07 February 2004 @ 01:58 am
The Healer (Lord of the Rings)  
Title: The Healer
Author: Lilith ([info]lilithilien)
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Faramir/Aragorn
Warnings: NC-17, slash
Disclaimer: I did not create these characters, I do not own them, I receive no money for these stories. My only reward is reader feedback. *begs*
Notes: This was my first fanfic. It was inspired by Minx Kat’s The King and the Ranger and pairs my two favourites, Faramir and Aragorn. (You don't have to read Minx's story to understand this one, but you really should, it's lovely.) This story is set in autumn about three years after ROTK. King Elessar is tired out from all his kingly duties in Minas Tirith and goes to Ithilien for a little R&R. When he's injured, we see that he's not the only one who possesses those wonderful Numenorean healing powers. Thanks to Minx and Lottie for beta reading! Originally posted to LiveJournal.





The Healer


Chapter 1

“Dearest, you look tired.” Arwen’s graceful elvish hand reached out to brush her husband’s cheek. He gave her a wan smile before burying his head back in his councillor’s missives.

Arwen sighed as she stood up and walked to the west window. Gazing out at the woods of Anórien, she noticed the first signs of autumn in the trees.

“I always love this time of year. It reminds me of Lórien when I was young.”

Aragorn had no response.

“And yet, I always feel sad. The leaves there no longer turn gold, you know.”

Again, there was no response from her husband.

“Of course, they say the purple rabbits there are very striking now.”

When even this failed to evoke a response, Arwen sighed again, more loudly this time. Aragorn looked up with a slightly dazed expression.

“Sometimes I wonder what these councillors did before I came along,” he grumbled.

“They managed, they just brought the same problems to Lord Denethor.”

At the mention of the steward, Aragorn’s eyes narrowed reflexively. His motion was so subtle that none would have noticed it, save an astute elvish eye.

Arwen had never met the old steward, and what she had heard of him made her glad of it. When she had pressed Legolas, he had told her of Denethor’s favouritism towards his eldest son. He stressed that Boromir had always been apologetic, though his father’s behaviour seemed to have been caused through no fault of his own. Arwen was glad that Faramir had a brother who loved him dearly, since his father had not.

Faramir! She had first met the handsome young captain when she arrived in Minas Tirith three years earlier. He was recovering in the Houses of Healing, and she had often found her husband-to-be at his bedside. She immediately saw the almost tangible connection between the two men, like lightening bolts charging the air around them, although she was sure that they were not even aware of it yet. Men have such limited sight, she thought, not for the first time, and yet somehow they still manage to find love.

Arwen smiled sadly as she thought of the young steward. She had never met anyone who cried out for love so loudly, save perhaps his friend Eowyn. Perhaps this was why their friendship had never blossomed into anything more. Both needed love desperately, but they could not fill each other’s voids. For that, they had both turned to Aragorn, her husband, the king.

The princess had returned to Rohan unrequited, wounded perhaps, but not fatally. Faramir, on the other hand, had languished after her marriage to the king. Arwen had watched both men suffer as they tried to deny their feelings, until she had finally taken matters into her own hands and left them together in Ithilien. How long ago that seemed now! Her smile broadened as she thought of her husband’s puzzled look when he realized that she wanted – nay, needed him to be with his steward.

And maybe that was what he needed now.

*****

Aragorn looked up from his papers and saw the smile flicker across his beautiful wife’s lips.

“What are you thinking of, my dear?” he asked.

Her smile grew broader as she answered, “Ithilien.”

Aragorn started. “And just what do you think about Ithilien?”

“It is lovely this time of year, is it not?”

“Ithilien is lovely at any time of the year,” replied the king, his voice catching in his throat.

“But especially now. You are tired, Estel, and you cannot go on like this without rest. And you will not have rest while you are in Minas Tirith.” The queen gazed out towards the west. “No, you need the touch of the forest.”

They both knew whose touch she really meant.

Chapter 2

Aragorn rode out two days later. Mablung, Faramir’s most trusted ranger, had been visiting his family in the city, and was happy to escort the king back to the camp.

As soon as they left the city, he felt a great weight being lifted from his shoulder. Arwen was right. Aragorn longed for the peacefulness of the forest. And for Faramir’s embrace.

Not for the first time, Aragorn was surprised by Arwen’s acceptance of his relationship with his steward. He wondered if he would be as accepting if his wife sought the arms of another. And he knew that he could not face the thought of Faramir turning elsewhere.

Aragorn remembered once overhearing the rangers teasing Faramir about the visit of his friend, Eowyn. Aragorn knew the two had become close in the Houses of Healing. He did not like to think about how close.

Jealousy mingled with desire as he thought of his young captain. Although it was not fair, he did not want to share Faramir with anyone. He had laid royal claim to his dusky grey eyes, his lovely dark hair, his lithe body, the full lips that he wanted to taste right then…

“Are you all right, my lord?” Mablung’s voice startled him. “You looked like you were about to fall asleep.”

Aragorn shook his head sharply before answering. “Yes, I am fine, I am just very tired. I am looking forward to a few days of rest.”

“And you will surely find it in Ithilien, my lord.”

Aragorn automatically searched Mablung’s words for any hidden meaning, but found none.

The king’s relationship with his steward had not escaped the notice of the rangers, but if they minded they did not show it. In fact, if anything they seemed pleased to see their beloved captain happy.

Years ago, the rangers had put up a pretence, even arranging separate sleeping quarters when the king visited. But after several visits during which the king’s chambers were never used, this practice was discreetly abandoned. Besides, the howls of pleasure emanating from the captain’s tent could not easily be missed by men attuned to the sounds of the forest.

Aragorn felt himself again slipping away into another daydream, so he shook himself hard and straightened up in his saddle. No, it would not do to think about howls of pleasure until he actually reached the captain’s tent, not if he meant to arrive in one piece.

*****

The riders had set out late, so night was already falling as they neared the ranger’s camp. From afar, they spied the huge bonfire around which the men were waiting to greet their king.

“Do you think they will have saved any meat for two hungry travelers, Mablung?” asked Aragorn, feeling giddy with excitement as they got nearer their destination.

“Aye, sire, I imagine they will have saved a spot for you. Me, I will probably have to make do with nothing more than dried fruit,” sighed Mablung.

“Nay, if it comes to that, you will have my share, and I shall feast on the fresh air of Ithilien.” Aragorn felt his mood become more expansive the closer they got to camp, and to his lover’s arms.

Chapter 3

Faramir glanced up suddenly, only to find that it was yet another squirrel bent on torturing him.

