Actions

Work Header

a row of captured ghosts

Chapter Text

“The next stop is Formenos.”

Swinging the strap of her messenger bag up onto her shoulder, Maglor gets to her feet. Across from her, a balding, rather tired looking man glances up briefly and automatically from his newspaper. Evidently realising that he hasn’t yet reached his stop, he goes back to what he’s reading.

TORY CANDIDATE CURUFINWË FËANÁRO CALLS NEW LIB DEM CAMPAIGN A “FARCE”, proclaims the front page of his paper in screaming block-capitals.

Of course. Of fucking course the guy is reading the Gondolin Chronicle. Maglor can practically hear her father sneering at the stranger’s choice of reading material, and at the cheap blue suit he’s wearing, with its faint polyester sheen.

The train hisses to a halt. Its doors slide open and Maglor, close on the heels of a woman in what she’s fairly certain is a genuine fur coat, gets off.

Her phone trills almost as soon as she’s above ground. She lets it ring as she fumbles for her Oyster card. The ticket barrier clunks open to admit her and she retrieves the phone from her pocket right as it stops ringing.

She sighs. With her free hand, she pulls the hood of her jacket up over her head—a feat made more awkward than it ought to be by the headphones encircling her neck.

“Why,” she mutters as she returns the call, “Is it so blinking cold?”

Maedhros answers on the second ring. “Where are you?”

Even through the static, Maglor can tell that her sister sounds strained.

“Train was late,” she says by way of explanation, turning left onto a wide, tree-lined avenue. “Sorry. I’m nearly home, though. Just got off the tube.”

The line crackles with the weight of an exhale. “Thank fuck,” says Maedhros, low and vehement. “Dad’s getting twitchy. He wants to take us all out for dinner to discuss everything. He made reservations at that Thai place Mum likes.”

Maglor wonders what exactly there is to discuss. Her grandfather is dead. As far as she can tell, that’s pretty much non-negotiable.

“Sorry,” she says again automatically. “Tyelko’s home already, then?”

“She got here just before I did. Which yeah, I know, is a goddamn world-record. And not only was she actually on time, but she’s also being weirdly, uncharacteristically quiet. I feel like I’m in some sort of eerie parallel universe.”

Maglor represses a laugh. “Maybe she’s upset.”

“Are you having a laugh? It’s Tyelko, Mags. She doesn’t do ‘upset’. Towering rage? Yeah, sure. Upset? Not so much.”

“Everybody gets upset. Whether they show it or not,” she rounds a corner, and up ahead, nestled at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac, her childhood home rises impressively before her. All of the downstairs lights are on, and her father’s gunmetal grey Bentley is parked in the driveway.

“I just turned onto our street,” she says into the phone. “See you in a sec.”

The line goes quiet. She slips her phone back into her pocket. And steels herself.

*

“Magsmagsmags!”

Amras, taller than Maglor remembers and wearing one of Celegorm’s hockey shirts, skids down the hallway and flings herself at Maglor, wrapping her in a tight hug.

“Hey, you.” Maglor ruffles her wild copper curls. “How are—” But she’s cut off by a second redheaded blur flying at them headlong from the half-open kitchen doorway at the end of the hall. Amrod jostles her twin and attaches herself to Maglor like a limpet, burying her face in the folds of Maglor’s oversized scarf.

“You’re late!” announces Amras into the crook of Maglor’s arm. “Dad had to call the restaurant to hold our table. He’s going batshit!”

Maglor feels her insides freeze up. “Don’t swear, ’Russa.”

“Bonkers, then. He’s going bonkers!”

Muffled by Maglor’s scarf, Amrod snickers.

Maglor doesn’t feel much like laughing, but she musters a half-hearted chuckle anyway. “All right, well,” her stomach is twisting itself into a million anxious knots. “If you pair let go of me, I can dump my stuff and we can all get going.”

*

“I’d like you to write something,” Fëanor, his face uplit yellowish by the candle at the centre of their table, looks at Maglor over the top of his menu. “For the service.”

Maglor stares. “What?”

Her father makes an impatient noise. “You have a way with words,” he says. “I want you to write something for your grandfather’s funeral.”

A way with words? “Dad—” Maglor swallows. “You’ve never—you’ve never even read anything I’ve written. What if you don’t like—?”

Beside Maglor, Maedhros picks up her glass and takes a particularly generous swig of wine. Maglor, privately, doesn’t blame her; her sister is essentially just one big tension-knot right now, and something has to give.

“If you don’t want to, that’s absolutely fine,” the tone of Fëanor’s voice makes it abundantly clear that it would not, in fact, be anywhere close to fine. “But I thought it would be a good way for you to pay your respects to your grandfather. He was always good to you; don’t forget that it was him who paid for your education.”

