"Family" has been sitting on my hard drive for a good long while now, collecting virtual dust. This is part of no particular series, but is more of a character sketch to help me figure out how Denethor and Finduilas might interact, and also how Denethor and his mother relate to each other. I don't think it'll go anywhere, but it's fairly complete unto itself (problems with the ending notwithstanding) and might amuse some. Let me know what you think.
Oh Valar...! Denethor missed a step as a cry drifted through the closed door, and try though he might to cover it, he knew his anxiety shone through as clearly as one of the war beacons of old. What am I doing here? he asked himself, and not for the first time, either. It was not as if he had any part to play, and there were any number of things he might be doing even now. But his mother had insisted that he be here, and had appealed to his father in addition to forbid him to bring any work down with him. At first, he had been relieved, for Ecthelion knew well that he had no time for this, but to his surprise, his father had agreed with her! "Your staff and mine are well-trained. We can manage without you for a day. And besides, your mother is right. This is not something to be put off for another day, for it happens but once," his traitor of a father had said, and smiled at his dismay. Protests had not availed him, and Ecthelion had at last ordered him to take the day, or however long it needed, and go and do as generations of men had done. For his part, this was one tradition that he would gladly have broken with, but there was no escape. And so Denethor paced the room, and tried to think of other things, and waited for his child to be born.
As another cry reached his ears, he decided that, upon due reflection, it was as well that he had been forbidden to work while he waited. He could not have concentrated, and the futility of it would have frustrated him. Why must this take so long? he wondered, and then berated himself. Of course it took long. He had certainly heard enough of such matters to know that the first labor tended to be the longest. Having also read some of the medical books that Finduilas had borrowed, he knew that it was not unreasonable for a woman to spend a day, even, birthing her child. And that is without complications, which we cannot count upon in this case, he thought, running both hands through his hair and gripping hard at the ends as he stared up at the ceiling. Unfortunately, calm did not descend from the heavens, and so Denethor straightened his arms, stretching 'til he felt his back crack, and then resumed pacing.
Just then, the door opened, and he turned sharply, hopefully. Alas, it was only his mother, Nirthel, and she shook her head, smiling gently as she closed the door behind her, shutting out a brief glimpse of the black-clad midwives of the Houses of Healing. A stately woman, with a round face and sweet disposition, one could read all her heart in her expressive blue-grey eyes. "Not yet, my dear," she said then, unnecessarily, and Denethor stifled a sigh.
"Will it be much longer, though?"
"'Tis difficult to say," Nirthel replied, in that tone of hers that exuded concerned sympathy, and which Denethor found most irritating. For the Valar's sake, he was not ill, to need such comforting, nor a boy, and if Finduilas had been dying, someone would have told him by now. So there was no need for her to look at him like that, as if he were an invalid in need of protecting, and by the Valar, would this never end?! "Dear heart, you are wearing a track in the carpet, and I think me the healers will not approve of that. Sit, Denethor," Nirthel suggested, and sat down herself, as if to demonstrate, and patted the seat beside her. I am forty-eight years old, I do not need a nurse-maid! With a muttered oath that got him another painfully sympathetic look, Denethor obeyed, doing his best not to flounce down onto the chair like a sulky child. Unfortunately, Nirthel was his mother, and there were some things he could not hide from her. Now, she shook her head and laid a hand on his shoulder. "There is no need to work yourself into a state, my son," she admonished, with a soft laugh.
"I am not working myself into a state," he informed her coolly, and winced inwardly at how readily his tone gave the lie to his words.
"Your father was no better," Nirthel said thoughtfully, her fingers kneading into his shoulder, and although he did not particularly want to admit it, it felt very good indeed. "I love him dearly, but the day you were born, I had to have the healers expel him from the room or he would have driven me to distraction."
"In which case, I see not why you wish me to be here, for surely Finduilas needs no distraction."
At that, Nirthel raised a brow, frowning slightly, and replied, "Indeed? Have you asked her?" Denethor stiffened at that, as his mother continued, "I would have you stay for your own sake, for I think you may regret it later, if you are not present. Many fathers wish that they had been at their wives' sides when their children were born. But I know that you like it not when I speak of your affairs, public or private. I would not have insisted were it solely my desire that you be here."
"She never said aught to me of such a wish."
"I think you intimidate her, Denethor. And she has been ill, you know, poor thing." Nirthel's voice was unwontedly grave, though still gentle, and Denethor felt himself beginning to tense up again. He did not want to have this discussion with his mother, and he cast about for a way to avoid it. Ere he could say aught, however, Nirthel continued more briskly, "Well, she will be glad, though, to see you. So do try to be reassuring for her, for she may need that. And Denethor, if she weeps afterwards, you need not say anything. It is a common enough thing. It will be quite sufficient to simply be with her." That, at least, was useful information, and Denethor gave a nod, casting a look back at the door almost involuntarily. And ended by staring at it for so long that his mother gave him a little shake and asked, "Is there anything you might wish to know?"
