This story is rated «R», and carries the warnings «Het, implied slash, angst.».
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14 June 2012 | 3993 words
Pairing: Faramir/Éowyn, implied Faramir/Aragorn.
Warnings: Het, implied slash, angst.
Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me! All written in good fun with no offence intended!
Author’s Note: And here at last is the third part to this little trilogy, beginning with The Price of Love and Duty, and continuing with The Cage. I strongly suggest that if you have not read either of those two pieces that you do so before beginning this one, otherwise it won’t make a whole lot of sense! This story concludes the arc set in this universe, and I’m not sure I’ll revisit it. I’m not sure if I’m entirely happy with this piece, though I wouldn’t upload it if I wasn’t somewhat satisfied :P It’s been sitting mostly finished on my computer for months and as I’ve been pretty bad about actually getting anything finished lately I decided to round this one up. I apologise for any plot-holes; some parts are intentionally a little vague or open to interpretation, but I certainly don’t hold myself to be particularly talented at that so it probably makes little sense in general :P
In pretty much every AU I create, Aragorn has terrible handwriting while Faramir’s is nice and neat. I have no idea why this notion delights me so but I make sure to make allusion to it wherever I can :P
As for the title, electrum is an amber-coloured alloy of gold and silver, which I thought tied everyone together rather well.
I hope you enjoy!
Looking up, he sees stars.
His vision blurs, his hand grips the chair back tightly as dizziness threatens to topple him. They had stood before him, united, solemn, sorrowful; pillars of copper and gold. Faramir moved as if to aid him, but Éowyn had his hand in hers and did not look as if willing to release it. Aragorn swallowed, and looked at them as the world fell down about his shoulders. Faramir had spoken softly with a kindness in his voice; words of poison sweet but no less deadly.
“Éowyn is with child.” And then, when the silence stretched out beyond all awkwardness, he added, looking at his wife in a way Aragorn knew he would never, ever look at him, though even now it did not stop him from shamefully wishing it; “We will be going to Edoras.”
“For how long?” It was unseemly, so selfish in his concern and Éowyn’s eyes hardened for a brief second, before she looked away. He should have congratulated them, but all words were unwieldy, and they all knew what was happening here. The end of the world, unfit as it was to exist.
Faramir straightened, and put an arm around Éowyn’s waist. Her hair was knotted up at the back of her head; she looked regal, sombre, just as she had been at her cousin’s funeral, Aragorn recalled. “For the foreseeable future, my lord. I am asking to be released from my service to you.” Death lingered here too, then. Aragorn did not miss the double-meaning lurking in Faramir’s words.
Another silence loomed, and Éowyn opened her mouth, but Aragorn spoke first, and at his voice she softened, and nodded, and did not quite smile as the words tore him apart unrelentingly. “It is granted, Faramir, of course. My congratulations to you both.” Forgive me, he almost said, but it was far too trite, a token effort, the phrase itself too flimsy to carry the weight of the unspeakable actions that necessitated it.
After that, he fled. Inelegant, obvious in his distress, but he had finally crumbled, and might as well have shouted from the top of the white tower all that he had done, so blatant was his guilt and so shameful was the fact he could no longer be in their presence. A king at that moment he was not, so cowardly and selfish of heart. Someone called his name after him, but over the rush of blood in his ears he could not determine which of the two doomsayers had uttered it. The door to his chambers slammed shut behind him and his frantic fingers took an eternity to work the lock. Staggering, he made it to his desk, to the chair, falling against the back of it and clinging on for balance and for something stable in this maelstrom of despair.
Faramir was leaving him.
Aragorn slumped into the chair and leant back, staring upwards at the painted ceiling with a silent cry of anguish writ throughout him. The constellations so carefully etched upon the roofing to his bedchamber mocked him in their ordered beauty; surely nothing in his life would ever seem beauteous again. The saltwater that ran into his beard was cold and he could not breathe; a low, keening moan echoed in his ears and it seemed a thousand years before he realised he was its source. He stood, and swayed, and clung to the chair back again as the floor, the city, the world turned on its head. All thoughts featured a flame-haired man and all thoughts were forbidden, but he could not stop his mind unravelling. His face crumpled and he sobbed, his tears falling upon the last letter Faramir had written to him from Ithilien, still open on the desk, blurring the ink.
