This story is rated «NC-17», and carries the warnings «Violence, Non-con incest, Mention of child abuse, Wandering POV».
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21 June 2008 | 9777 words
Author: Bell Witch
Rating/Warnings: NC-17 for (safety) Violence, Non-con incest, Mention of child abuse, Wandering POV
Word Count: 9733
Author’s Notes: Beta by the extremely spiffin’ Iris. Written May-June 2008.
Written for the the 2008 Midsummer swap.
Request by Lisa14: Post-ring, either Fara/Boro or Fara/Aragorn (or a threesome is always good too.) Boromir and/or Aragorn find out that Denethor has been physically and/or sexually abusing Faramir all these years and starts protecting him and getting him to talk about it so he starts to heal. Double points if Denethor is still alive and still abusing Faramir.
Elessar Telcontar, newly-crowned king of Gondor, looked over the edge of his goblet of wine at the guest in his study. Lord Faramir, second (and now only) son of Gondor’s Steward sat only somewhat stiffly on his chair. He was trying his best to follow the king’s latest order and not succeeding very well.
“Is it truly so difficult?” the king asked in an amused voice.
“It is not, your… I mean Aragorn.” Faramir flushed, annoyed with himself. “It is difficult enough to fully grasp that Elendil’s heir has returned to Gondor. That you wish me to call you by name is not entirely penetrating, as honoured as I am by your request.”
The man had no idea of how he appeared to the king, no notion of how enticing the blush made him look. Had Faramir known he came across as so appealing, he never would have used words like ‘penetrating’ in Aragorn’s presence, not even in such an innocent context. It was a perfectly appropriate word, but Faramir did not see the slightly deeper than normal intake of breath the king required and appeared to have no idea of where his lord’s thoughts were turning.
“As long as you make an effort, Faramir.” Aragorn smiled to note that calling Faramir by his own name made the man’s cheeks go even pinker. Boromir might have been wrong about his brother—Faramir seemed never to have been with a man. The way he acted, Aragorn doubted that he’d ever been with anyone. Certainly Boromir’s brother could not be so dense as to not understand at least a little bit of why the king enjoyed his company so much? Everything else Boromir said about his younger brother seemed to indicate that he wouldn’t be against the idea—Aragorn was all that he could want in a companion. Considering the intimacy of the ranger and the older of Denethor’s sons, Aragorn had been interested before he’d met Boromir’s brother. Now that he had, he hoped Boromir was right. Being friends with Faramir was an option, but Aragorn desired more.
Why then was Faramir being so maddening? He had to know he was being courted, yet responded not at all. If he played coy or simply said no, that was understandable. As it was, Aragorn had no idea if Faramir knew what Aragorn was trying to do here.
Faramir was trying not to blush further under his king’s gaze and failing miserably. He knew what he must look like and did not wish to play the fool in this. It was just that he did not want it to be happening, did not want to talk about it. So he ignored it.
He ignored it every time that Aragorn invited him to his study. They drank wine and spoke of things, usually more personally than they spoke during the day when they were in public as king and acting steward. It was something he looked forward to, very much. Not only was it flattering, but Aragorn’s array of knowledge and manner of speaking made conversations interesting and enjoyable—there nearly always seemed more to say. But not about a topic that personal, please.
“When will your father be released from the Houses of Healing?” Aragorn asked later in the evening. “I know he is doing well and understand it is to be soon. He can move about easily with those crutches of his and there are servants enough here in the citadel that he will not be neglected.”
The Steward would have more room and more privacy to finish recovering from his broken leg in his own chambers.
“In two days’ time, your majesty.” Faramir forgot completely the king’s request to call him by name. “Everything is ready.”
He had been working desperately at the duties assigned the Steward so that his father would not have to worry and could take the time needed to recover. He would be able to rest as well out of the Houses as in them—better, even. There were so many things that his father did, plus everything needed to repair the city and the evenings with the king, that Faramir had little time to sleep and none for himself. It would be worth it if Denethor was satisfied. Please, let him be satisfied.
The queen’s entrance pulled Faramir from his thoughts. He made to rise but was given a gentle, admonishing look by both royals.
“I have said before, Lord Faramir; you need not rise in my presence—not in private.” Arwen’s gentle voice and light smile made Faramir feel as though he had disappointed her slightly but that she would forgive. She turned to her husband. “I simply wished to tell my husband that I had planned to retire. I’ll be in my own bedroom this evening, if you do not mind.”
She smiled softly at Aragorn and again at Faramir. He knew what she meant but managed not to blush. She had done this before, a number of times. He was grateful for it, yet deeply embarrassed that the queen would be aware of… whatever this was. Obviously she was aware and even seemed to approve! He rose as soon as she disappeared.
“I should leave as well, Aragorn.” He was pleased to remember in time. “It is quite late and I should not keep you from your rest either. I will see you again in the morning.”
“See that you get some sleep yourself.” Aragorn was prepared to accept Faramir’s excuse and moved to clasp the younger man’s shoulder, the barest flinch greeting his touch. “Please remember that our work is not so urgent that you must rise so much before the sun. Rest well, Faramir.”
Faramir made a motion between a nod and a bow, and exited. There was more work to do this evening and he would try—he would—not to wake so early. He wished to please his king, but he needed to make certain that all was in readiness for when Lord Denethor left the Houses. He would check everything, twice.
Lord Denethor sat in his room in the Houses of Healing. Today he was finally being allowed to return to his rooms, if not his duties, and he felt that this change was vastly overdue. Had it not been for Aragorn, he’d have ordered the warden of the Houses to release him long ago: the king would not hear of it. What else would this Elessar Telcontar change?
