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Title: Blood, Sweat and Tears
Author/E-mail: Enismirdal enismirdal@lycos.co.uk
Pairing: Glorfindel/Maedhros (and Fingon/Maedhros implied briefly)
Rating: NC17
Summary: In the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, everyone lost someone they loved. But two grieving souls find a measure of relief and comfort amongst the filth and carnage of war.

Disclaimers: I'm going overboard on this one, since I've come across some folks getting a bit hot under the collar about high-rated fanfics in public places and want to make sure I'm as covered as I can be:
1. These are not my characters (except the minor characters who are obviously OCs). The characters were created by Tolkien and remain the property of the Tolkien Estate. I'm making *no* profit from this whatsoever; everyone needs to go out and but lots of Tolkien-related official stuff because it's better.
2. This *is* slash. You shouldn't be reading it if you're underage; if you are, and you keep reading anyway, I take no responsibility for you. You're being irresponsible, but that's your decision.

A/N: This is a response to the challenge issued on the Library of Moria, "The random pairing generator produced Glorfindel/Maedhros. I'd like to see if anyone could manage that one!"
Well, I couldn't resist that!

Warnings: None really.
I've taken a fairly liberal interpretation of the timeline, but I don't think I *actively contradicted* the Silmarillion version of events, so it's no more AU than any piece of fanfic ever is.

A million appreciative thank yous to amazing betas Katy (plot), Naath (canon) and Claudielf (Elvish). *hugs all three and does a dance*

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Maedhros scowled and winced as the healer finished bathing the wound on his shoulder. The arrow had gone in just under his collarbone, fortunately causing no serious damage, but the healer had been insistent that it should be cleaned thoroughly in case the arrow had carried poison, or caused infection to set in.

He and a group of others had been forced into retreat after nearly twelve hours of horrific and seemingly constant fighting, when Morgoth finally released all his hordes from Angband. The whole eastern army had been fragmented, scattered and routed; his group had been pursued several miles across the plain of Anfauglith before a lucky chance - probably the only one that day - had caused them to meet up with one of Fingon's regiments and rally. Maedhros's heart had leaped in his chest when he'd seen, through the red haze of exhaustion, the Elves wearing Fingon's colours running towards him. His eyes had found themselves searching the ranks for one particular face, his dearest friend. But the Elves' general, Fingon, had been elsewhere, and none claimed to have seen him forsome time. Maedhros still had no idea where the son of Fingolfin was now - or even whether he still lived.

The healer brought out a roll of bandages from a pouch on his belt, and started binding up the small, deep wound. It felt better now; the clear, cool liquid the healer had cleaned it with was starting to take effect and the stinging had lessened considerably.

He dressed awkwardly, both because the healer was clicking his tongue in an annoyingly maternal manner whenever Maedhros looked as if he might disturb the freshly-dressed injury, and because buttons, hooks and lacings were always a cursed pain when one had only one hand with which to fasten them.

The healer opened his mouth, about to warn Maedhros to take it easy again, not to overexert himself, but was interrupted by shouting from outside and the rhythmic drumming of hooves. The sounds reminded him that in battles such as this one, there was no point telling a warrior not to overdo it - either he fought and died, or he fought harder and lived. Instead, the small, thoughtful-looking Elf reached out and gripped Maedhros's arm, the expression on his face that of one who is tired of death and war. "May the Valar be with you."

Maedhros sighed and shook his head. "I think the Valar have already seen the folly in associating with me. Wisely, they choose to attend to other matters. It seems these days I can attract the attention only of Morgoth." He rose slowly to his feet. It had been one of the longest, hardest and bloodiest days the son of Fëanor had ever known. The tide of orcs and fire-drakes had just kept on coming, wave upon wave of dark, stinking and bloodthirsty creatures threatening to drown the allied amies of Elves, Men and Dwarves.

When he and his host had arrived at the battlefield earlier that day, he'd found Fingon's armies already in full pitched battle with Morgoth's servants. Drawing his sword and leading a charge into the midst of the fray, he'd cut a path through to his friend, but had had only moments to exchange shouted greetings with Fingon before a black shadow had come rolling across the plain. At first, the Elves had glanced upwards at Arien, thinking she must be obscured by a thick storm cloud, but she hung unchanged and unconcerned in the sky, smiling benignly down as lives were lost in their thousands.

