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I Can’t Breathe Without You (And I Don’t) (NC-17) Print

Written by eyeus

25 April 2014 | 15372 words

[ all pages ]

Title: I Can’t Breathe Without You (And I Don’t)
Author: eyeus
Pairing: Boromir/ Faramir
Rating: NC-17
Summary: Faramir hears tell of a village, forsaken by the Valar, that can bring loved ones back to life. He sets out to determine the truth of this rumor himself.

A/N: Assumes that Boromir and his Elven boat make it over the Falls of Rauros intact, and that Faramir sees not a vision of Boromir, but finds his physical body. Inspiration for the village drawn loosely from the movie Black Death and other concept designs, seen here and here. Title from Josh Groban’s Love Only Knows.

Chapter 1: I Can’t Live Without Love (And I Won’t)

“This is a fool’s errand you embark on,” Gandalf tells him.

Gone are the days when the wizard was known as Mithrandir, Gandalf Greyhame, or Gandalf the Grey; he has shed those visages in return for wisdom and light, and his gaze now is ever more keen and piercing.

Faramir does not stop in his preparations for his journey. “I must try, regardless,” he says. He has told the others that he plans to follow the River Anduin out to the Great Sea, where he will see Boromir out with the grandest of funeral barges. That he will not suffer to see his brother endure the long, slow sleep of death embalmed.

“You go to your death, Faramir.” Gandalf’s hands tighten about his staff as he speaks. The Maiar are known to be wise, with the power to see most, if not all ends, and Faramir wonders if Gandalf has indeed seen the end of his journey. “You have much to live for; why spend your life on this quest, when nothing will come of it?”

Faramir’s hands give pause in their work, in the packs he has laden his horse with. The wagon the horse will carry behind it, stacked with wood he claims will be used to build the barge. With a soft, inward breath, Faramir lets his gaze rest on the wagon’s other, more precious cargo, a casket newly moved from the Houses of the Dead. He is glad for the move; could not bear for Boromir to remain another day in the tombs where kings and stewards before him had been interred.

“If nothing comes of it, I will have tried,” Faramir says. “I will have honored my brother—”

Gandalf strikes the base of his staff into the ground as his voice rises, the very air around them crackling with power. “You search for a village that has long fallen into rumor! Do you think I do not know what you intend with your brother’s body?”

His ruse uncovered, Faramir turns from his horse and stands before Gandalf, uncowed. “If you know, do not stand in my way.”

Gandalf’s voice gentles, then. “Faramir,” he says, his eyes inordinately kind. “I say this not as your mentor, nor your comrade-in-arms, but as your friend.” He lays his palm across Faramir’s brow—a gesture of long ago, when Faramir had been his pupil, eager for Gandalf’s knowledge of history and lore, before the threat of Mordor loomed large at Gondor’s doorstep. A thread of magic, soothing and warm, emanates from Gandalf’s palm. “Let him go, Faramir. He sleeps in peace now; do not wrest Boromir from slumber to ease your own grief.”

But there are some hurts that run too deep, that even Gandalf’s touch cannot heal.

“If there was but a shadow of a hope,” Faramir says softly, “that the Valar might restore him to me, as they did Beren to Lúthien, I would find another way. I would not seek this village.”

Gandalf only bows his head in response, a clear answer that no such hope exists; the Vala, Mandos, keeper of the dead, would not be moved to pity twice. Would not grant the gift of reincarnation to another ill-fated pair. “Faramir,” he says, in warning and sorrow both.

“Then this is my only recourse,” says Faramir, resolute. He hitches the wagon to the shafts on either side of the horse, checking that the connections are secure.

Gandalf keeps his silence after that, pausing only to shake his head mournfully before taking his leave.

Arwen and Aragorn, the rulers of Gondor newly coronated, come to speak with him next. Faramir supposes that this is their manner of seeing him off.

“I know what it is you seek,” Arwen says softly. She cups Faramir’s face in her palms, smooth and cool. “And I understand your true purpose.”

Faramir looks into her eyes, grey and infinitely sad, and sees that she does. He shakes his head, to deny; he would not have the Lady Arwen remember him this way. “My lady, I am not—”

Arwen presses a kiss, gentle, to Faramir’s brow. “I know your heart’s wish,” she says. “That you would rather share one lifetime with him, than face all the ages of this world alone. I know it well.” She looks toward Aragorn, as they share a moment of understanding, unspoken. Something wrenches in Faramir’s chest at the sight, a sore reminder of the connection he once shared with Boromir. “But there are those who would seek to harm you,” Arwen continues, turning back to Faramir. “I ask only that you have a care on your journey.”

“I shall try,” says Faramir, with a respectful nod. He blinks, stunned, when Arwen gifts him with a hamper filled with lembas and a flask of the Elves’ precious miruvor—the fragrant cordial said to renew the strength and will of the drinker—before remembering to bow more deeply, thankful.

Aragorn does not tarry for long; he has been in the company of Men enough to know when his counsel falls on deaf ears. “I cannot give you my blessing for this journey,” he says before he leaves with Arwen, “but know that you will always have a place here.” His eyes are as sad for Faramir as his fair queen’s.

“Thank you,” says Faramir, trying to sound grateful, but his smile does not reach his eyes. They have long been devoid of any emotion, save grief; little wonder none will believe his lie.

The White Tree, ever a symbol of Gondor’s hope, sends a flutter of fragrant petals toward Faramir as he sets out. Draws his eyes toward the sight of Minas Tirith’s splendor, from his vantage point in the city’s highest circle. Implores him to stay. Faramir pays the view little mind, however; his hope lies beyond Minas Tirith now.

I have played my part in this war, Faramir thinks, even as he rides out. I have suffered my losses, and I have known my sorrows. There is nothing left for me here.

As soon as he is out of sight of the city, Faramir jettisons the wood meant for the barge. It will lighten the wagon and make the crossing easier.

Until now, he has heard only whispers of this rumored village, vague in their telling. Knows only that it lies to the north, and so continues northward, keeping to the known paths, those cleared of remnant Orc bands and agents of Sauron that had not perished at the Black Gate.

“Please,” Faramir tries, at every place he stops, “I seek only the village that can restore life to—” before stones pelt his back, his wagon, and the onlookers scatter, like mayflies in a summer storm.

“Away with you!” one woman snaps, brandishing a pan at his retreating back. “You will bring ruin upon us all with such nonsense!”

Soon, whole villages regard him with suspicious eyes and tight-lipped mouths.

You go against the Valar, they mutter darkly. Against the will of Eru.

Other whispers, unkind, begin to circle, of how a Son of Gondor came to fall so low. Was it not so long ago that he was named a Prince, of Ithilien? Why then, would he ask of things none spoke of, except in shadows, in the darkest of places of the land?

When, at the fourth village, even the children assail him with stones and twigs, Faramir makes a note not to pass this way again, should he return. The people of this land are deep-rooted in their beliefs, in what is right and just.

He wonders briefly how many of them have known grief for a fallen loved one—the crippling kind, mind-numbing, and all-consuming—before deciding it does not bear dwelling on, and continues onward.

The only aid Faramir receives comes in the form of an elder from a small warrior village, just before the forest realm of Lórien. He hobbles out to meet Faramir, when all the other villagers have shuttered their homes against him and shunned him.

“You must follow the river north, just past the northwestern edge of Mirkwood,” he says. “There, you will find a marsh, shrouded by fog. The village lies just beyond that.”

“Thank you,” Faramir says, grateful beyond compare. “Thank you.” He could weep, for this small clue, for this chance that he has been given.

The old man leans heavily on his cane of gnarled oak, the wood worn and bent from age, and shakes his head. “Do not thank me. Only death and ruin lie beyond that marsh; the village it veils has been forsaken by the Valar. You will not find the solace that you seek there.” He pauses as his eyes rove over the wagon’s contents, thoughtful. “The solace you desire.”

