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Seasons of Wonder

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They ride with a host of men, princes and soldiers and squires, some from Ithilien, some from Minas Tirith. It has been a long and tedious trip to make sure that Gondor is prepared for the winter, both its defenses and its stores. While others converse about the coming storm, the King gallops to the lead with his Steward at his side. As they reach the crest of a hill, Aragorn grins at Faramir and leans forward in the saddle, urging his horse onward.

Then Faramir, who under Éowyn's tutelage has become as skilled a rider as any among the Rohirrim -- more skilled than his father or brother ever were -- gives chase. Over hillsides spare and brown from the last night's frost they race, until their companions have slipped far behind them...until they are red-cheeked and laughing, slowing together under a dark, metallic sky that shows no trace of the setting sun.

And Faramir circles around with a bemused expression, and asks, "Are we lost, Aragorn?" as the first flakes of snow begin to fall.

The blizzard comes on with astonishing speed. It nearly blinds them and their horses long before they can make their way back to the others. They ride close together, much more slowly than is prudent given the need to seek shelter, but they cannot risk becoming separated in the whiteness; or, rather, Aragorn will not risk it, though the Steward begs the King to ride to safety if he can.

They find the barn by accident, looming dark in the glare only when they are so close that their horses shy away, sensing the solid structure before them. Faramir shouts in glee when he discovers that the doors are not bolted, and realizes only when they have rushed inside that this is because the building has long been abandoned. There are no animals, no nests with eggs nor troughs of water. Still, there are mildewed hay bales stacked to one side and an intact bucket, and despite cracks in the old wood of the slats, the walls keep the snow and wind from freezing them.

Aragorn fills the bucket with snow and churns it with the handle of a rake to make it melt, apologizing to their horses for having no crops to feed them while Faramir removes the leather harnesses, rubs the animals down with his hands and spreads their saddle blankets over their backs. Despite their heavy cloaks, he and Aragorn have both become covered with snow and are soaked to the skin when they warm up a little. "We should lay our clothes out to dry," Aragorn suggests, shivering as he pulls wet layers of velvet and silk off himself and lays them on a stale bundle of hay. He spreads his cloak wide on the barn floor over a layer of straw, placing his boots, his breeches, his heavy stockings along the wall nearby.

Faramir begins to remove his own drenched clothing, wishing they dared build a small fire but knowing that they would likely burn the barn down, if the straw were dry enough to start one in the first place. The light is growing very dim, despite the glare of the snow through the cracks in the door. "We shall have to keep one another warm," says Aragorn, "for this storm may last the night."

He does not voice his fear that their soldiers will stay out looking for them past the point of safety, but Faramir knows what the King must be thinking, and tells him, "The men will have gone back to the city, and by the time they realize we have not arrived there ahead of them, surely they will guess that we took a different path, and remain inside through the worst of it."

Nodding, Aragorn smiles gratefully, then flips his head upside down and shakes the water from his hair like a wet dog. Nearly undressed, he seems more a Ranger than a King, though his eyes are the clear gray of his ancestors' and he stands tall, unashamed of his nakedness. Faramir strips to the final layer of clothing and hesitates at removing his undergarments, but Aragorn has peeled the damp wool from his own skin, now pink and raw in spots from the scratchy fabric. The King looks no different than any other man, with the same scars and imperfections marking his body, yet Faramir cannot resist the impulse to gaze, and must force his eyes away as he removes the last of his own clothes while Aragorn tugs his mantle over the straw and sits on its damp fur.

"Bring your cloak," the older man says. Grateful, though the suggestion is only practical, Faramir drapes the warmly lined garment over his body before he turns, keeping it pulled around himself until he has sat beside Aragorn in the dimness, offering to wrap it over them both. Aragorn slides beneath the heavy cloak and draws Faramir down with one arm so that they are lying together on the fur lining of the royal mantle with Faramir's cloak over them like a blanket. Aragorn's feet are very cold where they brush Faramir's, but his chest and arms are warm. He puts them around Faramir, who reciprocates after a moment, spreading his palms uncertainly over the smooth hard muscle of the King's back.

