19 December 2010 | 11779 words
Title: The Heavy Crown
Pairing: Faramir/Aragorn, with Éowyn making a brief appearance.
Disclaimer: None of these characters/places belong to me. All written in good fun with no offence intended!
Warnings: Angst and a bit of slash of course.
Author’s Note: This was my very first time participating in a challenge, so I sincerely hope my story lives up to expectations! (Nervous? Me?) It’s not major to the plot, but I have played around a little with the book and movie lore concerning Anduril; in the films of course Boromir cuts his hand upon Narsil in Rivendell, and the words of Aragorn concerning the fate of those who touch the blade appear only in the books (paraphrased from words spoken to Hama in Edoras), but I have included both of these events in this universe. And Aragorn is called Elessar in this story (by everyone but Faramir), because this is a story about being the King, and most Gondorian onlookers would not of course realise there was a difference between their image of the longed-for ruler and the man himself who must bear the Crown :)
I really hope you enjoy!
Written for the 2010 Midwinter Swap.
Request by Tal: Let’s turn the tables. I’d like a quiet, confident Faramir, made stronger by his trials, watching the new king with reserved fondness… until one night he realizes that Elessar is barely holding it together, that everything he’s lost and the pressure of kingship is too much for him, and that he needs help. Faramir’s, of course. Can be from either man’s POV. Go dark and visceral for me, if you please, though hope always has its place.
When he awoke, it was cold. Bitter, in fact. Silent too, save for his own ragged breath in the dark, for he was alone in the bed. Always alone. His bare feet slapped against the icy flagstones as he stumbled through to the bath chamber. He coughed, then stood before the long mirror and looked at himself, barely visible in the gloom. He didn’t need sunlight to know the circles beneath his eyes were almost as dark as the hair on his head, and that his hair itself hung limply and unwashed in sleep-induced waves. He ran a hand over his face, weaving slightly as he stood there for many minutes. It was very early; so early that he was aware that even the servants were probably not risen yet, but he had no choice. It was time to get up. He sighed softly, his breath catching in his throat. Another cough, and he shrugged his robe on over his shoulders and began to wash his face in yesterday’s chilly basin water.
It was not meant to be like this. Not at all.
Faramir was waiting. Quietly, patiently, but waiting nonetheless. He stood at the window of the library and looked out, hands clasped behind him. It was evening, and the wind howled outside, with spots of rain occasionally tapping at the glass as Faramir leant on the sill, drumming his fingers against the stone, humming to himself. It was now twenty minutes past the time agreed for this appointment, and though it was a little annoying, this would not normally worry him overly if he had not this time been waiting on the King.
Elessar was never late. Not ever, and while it did not necessarily portend any ill happening, it still struck Faramir as a little odd, especially since it was Elessar who had arranged this meeting in the first place. It was not vitally important; no kingdoms would fall if he did not turn up, for they were only here to plan a feast for Midwinter in a few weeks’ time. Still, Faramir had looked forward to it, to time spent with his King that was not in the council chamber, or otherwise steeped in formality. It had promised to almost be a social engagement, two friends together, but the chances of this occurring were now lessening as the minutes stretched out with no sight nor sound of Elessar at all.
Friends. Faramir turned from the window and walked over to the fireplace, resting his arm along the mantelpiece and gazing into the merry flames. As any man of Gondor should he loved his King, had waited for him, and was so happy to discover not only that he had returned in his lifetime, but that there was a wise, kind, conscientious man beneath the crown. Faramir had friends, of course. He shared many a flagon of ale with Damrod on free evenings, and Éowyn and he knew each others’ secrets and laughed together so often. And of course, there had been Boromir… Faramir squeezed his eyes shut for a moment; he missed his brother so desperately, but he knew Boromir would not wish him to spend the rest of his days in misery at his death. He had grieved, and now took heart from the fact that his brother still lived in him; in his blood and in his name. The ache in his heart was still present, but it had been lessened by the kindness of Elessar in those early days.
The fire cracked and popped, and Faramir was about to give up and send for word of the King’s whereabouts when the library door swung open and Elessar himself swept hurriedly into the room, the air of someone who had been until a moment ago running still very much about him. Faramir smiled at him, a strange wave of relief flooding through him as the King approached, an apologetic look writ upon his face.
“Forgive my lateness, Faramir!” Not quite breathless, but there was a strange scratch in the King’s voice, as if not quite recovered from an illness, though Elessar had not been unwell to Faramir’s knowledge. The King waved away Faramir’s habitual bow and gestured to one of the two chairs that Faramir had clearly arranged for this meeting, taking the other for himself with a small, tired sigh as he sank into the comfortable cushions. “There was an apparently urgent matter that came up at the last possible minute and I could not postpone dealing with it. I’m sorry for making you wait so unnecessarily.” He smiled, and it was a genuine, honest, if tired smile. Almost of relief. “I thought you would’ve left by now.”
Faramir laughed softly. “It is alright, it gave me extra time to think upon what we might organise for the feasting, my lo—… er, Aragorn.” He grimaced, and the King returned his quiet laugh. Lifelong habits were hard to break, after all. “What was this matter so urgent?”
“Oh, it was nothing really, which is all the more frustrating. Though perhaps I should not say that. One of the tradesmen from Pelargir caught me in the corridor and demanded that I take a look at his latest draft of a contract. I’m afraid he was rather hard to say no to.” Faramir nodded at this, remembering well the rather demanding man from council earlier that week. He reached for a glass decanter on the side table, and poured two cupfuls of sweet wine, one of which he offered to the King.
As Elessar accepted his cup Faramir stole a moment to look upon the other man, for this was the longest they had spent together uninterrupted by the court in many weeks, and their places at the council table did not allow for much contact, or private discussion. The King’s dark hair hung loose about this head, wavy but straighter and more limp perhaps than Faramir’s own seemingly untameable locks. His face was proud but kind, regal, certainly handsome, but now Faramir noticed for the first time the dark circles around his eyes, and the way small lines creased beneath them as he smiled. It was perhaps the firelight, but Faramir thought the King looked a little thinner too; the shadows hung differently around his face, more pronounced. He looked tired, more than tired, actually. But it really was probably the light, for he seemed well enough, raising his cup to Faramir in a mock-toast, smiling at him and eagerly eyeing the papers Faramir had stacked beside the wine on the table.
“Plans, I presume?”
Faramir grinned and reached for them.
There had been nothing amiss, at first. They discussed the feasting first of all, which promised to be a welcome reprieve from the reordering of the kingdom, and a warmth to look forward to in the chill of coming winter. Wine flowed, and they began to talk more amiably, of informal matters, none of which were related to the dealings of court, for which Faramir was pleased and he could sense that Elessar welcomed this change of subject too. Selfish, perhaps, but Faramir knew somehow that they could become closer friends if only given time to actually spend with one another without needing to amend treaties or talk politics. From what little time they had spent together, like this, Faramir had come to the conclusion that he was indeed rather fond of his King, of Elessar. Of Aragorn.
