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18 December 2011 | 15183 words
Warnings: Slash, explicit consensual sexual scenes.
Disclaimer: None of these characters or locations belong to me. All written in good fun with no offence intended!
Author’s Note: My challenge was an interesting one, and I hope I have managed to live up to expectations and produced a piece that brings enjoyment! All of the requested words are included, some more than once; I hope I’ve done them justice! Some brief notes; no particular rating was specified in the request, therefore while I have tried to write certain scenes with a little finesse rather than outright smut, to be on the safe side I think this story should be rated NC-17. Also, no preference toward book or movie-verse was stated, so I’ve gone for the latter specifically, although the whole story itself takes place in an AU. Time-frames are a bit loose in this story; the whole thing takes place a good few years after Aragorn’s coronation, with Eldarion having been born well before that. Oh, one more thing (this is just me being a geek!)- normally when writing dialogue between these two I try not to use contractions (can’t/cannot etc), and have a slightly more formal or archaic mode of speech… here though, the use of contractions in the dialogue is purposeful; they are familiar with one another, and they are in private, and I also don’t think that everyone almost spoke so formally in any case, at least not all the time.
Thank you for the lovely challenge, I hope you enjoy the story as much as I did writing it! :)
Written for the 2011 Midwinter Swap.
Request by Mira Took: I would like a story that uses all of the words below. Please include them in a way that is meaningful to the plot or characters or dialogue (i.e. not just “Faramir was overwhelmed by the choice of meats at the feast”). But I’d like them to be inspiration for what you write, not just a challenge to fit them all in, so if you have to skip one to write the story, do that.
As far as the rest of the story goes, pair Faramir with a man or elf to whom he is not related (Aragorn, Legolas, one or both sons of Elrond, whoever you fancy). Please have an ending that is happy or hopeful for the pairing. Please also no abuse within the pairing itself. And the rest is up to you.
Word list (feel free to change “tender” to “tenderly,” etc):
Knelt Face Tenderly Gentle Clasped Servant Helpless Warmth Swiftly Overwhelmed Severed Simply Joy
My dear King,
The autumn leaves have again changed from their festive greenery to an ever increasing shower of gold and red and brown, a carpet of fire that crumbles beneath my feet as I walk the grounds of my modest estate. This morning as I rode through the woodland I recalled once that you compared the auburn of my hair to the flames of the disrobing trees; quite mysterious you were, that day, if I remember correctly, if not outright mischievous. In any case, you will, I hope, agree that it has been far too long since we both walked beneath the eaves of this forest-made inferno, and that is my selfish request; come join me in Ithilien, for I sorely miss your company, and ever harbour mild umbrage at the ranks we each hold that do scheme to separate good friends in the name of the realm. I will await your reply, and as ever fondly remain,
Your humble servant,
“Come, good horse, what has gotten into you?” The Pelennor passed by in a flurry of greens and browns, with the chill of the breeze working its fingers under Aragorn’s collar and weaving into his hair despite the heat radiating from the beast beneath him. Brego seemed in a capricious mood despite his long years, shying at every root and stone and flat-out refusing to ford the most trifling of streams without first sidestepping and dancing in a fury of head-tossing and tail-swishing; at last Aragorn had needed to dismount and lead the horse by the bridle over the merry rivulet, soothing him with soft words and a kiss on the nose. Regaining the saddle and urging Brego onwards, it occurred to Aragorn that perhaps his own quiet anticipation was rubbing off on his faithful mount; long indeed had it been since they last rode this path together, far too long since he enjoyed the good company that was promised at the end of it. He looked up; the day was clear but cold, with no clouds in sight. The land before them was flat and even, and Brego lifted his head and whinnied loudly; an eager promise to behave if he could but run for a while, perhaps to prove that he still had it in him. Aragorn relented, driving him forward, and the pair raced across the meadows and hillocks with a thunder of hoof-beats and the wild cry of joy of a man freed from the trappings of an ordered life.
Dressed in Strider’s garb, not one of the smallfolk he had ridden past had so much as batted an eyelid at him; to the farmer leading his carthorse along the road, or the goodwife and her children herding geese he was but a ranger on his wiles, solitary, respected, garnering perhaps a nod or wave from those who saw him but no more, and Aragorn was glad of that. He had left the city unannounced, leaving word only with his son, the crown prince Eldarion, who was perfectly capable of keeping things running for a few days despite only having just turned eighteen and being more preoccupied with girls than his tutors would have liked. Aragorn smiled to himself as he slowed Brego; his son would be a fine King in due course, for a healthy appetite for life’s pleasures did not preclude him from a successful and fair rule. Besides, Aragorn himself had been much the same at that age, and he would not chastise his son for an eye that roved from textbooks and charters to meet those of fairer prospects. As father and son they were as different as they were alike; Eldarion was tall and dark, with the grey eyes of his ancestors and a scattering of hair on his jaw that he must presumed added to his allure, for he never shaved it off, nor allowed it to grow longer. Otherwise, where Aragorn was, at times and by his own admission, a little staid by necessity, for it would not do for the King to become wildly inebriated at a feast, or to laugh too loudly in the earshot of visiting dignitaries, Eldarion had no such qualms, and by his own charm and good grace did the prince escape the reputation of a rogue; by and large he was forgiven for enjoying his occasional carousing because of his youth and amiable nature. In any case, he was very capable, and Minas Tirith would not fall to ruin in a week, Aragorn was relatively certain.
Upon the King’s shoulders was his old travelling cloak, much mended, with the hood flying back as the wind buffeted him and Brego both. Peace had long since settled itself into the soil of this glorious land but still Narsil glinted at his hip, for even as an anonymous ranger he might still pose a target for an uncouth vagabond wishing to rob him of his horse or any money he might carry. It was a double-edged blade, indeed, the decision to travel incognito; as King he could command respect and obedience, and by his title alone he would be shielded from all but the most determined of assailants. But with the crown came visibility, and he was a target that indeed could not venture forth without a retinue of hangers-on, and on this occasion he did not wish to burden Faramir’s good hospitality with a coterie of followers. No, as Strider he was insignificant, invisible to a point. He could travel and arrive alone, and it was certainly his intention to spend time alone with Faramir. He had not seen his dear friend in many, many months, and in his saddlebag there was the letter his Steward had last sent him, his invitation, and he grew eager now, as the day slipped towards evening and the meadows melted into the light woodland that heralded the sloping borders of Emyn Arnen, to take him up on it.
There was a soft hiss as the taper caught light and Faramir held up a hand, curling his fingers around the flame lest it extinguish itself during the journey from hearth to wick. Successfully lit, the candles around the desk afforded the area a festive aura, but when Faramir sat before them in his chair he was not moved to good cheer. In front of him sat letters from that morning that to which he had yet to reply, but his mind could not focus, and his thoughts were scattered even as he reached now, uselessly, for the light was too erratic, for the quill. None of the missives before him displayed a particular meandering scrawl of which he had become lately very fond; it had been almost a fortnight since he had written to the city and still the King had not replied. It grew ever more likely that either his or Aragorn’s letters had gotten lost, or intercepted, though Faramir could see little reason for the latter. Or perhaps, and the notion bade him abandon the quill and run his hands through his hair in self-chastisement, Aragorn simply did not have the time or energy to acquiesce to his Steward’s whims. Faramir sighed. It had seemed a lovely idea at the outset, and the day he had penned the invitation the leaves outside the window to his study had indeed been the most glorious shades of red-gold, scratching at the windowpanes in the breeze, carpeting the grounds of his home in a fiery sea of sorrel, umber, orange, sun-yellow and rich crimson. Now the tap-tapping leaves had all but fallen from the low hanging limb, and the carpet seemed more threadbare than not, with the pale brown-green of the autumn grass showing through where the wind had gathered up the leaves and taken them, and where his groundskeeper had created a path from gate to door there was a swathe of hard-packed soil and not much else.
In truth, Faramir felt as if severed. He left the White City long ago, and now, though through regular correspondence he managed affairs just as efficiently from his manor in Ithilien, he felt isolated, lonely on the worst days, even though by necessity he was far better situated in his princedom, where the issues of timber levies, the resettling of smallfolk and rebuilding of the villages and farmlands in the fiefdom were firmly under his jurisdiction. His rangers, and the elves here to an extent, also came under his command, and the upkeep of northerly Henneth Annûn, though not as much used in these days of peace, was also his appointed responsibility. He kept an open door; anyone from the surrounding area could call on him and he would hear them out, whether it was a miller seeking discounted lumber to repair the waterwheel, or a meeting of guild leaders to discuss the best way of improving prosperity at the local markets. The villages were as yet small and scattered, few in number, and though Faramir did not wish for the land itself to be trodden by settlement he could neither stand by and force the populace to scratch a living when he himself resided in comfort. Besides, these were people who were still yet returning to their homeland after fleeing from the shadow and he could not constrict what was, by all rights, theirs. Faramir was doing a reasonable job so far, he thought, and needed to write to Minas Tirith less and less; and therein lay the rub.
