3. Drawing Closer
A pan of water still bubbled and jiggled gently on the tiny camp stove. In the sitting area one of the folding chairs had been knocked askew near the table. Macalaurë laughed under his breath at the thought of Findekáno, wide-open shocked eyes and all flailing arms and legs, when Maitimo, none too gently, had hoisted him up from the bed.
Despite the night having turned much cooler, the tent would become overly warm if he did not turn off the stove, or worse, the pot might boil dry. Macalaurë reluctantly untangled himself from the sheet they had hastily pulled over them and padded over to extinguish the stove.
Settling down into bed again, Macalaurë rolled onto his side to face Daeron. He found himself looking up directly into Daeron's mild grey eyes. He had been half afraid that he might find a change reflected there, where he had earlier seen only affection and trust.
Macalaurë might have wanted to be able to hold back, calculate his next move, but he realized that it was simply not going to happen. He cared too much what Daeron thought and could not summon the energy to pretend that he did not.
"Are we still friends?" he asked, in a voice that came out sounding unnervingly young and more insecure than he had hoped it would.
The response was a genuine smile quickly crinkling around Daeron's eyes, followed by a short but tender kiss.
"Oh, more than friends. We are almost family now, don't you think? After that whole incident with your brother and his friend."
Daeron flopped down onto the pillow and wrapped his arms around Macalaurë, pulling him close to his chest. To Macalaurë he felt like home, the best place to be just then.
"I am so sorry about all of that," Macalaurë mumbled, pressing his lips against Daeron's neck, wondering if there was anything he could do to restore the easy familiarity they had felt before the interruption by Maitimo and Findekáno.
"Don't be. Sindar or Noldor, we all have family, don't we?" Daeron raised one eyebrow while giving him a boyish grin. "Well, those of our generation in any case."
Macalaurë cut off the thread of his own ruminations about the effect of the visit from his troublesome kinsmen to kiss Daeron lightly. He released his breath with his palpable sense of reprieve that Daeron was not going to pout, be dramatic, or exert a price for the accidental revelation of the details about his past that Findekáno had blurted out.
"You don't even know how old I am," Macalaurë said, stalling.
Daeron laughed softly, wrinkling his nose so endearingly, that Macalaurë's heart jumped into his throat.
"You forget that you and all of your kin are well-known, or notorious, however you prefer to think of it. The arrival of your people and your movements did not go unnoticed, long before the call for this convocation, as I am sure you must be well aware. You told me that your father was the eldest son of King Finwë and you are his second born. So, I would suspect that would make you only a little younger, if at all."
"Sometimes I still feel young and other times I feel I have experienced so much during this last period of my life that it has made me as ancient as this land. You know this was all the stuff of legend for us growing up in Aman."
"I hadn't thought of that. Aman and your Belair were but legends in my youth."
Knowing that it would be nearly impossible to keep his hands off Daeron, Macalaurë did not even try. Yet, he did not want to be totally distracted. There were things he wanted to say, clarifications he wanted to see made, but he felt reluctant to begin. He stroked a wayward lock of silver blond hair off Daeron's cheek and traced his bottom lip with his index finger. After more light kisses and caresses of Daeron's hard, flat abdomen, warm and silken-smooth to his touch, and eliciting a few melodious responses, Macalaurë finally spoke.
"And about Vingarië . . . my wife . . ."
Daeron huffed in gentle irritation at the interruption before turning solemn. "You worry too much. I was surprised. That is all. Let's talk about that later. I heard as much as I needed hear for now. You are here and she is not." He pulled Macalaurë into a longer, more leisurely kiss than the ones he had just received. "You want to be here with me, don't you?"
"You know I do." Macalaurë said.
"Good. Because I am convinced that you belong here."
"Yes. Yes, I do."
The haunting call of a loon to his mate and the increased twitter of morning birds outside the tent signaled that dawn approached more quickly than Macalaurë would have wanted. But he dismissed the inconvenience flatly and conclusively. The tent seemed smaller and more isolated, a tiny world that he would hold apart from all else for as long as he was able. He would not move from there until they both were ready or unless someone came to fetch him and dragged him out of the tent.
Daeron had begun to explore his body again, with firm knowing hands and a remark of joyful surprise at how quickly, how passionately, Macalaurë responded to him. But Macalaurë wanted something different. Daeron had given him so much already. He almost lost himself in Daeron's caresses, but deliberately pulled himself back.
"No," Macalaurë said, his voice rough with the unexpected strength of his surge of longing. "Let me . . . I want . . . "
Daeron stopped and rolled onto his back, arms outstretched and welcoming. The vulnerable, expectant look on Daeron's face, caused Macalaurë's throat to clench with a wave of shocking tenderness, followed by another sudden rush of raw need, painful in its intensity.
"Yes," Daeron whispered, both a plea and an acquiescence.
Macalaurë lost himself in the soft willingness of Daeron's mouth, with his last flicker of conscious will stubbornly committed himself to trying to give Daeron the best he had ever had.