Faramir only acknowledges this with a half-nod. Sets his mouth, grim, and continues on. His precious cargo lies behind him, preserved by Gandalf’s magic: the fallen Son of Gondor, his brother, his life.

As the horse trots along, Faramir remembers how he had bore Boromir and the craft carrying him to shore. Had begged a spell of Gandalf, upon reuniting with him at Minas Tirith, to preserve Boromir’s body in a state of stasis, until he could start his pilgrimage. Gandalf had done him one better, mending the most grievous of Boromir’s injuries—arrow wounds numbering three, that had taken his life—before weaving a spell to fulfill Faramir’s request.

Perhaps Gandalf had seen what he intended, long before Faramir himself knew. Had thought he might dissuade Faramir, even before the end.

Faramir’s travels take him past the old fortress of Dol Guldur, along the outer edge of the newly named Eryn Lasgalen. Leads him around what once was known as Mirkwood, to lands just before the Grey Mountains. It occurs to Faramir then, that he is indeed following the Anduin as he had said he would, though in the completely opposite direction, and he allows himself a chuckle at the irony.

As he journeys farther and farther north, he realizes he no longer hears the excited twitter of birds or the scampering of woodland creatures here. It is silent and still, with only the grey sky above and his horse ahead for company.

“Only a little further, brother,” Faramir dares to say, turning to the wagon’s contents, in the absence of any others. Only a little further, until Boromir can join him in life again.

Faramir dares not consider the alternative. Not yet.

It is the journey of another day before Faramir finds the aforementioned marsh. Once he arrives, it takes all his focus to navigate the narrow, stone-littered paths, to keep the wagon from sinking into the bog.

As the wagon rattles over uneven ground, Faramir wonders if the surrounding waters are filled, like the Dead Marshes, with those who have passed. Staring into the sky with their unseeing eyes, from beneath the murky waters’ surface.

Faramir shivers, his fingers tightening on the reins; there is only one of their number he needs worry for now, and he keeps his eyes resolutely forward.

Another half-day passes before Faramir sees the outline of thatched roofs and small cottages through the fog. Before he has a chance to question whether he has arrived at the right place, a band of villagers, armed with an assortment of spears, swords and rope-bound hatchets bar his way. Several peer curiously at him, and others still at his cargo. Faramir glances at them, wary; he will defend Boromir from them, if need be.

“What is your purpose here, traveler?” asks one of the Men at the front of the pack. He has not drawn his sword, but his palm rests on the hilt, cautious, all the same.

“I am searching for the village that is rumored to—to restore loved ones,” Faramir tries. “Perhaps I have wandered too far, and have gotten lost. I shall turn back at once.” Faramir is certain this is the place, but has been met with so much animosity on his journey, that he must test his theory in this manner.

One of the village’s garrison steps out from the others, tall and broad of chest. “No one who comes this far is lost,” he says. He watches Faramir appraisingly, before nodding. “Follow me.”

Faramir urges his horse into a walk, keeping pace behind the Man. “Is it true, then?” he asks, hopeful. “The rumors?”

The villager only smiles, mysterious, in a way that accentuates the scar at his jaw, and leads him deeper into the fog.

When he and Faramir reach the village proper, another Man approaches him.

“You have come a long way, friend. Will you not take some rest?” He eyes the horse drawing Faramir’s wagon. “I can stable your horse for you, if you wish.”

“You have my thanks,” Faramir says gratefully. “But I will find no rest, until I accomplish what I came here to do.”

“I understand,” says the villager with a nod. “I shall find you the one you must speak to.”

A lady arrives next, and Faramir thinks she must have elfin ancestry in her blood, for she is pale, her dark hair drawn away from her face, the ends of her ears tapered to a point. Her lips are too bright in their redness; whether they are stained with berry juice or blood, Faramir prefers not to ponder.

“I am told that I am the one you seek, son of Gondor.” She tilts her head at an angle, and looks at Faramir, assessing. “I am sure we could use another warrior,” she says finally, in approval. “Especially one such as yourself.” The sleeves of her dress, midnight blue, billow in the wind as she extends a hand, lithe, graceful. “You may call me Manadh.”

Faramir nearly starts even as he touches his lips lightly to her hand; he is well-versed enough in Sindarin to know the meaning of her name, but has composure enough to hide his surprise. She has done away with traditional suffixes, using only the base Sindarin word for final fate or final bliss for her name.

It is oddly fitting for a place such as this. With a purpose such as his.

“I know what you have come here to do,” Manadh says, as she casts her eyes toward the darkening skies, “but the moon is not yet suitable for what you ask.” She lays her palm against Faramir’s cheek, her fingers cool. Faramir takes comfort in the fact that she does not try to imbue magic, however needed, through this touch. “And though I understand your haste,” she continues, “preparations must be made for these rites, if they are to be done correctly.” Manadh looks toward the wagon, considering. “Who lies there, that you wish to restore?”

“He was—he is my brother,” Faramir manages, and the way his voice breaks on brother tells her all she needs to know.

“Your brother will hold for one more day,” says Manadh softly, careful. “My men will ensure that he is kept safe. And prepare him for what we will need to do.”

One more day, Faramir thinks. I have travelled for so long, surely a day is but a drop in the sea, to bring Boromir back to me. To bring him back in his entirety. He nods, grim. “Very well, then.”

Manadh waves her hand in subtle gesture toward a group of villagers, who unload the wagon’s contents carefully. “Before we continue,” she says, “you would do well to know that there is a price to be paid for such…spellwork as this.”

“Whatever the price is, I will pay it.” Faramir makes to draw forth a satchel, laden with his life’s wealth. For Boromir, there is no price he would not pay. Nothing he would not give.

“Your gold has no power here,” Manadh says, shaking her head. She beckons Faramir closer. “This is what it will take to bring him back,” she whispers, telling him of things dark and deep and terrible. “And that is what it will cost you to keep him.”

“Yes,” rasps Faramir. He closes his eyes and breathes; he had known the cost would be great. He opens his eyes again, with the knowledge of all it will take to bring Boromir back. All it will cost Faramir to keep him. “Yes.

“For the ceremony,” Manadh informs him when dawn next breaks, “we will need a vial each, of your blood, and your tears.”

“Why is that?” asks Faramir, puzzled.

“We will need the blood that bound you,” she explains. “And the tears of a brother, at the loss of kin and beloved both.”

Faramir thinks to argue her assessment of his relationship with Boromir, but her gaze is sharp, as if it bores straight to the heart of him. He gives both blood and tears willingly.

“We will also need something that was precious to your brother, in life.”

“I…have this,” Faramir says, hesitating even as he presents Boromir’s cloven horn. He is loath to part with it, the prized, silver-tipped heirloom of the house of the Stewards of Gondor. But what use is there in the horn now, when the line of Stewards has been broken?

Manadh cradles both sections of the horn, as she studies it, thoughtful. Even one such as she could not mistake the Horn of Gondor for any other relic, and Faramir waits with bated breath for her verdict.

“This will do,” she nods.

By nightfall, when the necessary preparations are deemed complete, Faramir leaves the small log cottage the village allows him to stay in. He had not slept well, choosing instead to clear the long-unused cottage of cobwebs and dust; it is a small favor for those who might help him in this impossible task, and busywork to turn his mind from what is to come. He finds Manadh waiting for him now beyond the entryway, robed in white, a dark mask of feathers and carved runes adorning her face.

She leads him through clusters of bone-thin trees, steps quiet past winding streams. The ever-present fog of the forest clings low to the ground, and tendrils of it coil, whisper-light and wraithlike, around his boots. They stop once they arrive at the edge of a clearing, the breadth of it reminiscent of a small pond.

“Wait here,” Manadh says, guiding him to a small grove of trees. It is within viewing distance of what appears to be the ceremonial site.

What follows is darkness, men in masks and eerie chanting in the twilit night, an ancient rite in which Faramir wants no part. They whisper old words, wild and fey, until their final incantation, which even Faramir can puzzle out the meaning of.