His men were merrily warming themselves before the fire, grateful for the chilly air that justified such a large spectacle. A freshly killed boar roasted on a spit, and kegs of ale had been pulled out of storage to welcome their honoured guest. The night had all the makings of a great party, and Faramir knew his men needed that. The monotony of forest patrol could wear on them. Although their numbers had been lessened and their vigilance relaxed now that the danger of Mordor had ceded, Faramir had insisted that the borderlands continue to be guarded. Never again would he give anyone cause to say he had let the enemy invade Gondor on a whim.

As his men relaxed, Faramir grew more anxious. He hid it well, but each twig that cracked increased his anticipation. The king would soon be here!

It had been over a month since the captain had last seen Aragorn. And that in Minas Tirith, where their activities had to be more covert. Although rumours might abound, neither man saw any reason to provide evidence to those who would object to their relationship.

Nonetheless, even in Minas Tirith, the king had found plenty of opportunities to visit his captain’s room for “briefings” on the situation in Ithilien.

A smile crossed Faramir’s lips as he remembered one of their briefings….

*****

During dinner with the king and queen, Aragorn had asked if he would be available to review some diplomatic documents newly arrived from Khand. Glancing surreptitiously at Arwen, Faramir had replied that he was indeed free. The queen’s face was, as usual, inscrutable. She never seemed to begrudge her husband’s relationship with his steward, and for that he was grateful. Still, it was not something that he could ever approach with her. Faramir well knew that the queen commanded a part of the king’s heart, a part that he would never have.

But for the part of the king’s heart that he did have, Faramir was even more grateful. And he had proven this once again that night. When the king had arrived in his room, resplendent in a long garnet tunic, Faramir was ready. He smiled at Aragorn and drew him soundlessly into the room. Without a word, he loosened the silver ribbons binding on the tunic, letting the plush fabric fall to the ground.

Faramir had then lifted his lips to meet the king’s. For a moment they both revelled in the gentle pressure and the closeness of each other’s bodies, but they craved more. Their kisses become more passionate, the king’s tongue entering the younger man’s mouth and exploring it greedily. Faramir melted into his lover’s embrace, the feeling of his throbbing erection growing as their mouths mingled.

Aragorn let his hand drop from Faramir’s silken hair to his robe and gave a start.

“Well, my love, you are ready for me, aren’t you?” He stepped back and opened Faramir’s robe, revealing that his beautiful lover wore nothing underneath.

“I am always at your command,” Faramir replied huskily.

The king had smiled and took his hand, leading him over to the bed where he –

*****

“Captain! Captain, they’re here.”

The words seemed to come from far away, interrupting Faramir’s revelry. He looked around and saw his men bustling around the campfire, making the final preparations for their royal visitor. At any other time, he would have hated leaving this wonderful dream, but for once the reality was even better.

He was about to meet his king.

Chapter 4

The king’s horse obediently followed Mablung’s into the camp, leaving Aragorn free to focus other matters. Squinting as his eyes adjusted to the brightness of the bonfire, he searched the crowd for one man. Suddenly out of the shadows emerged the face he wanted to see more than any other.

“You have come, my lord.”

Aragorn looked down from his horse at the young steward’s bowed head. “Faramir,” he replied, unable to say anything else as the young man’s beautiful face tilted up towards him, expectantly, adoringly. His eyes hungrily drank in every feature of his lover’s face. Aragorn’s felt his heart swell up with love for this valiant man, this loyal man, this delicate and dear man who meant so very much to him.

“What a welcome sight you are, captain.”

*****

The next hours passed by in a blur for Faramir. The king was the centre of attention – all his men wanted to share their exploits – so the steward took advantage of this time to just observe his lover. He watched proudly as the king greeted each of the rangers by name and inquired about their news. There were few battle stories nowadays, the orcs being long banished from Ithilien, but Aragorn seemed just as interested in tales of recent hunts and survey expeditions as they rebuilt the gardens of Ithilien. As always, Faramir marvelled at how comfortable the king was with his men. Although there was still something regal about his bearing, the many years he had spent as Strider had obviously not been forgotten.

The warmth of the fire and the closeness of his lover gave Faramir an exquisitely warm feeling, embracing him with a sense of wholeness that he rarely felt. He watched as the flames cast shadows on Aragorn’s face. Thoughts of fire had long haunted Faramir’s dreams, but as the light and darkness danced across his lover’s features, he realized just how achingly beautiful it could also be. He longed to reach out to touch the shadow, to try to capture forever this image and this moment. As he fought to stay his hand, the king turned his head toward him and their eyes met. In that glance, he knew that his longing was reciprocated.

“My liege, you look tired,” he said softly. “Would you not like to rest now?”

The king cast him a sideways grin that made him blush. “I am tired, but I do not believe I will be able to rest for some time.”

Faramir gazed into the older man’s face for a long moment before he answered. “I am glad you are here, sire.”

*****

As the night wore on, the ranger’s tales turned to yarns, and then to songs. Inside the captain’s quarters, these sounds were drowned out by the men’s long-awaited reunion. The king’s arm encircled his captain’s waist before they were even fully through the door, drawing him closer until their faces were only inches apart. Looking down into the steward’s eyes, he trembled from the lust he read there. They kissed deeply, their tongues entwined, feeling their mutual hardness grow as their bodies pressed together until they were both gasping for air.

Aragorn deftly untied Faramir’s tunic, lifting it over his head and catching his first glimpse of his muscled chest. He brushed his fingers through the ruddy hair and over his nipples, evoking a slight gasp from the younger man and a growing stiffness between his own legs. His hands continued downwards, skimming his palms across the taut and quivering belly before untying Faramir’ leggings. He sensuously stroked his buttocks as the cloth slid over his sinuous hips and leaned back to take in the full sight of his lover. The sight of the steward’s beautiful body never failed to arouse him.

Faramir noticed the king’s arousal and reached his hand down to stroke him through his leggings. His erection strained against the light fabric, begging for release. As he loosened the ties, the king swiftly removed his tunic, then pulled Faramir closer. The sensation of his lover’s bare skin was riveting. “I want you,” the king whispered hoarsely.

His steward smiled as he led Aragorn to the bed and lay facing him, their legs entwined. Faramir’s hand explored his lover’s body, pinching his taut nipples, stroking the dark hairs on his chest, flickering lower and teasing him with his caresses.

“Is this what you want?” the young man asked teasingly, even as he grasped Aragorn’s erection with one hand, encircling his balls with the other. Aragorn could only moan in response. Faramir’s long fingers were doing amazing things to him as they ran up and down his engorged length. The king fought to maintain control, wanting nothing more than to release himself into his steward’s hands. It took all his will to grasp Faramir’s hard shaft. Its swollen heat brought him back to his senses as it begged to be stroked. His lover’s moans brought him even closer to ecstasy until finally he could fight it no more, and waves of blackness washed over him in utter release. Seconds later Faramir followed him into the void, their seed mingling across their bellies as they held each other, panting and at peace.

