Farry Took was nervous.
Not nervous the way he had been when he had broken his Mam's favorite vase, or accidentally pushed Pippin Gamgee out of a tree; those were terrible sorts of nervousness, that had made Farry sick to his belly with fear. This was a good sort of nervous, like knowing the Gamgees or Uncle Merry and Theodoc were coming to visit, like expecting a good present, but it was nervousness all the same, tying his belly in a knot, so that Farry could hardly even sip his cider.
It didn't help that his Da was nervous, too. The only familiar thing in the wide, Man-sized common room of this inn at Bree was Farry's Da, so Farry looked at him, but he too was nervous, tapping his fingers on the table beside his untouched pint of ale. Between them lay a full plate of warm bread, sliced hard cheese and apples and a crock of butter; Farry loved fresh bread as much as his father did, and ordinarily they would be teasingly squabbling over the last piece by now, but neither of them had touched the plate.
Da looked at the door for the thousandth time; then he looked over at Farry, and grinned sheepishly. "Not hungry, Farry? A growing lad should eat."
"You should eat, too, Da," Farry pointed out, as he could tell his Da knew he would; he shook his head, his grin widening, and Farry grinned back, hoping his cheer was reassuring. Who ever this Man was they were waiting for, he had better be worth it, Farry thought, to make his Da so nervous.
Booted footsteps rang out; Farry watched his Da look up, his entire face lighting, and thought of the Talk his Mam and Da had given him before they left on this trip, about how his Da was taking him to meet an old friend of his from the War, the friend they had named Farry after. They had told him, Farry's Da blushing and Farry's Mam grinning at that blush, that this friend was a Certain sort of friend, the way Uncle Merry and Da were friends, and that they thought that Farry was old enough to know, which made him warm all through and stand up straighter. Farry remembered all that as he watched his Da's smile spreading, ear to ear, before he turned to look up at the Man walking towards them, to see what the cause was of all this nervousness.
Farry looked up, and up some more. He had seen a few Men on trips with his Da and Uncle Merry, but this Man was tall even for them, with warm-looking grey eyes and a silver tree on his jerkin, and a wide shining smile to outpace even Da's. "Pippin," the Man said, and his voice was warm, too.
"Faramir." When had his Da gotten up? He was standing before the tall Man, Faramir, now, and Farry watched his Da reach up, for all the world the way he did, and watched Faramir pick him up and hold him close, kissing his brow. Faramir held his Da tightly and yet gently, the way his Da held his Mam or Uncle Merry, and Farry could see why his parents had told him what sort of friend Faramir was, so that he would not be confused.
Then Faramir looked over Farry's Da's head, right at Farry, and the corners of his eyes crinkled with his smile, before he put Da down on his feet again. "And this must be your son. He has your eyes."
"And his mother's wits, which is good, as I have none." They both laughed at that; Farry wondered what was so funny. "Faramir, come here. This is Lord Faramir, Steward of Gondor." Farry obediently went to his Da, and Lord Faramir knelt; his Da placed his hand in Faramir's, and Farry looked down at his hand, tiny in the Man's broad callused hand. He could feel a raised scar beneath his fingers, and Lord Faramir's fingers warm and long across his forearm and wrist, before that hand closed gently round his. "I am honored to meet you, Faramir Took," said Lord Faramir, and Farry looked up to see him smiling.
"I am, I am honored to meet you too, Sir, Lord Faramir," Farry managed after a moment, and both of them laughed again, before Lord Faramir said, "Call me Faramir, my friend. And what do I call you?"
"Me?" Farry looked over at his Da, who nodded. "Well, sir, I mean, Faramir, everyone calls me Farry, unless I've done wrong."
"Farry it is, then. May I pick you up, Farry?" Farry nodded, and Faramir wrapped one long arm around him and stood up, very far from the ground. Farry looked down at his Da, as if from a tree, and gasped, clutching the silver-traced leather jerkin; his Da smiled reassuringly, and Faramir's hand patted him on the back. "You are just as I thought you would be," Faramir said; Farry was not sure what to say to that, so he said, "Thank you," and Faramir smiled. Farry decided he liked that smile.
