8. Promises and Negotiations
Whenever Maitimo thought of the day they first took Tadiel into their bed, he remembered the after-the-rain scent of wet earth and the surrounding forest. Standing at the camp stove just inside of the tent, he glimpsed water droplets caught on ferns, glittering like diamonds in the last rays of afternoon sunlight. But as he heated the water to prepare a good pot of tea, it was Tadiel and Findekáno who held the largest part his attention.
Findekáno had sprawled languid and seductive across the bed, while the young woman perched on its edge, her back straight and shoulders tight. Tadiel talked earnestly at Findekáno, as though hoping to find some way for them to make contact with one another short of her abandoning her defensive position to loll upon the sheets with him. Maitimo felt like shaking Findekáno for being so obtuse.
Couldn't he see how uncomfortable he was making her? It looked to Maitimo as though Findekáno might precipitously try to turn the entire encounter into a physical one or worse withdraw into himself. Maitimo's anxiety began to escalate—he fumbled a cup and caught it before it fell. Setting the cup solidly upon the small table, Maitimo took a deep breath and tried to calm himself.
Meanwhile, Findekáno at last began to speak, at first in a quiet almost meditative tone. "I first realized I had fallen in love with Maitimo when I was still a child." He continued in a stronger, louder voice. "We all adored him, but I always knew in my heart of hearts it was a different kind of love for me. I was relentless and he held back. For years, actually."
Clever Tadiel had breached Findekáno's defense with her determined patience. Maitimo finished preparing the tea, as he listened to Káno's version of the story, which he knew as well as his own. Sighing deeply, he handed Tadiel one of the cups of tea and sat next to her on the bed.
"But there is much more to our tale than falling in love, you know. More than how I was cautious and Káno bold," Maitimo said. "We do intend to tell you some closely guarded secrets of our history eventually." His heart clenched at the thought of burdening her with the convoluted legacy they brought with them. That they asked her to be the wife of a man who had sworn to love another ought to be more than enough for any woman to bear. But there was more, so much more, and none of it good. "I think it's necessary to talk about what Káno and I mean to one another. But now I am wondering if you could tell us about the mysterious lost love that you have hinted at over the years."
Tadiel smiled sweetly. "Finno has always been curious about that and now you too! Lost love is not the correct term for it." She wrinkled her brow in concentration. "I'm not denying that I might have even used the expression with one or the other of you in the past. But, in fact, one cannot lose what one never truly had." She sighed and stopped speaking, as though waiting to be prodded.
"Heh. Unrequited then?" Findekáno asked. "Maybe you told him that." He nodded in the direction of Maitimo. "Not me. What a dolt the object of your affections must have been."
Tadiel laughed, tossing her head. The last rays of the sunlight entering through the open vent in the roof of the tent caught the hints of gold among the auburn highlights of her light brown hair. Maitimo had always found her attractive.
"Don't bother to honey-coat it, Finno!" she teased, more than half serious.
"Ah, yes. My manners." Findekáno grinned, unrepentant, and Tadiel's face relaxed. A smile from him was hard to resist. "Sorry, I'm not used to speaking with ladies about such questions. Only my sister and my cousin Artanis have heard so much about my love life, and no one who knows them would make the mistake of considering either of them proper ladies."
"Don't listen to him," Maitimo interjected with a huff. "Irissë's nickname is the White Lady of the Noldor. She's as regal a grandchild as Finwë has. And Artanis intimidates almost everyone. But he is right about one thing. As an extended family, we--the cousins at least--don't stand on formality amongst one another."
Findekáno interrupted. "Rowdy and argumentative, he is trying to say. Interfering, nosy, and far too involved in one another's private concerns. And, as you know, there has been a love affair or two."
Maitimo smiled at Findekáno before continuing. "Over the years, Káno and I noticed how you relate to Pilimor and the other physics, male and older than you. I think you could fit in well with us, if you wanted. You've the softness, the compassion one hopes for in, ah, in a woman . . ." Perhaps it was too soon to dwell on the question of motherhood. " . . . with the ambitions of a man or at least a combination of the elements that our people label as masculine and feminine. We are unaccustomed to delicate self-effacing females in our family. Or any of those stereotypes for men either."
