Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize.
Author's Notes: Many, many thanks to Mandi for being the world's best beta. This was inspired by a drabble I wrote for A'mael Taren's weekly challenge a week or so ago. Anyone like to hazard a guess as to which? Any feedback is very, very much welcomed. I thrive on it! Also, anyone waiting for the next chapter of In Dreams, I've been having computer problems and managed to lose about half of what I had done in chapter 4. I am now using my old computer which, while old, is rather reliable, so In Dreams will be updated soonish if there aren't anymore problems.
Faramir could not help but smile as he was caught and held tightly in his brother's arms. He suddenly felt as if he had come home, as he had not, even as he rode through the gates of the city. At times this city, much as he loved it, seemed to chill his blood and make ice of his heart. Returning to it in recent times...it had not been pleasant.
Boromir frowned. Faramir felt too thin to him. Oh, his brother had always been slender, taking after their Dol Amroth roots, but he felt thin which was no good for a soldier simply because of the need for brute force at times. He pulled back, holding his little brother at an arm's length and studied him carefully.
Too pale as well. "Do they not have sun in Ithilien, brother?"
Faramir laughed slightly. "We live in caves and hunt in masks, so, no, it feels sometimes as if we do not!"
"Perhaps you shall take some time in the sun while you are here then, you begin to look like a ghost!" Boromir teased. "How long are you here for?"
"A week," Faramir answered. "I assume you have also come for the cadet inspections?"
"Yes, but I would have thought the Captain of Ithilien would be attending?" Boromir asked.
Faramir shrugged, "He said I could tell if a lad is suitable as well as he and could judge a man's character better. He deplores coming here as it is, he is not one for walls."
Boromir laughed and clapped his brother on the shoulder. He did not miss, or comment on, the wince Faramir gave. "Having met the man that surprises me little. Come, have a glass of ale with me and some food. We have plenty to catch up on! How long has it been since we have been together?"
"Too long," Faramir answered, shaking his head with reluctance. "But I will have to pass on your offer. I must attend father."
"Ah, he will not care if you put it off for a time," Boromir encouraged. Faramir gave a shake of his head, resolute. Boromir sighed, knowing he could often get away with the time before reporting, especially since it was unlikely Faramir brought news of much importance. "Well, then we shall only delay dining. I will not be cheated of your company when I may have it!"
Faramir smiled slightly, "That would be most welcome. I know not how long I will be, but I wish to change before seeing father..."
Boromir snorted. It was like his brother, he thought, though he knew well while he could go before their father in clothing that was covered in mud from toe to collar Faramir would be chastised for the dust he could not have helped but pick up on the ride to the city.
"I shall walk with you to your apartments then," Boromir offered. "I have little better to do."
"I find that difficult to believe," Faramir said dryly.
"Ah, brother, there is little I would rather do than be a bother to you," Boromir teased. "Come on now, the sooner you report to father the sooner we can get to the ale!"
Boromir led the way into Faramir's darkened apartments, regaling his brother with a particularly amusing tale involving a man in his troop, a horse, and a serving lass from an inn on the first circle. He paid no heed to where he was going and upon entering the dim room promptly tripped over a chest and fell between two more.
"What on Arda..." He muttered, scowling at his brother. "And father says you are the neatest of the two of us!"
Faramir frowned, quickly lighting a lamp. He looked around the room and heaved a sigh. There were chests scattered about. He checked his other rooms. There were even two sitting upon his bed.
"Faramir, I know you tend to be a pack rat but this is ridiculous," Boromir commented. "You need to cull this herd of books you have!"
"These do not belong to me," Faramir told him. He opened a chest and found it full of drab women's garments. "These belong to our aunt, may she rest in peace."
Boromir frowned. Their eldest aunt on their father's side had passed away last summer. "What are these things doing in your chambers?"
"Father must not have found a place for them yet," Faramir explained, he looked about. Some of his things were disturbed, but whether that was from the acquiring of the chests or his father investigating...He cared not which it was, not much, there was nothing he had to hide from his father and nothing was broken, only set out of place. It stung a bit, thinking it was done from distrust.
"This is absurd," Boromir groused. He followed Faramir as he picked his way through the chests into his bedroom and his wardrobe. He watched as Faramir moved a bulky wooden stool away so he could access his clothing. "Faramir, this is ridiculous!"
"I know," Faramir replied, selecting new clothing.
"It will take hours to move all this," Boromir complained. "Though I cannot figure why it is here in the first place."
Faramir shrugged, stripping off his dusty tunic. "It was closer to her rooms than the storage areas on the lower levels of the Citadel most likely."
"Yes, but it has been months since she died," Boromir's frown deepened. His little brother had acquired too many new scars.
"I have not been here in some time. I wonder what her old apartments became," Faramir replied. "I thought they would not be here when I returned. Father told me he would move them some time ago and I did not check when I was last here. I did not stay in the Citadel."
"What? Why not?" Boromir demanded. "Where did you stay?"
"In the barracks," Faramir answered. "Mablung and I were leading some green recruits, we thought it best to stay with them the night before we left. They were a chatty group, I recall."
Faramir did up the fastenings of his tunic and turned to his brother. "Well?"
Boromir nodded. The clothing, dark grey in colour, was a bit loose but well enough. He gestured about. "You will speak to father about this?"
"I will mention it. He will likely not move anything this day though, it grows late," Faramir shrugged. "I will shift enough before I find my bed tonight."
Boromir scowled. "There is hardly room in here to move! If he does not see fit to remove at least some of this then my apartments will have to do for the both of us."
"Brother..." Faramir began.