The men did not wake until morn.

Chapter 5

As dawn cast its first light into the room, Faramir stirred to find the sleeping king’s arms still around him. It was strange that this was such a comfortable position. Accustomed as he was to sleeping out of doors, he usually found it hard to relax with another so nearby. Not that the opportunity had arisen since the king had reclaimed Gondor – and his love. His earlier skirmishes with the men of the forest were now childhood memories, meaningless compared to the awakening that he had experienced in his three years with Aragorn.

Gazing into his lover’s face, Faramir noticed the lines and creases that those three years had left. His skin still bore faint signs of living rough, though these were gradually fading. Even his hands were not as calloused as they had been when they first touched him in the Houses of Healing. He still remembered the terrible power and love in those hands as they willed him back from death, though he would gladly have gone. Aragorn’s hands still managed to evoke this feeling, and Faramir knew he would willingly follow him anywhere he led.

But right now, there was no need to lead or be led. The king still looked very tired, and showed no signs of waking, and Faramir had no early morning duties. A wonderful feeling of love engulfed him and he nestled back into the comforting embrace.

*****

He woke not too much later to see the sun just above the horizon. Still early. His lover was searching his own face as he had done earlier.

“Good morning, sleepyhead,” the king said, as he leaned over to kiss his lips softly.

“Mmmm,” Faramir murmured as he roused himself. “Did you sleep well, my love?”

“Very well indeed. I have enough strength for ten men.”

Faramir laughed. “Well, you shan’t have ten men, just one very demanding man who did not get enough of you last night.” He bit the king’s chest, his teeth causing just enough sting to make Aragorn gasp, before soothing him with tender kisses. The steward then attacked his nipple, sucking, biting, and licking it in an exquisite combination of pleasure and pain. The taste of the king’s skin, his clean sweat from the ride mingled with their exertions the previous night, was blissful. Faramir feasted on his lover’s body, hungrily devouring the other nipple and bringing it to attention.

Then he slid his body down, nibbling the king’s stomach, his bites eliciting moans of pleasure from Aragorn. As he lapped up the saltiness of their dried seed, he felt his lover’s erection rise up to his chest. He let it lay momentarily, occasionally brushing against it with his own body, prolonging the king’s agony as he carefully licked clean the flat stomach before him.

Finally he drew his head down to Aragorn’s engorged shaft. He cupped his balls in his hands while his tongue delicately licked the head. He was rewarded with a wet bead that bubbled from the tip. With this encouragement, Faramir rolled his tongue around the top of the shaft before expertly engulfing it completely in his mouth. Aragorn groaned in ecstasy as the hot, moist mouth sucked him hard. Faramir felt the throbbing in his mouth echoed between his own legs, and gave himself over to the feeling as the king exploded into his hungry mouth.

Aragorn pulled Faramir down onto the bed with him, sucking and kissing his mouth as his hands greedily explored his body. The steward felt himself tense as one of Aragorn’s long fingers dipped into the crease between his legs, not from pain but from the nearness of rapture.

“Aragorn, take me,” the steward moaned desperately.

“Yes, my love, I cannot wait to be inside of you.” Faramir moaned again in response as the king’s fingers probed deeper. Then they abruptly disappeared. Faramir groaned in momentary disappointment until he saw the king reach for the vial he’d conveniently left on the bedside table. He saw the king smile as the faint scent of almonds wafted through the air. Faramir knew this was Aragorn’s favourite fragrance; over the years, it had become his own favourite as well.

Faramir positioned himself on a pillow and spread his legs as he watched Aragorn oil himself carefully. He gently stroked his own cock, and saw the king smile at his boldness. Their eyes locked as Aragorn inserted a single finger into Faramir’s very eager but still very tight hole. A flicker of discomfort in his eyes was washed away as Aragorn’s finger stretched the muscle, relaxing it enough to send in another well-oiled finger. Faramir moaned loudly now, pushing his pelvis toward the king, and Aragorn felt his cock grow larger in anticipation.

“Take me now, Aragorn,” the steward demanded, and Aragorn happily obliged. Faramir felt the flaming penetration of his lover’s cock. The king was rocking slowly against him now, sliding steadily in, and Faramir felt the blissful impatience as he longed to be completely filled.

“Harder,” he begged.

“Patience,” said Aragorn, even as he increased his pace. Faramir’s velvety passage never failed to excite him, but the tightness that he felt now was intoxicating. He felt the steward’s knees digging into his waist, urging him on as he thrust rhythmically into his lover’s body.

Faramir closed his eyes as waves of pleasure washed over him. Aragorn’s hands were stroking his cock, and the slippery oil created an unbearably exquisite sensation. He felt the eruption arise from deep inside him, and arched harder against Aragorn, tempting him in deeper until they were both overcome and they climaxed together.

“My love,” Aragorn said gently as he drew himself out of his lover, “how are you.”

His lover’s shining grey eyes told him everything he needed to know, but Faramir replied, “I am wonderful. You were wonderful. But you always are.”

The king smiled at this and gently kissed his lips. “You are just as wonderful, my dear. And I wish that I had the strength to do that to you again right away, but I am so tired.”

Faramir was troubled by this. The king did look very weary, more so than he had ever seen him. But more than that, it was not like Aragorn to complain. In fact, he was the one that usually was hurt, and Aragorn was the one that soothed him. Well, perhaps it was time that he returned the favour.

“What is troubling you, my lord? Is there nothing I can do?”

“My dear one, you just did an amazing amount to help me. I cannot think of anything that I needed more than that.”

“But begging your pardon, my liege, I am your steward. There is more I can do than – than what we just did.” He coloured slightly at these last words, and the king smiled. “Granted, there is little that I wish to do more.”

Then Faramir said solemnly, “I am your steward. I am yours to command.”

Aragorn was struck by the formality and authority in his lover’s tone, and matched it as he bowed his head and said, “And your service is gratefully accepted by the king and by Gondor.”

Then taking Faramir’s hand, he said, “Yes, I am tired, and yes, I do want to rest. And that is why I am here. Well, one of the reasons I am here,” he added, bestowing a loving kiss on his steward’s forehead. “Ithilien is much more relaxing than those tiresome council halls in Minas Tirith. It seems I can never get away from those bureaucrats.”

