When Finrod first saw Barahir, he did not realize he was of the House of Bëor. There was not much resemblance to his father Bregor, and he was entirely unlike Bëor, for Barahir was fine in build, and taller than his ancestors. There was the added disappointment that Barahir went beardless, as did so many of the Edain now that they had lived among Elves. And second sons who were soft-spoken and modest did not get much attention when their elder brother was someone like Bregolas, who was aggressively charismatic and built like a bulwark.
Finrod would have taken no particular notice of Barahir, if he had not appeared one day with a message from Bregor and a fresh knife wound trailing an inflamed inch upwards from his lip. It gave him a wry expression when he had looked humorless before, but there was also evil festering in it which could not be left alone.
“That cut needs tending,” Finrod said, moving closer. “Did none of your healers work to cure it?”
Patting the wound gingerly, Barahir replied, “My lord, I thought it was.”
“You’ll lose half your face in a week if it’s left as it is.” It was a necessary exaggeration if Barahir was like the rest of his family, who would lose a foot and claim to have an aching toe.
Barahir’s worried look was very close to Bëor’s—it was the way he lifted up his eyebrows, with the same furrow between. “Is there someone here who will help me?”
“I will,” Finrod said. As Barahir fell into step beside him, Finrod felt queerly wrong-footed. He was unused to being around Men of his own height, and thought darkly that as his own race diminished, he would have to get better at looking upwards.
His rooms were quieter than the infirmary, and had what little Finrod required. As he fetched the clean water and cloth, Barahir cast his eyes over the detritus of Finrod’s life, the gifts and tokens from allies and relatives. His gaze lingered longest on Bëor’s harp.
Finrod pressed the soaked cloth to the cut, singing a few words of healing to draw out the infection. The first time, the cloth came away bloodstained, but the second, there was nothing. Gently touching the wound, Finrod saw that it would heal well; the swelling and redness was already fading.
“My lord, have you grown estranged from my house?” Barahir asked as Finrod pulled back his fingers. “You speak of little with us but practical things.”
“Is my reputation not practical?” Finrod replied, smiling at his own joke because Barahir would not get the punchline. “Wisdom is knowing how to forge steel, and where to plant barley.”
“You miss Bëor, do you not?”
“He died forty-five years before you were born.” Finrod poured himself a glass of wine, but offered none to Barahir, because he was prying. “As for conversation, Bëor lived with me in Nargothrond. That is far closer than Dorthonion, as the mud on your boots will testify.”
Barahir went on one knee and took Finrod’s hand, his fingers brushing against the signet ring. “Then I will do the same as he. Allow me to enter your service, my lord. You saved my life.”
Bregor would not be pleased to lose his son, second child or no, and Finrod had no wish to bind someone who would age and die; he had been clear enough to Andreth how painful Bëor had found his final years.
“I merely saved your face,” Finrod replied. “Are you vain?”
“I am the second son, and I have longed to enter your service since I was a boy.”
Finrod pulled his hand away, but Barahir did not rise. “I cannot feed all of the people who would be my vassals. It is a consequence of being better loved than my cousins.”
“Please, my lord. I will serve you just as Bëor did.”
The words should have strengthened Finrod’s resolve. Instead, Barahir’s earnestness overpowered him, and Finrod found himself nodding his assent. He promised himself not to let Barahir get too close. Finrod did not think it would be too difficult, since Barahir lacked Bëor’s warmth, and was softer in his humor.
After a month of forgettable mildness, Finrod learned that Bregolas’s shadow had been hiding a willful personality all along. Barahir walked into Finrod’s bedroom without knocking, as if he were some savage from across the mountains, and launched into an emotional recounting of a lurid rumor about Bëor and Finrod. Finrod had been in the middle of changing, and had half of his robe dangling off of his shoulder.
“I will not deny it,” Finrod said. “I release you from my service. Your father will be happy to have you back.”
The scar on Barahir’s lip curled as he could not settle on looking sad or angry. “No.”
“No? You come in here at an unwelcome hour to shout at me when I am not even fully dressed for what I did with your great-great-great grandfather. If you cannot say the degree of your relation in one breath, you have no right to be offended on that person’s behalf. Get out.”
Barahir got as far as opening the door before he turned around and said, “Forgive me. I was speaking out of jealousy, my lord, and you are right that I should leave you.”
