Stewards of Gondor: Slashvese Arc
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From the Other River Bank: 12. Bread for the Journey
Consciousness burrowed through dusty oblivion, insisting that he wake, and Boromir gave a soft, sleepy grunt, acknowledging the proddings of his body's time sense. Dawn would come soon, and though in his somnolent state he could not quite remember why, he knew he needed to arise. But as he lay there, letting awareness percolate slowly but steadily through the screen of his dreaming mind, he felt a slight shiver work its way down his spine. It was a feeling he had had before, and all too often, it had that flavor of warning to it that demanded instant reaction. Today it was not threatening so much as weighty, but still, Boromir jerked suddenly and fully awake to the certainty that he was being watched.
But I am still in Minas Tirith! He had slept half-curled on his side, head laid on the pillow that he cradled in the crook of one arm. So, as he now swiftly pushed himself up onto an elbow, he was for a moment blinded by the mass of his long hair that tumbled into his face. With a shake of his head and the aid of one hand, he dragged the unruly strands from his eyes and squinted into the dimness of the room. He needed but a few moments to discover the source of his unease, and Boromir felt his cheeks heat in the darkness. "Faramir… why are you here?"
"Good morrow to you as well," Faramir replied from where he stood leaning back against the wall, hands pressed flat behind him.
"Mmm." Boromir could not for the life of him think of a more intelligent reply, and he shook his head again in an attempt to rouse himself to clearer thoughts. "Varda's stars!" he swore softly, feeling his startled embarrassment begin to spawn other, unwelcome emotions. Why has he come, and how long has he stood there? he wondered. I should have barred that door after all! For he was acutely aware of the fact that he wore nothing beneath the sheets (it was too hot!), and given the strained relationship that he and Faramir had endured for a week now, he felt his brother's presence as an intrusion.
For I know not what he intends, nor how to act! What does he want? And how do I rid myself of him long enough to dress? Such were the considerations that raced through his mind, and fear threaded his pulse—an anxious anticipation and wonderment at Faramir's motives. Letting his hair once more act as a screen, he rubbed at his eyes; the whole scene seemed almost unreal, dream-like, and he wondered if perhaps he might wake soon….
As if to reassure him of the reality of the moment, an uneven, soft mass struck him, glancing off his shoulders and head, coming unraveled as it came to rest atop him.
"Father expects you gone shortly, I should think," Faramir said, offering the barest of smiles and ignoring the glare that his brother shot him from beneath the shirt and trousers that now draped him. "Best that you not dare his wrath with so trivial a thing as tardiness." His brother then pushed himself away from the wall and wandered deliberately to the other side of the room, there to examine some unimportant item. Boromir was not one to waste the privacy Faramir had just granted him, and he hurriedly drew the underdrawers on, then the trousers, standing quickly to pull them up. The shirt followed swiftly, and, breaking with his usual routine, he snatched his belt from the trunk beside his bed and hastily buckled it before he sat down to pull his boots on.
Safely attired, if not quite fully dressed, he turned to consider his brother's back as he began collecting the rest of his clothing: mail, overtunic, jerkin, sword-belt, and cloak. The chain mail went on first over the shirt, and though it was an awkward affair to struggle into the garment, Boromir had worn it too often to get caught in it, and he quickly settled it, adjusting the thin leather padding that lined the shoulder region. It was a poor concession to a very relative measure of comfort, but after so many years of sleeping in the stuff when necessary, Boromir scarcely heeded the weight. And Faramir, hearing the telltale chink! turned slowly from his contemplation of a candle to watch him once more.
It was a strange feeling that that quiet scrutiny aroused, and Boromir fought with the sensation that he stood exposed. Somehow, it felt indecent to face his brother when he still had not all of his clothes on, even if they had often seen each other in less than this. How truth known in full doth change things! Boromir would have given much to know what thoughts passed through Faramir's mind at that moment, but he could not ask, for fear of what he might discover. There was something in that clear-eyed gaze that whispered of intimate familiarity with all that Boromir was, and more, of some weighty pronouncement yet untold. Boromir felt himself examined, touched upon and turned about, taken apart by the mind behind those eyes, seen through and through; and it struck him of a sudden that what he felt now was likely close kin to his brother's discomfort under Boromir's too ardent gaze. Oddly, the thought seemed to calm him somewhat, though he knew not why it should, and he returned Faramir's stare as steadily as he could whilst he continued to dress himself.
