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The High King fell to his knees. He shook all over, the Kinslayer’s word striking him deep in his heart, unlocking a yearning long-hidden within his fëa.

Yonya. Gil-galad did not know much Quenya; he had spent only a few short years at King Arakáno’s knee before being sent to Círdan at the Havens. But he knew that word, had heard it whispered in the darkness when Uncle Arno thought he was asleep, had read it in Ñolofinwë’s letters to his sons—Findekáno and Arakáno both, and even far-off Turukáno.

Yonya. My son.

He wanted to shout, No! He wanted to deny it, to demand proof of the baseless claim, to revile Maedhros as he had before the peredhil had finally convinced him they truly had been loved by their kidnappers. But he’d always known, deep down, that the story Arakáno told him about a nameless, faceless, lifeless mother could not be the truth. He’d always wondered at his hair, so very red, like only a few other notorious Noldor. He’d always known that his father’s last letter had been to Maedhros, that the two were scandalously close.

And now Maedhros claimed him, at long last, offering himself up for execution at the hands of his own son, and his fëa blazed with a fire that matched Gil-galad’s own even as he closed his eyes and let his shoulders slump.

“Atya?” he croaked, and Maedhros opened his silver eyes, flooded with astonishment.

 


 

They were chained, and that was only good and right. Maglor’s hands they tied behind his back; for Maedhros, they crossed his arms over his chest and bound them.

Maglor was silent. For all they could both smell the acrid burn of flesh, he did not release his Silmaril. Maedhros’ only hand burned even after dropping his, but he had held it so briefly that Elrond had smiled hopefully and suggested the wound might heal in time.

Not even the twins could make Maglor talk. He stared past them, as if he could not see them, and the girl at Elros’ elbow had ushered them out when it became clear that staying would only upset them further.

Maedhros rasped out his brother’s name once, twice. When there came no response a third time, he said only, “If you die on me, too, Káno, I will never forgive you.”

Maglor’s shoulder twitched. He gripped the jewel even tighter, and Maedhros smelled blood.

For all he was bound and captive and facing death alongside a brother who was lost to the thrall of that damn jewel, Maedhros’ spirit was lighter than it had been in years. The Oath was fulfilled; his son was well; his death would be swift and merciful. That was more than he deserved, certainly, but he was grateful nonetheless.

The Oath. It was gone, that oppressive weight on his soul that had been there since the Darkening. He hardly knew who he was without it. He didn’t think Maglor did, either. Perhaps that was why he was...like this.

One jewel in the sky, safe in the hands of the father of Maglor’s sons. One jewel in hand, burning and bleeding its way through Maglor’s flesh. One jewel—somewhere. Maedhros didn’t know where they’d taken it. He didn’t want to know; he didn’t have to know.

He smiled when the tent flap opened, expecting to see the twins come again, or else Eönwë and a retinue of soldiers. But it was neither of them.

Maedhros’ smile faltered.

“...Atya?” Gil-galad said hesitantly.

 


 

The High King will judge the Kinslayers. Let his verdict stand.

 

Maglor laughed.

He had not spoken since Maedhros’ betrayal, but this—this was all too much. Atya. As if his brother’s whelp could ever love a Kinslayer as his father. As if there was any hope, anything left for him now.

The sound startled them both, Maedhros and his...son. Of course he would’ve had a son with Fingon. Of course it would’ve happened only days before their valiant, idiot cousin got himself killed. Had Fingon walked to his death disgusted at the thought of Maedhros having his baby? Had he done it regretting the time he’d wasted fucking Maedhros like it was still the Years of the Trees and they had not a care in the world? Had he even known; had Maedhros even told him?

“Have you something to say now, Káno?” Maedhros asked, and Maglor hated him for still being the older brother.

“You’re a joke,” he growled. “Both of you. Bastard sons of ignoble fathers—I can’t stand you. I hate you.”

“Your children will be glad to know you speak,” Gil-galad said, with ice in his voice cold enough it could’ve come from the Helcaraxë. Had Fingon’s seed frozen the unquenchable fire in Maedhros, for a time? Was that why they’d done it?

“They have a father,” Maglor spat. Elrond, Elros—he loved them even now, his little stars. He hated himself for loving them. He clenched the Silmaril even tighter in his fist, as if somehow it could burn all his pain out of him. “Let Eärendil take back what is his, now that I have what is mine.”

“I know I am monstrous, brother, but you disgust me.” Maedhros spat in his face.

