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When Gold met Silver

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A heartbroken yell tore the silence in the corridor apart.

Faramir huddled closer to Boromir's side and together they entered the bedchamber of their ill mother.

Lord Denethor, the father of the two boys and Steward of Gondor, lay over the still body of his wife Finduilas. She was pale in the soft light of the candles and unmoving.

Boromir sniffed loudly when he saw the silent sobs wracking his father's frame.

"Mama?" Faramir asked softly. Scared for he did not understand why his father and brother were crying.

The young fair-headed boy slunk away from his elder brother and stood next to his father, grasping the slender and cold fingers of his silent mother.

"Mama?" his voice wobbled and broke near the end.

Boromir was crying louder now and Faramir pulled harder at his mother's hand.

"Mama!" Realization began to set in.

"No! Mama!"

Denethor turned slowly, eyes red-rimmed and descending into madness,

"Your mother is DEAD!" he shouted unforgiving at his boy. Faramir stepped back in horror and pain.

"Nooo!" he wailed loudly.

"DEAD! Because of you! I wish you were never born!!" Denethor shouted even louder now.

"Father!" Boromir exclaimed shocked.

"Get out of my sight! Both of you! My beautiful wife. So pale and still." he crooned into her soft hair. Flowing over the soft pillows.

"You fell ill after the birthing and you did not recover for you missed your lands and I would not part with you." Denethor murmured.

Boromir pulled his little brother back, in fear and uncertainty, together they left the room full of grief.

They never spoke a word and cried silent tears the whole night.

That night Boromir swore he would be there, always, for his little brother. For their father had forsaken him in grief and pain.

 

"I know you are there Faramir, Son of Denethor, Steward of Gondor. You have been following me ever since I set foot in the Citadel. Come forward and explain." Gandalf the Grey commanded.

A 12-year old slender young boy came from behind a great dusty bookcase full of scrolls.

"Forgive me, Mithrandir. I was curious." and he bowed his head out of shame mostly for being caught so easily.

"Curious about what?"

"Boromir and the guards in the city told me of your wisdom and magic tricks. And your splendid fireworks!" Faramir added as an afterthought.

Gandalf chuckled. "Do you wish to learn what I know?"

The young boy nodded so hard you could see his soft curls snapping back and forth.

"Very well then. Let's start with these scrolls. I want you to memorize everything I say. No writing it down. You got that?"

"Yes, Mithrandir. Of course, Mithrandir." Faramir smiled for the first time in ages.

The wizard stroked his beard thoughtfully, taking in the countenance of the young man almost old enough to start fighting. He took careful note of the way the boy held himself. Arms crossed most of the time, shoulders drawn in as if he were expecting a hit any time now, thought what Gandalf noted most of all was the sheer determination in the gray eyes. They spoke of suffering and pain, but also, of a great wit.

"Good. Now carry these," he said eventually after his short musings. And dropped several heavy tomes in the arms of the young lad.

He caught them, barely, and followed Gandalf up the stairs.

"Let's read in the sunlight and feed you. You are too thin for my eyes." the old man smiled warmly at Faramir.

His heart felt lighter when he saw the troubled soul lift a shy smile in return.

 

"Boy! Come here!" Lord Denethor commanded, pointing a crooked finger at his youngest son.

Faramir demurely got closer and bowed reverently to his father, the Steward of Gondor.

"More bread, fill up my cup and don't make me ask again." he sneered down at his disgrace of a son.

Faramir walked backward while bowing and gritted his teeth. He was a young, slender and innocent boy of almost 14 years old.

"When I'm fourteen I can train with the others. Persist Faramir. Persist." the fair-headed boy said to himself.

Some time later he looked up and saw his strong brother in his training armor setting himself beside their father.

Their eyes met and Boromir nodded to him. Strength and pride in his eyes. "Persist, little brother," It said.

He started regaling the tales Gandalf taught him inside his head, glad to keep his mind busy from going mad.

 

"Faramir!!" Denethor roared.

"Hide." Boromir hissed to his little brother.

Faramir crawled on his knees under the bed when the doors to their bed chamber slammed open and their drunk father stumbled inside.

"Where is he??"

"He's not here father, here, let me help you back to your chambers." and he guided the bitter old man back to his bed where he fell asleep muttering about responsibilities and failures.

Nobody ever spoke of the days after his drunken stupors, where he watched his youngest son for every small mistake or step out of order.

Ready to blame and poison his family with more hate.

 

The day Boromir left for Osgiliath for the first time as newly appointed Captain of Gondor, Faramir cried. There would be no sharing chambers and practicing together in the courtyard anymore.

"Smile, Faramir. You have to learn to stand on your own legs now. You're doing wonderfully at practice and as Guard of the Citadel. One day you'll make our father proud. Be kind to everyone and work hard."

Faramir sniffed silently, trying not to show his emotions too fully in front of the assembling soldiers.

"I will. I promise" and he looked up to his brother.

"One day I'll be like you." the small boy insisted.

"Be the man you want to be and I'll love you anyway." Boromir smiled gently and with a firm clasp around the shoulders and a determined nod he strode off to fulfill his duties.

It was almost sunrise when Faramir finally left the wall overseeing Osgiliath in the distance.

 

At the age of almost sixteen, Faramir was called to his father's personal chambers.

His shoulders slumped immediately forward, knowing what was to come. He braced himself and brought himself bravely in front of the thick wooden doors. He knocked and entered.

The rooms were almost dark bare for the soft fire painting the middle of the room with a warm light. A slurring voice sounded out of one of its dark corners.

"Have I ever told you how much I hate you?" Faramir closed the doors behind him and remained in a parade rest. Looking at a dirty spot on a chair.

"Your mother never really loved me. She tried though she kept missing her homeland. She was supposed to st-st-staaay with me. ME!!!"

Sweat started trickling down his back from remaining still.

Fear. Immense terror.

"Then she got you and fell ill. You're a spawn of the dark underworld. You even look like her."

Faramir gulped silently. Tears blinded his eyes but he remained silent.

"It is fair of me to punish you. You should thank me. Now kneel."

The young boy kneeled down and tried to control his trembling. His father stumbled up and picked up a cane next to his desk. A shadow loomed over him.

"Now thank me." he hissed.

Pain. So much pain.

 

Every time Boromir came back to Gondor he tried to reason with his father to give Faramir more responsibilities or send him with Boromir to Osgiliath.

"Don't you see, father? Faramir is very intelligent, he knows almost everything there is written down there in the library and he has a great flair for strategy and diplomatic relations. At least, use him for something besides training master. He could do so much good for Gondor. I'm sure if you just gave him a CHANCE..."

Boromir almost begged his father.

"No." The last bit of soul inside Lord Denethor, Steward of Gondor, would not bargain with reason.

Faramir, a lean and pale young man now, slunk back into the shadows.

They would not judge him.


 

 "You understand Éomer?" Théoden King asked of his nephew.

"Yes, my lord. The serious eleven-year-old grumbled back. Pulling his sister close to his side.

"The death of your mother is nothing that could be helped. I am very sorry for your loss. But we must make haste. The King can never be long away from the court. Pack your things. You will come live with me in Edoras. Agreed?"

"I agree, uncle." Éomer solemnly nodded. He would not disappoint his King. Éomer would fight and learn to become so like his father.

His main concern was his little sister Éowyn, whom he loved fiercely. Théoden left the room for a while and Éomer, a tall and broad-shouldered boy for his age, squatted down in front of his softly crying baby sister.

"Éowyn, my beloved sister, listen to me. I will take care of you. I will never leave you, but you must be strong. Stronger than our mother. We must overcome this. I believe in you, Wynna." Éomer ended his passionate speech.

Éowyn smiled a small smile and sniffed once more in her doll's clothes. Then she proceeded to hug all the air out of her brother's chest.

"You'll take care of me?"

"Always, my sister."

"And I will take care of you forever." dropping her facade of little girl one step at a time. They had to grow up quickly and so they did.

"Teach me how to protect myself from harm and so I can always come to your aid."

Éomer nodded again and kissed her pale forehead.

"I will. They'll sing songs about the beautiful White Lady and her swordsmanship."

A tinkering laugh filled the air and they left the room, holding hands, a heavy weight off their chests, however, it was replaced with a greater burden on their shoulders.

But they would persist.


 

Fellow soldiers were bragging around the tables filled with plates and drinks in the Great Hall. Denethor looking at them with great pride and mirth. And Boromir in the center of the attention.

Faramir stood back against the wall, ready to serve his father with more wine and food when needed.

They were celebrating their significant victory against the Orcs. With great skill and patience, and by use of a couple of tricks picked up on by Faramir in the Great Books of Olde, they had conquered back a great expanse of territory and pushed back the entire enemy forces by almost 10 miles.

A great victory indeed. Faramir smiled, though remained modest in the face of honored praise by most of the men.

Their father could not ignore this procedure and had promoted Faramir to Captain of Gondor. Finally accepting his youngest son as a legitimate fighting man of their beloved city.

The group of celebrating men stood up, well in their cups, and made plans to visit the nearest tavern to boast about their success some more. The tavern was well known for their beautiful and willing serving wenches and the men roared with laughter. Boromir and his second in command approached the Steward.

"Father, let Faramir come too. It is time he is honored as a man and Captain." the proud son smiled broadly.

In the back, the others yelled their assent and a muffled yell sounded through the Great Hall

"And it's time he had himself a wench!" They all laughed and Faramir hid his flaming face behind his hair.

"Please father?" Boromir implied once again. Faramir eagerly stepped forward when a grumpy voice sounded its judgment.

"No. He is not to go. He is not to be honored for your victory."

"My victory? Father, surely you must see.." Boromir began.

"SILENCE!" the hall fell silent, the second in command shuffled awkwardly back with an embarrassed face.

"Faramir shall lay with no one without my permission." Denethor gruffly decided.

Boromir's mouth fell open in disbelief and Faramir shrank a couple of inches in humiliation. Hastily he stepped back behind the throne. Not wanting to see the pitying looks sent his way.

"Father..." Boromir begged.

"I shall retire." And the lord stood up. The rest of the hall followed.

Faramir followed his father out the hall.

For once sure the Steward took the long way through the Hall, instead of walking towards the side doors, so everyone could get a good look at the disgraced youngest Captain of Gondor.

Faramir resolutely looked before him. Not meeting anyone's eyes.

He could not bear it and once again wished he were never born.

 

The years went by and Faramir grew in his isolation. His men admired and respected him fervently.

Nevertheless, Faramir almost never came out of his chambers or the library when he was not training or dispatching orders.

His brother tried getting him out and his younger brother always refused out of fear of disobedience. He rather lived a withdrawn and scholar life when he was not useful to their father.

"You cannot argue now, my brother. The diplomats are arriving today and you're supposed to be there too. Bathe and put on your nicest breeches. We must impress our neighbors of Rohan. Warlords of the West." Boromir kept pressing the issue until Faramir complied and promised to be there that evening.

Later that day he entered through a small side entrance and slipped through the crowd. He wore a dark green tunic with the white tree crest on its chest. It was very modest and helped him blend into the shadows and other people.

"Welcome! Welcome!" many people looked up in surprise at hearing their Lord Denethor speak in such a warm and enthusiastic manner.

The young Captain of Gondor shrank even more to the back.

"May I introduce to you, my son, Boromir, First Captain of Gondor and second in command to the Steward of Gondor."

Between the high head count, Faramir could see a delegation of long haired blond men bowing swift and proudly to their reception. The guests stood up proudly and one man came forward and said with booming voice:

"Our profound thanks. May I introduce to you, Third Marshal of the Mark, Lord Éomer of Rohan. Sister-son to the King of Gondor. Théoden King."

The whole hall bowed. It had been a while since a son of a king entered the Citadel. Even an adopted one. A tall and muscular man in complete splendid Rohan regalia stepped forward and clasped hands with the Steward and then with Boromir. They smiled and Denethor clapped his hands. Music immediately started playing, food and drinks were brought out and in no time, the moment had changed into a welcoming party. A moment to fill their bellies, warm their bodies and mingle with the locals.

Faramir kept back a while and left after an hour.

No use staying where he was of no use.

 

Scrolls stacked high under his chin, the young Captain of Gondor made his way up the long winding stairs. He turned a corner and collided with a broad chest coming up sharply in his space.

"I beg your pardon," Faramir muttered embarrassedly. Scrambling to the floor to assemble the fallen precious scrolls.

"No, I beg your forgiveness." a man proclaimed hastily and fell next to the smaller man on the floor. Helping to pluck all the papers of the floor.

"It's funny actually." the warm and gruff voice said.

Faramir looked up while asking "What is so funny?" Damaged scrolls were no amusing thing in his mind.

His breath left his body in one long exhale when his eyes met the most beautiful eyes in the world. Brown like that of a deer, with warm earthy undertones and a hint of steel. They looked powerfully but amused back into his and to his shame, Faramir felt himself getting red in the face.

"I am so sorry, Lord Éomer." Faramir frantically scrambled to his knees and bowed low. A great pain piercing his chest. Fear and shame clouding his mind. He heard the Marshal stand up tall and dust off his clothes.

"It is of no consequence. Master...?"

Faramir's thoughts scrambled to a halt "Faramir." he whispered. He did not dare to look up. What would his father say when he heard he made a diplomat fall in HIS hallways. This man was practically a prince and Faramir was... Nothing.

"Master Faramir?"

"Yes, what was so funny, my Lord?" Stop rambling Faramir thought to himself.

"Well, I could not find sleep that easily and went for a walk, but now I cannot find my guest quarters again." Faramir dared to look up and saw an embarrassed young but powerful man scratch the back of his neck, most likely because he found it hard to show the weakness of getting lost. Orientation was very important for any Warlord. Despite this small miscalculation of the Marshal, Faramir smiled and gestured for Éomer to follow him.

He brought him back safely and bid him farewell.

"Wait!" the man said when the Faramir turned

"Do you... Do you work here?"

"Yes."

"Will I see you again?"

"Maybe, my Lord."

"Oh, alright." Faramir blushed again and left for his quarters with an elevated pulse.

 

The youngest son of the Steward was visiting the stables to see how his pregnant mare was faring.

"That's a fine looking horse." a voice came up from behind him. Faramir turned and bowed respectfully.

"Thank you, my lord. Her name is Thoronduil."

Éomer smiled and came closer to pet the horse softly on its flanks. "Merciful thunder?" he asked. Faramir nodded.

"She does not have much longer to carry this burden. It will be a mighty steed thundering out of her at the end of the month." the horse-lord predicted.

"How do you know that, my Lord?" Faramir asked curiously. He had heard of the great knowledge of horses of the Men of Rohan. Thus, it was the first time he could ever talk about it with a man from Rohan itself.

"See how she is carrying the foal mostly in the belly. She hasn't expanded much sideways, you can tell by the strain she has on her... Nipples." Éomer trailed off a bit embarrassed.

"Oh... And when she will deliver?" the older man prodded for more information.

"I would be a poor horseman if I could not see how long she had been carrying her load by now!" the young Lord of the Mark laughed. Transfixed by the beautiful sound Faramir grinned back. Their eyes met and the only sound now were that of the horses shuffling their hay in the stables.

"Well, I... I should be going back now. Resuming my duties." Faramir concluded shyly.

"Wait! I haven't seen much of your beautiful city yet. Would you mind... I mean, that is, if you have the time of course." the tall golden man mumbled the rest of his sentence.

"...To show you around?" the Captain of Gondor finished.

"Yes. I would like that very much." Éomer smiled broadly. Glad to have been forgiven his floundering attitude.

The two men spent the rest of the afternoon around the Citadel. Faramir showed Éomer all his favorite places, waxed lyrically on about Mountain Mindolluin, the architecture of the Great Gate, the several layers of the Great City, were the white stones came from and how they got here so far from the river. He concluded the impromptu tour in the Archives with the tales of Olde and anecdotes from his teaching with Mithrandir. When he finally stopped to take a breath after a specifically interesting story he looked up and saw Éomer looking at him with clear bemusement.

"Forgive me, my Lord. I often forget not everyone is interested in the making of maps and fireworks." Faramir apologized meekly. Cursing himself in his head for being such a stumbling and pathetic fool for attention.

"No, I am interested." Éomer loudly spoke in the silent catacombs.

"Verily so. I was just noting how passionate you are about this knowledge and it brings only forth amusement and admiration in me," he placed his leather gloved hand on Faramir's forearm. The older man looked at it nervously and slowly pulled back without trying to insult

"Yes, well. I believe people will be missing you by now. And I have been neglecting my other duties. Let me lead you back to the guest quarters."

Frowning Éomer followed and they said their goodbyes with a courteous nod. Éomer stepped inside and was immediately assaulted by Éothain.

"Where have you been, my Lord? We were worried and Lord Denethor is expecting us in half an hour."

"I've been to see the City and its men." he smiled with a slight flush.

 

They were speaking for hours at the table. The negotiations seemed to be strained. Éomer sometimes made eye contact with Faramir against the back of the wall. His eyes warm and smiling.

Faramir resolutely kept looking away. He felt a great bitterness. Of course, his father would seem it fitting for him to keep their cups full while they were discussing. He felt that he could be of more service with an advising role but he kept his tongue. Let Éomer think he was just a lowly servant.

In the meantime, Éomer was getting more and more disgruntled with Lord Denethor. The man was stubborn and blind to his own faults in his eyes. He would not listen to reason and multiple times the Marshal thought the older man was a bit touched in his head.

Another reason for annoyance was the ignoring attitude of the beautiful man he met earlier. He wished Faramir would just acknowledge him with a look, a smile, something! The man was utterly captivating and has been on his mind all the time.

The wide doors opened to let Boromir in.

"I apologize, father, for my tardiness. There was commotion over the border, but luckily it seems to be a false alarm."

He smiled his good-natured smile and skidded suddenly to a halt when he saw Faramir.

"Father? Why is Faramir serving as a cup bearer?" The younger man stiffened in response and Éomer's head snapped up from his bent position over the parchment.

"He's of more use to me there than somewhere else." Denethor sniffed, waving the upcoming discussion off as if it was a mere irritating fly.

"You cannot do this father! Faramir knows more than any of us the diplomatic talks of Olde. I always go to him to sort these matters out between the ranks."

"Silence!" Denethor hissed, feeling embarrassed before his guests who kept their mouths shut but their eyes were shrewdly following the proceedings.

"Excuse me, Lord Denethor, who is this Faramir? We are curious, for if he can help us we would value his input very much." Éothain asked the question burning on Éomer's lips.

"I seriously doubt it, as Faramir is a second rank Captain of the Guard." A disbelieving quietness filled the room.

"How dare you..." Boromir started.

