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22 August 2011 | 12735 words
Wanings: Slash, explicit sexual content, strong language.
Disclaimer: None of these characters or places (save Lena and the white-bearded counsellor) belong to me. All written in good fun with no offence intended!
Author’s Note: Well, I’m afraid December’s wonderful prompts have done it again :D I saw the word ‘sunburn’ and came up with the idea for what was going to be little more than a drabble…and, well, here we are. I’ve not finished anything this long in a good while, and I have to say I really tried hard to improve my writing style with this story, so please, and I normally never ask, but any feedback you may have I would be most excited to hear :)
I must apologise in advance, however, for the use of the phrase ‘for the nonce’ (twice)…I have no real explanation for that but I couldn’t really bear to remove it after all was said and done. There are also some artistic liberties taken with the layout of the White City. I do also feel slightly disrespectful for this, for I know the lovely and most inspiring December prefers the raven-haired Faramir to the film-version, but I will point out that I, as ever, write about the latter, blue eyes and all. Also, I’m not sure I will ever manage to solve the problem of heirs, not that the plot hinges on that point in particular, but it is there, nevertheless.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy!
His eyes seem bluer than ever in the dying light.
Faramir strides into court with his cloak streaming behind him, his ranger’s leathers stained and travel worn, feet and legs spattered with dry mud, fair hair a ragged mess of windblown tangles and a look on his face that says, plainly and with much warmth; here I am. Aragorn looks up from the sheaf of parchment he has been signing, quill poised and ink dripping as his Steward halts before the throne and sketches a short bow.
“I have returned from Ithilien, your Grace.”
Aragorn must fight a smile, and wins for the nonce, nodding in reply. He lowers the quill and sets aside the bylaws, turning to the under-steward hovering beside him and gesturing to the papers the young man carries in both arms. “I will deal with these later.” When they are alone Aragorn rises from the throne, and touches Faramir on the arm gently. “How fare your Northern marches?” They turn as one and begin to walk toward the high windows that line the throneroom and open onto a balcony that runs the outer length of the hall. Faramir purses his lips before answering.
“They are well, though as ever there is small dispute between the minor leal lords over the timber allowances.” He dares roll his eyes, but Aragorn knows he does not take it as lightly as the impression he gives. Faramir allows the King to step onto the balcony before him, then follows, closing the windows behind them. The sun is setting slowly, and the Pelennor is a wash of deep evening colours; swathes of orange and yellow mix with the greenery, and Minas Tirith itself is a city of many shifting patterns as the hours tread toward the shadows of night. Faramir shrugs as they begin to traverse the long smooth pathway the balcony offers far above the roofs of the White City. “I understand their frustrations, and would give them all I can so they may rebuild their fiefdoms, but I cannot let them hew Ithilien to the ground.”
“I know you will do all that can be done, Faramir.” Aragorn glances at him as they walk, and Faramir graces him with a smile.
“With honour, my King.” Faramir runs a hand along the pale stone wall that accompanies their slow journey. When Aragorn halts, he continues for a pace or two before looking back and laughing softly. “Aught on your mind?”
Aragorn looks down and smiles to himself before stepping toward Faramir and raising a hand to the younger man’s cheek. “You look different,” he says quietly, and when his palm brushes Faramir’s skin the Steward flinches ever so slightly.
“Sunburn, my King.” Faramir smiles, and Aragorn nods, lowering his hand to the other man’s shoulder. “I fear I was too oft discussing the limits of deforestation whilst outdoors,” he laughs, reaching to touch his face absently. He has not shaved today, Aragorn thinks, and then dismisses such frivolous observations. “It has been so hot of late.” His face is an array of freckles, darkened by the sun, and his cheekbones and the bridge of his nose are reddened. “My shoulders are in agony.”
“Shoulders?” Aragorn lifts his hand entirely, and leans against the wall, facing Faramir. He smirks. “What cause had you to remove your tunic?”
Faramir bites his tongue between his teeth, hiding a laugh and in the sun’s last light Aragorn is almost sure he is blushing. “I went swimming.” He laughs openly, then. “Once my duties were done, I assure you. It was far too hot, and Anduin and I are old friends, now reacquainted.”
“Would that I could do such a thing when my duties were done with.” The King rubs at his forehead where a simple silver circlet, glinting with fire in the aging sun, rubs at his skin. “Or even when they were not.” Faramir looks at him with sympathy writ across his tanned features.
“We will go, one day. When you next visit me, I will take you swimming.” They look at each other and laugh gently at the silliness of the notion. The King sighs, and nods to himself, seeming to come to some sort of decision yet to be revealed.
“For now, you must come with me.” Aragorn moves from the wall, gesturing for Faramir to follow him, which he does, and the King rests an arm about his waist briefly when he falls into step with him.
“Where are we going?”
“You will see soon enough. Come.” He pulls open the window again, and ushers Faramir through into the sudden dimness of the throne room.
“It smells of athelas.”
Aragorn knows Faramir has never been in the royal apartments before, and the Steward indeed appears to be surreptitiously looking at his surroundings as they pass through the ornately carved doors from the drawing room to the bedchamber. The King watches as Faramir’s eye roves over the vast tapestries that hang upon three of the walls; intricate scenes of war and peace, swords raised in combat and salute, sigils upon shield and banner, rampant warhorses, docile palfreys, trees of spring and autumn, seabirds and ships cutting through white-tipped waves, men at arms and women in the fields, dancing and fighting, and elves in their ethereal halls, walking beneath waving mallorn limbs and looking toward the sea; all woven in the most luxurious shades of green and red and yellow and blue, black, white, thread-of-silver and gold. But it is not these that hold Faramir’s attention, nor is it the ceiling-high bookcases by the windows, stacked with endless tomes with spines of peeling gilt leather, and neither is it the bed, wrought in ebony, with the Tree of Men carved into the headboard, and upon it piles of soft furs and delicately embroidered coverlets glimpsed between the leaf-patterned drapes that hang from the bedposts. The silver-glinting spears above the grand mantelpiece he ignores, and the crown that sits in the centre of it, waiting, and watching too it seems, is granted only the most fleeting of glances.
Faramir halts instead before the mirror. Man-high, higher, with a dark wooden frame simple in line and artistry, the looking-glass stands by itself in one corner of the room, large enough for both King and Steward to stand side-by-side and look at one another in their entirety. Aragorn notices now, of all times, and smiles somewhat sadly at the notion, that they are within a half-inch of each other in height, but there the similarities seem to end. Faramir is the wild, all greens and browns and copper, curls hanging untended about his face and shoulders, features and fingers browned and windbeaten from a life spent outwith the luxuries of the court. His clothes are his companions, well-worn and practical; his belt is fraying near the buckle, and the Tree upon his chest is creased with many days of use. In contrast, Aragorn notes, he himself has become of the City, when once he was as Faramir is and always will be. His apparel reeks of tradition, of austerity and rank. Muted greys, silvers and blacks clothe him, from breeches to undershirt, surcoat to the coronet he wears in lieu of the crown. His hair is combed straight and hangs long and unruffled between his shoulders, his beard grown out but kept neat. What can be left of Strider now when he must sit athrone most days, back stiff from the robes of office, heavy velvets hanging from his shoulders, in armour on the special occasions when distant southron diplomats need to see Anduril at his hip in order to bend the knee without fuss? Once he tried to enter court without the crown, only for a breathless maid to catch up to him before the doors, panting and proffering the heavy edifice with apology in her eyes; his hair was brushed hurriedly flat and smoothed down and the weight of the realm placed atop his brows before he even set a palm upon the doorhandle. The circlet came later, a begrudged compromise between the sensibilities and expectations of Gondor and his own stubborn nature. What adventure can he hope to have within these walls now? What remnant of Strider remains seems now too faded to give voice to his upset. Aragorn looks at Faramir again, and sees that his Steward is gazing at the King’s reflection quietly.