Maglor didn’t blink. Some last piece of admiration for his brother-turned-monster that he didn’t know was still in him shattered, and he felt Maedhros’ disappointment burn like the jewel in his hand. He struggled to cough out another harsh laugh, proving nothing to no one.

“Come with me,” Gil-galad said, drawing a knife.

Maglor’s throat closed, his laughter cutting off abruptly. He realized, suddenly, that even still, he did not want to die.

But Gil-galad slaughtered no one. Instead the High King—but they were all kings in this tent, where they not?—cut through Maedhros’ bonds. He made to slice the tattered ribbons tied around the stump of his arm, but Maedhros flinched away.

“Don’t,” he croaked. “They’re all I have left of...” He shuddered.

Gil-galad helped Maedhros to his feet; together, they stumbled away without another word.

Maglor stared after them, disbelieving. How—why—?

A tear slipped from his eye. His hands, yet bound, trembled. A sudden flood of sorrow and regret washed over him.

The Silmaril slipped, bloody, from his ruined grasp, and Maglor raised his voice in song.

 


 

“Will it be public, then?” Maedhros asked. He was so close to his son—so very close—he could almost reach out and touch, hold— But he did not. He did not deserve it.

Gil-galad frowned, the curve of his lip so like Fingon’s that Maedhros wept. He could cry, now, as he had not been able to since the last night he’d held his husband in his arms.

Gil-galad reached out to touch his shoulder, and Maedhros flinched away. He did not deserve comfort.

“Atya,” he said, the word sounding foreign on his tongue. “What do you mean?”

“My execution,” Maedhros said wryly. “Will you kill me in public? I thought you would, but then we were bound, and now—”

“I’m not going to kill you!” Gil-galad exclaimed in horror.

Maedhros bowed his head. “Of course. I would not—I would not ask you to become a Kinslayer, no matter how much I deserve to be killed by one I have so grievously wronged.” By one I so dearly love.

Would Eönwë do it, then, or were Maiar forbidden the slaughter of Eru’s children? Perhaps they would employ a Man for the deed, for that would not be Kinslaying; and even if it were, the Secondborn killed one another all the time.

No one is going to kill you,” Gil-galad said fiercely.

Ah. So it was to be done by his own hand. Perhaps this time, without the Oath to stop him, he would succeed. His fate had always hung over him, shadowing what little joy he had, and now it would come to the fore.

But—

“I have—I have never had a father,” Gil-galad whispered. “And now I do—I don’t...no, I do care what you have done, Atya. That will...you will need to repent of your murders. But I would not let you die, not now that I have you with me at last.”

Maedhros stared, astonished. He—he was going to live? No. No, he didn’t deserve that, he didn’t want that—if he died he would be properly punished in Mandos—if he died perhaps he could reunite with—

“I do not deserve to be your father,” Maedhros rasped.

Gil-galad glared, looking so like his grandfather in that moment that Maedhros half-believed him to be Nolofinwë’s ghost. “And I do not deserve to be fatherless.”

He had no response to that except to fall, shaking, into his son’s arms. Gil-galad held him, and Maedhros clung to him, his shattered fëa reaching out, connecting with the glorious silver of Gil-galad’s soul for the first time since he gave him to Arakáno.

In the distance, a ragged, melancholy cry pierced the air. Two half-grown peredhil rushed past, darting eagerly to their father’s side (and he didn’t deserve it, either, but the boys—the boys deserved the world).

Maglor had begun to sing.

 


 

The High King offers his subject mercy, and begs reconciliation.

 

“Tell me about my fathers,” Gil-galad said quietly.

Maedhros looked at him. “You know too much about me. And I know your uncle told you of—of Findekáno.”

“I know a monarch and a monster. I know there is more to you than that.” Gil-galad wrinkled his nose. “I have no mother, somehow. Tell me the truth of you and him. Tell me how you met, how you—” He choked up, and tried to pass it off as a cough. “How you...fell in love. How I came to be.”

Maedhros closed his eyes. No one had ever asked that before—they spent so long keeping it a secret, and then it was too raw and painful, and who would have cared to know the truth? Maglor, perhaps, in a kinder world; or Aredhel, had she lived longer. The peredhil, maybe, had he been in any state to share with them his heart’s remains.

But Gil-galad...he wanted to know. He deserved to know.

“We were cousins, half-cousins,” Maedhros rumbled, falling into memory. “I met him when he was just a baby, at the celebration of his birth, though it wasn’t until years later that we became close. I was fifteen years his senior—my father hated his—and I was treated like a princess...”

