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02 April 2013 | 11372 words
Title: Practise Makes Perfect
Warnings: Slash, sexual scenes.
Disclaimer: None of these characters belog to me. All written in good fun with no offence intended!
Author’s Note: At last, the long-expected fic! Some time ago (ahem, a month or two, okay, four and a half…) the wonderful Raven posted a particularly inspiring painting: The Night Before The Coronation which prompted me to exclaim that I urgently needed to write the accompanying story behind it, possibly giving false hope to those who read such promises that such a story might actually be published in their lifetimes. Well, maybe we are all a bit older but it’s finally done, and what started out as a one-shot more or less ran away into the realms of something a little longer. I hope this is okay, I hope I didn’t spoil anyone’s preconceptions of what the backstory behind this gorgeous picture might be, and I hope I got in all the right details. For you, Raven, my steadfast supporter and inspiration! All I can say is roll on July ;)
(I think I’ve pretty much gotten all of the timelines and names and similar details entirely wrong, so, forgive any glaring errors. I think I’ve been writing this for long enough :P)
It was here, it had to be here. He was sure of it. Or at least, he was sure, that amongst the innumerable scrolls, illegible notes, dilapidated and dog-eared tomes and crumbling parchment there quite simply must be some sort of edict laying out the requirements, the ceremony, or at least the basic goings-on, of a coronation. What to wear, what speeches were made and how long they were. Who brought the crown, who crowned it. Should songs be sung? Sonnets, poems? How many verses? Unaccompanied? Would there be fireworks, feasting, frolicking? Music? How long would the whole affair go on for? And what about guests, how and whom to invite and un-invite? A voice in the back of Aragorn’s mind reminded him there had not been a king crowned in this city in over four hundred years; such instructions were not only out of living memory, but also, were they ever written down, lack of need would ensure that they were now probably lost for good. That same voice helpfully mocked him: a king lost at his own coronation, ho! What folly!
A wooden stool by a desk beckoned, and Aragorn sat down, mindful to keep his candle’s flame far from literary tinder. This last little library had been his final port of call. The grand archives had revealed nothing, and the assistant who kept the keys to the locked cabinets of antique books unlatched them willingly enough but Aragorn was far too shamed-faced to ask him for further assistance. Having found nothing of use, the fretting king-to-be had ventured into the currently unused offices of the former steward, the late lord Denethor, locking the door behind him as he went. It would not do, he thought, to appear to be sneaking around rooms in which he really had no right to sneak, in hunt of something he really should not have the necessity to hunt. Again, the search proved fruitless; the last resort was this lesser reading room, nothing more than a study, filled mostly with endless grain lists, old tithe records and accounts that meant nothing to him yet. It was early evening; he did not have much time left before he must away to bed, there to lie awake with worry until the servants came to wake him and dress him and ready him for a ceremony that he was not entirely sure anyone knew how to perform.
Best to make do and bluff your way through it, Aragorn thought, and blew out his candle. On his way from the little library, he was overtaken countless times by aides and maids rushing to and fro, arms laden with fresh laundry or trays and baskets of fruit and cheese and unbaked loaves. At least, Aragorn surmised, there would be feasting. Up ahead, just rounding a corner out of sight, Aragorn suddenly caught sight of the new steward, Boromir’s brother, the kind young man whom Aragorn had brought back from the terror of the shadows mere weeks previously. Aragorn quickened his pace; if anyone might locate these interminable instructions without secretly thinking him ridiculous, or at least hiding such opinions well, it would be Faramir.
He caught up with the other man halfway along the next corridor; Faramir had stopped to unlock a door, a task which proved struggle-some due to the pile of books he had heaped in his arms. The key, it seemed, was unwilling to disengage from his belt, and Aragorn reached him in time to catch the topmost tome as it slid from the tower.
“Ah! I am sorry, and thank you my lord!” Faramir said, angling his body awkwardly so that he might use a hip to support the books. “I have overestimated my capacity for load-bearing, it would appear.” He was smiling, in a festive mood, in good spirits perhaps in anticipation of the following day’s events. Either that, Aragorn thought, or he was being especially nice to his future king for reasons unknown to him. Perhaps that was just Faramir’s way.
Aragorn nodded and returned his smile. “May I, lord Faramir? he asked, gesturing toward the books. Faramir gratefully let him gather the most unwieldy ones from him, and stood straighter, finally able to produce his key without further mishap.
With the key in the lock, Faramir looked up at him. “Are you ready for the morrow, my lord?” The door opened, and Aragorn followed him into a small office, presumably Faramir’s own, where yet more books abided. In fact, it seemed more a home for literature than for aught else, with the single desk wedged in between two tall bookshelves, with barely space to sidestep around in order to seat oneself behind it. Aragorn placed his burden on the desk, and looked around at the other man; this hitherto unknown depository lighting up simultaneous beacons of hope and despair within Aragorn’s breast. More books! But Faramir would surely help him.
“It is odd that you should mention such a thing, as I was rather hoping I might ask you something about it.”
“Not having second-thoughts I hope, my lord?” Faramir, freed finally of his texts, brushed his wavy hair from his eyes and replaced his key back upon his person. He was dressed rather simply, in a plain linen shirt and dark breeches; his hair, curly sunset-hues, danced upon his shoulders unbound.
“Please,” Aragorn said, raising a hand in a placating gesture. “I know we hardly know one another at all, but I did know your good brother for a time, and he called me plainly Aragorn. I would like it if you might do the same, at least when we are alone.”
At the mention of Boromir Faramir’s face changed; nothing drastic, but a seriousness drifted over him, the laughter in his eyes fading. “As you wish, Aragorn. And you may call me Faramir; I do rather dislike the title myself.”
“Very well,” Aragorn nodded, and as Faramir began to sort the books from the desk onto a nearby shelf, he decided to plough onwards with his predicament. “As you well know, my coronation is on the morrow, and I was interested to know if there might be, somewhere in the citadel archives, perhaps a record of the last coronation’s events–”
Faramir paused, book in hand, and looked to the ceiling for a moment, thinking. “That would be…Eärnur’s, four centuries since! I want to say I doubt such a thing would still endure, but I was in the city when Mithrandir last paid a visit to the archives, before your Fellowship was formed, and I do believe he found an account scribed by Isildur’s own hand, so there is some precedent for ancient, long-forgotten texts turning up.”
Interrupted or not, Aragorn listened with eager interest to Faramir’s words; he had not had much chance to spend time with his soon-to-be second-man, but what he had seen and heard so far set his heart at ease slightly, for he seemed both sensibly intelligent and yet open, easy to be around. His love for lore and history was apparent already; Aragorn found he very much liked him. “Exactly! But, Faramir, I must admit, I have spent most of this day in search of such a thing, or even some text alluding to this account’s existence or whereabouts, and have come up with nothing to show for my efforts. I was hoping you might know of some road I have not yet travelled down.”
