Mud and Trouble

Inspired by a plot bunny of Shirebound's.

Faramir raced along the corridors, panting. He skidded round the last corner and made a dash for the door to his father's bedroom, which was obligingly standing open. If he could just find that cloak before someone caught him, he could sneak in to the kitchens and fix the oven, he figured, and then there would be no evidence at all.

Entering his parent's bedroom, he headed straight for the dressing table next the the wardrobe. He pressed down on it, but it seemed steady enough, so he carefully climbed up onto it. Faramir knew his father kept his treasures on top of the wardrobe. He'd never seen them, but his Ma had mentioned it once, and he'd heard lots of them mentioned in his father's stories.

Faramir had always wished he had a magical elven cloak that could make people not notice you, just like his father's. Today, he had been watching, frozen with horror, as the servants went about their duties in the kitchens, in plain sight of the mud-filled oven, when in desperation it had occurred to him that if he could just be invisible...

He steadied himself on the dresser and turned to the wardrobe. He was sure that this was where the cloak would be.

Stretching up on the tips of his toes, he felt around the top of the wardrobe. There. He could just reach the edge of the bag with the tips of his fingers – he scrabbled at it, managing to catch the corner and drag it towards him. He got a better grip and dragged it off the top, then yelped as the heavy bag suddenly fell on him.

Faramir staggered backwards, arms full of the bag, and yelped again he stepped on his mother's hairbrush. Ma's going to kill me if that's broken, he thought in growing worry. Deciding that he was about to fall off the dresser anyway, he leaped off and landed heavily on the ground, bag still clutched tight in his arms.

He froze and glanced up at the door. When no one came running, he let out the breath he had been holding and relaxed. Carefully putting the plain hemp bag on the ground, he tugged it open and looked inside.

Hmm. He couldn't see any cloak. Faramir stuck his arm in the bag and patted around. No material, but – what was that? Something heavy and round? He pulled out a huge mug, ornately carved with a large tree. It was so big he could barely fit his hand around the handle alone. It must belong to a giant, he thought in wonder. Putting that aside, he reached in again, and pulled out a hobbit sized sword. A sword! Standing up, he gave it an experimental swish or two, but it was still too big for him, so he dropped it next to the cup. Faramir was reaching in for the third time when he was interrupted by someone sweeping up.

Faramir squealed and squirmed, but the arms held him tightly. Eventually he stopped struggling and pouted up at his father.

"Gotcha," Pippin grinned. "And what might you be up to, my lovely lad?"

"Put me down!" Faramir protested. "I'm not a baby."

"No, you're not at that," Pippin agreed, looking down at his possessions ruefully. "I didn't realise you were tall enough to reach those."

Faramir squirmed some more, guiltily, and Pippin tightened his hold on him.

"Please put me down, Papa?"

"Will you give me your word not to run away?" Pippin asked sternly. "I'm getting old, Faramir. I'm not up to chasing runaway sons through Great Smials."

"You're not old," Faramir muttered.

"Your word," Pippin insisted. Faramir hesitated, torn, then sighed dramatically.

"Fine," he said. "I promise I won't run away."

"Good lad," Pippin said, and set him down gently and squatted down so they were at eye level. Faramir stepped back and looked at his feet. "Now. What's all this about?"

"Nothing," Faramir muttered very quietly and very quickly, almost hoping he wouldn't be heard. Pippin caught it anyway.

"This doesn't look like nothing to me. In fact, it looks suspiciously like my most prized possessions, which you do not have permission to play with."

Faramir scuffed his feet while he tried to think up a story. Eledoc was so much better at this sort of thing. Why couldn't he have been the one to get caught? "I was – I was dusting," he said with sudden inspiration.

Pippin blinked. "You were dusting," he repeated slowly.

"Yes! I happened to walk by the room, and I saw how dusty everything was, and I thought I'd just do some quick dusting…" Faramir trailed off at the strange expression on Pippin's face.

"You were dusting," he said again. Faramir began to reconsider the strength of his story. He looked away.

"My son," Pippin said gravely, "that is the worst excuse I have ever heard in my life."

"Sorry, Papa," Faramir muttered.

"Now, what were you doing?"

Faramir sighed deeply. "I was looking for your magic cloak," he admitted mournfully. "I'm truly am sorry." He peered at his father, worried about his reaction.

Pippin sighed. "Well, at least you've told me the truth. Don't you feel better for it?"

"No," Faramir said truthfully.

"Oh," said Pippin, looking taken aback. "Well, you should definitely tell the truth anyway. That's what gentlehobbits do."

Faramir looked up doubtfully from where he had been examining his feet. "Uncle Merry says when you were young you could talk your way out of anything."

The corner of Pippin's mouth twitched, then he coughed and frowned sternly. "Does he now. Well, I'll be having a few words with him about corrupting my only son."

