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They arrive in the evening, and the setting sun over the mountains casts the sprawling home in a lovely orange light, glowing here and there with lamps and iridescent flowers. Their horses seem to slow for it, taking in the majesty. As they cross the bridge to the stone dais held high above the river, an elf appears to greet them, gliding down the steps with a grace that neither of them have ever had.

Boromir dismounts first, Faramir swiftly following, a step behind his brother and distracted when more elves appear to take his horse. In other places, he’s been hard-pressed to release the reigns, but here he knows they’ll treat his animal well. The horse seems all too happy to plod after the soft hands that bid it forward. Boromir looks stiffer relinquishing his, but he does so—he’s said he wouldn’t leave right away. Faramir’s still glad of it, though the realm beyond looks strangely inviting.

It’s all different than he thought it would be, than the way it was described. His father spit the word out like a curse or a joke, laughing at the thought of Faramir residing there. It still gives him a spark of shame to set foot in this place; what a disappointment he’s become, to need to be sent here. But Boromir stands tall before him as though their delegation is an honour and this a well-planned treaty. The young elf that drifts towards them wears a frown but gentle, attractive features.

“My lord Elrond is occupied with his sons’ departure from the west gates,” that elf tells them, bowing his head respectfully. “In case of your early arrival, I have been sent to welcome you to Imladris, Rivendell, in your tongue, and to guide you to his audience chamber. He will be free to join you shortly.”

Boromir nods curtly at this, while Faramir suppresses a pang in his chest—his own father bid Boromir farewell but wouldn’t spare Faramir a thought. Faramir was made to walk alongside the packhorse, told omegas have no business trying to tame other beasts, and had to wait until they passed Gondor’s borders before Boromir rearranged their supplies and insisted Faramir ride, having snuck in an extra saddle. The lord Elrond’s children must be lucky indeed if their father can be bothered to see them off, just as Boromir is lucky of Denethor.

Faramir is the unlucky second born, the unasked for burden, the weaker offspring that shames his house merely by what he is. Boromir says it will be different here.

But Boromir has been fiercely seeking hope for Faramir since they were children, and Faramir first fell ill to the condition which marks him omega, and Boromir, already pronounced alpha, had wrapped around him to shield him from their father’s fists. At least, Faramir hopes, Boromir will have an easier time of it when he returns without Faramir at his side.

Faramir will stay here. The elf seems to recognize that—perhaps can simply tell another omega—as Faramir can tell that this elf is one—and glances at Faramir with another dip of his head. Faramir returns it. The elf, brown-haired and conservatively postured with silken purple robes that hide his feet, asks, “Will you accompany me?”

“Your name, first,” Boromir interjects, reaching out a hand in the manner of their people. “And who you are who stands in your lord’s stead.”

The elf’s cheeks lightly flush, but he answers politely, “I am called Lindir. I am my lord’s personal assistant, and... and his omega.”

Boromir looks back at Faramir, mouth in a thin line but with the corner slightly lifted: a familiar half-smile of his. He likely means to demonstrate to Faramir that here, lords take omegas and cherish them enough to let them stand in for honoured meetings.

Faramir returns a quiet smile, though he thinks it equally as likely that his arrival means nothing to the lord of Rivendell, and he’s not important enough to merit more than a servant’s greeting.

Boromir turns back to Lindir to say, “I am Boromir, son of Denethor, steward of Gondor, and this is my brother, Faramir.” Having never asked, Lindir likely already knew it, but doesn’t interrupt as Boromir continues, “We’ll follow you and wait until your lord is free. But it’s been a long journey, and we would appreciate food and drink for that wait.”

Lindir bows again and promises, “I will see to it,” then turns to guide them up the stairs.

They’re shown to a circular chamber and set at a long table, where Boromir sits next to Faramir instead of across—he tends to keep Faramir within arm’s reach where he can. Whether or not Faramir feels he needs the protection doesn’t matter; he enjoys the company, the show of care. Lindir disappears and returns with two other servants to lay out an ample feast of salads, bread, exotic fruits, and wine. They have some time to themselves to sit and eat, during which it feels like they should share their private thoughts while they can, but Faramir doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t have enough information yet.

Boromir drinks the wine sparingly and sees that Faramir does as well, and he murmurs over his glass, “Lindir looks well taken care of. All the omegas do.” Faramir assumes he means the servants, both those that served and those that took their horses. As an alpha, Boromir will have been able to sense their designation well. Faramir agrees. They all looked healthy, and Lindir even wore a silver diadem that looked something like a crown. No omega in Gondor would be given such finery.

In only a short while, the doors open again, and a new elf strolls regally through. Boromir rises to stand out of courtesy, and Faramir quickly follows suit. This elf’s presence alone gives him away as a lord. He looks older, more mature, than the other elves Faramir’s seen, with long, straight brown hair and golden robes, his fingers arrayed in rings and a diadem circling his head not so very different from Lindir’s. Lindir shuts the door behind his lord and comes to stand by the table, where the grander elf inclines his head and greets, “Boromir, Faramir, sons of Gondor, I welcome you to Rivendell. I must apologize for my lateness; we had predicted your arrival later in the evening, and I had personal business to attend to.”

“It was no trouble,” Boromir answers, then pointedly looks at Lindir to add, “your omega did well in your stead.”

Lindir turns a light pink and quickly averts his eyes. He seems shy, small, and very young compared to his lord, but his bearing is just as calm, as contemplative. Elrond glances at his aid and dons a soft, approving smile. “Yes, he is one of the great treasures of Imladris.” Lindir’s cheeks instantly become red, and he visibly fights to hide his pleasure. When Elrond turns back to take his seat, Lindir looks at Elrond with such adoration that Faramir can feel it in his chest. It speaks well of Elrond. It chips away at the picture Denethor had always painted of a desperate place haunted only by lonely, damaged souls. Lindir remains standing behind Elrond’s chair and looks as though there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.

Boromir and Faramir return to their seats and watch Elrond, the food forgotten. Despite the living proof that Elrond is a kind ruler, Boromir’s shoulders remain squared, his stance strong, protective. He starts the conversation for both of them. “We are glad to be here, Lord Elrond, and would hope your hospitality towards Men remains as good as it’s told of elves. We haven’t just come to visit, you see.”

“No,” Elrond returns, folding his hands atop the table. He aims the first at Boromir, but then shifts his gaze to Faramir. “You did not.”

Boromir opens his mouth. Before he can say more, Faramir starts, feeling distinctly like Elrond knows already the story he has to tell and wants to hear it in Faramir’s own words. “I am... I have heard good tidings, of this home for... certain kinds.” That isn’t strictly true; he heard the scorn of his father over a wasteland for the unwanted to be kept away from the rest of the world, the better population. He struggles to throw his lot into that and round-about explains, “By brother, Boromir, is a great warrior and a strong leader; he is a worthy heir to the stewardship of our land. ...But I am a spare, unneeded, and have the luxury of dwelling... other places.”

Boromir’s hand shifts across the table and lands overtop of Faramir’s. Faramir’s breath catches, eyes flickering to it; he’s immensely grateful, always is—he needed that support.

Fiercely and far more blunt, Boromir finishes, “Forgive me, but for all our father’s gift of sight and rule, he is a fool in this. Omegas in Gondor are not treated as well as they should be—they do not smile after their alphas or don splendor like your Lindir. You are an alpha—I can sense it in you—and thus you will know that Faramir is not. He deserves a better place to stay, one where he is recognized, regardless of his status, as the ‘treasure’ he is.”

Faramir is sure he’s now blushing as hard as Lindir. Boromir squeezes his hand, full of reassurance and devotion. Half of Faramir can’t help but be embarrassed by the display, but beyond that, as always, he enjoys the comfort of his brother’s strength. Elrond regards Boromir steadily.

Then he returns to Faramir and says, “There will be made a place for you here, and it will be yours for as long as you wish.” To Boromir, Elrond adds, “I give you my word that Faramir will be treated well in my home. This is a place of peace, of acceptance, where no one is unworthy.”

For a long moment, Boromir harshly returns Elrond’s gaze. But finally, he seems to accept it, and his tension loosens, his hand releasing and drifting away from Faramir’s.

Faramir misses the warmth. But Boromir is still at his side and remains that way throughout dinner, wherein they return to eating and Elrond coaxes Lindir to join them at the table.

He had a good run as captain of the guards. He had little self-confidence in certain areas but considered himself brave nonetheless, and he held the respect of those he commanded. He led them wherever his father bid and kept the gates of Mordor back, the lands safe around it. He sat with his guards in their hidden rooms after a triumphant hunt of orcs and ate and drank and recalled the battle, until one of them—he can’t even now remember which—put their hand on his thigh.

He was in a heat, then, knows it now, spurred on in fight by his own burning, driven to more drink and faster breathing, hotter skin. His guards were happy to push his legs open and peel away his tunic, run their sword-calloused hands through his hair and praise him for his deeds. They treated him well, and he let them bend him over the table and take him, two at once, then three, in a steady procession until every one of his guards had spent themselves somewhere in or on him and he was dizzy to the point of passing out. It never quite satisfied him—heats of the unbound that yearned to have someone always were. But it did its job, and he rode back to Minas Tirith with a clear head and finger and teeth marks all over his body.

His father was furious. Faramir stood before the steward’s little black throne under the white steps and was berated for hours, until Boromir came running into the hall and put an end to it. He’d been out and heard, likely in some tavern their father would only let him into, all the bawdy stories the guards there shared of defiling their pseudo-prince. Word had made it back to Denethor, and all he had heard was how easy Faramir was, how wantonly he laid himself out to be taken and dominated, ravaged no better than some helpless stable boy. Faramir said nothing, as usual, and kept his head hung so he wouldn’t have to meet the unforgiving derision in his father’s eyes.

It was Boromir to suggest that Faramir be sent north. Denethor’s thought was to bind him in the dungeons, hide him from the public face, from shaming their father any further, and laughed with malice that Faramir should welcome such a fate—being toy to the crueler guards that Denethor favoured. The difference of choice seemed to mean nothing to him. Boromir snarled that no one would take Faramir below the keep while he still lived, and Denethor, as always, listened to his firstborn where he would not head the second. He snorted that a dump for the damaged would be a fitting place for Faramir. Denethor’s laughter echoed down the great halls.

He came to see them off when they mounted their horses. He walked right past Faramir, only to pause and turn, snarling for Faramir to get down from a seat he hadn’t earned. Faramir grit his teeth and did as he was ordered—there seemed no sense now in defiance when he was close to freedom, at least of this. A part of him had wanted to stay. He liked his captaincy, liked those he’d overseen, but knew it was no longer an option. No other guards were sent with them—Boromir was a strong enough alpha to stand on his own and Faramir not worth the bother. Denethor bid Boromir farewell with words of love and for Faramir gave no more words at all.

Far out in the field, Boromir dismounted and led the horses a little ways to a smattering of trees. Behind them, he took Faramir in his arms and held Faramir tight. He promised that when Denethor’s rule passed, Faramir could return, and Boromir would treat him with the respect he deserved. Faramir, as he’d been since childhood and first pronounced omega—weak, prone to helpless spells and too easy to submission—thought he deserved no respect at all. But he held Boromir back and inhaled deeply, enjoyed beyond decency the warmth of an alpha’s comfort. Then Boromir had lifted Faramir up onto a horse, and their journey began.

There was a long time in Faramir’s life when he contented himself with only platonic love. Boromir would be enough. Boromir was all he had. And it’s strange now to walk amongst the halls of Rivendell and know, behind this door and that, that other merciful alphas wait. It doesn’t really matter at this point if any will have Faramir or not—the sheer possibility is a relief he never knew before.

Lindir escorts them down the hall. He pauses occasionally, here and there, to gesture to common places—the library, the dining hall, the stairs to the kitchens—and informs them that all are open to Faramir, other than, of course, private quarters. By now the stars are out, but most of Rivendell is open to one balcony or another, and there’s enough to see by. They pass the occasional elf, all of whom are beautiful and elegant, and Faramir begins to feel that, even if he cannot ever match the art around him, he could find peace here. He holds himself tall and is not once looked at as though he shouldn’t.

Finally, they reach a long hall of various doors, carved in the different shapes of trees. Lindir stops at one to announce, “These will be your chambers, Faramir of Gondor. They are meant to be stocked with all you should need, and water will routinely be left for you, cleaning regularly conducted. If you should have need of anything not provided to you, please inform my lord Elrond or me. It is our wish that you are to feel at home here.”

Faramir means to say thank you, but Boromir asks over him, “Are there enough beds for me to stay there?”

Lindir gives him a surprised look. “We arranged for your quarters in another wing, one occupied by more alphas. Is this unsuitable?”

Boromir frowns and looks once at Faramir, then seems to decide on something, and informs their host, “I want to stay with him, so I can make sure that no one takes advantage.”

Faramir experiences another stab of embarrassment—he was, after all, a captain, and is more than capable of self-defense, though he appreciates the sentiment. Lindir doesn’t even notice that, and instead appears both flustered and offended, and insists in hurt tones, “That would never happen under my lord Elrond’s roof—any that would commit such a heinous act would not be permitted past the gates.”

Boromir doesn’t look at all convinced and opens his mouth, but before he can fight Lindir on it, he seems to spot something over Lindir’s shoulder and pauses. Faramir follows the gaze and is instantly ensnared.

Another man has just come around the corner, clearly not an elf, not regal and refined like all the others, but still tall and well shaped. He has dark, ragged hair that waves almost down to his shoulders, his chin a little scruffy and his shoulders broad, dressed in a tunic, trousers, and heavy boots, all earth tones, a hefty bag slung over one shoulder. As he crosses the light of one high window, Faramir is struck with the handsomeness of his features, chiseled beyond any perfection Faramir’s ever seen before. The man is an alpha, Faramir knows instantly, and his pheromones seem to call to Faramir—there’s a moment where he feels almost light-headed, trapped in an unexpected snare from a man he’s never even met. He stares, while Lindir turns to see the newcomer.

“Aragorn,” Lindir greets, dipping into a lower bow than he served to Boromir and Faramir, though they’re dressed well and this new man is scruffy and dirtied, as though just dragging in from the wild. To any other, he might almost appear a beggar, but Faramir recognizes the hidden strength of a ranger. “My lord Elrond will be pleased at your return.”

The man, Aragorn, it seems, gives Lindir a fond smile, which warms Faramir’s chest—a ranger, warm to omegas. “Thank you, Lindir. I will see him shortly, if he is still awake, but it was you I looked for. I am aware I have been gone some time and only knew you shortly on the last visit—and it is a shame I arrive again only to miss Elladan and Elrohir by a matter of some hours—and yet I return to find my rooms have been changed.”

Lindir’s brows draw together in confusion. “They have not been, as far as I am aware.”

Aragorn cocks his head to the side, evidently expecting Lindir to be aware of it all. “They must have been. The furniture is the same, I grant, but there was already an elf with pale skin and a dark braid asleep in the bed.”

The confusion remains on Lindir’s face for a few seconds, then slips abruptly away, and he mutters half under his breath, “Maeglin.” In a clearer voice, he sighs, “Clearly, you have yet to meet one of our more illustrious residents. I can think of two reasons why he would be in the bed that I promise is still yours, and either way, I will come shoo him out.”

Aragorn dons a bemused grin at this and answers, “Thank you.”

Before he goes, Lindir turns back to Boromir and Faramir to ask, “Will you be well for the night? I can have more linens sent to you, if you wish.”

Boromir replies, “I’ll manage.” Faramir takes that to mean that Boromir will indeed be staying with him.

It draws Aragorn’s attention, and he sweeps an appraising look over Boromir, then stops on Faramir, their eyes catching. Alphas can often tell better than an omega the stature of their peers, and Faramir, remembering the voice of his father, feels his heart sink; he wishes he could stand before this man as another alpha, as an equal. Yet there’s nothing disapproving in Aragorn’s eyes. He looks about to speak, perhaps to introduce himself properly, when Boromir abruptly steps closer to Faramir, halfway in front of him. Aragorn notes Boromir again and has no chance to say a thing to either of them.

Lindir’s already moving off, headed back down the hall, and Aragorn, nodding once at the both of them, turns to follow. It leaves Faramir to release a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding.

Inside, they say nothing of Aragorn, though surely Boromir can’t have expected to find mortal men here any more than Faramir did. Instead, they’re distracted with Boromir’s gathering of blankets and the spare pillow to drape across the floor. Faramir knows better than to offer his brother the bed or to share—Boromir can be stubborn, and his mind’s clearly made. He lies himself down on the floor, setting up a stern vigil, and murmurs into the already-darkness, “Good night, little brother.”

“Good night,” Faramir returns, “and thank you.”

Chapter Text

Most days he would eat in his room, alone, or down with the guards who would look at him, for the most part, like an equal. It wasn’t the awed looks they’d give to Boromir, but he didn’t need lordship, just acceptance. And other days, someone would come to fetch him, and he’d be made to sit across the table from his father, who’d eat twice as much but spill more than half and mutter around feral bites, “If I don’t keep you in my sight, how am I to make sure you’re not kneeling between some vagabond’s legs in the brothel?”

And Faramir would say nothing, because there was nothing to say that wouldn’t further the malice. He’d think, every now and then, if that would be a better course—something he would never have considered if not for his father’s badgering. Heats don’t often dictate career, but maybe it would be better to lie in sheets instead of fields, hold alphas instead of swords. All those that had touched him, thus far, had felt good. It was a strange dichotomy—both thinking that the goal and being shamed for it.

Boromir came to sit at the table, as he always did on these nights, and took not the seat his father gestured to but the one next to Faramir. There were times when his hand would fall below the table to lay on Faramir’s leg, squeeze if need be, channel reassurance in a place Denethor couldn’t see. Perhaps also to hold Faramir down. There were times when Faramir would look at the frail skeleton his father had aged into and judged that he would win, if it ever came to it, if he ever flew across the table with his fork and knife in hand and ended the tirade.

He would never do that, of course, and instead bottled his reactions and picked at his food, while Denethor asked after Boromir’s exploits with a touch of pride. Boromir could slink away to the taverns and touch anyone he wished, because it would be on his terms, he would have the power, and that’s all Denethor saw sex for. Denethor would ask if Boromir ever saw his little brother across the table, giving away the same favours that Boromir took.

Boromir growled, “It’s not about giving and taking. There’s nothing wrong with the omegas that served me.”

Denethor snorted, “Of course not—it’s their place.” And he said the words to Boromir but turned to eye Faramir, after hissing, “Perhaps Faramir wishes to realize that. I have greater men in my guard who deserve his seat better.” Faramir paused, fork caught in his meat, and looked only down. Boromir’s hand was on his leg again.

Boromir spat, “Why must you always be so cruel to him?” Denethor lightened and said something else, something to soothe Boromir, to remind him that he was loved, and Faramir hardly heard a word of it because his thoughts were gone in his own confusion—he did want that, wanted to be fucked and claimed and cherished, but had no taste for taking those things for himself.

