18 December 2011 | 6906 words
Title: Like No One Else
Author: Bell Witch
Rating/Warnings: PG, nothing explicit. Sap.
Word Count: 6797
Author’s Notes: For the 2011 Midwinter swap, written Nov-Dec. Unbetaed.
Written for the 2011 Midwinter Swap
Request by Eora: A Faramir/Aragorn courtship story (preferably Aragorn’s POV), book or movie-verse. No scenes in the bedroom. A slow-burning story with plenty of frustratingly close moments… draw it out. Any rating, prefer slightly less explicit. No non-con/kink. Vanilla love story, don’t be afraid to get emotional. Would like to see Faramir as a strong-willing individual but unwilling to grasp for personal happiness if he feels it’s at the expense of his duty.
Please be as tender as you like; the slowest-burning, most delicate romance is what I’d love to see.
Gondor’s new king stood in the doorway of his steward’s office, watching the man work. It still surprised Aragorn a bit to realise how much paperwork there was to do in Gondor: it was not so for Elrond’s Imladris. Then again, the Elves weren’t re-building their city as Minas Tirith needed to do after the siege by Sauron’s armies.
So many things, so many papers—rebuilding the capital city, finding homes for those who had lost theirs, feeding them, clothing them, shipping all of those goods… And so many of these papers were on Faramir’s desk.
Aragorn had to admit that Faramir was more accustomed to these things, that he did know better—for now—the ways and means Gondor had to solve these and other problems. Aragorn was learning his kingdom as quickly as he could but a coronation did not put all the knowledge he needed into his head. How many ships did they have to move goods? Which regions farmed which crops? Aragorn did not even know fully which areas of the country had lost the most men in the fighting. He knew how many there were but not where they were from, not like Faramir did. Aragorn’s knowledge of those things was formed fifty years before when he was using the name Thorongil and serving Ecthelion, while Faramir knew the information for this year. The steward could do the work in less than half the time it would have taken the king, but there was so much of it.
All of this while Aragorn was still accustoming himself to doors! The Elves were not so shut away as Men, with few doors and many rooms half in and half outside, some even lacking four walls. His time with the rangers of the north had been spent more outdoors than in, and often without any sort of door at all. So Faramir, understanding, kept his open when he was in his office. Any time of the day or night Aragorn could come by and look in and see a fairly young man working, always working, with a pile of finished papers on one side and a larger stack still waiting on the other.
Right now, though, the work could wait. Aragorn had left his own desk with the intention of collecting Faramir so that they could both take a much-needed hiatus for food. He was not sure how to do this, as the results whatever he tried were predictable.
“Faramir,” he began quietly. That was all he needed to say before a head came up and a pen went down, down to the floor as it was dropped by the startled user.
“Your Majesty!” Faramir’s eyes went to the king, the pen, and back to the king again, looking slightly panicked as he tried to turn his body to match his head and ended up nearly knocking the chair over in his haste to rise and accomplish this feat.
He looked so young in these moments that Aragorn’s heart was touched. He did not want to smile, couldn’t, not with that deep fount of worry Faramir showed when he was not fully composed. That relic from the days of Denethor’s rule would take a long time to fade.
“Peace, Faramir. You need not rise when we are alone and I remind you again that you may call me Aragorn.” At any time, not that Faramir would do so often. “I have come to say that it is past time to take the evening meal and Arwen waits for us. Come away for an hour or two and give yourself a small amount of care.”
The kingdom could wait that long. They would both work after supper, Aragorn for an hour or so and Faramir… indefinitely.
“I am honoured by Your M… by your generosity, Aragorn. I am sorry but I have asked the kitchens to send a tray here.” He tried to smile but was too embarrassed and ended up blushing and looking terribly young to Aragorn’s eyes. “I would not wish to make more work for the servants by sending it back.”
Aragorn could hear approaching footsteps and around the corner came a servant carrying a tray with half the food it should have had on it. Aragorn frowned, and the servant paused slightly until the king waved him forward.