There was a lull in the conversation, with Elessar gazing quietly into the fire, and Faramir lifting his cup to finish his wine when he paused halfway and sat up suddenly with an exclamation of; “The book!”
Elessar jumped a little and looked up at him. “The book?”
“The book!” Faramir swallowed the last of his wine and jumped up, setting his now empty cup back on the table. “The one I mentioned last week. I forget the title now, but it details the geography and history of Ithilien quite comprehensively… I know it is getting late, but it’s definitely in here somewhere, and I thought you might like to take a look.” He began to wander off to a nearby bookshelf. “Now that I’ve remembered about it, at least.”
Elessar smiled to himself as Faramir disappeared behind the endless tomes, and gazed back into the fire again. He would have to cut this evening short soon, though it had been a blessed moment of peace at the end of a very long day. He felt his eyelids droop, and he rubbed at them, placing his cup beside Faramir’s on the table, and leant an elbow on the armrest, and his head in his hand. His thoughts drifted as he heard Faramir’s light steps wander further away in his search, and he thought with dry amusement that Faramir surely should have the locations of the library’s books memorised by now, and he was almost certain the younger man had lied about forgetting the book’s title. He was so efficient, always pleased to see his King, and to hand him endless notes and useful papers all penned in a delightfully neat hand. No task was too onerous, but despite knowing that his young Steward would likely relish any task set to him by his King, he still held back, and kept Faramir’s duties relatively light. Grief and guilt both had the terrible habit of getting in the way of things. Faramir’s grief over his brother, so recently lost. And Elessar’s guilt at not being able to save him.
He had barely been able to look Faramir in the eye, in the beginning. And it stabbed at him more keenly when Faramir just looked upon him with such love and loyalty, acceptance, trust. No blame was ever directed at him, but Elessar still found himself to be accountable. Even though Boromir himself had stayed his hand when he reached to pull the arrows from his flesh, Elessar still lay awake at night, his own grief and inadequacy and his own undeserved adoration from Faramir going around and around his mind. And if it was not that, then he was plagued with thoughts of Arwen…
“… —on earth it was shoved on the end of that shelf, I have no idea.” Faramir’s voice drifted back from somewhere distant, somewhere else. Elessar felt his eyes close, and promised himself he would only rest them for a minute.
A feeling, a small inkling that something might be awry, but nothing more than that. Faramir stood near Elessar’s chair, book in hand, but his excited babbling on his way back to the fireplace had trailed off when it became obvious that the King had fallen asleep in the short time left alone. Faramir hovered, unsure of what to do. Shaking him awake seemed rather inappropriate. As he reached out to touch Elessar’s shoulder gently, he hesitated, eyes falling across the older man’s peaceful expression, made sharper by the firelight dancing upon his skin. Or, it had appeared peaceful at first glance, but Faramir now furrowed his brow as he saw the weariness, an obvious exhaustion etched into the King’s slightly drawn features. Faramir knelt beside the chair and placed his hand on the King’s forearm, noticing before he spoke the bitten fingernails on Elessar’s hand.
“My lord?” No response. Faramir frowned, then reached a tentative hand toward the King’s shoulder, resisting a sudden, strange urge to brush his knuckles against Elessar’s cheek. It was probably nothing, a few sleepless nights recently, or a stressful day, Faramir thought. But still the odd feeling gnawed gently at the back of his mind, and he decided to perhaps take a look at the King’s scheduled meetings more closely over the following days, and see if he could not take care of a few of them himself. He knew that Elessar had been keeping his Steward’s tasks light and a little sporadic, meant only in kindness and not due to thoughts of Faramir’s lack of capability. But six months had now passed since Boromir’s death, and though Faramir’s heart still ached, he felt more than ready now to get back to usefulness.
“Aragorn?” He spoke quietly, then realising that would not do if he truly intended to wake the King, he repeated himself, louder, and gently grasped the older man’s shoulder. Elessar’s eyes shot open, and his breath hitched in his throat in fright, and he stared at Faramir for a moment, before seeming to gather his wits enough to gain a grasp of the situation. Faramir dropped his hand, but remained kneeling rather awkwardly beside the arm of the chair, his expression of shy concern filling Elessar’s heart with an alien warmth. There was an immense urge, a sudden need to tell Faramir all of what ailed him, every worry, every anxious thought, every moment of self-doubt and self-loathing, if he could tell anyone in the world it would have to be Faramir. He wanted so much to reach out to this trusting, faithful and loyal friend, and place his heart in his safekeeping, for it was becoming so battered he didn’t know if he could heal it anymore.
Instead, he muttered, uselessly. “I… I must have… I am sorry Faramir, it is getting late.” Faramir smiled and began to rise to his feet, but Elessar caught his hand in his before he could do so fully. “Please don’t think that you were boring me.” He couldn’t say it properly; how he wished he could spend more time with the young man. The only peace he had found lately had been in Faramir’s good company. And he was good company, but Elessar hadn’t been able to tell him that. Not yet. And perhaps not ever.
Faramir squeezed the King’s hand gently, almost imperceptibly, before releasing it, straightening, and letting out a soft huff of laughter. “Rest assured I am not fretting over that, rather that I am keeping you from your rest, my dear friend.” All formality gone then, and Elessar welcomed it, and wondered where Faramir had found this ease with which he conducted himself with others. He knew Faramir was fond of him, and he buried that fact within himself to examine alone on the really bad days. The days with no peace at all.
Elessar got to his feet, and was glad at least that he did so steadily. He managed a smile, though whether he managed to make it a natural one he was less sure. Faramir seemed not to notice anything unusual, stepping away slightly to let the King pass. “Will you walk an old man to his chambers?” He smiled again, and this time it was a little more genuine. Faramir’s eyes were warm, and he fell into step beside his King as they left the library.
“You are yet a young man, Aragorn.” Faramir’s tone was light, and though Elessar kept his eyes on the hallway ahead he could hear the smile in his voice. “There are some days though where I myself feel as old as the world.”
“How old are you, Faramir?” I should know this. I would know him.
Faramir sighed softly. “Thirty-six.” He glanced at Elessar. “I suppose you dislike me now, what with my youthful vigour and all that.” Though meant in jest, Faramir winced inwardly as he realised what he was saying, but Elessar didn’t seem to take any offence, turning to him and laughing softly.
“You sound as if a large portion of your time is spent gambolling across the Pelennor.” Faramir snorted at this, then composed himself. “Perhaps I should give you more to do.”