“It would be the best thing for him,” he caught Denethor finishing, back onto the subject. “Better his pitiful urges be relieved in our dungeons than out in the field, when a heat strikes him and he begs the enemy for it. You think it will stop him if they’re orcs? I’ve seen omegas beg to be mounted by dogs.” Faramir doubted that, but a shiver still twisted down his spine. Boromir’s fingers were digging almost painfully into his leg. He thought, perhaps, the touch then was more for Boromir, the contact to keep Boromir from lunging across the table.

Faramir was the one to snap, “I would never do that.”

“You would,” his father told him cruelly, “if a heat took you and there were no proper alphas like your brother around to rescue you from your own weakness.”

He didn’t believe it. Or didn’t want to. His ears buzzed. Boromir snarled something and forcibly turned the conversation away, teeth grit, eyes dark. But Denethor followed. Boromir used the topic of orcs to deliver a report on the guards’ movements that should’ve come from Faramir but was always received better from Boromir. Boromir kept the rest of dinner away from Denethor’s favourite subject.

But Faramir didn’t eat another bite. He was shaken to his core and went to bed loathing himself, wondering if his father was truly right.

Faramir’s dreams were troubling, as they often are, but he wakes to the familiar smell of Boromir, fast asleep next to his bed. Faramir sidles up to the edge and peers over, making sure, and smiling at the way Boromir’s twisted himself up in his blankets. Things were never as bad as they could’ve been while he had Boromir at his side.

And that’s what he’ll miss most. He’ll miss those he commanded, miss the chance to use his sword and bow, miss riding home to the gleaming white city. He’ll miss his brother most of all.

But he tells himself it’s better this way, and better for both of them, and without Faramir there to argue over, Boromir will have their father’s full respect.

Boromir doesn’t wake up until Faramir’s already bathed in the adjacent washroom and changed into fresh clothes from their packs, still in the style of Men despite the Elven setting. He assumes Boromir was up too late guarding him and suggests that Boromir have a bath too, but Boromir’s stomach rumbles over him, and they both go down to meet their host.

The dining hall is a lovely place with one wall full of windows and the other cut out through pillars that look into the gardens. They have the option of serving themselves from the banquet table or waiting at their seat for others to serve them. Before they quite make it there, Faramir pauses in the threshold, not knowing why. Boromir instantly freezes, on alert, but it isn’t that, and Faramir places belatedly what came over him—senses of his that few have ever triggered save Boromir.

Faramir steps aside, Boromir following, to free up the doorway for a dark elf with black hair to step through, then a pleasant-looking blond that spares them both a smile, and then the object of Faramir’s attention: Aragorn.

He steps inside the hall to make room, but he goes no further than that, instead greeting both other Men with a grin. Despite having not been properly introduced, he asks, “Boromir and Faramir, is it?” His voice is deep and perhaps a little raspy, calm but lilting—he would have a good voice for singing, Faramir thinks. When both nod, he reveals, “Lindir informed me on our way back. I hope you’ll forgive his quickness—Imladris is a common way station for travelers, so it isn’t always the custom to introduce everyone to one another. No doubt he thought I would be gone again soon anyway, and indeed I plan another trip. But it is good to meet other Men before I leave.”

“We’re not staying,” Boromir says, his tone just a little tense—Faramir recognizes the common wariness, not personal to Aragorn but always applied to new alphas. It’s likely a strategic move to not mention that Faramir is going to stay for some time.

“A common way station, as I said,” Aragorn concludes, the takes half a step back and drops his gaze, eyeing them up from the toes of their boots. “You are not from Dale, I deem. South?”

“Gondor,” Boromir grunts, which makes Aragorn’s eyes fly up, a clear spark of interest in them.

All he says is, “You came a long way.”

Boromir gives a tight nod. Faramir’s left to wonder on Aragorn’s origins—he looks both too haggard for their regal lands and over-worthy under that. Boromir seems to have nothing else to say, and that leaves Faramir to voice the question, though he’s not keen to hear the answer—if Aragorn is from Gondor, and maybe even if from Rohan, it would diminish any interest he’d have in Faramir, if there were ever a chance. Most of Gondor’s greater men choose to bond to alphas and take omegas only for play—Gondor is built on strength. Its history is full of stewards with alpha unions and harems of lesser omegas, used for breeding stock and trade, and already a worthy alpha stands next to Faramir—one that will inherit stewardship. It would be insane of Aragorn not to want Boromir.

Faramir asks anyway, filling the odd silence, “And you?”

Aragorn looks at him and smiles softly, answering, unexpected, “Here.” He offers no more, though that leaves many questions, but there’s no room for Faramir to ask.

Elrond enters the hall then, Lindir right behind him, and they join the cluster with ease, Aragorn stepping aside to make room. With nods to both Boromir and Faramir, Elrond says, “I see you have met my foster son, Aragorn. I hope that you would—you have much in common.” In Faramir’s peripherals, Boromir looks unsure of this; perhaps it seems so to an elf, but to another mortal, sharing a race isn’t much; they come from a land where all they know is their own race. The news that Aragorn is under Elrond’s wing is what effects Faramir more: it makes Aragorn, in effect, a lord. And that makes Faramir all the lower next to him. Elrond goes on, “I trust you had a pleasant night.” Faramir nods numbly.

Then Aragorn extends a hand to Boromir. Boromir pauses before taking it, and they share a firm shake. Then that same hand is offered to Faramir, and he hesitates even longer. But he gives in, and Aragorn’s warm fingers fold around him, the palm wrapped in cutout gloves but no protection against the sharp spike of contact that ripples beneath Faramir’s skin. His breath hitches—Aragorn is too powerful an alpha to touch and not be affected by it. If Aragorn notices, he doesn’t snow it. He merely smiles at Faramir, so open, eyes crinkling with it. There’s a bit of stubble on his chin that Faramir wants to rub against, a bit of dirt under his fingernails that Faramir wants to run over in a bath. He wants to pull Aragorn into him and be claimed right here against the doorway.

He’s exactly what his father says of him. Just met a man, already ready to surrender. Aragorn might as well be an orc for all Faramir knows of him, albeit far too handsome and raised in a land of paradise. It’s a sobering thought, and Faramir’s hand falls away.

When Aragorn leaves with Elrond, Lindir at a respectable distance behind them, Boromir bores holes into Aragorn’s back with his eyes. Faramir can’t tell if Boromir’s found something to dislike in Aragorn or is just being overprotective as usual. Perhaps it doesn’t matter.

Faramir seems to need protecting, if not from others, then from himself.

Boromir excuse himself after a time to ‘speak with the lords,’ though which he includes in the plural, he doesn’t say. Even after he’s announced this, he looks hard pressed to leave Faramir’s side, but Faramir is sure that Boromir has private things to say and insists, “Go. I will be fine.”

Boromir doesn’t look so sure, but he grabs Faramir first in a tight embrace anyway. He squeezes Faramir against him so harshly that Faramir’s breath hitches, and he knows instantly what Boromir is trying to do. It isn’t a mere parting hug, but an attempt to leave Faramir covered in Boromir’s smell: the pheromones of a fierce alpha should keep others away. Faramir would rather just have a sword at his hip, but it didn’t seem right to carry one about a home so peaceful, and he’s weaponless. He still doesn’t imagine that’ll be a problem. Boromir kisses his forehead and detangles, looking back once before he rounds a corner.

Faramir has a mind to explore and sets off through the gardens—the halls he can explore at night, and for now, the sun is still high. The landscape is beautiful, full of greenery and exotic flowers Faramir’s never seen before, with both high, gnarled trees and more delicate, brightly coloured ones scattered in blossoms. Some paths have paving stones and others are simply trimmed grass, in some places stand wooden or stone benches and others fountains, a white gazebo here and there. Everyone he passes is Elven, calm for the most part, and a few minstrels pluck idly at harps to fill the air with sweet song.

And then he hears the familiar clash of steel, and his feet are automatically drawn in that direction. No one else he walks by seems troubled by it, so he assumes it to be merely a friendly sparring match. When he comes around a high hedge to a circular clearing, he finds two elves with swords, one of which looks far from friendly.

Dark skinned and dark haired, the aggressor of the fight weaves about the other with impressive skill, practically roaring as he goes in for each slice, aim always lethal. The other, a well-dressed elf with light hair and light skin, dodges fluidly and defends each blow, his golden hair arching out behind him. A silver diadem circles his forehead, not once slipping, though the ends of their tunics are tossing about with the quick pace, and Faramir thinks it a wonder that neither loses half the length of their hair. A third elf, another blond, is perched on a bench behind them, eyeing the two fighters with a gentle smile and mild interest.

Faramir watches in awe, drawn at the sheer speed and deadly accuracy of every movement—he’s never actually seen an elf in battle. If all elves are this skilled, he would hope he never will.

Suddenly, the blond fighter dives, elbowing and kneeing the other elf at once, and the darker one, dressed in crimson and burgundy, grunts at the impact, flying back. The blond delivers a final blow, knocking his opponent to the ground, and the one on the bench laughs and lifts his hands to clap.

“You let yourself be baited too easily, Caranthir,” the blond fighter laughs. “You would do well to control your anger better.”

“And you are a cheap shot, Glorfindel,” the elf named Caranthir spits. “If you had left my father out of it and kept your gangly limbs to yourself, we could have had a proper match.”

The elf named Glorfindel snorts and shakes his head. “Imagine, a son of Fëanor lecturing me on the ethics of a fair fight. I think you are merely a sore loser, my friend.”

“He has you there, Moryo,” the elf on the bench chuckles, glancing down at the one Faramir had thought was Caranthir. “But I have been chiding you on your temper for centuries.”

“And I have been tired of your gratingly persistent optimism,” Caranthir returns, supplying no name for Faramir’s reference. To think that these men, who look hardly a day older than Faramir, have lived for centuries is a baffling thought. Caranthir pushes up from the ground and straightens out his clothes, his glare now split amongst the two blonds. To the benched one, Caranthir growls, “Why don’t you draw your sword, Finrod, and we will see what serves who better—my fire or your complacency.”

“I let you knock me down twice this morning already,” Finrod replies, “Must you make me black and blue before you finally grace us with a smile? If that is your price, I will pay it.”

Caranthir looks about to snap something, but he’s cut off by Glorfindel, who turns to the gate amongst the hedge-wall and spots Faramir. He offers a charming smile and asks, “Did you merely come to watch, newcomer, or would you like to join the fray?”

Joining seems an unwise option—Faramir considers himself skilled, but nowhere near this level; his hands are still mortals ones. Yet he lets himself be ushered over, standing, slightly shorter, between the two. Caranthir merely continues glaring over his head, but Finrod grins warmly to him, and Glorfindel continues, “You will be Faramir, I suspect. I had heard that Boromir was the alpha, and I deem you omega. I am Glorfindel. One might consider me a lord of Imladris, and I am captain of the guard, but I offer myself humbly at your service if you should have need of anything. This is Caranthir—whom I will tell you is not so troubling as he seems—and this is Finrod Felagund, his far nicer cousin.”

Caranthir crinkles his nose at this description, and Finrod lets out another chiming laugh. The two of them, Faramir can’t quite pinpoint the designations of, but it doesn’t matter much to him—they seem to regard him no differently than each other, and he would never expect to pursue a bond with an elf.

To Faramir, Finrod asks with friendly curiosity, “Do you fight?”

“Sword and bow,” Faramir answers, before quickly adding, “But I have nowhere near the skill I have seen here.”

“I should hope not,” Glorfindel chuckles. “We have had centuries on you to practice, and some here have held a sword since before your sun and moon first arose.” Faramir looks at him in shock, having never even conceived of such a time, let alone someone who’s seen it, but Glorfindel continues right on, “But it is nothing to worry over—I have trained much of my guard myself, and I know when to stay my hand. And I am, even more so, careful never to mar beautiful omegas.”

Faramir flushes instantly, beyond shocked at the compliment. That’s an area Boromir could not assure him in, and he’d always accepted looking plain, comely at best. But Glorfindel’s face is sincere, and he reaches out to Finrod, who unsheathes and hands Glorfindel his sword.

Glorfindel passes it to Faramir, who tests the weight and doesn’t bother to run his finger along the side; he can see how polished and sharp it is. It seems unsuitable for training.

But Glorfindel seems to assume that Faramir’s skill is enough to wield it, or at least is confident enough in his own skill to prevent injury. He takes up a fighting stance, and Faramir, prepared to go all out, follows suit.

Faramir is the reason they must stop, because there comes a point where he’s sweating and panting too profusely to grip his sword properly, and Glorfindel is as pristine as when he started, utterly unfazed. Finrod remains on his bench and claps again for them, but Caranthir stands at the side of the circle, hand on his hilt, as though ready to dive in and finish off the loser. Glorfindel tells Faramir with a shining look of approval, “You have done surprisingly well, Faramir. The style of your movements reminds me of the Edain of old, though I had no chance to spar with them as often as I wished.”

“I did,” Finrod chimes. “They made for lovely allies; I was always sad to see them go.”

“You think everyone is lovely,” Caranthir snorts.

Finrod gives an innocent shrug, as though to say Caranthir’s prodding doesn’t bother him in the least, not even enough to justify with a retort. Faramir takes the moment to switch his sword to his other hand, less damp, and lifts his arm to wipe his forehead off on his sleeve. It’s not a particularly hot day, though there’s hardly any clouds, but Glorfindel’s stamina seems boundless and Faramir pursued his fight for as long as he could. As he shakes his sweat-slicked hair out of his eyes, he spies the balcony of the buildings beyond them. Leaning over the railing, far away enough to be no more than the size of Faramir’s hand, Aragorn is perched. Even from their distance, Faramir can make out a grin, and Faramir quickly looks away, his face feeling hotter. He can’t help but wonder how long Aragorn was watching and isn’t sure which he’d prefer—he fought well, he thinks, but lost at every play.

By now the three elves are into a heavy discussion on times long past, reciting names and places that fly right over Faramir’s head. He was taught of history, but the history they speak of seems to span far beyond that, and it humbles him—he doesn’t dare interrupt. Thus far, he’s enjoyed Elven company well enough, but he can’t help but feel like no more than an insect next to them, doomed to die in a fraction of a fraction of their time, never to learn more than a few decades of knowledge. He doesn’t imagine he could be with an elf, even for the minor play of two omegas or an uninterested alpha with an omega for a side-snack; the differences are too great. How Aragorn has lived among them, he can’t imagine.

He turns when footsteps come through the hedges, and indeed, it’s Aragorn, come down to tell Faramir, “Your skill is impressive.”

Faramir blushes more than he’d like and answers, bizarrely tongue-tied, “Thank you.” He pauses to allow the elves to great their peer, but they’re too caught up with one another, and it gives Faramir the opportunity to add, “I was something of a... a southern ranger, you might say. When I was permitted the freedom.” Immediately, he wishes he hadn’t said it. It sounds too much like bragging when it’s nothing to be proud of at all—he was not one of the Dúnedain, the true rangers, whose skills far surpassed his own. But Aragorn looks interested nonetheless.

He seems to consider something, then shares, “I am leaving on another hunt soon. It is peaceful in here, but darkness remains out there, and I’d been tracking a pack of wargs before I returned, which I am not proud of losing. But, I suppose, that is the price for traveling alone with no other to trade watch with for longer journeys. Perhaps you would like to join me.”

Join him on a hunt. At first, all Faramir can do is stare at Aragorn and wonder if he’s being serious. Faramir’s tie to Gondor’s steward means nothing here, and there is no reason for him to be sent on dangerous missions—if his father weren’t constantly alternating between trying to put him to use and wishing him injury, he would never have been allowed past the gates. Yet Aragorn must know what he is and seems to have no qualms about offering to trust him with Aragorn’s very life. Of course, a northern ranger would likely wake at the first sign of trouble anyway, and could likely take down a pack of wargs without any help. Or at least, that’s what Faramir’s imagined in his idolized fantasies.

He answers as calmly as he can, “I’d like that.”

“You should keep training, then,” Aragorn says, nodding to Glorfindel. “You have the honour of sparring with one of the greatest—” A blur of pale browns smudges through them, knocking Faramir a step back and Aragorn dodging just in time. Their conversation abruptly falls to the wayside, instead turning to watch a heavily muscular woman knock Caranthir straight to the ground.

Neither Glorfindel nor Finrod moves to help their companion, and Caranthir struggles vainly against her, while the woman spits at him, “You stole my boots!”

Instantly, Caranthir’s face flushes in anger, and he bites back just as hard, “They were my boots! You had no right to take them from my chambers!”

Evidently, the woman disagrees, and she aims a punch at Caranthir’s face that he jerks away from just in time, before rolling them over and trying to return the favour. She knees him off her, and they square at one another like two bears in a fury. The woman is dressed in breaches and trousers in the style of Men, her ears rounded within her yellow-brown waves, and it hits Faramir that this is another mortal, a woman, an alpha, if the wave of mingled enraged/lustful pheromones mean anything. It’s the last thing Faramir expected to find in an Elven omega haven.

The fight should end when Caranthir draws his sword, but the woman easily grabs at Glorfindel’s, and Glorfindel lets himself be disarmed, clucking with mild amusement on his face, “If you dull it, Haleth, you will be in charge of the repair.”

“I may have to,” the woman grunts back, “for surely even your steal will break when faced with Caranthir’s thick skull.”

The first blow she lunges for forces Caranthir to sidestep into Faramir, and in a heartbeat, Aragorn has his arm around Faramir’s waist, quickly drawing him back. He still holds Finrod’s sword in his hands, but Finrod hardly seems to notice and Faramir doesn’t have the time to care. He’s swept away and through the hedges, not minding in the least for the way his side brushes along Aragorn’s.

Safely beyond the hedge, Faramir looks back, unsure whether or not to be worried. Aragorn says for him, “A common occurrence, unfortunately, though they can be the best of friends at other times. Don’t fear for her—she is the best match Caranthir could find in a mortal opponent, and though he still has many years of practice on her, he would not truly hurt her. ...And even if he tried, Glorfindel and Finrod are skilled enough to keep those two hot heads from killing one another, even with only one sword between them.”

Faramir’s glad to hear it and winces as Haleth goes down, only to roll over and quickly kick Caranthir’s feet out from under him. Finrod has to jump off the bench, he and Glorfindel shuffling aside, as the two fighters tumble over one another. Somehow, their swords never seem to cut, though they both fall too close for comfort.

“You can return Finrod’s sword later—he is not as over-fond of it as the others, and I assure you he will not mind.”

It’s easy to trust Aragorn’s word. He wears his own sword, though Faramir doesn’t think it was at his waist when he was on the balcony—perhaps he came for this. He turns to gesture to another clearing across the gardens and asks, “Perhaps you will spare with me alone?”

Boromir would kill him. Well, kill Aragorn, for daring to draw Faramir aside and raise a weapon to him, but Faramir agrees, “Yes,” in a heartbeat, regretting it a moment later. He doesn’t wish to lose again but is undoubtedly sure he will; if Aragorn was raised amongst these great warriors, then surely no warrior from elsewhere, even the great city of Minas Tirith, stands a chance. Nonetheless, Faramir follows Aragorn to the next open patch of grass, saddened when Aragorn’s arm slides away from him.