He was lonely, and now he felt a fool. The letter had not gotten lost. No-one had intercepted it. Aragorn must simply think him presumptuous, to invite him to his home after many weeks of non-communication. Faramir had been so busy, but he realised now that a friendship he had valued so highly was in disrepair, and now he was far too shamefaced to mend it in person. He would remain here, and hope that the King’s displeasure, or worse, amusement at his trifling request, would fade over time.
A strange sound shook Faramir from his sullen reverie; outside, the formerly cloudless sky had become stormy, and now the rain fell as if to quench the entire earth’s thirst. Pushing his correspondence and quill to one side, Faramir rose, hoping that supper might distract him from his melancholy.
Brego was not having it, and Aragorn was ankle deep in sudden mud and in a most rankled mood. The storm had appeared all of an instant, and he had barely had the forethought to press Brego into a canter toward towering oaks before the icy droplets pelted them from on high, and they, man and horse, were miserable within moments. Now, but six feet from the spotty shelter of the barren boughs, Brego had quite literally dug his heels into the mud and refused to cooperate, with no amount of rein-tugging, kind or stern words, promises of apples or the threat of no apples, not ever again, would budge him, and Aragorn gave up on the notion of both a reprieve from the rain and the chance to take the short-cut to a warm hearthside and even warmer company that the copse provided. He supposed he could not exactly get any wetter, and sighed, wringing his hair out and leading Brego back the way they had come, his annoyance at the horse’s now pliant attitude plain in the lines on his face.
They trudged onward across the boggy undergrowth and glistening, battered leaf litter until it seemed they could trudge no more; suddenly, up ahead, a familiar gate-post loomed. Aragorn could have wept for joy. Home, or thereabouts, at last. Soon, through the ceaseless rat-a-tat of rain upon his brow Aragorn could discern the dark but welcoming shape of Faramir’s house, with promising lamplight seeping from the ground floor windows. The house was built upon two floors, sprawling slightly, but modest, with a stone lower-half and a finely crafted wooden-walled upper storey, crowned with sturdy straw-thatch. The forest encroached; trees of ash and poplar ringed the manor and its companion outbuildings, the stables and servants’ accommodation that stood behind the main edifice. Smoke slurred from one of the chimneys, sullied by the rain. Aragorn was almost halfway up the front door-steps when he realised that, practically, bringing Brego in with him was not likely to be wise. Brego agreed, whinnying in his face; he was tired, too. So near, and yet so very far, Aragorn turned and with a soft word of encouragement, lead the soggy stallion toward the rear of the house, through the puddle-strewn yard across to the stables, knowing that unsaddling and rubbing Brego down would be a task he himself must undertake before turning his thoughts toward a nice chair by the fire, for stable-boys were surely indoors at this hour, and even if he was King Aragorn felt that no-one else needed to become as beleaguered with the weather than Brego and he already were. At least the stables were dry, if empty of horses, and Brego lifted his head and neighed once more, glad of the reprieve, before Aragorn began unbuckling the saddlebags and lifting the saddle itself from his mount’s chestnut back, beginning a dusty, hay-scented search for the curry-comb.
Faramir took one step into the larder and paused; was that a horse? He frowned; it was too late for any messengers, saving perhaps some emergency, but when no knock at his door was forthcoming he continued on his way, squinting at the shelves in the low light. Dried meat, a wheel of cheese, apples green and red, a sack of potatoes on the floor by his feet, jugs of cream and milk in the cooler storage at the rear, flour, tea leaves, onions, carrots, salt and a string of smoked sausages jostled amongst other edible articles. Well-stocked as Faramir’s stores were it was for the benefit of his few servants more than anyone else, for his appetite in later months had been strangely lacking. They worked hard for him, and he aimed to be a kind and fair employer, and did not grudge them butter for their bread, or so the saying went. But Faramir often found himself hours into a task, be it the survey of land, or the setting-down of accounts, only to find that hours had passed, sometimes even half the day before his thoughts turned to hunger. Lack of appetite signalled something out of sorts, he knew, but he pushed away the self-analysis when it came calling for he knew it was only loneliness, and there was not about to be a sudden end to that. Reaching for an apple Faramir’s mind returned to the topic of the invitation he had sent, and the hope of reply that had blazed so brightly in the days afterwards, only to dwindle into nothingness as time passed and his insecurity took prominence. The whinny of a horse trumpeted suddenly from outside again, for certain this time, and Faramir stepped out of the larder and crossed to the kitchen window, biting into the pale flesh of the fruit and wiping the juice from his beard with the back of his hand.
In the light from the house it was clear to see that the stable door was wide open. Frowning again, Faramir swallowed his mouthful. His mare was being re-shod, and fitted for new tack; his old saddle was quite dilapidated through use, and he had commissioned a new bridle and bit be made for her also. Therefore, he was, for the moment, horseless, and so the stable door had been kept locked shut, lest the chickens or the cook’s dog get in and begin some mischief. Abandoning the apple on the kitchen table, he opened the back door and peered out into the dreary evening. Nothing else seemed out of the ordinary; perhaps he had forgotten to lock the door properly and it had swung open of its own accord? But that would not explain the ghost-horse that was so suddenly and noisily haunting the yard. Perplexed, Faramir stepped out into the rain, making his way quickly across to the stables, intent on solving this mystery.
Within, the stables were dry and filled with dust-motes, the air infused with the musk of horse and leather. Someone was here, or had been, Faramir ascertained rather quickly. A saddle that was not his own rested against the wall by his feet and the floor was strewn with both straw and hay, as if a particularly stubborn mount had been recently manoeuvred into a stall and the detritus had not been noticed in the gloom. Perhaps the most obvious indicator that something was certainly afoot was the large chestnut head of a well-bred warhorse that peered solemnly over the second-stall door at him, and when Faramir approached, reaching out a hand to smooth its nose, the horse whickered and nuzzled at his palm, and with a jolt Faramir realised it was Brego. It made no sense, Faramir thought, as the beast nipped at his shoulder affectionately. If Brego was here, then that meant…
Jubilation rose up within him, quickly quashed, for it did not seem proper at that moment to become too hopeful, but nevertheless, Faramir could not stop the grin that split his features from alighting on his face. Taking Brego’s head in both hands he kissed the horse’s soft nose and sprang away, skidding on the straw and dashing into the night once more, pausing only to secure the door behind him. Aragorn was here! Surely! But, Faramir thought as he slowed, surely he would have knocked on the door long before now. He would have alerted the stable boys in the servants’ houses that sat at the rear of the yard, and come striding up to the front of the house like he used to do in days too long passed, knocking and entering without ado, embracing Faramir warmly and kissing him hard on the cheek. So quickly did the veils of austerity and rank fall away once past the threshold; times spent together were of two close friends, jovial and at ease, with no mention of sovereignly rights or servitude. Long-missed were those days, and the hope was almost too fragile to cling to.
Shaking the rain from his eyes and the doubt from his mind Faramir made for the front of his home, feet slipping a little in the shallow mud, hoping to catch his good friend on the way, and hoping that indeed it was he who had come and not some messenger on a borrowed steed.
When the stack of missives, letters and slips of parchment upon Aragorn’s desk had finally dwindled to one remaining sheaf, neatly sealed with a familiar emblem impressed into blood-red wax, and with a particular name of his inscribed upon the front in an even more familiar hand, the King had formulated a plan before even sliding his thumbnail beneath the seal to open it. He would surprise Faramir, turn up unexpected, without reply, and the look on his beloved Steward’s face would be the most priceless thing of all. A hearty joke, it would be, to see Faramir walk into his home and find his King by the fire, reading a book, or perhaps seated at the table enjoying a glass of the finest early mulled wine. Of course, even kingly plans on occasion go awry; he had intended on leaving as soon as possible, but with one thing or another pressed upon him he had to postpone his departure, secret as it was, for yet another week and a half, so that by the time he had left Eldarion in secure command of the great city of Men it was almost a fortnight to the day that Faramir had written to him, and he thought, worriedly, that his Prince of Ithilien might think him cold, or ignorant in his silence. The prospect of the surprise, though, only grew, and the gnawing worry that nibbled at his innards on the gallop to Emyn Arnen had slowly transmuted into anticipation; Faramir would laugh handsomely, he was sure, embracing him, slapping him on the back and receiving with good humour as always, the cheek-aimed kiss that was gifted on all reunions.
Now, Aragorn was here, finally, in Faramir’s welcoming and comfortable home. There was only one problem; Faramir himself was nowhere to be found. Puddles, small and large, and soggy, muddied footprints told tale of the path Aragorn had taken from front door to parlour, then to the drawing room, the lounge, the ground-floor study, only to find himself in the kitchen much bemused. There were lamps lit in the house, and the drawing-room fire was blazing quite happily in the hearth; where, then, was his solitary Steward? Not asleep, surely, for it was still early in the evening despite the darkening autumn sky. Aragorn knew too, that his good friend was not the sort to carelessly succumb to the pull of lethargy and leave the lights burning. Hunger prickled suddenly, and his eyes alighted upon an apple that lay upon the table, one bite taken out of it. Aragorn smiled to himself, and then noticed the open back door. About to step out, he paused as the realisation of what was going on seeped into his mind. With a soft laugh to himself, he closed the door, lifted up the apple, and headed back toward the hallway, still dripping.
