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living life in the shadow of the goodbye

Chapter Text

Fingon expected to die.  He was angry about it—so angry.  After the day started out so hopeful, how could they be losing here?  But he was the High King, and he’d make them work for it, the bastards.  One by one, his people were falling all around him, and it only made him fight harder.  He’d never thought of himself as a brave nér, but others called him that—mostly when he was doing whatever needed to be done.

The wind whistled and a stench of ash and swirling embers heralded the arrival of the immense figure who now broke through the last of Fingon’s guard and stood before him, hefting a black axe with a haft thicker than Fingon’s leg.  Oh, Eru.  He was certainly going to die, Fingon thought, and it was going to hurt a great deal, and he really didn’t want to think about it, so in lieu of thinking about it any more he raised his own sword and cried out a battle cry.  It came out thin and hoarse to his own ears.  Even his voice was failing now, but at least he would not yield.  A ragged, answering cry came from the throats of the few who still stood alive beside him.

Despite his weariness, he gritted his teeth and attacked, pouring all his fear and anger and desperation into it.  The Balrog in front of him parried, but he must have been fighting for a long time as well, because it soon became obvious that he and Fingon were somehow not ill-matched.  Steel clashed on steel, and sweat ran stinging down into Fingon’s eyes.  He laughed without mirth under his breath, because he knew how slowly he was moving, and he could see how slowly his enemy was moving, and it probably looked absurd to any onlookers.

Back, thou foul thing!” he roared, with lungs that should not have had the ability to make that much noise anymore.  The world was spinning before his eyes, but still he fought.  The Union of Maedhros was worth fighting for. 

“Thou canst not defeat me, Elfling,” rasped the Balrog, but he staggered slightly, one huge foot sinking into a patch of unseen mud, and Fingon knocked his axe to the side and raised both arms for a heavy overhand strike that would finish this battle, at least.

And then he screamed, because something wrapped around his chest and arms, and it burned.  Fingon’s arms were caught, trapped, pinned to his chest, and his sword fell from his fingers.  He struggled but could not extricate himself as he was pulled to his knees on the muddy ground.  He caught sight of his standard bearer falling as well, of his blue-and-silver banner fluttering towards the ground.  And this was it, this was the end—and it wasn’t fair, because they had fought so hard—

And the burning eased, the entangling cord loosening.  Fingon fell forward onto his knees, gasping, and looked up to see a tall figure in front of him, his red hair streaming in the wind.  He had abandoned his helmet at some point, if indeed he had ever worn it, and he half-turned to give Fingon a sweet, weary smile and mouth something.  Beyond him, the Balrog rose again, immense and fearful.

Maedhros turned and charged, even as Fingon tried to scramble to his feet.  His head was down, and Fingon’s heart thrilled with hope as his spear went through the Lord of the Balrogs, and Gothmog roared with pain.  And then as he staggered upright, he raised his axe, and Fingon’s mouth went dry, his mind blank—

Nelyo!” Maglor’s voice reverberated across the battlefield, raw and powerful and horrified.  Maedhros did not flinch, but only stared upward, his head tipped back a little, and Fingon tried to get up, to reach him, but his knees buckled beneath him, and he could only watch as—

—as the axe fell—

—and Russo crumpled—

—and the red of his hair streamed across the ground.

Maglor’s wail was wordless now, unending.  Fingon stared, the breath moving raw and rough through his lungs.  He crawled forward on his hands and knees, reaching out a trembling hand.  “Russo?” he whispered.  There was red across his cousin’s face, as if his hair had fallen across the center of it, cleaving one half from the other.  His eyes were open.

“Nelyo, Nelyo—“ Maglor was on his knees beside the two of them.  “No, no, no—“

Fingon caught him and pulled him away before he could look.  Before he could see.  Before he could parse what he was seeing.  “No, Káno,” he whispered.  “No, don’t look, don’t look.  Hush.”  Maglor fought him, thrashing wildly.

“Let me get to him, let me—I can heal him—”

“No,” whispered Fingon, wondering why his own eyes were dry.  He could feel Maglor’s tears on his neck and soaking his shoulder.  “You can’t, Káno.  You can’t.”                                  

It was a relentlessly sunny day.  The sky was a clear blue; birds and insects were singing; a happy little breeze disported itself through the open air.  And Nelyo was dead.

