A/N a cute fluffy one shot X-mas story.

I own none of these Characters and only wish I did.

A Christmas Horse

Denethor quietly crept into the bathing chamber and watched his wife soak in the steamy, soapy water for a moment. She was as beautiful today, some fifteen years after they had first met, as she was the day he first laid eyes on her. The handmaid that was helping her bathe turned around and Denethor shushed her and directed her to leave the two alone. They had precious little time to themselves and he had no intention to squander these few moments. Especially since he didn't know how many more they might have. It had been scarcely two months since the healers had told them that Finduilas had cancer and though it was a slower growing type, she had no more than a year or so left to live.

But the Steward pushed those thoughts out of his head for now and walked with light steps until he was directly behind his wife. She was chatting about court gossip as she soaped herself and paid no heed that her "handmaid" had not answered. Denethor rolled his sleeves up and began to work some shampoo into her hair, taking care to massage her scalp. She almost purred in pleasure as he began to run the massage down her neck and shoulders, as the touches turned more into a lover's caress she whipped around in alarm to find her husband crouched down to the level of the enormous claw foot tub, smiling at her.

"Denethor, you are awful for scaring me like that." She pouted at him, feeling utterly foolish for not recognizing him the moment he touched her.

"Not awful, just cunning." His smile widened as she dunked herself under the water to rinse the shampoo from her hair.

"No, I think awful, terrible, and wicked for trying to trick me." She answered as she re emerged. She looked over at him and again thanked the Valar for her good fortune of being able to marry such a man. She supposed there were kinder and more loving men in the world, who would have gushed about her beauty but none that would have treated her like an equal the way he did. She was Denethor's partner in all things and that made her feel more special then all the kisses and compliments in the world. Not that she didn't like kisses and compliments, in fact; she liked few things better than kissing him because he was quite a handsome man if somewhat severe looking. She looked down from his platinum white eyes and curly black hair to admire his physique for a moment. He was long and lanky just as his name suggested. He had the strong lean body of a fighter with well cut abdominal and forearms and lovely muscular thighs. Maybe she could overlook his wickedness.

"If I am so very wicked then why did I bring you an early Mettarë gift?"

"You brought me a gift?"

"Yes, but you cannot have it until you apologize for calling me names." He playfully told her even as he fished a small velvet pouch from his pocket.

"Very well then, you are not wicked but wonderful, not awful but charming, and not terrible but handsome." Finduilas played along as she punctuated each compliment with a kiss.

"Much better." He smiled as the pulled out a beautiful gold and imperial amber necklace.

"Oh, it is breath taking. I love it." She squealed in delight as she fingered the delicate amber beads strung in three strands that connected to a center band that ran vertically of darker amber and gold filigree. She recognized it as the work of the finest goldsmith in the city.

"I thought you might like it. It will look lovely tonight with your burgundy dress." He answered off handedly.

"What burgundy dress?" She had been planning to wear a light brown dress tonight. She didn't even have a dark red dress.

"That one." Denethor pointed to a brand new dress hanging against the door. It was a deep garnet colour with the same filigree pattern as the necklace embroidered in gold along the cuffs, neckline, and hem.

This was really too much and she rose from the bathtub and launched herself at her husband, planting kisses all over his face. "Thank you, thank you, thank you. They are wonderful. I love them."

"Do you love them enough to stop using me as a towel?" He questioned. The front of his tunic was now quite wet.

"I suppose, but I would rather you took those off and let me thank you properly." She purred as she wiggled against him and nibbled on his ear while blowing ever so slightly against it.

Denethor groaned but handed her a robe anyway. He always lost it when she did that to him. "I wish I could, love, but this is the last council meeting before the end of the year festivities and I can't be late."

"Are you sure?" She kissed him and sucked on his bottom lip slightly, while giving it a small lover's nip the way she knew he liked it."

"Now who is being wicked, my evil little minx?" He asked as he rubbed a towel through her honey blonde hair.

