Fandom: Lord of the Rings

Pairing: Eomer/Faramir

Summary: When Denethor orders Faramir to seduce Eomer it highlights some cultural differences between Gondor and Rohan, and leads to a moment of self-discovery for Faramir. This is SLASH – you have been warned.

Disclaimer: The character's belong to JRR Tolkien. The blame is mine.

Warnings: This is NC17 rated so graphic descriptions of m/m sex.

Author's Note: Not sure how I ended up writing this story, but it was a bit of an experiment for me, both in style and substance. (I have doubts as to whether I pulled off the style, and the pacing). This story went places I didn't originally intend and some ideas I had for it got scrapped because of that – in the end it was a sort of stream of consciousness thing where I let the characters kind of go (mostly) where they wanted and this is where they went.

I'm also not sure how LOTR it is, I'd say it's au in terms of the time line; these events happen a lot earlier in the lead-up to the Fellowship timeline than the ages of the characters would suggest. As for whether it's bookverse or movieverse - in my head, the characters look like the actors who played them in the movies, but there are moments in this that are definitely influenced by the books, and the character of Eothain is from the books, as is Garulf (although he is only mentioned in The Two Towers).

Aaaand I'll shut up now!

The Gleaming Road

Faramir has heard much of the Men of Rohan before he finally sees them.

When Boromir has ten years, and Faramir is five, he hears his brother ask his father about the Men of Rohan.

"Superb horsemen," his father says, "but perverted and wild."

Faramir does not understand what his father means until some years later when Boromir tells him of the stories he has heard.

"They take wives," he whispers in Faramir's ear, "but many of the men lie with other men."

"Is that true?" Faramir asks, for everyone in Gondor knows how disgraceful and immoral is such behaviour, and sometimes Boromir likes to tease.

"Oh yes," says Boromir, "father told me of it," and Faramir does not question this, because his father knows everything, and he tells it all to Boromir. He never tells Faramir anything.

"Do you want to know how they do it?" Boromir asks, and Faramir shakes his head because he definitely doesn't want to know how. However, he is a little curious as to why but he isn't sure if even his father would know the answer to that question and he doesn't think his father would tell Boromir if he did.

Boromir tells him how anyway.

It is a few years after this when Faramir learns that Gondor has an alliance with Rohan and this surprises him because by now he has heard his father's opinions of the Men of the Mark many times. So, curiosity giving him courage, he asks his father about it.

"Rohan is strong in battle," Denethor says sharply, and Faramir falls silent, for already he has learnt that power will earn tolerance for many sins.

When Faramir comes of age he is made a Captain of Gondor. The words fall begrudgingly from his father's lips in a way that no longer surprises Faramir and he knows that the pride that lights in Denethor's eyes when they rest on Boromir, will never shine on him. Still, he will make every effort to avoid disappointing his father, so when Boromir offers to take him to a certain tavern of questionable fame, Faramir refuses. He knows his father's morals.

"Are you a Man of Rohan?" Boromir teases, and Faramir flinches. It is a common enough insult in Gondor, one he has heard many times, mostly directed at quiet, soft-spoken youths similar to himself, so he is not surprised to hear it, but he is surprised to hear it from Boromir.

But his brother must see his distress because he rests an arm on Faramir's shoulders and his face becomes serious.

"I am sorry, little brother," he says. "I should not have said such a thing to you. Forgive me."

Faramir nods. "I have not the freedom you have," he reminds Boromir.

"Our father need never know," says Boromir. "And it is past time you had a woman."

"Not until I marry," says Faramir, and that is the last they ever speak of it.

Over the next few years Faramir earns the respect and admiration of his men but never that of his father. He ceases to wonder why, he simply accepts it as something that will never change and consoles himself with the love of his brother. Boromir has ever been Faramir's truest friend and protector and, strangely, this has never lost him Denethor's love and esteem.

The times darken, as does Denethor's mood, and they lose ground against the Orcs of Mordor, and so it is that Denethor decides that the old alliances should be renewed and strengthened.

