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This story is rated «NC-17», and carries the warnings «angst, somewhat AU, hurt-comfort themes, implied het relationship.».
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All Colours are Born of Grey (NC-17) Print

Written by December

11 January 2019 | 18156 words

Title: All Colours are Born of Grey
Author: December
With: Aragorn, Éowyn
Rating: R
Warnings: angst, somewhat AU, hurt-comfort themes, implied het relationship.
Summary: Just when the Steward and the King thought they could find a sliver of innocent comfort in each other, one evening it begins to turn into something more.

Every night begins with him being embarrassed – ashamed, even – practically begging the King not to.

Not once does Aragorn heed – and not that, in his heart of hearts, does he truly wish it were otherwise.

And so every night, starting from the very day of his return from that surreal journey to Rohan, the emerald plains of which he hopes to never again be forced to behold – every night the Lord of Gondor firmly shuts the door to the Steward’s chambers, sealing the wall between them and the world out there. The world that knows not only no mercy – no justice at all, so it would seem.

Grieved, burdened, uncertain – they are united as though specifically by virtue of their common guilt. What offence, really, is the little comfort they allow themselves in the face of their eternal, irreversible culpability.

Of course, they say ‘it is not your fault’ to each other many a time before the bleakness of dawn begins to leak through the curtains – but what can words change? As fallen leaves cannot be glued back on their tree, so appeasing statements cannot reverse the truth.

Only in the gut of night, when there is only the warmth and the breathing of a living person by his side, does it feel that there might yet be room for peace on his plate.

“My lord,” he says when three weeks have passed, and he does not look Aragorn in the face, for fear of seeing that Aragorn would actually agree with him, “I hear folk are starting to wonder.”

“Let them wonder,” Aragorn says simply, with the serene unaffectedness of one whose conscience is clean.

“But…” this time Faramir does look up, “what of the Queen?”

A shadow of a wince passes over the older man’s lean face, as though a recurrent headache has just threatened a comeback.

“Ah, that…” he only utters, and gives a slight dismissive shrug as though to assure Faramir that this, although an understandable concern, is in fact in no way related to their situation.

Faramir cannot see how it could possibly not be most directly related – nor does he wish his personal pain to cause conflict in the lives of others. His sentiments must clearly enough show in his face, for Aragorn sighs and crosses his arms.

“Well, it would be fairly sound to allow that, just as you have pointed out, she too could have heard I spend my nights outside my bed,” he says too levelly for the levelness to sound fully natural.

And so Faramir asks no more, for the screaming contradiction between the dryness of his liege’s tone and the inconceivable message in the actual words is a clear enough warning to not tread on this ground.

Then comes that night. On the face of it, it is little different from all the previous ones. Maybe he becomes aware of the one small nuance only because he happened to wake up at this particular point in time.

Just as before, they lie together under one fur-lined cover as though they are blood kin, only now in his sleep the King has shifted to him so that their bodies are, in fact, touching.

He has always been most mindful of his sire’s personal space, especially since Aragorn has taken to sharing his sheets, and by day it would have been beyond mortifying to merely imagine that they might come this close. Yet it is not day, and now that his propriety sensor seems pacified by the darkness, by the slowness of the sleeping King’s breath, by the deep warmth that has seeped into his very bones, he is unsettled not at all.

In fact, ‘touching’ is somewhat of an understatement. Aragorn has sidled up to him from behind and is hugging him around the middle, and maybe the top half of Faramir’s sleeping garments had hiked up, or maybe the King’s hand had crawled under it – somehow it does not seem important now – Aragorn’s firm dry palm is pressed right to the nakedness of his belly.

Faramir smiles. Quite likely, for the first time since – well, that day.

For a fleeting moment he is ashamed of his quiet joy – how dare he be happy in a time like this. But he is so weary – of shame, guilt, regret. Especially as he knows there will be no end of it – and this is such an innocent little light in the muted dimness of his days. To be held like this, in this protective, older-brotherly way… As though Aragorn senses a boy in him, a boy alone but too stubborn and cautious to accept this comfort in his waking hours – and therefore it has to be given him when he does not see. Faramir’s smile broadens at this thought.

When was the last time he had felt this wanted, this welcome?

I am tired, she had said. More than once she had. He should have heard. How could have he possibly not heard?

I am tired, she had said. She could not have given him this, for she had no strength for it, no warmth left to share when she did not even have enough for herself.

Not so with Aragorn. Aragorn has enough to share – needs to share, in fact, for he too asks himself these same questions – how could have he not seen, how could have he not begun to worry in time? That strange comment about the Lady Arwen, implying that only through hearsay would she learn where her husband abides by night. Which in turn would imply that she does not even anticipate him to be where the logic of marriage would suggest. Does this mean then, that just as Faramir has no one else whose warmth to feel and sleeping breath to hear, neither does his-?

With Aragorn’s tough, sinewy arm wrapped over his waist, and the man’s bony ankle hooked over his shin, he struggles to think of Aragorn in the terms of his formal titles.

Lord. His lord, he reminds himself before he slips back into slumber.

The next night Aragorn does not come.

It is only in that purposeless hour, as he sits on the edge of his bed at a loss what to do with himself, that Faramir realises how presumptuous he had been in his earlier resolve to tell his sire this very evening that there was no longer need for concern – and therefore for the visits. For he had felt so grounded, so soundly tied to this earth the previous night – although of course he would not explicitly refer to that – that it was bound to be quite beyond doubt that at least on his behalf there would no pining or withering. He was safe from that fate.

This was why they were doing it, was it not?

So that Faramir would not fall prey to the same stealthy, proditory menace. So that Lord Aragorn would keep an eye on him and through that be comforted himself in knowing his Steward is well – reasonably well, of course, as much as could be hoped for for a man in his circumstances.

But if that were so, if that were the full and only truth, why is he not come tonight?

Steward Faramir lies atop his bed, atop the unwrinkled fur-lined blanket, fully clothed and shod, thinking this thought, well into the night. It should not be so important, he understands, for of course any man, and the King tenfold so, is called on by many a matter and cannot be reasonably expected to be available every minute his company might be desired – and yet…

Not that it should matter, but the memory – the sensation – of that hand under his shirt, the long fingers resting so habitually on the plain of his abdomen – it is never far from the top of his mind. As time passes, it intertwines tighter and tighter with his question, and somehow he comes to be quite certain that his lord, too, knows of what has transpired. Except that nothing did – nothing of significance, at any rate.

His day, exactly like those preceding it, passes in a dream-like haze. Like visions, like scenes from a story many times reread, familiar and in that familiarity distant and boring.

Until she died he had not been remotely aware of the existence of so many shades of grey. The grey of the empty palace halls, the grey of the overcast sky, of dusty windowpanes, of daylight, of his own skin. Her absence is like a hole, a pit, an ulcer that sucks all the juices out of what remains of his living days. Leaving behind only the hollow, dry husks and shells of the once meaningful things.

It is only by night that his senses awaken and with them returns the proper saturation of colours. The brightest of all is, of course, the brilliant grey of his King’s eyes.

Because now, after twenty four hours of waiting and not knowing, twenty four hours crossed out of Faramir’s preordained and ever-dwindling measure of time, Aragorn is finally come again.

As though there had never been this little lapse, this accidental misstep in the rhythmic pace of their comforting exchange.

Or perhaps not exactly so.

“I am sorry,” Aragorn says somewhat sternly as he sits down on his side of the mattress, with his back to Faramir. “About last night. That I left you.”

“Please,” Faramir objects warmly. “I am not ill, your Majesty. There is no need for a constant vigil at my bedside.”

“That may be,” Aragorn agrees, pulls off his royal tunic and reaches for the plain night-shirt. “And my apology is, I suppose, more for the reasons of my not coming than for the actual not being here.”

“Then I assume it was not the marital duty that withheld you?”

Aragorn goes still, his gown forgotten in his lap. All the thews in his bare back have gone stiff and taut, as though it was not a harmless combination of words but a ray of arrows loosened on him and he longs to be cased in armour and not naked skin.

Yet Faramir decides against taking it back with an apology, for from some cue he cannot quite define even to himself he knows that the King needs him to bring this up, blunt and tone-deaf though it may be.

“No indeed,” Aragorn says at last. His voice is stern and worn, yet free of resentment, and Faramir knows he has made no mistake.

The King offers no explanation, but strangely Faramir wants to smile for the second time since that day. What a great luxury, to have his thought occupied with someone else’s sorrow and not his own.

One thing he has come to appreciate about grief is that there is little need for decorum in the face of pain, it justifies nigh anything. A level of trust that would otherwise be unwise, a degree of openness that would be inappropriate, a king sitting half-naked in his steward’s bedroom, ready to tell him what it is nobody’s business to know.

“You ache,” Faramir says quietly and very gently, “but I do not understand.”

Aragorn shifts on the bed and makes to turn to him, but pauses midway so that Faramir is looking at him but he is still looking at the wall.

“Mind if I harass you with a tactless question?” Aragorn asks of the wall.

“That would only seem fair, sire, seeing as I started it.”

“Can you imagine yourself ever being with a woman again? With… another woman?”

“No,” Faramir says simply, without thinking. Then he remembers the hand, the warm hand on his belly, and feels himself blush and his thoughts rush, although this is beside the point, altogether beside the point. To get himself together more than anything else, he elaborates, “Not as of right now, I cannot – though frankly I cannot envision how that would change with time either. I could not be with another lady without thinking – of her. It would not be fair.”

Aragorn nods, as though receiving an expected confirmation. “Another tactless question then. Do you think you will miss it?”

“Well,” Faramir grins softly: the king’s tone leaves little ambiguity as to what exactly he is speaking of. “It is a sweet thing, one certainly cannot deny that. But I don’t expect it being gone will weigh on me overmuch.”

“No?” Aragorn looks up as he asks this, and Faramir sees confusion in his eyes, as though the man is searching for direction.

“I…” suddenly Faramir wants to sit down beside him, to take him by the hand. He is startled by the impulse and does not follow it, for he knows that to this question his king desires an answer of substance, something that will help him make sense of things.

“You see, my lord,” Faramir begins slowly, “I had, not unlike you, had quite some years on my own before taking a wife, and so I’d grown rather accustomed to how it feels. Some of our soldiers would go to willing women to relieve the loneliness, but I could never truly relax into it, and would feel guilty afterwards, so I did not seek it much. I suppose it is not dissimilar to how Master Pippin had explained to me about the hobbit fashion: if you walk unshod all the time, you do not notice the ground is cold.” He wonders if he should stop at this, but Aragorn is listening keenly, more so than before, and so Faramir continues: “I’ll admit, I did expect it to change with marriage. I thought this is when the ‘good times’ begin, that we would do nothing all day but make love – then have supper, and make love again. And with Éowyn,” he stumbles, for it is difficult to pronounce her name, because the name sounds just a before, but she is not here, and his mind refuses to get around the paradox.

Faramir exhales and takes a new breath. “We’d had our good times indeed, especially in the beginning – although not as I had imagined. It would seem,” he cannot stop himself from grinning, “I did not know until I had the chance to find out, but apparently I am one of those men who cannot get enough. Perhaps it is the toll of the seasons that my passion had had to be subdued – and likewise for her, she had had too many years without affection and tenderness. It were them that she sought of me above all, and my greatest joy was to make her happy. So as for my hunger, I figured since satisfying it was not feasible, it best be kept out of the picture altogether.”

Aragorn keeps eyeing him, and Faramir does not like the look of the man’s face. Is it disbelief? Disappointment? Or rather disappointment with himself?

“And you… could do that? You were happy with that?” Aragorn enquires at last.

“Maybe I was just fortunate enough to never have known anything better,” Faramir says carefully, “but I love her, and to my best knowledge, I was happy.”

Aragorn draws a sharp breath – then another one, and another, and Faramir’s eyes round as he realises what is happening. Before he can say a word, the King stands up abruptly, and his fair noble face is dark.

“I can’t,” he states adamantly, cutting through the air with his words. “If you could, then I should too – but I can’t.” The degree of hurt and anger in his eyes is unbearable to behold.

“I am so sorry,” Faramir whispers.

Aragorn averts his face to the wall once again. “You must forgive me,” he utters bitterly. “My woes are nothing compared to yours.”

To Faramir’s horror, the man swerves around and heads for the door.

“Wait!” Faramir calls, and his tone is so imperative he himself falls silent in shock, and Aragorn stops dead in his tracks.

Cautiously, seconds tiptoe by.

A minute falls away. Then another.

Faramir takes a breath.

“Don’t go,” he calls. “Please.”

The King replies without turning: “I am not certain it would prove to the benefit of either of us should I do as you ask.”

Yet he does not take another step for the exit – not just yet, and Faramir ventures on.

“Then how, my lord, could it be for the worse?”

“That I do not know,” Aragorn answers nervously. “I have taken it upon myself to help you, my boy, and for that you may think me the stronger. But know that the portion of our lives that still makes any sense to me is progressively withering, and I am afraid I can no longer know what to expect even of myself.”

“That much is fine by me, my lord – being made sense to is hardly something that befalls me all too often these days. And while I cannot imply that I hold any keys or answers that I could share with you, but maybe – maybe…”

“Yes…?” Aragorn turns his head just an inch, as though to hear better.

“Maybe that’s alright?” Faramir entreats, spreading his hands in supplication even though his king cannot see him. “Maybe clarity is more than can be found in a time like this? Maybe that one can give solace and be blessed with some in return – maybe that is enough?”

At this Aragorn finally faces him – and the expression he bears, Faramir realises with a jolt, is that of fear.

“Enough?” the man echoes, and swallows. “You would never guess how much so it indeed is for me. I had thought you needed me—”

“And I do!”

“Nay, you do not. You are not going to die, Faramir – you know that. And I know that. Yet still I come to you. Because…” his fingers curl.

“Does the ‘because’ matter? Or did I misunderstand your meaning and you in fact do have elsewhere to go for rest and comfort?”

To the Steward’s immense relief, his lord, albeit looking quite defeated as he does this, slowly returns to his former place, sits down exactly as before his attempted retreat – and only then gives his answer.

“Again, I do not know. I am a man married to one I had always desired – so the answer to your question ought to be beyond obvious. And yet it is not – for it is you, Faramir, you that I look forward through the whole damn day, to staying with in private with, to sharing an unguarded word, it is only you I could tell of what eats at me.”

“You have told me no such thing, your Majesty.”

“Then let me set that aright,” Aragorn suggests sternly. “I do not sleep with my wife. Never have. There. How is that for a confession?”

Faramir coughs.

“Don’t bother,” Aragorn says. “Not that there’s a correct thing to reply to that. Not that there’s anything to be done about that at all – ’tis a settled deal.”

“But…” Faramir searches for the polite way to put the inevitable question, then asks only, “Why?”

“Ah, I might have been a little self-indulgent in how I phrased it. ’Tis not that I don’t, but rather…”

“I see.”

“Yes.” Aragorn runs his fingers through his dark hair. “The naked truth of a mortal Man’s body, especially that of a Man in need… The life my lady had led left her unprepared for it. What Elven boys she may have chanced to inadvertently glance are far less uncomely beneath their clothes.”

Faramir blinks at his King’s back.

“I beg pardon – but what…?!”

“Do not take me wrong – there is great love between us,” Aragorn pronounces passionately, gently, almost dreamily, as a devout worshipper sensing the existence of his deity about to be doubted. “But this she could not step over – and who would blame her, if she had not known?”

He puffs his cheeks and lets himself fall backwards on the bed. The mattress springs under the weight of a tall warrior and gently prods him back up, but he remains splayed and unmoving.

“And sometimes it all feels fake. Just like that. Fake. A trickster’s gold. How can I say that? How can I be so ungrateful? ’Tis such a small thing, is it not? Is it not shallow to become fixated on it? She is giving up so much for me – can’t I give up this little in return? And yet I cannot shake off the feeling that this isn’t my life. That I’m being mocked – not by her, of course not, but—” he waves his hand in the air.

“I understand,” Faramir nods.

“Aye, I reckon you might. But what now? Maybe I am naive and simple-minded – but isn’t this supposed to be the part where we all live happily ever after unto the end of our days?”

“Sure is.”

“Tell me then – who is happy?”

“What of the Queen…?” Faramir inquires with caution.

Aragorn hums pensively. “I would think so. She tells me so herself, ’tis all exactly as she’d wanted. We do have intimacy, of sorts – by the Elven definition. Being with me brings her bliss and joy, I see that clearly – only to her… It is different, the degree of meaning a bodily touch has. The way that the sons and daughters of the Edain do their coupling is considered crude and barbaric.”

“Does the lady know…?”

“In part, yes. After a few months, I tried…” suddenly Aragorn looks ashamed, so ashamed that Faramir’s chest aches for him. “I sat her down and tried to reason her into it. Gently, of course, I never forced. I will never forgive myself for the look in her eyes. And how is this her fault? Only my own ignorance is to blame. Have you never wondered how it is they have so few children in unions thousands of years old…?”

“Yet nonetheless, there are children.”

“Ah, yes, we are seeing to that. No fear for the state of Gondor, my friend. See, on the propitious days of the moon, I take care of things on my end, and then – ah, just how pathetic is this?” Aragorn laughs.

“It is not—”

“Please. I know some men resort to this practice, to dealing with their own tension, before they take a wife – just appreciate the irony of starting afterwards.”

Faramir’s brows go up. “You had never—”

“Imagine that,” Aragorn confirms with another hollow laugh. “It seemed a disloyalty to my lady. Pretty much anything seemed a disloyalty to my lady. She was, in my eyes, perfection itself – not because I loved her and my vision was clouded, but because she was perfect. Like. No. Other. And how I yearned to be worthy of her, to justify the price she has to pay. Unlike all other men, whose women are likewise not without flaw, I did not have the luxury to be only human, even only in thought. I had awaited the day for sixty-seven years – ’tis a long time, and I won’t say I was never tempted.”

He looks up, back at Faramir standing behind him, and grins at the disbelieving confusion his last words have brought to his steward’s features.

“See? Even you have come to expect better of me. True enough, the prospect of another’s love had never threatened to lure me off the path, for my heart was safely locked for my lady alone – not so my loins. Isn’t it strange how they can each burn for their own thing? I never had welcomed these urges, they disgusted me, horrified me with their ability to resist the resolve of my honour and mind. But still, I could not rid myself of them. I… still can’t.”

“My lord,” Faramir begins gently. “But by your own logic, do you not reckon your lady deserves a little better than a man made miserable in her company? Or do you yet hope that if indeed you were given permission to consummate your bond in the Edain fashion, it would serve to your joy? You sound to me as a man who hungers for true ardour – and if our fair Queen had that in her, surely she would have bestowed the gift upon you already?”

Aragorn frowns stubbornly – not entirely unlike Boromir used to when outreasoned.

“If everything is as you say, then all has been in vain from the very onset – how can I accept that? This was the meaning of my entire life, Faramir, my heart’s only desire. Don’t take it personally, but the prospect of becoming King of Gondor, in and of itself, might not have been enough to get me to do all the deeds that I did. Mayhap, I am indeed a fool knowingly grasping on to an illusion, but ’tis easier to believe that the fault is with me, even if it cannot be fixed.”

“My goodness, sire, fault?” Also not unlike his beloved brother at times, the mighty King Elessar is beginning to test Faramir’s capacity for digesting absurdity.

“See, Faramir, I can throw away my pipe and my breath would be clear of the smoke, scrape my stubble clean off so my skin would be smooth like an Elven-boy’s; I can oil my hair and wash it in fragrant water so it will be like silk and not a dog’s pelt. But the rest,” Aragorn gestures down along the length of his body, “is made the way it is made, and not a damn thing there is to be done about that.”

Faramir can no longer suppress himself: he is appalled like he has not been for a long, long while – and this is very refreshing. Outrage is such an alive emotion. On an impulse, he bends forth to stand on all fours above his reclining liege.

“The rest is very beautiful,” he declares hotly – and when, startled, Aragorn once more looks up at him, upside-down as they are to each other, adds just as hotly: “As is your face. You are, all over, one of the most beautiful men I ever laid eyes upon. And if the Lady in three thousand years has not learnt what is to be found neath a man’s codpiece -”

Coming back to himself as one slapped, Faramir trails off.

“I… am sorry, your lordship,” he utters tightly, overcome with a different kind of heat this time, “that was… unkind.”

“Well, I’d say,” Aragorn agrees in amusement – and lets out a hale, merry snort.

Faramir makes to move back, away, to resume an appropriate distance – but Aragorn catches him on the forearm and keeps him in place.

“But do you mean it – what you said?” the lord questions, his voice for some reason a notch hoarse, his eyes alight with a sharp brightness.

The younger man feels a sudden constriction in his chest. The firm grasp on his arm is so warm, impossible to stop being aware of. As though at the point of contact of their bodies, mead is seeping through his skin into his very blood, and he catches himself growing light-headed.