If Boromir were here, he would probably urge Faramir to go back, to inquire after the woman—one so fierce would do him well in Gondor, though ferocity isn’t the primary quality Faramir would look for—fighting, for him, is a necessity, and not his greatest interest. Yet he hopes he can fight Aragorn long enough to make that golden skin glisten with sweat. Haleth was handsome, from what Faramir saw admits the ever-moving angles of the brawl, but Aragorn is infinitely more so.

They both move into position in their own enclave, Faramir slightly crouched, Aragorn a tad more elongated. Before they begin, Faramir feels obliged to mention, “I am not used to practice with sharpened swords.”

“I am,” Aragorn returns, “and I promise you will not hurt me, nor I you.” Faramir nods and wonders if, unable to cut Aragorn’s skin, he could cut Aragorn’s clothes. He wouldn’t mind running a blade across Aragorn’s chin and clearing away the dark hairs, though the scruffy look suits his rugged looks well. Then Faramir quickly withdraws from his train of thought—if he’s going to impress, he can’t be distracted.

Aragorn is still, and it allows Faramir the first move, stepping left before swinging right, attempting a trick and fully ready to stop his blade before it connects with Aragorn’s shoulder, but Aragorn’s dived away already, having guessed the feint. He makes no move against Faramir but allows the next blow, and the next, playing defense, which Faramir takes at first as frustrating and then as patronizing, and it pushes him to go harder, gritting his teeth and squaring his jaw with determination, placing equal focus in speed and strength as he dances from one move to another. Aragorn avoids them all, only to spin at once and shove a sudden hand at Faramir’s chest which sends him sprawling back. He catches himself just short of falling to the grass.

He lunges back immediately, expecting Aragorn to arch away at compensating for it when it comes true; his sword comes down only for Aragorn’s to rise and meet it, and they slide against one another at a stalemate. Aragorn’s strength seems equal to Faramir’s, until Aragorn bursts forward to knock Faramir back, going in for another stab while Faramir’s off-balance. The sword stops just shy of Faramir’s throat, and Faramir freezes instantly, head tilting back to make room. It can’t be more than a hair’s breadth away; he can feel the tip when he breathes.

He’s never been a sore loser. If anything, his interest soars—Aragorn’s talent is not impossible like the elves, but it’s still superior to anything Faramir’s seen. He knows already that there are few in Gondor who could stand against Aragorn, maybe none that could beat him. The skill to draw the blade so close to Faramir’s skin and not pierce is equally impressive. Faramir isn’t sure if it’s that or the feeling of being at Aragorn’s mercy that weaves a sliver of lust into his attention. If Aragorn is this unstoppable with a sword, what would he be like in bed?

He withdraws his sword, smiling gorgeously in the blaring sun, and says, “Most impressive.”

“I lost,” Faramir notes, already resuming his stance. The adrenaline won’t let him quit now.

“But you lost brilliantly,” Aragorn laughs. Faramir’s sure he’s grinning just as wide. He adjusts his grip and waits for Aragorn to make the telltale move of preparation.

Aragorn is the one to start this match, and Faramir’s ready for it, his senses honed, the need to please now thrumming in his veins—it’s clear that Aragorn doesn’t want the omega before him to kneel and simper, but to match him sword for sword, and Faramir wants that. He trained all his life for this. Denethor would’ve given him no training at all, sent him still out to die, but Boromir met him in the field every day and taught him as sternly as any alpha. Faramir eagerly soaked it in.

Faramir parries and dodges and dances, getting occasionally close but never landing a blow, forgetting to be careful and now assured that he doesn’t have to. He goes all out, working up a sweat again and delighting in the way Aragorn follows him, breathing hard and fighting harder. They don’t stop for little matches, and Aragorn doesn’t end it again, they just go and go, daring the other to tire first.

Faramir’s past tired when it ends, but he’s still fighting full-force, only to pause for a fraction of a second when Aragorn suddenly tosses his sword over to his other hand, throwing Faramir for a loop. He’s forced to switch mid-swing to block from a new angle, and Aragorn’s freed hand shoots out to catch Faramir’s wrist. A slight twist, not enough to hurt beyond a quick sting, ruins his grip. Aragorn darts behind Faramir, jerking his arm aside, and Faramir drops his sword in the confusion, head whirling to try and keep track of his opponent. Aragorn manages to get himself completely behind Faramir, flattening right up against his back, one hand holding Faramir’s wrist aside and the other holding the sword again at Faramir’s throat. Faramir’s breath catches, his head tilting back, cheek brushing Aragorn’s, their stubble prickling along each other’s skin. A shiver wracks through him, the battle instantly forgotten. He’s already panting for air, his tunic glued to his chest with sweat, and he can feel how damp Aragorn’s is, feel all the contours of Aragorn’s body, the strength in Aragorn’s hands, his arms. He smells delicious, and it takes everything Faramir has not to turn and wantonly inhale the musk of raw man.

“You fight well,” Aragorn purrs in his ear, voice genuine, though once again, Faramir’s been disarmed. “You’re very quick... but perhaps I can teach you to be a little faster?”

Faramir keens, breathless, “Please,” and isn’t sure he’s talking about training. He’s ridiculously turned on and trembling to press back into Aragorn’s body, to grind his rear against Aragorn’s crotch and find out if Aragorn feels the same. Even if Faramir could never be worthy of such a warrior, a lord of Elven lands, a man so captivating, he could still please. He’s tempted to arch his neck forward and let the blade slice into him, just to gain some mark of Aragorn.

But Aragorn tosses his own sword to the ground alongside Faramir’s borrowed one. Faramir closes his eyes and hopes against all sense that Aragorn won’t pull away.

He does so, but perhaps only because they’re joined by soft footsteps. Aragorn steps back, allowing Faramir to turn and look—Lindir’s coming down the path. When he sees their swords, he stops a good many steps away, calling across the clearing, “Aragorn, your horse is...” he cuts himself off and colours, as though unable to admit to anything being wrong with a lord’s horse.

Aragorn chuckles, “I am sorry, Lindir. I will go calm him again.”

Faramir has a mind to follow. He’s ensnared, even with the private moment broken, and wonders wildly if he could grab both swords and prevent Aragorn from leaving.

He’s paralyzed by Aragorn’s smile. Aragorn turns to give him a half bow and say, “It was a pleasure, Faramir.” His lips seem to caress the name, and Faramir finds himself lewdly staring at them. He wrenches his gaze back up, having not said anything in time, to see Aragorn fetch his sword and tuck it back into the sheath at his side. It was a well-made thing but didn’t seem worthy of such a man, and Faramir can’t help but wonder if he simply grabbed the nearest weapon in coming down.

As Aragorn and Lindir disappear around the corner of another hedge, Faramir fetches Finrod’s sword to return. But he waits a few minutes first to cool down, not wanting to go to others while his body burns to be touched. He wonders idly if Aragorn has found an Elven omega, and how he’ll ever compete with immaculate fighting skills and immortal beauty. He feels pathetic for even entertaining the notion. He feels like Lindir fawning over his lord and knows that Lindir wouldn’t last a day in Gondor. Denethor would eat both he and Faramir alive.

Neither Aragorn nor Boromir is at dinner, and Faramir takes a seat alone next to Finrod, as Glorfindel is at the head table with Erestor and Elrond. Faramir gets the distinct impression he could sit there if he wished, but he’s not really nobility here, barely even was at home, and is content where he is. When Caranthir and Haleth show up, they’re both covered in dirt and bruises that no one else pays any attention to, but they sit side by side and ask each other to pass different foods along in a perfectly amicable way. Finrod reaches across the table to finger-comb out the tangles that have come into Caranthir’s hair, sighing, “Oh, Moryo, what are we to do with you?” But Haleth eats her food like a wild animal and holds her messy head up high, proud as a queen. She spares barely a second look at Faramir.

Faramir eats mostly in silence, not out of shyness but contemplation and exhaustion—the sparring match is catching up with him, however little of the day it occupied. He chats here and there with Finrod, who seems all too happy to welcome him, but hasn’t much to say in return. When he’s finished dinner, he returns straight to his rooms, ready to collapse.

Boromir is already in their chambers, sitting on the floor with all their supplies spread out about him. His pack is half open and stuffed with a change of clothes, a beige tunic in his hands. When Faramir shuts the door and drifts over to him, Boromir sighs, “I am not sure which to leave and which to bring. Will you need your own clothes, or would it suit you better to be given theirs?”

Faramir doesn’t particularly care. He looks at Boromir with a new sense of dread. He knew Boromir would be leaving, of course, but hoped it wouldn’t be so soon. But then, it’s for the best—there are omegas in Gondor not as fortunate as Faramir, and they deserve someone counseling Denethor for kindness.

With a sigh, Boromir folds up the tunic and drops it on a stack outside his pack. Then he gets up on stiff legs and walks to sit on the edge of the bed, patting the space next to him. Faramir takes a step forward, then hesitates, only because he doesn’t know if he’ll still smell of the contact with Aragorn or not. He tells himself his own sweat will mask it. When he takes the seat next to Boromir, Boromir doesn’t give any unusual reaction.

“I spent the day looking about and inquiring to alphas, trying to see what goes on behind closed doors—what they plot in their depths and how they truly feel about the ripe omegas all around them. But I found nothing beyond the surface. This truly is a different place.” Boromir pauses for a moment, then drops his hand over Faramir’s against. He gives Faramir that stern, this-is-important look of his, and adds, “And I met with Aragorn for a short time. He speaks nobly, but he is hiding something, I am sure of it. You should be careful of him.”

Faramir found no such issue. At the same time, he trusts Boromir, and trusts the ability of Boromir to see things in another alpha that Faramir might miss. He offers hopefully, “But if he was raised by Lord Elrond, surely he can’t be too bad.”

He’s relieved when Boromir nods. “That is true. And I am sure we have met worse men. Still, I would ask you to be careful.”

Faramir promises, “Of course.”

Then Boromir looks at him for a long moment. There are probably more things to say, but neither brings them up. Faramir can’t bring himself to say farewell yet. Eventually, they slink to the floor and pack together.

Chapter Text

A fair few come to see Boromir off, and he’s brought more supplies and told he’s welcome back any time. He takes it all with stiff gratitude but only seems to have eyes for Faramir, who he takes by both arms.

“I will return,” he promises, “as soon as I deem it safe, I will come for you myself.” Faramir nods and knows it; no messenger will do. He clings to Boromir’s elbows, Boromir’s clasped to his, forearms aligned. It’s like clutching the edges of a security blanket he’s draped himself in since infancy, and he hasn’t the will to let go.

“I hate to leave you,” Boromir murmurs, and this is just for Faramir, though neither can know the true reach of Elven ears. Aragorn stands back with Elrond. Glorfindel, Erestor, and Lindir all come to see a noble’s departure. Then Boromir releases Faramir’s arms and cups Faramir’s face in his hands. He gently thumbs Faramir’s cheeks, so tender despite their audience, and leans forward to press his lips to Faramir’s forehead in the custom of their people. Faramir’s eyes flutter down, body savouring the touch—he’ll miss this, this safety, this comfort, this unconditional love which no one else has ever given him. He wants to demand that Boromir stay, but he knows it isn’t right—there are others in Gondor that need him in charge. Faramir says nothing, because he doesn’t trust himself to speak. He’s sure Boromir understands. “Good bye, little brother.”

Boromir lets go, his presence withdrawing and leaving numbness in its wake. He steps back and swings up onto his horse, sparing one last, long look. Then he clips the horse’s sides, and it takes off across the platform and up into the mountain trail, leaving Faramir alpha-less, alone at sea.

The elves are too much for him. There’s nothing bad about them, but he doesn’t quite fit with them, and so he comes to sit beside Haleth, pleased when Aragorn joins him at his other side. They say nothing of Boromir’s departure, though Faramir is sure he looks to be taking it harder than he should. But Aragorn can’t understand, can’t know, what Boromir’s meant to him. Haleth spares him a single frown and then dismisses him again—she doesn’t look like she has any use for moping omegas.

Finrod passes him a basket of bread rolls and asks, “Have you tried these?” Faramir takes one and tries to smile politely. Finrod’s smile is dazzling in return. The bread is inordinately fluffy and tastes strangely sweet—honey-flavoured, he thinks. By the time the basket circles their table and comes back around, there’s only one bun left, and Caranthir puts it on his plate, only for Haleth to snatch it off and bite into it before he can protest. Faramir shuffles his chair closer to Aragorn, just in case, but Caranthir only glares daggers. Aragorn is quiet and pensive and doesn’t look over.

Faramir finishes breakfast before most, finding that he hasn’t the stomach to eat much. The next trouble is that once he leaves the hall, he isn’t sure where to go. He isn’t sure what to do. There are no orders from his lord, no guards to assemble, no reports to give or take. There’s only a sprawl of beautiful gardens, water, and sky that he should enjoy but feels too awkward to. He stands just beyond the steps and wonders if every day will be like this, empty and strange, until Boromir’s return.

“A good sky today,” Faramir’s told, and he turns to look over his shoulder. Aragorn comes down the steps and gestures up, bidding Faramir to follow. It’s a perfect blue, utterly cloudless. Hopefully Boromir will have such weather on his journey. When Faramir nods his agreement, Aragorn asks, “Would you like to spar again?”

Faramir looks over. He surprises himself with his own smile. He feels compelled to say that Aragorn must have better things to do than entertain the newest arrivals, but his face is too genuine for Faramir to write off.

Given the chance, he might like to do other things with Aragorn, but it’s easier to say, “Yes.”

The return to Faramir’s quarters together, chatting idly about little things, memories of Gondor—only fleeting snippets of being the steward’s son, nothing of substance, which Aragorn doesn’t pursue when Faramir says more than he means and withdraws—and details of Rivendell, more so than Faramir would think, but the conversation runs away with him. “You will note that the doors do not lock, unless you have one specially made,” Aragorn says as they slip through Faramir’s. “That is how safe your new home is.”

The word ‘home’ makes Faramir’s stomach clench, but he says nothing of it. His sword is sheathed atop the writing desk, and Aragorn waits patiently while Faramir clips it to his belt. When it’s in place, Aragorn asks, “May I?”

Faramir isn’t entirely sure what that means, bit he nods anyway. Aragorn takes a step closer, bringing them toe-to-toe, and drops his hand to Faramir’s hilt. He draws the sword out in a clean, easy motion despite the difficult angle, and it brings it between them to examine in the early light. His fingers trace the flat side, though there’s nothing there of interest. Every time Faramir draws it, he expects it to come out with rust. Aragorn kindly doesn’t say what they both must know—this was not forged by anyone of skill.

“It’s the curse of being the little brother,” Faramir says to try and save it, fighting back a blush and knowing this is half a lie. “I always got the hand-me-downs.”

“Your lord gave this to Boromir, once?” Aragorn asks, lifting his head. Faramir shakes his. Boromir is always given the best. Aragorn frowns but doesn’t say anything—there’s nothing that can be said that Faramir doesn’t already know.

Aragorn slips the sword back into Faramir’s sheath with less care than he pulled it out, and then bluntly tells Faramir, “We have some blacksmiths here you should see. The Rivendell forges are not what they once were, I’m told, but there are many of considerable talent, and Celebrimbor would make you a sword worthy of your skill.”

Faramir’s flush is growing, but he only says, “My skill is only average, and for that I am well equipped.”

“You give yourself too little credit.”

Faramir doesn’t answer, only because he’s had similar conversations with Boromir, and repeating what he really thinks will only draw out the argument. He’s not sure how he feels about finding the same words from another man—he always wished to find another who would treat him as Boromir does, but he has no wish to be humored and it almost makes him uncomfortable to hear what he knows can’t be true from a man that owes him nothing. He doesn’t know what to say to steer the conversation back to something he can handle.

With a sigh, Aragorn steps back towards the door. “It would be wrong of me to use my own sword, sharp enough to cut in two a single hair, against a dulled blade. I will fetch a practice sword.”

Faramir wishes that he’d done that too and saved himself the embarrassment of showing Aragorn what his lord, his own father, thinks of his worth. If his own father can’t think him worthy of a fight, he has no idea why Aragorn would. Aragorn leads them back out into the hallway, Faramir’s sword feeling unusually heavy at his side.

They spar in a new clearing, and the rush of it sweeps all his troubles away.

There is no room for worry when dueling Aragorn—he has to be quick, assertive, instinctive. There’s no room to second-guess his movements. He tries to keep his mind clear, but a larger distraction comes in the form of Aragorn himself: he’s irresistible when fighting.

He’s slower to sweat than Faramir, but does it eventually. He wears dark trousers, high boots, and a brown tunic that unbuttons half down his chest, revealing bare, sun-kissed skin set to gleam the harder Faramir works it. Each time Aragorn breathes too deeply, the movement of his chest catches Faramir’s eye, and it becomes more and more difficult to keep the determination in his steps. He wants to win, to impress. But even more so, he wants to surrender, to have Aragorn beat him with virile force and bend him back into the grass, take him right against the dirt. It becomes more than looks with each passing moment—there’s a degree of respect in Aragorn’s eyes that Faramir almost doesn’t recognize; he so rarely sees it. It’s intoxicating. Aragorn looks at him like an equal, treats him like an equal, and mutters encouragements between each play—“That was well played,” “A strong blow,” “A wise move,” “Another of those and you will have me.” The rush of them sets Faramir’s body on fire—he thrives and burns under the praise.

Aragorn has his own talent. Even if he were cruel and distant, Faramir would likely still desire him—he moves with a speed, a strength, and a grace Faramir’s never seen in another mortal warrior. His sheer presence is so powerful that Faramir sways with it and has to keep himself moving to hide the tremors Aragorn’s mere company gives him. The smell of Aragorn becomes more pungent the longer they go on, enflamed by sweat, both on the basic level of the sense and the deeper one, the omega thirst that drinks in the pheromones of one that could take him. Simply drawing swords with Aragorn is more fulfilling than the full-on sex of heat has been for him in the past. There comes a time where Faramir wonders, fears, if he’s come to another heat. It doesn’t seem possible so soon, but he yearns for Aragorn’s touch almost beyond his control, and it makes him stumble to a stop, Aragorn’s sword pausing at his chest.

Faramir stares at Aragorn, panting and terrified. He doesn’t know what he’d do here if heat did take him; he couldn’t have Aragorn, surely, and he doubts any elf would want him. He would have to die of agony in his own bed and the elves would tsk over his body in the morning and wonder why he bothered to ride here at all.

Aragorn straightens, sword falling aside, and asks, “Are you well, Faramir?” Concern is all over his face, though they’ve only recently met and Faramir can’t mean much to him. Faramir gives a shy nod and brings his hand up to mop at his forehead.

He mumbles, “Just the heat,” and hates that he’s lied again. It isn’t so hot, but Aragorn sheathes his sword nonetheless. Faramir forces himself to turn and retreats to the stone bench at the edge of the grass.

