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His father was a noble man, yet there were moments when Boromir longed to fling him to the ground and make him crawl until he knew the sorrow and humiliation of tasting dirt. This was one of those moments, looking at his brother's face, a stiff mask of calm hiding the pain that Boromir knew Faramir must be feeling.

Not half an hour earlier, Faramir had been trying to hide his emotions for a different reason. When they had first seen one another after Boromir's speech, they had been unable to resist a rare public embrace, and Boromir had seen the love plainly in Faramir's eyes before they had turned to talk of festivity and drinking to distract the curious soldiers watching them. They had had only a few scant minutes to celebrate together before Denethor had appeared, wiping the happiness from Faramir's face. Boromir had lost his taste for ale at once; listening to his father berate his brother never failed to make his stomach twist.

Now Denethor had ordered his older son to Rivendell, many long months' journey away, in pursuit of a rumour. For his younger son he had had only insults and dismissal. So great was their father's aversion to Faramir that Boromir wondered alternately whether Faramir so reminded Denethor of his mother that the Steward could not bear to look upon her younger son, or worse, whether Denethor suspected Faramir not to be his own flesh and blood. But the resemblance between the brothers was so great that Boromir doubted any could possibly believe such a thing.

Was it possible that Faramir reminded Denethor not of his lost Finduilas, but of himself and his own weaknesses? Boromir did not know. He could not ask the Steward of Gondor whether he felt weak or afraid, even though the Steward was also his own father.

"Sometimes I honestly think that I could strangle him," he said to Faramir as they entered his tent, shoulders slumped with dejection despite the happy sounds of revelry around them.

Despite his obvious unhappiness, Faramir gamely raised an eyebrow as if responding to a joke. "Indeed. Are you in such a hurry to be Steward?" he teased.

"You know me better than that!" Boromir was in no mood for merriment, though he longed to see Faramir smile again. "I do not know how you can stand to have him treat you so."

"Neither do I," replied Faramir softly. He reached for Boromir's hand, stroking his thumb reassuringly across the thick leather of the glove. "And I do know you better than that. You must not blame yourself for his behaviour."

Shaking his head, Boromir withdrew his hand to pull off his gloves, then to begin to remove the heavy armour he still wore. There were squires outside who would have helped him, but he wanted to be alone with his brother for every moment left to them. "Maybe we should tie him to his horse and send him to Rivendell," he suggested, hoping to return his brother's humour.

"If we tied him to his horse, he might never reach Rivendell."

"We could send one of his lackeys with him to untie him for meals and to sleep." Faramir made a sound rather like a laugh, and Boromir stepped close, clasping him despite the heavy metal breastplate that separated them. He felt calmer, so close to his brother, his anger fading and his head clearing to the questions that he needed to answer.

"Do you think it is possible that he sees truly?" he asked Faramir. "That the Ring has been found?"

"Boromir..." Faramir's tone contained a warning. "I think he sees a great deal."

Boromir glanced up, smiling. "What do you mean? You are the one who has visions." But Faramir's eyes were dark and unhappy.

"I have the mixed fortune of being around him more than you are. He...knows things. Everything. Things that should be secret."

The veiled threat in these words made Boromir step back hastily, returning to the task of removing his armour. "Everything, you said? Surely not."

"He knows many things that he should not know. These rumours about the Ring -- do you not wonder how they came to him, when we have heard no whisper from any other, and Mithrandir has not visited the city in so long?" While Faramir spoke, Boromir checked the flap of his tent, making certain that its ties were secure and that none could overhear their conversation. "And Boromir...I think he knows about us."

Whirling around, Boromir stared at his brother in dread for a moment. But he was already shaking his head no, unable to reconcile the words with his father's previous behaviour. If his father knew of what transpired between his sons when they were alone, Boromir was certain, he would already have been sent far from the city, while Faramir would have been held in irons at the very least...

"He does not know," he insisted. "He cannot."

Faramir stepped forward, reaching out to help Boromir remove his armour. "After you left the last time...the way he looked at me. As though I was dirty."

"But you saw how he greeted me here," Boromir maintained. "His praise is so excessive that it embarrasses me. If he knew...he would let me know it. He would punish me for it."