"Boromir!" Finally, Faramir stepped forward and stopped his brother from creating a scene. Boromir shut his mouth and tried to reign in his temper. Faramir sighed and shouldered himself forward. He kneeled in front of Éomer at his seat and introduced himself

"I am honored to be in your presence Lord Éomer, Third Marshal of the Mark, Sister-Son of the King of Rohan. My name is Captain Faramir of Gondor, Leader of the Rangers of Osgiliath and..." he trailed off in fear "..and youngest son, to Lord Denethor, my beloved father the Steward of Gondor," he almost choked on the last part but bravely bit through.

The silence was ear deafening.

"How dare you introduce yourself without being spoken to?!" Denethor cried in anger.

"Leave my sight!"

Faramir shuffled backward, then came to a stand and bowed slightly to his father then he stepped backward until he felt he could turn at the doors and leave the room. After a couple of steps, he broke into a run. Hoping no one would see the tears slipping out of his eyes.

Coward, he thought and hid for hours.

 

The safety of the many crooks and corners of the Citadel did not keep him from his father's wrath.

It was the first time his father had used his fists on him and he could not defend himself.

Defense was treachery. Fleeing was too. And he must do his duty.

The black and blue eye and split lip were just minor distractions. And he ignored them as fully as possible when suddenly an arm gripped him and slammed him against a wall in a remote part of the library. Éomer's face suddenly very close to his. He groaned because of the cuts on his back that were not properly healed yet and from the air being slammed out in one go.

Éomer gripped his chin and forced it upward. He met the beautiful brown eyes.

"I asked around about you and your father. Why did you not tell me immediately so?" Faramir remained silent. His heart hammering in his chest. Knees weak and trembling. Not understanding what was happening to him.

"He beat you." It was not a question, so Éomer did not need answering.

"You should have heard your brother coming to your defense. Your father yelling back. I do not like your Steward one bit." Silence.

"Answer me!" a frustrated Éomer said.

"What do you want me to say, my Lord?" Faramir demurely asked back.

"I do not like your suffering." Éomer finally admitted.

"Why should my suffering concern you, my Prince?" Faramir bitterly snapped before he could control himself. Éomer froze up and met Faramir's gaze calculating. Dilated pupils looked up at him.

"You know why. I felt it and I'm sure you feel this too." With that, he stroked Faramir's chin, down his neck and placed his hand on the fiercely pounding heart under the white tree. Faramir could not form a reply. Éomer slowly bent forward. Intent clear.

"NO!" Faramir ripped himself free. He may have been smaller and less muscled, but he still was a strong fighter.

"I apologize, I thought..." Éomer started. He felt hurt and confused. He was so sure but now after being rejected...

"You are not wrong." Faramir forced out. He was an honest man until the day he would die and he could not bear the hurt look on the face of the horse lord.

"Then why?"

"I cannot. It is not permitted."

"What do you mean?"

"My father has forbidden me. He accepts men bonding with other men, nevertheless, I am not permitted the same freedom." Shame filled him once again.

"You are older than I am!" Éomer yelled out disbelievingly. "He cannot force you to not... Love someone."

"It is not that. I... He will grant me freedom in this when I have proven myself a man."

"You are your own man! Do you not feel want or need or love?"

"I do," Faramir whispered.

"Then what is keeping you? Come with me to Rohan. I would respect you. You would be free to make your own choices."

"You barely know me."

"I felt your soul," Éomer whispered in the dark, "And it is beautiful."

Faramir's eyes started tearing up again. Éomer leaned down again and both men closed their eyes. Thinking, that if they could not see each other, it would protect them from the impact. Lighting struck inside their hearts when their lips, warm but roughly chapped, softly met the other's. They broke apart and Éomer took a step back. Knees weak, hearts hammering and breathing shallow. The terrible and at the same time magnificent emotion rattling them both 'til deep in their bones.

"Please? I am waiting for an answer?" Éomer begged with a gravelly voice.

Faramir stared shocked at the taller man. Clutching his rampant heart and tried to choke down his overwhelming feelings shouting in his head.

"I'm sorry." he finally choked out.

"I cannot." turned and ran with his tail between his legs.

"FARAMIR!" the shout rang loudly through the deserted halls.

 

"The delegation is leaving. Are you not paying your last respects?" Boromir asked his distraught brother kindly. Thinking Faramir was still smarting from the humiliation his father had inflicted upon him.

"No."

"You know father will not like it."

"No."

"Possibly, he might even force you out of your chamber. It would be better to come on your own volition."

Faramir sighed loudly and dressed. His brother waiting for him downstairs and together they strode off through small and secret lanes and paths to cheat their way to the courtyard at the main entrance.

Once they passed the Second Gate, Faramir felt himself becoming dizzy. What was he doing? He asked himself. The young man looked sideways and leaned for a moment on the wall next to him.

"You all right, little brother?" Boromir asked concerned.

"Yes, I am fine. I need some air." Faramir dared to admit. Boromir took a step back to give his brother some well-needed air when the riders from Rohan came down.

"They truly are a sight to marvel at." He breathed out.

Faramir looked up and agreed "Aye, they sure are, brother."

The whole delegation was dressed in their finest armor and capes. Their steeds magnificent and well behaved following the tiniest movement from their masters. And in the front. A God, for any mortal, should not have the right to look so breathtaking.

Before he knew what he was doing, Faramir pushed himself off the wall, plucked a Culumalda flower growing in between the pavement and dived into the sea of soldiers. He stopped in front of Éomer and looked up at the tall imposing figure.

Lord Denethor was looking down from upon the wall and sneered at his son's behavior.

"Are you here to give me an answer?" Éomer, Marshal of the Riddermark, finally asked after staring at each other for several moments.

"Nay, I could not. Not now." Faramir said and glanced surreptitiously at his disapproving father. Éothain held the others back to grant their lord some privacy. Éomer leaned forward on his horse.

"Will he punish you for this? For I presume he now realizes what has passed between us."

Faramir blushed and replied "Undoubtedly. It does not matter, I could not see you leave our White City with such a heavy heart." and he held out the Culumalda. Everyone on looking knew at once what an honor it was for Éomer and the reason behind the golden red flower.

Éomer frowned. "I cannot take this. I am not a Soldier of Gondor," he hissed. Furtively looking around at the confused faces.

Faramir held his breath for a second and slowly let it out. His bravery would be seen as great insolence to his father if he were to proceed anyway.

"I know. But I am a Captain of Gondor and it is my right to gift this to whomever I trust."

"You trust me? After..." Éomer trailed off surprised.

"Aye, I do and I need you to keep this. Keep this safe. For me." Both men could read between the lines and see the heavily implied references Faramir was making. Éomer took out a white embroidered handkerchief from behind his breastplate and folded it open. Faramir dropped the blooming flower on it and took a step back. The horse lord closed his fist softly around his precious present.

"I will keep this safe." and he was not so scared of Lord Denethor to say what he wanted to Faramir "And I trust you will guard my heart, for I am leaving it in your hands."

Faramir gulped and flushed. Boromir in the meantime came up next to his brother. Trying not to show his great surprise he said his farewells to their honored guests and the Great Gate opened slowly.

"Ride for Rohan!" Éomer shouted and his troop thundered over the pavement and streamed out of the Gate. Éomer kept behind and his horse neighed loudly, throwing his forelegs in the air.

"Watch me go, Faramir, I need your eyes on my back when I go." he insisted.

With a dry throat, the younger brother nodded earnestly. Boromir tried not to let his chin slacken out of surprise.

"I'll be waiting for an answer when we'll meet again."

"When we'll meet again." Faramir intoned.

"Yaah!" Éomer yelled and left as the last of his men.

"What was that all about.." Boromir started but his little brother had already sprinted to the wall and was now climbing its steep stairs.

His father now closing in on him.

"You filth!" he spat to Faramir.

"It is not forbidden." he got as an answer.

"I know, but I have NOT given my permission!" Denethor frothed at the mouth, their men hanging back, not daring to interfere. Faramir looked down coolly at his father and acted defiantly for the first time in his life

"In this matter, father, I find I do not care."

That earned him a ringing slap, shocking all the bystanders. His father slapped his other cheek, huffed furiously and left. Boromir in tow to calm him down a bit. Faramir knew they would have words later, for now, he would watch the man galloping away from him.

Until he was no more but a tiny golden fleck at the horizon.

The next day Faramir was stationed at the frontline in Osgiliath.


 

"Brother, you have not spoken to me in the way you used to since your return of Minas Tirith all those years ago," Éowyn said.

Éomer sighed and made some place for his sister on the bench overlooking Edoras.

"I apologize, good Sister of mine. My mind has been troubled for a long time."

"Tell me. I wish to lighten your burden."

"I fear I may have left my heart behind in Gondor."

Éowyn gasped in surprise, looked at her brother, really looked for the first time in the busy years they've had and what she saw broke her heart. Éomer was young and should be carefree and happy, but he never was. His eyes were lined with sorrow and grief after the loss of their beloved cousin Théodred. Pain and bitterness marred his mouth corners when he thought about their King succumbing to darkness and Grima's whispers.

What touched her the most was his frowning and the sadness wracking his frame. Speaking of a deeper hurt that could not be helped, so she did the next best thing and held her brother. Stroked his hair softly and he choked out after a couple of minutes.

"His brother is gone, Wynna. He loaned a horse and today it came back riderless. He has no one to protect him now." Éowyn nodded in sympathy. Gathering a single tear straying down his cheek and into his short beard with her soft palm.

"I can feel him hurting and there is nothing I can do about it. I feel so helpless."

Together they watched the stars illuminating the skies above. Trying to comfort a man she barely knew from afar, she whispered a prayer and held her brother even closer.


 

Faramir knew he was catatonic after the news. He had heard the Horn of Gondor sounding far away. Silently caressing the wind until he heard it all those miles further on.

His brother was gone. His handsome, strong and brave brother Boromir was gone.

Forever.

They did not even have a body to bury and pay their respects to. The rest of the Rangers gave Faramir a wide berth and some time off to deal with this blowing news. The only son now, of the Steward, had been staring at the walls of the caves for days. Refusing food when he suddenly stood up and strode outside. He made his way up the rocks and steep walls of the mountain and oversaw the lands far below, stretching out to the horizon.

Faramir knew that he would find some comfort in the sunset. Watching the warm light leaving these lands until it was nothing more but a tiny golden fleck at the horizon.

"Éomer." he breathed softly.

"Persist, little brother." he heard in the wind.

"Yes. Persist," he said aloud to himself.


 

"Is there a captain here who still has the courage to do his lord's will?" Denethor asked rhetorically.

"You wish now that our places had been exchanged...that I had died and Boromir had lived," Faramir said with a trembling voice.

"Yes. I wish that." his father whispered.

"Since you are robbed of Boromir...I will do what I can in his stead." Faramir bowed and started to leave the room.

"If I should return, think better of me, Father." he begged one more time.

"That will depend on the manner of your return." the leaving figure halted for a fraction of a moment and resumed his stride.

It was with the disappointing stare of his father in his back, the remembrance of his brothers laugh and the memory of a stolen kiss in the dark that Faramir rode into battle.

Meaning to never leave it again.


 

"Brother." A soft voice sounded in the dark.

Éomer looked up and saw his sister awake en sitting up. He immediately looked up to find someone working in the House of Healing but saw no one.

"Wait, I'll fetch someone." He stood up.

"Brother, I am well enough. Though, I feel as weak as a newborn lamb." Éowyn smiled softly at her big worrying brother. Her beautiful face illuminated by the pale moonlight.

"I thought you were dead. I found you on the field and my heart stopped..." Éomer trailed off.

"Uncle? He..." Éowyn started crying and the horse master could not stop himself if he could. He hugged his dear sister to his chest and together they shed tears of relief, pain, and immense grief.

"Rest, little sister. I'll be here every day." Éowyn blinked tiredly and nodded

"Just get some sleep yourself and keep me updated about the proceedings."

"I will." And her brother stood up after tucking her in and left to get some well-deserved sleep after days of sitting by her bedside. A good bath and some wine would do well too.

He dared not talk yet with her about their upcoming mission to storm the Black Gates.


 

Éowyn heard a groan some days later in the middle of the night. She could not find sleep because of her worrying.

The men would ride out again to face the Black Gates and all the armies that lay behind it. Including her beloved brother and King Aragorn.

The groan sounded again. Carefully she left the bed, for only she was awake and aware of the need of someone else.

A slender and breathtakingly beautiful man was wrestling in his sleep with his sheet. Éowyn freed him from his restricting sheet and draped it across him. The man awoke.

"Are... Are you an angel?" he asked. Éowyn smiled, it was not the first time she had heard this.

"No, my man, I am Éowyn. Let me fetch you something to drink." She poured some water into a cup and carefully lifted it to his mouth.

"Thank you." his voice sounded weak.

"My name is Faramir." and promptly fell asleep again. Weakened by the healing process and strain on his soul. Éowyn softly smiled down at the wounded man. Determined to remain at his bedside whenever she could spare a moment for she had felt an unexplainable connection with this gentle man.


 

"My King," Éothain asked for the attention of Éomer.

"I will never get used to that title." the King of Rohan grimaced. Éothain sadly smiled back for the grief was still a raw wound.

"I have something to show you, my liege."

"Then show me." Éomer answered and stood up from his desk. His mind elsewhere when he was following his Marshal into the bowels of the Citadel. Thinking about the past, heart fluttering when they passed a certain hallway and then went up the stairs.

"We are using the shortcut to the House of Healing? Is something wrong with my sister?"

"No, my lord. Do you remember when we were here years ago? The failed negotiations with Lord Denethor."

"Yes. Go on." Éomer asked in a terse voice.

"Remember Lord Faramir?" Éothain continued. The King halted in his tracks.

"I have no wish to speak about that man."

"I have news about him."

"Do not tear open that wound, my friend. For it would be better if I never knew he perished or didn't in the War of the Ring." Éomer cautiously halted his second-in-command.

"He is alive, my lord," Éothain whispered.

"Where!" Several moments later both men were watching the two persons talking gently in the courtyard. Éowyn was holding the hand of a man sitting slumped, favoring his side, and smiling back at her. Éomer would recognize that profile anywhere. The strong line of his nose, the gentle gray eyes and soft curve of his lips. He rather wished he were dead that moment.

"Should we announce our presence, my lord?" Éothain carefully whispered.

"No. Don't disturb them. They deserve a gentle soul to care for."

Together they left and Éomer felt a pain so immense on the place his heart was supposed to be. He could not rob his sister of this. Not after Théodred, their uncle, the rejection of Aragorn and the isolation she would surely meet at court with a brother as king now. It was with brave and honorable intentions he put his needs and wants aside. As a good King was want to do.

Éomer never told anyone he left a white rose on Faramir's bedside table. Every night during his stay in Minas Tirith.


 

"I thank thee, my Lady," Faramir said once more.

"Don't thank me, my friend. Without you, I would've perished from the boredom alone," she smiled back.

"Aren't you getting cold? The sun is almost setting."

"Yes, I am actually. It was wonderful going outside after those weeks cooped up in the House of Healing. Thank you." He said and lightly pinched her hand in gratitude.

"Let me escort you back." and Éowyn lifted her good friend up by the hands. Providing him support to carefully hobble their way back to Faramir's cot. When he was placed under several blankets with a can of water at his side, the new Steward of Gondor drowsily asked

"How does your brother, the King, fare nowadays?" Éowyn looked up surprised from her task of pulling off his shoes.

"He is as well as can be, my Lord. I fear he may be burdened too heavily for his age. Éomer never wanted to be King, he only wanted to serve."

"That is a fine quality in a King as he should serve his country and its people."

"I suppose you're right. My heart goes out to him due to the fact a King is lonely. I mean, I know that my brother is lonely. Isolation does not sit well with him and I worry about their upcoming task."

"What task? Tell me about it?" Faramir asked directly more awake now. So Éowyn told him about the distraction they would try to be so Frodo could have a better chance of getting to Mount Doom and destroy the Ring.

"Aye, heavy burden indeed. I have my faith in Samwise and Frodo. As I do in your brother." he smiled at the Shieldmaiden of Rohan "If he proves as stubborn as my Lady." Éowyn snorted an unladylike sound

"Even more so." And then proceeded to talk about the many wonderful qualities her brother had. It was thus Faramir fell asleep, listening to brave stories about the man who had been haunting his life for all those years.

 

When the men were out to face the Black Gate, Faramir got better and introduced Éowyn to his cousin Amrothos. They got along surprisingly well and soon the Steward felt as if he were an intruder on their conversations. He did not mind in the least, for both of them needed some light and happiness after all that has been and may come.

So he started talking longer walks and after a couple of days, he could get himself back to the archives. Faramir read 'til deep in the night, trying to get his mind off the on goings outside the walls.

Éowyn could not bear the sorrow lining the shoulders of the Steward and his name came up several times in the conversations she had with Amrothos.

She never expected to be so quickly utterly besotted by another man. His nature was gentle, respectful and kind and he gave her time and space. Respecting her wishes to be an independent woman and composing little sonnets for her amusement about her fight against the Witch King of Angmar as its subject.

Aragorn still was a sore spot in her heart, though Amrothos' humor and patience were helping her heal. She finally believed in a chance for love again.

One afternoon, while walking on the already clean streets of the uppermost level of the city, she asked her beloved friend about Faramir's past. With some reluctance, he told her some parts of it, for he could not refuse his Lady anything, and she was horrified. Brought to tears she listened to the mistreatment and humiliation Faramir had to go through time and time again. She promised herself to pray for his fallen brother Boromir, a brave man so she has heard and clutched her heart in terror at the description of the death of Lord Denethor.

"My condolences for losing your cousin, Amrothos." she kindly touched his arm.

"I thank ye, my Lady. His passing was a great blow for all of us, especially for Faramir. Boromir always acted as the buffer between him and his father's hatefulness against Faramir. When he was gone... Faramir was truly alone."

Éowyn nodded and continued enquiring "When did he meet his untimely end, my friend?"

Amrothos grimaced "At the complete beginning of this Hell, my Lady. Boromir traveled down, passing Edoras on the way, to Elrond and he became an esteemed member of the fellowship. He fell shortly after the battle in the mines of Moria and after meeting the Elves in the Mirkwood."

"He passed Edoras? Why did I not know about this?" she asked more to herself.

"Boromir needed to change horses and loaned the fastest they could spare for his quest was very important."

"He died. At the beginning of this year? And we loaned a horse to him!" Éowyn suddenly shouted.

"Yes?" Éowyn was starting to make Amrothos feel uncomfortable.

"Oh blessed be the Gods! He is THE brother! What can you tell me about Faramir and my brother, Amrothos?"

"What do you know about..." her beloved started and then it suddenly dawned on him too and told her about the meeting at the gate. A scandalous happening kept silent behind lock and threats of the late Steward.


 

When they won, they were relieved, though they could not enjoy their victory for long. The dead still weighing them down.

It would be long before they truly could start living again, for now, duty awaited them.