“Lost something, dear friend?”
The dirt-scattered footprints had had to lead to something, Faramir knew, and there he was, leaning in the kitchen doorway with all the nonchalance in he world, as if he were the host and Faramir the intruder who had traipsed half the soil in Ithilien into the parlour and beyond, leaving the front door wide open too, no less. Before him stood King Aragorn Elessar, much drenched and holding aloft an apple, bite-mark outwards. “This, perhaps?”
It had been six months since he had last seen his King, and Aragorn looked ever the same, tall, rakish, with long, ebon-dark hair that fell now below his shoulders in damp waves. His jaw was unshaven, and Faramir fancied he could see the first faint traces of silvering amongst the whiskers. Grey eyes glittered at him, and Faramir duly fell into the arms that beckoned to him, colliding with the man he had not realised just quite how much he missed so achingly until this exact, perfect moment. He was here, he had come, and he had not forsaken their friendship after all. Aragorn was laughing happily, holding him firmly in an embrace long-awaited. “I did not think you would come,” Faramir mumbled eventually, face buried in a leather-clad shoulder. Aragorn dug the fingers of his fruit-less hand into the hair at the nape of Faramir’s neck, massaging him there with rough affection. The warmth between them was overwhelming, seeping through both men and enveloping them in an aura of safety and wellness. Faramir lifted his head, and Aragorn leant back a little, though reluctant it seemed to relinquish his hold. The fingers crept upwards through Faramir’s hair for an instant, but before anything that could be called tender about the caress could occur he ruffled his Steward’s hair messily, prompting a joyous laugh from the other.
“Why on earth would you think that, my Faramir?” And he leant forward then, the hair-tangled hand shaking free to cup Faramir’s jaw as Aragorn pressed his lips to the opposite cheek. It was tender, this time, but Faramir was too concerned with hiding the sudden flush that crept over his features to notice anything particularly amiss. They broke apart, and stood, regarding one another in the lamplight. Faramir felt as if in a daze, and remembered Aragorn had asked him a question what seemed a hundred years ago.
“You did not reply to my…letter. I thought perhaps you thought me presumptuous.”
“Never!” And with that, and the look of brief hurt that flashed across Aragorn’s face, all doubt fled Faramir’s being, and he felt himself blush even harder with the silliness of it all. The King tilted his head and smiled apologetically. “I admit my plans have gone slightly askew.” He gestured to the front door behind Faramir, still swinging open into the night. “I did not intend on such a game of cat-and-mouse as we have participated in tonight. Nor did I expect to take so long to arrive here. You wrote to me some weeks ago now, but the realm does not like to wait; the things one has to do often take precedence over the things one wants to do, as you may know. Do you want this, by the way?” He held up the apple again, and Faramir shook his head.
“I have already eaten,” he lied, knowing that Aragorn would see through it anyway. Masking his falsehood, he stepped away and closed the front door finally, locking it and cutting off the evening draught that pervaded the hallway and knifed its way into the warmth that existed in the air between and around their damp selves. Aragorn, mid-mouthful, seemed about to point out that a bite of an apple did not constitute a meal when it occurred to Faramir that being seated by an open fire with wine in hand, and more pressingly, clad in dry clothing, might be considered somewhat more clement that his current situation by his King. “Have you something to change into?”
Aragorn gave a sheepish half-shrug. “My saddle-bag sadly fell prey to the ever reaching fingers of the rain.” He gestured to the floor behind Faramir, where his belongings were gathered. “Everything I possess here is soggy, to say the least. I…-” His laugh was a soft bell that resonated within the chambers of Faramir’s heart. “I don’t suppose I might borrow something of yours until my breeches dry out?”
The mental image of Aragorn draped elegantly across an armchair, all long limbed and wind-tousled in his lent clothes momentarily turned Faramir’s innards into writhing snakes and he turned and lifted the saddle-bag from the floor to disguise any further blushes that threatened to flourish. He remembered, and regretted, suddenly, how ‘poetic’ his invitation had been. How presumptuous indeed! Holding the bag in his arms he nodded to the staircase beside them. “Help yourself, of course. I shall lay out your clothes to dry by the fire, and perhaps see about some wine to warm us both?”
Aragorn clapped him on the shoulder as he passed, apple in hand and with a smile both warm and slightly devious. “You’re a good man, Faramir. I shall be only a moment.” He disappeared up the stairs, and Faramir fell into the muggy heat of the sitting room in strange relief. Barely had enough time passed for their reunion to be marked by much more than awkward conversation, but Faramir yet could not catch his breath. Soon, he knew their chatter would ease and things would be as they once were; the most golden of friendships returned to its former shining glory. But at this moment, all he could think about was the way the stray apple-juice had been so deftly removed from the corner of a perfect mouth with the flick of a tongue-tip against dark whiskers, and he felt glad of the weight of the saddle-bag in his hands, for without it he felt fit to float.
Faramir’s room was cold. The largest bedroom of three, it was still not as large as his rooms back in the city which he had long ago forsaken for his woodland haunts, but Aragorn had a suspicion that Faramir much preferred this private sanctum to the apartments he had grown up in in Minas Tirith. He had entered this room once before on his first visit to the then newly finished house, as Faramir guided him on a tour, speaking earnestly of the work he would be able to do here in the midst of his princedom. He had seemed happier then, and though now from their brief encounter Aragorn could not say that Faramir was unhappy, he seemed, in his letters, and on the more and more infrequent occasions when they were in one another’s company, tired, wearied of something that Aragorn could not pinpoint through written interaction alone.
When Faramir’s last letter had come to him, his heart had leapt, though he kept such joys to himself. Eldarion was a man grown, now, and peace had taken root and flourished in the fertile land and in the hearts of the people that populated it. An old fancy nagged at him, unacknowledged.
The Steward’s bedchambers comprised of three rooms; the first, a small antechamber where servants could deposit clean linen or correspondence if such things arrived prior to the Steward’s exit from bed or bath. The bedroom itself was roughly square with a third chamber, a modest bathroom, off to the right. A long window on the opposite wall opened up the room, affording views of the rolling hillsides when the weather cooperated, curtained with floor-length drapes, falling leaves woven in greens and thread-of-gold, the furnishing matched the trees beyond the water-patterned glass. The rain had picked up again, and a jumble of rivulets flowed continuously down the panes to plunge toward the earth from the outer sill. In the centre of the room the bed stood upon four sturdy oak legs; no grand four-poster affair was this, but a simple nest, large enough for two, and Aragorn noted that if Faramir indeed ever shared his bed both occupants would have a pleasant stay; thick blankets spilled over the edges, pooling on the upper-storey floorboards in lakes of midnight blue, soft furs wafted and mountainous pillows tumbled at the headboard. Selfishly, for a moment Aragorn hoped whichever of the two guest rooms he was assigned would have as comfortable-looking a bed as this, and then he frowned, stuck by the curious realisation that in all the years Faramir had resided here, and all the times he as King had preyed upon Faramir’s hospitality, he had never, not once, stayed the night.
His visits had become more sporadic, and it had always seemed that duties were too pressing for more than a flying visit. Faramir had been so gracious, an amiable host, as well as the good friend he had always been, but-…Aragorn ran a hand through his damp hair, and crossed over to the ottoman in the corner, hoping to find something suitable to wear, and to drive from his thoughts the seeping guilt that threatened to flood through him. The clothes-chest was finely carved, at odds with the simplicity of the bed and wardrobe; Aragorn knelt upon the floor to garner a closer look. The lid of the chest was a tableau not of the woodlands and meadows of Faramir’s beloved country, but a starkly designed rendition of the White City itself, tiers and angles and the sharp, knife’s-edge profile. Aragorn was surprised; was this an heirloom? Or was it the one part of Faramir’s old life that his friend did not yet feel able to abandon? Perhaps, Aragorn thought, it had been Boromir’s. How long had it been since Faramir last visited the place of his birth? Months, certainly. Years?
He lifted the lid and began to rummage, carefully, at first, for Faramir’s clothes were all neatly folded, but the topmost ones looked new, and despite Faramir’s kind offer Aragorn felt it a little rude to march downstairs in the Steward’s best attire. Delving deeper in the hopes of more threadbare offerings-the thought of which curled the corner of Aragorn’s mouth, for Faramir in apparel that was not lovingly cared for was an oddly strange image-the King’s fingertips suddenly came up against something papery and not shirt-like at all. With a grunt, for he was by now almost shoulder-deep within the chest, he managed to heave what turned out to be a large handful of carefully folded parchments up and into view. Letters, and many of them, folded precisely and tied in a bundle with a skein of thick string. The thought that he had stumbled upon hoarded notes from a lover struck a bell of alarm within the King, and bade him rush to replace the mysterious missives, but as he turned them in his hand, the topmost sheaf’s broken seal glinted in the soft light from the hallway. Something warm unfurled within Aragorn at the sight of it, and he replaced the letter-bundle as carefully as he could, burying it again beneath layers of cloth. Pausing only to grab the top-most garments, for now surely Faramir must be wondering what on earth he was doing, Aragorn quickly closed the lid of the ottoman and got to his feet, unbuckling his belt, pulling the lacings of his tunic open, throwing off his damp undershirt. His face was flushed, and he felt himself blush further too at the possibility of it all as he shrugged into Faramir’s shirt and shook out his drying hair.
