Story Notes:
He became a friend of Daeron the minstrel, for he also was skilled in song…
J.R.R. Tolkien, in "The Children of Húrin"


Doriath, 470 First Age

"Daeron!" The cry spread thinly through the leaves, the sound distorted and faint. Daeron recognized the voice nonetheless and walked faster.

"Daeron, wait!" the voice insisted, sounding closer and somewhat desperate. With a frown, Daeron closed his eyes, imagining what effort his friend was making to close the distance with his lame foot. Again he hastened his pace, almost breaking into a run. Only cowards run, that's what Lúthien had said once in anger, but Daeron admitted to being that and worse. Behind him he heard the thud of a body hitting the ground. He stopped, looking back for the first time. No sound came, and Saeros was still too far off to be seen.

"Saeros?" he asked. Silence. "Saeros, are you well?"

A faint grunt came as an answer.

Daeron closed his eyes, regretting his decision even before it was fully formed. He turned back on the path and walked until he found Saeros comfortably leaning against the bole of a tree.

"Tricked you," Saeros said, an impish smile flickering on his lips. Daeron turned to walk away without a word but Saeros rose remarkably fast and draped an arm around his shoulders, holding him back.

"What's the rush? Could you really leave without saying goodbye to me?" he asked.

Daeron shrugged him off and faced him. "I left letters."

"I know. But they don't mean much to me and besides you can't just go off like that, like a thief in the night."

"Please."

"Well, it's true. What else would you call a prince of Doriath who leaves in the early dawn, with no escort, dressed like a commoner, and with no certain destination?"

"Just let me be," Daeron asked. "I explained all in the letter."

"Which I would have only seen in two days weren't it for a fortunate encounter with the page. Tell me honestly that you weren't skulking away. What do you intend to do anyway? Don't expect me to believe for one second that you intend to search for Lúthien."

Daeron sighed.

"Well, is that your only answer?" Saeros insisted.

"No..." Daeron tossed his bag to the grass and stepped off the path, sitting down with his back against the tree. Saeros followed him, sitting by his side.

"I've wronged her by betraying her twice and now I see it and regret it. You're right in what you say that I will probably never find her, but I have to try."

"I can't believe it! You did nothing wrong, Daeron, and there is no plausible reason for you to give up your position and your life for a woman who has never cared for you and left you for that filthy beast that is Beren."

Daeron hid his face in his hands. "Her heart is hers to give to whom she wants. I admit that I hate him, that I despise every thing that Beren is, his rusticity, his ignorance, his haggardness... his race. But with a light heart I sent him to his sure death and her with him."

"Nonsense. He got what he deserved and besides there was no way you could have known Thingol would ask him for a Silmaril."

"Oh, but I did." Daeron glanced at Saeros askance. But instead of reproaching him, Saeros shrugged.

"To have such an idea only confirms your brilliance, my friend. And you couldn't have forced Thingol to do any thing he didn't want. That was the least he could do to mend the harm his faithless daughter has done to you."

Daeron sighed. "You refuse to understand..."

"I'm not stupid."

"I know you aren't. But you're stubborn and blinded by friendship."

"I'm not blind. I merely think your remorse is disproportionate. Lúthien ran off after a piece of cock like the lowliest tavern wench. That was her doing, not yours. If anything, you tried to stop it. As for the man, I said it before, I'll say it again – his pride was his fall. Now come back home with me. We can't lose you because of their folly."

"I can't."

"Why ever not?"

"It's not just guilt. It's the weight. Even the people who most condemn Lúthien’s conduct have a harsh word for my part in this mess." Daeron bit his tongue; this was as close as he could bring himself to speak of the shame he felt now that he had fallen from grace.

"Nonsense. Daeron, since when do you care about what otiose mouths have to say?"

“It’s not just the busybodies.” Daeron swallowed hard. “Thingol called me two weeks after Lúthien was gone, when we were sure that she was no longer in Doriath. The things he said…” Daeron swallowed hard. Thingol had always treated him like a son, with as much warmth as someone so hard could. The hateful stare, the threats that Daeron knew to be anything but empty, they shocked him into numbness, before he had started to see the results of Thingol’s cold fury and to fear for his life. And there were the words Thingol had said that he dared not repeat, things about his long-buried past, about his family, his father’s failure... No, Thingol's heart was darker than Daeron had imagined. The king would not forgive him.