Éomer shortly went back to Minas Tirith to ask his sister to be their liaison to the city while he prepared everything in Edoras and gave their uncle a proper burial. He would be back in time for the coronation of Lord Aragorn. Éowyn agreed to stay behind and wished her brother well.

When traveling to Edoras, Éomer saw the ruins left behind by the war. Villages brought to the ground, whole crops burnt and realized it would take years, decades, maybe even centuries to overcome this ordeal. They needed help and men to rebuild and plan. Men they did not have anymore and Éomer promised himself to ask for help at the coronation. Lord Aragorn would give counsel and together with Mithandir they would find an answer.

He stayed in Edoras for a month, worked like a horse to forget and got crowned King in a small and modest ceremony.

Éomer never did like big affairs.

Slowly people were coming back from exile or from Helm's Deep. Trying to stay safe while their lords fought their wars and they gave their sons for it.

The adrenaline of the war kept Éomer awake at night. You could almost always find him training the newborn foals, cleaning the stables, sparring the young boys and training them to become real soldiers.

His excess of energy and frustration gave him no rest and Éomer was ashamed to talk to someone about the fact he furiously pulled his own member several times a day in a need he could not explain.

It did not sate his pain or loneliness and soon he quit that unpleaserable action altogether.

He was almost glad to leave the city for he was ready to breathe in some fresh air and maybe catch a glimpse of his soulmate.


 

The moment Faramir was restored to his former health, he got employed by Aragorn almost everywhere. His skills needed to draw plans, grant architectural changes, oversee the coming and going of supplies, talking to orphaned children and trying to find them a place.

He was personally very fond of two young boys, Elboron, and Elfwinë. They did not find a home elsewhere and started following the Steward around almost everywhere. Faramir did not mind the company of the two lads. Their small jokes keeping him motivated to pass the day.

The Captain barely saw Éowyn anymore as she took care of the nursing in the House of Healing and the educating of the traumatized children. They needed a mother figure and Éowyn had a heart big enough to fill this need. Her courtship with Amrothos was going very smoothly and Faramir's cousin was preparing for asking her hand when Éomer returned.

The couple subtly talked about Éomer and went into great detail about the news in his letters to Éowyn when Faramir was visiting them. He did not object and they saw no harm to fan the secret flames for the King of Rohan.

The moment was near now for his return and they all looked out for it. The first order of business was Éowyn talking to Éomer about Amrothos. And she did just that.

"Brother of mine, I am so glad to see you again." she hugged him closely and Éomer gathered his little sister in his arms, breathing in the sorely missed scent of her beautiful hair.

"You look very handsome as a King, my liege." she smiled and dropped in a curtsey.

"Stop it, woman, I don't like people kneeling for me. Especially when you do. So please, don't." he begged her.

Éowyn smiled and together they walked. She talked about the cleaning up, the rebuilding, the orphans, dropped Faramir's name now and then and his great works and usefulness to everyone, then she explained him about meeting a man and wanting Éomer to meet this man. Her brother braced himself

"Is this man going to ask me for your hand?"

"Yes, he is. And I want to marry him. He is very kind and gentle and patient. Just what I need brother. He fixed me. Truly, he did."

"I cannot refuse. It would be a perfect match between you, princess of Rohan and the honorable Steward of Gondor." Éomer said. He tried his very best to not spit it out.

"Steward?" Éowyn almost fell from surprise and started laughing.

"No, my dear brother! I will not be marrying Faramir! How silly! He is a great and dear friend to me and I will forever be grateful to him for introducing me to his cousin, Prince Amrothos."

"Prince... Amrothos? Not Lord Faramir? Sister, explain this to me!"

Éomer felt dizzy and Éowyn noticed her brother's distress.

"Let's sit down there under the tree and I'll explain," they sat down, holding hands

"I met Faramir, as you well know, in the House of Healing. It was not long before we came very close friends. You know how war can have that effect..." Éowyn trailed off and her brother nodded encouragingly at her.

"Well, when I got better, I helped Faramir in his recovery and then we started taking walks together. The day you left he introduced me to Amrothos, also a Captain of Gondor, and I must admit.." here she blushed a little "I was taken very quickly. I am very sure and I wish you'll grant me this happiness, brother."

"I do, Wynna, you know I do." his head was still reeling with the knowledge it wasn't Faramir

"But you say this man is a prince? In that case, he is certainly worthy of you though I've never heard of a prince Amrothos."

"That's were Faramir comes in again. Aragorn asked Faramir what he wants for his servitude and great actions to Middle-Earth, especially those for Gondor. Faramir said he has no need of titles anymore. He only wants to serve and live modest. Doing well in the world."

Éomer fell even more deeply for that man.

"He asked Lord Aragorn to grant his titles to his cousin Amrothos, a hard working and well deserving servant of his lordship. Aragorn granted that but was stubborn about the fact that Faramir should keep his Captain's title. Faramir agreed and asked that Aragorn used him wherever he could help for he is no more but grateful for a new chance of life."

"This pleased Lord Aragorn greatly, no doubt?"

"It did. Faramir has been working very hard to keep true to that promise, although I wish he would talk to me about finding personal happiness."

"Maybe he finds personal happiness in serving others." Éomer intoned.

"I believe he does, partly. You cannot believe a man should want for nothing more."

"I do not presume to know the mind of a man that honorable."

"You do yourself great disservice, my brother," Éowyn answered after a short while. "Come, let's go back inside and prepare. You must meet Faramir at the coronation."

"I seriously doubt that..." Éomer started.

"It was not a question, but a command."

"I'm your King now, you cannot command me." Éomer smiled.

"I am your sister and I know I can." They held each other's stare for a while. "Admit it, Éomer, you need him," Éowyn said softly.

Éomer bristled wildly and stood up. "You have no idea what you are talking about!"

"I do. Faramir needs you too. Someone has to take the first step and he has been hurt too much and is too vulnerable to do it. So man up, Lord of Rohan and claim your prize."

"You have no right to.." but Éowyn has had enough with her brother and his denial.

"Tell me right to my face you do not care for him! Tell me!"

Éomer stood tall and loomed over his sister. Bracing himself to tell the biggest lie in his life, knowing she can see right through him, and deflated.

"I cannot." A small hand enclosed his.

"You are not alone. We all stand by you and Faramir has you in high regard."

Éomer's head snapped up "Dear sister, I do hope you have not been matchmaking."

"I did not. Nothing kept me from talking a lot about my beloved brother and Faramir hung on every word I said."

"You jest."

"I never jest about the heart."

And Éomer knew it to be true.

"Then I will gladly accept Prince Amrothos proposal."

Éowyn beamed.


 

The coronation was a splendid affair. Full of gracious people and beautiful banners. The City, at this level, was completely restored and Aragorn was looking as highborn as could be. And sad. Immensely sad.

Éomer caught a glance of Faramir, who stood next to his sister. Amrothos could not be there for he has new duties since he became the Prince of Ithilien. From his eye corner the King of Rohan kept a close watch on his beloved Wynna and the first Captain of Gondor.

He noticed how Faramir deftly avoided his gaze during the ceremony. When Aragorn got reunited with his Lady Elf all onlookers were moved. The occasion was even more joyous than before and it cracked the hardness inside Éomer.

His resolve melted away and when everyone started moving away after the conclusion of the ceremony, he shouldered closer to his target.

"I am still waiting for an answer." Éomer whispered in Faramir's ear.

The ex-Steward froze and felt something being pressed into his hand. When he looked up, Éomer was already stalking away and he looked down again feeling Éowyn's eyes on his face. Faramir opened his hand and saw...

A handkerchief holding a dried flower. Brownish red and soft moss green on top of the pristine cloth. The copper blond man raised his head in wonder, searching once more for the man who has kept his gift safe for all those years.  

 

Éomer did not stay for the festivities.

Éowyn did and she saw a great change in her friend Faramir. His spirits were more uplifted and he kept clutching the handkerchief in his hand. She understood what had happened and knew that those stubborn men needed her 'matchmaking'. So she plotted and was granted an audience with the King and his Queen to be. She told them everything she knew. Starting with Faramir's abuse at the hands of his father and ending with both men too scared to act on their feelings.

"What do you wish me to do? Faramir wishes to serve me and Gondor in all capacities he can." King Elessar asked.

"Maybe" Arwen's soft voice interrupted their thinking "Lord Faramir could serve in this too."

Éowyn looked up hopeful at Lady Evenstar and then at the King. Aragorn hummed.

"Éomer did ask Gondor for help. They lack academic minds for help with rebuilding their destroyed lands, villages, and crops. Even Edoras has suffered some blows."

"What are you thinking of, my Lady?" Éowyn asked Arwen.

"My love, maybe we could spare such a scholarly mind for the good of Middle-Earth?" Arwen asked her fiancé.

"Yes, I see where this is going. I shall not stand against two women fighting for righteous love. You have my consent and I shall see to it."

Éowyn thanked them most graciously and turned to leave.

"Wait!" Elessar started

"My Lady, you are absolutely sure about this?"

"I know my brother and Faramir has become a dear friend to me. It would not surprise me if theirs was a bond of souls. Like yours is my liege and Lady." Arwen blushed prettily.

"Éomer could feel Faramir grieving from afar and he felt terribly helpless. I..." Éowyn broke off in tearful remembrance

"I never want to see my brother like that again."

"Very well then. It shall be so."  

 

"My King." Faramir bowed deeply to Aragorn on the throne. Several advisors left the room leaving Mithrandir, Gimli and Legolas to stand by their friend.

"Mithrandir, Gimli son of Gloin and Legolas from Demsterworld. Greeting to ye, my lords." They bowed back.

"Such formalities are not necessary amongst us friends, come closer to us Faramir."

"How can I be of service?" the Captain asked.

"How does your work fare, my friend?" Gandalf interrupted.

"Very well, I drew up the final repairs for the sewers. Now they only need to replace the broken masonry and next week a shipment with white stones will arrive at our shores. I believe, with all the help we've been getting and all the men that volunteered, that we will be up and running in another 4 months. Take a year to restore Minas Tirith completely to its former glory."

"That is very good news to hear. What about the crops?"

"Yes, I saw they were building pipes down at the river, what are those for?" Legolas curiously asked.

"I invested in a new system. I do not know if it will work and will know so at the end of the week."

"What is this new system?" Gimli asked, curious for he was a dwarf and crafts were his passion.

"I invented an irrigation system. It is based on old plans that I redrew and implemented the orders. If it works the crops should be repaired more easily and faster. Hopefully, we would have a bigger harvest next year with the irrigation system for I do not wish our people to go hungry."

"And if it fails?" Elessar needed to know.

"I used this plan on a smaller scale in Ithilien and it worked splendidly. It remains a risk, a risk I'm willing to take for the good of our men. If it failed it would be a waste of my capital, as I said it is a personal investment and man forces that could've been used to accelerate the building process of our city."

"I admire your daring, Faramir. I vaguely remember those old plans, though you were more interested in building and architecture than I was." the wizard smiled good-naturedly.

"Back to the reason why you are here." Aragorn smiled.

"Rohan asked for help. They do not have the means we have, nor the minds for it. King Éomer is doing whatever he can and respectfully asked for my council. I agreed to send him the very best help I could give. The friendship of Rohan is of utmost importance, as you well know after the redrawing of the Oath of Eorl. I decided you should go and help in any measure you can. You may take whomever you'd like to take and decide whenever you'll leave. I do hope you will not keep my colleague waiting until the end of the year." Aragorn joked.

Faramir was stunned. He was hearing all that has been said and mulled it over in his mind. Éomer needed help. Faramir has never been to Edoras, can he face the King of Rohan.

Aragorn continued "You are a perfect choice. Faramir, you have a brilliant mind and have done more than enough for me. It would please me if you helped our friend in Rohan. Also, you are almost related to each other by marriage with the fair lady Éowyn marrying your cousin. I am sure Rohan would be much to your liking."

"Thank you, my King, for your trust. Are you sure you'd wish to send me? How does King Éomer feel about that?" Faramir dared to ask.

Elessar noticed the soft way Faramir pronounced Éomer's name and smiled.

"Éomer would be grateful for any help and I have already sent word that he is to expect help by the end of the month."

"Thank you again my liege. I would be honored. I shall start packing and leave by the end of the week when I see how my investment goes. If that is permissible?"

"Of course. Send me word when the irrigation system is a success. I shall gladly come and admire this wonder of yours then."

Faramir bowed, dismissed by now and left the room trying to keep his breathing even.

He had some packing to do!

 

The irrigation was a success. King Elessar was full with praise and people were cheering when water came up miles from the river.

Faramir's departure got delayed with one day when there were some problems with the stone shipment and after that he was free to go.

He has chosen for Elboron to come with him. Elfwinë wished to remain behind and learn Elfish. Lady Arwen had promised him to help. The two boys were treated as if they were Faramir's rightful sons and separating from one of them was difficult. They promised to write about their progress and hugged.

Faramir took his leave of Éowyn personally and she demanded he write to her and come to her wedding. Declining was not an option. Amrothos clasped him on the back and they shook hands.

His last night was spent reading on the balcony and drinking tea in silence with Mithrandir. Aragorn gifted him several beautiful cloaks and promised to send more people and funds the moment they could spare it. For now, he believed Faramir capable of starting things in Rohan.

The journey would take less than a week and the Captain of Gondor was eager and nervous to start it. They left the City with one good look back and followed the river. Turned left and traveled beside the border of the Druadan forest. At the edge there they camped and Faramir started his duties. Scribbling ideas while the journey went on. Whenever they passed villages and people, he always took the time to ask them about their troubles and if they would have any advice for better changes to come.

Elboron learned a lot on that short journey and started to see himself as a squire of the Captain. He loved Faramir dearly from saving him from orphanhood. Elboron had met the King and seen lots of beautiful Lords and Ladies. In return he would give everything to serve his new father figure, joking and laughing they made their way. On the last day, they freshened up at the river bank before climbing uphill towards Edoras. Faramir told Elboron of how he always wanted to visit the Glimmering Caves. Tales had been written about those caves.

"Luminescent moss, Elboron! I would love to sample such a specimen." They were inventing uses of this kind of moss when they followed a small turn and it started to drizzle, then rain and then really pour. The fun was over fast and before they knew it their travel cloaks were soaking wet, their horses grumpy and their stomachs were starting to growl and the last of the food was gone. Elboron proposed to catch a rabbit, but Faramir refused, saying they were almost there and he was right. After the climb around the hill, Edoras loomed over them.

"Is that the capital of Rohan?" Elboron couldn't stop himself from commenting.

"Hush!" Faramir stared up at it in awe

"It is perfect. Modest and a bit utilitaristic," he had to explain that word.

"It is nothing next to the White City, though?" the young boy thoughtfully said out loud.

"That is true, but you shouldn't be comparing two completely separate things with each other. They are their own in their own way."

Faramir saw Elboron did not follow that line of thinking.

"Alright, suppose you were me, and you have to be very critical here, and you'd have to decide between who's better. You or Elfwinë? Who would you choose?"

Elboron had no answer for that. He adored his smaller stepbrother.

"I don't know. Elfwinë is very smart and good with languages, whereas I am quicker working with my hands and it doesn't mean that I'm stupid or Elfwinë a big lump."

Faramir threw his head back and laughed loudly. "Exactly! You cannot decide, aye?"

"Aye." Elboron agreed.

"So imagine you are Minas Tirith and your brother is Edoras. What would give me the right to decide whoever is better than the other?"

"You can't. We're equally good in your eyes as our adoptive father. I mean..." he shyly ducked closer to his horse.

"That's all right." Faramir warmly smiled

"You got my point. Very good."

Elboron's chest filled with pride at being praised.

"We're here," Faramir concluded their educational talk.

"Are you nervous?" the boy dared to ask.

"Aye, lad. I am. Though not for the reason you think."

They passed easily by the guards who where members of the Rohirrim and they recognized Faramir easily.

Éothain welcomed them when they got up the stairs.

"Welcome, delegation of Gondor. I am very honored to meet with you. King Elessar was full of praise for your latest accomplishment. We hope.." he stuttered to a halt when Faramir stepped into the light. Rain dripping down his cloaked head, shivering softly and smiling friendly at Éothain.

"Lord Faramir!" he exclaimed surprised. Faramir immediately felt something was wrong.

"Were we not expected, Marshall?"

"Yes, you were. Alas, Lord Aragorn failed to mention it was you Lord Faramir."

"And that's a bad thing?" Elboron asked.

"No! Of course not! A very pleasant surprise. Surprise indeed." and Éothain suddenly got such a big, a bit terrifying, smile.

"Please, follow me." he grinned, even more, shark like.

"My Lord," he said loudly. The hall quieted down and looked at the entrance. He bowed to the visitors following him and then strode closer to the throne. Faramir and Elboron, dripping wet and still cloaked, followed not far behind. Elboron stayed a step behind his adoptive father and heard Faramir gasp when they stood before the King. They bowed low.

"May I present to you, King Éomer of Rohan, Son of Éomund and Sister-Son to our beloved late King Théoden. Warlord of the Riddermark and protector of the Realm!"

They bowed again.

"My King, may I introduce you to our godsend help from Gondor?" the people around were nodding happily. Grateful for any help they got. Éomer stood up and waved Éothain to the side. Showing it was alright and he could speak for himself.

"Welcome, visitors. Your help is greatly appreciated and many thanks to my colleague King Elessar of Gondor. May I have your names, honored guests?"

They dropped their soaked cloaks at the same moment and time stood still for Éomer and Faramir.

"Faramir?" Éomer choked out.

Faramir was faintly alarmed with the emotions now coursing through his veins. Éothain was smiling broadly behind the back of his king, sharing meaningful eye contact with his friends and other councilors of the king.

"I present my companion, young Elboron, my esquire in learning, warden of Gondor and soon to be adopted, son." Elboron snapped his head up and stared in awe at his almost father. They smiled and Elboron bowed very low.

"Your Grace." he tried saying in a voice as deep as possible.

"I am Faramir..." Faramir started.

"Captain of Gondor and beloved friend of this court." Éomer finished for him. The Captain's mouth hung a bit open until Elboron gave him a nudge reminding his father, for a change, of his manners.

Faramir bowed low and intoned "Your Grace."

When he stood back up Éomer has gotten closer. Thirty centimeters, maybe less, separating their chests. The King was looking transfixed in his eyes, looking for something and Faramir shyly lowered them in front of him so he was staring at his liege's chest.

"Welcome, my friend." and Éomer clasped the shorter man unexpectedly on the shoulder.

"A toast!" Someone yelled out and others soon followed.

They shared a cup and a deep meaningful glance and then excused themselves for they were weary of their travel and needed to change out of their cold and wet clothes. Food got sent to their quarters.

"What happened there, with you and the King... Father?" Elboron asked curiously.