“It was not at you I frown but the supper you carry,” he said. Faramir would keep everyone from extra work except himself and he did not eat often enough. When he did eat it was inadequate; sustaining himself but taking little pleasure from it. Aragorn shook his head as the tray was set on a side table and the servant thanked. After he had gone Aragorn took a step into the office.
“Do stop and eat while it is at least warm. Tomorrow night you will stop for a proper meal with Arwen and me. You cannot continue endlessly as you have been doing.” He knew Faramir would try and that the dinner invitation would sound like an order but he did not care. His steward needed someone to look out for him as he was looking out for the king, the kingdom, and everyone but himself.
Over his plate of food, Aragorn watched Faramir and noted just how little he ate. He took just enough, and spoke polite words to the king and queen, but it was obvious to Aragorn that the steward was not enjoying himself. He tried to recall the last time Faramir’s smile had reached his eyes.
Months, it had been many months, and Éowyn was still here then.
Aragorn had learned later, and not from Faramir, that the gentle courtship had come to naught. Éomer told him that the Rohirrim would be leaving and returning Théoden King’s body in state. He had nodded, understanding, as they discussed what needed to be done before then and all that had been planned to do honour to the fallen monarch as his body was taken from Minas Tirith. Faramir was the one to make most of these plans; having learned from Éowyn what would be most appreciated.
“When will your sister return?” Aragorn asked, knowing well of the love growing between the White Lady and his own steward.
“She will not.” The response was so abrupt that Aragorn was silent a moment.
“Why not?” This made no sense at all. Éomer could find no higher ranked man to marry his sister, knowing as he did that Aragorn was pledged elsewhere. Had something happened between the couple? No, from what he had seen the two cared greatly for each other. They both needed love so badly and there they were, waiting for each other in the Houses of Healing, gaining strength each day partly due to that growing bond.
“My sister will not be going to Ithilien,” Éomer said with great finality. “She is needed in Rohan now more than ever.”
Éomer was a warrior, not a king. He did not know his new position and his kingdom had fared worse than Gondor before the war due to Saruman’s interference. Éowyn had been with Théoden for all of it, staying by his side despite the difficulties, despite the attentions of the worm, Gríma.
“If she is to build a land, it will be Rohan, not Ithilien.”
Ithilien, not Gondor. Aragorn had thought of that long after the Rohirrim had departed. So Lady Éowyn would have been allowed to marry Aragorn himself if he had been available, but not Faramir. The land of Ithilien was meant to be a gift to the man who had done his best to protect it, and thus all of Gondor, for so long. If Faramir was steward only, not Prince of Ithilien, would Éomer have objected to his sister living in the citadel or one of the homes available to the steward and his family?
By the Valar, was it partly Aragorn’s fault that the marriage was refused?
Certainly the region of Ithilien was important enough to be re-built and needed a prince: no one was better suited for it than Faramir. Aragorn did not want to believe that in elevating Faramir to the rank of regional prince he had cost the young man a wife.
Looking at him now, sipping at his wine and listening to the queen, Aragorn wondered yet again if he had not managed to inadvertently destroy a large part of the happiness that Faramir deserved.
“My lord, please, I have so much work to do,” Faramir said. This was the third variant of the phrase and Aragorn felt that he might be wearing down his steward’s vocabulary. Once Faramir started to repeat himself, it was likely that Aragorn would gain compliance.
“Indeed. As do I,” Aragorn admitted with a slight smile. “A few hours in the cool air will clear your head and you will work that much better when we return to our endless papers.”
Faramir looked slightly stricken.
“My work has been inadequate?”
“No, not at all.” Curse it, Faramir would take it the wrong way. “Your work has been as it always is—exemplary. But no man as accustomed to living outdoors as we have been for much of our lives can continue on endlessly with papers. You need fresh air.”
“Does not the idea of a ride in the autumn sunshine sound like something you’ve missed?”
“You know the rangers do not have horses.”
“No, but you enjoy riding.”