He might be king, but he was an inexperienced one, while Lord Denethor had more than thirty years’ rule behind him. The upstart needed his Steward’s expertise and Denethor was ready, no matter what the healers said. Somehow he would manage to do his work from his chambers, or even use his crutches to move about the citadel, humiliating as that might be.
They were fine crutches, made of hardwood and finely carved, with padding made of wool covered in soft leather with silver nails to secure it. How foolish would he look using them while wearing his robes of state? Well, he would have to, or have Faramir carry his words to the council chambers.
Faramir, who had not come to see him even once since his own release from the Houses. He had been so dutiful before, and Denethor was surprised to find that he appreciated it. To have his younger son sit beside his bed as he slept had actually comforted him. When he’d woken to see that familiar face looking back at him, his soul had rejoiced. His son was not dead, his misstep and fall was a blessing. If not for his foot slipping on the steps of the citadel, sending him tumbling into unconsciousness, he may very well have ended up burning Faramir alive. Was it luck or did the Valar intervene or did it matter? They both lived and that was the most important thing.
He had watched with great interest as his son slowly wooed the White Lady of Rohan and was extremely pleased when she was won over. Things were going well in his kingdom after so long.
The shadow on all of this was Aragorn. It was not the heir of Elendil who saved Middle-earth, but a pair of Halflings. That these were the same pair that Faramir had released against his own orders was something he chose not to think on, as it only irritated him.
It also irritated him that Faramir spoke so much of the heir. Talk of Aragorn was everywhere; did he need to hear it from his own son? He had even acted in Lord Denethor’s stead at the coronation, as the people would not wish to see their Steward unable to walk at such a joyous time, nor did he wish to appear weak in public.
Then Faramir was released completely from the Houses and Denethor heard nothing at all. Did Faramir think that since he had acted for his father in one ceremony he might now continue doing so? He would see very soon. He would call Faramir to his chambers this very evening and find out just what he had been doing that was so important that there was no time to visit his father.
Faramir stood uneasily outside the door to his father’s chambers as he had so many times in the past. He entered when given leave to do so, moving tentatively into the familiar room.
“I am here, my lord,” he said. At least his words were clear and his voice did not waver.
“My lord is it?” Denethor returned airily, raising an eyebrow. “In the Houses of Healing you called me father. I suppose things have changed since then.”
The old man looked closely at his son, trying to see if there was any guilt visible. There was something…
“Pardon me, father, I did not mean any disrespect,” Faramir half-smiled. He was trying to show respect as he had always done, not sure if the changes in the Houses were meant to continue outside. Perhaps they were; it looked like they were.
“Do you ever mean disrespect, my son?” Denethor asked, sitting uncomfortably in his chair. He pointed to another, not wishing to be looked down on by his own child and relaxing slightly when Faramir sat.
“I do not.” He never had, and rejoiced to be called son. It was all he ever wanted and everything he hoped it would be. His chest tightened—they could be father and son now, after so long. But his father’s next words brought Faramir’s cautiousness back.
“Then why did you not visit me after you were released from the Houses of Healing? I would have expected to see you at least once.” Was that hurt in the old man’s voice?
“I’m sorry, father. I have been so busy.” Faramir did not know where to begin. “There are so many things that must be done and the king cannot do them all. I know more of the workings of the city than he does and have been spending extra time showing him the regular duties of the Steward as well as trying to keep the armies in order and work with the Dwarves and so many others on rebuilding the city.”
It was too much for any one man and Faramir was not certain of all of the Steward’s responsibilities. His father would be better able to assist the king as soon as he was well enough.
“When do you think that you will be ready to resume your duties, father?” He thought a moment. “Did you plan to resume your duties?”
Perhaps he did not, and what would Faramir do then? The kingdom needed Lord Denethor’s experience.
“Of course I planned to resume my duties,” Denethor said icily. What was the boy thinking? That he knew the Steward’s duties better than any man but Denethor himself? “Simply because I cannot walk does not mean that I cannot think.”
He scowled as his son rose from the chair.
“I did not mean to imply…”
“Undoubtedly you did not mean to imply anything—you never do!”
What had happened so quickly? Faramir was confused because things appeared to have changed for the better, but suddenly it didn’t look that way. This situation seemed horribly familiar and he didn’t know how to turn it back to the way it was a minute ago.
“I’m sorry, father. There is so much work and we need you, Gondor needs you as much as she ever did.” There, his father seemed calmer at that. It was the simple truth.
“I can continue to serve her even in my present state,” the Steward said, seemingly placated.
“King Elessar will be pleased to hear it,” Faramir said with a light smile, returning to his chair. “Though I do not know if he will be more pleased than I. Doing so much work I would never have time to see my wife once Éowyn and I are wed.”
Faramir could not help his light blush at the thought of his lady. His father approved of her, he knew it. He was therefore shocked to see the corners of Denethor’s mouth turn down and his eyes narrow.
“No, you would not. You would be too busy spending your evenings with the king of Gondor to spend them with the sister of the king of Rohan.” He snorted in disgust. “Can you not do anything of your own accord or must you always ride just behind the truly great and emerge when the situation is best for you?”
“Father!” This was not anything like the Houses of the Healing. Where was Denethor’s pride and support in winning such a lady? And what did he mean by spending his evenings with the king? They were working together. Or did Denethor know…? Nothing happened!