He would never have him, no matter how he wanted it, no matter how many times he awoke sweating in the night, panting and achingly hard with lingering dream images of Faramir lying with him still flitting through his mind. He would take himself in hand and with eyes closed tight imagine it was Faramir who touched him, Faramir who watched him, Faramir, Faramir, Faramir who loved him and not Éowyn. Sometimes he spilled himself in his sleep, and woke afterwards, with no memory of the dream save the dampness of the sheets and slow pulses of lust that rippled through him in ever decreasing waves. Disgust followed, always, sharp and blunt and like a slap to the face. He kept a basin of cold water in the bath chamber and nightly would rise to dowse his face and body in vain attempt to wipe clean the slate, purge from himself these base and so unseemly desires. What was it about the man that so drove the king insane? Everything about Faramir-his appearance, his nature, his kindness and loyalty- seemed as if wrought specifically to force Aragorn into an ever deepening mire of love and self-loathing.
He looks up, and sees the stars again in a hazy miasma of grief. He thinks suddenly of the fact he never told Faramir he loved him, and for an instant wonders if that would have made any difference. If he had said it that night in the waving grasses as the real stars winked in the oily sky, would Faramir have taken greater pity on him? He had stayed his hand on the open belt-buckle, after faltering, after letting the king have his kiss, sweet and dishonest and false in its affection though it was. Would three words have so swayed this man into full betrayal? It returns, the guilt, the self-hating fury, the despair. He cannot keep destroying Faramir and Éowyn. It is not right.
But Faramir, crowned with fire, is just as destructive, he thinks, burning him within until he cannot see past the smoke. He lies down on his side on the bed and stares out at the fast-moving clouds beyond the window-frame and waits for the hollowness within to heal.
It is dark when he awakens, suddenly, surprised at first and then so suddenly weighed down when he remembers the cause of the tightness in his throat and chest, the roiling in his belly, the ache of his head. Night has fallen, and he thinks there is barely any point in getting up now, so he kicks his boots off in disdain and struggles out of his tunic, angry that the tears have begun to stream down his cheeks without his permission again. He throws his clothes onto the floor and pulls the bedcovers open, hoping that somehow, if he buries himself deep enough beneath them the world might forget he exists and therefore see no need in furthering his pain.
It is then that he realises he is not alone. He can hear breathing in the shadows and he sits upright, alert and angry rather than afraid. How dare someone invade this most private of times?
“Show yourself,” he says, voice thick with emotion but unwavering. There is a footstep and a soft sigh, and a surprising silhouette shields the starlight from the casement before him.
“I beg you forgive my intrusion, my lord, but I felt it best we talk.” Éowyn’s voice is soft, neutral, respectful. Aragorn gapes in the darkness before collecting himself, remembering some of what it was that made him king. He rises.
“Will you sit?” He offers her the couch and she accepts, seating herself quietly as Aragorn fumbles for a candle. The light flickers wildly when he finally brings taper to wick, and he sets it on a side table as he himself perches on the end of the bed.
“You must think I hate you,” Éowyn begins as soon as Aragorn has settled himself. He looks up; her gaze is steady but her hands lie clasped in her lap, a ward against any shaking. He wonders if Faramir has put her up to this but knows the answer immediately; Éowyn has come without her husband’s counsel, or even permission, and nor should she seek it. Their equality in marriage is quite beautiful.
Aragorn cannot think of what to say and merely nods, hangdog, pathetically miserable. He wants to fall to his knees at her feet, beg forgiveness, tell her how disgustingly sorry he is, how he abhors what he has allowed himself to do, what he has become, but he knows it would change nothing of the past and will change nothing of what is yet to come. He is not even so sure, even now, that if he could go back he would do things any differently.
Éowyn is oblivious to internal battles. “Hate is a strong word, but I was upset with you, once, when you did not return my affections in Rohan.”
“I do not prefer women.” Aragorn whispers, and Éowyn nods succinctly.
“As you said before you left for the Paths of the Dead. I admit to you now I wished for one wicked moment that you would not return from those mists, but I regretted that. I did not want your efforts in the war to fail, and I did not want you to die. I still do not want you to die, if you can believe such a notion.”
There is a smile in Éowyn’s voice, a cold humour tinged with queer kindness. Still Aragorn cannot meet her eye fully. He watches the candle dance and finds irony in the fact that despite Éowyn’s revelation he does indeed feel as if death might bring some foolish release from the difficulty of existing like this. She continues, pragmatic, without accusation; there is enough blame in her words without sharpness of tongue, and Aragorn is thankful for that small undeserved mercy.
“I understand, of course, why you could not love me. I understand too, that my affection for you was not-…it would not have been fulfilling.” Here she pauses for the first time, but recovers herself, looking toward the window and away from the slumped form of the king before her. “I found someone else that completed me, and you married us, here, in this city far from my own home, following Gondor’s customs, and Gondor’s laws.” Bitterness, perhaps, but mild. “I was happy, blindly so. I did not see the cracks in our foundation until it was well past a simple resolution.”
Aragorn remembers. “You…you looked happy,” he manages, willing his eyes to stay dry. He looks up at her and she tilts her head, catching his eye. “Will you be happy, again, in Rohan?”