He grimaced. It was so long ago that he could forget, sometimes, but it was that very peculiarity that had allowed for Gil-galad’s birth.

“He was the first prince, you know, of Finwë’s grandchildren,” he said. “Maglor was born just after him, but Finno was first.”

“But you’re...” Gil-galad raised an eyebrow. “Wait, I mean...I don’t...”

He didn’t even know, Maedhros realized. But then, why would he? It was long before Arakáno’s birth, and the folk of Beleriand had no need to know such details of Maedhros the Tall’s personal history.

“I was so afraid, when I realized I wanted to be a nér—an ellon,” he explained. “They thought me female, but I was not. I kept it to myself, this secret of my fëa, for too long. I did not want Nolofinwë to see me as an usurper, and I knew my father would frame it that way.” He sighed. Never once had he worried Fëanáro would reject him, but that did not mean his transition from nís to nér was without undue fuss.

“But Finno found out,” Maedhros said, a soft warmth spreading from his healing heart. “He saw through my pretenses, and I told him my secret. He supported me, he was there for me when I told the world who I truly was.” Maedhros wiped his eyes. Finno had always been too good for him. “I was...almost forty, at the time. I think that was when I realized I loved him.”

“Oh,” Gil-galad murmured. “I didn’t...I knew...I knew you bore me, or—I guessed, when I realized who you were to me. But I didn’t know how.”

“My hröa has changed much since my youth, and not only from my time in Angband.” Maedhros smiled wryly. “But that which allowed for your birth remained, if hidden beneath my armor.”

Gil-galad let out a soft snort of laughter, and Maedhros tugged him into a half-embrace. He could scarcely believe this, that he was here, with his son, the child he and Finno had made together, telling him the story of their love. It was imperfect, but it was real, and it threatened to overwhelm him.

“And besides, not many who yet live remember me as anything other than Lord Maedhros, let alone Prince Maitimo!” He sighed. “My father accepted me wholeheartedly, and gave me a new name: Nelyafinwë.”

“Third Finwë,” Gil-galad said, sounding half-uncertain.

“Before I had been something else,” Maedhros said. “But now I was the eldest prince, the third of Finwë’s ‘true’ line, according to my father, and he could not be more gleeful to assert my superiority over Nolofinwë’s line.” He grimaced. “I did not want that. I just wanted to be myself. But Findekáno...he didn’t care that I’d stolen his title from him. He was glad for me. He remained my friend.”

“And...something else, also?” Gil-galad prompted.

Maedhros chuckled quietly. “My first coming of age, my fiftieth begetting day party. Findekáno took me aside, away from the crowd and my father’s drunken speeches, and he kissed me. He said it was a gift. I could barely believe it.”

Gil-galad’s heart panged. He had never had such a lover, had never been drawn to another that way, and truly he had never missed it. There was no time for romance in war, and he did not think he would truly like it if there was. Still—the love in Maedhros’ eyes as he spoke of Fingon stirred some longing deep within him. He had never had any love that strong, that pure.

And his own fiftieth begetting day had been the year of the Second Kinslaying, scant months after Maedhros carved a path of blood through Doriath. Only four years later Gondolin had fallen, and he had been made king, younger than any before him.

Maedhros was too lost in happy memory to notice his son’s discomfit. “Still...nothing much changed between us. I was busy in court; his mother sent him to learn from Tulkas; when we were together we did not speak of our feelings, though they simmered beneath the surface. But then...”

He closed his eyes, picturing the day he had seen Findekáno again after four years of separation. His friend had grown no taller, but he had become broad and strong, his brown skin shining gold in Laurelin’s light, the ripple of his muscled abdomen awakening something Maitimo had never felt before. It had been his day, his celebration, and yet while all of Tirion plied for his attention, Findekáno’s eyes had been only for him.

His fiftieth begetting day,” Maedhros murmured. “He was so beautiful, and he kept looking at me, and even when he was supposed to be the center of attention he slipped away with me, just me, and let me return his gift. A kiss. And this time, it let to more—more kisses, more touches, the opening of our souls to one another. From then on we knew who we were to each other, though we had to keep our love quiet amid our father’s quarrel. But I loved him so. It was beyond worth it, to hold him close and know he loved me also.”

“When did you marry?” Gil-galad asked, for though Maedhros’ finger was bare, he saw occasional glimpses of a golden ring on a chain beneath his shirt.