Now Faramir was shaking his head. "Yes, I did see how he greeted you. But I'm certain he would never scold his oldest for such a thing. Surely it would all be attributed to my influence on you." He stepped back, and Boromir realised suddenly that his brother's hands were shaking too much for him to continue to unfasten the buckles on Boromir's armour.

Grabbing Faramir by the shoulders, Boromir forced him to meet his eyes. "Since we are speaking know that he scolds me for speaking to you, for defending you to him. If he thought that -- that you were more to me than my beloved little brother -- he would certainly say something to me about it. Even if he blamed you, I do not see how he could not see it as weakness on my part, and berate me for it."

"Do you honestly think he would berate you in front of everyone here, and take the chance of someone overhearing?" Faramir reached up and took hold of Boromir's wrists. "He wouldn't dare."

Stepping back, Boromir pulled his hands away and let his eyes drop, but his tone remained defiant. "He would take me aside, but he would let me know. He would look upon me with the same loathing he turns on y-- on those he considers weak."

"Boromir..." Faramir moved forward, reaching for his hands again with pain and confusion in his eyes. "Please, do not pull away from me. Not now. You'll be gone for so long."

"How could he know?" Boromir wondered aloud again. "We have not been home, either of us, for months. We have not been together in...I cannot even remember the last time!"

"Two nights before the last time you departed Minas Tirith." Faramir smiled, looking down and blushing a little. "I pay careful attention to such things." He shrugged and glanced up again. "I cannot say for certain how he knows. But there are other things, Boromir, that he could not possibly know. When the orcs began burning crops outside Osgiliath a few months ago...he knew before the reports came in."

Tossing his last piece of armour down with a clang, Boromir made a disbelieving noise in his throat. "He might have feared it, but he could not have known. I think you see him as stronger than he is, little brother. His power is failing...he knows that the people no longer have the same faith in him that they once did. He is not the figure from our childhood who controlled us all."

Faramir took Boromir's hand and tugged him over to the cot, though he urged Boromir to sit on the floor. He was silent for some time as he sat behind Boromir and began to rub at his shoulders. "I do suppose you're right," he agreed finally, and pressed a brief kiss to the top of Boromir's sweaty head.

Tugging Faramir's hand from his shoulder, Boromir clutched it momentarily to his face. "If he knew...we would not be here now. We would be watched, both of us. And he would not give me a moment's peace."

Faramir stroked his fingers down Boromir's cheek. He did not sound entirely convinced when he spoke: "You're right. My concerns are...foolish."

"I did not say that." Leaning his head back against his brother's leg, Boromir closed his eyes as Faramir brushed strands of hair back from his cheek, tucking them behind his ear. "We have always known how dangerous we could be to one another...I only think that if he had proof instead of suspicions, he would have taken action already. He knows that I love you...too well. Beyond that, I do not know if he would dare to consider."

"You cannot possibly love me too well," Faramir said a little teasingly. Closing his eyes, Boromir reached once more to cover his brother's hand with his own and drew the fingers to his mouth. Faramir's thumb brushed over his bottom lip, and he flicked out his tongue against Faramir's palm. With a little shiver, Faramir added, "Though I count myself the luckiest man in Gondor."

Twisting, Boromir put an arm over Faramir's legs and looked up at him. "No. That would be myself."

"Do not start this argument again," Faramir warned, "or I shall tickle you."

"You would not dare!"

Faramir's eyes gleamed mischievously. In a swift movement, Boromir turned around, rose to his knees and planted his hands on either side of Faramir's hips on the cot. "You know you must not," he muttered in a throaty voice.

"And why is that?" Faramir leaned closer, his lips mere inches from Boromir's mouth. "Is it because you fear you shall scream, and all the men in the city will come running to your aid?"

"When," retorted Boromir without flinching, "have you ever made me scream against my will?"

Faramir considered this. "It's hard to say whether the screams were against your will or not."

"They were not," Boromir growled and lunged, knocking Faramir sideways across the bed with his legs still dangling to the floor and his hands pinned at his sides.

Faramir looked up at Boromir. "Very well then." He was silent for a moment, catching his breath before grinning cheekily. "Now that you have me like this...what do you plan on doing with me?"