“Aragorn, I am too busy to take time away from my desk.” Now at the fourth variant.
“You have been too busy every day for a week, you will be busy tomorrow. The sun will not wait for your desk to clear, steward mine,” Aragorn reminded. He could tell that the iron resolve was weakening. “Two hours now, and you will be as refreshed and ready to work again as a man could be.”
“I cannot, Your Majesty,” Faramir began, but Aragorn stepped forward, his face smiling.
“You repeat yourself, and I can continue on. Let us not waste the time in talking, but use it wisely in a much-needed respite from paperwork in stale air.” Aragorn had taken enough refusals, and the weather could turn any day. “You can spend the winter indoors—I’m sure you’ll try. Today you will get out.”
They did, and both men needed it badly. They rode and raced, talked and laughed, and even took simple food together. Faramir’s hearty appetite and glowing face gave Aragorn heart for the next time he would have to pry Faramir from his papers. It obviously did a lot of good: Faramir needed time away from work and Aragorn would make certain that he had it.
The winter months were long, dark, and frustrating. All traces of that sun-kissed day were wiped away from Faramir’s face and mood as skies greyed and memories of what had occurred just last year lurked in the minds of so many. Aragorn himself had turned to Arwen many times, her glowing presence a reminder that the past was gone and the future was here.
His future was here. Faramir appeared trapped in the past, and Aragorn was not going to allow that. There was too much pain there and too much good in Faramir to let him turn sour with the loss of love. Denethor had gone that way—Faramir would not, not if Aragorn could keep him from it.
“Your Majesty, I have so many papers that need my attention.” Faramir repeated the content of his argument without actually using the same words.
“Indeed. You’ve been working on papers for hours today, yesterday, and for months now. Have you taken a day for yourself?” Aragorn knew the answer.
“What would I do all day?” Faramir asked.
“You need to get outside. The weather is turned. We will go riding. The last time you rode was last autumn, with me.” Aragorn smiled. “It was a fine day, and today is another, though months have passed.”
Faramir would not take hours for himself, much less a whole day.
“But…” Faramir looked about, eyes wide as he looked at the stacks of work on his desk.
“A few hours. It will still be there. It is healthy to be outside.” Appeals to Faramir’s health were more likely to be successful than those to his happiness.
“I’m going to be outside, just next week,” Faramir said. “That is what I’ve been so busy with.”
“One of the things,” Aragorn said darkly. “Remind me?”
“I am going to Ithilien five days hence. The plans have been finalized for a number of things there, with copies sent to the Dwarves and even the Elves who will be living to the north of us. I am to meet Gimli and Legolas to secure final locations so that stones can be set for important buildings.” The plans had gone back and forth a number of times, Aragorn knew, as Faramir considered the Elves and took advice from the Dwarves who would be helping to build.
It was important, yes. But this was not the relaxing outing Faramir needed, but one filled with work and arguments. The arguments would be between Legolas and Gimli, and Faramir would be the arbiter—a fine use for the prince of the land that the Elf and Dwarf would be arguing over! Aragorn would have to send a letter to those two in hopes that they wouldn’t give Faramir too much grief.
“Go to Ithilien next week, then. Come riding with me today. Legolas and Gimli will understand if one tiny detail is left for you to consider in their presence.”
“It’s not like that…”
“Faramir, please. I cannot bear working any more today without fresh air. You will join me or people will say that the king gives all of his work to the steward.” This was unfair, and Faramir winced.
“I’d not considered that. Please excuse me, Your Majesty,” Faramir said. He looked embarrassed but he was leaving his desk.
Aragorn refused to feel guilty—mostly succeeding—and by the time they had saddled the horses, Faramir was actually smiling again.
Aragorn did not notice his wife watching as he picked at his food. Tonight they dined privately but it had not been so yesterday. The food then had been more varied, with fine dishes to share with the guests and the first strawberries of spring. He’d taken none of them and tonight…
“I must simply be tired,” Aragorn said, setting his fork down. “I knew Faramir worked hard, but with him away I am learning just how much was diverted from me.”
