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Breathe
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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1
Breathe

Did you remember to....

...Breathe...

It was the last thing he heard as the cold dark closed over his head and the swirling water embraced him and tried to carry him away in its arms, making his body part of the eddy and flow of the river.

Fighting for breath, he struggled to right himself, finding no bottom, no purchase. He was not given to panic, usually keeping a calm heart and a cool head in times of danger… but someone had forgotten to tell his lungs, and they screamed and felt like they would burst.

And then his brother’s voice, his brother’s hands supporting him, sunlight and air. “Did you remember to breathe?” the voice teased, laughing to cover its own moment of anxiety.

“Don’t be so smug, Faramir,” he sputtered miserably, shaking water out of his eyes and nose, “I didn’t have time to remember anything.”

The older boy was just turned sixteen and liked to think of himself as a man. He had been taking the opportunity to lord it over the younger as he sat proudly on his birthday present, a frisky grey gelding the same steely color as their eyes. A very noble picture he made, too - until the ill-timed and unlucky bee sting that sent Fanya bucking forward, tumbling him into the bend of the river where his little brother had been happily - and idly - paddling about in the water.

A long quick dive brought Faramir to his brother’s aid, and he grasped the strong shoulders and pushed for the surface. They floundered together the few strokes it took for them to be able to stand. Measuring the short distance with his eyes only embarrassed the older again.

The younger was eleven, still a colt, all long leg and arm. He admired the strength that rippled over his brother’s frame, wanted badly to match it, but even with daily sword practice he still felt that it would never come. He was learning instead to look for his own skills, the things that made him feel a glow of secret pride. Swimming and the bow were two things he could excel at even if he never muscled up like Boromir.

They stood laughing, holding each other’s shoulders, shaking their long wet hair back from their faces.

“I’m sorry it took me so long to come to your aid. I had forgotten you can’t swim.” There was still a part of Faramir that believed his brother could do anything.

The older growled to cover his humiliation. “When would I have time to learn such a frivolous pleasure? Swimming is not a soldier’s skill.”

“It is in Dol Amroth!” laughed Faramir, who was newly returned from a stay with his uncle. “It will be in Ithilien, I am sure! It would have helped you today, Boromir.” He looked at his older brother with barely concealed concern. “You should put down your sword sometimes – you are too single-minded!”

“Me!” Boromir nearly slipped from his brother’s grip on the slick river stones as he startled at the comment. “You are the one who always has his nose in a book!”

“Maybe, but I read about many different things. I feel like the whole world comes pouring off the page into my dreams. I will never be tired of wanting to know.”

He shook his dark head. “There is more to life than war, brother. And more to you than the sword.” They looked at each other for a moment, seeing as only brothers can see, into each other’s hearts. Then they grinned and slapped each other’s arms companionably.

“Come on,” said Boromir, “I am freezing. Fanya has my cloak, that should be dry.” They slipped an arm around each other’s shoulders and supported each other up the slippery bank as they, unthinking, did in all things.

“Faramir,” the older asked quietly as he stripped off his wet clothes, “would you have time to teach me to swim? It seems like a useful skill.”

“If you can make the time in your schedule, I would be happy to.”

***

…Breathe…

It was the last thing he heard as the cold dark closed over his head and the swirling water embraced him and tried to carry him away in its arms, making his body part of the eddy and flow of the river.

He struck out for the surface, his strong arms knowing with unconscious grace how to handle the dance and battle that was water unbound. He was a fine strong swimmer, but tonight he would need all his skill.

As he shook the water from his streaming eyes, he tried to orient himself in the dark pools of the night river. Debris from the bridge bobbed along with him, or jutted dangerously out of the water, or hid treacherously below the oily gleam. On the eastern shore, he could see the many small fires that consumed the city that had once been Gondor’s jewel, the citadel of the stars.

He looked around in panic, and felt two strong hands take his shoulders from behind. “Did you remember to breathe?” his brother’s voice coughed next to his ear.

“Of course I did, Faramir,” he sputtered, watching his brother’s raven hair float on the inky water. “Swimming is a soldier’s skill.”

They slipped an arm around each other’s shoulders, and supported each other up the bank, as they did in all things.

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