“Did you not speak to the archivists? They would have been more than happy to assist you.” Faramir was moving books around now, lifting some off the shelves, replacing them with others, with one under his arm the whole time. Aragorn watched him with interest, amused to think that Faramir might be the type to order things by topic, or date of publication, or spine-colour. He wondered if this was Faramir’s own private collection, or if he rotated books from the libraries and archives and this little office, refreshing his reading material on a regular basis. This notion pleased him.
“It is…ah, rather embarrassing for me to admit to anyone that I do not know the detailed ins and outs of the ceremony itself. I had hoped to find something that would ensure I did not disgrace myself tomorrow.” He was wincing, looking briefly at his feet, but he caught Faramir spinning around from the corner of his eye and glanced up to see the other man’s good-humoured but slightly incredulous expression.
“You do not need Eärnur’s diary entries for that!” He laughed a little, and Aragorn felt his cheeks flush, though somehow Faramir’s own amusement was not quite so painful to experience than he presumed everyone else’s would be. The younger man lifted the book from beneath his arm, and proffered it to Aragorn. “Here!” he laughed, and Aragorn took it. “‘Tis the outline of a coronation quite concisely. I think your lack of success in finding enlightenment on this matter was partly due to the fact this book was never in the archives, but in my own rooms this past week.”
Aragorn turned it over in his hands, and flicked through the pages. It was a handsome volume, heavy, bound in red-leather with silver-gilt scrollwork on the cover depicting the tree of Gondor. Within seemed to be an endless array of accounts, lists, orders of ceremonies, illustrations, songs sung and speeches made and everything one might possibly think of in relation to the crowning of a king. Faramir approached him, and from upside down turned over several pages near the end of the book, and pointed with his finger. “You are not the only one who requires a little assistance.” The chapter Faramir had indicated seemed to focus on the duties of stewards at such an event, the passing over of the rod of office, for example, and where they stood in the retinue and what they might say, or wear. Aragorn looked up at him, silently quite pleased.
“Faramir, what on earth would I do without you?”
“Oh, muddle through, I expect. You will be fine,” Faramir said, turning back to his bookshelves. “You are hardly likely to be dethroned for wearing the wrong colour of cloak.”
Something about that set a quiet alarm ringing with Aragorn’s head– good gods, would such a small thing be noted?– but his eye had drifted over the page Faramir had flipped to, and something he saw there alarmed him even more. “It says here you will hand over to me the stewards’ rod of office, and thereby it is my decision as to whether or not I give it, and therefore your duties back to you.” He raised his eyebrows. “Do you want…– I suppose what I mean to say is do you wish to be my steward, even though you would not rule?”
Faramir regarded him oddly, as if it had never occurred to him that his feelings might be taken into account in such a way. Certainly, Aragorn thought, this poor man did not ever expect to have this question put before him; no-one plans for the untimely deaths of their whole family and the landing upon one’s shoulders of a birthright that one never gave much of a second thought. Up until now, he had performed his duties as an almost stand-in steward perfectly, but to carry on the role in a different form, as advisor and counsellor to the king? Would he not rather retain only his duties as ranger-captain, to oversee his woodlands and men of Ithilien? “I do not know, Aragorn. I really do not.”
Kindly, Aragorn said: “I do not wish to burden you unnecessarily, or give you something you do not want. It is something you will need to decide before this day is out.”
Aragorn nodded, and Faramir offered him a weak smile before picking up the small stack of pamphlets he had put to one side on the shelf and began replacing them. An easy silence stretched out, punctuated by the soft sounds of books sliding on wooden shelves and the turning of pages. Aragorn began to grow more anxious as he progressed through the book; the information it contained appeared to have no end, the detail very fine indeed. Only half jokingly, he said: “Exactly how far could I go without getting myself dethroned? There is quite a lot to remember.”
“If you like, we could do a dry run.” Faramir said, nose in another book. “Practice, a rehearsal for tomorrow. Only without the whole city present, just us. I know it would help me to remember what I need to do.”
Aragorn’s face lit up. “That, if I may say, is wonderful idea, Faramir. How might we go about it?”
“Well,” Faramir said, looking at him. “What about this: I should be finished in here in about half an hour. What say you come to my rooms in an hour’s time and we can go through everything, step-by-step?”
“What do you need the other half hour for?”
Faramir gave him a conspiring look that told him he should not ask silly questions. “I dare say you will find out in an hour. Do you know where my apartments are?”
It was Aragorn’s turn to look at him askance. “What sort of king would I be if I did not know where my closest advisor might be found? Come now, I am not wholly ignorant.”
“The implication was not intended,” Faramir said, giving him a slight bow, but it was not entirely without irony. “I shall see you at the arranged time, then, Aragorn.”
“That will be my cue to leave, then, will it?” Faramir laughed at him, and nodded. “Need I bring anything?”
“Just that book,” Faramir replied. “And a sense of humour might not go amiss.”
Aragorn’s feeling of uncertainty had only slightly abated by the time he found himself knocking on the door to Faramir’s quarters, book in hand. He had spent the last hour in his own drawing room, pouring over the book, but rather than soothe his fears over what was to happen at his crowning, it only, as he first thought when he saw just how verbose the text was, increased his anxiety. There was so much to remember, far too much for one hour’s memorisation, and certainly, he thought with mild terror, too much to be confident with even after an evening being shown everything by someone with their head screwed on properly. He could only but try, and when Faramir opened the door and welcomed him in he nodded and greeted him with a smile and a hopeful look.
“I gather you have prepared yourself for a period of intense questioning?” he asked, and Faramir gave him a sympathetic smile.
“Oh, fear not. There really is nothing to it. I thought we might make it an enjoyable task.” He gestured to the fireplace and the two comfortable chairs set before it, and as Aragorn walked toward this arrangement he took in the chamber properly for the first time. Faramir’s drawing room, that was obvious, but the furniture, a desk, the couch, a footstool, a small set of shelves, all save the two armchairs and a small table before the fireplace, had been pushed to the walls, leaving a clear space in the centre of the room. A bay window opened out on the far side, curtained with heavy drapes, with a wide, wooden sill big enough to sit upon. There were rugs upon the floor, and wallhangings of autumn colours between the bookshelves, all bowing under texts and bound volumes, most of which, Aragorn was privately warmed to notice at a quick glance, were histories, books on elvish, tomes of lore and legend and the odd novel or two. Upon the mantelpiece stood many candles, their golden wax trailing in hardened pools, adhering them to the marble. Between these were a few objects of personal significance, Aragorn assumed; an old hunting dirk in gold-threaded sheathe; a horse, hewn poorly from wood; a silver comb, seabirds carved into the handle, finely wrought. The king-to-be’s fingertips brushed the shimmering surface of the comb, inquisitive.
“My mother’s,” Faramir said from behind him, and Aragorn stepped from the fireplace, startled.
“Forgive my curiosity.”