“Yes,” she answers. “I believe I will. And Faramir too.”
A jab of cold misery at the name, but Aragorn tries to push it down. “I am glad. Truly. I never…I never meant-”
“Ssh.” And suddenly the queerest of all scenarios; as the king doubles forward in sorrow, rebellious tears finally breaking from thraldom, Éowyn is at his feet, kneeling, pulling him into a gentle embrace, running one hand over his shoulders and with the other stroking his lank hair flat against his head and neck. He wants to push her away, how dare she lower herself so, to comfort a creature that has wrought such damage?, but her tenderness envelops him, and he weeps softly into her hair for long, strange moments. Is this forgiveness? He does not dare imagine. If Faramir could see them now, he thinks also, and then all he can see in his mind’s eye is the glory of a new dawn breaking over the White City, and himself standing at the edge of the rampart, crown gleaming, breastplate shining, sunlight upon electrum, noble, renewed, free. The world might have ended, but he would not die with it.
He sits up and bids Éowyn rise. “Never kneel before me, lady.” His voice is a half-choked rasp, and he knows he looks dreadful; even in the dim light Éowyn would be able to see how thin he is, how pale. The lady herself sits down, this time beside Aragorn on the bed. Her weight barely shifts the mattress, and he worries for her wellness and that of the baby.
“I do not hate you, Aragorn.” A white hand covers his. “The only thing I wish to know is why you tried to steal my husband from me.”
And so, he tells her.
Faramir wakens unto solitude. Éowyn is missing from their bed, a cold space beside him in the sheets. He frowns as lassitude and the bleariness of dreams fade from his mind, rubbing his eyes, swallowing cool water from the goblet by the bedside. By the darkness seeping through the shutters he knows it is deep night; all the more mysterious is his wife’s absence at so late an hour. Worry sparks up within him quietly, for he can think of nowhere she might need to be save the healing houses, but there is no note on the pillow that he can tell, and surely had she been taken ill he would have been woken. He proposes to wait, then, and settles himself back into the bed beneath soft covers. He is dozing gently when the door to their chamber opens and closes with a click, when the rustle of a robe is heard, when chilled feet brush his own.
Faramir jolts into wakefulness. “Éowyn, are you well? Where have you been?” He does not mean to be quite so demanding in his tone and he softens immediately, abashed. “I woke to find you gone.”
Éowyn’s hands are cold; she slips one into Faramir’s grasp, the other strokes his unshaven cheek lovingly. “I have been speaking with the king.”
A river of ice runs through Faramir. He jerks his head back, disengaging himself from the caress, but his hand curls around his wife’s in protective alarm. “You went to him?”
“Yes,” she says.
“Speak plainly, love. What had he to say? What had you to say to him? I can think of nothing diplomatic.” Faramir is angry, he realises, and checks his tone yet again. “Forgive my abruptness,” he adds quickly, ashamed of heated words directed at the only one of the trifecta who is utterly blameless.
Éowyn is in turns spirited, wilful, austere, joyful and private, but warmest with Faramir. She curls around him for heat and he pulls her close. “I wanted to know why.”
“He fell in love with me, and I tried to be too good a friend.” Faramir says gruffly, embarrassed and guilty. “You know I never let him-”
Éowyn cuts him off. “Let us not have this conversation again. I do not doubt your intentions when it came to him, nor your love for me.” She shifts, releasing his hand. “I also do not doubt that he loved you, or loves you, just as deeply.”
“I want to hate him.” The anger bubbles up again, but it is without foundation and he is unable to direct it. “I want to dislike him, to find in him some quality that I can hold up for all to see and find fault with. All he did was love me.” It is almost pitch dark but Faramir looks away anyway. “He will find someone else.”
“Yes, he will, in time.”
“It will be easier when we are away. For everyone involved.”
“Yes, it will.” Éowyn draws his face back to hers and kisses him softly. “I only wish we did not have to lie.”
“It will be truth enough, sooner or later.”
“I do not mind the remedying of the falsehood,” she laughs gently, and Faramir smiles for what feels like the first time in years.
“I do want a family,” he says, kissing her cheek and running his hand over the flatness of her belly, where no life yet stirs. “With you,” he adds unnecessarily.
“Will you be happy in Edoras?”
Faramir thinks of Gondor; the coldness of the White City, the pain of the war, the mother he never knew, the father who did not love him, the brother he adored and was parted from so cruelly. The king whose friendship burned so brightly for him that it scalded and would destroy what was left of him if he did not break away. Not even his beloved Ithilien could outbalance all of that. “You will be happy, and I will be happy. I am still of Gondor, but I think Gondor will go on without me. Our children, when they come, will be children of both lands. Our families and the realms are well and truly entwined now that Éomer has wed my cousin.” And Aragorn, he thinks oddly, is left out of it all. The reunited lands are already interweaving and the king of Men is of no relation. Faramir wants to hate Aragorn, but finds in his heart only pity and great sadness. That after all that has occurred the king should be alone saddens him.
