Even Under the Shadow
Disclaimer: Tolkien's, not mine.
The title is taken from Pippin's little thought processes about Faramir in "The Siege of Gondor": "He was a captain that men would follow, that he would follow, even under the shadow of the black wings."
Time-wise, I'm guessing this would have to go in the book, since Faramir doesn't spend the night in Minas Tirith in the movie. But that's just nitpicky.
[Brackets] are thoughts.
He was more than a little apprehensive as he knocked gently on the door to Faramir's apartment. But, as Gandalf had reminded him (more than once, he snorted to himself), he was bound to serve the Lord of the City, and that duty could certainly be extended to the Lord's son. Nevertheless, the man had appeared to be extremely weary as he left the audience with his father, and even more so after that confrontation. He wasn't quite sure that he wanted to keep Faramir from resting. Pippin shook his head to clear his thoughts. [I have a duty to do,] he said, and he gulped down his anxiety as he rapped again.
"Yes?" A voice that Pippin could now recognize as Faramir's called out to him. Pippin was a little startled at the lack of formality. [No servants at all!] he thought to himself. "Who is it?"
"Peregrin son of Paladin," he replied, using the patronymic common in Gondor. The unfamiliar words rolled uncomfortably off his tongue. "Gandalf sent me." A creaking could be heard from the other side of the door, like a man slowly rising from a chair. The door opened before him, and Pippin found himself staring up into the very exhausted face of Faramir. "I don't mean to intrude, my Lord," he said, squirming slightly under the intense gaze, "but Gandalf sent me with some food for you." For the first time, he began to doubt Gandalf's judgment, for the man before him looked as though he could barely stand, never mind eat a meal.
Faramir appeared to smile slightly, but it was hard to tell in the dimness of the hall. "Though I am grateful, Master Peregrin, I have already eaten."
Pippin looked at him mournfully, blushing in anticipation of the next comment he would have to make. [I can't believe I'm going to have to say this.] "Mithrandir told me that you would say that, and that he knows you haven't. He asked me to stay until you ate." [There,] he thought to himself. [At least that's over with.] Looking up, he awaited Faramir's response.
He was a little surprised when Faramir gave a small chuckle. "I can see there's no fooling him, or you," he said. Faramir stepped back, and opened the door wide enough for Pippin and the tray to enter. "Please," he said, gesturing for him to enter. With slight trepidation, he did.
Pippin turned to face Faramir once inside, as the man closed the door behind him. "Where would you like the food, my lord?"
Faramir exhaled slightly in thought, then waved his hand about. "Anywhere," he replied vaguely.
"The desk, perhaps?" He made his way over to the dark, wooden desk situated at the far end of the room. Apparently these apartments were rather small – he could only see two other doorways branching off from this main room, and since this room appeared to be a study of some sort, he assumed that the other two doors led to a reception area and a bedroom. [Just like a hobbit hole, but without the kitchen,] he grinned to himself.
Carefully placing the tray up on the desk (which was a bit of a feat, since the desk was rather tall for him), he thought he had succeeded in safely executing that challenge when a slue of papers rained down on him from the desk above. Faramir rushed over and took the tray from his hands, saving it from toppling onto the carpet.
"I'm so sorry, my lord," Pippin effused, highly embarrassed and turning a deep shade of red. As Faramir put the tray on a safer table, and dragged a chair over, Pippin stooped down to pick up the papers that had fallen, hopefully in the correct order.
"No harm done," Faramir reassured him.
Pippin, in an effort to hide his blushing face, put all his attention on his new task. "They always told me I was clumsy," he tried to explain.
"My friends and family back home in the Shire," Pippin clarified. He gathered the last of the papers. "I think that's just about all of them," he said, expending more effort than normal as he tried to stand with the weight of chain mail on him. [Why they all wear chain mail when they're not even on duty is beyond me,] he griped in his mind. With a few sore muscles he stood, and flipped through the papers with his hand, vaguely looking at their contents. Stretching out his arm to hand them over to Faramir, Pippin was shocked to see drawings, not official documents, in his hand. He pulled back his arm from Faramir's direction, as the man suddenly realized that his companion had noticed the papers' subject matter.