“There is nothing to forgive,” Faramir said, gesturing to one of the two armchairs, into which Aragorn gratefully sank, book in lap. “This,” he said, lifting the little horse, “Was a gift from my brother when I was but a boy, not long after our mother passed away. I think he was trying to cheer me, and though I doubt he would have ever made a living from carpentry I like to keep them together, for they do bring me gladness to see them. The dirk is mine; an old hunting blade, my first, actually, long since blunted and dulled; I keep it for the sentimentality”, he laughed softly. “It reminds me of my younger days, when I was full of the notions of becoming the most famous ranger there ever was.” Replacing the horse beside the comb, he turned and sat in the chair opposite Aragorn, lifting the carafe that was set upon the little table between them. “Of course,” he continued, with a knowing look, “A ranger worth his salt is gauged by how well he passes unseen, and therefore_unknown_. Doubtless the arrow-marks upon my body are testament enough to my inability at such things from time to time. Now, wine? Or I can fetch water, if you would prefer.”
Aragorn roused himself; the room was warm and cosy, and Faramir’s charming banter had lulled him into a calmer state, his fondness for his newest companion growing by the minute. “Nay, wine will suit. I have a feeling a more relaxed attitude to these proceedings would not hurt.” Aragorn set the book upon the table, and accepted Faramir’s proffered goblet, raising it to him in toast. “To Gondor? And her famous rangers.”
Faramir mirrored him, lifting his goblet in turn. “And to her king.”
Aragorn tilted his head and drank down the wine, sweet and gentle. “This is good,” he commented, and Faramir seemed pleased.
“It is my favourite,” he admitted, putting his goblet back onto the table. “Now,” he said again, leaning forward and clasping his hands between his knees, “Might we not begin our task? I have a few ideas of things we might do, but it depends on how far you have gotten with the book.”
Aragorn was sheepish. “You did only give me an hour; I think I got to the part about what shade of velvet the crown should be wrapped in before it is brought forth, or some such thing that I might call a triviality but that which you will no doubt inform me is the very backbone of the ceremony–nay, the kingship itself!”
“Oh, that reminds me!” Faramir got to his feet suddenly, and walked over to the desk, opening the lowest drawer and retrieving from it a dark bundle. “If you must know, this is what I required the other half hour to do; there is a certain degree of diversion and misdirection involved when one must borrow things such as this. Also,” he continued, making his way back to the chairs and holding up the mysterious lump for inspection in the candlelight, “This appears to be black, though it is hard to tell in this light. I do hope it will suffice.” And with that, he unwrapped the unknown object which turned out, to Aragorn’s disbelief, to be the winged crown itself.
“Should you have that?” Aragorn asked in almost-horror. “What if someone were to find out?”
Faramir raised his eyebrows. “Are you going to tell anyone?”
“Well, no. And I suppose the only person I might tell is myself.”
“Well, then.” Faramir spread the velvet out over his lap, and lifted the edifice itself, shining mithril in his hands, up, turning it in the flamelight. “Do you not wish to find out in advance whether or not it will fit?”
Despite himself, Aragorn found that he was leaning forward in his seat now, eager to reach out and indeed, try it on for size. “I am not quite sure I like how clever you are, Faramir. I take it this is why your room is so oddly arranged.” He gestured to the furniture, pushed against the walls. “Mock-coronations, perchance?”
“You have caught me at my game, I declare. I do hope you mind not that it shall be your steward, standing on a footstool, who will bestow this upon you this evening.”
“I could always kneel,” Aragorn said, taking another swallow of wine, eyes glued to the crown.
Faramir turned it once more, then placed it back amongst the velvet folds on his knee. “You might, but despite our agreement to be informal when alone I do not know if I like the notion of my king kneeling before me.”
“I am not king yet. Tonight, you outrank me, technically.”
Faramir wrapped the crown again, out of sight for the moment, and did not meet his eye. “I am sure I mislike that even more.”
“I cannot lie when I say that having you by my side as steward would settle my heart greatly.”
The other man looked up at him then, his hair like burnished copper in the light, his eyes two shining gems. “Aye, Aragorn, I know it would.” A look passed over his face, spectre-quick, but perhaps it was nothing more than the shadows playing upon his features, and Aragorn might take no deeper meaning from it at all.
Some time and three more goblets of wine each later, the two men had rearranged their seating and managed to get through one quarter of the book. The armchairs proved too heavy to move easily, and too awkwardly constructed to even be placed side-by-side, so as the discussion, and the effects of the wine, progressed, the ageing evening found Faramir bent over the book in his lap, eyes narrowed in the deciphering of particularly minuscule script, with Aragorn perched upon the arm of Faramir’s chair with a hand on his back, reading over his shoulder, or pretending to.
“This cannot be right,” Faramir said at last, straightening a little. “No,” he said after a moment’s thought. “I think we can safely disregard that particular section.”
“Dare I ask?”
Faramir looked up at him, twisting in his seat. “How married are you to the idea of singing?”
“It really would depend on the song in question,” Aragorn said, leaning forward. Faramir turned back to the book, and the king-to-be frowned and pushed the extraneous whorls of Faramir’s hair that had subsequently fallen forward and blocked his view back over the younger man’s shoulder. Faramir himself did not react to it, other than to scratch absently at his cheek.
“I think,” he said after a short pause, “I think if you want to recite some verse, or sing, or say a few words, I think if they are suitably appropriate to the gravity of the ceremony then you shall be alright.”
Aragorn laughed. “And now, three glasses of wine in, is the perfect time for such composition?”
“It is not I who left it until the night previous to decide that perhaps I might refresh my memory upon what is to occur on the morrow! May I point out I have had this very book in my possession for the past fortnight and have heard nary a hint of your own search for it until this evening!” Faramir was drunk, at least a little, and Aragorn’s eyes widened, his brows raised in amused disbelief at his companion’s freeness of accusatory banter. He was not being disrespectful, but his earlier deference had vanished as quickly as the wine. Surprising, Aragorn thought, but not unattractive.
“It is, I think, a fortunate thing that you indeed outrank me, Faramir. Tonight, at least.” He found himself looking at Faramir for a prolonged moment, and it must have been a shade too long, for Faramir suddenly set the open tome upon the table and rose, dislodging Aragorn.
“Let us see if your head fits the crown, before we both lose the ability to stand without swaying,” he said, something that appeared more easily said than done; his hand landed rather heavily and unexpectedly on Aragorn’s shoulder as he stepped past him, balance momentarily escaping him as the blood rushed to his head. Aragorn let a laugh slip, and Faramir threw him a look over his shoulder that, from anyone else Aragorn might have named as coy, but with Faramir, whom he did not yet know well enough to be sure how much of his candour was alcohol-related, he could not be certain. He stood, and followed Faramir to the centre of the cleared space in the room.
“How shall we go about this?” he asked, expectant. Faramir had retrieved the wrapped crown and was holding it in both hands. “Shall I fetch the footstool?”