“My lord, pray forgive me my forwardness, this conversation is not headed in a proper—”

“This conversation has long not been headed in a proper direction,” Aragorn agrees amiably. Then in a flash his face grows strict and proud, and much as he is lying on Faramir’s bed more undressed than not, Faramir is at once reminded why he had accepted this man as his sire without a second of peradventure.

“Answer me!” Aragorn orders in a voice as quiet as it is imperative. “Did you mean it?”

Faramir squares his shoulders and replies in kind, for albeit a vassal he is a lord too. “I believe we have lived side by side long enough, my king, for you to have seen proof that I am not in the habit of speaking without meaning what I say.”

Some string too deep inside him is pulled when he feels his liege’s fingers tremble on his arm, and he can say no more.

“Well, that’s a change of heart,” Aragorn pronounces at last. In this moment he more than ever reminds Faramir of Boromir – Boromir who too would get wary when his hidden vulnerabilities were threatened with exposure. “Just the night before last you were disinclined to have me stay – and now this. I…” Aragorn closes his eyes and slowly, very slowly exhales.

He makes to say something else, but does not. Faramir waits, and to his dismay sees the King’s face turn grave, closed.

“I should go now,” Aragorn says curtly. “I should have gone long before. It was indecent to brandish my woes at you to begin with – and even more so to subject you to these kinds of attentions. You,” he tears his hand away, with such visible reluctance as though it hurts his flesh to break the contact. “You are confused now, grieving, it would be…”

Faramir reaches out and touches him on the face, gently, frames the King’s cheek with his fingertips. There has been more than enough talk for one night.

Aragorn stares at him aghast.

Faramir registers the light-headedness return, twice the stronger, but keeps his hand in place. Boldness is a virtue, he has been taught this as a warrior.

“’Tis is a strange thing, is it not?” Aragorn murmurs cautiously as slowly he raises his own hand to bring over Faramir’s. The touch is uncertain, skittish, and he holds Faramir’s gaze as though thus he could prevent the younger man from entertaining second thoughts.

Faramir offers him an unsmiling grin.

“My wife died a strange death,” he says. “As did all my blood-kin. Am I in a position to not even give a chance to an offer of what might be a new beginning on account of it coming in strange circumstances?”

“Give a chance…?” Aragorn echoes him as though from a distance. “Well, fair enough, I reckon.”

“I worded that poorly—”

“No, ’tis better thus,” Aragorn closes his eyes again. “’Tis, quite likely, how it should be. That two should begin not with a pledge and a troth, but with naught more than hope in heart and caution in step.”

And at that, with a conclusive decisiveness Aragorn slides out from under his steward’s hovering form, and heads for the one candelabra keeping the room alight.

“If you would undress and lie down,” he says in a tone that makes certain Faramir will not forget that he is in the presence of the King – a king kind and patient, but king nonetheless.

“My lord?” Faramir cannot keep his voice entirely level.

“I apologise if this is somewhat – how did you put it? – forward, but I want you to know for certain – straight away,” Aragorn turns to him before snuffing out the last candle. “I cannot take it, Faramir, to have my hopes rise again – for naught. You have known many, but I have known none, to me it… it has… If you do not desire this after all, then tell me now – we’ll be done with it once and for all.”

“Will you not let me see?” Faramir calls, pulling his collar open as he had been asked to. He hears urgency in his own voice, but maybe it is for the best.

Aragorn hesitates, his fingers paused inches from the flame. His gaze follows the ministrations of Faramir’s hands, takes in the freshly exposed triangle of the young man’s chest, the chiselled rectangular elevation of a warrior’s pectorals so different, no doubt, from the white roundness of his wife’s maiden breasts he is not allowed to touch. There is longing in the King’s eyes, but also sadness, wistfulness even. It occurs to Faramir that perhaps his lord is thinking that maybe if he had taken care of the candles back on that festive midsummer’s night when all the City had been filled with lights and music and garlands of field flowers, if he had thawed her with the heat of his love before her sight could decide for her, maybe then things would have taken another course.

Aragorn’s gaze returns to his face. “You look so lovely with a blush,” the King says softly, and again there is sadness, as though this loveliness is not for his eyes to behold. “But no. Mayhap some other time – tonight, let the darkness guide your hand.”

His touch glides over the lean tautness of Aragorn’s breast muscle. His fingertips probe the softness of the small nipple that tightens and hardens as though with apprehension. So he repeats the caress, again and again until he feels the King, ever so subtly, press into his hand.

How has it come to this?

What will this come to?

Is he doing the royal family a favour, trying to give the Queen a happier husband?

Is he doing himself any favours at all?

He lets the questions slip away into the surrounding blackness, where they belong. He feels the other man shiver above him, and a puff of warmth caresses his cheek as the King’s breath hastens. He turns his face towards it, half-expecting, half-hoping Aragorn would erase the distance between their mouths – but the man does not, for he is waiting.

And so Faramir continues with his task. For his part, he believes he could skip the introductions, but he knows his lord will not accept an answer that is not supported with hard data.

He wishes that he were not so limited in methods, and the wish itself strikes him as curious in its oddness. A mere hour ago he had not detected any probability whatsoever of finding himself yearning, and yearning so clearly and consciously, for a taste of his king’s skin, for the feel of the man’s clavicle as he would try to enfold it with a kiss. Yearning for the scratch of the dark stubble against the softness of his wandering lips. Let alone for the gasp the King would no doubt fail to withhold were Faramir to pull that distrustful nipple into his mouth. But he has already gathered that even more so than everlasting loneliness his lord dreads profanity, and he must consider the possibility that to someone of Aragorn’s history even a lick to the throat may come seem quite vulgar indeed. Furthermore and more to the point, it would be unfair on Aragorn to start bestowing such pleasurable little promises before providing the man with a reliable assurance. For now, he must make do with his hands, and not allow himself too much even at that.

There is a vastness and a sweep to the plains of Aragorn’s body, to the steely span of his shoulders, to the way the long muscles of his back stretch on and fall away beneath Faramir’s palms. This is not a matter of merely height or girth – there is freedom and scale to the very make of the King’s body, there is inner, bone-deep iron strength, reticent and uncompromising, like unto that of a tree growing atop a field hill in proud solitude.

This man is all as though made to leap only, to heave, to swing a deadly, double-edged weight, to withstand, endure, and conquer. His is a practical, applied beauty – there is no place on him for pretty bits, no parts catering to the leisurely purpose of pleasing the eye. Nothing to cushion the self-effacing zeal of a ravenous lover, and what modest curves he does sport are all spiced with a bony angularity. He is made for action, and just maybe, he is also made for stoic patience in the face of a bigger purpose, for staying the course with his gaze fixed unblinking on the ultimate aim. What he has not been tailored for is lingering – suspended, tethered, without direction, without logic, as a sleek battle-ship forgotten in harbour sways, and nods, and rocks with the sempiternal, self-absorbed waves without moving an inch from the place of its timeless confinement.

Bizarre, outlandish thoughts begin to flicker through Faramir’s mind. Is this how it was, how he had felt to his unfortunate Éowyn – too big, too long, too tough, too hard, all fire and sparks, no place to cosy up against, to find peace?

Would have she, perhaps, fared better in the care of the tender Queen?

As his hand slides across the long road to the King’s lower back, the bumpy valley of Aragorn’s spine lying between two solid ranges of muscle, Faramir sees his wife resting her head on Lady Arwen’s chest, a quiet smile upon her white face. Thick strands of their unbraided hair fall together, like lustrous ropes of sunshine and midnight, like a complete solar eclipse.

Have they, all of them, made a mistake?

Lazily he speculates if this is an old family friend, lady Madness, come to pay him an exploratory visit. To try and ease herself in between the links of his reason like he heard she does, building connections between assorted bits of nonsensical randomness, immersing her helpless host into one of those absurdist dreams that easily make perfect sense so long as they are being dreamt. When she packs up and leaves, he might well regret his choices – but tonight all his concerns swirl away and dissolve like sugar in hot tea, and his fingers slide lower still.

The Princess of Rohan had never been the sort of woman whose backside would stretch a dress taut, and Faramir had never minded – he had often felt he could fit all of it into the palm of one hand, which somehow had endeared him almost to tears.

And likewise learning the shape of Aragorn’s lower body by blind feel, he is filled foremost with affection and gratitude, desire remaining in the background as a welcome side-effect. This with him is a mature man, not a young woman, and there is even less rounded voluptuousness in his king’s behind than what little had been in his wife’s, and somehow he likes this.

It seems to him he can feel the history of his beloved friend, his beloved king, in the man’s make, the many decades of toil and lonesome pilgrimage, cold rock his armchair and hard ground his bed, icy stream his bath and empty sky his roof. Decades of carrying a full load on his back, of practices that temper muscle and bone as a forger tempers battle steel. As loyalty to a dream tempers the spirit.

No, Faramir would not wish for the perky flesh of a light-hearted youth in his stead, for the flawless curves that bear no meaning, for a body that has known nothing but ready pleasures.

His fingertips lick over the underside of the man’s buttocks – so lightly, barely skimming over skin – but Aragorn gasps, and jolts, and much as there remains a safe measure of space between their naked bodies, for a moment, before it is hastily withdrawn, Faramir feels a hot, hard nudge to the stomach. The realisation takes a moment, for of course this had never happened with her.

Aragorn is panting above him, and although he utters no other sound, Faramir hears his lord’s shame.

The young man reaches up to touch him on the face, to reassure, but the King turns away, shuddering.

So Faramir makes to settle this elsewise, to affirm his acceptance – furthermore, his willingness – in a most unambiguous manner. Yet with no warning at all, Aragorn bats away his grasping fingers, so precisely as though the King can actually see his aim.

Faramir knows better than to insist – and so as to assure his lord of his complete obedience, of his respect for the King’s perfectly understandable sensitivity, he altogether takes his touch away and lies back on the sheets.

This is a long journey, and long journeys can seldom be made in one go.

Now that his hands rest idle on the linens, he comes back to himself a little to grow aware of how tense and flushed he himself is, of his head spinning and a droplet of sweat sliding down his temple. Aware of a hot dryness burning in his gut – and also of the scent of his own desire rising as steam from his skin. He marvels how the King cannot smell it on him, how there is still place for doubt.

Faramir shuts his eyes.

He cannot be certain that he has not erred in his judgement, going too far too soon – but once an arrow is shot, there is no altering its flight, and knowing Aragorn, they might not get a second chance at all.

“If you do not let me,” Faramir reasons quietly, “we will never know what might have been.”

He does not know whether it is the rational grain in his words, or something else, the very sound of his voice perhaps – but slowly, the King nods.

He feels Aragorn grow into his hand, and it is a sensation as exciting as it is strange. His light touch is as though changing the actual composition of the other man’s flesh, crystallising all traces of the soft and the supple out of it, making it like unto star-metal awaiting rebirth at the hands of a talented Elven-smith.

It is fascinating how quickly everything in him rises to the task, how his palm begins to glow with the warmth of the strokes only yet to come. How could he, how could have he lain for all these nights by Aragorn’s side and not become mesmerised by the possibility, so real, so easy, so within reach? But he is yet capable of reminding himself that his errand is, in fact, only tangent to this beguiling prospect, and that were he to give ground to the mood of the moment and without further ado set to speeding things to their logical conclusion, it would abridge what fragile trust he has managed to earn.

With one final brush of his finger-pads bidding an interim goodbye to where he is determined to return before long, Faramir quests lower. To complete what had been asked of him, to acquaint himself with every angle of his lord’s unfortunate innocence.

In the crease of the groin his skin is so untoughened, so shiveringly tender, and it is impossible to understand how it can coexist in such close proximity with the lean rigidness of the long muscles of the thigh. When Faramir moves down over the thigh, the feel is even and sleek, but no sooner than he turns back his progress is halted by the many little hairs curling up against his palm. He enjoys the notion, and somehow it amuses him to think that the exact same effect would take place if he were to rub his own leg. He repeats the little play, and it is just a tad bit scratchy, and he finds that very earthy and cosy.

It is a stark, exquisite contrast when he cups from beneath the more delicate components of his lord’s masculine manifest. They weigh roundly into his hand, so sensitive, full, such unreasonably fine skin. He is reminded, as though from far away, of how her breasts used to weigh into his hands when she would bow over him.

The reminiscence brings sadness, but that of a gentle, diluted sort, for it is sweetened with the new purpose her passing has given him, ironic as that in itself may be. Once again he tells himself not to dismiss the possibility of soon parting with his sanity, for it all seems to be coming together now. A warped, uncanny sense emerging from the messy tangle of grief, secret woes and broken dreams, the little individual tragedies arranging themselves into graceful shimmering constellations upon the inner sky of his mind.

So be it, he thinks. He is tired of analysing, of driving his thought at the pointless pursuit of the clever and obvious solution that would prevent what has already come to pass. So be it if there is some bigger meaning to this – so be it if there is not.

Aragorn has not uttered another word. Aside from the involuntary jolts he makes when his steward wanders across the more finely-wired spots, he seems grimly bent on remaining an unintrusive observer to his own premiere, patiently enduring whatever new ideas strike the younger lord’s fancy.

Faramir no longer trusts himself to judge whether this is a good sign or not. He fondles the hard curve of the King’s hip-bone – sweetly, acutely aware of how good it feels to be lying like this with Aragorn, so close, so engrossed, so safe in their private little universe where all the threads are coming to fit together at last. And to that end, he is drawn, inexorably, to return to where it is the hottest and hardest of all, and he has ceased to care whether the permission be being granted to him through weariness, desire, or hope, through love or fear. He simply shifts his hand sideways, and a primitive test as it is, it works, for the King is swift to match this slight movement with one of his own, just as faint – but it is enough.

As though without any conscious intention on his behalf, Faramir’s fingers close into the simplest, most harmonious of shapes, a snug and familiar hold. A perfect circle. Perfect intimacy.

The King sighs.

Faramir does not want it to end, wants it to never end. He does not even move, for he wants to set this moment in amber, to keep it unchanged till the end of his days. For this is not about body parts and lustful caresses, this is not for pleasure or pity – but a sensation of such startling kinship that he dreads to as much as inhale lest he spoil it.

So it is not he, it is Aragorn who takes the reverie a step further, who asks for it with his hips clearer than he ever could in any of the spoken languages of Middle-earth.

Faramir knows the guard will not be let down, even now, especially now, knows Aragorn will not be coaxed to relax onto his steward and lie atop him – but the distance is intolerable. So with his other hand he grasps, and hoists himself up, and hides his face on the older man’s shoulder, and it is strong and solid against his cheek. He is clinging, hanging on Aragorn for support, and he can feel the strain in Aragorn’s frame, and his own nose is positively squashed against the bone of his lord’s chest. But he is filled to the brim with this dear, kindred scent, and as it expands his lungs he hears it call to something good and ancient in the depths of his memory, and he forgets all about bodily comfort. And what does comfort matter, for they are floating, and the tide is gentle, and what can a man afloat do but row – slowly, thoughtfully, for it is so intuitive, so little physical effort, like conducting a symphony with the sole motion of his wrist.

He wishes to never strike shore, to sail, and sail, off into the bright radiant blue, away from here, away from anywhere at all.

He sees blazing sunsets and rosy sunrises, he sees whipped creamy clouds stacking up into castles and swimming lazily through the transparent air far above, he sees the golden glow of late evening reflected across the infinite seas.

And selfishly he veers off the course, and lets his fingers dally – but dally they can in one direction only, for fleetly they seek out the most elaborate, most complex part, that where the long stretch of straight curves over into bluntness, where it seems there is no skin at all, only the flawlessly polished feel of thin expensive satin. He recognises the geometry from his own make, knows what every subtle dent and curve is for – but he has never noticed how streamlined all this intricacy is, how tastefully designed, how cleverly symmetrical. Captivating, and he cannot withdraw.

A wetness marks his fingertips and he understands he should, really should stop, but instead he goes on, for he also knows just where a nonexistent graze with the pad of the thumb would be utterly—

“Ah, Faramir, not so—” the King whispers, panicked, but before he can even tear himself away, only a startled, strangled sound escapes his parted lips, and it is all over.

It touches Faramir very deeply, more deeply than he had made to prepare himself for, that his leader and saviour has bodily reactions as those of a boy on the cusp of manhood, unspoilt, unpractised, sincere. That this man, who rules the land with a steady hand, with wisdom and composure, whose head is adorned with thin threads of noble mithril, cannot help but unravel at the teasing caress of an unwary hand.

It is not how it should be, not how it should be at all, and the injustice overfills the young lord with such sharp, bitter tenderness that his throat goes tight and sore. Before he knows it, there are tears rolling down his cheek bones and into his ears, and dimly he realises these are the first he has managed to shed since she has gone. He lies limp, sweaty and undone, abruptly thrown ashore, back upon the sticky sheets, back into the thick darkness of his rooms. His head is spinning, and he is not certain that his legs would hold him if he were to try and stand. But in his mind there is a swept, empty clarity, and in his heart a clean, fresh lightness, like cool water flowing, and, without asking whether he would have it, a smile makes itself at home upon his lips.

A dull, winded groan falls onto him, and he feels shallow aftershock tremors scatter through Aragorn’s frame. He raises his hand to run it over the man’s hair, to move a dampened strand from his temple – and Aragorn bows his head, tucks into the curve of Faramir’s neck.

Shamefaced he may be, but the old ranger is not about to flee. Maybe only because he is too tired, too disoriented to go.

Faramir’s hands overflow with caresses, and his mouth with kisses, and all of his body with the desire to hold, and cherish, and give joy, to show acceptance with his every gesture, every fibre of his every limb. Instead he must close his eyes and focus all his thought on drawing the air deep into his breast. It is not the time for sweet abandon, not just yet, and so he should steady himself – and just maybe, with the sheer steadiness of his own breathing, he could also calm his king. To lose oneself in another’s arms for the first time, what was it like? An altogether different state of being, this much he can fathom, yet he cannot properly relate, and it is not a question of years that have passed, for how could this compare to anything he has ever known. He cannot aspire to understand, he can only wait.

And maybe he can also try and beckon Aragorn closer still.

This is not fair play, surely not, for Aragorn’s defences are low and he is taking advantage, pulling him down, lower, nearer. This may not be fair play, but he believes it justified. For surely nothing works to underscore his lord’s vulnerability like this clumsy spread-legged, bent-over stance he has assumed atop his younger companion, and the cold sheen of moisture that is settling like evening dew on his fever-hot skin. Both of these can be easily remedied, by far more easily than the insecurity that lies within.

So as Aragorn gives in and slowly, awkwardly lowers himself onto Faramir, Faramir grasps for the rumpled blanket and, tugging and pulling with one hand, careful not to nudge the other man in the ribs, manages to haul the heavy cover over the King’s back and at least part of their legs.

Satisfied, he slinks his arm across Aragorn’s shoulders, and whispers, “’Tis alright.” He allows himself to plant a quick kiss on the side of Aragorn’s head. “You are spent… ’tis alright… everything can wait till later… let yourself rest…”

It is almost too warm, and much more comfortable, and it is exactly then that another matter brings itself to his attention. In any other circumstances it would have borne no import at all, but tonight is precisely an exception from all foreseeable normality. With a pang of unease Faramir realises something should be done about his other hand, the one now trapped between their bellies, still quite unequivocally holding the King by the manhood. He had chosen not to pull it away earlier, and struggled with the blanket one-handed, so if he were to withdraw it now when he has no actual purpose for it, the withdrawal will in itself become the purpose.

The King says nothing, does nothing, and Faramir is left to his own devices. If he is careful, if he is very patient, if he takes his fingers away one by one, and counts to ten dozen in between, it will pass unnoticed. The fingers, however, do not take this logic on board, as they remain where they are, safekeeping the precious warmth until he feels the last of the stiffness seep away – and even after that he does not, cannot let go.

As it shrunk, his grasp had tightened with it, and he is now positively holding on for dear life – which would be quite amusing if he were not so desperate for a solution. This is not an end of the world sort of predicament, and that it should be so difficult only goes to show how much out of shape he has fallen in these past few weeks. Naturally, tomorrow he will arrive at the most tactful way to resolve the situation – but he has not been given until tomorrow.

It would be quite obliging indeed if Aragorn were to pull away all off his own accord, or altogether fall asleep – so that Faramir could… Before he can chastise himself for feeble-heartedness, Faramir sees suddenly that it is not the pulling away as such that bothers him, but rather the even more sensitive question of what he will then do with what he has got a full handful of – the slippery, viscous aftermath of the brief enjoyment Aragorn has found in his bed.

And at this, funnily enough, he has no more experience than his king.

He had understood the reasons and never took it personally when the women he had known, the ones before his marriage, attended to things. Too much unnecessary trouble, in every sense of the word, could come their way if they did not. Judging they knew best, he never tried to interfere in the procedures – and after Éowyn it had become even less of an issue, seeing as children were not an unwelcome prospect. For that matter, in all his life he never had much interest of whichever sort in the bodily products that come as a natural accompaniment of disrobed interactions with a beautiful person.