Maedhros fished the ring out now, slipping the chain from around his neck and offering it to Gil-galad. His hand trembled; no one save Fingon himself had ever touched it before. They had not the time for a ring at first; this had been forged after his rescue from Angband, in a renewal of their vows.

“Not until the Darkening.” A shadow passed across Maedhros’ face. “It was...after the Oath. After the Kinslaying. He came to me, in that battle, fought and killed for me. Later, when he was the Crown Prince, people would forget that, but...” He shuddered. “I have bloodied my hands too many times. I am unforgivable. But—he was a Kinslayer, too. For my sake.” He clenched his fist. “I should have known then...I would be his Doom.”

“But you married him,” Gil-galad said softly, trying to steer his father away from his guilt. “Despite the blood—he married you.”

“It was a frantic, passionate thing.” Maedhros grimaced, looking sidelong at his son. “I doubt you want the details of your parents—” He coughed. “Well. Anyway. He had hope, and I had him, and we needed to fight back our horror and our guilt, and we needed to keep each other close. We needed a promise, a bond. A love that would not fail us.”

His eyes went distant, then, staring out into the western sea. “I tried to stop the ships from burning. It didn’t matter, in the end. They burned anyway.”

“Atya...” Gil-galad said uneasily. If Fingon had forgiven him that—and he had to have, for Gil to be born—then he could too, but...

“But he came to me, again,” Maedhros said, his voice hoarse, “across Ice and through death—he came to me, into hell, the place I had been taken—he saved me, yonya, again and again, and loved me despite everything I did.” His shoulders shook, and Gil-galad wrapped his arms around him. “I wonder—I fear he loves me even now, in Mandos. He should not. Not when—not after—”

“You are not unforgivable,” Gil-galad growled. “I...” He swallowed. “I cannot say I forgive you yet, Atya, not for everything...but I want to. And I am sure he does too.”

Maedhros bowed his head. “That is what I am afraid of. I don’t...I was offered so many chances, and each time I refused. I cannot—I cannot forgive myself. How can I?”

“You are here now, with me.” Gil-galad clasped his hand, pressing his ring back into his palm. “You are trying now. If...my father could love you despite the Ice, you can try despite the blood. He did it for you.” He took a deep breath, then asked: “Will you do it for me?”

 


 

The rest of the tale was told another time, in brief. Maedhros broke down as he spake of Fingon’s final charge, his reckless challenge to the darkness even as a spark of life flared in Maedhros’ womb.

“If he had known—” Gil-galad couldn’t bring himself to ask. “If he knew you—that I—”

“He would have lived, for your sake,” Maedhros said quietly. “Even if he would not for mine. He...his father’s death broke him, I think, in a way I could not fix. He was always better at that. But if I had told him—if I had even known, before he left...”

Maedhros slumped forward. Gil-galad embraced him, clung to him.

“He would have loved you,” Maedhros whispered. “I know he loves you, yonya. I know—he wishes he were there for you.”

Gil-galad wept, seeing the truth between his words: I love you. I wish I had been there for you.

“We will see him again,” Gil-galad promised, though he knew not when, nor how.

 


 

They stood shoulder to shoulder, looking out at the sea. They did not look at each other. It was difficult enough to even speak, after all that had happened.

“You were right,” Maedhros said at last. “We should have taken the Valar’s mercy, before...”

Maglor shook his head. “No,” he said, “you were right. They did not let us keep the jewels, in the end. They would not have surrendered them had we surrendered ourselves. This way—this way we are free.”

He looked down to the ruin of his right hand, covered in bandages. Elrond had not been able to save it; like his brother, he would have to learn to use his left.

“I thought about cutting it off,” he said abruptly. “But I knew you would go on about stealing your look—”

Maedhros cuffed him around the ears with his stump, for once just the older brother. “At least you still have it,” he grumbled.

“And—” Maglor sucked in a breath— “there may be healing, in Aman.”

Maedhros fell still and silent. “Not for me,” he said quietly, and he meant more than his hand.

Eönwë proposed two options: return to Valinórë and be judged, or remain in Endórë in exile forevermore. Some grumbled they should not have a choice, or that they should be killed—privately, Maedhros agreed—but Gil-galad would not permit it, and Eönwë deferred to his ruling of his own people. In that, as in everything, Maedhros was proud of his son.

