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What Could Have Been (PG) Print

Written by LN Tora

18 December 2011 | 4615 words

Title: What Could Have Been
Author: LN Tora
Rating: PG
Pairings: implied Faramir & Erestor
Disclaimer: Non-profit fan derivative work. All characters depicted are properties of their respective creators and/or license holders.
Genre: Gen, light Drama, light Romance
Summary: Faramir remembers a chance at happiness that he cast aside.

Notes: Unbeta’d, so all mistakes my own, least that the spell check didn’t get. Also, apologies to the original requester: I really tried to go with the spirit of it, but I think I fell short. Finally, being a visual person, I probably used movie-verse description in reference to any physical characteristics.

Written for the 2011 Midwinter Swap.

Request by Bell Witch: Feeling the darkfic. Perhaps no pairing, but a strong Faramir. Denethor finds out Faramir has been abused and how he reacts (blames Faramir, helps him, knew about it already?) Or Faramir and Evil!Aragorn.
Could be older Faramir looking back on a love/one who got away.
Whatever rating, I never require smut.

“You look pensive, my Steward.”

Faramir startled as he whirled to greet the owner of the voice intruding upon his silent ruminations. His eyes confirmed it to be Aragorn, King Elessar to the people and lords of Gondor. Faramir’s response was automatic as he began his obligatory bow of respect, only to be brought short when Aragorn laid a hand on his shoulder. The same hand pulled back quickly when the muscles tensed; only moments later Aragorn silently berated himself as he knew that to be the shoulder which took the Southron arrow.

“Peace, my friend,” he told the young Steward. “I’ve had enough bowing and scraping in the past week to last me several lifetimes. And you should be careful anyway. Your shoulder is still bothering you?” The question wasn’t so much to ask if Faramir was in pain, but rather why the pain still lingered if the younger man had been following his advice and resting. Aragorn now had doubts that his advice was being heeded, and the faint blush staining Faramir’s cheeks confirmed his thoughts.

“It isn’t so troublesome,” Faramir began. He had to consciously think about not ending everything he said when he spoke with Aragorn with the title ‘sire’ or ‘lord’ as he learned his King wasn’t much for formality. “It’s a small twinge every now and then, nothing more.”

Though not having known each other long, from his conversations with Boromir to reading beneath the surface talk of the castle servants, Aragorn guessed that ‘a small twinge’ for Faramir would rank as ‘damn painful’ for others far less reticent than his earnest Steward.

“You’ve been helping with the rebuilding efforts, haven’t you?” he asked, pale eyes narrowing slightly. The ensuing silence was answer enough. “It will never heal correctly if you continue to strain it so, Faramir.”

“The work is necessary.” Faramir turned to glance out the window he’d been gazing through when Aragorn first found him. “And I find it helps to keep my own thoughts in order.”

Aragorn wondered then if the troubles his friend was carefully not mentioning nor implying had to do with his grief for the loss of his brother and father or for the rejection by one Éowyn of Rohan. Personally, Aragorn thought it was have been an unfit match, prepared as he was to support the union despite his misgivings. However, for whatever whim or reasons, Éowyn herself gently turned down Faramir’s offer, wishing instead to help her brother in rebuilding Rohan and helping him in his new reign as King. Faramir had said he understood, but Aragorn wasn’t as certain as he took in the fatigue surrounding the young man. Along with this was a look that spoke of a distant longing, causing the Gondorian King to wonder just how hurt Faramir might have been at Éowyn’s rejection. He decided any further scolding regarding Faramir’s health could wait, but made plans to visit Faramir that evening with some herbs to help the small twinge.

Not knowing what else to say, Aragorn stepped closer to look out the window that held his Steward’s interest. His eyes widened slightly to see they were looking out over one of the small gardens that was currently occupied by his foster father, Elrond, Arwen, and Erestor. Glancing at Faramir, he was surprised more to see solemn blue gazing at none other than the dark-haired counsellor. As he continued observing the young man, Aragorn now saw that wistful longing was aimed at Erestor.

