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Wishful Thinking under the Summer Stars (NC-17) Print

Written by December

11 October 2023 | 8431 words

Title: Wishful Thinking under the Summer Stars
Author: December
Rating: NC-17
Pairing(s): Faramir & Aragorn
Warnings: Sexual tension, angst & drama
Author’s note: Thanks for reading! Now that one of my WIP stories is finally nearing completion, allowing myself the luxury of starting you guys on a brand new adventure. Let the madness begin!

Aragorn is tired of keeping a dark secret from his handsome steward.

Part 1.

The last remnants of evening light are melting away, settling into the dark shapes of the slender trees and fragrant shrubs, the tiny blooms scattered on them like first stars.

They tread softly side by side, the grass beneath their feet unpaved by stone, unmarked by a path of any sort at all. This element of the gardens’ design, this decision to impose no structure upon the visitor, Aragorn finds lovely and refreshing. He reads generosity and humility into this unassuming touch, and catches himself, once again, wishing to linger.

As ever, the man by his side knows his thoughts.

“I am glad you were able to stay another day, my lord,” Faramir says.

“So long as I am not over-stretching your kind hospitality,” Aragorn replies with a smile.

“My king, we are not in court,” the Steward reminds him in teasing reproach, “I might just take your pleasantries a little too seriously, and be wounded to think that you might indeed consider my hospitality to you a finite entity.”

“To me as High King?” Aragorn teases in return.

“To you as anything.”

Aragorn sighs inwardly, knowing he wishes to read into these simply spoken words more than he ought to.

“Were it not for your royal duties in Minas Tirith,” Faramir goes on, “I long ago would have had you moved in permanently.”

“Would have you now?” the older man laughs. “Would I not get a say?”

“Very well, would have you said nay?”

“Oh, probably not!”

“There we go then,” Faramir reaches to touch a low-hanging branch. “If you knew only, how lonely it gets in my halls at times – especially when the groves and the meadows are this fair.”

“But are they not this fair at all times?”

Faramir glances at him with a quick grin, and takes a hidden turn between two redolent lilacs. “Precisely, my king.”

“Where would you even put me?” Aragorn follows through the narrow space, breathing in a full chest of the blooms’ nectar mixed with the faint leather-and-spice fragrance Faramir leaves in his trail.

“Hm, where indeed?” the Steward looks him up and down appraisingly. “Let us see, I might just have a vacant bunk at the guards’ – or would your majesty rather a spot with the Wood Elves?”

“And be kept up all night by their rowdy singing?”

“Surely my king is not too old to stay up the night? It can be rather a lot of good fun in the right company.”

Aragorn looks at the dark silk of the grass beneath his feet to steady his step. The mere temptation to translate this inconsequential banter between old friends as flirtation is already like onto sweet mead. He should steer it into safer waters.

“You are quite like an Elf yourself, Faramir – this robe you’ve got, it is not of Gondorian make.”

“No indeed, the robe is a gift,” the younger man spreads his arms, demonstrating the old-fashioned cut of sleeve and collar. “Very convenient, too, I highly recommend it. Keeps one warm in the cold, keeps one cool in the heat, stays in place by virtue of a sash – I never before have been able to dress or undress this swiftly.”

Aragorn proscribes himself from imagining what that process would look like in practice. Alas, in all of his realm his own mind would seem the worst at obeying his orders. He takes a deep breath. If even casual conversation has become so much of a trial, like finding a dry route through the marshes on a foggy midnight – the time indeed has come, it can be put off no longer.

He has no excuses left. Has he not dallied and stalled enough, has he not told himself that it was for this exact purpose that he had come to Emyn Arnen this time, that he had to stay this extra day?

But the day is almost done now, and the solace of buying a few more safe minutes beckons all the stronger, and he finds yet another way to dance around the subject. “Speaking of the Elves, what is keeping them? Did they not use to frequent your gardens for nocturnal strolls?”

“So they do, and I oft join, for as you know I have grown rather fond of their ways,” Faramir says. “But I have asked that we not be disturbed tonight.”

“You have? Why so?”

Faramir looks at him thoughtfully. “I would’ve hoped that you would tell me that, my king, if that be your will.”

This is too close for comfort, too much of a coincidence, and Aragorn frowns as his pulse breaks into a startled gallop.

“Have I troubled you in some way, Faramir?”

The Steward tilts his head to the side in partial assent. “It could be said so, I suppose, even though it saddens me that such be your first thought. What troubles me is that I know that you have come with a heavy heart – also that it has long been so.”

“That is true,” Aragorn agrees carefully.

“You would agree also, it is rare, unheard of even, that you would nurse a concern alone and not speak your mind with me, whether for counsel or solace only. You are restless, and having assumed you were but waiting for a quiet time and place, I had expected you to mention it yesterday, after the hunt.”

“That is true also,” Aragorn confirms again. “I had meant to.”

He had. As the two men roasted the game far in the woods where the stag had led them, as they rested by the fire afterwards, as the sky blazed and the rosy glow of the setting sun hung amid the tall trees, as the day died and so did the embers, as Faramir unstrung his bow for the night and they settled to sleep, he had waited for the right moment. It never came. As it never does.

“I see,” Faramir says softly.

“It was… it seemed… it would have been inconsiderate to you, Faramir. If afterwards you wished to be alone, we were too far away and it was too late to head back. I had thought… today would be better.”