"How shall you go, Boromir? Through Rohan to the Gap, or northward first, to try to find a way through the high passes on this side of the mountains?" Faramir asked, breaking the silence.
"Through Rohan and the Gap. The region between Mirkwood and the mountains is little known, but the maps give the land a treacherous reputation," Boromir replied, fastening the clips and ties that held the jerkin shut. "Eriador is at least said to be flatter."
"I see. And is there aught that I may do to help in the time left? Return books?" A pause, then, "Give your farewells to our father?"
"Never jest about that!" Boromir said, rather more sharply than he had really intended. With a shake of his head, he sighed. "And I do not ask that of you, for I fear our father would but resent the messenger the more." Boromir paused, half-expecting Faramir to respond, but his brother said naught, only nodded thoughtfully. Cocking his head at the other as he finished with the jerkin, Boromir decided that tact was wasted at this late hour. "Why came you here this morning?" he asked bluntly, buckling his sword-belt on.
"To see you," Faramir replied, eliciting a rather perplexed look from Boromir. "To watch you dream, and see you once more without a wall between us. To relearn the reasons that I fear you not."
"You were here all night?"
"Much of it," the other admitted. Once within his brother's room, Faramir had spent the night pacing slowly and silently, pausing now and again to watch his brother for long spells. It had been many years since he had had the opportunity to observe Boromir like that—since Faramir had been ten, or even younger, for Boromir had soon moved into another room. And later, he had been assigned to the various companies, of course, and was rarely at home.
But I remember watching him when my dreams banished all rest, he thought. More, that peculiar habit of youth had remained with him throughout his life. Faramir rarely slept through the night, for even had he not the watch to supervise at times, he found it helpful to watch others sleep. A commander could learn much of those who served him by such nocturnal observation: the troubles of the day tended to show in faces no longer concerned to guard themselves, and in the insomnia of some, while others slept like dead things as if fearful to wake. Whereas by day, a man's pride refused to admit to limits, by night Faramir found it easy to judge who could be pushed further, and who hovered close to collapse. Sometimes men would come out of their nightmares and, finding Faramir awake, would even speak to him about them, for his own reputation as a dreamer was an abiding one.
Over the long years, in fact, the idiosyncrasy had become something of a company tradition, and only the newcomers were surprised to learn that their captain served as counselor at need. But after a few months or years, even the wariest eventually sought him out, for all knew that his discretion was absolute and that he would not laugh at the images that came to the sleeping mind. For his part, Faramir treasured such encounters; they were a way of knowing another, one that required only a willingness to watch first and then to listen, and it helped Faramir to better understand the needs of his flock of soldiers.
As for Boromir, Faramir had been relieved that his brother had slept soundly last night, although to one accustomed to gauge the mood of dreamers, there had been an edge of uneasiness to his repose that was telling. I know not if he shall ever truly be free of this, nor how the events of the past ten days shall shape his path from now until the end, Faramir thought worriedly. What pride he has, I fear, may cover over a despair of self, and who knows whether it always has? That brashness that others saw in him, that willingness to stand ever in the path of destruction… might it not be a way of inviting death? And if so, then after this week, I doubt not that his control may slip. He may misjudge the danger that he is to himself, thinking that he knows already the worst. But brother mine, you have not even begun to plumb those depths, for you have a good heart and I think in one sense you know not the meaning of the word, 'worst.' For what you see as the worst of yourself is born of love, and not merely of lust.
Such were the thoughts that had come to him during the course of the night as he had kept watch, and he wondered how long he had harbored the seeds of his doubts and observations, for they had come forth fully formed, with no hesitation, as if in some secret recess of his soul he had long tended them. I only wish I knew the depths to which I could sink, for then I might know whence come such thoughts. For one must carry darkness within one to understand it fully.
