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Oxygen. Chapter 3

by December

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"Will you keep me company for a while? I am weary of festivities, but... a quiet talk with you I would greatly enjoy, like in the old days."

"But of course," Faramir said delightedly. "I shall keep you company for as long as you like, be it till dawn if you wish. I have missed you so much..." he did his best not to put too much longing into the last sentence.

It was already the second week since Boromir's long awaited return to Minas Tirith (or Minas Anor, as it was more and more often called these days). Yet the new Steward was so pointedly busy with his duties during the day, and so pointedly tired come evening, that there had been absolutely no chance for Faramir to get a minute alone with him. The young man had begun to believe Boromir was purposefully avoiding him, and this sudden change of wind both puzzled and excited him - or maybe it was not sudden, and not a change at all, maybe it was in fact the fruit of his brother's previous evasiveness... And he could tell that the `quiet talk' would not be one either of them could possibly enjoy, for Boromir was obviously in no mood for a carefree chat - yet Faramir was veritably delighted with the invitation, for anything was better than his silent withdrawal.

Turning a corner, they left behind the sounds of revelry pouring out from the Hall of Feasts. Everyone's days were filled with tiring but utterly satisfying work of healing the country's war wounds, and the nights with an even more tiring and satisfying work of making merry. Every evening now ended in a grand supper with music and dancing, and Faramir was pleasantly surprised by how easily this new routine had changed the atmosphere of his home. The imposing gloomy halls of black marble, when properly illuminated, decorated and filled with loud happy people, had turned majestic and glamorously impressive, breathtaking in their vastness and splendour.

Yet Boromir had looked rather lost the first time he passed through the tall double-doors into the high-vaulted room which in the days of their father had stood cold, empty and dark.

And that expression of perplexed confusion, as though he had followed directions and come to the house with the correct number, only to find that the house was nothing like the place he had been going to - that expression had never quite left his stern noble face.

This, along with some other details, had not escaped Faramir's notice, and despite Boromir's seeming aloofness, the young man knew his brother's heart was seriously troubled. But he also knew better than to address this issue directly.

"You look so sullen... Are your wounds still bothering you?" walking close alongside him, he laid his palm gently on Boromir's waist and slid his hand upwards in a soft concerned caress, as though searching for the scars through the many layers of the Steward's official attire.

"Nay, I'm perfectly hale," Boromir said with a sigh, and sighed again when Faramir withdrew his hand. "Ah, 'tis nothing, just... you know I do not like feasts, too much idleness."

Faramir nodded. Idleness... Of course, his brother was seeing all his weeks of convalescence in the Golden Wood as unforgivable idleness. And, knowing him, Faramir understood that the part Boromir had played in driving back Mordor's three powerful assaults on Lothlorien did not seem to him even worthy of mention. In Boromir's opinion, a battle won for something else than the immediate glory and prosperity of Gondor was no achievement at all - and definitely could not absolve him from the fault of failing to come to the defence of his country when it had needed him most. In fact, no one would have learned of his deeds in the Elven realm at all, had it not been for some rather talkative Elven messengers, who had received a few unkind looks from the hero in question, which confirmed Faramir's surmise that Boromir was, if anything, embarrassed about the whole episode, having nothing to be praised for but this meagre accomplishment.

"Boromir," Faramir reasoned, trying to keep his endeared amusement from his voice, "the work is far from over yet, and you know it. This `idleness' is but a rest well earned. There shall be plenty of chance for all of us, you above all, to slay as many foes as you like."

Boromir merely gave a noncommittal shrug, as though to indicate the matter did not bother him at all. Faramir sighed. This was going to be difficult.

They had come to the living quarters, and Boromir stopped before the door to his old rooms, searching for the key in the folds of his rich dark raiment. Faramir halted behind him and, clasping his hands behind his back, bit his lip to suppress an amused smile.

"I believe you are forgetting yourself, Lord Steward," he teased fondly. "You chambers are now further down the corridor."

"Will you stop calling me that already?" Boromir snapped irritably. "It's ridiculous. And I'm staying in here for now: at least at night I want to feel like everything is as it is supposed to." He pushed the heavy door with such force as though it had done him some personal offense.

As soon as he stepped over the threshold, he shook off the Steward's wide sleeveless mantle with a look implying the robe's heavy expensive material was stifling him and biting at his skin through all the other garments. At least he did not let it fall to the floor, like he usually did with his clothes, but instead, after a moment's hesitation, flung it unkindly onto the sofa - and the gesture would have made his younger brother smile in different circumstances.

