“The strongest of storms could not part us, Boromir. You understand that,” Faramir said over the steady drip of his own blood. Lord Aragorn stood over them both in the dark of the cave, the dagger in a loose fist at his side and his eyes full of fire. Boromir paid him no heed. It was his brother, the once sweet Faramir, who held his attention now. Faramir pushed fingers through Boromir’s sweat-damp hair and smeared red blood through the strands. “Which is why you must come with us.”
“I will not,” Boromir said, sickened. “You bleed and grovel at that monster’s feet and expect me to join you? I have sought you for many years, brother, but now I see the Faramir I knew has long since perished.”
Faramir laughed like sharp splintering glass. “It is I, not some changeling. This is what a good boy becomes when he is abandoned.”
“You were taken. You were not abandoned!” Boromir cried. He would force Faramir’s persistent hand from his hair if he had the strength but his hands were bound and it had been a punishing journey. The three day sprint across hard ground on one word of a rumour of his long-missing brother had almost killed an already battle-worn Boromir but it had been worth it. Even staring up at Faramir’s bleeding arm and Aragorn above him with his fingers curled around Faramir’s shoulder.
At last the monster spoke. “I watched the city for three days after Faramir’s departure. Not one person was sent to seek him.”
“It was not the first time you disappeared after an argument with father,” Boromir said quietly, not taking his eyes off his brother. “By the time I realised who had taken you... it was too late. I thought you had run from home once again, Faramir. Please believe me. You must!”
“You do not have the privilege of telling me what I must do anymore, Boromir. You gave up that right a long time ago,” Faramir said. He said it softly, an echo of the quiet-voiced boy Boromir had loved so fiercely despite their many differences.
“Let’s talk, Faramir. Alone,” Boromir pleaded, spurred into hope by the tone in Faramir’s voice and the crease in his brow.
Faramir leaned forward, a ghost of a touch to Boromir’s cheek before he sat back on his heels with his hands on his knees, surveying the sight of his brother tangled in rope and utterly helpless. When he smiled Boromir closed his eyes but the sound of his voice could not be blocked so easily. “I have longed to see you, my sweet brother. I dreamt of this moment and your stubborn tantrum and manipulation shall not deter me. You will come with us.”
“I will do no such thing.”
“Perhaps,” said Aragorn in his soft and dangerous voice, “you should not be giving him the illusion of choice, my dear Faramir.”
Aragorn lifted the dagger.
Faramir did not stop him.
With his hands still tied behind his back and blood running from the fresh wound, Boromir struggled to his feet. He swayed but remained upright.
“Good. Come to me.”
Boromir glared at Aragorn with his lip curled but still took two wide steps towards him. It brought him closer too to Faramir who stood at Aragorn’s side with an insipid smile.
“It works,” Faramir said, looking to Aragorn. “He doesn’t even seem to try to resist.”
“Believe me brother, I’m trying.”
Aragorn ruffled his fingers through Faramir’s hair, tugging him close for a moment against his side. It did not make Boromir feel any less disgusted to know there was genuine affection between the two. It was built on insanity, nothing less. And all Boromir’s fault for not finding Faramir before now. Aragorn looked contemplatively at Boromir for a moment and though every inch of his skin crawled, Boromir did not break that gaze. “Boromir, you will not run from us. Either of us. You will stay within sight of at least one of us at all times. Do not try to hurt us; you will never harm me and your use will end the moment you harm even a hair on the head of Faramir. Do you understand? Answer me.”
“I understand,” Boromir said. Deflated, Boromir lowered his head and swallowed hard. Perhaps escape would be possible if he could talk Faramir into it but that seemed less likely by the minute.
Still, he would try. Boromir would fix what he had broken.
Aragorn left them, sitting at the back of the cave and rooting through an old leather bag. Faramir beckoned Boromir to walk with him to the mouth of the cave and as it was not a direct order, Boromir was content to follow and breathe the clean air. “He is a great man, is he not?” Faramir asked placidly.
“I think you have lost your mind to this fraud of a man,” Boromir replied. “Untie me, Faramir; you know I cannot leave you now and the ropes are unnecessary.”
Faramir glanced back at Aragorn, who nodded sharply. With quick fingers Faramir unknotted the bonds and Boromir rubbed the blood back into his limbs, sore but at least released. When Faramir grabbed his hands and warmed them between his own Boromir did not protest.