How to convey all that to Boromir was a problem he still had not solved, and Faramir felt a touch of desperation himself. His brother was not one to put much stock in theory, but there was only so much that Faramir could do, and still he could not be certain whether what he would do would do more good than harm. Boromir was watching him now, with that look in his eyes that said he knew not what passed through his younger brother's mind, but knew nonetheless that it was serious. After a moment longer, Boromir asked, "You say… 'reasons that you fear me not.' What mean you by that?"
"That I needed to remember them, and that I have. Last night, you said that if we could find some way to prove my commitment, that perhaps we might have a chance regain what we lost."
"Yes…." Boromir replied cautiously, and wondered at his brother's words. Has he truly spent the night thinking of that? It was a possibility, for Faramir was tenacious and not one to leave an idea half thought-out. Still, he could not imagine what test they might make of his brother's heart.
"We neglected, however, to say aught of you, Boromir," Faramir continued, arching a brow at him. "Beneath and behind all your words, you also fear to love me, and that anxiety remains with you, even in sleep. Is that not so?"
Boromir frowned, scrutinizing his brother's face, seeking some sign of whither he would go with this inquiry, but Faramir had his mask in place, confounding his efforts. "I fear to hurt you, Faramir… to… to dirty you, somehow," he replied, painfully and looked away as he spoke. Not that that helped overmuch, for Faramir simply moved with him, intent upon remaining in his field of vision.
"But that is a part of how you love me, and much though you or I might wish it, can you begin to untangle what is now firmly bound together?" Faramir asked rhetorically, for they both knew the answer. "So, if you cannot learn to tame that fear, then we shall never truly be reconciled, any more than if I fail to tame mine. We have learned too well to despise ourselves, Boromir. That is Father's true legacy to us both!" the younger man said bitterly.
"The case is different, though! I should not love you thus, Faramir. Father was correct in that at least!" Boromir protested, unable to fathom that his brother now seemed to defend what had repulsed—indeed, what must still repulse—him.
"But you do, and if Father could not bleed that out of you with his words, then nothing shall! You know that, or why else have you so carefully hidden your desire for so long? And if you have spent so long learning to hold it in check, then what matters it now that I know your secret? Why, indeed, should I fear that you love me?" Faramir asked, and watched as Boromir seemed to rock back on his heels a bit before the intensity of that sharp inquiry. "Why should you fear to love me, knowing that you will never act upon what you feel?"
"Perhaps because I am not so certain of myself as you seem to think!" Boromir managed hoarsely, shaking his head. "Do you know how hard it is to have you so near? To touch you or to stand at your side? To listen to you read poetry? I dream of you, Faramir!"
"And I have dreamt of you as well," his brother replied, which sent a ripple of shock through Boromir. "What of that?"
"Not as I dream of you, I think," Boromir challenged.
"I dreamt that you lay with me, and touched me, as you would have touched your lover," Faramir responded, watching his brother's incredulous reaction. "And though I found no pleasure in that dream, neither has it sullied me, as you put it."
"Valar, I do not need to hear this!" Boromir murmured, folding his arms across his chest as he turned away, overwhelmed by a number of conflicting emotions. On the one hand, he could not accept what Faramir now told him, for such revelations and considerations only muddied already dark waters further. On the other, there was such sincerity in his brother's manner that he could not doubt that what he said now came from the conjunction of heart and head, mind and soul, and Boromir was truly glad that Faramir at least seemed to have made peace with his brother's unnatural passion. And in amid relief and confusion, there was a sort of desperate hope, a flutter of desirous anticipation that yearned to make itself felt, to break free for a moment of the shackles Boromir had set upon it. No! I may not allow that! But as Faramir came once more to stand before him, he realized that it might not be a question of "may" but only of "can": Can I hold this within me if he continues on as he does? To which the answer came back resoundingly: I know not!