Copies of bylaws, treaties, trade contracts and tax reforms, questions, casual notes of friendship, poetic fripperies he had jotted when the day was done and alone in his chambers he had felt his Steward’s absense all the more keenly; all the letters he had ever written to Faramir, there, in a neat little parcel, tucked away for only one man to see. How curious. Aragorn gave the clothes-chest one last look over his shoulder, before closing the door behind him and slipping quietly down the stairs, feeling unusually buoyant, as if a question never dared broached had now been answered.
Faramir could not stop looking at his King’s face. This was natural, he supposed, when Aragorn was speaking to him, for then he could find excuse to study the way his eyebrows moved, how his smile was never far from his features, how the firelight scattered itself over his high cheekbones and pooled in the hollows of his neck. He was going grey, Faramir decided, but only a little, and only on his chin, and he decided also, privately, that it suited him in a wildly elegant way. But when it was Faramir’s turn to speak, to tell a story, or answer a question, he found it impossible to tear his gaze from those stone-silver eyes that held him so enraptured. Aragorn was watching him too. He sat there, in the chair opposite, reclining comfortably in Faramir’s clothes, a vision of hazy nobility, sharp edges dulled by low light and the heat of the wine. When Aragorn listened he became solemn, still, intent, lifting the glass to his lips and never breaking eye-contact. Faramir found himself trailing off, forgetting utterly what it was he was talking about. He mumbled an apology, and took a long draught of wine, hoping to blame that for his inability to concentrate.
Aragorn smiled sympathetically, raising his own glass in mock-toast. “Careful with that now, else I begin to think you’ve been taking lessons in inebriation from my son.”
Faramir almost choked, swallowing with difficulty and trying to mask it with a soft laugh. “By that remark I take it to mean that your last state dinner did not go as smoothly as you wished? I pray Eldarion did not disgrace himself?”
“Oh, no, no, nothing quite so dramatic, nor catastrophic,” Aragorn was cradling his wine elegantly between the fingers of his hands, marbling the glass with repeated gentle swirls of the blood-coloured liquid. “I think perhaps I need to speak to him, however, and point out the importance of attending the dinner, and not disappearing after twenty minutes citing some minor unnamed emergency, only to be spied by a servant sneaking into one of the gardens with a carafe and lady in tow.” The King shook his head. “Alas, I do believe he is very much his father’s son.”
Faramir raised an eyebrow, looking up as he placed his glass down on the floor beside his chair. “I admit I can’t easily imagine you as the sort to go eagerly, er, ‘romancing,’ especially not when duty is calling.”
“No?” Aragorn looked into the hearth for a moment, and Faramir was gifted with the serene tableau that was his monarch’s noble profile, gilded in fire-glow. “Am I become so staid in my old age?” A sidelong glance at Faramir betrayed any notion of true sincerity; Aragorn was getting drunk, too. Faramir grasped the chance to speak frankly, lest he sober before his courage evaporated. It needed broaching, if not for exploration now then for examination later, when perhaps things would appear clearer.
“I meant only that I find it hard to picture you taking ladies into gardens in your youth when I know you would rather frolic with a gentleman in those same rose bushes.” Aragorn stared at him, a laugh of semi-serious outrage bursting from him like a firework. Faramir squirmed delightfully, reaching for his glass again so quickly, staining his loose tongue red as he swallowed a mouthful.
“Faramir! Good gods! I would surely like to sample your glass if the wine within it produces such an impertinent effect!” He did not deny the remark, as Faramir knew he would not.
“And why would you wish to be more impertinent?”
Aragorn narrowed his eyes, a smile of mock-ruefulness teasing the corners of his mouth. “Perhaps I shall tell you later.”
“Hmm.” Faramir decided to change the subject; he was fairly certain in his steadily more inebriated state that men had been hanged for less cheek. “I am glad you have come, even if the manner of your arrival was a bit…-”
Faramir nodded and then wished he had not. He put the wine-glass on the floor again, the room swimming. Aragorn was watching him again, and when Faramir managed to focus his vision he could see there was a look on his King’s face that he could not quite put a name to; fondness, possibly. Deep fondness. But then again, Faramir was drunk and, he suddenly realised, much wearied by the excitement of the evening. He stifled a yawn, and before he could continue what he originally wanted to say Aragorn leant forward in his chair and put a hand upon Faramir’s knee, interrupting the woozy welter of thoughts that sluggishly jostled within the Steward’s head. “Do not let me keep you up, Faramir. The hour indeed grows late.”
Faramir looked at him, straight at him, and they shared a moment of scrutiny with only the low chuckle of the fire as accompaniment. Aragorn’s hair tumbled down either side of his face, the ends whorled over his shoulders like ebony ribbons. His eyes were stark in the low light, twin stars that twinkled gently in the night sky, with only Faramir as witness, making a study of the younger man, over and over. Faramir swallowed. “I might…show you your room, if you wish. I mean, I shall have to make it habitable; I’m afraid your arrival did catch me a little unprepared.” He smiled at his King sidelong, shyly conscious of the effects of both the wine and Aragorn’s unyielding gaze. “That is, if the hour grows late for you also.”
“You understand me well, as always.” There was a definitely glint in Aragorn’s eye, something transient, foreboding even, but not malevolent. “I think the journey has taken it out of me a little; I would be grateful for a bed, though to be parted from your company so soon is a sore sacrifice.” Faramir felt the heat rush even more stringently to his cheeks as they rose; turning from the other man to set aside their wineglasses upon the mantelpiece he swallowed down hard the miasma of drunkness in the hopes that he would be able to traverse the staircase without embarrassment. Together they had finished off one carafe and half-drunk a second, but something else was playing with his senses here, something he dare not name.
They ascended, Faramir first with lamp in hand, and came to the first of two doors side by side in the upper hallway. “This room I am afraid will not be suitable,” Faramir said, reaching forward to open the door and allowing Aragorn a quick glance at the interior. Many chests, spilling over with books, rolled parchments and maps littered the floor and bureau in an organised jumble. The bed itself had no blankets, nor pillows, and the same curtains that were so magnificently draped in Faramir’s own bedroom lay folded upon the mattress, awaiting usefulness. Faramir sounded embarrassed. “When I moved here I underestimated quite how many posessions I actually, er, possessed. It seems with every messenger that comes from the city a portion of my library is sent with him. I certainly did not ask for these endless deliveries, so it is quite the mystery.”
Aragorn stepped back from the doorway and put a hand upon Faramir’s shoulder, lip bitten in a most uncharacteristic expression of sheepishness. “I thought it would make you feel more at home, seeing as you were disinclined to visit the city yourself.” He let his hand drop, and stood there as Faramir first gaped at him and then began to laugh in disbleief.
“You! You have been sending me these endless tomes?” Aragorn nodded, and Faramir bent over to one of the nearest boxes and lifted the topmost book. “But half of these I don’t even recognise!”
“Well, we were reordering the libraries and there was some surplus of books that had no place…I didn’t think you’d notice. I thought you’d like them.”
The King sounded almost apprehensive, as if Faramir would suddenly fly into a rage at this inconvenience, but Faramir registered the fog of warmth that coursed throughout his innards with a smile that disarmed Aragorn entirely, for the King opened his mouth again to say something, but no words came forth. Faramir closed the door, and they stood in the hallway together, their shadows stretching up to the ceiling, dancing in the flicker of the lamplight. “That was very kind of you,” Faramir said quietly, before brushing past Aragorn gently and quickly reaching for the next door lest the King see the wonder in his face.
Faramir’s hair looked like pale gold in the dimness of the doorway, the wavering light from the lamp he carried only hinted at the auburn that glinted throughout his tousled waves. It hung at its longest length parallel with the topmost angle of his shoulder blades, and Aragorn was just wondering how long Faramir had been growing it out when he was suddenly granted a far closer experience of it than expected, walking almost face-first into Faramir from behind as the other halted quite abruptly on the threshold.
Aragorn steadied himself with a hand on Faramir’s back, and looked into the room over the Steward’s shoulder. As he did, Faramir sank back against him slightly, and the King was afforded a view of what made Faramir so suddenly despondant.
The room was steeped in shadows, but still, Aragorn could quite clearly see where the rain had found a way through a poorly joined cornice; the bed sat sodden with a large pool of water beneath it, the mattress quite ruined. No-one would be sleeping here tonight. Aragorn tried to make light of it. “When you mentioned making it habitable I do hope you were thinking of something other than bringing me a pan to catch the water?” Without thinking, his hands came to rest in the inward curves of Faramir’s slim waist, but the other man pulled away, striding to the bed and looking up at the offending damp patch in the ceiling with an expression of the utmost frustration. Aragorn loitered for a moment before joining him, standing well apart. “At least your books are safe and dry, next door.” But Faramir was chewing his lip, untouched by Aragorn’s attempt at appeasing his concern. The Steward reached up to the faulty corner, a vain attempt to halt the water streaming through the plaster-work with a sweep of his fingers. When he looked at the King finally, his eyes were full of sadness, and Aragorn found himself taken aback by it.