“Aught on your mind?” he says again, and Aragorn is surprised to hear the sadness that is so sudden in Faramir’s voice. Perhaps the mythical rumours of far-seeing in Ecthelion’s line are not to be so blithely dismissed. Aragorn smiles, not too falsely he hopes. Best now to get on with things.
“Come, I have something for your shoulders.”
Faramir follows him to the door of his bathing chamber, where he lingers, one hand on the frame and an errant curl centred on his forehead. He has quite literally come straight from the field to see me, Aragorn thinks, reaching to open a cabinet and searching within. The jar he withdraws is a simple clay affair, and Faramir winkles his nose up when the King hands it to him with a grin and the familiar sweet tang of the kingsfoil reaches his nostrils.
“Memories,” he offers with a laugh, and Aragorn nods apologetically.
“This salve will sooth the burn.”
Faramir examines the jar more closely and gives it another dubious sniff. “Good.”
There is a low bench at the foot of the bed, and after shifting it in order to stand behind it, Aragorn bids Faramir sit. Looking up, the King realises he has inadvertently placed them both before the mirror again, but he shakes his head and offers Faramir a proposal that has the younger man biting back mock-embarrassment even as he complies. “You may wish to remove your shirt.”
“It does seem appropriate,” Faramir says, unbuckling his belt and shrugging out of his surcoat. Aragorn gazes absently at their reflections while Faramir disrobes, and wonders if his younger self would ever have believed he would willingly accept this gilded prison of duty and honour without the slightest protest; the slim band of silver about his brows seems heavier and more cumbersome by the day, and when he removes it to sleep, still can he feel the impression it leaves upon his skin well into the night. It has barely been a year, and already the discomfit is so great that Aragorn sometimes despairs, lying awake while the City slumbers; that he may never adjust, that he is losing the freedom and his connection to the wild that make up so large a part of him as to be him. He feels the ghost of Strider behind him with a hand upon his shoulder, always, and he is shaking his head, in sadness or disbelief Aragorn cannot tell. Soon, he will turn away, and the King will no longer clench his hands beneath the table when someone addresses him Elessar. That he calls himself Telcontar is poor tribute, and he knows it.
Too late, Aragorn realises that Faramir is looking up at him, and the question the Steward has asked him is lost in the mists of distraction. He looks down at Faramir’s upturned and sunburned face, and the younger man reaches a hand to clasp the King’s briefly in concern. “Tell me what is on your mind, my King.” He sits there with shirt half-unlaced, delicate copper coils of chest-hairs curling over the collar. Aragorn swallows, and shakes his head in an attempt to temporarily dispel the worries that plague him.
“After, perhaps.” He concedes that much, for Faramir, for all his stalwart wisdom and competency in the court he has grown up in, is also becoming a friend that Aragorn does not wish to lose. They are often apart, and the house and estate he granted Faramir in Ithilien is almost complete, but they have grown closer in these past months than Aragorn dared hope. The King has few friends; allies, aides, counsellors yes, but true companions are a luxury even the crown cannot buy. Legolas’ looping script told of the journey to Fangorn, and noted that Gimli had been persuaded to leave his axe at the edge of the forest, much to the dwarf’s begrudged mutterings. Aragorn had read the letter over and over, and run his fingertips over the well-creased parchment with a longing in his heart. Would that he could join them again, but the realm, his realm demands that he put aside frivolity and become a figure of hope. But when the King is losing his way, to whom does he look for guidance?
Faramir pulls his shirt over his head, bundling it absently in his lap, and folds his arms when it becomes apparent he too has noticed the angle of the looking-glass relative to their position. Aragorn winces, only partly in jest, for the Steward’s back is indeed sun-sore, with a criss-cross of pale battle scars over his skin. On his left side, across his lower ribs, is the strange mottled silvering upon Faramir’s flesh that tells tales of a different sort of burn altogether. The younger man wiggles his shoulders in encouragement, and Aragorn scoops some salve from the jar with his fingertips and begins to gently apply it. It is not long at all before Faramir’s head lowers, and Aragorn watches in the mirror as blue eyes slide shut just before unruly hair falls to conceal them.
As he starts to massage Faramir’s back, gently, circling thumbs slowly in the valley between his shoulder-blades, Aragorn decides to begin. “Are you courting anyone, Faramir?”
If the Steward is caught off-guard by the unsolicited and personal nature of the question, he hides it well. He sniffs, and pushes hair behind his ear before answering with an easy nonchalance that Aragorn finds himself envying privately. “At the moment? No. Though…” He laughs shyly, and Aragorn imagines him blushing as he did on the balcony and quickly returns to the jar, the cool paste tingling between his fingers. “Though I must admit…and do not think me a braggart, but it is only the truth…there is one lady who seems to have taken to me, lately.” He laughs softly again through his nose, and Aragorn smiles as he traces Faramir‘s spine with two fingers. The Steward shivers.
“You seem surprised.”
“Well,” Faramir shrugs, and looks up briefly. “I am not used to the attention, in truth.” Aragorn raises his eyebrows at him, and Faramir smiles at his reflection before dropping his head again as the King begins drawing patterns over his ribs. The King is tempted to argue, to point out that Faramir, as a handsome and hale young man, a man of quite considerable rank and lineage, and man whose sometimes solemn and serious nature is tempered by a deep kindness that manifests itself in his loyalty, his companionship, his concern, that all of these things combined serve to make Faramir quite the catch, but he bites his tongue, for such a thing seems ill falling from the mouths of Kings. Faramir notices nothing amiss, and continues, answering the unasked question as Aragorn reaches one-handed for the jar once more. “My first love will always be the wild, and in fact I am so wedded to Ithilien that being far from it sits strangely with me. I am too much in the field to ever do a lady the honour of being a good husband, unless she would like to live with me in the woodlands. I suppose that such a life would not be utterly unappealing; my house is near completed, and it is far from a hovel amongst the trees! But for a lady of the court…? And how would I court her? Weeks and months I am absent from the city, and they say love never flourished in letters alone.” He shrugs again, and clasps a knee in each hand. “The lady I have after me at the moment is, well, we have little in common. I mean her no discourtesy, but I must explain,” He begins to laugh again. “Lena is the blacksmith’s daughter; she trails endlessly after me when I get my horses shod, and writes me love letters that grow more extravagant by the day.” As Aragorn opens his mouth to protest Faramir holds up a hand. “She is a sweet thing, but alas, she turned twelve last month, so I hope you will excuse my non-pursuit of that particular option.”
Aragorn snorts despite himself, and they share a look that is punctuated by the King’s hands coming to rest gently upon Faramir’s salve-soothed shoulders. Their eyes meet in the mirror, and something passes between them, both unspoken and unacknowledged.
“And you, my King?” Faramir straightens, turning in his seat to regard Aragorn with a look of gentle enquiry. “Might we be seeing the coronation of a new Queen in our near future?”