Faramir tried smiling at the word 'father' but all he could manage was a grimace.

"I do not know, son."


 

"Calm down, my Lord." Éothain implored his friend and King.

"How can I calm down? How can they send him? Him! Of all people?"

"Are you not glad?"

"Glad? I'm ecstatic, my friend! You know how... I think he would prove to be a great distraction for me." Éomer finally admitted.

"And we all love and respect you, my King. A little distraction can be good for you and you, most of all, deserve this distraction."

"And what if it were not only distraction? What if it were... More, Éothain?"

"Then I would advise you to not forget to send an invitation for your bonding with Lord Faramir to your sister. With all due respect, Sire, she would have your hide."

Éomer laughed and laughed.

"All right, thus, we had our laugh. Now to business. I want you to assign two men to Lord Faramir and Master Elboron. To guard them, protect them, bring back reports to me personally, help him, show him around... You know how it works. I do not wish for them to be insulted by anyone and whatever they need. Get it to them before they need asking. Understood?"

Éothain nodded seriously and left immediately to see to his orders.

The next morning King Éomer took greater care than usual of his appearance. He would be breaking his fast with Faramir by his side.

"Good morning, my Grace." Faramir bowed and Éomer gestured him directly next to him. Elboron got send with a nod from Faramir to the end of the table where he would get acquainted with the children of the court.

The King broke off a piece of bread and served his guest with honeyed water and freshly cut up fruit.

"Thank you, my Lord."

They dared not breach an intimate conversation with all those eyes on them and they dared not look directly into the other's face. Faramir felt as if angry bees were buzzing in between them. The tension was almost unbearable and he barely could get something past his throat to swallow.

"What are you planning to do, this fine day?" Éomer enquired.

"What do you wish me to do, my Lord? I am here at your disposal." Faramir tried to reply calmly.

"That would interfere with my other promise." Now the Captain looked up in confusion.

"I promised that you would make your own decisions here in Rohan."

Faramir felt himself flushing all the way down his chest and Éomer noticed. His eyes turned hungry in an instant and his thigh pressed against Faramir's. Éomer looked at the copper blond man's lips and said man reacted by licking them making Éomer gravitate even closer to him.

A loud scrape of a chair nearby distracted them out of their trance and Faramir blinked several times with his eyes. Followed by almost swallowing everything on his plate whole, being watched bemused by the King, then he stood and bowed and said he will be making plans this very day. Pulling a still chewing Elboron with him.

Éomer saw Éothain give him a thumbs up and the King reacted by rolling his eyes in a completely dignified manner and leaving the table too.

 

Hamling the Young and Elfdred were assigned supervising duties. They did not grumble, for Faramir and young Elboron were easy lovable persons. They followed them everywhere and asked Faramir the same question every morning:

"Where to today, my Lord?"

It amused the Captain and made for friendly banter during the day.

The first step Faramir would take was asserting the problems Edoras, and Rohan, as a whole, were having. He enquired relentlessly and scribbled short notes of the answers he got. He even interviewed the washing maids, farm children, stable boys, orphans, single mothers and on one occasion talked shortly with the 'excrement' collector. That interview did not deliver many fruitful answers, but anyway, he learned about Rohan and its workings. The problems were various. Some small and some big.

What he immediately noticed was the lack of fighting men. Farmers and children stayed behind and most of the other able-bodied men were gone now. Almost no academics and they did not have the resources to expand. He set to work immediately and implored King Elessar, Ithilien and the people of Dol Amroth including the Riverlands to send young men. Statistically speaking they needed more babies.

Enough women, not enough men.

It took some weeks and then from all corners of the world, most still of Rohan, men came to Edoras. Reporting to Faramir. He, together with counselors of the King who could spare the time, assigned the men to different villages in need of rebuilding and human expansion. It all sounded very logical and cold, surprisingly the newcomers were welcomed with open arms. Most of them marrying or courting quickly. Helping women who had no family, orphaned children or widowed mothers in providing for their families.

The moral and happiness, in general, rose too. Then together with the most academic people found in Rohan, they drew up plans for rebuilding.

Faramir was glad for the fact that the graves of the deceased had been spared the war and whenever he could spare a moment he would be out paying his respect to the dead. Éowyn told him of her uncle-father Théoden King and Faramir could do nothing less than love the man as he had been his own King. He wrote to Éowyn about the people coming in, the villages that were under construction and telling her how he lays flowers on her uncle's grave for he surely would forgive her for not being there at the burial.

"You were there when he left this world as a willing man and no greater comfort could be found than meeting his ancestors and son by saying farewell in your arms," he wrote and Éowyn did indeed find great comfort in her friends kind words. She asked him about Éomer and Faramir answered honestly that they barely saw each other.

Éowyn wrote to her brother too, enquiring about Faramir. He wrote back:

"Dear sister, I do not think Faramir is interested in something more than doing his duty. And doing that alone is more than I could ever wish for. I hear reports of him doing great things indeed, with not many resources and still succeeding. With him on our side, by my side, my dearest, we can get Rohan back as it was and honor our losses with the greatest respect."

Éomer kept up to date with Faramir and Elboron as much as he could by word alone. He did not wish to distract Faramir or scare him away, for Rohan needed him and the King could not bear to part with his unrequited love.

 

With the villages rebuilding, Edoras renovated, horses breeding, babies made and crops were sown, Faramir could spend his time more on the smaller matters.

First he commissioned a beautiful statue in the white stone of Gondor of Théoden King. Telling the King of this gift by saying it is a gift of the people of Gondor and the Elves. Éomer was visibly moved by this gesture and wrote long letters of gratitude to both the Elven lords and King Elessar.

Secondly, Faramir started to bow himself over the problem of the orphans that could not be placed for they lacked their complete family. He started asking around and found people who could need another helping hand in their household or work on the field. The Captain drew up contracts that in exchange for the labor of a 'warden of Rohan' they would treat the child as their own. The contracts were a success and even some Lords asked Faramir to drew them up. The ex-Steward of Gondor took great care in checking in on the families with a warden.

Elboron asked him not to adopt any more children beside him and Elfwinë and Faramir agreed that two scoundrels were more than enough for him resulting in a little wrestling match.

Éomer invited Faramir daily for supper and breakfast for a chance to really talk with the man, though it would seem the Captain was avoiding him. He had made lots of friends and sat each day with a different group at breakfast or he was pouring over maps and scrolls and old tomes while absentmindedly chewing on something that Elboron placed closely to him.

The King absolutely adored this side of Faramir and tried to reign in his inappropriate desires at seeing Faramir thusly.

Éomer felt locked up in his own castle. Every day was the same and he dared not divert from his schedule out of fear for failing as a King. At sunrise he was already awake, bathing with Faramir in his mind and dressing while Éothain was telling him of his appointments later that day. He came together with his counselors, had to sign copious amounts of papers, dispatched orders for soldiers to scourge certain areas with sightings of remaining Orcs, signed some more papers and wrote letters to keep up friendships, allies, and families.

The letters to King Elessar and Éowyn were the easiest to write, but what does one write weekly to a Lord you barely know. Éowyn would be much better suited for such a task and he sighs some more. When all the paperwork is concluded he has a light and quick meal. Mostly he takes it standing or walking. Éomer uses that time to walk the wall and talk to his people. Secretly hoping to catch a glimpse of Faramir.

The rest of the afternoon is spent with appointments of people coming before him to be judged or to rule or to settle a dispute. Today two farmers were arguing about an acre of land and it was hard not to nod off in the middle. Éomer shouldered on. When those appointments were finally settled he could spend some time with Firefoot, his horse, and other horses in the stables. He inspected the new work of the blacksmith and trained in the private courtyard. Fighting several opponents at the same time and clearing some of the frustration clouding his temperament.

When he had freshened up and dressed again King Éomer would go for dinner and mingle with his people. Most of them were friends, but once you are King they keep their distance and every evening ends with frowning and staring at a point far away or in the middle of a plate. Nursing a cup of wine and trying to eat everything he took. Éomer refused to become fat and it would be difficult to do so for he had trouble eating. If he ate and his nerves did not settle before bed, he would sleep very badly. Éomer was full of sorrows and did not know how to change that.

 

"Faramir."

"Éothain. What brings you down here?" the Captain was shuffling some papers around in an abandoned store house. He was making plans for building a school here. Elboron stood by, ready to jump at the smallest opportunity to be of service.

Éothain sighs "Can I speak with you freely?" he asks and looks over at Elboron.

"Whatever you have to say, you can say in front of my son." Elboron beamed again, he would never get over that feeling of being called Faramir's son.

"It is about the King."

"What about the King?"

"He is... Melancholic. Depressed. Somber. And lonely. I notice it, everyone notices it and we cannot do anything about it."

"What do you think I can do about it then?" Faramir asks with his heart hammering in his chest. He had noticed the gray aura surrounding Éomer but was too afraid and insecure to pierce it.

"Please my friend, do something. Éomer has no one to draw on for strength but you. We all know about the Great Gate incident." Faramir blushed and Elboron's interest peeked.

"What happened at the Great Gate?" he asked. The Captain only flushed some more and tried stammering an explanation. He miserably failed.

"I will tell him if you leave now and ask for an audience with the King." Éothain proposed cunningly.

"What do I tell him?" Faramir finally brings out. Éothain pushed him out the door and turned Faramir's chin upwards, looking at the fort.

"You have all the way up there to invent a reason. Now scoot for I have to tell your boy about the birds and the bees. Or is it the bees and the bees?" Éothain grinned roguishly. And Faramir went.

 

"My King, Lord Faramir asks for a short audience," Hama said.

Éomer's senses stood on high alert "Let him in, Hama."

Faramir entered and saw the King tiredly wiping his face to remove all traces of weariness. Éothain was certainly right. Éomer was not looking so well.

"My liege, I have come with a request."

"Come closer, Faramir, son of Denethor." Éomer realized too late what he said when he saw Faramir's wince.

"Forgive me. I.."

"Nothing to be forgiven, my Lord." Faramir now looked even more uncomfortable in his presence and Éomer cursed strongly inside his head.

"I have had an idea we could mayhap implement near the village down the stream." Éomer noted that Faramir was talking about a little farming village where the Snowbourn river and Entwash flowed together. Their fishing was their main resource and their lands to sow crops their second for they have an easier supply of water.

"You are speaking of Emnetoras?"

"Yes, Sire."

"What is this idea?"

"I cannot say, my King."

Éomer was getting really tired of people calling him King and my Lord. He already felt older than he was.

"Then how can I decide concerning your request if I do not know what the request is?" he asked impatiently.

"I had wished that you yourself, your Highness, could accompany me and maybe I could show? Instead of tell?"

Éomer sat up. A real chance to get out of there and together with Faramir.

"When do we leave?" he grinned. Faramir let out a careful breath.

That went well, he thought, now how to survive tomorrow.

 

The next day came quickly and Éomer had ordered their escorts to gather some light foods and fruits before their short journey down the stream. The King had planned a small picnic on the river banks. Somewhere in the shadows.

Summer was coming and the temperature was steady and warm. Rain now and then, but the cold had left Rohan completely.

Faramir's mouth ran dry when he saw the King descending the stairs. A dark blue embroidered with small golden horses and wild manes, tunic showed off the excellent shape of their ruler atop black leather riding breeches and easy shoes. Sword strapped to his side and a ceremonial dagger decorating his thigh for easy access.

Elboron wanted to go with Faramir but understood, especially after the explaining he got yesterday, that his presence would be uncomfortable.

Faramir was nervous and sweating. All night long he had been perfecting his plan that he invented at the last second before entering the Great Hall. It was a plan he had been toying with for a long time, though never actually had taken the time for the define it. Now he had one night to do so and he was content with the results and still afraid to blunder in front of his Lordship.

They rode down the hill at a leisurely pace. The young and new guards leaving enough space for the two men to easily converse in private. Faramir started to sketch his idea of a greenhouse, the first of his kind, with his hands in the air. He told about what he read about greenhouses in the Southern and Eastern lands almost unknown by Middle-Earth culture and how they could plant and harvest during the winter too. That he got the idea because of the long and harsh climate in Rohan during the winter and the sometimes difficult lands to work on. With greenhouses, the idea would be to move fertile soil inside the greenhouse and keep it warm and irrigated. That's why, if it happened, the first should be close to the water for testing and easy access. Éomer was listening raptly to Faramir's explanation. Dazzled by his intelligence and his easy way of talking. Faramir tried to ignore the way Éomer was looking at him.

"Now tell me honestly, my friend. There was no need to get me down to the river to talk about this plan, was there?" Éomer smirked.

"Aye."

"Then why get me to leave my throne?"

"I believe, Sire, you had been cooped up in there for far too long. You need to relax." the Captain dared to answer.

Éomer halted his horse and started laughing. Faramir just grinned, happiness invaded his person when he saw the King finally relaxing thusly.

The men were waiting at a respectful distance when Éomer signaled them to get closer to the river bank. There they settled their horses and sat down in the green grass. Faramir and Éomer were sharing their food under the light shadow of a tree behind some bushes when one of the men stepped up and asked Éomer's permission to water the horses. The King allowed it and the other men promptly jumped up to help.

One thing led to another and before they knew it the men were merrily splashing around in the river. Éomer stood up to look behind the shrubberies and hill to see their guards and was thinking of admonishing his men and decided against it. Faramir looked amused at the indecision in Éomer's eyes.

The King answered with a huff "They deserve some relaxing too, don't they?"

Faramir laughed at the small joke.

"Good escorts they are!" Éomer shouted good-naturedly over his shoulder. The young men would not have heard over their yelling who would be wrestling who into the water to meet the fish.

The sun grew stifling and the King took off his tunic. Baring his golden skin and broad chest to the sun. Faramir awkwardly looked away. Not even daring to think about removing his tunic. They shared an apple in silence and the atmosphere grew tense.

"So..." Éomer tried to diffuse the tension. Faramir interrupted him with an apprehensive face

"Did you mean it? Are you... Still waiting for an answer?"

Éomer felt as if his prayers have been heard.

"Yes. I do not joke about these matters," he seriously replied.

"What if the answer were to be.." Faramir could barely breathe and hesitantly resumed his sentence "yes..? Would I still be free to make my own choices?"

The younger man sat upright and faced the Captain.

"I solemnly swear to you, that if you allowed me to court you, I would respect you in all matters and you would be able to make your own decisions. You set the parameters and I will gladly follow."

Faramir gulped and tried looking everywhere but at Éomer's chest or eyes.

"Why me? I'm not handsome, nor do I have any lands to offer anymore, I am woefully inexperienced and most of all, Éomer..." Éomer came closer to listen to the reticent voice of his love "Éomer, I am damaged."

"My Faramir!" Éomer exclaimed. "How could you think such a thing? I am speechless."

Faramir fiddled with some grass, cautious to not look up and show even more weakness.

"Faramir, look at me." With great reluctance he did and all he saw was honesty.

"From the moment I met you, I was utterly besotted with your beauty and shy smiles. Then I got to see more of you and not only were you beautiful to my eyes, you are intelligent, witty, caring, brave, highly respected by any man."

"Not any man." Faramir interrupted.

"Your father was mad. Driven so by his grief after the loss of your mother, his frustration at not succeeding very well in his role as Steward, he was a drunk and mean man. You cannot fault yourself for his mistakes. The palantir drove him even further away from humanity. Faramir, you are a wonderful man. A marvel for both my eyes and senses and you have bewitched me body and soul. Let us work on processing the past as good as we can and let us focus more on what is to come."

"I.. Don't know how to start being.."

"Being what?"

"Happy for myself."

"Let me teach you and you can teach me, for all I need to be happy is you. Say the word and I'll never speak of this again or say yes and I will do anything in my power to satisfy your needs."

"You are a king and I am only a Captain."

"I do not care!" Éomer suddenly roared

"Damn it, I love you. Do I need to kneel before you or lay down my crown, for I will if that is what you require. Just, please, my dearest, let me love you?" Éomer saw that his loud voice made Faramir cower back a bit.

"I apologize, but can you not see what power you have over me? You need to decide because my heart can't bear it any longer."

"I see and I don't think I deserve your affections, my King. However, speaking of your heart, I must confess I kept it close and safe during it all. I had hoped I would not need to return it." Faramir bashfully looked away and Éomer barked a short laugh out of happiness.

"You may keep hold of it for as long as you wish. Please say yes and state your boundaries for I wish to kiss you very much. Right, this moment."

Faramir blushed and mumbled, "I have never before had to state boundaries, what if I tell you 'no' when they were to be crossed?"

"Aye, I can work with that my Captain."

"Then, I can only say yes, Sire. Yes, to courting. Yes, to your kiss." And Faramir felt his heart swell with his last words when Éomer swiftly swooped in and made their lips meet. Faramir gasped and Éomer used the moment to lick his way inside his mouth.

"By the Gods, your mouth is to die for." Éomer growled and licked further.

Faramir pushed back and met Éomer's warm tongue with his own. They battled for dominance while the King's hands were roaming up and down and around the chest and arms and back of Faramir. Wanting to feel closer, to consume the man driving him mad in such a way.

"I love you. I love you." Éomer murmured against Faramir's mouth and kissed his way down to his neck. Licking and nibbling, coming up for air and kissing his ear, cheek, tip of his nose, forehead and back to his mouth again. Faramir whimpered and felt a burning need trail fire down his spine, he pushed his hips of the ground and met those of his liege. Éomer groaned hard and long when their hips met and two hot hard lumps created friction for a short instance when Faramir was suddenly scrambling back.

Éomer needed a second to realize what has happened and leaned back, away from Faramir. The man was gasping for air and trying to hide his arousal with his hands. The golden skinned man let his eyes rove up and down that delicious body but kept his distance.

"Are you well?" he finally rasped out.

Faramir nodded and touched his red and swollen spit slicked lips in disbelief.

"That was... Amazing" he murmured.

"I can see that." Éomer flirted while looking at the tenting in Faramir's breeches.

"I.. Oh! Forgive me." and he took off in embarrassment. Éomer was enjoying the view of a floundering Faramir trying to get his bodily control back. His own pants tight and he carefully ghosted his hand over his erection. He hissed and Faramir looked back and saw a flushing Éomer palming his hard member.

"No! That is a clear boundary!" He shouted excited and scared at the same time.

Éomer grinned and took his hand back "Your wish, is my command, my dear."

Faramir groaned and looked upwards. "I'm going to..." he finally said and started stomping around, disappearing after a hill and coming back up later a couple of meters further.

Éomer went to the river, to cool his ardor and freshen and sharpen his mind again. His eyes following a muttering Faramir. After five minutes the Captain came back and sat on a stone, waiting for Éomer to finish. The King took his time and let the cold water slide through his hair, down his well-defined chest and his hand followed shortly after fingering the course hair under his belly button disappearing under the leather. He heard Faramir groan and stomp off again with a red face.