“I had been intending to speak to you about that, actually.” They had reached the top of the stairs leading to the wing which housed the Royal apartments. Faramir glanced sidelong at Elessar before continuing, choosing his words carefully. He was a little worried about the King, but he didn’t want to cause offence, or seem presumptuous. “I… you seem… well, I mean, we’re all busy, but I could stand to be a little… busier, if you get my meaning.” And you, less.
Elessar’s chamber door loomed ahead, and they walked on toward it in silence for a few steps before the King spoke, and his voice seemed so suddenly weary that Faramir glanced round at him again. “Tomorrow, my dear Steward, tomorrow. I really must retire, but come to me tomorrow.” He smiled wanly, and placed his hand on Faramir’s shoulder as they halted in front of the door. Moonlight streamed in from a nearby window, and Faramir felt increasingly guilty for keeping Elessar up so late if he was indeed as tired as he appeared.
“I will see you tomorrow then, my lord.” Faramir tilted his head, and smiled, and for a moment Elessar wondered if anything truly displeased this beautiful young man. And then he wondered why Faramir was suddenly beautiful as well as everything else. He needed to sleep, to clear his head, to escape for a few hours, hopefully. He lowered his hand to Faramir’s arm, squeezing gently in reply, then turned and entered his chambers, the door swinging shut behind him.
The soft smile remained on Faramir’s face for much of his journey toward his own rooms, until, at the foot of the stairs from the Royal apartments he realised he was still holding the book he had intended on lending to the King. Dithering for a moment, he decided it was better not to disturb Elessar now that he had finally escaped to his bed. He would see him tomorrow anyway.
Elessar had loved Arwen Undomiel with his whole being, and would have loved her with more than that had he been able to. He would have adored and paid tribute to her delicate, soft beauty with the trees, the earth, every star in the sky if it were possible, but as it was, he laid himself bare before her, in every way possible, and they had deepened their bond with secrets shared and hideaways visited. They were betrothed beneath golden summer leaves, accompanied by birdsong.
Her voice was a song within his heart that never ended, and his fingers would run across her skin so softly, and she would grasp his hand firmly, and laugh, and remind him that she was not so fragile that she would shatter as if spun from glass. And then she would show him exactly what she meant, and they would laugh together, and kiss and whisper and love, and it was forever, he thought, or at least, until his span of days ended, and she would sail then into the undying lands, which he bade her do after he was gone for he knew how dear her family were to her. And he thought he would never be unhappy again, for he would behold the light of the Evenstar in his eyes for the rest of time.
But the light began to fade. Slowly, imperceptibly at first. Long days passed, and her smile seemed to diminish with each year’s end. At first he had thought it something to do with her father. Elrond had fostered Elessar, and loved him as his own, but as for blessing their relationship, that was where he became distant if not outright disapproving. As time passed, Elessar began to doubt himself and started questioning where he was going wrong, where his faults lay, whatever it was that made Arwen turn her gaze from him more and more frequently. Did he not love her beyond all sense? Was his lineage not high enough? He did not wish to be King, but he would take the crown for Arwen. Selfish, perhaps, but he had been young and in love, when he had learned that his name was something other than Estel.
His love of the land had never diminished, and he took to wandering long and far, alone with his thoughts when Arwen seemed content to be alone with hers. He would return periodically, less and less often, older, more rugged and wild with each passing winter. When Arwen began to sing and speak of the sea he knew his time was running short if his heart was to ever mend, and so he stayed with her again in Imladris for long, endless months. Hope never left him, but slowly he realised that her love for him was changing even as his remained steadfast.
And then, it ended. He saw her last in the Last Homely House after her father’s Council. He took her hands, and spoke with her long and late. He would depart with the Fellowship soon and he promised her he would return, and they could laugh together in the rowan groves once more. And she had smiled sadly, and had broken his heart.
And now Elessar lay awake in a cold bed in an even colder room, listening to his own blood pulse in his ears and the increasing raggedness of his breath as he waited out the hours of the night, thinking of Arwen, and remembering how easily she had told him of the sea that final time. Arwen was gone, sailed. And Elessar was alone.
He could not speak of this to anyone, nor reach out. And he would not admit to himself that he was desperate. He was just tired, that was all. It would all work out, he would manage. He had to. He coughed, then coughed again. His bones ached. He lay on his side and waited for the dawn light to spill through the shutters, where he knew it would fall across the papers stacked on the side table. Agreements. Invoices. Council minutes. Long lists of trade supplies that needed proof-read and amended endlessly. Elessar closed his eyes. It would work itself out.
But in his heart he knew it wouldn’t.
Faramir told himself it was nothing. That he was worrying needlessly. Nothing amiss. Everything normal. But he hadn’t had sight of the King for the past week, and though there had not been any meetings or councils during that time where the King’s absence might have sparked more of a reaction, he still worried a little. His book of Ithilien still lay in his own chambers, and he had had little to occupy his mind lately as his duties were still frustratingly sparse. So he worried instead. The plans for Midwinter were still going well, and as it was not for a few weeks yet Faramir at least had no need to worry over that.
“I wager there is nothing in the least bit out of the ordinary going on. He probably has some important work to do and does not wish to be disturbed.” Éowyn scoffed, shaking her head at him and scattering her golden waves across her shoulders. Faramir did not miss Éowyn’s refusal to mention Elessar by name. “You worry far too much.” Faramir looked unconvinced, shrugging as they walked side by side along the brazier-lit corridor toward the entrance hall of the citadel. They had dined together, as was their occasional habit, and now Faramir accompanied the Lady of Rohan on her way to the stables where the horse she had arrived on was still housed. Despite his insistence that the stable-hands of Minas Tirith were of the best that could be offered, Éowyn still liked to check on her mare before retiring herself. After a while Faramir had learned that trying to repress her Rohirric mindset was a foolish endeavour and instead often accompanied her to the stables himself, if only to eat apples while she rubbed saddle soap into leather.
“I am Steward of Gondor, Éowyn, it’s my job to worry.” Faramir laughed softly at Éowyn’s raised eyebrow. “I have little else to do around here these days.”
“There is Midwinter to think of! Have you no plans to make for that?” Éowyn had arrived days earlier, ostensibly for Midwinter, but as she had arrived weeks early it was clear she came for other, unknown reasons. Perhaps she still harboured feelings for the King, or perhaps they were for Faramir. In any case, Faramir himself welcomed the opportunity to spend time with her.
“It is planned, mostly. The frustrating thing about planning something that is meant to be enjoyable is that with everyone being so eager to help out I’ve ended up with almost nothing to do. I suppose it says much about the mindset of the cityfolk that the promise of a good meal can spark such industrious behaviour.” Faramir smiled to himself as he spoke, then glanced at Éowyn who shared his mirth. “I need things to do, dear Éowyn. Things that are less to do with feasts and more to do with running this Kingdom, if indeed Steward I am supposed to be.”
