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After a Lifetime (NC-17) Print

Written by December

07 January 2012 | 46599 words | Work in Progress

Pairings: Faramir/Boromir, Faramir/Aragorn.

Disclaimer: Alas, none of the characters or settings belong to me.

Warnings: Angst, underage characters, non-con, mild het, Boromir swears a lot.

Summary: You once took a blind dive into the unknown. But would have you offered your love to the one you worship, had you known the price he would have to pay for loving you back? And when all was over, would you be blind to see a new road lying at your feet?

Notes: Book canon.

Thanks to LJ for beta on Chapter 1.

Book One. Brotherhood

‘There are two tragedies in life.
One is to lose your heart’s desire.
The other is to gain it.’

George Bernard Shaw

Chapter 1. A Little Less Conversation

“I am telling you, they were looking at you! And I mean – looking,” Boromir gave a throaty laugh and clapped his brother on the shoulder as they walked down a shady palace corridor.

Faramir blushed but said nothing, for he too had noticed how the maidens were eyeing him earlier that day, had heard their laughter and excited whispers. It both thrilled him and made him uneasy. Only recently had he started to develop an interest in such matters, and the whole business still seemed somewhat awkward and embarrassing. Fresh out of childhood, he was not at all used to this sort of attention.

Meanwhile Boromir winked at him and pressed on: “They are visiting for just a week, you know. I wouldn’t miss the chance if I were you.”

“Miss the chance to do what, brother?” Faramir asked exasperatedly. He did not appreciate the way the older brother made fun of him over this highly sensitive subject. Secretly, he had hoped that a lady’s affection would make him look more grown-up in Boromir’s eyes. Alas, he had naively overestimated his brother’s capability for consideration, as usual.

“To do what! Pray don’t tell me you do not know!” Boromir was so obviously enjoying himself. His taunting was good-natured, of course, but it was taunting all the same. “You do, surely?”

“I… well, of course.”

“And…?” Beaming, Boromir raised his eyebrows, awaiting further explanation. He had turned around, and was now walking almost backwards to see the better into the boy’s face.

“Let me be! For Valar’s sake, it is not as if you actually expect me to talk of it.”

“Believe me, brother, once you get a taste of what they have to offer, it will be the only thing for you to speak of day and night.” The young man laughed again and shook his head amusedly. He still marveled at the recent changes that had befallen his little brother.

Faramir could not see it, of course, but in the last couple of years he had become very different. First a charming child, he was now turning out to be an exceptionally handsome youth. Although very alike to Boromir he appeared, there was a special, gentle loveliness to his looks that was his alone. The same grey eyes, same noble features, same shiny raven hair, same tall and agile frames they sported. Yet whereas Boromir had always had around himself an uncomplicated air of power and dominance, so fitting a great warrior, Faramir’s fair face and grace of movement produced an allure that was harder to describe. More than anything, it was his bright intelligent eyes, for he could look at a person like they alone mattered to him.

Now, as nature was busy preparing him for manhood, there emerged the first hints at how he would look when fully grown. Faramir had stretched taller and broadened in shoulders, which made his still protruding hip bones and clavicles endearingly boyish by contrast. He dearly wished to have a beard like Boromir, but there was little hope for that just yet. His eyes were still pure, and his lips full and rosy, but the lines of his jaw and cheekbone grew stronger, showing the future shape of his face.

He was in between two stages of life, neither boy nor young man, but already his looks were attracting glances at least as much as did his lineage. What more, he seemed disarmingly unaware of his own beauty, as close to complete innocence of body and mind as a boy of fifteen could possibly be.

That innocence had but a little while left to last, no doubt. In fact, Boromir was surprised it had lasted so long.

And really,he could not help picking on his little brother over it, for, although the young man did not admit it to himself, this recent change was unsettling him.

He was used to being completely comfortable with Faramir, like he could not with anyone else. But now there were some things – things which had been perfectly enjoyable three, even two years ago – which Boromir instinctively felt to have somehow become inappropriate.

Like when coming home on a particularly cold day they would fight over who was going to take the hot bath first, and in the end would just squeeze in together. Or that favourite entertainment of Boromir’s, to unexpectedly pounce on Faramir, fell him to the bed, pin him down and mercilessly tickle him half to death, letting go only when the boy was so breathless with laughter he could only moan and thrash about.

Not to mention that incident when Boromir came to their chamber early, only to find Faramir there as well, sitting spread-legged on the bed’s edge, hand working feverishly inside his trousers. This was perfectly natural and only to be expected, and such a situation was bound to have happened sooner or later, yet for some reason it had rendered Boromir so horribly, monstrously embarrassed that his first reaction had been to make fun of his brother so viciously he had nearly reduced the poor fellow to tears.

And now this thing… Not in a thousand years would he be able to explain why, but he did not like it.

Deep down he knew he ought to leave Faramir alone already, but it only made him itch to pester the boy all the more.

Luckily for Faramir, at that point in the conversation they left the palace grounds and entered one of the narrower side streets leading to the busy main avenue. Boromir was not near malicious enough to humiliate his brother in public with his teasing. So for the time being he let the matter rest.

Although there were plenty of spare rooms around the royal quarters, neither of the brothers had ever expressed a desire to occupy a separate chamber. However, now it was more and more seldom that Boromir spent the night in their old bedroom.

Sometimes he would be gone for days serving his duty as Captain; but on other occasions it was only for the night. In the latter case he would return by dawn, tired but apparently pleased, his clothes rumpled and a smell of something sweet and unfamiliar around him. It was on these nights and not long military expeditions that Faramir missed him most.

Both envy and jealousy the youth had to fight, awaiting sleeplessly the older brother’s return. And always a great relief he felt when in the grey hours Boromir finally strolled inside and gave him a conspiratorial wink. For it meant that whoever’s company he had enjoyed in the darkness, he came back to Faramir.

The autumn had brought chills and a freshness, as well as early sunsets. Little light was coming from the tall window, and Boromir went to feed the fire in the hearth. He squatted in front of the fireplace, and Faramir, who was sitting on his bed, braced himself. Boromir’s laughing eyes had been too intimidating, and now, when the young man had turned away, was the moment.

The boy asked tentatively: “So, Boromir, you truly think I should do something about… about Linnith and Tiriel?”

Boromir shrugged and answered absent-mindedly: “If you want to.”

“I would… But…”

“But what?” Forsaking the logs, Boromir looked at Faramir over his shoulder, making him blush instantly. “You are giving this matter too much thought. Leave it to the ladies to brood over the meaning of your behaviour. You are to be a man very soon, Faramir. We are meant to live by action – you see an opportunity, you take it. It’s simple,” and at this he returned his attention to the flame. It had already started a happy little dance on the dry wood, and warm reflections were flickering on Boromir’s face and clothes.

“But I don’t know what to do!” Faramir half whispered in desperation. It was humiliating to be saying this, to be lectured on manly behaviour, yet far less so than losing face with one of those bright-eyed, dark haired maidens who seemed to see right through him.

“There is nothing to know, brother.” Although Boromir still sounded annoyed, he spoke more kindly now. “I have no theory to give you. Just as I could not teach you through words alone how to ride a horse or wield a blade.”

“But I am good at learning through words, Boromir. Explain as you will… Just tell me how you do it.”

This time it was Boromir who blushed, although unsure why.

“Well…” he frowned, concentrating hard on arranging the wood just right. “It just… it sort of just happens. I never had to work hard for it, and you probably won’t either. They usually find a way to get you alone, they’ll ask to show you something, or they’ll need help with something. And then they’ll be reluctant to see you go, and they’ll smile, and tell you how strong you are, or brave, that sort of thing. Then it… it happens.”

“What happens? What do you do?”

Boromir groaned under his breath.

“The things,” he said with emphasis.

“Boromir, please. I don’t understand. What things exactly?”

Boromir gave him a pained look. “Things, Faramir. Sometimes, lots of things. And sometimes just a little bit. They may not even want to do anything, only to see that you’re interested. You’ll just know.”

Faramir looked away and frowned.

Earlier that very day father had expected him to just know how to do something, too. Which Faramir also thought fairly obvious, and yet all that his efforts had gained him was a stifled sigh and an averted gaze.

As usual, that had been incredibly miserable for Boromir.

He pursed his lips, never quite knowing how to comfort his brother without showing disrespect towards father. Or how to comfort his brother at all. Had father been this harsh on him, for his part Boromir certainly would not want it mentioned, let alone be given pity for it.

Slowly he walked to his own bed opposite Faramir’s and sat down. There was a distance of several feet between them, but the young man almost physically sensed the boy’s distress.

He spoke softer now: “I am sorry, no one is born with this knowledge. But while learn well you may, I am not a good teacher, Faramir. I was only jesting before, I’ve never actually talked of this, and have no inkling how.”

At this point, unexpectedly even for himself, Faramir stood up and challenged him: “Then be true to your words, brother. You say to live by action, so let us talk no more, just show me.”

Boromir stared at him aghast, and instantly Faramir was abashed and a fierce red flooded his cheeks.

Boromir contemplated him for several long moments, at a loss for what to answer. Sometimes his little brother could really take one by surprise. Then he threw his head back and laughed heartily, making Faramir even more bewildered.

“Well said, Faramir! Never again shall I speak lightly in your presence.” Boromir spread his arms, acknowledging defeat. “But I shall be true to what I preach. I’ll show you.”

He paused, and as he accepted this new role his expression changed unrecognisably; and Faramir was swayed by what he saw.

Boromir was regarding him in such a pleased, contented manner, as though there could not be a sight more comely under the stars. The man appeared at ease and relaxed, but a bright, dark fire had lit up within his usually cool eyes. Faramir felt suddenly dizzy and hot inside his clothes, and grew acutely aware of the two of them being alone behind closed doors.

Boromir spoke: “Come over then,” both an invitation and a command, but the voice giving it warm and playful.

Faramir did as he was told, and a strange lightness was in his head. He stopped in front of Boromir, not looking at the man, only sharply sensing how close they were.

Boromir took him softly on the shoulders and motioned for the boy to kneel.

He was now slightly above Faramir, and he put his hand beneath his brother’s chin and beckoned him to lift his face. A pure and lovely face it was, and to the young man it seemed only natural that he should be the one to be presented this innocence for the taking. Except it was nothing like that.

To kiss Faramir would be wrong.

But he was not going to kiss Faramir. This would be no more a real kiss than swinging a blunted sword at him in fencing practice were the same as to slay him in battle.

At last Faramir looked up and met his eyes. There the boy saw things he knew no names for, yet they spoke to him more clearly than any words could. He felt the same forces waking up in himself, and it rendered him powerless and vaguely afraid.

The hand beneath Faramir’s chin traveled in a gentle caress along his jaw line, brushing lightly on the neck and behind the ear, sending shivers down his spine. Unaware of it, he leant into this warm touch and pressed his cheek into his brother’s palm.

Boromir watched him as though mesmerised, and traced his thumb to the corner of Faramir’s mouth and below his lips. Faramir felt his lips part at the touch and knew that Boromir would have felt his hot and restrained breath on his skin.

Time seemed to pause in its passage.

And then Faramir knew it would happen. Just knew it, like Boromir had said.

Boromir looked searchingly into his eyes, and then his gaze slid to the boy’s lips. The older brother exhaled through his mouth and lowered his eyelids. The last thing the younger one felt before his senses left him, was that the warm hand on his cheek trembled. And then Boromir leant forward and kissed him.

Instantly he drowned in the soft shyness of Faramir’s lips.

He was tempted to wrench them open and pry inside with his tongue, to devour this mouth, to claim it completely. But his brother was so diffident in returning Boromir’s advances… and the young man forced himself to progress slowly. First taking Faramir’s upper lip in between his own and pressing on it gently, he then did the same to the lower one. This he repeated again and again, each time gaining a more enthusiastic response. The boy’s mouth grew warmer and warmer until it seemed almost feverishly hot. Then Boromir tilted his head and kissed him sideways, spreading Faramir’s lips wider apart.

The boy’s hands acted as though off their own accord and came to rest on the man’s arm and heaving chest. When the tender, uncertain hand covered the very spot beneath which his heart was beating, Boromir drew away for a second, as though in a last vain attempt to escape the inevitable. He had a really bad feeling about this. It was not what he had expected, not what he had signed up for at all… And then all his resolves crumbled. Grabbing Faramir on both shoulders, he pulled him forcefully forwards, and bit ravenously into his mouth, and thrust his tongue in between the burning hot lips, and moaned aloud when his actions were all too eagerly returned. And they opened their mouths as far as nature allowed, pressing and rubbing lip against lip, tongue against tongue, all surfaces becoming equally heated and moist, flesh colliding and breaths mingling. Faramir’s arms snaked around Boromir’s neck, and the boy held on as if for dear life.

The air around them had grown dense and charged as though before a storm. Faramir felt disoriented, oblivious to the hard cool floor under his knees, to his brothers’ fingers gripping him none too gently on the shoulders. He had entered an altogether new state of being, where nothing but them was real. All consciousness was burned to nothing by the flame of his brother’s body and touch. Only the heat, the senseless need was left within him, and Faramir did not resist it, could not think of resisting it. A fiery ache went down his spine straight into his loins. His aroused manhood demanded attention, and unconsciously he pressed it against the inner side of Boromir’s thigh.

Without thinking, Boromir reached down and cupped the bulge between Faramir’s legs with his hand.

Faramir’s mouth slid away from the kiss as the intensity of the sensation shook him. This touch was almost too intimate, too erotic to bear. To be so completely, co unconditionally accepted, this involuntary reaction and all, was such pure, simple bliss. Pressing his hardness into his brother’s probing hand, he searched for Boromir’s mouth again, the wetness of the boy’s lips smearing across his brother’s face.

But instead of helping him reseal the kiss, the young man fell away and leapt to his feet, in the process shoving his brother to the floor. Faramir took the fall hard as it came unexpectedly, the sudden pain jolting him back to reality.

Boromir stared down at him, bewildered. The young man raised his hand and ran it across his face, tracing the touch of Faramir’s mouth. He shut his eyes as though to look at the scene was more than he could bear.

“Boromir, please…”

But the sound of his voice became the last straw for Boromir. He groaned and rushed past Faramir and out of the chamber.

That night the Steward’s younger son spent alone.

Boromir walked the streets mindlessly for some time.

He did not watch where his feet were taking him, and eventually he found himself in the lower city, where the common folk dwelled. The sky was by then completely dark and littered with stars, the streets illuminated by warm yellow lamps hung from house walls. Passersby were scarce, and those who came his way and saw his face drew back hastily.

In his hurry Boromir had not thought to take his outer clothes, and was beginning to shiver as the night’s chill crept under his linen tunic.

He swore under his breath. Going back was out of the question, but neither did he fancy the idea of staying out in the cold, one on one with his conscience. What else? He could go to the soldiers’ quarters, there would always be a place for the Captain. But coming there in the middle of the night in his house clothes would look queer, and he hated to look queer, especially before his men. Anyway he was in no state to join a company now.

Then he thought of something. And the more he thought about it, the more he liked it, and even grinned ironically to himself. It was a brilliant solution, actually. It would deal with several problems at once.

Not far from where he had come in his wandering there was a small house. A young woman lived there all by herself: a soldier’s widow, still young and not weary of men. He visited her once in a while to accommodate his needs, nothing more. She always obliged him and never asked anything of him. It was a most convenient arrangement.

She was in her chamber preparing for bed, when she heard a knock on the door, such that only Lord Boromir made. She did not bother to take a light with her when she went to open, for she knew it was him.

He terrified her at first, when he had hardly let her close the door after him and grabbed her by the wrist, and all but dragged her to the bedroom. For a moment she even thought it was not him after all. But in her chamber a candle was burning, so she saw that it was indeed Boromir; and his face was frightful to look at.

The young lord was none too gentle this time. He pinned her to the bed with his weight and wrought her mouth open with a rough and painful kiss, groping her breasts at the same time. But men of war were like that sometimes, who knew what horrors haunted their dreams and waking hours. So she made no sound of distress and only stroked his shoulder gently, hoping to calm him.

He wanted it over quickly, and not bothering to undress her or himself, he merely hiked up her skirt. But just as he was about to lower his trousers, he suddenly realised that he was not ready yet. This was most extraordinarily strange – he had never been slow to arouse.

The man halted and looked her in the face for the first time that night, and she seemed to him like a cornered animal before a hound. She stared back in fear and incomprehension, but she did not dare resist.

Boromir sat up and exhaled heavily. At once he felt very tired, and it seemed absurd that he should be here, doing what he was trying to do.

But he did not give up, it was not like him to abandon a venture midway.

“All right,” he said, “a bit slower now. Take off your dress and we shall do it properly.”

As she complied, he also pulled his tunic off over his head. But when his eyes fell on her naked body, his already dwindling desire died altogether. The ripe roundness of her breasts, the breadth of her hips, the full curves of her thighs – all the things which used to do the trick before, now caused only aversion, repulsion almost. And then he became aware of her scent, the specific womanly scent that had once made his instincts flare up at once. It seemed now sour and pungent, and he could not get rid of it.

Boromir did not say anything this time. Absently he stood up, took his shirt and left.

It would be a long cold night after all.

When morning came, Faramir felt little better.

Pale and weary, his eyes underlined with bluish circles, he left the chamber and descended to the Tower Hall for breakfast.

Steward Denethor was already there. Deep in thought and looking rather pleased with himself over something, he paid little attention to Faramir appearing.

Only two plates were set, and the boy wondered why no meal was served for Boromir. He was afraid to ask, suspecting his brother’s absence had to do with the events of the previous night. Faramir had prayed all would be forgotten with the coming of the new day, and hoped Boromir would already be there, devouring the food and speaking animatedly with Father. His prayers had clearly gone unanswered.

Having barely eaten, he excused himself and headed for the gardens at the Houses of Healing, one city circle below. It was the only green place in Minas Tirith, and Faramir hoped its serene seclusion would aid him in collecting his senses. Perhaps he ought to act as though nothing had happened? Actually, nothing had happened, Boromir was only helping him practice. They got a bit carried away… But it meant nothing!

Faramir slumped onto a marble bench and bowed his head, clasping fistfuls of hair in his hands. Inexperienced as he was, something told him that what had happened meant more than nothing. Moreover, he yearned for it to recur, and wished in shame that Boromir had not stopped. Would he not lose his mind if Boromir kissed him on the neck as he had on the mouth, if he tore apart his shirt, if he undid his trousers and…

It was impossible to see beyond the clouds of confusion swirling in his head. He groaned just as Boromir had done the night before. One thing was clear enough: the blame lay on him. He started it all, made his brother do it. It would be despicable to pretend it had never taken place.

With a fresh resolve to seek Boromir out, Faramir hurried out of the garden.

Not knowing where to start the search, he headed impulsively for their chamber. To his surprise, Boromir was actually there. The young man stood with his back to the door, his soldier’s possessions spread around, a large saddle-bag in his hand, another one at his feet. He did not turn as Faramir walked in, yet the boy saw him grow stiff with apprehension.

“Boromir…” he began and was dismayed to have his voice catch in his throat.

“Father has sent me on a mission with the troops,” the older brother interrupted in an expressionless tone. “I must be gone very soon. Please do not bother me, I need to pack my things.”

Faramir could not inhale. Never had Boromir spoken to him thus, never had he dismissed him as a nuisance, a nosy child. Unwelcome tears welled in the boy’s eyes, and he forgot everything he had been meaning to say to his brother.

He ran out and let the door slam behind him, no longer caring what Boromir would think.

In the evening the Steward and his younger son ate alone again, as Boromir had departed at noon. Faramir could not taste the broth he was absently spooning into his mouth.

“I wish to speak with you, child,” Father said pushing his empty plate away. “For you worry me.”

Faramir froze with the spoon midway to his mouth. He knows. Valar, he knows!

But Denethor looked concerned rather than wrathful, scrutinising the boy with his heavy eyes. “You know well enough a father’s heart is large enough to love all his children at once. Yet it will grant its love to those only who are worthy of it. You are strong of body and sharp of mind, my son, but where is your spirit? We live in a dark time of war, but you do not wish to fight. You brother this morning came to me begging to let him leave the confines of safety, to be gone with the men to protect Gondor with his sword. Boromir cannot stand inaction, but what of you? Does it not shame you that others die to grant you peaceful living, Faramir?”

He went on for some time in this fashion, but Faramir could not hear the words.

“He begged you to let him leave…?”

“Aye, that he did. And I see you are surprised, for Boromir has acted in valour but did not boast to you. Take heed of my word, son, make his action an example for yourself. Do not force me to be disappointed in you.”

Faramir was speechless with outrage. Father sent me on a mission with the troops, you said, dear brother. Father sent, my arse! Is this how little I mean to you?

“I am sorry, Father,” he turned to the Steward at last, his voice defiant, his glare ablaze with hurt. But Denethor mistook the fire in Faramir’s eyes for pride and ambition, and was glad.

“I must have forgotten my place and duty,” the boy went on, and the words seemed to him not his own. Now his father was the only person whose opinion mattered. And he had made it perfectly clear how his favour was to be won. “Forgive me and grant me a chance to prove my worth to you. I shall do whatever deed you see fit for a Steward’s son. Send me wherever I am needed.”

The Steward raised his brows as he sat back in his chair.

“Truly, you give me a reply I had hoped for yet did not expect to hear. On the morrow a group of Rangers are setting out to join the patrols on the Eastern borders. You are good with the bow, you may go with them.”

The Eastern borders.

Any Gondorian knows what those words stand for.



To balrog and Alcardilmë for beta on this chapter.
To iris for her patient help with this story and general artistic encouragement.

Chapter 2. On the Contradictory Nature of Love

‘They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.’

Ernest Hemmingway

A month had passed since Faramir and the group of soldiers left the high walls of Minas Tirith.

Grave and serious men as they were, they took to him warmly and listened with earnest respect whenever he spoke – which he tried to do as little as necessary. Not an eyebrow had been lifted when he came to ride out with their company (a Steward’s decisions were not questioned), but Faramir suspected he was a burden, young and of precious lineage, no more than a hindrance on the road. Moreover, he could, had he so wished, turn the next few months to living hell for them, for no matter how young, he was a lord, and they would not have been able to just wave him aside had he started to make trouble.

The men’s genuine acceptance should have gladdened him, but in his present state few things could bring comfort.

Being useful to the Rangers was his only consolation. One day, Boromir would be general of Gondor’s armies and Faramir his lieutenant (however that was supposed to work after what had happened). When that time came, everything would be done for him by others – he would only oversee and give lordly nods of approval. But for now he was still a beardless youth and before long the men grew used to him wishing to carry his own load and perform all the chores on a par with the others.

Much as he was a lover of things of the mind and imagination, like story and song, Faramir soon found profound pleasure in how material life was out here. He liked the tiredness in his muscles, the soreness in the soles of his feet, how intense were the smells, how hard and uncomfortable the ground he slept on. The jaw-wrenching cold of the water he drank from the creeks, the belly-twisting aroma of game roasting over fire, fat dripping onto the coals.

None of this was new in itself, for his training had of course included numerous practice expeditions into the wilderness. Yet all such previous travels had had an air of child’s play, for they always took place safely away from any area where a real foe could be found.

Now even gathering wood for a campfire seemed important and full of meaning, for it was a campfire to warm up the warriors on duty, keeping the lands and people of Gondor protected. Even when resting in the evening, talking freely and smiling, the men were ever on guard. This state of constant semi-vigilance, his ears gathering up the smallest sounds, eyes ever ready to notice something out of place, was becoming so habitual to him that soon he could hardly imagine existing in any other mode.

Faramir awaited impatiently their first encounter with Orcs or whatever other enemy.

Months and months could go by without any sign of activity from over the dark ridges of Ephel Duath, making it tempting to believe no evil would ever walk in this beautiful place. Yet ever a dark threatening presence remained, and inevitably there would come a day when a marauding party would spill forth from the mountains. Faramir hoped the day would arrive before his assignment ended. Perhaps, like Boromir, he would find pleasure in fighting, in killing. Perhaps, the void inside him would be filled, or at least numbed.

When a sizeable group of Orcs was finally espied heading towards the River, confident in their numbers, and the Rangers ambushed them, pleasure was absent from his heart. His blood went hot, but his mind remained cold and clear. Only great revulsion filled him as he threw aside his bow, parried one blow of a charging enemy, then another, then drove his sword into the Orc’s abdomen. Oblivious to the fetid blood splattering all over his front, Faramir shoved the sagging body aside and took on the next one.

Once all was finished, the men collected their arrows, quickly retreated further into the woods, and sought a robust creek to wash off the combat’s blood and dirt, to prevent marking their trail for unwelcome company to follow.

They took turns, only two entering the current at a time, the others standing by, ready for a new assault.

The ground was freezing to step onto with bare feet, and the icy water bit harshly at naked skin. The soldiers joked they were lucky winter had not come yet. By right of birth Faramir was among the first to bathe, and he did so eagerly, burning to cleanse himself of the sticky Orkish blood that had seeped through his garments to his very skin and was giving him a terrible itch.

Then he stood aside watching the other men from the corner of his eye.

The boy had not yet had chance to see any man unclothed after that time. He had wondered whether the look of their strong muscular bodies would summon in him the incongruous toxic desire of that unfortunate night. Nothing happened. They were but naked people, not particularly handsome or graceful, with numerous scars and plenty of hair on their bodies.

Yet whenever he recalled, however involuntarily, the feel of his brother’s lips on his own, the way that warm hand had groped in his most intimate places, instantly he grew hot all over, and a briefest bliss enveloped him before shame and bitterness took over.

He was thoughtful and quiet throughout the rest of that day. Late in the evening gloom, when a damp mist had gathered in the gullies, he sat huddled in his cloak by the dying campfire.

It was nice to have something other than Boromir to worry about. He knew something in him had been changed by the experience with the Orcs, and he strained to understand what exactly. Too much seemed to be changing lately.

On the surface Faramir felt only a dry grim satisfaction, as after performing any unpleasant but necessary task. Deeper down, however, there was something else: a strong passion, hot and fierce This was strange. He had thought love was a soft and tender thing. He had thought love for one’s country was best expressed through persistent gentle care, through hard diligent labour: tending the woods, growing crops, building neat comely villages and so forth. Yet now he felt that this brutal, violent thing he had done, the thing that had made his heart beat faster and sweat break on his brow from the sheer physical exertion, this thing that had filled his chest with defiant fire – this thing was the ultimate proof of his love, of the bone-deep bond between him and the land he belonged to.

It felt so very right, so very fitting, to be pledging allegiance with his very blood and flesh.

He had never fully understood this before that day. He had seen what this service might eventually lead to: slain men were brought to the City far too often, and also those heavily injured, groaning quietly, some deathly pale, others flushed with fever. His father was always very particular about coming to the Wards to personally thank each such soldier for his service – and never failed to take his sons along, inuring them to this side of a lord’s duty, to the reality of life, to the price of their very existence.

Faramir had seen many a ghastly torn wound, obviously incompatible with life. He had always been twisted by an excruciating mixture of pity, horror and guilt as he looked in the faces of the men bearing such marks of loyalty. It had seemed nothing but a tragedy that they should suffer so, that they should die. The stern acceptance in his father’s face, one with a faint trace of approval, had always bewildered him – how could the Steward be so calm, how could he earnestly honour their fate? Faramir could only weep at it.

But now… He moved his shoulders against the chill and stared ahead of himself into the murky grey darkness between the disheveled trees, their moist bark black in the gloom.