"Theoden, King of Rohan, answers my request and sends his nephew, Eomer, Marshal of the East Riddermark," Denethor tells Boromir. "He brings a host of fifty horsemen. You will greet them at the gates when they arrive and then escort the Marshal to the council chamber."

Faramir doesn't know what to think when a week later the Men of Rohan arrive and he can see the curiosity and surprise spreading through the city like wildfire. The Rohirrim have been objects of ridicule and disgust for many years in Minas Tirith but the men who arrive with Eomer, Theoden's nephew, are warriors, tall and nobly built with long legs and powerful shoulders. They wear their hair longer than the men of Gondor and their faces are open and good-humoured.

It is not until the evening meal that Faramir finally sees Theoden's nephew and it is with some surprise that he learns that Eomer is some years younger than Boromir and himself, for the Marshal of the East Mark is the tallest of the Rohirrim, and has maturity and composure beyond his years. He deals with Denethor respectfully, but with firmness and authority, and Faramir can see that whilst his father is chagrined, he is also impressed.

After the meal, as they linger in the Great Hall, Boromir talks to Eomer with ease and confidence and then draws Faramir forward.

"Your brother?" The Marshal's eyes rest with curiosity on Faramir. "I had not heard that the Steward of Gondor had another son."

"My father does not boast of his accomplishments," Boromir answers with a voice so full of irony that Faramir gives him a sharp look.

Eomer appears puzzled and Faramir quickly asks him what he thinks of Minas Tirith.

"It is a fair city," replies Eomer. "Although I have not seen much of it. I would like to see more."

"I was to guide you on a tour tomorrow," says Boromir. "But I must ride to Osgiliath on a small matter. I thought that Faramir could take my place, he knows the city as well as I – and its history more so. He would be a more useful guide."

Eomer nods his agreement and moves away. When he is gone Faramir turns to Boromir with concern.

"Osgiliath?" he asks. "Orcs?"

"More have been sighted," Boromir tells him. He sighs. "Father wants me to see to it."

Faramir nods blankly and glances at his father - until a month ago, when an orc squad had attacked the fringes of the town, the defence of Osgiliath had been one of Faramir's responsibilities.

The next morning he meets Eomer and, at the Marshal's request, takes him first to the stables where Faramir wonders at the stature and beauty of the horses of Rohan. The Men of the Mark tend the horses themselves and Faramir quickly averts his eyes when one of the Rohirrim gently presses his lips to the mouth of another. He had started to wonder if the stories were true but this proof horrifies him and his face burns when he sees Eomer watching him.

"They are bonded bed-mates," he says to Faramir, quietly, "and members of my house, but I will remind them of the aversions of your people. They will be more discreet."

For some reason Faramir feels embarrassment at his own strong reaction and he quickly offers to take Eomer to the Archives. This is the place he favours most in Minas Tirith and his mood lightens as he shows Eomer its treasures.

"We have nothing like this at Edoras, or Aldburg," Eomer tells him. "Our lore is told mostly through song and tale of memory."

"Memory may be lost if it is not recorded," says Faramir.

"That may be true," says Eomer. "But it may also be lost if it is not kept fresh and alive through use. This seems a dry, dusty way to me, one that can just as easily be forgotten if these writings are neglected."

"You have a point," Faramir concedes, with a smile. "Perhaps we are both right on this, but the archive is not just for history and stories. It also holds maps and contracts and all sorts of other legal documents. Do you not have these in Rohan?"

"Aye, we do," says Eomer, his eyes now lit with interest as he glances around the room. "But not so well organised as this and, I must confess, at times that can lead to confusion."

He smiles ruefully at Faramir and winks, and Faramir finds himself laughing in response. A strange heat rises in his face and he turns away quickly and suggests that they continue to the Houses of the Artisans. This seems to be to Eomer's taste and they are still there when Faramir realises that the evening meal is close.