“I am grateful that you finally came for me,” Faramir said. From behind them, the bittersweet scent of pipeweed emerged. “Brother, I have so longed to see you again. Aragorn always promised you would come when it was time and it was all that I dared hope.”
“Do you truly believe I have not tried to find you?” Boromir asked. He kept his voice low but he knew Aragorn would hear him nonetheless. “Faramir, I have done nothing else. You did not need to cut my skin and steal my soul to have me near. Father may dismiss you but I never have.”
Faramir nodded absently, tangled hair falling in his face as he leaned over Boromir’s arm, fingers drifting across the deep cut. Aragorn had treated it with skilled hands, even if he would not yet bandage it, so it was clean and already healing. It would leave a neat scar. Boromir hissed as Faramir dug his fingernails into it but he did not recoil and Faramir lifted his head again, smiling beatifically. “Aragorn has great plans for us.”
“And what would they be?”
No answer, but Boromir expected nothing else. He was angry and tired but too exhausted to act upon it so when Faramir took Boromir’s hand and half-dragged him to the back of the cave when Aragorn called, Boromir went wordlessly. There was a wry, power-hungry insanity in Aragorn’s gaze that Boromir recognised all too well; it was a taint found in Denethor’s power-hungry eye too. It didn’t take much of a stretch for Boromir to understand their path, nor did it take long to realise he would have no choice but to follow it. Faramir sat at Aragorn’s side and leaned against the not-King like an obedient little pet and took morsels from Aragorn’s fingers.
Boromir looked away. Some things it was easier not to see if he did not wish to hate his brother.
The next town was almost a day's walk away but they covered it quickly enough. Aragorn was swift, always a step ahead. Though he was angry and exhausted down to the bone, Boromir walked a step or two behind and was pleased that Faramir could not seem to keep away from him for long, even when Aragorn called for him. Faramir would leave his place at Boromir’s side talking about the vile adventures he had been shown in his years of captivity since his and Boromir would feel only five minutes of silence before Faramir was lagging behind to meet him once more.
This is how it had been in Minas Tirith. Boromir had never long been found without his brother and not only because Boromir was the only one who did not mind his ceaseless chatter. Not until the end when they were separated to often by their father, a man desperate to make his sons as strong as possible. Reliance on another was always weakness, brothers or not. Boromir recognised that impulse as a defense against the darkness that had since befallen Gondor but at the time it had seemed like heartless cruelty to keep two brothers apart. They had until then always been best friends.
Not much had changed. Boromir felt easy with Faramir in a way that had nothing to do with the ritual that bound them. Despite himself, he listened with interest as Faramir explained the years to him, the long months in 'training' with Aragorn to seek out the secrets of the wild. Faramir told him of the fights and told him that when he was nineteen - two years after his capture - he had lain with Aragorn willingly.
"That," said Boromir, "was more than I needed to hear."
"You should understand why I do this," Faramir said calmly. He looked at Aragorn and smiled with such bland trust, Boromir almost slapped the boy. Faramir may be a full grown man but he was acting like a child, following blindly the first man that had shown him an ounce of attention. When Boromir did not answer, Faramir sighed and draped his arm around Boromir's shoulder. "Perhaps you do not. Aragorn is more powerful than you know. To resist one that has the enemy’s weapon in his grasp would be folly; we are fortunate to be at his side. You’ll learn.”
“The Ring is found?” Boromir said too loudly, astonished. Aragorn’s head turned slightly but his pace did not slow.
Faramir sighed and let his arm drop down to his side. “Yes, brother. Not long before Aragorn helped me break free of the tyranny of our father.”
“It is dangerous. It corrupts –“
“It corrupts the weak,” Aragorn interrupted, stopping in his tracks. He turned on Boromir and though their heights were similar, Boromir felt like a child, peering up at a giant. So strong was the impression that Boromir was sure it must be an effect of the Ring, if it were truly here. “Do I seem weak to you, Boromir? Does your brother?”
I want to see it, Boromir thought. The urge slipped into his mind and grew so suddenly it shocked him. He did not answer the question when it was so clear that any reply would be dangerous, but instead took another angle, voice as smooth as he could get it. “You are aware of its powers of corruption, I know. I should not repeat them for you. But if you have such an object, why have you not already taken Minas Tirith? You should have the power, yes?”
