could not complete the short sentence without laughing at himself. Findekáno joined him with a loud guffaw, thinking of their endless indignant squabbling with Ambarussa on that subject, insisting the twins should reorder priorities, and questioning their motives for raising the issue under the circumstances.
"And horses are not all we will need," Maitimo continued. "Military training, organization, discipline-we know nothing. Well, your father understands governance and you and I know a bit. But the rest of them must as well. We finally have attained some passable skill with arms. Well, you and the rest have at least-I will be starting over."
Findekáno interrupted, "I'll train with you until you are better than you ever dreamed of being with your other hand!"
Maitimo smiled. "But our level of competence in many areas reminds me of pampered youth showing off their equestrian skills for their parents and grandparents when they have never ridden beyond the outskirts of Tirion. But we will learn. I am certain your father will agree. He will be invaluable in making it happen. Then we will also spread out; cut off Morgoth's access to the south first. Settle the adjacent areas. I will take the area closest to his stronghold. The least desirable, but most strategically important."
"Just wonderful. Well, that will give me an excuse to spend a lot of time there. Checking to see if you are dead or alive or have gone totally insane, that sort of thing." Findekáno's attempt at forming a frown that could indicate any real irritation completely failed. He acknowledged his defeat by reaching out to push an unruly mass of short red curls off of Maitimo's forehead.
"Are you even listening to me, Káno?" Maitimo asked, the slight upward movement of his chin and narrowing of his eyes a parody sternness.
"Don't patronize me, Nelyafinwë. I know exactly what you are talking about. I just got caught up with the picture of you perched on some Eru-forsaken, frozen rock looking out at Angamando. It wasn't a pleasing vision. Especially given your already foul humor and your wretched nightmares. Naturally, while you are doing this, I would be half a world away, recruiting reluctant wood-elves to learn swordplay or some such thing."
"You would do well to learn better Sindarin first." Findekáno allowed his mouth to fall agape in a mime of outrage. Maitimo continued seemingly unperturbed, yet stroking Findekáno's arm in sympathy, "Seriously, it will not be like that at all. We will be together a great deal of the time. We will stay with one another on a regular basis; I give you my word. I want to be with you as much as you want to be with me. We will make that a fixed part of how we arrange our lives-a year here, a year there. And I'm sure we'll necessarily go on campaigns together." As he listened, Findekáno shook his head in disbelief, while simultaneously memorizing every promise being made in order to recite them back to Maitimo in future arguments. He only hoped that some small part of Maitimo's projection that they could be together for a significant part of their lives would be true.
"I love that last part. That will be agreeable. Scouting around the edges of what we control; slaughtering a few orcs now and again. Cooking in the open air. A bit like those camping trips Tyelkormo used to take us all on in Valinor I suspect."
"Don't be snide. We are fortunate to have found one another again. You are supposed to be the strong one, Káno. I'm the crippled, half-mad one with the nightmares. Remember?" Maitimo's lips formed an acrid smile.
"I'd like to kick your crippled arse. Fine. I suppose then I should stay here with Atar until things are well established before I stake out my own vast forlorn area between you and him. Except for those camping trips--campaigns you called them-and, of course, the occasional lovers' tryst with you on those bleak rocks." Maitimo cuffed him on the side of his jaw and then leaned forward to get a kiss in return.
"Your lips," Maitimo said. "I could write a poem about them--the shape, the texture, the color, the taste." Findekáno grinned and blushed, aware he looked utterly besotted in the most foolishly stereotypical manner.
"Ingo says he wants to seek out his uncle, Elwë, King of the Sindar, recognized even here, although they have little to no contact with him in these parts," Maitimo continued, raising his eyebrows in expectation of an opinion from Findekáno.
"Well, we will talk him into letting one of his brothers do that for him. It is not a bad idea at all, although it should be conducted with caution. But there is too much to sort out here right now for him to go on a quest. We have no idea how far it is or how long it will take. Let's hope you don't find the need to go rushing off somewhere on the basis of a rumor as soon as you are able to ride," Findekáno grumbled.
"You are right about Findaráto. And, no--I will not. Our strategy is to build strength and stability first. No more suicidal forays, my love. Your extravagant rescue of me was the last of those for a long, long while."
"It was actually rather brilliant, if I have to say so myself, although that aspect of it was accidental. The new light and our arrival coinciding with it must be as puzzling to Morgoth as it is to us. As unwelcome to him as it was fortuitous for us. And I am quite sure that I, for one, look smarter to him than I am," Findekáno said.
"And better connected, which is good for all of us. Thorondor's arrival was a stunning detail. It was a small dim victory for us but a significant one. He lost me, which surely rankles, and getting me back cost us nothing but a few scratches and bruises on your part. Oh, and your fine cloak ruined by my blood, of course."
Findekáno flinched. And a hand. He tried to cover his reaction by scratching his nose, shrugging his shoulders, and then saying, "Holding you in my arms now, it does not seem small or dim. It seems enormous and bright. Like a bright new day."
"There's your exaggeration again," Maitimo interrupted him to say but with a warm look and voice rough with affection.
"A chance to begin anew." Findekáno laughed and tried to make a jest, unconvincing though it might be. "Just like your father promised us: our deeds shall be the matter of song until the last days of Arda."
"Not exactly, perhaps. Although, if they were to be, my love, your stunt would seem to be the first on the list of those." Maitimo said, chuckling. "But I will take what we have gratefully. As long as I know that I have you I can face whatever lies before us."
"I'm here. Always and forever. Even if we are separated by time or distance, you may be sure that I am yours and will always return to you at the first possible opportunity. Unfortunately, I suspect I am going to spend a lot of time on horseback. But I'm not in the habit of the repeating the same stupid mistakes. I rather tend to invent new and different ones."
"Don't whine, sweetheart. It's unbecoming in such a gallant champion. And, don't always be so competitive. I think of the two us I rather have the corner on spectacular mistakes."
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.