"You are a kind host," says Eomer as they walk swiftly to the Citadel, and there is a light in his eyes as he looks at Faramir that causes Faramir unease.

The Great Hall of Feasts is crowded for many of the city's noble families are curious to meet the Rohirrim. Faramir searches for Boromir, hoping for his return and news of Osgiliath, and only dimly realises that Eomer has been joined by some of his men.

"You have had an enjoyable day, I can see, with the fair Captain of Gondor," he hears one of them say, his voice teasing.

Eomer laughs. "It was a good day," he says, his eyes resting on Faramir, and Faramir quickly looks away, his face growing heated again.

The next day he does not see the Men of Rohan for Eomer and some members of his party spend the day in council with Denethor. Boromir has not yet returned and Faramir attends to some of his brother's duties as well, so it is not until the evening meal that he sees any of the Rohirrim again.

This is less attended than the evening before and Faramir finds himself seated at the main table beside Eomer. With his father close by, Faramir is more reserved than usual and he can sense Eomer's confusion so he is not surprised when Eomer quietly asks if Faramir is unwell. Faramir smiles and shakes his head, his eyes on his father, and Eomer nods. Suddenly the man on the other side of Faramir, who has drunk far too much ale, flings out an arm, and Faramir falls into Eomer's side. He feels Eomer's hand gripping his waist, holding him steady and draws back quickly, but Eomer's hand lingers as his eyes rest on Faramir's mouth. Faramir looks away quickly and Eomer releases him but Faramir's heart is racing and he hopes that nobody has noticed the awkward moment.

When he finally looks up again Faramir sees the speculation in his father's eyes.

In the morning a page informs Faramir that his father has requested his presence in the council chamber. Faramir frowns, it is early for the council to be in session and this can only mean that his father wishes to see him alone and that has never gone well.

As he approaches the chamber Faramir knows that Boromir has returned to the city because he can hear the raised voices of his brother and father through the door, but when he enters they abruptly fall silent and Boromir stalks to the wall and leans against it, his face bleak. Faramir's heart sinks.

"You wished to see me father?" Faramir says quietly, and waits.

He is surprised when it is Boromir who speaks first but all he says is "Father, don't-" and when Denethor tells him to "be silent" he stops.

"It is clear the horse-master wishes to bed you," Denethor says, his voice harsh. "You will accede to his desires."

For a moment, Faramir doesn't believe what he has heard and he looks at his brother in stunned confusion. Boromir flinches and his eyes flick to Denethor and back to Faramir, his expression closed and angry.

"You cannot possibly mean that," Faramir says to his father in disbelief.

"Why would I not?" Denethor asks calmly, and it is that calmness that finally convinces Faramir that his father is deadly serious. He can feel the blood draining from his face and almost feels faint with it as his stomach churns. Faramir knows that no argument will work with his father when he is like this, and no argument of his has ever worked anyway, but still he tries.

"You have always said that the customs of the Rohirrim go against everything that is decent in our society," he says, "and yet you would now condone their shame. Whatever you think of me, I am still your son, would this not sully the honour of our house? You cannot really wish me to do this."

"If it is to our advantage, yes, I do," Denethor says. "Our ties with Rohan must be strengthened and if we can gain an advantage over them by satisfying the horse-master's lust than that is what you will do."

And suddenly Faramir is furious and for the first time in his life he is not afraid to show it to his father.

"Do I mean so little to you, father, that you would now whore me out as a worthless catamite?"

He sees the answering fury in his father's eyes.

"It is all you are good for," says Denethor bitterly. "You have proven how worthless you are to Gondor and to me many times. If you can only be of use in this way, then so be it."

"Father, you cannot treat Faramir in this way," Boromir's voice rings loudly through the chamber but Faramir only dimly hears it for now he truly knows that his father has no love for him.

"Do not defy me in this, Boromir," Denethor responds in a voice of steel, "and do not fail me yet again, Faramir, for this is your last chance. Leave, both of you."

Faramir feels Boromir's hand on his arm and blindly follows him from the room.