“And yet,” with a sweep of his hand Faramir takes in the dark closing in on them, “today has all but departed.”

“Well, what if… you do not like what I have to say?” Aragorn cringes at the vast inadequacy of the euphemism.

“If it causes you distress, I may indeed not like it. That matters little though, and I would ask that you not let it stay you – if that is all that stays you. Both as my king, and as everything else you have become to me, it is my greatest wish to see you joyful and merry, or at least at peace and free of worry. If there is any part I can play towards that, if even to listen only, I would that you tell me.”

Aragorn touches him on the shoulder in thanks, and nods.

Once it is done, he will not be able to do even this much, an otherwise innocent touch.

He wants to hold on, for a heartbeat more, to everything that will be lost once he has said what he must. To everything he had never truly had to begin with – but that was, nevertheless, his alone. It will be no more after tonight.

Aragorn knows that the loss will be raw and bitter, for it will be more real than all his phantom riches. So, he rakes through his warped, bitter-sweet treasure in one final frantic bid to preserve, to salvage at least something.

His steward, fleet-footed and strong voiced, can with much finesse out-sing, out-dance, and on occasion out-drink, many a seasoned Dwarf and Wood Elf. And what a joy that is to behold. Or the exquisite intellectual pleasure of observing Faramir’s brilliance at court, to sit back and let him sort out those self-important pedigreed buffoons twice his age. Faramir’s close personal understanding of what moves the hearts of each of the men at the table is like a compass, and he navigates the web of oft conflicting interests with an easy grace. Although his hand is well capable of firmness, he tends to choose patience even where Aragorn himself would have long ago barked at the lot of them in well-deserved exasperation. But he does not need evidence of Faramir’s merit to delight in his company, and likes him best one-on-one. Obligingly, their friendship is of the sort that most naturally lends itself to just that, to private conversation that never quite follows a straight road, to long stretches of silent companionship. To sequestered, private worlds.

He recalls the hot summer day in the groves of Ithilien, when the two of them had found a secluded bend of the Anduin for a private swim. Remembers his heart high and loud in his chest, the drunken anticipation of this stolen moment.

Remembers his own exclamation of surprise when the young warrior beside him pulled off his riding tunic to reveal an intricate charcoal-black tattoo of Gondorian motifs. Starting with a neat cuff at Faramir’s left wrist and lacing up a full sleeve up his arm, it spilled over his breast to the front and shoulder blade to the back, and thence trailed down his flank in one unbroken pattern. Only to slip out of sight under the waist-band of his breeches.

Aragorn was awash then with irrational, unreasonable jealousy, resentment almost, for the lucky bastard of an artist who got to lay this ornament in place, to have Faramir’s body for a canvas for an unholy length of time. With total permission to look, and touch, and leave his mark, and to know where this tattoo ends while Aragorn never will.

Then as Faramir, at first dismissive in his usual modesty, but soon warming under his king’s interest, took Aragorn through the designs, the jealousy was ousted by an even harder sentiment to stomach.

Faramir had had this done after the War, as a remembrance, he said, as a way to reconcile his sorrow. To pay tribute to the beauty and wonder he considered himself fortunate to have encountered amid the trials and losses of those times.

“It is no different, I don’t think. Some lay their heart into song, some plant gardens, yet others seek to assert their survival with a flock of heirs. Storytelling happens to be the path that appealed to me best, and I had always heard praise for the calming effects of needle-work,” the young man had said with an open smile. As though it were only trivial, the depth of sorrow that had driven him to seek out even further pain to process, inch by inch, everything that had befallen him, all of them, in so short a time.

Boromir, he explained, had used to have a banded sleeve inked onto his sword arm, a new band added for every score of Orcs he slew. Although Faramir’s angle on the patriotic sentiments he and his brother shared was different, and he chose to give no direct depiction to their defeated foes or the act of war itself, Boromir’s little tradition had been his inspiration.

This was where guilt hit Aragorn like a troll club on the head.

To be made privy, with such unguarded trust, to something so personal – but his mind’s eye in its wickedness persisted to leer through the graceful black lattice, to strip it off Faramir’s body with blatant lack of ceremony. To ignore the silvery sheen of mallorn leaves, so faithfully depicted. To gaze upon Boromir’s linked Elven belt engirdling Faramir’s arm, river waves flowing forth from beneath it, bearing the one dark leaf of the funereal boat to rest – and see instead the taut curve of a warrior’s bicep beneath, the blue vein pushed to the surface by the power of the muscle.

Show some respect – but he found something inexplicably, excruciatingly erotic in the way the design was so cleanly cut off at the wrist, the black sleeve like a real shirt, like decorative armour. Meaning, of course, that this man could never, under any circumstance, be completely, truly naked. Not that this would ever become a real problem Aragorn would face. Not that this was a problem Aragorn should even be contemplating facing.

He had to admit though, Faramir had chosen his ink-master well. Someone with both honed skill and true talent, with a gift to relate with striking precision the inner essence of things through the austerity of simple line and curve. And he is thrilled, proud even, completely beyond reason, to know that his own part is woven into this tale.

Upon Faramir’s breast, directly over the heart, sits the unmistakable shape of the winged High Crown, filled in with seven white stars, as though a slice cut from the night heavens. Nothing more, of course, than a symbol of fealty – but still. And upon the place between his shoulder and collar bone, the welted scar from the Southron dart is left uncovered almost as a badge of honour, the only blank space in the whole piece. So stark is its emptiness, Aragorn had wondered how he had missed it at first, a pristine area about the size of a man’s palm.