“Don’t speak to me with that tone of surprise. Ever have you lagged at your brother’s heels and now you have two kings to shelter you.” Denethor glared. “Two kings to shelter you and my position to take—remember that I am not yet dead and gone.”
Faramir was too stunned to speak. What had he done to deserve such a tone of contempt? Had he not just said how pleased he was that his father would continue to act as Steward? His thoughts were spinning like eddies in the river when his father spoke again.
“I will be writing to Rohan as soon as possible,” Denethor spat. “Your betrothal must be broken. What good could come of a match between the highest-ranking woman in the west and you?”
Faramir rose again and took a quick step towards his father.
“Father, you were pleased with this match before…”
“I was ill, not in my right mind! That is the only explanation I can come up with for even imagining that you were good enough for Lady Éowyn. Now, Boromir, he would have known what to do with such a woman.” He looked up and noticed, as if for the first time, how close Faramir was and how tall. “Back!”
Denethor swung out with one of his crutches and caught Faramir in the side. The young man’s eyes widened in surprise and he moved his hands to check if a rib had been broken. Denethor saw the movement, saw the hands move to where the crutch was and withdrew it. If Faramir took the crutch then he would have a weapon. Faramir should not have a weapon, never strike his father. It was treason to strike the Lord Steward: the Steward would strike first!
He lashed out again with the same crutch and then the other, hitting ribs and legs and arms until Faramir fell down after a particularly solid hit to his knee. Denethor moved to rise, pulling in his crutches to use for their intended purpose but could not do so before Faramir had pushed back across the floor, keeping his eyes on his father the entire time. Rising shakily, he turned to the door.
“I… I give you good evening, my lord.” Faramir stammered, backing out of the room and pulling the door shut behind him. Denethor looked at the closed door, seething at his son’s audacity.
What had the boy been thinking? Take the Stewardship, take the lady, and gain power in two kingdoms? Clever, but he, Denethor, would never allow it; not for his second and lesser son.
Faramir’s mind was still racing. He had sped back to his chambers and removed the clothing required to assess his injuries. Nothing was too bad, mostly bruises with a very few spots where the skin had broken. Certainly he’d had worse.
It wasn’t the severity of the beating that made his head reel but the fact that it had happened at all. His father had seemed so different in the Houses of Healing, had seemed to care and even encouraged him in his suit for Lady Éowyn. What could have gone wrong so quickly?
Really it was not that things had gone wrong, more like back to the way they had always been. In the Houses it had all been new, his father acted like he cared, and Faramir had dared to hope… Were those hopes to be dispelled so quickly? Had nothing changed between Denethor and his younger son and would the beatings continue as before? It seemed like forever that they’d been going on and he supposed that was true enough, since he didn’t remember a time before them, not really. And what else would continue as before?
He did not want to think about that, nor about what Éomer King of Rohan would say when he received the letter breaking the betrothal. If that letter destroyed his future with Lady Éowyn then it was worse than anything else his father had ever done to him. He had to do something, but what?
The only thing he could think of was that Aragorn might intercede on his behalf, or perhaps even Lady Arwen might. Both had approved of the match and would be very surprised to hear that the agreement was being broken. Certainly Aragorn would ask him about it during one of their… whatever they were. Did Denethor know about these meetings and would he tell Éomer? What would Éomer think? What would Aragorn think when he found out that Denethor had broken the betrothal against Faramir’s wishes? The growing friendship would end, since the king would surely not wish to be friends with anyone so weak as Faramir. Things had been going so well in this new world, why had he not known it couldn’t last?
Wounds taken care of, the salve was put away and Faramir fell heavily on his bed, exhausted in body and mind. He had liked the direction his new life was taking: how could he keep from losing all?
Faramir’s head had begun to ache by the time he was able to excuse himself from Aragorn’s company that evening. It was not that he did not enjoy time spent with the king—he did, very much—just that his distress over his father’s behaviour was starting to show through and he could not hide it much longer.
Lady Arwen had been the one to note it tonight, mentioning that he looked unwell as she came through to tell her husband that she would again be sleeping in her own bed. Faramir took advantage, insisting that he merely had a headache and would be going back to his rooms: Aragorn himself would notice the changes in Faramir’s behaviour soon enough.
He had headaches much of the time lately, but he did truly plan on retiring as soon as possible. Most of his work now dealt with the restoration of the city, a topic about which he knew little, as opposed to many of his father’s duties. But now the man had retaken his position and Faramir was left to muddle through plans to rebuild Minas Tirith’s ancient architecture. Denethor himself was very busy, though he still had time to berate Faramir regularly. He simply did it in the privacy of his own rooms instead of in his public study or the throne room as he had before the king’s return.
No wonder Faramir had a headache, and it had not quite been two weeks! Two weeks since Denethor had emerged from the Houses to resume his duties. Well, it was fairly early, all things considered, so a good night’s sleep might just make all the difference. Faramir was almost smiling in anticipation as he went through his nightly ablutions, yawning until his jaw cricked and attempting to stretch his aches away. Lying down after he’d put out the candle felt so good. He was warm, but not too hot, certain that his head would no longer hurt come morning.
Floating in half-sleep, Faramir missed the scuffling noise. He never knew anything was wrong until he felt the stifling pillow cover his face. There was something behind holding it in place, something sturdy. He was kicking and thrashing his lower body beneath the blankets but the upper half could barely move. He could not even fully raise his arms. He couldn’t stop it, couldn’t do anything, couldn’t breathe…
Faramir woke to find himself face down on his bed, his wrists tied securely together and tethered to the sturdy wood of the headboard. He hadn’t even time to panic when something hard and heavy struck the backs of his legs. He could not begin to think what it was until he managed to turn his head and see his father standing there—standing, without the crutches. It was one of these being used to hit him.
