They were always fragile things, these nights. The entire world was still. There was no sense of anticipation in the air, no concept of past or future. T'was as though a barrier had snuck in between the cogs of the passage of time, obscuring the view and jamming the motion. Yet unlike a jammed machine, there was no agonied thrashing, no volatile fury in the air. It was as quiet as the world could get. Especially here, in the outskirts where not even the occasional blaring car disturbed the sanctity of night. So when Mairon was jerked out of viscous dreams into this glamour of tranquillity, it felt as though he had become delirious, like he had been standing in a crowded room and someone had forced his head underwater. Any second now, he would feel the water rush into his lungs and come up gasping for air.
A choking cry twisted his throat. He muffled it with a blanket, some innate, instinctual part of him knowing that the silence was too sacrosanct to tear. In his head, it was a world away from the night, the dream still running on loop like a broken film projector stuttering out garbled bits of jargon, imitating an animatronic on its last battery. The images accompanying the babble clicked through his brain with nauseating rapidity. They were faded too, crystal sharp in areas and distorted as though dipped in acid in others. Mairon could hardly tell his eyes where to focus. Bile burned, thick and disgusting, in the back of his mouth.
The bathroom was only down the corridor. Cool air hit him like jumping into a clear pool, and he found he could breathe again, shocked awake by the iciness of the tears evaporating on his cheeks. The nonsense of the film projector hesitated, before dying out with one last despairing, robotic cry.
He threw up in the toilet. The nausea would not leave him alone unless he did, he knew. Strings of drool and vomit stained his lips, hung from his chin, and he wiped them away with a repulsed aggression towards his state. Thank goodness to whichever one of them had forgotten to close the window in here.
Nothing quite broke the silence like the sound of a toilet flush, he thought with an amusement that felt quite incongruous. His mind still swirled. Too many experiences, too much longing for anyone to bear for longer than a century. His fingers slipped on the metal flush, fingertips slightly bent, bones long and elegant. They connected to a hand that was still trembling. He pulled it away.
The night was fragile. So was he. He could let himself accept that for now, because it was the middle of the night, because he'd had a horrible dream, because right now, it didn't count. Like a cheat day.
Naulë must have heard him moving about, because now the gentle tip tap of her paws pattered down the hallway. Her tail wagged upon seeing Mairon, and she shoved her cold nose against his bare leg. She did not rest until he reached down to scratch her behind the ears.
“You want a treat?” He asked softly, though he had no doubts about the answer. Her tail thumped against his leg. “C’mon.”
The treats drawer was in the kitchen. He let her lick them off of his fingers, smiled weakly at her excitement. She was so content with the simplest pleasures. It seemed a world away from his life.
The windows here allowed for a gaping view of the stars and treetops reaching out in every direction in the darkness. It was easy to feel small and meaningless, standing in front of the massive plane of glass. He tipped forwards on his toes, pressing his forehead against the window. It was cold. Painful. He couldn’t quite handle it, but it didn’t matter, because it didn’t count, because tonight he was allowed to pull away if he wanted to. He did. Naulë watched him with a curious glimmer in her eyes, laying on the tiled floor with her limbs playing out, the treat dangling from her mouth. She whined.
“It’s alright,” he assured her. She leapt up, and padded quietly away, as though offended at his words. Her wet chewing noises could still be heard from down the corridor. Perhaps she had gone to wake Melkor. The thought of it made Mairon shudder. In the end he backed away from the window, and took to one of the stools by the kitchen table, on which he rested his head. His red hair fanned out across the black like spilled blood. It was a sight he’d seen before, though blurred through tears and panic. Roses. Roses would be a sweeter comparison, but even they had thorns, and many a day he had come home with scratched hands. He adored them all the same. The way you could cut yourself on them, then stroke across the achingly soft petals, like kisses against your wounds. He wanted to be showered in roses by a world that adored him, then yanked away out of the crowd's eye by harsh claws and greedy laughs. He wanted the world at his feet and his own body wrapped around his finger like a puppet to his whims.
It doesn’t matter tonight.
He uncurled his fingers, leaving little crescent moons dug into his palms. His eyes were dark, blank, obscured. The night had finally gathered him into its arms, and walled in his thoughts to balance across a thin track, where they could not stray beyond the dark curtains. His breaths danced in his lungs.
"Mairon?" No. He looked back, to see Melkor outlined in the doorway, his dark hair mussed with sleep. No, don’t let the guilt get to you, don’t let the film begin to whir again, back to a different night. There was no blame being thrown at him right now. Maybe there should be.
Melkor’s arms were around him before he could finish that thought. He tried to speak anyway, to lessen a dull ache that even the night couldn’t quite shield him from.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.” Another mishap within a series of blunders. No, no, it’s a cheat day, cheat night, it-
“-doesn’t matter,” Melkor said.
This was exhausting. Wrestling the guilt away from his mind… was exhausting. Even tonight, when it should have been easy to forget. A glimmer of despair flickered over Mairon’s features, a dull realisation that he’d never be able to stop fighting, that even when the conditions should have been perfect for him to feel at peace, he simply could not do it. He trembled like a panicked horse, nostrils flared and eyes wide, body poised to fight or flee.
There were no cheat days for the likes of him.
No rest. No reprieve.
There was only gruelling work, and laying in bed at night listening to the cries of the film projector spinning round and round, until morning finally came and he stumbled out of bed to force himself back into the work that consumed him day by day. His sob tore through the night like a fist through a rice paper screen.
