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And In The End

Chapter Text

Enticements, by just_ann_now

 

Long and deeply she gazes at me, as if she were intent on capturing my very soul; I try to turn her thoughts away but I am as helpless as a rabbit under that unwavering stare. Yet images begin to flow into my mind; I can not tell if they are creations of hers, or my own memories, or even desires I have long kept buried.

I see myself returning to my City with word of all I have seen and done: the Council of Imladris, the Heir of Elendil, the Ringbearer and his quest. “Everything Faramir foresaw is true,” I say urgently to my father, and I see him turn towards my brother with dawning respect in his eyes. “Faramir’s knowledge of history and lore are of greater value to us now. I have seen and understand that it is by stealth and cunning, not feats of arms, that we must seize our fate.”

“Perhaps you are correct in this, my son,” my father replies slowly. He turns to my brother. “Faramir, you and your Rangers know of secret ways into our enemies' strongholds. Would you show me on our maps, so that we together can plan the assault?” In that moment I feel hope renewed, for the victory and salvation of my City.

I watch them leave, stunned with joy and disbelief, for my father's arm is around my brother's shoulder, a sight I have not seen in nearly thirty years. While I watch, a page tugs at my sleeve, handing me a note; scrawled on the paper is the name of a tavern on the second level, the Rohirric quarter, and a room number. I recognize the handwriting at once, though it has been nearly two years since I have received a letter. I rush to the tavern, clomping up the stairs in my haste, trying to control the thudding of my heart as I knock on the door -

And Théodred is there, pulling me to him, and then he is in my arms, his lips warm under mine, and ah, the taste of him...

“Why are you here?” I murmur into his ear, later, as we lie entwined, willing our pulses to settle.

“Why should I not be here with you? It is what we have wanted for so long. Finally I said, 'Enough!' and signed over my birthright to my cousin Éomer, duly witnessed by the Court. I took my horse and tack, and the clothes I was wearing, nothing else. The Worm could scarce contain his joy, but I did not care.” His lips are on my throat, maddening me, and I feel my flesh begin to rise once again. “I have come to pledge my sword to Gondor, and my life to your service. I would gladly act as your manservant, mending your linen and blacking your boots, if that were the only place you had for me.”

I sit up abruptly, nearly breathless with shock. “How can this be possible? The defense of Rohan, left to another...though I would be grateful to have your sword in service to Gondor, how could you have abandoned your people?”

His eyes grow dark; I have seen that anger before. “Abandon? Éomer is a skilled warrior, and the other marshals will support him. How many times have we spoken of how glorious it would be to live and fight side by side, spend our all days and nights together? Is this not what you want?”

What I want? Yes, I have longed for him, selfishly wishing to have him all to myself. In my fantasies we ride together, fast and far, abandoning all responsibilities to sate ourselves in endless pleasure and rogue companionship. But would not my Théo be less than himself, less than the prince and warrior, leader of men, that I have loved all these long years? How could he come to me in this way, without honor, having betrayed the trust of his people to his own selfish ends, and mine? My head aches, spins for a moment...

And then I am back, standing with my companions of the fellowship, breathless and flushed under that unwavering stare. Yet it seems that less than a moment has passed.

How can she see inside me, my most secret desires, and presume to offer such things? She can no more force a reconciliation between my father and brother than she can turn back time; nor can she turn a warrior prince into a craven puppet to lure me. I will not cast aside my honor or the honor of those I love to accept what she pretends to give. The board is set; the pieces are already in play, and nothing can stop them. My father, my brother, Théodred, and I all must move to face whatever doom awaits us.

Those blue eyes, fathomless as the sea, flicker but for a moment, then her gaze moves on to Pippin, youngest and most earnest of my companions. What temptations will she offer him?