Return, they chant. Return. Return. Return.

It chills Faramir to the bone, in this already damned damp, and makes his hair stand on end. But by the end of the ritual, only one thing matters to him, and when the others leave the clearing, when Manadh tilts her mask up, nodding for Faramir to come out, he rushes toward Boromir, heart in his throat as he cradles his brother’s form, careful. Slips his hand into Boromir’s, hoping for the slightest twitch of fingers, the shallowest breath, anything to show that Boromir lives.

There is no movement on Boromir’s part.

Faramir feels his heart drop to his stomach, a leaden lump of bitter disappointment, when suddenly, there is a small, insistent tug at his chest, and yes, there’s the connection, a tiny flicker of flame, sparking, then roaring to life.

The ritual has, beyond his wildest expectations, worked, and the final proof comes in the form of Boromir’s hand closing tight over Faramir’s wrist. His draw of a sharp, shuddering breath.

“Thank the—” Faramir breathes, before he remembers the Valar have no part in this. “Thank you,” he says to the air. He clutches Boromir tight to his chest, and cradles his head, gentle. Brushes debris of earth and leaves from his hair. “Boromir,” he whispers, kissing his brother’s brow. “Boromir.”

His brother is cold as ice, his hair damp, and he is too pale in the light of this waxing moon. Faramir winds his hand more firmly around Boromir’s, rubbing to chafe warmth back into it.

“Faramir?” Boromir croaks, his voice rough with disuse. “How came we to be here?” He clutches at Faramir’s cloak. “I could have sworn…at the forest of Amon Hen, I fell.”

“Do you remember anything else?” Faramir asks, urgent.

Boromir furrows his brow in concentration. “I remember a light,” he says slowly. “And fields, the likes of which I have not seen before—wide and lovely, with green the hue of the Anduin, and gold the color of wheat fields.” His mouth twitches, attempting a smile. “You would have loved the sight, Faramir; it rivaled the beauty of the Elves’ lands themselves!” He shakes his head then, and frowns. “Beyond that, however…beyond that, there is nothing.”

Faramir’s heart twists in his chest, guilt at having torn Boromir from his rest, for surely he had made his way past the Halls of Mandos, and found his final reward. That Boromir recalls little of his time beyond the veil is a boon, however, and Faramir breathes out at once, relieved.

“Faramir?” Boromir tries again. “How did we…?” His voice is small and scared, as he clutches at Faramir’s arms, his neck, and Faramir’s heart aches at the touch of familiar fingers in his hair, on his shoulders. He presses his lips to Boromir’s brow again, to reassure and soothe.

“We travelled,” Faramir says at last. “Far and across distant lands to find medicines that could heal you. And rumors of herbs and healers more powerful than any other led us here.”

“Oh, Faramir,” Boromir nearly sobs. His first words after that are not of how impossibly hale he feels nor of their strange circumstance. “I have missed you so.” His fingers, trembling, close around Faramir’s shoulders, seeking the comfort and strength that Faramir has been for him, for so long.

Faramir holds him through their tears of relief and shaky laughter both, and thinks, Not as much as I have missed you.

They have only just returned to the cottage, when Boromir kicks the door shut behind them and crowds Faramir against it.

Boromir,” Faramir scolds, even as he huffs a breathy laugh. “You have just—” He gasps as Boromir’s tongue touches his, his mouth warm against Faramir’s. “You have just barely recovered,” Faramir manages, between breaths, as Boromir kisses him again and again, slowly, intimately, with just a hint of tongue.

He kisses as he once did, all softness of lips and warmth of breath, but as Faramir yields beneath him, his kisses morph into desperate nips, bites, all roughness and teeth, as if he is making up for lost time, and oh how Faramir has missed this, how he wants Boromir, needs him—

“Boromir,” he protests again, drawing away, even if his traitorous hands have worked their way into Boromir’s hair. At the sight of his brother, with hair mussed and his lips swollen red from their kisses, a wave of desire stirs anew within Faramir. He swallows, hard. “You—you must regain your strength,” Faramir says, steeling his resolve and guiding Boromir to the bed. “There will be time enough for this later.”

“Oh.” Boromir blinks. He looks down, uncertain, his voice small. As if unsure of where he stands with Faramir now. “I am sorry. I did not realize my attentions were…unwanted.” When he dares to look at Faramir again, his features are lined with hurt and rejection. Have you found another, in the months I was away? he seems to ask. Am I no longer the apple of your eye? The jewel of your desire? “I shall cease at once.”

Faramir’s chest aches at his expression, that Boromir could think he would give him up so easily, and he loops his arms around Boromir’s waist, in reassurance. Rests his forehead against Boromir’s. “Forgive me, brother,” he says. “I want nothing more than to be in your arms—to be one with you. But I have not the strength at present.”

Faramir himself is exhausted and drained; bringing one back from beyond is no easy task, and not with the price he must pay for it. He wavers then, nearly toppling to the floor, but Boromir catches him before he falls, and lays him down on the bed.

“Rest, Faramir,” Boromir says, pressing him to the bed, insistent. “We shall find rest together.”

His hands are rough and calloused, but as gentle as Faramir remembers, and Faramir reaches out to clasp them in his own. To press small, feather-light kisses to each fingertip. Then he burrows into Boromir’s side as best he can on the small bed, and slides his hands beneath Boromir’s tunic. Revels in the scent of Boromir’s hair, and the touch of his skin, pale and cool. Feels the telltale rise and dip of Boromir’s old scars, each of which he knows the story by heart.

“Faramir,” Boromir murmurs. He lays a kiss to his brother’s hair, soothing the trembling. Wraps his arms around Faramir’s waist, to calm, to reassure. “Sleep now.”

And for all that Faramir wishes to cling to consciousness, to touch and stroke and kiss, as if sleep might steal away this gift, that Boromir has been returned to him, he curls deeper into Boromir’s side with a soft, grateful noise. Slips finally into slumber, to the quiet susurrus of kisses to his hair and whispers of his name.

Even when both brothers regain their strength, they while away long hours lying curled around each other. Shift slowly out of tunics and breeches, to share kisses and less-than-innocent touches.

Faramir marvels at the cadence of Boromir’s voice. The softness of his hair and the smoothness of his skin. He lets his lips rediscover the hollow of Boromir’s throat, then the dip of his belly as he traces the curve of Boromir’s ribs. Swivels on hands and knees so Boromir’s fingers can reacquaint themselves with Faramir’s hips. The arch of his thighs, lean and strong.

Boromir hums as he nuzzles into soft curls below, and Faramir moves instinctually into the touch, barely repressing a moan, before he remembers himself.

“Not yet,” Faramir whispers, regretful; he is unsure if Boromir can withstand the strain of lovemaking just yet, and would not lose his brother again for the sake of a single night’s pleasure. Sensing Boromir’s disappointment from the way his grip falls slack, Faramir adds, “Perhaps later. When your body has had time to mend.”

“Later, then,” Boromir nods. He presses a kiss to the back of Faramir’s thigh in acceptance.

When they have righted themselves again, and traded kisses enough to atone for the long months apart, Boromir sighs softly, his hand stilling in its stroking of Faramir’s hair.

“Boromir? What troubles you so?”

“It is nothing,” Boromir says, shaking his head. “I only wonder what became of the One Ring. And my friends from the Fellowship.”

Faramir strokes his jaw, thoughtful. “The Ring was destroyed, when cast back into the fires of Mount Doom. Of the original Fellowship, I know Legolas and Gimli have taken their own pilgrimage, Gimli leading his people to the caves below Helm’s Deep. And the Halflings, all four of them, set out for their home in the Shire.”

“All four of them!” Boromir exclaims. His smile blazes brighter than the sun’s light upon the White Tower. “Then—Merry and Pippin, they—”

“Yes,” Faramir laughs. He brushes a kiss against Boromir’s cheek, his brother’s happiness catching. “They are well, Boromir. They are safe.”