"Take Maitimo, for example," Findekáno said grinning, determined in an annoying way to resist serious discussion. "He is as gentle and tender as any girl and yet terrifying with a sword." He effortlessly caught the apple that Maitimo lobbed at his head. "Watch the teacups, love. There are no more of those to be had! Maybe you don't talk as much as the typical Finwëan. But we can work on that."
She giggled. "What?" asked Findekáno, pretending to be affronted.
"Oh, I was thinking of Maitimo's brother. The rambunctious fair-haired one with the hound."
"Bloody Tyelkormo!" Findekáno swore. "He's a throwback to an earlier more primitive period in the history of our people. Nice bloke though. I love him a lot."
Smiling, Tadiel said, "I do think I could love you, Finno. Perhaps I already do." Maitimo had no idea where that came from. He felt with a pang that they might already have their own private understanding that excluded him.
Even more of a surprise to him, Findekáno leaned across Maitimo and kissed her quickly. "Don't try to avoid the original question. Name him, fair lady."
"Celeborn." She spat out the name as though it left a bitter taste.
"Well!" Maitimo said, truly taken aback by that revelation. "I have heard him called Elwë's right hand." Their young healer was a dark horse indeed. Why hadn't she wedded the Sindarin prince?
"Some might call him that," she answered, "or Elu's favored one or simply his beloved nephew, depending upon how they feel about Celeborn. He is one of those people who inspire a range of emotions. I worshiped him. He was the only true prince within Doriath. He could be merry and approachable, and yet wise. I was even younger then, awed that he was so close in confidence to Thingol and Melian, and, especially, that he should show any interest in me. He was not young, but born on the Great March."
"You, however, are still young," Findekáno said, drawing his eyebrows together, almost stern. "And yet he, all but one of the ancients, allowed himself a dalliance with you."
"It just happened," she said, bristling, lifting her chin. "He never made me any promises, and he was careful that I remained a virgin inviolate, so to speak."
"Ha!" Findekáno barked. "I've heard those stories. The everything-but mode of lovemaking that certain men initiate with maids they don't intend to wed. He cast an accusatory glance at Maitimo, which might have made him flinch if they had not trod that path so many times before. Instead Maitimo had to struggle to control a snort.
"I suppose you think he is beautiful and noble also?" Findekáno asked.
"Don't torment me, Finno!" she said laughing. "Even those who haven't met him have heard that about him. He is also powerful and competent. And a formidable warrior. He'd be any young girl's model of a perfect lord. Perhaps, he has not your sort of rugged handsomeness. Or as likely to immediately be spotted in a crowd as our flame-haired Maitimo." She reached out to caress the line of Findekáno's jaw. "But, yes, the silver prince of Doriath is stunning, and as proud and vain about his looks as any woman. Up close he is every bit as beautiful as Maitimo." She turned to meet Maitimo's eyes, with a shy smile. "But I would describe him as more similar in the refined elegance of his features to your cousin Findaráto."
"Another blond then?" Findekáno snorted. "Women seem to like blonds." Maitimo bit his tongue to hold back the remark that Findekáno himself could be counted among those who fancied Findaráto for his flaxen locks, among other notable qualities. But he appreciated he was learning more by remaining silent.
"He is not a golden blond like your cousin, but the silvery sort of even paler blond." She shot Findekáno a sharp look, daring him to laugh again. "Why is all this detail so important to you?"
Findekáno opened his mouth to answer, but Maitimo could no longer resist breaking into their exchange. "You see, darling, Káno is watching your every expression and listening to your voice, while he alternately baits and lulls you into revealing exactly how you really feel about this Prince Celeborn."
"Ah. I understand. Well, I have no deep dark secrets concerning him." Her lower lip trembled. "And worse still, I can't promise you that he couldn't have me back in an instant if he ever decided he wanted me. But I am smart enough to realize as an absolute certainty that he will not. There is something else he wants and he may never find it. But I am not it."
"So, sounds like he is a quite a fool not to have discerned your worth." The smile Findekáno gave her was both flirtatious and compassionate.
Maitimo felt a flash of jealousy. Findekáno turned to look at him, as though he sensed his discomfort. "You've been quiet," he said to him.
"Just listening to the two of you, Káno. You know one another better than I had realized." Maitimo was mortifyingly aware of how uncertain he sounded.