"If you would not have me turn from you, then do not hide from me, Boromir!" Faramir said, seeming almost angry with him. "You said that you would have me learn to love you once more, but how can I do so if by your actions and words you tell me that you find nothing of worth in yourself? I have never wanted to pity you, Boromir, but you shall drive me to it if you will not face me!" That stang something to life, and Boromir frowned as he jerked his glance up to his brother's face once more and his spine stiffened. "Better!" Faramir murmured. "Now tell me: what do you want of me? If I can give it, I shall."
"And if you cannot?" Boromir queried, cocking a brow at the other. "What then?"
"If I cannot, I shall tell you and let you judge whether I have failed the test," the other replied.
What do I want of him? What a question! The innumerable fantasies that the mind could spin out in an instant assailed him, but he irritably brushed them aside. Fantasy I have had, and dreams as well, but he asks not after those! What would I have of him, here and now, in waking life where dreams should have no hold? That was a far more difficult decision to make, and for a moment, Boromir despaired of finding an answer. I must leave, and soon! Who knows but that all of Gondor depends upon the words of that rhyme, and yet I stand here and waver over so simple a question! It seemed a gross injustice to all concerned, and certainly it ought to be beneath him to hesitate like this when he knew that duty lay just outside his doorstep. But he was held to his spot by the look on Faramir's face, by the steadiness in those grey eyes that nevertheless seemed fierce.
Boromir blinked, recognizing in that ferocity a protectiveness that he was not accustomed to see directed towards him. Almost always before, it had been he who had protected Faramir, and certainly he had few peers to whom to turn for shelter. None, in fact, for it is not my place to let others defend me, he thought, and felt a sort of sigh escape him as, without quite intending it, he reached out and traced the line of his brother's face from temple to chin with a gentle fingers. "For years, I feared you would scorn me if ever you discovered my desire. And here you stand, willing to give me whatever I wish… save one thing only!" He smiled, dropping his hand to his brother's shoulder. "I shall not ask you for that. How could I, after our words last night? I should be content with what I have."
"Are you, though?" Faramir asked, suspicious of the subjunctive.
"Will you never cease to ask me questions?"
"Only when I have my answer!" Boromir considered his brother another long moment, still not quite able to believe that they could even discuss this at all. And it may be our last discussion for a long while! I would not end it on an ill note, but neither would I end it with uncertainty. That would be a torment indeed, the long road with naught but doubt to return to in the end. In the mean time…. A long journey alone….
"I would have something to remember you by," Boromir said at last, and then gave a slight smile. "And I would have you choose it, whatever it is." Now let us see what he says!
Faramir frowned slightly, but in consideration, rather than in disconcertion, it seemed. And it seemed to Boromir, as he watched his brother's eyes flick over his face, that the other was not surprised, either. As if he expected me to somehow turn him aside thus, he thought, and wondered suddenly if he had been outmaneuvered. And if so, how badly? All night he has had to think of this…! But Boromir had not known himself what he would do, so how could Faramir possibly anticipate him? To which the nagging voice of reason replied, He knows you too well! How many times have you seen it? He and Father are alike in their ability to know a man's heart better than its owner knows it.
"I shall return your book for you," Faramir said then, and Boromir blinked, thrown off by the non sequitur. "But before I do, tell me, do you recall this one: 'But once, my love, for life is swift! and death doth steal the days…'?"
"'Taste my love but once, my love, and kiss me once for always,'" Boromir finished the quotation and found himself staring once more at Faramir. It was certainly a poem that had caught his eye, and further proof of his brother's uncanny ability to judge him. And although he was almost certain that he knew the other's intent, a part of him simply could not believe it. "Faramir...?" he asked, trailing off, awaiting something more solid than a half-suggestive poetical reference.
"So… kiss me once, brother. One time, as you would… and so remember me," Faramir replied softly, coming to stand close, and try as he might, Boromir could detect no play in his voice. He is in earnest! Words crowded on the tip of his tongue—exclamations, questions, confusion—but the look in the other's eyes stilled them all. If I do this… shall I be able to stop there? Just one kiss… at once everything I could ask for, and yet so much less than I would wish! Almost as much a temptation as a satisfaction! In the end, though, whatever his doubts, it was not really a decision, nor even a question: he would kiss him.
