It is a sound one learns to recognize with great acuity, the crying of one’s own child. Nolofinwe changes direction to rush down the other hallway, heart suddenly pounding - was it the stairs, he’d given concerns to his father that the bannister was too high, if no servant had been watching -
But when he turns the corner it is not to find Findekano at the bottom of the stairs. Nor having simply tripped in the hallway, nor dropped another sweet from the kitchen. Nor alone. It is to find his half-brother, tall and furious, Finno’s hand held unyieldingly in his own, Findekano sobbing and trying to wipe at his tears with his other hand. (An open door nearby, but he hardly registers it).
He stops completely still. Wants not to - wants to rush across the remaining space, take Findekano into his arms, rip Feanaro’s arm away from him, shelter his son in his arms and robe. But he is well aware, by now, what their father, what the King thinks of it, when he argues with Feanaro. And of how it would anger his half-brother, even if he will be decided as right in the end. He cannot put Finno in the middle of that.
Findekano sees him first, turns tear-filled eyes toward him, and now his heart feels like a blade through it. And Feanaro cannot be far behind in noticing; is turning already.
He bows. “Your Royal Highness.” Not even his father would insist he be so formal alone in a hallway, but perhaps Feanaro might be appeased…
Feanaro finishes his turn. Raises eyebrows; does not let go of Findekano. “Nolofinwe.” What is he to do, what is he to say - take your hand off my son and never touch him again . He can’t-. “I see that in addition to making nothing of value yourself, you have not taught your son to value the work of others.” He flinches - not at the insult, but that Finno has to hear this. Findekano, perhaps in response to the tone, starts sobbing again.
“I’m - sure we’ve taught him that. He knows not to go near your workshop, or your rooms.” They’re not near either now. The open door is a sitting room with a lovely window of colored glass. Findekano has spent hours enthralled by how the colors mix with the treelight to scatter across the floor.
“Oh, is it that you think I should hide in my rooms and my workshops all the day, so you and your ill-taught get should not encounter me?”
“No. Of course not.” And - Findekano keeps looking to him (Findekano doesn’t pull at all at the hand in Feanaro’s hold), and he cannot embrace him, he can not say ‘it is ok’, not while Feanaro is still here, but he can’t say nothing - “Finno, pitya, what happened?”
“It was pretty.” He hasn’t stopped crying, tries to wipe at his tears again. “I didn’t mean to.”
“It was delicate ,” Feanaro snaps, and now it is Finno who flinches. Nolofinwe feels the blade in his heart again. “And now I shall have to reset the entire experiment, and wait again for the correct light conditions.”
“Brother, please.” He will not say ‘why did you not conduct the experiment in your own rooms’. He can guess Feanaro will say something about light quality, or light angles perhaps. And it does not matter, really, and he cannot, cannot afford to anger him. “Findekano understands his mistake. His mother and I will explain it again. You don’t need to -” hurt him. “-You could return to your work.”
Feanaro does not let go. “I’d ask what brings on this sudden tender care for my work, but I believe I already know. But I think I am not currently so busy that I do not have the time to explain myself. Then perhaps he will understand, no matter how poor your own attempts at explanation be.” Nolofinwe nods silently. Can barely take his eyes off his son to look at his half-brother more. (He knows what his brother does to his own children. What he considers discipline. Knows what their father said, when he had tried to tell him before.)
Now Feanaro releases Findekano’s hand. “Hold your arm out in front of you. Palm up.” Reaches into his robes (he carries it with him, of course he does). Findekano is looking at him again. Nolofinwe despairs, and does not permit tears from himself (not here, not now). Nods at him, in encouragement he only hopes he can convey a piece of. (Nothing has ever been gained from fighting Feanaro. Only lost.) Findekano obeys, biting his lip, arm trembling slightly. (Nolofinwe wishes for some power of the Valar, invested in him now. Some creation, some protection. Perhaps at least sleep. He does not possess it.)
He has seen before what Feanaro uses. In - use, a few times. (Feanaro’s children are not his own, but his heart turns for them still.) When Feanaro has left them out, a few more. He sees this one now, a slight leather strap Feanaro half unwinds from his own hand. “You will receive five strokes,” Feanaro says. “If you cannot keep your hand where it is, I will hold it, and it will be six. Do you understand?” Findekano nods. (Nolofinwe does not permit himself to move. Not to speak. Not to plead. ) ( Let them fall on me instead. Please . He does not say. Let me hold him . Silent).
This cry pierces him worse than a blade.
It is six. Findekano’s hand trembles further, locked again in Feanaro’s grip.
Findekano clutches his hand to his chest and sobs anew while Feanaro puts his strap away again.
“See to your son,” says Feanaro, and strides away without another look at him.