Two of a Kind
Finduilas winced and stretched, holding the piece of thin fabric before her eyes and looking at it appraisingly. The delicate blue and grey ornament was already taking shape on the dazzling white shirt. She smiled, picturing her husband in it. Indeed, it would be a lovely present; she could give herself a pat on the back for it.
She put down her work and straightened her aching back. What a weakling I have become, she thought with mild annoyance. Lately, she would become weary in no time.
Soon, though, her eyes rested upon the needlework again, and she smiled. Weary or not, she had to finish that.
She was just preparing to get down to work again, when the door creaked open and her younger son's dark head peered into the chamber. He grinned at her and came bouncing inside.
Finduilas smiled back at him, lowering the shirt onto her lap again. Faramir's ever-inquisitive eyes found it immediately, though.
'It's so pretty,' he said, gazing admiringly first at the shirt, and then at his mother. Finduilas chuckled and patted his head.
'I am glad you think so, dear.'
'Are you making it for Father?'
'Yes, I am,' she said. 'Only you will have to promise me not to tell him before it is his birthday.'
'Ooh,' Faramir breathed reverently. 'It's a secret.'
Finduilas smothered a laugh and just nodded. Faramir stood in silence before her, watching her work, until she said with some concern, 'Do not bend your head so close, Faramir. I could accidentally prick you with the needle.'
'All right, Mother,' the boy nodded. He then climbed onto the small couch she was sitting on.
For a while, he just watched. Then, suddenly, he straightened up, and Finduilas recognized the coming of an Idea.
'Mother,' he said, 'could I do something like this? Make a shirt for Father?'
Finduilas had to smother another laugh.
'No, dear,' she answered, but then, noticing his dismayed look, hastened to add, 'I am already making him a shirt, and it would not be very interesting to get two presents of the same kind, would it? Why don't you try something like…a handkerchief?'
Faramir gave it a little thought and nodded his consent.
Boromir flung the door open, and both Finduilas and Faramir jumped.
'Boromir…' she started, in what was meant to be a chastisement, but her eldest looked clearly overexcited.
'Uncle Imrahil took me down to his knights! I talked to them, and they showed me their horses, and I got to help with cleaning some armor…and…and…Faramir, you must come with me down there too!'
Faramir looked at him coolly. 'Can't you see I'm busy?' he asked, and this time, Finduilas did chuckle, so much of her husband was in that reply, both the words and the tone.
Boromir came nearer, eyeing the little white thing in Faramir's hands with something very close to disgust.
'Needlework!' he snorted. 'That's for girls, silly.'
'You're silly. Soldiers know how to sew too,' Faramir said. 'Who do you think mends their clothes? They cannot take their mothers to war.'
The picture of soldiers going to war with their mothers did not sit well with Boromir either, so he had to admit Faramir was right.
'But…what are you making that for?' he asked.
Faramir did not answer straight away. He smoothed the handkerchief-to-be on his knee and eyed the stitches appraisingly, the way Finduilas would do.
'For Father's birthday,' he finally said.
'Oh,' was all Boromir could produce.
He went out of the chamber, looking deep in thought and biting his lower lip.
'And here is my gift, love,' she said softly, handing a neat package over to him.
'Thank you,' he said, smiling, and unwrapped the present. Inside was a thin, exquisitely embroidered shirt, and Finduilas's cheeks flushed with pleasure as he gasped at the beauty of her handiwork.
'Now…' she winked mischievously and tugged at the laces of the shirt he was wearing.
'Oh?' Denethor raised an eyebrow. 'So eager to see me in the nude, my dear lady?'
Finduilas laughed and punched him lightly in the ribs.
The shirt looked perfect on him. Denethor ran a finger along the tiny stitches.
'I almost find it hard to believe that anything like this can be done,' he said. 'There is definitely some Elven blood in the veins of my fair wife.'
'Happy birthday, dear,' she said, touching her palm to his cheek. Denethor wrapped an arm around her waist and drew her to himself…and then, there was a loud knock at the door, immediately followed by two heads sticking in and two voices shouting cheerfully, 'Happy birthday, Father!'
Denethor sighed quietly and let go of Finduilas. He told himself firmly not to be annoyed: after all, the children had hardly seen him all day. The Steward's birthday was less of a family matter than a birthday of his manservant…
He beckoned the children in.
Faramir came forward and handed something to Denethor, grinning broadly. The Steward looked at his new gift: it resembled a handkerchief, with something looking like a cluster of triangles embroidered on it.
'That's a ship,' Faramir said, so that no one would make a mistake about it. 'Mother helped me a little with it.'
Denethor heard Finduilas chuckle behind him. He squatted down and embraced Faramir, kissing the top of his dark head.
'Thank you, son,' he said, trying to look as solemn as he could. 'This is surely the most beautiful handkerchief I have ever had.'
Faramir beamed and gave him an enthusiastic hug.
'Boromir has something for you too!' he announced.
And there was Boromir, handing Denethor a small package as well…
And inside, there was another handkerchief. It also had something embroidered on it, and this time, it looked definitely like a sword.
'I made it myself too,' Boromir said.
Denethor stared at him unbelievingly. 'You did?'
Boromir nodded. 'Why not? All soldiers know how to hold a needle.'
Denethor chuckled softly, but then embraced Boromir tightly too.
'Thank you, Boromir. Now I have two favourite handkerchiefs,' he said. He then took both and placed them carefully on the small table by the window.
As he was doing that, he heard Faramir talking to Finduilas in a loud whisper.
'Mother, you said it would not be very interesting to get two presents of the same kind, but they are not really the same! And Father says he likes them both!'
Denethor turned to them again, smiling, and his eyes met those of his wife.
Indeed, he did not mind being given two gifts of the same kind.