Restoration

by Linaewen
One day I was thinking about 'might-have-beens', and this little story came to me. The idea has been discussed before, and tales have been written about it, so I thought I'd share my own idea of what might have been, if things had been different.

The setting as I have described it has been taken from "The Field of Cormallen" (ROTK).


Restoration

"Well, Sam," said Frodo, as he adjusted his ragged shirt in an attempt to hide the worst of its worn condition amongst the folds of cloth; "I do not feel I am dressed to meet a King, nor anyone else, for that matter, but I am ready. What about you?"

"I'm with you, Mr. Frodo," replied Sam. "I'm as ready as I'll ever be, I guess. I'm hopin' Mr. Gandalf does as he promised and finds us some better clothes, real soon. But he did say these clothes would do..."

"I did say that, Sam, and I meant it," said Gandalf, with a chuckle. He was waiting patiently at the edge of the beech-grove where their beds were laid. "Do not worry, the King will not mind how you are dressed, nor will anyone else, for that matter."

Frodo and Sam looked at one another, then laughed in unison at the look of mirrored chagrin and shyness they saw on each others' faces. They were both worried about meeting this King whom Gandalf had told them about, but the wizard's confidence was somewhat comforting, and they felt they could do nothing else but trust him. Their old clothes would have to do.

They followed Gandalf across a long green lawn that glowed in the sunshine. A stream ran down before them between flowering banks, until it came to a green wood at the lawn's foot and passed on under an archway of trees, through which they could see the shimmer of water far away.

As they approached the edge of the wood, the flash of sunlight on metal caught their eye; looking, they saw a Man standing, half in the shadows and half in the sunlight. He was leaning at his ease against the trunk of a tree laden with scarlet blossoms. The sun gleamed on his long shirt of mail, and upon the sword at his side. His leather surcoat was emblazoned with an emblem of a white tree, and the tunic that showed beneath it was scarlet with gold trim -- the scarlet color being a near match for the blossoms that swung overhead. The man's features were dark under the shadow of the tree, but the sun peeping through the leaves shone dappled upon his head, and where the light touched, his hair glowed auburn. His face was turned away from them, towards the shimmering water beyond the trees.

"Is that the King?" whispered Sam, hanging back in dismay. He tugged at his clothing in an effort to straighten it. He felt shabby and ill-dressed compared to the tall knight in his gleaming armor. "Is he waiting for us?"

"No, that is not the King" replied Gandalf with a gentle smile. "But he is a friend of the King, one of his most trusted companions. And yes, he is waiting for you. Long has he waited to speak with you, and with Frodo in particular."

"With me? But why?" stammered Frodo. "Who is he, if not a king? And what does he want with me?"

Gandalf only smiled and shook his head.

"That is for him to say; I will not take from him that honor and duty."

Gandalf indicated that they should go on before him, so Frodo and Sam walked forward, anxiously. As they approached, the Man turned and smiled at them, and they knew him.

It was Boromir.

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Boromir looked out through the trees towards the glimmering waters of Anduin in the distance. He had been waiting here since he had first heard the news that the Halflings were awake and ready to be brought before the King. This was a good place for their meeting, the meeting he had hoped for and dreaded since that fateful day at Amon Hen. Beyond the wood, Aragorn waited, with the host of the Free Peoples; but here, it was quiet and secluded. They would not be interrupted, for Aragorn had given orders that no one was to follow Boromir here, or disturb him until his meeting was finished. Aragorn knew, better than anyone, how important this was to him.

Boromir knew that if he did not speak with Frodo and Sam now, before they joined the host that awaited them, he would never have another chance to speak with them alone. The things that needed to be said, would not be said, and the final healing he so greatly desired would not take place.

And that will not do, thought Boromir. I must speak with Frodo and Sam, and I must do it now, no matter what the outcome. I do not know how they will respond to me, but it matters not. I will say what must be said, for my own peace of mind, and leave the rest with them.

Gandalf, too, had understood, when Boromir had spoken of his intention, and he had promised that they would have whatever time they needed together.

Boromir heard a murmur of voices and turned. They were coming. Boromir smiled; it was so good to see them again, alive! Then, before fear of the consequences could hold him back, he straightened, and walked quickly towards them.

"Boromir!" the hobbits cried in unison, when they finally found their voices.

"Boromir!" repeated Frodo, confused. "But... Faramir said he was dead..."

"He was mistaken," said Gandalf from behind.

Frodo and Sam watched silently as Boromir approached them across the green lawn. Boromir could not read their expressions. His throat went suddenly dry, and he felt his heart stop, briefly, sickeningly; but he did not pause, and his smile did not falter. He approached slowly now, his hands held out in a gesture of peace and vulnerability. He willed himself to look at Frodo, to meet his gaze. What was that look in his eyes? Was it surprise? Fear? Hatred? No... none of those... Caution, perhaps...

Boromir stood before the two hobbits, and realized he had forgotten everything he had thought to say; all his rehearsed words and apologies were gone, lost in the wide blue gaze of Frodo's eyes, and the slight narrowing look of suspicion in Sam's.

He turned quickly to Sam, and before he could object or draw back, Boromir knelt, and placed his hands on Sam's shoulders.

"Do not worry, Sam, you will not have to fight me," Boromir said with a sad smile. "You have nothing to fear from me any longer."

Sam looked startled, then abashed, as Boromir looked at him knowingly.