Aragorn takes a breath and inadvertently tightens his grip on Faramir, but as the Steward does not flinch away he can only surmise that the salve is already beginning to work, and that Faramir‘s familiarity with his touch comes not into it. “I-…they will no doubt foist a woman upon me sooner or later. In truth, I would rather it were later.” Faramir’s face is the picture of confusion, and while Aragorn knows his words are unexpectedly harsh he does not regret or try to withdraw them. It is the truth, after all, whether he has interest in the subject or not; an heir must eventually be produced and the state of his heart comes hardly into the equation. He looks up, straight ahead, at the grey-clad man in the mirror, and for one bleak moment sees his whole life laid out before him; he will stay here, in the cold embrace of this rigid and uncaring City, with cool metals upon his brow and a woman he will not love beneath him in his bed. If the gods are kind she will bear his sons, and then pass from the world as Aragorn grows only greyer, until the crown itself must sit upon a new brow, and Strider at last can break free and be as wild as the wind once more. But the will of the gods is a double-bladed knife; by then the years will have bent his body, weakened his grasp of the sword and dulled his vision, and he will have little choice but to sit by the window and retreat into memories long since passed as the breeze from the Pelennor, from Ithilien, from Eriador plays in his silver hair. If he was a good King they will remember him and sing songs of him and weave tapestries and paint portraits of the King Elessar and his family, but he will not be happy. And Faramir, Faramir who stands up without a word and turns to him, he will be long dead when those final years of freedom are granted him. Faramir, who reaches across and so tenderly wipes away with his thumbs the tears that stream silently down his cheeks, Faramir will have left him for Ithilien, to live out his years with a wife and sons and daughters of his own. Faramir will be happy, at least. Aragorn decides, as the man himself side-steps the bench and pulls him to his chest, with a hand on the back of his head, stroking dark waves over and over, whispering soft words that are indiscernible but so rich with comfort that Aragorn can do little but press his face to a warm neck and shake, Aragorn decides that songs will be sung too of the kind Steward Faramir, the King’s closest companion, his dearest and most-beloved friend; if he does one thing right it will be to ensure that no-one forgets him either.
Faramir’s voice is low, and full of solemn concern when he finally speaks. He does not loosen his hold, and Aragorn feels after long minutes somewhat confident, or pathetic, enough to return the embrace, and they exist, fitting together in ungainly symmetry, for many long minutes more. Aragorn is held so closely to the younger man that he feels the intake of breath, and the steady thump of his heart against his cheek. “Are you this unhappy, Aragorn?” Faramir is rubbing slow and soothing circles across the King’s lower back with one hand. The name falls from his tongue with no hesitation, and the easiness of it is like a beacon in the dark to the man who would be King. He knows, Faramir knows somehow some part of his despair, and Aragorn clings to the ever diminishing hope that he will be understood. “Tell me.”
To let it all out would be so easy, all Aragorn need to is lower the guard, but instead he inhales the scent of old leather and horses, athelas and the late summer breeze and feels the softness of copper-blonde hair against his cheek and forehead and his tears are so far still silent. He holds onto Faramir, and it is enough that the King should falter like this before a friend even so dear as Faramir that he dare not open his mouth and let his words remove all doubt in the Steward’s mind that he is unfit to rule. It is better, perhaps, to retain at least some uncertainty. But Faramir is waiting patiently for a response, and as the silence draws on he is good to him, and does not press it further. He lowers his head and leaves a chaste kiss in Aragorn’s hair, and settles for rocking him gently until the emotion passes. What can he say? What can he possibly offer Faramir that would not shame him? I feel trapped here. And Faramir does not? I do not wish to marry. Surely Faramir would laugh, gently, and point out, quite correctly, the question of his heirs. I am losing myself, within these walls, beneath this crown, with you. How can he explain when he himself can make no sense of it? Lately, it is thoughts of you which pervade my mind when I should be otherwise occupied.
“Perhaps you should get dressed, Faramir.” Aragorn makes no effort to move, and his voice is muffled slightly. He almost smiles at the absurdity of the situation, but in truth, he would stay here for ever if it meant he could be happy.
Faramir tightens his embrace briefly before pulling back, hands sliding up to rest lightly on Aragorn’s upper arms. “Perhaps…” He leaves it unsaid, whatever it was, and his eyes show a flicker of something Aragorn can neither discern nor be sure actually existed. A wild guess flies into the King’s mind, and he dismisses it just as quickly, but then Faramir smiles sympathetically at him and calmly raises his hands, fingertips inadvertently brushing against either side of the King’s jaw, to lift the silver coronet from Aragorn’s brow, up and away, letting the dark curtain of hair fall forward as Aragorn closes his eyes. Cool lips brush over the mark upon his forehead, so gently, and when they then, after a pause, press against his mouth, still softly enough to be chaste, Aragorn finds an urge rise within him, the concord of his will, his mind, body, soul even, perhaps, they all clamour together, saying yes! Yes! Forward! Strider is shouting something so urgently to him, but the noise is too much, and Aragorn pulls back, eyes snapping open to regard his Steward, standing before him, half-naked with the coronet in one hand, and an expression of such calm confidence and concern on his fair features that the King feels only terror when he looks upon them.
“No.” He manages, lifting a hand unconsciously to his forehead where the shallow imprint of Gondor mars his brow. When Faramir makes to step toward him, he holds out an arm, barring his approach. “No, I am not-…I do not-…”
Faramir’s face changes, then, and he lowers his eyes. His voice is soft, with the rush of breath and quickness of speech that comes when one has realised suddenly by how vast a distance they have missed the mark. “I have erred-”
“No-…” Aragorn cannot think, and the velvets that sit so high around his neck stifle him. The sun slips lower, and the shadows in the room are lengthening, but the air is muggy and thick, and he feels like to choke. Faramir fumbles with the silver loop in his hands, and Aragorn ignores him for the moment as he pulls open his collar from the rear, fingers tripping over themselves as he unbuckles his belt and unravels the lacings holding his surcoat together. Sweat pools in the small of his back, and his breath is short, and he can see in the corner of his eye Faramir setting down the circlet unsteadily on the bench and lifting his shirt, fiddling with it uncertainly before deciding it best to do as Aragorn suggested and clothe himself. The King’s tunic meanwhile falls to the floor, the White Tree emblazoned upon it distorted and crumpled. Aragorn cannot catch his breath, and a warm panic is slowly seeping through his body. He looks at Faramir with wild eyes, and his Steward gazes back at him, cheeks coloured and demeanour that of one who would rather leave, right now, with no mention ever made of whatever has just occurred. Aragorn swallows hard. “Please tell me I am not making a mistake by asking you to do that again.”
“My…King?” Faramir is lost, and his eyes dart across their immediate surroundings, at the bench, the mirror, the belt coiling around the King’s feet.
Each word is agony. “Faramir.” Aragorn closes his eyes briefly, and swallows again, throat so dry it is akin to sand in his mouth. “Tell me…tell your King he is not making the biggest mistake of his life by asking his Steward to kiss him. Again. Please.”
Faramir hovers, bewildered, half-stepping toward Aragorn before stopping himself. There is the most fleeting flash of something across his face that sets Aragorn’s heart thudding at a tempo even more staccato than before. Desire, perhaps, or lust, but it dissipates into a blend of trepidation, warmth and strange longing almost immediately, and though it still frightens him Aragorn finds solace in it; Faramir will not hurt him. “I…should not have done that,” the younger man manages at last, and Aragorn feels himself begin to wilt in the stifling closeness of this suddenly too-small room.
“No,” the King says, steadying himself with an arm against the bedpost. “You should not have. But I would like you to do it again. Please,” he adds again, hoping he does not sound desperate. His thoughts make no sense, save for the sudden strange knowledge that if Faramir’s arms were around him, if Faramir’s mouth was upon his, if Faramir were the one he woke up beside when the grey light found him restless each morning, everything would somehow be mended. It is a terrifying thought, but the King clutches at this slim hope anyway. “Faramir, please, just-…if you wanted to…how long have you wanted to?”
