Disclaimer: Faramir, Eowyn, etc. are not mine.
For Calliope, mistress of all things handicrafted.
Summary: Fluff fic from the Houses of Healing.
I had promised him the day before that I would teach him the art of knot-tying. I don't know why I did, but I suppose that I was just tired of sitting under that same tree. Rest is one thing, but restlessness is quite another. I have always been one of those who need to constantly keep her hands busy, whether in practical work or in tying knots.
Of course, there is more to knot-tying than simple string. It is truly an art – infinite possibilities, infinite intricacies, infinite little twists and turns that mark an expert from a notice. And I am proud to say that I can be considered an expert.
It was my mother who taught me my first knot. Gradually, I progressed to more and more difficult patterns, eventually creating my own. When she died, I continued on in my practice. In some ways, I think it reminded me of her – her soft hands guiding mine between the elaborate curves and holes to wrap more string through the open passes. When winter blew through our open plains, and wrapped Meduseld in snow, I would sit and tie knots, letting the complex motions keep my mind off my troubles and help to pass the time. It is, I can say, the only supposedly feminine art that I ever took the slightest interest in.
So when I met him under the tree that morning, I came prepared with plenty of string and trepidation. To be honest, I had never really taught anyone anything before, much less something as complicated as knot-tying. I could only guess at how effective I would be, and hope that I didn't make a complete fool of myself.
I ignored the question of exactly why I cared what he thought of me.
"Good morning, my lady," he said, bowing to me with a smile, as he approached our little patch of grass under the willow. I didn't know why he bothered to bow anymore, or address me formally. He nearly always dropped the practice by the afternoon.
"And a good morning to you as well," I said, returning his smile, and feeling more than a little silly for sitting there with a pile of ribbon begged from Ioreth. Perhaps I had overstepped my mark in thinking that he would be the least bit interested in playing around with bits of string.
He sat beside me with ease. "I believe I had a promise from you to teach me knot-tying."
Silently, I breathed a sigh of relief. So he was not fooling with me after all. I gave him a fair-sized piece of ribbon, which he took into his own hands. His fingers were long and thin, I noticed – all the better. "Each knot is meant to represent something – a person, or an idea, it matters not; but the pattern itself must match what it is supposed to represent." He looked at me, seemingly eager to learn. So strange – most men of Rohan showed no interest in such womanly arts. I randomly wondered if he could sew.
I continued on. "The easiest knot is that representing friendship – only a few simple twists…" I let the familiar string wind its way through my fingers, and suddenly a knot was in my hands.
He stared at me in amazement. "However did you do that so quickly?"
"With practice," I replied. One quick tug, and it was gone. "Now, slower this time…" Trying to make all my movements clear and obvious, I once more twisted the string through my fingers. Over, under, around the back, through the middle, twisted and wrapped around the top – a completed knot.
He smiled. "Now you try," I said to him. He looked helplessly at the limp coils resting in his palms, and then back at me. I laughed. "And of course, I will help you." He twisted his body so that he faced the same way as me, and I placed my hands on his, just as my mother had done to mine once. His hands were warm – not so much so as to cause discomfort, but enough to warm my own. I wove his fingers through the string, trying to impart the familiar pattern onto him. I had tied this knot so many times that it had become almost subconscious – something to occupy my hands with while I sat on the dais at Theoden's feet.
A knot appeared in our hands. I could see him smile softly to himself. "It came out quite well," he said, and I agreed with him. It had indeed, much better than many other first attempts I had seen throughout my life.
"You must have a talent for it," I said, removing my hands from his. I regretted the loss of his warmth.
"Hardly," he chuckled. Nevertheless, he held up the knot to the sun, watching how the sun, passing through the gaps, shone the pattern onto his tunic. His face was turned away from me, but I knew that he was smiling, and I was glad of it.
"Undo it, and try to tie it yourself now," I said. He complied, and after some struggling managed to produce another knot, though it did not show the same skill as the previous had done.
"It doesn't look as nice," he admitted ruefully. "I should have had you help me again."
I smiled at this for some reason. "You will get better with practice. And eventually it will look just as good, if not better, than mine."
He looked at me then, with those eyes of his. "I highly doubt that."
I had to look away. When I no longer felt his gaze on me, I looked back at him. He was staring out at the distant mountains now, and somehow I felt as though something between us had been lost. And whatever it was, I missed it.
"Come, try again." I smiled at him, and to my great relief he turned back to me and smiled as well, though I saw a hint of sadness there that I had not noticed before. I undid the knot, and gave him back the string. "Do you know the method now?" He nodded. "Then I will do a more complicated pattern to show you." He nodded again, more eagerly, and set back to work at his knot.
I decided to make the knot symbolizing Eorl, the first King of my country. It was involved, and, when finished, looked like a rider seated on a horse. Faramir completed another knot, and showed it to me, seeking my approval, though why he did so I did not know. It was better than the previous one, and we were both pleased.
A few moments later, he looked back at me, puzzled. "I believe I made a mistake, and yet the knot does not look wrong." He passed the string into my hands.
Immediately, I recognized it. I turned surprised eyes to him. "What is it?" he asked with uncertainty. "Did I ruin it?"
"No, no," I replied hurriedly, somewhat flustered. "No, you didn't – you just – you made a completely different knot."
"I did?" He stared at it in confusion. "I thought I was making the friendship one."
"No – this is the knot symbolizing love." I looked at him.
"Oh." He coughed uncomfortably, and ducked his head, blushing.
A moment of silence passed, and then I exploded into sudden laughter. It struck me as hilarious, for whatever reason, whether it was his reaction, or my own, or just the whole situation. Whichever way, I found myself laughing much harder than I had done in a long while. He laughed too, but more at his own confusion, and the blush remained on his pale cheeks.
When I had calmed down, he took the knot back into his hands. "I guess I had better take this apart," he said, and made as if to pull the string and undo his work.
"No." I stopped his hands. "It is your best handiwork yet, and you should be proud of it." I took it out of his hands, and placed it next to him. "Set this one aside, and I will give you a new string to work on."
He looked at me again, smiling softly, and this time I did not look away.