This story is rated «R», and carries the warnings «angst, somewhat AU, hurt-comfort themes, implied het relationship.».
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04 November 2016 | 11924 words | Work in Progress
His day, exactly like those preceding it, passes in some dream-like haze, like visions, like scenes from a story many times reread, familiar and in that familiarity distant and boring. Until she died he had not been remotely aware of the existence of so many shades of grey: the grey of the empty palace halls, the grey of the overcast sky, the grey of the dusty windowpanes, the grey of daylight, the grey of his own skin. Her absence is like a hole, a pit, an ulcer that sucks all the juices out of what remains of his living days, leaving behind only the hollow, dry husks and shells of the once meaningful things. It is only by night that his senses awaken and with them returns the proper saturation of colours. And the brightest colour is, of course, the brilliant grey of his King’s eyes.
Because now, after twenty four hours of waiting and not knowing, twenty four hours wasted and crossed out of Faramir’s preordained and ever-dwindling measure of time, Aragorn is finally come again.
As though there had never been this little lapse, this accidental misstep in the rhythmic pace of their comforting exchange. Or perhaps not exactly so.
“I am sorry,” Aragorn says somewhat sternly as he sits down on his side of the mattress, with his back to Faramir. “About last night. That I left you.”
“Please,” Faramir objects warmly. “I am not ill, your majesty. There is no need for a constant vigil at my bedside.”
“That may be,” Aragorn agrees, pulls off his royal tunic and reaches for the plain night-shirt. “And my apology is, I suppose, more for the reasons of my not coming than for the actual not being here.”
“Then I assume it was not the marital duty that withheld you?” Faramir asks, standing still even though he too should be changing, but he cannot simultaneously engage himself in something else when asking a question of this sort – a question he knows he really should not be asking…
Aragorn goes still too, his gown forgotten and left limp in his lap – and Faramir sees all the thews in his bare back flex and stiffen, as though it is not a harmless combination of words but a ray of arrows that has been loosened on the man and he longs to be cased in armour and not naked skin.
Yet Faramir presents no apology for his insensitivity, for from some cue he cannot quite define even to himself he knows that the King needs him to bring this up.
“No indeed,” Aragorn says at last. His voice is stern and worn, yet free of resentment, and Faramir knows he has made no mistake.
The King offers no explanation, however, but neither does the visible tension seep out of his tissues.
And strangely Faramir wants to smile for the second time since that day, for it feels like a lungful of fresh spring air, like an eyeful of sunlit new greens – to have his thought occupied with someone else’s sorrow and not his own.
One thing he has come to appreciate about grief is that it makes things simpler: it justifies everything and allows to overlook the rules of courtesy. Justifies a level of trust that would otherwise be deemed naïve and childish, justifies a degree of openness that would otherwise be embarrassing, justifies the King sitting half-naked in his bedroom, ready to tell him what it is nobody’s business to know.
“You ache,” Faramir says quietly and very gently, “but I do not understand.” And he is not bothered by addressing his liege so familiarly, by actually standing above his sitting king. Again, there is little need for decorum in the face of pain.
Aragorn shifts on the bed and turns with his whole body, but pauses midway and ends up at a perpendicular to his Steward, so that Faramir is looking at him but he is looking at the wall.
“Huh,” he says. Slowly his brow creases into a frown. “Mind if I harass you with a tactless question?” Aragorn asks of the wall.
“That would only seem fair, sire, seeing as I was the one to introduce the practice,” Faramir replies, pursing back a smile.
“Can you imagine yourself ever being with a woman again?” Aragorn asks, unapologetic. “With… another woman?”
“No,” Faramir says simply, without thinking. But all of a sudden he remembers the hand, the warm hand on his belly, and feels himself blush and his thoughts rush, although this is beside the point, altogether beside the point. To get himself together more than anything else, he adds, “Not as of right now, I cannot – and frankly I cannot envision how that could ever change with time. It… is not a question of time, I think not. I could not be with another lady without thinking of her.”
Aragorn nods, as though receiving an expected confirmation. “Another tactless question then,” he says grimly. “Do you think you will miss it?”
“Well,” Faramir grins softly: there is little ambiguity as to what the King is speaking of. “It is a sweet thing, one certainly cannot deny that. But…” he sighs with a shrug, “I don’t expect it being gone will weigh on me overmuch.”
“No?” Aragorn looks up as he asks this, and Faramir sees confusion in his eyes, as though the man is searching for direction.
“I…” suddenly Faramir wants to sit down beside him, to take him by the hand. He is startled by the impulse and does not follow it, for he knows that to this question his king desires a verbal answer, something that will help him make sense of things.
“You see, my lord,” Faramir begins slowly, “I had, not unlike you, had quite some years on my own before taking a wife, and so I’d been rather accustomed to not having it to the full, to never being truly sated,” he shrugs again. “That is the way things are for an unwed man: there is always either too much risk or too little time. I could never truly relax into it, and often I would feel guilty afterwards, so I did not seek it much. It is, I suppose, akin to how Master Pippin had explained to me about the hobbit fashion: if you walk unshod all the time, you do not notice the ground is cold.” He wonders if he should stop at this, but Aragorn is listening keenly, more so than before, and so Faramir continues. “I’ll admit, I did expect it to change with marriage, I thought this is when the ‘good times’ begin, that I would do nothing all day but make love to her – then we would have supper, and make love again. And with Éowyn,” he pauses, for it is difficult for him to pronounce her name, because the name sounds just a before, but she is not here, and somehow his mind refuses to get around the paradox.
Faramir exhales and takes a new breath. “We’d had our good times indeed, especially in the beginning – but not as I had imagined. Apparently,” he cannot stop himself from grinning, “apparently I am just one of those men who can never have enough. I did not know until I had the chance to find out, but so it must be. Perhaps it is the toll of the seasons that my passion had had to be subdued – and likewise for her, she had had too many years without affection and tenderness. It were them that she sought of me above all, and my greatest joy was to make her happy – and as for my hunger, well, I figured since satisfying it was not truly viable, it be best it be kept out of the picture altogether.”
Aragorn keeps eyeing him, and Faramir does not like the look of the man’s face. Is it disbelief? Disappointment? Or rather disappointment with himself?
“And you… were happy with that?” Aragorn enquires at last, with a crack in his voice, and Faramir sees his fingers curl in his lap.
“Maybe I was just fortunate enough to never have known anything better,” Faramir says carefully, “but I love her, and to my best knowledge I was happy.”
Aragorn draws a sharp breath – then another one, and another, and Faramir’s eyes round as he realises what is happening. But before he can say a word, the King abruplty stands up, and his fair noble face is dark.
“I can’t,” he states adamantly, cutting through the air with his words. “If you could, then I should too – but I can’t.” He shakes his head slowly, and his nostrils begin to flare. The degree of hurt and anger in his eyes is unbearable to behold.
“I am so sorry,” Faramir whispers.
Aragorn averts his face to the wall once again, to glare at it instead of the man. “You must forgive me,” he utters bitterly. “My woes are nothing compared to yours, and you are too good a lad to be subjected to any of this in the first place.”
To Faramir’s horror, the man swerves around and heads for the door.
“Wait!” Faramir calls, and his tone is so imperative he himself falls silent in shock, and Aragorn stops dead in his tracks.
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The following people read the story, enjoyed it, and would like to thank the author: alecia , ebbingnight