Summary: While reading to his son, Aragorn is overcome by emotion.
Disclaimer: Not mine, wouldn't know what to do with them if they were, but really appreciate all those who brought them to life on page and screen.
Author's note: The family referred to is Elrond, Elrohir & Elladan. The poem is a nursery rhyme and as far as I could find, it is in the Public Domain. Tissue alert.
Aragorn had suddenly stilled. Arwen paused in her painting to watch him. He had been reading to their son, something he found great pleasure in. Arwen had been absorbed in her artwork and had not been paying heed to the words, just letting the sound of her husband's voice wash over her. But his sudden silence had almost instantly attracted her attention. Their son was watching his father as if he, too, felt something was amiss. Even as a toddler, he reminded the elf-maiden of her father, who had often sensed when his children were in trouble.
"Estel?" Others might now call him Aragorn or Elessar, but to her, he would always be Estel.
Receiving no reply, she got quietly up from her easel and moved to his side, smiling at their son as she placed a finger to her lips to ask him to remain silent. She sank down to her knees by the side of the chair where her beloved sat, holding their child. Cautiously, she placed a finger to the back of his hand. He started and turned toward her, but Arwen was certain he was not really aware of her presence. As she watched, the King of Gondor visibly forced himself back to the present.
"My love?" The she-elf's voice filled with concern as tears sprang to her husband's eyes. She reached over him and gently took the toddler into her arms. Moving to the doorway, she called the child's caretaker and after kissing him on the forehead and showing him a smile she handed him to the woman. By the time the door had fully closed she was back at her husband's side. Now that the child could not be frightened, she spoke firmly. "Estel, tell me."
"I never realized. After all this time, I never realized it."
"Realized what, my love?"
"Look." Estel held the book he'd been reading out to her. Confused she took it. It was just a book of poetry and short stories for children. What in this could have affected her husband in this fashion?
"I'm sorry, Estel. I don't understand."
"The poem. Read the poem." Her husband's voice had taken on a tone of command never used with her. She began to wish Faramir were here instead of in Ithilien. If her husband had taken ill, the Steward would be needed. Not only by Gondor, but by it's King, for her husband and his Steward were very close. Faramir had once told her that having Aragorn by his side eased the loss of his brother Boromir because the love between the two men reminded him of the relationship between Faramir and his brother; lesser than with Boromir, but just as sure. Without his King, Faramir would have been lost to despair and death and the line of Stewards would have ended with a third tragic death. She sighed and realized her husband was watching her with less than his usual patience.
She forced her eyes to the opened page. Scanning the title, she glanced up. "This?"
His eyes now pools of water, he swallowed hard and nodded.
Arwen resisted the temptation to cover his hand with one of hers; fearful the gesture would break his control before she gathered enough information to help him. She studied the words on the page intently. The poem was sort, only 6 lines. Try as she might, she could not see what troubled him.
"I'm sorry, my love, I need you to help me understand. What of this saddens you?"
"In this context, the word means 'lack' in Common, does it not?"
Aragorn nodded. In addition to the tears, his lip now began to quiver and Arwen pushed back fear. She could not remember seeing her husband like this since her father, his adopted father, sailed to the Grey Havens and even then he had not meant for her to see him. Whatever this was, it had overcome him so quickly that he was lost to it. Arwen substituted the word 'lack' for 'want' as she softly read the poem aloud, in the hope it would make things clearer to her.
For Want of a Nail
For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For want of a horse the rider was lost,
For want of a rider the battle was lost,
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
Still at a total loss, Arwen looked desperately to her husband. Through his tears, Aragorn saw his wife's fear. Fear for his well-being. Fear she would fail him. As he closed his eyes against what he saw, he became aware of dampness on his cheeks. No wonder she was frightened. Blindly, he reached out a hand for her and felt her fingers in his palm. His hand closed and he motioned her to him with his free hand. Only after he felt her weight on his lap and pulled her to him did he open his eyes. Blinking quickly to clear them, he locked his eyes with his beloved's and spoke almost reverently.
"For want of a shield, Boromir was lost. He left it at the camp. That's the first thing I noticed when we saw Frodo wasn't with us. His shield…" Aragorn's voice broke and he struggled for control.
Arwen's arm tightened around his neck and she dropped her head to his temple. "His shield was leaning against a tree. Warriors of Gondor train to fight with sword and shield. Boromir killed a battlefield of Uruk-Hai with only his sword. If he'd had his shield as well, he would have held out until we reached him. For want of a shield, my friend…my brother, was lost."
The pain of the loss hit him as it had at Parth Galen that day, but now he had the luxury of time to mourn. Boromir's Captain and King turned his face to his wife's shoulder and wept.