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08 September 2012 | 4417 words
Title: A Moment of Weakness
Warnings: Slash, angst, sexual scenes (and a bit of hurt/comfort.)
Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me. All written in good fun with no offence intended!
Author’s Note: This began as one thing, but became something else. I’m not sure if it really works (I think there are too many themes jostling here), and I know it could be better (it just sort of…ends), but I’ve had to let it go. Fingers’ crossed this means the end of my chronic writers’ block?
Also, it’s been over two years now since I joined this lovely archive (and this wasn’t really meant to be an anniversary story but I suppose it’ll serve as one!) Here’s to the next two years and beyond; I still feel so welcome here even though I still consider myself very much a newbie at this sort of thing. Thanks to everyone who has read or commented on my stories, it’s so very humbling to know others find enjoyment out of my writing :)
Faramir sees him first in profile when he enters the room. He is sitting at the desk, writing; the window beyond is open and the dreamlike scents of the lilac and simbelmyne from the garden beyond drift like gauze through the room. The moonlight is soft, catching in his beard and weaving itself through the skeins of his hair that hang down past his jaw to skim over the uppermost branches of the tree embroidered upon his jerkin. On the top of his head, a halo of gentle light reflects, a circle of sun that shifts and slides with every movement, a coronet of bright faerie-fire. For a moment Faramir watches him, unseen, and then steps through the open door and closes it behind him. At the noise, Aragorn looks up, dislodging ethereal circlets, and in recognition, smiles, the lines around his eyes creasing more deeply.
Faramir enters the room proper and when he reaches the desk sets down upon it the mug he has been cradling in his fingers, leaning down and turning his head to kiss Aragorn once, tenderly, on the mouth. The hair on the king’s cheeks and chin catches against his own.
“I thought you might like some tea.”
“You are too kind to me, Faramir.” The king touches his cheek briefly, then looks with regret at the sheaf he has been scratching upon. “Half a page more, and then I will sit with you, I promise.”
“Take all the time you need,” Faramir smiles, casting his glance over Aragorn’s etchings. His handwriting is inconsistent, uneven, a smudge or two of ink dotting the page here and there. The thought passes through Faramir’s head again, the one he dare not voice; let me scribe for you. But he knows Aragorn will hold out on the matter until the end, and so he turns away and approaches the wardrobe, gladdened to be able to attire himself more informally now he need not be in public.
As he undresses he can see Aragorn behind him in the mirror slowly lifting the mug and swallowing from it. His heart warms at the sight, and a sadness fills him so completely that he finds he must turn away, lest the king see the tears that threaten to blur his vision beyond recognition.
It would be easy to feel guilty if their relationship had begun before the affliction had stricken him. But as it was, they had only grown closer afterwards, and so the conflict within Aragorn, the knowledge that he was trapping Faramir in this un-bright future, was difficult to bear, for it was made clear to the king that Faramir stayed with him not out of his own guilt, but because he loved him regardless of his wellness.
Aragorn found it hard to settle within himself this insubstantial unease and the joy that Faramir’s gentle affection brought him. They have been together in the intimate sense for almost a year, and Aragorn knows better than to send hope ahead, but in his heart he prays nightly not for a cure, but for the warmth beside him in the bed to never again be absent. Faramir has moved many of his things into the king’s chambers, though they are still conducting their courtship very much in private. It is a comfort, though, to see Faramir’s cloak draped over the back of the couch, or to find the occasional long, wavy copper hair upon the pillow when Aragorn needs must lie down in the afternoon when the pain becomes too great.
Faramir, kind man that he is, has brought him tea; the tang of the herbs within the mug filter up through the king’s nostrils and though he dislikes the taste he drinks from it obediently and he knows the mixture will soothe his aches a little. It began two years ago, suddenly one evening, he arose from his chair only to stumble, sharp pain knifing through his lower back unceasingly. A sleepless night of agony later and the healers were quite certain; ‘twas nothing more than strained muscles. Had the king been riding lately? Or practising overlong with swords? And Aragorn had tried to think, but the pain blinded his memory. Perhaps they were right, and a day or so’s rest would see him right as rain.