"Fine, but you had better try and be back early."

"I'll try, now go put something on before you catch cold or I change my mind." He answered as he left the bathing chamber.

However he didn't come back early, in fact he barely made it back in time to get ready for the Mettarë eve celebration at Lord Forlong's. It seemed even after Counsel was over, every lord had something they needed to talk to him about privately. It was tiresome, but not as tiresome as the idea of spending the evening surrounded my nobles, courtiers, and assorted notables. Denethor could handle most parts of his job with quiet aplomb politics were not that bad, wars he could handle, even international treating was bearable, but he hated having to be sociable. Though, seeing as it was part and parcel to the title of Steward he quickly changed for the party.

"Here, let me help you with your hair." Finduilas grabbed the comb from his hand and began to expertly work the tangles from Denethor's dark waves. She then quickly put in a few very intricate braids ended with gold beads to finish off the style. With his pale skin and clean shaven face, she fancied he looked like an elf lord or a king of old. When she was finished she leaned down and kissed the top of his head. "There, all finished."

He took her hand and then met her eyes in the looking glass in front of them both. She looked like a vision of loveliness in her new gown and new jewelry. He was happy she had found the small amber crown he had left on the bed. But for all her beauty, she looked tired and wane as if the fire within her was starting to cool. The thought of it made Denethor's chest hurt.

"Are you sure you wish to accompany me tonight? I can go by myself if you would rather stay and rest up for tomorrow." He offered. Tomorrow was Mettarë and the Steward's house hosted a grand ball every year on that day. She would be expected to attend it as hostess.

"Yes, I am sure. If I get tired I will simply leave early. Besides, I don't trust those other women around you. One will try to steal you away from me even before I am cold in the crypt."

Denethor looked up sharply from where he was pulling on his black kidskin gloves to stare at her again. He didn't like it when she talked about dying. However, he also sensed that she needed some reassurance that he would remain faithful to her until her time came. He knew he would be faithful to her unto his own death. "You, my love, having nothing to worry about. Numenorians mate for life and beyond. And anyway, I am the one who should worry. What if some young soldier catches your eye?" He teased to help lighten the mood. It was a running joke with them that she was always a more popular dance partner than he was. It seemed half the young soldiers in Gondor had crushes on the Lady of the White Tower. "Now, shall we check on our children and be off?"

She nodded and the two of them headed to the nursery. They went first to Lina, the middle child and only daughter's, room. She slept soundly on her back looking as serene and beautiful as a porcelain doll. Both of them reached down and bestowed a kiss on her forehead and Denethor smoothed her thick black hair back as Finduilas tucked her quilt in more tightly. Then it was across the play room to the sleeping chamber their sons shared.

Boromir and Faramir still shared a room even though Faramir was nearly four and Boromir was eight. As they approached they heard the scampering of feet and the rustling of covers as two naughty little boys tried to get back into bed before it was discovered that they were awake past their bedtime. Finduilas smiled, thinking of all the times she and her own sister used to stay up late on Mettarë eve, dreaming of the presents they would get the next day. They waited until the rustling stopped then pushed the door open and walked in.

Faramir had his head under the covers and was giggling at the same time that Boromir tried to pretend to sleep but was unable to wipe the smile from his face. Finduilas knelt down beside Faramir's bed and peeked her head under the covers. "Hello, little one, how are you?" She asked.

"I'm sleeping." He answered.

"Clearly." Denethor deadpanned. At that Boromir gave up his pretense of being asleep and opened up his green eyes to gaze at his parents. They were grandly dressed for some reason.

"Where are you going, Daddy? Can I come with you?" Boromir asked. He had been trying to break himself of calling his lord father "daddy" but wasn't having much luck of it.

"So the little fox isn't the only one who is awake past his bedtime, I see." Denethor said as he sat down on the side of Boromir's bed.

"We were trying to sleep, honest, Daddy, but we couldn't quit thinking about wonderful things that will happen tomorrow." Faramir piped in.