“I am technically a princess, you know. And you are a prince.” Éowyn giggles at this, ignorant to Faramir‘s thoughts. “Politics.”
Faramir’s hand slips lower. “Indeed.”
There is a letter on the Aragorn’s desk, sealed and addressed in a neat hand in black ink. The king himself is on his balcony. The wind blows his hair wildly, his eyes crease in the light of day. He is dressed only semi-formally; the white tree embroidered upon his hest catches the sunlight, but his tresses flow freely in the breeze, unfettered by crown or fastening. His sword-belt too, is absent. There was no need for the warrior-king’s attire today.
Today Faramir and Éowyn departed for Rohan. Today, Aragorn looks skywards and smiles.
Before him, below him, the city arrays itself in ever widening diameters, like the expansion of ripples after a fingertip breaches the surface of a still pool. Below him, life continues on oblivious to royal heartache, or the absence of such. There is heartache amongst the city folk, there is happiness too, joy, laughter, drunkenness, anger, a frown, a smirk, a flirtatious glance, the averting of eyes, the contented sigh. Life flows on like the never-ceasing Anduin, and Aragorn at last feels able to let himself drift along too, jostled by the eddies, carried onward ever further from frothing torrents, crippling rocks, the foamy cataclysm of the waterfall’s foot. Still waters, from here on out. So he hopes, and so he intends.
The letter is from Faramir, he knows that much. The script is distinctive, years of schooling and stewardship have corralled a boyish scrawl into consistent, even lettering. Aragorn, long literate and yet long absent from any classroom, counts himself lucky to be able to decipher his own inky meanderings when he rediscovers self-penned notes. One more little thing that he will need to negotiate; the loss of a dedicated minute-taker. It pains him, of course, as well as the loss of a friend, confidante, defender…he catches himself before he adds lover to that list. No. Faramir was never his lover. His kisses were not freely given; all affection was wrought from him by guilt, or cajoled by kingly conniving, however gentle. A month had passed between the terror of Faramir and Éowyn’s announcement and their actual exodus, time enough for Aragorn to discover he could sleep without tears upon his cheeks, to wake without dreams of chilled loneliness, unbearable to the last. He did not see Faramir much during this time and he did not seek him out. Faramir had said, to comfort him, perhaps, that he would not be gone forever. From time to time he needs must return to the city of his birth for reasons political and maybe, in time, personal. Visiting old friends. But Aragorn knew that such times would be far from now, and he would not ask Faramir to come. Letters he would entrust under-stewards to compose. Everything would be strictly formal, though not so distant from their lingering strands of friendship as to border on coldness. But there would be no affection in those words, no pining, no requests, no hope.
Aragorn had returned to his rooms after saying farewell; solemn, staid, still a little afraid of Éowyn, afraid lest he lose the ghost of control and let her see his tears once again. Mounted on horses they had looked down at him, and he dared not approach further. He had not embraced Faramir, but it would have looked odd to the gathered servants, guards, the small retinue that would accompany the prince and princess of Ithilien if the king had not shown some familiarity. He clasped Éowyn’s hands between his own, and brought them to his lips, pale, slender things against the dark bracken of his beard. Faramir he had regarded at arms’ length, and they said little, some forgotten words of safe journey, and then they were gone. Faramir had looked over his shoulder before disappearing from view and in his gaze Aragorn saw something he did not wish to name. Upon reaching his quarters he saw the letter immediately, a white sheaf folded over and sealed with wax the colour of clotted blood, and now, he steps back into the room from outside and stands before it once more. His thumb tempts paper-cuts, tracing the edge of the parchment. A fingernail picks at the emblem smudged into the seal. He lifts it gently, opens one of the bureau drawers with his other hand, and places it within. Closing it again he exhales and feels lighter for it. Somehow he senses that the answer to Faramir’s strange glance lies penned upon that page, the message his steward tried to send to him with some strange telepathy. But Aragorn is not willing to be enlightened. He returns to the balcony, pulling the long curtains shut behind him, secluding himself a little more. The wind has died a little, and the sun shines hot on the stone balustrade, warming his palms.
He is alone now, a shining king of silver and ebony. He does not look north, where he knows copper and gold now mingle in peace. Within him the fear bubbles gently, the misery rumbles, the worry an undercurrent to all he thinks or does, but it is not the end.
Faramir, the one Aragorn thought he would never cease to love, is gone.
And now, looking downwards over rings of sun-bright stone, he feels at ease with that.
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