Faramir held the torn shreds of parchment in his little hands, stubbornly refusing to cry. He knew the words by heart, and they were louder and stronger in his mind than the retreating footsteps of his father. He closed his eyes, reciting them over and over in silence so he would not forget them before he could write them down once more.
He hardly heard the sound of another door opening, nor the soft steps approaching him. But he felt a gentle hand resting on his head, stroking over his curls. And he heard the sigh. Boromir's sigh.
Faramir's eyes flew open, and his older brother was kneeling before him, just able to look into his eyes from this height. He tried to smile, but while he would not cry, this was beyond him.
Boromir's hand continued to pet his hair, while with his other hand, he took the shredded parchment from Faramir's fingers. His eyes scanned all that remained of a poem about Gondor and the brave men defending her. With a sad glance at Faramir, Boromir tucked the parchment into his pocket, then wrapped both arms around him and held him close.
Faramir closed his eyes, his nose pressed flat against Boromir's shoulder, the soft green tunic as warm and comforting as Boromir's familiar scent.
"Did you show this to father?" Boromir asked softly.
Faramir nodded against his shoulder. "He told me not to waste his time." His voice was nearly steady. "He said I would grow up weak and useless."
Boromir stroked Faramir's narrow back, his fury held in check only by the fragility of the boy he was holding and would not crush. He took several deep, slow breaths before he could speak evenly. "Show your poems only to me from now on, little one," he implored.
Faramir's hands tangled in the fabric of Boromir's tunic. "Do you think me weak and useless also, Boromir?"
Boromir tightened his embrace as much as he dared, then released Faramir slowly so he could look into his eyes. "Listen to me, little brother. The greatest strength lies in being able to inspire love and loyalty. The greatest success is to be the centre of another's world." He cupped Faramir's face in his hands. "You are merely twelve years old, and you do both with ease already."
Faramir smiled a little.
Boromir wanted to as well, but he needed Faramir to understand the importance of what he was telling him. "Father rules without kindness or compassion. There is no poetry in his soul, and no love in his heart. That, Faramir, is weakness."
Faramir, who had never heard Boromir speak in quite such a way of their father, looked shocked. "You do not love father?"
Boromir shook his head. "I obey him. It is not the same." With a sigh, he dropped his hands and took Faramir's in his own, sitting back on his haunches.
"But he does love you." A pause. "Does he not?" Faramir asked, no longer taking anything for granted. His hands clasped Boromir's tightly in return.
"If he cannot love you, he need not love me." Boromir's eyes gazing up at him were full of regret, at once the eyes of a grown man and yet still those of a boy.
Faramir thought about all that Boromir had told him, and then he smiled. "I understand," he said, his heart as light as air.
Boromir this time returned his smile. "And that, little one, is wisdom."