Though he is still shivering, Faramir no longer feels the bitter sting of the icy storm. Instead he finds his chest vibrating with Aragorn's heartbeat, his face tickled by Aragorn's hair. They have never been so close before, and though the frigid air has numbed his nostrils, he can almost taste Aragorn's scent in his throat. He fights an urge to let his lips brush the King's shoulder. Feeling him tremble, Aragorn pulls Faramir closer still, hooking an ankle over his calf and bringing Faramir's head beneath his chin.

For a moment it is like being held by his brother, many years earlier, after a bad dream, in the bitter rooms their father would not allow to be properly warmed. The emotion of the memory overwhelms Faramir. He presses the bridge of his nose into Aragorn's throat and concentrates on not losing control of himself, weeping or clinging like a child. Long fingers stroke his hair, and he feels Aragorn press a kiss to the top of his head, asking, "Are you still so cold?"

Nodding, for he does not trust himself to speak, Faramir tries to relax his grip on the firm shoulders. His cock has come to rest against Aragorn's thigh, and when Aragorn shifts, the movement sends blood pulsing through it. He tries to pull away but Aragorn holds him close: "Stay, I need your heat." The other man's cock stirs as well, crushed between their bodies. That gentle prodding sends a powerful surge through Faramir; his fingers and toes curl and flex, his breath hitches and he grows fully erect, hiding his burning face between Aragorn's chin and collarbone.

Aragorn's fingers remain in his hair, combing through the damp curls, seemingly trying to soothe him. After a few strokes they cup his head, tilting it back, and though it is nearly too dark to see, there on the floor between the rotting hay bales, Faramir thinks that Aragorn's eyes are blacker even than the dimness warrants. His lips have parted in a semblance of surprise, his breathing is ragged, and his hands clench convulsively on Faramir's skin.

The King, Faramir reminds himself, this is the King; but what he intends as a warning has the opposite effect. He aches to surrender to whatever Aragorn might want of him -- would plead, in fact, if he could spare the breath for it, though his chest has constricted, being nudged from below by Aragorn's cock, the hottest part of all his flesh. Faramir thinks of the other spot reputed in soldiers' jokes to be the warmest on a man's body, and he twitches again. He has never let another man take him, and has not been touched there since he was a teenager when he and Boromir found themselves isolated and spent a summer experimenting, but if Aragorn wished it...

The dark eyes seem to have grown larger, and Faramir realizes that his mouth has drifted closer. They are breathing one another's humid air, pressing into each other in a subtle yet steady rhythm. Aragorn's hand has not left his head, and Faramir thinks that he must be encouraging him forward, for his chin is tilting, his lips are moving, and suddenly their mouths have come together.

A moment later the gentle touch is gone, though the fire it has sparked throughout Faramir's body remains. With a small whimper he lifts his head, returning his lips to Aragorn's as he feels the other man press into his belly. His own hips shift helplessly, rubbing his cock up and down, back and forth on Aragorn's skin, desperate for relief from the building pressure in his groin. They kiss, twice more, with their eyes open, staring at one another as if waiting for a rebuke. Then Aragorn leans in with his lids shut and his lips parted, brushing Faramir's mouth with his tongue. Faramir cannot hold back the groan that escapes his throat when he yields, clutching at his King.

Aragorn returns the sound before sealing his lips to Faramir's, probing at first cautiously, then eagerly, letting their tongues slide together. When they break apart to breathe, he keeps his eyes shut, murmuring, "You feel so warm now." Faramir cannot reply; all his focus is on controlling his hips, which keep trying to thrust his cock against the rigid thigh muscle that pushes at him in return.

"Faramir." Urgently, he stills himself. "The winter night is long, and death waits beyond that door..." For several heartbeats Aragorn falls silent, and Faramir thinks he must be seeking words to place a barrier between them, to explain away this intimacy. Yet when Aragorn speaks again, his voice quavers, afraid and hopeful: "May I touch you? Will you touch me?"