“Perhaps I can help, sire,” Faramir said eagerly. “I was brought up to be a councillor, and I am well accustomed to their tedium. Perhaps I could take some of the strain from your shoulders, perhaps I could attend meetings, perhaps I – ”

His words were swallowed as Aragorn’s mouth engulfed his own in a passionate kiss that wiped away any thought of councillors or meeting halls.

When they finally drew apart, Aragorn said, “There is plenty of time to think of that later, my love. But now, I think we should clean up and see about starting the day.”

Chapter 6

It was not quite mid-morning when the captain and the king arose. The rangers of Ithilien had been up for hours, of course, but they discreetly greeted the men and continued with their duties. After they broke their fast with a meal of oatcakes and sweet berry sauce, Faramir also needed to attend to his duties. Requisition orders were arriving from the outposts in South Ithilien, support was requested for the rebuilding efforts in the north, and new ranger training was an ongoing issue for the captain, although nowadays they were seeking gardeners more than warriors.

“Do you mind, sire? I really must work on this today. If I had known of your visit earlier I might have finished more before you arrived.”

“Please,” said Aragorn, with a dismissive wave of his hand, “do not even take notice of me. I am happy to entertain myself, walking in the forest and enjoying the open air.”

Yet having said this, Aragorn forsook the open air, instead choosing to settle nearby Faramir – far enough away that he did not distract him, but close enough that he could observe the young man that he had grown so fond of. And he was soundly impressed with what he saw. Despite being raised as the steward’s second son, Faramir was truly a commanding presence among his men. Their respect for him was obvious, and he repaid that respect with wisdom and compassion. Using the same graceful, efficient movements that the king recognized from the bedchamber, Faramir dispensed with requests from his men. The captain’s brow creased with the same concern the king had seen that morning as he heard how one of the ranger’s horses has gone lame.

Why do I not consider his offers to perform as my steward? the king thought to himself. Do I not give the man credit because he shares my bed? Disturbed by these thoughts, the king arose and walked away from the camp to clear his head.

*****

The noon hour had long come and gone when Faramir realized the king was no longer there. At first he had revelled in the king’s attention – he felt a competence that he rarely felt in Minas Tirith, where he had few duties except in Aragorn’s chambers. But then Damrod had come to him with an intriguing idea for transplanting culumalda trees around Osgiliath, where the ravages of the war of the ring had been worst. Faramir loved their golden-red leaves, and had quickly become absorbed in Damrod’s scheme. It would require many men, more than they had now enlisted as gardeners, but they could likely count on the help of the elves that had recently settled in Ithilien – or the Land of the Moon, as they called it. He smiled as, not for the first time, he thought of a dedicated gardener from the Shire. An army of halflings led by Sam Gamgee would be very helpful, he thought.

The thought of the halfling brought his mind back to Aragorn, but he could not spy him anywhere. “Anborn,” he stopped one of his men, “have you seen the king?”

“Nay, sir, not for some time, though I did see him walking in the direction of Henneth Annûn some time ago.”

“How much time has passed since?”

“Oh, it must be at least two hours.”

A troubled look crossed Faramir’s face. Henneth Annûn was more than ten miles away, and hard to find if you were not well acquainted with the countryside. Not to mention that it wasn’t wise for the king to travel far alone, even in lands as safe as these now were – but he knew that Aragorn had always bristled at the need for escorts. Still he should have returned in time for the noon meal. It was now much later, and Faramir’s stomach was growling. The king would be hungry as well.

Faramir hurried to his quarters, strapping on his belt and scabbard and collecting his bow and quiver. He also grabbed his pack. It was light, containing only a warm blanket, a length of rope, and a filled canteen. After a moment’s hesitation, he grabbed the vial that sat beside the bed and tossed it into the bag. A quick visit to the camp’s larder filled the pack with some salted meats, cheese, and dried fruits, and a half loaf of bread as well. A meal fit for a king, Faramir thought ruefully as he wiped breadcrumbs from his cloak.

He looked around the camp, but it was quiet. His men had long finished their meal and returned to their duties. Even Anborn had disappeared. Well, there’s nothing for it but to head out, he thought. I’ll surely pass someone on the way to let them know where I am, and hopefully I’ll meet the king coming back to camp even as I leave.

His young face set with determination, Faramir strode out of camp toward Henneth Annûn.

Chapter 7

Aragorn walked aimlessly for miles, preoccupied with thoughts of his steward.

Is it selfish to take him away from Ithilien, away from his men, just to have him by my side? Aragorn shook his head roughly. Or is it more selfish to keep him out here, like a caged bird kept only for my enjoyment, when his talents could best be used in Minas Tirith?

There was no question that Faramir was a very capable soldier. He had shown his courage in the war, almost losing his life in a valiant attempt to recapture Osgiliath. He had proven to be an even greater leader in the years since. His men obviously loved him. Each story they had told last night had involved Faramir somehow, as they either related how he had saved the day, or told how he had reacted to their own feats. Aragorn’s estimation of his captain had grown even more as he listened.

Faramir could indeed be a very valuable to him in rebuilding Gondor. The young man had never had a taste for war. Like Aragorn, he preferred the peacetime pursuits of learning and lore. He had shown quite a talent for Elven-lore, a subject in which Aragorn was well-versed, and easily matched his king in his knowledge of the history of men. Aragorn smiled as he thought of the young man’s passion as they had debated an obscure point about his own ancestor. Faramir’s grey eyes had flashed as, with his almost photographic memory, he recited the Scroll of Isildur in such detail that Aragorn was forced to laughingly concede.

Yes, the man’s mind is sharp, there’s no doubt of that, Aragorn thought. But is bringing him to Minas Tirith the right thing for him? For although Aragorn loved to have Faramir in the city, he sensed his discontent there. It was understandable – it was not easy to live under the watchful eyes of the city, as he well knew. But there were ways around that. The steward had grown up there, and knew well how to avoid those eyes. He himself had shown Aragorn the secret passages through the citadel that he and Boromir had used as children. Using them had been a great boon for their meetings, as they no longer had to creep past the citadel’s guards. No, that wasn’t the only reason that Faramir seemed uncomfortable in the city.

Is it because of Arwen? The queen was very fond of the steward. Aragorn knew that one of the reasons Arwen was so accepting of their relationship was because she held Faramir in such high regard. She seemed to view him as a younger brother, one that must be protected and guarded from harm. For his part, Faramir was always extremely formal around the queen, which Aragorn now understood was the way he expressed his shyness. The steward had treated him the same way initially – it had been such a struggle to get him to call him by name.