His stomach clenches suddenly, and he realises that he probably does not want to hear the answer, but before he can retract it Faramir bites his lip and looks squarely at him. “Always.” He steps closer, and Aragorn clutches at the bedpost now, fearful of losing his balance and his wits, for surely, what madness possesses them both? But Faramir is gentle and has always been nothing but kind, and his hand crosses the distance between him to brush feather-light over his shoulder. “My job is to give you counsel, my King.” He keeps his voice low and does not invade Aragorn’s personal space any more than he needs to. His hand rests upon an arm, safe and apparent, and Aragorn looks upon him, upon the pale freckles scattered across his face, the shallow lines around his eyes, the sun-warmed skin of his forehead, the gilt-edged frame of hair that curtains either side of his head, and breathes out, slowly, steadily.
“And your counsel on this matter?”
“With your leave I would kiss you again, my King. And again, and a third time.” He lifts his hand, and fans his fingers into the hair that cascades over Aragorn’s ear, cradling his head but keeping distant enough that Aragorn himself feels no sudden temptation to deflect him. “I would make this mistake with you, gladly.”
“I am afraid.”
“Of me?” Faramir pulls back only slightly, but his hand falls from where it was slowly fisting in the King’s dark tresses. Aragorn shakes his head, blinking hard.
“Of us. Of what this means. What does it mean, Faramir? Why-…why am I so unfit for this destiny my blood has decreed should be mine?” Of all the things that set his eyes skyward in muddled despair, his ill choice of birthright seems the easiest to hit upon. He looks at his friend hopelessly, but Faramir can give him no answer save for the heat of his tongue as it sweeps across the King’s lower lip. His fingers weave into Aragorn’s hair again, and he does not pause before pressing their mouths together, hard and gentle, pliant and seeking, tender and all-consuming. Aragorn’s eyes roll back, and he lets go of the bedpost, and lets go of sense as he crashes forward into Faramir, pulling him closer, tugging at the cloth of his shirt, bundling it in his hands as he tries vainly to reach beneath and touch him, anywhere, and eventually he succeeds, as Faramir shifts and pushes him against the bedpost. The carved wood digs between Aragorn’s shoulders, but he heeds it not, scraping fingertips across the flesh of Faramir’s lower back, the Steward jerking against him as fingernails catch on sunburn and pyre-scar alike. His skin is so hot, and in a moment of madness Aragorn pushes his hands beneath Faramir’s breeches and runs them over his backside, curving his palms over the muscle and not believing any of this is really happening. The quiet moan, anonymous, wordless and so un-Faramir gives Aragorn’s body cause to begin shaking in earnest, and he clutches instead at the younger man’s shoulders for support and anchorage. Faramir brooks no argument, pushing his thigh between Aragorn’s legs, and suddenly the King can feel, and he is almost overwhelmed, he can feel Faramir’s already stiffening cock rub against him, but the kiss is so perfect, so hypnotic, so deep and becoming so passionate where before it was seeking, permissive, fearful; it is so wonderful that fear itself subsides, and Aragorn allows himself to believe for a moment, or at least, until this kiss comes to an end, that this is not unforgivable, nor grievous, nor shameful, nor something he will regret until his dying day.
When Faramir finally breaks away, breathing hard through his nose, leaving soft, newly-chaste reminders of their union upon Aragorn’s lips, the King’s tongue lies lead-like in his mouth, and the words come but slowly to his mind. “…I…have never done this before. I am afraid.”
“Of me?” Faramir says again, tilting his head slightly to one side, a gentle smile upon his face. His confidence is not so all-encompassing, Aragorn notes with vague relief, for his hand shakes as he reaches for the King’s, drawing Aragorn’s palm down between them to curl between the Steward’s legs. “Of this?” He pushes Aragorn’s hand against him, and looks up at his King. Bold perhaps, and Aragorn has difficulty coming to terms with the feel of an erection beneath his fingers that is not his, yet is for, and because of, him. Experimentally he rubs the flat of his palm against it, and Faramir takes a deep, shuddering breath, lip bitten bloodless as he keeps the King’s gaze. “There is no shame in fear.” He loops his arms around Aragorn’s waist, pulling him close and trapping the older man’s hand between them. “I have done this before, but I am no less fearful than you.”
“You are afraid?” It is suddenly too much, and Aragorn withdraws his hand, settling it and the other on Faramir’s hips. “Why?”
Faramir gives him a rueful look. “You are the King, and you are my friend. I may have destroyed our friendship, here, tonight. It is not too late, but if what we had would be forever lost were we to go further then I would gladly step away from you now, and speak no more of this.” He looks down between them, where their bodies press together. “In this matter I cannot give you wisdom, it is a decision you must make alone, with no recourse. My heart does not come into it.”
“Your heart? Faramir, what have you done?” Aragorn looks up at him, a vast and sudden sadness sweeping through him. Faramir remains silent, meeting his gaze but giving no more ground. It is then that realisation ignites within Aragorn, so obvious now but hitherto impossible to ever decipher; Faramir is lonely, and he is lonely, and though their friendship has always been nothing less than earnest and honest and true, Aragorn sees now, with blinding clarity, that if it had ever occurred to them to consider this most illogical notion of courting one another from the very start then happiness may have proved much less elusive. The King needs a Steward, and the Steward is nothing without a King, but to be so closely in tandem, to be so completely of one mind, to be tied to one another in such a way, to wake together, stretching stiff limbs and bumping knees and kissing softly as the day begins…it is altogether both utterly, unthinkably ludicrous and unequivocally, unrelentingly desirable. Aragorn shakes himself loose of Faramir’s arms, and takes a step back, holding out a hand between them before Faramir can word his confusion. “Come.” Weaving his fingers between Faramir’s, Aragorn leads him slowly around the bed, pulling him down to sit beside him on the edge of it. “I would like to ask you to stay here tonight, but I do not know how to put it.” He kicks off his boots and laughs then, suddenly, the noise alien to his ears and apparently Faramir’s too, for he raises both eyebrows in surprise and the corner of his mouth twitches as he himself fights the humour his King’s words tempt in him. It seems as if a thousand years have passed since Aragorn last smiled, and he allows himself that freedom at last, grinning widely and looking at their clasped hands as his cheeks begin to burn. Is this what happiness feels like? It has been so long.
“I…would like that,” Faramir says, the laughter in his voice a shining bell in Aragorn’s heart. “If you were to ask.”
“Well, then.” Faramir offers him an expectant lip-bitten smile, and when Aragorn does nothing but avoid his gaze and study the interplay between tanned, archers fingers and the haphazard reflections cast by Barahir‘s serpents upon them, he sighs and tightens his grasp of the King’s hand. The choice is his; cast Faramir out, and live a dutiful, unadventurous but safe life, never knowing the feeling of this man’s body against his own, or take Faramir into his bed, and do whatever it seems fit to do there, and live. “Stay, Faramir. Stay tonight. Stay forever, if you want. But stay with me tonight, and do not let fear command me.”
Faramir smiles at him, in the way he has always smiled at him, but this time there is something more to the warmth that radiates from it. He leans forward, and the words he whispers so softly into his ear send Aragorn tumbling into an ocean of undiscovered tumultuous anticipation, a fingernail wedged into the slimmest fracture of security. Soft words, and Aragorn repeats them again and again in his thoughts as Faramir pulls him gently onto the bed and draws shut the heavy embroidered curtains, sealing them from the world for this one night.