"Please," Faramir begs, wishing the entreaty sounded less like a sob, though a moment later it no longer matters, for Aragorn has wrapped a broad hand around Faramir's cock and irrepressible cries bleat from his throat as the fist strokes him steadily. His fingers fumble across an expanse of smooth skin, groping for Aragorn in turn, but before he can establish any sort of rhythm, Aragorn (the King) runs his thumb just so into the fluid spilling from the tip and makes Faramir burst, causing him to spurt onto Aragorn's hip and thigh and over his own hand on Aragorn.

"Faramir," another choked whisper, and the King's wet fingers surround those of the Steward, closing his grip harder than Faramir would have dared around the precious flesh. Kissing Faramir's face, Aragorn thrusts into their slippery hands, now joined in their task the way their fingers cross when Aragorn passes the staff of his office to him at ceremonies. Trembling, Faramir moans with Aragorn until the King's pleasure pours over his chest and belly, so hot and abundant that it is impossible to believe that icy death could wait outside the barn.

Aragorn holds him close, like a lover, with his face resting in Faramir's damp hair, until their breath has stopped coming in grunts and their heartbeats no longer pound like orc drums in their chests. With one hand he reaches behind himself, drawing some wet, chilly layer of clothing between them and using it to wipe off first Faramir, then himself, before discarding it again. His grassy-scented fingers stroke Faramir's cheek.

"You are not sorry?"

"I am not sorry at all," Faramir replies, thinking that it would not be proper to tell the King that he has never been less sorry about anything. Cautiously he inquires, "Are you sorry?"

"No, I am very happy," Aragorn murmurs, kissing the corner of Faramir's mouth. And Faramir is overjoyed, thinking: Perhaps he has imagined this before. Perhaps he would do it again.

Aragorn lowers his head into the soft lining of his mantle and quickly falls asleep, his breath warm against Faramir's chest. But Faramir lies awake as the last traces of light fade from the barn, wrapped between their cloaks in a radiant, peaceful haven. He thinks of how greatly his father despised him and how tenderly his King cares for him, of how he misses Boromir yet how he might never have known this happiness had his brother lived.

Sleep is slow in coming, and his dreams are strange, for he moves through waves of light and dark, of hot and cold, where he might be afraid if he could not feel Aragorn's hands curled protectively over him.

Later Faramir wakes to blackness, yet the thick fur surrounding him and warm body beside him have made the frozen night turn cozy. He thinks of Éowyn, wishing that she might be sleeping soundly rather than fearing for him. They have had to spend many nights apart since their marriage, when his duties have taken him too far from home, and he hopes that she does not fret overmuch.

Aragorn has rolled onto his belly with the knuckles of one hand nudging Faramir's back. Comfortable yet alert now, Faramir begins to recall what transpired earlier in the evening. His body squirms pleasurably and his breath comes faster when he thinks of kissing Aragorn, touching Aragorn, coming to completion in Aragorn's hand...

He lets himself imagine that it had been Aragorn's tongue instead of thumb brushing the head of his cock, the King on his knees, taking him in with a smile...imagines that he had done the same to Aragorn, taken the thick muscle into his mouth, worshipped it with his lips and tongue and throat and fingers until the seed of Elendil's line gushed out...swallowed it down, taken it into his body no matter how bitter, that way or any other, any way Aragorn wanted...letting Aragorn have him, on his back or on his belly, sweetly or forcefully, just to hear his name spoken again in that urgent, reverent voice...

The mantle bunches against his back as Aragorn turns, hip brushing Faramir's backside, which makes him shiver. A heavy arm encircles him, fingers splaying across his belly before the side of the King's hand bumps into his stiff cock. Faramir feels his face start to burn but the huff of laughter behind him holds no scorn.

"What have you been dreaming?" Aragorn whispers, his words like a warm caress in Faramir's ear. Faramir's hips shift of their own accord, rubbing the tip of his cock into Aragorn's open palm.

"Of this," he admits.

