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13 September 2005 | 5031 words
Title: The dragon knife
Summary: Faramir discovers that he is not the only lonely soul in Minas Tirith
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Disclaimer: Not my characters of course, we just have fun together.
Faramir sat on the old lichen-covered bench lost within the wildest forgotten part of the garden, scuffing at a half-buried root within a worn patch of grass with the toe of his boot. Lately he had taken to coming here, not that he found great solace in isolation but it was preferable to the cold company of the court, especially since the realisation had come to him that although he knew each of its members there was not one that he could term a true friend.
In the turmoil that was the aftermath of war, a hold seemed to have been placed upon personal relationships, both by himself and those around him, and now he found that he was just one of many whose minds had seemed bent on reforging the world for the good of many at the sacrifice of their own happiness. Now life for Gondor had begun to gain a sort of normality again and he had realised with something of a shock that he was alone in that world.
The garden had been the work of his mother, someone else who had been alone in this city and whose sorrow had eventually hastened her death, for she had truly loved the untamed wildness of the sea from which she had been parted, and the care of living things confined within the boundaries of the garden walls had not eased her pain. He had few memories now of Finduilas. A warm hand and a soft voice, but the image of her face had fled from his mind.
He kicked at the root again, idly wondering whether the hollow dry patch around it was truly all the work of his own foot – for who else would venture this deep within the overgrown tangle? – only to be startled by a sudden gasp of surprise from a figure struggling from the brambles at the entrance to his hiding place. Looking up he was even more startled to find himself discovered by the king.
‘My liege, forgive me!’
Faramir jumped up and bowed awkwardly as Elessar slowly approached, picking at the thorns in his clothes and the dry leaves caught in his long dark hair.
‘It is I who should ask your forgiveness for intruding upon your meditations. I did not realise that another knew of this place, though I see that you also find kicking at that stubborn root conducive to thought. Do be seated, my lord steward. Would you allow me to join you for a few moments rest before I fight my way back through the thorns again?’
The sight of his king somewhat disshevelled from his fight with the bushes was both amusing and disconcerting. Somewhat overcome by the presence of his new companion, Faramir could only nod and gesture toward the bench.
‘Sit down, sit down’ Elessar patted the seat beside him, his voice – Faramir noted – strangely sharpened by a note of something like nervousness
‘This is no place to stand on ceremony, not when you can sit. I would be glad of your company for a while. It grieves me that we seem to speak together only on official matters, that we have not found time to come to know each other better.’
‘It has indeed been a busy time for all since the end of the war’ Faramir agreed as he sat down ‘There has been little opportunity to draw breath for many months.’
‘Is that why you come here? To draw breath? To escape from the cares of the citadel for a few hours?’
‘Yes, my liege, I suppose that it is.’
‘Myself also, I have come here often. A place of wild nature within the city of stone. It is passing strange that we have not encountered one another here before.’
‘I wondered if someone else had been working at that root, sire’
Faramir smiled, glad of a little informal company for a change. His king was indeed someone he would like to know better, a man to whom Faramir felt the pull of a bond which went beyond their roles as the rulers of Gondor, something deeper and more instinctive, but nothing he could yet clearly identify. The two men regarded each other for a long moment, adjusting to the unusual yet welcome situation in which they found themselves.
‘A place of escape from our burdens of kingship and stewardship’ Elessar’s voice was low yet still it held a tinge of tension ‘and so let us leave those roles and their titles beyond the defenses of those fierce briars. Here let us simply be Aragorn and Faramir, friends and fellow rangers, nothing more.’
Faramir smiled, appreciating the gesture. ‘Thank you my…Aragorn. It is indeed a pleasant spot for escape. Its wildness reminds me somewhat of the woods of Ithilien whose beauty I have not looked upon for too long.’
‘Ithilien is indeed a place dear to my own heart. Long also it is since I enjoyed walking there. Tell me, do you know of a sweet dell – a little south of the crossroads – ringed by rowan trees yet one tall holly stands guard also, where a fast cold stream falls over white rocks, and a blackbird always sings? Though whether he sings there still I know not.’
‘Yes, yes indeed! I know it well and the blackbird still sang when last I drank from that stream!’ Faramir was excited by his king’s knowledge of the place, touched by his love of somewhere he himself held dear. ‘And further up, on the left, if you follow the stream…’
‘A small cave, well hidden! Yes, fringed by mosses and ferns. Many years ago I left a good hunting knife there by accident, but when I was able to return it had gone.’