Again, Barahir had said something which begged for distance. Finrod beckoned him closer. Barahir approached with more of his former humility, though it did little to cool Finrod’s outrage. If Barahir would fray at Finrod’s patience and tolerance with petulance, Finrod could return the same.
“You would have to go on your knees to know what you’re jealous of,” Finrod said.
“With your permission, lord,” Barahir replied, looking Finrod straight in the eye. This close, Barahir was the taller of the two of them.
Since Barahir was so eager to test him, Finrod gave no permission but the snap of his fingers, as if Barahir were a servant who had forgotten his duties. Barahir dropped smoothly to his knees, running his hands up Finrod’s bare legs before he parted the robe and put his mouth around Finrod’s steadily hardening length.
“You’ve done this before,” Finrod gasped, reaching back to steady himself against his bedpost. It had been too long.
Nodding, Barahir glanced up at him through thick eyelashes that made Finrod reconsider whether it was too late to show him the door. Barahir was quick to use his tongue, flicking it against the head of his prick before he took him deeper. Finrod had expected Barahir to leave in offended pride, or at least to be clumsy at the start, like Bëor. He gripped the bedpost tightly enough to hear his nails scrape at the wood.
“Don’t,” Finrod said, when he saw Barahir start to touch himself. Barahir groaned and clutched Finrod’s thighs, guiding him to thrust into his mouth. Finrod tried to hold himself back, thinking that if he could not get rid of Barahir, he could at least make his jaw ache, but that was a lost cause. He fisted his hands in Barahir’s short hair (and that was another recent Mannish style Finrod disliked) and warned him just before he spilled. Finrod watched Barahir swallow before he tugged him upwards into a kiss, licking the last of his release from Barahir’s mouth. Then he pressed his lips to the scar that had led them to this, tonguing that bedeviling strip of raised flesh which made Barahir always seem amused.
He shoved Barahir against the bed, leaning over him so he could unbutton his breeches and wrap his hand around Barahir’s cock. “Was that how you wanted to serve me?” Finrod asked, rubbing his thumb around where the head was dripping pre-come before he stroked him roughly.
“Not at first,” Barahir said, pulling him closer to kiss his neck and collarbones. “You have always been like a god to me.” He fell silent, moaning against Finrod’s skin as he arched into his hand. The next time Finrod could draw things out, find out what gave Barahir the most pleasure. Now he just wanted to make Barahir lose control as badly as he had. Barahir called out Finrod’s name as he climaxed, gripping Finrod tightly.
Finrod sat back on the mattress. “Clean me up,” he said, thinking that Barahir would go for the basin of water by the bed. But after taking a dismissive look at the basin, Barahir chose to clean Finrod’s hand with his tongue, then moved forward to lick off the rest of the mess on Finrod’s thigh. Barahir tilted up his chin so Finrod could wipe the corner of his mouth with his thumb, feeling a mix of affection and desire as he did.
Settled against the pillows, he held out his arm for Barahir to join him. Bereft of jealousy, frustration, and arousal, Barahir was closer to the meek person Finrod had thought him to be. Barahir stretched out next to him, wrapping his arm around Finrod’s waist and drawing him into a slow kiss. Finrod found himself wanting to do more, though it was far too soon; it would be long-missed pleasure to straddle Barahir and ride him to exhaustion. Surprised by himself, Finrod gently pushed Barahir back so they could speak.
“I am not angry at you anymore,” Finrod said. “You may stay if you like, little as I wanted to climb into bed with another mortal. You are not even past your time of marrying and having children yet. How old are you? Thirty?”
“Just turned twenty, my lord.”
“There is no need for titles in private,” Finrod said, with a grimace at Barahir’s age.
“I do not think you can drop your rank so easily as your drawers.”
Laughing, Finrod replied. “Which I was not even wearing. The metaphor falls apart.”
“I do not know what possessed me to speak to you the way I did.”
“Neither do I. It was as if the kitten I had been holding in my arms suddenly bit my hand and hissed at me about chastity.”
“That metaphor is even worse than mine, because it is not even trying,” said Barahir.
“Should you not be asleep by now? Bëor always liked to take a nap after we finished.”
Barahir smiled; the scar somehow made it look sweeter. “I am less than half the age Bëor was when you met, so you will find us very different in our abilities.” Taking Finrod’s hand, he pressed it to his already impressive erection.
“Are you sure that’s not your arm?”