"Do not argue, brother," Boromir smiled, attempting to make light of it. "With your luck you shall wake in the night, attempt to find your chamber pot and, in doing so, trip over a chest and reak a wrist!"
Faramir chuckled wanly. "Fine, fine. Shall I meet you there after I see father?"
"Yes, and I will have the food," Boromir paused, his expression serious. "You look overtired, brother, tonight perhaps we should stay in. We shall have time to visit the taverns later."
"I will not argue," Faramir replied, he straightened slightly, as if preparing himself already to go before their father. Boromir felt a pang of something akin to sadness, flavoured with slight anger. It pained him often, this strained relationship between the two dearest people in the world to him.
It was more than an hour before Faramir joined him in his apartments, the strain on his face just slightly more pronounced and a bundle of parchment under his arm. Boromir frowned, but said nothing until he had sent for their meal and had Faramir seated in on of the comfortable chairs before the fire. He poured himself a glass of wine and offered one to Faramir, who declined, setting side his papers.
"So? The chests?" Boromir prompted, sitting beside his brother. Faramir shivered just slightly. It was only just spring and the air was still chilly.
"He said he will have them removed at the first convenience," Faramir reported. "He had forgotten they were still there, he said, and I am not about often enough to make much use of my apartments."
"Hmph," Boromir sipped his wine, pointing a finger at the papers beside Faramir's chair. "And those?"
"A review of the companies is approaching. He wanted me to get a head start so that the Captain of Ithilien would not have to come to the city long, perhaps not at all," Faramir replied.
Boromir frowned. "You already have duties enough with observing and evaluating the cadets. The reviews are not light things, your commander should be here for a week compiling it normally."
"He deplores it here, I told you before, I would likely to be called back as it was," Faramir told him. Boromir read correctly the look upon his brother's shuttered face though, anger, frustration, weariness, distress, and turned the talk to simple things, for he knew his brother ate less when unsettled.
The light talk continued after they had finished the meal. Boromir frowned at the small amount Faramir ate before declaring himself full but months in Ithilien had dulled his tastes and shrunk his stomach. Boromir had not thought of it before but realized as his brother pushed his plate away that rich food would likely only unsettle his stomach.
Boromir tipped off his brother's glass of wine, Faramir had consumed very little of it, and poured himself a new one. Faramir, he noticed, was becoming drowsy, warm and well fed before the fire.
"My thanks," he murmured as the good red wine filled his goblet.
Boromir nodded and opened his mouth to speak when Faramir's breathing suddenly hitched and a fit of coughing took him. Boromir quickly set down his glass and grasped his brother's shoulders in concern. "Faramir?"
Faramir shook his head, a few more of the deep, wet sounding coughs issuing forth before he could breath easily again. His throat felt raw and his eyes were watering slightly from the force of his coughs.
"Brother? You are unwell?" Boromir questioned.
Faramir shook his head slightly. "Just a cough. Many of the Rangers are afflicted with it in the spring. The caves are still cold and grow very damp."
"That is not conducive for spying," Boromir said with a frown.
Faramir gave a small smile, "That is why more of the healing herbs go to Ithilien in the spring. I had not yet been plagued with it before earlier this week."
"Hmph," Boromir tipped back his brother's head, gently, looking at him closer. Faramir allowed the touch without protest. There were circles forming under his eyes. "You should tell father you are ill and give him back those papers so you might find some rest this week. You look as though you could use it."
Faramir shrugged, avoiding the question. He knew his father would only scoff at him if he said such a thing, and his father's all too evident disappointment in him was not something he cared to face head on at the moment. In truth he was tired, having spent what felt like an eternity afield.
Boromir frowned, noticing the evasion in his brother's silence, but could not find it in him to press the matter. Faramir's eyes were drooping.
He sat again, and pulled his chair closer, sipping his wine and studying his brother. So much had changed in the time they had been apart and he had missed Faramir's presence keenly, but still, sitting with him again, even in silence, felt more familiar and comfortable than dining with his father, as he did often as his duties brought him to Minas Tirith.
His heart panged slightly. Faramir was tense, he could read it in his body language, and it was not, he thought from his presence. The underlying tension had been there all day and Boromir had come to understand as the evening wore on that it was likely a feeling Faramir could no longer easily shed even in relative safety and good company.
"I remember," Boromir began, taking carefully rubbing one of Faramir's calloused hands, "when there was naught but ink stains upon these."
Faramir made something of an affirmative sound to show he was listening. His eyes were closed and he leaned back into the soft chair even as Boromir leaned forward. His hands were rough now, and ever tensed from firing his bow and wielding his sword. Boromir continued rubbing the hand he held, frowning at the stiffness he felt in it.
"You seem much changed at times, little brother, and I wonder at the cost to you," Boromir murmured.
"For Gondor's good there is little I would not pay," Faramir replied, his eyes still closed. "Least of all myself..."
He made a soft noise that Boromir took to be contented so he continued the massage of Faramir's hand. "Yes, it is something I would also give my life for Gondor but I would not see you do so, especially needlessly."
"You must take better care of yourself, brother," Boromir murmured when Faramir said nothing. He took his brother's other hand and subjected it to the same treatment. "Gondor is better served by your life than by your death."
Faramir made a noise, but what it meant Boromir could not tell. Doubtlessly, had their positions been reversed Faramir would have known, he always seemed to, but Boromir had not the gifts his brother did. Instead he concentrated on massaging his brother's calloused hand, he moved on to his wrists and then forearms, very aware Faramir was quickly being reduced into a limp lump of what could nearest be called pudding.
"Lean forward, brother mine," Boromir instructed, rising to stand behind the low backed chair.
"You are going to spoil me," Faramir murmured, not opening his eyes and doing as his brother instructed. His head dropped forward as strong hands began kneading at his shoulders.
