NEVER LET GO
I should close the window, I realize, while looking out, at the starlit sky and sensing that the air has cooled as the hours of the night have gone by. There is little time left before dawn and I have not closed an eye, but sleep would not come to me even if I allowed myself to sink between the pillows and pull the covers over my wearied body.
I turn my head to my left, where Maitimo sleeps, but his rest is troubled by dreams again, the kind that make him frown, toss his head from side to side and mumble broken words in a weak voice. I know not if I should wake him, I do not have the heart to, knowing how hard it is for him to fall asleep and how much he needs every moment of rest he can get.
I wring my hands, resisting the urge to caress his face with trembling fingers. Maitimo's cheeks are still hollow, his pale skin still crossed by faint scars, his lips dry and brought together in an expression of sorrow, but he remains the fairest Elf I have ever seen and my heart sings with joy to have him near me again.
I have not slept much these days... When Maitimo is awake, I help him eat, wash himself and put on clothes that once used to fit his flawless body perfectly. I help him walk, though he stubbornly insists that he can do it on his own. But, most of all, I try to keep his mind busy with anything I can think of, so long as it gives him something better to do than look back. I have regained him against all odds and I refuse to let him dwell on the past that only causes him unbearable pain.
When he looks upon my face, in the morning, Makalaure will insist that I get some rest, before I take on the appearance of a wraith. I will wave him off, but eventually accept his offer to sleep in his room, while Makalaure will take my place at his brother's side. As much as I loathe losing Maitimo from my sight even for a few hours, how could I say "No" to Makalaure's plea, when there is so much guilt and sorrow in his eyes? He and all of Maitimo's brothers, with their sad, downcast eyes, remind me that I am not the only one who was broken by Maitimo's terrible suffering.
So I will let Makalaure and Tyelkormo soak me with wine and then I will fall heavily on any bed to which I will be led, slipping into forgetfulness for a while.
"Findekano!" Maitimo's sudden cry pulls me away from my musings. "Findekano..." he wails again, searching for me beneath the covers. He winces when his bandaged right arm hits my leg and I feel tears stinging the corners of my eyes.
"I am here, my love." I try to soothe him, gently collecting him in my arms. He clings to me, burying his face in my shoulder and murmuring. "Kano..." before beginning to weep. His arms hold me closer, but, where he could once crush me to his chest until the air would squeal out of my lungs, his embrace now feels weak, like that of a child. Yet strength returns to his tortured limbs, little by little, and I am grateful for the smallest progress.
"Findekano... forgive me!" he sobs on my shoulder and his tears have begun to soak the light fabric of my shirt.
"Ssshhh... Hush, my love. It was only a dream." I murmur softly, lips pressed against his hair, while running my fingers through the soft tresses, still as smooth as the finest silk, but of a darker color now, like barely dried blood. "It is all right, my beloved... I am here,” I tell him, as I feel his shoulders wracked by heartbreaking sobs. "Do not cry... Maitimo, my love, please do not cry." I beg him, pressing kisses on his hair and forehead, rocking him back and forth slowly, trying to soothe him somehow.
"Findekano... can you forgive me?" he asks, when managing to hold back the tears. I've no need to wonder what it is that he wants me to forgive so desperately. Maitimo has had such nightmares before and I have seen the haunted look in his eyes every time he speaks of the terrible events that have brought all of us so much sorrow. He has asked me to forgive him, not just for having left me behind, but also for walking straight into Morgoth's trap. And, no matter how many times I tell him that no grief lies between us, that I feel only love and joy to have him back, my poor, tormented Maitimo is still a very long way from forgiving himself.
"We have been there before, beloved. You know that I have forgiven you long ago,” I tell him, gently cupping his chin and raising his head so I can see his eyes. "Maitimo, please, I beg you, stop torturing yourself with this. My love, you have suffered more than it is possible to imagine. It breaks my heart to see you doing this to yourself."