"And what do you think will be the most wonderful thing?" He asked.

"The Guard Parade, the strawberry tarts, the tournaments, getting to see Grama and Granda." The two boys answered together. Denethor was quite proud that neither of them said the presents they would receive.

"And what about the gifts?" Finduilas cocked her head to side as she questioned.

"Maybe those too." Boromir admitted with a sheepish smile.

"Well you will get no gifts unless two little boys go to sleep so lie down and rest." Denethor tucked Boromir in as he spoke and Finduilas did the same for Faramir.

"Mama, you look beautiful." The little boy said as he reached out to touch a lock of her unbound amber hair.

"Why thank you my little gentleman. You must promise to save me a dance for tomorrow." She kissed him on the cheek and then moved to Boromir and did the same.

"You look very nice too, Daddy." Faramir complimented, not used to seeing his father dress up in anything but armor or his counsel clothes.

"Thank you, now go to sleep."

"But you didn't tell us where you were going?" Boromir questioned.

"Out, go to sleep." Denethor answered.

"Out where?" Boromir insisted on knowing.

"Out to give your gifts away to the children of Rohan if you don't go to sleep!" That finally got them to be quiet and he and Fin were finally able to head down to the six circle and the boring party Forlong was throwing.

It was some hours before Denethor returned; in fact well after two in the morning. He briefly thought about sleeping in his study so not to wake Finduilas, but the lack of fire in the hearth quickly dissuaded him. So he quietly stole into his room and divested himself of his stiff formal wear. He was exhausted from many days of counsel and politics. Tonight had been politics of a different type but no less draining than working with young Théoden of Rohan or one of the Sheiks from Harad.

As he entered the sleeping chamber he noticed that a fire burned pleasantly in the hearth and the room was warm, comfortable, and inviting. In front of the fire on a long chase lounge slept his wife. She had left the party well before dinner to return and rest. Denethor did not begrudge her the sleep; he only wished he could join her. The fact that she slept on the chase lounge rather than in the bed was a silent signal to him that she wanted him to wake her before he went to sleep. Very early in their marriage they had been forced to develop such clues to one and other due to his rather hectic work schedule. If she were already in bed that meant she didn't want to be disturbed, if she was on the lounge she wanted to talk to him, and if she were on the lounge in nothing but a long velvet robe as she was now, it meant she wanted an entirely different type of attention from him.

He knelt down and caressed her face and lightly kissed her lips. She returned the kiss before she even woke up, her subconscious recognizing his touch in a way that her conscious mind had failed to do earlier.

"Dene, you finally made it back." She sleepily asked as she stretched her back out. "Did I miss anything of consequence tonight?" She rose from the lounge.

"No, just the normal idiocy of the courtiers." He answered as he removed his boots and the last of his finery.

"Good. Oh, yes, Mithrandir showed up tonight." She walked up behind him.

"What did he want?"

"I'm not sure. He wouldn't tell me. He just said he needed to talk to you. I gave him some dinner and sent him to a room." She was directly behind him now, almost close enough to touch him.

"Good, let him wait to talk to me like everyone else, the miserable wizard." He groused. There was no love loss between the Istari and the Steward. Based mostly on Gandalf's insistent attempts to place Thorongil above Denethor in all things, even the affections of his own family.

"Don't be grumpy, it is Mettarë. Besides, I still owe you a thank you for the lovely gifts." Denethor then turned around in time to see her drop her heavy robe and stand before him clad in nothing but her new jewelry and her glorious flaxen hair.

By the time Finduilas was finished "thanking" her husband it was nearly 3:30 in the morning and they were both rather tired. But, remembering that they had young children who would no doubt run heedlessly into their parent's bed chamber and not hesitate to jump into bed with them, they both did remember to at least put on some sleeping clothes.