“Have you spoken to him about this?” Éowyn had looped an arm through Faramir’s as they walked, leisurely, starlight falling gently upon them now and again as they passed the long windows of the hallway.
It was Faramir’s turn to raise an eyebrow and he laughed again. “To speak to the King would mean disturbing him, and I hardly think that knocking on his door and declaring that I’m bored would excuse my interruption.” Éowyn elbowed him, gently, and smiled back, eyes dancing. They were close friends, close enough indeed, that Faramir believed he would one day ask her to marry him, when the time was right. Éowyn was a woman of many facets; quick-witted, candid, honest, caring; saying nothing of her skills as a warrior and horsewoman. And she was beautiful, but her beauty was fierce and not delicate, and she had a fire in her eyes that reminded all who looked upon her that she would never be treated as less than equal to anyone.
She confided in Faramir, and he in her, and he knew that they were a good match, and when Faramir looked upon her he felt a great peace, and an even greater warmth spread through his body. But that in itself brought another worry to his mind, for lately he had felt the same way whenever he laid eyes upon his King…
“Speak to him, Faramir.” Éowyn’s voice was firm, and for a moment her expression brooked no argument, but a moment later she was laughing quietly again and her eyes were upon the corridor ahead once more. “And then you can stop worrying.” She stopped slightly ahead of Faramir, and turned to face him. They stood now before the large wooden entrance doors to the citadel. “Well, here we are then.”
Faramir took her hands in his, small and white against his own, and squeezed them gently. “Here we are.”
“I will see you tomorrow, dear Faramir.” Éowyn smiled at him, and squeezed Faramir’s hands back before withdrawing and stepping toward the door. Faramir nodded and watched as she slipped between the oak doors and out into the night.
Faramir lingered for a moment, watching Éowyn descend the steps outside down into the lower circle and came to a decision, spinning on his heel and heading back to his own rooms, intent on delivering his book into the King’s hands and perhaps seeing if he was ever intending on leaving his chambers.
There was no answer when Faramir knocked on the door to Elessar’s study. Nor when he knocked a second time, more loudly. He waited for a moment, then when it was obvious nothing was forthcoming he decided, in a moment of madness, to be done with this nonsense and tried the door handle. It was unlocked, and the door swung open slowly at his touch. Peering through, he could see a single candle lit upon the King’s desk, the light dancing across the books and papers stacked messily upon the surface. A rather large stack, Faramir noticed. Books and parchment were piled beside the chair on the floor, and yet more rested precariously upon the windowsill. He pushed the door open further, and reasoned that he might as well just go in now that he had come this far. The welfare of the King was a responsibility of the Steward, after all, and it was not as if Elessar had never invited him in here before. But walking in uninvited was another matter, and Faramir found himself trying not to step too heavily on the stone floor as he crossed over to the King’s desk, setting the book down finally on the only available free space which was the seat of the chair.
Three dog-eared books on the trading history of the outlying towns in Gondor. Two thin volumes describing rather outdated ship-building practises in Dol Amroth and Pelargir respectively. A collection of scrolls which, upon closer inspection— for Faramir had given up on the pretence of subtlety and was now rifling through Elessar’s documents with an increasingly furrowed brow— seemed to be a list of farming practises; of which crops were grown where and when throughout the realm, along with some hastily scribbled notes which were impossible for Faramir to decipher, though that it was Elessar’s own handwriting was evident. A battered book on herb-lore, and then there was the inches high pile of parchment sheets, all neatly penned, some by Faramir himself, for some were the minutes of council meetings, others letters to the King, requests, trade negotiations, queries, complaints, and even demands.
Faramir was leaning over the desk, engrossed in a rather alarming letter, (… the rebuilding of which is of urgent importance. The fact that this has neither been recognised nor acted upon seems to denote a lack of competence at the highest level, further to which…) when he heard the cough.
He jumped a little, at first, then, when it was clear he hadn’t yet been caught in the King’s rooms without leave, he straightened, and listened. For a few long moments, there was silence, then, there it was again. A cough, quieter this time, a little strangled, not particularly healthy sounding either, and it seemed to be coming from beyond the door on the east side of the study. The one that Faramir knew led to Elessar’s bedchamber.
He bit his lip, and stepped toward the door, parchment falling from his hand and drifting softly down onto the desk. The door itself was shut, and Faramir dared not try to open this one too. He stood listening at the door for a long time, and after a pause was about to leave when there came a loud noise, the sound of something metallic falling onto stone. A soft curse floated through the oak door, and Faramir screwed his face up as he lifted his hand to knock. He should not be in here at all, but he could not leave now.
He knocked, twice, and then, feeling as though he may as well go the whole way, called out quietly. “My lord?”
No reply, and to Faramir it seemed the silence only became heavier, as if someone was trying to be as quiet as possible purposefully now.
“Aragorn?” He tried again, still unwilling to come barging into the room. His simple, quiet worry had blossomed now into something a little more pressing in the back of his mind. This was not usual. “It is Faramir…” Still nothing, so he grit his teeth and opened the door quietly into darkness. “I’m sorry…”
There were no candles, and the fireplace was empty even of old firewood. The chill in the air was apparent to Faramir immediately, and he shivered as he stood on the threshold, staring into the dimness. As his eyes adjusted he could see the bed and the furs draped over the top of it. He could also see that the bed was not empty. He stepped into the room, wary, worried, asking, rather ineptly; “Are you asleep?”
Faramir. Kind, patient, dear Faramir. I have not slept in weeks and it is you that wakes me…
Elessar did not want Faramir to leave. Not really, but he could not have him seeing him like this. Half asleep, or rather, mostly awake, ragged and bloodshot. Shaking now from days spent conscious. So much to do… When had he last eaten?
He heard Faramir step around the foot of the bed, coming closer to where he lay curled under the covers, eyes still shut tight in pretence of sleep although no-one was fooled now. The young man put a hand on his shoulder, and he could have sobbed at that moment, but he turned it into a cough that became the first of many as the dryness of his throat caught his breath.
The hand on his shoulder tightened for a second, then the fingers spread out and ran along his back soothingly. “Aragorn, you are unwell! Why are you here alone? Come, I will take you to the Houses of Hea—”
Faramir stiffened, but the hand remained on his shoulder. Elessar’s stomach churned with strange emotion. The younger man was too good, too kind, too forgiving. A young man faced with the reality of being the last of his House, the responsibilities of the Stewardship and his Princedom and his rangers and his obligations to them. And yet he stayed buoyant, with a shy smile and a knowing look and a clear, raucous laugh. Faramir just got on with it. He managed. He found joy in life, and moved on and coped. Elessar would hate him for this, he knew it too well, were it not for the fact that he loved him, dearest friend indeed. Faramir, who had offered his friendship and his loyalty even in the knowledge that Elessar could have saved his brother had he gotten there a heartbeat sooner.
