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The Only Place That Matters (PG) Print

Written by Faramir_Boromir

09 June 2005 | 2996 words

The Only Place That Matters
Author: faramir_boromir
Pairing/Characters: Faramir, Boromir, OMC (Darmid)
Warnings: Implied incest
Rating: PG
Summary: Trapped where he should not be, Faramir needs help in Osgiliath or one of his men will die. Aid comes from an unexpected source. Relies upon military strategy that not all of Gondor’s troops in Osgiliath would share the same headquarters.
Disclaimer: All Tolkien’s, all the time.

The building was collapsing. What was left of the building, that is. It had sheltered his men for weeks, but the fighting had weakened one critical wall too much; a few minutes earlier, his reserves emptied out of the humble tanner’s shop, carrying the last of the Rangers’ baggage and supplies, only moments before the last wall toppled in. They’d need a new staging point in Osgiliath for their efforts, but Faramir had picked one out the week before, and he led the handful of young men through the rubble-strewn streets to their latest refuge.

The new shelter did not have much to recommend it, save four walls and a roof, but in war-ravaged Osgiliath, that made the rude dwelling a veritable palace. Testing the walls once again for safety, and reassured it would not fail them as quickly as the last place had, Faramir had the youngest recruits shift the packs and spare weapons inside. Now, as the afternoon lengthened, he must solve a new problem. Most of the forty men under his direct command were dispersed throughout the center of the city, and each would have to learn the route to their newest haven somehow. The method they used in Ithilien had been adapted for the city; there were no trees to blaze with secret marks here. Instead, stone had to serve, yet not too obviously. Faramir took a veteran of two years with him as he returned to their former command post, now a pile of tumble-down rock some fifteen feet high at the center.

Darmid knew how to read and set the signs, and would help him mark the building in their faint code. But as they neared the pile of crumbled stone at one side of the square, neither man sensed the danger. An archer, hidden by a wall, shot Darmid in the chest, and only Faramir’s speed let him catch the man before he fell to the ground. Counting the seconds in his mind until the second arrow must fly, Faramir moved with lightning reflexes, pulling the deadweight of his companion into a doorway, partly blocking the archer’s view with the corner of an intervening building. The threat remained, though their enemy must be a hundred paces off, if not more.

Looking down into Darmid’s face, then at his chest, Faramir knew with only a glance the sad fate awaiting the man. He might linger for an hour, maybe two, but no more, unless the arrow was removed. The arrow had pierced too many vital parts for a simple bandage to repair, and the Rangers had no healer among their ranks, at least, none formally trained. The man most skilled in removing arrows had been slain four days earlier, an axeblow to the neck, and Faramir could not do it alone anyhow. The pain would be too much; it would take two men to get the arrow out, and even then, Faramir was not sure Darmid would live. All he could do was comfort the Ranger, stay with him, if the danger did not become too grave.

Yet every moment he lingered increased the odds that the hidden archer would find his target again. His own quiver was back at their new gathering place; he and Darmid had come in stealth and meant to be there only a few moments, so he had only his knives and his sword for defense. No defense, really, against a concealed bowman, as well Faramir knew from leading his own attacks. He drew one of the daggers, more from habit than any sense that he might get to use it. A hundred paces was farther than he could throw against a shielded target, and one he could not see properly in the bargain.

A sudden shout, then the crack of blade against bone, twice. It came from the direction of the archer. Who….? Bending low, Faramir peered out of the doorway, around the edge of its protective wall, expecting to pull back instantly if another arrow came flying. But none did.

Instead, Boromir rounded the distant wall, wiping Orc blood from his sword without looking, his eyes darting from side to side, seeking other hidden enemies. When he came to the fallen building, he knelt, quickly, looking for Ranger marks, and not finding them. Faramir knew he would circle the building, checking its corners for the signs, and that would bring him near the doorway. He waited, and watched.

Boromir’s actions were just as Faramir had predicted. Sword still drawn, shield slung over his back, Boromir disappeared behind the pile of building debris, and Faramir knew without seeing him that his brother crouched at the second corner, looking at the pile of stone blocks that had once been a tanner’s shop…and until recently the base for Faramir’s Rangers. Boromir came back into view when appeared at the third corner, and Faramir watched him kneel again. This time, when he did not find the marks, Faramir thought he saw Boromir shake his head, a short, angry denial of something.

Boromir trotted to the last corner of the fallen building, and knelt one last time, yet he found no sign. His words were clearer this time, loud enough for Faramir to hear. “Not like this. No, not like this.” As the last word was spoken, Faramir gave a low whistle, and Boromir whirled to face the danger. Another whistle, and Boromir’s eyes narrowed, tracking the sound to its source. The darkened doorway. And his brother’s eyes, barely visible through the entrance.

