Disclaimer: I don't own anybody, sadly.
Summary: While teenage Boromir is away, the Steward of Gondor and the younger son share a meal and their thoughts.
An Evening Together
Faramir stood on the parapet of the White Tower and watched the horsemen as they made their way down through the levels of the city. He swallowed back the lump in his throat. "It's not fair" he whispered to himself. "It's not fair."
So intent was his gaze on the figures below him that he didn't even hear the approaching footsteps behind him. He started when his father's hand came down on his shoulder.
"This is a big day for your brother." said Denethor. He voice was husky with pride. "His first patrol as part of a company."
"It's not fair." Faramir tried to keep his voice from trembling. He looked up at his father and Denethor caught his breath. For an instant it was Finduilas's face looking up at him, eyes dark with unshed tears, soft, sensitive lips trembling. Then Faramir scowled and his father suppressed a smile. The boy had suddenly become a smaller version of what Denethor saw in his own mirror each day.
"Faramir, your brother is seventeen. It is time he rides out with the patrols."
"I can ride just as well as he can." The boy's voice was ragged.
Denethor considered for a moment. "Yes, you are a very good rider." He put his arm around his son. "But there is more to patrolling our borders than just being a good rider." They were silent a moment as the troopers reached the gate on the first level and the herald's trumpets rang out. Denethor continued as the riders swept out onto the Pelennor. "There are orcs out there, Faramir, and others who would harm our people. There is danger at every turn." He paused, as though lost in thought. "A soldier must be able to protect himself first, then his comrades. Boromir can do so. You, however, are not yet grown."
Faramir's shoulders slumped and he looked down at the white stone beneath his feet. "You let him take the horn."
Understanding came to Denethor. He gazed back out onto the green fields. As though in answer to Faramir's words, an uneven note rang out far below them. It soared up, then wavered and died out. Denethor grinned. Of course the boy wouldn't be able to resist trying it out as soon as he had left the city. He was irrepressible…so full of life…so like himself. A gusty sigh from beside him drew his attention back to his younger son. He turned to look at him. So like his brother, and yet so different.
"It is his birthright. The horn goes to the eldest son. It has always been so."
Faramir's grey eyes bore into him. "What does the second son get, father?"
Denethor hesitated, realized he had no answer. He had been an only child. He had no idea what life was like for a younger sibling. There had been no brother in Denethor's life. Only himself, petted and spoiled by his father.
Not true, his memory whispered. Remember when Thorongil was here. Remember what it is like to have someone always besting you. Remember seeing your father's eye always following another. A spike of guilt pierced his heart. He moved his hand up and ruffled Faramir's dark hair. "The second son gets to have dinner with his father this evening, how does that sound?"
"Really?" Faramir's eyes lit up. Usually dinner was a formal affair, off limits to the children. "Do you have time? Are there not guests…?" his voice trailed off uncertainly.
"There is no one who cannot wait." Denethor said, chastising himself that the boy worried about his responsibilities. He was too young for the concerns of his father to be on his mind. "Come to my chambers tonight and we will eat together." He felt a pang at the joyful look that suffused the boy's face. Did he really ignore him that much? He made a mental vow to do better, find more time in his busy schedule. "Now, I believe you are expected by the Armsmaster this morning?"
"Then off with you." Denethor gave him a gentle nudge. "I will see you this evening."
He watched the slim figure scamper away, dark hair streaming behind him and felt a familiar fear rise up. His gaze returned to the riders on the Pelennor, now just tiny specks. "They are growing up, Finduilas." He whispered. "It has been so hard without you. I know I have not done the task as you would have. I do not know if I can do it aright." The patrol faded from his sight and he closed his eyes, imagining his oldest, his face alight with excitement, as he rode with them. "Watch over him, my darling."
