Denethor drank his wine in big, sloppy gulps, then slammed the goblet down on the solid table with a harsh thump. "He will marry, Boromir. He will marry when I tell him, and whom I choose."
Boromir's hands balled into fists atop the table, then flexed again. He would not allow the Steward to run his brother's life so callously and with no thought of Faramir's wishes. His gaze flickered towards Faramir, who looked fearful though defiant, and he gave his much-loved brother a reassuring nod. "Faramir is old enough to choose for himself, father. You have no right to make such a decision for him," Boromir said with a boldness no one else possessed in Denethor's presence.
Denethor scoffed. "Old enough, you say? Aye, that he is. But I am tired of waiting for him to make up his mind. It is shameful enough that my oldest son refuses to wed at all."
Boromir avoided meeting his father's piercing eyes, and Denethor continued. "That he proclaims to be too preoccupied with keeping safe the borders of Gondor to find a wife." A disgusted snort. "Too preoccupied indeed!" Denethor drank more wine, then wiped his hand across his mouth. "I will not have all of Gondor whispering behind my back and making me a laughing stock. I will not have them say that I am punished with two sons who prefer to lay with men."
Boromir closed his eyes, hissing angrily. He did not care that he was thus accused, for he was discreet and no one would ever be able to prove that this was the truth. And he was relatively safe from his father only because he had always, reluctantly, been the Steward's favourite. But he did not want such accusations to cling to his beloved brother Faramir. Faramir, who was... Boromir's eyes widened when he took in his brother's reaction to Denethor's words. Boromir would have expected to see anger flare in the clear blue eyes, or sadness at yet another slight. But what he saw made him hold his breath, and instant fear for his brother's life gripped his heart.
Faramir looked panic-stricken. All colour had drained from his face, and his lips were trembling. His fingers, where they held a napkin, were clenched into a fist, and Boromir was certain that without the cloth to protect Faramir's fine skin, he would see a stain of blood spreading from the palm. The usually soft gaze was haunted, and a fearful, covert look was cast toward Boromir, who returned it with what he hoped was one of reassurance, for he had at once divined his brother's secret.
"Ah, I have had enough of the sight of both of you!" Denethor declared with disgust, drunkenly raising himself off his chair whilst clutching the edge of the table. "I will go to bed, and I do not wish to set eyes on either of you for at least a day." With that, he staggered from the dining hall, his heavy shoes thundering across the stone floor and to the creaking door. With much commotion and a noisy cough, Denethor departed, leaving his sons to themselves.
The moment the door had fallen into its lock, Boromir let out a sigh of relief, then fixed his gaze on Faramir who, still pale and anxious-looking, attempted to avoid his eyes. "Faramir," he said with infinite softness, reaching across the table even though his brother's hand - still clutching the abused napkin - was out of his reach.
Faramir laughed humourlessly, hanging his head in defeat.
"No, Faramir. Do not shut yourself away from me. Not from me." Boromir quickly moved around the table to sit on the chair at Faramir's side. He placed a comforting hand on Faramir's forearm.
"He will have me killed, Boromir. Or worse..." A fearful look into Boromir's eyes. "Banished." Faramir sounded completely defeated.
"He will not lay a hand on you for as long as I have life in me, Faramir. This I swear to you by all the love I have for you."
Faramir's eyes met Boromir's again; they were red-rimmed with uncried tears. "Do not make this worse for me, brother, I beg of you."
Boromir was confused. "Faramir, what do you--" In a flurry of motion, Faramir had torn away his arm and jumped from his chair, and before Boromir could even think to grab hold of him, he was halfway to the door. "Faramir!"
"I am sorry, Boromir," Faramir stopped to murmur without turning back. "But my shame runs so much deeper than you could imagine." And with that, he bolted from the room.
Boromir followed him immediately, but by the time he stood in the drafty corridor, Faramir had already vanished. And if there was one thing Boromir knew, it was that when Faramir did not wish to be found, he would not be found. Resigned, he sighed, and went to his own chambers to try and make sense of Faramir's words.