"Only this?" The voice hums with amusement, and the hand lowers, brushing up and down the length of Faramir's erection. Even this light touch makes him shiver and moan.

Aragorn's other arm squeezes beneath Faramir's body, pushing through the soft fur to creep over his hip. Fingers trail down his groin to circle his balls, still barely making contact with his skin, teasing exquisitely. "You did not dream of this also?" murmurs the breath in his ear.

"Of this, too."

"But would you never dream," suddenly Aragorn's moist grip captures him, "of my mouth on you?" Faramir's entire body jolts; he whimpers aloud, and Aragorn chuckles, spreading the dampness blooming at the tip of Faramir's cock down the shaft with his palm while continuing to taunt his balls. "Have you?"

Faramir shudders again, recapturing his earlier image of Aragorn on his knees. "I have."

"Tell me," Aragorn commands, but Faramir can speak no more, groaning as Aragorn's hands begin to work on him in earnest, summoning pulsing-hot blood to his groin. For several minutes they are silent, with only the sounds of flesh stroking flesh and rapid, gulping breaths to echo in the darkness.

So quietly that Faramir could almost believe he has imagined it, Aragorn whispers, "I would do it. I would take you in my mouth, my Steward," and how does Aragorn know that these words, even more than his relentless touches, will make Faramir cry out so harshly? "I would suck you, I would lick you," fingertips laving delicately over and around his balls, lapping into the creases between groin and thigh, and Aragorn's lips are closing over his earlobe, tongue plunging into the surface of his ear, "here, and here," as Faramir shouts a helpless warning.

And as the hand on his cock twists with each thrust, as the fingers cupping his balls reach back to spread his buttocks and stroke around the hole, as Aragorn croons, "Let it happen, do it for me," Faramir tosses his head so hard that they roll backward together, and lies half on top of Aragorn, jerking in his grasp, spraying his release across his own belly and onto the King's mantle, blurting the King's name.

When he can inhale, when he can pull away from Aragorn's arms enough to sit and turn, Faramir finds himself being watched by a face flushed with desire and eyes bright with merriment. "You called me Elessar," Aragorn teases. "Do you want me, or would any King serve?"

Elation works like strong drink in Faramir's blood, loosening his tongue. "I know my duty to my King, but it is you I love," he avows, then quickly bends and kisses Aragorn to cover the wonder on his face. Kneeling between Aragorn's legs, he moves his lips and hands down the unresisting body until he reaches the much-desired goal, and as he takes Aragorn's cock into his mouth and feels Aragorn's hands come around his head to cradle his skull, he is fervently grateful for this chance to adore this man as he wishes -- his friend, his savior, his King.

When brightness begins to creep between the cracks of the wooden slats, Faramir wakes again, damp with sweat between two layers of fur, with a thick, strange taste in his mouth and muscles lazy with contentment. He and Aragorn have drifted out of the tangled knot of limbs in which they fell asleep after Aragorn kissed the bitterness from Faramir's tongue and tried to brush the drying stickiness from his skin, but their ankles have remained bent around each other, and Aragorn mumbles and reaches out when Faramir rises to seek a corner in which to relieve himself. He is thoroughly chilled by the time he finishes, and crawls shivering beneath his cloak, letting Aragorn warm him with rough chafing of his arms and legs.

"If the snow has settled, perhaps we will be able to ride," he says.

Faramir thinks that if they are trapped in the barn for another day, even without food, he will not complain. This is the longest time he has ever spent alone with Aragorn, uninterrupted by ministers, soldiers, or their wives; he is in no hurry to end it, even if Aragorn loses all desire to touch him in the light of day. Tilting his head, he regards the King, who smiles suddenly and leans in to kiss him.

"If you want to pretend that none of this happened..." Aragorn begins.

"I want never to forget a moment of it," interrupts Faramir. They lie close for a moment, forehead to forehead, noses bumping, before Aragorn sighs and rises, beginning to struggle into his icy clothing.