Faramir flushed with shame at having got his beloved Uncle Merry into trouble. "He didn't mean to," he protested, distressed.

Pippin's mouth twitched again, and he looked torn, before laughing ruefully, startling Faramir. "I would say he most certainly did. And I would also say that you would do far better to take Merry as your role model in trouble-making, who rarely got caught in the first case."

Faramir's eyes opened wide. "Uncle Merry? Truly?" he asked eagerly.

"Uh-huh," Pippin nodded sagely. "Next time he's trying to corrupt you, you ask him who ended up being punished for Primrose affair."

"Oi!" an indignant voice chimed in from the doorway. Pippin and Faramir both looked up to see Merry himself, standing with his hands on his hips. "That's base slander, that is." He entered the room and said with a conspiratorial nod at Faramir, "Don't you believe a word of it. Pippin deserved everything he got for that trick."

"As I recall, Meriadoc Brandybuck," Pippin said haughtily, standing up and attempting to look down his nose at Merry, "I was not the hobbit who forged Tom Shanty's handwriting."

"Hush, Pippin. You'll give Faramir ideas, and goodness knows he doesn't need any. Now, Faramir, what's this I hear about the baking oven?"

Faramir looked at Pippin miserably, who said sharply, "Baking oven? Faramir, why were you looking for my cloak?"

Faramir bit his lip, then burst out, "I didn't mean to. I only borrowed the oven to harden our fort walls and the mud exploded–" He stopped, stricken, as he realised what he had said.

"What cloak?" Merry asked, but neither Faramir nor Pippin were listening to him.

"Aha!" Pippin cried. "A confession and an indictment, all in one. Merry, you'd better fetch Eledoc."

Merry hesitated, then sighed and left to do so.

"No! No! He didn't have anything to do with it! I meant me, only me!"

Pippin patted Faramir's shoulder with a grin. "Don't worry, son. Since you both like mud so much, you'll enjoy your punishment." Faramir blanched. "The eastern ditches need to be dug out, and I think you two are the hobbits for the job."

"Yes, Papa," Faramir said, downcast.

"I assume you meant to use the cloak to hide?" Pippin continued.

"Oh, no," Faramir said in surprise. "I wanted to sneak into the kitchens so I could fix the oven."

Pippin looked at him strangely. "Do you know how to fix an oven, Faramir?"

Faramir paused. "Well, it's not that it's broken, as such. Just full of mud," he said earnestly. "And it really was an accident, Papa."

The corner of Pippin's mouth twitched again. "Hm," he said, and then, "Well, in that case…"

Faramir watched him worriedly. "Yes," Pippin said, suddenly coming to a decision. "All this digging will be getting your clothes awfully dirty, so –"

Faramir made a sound like someone had stabbed him through the heart. "Papa!" he wailed. "Not laundry duty again. I've only just finished the last lot." He looked up at his father with big, despairing eyes.

Pippin looked amused. "Nice try, my lad, but I invented that look. You'll have to do better than that to move me."

Faramir sighed, and resolved to practice in front of a mirror that very night.

"Now, we'd better go hunt down Merry and Eledoc before Eledoc can talk his way out of it, but first you can put away these." Pippin folded his arms and watched as Faramir put the cup and the sword back in the bag.

"Why do you keep a cup?" Faramir asked as he handed the bag over to Pippin.

"Oh, a memento of Gondor," he said absently, and placed the bag on the bed. "I'll have to find a better hiding place for that."

Faramir looked at the ground so his expression wouldn't give him away. He didn't think there was a hiding place in Great Smials he didn't know, and he really wanted to see what else was in that bag.

"Alright, come on," said Pippin resignedly as he headed for the door. Faramir trotted after him, after a few steps taking his father's hand. "Honestly, Faramir. I'm beginning to think that you just like seeing things explode."

Faramir ducked his head. That wasn't true. Faramir really did like finding out things how things worked. The explosions were just an added bonus.

"Papa," he asked innocently after a moment, looking up at Pippin, "where was your cloak?" Not that he thought it would be there the next time he looked, but…

Faramir saw his father smile, though he kept looking straight ahead.

"In the wardrobe, with all my other cloaks," he said mildly. After a moment Faramir scowled.

"That's not fair," he complained. Pippin looked down at him and grinned.

"That's life, my lad. Here, I'll give you a piggyback. If we don't hurry Eledoc will have convinced your uncle Merry that the sky is green and the oven was always in pieces."

After a moment Faramir sighed, and allowed himself to be carried. After all, digging ditches wasn't so bad a punishment. And, he mused with steadily rising spirits, since their fortress had exploded in the oven, they'd have to start all over again, and they'd need lots of mud for that.

Forts to make, treasures to find... Faramir smiled into his father's shoulder. He couldn't wait to tell Eledoc.