“My lord, please.” He knew it wouldn’t do any good; it never did for a beating. No, he could live with one of those, had been all of his old life and into this new one. But Faramir felt certain that it was going to be more than a beating: he didn’t need to be tied for a beating, and there was that awful feeling in the air—the one that meant the pain would be far more than physical. Surely his soul would shatter if he had to endure this again. “Please, do not do this.”
His answer was another solid blow to the legs followed by a rain of swift strikes.
The beating stopped. Faramir could hear his heartbeat and nothing else. It could not have ended, could it?
“Do not beg to me as a father, boy,” Denethor’s voice hissed into his ear. One strong hand gripped his hair and pulled, turning his head sideways to face his lord’s wrath. “You would have supplanted me as Steward in an instant if you thought you could get away with it. Now you flaunt yourself before the king.”
“I do not, I swear to you,” Faramir averred. It was true.
Denethor snorted and tightened his grip on Faramir’s hair.
“Liar! You return here from the king’s own chambers. You cannot be his Steward so you settle for being his whore.” Disgust dripped thickly from the low voice. “It is not to be, little one. You’ve been my whore for much too long to let you go.”
His hair was released and Faramir knew what would happen next. He knew and hated it but there was no turning his fate aside. Shouting would bring no help—it never did. There was nothing to be done but bear it as he always had, back to when he truly could be called ‘little one’.
The hands made Faramir cringe and shudder—every touch made him wish to sink inside himself. The cries and moans faded until he forgot he was making them. Each painful thrust sent him lower and deeper and Lord Denethor’s remarks brought him near to despair. A father should not say such things to his son, should not know of his heat and tightness. Fathers do not kneel between their sons’ legs and take them as though they were women. Things like this just didn’t happen.
Faramir spoke these words and others to himself until he was able to reach the dark depths that no one could see and went inside; he could hide here, just for a little while. By the time he emerged, his father would be gone.
Three days later, Faramir was trying not to let his pain show but it was difficult when he hurt so badly. The backs of his legs were bruised purple as was his right hip, where some of the blows overshot a little bit. His bruised wrists were carefully covered with very long sleeves. His body ached from trying to escape the bonds and his lower back for other reasons, much like his hips hurt from having his legs pushed so far apart for so long. And, even though Lord Denethor was careful not to tear anything, his arse hurt like the fires of Angband, which made sitting difficult even now. The first day it would have been impossible.
As it was, Faramir perched gingerly in the king’s private sitting room with his body a mess and his mind in turmoil. He’d only been able to avoid Aragorn for so long and now he was working to give the performance of a lifetime. This was almost like lying and it made Faramir even more uncomfortable, but what else could he do? The timing for this particular conversation could not possibly be worse.
“Is there something about me that keeps you so distant?” Aragorn was saying. “You must know my intentions by now, even if not for Arwen’s rather bold interference.”
Eru, the king looked so young and hopeful right now despite Faramir knowing that he was nearly ninety. He could not disappoint Aragorn, yet he could not accept either. He was tainted, unclean.
“It is not you, Aragorn. I would have you know that with all certainty.” Using the king’s name was very important at this time, and there was no use in pretending he didn’t understand. “Permission from the queen notwithstanding, I have never been with a married person before.”
Not with one whose spouse was alive, that is.
“The Elves see things much more differently than Men do. This is not something I say only to sway you.” Aragorn obviously spoke truth. “They know that love is not a finite thing and, often, the more you give the more you have to give.”
“I am not worthy of your love, Elessar, Aragorn or even Strider.” Now it was Faramir’s turn to speak the truth as he saw it.
“What makes you say this?” Aragorn asked, aghast. “You are as fine a man as I could hope to meet—loyal and strong, brave and wise—you are a treasure for all of Gondor. I am honoured merely to know you.”
The sincerity could be countered, and Faramir could deny the compliments, but there was no way to hide the flinch when Aragorn touched his shoulder. This was not one of his usual flinches, but a full-body shudder—Faramir’s shoulders still hurt from his arms being pulled up over his head and his struggles to free them. No, the ache could not be denied and the expression on Aragorn’s face was both surprised and concerned.
“What is wrong, Faramir? Why did you not tell me that you were in pain?” Aragorn stepped closer, obviously intent on further investigation. “Let me help you, please.”
Backing away, Faramir shook his head. “That will not be necessary, your majesty.” He flinched at the mistake. “It was in an unfortunate position in bed—you must know what that is like.”
Not the way Faramir knew, but anyone could sleep wrong.
“I do. A massage will make it right again. I was a healer before I even thought to be king—let me help you.” He walked closer.
Every step Aragorn took, Faramir took one backwards until the backs of his legs hit the low table the king used for his finished reports. The pain was bad enough to make him cry out and there was no way to hide it this time.
“That was certainly not your shoulder, Faramir. What is wrong with you?” Aragorn’s voice was still concerned but there was a stronger note of authority in it now. “Do not tell me that you merely slept wrong for I will not believe it.”
The king wanted answers, right now, and Faramir could not give them. He couldn’t lie either, so he merely stared and stammered as the king walked closer. There was no touch now, though Aragorn’s eyes seemed to reach deep inside his soul where Faramir could no longer hide. He trembled, unable to do anything else.