Had he been the one creating this world, he would have made it differently – but no one had taken care to ask for his opinion. And in the life he had been dealt, the supreme expression of a highest and cleanest love apparently had a beastly in nature. The beastliness, by some twisted logic, was what made it powerful and real.

Of course, he would have loved Gondor in peace, in glorious majesty. He was born with devotion to her in his veins, he would have loved her regardless. And he wished her peace, with all his heart he did. And yet… There would have been pride for her power in his love, and tenderness for her beauty – yes, only that love would not have been… He sighed uneasily, for it felt akin to treason to be even admitting this to himself. No, it would not have been as guttingly complete as it was now. He would have loved her from a distance, unable to fully feel her with his very bones, unable to feel the kinship between her soil and his flesh. Whereas when there was this deep simmering passion he had just found, this visceral need to protect her, to serve her and claim her as his own through the service, this desire to risk everything for her – his love became fierce, and left him no doubt, no fear.

This love had little in common with the exalted, soaring, almost romantic sentiment that he felt when looking in admiration at the white Tower of Guard in the pink glory of sunrise, when walking through the grand albeit cheerless ancient halls of the palace, when listening to melodious ballads about Gondor’s royal splendour in the ages past.

There was no place for romance in this love, it was too tragic for that. He knew well enough that at some point he would have to hold a slain friend dying in his arms. He knew well enough that not all those who were with him that evening would be around in a year’s time. He knew well enough that one day he might have to fight against not only the beastly progeny of darkness like Orcs and Trolls, but also Men not entirely unlike himself – men whose blood ran red, not black. He had read of the kin-slaying wars of the past, and the very idea of it had shaken his heart. Admittedly, these men would be not his kin, but the enemy’s servants from some distant realm – but he reckoned not all who served the Dark Lord did so out of the unconditionally evil nature of their heart. Some must be driven simply by force or fear…

To murder a man who, just like him, loved the blazing white of the sun in the blue of the sky, and the sound of wind in the trees, who could smile and laugh, who thought of someone dear when lying in camp at night… Something like this he could never rejoice in, no matter the cause. Yet he knew, with frightening certainty, that he would carry it through without wincing, if the fate of his people depended on it.

Yes, this was, for better or worse, how life worked.

Not that it made a particularly pleasant world to live in, though.

He wondered suddenly where Boromir was. Was he also somewhere out in the wilderness, sitting at a campfire, gloomy and lonely, thinking? Was it possible he was thinking of Faramir…?

Faramir frowned sternly. Not likely.

What did he care anyway?

It was time to grow up. How could he count on his father’s love when it was so hard to earn? How could he even wish for his brother’s love when it had been so easy to lose? He would have to learn to live with his own strength and not rely on what others thought of him. He would harden, and become a man, and be his own support and solace.

With the passage of days he gained further respect from his comrades, who complimented him openly on his courage and level-headedness in combat, and amongst themselves spoke of the strangely heartening effect this boy’s calm presence had on them. They would no longer restrain him or try to keep him behind when they fought. Although he had only just turned fifteen, his lack of a grown man’s strength was made up for by agility and swift judgement.

But as chilly winds tore the last leaves off the trees and a thin shroud of snow fell upon the higher foothills, there came a time when his skills did not help him. It was an inhospitable bitter time of the year, and the Orcs seemed to be getting hungry. Too many were the Rangers’ foes and too suddenly they struck. Faramir answered the attack fearless and steady as ever and came out of it alive, but several wounds were set in his body. On their own neither one of them was severe enough to claim his life, but together the cuts drained him of much blood and strength.

His men would hear no objection and at once arranged a small convoy to deliver him safely to the City, where his injuries could be properly tended and healed.

Along the journey he grew feverish and reached Minas Tirith in a half-unconscious state.

That night he slept fitfully, though the healers’ potions and clever hands had set him on the course for recovery.

As he awoke not long before noon, he found the Steward by his bedside. Had Faramir opened his eyes a minute earlier, he might have noticed a vague sadness in his father’s eyes, a softness almost akin to tenderness. But Denethor had noticed his son stirring to wake and had had time to arrange his features according to his reasons. And, with just a right measure of disappointment showing on his pale face, the lord nodded to Faramir with dry approval.

“You have endeavoured to serve Gondor properly, son, even though you had to be carried back in the arms of our men. But nevertheless I give heed to your efforts. You may show some worth after all.”

This was not the way Father usually greeted his wounded warriors. Yet such was the nature of Faramir’s heart, that he took no offence at this cynical judgement of his achievements. In fact, his father’s words seemed almost like praise to him, and he smiled.

“But my lord, the young prince is sleeping, he needs rest!” a healer’s indignant voice carried past the closed doors of the ward.

Faramir half sat up and strained his ears to hear clearer. But there was no need to listen in as another voice bellowed: “Out of my way, you dimwit! I wish to see my brother!”

The heavy wooden doors flung open and Boromir burst in. Next instant he was by Faramir’s bed, clutching the boy’s hand, his gaze jumping between Faramir’s clear grey eyes.

“Please, little one, tell me all is well with you! I would not bear it if any real harm had come to you!” He was short of breath, having apparently sprinted up all the way from the city gates. Still dressed in his traveling gear, he looked worn and disheveled, his beard unkempt and over-grown. A strong smell of horse sweat and long road hung around him. “I came as soon as I heard of what befell you, but I could not come fast enough…”

Faramir was pierced by the desperate worry in his brother’s eyes, and what a joy it was to see Boromir again. But he jerked his chin up and snatched his hand away.

“Nothing befell me that should concern you.”

Boromir stared at him aghast.

“But how could it not concern me? We are brothers, you are more precious to me than anyone!”

“Yet little precious to you I was when you were leaving on that so-called mission, Boromir.”

The young man groaned tiredly and slumped on the chair by the bed.

“I was harsh to you, little brother, but I had to go. Would you oppose Father’s will?”

“Father’s will had nothing to do with it. He told me… he told me you came to him and begged to send you away! That’s what he said, that you begged.” All the pain, all the confusion, all the anger Faramir had been harbouring for these past months were bursting forth. He could see his words were stinging Boromir, but could not contain the accusations.

Boromir suddenly looked small, all colour drained from his face except for two bright spots on his cheeks. He lowered his face and uttered quietly: “Aye, that I did, I begged.”

“And I reasoned –” Faramir felt a lump in his throat, but went on nonetheless, for he knew that otherwise he would never say it. “I reasoned it was because of me, because you did not wish to see me any longer.”

Boromir studied his hands in his lap for a long time.

“Aye, you speak the truth once more.”

“Then why…?”

Boromir covered his eyes with his hand, his head bending ever lower. “You had scared me, little brother. What… what you did to me… and what I had nearly done to you… I had never known such madness to hide within me. I fled – but only to protect you, from myself. Such a torment your presence would’ve become! Within reach day and night. Not myself, I was not myself, Faramir! I would have… You came to me in my sleep!”

He peered up at Faramir pleadingly, as though making Faramir understand the depth of his torment would somehow set everything right.

The boy sat very upright and very still, his face pale and eyes wide as he stared at Boromir. Faramir had never seen his brother look so miserable, so… endearingly vulnerable, had never heard him speak with such pain. And although the realisation that Boromir had never scorned or hated him had seared his heart with joy, the light and warmth of that knowledge were already extinguished by the cool waters of numbing ache for the young warrior before him, stripped of all his pride.

Then came Farmair’s shame, bitter and twisted.Shame that in his indignation he had judged Boromir, and judged him so unfairly, so unkindly.

Thus Faramir decided to keep to himself that he had also had all sorts of thoughts and dreams – dreams whose illusive bliss disappeared as soon as he woke, taunting him with an only too material muggy stickiness at the front of his breeches. Not to mention that those dreams had not been wholly unwelcome. That knowledge would only add to Boromir’s suffering.

“I am sorry,” Faramir said. “None of what you say had been known to me. I am sorry I was bitter with you just now, and I am sorry I had doubted you. I thought you despised me, Boromir, for what I had done… You were as though lost to me forever.”

It had not taken Boromir long to regain his self-control – and with it his usual slightly condescending derisiveness. He snorted. “And I would have been lost to you indeed, had the lads not got you to the City in time. What’s all this heroic shit about? Going to Ithilien and all, when everyone knows it’s crawling with Orc and what not, especially at this time of year.”

Faramir sighed uneasily. “Like I said, I thought I would never get to be your friend again. ’Tis… You don’t know what that means to me, brother.” He had quite forgotten his earlier resolve to harden and not care about anyone’s love for him. “I wished at least to make Father happy, to prove my worth. But no harm was done, and –”

“No harm?! Just look at yourself… Ah, and these wounds are my fault, too! Had I been here, none of this would have happened… And Father… stupidly risking your life at his bidding he sees as a proof of loyalty! Damn it, how can this be?! You were only fourteen when you were given that assignment, you were not ready to do such things!” Boromir did not overlook the fact that he himself had been fourteen also when he started going on forays – it merely did not occur to him to apply the same standards to his brother. “We have enough grown blokes, you should not have had to –”

“But brother, you risk your life rather foolishly all the time, too – and do not speak harshly of our father,” Faramir interrupted tiredly, leaning back onto his pillows. The conversation had exhausted him, and he closed his eyes.

There were footsteps behind the door and then the healer’s head popped in. He spoke in a hushed voice: “Lord Boromir, His Lordship has heard of your arrival and wishes to speak with you. Besides…” he looked pointedly at Faramir.

Boromir sighed wearily and stood up. He made to leave, but then returned and pressed his lips hastily to Faramir’s brow. Only the boy was already asleep.

Boromir came to visit every day, but they spoke no more of what had passed between them.

Instead Faramir told Boromir of his first military experiences, while the older brother shared his own tidings. They were more on a par in this than ever before, for now it was not a boy adoringly drinking in every word of a dashing young captain, believing even the most outrageous cock and bull stories, but a young warrior who had his own tales to tell – one who nodded with serious understanding as he listened to his brother, now quite able to imagine some of the situations Boromir described.

Faramir often saw pride for him light up his brother’s face, and knew that without him ever having spoken of it directly, Boromir had, perhaps unconsciously, sensed the transformation that had taken place in him after his first battle.

At first, however, the boy had been reluctant to mention that encounter. The older brother had often talked of how Faramir’s first time would be with him, how they would be fighting side by side when Faramir’s virginal blade was washed in real blood, when his first Orc was slain. Boromir had so looked forward to witnessing and sharing the strain and glory of that moment, to seeing his little brother step over the threshold to manhood – to Boromir it was one of the most, if not the one most important milestone in a warrior’s life.

And now he had missed it.

It had happened – without him, and Faramir knew his brother must be bitter. Not only that: he probably felt guilty as well, for not having been there to save his little brother should something go awry.

But if that were so, Boromir never let on as much.

To Faramir, after the intensity of the foray, it felt strange and unnatural to be idling his days away in the quiet airy rooms with nothing to do, with hardly anyone to talk to. In fact, as the healers had pled with him not to go outside to the garden lest he catch a cold in his weakened state, and all other visitors were turned away on the grounds of him needing rest, his brother was his only entertainment in those days. And Boromir, as Faramir suspected, was stealing time away from his duties, lingering for hours at the boy’s bedside, never running out of things to talk of and joke about.

Boromir, now that his face was cleared of the outmost anxiety of their reunion, beard neatly trimmed and hair put in order, once more presented a lordly sight.

Against his better judgement, Faramir would wonder now and again whether his brother was still subject to the temptation he had spoken of with such feeling. To see Boromir so nonchalant and relaxed in his presence after that desperate confession gave Faramir mixed feelings. Maybe the power of his repentance had broken the spell. Or it had simply worn off, like the boy had heard these things sometimes do.

He did not dare ask himself whether he wished this to be the case.

Thanks to Alcardilmë and balrog for the beta.

Chapter 3. Lavender

On the fourteenth evening after Boromir’s return, when Faramir was beginning to fear in earnest that he would go mad in the confines of his private ward, the healers finally released Denethor’s younger son. Faramir was certain it would have been done much earlier, had he been an ordinary soldier and not the Steward’s offspring – but said Steward had not made another visit since his son’s awakening, so the head of the Houses, uncertain of the lord’s viewpoint on the matter, had obviously chosen to play it safe.

Faramir would not have been horribly surprised if in a couple more days he had actually started looking forward to the visits of the warden who brought him meals, the talkative elderly lady Ioreth, and her endless monologues about this and that. After serving him, she would always hover around, sighing about how he was too skinny and persistently protesting a young man like him, especially one recovering from battle wounds, should eat thrice as much – which was not unfair, for he was indeed having some serious trouble with his appetite as of late.

It was not that he had not thought of some productive way to divert himself – he had had one of the pages fetch him a whole stack of reading material from the Library. Faramir understood that if he wanted to indulge his passion for reading, he would have to learn how to find time for it from then on. The day a young man began his military service, his formal education was considered finished, all the book-learning hours in his schedule replaced with tasks that were ‘actually important’. Boromir had hardly managed to sound appropriately regretful when saying his final thanks and goodbye to their tutors, and had even entertained himself voicing half-joking plans about setting a little pyre in the main courtyard for his torturously numerous, rightfully loathed and thankfully no longer needed text-books and scrolls – just imagine, ash would fly everywhere, it would be so grand – until Father had given him the look.

But, much as Faramir did not share his brother’s views on this subject, he found he could not concentrate on his reading – his thought was like a dragonfly, pausing for a few moments in one place, but just as he thought he had it cornered, it would whizz off in some seemingly random direction. He had soon abandoned the history volume he had been begun studying shortly before setting off on his first mission – he could hardly get through half a paragraph before finding himself staring out of the window absent-mindedly. The same fate had befallen all the other serious works awaiting his attention.

With a sigh, he gave up, leaving them alone to try something else: the page had also brought a thin book Faramir had not requested. Since the lad could hardly be all that involved in literature, Faramir concluded it had been added by the librarian as an extra little something, apparently in an attempt to balance out all the intellectually demanding texts the young lord had asked for. It turned out to be a fictional novel, and one with a strong romantic line at that. Faramir had been somewhat skeptical at first, but before long had to admit it sported both wit and eloquence and, on the whole, was quite a pleasure to read. However, just as he came to the part where the main character was left alone with the object of his infatuation, and a confession – or something – was about to take place – Faramir’s hands, acting seemingly off their own accord, firmly shut the book and put it aside.

The speed and relentlessness of his sudden reaction had startled him: he would have never expected such a harmless topic to cause him this degree of unease and annoyance, not to mention embarrassment so strong it made his face tingle. At first he had laughed at himself, deeming it nothing but childishness to be shy to even read of such things, yet when he picked the book up to continue, he very clearly realised that, inexplicable as it seemed, he simply did not want to.

Thus he had neatly stacked the various volumes on the bedside table and did not return to them, therefore effectively leaving himself with nothing to do. Given how rare it was that he should have too much free time on his hands, it had seemed strange to him that his thought refused to make use of it and dwell on anything remotely important, instead jumping and skipping nonchalantly all over the place.

Before, he would sometimes lie in bed at night, physically exhausted, yet nevertheless fighting sleep: his packed schedule left him no private time to think his own personal thoughts, driving him to derive this time from his rest hours. But during his recovery, the dark part of the day had been even more tedious than the light, and felt veritably endless, for, much as Faramir would have liked to sleep, he simply could not. He would try all the usual techniques over and over again, but – his heart beating agitatedly – his awareness seemed maliciously obstinate to remain sharp and clear, refusing to leave him in spite of all his efforts.

Only Boromir’s visits had been a splash of vivid colour in the dull greyness of the boy’s days – and long after his brother would depart, Faramir would feel astir with excitement and optimism, and his blood would keep on running just a little faster.

But now that he was finally set free, instead of being relieved, Faramir felt strangely uncertain and wary, like he did back in childhood when playing one of those games where he had to get through a room blindfolded, constantly expecting to painfully bump into something or trip and sprawl on his front. He told himself to be a man and get a hold of himself. Boromir always disapproved of people who worried overmuch – and to worry about one’s unmotivated anxiety, was this not outright ridiculous?

Really, he had no actual cause for alarm, everything in his life was well and safe – which he knew to appreciate and not take for granted, given it was for the first time in months he had nothing to fear or obsess about.

Ah, perhaps this was the reason: his nervousness was simply long-suppressed stress finally coming out. Much as he had lost no dignity in any of his military encounters, it was an undeniable fact that these things did leave at least a temporary mark on the heart – the resulting anxiety was only natural. Why did soldiers drink like they did, after all? Or dice, or women… People had to let it out somehow. And he had not cried once, had not had as much as an itsy-bitsy little nightmare, had not yelled at or smacked anyone (not that he ever did, but still, this was a sadly common method for men to unwind…), so all of his tension was obviously still inside.

Yet, paradoxically, the idea of returning to the borders in the nearest future to face yet more peril caused him no aversion at all. In fact, he wished to do it, to be back in the open where he did not have to dwell on things overmuch. Not merely because that sort of life was addictively uncomplicated in its own way, but, he realised with a sinking feeling, because he earnestly, with his very heart wanted to do what he had previously done: watch and fight. Not that he enjoyed it in any way – he merely wanted to be of some practical, real use. What good did it do anybody that he could read and write in Elvish and recite a good several dozen poems by heart? What good would all Gondorian lore be if Gondor were to come to ruin, overrun by a throng of illiterate Orcs, Trolls and what not?

He held still for a while, struck and unnerved by this strange notion. He had always known what path lay ahead for him, had known it with such uncompromising certainty that he had never even stopped to ponder on it. Things operated according to the natural laws established by the Valar themselves, everyone knew that. An apple-seed could only grow into an apple-tree. Autumn would always follow summer. The first son always fared as the father had fared – the second son got what he managed to deserve for himself. And in the case of a noble man’s second son, there was really only one way to deserve anything.

Now that his misgivings had brought him to analyse the workings of the society, Faramir saw that the aristocracy had, in fact, as little freedom as only the very lowest class.

A peasant’s children would be peasants. Period. They would all live in the patriarchal house, bringing in their wives in due time, adding new annexes as the family extended. The craftsmen actually had much more liberty: a miller’s first-born inherited the mill and became a miller, while all others could choose a trade that beckoned to them, and go enroll as apprentices wherever they liked, even as soldiers – and of course they could stay as helping hands at the mill, too. The sons of a wealthy tradesman – now, they had a whole variety of options, including the finer ones like arts, medicine and even minor administrative positions. But a noble man’s sons could not work as cobblers, apothecaries or minstrels: a lord’s firstborn became the landlord over the father’s estate, all others were to seek fortune becoming warlords one day. That was the end of it. And had Boromir not been so insatiably eager about all things military, and had the circumstances of their time not called for all capable hands to hold a sword, Faramir’s brother would have been spending far more hours of his day helping the Steward with all the governmental tasks – whereas Faramir, regardless of any circumstances or his own preferences, would have been trained for a warrior.

Faramir had always taken this as self-evident and thus had never even asked himself what he would have actually liked to dedicate his days to, had he been given the choice. He was not going to be given the choice, so what was the point of dwelling on it?

But now he realised that, yes, he would have gone to be a warrior.

He grinned to himself sadly. So much for culture and education – what mattered above all, apparently, was the ability to be a good fighter, a good leader. There was a reason it was what people respected – because it was what people needed, and he deemed it only just. Boromir for one, despite his annoyingly frequent usage of obscene physiological terminology and a rather brutal sense of humour, did much more for the preservation of Gondor’s cultural heritage than all her artists and scholars put together and multiplied by three.

Well, there was at least one invention of civilisation Faramir would miss when out on a mission – or, more accurately, two: hot water and a bath tub.

Before he departed, the boy used the Houses’ spacious bathing facilities one last time. Done in creamy marble and brass, they outmatched even the ones accessible from the brothers’ own quarters – and, what was especially sweet, he could enjoy them better, taking all the time he liked. Boromir never left it uncommented when Faramir took ‘too long’ putting himself in order – and in Boromir’s opinion, a sequence of hygienic procedures surpassing five minutes in total was already too long. Not that Boromir never lay soaking himself in steaming water for a good hour or so, shouting to Faramir not to open the door lest he let in a vicious draft – but in Boromir’s case it was classified as badly needed rest, not washing: he only did it because it helped his ‘overworked muscles relax’. Faramir was never granted such leeway… Getting ready for a date, are we? Valar blast me, what are you doing in there – curling your hair or something?!

Leaving behind the nameless linen robes and pulling on his own things, Faramir rubbed a dab of lavender oil onto his temples, behind the ears and in between the collar bones. Cool and a little bitter, it was a skin-tingling scent, bringing to his mind images of wide open fields under cool skies. He looked at the small phial for a while and decided to apply some more and take the whole thing along. These perfumes were intended for all the patients, but, judging by the way the bottles stood covered in dust, nobody would miss out.

Ere long Faramir discovered it had been a decision of highly questionable prudence.

To start with, he had noticed Boromir giving him curious sidelong glances at supper – but when he caught the young man’s eye and raised his brows in question, Boromir had only stifled his budding grin and made his ‘what, I didn’t say anything’ sort of face. That expression never bode anything pleasant for Faramir.

Faramir had sighed inwardly. He knew he ought to not take any of it to heart – if anything, his brother meant his many ridiculing comments as an expression of affection, even though Boromir often underestimated the stinging power his words could have. This was the communication style the man had been used to from very early on: the soldiers he so adored and always tried to imitate never showed their fondness of each other directly, but only wrapped in teasing remarks. And so did their father, too – Faramir strongly suspected that Denethor’s habit of wrapping his rare endearments in the form of reproach or criticism also had something to do with Boromir’s manner.

Ah, the boy understood they all wished him well, namely for him to grow up into a proper, manly man, the ideal embodied to perfection by his older brother – and they all were earnestly trying to assist him. Father – through being stern and demanding, and sending him on perilous assignments, Boromir – through picking on him for being shy with girls and over-dainty. Yet Faramir, being a rather observant boy, was also self-observant, and well knew that he would never quite hit the mark, for his looks and bearing, no matter what he may achieve, would always render him softer and gentler in people’s eyes. He could go and slay a thousand Orcs with his right arm tied behind his back – yet still it would be interpreted and judged according to some other logic, than had one of the older ‘manlier’ warriors done it.

Take, for instance, that librarian: he had not sent Faramir one of the numerous anthologies of ancient warlords’ recklessly perilous adventures (often resulting in pointless albeit heroic deaths), nor a blood-curdling suspense story full of treason and murders – not even a traveller’s humorous essay about foreign peoples’ funny customs.

No, what did Faramir receive from him? Right, a romantic novel…

This was exactly how people saw him.

And thus, of course, his family’s efforts to ‘make him into a man’ were double those had he been an appropriately gruff and laddish kind of youth – bonus points would have been accrued for being sulky and smelly at times. Yet, despite all his renowned intelligence, Faramir lacked the cynical everyday pragmatism necessary to play along with such expectations and, well, once in a while forgetfully wipe his mouth on the back of his sleeve, or make a rude knowing joke about things he had never even tried. For all that he would have been reprimanded just as much, of course, yet it would have been an entirely different matter – Father’s remarks oftentimes implied he found Boromir’s conduct too raw, unrefined and imposing for a man of gentle descent, yet in a way it was almost like a compliment. Better by far to be too much of a man, than not enough.

No, Faramir did not try to put up any act: for his part, he was rather comfortable with himself – relatively comfortable, of course, only as much as a person of his age and status could actually be. Comfortable at least to the point of not suffering from a burning need to prove everyone wrong in their opinion of him – besides, much as he generally admired his older brother, he suspected that Boromir’s ‘I absolutely have to be better than everybody’ attitude did not make for a particularly pleasant life, either. And the boy sensed, too, although he did not like to acknowledge the notion consciously, that for their friendship it was better that he would never be able to rival Boromir’s utter perfection in the eyes of others…

No, seriously, Boromir merely cared for him – and if the man could never simply say as much, unless something horrible happened and robbed him of his usual irony – well, that was just the way Boromir was. But, all his rationalising notwithstanding, Faramir had never learnt to enjoy Boromir treating him thus, even though he had well learnt to respond in kind. Boromir could always appreciate a good jest, even one aimed at his impeccable self, and laughed heartily, even if putting on a show of being scandalised – and he clearly assumed Faramir felt the same, which, of course, Faramir did not. Worst of all, while the boy was in the Houses, Boromir had become noticeably gentler with him, whether it be because of Faramir’s ‘convalescent soldier’ status, or because of some residual guilt the older brother still carried – and Faramir preferred him gentler by far, even though he knew it was soon bound to end.

So that night at supper he braced himself, expecting to receive a full measure of his brother’s raillery once they were out of earshot.

Indeed, no sooner had the two entered their fire-lit bedchamber, than Boromir took to picking on him mercilessly. Faramir may have become a fellow warrior and gained the elder’s esteem in that respect, yet he remained, above all, the little brother – with everything usually implied by the notion.

“Is there a bridal party hiding in this room? I am sure I smell flowers! Come out, lassies, we won’t hurt you!” Boromir strode to the window and jerked aside the heavy curtains to peer behind, as though truly expecting to discover a maiden.

“Very funny, brother,” grumbled Faramir, stopping by his bed and kicking off his soft indoor shoes. Inexplicably, he felt extremely nervous, all his previous anxiety having grown like on yeast. He was intent on getting under the blankets at once. “Just because you are too rough and tough for a bath, and never smell of anything but your own sweat…”

Divesting himself even quicker than usual, Faramir had already dragged his tunic together with the undershirt off over his head, and now stepped out of his breeches and paused only to neatly fold his things on a chair by the bed. He decided to forgo donning his nightshirt – as soon as he put his things down, he would slip under the warm blankets.

Boromir laughed incredulously and exclaimed in mock outrage, “That is most utterly not true! I washed only today and –” He turned around – and nearly choked on his own words.

Even though he had never consciously ruled out the possibility of Faramir getting undressed at some point in the evening, the young man had by no means expected it to happen in the first minute upon their entering the room. Thus the sight of his little brother in complete and splendid nakedness struck Boromir all the more overpoweringly for having caught him stupidly, inexcusably unawares.

Only it was hardly his little brother he saw as he gaped at the youth before him.

The lines of that body were the same he had always known, the taut slender curves of one who, since early childhood, had been spending hours each day practicing, wearing tens of pounds of weighty gear meant to ensure his muscles would be moulded to perfection when he reached manhood. He may not have reached it yet, but there was already unconcealable strength in him, and sure signs of yet more strength to come.

Which should be fine, because strength was a practical, functional thing, and although women admired it, it should have no sway over a warrior like Boromir. But Faramir’s strength was agile and graceful, manly but at once beautiful.

Every part of his body seemed to acquire some special meaning, some special power. He was as though filled with magic, enthused with sweet promises, and everything about him spoke of pleasure.

The flawless creaminess of his neck, momentarily revealed at the nape when the shiny anthracite tresses parted as Faramir bowed to lay his clothes down. The shape of his shoulders, his back, his waist… Valar, his buttocks. So firm and pert, yet so ripely, roundly fleshed, made as though for the sole purpose of being cradled by a strong pair of hands, Boromir’s fingers already twitching with yearning. These buttocks – so pale, a coy intimate shadow in between – what a promise they held…

Boromir felt himself filling up and clouding over with a heavy darkness, with blackness, with scorching heat, the tendons in his jaws going stiff.

When Faramir’s innocent kind eyes were turned away, the force of his appeal slammed into Boromir like a heat wave. He knew he was cornered, trapped. He had managed to avoid admitting the obvious for a very long time. His voluntary blindness had only led him to being utterly, unforgivably unprepared when the inevitable came, vanquishing him with the ease of a Dragon falling from the cloudless sky upon a fatuous unsuspecting prey.