So, although incredulity still held his heartbeat suspended, Boromir reached out with one hand and drew a fingertip down Faramir's body, til he settled first one hand and then the other just above his brother's hips. His brother's eyes followed the caress, but he did not prevent it, and so Boromir leaned slowly forward. Still Faramir did not flinch, nor draw away even when his brother paused, as if to give him the chance to do so. And since he did not, Boromir did kiss him, very carefully: just a light kiss on the mouth as if to test the other's resolve. Or my own! But neither of the brothers wavered.
Warmth seemed to flood through Boromir as his heart remembered to beat once more, and his eyes closed of their own accord as he risked a little more pressure, a little more insistence, deepening the kiss. He could feel the rasp of the other's beard against his own, and Faramir hesitated only a second before he yielded to the flick of his brother's tongue against his lips, opening his mouth slightly. As Boromir reached up then to catch hold—gently, mindful of the bruises—of his brother's face with both hands, he felt Faramir clutch his arms as if to steady himself, and to his delight, he felt the other begin now to return the kiss rather than simply allow it.
Never before had Boromir been so aware of another in all his infinite particularity, or of the pleasure that could come of such visceral knowledge. Faramir was too tall for Boromir to draw him against him as they kissed, and he could not be certain in any case whether the other would be receptive to such an embrace. But as ever, Boromir was very conscious of the contours of the lean, wiry body that hovered tantalizingly close. Faramir's scent filled his nostrils, filled his mouth so that he could taste him with every breath; the texture of his skin beneath Boromir's callused hands proved an unexpectedly sensual tactile stimulus; and the feel of his pulse throbbing against Boromir's fingertips measured out moments of eternity—a subtle vibration that stirred the two of them, and set them to resonate with each other it seemed.
Faramir drew his tongue across Boromir's lower lip, accidentally reopening that cut, but though the younger man tensed somewhat, he did not withdraw at the taste of blood. For his part, Boromir felt the slight sting only added another dimension of feeling to the moment: after all the pain of the past ten days (or indeed, of the past twenty years of silent, hopeless adoration) the hurt seemed not unfitting. It felt right, and perhaps his brother sensed that; it was, after all, his blood as well—the blood of the stewards of Gondor, shed so often for others and now, just once, shed solely for and by one beloved. Just one kiss…. For Boromir doubted not that his brother meant what he had said: there would be no other time, and any kiss subsequent to this must never be as between lovers. So small a gesture, and yet the measure of all that Boromir held dear. But once indeed, my love!
He felt one of the hands on his arms free itself to touch his face, a caress as careful as the mouth that responded to his need, and more hesitant at that, but there and real. There was a certain curiosity in that touch, as well, and he felt a pang as Faramir's fingertips gently explored the curve of a cheekbone, then drifted back to push a long strand of dark hair behind Boromir's ear ere they wandered down the side of his neck and came to rest eventually on his chest, just over his heart. He recognized that touch, remembered it with painful clarity, but somehow, the gesture was transformed when Faramir did it, becoming a sign and seal of forgiveness rather than a memory of shame. He knew not what alchemy his brother practiced, but whatever it was, it struck something deep, and Boromir gave a whimper (there was no other word for it) as he eased back from his brother at last and more abruptly than he might wish.
Shaky, overwhelmed, and uncertain whether he stood now on the verge of tears or laughter, he gazed at the other whose face he still held gently cupped in his hands. Faramir's eyes remained closed, and his breathing was none too steady either… and he had never been more beautiful to Boromir. After a moment, his brother ran his tongue along his lips and swallowed hard, opening his eyes to gaze into his brother's. Obsidian, they seemed, for there was but a thin ring of grey to distinguish iris from pupil, and Boromir tenderly brushed a dark lock from the other's face and ran his fingers back through his brother's hair. "Can you forgive me?" For what, he did not say, nor could he have said had he been asked, but it seemed not to matter.
