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Weeks passed. Faramir ceased visiting his father's study before bed, spending time in the library instead or with Boromir when he was not otherwise occupied. Often, as the night drew later, Denethor wondered at his younger son's absence, missing his presence keenly, but the thought was always fleeting, other concerns consuming him.
Boromir watched as his little brother became more and more withdrawn, as if their father's distance and disappointment drew a grey haze over the rest of Faramir's life. He tried to draw his brother out, he seemed to be the only one who could, but he knew all too soon he would be leaving and felt that he should spend time with the other recruits who would be joining the same company. They would, in part, be his men, after all, and he wanted to be accessible to them from the very first.
Glimpses of the dark dreams continued but Estel, true to his word, worked hard to make sure he was there to shelter his young friend from their touch. His duties interfered but he could minimize that and managed, somehow, to keep Faramir from all but the slightest glimpse of the nightmares. They saw more of each other than they ever had before, often having gone weeks and months without meeting, and Faramir's skills with blade and bow grew swiftly.
But Aragorn did have other duties and, as much as it pained him, sometimes choices had to be made.
"Boil more water, we will need it," Aragorn ordered, not looking up, trusting his Ranger to see to the tasks.
Halbarad moaned beneath him, his eyes closed, sweat beading from his brow. Aragorn put a hand to his forehead for just a moment, just long enough to let the younger Ranger know he was still with him.
"You will be well, just stay with me. Soon, I will have something to give you for the pain," Aragorn promised, his hand moving again, pressing down on his Ranger's wound, stemming the blood flow.
"I need that needle, Hael!" Aragorn called over his shoulder.
"Boiled, use it," Elladan said, appearing suddenly.
"Elrohir?" Aragorn questioned even as Elladan moved to hold Halbarad still. They could not wait for the brew for pain relief to be made, the Ranger laying chalk white beneath them was losing too much blood too fast.
"Fine, for now, though he cannot move to help," Elladan questioned. "Later, I will have to tend him further, but his needs are not urgent."
Halbarad groaned and would have started up if Elladan had not been holding him securely when Aragorn began stitching the first wound. He swore and bit his lip so hard it bled and finally swallowed greedily what Aragorn could offer for the pain when it was ready, falling into unconsciousness.
Elladan and Aragorn tended to them, Hael, a very young Ranger with very little healing skill, fetching what they needed. Then Elladan went to his brother even as Aragorn remained bent over his Ranger, who was still in danger of being lost to them.
Late into the night he worked, and once or twice spared a regretfully thought for his young friend the dreamer, and prayed that those dreams stayed bright that night. There was nothing for it though, for to rest now and guard Faramir's dreams was to give up Halbarad's life, and that was a trade he did not even entertain making.
Faramir woke with a gasping sob, his eyes red and swollen and the bed clothes wrapped around him in such a manner he felt as if he were tied up. His throat ached it was so dry and he struggled to breathe.
The darkness of his room was suffocating. He needed light but tripped in his rush to light a lamp. Dazed, crying, shaking and unable to stop, he found himself laying face down on the cold stone floor.
A feeling of utter isolation washed over him, drowning him, and he suddenly needed contact with some other living being, just to assure himself another still existed. Just to know he was not so alone as he felt.
He got to his feet, got to the door and stood clutching the door knob. He wanted to go to
Boromir but... tomorrow Boromir left and he left early and Faramir did not want to wake him. Dizzying thoughts raced through his spinning mind. What ifs rang in his head, for a soldier needed not a lack of sleep to distract him.
Faramir trembled, a sob bubbling up and he nearly fell again. He could not go to Boromir. He could not! But then... to whom could he go?
The door opened. He opened it and he was running out of the oppressive darkness. Running until he slipped on the polished floor and went down to meet the stone with a muffled thud.
Hands grasped his shoulders and placed him back on his feet even as he gave a low cry of fear at the unfamiliar, unexpected touch. Looking up, he saw the familiar helmed face of a Citadel guard.
"You all right, little Lord?" the old hand asked.