Éomer's thunderous laugh alerted the others of their charges and they came to clear the food away. They parted ways in front of the Great Hall and nobody had any comment on how the King had a new spring in his step or that Lord Faramir would gaze dreamily at a point of nowhere followed by an intense blush staining his cheeks and then he would snap out of his trance and resume work.

Elboron and Éothain just shook hands and grinned.

 

The first rays of the sun shone in the guest chamber where Faramir and Elboron were softly slumbering. The Captain opened his eyes and the first thing he saw in the sunlight was a white rose. The man rose from his bed and caressed the delicate flower with a smile.

He woke up Elboron and they prepared for breakfast, cleaning themselves at the basin with fresh water fetched for them by a servant. The boy helped his father lace up the sides of his tunic and reached for a brush to untangle the hair that had grown even longer. Faramir thought of letting it grow in the style of the men of Rohan when suddenly a knock sounded at the door. He took the brush from his son and nodded for him to open the door.

"Father?" Elboron shakily said and Faramir turned around.

The King of Rohan was waiting on his doorstep. Eyes intense and hands clasped behind his back.

"My Lord." The Captain of Gondor said and bowed.

Éomer nodded in return and asked, "Have you changed your mind?"

"No, I have not." and showed the King the white rose on his nightstand. Éomer blushed and scratched the back of his head in an endearing manner making Faramir smile even more generously.

"In that case. Look away boy," he smirked at Elboron and stepped inside. He did not halt until he loomed over his love and asked permission with his gentle eyes. They were like burning embers boring themselves into Faramir's gray ones.

He nodded and gulped barely audible but Éomer heard and looked even smugger now. He bent down and touched his mouth tenderly to Faramir's.

"Let me escort you to breakfast?" he then asked and the Captain could do nothing more than nod breathlessly.

Elboron snickered behind his father's back and followed the two bedazzled men to the Great Hall. A hush fell over the place when both King and Captain entered at the same time. The King letting Faramir pass first and helped him with his chair, then seated himself. The conversation returned smoothly and only now the men and women were wearing bigger grins than before.

Faramir blushed and felt a thigh touch his. He made eye contact with Éomer and they smiled in understanding. During breakfast they talked about the greenhouse plan and Faramir started feeling more at ease, even plucking a small piece of charcoal out of his pocket to sketch his irrigation idea on the back of a napkin. The King did not once let his eyes stray from his guest and nodded and commented at the right moments, fully consumed with interest and fascination. He then decided to draw up old maps of the rivers and Emnetoras, asking Faramir to sketch this concept as good as he could and then they would bow over it again trying to find a way to realize this investment. Faramir agreed readily and smiled up at the King.

"You have some... Charcoal. There." Éomer placed his hand on the other man's cheek and stroked his thumb over a black wipe there.

The other residents in the hall were watching the proceedings with mounting pleasure and happiness. Seeing their King crowd into the good Captain's space, wiping his cheek and then getting closer still. Faramir's chest was rising rapidly and his breathing was shallow.

"We better stop here." he timidly murmured.

"Of course." Éomer gravelly complied. Not breaking apart yet after those words.

He placed his mouth next to Faramir's ear and whispered hoarsely "My flesh is crawling with restless need for your touch."

The Captain's eyes turned big as dinner plates in shocked answer. Éomer leaned back and his eyes greedily roved over the Ranger's reactions. Lips parted in trepidation. Faramir finally found the strength to break the powerful glaze and excused himself and Elboron for they had work to do. Éomer acknowledged the excuse and let them go.

His eyes following the copper blond man all the way 'til he was gone.


 

Young Hamling and Elfdred were teasing Elboron, while Faramir was striding in front of them, off to the deserted store house where he was planning another project when the request of the King came.

"The King asks if you can spare a moment and visit him on the sparring fields." the messenger said.

"I'll be there shortly." Faramir replied and turned to Elboron. Looked him up and down and straightened the collar of his green tunic. Hamling and Elfdred snickered, but one sharp glance of Faramir made them quiet down.

"You have no problem with me.." The Captain tried asking his adopted son.

"Absolutely not, for I see he brings you great happiness. Now don't let the man wait." Elboron answered and Faramir looked relieved. Together they made their way to the inner courtyard and were met with the sound of steel meeting steel. The Captain of Gondor flinched at hearing the sounds, his mind going back in the past and a shiver passed over his spine.

"Ah, will you join us?" Éothain asked Faramir when he saw they had company.

The King put away his sword and joined the group to hear the answer. He beamed at his love and used some cloth to mop up his sweat. Faramir's mind went blank for a moment and then shook himself from his stupor.

"No, I thank ye. I have no need for fighting. Not anymore." he excused himself.

"You're a pacifist?" Éothain asked in disbelief.

"I am now, for I have seen enough of battle." the other men grimly frowned in remembrance. The War still fresh on their minds.

"Not even some sparring?" Éomer then asked.

"I could be persuaded to join when teaching, but no, thank you. I refrain from fighting." The King held his gaze for a while and suddenly looked at Elboron.

"May young Elboron join us in our teachings then?" Elboron's mouth fell open, he has had some training and wished to become even better. Hopefully he begged his father with his eyes for this opportunity.

"Elboron can decide for himself. I only wish for him to return to me in one piece."

Elfdred and the other roared in laughter and clapped Elboron on the back.

"Come on boy. I got some tricks up my sleeve." Éothain smirked and together they trotted off to find a practice sword for the happy boy leaving their King and Captain a moment to themselves.

"You wish to never fight again?" Éomer asked. He had heard a lot of Faramir's warrior skills, but has never seen them in the flesh and wished he would one day be a witness to its display.

"Not without sufficient cause and not so soon after.." Faramir trailed off.

"I understand." the horsemaster delicately answered. And he really did understand.

"You do not mind me sparring? If you are too uncomfortable with the sounds of combat.."

"No, that's alright My Lord. I just need some time and besides. I enjoy watching."

The King looked down at his dearest friend, imploring for more information.

"I... I enjoy watching you, your Highness." he whisperingly confessed. Éomer looked around and saw that the others were distracted so he leaned down and placed one arm besides Faramir on the wall. Closing him in like a trapped animal, seductively gazing at his lips and waiting for surrender.

"You do love to intimidate me, your King." Faramir almost simpered. Feeling as if he were a deer watched by an almighty lion.

"It excites me, I confess. Do you not like it? For I can stop at once if you so desire." Faramir shook his head forcefully and laid his hand on the broad chest in front of him.

"I admit it does scare me sometimes. Wait!" he yelled when Éomer started taking a step back

"It scares me. And excites me at the same time." The King tilted his body even closer to Faramir's now and their breaths mingled. The Captain's senses were overloading with the salty fresh scent of the man before him.

"It is clear to see you are a fearless and brave man. You take what you want and I respect this. I... It's hard for me to say but.." Éomer gave Faramir a moment to gather his strength to whisper his confessions to him.

"You can trust me, my beloved." The King assured the smaller man.

"It's exhilarating. Refreshingly so, to be the prey for once. Your hunting me gives me the feeling of power and it takes my breath away. My body.." Éomer pressed their chests together

"Yes, tell me about your body, my heart." he growled.

"My body has no trouble reacting to what the heart wants, but the mind needs some time."

"And I will give your brilliant mind all the time it needs." The King nuzzled his nose against the fluttering pulse in Faramir's neck.

"Éomer." Faramir whimpered "I need you to, sometimes, push my boundaries." he finally dared say. Cheeks flaming and pupils dilated he tried conveying the truth of his words to his beloved King. Éomer's breath sped up and he tried to repress a moan. He needed to close his eyes for a moment and gather his wits before he could answer to that.

"You wish me to hunt you? To prey on you like the predator I am?" he groaned.

"I need you. To conquer me. From one warrior to another. And I need you to take a step back when need be, from one lover to another. I need you." Faramir moaned at last making Éomer's reservations snap out of control. He closed his arms around the smaller man, threw a glance around and noticed they were garnering some knowing looks. The King pulled Faramir close to him and steered him behind the corner of the wall. Knowing full well they could be seen any time when someone wished it so, lifting his aroused spirits even higher with that knowledge.

"I shall take you. Stake my claim on every piece of your body and your magnificent soul." he growled and bent down to ravish his Captain. Their hips meeting instinctively of their own accord and rubbing luxuriously together making both men gasp and beg for more. Éomer's mouth roved over his beloved. Plundering his mouth and making Faramir tremble underneath him, back pressed against the wall, with suppressed need.

"Yes." Faramir keened and Éomer's shaky voice rumbled soft unintelligent words under his breath while rutting against each other. The Captain decided that he should be doing something too and tried giving as good as he got. Fingers threading through the long soft beautifully blond and golden locks of the Horsemaster in front of him. Pulling and kneading and groaning all the while. A white hot haze was settling in front of his eyes and he didn't realize how loud he was starting to moan until Éomer hissed and clasped his hand in front of his mouth.

"You'll make me lose my composure, just by opening that beautiful mouth of yours." He bit down on Faramir's neck and the copper blond man lost his stance, caught by the wall and Éomer's strong arms. Knees too weak to remain upright.

"Such a tease, you are." Éomer tried not to cry out. His hips slowly thrusting up and creating a delicious friction when Faramir started to push him away. With a fierce snarl he stepped back and clenched his fists at his side. Both men breathing hard.

"Are you well?" Éomer finally could ask when his voice returned albeit a bit hoarse.

"Yes. I apologize. I did not wish to..." and Faramir weakly waved in the direction of his cross. Éomer clutched his own manhood trying to keep from climax with that image in his head. He took a couple of deep breaths and opened his eyes again. Gentling the frustration down. A soft chaste kiss was shared to speak of understanding and acceptance. The Captain sighed relieved for he did not wish to insult his King. When Éomer felt his painful erection starting to subdue a bit he stepped back and bowed.

"I do shall enjoy this." he smirked and stepped back to the sparring area. Everyone knew what they had been up to. Not hard to see when both men disappeared for a couple of minutes and reappeared completely flustered, clothes in a tangle and hair sticking up to all sides.

All men were afraid of sparring with their Lord because his blows and yells were even more terrifying and powerful than usual.

 

Faramir had never before felt this way. It was as if he were floating on air and it showed to all that cared for him.

Elboron only knew to smirk these days when he caught his father again with a soft knowing smile on his lips. The King was radiant too. His youthfulness and strength back restored to its former glory, before the unhappiness and loneliness. Their spirits soared and together they motivated and inspired the people of Rohan.

Works were well underway and Éowyn could not stop sending gleeful letters to her beloved friend and her brother. Éomer just sighed when he got another piece of advice about romantic intentions. Wynna just loved to lecture him about these things and he missed her scolding dearly. Her happiness permeated every word in her letter and for once Éomer could find peace with his beloved sister so far from home with the man she loved. And he, at home, with the man he loved too.

The Captain felt as if he had unleashed a passionate beast in their liege and whenever King Éomer saw a chance he stole a kiss or pressed him against a wall for a minute. They spend almost every morning and evening meal together and Éomer learned that it was permitted and even desired for a King to come more outside and mingle under his people. He was there when the sowing started and when Faramir opened their first school to learn children who could spare their mornings off the field to learn how to read.

"Rohan shall have more educated people everywhere in the future." Faramir promised his beloved.

"It will be well when there will be more researchers, map drawers, builders, architect, scholars and counselors. The future of Rohan will be guaranteed. It splendor shall come back swiftly and it shall stay."

Éomer just smiled gratefully at the changes Faramir had brought to his kingdom for the better of it. Weeks passed and he visited the restored village of Emnetoras. The people were honored to get a personal visit of the King and came from afar to catch a glimpse of the tall and brooding golden figure on top of his magnificent steed Firefoot.

Babies were pressed under his nose for his blessing, and many babies there were for Faramir's scheme for 'breeding' proved to be very successful, and countless hands were shook. The people took to cheering their King and the wind carried his name to the furthest fields.

"Éomer King." They shouted.

"Rohan." They waved with young flowers.

"King Eadig." They smiled for the first time, but not for the last.

Éomer visibly showed how affected he was by his new nickname and sat even more proudly on his saddle, gave even more love to his people and met Faramir's eyes over the sea of gathered men and women.

Éomer King.

King Eadig. The blessed king.


 

The bubble of happiness and prosperity could not stay forever and after weeks of improvement on the lands, teaching the children, building the greenhouse and a new irrigation system, the trades starting rolling onto their grounds. Merchants from afar came to pay their respects and promote their delicate products in Rohan.

The times were busy and both men were unavailable to the other for most of the time. They missed their not so secretive little meetings together and wished to be with the other once more before long. Faramir started moping around to the frustration of Elboron who has gotten broader around the shoulders from the training he had received in the last months. He thought it was just a phase that would pass when all the bustle of merchandise had died down and when buyers and sellers did not come in hoards anymore and left in trickling streams.

Elboron was sadly mistaken the day Lord Waldred the Young from the Brown Lands came to visit the King at Edoras. The man was an old acquaintance of Éomer and would not be parted from the side of the King. He was a big burly and gorgeous young fellow. They sparred together, they ate together and rode out together. Elboron noticed his father gritting his teeth once more when he saw how close Lord Waldred leaned into the personal space of the King when looking at the displayed wares on the market.

Waldred was openly leering at the King and Éomer pretended not to notice. Frustration and insecurity rolled in waves of the slender Captain and he almost combusted when Waldred saw fit to take his place at the table besides the King. That was HIS place.

Everyone was treading lightly around the irritated and confused Ranger. Days later when Waldred placed his hand on the King's arm, he saw red and stood up, scraping his chair loudly in a shocking display of anger. He did not make eye contact with anyone and strode off to his chambers deciding to not eat in the same room Waldred was in.

Éomer missed his love and did not understand the mixed signals he was getting. They were both so busy minding their duties and barely saw one another. Waldred's refreshing humor was taking his mind of his fears and doubts for a bit, but after the display at dinner he was fearing the worst. The King thought Faramir had changed his mind and was slowly withdrawing his regards to not hurt the King needlessly more.

He found a companion in Waldred, who seemed to be an honest and concerned friend of the Realm. Éomer fell completely out of the air when the Lord of the Brown Lands asked if he could visit the King's bedchamber that night. King Eadig stammered as dignified as possible an excuse for that night and left the man frowning to himself.

Éomer was nursing a drink and pondering the latest developments in his personal chambers when Éothain announced a visitor and let Elboron inside.

"My Lord." Elboron bowed.

"Young Elboron, whatever is the matter?" The King asked him worriedly.

"My father. I have no idea what you have done, but you are tearing him apart. I need you to stop doing whatever you are doing."

Éomer's temper flared "I am a King and shall not be commanded by a little boy. I have been doing nothing!"

"I fully respect you my King, but my loyalty lies with the man who saved me from the streets. Doing nothing either is a bad thing. You must stop it."

"You have guts, youngling. I grant you that. Let me be and I'll think about it." the horselord grumbled.

"Goodnight, your Highness. I hope your thinking leads to fruitful actions." and he quickly left before the King could react furiously at his insolence.

 

After the wrecking night, Faramir had he stumbled down to his House of Teachings when Waldred intercepted him.

"My Lord." the Captain greeted and failed almost at sounding respectfully.

"I have heard you hold the King's affections." Waldred started nonchalantly. Faramir shouldered on and did not answer.

"I wish you left that duty to someone better suited for his pursuit." the Lord dared to say. Faramir stilled, the people around them parting to make way and go on with their daily chores.

"The King decides whom to give his affections. I cannot decide anything." Faramir angrily replied.

"You must withdraw completely from his Lordship." Waldred insisted.

"There is no way you can command me to do anything, with all due respect, my Lord." the Captain snarled.

Elfdred and Hamling took a step closer, afraid of a confrontation where Faramir could get hurt for Waldred was a known skilled wrestler.

"Very well then. If you do not submit willingly, I challenge you for a duel."

Elfdred gasped loudly, they all knew of Faramir's distaste in violence and reticence in employing any form of fight. Faramir knew he could not refuse, the shame alone would make him lose all respect with the King but he still tried to diffuse the extreme measure.

"Should it not be the King who decides these matters?"

"Aye, it should but I deserve a chance too, in the very least. I am sure I can provide to be a better consort." and Waldred sneered down Faramir's smaller and more slender form. The Captain could not ignore the insult in that and replied

"Very well. I will fight you. Tomorrow when the sun is at its highest."

Waldred sniffed disdainfully and after a nod strode away. Followed by his servants and personal guard. Faramir sighed and put his face in his hands. Trying to will the upcoming headache away. His tiredness and sadness seeping in his bones.

"My Lord?" Hamling worriedly asked.

"I'm fine. Go inform your King. I'll be teaching the children." Hamling left and Elfdred stayed close to Faramir in silent support. Worrying his bottom lip under his teeth for he feared for the life of his dear friend and love of the King.

 

"He did WHAT?" Éomer shouted when he heard the news.

The last remaining people in the hall fled in fear at hearing the angry roar of their master. The King sank back down again in his throne and frowned. Contemplating what lay before them.

That night he visited Faramir in his chambers.

"You accepted to fight." it was no question so the Captain remained calm. Elboron tried to make himself as invisible as possible behind his desk. Pretending to take longer to finish his letter to his brother Elfwinë telling him of the upcoming duel.

"I don't understand why! You detest fighting."

"Lord Waldred insulted your honor in my eyes."

"I still don't understand."

"He wished to have your heart." Faramir interrupted "And I could not let him take it without a fight."

"I decide whom to give my heart." the King angrily hissed.

"I said that too, but he would not bend to my words."

"So you are fighting out of a misplaced sense of honor?" Éomer exclaimed disbelievingly.

"Yes."

"I never expected you to be a jealous man, Faramir!"

"Nevertheless, the cause is sufficient enough to fight for you tomorrow."

"And what would you claim as a price that I would not willingly give already, my sweet?"

Elboron ducked even deeper away when hearing the loving voice of the King. He felt an intruder in this private conversation though Faramir did not wish him to leave the room when Éomer had entered.

"Very well. I shall be there and honor your wish to fight. Though you must know I would have never fallen for Waldred, if that is what you fear."

"I do not presume to know your heart at all, your Majesty." Faramir finally bit out, hurting his King with his spiteful and jealous words.

"That hurts me as you know fully well you have had it for all those years. I will not give up hope."

"It is not so easy to read your wants and needs, Éomer." Faramir tried to apologize.

The King smiled ruefully, "Yes, well. It actually is, my love. For you are my heart and you will know it the second you accept yourself as you are."

Faramir took a deep shuddering breath. "That may take a lifetime as I've been hurt too many times to count."

"And I repeat. You can keep it for as long as you need. Sleep well, my friend." and Éomer left the room. Elboron noticed alarmed that fat tears were gliding down Faramir's cheeks. He stood up and went to his father. Faramir tried wiping them away

"I apologize, Elboron. You should not see my weakness and shame in such a way." Elboron enfolded his beloved father figure in his lanky arms.