At just after 4:30, Denethor heard his door squeak open and the sound of quiet foot steps and the swishing of clothes. His first instinct was to reach for the dagger that was concealed in the underside of the moldings of his headboard. Then he came awake enough to realize that the treads were not that of an assassin yet he was still wrong on his second guess.

"Lina, my little dove, go back to sleep. It isn't time to get up yet."

"I have been called many things in my long life, Lord Denethor, but I believe it is a first to be called 'little dove.'" The wizard's face crinkled into a smile as he poked fun at Denethor's mistake.

"Mithrandir!" Denethor snapped in irritation. 'How dare that pompous wizard walk into his room in the middle of the night?'

"I need to speak with you and given the fact you are generally rather busy this time of year I thought the early morning would be a fine time. So up with you, slugabed." Denethor bit back and angry retort, as he slowly extricated himself from Finduilas's grip. She grumbled slightly but quickly fell back asleep after he kissed her forehead and smoothed her hair back.

Mithrandir had already exited the sleeping chamber so Denethor took a moment to compose himself as he pulled on a warm heavy robe over his pajamas and a pair of socks. He then brushed his teeth, washed his face, but declined to try and fix his hair. Finally, he stoked the fire in the hearth so that it would stay nice and warm for Finduilas, and hopefully himself if he had time to go back to sleep after the wizard was finished with him. Only then did he leave to go find Mithrandir.

As it happened, the wizard was in their family sitting room and had commandeered the chair closest to the budding fire. He wizard called for a servant to bring warm drinks. Only after the servants had brought him some tea and the Steward a strange drink that was half coffee and half hot cocoa that smelled wonderful, did Mithrandir begin his talk.

There was much to discuss about the state of affairs in and around Gondor and on most things the two saw eye to eye. On the things they disagreed on the Istari tried his hardest to change Denethor's mind. However, it would have been easier to pick up Minas Tirith and move it three feet to the left. The fearsome Steward was as stubborn as the day was long when it came to ordering his realm. Though right now, Mithrandir reflected, it was difficult to see the man as fearsome. The Lord of Gondor, the almost fabled Black Prince of Minas Tirith, sat curled up on a couch with his hair working it's way out of his braids, wearing baggy flannel pajamas and socks that were flopping off the end of his feet. Add to that the fact that he was drinking something that was half hot cocoa and the effect made the wizard smile.

It was startling for him to note just how much happier and more relaxed Denethor seemed since he had gotten married. Finduilas has worked wonders on the tightly wound genius. Yes, the Lady of the White Tower was a marvel. That was why he had chosen to present himself to her last night rather than Denethor today. She gave him a meal and the most comfortable room he had slept in since leaving Rivendell. Had he presented himself to the Lord there was a better than average change he would have been pitched out on his head. But the odds of him getting to stay were still better now than it had been before he had met Finduilas. Mithrandir had begun to realize what a horrendous miscalculation he had made by assuming Aragorn would wish to take the throne of Gondor after Ecthilion's death. He had worked so hard to make the people love the heir, who at the time was known as Thorongil, that he had thoroughly alienated the Steward's heir, Denethor. It was a mistake that he realized would never be fixed. Denethor had learned to tolerate him, but he would never trust him and never like him.

As the water clock chimed the hour at 6:30, Mithrandir declared their meeting over. He rose to return to his room for a few hours rest before the festivities of the day and was surprised when Denethor did not follow. "Do you not wish to return to your bed? I was under the impression you had a rather late night last night at Forlong's party."

"Yes, I did and will have another late one tonight. And you didn't help by waking me up at that Valar forsaken hour either."

"Then go back to your chamber and keep your lovely wife company as she rests."

"You only again prove that you have no children, Grey Traveler. There is no point in me going back to bed if the moment I lie down I will be woken again by cries of 'Daddy, Daddy, can we open our presents now?' And the more I tell them to be quiet and wait, the more anxious and noisy the will become." Denethor waved his hand dismissively at the wizard.

