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They arrive in the evening, and the setting sun over the mountains casts the sprawling home in a lovely orange light, glowing here and there with lamps and iridescent flowers. Their horses seem to slow for it, taking in the majesty. As they cross the bridge to the stone dais held high above the river, an elf appears to greet them, gliding down the steps with a grace that neither of them have ever had.

Boromir dismounts first, Faramir swiftly following, a step behind his brother and distracted when more elves appear to take his horse. In other places, he’s been hard-pressed to release the reigns, but here he knows they’ll treat his animal well. The horse seems all too happy to plod after the soft hands that bid it forward. Boromir looks stiffer relinquishing his, but he does so—he’s said he wouldn’t leave right away. Faramir’s still glad of it, though the realm beyond looks strangely inviting.

It’s all different than he thought it would be, than the way it was described. His father spit the word out like a curse or a joke, laughing at the thought of Faramir residing there. It still gives him a spark of shame to set foot in this place; what a disappointment he’s become, to need to be sent here. But Boromir stands tall before him as though their delegation is an honour and this a well-planned treaty. The young elf that drifts towards them wears a frown but gentle, attractive features.

“My lord Elrond is occupied with his sons’ departure from the west gates,” that elf tells them, bowing his head respectfully. “In case of your early arrival, I have been sent to welcome you to Imladris, Rivendell, in your tongue, and to guide you to his audience chamber. He will be free to join you shortly.”

Boromir nods curtly at this, while Faramir suppresses a pang in his chest—his own father bid Boromir farewell but wouldn’t spare Faramir a thought. Faramir was made to walk alongside the packhorse, told omegas have no business trying to tame other beasts, and had to wait until they passed Gondor’s borders before Boromir rearranged their supplies and insisted Faramir ride, having snuck in an extra saddle. The lord Elrond’s children must be lucky indeed if their father can be bothered to see them off, just as Boromir is lucky of Denethor.

Faramir is the unlucky second born, the unasked for burden, the weaker offspring that shames his house merely by what he is. Boromir says it will be different here.

But Boromir has been fiercely seeking hope for Faramir since they were children, and Faramir first fell ill to the condition which marks him omega, and Boromir, already pronounced alpha, had wrapped around him to shield him from their father’s fists. At least, Faramir hopes, Boromir will have an easier time of it when he returns without Faramir at his side.

Faramir will stay here. The elf seems to recognize that—perhaps can simply tell another omega—as Faramir can tell that this elf is one—and glances at Faramir with another dip of his head. Faramir returns it. The elf, brown-haired and conservatively postured with silken purple robes that hide his feet, asks, “Will you accompany me?”

“Your name, first,” Boromir interjects, reaching out a hand in the manner of their people. “And who you are who stands in your lord’s stead.”

The elf’s cheeks lightly flush, but he answers politely, “I am called Lindir. I am my lord’s personal assistant, and... and his omega.”

Boromir looks back at Faramir, mouth in a thin line but with the corner slightly lifted: a familiar half-smile of his. He likely means to demonstrate to Faramir that here, lords take omegas and cherish them enough to let them stand in for honoured meetings.

Faramir returns a quiet smile, though he thinks it equally as likely that his arrival means nothing to the lord of Rivendell, and he’s not important enough to merit more than a servant’s greeting.

Boromir turns back to Lindir to say, “I am Boromir, son of Denethor, steward of Gondor, and this is my brother, Faramir.” Having never asked, Lindir likely already knew it, but doesn’t interrupt as Boromir continues, “We’ll follow you and wait until your lord is free. But it’s been a long journey, and we would appreciate food and drink for that wait.”

Lindir bows again and promises, “I will see to it,” then turns to guide them up the stairs.

They’re shown to a circular chamber and set at a long table, where Boromir sits next to Faramir instead of across—he tends to keep Faramir within arm’s reach where he can. Whether or not Faramir feels he needs the protection doesn’t matter; he enjoys the company, the show of care. Lindir disappears and returns with two other servants to lay out an ample feast of salads, bread, exotic fruits, and wine. They have some time to themselves to sit and eat, during which it feels like they should share their private thoughts while they can, but Faramir doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t have enough information yet.