“I did not know this would-…” Faramir scratched at his neck, uncharacteristically shy. He laughed, almost bitterly. “I am a poor host.”
“Do not think I blame you for the rain, Faramir!” Aragorn laughed too, but in disbelief, Faramir, however, would not be soothed and seemed quite troubled, though the King dared not enquire yet as to why, in particular.
At his words the Steward gave him a look of such isolated woe that Aragorn felt moved to clasp Faramir’s hand in his own, bringing it to his lips to kiss, a gentle comfort from a friend. But Faramir again pulled away, stepping from the King to stand before the window and lean upon the sill with both hands as the rain cast unnatural shadows on his fair features in the new moonlight. “I invite you here, and I do not even take the care to ensure you have proper lodgings.”
“I did not reply to your letter, Faramir. The fault is mine.”
“You don’t understand…I wanted-” But when Aragorn waited, Faramir clammed up, looking outward over the stable-yard below with a sullen air. Then suddenly, Faramir lowered his head to his hands; Aragorn thought for a ridiculous moment he was weeping, but the younger man merely dragged his hair back from his face and looked up at him, smiling weakly. “Forgive me, I think I am drunk.”
“Well, you would not be the first man to admit that.” Aragorn smiled gently, stepping toward him. “I think, perhaps, that the best thing would be for you to go to bed; let us get a pan for the water after all, and I will retire to the settee in the sitting room. We can see to repairs together in the morning, if you like.”
Outrage painted itself upon Faramir’s face. “I couldn’t possibly!” he exclaimed, and at Aragorn’s raised eyebrow, added, “Let you sleep downstairs, I mean. Do not even think it.” He shooked his head, perhaps in attempt at sobering himself. “You will have my bedchamber, and I shall sleep down below. ‘Tis only right, as guest you should not be shunted off to make the best of the soft furnishings. “
“I will not oust you from your bed, Faramir. Guest or not, I am your friend and I would not usurp you.”
“Well then, what is the solution? Unless we should both curl up by the fire.” Faramir affected the mildly smug air of someone who thinks they have won an argument, and Aragorn had to hide his amusement; secretly the gladness he felt rising within him at this unexpected show of the Faramir he knew and loved as a friend so many years ago was something he found hard to contain. Dare he think it, but Faramir earlier had been austere, a little awkward, and though at first he had put it down to the manner of his arrival in the Steward’s home, even after they had wiled away an hour or two before the fire still Faramir’s guard remained up. The invitation had been written with such tenderness Aragorn thought, why then, the fear?
He raised a finger. “I have an idea that you may, or may not, like.” Faramir nodded, listening, though his gaze kept sliding toward the ever growing puddle at his feet. “We cannot both, feasibly, sleep before the fire. Neither can we decide who is to be relegated to the chaise longue. I admit I am also feeling the…effects of the wine, and therefore don’t particularly feel inclined to heft your collected works of literature around the room next door. This room, I feel, is suitable only for a fish to sleep in. So,” he said, folding his arms. “There is, I can see, but one answer to our predicament.”
“Pray tell, Aragorn.” Faramir was amused, he could tell, by the way hs eyes glittered and the corner of his mouth threatened to curve upwards. Aragorn smiled back at him, trying to gauge Faramir’s reaction to the words he next spoke.
“Simple. We shall both sleep in your bed.”
He had written the letter because the dreams would not stop. They had begun years ago, a strange, sporadic occurance, now and again leaving him wakeful in a state of both comfort and confusion. In the beginning, he could barely remember them, with only a lingering feeling of safety, of wanting, of need that ebbed slowly from his conscious mind. Slowly, the dreams became more regular; twice or thrice a week he would emerge from the tumult of his bed sheets with a warm sensation in his innards, and a head full of half-memories, though they were not memories at all. The dreams became clearer, and the images he saw while somnolent stayed with him; the curve of a calf, long fingers that trailed across his belly, cool lips that pressed against his ear. It was not as if he lay there submissive, either, for in these night-time sojourns he was just as participatory, reaching out to cup a cheek, to kiss a mouth pliant and willing, to pull the other atop him, crying out for an urge to be fulfilled. They were initially anonymous, a dream-lover that he found both mystifying and enticing until he almost looked forward to the hours of darkness that heralded their reunion; soon, though, the dreams became even more precise, the lover more recogniseable, and it was then that Faramir began to fret. The lover’s face would come into half-focus, enough for Faramir to see a sharply-angled jaw, high-cheek-bones and a straight nose. The lover’s long hair was dark, and from beneath it steel-grey eyes gazed coy and incandescent. From the very first instance Faramir had known the other to be a man, but now he knew which man, though he could not fathom this magnetism.
If Faramir was truly, utterly honest with himself, he would say that living within Ithilien, instead of taking care of it from afar, was only part of the reason he left the White City. The dreams had faded in the months that followed his departure, as his mind was filled up with thoughts of woods and supplies and rebuilding, farmland, foresters, mills. Little time had he for contemplation of his romantic life, and he took no lovers, real or imagined, for a long time.
He had almost completely forgotten his unconscious yearning, that half-lust that was so intolerable, until a few months before finally penning his invitation to Aragorn in a fit of frustration and desperate curiosity. Awaking in the midst of the night, hardly able to catch his breath, he had seen only one face in his mind, and had reached down to find himself stiff and aching below. He had to know; afterwards, he had risen, and lit the lamp, and written the letter. He was ashamed, but still his curiosity was the stronger force. Tonight, the worst part was that he could not decide whether he was drunk or imagining things. Aragorn was certainly very amiable this evening and Faramir could not help but feel, despite the wine, that Aragorn was acting differently around him, more amiable, if that was possible.
In any case, he had protested, feebly, fumbling through ever foggier options as he tried to think of an alternative to Aragorn’s suggestion. They could not share the bed; it would not be proper, not with Aragorn unaware of Faramir’s ludicrous and wayward thoughts. Faramir knew he could hardly control these subconscious forays into a world he had never dared to explore; he had wondered with growing horror what would happen if he were to sleep with Aragorn right there beside him, and his argument became louder if not more convincing. But it was too absurd, and he was too drunk, and so Aragorn had steered him out of the rain-filled room toward his own chambers, whispering witticisms into his ear all the way. If Faramir had not been so plastered he might have said the King was flirting with him in his own way, but that was surely impossible. He knew of Aragorn’s preference as did most, but still Faramir’s nocturnal meanderings remained a source of both illicit pleasure and subsequent pain, the shame notwithstanding. Aragorn did not know of his desires, if indeed, Faramir knew them himself.
Faramir somehow got into bed without incident, and now sat upright, covers pulled to his chest, while Aragorn made rather a show of getting ready to turn in. The King seemed to be handling his inebriation well, save for the occasional stagger, and a good long time spent navigating his way out of Faramir’s borrowed shirt. Eventually, he slid beneath the covers, lying on his side facing Faramir and looking up at him.
“Are you not going to sleep?”
The simplicity of the question caught Faramir off-guard, and he struggled for a reply before giving up and shuffling down onto his back. The blanket he pulled higher, shoulder-height, arms folded atop it. Aragorn’s low chuckle reverberated through him, and a warm palm molded itself to the curve of his upper arm. Faramir turned his head to regard the oval of his King’s face illuminated in the curtain-stifled moonlight. “What is it?” he whispered, swallowing down sudden anxiety.
Aragorn tightend his grip for a beat, then released him, rolling over and presenting his back to the Steward. “Goodnight, Faramir.”
He lay cloistered in a cocoon of comfort; sparkling motes of light suspended themselves before his eyes, his breath was deep and slow, and the hand that lay upon him delicate in its movement. He was awake, but just barely, eyes roving beneath lids that were unwilling yet to open. The hand lay flat on his belly, fingers curling in gentle movements, nails scraping the skin around and below his navel, spreading out to fan against the dark hairs that led to his groin. Aragorn murmured a name, but there was no answer. The hand slid lower. Fingertips became braver. Blood rushed and muscle tensed. Aragorn inhaled sharply, through his nose, biting his lip, his flesh stirring and stiffening below as feather-deft touches were administered upon it. He could not lie here in passivity any more; opening his eyes, he turned his head, lifting his hands to grab hold of the one he thought would never see him in this light…
Joy extinguished itself in the cool listless haze of pre-dawn light. Faramir lay on his front, head turned away, snoring into the pillow softly. His freckled shoulders were bared to the world, criss-crossed with faint scars, broad and finely muscled. Aragorn looked at him for a bleary moment. A dream, that was all. Faramir would never touch him so tenderly, or at all. Sighing, Aragorn settled back against the pillow, the cold lead that settled in his belly offset only by the heat in his groin that still radiated from the unconscious world into reality. He stared upwards, pursing his lips in thought. Seeing Faramir agan after so long was a wonderous gift, his closest friend, now not so close, if only by physical distance. If Faramir had not written to him he would have come anyway; too long now had he nursed the fear that they were growing apart, fading from friendship in a quiet, unnoticed way, until one realises they have not seen the other for too long for their eventual forced meeting to be anything other than politely awkward, as old reminices and shared memories fail to recapture that which has been lost. Faramir had always been there, beside him. He had been the first to know, after Eldarion had settled in the city and life became suddenly so much easier than before, Faramir had been the first person to know the whole story, of how the King’s former marriage had ended in parting, but not before a legitimate heir had been born. Everyone knew this, of course, and no debate was held over Eldarion’s blood-claim by anyone, but Faramir was the first to know the reason for the breakdown of Aragorn’s union with his son’s mother.