The thought of Faramir saying his name earlier that morning came back to him – his husky voice, the pleading tone that cried out to be sated. Aragorn closed his eyes as he remembered his lover’s face, and pressed his hand against his stomach where Faramir’s kisses had landed. The thought of the probing tongue on his cock caused him to stiffen again, thinking of how good it had felt as he had fallen, tumbling into the abyss –

– until suddenly he was indeed falling, crashing down past shrubs and rocky outcroppings, tumbling down the side of the ravine. Time seemed to stand still, and yet race by, as he kept falling. He heard a scream and didn’t realize until he violently landed at the bottom that it came from his own mouth. His last thought was how quiet everything suddenly was.

Chapter 8

Faramir heard the cry from afar. He knew in his heart that it was the king’s.

The steward had followed Aragorn’s path carefully. Although not the tracker that Strider was, he still knew enough tricks of the forest to follow someone’s trail. Especially when that person was making no attempt to hide his tracks. In places it looked like the king had staggered, and Faramir kept his eyes peeled for any signs of struggle or blood. Fortunately there were none, but that did little to ease his worry.

His heart went cold when he heard the cry. He ran faster down the path, confirming the king’s tracks as he raced along, hoping against hope that he was not too late. What could have happened? he puzzled. Was he attacked? There were no known enemies in the area, but there was always a chance that a stray band of orcs had breached Gondor’s eastern border. Then there were the natural dangers of the forest. Wolves and bear generally kept away from men, but in scarce times they had been known to attack a lone man. Could the king have defended himself against a wild animal, weary as he had been this morning?

Lost in his thoughts, Faramir didn’t notice at first that the king’s tracks had disappeared. When he did, he berated himself. Faramir, what kind of captain are you? You know better than to lead when you’re supposed to be following tracks! There was nothing to do but backtrack, and hope he picked up the track again quickly.

Aragorn, where are you?

*****

Fortunately he only had to backtrack a half mile before spotting the broken branches and scattered stones that signalled that something – or someone – had slipped into the ravine. Faramir raced to the edge of the cliff. Looking down, his heart stopped. The king was lying very still at the bottom.

Eru, please let him be all right, Faramir prayed. Fastening his rope to a nearby tree, he lowered himself down the cliff. In a few moments he was beside the king, who lay face down in a shallow creek bed. “Aragorn,” he said, as he gently rolled the king onto his back. A groan told him that the king was thankfully alive, if injured, wet, and cold.

Faramir quickly inspected the king’s wounds. An ugly gash marred his handsome forehead, and had probably knocked him out. His ankle looked very bad. It was bent at an awkward angle, straining the king’s leather boots. But that seemed to be the worst of the injuries. Aragorn’s clothes had been ripped by stones and twigs as he fell, and he was sure to be bruised and scratched, but Faramir was relieved to find nothing more serious.

“Aragorn! Aragorn, wake up,” he cried, gently taking the king into his arms.

“Faramir?” The king’s voice was faint, but his eyes twinkled. “What took you so long?”

“Oh, Aragorn,” Faramir hugged the king gently to his chest. “What happened to you?”

“I don’t know – I slipped and – and I landed here, I guess.” Faramir handed his canteen to the king, who eagerly drank his fill. Then he looked around in confusion. “I fell for a long time. How did you find me?”

“It looked like a warg took a tumble over the cliff,” Faramir laughed. “If you were trying to hide from me, you didn’t do a very good job of it.”

The king clutched his forearms, giving Faramir a strangely protective feeling. “I would never hide from you. I’m so glad you found me. I cannot believe you did find me.” He nestled his head into the captain’s chest and said weakly, “Don’t leave me, Faramir.”

“Never, my lord,” he said resolutely, kissing the king’s head. He was not used to seeing Aragorn in this state. Usually he was the one sobbing in his arms. Now the tables seemed to be turned, and Faramir was determined to save the one who had saved him so many times before.

There was not much time before the sun began to set, when they would need to find shelter from the cold night. Without releasing his hold on the injured man, Faramir glanced around at their surroundings. He smiled when he recognized where they were. Less than twenty feet away stood one of the rangers’ secret entrances to Henneth Annûn. That was a good thing, as Aragorn’s ankle did not look as if it would bear him.

“Do you think you can you stand, sire?” Aragorn grimaced as Faramir’s hand reached down to his right foot. When he tried to rotate it back into place, the king cried out in pain. “There, there, my love,” Faramir whispered soothingly to him. “Sshh, it’s all right, don’t worry.” Aragorn’s face was pale, but he quietened at Faramir’s tender words.

“I’m going to help you up,” he explained calmly. “We’re going into the mountain just here, it’s just a few steps.” How I will get you up the steps inside I don’t yet know, Faramir thought.

He helped lift the king’s bruised body, careful not to let him put any weight on his right leg. Nonetheless, the king whimpered softly.

“There, there, my love, you’re going to be fine. I’ve got you, I won’t let you fall.”

“Faramir.” The word came out almost as a sigh as the king clutched the shorter man’s shoulders. The captain walked slowly as Aragorn hopped on one foot, and they laboriously entered the cave.

Inside the tiny alcove they were met with a long staircase hewn in stone, glistening with water from the falls above. The steps were jagged and uneven, difficult passage even for someone sure of foot. For the king in this state, impossible.

“Oh, Faramir,” Aragorn sighed. “I can’t make it up these.”

“Yes you can, my lord,” replied Faramir. Steeling himself, he bent and picked the king up in his arms. Aragorn was a bigger man, but the captain was sturdy though slight. Staggering only a bit, he started deliberately up the stairs. There were many, and several times he staggered and thought he would fall, but each time his will held. Up the first five steps, then ten, then another ten; and finally to the forty-sixth step, where they reached the haven of Henneth Annûn.

Chapter 9

“I have not visited this place in years,” Aragorn said in wonder, as Faramir lowered him to a cot. “The Window on the Sunset.”

“Yes, well, we have a short while before sunset, and I must tend to your wounds while there is light,” Faramir said, as from a cupboard he took several lengths of clean cloth and a bowl for clean water. At the pile of kindling, he stopped and selected two strips of straight bark before returning to the king.

“Sire, you must get out of those wet clothes and I have to see to your injuries. I’ll try not to hurt you.”

The king looked trustingly into his eyes, and Faramir almost melted as his feelings of love, protectiveness, and desire mingled. He lightly kissed his forehead before carefully cleaned the gash there. It was quite long, but the captain was glad to see it was not very deep. Aragorn did not flinch as he wiped away the caked blood on his face, nor as he lifted his tattered tunic above his head and cleaned his minor wounds on his arms and back, but when Faramir looked into his eyes he saw a deep unhappiness there.