“I want to help you, Faramir.” The voice was quiet but affected Faramir more than Lord Denethor’s shouts ever had, more than they ever could. The wise face with the deep eyes would know what was wrong and Faramir’s eyes began to glisten with unfallen tears.
“Please,” Faramir barely whispered. Was it a plea to stop or a plea to help? It didn’t matter—Aragorn heard it and took a slight step back.
He could see more than just the pain on Faramir’s face; Aragorn noticed the shudders and the position of Faramir’s body and all the little details that made sense now: he finally understood what he was seeing. He had to be careful and not let the horror show.
“Who was it, Faramir?” he asked quietly. There was no demand in the powerful voice now, only a request and endless concern. “I can help you if you tell me.”
Faramir knew he couldn’t say and knew equally that it would be obvious in a moment. How many people could there be in the whole kingdom capable of reducing Faramir to this state? He lowered his eyes and flushed with shame.
Aragorn wasn’t stupid and his mind flew through the few facts he knew and all he could infer from them. He took a deep breath before speaking in a strong, calm voice.
“Come, let us sit down.” He guided Faramir to a different chair than before, one he could half-curl on and he watched until Faramir had made himself as comfortable as he could be. “You need not say anything if you do not wish, just shake your head or nod.”
Faramir nodded his understanding, making Aragorn give him an encouraging smile.
“I cannot imagine that anyone except your father holds such sway over you, am I correct?” He waited for the nod. “You are too strong—yes, you are strong—for this to have been the first time. Is that right?”
Faramir nodded again and turned his head downward.
“Did Boromir know?” Headshake. “Does anyone know besides me?”
“No.” Faramir’s eyes came up. They were dry but very red. “I can tell you… though there is not that much to tell.”
“I will listen to anything you wish to say, Faramir.” Aragorn sat back, not wanting to pressure. He wanted to understand as best he could, even knowing that there was nothing reasonable about the situation. He wanted to help.
“It started a long time ago and was mostly a slap here and there when I had bothered him excessively. I know I can be irritating and was even worse as a child with all of my questions. Sometimes I’d forget what was told me and I’d ask again. So really it made me work harder to remember things and learn on my own.” That was one way to think of it. “When I got older he had to hit more than once sometimes. But I did learn that way, and I stopped crying. He never liked that.”
Eight was too old to cry anyway. Faramir did not see other boys that age crying, did he?
“When Boromir went into the army it was a bit worse. And it was soon after that when Lord Denethor started to… well…” That was not his father. Fathers didn’t do those things. “He didn’t actually lie with me at first, just touch. I never said not to.”
Faramir was so quiet now that Aragorn would have had trouble hearing had not the chambers been completely silent. Faramir believed that his father had been helping when he beat him—how could he make Faramir know that wasn’t true?
“I never said no, not even when he took me the first time,” Faramir continued. “It hurt. He’d already been touching me for some months—not every night. He didn’t do it every night.”
That detail was very important.
“Faramir, I am so sorry. No one should ever have to go through what you did.” Not even once, and Faramir had been enduring for how long? Aragorn knew that Boromir had gone into the army when he was sixteen. So Faramir was eleven or twelve when… “How could a man do that to his own son?”
“It was my own fault!” Faramir exclaimed, eyes wide. “I never said no, I never fought back. He must not have known that I didn’t want it.”
That did not explain why Denethor had come to him in the first place, or why, when Faramir grew older and joined the rangers himself, the pushes and struggles had made no difference. By the time he was a man grown, Lord Denethor had often tied him for the encounters.
“It was not your fault!” Aragorn shouted in return. He cursed himself for a fool and controlled his voice. “It was not your fault, and you are not unclean. You were too young to say no, and you wished to please your father—in whatever way—even when your father was doing something wrong. There is nothing wrong with you.”
No, the fault was not with Faramir.
Faramir shook his head. His heart knew that the king was right, that he hadn’t fought because he wanted his father to love him. At first there had been hope and so he never said anything even though it hurt. By the time he was thirteen or fourteen he knew better, knew but still said nothing. He thought it would matter when he became a soldier but it didn’t and his service to his lands had not stopped the bizarre service to the Steward himself. Pushing hadn’t worked, nor had struggling. There was only so much he could fight—it was not as though he could strike the Steward himself. So, twenty years later, here he was.
“I will talk to him…” Aragorn said. Faramir held up a hand, so panicked that he didn’t notice that he had just silenced the king.
“No. I will speak with him.” Faramir’s voice wasn’t as strong as it could be, but it was determined. “It is my place to finally say no.”
This was not something Aragorn should do for him. He could stand on his own and did not need the king to protect him from his own father. Aragorn said that he was strong and so he would act strong, be strong. He uncurled from the chair and rose, standing straight and tall despite his pains.
“I will go and perform this duty, if it pleases you.”
Aragorn stood also and set his hand carefully on Faramir’s shoulder—slowly, so that the man could see it coming and not flinch.
“Your strength and courage please me more than I can say. Go with the blessing of your king and the blessing of your friend Aragorn as well.”
Faramir stood for a moment outside of his father’s rooms. He breathed, deep and calming breaths, until the courage he’d found when he was with Aragorn a quarter-hour before returned. Aragorn, who had called him friend. He knocked.
Faramir pushed open the heavy door and closed it behind him before turning to face the Steward in his chair.
“My lord,” he said, “I have a matter of importance that needs to be discussed with you.”
“It is for me to decide what is important and what is not,” Denethor sneered. Faramir nodded calmly.
“As you say.” How odd that Faramir was so composed now. He’d never been this way in front of his father before. The time was right, was far past right.
