Author's Note: Just so everyone knows, there is a jump in time here. Faramir is now 11.
"Faramir, for Eru's sake, sit up straight!" Denethor commanded, pressing two fingers to his temple and not even looking at his youngest son. "And stop your chattering. If you have nothing worthwhile to say, which I deem you do not, keep silent!"
Faramir ceased speaking immediately. His bottom lip trembled for just a moment before he composed himself. If not for the hurt in his grey eyes, which he could not hide, not even Boromir would have known he was upset.
But Boromir did know and his grey eyes flashed as he looked from his little brother to his father. "He was just telling me of his day, father!"
Denethor glared at his eldest and Boromir glared right back. At sixteen he was as bold and as brass as he had been all his life but now had proper training as well.
Technically, Boromir was already an officer in Gondor's army, though he had not seen combat yet. He was home on leave for a few weeks before he set out on his first mission, having been amongst the most recent graduates from the academy in Lossarnach. There was an army academy in Minis Tirith as well but it was traditional for the higher Lords of Gondor to receive their training in a city other than their own.
Denethor would have been sharper with Boromir but he was so proud of his eldest and had the concern only a parent could about his child going into a situation where he could actually see action within a few days. That fear alone made him much softer toward his eldest child. The feeling of just in case had come to settle over his heart.
Faramir, though, was safe. He would not see combat for years and, if Denethor could arrange it, he would not see it for longer than his brother. Boromir had always been eager for battle, Faramir had not, and Denethor counted that a blessing.
But he would see it and that worried Denethor because Faramir had proved to not be terribly able to adapt to using a sword. It was not that he was bad with handling a blade, indeed, Denethor had rarely seen such grace in a swordsman at such a young age, Faramir handled his blade as if it was a partner in an elaborate dance, but pit him against another of his age and his rear soon found the ground.
That would not do, not at all, and when the master of arms had reported it to Denethor that very day, he could not help but imagine his youngest not surviving his first patrol. If the dulled blade of one of his peers could so quickly and so repeatedly find his throat what would the weapons of his enemies do?
It was out of these fears and on top of headache that had been raging for days, ever since his use of the stone hidden up in the tower of Ecthelion, that he was taking supper with two loud, energized boys.
"Faramir would do better to pick up a sword more often than spend all his time among the scrolls of the library. Gondor has no need for loremasters, she has a need for soldiers," Denethor replied coolly, "such as you are becoming, Boromir."
Faramir flushed bright red. He knew the arms master was not entirely pleased with him but he did try so very hard. He had even managed to get himself to stop thinking about the time when it would not be hay-stuffed dummies they practised on and when real steel would replace the wooden blades they used on each other, but flesh and bone being cut through by sharp swords. Thinking of such things made the bottom fall out of his stomach so he had resolutely stopped considering it and pushed himself even harder.
It had yielded little result. He truly tried when he was sparring with the other Nobles of his age but he felt like such a mouse compared to them. He was the smallest of his age that the arms master instructed and the other boys seem to over power him so quickly!
No one spoke as they finished their meal. Denethor's mind quickly turned to other things and he suppressed a shudder. He had resolved to use the cursed stone that sat in Ecethlion's tower again.
He had chanced upon it some years ago, when Finduilas had still been alive, when Faramir had only just started walking, and therefore getting into everything. He had, therefore, made sure everything breakable, or anything that could hurt the child, was stored away safely. Boromir had been much the same, but Faramir's curiosity tended to take him farther than his brother and where Boromir had always made a loud fuss where ever he went, especially if he saw an object he fancied, Faramir stayed relatively quiet.
He had known what the stone globe was, of course, his father had told him of it, but he had never seen it before and once he had, checking the items taken to the tower out of the grasp of curious little fingers, he wished he had not. The thought of it dwelt in the back of his mind, always there never ceasing, but he ignored it, for the most part, and it did not torment him much.