“Do you know, I have always–” Faramir stopped suddenly, looking up from the circlet. “Forgive me, my thoughts wandered for a moment.”
Aragorn raised his brows. “No, tell me; I am sure it was interesting!”
Faramir scoffed lightly and placed the crown on one of the armchairs, passing behind Aragorn to retrieve the stool. “Inappropriate, more like.” Glancing up quickly, he added; “In an entirely innocent sense, naturally!”
Bemused, Aragorn tilted his head. “Perhaps your favourite vintage has really gone to your head, friend Faramir. You are talking in riddles.”
A shrug was his immediate reply; Faramir set the footstool before Aragorn and regarded it, pushing it with his foot so that it sat at what he deemed was a suitable coronation angle. “I dare say if further wine passes my lips tonight you shall be apprised of more of my nonsense; forgive me, again. I should not have gotten so merry in your presence.”
“I am but a commoner this evening, Faramir. And I need not point out that I too feel the room spin at a slightly more heady pace then usual. Fear not!” He said, raising his hands in calming gesture as Faramir shot him a worried look. “Balance has not yet escaped me, and shall remain in my possession for a long while yet.”
“You keep mentioning it, the fact that you are not yet king, when I would say you are in all but title. I find it peculiar, when you have known for many years that you would sit the throne of Gondor, whereas I never expected to carry the stewardship, and yet here I stand, as your steward.”
“What you say is true, but if you mean to subtly hint that I should easily accept what is lain before my path without question, then you must also realise that it has been a very long path indeed for me between discovering my heritage and my standing here before you. We might be very different men, Faramir. Such a thing was not so easy to undertake for me.” Aragorn’s tone was gentle, but Faramir grew flustered.
“Oh, no, no, I did not meant to imply–!” He swallowed, composing himself. “I meant only that I did not think it fair of you to lower yourself–no, I do not mean that either.” He frowned, focusing on some invisible point in midair between them. “I suppose I am not comfortable pulling rank over you, even if it is within my rights.”
Aragorn laughed softly, and put his hand on Faramir’s shoulder. The younger man’s cheeks were flushed, whether due to the heat from the fire, the wine or from embarrassment it was impossible to tell. His eyes were yet bright, and his wavy hair smouldered in the light from the hearth. He was extraordinarily handsome. “I would probably have something to say in protest if you should order me to do something I deemed particularly ridiculous, but rest assured, Faramir, there is little you could do to offend me, save perhaps…rejecting your own unexpected destiny.” He lowered his hand, and Faramir gave him a curious look.
“Would it truly draw your ire if I were not steward?”
Aragorn looked at him squarely. “In truth, no. I would like you to be happy, and if that is away from the citadel, or away from the city, then I urge you to choose what seems best for you. But I will be honest in saying that if you were not to be my steward I would be disheartened; I like you.”
A knowing smile crept across Faramir’s features. “Is that all? Nothing about my competence?”
“I am not yet king! I know nothing of your paperwork!” Faramir laughed at that.
“Perhaps when you see my record-keeping you will end up sending me off to Emyn Arnen yourself.”
“Perhaps, but I shall refrain from furnishing you with a southward-bearing horse until the morrow, if it comes to it.” Aragorn clapped his hands together. “Shall we proceed? The hour will soon grow late.”
“Verily,” Faramir said, and lifted the crown. “Now, I do not think we need go through the entire rigamarole of the announcements and fanfare and my speech and so on, not least because I have not yet written it–”
Aragorn laughed in surprise. “And you draw focus on my tardiness in organising myself! The coronation is early in the morn; how will you find yourself sober and with enough free time to pen something that will not have yourself dethroned, or de-stewarded, I should say?”
Faramir gave him a look, and this time it was coy. “You truly have not seen my paperwork, Aragorn. I am rather gifted with prose, particularly when a time-limit is imposed.”
“Is that modesty?”
The coyness melted into a shy laugh, eyes averted. “Nay, ‘tis the only skill of mine that I believe draws merit, my way with words that is. And possibly only upon the page. My father said many times that were the battles of Middle Earth all fought upon the leaves of books I would be champion of them all.”
“Surely,” Aragorn said, trying to bolster Faramir’s mood before it had chance to slip at the memory. “Surely I can rest easy now, knowing my account books will be in safe hands.” He smiled, and reached to put his hand on Faramir’s shoulder again, but at the last moment Faramir shifted and instead Aragorn’s fingers brushed against his throat lightly, a far more tender caress than was intended. Faramir’s eyes darted up, and Aragorn withdrew.
“The crown, then,” Faramir said softly, and Aragorn nodded.
“Let me kneel, Faramir.” When no protest was uttered, Aragorn duly knelt, bowing his head. There was a moment during which all Aragorn could see were Faramir’s feet, and all he could hear was the crackle of the fire, merrily burning. Then Faramir stepped forward, and the coldness of mithril was against Aragorn’s brow, and the weight of the realm upon his head. Before he could look up the stray strands of his hair that had fallen forward were brushed from his eyes by archer’s fingers.
“There,” Faramir said, “We need not alert the dwarven smiths after all; it sits well upon you.”
When he stood, Aragorn could see the flickering reflections of the crown dancing upon Faramir’s fair features. Faramir’s pale eyes were filled with wonder and yet sadness, and Aragorn felt a strange bravery come over him. “If you were king for a day, Faramir, what would you do?”
Faramir seemed lost, gazing at him, the image of his future king. “If I were king…?”
“Here,” Aragorn tilted his head, reaching up to remove the crown. “Why not try it on for size–”
“Oh, oh no you must not!” Faramir exclaimed in horror. “I cannot wear it!”
Aragorn’s faint brows knotted together in confusion. “There is no harm in it, surely?”
“To place it upon my head, to imply that I was worthy to bear such a thing–therein lies the harm, Aragorn.” And Faramir stepped back, as if to avoid any sudden coronations of his own. Aragorn’s frown deepened.
“You are far more noble than I, and the blood of Númenor runs through your veins as truly as it does mine, Faramir. How dare you think yourself unworthy? By the gods, it probably should be you that is crowned on the morrow, not I. I know not what I am doing, in truth. My reliance is on you to guide me.”
“I am not omniscient, Aragorn. There are many things I do not know, and how to be king is one of them. But you have my word I will help you if you so need or desire it.” Faramir closed his eyes for a moment, and ran his fingers back through his hair. Regarding Aragorn again, he tilted his head to the side. “Please, I will not try the crown, but if you wish me as steward I will not refuse it neither. It is as high as I dare aim.”
Lifting the crown from his head and holding it in both hands, Aragorn gave him a gentle smile. “You have no idea how happy that makes me.”
Faramir smiled back. “I am glad.” As Aragorn placed the crown back onto the armchair, the younger man sat himself on the arm and looked up at him. “My question to you, then: if you were truly a commoner for one day, what might you do? What anonymous deed might you perform, without fear of scandal or retribution? No murders, hopefully,” he added with a soft laugh.