But now Faramir only heaved a silent sigh, and with a lowered face and thoughtful sadness in his eyes followed the new Steward through the candle-lit antechamber.

"You blame yourself for Father's death, don't you?" he asked softly, going after Boromir into the bedchamber, where the hearth was glowing merrily. They always had their `quiet talks' in the privacy of the bedroom, usually sitting cross-legged opposite each other on the black-furred bear skin before the fire, sipping wine and watching the flames dance.

But Faramir could tell there would hardly be any sitting down that night.

Indeed, Boromir stopped still in the middle of the room and, without turning, asked in mild disbelief: "What do you mean `blame'? Don't you think I actually am accountable?"

To keep himself busy, like he always needed to when unsettled, Faramir came up to the dark-wood table opposite the bed, on which stood a hefty silver goblet and two bottles of wine, and proceeded to open one. Pouring the clear golden liquid into the cup, he asked evenly and as though in puzzled surprise: "Why ever should you be accountable?"

Boromir huffed in exasperation and swiftly came up to snatch the cup from him. He drained half in one go, then looked at his brother coldly. "Why? Are you really that thick, Faramir, or are you just pretending, trying to appease me? I'll tell you why. Because, had I been here like I was supposed to, he would not have had to lead the men down on the Pelennor."

Faramir raised his face and met Boromir's gaze calmly. "It had been his own choice, brother: he could have sent me or any other Captain, had he so wished." To indicate he considered the matter closed, he recovered the goblet from Boromir's hands and took a draught. He did not say how hopeful the old Steward had been that Boromir would return that very day, and they would meet on the battlefield.

"I am sorry," Boromir mumbled suddenly, turning away and sighing heavily. "I ought not to unburden my trouble on your shoulders like so. You have had enough to deal with in the time of my absence, I am sure. And you, for one, deserve to be happy and merry now that all the toils are over."

Faramir shook his head and rolled his eyes. "And so do you," he said patiently, stepping up to Boromir from behind and putting his hands soothingly onto his brother's shoulders. "Do not worry for me, I had not had to deal with anything I was not prepared for. Father... yes, he had been rather difficult to get along with after Mithrandir had brought news of you getting wounded, but, well..." he shrugged. They both knew that for Faramir, it had never been easy to get along with their father. "And stop saying that nonsense about your trouble being yours alone to manage. When we were young, you didn't use to be buttoned up like this..." his hands had begun to gently massage Boromir's stiff muscles. "If it's within my power to make you feel better in any way possible," he went on in a tone noticeably softer and cosier than before, "I would not hesitate a moment."

"Yes, you would," Boromir muttered under his breath, but did not say anything aloud and merely moved his shoulders irritably to indicate he did not appreciate the treatment his brother's hands were giving him, and Faramir stopped his ministrations, letting his palms remain weightily on Boromir's shoulders.

"Let Father rest, Boromir," he said firmly. "You know, personally I think that... in a way, fate may have been merciful to him. He was an old man after all: used to being the lord of this land, and to the way things had been under his rule. But now much is different already, although not yet a month has passed since the War's end - and much more is going to be different in the time to come. Don't you think he would have felt... uprooted - like he did not belong in this new life?"

"But we shall never know, shall we?" Slipping from his touch, Boromir walked to the open window overlooking an empty courtyard some yards below. It had rained earlier in the evening, and a damp freshness was coming in from the darkness. The Steward sighed and caressed the cool marble windowsill absentmindedly.

"You know," he said with a sigh, with his back feeling Faramir silently come up to stand a pace behind him, "each time my opinion on something is required, I cannot stop wondering what Father would have said. It's not that I don't have a mind of my own, only..." he sighed in weariness and annoyance, quite unable to pinpoint the exact cause of his unease. "I don't know, somehow I don't feel at peace. You are right, too much has changed in too short a time - at least for me. And I can't help thinking Father would not have taken well to Him."

"Perhaps not," Faramir agreed softly. "But then again, there are many things Father would not have taken well to."

Boromir looked over at him in wonder for a moment, but then shook his head and returned his gaze to the blackness of the April night.

Faramir put his hand on Boromir's shoulder again. "Brother, come, surely you do not regret Gondor has a king now?"

"No, of course not, only..." he sighed, averting his face so that Faramir could not see even his profile. How could he explain?