He spent the evening thus, chilled but uninterested in relieving his physical discomfort with a hearth fire. Reclined on his bed with a carafe of wine within reach, he pondered Faramir's statement, the wrath of their father, all possible punishments to come from this, and the future of Gondor if there was to be no heir; it certainly looked as though there was to be no heir. Emptying his goblet, Boromir finally concluded that none of those considerations mattered even half as much as Faramir's welfare, and he determined at once that he would find Faramir and make him confide in him. After all, Faramir knew he could trust him, and perhaps once his brother's initial anxiety had abaded, he would speak.
As he raised himself from his dishevelled bedding, Boromir heard a clink on the cold stone floor and bent to retrieve the fallen trinket: it was a single button - one he recognised after a moment's thought - and Boromir knew at once its significance. When Faramir had been no more than a babe, and Boromir had been allowed to hold him for the first time, he had played with his big brother's tunic buttons, for they had been the only things he had been able to hold in his small fingers. This one button, Faramir had torn off in his childish clumsiness and, after much reassurance from Boromir, been allowed to keep as a plaything. What Boromir had not known was that Faramir had kept the button for as long as this.
A sudden fear, and another emotion too deep to ponder at that moment, gripped Boromir and replaced his fond nostalgia with pure chill. Why, if Faramir had held onto this simple keepsake for these many years, had he brought the button here, now? Why had he returned it to his brother's care when he had thus far considered it such a treasure worth holding on to?
Boromir knew at once that he had to find Faramir, even if it meant searching the entire kingdom. He tucked the button into his chest pocket and rushed from the room.
* * *
As it happened, Faramir did not prove as elusive as expected, and it was with great relief that Boromir finally located him in the most remote corner of the Steward's gardens, where he stood in the moonlit autumn night like a melancholy stone figure, willow branches caressing his slender shoulders, and the air stirring the soft ringlets of his hair against his face.
Boromir fought to stay still for a moment, simply watching him. He had done so often in the past, observing his brother unnoticed, though guiltily. It was like an addiction, to watch the ghosts of a thousand emotions chasing across Faramir's face. Some of them Boromir recognised only too well - anxiety, despondency, sadness. Some, however, were emotions Faramir did not allow to surface when he knew himself to be under scrutiny. These were the most unsettling to Boromir, because while he could not name them, they were like an echo of the things he felt himself. They were what drew him and his brother so close. Clearing his throat quietly, Boromir walked up to him, causing him to jolt in surprise.
The tension Faramir had displayed earlier at the dinner table returned full force, making his slender form rigid as he stood beside Boromir. "Why did you come?"
Boromir sighed. "Because I am Boromir, and you are Faramir."
As though all had been explained, Faramir nodded slowly, as if resigned to his fate, whatever it may be.
"I found this on my bed." Boromir held the button in his open palm in such a way that the rays of moonlight caught it and made it clearly visible to Faramir. Faramir made a little choked sound and turned to walk away. "Do not do this to me, brother," Boromir pleaded, and instantly, Faramir stopped. When, to Boromir's great frustration, Faramir simply stared down at his feet in silence, he growled and lifted his brother's chin with his thumb and forefinger. "Faramir!"
Even in the dim, indigo light, Boromir could tell that Faramir's eyes were brimming with tears, and he felt the trembling tension in Faramir's very skin. "What is this secret you are keeping from me?" He sighed, tilting his face to force Faramir's eyes to meet his own. "You have never kept secrets from me before."
Faramir swallowed hard, the muscles in his throat shifting against the knuckles of Boromir's hand. "Once, there was no need to do so," he said sadly.
"Nor is there such a need now." Boromir's voice held a conviction Faramir found hard to bear, especially knowing better, as he did. "Tell me, why did you return the button to me tonight?" With a tender smile, he added, "It seems to me that it was yours to keep all along, and that you are its rightful owner still." Faramir tried to avert his eyes, but Boromir would have none of it, holding his chin more firmly. "You have loved me well enough once to want that keepsake. Now love me enough to tell me what tortures your soul so, Faramir."
Faramir whimpered. "Speak no more, Boromir, I beg of you."
Boromir let go of his brother's face and drew him into his arms instead, holding him tightly to his broader chest. "If you wish me to be silent," he murmured near Faramir's ear. "At least allow me to comfort you silently."