Aragorn looked at him squarely. “I would kiss you, Faramir.”
“I would kiss you,” Aragorn repeated, “For you are handsome, and kind and good, and during the briefness of our acquaintanceship I have already grown quite fond of you.”
Faramir swallowed. “Oh.” And after a moment during which Aragorn was sure a kind rejection, a refusal worded most tenderly was being hastily assembled in his mind, Faramir pushed his hair back from his face, regarded Aragorn just as squarely, and said: “I suppose you had better do so, then.”
Having not entirely thought his admission through past the point of admitting it Aragorn was temporarily dumbstruck. He had hoped Faramir would not recoil in disgust, or horror, but it also had not occurred to him what he would do if some portentous alignment of the constellations bid Faramir to accept his proposal. Eventually, his power of speech returned to him, but not by any eloquent measure. “You realise…I want to do this thing regardless of whether I am commoner or no?” He put his fingers to his temples and rubbed. “Oh, I am drunk, Faramir, pay no attention to me.”
Faramir stood and pulled his hands down into his own. “As am I.” The corners of his mouth curled upwards, the briefest flash of mischief. “Might I not taste my favoured wine upon your tongue?”
“You?” Aragorn said, unable to put his questions into anything other than the vaguest of enquiries.
Faramir’s smile was close. “None other.” And Aragorn felt himself being kissed gently, the pressing of a pretty mouth against his own for many heartbeats. After what seemed like an earth-age Aragorn released his eyes were still open, and he closed them, lest Faramir somehow think him unwilling, and at that moment Faramir’s hand slid up to cradle his cheek, his thumb tracing light patterns upon his skin. He had never truly thought Faramir was attracted to him in turn, but it had been worth a try; the wine a fortunate scapegoat should things turn south. And, in truth, he had not premeditated this seduction at all; from seeing Faramir in the corridor earlier that day, to their discussion in his office and here, now, the rehearsal, he had thought only how companionable the younger man was, how charming, and only as an in-deliberate undercurrent how comely. And how well, how tenderly he kissed! Rightly there should be suitors practically queuing up to woo him, but from what little he had gleaned of Faramir’s personal life, from Boromir’s stories, from the healers, from what Aragorn himself had asked of Gandalf in curiosity after leaving the healing wards, Faramir had long been a bachelor, possibly as little inclined to marriage as he was to warfare. The oddness of Faramir’s availability would have to wait however, in lieu of more immediate concerns, namely the beat of blood in his ears, and the rush of hot breath against his cheek from Faramir’s nostrils.
Faramir’s other arm had wound around Aragorn’s middle and was holding him against him, and Aragorn brought both hands up to frame Faramir’s face, fingers weaving into locks of spun copper. Their eyes opened at the same moment and they broke apart, but only by a fraction. Caught in the spell, Aragorn stroked his hair, gaze roving over Faramir’s features, his fair brows, the faint freckles speckling his nose, the gingery stubble that roughened his jaw. Faramir smiled between Aragorn’s hands, the tips of their noses touching.
“Perhaps we might move this somewhere a little more suited to such things?”
Aragorn was ready to agree, though as of yet he was not so sure how far this really should go. He began to nod, stepping back, and promptly half-strangled Faramir in his attempt to remain upright as he stumbled over the footstool.
“Good gods!” he cried, releasing Faramir from his death-grip and doing all he was capable of in regards to preserving dignity, which was sitting rather suddenly upon the offending item of furniture. Looking up in bewilderment, he was presented with the underside of Faramir’s jaw as he threw his head back in a guffaw of laughter. A smile crept onto Aragorn’s lips, however hard he tried to fight it. “Well, I sincerely hope I do not do something similar tomorrow.” And Faramir could not answer him, only regard him through eyes creased in silent, shaking hilarity.
When he had mastered himself, during which time Aragorn had folded his arms and crossed his legs, seated on his makeshift throne, Faramir shook his head and sighed, smiling. “I do not suppose you wish to continue…?” He was clearly on the brink of dissolving into mirth once again, and Aragorn raised his eyebrows.
“I fear the moment may have passed.”
“Oh, oh let us not spoil it,” Faramir said, at last gaining a straight face and crouching down before the other man. “Forgive me, it was the wine. Come now…” And he lifted a hand to Aragorn’s cheek, and brushed his lips against Aragorn’s lips in a kiss that was sweet and returned just as sweetly until Aragorn felt the smile clawing its way back onto Faramir’s features and felt the shudder of poorly withheld sniggering. He pulled away, but not by far. Faramir was biting his lip.
“I am sorry, I cannot help it now,” he said, and Aragorn was about to speak something of his annoyance when he noticed the tears in Faramir’s eyes, and knew well enough how helpless one could be made by the impertinence and insistence of unmeant laughter, and relented, shaking his head.
“Never-mind, Faramir. Perhaps we might continue this when we are less clouded by wine,” he said, though he knew no such situation would occur thereafter. The moment had indeed passed. “I fear I must away to bed, before the headache comes to cripple me.”
Disappointment etched itself around Faramir’s eyes, and he wiped the tears of merriment from them. “Please Aragorn, would you stay? Before I sober enough to guard my tongue’s mutterings, might I not be so bold as to ask you to sleep beside me this night? Sleep only,” he added, his hand clasping Aragorn’s knee gently. “You might think it peculiar of me but I want to be near you.”
Aragorn looked at him; he was drunk, that much was certain, both from his unusually daring, and daringly unusual, request and from the colour in his cheeks, the way his eyes were not entirely focused. An odd boon he had asked, and one Aragorn had lived long enough to be certain would involve a lot more than simply sleeping.
But Faramir was enchanting, young, enigmatic. His ways were as strange to Aragorn as Aragorn’s must be to Faramir, and that intrigued him. Perhaps, Aragorn thought, he might even find a little humour in it himself.
“Sleep only, then,” he answered, with a gentle look that bade Faramir know that Aragorn was no fool when it came to the possibilities of such an arrangement. And then he made sure Faramir would be in no doubt; “Before we close our eyes however, I wish to see you.” He smiled darkly, and Faramir shivered and bit his lip again, eyes closing as Aragorn reached over and pushed his hand up beneath Faramir’s simple shirt, fingers running over the smooth flesh of his waist.
“Will I get to see you?” Faramir slurred, and Aragorn steadied him with a hand finally making it back to his shoulder.
“Come,” he said, getting to his feet. “Let us get you some water first.”
There was a bath chamber adjoining Faramir’s candle-lit bedroom, and, after depositing the rapidly flagging Faramir himself onto the bed, Aragorn entered it in search of refreshment. In one hand he held the crown, feeling it wrong to leave it unattended in the adjacent drawing room; in the other, his empty wine goblet, which he now rinsed in the basin and filled with what appeared to be fresh water from the ewer on the windowsill.