“Would you like to meet him,” the King offered out the blue. “Erestor is Elrond’s chief counsellor. I remember him helping me on many a study lesson when I was a child,” he added fondly.

“We’ve met,” murmured Faramir, unaware of the complete shock gathering in Aragorn’s expression.

“You-you’ve met—” Dark hair swished wildly as the King shook his head. “What am I thinking? Of course you have. You were there to greet the visiting parties—”

“Before then, before I became Captain,” the soft voice intruded.

Shock returned in full. “Ho-Where did you and Erestor meet?” The question was very close to being a demand, if nothing but to assuage Aragorn’s growing curiosity.

Nostalgia became evident when a faint smile touched the Steward’s lips. “I was a part of the Rangers, but not yet Captain. I was on a patrol…” He trailed off, fingers running along the edge of the window frame. “It… it is a long story. Are you certain you wish to—”

Yes!“ Aragorn replied emphatically, wanting to know just how the two met, especially as he had once thought Erestor was to never be found outside of Imladris. “I would very much like to know how you came across my father’s advisor,” he added in a softer tone.

Faramir chuckled, not too surprised at his King’s curiosity. “Very well, as you insist…”

Along the outskirts of Ithilien Faramir of Gondor was finishing his last solo patrol. While such patrols weren’t generally encouraged as they posed a bigger risk to the scout, the young Gondorian preferred them at times as it allowed him to be alone and appreciate the last vestiges of beauty remaining in Ithilien. Plus, this particular route proved to be oft overlooked by their enemies, making it almost a quiet walk more than a scouting expedition.

This was why the scene Faramir soon found himself walking upon came as nothing less than a shock to the young Ranger.

An elf? But what is an elf doing here in Ithilien? And alone? And half naked?

Thanks to Mithrandir and what books he’d read in the Archives, Faramir knew some of what might injure or kill an elf, including an assault that forced them against their will. For a moment he wondered if that might be what had befallen this particular creature, but then shook his head of the notion. He recalled the old wizard telling him that for such an act to happen to an elf would cause them to fade. This elf was at the moment very much here, as far as Faramir could tell. That still left him with the questions of what the elf was doing there, and in the state he was in.

A soft groan interrupted Faramir’s ponderings and helped to spur the Ranger into some sort of action. He approached the fallen elf while pulling off one of his gloves to check for a pulse.

“Master Elf?” he questioned hesitantly, his tone kept soft. “Master Elf, are you awake?”

Another groan could be heard as the form shifted, only to turn into a sharp cry of pain as Faramir saw now that the leg was at an altogether unnatural angle.

Broken, he thought, blue eyes looking around for any suitable branches he could use as splints. Faramir spied a sapling a few steps away and pulled his long knife from its sheathe. His other hand rested on the elf’s shoulder, offering what comfort he could.

“Please don’t move, Master Elf. I’ll be back shortly to brace your leg.” Faramir wasn’t sure why he kept his voice low, but it felt like the right thing to do, so he opted to go with it for the moment. He paused, then pulled off his cloak to cover the elf with before leaving to cut down the sapling. The young Ranger offered a silent apology and promised himself to plant a seed on his next patrol as he worked his knife through the slender trunk. Once he’d cut and roughly shaped the limbs into a passable splint, Faramir pulled off his tunic to take his undershirt off, which he quickly cut into strips to use to tie the brace with. Done, he made his way back to the fallen elf, who he was surprised to see had regained consciousness. Now Faramir was able to fully see the face of the one he wished to help, and wondered if that might not have been a mistake.

The beauty of one of the Eldars caught the young Ranger unawares; Faramir found himself staring as he took in the fine features and dark hair and was utterly captivated. The injuries and distressed state did nothing to detract from that ethereal presence which for a moment had left the young man in a daze. He shook himself hard, remembering the leg which needed tending to immediately and could not wait for a besotted fool to stand around gazing, no matter how beautiful a creature it was.