Moving quickly for such a large man, Boromir sprinted across the open ground, the last stretch running as if all the Orcs in Mordor were at his heels. Faramir stood, watching, his brother’s movements reminding him of how fast the man could move when need demanded it. As Boromir neared the door, he practically flung himself into Faramir’s arms, both men embracing and holding on longer than necessary, though Boromir seemed most reluctant to let go when they finally did.

“There…were no signs,” he said, somewhat disjointedly. When Faramir said, “We came to lay them. Darmid was shot,” only then did Boromir seem to notice the wounded man. One look from his experienced eye told him what it had told Faramir earlier. The flush in Boromir’s cheek paled, briefly.

“He will die, if we do nothing,” Faramir warned.

“I know.”

“You must hold him down.”

“I have done it before.”

The two men knelt beside the fallen Ranger, and with his knife, Faramir ripped the corner of the man’s shirt upwards, then all the way across. He tore the cloth in half again, creating two long strips that might reach around his body. Then he tore a third strip from the man’s shirt before he sheathed the blade again. He put the third wad of cloth close to his companion’s mouth, saying, “Darmid, bite down upon this.” The man nodded weakly, knowing what would come next. Pain. Yet he knew that Faramir meant only to aid him as much as possible. The Ranger swallowed, then Faramir tipped the cloth into his open mouth, and the man bit down.

The only virtue here would be speed, for neither brother could lessen the man’s pain. Staring into Darmid’s eyes, Boromir said, “Hold still, and it will bleed the less,” as he knelt and placed his hands on the Ranger’s upper arms, pressing his weight downward. A quick flick of his eyes told Faramir to proceed, and the younger man took the arrow’s shaft at the point closest to Darmid’s chest, then nodded to Darmid. The gaze that met Faramir’s held the truth: if they failed, he would die. Even if they succeeded, Darmid knew he still might die. His jaw clamped down on the cloth tightly, and he narrowed his eyes, in readiness.

I am the arrow, its straightness and its power. I am the arrow, its fletching and its flight. I am the arrow, and must not fail. Repeating the litany of words he used to still his racing heart before he nocked an arrow, Faramir calmed himself until he could see only the shaft—not the blood, not the man it had entered. Nothing else. Firming his grip upon the arrowshaft, Faramir pulled upward with all his might….

And the arrow came free, as Darmid gave a muffled grunt of agony. But just when he would have felt his greatest relief that the arrow was out, Faramir looked to the tip. The place where a sharpened point should be was ragged, broken at an awkward angle. When he looked to Boromir, he saw that his brother knew instantly what the missing tip meant: the arrow had snapped off inside, and that meant Darmid would surely die. Only a skilled healer might find and remove the head of a broken arrow in a wound this deep. Faramir glanced down to Darmid, and saw the shock of pain in his eyes—then the man’s eyes flew to the arrow’s tip. Shock became dismay, then resignation. Darmid knew his fate.

Faramir removed the cloth from Darmid’s mouth, gave him a drink of water, sought something to place beneath Darmid’s head. As he put the dirty blanket he scavenged under the injured man’s head, his eyes finally went to Boromir’s.

Two minds richocheted questions and answers back and forth without words, the silent language of brother reading brother, every expression a conversation.

Could we move him…

He cannot be shifted…

I could go for aid…

He will die before nightfall…

I could bring troops…

Do not risk the living to save the dead…

What will you do?

Then Faramir spoke aloud, certain that Boromir must leave thereafter.

“I cannot leave him.” Faramir’s words were a grim conclusion. Both knew that Faramir also meant

until he dies.

‘Twas Boromir’s reply that came unexpectedly. “We will both stay with you,” Boromir said, not to Faramir, but to the wounded man. “We cannot ease your passage, but we will not leave you alone.”

“You…honor me…Lord Boromir.” Darmid’s voice was weak, but he spoke with emotion.

“Not so. You have fought bravely in Osgiliath. It is well that brave men should be together, especially at the end.” Boromir did not lie, or tell Darmid to hope for tomorrow, for all knew the man would not live to see tomorrow’s dawn. ‘Tis not your way, brother, to dissemble with a dying man.

Faramir used the strips of cloth from Darmid’s shirt to bind the wound shut, though there was too much blood for him to staunch its flow completely. He knew his efforts were futile, but he made them nonetheless. Darmid did not speak, and eventually, his eyes closed. Then Faramir moved to sit on the ground, at his brother’s side, so that he could be with Darmid as the life bled out of him.

Darmid’s skin grew pale, clammy. An hour passed, and his eyes opened briefly, wavered for a moment, then closed again. Neither Faramir nor his brother stirred, their years of experience in tending wounded men a horrid skill that told them the end would not be far away. Nor were they wrong. At the end of the second hour, Darmid’s grasp on Faramir’s hand tightened, and he said but two words. “Hendil…remember.” Then the grip relented, and Darmid’s fingers went cold inside of Faramir’s.

Faramir took the limp hand, and placed it on the man’s chest. Then he stood, and looked down at Darmid’s lifeless body, shaking his head slightly.