His condition improved over the course of the week, and soon he had almost forgotten the incident entirely until again, alone this time, and with little elegance, the pain returned, tenfold it seemed, just as he was stepping into the bath. He managed, with difficulty, to stagger back from the water, grasping for a nearby stool as his legs gave way beneath him. There was a towel on the stool, and he hurriedly pulled it over his midsection, protecting what dignity he had left before the pain bade his body shake and spasm with the fire of a thousand daggers. Cramp froze his thigh muscles; his lower back screamed. How long he lay there on the floor he knew not, all thoughts centred on this unholy sensation. Eventually, he heard distant knocking on the bedchamber door far beyond. Torn between never wishing to be discovered in such a state, and wanting someone, anyone, to come to his aid, he called out, and the reply soothed his panic a little. It was Faramir, one man he knew would fuss little; the spread of idle gossip never his forte. Aragorn called out again to him, mortified but unable to help himself.
From the way he had lain on the floor Aragorn could only see Faramir from upside down as he looked into the bath chamber tentatively, but then right-side-up he was in an instant, kneeling beside his king and managing somehow to cradle and support Aragorn’s shoulders with one arm whilst deftly and quietly pulling the towel higher up over his waist with nary a blush.
“My king, “ he said, calmly and sensibly. “How shall I help you?”
It was then that the seeds of something between the two men were sown. Not romantic in the first, but something of a closer nature, an understanding, a certainty within Aragorn that Faramir was capable, practical and above all, kind. Before this he had been his steward, perhaps a friend, one of whom Aragorn was somewhat fond but no more. Now, he thought, if there was one man he might trust above all others…
“Would you help me to the bed? The pain, it has stricken me again.”
Gently, slowly, and with difficulty, though Faramir indeed was patient, they made it out of the bath chamber and approached the bed. Aragorn leaned heavily upon the other man, the pain subsiding a little but barely able to walk, his body seeming to lock up and ignore his direction. Faramir, blessed man, kept an arm around his waist and a hand clutching the towel still draped there. With his free hand he pulled open the bedclothes and then steadied Aragorn as he manoeuvred onto the mattress, lying back with a grimace and a grunt of pain.
“Rest awhile, I will find a healer.” Faramir smiled at him and drew the hair that had fallen across the king’s eyes back from his forehead. Aragorn settled, uncomfortable in any position, and nodded.
“I know not how to thank you, Faramir.”
It strikes him not every day, but most often in the evenings. It was easy, then, after their relationship became intimate, to move mostly into the king’s chambers under the pretence of aiding him should such an attack occur. Though, it was not pretence; Faramir must, more often than not, offer a shoulder or the harbour of an arm so that Aragorn may make it unscathed into bed. Faramir then will slide alongside him, spooning him from behind as Aragorn likes him to do, and sometimes they will sleep, and on other occasions Faramir’s hand will slip over the king’s hip and push his legs apart.
But it is getting worse, little by little. Faramir knows Aragorn hides it from him, but from the way he fumbles when buckling his belt, and the deterioration of his handwriting Faramir realises that the stiffness and the pain is creeping into his hands now as well. He has watched the king weep, and knows that the pain of Anduril lying useless in his grasp is the worst of all. Or, perhaps, selfishly, it is the pain of being unable to touch Faramir as he would like to be touched, though Faramir never brings it up.
He loves Aragorn, and that is one half of it. To know he is loved in return, that is the other, and he does not question that love, nor fear it.
“There,” Aragorn says, breaking through Faramir’s reverie. The king is looking around at him, smiling gently in the fading light. The letter, finished, lies before him still, but inkwell and quill are away, and the king has moved his chair back in order to turn in his seat and face into the room. Faramir himself, lost in thought, has managed to put on a nightshirt, but remains in his breeches, and he returns the king’s smile while he remedies his state of dress quickly, for he will need to help Aragorn into his nightclothes even though he knows Aragorn hates it.
“To whom were you writing?” he asks, trying to keep the conversation away from his heavier thoughts. He folds his breeches into a drawer, and pads over to the king bare-legged. Long fingers trail across a thigh scattered with copper hairs, and Aragorn looks up at him.
“To you, my heart.”