There were many more interruptions throughout his day now, with small things that were simple enough to deal with but broke his concentration from what he’d been reading so much that he often had to begin again. How did Faramir manage it?
“Your steward felt that there were little things that you did not need to be bothered with,” Arwen said with a smile. “From the very beginning you gave him freedom to judge the priority of much, and has taken upon himself those things that he felt would merely distract you.”
Yes, it had been Aragorn himself who allowed this but he never fully realised until now just how many tiny details there were. The minutia involved in running the kingdom were seemingly quickly dealt with by Faramir, who apparently didn’t suffer from all the distractions—not considering all the papers he dealt with in a day.
“You miss him,” Arwen stated.
“Yes.” There was so much in that one simple word. “He does so much. Now he is away and I know that Legolas and Gimli’s arguments could test even his patience.”
It was not right that Faramir should leave only to deal with more work, and there was still Aragorn’s guilt about Ithilien and the Lady Éowyn.
“I need to write Éomer on Faramir’s behalf,” Aragorn announced suddenly. Arwen knew of his concerns on this matter. “But not until after Faramir returns. Perhaps with details of how well things are going in Ithilien and with the hardest winter passed, Éomer will be more understanding. Faramir should not be so alone.”
Once again, the king did not notice the queen watching him, a little quirk at the corner of her lips.
The council meeting seemed endless. Members who rarely spoke now all had volumes to report—and all because of the visiting guests from the kingdoms of Elves and Dwarves.
When Faramir returned and gave the updates on Ithilien at a council meeting, the gleam in the eyes of many had been impressed, also greedy. If so much was being done by foreign kingdoms to help Ithilien, might not also aid—meaning monies—be given to each other region of the kingdom? So all hastened to make proposals requesting foreign aid and Legolas and Gimli came and listened.
“If I understand correctly, then we won’t be interested in helping,” Gimli said to one such proposal.
“Our need might not be as obvious as Ithilien’s,” the counsellor insisted, “but it is there.”
“We’re sending stone and masons to help Prince Faramir,” Gimli responded with grit in his voice. “How many times do I have to say it before ye understand?”
Things were about to get a lot more interesting.
The counsellor spoke again, not understanding Dwarves in the slightest, and Legolas sat back and watched with a mysterious little smile on his face while Gimli hopped down from his chair and went over to explain, face-to-face, to the Lord of Lamedon just why he wouldn’t be getting help from the Dwarves now or ever. It began with the fact that the region of Lamedon hadn’t been touched during the recent war, was not under threat by enemies, and evolved into an in-depth character study of the counsellor himself. When he was finished, Gimli returned to his place muttering in Dwarvish. Faramir rose quickly.
“It seems obvious that there should be no more requests for aid from the Dwarves today,” he said. “In fact, it would be best that all future petitions to foreign kingdoms should be made in writing so that they be made formally by the rulers of those lands, not by temporary representatives—and personal friends of his majesty the king.”
Aragorn was proud of himself for not smiling.
“You are all dismissed for today. Do consider what the steward has said, as I will not allow any more of our sessions to be taken up with what should be regional matters.” Not that the requesting of foreign aid wasn’t the king’s business. Entreaties from regional lords were not likely to be greeted with much success on the larger political stage and all present knew it. This had just been a chance to be heard and Faramir had so neatly ended it.
Had Faramir not been the impeccable man of honour he was, Aragorn might have suspected that Gimli and Faramir had planned this. No, surely it was not so. The steward had taken a potentially ugly situation and turned it around, effectively ending the begging of the lords. Aragorn wished to speak with his steward and personally thank him, but there he went, soothing Lamedon as they exited the room while Gimli and his stormcloud face stomped towards Aragorn.
“Can’t you control these idiots?” Aragorn noted a few flinches from those left in the room and that they hastened to leave before Gimli got started again. So much for talking with Faramir.