"Now that I have you...fully dressed," Boromir realised, releasing his brother's wrists so that he could begin to unfasten and unbuckle his clothing. "Aren't you warm? You may be feverish. We should...sponge you down."

Faramir squirmed, pushing a knee between Boromir's thighs. "Very warm," he agreed, smiling. "I do feel a little lightheaded. That is certainly what I shall say, should anyone attempt to come in." Boromir's cock was swelling against Faramir's thigh, and he shifted it back and forth against Faramir as he tugged leather and fabric out of the way. "Boromir..." His brother reached up to tug at his clothing as well. "I missed you. I missed you desperately."

Pausing, Boromir looked down at Faramir; then he leaned over very suddenly and kissed him on the mouth, remaining close when they pulled apart to breathe. "I missed you terribly as well."

Faramir tangled his fingers in Boromir's hair and kissed him again. "I ached for you, Boromir. Thought about you...dreamt about you." Boromir's breath grew harsh for a moment, then he was in motion again, reaching to unfasten Faramir's breeches. "I feared that I would speak your name in my sleep," confessed Faramir, reaching down to help. "Boromir, kiss me again. Please."

Stretching out at Faramir's side, Boromir rolled his brother toward him, hooked a leg over his body to hold him close and drew his face in with his hands, kissing him openmouthed. Faramir pressed along the length of his body, rubbing against him rather shamelessly. "Need you," he whispered against Boromir's lips before kissing him again.

Sliding a hand down Faramir's body, Boromir teased a nipple and stroked a scar on his brother's side before going to work once more on the laces of his breeches. "There are men all around us...our family, our soldiers...we must be very careful..." Pulling away, he retrieved a blanket from the bottom of the cot and drew it over both of them before he snickered suddenly: "I feel as if we are children hiding in a tent we have made of our bedsheets."

"I will be careful, I'll be quiet. I can't bear the thought of you leaving without being able to do this again," Faramir replied. "But you are still wearing too much!"

"We must leave our shirts on," Boromir protested. "If anyone comes in, we must be able to pretend that we are merely...ministering to one another's injuries..." His fingers pushed beneath Faramir's clothing, stroking his skin before he briefly, deliberately tickled him. "Like that," he added innocently.

Faramir squirmed, choking back a giggle. "That's not very nice!" he protested.

"It was your own suggestion, as I recall," Boromir hissed, lowering his head to swipe his tongue across the exposed side of Faramir's throat. "Because I am still the luckiest."

Faramir tilted his head back, gasping softly. "You most certainly are not." His fingers trailed down Boromir's chest.

Boromir's fingers closed over Faramir's nipple again, tugging at it. "I am." Faramir gasped again, arching against Boromir so that he could feel his brother's erect cock prodding him. "You are a naughty boy, and I should give you a spanking. Fortunately for you, we are not in a convenient spot for it. So I shall punish you..." His teeth nibbled at Faramir's earlobe as he thrust against Faramir so hard that their thighs slapped together.

"Oh, Boromir, you have never given me a spanking," Faramir murmured, pulling him ever closer until he pushed up suddenly, shoving Boromir over onto his back. "Your punishments have always seemed to favour pleasure for the both of us," he said, grinning naughtily and pulling the blanket up over their heads again.

As Faramir kissed him again, Boromir let his legs fall open and wrapped them around Faramir's body. "The first time you ever kissed me, we had been wrapped in a blanket," he recalled with a contented hum.

"Oh, I remember," Faramir whispered, beginning to thrust against Boromir's hip. "I trapped you against me...tickled you until you tickled me back."

"You were very wicked and I should have spanked you then...if I recall, I did threaten to. But I could not." Shifting, Boromir got his cock aligned with Faramir's and thrust back. Gasping, Faramir pressed his face against Boromir's neck and groaned softly. Boromir echoed the sound. "You feel so good, you always did..."

