Disclaimer: I own very little and certainly nothing you recognize here. Tolkien is God. 'Nuff said.

Author's Note: I have rarely ventured out of my normal fandom writing wise, though I do read several, but my muse, damn beast that he is, decided that my beta saying she would never like Denethor was a challenge. Hence, I felt compelled to work on this rather than the other stories I have in the work that are in need of an update rather badly.

The story will be non-slash and involve, for the most part, Faramir, Boromir, Denethor and Aragorn. There will, however, be appearances by Imrahil, Elrond, Legolas, Finduilas, Arwen, the hobbits, Gollum and everyone's favourite twins. It is not an AU, I'm merely taking a few...er...liberaties. I have read the books, seen the movies, and own the extended additons on dvd so there will be a mix of movie verse and book verse.

Criticism is always welcome but please, no Denethor bashing simply for the sake of Denethor bashing. While I have no real love for the character my lump of a muse does and I'm trying to make him human in this fic. Also, elements of Aragorn's relationship with Elrond, but not all of it, is drawn from the ideas put forth in the Mellon Chronical's by Cassia and Sio, which if you haven't read, you should.

As always, thank you to Mandi for being such a wonderful beta and encouraging this even though Shared Hearts and Coming Back to Earth are still waiting to be written! Also, sorry for the long note, it won't happen again and if it does, it won't be placed before the chapter!

In Dreams...

Imrahil rode hard into the white stone city. He had not thought he would be within these wretched walls for some years to come but an urgent missive from the Steward had called him back mere months after he had seen his sister put to rest.

The letter was not quite coherent, indeed, even the writing was illegible in some places. The gist of it, Imrahil had deduced, was that Faramir was very ill and that Denethor requested Imrahil's presence. For what, exactly, Imrahil was not sure, but he was not about to abandon his sister's youngest when he was in need of aid.

Or, Imrahil would admit grudgingly, deny Denethor if the man asked to help. He was not overly fond of the serious Steward, but his sister had loved him, and had made Imrahil promise to her on her deathbed that he would aid Denethor should he ask for it, for when the mule headed man asked he was desperate.

"UNCLE!" The shout made Imrahil's head whip around, for he recognized his nephew's voice. He had just ridden into the stables and spotted the blond haired boy flying towards him.

"Boromir!" Imrahil called, catching the boy in his arms and hugging him close. Something, Imrahil realized, was definitely wrong, for Boromir had reached the age where such open displays of affection were greeted by the words, "I'm too big for that!"

Now, though, the boy seemed to burrow into his hug, making Imrahil prolong the contact until his nephew was ready to pull away. When he did, Imrahil was shocked to see Boromir's green eyes wet with tears, one escaping to trail down his cheek.

"Where is your father, Boromir?" Imrahil asked gently, needing to get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible.

"In the Healing Halls, with Faramir," Boromir answered, biting his lip to keep it from trembling. "They have not let me see him for two days, uncle! They have always let me see him before! They will not tell me what is wrong..."

"Shh, lad, there must be a reason for it, perhaps he is contagious and they simply do not want you sick as well," Imrahil offered, though he knew it was little comfort.

Boromir just shrugged and clutched Imrahil's hand tightly, "I will show you the way..."

Imrahil knew well where the Healing Halls were but allowed the lad whatever comfort it gave him. If he had not known Boromir would have protested vocally he would have hefted the boy into his arms and held him tight but Boromir...Boromir was not so old as to need a child's comfort but he was too old to want it.

The Halls of Healing were near frantic with activity and Imrahil picked up on the slight relief of tension that swept through the place when they saw he had arrived. Someone, he supposed he should learn the healer's names at some point, pointed him in the right direction, "The Steward is in there, my Lord."

"Thank you," Imrahil replied, only to be stopped short by the tightening of Boromir's hand in his.

"Lord Boromir," the healer began uneasily, "your brother is sleeping, right now, and we mustn't disturb him for he needs his rest."

"May I see him later?" Boromir asked, his face taken on a rather stubborn look. "Tonight?"

"Perhaps," the healer said uneasily, "we will have to wait and see what your father says, and how your brother is feeling."

Boromir scowled, clearly understanding that that answer was a wishy-washy no, but a no nonetheless. Imrahil crouched to the boy's height. "I will come see you when I have seen your father, Boromir, do not worry."

"Yes, uncle," Boromir sighed.

