14. Gifts Discarded
"Do you still need the stave, Faramir?" The larks outside the Houses' window were calling to each other as a light spring rain fell.
"I suppose not," Faramir said, but Boromir noted a small swallow accompanied his reply and a slight sweat broke upon his brother's brow. "
There is naught wrong with using it."
"I think it would do harm to my horse," Faramir smiled. "It would probably trip Gabere and we would both fall."
Boromir smiled. "We are not going to ride that far."
"As I have been of late, we could fall as soon as the poor thing took her first step."
"Faramir. You have done well. I will not listen to you condemn yourself. Now, come along. I am hoping the rain will soon stop."
They walked slowly towards the errand-riders' stables by the Sixth Gate. Mablung walked behind them. Faramir relished the feel of the light drops upon his head and shared the joy with Boromir, noting he did not mind a twig if it rained or no; he wanted to ride.
Light whinnies greeted them as they entered the stable. Boromir watched closely, hoping Faramir did not trip over the straw that covered the muddied floor.
"Gabere has missed you. See, she can hardly contain herself."
Faramir thought his horse died in the attack that ended in his captivity, but only a week before, Boromir suggested they go riding and that is when Faramir discovered his beloved mare yet lived. His horse stamped her foot and shook in eager anticipation of his touch. "She looks fat."
Boromir laughed. "She is. She has received too many sweets from your men. They miss you."
"Then I best learn to ride again so I might return to their company." He reached for the halter, but a stable hand ran forward and took it from him.
"Allow me, Lieutenant." He quickly prepared Gabere, blanket, bridles, saddle and such, then handed the reins to Faramir. Boromir and Mablung's horses were already saddled.
They rode out into the misting rain and a cheer went up from about fifty soldiers standing nearby. Faramir's face flamed in acute embarrassment. "Did you?"
"I did not. Perhaps Mablung?"
Faramir turned an accusatory eye upon his friend, but Mablung held his hands up in mock surprise. Faramir laughed, turned to the men and raised his left hand in salute. It was quickly and smartly returned.
Boromir's grin covered his face. 'I wish Father were here to see this.'
They rode from one end of the Sixth Circle to the other, then turned through the gate and rode along the Fifth Circle. Now and again, Faramir heard his name called in greeting, and men on guard duty on the walls of Minas Tirith cried out their warm encouragement to the Steward's son. Faramir acknowledged them with a wave of his hand.
Boromir's heart lodged in his throat most times, unsure of the strength of his brother's thighs to keep him ahorse, but the ride passed with no mishaps, and Boromir finally called for them to return to the stable.
By the time they arrived, Faramir's face glistened with sweat. His hand shook as he tried to hand the bridle to the stable hand.
Boromir took his arm to help him alight. "Sit here for a moment." He called and another servant brought water for the three of them.
"I should groom her before we leave."
"All in good time. There are others today who will care for our horses. Now, it is our task to get you back to the Houses before you fall flat on your face."
"Is my weakness that apparent?"
"Perhaps not to others, but it is to me. Take a few moments to recover your strength. Then we will walk very slowly back to your room and the daymeal."
Boromir watched his brother closely, and when he noted that the shaking of Faramir's hands had stopped, moved to help him stand.
"I can do it myself, Boromir."
Boromir held his hands up in mock surrender.
Looking about, he could not find his stave. "Boromir?"
"I threw it away."
"But - it was a gift from Uncle Imrahil."
"And it was a gift that was given with the sole purpose of being thrown away when no longer needed."
Taking a deep breath, Faramir nodded and stood, swaying just a bit. "I am ready."
They walked to the Houses; Damrod relieved Mablung as they entered Faramir's room. Siriondil stood inside waiting.
Faramir moaned. "Can I not have one moment without being poked or prodded?"
The Master Healer said not a word, gently guiding Faramir to his bed. He did a quick examination and then stood back. "Very well done, my Lord. Very well done indeed. And I see you walked all that way without the stave. I am impressed."
Boromir stifled his laughter.
Siriondil noted it and smiled at Boromir; the healer left shortly thereafter.
"Well, little brother. It seems you have passed another test."
"I am dead tired." Faramir sighed. "My legs shake."
"And well they should. We rode nigh unto an hour. Then the walk here and back again. Well done."
"Damrod," Faramir sat on the bed and relaxed. "Would you leave us for a few moments?"
"Nay--" Boromir stepped forward.
"Damrod," Faramir voice became serious. "Please leave us."
Damrod looked at Boromir who nodded. "I will return with your meal. In roughly half an hour?"
Boromir opened the door and Damrod left them. The intensely emotional pride he felt for his brother constricted his throat; he became afraid as his heart leapt in shame... and his groin surged. His little brother looked glorious; his sweat-dampened body shone.
"Please sit here, Boromir." Faramir motioned to the spot next to him.
Instead of sitting, Boromir walked to the window.
"Boromir? Please." Pain laced the words and Boromir bowed his head in surrender. He walked slowly to his brother's bed and sat.
"I do not understand what has happened between us, but if you refuse to share it, then I will not press. But Boromir, I have to know one thing. Did you resign?"
The Steward's eldest looked up in surprise. "I..."
"Do not lie to me."
"Yes. Well, it might seem that way, but it is only for a time. I will ask Father for my commission back, once you are healed."
Faramir held his hand to his nose, pinching it between his thumb and finger to keep tears from falling. "I cannot thank you enough. Father must be furious."
Boromir's sharp laugh echoed in the room.
"So I am the cause of your estrangement."
"No, Faramir. It was my choice.
"He does not believe I will heal, does he? Will he even let me return to duty?"
"He will," Boromir circumvented the first question. "Once you show him that you can wield a sword and ride, he will come to terms with it. There is no reason for your injuries to keep you from serving Gondor as a soldier." He smiled. "We have too much need for soldiers."
Faramir smiled in return, then sighed. "I do not think he will let me return."
"Then Uncle Imrahil will take you into Dol Amroth's army. He has already said as much."
Boromir smiled at the note of hope in his brother's voice. "He has a position at the garrison at Linhir ready for you."
"Linhir. A good garrison."
"It is. There will be no shortage of sorties and such against the enemy. You should enjoy yourself thoroughly."
Faramir smiled and leaned against his brother. "I would have died, I think, if not for you."
"And Siriondil and Damrod and Mablung. Father too, in his own way." Boromir looked down with affection, simple brotherly affection, and smiled to see Faramir asleep. He laid him gently down and pulled his boots off. He covered him and walked again to the window. Looking out, he smiled. 'Life is good, little brother.'
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