Watching the man die was sobering, even for two who had seen as much of war as Boromir and Faramir. The somber young man swallowed hard as he turned away from the body briefly, looking at nothing. Rising from the ground himself, Boromir saw how much the death affected Faramir, just as he had known it would. He touched his brother upon the shoulder, and asked only, “Who is Hendil? One of your company?”

“Darmid’s brother. He too is a Ranger,” Faramir answered numbly. Then he asked the question he could not ask in front of Darmid. “Why did you stay? Your men will be frantic to find you, after so long an absence.” He rounded to face Boromir, unshed tears still stinging his eyes. Another soldier in his command, dead before his time.

“I could not find the marks, yet I knew that was the shop.” Boromir gestured abruptly toward the ruined building, barely visible through the doorway in the fading daylight. “I knew the building was unsteady, we all did, yet….” Boromir broke off his thought, then started again, faintly. “I thought I had lost you.”

Faramir heard this, as he threw himself into Boromir’s arms once more. To be held, to be safe, was what he craved most at this instant. “I live.” His head fell forward into the soft crook of his brother’s neck, where he whispered, “I am weary, I have not eaten since daybreak, but…. but I am in the only place that matters.” He could feel strong arms encircle his waist, pull him hard against the broad chest encased in armor.

Near his ear, Faramir heard the response always given, the phrase that only one other person knew, like the key to a locked place. “Where you are.”

As he stifled the sob rising in his throat, Faramir nodded mutely, in agreement. Long after his men were bedded down for the night, when solitude came to him at last, Faramir mourned the men lost from his company. Violent deaths, all of them. Tonight, he could at least mourn with his brother there to hold him.

Though he did not know the man, Boromir had seen dozens of soldiers die as Darmid had, and his heart had not hardened to their loss. But he felt this one less keenly than Faramir, and knew he must help his brother as best he could. “There are no safe places in this world, Farya. He did only what was asked of him,” he gently soothed. Faramir nodded again, glad that his face was still hidden from his brother while he clenched his eyes tightly to keep down the tears. Darmid’s end was a reminder of other terrors, the ones Faramir fought to keep at arm’s length. Death stalked them both, and Faramir’s worst nightmares were of losing his brother. He never asked Boromir what night sendings he dreaded most. He did not have to.

“And though I wish no man dead, I would sooner see Darmid dead than you. For if you had come alone, none of us might have found you until it was too late,” Boromir added, pulling back to look into the troubled eyes of his Ranger brother. “Mourn him, yes, but bless the Valar that he came with you. I could not bear to lose you, in this place or any other.” Then Boromir held him close once more, reminding Faramir how little time they had before both must return to their troops. A hand rose to smooth his hair, to calm him. A reminder of younger days, when neither had the burdens they now bore.

“Nor could I bear losing you,” Faramir whispered against his brother’s shoulder. The blackness has grown worse each night, until I must speak of it.

Letting go a ragged breath, Faramir spoke. “I cannot…see beyond this place, for you.” Boromir leaned back in his embrace, to look at Faramir once more, his confusion obvious. “What?”

“Always, I have felt…secure. That you would return to me, no matter how far away you had gone. But…that…certainty has diminished, each day we linger in this place. Some dread thing comes, and I cannot see beyond.” Faramir’s admission was not made lightly, for he did not wish to give his brother more concerns than he already had. Yet he had to speak, now. The scent of death was in the darkening room with both of them, and Faramir did not know how much more time they would have. Today, or any day.

Boromir searched his brother’s face, hearing the pained words. “You cannot keep me from harm’s way, any more than I can protect you in this place, little brother. ‘Tis not possible.”

“Aye, I know,” Faramir answered, raising his eyes to meet Boromir’s. “But always I have known how to follow you. To find you.” So that we might be together. “But soon…I will not. I sense it, Boromir. You go somewhere I cannot follow. And then, how will I find the only place that matters?” His eyes were fastened to Boromir’s now, widened with something akin to fear.

Boromir listened, Faramir’s words making him wonder what lay ahead. Was it death, in Faramir’s dark dreams? Not even Faramir could tell, though Boromir knew that that possibility worried the younger man. Giving his brother a firm shake by the arms, Boromir tried to console him. “Am I ghost or man? I am here, now, and that may be relied upon.” His gaze softened, as he looked deeply into Faramir’s eyes, knowing how such troubling thoughts taxed his brother’s spirit. With a quirk to his lip, Boromir added, “If you are uncertain, remind me that I yet live. You alone know the way.”

As the last rays of light reached through the doorway, man faced man, arms holding each other close. Then the slighter man leaned nearer, heart racing, as lips brushed lips, soft at first, then strong, commanding. Osgiliath disappeared, as did everything else, obliterated as they found the will to hold all other thoughts at bay. Safe, now. Safe, for so long as you hold me.

NB: Please do not distribute (by any means, including email) or repost this story (including translations) without the author's prior permission. [ more ]

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