"I know you have been angry with me for what I have done, and rightly so," Boromir went on. "But do not let that stand between us now; put your anger aside. I ask your forgiveness, and I beg you to try to trust me a little, if you can. I promise you, I am no longer the same man who tried to harm your Frodo."

Sam blinked. He opened his mouth, then closed it again, and bowed his head. After a moment, he looked up again, and he was smiling.

"I can see that, sir. You do look different somehow, not so worried, as it were. Happier, I think." A thoughtful look crossed Sam's face. "Besides, I... well, I guess I can't really lay any blame on you, not now. Not since.... Well, let's just say, I understand you better now... what you must've gone through, I mean."

Sam swallowed hard, and attempted a smile. "Hard to say no, it was..."

Boromir nodded solemnly as he laid a hand on Sam's cheek. "Yes. Just so!"

Sam stepped back, and Boromir, still on his knees, turned his eyes to meet Frodo's. Frodo had composed himself; whatever it was that Boromir had seen in his eyes in the moment of their first meeting, was gone now, replaced by something that for all the world looked like hopeful eagerness.

Boromir held out his hands, and Frodo, without hesitation, laid his own hands in Boromir's. They were small and frail, and the bandage on Frodo's right hand was rough on Boromir's palm. He stroked the wounded hand gently with his thumb; a tear rolled down his cheek, but he did not notice it.

"I tried to find you... I searched for hours..." Boromir's voice broke suddenly, and his words trailed off. He had prepared for this moment for so long, and now that it had come, words failed him. After a moment, he cleared his throat and went on.

"I am sorry, Frodo. I did not understand, and in my failure, I hurt you. I might even have tried to kill you if I had been given the chance, and for that I am truly sorry. Please! Forgive me, Frodo! Forgive me the pain and the hurt I have caused you, that made you flee from me into great danger."

"You were not yourself," replied Frodo, never taking his eyes from Boromir's face.

"No, perhaps not. And yet I am still to blame. I should have been stronger..."

"Stronger..." echoed Frodo, and he sighed. He looked off into the distance, to the East, as if remembering something that had happened to him in some dark place. He sighed again.

"If only we could have been stronger!" he murmured.

"Do you still fear me, Frodo?" Boromir asked hesitantly.

Frodo turned back to Boromir and shook his head; suddenly, he smiled.

"No, Boromir," he said quietly. "I am not afraid of you. In truth, I have ever counted you a friend, even when Evil came between us. I know why you did what you did. I... I am sorry I did not leave the Company sooner... perhaps if I had, you would have been spared..."

Now Boromir shook his head. "No, Frodo. It was for the best, I think; for after that shock, I was free of it. Though not of the guilt..."

Frodo withdrew his hands gently from Boromir's, then suddenly he stepped close and embraced him. His words were muffled as he buried his face in Boromir's shoulder, but Boromir heard them clearly.

"I forgive you, Boromir, with all my heart!"

Boromir drew in a shuddering breath, and held Frodo close. After a moment, he held out one arm and beckoned to Sam, and Sam stepped forward to join the embrace. They remained thus for some time, holding each other close, as the tears flowed freely.

At last Boromir released them. After kissing each of them on the forehead, he stood.

"We are ready at last," he said to the waiting Gandalf, and was rewarded with a flash of the wizard's brilliant smile and a warm laugh.

"I am in no hurry," Gandalf said. "Time spent in granting forgiveness and the healing of friendships, is time well-spent. The King knows that, as well; he will not begrudge you the wait. Though we ought not keep him waiting too long..."

"The King!" exclaimed Sam, scrubbing furiously at his tear-stained face. "I must look a sight, puffy red eyes and all, and I'm still to meet a king!"

Frodo laughed.

"We're all in the same condition, Sam!" he said, wiping his own eyes dry. "Why, I do believe even Gandalf has a suspicious wetness about the eyes."

"You are very observant, Frodo Baggins," answered Gandalf. "It does you credit. But now, if we are all composed, I suggest we move on. The King is indeed patient, but there is no need to try that patience more than necessary!"

Turning to Boromir, Gandalf laid a hand on his shoulder. "Boromir, would you do us the honor of leading the way?"

Boromir bowed to Gandalf, and then to Frodo and Sam.

"It would be my pleasure."

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The King looked out across the field, from the high seat where he sat, waiting. Before him the hosts of the Free Peoples were drawn up in ranks and companies; beyond them were knights in bright armor and guards in silver and black. At last, a trumpet sounded. Looking beyond to the edge of the wood, he saw Boromir approaching, followed by Frodo and Sam, walking hand in hand, and Gandalf following behind.

Aragorn's eyes were keen and far-seeing, and even at this distance, he could see the face of his friend. Yes, all was well! He could read the peace and gladness in Boromir's face and stride as if it were written upon him with words. His heart flooded with joy, and Aragorn bowed his head to hide the tears that sprang to his eyes in that moment.

Fellowship restored! he thought. The day has come, at last! What hurts that lie behind will no longer consume us, and the poor choices we made in the past will no longer hold power over us. New choices are before us, that will determine our destiny. Now those choices can be made in peace, trusting to the bonds of friendship.

Aragorn looked up, and saw that Boromir was watching him even as he approached the high seat. Aragorn lifted his hand in greeting, and was answered by a sharp salute, and a smile that was almost a grin.

Yes, all is well, indeed!

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