“Faramir, let me sleep.” He tried to turn over, but Faramir would not let him, the hand on his back holding him gently on his side as the younger man sat on the edge of the bed. Elessar’s eyes were shut, but he knew the look on Faramir’s face was one of deep concern, and he felt even more ill thinking about that. A burden upon him, so he was.
“How long have you been unwell?” Faramir released his shoulder finally, reaching to pull one of the furs up and over the King’s hunched shoulders. Elessar lay on his side, facing Faramir. Keep your eyes shut. Try not to shake. “It’s so cold in here. Do you not wish the fire lit?”
Nothing. Faramir frowned, then stood once more, turning toward the fire. As he stepped toward the desolate hearth, he caught his foot against something heavy and cold on the floor, kicking it accidentally and sending the object a little distance, scraping against the stone. Elessar opened one eye to see Faramir bend down to investigate, and saw him jerk his hand back and hiss with pain suddenly. Another scrape as Faramir bent back down to lift the offending item from the floor, bringing it back toward the bed, perplexity writ on his features in the gloom.
“Aragorn, why is this on the floor? I cut my hand on the blade.” For he held out Anduril before him, toward the King, blade downward, and though it was not visible the small trickle of Faramir’s blood now ran down the sharp metal toward the floor. “Aragorn?”
That Elessar still slept with the Flame of the West by his side was no secret to Faramir. It was the sword of his forefathers, the once-broken blade of Elendil; it had served the King well and he himself had wielded it with honour and valiance unequalled, and now Elessar appeared to have done the unthinkable and cast it aside, in annoyance? In fury? Or had it merely fallen from the bed by accident? Faramir tried vainly to unravel this new mystery in the face of this increasingly odd situation.
He waited for Elessar to continue, but he seemed to be lost again within his own troubled thoughts. Faramir knelt beside the bed, placing the heavy sword flat on the bed sheets between them; a physical division to mirror the emotional one that was yawning slowly between them.
“Are you going to tell me what is going on? What troubles you so, Aragorn?” Faramir spoke softly, with kindness, hand still resting on Anduril’s hilt. Elessar’s eyes fell upon the younger man’s slender fingers, still stained by blood. He had once said that death would come to any man who touched the blade save Elendil’s heirs, and Anduril itself had seemed to warn Faramir with a cut across his fingers, so like the one it had given to Boromir when it was named Narsil. But no harm would come to Faramir, not while he could prevent it.
But even that seemed now impossible, the same as getting out of bed now seemed impossible. Thinking straight. Not shaking. Simple things that any man should be able to do, that the King should be able to do. And Anduril taunted him now, for he knew that should he hold the blade aloft his hand would shake. He looked up at Faramir, and placed his hand upon the younger man’s, pushing the sword toward him.
“Faramir I… can you just… put it somewhere else.” He coughed, then screwed his eyes up. “Please.“ Faramir eyed him warily before lifting Anduril once more and for lack of anywhere better, laid it along the mantelpiece above the barren fireplace. He paused for a moment, staring at his dried blood on the blade, then turned and regarded Elessar from across the room. Elessar still lay on his side, avoiding his gaze and looking thoroughly miserable. What had happened to his King? Proud and noble Elessar Telcontar didn’t seem to be anywhere in this room.
“Aragorn, what is wrong? If you will not tell me then I will fetch a healer and you will tell him instead.” Faramir was frowning, and his gentle manner was fading a little, a rare frustration taking its place.
“It is nothing, Faramir. Leave me be.” Elessar managed to sit up, though his head thrummed and the room seemed foggy. Faramir did not move, and his disobedience was starting to frustrate Elessar too. “I said leave me be.”
Elessar looked up at him sharply. “I am asking you to leave. Do not make it a command.”
Faramir stared back at him just as narrowly. “You are not alleviating my worries, Aragorn. I am not leaving until I know you are alright.”
You know he only cares for his King. He cares for you… Elessar stood, hating himself for the palm he pressed against the wall to steady himself. “Just go, Faramir. I am tired.”
“No, Aragorn.” Faramir left the hearthside and crossed the room, halting mid-stride when Elessar held out a hand, barring him from coming closer. Faramir ignored this too and dared push his hand aside gently. Elessar stared at him, gaze growing more icy by the moment. You must not grow close to me, Faramir. Forget your fondness, forget me.
Elessar knew of course, that if he forgot Faramir’s love and duty to his King, and forgot their friendship, which was growing ever more tenuous on this evening, if he forgot those things then he would be truly alone. He knew that this young man’s fondness for him ran a little deeper than one would innocently guess. Nothing obvious, nothing overt, but Elessar was not blind to the way Faramir sometimes let his eyes linger on him for a second too long, or the way he seemed to find ways to make the King smile like no-one else could these days. And he let him. He allowed him to call him Aragorn, or indeed, dear friend, and he allowed their hands to brush together by accident sometimes, and he did not move away when Faramir’s hair fell against his cheek as he leant over his shoulder to examine a paragraph Elessar was amending. He had implicitly encouraged Faramir, and he knew now that it had all been a mistake. He had fallen into the old trap once more, for to grow closer meant that the loss of that closeness would be ever the more unbearable. And he knew he would lose this, for why should his life’s cruel habit change now that he bore the Crown?
His father, felled before Elessar could even speak his name. Gentle Gilraen, a mother who loved him yet dwindled and faded from him, slowly. Arwen, who took decades to break his heart. Boromir, whom he had quarrelled with and yet reached some sort of unspoken understanding with in Lórien, only to lose him as well due to his own fumbling hands. It had been many long days after that before they knew that any of the hobbits were alive. He had brought only heartache to valiant Éowyn, and only pain to Faramir, who had no immediate family left and yet reached out to him now, the worry on his face now so deep that Elessar wanted to scream. He didn’t deserve this kindness.
Anduril mocked him from the mantelpiece. He brought a shaking hand to his face and felt himself cave in, almost. His knees buckled, and strong steady arms wrapped around him suddenly and drew him in, and he collapsed finally against the warmth and safety of Faramir’s embrace. A dry sob escaped, and he shut his eyes tight, and waited for things to mend themselves.
Gods… He was so thin. Not skeletal, not near death by any means, but Faramir still bit back his shock at how easily he supported Elessar against him, and how he could almost count his ribs through the thin shirt he wore. Something was terribly, terribly wrong.
