They had reached the city shortly after midday. Since Denethor could have had no way of knowing just when they would arrive, Finduilas did not expect to see him until that evening. She was glad to have the opportunity to see all their things unpacked and put away and to snatch an hour of rest, perhaps, first; there could be no further delaying the ill-news she must tell her husband. Gazing at the stony walls of the city closing around her, she shivered.
"Are you cold, Mama?" asked Faramir next to her.
"No, darling, not really, though it is certainly cooler here than where we have been, is it not?" she said, slipping an arm around him and hugging him to her. "Boromir, please do not hang so far out," she admonished her elder son.
Reluctantly he pulled his tousled dark head back in. "Can I go down to the practice grounds when we get home, please, Mama?" he said.
"Yes, you may," said Finduilas, thinking that it would be far easier to get all of Boromir's things unpacked without his erratic help. "But take your brother with you. He ought to run around as well after this long journey."
Boromir sighed exasperatedly. "It's not just running around. And Faramir's too little to do anything," he complained. "He will just get in the way and if I have to watch him I won't be able to do anything myself."
"I won't be in the way!" was the little boy's indignant response. "I want to watch you."
"I will send someone with you, Boromir, to keep an eye on your brother and bring you both back for supper. All right?"
"All right," Boromir scowled a moment more, then brightened. "I can't wait to show all the boys what uncle Imrahil taught me."
"What was that?" his mother inquired.
"How to fall without hurting yourself, even if you don't expect it. It takes some practice, but it works really well." Boromir's face shone in anticipation.
"I am certain all your friends will be happy to see you again, new falling technique or no. We are nearly there now," said Finduilas, as they passed through the gate into the sixth level of the city.
As soon as they had reached the Steward's House, she sent a message to tell Denethor of their safe return. Her sons went off with Faramir's nursemaid to keep an eye on him, and Finduilas turned to overseeing the unpacking of all their trunks and parcels. It did not take long, even with the discovery that Boromir had secreted a collection of stones, shells, and other impedimenta of nature among his underthings. Finduilas sagged in relief when all was done, as still more than two hours remained before the family's accustomed supper time. Telling her maid to wake her in an hour, she relaxed gratefully into the great bed.
A touch on her shoulder roused her. It was not, however, Morwen; Denethor stood by her side, his usually stern face softened by the smile he gave only to his wife.
"Was the journey so tiring, my heart?" he asked.
Finduilas hesitated, then nodded. Now is not the time to speak; I will not have long enough before the children will return to say all that must be said. Still drowsy, she struggled to sit up. Denethor took her hand to brace her, then sat on the edge of the bed beside her, his thumb tracing a line along the joints between her fingers and palm.
"I missed you so," he said in a low voice. "Without you here, I am incomplete."
"I missed you too, my very dear," said Finduilas through the thickness in her throat. She leaned against him and fought back the tears that threatened to overwhelm her.
"Where are the boys?" asked Denethor.
"Down at the practice yard; Boromir could hardly wait to go, and Faramir wanted to watch his brother. They will be fetched back at the supper hour," Finduilas replied.
"Good," said Denethor, and began to unfasten her dress. "Then we will not be interrupted."
At first she was as eager as he, but too quickly the discomfort that was always with her now turned to sharp pain. She concealed as best she could, urging him as if with passion to finish quickly, but Denethor recognized her cries as different.
"What is it?" he said, stopping. "Did I hurt you somehow?"
"No," she said truthfully. "You did not. But I am not feeling quite right - I will talk with you about it this evening. Do not worry for now."
He eyed her, doubt clear on his face, but when she pulled him back down for a kiss he resumed enthusiastically. Finduilas bit her lip hard and ignored the messages of her body to respond to the yearnings of her heart.
Supper was a noisy affair. Denethor was so pleased at their return that he did not even rebuke Faramir, as he normally would, for shouting with excitement at the table. The journey and the exercise they had had that afternoon had tired both boys, though; Boromir was hardly able to finish his pudding. Finduilas sent him off to wash while she took Faramir to his room and tucked him in.
"Mama?" said the little boy sleepily.
"Yes, love?" she answered, smoothing down his hair.