Faramir longed to give the king comfort, but he knew that the worst was yet to come. He dreaded what he would find when he saw the king’s ankle. And it was very bad. He unlaced the king’s boots and carefully extracted his swollen foot. Aragorn winced and his face was as pale as before, but he did not cry out. “I need to bind it,” Faramir said softly. He removed the king’s trousers, carefully sliding them over his injured ankle, and covered the king with a warm blanket before starting work. It took him some time to carefully set the bones in place as best he could and expertly secure the splint. When he was finished, he looked up at Aragorn’s face and was shocked to see tears welling up in his eyes.

“My liege, did I hurt you?” he asked anxiously.

Aragorn sighed deeply. “No,” he replied in a small voice, “I just feel so helpless and weak. I’ve never done anything as stupid as this.”

“Sire, it was an accident –,“ Faramir began, but he was cut off.

“No, it was me. It was my arrogance, and it could have ended very badly.” He smiled wryly. “Instead of only a little badly like this. Faramir, what would I ever do without you?”

Faramir did not know what to say. Aragorn’s voice had a strange sad quality to it, as if it was coming from far away. Faramir did the only thing he knew to do. He undid his own boots and slid onto the cot next to Aragorn. Wrapping him in his arms, he murmured soothing sounds. The king wept quiet, strangled sobs, as if he wanted to release the flood but couldn’t let himself. Faramir kissed his brow and smoothed his hair.

“There, my love, sshh….” To himself, he thought, What should I do? I want to keep holding him, but maybe he needs the healers more? But Faramir could not have released his hold on the king if his life had depended on it. He was overcome with a feeling of protectiveness, as well as the need to never let go of this man he loved so well.

The king’s sobs slowly abated as Faramir gently stroked his back. They lay together for a long time. Finally, the king looked up into his eyes and said miserably, “I’m sorry.”

Faramir smiled at that. “No, my liege, there is nothing to be sorry for.”

“I should not have cried like that – I don’t know what came over me.”

“My lord, it was nothing.”

“But I am the king. As a ranger I would not have been troubled by this. But as the king, I have become weak.”

Faramir was startled to hear these words. He started to object, but the king continued.

“I have aged more in the last three years than in twenty years before. The council will not let me rest, and perhaps they are right. It has been so long since there is peace, and now there is so much to do. Perhaps I should not rest until all is finished.” The king sighed. “But I do not object to my duty. I object to my weakness.”

“But sire, you are not weak. You are the strongest man I know. You had an accident, it could happen to anyone.”

The king shook his head sadly. “No, Faramir, my accident happened because of my weakness. I fell because I was preoccupied with thoughts of you. I wasn’t paying attention and I fell off a cliff. How can I be so blind that I cannot see what that means?” He cast his eyes down, away from Faramir’s piercing gaze, and said thoughtfully, “I cannot do this alone anymore.”

*****

Faramir felt like he had been struck by an orc’s club. He was the king’s weakness. He had become a liability to Gondor.

He had always known this day would come, when the king would finally reject him. When he would see him for what he truly was – a worthless second son of a steward, an inept soldier who failed to hold his city’s defences, a pathetic boy who did not deserve love. Aragorn had made him believe he was something more, but he should have known that that would only last a short while. What was he to the king, after all, besides a quick tumble in bed? And obviously the king had tired of even this. The king had another life with his wife, and he should have known that someday he would choose it. And reject him.

*****

Faramir squeezed his eyes tightly shut to stop his tears, but could not prevent the shuddering sob that wracked his entire body. The movement startled the king. “Faramir, my dear, what is it?”

Faramir choked back the tears and pulled away from the king’s arms. He formally replied, “It is nothing, my lord. I understand.”

But the king knew he didn’t.

“Just what is it that you understand, captain?”

“What you said, sire. That I have become your weakness. I understand. I will not ask anything more of you, my lord.” He rose from the cot and walked over to the thin veil of water that walled the shelter. Staring out, he repeated sadly, “I am your weakness.”

A puzzled look crossed Aragorn’s face as the words registered. Then he realized what his steward must be thinking, the pain he must be going through. Forgetting his ankle, he started to rise and go to him, only to fall back onto the cot with a shattering groan.

In an instant, Faramir was kneeling by his side. “My lord, stay in bed, I beg of you.”

The king smiled. “You see, Faramir, you truly are my weakness.” The younger man’s eyes narrowed as Aragorn continued. “You see, I would endure any agony to be by your side.”

Faramir’s face was full of confusion and pain, and Aragorn wanted nothing more than to erase it once and for all.

“I said that I could not do this alone, my dear. Do you not understand what that means?”

Faramir lowered his eyes. His throat tightened and he could not breathe, much less answer, so he merely shook his head.

“You are not my weakness,” Aragorn continued, “it is my own arrogance. It is my belief that I can do everything alone. That is why the council comes to me for every silly matter. That is why I left camp without telling anyone. That is why I had no one to save me when I stupidly fell off the cliff.

“I need someone who can help me with these burdens. I need someone I trust. Someone who is noble, peaceful, and patient. Someone who loves Gondor as much as I do.” He paused and looked lovingly at the man kneeling beside him. “That is why I need you, my love.”

Faramir eyes brightened at the endearment. “You know that I would do anything you wish. You only have to ask.”

“Come to Minas Tirith as my steward.”

Faramir’s eyes warmed as he gazed adoringly at his lover’s face. “You know that I will do that gladly, sire, and anything else you ask. You know that you are everything to me, Aragorn. I am nothing without you.”

At this, the king reached up to stroke Faramir’s face. “Never say that, my dearest love. You are a noble and special man. I am honoured to have your service – and your love.” Faramir’s protests were silenced by his lover’s finger on his lips. “Nay, it is you that are everything to me,” the king continued, as his finger slowly stroked Faramir’s bottom lip. “I feel that I am only truly alive when I am with you, whether I am in my royal chambers or –” he glanced around the dark cave “—or here, with no comforts but you, my dear Faramir, yes, that is enough to satisfy a king.”

Faramir’s tongue snaked out to moisten the king’s finger. He expertly drew his finger into his mouth, and smiled when he heard a faint moan in response. Lifting his head, he asked, “Is this royal chamber truly enough to satisfy you, my liege, or should I go for help?”

“No!” Aragorn’s words came out more sharply than he intended. He quickly looked into Faramir’s face to see if he had wounded the younger man, but instead he saw relief.

“No,” he repeated gently, “I think there will be plenty of time to be rescued later, don’t you?”