The shadow had been Morgoth's armies.

After that, Maedhros had not had time to think, rest or analyse the situation. It became a matter of hacking one orc to pieces, only to be immediately assailed by three more. When planning this battle, he'd envisioned a great stampede, Eldar and Edain pouring into Angband and sending its occupants fleeing in terror, perhaps throwing themselves from the sinister towers which clawed at the sky like hungry, groping fingers, so as to avoid incurring the wrath of Iluvatar's Children. At worst, he had at least hoped to deal a crippling blow to Morgoth's might.

Instead, it had been carnage, Elf after brave Elf standing and falling, constant retreats, constant exhaustion and grim determination to keep fighting.

The orcs had driven a wedge between Fingon and him, splitting their forces. Still, they might have been able to rescue the situation had it not been for their own allies. Maedhros had already been harbouring suspicions about the loyalties of some of the Men; his army's delay in arriving at the battlefield had been almost entirely due to Uldor's reports of ambushes awaiting seemingly in every cave and patch of scrubland and around every bend in the trail.

It soon emerged that not only were the sons of Ulfang prepared to turn against their allies and attack Maedhros and his people, but that they had sent messages to the squat, evil Men of the East, and these hairy, animal-skin-clad barbarians suddenly starting pouring over Anfauglith, beating drums and shrieking curses in their harsh, strange language.

Not all the Men were unfaithful that day; the sons of Bór and their people had fought bravely to the last, slaying the traitors Ulfast and Ulwath with roars of defiance. And briefly, Maedhros had glimpsed his own brother take Uldor. Where Maglor was now, he could not say. Maglor had always been the closest to him, perhaps because the age difference between them was comparatively small, and it grieved Maedhros to think that his brother may be lying dead somewhere among the orc-corpses and other fallen Elves. And what of the others? He shuddered.

Their problems had not ended there. A fire-drake and a huge swarm of orcs had broken off and headed straight for Maedhros and his troops. "To the hills!" he'd ordered, yelling over the sounds of steel and bowstrings, death-screams and war-cries. The orcs had chased them seemingly forever, over the never-ending stretches of barren and bloodstained wasteland.

It had been a fortunate chance indeed which had joined Maedhros's forces to that group of Fingon's who'd become separated from their general. Together, in the foothills to the south of Anfauglith, they'd gathered into some kind of formation and turned as one to cut down those enemies who had doggedly hunted them for all these miles. By that time, many of the Elves were dead, and most of the survivors were bleeding from multiple injuries.

Maedhros remembered the speech he'd made to his men - it had been mere hours ago, but so much had happened today, it could as easily have been centuries. "You've fought bravely today, even as friends fell beside you. Some of you have lost lovers, siblings, parents, children. Most of you are hurt, tired and sick of fighting for your lives. But we have two choices. We fall back, give up, and present the victory as a gift to Morgoth - oh, how he would love that! Or we march back to the field and strike him again…and again, until finally Beleriand is free of his filth! Who is with me?!"

He was proud of those Elves; a shout had gone up from them then, "We are!" and they'd set off at the fastest pace they could sustain. Maedhros led them slightly west, towards Ered Wethrin, then had struck northeast, hoping to enter the field where the Enemy did not expect. On the way, they'd come across at least a dozen bands of orcs, some of whom were on the tail of fleeing Elves and Men. All had been swiftly dispatched, cut to pieces by Elves who no longer cared what happened so long as every orc they saw died instantly.

The host grew, as the troops they'd rescued joined up with them. But with so many injured, their pace was slowing. When they'd stumbled upon the encampment where Fingon's host had hidden before the battle's commencement, several warriors had simply collapsed where they stood. Maedhros would have assembled a group to go still further, but a shout had captured his attention. "Russandol?"

He turned, recognising the voice. He smiled as he caught sight of the Elf's tousled red-brown hair, so similar in colour to his own. "Amras!" He felt relief wash over him; his youngest brother looked weary but very much alive. As Amras rushed to embrace him, Maedhros observed that the younger Elf was walking with a definite limp. However, he had survived, and that was what mattered.

So, the Valar will still take pity on my little brother. Amras had been the last of the sons of Fëanor to charge in among the unarmed Teleri at the Kinslaying. Amras did not hesitate to envelop his brother in an enthusiastic hug; the overexuberant greeting elicited a groan from Maedhros and a worried look from Amras.