“Here, you,” he said, sitting back beside Faramir and running a fingertip beneath his chin to rouse him. Faramir looked up at him, and smiled, accepting the water and drinking it down, a silver rivulet running into his beard. Aragorn regarded him with fondness. Lovemaking, it appeared, was long off the menu; Faramir seemed about a moment away from slumber.
“Thank you,” Faramir said, looking at him, apologetic and sobering slightly. “I am rather ashamed.”
“How so? You did not disgrace yourself; ‘twas I who propositioned you and promptly fell at your feet.”
Faramir stared into his empty cup, and smiled ruefully. “You come to me as king to steward, or thereabouts, for help, and here I sit, practically insensible. You must think me quite terrible.”
Aragorn laughed. “I came to you as king to steward, or thereabouts, for help, and then I confess my desire for you and we kiss. I do not think either of us has outdone the other in regards to things folk possibly should think twice about on their first, proper engagement together. But here we are, with three plain truths before us; the hour for bed draws dangerously near; you, forgive me, I think need putting to bed, and the third thing, that which I do not protest but must possibly confirm before I overstay my welcome: am I indeed to be your warming-pan tonight?”
Faramir snorted. “If it pleases you to sleep beside a sot!”
He may as well be bold, thought Aragorn, a commoner tonight, and king tomorrow. “It would,” he purred, leaning in and pressing a kiss to Faramir’s throat. He may as well be bold, but tender too, gentle, fond. New facets of his inebriation showed themselves, glinting; he wanted not raucous intercourse, but to wrap himself around Faramir and breathe him in, and sleep knowing they lay thus; a peculiar security before the rigours and restrictions of court life fell into place around them. Faramir looked at him morosely, however, though his eyes softened at the caress. Aragorn lifted the crown and put it on his head at a rakish angle, hoping to entice a smile. “Come now, you are not the only one who has sampled the wine.”
Faramir reached up to straighten the headpiece, and paused, brightening. “Take off your shirt?” At Aragorn’s raised eyebrow Faramir stood and made an incredulous gesture. “Come now, like for like; you wished to see me. I have an idea.” And he unlaced his own shirt and hauled it over his head, all at once sending his fiery hair into all directions in a flurry of red-gold and revealing a lean torso, a narrow waist, battle-scars that gleamed silver in the candlelight. Surprisingly lean, Aragorn thought; his more officious apparel and armour added bulk where there was none, and save for the modest curve of his belly and the broadness in his shoulders there really was not much of him at all. His was the limber make of the archer, his lower back a shallow oxbow that melted into the pertness of his buttocks, so far still shielded by his breeches, but Aragorn could and did imagine. His upper arms were toned and his wrists strikingly elegant, the latter not effeminate, but something in their movement and form bade Aragorn decide that Faramir was not unskilled with his fingers, not indelicate when the need arose. Those fingers and arms were at that moment hauling something from a chest at the foot of the bed, a bundled white something, a bed-sheet, it turned out, and Faramir paused in shaking it out to look at him over to top of the snowy expanse, all drowsiness forgotten, and barked at him: “Shirt off!”
Grinning to himself Aragorn let the crown bounce gently onto the bedclothes as he too rose to undress. He knew well enough the display he would provide would not set so fine an example of youthful vigour, but he had a feeling Faramir was less concerned with his battle- and weatherworn build–a wrinkle or two here, the slight loss of definition there–than he was with whatever he was attempting with the bed sheet, folding it in half poorly, trying to align the opposite edges.
“May I assist?”
“Calm yourself, I can handle linen well enough.” Faramir’s impish grin spoke of mischief most imminent, and the brief look of appraisal that flashed across his eyes before he turned his head back to task was enough to lay Aragorn’s vague anxiety to rest. Admiration, it was, a spark of desire beneath blue waters. “There,” he said finally, though it was not clear to Aragorn exactly what had been achieved. With a delightfully assured gait he rounded the edge of the bed and gestured for Aragorn to face him, whereupon he swept the bed-sheet over Aragorn’s shoulders and tied a neat knot at the base of his throat; a makeshift cloak. Aragorn paused a moment for the explanation; opening his mouth to query this odd costume drama Faramir interrupted him by wrapping his arms around his neck and shoulders in what was a clear attempt to find out how far down the king-to-be’s throat he might slide his tongue. A fetish for laundry?, Aragorn wondered, and forgot it all as he pulled Faramir back toward the bed, the possibility of sex rekindling itself in his innards like a welcome writhing serpent.
He had almost convinced himself that he and Faramir were an altogether excellent match, and hence none might whisper of scandal should he turn and kiss his now certified-steward at the coronation ceremony itself when Faramir pulled away, batting his grasping hands away from his waist, biting his reddened lip.
“Rehearsal,” he said, breathless, reaching for the crown. “I have always wanted to kiss a king.”
“Really?” Aragorn asked, skeptical in the face of such convenient admissions.
Faramir laughed. “From the moment I saw you it seemed that I needed to add to my personal list of sexual preferences the category of men, and in parenthesis, kings. I may have underlined the latter,” he said, winking. It was Aragorn’s turn to snort.
“And what was on your list before?” He crawled onto the bed, following Faramir who now knelt on the mattress with the crown in one hand like one might hold an empty glass one has forgotten about, but will gesticulate with regardless.
“Women,” Faramir said with a smirk. “Perhaps elves.”
“I like men,” Aragorn said, as if to prove something to Faramir that the other was not already well aware of; Faramir only had to direct his gaze between Aragorn’s legs to see the evidence were he to need it. “I mean to say, I have always liked men.” He leant forward on his arms, intent on stealing another scrape of stubble against his tongue, but he was pushed away by a hand on his shoulder, gentle but firm.
“I am disappointed to discover that my appearance in your life did not elicit great change, but we are getting distracted, my king. It is time for your coronation. Again,” he added. “But this time, though we may not have the correct colour of cloak, I must say, though I hope the situation does not arise on the morrow, if you adjust it so–” he pulled the edges further over Aragorn’s shoulders so that it hung differently across him, “–it hides your erection rather well.”
Blushing not from embarrassment but from something else entirely, Aragorn tilted his head. “Perhaps I should remove my breeches? Perhaps you should remove yours?” He grinned, predatory, but remained where he was. “Perhaps you might enlighten me as to why I needs must go through my crowning a second time this evening?”
Faramir lifted the crown. “Practise makes perfect,” he said, sing-song, and placed it on Aragorn’s head with aplomb. He looked at the older man, frowning. “I think if you wipe that grin from your face you might just pass as someone somewhat noble.”
Aragorn reached for him, but Faramir evaded by falling back onto the bed and looking at him from between his bent knees. “How high must my birth be before you will let me have you?” He crawled forward, crown slipping, limbs tangling in the ‘cloak’, and succeeded in manoeuvring between Faramir’s legs on hands and knees, his bed-sheet covering them both.