* * * *
Making love with Macalaurë or, in the last satisfying instance, being made love to by him, had been both a consolation and an affirmation. Daeron did not want to worry that over the last few hours he had repeatedly pushed back the limits he usually maintained, that he was allowing himself to fall a little bit more in love with each kiss, with every touch.
One promise he had made to himself was that he was not going to allow the disappointing aspects of his relationship with Lúthien make him afraid of feeling anything. Yet, he did not relish the thought of once again finding himself in the role of the one who truly cared, while the other did not. He told himself that he was not self-destructive. Meanwhile, for better or for worse, he would deal with all of that later.
The relief of no longer being put off, held back, told to wait, or have every intimate touch parceled out as though they were in short supply liberated him. Therein lay the difference. Macalaurë was exceptional, the farthest thing from an interchangeable partner, and wonderfully, magnificently not Lúthien. He could never remind him of Lúthien either. Macalaurë was eager, generous and, even if it turned out to be nothing more, physically completely available to him.
"Was that good for you?" Macalaurë asked, eyes wide, as though the answer were critical.
"What do you think?" Daeron growled.
Macalaurë tilted his chin downward, before looking up at him from under heavy eyelashes with those glittering Noldorin eyes. And with an half-hearted attempt to repress a sly smile, Macalaurë answered, "You loved it, didn't you?"
"You know I did. You cannot call yourself inexperienced any longer. There is nothing more I can show you."
"Maybe not. But together, with practice, we could become really, really good at this, don't you think?" Macalaurë took his hand and kissed it on the knuckles. "Will you sing me a song?"
"Macalaurë. I can barely breathe." Daeron could not resist shaking his head with self-deprecating humor. He did appear to find himself inexorably drawn to compulsive people.
"Don't be like that. Nothing exceptional. I don't expect a masterpiece. Any silly little song will do. I can't relax because I keep obsessing about it. I'm trying to imagine every time you speak what your singing voice must sound like."
"All right. Fine. Do you have any instruments?"
"I have two small harps and a lute also."
"I don't know what a lute is. Let me see it. Maybe I will recognize it."
Macalaurë jumped out of bed and strode across the tent to reach into a large leather bag, to pull out and unwind a length of cloth from around a wooden stringed instrument with a long, thin neck, a teardrop-shaped, flat top, and a deep rounded body on the back.
"Let me see if it is properly tuned first. It's nuisance to explain." Macalaurë fiddled with the strings for a few seconds only, his expression avid, his teeth biting down on his lower lip, looking incredibly passionate and alluring to Daeron.
"I'm almost finished. I used it earlier today. There. That should do it."
He held the instrument out to Daeron, with a grin as excited as that of a child.
Taking it with both hands, Daeron turned it over studying it.
"Oh, I've seen something very similar among the Nandor, only with a triangular-shaped body and a flat back. Shall I try?"
Daeron plucked each set of double strings individually a few times, strummed a few standard chords, and then picked out an undemanding melody line. The instrument appeared deceptively easy to play, yet he suspected that Macalaurë could do marvelous things with it. But all he needed was to play a simple accompaniment and he was certain he was capable of that.
"You are good," Macalaurë said with obvious appreciation. "It took me two days to teach Findekáno how to play it and he is actually musically quite gifted."
Macalaurë threw himself back down onto the bed and leaned upon one elbow, his face eager with anticipation. Everything he did radiated energy and intensity, even the act of preparing to listen.
Acutely aware that this man was rumored to be as good or better than him, Daeron felt suddenly shy. It had been three-quarters of his lifetime since he had last wondered if he would live up to expectations. It also made a difference to him, no matter what anyone else thought, what this man would think of his skill. His mind went suddenly blank. All that came into his head at that moment was an ancient folk melody. Once in a fit of self-pity, he had indulged himself by writing some heartsick verses to it.
Daeron settled himself into the nearest of the folding chairs and tried a couple of chords again. Then he sighed deeply and looked up. Macalaurë met his anxious gaze with an empathetic nod. He thought that if anyone could understand how he must feel, Macalaurë surely could. Somewhat reassured, Daeron began to sing, softly at first and then somewhat more strongly, still nowhere near full voice.
In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take love easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.
He stopped abruptly, involuntarily shuddering. Relieved that he had finished, he looked to Macalaurë for a reaction. Macalaurë had cocked his head to one side and allowed his lips to part in a relaxed, approving smile.
"Bravo. Well done. Your voice is beyond belief. So clear and pure. I can still hear it in my head and feel it here." He put is hand flat against his chest and did not mask a shiver of appreciation. "You cheeky rascal, you certainly know how to play your audience also, don't you?"
"And you don't?" Daeron scoffed, although still grinning with gratitude.
"Maybe," Macalaurë drawled, eyes twinkling, before his face clouded. "Who was the girl?" he demanded, unashamedly insistent. "Is she still around?"
"Yes and no. But, in my case, she is not my wife."