Maglor opens her mouth to speak, but finds that the words won’t come. Is this how Amrod feels whenever Amras isn’t around; all her words dammed up, stoppered?

“I don’t think there’s much chance of us forgetting that,” says Maedhros, and though there’s a forced sort of lightness in her words, Fëanor bristles.

“Your grandfather,” he sounds choked, Maglor realises with a dull horror, as though he’s holding back tears. “Is dead. He’s gone. Get that into your thick head and have some respect.”

From her place on Fëanor’s left, Curufin gives Maglor and Maedhros a look of distaste, her pointed little nose wrinkled.

Maedhros takes a breath. “I wasn’t disrespecting him,” she tells her father. “I was just trying to say that you spend a lot of time reminding us all—Well, it’s like when Tyelko dropped out and you kept saying she’d wasted all of Granddad’s money—”

Celegorm lowers her menu to shoot a poisonous glance at Maedhros, who continues doggedly:

“—Which was—well, what I mean is that I wasn’t making a dig at Granddad. He’s not the one who does this all the time.”

For a long moment, everyone is quiet. Fëanor’s expression is thunderous.

“Does what, exactly?” His voice, though—his voice is now perilously calm. “Please explain this to me, Nelyafinwë. What, precisely, am I guilty of doing ‘all the time’?”

“Darling,” Nerdanel’s voice is firm. She takes a sip of her drink and lays a hand on Fëanor’s arm. “Let’s not do this here.”

Fëanor, for once, shrugs her off, and Maglor watches mild surprise, hurt and resignation flicker across her mother’s face in quick succession.

“Well?” Fëanor grits out. “What is it, hm? What do I do that makes me such a bad, horrible, terrible father?”

With quick, jerky movements, Amrod props up her menu against her glass of lemonade, screening herself from Fëanor’s view. Amras gives her father a reproachful look.

“You’re not a bad—” Maedhros starts, then stops herself abruptly. When she continues, her voice shakes slightly. “You just—Sometimes you put a lot of pressure on us. Or, not a lot, but some. A bit. Sometimes. Because you want us to do well and you want us to be happy; I get it. I wasn’t being—I was just saying—” She shakes her head, strands of russet hair falling free of the untidy bun constraining them. “Look, never mind. It doesn’t matter. I’m sorry.”

Two men and two women, talking quietly, take their seats at the neighbouring table.

“We’ll continue this later,” Fëanor, no longer feigning calm, is low and furious. He settles back in his seat, huffing a loud exhale.

“Where the fuck,” asks Caranthir, apparently unaffected by all of this, “Is our waiter?”

Chapter Text

“All right,” says Voronwë, glancing sideways at Tuor. “You ready, then?”

Tuor runs his tongue over dry lips and wipes his palms surreptitiously on his borrowed, slightly too short trousers. He looks up. The Gondolin Chronicle’s offices are impressive, all mirrored glass and off-white stone, two Grecian pillars framing the entrance. It looks like something from a film.

Ignoring the stab of nervousness in his gut, Tuor nods.

He follows Voronwë up the short set of steps before them, between the massive pillars and through a pair of automatic doors that swing open smoothly as soon as Voronwë has swiped his employee ID.

He swallows hard. God, his mouth is dry.

Tuor barely has time to glance around the small, bright anteroom with its polished marble floor, before Voronwë is striding over to the reception desk and he realises, with a sick twinge of dread, that he has no choice but to follow.

“Ah,” says the receptionist—a woman whose brown hair is pulled back into a neat knot at the nape of her neck—without glancing up from her computer screen. “The wanderer returns.”

“Morning to you too, Elemmakil,” Voronwë replies easily. “You got a visitor badge going spare, by any chance?”

At this, Elemmakil’s head bobs up, and she looks at Tuor sharply. “If you could just sign into the visitor log, please.” she tells him crisply. “Who are you here to see?”

Tuor clears his throat. “I have an interview for an internship,” he tells her, hoping he sounds a good deal more confident than he feels.

Elemmakil’s dark eyes narrow, her brow furrowing. “Excuse me?”

“I have a—”

“Yes—Yes, I heard you, but the thing is, we don’t offer internships anymore. We haven’t in some time. So I don’t know how you’ve been given to understand that you have any sort of interview, Mr…”

“Hador,” replies Tuor, suddenly profoundly aware of the countryfied burr of his Welsh Valleys accent. “Tuor ap Hador.”

