Stewards of Gondor: Slashvese Arc
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From the Other River Bank: 7. Torn
Boromir stood before his father's chambers and sternly reminded himself that he was no longer a childthat he had a right and a reason to speak to his father in private, where he could be certain no others would overhear and that he had no choice, and so should banish Faramir's haunting image from his mind. I have known for many hours now what I must do. And still I hesitate! He grimaced, wrinkling his nose slightly as he raised his hand and rapped twice, sharply. After some few moments, the door opened and a young face looked out. Denethor's esquire looked as if he would far rather be asleep himself, but the Steward of Gondor kept long hours and one did not complain of such incidental things as lost sleep. Still, it was unusual for anyone to come seeking Denethor before the sun had fully risen, and the lad gave a slight frown as he beckoned Boromir within. "A moment, my lord, and I shall return." The esquire went swiftly to the south wall and passed through the door there into his father's inner rooms.
Boromir meanwhile stood and tried not to shift from foot to foot as his eyes wandered over the meticulously kept quarters. This was ostensibly the antechamber where Denethor could receive visitors or entertain a guest of some special significance, but one might not know that from the décor. The chamber did have a small table and some extra chairs, but this was clearly another place of work, like the study below. More intimate, perhaps, for the room gave evidence of Denethor's tastes, but as in all things, the steward was discreet. Maps and books lined every wall, and the furniture was elegant in its simplicity and functionality. The oversized desk along the wall before the window held many reams of paper and a book lay open upon it. Two unlit candles sat upon either corner of the desk and the large pool of wax at their bases testified to their frequent and prolonged use. The carpet that covered the flagstones was a deep blue that was almost black, relieved only by a border of white tracery that seemed almost as lettering. In one corner there stood a clock, and in another a chest whose contents remained a mystery even to Boromir. All was kept in perfect order, and Boromir found himself uneasy, feeling as though he upset the symmetry of the room with his presence. Stop imagining things! he berated himself, which of course only made the feeling grow stronger.
Just then, the door opened again, but instead of the esquire, Denethor himself emerged. "Good morning, Father," Boromir said, straightening automatically. Let it begin!
"You come early today," Denethor said by way of reply. The steward wore a black, silk over-robe, tied at the waist, as if he had risen not long ago. But despite that, sleep seemed far from him, and the very atmosphere of the room seemed to grow tense with his father's arrival. Like the air before a lightning strike, Boromir thought. Denethor stalked to the table before the hearth where sat a cup and a kettle and poured himself tea. The steward quirked a brow in his son's direction in silent question, and Boromir shook his head.
"No, thank you," he murmured, watching as Denethor set the kettle down once more and then turned to him, eyeing him closely.
"What brings you to me before the accustomed hour?" he asked, cutting straight to the heart of the matter, for even among those closest to him, the steward was not one for idle pleasantries.
If only you knew! Boromir thought, though he was careful to conceal the emotions that surged up within him. Still, he could not hide the worry that he felt, and did not try, for he had reason enough for it that his father ought to see naught in it but the obvious. Drawing a deep breath, he ground under a mental heel the bite of conscience, and answered, "A dream, Father. One that seems to me to have some significance."
"Ah?" Denethor raised both brows now, gazing at him over the rim of the teacup as he drank. And if there was a touch of surprise in the sharp interest his father exhibited, Boromir could hardly blame him for it. The last time he had come to his father over a dream, he had been eight years old and his mother had been too ill to comfort him. "Say on, then!"
"I it is not my wont, Father, to heed overmuch dreams, for I have not your gift," Boromir began. Nor Faramir's, thankfully! "But this one I cannot ignore. Know you aught, sir, of Imladris?"
"Imladris yes, I have heard the name," Denethor replied. "You dreamt of it?"
"Not of it, but it stands in the staves spoken in this dream," Boromir said, watching his father closely. "What is it, sir? Or where is it?"
