He is squatting in the shallow tub; his small hands, pressed down hard on the copper bottom, hold him up. His hair falls around his face in half-tangled waves, and he smiles at his reflection in the water. I kneel beside the basin and run my fingers through the warm water. The ripples run neatly trough the tub, and the waves lap at his legs and arms. He looks up at me, and I brush his reddish hair off his white face. A few strands cling stubbornly to my fingers, gleaming copper in the candle light. His hair reminds me of his mother. It is the same color and weight, silky yet not, like a rose petal caught between my fingers.
He laughs when he notices that my hand has been ensnared, and his laugh is high and gentle with an undertone of warmth, like a light wind that cares little for where it is going. He reaches his hands up, shifting himself to kneeling, and pulls the hair free of my hand. He studies it a moment, warm and unkempt in his fist, before smoothing it back behind his ear and shaking his head at me.
He looks like his mother when he shakes his head. He has that half-scolding, half-amused look she gets when I have done something particularly foolish, such as ending a project that I should have finished, crumbling my plans and throwing them with disgust into the fire. He looks like her then just now, shaking his head as if he has some secret wisdom hidden inside of him. He smiles again, and takes a lock of my black hair in his hand. He holds it carefully, as if he is studying it.
'It is not the same color,' I whisper, more to myself than to him. 'Your hair is red like the fire; mine is black like the ash.'
He looks back up at me, cocking his head to one side inquisitively. I do not explain myself, but dip my hand into the water and splash it lovingly against his back. He pools the water in his palms and lets it run down his body in silence. I do not know why he is being so quiet, normally he does not stop talking, asking me questions, telling me every possible thing that he has learned over the entire course of his life. His lips are set in a line, though. Firm and serious, they frown slightly on occasion. He must be thinking.
I draw the water over him again; it is sweet and warm, and the scent drains on me, making me drowsy. The candles burn slowly, their lights flickering softly through the room. Orange is reflected against everything, and shines back at me in the clear grey eyes of my child.
He helps me bathe him, his hands joining mine as they run across his body. He watches my hands move, as if he were learning their every secret as they caress his wet skin. I wonder what secrets they hold that he will learn. His hands too are agile and crafted for work. I can tell when I hold them, and they close about my fingers. There is strength and skill in him.
I lift him from the tub, wrapping about him a clean, white towel. He clings to me as I hold him, almost afraid that I will drop him. His legs encircle my waist, and he places his chin on my shoulder. His wet hair rubs against my cheek as I carry him carefully to his room. I set him on his bed and gently dry his skin with the towel, rubbing the dear creases of his body. I blot his hair and lift a brush to it, smoothing it and setting it as he sits, flicking the edges of his towel.
'What is troubling you, dearest?' I ask him when I have finished the brushing, taking him once again into my arms and drawing him against my chest.
He tucks his head under my chin and makes no reply, just breathes his warm breath against my neck, muffling himself.
I draw his head out and tilt his chin up, forcing him to look at me. His eyes grow wide as they meet mine, and he makes a little noise that is soon lost in the great expanse of is room.
'Come,' I say, 'you must tell me.'
He settles his head back against me, and frowns thoughtfully for a moment. 'Father,' he says very quietly. 'What does it mean that Mother is expecting a child?'
I start for a moment. Surely he knew. Nerdanel has been expecting our next child for quite some time now, but from the look on his face, I am quite certain that he has not the slightest idea.
'It means that she is pregnant. There is a new life inside of her that will soon come forth. A new person will walk upon this land; one very dear to us.' I twist his hair around my fingers and kiss the top of his head. 'It means that you will have a brother.'
He nods seriously, and a frown that troubles me creeps onto his lips. 'I thought as much,' he says.
'Then why are you so upset , dearest?' I ask. 'It should be a time of joy for you.'
He looks up at me again, and his eyes seem somehow a reflection of my father's. 'You hate your brothers.'
'I...' The room is empty for a moment, and the silence seems to want to destroy us. I close my eyes. 'They are my half-brothers,' I say. 'It is different.'
'We have a different mother. Theirs is Indis; she is not my mother. It is different. You will love your brother.'
He shakes his head again, that firm shake like Nerdanel's. 'I do not understand,' he says. 'Why does it make a difference? Why cannot you love them? Your father does. They are your kin.'
I shake my head, and my lips and hands feel tight. 'No, Nelyo. It is not the same. They are not lawfully his children. They...' I do not have the heart to tell my child, as young as he is, the truth. That the only reason they were born was because my mother died. He is not old enough to know that yet.
'Father,' he says softly. 'Why do you not love them? I do not understand.'
I hold him closer to me, so close that I can feel his bones hard beneath my fingers. 'No, Nelyo, you do not understand.' I kiss his head firmly. 'But in time, you will.'