Crossing Borders: 1. Crossing Borders

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1. Crossing Borders

Faramir ran. He tore across the plains beyond the walls of Edoras, his booted feet catching and stumbling over the tough, knee-high grasses as he sought to put as much distance as possible between himself and the city of the horse lords. Sweat streamed into his eyes and flew from his hair as he ran over the dark plain, his only light that of the full moon and hordes of stars that rode above him like warriors wielding swords of flame.

He ran on, gulping the damp night air, panting like a hunted beast, the sound of his heart galloping in his ears growing steadily louder, louder. . .

The sound of hoof beats, as swift as his pounding heart, were coming behind him and he stifled a cry of alarm, glancing back to see the massive steed of his pursuer almost upon him. Fear gave speed to his feet as he tried to push himself faster, to dodge the snorting animal. Suddenly his legs were kicking at nothing, his lungs emptied of air as he was seized, hoisted onto the horse, and thrown face down over the beast's shoulders. The rider dropped the reins, steering the horse into a turn with his knees, as he pulled Faramir's hands behind him and bound them tightly.

Afraid of falling from the charging horse, Faramir held still, closing his eyes against the dizzying whirl of the dark plains below. Horse and rider galloped back to the city, the gates opening at the rider's call. Up the hill they went, the horse slowing only a little on the steep grade that led to the Golden Hall. When they reached the stairs at the foot of the palace, the rider reined in his mount and slid from the saddle, dragging a dazed and terrified Faramir with him. Servants moved forward to take the horse to the stables as the rider forced Faramir up the stone steps.

"Captain, please. . ." Faramir gasped.

"Be silent or I will gag you," Éomer growled. "You will have plenty of time to spout your lies to those who will listen, but I will not hear them now."

"Captain, if you will but let me speak. . ."

Éomer stopped and spun Faramir to face him, slapping him so hard his head buzzed. "I said, silence!" he snapped.

The two continued up the steps, the only sound the scraping of their feet and Faramir's panting as he both tried to pull away from Éomer and keep his balance on the stones. Once inside the Great Hall, Éomer was joined by several of his men and they surrounded Faramir and marched him into a smaller room off the main Hall where King Théoden and Gríma Wormtongue were waiting.

Éomer shoved Faramir onto his knees before the king, seizing his hair in an iron grip to prevent him from falling on his face. Faramir moaned in pain, his eyes searching for a sympathetic face among the Rohirrim and finding none.

"You come to us as a representative of your people and of your father the Steward, you accept our hospitality, garner our trust, only to betray us," Théoden said coldly. "Did you think you could run all the way to Gondor before the truth was found? Did you think to arrive at the gates of Minas Tirith with your treachery intact?" He held aloft a sheaf of papers and the faces surrounding Faramir hardened.

He looked at the papers the king brandished and his heart caught in his throat to see the damning words, written in his own hand. His personal papers he had secreted within his rooms. Papers he had planned to destroy before returning to his homeland.

"Your majesty, I can explain. . ."

"Yes," Théoden cut in, "entertain us with why you had hidden information containing our most guarded secrets - our troop numbers, our supply lines, the passages in and out of the city walls that only three people in all of Rohan know, one of which you used for your escape tonight."

Faramir swallowed, his mind racing, knowing how the possession of such information must look but more worried about what else his papers contained. "I. . . it. . . it is not a report, it is a journal," he stammered. "My personal papers, your majesty."

"Your 'personal' papers," Théoden said skeptically, "containing information that could bring this city to its knees, which could leave us vulnerable in war."

"Yes, Théoden King, just so," Faramir said, though he was unable to meet the king's eyes. "These are only my private musings, to be seen by no one."

Gríma leaned over and whispered something in Théoden's ear and the king nodded, his eyes glittering dangerously.

"And you expect us to believe that you wrote this with no intention of sharing the information with Denethor? The Steward of Gondor has coveted our lands for many years."

"It is the truth, your majesty," Faramir replied.

"We may not be able to put you to the sword when the truth is uncovered, as we might like, but uncover it we shall," Théoden said, his eyes cold. He looked at Éomer. "Take him and find out what else he knows and if his father put him up to this. Then report back to me. His fate will be decided when everything is known."

Éomer seized Faramir and dragged him from the room and down the long halls of the palace. They passed through a set of massive double doors and down a breezeway into a smaller annex. The building contained a wide hallway with doors on both sides, doors to cells, and Éomer unlocked one of these and shoved Faramir inside. The Gondorian stumbled but kept his feet. He turned just as the key turned in the door, locking him in.

"Captain, please listen to me!" he shouted. But there was no reply.

Faramir wondered why Éomer did not begin the interrogation at once, but was relieved for the respite nevertheless. He worried what would become of him, feared what his father would say when the accusations reached him, but most of all he was terrified of what Éomer would do to him when the rest of his journal came to light.

His hands still bound behind him, Faramir looked around the cell. The walls were thick logs, the floor bare planks of wood over packed earth. A thin layer of straw was piled in one corner, probably to serve as a bed, Faramir surmised. The feelings that twisted him inside brought back the memory of the first and only time he had visited the dungeons of the White City.

When he was a child of ten, Denethor had taken him along as he went to inspect the prison of Minas Tirith. Two prisoners were present and Faramir had been terrified to see the hardened despair staring from the men's eyes as they watched him from behind the bars of their cells. He looked away quickly and Denethor had not seemed to notice the effect his inspection of the torture equipment and descriptions of what had been done to the men in the cells had on his son. When the captain of the guard had pointed it out to Denethor, he had become angry and sent Faramir back to the palace. Faramir had run all the way, vowing never to set foot in that awful place again.

Later at dinner, Denethor berated him in front of Boromir and the servants, telling him he must harden himself to such sights if he was to be of any use to his family and his people. Faramir had not eaten that night; Boromir took bites of food from his plate when Denethor's attention was upon his own meal.

When they retired to their rooms, Boromir told him matter-of-factly that the dungeons were always scary the first time and that he would get used to it. But Faramir had no desire to "get used to it". After that, Faramir had always managed to be elsewhere when it was time for the inspections and the topic had never been broached again.

Now he was a prisoner and now he wished he had taken his father's advice, inured himself to the starkness and discomfort of such places so that he would not now be so frightened.

The door opened suddenly to reveal Éomer and two other men. Faramir was taken from the cell and down the hall to a large room filled with chains and other equipment Faramir remembered all too well. Without a word his bonds were cut and the men stripped him to the waist, removed his boots, and chained him spread eagle in an open area of the room. With great difficulty Faramir forced himself to remain calm, breathing deeply and focusing inward as Boromir had taught him, while the men locked the shackles about his wrists and ankles.

When he was secured, the men stepped back and the Master Torturer entered. He was the biggest man Faramir had ever seen, half again as tall as Éomer, with uncharacteristically dark hair and muscles of granite beneath his clothes. The man's long hair was pulled away from his rugged face and tied behind with a strip of leather. His hands looked as big as shovel heads to Faramir and the Gondorian quailed to see that one of them held a many-tailed flogger of braided hide.

He stepped behind Faramir, who struggled to turn his head to keep the man in sight. Faramir jumped and snapped his head forward when he heard Éomer speak.

"Faramir, keep your eyes on mine. I will ask the questions and you will answer. If you do not speak truthfully, you will receive one lash. Do you understand?"