“He blames me, quite rightly, for her misfortune,” he summed it.

“Again, nonsense. He’s always loved you and true, he has been cold lately, but this is a phase – he may still have hope but he is mourning a daughter. You don’t have to go out there to regain his esteem. Just give him some time.”

Daeron shook his head. He knew Thingol far too well to know that once hatred bloomed in his heart, it never wilted. Picking up his backpack, he rose. "It's time to go. You can't convince me; don't waste our time."

Saeros rose in a quiet gesture of solemn dignity and looked into Daeron's eyes. "You would never be a waste of my time. I hope I'm not a waste of yours."

"No, no." Daeron reached out, but his hand dropped aimlessly before he touched Saeros. "You know that's not what I meant."

"Then sit down and at least share a last meal with me – no one else is running after you and I have no intention of walking all the way to the marshes for the sake of your company, no matter how delightful it is."

Daeron assented with a nod and started fumbling in his pack for provisions. Saeros watched amused, and said, "I left in a hurry to catch you, but I did manage to pass by the kitchen and bring something along. Save your provisions." He tossed a bag that had been lying in the grass in Daeron's direction. "I ran half of the way, so in recompense you can prepare the food.

Daeron obeyed, casting a concerned look in his friend's direction. "Your foot..." he inquired as he extracted bread, dry cheese, and a bottle of mead from Saeros's stash.

"There are other parts of me that hurt more. I can still run if the need calls, even if the king and his captains only think me fit for palace life."

"You could admit now and then, just to me, that you were secretly happy to be relieved of duty in the marshes, even if it hurt your pride and granted you a scar and a limp."

"I could. I won't say that life has treated me unkindly after the accident. But being seen as crippled is not always pleasant. You should ask Mablung what he thinks of things like me."

Daeron frowned. "You're not a thing," he chided. "Here, take some bread. You didn't bring cups so we'll have to share the bottle."

Saeros took the bread and delicately set it down on his thigh. "Why do you always change subjects so quickly when Mablung is mentioned?" he asked in a calm tone Daeron knew well and recognised as the herald of a storm.

"I don't change subjects but I wasn't going to hold the bread forever."

"You could have handed it to me silently."

"That would be rude."

"No it wouldn't. You just didn't want to hear me speak of him. We've been friends for a long time, Daeron. In fact, you are my closest friend and I daresay that I am yours. Why don't you want to touch that part of my life? Are you like the lot of them? Do you despise me for being the captain's whore?"

"No, never. It's just not appropriate."

"As it wasn't for you to confide in me just how far the caresses you exchanged with Lúthien went. Thus is life, we tell things to friends."

"All right. So tell me what you want. I imagine he was the love of your life, for you to have risked so much for him."

Saeros snorted. "Not even close but certainly the next best thing... Listen, I didn't come here to fight or to force you to hear confidences you don't care for. I just wanted you to stay or at least to say a proper goodbye."

Daeron nodded and took a sip from the bottle. They ate their meagre repast in silence, then sat side by side idly.

"So who was it then?" Daeron asked at length.

"Who was what?"

"The love of your life. Since it wasn't Mablung."

"Oh. Somebody who pined for somebody else."

"A 'he', I assume."

"Yes, a he. Does that bother you?"

"It once did, but not now. Not after being your friend for so long. Despite what malicious tongues may have whispered, you are respected by all. And you are one of the best elves of the kingdom. What you do in private is your business."

Saeros snorted. "You are trying so very hard, my friend. I had never known you to be clumsy with words."

Daeron blushed and turned his face away. "Why didn't you stay with Mablung then, if there is no hope for the other. Surely it was not because of the foot..."

Saeros sighed. "The injury was a convenient excuse for both of us. There was no love on either part, just an arrangement of convenience. And yet we expected too much from each other. It was for the best. I never loved warding the marches that much and life in Menegroth has been much kinder to me once the gossip stopped. "

"True. Your mind and your talent were wasting in the marches. Besides, Mablung is nearly untouchable but not you… sooner or later you would have been prosecuted, disowned, and flayed, if not by your enemies, then by his. I worried for you even then when we only met superficially." Daeron sat on his knees facing Saeros, lightly touching his bag, as if preparing to leave. "And this elf you love... Do I know him?"