Summer in Gondor was glorious that year, or seemed so to Aragorn. He knew which crops were planted where and the repairs to the city of Minas Tirith were going well. Even the Pelennor showed few signs of what had happened the year before, all covered in rich green. It was not so new being king and the work, though endless, came easier. So why did Faramir never take time to himself? He never saw anyone socially except the king and the queen—Aragorn had checked. Perhaps it was time to write Éomer, as there were several glowing reports about progress throughout Ithilien and building in Emyn Arnen specifically.
Why then did Faramir’s face seem so stricken when Aragorn mentioned the possibility?
“You have not already sent a letter, your majesty?” Faramir looked decidedly pale.
“I have not yet. I considered it before your trip to Ithilien and I believe that Éomer may well be more receptive to the idea now that their first winter is past and the land is no longer in such turmoil.”
“It will take many years to settle Ithilien. He will say no.”
“We cannot be sure of that.” Aragorn said, trying to be calm. “Do you still wish to marry Lady Éowyn?”
He hadn’t considered that Faramir might not.
“Of course I do, but I must be realistic.”
“Was I realistic in waiting for Arwen? From the moment I saw her I knew.” They had waited more than sixty years. “I saw such love between you and Éowyn.”
“I never expected to be allowed to wed for love, but to grow to care for my wife after she was chosen for me.”
Aragorn smiled gently.
“That will not be required of you; whomever you wish though I know you would have Éowyn. Do you hide yourself away from the world because you believe her lost to you?” It was not healthy. “You need not court again, if that is what you believe I’m saying.”
“I do not wish to court again. I have much work to do.”
“As do I, but neither of us can work only. I just…” Aragorn stopped abruptly, earning a close look from Faramir, who had been glancing at the floor, walls, and anything but Aragorn himself.
“I just worry about you.” Aragorn took a step backward and turned toward the door. “Please, try to step outside at least a brief while?”
At Faramir’s slightly confused nod he left the steward’s office and walked rapidly back to his own, then through to the private parlour beyond and shut the door.
He just… wanted to spend time with Faramir. He wanted Faramir to be happy. Aragorn considered the rare moments when Faramir went out, they rode together, and how content Faramir was then.
How content he was then.
By the Valar, Faramir was courting; or being courted. He was courting Faramir.
Aragorn saw Faramir only at council meetings for a few days. If anyone asked, he would have said that he was busy and knew that Faramir was busy and continue on with a half-dozen other excuses. That didn’t mean he wasn’t paying very close attention to the steward during these meetings. Faramir, thankfully, did not seem to notice.
It was a good thing that Faramir didn’t notice, yet it saddened Aragorn’s heart just the same.
After a week in this manner Aragorn’s supper took a turn for the strange when Arwen spoke.
“Husband,” she said in that tone, the one that allowed no escape. “Husband, something is bothering you.”
Somehow Aragorn believed that she understood what it was and allowed him the illusion that he could speak or not.
“I knew before you did. What do you intend to do about it?”
Aragorn stared at his wife.
“I can do nothing. It is highly irregular, even if I were not already wed.” He was ashamed. “I love you.”
“And I you. But love is not given to one person only nor can it be controlled.” Surely their own courtship had showed him that.
“He loves Éowyn.”
“You love me and him both.” She knew the next argument already. “Do not now say that he is a man, for I know this. It matters not if you love a male or a female because I know you. It is the person you love, not the body they are in.”
That stopped Aragorn cold, and he had to think. He admired Faramir for his courage and his loyalty, his intelligence, quick and clever thinking, and for the sense of humour he hid from almost everyone. He had to be honest with himself, though, because there were times when they had been out riding. He remembered how Faramir’s smile had warmed his heart and other simple things—the glitter in Faramir’s eyes and the wind in his hair. Aragorn had not known at the time but now that he thought back he knew. In such moments if he’d been riding with Arwen he could not have helped but kiss her.
“I…“Aragorn looked down at his plate, slightly red. “I am not so certain of that.”
“Aragorn, I know you.” She rose from her chair, coming to kneel by his. “Those are natural feelings with someone you love. What they say is that your love is true and it is not the love you might have for a brother.”