His good Steward had accepted it with little more than a briefly raised eyebrow, and things went on as they had previously. Aragorn had, in the beginning, toyed with the idea of courting Faramir; he had pictured him as a lover, and imagined what it might be like to kiss him, to sleep with him, to love him. But Faramir had made it obvious, if not explicit, that he was not so inclined, and Aragorn had ceased immediately his gentle forays into that unexplored future. No longer would his hand stray toward Faramir’s fingers beneath the table, nor his gaze linger to long a time upon those kind eyes or that beaten red-metal hair. Aragorn would have come to Ithilien, uninvited, if need be, because of a heartsore need for his friendship, and no more. But seeing Faramir again, rain-damp, and thinner that he remembered, but hale and hearty and unchanged had set alight a silly fancy within Aragorn’s chest. Foolish and unfair, his subconscious mind seemed set on slighting him with images of an idea long since put aside.
But those letters, so carefully preserved and tucked away from the world amidst Faramir’s apparel…
Aragorn sat up and looked over at his slumbering companion. So kind was he, to offer his bed. And then, Aragorn remembered, he had not.
Looking down, he saw, as well as felt, his hard flesh pushing up against the smothering blankets. He could hardly sleep now, but seeing to this situation in the bed was not exactly polite. One last time, Aragorn thought, shifting, he would slip to the bath chamber, and for one last blessed moment he would permit himself to picture the man beside him as he touched himself, and afterwards, put away forever the notion, and look elsewhere for completion. He had not, after all, thought of Faramir in that way for a long time. Reward, then, for his diligence in that particular abstinency.
The bath chamber door was ajar, and not too far for a quick jaunt in his smallclothes; Aragorn slid from the bed and began his brief journey. At that moment, Faramir called his name.
Aragorn froze mid-step, hand flying to protect his modesty, though from any angle it was clear he was aroused, no matter how deft his concealement. Again Faramir said his name, softly still, sleep-slurred, questioning. Aragorn made a face, praying that Faramir spoke in his dreams, but it was not to be. Looking over his shoulder, not daring to turn, he saw his Steward half-sitting amongst the pillows, looking across at him with heavy-lidded eyes. Aragorn gave him a tight-lipped smile. “Did I wake you?”
“No, I…” Faramir frowned. “I thought I dreamt…” He paused again, embarrasment flourishing in his voice. “You are going to the-…forgive me, I shall let you proceed.”
Oh, what a blessed chance of escape! But Aragorn knew now he could hardly go forth and carry out what he had planned, not with Faramir awake and waiting in the other room. Nor could he feasibly sit in the bathroom until his body decided to behave itself. Faramir as a fellow man would surely understand, he thought, but still it was with the utmost mortification that he half turned, gesturing awkwardly with a nod of his head to the arm that currently crossed his body, the hand that covered a certain part of himself. “My apologies dear friend, but I seem to have found myself in a bit of a situation. I thought it best to…deal with it elsewhere.” Better to be honest, he thought, no matter how scandalous.
A fleeting, unnameable emotion crossed Faramir’s face, then was gone. His Steward looked up at him with eyes that held a question. His hair was a half-flattened confusion of copper curls, twisted strands that brushed against his cheeks and jaw. In the poor light it was hard to tell if Faramir was looking at him coyly, or if the shadows were playing with the angles of his face to make it appear so. Faramir lifted a hand, beckoning to him. His lips parted, and the words were but a whisper. “Will you come back to bed?”
Aragorn swallowed, and wavered on the spot. “I’m not sure.”
“Why not?” There was soft hurt in Faramir’s voice, ill-sounding coming from that pretty mouth. Aragorn felt ill.
“Because…I’m in no state. I’m sorry Faramir, I wouldn’t do that to you.”
Swiftly, so swiftly that Aragorn almost lifted his hands to halt him, Faramir kicked off the covers and leapt from the bed, striding over to his King and placing his hands upon the older man’s shoulders. He was biting his lip, and Aragorn looked at him with a mixture of bewilderment and horror on his face. He became so very aware of the stiffened flesh that not covered by his hand might dare broach the distance between them. Faramir’s hands slid down his upper-arms, fingers curling around his elbows, moving lower, until with gentle encouragement he lifted the King’s hands from his body and clasped them in his own. Without a word he began to lead Aragorn back to the bed, stepping carefully, not looking back until the rears of his calves hit the mattress and contact was broken as Faramir turned to seat himself upon it. Aragorn reeled, cast adrift in a sea of confused longing. He almost reached for Faramir’s hand again, but stopped himself, aware of how every part of him seemed to be on fire, not least his cheeks. Faramir refused to look at the clothed flesh that jutted at eye-level so urgently in his direction, instead turning his face upward, looking upon his King with mysteriously muted joy.
“Who did you dream of?”
He had gone insane, but it would be alright. The dream, again, of course, prompting him to awaken this time before his body reacted, pushing him into the conscious world in time to see his King tip-toeing across the room in his smallclothes with a very obvious-
But they were not his smallclothes, were they? From somewhere unknown Faramir summoned courage, fearlessness, spontaneity in the face of the most terrifying; now was the moment, to take his King’s hands and tell him, somehow, that maybe, perhaps, despite what he had indicated in the past, he might just have grown to care about Aragorn in a way that was not uttered too publicly. Whether or not the King was also wearing borrowed underwear was to be neither here nor there, a delightful shock, that was all, one that sent a shiver of electric excitement through Faramir. He had to act now, before it was too late and he found himself standing at the gates as the King faded ever more quickly into the distance, unasked and untouched.
He could not bear it, not knowing.
“Who did you dream of?”
Aragorn was facing him, bare knees almost brushing the overhanging edge of the topmost blanket. Faramir shifted onto his knees, kneeling before his King in a way he had never done before. No show of deference was this, but an entreaty. Aragorn’s face was unreadable, hung with shadows that drew out the sharp angle of his jaw and made his cheeks and eye sockets hollow and skull-like. His hair cascaded like a waterfall of ink, and his tongue flicked out over his bottom lip in a way that sent a rivulet of ice down Faramir’s spine. Faramir dared not look down, and then he did, unable to stop himself from taking the briefest of glances. Aragorn’s arms hung at his sides, concealing nothing, and Faramir could see the outline of his cock pushing up hard against the cloth of his borrowed under-breeches. Faramir met his eyes again and breathed in, not daring to guess whom it was that so inspired such a reaction in his King’s body, although within him there flickered a hope.
Silence, and then, suspended in the darkness, a word.
Closer, closer. His hand floated between them, and then Faramir for the first time felt the smooth heat of the King’s skin beneath his palm. It rested there, on Aragorn’s waist, and the two men looked at one another as this new aspect of their relationship was tested. The light was still too low to be called dawn, but Faramir could see the King’s ribs moving beneath his flesh as the breath thundered in and out of Aragorn’s flaring nostrils, controlled, restrained for now. Faramir’s own lungs burned, but he could not pant, or gasp, for any sudden movement seemed fit to shatter this precious moment. He moved his hand upwards, flattening it, fingers moving over the muscle of Aragorn’s chest, calluses catching on the dark hairs that scattered themselves there. They as men were so different, dark against fair, and Faramir could see Aragorn’s fingers twitching as he fought the urge to reach out, to touch him, or to halt him, he was not certain.
He could not now bear the thought of the latter, so he reached up, up, his hand moulding to the curve of Aragorn’s neck, sliding into the hair at the nape, pulling him downward so slowly, inch by inch, until the King was leaning over him at such an angle that he must now move his arms to support himself on the bed. Faramir looked up at him, arm now draped around Aragorn’s shoulders, holding him there. Aragorn gazed back, eyes bleary and softened by arousal, but there was tenderness there, and the Steward thought he recognised disbelief. Faramir could not be sure this was a good idea, but he had to do one thing before finding out. An eternal age of the earth passed, during which a single, long lungful of air seeped from Faramir’s body like mist, before he moved his head to brush his lips against his King’s as delicately as a raindrop upon glass. Aragorn blinked, and then Faramir tilted his head again and kissed him, properly, pressing his mouth hard against Aragorn’s, finding the sharpness of stubble an exotic sensation against his skin.