"I think we both know who he is, don't we?"

Daeron looked down to his knees. He knew. He simply preferred not to think about it and what it meant. "I suppose I should go. There is a long road ahead."

Saeros let his head fall back against the bark and absently gazed at the canopy. "And so it was... the people say the truth is like cork. It will surface no matter what."

"Saeros," Daeron started, but his voice faltered.

"I've never asked for anything from you, not even for the friendship you've so generously given me." He let his eyes fall on Daeron. "I will ask you now for something that I know you will not willingly give. Of my many flaws, selfishness is not the least."

"I wouldn't call you selfish, ever, nor would any who have had the privilege to know you," Daeron protested, meeting his eye. "Tell me what you want."

"A kiss. In good truth I want much more than that, but a kiss would be a memory to treasure, even if I were to feel your lips unyielding under mine, even if afterwards you were to quickly scramble away in barely concealed disgust. Pathetic, isn’t it?"

"If love is pathetic, which I refuse to believe, I cannot pretend to yearn for what you offer, but a kiss I can give you, in affection and good friendship."

Daeron leaned forward, rising on his knees and placing his hands on the ground for support. He intended to quickly brush Saeros lips and be done with it, but his friend rested his head against the tree once more and stared at him defiantly. Despite the meekness of his request, Saeros was not without pride and Daeron should have guessed it.

He hesitated for an instant. Everything in the situation was alien: the setting, the notion, the very familiar features of his friend seemed to take on a strange expression. Why did his heart beat so? It meant nothing. Impulsively, he closed the gap and touched Saeros's lips. His blood throbbed in his ears, marking the passage of time. With his eyes fiercely closed, he could not tell how Saeros was reacting, until he felt a warm, slightly sticky hand cupping his neck, agile fingers moving up to his ear... This was the right time to stop. The kiss had to be long enough to show that he wasn't repulsed, but not long enough to suggest that he wanted more.

Daeron sat back, not knowing where to put his eyes. He tried not to think about his racing heart or the compulsion to lick his lips. His hands trembled on his lap.

"This is forbidden. I should go," he said, regretting the words almost immediately. Stupid, infantile. He was not acting as someone sure of himself. A deep breath and he forced his eyes to meet Saeros's.

Saeros twisted his lips in something between a smile and a pout. "Fair enough. I got my wish." The strength of his gaze was such that Daeron again averted his eyes. He grabbed his bag from the ground, rose in a swift movement and turned. Two steps and he stopped still.

"I can't go like this." He glanced back. Saeros was still reclined against the tree, the flushed lips parted, allowing a glimpse of shining white teeth, the dark hair spreading unevenly in the ridges of the bark.

Daeron walked back and knelt by him as before. "I have no problem in admitting you are fair. And I've grown accustomed to the thought that you were deviant and that might not be such a terrible thing. But I don't like you in that way."

Saeros's piercing gaze faltered for the first time. "Do you feel threatened, is that it? Because you sound awfully nervous to me." He looked up into Daeron's eyes, then lowered them to his lips in a slow, deliberate movement.

"I'm not threatened," Daeron said too quickly to make it ring truthfully.

Saeros smiled. "Do you know what this is called? An endgame. You taught me that yourself with that silly little game you invented. And so you see, the outcome is set and I have nothing left to lose. We both know that you won't survive out there though it kills me to say so."

"I do not set out to willingly die." A knot formed in Daeron's throat. "But I do not leave much behind to make me want to live so badly. A friend, an estranged sister, honours that feel empty now that they are not given with respect..."

"At least you speak truthfully now." Saeros touched Daeron's cheek, then pulled him into a tight embrace. "Don't do this. If you ever esteemed me, don't do it. They are not worth your life.

For the first time since his decision, Daeron felt fear clutching his heart and he held on to Saeros as a man drowning. Then slowly, his panic subsided and an eerie calm fell on him. Delicately, he pulled away from Saeros and then took his face in his hands.

“Thank you,” he said.

Saeros widened his eyes in question.

“For coming. For not letting me go so alone, as a thief in the night, like you said.”