"I cannot say," the steward replied, taking another swallow of tea ere he set the cup aside. "'Tis the name of a valley in the north. A hidden refuge of the Elves it once was, and perhaps it is still. Gondor has never had dealings with it, and I know naught of its location, save that it lies in the Misty Mountains." The Misty Mountains, Boromir thought. No wonder we have found nothing! But Denethor continued now, "Tell me of this rhyme, Boromir, and perhaps we shall learn more." Boromir bit his lip, suddenly reluctant to speak, though he knew not why. Obscurely, now that he had come to the heart of it, the feeling that he was betraying Faramir once more grew stronger, and he glanced away from the steward's sharp gaze. But as he did so, his eyes fell upon the sheaf of paper and inkwell that Denethor kept ever upon the desk, and he crossed to it. Without asking permission, he grasped the pen and quickly wrote down the lines. When he had finished, he blew on the ink to encourage it to dry more swiftly ere he turned back to his father. Extending the paper to the other, Boromir could not help but hold his breath as Denethor reached out and took it, holding it at somewhat less than arm's length. "Far-sighted" men called him, referring to his piercing intellect and wisdom, but as the years drew on, it had begun to be true of his eyesight as well. Boromir watched as his father's eyes flicked over the lines, narrowing slightly as he read. When he had done, he lowered the paper and stared at Boromir with that uncomfortably intense scrutiny that drove many men to distraction as they sought to find a way out from beneath its weight. But Boromir simply gazed back, and even guilt could not master the urgent, nearly desperate hope that filled his heart. "Strange portents, my son!"
"I can make nothing of them, I fear," Boromir replied. Denethor grunted softly and meticulously folded the paper, creasing it as he crossed the room to set it upon his desk.
"Old signs and old legends drawn out of the dark days of the last Age," his father said grimly. "The loremasters despair of finding answers to some questions, and the matter of Isildur has long puzzled them. Out of Arnor, there came few rumors, but I doubt not that had the vaults of Fornost or Annuminas survived, we might have found much there to explain these staves. Alas, they are lost to us!" A pause. "What has Faramir discovered?"
"I hope you do not think that I have overlooked the number of books and scrolls that the two of you have between you examined," Denethor replied, his voice hardening somewhat. "Your brother knows of this. This dream tears at him, wearing him down, I can see it. But he would not come to me, and you have thus far remained silent. What has caused that to change?"
Swallowing an expletive, Boromir glanced down at the floor. I ought to have known better than to think that our activities could go all unnoticed! he thought. "Faramir has found naught of use, sir. And until last night, I did but help him in a quest I could not understand, for I am not one to deal with the uncanny, and as I said, such dreams are not granted me. But once dreamt, the words do not leave one, and I cannot dismiss the urgency that I feel! We must answer this riddle, sir, if we are to have any hope!"
For a long moment, Denethor met his gaze in silence, weighing his son's troubled, eager manner, and the intricate chain of speculation added a few more links to its length. The steward grunted softly, and quoted, "'In Imladris it dwells. There shall be counsels taken... .' So, you have come to me for a boon, and would find Imladris yourself with my permission."
"I would, sir," Boromir replied steadily.
"And why would I allow the heir to my station to leave the realm at such a time as this?" Denethor asked, his voice quite level, as though he were making some polite inquiry as to the other's health. But his son knew that tone too well, and felt the flutter of nervousness in his stomach. "Why should I not send Faramir?"
Boromir was silent for awhile, watching his father with troubled eyes as he considered the best way to respond. Whatever I say, I must be certain that it is honest in the end. Not that I would lie, truly, but if I am not careful, he may press me too hard, and then ! He refused to think about that eventuality, fearing perhaps that even such silent speculation might not be safe when he was alone in his father's presence. Given how long he had delayed his answer, though, he knew that he would have to begin with something that Denethor could question at least, and so he said, "Faramir is weary, Father. You have seen what this dream has done to him, you say, but he would also be the first to tell you that we need haste! If one of us must go immediately, then let it not be he! The way is long and the path unknown, and who knows what perils a messenger might meet with? To send him forth as he is now would be to condemn him!"
"Your concern is admirable, but given a few days' rest, he would be well enough. 'Immediately' can be so imprecise a phrase, after all," Denethor replied with a humorless smile.
"That is so," Boromir admitted, drawing a deeper breath, marshaling his next response. "But there are other reasons. I" He paused as Denethor held up a hand. The steward crossed to the door again and opened it enough to summon the esquire.