"I'm glad to be home with Papa, but I think I like Dol Amroth better than here," he said.
"I know, Faramir, I know." She kissed him. "Sleep well."
He snuggled down among the covers, eyes closed, his breathing already quieting into the steady rhythm of the night.
Finduilas went quietly out and down the hall to Boromir's room. He had strewn his clothes around the floor and flung himself slantwise across his bed. She picked up the scattered garments and folded them tidily across her arm to send for laundering.
"Come, Boromir, get under your blanket or you will be cold by morning."
He grumbled, already close to falling asleep, but rolled obediently to one side and then back as she lifted the covers to let him in.
"Are you happy to be back home?" she asked him.
Boromir nodded vigorously. "It's fun to visit, but I like home better. Uncle Imrahil's teaching just isn't the same as learning from Master Hallas, and there aren't as many boys to play with there. Mama, do I have to start lessons tomorrow, or can I wait?"
"Not tomorrow, no. You may have a day to rest and play after all that traveling, but the day afterward, Master Golasgil will expect you," said Finduilas.
Boromir sighed. "I wish I were as little as Faramir and didn't have to have lessons yet."
His mother poked him playfully, saying, "No, you don't, silly. You wouldn't be able to do all the things you like to do if you were still Faramir's age."
He giggled, then said, yawning, "You're right, Mama. I'd rather be my own age, I guess. Good night."
"Good night, love," and she kissed his forehead. "Rest well."
Returning to the family chamber where Denethor waited, Finduilas thought about her sons.
I love them so, and I will not live to see them grown. Will Boromir become the great warrior he longs to be? Will he prove a good ruler someday? And Faramir - he admires his brother so, will he resemble him in action as well as looks? How will Denethor manage alone? He loves his sons, loves the idea of his house continuing, but he does not understand children. Sometimes I wonder if he was ever really a child himself.
Denethor was reading when she stepped into the room and sat down beside him, resting her head on his shoulder. He put his arm around her.
"You look tired, Finduilas. Shall I read to you?"
She glanced at the volume. It was the collection of poems and tales that he had given to her during their courtship, with all her favorites, but she shook her head.
"Not now." She took a deep breath; this was the moment she had been dreading ever since the day that the healers of Dol Amroth had confirmed all her fears. "I must tell you something."
As she spoke, the blood drained from Denethor's face and he gripped the arm of the seat so hard that his knuckles whitened.
"Are you certain?" he said when she finished, his voice tightly controlled. "Have you spoken with the healers here? They may know something that can be done."
Finduilas shook her head. "It is no use, my heart. Believe me when I say that if there were aught to be done, I would already be doing it. I saw my mother's pain; think you that I would not avoid such, were it possible?"
Denethor rose and stalked around the room. "It cannot be," he burst out. "There must be something to be done. You cannot leave me, Finduilas." He knelt at her feet and she could see his eyes were wet. "You cannot leave me," he repeated brokenly.
Her heart felt as if each word he spoke were a thorn pressed into her flesh. "Ah, love," she murmured, sliding to the floor to embrace him. "I wish I could say that I will not."
They sat, holding each other, not speaking, for many minutes. At last Denethor spoke again. "I will send for the best physicians in the city, of course, to see what treatments they have that will help," he said, not meeting her eyes.
Finduilas could tell that he was not going to be easily reconciled to the truth. He will have to accept it, soon or late.
"For now, let us keep quiet about it," he continued. "If there is some mistake, you would not want to unnecessarily worry anyone, would you?"
She stroked his cheek. "Certainly the boys ought not to hear, not yet," she agreed. "But I did speak to my father and brother before I departed from Dol Amroth."
Before his look, compounded of equal parts hurt and anger, she added, "I could not bear the burden of this knowledge alone, my dearest. Had you been with me when I learned it, you would have been the first to hear. As it was, be happy for me that I had my brother there for my support, lest I should have somehow communicated all my fears and doubts and pain to our sons instead, without intending to."
Denethor's expression softened slightly, but he said, "I still would have preferred you not have spoken to anyone else before you told me. But done is done." He essayed a twisted smile. "Here I had been looking forward to your homecoming, and you tell me now that I must prepare for your leavetaking, instead."
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.