Maglor swallowed. “I do not expect a warm welcome. But...I am tired, Nelyo. So tired. I need rest. I will pay for my sins, and retreat from Eldalië, but I want to do it in a safer place than here.” He paused. “Beleriand is falling apart. Look—”

He pointed to a crumbling cliff across the bay. As he spoke, a chunk fell into the greedy sea.

“I will not leave my son,” Maedhros said simply. “Not again. Not while he wants me here, for some reason.”

Maglor flinched. “I am not abandoning the twins—!”

“I did not mean that.” Maedhros sighed. “You have your reasons. I have mine.”

“Elves will be allowed to visit Elenna, exiles and Amanyar both,” Maglor murmured. “For Elros’ sake, I believe the Valar may let poor Makalaurë, who is both and neither, stay there from time to time. Perhaps even you could go, and we could see each other again. Perhaps even Ammë...or if our brothers are released...or Finde—”

“Stop,” Maedhros said. “No. I will not—I will not hope for that.”

“There is nothing he would not do to see you again,” Maglor said gently. “Have his past deeds not proven his devotion?”

Maedhros closed his eyes. Once, he may have agreed. But that was before the Second and Third and Fourth Kinslayings; that was before Fingon gave into his father’s despair and met Þauron on the battlefield.

“He will come for you,” Maglor promised, “even if you do not for him.”

Maedhros shook, fighting back a shuddering sob. “I do not deserve—”

“None of us deserved any of this.” Maglor clasped his shoulder with his good hand. “That’s not what this is about.”

“What is it about, then?” Maedhros demanded. It was the question he’d been asking himself since he let the Silmaril fall from his grasp, since his fate slipped away and the fell flame that burned within him had sputtered out and begun anew.

“Love,” Maglor said gruffly, pulling him into a swift embrace. “Nelyo. I forgive you. Elrond and Elros and Gil-galad forgive you. I know Fingon will, too. Can you not forgive yourself?”

“It—it is not my fate,” Maedhros rasped, but he was not so certain, now.

 


 

The High King begins anew.

 

He’d always wanted little more than a quiet life with those he loved. But a prince of the Noldor had duties; a king in exile had even more; a Kinslayer always looked over their shoulder. There was never any chance for that in his old life.

But in this new one...

He tried, at first. He truly did. But no matter the people around him, no matter the homeliness of the house, something was missing.

He went out on his own. If he was missing something, perhaps he could find it within himself. But he knew, deep down, what it was. And he knew he could not have it.

But when had that ever stopped him before?

Fingon went with Maglor to Númenor, to meet Elrond and Elros, the nephews—sons?—he never had. He marveled at the city of Armenelos, spoke gladly with the Men who endured so much, even attended the wedding of Elros’ daughter Tindómiel to her lovely wife. But when Maglor made to return to Aman and his indefinite sentence of servitude and contemplation with Nienna, Fingon did not accompany him.

“This is unwise, cousin,” Maglor warned, but he smiled as he said it. “You know you are exiling yourself a second time. The reembodied are not permitted to set foot in Middle-earth again. If you do this, you cannot return to Aman.”

Fingon only laughed. “So thought we all the first time!” He winked at his cousin. “I will tell your brother you miss him. And perhaps Elrond and I can drag him here for a visit sometime.”

Maglor embraced him. “Thank you,” he whispered. “He needs you. Gil-galad helped...but he needs you.”

I never should have left, Fingon thought, the guilt tearing at his fëa even after all this time, even after Mandos. But he would remedy that now, if he could.

 


 

The High King’s court was no place for a despised Kinslayer such as Maedhros, and it was too busy for him aside. He traveled with his son to the east, but he knew he could not stay in Lindon.  Though Círdan was kind to him individually, the Sindar at Mithlond would not have him either; even Tyelpë’s settlement with the remnant of the Fëanorian host was not a place for him now. They may have accepted him as their stoic lord, but not as their fellow exile. No, Maedhros wanted to be alone.

Well. Not alone. But though he kept in contact with his family, the one he truly missed he knew he could never have again.

Gil-galad visited from time to time, when the stress of the crown became too much. Maedhros had not been king for very long, but he had been a leader most of his life, and he gave his son what advice he could. Things were still difficult between them, in some ways, but they were better. Everything was better now than Maedhros could ever have imagined.

You do not deserve this, the part of his mind that sounded like Þauron still whispered from time to time. But deserving or not, his time of death and destruction had passed. The fate intended for him had never come to pass. His fëa burned, still, but it was bearable, mostly. Love tempered that awful flame, turning it to a kinder warmth.