When he looked closer, he saw that this was, indeed, as though a man’s hand had been placed here in protection, and the ink had had to go around, as if this spot had been rendered forever invincible to anything.

“Is that…?” Aragorn had asked.

“Where you laid your hand upon me, when I lay for dead amid the wounded,” Faramir had confirmed, looking him straight in the face with those bright steel-grey eyes. Those eyes that looked as though they had shards of diamonds in them.

Aragorn had felt his fingers tingle with touch, and saw that unknown to himself he had raised his hand, as though it were the missing piece of a Dwarven jigsaw puzzle that he was compelled to return to its rightful place.

Faramir had looked upon the man’s open palm, inches away from his bare shoulder, then up to meet Aragorn’s gaze again. And a heat came over Aragorn, and breathed into his face like the fire of an open furnace, and he blinked and shook his head, and with a mumbled apology dropped his hand.

A strange look had come into Faramir’s eyes then, and he turned away, saying, “Come, let us bathe ere we are baked by the sun.”

Thankfully he had dived in as he was, clad in his breeches, thus excusing Aragorn to do the same and keep private the indecent strain in his loins.

This was years ago now, before the trees in Faramir’s garden were taller than the men who trod the unpaved paths among them. But the guilt is still hot and pulsing, like freshly slain game not yet gutted and bled. No guilt, however, can assuage the unleashed cascade of remembered indulgencies that flash through his mind whether he would have them or not. The way the high sun shone on Faramir’s bare skin, throwing dappled shadows on his beautiful archer’s back. How Faramir had come up for breath next to him, the untanned nape of his neck showing where his wet hair had parted under its own weight. The way he had slept on the green bank afterwards, lulled by the mid-day heat and the hazy humming of sapphire dragonflies above the dark water. Aragorn had sat beside him, and smoked his pipe, and watched him sleep – and those were easily his happiest minutes of that entire year.

He collects these memories like precious river pearls on a string, no two the same in shape or hue, a cherished toy to keep him company on the black nights alone in his regal bed. He would lie flat on his back counting through his rosary of transgressions, right hand upon his heart, the left under the fur-trimmed covers, hiding this even from himself, eyes tightly shut.

In between the pearls of remembered things, sit the translucent glass beads of things imagined. Things that can only be imagined because they are not the sort of things that can come to pass. But as his wrist stealthily polishes his shame into rigid hardness, so the boundaries in his mind soften and blur, and the difference between images reconstructed and altogether concocted becomes negligible enough to sacrifice to the greater purpose of grasping temporary release by the tail.

He is not quite sure which style of fantasy he is disturbed by the most, which would be fundamentally more insulting to Faramir. In either case, he has little control over the flavour that will be served to him on a given night.

At times he gets exquisite, gentle love-making. With all the unbearably life-like detail.

There is that morning they had taken Aragorn’s new boat for a sail on the River. It was built for open waters, with the structure and gear to work the sea winds and currents. But he had wanted to bring the curious Faramir with him, for them to awaken the mariner in the Steward’s Númenorean blood, so the river had seemed perfect.

The air had been bright but rough, and the blue water rippled heavily, shimmering with blazing silver. Faramir squinted against the sun, chuckling at the futility of his novice efforts and Aragorn’s assurances that he had it in him. Aragorn had stood close behind, a little too close perhaps but nothing new about that, guiding him how to work the ropes to tame the wind.

A sudden gust had torn the sail away and swung it back at them, and to avoid a hearty blow from the polished boom, Faramir had leapt back. Aragorn had not stepped away in time, and the young man crashed into him and knocked his feet out from under him, and they fell onto the deck, gasping for breath with laughter in a heap of limb and cape.

Aragorn had thought of this moment long after, the sudden physicality and inexplicable, boyish rapture of it. In his inner vision, when he lay sprawled on the boards with Faramir atop him, he took the young man by the shoulders and turned him over. He tucked Faramir’s raven hair behind his ear, cupped him on the curve of his jaw, and kissed him full on the mouth. As the unmanned vessel spun, and listed, and nestled them snugly against the starboard, Faramir responded in kind, tongue and all.

It may be so sickeningly disrespectful to envision his steward, himself a high lord and accomplished man-at-arms, giving in so tenderly, so sweetly to the weather-beaten ranger that he is, stubble, and scars, hairy chest, bony knees and the rest of it – but wait for the alternative. An alternative not remotely anchored to anything that had actually happened, and he was winded, left aghast by the vision of the two of them taking turns having each other from behind, next to the fireplace atop a lustrous bearskin, the flames casting an orange sheen on their sweat-glistened skin. The exertion of the coupling so vigorous it would almost seem violent were it not for the shared ecstatic abandon.

Sometimes he gets a longer script, a perfunctory measure of context worked in to make it a little more believable. There is usually some fantastical premise, but he only need suspend his disbelief the once, and agree that indeed, they could become stranded on the slopes of a winter mountain on some unlikely secret mission, and fall into an icy stream, and for sheer survival be forced to keep each other warm overnight naked under the one dry cloak in their possession – it could happen! Faramir clad in naught but the simple mithril circlet upon his brow, Aragorn’s woollen cape with a miniver of silver fur loose about the young man’s bare shoulders, his bewitching lips kissed blue by the frost.