The King’s fingernails dug into his shoulders, and he leant heavily upon Faramir, as if unable to stand unaided, and his face he had buried against Faramir’s shoulder, and Faramir could feel the wetness of silent tears against his neck as Elessar shook against him. There was a moment, a long heartbeat between them where Elessar seemed content to be held, and Faramir could do nothing but simply hold him and run his fingers through his unwashed hair softly, trying to soothe him though the cause of all of this was still a mystery.
And then suddenly, Elessar changed. His nails dug further into Faramir’s shoulder for a second before he pushed suddenly against him, breaking from his embrace with some force, eyes flashing with a fire that frightened Faramir not just a little. Faramir let him go, stepping back and watching him with a sad bewilderment. Elessar turned from him and strode toward the fireplace, stopping before it and leaning against it with arms spread out before him. He glared at Anduril for a long time before speaking in a low voice.
“Have you any idea what it is like to be me, Faramir?”
Faramir looked at the back of his head in confusion, fighting the urge to go to him, to reach out and touch his shoulder, to try and calm the troubled waters in whatever way he could. “I… I don’t know, Aragorn.”
Elessar sighed, and there was a strange humour in his voice when he next spoke. “Did you ever dream of being King, Faramir? As a child, did you ever fancy that one day by some inexplicable event the Crown might pass to you?”
“I would have been no normal child if I had not imagined that. Every young boy dreams of these things, even in these happier times.” He hovered near the bed, useless, unhelpful. Elessar’s shoulders were hunched together, as if he was in great pain.
“Call me selfish, my dear Faramir, but I do not find these times as happy as I should.” Elessar still faced the mantelpiece, but he had lowered his head, his lank hair falling down to cover his face. His knuckles were white against the stone sill. “I… I fear that the Crown of Men is too heavy for me to bear.”
“Let me speak, Faramir, for it will be the only time I will say it, and you do so wish to hear what troubles my heart, and though I feel no love for myself I love you enough to grant you that at least.” Elessar turned his head then, and his eyes were so desolate, the grey so cold and cheerless that Faramir felt like weeping. There was no warmth left in that gaze, only despair, a great weariness. Faramir sank onto the bed, sitting on the edge, for if Elessar was going to speak he would let him do so without interruption. His own heart was hammering in his chest, and the worry that was roiling in the pit of his stomach would not abate.
“When I was young I was in love. Before you were born, dear Faramir.” Elessar began, unsteadily, words not quite tripping over themselves but it was still as if a floodgate was being lifted. Now or never. “It is no secret, though I seldom speak of it. She was the daughter of Elrond, her name was Arwen and she was also called Undomiel, and she was named with grace and foresight for she was indeed a shining star, a tranquil beauty among a fair people. She was many, many lives of men older than I, but we were in love, for a time.”
As he spoke Elessar had begun to pace slowly across the room, with Faramir’s gentle gaze following his every move. Gone was his purposeful, confident stride; instead, the King walked as if indeed weighed down by many burdens, emotional or otherwise. He stepped slowly, as if in pain, as if he would stumble at any moment. It tore at Faramir but he did not rise to aid him, for he knew it would not be seen as a kind gesture at this moment.
“It began to end, of course, slowly, as these things do. My heart began breaking for her many years ago, and I began to fall in love with the land in her place. I still held out hope that our flame would rekindle, but she was falling for the sea as I was for the wild.” Elessar leant against a side table, head bowed. Faramir could not see his eyes. It was in a low voice that Elessar next spoke. “I… I do believe I have not been happy since I last slept freely beneath the stars.”
Faramir couldn’t hold back any longer, but he kept his voice low also, for fear of drawing Elessar out of his revelatory mood. “Aragorn, you—… you seemed happy here. When we have spoken together, or when we have shared wine, you seemed happy.”
Elessar looked across at him then, and his eyes were mournful. “That is the worst of it, I am afraid. The shameful part of this unfixable and unending mess.” It is because I was with you. He closed his eyes, and bent his head forward once more, lank brown waves falling forward and shielding his face from Faramir’s sight once more. “We were both Rangers, Faramir, so you will know somewhat of the loss my heart feels for the scent of grass and the murmur of stone beneath my feet. It is a keen ache, and I find no remedy even now in a City made from those same stones. It is cold here; the rock is dead. They knew I would be King even before I was born, and I knew it too in time, but I say this now to you and to you alone Faramir; I would rather be a Ranger to the end of my days than be here, now, running a Kingdom I have little idea how to run.”
Faramir frowned, but Elessar continued before he could interject again. He shifted on the bed, picking at the carving on the bedpost with his fingernails, eyes still trained on the sad, defeated form of the King.
“I say there is no remedy, but in honesty I am unsure. I loved Arwen, and she turned from me, and in the coldness of my sorrow for her I became colder to others; your brother and I quarrelled when we could have become better friends, and I believe I broke dear Éowyn’s heart, though she is honourable toward me and civil enough when we speak. In any case, though surrounded by dead stone as I was I thought there was some small release to be found, a peace, an escape from these things I must do as King; they are so numerous, these voices of dissent and complaint and they demand so much of my time and my thoughts and my opinion and my decision—… oh Faramir, I am ashamed to admit to even myself that I dared hope I would find this peace within you.” He looked up at Faramir suddenly, eyes pleading almost, and Faramir rose from the bed and went to him, voice low as he stepped slowly toward the King.
“Aragorn, you know I am here to help you. As Steward it is my duty to aid you in these things.” He stopped, arms length from the older man, and he rested his hand against Elessar’s hunched shoulder. Elessar flinched but did not withdraw. “You need only have asked, and you know I have been listless lately, for my own time is spent—” He got no further, for Elessar had begun to speak softly even as Faramir offered his well-meaning words.
“No, no, no. Oh Faramir!” His eyes were terrible now, and tears had finally begun to trickle downward over his drawn features. He shook, and Faramir could do nothing but let him speak. “Can you not see? How can I burden you with my own failings when it was because of me that you are here to be burdened by them? Because of these same failings your brother did not live to see you again, and now you are Steward in his place. I did not get there in time, I could not save him…”
Faramir moved then, quickly, for Elessar’s words had run through him with the quickness of a knife fresh from the whet-stone. His hands fell upon Elessar’s shoulders, a little too roughly at first, for Elessar’s head shot up and he looked directly into Faramir’s wide eyes, and Faramir loosened his grip a little, but did not release him. “Boromir’s—… my brother’s death is not on your hands, Aragorn. Gods! Is that what has been plaguing you? Do you think I blame you in some small way? I do not!” He resisted the temptation to shake this madness from the King bodily, but his own voice wavered and he could hear his own emotion now getting the better of him. “We have both been through a lot, we have both lost so much, to lose one another now would—… Aragorn, listen to me!” For Elessar had turned his head away and down, as if hoping to avoid Faramir’s words by breaking eye contact with him. “You must let me help you. And you must stop dwelling in the past if you are to rule us now as we head into this new future.”