Sensing a slight shifting, Faramir was swift to stop him when it appeared the elf would try and move his leg again.

“Please keep still, Master Elf. I will brace this as best I can,” he offered.

Though the look in his eyes appeared slightly dazed, the elf nodded his understanding. When Faramir offered him a small, cloth covered piece of wood, the elf brought it to his mouth and closed his eyes. Faramir’s respect for this elf grew when he heard no sound as he forced the leg back into position, though the Ranger was certain he himself would sport a perfectly hand-shaped bruise from where the elf had grabbed his arm. He was fine with that, knowing just how painful it was to have a broken bone set back into position. He quickly tied the splits around it to keep the leg immobile, then looked around again for something the elf could use to get around. Faramir would have preferred to keep said elf still, but this spot was too out in the open for his liking. Plus, he had to consider whatever had left his charge in the state he was in might return, and Faramir thought they should both be as far away as possible if that were the case.

A touch on his arm sought the young Ranger’s attention. He turned to see the elf pointing to something on the ground. When he looked, Faramir saw it was a branch that would be suitable to use as a walking stick until something better could be found. He fetched it quickly, then helped the injured elf to his feet, wincing in sympathy even as the elf’s expression remained impassive. With Faramir’s help and guidance, the elf hobbled along until they came to one of the many hidden emergency caves the Rangers had secured for such circumstances. A little while later saw the elf propped against the wall while Faramir had a small fire going while looking through some of the supplies kept there. He smiled in relief when he saw someone had listened to his suggestion for keeping willow bark on stock as one of the staples. Soon he had some tea brewing, hoping it might help with some of the pain he thought the elf might be feeling, though he couldn’t tell as the fair creature had been mostly silent. He brought the tea over once it was done, offering it as he knelt down next to his charge.

“Tis just willow bark. I’m afraid that’s all I can think of for now, though I may be able to find something else to help with the pain—” He paused when the elf shook his head, though he accepted the cup with a nod of thanks. Some of the severeness in his expression faded as he sipped the warm brew, which also eased some of Faramir’s concern. The Ranger had turn back to the fire when the elf spoke, the voice startling him.

“I must thank you, it seems. I’m not altogether sure what might have become of me if I had to stay out there much longer.”

The first thought to cross Faramir’s mind was to ask just how the elf had found himself to be there in the first place, but then considered that might be rude. “I am happy to have been able to help,” he commented instead. “Though I admit to being surprised to finding one of the Eldar out here in Ithilien.” Faramir stopped there; he might be curious, but it may not be something the poor creature would feel up to talking about just yet. “I am Faramir—of Gondor,” he offered, deciding not to introduce himself as a son of Denethor just yet.

The elf nodded. “I am Erestor.”

“But what was he doing out there! Erestor doesn’t even like travelling, and I have a hard time believing either Elrond or Glorfindel would have let him go alone. Surely someone would have mentioned that by now.” Aragorn would have continued to rant had it not been for Faramir reaching over to cover his King’s mouth, waiting until Aragorn got the message to be quiet if he wanted any answers. Only when he was certain there would be no further interruptions did Faramir lower his hand, hiding a faint smirk at the glare he received for his actions.

“I do not know why he travelled alone,” the Steward began. “I am not sure if either Lord Elrond or Glorfindel are even aware he took that journey. And if they are, I’m almost positive they have no idea of his intended destination or the true reason why.”

“And you do?” asked Aragorn, narrowing his eyes when Faramir only shrugged.

“I made an educated guess. However!” he cut in forcefully, overriding the question that nearly escaped royal lips. “However, I made a promise that I would reveal anything I discerned about it to no other living creature.” Faramir guessed that Aragorn simply wouldn’t be able to leave the matter to rest there. He counted up to seven before he was proven correct.

“So you wouldn’t say even on command from your King?”