But after time... Finduilas had died, Faramir had stopped tumbling into trunks curious to see what was inside, Boromir was becoming a soldier and the shadow had started to grow on their land. It became more and more likely that troops would come back with a man or two less, not vast losses, but too much and they were often green recruits who came back upon funeral biers.
And all too soon he knew it could be his son who came home to him in such a manner.
Boromir was a good fighter and he would make a fine Captain one day, Denethor knew, but he was still young and too bold for his own good. It would take a few battles to bleed that from him. If he did not get himself killed.
So Denethor would consult that wretched stone to try and save Gondor's sons, to try and keep his own safe, though it cost him greatly to do so.
"Father?" Boromir's voice, quieter than normal, broke through his thoughts. "May we be excused? I would like to see if I can aid Faramir in his swordplay."
"Very well," Denethor replied, pleased with his eldest for the offer. At least he knew Boromir did not lack compassion, as some who lusted for war could.
His eyes slid to Faramir, who had been very still and silent for the rest of the meal. Denethor frowned. His son's face was very pale as it had been too often of late. "You would do well to learn all you can from your brother. He shall make a very fine soldier."
Boromir glowed with pride. Faramir glanced up, shadows in his eyes, "Yes, father."
Denethor watched as the two brothers removed themselves from the dining room. He sighed. His youngest was miserable, he knew it, but he could not understand why.
Nor could he let his thoughts linger on the matter. No, if he was to use that cursed stone again. For that he had to be strong. Boromir, he knew, would look after his brother.
"You have improved, brother mine," Boromir said, laying his sword aside. They had not practiced much, for Boromir could tell quickly that Faramir was distracted and, well, it was not as if their father would know they had not even broken a sweat. "Your style is good, different than I would have expected, but it suits you better I suppose."
"The master at arms said so," Faramir agreed, permitting himself a very small smile.
"Has he been instructing you in it?" Boromir asked, a bit surprised. The arms master... well, he was a man very much like Boromir himself, he could recognize the use in such a fighting style but teaching it himself, well, it would be like teaching a cat to do laundry.
Faramir shook his head. "He corrects me and... well, when we have to partner to spar he arranges for me to partner with him or his assistant."
Boromir nodded, as a slow blush crept over Faramir's cheeks. The master at arms and his assistant, a young man unable to serve on active duty because of a head injury he had sustained on his first campaign, could control their movements well enough to so not completely overpower the still small and slim boy, who did not have the girth of muscle of his peers yet.
"Who has been tutoring you then?" Boromir questioned.
Faramir looked away from his brother. "Estel."
"Ah." Boromir felt his face tighten unconsciously.
He knew about the man who visited his little brother in his dreams. Faramir kept nothing from him, though he had a few secrets from his brother, or, at least, things that he would not mention to the boy until he was older.
He was wary of this Estel. Oh, he knew the man posed no threat to his little brother, was even a good force in his life, but he did not trust him in the same way as he did not trust old poems and wizards and the vapid, giggling, wretched, court ladies that had started to take interest in him for themselves or their daughters.
"He showed me how to use a bow, the last time we met," Faramir said quietly. "He means me no harm, Boromir."
Boromir smiled at his little brother fondly. "I know. Tell me, where does this Estel hail from, again?"
Faramir shook his head, "The North is all he has ever said and he is a man, though he once lived amongst Elves."
Boromir forced himself not to frown, he trusted Elves less than wizards, for at least he had seen one of those! He and Faramir would never agree upon this, he knew, for his brother was fascinated by the tales of both and so he changed the topic, bluntly. "You and father have not seemed to get on well since I have been home."
Faramir's face dropped. "No, we have not."
Boromir hated the looked upon his brother's face, but he knew they would end up discussing this sooner or later and when they did he could do something to change it. "And why is that?"
Faramir shrugged, looking miserable. "I have told him..."