Boromir drinks the wine sparingly and sees that Faramir does as well, and he murmurs over his glass, “Lindir looks well taken care of. All the omegas do.” Faramir assumes he means the servants, both those that served and those that took their horses. As an alpha, Boromir will have been able to sense their designation well. Faramir agrees. They all looked healthy, and Lindir even wore a silver diadem that looked something like a crown. No omega in Gondor would be given such finery.

In only a short while, the doors open again, and a new elf strolls regally through. Boromir rises to stand out of courtesy, and Faramir quickly follows suit. This elf’s presence alone gives him away as a lord. He looks older, more mature, than the other elves Faramir’s seen, with long, straight brown hair and golden robes, his fingers arrayed in rings and a diadem circling his head not so very different from Lindir’s. Lindir shuts the door behind his lord and comes to stand by the table, where the grander elf inclines his head and greets, “Boromir, Faramir, sons of Gondor, I welcome you to Rivendell. I must apologize for my lateness; we had predicted your arrival later in the evening, and I had personal business to attend to.”

“It was no trouble,” Boromir answers, then pointedly looks at Lindir to add, “your omega did well in your stead.”

Lindir turns a light pink and quickly averts his eyes. He seems shy, small, and very young compared to his lord, but his bearing is just as calm, as contemplative. Elrond glances at his aid and dons a soft, approving smile. “Yes, he is one of the great treasures of Imladris.” Lindir’s cheeks instantly become red, and he visibly fights to hide his pleasure. When Elrond turns back to take his seat, Lindir looks at Elrond with such adoration that Faramir can feel it in his chest. It speaks well of Elrond. It chips away at the picture Denethor had always painted of a desperate place haunted only by lonely, damaged souls. Lindir remains standing behind Elrond’s chair and looks as though there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.

Boromir and Faramir return to their seats and watch Elrond, the food forgotten. Despite the living proof that Elrond is a kind ruler, Boromir’s shoulders remain squared, his stance strong, protective. He starts the conversation for both of them. “We are glad to be here, Lord Elrond, and would hope your hospitality towards Men remains as good as it’s told of elves. We haven’t just come to visit, you see.”

“No,” Elrond returns, folding his hands atop the table. He aims the first at Boromir, but then shifts his gaze to Faramir. “You did not.”

Boromir opens his mouth. Before he can say more, Faramir starts, feeling distinctly like Elrond knows already the story he has to tell and wants to hear it in Faramir’s own words. “I am... I have heard good tidings, of this home for... certain kinds.” That isn’t strictly true; he heard the scorn of his father over a wasteland for the unwanted to be kept away from the rest of the world, the better population. He struggles to throw his lot into that and round-about explains, “By brother, Boromir, is a great warrior and a strong leader; he is a worthy heir to the stewardship of our land. ...But I am a spare, unneeded, and have the luxury of dwelling... other places.”

Boromir’s hand shifts across the table and lands overtop of Faramir’s. Faramir’s breath catches, eyes flickering to it; he’s immensely grateful, always is—he needed that support.

Fiercely and far more blunt, Boromir finishes, “Forgive me, but for all our father’s gift of sight and rule, he is a fool in this. Omegas in Gondor are not treated as well as they should be—they do not smile after their alphas or don splendor like your Lindir. You are an alpha—I can sense it in you—and thus you will know that Faramir is not. He deserves a better place to stay, one where he is recognized, regardless of his status, as the ‘treasure’ he is.”

Faramir is sure he’s now blushing as hard as Lindir. Boromir squeezes his hand, full of reassurance and devotion. Half of Faramir can’t help but be embarrassed by the display, but beyond that, as always, he enjoys the comfort of his brother’s strength. Elrond regards Boromir steadily.

Then he returns to Faramir and says, “There will be made a place for you here, and it will be yours for as long as you wish.” To Boromir, Elrond adds, “I give you my word that Faramir will be treated well in my home. This is a place of peace, of acceptance, where no one is unworthy.”

For a long moment, Boromir harshly returns Elrond’s gaze. But finally, he seems to accept it, and his tension loosens, his hand releasing and drifting away from Faramir’s.

Faramir misses the warmth. But Boromir is still at his side and remains that way throughout dinner, wherein they return to eating and Elrond coaxes Lindir to join them at the table.