"Yes, captain," Faramir tried, his voice failing him. He cleared his throat and repeated his words. He looked into Éomer's eyes with as much bravery as he could muster, blinking nervously.

"If, after three lashes, you fail to tell me what I need to know, I will ask you another question and this will be repeated until I have my answers. Any question you fail to answer, or do not answer truthfully, will be asked again after you have been given time alone with your pain. After three sessions, methods other than the flogger will be used. Do you understand?"

"Captain. . . Éomer . . . you have extended to me your hand in friendship since my arrival. I would not betray you or your people. Please, believe me," Faramir begged, but Éomer's sharp brown eyes remained dispassionate.

"Do you understand?" he repeated.

"Yes, captain," Faramir answered. 'All I have to do is tell the truth and all will be fine,' he said to himself, looking earnestly into Éomer's eyes.

"Where did you get the information you wrote in your 'journal'?" Éomer asked.

"Various places: from your libraries, from people I have met during my stay, from you. But my intent was never to share all I wrote, it was. . ."

"Enough!" Éomer cut in. "Just answer the questions, nothing else."

Faramir nodded.

"Did your father send you here to gather this information?" he pressed.

"No, captain," Faramir said.

Éomer looked at him closely, then his gaze swept past Faramir's shoulder and he nodded.

Faramir's eyes went wide, then clamped shut, and he gave a shout of pain. The chains rattled in his ears as his body was forced forward by the blow. It was worse than he could have imagined and when he looked again into Éomer's eyes it was with dawning fear.

"Did your father send you among us as a spy?" Éomer asked.

"No, captain."

But Éomer was not convinced. The next question earned him another lash and the next another. Faramir continued to answer unwaveringly, meeting Éomer's hardened gaze without hesitation or evasion. Sweat sheened his body and ran into his eyes and he shook his head to clear them, struggling to focus on Éomer and questions that seemed ever more complex and confusing.

And then it happened. . .

Éomer approached and peered at him, standing directly before him and looking into his eyes. So close was he that Faramir could feel the heat of his own tormented body reflected back to him from the horse lord's broad chest. Despite his pain and fear, or perhaps because of it, Faramir felt the heat within him rise, felt his cheeks flush with the knowledge of it. Éomer's eyes narrowed and Faramir dropped his gaze at once. Had Éomer noticed?

Éomer stepped back and looked again over Faramir's shoulder.

"That is enough for now. Lock him up and we will continue later, when he has had time to reflect on his lies," Éomer said. He turned on his heel and left quickly.

The men released Faramir from the chains and dragged him back to the cell, tossing him inside like a sack of grain. Faramir tried to catch himself and felt something within his wrist give. He cried out in anguish, rolling onto his back and cradling his wrist. As soon as his torn flesh touched the rough wood he screamed and rolled onto his side, moaning and shaking uncontrollably. Too wounded to crawl to the bed of straw, he lay in his pain for hours, drifting in and out of consciousness.

Faramir blinked and whimpered as harsh light suddenly struck his eyelids. Full consciousness brought with it a reawakening of his pain and he groaned and struggled to crawl away as the two guards caught his arms, dragging him again to the torture room.

Faramir was taken aback to see that his interrogator was not Éomer, as he had expected, but Gríma in his stead. As the guards raised his arms to chain him, he sucked a shaky breath through clenched teeth and moaned. One of the men noticed his swollen wrist and hesitated.

"He is injured, Lord Gríma. How shall we proceed?" the guard asked.

Gríma came closer to examine him, none too gently probing the swollen purple flesh of his wrist. Faramir hissed and tried to pull his hand away but it was held steady by the guard. The wounded Gondorian tried, and failed, to suppress a scream. Gríma looked into his eyes, a smile of satisfaction quirking the corner of his mouth, and gave the wrist one last squeeze. Faramir convulsed and trembled, nearly passing out from the pain.

"Put him in the stocks." Gríma said.

Faramir was forced to kneel before two wooden uprights that supported a set of stocks resting horizontally atop them. His head and wrists were positioned in the forward half and then the back was swung closed, trapping him inside, leaving his welted back exposed for further punishment. Faramir's whole body throbbed like an open wound as Gríma, pacing before him, began to speak.

"Éomer tells me you were. . . less than forthcoming during your last session. I know you are hurting. I know you are injured." He spun to face Faramir and the concern in his blue eyes pierced the young Gondorian's soul. "Tell us what we want to know and you will be spared more pain. You will be cared for by our healers and allowed to take your rest before you are sent home."

Then, his words took on a tone of such compassion that Faramir found tears falling from his eyes before he even realized it was happening. "You have nothing left to hide and no reason to hide it," Gríma crooned. "You want to return to your family, and we want nothing more than to send you back, but you must tell us what you have done. You must help us so that we may help you."

By the time Gríma finished speaking, he was gently stroking Faramir's hair while the young man looked up at him with streaming eyes, his chest hitching with barely restrained sobs.

Gríma was right, Faramir thought. If he told them what they wanted to hear; they would stop with the questions and the flogging. He knew the pain would eventually break him, he feared that his wrist might already be broken and if it was not treated he might never wield a sword or bow again. If that happened, he might as well go into exile, for Denethor would banish him if he was unable to fulfill his duties with the citadel guard. He was still in training and had two more years of service before he would be allowed a command of his own.

Yet how could he lie to them and say he was spying for his father? Théoden had judged Denethor's covetous eye correctly, and confirmation from him might doom his country to war. Faramir had begged his father to allow him to visit Rohan and learn the culture of the horsemen, but it was not until Boromir pointed out the advantages that might be gained from Faramir, a quick study, learning their ways and strengths, that Denethor had relented.

After living with the horse lords, Faramir had come to admire their traditions, their ties to this open, untamed land. He knew he would never give his father cause to want to absorb these proud people into the Steward-ruled lands of Gondor. His journal, just scribbled notes on matters that had taken his interest, he had planned to destroy before he left Rohan. But when he had heard Théoden and Gríma discussing the discovery of his journal, the punishment that awaited him should the charge prove true, he had unwisely fled in fear.

Faramir reasoned that if he allowed this fear to rule him now, he could never convince the Rohirrim of his sincerity. Yet if he stayed strong and did not give in, they would have to know he was telling the truth. Just one more session, he told himself, and perhaps this would all be over.

"I was honest with Éomer and I will be no less honest with you, Lord Gríma," Faramir said. "I pray you will see this and stop this madness. Ask of me anything, and I will answer."

Gríma's false air of sympathy instantly crumpled into a scowl of displeasure which as quickly again transformed into a smile of condescension. "I will ask of you many things, young Faramir, and if you are innocent I will know."

Faramir suppressed a shudder as Gríma stepped back and the questioning began.

Within moments Faramir found himself lost in the maze of Gríma's cunning words, earning himself lash after lash as he contradicted his previous statements without realizing he was doing so. His welted back opened to the blows, the whip cutting the blood from him at last, and he screamed and writhed within the stocks, his wounded wrist sending lightning strikes of pain through his arm.

As he neared his breaking point, Gríma suddenly switched his line of questioning, asking him about the people he had met and his opinions of various members of the court. Faramir thought himself on firmer ground and answered readily, sparing his flesh from the whip for several blessed minutes as he babbled about the commonplace conversations he'd had with the Rohan nobles.