"Papa..." Faramir gasped out, not intending the words until they escaped him. He knew as soon as he thought the idea he could not go before his father like this but oh how he ached to!
The guard had been serving in the Citadel since before Boromir's birth and had children of his own. The littlest member of the Hurin household was not hurt, he could see, but he was terribly frightened about something.. This was, the guard decided without hesitation, a task for the lad's father.
"All right, little Lord, I will take you to your father. Just a bad dream, I suspect, but in need a father's touch, eh?"
Denethor gritted his teeth and glared up at the door that had just been banged upon. If whoever was behind the wooden doors knew what was good for them they would reconsider...
He threw down his pain, disgusted, as the banging sounded again. It matched, he thought, the rhythm being pounded out in his head, which made it all the more annoying. Oh, if whoever wished to speak to him at this dreadful hour did not have a damn good reason...
Denethor opened the door with a growl and came face to face with one of the Tower Guard. He snarled, "What?"
Before the guard could speak Denethor heard a sob and a bundle of elbows and ankles flew into the room. His alarm grew when he saw the boy was hysterical. He grasped his littlest son by the shoulders and nodded to the guard.
Denethor steered the boy into the nearest chair, a plush one by the fire Boromir tended to occupy when in the room, and crouched to his level, trying to shush him, "Calm down, Faramir, hush. You will make yourself sick, boy. Calm down."
"S...sor...sorry...fa...father..." Faramir stammered, "...s...sorry..."
"Shh," Denethor murmured, rubbing the thin shoulders gently.
After a few moments Faramir still appeared unable to halt his sobs and Denthor strode to the door to bark an order, "Bring me a bowl of cold water, a cloth, a glass of hot milk and a bucket, NOW!"
Someone, he was unsure who, leapt to do as he bade even as he turned back to Faramir, who was clutching his stomach, his face pinched through the sobs and shakes. Denethor lunged forward, tossing the fruit from a large glass bowl, uncaring as it scattered over the floor and a few pieces of furniture. He held it under the boy as Faramir heaved, his father making nonsense shushing noises as he rubbed Faramir's back.
The boy seemed to cry harder after, even as Denethor wiped the spit from his mouth gently with the napkin that sat with his untouched dinner. Denethor, getting rather distressed as Faramir could not seem to stop crying, drew his son against him, rocking him gently.
"...sor...sorry...father...I...I...cannot..." Faramir mumbled, his hands clutching Denethor's tunic spasmodically.
"Shh, be calm, little one, tell me what happened," Denethor murmured, stroking the boy's sweaty hair.
"A...a...dream..." The shaking increased and Denethor instinctively tightened his hold on the boy. "b...but...it was...not a dream...it was not a dream!"
"What was it, child?" Denethor asked gently, even as his heart froze with fear for his youngest.
"I do not know!" Faramir wailed, burying his face in his father's tunic.
"Shh, shh. Calm, child, calm," Denethor shushed. "What did you see in this dream?"
"An island and...and..." Faramir tensed, "...a wave...and...I...Father!"
Denethor pushed Faramir over the bowl just in time as the boy heaved again. Denethor
supported the trembling body, rubbing the shuddering back as his mind reeled.
An island. A wave. A dream that was not a dream. Damn.
Denethor knew his boys would be vulnerable to the gift of foresight but neither had showed signs of being taken by visions before. Denethor had them from time to time, but not strongly. They were always hazy and indistinct and he never fully trusted them. Such things were foolish, he thought, but... they were unsettling, even frightening at times.
He had not had one until his late twenties and then it was little more than snatches of the long ago sinking. The roar of water, once, and the darkness of the wave. The gurgles and screams of the dying, another time. A feeling of utter despair and fear was all he saw the third of such dreams.
Mere instants and at a time when he had already been exposed to the ways of war and death, and still the scene haunted him. Faramir was still a child!
A knock came at the door and Denethor called over his shoulder, "Enter!"
A servant carried in what Denethor had requested on a large tray, the bucket held under his arm. He set it on the desk, carefully avoiding the papers.