"You're hurt?"

Maedhros shrugged, an immediately regretted doing so as it made pain flare through his shoulder all over again. "Isn't everyone? It's superficial; don't concern yourself over me."

Unfortunately, Amras had taken it upon himself to inspect the injury, and had discovered the shaft of the arrow still embedded in the injury; when he'd first been hit, Maedhros had pulled out a dagger and cut through the shaft as close to the skin as possible, realising that any attempt to dislodge the head would result in a large amount of blood and pain which he really did not need at that point. "Brother, you need to let a healer see to you. The wound is dirty, and the shaft has splintered. It will only get worse if you leave it."

Maedhros had started to argue, but his younger brother had been annoyingly stubborn. "Russandol, our armies are in retreat. There's nothing more anyone can do today except pick up the pieces."

The eldest son of Fëanor had started then. "They've retreated?"

"Apparently. The groups coming in from the North were in an even worse state than your lot."

Maedhros had shut his eyes briefly, sorrow and anger making his hand tighten into a fist at his side. "The Valar really have deserted us."

***

And so he'd ended up here, in the dingy tent, with a healer giving him threatening looks while he redressed and got ready as quickly as possible for whatever Morgoth would throw at them next.

"What is all that shouting about?" the healer asked impatiently, sticking his head out of the tent. Watching the Elf's narrow back, Maedhros recognised his clothing, under the generic pale blue apron which all the healers in the camp were wearing, as Sindarin - one of the Sindar of Hithlum then, who had attached themselves to Fingon's household. "Elbereth!" Curious as to what had caused the healer to exclaim so emphatically, Maedhros rose and went to investigate. The cool night wind slapped him across the cheek as hard as a strike from a spiteful lover, whilst two distant camp fires glared at him with baleful amber eyes. The dim illumination was enough for Maedhros to pick out a small party of Eldar wearing Turgon's livery, their armour glowing dull red in the firelight.

The grim-faced leader, still wearing his gold-inlaid helm, was carrying another Elf in his arms. It took Maedhros only a moment to spot the blood dripping from a gaping wound at a join in the unconscious Elf's armour. The healer hurried over to the new arrivals, his fingers anxiously seeking a pulse at the injured Elf's throat.

Maedhros stood back out of the way - he knew a serious wound when he saw one - and sighed. That had been inflicted by the sword of a man, not any orc or fire-drake. He spat on the ground, recalling the treachery of the sons of Ulfang. That Elf would be blessed by the Valar indeed if he even lived through the night.

The healer led the Gondolin warrior and his grievously hurt charge into the tent, indicating for the Elf to be placed on the pallet which Maedhros had vacated a few moments before. The Elf's face was ashen, his breathing so shallow Maedhros could hardly tell he was breathing at all. "Help me get his armour off," the healer instructed the Gondolin Elf. He glanced over his shoulder at Maedhros. "You - go and fetch me more healers, if any can be spared." The command was delivered curtly, indifferent to Maedhros's status and reputation and not entirely hiding the abject despair any healer felt when looking at such a clearly hopeless case. "If he's to have any chance at all, I'm going to have to operate on him tonight."

Maedhros did as he was bid, and went in search of more healers. It proved to be no easy task. All the healers in the camp were busy; many of them with cases every bit as serious as the Gondolin warrior. He moved on to the next row of tents, prepared for more disappointing head-shaking.

"Oh, there you are!" Amras greeted him, appearing at his side out of nowhere. "I see you've had that injury attended to." His voice held a note of approval.

Maedhros smiled sarcastically, in no mood to deal with the youngster now. "Yes, brother."

"You should be resting while you still can."

Maedhros halted sharply and turned to the younger Elf, frowning darkly. "If I ought to be resting, so should you. But what makes you think any of us can rest now? Look at this camp." He gestured to the muddy horses, muddy Elves and muddy Men who stumbled tiredly between the tents, to the healers who could be glimpsed from time to time, rubbing their eyes and beckoning the next set of wounded to enter. "I think there are better uses for my time than to spend it sleeping. If you want to help me out, find me an available healer."