He drops his sword to the ground with little care for it and brings his face into his hands, running nervous fingers back through his hair. He doesn’t dare look up, at Aragorn’s handsome face or alluring chest. He counts to ten in his mind and is childishly pleased to remember all the numbers. He conjures other images and wonders—is he so far fallen as to want them? He pictures Lord Elrond in his mind, a kind alpha who can clearly please an omega, and finds no desire for him. Faramir runs through vague ideas of fucking Lindir over the breakfast table, of kneeling between Haleth’s legs, of riding Caranthir’s cock and taking Finrod in his mouth, of climbing into Glorfindel’s bed. A few bring faint stirrings of interest, all easily crushed. Not a heat, then. He breathes a sigh of relief and realizes that Aragorn’s come to sit beside him, their hands almost touching along the bench.

He wants Aragorn. Badly. But he can control it, and he masks his worry with a weak smile, noting, “You are unbeatable, Aragorn. Perhaps you are the one that should be captain of Rivendell’s guard.”

Aragorn grins, and Faramir gets the distinct impression that it’s more so for Faramir’s recovery than for the comment. “Thank you, my friend. But even I am no match for Glorfindel.”

My friend. Is that what they’ve become, so shortly? Faramir will take it. Aragorn looks out across the low hedge that surrounds them and says, “Perhaps that is enough for today—you and I seem to have a difficult remembering to break when we face one another. There are other things here to do, though it may seem otherwise. Crafts to be made, books to read, minstrels to enjoy. And I must take you to the forge, it seems, although first I would give you another tour, if you would have it. Lindir is an excellent guide, but he would have shown you things from an Elven perspective, and we are not elves.”

“Thank you,” Faramir answers, and again finds himself brightening, prodded along by Aragorn’s ease. He would gladly take a tour today, and tries to prolong their involvement by suggesting, “Perhaps the forge tomorrow?”

“I had meant to resume my hunt tomorrow. Your blade should suffice for wargs, though I would have it changed before we ride any further and face the threat of orcs. Will you still ride with me?”

It’s still odd to be asked. Faramir hesitates in his answer, not because he doesn’t want to go but because he needs that moment to both soak it in and offer Aragorn to rethink the statement. But Aragorn only adds softly, “I could use your sword, I think, and someone to share the journey with.”

Faramir’s heart is racing. His head fills with wild thoughts of going far beyond a pack of wargs, of running clean away from the woes of Gondor and the magic of elves and simply traveling together. There must be dozens of places that Aragorn, truly free and able to ride alone, must’ve seen that Faramir never will. He returns, “I would be honoured.” And means it.

Hands are grabbing at him from men whose faces he doesn’t know. He screams for them to stop, but the word won’t leave his lips, and he knows they won’t listen to him—he’s no lord here. They rip at his clothes, push him down, and his skin’s aflame, he needs help, isn’t sure what kind, surely not this kind but has no control, and in the distance, a familiar voice is laughing, while another calls his name—

Faramir wrenches up in bed with a spasm of pain, breath constricting. When he lands back down in his pillow, he’s gasping for air. His skin’s beaded with sweat, the sheets stuck to him, the blankets kicked off in the throes of his dream. He can remember it all. It’s a common nightmare, easy to know when awake because there’s nothing original to it—he’s heard it all before from his father’s mouth. Some nights he’s in bed when the guards come for him, others he starts in the dungeons, chained to a wall for ‘Gondor’s protection.’ It always shames him when he wakes. He told Boromir, once: the only person he could trust to not judge him and to never tell another soul. Boromir never had the same nightmares—it was an omega dream, he said. But not all omegas have fathers that fill their heads with such imagery.

A few shaky moments, and he combs his hair back from his face and pushes away the damp sheets. His throat’s gone dry from it. He feels like he’s left with the bruises, and against the moonlight through the balcony, he checks beneath his nightshirt. His skin’s unblemished, save for the pale sliver of an old scar. Rubbing at his eyes wakes him but dispels none of the dirt.

He downs what’s left of the water in his room, pouring more from the waiting pitcher and taking that too, but he’s still thirsty, still rasping. He feels like a mess and wishes he had Boromir’s chambers to sneak into. He wishes he had Boromir asleep beside his bed. But there’s no one here with waiting arms, and no one else he would shame himself by going to. Then he feels another awful pang—if he means to go with Aragorn tomorrow, what if Aragorn, up on watch, sees him toss and turn and cry out with the dreams? Or worse, moan and give into them. Somehow, when he pictures Aragorn’s wise face, he can’t imagine it twisted in malice. Aragorn won’t berate him, he’s sure. Pity him, perhaps. That might be worse. Aragorn’s body is hardly any larger than his own, but the thought of Aragorn’s arms is nonetheless a comforting one. He’s a mess in more than just looks and shakes out ever last drop from the pitcher.

He knows where the kitchens are, both from Lindir and Aragorn. All the cooks were elves, and Faramir can’t help but think that they must all know Aragorn, must all have seen him grow, perhaps even saw him sneak down there as a child to pull cookies out of jars. Faramir only ever did that once, and then his father bolted him in his room at night, and he cried until Boromir came to pick the lock and slip stolen cookies into Faramir’s hands.

One night without Boromir, and he’s a ruin. He feels more pathetic than ever. They’ve been apart before, plenty of times, sent to different places at the whims of their father, but then Faramir always knew they’d return to each other shortly. It could take years for their father to retire and Boromir to take up stewardship enough to ensure Faramir’s safety. It could take decades. And he’ll be here, alive but alone.

He needs more water. He’s not sure he’ll be able to go back to sleep. Maybe he’ll just stay up and compose a letter, but he needs a walk to clear his head and give his sheets time to dry. He briefly considers changing but imagines it’s too late for anyone else to be up, and it shouldn’t matter what he wears in a house of healing so accepting as this. It isn’t like he has anyone, such as his own ever-disapproving-father, to impress.

He still slips into sandals and pads down the hall as quietly as he can, pitcher in one hand. All the doors he passes are shut, all the halls quiet, though there are enough open walls and windows in Rivendell to let in the outside noises: the river, the occasional bird, a cricket here and cicada there. Everywhere he goes, there’s enough starlight to find his trail, and he winds down one corridor after the other.

The kitchen is empty save for one redheaded elf hunched over a sink, scrubbing at dishes. When Faramir smiles in greeting and lifts his pitcher, the elf dries her hands and comes right over to take it from him. As she fills it from a large barrel in the corner, she asks, “Tea?”

Faramir answers, “No, thank you,” half because he doesn’t want it and half because the thought of foreign herbs is troubling—he’s heard plenty of stories of heats triggered early. The elf returns his filled pitcher without a word and returns to scrubbing.

The walk back is a slower one, the pitcher now heavy in his hands and his purpose gone. His body’s cooling, and most of the dream’s faded, but a few images still remain, and mostly the feeling of it, of complete helplessness. Of fear, of shame. He slows to a halt and shuts his eyes, halfway down a narrow corridor lined in tall windows, and summons a different memory: a real heat, with guards he trusted and didn’t mind. It didn’t hurt, didn’t feel dirty. He tries to let that replace the thought of a forced one in his father’s dungeons, but the illusion’s ruined by the fact that his father would think them no different from one another.


He nearly jumps at his own name, and some of the water sloshes over his arm. He curses at his own stupidity and holds the pitcher tighter, turning half a step to see Aragorn coming down the corridor. He wears the same clothes as earlier, but now the laces of his tunic are untied, and it hangs open down his chest like a parted robe. Faramir has to force himself to keep his eyes up, to ignore the way the white-blue moonlight slips along his taut muscles and the dark sprinkling of hair, grown thicker just above his belt. He walks closer with nearly silent footsteps, though if Faramir’s memory is correct, none of the rooms on their right are private chambers. Aragorn says as he approaches, “It is late to be up.”

“It is,” Faramir answers, before stumbling over the rest. A minute off, he looks down at the pitcher and explains, “I ran out of water.”

Aragorn nods. “I was admiring the stars.” There’s a pause, wherein Faramir fights to keep himself from asking if he could join Aragorn for that, and then Aragorn tilts his head and drops his gaze, examining Faramir from the feet up. Faramir tries to stand rigid, to not shrink away, though he knows he looks a wreck. Aragorn’s conclusion is a frown and a quiet, “Are you well?”

“Yes. I simply had a... a nightmare.” He immediately wishes he hadn’t said it. He doesn’t want to elaborate. Aragorn waits for a moment as though expecting that.

But fortunately, Aragorn moves on when it’s clear that’s not coming. He gestures down the corridor and says, “I was headed past your quarters. May I walk with you there?”

There’s no room for Faramir to say no. He nods and turns, Aragorn stepping up to his side, but Faramir’s pace is slower for it, and Aragorn, strangely, matches him. It isn’t until they’ve hit the next set of stairs that Aragorn asks, “Would you like to speak of it? That helps, sometimes, if the feeling of the dream is lingering.”

It is, but Faramir still sighs, “It was nothing so terrible, just...” He trails off, not having an alternative description. So he settles on: “Just struggles from home.”

“May Rivendell give you no such trouble,” Aragorn says, to which Faramir smiles. He imagines it’d be difficult to stage a nightmare here, although perhaps he might fear being caught between Caranthir and Haleth in the midst of a swordfight.

He admits softly, “Everyone here has been kind to me.”

“And those in Gondor were not.”

Faramir winces. It isn’t exactly that. “I do not mean to be dramatic; there were many who liked me.”

“But someone important who did not,” Aragorn perceptibly surmises, just as they reach Faramir’s door. Both halt around it, and he adds, his face now serious, “Boromir did well to bring you here.”

Faramir wants to say he brought himself here, but in truth, it was Boromir’s idea and by Boromir’s leave that he did. There’s nothing else to say; Aragorn seems to know that he’s right on all accounts without Faramir’s confirmation. It seems a natural place to end their conversation, but Faramir doesn’t want it to be over yet, doesn’t want to see Aragorn go. He thinks if it had been Aragorn’s hands in his dream, he wouldn’t have recoiled so.

In lieu of asking Aragorn inside, Faramir licks his dry lips and asks the one question he doesn’t want to know the answer for, “Do... do you have omegas here?”

“Plural?” Aragorn says, then chuckles lightly, shaking his head. “No, no. I have yet to meet one I would burden with my mess, let alone more.”

Aragorn doesn’t seem a mess at all, but confident and sure, wise and almost regal in some ways, though he hides it in his humble nonchalance. Faramir counters, “I can’t imagine why. You are handsome and strong, and a wealth of other things, and I think this after knowing you a few days. You would have everyone pining after you in Gondor.”

“But we are not in Gondor,” Aragorn returns, wearing a sad smile, “though I thank you for your kind words. We are in a place of immortal beauty with a people who are my family in my heart, but not my own. I prefer the mortal lot.” And that almost makes Faramir fool enough to think he has a chance.

Interesting, though, that Aragorn could be free. He waits a moment more, during which Faramir thinks desperately of things to say that will keep his attention, but nothing comes. Then Aragorn steps forward, only the water pitcher keeping them from being flush together, and he brings his hands to Faramir’s face, cupping his cheeks as Boromir did.

The touch is like fire, and Faramir is overcome with it, entranced already. Aragorn uses the grip to tilt Faramir forward and leans over to press a chaste kiss to his forehead in the style of Faramir’s home. It’s a common parting, but in this instance, it strikes Faramir as still a kiss, and it makes his heart thunder in his chest.

Then Aragorn’s withdrawing to say, “Good night, Faramir, son of Gondor. May you have better dreams.”

Faramir murmurs, “Good night, Aragorn,” and wish he knew more to tack onto the end. Aragorn bows his exit, and Faramir, rooted to the spot, watches him go.

Only when Aragorn has rounded the corner and Faramir’s regained his breath does he let himself inside. He drinks another full glass, but it’s not enough to put out the flame that Aragorn set inside him. He knows he’s fallen fast and hard.

He doesn’t have the wherewithal now to write a letter. He climbs back onto the bed, pulls the sheets and blankets around him, shuts his eyes, and tries to sleep.

A few minutes later, he gives up and pictures it, what he wants, entertains a horrid fantasy of Aragorn kissing him lower, caressing his face and scooping up the rest of his body before ushering him insider. He pictures lying in this very bed with Aragorn atop him and wonders what it would feel like to be crushed under that weight. He fantasizes about being Aragorn’s, but it slips away as fast as it came because he knows it could never happen.

He imagines, instead, the only possibility: Aragorn riding to Gondor, meeting Boromir in the white city, coming back to Boromir’s chambers and standing before the steward: finally, a worthy suitor for his son. Aragorn would need to be cleaned up, but dressed in the right armour, embroidered with the white tree, he could look like a king. He could be Boromir’s king. They would secure their rule, find other omegas to sire children with, and then, their legacy set, send a rider for Faramir.

And perhaps Faramir, if he were lucky, could pleasure his brother’s partner on the side. When Boromir was out on campaign, guiding and guarding his great lands, Faramir could takes his brother’s place in Aragorn’s bed and offer a poor substitute. Surely Aragorn and Boromir would have a sizeable collection of omegas to play with when they so ordained, and though Boromir would protest, Faramir could beg endlessly, and eventually, Boromir would give in like he always has. And then Aragorn could guide Faramir into the chains his father kept ready, and Faramir would cry in ecstasy over being claimed on the hard stone floor.

It doesn’t seem like Aragorn; if he were to be rough, it would be in the wild—but Faramir can’t dispel the idea of his father’s words, of being bound and bent over a wooden bench, face muzzled to stifle his screams, while Aragorn clutched his hips and pounded into him, breathing Boromir’s name. There would come a point where Faramir wouldn’t even care. He would accept it, would happily settle into second place if only for this. It would be worth it to feel Aragorn inside him, to feel Aragorn’s hands running down his body, perhaps, if he were very, very lucky, even feel Aragorn’s lips against his own. He would kneel between Aragorn’s legs whenever he could, play Aragorn’s footstool whenever he could, and it wouldn’t matter what snide remarks Denethor made as Faramir sat beneath Aragorn’s feet at the dinner table—because, in that small capacity, he would be Aragorn’s.

Faramir clamps his hand around his mouth. The other he presses to his cock, slicked with sweat, kneading it through his trousers, and rolls to burry his face in the pillow, his hips humping his palm and the mattress. He strokes himself to the thought of kneeling before the throne in the great hall, swearing his allegiance, only to wait for Boromir’s leave—something he’s always hated—and then to wait for Aragorn to come down the steps and impale him.

He’d be loyal, then, he tells himself, and that’s half the thrill of the fantasy—he could never please Denethor, but he’d please Aragorn, please Boromir by filling in, keeping Boromir’s partner happy. He’d do everything for Aragorn. There would be nothing that Aragorn couldn’t do to him. He would wait at Aragorn’s chair or bed or the dungeons and eagerly lick his boots, suck his cock, get on all fours with spread legs and beg to be fucked like a dog. He squeezes his own cock and wonders what Aragorn’s looks like, if Aragorn even has one, what Aragorn’s chest looked like today when it was exposed, what his hands would feel like in other places—what they felt like on Faramir’s body—Faramir can’t take it—he screams into his hand and comes harder than he ever has from his own hand. As he milks it out, his head fills with the sadder images: the aftermath: Boromir coming home and taking Aragorn away, and Faramir alone: a filthy omega, left in the dungeons, in a puddle of other’s cum and his own pathetic needs.

It takes a few minutes to come down, panting into the pillow and pushing too-thick blankets off. The fog in his head slowly dissipates, only to be replaced with self-loathing.

He can’t even be Aragorn’s in his own head. It’s ridiculous. It’s a fantasy—he didn’t need it to make sense, and yet he does, because his father’s ruined him, and now there’s no joy he can hold.

Some nights, he hates his father. Most nights, he doesn’t have the energy to. This is one of those. He falls asleep in a spiral of confusing, bitter thoughts and a dull pounding his head. He doesn’t know how he’ll survive until Boromir returns; he’s his own worst enemy.

Chapter Text

They pack after breakfast, though Aragorn tells him, “I don’t expect it to be long—scouts have seen the pack not far from here, which is just as well; your stay is young, and I would not have you yet go too far out alone.”

Faramir isn’t alone, but he understands. He knows Aragorn doesn’t mean it because Faramir’s just an omega, because if that were the case, Faramir wouldn’t be invited at all. A small part of him still hears it that way—more a hindrance than companion. He reminds himself of other things; he doesn’t yet know the lands, nor is he well enough equipped for lengthy combat. He nods and finishes rolling up the blanket he’ll use for a makeshift cot.

Lindir joins them in the courtyard bearing food—a bundle of nuts, an orange, and several leafs of some exotic way bread that Faramir’s never had before. It seems a strange meal to him, but then, he didn’t know what to expect from his new hosts. As they tuck the food away, Lindir folds his delicate hands over his front and tells them with a worried look, “Please do be careful.”

“We are not going far or long, Lindir,” Aragorn answers with a small smile, “And we are both trained with a sword. They are only wargs. We’ll be fine.”

Lindir wrinkles his nose, and Faramir has to wonder if such a peaceful creature has ever even seen a warg, or if he only has terrifying tales to go off of. The real thing is no less hideous than the stories, but they’re only marginally intelligent creatures, and Faramir’s as confident as Aragorn in their survival.

Lindir doesn’t look so sure and insists, “Exercise caution nonetheless—Elrond would be devastated if anything were to happen to you.”

Here Aragorn laughs, asking while Lindir blushes, “Is that what you’re so worried about? And here I thought you were genuinely concerned for me!”

“I—” Lindir splutters, but he doesn’t correct the statement, only turns redder. Faramir’s sure he meant both but still finds it as amusing as Aragorn.

Aragorn’s the first to rise from their bench, swinging his pack over one shoulder. He claps Lindir’s shoulder with one hand and teases, “I am happy that you are happy, my dear omega, but you might be a little too in love with that alpha of yours.”

Lindir gives Aragorn a confused look and doubtless doesn’t think such a thing is possible. Aragorn’s already sweeping past him, and Faramir ducks his head in parting to Lindir and follows.

The plains about Imladris are beautiful, interspersed with hills and rock but mostly sheer green, so much more vibrant than Faramir is used to. He keeps up with Aragorn at a swift pace, his horse seeming to have no trouble for it. He brought this animal from Gondor, yet it feels renewed and grown now, as though its brief stay with the elves gave it new life. Aragorn’s horse looks like it was born to run, a darker brown than Faramir’s with a patch of white atop its forehead, and Faramir’s steed seems eager to keep up with it, even when Faramir gives no guidance of his own.

The ride is a peaceful thing. Aragorn’s spoken of dangers in the wild, but Faramir sees none of it. He has his sword at his hip and a bow at his back just in case, Aragorn only with a sword but likely just as deadly. Far past the sight of Rivendell and the river, the only sounds are those of birds and the thunder of hooves on the ground. Over the wind, Aragorn calls to him, “You ride like the Rohirrim.”

It’s certainly a compliment, though Faramir doesn’t think it’s a valid one. He catches himself looking back to Aragorn in surprise. Aragorn falls back, still marginally in the lead—he seems to know exactly which direction to head in despite no trail that Faramir can see—but enough for them to talk. Faramir’s horse neighs happily at the companionship and tosses its head, the pale hair whipping about, and bolts to try and match its peer’s pace.