I want him.

My little brother, who nearly got himself killed because of my reckless stupidity and utter lack of self-control – let me be damned, but oh, how I want him.

Boromir stood struck speechless, motionless. That he should see such unabashed feral sexuality in another male, in a boy of fifteen, in a brother… That he should hear its call and feel it resonate with a boom in his very loins… But had it not been for the upsurge of guttural horror at his own reaction, he would have likely spent his seed there and then.

What more, he saw now with invincible clarity that, had this been another young lad before him, even if equally handsome (although could anyone match Faramir’s beauty?), it would not have worked like this. No, it was not just the body – it was, twistedly, precisely the unspoilt pureness of Faramir’s starry eyes, his trusting openness that made the carnal side of him so bewitchingly fascinating.

And only then it occurred to Boromir that maybe they should have finally moved to separate bedrooms.

How could have he so completely failed to think of this? Had he truly, honestly believed that he would remain unmoved, unenthralled?

Had he not seen the lightning, the first lightning of the storm, when his lips had touched his brother’s chaste but unresisting mouth? Such lightnings may often be followed by an unending moment of deafening silence, when nothing, inexplicably, seems to be happening, not even a breath of wind to brush against one’s cheek – but that does mean the storm is not going to unfold. He had stood like a dolt in the middle of a field, gaping at the basalt sky above, dumbly waiting for the thunder to follow the flash. Now he had nowhere to seek cover.

I should have left, should have left that very day. When I blurted out all those things to him – and he had forgiven me so easily, had not even winced, had not been a bit revolted. He had, most likely, simply not understood any of it, he is so pure – but I, how could have I not understood…?!

In his whirlwind of emotions and revelations, Boromir had not registered that Faramir had hung his tunic and breeches on the chair – but, instead of proceeding to don his nightgown and lie down, now stood straight and still, not moving, as though in suspicious apprehension or uncertain anticipation.

Indeed, the catch in Boromir’s voice had not escaped the boy’s attention.

“Yes? You washed only today – and…? What is it?” Faramir asked a tad bit playfully, and threw Boromir a curious glance over the shoulder. The younger brother kept a cool demeanour, as if being unclothed before the older did not unsettle him in the least, as if everything was as before. He sensed that to acknowledge otherwise would be… Would be what? His intuition was whispering they were both hovering on the brink… Of what? Disaster…?

Yet even if it was indeed disaster, and even if he dreaded it, like he knew he ought to, the dread was of a strangely spellbinding variety…

“Um, you… you have such a terrible scar on your leg!” Boromir uttered with great feeling, and breathed out in reprieve at having managed, or so he thought, to mask the real reason of his undoing.

All right, get a hold of yourself. Panicking never helps. Your bad, yes, admittedly – but surely you can still set everything right. You’ve been through worse than this – you just have to hold for an hour or so. Get in bed, and when he falls asleep, just get up quietly and leave. Spend the night at the barracks, and first thing in the morning go and get yourself a permanent placement as far away from here as only you can. You’ll never see him again, and it shall be all right. Just an hour, not that much, certainly you can endure.

Now, following that plan, walk to your bed, change your attire and lie down. It’s not hard, just take a step. The right leg, then the left, nothing difficult.

But he could not. Could not make the slightest move. Could not unlock his gaze from Faramir’s. Could not break the spell.

He just stood there, staring.

Faramir knew he ought to get in bed this very instant, pull the covers up to his chin and turn to face the wall. The bedspreads had been taken away for cleaning, it would take him only a second to lift the blanket and slip underneath. But he remained standing as he was, and felt the faintest of grins coming to curve his lips.

He was acutely, painfully aware of his nakedness, and a novel shame was striving to get him to cover himself, or at least to abstain from turning around – but he shrugged it away. This was his brother, he had every right to stand before him in the buff.

So Boromir was worried about his scar – very well…

“Aye, I gained it in battle,” self-conscious to the extreme, but not taking his gaze from Boromir’s face, Faramir ran his fingers along the pale pink mark on the back of his thigh. Boromir his brother would have made some clever remark about only cowardly soldiers getting a wound on the back of their leg – Boromir who was watching him said nothing.

The man’s lips only parted soundlessly as his eyes followed the gesture of Faramir’s hand, and Boromir felt something in himself tangibly unhinge. He knew he ought to make some sort of civilised reaction, say something – but thankfully, Faramir forestalled any of his pathetic attempts.

“But do not change the topic so, brother!” the boy exclaimed, his eyes shining. “For it is rude and unbecoming of a Steward’s son!” Faramir laughed merrily, a great gaiety overcoming him all of a sudden, even as something in the pit of his stomach was fluttering, making him feel lightheaded and weightless. “It is not scars we were talking of. Speaking of washing – here,” he took the glass bottle out of his folded clothes and walked up to his brother. “It smells nice and keeps you fresh.”

Boromir stared at him uncomprehendingly, for it was as though a mischievous spirit had taken the form of his younger sibling and came now to torment him, displaying all his beauty before Boromir’s deprived eyes. Look him in the eye, keep looking him in the eye, let not your gaze slide down – but, oh, was not the peril in his eye by far the deadliest…?

Seeing the young man so powerlessly stunned, Faramir threw his head back and laughed again, but his cheeks flushed and his pulse quickened. I shouldn’t be doing this, he thought vaguely.

“Don’t fret, Boromir, there is nothing difficult to it. I can show,” at this he undid the cap and took a little of the slick fragrant liquid onto his fingers, before neatly closing the bottle again, as though he actually cared not to spill the substance. As though he actually cared about anything in that moment. His hand trembled, but he paid no attention. He felt strangely detached, as if he had no control over his actions and was only watching.

“Just a little here, and here…” he marked Boromir’s temples with the lavender oil, not looking the man in the face, but keeping his gaze on his own hand instead. Had Faramir looked, he would have seen helpless resignation and weary surrender coming to extinguish all light of reason in his brother’s darkening eyes: for in that moment Boromir’s wandering thought had come to a terrifying conclusion.

He had known for a while now where I stand on this whole thing… And yet he had not shunned me, had not tried to avoid me – has even let me stay alone with him.

He actually wants this…

Faramir’s mouth opened slightly as he applied the perfume to the base of the man’s neck, then behind his ear. The boy’s hand lingered on the hot skin of Boromir’s throat, unable to withdraw from the touch. He knew he ought to draw it away, yet still it lingered.

A strange sound escaped Boromir’s lips, like a quiet sob of helpless desperation – and the next instant Faramir was slammed full force against Boromir’s chest, the warrior’s powerful arms crushing him in a steely embrace so tight the boy could hardly breathe, broad warm hands clutching at his bare back. Immediately Faramir clung to him and curled up against his body, going perfectly still and shutting his eyes, all his agitation and merriment dissolving without a trace.

He felt Boromir trembling against him, shaking almost convulsively – felt his brother’s parted hot lips pressed firmly against his temple, his nose buried in Faramir’s hair. Boromir’s breathing was so strained and ragged, as though he was pierced by a dozen arrows and each inhalation pained him and was a feat of great labour.

Yet the turmoil his older brother was obviously in did not pass over to Faramir, who was in a state of complete, unperturbed peace.

Boromir may have washed earlier that day, and Faramir had been generous with the perfume on him – yet nothing could suppress or outshine the man’s own distinct personal scent, strong and masculine – so familiar and reassuring, so warm and pleasant. And Faramir breathed on it alone, and it enveloped him, and he basked in it like one basks in heady sunshine after a month-long imprisonment in a gloomy cell.

There was, however, a new note to the fragrance now – a note the boy had caught only once before, on the night Boromir had last held him… It worked on him with unimaginable speed and efficacy, poisoning him sweetly, enchanting and entrancing him, and soon he grew dumb and mellow, and would not have been able to understand anything had he tried to strain his thought.

He felt neither happy nor afraid. There was no distinct emotion in him at all – all his entity was overtaken by a state of enormous, immeasurable need. This need was so overbearing that he did not even fear it, for along with reason it had robbed him of the ability to fear. Nor could he break it down into components to comprehend its nature and origin: whether it came of affection, or kinship, or lust, or even simple loneliness. His need had but one name: Boromir.

And it was because of this need that he held still and could not even think of making some move, for it had immersed him in a state so primeval, so devoid of human consciousness, that he forgot what it was to think of what would happen next, what would happen afterwards. The concept of ‘future’ no longer made any sense – he was suspended in the now, there was only this one magnificent instant, containing all his existence in itself. He needed Boromir. It was as simple as that. He did not think what it was he needed of Boromir – just him.

But the need had been growing on Faramir, and reached a certain point of irreversibility – and then something changed, and his body awoke. It awoke to the sensation of the heat of Boromir’s desire for him, strapped across the older brother’s lower abdomen and hip by the tight constraints of the man’s leggings, separated from Faramir’s naked skin only by two thin layers of finely made fabric.

In that moment Faramir’s need acquired a direction – and a purpose. All of him, all of his entity, all of his body, much as it was already squashed against his brother’s, now strained and arched upwards and forth, reaching for Boromir as though, no matter how close, they could never be close enough. Very slowly, as if he was drugged and had hardly any rule over himself, Faramir lifted his face – then his gaze was drawn up, seeking Boromir’s.

Notes: thanks to Alcardilmë and balrog for the beta.

Chapter 4. Of Sea Pearls and Almond Blossoms

Their eyes met – and, like a crust of brittle ice vainly aiming to contain a mountain torrent, the stupefaction shattered.

At once they were kissing like mad.

How was it possible to simultaneously experience such blissful, unearthly relief and such unquenchable, torturous ache?

The taste and feel of the boy’s mouth were no novelty to Boromir, but if anything only the more tantalising for it. Grinding his lips against Faramir’s with such force it hurt, Boromir strove to fit his tongue all the way in, thrusting with a savage brutality more fit for a military conquest. Faramir, far from being intimidated, fought him back just as vehemently, eager himself to win entrance to Boromir’s mouth. In turn, this passionate defiance served only to confirm to Boromir that his onslaught was fully welcome, and that even more was necessary.

This war was of a special variety, and the older brother’s code of honour did not apply here (although in that moment his honour was generally far from the top of his mind), and Boromir wasted little time making an outflanking maneuver, namely to assault Faramir from the rear as well. Gripping him on the uncovered buttocks, Boromir jerked his brother forth – and the boy gasped, shaken by the new bout of arousal from this ungentle touch. This momentary pause was all Boromir required. Before Faramir knew it, he had irreversibly lost the sweet battle, Boromir irrefutably claiming his mouth.

Unlike in real war, being conquered felt just as glorious as victory. Surrender was intoxicating bliss, and, once overpowered, Faramir was rapturous to give himself over. To push his backside into Boromir’s palms with shameless neediness, to softly moan against the older brother’s insatiable lips and suck on his hot aggressive tongue.

Much as his need had a final destination, he was past the point of caring which particular road they took. In fact, he was well past even registering the course, blindly willing to play whichever way, to provide whatever Boromir asked.

But Boromir was made otherwise, to him victory was essential. Faramir’s sudden pliancy poured like hot oil on the already raging fire, making him crave even more, making him burn for ultimate dominance, even though he hardly comprehended what that actually required. He only knew he had to get Faramir under himself, had to have him and never lose him.

Boromir half pushed, half carried him the short distance to the wide uncovered bed. They tumbled heavily down – all in a frenzy, in such senseless hurry. In the process Faramir dropped the lavender oil bottle onto the sheets, and it rolled under him to prod coolly against his thigh, but he would not have noticed had he lain on a pin cushion. There was something magical about acquiring a horizontal position together, and everything besides the alignment of their bodies became irrelevant.

Boromir’s weight was crushing on him – and Faramir rejoiced in it. It was right, it had to be substantial, real, pressing him breathless into the mattress, trapping him sweetly, leaving no space for movement, no space for loneliness. He wrapped his bare legs tightly around Boromir’s waist, as though afraid his brother would change his mind and draw back. Predictably, such concerns proved unfounded: the young man only ground himself harder against Faramir’s naked body, while his hand went straight for what was openly offered between the younger brother’s spread thighs, Faramir’s cock already engorged beyond belief, blushed and brimming with tension.

Involuntarily Faramir bit him hard on the lip as Boromir’s hand firmly clasped the boy’s manhood – clasped it with such undoubting, unhesitating confidence as though it was and had always been Boromir’s personal property, as though he had an innate non-sequestrable right to handle it whichever way he chose to.

And Faramir let him, half-alive with strain and pleasure beneath him. Just as before, all had become a wildly dancing blur for the boy, a whirlwind of sensations and colours, heart pounding painfully against ribs, the air impossibly condensed to inhale. The thick metallic tanginess of his brother’s blood, fleetingly mixed into their kiss, skidded through his mind like a flash of glowing scarlet, like a stray spark from the hearth, and he was so unraveled he could not recognise it for what it was, nor fathom where it had come from all of a sudden.

Everything seemed to be happening all of a sudden and all at once, time and space having gone mad around him. His own flesh was going mad…

All thinking ability had long since deserted him, as though he had never had any – and now that his senses were melting away also, coming loose and escaping him, scattering all over his burning skin – he could no longer understand where he was or what was happening, except that it was something painfully wonderful that should never stop. Never.

Although, if their fierce kissing did not halt for a second, he would literally suffocate… Faramir was having severe trouble coordinating his breathing to inhale through the nose, and every time he tried to do it through the mouth Boromir prevented it by immediately resealing their lips together and shoving his tongue inside. Faramir’s most basic function, the self-preservation instinct, appealed to him – and, moaning, the boy broke the kiss off to gasp for air, arching beneath Boromir and throwing his head back.

So Boromir set his mouth to his brother’s throat instead, smothering it with burning demanding kisses, licking it wet with lewd hungry drags of his tongue, while his hand worked in its own frantic rhythm. His passion carried him through it, he did not need to think what to do, how to touch. He had never held anyone but himself in this way, yet there was no awkwardness to it – if anything, it made more sense to be doing this to Faramir’s sex than his own. It seemed to Boromir he had never taken in his hand something so finely, smoothly textured, so silky and delicate, so alive – so hot and hard… That his little brother, the gentle Faramir, should have such a powerful manly thing between his legs…

Manly, yes…

Boromir had never allowed there could be more than one sort of masculinity, the sort he had always striven towards and honed in himself. But now in his brother he encountered indeed a very different kind: in Faramir, somehow, masculinity and gentleness did not clash, but rather highlighted and complemented one another to a piercingly captivating degree.

Faramir’s hips beat forcefully into Boromir’s brash strokes, attesting the boy would know how to exercise the power nature had blessed him with. His hands roamed over his older brother’s broad shoulders and chest with frenetic esuriency, famished from ever handling only cold steel and hard wood. Now greedy for the feel of the fully sculpted curves of Boromir’s muscular shape, Faramir gripped untenderly, feeding on the living heat of the man’s skin.

Likewise, the hold of Faramir’s arms and legs on Boromir’s body was close and strong – stronger by far than any lass could have ever embraced him, and all the more arousing for it. And yet… Faramir’s skin was no rougher than a maiden’s – his mouth, if anything, only sweeter; the blush of passion on his cheeks so endearingly rosy… And the boy’s surrender to Boromir’s supremacy over him was absolute, his response to the man’s passion fiery, yet not challenging. The uninterrupting moans and sighs leaving Faramir’s soft red lips were so… so helpless, so mellifluous, so devoid of any vulgarity whatsoever…

Pleasuring him was not obscene – pleasuring him was beautiful, a blessing, a divine gift…

Breathing in heavy gasps, ecstatic and disoriented, Boromir traced his lips up Faramir’s neck and to his ear. The smell of desire was hot and sharp on Faramir’s skin, and Boromir was inhaling it so greedily, his head was beginning to spin. The man’s whole body seemed to be getting dizzy and slipping out of his grasp, yet that mattered little, for nothing he was doing required any conscious effort on his behalf. As his hand continued its rapid exertion, as his hips grated against his brother’s naked body – with great gentleness his tongue licked behind and along the edge of Faramir’s earlobe, a delectable tease amid all his masterful ungentleness, showing Boromir was not technically incapable of physical tenderness.

Uttering yet another heavy moan, the boy turned his head to the side, thus allowing his brother better access. For a moment, Boromir let his hot breath tickle the ear’s sensitive skin, naught more, and he felt Faramir shudder convulsively beneath him.

Then, as the young man plunged his tongue inside, Faramir cried out in shock, for it seemed to him that he had been touched on an open nerve. His lithe body gave a violent jerk below Boromir’s heavier form, and it felt to the boy as though a thousand arrows were released from a thousand taught bows, a thousand strings ringing triumphantly in unison, striking a clear note of finesse and glory.

This note rang so deafening he was entirely unaware of his own exclamation joining the chorus, nor of Boromir’s hoarse gasp as Faramir’s hot seed spilt abundantly onto the man’s fingers.

A thick oppressive wave of delirious languor suddenly toppled over Boromir, and he closed his eyes, for a moment feeling so spent he thought he might faint. Several ragged breaths after, he let go of his brother’s manliest part, its hardness not yet abating, and rolled off the boy heavily.

Faramir hardly noticed, so stunned he was. Drained of all strength, his body had slackened, slender legs releasing their grip on his brother’s waist, and the boy lay limp, motionless, his lustrous lashes low upon his cheeks, his effortfully heaving chest the only sign he was at least partly conscious.

Boromir glanced at him uncomprehendingly, then closed his eyes again, deep radiant red coming to pulse and swirl behind his lids. He did not feel sorry for what his hand had just done, for what his mouth had just done. He hardly felt any human emotions at all. He was hardly aware of himself.

And whereas for Faramir this had been the first experience with another, and he did not know that it could be otherwise, Boromir was no virgin, and for him it had always been otherwise. He had even used to derive a certain sort of pride from being unfazed by sex, from being able, had he so wished, to get up, pull his things back on and depart a mere minute after finishing.

Not tonight.

He swallowed hard. Time had become dense and sticky like treacle, stretching and stretching without moving, and he could not come to his senses. Blood pounded painfully in his head, in his face, in his throat. Between the legs, too – between the legs worst of all. He still burnt.

Boromir frowned. He could feel wetness at the front of his leggings, a sizeable stain of it, and he knew that when Faramir had cried out and thrashed under him, when Faramir’s warmth squirted into his hand, he too had found his pleasure. It had been short and nearly painful, like a curt stab in the groin – but it was unmistakable, he had come.

Yet still he burnt. His loins were as though in a fever, his erection harder than he had ever known it, as though it was made of some material other than living flesh.

No, it would not be this easily appeased, by merely rubbing against a warm body through an insinuation of fabric. It wanted more, and would not unchain him until it got more.

Licking his lips, Boromir turned his head to gaze at his younger brother.

Faramir’s breathing had evened out, but he was still completely dazed, as though his own pleasure had all but knocked him out.

And seeing him so utterly undone, splayed on the bed with eyes closed, a bright glow on his cheeks, Boromir knew he would have to hold his own desire at bay. He simply could not assault Faramir when he was… defenseless like this. It almost made the young man smirk, this notion – to merely hold at bay what he had earnestly tried to defy and deny only… well, it could not have been more than ten minutes ago.

Ten minutes – but an entirely different world. And he did not smirk, for much as his very desire had seemed monstrous to him only a while back, now he could see nothing strange or unnatural in that he should have witnessed Faramir’s moment of ecstasy, in that he had actually brought it about. Boromir’s arousal, cruelly stifled by his trousers, was burning – burning for Faramir, and that commanded all his thoughts, determined his very mode of thinking. It was as though he had somehow slipped through a wall of thin glass, through some ethereal veil into a different reality – one where there is no shame, no morality and no tomorrow. There was no going back, and nothing besides the two of them would ever matter from now on.

Within reach day and night. Indeed, he had spared himself the torment. When left one on one with what he craved so desperately, how long had he lasted? How long had his denial endured against the undeniable? Same ten minutes.

And having kissed Faramir once, having touched him like he had, Boromir had as though given himself permission to treat him thus from now on, to find pleasure with him however many countless times he wished to and in whatever fashion he chose to. And this permission ensured he could no longer see anything deviant in his need. Take, for example, Faramir’s seed on his palm and fingers – while he had never liked to soil his hand with the release of his own tension, Faramir’s cream he would never wish to wipe off himself. What more, he would fain like to get himself covered in it from head to toe…

So he took off his tunic, its dark fabric bearing the proud mark of Faramir’s pleasure on the front – and after it the rest of his raiment, casting it all carelessly on the floor. Stretching then alongside Faramir, Boromir kissed the boy’s reddened lips with a slow passion, delighting in their sated lazy response, in the heat slowly emanating from their moist delicate skin, and only marvelling at how little embarrassment he felt at letting his naked arousal come in such proximity to his little brother’s body.

Some scrumptious minutes later, when his resolve to rein himself was beginning to wear dangerously thin, Boromir called on what remained of his will to lean out of the kiss. He did so out of hope that Faramir would protest, would pull him back in, at the very least would look at him questioningly – despite the stiff hunger between his legs, Boromir could not, simply could not continue all on his own, without a little more help from Faramir. But Faramir did not provide any such help. The boy merely sighed, a dreamy smile spreading his lips. He looked perfectly content and happy just as he was, definitely not ready to be assailed anew… And, strangely, this was not something the older brother could step over, not even in his current state.

Yes, Boromir may have always had the leading role in their relationship, which to both of them had ever seemed proper to the extent of being the only possible way of things – and yet, now… He would still lead, yes, but… In order for it to work, it was vital that Faramir actively accept his lead – or at least that was the way the man saw it. He did not yet perceive – and, being who he was, he would hardly ever be able to perceive it – that in truth it was Faramir who would guide him, that only when Faramir’s mood fully reflected his own, could he act on his desire, that only when Faramir’s fire scorched him, could he give way to his own flame. No, the man that Boromir was, he would not only never accept – he would never even entertain the notion that the inexorable want ruling him was in fact born as though outside of him, was so much beyond his control that he was not even master enough over himself to give in to it when he would. Much as he ached to surrender to it immediately, he could do so only when called on – yes, even the time would be chosen for him…

But, of course, he told himself it was his own choice to bide his time and not rush for the sake of his little brother’s comfort. And in that case, Boromir decided, he would be better off to refrain from touching the boy at all – instead he would indulge himself by taking a long and proper look, and bask in the knowledge that so very soon it would all be his…

And naturally, the man had not foreseen that what he envisioned as indulgence would turn into a fresh portion of torture.

He had never seen the boy like this, had never thought Faramir could possibly look any more ravishing than when standing naked with that perfume before him, so seductive in his untouched ripeness. It had not occurred to Boromir that it was precisely through being touched that his brother would become even more breath-taking. No, Faramir was no delicate butterfly, whose weightless kaleidoscopic splendour would be forever ruined if a man’s fingers gripped its wings but once. No, the contact with his brother’s hands had not robbed the boy of the essence of his beauty, had not defiled his wholesomeness, or spoilt his charm. It had merely awoken his body to its full potential of life and joy, and now the carnal energy flowing in him was no longer merely implied by his shapes and bearing, but plainly exposed to anyone who would have the fortune of beholding him in that moment.

Even in the golden-orange light of the fire, even in spite of the bright afterglow on his lips and cheeks, it was impossible not to observe how exceptionally fair Faramir’s skin was. Now, to elucidate why this trait had the effect that it did on Boromir, it ought to be noted that generally pallor was not something recognised as a hallmark of attractiveness. Among the Lesser men, who were now numerous in Gondor, it came forth in many shades, but only ever as a companion of some unhealthy condition, be it the chalky wanness of fatigue and malnutrition, the livid marbly bleachedness of cold, or the sallow etiolation of not having seen the sun for too long. Thus little else was deemed better testimony of a man’s salubrity and prosperity than a seasoned tan or a hearty well-fed ruddiness. Even the nobler ladies went to great lengths to achieve a skin-tone with a youthfully rosy undertone, and a hale radiant blush, fresh and appetising as a ripe raspberry.

Indeed, few now remained who looked the lovelier for their paleness, who bore it as a token of the highest pedigree, of the true blood of the West running high in their veins. It did not wane in the sun, did not wane with age, did not wane from toil – even as the keen astute clarity of their grey eyes never faded.

And Faramir’s complexion was of this rare kind, for he was not so much pale as rather fair, in no way deficient of colour, but rather gifted with a colour light and pure, perfectly wholesome and sound in itself. There was a pleasant luminous quality to it, the quality that made one think of sea-pearls and ivory, of moon-shine and morning clouds, of fresh milk and almond blossoms. And it so aptly corresponded to the time-honoured palette of Gondor’s ensigns, that one look at him could provide an exhaustive explanation as to why some flashier combination had not been chosen to represent the state. Indeed, what could better set off the air of natural yet unassuming dignity characteristic of the Númenorean race than the reticent silver-and-black? A man of such make had no need of opulent jewelry or sumptuous vestures to demonstrate his heritage, and the subdued elegance of Gondor’s customary patterns would suit him the way no other style ever could.

No other, that is, except for that of having no attire at all…

In their father’s halls there remained a few statues of the Eldar make from times long gone, and as a child Boromir used to snigger at them, asking whether the Elven sculptors had run out of rock or if they simply could not have been bothered to carve some clothing for their models. Denethor would reply that, having apparently been better connoisseurs of beauty than his son, they had known that oftentimes no match could be found for the glory of the nude body – Boromir would understand when he grew older. Boromir had never liked being told he would understand when he grew older… So sometimes, when no one was around, he would come and spend up to a quarter of an hour in front of a particular figure, scrutinising it this way and that, striving to fathom what such amazing glory was being lost on him – ever to arrive at the same conclusion that adding a set of alwhite armour, a flowing cape and a battle helmet would do no harm.

In fact, the only detail out of the ordinary he had been able to detect was that two of the statues, a pair alcoved at the opposite ends of a corridor, gave the impression that the original design had meant for them to stand together as a single composition. Their poses being complementary to one another, they would fit seamlessly, and then the tall royal-looking Man – a fine warrior, judging by his build – would be about to pull to himself the lithe long-haired Elf with ageless features, who in turn would be reaching out to caress him on the face. Odd as the idea of two divested males embracing had seemed to him back then, Boromir had had to admit they would have actually looked much better that way, more… complete.

Yet when the boy had proudly shared this little observation with Father, Denethor, far from praising Boromir’s flair for harmony in sculpture, had – without a single word – dealt him such a sharp blow on the back of the head that Boromir had nearly keeled over. It was on that day that the young lord had lost all hope of ever coming to understand art – as well as all of his already mild interest for it.

This episode may not have surfaced in Boromir’s memory as he lay studying his little brother all these years later, and he did not think back on their father’s words about the glory of nudity, nor was it ever likely to occur to him to compare Faramir’s seductive loveliness to the undying perfection of a marmoreal statue. His admiration of Faramir’s grace was not in any way rational or even fully conscious at that, especially in this moment when he could think of little else besides how much he wanted the boy. And yet…

Here it was: along with the lust the view of his brother stoked in him, the young man was filled with the sensation of astounded wonder he had so tried – and failed – to achieve when perusing an Elven marble. Elusive when chased after, it now came unbidden, descending on him with such silent, weightless grace he did not even recognise it for the same notion. It did not register with him that to witness such transcendence, and even more so to see it embodied in a living person, made him feel special, and proud, and even faintly overpowered. He did not realise that he was now one of the privileged few to whom true beauty was revealed, and who were blessed to be able to fully appreciate it.