“And Aragorn?” Boromir asks. “Has he finally acknowledged his birthright? He swore to me, before I…he swore to me he would not let our city fall. Nor our people fail. Has he fulfilled his oath?”

“Aragorn has ascended the throne, and taken the name of Elessar,” Faramir nods. “He is a wise and able ruler, from what I have seen.”

“What of our father? How does he fare?” Boromir chuckles. “I suspect he must chafe under Aragorn’s rule. He was always prouder of bearing and sharper of tongue than most could endure.”

Faramir drags his fingers lazily over Boromir’s chest, as he cannot get enough of touching Boromir, now that he has him back. “Our father found his end in battle,” he says, careful.

In truth, their father had been driven mad by his use of a palantír; in the final hour of darkness before the dawn, rather than stand and fight for Gondor to the last breath, he had chosen to douse himself in flames and burn as the heathen kings of old. Had nearly taken Faramir with him in this madness.

Faramir spares Boromir this knowledge, however, a small kindness to preserve his peace of mind.

“In battle,” Boromir repeats. “I see.” He catches Faramir’s hand and twines their fingers together, until he thinks better of it and simply clasps his hands behind Faramir’s back. Hitches him closer, aligning their bodies at hips and knees and toes. “If our father has passed,” Boromir says, after a long silence, “and both of us are here, who now serves as the ruling Steward of Gondor?”

“There are no longer ruling Stewards of Gondor,” Faramir says. “Only Stewards to the King.”

Boromir huffs, impatient. “And who serves as such during this time?”

Faramir does not say he has abandoned this title, has left this post behind him. “Gandalf serves as Aragorn’s advisor at present. And Aragorn has his lovely queen to guide him as well.” He hates to spin these elaborate tales, a layering of lies upon a thin web of truth, to round out his story to Boromir, but they are a necessary evil for now.

In return, Boromir tells him of what passed in the days after he left for Rivendell. Of the Elves he met, the majestic halls in the depths of Moria, and the Balrog they escaped from. The wonder he felt at the breathtaking sight of Caras Galadhon, Lothlórien’s chief city.

He weeps into Faramir’s shoulder, when he finally dares speak of the Fellowship, his erstwhile companions. Of how his folly had hastened the sundering of the Fellowship.

“I tried to take the ring from Frodo,” he whispers, for the hundredth time. His voice is burdened with the weight of a thousand guilts and even more apologies unsaid.

Faramir holds him through it, kissing Boromir’s hair, his brow, with gentle, soothing presses of lips. “You have paid,” he murmurs each time. With your life. “You have kept your honor, in defending the Halflings. And you have shown your quality, which I know to be of the very highest.”

He threads nimble fingers through the fine hair that falls to Boromir’s shoulders. Strokes it gently, reverently. It is no longer the sheen of Boromir’s once honey-gold, but darker, richer, the shade of oak—perhaps a permanent keepsake of Boromir’s time beyond the veil. Faramir hardly minds; he remembers only its softness. Recalls the long-practiced motions of his fingers through Boromir’s hair, which he now uses to comfort, as Boromir burrows into his arms with a faint, hurt sound.

“Do not carry the weight of your guilt any longer, Boromir,” says Faramir, gentle. “The Ring is destroyed, and Gondor’s rightful king restored. All of Middle Earth is at peace.” The Halfling who carried the Ring has long since returned to the Shire; Faramir will give his brother absolution now.

For he knows the weight of guilt well, carries the burden of his own: he had not been there for his brother, at the most crucial moment; had not been there for Boromir, who had weathered all of Faramir’s hardships, their father’s cruel words and blows, as if they were his own.

Had not been by Boromir’s side at Amon Hen, when he had fallen, leagues away from home.

This, then, is his penance, this half-life with his brother. But as Faramir murmurs soft, soothing nothings into Boromir’s hair and rocks him into peaceful slumber, he finds it is not much of a penance at all; that Boromir is here, safe in the cradle of Faramir’s arms, is absolution enough.

In the days that follow, Boromir convinces Faramir to practice sword-fighting with him, at ever-increasing force, to build up the strength and speed he had before. It is after one such session, while Boromir catches his breath, that he folds his arms over his chest and presses his lips together, indicative of a forthcoming request.

“Faramir,” he says, quiet.

“What is it?” Faramir asks, looking up from his book. Books are scarce in the village, and this one, a guide on the local faunae, is a treasure he brings with him always.

“When are we planning to return to Minas Tirith? I am nearly healed now; surely we can ride out any day!” Boromir turns a beseeching smile upon him. “I would see Gondor at its finest hour of victory again. Bask in the sheer presence of our city. And I have long wished to tread the halls of the White Tower of Ecthelion once agai—”

“We cannot leave yet,” Faramir says quickly, his mouth dry. He swallows hard, to form words, to speak, even as his heart beats double time in his chest. “I—I have errands I must do for the village, in return for their treatment of your wounds.”

“Oh,” Boromir says, beaming. “Why did you not say so earlier? I would help them also. It is not every day a man comes back from death to breathe the free air once more!”

Faramir laughs weakly at that; Boromir does not know how true that is, nor will he, if Faramir has anything to do with it.

Time seems to move differently here, more slowly, somehow. Regardless, they earn their keep in the village, Faramir by joining the band of warriors that defend their home, and Boromir by doing odd jobs, like fixing chicken coops, repairing cottage roofs and supports, and gathering firewood until he is completely well again.

They are welcome here, but it is only after one other occurrence that they realize how much so.

It is when Faramir returns from a skirmish on the outskirts of the village; he and his garrison are to prevent attacks on the village core, but a small rebel group—one with lofty ideals regarding life and death, condemning those who lay in between—had bullied its way through a sparsely guarded entrance at the eastern border. Had attacked those nearby without mercy until Faramir and his men raced their way there to dispatch them.

“Have you seen my brother?” Faramir asks one of the village’s seamstresses as soon as he returns to the village proper.

“No, m’lord,” she says, “but you might try the chicken coop by the old well. I heard tell he was mending a hole the hens pecked into it again.”

“‘Faramir’ will do,” Faramir says. “And thank you.” He smiles, grateful, before rushing off. Continues on single-mindedly, driven by his overwhelming need to seek Boromir out, to know he is safe, that he is well-protected within the village.

Boromir is not at the chicken coop.

Nor is he near any of the livestock pens, or their log cottage. Faramir searches each common area, time and time again, asking each villager he encounters if they have seen Boromir, his steps faster and faster until he is running the length of the village—

“Boromir,” he says, hoarse, when he finally finds his brother, now helping to rebuild one of the fallen shelters, its boards long rotted by damp and snow. Drags him to the side of a nearby barn, sliding fingers into Boromir’s hair as he mouths kisses to Boromir’s cheeks and mouth and jaw. “Thank the Valar,” Faramir breathes out of habit, though he knows he no longer has the right to invoke their name. “After the last attack, I thought—I thought I’d lost—”

Boromir’s arms wind immediately around his waist, a comforting weight. “Still here, little one.” He presses his lips to Faramir’s brow between the flurry of Faramir’s worried touches and kisses. “Still here.”

“Oh, another thing, Boromir—” says a voice, one of the villagers, and Faramir makes a choked noise, pulling away instantly, but he is far too late; they have been seen.

Boromir turns his body, positioning himself in front of Faramir. “Gamel,” he nods, as if he and Faramir have not just been caught in shameless embrace behind the barn. “What is it you require of me?”

“I was only going to say I could use your assistance with another fallen shelter on the south end, near the docks.” The Dwarf’s lips curl upward in a near-smile. “But it is a request that can wait.”

“You are not going to reprimand us?” Faramir cannot resist asking, incredulous, even as Boromir winds fingers tight around his, in warning. “To tell us that what we have goes against Eru?”

Gamel only snorts, sending the braids of his redwood beard flying. “This whole village and its occupants go against Eru.” His voice, though normally gruff, softens. “What right have I, or any of the others, to judge?”