He had a good run as captain of the guards. He had little self-confidence in certain areas but considered himself brave nonetheless, and he held the respect of those he commanded. He led them wherever his father bid and kept the gates of Mordor back, the lands safe around it. He sat with his guards in their hidden rooms after a triumphant hunt of orcs and ate and drank and recalled the battle, until one of them—he can’t even now remember which—put their hand on his thigh.

He was in a heat, then, knows it now, spurred on in fight by his own burning, driven to more drink and faster breathing, hotter skin. His guards were happy to push his legs open and peel away his tunic, run their sword-calloused hands through his hair and praise him for his deeds. They treated him well, and he let them bend him over the table and take him, two at once, then three, in a steady procession until every one of his guards had spent themselves somewhere in or on him and he was dizzy to the point of passing out. It never quite satisfied him—heats of the unbound that yearned to have someone always were. But it did its job, and he rode back to Minas Tirith with a clear head and finger and teeth marks all over his body.

His father was furious. Faramir stood before the steward’s little black throne under the white steps and was berated for hours, until Boromir came running into the hall and put an end to it. He’d been out and heard, likely in some tavern their father would only let him into, all the bawdy stories the guards there shared of defiling their pseudo-prince. Word had made it back to Denethor, and all he had heard was how easy Faramir was, how wantonly he laid himself out to be taken and dominated, ravaged no better than some helpless stable boy. Faramir said nothing, as usual, and kept his head hung so he wouldn’t have to meet the unforgiving derision in his father’s eyes.

It was Boromir to suggest that Faramir be sent north. Denethor’s thought was to bind him in the dungeons, hide him from the public face, from shaming their father any further, and laughed with malice that Faramir should welcome such a fate—being toy to the crueler guards that Denethor favoured. The difference of choice seemed to mean nothing to him. Boromir snarled that no one would take Faramir below the keep while he still lived, and Denethor, as always, listened to his firstborn where he would not head the second. He snorted that a dump for the damaged would be a fitting place for Faramir. Denethor’s laughter echoed down the great halls.

He came to see them off when they mounted their horses. He walked right past Faramir, only to pause and turn, snarling for Faramir to get down from a seat he hadn’t earned. Faramir grit his teeth and did as he was ordered—there seemed no sense now in defiance when he was close to freedom, at least of this. A part of him had wanted to stay. He liked his captaincy, liked those he’d overseen, but knew it was no longer an option. No other guards were sent with them—Boromir was a strong enough alpha to stand on his own and Faramir not worth the bother. Denethor bid Boromir farewell with words of love and for Faramir gave no more words at all.

Far out in the field, Boromir dismounted and led the horses a little ways to a smattering of trees. Behind them, he took Faramir in his arms and held Faramir tight. He promised that when Denethor’s rule passed, Faramir could return, and Boromir would treat him with the respect he deserved. Faramir, as he’d been since childhood and first pronounced omega—weak, prone to helpless spells and too easy to submission—thought he deserved no respect at all. But he held Boromir back and inhaled deeply, enjoyed beyond decency the warmth of an alpha’s comfort. Then Boromir had lifted Faramir up onto a horse, and their journey began.

There was a long time in Faramir’s life when he contented himself with only platonic love. Boromir would be enough. Boromir was all he had. And it’s strange now to walk amongst the halls of Rivendell and know, behind this door and that, that other merciful alphas wait. It doesn’t really matter at this point if any will have Faramir or not—the sheer possibility is a relief he never knew before.

Lindir escorts them down the hall. He pauses occasionally, here and there, to gesture to common places—the library, the dining hall, the stairs to the kitchens—and informs them that all are open to Faramir, other than, of course, private quarters. By now the stars are out, but most of Rivendell is open to one balcony or another, and there’s enough to see by. They pass the occasional elf, all of whom are beautiful and elegant, and Faramir begins to feel that, even if he cannot ever match the art around him, he could find peace here. He holds himself tall and is not once looked at as though he shouldn’t.

Finally, they reach a long hall of various doors, carved in the different shapes of trees. Lindir stops at one to announce, “These will be your chambers, Faramir of Gondor. They are meant to be stocked with all you should need, and water will routinely be left for you, cleaning regularly conducted. If you should have need of anything not provided to you, please inform my lord Elrond or me. It is our wish that you are to feel at home here.”

Faramir means to say thank you, but Boromir asks over him, “Are there enough beds for me to stay there?”