"I'm sorry, little brother," says Boromir. "I tried. As soon as I returned and he told me what he was planning, I tried, but nothing I said could dissuade him."

"He is a hypocrite," Faramir says, finally finding his voice. "How could he seriously think that I would do this, or that it would even be successful?"

"I don't know," says Boromir with a frustrated sigh. "Ever since he started spending so much time in the tower he is different, almost desperate. And Eomer has surprised him. You know his opinion of the Men of Rohan and he thought it would be an easy matter to make the changes to the alliance that he wants, but Eomer forestalls him at every point. I think he hopes that if he distracts him, or gives him something he wants, Eomer will more easily make concessions."

Faramir shakes his head in disbelief.

"We need them, Faramir," Boromir continues. "You do not know. Their cavalry are strong and the Orcs of Mordor are starting to overrun us in Ithilien. Without the aid of the Rohirrim we won't hold there."

"I won't do this, Boromir," Faramir tells him. "I'll leave Minas Tirith first."

Boromir takes his arm again and pulls him into a window alcove.

"And how far do you think you'd get, you fool, before he had you dragged back here in chains? He'd see it as treachery and you know how he deals with that."

Faramir stares at Boromir in horror.

"You're not seriously suggesting that I do this? Would you do it?"

Boromir shrugs. "How bad could it be?" he says, and then flinches when Faramir gasps. "I'm sorry, you're right, it's bad, but not as bad as what our dear father will do to you, if you don't."

"Boromir, I can't, the thought of it sickens me," Faramir says, and he knows he sounds desperate.

"Close your eyes," says Boromir, and Faramir looks at him as if he's mad. He knows his brother's capacity for ignoring an unpleasant truth, particularly when it involves their father, but this seems extreme even for him.

"Or get drunk," Boromir continues. "Very drunk."

Faramir sighs. "Why does he hate me so much?" he whispers. "What have I done?"

Boromir doesn't answer and Faramir knows it's because he doesn't have one, but his hand grips Faramir's shoulder in wordless comfort.

"You will have to replace me," Faramir says. He sees the confusion on Boromir's face and continues, "The men will never follow me after this."

"I'll make it clear you're under orders."

Faramir shakes his head, he knows it won't work but Boromir was ever optimistic.

"You can't," he says, "if the Rohirrim or Eomer hear, and if father found out…" He doesn't finish; he doesn't need to, Boromir grimaces and nods.

Faramir spends the rest of the day in dismal resignation. He avoids the Rohirrim, and this is easy to do. But for all his avoidance he knows that he is losing time and that his father will expect him to move swiftly. By the time the evening meal approaches and Faramir enters the Great Hall, he knows that he will not be able to eat. He takes his place beside Eomer with a thudding heart and a sick stomach and immediately feels Denethor's eyes upon him.

The meal goes for an interminable length of time and Faramir knows that Denethor is delaying its end until he sees that Faramir has obeyed him in some way, so finally he places a hand on Eomer's thigh, thankful for the cover of the table.

Eomer looks at him, his eyes questioning, and Faramir gives him a smile that he suspects is actually more of a grimace.

"May I join you in your chambers later?" he asks, quietly.

He senses the shock in Eomer but the Marshal hides it well and after a moment he nods. Faramir quickly removes his hand and glances at his father. He does not see approval there, nor did he expect to, but perhaps he expected more than the cold disdain on his father's face and he realises that this is how his father will play it out. Denethor will protect his position by making it clear to all that Faramir has taken this step against his father's wishes and with his clear disapproval.

Faramir looks at Boromir and he can tell by the anger in his eyes as he watches Denethor that Boromir has realised this also, but all Faramir can think is that they were foolish not to already have known it would be this way.

Finally Denethor leaves the table and Faramir goes to his quarters. He changes out of his uniform and folds it neatly. When he places it on the bed he stares at it for a moment. He knows that after this night he will probably never be able to wear it again because even if his men were to accept his actions he suspects that Denethor will soon strip him of his rank.