“You love Éomer King, but not in the same way. He is as a brother. Does that love shame you?”
“Of course it doesn’t,” Aragorn responded. “I’m not even certain that I’m ashamed of loving Faramir.”
Now he said it and it was true.
“If you are not ashamed, then why did you hide it so long from yourself?” she asked.
“Perhaps it is not wrong,” he said, trying to work it out. “I know from living with the Elves that not everyone considers such things wrong. I fear that Faramir will not love me in return.”
Ah, but that was a common fear of those in love.
“Were you afraid that I would not love you all those years ago?”
“I was terrified.” It was a long time ago but he remembered. “I felt that my heart would break if you did not care for me as I cared for you. Now I am there again.”
“But you are not alone,” Arwen reminded him. “You have my love. You also have Faramir’s, though perhaps it is not the same as yours for him. He does love you.”
“He loves the king,” Aragorn said miserably.
“He loves you, the man, as well as the king. What sort of love he bears for you I cannot say.” She smiled gently. “Speak with him. Tell me not that you fear too much, not when there is so much to gain.”
He took her hand, raising it to his lips.
“This truly does not offend you?” he asked, eyes brimming with wonder and fear.
“I take no offense from love. You have much to give and deserve love in return, then you have still more to give.” Her head tilted to rest against his arm. “I would see you happy.”
“He may refuse me.” It was a very real possibility.
“It is better to know, do you not think? That is better than endless worry.”
Of course she was right and Aragorn knew it.
“I will speak with him. Soon.” He did not know how soon or how he would do it: he would come up with something.
Several times Aragorn went near Faramir’s office, turning back shortly before getting there each time. At one point he nearly asked Faramir to stay after the council meeting but decided that would be too awkward—he should go to a place Faramir felt the most comfortable. Where was that?
Riding. They’d go out riding.
The next day Aragorn waited a few minutes after the council meeting, which had been kept deliberately short. He rid himself of his papers and went to the office of the steward. For a riding invitation, he had no worries and did not turn back.
“Faramir,” he said, smile on his face and in his voice. He had not given Faramir enough time to get into his work and he was not yet at his desk.
“Majesty,” Faramir returned. “Did you need something?”
Aragorn shook his head.
“I have stayed away too long that you’ve forgotten to call me by my name.”
Faramir flushed slightly, which Aragorn found very dear.
“That is better. There are enough others calling me majesty that hearing my name is rare.” He continued smiling. “Also rare are the times you take away from work. I know you’ve taken not even an hour for yourself in weeks.”
He’d been paying attention.
Faramir pinkened again.
“You know how much work I have, though you have taken some of it upon yourself. There are papers upon my desk and nothing else pressing, so I continue here.”
“Today there is something more pressing. That is, a few hours out.” Saying this was easy. “A ride in the sun will do wonders for your health, and fresh air will clear your head.”
“Indeed. These are your arguments every time you would have me take time away.”
“They continue to be true, do they not?”
Faramir looked at the floor.
“They are true. And I will go.”
Aragorn stepped forward, concerned, raising one hand to Faramir’s shoulder in a gesture of comfort.
“Faramir, is something wrong? I would have you go because you wished to go, not because I want it. It is not an order.”
Faramir looked up, confusion on his face.
“It is not an order, I know. I simply do not understand.” He bit his lip then seemed annoyed with himself for doing so. “When the invitations to dine with you and Queen Arwen stopped, and you came no more to my office I thought I had offended you. We have spoken only in council for weeks.”
So Faramir had noticed! Of course he would.
“That was no fault of yours, my friend. I worried that I had made you upset by offering to write Éomer. I would, if you wished it, but only when you say. You should not be so alone.”
“I am not alone.”
“You should be more with people who care for you, then. The council and ambassadors and those you meet with to discuss building and other work do not count.” Of course, Faramir’s closest remaining companion, Beregond, was now banished from the city at Aragorn’s own order.