Some men, he heard, like to implement these things into their love play, perceiving romantic or erotic symbolism therein, while others shun them as offensive to the senses or, worse, impingent upon the veil of sacredness that should enshroud the act of intimacy. Faramir did neither. He would wash himself afterwards, which seemed like the obvious thing to do, of no more metaphorical significance than wiping the mouth after a meal – and that would be the end of it.

Adventurousness and variety had never become his pursuits in the private area of life, even if only because as a young man, he had been too preoccupied with the moral dubiousness of the behaviour to further aggravate that preoccupation by exploring the less travelled roads – whereas as a married one… Mayhap if they had been given more time, if things were allowed to evolve… But as it was, his love had been young, and easily pleased, and maybe, in part, cautious.

As a result of all of which, on this dark night they will have to pave a new path – not only Aragorn, but he, too. For whatever had been, had not ended too well, for anyone, and it seems to him now that at least for his part, the sorrow that followed has as though separated him from his previous ways. Cut through him in a fashion that allows to reassemble anew, differently – the more differently, the better.

His eyes only half-open, he eases his arm out from between them. This time, he will appreciate what has been given to him.

As the minutes passed, it had grown sticky rather than slippery, but with one broad, generous swipe of his hand, he smears it all across his face – and there is something wondrously heathen about this, something full of the deepest, most sacral of meanings. He tilts his head back as he paints this ritual mask across his features, as he drinks in the scent, as it tickles the inside of his nose and descends down his throat into his spine.

Some rational grain in him insists he should be overwhelmed now, with something dark and stifling and burning, with shame for enjoying what has happened, for enjoying so earnestly what they have done – what he has just done, a bereaved inconsolable husband as he is supposed to be. So quick to turn a new leaf, so hungry for second chances. But the more he rakes himself for remorse, the more he produces of something else, a confusion so thick and pleasant that it is far too tempting to give up on trying to think his way through it. Such a strange thing, all of this.

And with this thought, Faramir dips his fingers into his mouth.

The taste of sweat, tears, blood he knows all too well. Intense but straightforward, unequivocal like primary colours – blood is red, sorrow is blue. Simple alchemic components of all earthly things – water, salt, metal.

He knows not what to expect, however, from the thick turbid syrup of a man’s pleasure. The scent is deep, heady, with an inciting, provocative note – yet carries no warning. And so the explosive sharpness upon his tongue takes Faramir aback, catches the breath in his throat.

But even more so than that, Faramir is astounded by the complexity. No more than he could assign one hue to the shimmering iridescence of translucent pixie wings, one shade to the ancient jewel-sheen of dragon skin – or one name only to his King Elessar Telcontar, Elfstone the Strider, Envinyatar the Healer, Estel the Hope – no more so could he put one name on the essence of Aragorn’s ardour.

He tastes to Faramir like a song. A fierce melody that unfolds, evolves, pulses with life. Claims him, spreads through him, and sweeps him away – on a wild journey through strange uncharted realms, full of savage magic, rough but wondrous. As it melts away at last, dissolves into silence, it rings on in him still, with the sweet after-burn of hard liquor. Such stark, feral beauty. He wants to tell Aragorn this, to share his joy and wonderment – but he is embarrassed. Afraid it will come out profane, dirty tavern banter. He wonders whether his little stealthy foray has even been noticed. Maybe it be best it is not, maybe he has gone too far.

Beside him, Aragorn stirs, props himself up, and Faramir can feel the man turn his face towards him in the dark.


So much for escaping a weathered ranger’s notice.

“Yes, my lord.”

“Did you…? Did you just…?”

“I did, my lord,” he admits matter-of-factly. Might as well own it.

To his relief, Aragorn’s primary reaction is puzzlement more so than bewilderment.

“I may betray my lack of worldliness here, forgive me if so,” the king begins carefully, “but do tell me, is this the done thing? Am I missing something…”

“Do you mind?” Faramir is quick to ask.

“Well, it…” the question seems to confuse Aragorn further. “It’s not so much that, and if that’s what one does, then I suppose… But it does seem…”

“It does seem –” Faramir is about to call him lord again, but all at once this persistent formality of address feels in poor taste, no longer fitting. So he catches himself and finishes, “Aragorn, what does it seem?”

“Isn’t it…” The king rakes for the appropriate term, and at last offers, “Isn’t it awful?”

His tone is clearly intended as humours, light-hearted, almost as though he is not quite committed to this choice of vocabulary. But his voice trips and cracks, and the last word tumbles forth like a granite boulder down a mountain-side.

Isn’t it awful.

They both hold still in the wake of it crashing past.

“Aragorn,” Faramir whispers in gentle reproach, and reaches to stroke the king’s cheek, his neck, his taut arm, with the tips of his fingers, so lightly. To convey how completely non-awful, how un-awful, how exquisite, how delightful everything in him is. He feels the man tense up, ready to shy away from his touch. “Aragorn, please don’t speak so. The only thing awful is that you would imagine to call yourself that.”

“But surely the taste?”

“And what of it? ‘Tis how we are made, you and I both. Not exactly marmalade, true that,” he concedes, “but then again if one were after marmalade, one needn’t go to all this trouble. Besides, one would also need toast, and toast in bed is a sure path to swift regret.”

“Faramir, don’t give me that,” Aragorn says very seriously. “Why in the world do people do this? One would think a towel?”

“Who is to know what people do? If the great library has a section on this, I’m afraid we have yet to find it. I am equipped with little other than my own experience, and one man’s tale can hardly be a reliable yard-stick.”

“This is not standard practice then?” Aragorn insists, with growing agitation.

“Please,” Faramir puts his hand squarely on the man’s shoulder. “Please, I did not mean to upset you. If it will ease your mind, I shall go and wash. But I wouldn’t say…” he takes a vast breath, o how to explain. “I don’t believe in standard practice, that it necessarily exists – nor that it should. Some pleasures would be more common than others, I’m sure – but that’s not to say we should be obligated to grant prevalence a say in how to do certain things, if at all.”

“Then why did you?”

Faramir smiles.

“I wanted to,” he says simply. “It feels good, and right, and true to be with you, and this is you, and everything about you I love.”

Aragorn shifts a little closer.

“Is that so?” he murmurs, playful almost, as though he is only asking for the pleasure of hearing Faramir say it again.

“It is,” Faramir confirms. “And I think it must have always been so, only I did not know to see it.”

He feels Aragorn’s hand sidle up to his cheek, practising a caress, tentative, exploring. In all their nakedness, Aragorn is yet to lay hands on him, and Faramir inhales deeply, closes his eyes. He can feel his own coarse texture against the back of the man’s hand, the sand-papery beginning of a stubble, and he knows the old ranger must feel it, too. Just as he wonders if the man would mind, Aragorn’s hand opens and the fingers slowly follow the line of Faramir’s jaw, by some unseen string pulling him to arch into the touch.

“When I think of hope,” Faramir needs to explain, while he still can, before his mind abdicates, before he melts. “When I think of light, when I think of kindness, of laughter, and joy, and quiet companionship, of grace, humility, and high nobility… Of everything I have ever longed for in the nigh-forty years of my life… When I think of tomorrow and the rest of my days – in my mind’s eye, ‘tis always you that I see. When in my duty I come across a thing of beauty or wonder, ever my first thought is, I wish Aragorn saw this, I should tell him. And when I ache with my own pain, it cuts nothing like when I ache with yours.”

“But I am your king,” Aragorn offers as if for the sake of the argument, shifting closer still. “Surely, any good lord would have a measure of devotion to his king.”

“There is that, yes,” Faramir agrees. “Indeed we must all have that in very good measure for such a very fine king.” He smiles, and as though riding on the crease and the dimple of his smile, Aragorn’s hand glides to brush the corner of his mouth. He feels the man’s knuckles go over his lips, and he opens up, lets Aragorn feel the softness of his mouth. “Let fealty be my excuse for why I did not know sooner.”

“You need no excuse,” Aragorn breathes into his ear, “I did not know sooner either.”

Faramir turns to him, feels the tips of their noses touch in the darkness, feels the sweet heat of Aragorn’s uneven breath on his lips, feels himself tremble.

As excitement and trepidation swell in him like a tide, as he is about to drown in the glory and the unknown, no less avoidable than the impending rise of the blazing sun, he wants to say more. So much more, all that he feels, all that he understands now, all that he yearns to give. Think fast, for he is running out of words. Or else there are no words big enough, pure enough, brave enough.

Aragorn’s hands are in Faramir’s hair, on his neck, down the chest, over the ribs, so daring all of a sudden. His touch is like liquid sunshine, joy incarnate, a revelation, a call to rise. The hands of a King, Faramir remembers, as the man sets his warm palm low in the curve of his waist, both a question and a claim.

You have brought me back. I am yours. I always was.

“Please,” he whispers. “Make love to me,” as hungrily Aragorn seals their mouths together.

His king’s kiss, in all its strangeness, in all its differentness, is oddly, hypnotically familiar, like a recurring dream. Like a dance he had once known, an ancient tongue he had once spoken and forgot. It is coming back upon him now, swimming up to him from the depth of the memories that are both his and not quite, rising up from somewhere beyond him.

It is bold, and deep, yet with such a candid, trusting quality to it. Aragorn takes this kiss to Faramir like a hopeful gift, a humble offering. And somehow this moment, his king’s lips on his lips, his king’s hands in his tousled locks, is more profound, more intimate than anything that came before.

Everything makes sense now.

To feel Aragorn sigh with pleasure floods Faramir’s heart with a sweet ache – and so his manhood also. He feels heavy, laden, over-running with the desire to please.

Everything comes easily now.

Aragorn turns further towards him, eager to do deeper on his mouth. Eager to let his palm slip around Faramir’s waist, down and back, lower, to grasp the pert roundness of his arse. There is unashamed, flamboyant hunger in his grasp, coming into his own at last. With this the sweetness of Faramir’s pain hitches to a sharpness, a throbbing urgency, and he too turns, and feels his need press eagerly, rigidly against his lord’s body.

Aragorn’s breath catches. The high lord falls out of rhythm with their kiss and leans his face against his steward’s as though otherwise the disoriented world will not stop spinning around them. But ever eager to continue, he is swift to recover, and already his lips are grazing against the stubble of Faramir’s cheek, looking for his mouth again as with his hips he shifts to align them, to bring the rigid weight of his desire against Faramir’s.

His healer, his liege, his commander in battle, his dearest friend – to know him like this… The unbelievable, impossible softness of his lips, the formidable power of his embrace, the heat of his lean frame. The push and glide of his tongue, the dizzying hardness, the hot-steel-in-satin feel of his erection.

Faramir’s mind is fuzzy, blurry with want. Only distantly can he wonder at this newfound capacity to desire so consummately that he can no longer feel any border between their bodies, between their very entities. To the point where they are one bizarrely, illogically split into two, where they are made up of nothing but a want to be reunited.

Aragorn’s hand knows no restraint as he reaches in between them, to grip and rub, to learn, again and again, every detail of Faramir’s make. And the steward’s hand comes down to cover the king’s, to make him squeeze ever harder, grind ever faster.

He heaves, hauls, drags Aragorn on top of himself, spreads his legs to make room for Aragorn’s hips, arches up to be ever closer.

He recalls, vaguely, the necessity to make things slide, wetness, he needs wetness. She had used to need it, too, and the provisions they had used for help must still be around here somewhere. But he will not touch those things, they are from a different time, they were for another – and even were they not, he has no patience to search in the dark now.

“Aragorn,” he pants into the king’s ear. “Aragorn, I… please…”

“Yes… what is it?”

“I need to take you in my mouth.”

Aragorn jerks as a man blindsided.

“What… are you saying?”

“I… I would…” Trying to rephrase without exchanging ambiguity for vulgarity feels like too much work, too much delay. “Give me your hand,” he murmurs instead.

He slips Aragorn’s index and middle fingers in between his parted lips, wraps them into the underwater warmth of his mouth. They take up a surprising amount of space and feel so hard against his tongue. Faramir already knows how much the sensation will be amplified when they are replaced as he wants, and it is so beautifully indecent, so erotically uncomfortable he can hardly inhale. In demonstration of precisely what he asks be done to his face, he guides Aragorn to push in to the knuckle, back then again, until his lord must have gotten the idea.

“This,” he whispers against his king’s face. “But not with your hand.”

Aragorn goes very still.

“Faramir, what – no… We can’t, no.” The strands of his hair sway against Faramir’s face as he shakes his head in confusion.

“Please, I just…” Faramir cannot quite bring himself to mention the practical aspect of his request. Besides, in all honesty, would he not want it even were it no necessity at all? “Would you not like it?”

“I… would like it. And I would… want it. What fool wouldn’t! But no, we shouldn’t. It’s not…” Aragorn’s breathing is heavy, the weight of his body strained above Faramir’s. “Forgive me, Faramir, but this is too much. I am not ready perhaps, it’s…” He almost shudders with the effort. “I… if only…”

“You don’t believe I would truly enjoy,” Faramir finishes for him gently.

“No, no I don’t.” Aragorn admits somberly. “I am so sorry, I am making this so difficult.”

“Not at all,” Faramir is swift to object. “Please…” He holds Aragorn’s face in his hands, brings their foreheads together, shuts his eyes. The sadness cuts through him, oh how many more bridges to cross. But his heart is adept at converting sadness into tenderness, into longing, into a bright sweet flame, and instead of being sobered he desires all the deeper, all the stronger. “It matters not, great heights are only reached by winding roads.”

He holds his palm to his mouth, spits generously, and with a tight glide spreads it down his lord’s manhood. Aragorn sucks his teeth at the sharpness of the sudden pleasure of a wet touch, and his hips jerk down into Faramir’s hand. So Faramir repeats the sequence, and soon has enough glide to have Aragorn’s length swim, sail easily through his hold.

But it is no longer enough to merely have him on top. It is so important, so absolutely imperative, that their bodies align just right. That the choreography of this dance fit the melody of their story. He has to, he must show Aragorn his love, his confidence, from the most trusting, the most defenceless angle possible in the anatomy of Man. To show he fears nothing, doubts nothing, holds back nothing.

He rolls over, scrambles up, bends down again. His chest is heaving, but he stands still, awaiting.

Aragorn, behind him, above him, reaches forth to feel his form in the dark.

Slowly, the king traces with his fingertips up the verticality of Faramir’s arm, over the bend of his shoulder and along the horizontality of his back. Then down another bend, this one at the hip. Faramir bows his face, hair cascading on either side into an invisible curtain, as he feels himself arch up, open up the private space between his legs. There is a surreal flavour to this position, it tastes like an invitation, like surrender. Yet in the same breath it makes him feel vastly, infinitely strong, filled with the power and fearlessness of his desire, and he stands undiminished bowing naked to the hardness of another man’s cock.

Aragorn’s touch drops down the round curve of his buttock, then pauses.

Faramir plants his knees wider on the bed.

“Do what you will with me,” he calls to his king.

Aragorn leans over him, not too close yet, only a promise of closeness. Then without warning, like a mountain lion pouncing, he gathers a fistful of Faramir’s hair at the nape of his neck – and pulls, hard and slow. Faramir gasps aloud as his body bends and cranes, as a strange thrill blossoms through his veins.

“How about this?” Aragorn’s voice is low and gritty. His cock is jabbing into Faramir’s right buttock, hard enough to leave a bruise.

“Yes, my lord,” Faramir breathes out in great haste.

Aragorn leans closer still, licks up along the side of his neck, then into his ear. Faramir exclaims and thrashes under him, but Aragorn’s grip in his hair holds him firmly in place. Suddenly their bodies align perfectly as Aragorn’s cock comes to rest snug along the cleft of Faramir’s backside, and Faramir freezes, only trembling.

“And even this?” The king’s tone betrays a smug grin.

Faramir is hazy, half-conscious as though with lack of air, but it feels so good, so safe.

“Oh. Yes.”

Aragorn leans on him fully for support, to free up his other hand.

Faramir feels him probe, ever so gently, a dreamy touch, barely the pad of a fingertip. But it is as though a colossal harp string inside him is plucked, struck – and a wild, entreating noise flies forth from his throat. He strains to turn his face towards his king, further than the design of his neck would allow. Graciously, Aragorn helps him, twists Faramir around as though by a rein, and bites into his mouth with a kiss. He pushes in with his tongue just as his finger pushes too, and this is more than Faramir can take.

Brightly he sees Aragorn on the day the silver crown of all Gondor was placed upon his dark head, on one knee before Mithrandir in the green Pelennor grass. About his shoulders a cape white as mountain snow, how stern and pure he had looked, how noble and grave. How breathlessly in awe of him Faramir had stood, how humbled and filled with joy. Such honour, such majesty lay in this man, such untouchable grace.

To now, from this very man… this savage, sweltering hunger. And his commanding hand seeking, savouring… such… Unspeakable. Places.

And yet, how easy, still, it is to cause him pain, how vulnerable his raw heart.

Faramir reaches behind himself, grips hard. Valar, how thick…

“I will hurt you,” Aragorn protests into the back of his head. But only half-convinced. For Faramir can hear in his hoarse voice the pounding excitement of this most forbidden of pleasures, of this communion like no other.

A first, for them both.

“There is no hurt,” Faramir declares, and with a firm hand he shoves his king in.

Oh, how much to take in. Faramir gapes, gulps for breath, but all he knows is crushing relief, like reaching shore after days adrift at sea. If only he had known how much he needs this, to feel Aragorn’s hardness entering him, to welcome him in. He cannot quite inhale, he cannot quite tell whether it hurts, and it does not matter.

Heat, raw, almost burning – and strain, oh such strain, but not like any pain he has ever known, and he has known a bit. A power this great comes laden with the shadow of danger, but with Aragorn on him, above him, inside him, nothing could harm him ever again. The strain intertwines somehow with the safety that Aragorn is bringing him, and he revels in it.

Like unto the joyous full-bodied exertion of pulling a tall bow to its full span, sliding the arrow just so. The bowstring impatient as is its wont, alive with need, quivering like a slice of hard fire in the hand. Halt the time, become one with the bow, draw in a breath to expand the chest and draw the string one inch more.

He not so much pushes back as feels himself sink onto Aragorn, taking him in even deeper, taking him in ever closer. Motion brings sudden, scorching pleasure, and echoing his own gasp Aragorn moans softly into his hair. The beauty of this small sound makes Faramir bolt uncontrollably against him, and spear himself to the hilt.

“Easy,” Aragorn bids in a laboured half-whisper.

The king’s behest has the opposite effect, for the commanding note in his voice is mixed with helpless wonder, and it seems to Faramir he will never be able to get enough of him. He will keep wanting, and wanting, and wanting, and how can he ever prove to Aragorn exactly how much. From this angle he cannot show tenderness, cannot hold him in any meaningful way – this angle is made for being bent over and taken. So that is what he begs of his lord, not daring to speak in words, not knowing which words to use even if he did, but with his body, with the arch of his back, with the spread of his thighs.

Aragorn pushes him flat down into the mattress, with a hand careful but firm, and sinks down together with him, snug in the space between his steward’s open legs. Faramir has never had occasion to be face down in the pillow for love making, and the weave of the case is coarse and strangely real against his cheek in contrast to the dreamy smoothness of Aragorn’s caress on his naked skin. Aragorn’s fingertips trail down Faramir’s back like a scatter of warm stars, and Faramir cannot comprehend how a touch can be at once so lulling and such a drunken thrill.

Aragorn holds him on the hips cautiously at first, as though mindful to not insult Faramir with too firm a grasp, as though without a firm grasp there is no risk to Faramir’s propriety. Slowly, gingerly he leans down, his abdomen on Faramir’s lower back, his chest on Faramir’s shoulder blades. It is so warm, so heavy, such a safe haven to be covered by him so close. The last remnants of tension in Faramir’s back and thighs dissolve and drain away, and he feels his body spread, melt into the bed as Aragorn grinds slowly into him.

There is no further left to go, they are as one as can be, but Aragorn yearns to be deeper yet, to reach beyond the limits prewritten into the lines of their bodies. Nothing else to do but pull back and try once more, for maybe he got it wrong somehow, maybe this time will work. Again he makes it so maddeningly close to that perfect closeness – but still not enough, and once more he must draw back and try harder, drive faster.

Faramir blinks, heavily, slowly. The movement is familiar, the setup is familiar. A rhythm, a difficult, loud breathing. A sagging of the mattress at the knees where it is pinned down for leverage. A rocking of hips punctuated with moans. He recognises all this, such a universal expression of need, the alphabet of lovemaking no different between king and common man. Yet he is on the other side now, he understands better what it feels like for Aragorn than what it feels like for himself. The pleasure is so natural and effortless but so strange, for it is his front dragging back and forth against the bunched-up linens. It is from his own lips that the moans are leaping – completely without his involvement, as though Aragorn presses the noise out of him like wine-juice from ripe grapes. And the louder he moans, the hungrier Aragorn works for more.