Gríma paused for a moment and then delivered the death blow to Faramir's dismantled will. "Tell me how you feel about Éomer."

In his fragile state, Faramir blurted out, "I feel nothing for him, he is only a friend!"

Gríma looked at him in mock surprise. "I meant, how do you see him in his capacity as Théoden King's Guard Captain? Why, is there something else?"

Faramir's eyes filled with terror as he realized Gríma had tricked him. He stammered incoherently and Gríma gave a nod to the torturer, causing another lash to cut into his bleeding back.

The young Gondorian screamed and thrashed helplessly as Gríma came to him and leaned over, hissing in his ear, "Have you not wondered where the rest of your papers are? I have them and I will give them to Éomer if you do not confess - end this now!"

Faramir's battered defenses broke and crumbled around him and he cried out, "It is as you say, Lord Gríma, I am guilty of betrayal! I wrote down all I could in order to share it with my father. I wanted Gondor to have the advantage over Rohan. But my family did not know of my plan, I swear it. I cannot write but I will give a full confession." He closed his eyes tightly and clenched his good hand into a fist. It was over, all over. His doom was sealed.

Gríma growled in frustration. Faramir's words had explicitly cleared Denethor of any culpability, and in front of witnesses. He knew he could have the young Gondorian whipped senseless but it would do no good now. All present could see he was broken and anything further wrung from him would now be suspect.

With a wave of his hand, Gríma sent one of the guards to fetch a scribe and Faramir dictated his confession from within the stocks. He wept as he poured out his tale of how, through deception and in violation of the King's law, he had obtained information which could be used against Rohan. He told of how he had hidden his motives from everyone, including Denethor, while laying his plans and how he had befriended members of the court only to betray them. He told them how he planned to report the information to his father upon his return to Minas Tirith to curry his father's favor, and in the end, when he had run out of lies and all was duly inscribed, he signed with his uninjured right hand, his non-favored hand, in shaky, illegible script.

Gríma was highly unsatisfied with the whole affair and tersely ordered him to be taken to the house of healing, his interest in the young Gondorian utterly depleted. Sick with shame and self-loathing Faramir was escorted under guard to the healers.

The guards laid him face down on a bed and reported his injuries to the Master Healer who assigned two young apprentices to tend him. If they felt aversion to be ministering to a criminal and spy they did not show it, but rather set about their assessment with quiet, gentle efficiency.

The young woman probed his wrist, more carefully than Gríma had, though it still caused Faramir to flinch and cry out. She declared it unbroken, to Faramir's relief, and the young man said that with immediate treatment his back should have only minimal scarring. Then, while the young man left to prepare the potions and unguents they would need, the young woman bathed Faramir's sweat-and-tear-streaked face and dabbed the blood from his back. Faramir gritted his teeth and groaned loudly, though she was very gentle and the cloth was laid on with a light touch.

He rolled an eye to watch her work and a blush of shame rose to his cheek to see how pretty she was. Her hair beneath her white hood was the color of ripe wheat, her eyes cornflower blue, her smooth cheeks and lips carried a touch of pale rose. She was as lovely a maiden as he had ever seen - and he felt nothing for her. Why could he not feel the desire for her, for any woman, nature commanded? Why was his desire for Éomer, and not for his shield maiden sister or for this pretty young healer?

Faramir closed his eyes and licked his dry lips. He wished he had never come to Rohan, never tried to show his father that he could handle himself as well as Boromir. He knew Denethor loved Boromir as his heir, but he also respected his natural ability to lead, and admired his tenacious spirit, things he saw as reflections of himself. Faramir admired his brother also for his kindness, his confidence, and the loyalty he inspired among his men. All his life he had shadowed his brother's footsteps, trying to live up to his ideal, and all his life he felt he had fallen short.

The young male healer returned and helped raise Faramir's head so that he could drink the potion he had prepared. Faramir sipped it and made a face, turning his head away and coughing slightly, which caused a shudder of agony to ripple through him. The young woman stroked his hair as the young man encouraged him to try again.

"I know it tastes terrible," the healer said apologetically, "but you must finish it. It will ease your pain and let you sleep."

Faramir swallowed and nodded, allowing the young man to feed him the rest, taking bigger sips to finish it faster. 'Yes sleep, blessed, oblivious sleep.' he thought. He wanted to sleep and never awaken.

When he finished, the young woman set about cleaning the welts on his back with cloths soaked in herb-infused water. Faramir flinched through this latest ordeal and the young man set about wrapping his sprained wrist and adjusting it more comfortably upon the pillow. By the time they finished, Faramir's eyes were growing heavy and distant.

Thoughts and images chased through Faramir's ever cloudier mind as the healers left him to his rest. Images of his life, seen through the prism of his experiences and distorted by his perceptions, flitted past his mind's eye as he lay on the threshold of dreams. His father gifting him with the livery of a Guard of the Citadel tailored in every detail to his six-year-old frame, of Denethor telling him of his mother's death and breaking down - the only time Faramir had seen his father cry. He saw himself at age eight, Boromir offering to teach him swordplay with the wooden weapons used for practice, then cruelly besting him and nearly breaking his arm in the process. He thought on Boromir's apology and how good he had felt when he forgave him and his brother had hugged him.

He remembered following Gandalf around on one of his visits, listening to the old wizard's tales of adventure in far off lands and dreaming of someday traveling and having adventures of his own. He thought of how his constant questions and his studies of Elves, Dwarves, and other cultures of Men seemed to irritate his father and annoy his brother, who thought his time would be better spent learning Gondorian history and battle strategy.

Faramir sighed gently in his half-dream state. He had always felt like an outsider, even within his beloved city and among his own people. It was Gandalf who had told him there was no shame in being different, but he had not believed him then or now. For even Gandalf did not know what it was that set him apart. Faramir had always understood on a fundamental level that he was not like Boromir, or his father, or like any others of the citadel guard, but he did not know why. All his life he had tried to fit in, tried to deny the part of himself that had led him to his current circumstances, and now it had all blown up in his face.

'If only I could have known his touch but once. . .' Faramir thought, as he slipped into his herb-induced slumber.

When he at last began to awaken, he fought to hold onto the darkness of sleep, trying to force his mind back into the dreamless abyss in which he wanted to remain. But the pain in his body would not allow it, and he found himself groaning in frustration as he reluctantly blinked his way to consciousness. When he moved, the young man came to him and helped him sit up. Faramir sat on the edge of the cot, gripping the frame unsteadily with his good hand, trembling, his breathing short and ragged. His mouth was dry once again and he hung his head and closed his eyes, waiting for the room to stop spinning.

The young healer offered him a cup of water. Faramir took a few sips, sighing gratefully as he handed it back. "Thank you," he rasped.

"Do you need to relieve yourself?" the young man asked softly, and Faramir blushed and nodded.

"I don't know if I can. . . manage by myself," he admitted, shame flushing his cheeks and chest.

The young man looked upon him sympathetically. "It is all right. I will help you."

Faramir was humiliated beyond words, but he had no choice. The young man brought him a chamber pot and helped him unlace his leggings. Faramir managed to get himself situated, but the awkwardness of using the wrong hand and the pain caused by even the smallest movement caused his aim to go awry, splashing both the healer and the floor.

Faramir had thought he had sunk to his lowest point but this latest degradation was without equal. He mumbled an apology and stuffed himself hastily back into his leggings, his head falling forward onto his chest as he fought back his tears.

