Change One Thing, See What Happens

Steward and the King, The

26. Celebrations

Late in the afternoon, Boromir woke with difficulty. Someone was shaking his shoulder.

"The banquet will start soon," Beregond apologized. "You are expected."

"Pippin?" Boromir asked in a groggy voice.

"He spoke to your uncle, then joined the other halflings."

"I need fresh clothing."

Beregond helped him to stand, then walked in attendance. Boromir took an unexpected turn and they were on top of the encircling wall, looking down at the lower circles. "Something I saw," he explained. "Something we've seen these long years, and with sorrow. The empty houses will be filled now. There are many families that stayed, brave soldier's widows and children who deserve better houses higher up."

-*-


At the feast that evening Boromir was not at his place and this was much noted. But, midway, he entered with Beregond. No one at the lower tables had seen their entrance, but there was soon a nervous buzz of conversation and everyone looked. Boromir spoke to the king, and neither seemed upset. Elassar waved a second guard who then left with Beregond as Boromir sat. Later, there was more low consultation. The absence then was not an insult or Boromir too upset to attend, but rather the King's business. A sense of approval worked its way down the hall, and smiles were broader.

Boromir sat in his place to Aragorn's left; the chair had been sitting empty. Pippin in the seat next gave greeting, and they exchanged a few comments concerning nothing in particular, then Boromir remembered his puzzlement earlier in the day, and asked for an explanation of the puzzling conversation between the King and Frodo, after the coronation, and the fragment of the odd song he had heard.

Pippin laughed, once he understood what Boromir was speaking of. Boromir, now rested, had a full recitation of the poem, and some more stories about Bilbo and Pippin's adventures before the Council, and Faramir joining the quest. "We were all scared, though worse came later," he said. "Even so, Strider did what he could to keep our spirits up ... " His voice trailed off and his face looked suddenly upset.

"Pippin? What's wrong?"

Pippin shook his head. "I'm sorry. It hurts too much. Back then, we didn't understand. When he was still alive to ask, he would have called it happy memories, all the times we sat on hard ground 'round a fire. I've been sitting here almost two hours with empty chairs."

Boromir drew back, as if from unexpected attack.

"No, it's not that!" Pippin said hastily. "Not your seat, you're here! You came late, but there's others who won't come at all. Gandalf's at the table," he pointed. "Strider, Frodo, Sam and me." He put down first one hand then the other on either side of his tall-legged seat. "I want Merry here," his left side. "I want Faramir here," on his right side, between him and Boromir. Boromir closed his eyes and swallowed, hard.

Pippin nodded, and continued. He gestured further down the table, though Boromir listened only and didn't see the motion. "I want Legolas and Gimli there -- and wouldn't that be a sight for the rest to see, an elf and dwarf together. After Lorien, I didn't think it odd at all. I miss my friends."

Boromir's eyes opened, looking on memory. "I miss my brother."

"I know this is a wonderful day and everyone is happy. But I've had enough, sir. If I can't have a smoke and a talk with Merry, and I can't, I'd just rather crawl into bed and have a good cry."

"I would also find comfort of that. Yet I fear we must stay here a while longer, though I think you could leave earlier than I; I have given the gossips much to conjecture about and so must make amends."

"What was that?" Pippin wiped his eyes and nodded toward Aragorn. "What did you tell him? He had expected you at the beginning. He said neither we should wait nor would he let Hurin rearrange the seats."

"Something I noticed ..." Boromir took a deep breath, postponing emotion for later. "It was on the slow procession through the circles, movement in a house long empty. Though I had to sleep before it came clear to me. There was no one in the windows cheering. It was a family disagreement, and one of two cousins taking advantage of the coronation distraction to 'reclaim' an abandoned house on the fourth circle. In leaving, their grandfather forfeited. It is the King's now to do what he wills."

Pippin laughed. "That was bold, what he did. And foolish!"

"Yes." Boromir grinned in satisfaction. "I caught him in his dishonorable act and he would rather run in shame, but I ordered to him to stay in the city. I do not think he will try to disobey."

Pippin laughed, and they turned their attention back to the feast. Boromir was unobtrusively pointing out various people that he knew to Pippin, telling stories. "Huh, where's Frodo?" the younger hobbit interrupted to say. Boromir glanced over and could see neither Frodo nor Sam.

The mystery was solved a few minutes later when Boromir felt the gardener tugging on his sleeve. Boromir turned around to find both of them behind his chair. Frodo was carrying two small books. The older one Boromir knew very well, and his heart clenched at its return.

"You have finished eating, haven't you?" Frodo asked shyly. "I brought these for you. Everyone was telling me this wasn't the right time or place, but I wanted you to have these tonight." Boromir took them carefully. "For your comfort."

"Yes," he answered. "Thank you."

"I'm sorry, sir," Sam said. "We both -- Well, it was too much ash for tears, sir, but we cried for them in our hearts. Days and days."

"You never stopped, Lady bless you," he said quietly, daring to open the pages. "Not until your quest was done. What gift could I give you in return?"

"Your smile is thanks enough, Boromir," Frodo answered. "This was a healing task."

"Still, I shall find you a gift. Another book, perhaps?" He leaned closer, "and I'll ask you help on what to give brave Samwise." Frodo grinned and Sam blushed. "Thank you, again." Frodo nodded then they both went back to their seats.

Pippin watched as Boromir turned the pages, reading snatches of the westron translation. "They kept the rhyming pattern intact, I think." Boromir observed hesitantly. He had little experience with poetry beyond excerpts his brother would read to him.