Faramir raises his eyebrows. “Oh? And what is so delicate that it needs be put onto paper and not uttered while I stand before you?” He cannot help but look at the sheaf in question, but Aragorn notices this and quickly turns it over.
“Just a bit of dreadful poetry,” he says, laughing a little. “I can do so little for you, I thought at least that might make you smile.” The hand returns to Faramir’s thigh, snaking upwards, over the bumps of his pelvis and beneath his shirt to skate across his belly. The hand shakes, ever so slightly.
“I do not smile enough?” Faramir says, kneeling down. He knows how deeply Aragorn harbours guilt over what the king perceives as inadequacies, but Faramir cares little for such things. And though he has told Aragorn this many times, still the king tries to make up for what he lacks. Faramir smiles at him warmly, offering that which he hopes will warm Aragorn’s heart in return.
The king puts his hands on Faramir’s shoulders and his eyes brim with affection. “I want you to be happy, Faramir.”
“I am happy.”
For a moment Aragorn is quiet, and then seems about to move, as if to kiss Faramir on the forehead, but then he returns the smile and shifts. “I am feeling a little better tonight.”
This is his way of letting Faramir know he does not need to be dressed for bed, and whether or not Faramir ever believes that the king feels well enough he never argues, and instead rises, lifting the tea. “I’ll warm this by the fire.”
White lies, only. He feels better, the pain does not bother him so much lately. He can do this by himself. And most of the time, he can. But no matter how gentle, how matter-of-fact Faramir is, how little attention he draws to any aid he gives, Aragorn is privately mortified at his frailty. What make of king was this, that which could not undress himself without wincing, let alone take up sword in defence of the realm? Bitterly, though inwardly so, Aragorn rises, turning his face so that Faramir, who has busied himself near the hearth anyway, will not see his expression.
He manages the distance to the wardrobe without problem, but he must brace himself against the dresser beside it while he opens the door. Faramir has, without comment, laid out the king’s nightclothes on the bed, but still Aragorn insists on putting away his current attire and finds that he questions himself as to why he insists on storing it in such an ungainly location. Perhaps, he thinks, he will stop being so stubborn and use the dresser-drawers, lying in easier reach. He pulls off his shirt, feeling a mild twinge in his shoulders, and puts it away. Next, laces, and his fingers obey him for once as his breeches fall open and he shakes them from his legs with a set jaw. Faramir has left the tea sitting near to the grate to heat, and Aragorn can hear him pulling open the bedcovers and rearranging the pillows.
It was on a night such as this that their friendship became something else, though Faramir was not in his nightclothes, nor was he expected to stay. The king was in bed, only just, and Faramir was kneeling on the floor beside him, picking up the detritus from a dish of half-finished supper that the king had sent flying with an errant arm as he overbalanced on the way.
“Really, Faramir, you needn’t do that. It was my fault-”
But Faramir waved him away with a hand, his relatively newfound confidence, or was it just amused fondness, something that privately delighted Aragorn and so he let him get away with it when others would not. “Oh hush, it is done now.“ And whether he meant the folly was in the past, or that he had finished picking up crusts Aragorn did not have pause to ask. Faramir stood up, brushed himself down and put the plate on the bedside table. “Are you comfortable?” he asked, looking down at Aragorn who was sitting up in bed, supported by steward-arranged pillows.
“I am, thank you.” He reached for Faramir’s hand, which was offered and then brought to lips which printed a kiss upon the knuckles. He did not deserve this man, really he did not. And then, as he released those fingers, Faramir turned his hand, and opened it against the king’s cheek, touching him there, lightly, but no less significantly. Affection, only, and Aragorn felt his innards squirm pleasantly. As he allowed this too, Faramir looked resolved suddenly, and Aragorn could hear his own heart beating in his ears.
“Forgive this,” Faramir said. “For I may be well off the mark.” And before Aragorn could say that really, a touch upon the cheek was hardly anything to forgive, Faramir did the thing that he was actually asking forgiveness for; the hand cradled, a thumb-callus caught on a whiskered cheek and he leant in toward the king and kissed him.
It was sweet but firm, certain. Aragorn could not mistake the intent. Faramir had straightened again, lowering his hand, and Aragorn, suddenly groundless, without anchor, felt lost. When had it happened; when had Faramir’s feelings changed?