"It is all right," the healer said gently as he cleaned up the floor and wiped off the hem of his robe. "Your hand is injured and until it heals you will need help with many things you are used to doing on your own. Do not be ashamed to ask. We are used to helping our patients with these things."

Faramir nodded quickly but did not open his eyes until he heard the young man move away. He looked despondently around the room, seeing the house held few other patients and no other prisoners. Two guards stood at the doorway and, when Faramir looked out the window at the end of the room, he saw there was another guard beyond it. 'How many are there?' he thought. 'Do they truly think I could escape after what they have done to me?'

He saw the young woman moving about the large room, checking the others and offering them drink or comfort. When she approached him, Faramir looked up at her, but found he could not hold her gaze.

"Will you let Théoden King know I am awake, please? I doubt if he will want me to remain here any longer than necessary."

The young woman touched his shoulder gently. "Yes, I will let him know. Is there anything I can get you? Would you like to lie down again?" she asked.

Faramir shook his head, wincing as he did. The young woman went to speak to the guards and he watched her make her report. Concern crossed her features at something the guard said and she shook her head adamantly as she replied. The guard responded and she spoke firmly, her tone clear even to Faramir, though he could not hear her words. When she returned her face was strained and she bent to look in his eyes.

"They say you are to be moved immediately. I told them you are not well enough, that there is a risk of infection and permanent injury to your wrist if you do not remain here for at least another day or two."

Faramir looked at her, gratitude and despair filling his eyes. "It is good of you to want to help me, but do not waste your time. My fate is in the hands of the king. I deserve no leniency, nor your kindness." He averted his eyes, feeling himself unworthy of her compassion.

"Everyone deserves a chance to heal," the young woman said, brushing a strand of hair from Faramir's face, which immediately fell forward again as he looked up to watch her move away.

His arm throbbed with a slow, painful dullness. Faramir scrubbed at the two day old growth of beard on his face and looked over at the sun shining on the garden beyond the window. The dust swirled within the light and Faramir felt like one of the tiny motes, borne about powerlessly on the currents of chance.

He heard a bustling outside the door and Éomer swept into the room, the anger in his eyes changing to horror when he saw Faramir. Faramir refused to look up, fearing that meeting Éomer's eyes would again reveal his shameful desire.

But Éomer would not settle for standing over him, staring down. He squatted before Faramir and grasped his jaw, lifting his head to look into his eyes. Faramir felt himself blush again and cursed his inability to control his feelings when the horse lord was near.

"Is your confession true?" Éomer asked, glaring at Faramir as if daring him to deny the veracity of it.

Faramir was struck speechless by the sudden onslaught of those intense brown eyes. He stared, his heart battling his mind over whether to tell Éomer the truth or continue the lie. He wanted Éomer to know he was no traitor, but he feared Gríma would make good on his threat to show Éomer the rest of his journal. He could not bear the contempt he was certain to see in the horse lord's eyes should Éomer read the entries about him. And, Faramir reasoned, even if he told the truth, would Éomer believe him? He had certainly failed to do so when he had him so callously put to the lash.

The memory of Éomer's gaze going to the torturer ever more frequently decided the matter for Faramir. He lowered his eyes in defeat and whispered, "Yes."

"Bah!" Éomer snorted in disgust releasing his grip on Faramir's jaw. "Have you no interest in saving yourself? You cannot even look me in the eye when you admit your treachery!"

Faramir felt his temper flare for the first time. How could Éomer say this to him after all he had endured? Why did these bull-headed Rohirrim insist on hearing him damn himself again and again? He glowered at Éomer, his eyes flashing, his good hand balled into a fist.

"You want me to look you in the eye and condemn myself?" he all but shouted."What would that prove? You think to read my moods as you do your horses? You think me as easily broken to your will? Very well, then, look at me, but look well. Look upon what your refusal to see the truth has done. If you could read my eyes, you would have known the day you questioned me that I spoke the truth, yet the lash kept falling on your command. Then you sent Gríma to finish your dirty work because you could not face me. Why? Look into my eyes and speak your own truth, if you dare!"

Faramir sat trembling with rage as Éomer stared back at him, his cheeks red as a blood-sun. The horse lord said nothing for a long moment then he turned away.

"I have wronged you, Faramir," he said, clearly shaken. "I knew you spoke the truth but I could not let the others think I was being soft. Much is expected of me as Théoden King's sister-son and Captain, and I thought if they saw I spared you not, and if you did not break, the matter would be settled to the king's satisfaction. But when I neared you to see how well you held, what I saw in your eyes -- what I thought I saw -- I did not know what to do and I left."

He paused and Faramir swallowed hard. Faramir knew he had to ask the next question, though he flinched inwardly at what must surely be the reply.

"What did you think you saw, when you looked into my eyes?" he asked quietly, barely managing to keep his voice steady.

Éomer turned to look at him and Faramir saw his body stiffen a little as he spoke. "I thought I saw. . . desire," he said, searching the Gondorian's eyes closely.

Faramir met his gaze, his voice strained with apprehension, "And what if it were true?"

The horse lord's eyes grew cold. "Then you would be a disgrace to your people." Faramir's heart was slashed at these words, but Éomer continued. "As I would be a disgrace to mine."

The young Gondorian looked at him questioningly, hopefully, but the coldness in the horse lord's eyes did not wane.

Faramir's shoulders slumped. "You were mistaken," he said softly.

"I thought as much," Éomer said. "It seems we have both made mistakes these past days."

Faramir lowered his eyes and nodded. "I am ready to pay for my crime," he whispered. "Tell your King I will accept his judgment, but if he wishes me to suffer, no punishment he can devise will match that of my father when I am returned to Gondor."

Éomer hesitated for a moment as though there was something else he wished to say, then turned and left.

Pushing himself up with difficulty, Faramir stood, holding onto the bed for support and the pretty female healer rushed over to help.

"You must lie down," she said, her voice leaving no room for argument. Faramir allowed himself to be lowered back down upon his stomach. She applied another treatment to his back and told him he must lie still for a time to let the herbs do their work.

The day dragged on and Faramir lay despondently upon the cot. Eventually the healers helped him sit up and fashioned a sling for his arm. He watched the young woman have another discussion with the guards outside the door and then she came in and told him the king had decided he was not to be moved until the healers said it was safe. Faramir thanked her politely, though he did not relish the thought of being fussed over by the apprentices when all he wanted was to be left alone. He was brought stew and bread that night, and the young woman fed it to him, another humiliation which he apathetically accepted.

Two more days of confinement, the guards stationed outside the door day and night; then the Master Healer examined him and pronounced him ready to be moved, admonishing the guards that his arm was to remain in the sling for at least two more weeks. The young man helped him bathe and dress and Faramir stepped out to meet the guards.

He fully expected to be thrown into prison until he was well enough to leave, or to await further punishment, but the guards instead escorted him back to the rooms he'd been given upon his arrival. He entered and the guards closed and locked the doors behind him.

'Not in prison then, but still a prisoner,' Faramir thought miserably.

He had not been in the room long when he heard the key turn and the doors opened to reveal Éomer, who strode in with a commanding air. The doors were closed and locked behind him as he approached.

"Preparations are underway to return you to your homeland. Théoden King will send an armed escort, along with a copy of your confession. You are to leave upon the morrow. I thought you should know."