"We haven't had dinner yet," said Farry's Da to Faramir, "and three may dine as well as two, if you like." Faramir nodded at that, and pulled a Man-size chair over with one hand; just as Farry was starting to enjoy being so high up, he sat and let Farry back down onto his feet. "So, how have things been in the Shire, these last several years?" Faramir began, but Da was drinking his ale, and he waved a hand to halt further questions as he drained the tankard. When he was done, he said, looking all cheerful, "Why don't you tell me how things are in Gondor, while I listen. I think I'm beginning to be hungry. Aren't you hungry, Farry?"
Farry suddenly realized that he was hungry, now that Faramir was here and indeed had been worth the nervousness; his Da winked at him, and they laughed, and this time Farry saw what was so funny, so he laughed too.
Faramir indeed did talk while they ate, and Farry's Da talked a fair bit too, considering he was eating. Farry took advantage of his Da's distraction to snag a few extra bits of bread and apple as he listened, trying to picture the maps his Da had shown him, as they talked of places with names like Ithilien and Rohan and Arnor. Faramir talked of King Elessar and Queen Arwen, of his wife Eowyn, and their little son Elboron, of a Man named Beregond and his family; Da talked of Uncle Samwise and Aunt Rosie and their children, of Uncle Merry and Aunt Estella and Theodoc, of Farry's Mam and how she would have come with them but someone had to keep an eye on the summer jamming. Faramir looked apologetic at that last bit, and said, "I am sorry for the short notice, Pippin. I did not want to write until I was sure I could pull a day away from surveying Arnor."
"I know, Faramir." Da reached across the table for Faramir's hand; he had large hands, as went with his height, but Faramir's hand folded round his entirely. "I'm glad you could see us, all the same. I'm glad you could meet your namesake."
"So am I." They both looked at Farry, then, who smiled around a mouthful of bread. "Let us go upstairs?"
Upstairs Faramir had a wide room with two wide bouncy looking beds; Farry flung himself on one and found it bouncy indeed, but his father's voice stopped him with "Faramir Took, you know better." Farry sat still, face burning.
"I am afraid we may have bored you with all our talk," said Faramir. "Do you like books, Farry?" After a quick glance at his Da, who nodded, Farry said, "Yes, sir, Faramir," and gained another of those smiles. "Well, then...." Faramir rummaged in his pack and brought out a book, bound in red-brown leather, that fit his hand and was wide in Farry's two. "Tales of Gondor," he said, as Farry traced the letters on the cover, "such as my mother told my brother and me when we were small."
Farry pulled his eyes from the book to try to thank Faramir, but his smile was so very warm that he sprang up and wrapped his arms around Faramir's leg instead; Faramir sank his hand into Farry's hair as he said, "you're welcome," and after a moment, he reached down and lifted Farry high into his arms, and he asked, "would you like to see what my favorite story was?" Farry nodded, and Faramir sat on the side of the bed, Farry on his knee, as he turned the book's pages. "It is a history, and I think you know it. It's about the hobbits who went to the Battle of Fornost, to help defeat the Witch-king."
Farry bounced with delight."Oh, yes! I love that story, they were so brave!" Faramir smiled, and held out his other arm to Farry's Da, who curled into it with a smile, holding the book for him. "When I was a boy," Faramir continued, "I thought they were children, and the story made me think of how even children could do mighty deeds. Of course, now I know that hobbits are not at all children." He and Da grinned at each other. "Better yet, my own wife and your Uncle Merry slew the same Witch-King, so we all are part of this story. So," and here Faramir began to read, "The Witch-King had taken Angmar...."
They sat like that till suppertime, Faramir and Da taking turns reading tales from the book, histories of battles and dragons, and stories such as might be heard at bedtime. Many of them Farry knew already, but they were different here; for instance, the story of the lass who wins back her forgetful lover had a King as the lover, not a Thain, and had almonds instead of walnuts. Farry asked about that, and they talked about the differences in the stories all through supper, and then had Farry read to them after, before they went back to talking and he kept reading to himself.