"Don't be ridiculous! This was more your idea than mine!" He shrugged in apology at Tadiel. "I need you, Maitimo. We both need you. I need to know you are in this with me. I cannot go through with this without your help."
"Oh, I'm sure you could," Maitimo said, his voice gruff before he released a relieved exhalation.
"But," Tadiel said, looking directly into Maitimo's eyes, "you understand as well as I do that Finno doesn't want to. Not yet at least." She put her hand up to Maitimo's forehead brushing his hair back. "I cannot consider any of this with Finno unless I know you agree to share it."
"I do. I will," Maitimo whispered, knowing in that moment at least that he actually did want to share Findekáno with her and there was no possibility he would simply hand Findekáno over to her. His partner was gregarious and not usually shy about showing affection publicly, but no one in all of Arda realized what it truly meant that Findekáno, incomparable, remarkable Káno, belonged so completely to him. He wanted to show Tadiel that, for her to know that Káno was his. Some small part of wanting to do so also contained an element of vanity. She might marry Findekáno and bear his children, but Káno belonged to him.
Maitimo surprised himself by saying it aloud, his voice suddenly husky with emotion. "Just do not forget that he will always belong first to me." He half expected Findekáno to object that no one owned him, but instead Káno laughed.
Tadiel pulled Maitimo closer to her, pressing him back against the pillows with a kiss, releasing him just long enough to say, "Silly man! As though either of you will ever let me forget that."
"Don't worry," Findekáno said to her. "He gets nervous. But we wouldn't have offered you this proposal if we were not certain that what we have is strong enough to share without losing any part of ourselves." He sounded short of wind and looked splendid in his flushed-cheeked breathlessness. "We can do anything you want. When we are all together like this, each of us is equal."
"I'm not sure that I know what I want," she said. She stroked his plump lower lip with her index finger.
Findekáno grabbed her slender finger, kissed the tip of it, and shrugged. "That's what Maitimo is here for, right? To help us both with that sort of thing. He's the more experienced one and brilliant at making love."
Maitimo looked at Findekáno speculatively, wanting some sort of clearer guidance, and got nothing but a bland stare. He wanted to wring Káno's neck, but considered that wouldn't be fair to Tadiel. "Perhaps we, Káno and I, will try to take the lead and if you do not feel comfortable with something, anything, let us know. I'll pay attention also to what you seem to like."
"He is not exaggerating. He is really incredibly gifted," Findekáno said with a dreamy smile, stretching.
"You make it sound lovely." Tadiel grinned at Findekáno and stroked his cheek before turning to Maitimo. "I think I would really like to watch you kiss him, Nelyo." Findekáno gasped. She leaned in to kiss Findekáno lightly on the lips. "Would you like that? Or would that seem like a violation of your privacy?" It occurred to Maitimo for a painful moment that maybe she and Findekáno might not need him at all.
"I think we already gave up that privacy when we asked you to come back here with us," Findekáno said, his low voice sounding young and puzzled. "I think I like the idea of you watching us for a few moments before all of us . . . do . . . ah . . . whatever it is we're supposed to do."
Then it dawned on Maitimo that Findekáno truly had no idea what one might want to do with a woman and little to no independent compulsion to find out. But because they had discussed it and he had agreed to it, he would follow through with what was expected of him with valor.
"It's not so complicated," Maitimo said, his voice cracking with emotion. "We'll try to please ourselves and in doing so please one another." Sharing Káno, he thought, might be harder than he had expected.
"So beautiful and so wise," Tadiel said, glowing with earnest appreciation. "So, yes, please kiss him. I want to see that. I really do."
All three of them were warm and slightly flushed, still damp from the rain, from their tramp through the woods, and sitting so close together on the bed that they all touched. Maitimo could smell the distinctive scents of both Findekáno and Tadiel. Her heavy hair exuded a bouquet of lavender and sandalwood. The fragrance could not have been further from the fussy, excessively feminine, flowery perfumes that had been so popular among the maidens of Tirion in his youth. And Findekáno, smelled of himself, his own so familiar woodsy musk, with the faintest fresh but spicy overtone of bergamot. Soap no doubt.
"Kiss me like she said," Findekáno ordered, nearly irresistible. But Maitimo felt compelled to play at disobeying him.
