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second fiddle

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“I don’t want to.”

“Fingon, I won’t be cruel.

Maglor says this, but he smiles like a Feanorian: all dancing eyes and lips ready to twist in scorn. Fingon feels the blood rushing to his face, and knows that he is being stubborn.

Prides himself on that stubbornness, in fact. It is his family trait.

“I won’t believe that Maedhros sent you unless I hear it from his own mouth.”

This strikes at a chink in Maglor’s armor. “I wouldn’t lie about something Maedhros said.” With a flick of his wrist, Maglor slides the bow across the table towards Fingon. “Pick it up, cousin.”

Fingon is awed by the gold-fretted fiddle—of course he is. Grandfather Finwe’s gifts are always beautiful and glowing with his mirth and touch. They charm even in the face of the most stalwart opposition; did not he give Aredhel a doll, without displeasing her? Did not she play with it for a whole string of afternoons?

Fingon does not know why Maedhros praised him to Maglor. It is always—indeed if he is honest, it should be always—the other way around. But Maglor swears that Maedhros, who begged off indisposed this evening, advised Maglor to ask if Fingon would play.

Now Maglor is treating it like a debt owed…by Fingon!

He does not meet his cousin’s sharp grey eyes. He reaches for the bow instead, then the feline-sleek instrument. His father has paid for the lessons, and Fingon grudgingly practiced until it no longer was begrudged.

He lifts the form against his shoulder; nestles his chin against that hard, delicate curve.

Fingon plays.

It begins as a merry partita, for Fingon is shy about showing off his own humble compositions. Those are for his mother, and for Maedhros.

(Is there anything of his, that does not belong to Maedhros?)


FIngon looks at Maglor three times while he plays. The first time, his cousin looks like Uncle Feanor, and the second time, like his oldest brother, and the third—he smiles, but it is soft and almost pained.

Fingon sets down the bow with a hand that trembles.

“You play sweetly,” Maglor says. He speaks as a teacher might; all calm authority. It is, Fingon knows, his right. “Your technique is not half-bad. But…”

“What?” Fingon of a quarter hour ago would have snapped it.

(Music makes so much and so little of time.)

“Not as honest as I would have thought,” Maglor says, reclaiming his instrument. “No, no—don’t get that stiff hair of yours all in a brush. It isn’t an insult.”

“Why not?” Fingon is cut to the core, at the thought of—of being dishonest.

“Music cannot lie.” Maglor sighs. “Even if you do. Believe me, I know.”

Fingon shifts uncomfortably. Is Maglor calling himself a liar? Maitimo does this, sometimes: speaks ill of himself in a beautiful way, which makes his listener feel too foolish and too admiring to contradict him.

Fingon says, “I don’t know what you mean.”