When they open the barn door, they discover that the snow has indeed settled, and is not so deep that they cannot traverse it. The horses whinny quietly, hungry and chilled, but they are healthy animals and should have no trouble walking for several hours. Faramir is more troubled by the gray, featureless landscape, but he and Aragorn are both trained scouts and should be able to guess their path once they set out.

"Will you tell your Queen where we spent the night?" he queries as he pulls his cloak into place, hiding the evidence of their pleasure in the folds against his back.

That is not, of course, the question he truly wishes to ask, and it is not the one Aragorn answers when he glances over. "I won't need to tell her," he replies with a smile. "She will know." He does not elaborate, and Faramir wonders whether some Elven sense will allow Arwen to smell him on her husband or if some inner bond between the King and Queen of Gondor has already given them away.

"Will she be very angry?"

Still Aragorn is smiling. "To see us alive and contented after such a storm? She will be happy for us." Then his brows lower, guessing Faramir's thoughts. "You are worried about your wife. Will you tell her?"

"I think I must." It is no secret that his wife once loved the King, either between himself and Éowyn or between Éowyn and Aragorn. Faramir has never been envious of her feelings, for he has all that he could want in his life, but he has also never tried to share with her his own hesitant longing when Aragorn is near, so formless for so many months that he had almost come to believe that all men felt the same way in the presence of the King.

He does not know whether Éowyn will be bitter, but he thinks that even if it wounds her, she will understand; she asks him sometimes to tell her of soldiers on campaigns, far from their women, and he suspects that such stories arouse her. With a wicked grin, Aragorn suggests, "Perhaps she will have spent the night with Arwen," and Faramir blushes helplessly. He has not allowed himself to think of the Queen, Aragorn's wife, in such a manner, but...he shakes his head to clear it, and Aragorn chuckles. "My wife is centuries older than I am. There is little we could do to shock her."

It occurs to Faramir to ask another question, a more dangerous one perhaps. Aragorn sees his hesitation, waits for a moment, then moves to the horses, beginning to adjust their saddles. "What is it?" he asks over his shoulder.

"My brother," Faramir begins before growing uncertain about what he wants to ask; and indeed, when he sees Aragorn's shoulders stiffen, he thinks that this subject is best left to the past.

But Aragorn turns. "What of Boromir?" His eyes are stormy gray, intense, and Faramir cannot look away.

"Did you love him?"

Slowly the King steps away from the horses, coming to stand before Faramir. After a moment he puts a hand on Faramir's arm and draws him nearer. "I would not have you fear that I seek his ghost in you, nor have you resent one whom you loved so much in life."

That answers his question, yet does not, for Faramir can see that Aragorn is in pain. His brother never knew the King of Gondor; his brother knew only a Ranger of Elendil's line, a man with whom he journeyed and quarreled as an equal. Faramir shakes his head. "There is nothing you could say that would make me love my brother any less. And I do not fear that you seek Boromir in me; I am too unlike him, though at times I wish it were not so." He halts, studying Aragorn carefully. "Sometimes I think that perhaps I seek him in you."

Quite suddenly Faramir finds himself drawn into a tight embrace. "Thank you," Aragorn whispers. Faramir clasps him around the waist, and they stand together for the length of many heartbeats, each lost in memories. Then Aragorn murmurs, "Yes, I loved him. From the moment I saw him in Rivendell, I was drawn to him. But, Faramir, never worry that I wish he were here in your stead. I wish that he had not met such a fate, and that we could all be together in Minas Tirith, somehow...laughing and drinking ale and speaking of the world we knew..."

There are tears in Faramir's eyes, and when Aragorn's voice breaks they spill down his face, but he is not ashamed. "We share the same dream, then," he murmurs.

"I think that perhaps we share many dreams." One of Aragorn's hands finds Faramir's face, stroking gently, and the embrace changes from one of comfort to a sweeter consolation. Faramir raises his lips to steal a last kiss, finding his King welcoming and eager.

After a few minutes they pull apart, for they have a long journey through the fresh snow before they can rest comfortably again. But Faramir has no fear, and thinks perhaps he never will again; for now he has Aragorn, and he knows the way home.