In truth the touch was most welcome, for it had been long since any had touched him with gentleness. A touch outside an attempt to take his life by the hand of an enemy, the hard but swiftly loosening grasp as he held the hand of a dying man, the rough pat to the shoulder that was the way of many soldiers when it came to showing affection...anything outside those was a rarity, for he did not often see his uncle or brother and his father did not touch him at all, save for the whisper of Faramir's lips against the finger that held his ring of office.
Once, Boromir knew, his brother had been a most tactile creature, even as he was not himself. Their mother had often cuddled with him before her death, Boromir had never enjoyed being held so, and so to had their father for some years before the relationship between Steward and youngest son became strained. So too had their uncle indulged his brother, for the Prince of Dol Amroth adored his nephews as if they were his own, and would deny them nothing.
Boromir though, he was not one who enjoyed being held or touched so. More carnal acts...well, every man had those sorts of frustrations at times and Boromir was only a man, in the end, there were respectable houses that could be employed. He would not have to, should he need the relief of tension, he, and Faramir also, could find ample members of the population who would be willing to serve for Gondor, as it were, but the need to be discreet and the precautions against having bastards spawned made visiting a brothel the easiest route.
That, of course, was a different type of touch entirely, but one of the few Boromir permitted.
Faramir made another slight noise as Boromir's thumbs rubbed the kinks out of his neck. Unless, of course, it was Faramir hugging him, that then, was acceptable. He wished not that his brother was like him in that, nor, indeed, in many things, for he saw strength in their differences even as their father saw weakness, for it felt very lonely, sometimes, not having the courage or trust to want to be touched, even when it was needed.
"Faramir, brother, do not dare fall asleep on me!" Boromir warned, feeling Faramir's body fall forward more and steadying him.
Another indistinct sound. Boromir snorted. His little brother seemed unable to properly communicate tonight. Not that Boromir blamed him, he could recognize exhaustion when it was so blatantly apparent. He wondered as he hauled his little brother to his feet if Faramir was due for leave soon.
Faramir had not brought sleep clothes with him but Boromir's did in a pinch, though they were too large and hung loose around his hips. Boromir guided him into the vast bed easily, for Faramir was half asleep and trusted his brother as he did no one else.
He began to cough as he settled upon the soft mattress but it quickly passed and Faramir dropped easily into dreams. Boromir stood over him for a few moments, grey eyes shuttered, a gently hand smoothing the dark locks away from his brother's face.
He retook his seat by the fire and picked up the parcel of papers his father had given his brother. Extra work, Boromir snorted, as if Faramir needed more tasks to handle! A brief examination of the parchments only made Boromir's frustration grow.
"Father, you are an ass at times!" Boromir growled under his breath. "Shall he go without sleep now too?"
He would take his father to task on this. His poor brother was exhausted, it was spelt out in his bearing, and even Boromir could see that. Why could not their father, so gifted in the ways of reading the hearts of men?
Boromir turned to look at his younger brother, and watched the shadows the fire cast play about his thin face. He swallowed a lump in his throat. How long had it been since they had more than mere moments together? How long had it been since they had been able to sit down together and share a meal without others about them talking tactics or one of them worked to the point of exhaustion?
More than a year, Boromir knew, even when Faramir and he were in Minas Tirith at the same time there was also so much to do. He had hoped they would have time while both in the city to review the cadets but their father, Boromir could have hit him despite him being Steward, despite Boromir's strong love for him, seemed to have other plans. He always did.
Boromir sighed, neatly setting the papers upon the table and clearing away the dishes, putting them outside the door for the servants to take. They would have taken them from the table but Boromir appreciated his privacy when he could get it, more often than not he shared a tent or room or piece of dry ground with at least one other man, if not a dozen or so.
Such was life in the service of Gondor's army. Here were the two of the highest ranking nobles of the realm, Princes in all but name, and both made do with a bed of dirt or rock on most days.
Faramir coughed in his sleep, his face creasing as he attempted, or so it sounded to Boromir, to hack up a lung. He hovered anxiously over his little brother, debating whether or not to fetch a healer, when the coughing ceased. Faramir sighed and rolled over without waking. His brother was obviously used to this, Boromir frowned at the thought.
Boromir sighed. Faramir was sleeping, peacefully as he rarely did for dreams and visions were wont to haunt him. There was nothing he could do tonight unless he wished to wake his brother and he most certainly did not. Who knew when his brother had last slept soundly? He shucked his clothing, donned a pair of sleep pants and settled on the other side of his broad bed.
Faramir woke to the feeling the sun on his face, a pair of arms around him and the heavy feeling of something resting between his shoulders with hair tickling his neck. He blinked. All three feelings were most unusual.
It took him a few moments to recall where he was and realize that, no, Damrod had not taken his duties as Faramir's body guard up a notch. That in itself was a rarity, for Rangers learned the value of being alert at once upon waking very quickly.
A long, loud sigh tickled the back of his neck and Faramir had to fight not to giggle. How did his big oaf of a brother manage to get him into these situations?
Boromir was, of course, still soundly asleep and Faramir had not the heart to wake him. He knew how rarely his brother got the treat of sleeping in an actual bed, let alone one as comfortable as that in the apartments of the Heir to the Stewardship. Even rarer were the times he had a life sized, warm, pillow of a brother to snuggle!
Faramir snorted softly, unable to resist at the thought. It was a mistake as he quickly began coughing and could not stop.
Boromir woke immediately and bolted upright, nearly flipping his brother off the bed in the process. Faramir curled into himself, gasping and coughing. Boromir hovered over him, unsure of what to do, ready to race to the Houses when the fit ended and Faramir lay still gasping slightly next to him.