He feels numb as he walks through the halls to Eomer's chambers and he tries not to let his mind dwell on the ordeal ahead of him. He knocks on the door and Eomer bids him enter.

The Marshal is alone, seated at a table and writing with a fast hand on a scroll of parchment. Faramir watches him for a moment.

"I did not mean to interrupt you," he finally says.

"You have not," Eomer replies without looking up. "I had meant to finish this earlier and it must leave for King Theoden's hand this night, otherwise I would not be so uncivil. I will not be a moment."

Even as he speaks he is sealing the parchment and he opens a door into another room and hands the scroll off to someone within.

Finally he looks at Faramir, his expression intent. "Why did you want to come here tonight?" he asks.

Faramir swallows heavily and cannot find the words to answer the question. He flicks his eyes to the bed and then back to Eomer and feels his face heat when he sees the Marshal's eyes widen in surprise.

Then Eomer is moving closer and Faramir knows the blood is draining from his face. When Eomer lifts a hand to Faramir's face he cannot stop himself from flinching away.

Eomer frowns. "You do not want this," he says. "So, I ask the question again, why have you come here?"

Faramir finally finds his voice. "I thought that you…" he falters.

"Desired you?" Eomer says, gently. "Aye it is so, but that is of no importance if it is not to your taste. Did you think I would wish to share my bed with an unwilling partner? You have little knowledge or opinion of the Rohirrim if you think we would favour rape."

Eomer turns away and Faramir briefly closes his eyes, fighting for the strength to speak.

"I am not unwilling," he finally says.

Eomer looks at him, his eyes disbelieving and disappointed.

"Do you think me a fool, Faramir?" Eomer says. "What advantage do you hope to gain by offering yourself in this way?"

And Faramir knows that he cannot lie again. Of all the dishonour his father is forcing upon him, Faramir will not add another if he can avoid it.

"You had best take me," he says, "for I do not know what my father will do if I fail."

He sees the dawning knowledge in Eomer's eyes, followed by a flash of anger.

"Your father sends you." It is not a question and Faramir remains silent. "He would use his own son in this way?"

Faramir shrugs, but he cannot meet Eomer's eyes. "He has no love for me."

"I see." Eomer turns away again.

"I will leave," says Faramir but Eomer, who is now leaning against the table, holds up a hand.

"Wait," he says, "your father will punish you if you fail?"

Faramir rather thinks his father might kill him if he fails but he keeps his face composed.

"That is not your concern," he says. "Your only concern should be the alliance."

Eomer actually looks a little amused. "So says the one sent to distract me," he says. "Still, your father's weak strategy could work to my advantage."

Faramir is stunned at this blatant criticism of his father but he tries not to let it show, and indeed Eomer's next words wipe all other thoughts from his mind.

"You will have to stay with me."

It is a shock, and it makes Faramir's heart pounds painfully in his chest, but he forces himself to begin unlacing his tunic.

"Very well," he says, flatly.

Eomer again raises a hand.

"Not in that way, foolish one," he says, "but I think it would go better for both of us if we played along with your father's game, although," and a frown crosses the Marshal's brow, "this could be more difficult for you. I know the opinions of your people and even though they show civility to my men and myself, they may not do so with you. And I doubt your father will protect you."

Faramir already knows this and he nods.

"We will share the bed," Eomer says, "but you have my oath that I will not lay a hand on you."

Faramir nods again - he seems to have lost the ability to speak - and watches as Eomer opens a cupboard and then hands him a nightshirt.

The Marshal opens the door into the other room and leaves. Faramir can hear his voice as he speaks to those within and realises that Eomer is giving him some privacy. He quickly changes into the too-large nightshirt and scrambles into the bed, feeling dazed and rather lost. Nothing has gone as he expected or as it was supposed to and Eomer has surprised him, but Faramir is thankful for it.