He turned and started toward the Steward's office. There would be paperwork to sort through, dispatches and reports to read. Another long day, full of decisions and choices that were his responsibility. If only there were a way to know which ones were the right ones, and which were mistakes. He needed guidance, some way of knowing what to do. His thoughts strayed to the highest chamber in the Citadel. The object there could help…No! He chastised himself. The palantir was the property of kings, not stewards. He banished the thought from his mind and quickly climbed the steps to his office.
A hesitant knock sounded at the door.
"Enter" said Denethor.
The heavy oak door swung open and Denethor stared in surprise. Faramir stood before him, hands behind his back, his eyes shifting nervously.
"Come here, come here." He motioned his son forward, and he crossed the woolen carpet and stood before his father.
Denethor looked him over carefully. Faramir had dressed as though he was attending a state function. Dark wine-colored leggings under his best black velvet tunic made his twelve-year old body look tall and reedy. A heavy silver chain hung around his neck, while his dark hair was brushed back and caught in a leather and silver clasp. His grey eyes sought his father's anxiously.
"You look very nice." Denethor said gravely. "I am honored to have you at my table."
Quickly Faramir looked to see if there was any jesting in his father's face, but seeing none he smiled self-consciously. "I thought I should look my best."
"You do." Denethor motioned him to the seat closest his own. "Sit down." He nodded to the servants to bring the meal. As he was served he glanced at Faramir again. "Isn't that your brother's?" He nodded his head toward the chain.
Faramir looked down, startled. "No, sir. This is mine. I got it for my birthday. It is the same pattern as Boromir's though. He took me to the same silversmith so they would match. He said I needed something for fancy dinners, now that I was getting older. He said people always expect the Steward's sons to wear something that looks good, and if we do not they will talk about us and you - " He stopped as though afraid his father would find fault.
Denethor only chuckled, knowing his own lack of interest in the expectations and manipulations of the nobility, and imagined his eldest felt the same. "What other words of wisdom has your brother given you?" he asked.
"Mostly to practice more with my sword, and stop reading so much." said Faramir. His brow furrowed with thought and Denethor realized the boy had taken his innocent question as a demand for information. He opened his mouth to reassure him, but Faramir continued.
"He says to spend more time learning how to use my knife, and to try to get up earlier in the morning, and not draw stupid pictures of plants, and stop pestering Margul in the kitchen for sweets" –
"Faramir." His father's voice interrupted his recitation of all that he heard daily from his worshipped older brother.
"That's fine. I was jesting." Denethor smiled. "You don't have to tell me all that you and your brother speak of." He drank from his cup and motioned to his son to eat. "My time is so full, I am glad you have each other." As he spoke the words, he realized it was true. He remembered his own lonely childhood and his happiness when the second born had been another boy. "They will be friends!" he had said to his wife. The fleeting remembrance of Finduilas touched him with sadness again. He remembered then the gift he had for Faramir.
"Faramir." The boy looked at him and once again in the flickering candlelight he saw his wife's face. "You asked me this morning what the second son would receive, since the eldest has the horn."
"I'm sorry, father." He dropped his gaze to his plate. "It is not my place. I know the horn is Boromir's."
"But you deserve something, too," Denethor said, leaving his place at the table and retrieving a package from the mantle above the fireplace. "I think this is something you would like, and I know she would have liked for you to have it." He placed the package in Faramir's hands.
After a quick glance for permission, which was given with a nod, the slim hands unwrapped the cloth to disclose a large, leather-bound book. A quick intake of breath told Denethor he had chosen wisely. "It was your mother's." He opened the inside cover to show Faramir her name written inside. "It is all the legends and songs from Dol Amroth. Her own mother gave it to her when we married." His voice trembled slightly as he remembered that day, and quickly he set his jaw. He turned away for a moment and mastered his emotion.
Faramir did not even notice, his attention was already on the book, pages and pages of stories and songs that he did not know. He leafed through it, excited and slightly overwhelmed. His father never gave gifts, not like this. Faramir knew anything of his mother's was kept by his father in his own private chambers. This was a kingly gift. He looked up, saw his father gazing into the fire.
"Thank you, Father."