"Go, Verethon, and inform the lord Faramir that I would see him in my chambers. Now." With a bow, the esquire went, and Denethor turned shrewd eyes back to Boromir, who stared at him. For his part, Boromir wanted nothing more than to grab the lad and countermand that order, but there was naught that he could do for it was utterly out of his hands. "Since we come to this point, it would be only fair that Faramir be present to defend his claim, do you not think? And to tell me what he has learned and whence he has learned it, so as to shorten any search I might make and avoid redundancy." Boromir bit his lower lip gently, unable to speak, and so he simply nodded, once and sharply. And he tried to ignore the fact that his stomach roiled and his knees felt weak before the prospect of enduring his brother's accusatory looks. I never intended for Faramir to be present! He had planned to present the other with a fait accompli, for at least then he would not need to endure a heated argument, only his brother's recriminations. As forgiveness was already beyond him, he had thought it would be easier than asking his permission. I did not want to argue with him, and now I shall have no choice. Valar on high, help me find the words and do not let me weaken! Blind my father, o spirits of the world, I beg! Do not let him see the true nature of my shame! An unworthy prayer, perhaps, but he could do naught else but wait in silence.
Denethor, for his part, calmly returned to the table and finished the rest of his tea, and if he had any concerns over the imminent confrontation, he did not show them. What, indeed, has he to fear? Boromir thought bitterly. This is to him but another cat-squall, a little thing, and that it will hurt Faramir further is nothing to him. And it is everything to me! Not that he would have done his brother no hurt, but there was a seemingly callous disregard for the other in Denethor's summons. Or is there? It is fair, as Father said, that Faramir be present, even if I would prefer it otherwise. Why must it be so complicated? It seemed an eternity ere a knock sounded once more, and the esquire entered with Faramir in tow. Denethor's younger son had that somewhat glassy-eyed look of one who is not quite aware of his surroundings, but the instant he saw Boromir, those grey eyes sharpened warily. Suspicion entered his gaze as he cast a quick glance from his brother to his father, and though Faramir murmured a very civil 'good morrow' to both men, he clearly mistrusted this summons. The younger man stalked over to stand at Boromir's side, as was his wont in such situations, but Boromir knew with precision how far his brother stood from him. Just out of arm's reach! "May I inquire as to the reason for my presence, Father?" Faramir asked, daring his father's gaze.
"You may. Boromir has told me of a dream" at which point Faramir stiffened and his eyes darted sideways to catch his brother's expression" that both of you have now had. He proposes to go to Imladris himself, but I would have each of your reasons laid plainly before me."
"I see," Faramir's monotone fooled no one who knew him well, and Boromir felt every muscle in his body tense before the volumes of reproach contained in those two words. "And when we have spoken, will you then decide, Father, who is to go?"
"If I think such decision is warranted immediately, then yes. Otherwise, I shall inform you when I have had sufficient time for reflection. Boromir is of the opinion that you at least ought not to go if the journey must be undertaken at once, and I would concur. You have taken no rest since you arrived, and lack of judgment tends to breed further errors of a similar nature," Denethor said, and Faramir gritted his teeth at the none too subtle criticism.
"If I have taken no rest, Father, think not that it is out of any willful folly of mine, for this dream has tormented me by day as well as by night! But still I would go, for I fear I shall have no rest until this is resolved!" Faramir replied. "Moreover," he continued, reasonably, shooting a quick glance at Boromir, "My brother is your heir. You will have need of him, Father. Such tasks as this are a second son's duty, for we cannot risk Boromir's loss."
"Have you an answer, Boromir?" Denethor shifted his gaze to his older son.
"Yes," Boromir replied, striving for an even tone. "Had the news not come two days ago, I might bow to such reasoning, but we hear now that Cair Andros is threatened, and Osgiliath's men must be disbanded and sent to the isle or elsewhere, wherever they are needed. Ithilien will need careful handling until its numbers can be increased. Faramir and I serve you in the field, Father, and though we study also policy, it is in Anórien and Ithilien, or south at Poros that we are most needed. But command in Ithilien calls for a particular type of cunning that suits Faramir well. Or so you said many years ago when first he left for that company, Father," Boromir pointed out. "If my lord steward wishes me to take my brother's place in Ithilien while he is gone on this errand, then so be it! But though I would learn quickly, I cannot, I think, rival my brother in that post. I cannot match nineteen years of experience, Father." He paused, and carefully did not look at his brother, then continued, "In this matter, Faramir is more indispensable than am I, who shall shortly lack a command. If someone must be sent, it would be far easier to send me."