"Brother? Are you well?" Boromir said, brushing his hair back gently. "You cannot tell me it is normal for your Rangers to have such coughs!"
"No..." Faramir agreed softly. "I seem to have it rather...badly."
Boromir snorted, "And Orcs are only a little ugly."
Faramir chuckled shakily. Boromir hauled him into a sitting position without giving Faramir the chance to try and get up on his own. He looked worriedly into the near twin set of his own grey eyes and put his hand upon his brother's cheek. "You need to see the healers."
"I will, I will," Faramir appeased.
"Faramir I mean it!" Boromir snapped. "We face enough danger, you and I. I will not lose you to a common cold because you are too stubborn to seek aid!"
"Peace, brother, peace," Faramir soothed. He put his hand against Boromir's cheek to calm him. Boromir's stormy grey eyes stared into his, trying to discern whether or not his brother was merely trying to coddle him. "I will go to the healers as soon as I have a moment to spare, I promise."
Boromir snorted, and glanced at the stack of parchment still upon his table. "And when will that moment be, brother?"
There was a spark of anger in Faramir's eyes for a moment but he kept it well under control. "I did not ask him to give me more tasks, nor will I relish the time it takes to complete them but I must still do them, unless you are suggesting I go against his orders."
"I am suggesting you inform him you are ill," Boromir retorted.
They stared at each other for long moments, both angry, both unyielding. It was Boromir who bent first, his eyes bright as they looked into Faramir's before he pulled him close. Faramir relaxed against him.
"What did he say to you this time?" Boromir asked quietly, weariness in his voice. "What did he say?"
"Nothing of consequence and certainly nothing new," Faramir told him. He closed his eyes and rested his head against his brother's shoulder. He had felt so cold, as of late, even his captain had commented on his constant shivering. Here, in this room at this moment with his brother he did not feel so chilled.
Boromir sighed, his breath huffing across Faramir's hair. "Do you wish me to...?"
"No," Faramir cut in quickly. "No, it will only anger him if you try to speak for me. You know this."
"I want to protect you," Boromir murmured. "I have seen how sharp his tongue can be. You cannot tell me it does not wound you."
"It does at times," Faramir admitted. "But I am not a child any longer, brother, you cannot fight my battles for me."
"Whatever age you reach you will always be my younger brother," Boromir told him. "I know well your worth, I know you do not need my aid but I still wish for you to have it if you want it. I will always try to keep you from pain of any kind, brother mine, you are the dearest person to my heart, how could I not?"
"Ah, brother, what ever did I do to deserve you by my side?" Faramir chuckled, "If you sprouted such poetry more often to maidens they would fall at your feet."
"A coin or two at the right house will get the same effect and those ladies are more skilled than any who swoon at pretty words," Boromir told him. He closed his eyes and with Faramir held close against him he could almost imagine they were children again, on vacation with their mother, without a care in the world.
Then Faramir's chest heaved with a cough and a trumpet sounded somewhere below them and the illusion was shattered. He rubbed Faramir back as the coughs ended, glad, at least, the fit was not a long one.
"In your first spare moment go see the healers, will you promise me that?" Boromir asked, stroking the dishevelled dark curls from Faramir's flushed face.
Faramir nodded, coughed once more, and Boromir helped him to rise from the bed. Faramir looked at him, slight worry upon his features. "We will be late."
"We will not be," Boromir assured him. "We do not break fast with father, he is occupied with meetings this morn and we will shortly be occupied with the cadets."
"Have you your eye on any?" Faramir asked, knowing that their father would automatically give his brother's company first selection of the recruits unless another company be in very great need.
Boromir shrugged, "One or two in particular. There is a lad whose linage stems from Ithilien that would fit better in a company other than the Rangers that I would like, but you should see to him first."
Faramir smiled slightly, thankful for the consideration. Most of his company was made up of men whose families had once inhabited Ithilien, who knew the songs and stories of the land from their fathers and grandfathers. He was one of the few exceptions, chosen for his swift, silent feet and talent with a bow. Children of Ithilien were first thought to be placed with the Rangers, though there were exceptions. Some people simply did not fit in the unit.
If the lad had caught Boromir's eye then Faramir did not doubt he would be best suited in his company. Boromir had an eye for assigning troops, he had to and Faramir knew that it would be a challenge to make a Ranger out of any who had his brother's large and loud fighting style.
The morning and early afternoon went well enough and Faramir did see some cadets who would do well in his troop. If his brother looked worriedly in his direction whenever he coughed he could do nothing of it until the master at arms called for a break in the training exercises they were observing.
His brother gave him a meaningful, well, it could only be termed a glare, when the arms master dismissed them all as if the commanders of Gondor's troops were still cadets themselves. Faramir nodded, fully intending to go to the healers while he had the time. His brother smiled and turned back to his conversation with one of his lieutenants who had made the journey to Minas Tirith with him.
He had intended to go to the healers, for, in truth, he did not feel well past what he knew to expect from a common cough. He went first to his rooms, where he found the trunks untouched, and upon leaving them came face to face with his father.
"My lord father," Faramir greeted, bowing slightly. He could feel his chest tighten and tried to fight away the need to cough.
"Faramir," Denethor greeted, not truly looking at his son, his mind elsewhere. "Have you the tallies done?"
"Sir?" Faramir asked, confused.
"The tallies. The tallies for your report!" Denethor snapped crossly.
Faramir flushed slightly, coughing just slightly and muffling it with his hand out of necessity. "I have not started them, father, I am..."
Denethor snorted. "You are not here on leave, you are here to do a duty for your commander and I will not have you wasting your time bothering the archivists for books of worthless verses. You, child, need to..."