"I forgave you yesterday," Faramir replied simply, managing a slight smile. And there was something so very endearing in the expression that accompanied those words that Boromir automatically started to lean forward again. But this time his brother did step away, if only slightly, and the hand on his chest pressed harder to hold him back. "Once, and for always," he reminded him, but there was no reproof in his voice. In fact, Boromir fancied he heard a touch of remorse, but quickly dismissed the idea.
"Romantic!" he growled instead, chucking him under the chin ere he released his brother fully, forcing himself to put the moment behind him.
"Terribly, I suspect," Faramir agreed with a self-conscious laugh, folding his arms across his chest. But then he sobered and said, "Be careful, Boromir! For Gondor needs you here to lead her. And," he added, exhaling slowly, "I need you as well."
Boromir only nodded, unable to formulate a response past the sudden constriction of his throat, and he berated himself for the lapse in his self-control. Going to the window, he stooped and retrieved his baggage, slinging his pack over one shoulder and his horn over the other. Faramir came and took the saddle bags, twining the straps about his left wrist and hand, and for a moment, they stood, watching each other. Then Boromir smiled, and clapped his brother on the shoulder as he said softly, "I will remember," and meant more than just Faramir's latest words.
"So shall I!" his brother responded, and then led the way out of the door….
… as Denethor turned away from the palantír and felt the fissures in the ice of his self-control widen. Leaning his head in his hand, he bitterly cursed fate even as he strove to suppress the disgust that welled up within him. And so they have decided, it seems! Well that Boromir shall be gone, but I doubt that that shall change aught! He had not been able to hear what his sons had said to each other—the Seeing Stones were precisely that, unless two stones were aligned to permit their users to communicate—but the sentiments seemed damnably clear. A brief moment he wondered whether he ought not to have sent Faramir after all, but when he had made his decision, it had seemed that Faramir was the safer of the two.
And in truth, if the journey is hard, Boromir is better suited to it. Whatever my fears, Gondor must have answers if it is to survive! Even in his despairing disappointment, the needs of the realm came first, before any personal consideration. But that did not mean that Denethor would ever forget that intimate scene. I have fought for so long to hold back the darkness, and yet it pervades our very bodies! Curse you both for weaklings and worthless! But there was naught that he could do without rousing suspicion as to the source of his knowledge. And given that it was Faramir who remained, there was also the remote—but not incalculable—possibility that he might realize the steward's own guilt.
And so I say nothing, and since I shall need Faramir to serve in his brother's stead, I can make certain he has no time to fall any further. As for Boromir, at least I can depend upon his loyalty to Gondor to drive him back to me when the errand is done. Ah, my son, alas for the blood in your veins! With a soft sigh, Denethor stood and veiled the palantír once more, and as he went slowly down the stairs, he could not help but feel that he descended into the muck and grime of a world in chaos. Laugh if you will, Sauron, at this tragedy of a family! However tainted, we can still stand, and stand we shall! To the last throw… yes, though we have no hope left, whatever the fools below may say, we continue to the last toss of the die!
Faramir tightened the straps that held the saddle-bags in place and gave the mare's neck an affectionate slap. The roan whickered at him, butting him gently in the stomach with her nose, hoping for a treat most likely. "Naught today, lass," he murmured, stroking the animal's long face. It had been a long and quiet walk down to the Second Circle, both of them preoccupied and a little uncertain of themselves. For his part, the taste of his brother's mouth and blood still lingered, and Faramir had let that flavor roll about his tongue, wondering what to make of what they had shared.
He had not expected to enjoy it, not really, but for all that he still felt no attraction to his brother, it would be a lie to say that he had felt nothing in his brother's arms. For I do love him, and however disconcerting it might be to be the object of my brother's very passionate attention, I suppose in the end that I am curious enough—and possessive enough!—to want to know what he is like in love. Faramir had tried to make his own kiss everything he would have wanted to share with his brother, though that fell short of what Boromir might want. But I did not flinch, and I shall cherish the memory.
Romantic! Boromir had accused, and Faramir was rather surprised that it had never occurred to him to see himself thus.He supposed he had never had reason to, knowing that his own courtships would end unfulfilled, out of obedience to his father's will. They came and they went, and he never gave himself wholly over to them, for that would have been unkind and misleading. He knew his own reputation among the women of the court: kind, lordly... distant.