Denethor passed the bowl to the servant wordlessly, his attention still focussed on his youngest, putting the bucket next to the chair. "Do you wish for me to call a healer, my Lord?"
"No, but make sure none disturb us," Denethor muttered.
"Yes, my Lord," the servant said before Denethor heard him leave.
Denethor dipped the cloth into the water and gently bathed his son's sweaty face. It took time, but the boy calmed a bit, the sobs less harsh, the trembling less violent, but his distress was still evident.
"Shh, calm down, little one, all will be well," Denethor soothed.
Faramir made a strangled sound, which was distinctly negative and shook his head, wet curls clinging to his face. Denethor brushed them away gently and wiped his hot face with the cloth again.
"No, you are correct, it will not be all well, and I cannot make it so but I can explain," Denethor promised. "Breathe deeply, little one, for I need you to tell me all of what you dreamt."
Faramir struggled to begin as Denethor rose and got the milk, no longer too hot for the boy to drink. He laced the warm liquid with brandy, testing the temperature and content by sipping it himself, before pouring himself a small glass of the liquor. Not much, for he had to be coherent for this, just enough to settle his rattled nerves.
He helped Faramir hold the mug, for the boy's hands shook so badly still he would have spilt half of it. Faramir paused in his narration and sipped it slowly, until the warmth settled and he drank more deeply.
Faramir was calmer, an effect of the brandy laced, warm milk, but still sniffling as Denethor settled the boy in his lap, something he had not done for at least two years. Faramir did not object, one hand clutching his father's tunic, in the fashion of his childhood habit, and the other around his neck as he struggled to tell his father of the nightmare that had plagued his sleep.
It took little time for Denethor to know that it was indeed a vision, not a dream, that had stolen in and ruined Faramir's sleep. It was so much more than he had ever seen. Too much for his child to see!
It broke his heart to hear it, he had never dreamed so clearly himself and in hearing what it was to do so never wished to, but once Faramir began he could not stop and the words spilled past his lips even as he began to cry softly again. Denethor held him close, tucking his cloak around the boy when the shivers began again.
For an eleven year old child to see the end of Numenor, the destruction of an entire
civilization... Denethor felt his heart lurch painfully in his chest. Faramir was still a child. His child! To have all that death splayed out before him, to have it been lived by his little son, Denethor felt tears prick his own eyes as Faramir finished, soft, whimper like cries muffled by his father's tunic.
Denethor held the eleven year old close, stroking his hair and back gently until the boy quieted before saying gently, "I can explain what has happened now if you would like, Faramir."
There was a pause, then Denethor felt Faramir nod against his shoulder. Denethor kept rubbing his back gently as he spoke, "You had a vision, my little one."
Faramir did not know why that made him shudder but he was glad his father hugged him tighter. "You saw Numenor sink beneath the waves."
"I am not sure what this means but you may very well have more visions, of the past or future or of events that will not happen at all," Denethor sighed. "It will not be easy and I would take this from you were it in my power to do so."
"It is not," Faramir said, his sad voice muffled. "I know you cannot...I...understand, I think."
They sat in silence for a time, until Denethor found the courage to ask a question he dreaded the answer to, "Did you fear coming to me tonight, Faramir?"
There was a hesitation and Faramir's voice was quiet, "Yes."
Denethor closed his eyes as if in pain by the admission. He and Faramir did not always get along, and often Denethor wondered if perhaps he was being too harsh on the boy, but he had not meant for his son to fear him!
"Never fear to come to me when a vision troubles you, little one," Denethor told him gently. "You cannot help them, and many may frighten you or be confusing. Do not keep them to yourself if something inside you tells you to share the burden."
Denethor sighed softly, "And if you ever feel you cannot come to me tell your brother or your uncle, but do not keep them secret if you need to share them and you never need to fear coming to me with a vision, I promise."
"Yes, father," Faramir murmured, his grip on his father tightening for a moment. "I am sorry I was afraid."
Denethor inhaled sharply and his hold changed so he was nearly cradling the boy against him, as if Faramir were the most precious being in the world. "I understand and it is no fault of yours that I have been... distant as of late. You and your brother are my greatest joys, my most beloved jewels. I love you, Faramir, my little one. Never forget that."