Only then does Faramir notice the visible, bloodless gash low on Gamel’s barrel chest, reminding him how difficult it is to tell who has been restored. He has heard tales of Gamel’s valour in the Battle of Dale from others in the village, but until now has only been on nodding terms with the Dwarf and his son, Gwelin. It occurs to Faramir then that others, not only the realm of Men, had suffered greatly; others who had endured the same crippling grief, who sought comfort here.

Boromir seems to have noticed the Dwarf’s old injury as well, and steps forward. “What do you mean?” he asks slowly, though Faramir’s fingers curl reflexively over Boromir’s forearm, keeping hold of him in warning also.

Thankfully, Gamel only holds his portly stomach and chuckles, before waving them off. “Oh, to be young again,” he sighs, wistful, as he walks away. “Just remember to keep it down, laddies. Us old ones need our sleep too!”

Faramir breathes an instant sigh of relief, his secret of how he brought Boromir back still safe. A guilty flush creeps into his cheeks soon after, however; they have not had the chance to make love as Gamel implies, busy as they are. Careful as Faramir is with Boromir. But every night, he slides close to Boromir, pressing his face into the hollow of Boromir’s neck. Wraps arms around his waist, and legs about his calves, to warm Boromir with his own body.

On this night, when Faramir curls around his brother, he winds his arms over shoulders and belly. Takes care to be gentle near the arrow wounds upon Boromir’s flesh, the scars upon skin ugly and twisted. He is always tempted to avert his eyes at the sight of them, a constant reminder of how close he had come to losing Boromir forever, but it only takes Boromir kissing him, soft and sweet and gentle, for Faramir to remember that he has him back. That this is enough—for happiness, or something like it.

“Faramir? Is something wrong?” Boromir asks, after one such kiss. He turns fully in Faramir’s arms, and Faramir suddenly realizes he has been lying stock-still, watching his brother steadily.

“No. Nothing is wrong,” Faramir soothes. He kisses the curve of Boromir’s brow and his lips, bringing a pleasured flush to Boromir’s cheeks, their apple-brightness only a shade paler than before.

Boromir warms quickly to Faramir’s touch, and Faramir likes to believe, in such moments, that they are both warm, and have always been so. He bundles more blankets and furs, purchased from the more talented hunters in the village, around them. Makes sure no part of his brother is exposed to the cold that pervades their cottage, on the darkest of nights. At present, a humble wood stove in the corner keeps both cold and darkness at bay, a fact Faramir is immensely grateful for.

When Faramir tugs the corner of yet another blanket close, tucking it in around them, Boromir laughs and kisses the tip of Faramir’s nose. “Are we to live in a fort of furs and blankets for the rest of our days, then?” he wonders, teasing.

For the rest of our days, Faramir thinks fervently. For as long as I can keep you. He only grins back in response, feigning easy carelessness the best he can, and answers each of Boromir’s kisses with one of his own.

They are content, and it is all Faramir can ask for, for now.

Boromir chafes at being idle when the village is short on repair work, so after much debate and no short amount of pleading on Boromir’s part, Faramir allows him to join the village guard alongside him.

“Have a care if you must fight, though,” Faramir says drily. “I would not see you injured again for the sake of a diversion.”

“I am no child,” Boromir laughs, circling Faramir’s shoulders with his arm. “But I shall have a care, if only to appease my little brother.”

The next attack sees Boromir injured, though it is but a shallow score of a knife across the back of his hand. He waves Faramir off with a laugh, when Faramir tries to inspect the injury. “It is nothing, little one,” Boromir says, touched by Faramir’s level of concern. “A mere scratch.”

Faramir only nods and gives him a cautious smile. Better not to give Boromir a reason to suspect anything, he decides. He hides his own hand, with its matching wound, in his tunic. Feels it heal sluggishly beneath its bandage, in the days that follow.

Another fortnight passes before Faramir first notices Boromir’s growing unease. Soon after, Boromir corners him near the old quarry, just after Faramir has finished his patrol of the village’s western border.

“Faramir?” Boromir says, his voice uncertain. “I must speak with you about—I have begun to notice, well—things.”

“What sort of things?” asks Faramir, careful.

“Little things. Oddities, here and there,” Boromir replies. “My old wounds, they…they pain me still. As if they have never quite fully healed.”

“Such is the nature of old wounds, Boromir,” Faramir says, with a wan smile. “I would not expect you to be the young sapling you were before.”

“No, there are other occurrences also,” Boromir insists. “The injury I sustained to my hand, not two weeks past—it heals so slowly, as if my flesh refuses to knit together naturally. My wounds have never taken this long to close.” He shakes his head, as if unable to believe what is happening. “Faramir,” he whispers. “What am I? What have you done?”

Faramir’s heart twists in his chest, breaks, now that Boromir has discovered the lie their life is built upon. Something of his sorrow must show on his face, because Boromir stumbles back from him, shaking his head more vigorously than before.

“So it is true,” Boromir whispers. “There were neither herbs nor healers, as you claimed. The end I met at Amon Hen was indeed the end.”

Boromir,” Faramir says. He reaches out to grip Boromir’s shoulders, hard. There is no time to regret the loss of Boromir’s blissful ignorance, because if Faramir does not explain himself now, he will lose Boromir, and he cannot bear to lose his brother again—not ever. “Boromir,” he says again carefully, ushering him to a nearby thicket of trees. “You must listen to me.”

“No, no,” Boromir groans. He braces his hands on Faramir’s shoulders, as if torn between keeping Faramir close and pushing him away. “This is,” he manages, before his throat locks with a dry click. “This is unnatural.”

Faramir grips Boromir’s shoulders more desperately, his fingers digging sharp crescents into the cloth of Boromir’s tunic. “I did what I had to.”

“Why did you bring me back?” Boromir asks. “I could have—I should have gone to the Halls of Mandos by now! Perhaps on to the halls of our father. Of our father’s father. Why, Faramir?” he presses on, hands tight on Faramir’s shoulders in an identical grip. “Why?”

“Because I was selfish in my need of you,” Faramir whispers. “Because I loved you, as I do still.” He hangs his head, unable to meet Boromir’s eyes. “Please, brother, do not fight me in this.” Faramir closes his eyes against the tears that threaten to spill, bites his lower lip in an effort to quell its trembling. “Everyone else has.”

You go to your death, Gandalf had said at their parting.

I, too, have lost comrades to the war, Aragorn had said, shortly before Faramir’s departure. The weight of his disappointment in Faramir was evident. Could you not let this one death go, even if it is that of a brother? But the truth of it was that Faramir could not; Boromir had been everything to him: his brother, his lover, his life. And when he died, he had dragged with him all light from Faramir’s life, left nothing but a void where the stars had once shone, bright. Faramir’s only beacon of hope, the one thing he had clung to, was that after the war, he might seek the truth of the rumor of this village. To reclaim what little of that light he could.

And Arwen—she had said nothing to discourage him, but he remembers the grief in her eyes, misted with tears, in her knowing, her understanding of Faramir’s plight.

Faramir feels the sting of tears rise to his own eyes now, the spill of them over his cheeks and down his jaw, hot and bitter and wet.

It says something about Boromir, that his brother’s sadness moves him more than the strangeness of his new existence.

“I wish for nothing more than your happiness, little brother,” Boromir says softly, his grip loosening to a snug hold. “But you must return to Minas Tirith. You have a life there, and a title—the Steward to the King! And I am sure Aragorn saw fit to grant you lands of your own.” For a moment, Faramir thinks Boromir will push him away, but Boromir’s hands betray him, his fingers pressing back into Faramir’s shoulders, insistent. “Leave me and go back, Faramir. There is nothing for you here.”

“There is nothing for me there,” Faramir replies, adamant. “What need have I for lands or titles? My life is here. With you.”