The king wraps his arms around him from underneath, finds Faramir’s hands to interweave their fingers. Tied up in the embrace, Aragorn has no purchase in his upper body, but the king’s legs are long and strong, and his passion is free for the first time, and he can get everything done through his hips alone. This is an unmistakeably animal configuration, like a pair of mountain lions on a snowy slope, and Faramir wonders if Aragorn thinks of this too as his manhood unashamedly ploughs his intimate depths.

The air dense and thick, he can only growl for breath, and somehow this is wonderful. Like unto the ecstatic implosion in the lungs when sprinting across a summer meadow, leaping through the tall grass-blades ablaze with gold in the midday sun. He is seeing spots of pulsating colour and his chest is tight in Aragorn’s crushing hold, and Aragorn’s weight on him is like a grinding furnace, and it feels like Aragorn is forging a blade inside him.

The heat reaches boiling point and they, or one of them, it is impossible to tell who, breaks a sweat, and suddenly everything slides and glides like wrestling in the rain. Aragorn’s hipbones imprint into his open buttocks with bruising jabs, and the angularity of the king’s lean frame hits so much sharper in the slickness of their sweat. He can take it, he wants all there is to take and more, to be filled to the brim, to overflow with devotion.

Aragorn’s arms, and chest, and belly on him slip hotly, and it feels so good, but he misses the coarse texture of the friction, the tightness of the grit. He bucks against Aragorn – as close as he can come to articulately asking for more.

There is no time, now is all they have.

He must know Aragorn’s mastery over him, to have Aragorn claim him and take of him everything he needs to give so the king himself is overwhelmed into incoherent ecstasy.

He bolts again, nearly breaks their pace.

Aragorn grunts and drives harder against him – but Faramir will not stay put. The king snarls a curse and yanks one hand free to thump his forearm square across Faramir’s back, and throws all his weight into nailing him into place. His elbow nudges sharp under the corner of Faramir’s shoulder blade, fist clenched tight, just as with his other hand he grips Faramir’s fingers to the bone.

Faramir tosses his head on the pillow, grits his teeth – and just when it seems he cannot take it anymore, when he is all gasps and screams, Aragorn wedges his face into the crook of the man’s neck and bites down into him. The molten softness of his lips and the harsh edge of his teeth, fighting for this torturously sensitive spot. Faramir’s skin comes alive with sparks, and on the inside he blossoms, glowing, as the pressure between his legs rises with a glorious promise.

The bedsheet is so sweetly rough against the tender underside of his manhood, and even the eager wetness leaking from the tip cannot soften the grinding pleasure. Is Aragorn, too, dripping deep within him? This is too much, too much happening all at once, and his senses overload, collapse. His throat forgets how to coordinate sound, and his keening cries fly silent in the dark.

He hears then Aragorn groan into his hair, the back of his neck, it is a sob almost, as though he too cannot bear to feel this good.

“Faramir, oh Faramir,” the king pants, taking such obvious delight in saying his name, “Faramir, oh how I love you!”

Before Faramir can answer in kind, his body answers for him.

His love, his pain, his grief, his glory, everything coalesces in the light that is Aragorn.

His voice finds him then, and all he can do is squeeze his eyes tight and let it soar, as sweet fire curls the soles of his feet, arches him taut, shoots up his spine, and bursts from his loins in spasming pulses of liquid heat.

No sooner than the waves of pleasure wash Faramir ashore, Aragorn yanks out of him.

Faramir cries aloud at the loss.

It is not quite clear how long he can survive without Aragorn inside him, and he makes a disoriented, uncoordinated lurch at him in the dark, in a blind need to have him back. Scrambling just as desperately, Aragorn is already dragging, rolling him over onto his back, and falls back on top of him, chest to chest, mouth to mouth.

“Hold me, Faramir. I need you to hold me,” he mutters as he is grasping for Faramir’s legs, pulling Faramir’s thighs up, to get to where they can be one again.

The kiss is a hot mess, all tongue and ragged wet breath, but it is the purest, most beautiful thing on this earth.

He groans against Aragorn’s mouth as Aragorn pushes, glides back into him. Almost, so very close to too much – and in that one step separating it from being too much, lies all the bliss of the world.

He knows no beginning and no end between them. There is no telling where Aragorn’s manhood finishes inside him and his own rises forth on the outside. He is as though impaled on one solid, continuous beam of delight, glowing, throbbing, ready to burst.

Aragorn catches him, grips hard, and with every thrust grinds his fist down to the base of Faramir’s hardness, as though he wants to weld the two lengths together.

He has just had his release, he should be done, but his body does not work like that anymore.

He digs his fingers into his king’s straining shoulders, cranes his neck to lick into Aragorn’s ear. Aragorn jolts, moans with such endearing helplessness, and Faramir whispers to him, with a seductiveness he had not known himself to possess. The coarsest, most uninhibited words of encouragement to ever exist. Words that only soldiers could use, rangers with nothing to fear and no one to answer to. Two men loving each other freely in the great wilderness, in starlit woods, on the featherbed of fragrant nightgrass.

With every fibre of his being he feels his king unravel and lose control. Aragorn roars as he beats into Faramir one last time and comes undone.

There is no greater purpose in life than to make Aragorn happy, no higher privilege than to be chosen as the source of his need. No brighter glory than to hold him close as he weathers the sweet onslaught of his completion.

The King of Gondor comes long and hard, his seed pumping in hot, rhythmic bursts as throes of release rock his whole body, and somewhere amid it all the Steward loses himself, too.

There is no time or space, only darkness and all-consuming sweetness.

Heavy, drowning warmth. Everlasting peace.

His breath is the first thing that returns to him.

Faramir inhales, blinks, hugs Aragorn closer.

The way his heart, his whole body had sung for Aragorn – it is more than a smile, than any words can express, only tears will do.

He weeps with elation, with soaring joy, with utter relief.

Aragorn gathers him up, tenderly, pulls him in, and Faramir feels his body loll over like a rag doll, boneless and pliable.

“Oh Valar, I did hurt you… Faramir! What have I done!” Aragorn strokes the side of the younger man’s face, the back of his head, his arm, as though searching for signs of damage.

Faramir tries to laugh, hiccoughing through his tears. “No,” he breathes out. “No, never. I never… felt this good…”

He holds his king’s face in both hands, his nose pressed flat into Aragorn’s cheek. They kiss wet messy kisses through the salt of his tears, Aragorn laughing too.

“Then I wish to do this with you always,” the King murmurs against his lips, “every night of my life. And every morning. To steal you away in the day, to the groves of Ithilien, to love you in the meadow and on the river bank.”

“And so you shall,” Faramir promises.

Aragorn spreads on his back to rest his well-worked muscles, and exhales with happy exhaustion.

“Come here,” he pulls Faramir to him, and there is a new kind of intimacy to his voice, proprietary and certain.

He guides Faramir to lift up his face to him.

This kiss is slow and soft, but deep, Aragorn going far in with his tongue, confident now that he knows the way. Faramir meets him in kind, pulls himself alongside Aragorn’s body for a better angle. With this, Aragorn shifts too, to cradle him around the waist, to place his hand casually, comfortably over the curve of his buttock.

There is great luxury in knowing that there is no immediate rush for more, and Faramir rests his head on Aragorn’s shoulder. Tentatively, they settle into a close, reposing embrace that is possible only after a storm of great passion.

The hair in the pit of Aragorn’s arm is soft with dampness and warmth, the male scent strong on him. Faramir breathes in quietly, not wishing to disturb the balance with so much as the beating of his heart. He lies still, observing the new sensations, basking in the happiness.

His hand rests flat on Aragorn’s breast, and he feels the touch of curly wire-mesh against the side of his palm. It comes to him, wrapped in peaceful contentment, in quiet glowing joy, the thought that this is how his lovemaking will be from now on. Aragorn’s chest is smooth up towards the collar and around the nipples, but with a tuft down the middle. Of all the different configurations a person’s body can take, this is the one Faramir will be getting used to, to soon forget that a lover could be made any other way. It is meaningful somehow, as though there is a special message in this design. He wonders whether the hairs are all dark or some silver, and finds his fingers playing idly with it.

Aragorn shifts under him a little to move the arm on which Faramir is lying so as to be able to stroke the side of the younger man’s head, thread his fingers through Faramir’s tousled tresses. His deft touch is lulling, hypnotic, so full of the promise of yet unexplored pleasures.

They speak, softly, with long, comfortable pauses, of their newly discovered way to bring each other joy. Aragorn is finding his voice, with growing confidence, to put words on what in the light of day had been forbidden to even imagine. This is the final step, claiming aloud the things done in the dark. Taming shameful, shapeless longings with names of love.

Faramir is growing drowsy and would like nothing more than to sleep with Aragorn’s body against his. But the warmth on their skin has been licked off by the night air, and the dew of their sweat has become too cool for comfort and keeps him awake.

Aragorn props himself up, leans forward, and Faramir thinks he is looking for the blanket to cover them with.

The older man remains sitting, silent.

With a heaviness uncharacteristic of his agile frame, Aragorn swings his legs off the bed.

Faramir tries to ignore the unpleasant dropping sensation in the pit of his stomach, like missing a step on the staircase.

And so, the fairy tale comes to an end. Time is up.

All thought of sleep is gone. He swallows, his throat gone tight and dry.

The King is leaving now. To go back to his other life. No, this is – was – the other life.

His lord is going back to his rightful place. Hopefully, to return again someday… For a visit.

Or maybe not.

It feels all too familiar, pretty much to be expected by now. Always ending up alone no matter how much he is willing to give. Did he really think it would be any different this time?

Faramir makes to chase the disrespectful notions away before they can take root. He has no right to ask for anything. He knew what he was doing.

He does not need to speak, Aragorn well reads his heart.

“Faramir, I shall try to be back as soon as I can. I do not know – this might be swift, or it could take a while. But it must be done now. It may be cruel to break such news in the middle of the night, but to delay is hardly kinder.”

The air is suddenly too heavy to inhale.

“My lord…?” he asks, hanging onto denial by his fingernails.

“I must speak with Arwen.”

Faramir sits bolt upright.

Images, glimpsed memories, flood in, overtaking one another.

The feast table aglow fire-gold against the midnight backdrop.

The Hall of Minas Tirith filled with courts of Gondor, Rohan, Dwarves and Elves, Hobbits and Wizard-folk, all gathered in high celebration. Proud Elven cheek-bones framed by cascades of white-blond hair, the twinkling undulations of the Ancient Tongue. Music, laughter, wine flowing.

And amid it all, as though the legend-like splendour is nothing but an ornate bejewelled frame for the two of them, straight-backed and regal, draped in swathes of star-shimmering velvets and silks, the High King Elessar and his faerie bride.

All of this will be lost, undone, forever gone.

Because of Faramir’s self-indulgence, his arrogant taking it upon himself to fix his king.

He reaches for Aragorn, but stops just short of touching his shoulder.

“Please, sire, let me not cause this sorrow.”

“Don’t give yourself undue credit, ’tis unbecoming of a lord,” Aragorn says bleakly. “You had no hand in the making of this sorrow, for it was conceived before you even walked the earth.”

“But is this necessary? I would have you no matter. Come whenever you wish. Whenever you can, it is what it is.”

“It is what it is? Well, I don’t think I’ve heard that one before. Faramir, I am sick and tired. To the death of me.”

Faramir sits back, swallows.

“Please, Aragorn,” he tries again, softly. “I only wish to ease the way for you.”

Aragorn takes a deep, slow breath, calling on his patience. “And I thank you. But there is no easy path, nor should there be. It is terribly noble of you to show such accommodating kindness, I don’t think I for one would have it in me to be so generous. But I don’t want your generosity, Faramir, nor your pity. I’ve had it with heroics and sacrifices, let there be no more. I was given one mortal life, one human heart only – and only so much love, only so much time I can give.”

“I make no aim to compete for your attention. Whatever you would give me, I will be grateful to accept.”

“Well, maybe you shouldn’t. To reduce you, Faramir, to some – some kind of what? A needy old man’s plaything for between dinner and bedtime, a pleasure pony to forget in the paddock once I’ve had my ride – is that all you think you’re worth?”

Faramir shudders. He shuts his eyes to ward off the sudden sensation of shame.

“It would be nothing like that, I do not doubt your love.”

“So you say now. No, don’t argue, Master Steward, I know you mean it. But live on stolen kisses for a year, wonder at night why even your body-servant is the light of someone’s life while all you get is scraps – and I’ll see how much trust you put in my love then.”

Faramir stares into the dead of night for a long time.

His heart beats with luminous devotion, golden, blissful. But the rest of his body is as though left behind. He is utterly bare, stripped, another man’s dried-up seed worked into the skin of his face, into his hair, into Valar know where. His knee is in the wet spot, his entire bed no longer fit for sleeping in.

A great loneliness envelops him like a thick blanket.

He is reminded, with a sharp, sinking ache, of all those who are now gone. Stubborn, hot-headed Boromir, his fiercest protector, his first hero, his longest love. His father, whose frosty disappointment still smarts. His wife, pale as the winter dawn. The gentle mother he had not known long enough to remember. The friends slain beside him amid the ruins of Osgiliath and on the Pelennor fields. His teacher the great wizard, the hobbits his unlikely companions, all departed to better places now.

The breath of the night is cold and dark on his bare back.

“They say the king knows what is to come,” he utters at last.

Aragorn snorts. “Oh, I wish. If I did, then none… Oh, enough of that.” He sighs, pulls himself to his feet, begins to dress.

“It is decided then.”

“It seems to me now that it always has been,” Aragorn says, gentler now. “It was not your decision then, Faramir, and neither is it now – nor your burden to bear. We met, and were bonded, in a different age. The Elven Rings held sway – I did not even know at the time! You would not know it either – it had felt so right and true. A clearer reality, concentrated, profound, majestic, where everything is distilled to its essence. Through twilit woods untouched by the ageing of the world we could stroll unshod, in reverie, in dreamy silence, and in our starry-eyed ambition make-believe that we were like unto Beren and Luthien, alone in the morning of Arda. That world is no more, Faramir. Not this side of the sundering seas.”

He heaves a heavy, muffled sigh that sounds like he is rubbing his face with his hands. “I am rambling now. Don’t listen to me.”

Faramir aches to touch him. With an innocent, comforting touch. A sympathetic caress on the shoulder, nothing more.

He dares not. For fear that Aragorn would shy away. For fear that Aragorn would not.

Aragorn’s footsteps sound different, and Faramir knows he has put his boots back on.

“There is still time, Faramir, the white ships have not yet sailed. This, you see, this joy you have shown me, this hope you ignited – asking nothing of me, only giving, accepting of everything that I have not enough and of everything that I have in excess… Everyone should have a chance to find love like this.”

He hears Aragorn turn to him in the dark. “I shall go now, to set things right. And I would like to know, when that is done – can… may I come back here, to you?”

“But of course.”

“Do you understand what I am asking of you? Would you have the people say, there goes the high lord who seduced the King, and stole him from his lady wife, and lies with him in her stead?”

“I would. Let them say what they will.”

The door clicks shut, and he is alone again.

Faramir’s chest hurts.

He feels for the candle on the bedside table, and his hands are not quite like his own as he labours to strike the little flame to life.

The silence is so loud inside his head, the cold stone of the floor so hard under his bare feet.

Walking is awkward and strange. The new strain in the hip ligaments, the raw, tender warmth up his backside, the cool slickness rubbing on his inner thighs.

In the bathing room, he grips the edges of the basin and stares into the pale, wide-eyed face in the mirror.

This man who has just slept with the King Elessar, he looks familiar enough. It must be him. Faramir knows this and yet does not quite feel it.

So strange to be one on one with himself again. Everything has changed since the last time he was alone.

He shuts his eyes, exhales, slowly, forcing the breath to empty out completely.

Careful not to look down his body, not to pay too much attention to what his hands are feeling, he washes himself down. The cold water makes him tense up, the washcloth is too textured, the floor tiles undulating and unsteady.

He lathers up his palms, bends his knees for better reach, and rubs thoroughly, unceremoniously, between the legs, from underneath, from behind.

Afterwards, he lies in bed flat on his back, staring at the ceiling. Trying to keep his mind blank.

He lowers his eyelids, though he knows sleep will not come.

It does not.

He can still smell Aragorn on his skin.

Time is not moving, like a dragonfly stuck in crystallising sap.

What has he done.

Stirring him out of a dream that never was, comes a half-alive knock. As one made by a hand that had only just the strength to reach the door.

He scrambles up, grabs for the pile that is his nightshirt, pulls it on without looking.

Faramir throws the doors open, and Aragorn all but falls on him, as though he had swum a hundred miles through the raging seas to get here.

He does not remember how they make it back to the bed so Aragorn can lie down, but he does notice that Aragorn’s tunic is inside out.

Aragorn tucks his nose against Faramir’s shoulder. The king’s eyes are shut tight, and every time he draws a shallow, convulsive breath, it seems a great feat of willpower.

Faramir wants to stroke his back, but it feels like too much, too soon. He only allows his palms to spread over the expanse of the older man’s shoulders, to encompass as much of him as can be permissible.

After a long, long time, Aragorn suddenly shudders, gasps, and the rigid tension in his frame dissipates.

The candle is burning very low by now, sputtering, doomed to drown in itself.

Faramir takes a cautious breath and brushes a strand of hair from Aragorn’s face.

Aragorn sighs, pulls him in even closer.

“Thank you.”

Faramir smiles at him even though he knows his king cannot see it. The world is whole again.

“Of course.”

Before he knows it, he leans and kisses the top of Aragorn’s head.

Aragorn laughs at this, then chokes on his laughter, and cuts himself off before it turns to tears.

“Seventy years, Faramir. For nearly seventy years…”

Faramir only nods, presses his lips to his hair again, holds him, as Aragorn holds him back. His heart is so full.

“You must be exhausted,” Aragorn says as though it is not he who looks half-dead. “Shall we try to get a sliver of rest before daybreak?”

He shifts so as to let Faramir take a more comfortable position in which it would be possible to actually sleep.

Faramir acknowledges their sorry state with a smile, before his gaze falls on the other man’s collar. All the workings of the stitching stick out in full view. He hesitates, but it seems somehow important. “Your… your shirt. It is on the other way.”

Aragorn looks down his front.

With a defeated grin, he sits up and pulls the tunic off over his head. He is about to turn it the right side out, when his ensuant semi-nakedness becomes apparent to him. His shoulders heave, he purses his lips, and looks over at Faramir with an apprehensive half-question in his eyes.

Faramir accepts the unspoken invitation, turns his gaze to his lover’s body he has only touched in the dark.

There it is, that tuft of hair in the middle of Aragorn’s chest. Some of it is indeed silver. Also a narrow trail running down from his navel, promising to broaden and darken as it disappears under the waistband of his breeches.

Faramir’s mouth goes hot and dry.

He remembers exactly the joy that private place has the power to bring them both. He remembers he is wearing nothing under his loose nightshirt.

He feels Aragorn’s eyes on him like he would feel the heat of the summer sun through his clothes.

He reaches over and watches the progress of his own hand as it moves up Aragorn’s bare flank. On to the lean rise of his breast muscle, across the flat male nipple and to the strong line of his collarbone. He shifts over to put more weight into his touch, slide his palm further up to hold the man behind the nape of his neck.

“Even more beautiful than I had imagined.”

Aragorn snorts and rolls his eyes, but Faramir can tell he is pleased.

Faramir’s smile broadens as Aragorn holds his gaze with a calm, deep intensity. Long enough to blink, and look again. Then the king’s chest rises, his eyes drop to his steward’s mouth, and Faramir’s smile retreats in anticipation of more pressing business. Aragorn’s own lips part and he as though makes to tilt his head, to move forward.

“Faramir, you are very tired,” he murmurs as though to convince himself.

“Terribly tired,” Faramir agrees, leaning in to feel the heat of Aragorn’s breath against his lips.

Aragorn sighs.

Faramir’s breath catches as his king’s hand lands firmly on his hip.

“I want you,” Aragorn warns him.

How could he, possibly, after everything. Surely Aragorn is not ready. It is unkind to tempt him.

But Aragorn has already gone over him, and pins him down. The heat of his body… An animal thrill flushes through Faramir’s blood. If his lord prefers this to the gentler comforts, who is he to tell him otherwise.

He pushes up and rolls them over, straddling Aragorn’s hips, to which the older man makes a noise or surprised approval.

Aragorn tugs at the hem of his nightshirt. “This thing does not please me. Take it off.”

Faramir’s bare skin is kissed by the night air as the discarded garment slides to the floor.

The king’s eyes are dark as he takes in the sight, his fingers kneading the younger man’s hips.

The candle hisses, blinks once, twice, and dies.

Faramir leans in, and the hungry softness of Aragorn’s mouth already tastes like home.

He feels Aragorn grin against his lips. “But first, let us make some light.”