"Ladies first," Maitimo teased. Instead, he gave Tadiel a solid, brief kiss on the mouth, with just a bit of tongue. She squeaked in surprise, but kissed him back with confidence. The silver prince apparently had assured that she was comfortable with certain parts of lovemaking.
As soon as he released Tadiel's lips, Findekáno grabbed him in an aggressive open-mouthed kiss, pulling him over and onto Tadiel, causing Maitimo's groin to press against her thigh. By thoroughly assaulting his mouth, Findekáno caused him to begin to breathe heavily and his cock to harden against Tadiel's leg. Her body felt firm but covered with a lovely layer of womanly padding that he remembered well, so different from Káno's granite thighs.
"Can you feel how quickly he gets aroused," Findekáno said. "Can you see his face?"
"Mmm. Too close to see his face well. I can feel him and you as well, Finno" she whispered.
Maitimo harrumphed at Findekáno. Who predictably took umbrage at the sound. "I never said I was dead inside. Just that I prefer men." Findekáno then began kissing her forcefully, while reaching around to grab onto to Maitimo' backside and pull him closer still. Maitimo was being deliciously squished against Tadiel.
She pulled away from him, laughing. "Precious Finno! Have you ever kissed a woman?"
"Ah, before you? Ah. No."
Maitimo eased slightly away from Findekáno so they were not crushing Tadiel between them. "You should try to be a little gentler with a maid than you are with me."
"I'm not made of glass," she said, giggling with delight. "I like the way he kisses!" All three of them laughed.
The scent of her and the feel of her baby soft skin beneath Maitimo's fingertips reminded him of another life. While it was sweetly satisfying to hold this woman, it also reaffirmed for him his belief in the utter brilliance of the choice he had made to give his love to Findekáno--a marvel of judgment he would never cease to appreciate. He adored the feeling of holding and touching a woman. It also reminded him of how close he might have come to living his life without knowing the utterly unique and amazing feeling of making love to a man. Findekáno, barely of age, had made that happen. He wondered if it might have ever been possible for him to have made another decision or if it had always been fated, inevitable.
Maitimo reached across Tadiel to kiss Findekáno on the mouth again, gentler than before. Tadiel pushed and squirmed until Káno allowed her settle on the other side of him. With Káno securely in the middle, she said, "There that's better. He belongs there. Since he is the one who is not sure how he will find satisfaction in this." The conspiratorial look she gave Maitimo made him melt.
She sought Maitimo's hand, which she found stroking Findekáno's sex, and intertwined her fingers with his. It seemed natural to them to seek to pleasure Findekáno first.
As Maitimo might have expected, Findekáno's appreciative writhing and moaning would have sparked flames from the coldest ashes and no one in that bed that day was tepid. Findekáno's acceptance of his own pleasure in the act of love had always for Maitimo been the most powerful of aphrodisiacs and he noticed that it affected Tadiel in the same way. Each gave and received the caresses and kisses of the others until none of them could move. They managed to work free of their clothing and ended up three bodies tangled together upon the bed in a state of lethargic satiation. Whatever minor self-consciousness any of them might have retained had faded quickly.
0 0 0 0
Much later, Findekáno watched with a mesmerized curiosity as Maitimo ran his hand down the center of Tadiel's body, from her breastbone to her navel. It was as though he observed for the first time what everything that Maitimo had told him about finding pleasure in women looked like in reality. He was surprised that he did not feel more jealous at how much Maitimo relished making love to her and how natural he made it look. But even then Maitimo had buried his nose in Findekáno's hair, pulling him up against the side of them. It was characteristic of Maitimo that he seemed conscious of never showing affection to Tadiel without seeking to simultaneously reassure Findekáno.
At last, Findekáno permitted himself to relax, lying on his side facing Maitimo, with Tadiel on her back between them. Findekáno's hand rested lightly on top of Maitimo's splayed upon Tadiel's stomach. It was Tadiel who caused Findekáno to stir at last when she wiggled to sit up.
"I have to go relieve myself," she announced.
"You are lucky today," Findekáno said. "Since we intend to stay here a couple of months, Maitimo and I constructed an outhouse just a few feet downhill from the back entrance to the tent."
