"I'm done!" Boromir announced, shoving half a piece of toast in his mouth as he slid out of his chair. I stopped him before he could turn toward the door.
"Wash first," I reminded him. "You have jam all over your face and hands."
He did so hurriedly, for he was none too fond of the speeches he got when he was late for his lessons. He had gotten better about arriving on time, but privately, I was surprised that he ever found his way to the classroom without an escort; there were a great many interesting things between the nursery and the tutor's apartments to distract a reluctant student.
"Am I clean?" he asked me, displaying his palms.
"You are clean," I declared, brushing the last bit of crumb from his cheek. "Now go, and please do not stop to look at the armour."
Boromir waved to his little brother. "You eat up all your breakfast like I told you, Faramir!" he commanded, but Faramir was staring glumly into his bowl and did not even glance up. Boromir did not seem to notice as he ran out the door, failing to close it behind him.
I shut the door, smiling a little at Boromir's parting words to his brother. He was not often overbearing, but sometimes, I thought that Boromir simply couldn't resist telling Faramir what to do. My siblings and I were no different; the older children felt that they had every right to give orders to the younger.
Faramir had obediently begun to eat his porridge, but I saw that tears were sliding down his face as he ate. This was not unusual; some days, Faramir hated to see Boromir leave, and if not distracted, he would remain gloomy until his big brother returned.
"It's all right, little one," I said, hurrying to comfort him. "Boromir will be back for lunch, remember?"
"I…know…." he replied, still crying as he put another spoonful in his mouth.
"Faramir, love," I said calmly, sitting in the chair next to him, "I know you are sad that Boromir is gone, but you should not eat while you are so upset. Come, sit with me a moment."
I leaned forward to pick him up, but to my surprise, Faramir pulled away, swatting at my hands. This was odd, for he was usually a very affectionate boy. I felt his forehead to make certain he wasn't coming down with a fever, but his skin was no warmer than it should have been.
"What is the matter, little rabbit?" I asked, frowning. I tried to gently tug the spoon from his hand, but he held on to it tightly. "I do not want you to make yourself sick -- please, let me have the spoon, and tell me what is wrong, Faramir."
Though I had kept my voice low and persuasive, Faramir began wailing. "No, no, no! I have to eat them! Bo'mir said eat them all!"
"Eat them?" Now I was truly mystified. "What do you mean by them, Faramir?"
He stabbed his spoon at the bowl, choking out each word between sobs. "All…those…bugs. "
"Faramir, what on earth …" I looked in the bowl, and saw nothing unusual in the bowl: porridge, a little cream, a little honey, and a generous number of currants. "What do you mean, bugs? It's only porridge, like you have every morning." I saw no insects, though I supposed it was not impossible. If there were insects in the Citadel's porridge, however, I was certainly not going to be the one to tell Mag. "There are no bugs in there, rabbit."
"Bugs!" Faramir shouted, an edge of hysteria to his voice. He scooped up a spoonful of porridge and brandished it under my nose. "See?"
I was flabbergasted. I'd never seen Faramir react so violently to anything. "I am sorry, Faramir, I don't see anyth--"
"Bo'mir…said… bugs!" He poked his finger at one of the currants, sending porridge into my lap.
"Boromir said -- " I trailed off as understanding dawned. Boromir had told Faramir that the currants were bugs. And no doubt he had gotten the idea from me, for I had told him of the time when my older brothers had done that very thing to me, though I had been much older than Faramir, and had known they were teasing. I should have known that Boromir would try such a joke on Faramir. "Oh. Faramir, come. Sit with me, please."
Now he allowed me to pick him up, and though he still did not release the spoon, he turned his face into my shoulder and began crying harder. I let him weep for a few moments, patting his back, then asked softly, "Did Boromir tell you that you had to eat all the bugs?"
Faramir nodded, looking up at me. "Yes," he answered, utterly miserable, "He said you would be mad if I dint."
That little rat.
"Why would I want you to eat bugs?" I asked, wiping his tears away. "Bugs are not for eating, Faramir, unless you are a bird."
"But…but…Bo'mir said…you would be mad..." Faramir repeated. He had calmed down once I picked him up, but his eyes were still wet with tears. "He said I had to." And Boromir, of course, was the source of all knowledge, if only to his little brother.
"Boromir cannot tell you what you have to eat," I said firmly. "I can. And I would not want you to eat anything as nasty as insects, rabbit." He looked as if he might protest further. "Boromir was playing a game," I tried to explain, "like when you pretend you are a cat. Those are not bugs in the porridge, Faramir -- they are only currants. You've had them before, haven't you?"