Faramir's heart froze. He leaned against the bedpost for support.

Éomer watched him in silence for a moment then said, "There is something else. . ."

Clamping his eyes shut tightly and struggling to compose himself, Faramir at last raised his head to look at Éomer, who continued.

"I caught Gríma trying to secret a set of sealed documents within the courier's pouch. When I confronted him, he was evasive, saying they were for your father's eyes only and had nothing to do with your situation. The documents were written upon the same parchment you used for your journal. I have come to ask you, was there anything else that you wrote that perhaps Gríma did not turn over to us?"

Faramir's head snapped up, his mask of composure falling away to reveal a terrified, crushed young man. He sank to his knees and doubled over, moaning, "I am ruined," again and again until Éomer, startled by his reaction, hurried over and knelt before him, placing a hand on his shoulder.

"What is it, Faramir?" he said urgently, "You must tell me. I know it has nothing to do with your spying or Gríma would not have kept it secret. What is it? Why are you afraid?"

Faramir shrugged Éomer's hand away. "Do not. . .!" he cried, and he began to weep softly.

'. . .touch me,' Éomer reflected, stunned by the force of the young man's misery. Faramir could not bear his touch and he was surprised to find the thought disturbed him. He did not know how to respond and so said nothing. He was both startled and moved by Faramir's tears in a way he did not expect. Thinking of what it must be like to be in Faramir's boots made him wonder what he would do if he were as frightened of Théoden as Faramir was of Denethor. Not knowing what to do or say in the face of the man's despair, he remained for a few moments longer, but when Faramir's grief showed no sign of abating, he at last stood to leave.

Faramir lifted his head then, his eyes wide and pleading. "Éomer, despite everything you were my friend once. You know how I. . . you know of my disgrace, yet you came to ask me about this. You have given me a chance to be honest. Do you consider me a friend, then? Do you trust me enough to believe my words?"

Éomer found himself almost frightened by Faramir's look of desperate entreaty. He remembered Faramir's arrival and how striking he had looked in the black and silver livery of a Gondorian guard; how Théoden had asked him to show their young guest around the city, and how he had been made responsible for Faramir throughout his stay.

He and Faramir had become friends almost immediately. They had soon become inseparable as they toured Edoras, as Éomer introduced him at court, demonstrated horseback battle techniques, taught him the Rohan way to break and ride horses. Éomer envied Faramir's quick mind and lively wit, admired his eagerness to learn and his interest in the royal city, and also the rest of Rohan and the ways of the Rohirrim. He even found himself amused by the constant questions Faramir asked about even the smallest matters, such as the design of the plates and cups they used for meals.

To see him in the house of healing had been difficult, and knowing that he had been at least partly responsible for Faramir's breaking weighed heavily upon him. Yet he knew why Théoden had chosen him for the interrogation; he thought Faramir would tell him anything. But when Faramir had looked upon him in the torture room, the desire evident in his tormented grey eyes, his sweaty body only inches away, he had abandoned him, the sudden realization and fear of his own feelings too overwhelming for him to consider.

Now, looking on Faramir, he could no longer deny to himself that his desire matched the Gondorian's own and he felt shame, shame for turning away when Faramir needed him and shame for his feelings for his friend. Looking into his eyes now, he knew he could turn away no more.

"Yes," he said firmly, "I trust you and I believe you."

"What Gríma is sending my father is. . . my writings about you. What I feel for you. If my father sees it, I will be banished to live in exile. They are the reason I confessed, the only reason. Gríma threatened to show them to you and I thought if you saw them you would revile me. I would rather face my father's wrath over the accusation of spying than to see that happen. But if he reads this, my life among my people is forfeit. Our ways do not allow for the union of two men, not even for the thought, and certainly not among the line of Stewards. You must get those papers back! You must help me!"

Éomer shook his shaggy yellow mane. "I do not know if I can, but I will do everything in my power to see they do not reach Gondor."

Faramir looked at him with such hope and gratitude that Éomer's heart went to him again. "My people are no less tolerant of these matters. I have tried to put my feelings aside and act in the best interest of my people, but I have hurt you in the process and I am sorry, truly sorry."

"It is I who should ask your forgiveness," Faramir said softly. "I should have told you how I felt from the beginning; I should have accepted the consequences and moved on." He smiled thinly. "But my brother is the strong one. My father has always told me my character is weak."

Éomer shook his head again. "Then your father is a fool. I have not shown as much strength in this as you. I will do what I can for you now."

He turned and rapped at the door. The key turned, the door opened, and he exited without a backward glance.

Faramir felt a kind of peace settle over him. If Éomer did not hate him, he felt he could take whatever the outcome, no matter how dire. He wondered if he might find sanctuary among the Elves if his father banished him from Gondor. Faramir knew he could not return to Rohan, nor did he desire to live among the lands of the south or north. He sighed and sat upon the bed, staring up at the high window as the light without gradually lessened.

When night had fallen and the room grew dark, he lit the candles and kept his watch of the doors, willing them to open, the fear in his heart growing with each passing hour. A tray of food was brought, and left untouched, as Faramir continued his vigil.

When he finally heard the key turn, he jumped, only then realizing how tense and strained his muscles had become. To his horror, Théoden entered, followed closely by Éomer who held a sealed set of papers clutched in his hand.

Faramir dropped awkwardly to one knee and looked at the floor. "Hail, Théoden King," he said in respectful greeting.

"Rise, Faramir of Gondor," Théoden said formally, and Faramir knew the worst must be at hand. He stood, but kept his eyes down as protocol dictated until addressed by the king, one of the few times in his life he had truly appreciated protocol.

"Why did you confess to crimes you did not commit?" Théoden asked simply, which was the last thing Faramir had expected.

He looked up quickly, not at Théoden, but at Éomer. The horse lord's eyes urged him wordlessly to speak the truth. Faramir was stunned. Éomer's plan to get him out of trouble was to tell the king the truth? He thought he had learned everything there was to know about Rohan culture but his education had obviously been lacking.

"I believe Éomer holds the reason within his hand, your majesty," Faramir said with a bow.

"Indeed," Théoden said dryly. "As you can see, the seal is unbroken. I will not ask you for details, nor am I interested in reading what is written upon those pages, but I say to you who have not the wisdom of years that seeking to protect a truth with a lie is folly, no matter what the grounds. Do you know that now to be true, Faramir of Gondor?"

"I do, your majesty, most fervently," Faramir said, "and I beg your forgiveness and the forgiveness of all who have been hurt by my falsehoods."

Théoden looked him up and down. "Then it seems you must forgive yourself first, as you are the one who has been most harmed by your lies."

"That is most difficult, your majesty," Faramir said, "but I will spend each day of the life you have restored to me trying to do so."

Théoden could not help but smile. "Well spoken, son of Gondor. You are no longer prisoner, and you will not be required to return home until your wrist has healed properly. But until you leave our lands, you will not see Éomer again. Is that clear?"

Faramir's heart hit his boot soles with a thump he was certain all could hear. "Yes, your majesty," he said.

Théoden nodded. "Éomer leaves tomorrow for Helm's Deep to relieve the captain of the guard there, so there will be no chance of your crossing paths until you are ready to make your journey home. Another will be assigned to attend you."

