The first hint was the small thumb print of jam on the corner of a draft of a document on his desk.
The second were the high-pitched giggles coming from under his desk.
King Elessar Telcontar smiled, tiptoed over to his desk and scooped the boy up, throwing him into the air without pause and making him shriek happily as he flew for a few moments. Aragorn laughed himself as he caught the boy and threw him up again several times before stopping lest the child get sick. He had eaten recently, if the jam on his fingers was any indication.
"Is it not your nap time, my little prince?" Aragorn asked.
His Steward's son threw out a pouting bottom lip that got him his way with every adult except his mother and nurse. Aragorn raised an eyebrow at him.
There was a flash of defiance in the grey eyes and he said sternly, "Not sleepy!"
"No?" A resolute head shake was his reply and Aragorn had to smother a laugh. "Well then, I suppose you can assist me with some of my work this afternoon."
The little boy pouted, but only for a moment. That, Aragorn thought as he nodded, was better than nap time, though he thought that it would be boring enough to put Faramir's little escape artist to sleep soon.
He should have known the compliance came too easily. As soon as Aragorn had Elboron settled in his lap and had picked up a piece of parchment little hands reached up, tugged at his beard and the child demanded, "Story!"
Aragorn laughed and smiled, even as there was another sharp tug at his beard that made him wince. He put down his parchment and untangled the little hands. Storm cloud eyes looked up at him with a resolve that so resembled the look about his father in tedious council meetings that Aragorn turned slightly red from reining in his laughter.
Elboron was getting his story.
Aragorn was happy enough to tell one. The King and Queen had not yet had children of their own. There was no rush, after all. Aragorn had years left in him and Arwen would remain fertile as long as she so chose.
Elboron, however, had come very quickly, the first such baby to the renewed nobility of Gondor and so to of Rohan. So quickly, in fact, that the King of Rohan had raised an eyebrow and commented on the white Eowyn had worn on her wedding day.
His sister had taken the broad side of his sword to his backside for that comment.
Eowyn had given birth to a baby daughter, Morwen, after a scant two years had passed. Eomer had raised his eyebrows when he had last visited and seen his sister with child before making a comment about speed that had his sister chasing after him with her sword again.
In all, Aragorn thought having Rohirrim blood in Gondor was all too good a blessing. It meant things were never dull.
"What story would you like, little prince?" Aragorn asked as the sticky hands struggled to reach his beard again. Why Elboron found that such a delightful way to grab his attention Aragorn had never understood. He certainly never did the same to his father.
"Uncle Boromir!" Elboron decided bouncing.
"Ah," Aragorn winced as small, but painful, elbows caught his stomach.
Elboron's favourite subject in all of Arda was his uncle Boromir. It caused his father endless amounts of joy and nearly as much sorrow. Particularly now, as the anniversary of Boromir's death crept up along with Elboron's birthday.
Aragorn was strangely glad for the closeness of the dates, Elboron having been born just after the anniversary of Boromir's death. It gave Faramir less time to be consumed by grief.
Aragorn could all too clearly remember the first such anniversary, before Elboron had been born. They had ridden out through Ithilien and into the wood where Boromir had been lost, to Amon Hen. Aragorn had found the spot where he lay dying anew and showed it to his Steward on Faramir's request.
And his solid, stoic Steward had succumbed to his grief then, as the King had encouraged him, howling and weeping, held securely in his King's strong arms. Aragorn doubted he had ever seen such grief and was reminded that Faramir, a man of tightly controlled emotions and utter calmness, could feel so very deeply.
With two small children and another on the way, and very soon on the way if Eowyn's round appearance was any indicator, or her threats to reach in there and pull it out herself should the babe take much longer, Faramir was efficiently distracted from the overwhelming grief. He still grieved, Aragorn thought perhaps he always would, but it no longer consumed him.
Aragorn winced and reminded himself not to let his mind wander around someone who liked to pull his beard so much. Grey eyes regarded him fiercely and Elboron's bottom lip jutted out in even more of a pout.