"And I am sure you never acted thus on Mettarë morning, when you were young?" Mithrandir wished he could stuff the words back into his mouth the moment he had said them. He well knew that there had been little but animosity between Denethor and his father Ecthilion. In later years, the strained relationship between Denethor and his youngest, Faramir, would be much discussed as an example of bad parenting. However, it had been nothing compared to the flat out abuse that Denethor had suffered at the hands of his sire. "Yes, uhm, well, gracious." The wizard stammered as he tried not to meet Denethor's scowl.

Luckily they were interrupted by the creak of the door opening and the soft patter of feet barreling into the room shortly before Lord of Gondor was mobbed by his youngest son.

"Daddy, Daddy, its Mettarë. Happy Mettarë." Young Faramir squealed in excitement as Denethor scooped him up and gave him a hug.

"Yes, I know."

"Can we open our presents?" He asked as he squirmed to be put down so he could root through the pile of gifts sitting under the window.

"In a bit, in a bit. We have to wait for Lina and Boromir, your mother, and your grandparents."

Faramir didn't answer, but ran back to his father and hid behind Denethor's leg, peeping out from the relative safety to look at the tall wizard. "Daddy, who is that?" Faramir tried to whisper.

"That is no way to speak to a guest, Faramir." Denethor scolded, even at three years old, his son must know the proper way to greet a person.

"I'm sorry." Faramir moved out from behind the Steward and sketched a small bow and said. "Happy Mettarë to you, good sir, I am Faramir son of Denethor of the House of Hurin, and you are?" Denethor's eyes shone with pride at his son's impeccable manners and the wizard's shone with humor at the formality of the three year old.

"It is very nice to meet you, Faramir of Hurin. My name is Mithrandir." He bowed to the lad in return.

Faramir then looked up at his father and asked again. "Can we open presents now?" His big grey eyes pleading.

"Not until everyone else gets here."

Just then his other two children preceded their mother through the door. "We are here. My parent are not far behind and bid us to wait a few minutes for them as they have a few more gifts to add the pile." Finduilas said cheerily as she received a kiss from Mithrandir on the cheek and a hug and kiss from her husband. She sat down on the couch and curled her legs under herself and arranged her deep blue robe about her for maximum warmth. Denethor immediately handed her a silver fox fur throw which she covered her legs with and then pulled him down to sit beside her. He draped his arm about her shoulders and she rested her head upon his chest. The two sat and watched their children poke around in the gifts for less than two minutes before Lina came and situated herself in between her parents where it was warmest. Finduilas sighed even as Denethor pulled the throw over a bit farther to cover his daughter.

Soon the Prince and Princess of Dol Amroth arrived with more presents and Denethor excused himself for a moment to talk with one of the servants. Soon there was bread, and different spreads for all and tea or cocoa to wash it down. Mithrandir attempted to leave, feeling like he was invading the family's personal time but the Swan House said they wished for him to stay and so did Faramir because the wizard had allowed the youngest Hurin to touch his beard and now Faramir felt they were good friends.

There were many presents to exchange since the House of Hurin and the House of Dol Amroth were two of the richest in the realm. As usual the children got the most presents while Denethor got the least and Finduilas the most expensive. Denethor thought her as beautiful as s queen and showered her with the type of jewels a queen should wear.

Then there came the tradition that Denethor and Finduilas had developed from their first Mettarë together of saving the most special gift for last. Denethor presented his wife with gigantic, deep blue bedspread that had the same star design as the blue mantle he had given her on their first Mettarë. She said nothing, but the tears in her eyes let him know he had chosen correctly.

Then there came her gift to him, which the children had helped on. She handed the Steward two boxes. The first contained four small animal shaped paperweights carved from marble. Boromir was first to pipe in that they had picked them out. There was one for each of his children for he had a habit of giving them animal nicknames. First there was a lion, who was Boromir because his son had a lion's main of golden hair and green eye. Next there was a dove for Lina because she was so peaceful and loving. Then there was a fox for Faramir, so named for his fox pelt red hair. Finally there was a kitten for Gwendolyn, their daughter who had died at before she reached her second birthday. Denethor kissed each of his children and thanked them for the thoughtful gift.