Or had he always felt this way? And how did Aragorn feel?
“Faramir…” He recalled looking up at the man, who seemed desperate to look away, but did not. Aragorn admired that last vestige of confidence, all but spent in the preceding action. “Would you like to sleep here, tonight?” He put his hand on the adjacent pillow, the empty space beside him in the bed. What was he promising? He knew not, but Faramir appeared tentatively blithe and nodded, shyly.
“I do not mean to presume-” he began, but Aragorn reached for his hand again.
“Lie beside me, Faramir. That is all.”
Perhaps Aragorn was telling the truth? Faramir feels ashamed to doubt him so, but he is surprised when he climbs into bed to be pulled toward an eager kiss. Feeling better, indeed. Delight unfurls within him, and he returns it, running his hand repeatedly over Aragorn’s ribs and the dip of his waist. He casts from him the returning, selfish hope, that maybe, tonight Aragorn might be able to- no, it is inconsequential. They are together, and that is enough.
He does not want to hurt him, and so Faramir lies back, encouraging Aragorn to lie atop him. The king manages to get halfway, chest to chest, but his legs do not make it. Faramir loops an arm around his middle and cards the fingers of his free hand into Aragorn’s hair; the kiss deepens and he begins to lose himself in it. Aragorn’s kisses are magical; he is attentive, delicate, and when Faramir sneaks open an eyelid he can see the rapt concentration upon the king’s face; it warms his heart and almost saddens him to know how desperately Aragorn wants to please him. He had never been sure of Aragorn’s fondness right at the start; yes, he allowed the kiss; yes, he bid him lie beside him…but now, now Faramir cannot doubt the love of his king. That a king of men might caress him so carefully; tender and sweet. Faramir embraces him more firmly, sliding his tongue beneath Aragorn’s. He loves him so very much.
He had harboured an attraction to the king for a long time; it was a moment of weakness, only, that revealed that longing. Aragorn, he thought, had enough to worry about without fending off the foolish affections of his second-man. But that night, that first night, he had lain down beside his king, clothed at first, and after his initial bravery all courage left him and he lay still as Aragorn studied him.
“Faramir,” he had said. “You must realise there are better choices you might have made.” The rejection struck him hard, it must have been writ upon his face clear as moonlight for Aragorn had softened and reached out to him, fingertips skimming his cheek. But the king had even worse things to utter before Faramir might plead his case. “Better, unbroken. You were there when the healers spoke of it, of the fact I am not likely to recover my strength, nor be as I was when you first knew me.”
“When I first knew you-” Faramir had begun, and then he faltered. He could not believe Aragorn felt so defeated, and then checked himself; he must not be so bold as to assume he himself was such a prize that to refuse through feelings of inadequacy would be tantamount to outrage. He bowed his head, the truth the only thing he had to offer. “My lord, I love you and care nought for the words of healers.”
And Aragorn, Aragorn whom he had never really convinced himself to believe might actually like men, let alone him, and therefore that stolen kiss was just that, stolen; Aragorn curled that hand around the back of his head and gently urged him forward. This kiss was freely given, and sweeter than all others that would follow.
He aches, he aches for Faramir; he wants to give him what he knows his beloved desires so badly but because he is so gentle-hearted would never ask of him. But he aches physically, the pain is returning, and he remembers with annoyance that his tea is still sitting by the fire, un-imbibed.
Dear Faramir, how long must he wait? He kisses him, and is held fast, but the pain cripples him, even so supported and he breaks away, hiding his grimace in the space between Faramir’s neck and shoulder. The gods know that Faramir ignites him so, to look upon him, he feels his blood heat and his body react. He reaches down, hand flat, sliding over Faramir’s chest, his belly, through the hairs that glint there, down between his legs, and though he knows Faramir is no fool, he will know that the agony claims him once again through the rigidness of his breathing, he prays that for once Faramir will be selfish, and allow this intimacy despite the king’s difficulty.
He cannot take him, he cannot be taken, not without unmanageable pain, and so they must make do with other means for the moment.