Something in the receptionist’s expression changes. Her eyes widen slightly, and she looks him over again as though seeing him for the first time. Then:

“Hold on a moment,” she says, and promptly picks up the phone beside her, twisting the cord between the fingers of one hand while she deftly dials an extension with the other. “There’s a young man here asking about—” She starts without preamble after a few moments. “Laurëfindil? What are you doing answering Ehtelë’s phone?... Well, could you get her, please?...” She lets out a put-upon sigh, leaning back a little in her seat. “Ehtelë. Hi. Hello. There’s a young man here asking about internships; says his name is Tuor ap Hador… I am deadly serious… I don’t know; I assume so… Well, then can you come down here and get him, please?... Thanks.”

Looking thoroughly irritated, Elemmakil replaces the phone in its cradle.

“Aw, Emmy,” Voronwë lets out a dry chuckle. “Those pesky reporters giving you the run-around again?”

Elemmakil pulls a face.

Uneasily, Tuor shifts from one foot to the other. He’d known that this was a long shot, of course, but—

A door he hadn’t noticed before, behind and a little to the right of Elemmakil’s desk, swings open suddenly. Through it comes a young woman with bobbed black hair, very bright blue-grey eyes and a fine-boned, expressive sort of face.

“Sorry about this,” she says breathlessly to nobody in particular. “Oh—morning, Aranwion. All right? Haven’t seen you in ages.” She pauses, her eyes training on Tuor before Voronwë can respond.

Tuor clears his throat awkwardly, discomfited by the stranger’s open scrutiny.

Then:

“Wow. You really do look like him. Have you got a letter of recommendation?”

A little taken aback, Tuor nods. “Yeah. Yes. Of course.”

She smiles, then, the intensity in her expression dissipating, and extends a hand to Tuor, many silver bracelets jangling at her wrist. “Ecthelion de la Fuente,” she says by way of introduction as he shakes her hand.

“How—how d’you know what my dad looked like?” Tuor hears himself asking, and mentally kicks himself for being so ridiculous and unprofessional.

Voronwë, beside him, represses a snort.

“How do I know what Huor ap Hador, famous war-correspondent, looked like?” Ecthelion’s expression is incredulous. “I mean, besides the fact that our editor-in-chief got to work with him once and doesn’t shut up about it, he’s also required reading for basically any self-respecting journalism degree. I wrote one of my first undergrad essays on his contribution to military journalism.”

Tuor blinks. “Oh. Right.”

“Plus,” says Voronwë helpfully, “There’s this thing called the internet. You should probably learn about it if you wanna work here.”

Tuor resists the urge to tell him to shut up.

“Anyway,” rejoins Ecthelion, barely hiding a smirk, “We’d better get back upstairs. Laurëfindil will have told the boss lady you’re here, by now. She’ll be waiting for you.”

Chapter Text

Maglor opens the door to Turgon, who is wearing a charcoal grey suit so sharply tailored its lapels could cut steel.

“Where do you want this?” she asks without preamble, proffering an enormous wreath of lilies and chrysanthemums.

Stepping aside hurriedly to let her by, Maglor shakes her head a little, trying to dispel the veil of tiredness hanging over her. “I’m not sure,” she says, wishing suddenly that she had been around for more of the funeral arrangements. “Just—er, put them on the dining table for now, maybe.”

“Tyelko! Stop hogging the bathroom!” she hears Caranthir yell from two flights above her. “Dad says we have to be at the church in three quarters of an hour!”

Turgon closes the door quietly behind her and makes for the dining room, Maglor in tow. “How long are you home for?” she asks, glancing back over her shoulder.

Maglor shrugs. “Not sure,” she says, reaching up automatically to tuck a few stray strands of dark hair behind her ears. “How’s—um, how’re things at the paper?”

God, when did things become so awkward between them?

“Pretty much as usual,” replies Turgon, making a wry face. “Which is to say, ridiculously busy. We got a new intern, and he’s very eager to help, so that’s something. But what with this snap election coming up—” she breaks off abruptly, pushing open the door to the Fëanorions’ spacious, mahogany-furnished dining room. Maglor knows she must be thinking about the stuff she’s been printing recently on Fëanor’s campaign.

“That girl still living with you?” she asks hurriedly, grasping for a change of subject. She’d been as surprised as everyone else when, some months previously, Turgon had broken the small talk at a family dinner to explain that she’d temporarily taken in a teenage girl whom she’d found sleeping rough—scraggle-haired and barefoot in March—outside her apartment building.

“Idril,” Turgon says, pointedly. “And yes, she is. She’s back at school, now; just started getting ready for her A-levels.” She sets the wreath down on the table and turns to face Maglor.