"I think I can find you one. Mileth - she attended to me when I arrived. She confined me to bed; she thinks I'm sleeping now, went to fetch me some food for when I wake up." The withering glance Maedhros shot at his younger brother showed what he thought of the comment in light of Amras's previous attempts to get him to rest.

"Where is she?"

"Oh, I can take you there, but she'll have my hide when she finds out I've been out of bed." Amras set off, wincing as he shifted his weight carelessly on to his injured leg.

They turned a sharp left, into a row of tents identical to any of the others. Amras seemed to know exactly where he was heading, so Maedhros didn't argue. "What of the others?" he asked instead.

Amras glanced over his shoulder and shrugged; Maedhros could tell he was concerned. "I was hoping you could tell me that. No-one I've spoken to can say what's happened to them. The last thing I knew, Maglor was all right and heading south. But that was hours ago." He paused. "I'm certain that Amrod is alive and more less unhurt, or I'd know straight away." Maedhros didn't challenge the claim - like most elven twins, Amras enjoyed a close and special bond with his brother.

Maedhros smiled bitterly. "A small measure of relief." Amras was ever the optimist of the family, in surprising contrast to his twin, whose personality more closely resembled that of his late father. They'd walked past perhaps ten or a dozen pitched tents when Amras nodded towards one, lifting its flap and ducking inside.

Mileth stood in the centre of the small space with hands on hips, looking irate. "I told you to stay in bed," she told the younger Fëanorian sharply. Her expression reminded Maedhros of the healer who had attended him, and the admonishing glances Maedhros had been receiving from that Elf earlier.

"I chose not to take your advice," Amras retorted with a raised eyebrow and a haughty note in his voice.

"It wasn't advice. You leg might feel fine now, but unless you rest, it won't tomorrow. That axe opened it from knee to ankle…"

Forcing down the urge to turn on his brother for not informing him of the severity of his injury, Maedhros instead stepped between warrior and healer and addressed Mileth. "Can you spare a couple of hours?" he asked her without wasting time with decorum.

She ran a hand over her hair, which was coming loose from its tight braids. Now she'd stopped arguing, he could see how tired and harried she was. "Probably not - what for?" she demanded with equal curtness. It had be a long day - no-one cared for niceties any more.

"There's an injured warrior in one of the other tents who needs surgery if he has is to have any chance of survival. The task will take two healers…" She cut him off with a sharp gesture of her hand and straightened resolutely. Without a word, she pointed at Amras, then the bed. The Noldo complied reluctantly. Turning her back on him now he was co-operating, she moved to the far corner of the tent and began to peel off the robes she'd been wearing - they had once been blue linen, but were now stained all over with the leftovers of the battlefield - and brought out a fresh set from a trunk in one corner. Shouldering a leather bag of herbs and instruments, she marched out of the tent.

"Show me."

***

A lamp had been lit inside the tent to provide light for the healers to work, and Maedhros started when he saw what it illuminated. A golden-haired Elda was sitting with his back to Maedhros, watching over the injured Elf. "Orodreth?!" he exclaimed in shock; Orodreth was the only one of Finarfin's part-Vanyarin sons still living. But Orodreth had sent very rude replies to all of Maedhros's pleas for assistance, and the son of Fëanor had certainly not expected to see the Noldo here at the battle.

The moment the strange warrior turned, Maedhros realised his mistake and cursed himself for his stupidity. When the Elven captain had carried his comrade to into the tent earlier, his hair had been tied up in warrior's braids and had naturally been invisible under his helmet. Now, he'd removed the helmet and loosened the plaits, and his locks flowed, shimmering, over his elaborately damascened armour. "I'm sorry," he said politely, with a deferent half-bow toward Maedhros, "but my name is Glorfindel."

"Glorfindel," Maedhros repeated. "A fitting name." The Noldo shrugged. He glanced anxiously back to his unconscious friend.

"You can help him, can't you?" he asked the healers.

The expression that passed across their faces suggested that they were not sure they could. "We'll do our best, " Mileth promised. "But we need more of the healing herbs. Hopefully some other healer has some to spare."

"I'll go and find out," Glorfindel offered, practically jumping to his feet. "How much do you need?"

Mileth lifted a small jar from a folding table nearby, at the same time explaining what types of herbs were required. "Fill this, and it should suffice."

