Variations of the Future
This is an amateur effort and not intended to infringe on the rights of J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien or any other copyright holder. No monetary profit is being made.
Pairings: Ecthelion/Glorfindel (established), Fingon/Maedhros (implied)
Time: F.A. 5
With a soft sigh of relief Ecthelion slipped into bed, glad to leave the outside world behind, if only for a few hours. He did not want to remember what he had seen, even though he knew that the images would not fade so quickly from his mind. Nestling close to Glorfindel's warm, sleeping body next to him, he tried not to think, but it did not help much.
He had seen injured elves before. He had seen dead elves, elves who had not been able to withstand the cold of the Helcaraxë. He had seen what hurts the ice and the biting cold could cause. And yet, this was strangely worse. The Grinding Ice had not been evil by nature; its existence dictated its appearance and its cruelty. It could not be blamed for the lives lost in the crossing, because it had not been the cause for the deaths but merely the means.
The elves who had died in the cold had been Ecthelion's comrades, his friends, his kin. Each death had hurt more than he had ever thought possible. Elves were not supposed to die, or to be hurt. Nobody should have to suffer that fate.
Not even one of Fëanor's sons.
There had been times when Ecthelion had wished for them to suffer. Practically everyone who had crossed the Ice had harbored the same thoughts at some point, when frustration and fear became too strong to be rationally handled. He remembered hearing curses and quiet promises of revenge. At that time, he had thought them justified.
But there was a difference between wishing for something and seeing it happen. Had anyone asked him just a day before, Ecthelion would not have hesitated to agree that what he felt for Fëanor, his sons, his people was something that should probably be called hate. And yet even that feeling had mellowed ever since the news had arrived that Fëanor had died. It was hard to loathe the dead.
The living had remained. Friends from a life that seemed so far gone now. So many of the elves who now camped at the southern shore of Lake Mithrim had been friends and acquaintances in Aman. Now they were enemies. Ecthelion knew, when he could bring himself to think rationally about it, that most of them had followed Fëanor in the heat of the moment and that they would not have wanted Fingolfin's host to have to endure the Ice. But those thoughts were always shadowed by the knowledge that nobody had yet come to apologize for what had happened, or even to express gratitude that they had survived. The only true acknowledgement of their arrival had been the removal of the Fëanorian camp to the southern shore and a few cautious, hurried meetings of Fingolfin and Maglor.
It was almost as if nobody cared, and it stung to be aware of this. Most of Fingolfin's host had expected to be welcomed when they arrived. They had believed that they would receive an apology for what they had been forced to endure, or at least an explanation why the ships had been burned. Nobody had really doubted that it had been on purpose, but there had always been that tiny flicker of hope that it might have been an accident. The silence had taken this hope away by now.
Ecthelion was distracted from these thoughts when Glorfindel murmured something in his sleep. His lover shifted his position slowly, wrapping himself around Ecthelion and tugging the blankets close. It was a motion more prompted by habit than a chill in the air; the nights were warming again by now and no longer as cold as they had been during the last few months. Ecthelion was glad about the gesture for the comfort it gave; it was reassuring to know that Glorfindel was here and that everything was as well as it could ever be in Arda Marred.
He closed his eyes, attempting to shut out the rest of the world and concentrate on this one brief moment of almost-perfection. But he could not bring himself to relax enough for sleep. His mind was too awake still and refused to let go of the images of the day.
A tired kiss was placed on his brow, and when he opened his eyes again he found Glorfindel studying him.
"You should be resting," the blond elf murmured, drawing him closer. "Is something wrong?"
Ecthelion shook his head lightly before resting it on Glorfindel's shoulder. "No."
He felt Glorfindel's sigh. "You have been with Fingon."
"Yes. He needed some things."
Glorfindel raised a hand, running his fingers through Ecthelion's hair. The gesture was soothing as always, and he found himself relax towards his lover.
"I cannot understand it," he said quietly, not wanting to talk about it and bring the images back but nevertheless needing to do so. "How could he do it?"
"He had no choice," Glorfindel replied in the same tone of voice. "He had to do it."
Ecthelion caught Glorfindel's wrist and encircled it with his fingers, just at the place where Maedhros' arm now ended in bloodied bandages. "I do not think I could do the same," he whispered, closing his eyes. "The thought alone hurts too much already. I wonder how Fingon can stand it."