Boromir waited, but nothing more was said. He sighed and hugged his brother with one arm about his shoulders. "Shall we go visit mother's garden?"
Faramir said nothing, but nodded, and followed Boromir from the practice yard through the winding hallways and then, a heavy oak door was opened and, with a feel of suddenness about it, they walked into a garden. The two brothers made their way unerringly to a stone bench. Faramir sat, Boromir wandered aimlessly in a circle for a moment.
"It is more overgrown each year," Boromir mumbled, eyes and heart aching to behold the flowers choked with weeds.
"That is what happens when no one tends to a garden," Faramir muttered. "Why do we always come here?"
"Because father never does," Boromir replied. "Nor anyone else. Besides, mother never liked ordered flower beds much. Once you and I mixed in just a few bulbs of yellow irises in with the bed of blue irises. She thought it was wonderful."
"They still bloom in spring," Faramir said quietly. "But I do not remember planting them."
"You were very small," Boromir allowed, with a slight grin. "I think you spent most of your time dumping dirt into my hair."
Faramir allowed himself a small smile and Boromir sat beside him on the cold stone. "What did you tell father?"
Faramir shrugged gracelessly and turned away, his voice low. "I told him... I told him I did not wish to be a soldier, that if I could I would become a scholar of some sort, a lore master or historian perhaps."
"Brother, you know we..." Boromir began.
"I know we have a duty to our people and I know I must become a soldier," Faramir snapped. "I know. I have always known and I would die for Gondor, just as you. I would... I would even kill for her but... I just wish... I wish it were different, sometimes. Do you not wish that sometimes?"
Boromir swallowed, speaking past the lump in his throat. "Yes, Faramir, sometimes I do, though I suppose I would still be a soldier, if I were not the Steward's son. Only sometimes I feel that others look at me and wonder if it is by grace of birth or skill that I am given praise and made into an officer."
"It is by skill. Those who see you fight know that," Faramir murmured, moving closer, leaning his head against his brother's shoulder. Boromir sighed with his own worries and put his arm around his little brother.
"I wonder of it sometimes. Do you think they will follow me, my orders?" Boromir asked.
Faramir snorted. "I know you are a good soldier and you will be a good leader. Father says it is in your blood. Maybe they just need to see it?"
"Perhaps," Boromir chuckled, and squeezed Faramir tighter for a moment. "If it is in my blood it is in yours too, brother mine. Father knows it."
Faramir grimaced a bit and Boromir's eyes softened. "Faramir, father knows you do not wish to be a soldier, he has known it for a long time but he also knows you will do what you must, as we all do."
"Why is he cross with me then?" Faramir asked, his young face creasing just slightly in worry and frustration. "I cannot think of what I have done to make him so..."
"Snappy, bullheaded and on occasion simply mean,” Boromir supplied. “He works overmuch and can take it out on those around him, sometimes, I do not think he means to hurt you.”
“He may not mean to but he still does!” Faramir exclaimed, shrugging off his brother’s arm and rising to pace for a few moments. “Am I to just accept that? I miss him, Boromir. He never used to be like this. It is not fair. I want my papa back!”
Boromir felt his heart clench. If only, he thought, their father understood what he was doing, for Boromir truly did not think he did. “Faramir...these things change with time. He has too...He cannot...”
“I know!” Faramir interrupted, wiping angrily at his eyes, willing away the tears he felt building. “I know that he is busy. I know that we have roles to fulfill. I know that he is not like other fathers and we are not like other sons but I miss him and it hurts!”
“Brother...” Boromir sighed. He stood and went to his brother, putting a hand on his shoulder. Faramir jerked away. Boromir frowned and put his hand back slowly. Faramir did not jerk away again but neither did he look at him.
“I am not saying that what father does...the situation all three of us are in...I am not saying it is right but...” Boromir bit his lip, all too aware of how hollow his words had to sound. “But that is simply how it is and...what we cannot change we must bear as best we can. Father loves you, you know, very much, and so do I, brother mine.”
