1. Happy Yuletide Indeed
"Yes, Ada, quickly!" said Boromir, grabbing the other arm and helping his little brother pull. At eight, Boromir was much more of a danger to Denethor's stolid stance, but even both his sons' weights combined could not make him budge.
"Ada!" they both begged, pulling and pulling.
Denethor stood still and rolled his eyes a little. "Why should I move?"
"Because the presents are in the other room, Ada," said Faramir, pulling so hard that if Denethor moved, the little boy would fall with a thump.
"Why must I go open presents?" asked Denethor.
Finduilas came up behind him and gave him a gentle push, saying: "Because I wish you to, and you love me."
"I do," sighed Denethor. "Unfortunately. Very well, lead me there!"
"Yay!" cried Faramir, and he and Boromir ran forward dragging their great big father behind them. Finduilas laughed merrily, and Denethor allowed himself a sly little chuckle.
"Come on, Ada, sit down!" said Faramir. "We have to open presents!"
"Sit down? On the floor?"
"Of course, Ada!" said Boromir.
Denethor turned to Finduilas, but she laughed and said: "No one is around to see it, oh most dignified Lord Steward!"
Muttering, but also smiling in the corners of his eyes, Denethor sat himself down crosslegged on the floor. Faramir immediately wriggled into his lap and started bouncing up and down, saying:
"Presents, presents, presents!"
"No, Fara, sit still," said Denethor. "Wait for your turn, please."
"Yes, Ada," said Faramir, and confined all his squirming to his hands, which wiggled as if he was tickling someone.
"Now what are we doing this for, again?" asked Denethor of his wife, who had Boromir in her own lap.
"It is a lovely country tradition in Dol Amroth," she said. "When the days are at their shortest, we give gifts to bring sunlight into the children's eyes again."
"Such an expense," said Denethor, and Finduilas playfully gave him a little push, to which he responded with a twinkle and a chuckle.
"Me first?" asked Boromir, eyeing the boxes which held the gifts.
"No, Fara first, even though he is impatient," said Denethor.
"Me me!" exclaimed Faramir and clapped his hands.
Finduilas was next to the pile of gifts, and carefully picked up the largest box. "Here, Fari dear, this is from me. Now be careful!"
Denethor eyed the box critically, for he had as much idea as his son to what it might hold. Faramir was as gentle as his excitement would let him as he took the top off, and then his eyes went round in wonder, and he whispered:
Denethor's eyebrows lifted at exactly the same time, and he said in a slightly more distinct tone: "A kitten?"
"A kitten!" exclaimed Boromir in an envious tone. "Lucky!"
"A kitten," said Finduilas with a grin.
"All for me?" asked Faramir as he picked up the tiny creature.
"Yes," said Finduilas, even as Denethor frowned at her. She grinned very slyly, and Denethor simply could not tell his son no, even if he had always been completely against pets.
"You crafty lady," he muttered, but with a hint of loving admiration that did not escape her notice.
"Bori next! Bori next!" said Faramir, content for the moment in stroking the baby soft fur of his gift.
Finduilas smiled as she handed a slightly smaller, but heavier, box to Boromir. He took the top off quickly, and then jumped to his feet and started bouncing around the room. "Yes, yes, yes!" he cried. "Thank you, Mama!"
"Oops," said Faramir, realizing he had forgotten his manners. "Thank you, Mama!"
"You are both very welcome," responded Finduilas.
"Yes, but what is it, Bori?" asked Denethor, doing his best to be patient. "Please do not jump in the hall."
"Look!" said Boromir, taking from the box many colored balls of a weight that denied their size. "Edhel balls!"
"Elf balls?" asked Denethor.
"It is game we play in Dol Amroth," said Finduilas. "Boromir wanted to take home my brother's set when we were last there."
"It is my favorite game in the world!" said Boromir, hugging one of the balls.
Denethor could not really see the point, but he smiled at Boromir's enthusiasm. "All right there," he said. "Now it is my turn."
