Disclaimer: the characters belong to the estate of JRR Tolkien. I merely spin tales and make no money off it.
Note: written for liars_dance for the 2008 lotr_sesa fic exchange.
Note II: Radhruin is the namesake of one of Barahir's out-law companions.
Thanks: to caras_galadhon for the help and support.
O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on;
-Shakespeare, Othello, act 3, scene 3 -
The knock on the door had barely sounded before Aragorn was on his feet, and Faramir was once more surprised by how Aragorn's senses seemed keen as knives even after several pints of ale and even in the late hours. They had spent several hours in the main library of the Citadel poring over aged maps over both Ithilien and old lost territories in a bid to ascertain how the borders might best be protected, and Faramir already felt his head had grown heavy both with fatigue and with the ale that they had been drinking to slake their thirst. No such inconveniences had seemed to bother Aragorn, and now his suspicions were confirmed as Aragorn moved with his customary grace and energy.
The unexpected visitor turned out to be not one of the scribes or one of the commanders, but a stranger.
Faramir frowned as he regarded the man standing in the doorway. If one judged by manner of dress, the man was no doubt a Ranger of the North, for so travel-worn were his clothes and of such hue as might grant near-invisibility in forest and on grassland. He offered a cursory salute, so casual it would have passed for a greeting of friends rather than one intended to honour the King.
"'Tis a changed city," smiled the man. "Where before we Rangers would not have dared walk, in daylight or in shadow, we are now welcomed and immediately granted an audience with the ruler. An audience which interrupts one already in progress, I see."
"Radhruin," said Aragorn warmly before embracing the man tightly, "it has been too long since last I saw you. Were it but yesterday, it would still have been too long."
Faramir felt a curious stab at his chest, something akin to both unrest and anger. He looked down at the table, at the maps that covered most of the surface, and sought to school his features into something that might be taken for thoughtfulness.
"You are always welcome, whatever your errand may be," continued Aragorn. "And this was no formal audience."
"I cannot stay," said Radhruin, his hands still clasped around Aragorn's shoulders, "for there are matters more pressing that I must attend to with great haste, but neither could I pass the City and not pay my respects. "
Faramir felt the strange mixed emotion anew and now recognized it for what it was: jealousy. He felt slighted over having been dismissed in so offhand a manner. When Radhruin caught his gaze and offered a courteous bow, Faramir forced himself to acknowledge it according to proper etiquette, even though he for a moment had entertained the thought of offering as casual a salute as Radhruin himself had given when entering.
As the door closed behind the Ranger, Faramir returned his attention to the maps, shuffling them in a bid to distract himself and regain mastery of his emotions once more.
"Faramir? Is something amiss?" Aragorn's voice was amused.
"No, my King. I was merely lost in thought."
"You did nothing but glare daggers at the poor man," chuckled Aragorn. "I cannot imagine why, for there was nothing untoward about his behaviour, even though it perhaps was a tad more rustic than formal etiquette would require, and though he might have been more familiar with me than you might have expected." He looked at Faramir, his eyes glittering. "That is what unsettled you so, was it not?"
Faramir set his tankard down fast enough for some of the ale to spill onto the table. He opened his mouth to protest that it was not true, but realized even as the thought formed that it was not so. And what was worse, he realized, was that if he were to offer a lie, it would no doubt be recognized as one. For several agonizing moments, he sat silent, desperately searching for some bland phrasing of the truth that he might offer without risking causing offense.
"I cannot say that it unsettled me, my King," he said finally. "It merely took me by surprise. I ask forgiveness if I offended you."
Aragorn did not reply immediately, but instead sat regarding Faramir, the shadow of a smile playing on his lips. "I am not offended," he said at length. "You might even say that I am flattered."
"Flattered?" asked Faramir, forgetting the title in his surprise.
Now Aragorn smiled. "Flattered that I cause jealousy. One might not think it is an emotion that inspires pride, but I cannot truthfully say that it does not flatter me, for it seems to tell me that there is something still in me which is desirable."
Now Faramir truly found his tongue tied. The game he had played of late, where he had sought to carefully gauge how he might gain something more than mere favour from Aragorn, now seemed to have been rudely disordered, and what he had thought had been a lead on his part had been whittled down to nothing.
"Radhruin is an old friend, and that is truly all," said Aragorn. "Now," he challenged, leaning casually on the table, "did my guess strike true? I gather by your demeanour that I cannot have been far off the mark even if my first guess proved incorrect."
Faramir felt thin tendrils of alarm uncoil inside him and swallowed thickly. "My Ki--" he began, but Aragorn raised a hand.
"Aragorn. My name is Aragorn. There are no titles here, Faramir, not in moments when I decide that they can be dispensed with. You need not be so tense." He curled a finger under Faramir's chin, urging him to rise, and then cupped his hands around Faramir's jaw, regarding him silently for a moment before kissing him.
Faramir was taken aback at first, his mind reeling with both exhilaration and confusion, but soon reciprocated, growing bolder. If indeed he had been outwitted at his own subtle game a moment earlier, then what better way to regain his lead than by respond in kind?
"Forgive my apprehension," he said when at length the kiss was broken, "it is just a lack of knowledge of how best to behave in situations such as this."
"Behave as a man," said Aragorn, his voice warm. "You have too much love for decorum."
"Decorum, you say?" Faramir smiled, suspecting his smile was a grin and caring little about it. He shifted suddenly, pinning Aragorn against the table before stealing first one kiss, then another before setting to work unlacing the fastenings of Aragorn's breeches. "If lack thereof pleases you, then let me oblige."
- END -