***

Maedhros waited silently in the corner of the tent, watching as the healers discussed in low voices what they would have to do. Glorfindel returned quickly with a full jar and a frown creasing his forehead. "I had to beg tiny amounts off about twenty different healers; it was all they could spare," he declared, placing the jar down by the bed. He scrubbed at his eyes, and Maedhros realised that under the dust and general grime, and the lines of weariness which marked all their faces today, Glorfindel was actually a young Elf, possibly not yet past his first half-millennium. "Is there anything else I can do to help?" the golden-haired Elda asked, hovering close to his comrade.

The healers shook their heads in unison. "I'd advise you to wait elsewhere until we have finished - it could be a couple of hours, so I suggest you go and get some rest while there's an opportunity."

"Rest? There's no time to rest! Better that we gather every warrior who can still hold a sword, and pick out bands of orcs under the cover of darkness…" Maedhros placed his hand on the younger Elf's shoulder.

"They're right - the troops need to sleep, even if you won't, and most others are injured. Tomorrow, will gather together everyone who can fight, and see what can be done."

Glorfindel was shaking his head in denial, but did not voice his objections. "Come," Maedhros commanded in the voice of a general issuing orders to a subordinate. Glorfindel obeyed automatically, throwing a final worried glance over his shoulder as he left the tent.

"He's one of my childhood friends," the Gondolin Elf said softly, gesturing back towards the interior.

"The healers will do all they can," Maedhros promised. "The only other thing you could do is pray to the Valar for mercy." He was not oblivious to the irony of his words, considering it had been had not been an hour since he had brushed off the thought of the Valar having mercy on his own kin.

Glorfindel looked at him, and there was anger flashing in the young Noldo's eyes. "You speak with such resignation - this whole thing was your idea! Yet where we you when the sons of Fingolfin were struggling with the orc hordes?"

Maedhros bit his lip to stop himself spitting back a sharp answer - he had told them to hold the line until they saw the beacon; Fingon's army would not have had to fight the orcs unaided, and Turgon's troops would not have had to come and rescue them, if that hot-headed Elf of Nargothrond, Gwindor, had not lost his temper and charged without orders. Equally, Maedhros had arrived at the battle as soon as he could - the delay was beyond his control, a result of the treachery of men. But rather than respond with recriminations, as he was sorely tempted to do, he simply said, "We all knew that the price of defeating Morgoth would include many lives. I never pretended otherwise."

"But we have paid the price, and Morgoth is not yet defeated!" Maedhros looked at Glorfindel - a young warrior, now with all his idealism about the 'glory' of battle stripped away. The captain's expression showed dismay and hopelessness, and a hot, simmering bitterness at the injustice of it all. He sighed deeply. So much death - and yes, Glorfindel was right; Maedhros could be blamed for much of this. He'd been so certain that a united stand against Morgoth would bring him down, even if it cost many lives.

They walked in tense silence between the rows of tents, fire dancing up and down Glorfindel's hair as he moved, turning it to a waterfall of liquid gold. Maedhros had been told by past lovers that firelight made his own coppery hair look as if it were aflame.

Glorfindel was staring at his companion, at first with resentment, but then with increasing interest. After a few moments, Maedhros realised the younger Elf's eyes were on his hair; Glorfindel seemed intrigued by its strange colour. "Is there something wrong?" he asked.

Glorfindel shook his head, as if trying to shake off a spell the son of Fëanor had placed upon him. "'Maitimo,'" he said contemplatively, "You have been well named."

Maedhros frowned, taken aback by the unexpected compliment, then thrust the stump of his right hand in front of Glorfindel's face. "You mock me. Do you not think this spoils it somewhat?"

Glorfindel kissed two fingers and touched them lightly to the mutilated limb. "No," he said simply.

The elder Elf shook his head. "I don't understand you. One minute you're angry with me, the next telling me you find me comely. Is this some obscure logic of the Gondothrim which I know nothing about?"

A sad smile graced Glorfindel's weary but youthful features. "I suspect you have already paid a higher price for your past mistakes than many of our kin who have lost their lives to the curse." He swallowed, then looked up, searching Maedhros's face. He met the steel-grey eyes, hardened and made bitter by compounded disappointments and losses.

"We have all suffered," Maedhros replied softly.

