"But Felagund dwelt among them, and taught them true knowledge, and they loved him, and took him for their lord."
-– Chapter 17 of the Silmarillion, 'Of the Coming of Men into the West'
Estolad had many charms in Felagund's opinion, although at first glance it did not look like much. A collection of rough houses by the river Celon, its main charm lay certainly not in its architecture, as Amras had once remarked when the youngest son of Fëanor had deigned visit the encampment, to see the nature of the people Felagund had brought into his and his brothers lands.
Both Amras and Amrod, always in each others company, had spent those few days sneering their way around, turning their noses up and stepping delicately through the mud. Felagund had spent them grinding his teeth and resisting the urge to slap some sense into them; he sensed Balan felt the same, and knew quite well that his good friend (he still did not have the words to put to his true feelings towards Balan), would probably be quite capable of landing one or both in the dirt with a good swing of one of his fists. The twins were as alike in mood as they were in appearance, and their mood was normally sulky, condescending and disdainful.
On the morning they were planning to leave, overnight rain had left the ground sodden and muddy. As the twins picked their way through the mud, two of the many children playing underfoot had run away from their companions, apparently not looking where they were going. Apparently, that was, to anyone who hadn't seem the gleam in Balan's eye and the way the rest of the Edain, going about their daily chores, turned slightly to watch moments before the actual incident.
One child tackled the other, knocking him through a mud puddle and straight into Amras's legs. Caught off guard, for he had been talking with his brother and as usual pointedly ignoring the people around him, he looked down to find his clothes covered with mud and grinning human child. Then the second youngster, gathering himself up from the mud where he had landed, charged.
Down went Amras, and for once the twins were not alike in mood, for a grin was even visible on Amrod's sour face. "Do you think your dear cousin will be needing our assistance, Nóm?" Balan asked Felagund, the corner of his mouth twitching. "I think he'd prefer to manage on his own this time, my friend." replied Felagund, having some difficulty keeping a straight face himself.
Amras having pulled himself back upright and onto his horse, the twins left hastily, forgetting the usual niceties; Felagund called out 'Namárië!' as they left, and got only scowls in return. Balan had watched them go, then turned back to Felagund with a smile of pure mischief on his face. "And good riddance too!" he'd exclaimed, then wrapped one great arm around his friend, toying idly with the long blond hair, a source of much interest among the dark-haired residents of Estolad, and not noticing Felagund wince in reaction to the simple contact. As each day he spent with the Edain passed, such simple touches seemed to arouse increasingly disproportionate reactions. But Balan had merely said. "Let's get some food and drink in you, skinny Elf.", and then roared at whoever was near to get a roast going and some drink brought and quick! "And double portions for my valiant nephews!" he added, nodding happily at the two mud-smeared urchins who had downed Amras.
No, Balan thought of him as a good friend, and nothing more. And Felagund should learn to keep a hold on his emotions and reactions, as was appropriate for one of the Quendi, if he did not wish to lose that position. For the Valar's sakes, he did not even have the words to describe his want! Let alone know how to go about explaining it to Balan.
Deep in thought, he did not sense the presense of Balan until he spoke. "What are you thinking about, out in the dark, when you should be sleeping? 'Tis not your turn for watch." "I do not require sleep the way your people do, this fact you know, Balan." Felagund returned, oddly irritated at having his thoughts interrupted. Balan was the last person he wanted to deal with right now. "Not sleep then, but rest. We've planned a hunt for the morn, and even Finrod Felagund, in whom the blood of all three Elven Kindred's mingle, needs his time in Reverie. Especially if he has not indulged himself in such rest for many days now." "I knew I would regret teaching you so much about my kind." "Does that mean that you will rest then, Nóm?" "I do not require it." Felagund replied haughtily, and turned away from Balan, his gaze drawn to the West. Thus he was utterly unprepared when the man picked him up bodily, half carrying, half dragging the Elf towards one of the nearby houses. "What are you doing?!" he exclaimed, as he was pitched bodily onto a bed. With a frown he realised he'd not been brought to his own rooms. "I am making sure that you rest." said Balan by way of explanation, and almost leaped on top of him, landing heavily on the mattress beside Felagund, who was trying his best to ignore his treacherous body, certain parts of which were voting to stay right here next to the man, thank you very much, and gather the strength to make his escape.