Maglor dips her head in a nod. “That’s good,” she murmurs, for lack of anything else to say. “She, ah, didn’t want to come with you today, then?”

“School,” Turgon reminds her, sounding vaguely exasperated. “It’s Thursday.”

A moment passes. Maglor shifts awkwardly from one foot to the other.

“Is there anything I can do?” asks Turgon.

Maglor shakes her head. “I think Mum and Mae have it all covered. And Carnistir’s been on the phone hounding the catering people all morning.”

“Right. All right, then.”

On the wall behind Turgon, the clock ticks. Maglor clears her throat.

What happened, she wonders, to this family? When exactly did they all stop being those kids who stayed up late into the night with one another? When did they start becoming strangers?

*

It’s very cold in the church, despite the number of people packed into its pews. Fëanor finds he has to lock his muscles to keep himself form shivering.

Surreptitiously, and without looking at her, he reaches for Nerdanel’s hand.

On the low dais at the front of the room, bracketed by pulpit and lectern, his second daughter is playing her harp. Her head is bent low, face obscured by a curtain of hair.

Everyone is silent.

Fëanor thinks of his father. He tries to imagine him sitting at the kitchen table, listening intently to one of his grandchildren going on about something that happened at school. He tries to imagine him as he’d been in Fëanor’s early youth, picking him up and swinging him onto his shoulders.

It’s futile. The only version of Finwë he can picture is sprawled on his back on the hallway floor, grey-faced, eyes staring sightlessly up at the ceiling.

His eyes burn. He blinks furiously, pulling in a careful breath. Nerdanel squeezes his hand gently.

Up on the dais, Maglor plays on.

*

The wake is at the Fëanorions’ house, because of course it is. The place is packed out, thronged with people in sombre clothes talking in low voices. Finwë probably didn’t even know most of them, Fingon thinks, and she hates how fake it all is.

Everybody wants to tell her how sorry they are.

She’s good at giving out small, polite smiles. Nodding in the appropriate places. Saying the things she needs to say. She talks to people she hasn’t seen since infancy, and people she’s never met.

After making her excuses to a gruff-voiced, barrel-chested stranger with—it seems—a deep-seated love of the word “condolences”, she decides that enough is enough, and escapes into the kitchen, closing the door quietly behind her and leaning back against it.

“Hey,” says Maedhros, wearily.

Fingon startles.

She’s standing at the sink, washing glasses, her movements as rhythmic and automatic as a sleepwalker’s. The late afternoon sun coming through the window lights her hair incandescent.

Fingon’s breath catches. She tries to remember the last time they were alone together, or the last time they talked at all, and draws a blank. How is that possible?

“Hi,” she says, and her voice comes out all thin and tinny like a bad recording. “Um, how are—How are you holding up?”

Christ. And she’s supposed to be articulate.

Maedhros shrugs. Fingon can see the sharp planes of her shoulder-blades tenting the back of her shirt (black silk; no doubt picked out by Fëanor).

“I’m all right,” she says, all false nonchalance, and places an upended wineglass on the draining board before picking up another and submerging it. “You know.” She pauses. “So… I saw your dad talking to my dad earlier, right after the service.”

“Yeah.”

Why the Hell can’t she think of anything to say?

“Maybe this means they’ve sorted everything out,” she tries, but she sounds unconvincing even to her own ears.

Maedhros snorts derisively. “Not fucking likely.”

“And what about you?” Fingon doesn’t know what makes her say it. “Are you done taking his side, yet?”

The glass hits the draining board with so much force that it skitters; teeters; almost falls. Maedhros whirls to face Fingon fully.

“I didn’t take his side!” Her voice is taut and trembling. Fingon stares. “D’you honestly think—? Did you really think I’d be okay with what he did? We fought about it, Fin. It didn’t change anything.”

It takes Fingon several moments to muster the power of speech again.

“Well—then, why didn’t you tell me any of that? Why did you just—fall off the face of the earth like you’d just decided to cut me out completely? Why didn’t you answer any of my messages?”

And now she sounds desperate and ridiculous. Fantastic.

Maedhros doesn’t say anything. Fingon can see the emotions flittering across her face—she’s never been as good at hiding things as she’d like to think—and there’s guilt there, and frustration, and something else she can’t name.

“You let me think you didn’t give a shit,” says Fingon. And her voice cracks, betraying her.

There’s a pause, weighted. Maedhros looks like she wants to crawl into a hole and die.

“Fin,” she says in a small voice. “Fin, I’m sorry.”

It takes every bit of self-control Fingon has in her to turn around and open the door again.

“Yeah,” she says, facing out. “Me too.”