Faramir caught the look of pain in Éomer's eyes as he nodded and bowed again. Then Théoden turned and exited, Éomer following stiffly behind. Before he left, Éomer placed the papers he carried on the table at the foot of Faramir's bed.

This time there was no sound of a key turning in the lock but Faramir knew he would have no great desire to leave his rooms for many days.

He winced as he wearily removed his sling and eased the loose tunic over his head, cursing as he briefly got stuck and had to stop and calm down before he could continue. His leggings were a little easier to remove and he slipped at last into bed, naked, for he had no desire to fight the nightclothes that hung in his wardrobe.

The candles snuffed, the comforter warm around him, the silence of the palace broken only by the night guard who could occasionally be heard roaming the halls, and Faramir still lay awake. His arm throbbed slightly, the sheet causing the healing welts on his back to itch as melancholy thoughts drifted through his head.

He dozed without realizing, coming awake with a start as a hand clamped over his mouth. Frightened and disoriented, he tried to strike out against the intruder and his bad arm connected with the man's shoulder. He yelped against the callused palm, even as a familiar voice hissed in his ear.

"Peace, Faramir, for pity's sake! You'll alert the whole house."

Éomer! He stilled immediately and the hand was removed. Though he could not see his friend, Faramir could feel him close by and his heart quickened at the flutter of breath across his skin.

"Forgive me, my friend," he whispered, "and accept also my thanks. I do not know what you said to the king or what you must now endure for speaking for me, but you have returned to me my life. I am in your debt."

"The tour at Helm's Deep is not a hardship," Éomer whispered back. "I think the king was more saddened than angry when I told him what you had done. He did not want to believe you were a spy, but Gríma pressed him until he felt he had to take the matter to the limit. You and I aided him most witlessly I fear."

Faramir sighed, "The fault still lies upon me. I should never have written the things I did. To be able to write what I had learned, in the language of your people, filled me with foolish pride, and so I wrote indiscriminately. I have learned that power comes not merely in the possession of knowledge but rather in the prudent use of it."

His eyes having at last adjusted enough to make out Éomer's face, Faramir caught a glimpse of the horse lord's smile. "You will make a good commander one day, my friend," Éomer said, "and Steward as well, should your country ever have need of you. You are willing to admit errors and learn from them, good qualities in a leader."

Faramir felt himself blush at the praise. He had never had such a compliment from either Denethor or Boromir and it gave him a twinge of pleasure that the object of his affection should see him so. He propped himself up on his elbow then reached out and took Éomer's hand in his and squeezed it warmly. Éomer returned the pressure and Faramir sighed happily in the dark.

Then Éomer's voice changed, becoming huskier, more charged with emotion than Faramir had ever heard. "But I have risked much to come to you this night and it is not merely to apologize or seek your forgiveness, nor is it to wish you farewell."

He paused and Faramir trembled in the tender grasp of anticipation. Sensing something was happening for which he could not have hoped to dream, the nervous apprehension it aroused in him caught Faramir unawares. Scarcely daring to trust his voice he asked, "Why then have you come?"

Faramir gasped sharply as Éomer traced his fingers lightly up his arm. The connection was immediate, electric, and he felt the current to the roots of his hair. His trembling hand rose to Éomer's face and he grew bold enough to turn the touch into a caress, stroking his friend's strong jaw through his beard.

Éomer caught his bandaged wrist in a grip impossibly gentle for a man of such strength and pressed his lips to Faramir's swollen fingers. "I have come to you this night, risking the wrath of my king and the censure of my people, to seek that which is forbidden by both law and nature, but which my heart tells me is right, to lie with you and know you."
"Am I dreaming?" Faramir whispered, scarcely daring to believe this could be real.

"Nay," Éomer answered softly, "the time for dreams is past." He released Faramir's wrist and turned away for a moment. The young Gondorian held his breath as Éomer struck a light and lit the candle at his bedside, bathing the space around them in a soft, dim glow and allowing him to look upon the handsome face of his friend.

Éomer rose to his feet and Faramir's eyes followed him as he stood, taking in the tall, powerfully built horse lord dressed only in a dark blue sleeping robe. He unconsciously licked his lips at the sight of this warrior, this conqueror of both battlefield and heart towering over him where he lay. Éomer's sleeping robe was open to mid-chest, revealing a light cover of blond curls; his dirty-blond hair was draped over his broad shoulders, and his brown eyes bored into Faramir's grey ones, studying him with the same curious intent with which the Gondorian regarded him.

Time froze for Faramir as the horse lord parted his robe and let it fall to the floor, revealing the measure of Éomer's desire. Éomer then seized the sheet and blanket covering Faramir and cast them aside, his eyes raking the Gondorian so keenly that Faramir felt his body ignite with the heat that rushed through him, heat born of forbidden excitement.

Éomer laid himself down and Faramir struggled to one side to make room for him, flinching from pain and quivering in anticipation as the warm nearness of Éomer's naked body filled his senses. His friend smelt of harsh soap with underlying traces of leather and horseflesh, an aroma so familiarly masculine, yet so thoroughly Éomer, that it made his head spin. He leaned closer and breathed deeply, tremulously, as Éomer cupped his cheek and gazed upon him with undeniable passion.

Faramir lowered his eyes, a sudden shyness taking him as Éomer stroked his cheek and ran a thumb over his upper lip, tickling the stubble of whiskers growing there. Then Éomer's lips pressed to his, catching him off guard, and Faramir returned the pressure clumsily, chastely, his mouth closed, his hand hovering over his partner's hip before finally settling lightly upon it.

The horse lord broke the kiss and gave him a concerned frown. "Have you ever...?" he asked, trailing off uncertainly.

Faramir blushed, "I have not kissed another with desire," he admitted. He paused and looked at Éomer as though afraid his next words would cause his friend to change his mind. "In fact, I have never been with another in this way. I am sorry."

Éomer twined a hand in Faramir's thick black hair and looked at him warmly, "You do not need to apologize. I have little experience myself, and none with another male. Yet we both know our own bodies, so perhaps if I touch you as I like to be touched and you touch me as you like to be touched, we will find it pleasant."

"Aye," Faramir said, breathing a sigh of relief, "it will be most pleasant."

They reached for each other at the same instant and began to explore with cautious eagerness, stroking, fondling, kissing, while gauging the other's response to each experimental touch. Gradually they grew bolder, Éomer catching a nipple between his teeth and tonguing the captive point, Faramir's good hand following the contour of the horse lord's muscular flank, his fingers tracing the deep crease between buttock and thigh.

Their breathing became shallow and ragged as each repeated the moves that elicited the most appealing reactions from their partner. The scent of their mutual passion rose from them in waves, charging the air with a portent of vibrant expectation as they pressed closer, their erect members sliding upon each other, the friction kindling and concentrating the heat in their loins as their desire intensified. Reaching their climax within seconds of each other, they embraced fiercely, coming with shuddering groans of completion.

Faramir felt his spirit soar to impassioned heights with his release, transcending any pleasure he had heretofore experienced on his own. How could such feelings be wrong, his heart asked, when they felt so good, so untainted by the inelegance of ordinary interactions?

He blinked rapidly, his sweat-sheened body wrapped in Éomer's strong arms, the throbbing in his wrist and stinging of the welts upon his back an oddly pleasant counterpoint to his ecstasy. He looked at Éomer with a mixture of stunned amazement and gratitude and saw in his friend's eyes a gleam of affection.

