King's Man

Author's Notes: Thorongil was the name Aragorn used when he was in Minas Tirith, working for Ecthelion, Denethor's father. Ecthelion is Steward, and Boromir is about two years old.

Thorongil was tired from the long day spent shut behind tall doors, arguing with the Steward's many advisors and councils and anyone else who thought he had a valid say in the politics of the City. Normally he thought it a good and cautious thing to consult all who might have an informed opinion, but lately these meetings seemed to produce nothing but arguing over details that couldn't possibly matter.

Even Ecthelion, Steward of Gondor, seemed to agree, as for the last two days he'd been sending his son, Denethor, to the meetings in his place. 'Give him good training,' was the steward's official excuse. Thorongil knew it was just to escape them, himself.

If he'd had an assistant, he might have done the same. As it was, he was glad he had assigned himself the task of going out to walk the walls, checking their defenses and talking with the guardsmen stationed there. Thorongil would much rather spend the day out of doors, getting to know his fellow warriors, than shut up inside one more day.

"Oh, pardon!" A woman's voice called out, and Thorongil looked up to see a young woman, dressed as a nurse, stepping out into the hallway ahead of him.

He paused to see what she wanted, then he heard a high-pitched laugh and something grabbed his leg, from behind. He looked down and smiled at the toddler who had been hiding behind one of the tapestries hung along the wall to fight the cold that seeped into the stones.

A bright shock of unruly blonde hair was all he saw, as the boy held on as tightly as he could, pressing his face into Thorongil's leg.

"I'm so sorry!" the nurse exclaimed, and she hurried forward. "I told him his father was coming to see him as soon as his work was done."

"No harm done," Thorongil assured her. His voice must have alerted the boy, for he looked up and saw with surprise that the leg he'd grabbed was not the one he'd wanted.

"Boromir, come here, child," the nurse called, coming forward to take him.

Thorongil crouched down, however, disliking the look of uncertainty and fear in the boy's face. He held out his hand. "I'm Thorongil, a Captain of your grandfather's Guard."

Boromir looked at his hand, frowning. His nurse stopped behind him, to watch. Slowly, the boy put his hand forward.

Thorongil took it, sliding his hand forward to clasp his wrist lightly, in the way that soldiers of Gondor shook hands. Boromir must have recognised the grip, for he smiled, and spread his fingers wide to attempt to grab onto Thorongil's wrist. They barely covered the inside of his arm, but Thorongil kept his expression solemn, and they shook hands as though equals.

Boromir giggled, and his eyes shone.

"Well met," Thorongil said.

"Wa me!" Boromir returned. Then he dropped Thorongil's hand and leapt forward, arms wide for his new friend to catch him. Thorongil did, as the boy's nurse laughed, then reached out to take him away, already stammering an apology.

Thorongil shook his head, and caught the boy, bringing him close. "Well, Boromir. You seem like a fine young man."

He'd heard Ecthelion's many stories about his first grandson -- so many that he was somewhat surprised this was the first time he'd met the boy. The way Ecthelion carried on, Thorongil suspected he'd have liked to take the boy with him everywhere, introducing every citizen of Gondor to his first grandchild.

Boromir babbled something in reply, reaching out to pat Thorongil's chest.

"Your pardon," the nurse said, though this time she had laughter in her voice rather than apology. "Babies only speak Elvish."

It was a joke among the Men, that an infant's babble was another language entirely. Thorongil held his own tongue, not letting slip that he, in fact, did speak Elvish. "Of course," he said. "And a fine accent he has."

"I should take him back," the nurse said, though she didn't move to take him. Boromir, for his part, seemed quite content to be held. He was tracing the silver lines of Gondor's tree on Thorongil's tunic, one tiny finger running up and down each branch.

"His nursery is in there?" Thorongil asked, happy to carry him back, himself, so as not to disturb the boy. Besides, he would have a story to tell Ecthelion, now -- which Ecthelion would then repeat to anyone who stood still long enough to hear.

"What are you doing?" came an angry voice. Boromir started in Thorongil's arms, and Thorongil turned to see Denethor storming quickly towards them.

He rushed up, and reached for his son. Boromir looked at his father and shrank back, obviously distressed by his father's anger. Thorongil held him, allowing him to feel safe in his arms, despite knowing it would further enrage Denethor.

Denethor saw it quite clearly, and snapped, "Give him to me!"

With a gasp, Boromir began to wail. Thorongil tried to comfort him, but his nurse took him from his arms. She hurried away, cradling Boromir in her arms and singing softly to him.

Denethor faced Thorongil, glaring fiercely and his hand clenching as though wanting to draw his sword.

"Stay away from my son," he said in a low voice.

"I did nothing to harm him," Thorongil began. He knew this was not about the boy -- any more than anything else Denethor took umbrage to. The fact was, he disliked Thorongil with an intensity that no one could explain, and anything at all proved reason enough to create more disagreement between them.

Ecthelion knew of it, but said nothing. Thorongil, for his part, tried to avoid the man as much as he could, and provoke him even less.

For now, he held up his hands in placation. He said nothing, but backed away from Denethor. He turned, when he got a few paces away, and walked quickly down the hallway. As he passed the open door of the nursery, he glanced in and saw Boromir, hanging over his nurse's shoulder.

He'd stopped wailing, and was resting his head on her shoulder. In the angle of his face, Thorongil could see a hint of the man he would grow into.