Faramir squeezed his hand between their bodies, wrapping his fingers around Boromir's cock. "Like this?" he teased, beginning to stroke him slowly. An inarticulate sound burst from Boromir's throat at the feeling, though he managed to muffle it before it turned into a cry. He let his legs fall from around Faramir's body to brace himself on the cot, giving him more leverage to thrust up. "Oh, Boromir," Faramir moaned against his neck, thrusting mindlessly against him in the rhythm of his fingers on Boromir's cock. "Oh, Boromir."

"Faramir," Boromir gasped in reply. His legs were spread as widely as they could be on the cot, and he arched up, trying to urge his brother's fingers lower as he moved his free hand across his brother's back and dipped it into the furrow between his buttocks, seeking, stroking.. "More...more," he begged.

"I love you," whispered Faramir, breathless, his fingers moving down to the base of Boromir's cock, teasing over his balls. "What do you want?"

"Just touch..." They had no oil, no salve, and even if it were otherwise they might not have dared enjoy each other so intimately in the middle of the soldier's camp with their father and uncle so near. Faramir licked Boromir's neck, then moved lower, his feet dangling over the edge of the cot while he sucked on Boromir's nipple. Boromir groaned a faint protest as Faramir's cock slid out of his reach. "Where are you going?"

Faramir glanced up, smiling. "Where would you like me to go?" Without thinking Boromir twitched his hips, thrusting in Faramir's clasp, toward his chest. "Nowhere?" Faramir grinned more broadly, sliding down lower, his legs hanging off the cot. He licked around Boromir's belly button. "Nowhere at all?"

Helplessly Boromir jolted upward again. "Please..."

"Please, what?" Faramir ducked his head and ran his tongue around the head of Boromir's cock.

The cry that burst from Boromir's lips was far too loud, even with the blanket muffling it. "Please...turn around. You know that you dare not make me scream!"

Faramir turned, eagerly, and took the head of Boromir's cock into his mouth even before he was properly settled into place. He let out a soft, joyous moan around Boromir's flesh, sending currents of heat through Boromir's groin. Boromir did not even take the time to nuzzle Faramir's thigh, for he feared that he would cry out if he did not silence himself. He took Faramir's cock as far into his throat as he could, nearly choking but desperate to contain the groans welling in him as Faramir's lips and tongue surrounded him.

While Faramir moaned around Boromir's cock, Boromir clutched at his hip, trying to tilt his head at an angle that would allow him to control the speed of their movement together, though he could feel his balls already tightening and Faramir hot and swollen against his tongue, leaking salty fluid in his mouth. He knew it was dangerous to draw this out, but he sucked gently on Faramir's cock, wanting to savour each moment, and he could not help but thrust into Faramir's mouth, groaning.

Faramir whimpered, his hips moving frantically as he sought release. Then he shuddered hard with a groan, spurting his seed into Boromir's mouth. Boromir gasped and nearly choked as the hot liquid flooded his throat, forcing him back so he could swallow. His own cock was on the verge of erupting, but he forced his hips to hold still until he could feel the tension lessen its grip on Faramir who shook for a moment above him and then hummed softly in contentment. At the sound and its vibrations, Boromir moved again, pushing himself into Faramir's mouth and letting his legs draw up.

Faramir took as much of Boromir's cock as he could, slipping his hands underneath Boromir's hips to pull him up. He hummed again and swallowed around Boromir, urging him to let go. With a shudder Boromir let his head fall back, pulling his mouth from Faramir's flesh. He bit back a cry, jerking violently with the effort, and erupted into Faramir's mouth.

Faramir swallowed eagerly. He tenderly licked Boromir's cock clean, releasing him a few moments later so he could turn around and lie at his side, still breathless, twining his fingers with Boromir's. "Love you," he whispered.

Boromir was still trying to catch his own breath, but he rolled to wrap his other arm across his brother's body. "I love you," he replied as Faramir nestled into his arms. "I wish I could bring you to Imladris with me as a bedroll. Oh, it is not fair...perhaps I could abduct you and claim it was orcs." His tone was light, but Boromir clung tightly to Faramir, face pressed against his shoulder.

"That sounds like an excellent plan," Faramir nodded, his voice shaking.

"Do not let Father trouble you." Boromir's voice was suddenly fierce. "There was nothing you could have done to hold Osgiliath. You know that you are a good soldier. Do what you must. Do not allow him to make you question yourself."