The End.

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28 Comment(s)

A very interesting beginning of story! Especially the comment Aragorn made about Arwen (smirks).

But take your time, moving to another country can be a bit overwhelming sometimes from my very own experience. Judging from the note I truly hope you are in Australia at the moment (or would it be somewhere in S. America?), because that’s where I am!! :P

Good luck with everything and thanks for the story!

— Sherry    Wednesday 17 August 2011, 4:58    #

Thank you, Sherry, for your kind comment! An update will be here soon :)

I am, in fact, in New Zealand – but not too far from you, I suppose, at least in relative terms ;)

December    Sunday 21 August 2011, 1:13    #

I loved, loved, loved the image of Aragorn’s hand sneaking up beneath Faramir’s nightshirt; on purpose? Unconsciously? And the whole scenario itself is so lovely- the quiet, almost unacknowledged acceptance of this coping mechanism. Both are going through emotionally trying times and that Faramir just so blithely accepts the this temporary solution, this show of support and offer of comfort in the form of the King sleeping beside him I thought was so romantic in a gentle, unobtrusive way. I’m dying to read the conclusion, though I know I will have to be patient (not a huge talent of mine, sadly.) Your prose is always so thoughtfully crafted, and I do love how your focus on the inner thoughts and feelings, imagined possibilities and personal difficulties never wavers in its ability to draw the reader right into the mind of the character; I feel as if I were Faramir, and I feel the things he does as I read. As ever, I am in great awe of your beautiful writing and seemingly endlessly original ideas. More, more!

(How’s New Zealand? Fantastic, I hope!)

Eora    Thursday 1 September 2011, 0:13    #

Beautiful and very subtle! The long talk in the third part about things that could easily come across blunt or embarrassing if only you would turn the screw a bit more – you make it sound absolutely realistic and decent. More: to me it points out what is mostly neglected in mainstream stories because they generally end with “happily ever after”. How must it be to live with an elf? An immortal being, wise, perfect, literally untouchable. Probably you couldn´t even crack a dirty joke because a) she´d be way too pure and b) what is left to laugh about after 3.000 years? And you even managed to describe their dilemma without making her the bad guy which might have been the cheaper and easier way.

And I think you did a fine trick by revealing Éowyn´s early death not until the second chapter (I´ve read it all at once). Knowing there is a secret but not knowing what it is, that builds the tension until your reader goes “Damn, I MUST know what´s going on!”

Oh, and I like Faramir getting a tiny, just a tiny bit vulgar out of justified rage. Not only it breaks the tensed atmosphere, it is also one of the scenes I would love to see played in a movie!

Summary: You are a wonderful writer and I´m looking forward for the chapters to come (which is not meant as a push, perish the thought!).

Plus: New Zealand? Aaaaw, you are in Middle-Earth! Hope you have fun! :)

— raven22372    Wednesday 16 November 2011, 6:24    #

Eora, here’s my overdue reply and thanks. Also,the story’s becoming longer thanI initially intended, tee-hee. Not plotwise, I’m still keeping to the original concept, but details and nuances add themselves here and there, and I feel that for the sake of readability and a more or less regular update schedule, there should be a couple more parts. Anyways, I’m glad you appreciate the particular mood :) Much as I love spark-spitting fires of lust, sometimes I’m drawn to more thoughtful and complex moods, even not without sadness in places… I hope you like the latest developmetns ;)

Raven, thank you so much for that thoughtful comment! It made me happy in so many ways, for you address specifically the points I was worried about when writing this. Hence, you must forgive my enthusiastic ranting :)

As you say, ‘happily ever afters’ can pose a lot of questions. Personally, I think there’s no such thing as an inherently perfect marriage where everybody is happy all the time simply by virtue of default. There’s always some kind of issue in place – and, well, I always felt that in the case of Ar and Ar, there could be any number of things.

He may have grown up among Elves, but I don’t think it would necessarily mean he would know all the specifics of an Elven marriage, given some things are likely to be kept private in the Elven culture. Furthermore, I can easily allow the possibility that Arwen would focus on the platonic aspects of love, since a) for 3000 years she had managed to not rashly jump into a marriage with one of the abounding Elven hotties around her (she had the whole of Rivendell and Lothlorien to choose from, and take Glorfindel as just one humble example…) and instead waited for a fateful love b) when her husband passed, none of the earthier bonds held her to life, not even her love for their children. Much as his death must have grieved her, there were still plenty of other dear people to live for, many other good things she could have done in life, but all that mattered to her was apparently her feelings.

Much as I in no way state that it was thus and thus only, I strongly feel that it is a viable possibility that she would not be very developed in the corporal/sensual department. Aragorn, on the other hand, I feel might be a very passionate man – there are subtle hints all over the text ;) Plus, given he fell for her so early in his life and stayed so devoted he even told Gandalf he would remain celibate if she did not marry him, it’s possible to assume he had gained no experience in how to help a woman open up the sexual being in herself. Hence, I hoped that a situation as that in this story would not come accross as a stretch implemented for the sake of the boys ending up in need of comfort and lurve :) Thank you for supporting my hopes!

And indeed, I wouldn’t want anyone to appear a villain or a victim here. Not having this need herself and living among people who fare similarly, why would Arwen foresee any possible trouble arising from this matter in the future? If anything, it appeared to me that Aragorn’s being a Man rather than one of her own kind did not get too much thought from her, given how little time it had taken her to vow to stay with him. It may be a love of the lifetime, but still, there are all the practical aspects connected to swapping to your husband’s culture, one she probably did not know too much about, but it took her what, an hour tops? Not to mention that during that fateful meeting in Lorien when she fell for him, it was said he appeared more an Elven prince or lord or something like that rather than a Man, so it was not his otherness she was attracted to or intrigued by, but specifically that he seemed to her like one of her people.

At the same time, it said in the Book that she lived in great glory and bliss while his term lasted, so I figured that even if there was a mis-match in their temperaments, she would not be the one to be afflicted by it ;D Because as far as I remember, Aragorn’s bliss was not explicitly mentioned in the description on their post-war marital life…

And, yes, New Zealand is something something, and something else too. It’s been a few months now, but I still can’t help being overwhelmed. I’m venturing out from the city now and again – the majesty of the land is epic… Everything’s as though made at a different scale, and landscapes as though have meaning, I don’t know how to explain… You must come see!

December    Friday 18 November 2011, 9:36    #

Heheh, there is nothing to forgive at all! On the contrary, your rich and deep thoughts fuel my own rambling and you will surely rue that. ;)

When you said: “…it’s possible to assume he had gained no experience in how to help a woman open up the sexual being in herself.” it was what Sam Gamgee might have called an eye-opener. Like the missing link in a chain of conclusions, something I hadn´t realized yet. The way Aragorn is introduced, he way he is depicted all the time makes it easy to think of him as someone who just knows everything. But as you stated: How should he? If he spent his life among Elves and given this is a topic not very popular in Elven society – who should have taught him? Who should have given him any measures?
(I guess this is a good example for what the ideal of chastity can lead to. Finally you have a lot of insecure and unexperienced people who cannot help but wreck the entire ship, no matter howhard they try. ;) )

You know, it was great fun to me when Faramir freaks a bit about Arwen´s lack of knowledge. Yet I think you´re right, she probably hadn´t much reason to find out. I think this is the side effect of immortality; once you have all the time in the world there is no motivation to get anything started. Given I got Tolkien right this is also the reason why the Elven realms are finally doomed to fade. They are the keepers of the past yet they are obviously not able to go with the times and adapt to changes.

And I totally support what you said about the “perfect” marriage. Truer words were never spoken! And here we have two people who have been waited for each other for years and years. All the time they must have spent fancying how it would be once they would be together, all the endless nights. Until… well, until they were carrying around a huge bag of expectations. Expectations of something flawless and bigger than life because oh the love so pure. It takes some experiences to realize that no, love is not enough. Things don´t´t just wondrously slip into the right places by itself. It is work to build a relationship and there is an everyday´s life with it´s rather non-glamorous issues. Just that an everyday´s life is exactly what these two never had (I think Arwen´s life in Rivendell can´t be measured by human timescale) so how could the know?

I´m afraid it´s my turn now to ask your forgiveness. For this is surely a brickwall long enough to build a mural around all Mordor. However, it is not my intention to cause you any stress so please feel free to just skip this cascade of incoherent words. :)

One day I will surely come and see New Zealand! :D I´ve already made it to Australia last year and even though this is a completely different country with different landscapes and not Tolkien-related in any way (except some certain actors…) I think I know what you mean. The land, it does something to you… It sneaks beneath your skin and when you leave you take something with you… And gosh, I want to see the mountain ranges! And the windswept plains. And… oh, just everything. Have fun over there! :D

— raven22372    Saturday 19 November 2011, 21:04    #

Ah, the apologies are getting the fancier with every turn :) But you know what, I don’t WANT apologies from you :D I want awesome, long, ranting comments about many things at once :))))))) Because discussing things with readers is one of the main reasons I actually publish my texts instead of letting them just sit there clogging up the hard-drive :)

Aragorn as a man who just knows everything? I must say that’s a sentiment I strongly share :) And yet I’ve also always felt he was a man who wasn’t overeager to get himself directly involved into others’ personal business. Like he put no pressure on Frodo when it was time to decide Gondor/Mordor, which arguably led to some unpleasant consequences for certain party members. Likewise he never bugged Boromir about the latter’s apparent unease during their boat journey, nor even seemed to keep a particularly close eye on him – and maybe if he had done something about it… Also, Eowyn. Instead of just going no, lady, no, you can’t come with us, no – he could’ve tried actually approaching her to explain why he could not return her evident interest. Anything along the lines of it’s-not-you-it’s-me might’ve spared her a lot of angst. I mean, pretty much anything: I’m engaged/impotent/gay/actually a woman in disguise/mortally allergic to cooties – would’ve been better than letting her think the problem lay with her lousy self.

So, hm, following that line, I think he would not be particularly proactive about gaining skill-points in sexual expertise until the day he actually had where to apply it. Which canon-wise I think was supposed to be his wedding night. Elrond had told him not to get betrothed to anyone until the whole thing with Arwen was settled, and I feel that by Tolkien-rules, that sort of meant that ‘not screwing anyone while you wait’ kinda goes without saying :) Now, I’m quite lenient towards the idea he might’ve gotten some smex education before he met Arwen, since he was already 20 by that time, not exactly a child… Also, I can quite willingly entertain the idea he might’ve had same-sex relationships of one sort of another while he waited – because, well, that’s quite different, in my opinion, from having an affair with another lady and possibly siring her a kid or two. But either way, I think his practical knowledge of the female body would be limited at best.

Which is in no way to say that their wedding night or their sex life as a whole would necessarily be miserable. After all, it’s quite possible even for two entirely clueless virgins to have a first time that’s far from terrible. After all, all it takes is patience, willingness to explore, and careful attention to the other’s and your own reactions. However, there may arise some serious issues if in the process it turns out the people have fundamentally different expectations about the act or even absence thereof. Among other things, Aragorn’s use of the words ‘heirs of my body’, much as it is a common official phrase, kind of hinted to me he was looking forward to doing the deed, marryng Arwen not only out of romantic/platonic motivation, but also to have children through all the traditional steps – whereas Arwen… Well, we’ve discussed that above.

In today’s world they might’ve gone to counselling or something, but in their settings… Much as I love those fanfics where a third somebody is called to join ua unbalanced couple in bed and set things aright, somehow in this particular case it doesn’t seem like a solution that would be popular with either of the parties involved even if it did actually occur to somebody as a concept…

In that sense, it seemed to me that Faramir’s and Eowyn’s union was under far less stress and had good chances to actually fare better, even if with a sad finale like in this particular story. Because they both had just escaped death and were hardly counting on much good to happen to them when they met each other. For them it was sort of up from the dumps, because there was hardly anywhere further down to go.

Oh man, I actually feel so bad for Aragorn now (:,,-O

December    Sunday 20 November 2011, 6:17    #

I just want to say that I keep returning to this story over and over and am always so delighted when I see an update because it’s just so wonderfully paced, so measured and almost languid, but not so much that it becomes boring or too drawn-out. I love when a story is given it’s proper time to develop, and here the emotions flourish so slowly, sadness lingers, expectation, worry, shock too, they all unfurl slowly like a flower and come together quite beautifully. I also want to just take a moment to compliment you again on your wonderful phrasing and wording, it’s absolutely spot-on in theme and style, the dialogue especially. I had a little shiver run down my spine at Faramir’s “I believe we have lived side by side long enough, my king, for you to have seen proof I am not in the habit of speaking without meaning what I say.” – it was just so perfectly worded and in-character, and purely from a poetic point-of-view quite lovely.
Your writing is one of my biggest inspirations when it comes to style and wording and the exploration of feeling and emotion, which you do most excellently and so deeply without boring the reader in any way at all- I have to pace myself while reading so that I don’t speed through the story too fast, I’m so eager to find out what happens next but I don’t want to miss the next delightful turn of phrase or exquisitely sketched metaphor. More, please! This tale is far too tantalising :)

Eora    Thursday 22 December 2011, 18:51    #

Most likely I have said that before (and therefore a repetition will rather bore you) but your ability to keep up the measured rhythm of the master´s language over various chapters is incredible! It perfectly fits your calm way of storytelling and the positive undertone that characterizes your works. :)

I must say I have a huge liking for the way Faramir insists on keeping his dignity no matter who it is he´s dealing with. It fascinates me even more since generally he is not way too fixated on his state. I like the idea that even though he would not mind to make way for everyone he is blessed with a self-esteem healthy enough to pull the brakes before it gets beyond a certain point.

One thing that occurred to me while reading through our former conversation… given that Aragorn is probably not particularly experienced in the art of physical love it might become a very interesting night. I wonder who will turn out to be the captain of that ship. Not that I intend to push you into a certain direction ;) – but when he says „Undress and lie down“ (which I guess can be read as a command even if it is not uttered as one) and urges on turning off the lights – well, I felt reminded of a patriarchic society in which this is how women are expected to act (God forbid they might develop their own ideas about love-making!) and men confine to fulfill their God-given „duty“. Unfortunately the longtime result of this practice is that neither men nor women are able to learn anything about technique, not to speak of their own desires. Which leads to a constant insecurity on both sides and furthermore to an unhealthy climate of restriction. I am far away from accusing Aragorn to be a chauvinistic ignorant ;) but I could see him covering his own lack of experience with a behaviour more domineering than usual. The hint that he reveals a resemblance to Boromir when it comes down to deal with his own weaknesses underlines that theory. I think he is more scared of what to come than Faramir is – and a lot more scared that he might fail/make himself look like an idiot/give away what an innocent little flower he is. Though I would not completely rule out the possibility that I am just over-interpreting either… ;)

— raven22372    Tuesday 27 December 2011, 14:10    #

Oh my lovelies, thank you for your kindest comments!

Eora, please don’t be settling for a very long read though, this story is more than half-told, or at least that part of it which will be typed out ;) One problem with these slowly-unfolding tales is that I never conceive them as such, always somehow underestimating the time and length it is going to take for the story to ripen. Oh well, heh. Anyway, though you’ve said this a while back already, it still fascinates me that you name me among your inspirations… I do indeed feel a strong sense of kinship to your writing, so we must be riding a similar kind of wave, but nevertheless.. Very humbling. In a good way :)

And yes, writing their dialogue is a most interesting affair. I always feel Faramir would be very respectful with Aragorn, keeping clear of teetering on either rudeness or servility in tone. And personally, I think that would be one of the things that would specifically fuel Aragorn’s trust and love for him, seeing as thanks to such conduct Aragorn would feel that Faramir perceives in him not only the lord but also the man, and respects him as both lord and man, if you get my meaning…

Raven, buckle up for the endless reply!! First of all, thank you for saying there is a positive undertone! It’s nice to know that it does come through despite all the general morbidness.

Speaking of dignity, I agree that Faramir would not be fixated on his state, aka he would not be pampering his dignity just for the sake of it. He doesn’t have an inflated ego or an excess of pride, so he’s not over-sensitive to situations that might damage his ‘resume’. For example, he repeatedly offered his love to Eowyn although there was an obvious likelihood she would turn him down, which would have kept more touchy men clear off for fear of humiliation. So I think his unwavering dignity is more of a permanent inner trait that just manifests itself in his behaviour, be it with equals, those below or above him.

Re your other point, no, you are not over-analysing :) And definitely there is a big issue of restriction within the society. I’m not in any way arguing for a complete lack of boundaries, but it seems that there may be just a bit too many at the moment. What I’ve noticed in Tolkien’s works on middle-Earth is that the word ‘desire’ is typically used in negative context – except for when it is ‘desire of the heart’ which effectively means ‘love’. If we look at examples of desire in his stories, it is what Grima harbours for Eowyn, and Maeglin for his cousin Idril, and if I remember right, also Eol the Elf for Aredhel, which union does not end happily… It seems to suggest that desire is not a healthy and inherent part of love, but rather a somewhat separate and highly perilous thing… So in that line I think Aragorn would indeed be deeply contradicted about their situation with Arwen, on the one hand resenting his inability to consummate his passion, on the other feeling ashamed for being so grieved by it… This brings me to your point about him being somewhat domineering with Faramir. I would agree, I see it as mostly a defense reaction: he is troubled re his nonconventional feelings for Faramir, likely not altogether certain whether Arwen’s denying him intimacy justifies him seeking it elsewhere, embarrassed of asking it of Faramir so early on, and of course he is afraid that Faramir, too, would reject him. And right you are, he is not at all versed in the arts of physical love. He does plainly admit it, saying that while Faramir has been with many, he himself has been with no one. Also, he admits he has not even explored his own body until it began a reproductive necessity, which I think strongly suggests he has not explored anyone else’s body either… Such a degree of modesty may seem a bit unusual, I guess, but then Aragorn hasn’t had a very usual life. Besides, if we are to rely on canon, I have a feeling Tolkien’s saying he waited for her for so long was meant to imply Aragorn waited in all senses, including that he did not go wanking every now and again to ease the burden, heh. Seeing what a high chivalric love they were painted to have, even some harmless masturbation would likely spoil the atmosphere of romance and purity.

So I would say that being physically innocent is not something Aragorn is trying to make a secret of, for, given his story, him not being innocent would imply he had been unfaithful to Arwen at some point… If anything, he openly warns Faramir of his standing, even if he does not describe it as bluntly as ‘I’ve never gotten laid’, lol.

As for it being an interesting night – most certainly, I assure you! :) Funnily enough, it wasn’t until after I’ve begun publishing this story that I’d myself stumbled upon somebody who knows next to nothing of these things. A novel experience for me, it was intensely endearing, and naturally it’s quite gratifying to be told, no one’s done this to me before – but at the same time, it wasn’t until then that I began to appreciate the full amount of patience, care and tact it might in some cases require to help the other person learn what to do – without putting them on the defensive by making them feel inadequate or incompetent. I should expect that Aragorn especially, given what pain the situation with Arwen has caused him, would indeed be in need of tremendous support and encouragement, and it make take him a very long time to reach certain mile-stones.

Though a man of formidable character and willpower, I think he still has the natural human points of fragility. We have seen in the book that although he is not given to showing or talking about his feelings much, he can indeed be overcome with grief, and anger, as well as shame and annoyance, etc. So I try not to idealise him in my writing, and this story is definitely working to that end, rofl.

Oh my, I really must finish now, this is the longest reply ever…

December    Wednesday 28 December 2011, 9:07    #

I have just read through your reply again and it contains so many deep thoughts and refreshingly new aspects I just could not keep myself from boarding that ship again. :)

That´s an interesting topic… the way you point out Aragorn´s voluntary (more or less) celibacy being rather considered as a special act of virtue makes sense to me. What I had in mind was the societal expectations men have to face: being experienced, confident and always master of the situation (or at least pretending to be).

Poor Aragorn, not even a chance to get some temporary relief by helping himself. Quite a predicament Elrond put him into. I wonder whether that was not the purpose of this deal from the very start… X)
Or maybe not. Actually Aragon is consumed by so many tasks those things may rather play a subordinate role in his – allowedly not quite usual – life. And then I tend to agree, as you said due to Tolkien´s worldview masturbation is something virtuous people do not even think of (though I would like to find out what the good professor figured when he wrote about Gollum sitting in his gloomy cave and talking to his “precious”).

Oh, and that special event you mentioned… is it not amazing how art and RL mirror each other? I had a few of those experiences myself and meanwhile I am convinced there must be such thing as a greater plan. ;)
However, although you describe it as a very intense and entirely positive experience I must say I would run for the hills if somebody would offer me that responsibility. ;) Actually I was always wondering why people (and male people in particular) are so drawn to the “virginity” issue. As you said it demands a huge amount of empathy and patience to hold the key for somebody´s future (sexual) experiences.