But appreciate it he did, without trying to understand why it touched him so deeply, why it stirred in him both joy and ache – nor did he try to chain it down with words, to ascribe some specific term to it and come up with fancy metaphors for it. In fact, were the man asked to give it a name, he would have likely been baffled. What he now saw, and the sentiments it aroused in him, did not conform to the understanding of beauty he had in his head. Boromir had always rather defined the concept in terms of richness and expensiveness than consonance and clarity. He had never viewed it as the underlying, inherent property of things, but rather a superficial, decorative and therefore facultative aspect, by far less worthy of attention than the practical characteristics.

Most importantly, Boromir had never perceived that the supreme, divine degree of perfection could be reached only in simple things, when all the unnecessary, distracting details were left out. And, having never encountered it before, he did not know that the resplendence obtained in spite of a complete lack of embellishment, based solely on the faultless simplicity of form and undiluted pureness of the content, could have a literally spell-binding power over the beholder –that merely being in the presence of this calibre of excellence could in itself prove a venture perilous for a man’s sanity. He had not anticipated it could convey a meaningfulness so bottomless as to border on sacral, and brim with the promise that to partake of it would render him extraordinary by association and lift him beyond the heights accessible to common men. He did not fathom that the longing, the lust for possession thus engendered would be by nature obsessive, insatiable, and nothing else would as much as give hope of relief but the unparagonable original.

Boromir had not known this before, and even now he did not take it in, for he trusted only what he himself had seen in the past and what his beliefs led him to expect to see – definitely not something like this, and definitely not in such settings.

Ironically, he would not have described his brother as beautiful, for to do so would have defied the logic of the world as Boromir saw it.

Boromir’s world was a familiar, comprehensible place that functioned according to straightforward unchanging laws, a place where everything was organised in order and consistence. When it came to men, for instance, all that was of relevance was strictly divided into what one was born with, and therefore could be envied for – and what one acquired by the sweat of his own brow, and therefore could be respected for. In the first category, above all, fell what one received with the blood his father had passed him, namely the place one ought to occupy in society and the traits of character through which he could become worthy of that place: the flame of his valour and the sharpness of his wit. All else the man built himself: he trained his will, perseverance and hardihood, he cultivated his pride, confidence and patience, and he tirelessly shaped his body with whichever was his trade.

Yes, as a man gifted with covetable health, a powerful physique and a flair for all athletic activities, Boromir believed that all that was good about his body – with the possible exception of his height and the size of his manhood – was a merit resulting exclusively from his own back-breaking work, and no thanks to nature. He deemed it likewise for everyone else, and so reckoned that aside from the strength and endurance visible in a man’s frame, there was little about it to inspire awe. It must be said in support of his cause that until most recently he had had every reason to think thus, for all the specimens of mankind he had previously chanced to see in various states of undress had led him to a firm certitude that if a man, whatever his lineage, wanted to look venerable, and illustrious, and generally impressive, he would be prudent to start by covering himself up.

It was fabled that in the ages past every high lord bore his eminence upon his very brow, and was made such that his features and poise alone would bespeak majesty sufficient to have people bow before him, even were he to walk about dressed in tattered rags. But Boromir had little regard for legends, and in Gondor as he knew it the better part of the image a man projected by day could be easily taken off before bed and hung on the back of a chair, for a man, when one came down to it, was just a man.

Without their official attire, would not the hoary venerable elders from the Steward’s Counsel appear little more than stooping old people with sagging muscles? Likewise, when showering together at the barracks, did not the esteemed high-ranking officers look little different from the undistinguished soldiers?

Following this line of thought, what intrinsic singularity, what striking exquisiteness could possibly show in the vision of a divested lad of fifteen? And if anything, when spread out supine amid crumpled sheets, ruffled, flushed and reeling from a recent climax, such a boy was definitely not meant to fall in the domain of beautiful. Not even to the eyes of someone whose consciousness was admittedly expanded by sexual fever to a rather worrisome extent.

And yet, much as Boromir preferred to stand by whatever convictions he happened to entertain, he could not now fail to sense a major discrepancy in his picture of the universe.

Faramir may have looked defenseless for his peaceful, relaxed unawareness, for his undoubting trust in his brother’s fortitude and consideration – but he did not look defenseless for his nakedness. He did not look bare, stripped, exposed. There was an inborn harmony, a dignity in the very make of his body, a timelessness and continuity such that his loveliness would have been praised by the first of the First-born as much as by those who were to come thousands of years after Faramir had lived his term. His perfection was unconditional, absolute, true. In fact, how could have it ever been expected that simply for being the same gender as him, Boromir would be numb to its sway? This was not the kind of allure women had once had over the young captain, appearing fine and pretty while he was in need, then suddenly turning plain and unremarkable once his fire had had its due and burnt over. No, this charm would last unfading, no matter how sated he got on worshipping it with his body.

And starker than by anything else, this outstanding exceptional fineness was embodied by the flawless whiteness of Faramir’s skin, by its limpid youthfulness, its unadulterated freshness – the whiteness that on many others and to many other eyes might have seemed a flaw, but to Boromir was the clearest proof conceivable that when it came to Faramir, no rules applied. For even this very quality itself refused to rely on its own predicates: shining in the boy’s face it had ever implied naught but the virtues of purity, innocence, and modesty – yet when his garments were cast away and the lucency clothed him from head to toe, making it appear as though he were actually made of it, it turned upon itself and came to bespeak inexhaustible, ever-blazing sensuality and a capacity for unearthly, scorching passion.

The delicate shade of his skin in itself became an averment of wonders unimaginable that touching him would unfold.

But of course that was not all in him that pleased the eye, for in delectable contrast to the whiteness, those parts of him that were brightly coloured drew the gaze all the more inexorably. And as Boromir moved his eyes down the boy’s body, he stopped at the first such point of colour.

As a warrior and older brother, Boromir had always liked the look of Faramir’s chest, his pectorals prominent and well-sculpted, perfectly befitting the good fighter and strong man he would one day grow into. Yes, Boromir had always liked it, yet it had not come to his mind that this part of his brother’s body could be prized in some other way, too. It was common knowledge that only the female bosom had a sexual quality to it, both its aesthetic comeliness and the apparent reproductive application immediately turning a man’s thoughts in one particular direction. Even when chastely covered in clothes, it would intrigue with its shape and weight, making one wonder about what exactly was under the fabric… What form would the breasts assume when rid of the bodice’s support? Would the hue of the delicate tips match that of her lips? Would the teats be girlishly bashful and undeveloped, or maternally large and salient? There were so many titillating questions…

But men’s chests were flat save for a mild muscular curve, their nipples small and purposeless, naught more than a rudiment – what could there be to look at, to speculate about?

Yet now that Boromir was viewing the matter in a new light, he clearly saw that there was one great wondrous pretext why a man, too, had been granted this part of the body, although no babe would ever suckle on it.

Pleasure. The only reason it was there was pleasure.

Faramir’s nipples were very pert and flushed with blood, so sexually rubescent in comparison to their usual subdued brownish shade. And how they stood so upright and full… It had nothing to do with the way Boromir had previously seen them harden, when cold made them tighten and shrivel up – this time it was Faramir’s inner heat directing the change. And Boromir saw now that the purpose they were made to serve lent them the power to arouse that no girl’s bust could ever match.

How he wished to plant just one fleeting caress, to brush his palm over one of them, to make Faramir inhale deeply and arch up towards his hand… Perhaps then Boromir would allow himself to take it between his thumb and index finger, and tweak it slowly, and rub it, and then Faramir would…

But the man knew he ought not touch, not just yet.

So he tore his eyes away and looked a little lower, where across Faramir’s flank ran a thin stripe of a recent scar, too recent to have had time to become pale and silvery.

A mark of a man. A mark of a warrior.

It reminded Boromir that this seemingly docile boy before him could be fierce, and valiant, and dangerous – that Boromir had a just cause not only to want him, but to respect him, to be proud to have him. But it also made the man once more become painfully aware of the dreadful thing he had first realised upon receiving the tidings of his brother being wounded in battle.

Faramir could be lost – he could lose Faramir.

For the past decade and a half, pretty much all of Boromir’s conscious life, his little brother had been there, a reassuring ever-present constant, changing and growing even as Boromir himself grew, but always there.

It did not make sense that one day he could be gone – yet he could. Much as Boromir could tell himself he would never allow it, it was not in his power to exterminate this possibility.

And if there was one thing that could have by any means made Faramir any more precious to him, it was precisely this possibility, this incessant lurking threat. It put Boromir in a state similar to the one always overcoming him before combat, one he considered among the foundations of masculinity, that of experiencing an ardent, undauntable necessity to safe-keep his property.

Yes, there would always be reason to yearn for him, if only to protect him…

And what could be a better instance of protection than making him happy?

Slowly Boromir trailed his eyes yet further down, to where the chief source of Faramir’s pleasure was.

It was soft now, yet not as the man had seen it all the previous times, not the modestly pale and asleep kind of soft, but rather the satisfied for the time-being sort of soft – noticeably swollen, still moist where its cream had been spread over it, and a deep, heady pink in colour.

It too beckoned to be touched, to be reawakened from its – hopefully – brief respite…

Faramir’s balls, too, seemed tauter and fuller than usual, no doubt preparing a fresh portion of his priceless essence…

The whole package was richly offset by the lustrous inky blackness of the boy’s intimate hair, sufficiently abundant to betoken potency and fertility, yet staying well within the borders of good taste and not taking that abundance into the realms of vulgarity.

Boromir’s hand twitched for a feel of it all. How cheekily springy and coarse those curls would appear after he had first gently squeezed and rolled in his fingers the laden roundness tangible through the delicate velvety skin of Faramir’s sack…

At these musings a tear of seed seeped from Boromir’s straining manhood – and so sensitised was its tip that the otherwise barely noticeable sensation of the droplet crawling down from the slit made his breath catch and a shiver run through his thighs. Or was it not a shiver, was it in fact cramps beginning to twist his muscles, the ever-growing tension finally starting to take its toll on him?

It had been a bad, bad idea to look.

Boromir suppressed a groan of misery and forced himself to return his gaze to Faramir’s face, the sight of which, alas, proved no more calming than that of the rest of him.

Merciful Valar, he could not endure this…

And then, at last – a movement.

Faramir sighed and shifted, and although his eyes remained closed, there came a far more telling sign. His member stirred and stretched in its superficial sleep – a sure foretoken it was soon to once again come to full wakefulness.

This was permission enough to Boromir.

The man brought the hand with which he had pleasured Faramir up to the boy’s mouth and brushed his fingertips against his lips. Faramir licked at them leisurely, unabashed at the note of his own taste lingering on Boromir’s skin. Faramir then wrapped his lips around his brother’s index finger and pulled it inside his mouth. He sucked on it hard, then let it almost slide out, and then took it back in, his eyes not opening once throughout the process. An obvious analogy such play brought to Boromir’s mind, and, having to allow some expression for his neglected ever-increasing need, he moaned softly and rocked his hips forth in a short futile thrust.

Yet the prospect Faramir’s torrid lips offered did not appear to Boromir an adequate solution for alleviating his suffering: it was too elaborate a road to completion, too much of a game, whereas the man craved a simple and straightforward course, one that would leave no ambiguity as to whether they had ‘done it’ or not. Not to mention that such a service, disrespectful to be asked for even when with a woman, was quite out of the question when it came to an unspoilt youth. So Boromir sought in his mind for another way to have his heat quenched – and to make certain Faramir was his, would ever be his.

He took his hand away and proceeded to reassume his earlier position atop his brother, and Faramir spread his legs and bent his knees a little to give him a snug welcome. It made Boromir gasp and reel, to have his body come into such full contact with Faramir’s, now that they were both unclothed and fully aligned against each other, touching skin to skin from shoulder to foot.

His manhood was so overwrought it felt intense and good even to simply touch its head to Faramir’s belly and cock. For a moment Boromir allowed a daring hope that a light taction like that would miraculously tip him over – after all, he had had such precedents, albeit several years ago. When he had been an adolescent boy, sometimes he would get so sharply, tremblingly excited that a single brushing caress over the edge of his cock would be enough to make it burst.

But of course it did not work that way tonight. After all, did not Boromir like for his victories to be glorious and spectacular…?

“I want more of you,” Boromir whispered against the side of Faramir’s face.

These words, the first verbal acknowledgement of what was passing between them, a sign of conscious acceptance, stirred Faramir to awareness, and the boy peered up at his brother. Faramir’s gaze was hazy, his eyes dilated and dark, yet there was a profound reflective gentleness in them. The boy smiled, and the smile was warm and almost calm, attesting the inner certainty and consummate happiness he had strangely managed to derive from what had just passed between him and his older brother.

The stupefaction of when Boromir had pulled him into that compulsive desperate embrace had passed, as had the ruthless frenzy of their ravenous kissing and groping. His passion was presenting him with yet another version of itself. His need had been acknowledged and appeased, and was now running even and deep, no longer a violent and turbulent mountain torrent, but a full-flowing river, just as self-willed and ungovernable as before, yet majestic and peaceful in its matchless potence.

He felt again that overwhelming sensation of Boromir’s power over him that he had experienced months ago when Boromir had looked at him seductively and told him to come over and have a kiss bestowed upon his lips. Only now he was not standing before Boromir, he was lying on his back under him, naked and with parted legs, the rigid proclamation of Boromir’s desire resting against his lower abdomen… This last notion made him dizzy – dizzy but neither frightened nor unsettled: he had undoubting faith in his brother, would always have faith in him, there was nothing for him to fear, nothing to withhold.

The boy looked at him in thoughtful affection, and raised his hand to caress Boromir’s shoulder and upper arm, his fingers curious for the powerful tautness of Boromir’s muscles, for the dependable breadth of his frame.

Nevertheless, Faramir shook his head. “I would gladly, only… I don’t know what more to give. But I shall not halt you… to take whatever it be that you wish of me,” he said with a vague shrug. In the nighttime dreams Faramir had had about his brother, there had been only an undefined and undetailed sensation of innermost, guttural pleasure, of overall physical happiness – and upon waking he had never much dwelt on it anyway, for what had mattered most was that Boromir held him and everything was well. And in his conscious fantasies he had never treaded past Boromir stroking his erection, for even that much had seemed ludicrous in its unfeasibility and shameful in its lustiness.

No, he did not know what more he could give. He only knew something infinitely important was bound to happen between them now, something that would forever materialise and seal what they felt for each other, what they were to each other.

And it never occurred to him Boromir might not know the way himself.

Previously in ‘After a Lifetime’

Need and desire overrule Boromir, and without any more moral struggle he carries the all-too-eager young Faramir to bed, where the boy swiftly finds completion courtesy of his brother’s practiced hand. Unsatisfied himself, Boromir nevertheless waits for Faramir to regain his senses before climbing atop the boy to resume their lovemaking. Faramir is fully willing, but when the older brother says he wants more, Faramir does not quite understand. Yet he gives his consent without hesitation, it not occurring to him Boromir himself might not know how to go about it.

Chapter 5. Fatality

When a triumphant warrior returns home, he does not make an idiot out of himself. He rides through the cheering streets, calls a mighty note on his horn and dismounts to embrace his proud family without his cape catching on the buckle of his belt and swaddling him, without the horn slipping out of his fingers, without his foot getting stuck in the stirrup and making him jump on one leg trying to free it. Things go smoothly – because there are moments when everything should be perfect.

Boromir averted his eyes and frowned, for something felt vaguely off – and as a man of the military he had well learnt to not brush away what his animal sense might try to spell out on the outskirts of his mind. When the eye does not see, sometimes the marrow feels.

But no, this must have been a false alert: now of all times there definitely could be no plausible reason for disconcertion. He was in bed naked – with an eager lover lying willingly trapped beneath him, so full of life, and desire, and expectation, so ready to embrace Boromir’s leadership, so effortlessly evoking such staggering lust in all of Boromir’s being…

Truly, one thing only could be done in such circumstances.

Indeed, what could be more natural than to take one little step and pass into him, blend into him, slip into him and become lost in him, lost in the burning radiant bliss that he was…?

Yes, it was natural, and logical, and self-evident – wherefore it had to be easy and simple.

Only it was anything but.

Had this been a maiden before Boromir, there would have been no grounds for hesitation. But Boromir wished for no maiden – and Faramir, apparently, was not one; which was supposed to be good, only… As a pesky little side-effect, his body lacked that special place so conveniently matching manly necessities, so befitting for claiming ownership and avowing what no words can suffice to evince.

Yet the state – and position – Boromir was in did not predispose him towards prolonged musings; his need called to be fulfilled immediately and cared little for particularities. Things would work themselves out. For him, things always did.

He closed his eyes and relaxed, and let the molten fire that ran in his veins take him where it would. Once again his and Faramir’s mouths came together – and, as their tongues entwined, Boromir began to move on top of the boy. His lust rejoiced in the very fact, and fed on his motion – and on the way Faramir at once picked up his rhythm. And whereas the young man had begun by only rubbing lightly along Faramir’s front, before long Boromir grew insistent and demanding, as though trying to plough through the boy with his hips. He had no clear idea what exactly he was trying to achieve thus, yet at the moment he had little rational understanding of anything, and he liked it that way. Besides, Faramir was evidently with him, lifting his hips as he did to welcome Boromir, to adjust to him, to receive his brother deeper into the privacy between his legs. Not to mention the taut evidence of Faramir’s fully rekindled fire trapped snugly between their abdomens – what better encouragement could Boromir get?

The man shifted, changing their position some more, and was able to press into the place just below his brother’s sex, where it was cosy and so invitingly hot. Yes, this was the angle he was used to, the angle all his tissues remembered, and already he began to bask in the foreshadow of the upcoming satisfaction; his breath grew heavy and effortful, and his mind filled with a thick warm fog, giving way to sensations, to nothing but sensations…

Faramir, too, was drowning anew. And this time, inconceivably, it was even better than before… This seamless arrangement of bodies, this strangely exhilarating pressure on the secluded underside of his body not only brought him pleasure but also curiously deepened and complexified his arousal in the way he had not yet known.

How could Boromir be so many things at once…? His dark stubble raspy on Faramir’s skin – but his lips so soft, hungry and masterful, but soft… His tongue soft too, but in an entirely different way, supple but volatile and headstrong all at once. His thick unruly hair tickling Faramir’s neck so lightly, the grip of his calloused hands on the boy’s shoulders so firm, and warm, and constant. His whole body so hard, so taut, only muscle and bone – yet still in some places so much harder than in others, in one particular place especially… How could Faramir’s perception process all the sensations separately, how could it keep all the colours of the rainbow neatly laid out in a row and not blending into one blinding beam…? How could he be unraveling and still stay aware…? He wanted to let his brother know how fascinating and wondrous it all was, how blessed – and so he pressed up at Boromir, simultaneously inviting his brother deeper still into his mouth, wishing to invite him as deep into himself as only he could.

Boromir’s blood positively pounded in his ears – already, even though nothing was actually happening yet. It was madly thrilling, to feel Faramir accept him thus, beckoning Boromir further and further on. Boromir’s hips, his thighs, his buttocks and back strained to accept the invitation and exercise themselves out, to push, to shove, to rock and swing – and the constricted pressure inside his body ached to finally be relieved. The young man drove at the boy harder still, ceaselessly poking and prodding, everything short of actually stabbing him between the legs. Not that Boromir meant to be rough, which he did not: he only followed the all too familiar course of action: several searching pushes, and then inevitably he would find the right place and easily slide inside – and from that point on…

But with Faramir it was not going to work that way, although at first the discord was gentle enough to overlook. The gasps through clenched teeth, the brittle tension in Faramir’s body, the way he arched up at Boromir – it all could be, just could be excused on the account that Faramir still moved with him, together. Only when the boy actually started squirming and jerking away, in an attempt to evade his brother’s ungentle jabs, did Boromir have to recognise they were desperately falling out of tune. And all at once their whole disposition seemed to him clumsy and awkward, more akin to a silent drunken struggle than anything else. As though to top it off, Boromir hit him on a particularly unlucky spot, and Faramir could not catch back a startled yelp.

Then at last Boromir went still and raised himself up to stare hard into the boy’s face, a strict frown on the man’s brow.

Faramir gazed up at him guiltily. “I’m sorry,” he said in a small voice, lying back and visibly willing himself to relax and be still, “go ahead…”

But Boromir sighed as though poked on an old wound and, averting his gaze, shook his head. “Nay, ’tis not…” he shut his eyes, as if a sudden headache needled his temples. “This is not right. This is not what I want…”

Faramir creased his brow, puzzled as to why Boromir spoke with such pain. If this peculiar something they had just been trying to do was not right, why not simply move on to something that was…?


He touched the other on the face, and made to hug him with his legs, to pull him in again – but the man did not budge. Loath as Boromir was to have to return to consciousness and make a mental effort, he knew that otherwise they would not get anywhere. And while he was at it, he could forget the perfect picturesque triumph, that much was already clear – to get this through at all was promising to be quite a feat.

With another sigh Boromir shifted back and forced himself to sit up. At once he felt groggy, disoriented, his body screaming in protest, his skin empty, bare without Faramir’s heat. His thoughts were blunt, unable to penetrate, to make sense… He scowled irritably – and with his hands decisively spread Faramir’s thighs wider apart. The boy opened up to him at once, eager to demonstrate his trust and compliance. Yet what Boromir saw only solidified his misgivings. In that place between the legs where he was used to seeing an open door, he was now met with the sight of a blank solid wall.

What else had he expected, though?

Entrances was not what a boy’s body was about. Pressing his lips tightly together, Boromir reached to trace his fingertips up the underside of his brother’s darkened manhood. Faramir sucked his teeth and shuddered, acutely titillated by the exquisite lightness of the touch, the contrast all the more sweet after all the previous discomfort. He arched up in silent supplication, but Boromir did no more, and only gazed on grimly. Indeed, what had he expected…? This was Faramir’s sex, this and nothing else: all strength and hardness, all on the outside, all before the eyes – but not at all what Boromir needed now.

That left only one other way, really…

Boromir kneaded the boy’s thigh thoughtfully. If he were to tilt Faramir’s hips up a little more, he knew he would see it. But surely that was not… He had, of course, many a time heard his men cautiously refer to this matter in their crude jokes – but then again, soldiers used many an anatomically unrealistic word construction in their speech, and Boromir had never taken this particular phrase seriously. At the time the notion had seemed nothing but unnatural and bizarre. Hence Boromir had taken his men’s interest in it to be of the same sort that young boys display towards garishly-coloured hairy caterpillars and fat slimy toads, whose fascination derives from their sheer hideousness – and whom, therefore, it can be so amusing to inspect while holding up by a leg, and then even more amusing to poke with a sharpened stick or squish with a boot.

Besides, Boromir knew better than to apply the warriors’ tales as direct instructions, for the barracks talk of sex had, of course, nothing in common with what actually happened in bed. And for once Boromir regretted having never sought beyond the simple fail-proof path to pleasure provided by every woman, regretted having never learnt how to do what he was now going to have to do if he wanted to have anything done at all.

Indeed, how could it possibly fit…?

But now that he had thought of this, had imagined it, he knew he wanted it –to the point of dying, of literally having his arteries burst if he could not have it. He recalled the look of Faramir’s naked buttocks, and now knew what the shadow between them promised… A promise that was in truth more like a cruel taunt. Was nature only toying with them, implanting this yearning in them and yet denying the means to consummate it? Things could be like that, he knew, for was it not so that there was on Arda a realm of unending glory and bliss, yet not everyone was made such as to be granted admission, and even to aspire transgression had been proven a severely punishable vice…?

But at the same time he knew he could never fool himself into believing it could not be done – because it could, and because he had wanted it from the very start, had meant to do it from the very start, whatever he had tried to tell himself.

Boromir knew better than to look, knew he would not be answerable for his actions if he did. He would do it without looking.

Except that he could not.

It had seemed he had already stepped well over all conceivable boundaries, had come so far, had relinquished all rights to be called a decent man – and yet…

Boromir shut his eyes, trembling, bending over himself, sick and aguish, both feverish and freezing. His erection was overcooked, brittle, threatening to snap off at an unhandy touch. His face hurt. This was taking too long, far too long. But he needed it again – Faramir’s guidance. He could not simply go ahead and indulge himself at the expense of his unsuspecting brother, could not even ask for permission: permission given upon request was not good enough – Faramir had to offer it unprompted, freely.

Faramir, however… All the boy could tell was that he had in some way proven severely inadequate for the function his brother expected – and needed – him to perform. As if that was not bad enough, Boromir’s mood had quite swiftly communicated to him like it usually did, and now he too felt utterly miserable and uprooted.

He did not know what was his expected role, whether he was supposed to ask some question, or wait tactfully, or what – yet at the same time he knew exactly what he was going to do. This undoubting knowledge within the lack of thereof did not even surprise him, for such it was between them that Boromir always gave him certitude, somehow – and, strangely, all the more so when Boromir himself stumbled.

Faramir pulled himself up and moved to sit as close before him as the man’s pose allowed. A shiver ran through Boromir when Faramir’s knee prodded his thigh, when the boy’s warmth washed over him, yet he did not even raise his face.

“Boromir…” Faramir leant in – but judged it best not to embrace him just yet, and only caressed Boromir on the shoulder with an open palm, an affectionate and comforting touch. “Boromir,” he repeated in his most soothing, reassuring, loving voice. “Please, it’s all right. I’m sorry, I’ll do anything. Boromir, here, it’s all right…”

The hard, burning, strangely desperate look Boromir shot him in reply, the way the young man did not respond to his touch, sitting still and as though suddenly enervate, all the more sharpened Faramir’s need to solace him somehow, to bring him comfort – to make it up to him. The boy moved closer still, straddling his unresisting brother’s hips and lowering himself unto Boromir’s lap. He stroked Boromir on the face, then cupped him on the back of the head and kissed him on the hair.

At last Boromir met his gaze square on, and it seemed the man would say something. He did not, however – but he did slowly embrace Faramir on the waist and pull him closer, so that they pressed hotly together, front to front. Faramir sighed and smiled, then leant in to kiss him again – this time on the mouth, an earnest supplication to forget all doubts. The ardour of Boromir’s instant response caught him a little off guard, but only for a moment, and were Faramir’s mouth not busy, the boy might have laughed for the joy of it.

Boromir wanted him so urgently, so ravenously – and Faramir would not stand to make him wait. He would reassure Boromir, oh yes, he would. Leaning lower still, he kissed the young man hard on the throat, making him gasp and arch his back – or maybe Boromir arched rather for Faramir’s hands decisively sliding all the way down his front.

But as in a feat of boldness Faramir took a decisive hold of his brother’s manhood, the boy gasped in awed shock and drew his hand away, as though he had touched candent metal and not living flesh.

To the fingers it felt so different… When prodding Faramir in his intimate regions, when touching against his belly it had felt hot, and hard, and powerful – but to the fingers… The sensation was so much less obvious than that. With his fingers Faramir felt how truly special, personal this moment was, felt the breathtaking delicacy of his brother’s strength, the intricacy of its shape, the taut veins protruding from the velvet of his skin, felt exactly how –

“How big you are, Boromir! Oh, Valar…” he whispered in wonder as he traced along the full length of it and tentatively curled his hand around. And finally he looked at it. Faramir had seen the manhood in question countless times in its peaceful mode, and had observed even then that it was… well, quite an outstanding one. When away on his first foray, lying in the shame-obliviating darkness amid sleeping warriors, he had also dared imagine what it would have looked like when… when they were naked, touching each other. Faramir had thought himself bold in his fantasies, but the truth was they came nowhere near the glory and ferocity of the reality.