There was a silence, and Boromir could feel the heavy chill in the air as father and brother considered his argument. Denethor, he knew, could not deny the validity of it, though he might be loath to release him. Faramir, on the other hand, had the air of one who fights to control an outburst, and Boromir, bowing his head, noted the other's clenched fists behind his back. Clearly, Faramir, too, recognized the logic of his brother's statements, but that did not ease the sting of betrayal. I am sorry, my love! Boromir thought, wishing that Faramir could hear him in that moment. But I cannot let you take this task. You are needed, and I cannot stay here. I simply cannot! Though I would never be parted from you, it is too late, for the abyss lies deep between us. And if I cannot stand at your side, then better for us both that I am far away, where I cannot hurt you further, and where Father will never suspect what has befallen. He had a terrible feeling that he knew what Faramir's response to such an excuse would be, but fortunately, he might never have to hear it.
"Your reasoning is sound, Boromir," Denethor said at length, and beside him, Faramir closed his eyes and bowed his head. "Much though I little like it!"
"Father please ." Faramir spoke softly, and his voice was taut with dread, with pleading, and Boromir cursed himself inwardly. Say nothing! Say nothing, Faramir, do not humiliate yourself in front of Father! Do not beg!
"You have some further consideration to set before us?" Denethor demanded coolly.
"What could I say, but that I wish I had known his intentions earlier?" Faramir asked bitterly. "Why did you say nothing to me, Boromir?" his brother asked sharply, turning on him. Boromir sucked in his breath as he made himself meet Faramir's gaze. It was that or refuse to look at him, but Boromir had never been one to flinch, and if he did so now, it might rouse their father's suspicions. Or it might not! Clearly this is beyond the usual pattern of our interaction. Would he read so much if I had refused? More than he might read now? But all such considerations were swallowed up almost instantly before the anger and loathing that lay in his brother's eyes. How could you? Faramir seemed to ask, and Boromir had no answer for him. None that I can speak of here, at least! He willed his brother to understand, to read his sorrow and his guilt in his silence, but he could not summon his voice to save his life. Something flickered in Faramir's blazing, accusatory regardsomething akin to understanding. But for once, understanding bred no pity in Faramir's heart. A look of utter disgust flashed briefly in those grey eyes, and then Faramir turned away. "I bow to the will of the steward in all things," he said tautly, facing Denethor once more. "If it be his will that my brother undertake this task, then I ask only that I be allowed to return to Ithilien soon. For there I shall be needed!" As I am not here! The unspoken retort hung in the air, and Boromir could not prevent himself from wincing slightly.
"The steward's will shall be declared, that I promise," Denethor replied. "But not yet. Though I can make no answer to Boromir's arguments, still I would withhold my judgment for a time. A brief time," the steward amended, letting his glance pass from Boromir to Faramir and then back again. Boromir felt that piercing regard and struggled to hold himself together under its weight. At length, Denethor released him, though a very odd look settled briefly in their father's eyesa flash of emotion so swift and transitory that Boromir wondered if he had imagined it. "Faramir, I shall require of you a list of all that you have researched, and a brief summary of your findings. Boromir, I would have you do the same. Bring me what you have ere noon, both of you. And then go and rest, for I perceive that neither of you has slept the past night." That last was said in a wry tone, as if the steward found it amusing to have to order his sons to bed as he had when they were both young children. "Go now. I have need of thought."
"Yes, sir," Boromir replied, bowing slightly.
"As you will it, my lord," Faramir said, voice thick with barely restrained resentment. Both men left, and Boromir held the door for his brother. As the stairway lay beyond Boromir's quarters, they walked together down the hall, and Faramir's pace was quick.
"Faramir," Boromir murmured, feeling that he had to try.
"Speak not to me, since clearly you do not value my conversation!" Faramir retorted without slowing.
"I had no choice ."