“Faramir, no. You must go back. Look around you,” Boromir says. He gestures toward the simple cottages, the makeshift livestock shelters and ruined wells, all of it a far cry from Minas Tirith’s grandeur, even in its later days of decline. “This life we lead here is no life at all. It is a wretched half-life, and I…” Boromir sighs, mournful. “I do not know what you gave in return for this, but it was too high a price.”

No,” argues Faramir. “No price was too high to have you back by my side. Do not ask me to leave you.” He takes Boromir’s hands in his, scarred, battle-worn, and kisses each knuckle, as if each is a precious gem, a brightness he will hoard for the days to come. “I cannot bear to be without you. Not again.”

“Is this what you truly wish?” Boromir asks finally, and Faramir cannot see his expression, for his hair hangs low, shielding his eyes. “You are saying it is your wish, to love a dead—”

“Do not say it,” Faramir pleads, his voice a bare whisper. “I beg of you, Boromir. Do not say it.”

Boromir shakes his head. “It must be said, Faramir. For the rest of your days, you wish to love a dead man?”

“If that is what you believe, then we are both dead men,” says Faramir, his voice hollow. “My heart withered to ash the day I saw your body in the waters of the Anduin.”

“No, Faramir.” Boromir steps in close, pressing his palm to Faramir’s chest, and Faramir can feel the rapid hammer of it against Boromir’s hand. “Your heart still beats. You still live. You have a life ahead of you; a life without me. It may be hard, but—”

“My heart beats for you,” says Faramir, his hand closing around Boromir’s on his chest. With his other hand, he cradles the base of Boromir’s neck, willing him to see, just how much Faramir loves him, that he would bring him back from beyond. That they should not waste this chance they have been given. “What little of my heart that has started again has been because of you. So let me love you, brother. I have made my choice.”

When Boromir says nothing for the longest time, Faramir fears the worst. Fears that Boromir will leave him, regardless of what knows.

“Then I too, will be selfish,” Boromir says finally. “Your happiness is mine, and if staying here with me is your wish…” He stops then, as if words are insufficient to remedy what lies between them, and tugs Faramir close, his arms settling tight around Faramir’s waist.

“Yes,” says Faramir fervently, daring to hope. “I wish this.”

“So be it,” Boromir whispers, his hand rubbing soothing circles into Faramir’s back, a comfort and reassurance both. “If this is to be our fate, I will love you—with every beat of your heart, and every breath that I draw—until the end of days.”

And with that, he kisses Faramir, his mouth warm and dry, like autumn air, when for so long he was the heated summer breeze, but Faramir hardly cares because he has his brother back, truly has him, and he will not let him go again.

It is not long after, just when the trees have begun to flower again, allowing the lazy drift of white petals, that the alarm comes.

The peal of the bell, sounding from the tower at the center of the village, comes too early in the morning, hurried and frantic and loud—a signal of impending attack. Faramir and the group he leads are stationed at the south end of the village when it goes off.

It seems a band of warriors have overpowered the first stationed garrison, and made their way into the village. Without time to mobilize all those from the guard against the sudden attack, Faramir’s group is the only one that stands between the enemy and the village core.

Faramir spares a moment to be thankful that Boromir had gone to the north end of the village’s forest to cut and gather firewood; he had set out that morning dressed only in a light tunic and no chain mail, a fact they had quarreled over, until Boromir had kissed him breathless, assured Faramir that no harm would befall him in the scant hour he would be gone, and went on his way.

“You defy the will of Eru,” a warrior hisses at Faramir now, pointing a sword at him. His eyes are wild, glowing with a strange fire of self-righteousness. “Your ways will bring death upon us all!”

Faramir says nothing in reply, darkly irritated that the only ‘bringers of death’ are those who disturb the village, taking up arms against those who hurt no one. He twists out of the way as the Man lunges for him, his momentum carrying him past Faramir and impaling him on a carved stake, part of the village’s rudimentary defense.

“You will burn!” cries another warrior, and Faramir spies a torch flying through the air, falling short of a barn. He stamps it out immediately, horrified. These Men are not only here to maim and kill: they intend to raze the entire village to the ground. To erase the existence of his friends. His allies.

His Boromir.

“Smash their torches!” Faramir shouts, above the din of battle cries and clashing swords. His men take the order to heart, shattering the flaming heads of the torches before they can set ablaze precious buildings and homes.

Even as Faramir slashes and stabs and dodges his way through the advancing throng of enemies, cruel words are flung at him from every direction, ranging from abomination and travesty to against nature. He wonders if any of these warriors have known grief, the depth of which could drive one to seek this village’s help. If they have known sorrow, the crushing weight of which could impel one to defy the laws of nature, and the will of the Valar themselves.

Faramir feels no pleasure in cutting them down as they attack; he does what he must, to protect what is his.

By the time their attackers lie dead and others of the sentry have stamped out the last wayward torch, Faramir sees one of his men, another of the guard duty, distressed at the wound spanning his torso. It is from the telltale arc of a sword, one that has scored an angry red line from shoulder to belly, the wound shallow, but bleeding.

“Come here, Hâdhron,” Faramir says. “Let me see to that.” He has already hastily dressed his own injury, a bloody graze on his shoulder, and now feels compelled to care for those under his command.

Hâdhron, the guard who first led him into the village, obeys without a word, wincing only when Faramir presses cloth to the wound to quell the flow of blood.

“Does it pain you?” Faramir asks, gentle. He takes care not to probe the cut too deeply in his assessment of it. It will heal, but will leave a scar in its wake.

“No,” Hâdhron says stoutly. “My only regret is that my mother will now bear this hurt as well.”

“Then I should have taken this wound,” Faramir says regretfully, tearing strips of an empty chicken feed sack to use as a crude bandage. He sets to winding it about Hâdhron’s torso.

Hâdhron stills Faramir’s hand, momentarily. “No. I would wish this on no other; had you taken this hurt, your brother would bear it also.” His mouth curves into a teasing half-smile as Faramir secures the last of the makeshift bandages. “Surely such injuries would dampen any attempts at ardour.”

Faramir goes very still. “You know nothing of us,” he says flatly.

Hâdhron’s eyes are kind when he speaks next. “I know the look of a Man who came bearing the body of his brother here that day. The look of a Man who had lost the light from his life.” He grips Faramir’s uninjured shoulder in understanding, before rising to his feet. “I know enough.”

When the wounds of those in his garrison have been treated, Faramir makes immediately for the north of the village’s surrounding forest; he must know that Boromir is safe and unharmed, before he can see to the disposal of bodies and the strengthening of their guard. In case Boromir has finished his task of gathering firewood, Faramir decides first to stop by the cottage. Reflects, on his way there, on his exchanges with Hâdhron, with Gamel, about how universal grief is; how it had laid them all low here, from the humblest laborer to the Captain of Gondor.

He has just returned to the cottage when Boromir arrives also, his breath labored, a swirl of leaves trailing his ankles and mud flecking the soles of his boots, as if he had raced to return here, hastened back in a desperate search for Faramir as well.

“Faramir,” Boromir whispers, urgent, hushed. Does not sail into Faramir’s arms as he expects, but pulls Faramir inside instead. “Faramir,” he breathes again, pushing him into a corner of their thatched cottage, crowding him in, kissing him in frenzied panic. He kisses every inch of Faramir he can reach, pressing hard, frantic nips to neck and jaw. The corners of his eyes. The light bruise at Faramir’s hairline. Claws at Faramir’s tunic, his fingers wrenching the lacings from their eyelets, desperate in their need.

Faramir tries to twist away before Boromir spies his wound, fending him off with a half-hearted hand, but Boromir seizes his wrist.

“As I thought,” Boromir murmurs, his gaze settling on the poorly dressed injury. When he looks up at Faramir, his eyes are immensely sad, as if something more than just his body has broken inside him. He kisses Faramir gently now, touching lips to his brow, his cheeks, and his mouth. “Oh, Faramir.” Slips his arms around Faramir’s waist and holds him close, as if he is something precious and dear.