Maglor had stopped crying several hours ago, and now he was just sitting outside with his harp, plucking vacantly at the strings of it.  His chest hurt terribly.  He realized that he was going to have to tell all the others, too, at some point: Tyelko and Moryo and Curvo and the Ambarussar.  Because they didn’t know.  They hadn’t been there.

Where was Fingon?  He had been here.  And he had been there.  He had gotten Maglor off the battlefield, even though Maglor was fighting him, because he didn’t want to leave Maedhros.  Which wasn’t fair, Maglor thought sickly; it wasn’t fair at all.  Maedhros might be Maglor’s brother, but Russo was Finno’s air.

His chest hurt.  He needed to find Fingon.  He needed to make sure he was—not all right, Maglor was certain that he would never be all right again, but safe.  Not hurt.  His burns from the Balrog’s whip treated.  Slowly, he peeled himself up off the tree stump where he’d been sitting, wondering vaguely how he’d even gotten here.

He made his way back to the tent he didn’t remember pitching—maybe Finno had done that as well—and found Fingon lying on his front in the tent.  He was sobbing into his arms.  “Oh Finno.”  Maglor teared up as well, but he brushed his tears away.  Fingon had comforted him enough.  “Hush.”  He knelt beside Fingon, carefully brushing his dark hair back from his forehead.

Weeping, Fingon looked up, his eyes red-rimmed.  One hand he had clutched into one of the dark braids in his hair; the other hair a single lock of red hair, like blood smeared across the palm of his hand.  Maglor wanted to sob and fall apart.  He wanted to follow Nelyo and take the quick road to Valinor.  He could not.  Finno needed him.

“We can embroider it to one of the ribbons, perhaps,” he said quietly, his voice sounding hollow and far away, as if from a great distance.

“I can’t—” Fingon took a deep, shuddering breath.  “I can’t go on without him, Káno.  He’s—he’s my everything.  He’s—”

“The best of us,” whispered Maglor.  “I know, oh, I know.”  He pressed his face into Fingon’s shoulder and embraced him.  Fingon rolled over and tightened the hug.

“I can’t be the king if I am not his king?” he said, in a wobbling, terrified voice that made Maglor’s chest ache in desperate sympathy.

“You are still his king.”  He drew Fingon into his lap and stroked his hair.  “He is not with us now, but I know he must be watching us upon the tapestries in Mandos.  I know he must be so proud of you, Finno.”  Would he be proud of Maglor, too?  Maglor blinked back the pain in his throat that made him want to howl like a wounded animal.  “He gave his life so that you would be able to keep his union alive.”  Oh, was he putting pressure on Fingon?  He shouldn’t do that.  But he had no idea of the right way to handle this situation.  He wanted to lie down and sleep for a week, to dream of the safety of curling up in Nelyo’s arms.  Nelyo, who had given up the crown that Maglor should have.

“Yes,” whispered Fingon.  “But I cannot do it alone, Káno.”

“You are not alone, Finno.  I am here.”  A poor substitute, indeed, but it was all Maglor had to offer.  He knew how to act.  He knew how to inject his voice with the confidence he did not feel but that Fingon needed to hear right now.  “I will not let you face this alone.  Recall that I was High King for thirty years.”  A laughably useless one, but Fingon had no need to know that.

“Yes,” sniffed Fingon.  “Ai, I am sorry for putting this upon you, cousin.”

“There is nothing to forgive.”  Maglor rubbed circles across Fingon’s back as he knew Maedhros used to do when Fingon woke in the night with nightmares of unending ice and bitter cold.  “It is my burden to bear as well as yours.”  He threaded his fingers through Fingon’s.  “Our fathers are gone and we are the two remaining eldest sons.  Somehow we must sort out an impossible situation, but we need not do it alone.”

“Not alone,” Fingon repeated, brushing the tears away slowly.  “Yes.  We will resurrect the Union of Maedhros in his honor.  And when we finally kill that craven monster, I will rip the crown from his skull myself, and—and—”  he swallowed and looked up with eyes that were bright with fury and tears, “—you shall have the Silmarils back, Káno, as Russo’s weregild.  I sw—”

In blank panic, Maglor pressed his hand over Fingon’s mouth.  “I believe you, I believe you,” he gasped, “but do not swear it, Finno.  Do not swear it.  He would not want that for you.”

Fingon panted and looked up at him.  “No,” he said slowly.  “I am sorry, Káno—and I am here for you as well.  Together we will keep that dark Doom at bay as well.  For Russo.”