He got no farther for the coughs Faramir had been trying to halt broke free and stole such breath from him he was bent double trying to catch his breath between them. At length the fit ended and he became aware of his father's hand upon his shoulder before Denethor pushed him up so he could lean against the stone wall, otherwise Faramir doubted he would have been able to stand. His head spun for lack of breath.
"You are unwell?" Denethor questioned, pressing his son's shoulders against the wall carefully to keep him upright.
Faramir nodded, still catching his breath. His father's eyes met his for a moment and he shuddered, feeling desperately cold and weak suddenly. Denethor frowned.
"You have not been to the Houses?" Denethor questioned sharply.
Faramir shook his head, fumbling for the words to explain to his father he had not yet had time to go, that his duties had kept him busy this day and it had been the ride to Minas Tirith that had likely aggravated his condition.
Denethor snorted, the slight sympathy he felt fading. If Faramir would not even try to look after himself... "Gondor can not spare you because you fail to properly take care of yourself. I expect to see your initial tallies tonight after we dine."
"Father..." Faramir began.
"I expect them tonight," Denethor repeated, his voice steely. "Do not disappoint me with tardiness!"
Faramir bit back any heated response and hung his head in submission. He knew too well that arguing would get him no where. "Yes, my Lord."
Denethor left him then, abruptly and without farewell. Faramir pressed the heel of his palm to his head, taking a few short moments to gather himself. If he had any hope of acquiring the information his father wanted, going to the Houses would have to be put off. He would only have just enough time to begin collecting the information before the master at arms wished them to be back on the field.
With a weary sigh he started off.
Boromir was becoming concerned. He could not find his brother anywhere.
He ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. Yesterday his brother had not visited the Houses, as Boromir had bid him to, but instead he had bustled about, then met with their father after the three Hurins dined together then disappeared again. Boromir had found him in his chambers, which were still filled with boxes, and taken him back to the Heir's apartment to rest, for it had been late and Faramir looked waxen.
His brother shared his break of fast with Boromir and their father. He had been on the field as the cadets trained before them during the morning session but he had not appeared afterwards, not even when the arms master reconvened to begin the practises again. That was most unlike Faramir which was why Boromir now sought him.
He was not in the Houses, as Boromir had hoped, or in Boromir's rooms or in the archives, as Boromir would have thought, nor with their father or in his own rooms. He found him, finally, going over old supply records of the last year.
He was hunched over a small desk, his breathing so aggravated in the dusty room that Boromir heard it before he entered. His face was pale and tendrils of damp hair stuck to his forehead and neck. His eyes were not entirely focussed and he shivered even as a bead of sweat rolled past his temple. As Boromir approached he was felled by another coughing fit.
Boromir went quickly to his side and quickly drew back the chair, murmured nonsense as he deftly loosened the fastenings of Faramir's tunic to allow him to breathe easier. The coughing fit did not seem to be ending and Boromir eased an arm around him as Faramir sagged. To his great alarm he saw that Faramir's lips were taking on a blue tinge.
Then, suddenly, Faramir was a dead weight upon him, and Boromir had to catch his limp body before he toppled from the chair. Boromir's heart constricted, relaxing only slightly when he felt Faramir's ragged breathing against the back of his hand.
Hoisting his little brother into his arms as if he were a child, and he weighed far too little for a grown man, Boromir stood and, without further delay, carried Faramir to the Houses before he regained consciousness and argued. This was ridiculous and he had had enough of it. His brother was going to be treated and he was going to be treated now and if any interfered he would tell them exactly which part of the Citadel they could fling themselves off of!
Faramir was just rousing when Boromir placed him gently upon a cot in the Houses. His grey eyes were not entirely focussed, but that likely had to do with his fever, which seemed to have spiked since Boromir had last seen him.
The warden came forth, for this was a son of the Steward, and examined him with rather remarkable speed before sniffing and promptly dosing him with several foul looking potions. Faramir did not complain, he did not have the time to, for just as a bucket was produced and held before him by a healer of lesser status than the warden, he began to fetch up what seemed to Boromir to be too large amounts of murky liquid.
He remained close to his little brother, the hacking bringing him around enough, and stroked his hair as the bony back arched against him painfully. Boromir felt fear for his brother but none of the healers looked overly concerned, if sympathetic, so he crushed his worry and poured his attentions into soothing his brother.
After a short while, though it seemed an eternity to the brother watching and the brother coughing, the hacking let up and Faramir collapsed, shivering, against his elder brother. Boromir had little time to lay Faramir properly on the bed before he was brushed aside, able to keep a hand upon his brother's hair to calm him but otherwise shoved out of the healers' paths.
They were an efficient lot, Boromir had to give them that despite his distaste for healers. They had Faramir stripped of his sweat soiled clothing, put into a gown, dosed several times over and settled on the cot before pausing to inform Boromir that his brother would be fine in a few days and would have had little trouble had he come to them when he was first ill.
Boromir received the lecture, for giving it to one was about the same as giving it to the other when it came to the healers and the brothers Hurin. Faramir was largely insensible as it was, a sedative having been one of the several elixirs he had been given, so lecturing him was a waste of breath.
Boromir took a salve handed to him, unbuttoned the healer's gown his brother wore and rubbed it onto his chest and neck to ease the pain there. He left only when he was sure Faramir would sleep for several hours, leaving a healer to hover about him.
He had sent a message to his father early, when he had first arrived at the Houses with Faramir. He did not doubt his father received it and it rankled him that the Steward had not come to the Houses to see personally what was wrong.
Faramir was ill, he was too thin and one of the healers had commented that he appeared worn out to a dangerous point. Boromir's jaw clenched. It appeared he had some research of his own to do.