Maitimo, yawning, offered, "I'll show you where it is if you like. But it's hard to miss."
"I'll find it," she said, climbing over Findekáno to get out of the bed. She slipped Maitimo's tunic over her head, where it fell to mid-thigh on her. "I'll be right back."
Findekáno studied Maitimo's face for some indication of his mood, but he only looked drowsy.
"I think that went surprisingly well. Don't you?" Findekáno said.
Maitimo raised himself on one elbow and scowled menacingly at Findekáno. "Oh, please, Káno! How dare you try to understate your reactions like that? Remember who you are talking to. I know you better than I know myself. After everything you said to me about not caring for women. All the 'yes, yes, yeses' you were groaning. Or were you only doing that to make me jealous. I wouldn't put it past you." Maitimo cursed under his breath, probably speaking without any attempt to temper his anxiety. "It was all I could do to be polite at times."
Findekáno laughed aloud and pulled him into a demanding kiss. "That's a relief. You had almost convinced me that you weren't jealous at all. I do promise you though, you do not need to be worried in the slightest. That was very nice, but I am quite secure in what I prefer. I think she actually likes us quite a bit—together, I mean. What do you think?"
Maitimo bristled. "And why wouldn't she? You're ridiculously appealing and responsive, and I do know how to please a woman."
"You do, don't you?" Findekáno gave him a little grimace that he knew Maitimo always found charming. "I have to admit I was impressed. Although, she did seem to like some of the things I did as well. Did you notice anything I should try to improve upon?"
"Are you serious?" Maitimo barely choked out. "You're a natural. You always have been from our very first time. Perhaps you were a bit tentative at first with her . . . "
Frustrated and unexpectedly relieved, Findekáno grabbed him in a neck lock, rubbing his knuckles against the top of his head.
"Eru in Ea, Maitimo! A bit tentative?" He released and, grabbing his face with both, hands locked eyes with him. "I am never going to feel anything remotely like I do when it's just you and me. That is so magical, in every sense. We've such a history, and I am still so stupidly, irrationally in love with you! I've tried to explain that to you a thousand times. And, what part of 'she's a girl!'--well, actually a very lovely woman--do you not understand?"
"Let me go." Maitimo squirmed loose. "I'm sorry. But it is hard for me to imagine how different we are in that way. We've always been perfect together, Káno. I do realize how fortunate I am. This is going to hurt us, isn't it?"
"I thought I was the one who was supposed to be worried about that? Maybe just a little. The whole situation is bound to cost us something. But you told me that only the day before yesterday." He could feel a tightening in the back of his throat, although he tried to relax as he spoke. "I will do what we agreed. I will make a son and the Noldor will have an heir--and he will be half-Sindarin. Am I forgetting anything else you promised my father?"
"Stop it Káno. You're everything I've ever wanted. I don't want to share you with anyone," Maitimo said, the slight rise in his voice making him sound fraught, or if not fraught, at least extremely uneasy. "It is just something you have to do. And I, for one, if I am going to do this with you--for you--cannot try to stop myself from caring about her also. Anything else would just be wrong."
"Aww. Of course, you would be like that," Findekáno said, kissing him with tenderness. "I was worried that I might doubt us, watching you make love to a woman. Oh, and I cannot emphasize strongly enough that I am as different as can be from you on that issue! I see that clearly now. But that doesn't mean as much as I had feared it would. I was afraid if you held a woman again that it would remind you what you have missed. But you couldn't keep your hands off me. I liked that part a lot. And it was more than pleasant with Tadiel. I worried too much about that. I kind of . . . no, more than kind of . . . I really enjoy the idea her watching us. Is that strange?" He rattled on in a frenetic stream of consciousness, barely able to catch his breath, clearly frantic with nerves. "It is a whole other matter whether I can do all of those things as well when you are not with us. I'm still quite certain I could have done none of it without you today."
"Shush, Findekáno." He held him tight against him. "I am terrified too that somehow this might be a horrible mistake. It seems like it must be done and that we should be able to do it. But I cannot bear the thought of risking losing you. I don't think I could live without you. I'm not exaggerating about that. Were it not for you, I would not be alive now."
They both relaxed quietly back against the pillow and held one another gently.
0 0 0 0
After a few minutes, Maitimo was the first to speak again.