"Look at me," Faramir reached to cup him tentatively on the cheek and encouraged him to turn and meet his gaze. And when he did, the young man saw that Boromir was painfully hopeful his little brother would somehow put everything into the right places. "You feel guilty for accepting Lord Elessar so easily when you think Father would have done otherwise, right? I..." Faramir licked his lips, knowing he was going to walk on eggshells now. "I know how you respected Father, Boromir, and we have never allowed ourselves to... question his views or decisions, but... but don't you think that perhaps, just like any other man, he was not always faultless? Lord Elessar is no usurper, and in giving him your loyalty, you do Father no treason."

Boromir sighed, and a vaguely ironic grin appeared on his lips. "I believe you would have made a better Steward than myself, brother. Not to mention that you have actually done far more than I to earn this title, what with all the battles you had fought... It is that you always somehow make sense of things, while I only ever make everything complicated."

"Aye, sometimes you do," Faramir agreed with a smile.

Boromir frowned. "All right, maybe I am overcomplicating this, but... Father... You say he would not have fit in. Well, you know what, I don't feel like I fit in either. I fain hope that once Aragorn is officially King, he will abolish this stupid position of mine... Oh, maybe it would have been better had I simply -"

Faramir's eyes flashed, and he pressed his fingers to Boromir's lips, cutting him off. "No," he uttered with stern assertiveness, "don't you dare say it. It is only natural to feel strange and somewhat uncomfortable in this new world we have won for ourselves - but don't go too far, brother. Father is one thing, and you are another, you are young and there is yet plenty of joy for you to find. Besides, to wish death upon yourself is plain selfish - have you not thought of me?" His palm slid from the man's lips back to his shoulder, and Boromir, unconsciously clenching his hands, barely resisted the temptation to bring it back and kiss the palm.

But the tenderness he would have liked to place into that gesture, he put into his voice instead: "I have been thinking about you all the time; you are, probably, the only reason I am here after all."

"Yes, I know," Faramir whispered softly, surprising Boromir by suddenly pulling him into a warm and gentle embrace, resting his face on his older brother's chest, his brow pressed to Boromir's collar bone. "I know..."

Boromir hugged him back a bit awkwardly, unsettled by the surge of warmth rushing through his body at the touch. To cover up this unwelcome excitement, he whispered teasingly: "Oh, you know? I don't remember you being so confident in your assumptions before."

"Maybe I should have been," Faramir murmured with a smile, but there was also a hint of sadness in his voice. He looked up and saw Boromir gazing at him apprehensively, the Steward's eyes darkened by some intense emotion, and Faramir's smile turned into a coy grin. "Or you should have been, does not matter," his murmur was unmistakably playful this time, and the twinkle in his clear bottomless gaze...

Boromir's lips parted, and the first light of dawning comprehension in his eyes made Faramir feel like he had drunk not a single draught, but a full bottle.

"Faramir... what...? What are you talking about?" Boromir managed to utter with a forced awkward laugh, and Faramir felt his brother's hands on his back grow tense and almost lifeless with stiffness.

Sighing inwardly, Faramir slipped out of the embrace, his palms lingering on Boromir's chest momentarily before dropping. Had he not known it was going to be difficult? Patience...

He shrugged dismissively and turned away, his tone perfectly casual when he spoke: "Nothing of importance, at least for now. You are in too sombre of a mood for this, Boromir - and besides, we haven't finished with some rather weighty matters. Let us not jump subjects," he had returned to the table and was running his fingers thoughtfully over the smooth dark wood - just like his brother had done to the windowsill. He noticed the gesture and smiled to himself: over the years he had adopted so many of Boromir's mannerisms, all in a vain effort to give himself at least an illusion of... "We were talking about loyalty and the King, remember?"

Boromir frowned in confused vexation. Nothing had been said, yet this evasive tone, these demure smiles, the heat he had felt their bodies exchange while they stood close...

"Nay, brother," he said decisively, once more closing the distance between them, coming to Faramir's side and trying to look the younger man in the face. "Finish what you were about to say - and let all the matters of state go to the blazing pits together with the King."

Faramir lowered his face as though in thought, but Boromir noticed a faint grin appear on his shapely lips.

"Don't speak of the King thus," Faramir said softly and a little teasingly. "He is a most worthy man, kind and understanding... even if a bit of a blabbermouth at times."

Boromir started and took a step back. Although he knew he ought to have acted as though this remark had not unfazed him, he only further betrayed his distress by whispering hoarsely and entirely unnaturally: "Excuse me...?"

Faramir turned to gaze at him, and even though the younger man's expression was overall rapt and serious, his eyes were positively shining with mirth. "Let us not pretend you do not know what I am talking about, all right?"