For a moment Glorfindel was silent. "Perhaps he is clinging to the comfort that he does not have another life on his conscience," he offered eventually, not withdrawing his hand from Ecthelion's grasp.
"Perhaps," Ecthelion agreed. Maybe that truly was what Fingon had been thinking at that moment. A lost hand surely weighed less heavily than a death.
Glorfindel sighed again. "I cannot imagine it either," he confessed. "And I do not want to imagine it anyway." He drew back his hand and rested it on Ecthelion's chest, above his heart. "But in a way I can understand Fingon. It hurts just to think of injuring you, but if it is the only way to save you... I do not think I could give you up. Would you want me to?"
Ecthelion did not answer immediately. He had not thought about this before; the mere idea of losing a limb was frightening, but death was even more so. Still, to be facing this choice...
"I do not know," he finally said.
They lay quietly for a while, each following their own thoughts.
"Did you know that they were lovers?" Ecthelion asked after some time, attempting to not let the silence settle too firmly. He was not ready to sleep yet, and even though he knew it to be selfish, he wanted his lover to stay awake too. Glorfindel always managed to find ways to ease his mind, and Ecthelion needed this comfort right now.
He could feel Glorfindel shrug. "Not know. Suspect maybe... I was never sure. But it gives me hope. If Fingon can forgive him and they can go back to at least being friends, then perhaps our people can do the same."
Ecthelion thought back to the scene he had witnessed just before he had quietly excused himself and come here. It had been very clear that anger or even reproach for what had happened had been the last things on Fingon's mind at the time. "I hope so too," he said. "It might just be what is necessary to heal the rift."
It was difficult to stay angry when you saw how others had suffered. When you saw how single individuals had suffered. And surely it would be equally hard to stay cold and ignorant when you felt grateful for something.
"Perhaps it is enough," Glorfindel agreed quietly. "I truly wish it can be. The anger is beginning to hurt too much."
Nodding, Ecthelion settled into a more comfortable position and looked at his lover's profile, sharply outlined in the dim light. "We will see."
Again they fell silent.
"Fingolfin wants us to leave for the Fëanorian camp tomorrow morning," Glorfindel said after a little while. "To tell them that Maedhros is here."
"I thought we were supposed to accompany Turgon to those Moriquendi?"
"Egalmoth will go instead of us. I believe Fingolfin does not want to have more people know about this than necessary just yet. And since we both saw Fingon come back..."
The sight of the eagle landing just outside the encampment had been unobserved by most of the elves because it had already been dark. Ecthelion and Glorfindel had just been on the way to meet with Turgon when the bird had descended to the ground, and they had watched in shock as Fingon had stumbled off his back, cradling a motionless figure to his chest. It was not something Ecthelion would forget in a hurry.
"The eagle spoke to me," Glorfindel said, absent-mindedly running his fingers through Ecthelion's hair. "When you and Fingon were taking Maedhros inside."
"What did he say?" Ecthelion wanted to know as he shifted to lie on his side and drew his lover closer. Glorfindel returned his embrace and they settled together, finding a familiar position.
"That he and I would meet again."
"Did he say when?"
"No. And I did not ask. It didn't seem... right to do that."
Ecthelion noticed the unease in the other's voice. "Perhaps it is better if you do not know," he offered.
"It doesn't have to mean anything." But even as he said this, Ecthelion knew that he could not believe his own words. If the mightiest of Manwë's eagles predicted something, it was hardly information to be lightly discarded.
"You do not believe this," Glorfindel replied, clearly having picked up on this as well. "But thank you for trying." He was silent for a moment, and Ecthelion felt the arms around his waist tighten. "It will not help to dwell too much on this."
"Probably not." Just as it would not help him to let his mind linger on the return of Maedhros and the implications it brought. They would have to concern themselves with this soon enough; it would be better to focus on simpler things while he still could.
"Do you think you will be able to rest?"
He could easily read the implications in Glorfindel's voice. His lover was tired, but he would stay awake and try to put him more at ease if necessary.
"I think so."
They shared a few kisses, and soon Glorfindel relaxed against him, his breathing evening out. Ecthelion stared into the darkness a little longer before he managed to follow his lover on the paths of sleep. But even as he drifted into sleep, his thoughts did not fully relinquish their focus on his worries, and his dreams were troubled this night.