by Gonzai

Although the healing process was taking far too long by his reckoning, Faramir knew the Warden was correct in ordering him to remain at the Houses of Healing while the battle against Sauron continued without him. And while he hoped it would not come to that, his goal was to be ready should the army of Gondor fall and the enemy once again besiege Minas Tirith. To this end, he was willing to cooperate with the Warden and take his rest. Regrettably, though, he was not getting any sleep on this evening due to a persistent and rather annoying sound from a nearby room.

The pitter-pat, pitter-pat sounded much like a small child who could not be still, and though it was truly a soft sound, in his present state the pattering sounded to Faramir nearly like the pounding of a galloping horse. After some hours of agitation he finally concluded that while he was not certain what action he should then take, he would at the least have to find the source of the sound; and fortunately he did not have to venture far from his room to do so.

The pattering was coming from the room near to his own, a room he knew was presently occupied by his fellow patient, King Théoden's esquire, the perian he had not yet met and about whom he knew very little. But he was aware this perian was not only an esquire of Rohan but a favorite of Mithrandir and the Ernil I Pheriannath, as well as having been in the affections of his departed brother; additionally, the perian was depriving him of his rest, so Faramir determined it might well be time they became acquainted.

He entered the room quietly but gave just enough notice of his presence that the perian stopped his pacing immediately. "Our time in this place is long, but I know not the need to trod a trench into the floor," Faramir told the halfling, who had flushed red in embarrassment. "And as the floors of this house are built of stone, it may take quite a long time to complete the work."

"I-I'm sorry, my Lord, if I disturbed you-" the perian stammered.

"You did, but you are forgiven," Faramir told the halfling. "I would wish though, that you would keep your pacings to the hours of daylight." At this the perian flushed an even brighter red. "I am afraid that we have not yet made acquaintance. I am Faramir, soon to be steward of Gondor, and brother of Boromir. I am to understand my brother was fond of you and the Ernil i Pheriannath."

"The Ernil i Pheriannath?" asked the confused halfling.

"Your companion, Master Peregrin," Faramir added hastily. "The men of the Third Company bestowed the title upon him, greatly to his discomfiture, I might add." He smiled at the perian.

"He spoke a little of it," the halfling nodded, then paused before speaking again. "Your brother Boromir laid down his life for us, and I cannot begin to repay the debt I owe to you."

"There is no need, the Pheriannath has graciously given his fealty to Gondor and his generosity will serve for you both," Faramir smiled down at the halfling but did not fail to notice he flinched at each mention of his absent companion. "And you have accepted the mantle of Rohan, an honorable task you have served well. However, I know not your name."

"Meriadoc Brandybuck, sir, but I've always rather been called Merry." Merry had ceased blushing but had replaced the reddening with fidgeting.

As he had with Pippin, it took Faramir only a few moments become as fond of the perian as had his brother Boromir, and already he found himself willing to do what little he could for Merry. "You wish to be riding with your lord Éomer even now, do you not? It is the hardest task for a true soldier, to remain behind when the battle rages on. But Éomer understands well enough, and you have already proven your worth to Rohan."

Merry looked him right in the eye. "I should have gone with my King, and with Gandalf and Strider and the others too, they may need me in the battle, I am not so ill that I could not have gone."

"But that, Master Merry, is not a decision we make," Faramir responded. "The Warden, however unfortunately, has the final word in this house. I too am subject to his cautions. And even Aragorn himself deemed you should stay."

"But I do not wish to let my friends meet their fate without me!" Merry stormed in frustration to the window of his room, which opened outwards to the city, and threw himself upon the sill in frustration.

"Your friends, or Master Pippin?" asked Faramir. While he had no doubt of Merry's loyalties to his King - and the future King - it was not difficult to realize the true source of Merry's frustration.

At this Merry flushed red again and hid his face in his arms. "Gandalf bore Pippin away to this place many days ago. The last time I can recollect that Pippin and I were not companions before then…if I recollect rightly, Pippin had not yet learned to walk. No sooner do I see him again but he is taken off to war, a battle where he will most surely die, and die terribly. And where shall I be when he dies? Here in the peace of this house, warm and fed."

Faramir understood all too well. Where had he been, as his brother had been pricked by dozens of arrows, but comfortably camped with his men in Ithilien? "Master Pippin is a soldier of Gondor now. He understands why you are not with him, and he will forgive you. You need only forgive yourself, Master Merry."

"If I only could," Merry answered quietly, and turned away. Neither of them spoke for what seemed like hours. Finally Merry looked up, his tears nearly dried. "Lord Faramir…you could not have helped Boromir. There were so many Orcs…not even Strider could defeat so many. And what would this city be now, without its steward?"

Faramir in his increasing weariness had not realized that Merry had seen into him as well as he had seen into Merry. "And perhaps what would become of the Shire, should you not return? We are hatefully trapped by our circumstance, yet there may be reasons. I should like to ponder the reasons in my sleep, and well you should too."

"Yes, I should. But I won't sleep, not at all, until I know what has become of my cousin," Merry replied, staring out the window. "But I shall try to keep quiet the rest of the night."

"Your courtesy lives up to its reputation," Faramir smiled even though he knew Merry would not see him do so. "Good night to you, Master Merry."