Faramir was stunned.
‘A knife with a dragon coiled around its handle and a sheath of dark green leather?’
‘I found it! It is in my rooms! My apologies for taking it, I did not know it was yours. I will return it to you at once!’
‘No, no! Keep it! It is good to know that it fell into safe hands, not taken and abused to foul ends by orcs.’
A warm, open smile was on the king’s face. He leant towards his steward and touched his arm gently, laughing as he spoke.
‘So our paths have crossed once before but we knew it not. You see, Faramir, it is some sort of destiny that has brought us together, if only for me to know what happened to that knife.’
Now the men laughed together and fell to talking of shared memories of Ithilien, of their lives as rangers, finding a common bond in their previous lives. Aragorn turned to hunch up sideways upon the bench facing Faramir, hugging his knees into his chest, all trace of regal restraint lost. Faramir had never known his king so animated in conversation, found it infectious and soon he too relaxed, enjoying this unlooked for respite.
But it was perhaps inevitable that at last their talk should turn to the subject of war, and Faramir grew saddened and silent as he recalled how many of his comrades had fallen in the final battles. The king watched his steward closely, saw the tiny lines around his eyes deepen as his mouth tightened. It was some time before either man spoke again. Finally the king found his voice, yet it was one which was cracked by sadness and again the nervousness crept around its edges.
‘Faramir, my friend, tell me. Are you as lonely as I am?’
The steward turned to the king in surprise but did not reply. Aragorn swung his legs off the bench on the other side to Faramir’s, allowing them to sit close together.
‘I came here knowing no-one. Legolas is the one who now enjoys Ithilien as he works to restore that beauty we both so love, whilst Gimli toils with Éomer on the rebuilding of Helm’s Deep. Sam, Merry and Pippin are back in the Shire, Frodo and Gandalf have sailed to the west and Arwen has chosen to go there also. Gaining my kingdom has come at a price and that price has been my personal happiness. I have no friends, and a sadness eats at my heart. I have no lover, and I am alone.’
With the final words Aragorn’s voice trailed into a silent sob. Faramir had never seen those stern grey eyes so filled with loss and loneliness. He wanted more than anything to give what comfort he could to assuage the sadness which was now almost palpable, but the list of names and the one that was omitted had also triggered his own grief and he was surprised to hear himself so speak, surprised to find gentle tears upon his cheek.
‘I also have no lover. He is dead, dead in the war, and I grieve for him.’
Surprised even more to find Aragorn’s arm across his chest, clasping him closely, confused for a moment by the king’s response.
‘I know. I know and I grieve for him also. I loved him, Faramir, and I gave myself to him, though he did not love me in return.’
As the meaning began to sink in to Faramir’s understanding Aragorn continued to hold him, watching and waiting, needing a response but terrified of what it might be. Faramir turned to meet the pale grey eyes, saw the fear and the sorrow they held.
‘You mean…?’ He paused again. ‘Oh. Oh…I see.’
Aragorn nodded and now there were tears on his cheek also.
‘You do not hate me for loving him? For his having taken me?’
‘No. It is a surprise to me, of course, but I was never his only lover. There was never any jealousy’. Faramir shrugged his shoulders.
‘I had to tell you. I’ve needed to for ages. Now probably wasn’t the right time but then when would have been? What I felt for him can never compare with what you both shared, but yes, I loved him too. I loved your brother, and I grieve for Boromir.’
Faramir remained silent, not protesting as Aragorn’s other arm closed around him, gradually allowing himself to be drawn into the warmth of the body next to him. For both men it was a much-needed embrace.
‘He opened my eyes to love, love between men and love for my fellow men. I had not known it until then, though I realised that he did not return what I felt.’
When Faramir spoke there was confusion in his voice.
‘But long you had known and loved the lady Arwen…’
‘Yes, long had I known Arwen but I had not known love’ the voice was almost a whisper at Faramir’s ear. He had not noticed that his own arms had wound around the other body, that he was pulling Aragorn tightly against him.
‘What the elves take to be love is not what men know it to be. I was raised by them and it was as one of them that I thought myself to be. Even though I had ridden beside other men, men of Rohan, of Gondor and of the north, still I held my thin elven blood to be more precious, denying the truth of my existence. Boromir saw that and challenged it, berating me for trusting to the elves rather than to my own kind. He knew that if I were to become king then I must acknowledge who I truly was.
