19. Quality Time
There was a hesitant knock at the door. Carefully keeping my voice low, I bade, "Enter."
Their nanny entered. The look on her face annoyed, but did not surprise, me. I watched her take in Boromir, stretched out full-length on the couch, fast asleep with his head resting on my leg; saw her eyes drift to Faramir, still barely awake, cradled securely against my shoulder, one tiny hand entangled in my hair.
Her startled expression cleared, and she curtseyed, saying, "I am sorry, my lord, that you were obliged
"What have you to apologize for?" I asked. Though my voice was quiet, it was still stern enough to make her wince, though I am sure she thought I did not mark it. She always acted as if she expected me to be angry when I spoke to her, and I did not know why. I did not speak with her often; she had no reason to fear censure or temper from me. "You are back within your allowed time. And I have little enough opportunity to be with my sons, miss. I do not grudge them a few hours."
In truth, I wished that she had stayed gone a bit longer. I did not have enough time alone with my sons, and often this pained me.
"Yes, my lord," she replied, almost meekly, but I knew enough of this woman to know that meekness was not one of her outstanding virtues."Shall I …shall I take them to bed now?"
I regarded her for a moment, amused to see concern flit across her face. Of course she had heard the rumours that I had the gift of seeing into men's minds; all the servants had. Such tales were wildly exaggerated, of course, but they had their uses. I was pleased when she straightened her shoulders and faced me properly. I knew very well how I intimidated her, and I also knew how determined she was that she should not act as if this were so.
"If you would move this book," I gestured with my chin to the book in my lap, which I had been reading to Faramir. It was heavy, and very old, and she picked it up almost reverently. She placed it carefully on the side-table, and I saw her glance at the spine. Did she have enough Sindarin to read the title? Apparently, for she seemed puzzled by the idea that anyone would read The Fall of Númenor to an infant. But I had found that the cool, liquid sound of the Elvish soothed Faramir in a way that little else could. I had also heard that reading aloud to children from an early age spurs the intellect, and I was eager to test this theory on Faramir.
"Faramir is nearly asleep," I said, smiling down at the top of my son's dark head, "and I would not disturb him. Can you manage Boromir?"
"I am not sure anyone can manage Boromir," she said wryly, and I could see that she immediately regretted the flippancy of that remark. She always seemed to say such things around me; and she always seemed to instantly regret saying them. She was right, of course – the comment was inappropriately familiar to me, and disrespectful to my son.
However, I knew what she meant - Boromir was a strong-willed child, and had been known to drive every person in the Citadel to impatience with his headstrong ways. It was one of the reasons I held him so dear; even at his young age, Boromir knew what he wanted, and would do what he could to achieve his goal. With such determination, he would make a powerful Captain one day, as well as a man I would be proud to have lead Gondor when I could no longer do so.
And, as reluctant as I had been to giving a total stranger such a prestigious position within my household, I was glad that Finduilas had prevailed. To my surprise, this woman, as young as she was, had proved herself capable of guiding Boromir so gently that he never noticed that he was being led, without allowing him to run roughshod over her. She seemed to understand that such a clever, high-spirited child needed special attention.
"You do well enough," was all I said, of course. Even this small praise flustered her so badly that it took her a moment to thank me. I merely nodded in reply, then asked, "Can you move Boromir without waking him?"
"I think so," she said. "He is not too heavy yet -- though he soon will be."
I heard a hint of wistfulness in her voice, and again studied her closely. It made her nervous, as it did any time I looked at her so, and she turned to Boromir, clearly grateful that she had him as a valid distraction.
Carefully, she manuvered the sleeping Boromir into a sitting position, then lifted him into her arms.
"..too much nutmeg," he mumbled, squirming a bit, then settling himself against her shoulder.
She choked back a laugh. "Visited Mag today, did you?" she whispered fondly, running her hand over his head, and he quieted.
I was struck with the understanding that this woman cared very deeply for my son, and I was not certain why this realization surprised me.
I turned my head to look at Faramir, and saw that his eyes had finally drooped closed, though his tight grip on my hair had not loosened. When I saw that she had Boromir arranged to her satisfaction, I led the way to the nursery.
While she tended to Boromir, I carried the now-sleeping Faramir into his room, prying his hand slowly from my hair, then laid him in his crib with the greatest care. He gave a little sigh, stirring a bit as I slid my arms out from underneath his small, warm body, but did not waken. I covered Faramir with the swan-embroidered blanket that Imrahil had sent in celebration of his birth, and impulsively laid my hand on his forehead. He was so tiny that my palm looked huge against him, and an absolute calm came over me.
"Thank you, my little one," I murmured, stroking his delicate skin, marveling, as always, at the perfection of it. "One day you will know the joy of sons, and of the peace they can bring a troubled heart."
I heard the whisper of skirts in the doorway, but did not turn. I did not want or need her presence. After a moment, she left us alone, and I remained there, watching Faramir sleep.
for Astara's birthday
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.