"One thing I remember my dearly departed mother saying is that tears are not a weakness, but a display of true bravery. It takes courage to let your heart speak."

Faramir hugged his boy closer and murmured in his hair

"Your mother was a very wise person and it pains me to see you without her."

"I thank thee, Father. I am sure, where ever she is now, she is looking at me with pride and looking at you with gratefulness and admiration."

Faramir sniffed delicately and ruffled the boy's hair.

"You are so going to trash that horrid Waldred tomorrow. If I could, I'd bet on you."

The Captain laughed tenderly "You better not for I despise gambling."

"Father?" Elboron haltingly started asking "Could you tell me about those pains of yours in the past?"

Faramir's breath stocked in his throat "If you wish." he replied softly.

And they spent hours talking about the Captain's past. His own side of the story for once had been told and it moved Elboron to tears and mournful cries. The young man and Captain held each other in comfort. Never before feeling as close as they were now. Elboron vowed fiercely inside his soul that he would do anything.

Anything at all to bring this man all the happiness he deserves.

 

"I still think it a ghastly idea." Éomer murmured to Éothain.

"Well, my King. If I may be so free?" Éomer nodded.

"You had it coming, lad." Éomer looked shocked at Eothain's proclamation.

"You do have been flirting incessantly with Lord Waldred in front of Faramir's eyes."

"I have not!" the King properly disgusted exclaimed.

"Have I?" Agreed humming was heard behind him and he snapped an angry glance back at his guards. Elboron was angrily shooting daggers with his eyes at the King.

"That boy is too arrogant for his age." Éomer grumbled and looked back forward to the proceedings.

"Aye, it makes me like the young man even more so." Éothain served as a cocky reply. The King huffed in annoyance.

He was seated on a platform overlooking the courtyard being prepared for the battle. People were standing behind the balustrades above and on the sides of the courtyard. The stable boys were raking the freshly brought sand flat and the chalk line around the fight box was brought back to its former glory.

"They settled on wrestling?" Éomer asked for the third time that day.

"Yes, My Lord."

"Isn't Waldred a professional wrestler in the Brown Lands?"

A man whistled impressed by Faramir's blatant fearlessness.

"Aye, Sire."

Éomer sighed, his knee jumping up and down continuously with stress and worries. The murmurs of the crowd flattened out and fell silent when the two man entered the arena. Elboron quickly standing by his father's side. Éothain stepped up as the duel referee.

"The combatants have entered the fighting grounds. Lord Faramir versus Lord Waldred. Lord Waldred state your reason and intentions of this fight."

Waldred stepped forward in front of the King and kneeled.

"I challenged Lord Faramir for the affection's of the King." he dared say. Éomer tried not to visibly bristle with the sheer arrogance of the man.

"Your demanded price if you should win?" Éothain asked.

"A kiss of his Grace himself." Now titters went up and a buzz started up again in the crowd. Elboron threw a compassionate glance at Faramir when he heard his teeth clench and a low growl came from his throat.

Éomer visibly hesitated and nodded his agreement after a short questioning look at Faramir.

"Lord Faramir.." Éothain started saying but the Captain was already stomping in front of the King. Dropped to his knee and bowed his head showing a great anger and defiance in every fibre of his being. The King was fearing this would drive them apart and tried meeting Faramir's furious glare.

"MY intention is protecting the King's honor. I demand no price for protecting Lord Eadig's honor is all I ever wish for." The onlookers muttered impressed with Faramir's gallant answer.

"You must ask a price or else the duel could not be held." Éothain tries again.

"Fine." Faramir snapped. "I wish to sit at the table of the King. To see a glimpse of him every day and get to be called his friend." Now people were laughing at the smart answer. Faramir already had all those things and they all knew it. Éomer smiled and leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees.

"Agreed and I shall give you one more thing." The Captain's head snapped up, uncertainty flitting across his face for a second.

"I shall give you a lock of my hair for I have heard it is a marvel to look upon." The King cockily replied with a smirk. Now more people were laughing.

Faramir blushed for it was he who in one dark corner had whispered the compliment. Not knowing if Éomer was serious or playing with Faramir's sincere feelings. He nodded hesitatingly and stood up again to join Elboron at the side. He leaned on his son to take of his shoes and prepared to enter the ring when Eothain's voice sounded.

"Remove your tunics, for in Rohan, the traditional wrestling is performed with your backs presented to the sun."

Faramir paled and threw a terrified glance at Éomer. For once not so sure anymore. The King felt the Captain's discomfort and kept a steady gaze on him. Waldred in the meantime was standing in the fighting circle with his chest and strong arms bare to the wind. In comparison to Faramir, he was a mountain and many people gulped in his stead.

"Your tunic, Lord Faramir." Éothain asked again with a worried look. With a pounding heart and eyes on the floor Faramir started loosening the ties keeping his tunic closed around the neck. Elboron was instantly by his side, sharing a look of sheer determination and pride. The Captain hesitated for a moment, visible for everyone and then bared his pale upper body to the sun.

Gasps and murmurs arose and Éomer had to restrain himself to not react for all to see. Now the time Faramir had spent with Lord Denethor as his father really started to seep in. The King grasped the armrest of his throne tightly. Anger and hate clouding his vision and glad for once that a man deserving of death has met it in a most horrible way.

Faramir stepped into the ring and into the light. The sun reflecting the numerous silvery scars lining and crisscrossing his back and chest. He straightened his shoulders and boldly assumed a fighting position.

Admitting humiliation at the hands of his father was one thing, losing to a scoundrel like Waldred was a completely different matter.

"Let the fight begin!" Éothain shouted. A horn blew and it began.

Faramir dodged the first couple of hits, careful to not slip outside the circle and lose. Then he decided he had dodged enough and caught a couple of punches. They were powerful and hurt immensely. Surely he had cracked a rib or two, but he needed to draw Waldred out of his fighting position. To measure weaknesses and the best way to do that was to give him the upper hand.

With every punch that landed Éomer growled and almost stood up several times to halt the proceedings. They all believe Faramir had no chance of winning and he rather have his love in one piece. Beatings already were too much a thing of his past. The King did not wish it to be something of the present too when suddenly the tables turned.

The Ranger had caught on quickly with the working behind the fighting strategy of Lord Waldred and was now dancing away from each blow and kick. Firmly remaining in the circle. People started cheering his moves on and Éomer found he could breath more easily again. Waldred roared his frustration and yelled for Faramir to stop acting like a girl and make a move already.

Bad thing to say because the next punch he tried to land on Faramir cost him the fight. The Captain let the punch pass his face narrowly and took a fierce grip on his wrist, pulling barely and bringing Waldred's massive body out of balance. Waldred stumbled forward and after a well aimed punch with a pointy elbow between his shoulder blades he completely fell face flat in the sand. Bystanders exclaimed their surprise and delight when Faramir moved quickly out the way when Waldred turned and tried to kick his feet from under his body. He shot back up again and made for an uppercut when Faramir strong and slender hands took a hold of his hand and wrist again and clamped it downwards, making Waldred unwillingly follow and fall on his knees. The gesture, beit so small, was very effective and painful and the big mountain of a man hissed between his teeth. He lifted his other hand to land a punch on the Captain cheek but he just turned his head a fraction. Making the wrestler lose his balance again and biting the sand once more.

Now everyone was laughing loudly in amusement and the Lord of the Brown Lands lost his patience altogether. He turned on his knees roaring loudly before catching three punches to the face rapidly. One splitting his lip, one blackening his eye and the last blinding him by breaking his nose clean in two. The Ranger now loomed in front of him, forming a shadow on Waldred's figure and with a soft and gentle push he made the man tip backwards. His head falling over the line.

The silence was ear deafening when a roar of applause filled the courtyard and scared away all the birds on the roof. Stamping feet and yelling, they all went crazy.

Éomer still sat dazed and even Éothain and his guards were looking at Faramir in a completely different light. The Captain had already slipped back in his tunic and came to a knee in front of Éomer.

"I am here to claim my price." Éothain shook his head in disbelief and smiled at his amazed King when he handed him a pair of shears. Éomer picked a lock at the back of his head, cut it off and presented it to Faramir.

The Captain took out an embroidered handkerchief, folded it open and nestled the lock of golden hair on top of the dried flower. He folded it closed, put it away, stood up, bowed low and left the gathering. Retreating once more in his shell. Faramir has had enough excitement for today.

 

At the evening meal, Waldred was noticeably not present and Faramir sat next to Éomer in his usual spot. Pretending as if nothing had happened at all and returning to their previous association. The King frowned for he could feel an underlying tension in the way Faramir kept his body. Shyly he lay his hand on Faramir's knee under the table.

"Speak to me. For I can feel that I have displeased you."

Faramir gloomily met his gaze and asked "What do you wish me to say."

Éomer inhaled sharply. "Anything. Though not this. I cannot stand this."

The Ranger frowned but understood all too good what 'this' was.

"Dismiss everyone." he demanded.

The King stood tall and politely asked everyone to leave when they were done. One by one they all trickled out of the Great Hall. Then Éomer dismissed his guards, commanding them to let nobody inside and close the doors. They immediately followed his orders and left.

"That means you too. Elfdred, Hamling, Hama, Éothain and especially you, Elboron." the horse lord glowered down at the boy. Elboron just huffed and with one last look left the hall stomping with the other Lords in his trail.

"We are all alone now. Please speak your mind for I would hear it."

Faramir stood up and started pacing angrily from one side to the other. Éomer pushed his chair back and turned to sit on his throne. Watching Faramir's pensive mood like a hawk.

"I will speak and you will not interrupt?" he finally asked and the King nodded.

"Your attitude at first confused me. I understood we had busy tasks ahead, but it hurt me to see so less of you and then Lord Waldred came along. You openly flirted with him, unknowingly or not, I care not. My heart felt as if it were trampled by a harras of horses." Faramir inhaled sharply. "Then Waldred started to taunt me with your affections right in front of me. I could not bear it and yet! You continued! You of all men should know how vulnerable these feelings make me and I felt used and put aside like some used lover! You anger and frustrate me so easily and yet I cannot be parted from you for long. I wish to kiss you and punish you at the same time and it confuses me even more. You made me feel genuinely distressed and I do not wish to repeat that. What have you to say to this?"

Éomer quietly contemplated an answer. "Can you forgive me and my foolish behavior? I swear I have never had nor shall I ever have romantic thoughts about another."

"I do not know. The hurt needs time to soften before I can forgive though I want to forgive you. It is hard to let go of my anger and hurt insecurities."

"Then punish me. And kiss me. And punish me again if need be."

"Éomer!" Faramir hissed "You cannot say that. You are a King!"

"In your presence I am merely a mortal, equally human as the next best man. I surrender myself completely and willingly to your desires. Even in this."

The Captain of Gondor stood still for a lengthy time considering an appropriate response when he suddenly barked "Hands on your armrests and do not move."

Éomer's eyes widened comically when Faramir sat himself down on his lap. Chest to chest.

"I want to kiss you more and as for a punishment... You are not permitted to touch me."

Éomer groaned.

"Let me, for once, set the pace, my love." the soft Captain's voice ghosted over the golden skin of his cheek. Faramir softly pecked kisses on Éomer's forehead, down his temple, over his cheekbones and on his chin. Their beards rasping each other's sensitive skin and the King dared not utter a sound or make a move. Breathing rapidly he patiently yearned for more touch and more kisses. The Captain continued scraping his beard over Éomer's neck and licked a stripe up his ear. Nibbling down again and then placing his mouth in front of the other's mouth. Warm lips met dry ones and he kissed his King. Éomer clenched his hands on the armrest when Faramir's arms came up around his head.

"Open your mouth, I wish to taste you." the man whispered and Éomer readily complied.

Desire already straining upwards and ghosting between the Captain's legs. The only sounds piercing the quiet air in the Great Hall were soft gasps, low growls and groans and copious amounts of lips tasting other lips. Faramir angled his body a few inches backwards and contemplated his next move. Éomer's eyes were dark and hungry but still he waited patiently. The Captain flushed even more deeply when he started opening the front of the King's tunic. Now Éomer's head thumped backwards against his throne. A ragged breath trying to reach his lungs. A gentle hand stirred his dark brownish nipple beneath the soft cloth and the horse lord took a shuddering breath. Remaining as calm as he could. Faramir soundly kissed him again and played with his chest hair and nipples. His hand sliding lower and teasing the coarse hair under his belly button then coming back up again at the sides to caress his ribs one by one. Éomer's member was hurting from suppressed desire and he watched Faramir's hands caressing his naked chest.

"I.." the Ranger tried saying in a raspy voice and Éomer understood the apprehensive question in his love's eyes. He softly moved his hips upwards, prompting Faramir to slid his eyes shut with a shudder. The grey eyes opened again and started thrusting a bit after the subtle guidance of the King who once more sat still. The two men started kissing more passionately, Faramir biting down now and then and Éomer tried keeping his moans as controlled as possible. Looking at his beloved made his blood sing for more. Lust was tearing him apart and he clenched the armrests even harder than before. By now Faramir has got the hang of it and was following a flowing rhythm of creating friction with his hips' movement.

After a couple of torturous minutes of this he keened in despair for it was not enough and silently begged Éomer to guide him once again. Embarrassed by his lack of experience. The King slowly, as to not scare, moved his hands from its clenched position and adjusted his member upwards under his breeches, against his underbelly and not pinched in his leather leggings. Faramir blushed and looked elsewhere until Éomer lifted his hips once more and made Faramir slide forward. Chests and stomachs touching completely now. The two hot cocks sliding against each other from beneath the leather trousers. Then he slowly took his hands back and placed them firmly back at his sides. Breathing harshly and willing Faramir to continue his administrations. The Captain took a deep breath, kissed Éomer again and arched his back making their hard members meet and torment the horsemasters' control even more.

Faramir slowly started rocking both of them together and clenched his teeth with the new and terrifying sensations coursing through his body. His mouth fell open in a silent cry at the sudden onslaught of sensations.

"Oh Éomer." he suddenly gasped and started pushing them more frantically together.

"I'm riding you." Faramir groaned out and the King sobbed a moan. The sound of wood splintering permeated the air but it was all but lost to them when the Captain started riding his King more desperately. He was rising. Rising!

"I..." Faramir tried to say "I am... Oh! Oh! Fuck!" he keened uncontrollably. His body shaking and still pumping their lids together. A wet warmth spreading in his pants, making his throbbing member slick and even more sensitive. He panted with his forehead resting on Éomer's shoulder. Clutching to him like a last lifeline. Suddenly he flushed even more than before in realization of what he had done.

"Forgive me." he trembled and looked up in his beloved eyes seeing them clenched tightly.

"There. Is. Nothing to forgive." Éomer muttered dangerously. Keeping tight reigns on his body. Shuddering breaths wracking his overly sensitive body.

"You may move now." Faramir shyly said. It was then that Éomer realized he was holding a piece of armrest in both his hands. The damage was not greatly but Faramir smirked nonetheless before he could halt it.

"May I finish too or is this part of my punishment too?" The King then asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Oh? Oh! I... What do you.. I don't.. How?" the Captain blushed furiously. Ashamed for his lack of control and failing to see to the Éomer's needs.

"You are certain I may move now?" Faramir abashedly nodded and Éomer instantaneous lifted him up and dropped him to his legs. He swiped all that lay before him on the table on the floor. Clattering plates and cups heightening his arousal. He savagely plundered Faramir's mouth and turned him witch his back glued to his chest. HIs firm arse fitting perfectly in his groin.

"Bend over a little, my love. This will not take long." Éomer panted. The Ranger complied immediately full with trust and rising excitement. The King slid his hard cock up and down Faramir's arse cheeks and he clenched the hips hard. Pulling them repeatedly against his aching member.

"You. Are. So. Delicious." and he punctuated every word with a forceful thrust.

"Oh. Yes! Yes! I can't wait to take you like this! Faramir! Yes! YES!" and Éomer roared his pleasure pumping his hips in reckless abandon and emptying himself in his pants. He collapsed over his lover on the table. Both men trying to catch their breath. Golden long hair spread over both their shoulders.

Faramir started chuckling and soon Éomer followed.

 

The flames of their passion flared higher every day and it was not long before some unlucky (or lucky) chamber maids found their King in a compromising position. No, not even Elboron or Éothain were spared the sight of Lord Éomer pinning Faramir against a wall. They were left to it, of course, but no one could escape without an eyeful of a willing Faramir and an enamored King.

And all was well again. Waldred had left, Elboron resumed his training and Faramir and Éomer stole every moment they could miss and spent it together. They performed their duties to the utmost detail and they were becoming inseparable. Edoras, and Rohan by extension, was flourishing more than ever before.

King Elessar and others, including Éowyn, send their regards and congratulations on a job well done and their courtship. They too had wonderful news as Queen Arwen was with child. That night they toasted on the babe growing in her belly and Faramir let Elboron share his drink of ale for the first time with a warm affectionate smile. He started to wish Elfwinë would join them but his other adopted son took his studies as a very serious matter and Faramir respected that. He was looking forward to their meet in Ithilien for the upcoming wedding of Éowyn and his cousin Amrothos.

It was with great desire that the moment had finally arrived when they were to travel to Ithilien. On the way there Éomer noted the considerable changes in contrast with the start of the last year and he and Faramir shared a meaningful look.

The King of Rohan was a more modest man then his uncle and preferred to share the sky with his men at night. Thus came the first night spent together to be. They rolled their bed mats out, close together and crawled inside. Guards standing near, their hands found each other under the blankets and sheepskins. The weather was pleasant but a bit chilly because of their closeness to the mountains and river. They put their heads close together and Éomer fell asleep while Faramir was softly murmuring about the stars and the tales of Old. Pointing at some of them and drawing their full figures in the night sky.

Éomer slowly stirred awake and felt comfortably warm. Surrounded by a pleasant and well known smell. The horse master watched the sun rise slowly and spooned Faramir even tighter to his chest. His Captain slowly rose to consciousness and teasingly poked his hips backwards into the clothed stiff member of his lover. Éomer unconsciously thrusted back when he heard someone clearing their throat. Both men flushed and slowly looked up in the devilish smile of Elboron

"G'dmooorning."

The King let himself fall back in frustration and groaned at the cockblocking boy. Faramir just chuckled and untangled himself from the blankets.

"He sometimes reminds me of Master Peregrin." Éomer grumbled and this made Faramir throw his head back and laugh long and loudly.

 

The very first thing Faramir did when they came in Ithilien was pay his respects to Boromir's grave. He lay flowers on the marble tomb and sang a melancholic song. Éomer stood by his side, clutching his hand in comfort and softly humming along with the well known hymn for the fallen comrades. It had been long since Faramir had talked about his brother and he finally found he could speak about it with Éomer. His love listened attentively to the adventures of Faramir and his brother and the Captain noted how he started to speak not so much in bitter pain and grief anymore but in respecting and loving remembrance. After his voice fell silent he kissed Éomer and asked for a distraction.