He kneels awkwardly before Faramir who reaches over to lift the hem of Aragorn’s shirt, pulling it up and over his head and discarding it to the side. The fingertips that begin to map the contours of the King’s body still shake as dark chest hair furls around them, and Aragorn’s breath becomes difficult to master once more as he hears the word Faramir is murmuring repeatedly and mostly to himself. Gods. Flattening his hand against his King’s stomach, Faramir turns his arm and slides it downward, not waiting for permission before curving it between Aragorn’s legs, urging him to separate them with no more than the gentlest touch. Aragorn flusters with sudden embarrassment, face burning and hands reaching up automatically as Faramir inevitably discovers that he is not yet quite so aroused. “Sorry…I have not…yet…” But Faramir only leans forward again, and the kiss he gifts upon Aragorn’s lips is ardent and open-mouthed as he begins to stroke the King through the cloth of his breeches. Aragorn’s eyes flutter shut, and his upraised hands find their way into Faramir’s hair, pulling him closer as molten lead settles in his belly. Even dulled by the fabric Faramir’s touches begin to excite him, there is fire in his toes and it is slowly creeping upward through his body, a wavering mass of familiar heat and blinding light. When Faramir pushes forward completely, replacing his hand with his hips as Aragorn falls back onto the bed, arms gripping Faramir tightly as the kiss goes on and on, the older man cannot halt the first low groan that ghosts from within his throat. Faramir grinds slowly against him, cloth upon cloth, pushing into him, slowly, so slowly, deep and hard and endlessly. Aragorn’s hips buck involuntarily, and Faramir lets forth a soft moan of his own in reply. This, this alone is ecstasy, Aragorn thinks, as Faramir arches against him, their bodies joined by tongue and sex, before Faramir lifts his head and blows the hair from his face and pants down at him.
“Do you want to…” He leaves it unfinished, but the look in his eyes tells Aragorn all he needs to know; that if he should wish it, Faramir will halt. His hands still lie roped in Faramir’ hair, and he shakes them free, reaching down the younger man’s back to grasp his backside again and pull him closer between legs spread as far as his breeches allow. Faramir nods, white-lipped and half-distracted, for his thigh is pressing against Aragorn’s own burgeoning erection, and from the way he visibly fights to sit still it seems to drive him as wild as it does the King. He lifts himself on shaking knees and elbows, reaching down with one hand to knot his fingers in the lacings of Aragorn’s breeches, pulling at them with little regard for tailoring. Aragorn, for his part, can only utter low and wordless noises, throwing his head back against the bed as Faramir wins the battle and pulls open the cloth, sitting back and letting out a laugh as Aragorn kicks his way free. The King looks up at him and smiles a nervous smile, watching as Faramir reaches down and releases him from his smallclothes also, and look on Faramir’s face, and the sudden embrace of cooler air that caresses his cock sends new and frightening doubts into his mind. He is lying here utterly vulnerable, almost fully aroused, and it is so new that Aragorn cannot separate his newly recognised desire and the fear that reappears twofold.
“Faramir…I…” He sits up and catches Faramir’s wrist in his hand, gently but firmly as the Steward reaches so easily to touch him, to touch him there. Faramir looks up, concerned, and Aragorn clenches his jaw and feels the weight of his cock upon his belly and wonders what on earth Faramir sees in him. “Just…” Can he even do this? It is not too late to go back. “…I would like to see you unclothed.”
Faramir lifts Aragorn’s hand and presses a kiss to the back of it, pulling his King upward to sit before him again. “Undress me, if you would. I would like that.” His tone is undemanding, merely suggestive, and Aragorn chides himself inwardly for continuingly suspecting Faramir’s motives are anything other than true. His hands land heavily upon Faramir’s waist, and he grips the edge of his shirt and pulls, revealing sunburn and scars and firm, lean muscle once again. Faramir is younger than him, a fact that languishes normally within some dark recess of his mind, normally irrelevant, but as he runs his hands over soft warm skin Aragorn can only notice how indeed his body is still more lithe and virile than his, and though Aragorn himself shows little sign of his true age, he cannot help but compare and find himself with the higher tally of battle-marks and lines upon his body. Faramir’s eyes have fallen closed, and he sits quietly, chewing his lip as Aragorn explores with two fingertips the expanse of rippling scar-tissue on his left side, the last gift Denethor bestowed upon him. When Aragorn’s hand trails along its edge, ending upon Faramir’s lower belly, the Steward shifts and breathes out slowly. “It is ugly.”
“No.” Faramir’s eyes open, and they look at each other for a long moment. Aragorn lifts his hand and strokes Faramir’s cheek lovingly, new delight echoing through him at the knowledge that he is able to do even that. “It is not.”
It is clear from his expression alone that Faramir will not be so easily convinced, and he lifts Aragorn’s hand from his face and lowers it to the waistband of his breeches. “Touch me there instead.”
When he first saw Faramir in the Healing Houses there was a brief moment of cold confusion as he half-glimpsed the prone figure upon the bed through the doorway. Surely not, he had thought, surely there has been a mistake, or I do yet dream and the battle is not yet fought. For but one fleeting and chilled and thudding heartbeat it had been Boromir lying there, and they wanted him to heal their fallen Captain? But before he could give voice to his protest at this most unexpected predicament they ushered him closer, and lit candles, and by some blend of hurried whisperings in his ear he gleaned the knowledge that this young man was named Faramir, second son of the Steward and brother to his companion of the Fellowship, and the resemblance that at first had been so striking as to be unsettling was now, in close-quarter, only that of brothers; similar enough but different and noble in their own way. Where Boromir’s hair had hung in straight, dirty blonde curtains, pushed back roughly from his face or thrust behind an ear Faramir’s flowed from atop his head in waves, scattered and delicate, the blonde touched by fire, auburn in a better light. The blood-resemblance was clear, but Faramir was younger, less severe, straight-nosed and fair-skinned, with the palest freckles dancing across his flesh where his elder brother’s complexion had been wind burnt only. Later, in the lull between Faramir’s awakening and his slipping back into a peaceful slumber, Aragorn had sat by the bed for a time, breathing deep the scent of athelas and worrying at the sadness that knifed through his belly. He knew Faramir, if only by name, through the stories Boromir told him on their journey, the tales of boyhood tomfoolery and the difficult unknown of conflict, when the worry of separation rang out in Boromir’s voice even then; it became clear to Aragorn that there were many reasons Boromir urged them to return to the White City, and to be with his beloved brother as not the least of them. Faramir lay there so peacefully, and in the low light of the Houses he seemed as if in death, and Aragorn had let slip the control and felt the heat of tears run down his nose to spatter upon Faramir’s hand in his. Faramir had fallen asleep with the knowledge that his King stood over him, emerging from the mists, protector and saviour, but Aragorn could feel only inadequacy, that he could bring only the memory of Boromir to him, and the knowledge that this man they had both loved lived now only within their hearts served only to draw shut Aragorn’s eyes as the long days and nights of the march from Imladris caught up with him. He awoke, some time later in the night, to find his head in his arms upon the bed, with a gentle hand smoothing his hair over and over.
And now, as Faramir drops his breeches from the side of the bed, and as Aragorn furls questing fingers below the linen of his smallclothes the King realises now, with this most unique perspective, that all of this took root in that dimly lit ward, where death and hope mingled equally in the herb-scented air. Tied together by grief and by duty they at first danced around one another in stiff formality; Faramir unsure how much to interfere, and Aragorn unwilling to reveal how little he knew of how to be just and good and fair on such a scale. As the weeks and months passed, they somehow drew only closer, and the private words they shared in the King’s offices or in the council chambers when alone often turned from matters of state to revelations more personal. So often were the King and Steward to be found upon the throne room balcony, standing before the low wall, heads so close as to almost be touching, and indeed, Aragorn often slung an arm across Faramir’s shoulders as they talked though the gesture was never returned, so often were they to be found in deepest collusion, sharing quiet words and glances that held meaning known only to these two men that rumour began to gestate, and though Aragorn knew full well that murmurings of their friendship were beginning to question the very nature of that bond he did nothing to stop them. It would only have fanned the growing flames of gossip, and at the time he had thought it almost funny, that people should think of them anything untoward when all that existed between them was deep companionship, tactile and easy when formality was not required of them. A hand upon a shoulder was not shrugged away, the kiss upon an unshaven cheek never deflected. They should be happy, he had mused often, that their lords should find themselves so suited to one another’s company.