Almost as soon as it began, so it ended. Aragorn pulled away and straightened, Faramir’s arm falling back to his side like a dead weight. Worry, a needle of anxiety sliced through the younger man’s body. Fear too, and sudden sadness, that he should have so brief a honeyed taste of happiness only for it to be snatched from him before he could etch its sweetness into his memory.
“You mustn’t do that, Faramir.”
He felt like to be ill. Faramir stared at Aragorn’s navel, unable to look lower or higher, and wanting to crumble into dust and disappear on the breeze. Somewhere within he found a despondent voice that may once have been his own. “Do what?”
From the top of his field of vision a hand descended, two long fingers extended underside-up to fit beneath his chin and lift it so that a grey gaze could overwhelm him with the kindness and love it held within its infinite depths.
“You must not kneel before me. I forbid it.” Aragorn tilted his head to the side as his thumb caressed the edge of Faramir’s beard. A silky strand of hair fell loose and curled against the King’s cheek. “In title you are my servant, but not in my bed.” He smiled. “Or yours.”
Faramir opened his mouth and closed it again, Words would not come, and he could feel a frown pickle his forehead, but all was suddenly lost to him, as Aragorn grasped him not ungently by the shoulders and pushed him back onto the bed, clambering after him, erection still very much evident. Faramir barely had the wherewithal to slither backwards, stretching his legs out and letting his head fall against the rumple of blankets before Aragorn covered his body with his own, leaning down and dusting Faramir’s cheeks with his hair as he sought another kiss. Faramir’s eyes were wide, the King’s body a warm, solid weight upon him, the hard muscle that so dug into his thigh an illicit promise. Faramir felt his own body stir, and he closed his eyes, letting Aragorn’s hot tongue slide beneath his own with a moan, letting their hips grind tentatively, and soon he was lost to the world, if there indeed was anything that existed outwith the perimeter of his King’s encircling arms. If there was, it could carry on without him, for a while at least.
“Do you want these back? I suppose it was impertinent of me.” At Faramir’s questioning look, Aragorn gestured toward his waist and the stolen smallclothes, offering him a hangdog grin in attempted recompense. Faramir laughed from beneath him, a glorious rumble that resonated through them both.
“I think I can forgive your cheek, considering.” Faramir’s arms lay looped across the dip of Aragorn’s back; the King still lay atop him, their legs intertwining like the roots of two trees, two sets of lips reddened by the passion of their kisses and the coarseness of their be-whiskered faces. Faramir’s hair lay spread out beneath his head like a halo of wildfire, or a crown; a circlet of beaten copper for the Prince of the wild marches.
Aragorn supported himself on an elbow, digging the fingers of his opposite hand into the tousled hair at the base of Faramir’s head. The Steward closed his eyes, tilting his face upwards to allow him access, and Aragorn duly pressed further, massaging Faramir’s neck, pulling gently at a fistful of hair and letting it slip between his clenched knuckles slowly. “I knew you liked that,” he said, repeating the action, and Faramir made a ‘Mmm‘ sound in encouragement. Aragorn smiled, performing the old affectionate caress again, up until now little more than a rough, half-meant gesture enacted upon greeting, before bringing his hand up to cradle Faramir’s face, leaning down to kiss him tenderly. When they parted, Aragorn dared a grin. “I shall be removing them soon enough, in any case.” At this, Faramir twisted and slid from under him, prompting Aragorn to shift onto his side so that they lay facing each other in mirrored positions, not quite touching. At once, Faramir’s lowered gaze struck a note of fear into Aragorn’s heart; he had misspoken, moving too fast and spooking Faramir with his assumption. It was all still a most unexpected, though not unwelcome, mystery; he had spent a long time trying to force thoughts of Faramir in this way from his mind, and had succeeded for the most part, and now, after rebuffing him so steadily in the past, here his Steward lay before him, having just kissed him so longingly, having just hooked a leg over his King’s side to hold him atop him, pushing himself upwards as their tongues writhed. Awkwardly, he reached across and placed his hand on Faramir’s arm. “Forgive my loose tongue.”
Faramir took Aragorn’s hand in his own, studying it. “Hush,” he said, with a twinkle in his pale eyes, that he should say such a thing to his King sparking amusement between them both. He lifted the older man’s hand, turning it in order to leave a memory of his lips against the wrist. A coy gaze regarded the King between strands of wildfire. “You must think me dishonest.”
Aragorn frowned. “Have you ever lied to me, Faramir?”
The Steward’s eyes glinted again. “Once. A long time ago.” Again he turned the King’s hand, pressing it palm-flat against his chest. “When I told you that my heart would never seek you in this way.” His mouth twisted in a half-smile. “If you will forgive the needless poetry of my words.”
“What now bade you seek me on this night? Aragorn wanted to draw his hand away, unsure of Faramir’s intentions, but the younger man’s heart beat thudded against his palm, and he found he could not.
“I dreamt of you.”
“Every night, my King. Almost every night.”
The glue that so melded Aragorn’s hand to firm, heart-thudding muscle dissolved, and he let his hand fall between them, fingers curling into a loose fist reflexively. “There is something you should understand.” Faramir was watching him, quiet, waiting, and Aragorn took a breath, wishing, not for the first time this evening, that his body would behave itself; his erection seemed poised to undermine every word he was about to say. He persevered, hoping that the arousal he thought he saw from the corner of his eye flourishing between Faramir’s legs was just shadow-trickery; he needed to be able to hold onto some sense of decorum for it least five more minutes before letting the chaos of desire pull him under. He swallowed. “I’ve spent a long time pretending I was not attracted to you, Faramir. In the beginning, well, you knew of my intentions, I dare say. Optimism, on my part, I think. When you rejected me, gently, of course, as only you would, I accepted that, and tried to forget you were ever anything other than my friend.” He did not say servant, but he was sure Faramir heard it in his mind. The Steward lowered his gaze, listening. “Perhaps ‘pretending’ is the wrong word. I am attracted to you, and I always have been, as you might have guessed tonight.” He nodded toward his stiffened flesh, and though Faramir did not meet his gaze his face contorted into the expression of one who fights fond laughter. Sobering, the King reached for Faramir’s hand now, and, clasping it gently, spoke firmly. “Do not play with me, Faramir, I beg of you. A lie I can forgive if it is the one that falls in my favour, but if you lie to me now, about these dreams, about your desire, or I should say, your intentions, for I can see as well as any man you are not un-lusty, nor unresponsive; if you are drawn to me on a whim tonight I would beg you tell me now, so that I may leave with my pride and heart untarnished.”
It hurt to accuse, to suspect Faramir of any false action, and indeed the frown that graced Faramir’s features struck Aragorn as deeper than one of confusion; he had questioned his friend’s honour, something he had never had cause to do before. They had been too long apart, and the letters and visits dwindled, but it was not for lack of love between them, and the fruit of their friendship ever ripened in the weeks of silence. And Aragorn trusted Faramir, and knew he did not need to ask these things, but still the capricious anxiety within him spoke with his tongue. Faramir’s voice was low when he responded, a tilt of the head ensured a silky shield of auburn between himself and his King. “I promise that when I said that I had lied to you only once, I was speaking the truth. It was no whim that guided my quill to entreat you to come here, just as it was no passing fancy that I lead you with both hands to my bed.” He glanced at his hand in Aragorn’s. “I could not accept your advances back then, as elegant as they were, and as flattering. There were too many reasons, not all of them personal.”
Curious, Aragorn interrupted. “Will you elaborate, though it may pain me to hear them?”
Faramir flicked his hair over his shoulder with a toss of his head. The way his nightshirt was falling open at the collar gave him a roguish, debonair quality, and Aragorn felt his blood rush south; he prayed silently that this would end with Faramir in his arms, but he knew he must be patient. “I would hope they do not pain you, and also that you might agree with them. Eldarion was too young,” he continued frankly, shaking his hand free of Aragorn’s and running his fingertip along a dark-haired forearm. “I thought it unseemly at the time, to accept your advances when your son’s mother was still in his life, even if she was not in yours. And in later years, after her departure, I felt it too late to go back and change things, too late to start anew, especially with city opinions whispered in my ears. You know how it is.” Aragorn nodded; when it crept out that their King was not likely to take a Queen there had been little open outrage, but still lingering mindsets were hard to shift. “I felt it might’ve been a little too much for it to be revealed that both the sovereign and his second-in-command were, ah, pressed from the same mold, as it were.” He did not need to provide the addendum; discovering that King and Steward were closer than they ‘ought’ to be would have been shaky to say the least, in those early days.
“Attitudes have changed, Faramir. There is acceptance, where there once was outcry, or shame. Whether that is down to myself I know not. But I do not hide, as you know, and no-one has challenged me, or my views.” There was another unspoken sentence that hovered between them; like as not, attitudes had softened toward the King’s personal life because of the existence of Eldarion. With an heir, the line was safe, and Aragorn may do as he pleased.