The thought of his youngest son and his absence when Denethor had told him he expected a report of his progress from him before their evening meal had just flitted across his mind when what could be best described as a roar sounded, disturbing the calm chaos of his study. He was not inclined to rise, for he recognized the voice, as Boromir strode in, flinging the door open with a sharp bang.
"Nine months!" His eldest spat, fury in his eyes. "Three campaigns. Father you ass!"
Denethor was certainly not intimidated, this was his eldest and most loyal son, after all. He was, in fact, slightly amused by the fit of temper, and he had absolutely no idea as to what his son was raging about.
Boromir picked up a heavy book of something, Denethor did not have time to see the title, and chucked it across the room. He winced slightly as it hit the ground with a heavy thump, hoping it was not too old or too rare a book. Absently, he wished Faramir had been there to witness it, for Boromir would have then been in for a lecture he may just have heeded.
Boromir saw his father's bemused expression and his temper flared hotter. "It is no small wonder he is worn to the point of breaking, where a simple cough can so quickly become grave, you give a horse more rest than him for Eru's sake!"
Boromir paced, the fingers of one hand clutching tightly and painfully at his hair so as to distract himself. Otherwise, he would punch something and he knew he could and would not strike his father and striking a wall only broke fingers he needed. "Father, you did not even come to the Houses when I sent you word that he had collapsed and was ill!"
"Boromir, I have not the faintest idea who it is you are so gallantly raging for. I advise you to control your temper and speak plainly, it does not suit you to adopt your brother's manner of befuddling words with elegance," Denethor retorted, looking hard at his son before glancing away in dismissal. "If you are finished I have..."
"I speak of your son!" Boromir roared, his palm slamming onto Denethor's desk, which startled the Steward even if he did not show it. "I speak of your son and my brother whom I love and will not see hurt further. Even as he lies unconscious in the Houses because of your damn orders and his damn stubbornness and desire to earn even one kind word from you. So help me, father, if you fail to even acknowledge this I will discharge him from the service of Gondor as his Captain General and I will have him sent to Dol Amroth so our uncle may take over your duties as his father!"
"What?" Denethor could not hide his shock, he could barely comprehend what his son had just said.
"Do not tempt me, father, do not!" Boromir began pacing again, his eyes dangerous. He knew too well what could happen to soldiers who were pushed to the edge of their reserves. In posts like Ithilien it was even more dangerous, for there was needed even more vigilance.
"The first time he was due for leave he and the men he brought with him were ambushed, there were no deaths but several men, Faramir included, were injured and you ordered him straightaway back to Ithilien. You sent him back the same day he arrived!" Boromir accused. "His commander sent him on leave and you denied it and sent it back. I have seen the records, father! Nine months you have let him go without respite, when it is normally given after three in postings like Ithilien were the troops cannot be allowed to flag for weariness."
"Three campaigns, father, even I have times of rest between them. You demand too much of him and now he suffers for it!" Boromir ran a hand through his hair. "He suffers now in the Houses because of your actions, the healers lectured me, for he would not have needed to be there had he gone days ago instead of given impossible orders by you. That damned review, father, really! He is not commander of the Rangers yet and none other here this week for the cadets was charged with that who are commanders."
"If he had not the sense to visit the Houses it is not my doing," Denethor retorted, the accusations, true though they might be, rankled him.
"He had time to when? He barely sleeps trying to fulfill your damned impossible demands!" Boromir shot back. "He has catered to your orders since he rode in. The only time he did not was when he dined with me upon my request and slept and even that I had to all but force upon him. Dammit, father, you will be his death if you do not cease demanding the impossible from him!"
"If he can not even adequately perform in the tasks set..." Denethor began.
"No man could," Boromir ground out. "And I will not let you kill him."
Boromir looked at his father and saw a man simmering with rage and felt his heart go to his brother. His eyes softened as he thought of his brother, laying wane and yet unconscious in the Houses. "Father, you did not even come to the Houses when I sent you a summons saying he was ill. You have not even inquired of his health. Do you really care that little for your own son?"
Denethor did not answer, still enraged by Boromir's accusations and his own guilt. He was not even thinking of Faramir, only the challenge of his eldest son, and he did not met his eyes.
Boromir straightened and his expression closed. He often quarrelled with his father about his brother but never before had it been like this. He thought of his brother and wanted to weep.
Instead he stood and bowed to his Lord. "I will have papers for a leave of absence drawn up for Lieutenant Faramir and find him passage on a ship to Dol Amroth. I will accompany him there, for I too have leave to be granted to me, and when I return I will see to it he is given an honourable discharge from the service of Gondor's army."
"He will not allow it," Denethor said shrewdly and coolly.
Boromir paused before leaving the chamber and looked briefly back at his father, his grey eyes hard as stone. "You forget, my Lord Steward, that I have it on good authority that Faramir would do all that I asked of him, even more so than he would do aught that you commanded of him."
He left then, to return to the houses, to sit beside his brother, who slept still, and, when the healer stopped hovering and left the room, to cradle Faramir in his arms and weep into his dark hair as he would cry before no other, even as Faramir walked still in dreams.
Denethor remained in his study, his head in his hands, near trembling with anger, and only later realized that he knew not even if his youngest son strayed near death or not.
The healers had convinced Boromir to stir from his brother's side to go dine. Convinced being the word they used, thrown out on his rump and ordered away until he had eaten and bathed was more to Boromir's thinking. They were used to dealing with the brothers Hurin, though more often it was Faramir they had to bar from his brother's side to care for himself.