A single eyebrow rose in response. “I wonder, my Liege, how you would explain to the people that you had your Steward hung for treason, simply because he wouldn’t appease your curiosity.”

Aragorn clamped his lips shut. That was a definite ‘no’ as ever to be heard. And he wasn’t so petty or mad that he would take matters that far; he’d be no better than the Kings of old who became corrupted.

“Besides,” Faramir continued, “is Erestor not deserving of some privacy as well? I can’t imagine what it would be like to be hassled for the rest of days by the likes of your brothers and Glorfindel simply because he wished to keep something to himself, and they felt he had no right to.”

This made the King wince, as it had crossed his mind to speak with his foster brothers and see if they couldn’t get the story out of the counsellor themselves.

“Fine, fine, you’ve made your point,” Aragorn conceded, ignoring the vaguely smug smile tugging at his Steward’s lips. “Please, at least, continue on. What happened after setting his leg?”

Another shrug, though Aragorn wasn’t sure what to make of the gesture. “It took some convincing, but I was able to get my captain to assign me to that location for awhile, both for inventory as well as to keep a closer eye on that area, in case of increased enemy movements.”

This earned Faramir a snort. “And were they any increased activities?”

“Nothing is outside the realm of possibility,” the young man replied, prompting a bigger snort and a wave for him to go on. “There’s not much to say, in truth. Erestor said that he would heal faster than a Man, but it would still take a couple of weeks. I stayed with him during that time, getting him new clothes, keeping food stocked, offering what limited medicine I could. And yet, it was hardly a chore. It almost felt like a vacation.” Seeing Aragorn’s questioning look, Faramir elaborated. “Erestor is very much a scholar. It was an honour to learn from him during the time we had. And, well, he is very beautiful,” the Steward added. “We grew close in that short time—”

How close?” Aragorn cut in, wondering just what had Erestor got up to out in the wilds of Ithilien with such an innocent and impressionable youth as Faramir would have been at the time. At the very least, the Gondorian King thought he might finally have some decent blackmail material to hold over his old teacher.

“We weren’t physically intimate if that is what my Liege may be implying,” Faramir said with one raised brow. Aragorn wondered if his friend might have discerned the reason for the question. With Faramir, he knew it was a definite possibility. “Emotionally, however, we did seem to find much common ground,” the Steward admitted before changing the direction of the topic. “Most of the time was spent in long discourses about the books we had both read. It was quite refreshing to listen to one so learned, yet without the false airs that can be found among some of the scholars here. Thanks to those conversations, I often would come back to the Archives and correct some of the materials, though I had to do so with discretion, lest I arouse the wrath of the scribes and librarians.”

“Of course,” Aragorn commented, knowing just how protective some of the Gondorian scholars were over what they considered their domain. “I’m surprised to see more of the materials haven’t been ‘corrected’, given what I’m sure Erestor has likely told you over the years.” He frowned as he watched Faramir’s expression drop suddenly. “Did you two not keep in contact afterwards?”

Wavy locks bounced as Faramir shook his head. “It was impossible. For whatever reason, Denethor held a great dislike towards the Elven race. I still am unsure why. So it would have caused too many—questions, if I were to start receiving correspondence from Rivendell on a regular basis.”

Aragorn’s sympathy for his young friend grew, knowing how difficult it would have been for Faramir to deny himself the chance to exchange messages with a scholar of Erestor’s calibre. Nor did it sound like something Erestor himself would have allowed to happen, biases or no.

“Surely Erestor—” he began, only to stop when Faramir again shook his head.