Faramir went completely still at that, something telling him he needed to cherish that moment, "I will not forget, father, I love you."
Denethor smiled gently, as Faramir yawned around his words. The hour was late and Faramir had suffered much emotional stress, not to mention having ingested a good deal of brandy for an eleven year old! "Do you think you can sleep again this night?"
Faramir tensed immediately and seemed to shrink further into his father's arms. Denethor's fingers turned the pale face to look at him. "I will guard your dreams tonight, little one, for after visions you may find yourself taken by dreams of the same sort."
"I am afraid, father," Faramir admitted in a shaky, hesitant voice, his fingers clutching at
Denethor's tunic again.
"I understand it, Faramir, and the visions... will rarely be pleasant but they cannot hurt you. They may be frightening, yes, but they cannot harm you," Denethor said gently. "Now let us get you to bed, shall we? And hope for sweet dreams tonight."
Faramir offered a half hearted protest when Denethor began to carry him from the room,
unwilling to seem weak before his father. Denethor shushed him and pressed a kiss to his hair. "Indulge an aging man with the pleasure of carrying his youngest son who shall soon be too big and strong to carry!"
Denethor settled Faramir into bed, resting the boy's head in his lap and stroking the dark hair. Faramir sighed softly; it had been a long while since he had felt this close to his father.
Denethor smiled sadly as Faramir relaxed and drifted off, lulled by his father's gentle caresses. His poor little son, he did not wish these accursed visions upon him ever! They were rarely peaceful, often very violent, even those that were only snatches and one could never tell if they were truthful!
And to have them come at such a young age... If Denethor was another man he might have wept but he could only be himself and the brandy had settled and his thoughts became heavy with guilt.
They settled uneasily on the palantir, that damn stone. He had used it often as of late, and it forced his own gifts into activity simply for the stress of using it, for it was tiring to wield it and he was unpracticed still. There was much he seemed to not understand about the seeing stone which he had thought he did.
Could he have, by complete and utter accident, triggered Faramir's vision and brought forth the boy's potential gifts before his little one was ready? His heart clenched in anguish at the thought, for he truly only wished to protect Gonder with his actions.
Faramir's breathing was deep and easy, Denethor hoped the brandy would keep the dreams at bay for at least a time. Indeed, his own father had, when explaining the visions to him with no knowledge at all of what they were like save for second hand tellings, plied him with so much liquor Denethor had not dreamt at all and had needed help finding his own chambers when he left his father's study.
Denethor resolved to lock away the accursed seeing stone tomorrow as his fingers combed through the wavy hair. His eyes remained on Faramir's pale face a moment longer, then he checked to see the if boy slept deeply and stole from the room, unwilling to put it off even until the morrow for fear he would talk himself out of it.
"Watch over the child," Denethor instructed the guard. "If he so much twitches in a manner that does not reflect peace come get me at once. And start a fire, quietly so you do not wake him, for he is exhausted and will be prone to taking chill tonight."
"Yes, my Lord," the guards answered without hesitation. The members of the Tower Guard had watched over the Steward's children for their entire lives and thought the world of the sometimes too solemn children.
Doubts began to circle in Denethor's weary mind when he entered the room where the palantir was, covered by a black cloth on a stone table. What did he risk by putting it away? He had learned much by using it and much more could be learned to help his realm but...Faramir's pale face came to mind, his tears and the terror in his grey eyes.
Denethor gazed at the cloth covered stone for a moment then opened an oak trunk that lay empty near by. Denethor carefully picked the stone up; making sure the cloth covered it entirely for he did not wish Faramir's rest to be disturbed if this were the cause of his visions. He put it in the trunk and locked it before he could change his mind.
The box was handed to the first servant he found with the instructions, "Put it in one of the lower store rooms, out of sight and easy reach."
The key was handed to another servant with the orders, "See that it is melted down and no copy is to be made."
Faramir had not stirred when he returned and a warm fire burned merrily in the fireplace.