Denethor blinked at that, glancing at her quickly, then just as quickly finding some intriguing patch of floor to occupy his attention. As a rule, he hated ignorance, his own not least, and it cost him something to ask of others what he felt he could properly discover himself. Yet.... "Is there any sign of difficulty? This illness of hers has lasted since soon after we were married, and she was quite ill earlier this week." Which was why Finduilas gave birth now in the Houses of Healing and not in her own room, much to her disappointment. Denethor had tried to tell her that there was nothing wrong with the Houses of Healing, that it was better for her, likely, that she remain there under the care of the healers. But he had sensed that his words had done little to ease his wife's feelings of chagrin, and so, after a time, had given up attempting to convince her.
"No, she does very well, although she does tire more swiftly than is usual. But we must expect that, after all, and the healers say that they shall watch her closely in the days to come. The main danger is that she may bleed too much, or that she will not have the strength to push the baby out without help."
"Help?" Nirthel raised a brow at her son's sharp tone.
"Yes, help." And when he simply gazed at her, she frowned slightly and continued, "There are a few things that can be done to help the child along if necessary. I confess myself surprised, for I would have thought you would have read about this, given Finduilas' pregnancy."
"There were other things I had to do," Denethor replied, and left it at that. There was no particular reason to admit that he had often thought about learning more of what Finduilas might face. But he had been filled with a strange reluctance whenever he had stood before those particular books, and in the end, he had not read them. He had no stomach for surgery of any sort, and as ridiculous as it seemed to him that a man of his experience in the field should be bothered by the sight of blood, he could not seem to overcome the feeling. Blood on the battlegrounds troubled him no more than it did any other warrior, but the surgeon's tents were another matter entirely, and listening to Finduilas' occasional cries was disturbing on a number of levels. Nirthel was watching him now closely, and he sighed inwardly as surprise began to melt into sympathy again. "What are the risks, should the babe need... help?"
"It depends upon what is done, but let us not think of that now. She seems to be doing well, considering her fragile health, and the fact that it is her first child. I would not worry, love, your Finduilas is a brave lady." Denethor was not certain what to say to that, and so, as was his habit in such cases, he said nothing. After a time, Nirthel asked, "What shall you name the child?"
"Finduilas would know. She has been keeping lists," Denethor replied, and shrugged slightly. "It seemed to keep her happy. So whatever she has decided, I shall be content, so long as it is not Thorongil."
Nirthel stared at him a moment, and then began to laugh. And laugh so hard that she soon had to wipe her eyes, while Denethor simmered silently, for he did not find anything half so amusing in his words. "Oh Denethor! So long as... not Thorongil... oh my!"
"I will not have any child of mine named after a some shiftless wanderer, Mother."
"Dear heart, will you not let him go? He served us well, and went peaceably. I never understood quite why you grew to dislike him so."
Denethor opened his mouth to explain, but just then, the door opened a second time, and a young woman, with a journeyman's badge on her black robes, poked her head out. "My lady, my lord," she said, smiling. "'Tis finished. You may come in now, if you wish." Denethor was half of the opinion that he did not wish, but Nirthel caught his hand firmly and rose, leaving him with no choice but to follow or create an undignified scene in public. Bracing himself inwardly, he followed his mother rather stiffly into the room. Nirthel went right up to the bedside without hesitation, and the healers moved aside for her, but Denethor held back, listening with half an ear to the exchange between his mother and his wife. It was still a rather chaotic scene, with the healers attempting to impose some order. Some were bringing a small tub and hot water to the bedside, while others were putting away bottles of who knew what medicines, and still others were stripping away the topmost sheets that had been pushed down to the foot of the bed. And away in a corner, some of the midwives were occupied with a squirming, squealing bundle....
"Denethor." Nirthel's voice interrupted his observations, and he turned towards her to find her supporting a very exhausted Finduilas. "Come help." Uncertain what he was to help with, he nonetheless approached, and Nirthel relinquished her place to him, draping Finduilas' arm around his shoulders. His wife's hand clutched feebly at him, and, attempting reassurance, he reached up with his free hand, the one not round her waist, to pat it. "There now, dear, let us get you cleaned up," Nirthel said, soothingly cheerful. And so Denethor ended by being a bath attendant, and if no one else seemed to think it anything but natural that he should help his wife to stand and rinse off the sweat and blood of labor, he felt rather self-conscious about the whole affair, given how many people were present. Nevertheless, Finduilas at least seemed pleased, or else was too tired to feel anything like embarrassment, as she leaned against him with her head resting on his shoulder for much of the bath. She is thin for one who has just borne a child. Has she not been eating? he wondered, as he helped her back into the bed, whose sheets had been swiftly changed. Finduilas seemed to him very pale lying there, eyes closed, lips slightly parted. But she gripped his hand tightly, and he found himself slipping an arm about her shoulders. He scarcely noticed Nirthel's slight smile at that, preoccupied as he was with the sense that somehow, this was not quite usual, though he could find no reason for that feeling.