Daeron leaned forward and touched his lips to Saeros’s. “All you ask is a kiss… You should have a proper one.”

He kissed Saeros again, parting to watch how his friend’s expression changed from a mix of incredulity and eagerness to complete surrender. Closing his eyes, he opened his lips. Saeros’s lips responded in perfect synchrony, his tongue lingering brushed against his hesitantly, waiting for Daeron to decide what course the kiss should take.

To Daeron’s surprise, the gift turned out to be no hardship. He let his tongue gently touch Saeros’s in a kiss that was more tender and tentative than any he had given in his life. They parted slowly, Saeros for once rid of his composure. A glance and they kissed again, this time longer, surer.

When they parted, Daeron sat back by Saeros’s side and took his hand in his, holding it in a perhaps too strong a grip. This time his heart hadn’t raced in terror or whatever that had been, but the kiss had not left him indifferent either. The overwhelming affection crushing him at that moment felt truer than any passion he had ever felt for Lúthien. He felt grateful, touched, not so alone, and for once loved. In a simpler world that love could have blossomed. It would not matter to him or anyone else that Saeros was male. He would not feel intimidated at the prospect of something more physical than a kiss; that Saeros was a little taller and certainly more experienced than him would not even cross his mind. No one would care except for the two of them. He would just slide into the warmth as one slips into a warm bed. He would close his eyes and let himself go.

Saeros took their hands to his lips, interrupting the course of his thoughts. “I thought I had come to terms with the thought that you could not love me but now, cruelly, hope stirs again when reason shouts the truth we both know.”

“I wish I could.” Daeron turned his head to face him and stretched his thumb from the tangle of fingers to brush his lips.

Saeros responded with a kiss.

On a blind impulse, Daeron closed in for another kiss. A part of him told him the wisest thing would be to leave at that moment and let things be, but a long repressed hunger spread inside him. It was not desire he felt, not yet, but he couldn’t think for his life of wanting anything more badly than that kiss in that moment.

This time Saeros did not hesitate and took hold of the kiss. Daeron emitted a small, surprised gasp, but let him dominate nonetheless. He liked Saeros’s arms around him, that much he conceded. And the way Saeros touched his hair.

Saeros broke the kiss and rose. “Come. By the side of the road is no place to hold a tryst.

Daeron gulped. “I’m not, I mean, I don’t know.” He looked around nervously, trying to ignore that Saeros’s words had ignited something that his kisses had not. Light prickling tortured his groin as imprecise but terrifying images built before his eyes.

Saeros pulled him up by the hand. Then, turning, Saeros walked away from the path into the woods. Daeron followed although his knees felt weak. He loved Lúthien, liked women. He could not deny Saeros was fair, but not uncommonly so, and he was so unmistakably masculine.

When Saeros stopped waiting for him near a creek, Daeron froze behind him. Then Saeros moved his lips to say something, those lips that had kissed him so, and Daeron willingly closed the distance before sound was made. The creatures of the woods had gone silent with at their approach. Whatever Saeros had meant to say had been lost. Not even the wind rustled the leaves and the creek gurgled gently. Only his hard breathing broke the peace as they faced each other, waiting for something to happen.

Saeros shook his head and pulled Daeron to him in an embrace. “Enough words. You want this even if you do not know it yet.”

Daeron swallowed dry and found he had nothing to say, no words to counter that.

They kissed. Saeros seemed to know just what he needed and when, Daeron thought, as he felt those hands moving in circles on his back, spreading waves of warmth. When Saeros pulled him closer, he felt something hard, unmistakable against his hip. With a jolt he retreated, but then, tentatively, leant forward. His own body wavered at the beginning of excitement, but as Saeros’s kisses grew deeper, a faint arousal manifested itself, slowly burgeoning.

Saeros drew apart and looked at Daeron, his eyes shining. “Come.”

They sank in the soft moss that grew in the shade of the heavy boughs, and lay side by side, facing each other. Saeros touched his cheek delicately, drew his hair away. Daeron wished he could do something, but his body refused to move. A part of him still couldn’t believe he was lying in the moss with Saeros, in this way.