Denethor checked on the boy, stroking his hair gently for a moment, before turning and
browsing the bookcases that seemed to line Faramir's room. Denethor grinned, the boy's tutor had been in to see him several times, not with complaint, but with praise, and a recommendation Denethor allow him access to books that seemed above what would normally be read at his age.
Denethor permitted himself a grin at some of the books; Faramir seemed to shelf them according their degree of difficulty and did not seem to wish to part with any! Indeed, books from when he first learned to read still sat gathering dust on the lowest self. Some he could even remember reading to the boy, which he did no longer, he frowned, remembering he had turned Faramir away in the past weeks.
Why had he done that? He had been most busy lately and since he had begun using the palantir it was becoming normal for his head to ache horribly but, still, he had been short with Faramir too often. Perhaps he could still remedy it.
As his gaze travelled higher though, he sighed in sad remembrance. A few years ago Faramir had expressed an interest in Elvish poetry, not something Denethor particularly thought useful but it did exercise his knowledge of the language, which Denethor thought important. He had given his blessing for Faramir to look through his mother's old books, which had been put into storage after her death along with many of her possessions. It had pained him too much to have too many reminders about for a long time.
A few hours later Denethor had gone to check on the boy and found Faramir trying to consume three books at once. He had laughed over it, and, with a great deal of fondness, had helped his little one move most of the books into his room, to be housed in a bookcase of Findulias' grandmother, which had sat empty since his wife's death.
A few other trinkets of their mother's had also been moved to the boys' rooms later in the week, as Denethor sorted through the possessions as best he could, unable to throw anything away, or see everything that remained in storage daily but wishing for his sons to continue to be deprived of the items because he could not bear the memories.
He absently picked a slim volume from the shelf and, upon opening it, shut his eyes and quickly put it back, drawing in slightly ragged breath. That particular book had been a gift from Findulias to him when they were still courting. Findulias had chanced upon a rather bad piece of poetry he had written for her, which he had never intended any to see.
Structurally it was quite perfect but otherwise...saying it was not particularly good was being rather kind about it. The gift had been something to, as Findulias had said; inspire his words to greater heights, which did not quite happen. From any other it would have been a cruel barb, but from Findulias it was loving teasing, and Denethor had known it.
The joke had been continued by Denethor months later, when he had recited a purposely bland and awful piece of his own when asking for her hand, followed by one memorized from the little book. She had laughed, and answered yes by pressing her lips against his for quite some time.
Denethor half smiled at the memory, running a regretful finger over the spine of the book. That time had long since passed, but that did not mean Denethor did not miss it, that he did not regret the passing of those days. At least, he thought absently, the book was well thumbed again, after having lain untouched for years after being packed up with his wife's things. He hoped his son found joy in it, as he had once been able to do.
Denethor absently grabbed a rather large tome he knew he would not have attempted at eleven. Perhaps, he thought, he should pass some of his old books along to Faramir. There were quite a few that he had enjoyed as a boy that stayed in storage with some things of his father's that currently had no place in the halls.
Tomorrow was to be Boromir's day, Denethor knew, feeling a rush of pride for his eldest, who set off on his first campaign tomorrow, leaving at first light. The Steward knew that despite the early hour of his departure many of the people would be in the streets to see him ride out as a proper soldier for the first time and hear the first blow of the Horn he carried since Denethor himself had worn it.
But after he was gone, and the excitement of the event was over, Faramir would be devastated, and most likely withdraw, hiding behind a mask of a good expression. Denethor wasn't sure when he had schooled such a thing and it was certainly far from perfect but he would use it tomorrow, Denethor was certain.
His boys were so close, something Denethor marvelled at because he knew how intense sibling rivalry often existed between noble siblings. They seemed to have few friends outside of each other. Their cousins, yes, but they did not often see them and there were a few they associated with among nobles living outside the city. Boromir had made friends among his troop but they had always seemed so separate from other children, even when they were very young.
Denethor sighed, it was a lonely life, especially since neither got along overly well with the children of city nobles, though Denethor could not blame them as many were appallingly spoilt.