One aspect I had not realized until now is that being rejected must give Aragorn a hard time not only because his desires are not to be fulfilled. As far as I got it Arwen´s declination does not refer to that business; no, she´s straightaway appalled by her husband´s personal physique. Even though the story is set in a society that generally judges only women by “beauty” – whereas men go rather unaffected by this measure – it must be a disturbing experience for him to be seen as unattractive or worse, repulsive. I don´t think Aragorn is somebody who spends any redundant thoughts on his physical appearance – a) he´s mostly concerned with issues more important, b) since a man´s looks is less questioned than a woman´s and there were no explicit complaints by now he simply might have assumed to be okay the way he is and c) since people used to judge him by his weather-worn ranger outfit he´s probably accustomed enough to their wry looks to not pay the topic any attention. Yet this time it is not about mud-stained breeches or a shirt so sweaty it would be able to walk away on its own. His lady feels repelled by the most private parts of his body, parts he did not even considered to be repellant. It must be an entirely new situation for him and and probably a source of uncertainty. If she feels that way, how would other people feel? How would Faramir feel? After all, nobody has ever prepared him for this situation!

Oops, now where does this brickwall come from? I did not call for a mason, did I?
Anyway, apparently I am still in the clutches of a persistent New Year hangover and my brain feels like something you might find on the bottom of mossy stones (the fact that I wrote this at work is one of minor interest). Please take my apology in case it comes across as the bunch of incoherent chaos it feels like!

— raven22372    Tuesday 3 January 2012, 11:36    #

Dear Raven,

thanks so much for your unwavering interest and inspiring commentary!

Indeed, Aragorn is pretty much ‘caught between two flames’, as a Russian expression would put it. I agree that in their society, just like it used to be and to a large extent still is in ours, it would be the man who would be expected to bring sexual experience and knowledge into the couple. I am quite certain a woman was supposed to go into marriage a virgin. Nowadays, of course, even a virgin can acquire considerable knowledge, even if only theoretical, since educational materials are widely available. (Of course, not all sources are qually good, and the majority of porn movies out there would ‘teach’ you that all it takes ot make everyone happy is to put a penis or penis-like object into any human orifice and bang away. But still, there are plenty of serious books and tapes that do contain a plenty of useful tips) Besides, with public attitudes towards masturbation steadily softening, one may at least come to learn the reactions of one’s own body before trying to understand another’s. But in middle-Earth… While they did not have the Church or any other celibacy-promoting institution that would say that basically sex = sin and thinking about sex = sin, I have a feeling that their societies would be far from the sensuality-embracing pagan cultures or druidic societies of the pre-Christian Europe. And Aragorn, having given his heart to another at such a young age, would likely be under a very strong pressure to not ‘stray’, and being Aragorn he most probably wouldn’t stray indeed – and this would leave him with what on the wedding night? While in other stories I like to play with the idea of Arwen possessing some of her own experience, not necessarily acquired through unlawful encounters with a male, it feels to me that canon-wise she did not know that much about the workings of a human male’s body – because where could she possibly have learnt on this topic? It could well be that the Elven culture, in all their millenia of existense, did produce some analogue of the Kamasutra, hehe, but surely it would not be meant for the eyes of unwed maidens, hehe again.

Speaking of Aragorn’s ‘self-esteem’ problems, though I don’t normally use that phrase in LOTR context given its strongly modern ring – you know, facing rejection, and specifically sexual rejection, from a loved one can mess up one’s brain in any number of ways. We don’t know whether Aragorn is the textbook male from “Men are from Mars…” for whom acceptance and admiration are the best gifts his woman could give, but it stands to reason that for any living person to be explicitly unaccepted and unadmired by their other half, even if only in one aspect, would still be very, very painful. If she accepts him only in part, does is it even count? Does selective acceptance qualify as acceptance at all? Certainly he cannot demand it of her, because acceptance given under pressure doesn’t really qualify either, heh – but what is he to do then?

Speaking of the allure of virginity, yes, that’s a complicated subject. I suppose there are a number of reasons. First of all, given our culture’s history, a virgin bride meant a good bride, a woman who lived according to society’s guidelines and would make a good wife. Secondly, it’s more ocmfortable for a man in the sense that if she hadn’t had any men before him, she wouldn’t be able to judge him in comparison to them, she wouldn’t be able to think that his ‘thing’ is smaller than of that other guy she’d been with, or that he’s not at good with his technique, etc. Thirdly, it would rid him of the rather unpleasant mental images of his beloved enjoying herself with someone else. I think this moment of jealousy is exceptionally strong, after all, are we not often torn by conflicting desires that our lover be experienced and know what to do and yet at the same not have been with that many partners before meeting us?

And no, I wouldn’t say that being with someone ‘fresh’ and ‘unspoilt’ is all roses. I mean, there are many good sides to it, and it helps to focus one’s attention on these sides, because naturally there are a lot of points of frustration as well. It is indeed quite a popular fantasy, of being the older woman/older man to a beautiful youth/beautiful lass, who are full of desire but also endearingly timid, etc. What this fantasy forgets to include is that often this would put the older or at least the more experienced person into the leading role all the time, and not all of us enjoy that. As for responsibility, well, really good teachers are hard to come by, we all know that, heh, so I reckon it might as well be me as the next person ;)

And yes, how would Faramir feel? For Aragorn this question must be answered before anything else. After all, one rejection can be written off on chance or an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, but if it comes again from nother person, then that would mean that it is Aragorn that soemthign is wrong with, right? And of course he wouldn’t have questioned the normality of his make before this whole situation. Men, I agree with you, would not be judged so demandingly re their beauty, although all of Tolkien’s positive characters are at elast nice-looking, most of them actually ‘fair’ and ‘beautiful’. But most of all men would probably be judged on those aspects of their physique relating to performance, such as strength, for men were mostly warriors or workers or peasants, making their life with physical work. So yes, I would expect it had been quite a shock for him. And when it comes to it, I expect it is indeed possible for a man, after such an incident, to wonder if he’s okay. I’ve had men explicitly tell me that only the female body can be beautiful and the male body is inherently ugly… And well, as the super-talented creator of Oglaf joked, the penis does look like it’s been designed by H. R. Geiger (remember the backscratcher?) so certainly one could come to have self-doubts…

And omg, they made you work on Jan 2? Serves them right to have you write fiction reviews in work-time, hahaha.

December    Wednesday 4 January 2012, 0:40    #

I must say I´m incredibly grateful you put a few stones in their way… because everything else would have probably betrayed the characters. I´m not even so much waiting for them doing it – it´s s much more important that you have managed to let them act in a realistic way. Due to the conditions it could have hardly been a smooth and simple lay with everything being guns and roses, like: put a penis into an orifice and – YAY! – everything´s fine (just that unfortunately things refuse to work that way). I bow to your infallible instinct for story telling!

And I apologise for this unaccustomedly short drop-in. I´m more than just a little drunk and unable to produce anything more useful than a “smoking harms you” poster in Gandalf´s bedroom.

Plus: Also allow me to congratulate you on your sense for cliffhangers. According to my calculation your readers must be now at the point when biting into the edge of a table seems like a pretty tempting idea! XD

— raven22372    Sunday 15 January 2012, 21:51    #

Dear friend, is it a custom with you to apologise for your comments, whether it be for their length or their shortness? ;) Seriously, all comments I treasure, all comments spur me on, be it through encouraging or challenging me, so have no worries :) And I hope you haven’t gnawed any holes in your table ;)

Hm, yes, to think of it, I haven’t yet, in any of my stories, written a single sex scene, especially a first-time-sex scene, that would be devoid of stones and various other obstacles. Ah, poor poor characters, hehe, and evil evil me, gnehehe. But indeed, I must say that depictions of technically and emotionally perfect and flawless sex seldom touch me, be it in fanfiction, other works of writing or film. I may certainly appreciate the artistic skill put into creating such scenes, but it never really goes to my gut, if you know what I mean. And for me as an author, the main reason I give such prominense to the erotic themes in my wriitng is not the arousing aspects of writing and reading such fiction, but the fact that I find human intimacy, in and of itself, a remarkably fascinating subject. Just like no two snowflakes are ever exactly alike, I feel that every person has their unique sexual individuality, and given what extraordinary characters we meet in Tolkien’s world, I feel there must be a tale to tell about the more intimate sides of them, too. I also feel that romance, and the sexual side of it especially so (not that those two always go hand in hand, gnehehe again), is an extremely controversial ground, and to me controversial=intriguing=enthralling. Hence I prefer above all pairings where conflict of one form or another is inherent, such as Faramir/Boromir or Faramir/Aragorn or Faramir/Pippin ;p While I do appreciate the beauty of arrangements like Faramir/Legolas as well, I sense much less ground for complexity and difficulty in them, and therefore they touch me less.

I also feel quite strongly that in our popular culture descriptions of intimacy either focus too much on how physically pleasurable/not pleasurable an encounter was and how hot everyone looked, or on how much love-love-love everybody feels for each other. I make a conscious effort to steer away from that in my own works. The way I see it, sex (and by sex here I mean not only intercourse as such but all forms of intimate intercation with oneself and another) – is like music. There is hardly a human emotion that you could not convey through music, hardly a state of mind, hardly a sentiment, hardly a thought that you could not make into a melody. Talented composers can even describe landsapes and tell stories the way an artist would do in a painting. And I feel that the same level of emotinal and even intellectual expression is, ultimately, possible through narrations of the intimate experience. And just like it’s perfectly possible for a piece of music to be at once very candid and beautiful, I feel that descriptions of sex, even very detailed descriptions of sex, need not necessarily be profane. Even rough and loveless sex can be depicted in a beautiful, heart-stopping and poignant manner. You can write sex like a tragedy, like a comedy, an action-adventure, a trash-horror too, ha-ha – you can turn it into a farce or tell a person’s life-story with it.

So what I’m (ineffectively) trying to say here, is that “them doing it” is exactly what I’m trying not to make into the central point of any of my stories, even though most of those stories do indeed consist for more than 50% of descriptions of somebody doing something blithely indecent to somebody else.

See, I’ve more than made up for the relative compactness of your comment!

P.S. So long as I’ve started talking of music, this story is written to ‘Sanctuary’ by Secret Garden if you are interested :)

December    Monday 16 January 2012, 0:40    #

Indeed, it´obvious there´s an apologize kink playing its wicked game inside my head! XD And the tables are not what they´ve been before either. All chipboards instead of proper honest wood. BEH. XP

The comparison between sexual interactions and music seems quite fitting to me. After all more fitting than a picture or a verbal description that could only point out one aspect at once. Though, as you said, society (and I´m sure it´s not ours alone) tends to break the idea of sex and erotic down into a rather one-dimensional notion. Which might not only lead to disappointment – worse, there´s a good chance you will end up wondering what the hell is wrong with you (instead of questioning the system) when things won´t work for you that way.

Speaking of music, it seems we have just reached the point of an entre´acte. ;) I´m waiting eagerly for how they get ouf this… or if they get out of it at all. Poor characters, happy readers! ;)

No time for building brickwalls today (yes, I´m guilty of writing out of subject texts at work again).) But then, you´ve pointed it all out even better than THE MASTER himself could have done (though I doubt he ever referred to this aspect of character development) – so what else is there to say? :)

— raven22372    Monday 16 January 2012, 11:17    #

And that´s what happens when I´m writing comments at work… >.<

Regarding music: Hah, definitely the right score for a slow burning coming of age story! (Considering Aragorn´s state I think this is not so far from hitting the mark). Unfortunately the link didn´t work for me because GEMA (the German authority for copyright infringements – yes, that means you, buggers!) blocked the youtube vid, but I listened to one or two other songs to get an idea. Which leads me to a market niche: Fanfiction that comes with a “soundtrack” button! :D

— raven22372    Monday 16 January 2012, 16:31    #

This is absolutely gorgeous. I love your wordcraft and characterizations and I have to say when I read Aragorn’s explanation of his relationship with Arwen, I think my heart broke. I’ve also read your discussions in your review replies and they have given me much food for thought.

I look forward to the next installment of the story and its eventual conclusion. In the meantime I’m going to set the link to this as a favourite page and make sure I re-read it periodically.


— Dancingkatz    Monday 9 July 2012, 20:21    #

Oh, I cannot believe I seriously have left your words without reply, Raven. Little chance you will come across my response now, but anyway.

Indeed, fusion fan-work seems like such a sweet idea. If I were a more multidimensinally talented person than I am, and had a decent command of visual art, singing, playing an istrument and clipmaking, I would probably switch to making videos where text would go alongside with imagery, accompanied by music and nature-sounds, and the screen exuding heavenly fragrances all the while… I’d put together collages of assorted imagery and call them “What Faramir is to me”. I’d even do some cosplay if I could! But you get what you get, which is my stories ;p Speaking of music though, here’s my latest inspiratin for Tolkien fan-work, Selig by Helium Vola. This story already has its soundtrack, but this and their other songs go very well with all my Eowyn-related fiction. I know Tolkien is said to have fashioned Rohan after a celtic culture, but to me the Rohirrim had always been very strongly associated with the Germanic, and to some extent Scandinavian, heroic mythology. To think of it, the whole Silmarillion is to me very Germanic-like in feel – and also goes hand-in-hand with the pre-Rafaelite imagery the like of in the link. If I could, I would’ve painted something like that to illustrate this story.

Dancinkatz, you just literally made my day with your comment! It’s always a pleasure to welcome a new reader, especially to a story that’s been a while since updated. I honestly don’t understand where you get the faith to read something that’s been on hiatus for almost 3 months, but thank you so much! AND you read the replies, wow. Well, in that case, I’ll make a personalised rant dedicated to you :)

You mention food for thought – and I guess this is one of the fundamental reasons why I’m so drawn to the Tolkien legendarium in the first place. I mean, of course there’s also this sensation of purity, and ancience, and honour and nobility, of a truer and clearer life – but all that aside, his work is never failing to provide food for thought people-wise and relationship-wise. I feel the relationships he portrays, that of a master and dedicated servant, of two brothers, of battle friends, of fathers and sons, of a man and a woman – they all resonate with simple human truth.

Fair enough, myself and many other authors often re-write these relationships, or at least re-interpret them in ways different from that most readily implied by canon. But it is precisely this sensation of universal truth that drives me to do this reinterpretation, that promises that there is something inherent in these characters and their world that will give true life to these other, derivative stories. Funnily enough, we are not told too much about many of these relationships in the book, large parts of the lives of the involved people being described by a couple of paragraphs in the appendices – but nevertheless… When a story begins to take on life in my mind, there’s this clear certainty that Aragorn, or Faramir, or whoever, would respond to such and such in this particular way… It has always been a pity to me that Faramir and Boromir had been given so little space in the book, both on their own and especially together. Even though each of them plays a fundamental part in the fate of the Ring, and with it the world, they still come across to me as secondary characters, which sucks >:E But nevertheless they have such rich personalities, such clear personalities – endless resource for food for thought :)
Thanks for reading!

December    Tuesday 10 July 2012, 4:46    #

“…and there is something wondrously heathen about this, something full of the deepest, most sacral of meanings.”

Dear me. O.o Never. Do. That. Again. At least not without cabling me a warning. My poor poor neighbours..!

Joking aside and completely serious: This and the following ones are probably the most sensual sentences that caught me unprepared on a train ride ever. Okay, I might have not quite SQUEEEEEEEEed my fellow passengers away, but it was close… ;) As you said, there is a wonderful liberating power in this action, something archaic one would bring in line with bonfires and Beltane nights (too bad my ex-boyfriend didn´t see it like that – but that does not belong in here… X) ).

Please take my humble compliments for your writing again: I do not know how you did it, but you managed to deal seriously with a scenery that could have easily brought down to an ´American Pie´ level. Limbs at the wrong place, sperm and no idea what to do with it – it had been so easy to expose your characters to ridiculousness here, yet since you stayed so cloes to them (especially Faramir) and their own perception, their actions get an intense seriousness and dignity. Thank you so much for continuing that story! :)

— raven22372    Wednesday 8 August 2012, 22:16    #

Raven, love, thanks for the comment! Wow, you’re cheeky and bold, aren’t you – for my part I don’t think I’ve read anything much sensual in a remotely public place at all, hehe.

I’m sorry your boyfriend wasn’t into fire festivals, I always thought bonfires are quite fun ;P Seriously though, I do commiserate.

Well, sex is often like American Pie, isn’t it? Or sometimes even, what was that movie called, where she got plastered to the ceiling, Scary Movie? The more I live, the less I’m surprised by anything, hehehe. But you know what, I think that what fundamentally determines whether a potentially hilarious sexual situation is ridiculous or serious, is a combination of two factors: first and foremost, your attitude towards the other person, and then their attitude towards the situation.

Here’s a personal example (nothing NC-17, no worries). Once I was with this boy, and he couldn’t get it up. Don’t know why, doesn’t matter. I wasn’t in love with him, was in love with someone else actually, again, doesn’t matter. At first I did feel sorry for him, for what guy would want to be in a situation like that? I tried to reassure him, to help – but you know, I very soon got plain bored. As I lay there, pulling, in vain, on that overcooked carrot, all I could think was, what the hell am I doing here? I could’ve been at home now, watching TV, taking a bath, or chatting to my friends. I just fell out of touch with the situation. It was awkward, absurd, uninteresting.

Whereas some time later the exact same thing happened with someone that I did in fact have feelings for. And that’s one of my most anguished memories to date. His shame was my physical pain, and I felt so powerless as if I was caught in an earthquake – when you realise something terrible is happening, and you also realise that whatever you do, you can’t change anything. The degree of frustration and despair is something unspeakable.

With that first boy, it seemed ridiculous to me either way, regardless of what he felt. I did not laugh or tell him anything of the sort, but I felt that way anyway. Whereas with the second one, it could’ve been ridiculous only if he had taken it lightly and found it genuinely funny. You know, it’s like the famous fart in Sex and the City. She took it seriously, but he laughed, and that hurt her feelings.

So yeah, in our case, Faramir does care, and so, hopefully, it doesn’t turn into an American Pie :)

December    Thursday 9 August 2012, 2:37    #

Last night I sat for a good hour writing out an essay of a comment (one that, in hindsight, was probably incomprehensible gibberish due to the late hour- it began around 1am and got worse from then on) and of course when I, ready for bed, hit ‘submit’ …the internet ate it D: Pages, reams, gone! Half of which was the apology for how long it’s been since I last commented on this story…22nd December?! And it’s shameful because I HAVE been reading avidly every time you update, but I really have let my procrastination spiral out of control and I feel terrible for enjoying your updates and not letting you know. So, please accept my apologies (and yes, I’ve seen your reply on Luck and I will get around to replying to that too…I don’t know where the time goes really and I have no excuse.)

The best thing about this story is actually a combination of things; the build-up is tender, careful, the scene and backstory are set, we don’t rush into anything at all and proceed with a measured though curious pace. Like we’ve begun discussing in the comments to Luck about straying a little away from outright NC-17 to something perhaps a little tamer (okay, R! That said…I did just write a positively filthy paragraph or two (or three) in the story I’m currently working on :P) but with the focus shifting to characterisation, emotional groundwork, so that the reader becomes invested in the characters and therefore when the scenes do become heated, the pay-off is so much greater, and this story is such a perfect example of exactly that. I think I mentioned it before (too lazy to scroll upwards) in one of my earlier comments but I think one of my very favourite vignettes in this piece, and in fact in any piece, was that gentle moment where Faramir surfaces to find Aragorn’s arm is not only embracing him, but has slid beneath his shift to do so. It was a subtle, brief moment that was so steeped in romanticism, and going back and reading from the start (I do this whenever a new chapter is posted because I love to see that build-up!) something that was sweet to begin with becomes so bittersweet also. Aragorn gives comfort, but seeks it also, and we find out just how fragile he really is later on. It’s so sad how someone so beautiful (Aragorn!) would go without, and I love how as a reader we see through Faramir just how beautiful Aragorn is in that detailed and poetic description of his body, warts and all. Your delicate prose is absolutely breathtaking, an absolute love-letter to these two men and the turmoil that surrounds them, turmoil that is unseen but not unfelt.

Faramir here is not unburdened, he deals with loss, but I like how in this situation, he takes control, guiding Aragorn into this deserved new realm of sensation. I like the theme of the fragile king very much but without going so far as to make him seem weak. He’s so tentative, there is fear there, fear of the unknown, fear of his own desires, perhaps a fear of himself- is he so terrible that no-one might look on him with answering need? No! (And I already mentioned but we see here through Faramir’s eyes just how comely the king really is.) And Faramir shows him, patiently, kindly, but not without his own inquisitive foray into the unexplored- his curious thoughts at the end of the last chapter are so very sweet and so very real, who hasn’t pondered new experiences? The realism in this story as well I loved very much (the trapped hand!)…because sex is never quite as elegant as it is in the romance novels or films. The aftermath too…Aragorn has just shown the most private and untouched (literally) part of himself to another for the first time, and it is with Faramir…what emotions now thrum within the king’s heart? Aaah, it’s getting close to my bedtime once again and I’m not nearly finished with all the thins I want to say about this story, but I do want to spare you my rambling so I’ll just say that I love this so much, the inspiration it gives me not only with your perfect word choice but also in the mood and themes is boundless. Thank you!! :D I hope you are well; how is New Zealand doing? :)

Eora    Thursday 16 August 2012, 1:09    #

Oh, man, I feel your pain. I’d been there, the comment eaters had preyed on a comment of mine as well. Henceforth, whenever I’m making a big one, I back it up incessantly or altogether write it in a word-processor. Cause that’s terribly frustrating, that is. So doubly thanks for going over it again!