They lay together until the sticky warmth between them began to cool; then Éomer snatched up his robe and wiped them both clean. Faramir quivered in pleasure as the finely spun robe slipped tantalizingly over his sex-sensitive organ, rousing it to life once more. He gasped and Éomer took advantage of his parted lips to kiss him again. Faramir's eyes grew wide as he felt the slick wetness of his friend's tongue upon his own. Wanting more, the blood still singing in his ears, Faramir's tongue darted out to meet Éomer's, instinctively battling for control. This time there was no hesitation or awkwardness for Faramir as he dominated the kiss, hungrily taking Éomer's willing lips, reawakening their desire.

He wrapped his right arm around Éomer's waist and pulled him hard against his body, his stiffening arousal demandingly rubbing the horse lord's abdomen. But Éomer stayed him, pulling away and shaking his head.

"Nay," he gasped, and Faramir's face fell with disappointment, only to brighten as the horse lord continued. "There are other things we can do which, I have been told, will also be pleasurable."

"What things?" Faramir panted excitedly.

"Using our mouths and - and even penetration is possible, just as it is with a woman."

"But how can that be?" Faramir asked, confused. "There is one essential thing we lack for such pleasure, is there not?"

Éomer smiled and gave Faramir's buttock a playful squeeze, "Ah, but that which we have can serve a like use."

Faramir gulped and reddened, though he found the thought not entirely distasteful. "And which of us would...?" he asked shyly.

In reply, Éomer seized and kissed him, making Faramir's heart race, making him want the horse lord all the more desperately. Was this not his fantasy, Éomer's strength, his command, his dominating masculinity?

"What must I do?" he breathed when Éomer's lips left his.

Éomer trailed a hand down his neck and chest, pausing to idly toy with a nipple, enjoying how Faramir's eyes closed briefly in pleasure.

"Just trust me," he whispered, "and relax."

Faramir nodded and Éomer started to kiss him again, slowly, gently, starting at his forehead and moving down. It was odd, these feather-light brushes of Éomer's lips upon his face, and Faramir felt each bit of him that was touched awaken as though his skin had never known sensation before this moment.

Éomer kissed his forehead then down the bridge of his nose, delicately upon his eyelids making Faramir's lashes flutter against his lips. He kissed the corner of Faramir's mouth, nuzzling at his soft, sparse beard, then down his neck to the hollow of his throat. Faramir's head fell back, giving Éomer complete access, moaning softly against the lips which pressed against the pulse of his neck, which sucked lightly at his collarbone.

Faramir rolled over at Éomer's urging, grimacing a little as his back came in contact with the sheets. The pain was trivial compared to the pleasure of his friend's touch and he panted softly, his body relaxing bit by bit as Éomer's hands glided along his sides, over his hips, between his thighs, as he kissed ever downward. Never had he imagined in his loneliness and shame that the touch of a lover could be so quenching, so sustaining, like melting snow feeding the roots of an ice-sere sapling, bringing it to full, glorious, summer leaf.

He could not stop trembling as Éomer lavished his belly and hips with small worshipful kisses. His good hand clutched and worried the sheet beneath him, feeling the warmth of Éomer's lips spread their heat throughout his body. Then Éomer's hand wrapped around his shaft and he sealed his lips over the head, following the action with a flick of his tongue upon the exposed tip. The young Gondorian went rigid, his back arched and his breath held as he stuffed his bandaged hand into his mouth to stifle his cry of startled pleasure. Éomer kept up his assault, moving his closed lips down Faramir's shaft and sucking lightly. Faramir whimpered past his bandaged wrist, sinking his teeth in a little so the pain would help stay his impending release.

"Éomer, please," the muffled words were urgent, "I am going to. . . I cannot. . ."

Éomer stopped immediately, resting his chin on Faramir's thigh and looking up at him as the Gondorian raised his head, a damp strand of raven hair falling across one grey eye.

"You - you stopped," he gasped, propping himself up on his elbows, his heavy shaft throbbing gently upon his belly.

Éomer rubbed a thumb over Faramir's knee and gave his thigh a squeeze. "I want to take you," he said plainly. "I want to feel the tightness of your body surround me. Will you allow it?"

Faramir's arousal nodded a beat before he did. "Command me, captain," he whispered, his cheeks flushed, his breath coming deep and rapid. "I am yours."

Lifting his head, Éomer kissed Faramir's hip. "Since you are hurt, I think it best if you kneel up and rest your good arm on the headboard. Do you think you can do that?"

"Aye," he said, "I think I can."

Éomer knelt on the bed beside him and helped support him as he struggled to his knees. When he was in position, Éomer moved behind him and Faramir heard him gasp, felt strong hands come to rest on his waist as carefully as if he were made of porcelain.

"Oh, Faramir, my gentle Faramir, what have I done to you?" he moaned.

"'Tis no matter, it barely hurts anymore," Faramir said lightly, hoping Éomer would not be put off by his wounds.

A soft kiss pressed to an uninjured spot above his left shoulder. "You suffered this for me," Éomer breathed reverently in his ear. "And now you give yourself willingly to my desire. Never again shall I face hardship without this memory of your bravery and nobility to inspire me."

Faramir's heart swelled at these words. Éomer thought him brave? A seasoned warrior and commander such as he?

"You flatter me, captain," he said humbly.

"I speak the truth," Éomer murmured, sliding his hands up Faramir's sides, caressing as he went.

Firmly, but not painfully, Éomer's questing fingers stroked and massaged him, squeezed and rubbed Faramir's nipples as he simultaneously kissed his ear, neck, and shoulder, whispering all the while for him to relax. Faramir's eyes drifted closed as Éomer wrapped an arm around his waist, pressing the flat of his hand to his chest while he slid his other hand down to cup a tight cheek.

Faramir stiffened slightly as Éomer's fingers moved inward, touching him where he had not been touched by another. Éomer pushed in very gently, testing his resistance, and he tightened immediately his heart beating hard and quick against the fingers pressed to his breast.

"Easy there Faramir, my skittish young colt," Éomer urged. "You must be very relaxed for this to work. Do not fight it, just let it happen."

Faramir swallowed hard and gave a nod. "I am trying, but it is - uncomfortable."

"It is always so at first but it will get better," Éomer said. "Trust me."

"I will. I do," Faramir asserted.

Éomer circled his finger around the spot for a few moments before trying again. This time he reached the second knuckle before Faramir tightened hard around him and moaned in distress.

He withdrew at once and he could feel the Gondorian's chest hitch a bit under his steadying palm.

"I am sorry," Faramir said hoarsely. "I want this, truly I do, Éomer, but I do not know if I can."

"You are very tight but I shall not injure you if you relax and let yourself open to me, I am certain. Just breathe through the pain and relax the muscle as much as you are able."

Faramir nodded and Éomer tried again, kissing the young Gondorian's ear to distract him as he slipped the finger in. It worked, but as he began to slide the finger in and out Faramir tightened again and Éomer felt him struggling not to show his pain.

He withdrew and Faramir choked out, "It - It hurts. I am trying to relax but it hurts. I am sorry."

"Do not apologize again!" Éomer said sternly, frustration clear in his voice. He took a deep breath and calmed himself, thoughtfully stroking Faramir's right side and hip as the young Gondorian slumped dejectedly in his arms. Then an idea struck him. "Perhaps we need something to ease the way, like the oil we use to ease the pull of sword from sheath."