It made him blush with pride and pleasure to know it burned like so for him, because of him. And he knew he wanted to yield to it, to offer himself to it – even if he did not dare as much as properly hold it just yet. He knew, only half-consciously and without knowing how he knew, that eventually he would be taken something from by this power, that he would give, and lose something, and likely it would harm him – but he wished to be harmed, to revel in it, to prove thus how much he wanted to please Boromir, that to him, Boromir was more important than his own self.

The sight made his own erection hurt for attention, but he did not wish that Boromir touch him in turn – no, he wanted nothing to distract him now.

Faramir met his brother’s eyes as he made a careful probing stroke, and Boromir held his gaze unfaltering, the man’s eyes dark, smouldering and unreadable. The boy bit himself on the lip as a larger hand covered his own and made him grip firmer than he would have dared – made him clench. He felt faint from the comprehension of the full magnitude of Boromir’s desire for him – desire that was not just an emotion, a thought – but solid flesh, something he could literally take in hand and cherish with his passion.

When Boromir went on to set a pace for him – thorough and measured, all masterful milking strokes and no rush – Faramir could endure it no longer and shut his eyes. This was better than anything they had done so far, he could easily spend the whole night doing nothing but this…

Boromir’s hands moved to hold him on the hips, letting him carry on as he would. Faramir smiled to himself, wondering whether Boromir would like the things he himself enjoyed, like that one with the thumb going over –

Boromir thrust into his hand with a startled cry – but before Faramir could repeat the maneuver, the man cried out again.


Faramir let go at once. Heat rushed to his face, and he blinked, dumbstruck. Had he done something wrong again…?

He made to apologise, but Boromir held him even tighter than before, and kissed his neck slowly, breath ragged against Faramir’s skin.

Tentatively, Faramir reached down again.

“Don’t…” Boromir half pleaded, half ordered against the side of his face.

“Have I hurt you?” Faramir asked gently. “I’ll be more careful, I…”

Boromir heaved a sigh. “You… you don’t understand,” he muttered despondently. “Just… Hold still, all right?”

“Of course,” Faramir nodded, trying to quieten his nervous heartbeat. He could not make sense of things, could not comprehend why what had started as such a natural, self-evident pursuit had lost its flow, why they had strayed off what had seemed a simple and straightforward path into some hybrid of a labyrinth and an obstacle course.

He did as was asked of him, resting against his older brother’s body, his arms around Boromir’s back, his face in the crook of the man’s neck. Faramir thought Boromir would calm down now that he had stopped touching him – but it was not so. Boromir’s hands trembled with impatience as they moved across his back, and the man’s chest worked so as if unable to accommodate all the air he needed to inhale.

Faramir gasped softly when Boromir’s palms firmly cupped the roundness of his spread backside. The gesture, its eroticism notwithstanding, felt to him pleasantly playful, and he hummed under his breath, arching into Boromir’s touch. Then the boy’s eyes widened and his breath caught, for the hands quite without halting moved to explore between his cheeks. It felt very arousing, though – and although he wondered if he ought to be embarrassed to be touched in such a place, he most certainly was not. Suddenly it became hot and very difficult to think, and Faramir closed his eyes, sighing as Boromir’s fingers stroked and rubbed him in there.

At first he did not notice the searching insistence of Boromir’s ministrations. And then –

Faramir bucked against the man’s front – away from his hand, and a strained alarmed sound escaped the boy’s lips. He held still, however, pressed against his brother’s body so tight as though searching for shelter, yet not trying to interfere with what Boromir was doing to his behind. That is, until Boromir endeavoured to breach him once more, at which point Faramir jolted again. Panting shallowly, he hid his face against his brother’s neck, and much as he willed himself to keep in place and yield, the part of him which was not subject to the authority of his mind stubbornly resisted.

“Faramir,” Boromir muttered into his hair, “relax.”

“Uh-huh,” Faramir responded in barely more than a whisper. It was stuffy inside his head, and he could not quite understand what was happening… It filled his lower body with stiff, leaden dread, rendering him at once stupefied and jumpy. This sensation had no place in the list of impressions he had expected from intimacy. He was prepared for it being toilsome, possibly unclean, awkward, even uncomfortable or clumsy – but certainly not painful or… invasive.

Faramir shut his eyes tight and clenched his jaws to keep from making a sound when at last Boromir pinned him in place and overcame the defiance of his body. The boy did his best do fight down the little noise rising in the back of his throat, but Boromir must have heard it regardless. Or else his strain was telling enough.

Boromir grasped him firmly on the shoulders and pulled him away – to stare seriously into his face.

Faramir,” he said with emphasis, and curved his brow a little.

For a moment Faramir gazed at him blankly, then the boy’s eyes, as though drawn by a force, moved to his brother’s arousal – and in a flash he understood everything.

He could actually feel himself go pale.

Again, he wondered whether he should be embarrassed by the notion – or frightened, for that matter. But aside from being utterly overwhelmed, his instinctive reaction was only desire – and, curiously, relief. Now, he knew, there would be no more purposeless wandering in the dark.

And he pursed his lips and nodded, and even tried to utter something coherent, although this last bit did not quite work out.

“It’d be better if you lie down,” Boromir told him, obviously trying not to sound awkward.

Again Faramir nodded, and shifted to move off Boromir. But the man shook his head, holding the boy in place by the backside, and so Faramir lay back between Boromir’s thighs, his hips resting on Boromir’s. Once more he felt the fingers in there, probing carefully but assertively – perhaps rather assertively than carefully; and as soon as Boromir established contact he pushed as far as it would go, for the heat of that place was a wonder and he could not help reaching for the source of it.

Gritting his teeth, Faramir tried to exhale. Lying like this was in itself enough to make him reel: such a submissive, defenseless position, his body bent and curled up, hips raised up and fully open, blood pounding in his temples, his erection lying on his belly, reaching past his solar plexus, closer to his own face than he had ever seen it. And now this sensation… Somehow, it changed the very angle of his world. He stared up at Boromir with confusion and pain in his hazy eyes – and Boromir held him and soothed him with a gentle word. The man would not suffer his little brother to see that he was, in fact, despaired, for the very make of those tissues, delicate as they were, arrested any attempts at progress, making him force his way through. If just one finger was this taxing to fit in, how would they be able to…?

But Boromir could not give up on the tempting surmise that maybe the problem lay in Faramir’s tenseness, that if only he could ease him up, could inure him to it…

At first the boy winced and cambered at every movement inside him, his muscles protesting indignantly, making a searing appeal that he interfere and stop this assault. But he endured it patiently, entranced by the expression of hopeful concentration on his brother’s beloved face – and gradually Faramir’s body resigned itself to the unfamiliar presence. The spasm of caution within him abated somewhat, and he was able to breathe again. It still felt peculiar, and disturbing, and alarmingly intense – but he could definitely bear it.

And then he grew aware of another discomfort. Something hard and smooth was pressing hard against his shoulder. So Faramir reached under himself and produced the long-forgotten oil bottle. As he studied the small phial in bemusement, wondering how it had managed to roll under him, Boromir snatched it out of his hand.

“Oh, brother! Why haven’t you told me?! This would just…” The man did not even heed Faramir’s startled cry at how abruptly Boromir withdrew from him. In an urgent haste, Boromir undid the cork with his teeth and poured the liquid generously onto his hand. The cool crispy scent filled the room at once, the bitterness gently prickling their noses – but neither minded or even truly noticed.

With the oil, it was an altogether different story for both of them. Boromir nearly laughed in relief. At once he saw his actions caused no more pain, for Faramir’s body did not try to fight him out like the previous time. What more, before long the boy began to gently rock his hips in rhythm with the motion of Boromir’s hand.

“Do you like it?” Boromir whispered incredulously. He had not even hoped… – but Faramir gave him a vague nod and even attempted a grin, so Boromir proceeded with doubled enthusiasm. Yet one finger seemed infinitely small, laughably insignificant in comparison to what he was ultimately going to give Faramir to deal with. Thus Boromir went on to try and insert another one along with the first, at which the boy groaned and stiffened up all over again. Indeed, to Boromir himself the undertaking seemed quite ridiculous: for all it felt, he might as well try to put his hand up Faramir’s nostril.

He withdrew, frantically put more oil on and tried again. But this time it proved of little use against the unpleasant sensation, for this time it was not merely unpleasant, it was painful – and the pain came not so much from the very fact of the intrusion, of the alien presence inside. It came from the girth Faramir’s body was forced to accommodate, and there was nothing they could do to make it any less taxing. The boy could feel his own tightness, how it stretched taut over Boromir’s fingers, ringing with tension and burning sharply, threatening to rip. Panting rapidly, he raised himself up a little, as though he could actually succeed at seeing anything.

Boromir was careful now, as careful as his want only allowed him. But even though Faramir had at last stopped straining, still he was not remotely ready to take in all of Boromir – could never be ready… The efforts were pointless.

He pulled out and planted his hands on Faramir’s thighs to show he would do no more. Faramir let out a long weary exhalation and went almost boneless in Boromir’s lap. This only confirmed Boromir’s conviction. The least he could do was be man enough and acknowledge the defeat.

But before he could, Faramir murmured without opening his eyes, “Don’t stop, I am fine.”

Boromir grinned. “No, you are not. And I will not forgive myself if I do this to you. We cannot. I would tear you up…”

“Nay, you would not. I know you want it, Boromir – and so do I. I am sure I’ll manage,” Faramir was looking up at him with a strangely sober gaze. Boromir was holding him on the thigh and the boy covered his brother’s hand with his own, the palm cool and moist. “I am aware it will hurt, but that is not your fault. Please, Boromir.”

Faramir shifted against him a little, settling more comfortably, and closed his eyes again. His heaving chest and uneven breathing betrayed how petrified he truly was – but he had made his resolve clear, and Boromir had to respect that.

And so he hastily applied all the remaining oil to his member, his fingers unsteady as they moved up and down the heated twitching shaft. For once he wished his source of masculine pride was smaller. Or that Faramir was older. Or…

He did not know what he wished for; he did not know anything in that moment and he could not believe it was actually going to happen. He was shaking, veritably shaking with lust, with need.

Bending over his brother’s body a little, he aligned them correctly – but still hesitated, and Faramir squeezed his hand silently, this unspoken permission stronger than any words. And Boromir obliged. He shut his eyes and with one mighty thrust entered him – then, unable to stop himself, thrust again and went all the way in to the very hilt.

This moment… It was like death, like rebirth, pain and glory alloying together to create an unprecedented new colour. And Faramir screamed – a feral, raw, panicked cry. But this cry was stifled by his brother’s second thrust, and Faramir only gaped silently. His upper body curved into a perfect arch, yet not once did he try to pull his hips away.

He had thought he had learnt how to get along with pain.

But this…

The depth of his throe was rivaled in intensity only by Boromir’s ecstasy. He too had cried out, for at once he was submerged into a tempest of pleasure, a boundless ocean of rapture. Every inch of the most sensitive part of his body was subjected to such impossible, intolerable, infinitely euphoric pressure. And the heat… the heat of that place melted all his senses.

At first it seemed to Boromir his loins would burst from simply having his manhood where it was. He held still for half a heartbeat, terrified. He did not want it to end, could not bear it if it ended just now.

He had to keep on having Faramir…

He did not know how, but he would endure…

He pulled back a little and then drove in again. And again. And again…

To dominate one who was himself born for dominance, for power… Somehow, it gave him a feeling of much stronger maleness than he had ever known with the opposite gender. Compliant submissiveness in a young man, in a warrior – it dazzled him, drove him insane. He wanted to slow down and be gentler, but it was outside his power. Even if his very life were put at stake, he would not have halted, for this delight was beyond life, beyond death.

This form of lovemaking turned out to provide far more resistance than the traditional way: he could not just slide in, he had to really push – and that felt wonderful. There was no soft slippery flesh to muffle the sensations, to drown his thrusts in: he found himself right at the core of Faramir’s body, the sensations so acute and defined, the contact with Faramir’s entity so staggeringly direct, completely unmediated – no, this could not even be compared to being with a woman.

Faramir, too, was quite dazzled. Delirious with pain, he sobbed quietly, chocking on his tears as his whole body was harrowed senseless. He did not know whether it was Boromir’s manhood that was scorchingly hot – or if it was his own flesh burning. At that point he was held from trying to break it up only by the fulfillment his brother apparently found in this. Boromir was breathing hard through his mouth, with every thrust baring his teeth and gasping as though in surprise. The combination of lust and ecstasy was making him high and clouding his vision, and his gaze had become unfocused, disoriented. Now and again, when it was almost too much, a shudder ran through him, and the young man would roll his eyes and hold still for a second. Oh, Faramir wanted to make Boromir happy, he wanted it so much… how could he ever ask him to stop?

And, strangely enough, he himself did not altogether want it to stop…

The boy’s throat had gone sore, the lower part of his body nearly numb, until… Until at last Boromir’s persistent, pertinacious onslaught exhausted his inner defenses, and with a warm elevating sensation his body relaxed and finally opened, relinquishing all claim over itself. The all-obscuring tension lifted, and as Boromir once again buried himself in his depths, far within him some unseen cord was pulled, and a rain of stars fell on him. And suddenly the hardness slicing through his flesh seemed no longer brutal, but a true blessing, one filling him up to wholesomeness.

But the stars went out like stray sparks from a fire – and Faramir strove to strike them again. Trying as it was in his position with legs up in the air, he pushed back at Boromir, striving to angle his hips downwards. And yes! There it was again, that explosion of light behind his eyelids, that elation of blood in his veins, that realisation that he was profoundly, utterly loved.

Ere long they fell into a joint rhythm, meeting each other midway, crashing together with a moan and a growl. It escalated madly, each driving the other forth – and, much as Boromir was stunned by his own pleasure, he could not tear his eyes off Faramir’s manhood. Somehow the notion of having his own cock polished raw by the tight firm grip of a yielding body – while at once having another one, just as lustful, on full display before his eyes… Somehow this notion fused something in his brain, and such frantic desire overcame him that he moaned helplessly, as though it were his body being claimed. He knew he was enslaved by it and, once he saw it spill its pleasure, he would follow at once.

Indeed, Faramir could sense something enormous hovering over him – hovering over him but from inside him, spreading through him and gathering him up, as though preparing him for some unimaginable effort… He acutely sensed it build up inside him, imminent and splendidly all-powerful, a veritable tidal wave – and already it felt so good…

And then suddenly it was not enough.

He had to be closer to Boromir, had to hold him, pull his brother to himself, kiss his mouth, inhale his scent. Absolutely had to be absolutely certain this was real.

Grasping Boromir on the arms, he buckled, muttering, “Kiss me! Please…! Oh, oh, Boromir, kiss me…!”

But just as the young man made to fulfill his request, trying to lean in without losing the pace, Faramir frenziedly struggled up, reaching for Boromir, trying to gather him into an embrace. For several long moments they bore down on one another, Faramir trying to sit up, Boromir trying not to fall over, each desperate to get closer to the other, to find the position fully apt for properly expressing all each felt for the other – yet unable to coordinate their movements, not quite aware what exactly they were striving towards. And thus they toppled over, landing on their sides in a tangle of limbs, not interrupting their thrusts for a second, groaning and gasping in bewilderment, clinging to each other madly – and still trying to settle into some remotely comfortable arrangement.

Then suddenly – an awkward movement, and Boromir slipped out of him.

For a moment Faramir could not take in what had just happened. Then he screamed shrilly, a wordless cry of animal anguish – for the sensation of loss instantly crushing on him was so fierce and searing as though his guts had actually been torn out. Like a candle blown out, his world had just ended.

Unable to be reasonable, he fought to reestablish the contact, violently battling for his only life-line. And with a muttered curse Boromir pinned him down, sandwiching him against the mattress – and with a grunt and a merciless thrust, was all inside of him again.

Their kiss was a frenzy, a mess, smearing all over lips, chin and cheeks until at last their mouths found each other and sealed together. Faramir’s heel digging into Boromir’s buttock, Boromir’s abdomen grinding his cock, fingers leaving bruises on shoulders and arms, this rampage was the only acceptable solution.

The river of their passion, flowing ever swifter, had now brought them to the very edge, the very tip at which its bottom bent and dropped into the dizzying below, all its overflowing might crushing down in an immensity of roaring foam.

For one, perfect moment they balanced. Then Boromir threw his head back and roared, “Ooah…! Faaaaramir…!!” and the world keeled and fell away from under them as the waters bore them down, toppled over and engulfed both of them. Existence ceased as they became one for an instant: an instant that contained infinity in itself.


Peace right amid a tempest, amid the crushing force of the tumbling waters, amid the deafening thunder of the falls.

Absolute peace and bliss. Only the whiteness, only the fair whiteness of the foam.

An eternity later the airy foam washed them ashore, gently; and in a tangled disorderly knot they lay breathless on the damp twisted linens – speechless and carefree.

Many thanks to Alcardilme for the beta.
I would like to dedicate this chapter to Eora.

Chapter 6. Wise Wives

‘Love is no respecter of age or practicality
Neither morality: unabashed
She enters where she will
unheeding that her immortal fires
Burn up human hearts…’

Phillip Pulfrey

When they finally fell asleep the night was already nearly over.

A pale November dawn was breaking when Faramir awoke. He could not have slept for more than a couple of hours, yet he felt surprisingly rested and peaceful. Everything seemed to have finally fallen into place.

There was no shame in him regarding his desire for Boromir, nor for the somewhat peculiar way this desire had to be quenched – and never had been, for now he knew that what he had once taken for shame had only been fear. Fear of Boromir rejecting him, fear of the space this force would take up in their lives if they let it loose, and simply fear of something so unexpected, unprecedented, something so entirely not fitting into his simple familiar model of the world. But no shame, for what was there to be ashamed of? For, long after the frenzied compulsive avidity of their young hale bodies had been appeased, they had kept going, driven by a deeper and far more complex need than that bred of mere lust.

Faramir smiled to himself sleepily: he need not have feared. Everything fit in, and, if anything, this turn of events was only to be expected. This flame may have burned scorchingly in his loins, but in truth it was first born in his heart, for this desire was fruit not of lust, but of love – and it was but one facet of love. And it now seemed only logical to Faramir that once he was old enough to want and be wanted, their love should expand and transform to integrate this yearning.

He himself had as though extended, as though there was physically more of him now. And so it was, for his life did not include only just himself anymore. Faramir had always viewed the two of them as more or less a part of one another, yet now the connection was of some organic, anatomical sort. As two glasses of water, once poured into a single bowl cannot be separated to their previous entities, so Boromir could not be taken out of him after the night that had passed.

And he knew the fear such unity had first engendered in him was indeed ungrounded, for now that they were so much one of the other, he needed not fear losing Boromir, for Boromir could never be lost to him, much as he could never lose the ability to breathe and still go on living. Boromir was the very basis of his existence, and without him Faramir would not be Faramir, he would simply fall apart and cease to be, and what would anything matter then?

It all made perfect sense. Everything made perfect sense.

But then he awoke enough to realise he was alone in the bed and, feeling faintly alarmed, looked over his shoulder and saw his brother standing motionless at the window, leaning heavily on the sill, gazing out. The man was wearing only the simple white nightgown which he never got to put on the night before. Even from the back he looked tense and burdened. Faramir’s high spirits evaporated.

The boy sat up – and flinched, for the movement caused him a sharp pang in his backside that resonated dully through all his nether regions. He had not been aware of it while he was lying still, but it turned out he was extremely sore and sensitive, almost as though he had been recently skinned to the raw flesh on the inside. And no wonder. He could not tell with certainty how many times they had made love last night. He had lost count somewhere after number four or five: he could not have counted the fingers on his own hand by then. Admittedly, it had not been so painful after the first time, and their passion had acquired some tenderness and grown almost languid towards the end of the night, and Boromir had started kissing him the way he had first kissed him: slowly and artfully… But still…

Goodness, I must be like a newlywed lady on the morning after. Or more like someone who has just given birth… Faramir thought grimly and winced again. He would not be much surprised if it turned out his buttocks and upper thighs were bruised, what with all the countless times Boromir’s hips had slammed against them… This reaction of his flesh came as a reminder they had done something unnatural after all, using their bodies not the way they had been intended, and he did not want anything to make him entertain such notions.

And yet… He thought about it again and blessed the pain, for otherwise he would not have believed the night had been real. Not even the fact he had woken up naked in his brother’s bed, said bed being in complete and utter disarray, the whole room filled with the already staling smell of sex, his very skin feeling far from clean in a rather peculiar way, his memory filled with such unbelievable impressions – none of it would have convinced him. But this pain, this echo of that divine-like presence inside him, of the love his brother had pushed into him again and again… Even if it were to never happen again, even if Boromir were to look at him now, shake his head and say ‘look, let’s just forget about it’ – he would still have the knowledge, forever. And if indeed it were never to be again, then Faramir would have chosen to keep the pain, if only he could will his body to never heal this sweetest of wounds.

He heaved a silent sigh and studied the motionless figure by the window for a little longer, trying to read him. Then, moving gingerly, he fetched his tunic and pulled it on.

At last he came apprehensively to Boromir’s side.

Slowly the older brother drew himself up and turned his gaze to Faramir. And the boy was reassured by what he saw in Boromir’s drawn face. There was no angst or regret, only sadness and such weariness that Boromir almost seemed old – but also things more pleasant and hopeful.

Boromir was indeed filled with an unfamiliar sensation of all-encompassing tenderness as he looked into Faramir’s large clear eyes, radiant, wary and grave all at once – and far too experienced for his fifteen years. It pierced the young man to see his little brother’s face lit with that special afterglow, lips slightly swollen from hours of kissing, the outline of his mouth as though smudged. Boys should not look like this.

Last night, it had never occurred to him to apologise for all the pain he had caused Faramir in those dark hours full of lawless pleasure. Had not Faramir’s own body ultimately rewarded the boy for each session of ache he endured? Had Faramir not wanted it, had he not asked for it, with words, with his eyes, with his hips? But now Boromir would have apologised – not for the pain, but for the experience he had given him, for the experience that no doubt had changed all of him

No, boys should not look like this.

But Faramir was not really a boy anymore, not the innocent child he had been mere two months ago. He had come to manhood since: had tasted both deathly peril and love. And love it was that filled all his face as he gazed seriously at Boromir: not blind infantile adoration, but a feeling true and clear – unabashed, unconcealed, undaunted love.

And the older brother knew then that indeed things had changed irreversibly.

Boromir smiled at him sadly and, reaching his arm around Faramir’s shoulders, pulled him closer. So Faramir leant against his side and rested his head on his brother’s chest. They stood thua for a while, and Faramir was lulled by the steady rhythm of Boromir’s heartbeat. His brother’s reassuring sturdiness, his warmth, his scent enveloped Faramir, and it seemed that everything could somehow be all right. It was not a child’s naive habitual belief that things would somehow turn out for the best – no, for being held like this did not make him feel or think like a child. Although his brother was taller and broader than him, and both those qualities were profoundly comforting, Faramir did not seem to himself small and vulnerable by comparison. On the contrary, Boromir’s masculinity served only to bring out the boy’s own confidence and strength, making him feel mature and capable, making him feel more of a man himself. And thus he knew that indeed it was right that they should be like this with each other, that their love was of a healthy and beneficial nature, for it did not change or bend either of them, but only made each more of himself, better and truer.

But eventually Boromir sighed and spoke heavily, “So it has come to this after all, huh,” and there was if only a hint of bitter, rueful wonder in his voice.

Faramir said nothing but only pressed himself harder into his brother’s embrace.

After a pause even heavier than his previous words, Boromir went on, “I remember I’ve told you once not to brood over things overmuch. And look at me now! I can’t stop thinking… How are we going to live with all this…?”

Faramir dreaded to ask it, but he saw no way around. “So you think what we did is wrong?”

Boromir snorted softly. “Wrong? Of course it is!” But his voice lacked conviction somehow, and he paused and licked his lips. “And yet… well… I mean…” he frowned and took a deep breath, squinting at some unseen point in the distance. “A man of worth does not share his bed with kin or other men,” he pronounced, “ isn’t this what we’ve been taught? And now I’ve done both at once,” he grinned ironically. “Isn’t it doubly wrong then? Yet it does not seem so – and this is what baffles me so. Had it been a girl from the family, there would’ve been no question, of course… And likewise for sleeping with one of my men. But you are neither – miraculously, you slip through the rules. And I don’t feel bad about what we’ve done. Can something I desire so awfully much truly be so wrong? Or has desire blinded me so that I’ve lost all sense of direction? In my mind I know it was… it was not right, not normal, and yet I do not feel it… In fact, I believe I have never felt it.”

“That is because you love me,” Faramir said quietly.

Boromir looked at him in wonder. To him the logical link Faramir-love was a well familiar one. But like this?

“That makes sense all right,” he replied at length. “But can… can this feeling justify it all?”

“It will have to.”

And next came the task of making it work in practice, daily, as of today, without rehearsal, without a single misstep, for there would be no second chance.

The brothers did not yet dare show up in public together, lest they should prove unable to maintain the semblance of a proper fraternal relationship, if only through holding each other’s gazes a second too long; and thus they arranged to spend the day apart. This particular time it was no difficulty, since Faramir had only just recovered from his wounds and was by no means expected to return to the full warrior’s routine at once.

And Faramir, much as he did miss the exercise, was glad for the excuse. In general he very much enjoyed his practice – far more so than the actual fighting, in fact. He liked the sensation of strength and precision of his own movement, liked to feel his body working against resistance, liked the safe snug weight of the mail, the rhythmic game of swordplay, the residual vibration after the arrow had been shot, the long weight of the lance in his hand, liked how all of it cleared his mind and as though put more breath into his body, giving him the satisfaction of well-done work. His gear had been brought back to the their rooms, and was all cleaned and neatly stored in the antechamber, his sword polished and sheathed, his bow unstrung and laid down to rest, all waiting for their master’s hands.

Yet the state of his lower body was bound to turn any activity from fencing to riding into sheer torture. Besides, on a day like this, if he could not spend it with Boromir, he craved no other company but only solitude. He wanted all to be quiet and unhurried, so that nothing would disturb him and divert his thought from the one thing he wanted to dwell on and bask in, so that no impressions would crowd on his new secret happiness.

Admittedly, he could not help thinking that soon time would come when they would have to be together before their men, before the people in court, before Father… Yet for the moment they could be at ease, and he wanted the day to pass to his best liking.

Yes, and as he was not required to attend breakfast that morning, Faramir took his meal in the palace kitchens, as he sometimes liked to do.

He felt strange walking down the cool shady corridors. To the eyes of those passing him by he knew he was the same as ever: same face, same hair, same clothes, same gait – although a couple of times he thought that eyes had lingered on him longer than usual. But he was completely different now, utterly and absolutely changed! The boy from yesterday had been but a blueprint for the one who lived today. In the course of some several hours he had acquired such knowledge… Knowledge that had changed the picture of the world he had long carried in his mind, had changed the feel of the world, its texture and inner logic. It was as though he had walked out into the street one ordinary day, raised his face and thought: but what is that blazing thing up high in the blue yonder? How is it I have never noticed it before?

Faramir’s gaze fell on a servant carrying a tray of freshly baked buns, a man in his twenties, dressed all in brown and beige – then on a plump maid chattering with a stately middle-aged wife, both laughing. Did they each in their own way know this passion too, a passion that with its intensity rendered everything else so bland and irrelevant? All those around him, did they carry this secret knowledge in themselves as well? Was there a side of them only one other person got to see, the side without which life was nothing but a mockery of life, but a bleak shallow parody?