Late in the evening, Farry found his eyes itching and blurring. He wanted to know whether the lord's daughter could make the nettle shirts for her brothers, and what was really so bad about being turned into swans anyway, but his eyes would not cooperate, so he put the book down on his chest and looked across the room at his Da, sitting on the bed, and Faramir stretched out on it, still talking, hand in hand.
The next Farry knew, arms were lifting him, so large they had to be Faramir's, and laying him in a bed. "The book?" Farry mumbled, and it was placed in his arms again; he curled up round it, feeling a wide hand on his hair, hearing a soft chuckle. "I used to sleep with books just that way," said Faramir.
"You did, did you?" Da chuckled also. "I was wondering where that came from. Diamond frets when he does it, but he never so much as creases a page." The bed dipped; they must be sitting beside him, as the hand kept stroking his curls. Farry was sleepy enough to not care to roll over and see; besides, they thought he was asleep, he could tell, as his Da went on, "he is a quiet lad, much of the time. We must have you to thank for that; I was expecting to be repaid in full for my wildness when I was a lad."
"As opposed to when else?" They laughed quietly, and Farry could hear the smile in his Da's voice. "Of course, when he does set his mind to a trick....three months ago, my elder sisters came to visit, and Pearl can be a little stuffy, it's her husband's bad influence. Farry was fed up with it after a week, so he took the biggest hen from the kitchen coop, the big mean mother hen---"
"He didn't!" Faramir was laughing; Farry smiled. His Da had loved that trick, even if he had spanked Farry for doing it. Listening to his Da describing Aunt Pearl's shrieks, Farry fell asleep.
In the morning, Farry woke up curled against a chest wide enough for all of him; Faramir and his Da were in bed on either side of him, and when he sat up they both opened their eyes as if they'd been waiting for him. "Good morning, Farry," said Faramir, and Farry smiled and hugged him again, because it seemed right.
Unfortunately, Faramir had to be up and gone; he had work to do. So, they all got up, washed and breakfasted, and exchanged gifts; Farry and his Da had brought honey and pipeweed, and Faramir had brought bundles of dried figs for them and bottles of oil and wine for Uncle Merry, and a packet of seeds for Uncle Sam.
Then he pulled out another gift, and handed it to Farry. It was a wooden practice sword. It looked just like a real sword, carved and polished till it shone, and it had red bands around its hilt, and it fit Farry's hand like it had grown there. "When I was your age my brother gave me my first practice sword, Farry," he explained. "These are days of peace, but even so, it never hurts to know how a sword handles."
Farry looked up, speechless despite his Da's reminding pat to his shoulder. His own sword! This time when he rushed to hug Faramir he was caught and lifted up, until his hair brushed the rafters, and he laughed like a baby and didn't care. "Thank you!" Farry cried; Faramir smiled up at Farry and lowered him to his chest, and Farry wound both arms round his neck. "Thank you so much!"
"You're welcome, Farry." Faramir held him tight-gently for a moment, then knelt and set him on his feet. "Next time I come visit, I will see how much you've learned."
"When will that be?" Farry's Da asked, sounding strangely quiet. Faramir shook his head; Da smiled anyway, and went on more brightly, "well, whenever you may, please do bring our Lady Eowyn, and I will do my best to bring Merry. She should meet his Theodoc. But do try to have it not be during stone-fruit harvests, next time."
"I will try, Pippin Took." Faramir held out his arms, and Farry's Da went to them, winding his own arms around Faramir's neck for a long moment. "Farewell, both of you." Faramir kissed Da on his brow; then he stood up, smiling and tall, and was gone.
Da took a deep breath, and reached for Farry's hand. "Well, my Faramir, how do you like Faramir of Gondor?"
"He's wonderful! And not just because he gave me a sword. I'm glad you named me for him, Da. I just hope I may grow to be like him, though maybe not quite so tall."
Farry's Da laughed at that, and kissed Farry on his brow, and they went down to the common room to make ready for their departure.