Elessar could move quickly too. A half turn of the head, and his hands had come up to rest upon Faramir’s chest, but it was not in a gesture of kindness, for he shoved hard, harder than before, and Faramir stepped back, catching himself before he over-balanced, with hair falling into his face and confusion in his eyes. Elessar had stepped away, further into the corner of the room, and his expression was not one that invited contact. His breath came sharp and fast, and laboured, and there was a growl in his voice when he all but spat his next remark. “Stay away, Faramir. You know nothing of any of this. Stay away.” Away from my heart. The change in Elessar was frightening. The wise, kind man that Faramir had come in the recent months to call a dear friend was nowhere to be seen. Elessar watched as Faramir straightened and combed his hair from his face with a shaking hand. A whisper, laced with an anger and a fury from a source unknown even to the King. “Get out.”
Faramir was a patient man. Quiet, usually, sometimes reserved. Violent outbursts, physical or otherwise, were not his usual forte, save for on the battlefield, so it surprised even him a little when it seemed that his famously even temper had finally snapped. “No.” He lifted his head, determined, belligerent. “I will not get out. And you will not speak to me as if I were not your friend; you will not demand that I be gone because I ‘know nothing’. You tell me nothing! You hide it all from me! I am your Steward, Aragorn! No matter how tragic the circumstances that led to my inheriting this position, I am your Steward, and I mean to fulfil my duty! I am meant to help you with all that nonsense that is currently overflowing on your desk!” He gestured wildly toward the door, and Elessar’s eyes flashed and he began to form a retort, but Faramir would not let him speak. “I am more than that, Aragorn. I am supposed to be your friend. Yet you lie to me and pretend all is well when really it is far from that.” He thrust his finger at the King, and his hand shook with anger now. “You are ill with all these things that you will not share with me. My rightful duties, the things with which you have burdened yourself because you fear to task them to me in case it compounds my grief over Boromir? Because I blame you for that? Nonsense! I love you so well, Aragorn, and you hurt me with your dismissal, your poor assesment of me. I have only ever been here for you, and even now that I know something of what is gnawing at your mind you will not accept my help. And you need help, Aragorn. My character is not so reserved that I would not recognise that, or fear to tell you of it. You could have spoken to me about Arwen, and Éowyn. You know you could have. I know what an aching heart feels like, Aragorn. You could have spoken to me.”
Silence between them, save for Faramir’s breath which slowly evened out as he calmed from his tirade. He stood there, listless, expectant with his pulse still thudding in his ears. His face was flushed with his outburst, and he waited for the backlash, but none came. Elessar’s head was in his hands, and he leant heavily with his back against the wall. He made no sound at all, but Faramir knew he wept, for he shook in that unmistakeable way, that shuddering, tensing, half-collapsing way over and over again.
“For the sake of the gods, Aragorn, just—… come here.” Faramir said, even as he approached the King. He knew not which aspect of Elessar’s emotion he would be confronted with next, be it more anger or despair, and he knew he risked being pushed away again, both literally and emotionally, but it was not to be. Perhaps sense had finally found its way into the muddle of Elessar’s thoughts, for when Faramir’s fingers reached the older man’s shoulders Elessar practically fell into his embrace, his own arms winding around his Steward’s back and his face falling back into the space between Faramir’s shoulder and neck.
Faramir held him close, closer than before, his hand running up and down the King’s back as he spoke softly to him. It would be alright, he told him, all would sort itself. I will help you. For the moment, just calm yourself. I am here.
Elessar had stopped shaking, and was breathing quietly and hotly against his throat. And then Faramir did something that had no forethought, no precursor, in fact, afterward he would often wonder indeed what had made him act, what could possibly have given him the assurance that it would be a good idea. An error in judgement, perhaps.
Faramir drew back a little, and Elessar, having calmed, lifted his head, and looked into the kind eyes of the younger man. And then something took hold of Faramir, and he lifted his hands from Elessar’s shoulder blades and brought them to lace into his hair either side of his face, softly, tenderly, and Elessar let him and began to move his head as if to rest their foreheads together. There was a moment, a single heartbeat where their faces were so close, and they seemed to share a breath, and then Faramir forgot all his sense and kissed him.
You are pushing him away when all he has ever done is love you…
A single heartbeat. His tears wet his hands and he felt as if unable to breathe. After all that had gone wrong Elessar knew he had really done it now; had turned even gentle Faramir against him. All I have to do is reach out to him… And now all he could do was show Faramir just how unfit he was as King, how weak. What King weeps like ths? What King should rely on his Steward to right everything?
What King cannot rule his kingdom?
The younger man now held him close, and whispered to him, and it was all wrong because Elessar knew now that were Faramir to let him go he would be lost. So he dug his fingers into Faramir’s shoulder blades, and went over and over in his head the strange and unfamiliar thought that had formed there; the idea that, maybe, if he could just be selfish for a moment, for one single moment, if he could tell Faramir he needed him, in every way possible, if he could do that, then perhaps the days would start to become brighter. Perhaps he could get some sleep.
Peace. That’s all I ever wanted. Can I tell him that? He leant back, and Faramir shifted as well, and the embrace loosened somewhat, and Faramir brought his hands up and ran his fingers though Elessar’s hair and he felt such a wave of contentment wash over him that he moved to rest his forehead against Faramir’s, and tell him, finally, what his heart had been whispering quietly all this time. I would find that peace within you, Faramir.
And then Faramir shifted too, and tilted his head and with a determination in his eyes that he perhaps did not intend Elessar to see he brought his lips to his King’s, and kissed him gently, lovingly, eyes closing and hands still tousling his unkempt hair. It was sweet, and soft, and the tip of Faramir’s tongue swept across his, for it had pushed inside his mouth, curious and questing. Elessar had not the time to react, to exclaim or move or even, to kiss back, for he had realised that he would like to do that, before Faramir had jolted back with a look of panic in his eyes.
“Forgive me!” He pulled away, but Elessar caught his hands as they swept from his hair, halting Faramir before he could retreat any further.
“Gods, Aragorn, forgive me. I do not—… I have taken advantage—…”
“I… I—…” Faramir’s eyes were wide and his face almost tortured. “I should not have done that.”
“Faramir.” Elessar spoke firmly, fingers still wrapped gently around the other’s wrists. “I want—… I need you. I need your help. I need you.” Reaching out was now suddenly not so insurmountable. Elessar let Faramir’s hands drop, and Faramir simply stood there, biting his lip as if admonishement was but a moment away.