Now, though; now Aragorn knows, he realises, he recognises in himself the fondness he had for Faramir in the beginning, whilst originating in sympathy, in shared sadness, has been blossoming slowly into something he cannot yet bring himself to define as love, but it has been almost a year, and it seems right that he should now reach down and let his fingers curve around the arc of the younger man’s cock and take joy from the stifled gasp of delight such an action elicits. Faramir’s hand closes around the King’s, tightening his grasp and urging the first slow strokes as Aragorn’s own now impatient erection bumps against their knuckles. He captures Faramir in an open-mouthed kiss, pushing his tongue beneath the Steward’s and grinning against him as Faramir bucks into their hands. This is something he has done before, at least to himself, and as he runs his thumb through the wetness already spilling from the head of Faramir’s cock, the younger man pulls away, panting wildly. “I dare not ask…but…-” His head falls forward onto Aragorn’s shoulder, and the King lifts both hands and pulls him closer by the waist, wrapping his own legs around Faramir’s back.
“Take me?” he whispers, and Faramir gives him a soft moan in reply, nodding, before wriggling free and clambering off the bed, disappearing beyond the curtains. Aragorn listens to his bare feet slapping against the flagstones, puzzled, absently sweeping his hand over his arousal in poor show of patience, before Faramir reappears, snaking through the drapes with a grin, the jar of salve presented upon an upturned palm.
“You said it would soothe the burn.”
“I did,” Aragorn grins back, nervous laughter bubbling up, tension flowing from him as Faramir crawls over. The Steward settles himself on his knees once more, and his eyes dart between Aragorn’s legs quickly before he brushes sweat-dampened hair from his forehead.
“Lie on your back for me,” he says simply, and Aragorn complies, shifting and spreading his knees wide as Faramir crouches between them. “I…there will be pain.”
“I fear not pain, friend Faramir.” And Faramir himself nods once, and opens the jar.
“Tell me when to stop.” But for all his trepidation, Aragorn finds Faramir to be so tender that the assurance seems unnecessary. A cold, salve-balmed digit weaves along the cleft between his buttocks, upwards, and Aragorn holds back the moan that threatens when a slick fingertip circles the entrance to his body, once, twice, before roving upwards and breaking contact entirely. The fear returns, slowly, as slow as the pair of fingers that press again against the furled velvet that guards tightly his opening, and Faramir must see it rise within him, perhaps in the sudden quickening of breath, or the way his thigh muscles spasm involuntarily, for he bends forward and offers his King a small smile before parting his lips and guiding Aragorn’s cock between them with his free hand. Aragorn’s “oh!” is unexpected, and he no longer finds in him the strength to hold his head up to watch this most unusual of transpirations. Faramir licks at him wetly, eyes closed, teeth bared hungrily for a moment as he trails the side of his tongue from hilt to tip before taking Aragorn again into the hot, pliant caress of his mouth. All the while his fingers rub firmly over his hole, and Faramir is clever, Aragorn realises blearily, for he draws back and swirls a tongue tip across the slit at the head of his cock, sending Aragorn spiralling blindly into waves of chaotic ecstasy, at the very same moment his forefinger twists and curls and pushes unrelentingly inside him.
The pain does not come to him immediately, half-paralysed as he is by both the acts combined and the eroticism the notion of this encounter inspires in his imagination, but soon, despite the cool tingle of athelas the burn escalates, the intrusion aching ever more urgently as Faramir pushes further, and soon Aragorn is making noises that are only half borne of pleasure. Faramir looks up, releasing his arousal and reaching up to stroke the King’s cheek with a palm, but before he can speak Aragorn unclenches his jaw and rasps breathlessly; “Tell me…of the times you have done this…” And to his relief Faramir cottons onto this continued idea of distraction, leaning forward to capture Aragorn’s lips in a soft kiss before the finger begins to move, stretching and stroking him from within.
“I have lain, in the past, with fellow rangers. In the wilds, amongst the trees with the stars our only witness.” A second finger breaches him, and Aragorn groans, long and low and inhuman to his ears. Faramir continues, eyes fixed upon his face, expression tender and loving. “There are places in Henneth Annûn where the deed has been done, by others, by myself, but it is a place of secrecy, and it does echo so.” The fingers begin to scissor, and Aragorn’s laugh becomes a soft cry of pain. Faramir kisses the corner of his mouth before continuing, and the King knows he could easily overcome Faramir, push him away if need be, or merely request that he withdraw and he would, without hesitation. He must only endure.
“Go on, please.”
“There are men for whom the union is a quick affair, they seek only release from the forced celibacy that sometimes months of service necessitates. They do not look each other in the eye; it is performed in darkness, and roughly, the slaking of a desire and no more. Then there are the men for whom the touch of a woman does nothing, and who seek satisfaction, closeness, love, even, with others of their own sex.” A third finger teases the flesh around his arse lightly, but does not intrude, and for the moment Aragorn is thankful, for the discomfort as yet outweighs the gain from Faramir’s earnest and, he knows, quite gentle ministrations. Faramir looks at him, and smiles strangely. “I, myself, am of the latter sort.” And with that, he moves a finger just so, circling and rubbing and pushing until coming up against some part of Aragorn’s inner workings that sends his eyes skywards as explosions of euphoria, as fast to burst forth as they are to dissipate, radiate through him until his toes curl and all reaction to Faramir’s words is forgotten in a haze of fiery need.
When he comes back to reality, Aragorn realises that Faramir has withdrawn his fingers, and sits between his legs with a hand on each knee and amusement on his face. The King props himself up on his elbows and shakes the hair from his face. “With your status and your bearing you could have any man in Gondor, Faramir. Why me?”
The amusement becomes a smirk, and Faramir laughs when he speaks. “I like to aim high.”
Aragorn laughs loudly and Faramir joins him, leaning forward again between his knees to join their smiles in a kiss. When their hips come together Aragorn moans softly; the prickle of Faramir’s unshaven cheek is almost unbearable, and he feels the heat of blood as it surges ever downward through his body at this sensation alone. The King hooks his arms around Faramir’s shoulders, pulling him close, trying to forget for the moment the approaching inevitability of the act to come in place of lingering in the perfect safe comfort that this potential future could bring. The kiss deepens quietly, and Faramir’s breath comes harder as the hands of the King slide over the fire of sun-touched skin. Aragorn makes a wish, then, in that moment, as Faramir’s tongue twists around his own and their noses bump together inelegantly; let no fear nor pain ever sway me from this sweetness.
The breach is slow when it comes, after the endless kiss ends and Faramir reaches back and down to run balm-coated fingers over his erection while grey eyes study every movement each knuckle makes. He whispers, dear Faramir, in his King’s ear; “Fear not this.” And then Faramir takes himself in hand and pushes the bluntness of his flesh against Aragorn’s opening in warning, and Aragorn nods quickly as breath leaves him, and Faramir, who holds Aragorn’s leg up out of the way with a steadily shaking arm slides finally into him, eyes darting between their union and the face of his King constantly, measuring and gauging the response even though Aragorn can see through half-shut eyes that Faramir is gradually losing himself; the whiteness if his bitten lip is testament to that.
The pain is like it was before, only worse, and for the first few gentle thrusts Aragorn cannot feel anything other than the stretching of muscle that goes beyond what Faramir’s finger-span was capable of. When, on the fifth stroke, Faramir sheathes himself fully Aragorn cries out and his Steward freezes, looking up, bodies joined but unmoving, save for the heaving of chests and the tightening fists of the King. “A moment…please, Faramir. It is too much.”