‘Perhaps he was the only person who could have shown me that, as he knew I would have to displace him in order to take on the mantle of my destiny. He would not have given over his future place as ruling steward to one who dared not accept who he was, that he was a man and not an elf.
‘When he finally took me I knew for the first time the true strength and power of men, the urgency of their needs, not the protracted controlled detachment of the Eldar, but the overwhelming surge of body and mind that drives all before it. He shook me from my complacency and made me acknowledge the truth of who I was, who I am, my own mortality. When Arwen came to me she knew I had changed, that my needs were different and that neither of us could be happy together as we had once thought. Our parting was painful and the hurt remains, but if she had stayed it would have been far worse.’
‘I am sorry, Aragorn. I never knew why Arwen changed her mind, though long I have wondered. That my own brother was the cause of it!’
Faramir found that he was revelling in being held so close, in feeling once more the body of another man close to his own, found himself wanting to lose himself in Aragorn’s breath, his hair, his sweat, his tears, in more than he had known for far too long. There was an unexpected thrill in being bound within the arms of another whom Boromir had lain with and Faramir was fast needing to experience more of it.
The king’s face was close to his own now, the steward finding it increasingly difficult not to close his eyes and let his body rather than his mind dictate his actions. So long since he had been held like this, so long since he had been kissed, so long since… Aragorn’s words were soft and low.
‘Boromir was the only man I have lain with, yet… oh and yet… I would love his brother if he would have me.’
Aragorn’s lips brushed against Faramir’s temple, not quite a kiss. Pleasure shuddered through the steward’s body, a streak of long neglected desire snaked out of wherever it had lain cold and coiled for these long months and began to grow warm once again. It was a good feeling, but a doubt nagged at his mind. Faramir pulled back from their embrace, looked at Aragorn with an expression the king found hard to understand but which upset him.
‘Do you want me now because Boromir is dead? Do you wish me to take his place because he died and I lived?’
Aragorn’s stomach lurched and he felt a rising sickness at the realisation of how and why Faramir had misinterpreted his words. The steward was once again hearing the hated words of his own grieving father before he sent his son on that suicidal charge on Osgiliath. Aragorn had learned of Denethor’s cruelty to his youngest child and he detested himself for opening the wounds they had caused once again, albeit unintentionally.
‘Oh no! No! Oh Faramir I did not mean that! Never, never did I mean that!’
Aragorn stroked a lock of stray hair out of Faramir’s wounded eyes before pulling him close again.
‘I never want to hurt you. This is difficult for me, but let me try to explain. When first I saw you I could only see Boromir, see how alike you are, and it fascinated me yet I did not want you. But gradually I have come to know you for who you are, to see the differences that make you unique, like your brother yet unlike, to know and to love what makes you Faramir. And it is Faramir that I love.’
The body in his arms was still stiff with anxiety.
‘You are not commanding me to be your lover, my lord?’
Aragorn slumped a little in grief at the pain he had caused, his voice quiet and sad.
‘No. Of course not. You know that if it were a command then it could not be love. And I wish not to be your lord. I would be your lover but if that cannot be then I hope that I would still be your friend.’
Faramir relaxed but did not reply and Aragorn at last felt constrained to release him. He sat back and looked at his companion.
‘Will you at least consider what I have said? I did not know that this meeting would happen today, though long have I wished to talk with you, to tell you of my feelings. My words were unprepared and I have not spoken well. Believe me, dearest Faramir, that my love for you is true and steadfast. If you come to feel able to return it, you would pay me the highest honour I could ever wish for.’
‘What you have said, what you have made me think on, have made me feel – I was as unprepared as you – and yet…’ Faramir realised they were both trembling and reached again to touch and hold his king, to give and receive comfort. ‘And yet, I find your words welcome, an unlooked for…pleasure. A pleasure I would know more of.’
Their bodies closed in together again and each traced the face of the other, breaths mingling as their mouths met in a tentative kiss. As they pulled back to regard each other again, both wondering whether another kiss would follow and if so whether each would now claim the other deeply, their solitude was rudely interrupted by the sudden clanging of a brash bell echoing around the high harsh stone of the city. Jumping at the violent sound and shaking with unexpressed emotion, they laughed together, both knowing what the bell signified.
‘Afternoon council! We were wrong – even here the cares of the citadel can track us down!’
Aragorn ran his hand repeatedly over Faramir’s chest, desperate to pull him closer once more, but the steward stood, straightened his tunic and drew a long breath.