Boromir suppressed a growl. Heat instantly flushed to his cheeks, and his sudden shame was so fierce he turned away, unable to stand facing Faramir anymore. "And after this you say there is no reason for me to doubt him?" he muttered, breathless with outrage. "What is wrong with that man?! I had taken him into my confidence - and very clearly asked him to keep it shut, but he -"

"Boromir, please, don't be angry with him," Boromir felt Faramir's hands once again come to rest on his shoulders, and even though he wanted to shake them off, for some reason he could not. "I assure you, Lord Elessar had our best interest at heart when breaking his promise to you..."

"Then he is not a scoundrel, but simply a nosy fool," Boromir whispered stubbornly. Now that he knew Faramir knew, the touch of his brother's hands had taken on a completely different significance, and this significance was making his heart thrash in his chest.

"Nay, he is neither, but merely a man who is wiser than both you and I put together," Faramir slid his hands down Boromir's back to snake them under his arms and hug him around the chest, pressing himself against his brother's tense body. "Why are you so alarmed, so skittish? Or were you not truthful when you spoke to him of the things you carry in your heart?"

"I spoke nothing of what I carry," Boromir replied quietly, at a loss what to do about this firm warm embrace, and thus merely allowing it, his own arms hanging limply at his sides. "I have only told him of a little episode that had taken place more than twenty years ago; all else he may have related to you would have been his own conclusions."

"Well...?" Faramir murmured gently and thoughtfully, resting his cheek on Boromir's shoulder so peacefully and cosily as though he was not about to ask perhaps the only important question in his life. "Are his conclusions correct?"

Boromir took a strained breath, his eyelids lowering. "Do you wish them to be...?"

Faramir allowed himself to strengthen his hug, pulling his brother just a little closer. "Isn't it rather obvious what I wish?"

"With you, it is ever difficult to believe that the obvious is indeed the case."

Suddenly Faramir laughed. "And with you it is exactly the other way around. I would have never guessed you to be capable of keeping a secret from me. Honestly, I thought you had long since completely forgotten about that time at the Sea..."

But Boromir did not answer.

He could not answer.

He could not even think. And of course, all the matters pertaining to his official life, to his position and duty, all the respective worries and doubts, including those about the King - all of it had been swept clean out of his mind. For a short while it had seemed to him the very floor was slipping from under his feet, the only thing to remain in this world being his brother's hold on him, Faramir's warmth against him...

"Brother, won't you turn to me?"

Boromir complied blindly, half-consciously, aware only of one thing: that whatever Faramir were to ask of him, he would do without stopping to think for a heartbeat. And when he turned within the ring of Faramir's arms, still unable to reciprocate the embrace, Faramir saw how undone the new Steward already was. The young man was awfully tempted to instantly set to undoing him even further - this, as opposed to the talking part of the evening, would not be difficult at all.

But no, first there was something else.

"Boromir..." He paused, hearing the raspy note of desire in his own voice. Apparently, Boromir was not the only one to be coming undone...

"Boromir... please, take a moment to consider, maybe..." he paused again, working hard to phrase his concerns. "I am no longer sixteen, and all the sweetness, modesty and purity you had been so enchanted by are long since gone - alas, through none of your doing. If... if it is that feeling you wish to have again, I am afraid my love would only disappoint you. If the memory in itself is precious to you, if you wish to preserve it - indeed it would be better not to... We would only ruin..." he trailed off, for once getting lost in his own words. But he knew he had said enough.

And indeed, Boromir lowered his eyes and sighed heavily.

He did not like to be reminded.

Foolish and embarrassing it seemed to him now - almost sacrilegious. That unique precious sensation... yes, he had endeavoured to recapture it, to repeat it somehow...

He had had quite a few of them. Fresh young lads, untouched and timid, bright eyes cast down, all atremble with fear and novel desire - desire they could hardly understand or even fully recognize. He would bewilder them even further by actually being gentle with them - at least until coming to realize that with this particular boy the magic would not work.

Nothing. Not once. Not even an inkling.

Then he had even tried his luck with delicate pliant maidens, thinking, what else could evoke this sweetness in him if not their fair soft hands?

Nothing. Nothing at all in his heart, although plenty of fire and other things in his loins...

Thus eventually, when he had grown quite distasted with these useless attempts and frustrating encounters, he had been forced to acknowledge the failure of his search, and forever commit that memory, that soothing radiant treasure to the safekeeping of the past. Many years had passed since that time, and it seemed to him he had long since relinquished all hope of ever finding such otherworldly bliss.