Please don’t feel obliged to comment on every update, which is not to say I enjoy it endlessly when you do <3 And you re-read it from the start every time? Whoah. As in, WHOAH. I just. Yeah. You know.

This is my biggest comment yet, but I feel you kind of asked for it :)))

Re characterisation – I guess that’s the reason we do it in the first place, isn’t it? I mean, writing fanfiction erotica/porn. Because otherwise we may call our characters Bob and Bill (or Susie), or altogether label them X and Y, and who cares. I don’t think I’d read any original-character heavy erotica on the Web for… I don’t even know how many years. I had read a handful of short stories back in the day, back when I had just discovered this genre, and was fascinated more than anything by the simple fact that somebody came up with such stories and more than that, published them for others to read. But as such, I’m not interested. I mean, if you want proper porn, then just buy a watch quality DVD, right? Whereas what I’m looking for here… I guess it’s a lived human experience, from the perspective of characters I love or at least am intrigued by in some way. And seeing as our own human experience is by default explicit, I don’t see why not have this fictional experience in similar detail. Because as soon as there is good characterisation, the act itself automatically acquires other meanings. Because in turn, even if we describe the encounter as purely recreational no strings attached kind of stuff, that in itself has certain psychological implications, right?

I like your point about the distinction between Aragorn’s vulnerability/weakness. I must admit I’m particularly drawn to vulnerability myself, or rather a person’s ability to evoke a certain type of pity in me. I even read somewhere that it’s a characteristic national trait of my people, to love through pity, or, more precisely, to love the suffering, especially so those unjustly suffering. I don’t think though that it’s any less common for any other culture – I mean, the universally popular hurt/comfort genre is predicated solely upon this premise, isn’t it? But there’s a line, at least for me: to love this way, I simultaneously need to be able to respect the object of my pity. And I… well, I can’t quite respect the weak. A person may currently suffer from some particular human weakness, but generally have fortitude of character, and a strong will, and healthy ambition, courage and the ability to recover from a fall, willingness to take on responsibility, that kind of thing. You know, like Boromir. Vulnerable? Yes. Weak? Hmm… Maybe not as clever as Faramir, but not really quite weak, I think not. Because he believed in the rightness of his own opinions, and he stuck to them. So stubborn rather than weak, I would say. In the grand scheme of things, it does maybe paint him as morally weak, you know, in Christian interpretation, as in easily tempted. But character-wise, he was quite strong. Not as strong as some, maybe, but even so. He carried a great burden, after all.

I guess if I were to select one criterion only, for not being weak, it would be that the person be trying to pull themselves together after a lapse. And in that sense, I don’t think any of Tolkien’s characters could be described as weak. Some never had a lapse to begin with, like Aragorn, he just does what he does. Even Grima has some self-respect left to finally rebel against Saruman’s oppression. Even Saruman himself, though it shows him as beyond salvation, has enough stubbornness in him to stick to his ways, lead him as they may to his demise. This pulling together may not always go in a healthy direction, yes, but they all of them are strong minds and strong wills.

So I have a very hard conviction that this strength must be communicated in fanfiction. That even when depicting a moment of weakness, we need to show that it is not meant to imply a greater weakness of character. And I’m so glad that’s how it came across to you!

New Zealand… I could of course talk about how amazing it is, but I reckon you already know that and it’s not exactly what you’re asking. So, it’s been a tough year. It’s going to get ugly form here, but since you asked ;p I haven’t really talked of it much, I think not, maybe only to one person before, relatively unanimously as well. Some observations are mostly curious, of course.

For instance. Like a person from a Northern land, you might appreciate this one. See, I come from a land with stereotypical, picture-book seasons. Spring. Summer. Autumn. Winter. And for half a year at a time, everything lies in a comatose deathly slumber, even half the wildlife. Everything is dead and white. Or, in the big cities, everything is dead and dirty. You know, the poesy of winter, haha. And I’ve grown so used to this cycle, where this temporary suspension of all living activity is a normal part of the cycle. But here. But here, or at least the part of the island I live in, the land is… I’ve realised recently that I’ve slipped into a certain state of timelessness – as in it feels to me that I’ve been here for much less than I actually know by calendar. And I blame it in great part on the nature which is abundant here, because it’s… creepily enough, it feels as though deathless. It is always green. As in, St Patrick’s, photo-filter green. I’ve learnt not so long ago that it’s about a 2-hour drive from where I live to the set of Hobbiton. I think it’s something like $200 to have a tour. So it’s that kind of green. And any time of the year, something is always blooming. Always. Any big tree, it always has this flock of teeny itsy flowers in the grass around its roots, some yellow some white, ashamed not to know their names. It feels like, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Spring again. It makes you feel disoriented and a little… inconsequential, you know – not that I’ve ever entertained illusions as to otherwise, but even so. Thing is, the size of things here… I don’t know whether there’s something in the air, or the soil, or if it’s the solar radiation, but things on the continent don’t grow as they do here, I’m telling you. Some trees have flowers the size of melons, as in, you hold it in your hands, and it’s effing heavy. There’s this forest nearby where apparently the trees are over a thousand years old, and their girth is such you can literally carve a house in their trunk. It sounds cool but it’s kind of scary actually. It’s like, this whole ancient majesty, it doesn’t give a damn about your little petty human goings-on. It’s going to outlive you by another couple thousand years, and it just can’t be bothered.

I realise it might sound like I’m bragging in disguise, but it’s been pretty rough in fact, the transition. I’d say this to anyone who ever considers immigration to a better place – don’t be wary of the tough bits, be wary of the good bits. Because the tough bits, you brace yourself for them in advance, you anticipate uncertainty, and weariness, and fear, and loneliness at times. What you don’t anticipate is that it’s going to fucking enrage you to see that this kind of beauty and peacefulness is possible. It’s not something that you would talk of to anyone in person, because it’s a very embarrassing feeling, and you seem to yourself kind of crazy for entertaining it. Because when your surroundings are shabby, dirty streets and miserable-looking people, your anger seems easily justified. But when you stand amid all this greenness, and bloom, and birdsong, and the air is sweet, and you look upon it, and all of a sudden your vision goes black with anger – that’s the scariest shit, I’m telling you. At least I wasn’t prepared for it. The first time around, I went home, locked myself in the shower and wept hysterically, naked with the water hosing down on me. Because when on the outside it’s so peaceful, you are forced to acknowledge that it’s not the outside that’s causing this, it’s the inside. Like you’re carrying this glop of black slime in you that starts thrashing around whenever you are confronted with this injustice, with your own po-wer-less-ness — that where you come from, things are shitty and likely to get shittier, whereas here, you know, all daisies, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing you can do about anything. Of course it’s not all daisies and people got their own problems, but it takes a while before you can relate. And until then, psychologically you are still elsewhere – but at the same time a little removed, enough to see how that previous environment had left its mark on you. And that only makes you angrier, because you start wondering why your people have to live in a place that leaves a mark. Mind you, I had never been involved in politics, never held a position of power, don’t consider myself a fervent patriot, certainly not a person given to violence or even particularly aggressive. But man… I’m glad it’s passed now, it’s been insightful though, hehehe.

Not a happy account of NZ, eh? Speaking of turmoil unseen, snort. Again, not NZ’s fault, NZ’s awesome for all I can say. I do hope now that my national-identity issues are settling down, I’ll have more emotional strength to spend on more creative bethinking.

Ok, that’s more than enough about me, beh. How are you? What is up? Do tell.

And thank you again for all the kind words. I wonder how I can ever live up to such praise, and form a native speaker, too… I would also be more than happy to know any of those other thoughts you had on this story if you ever feel like writing them down :) And do reply on Luck.

December    Thursday 16 August 2012, 10:31    #

I hope you don’t mind that I quickly start by talking about your experiences in New Zealand and emigration and so forth first of all; I’m so sorry that it’s been tumultuous for you but I’m really glad you’ve spent the time to illustrate how it felt to you to be so far removed from the familiarity of home and the things that you don’t notice when you are home but when you’re away they creep in, like the lack of a real winter, something that I personally would say right now I might happily do without for the rest of my life and be better off emotionally for it. I do hate winter. But…I’m moving to Australia at the beginning of next year so there’s a possibility I won’t be seeing snow for a while, and I think there’ll be a time when I’ll eat those words.

Coming from reasonably northern climes as I do I do have a bit of sentimentality for winter (reminds me of childhood Christmases and so forth) but in recent years, because we’ve had such unusually bad winters it’s just been a huge difficulty even walking to work and so I dread the first of the long nights (sun sets at about 4pm maybe? It’s so depressing walking to and from work in the dark. At -15 degrees. Which is probably nothing compared to the winters of your homeland but it’s pretty chilly when you’re not used to it being quite so cold and have no winter-appropriate clothing, i.e. me.) For me, on my last trip Down Under last December, I seemed to experience a similar out-of-placeness but on a much smaller scale (I was only there for three weeks.) I was in beautiful cities and having a wonderful time on holiday but I just felt a bit…odd under the surface all of the time, partly due to jet-lag and also because it was hot in December, and something that is relatively easy to wrap my mind enough (seasons are opposite!) was really hard for my subconscious mind I suppose, having been on one day in a cold country and then suddenly, after a mind-bending plane ride during which I had no perception of time passing whatsoever, I was here somewhere hot and it was summer! I think as well though, adjusting to living somewhere completely new and different to where you’ve been used to can take any length of time. I felt very homesick on one day on my holiday, and pretty much spent the day in the hostel feeling very low (though I made myself walk along the beach later so that at least I was doing something new.) When I came home (it was a rather sudden adjustment…sunshine and summer and outgoing happy people, and bang, 24 hours on a plane to freezing late December, exhaustion and work the very next day and then it was Christmas day and then New Year and it was so cold and I just felt a bit lost really. Sad to be home, angry that the attitude of people here is so insular and miserable! Everyone moans, no-one seems to enjoy life! So I made a promise to myself this year that I would do my best to enjoy life as much as possible and try not to bemoan the rubbish weather (okay, it’s literally rained every single day this summer, argh) too much. Wouldn’t really be home otherwise.

Everything I’ve seen or heard about New Zealand (the LotR films non-withstanding) just exudes this ancient majesty, a millennia old landscape, otherworldly and potent with myth and the slow passage of time where civilisation is just a blip. I wouldn’t think you were the first to feel the immensity of the place in such a way, but I really do hope you are feeling more adjusted, at peace and not missing the passing of ‘normal’ seasons too much!

So yes, I’m pretty much about 99% (98%?) sure I will be off to Australia for a year (or two, or less if I don’t like it. Who knows? Nothing ventured!) I need change in my life, I’m really stagnating here in this job (I despise my job now, 7 years of monotony) and I think that as I near the cut-off age for an adventure such as this (I can’t apply for this visa after 30) I think I need to just take a leap into the unknown and see a bit more of the world. Also, the more I talk to people about it the more it seems real and the more scared I get! I hope I manage to see it through! There will be tears, I know that. Otherwise, I am well (well, have just gotten over a rotten dose of the flu, writers’ block too!) and have just been enjoying all the comedy shows and things in town this month!

And so, onto the story…I do pity Aragorn here, but it’s like you said, I find him still noble, of kind and strong and good character, and so I respect him, but he still has my sympathy. He is at possibly his most vulnerable here, but not weak, no, not at all. He seeks Faramir out. I’m not suggesting he has an ulterior motive for the initial comfort he offers Faramir but when the circumstance presents itself between them, he is wary, he almost falters but in the end he follows through, stays the course, sticks to what he knows is right for him, whether that be right or wrong in the grand scheme of things. He is strong, and all the more human for revealing that fragile side of his being to Faramir in this way, and so I respect him. I think because he is the king, he is meant to be strong, wise, infallible, that to see him so humanised as it were just draws me to him even more. That’s why I like Aragorn in particular when he is portrayed in such a way, one would think that with all that he carries on his shoulders (his birthright, the longest of long betrothals to Arwen, his part in the fate of Middle Earth and as part of the Fellowship and then after all is over and one with, he now must rule as king of men) he would falter in some, internal, private way, for he is after all human in the end, with the same emotional and physical and psychological needs as any. And there is that other sort of ‘weakness’ that just popped in my head, that of lack of self-restraint, which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a moment where Faramir feels that no, the king should not ‘unravel’ so soon or so easily…perhaps they should wait, but he carries on, from his own want and from wanting to give this to Aragorn, who he himself pities but not in a patronising way; and Aragorn, whose self-restraint is fuelled by uncertainty, still gives way and allows the unravelling. I think also that ultimately, as you say, the human experience is nothing less than explicit and so the explicit is not out of place here at all, in fact, it only heightens and is heightened by everything else, a slow, lust-laden study of human experience that I found darkly magical.

Whenever I see the phase hurt/comfort my mind immediately (and possibly incorrectly) brings up sort of mushier scenes and the dreaded weak character (and I also used to think it really only referred to a situation when a character is physically hurt, like they broke a leg or something!) but now obviously I know that that hurt can be emotional, a hidden injury that either festers in silence or is picked at and eventually must be dealt with. This story is pretty much the perfect example of that done well. The comfort given and sought after and received is so touchingly and realistically envisioned. And as a native speaker let me take my hat off to you, I only wish I could write so beautifully. The language is so evocative, laden with emotion and delicacy, I fall deeper in love with every word! I really am so envious :) I’m also eagerly awaiting the next chapter (no rush!) because I’m desperate to see how Aragorn reacts to this turns of events.

Egads, the hour grows so late once again, I don’t know why time seems to just run away with me but I’m always running out of it in any case. I hope I didn’t just bore you to death! Much love!

Eora    Friday 17 August 2012, 1:57    #

Hey hun, nope, I don’t mind at all. If anything, when I read you’d be coming to Australia for a while, I nearly fell off my chair. We must meet! Seriously, when else would there be less geographical distance? Don’t tell me you want be coming over to explore the Zealand while you’re there ;p

In fact, your description of winters is exactly what I used to have. It didn’t really go below -15 very often, maybe for a week or two in the whole course of winter, and then of course the dark days, and the festive season… I must say it looks a bit preposterous to me, the whole holly wreath and Santa in a fur-coat thin when the crowd on the street is hardly dressed and not always shod, hehehe. But you might just miss it. We miss not the good things, just the familiar things, don’t we? I still prefer the taste of pasteurised milk to fresh one, for instance, as that’s what was around when I was little, even though in my brain I obviously know better…

But Down Under largely has a more continental climate, with more distinct seasons, even if “reversed”. But that you get used to. It is funny though. My own penname, for instance, has acquired a neat little double-meaning, and the summer holidays are all around Christmas, not bad, eh?

I really do hope it works out for you! With your passport, you can altogether relocate to pretty much anywhere in the Commonwealth, can’t you? NZ and AU for sure.

Do it! Do it! It can be difficult to get it off the ground, I know. From personal experience, the easiest way to go on an adventure is either when you’re running from something – that’s by far the easiest of all, at least in terms of getting your butt off the couch – or if it’s completely spontaneous and instigated by someone else. I had a combination of both, luckily. The instigator dropped off midway through, as they often do, but it was too late for me then. But do it. Whichever way.

Do you know, immediately after posting that adjustment rant I had felt quite embarrassed. For the ranting, and even more so for the subject of it. So many people would love to live where I live, and yet I dare complain. Well, I may have provided a rather one-sided picture I’m afraid. And since you say you found it insightful (hopefully not out of being polite, because here comes part 2), I feel compelled to explain. The negative always tends to attract more attention to itself, so I had left out all the positive things that more than makeup for my “hardships” hehe. Though it is a scientific truth that transition between cultures is often trickier than we expect. While I wouldn’t say that I had a culture shock as such, seeing as the culture is precisely one of the things I love, reassuringly familiar in its underlying Britishness add a more egalitarian twist and general serenity of mind. But the thing is that the very of fact the transition makes you reevaluate yourself. It’s like being a teenager all over again, so much philosophy, doh. Haha. You know, it’s like in those perceptual illusions, if you take a square of grey and set it next to a black block, and it looks light – put it next to white, and it’s dark. Same with you, prolonged exposure to a significantly different social context not only can and does bring out in you things that were up to now only dormant, but also puts different features of yourself into the spotlight. In a country like this, it’s all largely positive, but nevertheless, much of it is accompanied with anxiety.

I can’t quite remember the last time that I’d go through a week without having sleeping difficulties. Damn the anxiety, haha. I guess in part it comes from the fact that I’d lived for so long in a place with this constant sense of impending doom, that just like with winter, it’s become part of my system. And now I kind of am trying to recreate that feeling for myself, weirdly enough. But part of it is objective, too – when you feel the whole system is heading towards a collapse, there are so many issues it’s easier to just go into denial about. But here, interestingly enough, I find that so many social problems are receiving so much more public exposure than back in Russia where the problem is actually much more severe. You know, poverty, women’s rights, domestic abuse, all those. It’s not really an appropriate thing to discuss where I’m from.

But more than that, here I’ve actually found myself more at risk. Stupid, eh, obviously here the risk is actually lower. That is, objectively, but I don’t think objectively. The way it works for me, I always used to judge myself as a low-risk group for any assault kind of thing. Simply for the reason that I’ve always had this belief that predators choose the most vulnerable pray, and in my society I didn’t belong to the most vulnerable group. Of course I’d had my share of people trying to coerce me into unpleasant things I didn’t want to do, and even a partner (now long an ex-partner) explaining that he would beat me if I disobeyed – but through a combination of vigilance and sheer luck I’ve come through unscathed. As in, nothing was ever actually done to me – as opposed to a friend who was always the one to get attacked by deranged maniacs, and targeted by calculating predators, that sort of thing. I always assumed there was something in me that did not appeal to that sort of folk. Of course, this is all rubbish: anyone, regardless of gender, age or physical constitution can become a target of assault, including a sexual one. And it’s not always a serial criminal who’s doing these things, sometimes a generally good citizen may simply have their judgement clouded by alcohol/drugs, or entertain one of those caveman ideas like “women enjoy being raped” or “I’ve spent money on her, hence she owes me sex”. So no one’s, of course, off the list. But nevertheless, back there I didn’t feel like I stood out, and it gave me a sense of security. Just a foolish cognitive bias, really, but there it was.

Think of the most exaggerated horse-riding chick stereotype out there. That was me, direct, opinionated, confident in my right to want what I want and not want what I don’t, passionate and stubborn, not willing to take shit from anyone. If I didn’t take shit form a horse, who’s like ten times my weight and has four feet to kick me with, then certainly I didn’t have to take shit from another human person. And if I’d learnt one thing from horses, it’s that the more in charge you are, the less danger you are in. If anything, being this way, I naturally attracted the gentler sort of men who (while generally annoying me, for of course I wanted the rough and tough world-weary guy who in turn of course always went after the sweet compliant girl who was willing to tie all of her existence around him, ah, the injustices of life) nevertheless didn’t make me feel like they posed any danger. There was something in me that communicated strength, of character and body, more so than of the average girl. That sort of thing is disapproved of where I’m from, and it did weigh on me, but I simply wrote it off on my Cossack ancestry, telling myself and jokingly telling others that coming from a kick-ass cavalry culture where each and every man hauled himself up in the saddle and went to war when the metropole called, I’m entitled to indulging my own belligerent, freedom-loving genes, hehe. For that matter, the unpleasant incidents I referred to above all had taken place when for whatever reason I was acting out of character, putting forth the more traditionally feminine, fragile front.

The thing is, here I no longer fall into the “stronger than the average” group. There’s a greater ethnic diversity here, and most women are bigger than me. Most people are also darker than me. And you’d really surprise no one around here by confidence or “unfeminine” attitudes. All of a sudden I am the small, blonde, and delicate one. I’d never had enough of any of those things living in Russia, for who in Russia isn’t blond and delicate – but here… And it freaks me out. I feel like I’ve lost my familiar defence of knowing how others see me. My compatriot men always used to define me, from day one and to my face, as strong and/or clever and/or independent, which hardly ever comes out quite like a compliment where I’m from. No one ever defined me as a pretty one. But here the pattern is different. They still do come to the same conclusions character-wise, but only after a while and with some highly amusing wonder, because they start off by being sold on the looks, which to them are beautiful and “exotic” (snort). I literally thought people were mocking me the first times I was being referred to as beautiful, but now that I’ve come to accept that it must be their true perception, it makes me uneasy more than anything else.