Maglor pulled him close.  “For my brother,” he agreed.  “Now let me sing you a lullaby, Finno?  You should sleep.  You will need the rest, for the coming days.”

“Thank you,” Fingon said faintly.  “Please, Káno.  But you must get some rest yourself, once I am sleeping.”

“I will, do not worry.”  Maglor stroked Fingon’s hair back from his forehead.  “Do not worry.  Just rest.”

He began to sing as Fingon lay back down, and the rest of the encampment turned their ears towards the quiet sorrow in their songbird’s voice and let themselves feel hope.  The king’s husband is dead.  The king lives.

The king lives.

Chapter Text

“I will not part with this Silmaril,” Dior hissed, voice heavy with anger.  The tension in room ratcheted up another notch, and Maglor ground his teeth, feeling the Oath pricking at him, goading him onwards.  It was a weird, compulsive, unpleasant pain, and yet he knew he could ignore it, if he chose—if he wished to bring upon them whatever Doom the breaking of it would bring.  (Would that be better?) But his brothers—Maedhros—what would become of them?

“I think it’s time we turned this into a discussion and not a battlefield.”

Fingon’s voice thrilled through Maglor, as it always did.  He was using his High King inflection, the one he didn’t even seem to realize he used now, and it was enough to catch at the reins of Maglor’s mind and halt him, twitch his fingers away from his blade slightly, though they quivered and would not be called wholly back.

Tyelko, naturally, did not look as if he wanted to listen at all.  “This is none of your concern, Nolofinwion,” he snarled.

“I am your High King—of course it is my concern.”  Fingon almost seemed lit from within, the golden ribbons in his hair shining with an unearthly light.  Behind him, Dior shifted on his throne, as if he did not enjoy the reminder of Fingon’s status but also realized that it was a useful deterrent for him in the current situation.

“Stand aside or we will make you stand aside,” Curvo snapped.  “Tell him, Maglor.”

Maglor’s words lodged in his throat.  “Brothers—” he started, groping for what to say.

“‘Death we will deal him ere day’s ending,’” Curvo crooned.  “Thou art not so powerful without thy people, Findekáno.”

“I will not stand aside,” Fingon responded, his hand falling to the hilt of his sword.

“Then thou wilt die with these—”

Stop!”  Maglor put himself between Fingon and his brothers.

“What are you doing?” hissed Amrod, his eyes flicking from Maglor to Finno to Tyelko.

“A family dispute is no cause to invoke the Oath,” Maglor answered carefully.  “Would you not say so, brothers mine?”

“Half-cousin he may be—”

Brother he is,” Maglor said firmly.

“Brother?” echoed Curvo slowly.  The twins gave each other shocked looks but nodded.  The other three simply seemed confused.  Maglor sighed.

“He is your brother’s husband?”

Curvo started violently.  “Wait—”

“How can you not have known that?” Maglor tried, incredulously.  “Honestly, do all of you have no brains in your heads?”  Fingon, behind him, made a choking noise, and Maglor rolled his eyes inwardly.  Trust Finno to start laughing.  Moryo shifted in embarrassment.

“I suppose that would explain why Nelyo was so red every morning that Fingon came out of his room,” he mumbled.  Maglor started to breathe a sigh of relief, because the expressions of his brothers were shifting from scenting blood to various shades of embarrassment, which meant there might really be a way to resolve this without bloodshed.  If Fingon could think of some way to get the Oath to leave Dior be—

And then Tyelko stepped forward.  “And how do we know you speak the truth?” he asked, and Maglor gaped as his little brother’s effrontery.  “You have always been the weakest of us, Makalaurë.  Little Káno.  Nelyo’s little shadow.”

The only answer that rose to mind—you shut up—was probably not going to do Maglor any favors.

“I would hardly lie—”

“You lie about everything.”  Celegorm waved a hand dismissively.  “Or do you not account them lies if they are spoken prettily enough?”

Maglor ground his teeth together, feeling real raw anger surging into his throat.  Fingon’s hand on his shoulder steadied him.  “He does not lie,” he said quietly.  “It is the truth.  Russo and I have been married since Valinor.”

“And so you would say, Nolofinwion.  Finno Astaldo.  Who was called Valiant because he got himself stuck in a tree trying to rescue a kitten,” smirked Celegorm, and Maglor felt the tension creeping up again.  Tyelko was enjoying this, swaggering about and posing—and he was psyching himself up for some true violence, Maglor could tell.  If Maglor let him continue, he would sway the brothers back to his side, and the Oath would take them all and Doriath as well.