And so how strange, to hear that from him, when it is plain there is no further to go between us, he thought. Perhaps because it was Boromir, and the trust undergirding their love ran deeper than the passion of a moment or a month that women had inspired, ran deep enough that they needed not appearances to see each other clearly, if only they would...
Boromir grunted then, giving the cinch a sharp tug and nodding his satisfaction as he slung his shield across his back. So the quest for Imladris begins, and though it had to end in parting, I wish I were going as well! For now that the moment drew nigh, Faramir was stricken with the feeling that he had to say all, and he bit his tongue against the temptation to babble on like an idiot. His brother joined him at the mare's head, lead rein in one hand, and he, too, gave the horse's nose a pat, but his eyes were on Faramir. "Can you face Denethor?" Boromir asked, rather abruptly.
"If I must, then I shall. And since I must, you need not fear overmuch," Faramir replied by way of reassurance, and possibly with more confidence than he felt. Boromir nodded, apparently satisfied with his answer.
"Tell him then…." His brother paused, seeming to marshal his thoughts, trying to pick just the right words. "Tell him I have gone. And tell him—tell him I shall not forget Gondor's need. In that he may always rely on me." Faramir did not miss the unspoken implications, nor the regret and hurt that still clung to those words, but he said naught, only nodded in his turn. The sun was creeping now over the gloom of the Ephel Duath, and in the courtyard without, shadows sprang up as the light stole over the city. Few people as yet were about, and the stable yard was still quiet as Boromir glanced over his shoulder at that lighted square, hesitating. "Faramir," he began as he turned back, and then could say no further.
For Faramir, in that brief space, stepped around the horse and without asking or warning, caught his brother's head to still him and kissed him again: once on the mouth, a swift but not insubstantial kiss, and then another, more lingering one on the forehead. Farewell it was, after the custom of Gondor, but more than that. A promise of chaste love, and if it was not that of one who would share Boromir's every touch, it was still more than mere fraternal affection. For though we are brothers, we are somehow more than that. I know not what to call it, and perhaps it is unique in all the world—I know not! Nor do I care, Faramir thought.
"Strength for the journey," he said softly. "Be at peace, Boromir!"
Boromir blinked swiftly, and a look of wonderment crossed his face as he risked a quick caress of his brother's cheek. "Beg nothing from him," he murmured. "Nothing! And so let Denethor learn the measure of your worth!"
"I shall not."
"Good. Come then, if you will, for I can tarry no longer." Faramir walked his brother out of the stables, and through the great gates that led to the first circle. From there, it was not a long distance, compared to the rest of the walk, to the city gates that opened onto the fields of the Pelennor. Boromir swung up into the saddle, and the mare snorted, eager to be off, but the Steward's Heir held her steady a moment longer. "Wish me luck!"
"Good luck!" Faramir replied obediently. Boromir gave him a quick smile, and then tugged the reins to turn the horse.
"Ha! Go!" And horse and rider were off, heading north-west to the Anórien gate and seeming to try to out-race the rising sun. Faramir heaved a soft sigh, and tried to ignore the dread that came to sit upon his chest.
I shall see him again. Of that I am certain, so why this fear? Tearing his eyes from the west, he turned now to the tower that rose glittering in the dawn's light. Put it aside, Faramir, you have work to do, and it is only just begun! And as he resolutely began the long march upwards, from over the fields came the clear sound of a horn, and he smiled as others answered from the walls.
But once, my love, for life is swift! And death doth steal the days!
Taste my love but once, my love, and kiss me once for always!
The tale is told, the dance is done, the web is now unspun.
Time lays low the mountains high and cleaves now two from one.
But soft, my love, my silent love, and speechless though I be,
Forsake me not but once my love, dim not thy memory!
And yet my tongue grows weary now, and cannot shape thy name,
Forsake me not still, o my love, and on my lips at last remain!
--Silvaríel of Arnor
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