“I have the power but I did not hold all the pieces I needed to make my move,” Aragorn replied. His glare was fierce but it softened when Faramir stepped up beside him, arms around his waist, nuzzling into his neck. Faramir knew how to deal with Aragorn; that much was obvious. Aragorn’s tone was much less softer when he spoke again. “This is why you were made. Both of you. To stand at my side and learn to bask in the glory of a land returned to the glory of old. Would you not wish to see your city and its people healed of their ghostly existence? The people of Gondor were once mighty and we shall make that so once more.”
“Paint it up in pretty colours, it is still war that you represent.”
“Your protests are irrelevant. War is already upon every one of us,” Aragorn said. He tipped Faramir’s chin up to kiss him soundly and Boromir looked away sharply. “Come, Boromir. I can promise you that you shall feel differently by the time we arrive at your city. I have not ordered you to agree with me, have I? Then I must be certain you’ll believe in our task as soon as you fully understand it.”
Boromir walked on, his steps slow with the weight of his heavy heart.
The room was the biggest the inn held, possibly the biggest in the small town. They were on the edges of Rohan and it was easy to find them three horses, bought far cheaper than they deserved; Aragorn’s powers of persuasion were considerable and in those moments, even Boromir could believe the rough charm of the noble Ranger.
Out of the horses, the largest was of course for Aragorn; a wild-eyed pale grey mare that stilled her unsettled skittish movement the moment Aragorn touched her neck. In any other circumstance Boromir would believe that to be the sign of a great man. He would have to watch his assumptions in the future. Faramir was granted a sweet-natured chestnut named Arroch while Boromir stood before a deep bay stallion, elegant and proud. Despite himself, Boromir was pleased.
“What’s his name?”
“Up to you sir,” the servant said, bowing his head.
Boromir patted the fine horse and considered. He was so lost in thought that Faramir appeared at his side almost without sound. “Where is your horse? I do not believe such a solider as you would not have the means to ride out to me instead of run on foot.”
“I have the means,” Boromir replied, “but not the permission. Father believed I was wasting my time and would not let me waste the energy of my horse. He assumed banning me from the stables would stop me coming for you.” Their eyes met briefly and Faramir’s were wide. Boromir swallowed around the strange lump in his throat and looked back to the horse. “Wealword. Father had a horse of that name when we were children, do you remember? It means ‘defiant’.”
“Something you no longer can be,” Faramir said softly.
Boromir turned from him. “It is a good name.”
With the horses stabled, they were shown to their room. A meal was set before them, rich and good, and Boromir tried not to notice that there was only one large bed.
Faramir kept close to Aragorn now, sharing his space and his words with him alone. Boromir had been sullen and silent for hours now but he felt better for some food between his lips. He did not balk when Faramir kissed Aragorn again, nor when Aragorn laughed and stroked fingers through Faramir’s hair. It was somewhat soothing to see Faramir so calm and at ease with someone in a way he had never been within the walls of Minas Tirith. Aragorn’s affection seemed genuine enough.
When the time came to get into the bed, Boromir considered sleeping on the floor. It would be much less awkward but Faramir gave him that insufferable look and Boromir folded as he always did. He did not even need the command, though he saw it coming in Aragorn’s hard gaze. It was true that he would sleep easier with Faramir after these years apart and the bed was big and wide enough that he did not have to lie too close.
Peace rushed over Boromir the moment he closed his eyes. He fell asleep within seconds, untroubled by the thoughts that had kept him awake so many nights while Faramir had been gone.
It wasn’t nightmares that woke Boromir in the middle of the dark night.
The fire was nothing but simmering embers in the grate when Boromir opened his eyes. It did not take long to realise what it was that woke him from his soothing sleep. There were soft noises coming from beside him, muffled but incandescent and obvious. Boromir held his breath tight in his chest as the quiet stuttered noises grew and as the bed moved beneath them.
With a jolt of shock that pierced through his fatigue, Boromir sat up and scrabbled out of the bed, taking half the thick blankets with him and exposing his bedmates more than he had intended. Faramir looked over at him through heavy-lidded eyes and curled his fingers into the pillow beneath him as Aragorn fucked him into the mattress, grunting low. The Ring hung loose on a chain between them, a tempting token.
“You could not wait for me to leave?” Boromir snapped, looking away but his eyes tracked back a moment later despite himself.
Aragorn turned his head and fixed his stare on Boromir. Beneath him, pressed into the sheets, Faramir gasped and squirmed up to meet his thrusts and Boromir was lost. In his loose sleep trousers he was hardening. He could feel that stare down to his breaking soul and when Aragorn called him closer, Boromir could not refuse.