"I'll try," Faramir whispered.

"I will come back for you as soon as I can. I promise. But you can do this without me. You always could."

"I don't want to," Faramir admitted in a broken voice, clutching him. " will take you nearly a year to rich Imladris!"

"And I will think of you every day, and wish you were with me." Boromir hesitated, wishing only to rest in his brother's arms, but knowing that when he woke, they might not have a chance to speak again. "We have little time, and you are better read in lore than I am. Tell me about Isildur's Bane. What can it do? What should I fear?"

"It can turn its bearer invisible if he puts it on. By all accounts, it is responsible for Isildur's death. Evil is drawn to it, as the Nazgûl are bound to it and to Sauron. Boromir, no matter how strong Father thinks you are...I do not know if any of us could be strong enough to wield it."

"But can it do what Father hopes? Could it turn the Shadow from Gondor?"

"I don't know. It betrayed could just as easily betray us."

Boromir nodded, trying to remember what Denethor had said to him. He had been so confident that the Ring would be their salvation, if Boromir could return it home safely. "He said that all the other races would seek it...Elves, Dwarves. If Elrond of Rivendell has the Ring, why should he let it come to Men?"

"I am not certain the Dwarves would truly care to have it. Several of their own rings of power are missing." Faramir paused. "And I doubt Elrond would have any reason to give the Ring to Gondor."

"If we had a King perhaps, if Isildur's heir sat on our throne..." Boromir began bitterly.

"Perhaps...I don't know, Boromir. Information is so scattered, there is so little to know. As far as we can tell, Isildur was the only man to carry the Ring."

"Father is foolish. You are the one who should be going to Rivendell." Boromir sighed. "I do not want you to leave, no more than I want to leave myself, but you have read the old stories, and you might know what to say..."

"You are far more persuasive than I am. I would probably just ramble. Or be too dazzled by Rivendell itself to know what to say."

"I am certain that you would charm everyone you met," Boromir insisted. Faramir chuckled softly. "You would. You would some handsome Elf and never want to come home."

"An Elf!" Faramir hid his face against Boromir's shoulder. "Surely an Elf would never show the slightest interest in me."

Now it was Boromir's turn to chuckle. "I am sure the Elves, Dwarves and Men could all appreciate you. I daresay that nearly everyone can..."

"Boromir! Stop." Faramir nudged him with his elbow. "You are the only one who appreciates me."

"And sometimes I think that you are the only one who knows me at all."

Faramir was quiet for a moment, then said, softly, "We are very alone, Boromir. Have you noticed that? We've spent our entire lives, isolated, no matter how many people surround us."

"Of course I have noticed. How could I not? Yet you have always been here for me. Even when you have not been with me, I have been able to think of you, and I was not alone." Boromir paused. " should not be alone, on my account."

"It is not on your account, Boromir. You did not wish for this, nor ask for it."

"Of course I wished for this!" Boromir tried to laugh, only to find that his throat was too tight. "But I do not wish it, when I am to be gone so long. I want you to be happy. I want you to remember me with pleasure, not regret."

"I will, Boromir. I promise." Faramir lifted his head and stroked Boromir's cheek. "But you must promise to return to me."

"Of course I will!"

Faramir nodded, and then lowered his head again, resting it on Boromir's shoulder. "About what you said. Do -- do not tie yourself to me, while you are gone."

"I do not understand." Boromir's brow creased. "I am already tied to you. I always will be."

" not let the thought of me...consume you, if something should...come up."

Boromir opened his mouth to protest or to deny his understanding, but he did not speak for several moments. He did not know whether an avowal of loyalty would comfort Faramir or only make him suffer if he found solace elsewhere, and he did not want Faramir to feel any more abandoned than he must already.

Finally he replied, "Nor should you. No one..." And Boromir turned suddenly, looking straight at Faramir. "No one could ever come between us. You are my brother -- nothing will change that. Not if we marry, not even when we die."

To his relief, Faramir smiled. "Nothing will change that," he agreed. "I love you, Boromir."

Boromir's fingers traced his brother's lips. "And I love you."

Together they settled on the cot, to sleep before the early farewell they would have to make on the morrow.