Disclaimer: Oh you know the drill. I don't own anything. You know that. I guess I should give special mention to the lyrics in [ ]'s, as they aren't actually reprinted with the kind permission of Vertical Horizon's recording company, but I swear I'm not making any money off of this, so they'll just have to forgive me. (Oh, to anyone who knows the song, I'm aware I skipped the third verse - it was too long with it.) Enjoy. =)

I'm Still Here

It had been a long, long while since I had been brave enough to come here. For the past two years I had avoided it on every occasion, unwilling to confront the memories. Even before that, I cannot remember coming here of my own free will; as a child I was more than a little afraid of the Silent Street. A premonition of things to come, perhaps? I cannot know.

[I held the pieces in my hand]

Nevertheless, something provoked me into going that night. It might have been a valiant attempt to face my fears, but I suspect it was born more out of my irritation at the obvious caution of my wife and of the King whenever something remotely related to the Street and its past came up in conversation. I think I was just tired of their indulgence on the subject. So I suppose it was not too surprising when one night my feet brought me to Rath Dínen.

[They were always there, it just took some time for me to understand]

Despite all my convictions, though, I shuddered as I passed through the menacing iron doors, and my nerves almost failed me. It is one thing to have nightmares; it is another thing to walk into them. But I forced myself into the center of the room, forced myself to look at the burned marks on the floor.

[You gave me words I just can't say]

A chill wind picked up, drafting in through the doors I had left ajar. Dust from the cloak that I had neglected changing after meandering about Minas Tirith all day was brushed off and swept away. It swirled around the chamber for a moment, then in an instant it was gone, as quickly as smoke and ash. I wrapped my cloak tighter around me.

[So if nothing else, I'll just hold on while you drift away]

It occurred to me, then, that the cloak that I wore was the same Ranger's cloak that I had worn throughout my own, small part in the War of the Ring. Twining my fingers into the green material, painful memories made their way home from where I had tried to banish them two years ago. Finding Boromir's horn, the Nazgûl attack on my company . . . And falling. That was what I remembered most about the War. Falling. And as I fell, I remember the sense of failure. Failing him, as a soldier, and a captain, and a son.

['Cause everything you wanted me to hide, is everything that makes me feel alive]

Resigned and melancholy, despite having survived my walk down the dark memory lane, I left Rath Dínen behind me, and climbed up on the walls. Here, at least, one might think I could find more pleasant memories, but my thoughts rested not on the Houses of Healing but on the Pelennor Fields. I wondered if he had looked out here, and despaired at the sight. I wished he could see what I could see. The end of the world had not come. Everything was mending – even my heart.

[The cities grow, the rivers flow]

'Where are you?' I almost cried to the empty fields, though I knew I would get no answer. I hated not knowing even more than I had hated knowing, because at least then I had had something to work for, even if it was in vain. But this . . . Could he see me? Did he resent that it was I who now bore the mantle of Steward, and not Boromir?

[Where you are I'll never know, but I'm still here]

An old flame of bitterness started at that thought. Was I really so less equipped to serve as Steward than Boromir? The Steward's place was not to fight; his was to plan, and to aid the King in a time of peace, as it was. If there was one thing I had been better at it, it had been negotiating, peacemaking.

[If you were right and I was wrong, why are you the one who's gone?]

Surely, then, there was no longer any cause for hard feelings. I could feel my eyes stinging as I thought about this. Did death end the pain, the feuds? Or did they endure, bound to the heart forever and on, cankerous and rotten, forever poisoning the unfortunate that they had latched onto? Did that rage, that hate, did it last forever?

[But I'm still here]

There was another question that had come up more than once. Did I hate him? My wife seemed to think that I should, and even the King, for all his wisdom, did not seem to see why I still found myself sitting in a daze, wondering over this. For them it was simple, but if there was one thing I had learned in my life, it was that nothing was.

[I've seen the ashes in my heart]

It was late, and my legs had been holding my heavy heart up all day, so I sat down against the wall, still musing on my dark thoughts. They didn't understand why I didn't hate him, couldn't see how long I had convinced myself that it was me, not him, that was the problem. Ever since I knew what made him happy and what did not I had striven to do the former. Even when I knew, deep inside, that it was not I who was at fault, I ignored it.

[I smile the widest, when I cry inside and my insides blow apart]

I had tried to be Boromir, oh, how I had. The smallest children can see when another does something that merits reward, and he will try to imitate it. And I did, even when I was no longer a child. But I was always a little behind, no matter what. And yet somehow, my resentment did not build up against him, just against myself.

[I tried to wear another face]

All I had ever wanted was one word of praise. Just one word, one moment in which I could feel like Boromir. And every time I failed I swore to myself that I would try harder the next time. Next time, that was what I was always saying. Next time I can do better.

[Just to make you proud, just to make you put me in my place]

I had tried, oh I had tried. Everything he had wanted from me, I strove to accomplish it. The smallest things, the petty, insignificant trifles, I wanted so much to be what he wanted. And every time I tried, tried so hard I thought it might kill me, and unto that it almost did, I failed him.

[But everything you wanted from me, is everything I could never be]

In frustration I stood, and began to walk along the walls again, wondering where this onslaught of reminiscing had come from. Why tonight? What had I hoped to accomplish by going to Rath Dínen? Could I not, months after his death, find peace?

[Maybe tonight, it's gonna be all right, I will get better]

I had to come to terms with it. Boromir was dead. My father was dead. They were facts, undeniable pieces of information that I had struggled with many nights. I think, to some extent, I was tired of fighting with myself. I was tired of my own inability to face up. What I needed to do, really, was change the way I thought about them.

[Maybe today it's gonna be okay, I will remember]

The past was the way it was, and there was nothing I could do to change it. The only thing to be done, I began to realize, was to accept it. Worrying, as my wife has always been known to tell me, does no good. It was over. If I could stop wishing for a moment, maybe I could begin to move on.

[The lights go out the bridges burn, once you're gone you can't return]

One more night, I told myself. For one more night you can wonder and fret and wish. But though I gave myself permission, I didn't quite feel up to it. There was an ache in my heart, but it felt like healing. Could it be, I wondered? Could I finally be moving past this?

[But I'm still here]

The irony of it had never escaped me. I, the coward, the weak one, the one less likely to make way for himself, was the one who had survived. 'The old that is strong does not wither' someone had told me once, but I am not sure I believe it. The strong are sometimes the weakest, I think. I believe more in the story of the oak and the rushes; when the winds came, the strong oak put up a fight and was knocked down, but the yielding reeds survived.

[Remember how you used to say I'd be the one to run away]

Once more I looked out from the walls, into the night. I couldn't say I would have wanted to be that oak, to go down fighting. After thirty years of trying to deny it, I couldn't lie to myself any more. I was a reed – I always had been, and I always would be. And so I remained, yielding and surviving.

[But I'm still here]

Sometimes in my dreams I can hear my father's voice. I am never sure exactly what he is saying, or at least I can never seem to remember when I awake, but I think it was kind. That was all I ever wanted, really. My wife and my King do not understand my sorrow, I see now, because they do not understand that I loved him.

[I'm still here]

But I did. I always did, and I think I always will.

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