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02 November 2013 | 25662 words | Work in Progress
The next two hours pass in avoidance of the bedroom. Pippin knows he ought to go in and – how to put this? – to see to the bed. But he cannot quite bring himself to enter… that place, to inhale that air which his master’s one-night lover had breathed, to see the dried-up testimony of their passion on the sheets. He well knows he will wash these sheets himself, scrub every inch with bare hands in water so hot his skin will go red and raw, pluck all the dark hairs, one by one, from between the fabric strands with his fingernails, and rinse the load with aromatic essences, over and again. Those loose-tongued laundry maids will not get to enjoy hazarding idle guesses as to how a man whose wife is known not to have been in town for a number of seasons now, could manage to get his linens in such a state.
The matter has acquired a near cosmic, universal import. Their fate, his lord’s fate, his lord’s happiness, the ability of life to return to its regular, non-tragic course – everything depends on the success of The Bed Quest. Incidentally, it has become unimaginably difficult, immovable as a mountain of lead, so that he cannot even begin to do something about it. He understands he should at least strip the mattress and put fresh linens on, and take the used ones someplace else to deal with them later. But here his own logic comes to stand in the way: what if Faramir spots it? Pippin had changed the bedclothes only the day before, and it would not be standard procedure to do it again so soon. He knows his lord is a man gifted with exceptional perspicacity, even in the times of extreme stress, and when he settles for sleep tonight, he may observe that everything is fresh and starched all over again, and see the tie-in, and know that his supposedly unaware esquire is not as fortunately ignorant. Especially that Pippin has already floundered with the chair, and the cushion – no, he cannot risk being discovered to know, being even suspected to know.
Besides, deep down he yet dares hope that his current actions will prove to be immaterial. He hopes that when Faramir finds Aragorn today, Aragorn will smile at him, and no sooner than they are alone, he will take him by the hand and all will be well. And maybe towards nightfall they will return, together.
In such turn of events it would not make too much sense to do anything at all beyond straightening out the covers. The Queen is not due back in the City for another week, and if Aragorn will spend each of those nights here – and surely he would, for how could he keep himself off Faramir – well, they would have to go through a frightful amount of pillow cases and the rest of it if Pippin were to replace everything every time.
All his senses tell him that this is not what is going to happen. But in any case, it is none of his concern. His job is to tidy up and put things in order, not to rationalise whether or not he should be putting things in order.
He well understands this task comes with the territory. He had wanted to be Faramir’s one and only personal attendant, and this is what he is – which means he does not have the luxury to delegate a chore he would rather not do.
He has lived in such long proximity to his lord for such a long time that he harbours no illusions as to Faramir being an incorporeal spirit of pure light and shine. For one thing, now and again – and in the recent weeks quite often, for that matter – when making the bed in the morning, he would come across fresh evidence that his lord had been visited by a rather sweetly indecent dream. But to Pippin, the vision that would immediately follow such a discovery, that of Faramir pressing himself into the mattress, sighing with pleasure in his sleep – that vision is pure delight. And even the less readily romanticisable aspects of a man’s daily life that it falls to a body servant to witness had never lifted the veil of love for him, not for a fraction of a second, for nothing that comes of Faramir could ever repel him. And if Faramir would only wish it of him, there is not a way in which he would not be ecstatic to pleasure the man, not a single favour he would refuse him.
So it throws him, that he should find himself so intensely put off by the prospect of performing such a simple, mundane task.
But then again, this here is not about Faramir, nor about the due privacy that Faramir’s personal goings-on should be allowed. To think of it, had his lord had a wholesome marriage, it would have naturally fallen to Pippin to deal with the aftermath of his and Lady Éowyn’s lovemaking, and sometimes even the markings of her monthly blood – arguably a matter even more private. Pippin turns this idea around in his mind, and can find nothing to wince at. Yet what happened in the bed last night – it makes his skin crawl, for it is dirty, dirty in a way far worse than even the soiled beddings the Hobbit has handled at the Wards. Ugly is what it is, ugly and disgusting, as though instead of sweat and male seed the linen is soaked with literal selfishness and deceit that will rise and spread like fumes of the plague should Pippin dare disturb the mounded blanket or dislodged sheet.
And in Faramir’s own bed, no less! The most intimate, sacred place of all of his household. To go and do this… Truly, the only way to cleanse it is set the whole thing alight and let it burn to cinders. He just cannot get his head around how…
Pippin sighs. He does realise it should not be this unmanageable, just get on with it already, do your job for goodness’ sake – but agonising over it is by far preferable to agonising over Faramir’s upcoming resignation.
O, he will do it, he will get it done – just not quite right away, not until the ware is taken back to the kitchens, the non-existent crumbs from the uneaten meal brushed off the table, and the table-cloth adjusted to perfect symmetry. Not until the garments Faramir has chosen not to wear are folded neatly and put back in the drawers, and the floor in the bathroom wiped dry. Not until the rolled up and sealed documents brought for his lord’s perusal are sorted and neatly stacked on the desk and wood put in the hearth just in case it will be cold tonight. Not until everything looks perfect, as though nothing has been shattered and life goes on. Not until –
Not until Faramir is back – because he is.
The man walks straight to the accursed bedroom, too – and Pippin is so ashamed he can hardly breathe. Lowly craven, now his lord will get his nose rubbed into yet another reminder, that pillaged mess of a battlefield where he had so blindly, so rapturously surrendered all of himself. Where he had wanted to make love and ended up getting completely –
“Master Peregrin, would you come here a minute?” Faramir calls drily.