“I will stop-”
“I do not wish to hurt you.” Faramir’s eyes are wide and worried, but Aragorn reaches down with a wavering arm and captures the younger man’s hand in his.
“You are not. I just need a moment.” Aragorn falls back, releasing Faramir’s hand and the younger man settles himself, running his palms lightly up and down the backs of the King’s upraised thighs. Aragorn tries to breathe, but the notion that they are here, now, King and Steward, lying together, fucking, is so completely outrageous that he almost laughs. What would they say, indeed, in the court and the council halls and the taverns of the city, what gossip would spill forth into eager ears when it became known that their noble lords have succumbed to a base and desire so unspeakable to have no law openly written against it. It was just not done, not publicly, not between the lowest street-vendor, nor the ranger in the woodland, nor the King and his counsellors. It is still done, of course, but for the King…and then a worry worms its way into Aragorn’s mind, and he almost speaks out, but Faramir is allowing his hands to drift ever lower until they circle the hilt of Aragorn’s cock, caressing, as they pass, his balls and the base of his shaft in mischievous impatience, and Aragorn lets it go for now, and shifts his legs, locking his ankles together behind Faramir’s backside and urging him forward. “Do it.”
The bed is solid and well-made, but the bedposts themselves creak, and the drapes that enclose them in a safe haven of forest-embroidered dimness shift and flutter gently as the coupling intensifies; Aragorn bites down on his lower lip and feels the muscles in his jaw ache from the stifling of uncouth noise; the pain is still there, burning, aching, the pull and push and bruising of muscle as Faramir drives into him, but there is light, small, flickering, drawing ever nearer as each of Faramir’s thrusts hits closer and closer to the mark. Faramir himself has little such restraint; his teeth are gritted but he makes no effort to keep silent, and the way he moans soft things that may or may not be the King’s name each time he moves forward is a far cry from the orderly and forthright tone he reserves for the council hall. Aragorn bites down on the pain and rocks back, urging Faramir deeper, closer to the goal, and then all of a sudden the light begins to blaze beneath the King’s eyelids and he calls out, a word, a name, he knows not what he utters but soon he is howling it as Faramir falls forward onto his elbows, hips and pelvis undulating against him, the soft sound of his sides colliding with Aragorn’s inner thighs mingling with their combined panting and the complaint of the bedposts. And then, with a jolt and no pre-amble he spends himself, seeing seven stars inside his eyelids as Faramir collapses onto him, sliding against him as the King’s seed paints their flesh, losing rhythm and thrusting erratically as his own orgasm clearly throws his mind into disarray. He cries out, long and low, and buries his face in the King’s hair as Aragorn lifts his arms to wrap around Faramir’s waist and hold him there as all sensible knowledge flees him and he falls into the maddening embrace of afterglow.
Aragorn wakes, alone in the dark, and his heart thrums in his ears as panic rises. The bed sheets stifle him, and he kicks them off, sitting up and blinking in the shadows, trying to decipher this leaden feeling in his stomach until he hears the splashing of water, and a cough, and then he notices that the darkness itself is not so complete, nor are the bed-drapes fully-closed as they once were. Peering through the gap, he can see candlelight flicker from his bath-chamber, and the sound of bare feet upon a stone floor echoing toward him. When Faramir reappears between the curtains, the extinguished candle-smoke wreathing itself in his tousled hair Aragorn has managed to compose himself, lying back in a position he hopes Faramir will not recognise as one that a paranoid lover would hastily assume. Seeing his King is awake, Faramir offers him a shy smile as he clambers back beneath the covers beside him.
“It was imperative that I relieve myself.” He laughs, but does not move closer. Perhaps he is afraid, Aragorn thinks, as I feel the familiar taunt of fear within my heart once again. The deed is done, the act committed, there is no going back. But they have slept, and fallen from their embrace as they slumbered, and now to touch, to show affection, it is as yet a yawning chasm between them that only need reach across, but it is difficult, and Aragorn cedes to the knowledge that it must be he who chooses the path they will now embark upon. Together, or alone.
“I am a light sleeper,” he offers, and Faramir laughs again, softly, still so suddenly shy. He does not meet Aragorn’s gaze, but focuses instead upon his fingers as they pick at the pattern woven into the topmost blanket. When Faramir says nothing, after a time Aragorn decides to put fear aside once and for all. “Do you regret what we have done?”
Faramir does not look up, but his hands still, and he swallows. “I do not.” The scent of kingsfoil drifts around and between them like an old friend, the sharpness gone with time, the mild, sweet perfume the only reminder of their union, save for the dull, pleasant ache in Aragorn’s body. The King reaches across and clasps Faramir’s hand.
“I know I cannot ask this, but if you were to…if you wished to spend other nights in my bed I would not object.” He makes a face in the dark, the ugliness of his phrasing obvious now that he has said aloud the words. He attempts to soften them as Faramir looks up and allows an expectant look flit across his features. “You are the finest man I have ever met, Faramir.You, just, everything you are…call me a fool but I am not sure I could go back to the way things were between us without feeling a great loss. I care not for the consequences, though I know not your heart. Perhaps you do.” He tightens his grasp of Faramir’s long-fingered hand. “I would ask that you let me know, now, before I invest my hope in us too deeply.”
Faramir blurts out his answer before the King can even blink. “Always, I have known it was wrong to care for you too deeply but I did anyway, and contented myself with the knowledge that I would never be brought to punishment or criticism over my choice because it was impossible that I would ever obtain you.” His words come quickly, babbling in urgent admission, and Aragorn can find nothing to say yet that will do the sudden joy that explodes within his chest justice. “I…lately, in the past weeks and months…I believe I have come to…care for you, Aragorn.”
“Faramir, I…” The King bows his head, and feels the soft caress of falling hair across his forehead as he laughs shyly. Faramir cocks his head, and after a moment reaches out to lift Aragorn’s chin with two fingers. The older man looks up at him, and something falls into place. “I love the way you say my name.”
“Aragorn,” Faramir repeats, grinning, drawing out each syllable as he slides closer, hooking a leg over the King’s waist and pulling him down beneath the covers. “Aragorn.” He whispers it against the heat of the King’s throat, tongue teasing the muscles that shift there as the older man swallows. “Aragorn?”
Aragorn looks down, and smiles at the shadows that brush the contours of Faramir’s face so elegantly. “Yes?”
“May I stay here tomorrow night?” Mischief twitches in the corner of Faramir’s mouth, slides along the tongue he runs along his bottom lip, flickers in the hair he brushes from his eyes. Aragorn runs his hand over Faramir’s shoulder and over his back, pulling him close until they are wrapped in the warm, comforting scents of athelas and lovemaking. Faramir sighs against him, and Aragorn thinks upon the morning, when silent servants will look upon him with questioning eyes as Faramir slips past them wordlessly from the King’s bedchamber. He wonders if when Faramir passes him some decree to sign the councillors will know they have fucked; can it be read in a glance, a touch, a smile? Can he control the fondness in his voice enough, or will they know he has uttered other things to his Lord and good Prince Faramir, things muttered through clenched teeth as his loyal and trusted Steward ploughed into him while the bed-drapes applauded their union. Faramir is warm and familiar against him and his arm is slung around his King in turn, fingertips dancing absently upon bare skin. This copper-tousled ranger could have any woman, or any man, and Aragorn knows that should he consent a queen would be discovered for him in a frighteningly short time. But he holds Faramir close, and breathes in the aroma of his skin, and closes his eyes, and for a moment pretends that it will all be alright, and he can stay here for all time.
And then, he thinks; maybe he can.