*****

Faramir’s hands slid along the king’s thighs until they found their reward. Gently stroking his erection, he felt himself strain against his leggings. The fabric created an exquisite pressure as his cock begged for freedom. He felt the king’s hands moving to his back, lifting his tunic along with his eager hands. Then Aragorn pulled him to his feet and untied his leggings. As they slipped to the ground, the king drew his hips toward him and took him into his mouth. Faramir moaned as intense pleasure rocked his body. The king’s tongue was sliding up and down his entire engorged length, luring Faramir into deeper and deeper rapture. His body seemed to float weightlessly, held to the earth only by his hands in the king’s hair and that wet, hot mouth. He floated up, up, high above the ground, as exploring hands fondled his balls and squeezed the base of his shaft. Up, up, his entire being concentrated in the single motion of being sucked, squeezed, into oblivion. Up, up, higher and higher, until finally he burst, tumbling down, his senses crumbling, and he fell into the embrace of the king.

He kissed him then with a passion that he had never experienced before. A passion borne from confidence, from the final acceptance that he was valuable to the king. His hungry lips explored the other man’s, and he greedily lapped up the bitterness of his own seed. The taste excited him immeasurably. He realized that he was still hungry, his erection still begged for greater release from this man that he loved.

The king felt his passion. “Faramir,” he rasped.

“Aragorn,” the young man replied, his voice filled with a mastery that astonished the king.

“Faramir, I –“ the king began, interrupted by another foray from Faramir’s delicious tongue in his mouth. “Faramir, I want to feel you inside of me. I – I want you to make love to me.”

A broad smile crossed Faramir’s face. He had dreamed of doing this, of course, but had not believed it would ever happen. If the king’s request now startled him, he did not show it. Meeting the king’s eyes, he said in measured, masterful tones, “I would be honoured, my lord.”

Reaching alongside the cot, Faramir found his pack and removed the vial of oil. Aragorn smiled at the sight and said, “My steward is always prepared.” He took the vial from Faramir and motioned for him to sit back. He dipped his fingers into the oil and then took Faramir’s hands. After kissing his fingers, he oiled them completely. Then with his own lubricated fingers, he stroked his lover’s burgeoning erection. Faramir moaned at his ministrations as his cock grew even larger. Aragorn shuddered in anticipation. He had not been touched like this in years, and had never had another man go all the way with him. His body ached to feel his steward inside him.

When Faramir was completely ready, Aragorn kissed him tenderly and lay back on the cot, his legs spread wide. The steward lifted his hips and slid a rolled blanket under him, relieving the pressure on his ankle while lifting his tight hole to his sight. He wanted so much to take him then, but he remembered the patience the king had always displayed. He would not hurt the king now. With one tentative finger, he probed the king’s entry. It was tight, so tight, but yielded as Faramir massaged the muscle. Aragorn’s face registered an intense pleasure as he slid a second finger inside, and his gentle motions elicited a deep moan from the king.

“Faramir,” he gasped, “I want you, Faramir.”

The younger man could not resist the heartfelt invitation. He withdrew his fingers and, ever so gently, approached the king’s entrance. Aragorn thrusted toward him at that moment, engulfing him in his tight passage. It took all Faramir’s strength not to thrust hard in return. Instead, he drew a deep breath and held still, allowing the king’s muscles to adjust to his ingress. He stroked Aragorn’s cock, sliding his fingers from the base to the tip in a fluid motion, one slick hand over the next. Seeing the king smile, he pushed farther into the king’s cavern. The feeling was intoxicating. He felt himself fill his lover entirely. From Aragorn’s moans, he knew he was giving him as much pleasure as he was taking. He drew back and rocked forward for another pass, meeting the king’s forceful thrust on his return. Together they rocked, their rhythm building until it matched the beating of their hearts.

Faramir could feel himself building with a power that he had never before felt. It arose from deep inside him, a tiny spark that grew from nothingness to encompass his entire being. The spark released his spirit, and he floated above the bed where two men were making love. A glowing white light surrounded them, and he knew the younger man was pouring his life force from his body into his lover’s. He saw the strength and peace flow from one to the other. For the first time, he saw the ethereal ties binding these two men together, and he realized that he loved them both completely.

A demanding feeling in his lower body drew him back from the ceiling into the body of one of the men. He half tried to resist it, to prolong the exquisite feeling, but realized that he was helpless against this power. Finally he surrendered to it, his body shuddering as he was overcome with its full force. Together the men collapsed, sated in each other’s arms.

“Aragorn, Aragorn, my love,” Faramir cried. He looked deeply into the king’s eyes and was overjoyed to see his love returned there.

“How was that, my lord?” he asked, stroking the king’s face.

“I love you, Faramir,” Aragorn said, tears of joy in his eyes. “I love you more than I ever thought possible.”

Faramir lowered his lips to the king’s. When he lifted his head, he saw lights dancing across his face. Rippling blood reds, and purples the colour of lilac trees, and sparkling oranges like fruit from Harad. They reminded him of the light he had seen – felt – as he made love to the king. That image was fading, just as these lights seemed to be, and Faramir longed to hold onto them for a moment more. Entranced, he tried to touch the elusive lights, but they danced out of his reach. He was left with the very real feeling of Aragorn’s beard in his fingers.

Aragorn smiled up at him, and turned his head. Faramir followed his eyes and a smile spread across his face.

Resting cheek to cheek, the men watched the sun set on the western world.

*****

As the last rays of the sun disappeared and shadows filled the cave, Faramir arose to light a fire. He suddenly realized he was famished.

“I have a surprise for you, my lord.”

After moving a bench beside the cot, and filling two mugs with clear, cool water, Faramir drew out the food he had packed. Aragorn let out a cry of delight.

“My love, you are full of surprises. This is not the best surprise of the day, but it is welcome.”

They faced the west window in a moment of silence before breaking the bread. As they ate, Aragorn asked, “My steward, tell me what are your ambitions.”

Faramir thought for a moment before he answered, “I am an ambitious man, although not for myself, as you have probably noticed. My ambition has always been for Gondor.

“I would see Minas Arnor again as of old, full of light, high and fair, beautiful as a queen among other queens. I would see Ithilien once again be the Garden of Gondor. I would see the Fortress of the Stars restored in Osgiliath, and have it be the place of light and beauty and music as Boromir dreamed.”

His voice caught as he mentioned his brother’s name, but then he continued. “You know that I have never loved the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend. I have ever dreamed of men who crave learning, not for the splendours of the battle but to build their future. I would see Gondor restored to its golden age.”

His grey eyes shined as he looked at Aragorn. “This was what I have seen you doing, my lord. The White Tree flowers again in the courts of the kings, and Minas Tirith is alive. For myself, I only want to be useful – to you, my lord, and to Gondor.”

“And so you shall be, my steward,” the king answered sincerely, “for I do need you by my side.”

