The Time that is Given Us
Another journey, and it seems like I just got back. Boromir finished folding the last of his traveling clothes and was just about to place them into his pack when the door flew open. He turned and was surprised to see his brother standing in the doorway; Faramir always knocked before entering his quarters. What shocked Boromir even more was the icy glare that fixed upon him as soon as their eyes met.
"Why did you do it?" Faramir asked, unable to keep the anger out of his voice.
Boromir sighed, unable to help feeling annoyed. "Have we not been through this argument enough?" Ever since that accursed dream had first come to Faramir, there had been no peace between the brothers. Boromir had laughed it off at first; Faramir had a tendency to take his dreams much too seriously, in his opinion. Of course, that had angered Faramir. Looking back, Boromir thought perhaps he should have taken it more seriously; Faramir had grown accustomed to being discredited by their father, but not by him.
And then the dream had come to him as well. Even thinking about it now unnerved him. Watching the Shadow wash over the country he loved was more than he could bear. And Isildur's Bane… he was not a superstitious man by nature, but even he felt troubled by the thought of what it could mean for Gondor. Especially if his father was right about exactly what it was…
It took him a moment to realize that Faramir was speaking again. "What did you say?" he asked.
Faramir looked slightly taken aback, then his mouth tightened into a thin line. "It matters not," he said, automatically shifting into the impassive look he usually reserved for Denethor.
An exasperated sigh escaped Boromir before he could stop it. "Yes, it does. I was distracted."
Faramir's jaw clenched even tighter. "You should not be the one to go to Rivendell, Boromir. We both know it."
"And just what am I supposed to do about it now? Father appointed the task to me, and I will not go back on my duty." Boromir roughly shoved a spare tunic into his pack.
"And what of your duty to our people?" Faramir asked. Boromir whirled around angrily, silently cursing his brother's ability to quickly find his weaknesses—a trait that he shares with Father, he realized, though Faramir was normally not manipulative like he knew Denethor could sometimes be. "The way Father speaks, you would think that the city would fall within the week if I were left in charge of the defenses," Faramir added with a bitter laugh.
"Perhaps if your Rangers started doing a better job of stopping Mordor's advances before they reach Osgiliath, Father would not have such a low opinion of your abilities in the matter," Boromir snapped. As soon as the words left his mouth, he regretted them; the pain that flashed in Faramir's sea-grey eyes told Boromir that his words had cut deeper than he had intended.
Faramir was silent for a moment longer as he fought to regain his composure. Finally, he looked up with a stony gaze. "Perhaps so. But that is why I must be the one to go. This may be the only chance I have to prove that I can do something worthwhile for our people." His eyes softened a little. "Please, Boromir. It would be no shame to you if we traded places."
Boromir wavered for a moment. Faramir did have a point, he reasoned; his father had certainly never granted his brother a chance to prove himself. Sometimes he truly believed that the only reason Faramir had been given leadership of the Ithilien company was to keep him out of Denethor's sight. And although Faramir had done his best to guard the borders with the few men he had, it seemed his father was either unable or unwilling to see anything that Faramir had accomplished unless it had gone badly. Perhaps it would be better for him to go, Boromir thought. The idea of being able to continue at his own post was tempting…
The discussion with his father earlier that day filled his thoughts once more. Boromir had tried to plead Faramir's case; he certainly did not want to give up on the battle to seek out some elf haven. It had all been in vain. I entrust this task to you alone, my son, Denethor had said. I know you will not fail me.
"I cannot," Boromir heard himself say. Faramir looked stunned, to say the least. Something inside of Boromir snapped then. Does he think he can manipulate me so easily? "I gave him my word!" he said, barely noting that he was now shouting. "He trusts me, Faramir. I will not throw that away so easily. At any rate, he did not even consider this dream of yours to have any importance until it came to me." Faramir's eyes narrowed, then he abruptly turned and headed for the door. "Where are you going?" Boromir asked.
He looked back, his eyes blazing. "If I stay here a moment longer, I will say something that I will surely regret later." And with that, he closed the door behind him.
Boromir stared at the door for a moment, then resumed violently shoving things into his pack. He would allow some time for both of them to calm down, then try to talk some sense into Faramir. I will make him understand, he determined. Duty or not he could not stand by and let his little brother take such a dangerous road. There would be time to make amends later.
As soon as he was back out in the hall, Faramir took a deep breath to try to calm himself, and failed. He could not remember ever being so angry with Boromir. They had gone through their share of fights as children, of course, but in spite of their differences, they had always been close.
Boromir had always laughed it off before when Faramir's dreams troubled him. Though he was by no means stupid, his older brother was much simpler, preferring the straightforward life of a soldier to seeking out messages hidden in dreams. But in this one case, at least, he had thought that Boromir would understand.