Gentle Faramir. I have known for so long. Fear, fear of himself, fear of letting go and fear of love. How could he let himself love another when he did not even love himself? When that other was someone he should not love? Elessar did not know where the words were coming from, but they spilled forth from his lips even so.
“I do need you, Faramir. And it is selfish of me and I am a fool, but I do believe I need you in that way too.” His finger trailed softly down the side of Faramir’s neck, and the younger man swallowed hard. “Can you help me, Faramir? Will you do that?” The finger retraced its journey, ending with Elessar’s palm pressed gently to Faramir’s cheek. “You said I tell you nothing, rightfully so. May I tell you this now? May I tell you that I am afraid of this, of us? I am afraid of myself, and I am afraid that to accept your help and to seek my peace within you could only lead to my doom, but there is a chance. There is that small hope in my heart, and I would bring it forth. I am not so blind, my dear friend, to your own secrets and your own hopes. I fear losing you, but how can I lose you if I do not have you to begin with?” He drew closer, and for the first time the King’s eyes seemed bright and the shadows beneath less dark. “Will you help me in this way?” He reached for Faramir’s hand once again, and lifted it up, and with eyes still trained on Faramir’s, he brought the knuckles to his lips and kissed them softly. He let his lips linger against the younger man’s skin for a moment before lowering their hands again, awaiting the fate of his heart.
Faramir gazed at him in silence, panic subsiding but there was still a knot in his brow, and a quickness of breath that betrayed his emotion. “Aragorn…” He began, but got no further. He looked down, then turned away, freeing his hand and moving a pace or so from his King. Elessar’s hand fell back to his side and he watched Faramir and hoped beyond hope that history was not about to repeat itself.
“You are perceptive, Aragorn.” Faramir’s voice was low, and there was the soft rasp and waver there that came from nerves and a thudding heart. “You… are correct in your assumption of me, even though I have now cast all doubt from your mind as to the hope of my heart with my … action a few moments ago. But it is true; long have I looked upon you with fondness that went beyond our friendship. Indeed, I care for you more than I rightly should, and for a while thought you felt the same for me, though I too succumbed to fear.” His hands clenched and unclenched into and out of fists repeatedly as he stood, not facing away, but not quite looking toward Elessar. “I would help you, Aragorn, I would give my heart to you if it would ease the pain that so clearly dogs you. But I fear that you will believe I came here tonight with an ulterior motive, that my rash act was calculated and not simply as mysterious to me as it must have seemed to you. I do not know why I kissed you then, but… I would do it again, if it seemed the right thing to do.”
“Sit with me, Faramir.” Elessar crossed over to the bed, linens still rumpled and in disarray from many hours spent awake among them. He sat on the edge, and was soon joined by Faramir, who sat near but did not meet his eye.
“I apologise for shouting at you. And… the rest, I think.” Sheepish, frowning, but Faramir’s hand managed to find its way from his own lap, across the bedcover, coming to rest upon Elessar’s where he leant upon the mattress. Could this be the beginning of something extraordinary? He looked at the King out of the corner of his eye. Elessar shifted, and turned his hand beneath Faramir’s so that their fingers could intertwine. “Aragorn, I wish to help you with matters of state and of Kingship, and also with matters of your heart, for… you are a dear friend to me. But I doubt that my courting you now would bring you peace, if I were ever to be so bold as to even consider courting you.” Faramir mumbled the last of these words, and felt his cheeks burn.
Elessar watched him as he spoke, and though the exhaustion he felt was almost overwhelming, it was different now, not all-encapsulating, or all-encompassing wariness and despair. It was the desperate desire to get into bed and close his eyes, and he knew now, for the first time in so many long months, that he could place faith in his Steward to help right things and slip into an untroubled slumber. “Faramir?” He spoke quietly, and the younger man looked up at him properly for the first time in many minutes. “Will you stay with me tonight?”
Elessar slept like the dead. Faramir smiled to himself, and his heart sang softly as he gazed at the older man. The King’s face, illuminated by a shard of moonlight, was set peacefully for the first time in so very long. His breathing was quiet, soft, the rasp had faded, though the circles beneath his eyes would take more than a good night’s sleep to mend. But it was a start.
They had lain together in the bed for a long time, not touching, or speaking. Faramir had pulled the bedcovers open and straightened the sheets, and Elessar had gotten in and held the blanket open in invitation. There was a hesitation, and a fumbling of clothing before Faramir finally divested himself of his breeches and slid in under the covers, still shirt-clad and cheeks a-blush as he lay upon his back beside his King.
Long minutes passed. And then Elessar had turned and lain his arm over Faramir, and when Faramir had looked at him the King’s eyes were warm and there was something new there— not lust, not yet. Peace, perhaps, contentment. Fondness. And Faramir had shifted and wound his arms around Elessar gently, and Elessar’s hand found its way into Faramir’s hair and they kissed, again, once but for a long time, silently and so tenderly that Faramir had begun to shudder with pleasure toward the end. Faramir knew it would not go further this night, and would not dare suggest it, for Elessar looked upon him so fondly and yet so wearily, and Faramir kissed him again softly on the lips and whispered to him; “Sleep well, dear friend.”
And the King had smiled a tired, contented smile and buried his face in Faramir’s hair, drifting into a calm slumber almost immediately.
Sleep did not come so easily to Faramir, though it was not worry that kept him awake. He stroked Elessar’s hair absently, and pressed a kiss to his forehead. The King did not stir, so deep was his rest. Little did Faramir ever suspect that a cure for his boredom would come in this form, though he held no objection to it. He would rise early, if possible, and tackle the correspondance consuming Elessar’s desk, and then he would see if he could not arrange what might possibly be the first decent meal the King may have eaten in who knew how long. Firewood, too, he thought, needed to be seen to, though there was no need for it tonight. The bed was now warm from their combined heat, and Faramir’s eyes were drifting shut slowly before even he was aware of it. He shifted gently, not wishing to disturb the King from his long awaited rest.
When he awoke, it was warm. It was later, early morning perhaps, though still quite dark. Anduril glinted from the mantel in the grey light. He did not move, for there were arms around him still, holding him against the heat of a body that promised everything; trust, reliance, if he were to be so bold— love, and above all, peace. The loneliness that had lingered for so long had been ushered from the room, and in its place was Faramir. It was not meant to be like this either; perched as they were on the brink of something new, something, perhaps, quietly wonderful. Nothing had been yet confirmed, nothing spoken of properly, but somehow he knew now that everything would be set to rights. Everything would be fine. And if Faramir truly was not certain that he should dare court his King, then the King might need to conduct a little courting of his own. Slowly, gently. Let his heart mend and their closeness grow. Tomorrow. He would begin everything anew, tomorrow.
But tonight, Elessar would sleep.
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