"Please call me Aragorn," the King had asked, though Faramir had demurred until he heard the rest of the request: "...as your brother did." Much later, the King admitted that the Ring had called him Aragorn as well, chosen of all the names by which he had gone in his life. Faramir had assured him that the Ring's summons did not identify a man's true name, yet Aragorn laughed sadly and said, "But it is mine."
It was dangerous, Faramir knew, to think of the King as his friend rather than his liege. Eowyn always greeted Aragorn as "My Lord" no matter how many times he teased her about it, unwilling to understand that she needed such distance from a man she had once loved. And at times, Faramir thought that he felt a similar need. The love of a man for a King ran deeper than the love for a friend or comrade-at-arms.
Still, Faramir thought that Aragorn might be lonely -- more than he was himself, for the soldiers of Gondor treated a Steward very differently once they had a King. As caretaker of the realm, he received their confidences and sympathies, while their ruler was revered, but at a distance.
So when he walked with Aragorn through the gardens at sunset, Faramir did not speak the troubled words that filled his thoughts. Though he longed to hear more about Boromir's mission -- his downfall, his death -- from the one who had been closest to him, he saw that it pained Aragorn to speak of his brother, and did not press the subject.
Instead they talked of Gondor, of the history and legends that Faramir had always loved. And over time, Aragorn spoke of the parents he barely remembered, of his youth among the Elves, and eventually of the quest for which he now knew he had been destined.
"Did the Ring speak to you?" Aragorn asked one evening.
"I would not hear its call," confessed Faramir, hoping that he would be spared further inquiries. Power did not tempt him, then or before. He had seen what power did to his father, and understood that it brought neither peace nor strength nor love.
That might have confused the Ring, for Faramir did not hear it speak his name even when he stood before Frodo. Then his thoughts were not of saving Gondor or defending Middle-earth, but of the brother he had lost, the father he was losing, and his desperate wish to be worthy of them.
Indeed, there was only one power that might have tempted him. If Sauron had been able to return, then perhaps the magic that had brought him back could have brought back Boromir as well. But the Ring burned with the Dark Lord's blood. It had taken Boromir, like Isildur before him; it could not offer life, only death.
"Did you ever..." Faramir started to ask Aragorn before recalling that it was the King to whom he spoke. He changed the question. "Do you think that there are Men who could never hear the call of the Ring? Or is it only that the Ring finds some when they are worn or in despair, no matter the strength of their blood?"
"Its power is subtle," Aragorn replied with some reluctance. "Your brother believed in good faith that the Ring could protect Gondor from the enemy. Only at the last did he understand that it would use him for its own ends." His head lowered. "He was so strong. I did not want to see what was happening to him."
"Yet Samwise Gamgee spoke truly." Faramir's arms were growing chilled. He looked toward the dark eastern horizon. "The Ring made him forget his oath."
"He was no oathbreaker!" Whirling, the King advanced, and for a moment his familiar features were as cold as his ancestors' carven likeness on the Argonath. Then Aragorn's expression seemed to melt as his eyebrows drew together and his jaw sagged. "I could not reach him in time to save him. His death is on my hands."
Faramir looked from the King's shadowed face to his clenched fists -- the hands which had brought him back from the darkness. "You must not blame yourself," he said quietly. "My life was in your hands, as well."
The King remained still, regarding his Steward. Then one of his arms extended, shaking very slightly. Faramir reached out and clasped it.
"For most of my life," said Aragorn, "I had no wish to be King. Even when I learned that Elrond would only permit me to wed his daughter if I took the crown, I shunned it."
"And I had no wish to be Steward," Faramir nodded. Aragorn's palm was warm against his own, the grip firm. "This was to be my brother's role, and I was content."
"Yet here we are, the most notorious men in Gondor." One of Aragorn's too-rare smiles burst across his face, brightening the shadows of dusk. Faramir returned it, wondering whether Boromir had seen Aragorn smile like that, or whether he had made Aragorn smile like that, as Boromir had done with nearly everyone he met. "We cannot guess at what might have been. I am glad you are here with me now."
"As am I." It took all of Faramir's will to keep his eyes on those of the King, who stood so close, looking so vulnerable, as if he could be touched, held, claimed. A ghostly chill passed through him as he wondered whether his brother had witnessed this, too -- his brother who had known Aragorn only as a Ranger, not a King, before the world changed.
Heat flared in Faramir, an unexpected blaze that forced him to pull his fingers from Aragorn's before the King noticed how he was trembling and sweating. It was nothing like he imagined the pull of the Ring to be, yet he felt unspeakable temptation flicker to life in him.
It mattered not to Faramir that heads in Gondor ducked in respect when he passed, that soldiers obeyed his orders and farmers his plans for rationing, that he carried his father's staff and his grandfather's sword; but to have his King standing so before him -- his brother's friend, beloved of his wife -- left him shaken and dizzy with power.
"The Ring could not have offered me this," he said suddenly, then wished, at the astonishment in Aragorn's eyes, to take the words back. But the King was not angry with him; he nodded suddenly, and, taking Faramir by the elbow, began to lead him from the gardens.
"That is why it is rightfully yours," Aragorn murmured, guiding him toward the White Tower which rose dizzyingly overhead. "I am glad you understand."
Faramir was not certain that he did, or ever would, understand; but he let Aragorn bring him inside before the fire, and warm him with a smile.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.