Chapter 10

Shortly after their meal they heard voices at the far entrance of the cavern. “Mablung,” said Faramir, as he hurried to dress himself. The king’s clothes were still soaked, so he wrapped himself in the blankets as the men arrived.

“Lord Faramir, thank Eru we found you!” Mablung said, leading Damron and Anborn into the shelter. They bowed their heads as one when they saw Aragorn sitting on the cot. “Sire,” Mablung said.

“The king has been injured,” Faramir quickly explained. “He fell into the ravine and has hurt his ankle. He cannot walk.”

“But how did you get him into Henneth Annûn, sir? That’s a rough passage from the ravine.”

“I carried him,” Faramir explained simply.

The three men started. A smile started to break across Mablung’s face. “Well, how about that? Begging your pardon, sire, but there’s none better to save you than Lord Faramir. That’s what we always say, and I guess you’ve found that’s true as well.”

“Aye, I have,” the king replied, matching the ranger’s casual tone. “If ever I plan to fall down another cliff, I’ll be sure to bring him along.”

Faramir blushed as the other men laughed.

*****

They fashioned a stretcher using the cot, and the four men were able to easily carry it back to camp. There they were greeted by the other rangers, who had to hear all about how their captain had saved the king. And then they had to hear it again. By the time the travelers retired to Faramir’s quarters, midnight was long past.

They arose early the next morning. Anborn had prepared a supply cart to take the king back to the healers in Minas Tirith. Faramir rode alongside, happy that the king slept peacefully for most of the journey home.

*****

Faramir saw the queen looking down from the citadel as they entered the city. He recognized the look of pain and confusion on her face – he knew it was the same look on his face when he had seen Aragorn lying still in the ravine. He loathed to leave his love now, to sacrifice their last moments together, but then remembered his duty. He was really the steward now, not just in name only. Grasping Aragorn’s hand, he said, “The queen is waiting. I will ride and bring her news.”

Aragorn squeezed his hand tightly. “Thank you, Faramir.”

Faramir raced his steed up the winding paths of the city. At the citadel gates, Arwen rushed toward him as he dismounted. “Lord Faramir, what has happened?”

Faramir bowed his head. “My lady, the king is well. He fell and has injured his ankle. He cannot walk, but he is fine.”

The queen sighed with visible relief. “Eru Ilúvatar be praised,” she whispered. Then, looking at the captain sideways she smilingly asked, “And you saved him, did you not?”

Faramir coloured slightly. “I found him, yes,” he answered.

Arwen beamed broadly now. “Then I am most grateful to you, Lord Faramir. Now will you do me another favour by telling the healers to prepare for the king?”

“As you wish, my lady.” Faramir bowed and hurried to the Houses of Healing.

*****

Faramir paced anxiously outside the Houses of Healing. The king had been there for some time, but they would not allow visitors other than the queen. He wanted to return to Ithilien with Anborn before nightfall. There was much unfinished business to attend to if he wanted to return by Ringarë, as the king had proposed, and Faramir had a busy month ahead. But he could not leave without seeing the king.

Finally Ioreth opened the door. “You can come in now, Lord Faramir. Usually you cannot wait to be leaving us, and Eru knows the trouble that’s caused, but you’re just as anxious to get in today. Well, I say the king needs rest, but he’s asking to see you, and of course the king will have his way….”

The wise woman’s words were lost as Faramir rushed to the king’s room. Arwen gave him a smile as he entered, and then she withdrew. They were alone.

“My lord, how are you?” He caught the king’s hand in his and brought it to his lips.

Aragorn smiled. “I am well, my love, very well. You have saved me again – I owe my life to you.”

“No, sire, it is I who owe you everything. And I intend to repay you when I return. But now, I fear that Anborn is ready to ride.” He looked longingly into the king’s eyes. “Is there nothing I can do before I leave the city?”

A mischievous smile crossed the king’s face, but upon hearing voices outside the room he only sighed. “No, my dear love, I am afraid that what I want will have to wait until your return.” He pulled the younger man’s head down so he could kiss him, a long, luxurious kiss, their mouths mingling together.

Finally Faramir broke the embrace. “I will return as soon as I can. Look for me in Ringarë.”

“In Ringarë,” the king repeated.

Faramir walked to the door. Turning back he locked the king’s grey eyes in his own. “I love you,” he whispered.

“And I love you, my steward” the king answered.

Faramir turned and left the room.

*****

Anborn had his horse ready when Faramir walked outside. He was about to mount when he heard the queen call from across the pavilion, “Lord Faramir?”

He turned back to see her moving toward him. He rushed toward her, “My lady? Is anything wrong?”

“I wanted to thank you again for watching over the king.”

“My lady, I will always watch over the king,” Faramir murmured bashfully.

“I know you will, that is why I am happy when he is with you.”

Startled, Faramir looked up at her. Her elven eyes twinkled as she continued, “Yes, Lord Faramir, I am always happy when Estel is by your side. I know he is safe. And now I have even more reason to trust him with you. Do you know why?”

“No, my lady.”

“The Warden just examined Estel’s ankle. He said it is healing nicely for a break that is several weeks old.”

A puzzled look clouded Faramir’s face. “But how can that be? He fell just yesterday?”

“Apparently you are not as well versed in ancient lore as I was given to believe,” Arwen teased. “Do you not remember that Númenórean blood carries extraordinary healing powers? Do you not remember that the hands of the king are the hands of a healer? You too are of that noble line.”

“But I did not do anything!”

“I cannot say with certainty how the race of man perceives it, but the elves believe that love is itself the greatest healing power. By giving Estel your love, perhaps you became his healer.”

“But how –“ Faramir stopped and blushed as he realized what she meant.

“Yes,” Arwen says, her wise eyes glinting in the midday sun, “that’s how.”

Faramir felt that he had to speak freely. “My lady, I never meant to come between you and the king.”

“No, Lord Faramir, you could never do that,” Arwen smiled. “There is no such thing as 'between.' He needs us both equally, and is incomplete without us. He cannot choose one over the other, and if he ever did the one left would suffer as much as the one that was forfeit.”

Faramir blinked, not sure how to respond to the queen’s words.

She continued in a playful voice, ”I’ll tell you a secret. Sometimes I think of Estel as a bumblebee, and we are two flowers who both have part of what he needs.”

Faramir smiled at that, and she returned his smile warmly. “And I hear that you will return to us for good very soon, Lord Faramir. I am very glad of that. The king can use your help.”

“I will do all I can to serve you both, my lady.”

Arwen embraced him warmly; then he turned, slightly dazed, toward Anborn and his waiting steed. The queen watched as he rode through the citadel gates. And in the Houses of Healing, the king watched his steward grow smaller and smaller as he rode into the distance.

THE END