It is but a glimpse, torturously brief, but he feels it so tangibly with all of his body that it rams through every rational gate he tries to erect in its path. Once the requisite sacrificial lamb of common sense is laid at the altar of lust, from there it goes easier and easier and faster and faster like downhill in a sleigh. Yet unlike in a sleigh, his fall will transcend the mechanics of the world and turn, miraculously, into flight, and he will soar up to the heavens above, and dissolve into bliss for one glorious instant.

The joy, such joy. Explosive, overflowing, blindingly sweet.

And how painful, how shameful the immediate aftermath. To fall asleep knowing he will wake up to the white light of day still smelling of his perverse pleasures, that as he lifts the covers the sour warmth will waft in his face. He has long given up on trying to wash it off, for just as Faramir’s tattoos, it stays etched into the skin – or else, directly into his conscience, what’s left of it.

Faramir’s indomitable spirit, the might written into his very frame, the bright, keen light in his eyes, the proud uprightness of his posture and acute sharpness of his mind all suggest to Aragorn a deep fire burning within. A capacity for this wild passion, a capacity to revel in these pleasures with remarkable intensity… And yet at once this pure, unsoiled quality to him, something lucid and clear, that thoughtfulness in his gaze, that care in his speech, that touch of sadness in his smile. It makes it akin to crime to think of him in this fashion, it makes it somehow a thousand-fold dirtier to think of him so than of anyone else.

He is brought back by a sudden grasp of Faramir’s hand on his arm, respectful but firm. He has nearly walked square into a tree in his distraction. It is dark, but not so dark as to constitute a legitimate excuse for someone with his length of experience in the woods.

Faramir says nothing, but his expectation hangs tangibly in the air. There is a taste of concern to it, even a tinge of reproach.

Aragorn sighs.

He will not find the perfect words. Perfection will not fix anything anyway. Might as well get it over with.


Part 2.

Faramir awaits, with calm attentiveness. It is even harder to speak in the light of his gaze.

Aragorn looks away, takes a steadying breath.

“I value, dearly, our friendship, Faramir, and… I ask only, I ask of you to trust me that this is not by intention. I dare hope that you would not turn away from me entirely – but I shall understand if it is impossible not to. It has taken a long time to come where you are with me as with a friend or kin, not lord only. And I wish, nay, I hope, I cannot ask but I do hope, that in time perhaps…”

If this is painful for Faramir to watch, as Aragorn suspects it must be, nothing in his countenance betrays as much. Instead, he gently takes his king under the arm and resumes their walk. Aragorn allows himself to be led along, and with movement the words come a little easier.

“Faramir, you must know this – for some time now, I have not been fully honest with you. Not directly, by omission only, and not by design – but through bewilderment alone. And I wish you to know also, that I place no expectation on you… on the premise of your service to me, of any debt you might ascribe to yourself…”

He needs some kind of reaction from Faramir, at the very least an acknowledgement, but for an age the younger man only treads alongside him in composed silence.

As finally he speaks, there is no change to his leisurely pace, and nothing prepares Aragorn for his words.

“Is it then, my lord, that you have resolved to speak of the fact that your feelings for me go further than you believe they ought?”

Of course, Faramir already knows. How could it be otherwise.

What little was left of Aragorn’s hope to get through this with some measure of dignity, goes out like a white bird shot down from the sky.

It is too late, he has left it too late, what could have at least been the decent thing to do is now only damage control, a cornered admission of what is long past deniability.

Panicked thoughts swirl up in him like silt stirred up from the riverbed. How long has Faramir known? Long enough to master himself, to wrap his disgust in courtesy.

Long enough to even choose kind words for it. What a forgiving, considerate way to describe the monstrosity that Aragorn harbours beneath the shroud of propriety.

How can Faramir even stand touching him?

He pulls his arm away, although this, too, is too late to make any difference.

Faramir glances over at him.

“I take it, my lord, that I am not wrong?”

“Alas, not.” He hates himself for this, but he must ask. “How… how long?”

The Steward shrugs, as though to say that it is immaterial, that his liege should not worry about such inconsequential detail.

“I suppose I might have been wondering for some time. For a long while I had my doubts, for my king is a master of disguise, but since the incident with our guest from Harad I have grown ever more certain.”

“Ah, that.”

Aragorn still cringes to think about that night.

The old king of Harad who had waged battle on the Pelennor Fields as part of the Dark Host had not outlived his master’s defeat by long.

His son, upon taking his place, had come to Minas Tirith to pledge allegiance to the High King of the newly Reunited Kindgom. He came in style, too, with a never-ending retinue of advisors, concubines, servants, heralds, camels, horses – his entire estate, it seemed.

He also bore many gifts. Weighty gilded chests full of coin and gem, rolls of carpet and fine fabric, scrolls of poetry, seedlings of sweet fruit trees. Even some fresh wives for Aragorn, which the King had politely declined, although he was touched by the thought.

It was only proper to reciprocate with a feast.

The Southern lord, noble in bearing and educated in speech, was eager to benefit from alliance with the powerful Gondor, and being free of his father’s wounded pride he seemed a natural fit in court. With Aragorn at the head of the long table, he was given the seat of honour to his left, across the Steward on the King’s right.