They carried on walking in silence now, and the path began to climb, a stony switchback trail leading up one of the foothills which merged with Ered Wethrin. The air here was sweeter, unsullied by the repulsive taint of death and war, but a malevolent darkness hovered just at the edge of their senses. Crooked pine trees cast strange, distorted shadows like misshapen servants of the enemy. Several times, Glorfindel and Maedhros started, drawing their swords and spinning to face the source of sudden noises in the night. Once, it was a badger, ambling through the undergrowth on some benign and eminently important business of its own; once, an owl swooping to put its talons through the spine of a wood-mouse near the path. They kept walking.

The path emerged from the trees and wound close to the edge of a sheer drop, offering a spectacular panoramic view across half of Anfauglith. Here they stopped, gazing out across the mosaic of red campfires and grey tents; there seemed to be tragically few of both, considering the size of the hosts which had marched under Fingon and Maedhros that morning.

The horizon was the colour of dying embers, tarnished with smoke from the fires which angered Elves and Men had set around Angband. Glorfindel grimaced as he looked at it. "The orcs captured Húrin, you know." His tone was flat and hollow.

"Húrin?" Maedhros bowed his head. "He was a good man and a brave warrior. What of his brother?"

"Huor?" Glorfindel shot an accusing glare towards the hulking silhouette of Angband in the far distance. "He lies among the fallen." He muttered a foul curse upon Morgoth, but despite his show of anger and hatred, Maedhros saw that the young captain's cheeks glittered with moisture. He kicked frustratedly at the dirt beneath his feet, sending pebbles clattering as they bounced down on to the rocks below. "Why should the Curse of the Noldor affect him as well? What had Huor to do with the sins of our people?"

"It's not the curse," Maedhros replied darkly. He indicated Morgoth's stronghold, a hideous, twisted thing like the carcass of a great beetle. "It's him. His influence grows ever greater."

Glorfindel stepped closer to the edge of the cliff and spat derisively off the edge. "Too great, it seems, for us to defeat him." Maedhros came to stand close behind him, looking over his companion's shoulder at the scene spread before them like a great canvas. Far away, he could hear the screams of carrion eaters, bird and beast alike, squabbling over the remains of soldiers whom he had fought beside and called his friends. Glorfindel must have heard it too, for Maedhros heard him growl, and it saddened him deeply to see such anger on such a fair face. "Mandos will protect their fëar, but their hröar, it seems, are now the food of wolves. Morgoth is laughing at us, from the cold and draughty halls of his fortress, I know it."

Maedhros didn't know whether the other Elf spoke literally or metaphorically, but somewhere in his own soul, in that dark cavern which he tried to forget about, but which would echo forever with the words of his father's Oath, he thought that he could indeed hear a soft, triumphant laugh.

"One day," Glorfindel continued, "our people will avenge ourselves on him. For every one of my men who die in battle with him, I shall kill hundreds of his creatures, I swear it…" He turned his back on the vista, and began to stride away from the cliff-edge.

Perhaps it was just bad luck. Perhaps Morgoth heard the Noldo's oath. But at that moment, the edge of the cliff began to crack and crumble. Anfauglith was a vast desert, long since drained of its fertility and life. And even here, in the foothills of Ered Wethrin, the soil was poor and sandy. The cliffs, rather than being formed of solid rock as they had both assumed, were topped with impacted soil, and as the air cooled in the evening, it gave way.

Maedhros leaped to firmer ground, but Glorfindel's footing was less substantial and he lost his balance, teetering on the brink of the sudden drop. His handsome face registered shock, but also a strange resignation as his eyes met Maedhros's. Maedhros reached out instinctively, his hand grasping for anything it could touch and tangling in the loose golden hair. The grip was tenuous, but enough to steady the Gondolin Elf until he found his feet again. Maedhros pulled his companion closer, examining a pale face with two eyes which had gone wide with shock. "Are you hurt?" he asked, surprised that his concern sounded more than merely comradely.

Glorfindel said nothing, but placed his hand against Maedhros's chest, propelling him backwards forcefully until the son of Fëanor felt the rough bark of a fir tree digging into his back. Glorfindel was breathing heavily, presumably because of the shock of the near-fall. It was strange how a warrior could march into battle and know no fear from the moment he decapitated the first orc, yet an unexpected accident like that would leave him breathless from horror…

Maedhros was breathless for an entirely different reason when a hot mouth pressed over his, hands still pinning him to the tree. Glorfindel's tongue possessed his mouth, then the golden-haired Noldo began to chew hungrily on his lower lip. Maedhros reciprocated the kiss without thinking about the consequences, and it was some time before they broke apart, faces flushed and gasping.