"Bo'mir said it's bugs," Faramir told me stubbornly, and I knew better than to try to convince him otherwise. Faramir would believe that I did not want him to eat bugs, because he did not want to eat them, but he was not yet willing to believe that Boromir would play even a harmless trick on him. Arguing would only distress him further. But I could not leave it at that, so I tried another approach.
"Faramir, do you want to eat bugs?"
The expression on his face was pure wretchedness. "No," he whispered, as if he were giving away a great secret. "But Bo'mir said…"
I predicted that I was going to grow very weary of the phrase "Boromir said" over the next years. "Yes, Boromir said you had to," I said, pushing his hair from his face. "But listen, little one---" I hesitated, for though he was an uncannily perceptive child, I knew Faramir was too still young to understand that brothers teased each other, sometimes ruthlessly, without meaning any harm. I did not want to say anything that might make him distrust Boromir. " --- you do not always have to do what Boromir says, if you do not want to."
Faramir tilted his head at me, brow furrowed in concentration. I took this as a good sign, and went on. "If Boromir tells you to do something, and you do not want to do it, or if you think it is wrong, come and ask me, and I will tell you if you have to. Boromir is not yet in charge of what you do." There will be time enough for that when you are older, and he is leading you into battle, I added silently, the thought twisting my stomach.
He was quiet for a moment, then asked tentatively, "I don't really have to eat those bugs?"
"No, love," I assured him, hugging him close. "You do not. But you still need to have breakfast. If I take all the currants out, will you eat?"
He nodded, and I put him back in his chair. He watched me carefully with those sea-grey eyes as I picked the offending fruit from the porridge, then set the bowl back in front of Faramir. He examined it closely, poking at the porridge with his spoon, then, satisfied, began to eat as if he had not had food in a week.
For the rest of the morning, Faramir seemed rather subduded. When he played alone, he was rarely as loud and boisterous as Boromir, but he usually chattered happily to himself, or his toys, or me. But not this morning. If he had been older, I would have said that he was brooding on some important decision. Perhaps he was, for once I saw him put his hand in the rubbish bin and pull something out. A currant, I supposed, and watched him study it carefully before he threw it away, and wandered off, scowling and grumbling to himself.
Therefore, when Boromir returned for lunch, I was not surprised when Faramir did not run to greet Boromir as he normally did.
Boromir, of course, was puzzled. "What's wrong, Faramir?" he asked, kneeling next to his little brother, who was playing with blocks while I readied the table. "Aren't you happy I'm back?"
Boromir got the shock of his life when Faramir raised one small fist and hit his brother in the chest. "Nanny says no bugs!" he shouted, face thunderous. "It's not bugs, and she said I don't have to eat them!"
Boromir looked at me, his expression half-guilty, half-bewildered. He had not been on the receiving end of Faramir's temper before, and he was not sure how to react. I said and did nothing; I wanted to see if they would work this out on their own.
"But -- I was pretending, Faramir," Boromir attempted to explain, turning back to his angry little brother. "I was teasing. I don't want you to eat real bugs!"
"Mean," Faramir declared, glaring. "I don't like that teasing, Bo'mir! And you are not in charge yet!"
The confusion on Boromir's face was almost comical. "I'm sorry!" he said hastily . "Don't be mad, Faramir." Tuned as I was to Boromir's moods, I could hear honest anxiety in his tone, and I felt a little sympathy for him. I knew he hadn't meant to upset Faramir, but Boromir needed to realize that his little brother was not a toy that he could order around for his own amusement. "I won't be mean. I won't be in charge. Don't be mad at me."
I was a little taken aback when Faramir did not immediately yield. "You don't be mean," he said stubbornly, "or I don't want to play with you." His voice broke on the last word, but before I could move to do anything, Boromir grabbed Faramir's hands.
"Don't cry," he begged. "I'm sorry, Faramir. Don't cry - I won't do it again.You will still play with me, won't you?" Boromir looked crushed at the thought that Faramir would reject him.
Then Faramir was sobbing again, even as he crawled into Boromir's lap. "I'm not mad now," he tried to assure his big brother. "I'm not mad now, Bo'mir. "
I had been planning to have a word with Boromir about teasing his adoring little brother so, although I did not know what I would say. Older brothers teased younger brothers, and always had; Boromir's prank was quite mild compared to some of the tricks my brothers had played on one another. But watching them, I realized that Faramir's anger was a far more effective deterrent of such behaviour than anything I could ever say. Any rebuke I had for him could wait until evening, when Boromir and I normally talked about his day; right now, they did not need to be interrupted.
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.