It would leave his little son in a very lonely place come the morrow though, since Boromir would be gone and he and the child had seemed to quarrel so often of late...No, that was not right. He found fault with Faramir, certainly, but looking back he could not think of a time when they quarrelled just...the hurt in the boy's grey eyes when harsh words found him again.
That could change though, Denethor thought, it would have to change, for the child's sake. He did not want his little one to be without anyone.
It was very likely that Faramir would be beset with dreams tomorrow, and for a few nights after, echoes of this vision. Denethor hoped the boy would come to him and he would check in on him if the boy did not.
Perhaps then would be the best time to surprise him with a box or two of books that currently sat unread in a storage room. That would certainly distract the boy for a time, perhaps even last him until Boromir returned, for he was not to be gone too many months and...perhaps it could also serve as a peace offering. Denethor knew Faramir cherished little else so much, budding scholar that he was.
Not so much a swordsman, though, Denethor thought with a sigh. The arms master did not have as encouraging reports to give him as Faramir's tutor. He was still very slight of build, thin as a whip and not yet having hit his growth spurt. The arms master was wary to put him against other boys for when he had sparred they had overpowered him simply because he lacked the weight they had.
Only time would remedy that though, for Faramir did not seem to put on weight no matter how much food was plied on him, and Denethor knew the cooks did just that, often indulging both his sons when they wandered down to the kitchens. Age, Denethor was sure, would add height and weight to the small frame. But war was coming, Denethor knew it, and he wanted his son to have all the practice he could get, for he did not wish to lose him to some Orc's blade for lack of skill.
Knowing how much Faramir despised warfare made Denethor's tongue sharper than he often intended, for he could not shake a mental image of his son being stuck down by arrows and lost to him. Faramir could not afford too much coddling. He had to be a soldier. There was nothing else for it.
Denethor frowned as Faramir began to stir uneasily. He moved to the bed and eased the pillow from beneath Faramir's head and moved him gently so his thin shoulders rested in Denethor's lap, his head cradled in the crook of Denethor's arm. Sleepy grey eyes opened just a crack before Faramir nestled further into his father's arms.
Denethor caressed his little one's pale cheek gently, feeling comforted somehow by the
unconscious show of trust from the boy. He leaned against the headboard, and laid his free arm across Faramir, cradling his son gently.
He awoke before dawn, not having realized he had fallen asleep until he woke with his little son still cradled in his arms. The boy's fingers were curled lightly in his tunic, his face pressed against his arm and curtained by messy, dark hair. Denethor brushed the curls away gently to find Faramir's face peaceful.
Denethor carefully eased Faramir onto the bed, succeeding in not waking him. He peered out the window. It was still dark, the first lights of false dawn easing back the blackness. Boromir would be here soon, Denethor guessed, for there was no chance the elder would leave without first spending time with his little brother.
Denethor would have to explain to his eldest son what had happened; for he was not comfortable leaving his little one unattended even now and it would be easier on Faramir if he did not have to explain to his big brother what he had experienced.
It was not very long before he heard a racket heralding his eldest's arrival in the hall beyond the room. Denethor cringed slightly and hoped that they would teach the boy something of stealth in his months away.
It must have surprised Boromir to find his father coming out of his brother's room at that hour just before he reached the door, but he hid it will, his eyes only widening slightly. "Good morrow, father."
"I am glad to see I know my eldest as well as I supposed I did," Denethor observed with a grin that did not quite reach his eyes for he was still stressed from the night's events. "Your brother has not had an easy night."
Boromir started, alarm transforming his cheerful face. "Has he come to harm? What ails him?"
"Shh, I would not have him woken to raised voices. Faramir had a vision last night, a
particularly vivid one that has disturbed him quite badly," Denethor told him. "It left him
understandably distressed. Visions are not easy to handle, especially for one so young."
"A vision?" Boromir repeated, his nose wrinkling in distaste. Denethor hid a smile, his eldest was far too practical, as he was, to take much stock in such things.
"Indeed," Denethor answered. "Like ones that have taken both your uncle and myself from time to time."