Finduilas then bade him to open her gift. Once the box was removed it relieved a picture, drawn by the Lady's own hand, of his family. It was set in on the shores of Dol Amroth, and depicted Boromir playing carefree in the surf, while Lina chased after him. Faramir was exploring a seashell in the sand, while Finduilas stood cradling a daughter who was now only a memory. Denethor was not one to cry, ever, but he felt a lump in his throat as he looked at the beautiful picture. It was a gift that spoke volumes quietly. But he heard the message from his wife, "remember me as I once was."

Before the two could get carried away with maudlin thought, Lina mentioned that they would like to have their special presents now too. So Denethor obliged. To Lina, his slow witted daughter, he and Finduilas had given a porcelain doll with blonde hair, dressed in an exact replica of Finduilas's favourite blue dress and mantle. It seemed conceited but Fin and been afraid that after her death that Lina might forget her so she wanted her mildly retarded daughter to have something to remember her by.

Next came Boromir. For his gift, Denethor had to leave the room, but soon returned with a squirming, wiggling, puppy of 12 weeks old. It had floppy ears and was brown with a black saddle. It was a type of shepherd used often by the army for their intelligence and loyalty. He knew Boromir adored dogs and liked these shepherds best of all. Boromir hugged both is parents and the puppy all at the same time.

Faramir stared in opened mouth awe at both the doll and the puppy. He could not imagine how anything his parents gave him could top those two gifts. And maybe it didn't top them, but in the years to come Faramir would look back on the gift and think of the happiest Mettarë he could remember.

The Steward scooped his youngest into his lap and asked him. "So my little fox, what do you think we got you for Mettarë this year. I think it has something to do with one of your favourite things. Since you have already been given books what do you suppose it is?" Denethor smiled.

"Jelly?" Faramir guessed.

"No, not jelly." The adults worked hard to not laugh at the little boy. Faramir's food and art supply of choice was strawberry jelly.

"Then I don't know, Daddy." The only thing that Faramir could think of that he liked better than getting to make a mess with jelly was getting to spend time with his brother and his daddy riding around the city and the plains on Denethor's huge black stallion, Onyx. Denethor then reached over and handed Faramir a large box to unwrap. Inside was an iron figurine of a horse covered in black enamel. The horse was arrayed in a complete functioning set of Gondorian Armor and was a perfect iron miniature of Onyx. Denethor had commissioned it for his youngest because he knew how much the young lad adored the huge stallion.

"Daddy, it is wonderful. It looks just like Onyx." Faramir reached a figure out and felt the smooth enamel. He then turned to his new friend and said. "Onyx is my friend. He lets me pet his nose and feed him carrots."

"Then he is a good friend to you, for that brute lets few but his master, there, get near him." Mithrandir smiled. He had had more than one run in with Denethor's elvish Mearas, who had a personality much like his rider.

"What is all the stuff he is wearing, Daddy?"

"That is armour, fox. This piece over his face is called the Chamfron and it fits over the horse's face to protect him." Denethor continued pointing to various pieces of armour and teaching his son the names of them and what they did and how they worked, while Lina showed her new doll off to her grandparents and Boromir played with his puppy.

All too soon a servant entered the room stating it was time for Denethor to get ready for morning court. It was traditional that the Steward heard pleas from those who normally were not present in court. They consisted mostly of peasants asking for this or that and it usually took several hours.

With a sigh, Denethor put Faramir on the couch and rose to leave. "No, Daddy, stay and play some more." Faramir pouted.

"Sorry, sweetheart, I have to go to work. But I bet if you are nice and get dressed and eat breakfast then your Grandparents will take you and your brother and sister outside to play in the snow for awhile." He tried to cheer up his son. There was nothing that he would rather have then to be able to stay and play with his children.

