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Seasons of Wonder

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Awareness drifts back soft as the silk pillowcase under Faramir's head and the velvet bedcovers tangled around his ankles. Gentle fingertips trace a pattern on his shoulder, and a calloused toe creeps along the outside of his calf muscle, snagging in the hair on his leg. The Steward of Gondor sighs and shifts onto his side, facing the warm body whose weight draws him toward the center of the sagging feather mattress.

"Are you finally going to wake up?"

Eyes still closed, Faramir smiles, tilting his head in the direction of Aragorn's voice. "I am never going to wake up." A huff of laughter breezes across his face and he cracks his lids. "I am dreaming that I am in bed with the King, and the King is touching me. Who would want to wake from such a dream?"

"Someone whose attention the King required immediately?" Aragorn prods his erection into Faramir's thigh, sliding his arms around Faramir's waist. Their lips open together in a delicious kiss, though Faramir's mouth is sour with sweat and seed.

Beyond the curtains the sun glows pale gold in the winter sky, so he cannot have dozed for very long. Indeed, they do not have much time before they will need to return to a somber discussion of provisions, for the nobles believe that the King and his Steward have chosen to share their dinner over a private discussion of Ithilien's battered stores. They cannot know the contents of the last note that Aragorn had handed to Faramir earlier in council, which made Faramir request an urgent consultation with his King as soon as they rose for the meal.

Two days hence, when this council ends, Faramir will ride to Ithilien, and will not see Aragorn again until the spring. He is loath to waste a single moment that he could spend here, in Aragorn's arms.

"The blood of Numenor must be strong indeed, for you to require my attention again so soon," he taunts now. Aragorn's stamina would be impressive enough in a man of Faramir's age, but in one with nearly a century of hard life behind him it is astonishing. So is Aragorn's restraint; he never pushes Faramir too far, or for too long, and can time his pleasure to the brief moments available to them.

Faramir aspires to crack that control, to see how completely he can reduce Aragorn to frantic incoherence, but this is not the moment for that. The council will be waiting for them, and the Queen will tease them both for all of their remaining days if they are late again.

Aragorn had spoken truly when he told Faramir that Arwen would guess at their impulsive coupling. When they had ridden home, it seemed that the entire city had come to greet them, though they had been absent for less than a day and the Queen had shown no fear for their safety.

As they dismounted their horses, she had come forward to greet them, first a quick kiss for the King, then a warm clasp for Faramir. As he had glanced at her wide, amused eyes while Aragorn explained that they had become lost in the storm and had sheltered in a barn, she had nodded at him and thanked him for keeping her husband warm. And then she winked. Faramir saw that beneath the serene dignity of her exterior, Arwen had a mischievous imagination.

His own wife had greeted both himself and Aragorn with a cry and a breathless embrace, laughing with them as they explained that the love of the chase had led them astray. "This was all your doing," Faramir had teased, for Éowyn often led him on merry rides far from their intended destinations and encouraged him to give his horse free rein when he could.

Later, when they had been alone, he had taken her hands and told her what had transpired between himself and Aragorn. He had expected perhaps to become the target of Éowyn's fury or quiet unhappiness. He had not expected to have every detail wrested from him in eager queries -- what they did, what they said, what it felt like, whether he was frightened or ashamed or elated. And he had certainly not anticipated that he would end the evening with Éowyn flushed and urgent in his arms, loving him with such abandon that the next day Aragorn had teased that all the servants were gossiping of Faramir's ability to make his wife scream.

Everything has changed among the four of them since that night. Although Éowyn locked away her attraction to Aragorn after her betrothal to Faramir, dismissing it as a girlish fancy, she has recently taken to flirting with the King when her husband is present. And after brief initial uncertainty, Aragorn has begun to return her attentions, which rather than angering his wife seems to entertain her. The Queen, in turn, will now capture Faramir's arm in her own when she goes to walk in the chilly gardens, asking him to tell her stories of his childhood in Minas Tirith and the legends of Men as he has learned them.

Faramir knows that Arwen and Éowyn, too, have spent time together, for they are both accomplished riders and skilled with swords. Arwen has been teaching Éowyn what she knows of the healing arts and herb lore, which is considerable after several hundred years of life in these realms. It delights him to see them growing close, not only because it means that Éowyn will never object to coming to Minas Tirith with him, but because he thinks she has lived too long without a female companion. Soon, he hopes, they will both bear children, which will give them all another common joy.

Despite their happiness, despite their comfort with one another, Faramir had assumed that the night he spent in the barn with Aragorn would never be repeated. Though he spared little time on regret -- for he knew that he would still see Aragorn often, and understood then that the King looked upon him as a friend, not merely his Steward -- he had been suffused with joy on the day Aragorn had invited him to a private chamber, presumably to discuss festivities for the New Year. There Aragorn had leaned over and kissed him, murmuring, "I missed this."

Unable to resist the opportunity, Faramir had pulled him close, and, as had happened in his dreams a thousand times, Aragorn had sunk slowly to his knees, murmuring, "Let me." The reality, the chill from Faramir's open breeches melting beneath the heat of Aragorn's breath, the soft hair brushing his hip and the rasp of beard against his thigh as Aragorn's mouth moved over him, the way Aragorn held him close at the end before kissing his way up his trembling had been a greater gift than Faramir could have imagined.

They had spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying one another, moving from the floor to the table to the bed. Aragorn ducked his head bashfully when Faramir discovered that the room had been stocked with towels and ointments as if prepared for hours of lovemaking, but gradually they discarded all their shyness to admit their mutual desires. When Faramir had told Éowyn afterward, blushing in shame at his inability to cloak his inclinations, she had only shaken her head and asked what he would say if she did the same with Arwen. And then, at his stammering arousal, she had laughed and kissed him.

Today, when the meetings are finished and he rejoins Éowyn to dress for the evening meal, Faramir will tell her of these stolen minutes with Aragorn, of his acute pleasure and gratitude that she does not begrudge him this time alone with the King. Probably she will laugh at him, and tease him when he blushes, and let him hide his face against her neck, and gasp when he kisses the pulse in her throat and moan when his hands slide beneath her gown, seeking to discover whether this tale of forbidden gratification has aroused her as much as the others. Then he will make love to her with all his passion, thanking the Valar for such a wife.

"What are you thinking?" Aragorn asks, tracing Faramir's smile with a fingertip while his other hand, lower on Faramir's body, draws him fluidly back to the present moment. Joy is as real, warm and solid in the bed as Aragorn's muscular torso and restless hips. Faramir kisses the King with his eyes open, wishing to remember every moment with all his senses, until Aragorn pulls back curiously and Faramir answers him:

"I am thinking that of all the Men, Elves, Dwarves, Halflings and Wizards who may be passing through this realm at this moment, there is none so lucky as I am."

Whispers follow the Steward and his shield-maiden that evening when they walk hand in hand into the dining hall, where they sit beside the Queen, who has insisted on their company on most of the nights since their return. They have arrived late, and as they hurriedly begin to eat, Arwen asks Éowyn sweetly, "Are all women among the Rohirrim so uninhibited in their pleasure, or is it a skill of your husband's that makes you so vocal?" Aragorn doubles over with laughter while Faramir chokes on his soup and Éowyn hides her flushed face behind a napkin that cannot disguise the glow of happiness shining from her.

The stares of all the court are on the four of them, fascinated by the secrets of the King and Steward with their exotic, untamed wives. Faramir smiles in welcome at the eyes that meet his, certain that no matter what may befall him, he will never forget this season and will hold his memories more precious than any treasure.