“Our parting was not what it could have been.” Faramir rested his head on the edge of the window. “I had to return to here for a report from the captain, though it was little more than an excuse for Denethor to find fault with me. Somehow he had discovered my being relocated and took it as another opportunity to further berate me.” The young Steward took a long, slow breath. “Worse came when somehow—though I suspect a spy of his planting—he had heard rumours of Elves travelling through Ithilien. He signed an order for my captain, for any of us who happened across an Elf to take them prisoner.” Faramir didn’t bother to turn, already knowing the horrified expression that crossed Aragorn’s face. “I was lucky in that Erestor was mostly healed by that time, though I had hoped he would not need to leave for a few days after my return. Then I knew when I went back, it would only be to say goodbye, as I had not the heart to follow such an order, no matter who had given it. Knowing my father, I decided that we would have to sever any and all contact. Immediately for Erestor’s sake, and later for myself. I was—I did not have the strength to bear under my father’s scrutiny at the time. So as much as I would have liked to do otherwise, I could not allow us to communicate further even upon his return to Rivendell. It was—my doing.”

Faramir’s voice trailed off as Aragorn looked on his friend with growing compassion. Gazing back out the window, the young Steward sighed as he took himself and Aragorn back to that sad day.

“There you are, mellon-nin. I was beginning to worry…” Erestor trailed off when he saw the strange expression on the young Ranger’s face. “What is it, Faramir?”

“You-you have to go, Erestor. You have to return to Rivendell as quickly as possible.”

“Whatever is the matter?” Erestor asked, wondering if perhaps Faramir had heard of some calamity to have befallen Imladris.

“It-you-the Steward—” Faramir shook his head, then simply showed Erestor the paper with the order and the Steward’s signature. The elf frowned as he read over it, his expression completely grim when he read where it had been signed by Denethor, twenty-six Ruling Steward of Gondor. He looked up into the worried, saddened eyes of his friend, now understanding the expression that Faramir had greeted him with. During his convalescence, Erestor had learned of the treatment Faramir had suffered as Denethor’s ‘lesser’ son. He could easily guess the conflict warring within the young Ranger as his duty fought with what his heart knew was wrong.

With a slight wince, Erestor got to his feet, testing the weight on his leg carefully. He felt the leg had healed well under the conditions, but didn’t want to risk an injury now through carelessness. When he was confident he could stand unaided, the elf reached forward and took one of Faramir’s hand in his own.

“Come with me,” he said. “The scholar is welcomed in Rivendell. You would be free to pursue those interests which only garner you indifference and scorn. It could be a true home for you.”

Faramir was stunned. To see one of the Elven Realms had been his fondest dreams since childhood. And now it was here, being offered to him, by an Elf fairer than mere books and words could truly describe. Everything within him cried out for Faramir to say yes, to simply leave everything behind and never look back.

He wanted to; at the same time he knew he could not.

Swallowing hard, feeling his eyes water, Faramir took a step back, pulling his hand from the warm grasp of Erestor.

“Once I give this order to my captain,” he whispered, voice and heart breaking, “I will be forced to imprison you if you are still within the borders of Ithilien. Please, return to your home as quickly as possible, for both our sakes.”

“How is it for my sake?” Erestor demanded to know. “And you would not have to worry about that order if you would—”

“I cannot!” Faramir cried. “I want to, but I cannot! And while I love nothing more that you feel someone like me is deserving of such an offer, I feel too your cruelty in making it when I cannot accept.” Faramir turned his back to Erestor, not wanting the elf to see as he felt the tenuous hold over his emotions nearing the breaking point. “To go with you is to turn my back on my oath to defend Gondor. It would prove Denethor’s opinion of me to be true.”

“It was the opinion, and the oath, of a ‘father’ that nearly led to the destruction of the Noldor,” Erestor growled. “That way lies madness. I would think you better than that.”

Faramir stiffened as Erestor paused as he realised just what he had spoken of. A part of the elf wanted to apologised, but knowing just how closely Faramir’s situation paralleled those of Fëanor’s sons, Erestor found himself keeping his silence. Faramir was also versed in the history of the Noldor, and wondered if Erestor truly thought him doomed to such a fate. Feeling his throat swell, Faramir choked out a final ‘goodbye’ and fled the cave, never looking back.