The boy felt his lips curving into a smile, as though he were playing pretend and struggling not to ruin the act. He had been let on to a secret that everyone knew full well and that everyone pretended they were not aware even existed. It seemed to him any minute now one of the people around would momentarily lift the mask and wink at him: I know that now you know too. Congratulations and welcome to life.

He was ravenous, and the cook, a vivacious aged matron who always smelled of butter and sugar, after putting before him yet another plate of steaming nutritious food, patted him on the head affectionately. Returning to the stoves, she gave the other women, her assistants, a meaningful look and said teasingly, “Dear me, isn’t our young warrior hungry today! If I didn’t know Lord Faramir was just out of the infirmary, I’d’ve thought he’d been up all night, wielding his sword left and right.”

“Or back and forth, perhaps,” said one of the others unassumingly. They all giggled merrily, and Faramir felt his ears burn. His sword? Of course. That was exactly what they meant.

It was only a gentle tease, and a perfectly good-natured one at that, and nobody asked him any embarrassing questions, yet still he grew wary and uncomfortable, for even such jokes were not without a grain of truth.

So after finishing his meal, Faramir did not go to the library as he had initially planned to, his usual interest in literature having inexplicably returned all of a sudden, but headed back to their chambers before the servants’ daily visit.

Young men in general are hardly over-disposed to domestic orderliness, and young men of high nobility, for whom it is a fundamental law of nature that everything will be picked up and cleaned after them, are not disposed to it at all. One thing to do one’s round of duty washing the plates when on a military mission – another to make one’s own bed when at home… Ah, he would have to learn.

Crossing his arms, the boy drummed the fingers of one hand on the opposite arm as he surveyed the battlefield. A ballade of great eloquence could be wrought to relate the heroic deeds of outstanding prowess achieved here just hours ago.

He grinned. Nobody ever put the practicalities into the ballads.

After opening the window to get the heavy tell-tale air out of the chamber, Faramir rumpled up his unslept bed and straightened Boromir’s up a bit, for it, on the contrary, had been in too much of a disarray.

It was then he saw the blood. Right there on the crisp white of the sheets. Not too much, not like someone had been murdered and dismembered, but exactly like someone had entered a new stage of life on this bed. He knew well enough what it was supposed to look like, thanks to the rather ghastly custom of Gondorian families to publicly air their linens on the morning after a wedding – so that everyone could see just how pure the bride had been.

Faramir nearly groaned aloud. Great. Just great – splendid.

No use trying to make the room look like nothing had taken place at all.

Then he snorted softly, wondering what explanation the maids were going to come up with. Both brothers had been seen going to their chambers in the evening, and then leaving early in the morning, so, most probably, they had both been there when the sheets were marked crimson. What – had Boromir invited over a curious gullible lass and entertained himself for the benefit of his little brother’s education? Or had they both had a go? Or, perhaps, there had been two girls, and the bed had been creaking to two different rhythms at once?

Faramir pursed his lips. All right, let them suspect whatever strikes their fancy – so long as they do not suspect correctly.

Then he was visited by an unpleasant guess. If there was blood on the linens, his blood on the linens… Not even bothering to unlace, Faramir yanked his breeches down.

Sucking his teeth, the boy rolled his eyes – this was really too much, it was not even cute anymore. And he had been walking around like this for at least an hour already… Thank heavens above, he had a long dark tunic on top.

Now he would have to change, and wash his clothes and… well, think of a method to prevent his leggings from staining anew. How horribly romantic… Maybe some other people’s first experience of love was all about scarlet roses, moonlight and holding hands – his experience, apparently, was about things of an entirely different sort. But really, he had nobody to be angry with but himself. No one had forced him into this, to say the least…

But no, of course he was not angry or regretful, not even particularly bitter. It was merely fear causing him annoyance, fear that managing this affair was turning out far more complicated than either of them would have ever fathomed, fear that they could give themselves away so easily, so foolishly… Careful, they would have to learn to be careful. Unfair as it might feel, this was the way it was, the way it had to be, and resenting it would only make things worse.

Once before, Faramir had already told himself to grow up and be mature and sensible about things. Now the time to do so had come in earnest.

He nodded to himself grimly and returned to the task at hand with renewed resolve.

His brother’s shirt, the one on which Faramir had spilt his pleasure, had been treacherously concealed by the folds of the dislodged blanket, and was still on the floor. The boy picked it up and, after studying the dried-up mark, sighed wearily: this won’t do at all. There was nothing wrong with having such spots on the linens: this was a men’s bedroom, after all – but on the chest of one’s tunic…? Perhaps he was getting paranoid – but better that than the opposite.

Faramir took the garment to the bathroom and carefully rubbed the blot off without getting the whole thing too wet.

He found the empty little bottle of dark glass, its lavender perfume still lingering on the sheets and his own skin – and all the other bottles as well. The small vessel from the Wards had lasted only the first time, and they had ransacked the bath quarters afterwards, using up whatever salves and lotions that seemed remotely suitable for the task. He brought it all back to the bathroom where such objects would look much less out of place than under Boromir’s pillows and bed.

When he was satisfied with the state of the room, Faramir smiled to himself softly and headed for the library at last.

However, as he stepped out into the main corridor and closed their chambers’ door behind himself, another idea visited him, and, as his gaze fell on the second door to his right, he knew he would delay his date with the books for a little longer still.

The place he entered now seemed to be filled with such sad, tangible silence that Faramir caught himself taking care to walk quietly, even holding his breath.

Her quarters had many rooms, and as he walked through, Faramir saw that not one of them looked abandoned or unkempt. The air was clean and fresh, showing the rooms were regularly aired, and everything looked in perfect order, washed, dusted and polished. If anything, the order was a little too perfect for a place where a real person lived. But, of course, it had been quite a while since anyone actually had.

Everything seemed much smaller and plainer than he remembered it, and no wonder, for he had been so much smaller when last coming here, and still in that age when the grown-up world seems mysterious and wondrous. It was almost ten years now, and in these ten years he had not come here once. He had often thought of her, yet had not come.

Slowly Faramir entered the drawing room.

A large rectangle of light from the tall window fell on a round table of black-wood, encrusted with ivory and mother-of-pearl. Two chairs opposite each other stood at the table where everything was arranged for tea for two. As Faramir came closer, he saw the cups were empty and gleaming clean, yet he felt certain they were used on a regular basis.

There was also a porcelain vase full of the last flowers of autumn, the petals white with a gentle greenish tinge. They were slightly limp, but only just slightly, and Faramir knew they could not have been brought here more than three days ago. They had a melancholy look about them, one of loneliness without hope.

Over the back of one of the chairs was neatly draped an elegant shawl of dark-blue, hemmed with stars embroidered in silver-thread and set with river-pearls.

Her shawl.

It was one of those things that rise up from the depths of one’s memory only when one sees them. In his thoughts about his mother, this shawl had never come forth, but now that his eyes fell upon it, Faramir knew she had worn it all the time, and in his mind it became forever connected to her image.

Very carefully he picked it up and brought it to his face. The fabric was soft and cool, and smelled of dust and also, very faintly, of dried rose-petals. It smelled of the past, of the past long gone but not forgotten.

The boy smiled sadly and put it back the way it had been, arranging it over the chair as though covering a woman’s shoulders with it.

He then walked around the table to the other chair and sat down. He cradled the empty teacup in his palms, and gazed into it thoughtfully. Then he sighed and raised his eyes, looking at the seat opposite him.

So he comes here to talk to you.

The boy could not remember Father ever coming here to drink tea while she had been around. Perhaps he did, only not in the children’s presence, yet still Faramir felt certain it was a habit that had formed only after her departure. And the private tenderness with which everything was arranged to her liking…

This tenderness was piercing. The flowers – Father did not like flowers, especially ones like these, with many fleshy petals; the cushions on the chairs, making the seat too soft and cosy; the tea-set – the cups too small and fragile to be comfortably held by a man’s hands. Faramir studied the one he was cradling, so delicately made. On the porcelain so thin it appeared bluish to the light there was painted a pond, and in it a lone silver swan, its neck bent in an elegant arch, the beak a tiny dot of black, wings folded back, all a picture of grace and serenity. This was her set, one she must have brought over from home when she came to Minas Tirith, one she must have liked above all.

Faramir nodded to himself, as though what he saw explained something to him. And in a way it did, although what he had understood evoked consequent questions, ones his knowledge was insufficient to answer. He could sense not only the desolation and sorrow, but also guilt and burdened, uneasy weariness…

The boy grinned to himself and looked up again.

Father takes his secrets to you, and it is you he tells of what plagues him, not us.

Well, and now I too have secrets that I come to share with you.

He had just turned five, and it was a cold dark night in late autumn. He had awoken close to midnight, when the fire in the hearth had already died down and the room was entirely black. Boromir was away at the Wards, again – with a broken collarbone, or a forearm, or some other part of himself. Boromir had always had plenty of spirit – often too much of it, in fact, especially when coupled with lack of skill, which of course never stopped him from climbing trees too slender or trying to tame horses too proud.

Quietly the boy exited their chambers, heading for her quarters nearby. His small bare feet were hardly making a sound. The door was open, and just as quietly he treaded in.

She never reprimanded him for coming over like this – no, this was not his first visit.

But as he stepped over the threshold to her bedroom, he stopped, abruptly forgetting his earlier fears, for he heard that she herself was in distress.

She was in bed, sobbing – with strange whimpering sobs, shallow and frequent. He had never heard anyone weep like this, and the sound of it instantly filled him with uncomprehending dread.

“Mother?” he called in a small voice, but dared not walk on, grasping the doorframe for reassurance instead. “Mother, why are you crying?”

She fell silent at once, yet it was not she who answered him.

“Faramir, get back to your room this very instant,” his father’s voice, faintly breathless, ordered flatly.

Faramir’s breath caught in his throat. Suddenly he was not only frightened, but strangely ashamed. And worst of all, his father’s voice had come from the same place as hers, and Faramir knew it was he who was the cause of Mother’s tears.

But the boy did as he was told and returned to his bed, where he lay curled up till the morning came, not a drop of sleep in his eyes. Something was wrong, he knew something was terribly wrong between them.

Later the following day, when Mother had taken him to her chambers to play after his training and lessons, he had finally worked up the courage to ask her.

“Mother, why was Father hurting you?”

He could not now recall her face, nor the sound of her voice, yet her words his memory had preserved.

“He was not, dear. Father loves me.”

“But… but I heard you crying!”

“I was crying because I was happy.”

“You did not sound happy…”

“Perhaps not – to you. But you are too young to understand this. Simply trust me that it is perfectly all right, and all men express their love in this way.”

He had gone pale. “I shall never!” he assured her with passion. “I shall never make a lady cry like this.”

She had laughed softly. “You are not meant to want to just yet. But in due time you shall. My little one, please don’t dwell on this, you do not know what you are talking about. And one more thing, love,” she added after a pause, “Father said to tell you he does not want you coming to my bedroom anymore.”

Faramir had obeyed. At that age it had not yet occurred to him he actually could disobey.

And soon enough, had he even chosen to go against his father’s will, there would have been no one for him to come to.

Until he had left childhood firmly behind, and his irrational fears with it, it had been a veritable trial for him. When his brother slept in the same room, there was never a problem, yet Faramir had never learnt to deal with the darkness when on his own, to talk himself out of fearing it, or to grow used to it and stop noticing it – but he had trained himself to put up with it, to endure its exhaustive weight, its sinister visions and sounds. And he prided himself that each and every time he had to spend a night without his brother he resisted the temptation to make it easy for himself, to light just one tiny flame. The candle was ever on his bedside table, within arm’s reach. It would be so easy, so quick, no one would know, no one would scorn him. And yet he knew that what comfort he would find in chasing out the mischievous shadows would be completely ruined by his own conscience, for he would stop respecting himself for such a weakness of character.

He suspected that such unreasonable stubbornness on his behalf was in truth Boromir’s fault. It had been, and in part still was one of Boromir’s favourite entertainments to build his little brother’s character.

Faramir loved sweets, always had. And Boromir knew it.

Often when they were given dessert, one big portion for them to share, Boromir would beam at him and say, “I dare you not to have any.”

Faramir would sigh hopelessly and always ask the same pointless question, “Why?”

The older boy would beam even broader and shrug, “Just because.” It was not that he wanted to have all the dessert, which he in fact did not. No, it was precisely ‘just because.’ And he would eat it slowly, piece by piece, pointedly savouring each bite, and Faramir would watch, his mouth watering. At some point, when Boromir had had his full and it was no longer fun for him, he would shrug again and push the dish towards his little brother, “Here, you can have it, I don’t want any more.”

But Faramir would avert his face and say quietly, “No.”

Boromir would raise his brows, “But you want it.”

Faramir would look at him sulkily and repeat, “No.” And in a way, it was true. His first ‘no’ was always said mostly out of sheer stubbornness, but once it had been voiced, the second ‘no’ came in earnest. He knew he would not enjoy the prize if it was to be had in such circumstances.

Boromir would puff his cheeks in exasperation. “Look, this is stupid. I don’t want it either.” But he would not get up, for how could he, the heir of Gondor, go back on his own prank?

And thus they would sit opposite each other in gloomy silence, Boromir laboriously stuffing the rest of the generous serving into his mouth, glaring at his brother, Faramir louring back.

When the plate was empty, Boromir would shake his head incredulously. “You know, I just marvel at you.”

But Faramir knew that, in truth, Boromir respected him for acting like this, and would have been gravely disappointed had Faramir accepted his offering. The same way he would have been disappointed if he came to know that Faramir lit a candle to ward off the darkness. Giving in to fear was weakness, and giving in to a fear childish and ungrounded was weakness doubled.

Faramir had never told him about it at all.

He had told Father, though. It had slipped out during a talk on some entirely unrelated topic, the subject coming to the tip of Faramir’s tongue by a play of association.

Denethor had looked at him keenly, tilting his head to the side a little. “Why?” he had asked softly, although not gently. “What is there to frighten you in the absence of light in your own bedroom? A soldier out on a foray fears his enemy may be using the night as disguise, but do you not know you are safe within the city walls, that your body is out of reach of any vile beast or Man?”

Faramir had lowered his eyes, blushing, and replied quietly, “Yes, of course. I do not know, Father. This is silly, but… I start imagining I see faces watching me from the darkness, only I cannot see properly, for it obscures the features from my eyes, and that is the worst, that I do not know exactly how they look. It makes me feel… defenceless. And because I cannot see, I start imagining, and it only gets worse…”

His father’s strange response had brought him little comfort. “Ah, so you think it would comfort you if you knew the appearance of that which lurks in the shadows?”

Faramir had frowned in uneasy puzzlement. “Well, I suppose so.”

Denethor’s thin lips had curved into an ironic grin. “It would not,” he said flatly. “For the reality, my son, oft comes to be a dozen times more horrendous than what horrors your own mind could ever paint for you. It is best these things are left undescribed. And if ever your thought succeeds to penetrate the mitigating veils, the true image would brand itself right here,” at this he reached over and tapped Faramir on the middle of his forehead, making the boy stare at him wide-eyed. “You would never rid of it. You would walk by day, and still it would be with you. So stop being foolish, and do not worry about what it is not your place to worry about. ‘Faces in the darkness’, oh Valar…”

Faramir blinked, frowning at the small cup in his hands. He had started off thinking of Mother, yet his thought had taken its own trail and come to Boromir and Father. His thought was bound to come to them regardless…

Faramir heaved a long thoughtful sigh and nodded to himself. “I understand now, Mother,” he whispered. And I would like to hope you would have understood me in turn.

And suddenly his throat constricted, and for a moment he thought he might cry. Speaking aloud of their situation, even if to ears that could not hear, made him realise with deafening starkness that in truth never and to no one could he mention it or anything remotely pertaining to it. He could never allow the hope that they might be understood. This was simply one of those things that people to whom it had not happened could not comprehend. He may open his heart in his imagination, convincing himself of solidarity and compassion on the behalf of his unseen listener – but never could such fantasy be embodied in reality.

And at this he suddenly felt settled and collected, as though having arrived at some inner consensus. He smiled and stood up swiftly, pushing the chair back with a scrape. He had not come here to be gloomy and mournful, to dwell on losses and enigmatic behaviours. He had come here because he was burgeoning with happiness, with joy, because he was full of life, full of love, and he wanted so badly to share his joy with someone, to let someone know how happy, how lucky he was.

And he came up to her chair once again, and pulled up her shawl, and threw it over his own shoulders, and brought it to his chest, and spinned around, as though in a dance, the energy of his happiness demanding to express itself.

But you were wrong, after all – about me. I would not be the one who makes anyone cry: you know what Boromir is like.

At this he threw his head back and laughed merrily. No, of course you don’t know that! And you don’t know what I’m like in this sense. Had you ever imagined what men we would grow up into? Certainly not ones like this! He laughed again. But you would understand. I know you would not stop loving us for this.

He sighed.

You would have been happy for us.

He liked to come here once in a while, even though his studies had called for it less and less often, pushed out of his schedule by his military practice. Today of all days he wanted to be here the most, the serene airy halls, so quiet and unperturbed, presenting a delicious contrast to the visions and sensations of the night before, visions that would now and again whirl at him all of a sudden, overpowering him completely, making him stop in his tracks and lean against a pillar or bookshelf, his gaze turning inwards, a faint incredulous smile spreading on his swollen lips.

As he ran his fingers absently over the bindings, some of leather, some of cloth, Faramir told himself that mere hours ago these very fingers had touched the skin of Boromir’s chest, twirled in his long black hair, gripped at the straining muscles of his powerful back, caressed his cheek when he lay slipping into exhausted forgetfulness. The boy thought these old volumes were lucky to be now touched by the same hand that had touched Boromir. He doubted he would ever be able to stop thinking about it.

He browsed the aisles idly, wondering what sort of reading he was up to. The poetry section was soon left behind: too slow and elegiac for his current mood. The works on Gondorian war history all seemed surprisingly dull and overwhelmingly long, too…

Eventually Faramir wandered into the further part of the Library which he seldom visited. He came upon a shelf with some old diaries and lingered there. The boy leafed through a journal of a steward’s court man from long ago and put it back. Boring.

Then his eye was caught by a rather thick notebook bound in purple leather decorated with little gems. He picked it up curiously. “A Wise Wife’s Notes. How I Preserve Happiness in My Home,” read the title. Faramir snorted and frowned. What a strange topic for a book! Women learnt these things from their mothers and aunts, not library manuscripts. And what could a ‘wise wife’ actually have to put on so many pages? How to…? How to do – what? he wondered, and opened the journal.

At first it was mostly on domestic maintenance and beauty tips, but when he was almost disappointed enough to put it down – he turned one more page and came upon a chapter of a completely different sort.

As for Boromir, his day began in a much less pleasant manner.

Note: Flowers to Alcardilmё for beta on this chapter.

Previously in ‘After a Lifetime’

Faramir spends his morning in quiet reflexion, observation and discovery – but the beginning of Boromir’s day is far less enjoyable in nature.

Chapter 7. Boys

It was still very early when Boromir left their room, so he headed straight for the army quarters. The men would now be in the middle of breakfast, and he would gladly join, being quite famished after the night’s exertions. The young man still felt the cosy warmth in his veins and his body was filled with such physical happiness that he could be nothing but optimistic about the day ahead, about everything. What could possibly go wrong in a world so full of wonder?

And as he walked briskly in the clear cool air of November, he could not help but inwardly laugh in incredulity at his earlier grim hopelessness, considering it now of no more substance than a nonsensical inconsequential nightmare.

When he had awoken after what must have been not more than an hour’s rest, instantly and quite without thinking Boromir pulled out of their sticky intimate embrace, disentangling his leg from between Faramir’s warm thighs, and rolled out of bed. He had not noticed the cold floor under his feet, nor the way his body protested against being robbed of Faramir’s sleepy mellowing comfort. None of it mattered – nothing mattered, really.

He did not stop for a second to ponder on all the changes in himself, changes in the way his heart worked, in the way his mind worked – changes that had crept over him unnoticed, all brought about by what had been done.

At once he had gone to where he kept his gear by the door. There was, of course, no real need to bring his armour and weapons to the bedroom, he could well leave them in the antechamber of their quarters – but he was a warrior and liked to have his things at hand, to always have an eye on them. And he took his sheathed blade from where it stood leaning against the wall and smoothly drew it out, the familiar metallic hiss sounding grotesque and farcical in the confines of this peaceful room.

His muscles, fit as he was, were a bit sensitive after all the unplanned nightly exercise, some of it done in rather uncomfortable positions, and the weight of the sword felt reassuringly heavy and substantial in his habitual grasp. Yes, his sword always gave him ground and balance, and made everything so blissfully uncomplicated.

There was no need to think at all, for the simplest, most obvious and apparently the only appropriate solution was, of course, death.

He felt no bitterness, no fear, not even regret. What was done was done – and what had to be done had to be done.

He had utterly unmanned and dishonoured a boy, his own younger brother – and Faramir, too, had wanted it, had wanted it each and every time. This somehow seemed the worst part: not only had he satisfied himself with his nearest kin – he had actually pleasured Faramir in the process, introducing him to the joy of lying with another, of having his body touched – of having his body mastered… He had made his little brother consciously ask for what the boy had previously been too innocent to even conceive – and Faramir had asked, oh, he had asked… It had been so raw, so sharp, impossible, unimaginable, like being skinned, like having the vocal cords torn out – this was, certainly, what complete moral downfall feels like. No, they both were far beyond absolution.

Such crimes had no atonement, but that did not cancel out the fact that morality required payment. Was this not what a man who slept with his sister would have had to do? So simple: take his brother’s life, then his own. The logic was indestructible: they had, ultimately, betrayed the very foundation of their society: gone against the law of honour – it was only natural to pay for that with the universal currency of blood.

Natural, yes. The Gondorian code of honour Boromir had long since had engraved into the very flesh of his heart – and he had long since had himself accustomed to the idea of death. He was young and otherwise would not have believed it possible that his life would ever end – only he had seen so many others end that he knew his was no exception. It did not take much to die. Like in one of those strategic games Father amused himself with: make a single wrong move – your opponent won’t miss the opportunity. No fault goes unpunished. Life can be too easily lost to be valued too highly in the first place.

A true death is worth more than a false life.

He had heard this saying countless times, and its logic seemed to him not only unquestionable but brutally beautiful.

Yet a new force, one far stronger than logic, had already taken residence in him. Still running his fingers along the cool uncaring steel, he turned to throw a glance at Faramir’s sleeping form – and knew at once that much as he may entertain the notion of at least partially salvaging their good names with his blade, he would never come to do it, never come to even try.

It was then that he truly understood what it was to be torn, to be lost. He had never felt such complexity of life, such incomprehensibility of his own heart, such weight of his own freedom. The sensation enveloping him… So powerful, so absolute, so unquestionable, so full of meaning – but so strange, he had nowhere to accommodate it on his scale of values, had nothing to anchor it to. Of course he was lost: he had never slept with someone he should have on no account even wanted to touch – had never slept with someone who actually mattered to him.

Was this just the final stage of succumbing to temptation – actually embracing the fall? Or what was it…?

All he knew was that he felt something inside himself shift, change, and settle with a calming finality, like the surface of a pond smoothing out into cut-glass after a thrown rock has sunk to the very bottom and become part of the pond – and Boromir lowered his sword, then quietly went and put it back in its scabbard.

Stupid, he now thought with a smile, tilting his face up and looking into the open mountain sky above, clear and endless, already blue with the arrival of the sun. Everyone else was stupid. Everyone who sneered at such passion, who scorned and feared it. They simply did not know. Fools. Narrow-minded fools. He had feared, too, he had deemed it wicked – now he knew better. Now it was precious to him, and he would like to see someone try and make him part with it.

He felt happy now. He did not like avoiding himself, lying to himself. It wore him out, gnawed at his self-respect, made life seem dull and burdensome. Now at last he could be straight with himself, for there was no longer anything in him that he did not wish to recognise and live out. Faramir was wonderful, and being with Faramir was wonderful. Unusual, yes, but they would get used to it. There were few things a man could not get used to.

Yes, he felt happy – and also very fortunate, although not the humble, grateful sort of fortunate a man of a more modest heart would have felt. No, as the high proud lord that he was, Boromir was accustomed to feeling rightfully special, and he deemed his fortune pretty much his due, something that he not only doubtlessly deserved through personal merit, but what he was entitled to simply as his birthright. One day he would be lord over all of Gondor – certainly fate would not have put an unworthy man in this place? And certainly, seeing as he had been put in this place, he deserved to have the best of the best along the way? Again, it was a little unconventional – but, after all, who could suit him better than Faramir?

He took a deep joyous breath of the frisk autumn air, revelling in the strength of his lungs, in the life coursing through his body. He was young, full of strength and spirit, full of fire, full of the desire to live – and life kept throwing riches at his feet. He had been dealt the most enviable place in society, had been given health, valour and the talent of a warrior, he had good looks and an effortless charismatic authority. Now, to top it all, he had Faramir.

Life could hardly get any better than this.

Only now that it had lifted did he become aware of the merciless pressure he had been carrying in his groin all this time: but now he felt pleasantly light and empty in the balls – unburdened. The sensation spoke a promise of renewal, of new life-force to soon come in the place of that which had been spent, as new sunshine is ever ready to spill on the land after a brief velvety respite of night – and he thought of the evening to come and the night to follow, when they would do it again, just a few hours away. Last night he had set a personal record, reaching that number which he had always considered a hallmark of a man who does not know how to brag credibly – too bad his achievements would have to pass unbeknownst to anyone. Boromir was too content to mind, however – instead he idly wondered if he could perhaps top himself and reach an even more impressive score when darkness fell again.

He did not linger on the thought though, not wishing for the yearning to become uncomfortable, which it surely would if he were only to recall how… He grinned and tossed his head. He no longer had need of fantasies, nay, for the glorious reality was his for the taking, for the prize was not going anywhere and would wait for him always, so long as he lived.

And he wanted to live in the moment, without hurry or tarry, for now that his life was perfect, each moment was, too.

He felt the vibe of his city like never before. He sensed the energy flowing in it with a heightened, sharpened sensitivity, so many things happening at once, so many lives following their course, each little occurrence and action echoing through him, like the fabled seeing-stones of the past channelling countless visions to his mind in uncontradicting simultaneousness. He knew exactly what each circle would be like at this hour – and in two hours’ time, and at noon, and afterwards. He knew by heart, with the very tissues of his body, how his city lived, what unbreakable routine it followed, day after day, century after century.

Right now it was awakening, getting ready and heading to the place of its daily labours, the bottom circles already busy with merchants setting up their stalls and servants hurrying on errands, whereas the wealthier and idler inhabitants of the higher terraces were stealing the last dream from the departing night. Soon the lower streets would be filled with the deep lingering scent of roasting chestnuts, and the hum of all the people going about their business would carry up even to the administrative and military levels of the city. Towards nightfall the smells of food and work would come to be rivalled by those of leisure and entertainment: the heady aroma of hot spiced wine, the faintly bitter tang of the street torches illuminating the way for those on their way to the home hearth – or elsewhere… The sounds would be different, too: no more of the robust, energetic shouting of traders bantering with stingy customers, no more of the shrill piercing cries and giggles of children, no more of the high-pitched female chatter – all the respectable women were out of the streets by this hour, and those few who came to take their place would speak in low sugary murmurs and promising whispers.

He, too, would fit into this ever-repeating pattern, would live out the life befitting a Steward’s heir – only his life would be special, for he was blessed beyond the reckoning of men.