The King of Rohan provided one by pulling them in an abandoned corridor, by softly kissing Faramir and slowly reaching inside his breeches. Patiently stroking and pulling and drawing it out until his Ranger wordlessly cried out and languidly had been brought to a loving climax. Faramir in return shyly grasped inside the King's leggings and repaid the gesture stroke for stroke.

 

Nobles from afar and most of the Inner Rohirrim was present. King Elessar was there too and blessed their marriage. Arwen was bound to Minas Tirith during her delicate time and there was no prouder moment for Éomer when his sister greeted him with the words

"Hail King Éomer. The blessed." Smiling warmly up at her happy sibling.

Faramir thought his lover looked magnificent is his Kingly robes when he gave his joyful sister away at the hands of Prince Amrothos. He stepped aside and then made for all to see the significant gesture of pulling Faramir by his side. Proclaiming his love for the Captain of Gondor to the whole of Middle-Earth.

Éowyn only beamed wider and Faramir shyly slunk against Éomer's side. It was time to claim his happiness and he let it happen with an elated heart. Elboron was in the meantime speaking to Elfwinë and catching him up to date. Both step-brothers loved their father dearly and only wished him luck and all the love in the world. Grinning all the while when they saw a shared loving gaze between the men and even once a swift short kiss had been given during the ceremony. Éothain only rolled his eyes in exasperation.

Faramir shared his chamber with Elfwinë and Elboron. They talked all through the night and decided in the morning that Elfwinë could stay in Minas Tirith for his study in Elvenlore if he promised he would visit Éowyn as much as he could and kept them up to speed with the proceedings in the White City. Elfwinë solemnly swore to uphold his promise and Faramir thought his youngest was looking much older than his almost 12 years. But they were descendants of the Dunédain and age was not of so much importance in their eyes.

Éowyn had gone with her husband on a honeymoon and that left King Aragorn and King Éomer with Lord Faramir. They felt reminiscent on the old days and Aragorn told them about his correspondence with the hobbits. Faramir was sad to hear about Frodo and Mithrandir leaving Middle-Earth but respected their decision. Knowing how heavy the burden to carry the ring was, he hoped, wherever Frodo was now, he could find rest and peace. Éomer encouragingly grasped his shoulder for a short moment for he knew of Faramir's fondness for the Halfling and for his old teacher. The Ranger wordlessly smiled his thanks.

Aragorn then asked what King Éomer's last words were to his sister and her husband before they left because Éowyn had looked angry in his eyes. Éomer chuckled and Faramir laughingly told how Éomer had hissed with a menacing smirk to Amrothos

"Hurt my sister and I'll cut off your balls." followed promptly by getting hit in the head by Éowyn who had overheard him.

Elessar joined them in their laughter and all was well.

 

They returned back home, for Edoras was Faramir's home now, and resumed their duties. Their courtship steady and slow bringing both men more happiness than ever before.

King Elessar had asked if Éomer would agree to being a liaison for the Eastern people Aragorn had contacted. He would like them to join in a pact for the freedom and protection of Middle Earth but the men of Rhûn were a desert and nomad like folk. They barely spoke the language and they requested some adjustment time before the negotiations. King Eadig readily agreed and promised he would welcome the people of Rhûnédain and teach them the western customs and languages.

Edoras was being prepared for the group from Rhûn arriving any moment now, when the horn blew and people rushed outside. King Éomer had told his people of their expected guests and their importance and also of their lack of knowledge of their customs. He asked the people of Rohan for their patience and hospitality but was sure he would not be disappointed. More horns sounded but they were ready.

The gates opened and Faramir stood next to his King overseeing the entering nobles in the front with their train, making a procession all the way in front of the stairs. Éomer stepped down to welcome their guests and Faramir and the Counsel closely followed.

The desert people were clothed in rich colors, veils hiding their faces save for a strip of very dark skin and almost black eyes surrounded with the deepest kohl as make up. At the end of the procession a baby elephant entered, followed by two unknown beasts to all with two humps on their back. The animals were chewing and making moo like sounds. One child dare to touch its leg and then crawled back again behind her mother in fear.

"Welcome, people of Rhûnédain." Éothain stepped forward as ceremonial master and wanted to introduce his King. The men of Rhûn started muttering under themselves. The front man, presumed the leader, turned around and snapped something in a different language. A woman was sent forward.

"Greetings, Lord." and she kissed both hands of a stunned Éothain alarmed at how the greeting was going. The man beside her said something again and it sounded like a question. "Ir'esh t'il el Sheikh?" The woman turned and took away the veil before his face. Faramir heard Elboron gulp audibly when he met the beautiful peach colored face and dark eyes.

"Are you King?" she asked smiling her alluring pearly white teeth. Éothain shook his head in embarrassment and took a step aside and pointed his hand at King Éomer with a bow. Éomer took a step forward, feeling Faramir close at his side.

"Welcome, my Lady." he said and bowed lightly. Followed closely by deeper bows of anyone else except the Rhûnédain. The woman looked confused and both parties looked at an impasse. With a gentle touch on Éomer's arm Faramir stepped forward, garnering confused looks of the people of Rohan.

"Ishta-è di namé?" he asked politely and carefully. The woman laughed a tinkering smile and stepped forward grasping Faramir's face and kissing both cheeks. Éomer's temper flared but he kept it in check when he saw an flushing Faramir sharing an apologetic glance with him.

"Mi namé ish è Nimué. Di namé mi Sheikh ishta or Sarapor. Or'ishta tu? Ir'esh t'il di Sheikh?" she asked Faramir.

The Captain mulled over the difficult language in his head and weighed his words a while to form a good response. "Mi namé ish or Faramir, to'oshta..." here he faltered and searched for a word "Anni?"

"Oh Anni!" several voices murmured. Faramir blushed.

"Ga'h-arta at Sheikhsta Rohanni Sheikh Sarapor." the Ranger looked around for something and turned to Éothain to mutter

"Are you particularly close with your dagger?"

"No?" Éothain hissed back confused and Faramir grabbed it and presented it to the Sheikh with another bow. Sarapor took off his veil and revealed his elderly but still handsome face to Faramir. He smiled and gestured at a servant behind his back to exchange daggers. Éothain received a beautiful curved ornamented dagger in return and he bowed awkwardly at the servant.

"Di namé mi Sheikh ishta or Éomer di Rohanni." the Gondorian continued and pointed at Éomer. King Éomer was trying not to fail at standing proud and tall above the rest and it was difficult for he felt immensely surprised by Faramir's actions.

Everyone was following the proceedings closely, completely surprised by the Captain of Gondor's unexpected knowledge of the strange language.

"Tha'erta Sheikh Éomer di Rohanni!" Sarapor's voice boomed and he closed in on Éomer kissing him on both cheeks and then on the hands. The King of Rohan acted on instinct and pure wit.

"Ga'h-arte Sheikh Sarapor di Rhûn." Having listened enough to pick up the words for welcome, king and the name of the Sheikh. Faramir beamed proudly at his side and nudged Éomer. The King of Rohan kissed both cheeks of the rough dark skinned man and kissed both his dark hands. He smelled of spices and sand. The hard calluses on his hands telling Éomer more then he need ask that this Sheikh was a hard worker.

"Let us go inside?" Éomer asked Faramir for translation.

"Entreia Edoras." the Captain kindly greeted. The woman Nimué smiled back and barked commands to the people behind them. They went back outside and started putting out their material.

"We brought our..." She searched for the word and Faramir readily supplied the young woman with the word she was looking for.

"Tents."

"Yes, tents."

Éomer held out his hand to gesture their visitors inside and Faramir delicately took the hand of Nimué and led her up the stairs. Five other men and women of the Rhûnédain followed and together with both Kings they went inside the Great Hall were a feast was prepared. The people of Rhûn started talking under each other when they came eye to eye with the splendor of the Hall. They ooh'ed and aah'ed and touched the wooden carved statues. Éomer, proud of his halls, let them take in their surroundings.

"You speak Standard?" Faramir asked young Nimué.

"I speak little. Where you learn Rhûnedainesque?"

"I read much and found old tomes in Minas Tirith. I taught myself, so my Rhûnish will not be very good."

"Lies! You first man we meet that can speak Rhûnedainesque. Very quick man you. Teach more Standard?" she calmly asked.

"It would be my honor." Faramir agreed.

"What are tomes?" She then asked.

"Old, big books with dust on it."

"Oh, as 'ro'essi'? Rolling papers?"

"Yes, only not rolling but bound. I will show you one day." Nimué gratefully nodded and got shown her seat.

When everyone found their seat, Faramir between Nimué and Sarapor, Éomer sandwiched between Sarapor and Éothain, Éomer stood up and made his kingly speech. Together with the help of Nimué they translated it as much as they could and the Rhûnédain clapped their hands in appreciation of King Éomer. The meal was spent teaching each other words and tasting samples of Rohan food and commenting on it. Sarapor was extremely fond of the honeyed ale they served and Faramir learned that Nimué was Sarapor's eldest daughter. Her younger brother, his eldest son, remained home to take care of their people. She was permitted to travel with her father for she was the most diplomatic of all fourteen children.

"Fourteen?" Faramir almost spat out his wine.

"Yes. Rhûnédain can has more wives and men. We share all. Not here so?" she asked and broke off another piece of bread.

"Normally no. Though men can have men, women can have women if they want."

"I see. You stole Sheikh Éomer or sti'fla?"

"I don't know what you mean?"

Nimué looked frustrated for a moment trying to find words to describe what she meant then she pointed a finger and said

"Faramir". He nodded.

She took her other hand and formed a circle with her thumb and forefinger and said

"Éomer".

The Gondorian nodded again, the other men and women were watching closely trying to understand how Faramir would describe the relationship with Sheikh Éomer. Nimué then thrusted her forefinger quickly in and out the ring resulting in a roaring laughter.

Faramir quieted her hands while blushing furiously. Éomer lifted his eyebrow in that daring way of him. Apparently the people of Rhûnédain were less discreet in such matters. Nimué was frowning. She did not understand why they were all laughing and thought she had done something wrong. Her father too was contemplating what had happened.

"Is wrong? I euhm efr'oasta much?" she started saying. Faramir understood she was afraid of doing something wrong so he smiled reassuringly at her. Well, he was in for it now, he thought. And took her hands again. He pointed her hand with the forefinger and said

"Éomer". She nodded eagerly.

Then he lifted her hand which formed the circle and almost miserably admitted

"Faramir".

He grimaced painfully and Nimué laughed glad to have seen her mistake. Then she proceeded thrusting her finger in and out the circle. Faramir smiled as good as he could with his ears burning. Even Éomer joined the roaring laughter this time. Nimué bent forward to look at her father directly and fired a rapid conversation at him. Sarapor nodded in understanding and before Faramir could translate a word he was pulled of his seat, swapped with Sarapor's place and sat next to King Éomer. Sarapor then took both their hands and made them clasp it.

"Anni'esta." he smiled warmly and maybe even slightly inebriated. Faramir wanted to pull his hand back in unease at being put so in front of all but Éomer would not let his hand go.

"Anni?" he asked, back with the eyebrow.

The Captain did not know what he had done to deserve this and tried explaining without humiliating himself even more

"I do not know all the words and I had to explain who I was to my King."

"And what does 'anni' make you to your King?" Eomer's face was smirking even more now.

"I told them I was your wife." Faramir muttered hoping the ground could swallow him whole. The King of Rohan smirked and grasped his Captain's even more strongly, raised it to his lips and kissed it warmly earning a round of applause from their guests and their friends watching them. They did not break eye contact and Éomer slowly leaned forward and kissed Faramir lightly in front of everyone.

The stomping feet were, no doubt, heard all the way to Emnetoras.

 

Young Nimué appeared to be only two years older than Elboron and they got along very well after the proper introductions. Nimué picked up on Standard like a newborn fish to water. Sarapor learned it more slowly but he had an excellent teacher in Faramir. Éomer tried his very best to learn Rhûnédain too and after only a couple of week both men could easily form simple conversations.

King Éomer introduced them to their beautiful brooding mares and perfect stables. Talking about their specialty in horses and even proposing of breeding the Rhûnédain black steeds with some of Rohan's finest mares.

In gratitude, Sheikh Sarapor let the children of Edoras touch the baby elephant, meant as a gift for King Elessar, and taught Éomer how to ride the bizarre camel creature. It took not long for King Eadig to keep his balance on the hobbles and tried to race Sarapor to the edge of the river.

They exchanged silks and leather, odd foods for theirs and many beautifully scented oils. They lay under the night sky, talking long around the fire reposing on their sides, tasting for the first time of their lives oranges and olives. Éomer was not too fond of the hairy brown nut with the white flesh but he absolutely devoured any pineapple that came into his sight. Nimué whispered to Faramir that pineapple made the seed of men taste nice, making the Gondorian flush deep crimson to her amusement.

Sarapor was not an idiot and sow how much Elboron coveted his daughter. They grew closely together and he kept a cautious eye on her all the time. Faramir too had noticed and lectured his son repeatedly on proper behavior. King Éomer just laughed and said that everyone knew that the easiest way to learn a new language was to find a love interest that spoke said language. Making Faramir prove it to him by learning even more Rhûnédain in a short amount of time when stroking their cocks together in one warmly slicked hand.

Thanks to the newly product olive oil brought to them by their Rhûnédain friends.

One day Elboron approached Sheikh Sarapor and told him of his noble intentions towards his daughter in almost fluent Rhûnédain. He asked to court her and Sarapor agreed, for in his eyes Elboron was a prince of Rohan. Worthy of his daughter because of his ties to his adoptive father Faramir, all but married in their eyes to the King of Rohan. On the condition of chaperones, they were permitted to leave his sight together.

Elboron immediately planned a journey to the Glimmering Cave his father had told about almost a year ago when they came to Edoras. Faramir agreed to accompany them, for he had not yet seen those caves. Éothain would join them on behalf of Éomer and to show Sarapor they are very serious about the chaperoning matter. With a tender kiss Faramir took his leave of his King to visit the caves.

 

Jars and scrolls filled his bags for he wished to inspect the luminescent moss and take some with him for research. The Glimmering Caves lay down the stream, at the eastern side of Emnetoras. Faramir spoke with Éothain about the proceedings of the greenhouse at the western side of the village. They turned around the hill and after one hour of riding, and a lot of giggling rising from Nimué's throat, they arrived. The group bound their horses and drew their bags close to their chest.

Faramir was looking at the map for one of the secret entrances of the cave. They ran all the way under the river and he noted another entrance on the other side of the Entwash river. Éothain went first and with their nose deep in the map they did not notice the stench at first. Or the fact that they were not alone.

"Run!" Éothain managed to shout when a spear pierced his shoulders.

A small group of surprised Orcs attacked them. Faramir drew his sword and was soon followed closely by Elboron and even a bloodthirsty Nimué who knew how to wield a dagger properly.

Once the rogue Orcs were slain Faramir kneeled down at the side of his trusted friend Éothain. His breathing was shallow and as careful as he could he removed the spear sticking out of his shoulder. Éothain shouted and bit on the piece of leather Elboron had provided between his teeth. Nimué searched her bag for one of her healing oils and cleansed the wound, then ripped off her veil and bound it as tightly as possible.

"Thank you, my Lady." Éothain grunted in pain. She smoothed his hair back and smiled down at the gentle warrior.

Faramir had been looking around in the meantime and noticed lots and lots of footprints. Orc sized. The stench was unbearable and old animal carcasses were still decorating the floors near the shimmering numerous fires barely put out.

"There are more." Elboron concluded next to his father.

"Yes. I would say more than fifty, less than a hundred. They have just left. We must warn the King." He helped Éothain on his horse and bound its reins to Nimué's saddle. Faramir turned to jump on his horse when something in the distance on the other side of the Entwash drew his attention.

"By the Gods." he said in terror.

Elboron immediately knew what would happen. "No!" he shouted. "You'll come with us. Now!"

Faramir ruefully smiled at his boy at commanded "Ride for Edoras and warn the King." Éothain sputtered his disagreement.

"WE DO NOT HAVE TIME TO LOSE!" The Ranger suddenly shouted. "You see they are going for Emnetoras. They still have to cross the bridge there where Entwash meets Snowbourn. I'll hold them up there and warn the people in the village. Now go!" and he slapped Nimué's horse on its hindquarters.

"Father, I cannot leave you behind." Elboron whispered in pain.

"I swear, Elboron, I do not want to hit you but you will earn a slap if you do not FUCKING leave at this very moment! Save Nimué, yourself and Éothain. Warn Éomer and tell him I love him. Do it now! Lives depend on your actions!" Elboron tried not to cry and nodded.

Soon he was closing in on Nimué and together, the three, galloped with great speed back up the hill.

Faramir sighed and jumped on his horse, hoping he would reach Emnetoras first and thinking of his beloved.

Hoping he would arrive in time with help.

 

"My Lord!" Elboron stumbled inside.

He and Nimué each had an arm of Éothain around their necks to carry him inside. Others quickly took over and addressed the need for care for their Marshal. Éomer had stood up quickly and Nimué rushed to her father's side in tears explaining things in rapid Rhûnédain.

"Orcs, my King! Faramir has gone to stop them all alone. More than fifty, less than a hundred, they hid for a long time in the Caves and are now on a rampage to Emnetoras. They reside on the other side of the Entwash." Elboron all but shouted his report.

"Boy" Éomer snapped at a servant "My armor. Now." he looked back at Hama "Assemble the Rohirrim. Five minutes. No more or I'll leave without them."

"Let us join forces, friend." Sheikh Sarapor said. Éomer nodded while his armor was being put on and Sarapor, together with his daughter, left the Hall to assemble their riders and Scimitars.

King Éomer, in all his glory strode outside. "Sound the horn. Let them know we are coming."

He jumped on his horse Firefoot, already clad in its royal equipment and saddle.

"ROHIRRIM!" he yelled and left Edoras downhill. Followed by hundreds of hooves echoing their haste over the lands.

 

They reached the top of the hill overlooking Emnetoras and saw in the distance that its villagers were leaving in western direction.

So Faramir had been in time to warn them. What alarmed Éomer more was the tiny silver speck on a horse lighting fires at the side of the river where the Orcs were closing in on him. The fire would force them to pass through the small opening where Faramir resided if they wanted to reach the bridge.

Summer had made the level of the Entwash low and easy to cross so Faramir's plan was sound and magnificent.

"Sublime." Sarapor breathed next to him at understanding Faramir's strategy.