So when Denethor came to the Houses, his fur trimmed cape sweeping behind him, looking as imposing as he ever did, the eldest was not their to lock horns with him. They would have been unable to if he had been present, the warden cared a whit not about what station a person held, if they disturbed his patients they would be thrown out.
But in truth it was not Boromir who preyed upon his father's thoughts as he swept through the Houses, it was his youngest. The boy was the cause of strife between them again and would be further if Denethor did not settle this with him soon, for Boromir would see his brother off to something akin to safety and if he left the argument would be unsettled between him and his eldest and it would remain so.
Faramir would not leave without protest though, Denethor knew that much, but Boromir, he thought, would out stubborn the child, his eldest had the stronger will of the two. It was, in reality, more likely that Faramir would win that argument, though it would be with compromise. Denethor was not inclined to remember that Boromir would give all to his brother, as Faramir would give to him.
Plans to convince Faramir to calm and coddle his brother, though, disappeared like mist on sunny afternoons, when he was led into his son's room.
Faramir appeared pale and slight on the cot, the dark smudges under his eyes prominent against the paleness of his face and the stark white of the room. His breathing was laboured still, though less so when Boromir found him.
The healer attending him looked up when the Steward entered and gave a nod of his head as a bow before addressing the man as his patient's father. "He will be fine, my Lord. He is responding well to the medicines and will be abed but a few more days. It was lucky he was afflicted by this particularly strand, the others are more difficult to deal with and more likely to be fatal if left untreated for so long."
"He was not in danger then?" Denethor asked, his voice surprising quiet.
"No, or not much," the healer replied. "It has been rather painful for him, and will be yet, but he will not be leaving us just yet."
Denethor felt an amount of relief that surprised him. Faramir...the child was not Boromir but he was still Denethor's son and if the blame for his death ever lay at his feet...Denethor did not think he would forgive himself. Neither would Boromir.
"Come on, Faramir, wake for me," the healer was murmuring, trying to rose the fitfully sleeping soldier.
Denethor frowned, "Should you not let him rest?"
"He needs it, yes, but first he needs to get a few draughts into him," the healer explained, lifting Faramir as his open fuddled grey eyes. "We were going to wait until Lord Boromir returned but, you can take his place."
Before Denethor realized what the healer was asking of him he was supporting Faramir so the healer could coax some brew down his throat. Faramir was only half aware, Denethor could see there was little recognition in the hazy grey eyes, only, he thought, the knowledge that he was being care for.
Then the body he held awkwardly tensed, and the healer instructed Denethor to hold Faramir on his side while he fetched a bucket under his head. Denethor than understood what was to come but Faramir had already stiffened and trembled as he began to wretch helplessly. The discomfort fetched awareness back to him, and Faramir felt great waves of shame to know his father saw him in such a state.
He cast up less than before, though the dry heaves felt as painful as when he did expel liquid. He was too weary, when the hacking let up, to care that it was his father he collapsed limply against. His eyes closed and he gasped for breath, his throat and chest aching with pain.
He felt his upper body lifted again and the brews that followed might have tasted unpleasant but felt soothing in their wake. His kept his eyes shut and let himself be manipulated, feeling too wretched to protest until the top of the healer's gown was loosed and cool, hesitant fingers began to spread the healer's salve over his chest to ease the tightness there.
Denethor was surprised to see his son's grey eyes fluttered open, having thought the boy unconscious. There was haziness there still, to be sure, but more awareness than there had been before. Faramir at least recognized who was at his side.
"...f..father...?" He managed, his voice hoarse and quiet. Where was Boromir?
"Aye, child," Denethor answered.
Faramir's head fell to the side, as if he was too tired to hold it up, his eyes remained half open as he squinted to focus on his father. "...m'sorry..."
"You are ill, there is no shame in that," Denethor murmured, uncomfortable. "I had not realized how gravely."
"...still..." Faramir rasped. "...I...apol...gize..."
"There is no need," Denethor said somewhat gruffly. "Worry of getting well, child."
Faramir's brow crinkled slightly in a frown, uneasy without his brother. "...boro...boro...mir...?"
Denethor smiled just slightly. "The healers sent him to eat, child, and they do not listen to his protests as you well know. He will return soon."
Faramir made an indistinct noise and dropped into sleep, the healers brews making consciousness slippery again. Denethor washed his hands and thought, briefly, of leaving, but returned to the seat beside the cot and rested his hand upon his dark hair as he slept.
He remained there when Boromir returned and they regarded each other warily. Boromir bent over his brother, his expression tender. Denethor felt a spike of jealousy, though not towards Faramir, who so obviously had his brother's love and loyalty, but to Boromir, who seemed so openly able to feel that way towards his brother and Denethor's son.
Denethor rose stiffly and nodded toward the door. Boromir frowned but followed, pausing long enough to press a kiss to Faramir's brow before he followed his father. They stayed inside the Houses, knowing they could not raise their voices if they did. Boromir said nothing, but crossed his arms over his chest and waited.
Denethor looked sour. He may have found clearer perspective when it came to his younger son's well being but Boromir's stance against him still grated.
"Three weeks leave, effective when the healers release him from the Houses," Denethor spat. "I am sure your uncle will be pleased to have him visit."
"He will be pleased to have us both visit," Boromir replied, his eyes unyielding.
"I cannot spare you for three weeks, even if I would like to I could not," Denethor retorted. "You know this as well as I."
"I will go with him, if only for a time," Boromir said, then shook his head slightly. "Two weeks I will stay with him."
"One," Denethor replied.
"Two," Boromir answered, "but I will be on duty for the second. There is business to be taken care of in Dol Amroth that has been put off so far."
"Fine, but you must also entertain the ladies of the court at least three nights," Denethor told him. "To see if you can find yourself a wife."