He sat tall and straight, unfettered by all the eyes drinking in his exotic persona. Strong and lithe, with skin of polished dark-wood and twinkling, laughing eyes, he clearly saw it as an act of public service to flaunt his striking looks for the enjoyment of others. He kept his whole head shaved to the scalp, except for a narrow strip running from forehead right to the nape of his neck, which was grown long and plaited through with gold-thread. The folds of his robe wound curiously about his lean frame, showing much of his sinewy arms and the entire left side of his chest, where a golden hoop was set through his nipple.

Aragorn would have judged the evening a solid success – if only it were not for Faramir.

The Steward, in Aragorn’s opinion, was rather overdoing the part of the welcoming host.

Aragorn, being sat between the two of them, was left feeling decidedly in the way, so much were they leaning across him to speak to each other. And Faramir, too, listening with such rapt, undivided attention to the visitor’s tales, related though they were with great flair in that deep voice with its expansive accent. The tales, in Aragorn’s opinion, were not particularly good.

When later in the night Faramir was called by duty to check on some other noblemen further down the table, the Southern chieftain had turned to Aragorn. His white smile was broad, but Aragorn did not like the look in his amber eyes as the man indicated Faramir to him with his gaze.

“I must say, Lord Elessar, your steward is a most beautiful man,” he confided in a chummy, king-to-king way. “Of all your crown jewels, which are many, perhaps the brightest.”

His gaze lingered on Faramir as he spoke, and as the Steward leant forward to someone, his tunic stretching over the taut curve of his backside, the Southern king’s eyes unmistakably followed.

Aragorn made a noncommittal noise in response and was about to reach for more food, but the other man would not take the hint and pressed on. “I regret to have learnt he was wounded in battle by one of ours – could I hope he holds no personal grudge?”

Aragorn gave his guest a gracious smile. “That you certainly could, we place no tax upon hope. And I shall tell you more,” he leant in closer, lowering his voice companionably, “whatever be the custom of your people, you lay one finger on my steward, and I shall have your kingdom laid to waste and you nailed to my city wall.”

In the morning at breakfast, Faramir had remarked with a raised brow, “The young king of Harad seems to have departed rather abruptly.”

Aragorn had shrugged, and sipped his tea.

He looks upon his steward now, manages a grin.

“The king of Harad, Faramir, unfortunately was rather stupid.”

“He meant well, and he lacked the benefit of experience,” Faramir points out leniently. “Yet I was always curious – did your wrath come solely from the danger to my virtue, or was it that you begrudged him the boldness?”

Aragorn stops in his tracks. “That boldness is nothing to envy!”

Although he doubts it as he says it. It should be nothing to envy, and yet… to want so freely, with such unreflecting entitlement…

Faramir looks at him quietly, with a full turn of his face so that Aragorn can see the faint glint of starlight reflecting in both his eyes.

“My king,” he says, speaking seriously now. “I do not hold it against you that you had travelled a long road to open your heart to me. If anything, I have not been fully honest with you myself, for I had not said a word either, even in light of the knowledge you had let me glimpse. Perhaps that makes us even.”

Aragorn spreads his arms. “Even? I do not think you understand. That I attempted to keep it secret is nothing to be proud of, but it is not why I bring my apology to you. I did not think you would still be standing here, speaking with me, but instead you take this insult to your honour so calmly that I must wonder if I am failing to make myself clear.”

“I do not take it calmly,” the younger man says flatly. “But I will not take it as insult, for it is not. If my king may have it in him to find men attractive, it does indeed fail to offend me.”

Aragorn crosses his arms. “I do not find men attractive. Not… as a general rule. This is an exception.”

There was never anyone else, nothing like it.

“If the distinction makes a difference to you, my lord,” Faramir agrees, clearly humouring him, and turns to continue on their stroll.

“Of course, it does. I am not like that!” Aragorn finds himself calling at his back as he is made to go after him.

“Not like what?” Faramir asks casually, hardly glancing over his shoulder.

“Some… some dirty old man. Lusting after fair warriors half my age.”

“Please, my king. I am no youth, to be endangered by a grown man’s desire. Nor are you old, in any way at all and certainly not in the way that could possibly put a man past the yearnings of heart and body. If anyone could take his pick, it is you, my lord. To think that you would choose to look my way.”

Aragorn has an urge to grasp Faramir on the shoulders and give him a good shake, to make him see past the ever-charitable excuses that he seems to keep in inexhaustible supply.

“I did not choose to look your way, Faramir. It came upon me unbidden, though it would be a lie to call it unwelcome also. For even to think of you has brought me such bliss that no years of the Valar could atone for. I am so sorry, my friend. I honour you above any man who lives in this day, and yet my thoughts of you are selfish and unclean. I cannot make it not be so.”

Faramir slows his step, looks around.

“When you say, unclean,” he probes carefully, although as if a little distractedly, “what do you mean by that, my king?”

Aragorn takes in a chest-full of air but has difficulty breathing it back out.

“Faramir, I… I do not mean anything good by it.”

“I see…” Faramir stops momentarily, looks back, then shakes his head and carries on. “So, for instance, something along the lines of yourself and I, alone, and I am standing on my knees before you, and –”

“Faramir, don’t!”

“– and you lift up your tunic for me, and I cradle your cock in my mouth?”


“Is that not a thing you wish from me then?”

The King barely resists the temptation to bury his face in his hands. “Perhaps not quite in such terms?”

Though of course this is exactly how he would wish for it.

This and so much more, so much worse.

It seems Faramir is about to say something else, but thinks the better of it.