“It must stop, my lord. The world is changed and the war is over and much of your burden has been lifted: I think that the times spent with me—the beatings and everything else—can now end.” Faramir would allow him that. It was the strain of so many things that made Denethor act as he did and so it could stop without comment now that the stress was gone. “Such things have no place in the new world, the new Age. Do you not agree?”
There was ice in Denethor’s gaze but Faramir did not look away.
“You are very sure of yourself against a crippled enemy.”
Faramir’s eyes widened slightly, innocuously.
“We both know that you are capable of walking, father.” Faramir’s gaze was solid. “And more than walking. It will not happen again and nothing more will be said about it.”
He waited for the reluctant nod before leaving. As he walked down the hall to his own chambers he felt free enough to smile a little bit. A little bit of Aragorn’s strength had been enough—it was so easy! He wondered idly if his father had considered that conversation important and decided that he didn’t really care.
A week later, Faramir sat in his rooms reading one of his favourite books. It was a story for children that he and Boromir had read together many, many times when they were boys and sometimes even after. He missed Boromir still, likely would miss him always, but the pain had eased somewhat and there were more good memories now that made Faramir smile so much at times that he had to stop reading and just remember.
A knock on the door brought him out of his daydream. It wouldn’t be Aragorn—they’d agreed not to spend so many evenings together for a while—every other or thereabouts—and Faramir was grateful both for the reprieve and that Aragorn still wished to see him at all. So who was this? He rose and opened the door.
Denethor stood in the hall wearing as informal a robe as ever he wore and leaning fairly heavily on his crutches. He looked tired.
“Might I come in… my son?”
Faramir’s surprise was so great that he nearly forgot to say yes. In reality, he nodded and stood back, closing the door behind after his father had entered.
“Please, sit.” He did not really know what to say. “How may I help you, father?”
Denethor sat heavily, wearily. He was quiet for some time before speaking but a few words.
“I did not see.”
Faramir blinked. Whatever he might have expected, this wasn’t it.
“I did not see,” he said, louder and stronger than the first time. “It is a new Age, different from the old. It is a time for new things to prove themselves and for old things…”
He looked at the door then stood, pulling himself up with his crutches. Faramir stood also, shaking his head and reaching an arm out to help.
“You are not old, father,” Faramir spoke, voice reassuring. “You will be Steward for many years yet. The king has returned and he needs you by his side—no one knows more of the rule of Gondor than you.”
The corner of Denethor’s mouth turned down. Always the king. The king needed him, certainly, but not his son. No, Faramir wished nothing to do with him anymore. He batted the arm away.
“If I am not old, then do not treat me as if I am!” He glared at Faramir.
“Please excuse me, I only wish to aid you. I know you don’t need my help—I simply wish to give it.”
Denethor nodded slightly.
“Giving, yes. The last Age is giving way before the new.” He nodded again, then took a step toward Faramir. “There are some things from the last Age that are not yet ready to give up!”
One of the crutches was raised quickly, swinging at Faramir’s head so fast that he had no time to duck. He stumbled, leaving his side open for the next hit, and the one after that and the one after that, until he was lying unconscious on the floor. His left arm was twisted oddly around his back. Denethor toed it as he moved in closer.
He shook his head, smiling evilly as he dragged the unconscious form over to the bed. “It is one thing to say that something is over, little one, but quite another to enforce it.”
It was mid-afternoon the next day when the king stood outside of Faramir’s rooms. He wasn’t terribly annoyed, more surprised that Faramir had not met him in his office as he was supposed to do. Faramir was overseeing many aspects of city reconstruction and Aragorn needed to be kept apprised of progress. It was a weekly meeting and Faramir was not likely to be late for appointments, much less miss them entirely.
“Faramir?” he called, knocking again. He hadn’t seen Faramir all day, thinking about it. Was the man ill? He tried the door and found it unlocked.
Never in all of his life did Aragorn expect to see anything like what was before him. The violence of a battlefield was terrible, but impersonal. He was sure that all of what had been done to Faramir was significant.
There was a whimper from the bed and Aragorn’s shock was broken. He approached, speaking very quietly as he took in the details.
“It is Aragorn. I’m going to cut you loose.” The ties were strips of fabric pulled so tightly that there was no other way to get them off. He cut the arms loose first, then stopped to pull the gag out of the younger man’s mouth. This effort was rewarded with several deep breaths from Faramir, followed by soft coughing. Moving to cut the ties at Faramir’s legs, Aragorn stopped. And stared.
He’d been trying not to look more than was required to assess the damage, to let Faramir keep what was left of his tattered dignity, but the glint of metal caused his eyes to turn upward to the blade of a knife. It was Faramir’s own hunting knife and very sharp. The blade shone brightly between Faramir’s legs, but the haft…
“Faramir,” he said as calmly as he could, “I am going to remove the knife now. As carefully as I can.”
There was no way to spare Faramir pain: Aragorn did what he had to do, then moved down to cut Faramir’s legs free. He used the scraps of fabric to wrap the knife, certain that Faramir would not wish to see it.
“Can you move your arms?” he asked. Faramir hadn’t really moved even now that he was cut loose. The mass of bruises on his shoulders, back, and thighs was bad, but not enough to prevent movement. He heard in intake of breath and moved to kneel by the head of the bed.
“My arm. My left shoulder is dislocated, I think.” Faramir’s voice was hoarse, empty.