"As ever!" Faramir stopped and spun round to face him. "I thought I knew you! I thought you knew me better than any other, and I trusted you with all that I am! And this is what my trust earns? Betrayal twice over? I would have accepted Denethor's judgment in any case, Boromir. Did you not realize that? Did you think me so prodigal a son that I would have rebelled against the command of my lord?"
"Would you have gone to Denethor if I had asked you to do so last night?" Boromir asked, glancing quickly about and praying that no others were near enough to hear them.
"Who can say, for you did not ask!" Faramir replied, pausing as he searched his brother's face. "Last night, I hated myself that I had misled you all these years. I held myself to blame for what passed between us. But this I had no part in this, and still you betray me. You would have me forgive you that, all in a moment?"
It took Boromir several moments to respond, for his mind was caught upon that revelation: I held myself to blame ! "You to blame for no! Faramir, I You are not!" Bewildered, he shook his head, automatically reaching out to touch his brother's shoulder. "That is my shame alone!"
"Then add this latest offense to it. And take your hand off of my arm!" Faramir said in a clipped tone, and Boromir recoiled, snatching his hand back. "Father has set us each a task, and I mean not to fail in it. And as I have a longer list, I shall take my leave now. Good day, Boromir!" And then he was gone, though the click of his boot heels against the stone echoed for some minutes. Boromir closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall, passing a hand before his eyes as if to wipe away the scene. But he would never forget it, he knew. Varda's stars, how much further can the knife twist ere it kills me? Unfortunately, so far as Boromir knew, no one had ever died of shame short of suicide, and that he could not countenance. The coward's way out! But it hurt, oh how it hurt! We know nothing yet, he reminded himself, struggling to regain his balance as he resumed the short walk to his door. Father has not decided, and he may well choose Faramir instead of me. But that would not appease my brother, not insofar as the matter touches on me! The sick feeling returned with staggering force, and as Boromir shut his door behind him, he leaned back against it as if to keep out the darkened world. What can I do? What can I do to make amends? But nothing came to him, and in the end there was still Denethor's order to obey. Faramir at least has the right of it! With a shaky sigh that was almost a sob, he shoved away from his support and went to do his duty.
Faramir lay on his stomach on his bed, still fully clothed, and he had his pillow clasped tightly in his arms and his face pressed into it. His eyes felt gritty, and his thoughts had that befogged quality that came of too many waking hours and worry. Yet he slept not. Noon had come and gone, and he had brought his report to his fathera three-page list of books and maps, with page numbers where appropriate, and forty pages of notes scribbled out over the course of the week, along with a summary that was shorter than either list or notes. It consisted, after all, of but one line: No findings of any significance. Denethor had accepted the pages without comment and then dismissed him, which cut less than it might have, for he had other wounds that ran deeper. Boromir! Wrath flared, and with it, pain that would not abate. He felt his brother's betrayal as a steady ache that afflicted his entire being, though it stabbed most sharply in his gut and chest. How could you trust me so little? I thought you did love me, even if in a way I cannot accept, but now all is cast in doubt! If you loved me truly, you would have told me your intentions! You would not have tried to hide them! Faramir was not a violent man at heart, though he was adept at inflicting violence when need called. But it was not in him, usually, to wish another ill, unless it were Sauron; even orcs he did not despise to the point of wishing them to suffer. When he slew them, he did so quickly and cleanly, out of need to remove a threat, not because of blood-lust. And so it cost him something to lie here now and wish that his brother suffered as he did. It was a twisting of his soul that on the one hand only enraged him more, and on the other woke a horror of himself that he had rarely known. In fact, ere the twenty-ninth of June, he had never felt it before. Certainly I never thought to feel thus in connection with my brother! I thought only Father could rouse such spite in me!
Let me forget! he begged silently. Let me sleep and forget for awhile my cares! Is that so much to ask? But outrage, hurt and disappointment raced through the corridors of his mind in a frenzied dance, and though he tried to ignore them, he could not. I could hate him, I think, if I let myself. That realization stabbed cruelly at him, and Faramir clenched his teeth, feeling the bile rise in his throat. To hate his brother to hate the man who had been his protector, his support, his companion and his comforter he did not want to believe he could, but he knew not what else to call the feeling that pulsed sickly within his breast now. Unless it is love, for still I love him. If I did not, I would not feel thus. At least with Father, I have had all of my life to accustom myself to his coldness, to the fact that he will never love me. I do not know if I have the strength to learn to see Boromir in the same light! A pause, as doubt welled up. Or is it light? Is it strength? I know not! He knew only that his world lay dark about him, threatened from without and within, and he felt powerless before it all. As the Shadow Riders had stricken all who stood before them with mortal terror, such that they could not move to save themselves, he felt utterly vulnerable, to the point that he felt himself beginning to fall under the sway of his pain. Did he even dream my dream? Or did he lie only in order to be sent away? I know well that he would leave this place, but Father would never have permitted it without good cause! Valar curse it all!