With this thought Boromir turned a corner and came into the vast practice courtyard between the barracks and the dining hall – and saw a dense gathering of soldiers in the middle, with still more coming to join the already threatening crowd. The air was tense and brittle, and people were talking in lowered, agitated voices.

What now?! Can’t anything go as it is expected to – just for a change? he thought in exasperation and headed for the crowd.

He approached, and as the soldiers let him pass to the centre, he heard their gravely excited murmurs and concluded they had actually been expecting him. At twenty he was far from the most experienced or high-ranked officer in the force (by sheer right of birth he could, of course, outweigh the word of any of his superiors save his father, yet he knew that to use this right would only diminish his weight in his men’s eyes), yet no important decision would be made without him. He was usually very proud of that, and reckoned he deserved it anyway, what with his unprecedented rising to a captain at nineteen – but today, when he did not want to have any problems to solve, it only aggravated his annoyance.

“All right! What’s all the commotion?!” Boromir barked with authority and louder than was actually necessary, for he wanted it clear that he was fully in charge and no indiscipline would be tolerated. Coming to the front row he stopped short, for he saw at once that they were preparing to birch someone, the long bench and the barrel for soaking the willow-rods already there. And by the bench, apart from everyone else, stood two young lads, not much older than his own brother. He remembered them well, earnest and jolly lads they were, joined in only the year before. Both were already shirtless in the biting chill of the morning, but neither seemed to notice; and such desolation was in their faces as if they were going to be beheaded, not whipped.

A sturdy balding man in his late fifties, Danrad the Stables Master, rushed to Boromir.

“Oy, Lord Boromir, the’e ye are!” He was a trustworthy fellow, if not particularly coherent or concise. He enjoyed, however, a great weight among the men – he used to be a warrior himself, before an injury to his knee had set him to overseeing more peaceful matters. Having lost his only son to childhood illness long ago, he had since come to take out his unspent paternal sentiments on the horses whom he affectionately addressed as ‘you cheeky ruffians’ – and the soldiers, who to him were all either ‘lads’ or ‘boys’.

A few feet away Boromir noticed a figure rather standing out from the rest of the warriors. It was Gelendor, one of his father’s bailiffs – a man of exceptionally upright posture, lean of body and face, his slick dark hair always neatly tucked behind his ears, light-blue eyes emotionless yet unpleasantly penetrating. As usual, he was wearing his knee-long official robes of black wool, austere and adorned only by a fine belt. Despite the weather, he had no cloak or hood, as though being the mouth of law made him immune to the elements. Boromir remembered that in the scorching sun of summer he would not even break a sweat on his brow. And once again Boromir was reminded of how Faramir had once jokingly referred to the man as ‘the viper’.

The bailiff acknowledged Boromir’s arrival with a curt nod, but did not try to intercept Danrad, who was practically jumping with impatience. It was obvious the two had been engaged in a passionate dispute up to the point of the heir’s arrival, and the idea of it made Boromir grin in spite of his growing unease. Oh, it must have been a scene worth watching…

Much as he usually enjoyed Danrad’s company, what with his good-natured gruff manner and fatherly ways, Boromir raised his brows at Gelendor, knowing his explanation would make much more sense than Danrad’s – but the official made a polite gesture, indicating he relinquished the privilege to his opponent. Gelendor had never made it much of a secret he considered the military men a rather amusing object to observe, what with their arrogant stubbornness and hot foolish tempers. Boromir had never liked him much.

Boromir sighed and turned his eyes to the Stables master. “Well?”

Danrad took a deep breath, as though preparing air for a speech long enough to house all his apparent outrage.

But before he could embark on the monologue, another voice called from behind Boromir, uncertain and humble.

“I am so sorry, your lordship.”

Boromir did not appreciate it when the men spoke without confidence, and so he did not grace the speaker with a full turn and only looked back over his shoulder. His name was Meneldir and he was the one in charge of the two boys, as well as of another ten cadets. With a pang of annoyance, Boromir read in his face the look after seeing which he could never quite respect an officer again – the ‘please, let someone else decide for me’ and the ‘I don’t understand how this could’ve happened’ look. Pity though, Meneldir had seemed like a promising one to him.

“What are you sorry for? What have you done?” Boromir asked not quite kindly. He did not like the degree of distress present in the situation, and least of all did he like it when people began their speech with pleas for forgiveness.

Why are you not even trying to get a word in with the other two? he wanted to demand. Why are you standing shamefaced in the corner when these are your boys? Whatever they’ve done, of all the people you ought to be the last one to withdraw your protection from them. If such is your conduct, what can be expected of the others? But if Meneldir did not understand this already, it was quite pointless to waste breath on trying to enlighten him.

Boromir sighed inwardly. Fine, he would deal with it himself. But, he decided after all, when it was over and done with, he would have a talk with Meneldir, tell him to learn and solve the problems with his cadets without it becoming a national-scale event.

“Well?” the Captain inquired, turning back to Danrad.

“Ye see, yer lo’dship, we bin arguin’ what to do with ’em goblins ove’ he’e,” at this Danrad pointed at the two young men by the bench, as though this much was not yet obvious beyond doubt. Boromir suppressed another sigh. “’Tis outrage, me lord!” Danrad exclaimed, suddenly doubling in volume. “Ooh, them rascals! Now, Meneldir here has sent for Master Gelend’r, and now he say do it by the book, but the boys,” with a wide gesture he indicated all the other soldiers, including Meneldir who did not quite look like he wanted to be included. “Yer lo’dship, we don’ want none of this among us, if ye please! What a disguhrace!” The last word he pronounced with something a sort of twisted gusto. “They dese’ves an ’olesome beating fo’ starte’s, and—”

Boromir raised his hand and the man fell silent. The young captain felt that everyone, even Gelendor who obviously could not care less, had their eyes on him: a new and promising character had just walked on stage and everybody was holding their breath waiting for some spectacular move on his behalf. Much as being the centre of attention was pretty much the default state for a man of his birth, this time Boromir felt unpleasantly aware of all the gazes and the ears. To tell the truth, he had not liked the look of it from the start, what with the hubbub and a bewildered officer and a bailiff present – and now he liked it even less. Yet he fought down the bad feeling rising in his stomach, for worry ought not to show in his face.

“Now, tell me – and to the point – what happened?” he looked at Danrad sternly, already regretting he had chosen to listen to the man in the first place. He could tell Gelendor was going to be popular at the afternoon meal, recounting the show to his colleagues.

“Well, you see, me lord, ’tis like this,” the stables master began. “Not two hours ’go, the’e I am goin’ to look o’er them ’orses befo’ the day. No one’s suppos’d to be the’e at this hour, but then I ’ear queer noises in the back. An’ when I come ove’,” the man spread his arms theatrically, “the’e them are those two cocksuckers on the floor – writhing like worms!! That one on the top,” he pointed, “with his trousers aroun’ the knees, an’ already workin’ it like stuffing a maiden! And the othe’ one, well, he still dressed, but, you’ve got ter hear this, he—” the man trailed off, for Boromir had suddenly gone very grey in the face. The young man reeled, and a nauseous wave rose up in his stomach.

But naturally his reaction was completely misinterpreted, and Danrad launched into apology. “Oy, me old doorknob, sayin’ such foul things to yer lo’dship! Too foul fo’ yer noble ears, I daresay! Nea’ly made yer lo’dship sick all ove’ yer shiny boots!”

Gelendor averted his face, but Boromir noticed an ‘oh, please, when is this comedy going to end?’ expression pass across his features. He had likely just put Boromir in the same category with the flabbergasted Meneldir.

Boromir clenched his teeth and swallowed… Must not lose face. He forced a harsh laugh. “Nay, worry not, it takes more than that to unsettle my stomach. But you paint vivid images with your words, Master Danrad – more vivid than I care to imagine. Pray spare me the delicious details!”

And suddenly, as by a word of magic, the tension was gone. The men behind and around him chuckled with approval, someone actually clapped his hands, even the bailiff grinned to himself drily. Boromir had done just what they all needed: he took the apprehension and uncertainty away and let them laugh, practically as though they had all come here for an entertainment.

But Boromir was genuinely astonished to hear such scorn in his own voice. He had not intended to be cruel, especially not after the previous night, not when he could still see Faramir looking up at him with such adoration and trust in his eyes… And then he was suddenly aware of Faramir’s scent still lingering on his skin. The man had not wanted to wash it off when he woke, and now it was all over him. For a dreadful moment it felt as though instead of the traces of his brother’s sweat, semen and spit (not to mention the dratted lavender oil) he was covered in red paint – and the men would see it any minute now.

His private treasure, his newfound happiness brought along such insufferable vulnerability…

Funny, when he had stood on the cold floor of their bedroom earlier that morning, contemplating – in earnest, as it had seemed to him – taking his own and his brother’s lives, it had never occurred to him to spare a thought for others.

What would people think? What would people think if the two of them were found slain in their own bedchamber, naked and with the proof of what had been done red and raw between Faramir’s legs? What would Father think? How would Father live with it? Would Father live with it?

And how would Father live with it if he actually ever caught them doing it again…?

Involuntarily Boromir looked at the miserable couple in the centre, and now he knew why they looked like they did. Absolutely, completely exposed and at mercy of these hateful men – men who could not possibly understand… ‘I didn’t writhe with him like a worm!’ he wanted to shout. ‘Is that all you can see?! But it is not like that at all…! We’re not mindless randy beasts shagging for fun… You have no idea what it feels like! He alone is worth to me more than this whole city with everything in it! I feel for him like none of you would ever know!!’

But he never said any of it, of course.

“So wha’ d’we do with ’em, me lord?”

He stared down at Danrad. The man was looking at him in hopeful eagerness, obviously counting on Boromir’s solidarity with the soldiers’ position. After all, to everyone in the military, Boromir was first and above all a warrior and a captain, and only then the Steward’s son.

Boromir took a deep breath and announced flatly: “We do what we are supposed to do. The Law was made for a reason. Just do what it says on the point, and no debates. What is this? Why are we wasting so much time on this matter?! These things have happened before, I am sure, and this here is no uncommon case – just do the usual.”

He had no idea what ‘the usual’ was. He had never stopped to wonder. Well, at least as it apparently involved birching, it was not likely anyone would be executed…

“Thank you, your lordship,” Gelendor gave an appreciative little bow, having more class than to show glee at his triumph.

But Danrad, although clearly struggling to stay humble, burst out, “Beggin’ yer gracious pard’n, yer lordship, but this here is uncommon! We all’ve surely heard of the thing – but not once in my living memory, and I’m no boy he’e, have it actually happened! And right ’ere, among the lads, too!”

“Could this little misintelligence, perhaps, be a tribute to the fact of the esteemed Master Danrad being a blissfully unobservant man?” Gelendor suggested conversationally, who now that Boromir had pronounced him the winner seemed more lenient towards an exchange of pleasantries. “Pray kindly tell me I am badly mistaken and you do not actually deem it necessary to see the act in order to know that a man has—?”

“Now look here!” Danrad cut him off, clenching his broad hands into fists, “If you are suggesting any of the boys here – then the Law or no Law…”

“Goodness, why would I want to go to so much trouble?” Gelendor parried in a tone of amused condescension. “Those whom the matter may concern already know who they are, there is no need of finger-pointing on my or anyone else’s behalf. And let us not pretend the situation is not meant to serve not so much as a lesson taught to the party at fault, but rather as a broadly preventative measure – is this not why, my good Master Danrad, you so yearn to have these two demonstratively beaten to pulp?”

Danrad, by then positively purple in the face, opened his mouth to object – and gulped for breath, obviously failing to nail a counter-argument.

Enough!” Boromir barked furiously, making both men turn to him at once and the rest of the crowd catch their breath. He did not like the look Gelendor cast him, but he cared little, unable to decide which of the two he would have preferred to murder if given the choice. “Unless,” he muttered sternly, “my judgement is to be contested, I would advise you sirs to be done with your bickering and you, Master Gelendor, to kindly do your job and read out the specific measure of punishment. We have plenty of our own work to do and I want this nonsense to be done with!”

Again Gelendor bowed to him respectfully – then turned to the lad whom Danrad had compared to a maiden.

“Did you give voluntary unforced consent for the treatment you were receiving?” he inquired matter-of-factly.

Danrad snorted exasperatedly at this, but the lad, startled to be spoken to, stared back at the bailiff with haunted, uncomprehending eyes. Gelendor sighed and, rephrasing, spoke slowly, as to a dullard, “Were you being forced?”

A visible shiver ran through the cadet’s body and it was clear he understood – both the question and its implications. He could still get out of the worst it, or at least try to – although then the boy he had been caught with would be tried for attempted rape.

A chill crept down Boromir’s spine when the man realised he already knew what the lad was going to say. Boromir had never noticed much of a friendship between the two, let alone anything else – but now, by some strange sense of solidarity, he suddenly knew. It horrified him that he could really see it, how it was between them, what drew one to the other. The boy had always had about him this niceness, this wide-eyed well-meaning eagerness that, although often preventing others from taking him seriously, encouraged many of the older warriors to like him with a warm paternal-like fondness. And Boromir could tell, could really tell, in what way exactly the other lad complemented these qualities in him, how they fitted and matched, how the pull worked.

At this notion another wave of sickness threatened to rise in him, but Boromir fought it down.

Meanwhile the boy closed his eyes, as though pulling himself together, then parted his lips to answer – but his voice cracked and nothing came out. He frowned, swallowed – and on the next try uttered quietly, “No.” The corners of his mouth twitched, but he repeated, “No. I was fully willing.”

A simmering murmur passed through the crowd, and Gelendor raised his brows, as though not quite convinced that something so abhorrent could indeed be true – but the young man said nothing more.

“Very well,” Gelendor then said with emphasis. He inhaled deeply and, clasping his hands behind his back and standing even straighter than usual, he looked before himself and recited in a clear expressionless voice, as though a diligent schoolboy delivering his assignment before a classroom, “For those not having yet taken a full oath of service and below age of manhood, the first-time offense of displaying unambiguous unquestionable carnal interest in a fellow soldier,” he ignored Danrad’s contemptuous snort at the euphemistic phrasing, “the statutory measure of penalty is as follows. Ten-score lashes with willow-rods on the back and thighs – face-down on a bench, undressed and in public. Unless stated specifically otherwise, an adequate period for a reasonable degree of recovery should be allowed at the Wards – followed by a single-cell incarceration for a period of five days, water but no meals – followed in turn by a six-week period of suspension from all official duties with the purpose of providing time to thoroughly ponder on – and hopefully reconsider – one’s conduct.”

Boromir blinked, taken aback. He had never expected the Law to have such a precise point of view on the matter. Valar, someone had actually thought it all through…

Gelendor let his words sink in, then turned to Boromir, waiting for confirmation.

“Yes, carry on,” Boromir said without emotion, only making a little impatient gesture with his hand.

“The Book does not specify whether the flogging should be fully public or limited to the circle of those performing the same service. If your lordship wishes, it can be taken down to the market square,” Gelendor added casually.

“We are not wasting another hour on making a show out of this,” Boromir said drily, too drained to even be angry anymore. “It shall be done right here where everything is already prepared. Now, thank you, Master Gelendor, your service is done.”

Without a word the black-clad bailiff inclined his head and left, and Boromir’s gaze fell on Danrad. The older man’s face was burning with barely contained emotion, yet, meeting the heir’s eyes, he lowered his head respectfully.

“As yer lo’dship says, of course,” he muttered, then could not resist adding, “though I’ope ye do see me point now, Cap’n Boromir. In two months’ time, they’ll be back like it nev’r ’appened.” He shook his head ruefully and spat at his feet. “Right, boys. Could’ve had it ove’ by now… Oh well. Now then, whe’e did that Ned’mir go? ’Tis his duty fo’ them floggins.” And he added in a low grumble, “And he’d bette’ do a good job of it.”

They were going to manage without his first-hand involvement, and Boromir was grateful for that much. But all the same, he could not just up and leave the scene. So he stood and watched, and could not help flinching when the men began to jeer as the first blow was struck.

It was quite an enlightening experience, in fact, letting him learn the full list of nouns, adjectives, verbs and elaborate word constructions possibly applicable to one man who even embarked on bedding another. And Boromir knew that in his particular case the list would be twice as long, for it would have to include all the words for seducing someone as scandalously young and piercingly innocent as Faramir, not to mention the obvious additions for their status and kinship.

The only good thing he could think of was that Faramir was currently elsewhere.

Many thanks to dear Alcardilmë for help with this chapter.

Chapter 8. Leprosy

The evening, grey and quiet, had come at last. That blessed period, so brief in the cold season, when the after-feel of the sun lingers, hanging weightlessly in the air – a soft halo without any specific source; when there is yet no need of torches but the natural light is ever so soft, ethereal. That blessed period of repose when the upper streets are empty, peaceful, free.

That short period in his day when he can walk with a face that actually corresponds to the way he feels on the inside.

The rest of Minas Tirith would remember this day as typical for the time of year, crisp with a sobering, refreshing coolness, clear and mild. But he could have sworn in had been a scorcher, the sort that parches the skin and the throat, a merciless yellow eye nailed immobile to the dome of the sky, staring down with a million leaden beams.

He felt no relief for meeting no one on his path, for being spared the chore of exuding confidence, vigour and charm. All day, the sweat and the dust notwithstanding, he had diligently displayed an unquestionable contentment with the way of things. But now he was too drained to be comforted that for the next several hours this particular burden at least was gone.

He soon saw that even this reprieve was not fated to last.

No sooner than Boromir opened the door to their chambers, he could tell – feel – that Faramir had returned ahead of him. And he knew he could not pull the mask back on, for his bright face had cracked and would not fit.

Worse still, when Boromir saw the all-trusting, radiant delight his arrival brought to his young and still so perfectly innocent brother – the cutting, desperate tenderness of the morning overcame him over again. If anyone could only know how he ached to protect this boy, to come stand between him and all the evils of the world. By far the worst of all, nothing he could do would ever be remotely enough, for much as he would one day rule over all of Gondor, he had no power against the very way of their life.

Then Faramir, who had rushed to meet the older brother, stopped short and frowned.

“What is the matter?” he asked instead of a hello.

“No, ’tis nothing,” muttered Boromir as a return greeting, “I am tired, ’tis all.”

He tried to walk around Faramir, but the boy stood in his way.

“Is it because of the flogging?”

“Huh…” Boromir was aware he ought to come up with some swift and clever way to steer away from this topic, but his exhausted wit refused to make the effort. “I see you know about that,” he only noted, and his own voice sounded to him dull as last-year’s dust.

Faramir shrugged as though there was nothing out of the ordinary about it. “Rumour spreads fast, and such rumour twice so,” he merely said.

“Yes. Well,” Boromir replied vaguely, and moved his shoulders like he would to ward off a chill. He had no energy to discuss this, to discuss anything, and would rather be flogged himself than let on as to what part he had played in the procedure. Lest his face somehow betray him, he pushed past Faramir.

Before he could make it to the bed and slump down as was his only desire in that moment, Faramir spoke to his back.

“Boromir, please, they are doing better already.”

Boromir stopped dead in his tracks.

Slowly he turned around, his features dark.

“What?” he asked very quietly.

“I said—”

“I heard what you said.”

For a moment more, the brothers stood motionless, holding each other’s hard gazes.

“Are you insane?!” shouted Boromir. “You’d better not be telling me you’d bloody gone to see those two!”

“So I did, just before heading home – and mind you, in the whole day I was the only one,” began Faramir with defiance. Yet Boromir looked unmoved and Faramir implored, “Oh, hear me out. Think of it, I am ‘soft’, ask anyone. My checking on a whipped man couldn’t possibly raise suspicion; if anything, it would be deemed the stranger if I hadn’t – you well know I always visit them after punishments.”

“There’s no ‘always’ here, don’t you understand this is different?!”

“Oh, I understand well enough!” Faramir shouted back. “But do you understand? Do you know that in the ten hours they’d been there no one offered them food, nor even a drink of water? That no one attended to their wounds, not even wiped the blood off? And when I confronted the healer in charge, he looked away and told me everyone’s so awfully busy and must’ve somehow overlooked. As though I was blind – or else altogether daft – and couldn’t see all the hands idling around with nothing to do. This… this… This isolation is cruel! And unwarranted! To treat them as though they’re filthy lepers, and I doubt they’d receive any more attention until I return tomorrow—”

Before the boy could utter another word, Boromir gripped him by the wrist and yanked him forth. “There isn’t going to be any tomorrow, Faramir. I don’t want you checking on them again – do you understand?”

Faramir’s nostrils flared and he squared his shoulders. “I am the Steward’s son,” he declared with such unstudied lordliness that in other context it would have surely gained his brother’s approval. “I shan’t be daunted – and I shall give them protection.”

“Well, I have news for you,” Boromir announced, leaning in to him. “I am the Steward’s son as well – and ’tis my word that’s been the one and only time you’ll go see those fools.”

“You don’t get to tell me around!”

“That’s exactly what I bloody well get to! Valar know I wish I hadn’t to – but you apparently know no better.”

“Oh, I do know better! I remember my lessons – have we not been taught that at times the best cover is to go against expectation, that moving towards the danger can be safer than running and hiding?”

“No one’s running and hiding!” Boromir bellowed into his face. “I’m only being sensible about this – because it looks like I’m the only one here who’s got any sense left. Do you not bloody understand what will happen… Honestly, you truly think being the Steward’s son works in your best interest here? Faramir, wake up! For fuck’s sake! I’m tired as… as fuck – and pissed twice as much, and here I have to walk you through the obvious truths! This isn’t warfare, risking your hide is no deed of courage, and losing your hide shan’t be remembered in song. We need all the protection we can get, we have none to spare for the other poor idiots! No, we don’t! Don’t take issue with me, Faramir – I know you can fence well with a blade and words alike, and I shall have none of it. And do yourself a favour and knock out of your head all this elaborate nonsense the theories of strategy teach. They’re all thought up by men who sit too far away from any real peril to know shit about anything.”

“But—” Faramir protested, still trying to wrench his hand away.

“You ought not to be so upset,” Boromir said coldly. “It cannot be helped. You have wasted too much breath on this already.”

“How can you say that, you don’t even listen to me!”

Suddenly Boromir’s exasperation drained away, as drink from a punctured wine-skin, and he pulled the boy to himself to hug him tightly. Gently and with emphasis, the man whispered into his brother’s hair, “Faramir, let it go.”

He held firm while Faramir struggled wordlessly against him.

“Please, little one, listen to me,” Boromir spoke slowly and very calmly, as one trying to get an urgent message through to an unreasonable child. “We aren’t going to make friends with these boys. For they, indeed, are as lepers. They are done for, Faramir, and you cannot help it. It doesn’t matter how soon their welts heal or if not at all, for there’s naught ahead for them. Everyone else understands this, and so should you. They can only pray to the Valar for a chance to perish with dignity, ’tis all.”

Faramir made a sound of disagreement, but Boromir shook his head. “No, Faramir, I know what I’m saying – I know how these things work. You want to be kind, I know, but I saw the faces of that crowd. Don’t you let yourself be fooled thinking that after they’ve done their term, they’ll come back and everyone will just forget about what’s been. In word they may be cleared – but that’s no more than pretty talk… This is a brand, Faramir – it is unwashable. Time doesn’t erase anything, punishment doesn’t erase anything. Quickly enough some excuse will be found why they are unfit for the military service – and there isn’t a single door that’ll welcome them then.”

For a long while Faramir stood still and quiet, his face pressed into his brother’s shoulder.

“I am sorry,” the boy said at last. “I should’ve preserved my composure. A row with you is the last thing I wan—”

“I know. It’s fine,” Boromir interrupted flatly. “But promise you’ll do as I say. Promise you won’t go there again.”

Faramir kept his eyes low. He stood so pale and forlorn as though he might faint. But slowly, he pursed his lips – and nodded his acquiescence.

“Say you promise,” Boromir persisted. “Swear.”

“I swear,” the boy whispered.

“Good. Now – I don’t want to talk of it anymore. I don’t want to talk of any of this ever again,” and Boromir let go of him, showing the debate was once and for all over.

Faramir nodded again, blankly, as though the meaning of the man’s words no longer registered with him. He stood withdrawn and so listless that it could seem that together with his brother’s restraining hold all will left his body. His face was at once stern and indifferent, and Boromir could not fail to recall the look of undefiled open-hearted gladness his own arrival had brought to this same face mere minutes ago.

The man sighed, rubbed himself on the forehead, and swallowed against the stubbly feeling in his throat. The agitation of the argument had refreshed him, but he hardly felt the better for it.

“Ah, fuck,” he observed with a sour grin, in way of an offer of reconciliation, combining eloquence, expressiveness and succinctness to the best of his current ability.

“You don’t say,” Faramir agreed grimly. He raised his hand, folded his fingers into the palm and studied his nails. “Do you,” he cleared his throat, “do you maybe want me to go to the kitchens, get us some tea?”

Boromir heaved yet another sigh. He wished he were tired enough to become numb to guilt. But being as he was not, everything was progressively becoming a source of irritation to him.

“No, I don’t want tea,” he replied testily – caught himself mocking his brother’s intonation – and grew even more irritated. “Fuck this,” he added, just for the sake of the trace of reassurance it gave him to defy at least something, no matter how vague or obscure.

He managed to withhold himself from making any unpleasant remarks when he heard Faramir follow him to the bed, hoping Faramir would know better than to try and cheer him up.

However, “Boromir,” Faramir called very gently as he lowered himself on the mattress’s edge by the man’s side.

Sitting down evened their height, and Faramir felt strong and confident as he reached out to put his arm around his brother’s shoulder. But Boromir shrugged him off, and a stern frown settled on his brow.

“Boromir,” Faramir said a little reproachfully, “please, don’t.”

“What do you want of me?” Boromir cried. “What?!

There was an ill crack in his voice, and Faramir stared at him, wide-eyed. Boromir stared back, speechless. The boy may not have shrunk back, but the strange new look in his eyes instilled a gripping fear in Boromir’s heart.

“Do you know,” he said very, very slowly, “on second thought, tea doesn’t sound half-bad.”

“All… alright,” Faramir conceded cautiously, his eyes holding his brother’s as he stood up, as though the boy half-expected Boromir to pounce or pull some other unhinged move. Faramir chewed on his lip, then made an attempt at a smile before turning to go. “I won’t be long.”

“Nay, take your time,” Boromir called after him. “Get something to eat, too! I haven’t supped much.”

At the sound of the main door closing behind the boy, Boromir sunk at the shoulders, puffed his cheeks, stared ahead of himself. With Faramir out of sight, a grey cloud was swift to cover his sky, and then, in one flashing instant, it crashed onto him, the collective hatred he had witnessed early that morning – a hatred the sheer force of which was enough to make anyone doubt anything.

And yet, he could not go back. Even had he truly wished to, which he did not. Could not go back to seeing Faramir as he had seen him all his life. Whether they carried on sharing a bed did not matter that much: going back was not optionable the way there is no refolding a blossomed flower into the tightly wound bud. A day and a night ago – then, perhaps, something could have still been done to veer them off this course, but not thereafter.

Not that Boromir could entirely understand where they stood now, for in the language that he knew he could not find one proper term for two people like them. Loads of insults, certainly, a good plenty, but not a word that would explain to him what they were, or what he was. He only knew that Faramir was not simply his little brother with whom he chanced to sleep, a friend turned lover.

This was something else, something more – something worse.

And he was stuck in it – stuck no less than the miniature figurine of a seafarer on the battle-galley model uncle Imrahil had had built inside an empty bottle, glued for good to its unsailable vessel.