Glorfindel regarded older Elf steadily, his face shadowed with mixed emotions. His lips were slightly parted and his breath condensed in the air as a fine, silvery mist; this far north, nights were cold. "You caught me," he stated. His tone was flat. "Yet most likely, tomorrow I shall fight, and then I shall die anyway. Your noble gesture seems somewhat futile from that perspective." He finished with a hollow laugh.

"You may die tomorrow," Maedhros replied. "Or then again, you may not. Perhaps there is still something which you must do before Mandos calls to you. It is not my place to decide. I think, somehow, that enough lives have been wasted already - don't you agree?"

Glorfindel answered only with a nod, then resumed kissing his companion. The kiss felt desperate, as if the Gondolin warrior was trying to draw the air from the other Elf's body in order to sustain himself. His hands had moved to Maedhros's hips, pulling their bodies close until each could feel the other's heat. Maedhros's injured shoulder was beginning to throb again, but the Fëanorian barely noticed the stinging pain as he wrapped his arms around the beautiful Elf's waist and started to suck on his tongue.

Now, Glorfindel's fingers danced upwards, tracing intricate patterns over the sturdy, bloodstained battle-clothes Maedhros was wearing, the heat in his fingertips making the son of Fëanor shudder in anticipation under the touch. With their lips still touching, Glorfindel entangled one hand in his companion's hair as his other tugged impatiently at the collar of Maedhros's tunic.

"Is this what you really want?" Maedhros demanded huskily of Glorfindel's mouth, worried the younger Elf was acting on an impulse he'd regret later, concerned that come morning, Glorfindel would somehow think this made them lovers. At the same time, his body was telling him that it couldn't care less what Glorfindel thought tomorrow; there was a beautiful warrior about to ravage him, what else mattered?

"I need this tonight," Glorfindel replied; it came out as more of a growl as he yanked once more on the other's collar, this time hard enough to rip the tough fabric down the front. He licked Maedhros's collarbone on the unbandaged side, once, twice, those lips feeling burning hot next to the chill air. When he raised his head, Maedhros saw the bestial desire burning in Glorfindel's eyes.

Glorfindel removed Maedhros's shirt entirely, not sparing the fabric in the slightest. The noise of ripping cloth had an immediacy to it which only served to quicken the older Elf's heart rate. A warm gust of air caressed his skin; Glorfindel exhaling before his lips closed over an already hard nipple. At the same time, Glorfindel pinched the other between his finger and thumb. His tongue rolled the first against his teeth, almost bruisingly hard, while the other was skilfully teased and tormented.

Maedhros was rock hard by now, his groin a pool of fire; if he wasn't being pressed so insistently against the tree, his legs would certainly have collapsed under him. But when he reached for the lacings on Glorfindel's leggings, his hand was slapped away sharply. "Do not move," the young captain commanded. "Tonight, you belong to me." Using his body weight and taking advantage of Maedhros's passion-induced weakness, he pulled them both to the ground and straddled the Fëanorian's hips, the predatory grin making him look almost like a golden wolf about to take down his prey. Maedhros growled up at him, unable to bear this torment; twisting his body, his lips sought flesh and he bit hard on the skin on the inside of Glorfindel's forearm.

Glorfindel gasped in surprise, and immediately reciprocated. With a speed fuelled by frenzied lust, he divested them both of clothes. Leaving Maedhros writhing in unfulfilled need, he idly stroked himself with one hand whilst with the other he dug around in a leather pouch he'd been wearing on his belt. He threw out several rolls of bandages before he located the small jar of healing ointment, an essential part of any Elven field medicine kit. It speeded healing and helped to prevent infection of wounds. And, of course, it had other uses.

The two slick fingers which plunged into Maedhros's passage a moment later managed to nudge his prostate straight away. He groaned and writhed at the glorious sensation. The fingers scissored a couple of times, almost as an afterthought, before he felt them leave again, taking the awesome pleasure with them.