He let out a ragged breath as he fought to regain control of himself and quickly walked out to the courtyard; perhaps the air would help him clear his head. I should be the one going. Why will henot listen? If the matter were not so serious, he could have burst out laughing at the thought of Boromir taking counsel with Elves over the matter of a dream. It went against everything in his brother's nature—just as being forced to stay behind and lead his countrymen to death in battle went against his own. If only Father could see that…
As if that would do any good. No, he could not ask for Denethor's aid in changing Boromir's mind. But there had to be a way. If only he had more time…
"Faramir!" He was jerked out of his thoughts by the all-too familiar sharpness in his father's voice. Faramir looked up to see Denethor standing in the entrance to the hall, a scowl on his face.
I wonder what I did this time, he thought bitterly as he bowed. "My lord," he said, straightening.
"Since your brother has secured the garrison at Osgiliath for the time, I believe your company can return to Ithilien. You will leave at first light."
Faramir stood silent for a moment, deciding how to respond. Denethor gave him a steely look. "Does that not please you? I thought you wanted to return quickly."
Faramir raised his eyes warily, waiting for the trap to spring. "I did—I mean, I do, my lord," he answered.
"Then, pray tell, what has changed your mind?" Denethor asked.
Clasping his hands behind his back, Faramir quickly searched his mind for a reasonable excuse but could find none. I may as well be honest, he decided, and said, "I was hoping I might be allowed to wait until after Boromir's departure."
Denethor seemed surprised at the candid answer, but quickly masked it. "In order to attempt to convince him to allow you to go in his place, I suppose," he said coldly.
Faramir's jaw clenched a little as he fought to keep himself from becoming angry again. Always it had seemed to him that his father had an uncanny ability to read the thoughts of other men—a trait that, more than once, he had been told he shared with Denethor. Unfortunately for Faramir, this meant that Denethor was quickly able to find his weaknesses, whether real or perceived, and turn them against him. He had to guard his words constantly around his father, and could not help wondering if the verbal parrying wearied the Steward as much as it did him.
"It seems to me that it would make more sense for Boromir to stay," Faramir said. "Would you have the Captain of Gondor's army play messenger while we stand on the brink of war?"
"There is no one else to send," Denethor said firmly.
"You could send anyone else! Why not send me instead? Surely my leadership skills will be less sorely missed," Faramir exclaimed bitterly, losing his temper momentarily.
"Boromir is heir to the Stewardship, and so it is more fitting for him to go to the Elf-council." It seemed to Faramir that something in the Steward's gaze softened a bit as he added, "And I would not send him at all if I were unable to leave Gondor's defense in capable hands."
Faramir stared for a moment in disbelief; that was the closest thing to a compliment he had received from his father in years. "Thank you, my lord," he finally said, bowing again and stepping back to depart.
"I did not give you leave to go, Faramir," Denethor said, his usual stern gaze back in place.
"Forgive me, my lord," Faramir replied, quickly suppressing the embarrassed flush that threatened to color his face.
"I suppose your departure can be delayed by a few hours. See that they are not wasted. You may go now." Denethor turned to leave.
"Thank you, Father," Faramir said impulsively, allowing a small smile to cross his face. It seemed to him that Denethor froze for just a moment, as if he wanted to say something more, but then walked away. It did not bother Faramir for once.
Early the next morning, Denethor watched his sons from a window in the tower. As soon as he had left his younger son, he had regretted his moment of weakness in allowing Faramir to stay. But now the sting of regret had softened as he observed the two younger men.
Though he could not hear what passed between the brothers, he could tell that all was well between them again from the smiles they wore, though each one's expression was softened by concern for the other's well-being during their separation. As much as he did not understand the bond between the two, he was glad that at least they had been given the time to make amends; he knew that if anything happened to either of them, the other would never forgive himself if they parted in bitterness. And he would not place that burden on Boromir.
Nor would he place it on Faramir, he realized. Remembering the heart-wrenching look of hope in the eyes of his younger son during their meeting the day before made him wonder how things had gone so ill between them. At that moment, Faramir happened to glance in his direction. Their eyes locked briefly, and Faramir smiled. It took all his effort not to turn away. Thankfully, Faramir's attention was soon drawn back to Boromir, and Denethor relaxed once more. But he could not keep out a hopeful thought that perhaps there was still time to mend whatever had fallen between them.
A/N: This was written for a challenge at A'mael Taren to either portray Faramir's relationship with Boromir in a negative light, or his relationship with Denethor in a positive one. The title was inspired by Gandalf's quote that "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." Since this was the last time they would all be together, I thought it appropriate for Middle-Earth's most dysfunctional family.