“So you would bring Lady Éowyn here?” There was an odd look on Faramir’s face. A bit hopeful, but something else too.
“I would do so to please you.” He smiled. “If the lady still wished it, of course. I am sure she does.”
“She would,” Faramir said. “We write.”
He was still looking at Aragorn, confused.
“I do not know. I fear that Éomer King would refuse me again.”
“You should not let your fear keep you from trying, not when there is so much to gain, Faramir.” That sounded so like what Arwen said to him…
“Why do you so wish for my happiness?” asked Faramir. Only Boromir had cared so much.
“Why would I?” Aragorn returned, gobsmacked. “I would see you happy because I love you.”
That had not come out precisely as Aragorn wished, nor in a relaxed setting. He was also unsettled by the wide-eyed look on Faramir’s face.
“I do, and have for some time.” This seriously, quietly.
Faramir swallowed, took a deep breath, and calmed himself.
“I do not know what to say.”
“Then say nothing.”
They stood quietly for a few moments.
“I did not mean to speak so bluntly, and not here. If you are still willing, the benefits of going out for a ride are just as true as they were before. We need not speak of this—will you go riding with me?”
There was another brief silence.
“Then let us enjoy a few hours in the sun. You can consider this later.” Aragorn closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “If you decide you do not wish to discuss it, then I will understand. I will wait for you.”
As they prepared to go out, Aragorn knew it would be difficult—Faramir might never speak of it—but he would wait as long as it took.
It had been difficult that day, going riding together, but Aragorn pressed nothing and Faramir relaxed enough to enjoy his time out. There was some tension every time they met at for a few days and things were decidedly awkward when Aragorn invited Faramir to dine with the royal couple. He wanted to show Faramir that things would not change, they would be more than king and steward regardless.
Aragorn’s nerves were on edge at first—he had blurted out his feelings in the most callow manner. Then again, he reflected, perhaps that was for the best. If he and Faramir had been out alone Faramir might have felt more pressured to answer then and there instead of taking time to truly consider the matter. Aragorn was sure that the surprise of it would have affected the outcome in a negative fashion. This way Faramir might never speak, but he would consider the situation genuinely. Another thing Aragorn loved about Faramir; he was always thoughtful and fair.
Then came the day that Faramir arrived at Aragorn’s office without a sheaf of documents in his hand.
“May we speak, Aragorn,” he asked quietly.
“Of course.” There was such tension emanating from Faramir that Aragorn knew. “Here? Or in the parlour?”
“The parlour, I think,” returned Faramir with a relieved smile.
Aragorn closed the door to his office and opened the one to the private parlour beyond it, indicating that Faramir go first.
“Please, sit.” Aragorn did, though he wanted to pace. His head was spinning, full of racing thoughts and it took vast self-control not to fidget like a little boy. No matter what happened here, no matter what Faramir said, he was still the king. Faramir was his steward. They could still be as friendly as they had been before.
They sat in silence for a while, a silence somehow less uncomfortable than it should have been. Aragorn was trying not to watch Faramir too closely—he simply could not help it. The moment was here and Faramir would open his mouth to begin then close it again. At last Aragorn managed a wan smile.
“We do not need to do this if you are not ready. I can wait indefinitely.” So hard, but worth it not to cause more anxiety for Faramir.
“I am ready, I just never imagined how difficult this would be.” Faramir looked at the floor for a moment then over at Aragorn. “I loved you the moment I saw you.”
That statement was neither good nor bad. It was nothing that Aragorn didn’t already know deep inside.
“I loved you then, but that was like an instinct.” Faramir blushed. “I do not know how to explain it, only that it could not have been any other way. It is like my love for Gondor itself, so much a part of me that I could not be parted from it for long.”
Aragorn could barely breathe. Faramir loved him, but it wasn’t personal.
“I did not know you then, of course,” Faramir continued. “I truly met you and offered up the White Rod to you only to have it returned. I never expected to serve the king and I certainly did not expect the king to wish to be a friend. I’ve had so few real friends.”