"I don't even need to promise you. You're everything to me." It occurred to Maitimo that a child would change that, if a woman couldn't. But that was normal to him. He was used to babies taking precedence and, from personal experience, understood that children did grow up. The transformation that a child or children could make in one's life might feel differently to Findekáno who had been raised in a quieter household.
"You do have to come see me more often and stay longer, sweetheart," Findekáno said. Maitimo could hear the smug grin in Findekáno's voice at that thought.
"You had better believe I will, lady killer," said Maitimo. He would have to make a greater effort that they did not grow apart.
0 0 0 0
When Tadiel returned from the outhouse, she listened outside of the tent for a moment, both curious and anxious. She could hear their voices rising and falling. They spoke rapidly in their native tongue, which she had gone to great pains to learn, living in Mithrim in close proximity to so many Noldor. But it was still difficult at times, impossible to understand muffled and at a distance. The conversation sounded intense and then there was a long silence. When they began speaking again, more softly, she rapped on a support at the back of the tent, calling out, "May I come back in?"
"Please do," Maitimo hurried to say in a loud voice. She thought he wanted to be certain she did not feel as though she had interrupted anything.
"I just didn't want to walk in on you. I thought you might be talking about me, about us. I didn't want to interrupt . . . oh, you know what I am trying to say."
"Come here," Maitimo said, sitting up and holding his arms open to her. He pulled her onto his lap and held her there, with her back against his chest.
Findekáno looked at them, cocking his head to one aside as though intrigued. "Would you like to watch me do him? Or the other way around?" he asked her, his voice sounding sweetly considerate on the surface, but with an implication behind it of uncertain meaning.
Maitimo was clearly used to being surprised by him. He only laughed and gave Tadiel a little squeeze. "Nice opening line, Káno! Subtle."
She wondered if perhaps Findekáno wanted to clearly assert his privilege to do whatever he pleased with Maitimo and demonstrate that it must always be permitted.
"We don't have to if you think it would make you uncomfortable," Findekáno added, suddenly apologetic.
She responded with a ragged whisper. "Oh. I think I would like that." Covering her mouth with her hand, she managed a shaky smile. She actually had not expected that they would allow her that far into their private space.
Maitimo she instinctively trusted to be good to her. But she suspected that one ought not to be taken in by Findekáno, with his natural sweetness, his tender, lovely mouth, as beautiful naked as she could ever have imagined. All of that could be distracting and disarming, when self-protection might be needed. There was a lot about Findekáno that she did not understand.
They had explained to her certain things which were non-negotiable. The entire matter of Findekáno taking a wife had always hinged upon whether each of them could bear to share his beloved. When they finally had agreed to experiment, they had not known if Findekáno could respond to a woman at that level of intimacy. He had responded. She thought that had to be good for their purposes.
She well remembered Findekáno flirting with her when they first met under the influence of a lot of alcohol and always with Maitimo right there, joking and teasing as well. Once she had thought they might have come very close to spending the night together. In that first year of his recovery, Maitimo had refused to dance. Findekáno had actually tried to titillate Maitimo by dancing with her with some measure of success. But Maitimo had also mentioned earlier that day that neither had known how they would react to seeing their partner in the arms of another.
"I'd love to watch you together," Tadiel repeated, still whispering, afraid or unable to say it aloud. She colored, touched her cheeks, and then laughed. "I did stumble upon a couple of young apprentices once at the Houses of Healing on the Lake. They had found an unoccupied isolated alcove. They did not see or hear me. I wondered if they looked anything like the two of you might look. They were nothing like the two of you physically—both younger and much slighter. A Noldorin lad and a lovely Sindarin boy. But it did not seem to me to be a casual act for them. They obviously had some experience together and treated one another with great affection.
"You surprise me, Tadiel," said Maitimo before chuckling softly. "Not in a bad way. It is amusing that we did wonder from time to time how much privacy we had there. Although the lack of absolute isolation could never have prevented us from making love. We were dying for one another at the time."
She shoved Maitimo with her shoulder. "Shame on you. No one spied on the two of you at the Houses of Healing!" The idea that he would think she would so misuse her position of trust horrified her. "In fact, we had a policy of allowing you as much uninterrupted time together that we could manage. Pilimor insisted from the beginning that your healing depended upon having Findekáno to support you in every way possible, that your physical intimacy increased your chances of complete recovery."
