Author: Sivan Shemesh

Recipient: Linaewen

Beta: Aranel

Rating: T

Request/Summary: I want a story featuring Imrahil at Dol Amroth, preferably Pre-Ring War; if young Boromir and Faramir are involved, that would be a bonus!

Author Note: Written for Yule Exchange...

Disclaimer: Characters belong to Tolkien. I just created the plot for my stories.

Warning: Angst, AU, violence.

Imrahil and the Toddler

Dol Amroth

Imrahil gazed at the scene before him, noticing that Denethor and the young Boromir were on the same horse, with the toddler Faramir on a pony, riding alone, struggling to keep up. He must be about five years old now, and Imrahil wished he had had the opportunity to see more of his nephew.

It was late in the afternoon. As they came toward him, he observed the young child's contented and weary face – and yet sadness was present; he could see it in the boy's eyes.

He walked to greet them as they dismounted their horses. To his surprise, no one was helping Faramir from his pony and he headed towards the child. Faramir's lips curved angelically as he approached, as though he might actually smile. Imrahil carried him down and held him tightly in his arms.

"Come son, you must be as hungry as an orc…" Imrahil teased the boy.

"What is orc? Is it a thing? An animal?" the toddler looked at him confusedly.

Imrahil stared at Denethor in shock and disbelief, entirely caught off guard.

"Boromir, take your brother to the dining room and wait for me there. I will be there as soon I talk to your father."

Imrahil kissed Faramir on his forehead and urged him to follow his older brother. Boromir stretched out his hand and the young child took it docilely. As they left, Imrahil struggled to bite back his rage. It was hard not to strike his brother-in-law when he saw far too many bruises on Faramir's face. And not once did the toddler smile when he was near his father and brother.

"Have you been a father to him when his mother passed on?" Imrahil asked barely containing his anger.

"I have in some way," Denethor replied calmly. He knew that it was a mistake to come with the boys but he had to leave Faramir somewhere.

"I saw what you've been doing to him, and it has to stop!"

"That is the reason why I'm bringing him to you. He's not staying with me," Denethor stated.

"What has he ever done to you?"

"Living. He should never have taken her place," Denethor replied and turned toward his stallion, calling for Boromir.

"What about Faramir?" Boromir ran over to ask his father.

"He is staying with Uncle Imrahil for the moment."

"I want to stay with him," Boromir told him. He glanced back at the house. His brother should not be far behind.

"You have chores to do and we still need to prepare you to be a warrior," Denethor replied, pulling the boy up onto his horse.

"He is still a child, Denethor. You need to remember that," Imrahil reminded him, his disapproval evident in his voice.

Denethor nodded and turned his horse around without a word of farewell.

Imrahil sighed and turned toward the house. Faramir stood in the doorway, his expression downcast. As Imrahil approached, he could see the boy's eyes welling up, but the boy did not wait for him to reach him. He ran toward his uncle and embraced him tightly.

"What is it, young one?" Imrahil asked him as he smiled, caressing the child's hair and enjoying the love Faramir gave him.

"Adar hates me…" Faramir sobbed on his uncle's shoulders. "Why can't I be like Boromir…?"

"Why do you say that, Faramir? I am certain that your father loves you as much as he loves Boromir," Imrahil tried to soothe the child.

"'Cause… every time he sees me, he shouts at me…" Faramir replied between sobs.

"Well, I am here now, Faramir," Imrahil tried to calm the boy. "I will not let anyone hurt you; I will do my best to protect you."

"Can't you be my daddy?" Faramir asked, looking at his uncle longingly.

"I cannot, young one," Imrahil replied and then he explained, "But your mother was my sister, and therefore you are my precious nephew."

"Am I?" Faramir asked uncertainly. How could a child already learn not to trust? His little fingers were still gripping onto his uncle, not wishing to let go.

"Yes, of course you are," Imrahil planted a deep kiss on his forehead. "Now, let's see what we have here." He picked up a wooden sword from the ground and gave it to Faramir.

"What should I do with this, Uncle Imrahil?" Faramir asked, not knowing why Imrahil gave him that thing.

"Fight. Can you do that, little one?" Imrahil asked him with a smile.

"But… but… I don't want to fight you… I don't want to hurt you…" Faramir replied, dropping the sword at once.

"You will not harm me, Faramir. It's only a game," Imrahil tried to assure him while finding another wooden sword. "Look, I have one too."

"But it hurts; the wood hurts my hand…" Faramir stared at the sword and said nothing.

Imrahil turned towards the child.

"Faramir," he began, but changed his mind. The boy was closing himself in. He took the child in an embrace instead. "I am here, young one, and no one will ever hurt you here. If anyone wants to, he'll have to fight and win me first."

Faramir gazed up at him as though unsure of what make out of it.

"Let's leave the swords here," Imrahil suggested. "I think you may like a gift that I saved for you."

That certainly caught the boy's attention. "What gift?"

"See for yourself… come along, son." Imrahil smiled. Faramir toddled along, taking his uncle's hand in his.

"I should give it to you before you go to sleep, young one," Imrahil mused. "I think you like your answers quick."

"Yay…" Faramir cheered.

Imrahil smiled at the boy's enthusiasm. "But first, I want you to follow the maids to clean yourself. And then we will have dinner with the guards who keep watch over us while we play."

Faramir nodded, and followed the maids. Imrahil had prepared a set of clothes for him, but he had not expected him to have come with such old garments. Those must have had been handed down from Boromir. The boy should have another gift from him soon. Now to get the maids to help him with that.

At dinner time, the boy walked over apprehensively. The maids seemed to be staring at him too much but he nodded back politely.

"Look at you. What a fine young man you are," Imrahil smiled approvingly.

"Thank you for the clothes, Uncle Imrahil." Faramir said.

Imrahil brushed it off. "Sit beside me, son. My home is your home."

Faramir climbed up the chair gratefully.

As they ate, Imrahil observed the boy. He had evidently been taught to be polite and he had learned neither to assume nor to trust. It was hard to tell if the boy indeed had his fill or if he was simply being polite. Imrahil thought he had seen a glimmer in his eyes even though he had carefully rejected another serving of dessert.

There was much to work on but he would have to begin slowly.

"Did you like the food?" Imrahil asked as he led him to the bedroom he had set aside for him.

Faramir nodded contentedly, then, starting somewhat shyly, he asked, "What is your gift?"

Imrahil tucked him into the bed, covering him with a warm blanket. "I'm giving you something special, since you are a special child." He took out a thick book from a drawer.

"What is it?" Faramir sat up in wonder.

"A book full of stories and poems of life and of the worlds beyond."

Faramir smiled.

Imrahil could have wept at the boy's pleasure. How he had longed to see that twinkle in his eyes and that radiant curve on his lips! He lowered the book gently in the boy's lap and watched as the boy flipped its colored pages in absolute delight.

"Will you teach me how to read?" Faramir asked.

"Certainly, but for now, I will read you a story…"