With such barely-adequate preparation, Glorfindel's entry was hardly painless, especially as Maedhros had always preferred the dominant role in sex, and so had seldom been taken himself. His breath hissed through his teeth as the young warrior took him deep and hard. But that in itself was oddly satisfying; to be able to abandon all thoughts and concerns, let them drown under the intensity of feeling.

Glorfindel started moving before Maedhros had fully adapted to the sensation of having another inside him. The pace was fast and irregular, but angled to hit his sweet spot every time. He heard his moans but they didn't register; all he knew was the intense ecstasy pulsing through every part of his body. Glorfindel was getting faster and faster, risking tearing his partner in his exuberance, but Maedhros couldn't care less. The pain made him feel whole; it was part of who he was.

Glorfindel came quickly, spilling himself into the fiery darkness, his nails digging into Maedhros's biceps, which he had grabbed at some point for support, and Maedhros followed a heartbeat later with an incoherent scream. Glorfindel's weight collasped on to his chest and remained there for several long moments until, panting, they rolled apart. Lying on the bare earth, they stared up at the stars through eyes which were still exploding with stars anyway. The dust on the ground clung to their sweat-sticky bodies and hair. For a long time, neither spoke.

Maedhros felt full, and at the same time, blessedly empty, as if the release of his seed had taken with it many of the worries which had been overshadowing the edges of his mind before. He shifted closer to Glorfindel, oblivious to the wind which was picking up but desiring the closeness of another. Glorfindel was lying with his head pillowed on one arm, and did not object when Maedhros rested his head on his chest.

"Is your shoulder all right?" he asked.

Maedhros circled it forward and backwards, as much as the position he was lying in would allow. It was stiff and aching, and felt swollen, but overall didn't seem too bad. He said so.

"That's good." Glorfindel sounded exhausted. Maedhros raised himself on his right elbow, leaving his hand free to caress the younger Elf's face. He saw when Glorfindel finally fell asleep as much from the relaxation which came upon his face as the vacant look which came to his expressive eyes. Nuzzling his face into the golden hair, Maedhros soon joined him.

***

False dawn turned the sky blue-grey, and the wind changed direction, bringing with it scents of decay and charred flesh. Maedhros swore and sat up. The ground beside him was cold, and Glorfindel's clothes were gone.

His shoulder had seized up during the night as a result of sleeping on such an unyielding surface. Added to the fact that his shirt was torn beyond repair, he dispensed with the idea of trying to put it on, and merely settled for pulling on his leggings to cover his modesty. He was extremely sore as a result of all the previous day's exertions, not least those involving Glorfindel, and noticed with irritation that he was walking more like an elderly Man than an immortal Elflord.

Arriving back at camp, he sought out the tent where he had been treated, hoping to find Glorfindel there; he wanted to assure himself that the young captain had made it back all right, as well as wishing to enquire after the condition of his critically injured friend. In addition, he supposed he needed to see for himself that Glorfindel took the same view as he did of their coupling last night; a need to give and receive comfort and release, nothing more. Glorfindel had seen enough hurt already.

The Gondolin Elf did not look up as Maedhros entered the tent; the body, covered with a thin sheet of linen, spoke for itself. Glorfindel's face was a mask so cold it could have been a sculpture of granite. He shook his head and murmured, "Why?"

Sensing the younger Elf's need for solitude, Maedhros said nothing and left silently. But he had barely stepped out of the tent before a messenger hurried over. The Elf bowed. "My Lord?"

Maedhros frowned, seeing that the messenger was shaking, as if expecting Maedhros to strike him at any moment. Inwardly, he shuddered, knowing that he had a reputation these days for being dark and often easily angered, although he suspected that this was as much due to being to the son of Fëanor and the brother of Celegorm, Curufin and Caranthir as it was to any character traits he might personally have. "Speak," he commanded.

"My Lord, I bring fell tidings. King Fingon fell in battle yesterday at sunset. He was struck down by Gothmog, Lord of the Balrogs."

Maedhros's blood turned to ice. His stomach tightened, twisted, and he felt as if he was about to throw up. Denial and sorrow warred in his mind for several long moments, before finally erupting in a hollow cry of anger, defiance and grief.

"/Meldanya/!!!!"

THE END

Translation
hröa - physical body (hröar = pl.)
fëa - spirit, soul (fëar = pl.)
Meldanya - My love (Q.)