Denethor seemed to start, then turned back to his younger son and smiled. "She loved those stories, Faramir. You are so much like her, with your love of tales and legends."
"Boromir says I am like you." The words were out before he realized it. He flushed. He had not meant to tell his father what his brother had said.
Denethor's eyes widened with interest. "Indeed."
Faramir sat at the table, shoulders hunched miserably. His father said nothing and he waited, fearing his anger. He remembered his own disbelief when Boromir had spoken.
"Father and I are nothing alike, Boromir." He had said, frowning. "You two are the ones who are soldiers and like battle and fighting."
"No, little brother." Boromir had said, his own grey eyes serious. "You are Father, inside. You cannot see it, but your faces are so alike when you are interested in something, when you are speaking, when you are listening." He had laughed, then. "Your minds work alike. That is why you argue so much!"
Faramir was startled by the sudden laughter of his father. Denethor returned to his place at the table and heaped more food on his plate. "Do you believe everything your brother tells you?" He questioned, motioning the servant to fill his cup once again.
Faramir considered for a moment, then met his father's gaze. "Yes, I do."
Denethor looked at his face and saw the promise of the man he would one day become, saw his own fire and passion tempered by Finduilas's warmth and gentleness. He will be a good man, he realized. A better man than I. "Perhaps your brother is too wise for us, then. We shall see." He leaned back in his chair and gathered his thoughts.
"You know, Faramir, even though you will not inherit the Stewardship, you will have many duties when you are grown." He saw the doubt in his son's eyes. "Have you ever thought about it?
"But, Boromir will be the Steward, some day."
"Yes, but he will depend on you to help him. There will be no one else closer to him that he can trust to give him good counsel." Denethor took a deep drink and set his cup back onto the table. "You must support him, in all that he does."
"I will, Father."
"And you yourself must learn how to defend our lands, that is why I have you spend so much time with your sword and your bow. There will be many chances for you to protect Gondor." He paused for a moment. "There is danger aplenty, Faramir. Your brother will need you."
The rest of the meal passed quickly with Denethor questioning his son about his studies, his arms practice and his tutors and weighing the answers. He listened as Faramir breathlessly told of helping one of the washerwomen capture a bird tangled in sheets she had hung out to dry. He watched his face, alight with excitement, and once again felt the loss of his wife. She should have been here for the boys, he thought for the thousandth time. Especially for Faramir, with his love of books and the gentle things of life.
He realized Faramir was watching him.
"You are not listening, Father." It was an accusation.
"I'm sorry, Faramir. You are right. I am distracted this night."
"You are thinking of Mother." Faramir spoke with conviction.
His father gave him a look of surprise. The boy had insight. Perhaps Boromir was right.
"Do you miss her greatly?" Faramir's gaze never left his father.
"Yes, I do." It was spoken softly, a mere whisper.
"Boromir misses her, too. I can tell, sometimes." Denethor saw his eyes drop to the table. "I guess I do, too." He bit his lip. "I cannot remember her…"
"You were very young, when she –" Denethor stopped himself. He did not want to remember that day, not tonight. "But she loved you very much, both you and your brother." A sad smile crossed his face. "You look like her."
"I do?" Faramir looked disbelieving. Everyone was always telling him that he and Boromir both looked like their father. "But I have hair like yours, and we all have the same eyes."
"But you still have her look about you." His father looked at him so wistfully, and for so long, Faramir realized he no longer was seeing his son, but his wife in a long passed memory.
The fire crackled, and Faramir suddenly thought of his brother, sleeping out under the stars somewhere to their north.
"Are you are worried about Boromir being away?" he asked his father. "The way the eastern sky grows darker?"
Denethor nodded. "Evil times are coming, I fear," he said. "Sooner than we think."
"Don't worry. Boromir is a good soldier, and he will always protect Gondor. As will I, when I am old enough." The boy's voice was brave and sure. Denethor was touched by his support of his brother, and his own bravado. "I know you will, Faramir," he said gently.
