Anemone and Hemlock

By Gaeriel

Disclaimer: Having been born in the mid-eighties, I can lay no claim to the creation of the peoples of Middle-earth.  All credit is due to the exceptional J.R.R Tolkien.

Summary: Some things cannot be justified or explained, only experienced.  (Denethor/Finduilas)

****

            Her fingers danced lightly over sprigs of green as the naked branches of a willow trails across the grass beneath it.  She pulled and tweaked the arrangement of the flowers until they accorded to a contrast that she found satisfying.

"A gift from our eldest," she said, turning to face the man who had not been there but a moment before.  The smile on her face was earnest, yet tight.  Uncertain was she of late concerning the moods of her husband.  "I thought perhaps… It has been too long since color graced the space the white walls of our chamber, do you not agree?"

Denethor looked at the flowers, and yet not at them.  He nodded absently in what Finduilas took to mean approval.

"Yes, yes.  I left a scroll here this morning.  I pray it has not been discarded." His tone was accusatory, but Finduilas had grown accustomed to this displacement.  Even when the Steward left his work in his study, the pressures of his duties often came home with him.

'Yet he has never struck you,' Finduilas thought, "your sons bear no fear towards him, and neither shall you.  He is a stern man, but fair.'

"It has not been," she spoke aloud, "It is where you had left it, my lord." 

            She turned, and started for the chambers within.  A hand on her shoulder halted her movements.  He knew.  He always knew.

            'Some say he can read minds.  I cannot speak for others, but for as long as I have loved him, he has had free passage into mine.'

            For a long moment she stood, thin and quiet.  His hand slid to grasp her arm gently and she realized that he was closer to her than she thought.  His breath fell upon the bare skin of her neck, hearkening back to lighter times and warm salty air.  She dared not move.  Those subtle moments came fewer, although he had much more need of them, as times grew dire.  She wished she could give more of her strength to him, but childbirth, longing, and the fear of the red dark in the east kept her ill at ease.  He would tell her that she was enough.

            "I am sorry that I've missed our last few suppers," he said.  "There has been much to look after."

            Finduilas shifted to face her husband, "Perhaps if you let another lighten your burden.  Even the kings of old had advisors, assistants who aided their lords with fealty and integrity.  Long have you kept your secrets."  She bit her lip. "I keep nothing from you."

            The hand dropped from her arm.

            "Perhaps if Thorongil…"

            "Thorongil is gone from this land!" Denethor growled.  He strode purposefully into the bedchamber, where the almost forgotten scroll lay upon an oaken table.  Finduilas followed, renewed by the contact of peace that was brief and still enriching.

            "I know this.  I also know of your nightmares.  Your nightly visits to the tower, and your tempers.  I've seen all of these and I am afraid for you.  Can you blame a wife for voicing concern for her husband?" Finduilas' voice had grown louder.  An old spark flared, simmered, and she cast her gaze down.

            "Things were easier once," she told the stone beneath her feet.  'I did not feel forsaken'

            Denethor pressed his lips against her cheek.  His sharp features softened.  "I know.  But you must understand.  Some burdens I would not wish upon those close enough to trust.  I promise, tonight I will dine with you.  But I have been gone from the Citadel for longer than expected, and I must return."

            He left, and for a long while she watched where he had been.

****

            The baby gurgled contently in his seat.  He had already been nursed, but Finduilas enjoyed the child's jovial presence in the otherwise cold dining hall.  Her older son, her bright boy, had arranged his potatoes into a fort and now busied himself directing the peas to defend it.

            'He will make you proud one day,' her thoughts were directed towards the empty chair at the other end of the long table.  'Do you not wish to be here to love him now?'

            "I'm finished Mama."

            Finduilas smiled, "Finished eating?  Or is it just that the peas have conquered the carrots and you seek to find less perishable amusements?"

            Boromir crinkled his nose, his six-year old vocabulary having difficulty discerning his mother's meaning.  Finduilas chuckled genuinely for the first time in many days.  "Very well.  Go.  I release you from your duties, brave Captain Boromir of the Dining Hall."

            The boy jumped from his seat and raced to the doors.  Then, he paused to look back at his mother, "Are you not coming, Mama?  We could play Knights and I could save you if you wished."

            "No, my dear," Finduilas shook her head sadly, "Faramir and I shall wait for your father, for indeed he would be disheartened if he had to eat another meal alone."

            By her side, the baby began to fuss.  Finduilas' heart sank.  She did not want to remain by herself, trapped between these bulwarks of stone.

            "It's okay Mama.  Papa won't mind.  He doesn't really live here anyway.  He just visits."  The open honesty on Boromir's face pained Finduilas.  Faramir began to rub at his eyes sleepily.

            "Very well," she forced the dull ache out of her features and inflection.  "Come with me and we'll put your brother to bed.  Then we can play."

            Boromir's face lit up with childish enthusiasm, all recall of the solemnity from a moment before eliminated from memory as he hurried out of the great hall.

            'An organism of the now.  Someday he will recognize us for how imperfect we have always been.'

            Finduilas scooped the baby into her arms and followed her son into the white stone corridor.

****

            The sun had already been down for some while when Denethor entered the bedchamber that night, but whether the time elapsed had been hours or simply minutes, Finduilas did not know.  She had been in a state of rest, but his arrival awoke her like the mournful cry of the gulls in Dol Amroth.  She sat up in greeting.  He watched gravely as a sliver of moonlight fell upon her pale skin and he suddenly felt very old.  His shoulders sagged.  She made room for him upon the bed.  Once his head rested against her chest and her chin graced the skin of his cheek, he very quietly fell to pieces.