Aragorn knew because his life had been similar. They were born to lead and captains did not befriend their men. They would kill or die for them, but they had to be strong always. It was lonely.
“I have some understanding of that,” said Aragorn. “The only mortal among Elves, chief of the Dunedain… There was my family.”
“And I had Boromir,” Faramir finished. “I thought at first that I felt for you as I did for Boromir, but it was not so. A bit. Neither do I care for you as a father nor as I do for Uncle Imrahil. You are different, unlike anyone else.”
Aragorn had to smile at this, truly smile.
“As you are like no one else, my friend. Your position is as unique as mine and you… no one else is like you.”
Faramir shook his head.
“My position perhaps, but I am so common in personality that you could surely find a score like me just walking down the streets of the city.”
At this, Aragorn laughed outright before turning serious. He rose and came to kneel next to Faramir’s chair, much to the steward’s embarrassment.
“There are none like you. The quest could have ended at your order. It should have; that was the law, that all strangers to Gondor be brought before the steward. You saw more than that law and released Frodo and Sam knowing what it could cost you. That is true courage, Faramir.” He continued despite the look on the younger man’s face—he hadn’t considered it in such a light, it had simply been something he had to do.
“Then when I arrived you did not fight me. Perhaps at first you were not well enough but later, after the fighting was over, you offered me the stewards’ rod. You could have held it, challenged my right to be king. You are the only man that could have done so and the people may well have sided with you. They love you.”
Faramir looked astonished.
“How could I have denied you? You saved my life and the lives of so many. I knew who and what you were when I saw you.”
“Yes, but you could have challenged me and you didn’t.”
“You are the king.”
Faramir did not even see how rare he was and it touched Aragorn’s heart so deeply. He could accept that Faramir loved him as king and as a friend. He would ache for it, but not in front of this man. Never in front of this man, who was so good and had given him more than he ever could have expected already. But he was speaking again.
“You are the king and I love you for that. You are… a friend. I do not love you like anyone I have ever known, not Boromir or even Lady Éowyn. I know what love is, but not like this.” He looked into Aragorn’s eyes, confused but unafraid. “We are men both, and you are wed. It is not done.”
Aragorn took a breath, knowing he must speak carefully.
“Arwen knows of my feelings and holds no grudge. It is not the way of Elves to be selfish in love, apparently. Nor is it wrong for them for any person to love any other person. The important thing is how you feel about it. Do you believe it to be wrong?”
He knew that most in Gondor would not approve of two men together. It was not like they planned to announce it. What they did was no more anyone’s business than what any man did with his wife. Certainly it would not affect his relationship with the queen in a negative way, in fact the queen seemed to think it would be good for all of them. He was wondering what Arwen would get from it while watching Faramir mull the question.
“I… I never considered such a thing. I do not believe it to be wrong though I am uncertain as to whether it is right for me.” He blushed. “I don’t even know what it would be like to kiss another man.”
“I could kiss you and you would know that. Perhaps it would ease your mind.” That and he would very much like to kiss Faramir, more than he ever expected. “Only if you wish it.”
“Just one kiss, I think,” Faramir said tentatively. Then he nodded, a bit more certain.
Aragorn rose and stepped away.
“Stand then. One kiss, just to see what it’s like.”
Then Faramir was in his arms, holding to him, head leaning against his shoulder. He pressed his lips to the available forehead, a familiar thing. Faramir pulled away slightly and looked up in gratitude.
“I love you.”
It was warm and soft but solid, a meeting of lips that became an intricate dance—one which both parties were accustomed to leading. This strangeness did not make the kiss any less intense but somehow more so, and the feel of hair on each other’s faces was merely foreign and not distracting. When it was finished, both men were slightly flushed.
“It did not feel wrong,” Faramir said in a small voice. “Did it?”
“No, it did not.”
“Then we may see where our feelings take us.”
Aragorn’s heart pounded with the recent kiss and relief at Faramir’s decision. “We can decide together, in time. We have that.”
They had time. And love.
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