"Will he be well, father? Should I not go?" Boromir asked, concern painfully evident on his face and in his tone.
"No, no, you must go, son, and you do know it. Faramir will be fine, though he may be a bit shaken this morn. He is in no danger," Denethor assured him. "Do not press him on the matter though; I fear it will only upset him."
"He will be well, Boromir, do not fret so," Denethor soothed, seeing Boromir's near frantic expression. "I know how to deal with these visions and I may send him to Dol Amroth for a time when there is a lull in his studies. Your uncle takes visions too, as you well know, and they are more vivid than mine. And... The sea air always seems to do your brother well. Now, go visit with him, for he shall dearly miss you while you are away, I fear."
Boromir entered the room quietly, seeing his little brother still slept. He leant over the boy, seeming so young at five years his junior, and gently touched a warm hand to the pale cheek. Faramir stirred at his touch and rolled over, grey eyes looking blearily up at his brother.
"Boromir?" Faramir mumbled, confused, feeling as if his head was stuffed with cotton. Had his father not promised to stay with him? He swore he remembered waking hazily to his father's embrace.
"I am here, brother-mine," Boromir said tenderly, sitting on the bed and opening his arms, letting Faramir, who was still half asleep, snuggle into his embrace. "Father left so we could have some time together before I must leave. He explained to me what happened last night, I believe I made such a racket I stirred him from your side!"
Faramir could not help the slight smile that escaped him at that. So his father had stayed! It made Faramir's heart much lighter to know it.
But then he sighed, burrowing into Boromir's arms even as his brother tightened his embrace, confessing to the elder, "I am going to miss you so!"
"I know, brother-mine, for I am going to miss you dearly as well," Boromir told him, kissing his brother atop the head. It worried him a bit, for Faramir was a tactile creature but normally not to such an extent since he had gained a few years. "But I will not be gone for so long."
"Yes, but..." Faramir hesitated and bit his lip, drawing away from his brother and sitting up, the sleepy haze withdrawing further. "Things are different now, aren't they?"
Boromir sighed but nodded. He had been fighting against the feeling since he had returned from his training exercises but it was true, they were all different, age did that. "Yes, but in some ways not so much."
Faramir looked at him, grey eyes clear, and smiled, resting his head against his brother's
shoulder, letting Boromir hug him close again. "I know that you love me, Boromir, and that I love you very much and that will never change."
Boromir swallowed and blinked, putting a hand to his brother's hair gently. "So long as you never forget that all will be well."
"You too," Faramir murmured. "You cannot forget either and...and come home soon."
It was early but there were people enough to watch the Heir to the Stewardship ride out as a man and a soldier for the first time. Denethor could not blame them. Here was their broad strong champion. Here was hope. Who would not want to see his first ride out to victory?
Anything else was unthinkable.
Below them, as his horse galloped out the gates, Boromir raised the Horn to his lips and
blew three great long blasts from it. Denethor felt his heart swell with pride at this inspiring man who was his eldest son but, even as he did he felt a shiver at his side.
Faramir's face was pale. His eyes shone wetly with tears he would not let fall. Gondor's finest, yes, but big brother too, and gone. Denethor felt a surge of sympathy for his youngest, remembering his own lonely childhood in the Citadel, with two sisters always too busy with their own affairs and intrigues to pay him mind and a father who was too consumed by his work to notice his Heir until he grew old enough to be useful.
Denethor hesitated but put an arm about the thin shoulders and pulled the boy a tad closer. Faramir looked up at him, not hiding his surprise, and leaned into the offered comfort. Together, they watched as Boromir rode away.
"Where were you?" Faramir asked, hurt and slight anger hidden in his voice.
Aragorn sighed. He had been waiting for the question. It had been three nights since he could seek out his little friend. Three nights of great worry and slow progress towards Rivendell, the nearest safe haven, carrying Halbarad between them for he was too wounded to walk under his own power.