‘I am called by the drainage committee. If I do not go, only the Valar know what will happen to the sewers!’
Aragorn’s chuckle was ironic as he stood also.
‘And I am called by finance, to discuss whether we can yet afford to rebuild the harbour. Money and shit, there is little difference between the two.’
The two men stood locked in an embrace of the eyes then allowed themselves the brief indulgence of holding each other again.
‘Afterwards,’ Aragorn whispered ‘Afterwards, when the meetings are ended, will you come to my rooms Faramir? Now that I have found you I cannot bear not to be near you. Will you come to me? If only to talk together again, please will you come to me?’
Aragorn had long since known and loved the way Faramir’s eyes danced when he smiled, though that smile was rarely bestowed, and the thrill of seeing them dance now at his words was glorious beyond comprehension.
How long can a debate on sewerage systems go on for? As far as Faramir was concerned, the answer was forever. Would Aragorn’s meeting have ended long since or was he also bound by duty to his city and his people when he could for once indulge in a moment’s much-needed pleasure for himself? It took all of Faramir’s willpower to focus on the job in hand. He didn’t want to have to go through all this shit – literally and metaphorically – again due to making a mess of the meeting, but always the touch of Aragorn’s lips was upon his own, the pressure of his arms, the brush of his fingertips, and Faramir ached to feel these things again.
At last the closure bell sounded as accord had been reached upon the route and construction of the new drains. The breath Faramir now drew tasted as clean fresh air would to one who had just emerged from the dank filth of the city’s sewers. Thanking his colleagues he gathered his papers as quickly as he could, working hard not to show his urgency to leave, bid them all farewell, and strode purposefully away from the duties that had dominated his life for so long.
And when he went to Aragorn’s rooms to give him the knife, what else would he find himself giving to the king?
He threw himself down onto the bed and ran through the afternoon’s events in his mind.
It had been no great shock to discover that Boromir and Aragorn had become lovers during the quest. His brother had ever been generous with his body, nay profligate, though Faramir had been his only constant partner and perhaps the only one who had indeed received Boromir’s love as well as his lust. Aragorn had been honest there, had admitted that he had loved Boromir but that Boromir had not loved him back. Knowing Boromir so thoroughly, Faramir knew that Aragorn was right, that Boromir had taken him for a reason and that reason was to make him the king he needed to be in order to deserve the crown of Gondor. Faramir admired both his king’s honesty and his brother’s intuitive action.
His thoughts wandered into memories, and he recalled once again how his brother had first taken him.
A long hot summer when the sun never seemed to set and the world became a furnace.
Faramir had retreated to the coolness of his stone chamber, not that it was in truth much cooler than elsewhere, but at least there he could plunge himself into a cold bath and laze naked on his bed. He had been half asleep when Boromir had joined him, had stripped and lain next to him, stroking and caressing him. Faramir had not beheld his brother naked since Boromir had grown to manhood, and now he was fascinated by the changes time had brought, changes that his own body had not yet embarked upon. The elder brother was only too proud for the younger to admire him, encouraging him to touch and explore whilst he was kissed and nuzzled.
Faramir remembered how Boromir had grown erect and hard beneath his questing hand, how his brother’s breathing had become fast and shallow, his eyes glazed, until he had pushed Faramir away and onto his stomach. Gently he had licked and teased the boy into readiness before possessing him and leading Faramir into a new world where pain and pleasure blurred into exquisite ecstasy. As Faramir himself had matured they became equal lovers, strong and passionate with a desire for each other that did not diminish with the years. Boromir had gained experience elsewhere and brought it home to pass on to his brother. Faramir had never needed any other, was satisfied with what Boromir gave.
No, there was no shock at learning that Boromir had lain with Aragorn.
What had come as a surprise was to learn of Aragorn’s love for Faramir himself.
He had not consciously expected to never find love again after Boromir’s death, but circumstances had intervened and any such thoughts or actions had been put into abeyance as the work of restoring the kingdom took precedence. Aragorn had admitted to loneliness just as Faramir had come to recognise that pain himself. Could Faramir love Aragorn? Could he accept and return the love of his own king?
Did he want Aragorn?
The snaking streak of desire had grown warmer since Aragorn’s words and touch had awoken it from its slumbers, and now as Faramir remembered the lost passion he had shared with his brother, as he thought on the prospect of finding something new in the arms of his king, he found the snake of desire coiling around his racing heart, constricting his lungs, and pumping blood into his groin and lightning into his nerves.