Pippin looked through the drawings in awe. The top one was of some soldiers, presumably Ithilien rangers by their uniforms; below it was a glade in the woods, again probably in Ithilien; under that one was a sketch of the Tower of Ecthelion. The last one, on the bottom, was an unfinished sketch of Boromir, holding his sword proudly as he stood looking at the White Tree of Gondor. Amazement flooded through him, along with the sudden and painful prick of sorrow for Boromir's death. "You drew these?" he inquired, noting the topics in his mind. "They're beautiful!"
"Yes, thank you," Faramir said quietly. "They are my work."
He looked up at Faramir. "A skilled hand was needed to draw these," he commented. "You have a talent for this." Faramir looked away. [Is it my imagination, or is he blushing?] He decided to venture another question. "Have you shown these to your father yet?"
Faramir looked back, raw pain and hurt clearly visible on his face before he blinked it back and put on his mask of indifference. Pippin instantly kicked himself. [When will you ever learn not to put your foot where your mouth is, Peregrin Took?] he chastised himself.
"My father does not know that I draw," Faramir replied. He paused. "Nor will he ever, I do not doubt." The implied meaning was clear: don't mention it in his presence. Pippin again felt the intense stare of the man, and yet he knew, somehow, that Faramir wasn't angry with him at all.
The gaze was broken as Faramir looked back at the tray, sitting innocuously on another table. "Perhaps I should eat before it goes cold," he said, more to himself than to Pippin. Pulling up another chair to the table, he sat down in the other one. Pippin moved over and stood attention beside the table, ready to serve Faramir in the same manner as he had earlier done with Denethor. Faramir looked at Pippin in slight confusion. "Will you not eat with me?" he asked.
Pippin looked back at him with the same confusion. "The food is for you, my lord."
Faramir gestured to the chair. "Surely Mithrandir did not expect me to eat all of this," he replied. "Hobbits have much larger stomachs than I."
After Faramir placed some cushions on the chair, Pippin grinned and sat down. "Thank you," he said politely, tucking a napkin on his lap in the same way as the man before him.
"Utensils," Faramir said abruptly, rising and making his way to the desk again. He came back with an extra plate and other eating implements, and, sitting back down, gave them to Pippin. "Please have as much as you like," he offered. Pippin unashamedly helped himself to a large portion of mashed potatoes and chicken. Faramir didn't even touch the meat, only taking a small amount of vegetables, chewing slowly and thoughtfully.
"I didn't take too much, did I?" Pippin was suddenly feeling presumptuous.
"Did I not tell you to take your pleasure, Master Peregrin?"
"Yes..." Pippin replied.
"Then eat as much as you like," Faramir said, with a slight smile.
They ate in silence for a time, until Faramir said something. Pippin hadn't been paying attention, concentrating more on spearing a pea, and so he had his companion repeat the question.
"I had heard Mithrandir call you Pippin, Master Hobbit – would you prefer me to call you by that name?"
Pippin looked up in amazement and slight awe after Faramir's question. [No one has even asked me that yet,] Pippin thought, feeling his heart warm. [I can't believe that such an important person would even care.] "Yes, please, I'd like that," Pippin responded happily, feeling a connection to this man.
"And I would be honoured if you would call me Faramir."
"Or I shall call you Master Peregrin," he said, his smile growing.
"Fine, then." Pippin paused. "Faramir, would you pass the salt?" He suddenly felt the need to lower his reddening face, and couldn't think of a better excuse than to look down at his food, as he blushed to think of how nicely Faramir had been treating him. [Most people in the City just want me to entertain them, for they are so curious about me. This is the first time I haven't felt like I was being interrogated.] He helped himself to some more chicken. [Might as well enjoy it while I can,] he reasoned.
"So tell me then, Pippin-" [here we go again,] Pippin thought. [I shouldn't have spoken too soon.] "-which do you prefer: the potatoes or the chicken?"
Pippin looked at him in amazement. "What?"
"I noticed that you've been eating mostly potatoes and chicken. I asked which you preferred."
"Potatoes, I suppose," Pippin replied hesitantly, still puzzled.
Faramir laughed, and the sound made Pippin's spirits lighter. "I didn't mean to confuse you. I was just curious," he explained.
Pippin snorted defiantly. "And Gandalf always calls me curious. He should try talking to you."
Faramir gave another chuckle. "He has, many times. Indeed, he is fondest of the curious ones." Pippin raised an eyebrow in disbelief, eliciting another chuckle. He felt proud to have made Faramir laugh. "Don't let the bristling demeanor tell you otherwise. His heart melts for the inquisitive person. Or hobbit," he added, grinning widely.