And now that his brother had touched the still sensitive subject, Boromir looked at him gravely. "I wish no fifteen-year-old in your place, Faramir. And the memory is precious only because it is a memory of you. We are different people now, and the feeling is different, but still I would -"

He was unable to finish, for Faramir had already understood what he was saying, and thus swiftly leant in, tilting his face, and kissed him - not like a boy would, but only like a man could. And, returning the kiss in kind, Boromir finally wrapped his arms around Faramir's waist - not like a brother would, but only like a lover could. He pulled Faramir to him, at the same time pushing his own body against his brother's, leaving not a hairbreadth of distance between them. At once the fire he had been trying to keep at bay flared up in him, and his hands roved searchingly, longingly all over Faramir's back, sides and shoulders, hungry to feel the shape of his body underneath the clothes - just like Boromir's tongue explored the mouth that had for so long been forbidden to him.

It felt both strange and entirely natural to be doing this to his younger brother, and to be receiving the same treatment from him. For years he had striven to avoid exchanging with Faramir even perfectly acceptable gestures of brotherly warmth - no kisses on the brow, no hugs, hardly even a pat on the shoulder: all for fear of something awakening in him at the touch - a fear he refused to acknowledge even to himself. And even when these gestures were unavoidable - Faramir had always been a rather tactile person, and for his part never missed a chance to get cosy - when it actually happened, Boromir would unconsciously forestall any unwanted reaction of his body (or worse, his heart) by bracing his will and mind, benumbing every stirring of emotion and suppressing every dangerous thought.

But now, at long last, he allowed himself to surrender to the force, letting the sensation wash over him in all its multitude of shades, drown him in its depth, swipe him down and rob him of breath.

This passion was deep and seasoned, but amid it all - there it was, evoked by a mere kiss and touch of hand. The elation he had long since not even dreamt of capturing. The incomprehensible mixture of fervour and tenderness, of heat and sweetness. The belonging, the rightness, the oneness.

Incomprehensible, yes. Too magnificent to be real. Too intense to last. No, it could not possibly last. No one could possibly be this lucky.

Cupping Faramir's face with both hands, he forced himself to draw away to stare with desperate hope into the younger man's hazy darkened eyes.

"But Faramir..." he muttered urgently, "are you sure this is not just some wine-induced silliness? Perhaps all the festivities have simply got you in the mood, or... or you are just too relieved to finally see me alive after all this? Or maybe you are doing it out of pity, because you can never bear it when someone is miserable? Is it that -"

He had spent too many years telling himself this love could never be - would never be...

Listening to him, Faramir fought hard to keep his mouth from betraying his mirth. Boromir could be so foolish sometimes... How endearing it was to see his warrior brother - this powerful full-hearted man - so anxious, so unprotected, almost insecure in his longing. Where had all the irony, all the derisiveness, all the indifference gone? Where were his smirks, his cool glances, his `couldn't care less' attitude?

And in response to Boromir's unending monologue Faramir merely rolled his eyes, and then silenced him with another kiss.

How could it be that this second kiss was even better than the first? At once, Boromir bore down on him with such violent ardour that Faramir was forced to bend backwards a little, although kissing him back just as vehemently.

The desire, finally fully accepted, had not waited long to come into its own, and was quickly taking on quite a tangible form. They both felt it all too acutely in themselves as well as in each other, as their hips began to press rhythmically together, needily but vainly. It took their hazy minds some moments to realize that first some undressing was in order - but as soon as the idea was registered, impatient fingers at once set to fumbling with buckles and lacings, to tugging impatiently at uncooperative cords and clasps, to simply sliding in between layers of clothing, searching for the quickest way to feel hot bare skin under the palm.

Boromir grinned inwardly as Faramir finally rid him of the outer tunic and slid his hands beneath the undershirt, making the muscles of Boromir's abdomen contract sharply. Was it possible to believe that some half-hour ago he had earnestly considered himself the wretchedest man alive?

"Do you realize..." he panted against Faramir's throat, his own hands working to liberate his brother of some unnecessary garments, "that if we are to continue like this, in five minutes we shall end up..."

"In bed? Yes, I realize that, and there's nothing I'd want more..."

Please proceed to Chapter 4.

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Fandom:  Lord of the Rings
Title:  Oxygen. Chapter 3
Author:  December   [email]
Details:  Standalone  |  NC-17  |  *slash*  |  26k  |  06/29/10

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