The King's heart stopped beating for a while and time seemed to slow down. Leaves were not moving along with the wind anymore and even the birds made no sound. His point of focus never leaving the figure of his beloved down in the valley, facing almost a hundred Orcs all by himself.  His rohirrim was forming a line next to him and the silence was deafening safe for the sounds of horses. Until they suddenly heard a load roar in the distance.

"Éomer King. For ROOOOOHAAAN!" and saw Faramir charge the Orcs singlehandedly. Both Faramir nor Orcs knew about the Rohirrim coming to Faramir's aide.

"You chose a courageous heart, my Lord." Hama said next to him and at Éomer signal drew up his hand. Horns blew and as one man they shouted "ROOHAAAAN!!!"

Charging down the hill, through the low water and jumping through the wall of fire to join Faramir in his fight.

The last Éomer saw was seeing his Captain go under in a sea of Orcs.

 

The battle had been swift but bloody. They had a couple of wounded, none deadly, and all Orcs lay slain before them. The only one missing was Faramir. They had found his horse embedded with several Orc spears.

All the men, still able, were turning over Orc corpses in search for Faramir.

Éomer felt catatonic. Glimpses of the past came back to him. Him finding Théodred. His father's funeral. His mother's broken heart. The banishment by Grima's schemes. His dear uncle, back broken on the fields of Pelennor. His sister, his beautiful Wynna, and the moment he thought he had lost her too.

Desperation clouded his vision and he roared. "FARAMIR!"

He kicked a decapitated head and started frantically turning over bodies.

"My Lord." a scared voice screamed for his attention. Hama immediately by his side keeping their King steady.

"No! No!" Éomer started repeating when he got closer. There under a heavy corps, more Uruk-Hai than Orc lay his pale man.

"NOOOOOO!!!" he shouted in despair, Hama clutched the King close to keep him from tumbling forward.

Grief was making Éomer blind with tears and he dropped to his knees. Clutching his beloved Faramir to his side. He did not feel a pulse and he could not stop howling his pain out to the clouds. His soldiers stood a respectful distance away, baring their heads and clasping their hands in a sign of respect.

"No.." Éomer murmured and kissed the cold lips of his Faramir. Tears streaking down his face and falling on the pale cheeks. He swept the bloodied hair back and wailed even harder his sorrows when he did not find a warm beat beneath the silvery skin.

A soft groan made him stop his crying and look back down. Soft fluttering lashes. They opened and there was a moment of confusion in the gray eyes.

"Éomer." Faramir throatily whispered. Shocked gasps broke out and people started cheering.

"You are alive!" Éomer sobbed out.

"Yes." Faramir took a deep breath "Just got the wind knocked out of me and a heavy blow on my head."

The blubbering sounds emitted from the King's throat were easily forgiven when he kissed his lover soundly.

"I thought I had lost you. I love you," he whispered.

"As I love you, my King."

"Faramir! Faramir! Faramir!" the Rohirrim and Rhûnédain warriors started shouting. With some help from Éomer he got upright and with the help of a dozen other hands, they lifted him in front of the King on his horse.

The Ranger felt immensely dizzy and happy as soon as he asked about the casualties (none).

"Then bring me back home. I need a bath and a bed," he groaned tiredly.

"Home, it is." Éomer smiled in his neck.

 

Not only did several healers of Rohan examine Faramir, but Elboron did too with a watchful eye, the healer traveling with their Rhûnédain friends also had a go at him. Tired and achy Éomer helped him down the stairs in Edoras to visit the bathing rooms.

"Permission to unclothe you?" The King asked kindly. Faramir did and saw how much Éomer's hands were trembling. He closed them to his bare chest and asked

"Are you cold?" the Captain did not understand. The baths were a natural resource of warm spring water and still Éomer was shaking like a leaf once they were alone.

"My sweet, I am still overcoming my shock of thinking you dead. It reminded me too much of..." his voice choked off on the pain.

"Forgive me, my love. I did not realize."

"Do not apologize. You were so brave and all I want for now is you taken care off. I promise not to take advantage of your weakened state." he smirked.

Faramir smiled back "I am too tired to do anything anyway. I'll trust your good intentions."

Reverently Éomer took off his Ranger's clothes and then his own. For the first time, they were naked, but not aroused in each other's presence. Only understanding and love moving them in the waters. They sponged each other and cleaned the other's hair. The King gently kissed a couple of freckles on the shoulder in front of him and Faramir reclined backward. Resting in the warm and safe embrace of his King. They dried off and Éomer helped him in freshly brought clothes.

"You know," Faramir remarked when Éomer was brushing his hair "You are very good at this."

Éomer smiled lovingly "I have had enough practice on Éowyn's long hair and my own." And promptly gave a very good head massage. Careful of not touching the sore lump on Faramir's crown.

The Captain was all but a puddle in Éomer's arms, so he carried the man back to his chambers where a worrying Elboron was waiting for him. Together they put him to bed and stood watch. Deciding against appropriate social convention the King started taking off his tunic.

"You are not crawling in bed with him, are you?" Elboron whispered as to not wake his father.

"And what if I am."

Elboron kept his silence.

"I need to remind myself he is not dead." Éomer finally admitted while he cradled a softly snoring Faramir close to his bare chest. Elboron nodded in understanding. He had heard of the men how desperate their King had cried when he thought Faramir all but lost. He turned and blew out the candles. Crawling in his own bed and comforted by the knowledge that his father was greatly cared for.

Their lie-in at sunset was disturbed by a great commotion at the door when a distraught Hama suddenly threw open the heavy door making it hit the wall with a hard sound.

"My Lord. The King is gone!" he yelled distraughtly.

"Oh." he concluded when he saw that both Éomer and Elboron had drawn their swords at the sudden intrusion.

"I'm not gone, you idiot." Éomer cursed back and put away his sword Guthwinë. Faramir barely disturbed just nuzzled his face deeper in the crook of the King's arm. Hama cleared his throat

"Yes, well. I can see that now." Elboron just started howling loudly in mirth to irritate Éomer even more.

"Yes. Great. Leave us now. All of you." he grumbled.

"Nay, no chance for that. Someone has to protect his virtue from you." Elboron smiled evilly. Éomer cursed even more loudly.

"I am awake, you know." a reddening Faramir said.

"Good morning, love." The King looked down and swiftly claimed the surprised man's lips.

"Eugh." Elboron proclaimed when he saw a tongue peeking out of their mouths and left the room.

"You did that on purpose." Faramir grinned.

"What if I did?"

"Kiss me more."

"Gladly."

 

"Faramir come here." The Ranger stood up and followed his lover outside. The dark was setting in now and Éomer pointed at a little light down the stream near Emnetoras.

"Look," he whispered in Faramir's ear and a delicious tingle went down the slender man's spine. Concentrating he watched in the distance. More lights started appearing and then one lifted off. Followed by hundreds of others.

"Lanterns," Faramir whispered in awe.

"Aye. For you."

"Me?"

"You saved all those people."

"I did not.."

"Hush and take a compliment. With a wave of his hands, lights started to appear on the outside of Edoras. More lanterns were lit and airborne.

"They are like stars." Éomer didn't reply.

"So beautiful."

"Aye." The King said though he was not looking at the sky.

 

There was to be a feast for the last evening the Rhûnédain were in Rohan. The last gift exchange happened and music and dancing were programmed for the evening. Éomer was in great spirits for he had received news of his sister. He stood up and lifted his glass to toast

"To Éowyn of Rohan, Princess of Ithilien and her husband Lord Amrothos. Expecting a healthy babe." and raised his arms. His men cheered and Faramir didn't think his cheeks could hurt even more with all the smiling he has done lately. Nimué and Elboron were sharing intimate words in the corner of the room and many goodbyes were said.

Éomer couldn't stop watching his heart. Nimué had inked dozens of little delicate roses on Faramir's hands and up his arms. They had never heard of henna en Éomer wanted to lick every single petal on those lovely arms before the ink disappeared. The Captain also had a secret surprise to reveal this evening for his King.

Everyone felt content and sated. The festivities drawing to a point where dancing happened and Nimué happily taught Elboron to dance a dance with veils between them. The more practiced Rhûnédain dancers flowed beautifully with their veils and the wine started to make Faramir feel more brave than usual. Even letting it go so far to let his eyes be blackened with kohl in the way of the people of Rhûn.

"That is terribly distracting." Éomer hissed in the Rangers ear.

"You look like my exotic bride." he hungrily stared at Faramir's mouth.

"You are staring at my mouth." the Captain shyly murmured back.

"Yes... And?" the horse master said while not letting his intense gaze stray from said part of Faramir's body.

"You have been doing that increasingly more lately."

"Does it disturb you?" Éomer started pulling back while keeping his focus on Faramir's face.

"No. I do not wish it so. I wish.."

"Yes?"

"I wish to taste you tonight."

"You shall, my love." the King smiled and turned away to grab some more wine.

"No." Faramir halted Éomer's movements.

"Not in that way... My Lord." and meaningfully glanced down in Eadig's lap. For he sure felt 'blessed' now.

"You wish to pleasure me there?"

"If my Lordship would permit it."

"If I would permit it?" Éomer huffed and dropped his head on his hands to find some strength to not embarrass himself in front of all those people.

"You have no idea how much I longed for that. To taste you too," he finally confessed.

Their heated gaze turning the temperature up another notch.

 

Nimué hugged Faramir and then Elboron close. She dared to sneak a kiss on his surprised son and promised to write. Her father kissed both Faramir's and Éomer's cheeks and hands and they returned the gesture.

"Goodbye, for now, my friends," Sarapor said gratefully with a slight accent.

"We will be there when you leave for Minas Tirith, Sheikh Sarapor." Éomer replied. With deep bows they took leave.

One by one the guest left for their tents and Elboron was nowhere to be seen. When nobody was paying them any attention, the King pulled Faramir behind him in a darkened corridor.

"Your chambers or mine?" he asked after slamming Faramir against a wall and inserting a strong thigh between Faramir's.

"Yours." the Captain's voice stuttered in desire.

Their clothes fluttered quickly to the floor. The ones not giving way easily were ripped off and shoved downwards. Finally they stood before one another. Both naked and aroused. Golden skin next to a silvery skin. Gold and silver clashed in a tangle of kisses and moans. They touched and yearned for every place on their bodies to be stirred in their lovemaking.

"Oh. Éomer." Faramir groaned when the King was licking and tonguing his way downwards. He halted when he saw the impressive hard member of his love standing proudly from a thatch of brownish red hair. The Captain blushed even deeper red down his chest making him even more desirable in Éomer's eyes.

"Yes. Let me taste you. Let me drink you. And drown you with my love."

"Yes! Yes! Oh oh!" Faramir all but shouted when the horse master took a long swipe with his tongue. Kissing the head and wetting the shaft carefully. One hand was softly teasing the warm and tense stones underneath. They were already drawn up very high. Ready for climax for Faramir feared he was already nearing the point of no return.

Éomer's other hand stroked the now wetted cock teasingly up and down and his mouth closed around the tip making Faramir arch almost off the bed with a terse shout. The golden man kept his eyes on his silvery mate with the arousing kohl on his clenched eyelids while bobbing his warm mouth swiftly up and down, careful not to hurt him with his teeth. After not yet twenty strokes Faramir's muscles started to clench. His stomach hard and teeth gritted from tension.

"I'm almost there, love." he sobbed out.

The horselord resumed his relentless and unforgiving pleasuring pace and with a howling keen by his Ranger he felt the shaft in his mouth start to spasm. Hot, milky jets of semen shot to the back of his throat and Faramir kept on moaning, covering his eyes with his palms from the sensation and smudging the kohl. He shuddered and lazily opened his eyes.

"That was wonderful, Éomer." he smiled

"Let me return the favor." And Éomer scooted next to his lover, eagerly laying down and awaiting that sinful mouth.

First Faramir inspected the horse master and kissed that delectable body everywhere except where he wanted it the most. The King was close to begging when a soft lick nudged the tip of his weeping cock.

"Yeessss." he hissed slowly. Faramir imitated Éomer's actions and learned where to focus most of his attentions. The soft patch underneath the head was especially sensitive so he tongued there some time longer while playing with the hard stones. Even daring to slip his fingers lower and give a gentle touch at the rear passage from his lover. Éomer groaned loudly at the idea of including that part one day to their lovemaking, but not today.

"Don't be such a cocktease." he almost cursed. "Please." he softened his harsh request.

His Captain did not make him beg for long and bobbed happily up and down the thick shaft. Admiring the blond pubes and gently rasped his teeth at the base of the stiff member. The King gripped the sheets tightly and started twisting his body in all directions.

"Yes! Faramir! Oh, ye Gods! Yes! Oh! Aaarggnnn!!" he shouted when he spent himself in Faramir's mouth. Not even realizing he had brutally gripped Faramir's hair and forcefully pumped his cock passed those swollen red lips until he was completely done. He fell back on the bad.

"Forgive me." he tried apologizing. Still out of breath.

"You know I love how dominating you are. You did not hurt me and I would have stopped you if I did not want to do that."

"I love you." Éomer breathed.

"As I love you." They shared a kiss sampling each other's taste and lay back together. Spooning for warmth and closeness.

"I never wish to part from you." the King emotionally confessed.

"Me neither." Faramir agreed. Because his back lay against Éomer's chest he felt the shuddering in the frame of the man behind him.

"Éomer?" he asked concerned and turned so he could face his lover in his arms.

"I mean it." Éomer softly murmured.

"I do too." the Ranger frowned.

"Bond with me, my beloved Faramir."

The Captain's mouth fell open and then his eyes started to shine.

"Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! I will bond with you if you'll have me."

Éomer let out a happy sob and both men collapsed against each other. Kissing 'til there was no tomorrow.


 Their bonding was planned shortly after the birthing of Éowyn's child. It came to be a beautiful and healthy daughter, they named her Rowenna. She got blessed by the King of Gondor, the Sheikh of Rhûnédain and the King of Rohan.

Edoras was bristling for the planned bonding ceremony later that day. Nimué was already ready and met the guests from everywhere with her fiancé Elboron. It was her main duty as diplomatic liaison with Rhûnédain and in return the West always had a steady supply of olive, oranges and... Pineapple to the amusement of Faramir.

Elfwinë arrived together with King Elessar and his baby boy Eldarion. Queen Arwen was staying in Rivendell, but sent her greatest regards and beautifully elf made cloaks for the bonding pair.

To this day Aragorn remains sure that the moment Elfwinë saw baby Rowenna and lost his heart, was a moment of soul touching. For not only King Elessar was blessed with such a bond, King Éomer and Faramir were too.

Éowyn was touched by the love young Elfwinë held for little Rowenna and he stated he would never be parted from her. And he kept true to that promise.

When Faramir received his crown and got kissed by his soulmate, a loud cheer went up from the crowds. Éothain slapped him on the back and Éomer needed some weeks to overcome the moment when Elboron stepped close and said "Now I have two fathers." leaving Éomer struck speechless for he had acquired two sons in one go making Faramir laugh until his stomach ached.

King Elessar had brought the commissioned statue of the late King Théoden. Flowers were laid down, tears were shed and everyone wanted to touch the greatness of the man ensconced in the beautiful white stone.

Éowyn cried even harder but that was to be expected after all with her post-pregnancy hormones still clouding her emotions. They sang and brought poetry. Especially the pieces about Faramir saving Emnetoras from a thousand Orcs and the Warrior Bond mates were amusing.

When Éomer brought out his toast, after several other's of toast, he reminded them of their dead and lost loved ones and there was a solemn moment of silence. The ache was still there in many hearts but hope had softened the hurt and everyone was looking forward to the New Age.

Merry, Pippin and Samwise had travelled all the way to Rohan to pay their respects. You could hear the Green Dragon song be sung for weeks to come, when finally Faramir stepped forward to make his speech. He asked the musicians to fall in for they had practiced the song Prince Faramir had composed hundreds of times. And Faramir sung and it moved everyone to tears.

I saw the light fade from the sky

On the wind I heard a sigh

As the snowflakes cover

My fallen brothers

I will say this last goodbye

 

 

Night is now falling

So ends this day

The road is now calling

And I must away

 

 

Over hill and under tree

Through lands where never light has shone

By silver streams that run down to the sea

 

 

Under cloud, beneath the stars

Over snow and winter's morn

I turn at last to paths that lead home

 

 

And though where the road then takes me,

I cannot tell

 

We came all this way

Bu t now comes the day

To bid you farewell

 

 

Many places I have been

Many sorrows I have seen

But I don't regret

Nor will I forget

Al l who took that road with me

 

 

Night is now falling

So ends this day

The road is now calling

And I must away

 

 

Over hill, and under tree

Through lands where never light has shone

B y silver streams that run down to the sea

 

 

To these memories I will hold

With your blessing I will go

To turn at last to paths that lead home

 

 

And though where the road then takes me,

I cannot tell

We came all this way

But now comes the day

T o bid you farewell

 

 

I bid you all a very fond farewell

Silence and then a thundering applause.

King Éomer emotionally and well into his cups by now drew his Prince close to his chest and kissed him soundly. And again. And again.

When their wedding night approached there was no fear nor insecurity. Both men were healed and knew each other well. They worshipped slowly and Éomer gently breached his lover. Moving them both to tears and to see the stars. Their climaxes blinding them in a white hot haze of fire and light. For they were content.

"Again, my love?" Faramir panted.

"You're insatiable." Éomer laughed in return.

"Now take me like you really mean it."

"You'll regret that, my Prince." the King threatened with a growl.


 Epilogue

 

It happened as you could predict it would happen.

Éowyn had passed on almost two decades ago and now her brother was leaving Middle-Earth too as an old man of 92. His reign was blessed and fruitful. Rohan had recovered swiftly from the War and its prosperity brought happiness to all citizens.

Prince Elboron had married Nimué and had one son together. They named him Barahir, to honor Faramir and his brother Boromir at the same time. It had moved Faramir to tears on the day of his birth.

Elfwinë became a renowned scholar and joined Rowenna in matrimony the day she came of age. They had several children. Their eldest became heir of Rohan. King Éodred, the 19th King of Rohan, and the apple of Éomer's eye the day he was born.

The royal mates taught their children and grandchildren everything they could until Éomer grew too weak to rule. He left this earth peaceful and happily in his sleep. Faramir woke up one fine morning next to his deceased soulmate and lay back down.

Never to wake up again.

 

Together in life and together in death. Their mutual tomb is the most visited place on the world and great stories and myths started with the tale of their epic love story. Their wisdom and teachings stretching far across all the realms and marking the Golden Age.

Elboron still missed his fathers. So did Elfwinë.

Nimué came to stand next to him, holding their own grandchild. He gathered his family close to his side and thanked the Gods once more.

Simbelmynë covering the hills with their ancestors.

Softly moving in the wind. You could almost hear it.

Their love.

 

I bid you all a very fond farewell

 

 

For they were content. And all was well.

 

The End.