So bizarre, so nightmarish had the past week been, and particularly the past few days, that he could not seem to resist the fascinationthe allureof that darkness, and found himself reaching out to touch it again and again. Like a man who could not let a wound close, he prodded the hurt, returning in memory to his brother's confession, to the touch on his face, the hand on his chest and the feeling of sick dread that had consumed him. Added to that now was the painful interview with their father, Boromir's guilty silence and looks, and the shameful conversation in the hall. It would have been asking too much of him to let such memories lie, but there was something unhealthy in this preoccupation. He had read once that there comes a point when the victim and the torturer become one, so that the former cannot but relish the pain inflicted, and the latter cannot hurt the other without hurting himself. At the time, he had not been able to fathom such perversity, but now. Now I feel it, and I doubt not that Boromir does as well. Twist the knife a little more, please, brother! He could confront Boromir again, assail him with his pain, and let that agony flay the other to the bone. For Boromir would not resist, he knew; indeed, the other clearly felt he deserved no more, and Faramir was not above rubbing salt in the other's wounds if he asked for it. And that only made his own shame the worse, so that whatever pain he derived also felt merited. It was sadistic; it was masochism of the worst sort, and it was the only bridge left between the brothersa bridge built of living flesh, and one that took pleasure in its own destruction. Hurt for hurt, we bleed ourselves out and revel in well-deserved pain !
NO! Faramir gasped and jerked up onto his elbows, realizing that he had been on the edge of falling into his dreams, where thoughts run wild and stray to the furthest boundaries of the soul. His heart pounded in his chest, and sweat drenched him though he shivered. What have I become? What have I become that I can dream this, even? Anger, he could justify; hurt, he was permitted; but hatred ? No, I may not. Surely I cannot! 'Tis exhaustion that speaks now! With a groan he curled up onto his side, squeezing his eyes shut once more. Sleep, Faramir! Recover your wits! If for no other reason than that Father ordered you to, rest! And to his great surprise, he did, falling almost instantly into oblivion.
When next Faramir woke, it was dark and for a moment, he could not remember how he had gotten into bed. He lay quietly, trying to recall the events of the day, and his body felt heavy and inert as thoughts tumbled through his mind. But they did not careen or scatter like seeds to the wind, which was an improvement, and Denethor's second son sighed softly as memory returned. I walked away from him again, Faramir thought. Never before had he and Boromir gone so long in an argument without resolving their differences. There had always been a sort of unspoken agreement between them that come what may, ere they slept, they would forgive each other. And now that I have broken that agreement, what now? Whither shall we go from this point? Whatever happens, it must happen swiftly, for I doubt me that I shall remain in the city for very long. Denethor will not forget my 'request' and I may not withdraw it! I belong in Ithilien, for better or for worse, and there is much to do there. Faramir did not dare to hope that his father might send him to Imladris, wherever that valley might lie, not after the arguments this morning. Sleep seemed to have transmuted his bitter resentment towards father and brother into a disappointed resignation, however, and it was not as if he disliked Ithilien. At least there, he had purpose and the power to fulfil his duties as befitted a prince. Thus I ought not to lie abed like a slug! I ought to begin to ready myself to return over the river. And still, he did not move, too comfortable to contemplate facing another long night. It had been so long since he had slept for any appreciable amount of time, and though duty called, he knew he needed the rest. In fact, this was the first time since the battle for Osgiliath that he had not dreamed at all. Valar be thanked! Faramir thought, closing his eyes once more. It was so pleasant just to lie still .