He rose, tidied himself, then took a deep breath before tucking the knife into his belt and leaving his chambers for the King’s House.
Aragorn’s rooms were surprisingly spartan, the result, Faramir supposed, of long hard years as a mercenary and a ranger. All was neatly ordered in typical soldier fashion. Where should he leave the knife? Somewhere Aragorn would quickly find it rather than come across it later. There was a small desk near the window, quite close to the bed. Aragorn would surely see the knife if it were left prominently upon a white page, and a large portfolio lay there which promised to serve the purpose well.
Sitting upon the edge of the bed and opening the portfolio at the first page Faramir found it to contain a collection of drawings, well executed, of many faces. Arwen, a stately elf he took to be Lord Elrond, Legolas, Gimli, the hobbits, Gandalf – and Boromir. Boromir leaning against a tree, Boromir sword in hand looking very fierce, Boromir asleep, Boromir naked. Boromir naked and beautiful. A sob escaped from Faramir’s mouth as he ran his fingers over the portrait of his lost love.
‘Oh my brother!’
Gently another body lowered itself onto the bed beside him and took the portfolio from his hands. Faramir went to rise, flustered and embarrassed, but Aragorn pulled him back down and opened the volume again across both their laps.
‘There are other pictures also. Look.’
The king turned through the pages, naming names, identifying places and events, some of which Faramir knew whilst many he did not. Aragorn was obviously a consummate artist who had chosen to record his adventures in images rather than in words as Bilbo and Frodo had done. Gradually more of the pictures became familiar as Aragorn’s journey came to Minas Tirith, and then at last Faramir himself began to appear. Sporadically at first, then all other images diminished until he himself alone was portrayed. Faramir in ceremonial garb, Faramir on his horse, Faramir eating, Faramir laughing, Faramir apparently arguing – at the council perhaps – Faramir, Faramir, Faramir, pages of it – and the last pages of all were of Faramir naked, naked and beautiful and very erect, and often had Aragorn included himself within those drawings.
Faramir was shocked. No, not shocked, surprised maybe, but certainly aroused.
‘You see, you are ever in my thoughts and in my dreams, sweetest Faramir.’
The Steward knew he must speak, but was confused by his reaction to the drawings.
‘I brought your knife back.’
‘It is yours. If you take nothing else from me, take that, I beg of you. You must have had it longer now than I ever did. Take it. With my love.’
‘I did not realise that you were so skilled. The drawings are…unusual.’
‘I’m sorry if I have upset you. No harm was intended. I find it difficult not to think of you, I love you so dearly. Drawing you has become a way of easing the pain I feel at not being with you.’ Aragorn gave a small laugh. ‘The later ones are, of course, imaginary. I hope they do not insult you.’
‘On the contrary, I find them…arousing.’
As Faramir’s hand reached nervously to trace the line of Aragorn’s jaw, he saw with delight how the king shuddered and closed his eyes under his touch, tilting his head so that mouth met fingers which were then covered in slow kisses, kisses which spread down Faramir’s palm and wrist as his hand moved to twine Aragorn’s thick hair. Even such a simple action made Aragorn moan, and Faramir found himself hard in response. Pulling the king’s head close to his own, delighting in rubbing the coarseness of their beards together, he whispered softly.
‘Would your pain be eased if those images were not imaginary? If they became…reality?’
Aragorn let the volume slip onto the floor and took instead Faramir’s face between his hands.
‘You would lie with me? Willingly?’
‘You asked me whether I was as lonely as yourself Aragorn, and yes, I have long been very lonely. Yet I do not think that either of us need feel alone again.’
Gently Faramir’s lips claimed the mouth that so ached for his own, yet Aragorn broke away and began to look around the room.
‘Where is the knife? The dragon knife?’
‘Um, I… on the desk I think, where the drawings were.’
Aragorn rose and rescued the knife, standing still to turn it slowly and carefully in his hands as he examined it once again after so many years.
‘You have cared for it better than I did. I could not have wished for it to fall into safer hands. If ever I had wanted to give this knife to anyone, it would have been you.’
Faramir stood to accept the knife from Aragorn’s hand, kissing it before sliding it into his belt.
‘It will always be safe, no harm shall ever come to something so very dear to me.’
‘But what can I offer in return?’
Aragorn smiled first, then Faramir joined him and stepped forward into his king’s arms, both men completely aware of the precious gift the steward was prepared to give.
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