That chance never came. Before Felagund could move, Balan had one hand twisted through his hair, the other pressed firmly against Felagund's chest. "I knew this hair of yours had to be good for something." said Balan, smiling down at him, and Felagund would have thought of something suitably witty as a reply if Balan had not kissed him then.
The hand gripping his hair loosened slightly, the other moving around to clasp his waist. By the time Felagund worked out exactly what was happening a tongue had slipped past the barriers of his lips, sending shivers down his spine and fogging his mind so that he forgot to pull away, to protest. The hand in his hair moved around to cup the side of his face, one of Balan's calloused fingertips brushing across the tip of his ear and that tiny, desperate moan had most certainly not been him. Absolutely not.
Suddenly he did pull away, and Balan let him go, although there was confusion in his eyes – as well as some other, unnamed emotion – as he watched Felagund retreat to the far corner of the bed.
Speech did not come easily then, to him who had never failed to find words before, and Balan spoke first, worry in his tone. "Have I offended you, my Lord?" The sudden formality of his words pierced Felagund to the core, and he quickly sought to reassure Balan. "No, dear friend. I just... What are we..?" Now Balan frowned deeply. "The Nómin do not practice this? Among my people this warrior-love is common." Seeing confusion war with understanding on Felagund's face he continued. "My wife is long passed, and I have my heirs already. You have told me before that you have no wife and never shall. Who would be hurt by this joining?" Slowly he moved towards the Elf, a smile on his face, his arms outstretched. "I am unsure." said Felagund. "All this is unknown to me." "Then for once, my dearest Nóm, allow me to teach you something." Balan wrapped his arms around Felagund once more, nuzzling his neck until the Elf relaxed into the embrace. "Surely there is no shame in love, no matter what form it takes? I have watched you from afar for far too long." "And I you, although my shame is not so much for my love as for my ignorance." Felagund admitted, burrowing further into Balans arms. How warm he was! "That problem is easily fixed!" laughed Balan against Felagund's neck, tracing one hand teasingly down the small of his back and then around Felagund's waist, and lower. This time there was no disguising Felagund's moan; Balan grinned, moving his attention from the slender neck back to the parted lips, silencing him somewhat. "That is," he added, pulling away "assuming you are paying attention to your lessons."
Balan woke soon after dawn, stretching out the not unpleasant aches that were the reminder of how he'd spent the night. Nóm was still in that state that in his people passed for sleep, although his eyes were open, blankly staring. Muttering something to himself about the strange ways of the Nómin he moved away from the bed, seeking out abandoned items of clothing. From the clanging and muffled noise of voices from the common living areas, others were already up and making breakfast.
It sounded like a very good idea to him. He could fetch some food for Nóm, and with any luck he'd be awake by the time Balan got back. Balan wasn't sure what he'd do if Nóm didn't wake up in time for today's hunt. He had no idea what you were supposed to do with a sleeping Elf, although he'd recently demonstrated several interesting things that could be done with one who was awake.
Just as he had managed to hunt down his second boot, the door quietly opened and one of his daughter in laws entered, skilfully managing to balance both a small child and a tray of food in her arms. There were two plates on the tray.
She scanned the room as she entered, noted it seemed without much surprise the still figure on the bed, and placed the tray carefully down. The child squirmed in her arms and she shushed it.
"It's a good thing I brought two plates, it seems." "Indeed." Balan replied. She snorted, turning to go. "About time, Father." was her parting comment.
Which more or less, Balan thought, digging into his breakfast, the probable reaction of most of his kin. It was the reaction of Nóm's kin, his friends and family, that worried him.
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