Before he knew it, he had dozed off once more, drifting on the edge of warm darkness. But this time, images did float through his mind, though a part of him knew them for phantasms. Sunrise over Ithilien, as he had seen it so many times over the last score of years and yet he never tired of the sight Minas Tirith's tower standing tall on the horizon, glittering in the noon day sun sun on the river Anduin . But the Haradrim were not shackled to the darkness like the orcs, and Faramir was dazzled by the light that lanced off of their keen blades as the river disgorged them. And behind them were the shadows ! Run!! his mind screamed, and yet he could not seem to move. The riders spurred for him, and still he stood, rooted to his spot, as they loomed larger, larger, filling his vision and he was going to die! Someone crashed into him, throwing him to the ground just as the riders thundered past, sweeping by them without slowing. Faramir felt his heart racing, felt the other's weight and panting breath as they lay where they had fallen and waited for the horror to subside. An odd lethargy seemed to suffuse him, as if the warm earth against his back had leeched him of his strength. A hand touched his face, slid down to his chest and paused, and he blinked up at a familiar pair of worried grey eyes. Boromir? His brother said naught, only gazed mutely at him. Boromir, are you hurt?
Only if you are, Boromir replied, sliding his hand down further, and Faramir caught his breath, tensing. Are you?
What do you want? Faramir asked, still unable to move, it seemed. No response, only the feel of the other tracing patterns lightly over his stomach, spiraling down down .
I love you!
And Faramir opened his eyes with a gasp, automatically reaching to grab his brother's wrist, only to snatch at air. Light streamed through his windowthe pale light of dawn, though he could not have slept for very long. When I woke the first time, it must have been early morning, he realized. I slept through the whole day and the night beside! With a soft groan, he rolled onto his back and lay there, staring at the ceiling and listening to the still swift beating of his heart. Boromir I never shall be rid of you, shall I? he thought, swallowing hard. Sunlight spilled over him, hot though the hour was early yet, and he felt it creep into his blood and bones, its warmth stealing throughout him. 'I love you!' Boromir's voice whispered forlornly in his mind, and on impulse, reacting, perhaps, to that still-vivid dream presence, Faramir raised his right hand and hesitantly laid it over his heart, as Boromir had done now in life and in dream. And then, under the same odd impulse, he began to follow that dream caress, trying to remember whatif anythinghe had felt only minutes ago. Fingers trailed over his chest, lazily over his taut stomach, to brush feather light if lingeringly over his crotch and down his left thigh . Faramir shivered and quickly sat up, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. What am I doing?
Disturbed now, uncertain and quite perplexed, Faramir shook his head sharply, throwing off the mood of the moment before. Dreams! If I never dreamt again, I would account myself most fortunate among men! His own behavior confused him, for he was quite certain that had Boromir attempted to touch him so in waking life, his response would have been violent. Why, then, did I do that? Faramir searched his mind for a rational answer, and could come up with but one: he missed Boromir. Missed him enough to try to find a way through his own disgust to endure what he thought his brother must want of him. But I cannot love him thus. I do not, and I would not have him love me so. If this is what he wants I cannot give it! I may not. Valar help me, why can I not let go?
For several minutes he sat there, head bowed, wondering at the twists of fate and trying to decide whether he was more angry with Boromir or with himself. In the end, though, he felt naught but a perplexed sort of grief and hurt that wanted no part of anger. He knew not whether he could avoid it, for wrath was a powerful emotion, and he knew himself well enough to know the dark places in his soul where it might breed and whence it could burst forth. But for the moment, his mind turned to less weighty issues. He had slept in his clothes, and as he had not slept at all the night before last, he felt disheveled and in need of a bath. Whatever trouble his dreams still gave him, he still must face the day. Should I speak to Boromir? he wondered as he undressed. A part of him wanted to, but though that part argued hard, the greater part of his heart still quailed and flinched away from the idea of another confrontation. Even though instinct tells me that soon we shall be parted and sent once more upon our separate ways? Faramir frowned slightly, wavering. Father promised us an answer soon, and whatever else I may think of the steward, he has never broken his word. Time grows short, and there is so much to resolve! But in the end, he simply did not feel ready to hold a civilized conversation with his brother today. Tomorrow might be a different matter, but it seemed as if he would avoid his brother yet again in the hopes that time might bring him a measure of peace and of courage.
I only hope that it comes not too late for either of us!
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