“I was a coward,” Faramir said, eyes never straying from the figure of Elrond’s counsellor. “I didn’t wish to know if that was how Erestor thought I might end up. At that point, I didn’t wish to know anything. I simply wanted him to leave; to be safe and content in Rivendell where he belonged.”

“Faramir…” Aragorn stepped towards his young friend, placing a hand on his Steward’s shoulder. “I am sure—”

“You know the worst of it?” Faramir asked, cutting Aragorn off. “The worst was just knowing how unworthy I was. I am a Man, and probably no more than a child in his eyes. And I would die after a few short years, compared to his long life. I didn’t—I could not tie him to that. I did not wish to bring him pain with my mortality.”

That was a worry Aragorn had no trouble relating to. Even now he occasionally felt the sting of guilt at having condemned his beloved to a shorter mortal span instead of spending the rest of her days with her family. As always whenever his thoughts took such melancholic turns, he remembered what Arwen herself had told him, advice he thought might be beneficial for his friend to hear now.

“That is his choice to make, Faramir,” the King counselled. “It may be that even a brief time with you is worth more than spending the rest of his days without ever having known you.”

Faramir closed his eyes, knowing there was great truth in Aragorn’s words but feeling they may have come too late. “Be that as it may,” he began, “but there is little to be done now. I fear I lost any chance of friendship or more when I walked away that day.”

Aragorn sighed; he couldn’t help his friend on that account. On one hand, most elves could be forgiving when a sincere apology was offered. On the other, Erestor was most assuredly not like most elves. A sudden thought came to mind as he pondered over his old teacher’s eccentricities Aragorn had witnessed over the years.

“What became of the cloak you gave him?” he asked.

Faramir blinked, the non-sequitur catching him unawares. “I left it with Erestor,” he replied. “I imagine he threw it away once he had no further use of it.”

“Hmm.” Aragorn stood next to the young man as they both peered out the window. “Was it by chance a dark green cloak with brown threading at the cuffs, and a very small white tree embroidered inside the hood?”

Blue eyes widened, words tripping over the Steward’s tongue. “How—how did you—nobody knew about the tree—”

“Mm-hm.” Aragorn chuckled as he patted Faramir’s shoulder. “I think the chance for reconciliation may not be as lost as you think, my friend,” he advised. “For you see, I returned to Rivendell and noticed a most strange and somewhat ragged cloak strung over the back of Erestor’s favourite chair. It is maintained with the greatest of care, and woe to anyone who even thinks of harming it.” With those words, Aragorn left his friend alone. Faramir gazed out the window a little while longer, then made his way to the garden to see if an understanding from years past might yet be found again.

~ Fin ~

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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4 Comment(s)

No apologies needed—that particular request was not a darkfic one. I very much enjoyed the story, and like the lightly ambiguous but hopeful ending.
Faramir is a good, solid character and the way he and Aragorn interacted in the story had me smirking. The comparison with Feanor was also surprising (yet founded.) I’m also deeply amused with the idea of Faramir sneaking around correcting historical works in Gondor’s libraries.
Overall, a very sweet story with an unusual but believable pairing. Thank you.

— Bell Witch    Monday 19 December 2011, 0:56    #

Glad you liked it, Bell. I didn’t have a much time as I’d have liked since I was doing NaNo to really flesh it out for you, but I’m glad you were able to enjoy the story, still. I honestly hadn’t planned that pairing, so I’m happy it was still believable given it was off the top of my head. Cheers!

— LN Tora    Monday 19 December 2011, 2:46    #

I can only agree with the most of Bell Witch’s comment here. I found the conversation and way the two did interact with each other enchanting.

Suryallee    Saturday 7 January 2012, 19:47    #

Thank you, Suryallee. I kind of wish I could have done a bit more, but I was happy with the interactions/conversations, and glad to know others enjoy that as well.

— LN Tora    Saturday 7 January 2012, 19:54    #

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