Evening had waned, and despite his words earlier, Denethor did have meetings with others who could not wait, and soon he had to bid Faramir good night. As they stood, Faramir had hesitated, then approached him and bowed.
"Thank you for sharing dinner with me, Father." He said formally.
Denethor reached out and patted the boy's cheek, an unusual gesture for him, then caught his arm and pulled him into a rare hug. "I'm glad we were together tonight." Slowly his son returned his gesture, his hesitant embrace tightening around his father. Denethor stepped back.
"Good night, Faramir."
"Good night, Father."
As the Steward changed his clothes in his chamber, preparing for his meeting, his gaze was drawn to the east. The dark shadow never left, and now at night was tinged with red and orange. He knew the sight of it had been part of that which had drained the life from his wife. It was as much a part of him as the White Tower. It had dominated his life and now hung over the future of his sons.
He stood by the window for a long moment. The time had come when his son was among those he sent out for battle. He had not realized until this morning when the troop rode out just how hard it would be. He had always known Boromir's heart, known he wanted to be out among the soldiers, fighting. He wanted to keep him safe, in the city, yet how could the Steward order others to fight and keep back his own son. It had been difficult to send him, knowing the dangers that surrounded them. But he knew his eldest had strength and skill, he told himself he would be fine.
It was younger one who worried him, whose safety he would fear for when he, like his brother, rode out of the city. He realized he was afraid for all of Gondor, but especially for Faramir. The enemy would strike in his lifetime, he was convinced. What would happen to the boy then? Unlike his brother, who hungered for warfare and the thrill of battle, Denethor knew Faramir wished for peace and solitude. He learned his lessons with sword and bow to please those he loved, mostly Boromir, but his heart belonged to the silence of the library, or quiet contemplation in the gardens. But that future was unlikely, Denethor knew. He resolved to push his second son to excel in those things which would best serve Gondor; only force of arms would save their city. Only by destroying the evil surrounding them could they hope for peace in their lands.
His thoughts turned to Faramir's accidental disclosure. Were they alike, as Boromir had told his brother? He had to admit the hard-headed stubbornness that the younger boy displayed occasionally was certainly not from his mother. His tutors all spoke highly of his intelligence, and his grasp of the intricacies of politics was just beginning to show itself, but already he understood better than his older brother the complicated dance of government.
Denethor sighed. If only he was as easily guided as Boromir, who would usually take whatever counsel his father had to offer. A wry smile crossed the Steward's features. No, that was one thing Faramir was not, biddable. This last year he had grown, not only taller, but in other ways. He had ever been a difficult child, but lately he had openly questioned his father's decisions. Over little things, to be sure, the time of his lessons, or the ability of a certain teacher. His arguments were always even tempered and well-reasoned, even if his dogged attempts to change his father's mind were annoying. Their disagreements would no doubt only increase as he grew older. Denethor remembered arguments with his own father…disputes that degenerated into a clash of personalities. Was it inevitable that fathers and sons disagree? He admitted it probably was.
He had time, he told himself. The boy was just coming into himself. He would try to keep an eye on him, to gauge his quality. He was young, yet.
Denethor cast one last look at the fiery sky to the east. Did he have that time? Again the uncertainty gnawed at him. If there were only a way to be sure of his decisions. Again, the whisper in his head, resolutely pushed back. It was not the right of the Steward to use the seeing stone, even to keep watch over his city…or his sons.
He thought of the happy look on Faramir's face as he had examined the book. Denethor was glad he had thought to give it to him. Finduilas would have approved. He realized this was probably the first time the boys would be apart for more than a few days, and the time would be long and lonely for Faramir. He told himself to remember to make time for him while Boromir was away.
A servant appeared at the door. "Sir? They are waiting…"
"I know, I know, I'm on my way." He forced himself to dismiss the boy from his mind; then the Steward of Gondor strode quickly from his chambers and went to be about his business, to safeguard his city and his people.