"Ah ha!" Macalaurë crowed, as though certain he had been vindicated. "I knew it bothered you when Findekáno spilled the particulars about me having a wife. At least, I am not afraid to admit that it means a great deal to me whether you have someone else in your life or not."
"Fine. So, you are more self-assured than I am," Daeron complained.
"You think so? I would have thought it just the opposite: an admission of weakness."
Macalaurë was not joking. His expression remained completely serious and unselfconscious. Clearly, he had been raised to speak his mind and damn the consequences.
Daeron beamed. "Well, you were wrong. But now you have just admitted a weakness. Lack of self-knowledge."
"Hmm. You think? All right. But, I am going to ask you anyway. Who is she and what is the problem between the two of you that resulted in my good fortune?"
"You have to know, don't you?" Daeron shook his head, chuckling. It seemed impossible for him to refuse this disarmingly brash prince of the Noldor anything.
"I want to know. I want to know everything about you."
"Her name is Lúthien, the daughter of King Thingol and Melian the Maia."
"Seriously?" Macalaurë gave him a deliberately seductive half-smile. "What chance does a mere musician with a wife who has forsaken him have against such a maid? I have heard talk that Thingol's daughter is illustrious for her beauty."
"Ah, but you have other qualities. And I think you are well aware of what they are."
"Are you saying I am easy?" Macalaurë held his hand out to him and pulled him back onto the bed. "But there is more to your story. You would not have discovered a thing about those other qualities, as you call them, if she had been treating you well." Daeron noted with fondness that Macalaurë had already instinctively taken his side.
"I hardly know where to start. She is much more than just pretty and knows it. She can charm a stone. Is indulged and self-indulgent.
"She's very musical. Likes to dance. She asked me to play for her while she practiced. Then I started to compose pieces for her. Over time we began to spend a lot of time together. Alone. We were both young. And she is younger than I am." Daeron felt his voice falter. "I hate talking about her."
"Hey," Macalaurë said, touching Daeron cheek, his voice soothing. "It's only me."
"She flirted and she teased, liked the reactions she got. But always maintained a distance. You know how that is."
"No. Actually, I don't know how it is. I wasn't a graceful, sociable youth. Maids did not flirt with me. Then there was Vingarië. We were not even forty when we first became close. Childhood sweethearts, I guess people might have called us. Although, I do suppose I can begin to guess what your situation was like. You were romping around with the beautiful daughter of the king, who was younger than you, eliciting sexual responses from you, and enjoying the power of it, but who was unwilling to commit herself. Then what?"
Feeling foolish at hearing it described so succinctly, Daeron all but barked back. "It went on for years. Or off and on would be more accurate. As time went by, I became impatient and she also became more demanding of my time and attention. In reaction, I began to push the physical aspect, with a considerable measure of intermittent success. She could be hot or cold. I never knew which it would be. And there are a lot more sordid details. Are you starting to get the picture? Or do I have to keep going?"
"Yeah, I think I get it." Macalaurë said. He sounded angry. "She sounds like a right nasty bitch to me."
Daeron laughed out loud. "Well, remember you only heard my side of it and not all of that." He had never allowed his resentment such free expression before and, if he had done so in Doriath, he was relatively certain the response would have been different. He was shaking with uncontrollable, sidesplitting laughter.
"Are you all right?" The worry in Macalaurë's voice was genuine.
"I am fine. It's off now between her and me and I want it to stay that way. I really would like to talk about something else for a while. And not the story of the wife you left behind, if you don't mind. I do not want to be self-centered, but can we save that for another time? In the morning perhaps?"
Macalaurë put his arms around him and pulled him close.
"We can talk about whatever you want to talk about, or not talk at all."
"Then, tell me about your handsome brother and Findekáno the Valiant. Incidentally, I can see how he got the name now. Anyone who is willing to unquestioningly drink an unknown substance offered him by those feckless Nandor has to be brave, recklessly so, one might say."
From the unenthusiastic expression on Macalaurë's face, it appeared to be his turn to object to the choice of conversation. "If you had any idea how tired I get of watching people swoon over my handsome brother . . . "
"Don't be ridiculous. Why would I swoon over your brother? You are beautiful, friendly, and naked."
Macalaurë chuckled at Daeron's words, giving him a playful punch. Moving unexpectedly to straddle him, Macalaurë grabbed both of his hands and held them stretched out on either side of Daeron's head. Daeron's arousal quickened with Macalaurë's groin pressed against him and he became aware of an immediate response. Another quick smile lit Macalaurë's face; his Aman-bright eyes surrounded by long lashes outshone the soft amber of the lamplight.
"I could fuck you again already," Macalaurë said in an awed yet faintly aggressive tone.
"Oh? You won't hear any objection on my part."
Verse adapted from "Down by the Salley Gardens" by W.B. Yeats.
Belair = Sindarin for Valar
I owe thanks to so many for help and encouragement that it is almost embarrassing to name everyone: IgnobleBard for Beta, Moreth, Pandemonium, NiRi, and others at the Lizard Council, and my LJ friends, especially Mirien.
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.