Faramir made a choking sound, his fingers clutching at Boromir's back, and he buried his face against his shoulder, where a steady trickle of dampness proved that he was crying. Boromir struggled to remain silent, but he knew it was what Faramir needed, so he simply continued holding him, making a shelter for him in his strong arms. When Faramir finally attempted to withdraw with a shuddering sob, Boromir would not let him move beyond his embrace, and so they came to stand with their arms around each other and their faces inches apart.
"There is no shame in loving men over women, Faramir," Boromir said as softly as he could.
Faramir sighed heavily. "Perhaps not, though father would disagree."
"I do not care what father thinks. I only care about you, Faramir. There is no shame, do you hear?" Boromir stroked back a strand of tear-damp hair from Faramir's face, surprised at the shiver the gesture caused.
Faramir swallowed audibly, but his eyes were now steady, as if he had made a great resolve, when they fixed on Boromir's. "But there is shame, Boromir, in loving one's own brother above all others." And before the full meaning of his words could sink in, Faramir had pressed his trembling lips to Boromir's. The kiss was not returned and, a moment later, Faramir began to draw back to face his fate, for now that Boromir hated him, all else faded into insignificance. "Do what you will with me, brother," he said shakily, confused that Boromir's arms were still around him even though his brother's eyes were wide with shock. "I know you must despise me now."
"Despise you?" Boromir asked in a rough whisper that caused a tingling sensation against Faramir's mouth. And there they were again: those unnamed emotions, unchecked in Faramir's eyes, the tension between his brows, the quivering of his lips. For the first time, he displayed them openly. Boromir could only imagine that he simply lacked the strength to shield them. And Boromir knew - hoped, in fact - that his brother now saw them reflected back at him. "For heaven's sake, how blind I have been!" he ground out.
Before Faramir was able to question his brother, the embrace around him tightened impossibly, and Boromir's mouth was back on his, ravaging it with a passion that made Faramir's knees weak. Whimpering, Faramir could only hold on to his brother, swept away by the desire so suddenly unleashed upon him - a desire to rival his own quieter and, as he had thought, hopeless one. Boromir's hands moved frantically up Faramir's spine to cup the back of his head. He kissed him hungrily, threading his fingers in soft strands of hair. His other hand was at the small of his brother's back, pressing him close. Faramir's groan reverberated against the back of Boromir's throat, and his lips were parted when Boromir's tongue sought out his own to stroke, to caress. His hands lay splayed across Boromir's shoulder blades, and he used the leverage to grind against his brother's erection, letting him feel his own.
Boromir growled, biting lightly at Faramir's lip as he retreated to take a breath. He was panting hard. "How could I not know my own heart?" he asked, laughing shakily. "Faramir, how long have you known this?"
Faramir's lips trembled with both passion and nervousness, though the former now far outweighed the latter, and he said huskily, "I have always loved you, Boromir. I have loved you so intensely, there was nowhere else my love could take me."
Boromir's eyes softened, and he cupped Faramir's face in his less-than-steady hands, gazing into bright blue eyes lovingly. "Faramir, I have not lived until this moment." He placed another soft kiss on Faramir's lips, then took his hand and said with a touch of anxiety. "Do you..." He cleared his throat. "Please let me.."
Faramir smiled and nodded, and Boromir's face lit up. He began to lead Faramir further down the narrow path on which they stood, to where the trees grew thicker and impenetrable to anything but the rays of the sun by day and the moon at night. A distant nightingale was the only sound to punctuate the steady whistling of the wind through the treetops. It was cold, being late October, but it was, right then, the most perfect place in Middle Earth.
Faramir followed with a pounding heart, happy to walk to the ends of the earth with Boromir, or into the heavens themselves. His brother's hand held his own, but the trembling of it filled Faramir with such deep tenderness, he tugged and stopped Boromir to reach out to him and pull him close once more. Their kisses this time were light and playful nips, and they shivered against each other with far more than the chill of the wind. Love and fear and passion and danger hung in the air around them like a thick mist, but they felt shielded by the thickly-grown woods and safe to stop.
"Wait," Boromir cautioned, shrugging off his heavy, fur-lined cape and spreading it out on the ground, before lowering Faramir down upon it and stretching out alongside him.
Their arms were immediately around each other again, and they kissed and petted shivering flesh through cool garments, until Boromir managed to slide his hand underneath Faramir's tunic. Crying out softly, Faramir arched into the touch, spurring his brother to go further, to slide his quickly warming palm over his ribs and his heart, then to rest it on his chest where the touch caused the buds of flesh to harden. Again and again, Boromir's roughened fingertips scraped the tender point, and Faramir's slender form quivered against him.