Blue eyes glinted up at him above flushed cheeks, and from between twin curtains of messy auburn hair. Faramir smouldered, freckles and all. “I would say now that you are crowned you may have me any way you wish.” He punctuated this with a gentle rocking of his hips, not high enough to make contact, but enough to entice Aragorn into lowering himself so that he might draw comparison between his own stiffened cock and Faramir’s, cloth-shielded though they remained.
“Breeches?” Aragorn whispered, and Faramir nodded, lifting his hips again but this time to dislodge the older man, fumbling at the lacings with those bowman’s fingers, wriggling out of his breeches and then, almost as an afterthought, his underclothes as well. Lying naked underneath his future king Faramir was breathless, tousled, a trifle nervous if the quivering of his hands was any telltale. Aragorn ran a fingertip along his collarbone. “Beautiful,” he murmured, angling his face in for a kiss, tenderly received.
“Now you,” Faramir countered when they pulled apart, hands dancing upon Aragorn’s waist, slipping beneath the hem of his trews and discovering the dander-soft whiskers that scattered themselves across his lower back and rear. Aragorn complied, sitting up and negotiating his apparel away from his erection, shifting and kicking everything out of sight over the end of the bed before resuming his previous position. The look of appraisal was back upon Faramir’s face; silently his gaze ran the length of Aragorn and what he saw evidently pleased him greatly if his expression of wanton compulsion, or the palm that ghosted over his own hardness were of any indication.
“What would you have me do, steward-mine?” Aragorn fought the urge to do likewise, whether it be replacing Faramir’s hand with his own, or perhaps taking him into his mouth, or even just seeing to himself, it had to be soon. His stiffness twitched against his belly, and Faramir’s eyes were glued to it.
“I think if we are going to disgrace ourselves then we should do as thorough a job as possible,” Faramir said, blowing his hair from his face and lying back, fingers running along Aragorn’s forearms. “I want your mouth upon me, if that is to your taste.”
The sharklike grin was back and Aragorn bent to his task, catching the crown as it began to slide from his lowered head. Faramir reached up, and held it in place. “Allow me,” he said, and all else he uttered thereafter for a time was rather unintelligible, as were the words of Aragorn.
A noise, perhaps, or a draught, or perhaps the space in the bed, but Aragorn found himself with one eyelid creeping open into darkness, and he lay there for a moment, breathing in the scent of Faramir’s bed-clothes, of Faramir. Faramir himself was absent, and Aragorn assumed he was relieving himself until he heard the footstep near the window, far from any bathroom door. The care of it, the quietness of the shuffle made Aragorn think; he turned his head slowly, hardly daring to move at all, peering sidelong from the one eye until he saw what was happening to the right of him.
Faramir, unclothed, before his looking-glass, tentatively, privately, curiously lifting the crown onto his own head, and studying the result. Aragorn could not help but smile; king Faramir was a handsome man, noble indeed, kind and gentle and wise. He was a man Aragorn could follow, and he knew he would anyway, in his way. Stewardship was not enough for Faramir, it seemed too low for him, this bright burning soul. He would have to think about that one.
Something surged with Aragorn’s heart at that moment, and Faramir must have sensed it too, for he turned quickly, alarmed, but Aragorn’s eye snapped shut, and he lay still as bone, and Faramir must have believed him asleep, for there was no haste, no panicked fumbling, only the quiet sounds of mithril clinking onto a wooden sill, of bare feet padding across thick carpets, the creak of the bed, the sliding of sheets against skin, and finally, the encapsulating sensation of a warm body fitting flush against Aragorn’s own. Faramir flung his arm unexpectedly around his middle, and soon his soft snores wove themselves into Aragorn’s hair and the older man found himself sending off a prayer to any gods that might be listening, a prayer that melted into a dream as he succumbed the the pull of the darkest hours before dawn: do not take him from me.
“Wake up, wake up!” For a horrid instant Aragorn believed Faramir to have passed in the night, so slow was he to react to the attempts at rousing him. Finally, after resorting to vigorous and sustained jostling of his shoulders the young man stirred, surfacing from the wine-coma and rubbing at his eyes lazily. When he finally looked up at Aragorn, standing over him with an expression of wild alarm on his face, he raised his eyebrows and made a face.
“Never-mind ‘what?’, Faramir! We have slept late– bad enough that we will be tardy but the servants are at the door and will soon discover our indiscretions when they bring in the bathwater!”
Faramir sat up slowly. “You say that as if it were a bad thing.” He looked annoyed, more, perhaps, at being woken than anything else. Worryingly, he did not seem to share Aragorn’s haste, or any concern at all besides locating his house-shoes, looking under the bed absently as Aragorn practically danced in agitation beside him, wrapped in the bed-sheet.
“Faramir! The coronation! What is wrong with you! We need to go!” He was growing more and more irate at his steward’s–, lover’s–, Faramir’s disinterest and irresponsibility. What he became properly angry at was Faramir’s reaction to his latest outburst, which was to look up at him with a mischievously blithe expression.
“Faramir!“ There was no way the servants were deaf to that.
Faramir stood, naked as the day he was born, and put his hands on his hips. “Oh, you must mean the one that is happening tomorrow.”
Aragorn put his hands to his head, utterly perplexed. “What are you taking about? It is today, you hungover oaf!”
Faramir looked affronted. “Come now, there is no need for that.” Clearly put out, he affected a hurt expression and disappeared into the bathroom before Aragorn could catch him, shutting the door in his face. Aragorn hammered his fist upon the wood uselessly.
“Faramir! Why are you doing this to me?”
After a moment, during which sounds of the deliberate splashing of last night’s basin water could be heard, Faramir apparently decided to take pity on him. The door opened, just wide enough for a blue eye to peer out. Aragorn tried to push it further, but Faramir had his foot against the door on the other side, or some such, and it would not be budged. “Not so fast!” he said, the single blonde eyebrow visible rising in indignation. “I’m not dressed.”
Aragorn rested his forehead against the door, and regarded Faramir sidelong, wearisome. Faramir relented, at long last, flashing a grin at the beleaguered Aragorn and shrugging. “I might–as ruling steward, mind you–have orchestrated your personal schedule slightly so that you may have been led to believe that a certain important event was taking place a day earlier than the actual fact.”
With the answer now before him it was not so much anger or haste that made Aragorn throw up his hands and roll his eyes, but utter bemusement, and not a little irritation. “Why on earth would you do such a thing?”
Little by little Faramir was creeping from the bathroom; now his head poked around the door’s edge, though the rest of him remained hidden, whether due to false modesty or fear of retribution it was not clear. “I thought it best,” he said, “To allow for your ignorance.” When no missiles were hurled in his direction he stepped back into the bedroom finally, and leant against the doorframe, within arm’s reach but decidedly non-tactile, a different creature to the one that slid in beside Aragorn in the midnight hours. “A week ago I had a sudden realisation: that we had not discussed the coronation at all. You and I, I mean. And so I did a little rearranging, just in case. It would seem I was correct to do so, for two reasons, mainly.”