"I don't know about that," Pippin replied skeptically. "He limits my number of questions."
"Perhaps because his mind is on things other than the past, Pippin," Faramir said, suddenly solemn. "He has the future to worry about."
"Well," Pippin responded quietly, "the present has more bearing on the future than the possibilities of what might be."
"Truly spoken," Faramir said. He shook his head. "Come, let us not speak of such matters. Tell me of your homeland, Master Pippin. I have heard of the Shire from Frodo and Sam, and yet I would be very much interested in learning of your family."
Pippin's heart leapt. [He's actually interested in my family? No one cares about anything like that – they're more interested in knowing whether or not all their legends about the Halflings are true.] Touched, he put on his largest smile, took a large sip of water from his goblet, and gave a warning: "We Hobbits tend to go on about our family histories, sir." Faramir coughed significantly. "Faramir," he corrected himself. "I may go on for a while."
"Pippin, go on for as long as you like."
Pippin dived into his entire family history, throughout which Faramir sat quietly, listening with interest and nodding at various points of the story. Amazed, he could hardly believe that such a great man as this Captain was listening to him relate the entire history of the Took family, and an exhaustive tale of the most famous doings of the Old Took. "So you see," he concluded finally, "the Old Took is just about the most famous Hobbit in the Shire, excepting Bilbo, of course."
Faramir grinned. "I can see why. After all, it's not every Hobbit who successfully defends the Shire from the wolves during the Fell Winter. Definitely a memorable Hobbit."
"The Old Took was certainly a great one," he said. "And now, Faramir, tell me of your family history. Where exactly did the Stewards come from anyway? I've heard bits and pieces, but never quite enough to explain it to me. And why is there no King?" He took care not to mention Strider, though something in his heart told him that it would have been all right to tell Faramir.
"It's rather complicated," Faramir hesitated.
"If you can listen to me, then I'm sure I can listen to you," Pippin replied confidently. He felt a need to repay the man for all his kindnesses, and besides, he was curious about the matter himself. "I keep hearing people talk about all of it, and I'd really like to understand what's going on."
"Very well then, Pippin. I would be happy to tell you. It has been a long time since I have been able to teach anyone such things." Faramir went into a rather lengthy tale of the death of Isildur, and how it led to Gondor's Kings eventually falling as well, and the wars with the Haradrim of the South and the Corsairs of Umbar. Nevertheless, he explained everything very well, so that when he finally ended with Mardil becoming the First Ruling Steward, Pippin actually understood everything. [Which is surprising,] he thought to himself, remembering his lack of talent at remembering facts such as these. But Faramir told the story with such passion in his voice that it was hard not to be enthralled, as the man's foreign accent (to Pippin, at least) combined with the flickering candlelight to create an atmosphere that he had never before experienced, certainly not here in Gondor. Pippin was duly impressed.
"I'd have never guessed how interesting all of that is," he enthused. "Thank you so much for telling me."
"It was my pleasure," Faramir replied. He suppressed a yawn suddenly, and Pippin looked out the window, seeing a completely black night spreading out, but with a burning red light in the East.
"Goodness, it's that late already?" he asked, frantic with worry. [I was supposed to meet Gandalf an hour before sundown!] He quickly rose to his feet, and began putting the now-empty plates back on the tray.
"My apologies for keeping you," Faramir said, also rising to his feet. He helped load the tray. "Can I help you with something, Pippin? Shall I carry this for you?"
"No, that's all right," Pippin said, flustered and fearing the wrath of the Wizard. "I'll just take this and go, if it's all the same to you." Abruptly he felt sorrow at having to leave this dinner so soon, and not on account of the excellent food. Rather, he enjoyed Faramir's company, and would have loved to spend much more time trading stories.
As if sensing his thoughts, Faramir smiled, then knelt down and offered his hand to Pippin. They shook hands firmly. "Perhaps we shall share a similar supper together one night, Pippin. I would very much enjoy that."
"So would I." He paused, then looked down at his feet. "I'll see you tomorrow then," he said, an icy fear of the coming day chilling his heart.
"Aye, tomorrow," Faramir replied, trying to smile reassuringly. "Remember what you yourself said, Pippin: the present has more bearing on the future than the possibilities of what might be."
Pippin nodded slowly and solemnly. [If anyone can find a way through these times, then Faramir can,] he told himself confidently. "Goodnight, Faramir." And with that, he turned, picked up the tray, and left the room.
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