Removing Faramir and the kitten from his lap, Denethor took his place by the gift pile, and gave another box to Faramir.
"What is it?" asked Faramir.
"Open it and see," said Denethor, starting to enjoy this gift-giving routine as it became his turn to bestow the pleasure.
Faramir gasped as he opened the box. "It is pretty, Ada! What is it?"
"It is a Tower Guard tunic," said Denethor proudly. "For when you are older."
"I get to be a Tower Guard?" asked Faramir, the light shining forth from his blue eyes. "Thank you thank you Ada! Bori look!"
And Faramir stood up and pulled out the miniature version of the official uniform of the Tower Guard of Minas Tirith. "Help me, Bori, I want to wear it!"
And soon Faramir was drowning in black velvet embroidered in silver thread. "Oh dear," laughed Finduilas. "You are too small for that now, Fari."
"No, I am not!" said Faramir from the depths of the tunic. "It is mine!"
Denethor laughed. "Yes, it is yours, but I guessed that you were bigger than that when I had it made. Oh dear."
Boromir sighed as he helped Faramir escape from the uniform. "You are so lucky," he said.
"But there is a gift for you as well," said Finduilas.
"Yes, of course!" Denethor took the penultimate box from the pile and handed it to his eldest.
Boromir opened it, but when he saw its contents he turned to his father: "But Ada!"
"No, it is yours now," said Denethor. "You are old enough to take care of it."
"But Ada!" said Boromir, eyes wider than Faramir's. "But Ada, it is the Horn of Gondor!"
"And it goes to the heir of our house," said Denethor proudly. "I am honored to give it to you at last."
Boromir ran over to his father and hugged him. "Thank you, Ada!" he said.
"Blow it, blow it!" said Faramir, almost as excited himself.
"No—" began Denethor quickly, but it was too late.
A rather ragged but powerful blast sounded in the room, and two guards immediately ran in to be quickly shooed by the Steward who was shaking his head to get rid of the ringing in his ears.
"Agh!" he cried in frustration. "Boromir, you must never blow that indoors again!"
Faramir had buried his head in the tunic, regretting his excitement, and Boromir himself looked a bit shaken. "Sorry," he muttered, flushing.
"It is all right," said Finduilas. "Just do not do it again if you wish to hear."
And then she looked at the last gift. "Who is this for?"
"You, Mama!" said the boys together. "We made you a gift," said Boromir. Faramir wriggled a little closer to Finduilas, as she took the box into her lap. Inside was an assortment of candied flower petals and nuts, a favorite treat. She nearly squealed with delight. "Oh, this is wonderful! How thoughtful you are! Come here, my dear boys," she exclaimed, and held her arms open for them. Grinning wildly, they rushed in, and she kissed them both soundly on their curly dark heads.
"This is the best winter ever!" pronounced Boromir after their grateful mother had released them.
"Not quite yet," added Denethor, as they all stood up. "There is one gift left."
"Really?" asked Faramir. "Where is it?"
Denethor smiled down at his sons, and then took Finduilas lovingly into his arms. "This is my gift to you," he said, as he leaned down for a long kiss.
"Eww!" gasped Boromir, and covered Faramir's eyes while squeezing his own shut tightly.
"What is it?" asked Faramir, trying vainly to escape his brother's protecting hands. "What did Ada give Mama?"
Finduilas had been smiling all that day, but now she granted a very special one to her husband. "Happy Yuletide, Denethor," she said.
"I missed it," muttered Faramir, disappointed.
"It was gross," said Boromir confidentially.
"It was not," retorted Denethor. And just then, Faramir's kitten decided to use his leg as a test area for its new claws.
"Kitty!" exclaimed Faramir, removing his gift as Denethor's eyebrows shot heavenwards in pain.
"A very happy Yuletide indeed," he sighed wearily. Finduilas laughed and gave him another kiss.