“I can help you.” As Faramir was moved to as comfortable a position as possible, Aragorn began to note more details that made him grit his teeth in anger. There was blood on the pillow from when Faramir’s nose had bled and a few smears left on his face. There were small burn marks that appeared to have been made from heating up the candlestick. There were bruises that could only be from fingers around Faramir’s throat. For now, Aragorn was focused on helping Faramir—there was enough time for wrath later.
“He called me foolish,” Faramir said. Despite his injuries he spoke as calmly and quietly as though he were discussing some book in the library. “What a fool, to think that I could simply end it with a few words only. What good are strong words when I have been beaten insensible—again—and forced to endure such spiteful brutality? I cannot bear it.”
The words and the tone were so incongruent that Aragorn was actually worried. Faramir sounded like he could bear anything, that nothing could bother him.
“You will not have to, not ever again,” Aragorn said with absolute certainty. “Were I the Steward and Denethor the king he would still never have a chance to do this again. Gondor has laws to prevent this sort of thing, and no one is above them!”
“No!” Faramir burst out before calming. “I would not have my father humiliated in such a way. People cannot know what he has done—there can be no public trial.”
Denethor humiliated? Had Faramir been hit on the head?
“Do you not care what he has done to you? He could very well have killed you!” If Aragorn did not act soon, he still might. He could not think much lower of Lord Denethor than he did now—had the madness returned? But this had been going on for years, and the madness of the palantir could not be blamed for it. No, there was no excuse for this, or even mitigating circumstances. Denethor was a brute who callously abused his own child, having begun to do so when the man was only a child.
“I do not wish for anyone to know, my lord. I will heal in time.” It seemed to be Faramir’s last word on it, and also that he expected it to continue.
“People already know, Faramir!” Aragorn hissed. “I know, and the queen will know. There is no way I can keep this secret from her.”
“But the queen will not speak such a thing as gossip, and so I have no worry.”
“She will not, but I imagine that she will wish to warn every mother here, everyone with young boys so that they can keep a watch out for the Steward. Have you ever considered that?” Aragorn asked coldly. Faramir was not in his right mind, had to be made to see that he could not just let Denethor continue on as he always had. Faramir might be resigned to sitting here with a dislocated arm as one of the least of his injuries, but he could not allow this to happen to anyone else. Of this Aragorn was certain.
“He would not… with anyone else but me.” The voice was still calm but there was a waver in it.
“Are you sure? What if he sees a child that looks like you did? What if he doesn’t wait for you to recover and bothers someone else?” Aragorn asked. “Think, Faramir, if his own son is afraid to speak against him, then what chance does anyone else have?”
“I AM NOT AFRAID!” Faramir shouted in the king’s face. Then he sat with wide eyes, not sure what to do. Was it too late already?
“You are a brave man, a strong man. Speak out now and it will be the bravest thing you have ever done. I know what he did, all you need to is swear to it and it will never happen again.” He needed a statement, a formal charge. “You are no longer eleven, Faramir. You can do this.”
Faramir had not moved at all while Aragorn spoke. He sat and stared blankly. Had he even heard?
For how many minutes they sat was unknown. It was as if there was no time, only and endless moment of everything and nothing at the same time. Aragorn found that he couldn’t think, or could he not think because there was no time to think? At last, Faramir stirred.
“I will write it, what happened. But I cannot have him imprisoned, Aragorn.” Faramir’s eyes were pleading. “Surely there must be a way without his being imprisoned, without a trial and everyone knowing our shame.”
Aragorn gave a supportive smile.
“I know what to do.”
“Good morning, Lord Denethor,” Aragorn said. Faramir had written out a long statement of the most recent assault and signed it. Aragorn waited until after breakfast the next morning to call his Steward in for an unexpected meeting. The parchment and formal charges were pulled from the desk. “Read this, please.”
He pushed over the list of charges only and waited until Denethor had finished with them.
“Do you have anything to say?”
“Who are you to question what I do with my own family?”
Aragorn raised an eyebrow and grinned in a completely inappropriate manner.
“The king?” The smile faded. “There are laws against these things, even for Stewards or kings. Do not try to hide behind your rank. You should know the laws better than anyone! You should follow them and be an example to our people. Your shame will be endless for what you have done.”
“What have I done? What lies did he tell you?” Denethor asked. Surely Faramir hadn’t the will to go against him like this.
“He didn’t have to say anything, considering that I am the one who found him yesterday.” Aragorn’s face was as hard as mountain stone. He slid over Faramir’s statement. “But he did tell me. Don’t try to say that he lied. Or that he lied about how you have beaten him all his life, how you first came to him when he was eleven and first took him less than a year later. He was just a boy—your own son!”
The look on Denethor’s face could only be called a scowl.
“He needed discipline.”
The two sat and stared at each other, Denethor a block of ice and Aragorn reconsidering his plan and wondering if a trial really was necessary to execute someone. But he had promised Faramir.
“I could throw you in prison or even have you executed, considering the duration of the crimes and the age Faramir was when they began.”
“You will humiliate Faramir far more than you will ever hurt me,” Denethor stated.
Aragorn sat back.
“That is why you are going to retire to the Húrin estate on the sixth level. It is a fine house and better than you deserve. You will not be allowed to enter the Silent Street or see the White Tree again. You will not leave the house or garden unless at the order of the king—who is not likely to wish to see you. If you try, you will be imprisoned.” He looked at the old lord. “Faramir did not want you to be behind bars, so you can thank your son’s grace for your new life. He is a better man than you by far.”
Denethor merely snorted, obviously considering his son weak. His eyes widened as Aragorn stood and leaned over his desk.