"My lady," said the same journeyman who had opened the door, and she smiled as she laid a swaddled infant on Finduilas' breast. "Your son is quite well, my lady, my lord."
"What is his name, my dear?" Nirthel asked, as Finduilas, in a rather stunning reversal of her weary demeanor, smiled brilliantly down at her child.
"Why I... I am not certain," Finduilas glanced up at him then, and Denethor knew a moment of panic, hoping he was not about to be asked. "There were a few... do you recall, Denethor?"
Frowning, he thought back to Finduilas and her lists, trying to recall the memory sharply enough to read the first page that he had glanced at that day.... "Belethil, Barahan, Dirion, Boromir—"
"Boromir." Denethor blinked and raised a brow at Finduilas' very certain tone.
"Unless you would rather another," Finduilas was quick to add, with a touch of sudden anxiety, and Denethor shook his head.
"If it pleases you, then Boromir he is," he replied, cocking his head slightly as he stared down at the infant suckling eagerly at his wife's breast. On impulse, he reached down and hesitantly laid his hand atop the baby's head. Soft where the bones had not yet fused, and with a hint of dark fuzz already, and Denethor gave a soft grunt, mouth twitching slightly as a smile fought its way past ambivalence and an irrational fear that he might hurt Boromir merely by touching him. This is my son. It hardly seemed possible given... well, given all of it, he concluded rather lamely, resolutely pushing all their troubles aside for the time being. "Welcome, Boromir."
"I shall go tell Ecthelion the news, then," Nirthel said, smiling. Denethor watched her go with a certain relief; it was far easier to respect from a distance than to love from nigh at hand. Which seems to be quite often the case with me, he thought, gazing down at Finduilas. But his wife did not notice, absorbed with watching Boromir, and she seemed content enough with his silence for once as she nestled in the crook of his arm. And after awhile, when Boromir yawned, burbling to himself as he settled down, his wife murmured:
"Such a little thing! But one day... do you think he shall look at all like you or me?"
"I suppose he shall seem a bit like both of us."
"Maybe he will seem as his grandsire."
"Mayhap. Time shall doubtless undo all our guesswork, though," Denethor replied. Finduilas sighed softly, then, but she nodded, slumping a bit. Her husband frowned. "You should rest. You have not been well."
"No... no I have not. Here, love." And with frightful suddenness, Denethor found himself encumbered with an armful of blankets and Boromir, as Finduilas lay back exhaustedly.
"Hold him for me awhile, please, Denethor!"
But I should leave.... And yet he could not. And so, clutching the babe to his chest, one-armed, he did as he was bid, hoping that Boromir would remain quiet for a time, at least. And not only for his sake, for Finduilas seemed to have wilted against the pillows. Two years and nine long months it had been since they had wed. Such a change, he thought, studying her in this rare moment of stillness. It will be quite sufficient to simply be with her, Nirthel had said. Yet.... "Finduilas...?" Her eyes opened, and something unidentifiable flickered there in her gaze a moment.
"Yes?" You need not say anything, his mother's voice reminded him, and for an instant, he almost told her to go back to sleep. But then:
"Thank you. He... is beautiful." Finduilas blinked at that, lips parting slightly in seeming surprise though she said nothing. I should have stayed silent!
"He is," Finduilas agreed just then, and then hesitated a moment, before she continued almost shyly, "I am glad that you came." Denethor grunted, surprised in his turn, but he nodded, and his wife smiled slightly as she closed her eyes once more. Reaching up and across herself, she gripped his hand on her shoulder, and he, after a slight hesitation, squeezed back. This cannot last, Denethor thought, and wondered vaguely whether he was truly that calm or whether he was simply weary himself and unwilling, for once, to look too far ahead. Boromir slept the sleep of the innocent, Finduilas of the exhausted, and Denethor wished he had a hand free to rub at his eyes. I have too much to do. I cannot stay long....
And yet when Ecthelion finally came down to the Houses of Healing to look in on his daughter-in-law, he found his son still perched there, babe in one arm, wife in the other... and all three of them oblivious to all the world.
Fanon Note: Due to the uncertain dates for the Battle of Pelargir, Aragorn's departure, and his journeys in Harad and Rhûn, it's not certain he would have been present for Boromir's birth. I assume he left at least two years before 2980, and definitely before Boromir's birth sometime in 2978. Your mileage may vary.
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.