Pippin rushes in, queasy with guilt. He opens his mouth to mumble apologies, to fully embrace his fault – but then it registers with him that Faramir is not reproaching him for the negligence of his duties. Faramir, in fact, does not seem to care, as he flings his old faded saddle bag right atop the blanket.
“Will you give me a hand packing?” he says briskly, not even glancing at his esquire and already rummaging through a full drawer, instantly undoing an hour’s worth of meticulous folding and stacking that Pippin so prizes himself on. “I… I need to take some things along, I’ll be gone for a time,” Faramir murmurs a little dazedly, as suddenly he forsakes his search and, slowly, straightens up only to look blankly in front of himself. He is clearly quite overwhelmed, and even the rather straightforward undertaking of figuring out what to put in his bag apparently eludes his grasp. He swallows, frowns.
“Will your lordship be heading to Emyn Arnen?” Pippin offers with courtly politeness, standing up nice and tall and folding his hands behind his back.
“Yes,” Faramir agrees absently. Then, after a moment’s hesitation, he adds a little firmer, “yes, I suppose so. That is where I shall go.”
“Well, in that case you can go rather light,” Pippin proposes with the seriousness of an intellectual discussion. Just keep talking. He has learned this at the Wards, just keep talking to them, it hurts less so. “You won’t be needing much for the trip itself, I imagine not, and it does not look likely to rain anytime today – and then I reckon your lordship would have most everything for the daily matters at home, clothes and such?”
Faramir nods, and seems calmer now. “Yes,” he says quietly, “that I do.”
And so they pack, and Pippin chatters and chatters to maintain the distracting background – but it is now that he more than ever burns to open his heart to the man he so desperately loves.
He knows it will be quite useless, now of all times – and yet the urge is so strong he at times has to bite down on the inside of his cheek to keep the words from popping out. May as it be against his nature to quash himself like so, the blaze of his passion has not blinded his reason, and he understands his love cannot replace the absence of Aragorn’s. His confession, such as he could make it, would be yet another burden to Faramir, yet another absurd misfortune to manage. He knows it will be unkind, too, to try and offer such consolation, much as it would be unkind to offer a thirsty man a cupful of oil – in many ways so similar to what he yearns for, but in truth only a joke, a lopsided reflection of his true desire.
And what would Pippin say? You matter to me? I care for you? I think about you without end? You are the best man I’ve ever known and I wish to make you happy? I would do anything for you, treasure every moment with you and never hurt you? He would rather swallow his tongue altogether than give these flat, trite, adolescent lines to his lord. He comes from a world where the things that truly matter are hardly ever spoken of directly, if at all, for such things exist in a context of their own and go far beyond the small everyday words used to refer to small everyday matters. A whole different language should be used to speak of love, he thinks, a language graceful and transparent, pure and unsoiled, a language that is not earthbound – and if he knew the High Tongue, maybe then he would have dared say something. But he does not know it.
Instead, he tries to work up the courage to ask for permission to breach their unspoken tradition and come along. Faramir is so preoccupied now, the hobbit is quite sure he would grant it without stopping to think. What does it matter to him if Pippin goes or not – but to Pippin it matters!
He does not ask, he cannot. And Faramir does not invite him: again, Faramir has a little too much on his mind as is.
And just like that, bag in hand, the Man is gone. Out the door, and out of Minas Tirith. Without a word of explanation. Pippin does not accompany him to the stables, does not even walk him to the main entrance – he can tell his lord can hardly wait to be alone.
The Hobbit stands numb, dumb, as though he has just been whacked across the head with a sack of potatoes. His ears are ringing with silence, with the deserted emptiness of his master’s sunlight-flooded chamber, where so much life had recently happened, and where only the dust is settling now. His tendons and muscles go limp, his eyes go heavy and purposeless, and his unseeing gaze sinks upon his own feet. It is done – whatever it is that happened, it is done and over.
It is then the spot of colour on the floor catches his eye. Half-covered by a fold of the bed-sheet there it is – a small, little more than an ounce, bottle of deep violet glass. The cork must have popped out when it fell, and it has dripped some glistening oily liquid onto the stone.
Instantly, he wakes up. For he knows why it is here and with what purpose it had been brought along, for what purpose it had, almost, been used. Through what is most akin to a hound’s sense of smell he knows it is an alien object in his lord’s quarters, brought here not in his lord’s hands, brought here not by his lord’s design, remaining here without his lord’s knowledge as a conceited little attestation of Faramir’s one moment of weakness.
Pippin feels himself go pale with rage.
The bastard, the son of a trollop had planned this.
Well, perhaps not necessarily ‘planned’, but certainly he had kept the possibility in mind coming prepared to an ‘innocent’ private dinner with his Steward.
Never, he thinks, has he felt such unconditional, white-hot hatred. His hands curl with the desire to pull the fire-poker from the grate and go smash it on Aragorn’s skull – or, better still, between his legs. And then lodge it up his royal arse, so that he would know, what it feels like to be had.
His teeth clenched to the point of desensitisation, the Hobbit bends down and scoops the bottle up into his pocket. There may not be much he can do about this, about anything – but he knows now that he will not forget, and he will not let it go.
To be continued…
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