Boromir's face tightened, this was rapidly becoming an old subject between them, but he nodded. "Agreed. And this will not happen again."
"No," Denethor said.
"Or I will make good of my promises," Boromir said, his face hard.
"I said it would not happen again!" Denethor said softly, harshly. "And so it will not!"
Boromir's face did not soften. "You know well where my loyalties lie, but I can no longer say I would give all for Gondor's sake. I would not give him for Gondor, not needlessly, not...not before me, it is too high a price and I cannot pay it, can you understand that?"
"He may fall, this you have always known, and he will be put in battle again," Denethor replied, his voice hard.
"I do understand what it is to be a soldier, father. I have been made for this role, as you well know," Boromir snapped. "He has not been, yet he is as well, and I will not see him die needlessly. I fight for Gondor and if Gondor is not the people, the love between brothers and between fathers and sons and all these bonds we cherish so between us then I know not what I am fighting for. Take my brother needlessly from me and I know even less for what I am fighting."
Denethor's face was grim, his expression unreadable. Boromir made no attempt to hide his anguish, his father, he knew, would only see through any guise under which he tried to hide it. "It will not happen again."
Denethor turned then, and left the Houses without pause, though he felt a pang of regret as he passed the door to where his youngest son lay, oblivious and ill. Boromir stood in the hallway for moments more, watching as the dark figure of his father strode from the Houses. He ran his hand through his dark hair and gave a weary sigh, closing his eyes.
His little brother lay asleep down the hall and he went to him and sat by his side in silence until Faramir stirred towards waking. He put on a mask of false cheer then and Faramir, for once and still under the daze of the healer's potions, did not notice or look beyond it.
"Urgh. I cannot manage any more..."
"Faramir, you are going to finish this. The healer said you should and I have not the courage to argue with him."
Denethor would have chuckled, except he did not chuckle, for the two sounded so similar to each other. He could not see them, standing outside the room as he was, and they could not see him and he felt a bit absurdly pleased that he could observe them unguarded, though he could only hear them speaking. Whatever the spat was, and it was hardly even that, Faramir appeared to be rolling over easily enough, for there was always a pause, then movement, then another protest that he had had enough.
"Do not do that. You look as if you are a puppy and I have just kicked you."
"HA!" Boromir's laugh boomed. "I should make a pretty poor puppy, I think. Now..."
There was a sputtering noise. "I can bloody well feed myself!"
"Of course you can." There was a silence and Denethor could picture the look Faramir had in his eyes. "Fine! Fine!"
"Damnit," And Faramir rather breathlessly used several words Denethor had not thought he knew and there was a silence then...a slurping noise?
Faramir was half sitting, supported against Boromir's chest, a bowl of broth to against his lips. Both their hands held the bowl, for Faramir's shook too much to hold it alone. A spoon lay abandoned, or had been thrown, across the room.
They did not notice he had entered the room at first, for Boromir's attention was solely on his brother and Faramir's solely on getting the broth down. Faramir paused, taking a few breaths, his head rested on his brother's shoulder. Boromir stroked his hair in encouragement.
"Just a bit more..." he murmured.
Faramir finished it and collapsed a bit against his brother, finally allowed to be exhausted. Boromir kissed his hair and set aside the bowl. It was only then that his grey eyes glanced up and saw their father.
Boromir made to get up but Denethor waved the gesture away. It would have unsettled Faramir who, despite the good-natured arguing, had the look about him of a person still under the influence of the healer's brews. His eyes held a certain haze to them that the sedatives the healers had given him were still strong in his system. The chances of another coughing fit decreased if he was not agitated.
"Father," Faramir greeted, giving him a smile Denethor could see was slightly dazed.
Denethor gave him a faint smile in return and bent to kiss his brow. He put a hand to Faramir's cheek, pleased, if a bit surprised, to find it cool. "Your fever is gone. That is good."
"Mmm," Faramir mumbled, a bit more into his brother's hold. "M'sorry, about the cadets, the report..."
"Ah, worry not of that," Denethor told him. "It will be taken care of, just think of getting well."
The report...He would assign it properly, later, though perhaps again to Faramir, who made headway he had not quite expected. As for the cadets...Faramir had only seen two days of a week's worth of training exercises, but he had made very detailed notes of those days, enough so it was clear what he was looking for and Boromir could easily find it for him in the remaining days.
Faramir smiled a bit, and turned his head to rest on his brother's shoulder, looking up at him foggily, with utter love and trust in his eyes. Denethor doubted greatly than anything could shake that absolute love in either of his children and it suddenly occurred to him that if either went against him he could use the other to force compliance.
He hated himself for the thought, even as he wondered how far he would be able to push, for they had a champion in their uncle and he knew without doubt Boromir would go to him to keep Faramir safe, and he hated himself all the more. How could he think these things? These were his sons!
But he did...He knew if any could rally the populace against him it would be his golden son and knew he had to keep him closest for that reason, even while he bore for him a father's love. He looked at Boromir then, who was looking not at him but at his brother, and saw not his son but ne who could bring about his downfall...
Then Faramir stirred and coughed just slightly and Boromir's grey eyes came up, worry unhidden in them, and Denethor saw his sons again. He put a hand upon Faramir's brow and the child closed his eyes, quickly falling back into dreams.
Denethor looked up then and saw his eldest son, his face drawn with the marks of not quite past worries, and smiled gently at him.
"Make sure you sleep tonight," Denethor told him. "Faramir will be fine, there is no point to you worrying yourself into a state."
Boromir nodded, and Denethor saw the weariness about him. He rose, and kissed his the brow of his eldest son, and departed, leaving his sons to each other. Business still remained for him, in the topmost tower, and he shuddered to think of it.