The pained look in his big, grey eyes makes me want to scream and smash everything in my way, the anger of helplessness raging through me. But I must remain calm now, strong and steady, for his sake.
"Findekano... I am sorry. I do not wish to hurt you, but sometimes, my nightmares are so real... I feels as though I was still trapped, still daunted by the Enemy's cunning tricks. It seems like my rescue and you being here are just fantasies that with which my mind is filled, to weaken my resistance and make me give in to treason. If I cry, it is not only because the pain is still so fresh, but also because of the unbearable joy of waking and knowing that you are real, that I can hold you, smell you and taste you again,” he says, looking up at me with a mixture of fear, pain and hope.
"I am real..." is all I can whisper, before pressing my lips against his. Our kiss is slow and tender, neither of us having the heart to break it. When I stop to take in a deep breath, I let my lips wander over his cheeks and eyes, tasting the salty tears that have not yet dried.
"Please say you will forgive me, Findekano,” he insists.
"Maitimo... I forgive you. Once and for all, rest assured that I forgive you. But I will hear none of this again. No more speaking of guilt, you hear me?" I try to sound firm, without raising my voice above the level of a whisper.
"All right. I will not bring it up again. I do not wish to upset you. But I am sorry that you have to see me like this. I know that I am little of what I used to be,” he says calmly, and a spark of the old flame flashes in his eyes."I do not know if I will ever be myself again and I am sorry for my weakness."
"Maitimo..." I sigh and close my eyes, fighting my own, terrible guilt, unable to think back on what I have done to him without feeling madness and despair returning to haunt me. I am the one who should never cease begging for forgiveness, but he never lets me speak of it, as though it never happened and I were not the one who has maimed him.
"My love, you are not weak. You are the strongest Elf I know. You are a survivor, Maitimo,” I answer, with a proud and loving smile.
"We both are,” he says, returning the smile, and all the pain seems to vanish, the world is fair once more and my heart beats faster, mesmerized by his beauty.
"I will try to be less of a wreck,” he continues, and I want to protest, but he won't allow it. "I know what you are going to say, but I do not wish to ba a burden. You need to get some sleep and stop this constant vigil."
"I am not going to leave your side,” I frown in reply.
"And I am not asking you to do that. I need you near me, Findekano. I need to feel that you are there when my fears come back to daunt me and I reach out for you. But I cannot claim all of your time and attention."
"Yes you can. And you do, as you always have, my love. It's not like I can do anything about it." I answer, overjoyed to see my playful smile returned.
"Ah, Kano... you jest now, but I know that you have not been to your father's camp in weeks. I do not want you to face his anger when you do return,” Maitimo tells me and he sounds just like he used to when we were much, much younger.
"I told you once and I will say it again, Maitimo. I am not going back there until you are recovered enough to walk hand in hand with me before my father."
"My beautiful, valiant one... You might have to wait a while before I can do that. You know what awaits me in your camp." he says, lowering his eyes, sadness creeping back into his heart.
"If they blame you, they are stupid!" I let out an indignant cry.
"They are not stupid. Your people have every right to hate me and mine. There is not much that I can do to change that, but whatever is in my power, I will see it done. For now, my love, I just need to know that you will not be discouraged. If you hold on and don't give up on me, I promise that I will do my best not to let you down again."
I would tell him that he has never and could never let me down, but we would both know that such words do not speak the whole truth. There was a time of bitterness when I did feel that Maitimo had failed me and I cried, tears freezing on the numb skin of my cheeks. I felt dead, then, inside and out, fueling my resistance only with hate and the desire to have revenge. Not on Maitimo... I could never hurt Maitimo, but on his father.
Feanaro is gone now, his own anguish put to an abrupt end. I do not know what is in store for him on the other side, what his fate and that of the other kinslayers like myself will be, but I can no longer hate him and grudge him for the love of his son that was stronger than Maitimo's love for me.
I take Maitimo in a protective embrace again and I promise him that I will never abandon him. I will never let go.