For a couple months now I’ve had an obsession with assaults, especially violent sexual assaults by men upon women. I would research the topic, read about the psychology of it, reasons, consequences, the legal response, even how to help victims – virtually anything I can get my hands on. I couldn’t understand why the interest – I’m not a victim nor any close person that I know of. That friend from Russia, yes, but that was years ago, why this reaction now?

And now I understood suddenly. Because to me, the realisation that I’m seen as attractive, or at least more attractive than I’m used to, makes me feel vulnerable. I know, I know, anyone can find themselves in an unsafe situation. But now, for the first time in my life, I feel the need to protect myself. You know, as in, get the practical skills. Learn some karate, read books on the detection of underlying harmful intentions (e.g. The Gift of Fear), remember to carry something sharp in my bag late at night. An Australian friend back in the day had once taught me how to hold a kitchen knife properly, so as to be more likely to stab the other person rather than myself, haha. I remember experiencing a sensation of strange pleasure in that moment as he closed my hold over the handle, showed me the trajectory of the motion. It felt like an extension to my very body, and there was a sensation of power, not an aggressive power, but a steady, calm power, of self-control, of opportunity. I realise now that I want to experience it again. I want to feel like I can do what’s in my power avoid danger, and if not, then ward it off. There is no such thing as being perfectly foolproof, but at least I want to feel like I’ve done all I could.

This whole realisation is causing me a whole load of anxiety. I haven’t learnt any karate yet, you see. Haha. And talking of assimilation, and seasons, and natural majesty – I think it’s just another form of denial, focusing on those issues which are actually minor and cannot cause any real harm.

So much for a comment not centered on self-centered moaning. Well, I excuse myself by the assumption that since you soon might move countries for the first time, you might be interested in some things that might come up in the process. After all, there is a certain universality to human experience.

I am sure all of this anxiety is coming into my writing. I don’t exactly produce happy run-in-the-glen pieces, do I? Maybe in 10 years’ time we’ll see Faramir and Aragorn making a grand appearance eating strawberries in a field, or better, being hand-fed peeled grapes – and that would be the whole story. No angst.

I love your phrase, “non-patronising pity”, that’s exactly what I meant! I could fully love only a child or a pet with a patronising pity. Okay, maybe also a friend or an adult family member, though that would be far from an enjoyable love for me. But an adult in a romantic way – no way. And yes, I definitely don’t see Aragorn as being aware of his ulterior motives when going to Faramir, or at least not seeing them as such in the sense he is not exactly intending to act on them until it kind of just goes and happens, heh. I generally have difficulty imagining Aragorn acting on an ulterior motive as such.

“Humanised king” – love that phrase too. I love such humanisation of characters who have some stereotypical obligation to be strong and “manly”. As Oliver Mellors in Lady Chatterley or Vronsky in Anna Karenina (a complete coincidence that Sean Bean has played them both, that is). To me, it’s just magical. Maybe it’s one of the reasons I prefer to write male characters – that same humanisation is much harder to achieve with female characters who as a rule have less of that obligation placed upon them to begin with.

That even Faramir is under sway of this assumption – you know, I haven’t given much explicit thought to this. It just seemed like a natural thing. I mean, on the one hand, he like no one would be likely to see the human core of any person, no matter how lofty in their social standing. But at the same time, he like no one would believe, until the very end, in Aragorn’s inner strength, just because of the history of their relationship.

”a slow, lust-laden study of human experience that I found darkly magical.” Man, I can only hope that we’re not turning into a society for mutual admiration ;p Because I love so much these things you say, they bring me so much inspiration.

Hm, interesting perspective on hurt/comfort. I instantly saw a broken-legged Pikachoo form your description xD To be honest, I always associated it primarily with psychological hurt, and saw good emotional potential in it. You can go pretty deep here, actually. Some people have this savior-complex, which I find incredibly interesting. I’d met a man like that once, he had a disturbing family background, something like that. And he was only ever drawn to damsels in distress. Especially when the distress was romantic. I was dealing with a very painful rejection at the time, and he gladly… er, helped, all the time knowing I wanted someone else – and half a year later I meet him again, and here he is tenderly shagging some other poor soul to salvation. It was fascinating to me, the way their/my hurt triggered this need to give comfort in him.

My hour’s growing late too, and I’ve just beaten my own record on comment length, so I’ll let you go now. Just let me thank you again for putting all this thought here. Hope you haven’t drowned in the letters. O_o

December    Friday 17 August 2012, 11:52    #

Perhaps I’ve beaten my own record here, whatever that was. This is well over 2000 words, haha. A comment-fic, if you will :P

I will absolutely be coming to New Zealand for at least a holiday while I’m in Oz…I think it’d be foolish not to, seeing as I’d be in the neighbourhood. Oh, to step upon the soil of Middle Earth! :P As of yet I’ve no concrete itineraries about my stay…it’s all very vaguely something like fly to Melbourne (where I spent the majority of my stay last time and I must say I fell quite in love with it, and it’ll be a good idea to be somewhere somewhat familiar during the first days.) And then…I don’t know? Get a job? :P I have to fit in three months of farm-work to qualify for a second year visa, and I want to travel around the whole country, see all the cities and the gorgeous landscape and just go crazy, with a bit of incidental work here and there. And once my travelling is over I think I’d probably try and get a flat in Melbourne and just live the good life until my visa expires. I have a few friends there, and contacts and friends-of-friends in Sydney, Cairns and Brisbane, so I won’t be totally lost (I.e. I‘d have somewhere to stay if it all went wrong), but it’ll still be a huge change, leaving all my friends and family (seem to be the only person in the world who hasn’t got any blood-relatives who handily live in Australia!) And while I’m there I would definitely be planning a hop across the water to lovely NZ. I would love to meet! And discuss writing over a coffee or wine! :D Nearer the time we should talk about this! (Sometime next year?!?)

Moving permanently to AU and NZ IS possible (and easier with my particular passport? I‘d never actually looked into it properly but I know there are different working visas for say, Europe and then another for US citizens)…but unfortunately the requirements are pretty high. University degrees in agricultural science or you need to be a trained nurse or a teacher or all sorts of things that I am decidedly…not. So, at the moment the only thing I can do is the working holiday, and I think it’s a good taster anyway…I might hate being there! But it’s going to give me a great idea of what to expect if I ever did want to relocate…after extensive university courses, naturally. (Unless I find a lovely Aussie husband! :P) But I’ve felt lately over the past few years that I’m just at a loose-end, a brick wall in terms of what I want to do or be…no idea where to go next, I think that because I’m dead set on this adventure it’ll bring me so much more experience, wisdom and ideas about where my life should go next. Maybe I’ll go to university when I return (I went straight into employment after high school) It’s an extremely odd feeling having a goal to work towards, something I’m passionate about. I’ve drifted for a long time, stuck in a job I hate (but at least working, and I know I have it okay here, full-time job, a rented flat with a good friend, and I live in a wonderful city ) but I feel I’ve achieved nothing and seen almost nothing of the world. Travelling, right now, is my new passion. Can you believe that before Australia I had never been abroad? And I just took myself off there alone, complete with my terror of flying? And it was SO liberating. (And I was SO sick of flying by the end of the trip…let’s see…8 plane trips and one helicopter. Booooring :P) The world was my oyster, I couldn’t WAIT to see more of it. I went to Spain a couple of weeks ago and adored it. I think I’ve stayed at home for too long. Time to live a bit more!

It certainly feels like -15 most of the winter here, but I think it only gets that low either very late at night or on extremely bad days, though I remember a group of us were walking home form work and I thought, hey, it’s really cold this evening…and someone checked on their phone and it was indeed -15. And us all in normal coats and no gloves etc. I tell you, getting sunburn in Sydney while there were Christmas trees everywhere was extremely strange. I went on a walking tour of the city and the guide said he thought it was really weird to see Santa in a winter landscape, and snowy scenes at Christmas, so I think it’s the same all over the world. You find comfort in what you’re used to, and everything else is odd!

I’ve asked my friends if they think I’m just running from my ‘boring’ life here, my listlessness, that maybe I sould just pull my soskc up and try and make a go of it here and they’ve all said, no! GO GO GO! Live your dreams etc, so that’s reassuring. I’m not saying I won’t come back here, it IS my home and I will miss it, but I think if I at least come back a changed person I’ll know what it is in life I want to do. I have a fear of commitment, like a career I think I’ll be stuck in or whatever, so I never commit to anything. So I think this will be very good for me. And if I last the year (or even two) I can at least say I achieved that if nothing else.

I found the sort-of Britishness of Australia anyway quite reassuring, (they drive on the left! Aaah) but I think it’s the little differences that slowly can creep into your subconscious and make you feel very isolated in a new place. Things like going to the supermarket and not seeing any of the familiar brands. Or the tv shows being different (actually that wasn’t so bad, watching tv I discovered just how much UK tv is shown in AU!) Honestly though I suffer from terrible anxiety all the time, and often go three or four nights in a row sleepless, waking up in the grips of panic in the morning, worried about…what? I don’t know! I think it’s the feeling of ‘stop wasting your life! Get up and do something!’ that’s plaguing me. I am fortunate never to have been the victim of any attacks or anything of the sort, and I’m not sure what it is about me that deters any would be assailants but I think it’s possibly down to luck as much as anything else. Here, in my home city I know the streets very well, I know where I am and any number of alternate routes to get where I need to be and so therefore I walk with confidence and feel safe (the city is generally actually quite safe, but of course not 100%.) In Australia I felt much the same, weirdly enough. I think it was the inherent good nature of the locals, the willingness and eagerness to help out a clueless tourist that set my mind at ease. I never felt threatened or lost, help was only ever a question away. Perhaps I just find the Aussie accent extremely trustworthy :P I think though that if you are feeling ‘unsafe’ where you are, or in yourself, then no harm can come from say, taking those karate classes or something similar. The important thing is that you yourself are content, happy, satisfied with your situation, free from anxiety (as much as possible) and living life to the full. I think culture-shock happens probably in all cases, no matter where you’re from or where you move to. Sounds funny, but whenever I stay down south somewhere in England, which the culture is essentially completely identical, just things like the accents or the different banknotes (I won’t get started on this haha, same currency but the notes are different) not so much make me feel uncomfortable, but just serve as tiny little reminders that this isn’t ‘home’. I think too, that such odd feelings of homesickness really only show that you come from somewhere that you love, which is no bad thing. I can see where your anger comes from too, though, in the case of such social issues that are generally not to be spoken of in general conversation in Russia like you say, but in NZ they are at the forefront of various political agendas and getting much more attention. It would be hard not to feel angry I think about something like that, because things like domestic abuse and poverty and sexism and all of these things need to be addressed everywhere, and it’s sad that a lot of the time such tings are just swept under the carpet because they are taboo, or maybe ‘embarrassing’ for a political body to admit to (speaking in the most general terms here.)

Hand-fed grapes you say? There you go again with your inspiring challenges-I might just write this! :P

I think it’s just that fascination with the ‘strong becoming weak’ (but of course I don’t mean ‘weak’ if you know what I mean.) And I especially enjoy when a male character shows their vulnerability, and when it is written well (as it is here!) it’s something quite magical. Above all I like characters to be human. Aragorn is king, and a man, masculine, defiantly male I might point out actually, and his handsomeness comes into that too- he must know on some level his own attractiveness, and I think that in this case specifically the juxtaposition that comes from having that knowledge, and loving his wife and knowing she loves him…but then why won’t she love him in that way too? Surely then his preconceptions of self-image all these years must have been totally wrong? How disabling must that be! To suddenly think quite seriously that you are not worthy at all, not valid, judged, however gently, by the one that you love. And then, and I won’t call it an ulterior motive but I think like you say it must have been buried somewhere deep down as the vaguest of vague possibilities, even faced with this rejection and questioning himself he seeks out someone who will ultimately give him that validation, and when the situation presents itself he goes with it, terrified, maybe, doubting, but willing, and that makes him human and one of strong, admirable character at that.

I think I said before (or somewhere) that Faramir and Aragorn are so similar which makes them very compatible, and though I don’t see Aragorn as unkind or ungentle, or unwise or anything other than good I somehow see Faramir as being more of those things than the king, somehow. Like, he is a softer version (and there only seem to be weak or feminine connotations of ‘soft’ that spring to my mind but that’s not what I mean at all.) I think as well Faramir is another version of his brother, cleverer, like you said (not that I think Boromir was stupid!) but perhaps able to stand back and analyse things either differently or more thoroughly before making a contribution. Faramir is truly a good soul, but such goodness and gentle-nature don’t preclude the human desires either. Both characters are very human in this piece, but from different viewpoints. They swap roles, almost, it’s Faramir’s chance to show his ‘quality’ in regards to his kindness and his desire to aid, and under it all, beneath fear and wariness (Aragorn) and tentative self-restraint-becomes-the giving of a gift, shall we say (Faramir) there is that base lust that underpins their actions.

Oh dear, the briefest notion of there being a LotR/Pokemon crossover fic drifted into my mind there and I must say I stamped that out quite quickly! Although I’m fairly sure somewhere on the internet such a thing exists D: I’ve never really thought ‘I’m writing a hurt/comfort fic’ whenever I’m writing any of my fics, though probably going through them I’ll be able to point out which are and which aren’t. (They’re probably just all mush :P) But yes, the possibilities are almost endless when it comes to just how deep one can go into the ‘hurt’ aspect. I do draw from experience some of the time when writing, though nothing so specific, most of the time I dislike recalling the relationships that went sour so I counter that with a lovely romantic bedroom scene :P

Is that the time again? I should probably start writing these earlier! Hope it wasn’t too boring! :)

Eora    Saturday 18 August 2012, 0:38    #

Ooookay, I’ll address the whole relocation/life-change topic by mail, in a proper letter as it well deserves. I was quite strongly under the impression that there should be more flexibility for you re the immigration policies, but anyway, by mail.

Now, hurt-comfort. You know, I’m generally opposed to classifying stories by this criterion, or by any other, for that matter. As in, this is a hurt/comfort fic, or this is a darkfic. Because to me, it serves to denigrate the story, as if there is nothing else to it other than this label, as if it was written with the sole purpose of fitting into this format and appealing to those readers who have a fetish for this kind of thing. I mean, certainly, stories can and often are classified by genre, but that’s much broader than the format, and is in a way an altogether separate dimension. A story tied around the hurt-comfort theme can as easily be a comedy/farce as a full-blown drama. And the fact that there is such a theme in the text doesn’t automatically allocate this story into an according “folder”, I hope not, provided it’s deep enough. Because just like you say, it’s so enjoyable to see the characters as human, whereas if a story is all about following a format, this requires fitting their behaviour into a certain template which in part robs them of the human quality, does it not?

If we think of it, Aragorn and Faramir’s relationship is initiated as a sort of hurt-comfort to begin with, in the sense that Aragorn starts Faramir’s recovery from all his previous trouble, physical and even more so psychological. So I feel it’s a very natural direction to explore with these two, while of course they might appreciate being depicted in a way that doesn’t imply any sissyness on their behalf. And I do like to play around with things, to see the “weak” King. I understand the way you use that word, and use it the same way here :) I’ve always liked the hurt-comfort element to be double-bottomed, in the sense that the party currently engaged with the comforting side of the deal would be in need of comfort themselves. The wounded healer trope, I guess. As said before, I like it when I can sort of pity a character, respectfully, and in such an arrangement I can feel this way towards both of them, which give me double the joy, hehe.

Not to mention the obvious truth that often it’s precisely someone who’s hurt themselves, or been hurt themselves, who’s in best position to give help, and if not, then at least understanding. I think the Book itself perfectly illustrates this with the Gollum-Frodo situation. Who could’ve related to Gollum better? Who else could’ve related to Gollum at all, except Bilbo perhaps, which is much in the same direction anyway.

What you said in your latest post made me think on the question of validation. I haven’t explicitly analysed this before, but now I see why it felt imperative to have Aragorn as completely inexperienced in this story. Initially I had thought it was just an attempt to stick to canon at least in some way, hehe, as it had always felt to me that Tolkien implied a lot of celibacy to be going on in the story, and not just re Aragorn. And of course it would explain why he didn’t know how to deal with the Arwen situation. But now I come to think that the greatest reason was the question of validation. We so often need our close ones to validate us, don’t we, especially the romantically close ones. Although a lack of parental validation, especially a chronic one, can be extremely painful, at least we can tell ourselves that we don’t get to choose our parents, or they their children, and so it happens sometimes that people in a family simply have very different views on things. Whereas with a beloved, this is a person we chose, or at least our heart chose, someone we bet our money on, so to say, someone who has explicitly said that they do love us back, implying they approve of our ways, too. So when here suddenly the validation goes missing, that leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

My point here is, I think it usually requires some experience, and preferably with different people at that, to properly internalize the self-evident notion that a person’s reactions are always their own. Yes, the way we go about things can change a person’s reaction (imagine suddenly coming to your love-bed in a spiderman costume, bound to get a new reaction, eh?) – but it is still their reaction. Just as all our reactions are ours. And when we meet that one lover who makes us reel with bliss like none before, how often we grieve then afterwards if that lover exits our life, for it seems that only they possessed the gift to do that to us. Whereas if we think on it, yes, that person for whatever reason had found the buttons to push that others hadn’t – but those buttons are ours, not theirs, they did not take them with them when they left. It was us who experienced that joy, it is our nervous system that is capable of the sensation.

But when your first and only intimate experience results in rejection, especially a loving rejection, and your stakes were so high, how are you to reason yourself into the above? It is very difficult to believe then that the fact that one particular person does not want to do a particular thing with you means only that – that this person doesn’t want to do this with you, that’s it. It’s much easier instead to start making these statistical generalisations along the lines of, therefore no one can ever be expected to ever want to do anything with me. Which in turn means I am unattractive.

Which is bullshit. There’s really no such thing as unattractive, in an intransitive sense.

You know, the eye of the beholder, blahblah. But it’s true. I could never understand the point of those lists in the popular magazines, like the top 100 sexiest men/women on Earth. Sexiest to whom? OMG, who decides that this is the most desirable man alive? If another 1000 readers think he’s a complete douche, does that unsexify him? This is such crap. Even if 10,000 are dying to take you to bed, that doesn’t make you attractive, it only means that these 10,000 men want you. Of course, some people are found to be attractive by a greater percentage of the population than some other people. There’s such a thing as type, and there is a certain cultural fashion as to which traits are seen as desirable. But it’s still utterly subjective. And it’s never you, really.

I’ve seen firsthand how this works. A few years back I’d come across this number who for whatever reason couldn’t bear to touch me, you know, there, with any other part of their body than the one meant for it by mum nature. Hence no handjobs, no oral sex, zilch. Whereas right before that there was another character who was so fond of that region of myself that they requested, repeatedly, to take pictures of it to keep on their phone. I’m not even kidding you. That was perhaps the weirdest compliment I’d ever received, and I was like, thanks, but that’s so not gonna happen. But even so, thankfully by then I knew enough to not take either of those cases to heart. For all I know, each would treat any other specimen of my gender in exactly the same fashion, one being freaked out, the other setting up photo-ambushes. I had not had any genital surgery in between them I was exactly the same, and yet such a spectrum of reaction. Obviously, it had extremely little to do with me.

But now I feel real bad for Aragorn, you know, for he has seen none of this. On the plus side, he’s less cynical about sex, I would imagine, than most people of today – but that’s hardly a help at the moment. He hasn’t even heard about the “inelegant” nature of sex, as you mentioned it.

No, I really should do that one with the grapes. To restore social justice.

And I know what you mean by Faramir being softer, I think. Less calcified, one could say. I would imagine Aragorn is just as sensitive to others’ feelings and hurts, but he’s more likely to give people the respect of privacy, whereas Faramir is more openly and actively helpful. Like Pippin saw Faramir as being as noble, but less remote. I really can’t imagine, if Faramir were a leader of the remaining Eight Walkers, that he wouldn’t have pursued the apparently troubled Boromir until they had a sincere talk (assuming here Boromir were not his brother), or that he would have rejected Eowyn without explaining his personal circumstances to her, or at least giving her some outlandish Mel-Gibson consolation re I’m sorry I’m gay.

Thanks again for all the attention, love!

December    Sunday 19 August 2012, 3:24    #

If I be in love with somebody someday, I want to be it like as in your stories.
Why don’t you write books?

— Lizzy    Tuesday 14 August 2018, 15:52    #

Aww, Lizzy, what big, generous things to say!

Funnily enough, the sort of love l write about is, l think, not the best for us regular people. l used to chase love like that, but now l prefer to be loved like Rosie by Sam :)

As for an original book, since you ask, l do have a fantasy world and story half-baked in my head. But realistically, l don’t think l’d ever be able to love anything more than l love Tolkien’s world, even something of my own making. So l choose to dedicate my time to LOTR. But thank you :3

December    Thursday 16 August 2018, 10:03    #

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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).