Aragorn chuckled. "You know, my little prince, I think I have a better idea than a story even..."
The King had jam in his beard.
The King had jam in his beard and was playing soldiers on the floor of his study with the smallest prince of their realm who was supposed to be napping. Faramir wondered if strapping his son to the bed would be considered too much a cruelty because there seemed no other way to get the child to stay put!
Faramir raised an eyebrow at the King, who looked as if he was being used as a fortress as well as Elboron's opponent. Elboron was chasing one of the carved wooden soldiers up the folds of the King's pants to the summat of his knee.
The King smiled. "Look who has joined us, little prince."
Elboron tilted his head up, frowning at the disturbance of the battle and his face lit with joy. He whirled, took a single step and launched himself at his father. "Papa!"
Faramir's heart skipped a familiar beat during the second Elboron was in the air before he caught him and drew his son up into the safety of his arms. Elboron wriggled, then flung his pudgy arms around his father's neck and sighed, two soldiers still clutched in his fist.
Faramir looked in surprise at the small figures spread out on the floor behind the King's desk. "Where did you find those?"
The King raised an eyebrow at his Steward. "In the bottom drawer of my desk, when the study was first reopened, along with a sail boat and a stone carving of an oliphaunt. Why?"
Faramir cleared his throat, a faint blush spilling over his cheeks. He was well aware of the other pair of grey eyes watching him. "I believe that those may have been left here by the elder of two brothers who used to sneak away from their nurse and use this as a play room."
The King laughed. Imrahil had told him stories of Faramir and Boromir as children and he remembered Boromir as a young child himself. Boromir could be a hellion and, when given the proper inspiration, so to could Faramir. The thought of those two boys making the unused, dusty study of the long-gone King into their hideaway made him smile.
"Should I deliver them to the nursery?" Aragorn inquired with a grin.
"No," the Steward answered, smiling back, his eyes dancing. "No, I think perhaps they are better where they are."
Aragorn's grin broadened at that and he dropped the soldiers into the bottom drawer, where they belonged. Having Elboron sneak in and distract him from his work was something he enjoyed, even looked forward to, and he suspected Faramir having a hand in it a time or two.
"Are those really Uncle Boromir's soldiers?" Elboron piped up.
Faramir looked down into excited eyes. He smoothed a finger over his son's pink cheek. "Yes, Boro, they are."
"Can I come play with them again?" Elboron asked.
"Yes, little prince, but only when I am here," Aragorn told him. Perhaps, he thought, it was time for Arwen and him to have a child of their own. He had recently found himself missing the Steward's growing brood while the family was in Ithilien.
"And now, scamp, you must take your nap. No more escapes otherwise you will be cranky and have to go to bed early," Faramir told his son who had been leaning his head heavily against his father's neck.
"Not sleepy!" Elboron protested around a wide yawn.
"No? Well, we will go lay down, just to see," Faramir said, sketching a bow to his King. Aragorn smiled and inclined his head though his eyes told Faramir that the story behind the King's study becoming the hideout of the former Steward's sons would not be forgotten.
Elboron, not sleepy though he was, felt as if he had grown heavier in Faramir's arms as the little boy relaxed more. Faramir shifted his hold, making it more of a cradle. Elboron closed his eyes and nuzzled his cheek again the soft fabric of his father's tunic, resting his head on the strong shoulder. Not sleepy, no, just falling asleep. Faramir chuckled and pressed a kiss to his dark head.
"Papa," Elboron murmured, dark eyelashes raising for a few moments. Grey eyes regarded him solemnly. "Will you tell me a story?"
"I thought you already had a story, from the King, no less, along with a re-enactment," Faramir said with a smile.
"That was playing." Elboron's nose wrinkled. "You are better at telling stories."
"Oh?" Faramir queried.
Elboron yawned, and buried his head further into his father's tunic. "You do all the voices..."
Behind him, Faramir heard a muffled snort of laughter and knew if he had glanced back he would have seen his king, red faced, trying to keep quiet so they could get the little prince back into bed.
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.