Faramir leaned closer, tilting his head to press a sweet smile onto Aragorn’s mouth. When he spoke his beard tickled Aragorn’s lips, when he blinked their eyelashes almost touched. “I hope so, I hope they love you as much as you deserve. And as much as I do.”
“Why now, Faramir?” The King’s whispered words lit pale fires behind the younger man’s half-shuttered eyes. “You said it was too late.”
“Time away has given my thoughts room to flow. I may have erred, but it is too late to change the past.” He looked up at the King with hope. “I am lonely, Aragorn. I don’t want to be lonely any more.”
Aragorn pulled him close, gathering him in his arms and slinging a leg over his waist; a little over-zealous, perhaps, but Faramir only laughed and pushed himself nearer. “I shall make it, then, my solemn duty to ensure you are never lonely again.” They shared a soft smile, and a hard kiss.
In the end, it was Faramir who retrieved the pilfered clothing himself, hooking fingertips over the waistband and sliding them downwards as Aragorn lifted his hips, kicking them away into the unknown once they were past his knees. Faramir’s pulse quickened, and his body’s blood-torrent, southward-bound, was palpable. He stiffened, his cock tenting the fabric of his own smallclothes at the sight of his King before him, bared utterly to him and him alone. He hardly dared touch him, but his hand found Aragorn’s hip and navigated upwards, finding refuge for his fingers in the corrugations of his ribs.
“Your turn,” Aragorn all but rasped, and Faramir sat back, shrugging out of his shirt, all elbows, a mouthful of his own hair. He laughed, tossing the crumpled garment off the end of the bed, and looked at Aragorn through a mass of red-gold curls. A hand stretched toward him, fingers splayed. Faramir wondered what the King would think of him, worried even, that he would find him unappealing now that the layers of role-defining cloth had been shed. But Aragorn only gazed at him with cool-burning eyes, the teeth-marks left on his lower lip fading as he opened his mouth to claim Faramir’s, pushing the younger man onto his back and straddling him on all fours, gentle but firm. When they broke apart, Faramir dared a look. The King was not un-gifted, and Faramir was struck with thoughts of touching and tasting, though he dared not think of the King doing those things to him in return for fear of spending himself too early. From above, Aragorn’s voice drifted down to him, “What pleases you so?”
“You.” And with that, Faramir’s fingers and thumb encircled a heated hilt, curling around the circumference as they stroked upwards slowly, ending with a sweep of a thumb across the tip that made Aragorn’s thighs buckle.
“Wait,” Aragorn shifted, the reluctance shaking in his voice. Faramir’s hand dropped to his belly and he looked up. “Let me touch you,” came the rasp again, and Faramir lay pliant as seeking hands went slithering across his chest and stomach slowly, avoiding his groin so nonchalantly as to be quite obvious. He was drawing it out, and Faramir felt himself fall into a stupor of lust that enveloped him like steam. He could barely respond, the moans that fell from his lips low and unrehearsed. When gentle digits skated down either side of his chest there was a fond rebuke for him. “You need to eat more than apples, dear friend. I can count your ribs from here.”
Faramir shrugged, the effort almost too much for the torpor his body sank into. “I have no appetite…” But finishing the sentence was beyond him, and Aragorn seemed little deterred by the protuberance of his ribcage in any case. The hands moved lower, tumbling over the cliffs of his hipbones. Aragorn shifted, kneeling between Faramir’s open legs. A kiss he printed upon the Steward’s stomach, his navel, below, then a wet tongue traced the coppery hairs that led downwards. Faramir’s breath hitched as Aragorn’s stubble tickled him, and a ‘hmmh‘ of amusement drifted up to him. Then, and in his surprise Faramir almost boxed the King’s ears with his bent knees, Aragorn buried his head between his thighs and kissed him there, through the cloth of his smallclothes, playfully brief, with a flash of straight teeth and sparkling eyes as the King looked up at him from over the arc of Faramir’s concealed arousal.
“Up,” Aragorn said, sitting back slightly and digging his hands beneath Faramir’s backside; the younger man complied, lifting his pelvis and feeling the soft fingernail-scrape as Aragorn pulled his underclothes from him in a disjointed motion, the cloth rumpling over his knees, catching on a bony ankle. Freed from attire, Faramir propped himself up on his elbows, looking down at himself, the erection that lay heavy on his stomach, and the King of Men, kneeling with an hand upon each of Faramir’s slightly crooked knees.
“Well, then,” he smiled, eager but unwilling to be the initiator. “This has certainly never happened before.”
Aragorn laughed. “True.” He cocked his head to one side, affording Faramir a roguish glance. “I am going to touch you now, Faramir.” And before the Steward could respond, the King had licked a forefinger and drawn a cool, slick circle around his opening, and with his other hand he steadied Faramir’s cock, lowering his head to swallow him almost completely, tongue undulating against the length of his stiffness. Faramir’s thighs tensed, head falling back, hands fisting in the sheets. He lay helpless as Aragorn’s ministrations sent shockwaves through his body; deft fingers massaged his balls as Aragorn licked at him, at one moment Faramir managed to lift his head long enough to see his entire length disappear between those sweet lips and he felt the first tremors of climax threaten. The hand that caressed him below disappeared, and before Faramir fell back onto the blankets he saw Aragorn reach down and begin to stroke himself, moving in rhythm, getting faster. It was too much, but there was now nothing on earth he wanted more.
“Aragorn…” he managed, but the King pre-empted him, suddenly ceasing all actions and climbing atop him. A firm grip enclosed his cock, and Aragorn looked down at him hungrily as he began to stroke, his words themselves little more than a grunt, wild and direct.
“I want you…inside me…” But Faramir was deaf to all pleading, edging closer to losing himself, shaking beneath the older man as Aragorn rolled his hips against the Steward’s. There came a sudden shout, and Faramir belatedly realised it originated from himself as he came, spilling himself over Aragorn’s fingers and his own stomach as a burst of light exploded behind his eyes, ebbing and dissolving into myriad whirling points, pinpricks of stardust that billowed beyond the limits of his vision. The King’s knees gripped his sides, and as his eyes rolled in his head Faramir caught sight of the other man’s fingers slipping as he grasped his own cock, bringing himself to completion with a clenched jaw, screwed-shut eyes and a long groan that echoed long into the early moments of the new day.
They fit together perfectly. Smoothing the blankets, Faramir had curled his body around Aragorn’s, throwing an arm over his side and burying his face into the crook of his neck. Aragorn inhaled the heady scent of their activity that filmed their skin, and hung smoke-like in Faramir’s love-lank locks. His own arms hung around Faramir’s waist, and their legs lay intertwined once more, knees and ankles locked together as if in need of anchorage. Both sets of eyes were closed, but neither man was quite asleep, merely floating in the afterglow, skimming the soft world of slumber together, safe and loved. It was a most interesting development, and Aragorn hoped that it would indeed continue developing. He did not like the idea of sleeping alone quite so much any more.
Faramir fidgeted, stretching a leg out before bending his knee right up and angling it over the King’s backside with a murmur of sleepy laughter. Aragorn stroked Faramir’s back slowly. A thousand years could have passed. Aragorn smiled into Faramir’s hair, for this pretty moment quite perfectly content.
“Stay with me.”
They looked at one another, and then Aragorn gently blew from Faramir’s cheek the stray curl that fell there. Neither seemed about to lay claim to the words, and the request hung there, in the silence, warm and full of promise.
Eventually, Faramir broke the spell, rolling away from Aragorn to look up at the ceiling, folding his arms behind his head. The covers slid down as he moved, exposing his lean torso and the pale scars and sun-blessed hairs that delineated his body. Aragorn resisted the temptation to follow, to meld himself once more to that warm, solid form. Faramir spoke softly; “Would it work?”
Faramir nodded, his gaze trained skywards.
Aragorn bit his lip. The bloodline was safe, and no-one really needed to know just how close he and Faramir were, or would become. “Yes,” he said eventually, watching Faramir. “If we wanted it to.”
The Steward lay in silence for a moment before turning back onto his side to face the King. “I want it to. I want it to very much. I…” He looked away and then back, smiling, embarrassed suddenly.
Aragorn raised his eyebrows. “What?”
“I… kept all of your letters. Everything you ever sent me, officially or not. I kept them all.” Colour rose in Faramir’s cheeks. “I think I have always wanted us to work, even when I told myself it couldn’t.”
“I think you are far more than I deserve.” Aragorn slid closer, deciding it best not to mention his discovery of the letters himself. “I want us to work too, by the way.” Faramir shone a smile at him, and they fit together again, chest to chest, stomach to stomach, mouth to mouth in an all-consuming kiss that seemed happy to last forever. Faramir ran his hand along Aragorn’s side, back and forth, mapping his flesh and muscle and bone lazily. His kisses were hungry but so tender, a delicate caress, a show of affection, of longing that sent a slow thrill rumbling through Aragorn’s body. From half-shut eyes Aragorn could make out the fire of Faramir’s hair as it caught the first rays of sunlight edging between the curtains. He thought of the autumn leaves falling to the forest floor, the carpet of fire that Faramir so poetically described in his letter. They would walk among them today, he decided, when they made it out of bed.
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