“You—you could not possibly know,” Faramir says, his voice hoarse. That Boromir was able to pinpoint his injury with such accuracy and speed, it could not mean—

Boromir undoes his own tunic, until Faramir is left staring at his upper body, an identical wound on his shoulder. “I have oft wondered what the price you paid for this…existence was,” Boromir says, gesturing between them. “But now…” Something in his voice breaks. “Now, I think I know.”

Faramir remembers Manadh’s warning, then: Your brother shares your life now. He will age as you age. Live as you live. It only follows that Boromir will be hurt as Faramir is hurt, and he pauses briefly to consider the truth behind Hâdhron’s words.

“Do not think to reprimand me,” Faramir says, adamant, before Boromir can speak again. “I knew the price, and still I gladly paid. I would pay it a hundred, a thousand times over, if only to have you by my side.” He eyes Boromir’s matching injury, and grazes his thumb over it, gentle. “But I shall be more careful, in the future. You will not bear such hurts again, if I can help it.”

Boromir only leans in to press their foreheads against each other, and they stand together, motionless, silent. He says all he needs to through that: Have a care with your life, Faramir. You live for us both. Or perhaps I love you. Perhaps all of that and more besides. He kisses a tender trail down Faramir’s jaw, the hollow of his throat, and his next words surprise Faramir, as much as they wring the air from his lungs.

“It is not I that I worry for, but you,” Boromir whispers. “Have more care with your life, Faramir—not for my sake, but yours. Please.”

“Oh,” says Faramir, dazed. He should have known that Boromir’s only concern would be for him alone, and something about that lights a fire within him—that he has made the right choice, that his sacrifice has been worth it—and he surges up into Boromir’s mouth. “Yes, I swear it,” he whispers. Pushes his tongue against Boromir’s, rough, wanting. “Now, more. More.”

Boromir only chuckles and draws away from him, moving to get a basin. “First we must dress your—our wounds.” He peels away the bloodied makeshift bandage from Faramir’s shoulder, and cleans their wounds with hot water. Applies a cooling salve, before winding new bandages around them, identical, his hands moving in the long-practiced motions of treating his brother’s hurts.

Beautiful, Faramir decides, appreciative. Boromir has always been so, but never more so than now, in this moment, when he should be the wounded lamb seeking comfort, but is instead the lion, protector and healer both. He reaches for Boromir’s face, to cup his jaw and bring their mouths together, desperate in his need to touch, to reaffirm, to taste.

Boromir stills his hand yet again. “Impatient rascal, I told you to wait,” he huffs. “Now be still, or this will take longer than it ought.”

When at last he secures the bandage around Faramir’s shoulder, Faramir surges forward again, kissing Boromir like he has wanted to, all teeth and tongue and burning heat. “I want you,” Faramir breathes. “I want you.” They have not made love since the night before Boromir set out for Rivendell, and Faramir needs him, wants him, aches for him.

“Yes, I—” Boromir whispers, urgent. “Yes.”

He starts from where he left off, nipping at Faramir’s throat, peppering his shoulders with kisses, before lifting Faramir’s hand to his mouth. Touches lips to the back of Faramir’s hand, his forearm and elbow, a series of reverent, worshipful kisses that leave Faramir feeling treasured and loved. Draws Faramir toward the bed until they are sprawled along it lengthwise, pressing his tongue to Faramir’s lips, the roof of his mouth, slipping inside, and oh how he wants Boromir, wants him inside, wants him so much, in every way.

Faramir pushes his brother onto his back, straddling his hips and tugging at the edges of Boromir’s tunic. Hesitates when he lifts them just past Boromir’s shoulders, catching the sight of arrow-scars on skin. “Wait,” he says, drawing away. Every fiber of his body yearns for this, but he is paralyzed by his fear of hurting Boromir, fear of—

Boromir’s hand closes tight around his wrist, pulling him close. “I am no wilting flower, Faramir,” he says, mouthing reassuring kisses at Faramir’s throat. “You cannot hurt me.”

Faramir sighs, nods his acquiescence into Boromir’s hair. “Very well, but at the first sign of discomfort, you will tell me,” he says. He prods Boromir’s shoulder, insistent.

“Yes, yes,” Boromir says, huffing a sigh. He shrugs his own tunic off, before grasping the loose ends of Faramir’s and tugging him close for a kiss, hot and wet and filthy. Drags the edge of his tongue along the column of Faramir’s throat. “Hmm,” he muses, smiling. “You taste like leather. And metal.”

“Oh?” Faramir buries his face in Boromir’s neck, vindictive, to bite, to mark. Breathes in the smell of scorched earth, leaves and fire. He decides for now not to reprimand Boromir for walking too near the dragon-burnt wastes of the forest far beyond the village again—a habit Boromir has grown accustomed to before gathering firewood, when he needs time to think. “Perhaps you can find out what I actually taste like if you kiss lower,” Faramir says instead, shifting his hips forward, suggestive. Grinds the front of his breeches against Boromir’s slowly, teasing, as he drops his tunic on the floor.

Boromir rises to the challenge, sitting up and surging forward to press stinging kisses to Faramir’s chest, his sternum, and the highest part of his belly. Undoes the lacings of Faramir’s breeches with far more grace than Faramir does his.

“Can you—” Faramir asks, still fumbling at the lacings of Boromir’s breeches. He draws out Boromir’s length and palms it, gentle, hoping for proof of his brother’s desire. “Can you still—”

“For you—for you, yes,” says Boromir. His breath is warm in Faramir’s ear, and yes, there’s the press of heated flesh against Faramir’s palm, hot and hard and wanting, just as it has always been for him. Faramir could weep with relief for this one miracle, this one thing, that allows them to join as they once did.

A wooden crate doubles as their night table, and Faramir reaches out for it, grasping the vial of oil used to clean their weapons. Slicks Boromir’s length with it, and shifts hastily on hands and knees until he is poised to take Boromir within him.

“Faramir, wait—we both know that is not enough,” Boromir frowns, and Faramir has the good grace to flush at forgetting to prepare himself, in his desperation to have Boromir again.

Dipping fingers to the oil, Boromir traces the edges of Faramir’s entrance, gentle. Slides one finger in, then another, working Faramir open, slowly and carefully. His other hand he twists in Faramir’s hair, dragging him in for kiss after kiss, sealing their mouths together and stealing the breath from his lungs, a distraction from the pain below.

Faramir nearly laughs at the care Boromir takes with him now; it is a far cry from how Boromir first used to take him, his fingers overeager and reckless in their probing. But their years together have tempered Boromir’s carelessness, and banished his disregard for Faramir’s comfort, their touches grown more focused on love and pleasure both.

The thought is gone as soon as it appears, when Boromir slides a third finger deep inside him, and Faramir breaks away from their kiss, gasping hard. Trembles, unable to hold in the keening noise he makes as Boromir crooks them within him, pressing on that elusive spot inside.

“Boromir,” he begs, “there. Right there.” Shifts until Boromir’s fingers dig into that place again, sharp.

“Oh, you like that, do you?” Boromir grins, and he draws his fingers away, teasing, before returning to stroke Faramir there, over and over, until Faramir’s knees buckle beneath him.

“Need you,” Faramir pants, hating how much it sounds like a whine. “Need all of you, Boromir, please.”

As Boromir nods and withdraws his fingers, Faramir strokes him back to hardness, Boromir’s length a heated brand against his palm once more. He guides Boromir to his entrance, letting him slip just inside; cries out as Boromir presses up and into him at the same time Faramir sinks down. It is a tight, slow slide, and Faramir thinks to breathe, to rest when their hips are flush against each other, but Boromir tries a shallow thrust that has him tightening, painful, against the unexpected dig.

“Wait, wait,” Faramir gasps, trembling, and Boromir stills, allowing Faramir to adjust to the length inside him. Cradles Faramir’s shoulders in his hands, for support. Faramir tries to breathe, to slow his short, pained gasps enough to draw a full breath; it has been too long since he took his brother within him, and it burns, even with oil to ease the way. He is glad Boromir thought to prepare him, at the least, and leans in to rest his forehead against his brother’s.