Findekáno said, "Don't be upset. He's just trying to agitate you. We could tell that at least Pilimor seemed to know and accept what we meant to one another. That was the cultural difference that we most immediately noticed between our people and yours. In Aman only the wisest or most foolish accepted our love for one another without questioning its validity."
"I would never have tried to spy on you," she insisted, still disconcerted. "I came upon those boys by accident and . . . I already had heard of many things that men do with one another, but I was curious to see what that would look like. It was hard to look away."
"So when you watched them, you imagined Maitimo and me," Findekáno said, keeping his voice neutral, showing through the little smile he gave her that his intention was wicked. "Did you touch yourself?" he asked.
Tadiel growled and hit him on the arm. "You horrid man!"
"No shame in that. I'm sure I would have." He grinned before adding, "At least, I would have if I did not have the self-control to walk away."
"You really are an insufferable brat," Tadiel said. She felt a swift surge of affection and amused tolerance for Findekáno's ribbing, which surely showed.
"Yes. But you already knew that about me. And you like it, don't you? I realize that Maitimo may be the ideal of a handsome prince out of a maiden's dream, but you've always admired my willingness to make a fool of myself."
Findekáno had told her once that, for him, Maitimo's glow might not compare to the hard, almost god-like brilliance of his famous father but was truer, felt more like clear sunlight than lightning's flame. She and Finno shared an untouchable admiration for him. She wholly agreed that Maitimo possessed a luminosity that none of his suffering or losses could ever tarnish. Findekáno himself projected the high, fine nobility and courage of a legendary hero, until his roguish humor showed him to be genuine and earthy. Her two Noldorin princes were not close to ordinary in any sense.
Looking not to Tadiel for encouragement but to Maitimo, Findekáno stretched with a deliberate insouciant grace, the intent of which was blatant seduction. The tent still smelled strongly of sex and perspiration. They might both be legends, but they were human ones, flawed and imperfect, but perfectly adorable.
"My heart," Maitimo said, looking into Findekáno's eyes and stroking his strong jawline. Finno only gasped and said nothing. "Let me make love to you." That time neither did Maitimo look at her to offer reassurance.
Sinking down onto the rug at the side of the bed, Tadiel leaned against it and watched. She knew it would always matter more to Findekáno how Maitimo perceived him. He measured his happiness by his sense of his importance to his beloved. Well, she thought, I can live with what they share with one another. Her heart had been broken once and mended, she expected less and allowed herself more latitude. Was it not a bargain to trade the most likely unobtainable ideal of romantic love for what these two handsome and likeable princes offered her?
She felt a sense of loss, not an aching loss, but a sweet, wistful one. They were so beautiful together with their strong, lean bodies and long legs. Finno had the more sculpted upper arms. Maitimo's broader shoulders balanced his slightly greater height. The missing hand and the light sprinkling of freckles over Maitimo's shoulders and cheekbones were the only things that made his painful beauty tolerable to her. She doubted that she would have even dared to touch him in his pristine state in Aman. But Finno had apparently always had courage to spare.
They had lost all awareness of her presence, or at least it appeared that way. Finno was right, she had to touch herself as she watched them. After beginning with a tenderness that equaled or surpassed the way they had handled her, they progressed to a fiercer, rougher intensity in their lovemaking that she envied and slightly feared. She suddenly realized, as they climaxed and she brought herself to completion along with them, that it had, after all, been a showing. Perhaps it had not been a conscious one. But they had demonstrated for her: this is us; you may observe, but this we can never entirely share.
Findekáno looked to have fallen instantly asleep, half on, half off Maitimo, who reached a seeking arm out to her. In a voice, dazed and blissed out, he said, "Come here and rest for a moment. If you can wait just a little while longer, then we can all go to the lake together and bathe." She crawled up onto mattress and curled up against his chest. The bed sheet was somewhat damp beneath her, but she could not be bothered to care. She was suddenly unable to keep her eyes open either. He pulled her a little higher up onto his chest keeping his arm around her.
"Thank you," Maitimo said before falling asleep.
Thank you, Ignoble Bard, so very much for making a valiant effort to find all the typos on the last draft of this.
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.