“But this Faramir does not know—that one day you may well find someone in your room unexpectedly. Your life will end then. You’ll never know when or if this will ever happen. Try to tell this to Faramir and I will know.” Aragorn stood back. “I only wished for you to have the same uncertainty that he has had all of his life. There are soldiers outside to escort you to your rooms and help gather what you’ll need to begin your new life.”
“What will you say to the council? I am still Steward,” Denethor responded with a sneer. There would be some convenient political lie, he was sure. This sudden brutal efficiency must be due to Aragorn’s been fostering in the home of the ancient, treacherous Master Elrond.
“You’re tired and retiring. The war took your energy away and you never recovered from your fall. Now, get out of my office.”
Lord Denethor was gone from the citadel; Faramir had checked the estate and was satisfied that Aragorn had kept his part of the bargain. It was their family home but Faramir did not need it, living in the citadel as he did, and he did not wish for his father to suffer. It was enough to know that he was safe and would never be hurt again in such a fashion—nor would his father hurt anyone else.
Only Aragorn and Arwen knew. It was easier to think of them as such now, having had a few weeks to become accustomed to it. Aragorn had helped with the dislocated shoulder himself and the fuss surrounding Denethor’s ‘retirement’ had masked many of Faramir’s aches and pains—people put his odd movements and almost coldly formal speech down to nerves.
Physically, Faramir was nearly recovered from what his father had done. Emotionally, he was very blank in public, for the most part, except when eyes were on him. At these points, he acted exactly as he was supposed to, and act was the appropriate word. All had gone perfectly well at his investiture as Steward and no one knew that Faramir was often shaking and nearly in tears or close to catatonic when in private. It was not as bad as those first few days when he was Steward. The worst of it now was when Faramir was left alone to work. He might be fine or he might be found staring at nothing when Aragorn returned. He didn’t sleeping well and a tonic was made, though Faramir disliked taking it as he was often trapped asleep with his nightmares.
Arwen was teaching him Elven ways to relax. Her gentle femininity was a comfort in itself and that seemed to help more than anything.
Éowyn was not so gently feminine, but she would be returning to Minas Tirith in the spring and marrying Gondor’s young Steward come summer. For whatever reason, no letter had been sent and Faramir had cried when he found this out. He’d had to go to Aragorn and ask—letters between the Steward of Gondor to the King of Rohan were monitored by Gondor’s own king, it being politically wise to do so. It was another breakthrough, as odd as it had been for Aragorn to hold the normally-composed Faramir while he almost wailed in relief. That had been one of the first signs of how much tension Faramir had been under and Aragorn counted himself honoured that he’d been allowed to see Faramir thus, that Faramir had not tried to calm himself. Aragorn did not think Faramir would have succeeded even if he had tried. He simply assured Faramir that it would work out, that Éowyn was coming, and that he himself would not leave until Faramir was ready to be alone.
That was their first night together. Faramir sobbed himself to sleep and Aragorn held him and kept him safe through the hours of darkness. When the queen emerged in the morning, Faramir had blushed madly to know how he—and more importantly the king—had spent the night. It was the first time he called her Arwen without flustering and her smile lit up all the citadel.
Éowyn would need to know, but Arwen assured Faramir that the lady would not blame him—she’d had her own time in the shadows.
A month later and the worst of Faramir’s moments of darkness had all but passed. Some nights were still hard but he knew there was someone for him if it all became too much. He had actually sought out the king once, and Aragorn’s eyes had gone wide and he played so shocked that Faramir would actually seek help that the Steward had laughed, then mock-pouted and said that he could easily go back to his rooms.
It was the pout that did it, in jest or not. Aragorn had been struck silent and Faramir blushed, realising what he had done—he was not merely joking with Aragorn but flirting with him. And he was not sorry.
There was no room for sorrow when Aragorn leaned forward so very slowly, giving Faramir the chance to move away or say no or anything else he needed to do. By the time their lips met the worry was gone: there was only the warm softness of a storybook kiss. There were other kisses soon after—less perfect—which were harder, more breathless, desperate things during which bodies drew closer and noses got in the way and reality reasserted itself. Then they sat together trying to figure out what would happen next.
“I don’t know what I can give you,” Faramir said. “Kisses are different. He never… I never kissed very much before.”
“You feel, and that is the most important part.” It was obvious that Faramir cared, loved. “And if that is all you ever have, then I am pleased to share kisses with you. They are effective, for all their impetuousness.”
Looking into Aragorn’s lap, Faramir raised an eyebrow.
“I can see just how effective they are.” His voice was bold but there was a tinge of blush high on Faramir’s cheeks. He was cut off by another kiss, deep and loving.
“I meant what I said. You need never give me more. If you do, then I will treat you with all the care that a lover deserves, for that is what you will be.” He looked into Faramir’s face and smiled, wrinkles forming at the corners of his eyes. “Or you can make love to me first, so you can see how wonderful it is.”
Faramir shook his head rapidly.
“I could not do that, not to you!”
“It doesn’t hurt, Faramir,” Aragorn insisted with a kiss. “Not when you do it right. There is some ache and then it feels wonderful. Trust me now, and perhaps see for yourself later.”
Faramir could not imagine Aragorn allowing him to… He would not lie, not Aragorn. It must be true and Faramir could not help wondering if there might be some new, good memories to replace the old ones.
“Perhaps so,” Faramir said. The seed was planted, sown in trust and fed with kisses. Perhaps it would be reaped in pleasure soon. If the king desired such a thing, then Faramir wanted to know why. He simply wasn’t ready.
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