Imrahil ruffled the unhappy boy's hair before following the healer through a set of doors into a large chamber further back in Halls. The healer did not follow him through the last set of doors, but Imrahil would soon see at least two healers were in the room, fussing with some tonic.

Denethor himself was seated in a rocking chair that looked like it had been brought in especially for his use. He wore none of the dark, heavy robes he normally preferred, only clad in a simply pair of trousers and a light tunic. In his arms he cradled his youngest son.

Imrahil was shocked at his nephew's appearance. The boy had always been whip thin but now... his little body was so diminished, bones visibly protruding. His skin was very pale, his hair limp and lifeless and Imrahil could see a deep flush of fever on a barely visible cheek. One hand was curled weakly in Denethor's tunic, soft whimpering noises coming from the boy even though Imrahil took him to be asleep.

"We shall have to conduct our interview thusly, brother-in-law, for the rocking seems to soothe Faramir and I cannot leave him," Denethor said quietly, unwilling to disturb what little peace his son found in sleep.

Imrahil watched as Denethor brushed back the curls to bathe Faramir's flushed face with a cold cloth before finding his voice, "Aye, my Lord, I would not have you do so."

"It is for that reason I sent for you," Denethor continued. "He continues to worsen and when he is aware he is in pain, and I fear it is so even when he sleeps under the healer's tonics. I... They say he may die, Imrahil, if the fever does not break soon, and they have had no luck in doing so."

"Denethor..." Imrahil began, surprised and seeing they were beyond formalities at this point.

"Please, Imrahil, I know we have never been friends but... I need someone I trust who can watch over Gondor with me until Faramir is well again," Denethor said, unwilling to think of other possibilities at that moment. "I have to stay with my son. I cannot leave him..."

Imrahil knew Denethor was a man of great pride, so he did not comment on the fact he clearly saw tears in the hard grey eyes when the Steward glanced up at him for a moment. "You need only to ask and you have my service, Denethor, I would not abandon you during this."

Denethor nodded his thanks, "I have tried to manage both these last few days, for Faramir has been in great need, but the paper work involved in running this realm..."

"I can imagine," Imrahil muttered dryly, he had all but taken over the duties of his father, the Prince of Dol Amroth, not because his sire could not himself but because he wanted his son to have a firm handle on the tasks when he passed.

"I admit to having fallen behind. The letter I sent you was scribbled hastily after it became apparent Faramir had taken a turn for the worse. I do apologize if it was not entirely legible," Denethor said. "And... Boromir is most distressed because I have not allowed him to see his brother these past few days."

"As he told me, when he greeted me upon his arrival," Imrahil said, looking sadly at Faramir, who stirred fitfully in his father's arms. "I cannot say I disagree with your decision."

"If it comes to it..." Denethor swallowed. "If it comes to it I will give him time to say goodbye but I would not have him see his dear brother thusly. It will only serve to upset him."

"Indeed," Imrahil said, seeing the healers were nearly done with whatever brew they were concocting. "How did this come to be, Denethor? How did he take this ill?"

Denethor sighed, "I fear it began the day we laid Finduilas to rest. He took a chill, and fool that I am, I did not notice until he was already taken by how cold he was!"

Imrahil winced, that day was all to clear in his memory. His attention had been more on the service than on his nephews and their father, he had to admit, but he did recall Denethor reaching down and taking Faramir into his arms, at one point, covering the small body with his warm fur cloak. He had thought the child was simply bereft with grief but now he did recall how cold it was that day.

"A chill taken months ago could not have caused this," Imrahil said quietly.

"No, for it did not end there. His lungs were congested and he took fever soon after. He was very ill for a time and weak when the illness finally left him. Alas, would I wish that that had been the end," Denethor's face was pale now and Imrahil felt a small touch of sympathy for the man. "A childhood disease stole round the city, as it is wont to do from time to time. It is not normally a serious thing, Boromir had it when he was younger and suffered little for it but my poor Faramir, weak as he was still from his illness..."

Imrahil nodded grimly, "And this fever?"

"He has been feverish from time to time for months now, but this one has taken hold and will not be broken though the healers ply him with remedies. I fear for Faramir, Imrahil, he is so weak now..." Denethor's voice broke and Imrahil found himself reaching out to touch his shoulder.

"There remains hope for as long as he yet breathes," Imrahil said gently. "I will take care of your city, for I do know how from governing my own realm, so you may devote yourself to him."