"They were two of a kind with their poems. It was three, in Rivendell, with Bilbo. He'll be sad to hear that part of the story. He liked your brother quite a lot."

"I'll be sad to watch you leave, Pippin. You have been a great help to me."

Pippin looked down, the celebration leaving him behind once more. He had to bring Merry's body home, so he would leave before the others. He was sick for home, sick with grief, sad to be leaving his new friends behind. "Have you slept?" he asked, again looking towards a Steward's well-being.

"Four hours this afternoon. Very little before that."

"Why didn't you ask help of the healers?"

Boromir blew out his breath, and spoke in a whisper. "I was afraid of unintended poison. Father willed his own death. That was not what I wanted. Even if I would have rather death, it would be shameful ingratitude to put such an insult on Elessar's just reward. Gondor lives, unshadowed. I am glad he is King, finally, and I no longer need mistrust myself."

"Are you going to be all right? Can you endure being Steward with a King on the throne?"

"You have my father's voice," Boromir laughed quietly and long, "But are gentle with it. I will miss you, Peregrin Took. I have a mind, by your oath, that I should order you to return ... but this is not your home, alas. I expect letters!"

-*-


"Don't cry, Lady," Sam said. "He did not want you to cry."

"No, he did not," she answered. The tears still fell, though Eowyn held herself quiet. She and Pippin would be leaving soon, within the week. Prince Imrahil had softened his report more than she realized, but the hobbit Sam did not have his courtier's skills.

Faramir had told Sam, on the borders of Mordor, that he had wished he could unsay his promise. Out of pity, surely, for he would soon die. Yet ... better if he had never kissed me? There were so many days and nights in Edoras that was all, it seemed, that kept me sane -- that thin hope.

Sam, seeing her reaction, wept and begged apology. "I was selfish, lady. I hurt so bad about losing Rosie and never speaking. He'd done what I wish I'd done. ... I should have let him talk about you. Told him you wanted him to speak. He'd've been hurting awful as I was, me telling myself I should have spoken. I'll be gone a year or more before I get home, and she'll not want to speak with me." Then he chided himself for being selfish again, but he couldn't help it. "I've lost her, never had her. Another mess I put myself into, and I rue this the worst."

Frodo tried to disagree, but Sam wouldn't hear it. "Shouldn't we all go home with Merry?" he nearly begged. "I want to go home. Now." Gaffer would put the world to right.

"Strider doesn't want us to leave yet." Frodo said softly. "Gandalf's not done here, and he wants him with us. Elrond will be here soon, and he wants him to look at your hand."

He agreed unhappily. "Whatever you say, Mr. Frodo."

Frodo pulled Pippin aside as the others left, promising to get a letter from Sam. "I will make him write to Rosie, as well as his Gaffer. I don't think his suit is as lost as he's afraid of."

"No, she was looking."

"Before we left?"

"Merry told me, after you took the boats across the lake. I don't want to tell Sam now, he's so upset, so far from home. He might take good news as being bad. He might take guilt that Merry died, if I try to tell this to him now: Rosie was worried, and wanted Merry to make sure her Sam didn't get hurt. But she didn't like him going away so long. And back then, we thought we'd be back before Yule, not gone a whole year."

"Yes," Frodo agreed, "This would not be good to tell him now, but I am glad to know. I'll help him write that letter, and you send messages back our way, as soon as you know."

-*-


Boromir followed Eowyn to an empty courtyard. "Please be kind," he asked. One hand hovered at her back. He wanted to touch her, but was unsure of her response. "He didn't want to die; he therefore grieved. I think he was expecting a quieter end when he said that, still he saw no way home. He wanted you happy."

"Did he give me to you then?" She looked up at him and her eyes went hard for a moment. "Do you, Boromir, want me, or is this for your brother's sake?"

His answering look could not quite be called surprise. He sat next to her and considered his words. "I would have you for my wife, if you would have me."

"Should I forsake my love?" Does he wait for me? Should I narrow my life on that promise, and live all my days a widow? If he did not die with my name in his heart, will I find him at my death?

"I have my brother's blessing on this."

"And he is not here to ask." She tried to make her tone light. "Perhaps you are not a neutral party in this matter! You did not answer my question."

He returned her smile. "Would you put me in a trap, my lady? If I say either 'yes' or 'no', I will be in the wrong. I know what Faramir hoped, when he could believe his hope was possible."

"I wish to know your heart."

"Then I answer, 'I know not'." He smiled at her look of disbelief, and considered his response. "In years before I did not look to marry because of the war that would come. I did not want to make sons for the orcs to kill." His eyes closed briefly. "My father seemed of like mind, for he made no alliance negotiations ... But now ... I heed an heir." He touched her face, voice lower, "I want a wife."

Eowyn stopped the kiss, which had begun awkwardly. Yet she did not let him withdraw. Her face was on his chest as she remembered. Faramir's kiss had begun with the same soft touch of lips, but he had soon pressed forward when she did not withdraw, a barely heard laugh deep in his throat. Or had she pressed into him to gain that reaction?

Boromir and I ... do not know our minds. So the kiss had remained insubstantial. Already she had spent days more time with him than she had had with his brother, unless she counted the nights she spent dreaming in hope.

Boromir tightened his arm around her shoulders, and they sat in silence until the next bell rang. There was much for each of them to do.

=== end chapter ===


This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

In Challenges

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Author: julifolo

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Rating: General

Last Updated: 12/21/14

Original Post: 06/26/02

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