“Thank you,” Faramir calls back, when the shock’s subsided and he’s assured himself that Aragorn means it genuinely. “In truth, I have little practice.”

“Gondor does not send its rangers out on horseback any longer?”

Faramir hesitates. The steady thrum of his horse’s body is both familiar and pleasant, though he’s never ridden this fast this long before. He finally confesses, “My father did not like me to ride if I could help it, though when I was with Boromir, he always secured a saddle for me.”

Aragorn frowns deeply at this, the first he’s done since they left—he was in a good mood from the minute his horse was brought to him. Seeing Aragorn pet the animal’s muzzle and whisper lovingly to it in Elvish was both a touching and reassuring sight. The animal looked quite pleased to greet him and seems delighted now to carry Aragorn’s weight across the plain. Perhaps Aragorn is waiting for some explanation, because it takes him a moment to ask, “Why?”

More hesitation, but Faramir’s already said more than he should and feels compelled to keep nothing from Aragorn. “He... did not think omegas had any business trying to dominate anything, even an animal.”

A flash of something comes over Aragorn’s eyes—something almost frightening, and Faramir looks away, eyeing, instead, the land before them, though his horse no longer seems to need any guidance as it follows Aragorn’s.

“That is a foolish notion,” Aragorn grates out, and even with the stretch to speak it over the wind, Faramir can hear the anger in it. “First because a horse is more than a witless beast to be dominated, and second because an omega is as capable as any.”

Naturally, Faramir agrees, but says nothing and doesn’t look over again; he’s done enough, and Aragorn’s response is stirring something in him again. He can’t help but wonder how his life would’ve been if someone like Aragorn were in charge of Gondor instead of his father. He watches the approaching hill before him and tries to simply enjoy the ride again, until Aragorn calls, “Faramir.”

So Faramir looks over, only to meet Aragorn’s steady gaze. He’s held captive in it and firmly told, “You do well in this, like you do in many things. Do not believe otherwise.”

Faramir gulps and processes it something like a command, though he’s not sure it’s one he can follow. He says some garbled form of confirmation he barely hears and doubts Aragorn will catch but isn’t sure enough to repeat it. His heart’s racing.

Aragorn looks forward again, but the sternness doesn’t leave his face. Faramir has to fight himself not to take advantage and inadvertently stare. As they ascend the hill, Aragorn slows his horse, and Faramir wordlessly follows.

They halt by the top of it, trotting minutely forward and staring out at the horizon. Faramir sees nothing beyond the impressive landscape, but Aragorn dismounts in one quick movement, strolling out a few steps before kneeling to the ground. What he sees, Faramir doesn’t know. Then he presses his ear to the ground, and Faramir’s fascinated, having heard rumours of such skills but never having learned them himself. Aragorn is still for a minute, then straightens back up to his feet and nods west. “They are not far,” he says, and Faramir, despite any concrete proof, believes him.

As they spur their horses back down to the west, Faramir is quiet, until sometime later when he can’t keep it in anymore, and he asks, “Is that a skill you could teach?”

“I cannot give you my eyes or my ears,” Aragorn returns, looking over at Faramir with a pleased smile that makes Faramir’s heart flip. “But I could teach you some measure of it, yes. Perhaps on the next trip.”

The next trip. Faramir is too warmed by that knowledge and doesn’t trust himself to answer. He enjoys every moment of the ride.

They come upon the wargs nearly at nightfall, something which Faramir would’ve delayed if he had the choice—there’s still enough to see by, but barely, and doubtless the wargs will have better vision than them in the dark. But there is no choice; the pack bursts out from under hills and around rocks in the uneven terrain as though plotting an ambush. The few Faramir had slew before never seemed that intelligent—at least, not compared to the greater enemies that seemed to steadily trickle out of Mordor—but these he has his doubts on. Faramir’s horse gives a startled cry at the first one that bursts before him, but Aragorn shouts something to his that has it darting out to circle around. Faramir tries to follow the idea and ride the other way, trying to trap the wargs between them instead of the other way around. He unsheathes his sword instantly, though he’s unused to horseback combat, and tightens his grip on the reigns. The bow might be better for this, but he doesn’t trust himself to have no hands steering.

The first warg that mounts a jutting rock is the first to fall; Faramir slashes across its back while it howls at Aragorn, and the creature topples to the grown in a bloody snarl. The next Faramir has to fall too low in his saddle for comfort to reach, and he just barely manages to deflect its teeth with his blade and catch it along the side. Then a third leaps out before his horse, gnashing its teeth and pawing at the ground, and Faramir’s horse rears with a terrorized whine. Faramir tries to clutch at the rains, but something heavy hits him from the side, and he’s thrown clear to the ground, rolling across the dirt with the thing that hit him—a great, hulking beast whose claws barely misses his sides. Faramir manages to shoot to his feet and fell it before it can finish him, but the movement gives him a cry of pain—his back is pounding from the fall. He’s uncut, he thinks, but scraped and bruised and strained for it, and his breath is choked in a sudden struggle to breathe, but there’s no time for that. Another warg leaps from a nearby rock, and Faramir dives away just in time to save his arm from its jaw. The warg lands facing forward and bolts after Faramir’s horse. Sheer instinct and adrenaline propel Faramir’s hands to his bow, and he’s shot the warg before it makes its target, though it doesn’t fall, just slows, and Faramir has to fill it with two more before it totters over. He doesn’t want to risk a fourth arrow—his mind quickly calculates how many; he grabbed a set from the training yard that only bore ten, which only leaves him seven, and Aragorn had spoken of a dozen wargs, and he’s only hit four, not all of which he saw die. Eight live.

It reminds him to look for Aragorn, though it isn’t like his captaincy where he’s responsible for his companions and he’s sure Aragorn will fare better than himself. He finds that Aragorn’s horse is also gone, Aragorn himself standing before a heap of torn bodies with one warg on either side, a sword in his hand and a dagger in the other, eyes darting between both, unable to make a move while both sides are covered.

While Aragorn watches, poised to go, a third warg races across the path of trampled grass, teeth bared and claws ready as it does a final leap. Aragorn is still focused on the other two but must hear it, though there’s little chance he’ll turn in time to stop it and recover well enough to fight the other two.

Faramir has another arrow at his bow in a heartbeat and looses it to shoot for the creature’s shoulder. It’s hit and slammed aside by the force, stumbling on the one now-useless leg, snarling at Aragorn, but Faramir sends another arrow straight for its brain, and that blow finishes it; it slumps to the floor. That leaves Aragorn deflecting bone with steel as the two others jump at him, and Faramir, unwilling to shoot again with Aragorn in the fray, darts forward. He has his bow back over his shoulder and his sword out by the time he reaches them, though the quick movements are agony to his back. The first warg he reaches is so distracted with Aragorn that it’s easy to slay, though it turns at the last minute, even with Faramir’s sword slicing through its back. By the time he has the beast completely down, Aragorn has killed the other one, turning, panting, to eye Faramir with an exhilarated look on his face.

Faramir is just as breathless, if not more. He keeps his blood-soaked sword ready, half surprised it hasn’t snapped under the strain, and looks around, expecting. Aragorn does the same for a moment, then sheaths his sword and nods for Faramir to do the same.

They walk amongst the carcasses, occasionally putting an end to twitching remains, and do a count. In between seven and eight, Faramir notes, his breath having come back to him though his pain’s still there, “Our horses...”

“Brego will return,” Aragorn assures him, “and bring yours with it.”

They count twelve in all. It’s strange for Faramir to realize that he and only one other managed that, though it was their goal, and it strikes him again how confident Aragorn must have been in his skills. If they were in Gondor, he would suspect that Aragorn had been told he was expendable, but it doesn’t seem likely in Rivendell, and surely Aragorn wouldn’t have intentionally ridden against twelve dark creatures with known dead weight.

Faramir does note, “There could still be more.”

“There could,” Aragorn acknowledges, “but Elven scouts are not to be taken lightly, and I deem from my own tracks this was right. Still, we will take turns on watch tonight and make sure none are left to trouble anyone.” Turning to Faramir, he reaches out to clasp Faramir’s shoulder, squeezing and lingering, the touch sparking interest in Faramir even through the thick fabric of his tunic, and adds, “You fought well, my friend.” The ‘friend’ word twists his stomach again, but Faramir smiles, basking in the approval and pride on Aragorn’s handsome features.

Sure enough, their horses do return, Aragorn’s gently shooing Faramir’s, which somehow looks bashful, thought it must be Faramir’s imagination. He greets the animal away from the carnage, Aragorn pausing to soothe and stroke his. The horse nuzzles into Aragorn’s face and sniffs at his hair, which is far too sweet for Faramir to look at long. As he moves to mount his horse, Aragorn tells him, “We should go a little farther—there is a stream close by where the horses can drink and there is softer land to sleep on. We may as well let them rest and wait until tomorrow’s light to return.”

Faramir’s more than willing to prolong his one-on-one time with Aragorn, though his back screams at him for a soft bed. It was a quick battle, but he took a hard fall, and his body isn’t pleased for it. When Aragorn’s atop his horse, he looks down the length of Faramir’s body. With a frown, he notes, “Forgive me, I should have asked immediately when the danger had passed. I saw you hit the ground none too gently; are you injured?”

Because Aragorn seems to think Faramir such a capable fighter, he wants to say he’s utterly fine. But when he looks at Aragorn’s face, he loses all ability to lie. So he admits, “Sore, but I will live.”

“We could rest here,” Aragorn suggests, “and spare you the strain.”

Faramir looks out at the closest body of a warg, the grey-brown fur crusted red around a gaping wound at its side. They smell terrible but will likely smell far worse as they rot. He decides, “No, let us go on.”

Aragorn promises, “It is not far,” and leads them off.

They sit under the first stars and pick at their rations while the horses clomp about the stream. The way bread is a strange texture, somewhat sweet, crumbly and light but oddly filling. Side by side on a fallen log, Faramir alternates between watching the dark sky through the sparse leaves above them and watching his own horse nuzzle against Aragorn’s, Aragorn’s indulgently allowing it. They guzzle water at the bank and flick their tails, shaking out their manes occasionally and looking all together content. Faramir feels the same.

He hasn’t enjoyed a ride like this in a long time and never thought he would without Boromir. Traveling with Aragorn has a similar sort of safety in it, comfort Faramir rarely finds elsewhere, but there’s a different sort of feeling to this. As Aragorn finishes his food and returns to the pack at his feet, his horse turns and wanders over. Aragorn takes out a fistful of feed that his horse bends to munch out of his palm, Faramir’s swiftly joining. Aragorn gestures at the pack with his freehand, and Faramir follows suit, his horse neighing happily. It was never treated so well in Gondor, he’s sure, though it likely faired better than Faramir.

“You know, this was one of my shortest trips,” Aragorn notes, as his horse finishes and prods at Aragorn’s hand to see if there’s any more. When there isn’t, it plods back about the bank to poke at the grass. Faramir’s is soon following, and Aragorn glances sideways to conclude, “You must be good luck.”

Faramir’s shoulders hunch with an impending laugh, but it makes him wince at the pull to his muscles. That instantly wipes the smile off Aragorn’s face. He shuffles just that little bit closer along the log so that their sides are touching, thigh-to-thigh, and he leans in to pluck at the strings that tie the collar of Faramir’s tunic. Faramir freezes instantly, and Aragorn asks, “May I?”

Faramir’s breath is coming swiftly short. He can feel Aragorn against him, the warmth, the life, the smell of sweat from a day’s ride and fight and the wave of sheer alpha, so dizzyingly good. It reminds him all over again why none of this is safe, but he doesn’t hesitate to nod—he couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Aragorn deserves whichever omega he should like, and Faramir would very much like to be taken.

Aragorn deftly unlaces Faramir’s tunic while Faramir fights to steady his breath. Then the fabric’s being pulled over his head, his arms lifting to help, and all he can do is wonder if he looks acceptable. He’s nowhere near as handsome as Aragorn. He can’t even look at Aragorn. Aragorn’s palm lands against his shoulder and gives him a little push.

Faramir almost dives forward onto all fours, fully ready to be mounted, but that isn’t the direction—Aragorn gently guides him around, turning him to face the length of the log, and he’s made to straddle it, Aragorn sidling up behind him. He thinks this will do just as well. Aragorn’s fingers splay across his shoulder blades, then curl and press in.

Faramir’s breath hitches. Aragorn kneads inwards, then flares out, and slowly lowers to repeat the process, and Faramir realizes what this really is: Aragorn’s giving him a massage.

He looks over his shoulder, not quite able to believe it. Aragorn’s eyes are lowered to Faramir’s back, but there’s nothing untoward about his gaze. He works Faramir’s back with a steady, skilled touch, until he finds a spot that makes Faramir gasp. Aragorn asks, “There?”

Faramir nods, and Aragorn begins to dance around the area, touches tender, careful, seeping away all the tension surrounding it. Faramir has to fight to stay tall instead of slumping into it like his body wants to. For how tense he was a moment ago, Aragorn seems to relax him with ease.

For a long time, Faramir enjoys the touch with increasing pleasure, though there’s initial disappointment over not being stripped for other reasons. He sits in silence, mostly because he’s afraid to break the magic, and Aragorn says nothing, perhaps concentrating on his work. Faramir does feels inexplicably lucky.

Aragorn’s touch is exquisite. It warms him, even in the cool night air, and ebbs away all of his stress, all of his pains. It isn’t a fleeting gesture but true treatment that lasts and feels so wondrous Faramir can barely stand it; he wants to tremble and eventually lifts his hand to his mouth to not spill any unseemly noises. Aragorn’s hands on him is everything, setting a flare of want with every single touch. Even though the purpose is innocent, it feels so intimate, all skin-on-skin under the stars like this, away with just the two of them. He doesn’t want to go back. The earlier pain was entirely worth this.

“How is it feeling?” Aragorn finally asks, and by now both their horses have settled down in the grass, the muzzle of Aragorn’s draped protectively over Faramir’s. Faramir, again, is tempted to lie, to say it still hurts, simply to draw this out.

Instead, he murmurs, “Better—you are very good at this.” He should stop there, but somehow blurts, “But...” He doesn’t cut himself off soon enough.

“But?” Aragorn prompts, as Faramir knew he would.

“But... is this not an omega’s role?”

Aragorn lets out a sigh. It’s clear by now that they have very different definitions of their divisions, but as much as Faramir would like to adopt Rivendell’s views, he can’t seem to shake Gondor’s. Thankfully, Aragorn’s hands don’t stop; Faramir’s fist returns to resting against his mouth.

“I am interested in healing,” Aragorn says, dropping the subject of designations. “...Perhaps it has come from Elrond. He’s taught me much.”

“Lindir will be pleased for him that you were not hurt,” Faramir notes, to which Aragorn chuckles.

“No,” he concedes, “I had my lucky omega for that.” Faramir freezes, brain rushing to pull out the adjective and rephrase—his omega. The thought has Faramir utterly lost for a good few seconds, and when he comes back to, Aragorn’s hands have stopped, and instead slid up to his neck and down to rest against his biceps.

Then Aragorn’s lips are pressed to his shoulder in a chaste kiss that seers a brand right to Faramir’s soul.

“Two rangers are unstoppable, it seems.” Aragorn withdraws as he says it. Faramir’s too far-gone to protest the inclusion of him in the same category as Aragorn. He only startles out of it when Aragorn taps his arm.

He turns again, half nervous to meet Aragorn’s eyes lest his own betray him, but the contact is broken by Aragorn lifting the tunic back over Faramir’s head. Faramir slips into it and immediately wishes he didn’t have it around—he wants to be utterly naked and curled up next to Aragorn. Aragorn doesn’t bother to tie the strings back up, and Faramir doesn’t have the wherewithal. He’s both heady with pleasure and ruined with longing. Aragorn reaches to sweep Faramir’s hair aside and cup his cheek again. Faramir’s eyes flutter shut as he’s brought forward, hoping to have his lips met, but Aragorn only kisses his forehead. Then he’s released and Aragorn’s off to collect their blankets, while Faramir stares up at the stars and wonders how the heavens could be so cruel as to send him someone so perfect that he can’t possibly have.

Aragorn takes the first watch, which Faramir agrees to only because he’ll need some time to come down from the contact before he can be trusted to remain the only one alert. He sleeps within both blankets between the log and the stream, trying not to be too obvious about smelling Aragorn’s. The rest of his pack works for a makeshift pillow, and he foolishly stares at Aragorn’s back while he tries to will himself to sleep.

Even as a captain, he was never included in the watch—captaincy was an honorary position more than anything. Only Boromir ever trusted him with that, though he himself was hesitant and didn’t want his beloved brother’s life in his hands. In many ways, Aragorn reminds Faramir of Boromir—he has the same strength, the same confidence, the same kindness underneath the gruff dominance. But Aragorn is lighter in many ways, shaped by the company of elves, and comes with mysteries that Faramir doesn’t dare ask after—what’s his heritage beyond his Elven home? Is he a ranger in the sense of the purpose or in the myths of lineage? And why would he take Faramir out here when he had a dozen Elven warriors he could’ve brought instead?

Faramir had half hoped that it was so Aragorn could take him, far from watchful eyes, where he could go wild and not worry of Elven propriety, not care who heard Faramir scream. Faramir imagines that he would scream if Aragorn were inside him regardless of how rough Aragorn was. Then he has one wild, traitorous thought—what if he were in Aragorn? Are Aragorn’s beliefs so different that he wouldn’t tie impalement to power? It doesn’t really matter to Faramir what Aragorn does to him; he’d likely enjoy it all, but the thought is a curious one, probably for how forbidden it is. He half wishes his horse had run away permanently so that Faramir had to share the ride back and be constantly jostled into Aragorn’s body. He wishes he were an alpha and had the right to tackle Aragorn right off that log and roll around with him in the dirt. If Boromir were here, he would do that, and perhaps allow Faramir to watch.

The thought is an even more sickening one. Faramir tries to shake the wild story that seems the only way to make the fantasy make any sense, but it’s no use, and the more he stares at Aragorn’s back, the more he wants to crawl over and beg to take Aragorn in his mouth. He doesn’t know what he could possibly offer to a man like that. He wonders if all omegas fall so devastatingly in love so quickly.

Ultimately, he rolls around. The horses offer no such distraction, though the way they huddle so close to one another does make Faramir feel horribly alone. He’ll likely always be alone. And eventually, he’ll ride back to Gondor, unable to be long away from Boromir’s side, and leave Aragorn far behind.

Chapter Text

They return late in the evening, but Elrond still comes to receive them, Lindir close to his heels. Their horses are led away again, and Lindir asks if they would like him to take their weapons to be cared for, but no amount of polish can save Faramir’s sword, so he opts to carry it himself. He relinquishes the bow while Aragorn reports to Elrond, “We slew the pack of them, twelve in all, and no stragglers as far as I could see.”

“That was quick,” Elrond notes, the same as Aragorn did. “But I am pleased for it. It should save Elladan and Elrohir circling around on their return.”