Faramir made no answer, keeping his eyes to the ground. For a long time they remained silent.
Boromir felt awkward. He had not the word’s for this! Finally, he could take it no longer.
"Did you not tell me you had some old, boring, dusty book to show me this morning?" Boromir asked, desperately looking for a distraction. Faramir would only dwell on this, and Boromir was unsure there was anything to dwell on, save that their father overworked himself.
Faramir knew what his brother was doing but... he had found something he wanted to show his brother. "I know you are not very interesting in it..."
Boromir chuckled and rose, pulling Faramir up with him. "Nonsense. Come, show me this treasure of yours."
Faramir peeked into the dim of the Steward's study, a book clutched against his chest, not knowing why he felt scared as he had done this for years. His brother had departed to a tavern with a few friends and he knew soon his father would expect him to be in bed.
Denethor did not read him a story any more, he had long outgrown that, but they still found time together before Faramir retired for the night, simply to speak to each other, for all too often it was for only that short time they saw each other, for both were busy with separate tasks. Often all they spoke of was Faramir's day, how he had spent the hours, what he had learned or they would talk of books, and occasionally his father would take a book of his own shelves and pass it to Faramir.
His father did not look up when he entered but kept his eyes upon his work, a hand pressing hard against his forehead. "Father?"
Still, he did not look up. "Not now, Faramir."
Faramir's face fell, this was their time, no matter how busy his father was they always had this little time together. "But... father..."
"I said not now!" Denethor snapped, shooting his son a look that made the eleven year old shiver. "Must you always be such a pest?! Can you not see I have more important things to do than cater to your whims? Begone, boy, I do not wish for your presence!"
Faramir's chin trembled and he bit his lip hard to keep from spilling the tears that welled in his eyes. He stood frozen for a moment, but his father said nothing more to him, only looked down to his work as if Faramir was not even there.
He left and sought the safety of his rooms and there wept until he fell into exhausted sleep, vowing not to be such a bother to his father, though he did so love that time that had been theirs alone, for his father was so much everyone's but his.
He did not know that, hours later, Denethor paused in his work and looked up, as if expecting his youngest to walk through the door and dispel the gloomy silence with his happy chatter, as he had done when he was younger. For a moment, his heart ached at what he had done and he nearly rose to go to his son, wanting, suddenly, his presence.
But the boy was asleep, he knew that, and so he turned back to his work, trying to ignore his aching head.
"Enough, tithen-min, enough," Aragorn said, putting his hand upon Faramir's tense shoulder. "You are improving, but at this pace you will only hurt yourself."
"This is only a dream," Faramir muttered, still holding the bow. "This is all just a dream. What does it matter if I get hurt?"
"I healed you in a dream, remember Faramir?" Aragorn said gently, taking the bow from him firmly.
Faramir looked down and away, his face set. Aragorn got the impression he was trying to be angry. Aragorn was a Ranger though, and nothing if not observant, and he saw the tremble in the proud chin and the tears Faramir fought to hide.
"Faramir," Aragorn sighed softly, and put an arm around Faramir's tense shoulders. "Come, sit down and tell me what is troubling you."
"It is nothing," Faramir mumbled, refusing the look at him. "It is not important."
"If it is upsetting you then it is important to me," Aragorn told him. "I would try to help you, if you will let me."
There was that quiver of his chin again then Faramir threw his arms about Aragorn and buried his face in his tunic. Aragorn was surprised and went his knees to hold the boy close, letting Faramir cry himself out on his shoulder, petting his soft hair gently and shushing his distraught cries.
Eventually the boy quieted and pulled away, rubbing forcefully at his red cheeks, his eyes down, "'M sorry..."
"Shh, tithen-min," Aragorn murmured, brushing his hands away and wiping away the remaining tears gently himself. "There is no shame in it. It helps with the pain, does it not?"