This fanned Boromir's desire further, and he kissed and licked across Faramir's exposed stomach, dipping his tongue into his navel, then following the thin trail of light hair leading down from there. Faramir's moans were interrupted only by his gasps, and Boromir impatiently fumbled with the closure of his brother's breeches, his knuckles brushing teasingly against the hard flesh beneath, his own breath catching, then puffing out clouds of cool mist in turns.
Faramir, trembling beneath Boromir's touch, reached out and began his own struggle with Boromir's garments. He managed to undo the leather belt and pull open the wine-red vest, and even reveal an area of warm, bare flesh where the beat of Boromir's heart had lured him, before he found his arousal enveloped in Boromir's warm grasp, and all thought and reason fled from him as he arched up, forcing the hand down the length of the slender column.
"Faramir!" Boromir gasped, wracked by a shudder as if his own flesh had been stroked in such a way. And he continued the caress, not wanting Faramir to go even for a moment without such pleasure. Hard and fast he stroked him, leaning forward to swallow Faramir's cries of pleasure in his mouth. When he knew his brother was close to release, he shifted and bent down to take him down his throat.
"Boromir! Yes... oh!" Faramir shuddered hard when his climax took him, and continued to do so while Boromir licked him clean with infinite tenderness.
Soft exhalations of unsteady breaths passed between them when Boromir moved upwards once more to kiss his brother - flushed and painfully beautiful to behold in his rapture. "I would see my life fulfilled, Faramir," he whispered against the parted lips beneath his own. "If I could keep you forever on the brink of release."
Faramir laughed softly. "You have done so for years, Boromir."
Boromir grew serious, stroking his cheek. " Faramir, how I love you."
Faramir whispered his response in a tear-thickened voice.
"I will protect you," Boromir said with determination. "I will protect us both. From father. From the rest of Gondor. From everyone." Faramir nodded. "Why did you return the button to me this night?" Boromir asked.
Faramir closed his eyes when he answered. "I did not need it where I had planned to go, so I thought it only right that it should stay with its true owner."
"Faramir," Boromir chided gently. "You are the true owner of everything I am and all that belongs to me." He smiled, despite the heaviness the imagined loss of his brother brought to his heart.
Faramir returned the smile. "Do you forgive me then?" He swallowed. "For not having dared to tell you my secret at once?"
Boromir nodded, then kissed Faramir's cheek, before whispering in his ear. "I will forgive you, if you promise not to leave me in this unfulfilled state much longer."
Faramir gasped. "Boromir!" He looked stricken, but was relieved when Boromir chuckled softly. "I told you earlier you could do with me as you wished. I meant that."
Boromir's gaze softened, and his lips parted as though he suddenly found it harder to breathe. "There is so much I want to do with you, my love. I want to lay you out on a bed of rose petals. I want to worship every inch of your body, trail my tongue over the velvet of your skin, taste the honey of your flesh... But I want to do all that at leisure, and in a real bed of down and furs and silk. Safely away from Minas Tirith. What I need right now..." And he leaned down to whisper his desire to his passion-dazed brother.
Faramir whimpered softly. "Yes, Boromir."
Boromir quickly lowered Faramir's breeches to below his brother's hips, then did the same with his own. He lay fully atop his brother, who welcomed him between his parted legs. The heat of their bodies, the hardness of Boromir's unspent arousal and Faramir's reawakening one, and the contrasting softness of flesh and roughness of coarse hair, had them writhing together in a mad quest for release.
Boromir held Faramir's wrists trapped against the fur lining of his cape as he ground against him, his eyes remaining open as he watched pure ecstasy transform Faramir's features, and he kept holding back for as long as he could, at times remaining completely still and simply smiling down at his love, or kissing him softly, before moving against him once more in a halting, uneven rhythm, their breathing harsh and yet somehow in harmony.
When Boromir finally could hold on no longer, Faramir's body responded at once, and their movements teetered off in the slickness of their mingled seed spreading between them.
They kissed for an eternity, then rested wrapped tightly in each other's arms. The autumn chill stirring their hair and garments and the inevitable, still distant dawn were not of their world.