“They’re free to check that we missed none,” Aragorn returns, shrugging his broad shoulders. Lindir comes to collect his sword, then heads back up the stairs, leaving Faramir to wonder if he should follow and let the two alphas be. His pull to Aragorn stays him.

After pausing to watch Lindir go, Elrond continues, “I was surprised to find you had left without them.”

“I did not plan to be long and knew they were close,” Aragorn summarizes, before turning to grin at Faramir. “And I already had help.”

“You are well, then?” Elrond asks, turning to Faramir too. “I did not intend for you to guard our lands so soon from your arrival...”

Nor did Faramir, but he couldn’t possibly have passed up the offer to spend time with Aragorn. To learn that Aragorn, it seems, would usually go with elves—the two he’s heard are Elrond’s sons and thus must be something of Aragorn’s stepbrothers—is thoroughly surprising. He tries not to show on his face how incredibly honoured he is to be chosen over them. Instead, he clears his throat and says as steadily as he can manage, “Gondor is always the first to bear the darkness of Mordor; I am used to combat.”

Elrond nods in understanding. He can’t truly know the depth of it—how little Faramir enjoys a fight, how he’s always hoped for peace, but how he trained with Boromir whenever he could to stand strong against the threat nonetheless; in Gondor, the skill is necessary. But others must know, even if they don’t understand the nadir of it, that Gondor is the one to take the brunt of the dark and to protect the rest of the world.

And somehow, he’s traveled as far north from that danger zone as he could, and still he’s found a way to get blood on his hands. The sudden realization, separated from the exhilaration of being alone with Aragorn in the wild, takes some of the pride out of their victory.

Yet it returns full force when Aragorn insists, “He fought exceptionally well and even saved my life—I was surrounded by three at once, and were it not for Faramir’s bravery and skill, I would be blooding your sheets right now.”

Faramir’s instantly fighting down a blush. He’s glad Lindir wasn’t around to hear that, though Elrond doesn’t show any disturbance at the suggestion. Faramir does. The thought of Aragorn injured isn’t a pleasant one. Surely, Aragorn could’ve managed, and Faramir hadn’t really thought of it as saving him, but when Faramir opens his mouth to correct the wording, he sees Aragorn beaming at him out the corner of his eye, and his words tumble right out of his mind. He doesn’t know what to say or do and so falls quiet, simply basking in the compliment and hoping the alphas handle the rest.

Elrond is the one to wrap it up, suggesting, “It is late, I will leave you to your quarters. I simply wished to congratulate and thank you both on your efforts, and I am pleased also to find you both unharmed.” Aragorn dips his head in parting, Elrond following suit before turning to leave up the stairs. Aragorn follows, Faramir behind him.

Though Aragorn’s massage miraculously took away all the pain, Faramir still looks forward to his soft bed, though more so, he misses the chance to sleep so near to Aragorn. He would slow his steps and prolong it if he was in the lead, but he isn’t. He matches Aragorn’s pace and finds himself frowning when they reach the split of stairs where they’ll have to go their separate ways.

Faramir has his foot on the first step when Aragorn catches his shoulder and tells him, “Come with me, first. We may be too late to meet the crafter, but the craft itself should be finished. If you can spare the moment of sleep, I would have you take this before you have need of it again.”

Faramir isn’t particularly tired—he’s still riding on adrenaline from the journey back and Aragorn’s words to Elrond. He nods and allows Aragorn to gently guide him off the stairs.

They take a different direction, down to the end of the hall and through the open pillars, out into the garden, where they follow paving stones that wind around the building. They pass under a balcony and through an alcove Faramir hadn’t seen before, and then they come to a closed off area full of stone benches and pits and what Faramir recognizes to be a forge. Atop a carved dais in the center, there’s a long, wrapped bundle that Aragorn comes to. A scrap of parchment atop bears a short length of Elven writing that Faramir can’t read. Aragorn nimbly pulls the strings aside to unravel the parcel, and the cloth falls away to reveal a sword.

Before Faramir’s had a chance to admire the superb craftsmanship, instantly obvious, Aragorn takes the hilt and passes it to Faramir.

“For you,” Aragorn announces, his fingers warm as the practically force the hilt into Faramir’s paralyzed ones. “I requested something more in the style of a prince of Gondor, fit better for your weight and size. I hope you don’t mind that I didn’t wait for your specifications.”

Faramir numbly shakes his head, completely in awe. He almost drops the sword when Aragorn’s hands leave his, but he quickly solidifies his grip, hoisting it up for a proper look. He twists the slender blade to examine it in the starlight—the sleek silver colouring glistens white along the grooves of a pattern: the image of the white tree of Gondor engraved at the base, its branches reaching out from the hilt. Every one of them is in perfect order; Faramir knows that picture well, though his father never liked him to wear the uniforms with that embroidered and painted on. The hilt seems to fit perfectly in his hand; the perfect length, the perfect girth, the grip a strange material, something like leather, comfortable but firm. It seems to weigh nothing in his hands—doubtless, the magic of the elves. He examines it from every angle and is tempted to run his finger along the edge to test the sharpness, but he knows without needing to that that would draw blood. This is a sword that looks as thought it will never dull, never rust, never fade. As he marvels at the gift, Aragorn drifts away, only to return with a new sheath, equally as lightweight. Faramir’s too speechless to take it, and so Aragorn steps closer, impossible tight at his front, their breath mingling, to fasten the sheath to Faramir’s belt.

“I do not deserve this,” Faramir murmurs, no longer surprised at Aragorn’s kind smile.

“I would have argued that regardless,” Aragorn insists, and his voice is low for their proximity, “but now you may consider it a token of appreciation for saving my life.”

“I did not do that.”

“You may have, and the next time you are in such a situation, I would have you with a proper weapon to defend us both.”

Faramir doesn’t know what to say. He still doesn’t feel like he can accept it, but he wants it, not just for what it is, for how quickly it could end an unpleasant skirmish, but because it’s a gift from Aragorn. It already must be the most valuable thing in his possession, and he’s the steward’s son. That prompts him to remember and protest, “And I am no prince—”

“You are worth one,” Aragorn says harshly enough to silence Faramir. Aragorn gently wraps his fingers around Faramir’s and turns the sword, tilting it down to slip into its sheath. Then Faramir is left with Aragorn’s hand around his and his body screaming for more. When he looks at Aragorn, he can hardly believe that someone so perfect, someone so kind, strong, so intrinsically handsome could possibly exist. Aragorn has never treated him like anything less than an equal, and perhaps that’s what pushes the delusion forward and drives Faramir to act like the alpha he’ll never be.

He rushes in, his face slamming into Aragorn’s, nose tilting just in time to slide along Aragorn’s, their chins bumping, Aragorn’s stubble scratching through his own, Aragorn’s lips only a hairsbreadth from his, and somehow, he stops, regains himself and what he is. But he can’t pull away. Aragorn smells like horses and the earth and two nights without a bath, and Faramir’s never been so intoxicated with a scent in his life.

Aragorn opens his mouth and closes the distance, biting lightly into Faramir’s bottom lip and earning a long, ragged moan. Faramir’s instantly overrun with it. He shoots his hand up to catch Aragorn’s face, cup Aragorn’s jaw, and Aragorn tilts and pushes farther, pries Faramir’s mouth open with his own and dives his tongue inside. It’s instantly rough, full of scraping teeth and colliding tongues, Aragorn’s body full against his now and grindings his back—Faramir stumbles and hits the dais, where it digs into his upper thighs. He wants to be fucked right over it. He kisses Aragorn for all he’s worth and tries to memorize the taste, but he’s too far gone for it. He can barely think. He feels like his brain is melting, body on fire—nothing’s ever felt this right, this good, and he’s never wanted anything, anyone so much in his entire life.

He goes too far with it. Faramir can’t stop himself. His hands explore, one tangling back in Aragorn’s scruffy hair and the other tracing Aragorn’s side, around his back, clinging to the fabric. Aragorn’s are around his waist, fingers digging into his hips. Faramir dares to grab a fistful of Aragorn’s ass, completely aware of how wrong it is of him but not able to stop himself—he squeezes the taut flesh and drinks the moan Aragorn spills into his mouth. Aragorn’s hands slide up under Faramir’s tunic and feel around to the small of his back, making him squirm, making him want, he’s already hard and witlessly grindingly himself into Aragorn’s leg. He can’t seem to leave Aragorn’s mouth.

It takes tremendous effort to, but something in him pulls him back enough for him to kiss across Aragorn’s lips, “Take me, please.”

Aragorn shivers in Faramir’s arms—he can feel it. He knows his father would be ashamed of him. This is the very reason he was sent away, the very reason he was never trusted, but it doesn’t stop him from begging, “Aragorn, please, I want you so much, please, fuck me, right here, in your quarters—I don’t care—I would’ve ridden you yesterday if I had the courage—”

He stops, going in for another kiss, but Aragorn turns his head aside.

It’s a sobering action. Faramir freezes, even trembling with need, and tries to look into Aragorn’s eyes, but Aragorn’s closed his and swallows. Faramir doesn’t understand.

Aragorn detangles from him painfully slowly, stepping back, and Faramir stays against the dais, reaching back to hold on for support. He’s panting hard, desire coursing through him but rejection ruining the thrill. Aragorn wipes the back of his hand across his mouth and shakes his head.

“I’m sorry, Faramir, I am...”

Faramir’s coming down in a terrible spiral and desperately wishes he wasn’t. He wracks his brain for what went wrong—he shouldn’t have touched Aragorn like that, shouldn’t have grabbed Aragorn’s rear—but Aragorn gives a different reason, reconnecting his eyes with Faramir’s and sighing, “You deserve much better than a coward like me.”

“Coward?” The word comes out hoarse. It doesn’t match Aragorn at all—Faramir doesn’t understand. “You are no such thing...”

“I am more than you know, and less.” That doesn’t explain anything. Aragorn lifts a tired hand to his face and looks away again. “I... please, forgive me, I have much to think about.” There’s nothing to think about—Faramir wants him regardless, but Aragorn goes on, “My life is more complicated than to allow the entanglement of someone else into the mess.”

Though Faramir’s yet to see Aragorn lie, his mind reads it an excuse. He steps closer again, beyond all sense, and tries, “Aragorn, please—you do not have to claim me; you must know how much I wish to be yours, but I don’t ask that—I would still be taken. No one has to know—”

“Faramir,” Aragorn says, and the word is chilling and halts Faramir instantly. He stands there, shaking, fighting the urge to fly across the distance.

Aragorn takes a moment, perhaps still thinking, then comes closer again hooks his finger under Faramir’s chin, brushing his lips over Faramir’s. Faramir tries to surge forward, but Aragorn pulls away again and mumbles, “I am tempted.”

“If it is—”

“It is not you, neither anything you have done nor anything you are. You are worthy, Faramir. Of more than I could ever give you. Please, believe that. ...But I have much to sort through.”

Faramir wants to believe it. Aragorn rubs his arms, liking warming him past the dejection, but for once, Faramir barely feels it. He’s steeped in confusion, honoured that he could tempt a man like Aragorn, and full of sorrow that the temptation isn’t enough. Then Aragorn takes him by the hand and leads him back inside, up the stairs, and leaves him by his door.

Faramir barely sleeps. His mind is a mess, and thinking of Aragorn makes him feverish, yet he can’t think of anything else. He tosses and turns all night, half wishing he’d never come here at all, never known what he couldn’t have. He wishes he had Boromir to lean against. He wishes he had Aragorn to lie with. He wishes he were as happy as Lindir, with an alpha so far out of his league that still loved him regardless.

He’s a mess in the morning and showers stiffly, half hoping to wash it all away, but it does no good. He dresses still in the style of Gondor and thinks of keeping the sword at his hip that Aragorn gave to him, once such a magnificent gift. Now it feels insignificant next to Aragorn: the real prize: the only thing that Faramir truly wants. He opts against the sword. It isn’t the style of Rivendell to go armed, and he knows he doesn’t have the energy to spar. He winds up sitting atop his bed with it drawn across his lap, even more beautiful in the morning light, and wonders how Aragorn could think enough of him to merit such a wondrous gift and yet not enough to even take him on the side.

Eventually, he drags himself from his rooms. He isn’t yet sure if he should avoid Aragorn completely or not. He briefly entertains the thought of coming between Haleth and Caranthir and letting a physical pain drown away the emotional one. But he holds his head up high and walks to breakfast.

Aragorn isn’t there. Faramir scans the hall twice and finds no sign of him. Elrond is also missing, though Faramir is far from early and would expect most to be here by now. He means to head to the nearest empty seat but instead wanders over to the head table, where Lindir is pouring something purple into Glorfindel’s cup.

He smiles at Faramir’s approach, moving on to serve another lord, and Faramir stands in waiting at the end. When Lindir’s finished the line, he comes closer, dipping into a short bow for a greeting. Faramir finds he has no purpose for being here but asks, just for something to say, “Where is Lord Elrond?”

“In the west wing by the mural,” Lindir answers easily, as though he knows where Elrond is at all times without fail. Then he tilts his cute head, brown hair spilling down one shoulder, and asks, “Are you in need of a healer? You look as though something is troubling you, and my lord Elrond is the most adept in all the healing arts...”

Of course Lindir would say that. Faramir still half believes it, and the option flickers before him—he hadn’t thought of telling anyone before. But perhaps, if nothing else, Elrond, a great lord and alpha, who must’ve seen so much over the passing years, could tell Faramir how to move on from someone he can’t get out of his mind.

It gives him, at least, a direction that isn’t Aragorn. He murmurs, “Thank you,” and turns to go, leaving a slightly confused-looking Lindir behind. There’s now an elf on the outer steps with a swan in his lap, but past that, Faramir is alone, and he’s discomforted by it—it almost seems like it would’ve been easier, now, if he had fallen for an elf.

The path is a winding one, but Faramir has a general sense of where he’s going—he remembers which part was called the west wing in his tour, and he remembers seeing a mural at the top floor, though he didn’t spare it much of a glance, his mind lost with other things at the time. His empty stomach grumbles once on the way, but then he thinks of other things he’d rather have inside him, and that makes his stomach too unsettled to care about food.

The west wing is entirely empty, and by the time he reaches the stairs that lead to the upper level, he’s beyond even the reach of the river below and the minstrels in the distance. He walks quieter for it, adapting to the peace of the place, and reaches the thin staircase that leads to the upper level. Intricately carved columns line it, and as Faramir ascends the stars, he hears a hushed voice at the top, letting out at a sigh.

His footsteps freeze. He can just barely hear Aragorn murmur, “You are right, I suppose.” By now, the voice is familiar. Faramir’s hand tightens on the rail. He isn’t sure whether to run up or go and leave Aragorn in peace.

“At the very least, you must tell Faramir,” Elrond’s calm voice chimes in, and this seizes Faramir to stay. His breath catches, his ears now straining, but he doesn’t go farther up the steps.

“What good could it do the world? It’s been generations...”

“Generations of stewards that are not kings. You know this, Aragorn. I was not entrusted with Isildur’s line for them to simply fade from the world.”

Isildur. Faramir’s mind reels, recalling old stories, hardly-spoken-of things taught of in a historical sense but always snuffed out when Denethor caught rumours of it—his own preaching of Gondor’s past never seemed to reflect the books. When Aragorn doesn’t answer, Elrond says more concretely, “Aragorn, son of Arathorn, you are Isildur’s heir, whether or not you wish it, and if you are going to use that to deny yourself happiness, at least explain to the one you condemn with you your reasons.”

Faramir’s heart is hammering in his chest. The heir of Isildur. All at once, the history rushes back to him, and he wonders how he missed that, how he didn’t simply know, there are lines of lineage in the old scrolls, and surely Aragorn’s name has been written in, surely someone’s heard it—Arathorn, at least, does sound vaguely familiar.

Aragorn presses, mirroring Faramir’s own thoughts, “Neither of the steward’s own sons recognized my name—Gondor has likely forgotten.”

“That has little to do with whether or not it needs you, and whether or not Faramir would have you,” Elrond counters simply. He’s lost Faramir with it—why shouldn’t Faramir want Isildur’s heir? Other than, of course, that it makes him so much more dreadfully unworthy than he’d thought.

Aragorn makes a frustrated noise. “It has everything to do with it. He loves his brother dearly, Elrond. By what right do I usurp the claim Faramir’s brother would have to stewardship? You ask me to rob the title of the man Faramir loves most.”

“Boromir does not have that title now, nor is he the rightful ruler. You give Faramir too little credit.”

“I give him every credit. You should hear him talk of Gondor; Boromir is all he had protecting him—”

“And had you ridden south years ago and reclaimed your throne, he would not have needed such protection.” There’s a slight pause, in which Faramir can barely breathe. The discovery is overwhelming. His mind is whirling too fast to come up with any one question. In a soft voice, Elrond sighs, “I do not mean to push you away, Estel. I have always treasured you in my home, and I hope you know that. ...But I also know that you are destined for far greater things than this, and that destiny lies south. You have the power to right wrongs and bring wisdom that Boromir, the son of and loyal to the steward, cannot.”

Aragorn is quiet for a long minute, during which Faramir thinks of running. He has no right to intrude on this conversation and it helps him none, but he can’t seem to move his body, consumed instead with the knowledge of what Aragorn really is and the talk of Boromir. He doesn’t know how he would feel about Boromir being denied stewardship, and yet he knows—

“I can see how much Boromir means to Faramir, Elrond. I don’t have the strength to tell him I stand on the opposite side of that,” Aragorn mutters quietly.

“You do not stand opposed to them,” Elrond answers just as softly. “One of the reasons I know you will be a worthy king is that you have no desire to hoard power only for yourself. I may be the head of Imladris, but I am far from the only lord, as you needn’t be in Gondor.”

“...It would still be asking Faramir to choose a man dethroning his own father, and no matter how cruel Denethor seems to me, no one would wish to be in that position.”

“Perhaps. But that should be for Faramir to decide, unless your views truly do align with that of the current Gondor, and you think omegas do not deserve the right to choose for themselves.”

Here Aragorn falls silent again, and Faramir is sure he must be wincing—Aragorn is as far from oppressing omegas as Faramir’s ever met. Faramir’s tempted to run up the stairs and insist that he doesn’t mind at all overtaking his father, but he knows it isn’t that simple, and Boromir’s wishes do complicate it—if Boromir were to denounce Aragorn, Faramir could never stand against him.

Faramir’s head is a mess. The conversation seems to have come to an end, and the next thing he hears is footsteps and the brush of robes against a polished floor. They’re coming his way, he thinks. In a sudden decision made up of greater indecisions, Faramir turns and leaves as quickly and silently as he can before they can see him.

Faramir avoids Aragorn all day, purposely walking about the gardens in the most obscure paths he can find, hoping the fresh air will clear his head and getting nowhere. He goes directly to the kitchens when hunger consumes him and avoids the dining hall. One minute he wants to run to Aragorn, the next run to parchment and scribble a letter to Boromir. Even in the times where the thought of Aragorn consumes him, he realizes that he can say nothing of it until Aragorn comes to him, because Faramir found this information wrongfully and won’t force the reveal out of Aragorn. He’ll have to be given it willingly, and then hear what Aragorn plans to do.