“Easy, Faramir,” Boromir whispers. He rubs Faramir’s shoulders, the length of his back in soft, circular motions to relax him. “We may take our time now. There is no one here to rush us. No one to please but ourselves.” He presses soothing kisses to Faramir’s lips, cheeks and the corners of his eyes, and together they breathe in unison, silent in their stillness, in the wood-fuelled heat of their cottage.

When at last Faramir is ready, he rocks against Boromir, slow, experimental, until they have built up a steady rhythm, enough for the pleasure and friction and closeness he has craved for so long. “Yes,” Faramir breathes, closing his eyes, “like this.”

Faramir,” Boromir rasps, his fingers digging deep into Faramir’s hips as they rock together, moving as one. He scrapes nails across Faramir’s back, heated, eliciting a moan from Faramir as he presses into the touch. Closes his mouth, warm, around one of Faramir’s nipples, pebbled in the cold.

An abrupt twist of Boromir’s hips has Faramir choking back a cry, the impact on his sweet spot sudden and sharp. He arches into Boromir’s grasp, hands scrabbling at Boromir’s shoulders, and upon finding purchase on his chest, rides Boromir, hard.

“Careful—careful,” hisses Boromir, even as he steadies Faramir’s arms with his own, and Faramir remembers then that his brother’s injuries from Amon Hen pain him still. Recalls the stiffness of Boromir’s shoulder, the shallowness of his breaths when they have traveled too far, too quickly—consequences of the wounds he will bear for the rest of his life. He slides his grasping hands beneath Boromir’s shoulders, bracing them against the bed. Thinks better of it and curls his arms under Boromir’s shoulders instead, slowing his pace, as he presses light, feathery kisses to Boromir’s mouth in apology.

Boromir allows the sweet press of kisses for all of a moment, before sealing his lips tight over Faramir’s, winding his arms behind Faramir’s back and wrenching them over in the bed. Faramir cries out, startled, when the motion drives Boromir deeper within him.

“That’s—that’s good,” Faramir gasps. He loops his arms around Boromir’s neck and parts his lips to let Boromir touch their tongues together. Digs his heels into Boromir’s back, encouraging.

“Good,” Boromir nods, relieved. He urges Faramir’s hips farther apart, pushing forward and spearing him open with each thrust. Rocks deep into Faramir through his strangled moans of pain and pleasure both. And when Faramir whispers, his voice wrecked, Boromir, please, I can’t—I can’t, Boromir only hitches Faramir’s leg higher at his waist. Strikes the spot inside him, again and again until Faramir cries out, trembling, shaking, dizzy with the sweet burn of it.

They cannot move as hard and fast as they used to, but Faramir finds he likes this change. Likes how Boromir will move against him, slow and purposeful, each motion meant for deliberate, mounting pleasure, cresting like a wave. It is not unlike the way they had come together in the mornings, between campaigns for Osgiliath and long before Rivendell, sleepy and unhurried, with eyes yet unfocused but each knowing where the other was, through touch and taste and sound. Knowing what the other wanted, as if it was something natural, intrinsic, as unthought of as blinking or breathing.

He is startled from his thoughts when Boromir closes a fist around Faramir’s cock. Bites back a cry when Boromir circles fingers along the length of his shaft, thumb stroking the hood in the easy, familiar motions of lovemaking past.

At the dual pleasures of Boromir’s touch and sensual thrusts both, Faramir clamps a hand over his mouth, hard. Stifles his cries because he is so close, and Boromir is hitting him in just the right place, but Boromir twines his fingers into the hand Faramir has pressed over his mouth. Pins it to the pillow beside Faramir’s head.

“I would hear the sounds of your pleasure, little brother,” Boromir rasps. And with that, he hikes Faramir’s leg higher, changing the angle of his thrusts until Faramir seizes in his grip, choking, wheezing, gasping for air as stars burst behind his eyes. It takes only a clever twist of fingers to the head of his cock, a sharp dig of thumbnail to the slit for Faramir to arch against the bed, shaking as he cries out, breath shuddering hard as he spills.

“Boromir,” he sobs, legs twined tight over his brother’s back. “Boromir.”

The word is like benediction, like freedom, like redemption, and Faramir breathes it once more, twice, before Boromir buries his face in Faramir’s neck, sinks teeth deep into the muscle by his shoulder and spends, flooding Faramir with his seed.

“Faramir,” Boromir murmurs after, as their breaths even out. He strokes Faramir’s hair, cups his face in caress. As if he is a marvel, a treasure.

And even if Boromir does not think so, the word, Faramir’s name, tastes like forgiveness in his mouth as they kiss, soft and slow and leisurely; forgiveness for the fact that Faramir had not been there for the end, at Amon Hen, because he is here now, and will be, for as long as they both shall live.

“Tell me,” Boromir whispers later, in the near-dark. He traces soft, lazy circles on Faramir’s shoulder with his finger, one of his gentler motions in their long hours spent abed this day. “Tell me everything. If we are to start anew, I would know what this life entails.” He kisses the hollow behind Faramir’s ear. “What it costs for you to keep me.”

The words are too reminiscent of the village shaman’s, and Faramir shivers, a full-body shudder that has nothing to do with the spring chill sweeping through their cottage. But Boromir moves to wrap him in broad arms, chasing the chill away, and Faramir, not long accustomed to keeping secrets from his brother, shares everything with him: of how he came to find Boromir as he swept past in the Elven craft, nearly hidden by its high prow on the Anduin. How Faramir bore him to shore, and kept him safe and hidden, until the War of the Ring was over. Until he could make his journey, over land and stream, to bring him here.

And finally, he tells Boromir of what he gave in exchange, because the Lady Arwen had spoken true, had seen what was in his heart: that he would rather spend what little was left of his life with Boromir, than face all eternity without him.

“We live without the blessing of the Valar,” Boromir murmurs, after all is made clear. He nuzzles into the safety of Faramir’s neck, as if instinctively seeking warmth. And though his nose is cold, when Boromir winds his arms low around Faramir’s waist, kissing his shoulder, slow and sweet and worshipful, whispering I love you and Thank you in the dark, Faramir finds he does not mind at all.

“We would have lived without it regardless,” says Faramir, equally soft. He turns to curl arms beneath Boromir’s shoulders, and sighs, the heat of his breath escaping as a small plume in the cool air. Already his own warmth leeches away, a little each day, but it is a price he gladly pays. A quick glance at their wood stove shows the fire has long since gone out, but neither of them wishes to leave the haven of their blanket nest or each other’s arms to relight it.

“And if you could make this choice again, would you?”

When Faramir laughs, Boromir winds his arms tighter about Faramir’s waist, gently reproachful for the absence of a serious answer. For a moment, Faramir can almost remember what his embrace felt like when Boromir had a warmth of his own, but he does not lament the loss of it for long.

“Not for all the gold and riches you could imagine would I wish any different,” he breathes, an oath, against Boromir’s lips. “Not for all the stars in the sky, nor the lands or titles bestowed upon me would I be parted from you.” Faramir presses kisses to his brother’s cheeks, his brow, and says softer still, “I would not suffer another glorious dawn without you.”

“Oh,” says Boromir quietly. Contemplative.

And when Boromir is silent for longer than is his wont, Faramir peers into his face, curious. Finds Boromir’s eyes bright, brimming with unshed tears.

“Boromir, love, what is it?” He cups his brother’s face in his palms, worried. That Boromir will say he cannot live like this. That of all days, Boromir will choose this one—the one after they have made love in this new life of his—to forsake him.

Boromir only shakes his head, his smile trembling through the myriad tears he allows to fall. “Never did I think, that in a choice between life or love, you would choose love.”

“No,” Faramir says, folding Boromir into his arms, gentle. “It was never a choice for either.” He kisses away the tears, the salt streams of Boromir’s sorrow and happiness both. “I chose a life with love.”

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

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