"Ok." Faramir answered dejectedly and watched his father walk out. Years later, Faramir would come to understand what the sad look in his father's eyes meant. He would wear it himself occasionally when he had to choose duty over what he wished to do. But on Denethor it showed that he would have much rather stayed with those he loved but he had sworn an oath to protect a nation until a king returned or it was destroyed and regardless of what he wanted personally he would fulfill that oath.

28 years later

Mettarë morning dawned and Faramir and Boromir were happily both in the city. Faramir woke first and snuck into his brother's room and jumped on his still sleeping form, eliciting a loud curse.

"Happy Mettarë, big brother." Faramir smiled.

"And to you, you little monster. What time is it?"

"Time to get up and open presents."

"You are 32 years old, you think you would have stopped being excited by Mettarë by now."

"Nope, get up. We have to open presents before father has to go take pleas."

"Ok." Boromir reluctantly emerged from his warm toasty bed. He understood that Faramir's love of Mettarë had nothing to do with presents and more to do with getting to spend time as a family.

The two made their way down to the family sitting room and found Denethor already there reading over some documents.

"I remember the days when my sons would have woken me two hours ago to open gifts." Denethor greeted dryly, without looking up from his report.

"Yes, well, I remember when the Steward would take an hour off an hour a year to spend with us." Denethor scolded as he took the papers from his father's hands and laid them aside.

"Shall we then." Faramir sat down and handed out presents and delighted in seeing how much everyone loved his gifts and in what he received as well. Then came the time for the special gifts and Denethor turned to him.

"So, fox, what is it besides books that you truly would enjoy having this year?"

"Jelly." Faramir hopefully asked. He still hadn't out grown his fascination with strawberry jelly or jelly of any kind for that matter. Consequently, Denethor made sure that Henneth Anun was always well stocks with several jars of preserves.

"Boromir, remind me to save the time thinking up a gift for the boy and just send a servant to the lower city for jam next year." Denethor answered then began walking towards the balcony and outside. Faramir followed.

"Father and I combined presents this year." Boromir said cryptically.

As they got to the edge of the balcony Faramir looked down into the courtyard and beheld a bright red horse that he had often seen his father training. He knew the stallion to be one of Denethor's prides because it was sired by a strong Rohirhim mother and his own Elvish Onyx. Faramir had just been admiring him in the stables last week. He did bear the rather unfriendly name of Orodruin or the Elvish name for the Mountain of Fire in Mordor.

"Orodruin, I don't understand." Faramir looked at his father.

"You need a better mount then those army horses you ride around on. He is well trained and well outfitted thanks to your brother. Enjoy him." Denethor said.

"You mean it? You are giving him to me? I can keep him?" Faramir stuttered. He was shocked at the grandeur of the gift.

"Yes, do I need to write it in a book for you to understand?"

"Thank you father. He is beautiful." Faramir launched himself at Denethor and hugged him tightly. This was the kindest thing Denethor had done for him in ages.

"Why don't you and your brother take him for a run across the fields to see how you like him?" Denethor suggested.

"That would be fun. Can you come with us?" Faramir asked, in hopes that just once his father would choose them over Gondor.

"I have to get ready for court, but you too enjoy yourselves." Denethor sadly answered and Faramir recognized that same look from long ago in his father's eyes.

"Ok." Denethor left and the two brothers stood on the balcony admiring the stallion.

"Let's go." Faramir said excitedly.

"Have fun, I'm going back to bed." Boromir gave a mock yawn.

"What, you aren't coming with me?"

"I have seen that horse enough thank you." Boromir turned a bit away from his brother so Faramir wouldn't see the mischief in his eyes.

"Oh, Ok, I guess I can wait till later when you want to come with me." A dejected younger brother answered. He didn't want to go by himself.

"I'll let you know when I am ready." Boromir turned to return to the room. Then he inched towards the door, "how about now. Ran you!" The blond took off running down the hall with his younger brother trailing behind him laughing.