The morning was sticky and uncomfortable but Boromir woke sated and pleased with himself. Aragorn looked upon him with new respect in his eyes and Faramir was glued to his brother’s side. They shared bathwater and teasing touches. They huddled close in this big room, a triumvirate of bonded souls and Boromir realised he was beginning to see Aragorn as Faramir did. Boromir watched the way he would share out the food between the brothers before he took any himself and the way he watched the roads so carefully for them as they rode out of the town, even as they laughed and joked without care.
It had been years since Boromir had seen Faramir; they had much to talk about. After last night there were no barriers left between them. Aragorn left them to it without a word and without a grudge and when night fell and the trees were their only shelter, Aragorn volunteered first watch.
“He is a good man,” Faramir whispered beneath the shared cloak that covered them against the cool night breeze.
Boromir smiled and kissed lips he had never realised he wanted. “I am beginning to see.” The voice of reason screaming for sanity went ignored and sleep came easily with his little brother cradled in his arms and against his steady beating heart.
“Your father is in my way,” Aragorn said apropos of nothing sometime after sunset. The fire still burned; nothing lived in these bleak rocks, neither man nor beast. They were safe. Boromir had learnt ease around the man and in turn, Aragorn did not use his powers of obedience often. Boromir was a soldier, he was used to doing as he was told but even the illusion of choice was better than nothing.
“Is that why you called for me at last?” Boromir asked. “I do wonder why you took so many years.”
“I didn’t need you,” Aragorn said. He glanced over at the sleeping form of Faramir, bundled in his cloak with his back to them. Aragorn kept his voice low, leaning over the crackling fire. “Faramir would have been enough if he could have dropped his damned obsession with you.”
Boromir frowned, nonplussed. “What?”
“He would not let me take him into the city until you were free of it. Accidents happen and it is, as you have rightly pointed out, a war. He did not wish you to be a casualty.”
“That’s what all of this was about? The spell, everything? To get me away from there.”
“For Faramir,” Aragorn said with a tip of his head. “I would do a lot for your brother. More than you realise. He has known more heart here in the wild with a monster like me than he would have been allowed to know under your father’s rule. Which will soon be at an end.”
Boromir looked away, conflicted. He was more comfortable knowing little of the plan; he could convince himself then that there would be a way out of it, come the time to attack. That was looking less and less appealing. “You need not tell me this.”
“Yet you need to know,” Aragorn said. His hand lifted to his neck, to the chain of that ever-present and unspoken darkness. “Do not fret. All the pieces are in place but you must know your father will not make it through this fight. Does that make you wish to leave?”
“I suspected what you say,” Boromir admitted. He shook his head more in sadness than anything. “My father was once a great man.”
Aragorn nodded and reached his dirt-blackened hand to press against Boromir’s arm, a heavy reassuring weight. More heart here than in Minas Tirith. After the past years, Boromir could believe that.
Faramir stirred. With one last glance, neither spoke again that night.
They had the last of the hidden mountain pass to cross, a rough path but one they were all enjoying for the world that spread out beneath them. Aragorn stood tall and proud with his back to the northern skies, casting his gaze down on the glint of white that was the great city. That would soon be their city. Their land.
Aragorn held the ring on a heavy chain around his neck. From here, Boromir could see it beneath the fold of his collar and he was not certain whether he wanted to touch the sliver of gold or the sliver of skin more.
“We shall cast away the shadow that threatens from the east,” Aragorn said. He smiled and stepped lightly across the stones with almost Elven grace and lifted his hands to both their cheeks. “This has been a long time in the making, my friends. You shall stand glorious at my side as Men are made mighty again. Without your knowledge of the city and of your father, this Ring–” and here Aragorn lifted the chain, causing Boromir’s breath to catch in his throat, “–would be useless.”
Boromir wanted nothing more than triumph for his city even now and here it was offered on a golden plate. If his father had no place in that future, Boromir could not halt such an effort for so minor a reason. The sacrifices that must be made before the great triumph could come to pass meant nothing. Nothing pierced Boromir’s heart but Faramir’s warm gaze and Aragorn’s proud words.
“We will reach Minas Tirith in less than a day,” Aragorn promised. He slung the heaviest bag over his shoulder and grinned, his good mood creasing the corners of his eyes. “Glory awaits us.”
Faramir reached out for Boromir’s hand. “And we shall find it together.”