Intuitively he sensed that the lying together, being as all their trouble seemed to revolve exclusively around this part of their new routine, was not the point, although without argument it had been a turning point. Much as what he had experienced in Faramir’s arms the previous night was in itself worth dying for, ending their affair would rob him of something far more paramount than the physical pleasure. The preservation of his very entity, of his integrity of self seemed to have come to depend on being with Faramir – being with him in some larger, broader sense than just sleeping with him. Although without the ‘sleeping with him’ part it would not work either, would not do the trick at all, for the merging had to be complete, had to realise all the means for togetherness that nature had so helpfully supplied them with.

Boromir lowered his head and pressed his palms to his face. His heart ached so badly as if it were literally weeping blood, and he, too, wanted to weep, to choke on the burning bitterness of his own tears.

Boromir squeezed his eyes tight, twisted his features, even pushed out a cough, seeking to trigger the sequence, to get himself going. He let out a pained sigh of misery and even began to rock back and forth.

They were there somewhere, his tears, tormenting him, robbing him of all ability to think, like a spiked tip of a poisoned dart broken off and stuck deep in the tissues of the body. Boromir growled, pressed his fingertips into his eyelids and rocked harder.

Nothing. His head was surely about to burst with the pressure of the pain.

Then abruptly, or at least as abruptly as he could in his current state, he stood up, swaying as a man drunk. With disobeying hands he rid himself of his boots and trousers. His tunic reached well past his hips but his legs were left uncovered, and so he put one foot on the bed, spreading open, exposing the most sensitive inner side of his thigh. Holding his belt by the buckle, he swung back and struck as hard as his warrior’s strength would only allow.

The shock dashed through him like a heated razor.

At once his perception clouded over. It felt so incredibly good he almost reeled.

He hit again, aiming at the same spot. A convulsive shiver shook him, instantly followed by a warm relaxing wave.

He hardly paused to take a breath…

The pale skin of his thigh was beginning to burn in earnest – and to witness this blush of shame, this blush of atonement blossom through his flesh heightened his satisfaction tenfold.

This was, in fact, a far better approach.

Tears, filled with ire as they might be, yet always were brethren of misery, defeat, surrender.

Tears were the last resort of the weak, of the beaten – whereas this here, this was a spectacle of brilliant flashes of scarlet, this was aggression, violence, this was joy amid wrath.

Doing this, with every strike he proved to himself he had retained some power over his life.


And before Boromir could blink, Faramir was before him, hardly able to inhale for the blazing anger written sharply across his fair young features.

“You give me that!” he spat, tore the belt out of Boromir’s hold – and flung it far across the room, to stand glaring at Boromir in burning incredulity.

“Do I not get to have ten minutes of privacy in my whole day?” inquired Boromir gloomily.

Faramir shook his head, “Not if you choose to spend them like so. What’s that word you have, brother: what the fuck?! Boromir! I thought you told me to be done with it. And fair enough! But what’s this?!”

“Faramir…” Boromir began in a tone of warning, for he did not appreciate being spoken to in such manner, not even when his conduct might have warranted it, but Faramir was not to be stopped.

“You want comeuppance?” the boy demanded, advancing on him so that Boromir had to take a step back. “Well, what can be swifter to arrange?” Faramir spread his arms. “Go! Go, and tell Father you’ve taken me for a lover – that’s bound to bring upon us all the justice you could ever wish for in your wildest dreams.”

Boromir darkened in the face. “Do not taunt me so,” he muttered threateningly. “For there’s little that humiliates me more than huddling like a rabbit in a hole, fearful to declare my purposes for all to hear,” he made a wide angry gesture with his arm. “Yet of this I can speak to no one, and least of all to Father.”

“That’s just as well!” Faramir retorted. “For Father’s life, I am sure, is difficult enough as is. And if your judgement has not been reversed and such is still your choice, however forced by the lack of alternatives, to love me in secret, then so be it – follow it proudly and without shame, like everything else that you do. For you, brother, are the best man in all our land, the bravest, the toughest, truest of heart! If such is your line, then what is left to the rest of us? I try to ease you with gentleness, and you bite at me, but for a second I turn away – and look what you do to yourself!”

“Aye, look what I do to myself!” Boromir cried sarcastically, throwing his arms up. “Foolish Boromir! Tell me, dear brother, how would you have me be proud? Should I maybe go soak my feet in rosewater and congratulate myself on what a clever chap I am, how I’ve got everything figured out? If the cat eats the cream, but no one finds out, it’s all right, right? Are you out of your mind?! How could I be proud?!”

“Is that it then – are you ashamed of me, Boromir?”

Boromir tilted his head to the side. “Come again…?”

“Ashamed. Of me. Of being this way with me. Of loving me. Because I think that’s what this all boils down to.”

Boromir looked away. “Don’t put it like that,” he muttered. “Where’s that accursed tea, anyway?”

“You are wrong!” Faramir exclaimed with sudden force. “There is naught to be ashamed of! What we have done – ’tis sacred. They may not understand, the others, and so we won’t try to explain, but that changes not the nature of things. ’Tis one and the same that each and every man in our noble line – dating back to the very creation of Man – has done unto his beloved. ’Tis what has kept the continuity of our life through time, what made our existence, yours and mine, possible.”

“Great. You’ve just made me feel so much better,” groaned Boromir and sank onto the bed, bowing his head and dragging his hands through his hair. “Thank you for opening up my eyes, o wise one.”

Faramir crossed his arms. “Fine, mock me,” he said. Then his eyes narrowed and he leant in a bit. “Is it how you’d prefer it then?” he asked quietly, in that dangerous kind of quiet their father had so perfectly mastered. “Is it, Boromir? To excuse yourself of the guilt? To have both the indulgence and a clean conscience? Maybe next time you’ll ask me to take the belt to you? You know, to help you with the places you can’t reach? You call on me to scrub your back in the bath, why shouldn’t I take up this duty as well? ’Tis said some men enjoy that, can’t accept the pleasure unless it hurts. Is that what you want to come to? Because at this rate, it’s certainly where it looks to me that you’re heading.” He took a breath, then finished with firm conviction, “I would love you always, Boromir, always, and I would never turn from you – but if you bear on treating yourself thus, in all honesty I don’t think I could continue to admire you.”

For the longest time he let his words stay in the air, and when at last Boromir looked up, hunched and dishevelled as he was, and his grey eyes searched the boy’s face, still Faramir said nothing.

Boromir’s mouth curved into a parody of a grin. “Do you know, this actually hurts worse than I could manage with the belt.”

“I am so sorry,” Faramir said quietly, lowering his face. “But you needed to hear it, and someone had to say it.”

“But it is true. I ought to be a man about this.” Boromir closed his eyes for a moment, then said with more firmness, “I ought – and I will. I shall take it in stride. If anything, I owe you this much – this and so much more…”

Faramir frowned. “And when have I ever asked for anything of you?” he countered with disapproval. “All I need is that you let me love you, even in hardship – especially in hardship. This wish you are at full liberty to grant me.”

Boromir rubbed his hand upwards over his face. “That doesn’t sound like much,” he pointed out, and a smile begged entrance upon his lips. He could not understand how it happened, but before he knew it all darkness had left him, and vitality had filled his body anew, and all he could see was the warmth in his brother’s eyes.

Faramir stepped up to him, reached out to touch him on the face, and smiled in return. “But to me it is everything,” he said softly.

“But it is not that simple,” Boromir argued gently, for now he wanted to be gentle with Faramir, for now that the storm had passed it brought him pleasure to be gentle. “I am responsible for you.”

“Then so am I – for you. I am not a child, Boromir, and you are not answerable for the choices that I make.”

“Not a child,” Boromir repeated with a snort. “Now where’s all your renowned humbleness, young lord?”

And he caught Faramir by the arm and felled him down onto the bed, and Faramir, laughing, fell into his arms. But the sensation of his little brother’s lithe strength against his body was so profound, so full of life and heat that by some warped logic it made a wave of languid melancholy wash over Boromir. His grip on the boy’s shoulders slackened and he gazed up at the ceiling – and now that he was unprompted, the words came of their own volition.

“What kind of man am I becoming, Faramir?” he mused slowly, in idle wonder. “I sleep with my own brother, and persuade myself that needing it this bad somehow excuses me. I know that even if it is not wrong, it’s stupid given the danger, but I can’t find strength to put a stop to it… I can no longer even make myself believe I should try and put a stop to it. How easy it was to accept it in the morning, when I was high from making love to you. It has that effect, you know, your wits cloud over and you become all placid. But it wears off… and what do you see then? You say do it with pride, but where would I find so much pride, Faramir, if it is the very currency in which the payments for this bargain are taken? Each day I must give tribute. Pretend, lie, watch my back among my own men, say one thing and do another. How can I respect myself after that…? And how can I care so little?”

He turned his head to look at Faramir, and Faramir was looking back at him, seriously, his thoughtful eyes mere inches away from Boromir’s.

“Why?” Boromir asked of Faramir’s eyes. “Why, Faramir, does it have to be like this? Why me? I had never wanted such complicated shit in my life. I’m a straightforward man, you know that, a little on the rough side perhaps – I like things brutally simple. I like pure colours. Aye, I know, Father says that being the high lord is ultimately about choosing between bad and worse, and that everything is always very-very intricate, and that pure colours are garish… I used to think that was merely the sort of talk that comes with the territory and age, but… Why?”

Faramir raised his hand and ran a caress over the stray lock of Boromir’s black hair.

“I don’t know,” he said sincerely, and that was all he said, but such love shone in his voice that Boromir took his words as an answer, and was comforted.

They lay for a while more, and when Boromir’s fingers began to play with Faramir’s hair in that absentminded manner that Boromir had, the boy knew the hard part was over.

“I almost forgot,” Faramir murmured raising himself up on his elbow. “The servants have set up a bath for you. Why not go check on it? ’Tmust have cooled, but there’s a full cauldron hanging in the hearth.”

The offer was nothing if not tempting, and Boromir felt he could do with a hot bath indeed, to melt away the day’s distress, weariness, and all other unpleasant things. But as he sat up he remembered something and looked at Faramir with suspicion.

“Wait. I’d already wiped myself down at the quarters, as you know I always do after a day with the men. And I’ve never asked the servants to set a…”

Pursing his lips, Faramir quickly looked away.

An expression of delighted amazement came upon Boromir’s face, “You knew! You had known all along I was going to come here all wretched and acrid, and you’ve arranged it with the bath!”

The boy stood up and pulled him by the hand. “So I have – and I’m going with you, to help you wash.” He sounded both playful and decisive, a promise twinkling in his smiling eyes.

Boromir knew he perhaps ought to marvel at how quickly his little brother had found a sound footing in a world that was changing with nauseating speed, whereas he, Boromir, the older and the hardier of the two, was struggling so helplessly. But he decided he would marvel some other time, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, because for the time being he had had more food for thought than even an aspiring scholar, which Boromir was definitely not, could fit on his plate.

And in the spacious bathroom adjoining the bedchamber Faramir waited on his brother, and Boromir enjoyed it like he could not remember himself enjoying a bathing before. When with a little gasp the man lowered himself into the steaming fragrant water, Faramir hiked up his sleeves and soaped his brother’s hair, and rinsed it with cool herbal infusions, and dried it with a towel, and brushed it gently with a wooden comb.

Boromir sighed deeply and sank a little deeper still. Faramir sat down by his side on a low wooden stool and closed his eyes, leaning his head against Boromir’s forearm that rested on the tub’s rim, and for a long time neither brother as much as stirred. The water smoothed out like a pane of looking-glass, only swaying subtly in the slow rhythm of Boromir’s breathing, reflections of candle-light sliding across it like faerie-lights. The outer world was far away, safely shut out by many a closed door; in that moment all was well, and it were such moments that would have to make it worthwhile – moments that were to be treasured like the most precious of precious gemstones, Faramir thought dreamily.

When wisps of vapour were no longer rising from the surface, the boy took a rough washcloth and scrubbed Boromir’s neck, shoulders, and back, careful to avoid the scratch-marks of his own making from the previous night. Then the young man stood up, water streaming down his body and dripping back into the tub, and Faramir washed the rest of him. Massaging the lather over the plains of Boromir’s body, Faramir kept his eyes low, assuming a mien as no-nonsense and business-like as he could, sensing quite strongly that if he were to as much as glance up at Boromir, both of them would swiftly end up in the tub or on the cold wet floor, either of which would be far less comfortable than the vast mattress beckoning in the next room.

He had waited all day, patiently, it had seemed to him, he had even thought he had inured himself to the possibility that his brother might not be in the mood for anything at all tonight – how could these last few minutes be so trying? The anticipation so sweet and sharp it threatened to suffocate him, Faramir could barely walk in a straight line as he followed the content, unwary and seemingly unsuspecting Boromir to the bed.

Stepping up to him from behind, the boy enringed the young man’s waist with his arms. He pressed himself hard against Boromir, inhaling the clean humid scent of his damp hair, snuggling to the broad cozy strength of his back. He felt as a weary battered boat coming at last into its home harbour, and he could have stood in this unreflecting peace forever but for his love being young, and restless, and hungry. He smiled – and set to undo the knot of Boromir’s bathrobe girdle. At this the young man tilted his head back and exhaled deeply, and Faramir took it as a welcome to his unambiguous advances.

“Why did you even do it up? You knew it would have to go right away,” the boy murmured with a chuckle as his fingers untied the sash. But Boromir heard his voice catch and falter, and knew his brother’s nonchalance was but a pretence.

The man turned around – and his darkened, hazy gaze made Faramir’s pulse race and heat rush to his face.

Boromir leant to him with decisive swiftness and squeezed his mouth with a close hard kiss, ungentle a prickly, a man’s kiss. In a moment he drew away – and as they looked at each other, both knew that it was right, that it could not be otherwise.

As Faramir gazed into his brother’s eyes, his chest swelled with violent, uncontainable happiness. They loved each other, and tonight they were safe. And they would not be in a hurry, for much as they were both men and ignited easily, this love was too dearly bought to rush it. The night lay before them – a whole night to be together, to be happy, to love, a night that was theirs, only theirs, each and every heartbeat of it.

The boy smiled at Boromir and pushed the robe open, off his lover’s shoulders, and it slid to the floor with a soft rustle – and Faramir’s hands slid down the man’s body, very lightly and very slowly. And when his fingers came to below his brother’s navel, he saw that Boromir was ready to love him.

To Be Continued

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29 Comment(s)

That’s one very promising beginning and I’ll patiently wait for any update!

— bijou    Tuesday 29 June 2010, 19:52    #

Ok, и сейчас я хочу сказать тебе две вещи, которые я еще не говорила, но которые пришли мне в голову во время чтения: первое, ты будто читаешь мои мысли. Я нахожусь в вечной нужде по рассказам о Фарамире и Боромире (моя любимая пара) и Фарамире-Арагорне (потому что это моя вторая любимая пара). И тут ты вдруг пишешь о них, причем именно в том контексте, который мне всегда хотелось видеть. А во-вторых, нашла еще одну точку соприкосновения – отношения с отцом. Да, именно такими они и должны были быть.
Я просто бузумно рада!Ты отразила все мои желания даже без моих просьб. Фэнкью вэри мач! Но, пожалуйста, не тени слишком долго!

— Anastassiya    Wednesday 30 June 2010, 17:23    #

This is very intriguing. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

— balrog    Monday 5 July 2010, 20:54    #

Great beginning. Very nicely done! Definitely will try to be patient… not good at patience!

Alcardilmë    Wednesday 7 July 2010, 6:30    #

Fascinating first chapter. Even the summary was intriguing!

— trixie    Saturday 10 July 2010, 5:09    #

Very interesting. Faramir has grown so much in the second chapter—you have his thoughts and feelings… I don’t have the right words. Perfectly?

— Bell Witch    Tuesday 17 August 2010, 6:43    #

Dear December,

I’m torn by two thoughts: first, I was upset a little that after such frank declaration of affection from Boromir nothing happened between them and second, I’m even glad that nothing happened, because I would like to see “liaison” not between boys but between adult wise men who perfectly understand what they do.
I very like that Faramir’s sudden outburst of indignation when Boromir displayed his trouble regarding his brother’s condition and I wanted even Faramir to be more stubborn and harsh in that moment.
Your descriptions of Faramir’s formation as a warrior and captain are gorgeous and I’m glad you paid so much attention to this question but I want more emotions and feelings in your story! Give them to me!!! Only you can do it!
And thank you for this wonderful story!

— Anastasiya    Tuesday 24 August 2010, 4:23    #

Nastia, thank you!
Mm, contradictions! In your first comment on this story you said the setting of the relationship was just as you would like to see – but now suddenly you wish they waited till they are older. Why the change, my dear?
And you say you’d rather see grown men who know what they are doing – so you think that if they wait a few years, they will understand themselves and each other better…?
In any case, I’m glad you say you are ‘torn’ by opposite wishes – for my part, I just love being torn like that! And, well, at least one of your wishes is sure to come true.
As for ‘more emotions’ – well, well, I wonder what you are going to say after the next two or three chapters…

December    Wednesday 25 August 2010, 9:19    #

М-да, возможно, противоречие здесь действительно есть, моя дорогая. Но только я ведь не говорила, что хочу, чтобы отношения между ними тут же закрутились. Мне вполне нравится мысль о том, что любовь эта проснулась еще в юности и даже проявилась в некоторой степени, а все то, что было с нею связано в интимном плане, началось уже горазда позднее. И я серьезно считаю, что в молодости (такой ранней, кстати) все делается по глупости, согласно порывам, а вот потом уже более осознанно.
А что я скажу после следующих глав, ты узнаешь только тогда, когда напишешь их, диа. А когда это будет…?

— Anastassiya    Thursday 26 August 2010, 8:52    #

Настя, спасибо за ответный коммент)
Такая ранняя молодость – это мы, я так понимаю, о Фарамире? А что же старший брат, ему же уже не 15, мозги уже вроде должны быть, или нет?
Тут, конечно, можно бы изречь классическую фразу про то, что любви все возрасты и т.д., а еще вспомнить Ромео и Джульетту и сколько им было лет – хотя у них там, стоит признать, действительно не очень хорошо все кончилось. Но, какая штука, я с тобой спорить и не буду: в юности в голове действительно дури побольше будет, а тут еще первая любоф… Хотя, как говорится, седина в бороду и пр. так что и в зрелых летах никто не застрахован от безудержных страстей… (это уже см. Том 2 данной истории…)
Но мне вот что интересно: мы с тобой опять вернулись к разговору о “порывах” и “осознанности” – и в данном случае уже ты выступаешьв роли поборника здравого подхода к отношениям)А если честно, мне твоя мысль, что любовь проснулась в юности и потом ждала до зрелости – мне эта мысль тоже очень нравится, честно. Будь я их мамой, я б им так и сказала: мальчики, подождите же вы, эк вас! Но, однако же, в данной ситуации от моих взглядов мало что зависит, у них там своя логика… Так что будем посмотреть, во что это всё выльется.

December    Thursday 26 August 2010, 9:30    #

It looks like you have a long journey planned, and I love the care you are taking with the details along the way.

Faramir’s thoughts on war are very profound and quite in keeping with the character.

Knowing how it will end makes the development of the relationship between the brothers especially wrenching.

— trixie    Saturday 28 August 2010, 16:29    #

trixie, thank you for reading and leaving your kind comment.

Yes, indeed, the journey ahead is a long one…
It has always greatly intrigued me how it came to be that the brothers had turned out to be so different in the end, and what roads had led them to becoming the men we meet at the time of the War. So the subject is getting quite a bit of attention in this story – and I am glad you find it interesting to follow. Which is not to say, of course, that all we are ever going to get here is serious thoughts on the meaning of life and so forth – people (including readers) do need some light-hearted diversion once in a while, right…?

I also very much like how you use the word ‘wrenching’ to describe the brothers’ relationship. I had not thought of it this way before – but now that you mention it, I find that indeed, at least for certain periods of their lives, the term captures the mood perfectly.

Again, thank you for reading, chapter three is soon to be released.

December    Sunday 29 August 2010, 11:22    #

I absolutely agree about the need for “light-hearted diversion”! I think that is especially true for those serving in the military and experiencing and witnessing the things they do. Besides, don’t we all experience the full range of human emotions in our lives? I have read fics that portray them as as always stoic and/or angsty. Other times writers are criticized for “inappropriately” inserting humor. Those in the military are especially in need of diversion from all that they experience and witness and I can’t imagine a relationship between brothers that didn’t include light-hearted moments.

— trixie    Monday 6 September 2010, 18:29    #

trixie, it’s interesting you bring up dealing with military stress. The subject is going to get quite a bit of attention in the following chapters :)
As for humour, I think itthat, as long as it is of the appropriate kindis never out of place per se. Especially in this fandom, since both the Book and Movie sport quite a few moment one can smile at.

Again, thank you for reading!

December    Wednesday 22 September 2010, 13:53    #

Oh my god. You are so brilliant. I have no words.

— cecilia    Wednesday 22 September 2010, 18:23    #

This story is so finely written — every word is relevant, your characterisation of Boromir and Faramir in-depth and very realistic. Thank you for a rich and fascinating tale! (I’m so happy it’s going to be long — it’s wonderful news for us readers ;-)

— bloodybouffoon    Monday 27 September 2010, 16:32    #

Ох-ох, чует мое сердце, ты собираешься нас (т.е. читателей:))) опрокинуть в следующей главе…Такое многообещающее начало и раз! нате вам – конец главы. Нет, это точно подвох. И в следующей главе, наверное, в ком-то из них разыграется чувство “неправильности” происходящего, и все оттянется на неопределенное время.., и вот будет облом!)))))))) Это были так, мысли вслух… Не обижайся))
Ты как всегда на высоте, а Боромир… О, бедный Боромир! И что это Фарамиру вздумалось обнажиться прямо перед ним! Представляю себе, как ему теперь сложно будет объяснить свое “странное” поведение)). Но, видимо, как-нибудь придется. Надеюсь только, ой-ой, тут же нельзя надеяться)), но все же надеюсь, что поведение он свое объяснит своими действиями)).. Жду следующей главы.))

— Anastassiya    Tuesday 28 September 2010, 12:29    #

cecilia, bloodybouffoon, thank you so very much for your kind words! Most appreciated!

Настя, что за слова такие, “облом”, “опрокинуть” – не ты ли говорила, что лучше бы им подождать несколько лет? ;-) Передумала, моя дорогая?)

И мне очень интересно узнать твои мысли в слух, и твои надежды – надеяться, я думаю, вполне даже можно) Так что продолжай)

А что касается Фарамира… Ну, не будет же человек в уличной одежде спать ложиться?))

December    Wednesday 29 September 2010, 16:54    #

ой-ой, милая, не забывай о противоречивости человнеческой натуры))). Сюжет о “взрослой” любви мне, конечно же, самый близкий, однако же когда дело доходит до таких вот моментов, мне вовсе не хочется откладывать их на будущее)). Я вполне терпимо отнесусь, если все случиться, а потом… Сама, короче, решишь))).

— Anastasiya    Thursday 30 September 2010, 5:51    #

Ах да, это я просто не могу не написать)) – помнишь, ты писала, что не любишь, когда мальчики начинают “тупить”? Хи-хи! Вот я тоже не люблю! И если их губы сейчас коснуться друг друга и на этом все кончиться только потому, что Боромир решит свалить, я буду ОЧЕНЬ-НУ-ОЧЕНЬ-И-ОЧЕНЬ сердита)) и раздражена)). Ну, в общем-то, я думаю, ты этого не сделаешь.

— Anastasiya    Thursday 30 September 2010, 5:59    #

A wonderfully written story, as usual. I especially love the second chapter, and the stark contrast between the man Faramir (the warrior) and the boy Faramir (the lover). By the way, the summaries are really good.
Gaaah, authors should not be allowed to provoke such strong curiosity and longing in their readers then leave them hungering for the next chapter… I am impatient to read the rest!

Nerey Camille    Tuesday 30 November 2010, 15:25    #

Ah – a different sort of cliff-hanger – and still a cliff-hanger. My goodness – the depth of your writing is astounding. The depth of what you reveal about the brothers is even more astounding. I adore this story! But – I was looking at the opening blurb and am beginning to think this is not going to end well…… Does anything ever end well for Boromir?

Alcardilmë    Thursday 2 December 2010, 4:33    #

I am at a loss for words; you write so beautifully, so romantic, so…you just light up my dark, dull winter days with this wonderful story! :) Thankyou!

— Admirer :)    Friday 3 December 2010, 15:03    #

what a wonderful story! so beautiful and touching.
i was happy for the brothers, but at the same time, worried for them as well. kind of bittersweet.
thank you so much.

— traveller    Sunday 12 June 2011, 17:56    #

Bravo! You manage to let us know in detail all of the details of the changes in Boromir while still letting us know that he isn’t dwelling or thinking deeply on these matters. Also, you manage to point out his prideful nature in a way that does not make him an unsympathetic character. I feel that these things are an integral part of Boromir’s character (and, unfortunately, his eventual
downfall). Again, well done!

— trixie    Sunday 12 June 2011, 19:13    #

Just noticed I’m so behind on answering comments here…
Thank you, everyone, so much for reading and saying all the kind things! It means very, very much to me.

Hm, I do indeed find it quite impossible to write Boromir without at least a bit of bitterness, the notion just seems to follow him around. And to me that bitterness somehow makes him only the more sympathetic. I remember, as a small child I used to be strongly annoyed by all his human flaws of character which were all the more irritating in contrast to the other protagonists’ total goodness and maturity. But with time I have somehow come to feel a very sharp fondness for him precisely because of this. Not to mention how addictive it is to work with him, he provides such a grateful soil for all sorts of personal conflict :)

December    Tuesday 14 June 2011, 11:37    #

Very good story. Lord of the Rings male pairings are my favorite sort of fanfiction to read. And my most favorite character is of course Faramir. And what makes a more dramatic story than two brothers participating in a love that is by law forbidden? Nothing! I will definitely be dropping in regularly to check for updates. You are a very good writer and I would be happy to read other stories written by you. I would begin writing fanfictions like these myself if only I had a decent Shakespearean tongue!

— Al'iyah    Sunday 26 June 2011, 22:54    #

I absolutely love this story. It is so sexy its incendiary. Great, believable characters with depth and complex issues. Well done. Anxiously await more.

— petey156    Sunday 7 October 2012, 19:34    #

I like it. I drew some pictures yet to it. Will you continue ?

— katiedaly    Monday 21 January 2013, 20:20    #

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About the Author


Greetings, fellow fan, and welcome!

What to expect to find here: All the stories are based on Book-verse for looks and personalities, although you will often find the canon bent (hehe) in terms of events. Please prepare for an unhurried, often bitter-sweet read with lots of sexual tension.

A bit about me for those interested: feisty redhead headquartered in New Zealand. Living in a wooden house in the old forest not far from the sea – probably goes some way to explain why I write what I do. Other than reading and writing, my passions are music, visual arts, travel, gardening, dance, horses, acrobatics, medieval martial arts, jewellery making, banter, and above all chocolate.

Was introduced to Tolkien at the tender age of six, was never the same since.

Always keen to collaborate with all ye good folke in the fandom. Feel free to get in touch if you’re looking for a beta reader, too. Please, also, if you’re one of the dudes in the fandom, I would really really appreciate if you could please take a moment to share a bit of your perspective on how authentically my stories portray relationships between men.

Also, if you’re looking to visit New Zealand, happy to offer a bed and breakfast (second breakfast negotiable).