He steps to the side, and for a moment Aragorn thinks that Faramir is leaving, but in the shadows it looks like he is reaching up to a tree and then pulls something down. An ornate Elven lantern comes alive in Faramir’s hand, lit without a flame. He places the end of a long forked stick through a hoop in the metalwork and raises the light above their heads.

“It was getting dark,” he explains conversationally, as if the entire prior exchange has never taken place, and continues on their way.

As Aragorn goes after him once again, he looks around in the soft yellow-green glow only to see that they have long left Faramir’s gardens behind. They are deep in the older parts of the woods now, the wild places untouched by the designs of Men. The undergrowth is thick and the trunks of the mature trees are powerful and gnarled with age. Moss-covered boulders crowd underfoot and tall fern-trees open their many frond-hands overhead, casting a latticed net over the stars above.

The air tastes different here, purer, sweeter.

His ears then pick up the faint sounds of distant singing in the Elven-tongue, coming from many places at once, and then the music of cold water running over rocks.

They will not be returning to the Emyn Arnen seat anytime soon.

A strange calm comes over him. The worst has been said aloud, and all that is left now is to wait, for clearly his host is not yet done.

Quietly he follows in Faramir’s footsteps as the path through the trees grows narrow. Faramir points out when to look out for a root or a burrow, but otherwise does not speak.

The trees around them grow taller, or rather the sides of their path rise and turn into banks, and they find themselves walking on the bed of a small glen. This then opens into a clearing, a private little meadow under the stars.

Aragorn thinks that this is an old night, like one of the nights in Middle-earth before the Valar had made the Anor and Ithil to sail the skies, when there were only the stars of Elbereth overhead.

A wind breathes through the dark grass and it caresses their legs as they pass, leaving a coolness of night dew in the fabric of their clothes.

He sees a stream of clear water running down a rocky trail in the grass ahead of them, coming seemingly from a solid cliff-face at the other end of the clearing, from under the feet of an ancient willow.

The grand old tree, its dangling slender branches lit up from beneath by the Elven lamp in Faramir’s hand, seems a vision from the long-gone days of his childhood. Everything is as though coming together now. Who would have thought there would come a day in his lifetime when one could walk through Ithilien in the dark without a drawn sword. Who would have thought this noble young man, a little less young now but just as noble, whom he first saw on the verge of death, blood aflame with poison – would be the one taking him on the winding path.

Who would have thought that the Elvendoom of his youth, which is disappearing from Middle-earth like mist after sunrise, could be found right here, a day’s ride from the shining glory of Minas Tirith, and a thousand years away.

Faramir turns to him, takes a deep breath, closes his eyes for a moment as the night breeze blows a couple of strands of his hair across his face just as it rustles the long tresses of the willow behind.

“I understand you, my king,” he says. “I understand your shame – even as I refuse to validate and multiply it. And I am so sorry that it has kept you from understanding me in turn, and has made you tread such a long road. Now that you at last take to me a confession, it is not so much a confession as an apology. No matter how I tried to hearten you, you only beat yourself the more. For a long time I had waited, trusting that if you wished to speak with me, you would – and behold. Of all the things you could ask of me, you durst not go above forgiveness – do I not get a choice of what I would give?”

“Faramir, I have already said, you owe me no debt of gratitude. I could never accept…”

Faramir shakes his head sternly, and Aragorn trails off.

“My lord Aragorn, I had feared that nothing I could say tonight would have the power to let you see – so I have brought you here, so maybe you can see for yourself.”

Aragorn nods.

“I am sorry also, Faramir. I will come with you.”

Without another word, Faramir ducks under the hem of the willow’s foliage.

Aragorn follows the soft glow of the light, and finds Faramir at the cliff face behind the tree.

Faramir runs his fingers across the green garlands of vines running down the rock, and they shift and sway under his touch, revealing a void behind.

He moves the greenery aside and slips through, and after a moment, Aragorn follows.

Part 3.

The hidden path through the cliff is cool and dark, water murmuring through the pebbles beneath their feet. They do not walk for long before they reach a matching curtain of vines blocking the way out, and Aragorn sees a faint light seeping through the leathery leaves.

Then the man in front of him pauses.

“What is it, Faramir?”

Faramir lowers his ethereal lamp.

Even without seeing his face, Aragorn can sense the change in him, his earlier nonchalant determination giving way to hesitation, the well-worn chainmail of outward composure revealing a vulnerability beneath.

“Faramir, we do not have to do this,” he offers. Whatever ‘this’ may be, he has never never at once dreaded and hungered for something so much. But his guilt is heavy enough as it is, without adding the suspicion that Faramir may go forth anything but freely.

“And then what?” Faramir asks wearily, his back still to his king. “We may yet turn around, that is true, but there is already no going back.”

“No, there is not,” Aragorn agrees, and does not know whether he regrets that it is so.

“Whatever tonight may bring,” Faramir says, “the price must be paid upfront. But I must hope, nay, I must believe that what lies ahead could be even greater than what has been.”

Aragorn wants so much to take him by the hand, but he only says, “Then I shall try to believe with you.”

Faramir stays still for a moment more, and unbeknownst to himself, Aragorn holds his breath.

“Very well, my king,” Faramir says at last.

He steps through, and holds the ivy aside for Aragorn.

Aragorn catches back an exclamation of surprise as he walks out and looks around. He knew these lands like the back of his hand – how did such a wonder stay concealed, if not by some ancient magic?