Faramir turned his head to look at him doubtfully and Éomer grinned and kissed him, excited by his thought. "Yes, he said, that is what we need. Hold still a moment; I think I know just the thing."

He reached to the bedside and picked up the candleholder, tilting it so the melted tallow that had collected in the base ran over his fingers. It was warm, and he liberally coated his fingers before returning them to Faramir's backside. This time as Faramir relaxed, Éomer slipped in and out with ease.

There was no pain now, and Faramir found the movement within him to be both a strange and agreeable sensation. When he had loosened a bit, Éomer again gathered some oil and pushed in with two fingers, making Faramir gasp and squirm. He slid his other hand down Faramir's chest and belly taking him in hand and stroking his arousal fully. Éomer paused and circled his roughened thumb over the exposed head, spreading the natural lubrication that welled from the slit over his sensitive tip. Faramir moaned softly and pushed back, sending the oiled fingers deeper and causing Éomer to touch something inside - something he never knew was there.

Faramir's body shook like foal taking its first steps and Éomer, fearing he had hurt him, removed his fingers and released his throbbing organ at once.

"Forgive me, Faramir," he whispered urgently, "I did not mean to hurt you."

"No. . . No. . ." Faramir panted, "There is something there, where you touched me. It is something inside and it feels. . . exquisite." He turned lust-filled eyes to Éomer and gripped the headboard more tightly. "See if you can find it again," he said eagerly.

Intrigued, Éomer placed his fingers within and sought the spot again. It took him a few moments, but at last Faramir let him know he was successful by moaning and pushing back against his thrusting fingers. He paused and felt around, feeling the small lump beneath his fingers and, fascinated, began to rub his fingers over it as he tried to figure out what it might be. Each time he stroked it, Faramir soared higher, his soft moans becoming more desperate, his hips pumping lasciviously, his arousal swelling taut against his belly.

Éomer's need grew in tandem with his partner's responses and he withdrew his fingers and took up more oil, this time coating his member, wanting to feel those firm hips and that yielding heat envelop him.

When Faramir felt Éomer line himself up, he braced for his entry, forcing himself to stay loose and trying to steady his excited breathing.

"Go ahead," he urged breathlessly. "I am ready."

Éomer began to kiss and fondle him until he could tell Faramir was thinking of nothing but the pleasure in his loins, and then he made his move, pushing in quickly and decisively. Faramir sucked in a sharp breath and cringed, stifling a cry as his lower body ignited with a pain that shot through him until stars danced before his eyes. Éomer stilled at once, rubbing his thigh soothingly.

"Do you want me to stop?" he asked, concerned.

"No! Just give me a moment," Faramir ground out. He panted heavily, slowly bringing his breathing and tortured muscles under control as Éomer waited, tonguing his neck softly and murmuring encouragement. Slowly Faramir melted like the hot tallow under Éomer's touch and within a few moments he whispered, "Now, Éomer, take me now."

Éomer slid out only slightly, then in again, gradually going longer and deeper until at last he struck the place Faramir hoped he would find. With twin moans of pleasure both began to move faster and with more urgency, Faramir pushing back as much as he could, braced against the headboard with his good arm, and Éomer thrusting with a hard, controlled rhythm.

He responded passionately and without restraint as Éomer's roaming hands played with his nipples, mapped the sword-and-bow-toned muscles of his chest and belly, worked his throbbing arousal with hearty, practiced strokes. Éomer kissed then gently bit and licked the tender skin of his ears, neck and shoulders, and Faramir's eyes shuttered in pleasure, his head lowering, his neck arching to grant Éomer willing contact with each part of him. His hips rode forth and back - and he was ridden in his turn by Éomer's powerful thrusts - until he became both steed and horseman in the transcendent ecstasy of their lovemaking.

The two lean-muscled young men grew in need together until Faramir reached that marvelous moment when the sensation coiled within his loins sprang, catapulting him to the height of bliss. He released into Éomer's hand, his body continuing its wild gyrations until he was utterly spent, his damp hair falling over his eyes and his chest heaving violently as sweat ran in rivulets from every pore of his quaking body.

He hung in Éomer's arms, holding on to the headboard as best he could while his exhausted body was shaken helplessly by Éomer's mighty thrusts. Then Éomer suddenly pulled out and he felt the hot seed spatter his back as strong arms tightened upon his chest.

Faramir gasped as Éomer's sultry breath wreathed his neck. Éomer's grip loosened for a moment then tightened into a bear hug as he moaned his admiration into Faramir's ear. When both had calmed their breathing, they lay down together and Faramir, suddenly shy, lowered his eyes for a moment before daring to look at Éomer.

"That was. . . beyond words, my friend," he murmured.

Éomer chuckled. "You? Without words? That is indeed a rarity, Faramir." He looked at him gravely, giving his arm an affectionate squeeze. "I say to you that never will I forget what you have given me tonight, no, not only tonight, but throughout your stay. You have given me friendship, trust, hope, and a part of yourself that you have given to no other. Ever will I prize the memory of this night."

"You have done no less for me, Éomer, my friend and sturdy captain," Faramir said with a soft smile. "This part of myself I have fought for so long, denied for so long, you have helped me see is not an evil. For this and for your patience, I thank you."

They held each other for a while in comfortable silence, lost in their own thoughts and letting their recent experience lull them into a sated, untroubled sleep.

The next morning as the sun streamed in through the high window and the room filled with a soft, diffuse light. Faramir's eyes opened slowly. Memories of Éomer and the previous night made his stomach tighten with excitement and he rose up quickly, half-expecting to see the horse lord lying beside him. But Éomer had left to prepare for his journey.

Faramir felt a melancholy settle upon him as he climbed out of bed and filled a basin with water. He splashed his face and took up a cloth to wipe away Éomer's seed, holding the cloth to his nose for longing sniff. Sighing deeply, he dressed himself, putting on the sling and adjusting it as the healers had taught.

As he made ready to face the day, he glanced toward the table where Éomer had put the sealed papers. He went over and ran a finger over them and in his mind's eye he saw the words, written in the language of Rohan, stating his desire for Éomer and speculating, from what he had learned of Rohan society, how a statement of his feelings might be received by his friend. As he picked up the papers, he saw the seal was broken and he felt his cheeks flush a bit to know that Éomer had read his words. Then he realized Éomer had answered his question unequivocally and he smiled a secret smile.

With a light heart, he put the papers in the fireplace and set them afire, making sure they were burned to fine, powdery ash before going to the door and opening it to face the sunny Rohan morning.


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.

Story Information

Author: IgnobleBard

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - The Stewards

Genre: Drama

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 07/15/09

Original Post: 08/27/06

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Comments

WARNING! Comments may contain spoilers for a chapter or story. Read with caution.

Crossing Borders

Jael - 31 Aug 06 - 12:47 PM

Ch. 1: Crossing Borders

The horse lord's eyes grew cold. "Then you would be a disgrace to your people..." Faramir's heart was slashed at these words, but Éomer continued. "...as I would be a disgrace to mine."

If all slash were written this well, I think I would read a lot more slash.  Thank you for the dose of realism, and the understanding that being homosexual in Middle-earth would be no walk in the park.  This gives your story a dramatic depth beyond the merely sexual.

Thank you for sharing this one.


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