Saeros kissed him lightly, patiently, and Daeron recognised in him the lover he had been to Lúthien, patient, quiet, expecting little. The very thought of her brought a knot to his throat. He opened his eyes and forced himself to look at Saeros. They had so unexpectedly entered this path, but that was no reason to let her come in between them, not now that everything was ashes. The sudden thought that this might be an act of cruelty to Saeros, prompted him to break the silence that had tied him.

He brought his hand to Saeros’s cheek, cupping it, then tracing his lips with his fingers. Saeros closed his eyes, enjoying the caress, keeping his hand still on Daeron’s waist. Daeron kissed him lightly on the lips, then continued exploring with his hand, touching the strip of skin above Saeros’s collar. Saeros deftly undid the first buttons, and Daeron touched the skin there. Could he kiss it with desire, as he had kissed Lúthien’s throat once?

He was unsure how to even try it, but again Saeros rescued him, undoing his own buttons and kissing his neck in a sinuous line that ended just below his ear. Saeros pulled Daeron closer, rubbing slightly against him. The effect was both exciting and terrifying, but this time Daeron did not pull away. Then Saeros gently pushed him onto his back and lay by his side, kissing, cajoling with tender words, slowly but steadily undoing buttons and laces, removing the few layers of clothing between them. Daeron quietly complied, enjoying the feel of skin on skin until he lay completely naked and Saeros, still wearing his breaches, kneeling by him, his hands on the laces.

Daeron rose on his elbows and stared down at his aroused body. Saeros had only lightly touched him as he undid his clothes, but for Daeron the coolness of the air on naked skin had dissipated into suffusing heat. Still he hesitated, lingering on the verge of conflicting thoughts. It was time this stopped; his body had committed to an act his mind could not sanction, so the best was not to think. He had done worse things in life than enjoy a forbidden pleasure.

He reached out and took Saeros’s hand in his, guiding it to his erection. It was all the needed invitation. Saeros’s grip was harder than Lúthien’s, at times almost painfully so, but the pleasure… And then Saeros was lying again by his side, touching him, kissing him everywhere, slowly moving down, his hand still moving firmly on him. Daeron shut his eyes, this time only feeling threading his thoughts. Saeros was exquisite; his hair felt like silk and his mouth, sweeter than honey, avid and tender left no inch of skin untouched. When he kissed the tip of his cock, Daeron could not hold a gasp. His hips jerked up, and again Saeros cooed, calmed, tamed. Saeros tried again, this time engulfing him in liquid heat. Daeron had heard of this but it had sounded crude and base. It was not. Saeros pleasured him with the same slow tenderness, his mouth aided by skilful hands, fanning hair, soft moans.

Then he took away his hands and Daeron felt him fumbling with his laces, even as his mouth still moved. He tensed. This was fine, this was indeed vastly better than fine, but he could not imagine touching Saeros in the same way or anything more daring. Not yet.

Saeros looked up into his eyes, placing his hands where his mouth had been. “Shhh. Don’t worry.”

Even as they held each other’s gaze, Saeros’s hand continued moving, quickly replaced by his mouth, quickly bringing Daeron to the brink. Feeling the first signs of release, Daeron pushed Saeros away, turning to his side and finishing by himself, his back to Saeros. His own hand felt cold and empty after the delight of Saeros's touch. Feeling more naked now that at any other moment of their tryst, he shifted away from Saeros so that their skin no longer touched. Why had he done that? What fear had coiled inside?

It suddenly occurred to him that he might have offended his friend. “Saeros?” he asked.

“Still here.” The tone was carefully neutral but the reply had been too swift. Both were moving on quicksand again.

Daeron looked over his shoulder, then sat up. His hands fluttered for an instant, as he wondered whether or not he should touch Saeros. The pleasure had come but the desire and the awkwardness had not faded. He folded his hands on his lap.

“What can I…”

“Why did you do that?” Saeros cut. “Was it disgust? Were you afraid you would have to kiss the mouth that...?”

“No. I mean, yes. I didn’t want to sully you.”

“Haven’t you seen by now that nothing about you disgusts me? Is it so hard to understand that not everyone shares the coldness of your former lover?”

“I offended you.” Daeron’s statement had a slight intonation of a question.

“Yes, but not much. I try to remind myself that this is more than I ever dreamed could happen.”