It seems to him that in a matter of a few steps they had traversed an age back and fallen through to a place outside the grid of modern maps. Private and sealed off from the passage of time outside, it feels a remnant of how the world had once been meant to be. Technically, they are in a spacious domed cave – but it does not feel like one. It is free of musty, stagnant smells, and breath comes easy and sweet, with a glimpse of starlight shimmering in like gem-dust from an opening far overhead.

While below… Brilliantly coloured emerald mosses of every conceivable variety cover the uneven floor as though a velvet rug, like an enchanted forest seen from far, far above. The light is dream-like and soft, and he can hear yet again, far in the distance, Elven voices singing – or perhaps it is only the water humming a melody to itself. It may be the Age of Man out in the world, a world where their titles have replaced their names, but they can take refuge from it here.

The air is warm and gently muggy against his skin. The source of the warmth is not only apparent but altogether the centerpiece, the very point of this place.

Several heavy stone steps, formed from the body of the cave itself and parted by the stream running down the middle, lead up to an overflowing pool. The water moves around, agitated by unseen heat bubbling from within, and a hazy mist hangs over the glowing surface. It is a bathing pool that could very comfortably fit one – or in very close proximity, two.

The unspoken implications run hot through Aragorn’s blood.

His heart high in his chest, at last he looks back to his guide.

Faramir stands facing him squarely, watching him with great intensity. The lamp pole which had served a handy distraction before, is now put out of the way, planted securely into a crevice between two boulders.

Clad in his Elven robes, in this faery setting, it is as though he comes before Aragorn anew. Suddenly the King is reminded of Noldorin Elves, their lucent ivory of skin and absolute black of ebony hair, hearts hidden safely away behind studied blank expressions. So, too, has the Steward learnt to meet any monumental upheaval with a straight face. Chin held high, he stands tall and seemingly unabashed as his daring tactic is finally laid plain for the High King to judge. But in the Steward’s grey eyes swells a stormy darkness, and colour rises high in his cheeks.

“Faramir…” Aragorn is not quite certain where even to begin. When has Faramir conceived of this plan, how long had he dwelled on it just as Aragorn delayed putting his desire into mere words? The absolute leap of mad faith it must have taken to execute tonight.

Faith or else utter desperation.

A frown touches Faramir’s brow and he shakes his head in warning for Aragorn not to spook the moment. The air between them is taut like the bowstrings of an Elven host.

“I have loved you so hard, for so long,” Faramir says flatly, almost like an accusation.

Something falls away in Aragorn at the fearless simplicity of these words.

It had not crossed his mind to call it that, too hallowed a name for his untamable hunger. But spoken by Faramir, it makes immediate, irrefutable sense, and he accepts it at once. He knows it shows in his face, too, because he sees it mirrored in the change in Faramir’s expression, the winter melting away.

“Why must it hurt so much?” Faramir asks in a half whisper, as though not trusting his voice.

“Faramir, I am so sorry.”

“No, nothing to be sorry for, serves me right for the audacity to desire the High King’s heart,” Faramir says with an attempt at mirth. Then he grows serious again, “But know this – you have already given me more than any man could hope to find in a lifetime. For years, you have carried my dreams, you have been my star in the sky. Since I laid eyes on you, I knew you would bring Gondor peace – just as that you have taken away my peace, or what chance I had for one. Yet the impossible love that you had set alight in my heart without your own knowing – it has led, and shielded, and carried me through. It gives me reason to rise on mornings insurmountably dark with the weight of old sorrows, it gives meaning to every loss, it makes every joy tenfold the greater. And for this I could never thank you enough. But I am only a man. And I have grown weary of waiting, and watching, and wanting…”

“Faramir!” Aragorn exclaims. “If only but for a minute had I known. If I could have dared imagine…”

“Dared imagine, my king? Do you not know what you are, how inescapable it is to love you? Will you not believe me when I tell you that the selfsame dreams that haunt your waking nights – that I have seen them, too? That when I wake on the morrow after a restless non-sleep – your presence lingers with me still. To think of being with you is a headier drink than any Elven wine. That time by the river, when we swam and there were dragonflies, and you almost touched me but didn’t, and I walked away – I have cursed myself, forever after. We do not choose what calls to us, only if we should heed. I have led you here, my lord, and so you have followed. But to this moment I still do not know what… What will you say to me?”

Aragorn does not know how it happened, whether it was his feet or Faramir’s that have cut the distance between them, but there is nearly none left. And for once it does not rouse shame or bewilderment. Daring swells in him with surety, a hot resolve he has not known since his days of charging into battle with bared sword.

“Yes. I say, yes.”

The barrier that had stood impermeable between King and Steward, is all at once no more.

He is holding Faramir by the hands, without knowing how it happened either, but it does not matter. Against the feeling of Faramir’s skin on his, nothing can matter. How can such an everyday, innocent touch be so entirely rewritten to take on all the meaning in the world?

Years fall away, like a heavy winter cloak cast aside with the arrival of spring, and suddenly, overwhelmed with joyous relief, he laughs – and Faramir laughs in return.

As Faramir cleaves to him with cautious eagerness, Aragorn wonders at the living warmth of the younger man’s body through the thin Elven silk. The arresting reality of his touch, a shock to all his sense. The warrior strength sleeping in him, unneeded in this time of peace but forever set into his frame by years of dark vigil past. This is what he had always known it would feel like – only better. He cannot think straight any longer, but he recognises a sense of completion, a relief so tremendous he wants to weep for joy.