Faramir nodded just a bit but he still looked miserable. Aragorn stood, and put his arm about the boy's shoulder again, guiding him in the direction of a bench. He wanted to pick the child up and carry him there, keeping him safe in his arms, but forced himself not to. Faramir was at a delicate age, as ages were through most of childhood, and Aragorn remembered well the desire not to be babied with too much comfort but the need for some.
"He took it away," Faramir began, leaning against Aragorn. "He took it away! I never see him anymore, he is always busy and... and I miss him! It never used to be like this and I do not know what I did wrong and why did he have to take this away too! It was all there was left..."
"Faramir, Faramir," Aragorn interrupted gently, giving the boy a squeeze. "Shh, calm down, and start from the beginning."
So Faramir told him of the change in his father, in the remoteness and the anger and even the fear Faramir felt when he did something to displease his father, which he was ashamed to feel. He told him of the book he had found and wanting to share it with someone who understood what it was like to treasure it and being turned away, when it was supposed to be their time together.
He spoke and he could not stop. He told Aragorn about being the smallest in the classes with the arms master and how the other boys did not pick on him but that he did not feel part of them and the feeling that he would never grow big enough or strong enough. He told him that he did not want to go to war and that sometimes he wished he were another man's son so he did not have to and the guilt he felt over that because he loved his father, he really did.
And he told him what he had not told anyone else, that he was desperately, desperately afraid for his brother because he was going off to war and Faramir knew he might not come back and what would he do without his Boromir?
Aragorn listened and held him and spoke when he could. He scarcely knew what to do more than Faramir but he could offer some advice and he tried to think of what Elrond would say to him. Mostly, he thought, Faramir wanted someone who could listen to him, for Boromir could but... Boromir's advice was coloured by his love of their father and Faramir could not tell him he
worried Boromir would not come home, he just could not!
Faramir cried and tried to pull away and yelled when Aragorn would not let him and finally sagged against his shoulder, weeping bitterly until his throat was sore and his nose itched and his eyes felt vaguely of burning. Aragorn looked at him and felt pity but knew too that a wound not fully cleansed would only fester again.
"And what else, Faramir?" he asked quietly, stroking his back gently. Faramir looked away and sniffled but his voice did not waver as it had and he seemed almost calm.
"I keep having a dream. I just remember... darkness and feeling..." Faramir shivered. "I do not know what to say, the words... I never really remember them but they..."
He looked away and his head dropped. "They scare me."
Aragorn nearly froze but controlled his reaction so Faramir did not notice, lulled by the hand rubbing his back and exhausted from his tears. Frantically, Aragorn cast his mind about for an explanation but Elrond had taught him how to shield the boy from his nightmares and he had slept easy for the past few weeks.
"You know well how powerful dreams may be," Aragorn assured him quietly. "It does not surprise me that you should fear dark dreams, all feel fear when they are visited by such things."
It seemed to comfort Faramir somewhat to know that he was not alone in this and he snuggled closer to Aragorn's comforting warmth, tired and past caring that he was too old to be cuddled. Aragorn held him close.
"Still, I shall guard your dreams, if you would like," Aragorn offered.
Faramir looked up at him with red rimmed grey eyes. "You would?"
"I will. I will find you in my dreams for darkness does not touch either of us here," Aragorn told him. It was true, nightmares were dispelled when their dreams merged.
Faramir gave a soft sigh. "Thank you."
"You are more then welcome, tithen-min," Aragorn told him. "More than welcome."
Even as he said it Aragorn felt a sense of guilt. He could protect Faramir for a time, yes, but a Ranger found sleep when he could get it and sooner or later he would be kept from his rest, leaving Faramir vulnerable. It should not matter though, he thought, for if it were his nightmares that caused Faramir's, as he supposed, then they would not haunt him while Aragorn remained awake.
He did not understand why, then, that a sense of foreboding lingered in his heart.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.