“I ruined your pleasure…” Daeron looked guiltily at Saeros’s lap.

“Rejection does wonders for the libido.” The words were of cutting irony but Saeros’s voice tone spoke only of loss.

“I’m sorry.”

Saeros closed his eyes and smiled. “Don’t be.”

Feeling foolish and insecure, Daeron reached out and held Saeros’s shoulders in his hands, drawing him closer into an embrace. They stretched into each other’s arms until the awkwardness of the position begged their joints to move.

“I don’t want to leave like this. I want to give something back,” Daeron said.

“As I said, you’ve given more than I had ever expected.” Saeros averted his eyes.

“I feel that I only took.”

Daeron placed his hand on Saeros’s knee, slowly moving up the thigh, fingering lightly the place where thigh met hip. Sitting closer in a swift movement, Daeron dared touching Saeros’s more intimately, letting his fingers roam along his shaft, nuzzling against Saeros’s neck until he was kissing him on the neck, on the jaw, on the lips.

Saeros responded quickly. Daeron could feel him growing beneath his fingers and he knew that the light caresses would not suffice anymore. Taking a breath for courage, he looked down as his fingers enveloped Saeros’s shaft, amazed at how foreign it felt and yet how familiar. The act obviously pleasured Saeros, who moaned encouragingly as Daeron experimented with pressure and rhythm. For him, it brought no sexual excitement – his body was sated and the act had been unthinkable one hour before – and yet it was pleasurable. He liked giving. He liked this particular giving that did not felt like an exchange or a means to an end. And so it was no hardship to bring Saeros to orgasm, slowly, revelling in the amazing freedom that was born in the moment that thoughts of duty and retribution were forgotten. All that remained was the wonder of discovery and a touch of playfulness that turned into a fiercer joy as the moment came to its end.

Saeros sighed, resting his forehead against Daeron’s shoulder. “Thank you,” he said. “Thank you.”

Daeron kissed his hair. “No need for thanks. Not between us.”

In silent agreement, they rose and walked to the creek for quick ablutions. Then, they returned to the bank to dry under the sparse rays of sun that passed through the heavy canopy. Their scattered clothes begged to be picked up and worn, but Daeron felt strangely reluctant to don them once more.

“The light is dimmer now,” he observed, feeling the weight of banality crushing already the novelty of the situation.

Saeros nodded but made no move to clothe himself. Daeron sat next to him, reaching for his backpack, from which he extracted the winter cloak that had been neatly rolled and tied to the straps. “I think we need food and some rest, not necessarily in that order. I could use a nap…”

Saeros faintly smiled but let Daeron’s hand pull him down until both curled under the cloak though the afternoon was still warm enough. Beneath them an irregular bed of clothes and moss softened the ground and quickly the events of the day caught up with Saeros, his breathing becoming slow and deep, his eyelids fluttering lower and lower until they were closed. Too tired to sleep, Daeron watched him in the semi-obscurity of the cloak, reliving the afternoon, the strangeness of it all. Saeros had caught up with him with a few hours of delay and with his foot… Daeron had walked quickly and had not taken the most common road out of the forest, precisely to avoid others. What magic had his friend summoned to perform the small miracle of catching him?

And his bravery… Declaring love required guts, even more declaring unrequited, forbidden love. More than bravery, there was the generosity. Daeron had never met anyone like that. In an odd way, he felt blessed. Saeros was right – to leave Doriath with no protection and no destination was to seek one’s death, but how much lighter Daeron’s heart embarked on that voyage now that for once he had tasted a sip of what love could be. He draped his arm around Saeros and held him closer, in an embrace as tight as he could muster without waking him.

“I don't love her,” he confessed in a whisper. “Not anymore. I had grown tired of being her lap dog, but I couldn’t say the words. In the end, I betrayed her not for love, but because of spite and this is my shame. Had I ever truly loved her I would have let her go.”

Saeros sighed. “Come home with me,” he whispered in hoarse voice.

Daeron jumped in surprise; he had only dared the confession because Saeros slept. His embarrassment quickly vanished when he realized that his friend, always so dignified to the point of being stolid, was crying. He kissed the top of his head, tightening the embrace. “I cannot stay. I am tired of myself and this world. There are things… I feel old.”