He would be fine, though he had taken fever on the journey. That had been no trouble to the Elf healer Aragorn called Adar. They were all in Lord Elrond's care for the moment and as such there was a soft warm bed waiting and Aragorn had no trouble taking advantage of it. Too often he found himself sleeping in a ditch by the side of the road on his travels.
He had found Faramir as swiftly as possible and known straight away that something was not right with the boy. He was withdrawn and seemed... shy almost, which he never had before in Aragorn's presence. Something had happened, Aragorn knew, but Faramir had skirted around it, at first, when he had tried to find out what.
"You remember when I told you I was no longer a soldier but something akin to it?" Aragorn waited for Faramir to nod before continuing. "One of my fellows was wounded badly and I had to tend to him until we could reach a safe place for him to heal. My nights were spent watching over him."
"Is he okay?" Faramir asked in a quiet voice.
"Yes, he is, though he will be laid up for a time," Aragorn replied.
"I was angry with you," Faramir admitted, flushing a bit. "It seems selfish now."
"You could not have known," Aragorn told him, understanding it. "But... Faramir, I have many duties and, as much as I would like to, sometimes I may not be able to be here. It is not that I do not wish to be but..."
"I know," Faramir interrupted sharply. "I know about duty. You need not explain that to me."
"Tithen min, I know it seems unfair," Aragorn began. "But..."
"It does not seem unfair, it is unfair!" Faramir exclaimed. "Duty keeps you away and keeps my father working all the time so he barely has time for me and takes my brother off where he might die and makes me be a soldier too when I do not want to be! I know duty and I hate it!"
Faramir was a bit flushed from his outburst and sat down heavily on a stone bench, head down and shoulders hunched miserably. "But...I know what it means to have such duties and that even if I do hate it I have to bear it and bear it well because...because if I do not then other people might suffer, like your friend and I do not want that!"
Faramir looked up at his friend miserably, "It would be selfish of me to want that. Even when something that happens to me is unfair, it would be more unfair if my father did not work so hard and our people suffered for it, or my brother did not fight and someone lost their brother because he did not."
Aragorn could only stare for a moment. He remembered all to well his reaction to Elrond's revelations about what his duty was and would be at the age of twenty. It still did not sit well with him, even less so that a child should have to understand such things.
He sat beside Faramir on the bench and put his arm around the boy even when Faramir tried to shrug it off. After a moment, the boy relaxed in the one armed hug. "I am sorry, Estel, I did not mean to..."
"No, Faramir, there is nothing to apologize for," Aragorn told him. "It is not fair, and it likely never will be, and you may feel that way so long as you understand that what must be done still must be done, no matter how much you do not like it."
"I know and I do not mean to complain but sometimes...sometimes I feel very lonely and I could not find you and then Boromir was gone too and...and I thought, maybe, you just would not come back. He might not come back, you know, no one says it but he might not and I do not know what I would do if he left me for good!" Faramir murmured.
"Ah, child," Aragorn whispered, not sure what to say for the boy was right! "As often as I am able I will find you. You will not be alone."
"Okay," Faramir whispered, willing to take Aragorn for his word simply because he wanted it to be true.
"Were your dreams dark when I was not there, Faramir?" Aragorn asked gently.
Faramir nodded slowly. "My father said they were not dreams but visions. He says I saw
Numenor when...when it sank."
Aragorn paled a bit. That was not something a child should see. "I am sorry I was not there to stop it."
"You could not help it," Faramir shrugged. "I do not think you could have stopped it forever, either."
"No, it is unlikely I could have," Aragorn agreed. "But...I know some dreamers. The visions cannot be stopped, or if they can I do not know it, but if any know of a way to dim them I will find it for you."
Faramir smiled shyly, "Thank you."
"It is no trouble, tithen min, not it if aids you," Aragorn told him. "Now, I think we have had enough of this sad talk. I have thought of a tale you might enjoy."
"Does it involve your brothers?" Faramir asked, allowing the conversation to be changed, a hint of a smile remaining on his lips.
"My brothers and a plan to capture a spider of Mirkwood," Aragorn began. "Not one of their more successful plans. In the end, one of them ended up shooting himself in the foot...
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