Such a delightfully infuriating man! Aragorn was staring at him, dumbstruck, torn between outrage at Faramir’s trickery, and admiration for how well the younger man had judged him, and really, the deception had been only out of kindness, had it not? No harm done? “Pray tell,” he said, gesturing for him to continue with one hand, the other over his eyes as if to ward off the headache that beckoned, not from wine, but from this most convoluted morning.
“I wanted to make sure you were really prepared. I did not want you to come to me the night before and ask what to do, and settling for you coming to me two nights before and doing the very same seemed the lesser of the two evils, the other being faced with this very scenario, hungover, late, on the actual coronation day. Secondly–” he continued, stepping closer, “–though I had not thought of it originally, I do suppose my slight diversion has set aside for us some free time during which we may enjoy each other’s company beneath the sheets, if you can stand to be in such company for much longer, which, judging from your expression, I would assume is not likely.”
Aragorn supposed his face was hard to read; within he felt a mixture of incredulity, indignation and a sudden surge of great endearment toward Faramir and his orchestrations. The continued sheepish looks Faramir was giving him, coupled with a smile that was less rascally and more hopeful finally melted the last of the ice around his heart, and he reached out to Faramir, drawing him nearer with beckoning fingers. “Did you think me so irresponsible?” he asked quietly, but not unkindly.
Faramir stood before him finally, still without a scrap of clothing covering him. “No, though I can see why you might think I did. I only wanted to make sure–…I, well, I did not want you to get into a tangle over the whole thing. It was all I could come up with at short notice.”
“…other than asking me if I might want to go over the ceremony with you?”
Faramir was blushing, laughter in his voice. “I did not want you to think I was as ignorant as you!” He pushed Aragorn’s hair from his eyes. “I could tell the servants to come back later, if you would like to return to bed.”
“I think,” Aragorn said, still unsure as to whether Faramir deserved a kiss though conflictingly he very much wanted to give him one, “I think that would be a good idea. I am…I am rather hungover.”
“Begone with you, then,” Faramir said, pointing at the bed, before turning from him and leaving the room, presumably to delay the servants, presumably with some clothing acquired along the way. Glancing at his back view, Aragorn could see what he had already confirmed through touch last night; the pertness of his freckly backside was up for no debate whatsoever.
“There,” Faramir announced upon his return, dumping at his feet his rangers’ cloak which he had swept about him to save the blushes of the maids. “We are free men, for about an hour. After that, I think baths will be forced upon us.”
Aragorn lay on his back beneath the bedcovers. “Come here before I change my mind and decide what you did was less charming and more impudent than is good for you.”
Faramir meandered over to him, purposefully evasive. “I know what is good for me,” he said, biting his lower lip once again. He sat on the edge of the bed, his back to Aragorn, and looked at him over his shoulder. Aragorn traced the curve of his backside with a finger, lazily.
“I ought to scold you.”
“But you will not.”
Aragorn narrowed his eyes, pursing his lips. “Technically, you yet outrank me.”
Faramir looked sly. “I find it hard, suddenly, to mislike that notion now.” He twisted around, and leant down, kissing Aragorn softly. Aragorn was receptive, yielding, lying back against the pillows as Faramir gently bore down on him; hangover or no, he was not adverse to a little more ‘practise’. Stroking his hair as they pulled apart slightly, Aragorn was thoughtful.
“What happens tomorrow, after the crowning?”
Faramir tilted his head. “A few speeches, the feast; there will be a lull between the two during which you may make anyone a lord of something if you so desire.”
Aragorn smiled, an idea that had been percolating since he had awoken in the night bubbling to the surface. “And you, Faramir, who would not wear the crown; how would you feel about such a thing? How wed are you to Emyn Arnen?”
The younger man shifted off of him, sitting again on the edge of the bed. “To be lord of…” he trailed off, inner debate distracting him. Aragorn propped himself up on his elbows.
“I was thinking on a slightly grander scale, dear heart. How sounds the princedom of Ithilien to you?”
Faramir looked around at him sharply, hair flying. “I cannot be a prince! My family were never royal–”
“Your uncle is a prince of the coastal city. Why not you?”
“I do not think myself worthy of the title–” But Aragorn cut him off once more, uninterested in Faramir’s self-doubt.
“‘Tis settled then; I would far rather a humble prince than any other sort. Between the speeches and the feast, did you say? I shall needs write an edict of my own.” The look of outrage on Faramir’s face went though a number of variations, his mouth forming unspoken words of protest, but Aragorn was not having any of it, pulling him down to lie beside him and wrapping his arms about his chest. Almost sullenly, Faramir finally gave in.
“So be it, then, though I think you are being most unfair.”
“Titles given, land bequeathed, and he thinks it unfair! Don’t be petulant, Faramir.”
“I was not,” Faramir said, giving him an unimpressed look. There was humour in his eyes, however, and affection sure enough in the caress of his fingertips across Aragorn’s cheek. “Thank you.”
Aragorn turned his head, kissing the palm of Faramir’s hand as it ghosted over his jaw. “My real question, however, was of a different sort. After the coronation, after the speeches, the feast, after your ‘crowning’, though if you will not wear a crown I shall have to think of something–”
“I will not wear the crown, but another might suffice–!” Faramir interjected, silenced fondly by Aragorn’s hand over his mouth. His blue eyes watched with curiosity, and Aragorn smiled.
“–…I ask you, Faramir, what happens to us, tomorrow?” He let his hand fall, but Faramir did not speak immediately. “I shall be king, and you, my steward-prince. I think it unwise that we kiss much in public, if you gather my meaning. Or at all, if that is what it comes to.”
“Call me a fool if you wish, but I had rather entertained the notion that this might continue in some way, though I know not how a courtship can proceed if the couple concerned can neither show or speak openly of affection–”
“–unless they are particularly sly about it?” Aragorn was raising an eyebrow in entreaty.
“Perhaps…” Faramir began, then paused. “Do you wish us to…?”
There was a rumble of laughter. “Please tell me your sudden inability to finish a sentence is only a passing affliction, Faramir! Yes, I wish it. Let us travel this road together for a while.”
Faramir ran his hand over Aragorn’s collarbone, his chest, further down over his belly, resting on a hip. “How long is a while?”
“It is a while.”
Faramir seemed to accept that, leaning in to claim a kiss. “Then shall we get to know one another more intimately, before the imminent ablutions?”
Aragorn’s answer was another kiss, deeper this time, his hand sliding upwards along Faramir’s arm to curve around the back of his neck. Faramir settled onto him, the bedcover the only barrier between their naked, awakening bodies. The kiss lasted minutes, searching, tender and lusty all at once. When, eventually, Faramir’s state of excitement became apparent and Aragorn pulled away and nodded toward the crown, still on the sill, eyebrows raised in question, Faramir shook his head and laughed, pulling him close. This kiss was delicate, full of affection. When he drew away his eyes were shining.
“There is such a thing, dear heart, as being over-prepared.”
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