“Stay tomorrow, Faramir. If you want.” And Faramir makes a soft, sleepy noise against his chest and settles against him, breathing slowing and fingers stilling. Aragorn listens to the steady beat of blood in his ears, shifting when Faramir suddenly decides to push his lower arm beneath his King’s body and wrap both around him, holding him there completely. His body is a gloriously solid warmth against him.
“Maybe I will.”
“…Maybe I will.” The younger man presses a kiss to Aragorn’s chest, and the King closes his eyes. Gondor will wait, and Gondor will deal with them tomorrow.
Three months later.
Faramir strides into Merethrond with his hair billowing behind him, glossy and freshly combed, the new-silver glint of a tree-emblazoned breastplate visible beneath the folds of a dark, flowing cloak, the sword on his hip steadied by a nimble-fingered hand. The look on his face is one of purpose, and as he negotiates the milling courtiers and food-laden tables his eyes scan the room until he finds what he is looking for. Lifting a servant-proffered cup of wine Faramir swallows a mouthful and continues on.
King Elessar stands near the great hearth, surrounded by and speaking easily with long bearded and realm-robed counsellors. In his hand is a half-eaten pear, and as Faramir approaches he looks up while biting from it and waves him over, swallowing hastily in order to call out to him a greeting. The small gathering separates slightly, allowing Faramir berth to stand beside his King and nod his own greeting in return. The wine is sweet, and the feeling in his belly even sweeter when Aragorn leans in and whispers in his ear; “Still so staid, my love?” and kisses him on the cheek. Faramir feels a blush threaten but before he can rebuff his monarch’s jovial opinion the most bent-backed and snowy-bearded of the counsellors speaks up, highlighting the need for he and his compatriots to perhaps sample some of the feastings before all is consumed by errant pageboys and wandering guests. Their audience disperses completely, leaving Faramir swirling the wine in his glass and Aragorn chewing the pale flesh of the pear thoughtfully, one arm resting on the mantelpiece with the utmost nonchalance.
“I am not staid.” Faramir looks squarely at his King, lip twisting in the halting of a smile. Aragorn laughs.
“I tease only, you know. But still, ‘twould not kill you to kiss me first on occasion.” His words are not spoken harshly, but still Faramir frowns and glances at the backs of the retreating counsellors.
“I know this, and I would.” He steps closer, still harbouring the soft fear of eavesdroppers even now. “I love you, but I can only suspect the complaints of his empty stomach are perhaps more related to my arrival than any desire to indulge his appetite.” He nods in the direction of the whitebeard, who now seats himself stiffly in a high-backed chair and sips from a glass of water.
Aragorn licks pear juice from his fingers in a most un-regal manner. “Give them time-”
“It has been three months.”
“Faramir,” Aragorn places his hand on his Steward’s shoulder, and smiles. “Give them time. It is not you they escape but us together, I think. Even you must concede that we are a highly unusual and unprecedented occurrence. For men of our standing, I should say.” His tone suggests far too much amusement to be merely the product of his opinion alone, and Faramir suspects that alcohol may have something to do with it. Still, he relents, and swallows more of his own wine and leans in.
“If you say so.” And to prove a point, he tilts his head and kisses Aragorn on the mouth, once, tenderly. The look Aragorn affords him once he pulls away sends many fanciful and entirely imaginary winged insects hurricaning in his extremities and Faramir finds himself lost for a moment as they look at one another, and then he shakes himself and notices what is different about the older man. “I see you have again yielded to tradition.” Faramir gestures to the crown, nestled atop a waterfall of dark hair. Aragorn’s eyes dart up, as if able to see the gilded angles that nudge his forehead.
He huffs in laughter. “Take no offence, but I thought it may divert worried glances in our direction if I was at least outwardly showing signs of taking my role seriously.” He shifts, examining the pear-core and picking at the seeds with a fingernail. “It seems such a shame that a King may not follow his heart without the opinion of seemingly every person in Gondor weighing in on the matter. As if falling in love suddenly removes the history from my blood.” He sighs, and Faramir offers him a sympathetic look.
“’Tis the same for me, you know.”
They stand together in silence for a few long moments, surveying the scene together. The hall is a bustle of voices and scraping chairs, glasses clinking and sudden laughter. The early evening sun’s light illuminates the tableau of conversing nobles and courtiers in a warm golden glow, and the long tables placed in the centre of the grand room sit bowing beneath half-devoured plates of glistening meat, gilded bowls filled with tumbling fruit and carafes innumerable sparkling crystal-like with the glint of white wines. Faramir feels his own stomach clench at the sigh of such an array of enticing food, but before he can suggest they attempt to mingle Aragorn touches his shoulder again and points to the balcony door. Making their way across the room, many stop to greet them or speak for a moment, all with warmth upon their faces or a jovial manner. It heartens Faramir, and he supposes that it is not all that dreadful if one or two people do not openly approve of their relationship. Glancing back at the counsellors, they seem to be mostly deep in conversation amongst themselves with only the whitebeard returning the Steward’s gaze, but not with rancour. It will take time, Aragorn is right, and for the nonce they must endure and take joy in what they have now, and let the future sort itself out.
The sun greets them with a warm caress, and Faramir feels his King’s fingers weave between his own as they approach the balcony wall and look out over the City below. It is quieter here, with only a small scattering of people gathered in twos and threes further along the ivy-tangled pathway; they occasionally look up at their King and Steward, but afford them some privacy, for which Faramir is grateful. Aragorn squeezes his hand briefly before releasing him, lifting the edge of Faramir’s cloak and brushing his fingers over the hilt of his sword.
“Is there a battle I am unaware of?” Faramir laughs, and shrugs as far as his pauldrons will allow.
“And here you are, crowned and velveted,” He nudges Aragorn in the side with an elbow, and the King laughs in return and looks down at himself and the robes of state he has consented to be draped in. “I am meeting with some of my leal lords later, and we ride this evening north to my home. I thought perhaps I should present myself as if I take my role seriously.” He grins, then sighs, and only just stops himself from rolling his eyes. “I am hosting them in my own estate, and we will hopefully, and I do dearly intend on it, thrash out the timber laws once and for all, and then I mayhaps find myself with some time of my own in which to-”
The group nearest to them looks over at their combined laughter, and smiles in their direction when Faramir composes himself and nods to them in acknowledgement. Aragorn places both hands upon the balcony wall, and looks down over the edge at the great rampart below.
“Come with me,” Faramir says quietly and suddenly. Aragorn looks up at him.
“No, well, yes, after perhaps.” Faramir shakes his head and brushes the breeze tossed curls from his forehead. “I mean, come with me to Ithilien. Tonight. I intend on hosting these discussions for a day, a day and a half at most. But afterwards, my home will be my own again for however long we require. It is not as if the leal lords will not be bringing also their wives.”
“So you propose to have me sit with these ‘wives‘ while-”
“Do not be quite so repugnant,” Faramir chides, but they are as ever both fighting grins. Aragorn reaches up and pushes a soft strand of hair behind Faramir’s ear, and when Faramir meets his gaze properly there is wonder and something quite unnameable in his King’s eyes.
“You are the reason I can do this.” And when Faramir merely looks at him with blithe confusion Aragorn touches the side of the crown with two fingertips. The younger man opens his mouth to protest, but Aragorn halts any exclamations with a kiss, quiet and chaste. Withdrawing slightly, he cups a hand over Faramir’s cheek, stroking his stubbled jaw with a thumb. “I will come with you to Ithilien.” And with that, he runs his thumb-tip over Faramir’s chin and kisses him again quickly, playfully stepping away before the younger man can reciprocate. “And if I get sunburnt, you must tend to me.”
Faramir’s smile only broadens.
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