Faramir lies receptive to the king’s caresses. One hand still tangles in Aragorn’s hair, but his head is back, his eyes closed, his breathing becoming laboured as Aragorn touches him in the only way he really can; no longer can he wield a blade but the swordsman’s hand does not forget the method, his grip on Faramir’s manhood is firm but not forceful, and he strokes at an even pace as Faramir’s occasional moans drift across the room. His flesh is hot and stiff, and the first pearls of his seed already trickle down over Aragorn’s fingers. The ache in his joints is constant, but Aragorn smiles at Faramir’s pleasure, and belatedly acknowledges his own erection, though it is far too disruptive to try and shift now to see to it.
They try, now and again, to make love, a tangle of propped legs, supporting arms, a pillow beneath hips, Aragorn more often than not on his side, for he cannot maintain his posture atop Faramir, and Faramir, though lithe, is too heavy upon his joints if they switch. It is never they way Aragorn knows Faramir would like, and the attempts are too sparse, but he cannot bear how broken he is afterwards, how fragile his body has become. He lies awake at night, wondering if this new day will bring the inevitable sundering; will it be today that Faramir parts with him? And he would not blame him, though his heart would be halved.
Faramir shudders and comes, pelvis rising from the mattress, pushing against the crumpled bedclothes with his feet. He sighs, and lets his hand fall from the king’s hair as Aragorn, hardly having done anything exerting, slumps onto him and rests there.
After long moments, Faramir stirs; he kisses the king’s forehead, and reaches down, a fingertip following the trail of hair from Aragorn’s navel, down, down.
He has been a bachelor for most of his adult life; here and there a romance or two, and there was no shortage of encounters, but by and large Faramir was a solitary man, and now so enamoured he finds himself gladdened to have been available when the king came into his life. Not that he ever thought there could be something between them that was anything other than unrequited. The sadness fills him again very briefly; their relationship is far from perfect, and there is enough whispering over the king’s health without their status as lovers being brought to the fore. Perhaps it will never be perfect, perhaps nothing ever is. But Faramir is happy, despite the flaws and despite the limitations.
He returns to the bath chamber from where he brought a cool, damp cloth to the bed; all evidence of climax swept from thighs and stomachs he leaves it in the sink, and regards himself for a moment in the looking glass. Since when have those particular lines etched themselves around his eyes? And is his hair growing thinner near his temples? He screws up his face; no matter if it is. Aragorn loves him, does he not?
Back in the bed and the king curls around him as best he can once more.
“Thank you, love,” he says, and Faramir does not know whether it is for the pleasure or the impromptu wash or for something much bigger than both combined. Faramir pulls the covers up over them both and settles against him, drowsy now with the heat of the fire, post-coital glow and the comfort Aragorn’s solidness beside him brings. The king’s breathing seems even, and Faramir stretches out, his ankles popping.
“Did you drink you tea?” he asks, absently.
“Alas, dear heart, you were more tempting than a mouthful of bitter herbs.”
Faramir laughs softly, turning his head toward the king’s. A pair of grey eyes peer back at him, creased in a smile; it is all he can see of Aragorn’ face, hidden by hair and blankets. He hopes the king is happy, and supposes he must be, surely, for he does not cast him from his bed. He worries ashamedly, though he is certain of Aragorn‘s love; what if the king is so insecure that he thinks he will find no other to love him if Faramir were not around? And so, does he not stay with Faramir as a plea against loneliness; someone who is not his choice but will do? And that is what keeps Faramir awake at night, lying back to back with the king, both sleepless and worrying over unfounded fears. Folly, borne only through love, in its way.
Faramir yawns and a hand snakes from the covers to stroke his cheek. “Dear heart,” the king says again. Faramir gazes at him, or what little of Aragorn he can see. He can feel the king’s heat radiate against him; it is a very pleasing sensation.
Aragorn shifts, awkwardly, onto his back. Faramir wants to help him, but knows such help would be begrudged by the other man, and so he waits for Aragorn to find a position he finds comfortable before moving closer again. He presses a kiss to Aragorn’s shoulder; their fingers entwine beneath the blankets. The fire crackles quietly, and the king’s breathing evens out; Faramir knows he will fall asleep before Aragorn, but he hopes the king finds peace, at least, in the lonely hours before sleep claims him too.
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