The High King’s advisors did not like him to travel alone, but even his guards did not wish to break bread with the dreadful Maedhros Fëanorion. They camped by themselves a ways from Maedhros’ small cabin, as homely a house he could manage, while their king spent time with his only living father.

When a knock came to Maedhros’ door, he knew not who it could be. Confused, he rose to answer, his hand on his hip, ready to draw a dagger if necessary. No one came to see him but Gil-galad, who was already here, and occasionally Tyelpë, whose last visit had been less than a year ago, and Elrond, who was busy keeping the peace in his king’s absence.

But—it was Elrond at the door, a strange expression on his face. Maedhros tensed; at the sound of his herald’s voice, Gil-galad got up as well.

“What’s wrong?” he demanded, falling back into his kingly demeanor.

Elrond just looked at them. “Nothing is wrong—I left Erestor in charge—but I had to...” He gulped. “Come and see.”

Something shifted in the air, and Maedhros felt a stirring in his fëa he had not known since—

But no. It could not be. He would not hope. It would not be fair, to anyone.

In a daze, Maedhros let Elrond lead him outside, Gil-galad following just a step behind. Another figure stood stroking the mane of a horse, his back turned, and Maedhros stopped dead in his tracks, the heart he had slowly begun to rebuild faltering in its steady beating.

Even changed, even after all this time, even with only a glimpse—he would know that nér anywhere.

“My lord?” Elrond said hesitantly. “I...they’re both here.”

The figure turned, beginning to say, “I told you to call me Fin—”

But the words caught in his throat as he saw his husband again. As he saw his son for the first time.

Fingon was as beautiful as the day Maedhros first knew he was in love. He styled his hair with a different pattern of braids, but still the golden ribbons—so very like the one Maedhros kept tied around his stump even now—shone in the sunlight where they were woven into his hair. His eyes were still so impossibly blue, his lips so plush and inviting, his shoulders so broad, his stature so proud and firm. Before him—bent, broken, bruised—Maedhros felt ashamed.

For a moment they simply stared at one another, the world utterly still around them. And then Fingon smiled, and Maedhros’ sight of him blurred with tears, and the copper-gold threads of their marriage bond reignited with a fire so different from the doom that had very nearly claimed him.

“Russo,” Fingon breathed, and “Finno!” Maedhros sobbed, and before he even realized he had stepped forward his husband was in his arms, holding him tight like he never wanted to let go, their thoughts flying and mingling together and he knew he never would, he knew he was forgiven, he knew he was loved, he knew the guilt and the regret and the pain and the loss and the grief but also the love, the love, the love

And then Finno’s mouth was on his and Maedhros sobbed into their kiss, utterly overwhelmed. The moment was infinite, eternal, and yet it was over so soon, because Fingon had not come only for Maedhros.

Fingon released him, still clutching his hand, and turned to face his son. Gil-galad’s eyes shone with unshed tears, utter astonishment radiating from him, and Fingon let out a little laugh-sob.

“Yonya,” he croaked. “Yonya—Gil-galad—I...I am so sorry. I am so proud. Gil, I...”

“Atto?” Gil-galad whispered, and Maedhros thought his new-healed heart would burst. Atto. Atya. Yonya. They—they were a family, despite everything; they were here, together, they...

“I love you,” Fingon wept, and flung himself into his son’s embrace. For a moment Gil-galad froze—and then he hugged his father back, crying in turn, and Maedhros beheld his husband and their son together for the very first time, and for the very first time he didn’t care if this was what he deserved.

A nudge at his back. “Go to them,” chided Elrond, the son of his brother, the son who was almost his as well.

Maedhros ruffled his hair like he had when Elrond was a boy, and the young ellon wriggled out of his grasp with rolling eyes.

“Russo,” Fingon called, his voice broken with joy, “Russo, you did so well with him. Russo, he’s perfect, I’m so sorry—”

“I did not do even my best,” Maedhros rumbled, but he, too, was so happy he could not let the past weigh him down. “Thank your brother, and Círdan, and the boy himself. He made himself into a better king than either of us.”

“Atya,” Gil-galad mumbled, blushing fiercely, and Maedhros smiled. He took them both in his arms—they were so short, compared to him; they fit perfectly in his embrace—and held them close.

It had taken too long. It had taken too much suffering. It had taken too many deaths and griefs and horrors. But it was here, at last, despite everything—and Maedhros would not trade the union of his family for anything in all of Arda.

 

The High King lives again!