“I think you’re wrong. This is a terrible mistake. You could stay.” Saeros faced Daeron. “I know this was an exception, that you like maids, and I honestly don’t expect it to be repeated but you can stay. If you so want to atone for this sin that only you can see, do it here. Serve your people as you always have and more good will come out of it than of this reckless voyage into nothingness.”

“I’ve never felt more loved than by you,” Daeron admitted. There were so many reasons to go. “Were I to stay I could not easily forget this afternoon and slide into some maiden’s arms. I don’t know what would happen to this, to us.” He brushed his lips to Saeros’s cheek. “I don’t want you to suffer, not for me.”

Saeros shook his head but Daeron insisted, “Promise me you’ll be happy.”

“Not with you lost in the world, I can’t.”

“You must. Promise.” Daeron squeezed Saeros’s arm and held his gaze until Saeros reluctantly nodded.

“I promise you this instead,” he added. “No other Beren will come into this forest and like a cuckoo push its best sons off the nest. Another such beast will not be allowed to stay. This I promise, even if the price is my life.”

Kissing his brow, Daeron said, “Shh, there has been enough hatred. Now let’s rest for a while.”

Saeros obediently closed his eyes and they nestled to each other. The ground was becoming colder and their stomachs protested occasionally but neither wanted to move.

Daeron’s thoughts ran wildly trying to equate the afternoon, the revelations, the things that he had done. Saeros loved him. Yes, he had known it, how could he have not?

Now that everything was calm and the fire in their bodies had been extinguished, the same pungent feeling still overwhelmed Daeron as he touched Saeros, held him to his heart. This could not be love… It was sad and slow burning, wrong by everyone’s standards, too complicated and so very different from what it had felt to love Lúthien. A sort of despair crawled under his skin, blind want, things he did not dare to imagine. If this painful thing lodged in the centre of his chest was not love, why did he feel already the bulk of guilt settling on his shoulders, thinking about Saeros waking alone and cold? A sudden pang made him want to wake Saeros and love him again, this time forgetting guilt and fear. He resisted it. In his heart he was not sure he was capable. Everything had happened too fast, all was still too fresh.

His doubts, love or lust, accident or fate, were of no consequence now. He could not stay and certainly not with Saeros who had risen in life thanks to his wit and his cunning and did not deserve to be brought low again by association with him – it was clear that his high birth and not inconsiderable accomplishments meant little now in Menegroth and he would not be able to protect himself, let alone Saeros. He felt true remorse for what he had done to Lúthien and he worried for her fate; a part of him still loved her, her perfect beauty, her laughter, even if she had spurned him in the end, after such a long courtship. Still, he knew that despite this compunction, he would not have been moved to leave were it not for the public shame and Thingol’s wrath.

He feared leaving Doriath, the only home he had ever known. But he feared more being stopped at the border, that he couldn’t reach it before he was found missing and hunted down. Dawn flickered in the sky and a cold mist rose from the ground. It was time to go. The time spent in this interlude would have to be bought with one long race against time that his body was not prepared for.

For a moment he was tempted to wake Saeros and ask him to join him. Saeros would protest, try to convince him otherwise but in the end he was too loyal not to follow. Of all that had been his home, Saeros was the only thing left standing, the only one he could trust. Daeron quit the idea as soon as it surfaced. Saeros slept soundly, exhausted from a morning’s run. He would slow Daeron down and both would be lost by the time they reached the borders. And besides, what right had he to ask Saeros to give up his life, all he had achieved?

Just before sunrise Daeron quietly rose, leaving Saeros asleep. He dressed in silence and picked up his backpack. The cloak would have to stay behind. He could not bear the thought of waking Saeros for such pragmatic business. He would still pass by the wardens at the marches and if they were not ready to arrest him, they would surely have one extra to dispense. Standing up, Daeron looked around, his eyes finally falling on Saeros. His heart clenched, but without a word, he knelt by Saeros’s side and running his fingers through his hair, he gave him one last kiss.
Many thanks to Elfscribe for the beta and the clever advice. All remaining mistakes are mine.

Written for Koulagirl. The request was Daeron/Saeros; R; Silmarillion, passion, anger against mortals, forest; Do not include fluff, incest, AU.