"Thank you," Denethor whispered, his eyes closing as if in pain.

Faramir mewled pitifully, turning Denethor's attention back to him. The boy's thin face was creased in pain and shivers raced through the thin frame. Denethor shushed him gently, wiping the cloth over his face and neck.

One of the healers brought the brew over. It was the colour of unripe corn and Imrahil caught only a faint scent of it from where he sat. It could not, he thought with a grimace, taste good.

"Faramir...Wake up, little one," Denethor murmured, drawing the boy into a half conscious state, all the child could seem to manage. The flushed face screwed up as the healer tried to get him to drink, and he buried his face against his father's tunic.

"You must drink it, little one," Denethor murmured, shifting so the boy's head was lifted enough to drink.

Faramir gave a soft cry, but did not turn away again as Denethor gently turned his face to take the liquid. The healer held it to his lips, Denethor stroking the boy's throat gently to help him swallow. The simple act seemed to exhaust him, and he crumpled back against his father when it was drained.

Denethor was making nonsense shushing noises, bathing his son's hot face as he rocked them back and forth. "I fear for him, Imrahil, I fear for my little one. This could take him from us."

"Do not despair, he yet lives, have hope!" Imrahil told the shaken man who held his little son close as if to keep him bound to life. Rarely did he feel compassion for the Steward of Gondor, whose faults numbered many, but he did now feel compassion for Denethor the father, who cradled his beloved dying child close to his heart.


"Awake, Estel!" The urgent voice roused the sleeper towards wakefulness, even as long fingers gently pushed the hair out of his face. He had been so tired he had fallen asleep still fully clothed on his bed.


"Yes child, there is a need for your skills." There was a pause and Elrond's voice took on a humorous tone even as his fingers slid gently though the dark hair of one he considered a son. "Do you tend to sleep with a dagger under your pillow now?"

Aragorn, called Estel by the elves of his childhood still, flushed as he hauled himself onto his elbows. "It is not a new habit, but one I did not have when I was last home."

"I shall warn your brothers," Elrond teased gently. "For if I do not I believe I will have them as patients before long."

Aragorn grinned shakily, but he could hear the sadness in his foster father's voice. His time spent at home in the last 20 years amounted to little more than a year, mere moments to an elf. He had changed much in that time, the child Elrond had known disappearing into the man he was now. It did not diminish the love he had for the man, for indeed Estel was one of his sons, but it still pained him to see the man replace the boy, no matter how necessary.

"I am sorry to wake you, Estel, but there is a matter that needs urgent attention," Elrond said, "And you may be the only one who can make this right again."

"What has happened?" Aragorn asked, worried for his foster father was not often so distressed.

"I had a vision tonight, a glimpse of what might be," Elrond frowned, "Of something that is not supposed to be."

"How am I to help?" Aragorn asked, confused.

"There is someone who needs aid only you can give him, Estel, for only your hands can deliver this cure," Elrond told him, seeing understanding dawn in his son's eyes.

"Who? Where are they?" Aragorn asked immediately.

"It is a boy in Gondor, who grows closer to death with every passing hour, I fear," Elrond replied. "You must help him, for the future grows much darker should he pass now."

"Gondor? I cannot go back to Gondor, Denethor will have me thrown from the land, and do the throwing from atop the highest point of Minas Tirith!" Aragorn muttered.

"You would not reach the city where he lays in time to save him, even if you were to catch a flight on an eagle. No, you are not going to Gondor, but there are other ways you might help him but," And here Elrond stopped, and turned, putting his hands on his son's shoulders, "they are not without risks. I am willing to take them myself, I am less willing to take them with you. It is your choice."

Aragorn hesitated for a moment, then nodded, following Elrond to his study. "You say he is a boy?"

"A child, even by the standards of man; he is five years of age, and very weak from other ailments. You must be careful, my son, for the fever that has taken him is not natural, though I cannot discern its source," Elrond cautioned.

"But if I am not to go to Gondor how can I help him?" Aragorn asked.

"It would not be possible, were the circumstances not just so, but as they are..." Elrond paused. "I have the gift of foresight, of visions, as does this little child, though the gifts are yet dormant within him. Through that, we can reach him, and you may heal him."

Elrond selected a large, dusty tome from a shelf half hidden in his study, "Through but a dream we will save this child."