“Very well,” he said, smoothly, bringing his fingers down to pluck a crashing chord from his harp and draw the energy of the room back to himself, “If it is only the evidence of your own eyes you will accept, little brother, then I shall give you evidence that even you cannot refute.”  Even if I am positive you must have seen evidence already, since Finno and Russo were the least subtle couple in all of Valinor.  With a deep breath and before the echos of his voice could fade, Maglor turned smoothly to Fingon.  “I know it is seldom done, Findekáno my cousin, but as our grandfather did before us, will you take me to wed before these witnesses as before you did my brother?”

Fingon blinked at him, then wrinkled his nose and grinned, a look that was definitely reserved for Maglor alone, and Maglor brushed aside the pinch of pain at the thought that it used to have more than a single recipient.  “If you think that is what is best,” he murmured, taking Maglor’s hand and pulling him close.  Warm breath kited along Maglor’s ear as Fingon’s next quiet words reached him, “Russo’s little brat.”

Maglor shivered slightly at the touch, but he did not let his concentration lapse, nor did he let the energy of the moment fall flat.  “Have you a token with which to bind us?” he asked, his voice pitched low as if intimate but not so low that it would not reach every corner of the halls.  Fingon hesitated—just the barest second—and then he nodded, unbinding from about his wrist the single golden ribbon he now wore there.  The golden ribbon that was threaded with a lock of crimson hair they had embroidered to it the day after—

Maglor blanched.  “You—this?” And he had not meant to speak so loudly, for this was not how he had intended the scene to go.  He had meant to put on a show that he and Finno could laugh about later.  He had not thought—

But Fingon was already nodding and taking up Maglor’s hand he pressed them together.  “Before the sight of Eru, I take thee as my husband, Kanafinwë Makalaurë—Maglor Fëanorion,” he said calmly, and Maglor’s heart twisted in his chest, but did not waste the moment.  Even if his hand trembled, he wound the ribbon about both their hands.

“Then before the sight of Eru, I take thee as my husband, Findekáno Astaldo—Fingon Nolofinwion,” he replied, and he took a moment to pull Fingon close and press an almost-chaste kiss to his lips.  He turned to his brothers—Celegorm standing foremost and actually gaping at the two of them, his hand fallen from his sword hilt now—“I trust that the battlefield invocation will be sufficient and that you do not require the full consummation before all the gathered witnesses?” he asked freezingly.

Celegorm sputtered.  Moryo giggled nervously.  The twins gave them slight nods.  Good.  The energy had turned in favor of Fingon and Maglor now.  Maglor was not even particularly worried when Celegorm tried to pull himself together and said in a low, angry voice, “Very well—but you cannot stand against the Oath, brother, and if Dior will not give us the Silmaril—“

And—oh—but the next move was so obvious.  And Tyelko had set him up for it beautifully.  “You are right, brother,” Maglor said, with a gentle smile.  He tossed his hair.  “My lord Dior, I understand that you feel strongly that the Silmaril is yours by birth-right, do you not?”

Dior nodded, frowning suspiciously.  At his side, Nimloth was leaning forward, her eyes bright.  Maglor suspected she might have already caught on.  “And of course the Silmaril is ours as well, by our birth-right,” Maglor continued.  “And we cannot abide that it remain in the hands of one who is not our kin.  Is that not correct, Celegorm?”

“Yes, it is, which is why—“ Maglor raised his hand and so strong was the spell he and Finno had woven that Celegorm actually went quiet.

“Then there is only one way to resolve this conundrum,” he said loudly.  “Please, my lord Dior, allow the High King of the Noldor and his husband to adopt you.”

The frown deepened on Dior’s face, but Nimloth grasped his sleeve and murmured something in his ear, her eyes sliding sideways to their three children, seated by the throne—two little boys in blue and a tiny girl—and Dior nodded stiffly.

“What!” yelped Celegorm.  “No!  You can’t—“

“Oh, be quiet, Tyelko, and stop holding onto a grudge that one nís preferred a Man to you,” said Curvo.  “Maglor’s solution is clever.  It’s the closest we’ve gotten to fulfilling the Oath yet.  Let’s just take it.”

Fingon’s hands lay warm and loose on Maglor’s shoulders as he turned back to Dior.  He wondered if Nelyo would be proud of him.

He hoped so.