He runs into Finrod once, who walks with him for a short way and kindly doesn’t ask what troubles him, instead striking light conversation that, for a time, soothes Faramir enough to breathe. But then he spots a familiar rugged face over a flower bush and bolts in the other direction, leaving his charming host behind.

He thinks of going to Elrond. Elrond is a healer and could perhaps still help him, but it also feels like he’s beyond salvation. Elrond already spoke on his behalf, and the rest is up to Aragorn. Then Faramir spots Elrond seated at a bench, leisurely braiding Lindir’s hair, and the sheer happiness on both their faces cuts him like a knife.

He doesn’t dare return to his rooms, lest he be trapped there—what if Aragorn comes to him and says they can never be? He doesn’t think he could bear that. So he frets and wanders and wishes, like Denethor often did aloud, that he were a mere uncomplicated stable boy crushed under whatever man of Gondor would have him, and never knew enough of the world to want for more.

When night falls, he still can’t bring himself to go to his quarters, and before he can stop himself, he’s come, instead, to the mural. He peers at it from the ground floor and wonders how he could’ve possibly missed it before. It isn’t an Elven picture, like he first dismissed it as, but a depiction of Isildur himself facing down Sauron in a swirl of black-grey clouds. It’s so strange to think of Aragorn, the scruffy ranger so kind to horses and omegas, as the heir of that great legend.

He goes up the steps to the second level to stand before the mural and get a closer look, to touch and trace the dried paint with his hands. He can only imagine how long this has been here. It strikes Faramir as a shame that Boromir didn’t get to see it before he left.

There’s a statue across from the mural, seated against the balcony, that bears a stone platform in its lap, where the broken shards of a sword lay atop a delicate cloth. It’s easy to guess what blade this is, and Faramir drifts forward with a sense of awe—Narsil, the blade that was broken. Only because he’s alone, he dares to grip the hilt and lift it, surprised at how heavy it feels; it bears the weight of its importance. He brings his finger to the dark blade, wondering how it must have dulled over all the years.

“Careful,” a voice tells him, pausing his hand. “It’s still sharp.”

Faramir lowers the shattered sword, uncut and now uncaring. This is a great treasure to a soldier of Gondor, but Aragorn is the far greater prize.

He drifts towards Faramir with silent footsteps, his edges softer for the dark, pale night-blue light. He wears a frown, and Faramir is sure he knows why.

He places the sword back where it belongs and turns to Aragorn, sure he’s nowhere near ready for what’s to come.

Aragorn opens his mouth, and Faramir blurts first, “I heard you speaking with Elrond this morning. I’m sorry.” It seems the right thing to do, confess his eavesdropping, but the admission does nothing to lessen his guilt. Aragorn dons a flicker of surprise.

Then he asks, “How much did you hear?”

Faramir doesn’t know but reasons, “Enough.”

Aragorn sighs, looking suddenly weary. He doesn’t look much older than Faramir, but if the legends of Isildur’s line are true, he may well be as much as twice as old. It doesn’t matter to Faramir. “I wanted to tell you as soon as I realized you did not know. But...” He doesn’t have to explain. It’s a deep secret to reveal to someone he just met, full of responsibility and repercussions that could change the world, should the knowledge fall into the wrong hands. He takes a step closer, putting them now an arm’s length apart, and says, “I am the one that is sorry.”

Faramir doesn’t know what to say. They’re both quiet for a moment, during which Faramir’s throat grows tighter, until he grits out, hating the words, “You should bond to Boromir.”

Both of Aragorn’s brows lift; it’s clear that’s news to him. Faramir presses on, “It is very rare for an alpha lord of Gondor to take just one omega, rather than a group of all types that might please them, or, even more common, another alpha as a true partner. Boromir has no claim to rule once you retake your rightful spot, but he is a good man, a good captain. Please, consider him. He would be the most valuable at your side.”

“And what of your value?” Aragorn asks, his frown falling deeper.

Faramir takes a minute to admit his thoughts on it—his sick fantasies that likely have no place in the real world, and he carefully phrases, “I would never have been allowed any position of leadership beyond my meager captaincy. ...But Boromir is kind, and he would allow me to join you on hunts and feasts occasionally. He would still include me in his life and allow me in yours, if you wanted it, even if you chose an exclusive bond with him—”

“Faramir,” Aragorn interrupts, his voice suddenly harsh, forcing Faramir to stop escaping in the mural and to hold Aragorn’s heated gaze. “How do you expect me to choose any bond with Boromir when I am in love with his brother?”

Faramir feels swiftly light-headed.

Aragorn takes the final step closer, their bodies flush again, his arm snaking out to catch around Faramir’s waist. Aragorn presses his forehead to Faramir’s, murmuring across his lips, “Your brother is very handsome, and I deem he has a good-heart despite your father’s teachings. ...But you are far more so, and you are the one that fits both in my arms and at my side. You would be a true partner.”

Faramir can hardly breathe. He wants to kiss Aragorn so badly it hurts but also wants Aragorn to keep talking, to chase the rest of his fears away. His hands lift tentatively to Aragorn’s sides, clutching to the ends of his tunic while Aragorn brushes a kiss over Faramir’s mouth that Faramir’s too frozen to respond to. “I would rule with you both by my side,” Aragorn hisses; Faramir’s eyes shut against it, so overwhelmed. “I cannot allow your father to remain in charge when he causes so much hurt, but I would keep his sons to help me rule, Boromir still as steward and you as my prince. If Boromir is as true as you say, he will see the need in that. ...If he does not, we will need another plan, for I would not ask you to choose between us, and I am also not willing to give you up.”

“He will follow you,” Faramir insists, sure of it—Boromir is loyal to their father, yes, but he’s loyal to Gondor first, and he’s never liked so many of their father’s policies... “He will be skeptical at first, but when he realizes what a worthy leader you are and how happy you make me, he will not oppose you.”

“I make you happy, do I?” Aragorn asks, his face finally cracking a broad grin. “I am glad of it. If there is anyone who deserves to find happiness, it is you. You will have me, then?”

“I have been some measure of yours all along,” Faramir chuckles. Indeed, he’s so happy that it’s hard to get the words out around his smile. “I would be yours in all things, and while it is not my place to claim to have you in return, I will say it if you wish.”

Aragorn laughs again and rubs his nose fondly against Faramir’s, arms drawing him in impossibly closer. “Say it.”

Against everything he’s been taught, Faramir sighs, “You are mine.”

Aragorn smiles with his entire face, touching his deep eyes and dimpling his cheeks, and it almost makes Faramir think that Aragorn’s as happy as he is, but that doesn’t seem possible. Aragorn seems to savour their confessions for a moment, then tilts and closes what little distance is left between their mouths. Faramir opens to moan in delight, and Aragorn uses the chance to thrust his tongue inside.

Immediately, they’re on fire again, picking up from last night like they never stopped. Aragorn crushes Faramir’s body against him, completely encircling his waist and lifting a hand to stroke his cheek and tangle in his hair, while Faramir roams up Aragorn’s chest, squeezing through the tunic, drinking in every taut muscle he finds. He traces Aragorn’s biceps, down his arms, his sides, his hips, over the top of his ass and up the arch of his spine. Faramir clings to Aragorn’s shoulder blades and the ends of his scraggly hair while they scrape each other with stubble and teeth, one messy slew of kiss after kiss. Every time Faramir tries to pull back for air, Aragorn’s covering him again, and every time Aragorn drifts away, Faramir keens and follows.

Somewhere in the fray, they turn, and Faramir’s vaguely aware of stepping backwards, being guided, until his back hits the wall, and he looks up to eye the mural, Aragorn using the opportunity to attack his neck. Aragorn’s hot breath drizzles down his throat and latches onto his adam’s apple, sucks in and laves over it with tongue—Faramir releases a ragged whine, overcome. Every little touch of Aragorn’s body feels so inexplicably right. The way he was in heat with others he feels with Aragorn every moment; consumed with lust and satisfaction, wanting to surrender so completely. Aragorn tugs at his tunic and mouths at his shoulders, then pulls back only to rip the tunic right over Faramir’s head—his arms get caught in the sleeves, but it goes so fast and with such force that it pulls through, only to be tossed carelessly aside. Faramir is left bare-chested and not the least bit cold; Aragorn has his skin bristling for more.

Aragorn’s next kiss is to his mouth again, but then it goes lower; Aragorn bites at his chin, nudges his face aside and mouths over his neck, licks a wet trail down to his collarbone and nips at his chest. Faramir’s breath is coming twice as fast, chest heaving with exhilaration. His hands slide higher the lower Aragorn goes, squeezing for dear life at Aragorn’s shoulder while Aragorn licks between his pecs. His nipples are already pebbling in the open air, too aroused to stay flat, and Aragorn nuzzles his way to the left one and sucks it right into his mouth. Faramir tosses his head back, arcs his spine and lets out a filthy moan while Aragorn suckles on it. Aragorn’s hand slides up Faramir’s chest, devoid of the usually gloves for full skin-on-skin, and palming the other nipple in slow but stern circles. Faramir’s sure his blunt fingernails are digging permanent grooves into Aragorn’s flesh. He’s not sure he’s ever had anyone touch him there before, certainly not outside of heat, and it feels wondrously good. Aragorn sucks and sucks, until Faramir’s nipple is sore from it and he starts to whine. Then Aragorn pulls off to flay his tongue over the abused raw-red colour, while his fingers pinch the other one and tug it out. Faramir’s trousers have become painfully tight.

Aragorn still takes his time, even though he must feel the bulge pressing into him. He licks a leisurely trail across Faramir’s skin to lap over his right nipple, Aragorn’s hands now tracing up and down Faramir’s bare sides. Faramir has a sprinkling of light hair across his chest that Aragorn digs into with his nose, but the trail between his navel and crotch is more abundant, and Aragorn brings one hand there to twist his fingers into the short curls, tugging sharply. Faramir hisses, his hips jerking forward to ram into Aragorn’s stomach, and Aragorn wraps his arm around the back of Faramir’s ass to hold him there, encouraging Faramir to rub against him. Faramir can hardly believe this is happening.

As Aragorn finally releases Faramir’s second nipple to litter wet kisses down Faramir’s stomach, Faramir moans, “Aragorn—”

Aragorn bites the clasp of Faramir’s belt, his face so tantalizingly close that Faramir breaks off in a lilting cry. Aragorn’s hands are flicking open Faramir’s belt and trousers in a heartbeat, barely giving Faramir time to process what’s happening—this can’t be right—he’s spending so much time on Faramir’s body—and then Aragorn’s tugging Faramir’s trousers and underwear right down his thighs and leaning in to rub against his hard shaft, jutting straight out. Faramir’s knees are shaking. He tries to pant, “Aragorn, you don’t have to—”

“Are you mine?” Aragorn asks right over him, looking up with burning eyes, nose buried in Faramir’s pubic hair. Faramir can’t believe that Aragorn’s really kneeling at Faramir’s feet. His fingers are now in Aragorn’s hair, probably far tighter than what’s comfortable, but he can barely control himself.

He answers, confused but without hesitation, “Of course, but—”

“Then your body is mine,” Aragorn quips, turning to flatten his tongue against Faramir’s inner thigh and drag it all the way up to his cock, eliciting another cry, “and I choose to pleasure it as you deserve.”

Before Faramir can protest—he doesn’t deserve even a tenth of this bliss—Aragorn’s opened his mouth wide and swallowed the head of Faramir’s cock. Faramir screams, the pleasure already more intense than anything he’s ever felt outside of heat—he’s never had anyone’s mouth there, never even would’ve presumed to think of it, though he’s swallowed his fair share of cock and always knew he would—it’s more than he could imagine. Aragorn’s mouth is hot, wet, tight, and Aragorn, somehow avoiding the scrape of his teeth, manages to slide forward, taking more and more in one fluid motion, until he’s taken Faramir right to the hilt and must have it far down his throat. His hands pin Faramir’s hips against the mural, holding back their shaking, far beyond Faramir’s control. Faramir is sure nothing could feel better, but then Aragorn gives a hardy suck, and Faramir’s seeing stars.

From there, Aragorn begins to slide down, twisting as he goes, corkscrewing back to the tip, where he looks up through heavy lids. Faramir keeps one hand fisted in Aragorn’s hair, but the other jumps to cover his mouth—he can’t stop moaning. Aragorn seems to smile at him, the line disrupted by the bulge of his cock, and twists back down again. The next slide comes even faster, and Aragorn works into a quick pace, bobbing on and off, while Faramir pants harder and harder and tries to keep himself from coming at the mere sight of Aragorn’s face like this—he wants this to last.

He wants more, and he can’t manage, so he finally forces himself, driven by sheer need for Aragorn’s cock, to push Aragorn back by the hair. Aragorn allows it, popping off with a wet noise and a thin trail of saliva or precum clinging to his flushed lips. Faramir can’t even form the words, just begs uselessly, “Aragorn, please...”

Aragorn grins like he understands and pecks the smooth expanse between Faramir’s cock and hip. “I know,” he purrs, his hands now circling farther around Faramir’s waist to squeeze his ass. “I want all of you too.”

“Fuck me,” Faramir begs, even though this is so perfect, because this first time, he needs to be complete, needs to be filled in with Aragorn’s body. He can already feel himself growing wet, his channel flexing wildly as it pleads for touch. He’s only had that once before, in the last heat, but now he’s sure he’ll feel it for Aragorn every time they start. Aragorn holds his gaze and pets his sides thoughtfully.

“This first time, I will take you,” Aragorn concedes. “But when we have planned properly and have oil close at hand, you will not be relegated solely to the receiving end. Do you understand me?”

No. But Faramir nods, not daring to disobey as much as he doesn’t dare to believe it. Being able to prepare without outside aid is one of the primary markers of an omega, and it dictates purpose, but Aragorn is clearly a man that makes his own rules. He kisses Faramir’s hip again and then comes to his feet.

As soon as Aragorn’s standing, Faramir’s shaky hands fly to his tunic, and Aragorn lets Faramir help push it off. Then Aragorn’s chest is bare, taut with muscles but soft between, covered in dark hair with rose-brown nipples, mouth-wateringly good—Faramir’s runs his hands eagerly up and down. Aragorn lets him feel and instead deals with the belt and trousers. By the time the last of Aragorn’s clothes have hit the floor, Faramir squirming to also drop his, Faramir’s ass is leaking down his thighs with clear, natural lubrication, his hole opened wide. Most of all, he stares at Aragorn’s cock: how long it is, how thick, how strongly it juts out, the heavy balls beneath it and the hair all around the base. He wishes he could take it in his mouth and worship it properly, but there’s no point—Faramir would never last through that. Maybe when they’re finished here, they can retire to Aragorn’s bed, and Faramir can suckle on it all night.

Running down Faramir’s ass, Aragorn grips the back of his thighs and pulls at them, ordering, “Up.” Faramir jumps, legs catching around Aragorn’s waist, and Aragorn leans forward to press him against the wall, that pressure holding him up. Faramir can’t tell if it’s disrespectful or strangely fitting for the son of the steward and Gondor’s rightful king to fuck against the mural. It doesn’t matter, because he couldn’t stop them. Aragorn’s fingers run between Faramir’s crack and pet over his fluttering hole, mouth coming to claim his again. Through another line of fervent kisses, Aragorn presses his cock up against Faramir’s brim, tugging Faramir’s legs into place here and there to right the angle. Faramir clings to Aragorn’s shoulders and hair and marvels at Aragorn’s power. He thought he’d be too heavy for this.

As soon as Aragorn’s cock pushes inside Faramir, Faramir’s losing it, his scream swallowed down Aragorn’s throat. The tip is bulbous, wet, firm but forgiving, and pulsing hot. Aragorn pushes it forward bit-by-bit, now pistoning slightly in and out, though there’s no pain—Faramir’s too swamped in desire to feel anything else. He welcomes every new bit he’s fed, until Aragorn’s final thrust impales him completely. Fully sheathed, Aragorn bites at the corner of Faramir’s lips and hisses into his mouth, “Faramir, you’re perfect.”

“I love you,” Faramir blurts, utterly sure of it. “I love you, Aragorn, you’re everything I ever wanted—”

Aragorn kisses him again, brutally hard, and growls, “You are loved as well, Faramir, my prince, and I will not allow anyone to tell you otherwise again.”

For once, Faramir feels it. He knows he pleases Aragorn, because this is far too pure a moment, their connection already palpable. And if he could please a man like Aragorn...

Aragorn jostles his hips, jerking out and stabbing in, and Faramir chokes, head thinning. Aragorn adjusts and goes again, pulls out farther, slams in harder and repeats, setting in to fuck Faramir with bruising force, but Faramir would have it no other way—he wants to feel this for days. He wants Aragorn to grind too deeply into him to ever be forgotten. He desperately wants to make Aragorn come inside him, and it already seems like Aragorn’s lost that tight control. It almost feels like the two of them—a soldier’s strength and another soldier’s weight—will fuck right through the mural.

Instead, Faramir’s pounded into the surface, all his excess air stolen away by Aragorn’s mouth. Aragorn always keeps one hand on Faramir’s hip, pinning him in place, but the other strays, tracing his thigh, the curve of his ass, his stomach, twisting into and tugging his hair. Faramir doesn’t have the wherewithal to do more than cling for dear life. All he can think about is Aragorn. Being joined like this is everything. His thighs clutch so tightly to Aragorn’s sides that it’s a wonder he can breathe. Faramir’s already rock-hard between them from being sucked, but he doesn’t touch himself any more than that—he wants to do this forever.

Aragorn must have other plans, because he finally drops his hand to curl around Faramir’s shaft. Faramir whines into Aragorn’s mouth, and if he could break free long enough, he’d say not to—he wants to go for hours but couldn’t possibly, they’re already pushing it and he’s slick with sweat—Aragorn’s sweat smells so good, so much raw alpha—the only thing that’s holding him back is that his alpha hasn’t come yet.

Aragorn pumping his cock and filling his ass, hitting that certain spot that sets him alight, is sheer, unadulterated ecstasy. Between kisses, Faramir begs, “Order me not to come, please Aragorn, ahh—”

But Aragorn kisses him and growls, “Come.”

Faramir wouldn’t dare disobey.

He finishes with a wild cry, almost a sob, his cock bursting a thick stream between their trapped bodies and his ass spasming wildly for it, his arms wrapping tightly around Aragorn’s neck. Aragorn nips and kisses his face and fucks him right through it, over and over, riding out the tremors. Faramir’s vision is white, his body weightless, peaked and satiated to every end. But best of all is when Aragorn nuzzles into the side of his face and whispers into his ear, “I love you.

Faramir thinks he might be crying. He’s so overwhelmed with what should be impossible. As his cock finishes, his head begins to trickle down. Aragorn keeps going, the brutal sounds of slapping flesh and squelching liquids now more poignant in the air, coupled with their heavy breathing. A few more thrusts, and Aragorn roars into Faramir’s neck, surging forward to fill Faramir up. His release rushes into Faramir’s body, hot and thick, bubbling up and pounded deeper in on every continued thrust. Faramir’s shaking.