Miraculously, Melkor was still there. Mairon had no idea why, how he tolerated being woken so often in the middle of the night when usually the slightest irritation would set him on edge. He was half tempted to lash out. To make Melkor be angry at him for his failings, to make him act normal instead of whatever this was. He couldn’t quite stomach the thought.
As perverse as it was, he needed this, the slightest bit of comfort in an existence that was slowly grinding him to a bloody mess beneath its sole.
Sauron would be disappointed.
Mairon was too drained to deny it.
The more comfort he sought, the more his thoughts grew accusatory, and it was an exhausting cycle that he had no idea how to navigate. He’d simply wallowed in the accusations before, and it had almost killed him. He couldn’t do that anymore. He didn’t think he could let himself embrace the comfort he needed, either.
Exhausting. This was too exhausting.
He pushed Melkor away, fingers curling, shaking, face wet and disgusting.
“Don’t,” he warned, but there was no bite in it.
“Don’t what?” Melkor asked.
“Don’t try to help me. It’ll get too loud, I- I can’t fight it right now.” He didn’t realise that he’d been raking nails down his wrist until Melkor grabbed his hand away and he caught a glimpse of the bloody roses unfolding beneath his skin. They smelled nauseatingly sweet. “Don’t,” he begged again, the harsh lines of his hand tense as he tried weakly to wrestle his arm away from Melkor. “You’ll only make it worse, I don’t deserve it, they know, please, please-” he was blabbering now, losing that elegant touch with words that he usually prided himself on so. Mimicking the broken film projector. His silver tongue burned in his mouth.
You’ll only make it worse.
A different Age. The weight of the war grew heavier, and still he dwelled on the same hopeless goal. How much easier would it have been, if he’d realised the dangers of the path he’d set out on back then, if he’d turned back sooner before it could all ensnare him so tightly that he would not recognise himself with those ambitions.
“You’ll only make it worse.” Melkor grinned, and his eyes were not visible. They were obscured by a cold light. His voice crackled like an old film.
He managed to wrench his wrist free, and almost cracked his back on the table in the process.
“Mairon! Calm down, you’re going to hurt yourself.” It was hysterical, really. What could he say to that?
An echo that burned through the very flesh. He shook his head, sobbing, wishing he could turn back time and warn his younger self that what he was doing to himself would only ruin him, that there was no such thing as perfection, and when you break every bone in your body, they don’t grow back stronger. That it was all only ever a myth.
“Why can’t you let me go,” he murmured weakly against Melkor’s chest, a plea that he’d never quite dared to voice before. Melkor’s fingers curled into his back, almost digging into the skin.
“I’m selfish,” he said. “I need you.”
“No, you bloody well don’t. You’ll be alright, I know you will. Just… please. Please, let me go. I can’t do this anymore. I’m not strong enough.”
“I know,” Melkor breathed, “I know you’re not. No one is. But what else can I do?”
“You could let me go,” Mairon murmured.
“No. No- I can’t- I could never- no. No, no, I- I can’t.” He won’t. Mairon sat up, forced a sad smile that was far too incongruous with the tears upon his face to ever appear genuine.
“Alright,” he said quietly. “Then… you could make me tea.”
He felt a bit better. Melkor looked wrecked, and Mairon knew that no one could fake that look in their eyes, because he’s seen it on himself in the mirror before, seen it on Melkor before, though it was from halfway across a smoke covered battleground. “Maybe you do,” he said hesitantly. “Need me, I mean.” Melkor looked confused, or surprised, might be a better descriptor.
“Of course I do,” he said. “You’re all I have.”
“Only because you hurt everyone else.”
“I hurt you, too,” Melkor reminded him. “You stayed anyway.”
“Does that make me a fool?”
“It makes you a masochist, I think. Not a fool.” There’s a soft click as Melkor switched the kettle on. A calming, blue glow illuminated the kitchen to signify that it’s working. Mairon closed his eyes, because even the slightest light hurts them, and he was using all the energy at his disposal to keep himself steady.
“Exhaustion kills,” he murmured. “I can take pain. Despair. Boredom, even. This… I cannot.”
“Then don’t. Leaving isn’t the only option. You can quit. You don’t have to work ever again, you can save up energy for the things that really matter.”
“And leave you to make all the big decisions on your own?” His lips quirked in an imitation of amusement. “Never.”
“I’m serious, Mai. This would all probably be so much easier to manage if you weren’t pouring work at the same time.”
“No. You don’t understand. If… if I’m unproductive, if I’m useless, it’ll all be so much worse.” Melkor regarded him curiously.
“Maybe at first. You don’t think, in the long run, it could help?”
“I don’t know. I can hardly think clearly right now, just- we’ll talk in the morning, alright?”
“Alright.” He opened his mouth to add something, when there was suddenly an obstreperous sounding click, and the dim blue light in the kitchen faded. The bubbling of boiling water filled the silence.
The tea was warm. Mairon wrapped both hands around it, and inhaled deeply, trying to draw the night back around him through the comfort of the warmth. It didn’t quite work. Torn rice paper screens could not be sewn shut. They could be glued shut, though.
Mairon looked up to meet Melkor’s curious eyes.
"I'm fine," he answered before the question could be asked. "You're right - I gotta quit. I can't keep going like this."
"You think it'll be better?"
"Who knows,” he laughed, dry and humourless. “But I’m desperate at this point. Knowing my luck, it’ll probably only make things worse, like I thought.” He took a sip of the tea. It burnt the tip of his tongue. “You’re wonderful,” he said eventually, quietly. His eyes flickered over to Melkor. “Thank you for this.”
Despite it all, this time, Mairon’s hesitant little smile was genuine.
Envoyé: 08:49 Wed, 15 March 2023 by : Soyer Gunes age : 17