Lindir gives him a surprised look. “We arranged for your quarters in another wing, one occupied by more alphas. Is this unsuitable?”

Boromir frowns and looks once at Faramir, then seems to decide on something, and informs their host, “I want to stay with him, so I can make sure that no one takes advantage.”

Faramir experiences another stab of embarrassment—he was, after all, a captain, and is more than capable of self-defense, though he appreciates the sentiment. Lindir doesn’t even notice that, and instead appears both flustered and offended, and insists in hurt tones, “That would never happen under my lord Elrond’s roof—any that would commit such a heinous act would not be permitted past the gates.”

Boromir doesn’t look at all convinced and opens his mouth, but before he can fight Lindir on it, he seems to spot something over Lindir’s shoulder and pauses. Faramir follows the gaze and is instantly ensnared.

Another man has just come around the corner, clearly not an elf, not regal and refined like all the others, but still tall and well shaped. He has dark, ragged hair that waves almost down to his shoulders, his chin a little scruffy and his shoulders broad, dressed in a tunic, trousers, and heavy boots, all earth tones, a hefty bag slung over one shoulder. As he crosses the light of one high window, Faramir is struck with the handsomeness of his features, chiseled beyond any perfection Faramir’s ever seen before. The man is an alpha, Faramir knows instantly, and his pheromones seem to call to Faramir—there’s a moment where he feels almost light-headed, trapped in an unexpected snare from a man he’s never even met. He stares, while Lindir turns to see the newcomer.

“Aragorn,” Lindir greets, dipping into a lower bow than he served to Boromir and Faramir, though they’re dressed well and this new man is scruffy and dirtied, as though just dragging in from the wild. To any other, he might almost appear a beggar, but Faramir recognizes the hidden strength of a ranger. “My lord Elrond will be pleased at your return.”

The man, Aragorn, it seems, gives Lindir a fond smile, which warms Faramir’s chest—a ranger, warm to omegas. “Thank you, Lindir. I will see him shortly, if he is still awake, but it was you I looked for. I am aware I have been gone some time and only knew you shortly on the last visit—and it is a shame I arrive again only to miss Elladan and Elrohir by a matter of some hours—and yet I return to find my rooms have been changed.”

Lindir’s brows draw together in confusion. “They have not been, as far as I am aware.”

Aragorn cocks his head to the side, evidently expecting Lindir to be aware of it all. “They must have been. The furniture is the same, I grant, but there was already an elf with pale skin and a dark braid asleep in the bed.”

The confusion remains on Lindir’s face for a few seconds, then slips abruptly away, and he mutters half under his breath, “Maeglin.” In a clearer voice, he sighs, “Clearly, you have yet to meet one of our more illustrious residents. I can think of two reasons why he would be in the bed that I promise is still yours, and either way, I will come shoo him out.”

Aragorn dons a bemused grin at this and answers, “Thank you.”

Before he goes, Lindir turns back to Boromir and Faramir to ask, “Will you be well for the night? I can have more linens sent to you, if you wish.”

Boromir replies, “I’ll manage.” Faramir takes that to mean that Boromir will indeed be staying with him.

It draws Aragorn’s attention, and he sweeps an appraising look over Boromir, then stops on Faramir, their eyes catching. Alphas can often tell better than an omega the stature of their peers, and Faramir, remembering the voice of his father, feels his heart sink; he wishes he could stand before this man as another alpha, as an equal. Yet there’s nothing disapproving in Aragorn’s eyes. He looks about to speak, perhaps to introduce himself properly, when Boromir abruptly steps closer to Faramir, halfway in front of him. Aragorn notes Boromir again and has no chance to say a thing to either of them.

Lindir’s already moving off, headed back down the hall, and Aragorn, nodding once at the both of them, turns to follow. It leaves Faramir to release a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding.

Inside, they say nothing of Aragorn, though surely Boromir can’t have expected to find mortal men here any more than Faramir did. Instead, they’re distracted with Boromir’s gathering of blankets and the spare pillow to drape across the floor. Faramir knows better than to offer his brother the bed or to share—Boromir can be stubborn, and his mind’s clearly made. He lies himself down on the floor, setting up a stern vigil, and murmurs into the already-darkness, “Good night, little brother.”

“Good night,” Faramir returns, “and thank you.”