Aragorn milks himself out in Faramir’s body while Faramir comes down, until he slows to a stop and Faramir’s ridiculously heavy again. Aragorn still pins him there.

Then, both at once, they awkwardly slide down the wall, Faramir coming loose to land in Aragorn’s lap. The contact to his used rear makes him wince, and Aragorn lifts him up again by the hips to slip free. Faramir is immediately left to feel too empty, leaking over their bare legs. Aragorn pets his hair and looks at him.

Just in case it was all a dream, Faramir checks, “Yours?”

“Yours,” Aragorn answers, leaning in to kiss Faramir again. But this one is chaste, both of them too breathless for the full thing. Sighing, Aragorn’s gaze strays all over Faramir, brimming with approval. At Faramir’s face again, he murmurs, “I could ask for no better a partner.”

Faramir’s too wrecked to say much in return. They have much to talk about. Clearly, Aragorn does mean to ride to Gondor. Now Faramir will likely be at his side. The chance to see Boromir again swells in him, though he knows the meeting may be a rocky one. None of that seems to matter in this moment, where all there is is Aragorn.

“Should we sleep here, in the remnants of our people,” Aragorn muses, “or hobble back to stain our sheets?”

Faramir laughs and shakes his head, too tired to walk now—and likely too sore—but knowing this is not a good place to lie naked. For the moment, he slumps in Aragorn’s arms, and Aragorn strokes his back until they’ve regained themselves enough to move.

Chapter Text

Though it’s very quiet, the knock wakes Faramir. It’s often proved wise in his life to sleep lightly, and now he’s glad for it; waking up first gives him the chance to study Aragorn’s handsome face, sleeping so close that Faramir can taste his morning breath. They share the same pillow, the blankets draped over them, their legs in a tangle together and Faramir’s arms folded against Aragorn’s chest, one of Aragorn’s thrown over Faramir’s waist. It’s stiflingly warm, but Faramir would have it no other way.

Then the knock comes again, and Faramir startles, twisting back to eye the door over his shoulder. He carefully extracts himself from Aragorn’s embrace and is glad he tucked himself back into a nightshirt and loose trousers after their late-night romp in bed. He pads across his chambers as quietly as he can, though he’s sure Aragorn’s keen senses will wake him anyway.

Faramir creaks the door only open a crack anyway, knowing that Aragorn still lies shirtless amongst the sheets. Lindir’s face peers through the other side, more immaculately made up than Faramir will ever be—two tiny, intricate braids frame Lindir’s ageless face, and a silver diadem encircles his pristine hair. He dons a polite smile to Faramir, then stiffens, and lifts up his toes, subtly peering around Faramir, then hurriedly dropping down again and flushing. Faramir blushes just as hot, sure that Faramir’s sensed an alpha beyond the door, if not Aragorn himself—surely Lindir’s acquainted with his alpha’s son’s scent.

Now looking directly to Faramir’s eyes, Lindir announces, “Good morning, Faramir of Gondor. My lord Elrond wished you to be informed that scouts have spotted your brother returning this way, and he is expected to arrive shortly.”

Faramir blinks back shock—that isn’t possible. Boromir couldn’t even have made it to Gondor yet, much less there and back. His first concern is, “Is he injured?”

Lindir blinks, looking as though that possibility never even occurred to him. “I am sure he is well—if he was not, sentries would be sent out to meet him as quickly as possible. My lord Elrond takes very good care of his guests and those in his lands.”

Of course, that does make sense, and Faramir admits, “I’m sorry—I did not mean to imply otherwise.”

Lindir nods curtly. “We will send for you upon his arrival. If you wish to be there, he is expected before the evening meal.”

“Thank you, Lindir.”

Lindir bows his head and pauses. At first, Faramir thinks he has something more to say, but then realizes that he must be debating whether or not to ask after Aragorn. In the end, he must decide it’s not his place, because he turns and leaves down the corridor, Faramir reserving the information in case Aragorn would like to tell others in his own way, at his own time, though Elrond will likely know any minute now.

As Faramir strolls back towards the bed, Aragorn’s stretching out his sun-kissed muscles, arms flexing atop the sheets. He looks at Faramir with a winning grin and his dark hair scattered amongst his eyes, back silhouetted in the morning sun through the balcony. For all his scruffiness—his hair still tangled and his chin still unshaven—he looks very much the king he is, entirely too beautiful for mortal eyes. Faramir feels distinctly blessed. He doesn’t even consider staying up and dressing; he crawls right over into Aragorn’s waiting arms. He has much to think about with the return of Boromir, but he has a few hours yet to face that, and in the meantime, Aragorn is irresistible.

Aragorn tugs Faramir down by the hair for a kiss, stale but nonetheless intoxicating. Faramir gets dragged into another, then another, and wastes a good several minutes on Aragorn’s mouth before he manages to push away. He means to share the news, but instead murmurs, “You look like something out of my greatest dreams.”

“You dream of naked, bedraggled men in your bed?” Aragorn teases. Faramir can’t answer, because he’s smiling too hard, and he buries his face in the side of Aragorn’s for another slew of appreciative kisses. Aragorn’s arms rearrange the blankets over them, making sure that none are stuck in between, and then wrap tightly around him, drawing him ever closer. While Faramir is mouthing happily at Aragorn’s ear, Aragorn sighs, “I heard the news. You must be pleased.” There’s a note of contentment in his voice, but that might just be from the affection currently being bestowed on the side of his head.

Faramir pulls back enough to eye Aragorn’s face properly. Aragorn’s smile has shrunk for it, and Faramir thinks he can guess why, but still answers honestly, quietly: “I am. He has meant the world to me all my life.” Aragorn looks like he understands and doesn’t judge, but just to be sure it’s known, Faramir cups his face, strokes his cheeks, and insists, “Now I have two worlds.”

“I do not wish to make you choose between them.”

Faramir doesn’t think he could now. Being with Aragorn, finally his own alpha that treasures him, has been like finding the other half of him that’s been missing for so long. But he could never give up Boromir. He says what Aragorn must be thinking: “There is room in Gondor for both.”

Aragorn nods slowly, and Faramir strokes back into his hair, lightly playing with it while a stern weight plays over Aragorn’s features. Faramir can only imagine what it would be like to have so much responsibility, and have it all lie so very far away from family and friends. But Aragorn eventually lifts his hand over Faramir’s, murmuring, “I think you and Elrond may be right. I do not know if I am ready, but I also do not know if I will ever be, and I would not, could not, give you up now.”

Just for a little levity, Faramir notes, “You make it sound as though Boromir is going to toss me over his horse and carry me back tomorrow.”

As hoped, Aragorn quirks a grin. “When he sees who you have tied yourself to, he might well try. Fortunately, I have every confidence in your ability to climb off and run back to me.”

Faramir laughs, infinitely pleased when Aragorn smiles wider for it. There will still be details to comb over, but in the meantime, Aragorn closes the distance again, sealing their mouths together. The kisses again stray too far, too long, until they’re a frantic mess of tongue and teeth and straying hands, squeezing and groping, Aragorn slipping Faramir’s clothes away and Faramir moaning into every touch. He knows he could never leave this.

Then Aragorn rolls him right over, crushing him down into the mattress and landing atop him, grinding down. Aragorn parts them enough to muse, “I think I should take advantage of our some odd hours now to thoroughly cover my omega in my scent, so that there is no confusion when we leave these chambers whose bed you’ve been in.”

That sounds like a lovely idea to Faramir, but he still points out, “Technically, you are in my bed.”

Aragorn screws up his face, feigning that he’d forgotten, but sighs, “Then I suppose you will have to mark me. Very well—get to it.” And he rolls them around again, so that Faramir is atop him, laughing and full of adoration, ready to bury his alpha in an avalanche of love.

Boromir’s late, and waiting at the bottom of the steps is a nervous thing—Faramir’s acutely aware of Aragorn at his side and knows that Boromir won’t like that Faramir already reeks of him. Elrond and Lindir stand on the other side, Elrond tall and patient and Lindir occasionally fidgeting, as though wanting not to waste so much time when there are still jobs to do about his home, but he seems hard-pressed to leave Elrond’s side. At one point, Elrond turns to him and casually adjusts the circlet on Lindir’s head, straightening it out, and Lindir turns scarlet and practically preens under the attention. It makes Faramir have to stifle a smile. He hopes he and Aragorn can manage to stay that well fit together.

Then, when it’s past dinner and Faramir’s stomach is starting to clench, a horse thunders down the mountainside. From just a speck in the distance, Faramir watches Boromir approach, finally racing down through the greenery to burst across the bridge. It rears in the middle of the dais, and as soon as it’s settled back again, elves come to fetch it. Faramir has no eyes for them, only his brother, who swiftly dismounts to march across the space.

In a heartbeat, he’s at Faramir, reaching down to envelop Faramir in such a tight hug that Faramir’s breath catches. But he holds back just as surely, pressing his face into the crook of Boromir’s neck and basking in the familiar feel of warmth, strength, protection. Their embrace lingers, until Boromir slowly releases him, pulling back to frown.

Boromir eyes Faramir from head to toe, and Faramir knows what’s different, what he’s sensing: the smell of another alpha. Before Boromir can run away with that, Faramir asks, “What brings you back so soon?”

“I could not leave you,” Boromir answers, lifting to meet Faramir’s eyes and steeling. “I... I did mean, and try, to return home. But... I could not bring myself to leave you alone and unprotected.”

This is where Aragorn speaks, interjecting lightly, “Faramir does seem quite capable of protecting himself.”

Boromir’s head swivels around, showing shock, not at the words, but the realization that must click. Aragorn gives him a tight but welcoming smile. Half for his own reassurance and half to show Boromir, Faramir slips his hand into Aragorn’s. He can see the movement catching Boromir’s eye. He tells Boromir, “You were only gone a short time, but... we have much to discuss.”

Stiffly, Boromir nods.

Through all of this exchange, Elrond is quiet, but Boromir finally turns to him and greets, “Lord Elrond,” with a dip of his head that Elrond returns. “...I hope you will not be offended if I retire to my brother’s rooms. It’s been a long journey.” And more so, he clearly needs an explanation.

Elrond concedes, “Of course. We will send dinner for the three of you there.”

Boromir doesn’t question the ‘three’ denomination. With that, Elrond and Lindir excuse themselves. Boromir spares Faramir another searching look, to which Faramir lightly smiles, trying to project that everything is well, and then they depart up the stairs, Aragorn taking up the rear.

In Faramir’s chambers, the three of them sit atop the bed, and Aragorn tells Boromir his story. There’s no need to say that he and Faramir have chosen each other; it’s obvious, though Faramir is sure Boromir will ask and he’ll tell more of it on their journey home. For now, the greater issue is Aragorn’s lineage, and Boromir listens with a careful neutrality while he learns that half the old stories were true.

When Aragorn is finished, up to the point of Elrond urging him to ride for Gondor and erect a change, Faramir adds, “They have a mural of Isildur here, and the shards of Narsil lie before it.”

Boromir only nods. “Yes, I spoke to Aragorn there—though he did not tell me then the connection of it, though I did think it odd that remnants of our people would lie in Elven hands.”

It’s Faramir’s turn for surprise—he would’ve thought Boromir would’ve brought him there after its discovery. But then, he can also see Boromir being disquieted by it and not wishing to bring it up any further. Faramir can only hope that learning of Aragorn’s true character will prove the noble history of Gondor.

For now, it seems the only proof Boromir needs—even he wouldn’t discount an Elven Lord’s testimony and the presence of such an artifact. For a long moment, he still sits with the information, digesting it, and then he asks, “You will ride, then, to Gondor, and to reclaim the throne from under our father?”

Aragorn’s face hardens, and Faramir feels the need to clarify what Boromir obscured: “He does not sit in it, exactly, but in a black throne at its steps.” Aragorn nods but doesn’t seem to think it makes much of a difference.

He explains carefully, “I have no wish to entirely usurp the stewards’ line. I would rule alongside you, if you would agree, though I am afraid that with all I have heard of your father’s policies, I cannot allow him to remain in power indefinitely.”

Boromir’s reaction is a haggard look. Faramir knows he must be torn between what he knows is right and the love he has for his father. He lets out a weary sigh, then asks, without mention of Denethor, “And what of Faramir?”

Aragorn answers with utter confidence, “Faramir will be my prince.” Though Faramir knew that intention, it still warms him to hear it. He can see the approval in Boromir’s eyes.

Another few minutes pass during which Boromir seems to think, and Faramir and Aragorn allow it. Then Boromir turns to Faramir. He looks at Faramir as though they’re the only two people in the world, Faramir the only one that matters, and he asks simply, “Are you happy?”

Faramir answers easily, “Yes.” There’s no question of it. He can see Boromir examining the answer but knows how much sincerity he shows and goes on, “He will be a good king, Boromir. I have no doubt of that. And he will make many as safe and happy as you have always made me.”

Boromir takes in a deep breath. He admits, to Faramir’s surprise, “Our father was a good king once, but... there is need for a change.” One last, lingering look at Faramir, and Boromir turns to Aragorn. “I will support your claim. ...And I will allow you Faramir, so long as you never hurt him. If you do, no amount of noble lineage or Elven guard will protect you from my wrath.”

The declaration embarrasses Faramir somewhat, but Aragorn simply nods in full acceptance. “I never would, and I would also pursue anyone who did.”

Boromir doesn’t look ready to drop the matter, but nonetheless moves on to ask, “Are you ready to ride to Gondor, then?”

Aragorn pauses. But he looks at Faramir, must see the answer in his eyes, and replies, “I will. I could not bear now to have you take Faramir away from me, and I have longed to return to those lands for some time.”

Boromir doesn’t protest. Neither does Faramir, though he does suggest, “Perhaps we should wait a few days yet and see if we can find Boromir an omega.”

Aragorn laughs at this, and Boromir turns a grin on him and playfully swats his arm.

Boromir sleeps between them to, as he says, make sure there is no untoward behaviour. It seems a silly precaution given how far they’ve already gone, but Faramir understands that Boromir doesn’t yet want to leave him, and Aragorn is equally reluctant to sleep away from him. So Faramir stays on his sliver of the bed while Boromir guards his back, and he idly daydreams of what will come in their future, when Aragorn holds the king’s chambers in the white city and Faramir is allowed to stay in them. It would make his father’s skin crawl, but, strangely, Faramir finds he no longer cares.

He can tell when Boromir’s asleep. He recognizes the sound of his brother’s steady breathing, slightly heavier than normal. When he turns over, he sees Aragorn’s eyes on him across his brothers’ shoulders. Aragorn dons an amused grin, barely visible in the moonlight, and Faramir mirrors it. He’s immensely grateful that Aragorn accepts him as well as his arguably too-strong connection to his brother.

They respect Boromir’s space and fall asleep apart, though Faramir does hope they’ll be able to sneak off at some point.

In the morning, Faramir is woken by Aragorn’s hands gently shaking his shoulder. He stifles a yawn and blinks against the new light, facing his brother’s back. Over his shoulder, he finds Aragorn wearing a cunning grin and whispering, “Should we bathe, perhaps, before we set out again?”

Faramir thinks them unlikely to head out just yet—Aragorn will need time to bid farewell to everyone he knows here, and they’ll need supplies enough for three. But he nods nonetheless and slips out of bed, following Aragorn into the adjacent washroom, curved off around a wooden partition. He finds the bath already drawn, the water with that faintly opaque quality that dictates its heat, and from behind, Aragorn flattens into him. Aragorn’s arms wrap around his middle, Aragorn’s chin hooking over his shoulders, and Aragorn purrs into his ear, “Would it be wrong to take you with your brother in the next room?”

It would. But that doesn’t stop Faramir from moaning and leaning back into Aragorn’s touch. Aragorn’s hands roam beneath his nightshirt and up over his stomach, two pinkies drawing along the hem of his trousers. Aragorn kiss his shoulder and murmurs, “I cannot wait to have you as my own, in our chambers in the citadel.”

Faramir finds that wait just as difficult. He turns, dislodging Aragorn’s hands, only to bring his own to Aragorn’s face for a kiss that he tries to keep chaste. It lingers instead. His mind is consumed with fantasies of riding Aragorn’s cock in the bathtub, but he knows his own desperate cries would wake Boromir, and that would be cruel. So he lavishes Aragorn’s mouth instead, until Aragorn finally has the strength to separate them.

“Perhaps I was a bit careless in my preparation,” Aragorn notes. “Clearly, the two of us cannot be trusted to share a bath—it will have to wait until the other can go off with Boromir.”

Faramir nods, begrudgingly agreeing. But he needs to do something, anything to keep them together, and finds himself nuzzling into Aragorn’s stubble. It prompts him to wonder, “Could I shave you?”

Aragorn grins and answers, “Only if I may return the favour, although I do not mind you like this. I would have you all ways.”

“And I like you like this,” Faramir repeats with a little laugh. “But not a full beard, I think, so I will keep this in check if I may.”

“It grows rather quickly,” Aragorn assures him, and Faramir nods, already slipping out of his arms to fetch a blade.

He’s only just sat Aragorn down to begin when Boromir pops into the doorway, only to sigh, “We really have to leave soon; clearly, the two of you need proper quarters.”

Flushed in embarrassment, Faramir guiltily asks, “Would it be alright if you left without us, and we met you down for breakfast?” At Boromir’s skeptical look, Faramir quickly adds, “We will own be a moment, I promise. We just need to do a bit of grooming.”

‘Need’ might not be the right term, but Boromir nods and leaves, looking very reticent about it, but nonetheless allowing them the moment. Then Faramir looks down at his lover and asks, “Do you trust me?”

“Implicitly,” Aragorn answers. He lifts his chin.

It’s sad, in a way, when they finally leave, though Faramir missed Gondor dearly and Boromir more so. Rivendell was undeniably peaceful, and he found an easy acceptance here that he’ll have to fight for back home, even with Aragorn in power. Aragorn lingers longest, bidding goodbye to Elrond, Lindir, and two other elves at Elrond’s side that look remarkably similar. Many more elves line the steps. When it’s time, Elrond lays a hand on Aragorn’s shoulder and assures him, “This is not the end, Estel. We always knew this day would come, and I am glad to see that you have grown wise and ready for it. But we will meet again, I deem, before too long.”

Aragorn answers, “I am grateful for that,” and dips into a parting bow. Even Lindir looks sad to see him go.

But Minas Tirith will be lucky to have him come. Finally, Aragorn mounts his horse, and the three of them turn to leave the valley. They’re swiftly past the gates, and then Faramir calls over the wind, “Will you take me with you when you return?”

Aragorn calls back, smiling, “I will take you everywhere. But we will wait a time first, until Gondor is stable and Boromir can guard the throne.”

“And if you return him in any worse condition than now—” Boromir starts, but Faramir shouts his name to quiet him. Aragorn still nods to Boromir, and Faramir lets out a mockingly frustrated sigh.

They’re long gone by the evening, and the setting sun over the mountains casts both of Faramir’s alphas in a gorgeous orange light, the configuration of the three of them all he ever wanted.