Some years later

Faramir, Prince of Ithilien and Steward of Gondor watched in amusement as his son Elboron and Prince Eldarian had a mock sea battle on the blue carpet in his study. He was supposed to be working on some unimportant correspondences but he couldn't tare himself away from watching to two boys play. Elboron was slightly older but the more rambunctious of the two at just over four years old. Eldarian, Elessar and Arwen's son was a beautiful well behaved child that looked up to Elboron like a god or an older brother it was the same thing at that age.

Faramir was quite content to watch them play rather than work and that was part of the reason he had agreed to watch the two this afternoon. Elessar had wanted to take the ladies out for a tour of Osgiliath, which Faramir was more than happy to skip. He had then dismissed the boys' nurses for the afternoon and allowed them to role around and play on his floor like two overgrown puppies. It was wonderful. He remembered only through the vaguest haze, his own father letting him and his brother behave so but then again those had been different times.

It seemed that the sea battle had been a draw and the two were looking for something different to do. Elboron came up to his father's side and looked up at him from under a mass of strawberry blonde curls and tugged insistently on his father's tunic. Faramir looked down at him and smiled. Then he looked Eldarian, who stood patiently beside his best friend.

"Please tell us a story, uncle Faramir." The prince politely asked. It seemed he was tired and wanted to relax. Elboron on the other hand was still poking around Faramir's office intent on finding something more exciting than a mere story.

"What story would you like to here, my little Prince?" Faramir asked as he picked up the little boy and settled him in his lap. It seemed now Elboron was jealous because someone else was sitting in his father's lap.

"I think I would like to hear a story about dragons or maybe hobbits." Eldarian answered as he sucked on his finger in thought.

"Did Mama give you that horsey?" Elboron asked as he pointed at a finely made iron and black enamel horse figurine in full Gondorian armour. Upon the horses back sat a rider arrayed in black armour with a long black hair.

"Don't interrupt, sweetheart." Faramir lightly scolded as he stood up, with Eldarian in tow, and picked up the foot tall figurine. He then set the prince on the floor and called warm milk and cinnamon for three to be sent up then he settled the three of them on a fox fur throw on the floor in front of the fire.

"Nay, my son, your mother did not gift me this statue. I have had it since I was your age." Faramir thought back wistfully.

"Then it must be really old." Eldarian said.

Faramir smiled and managed to stop the retort that it wasn't anywhere near as old as the prince's mother. "It is not so very old but very special to me. My father, Lord Denethor gave it to me as a gift. It is a model of his horse, Onyx, the sire of my Orodruin. The armour is all perfect, you see. This piece here is called the Chamfron it protects the horse face."

"Not Denethor, Mama said he was as evil and crazy as the Witch King." Elboron cuddled a bit closer to his father even thinking about it.

Faramir purposefully calmed himself before he answered. If there was one sticking point between him and his wife when it came to raising children, it would be that she kept trying to teach them that they should be proud of their Roheric side and ashamed of their Gondorian heritage. Normally he didn't get too angry about it, but every once in awhile his "high strung, Gondorian Citadel attitude" would slip out and he would refer to her family as nothing more than "uneducated horse herders who were little better than combatant farm hands." Which, of course, would usually result in the two of them not speaking to each other for several hours.

But now was not the time for that. Instead he said, "Though your mother knows many things, it is best to trust me when it comes to what my family was like, seeing as I was the one who knew them best."

"Ada said he was a pickle pear." Eldarian tried to help out.

"Prickly pear, Dar, Elessar called him a prickly pear. And I suppose he could be, but he taught me many wonderful things." And Faramir spent the afternoon with the two young boys teaching them about how and why to armour a horse the same way he learned. And Faramir sent a silent prayer to the Valar that where ever Denethor was, that he knew that even after everything that happened Faramir loved him as much now as he did the day that the lord had gifted him with the figurine and that he wished few things more than that the great Lord who had once been his father could have known his grandson.