Then once again, they are on the move, now with unconcealed urgency – and this time it is Aragorn leading, pushing Faramir up the stairs to the hot water. There is no grace to trying to walk and embrace at the same time, and certainly no king who could be bothered to remember his reputation would care to be seen stumbling along with the haste of a smitten youth, entangled with his steward in a mess of bodies trying to stay aligned and roving hands trying to find purchase.

Somewhere along the way his fingers fumble across the sash of Faramir’s robes. The only natural response to such discovery is to pull at the loosely done knot. At which point he meets proof that Faramir had not been exaggerating in his earlier comment that this form of attire is exceedingly fast to be relieved of.

He feels rather than hears the fluid fabric fall to their feet.

A soft gasp from Faramir’s lips confirms that his steward was wearing nothing beneath.

The moment stands still, and it seems neither one of them even breathes. Then, before Aragorn can lean away to let his eyes confirm what he already knows with the rest of his body, Faramir takes him on the face with both hands and kisses him full on the mouth, hard and deep.

As he kisses Faramir back, Aragorn finally knows that his hope beyond hope, which he had dared not give shape nor form in words or image, is not only graciously tolerated, but fully returned.

Thank you for reading! To be continued…

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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10 Comment(s)

Thank you your work! I’m waiting the next chapters. Faramir has tattoos! Amazing idea! He inspirated my first one.:)

— Liza    Sunday 11 November 2018, 17:03    #

Thank you so much, Liza! Wow, you actually have a Faramir-inspired tattoo? That’s amazing.

I’m afraid I can’t take credit for the idea, as a few years ago I remember reading a story where Faramir and/or Boromir had tattoos. I really likes the concept, like, can they get any more sexy??!

— December    Tuesday 13 November 2018, 9:00    #

Beautifully done. Such an exquisite piece of writing, such a smart metaphors, the thing with pearls and glass beads almost made me jealous I wasn’t one to create it. I must admit, I’m tempted to use it in my Text Interpretation classes, if only I were fearless enough)) Really, I feel as if I’m there, in the picture, I can understand all the anxiety of Aragorn, so more so that object of his feelings is such a lovable one. Hope to find more soon, please, December.

— LCD    Saturday 17 November 2018, 18:13    #

Oh, thank you so much, LCD!
I just love the community on this website, such thoughtful commentary!

Thank you for the reassurance, I always feel a bit conflicted when writing the feels for the boys. On the one hand, they are tough, reserved men living in quite a strict conservative culture, and I want to do justice by their toughness. On the other though, they both are strongly affected by romantic feelings, and Aragorn in particular tends to go a bit OTT, both of which I would expect to be even more so when the feelings are “inappropriate” in terms of their object. I’m really glad you found Aragorn’s anxiety to be relatable and not out of character.

Thank you for the kind words about my writing, I hope I am improving with time, haha. I’m still afraid to reread some of my earlier stuff, eek! I worry sometimes that I go too heavy-handed with the metaphoring, so thanks for that. Please feel free to borrow and use wherever, I’d be only proud!

Thanks for reading!

— December    Sunday 18 November 2018, 8:11    #

After this story I’d plucked up my courage and went to the tattoo artist. Now I wear faramir’s name on my left arm, it was written by tengwar. Thank you the inspiraton. You write beautiful.

— Cornelia    Thursday 21 February 2019, 10:21    #

I have read… wait, no, I have devoured your writing just now. Yes devoured, because it was like sitting at the finest feast ever laid out to men and elves. The metaphors you used were just beautiful, I am sure Elrond himself would be proud to have them written in his library… And your portrayal of Aragorn, his anxiety and the irresistible pull he feels towards Faramir, even if he knows that it is inappropriate, is sooooo good I’m still sitting here dazed. I’m in awe. And Faramir’s tattoo? A dream come true! If there is a chance that you will be writing the next part to this already wonderful story, I’d like you to know that it will be greatly anticipated and loved. Big hugs!

— Tora    Friday 29 March 2019, 18:08    #

During i was reading this chapter,the newest, I wish I could be there. Be a rabbit, or a headoge, or an other animal who lives in the night, and follow these amazing men, on that breathtaking place.
Thank you you share it! ( On the borthday of the Prof. What a fine scence of humor do you have!)

— Eve    Friday 3 January 2020, 15:21    #

Dear December,
thank you for the much-anticipated second part of your wonderful story. In my humble opinion, you mustn’t hesitate anymore, if you are capable to catch on ‘’the feels of the boys’’. From my point of view of ‘’seasoned reader’’ they are just the right balance of restraint and passion, of tenderness and ‘’filth’’, and I adore them to be as you re-create them.
For no particular reason I also like the part with elven lantern, for me it magically gave the utmost credibility and some coziness to the entire scene.
And, after reading the old texts of yours here, I seriously consider you to become more and more clever with words. It’s not a matter of me trying to be polite, it’s a fact I want you to be aware of:)

— LCD    Saturday 18 January 2020, 16:27    #

The lantern (above) was a source of credibility. For me it was the description of the night. Not that we have Valar, but some nights just feel old. Don’t know how else to say it. It adds to the feeling that relationships and misunderstandings about them are as old as time.

— Bell Witch    Thursday 16 April 2020, 20:22    #

This is absolutely lovely! Thank you for writing!

— atonau    Friday 19 January 2024, 4:41    #

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