He hears Eomer return to the room and quickly rolls to face the other wall. Eventually the bed dips a little and Eomer settles beside him. The bed is large and Faramir is grateful for the space between them but it is still a long time before he relaxes enough to find sleep.

When Faramir wakes, Eomer is already gone and he quickly dresses and returns to his own quarters. He sees no one in the corridors and when he reaches his rooms he stares at his uniform, still neatly folded, and wonders if he can have one more day as a Captain of Gondor.

He has just finished dressing when Boromir knocks and enters. They look at each other for a moment and then Boromir finally speaks.

"Did you spend the night with him?" he asks, his eyes avoiding Faramir's.

At first, Faramir is surprised by the question, he had not thought Boromir would ask it, but then he realises that the question is not Boromir's.

"Father wants to know?" he asks, and his suspicion is confirmed with the flash of anger in Boromir's eyes.

"Yes," Boromir says, "I am sorry." His voice is tense and apologetic and Faramir knows that Boromir has never enjoyed doing Denethor's dirty work, especially where Faramir is concerned, so he quickly clasps his brother's hand and squeezes it for a moment.

Still, he is not sure how to answer, how far he should trust Boromir with the truth, and the thought breaks his heart. In the end he decides he cannot place Boromir in the position of lying to their father; it would be too dangerous for all of them.

"Yes," he says flatly. He sees the shock in Boromir's eyes, and realises that for his brother the situation is finally something that cannot be ignored, something that he can no longer pretend is not real.

"Was it…? Are you…?" Boromir falters, and his hand grips Faramir's shoulder.

"I am fine," Faramir answers. "But I do not wish to speak of it."

"Of course," Boromir says. He lingers and Faramir finds himself wishing, for the first time in his life, that his brother would leave.

"He says that you must continue," says Boromir finally, and while the words are vague, Faramir knows exactly what they mean. He nods.

"Tell me of Osgiliath," he says, hoping to distract his brother and sighs thankfully when it works.

Faramir's day is actually as it usually is, he deals with his duties, talks to his men, plans with the other Captains, and nothing is different, but he knows that this cannot last for long.

He takes his place beside Eomer at the evening meal in a state of considerable tension. It is the first time he has seen the Marshal or Denethor for all of the day and he is not sure what to expect. Eomer is relaxed and easy, talking to Boromir on his other side, and Faramir is relieved to see that Boromir seems to bear no resentment towards Eomer. Faramir glances at his father and notes that he too is relaxed and even smug, as if pleased at some secret thought. He sees Denethor look at Eomer with satisfaction, but is not surprised when his father never meets his own eyes.

"What have you done?" he asks Eomer when he has a chance, and nods at his father in explanation for the question, but Eomer only smiles and looks amused, his eyes twinkling with good humour.

Faramir does not return to his own quarters after the meal but, full of curiosity, follows Eomer to his chambers.

"What have you done?" he asks again when they are alone, and Eomer laughs.

"I have agreed to reinforce the mission to clear Ithilien of orcs," he says. "We leave the day after tomorrow."

Boromir has already told Faramir that this is something that Denethor has been trying to reach agreement on and he looks at Eomer doubtfully.

"You did not have to do that just because of-" he begins but stops when Eomer raises a hand.

"It was a concession I had already decided to make," he says. "I simply used the timing of it to our advantage, that is all."

"But why?" Faramir asks. "Not that we don't appreciate your assistance."

Eomer is now watching Faramir with a careful expression.

"If I make a concession here, I will gain one later. Surely you did not think we came here without hoping to gain something we want?"

Faramir nods and wonders what it is that the Rohirrim hope to gain but he suspects that Eomer will not tell him until the negotiations are completed. He can hardly blame the Marshal; for he knows now how little his father can be trusted, and why should Eomer trust any of them?

Once again he lies beside Eomer through the night and once again it is many hours before he can find sleep, even though his mind is numb with exhaustion. He rises early, dressing quickly while Eomer still sleeps, and it is perhaps because of the early hour that the dice finally roll against him.

Several serving maids are scrubbing the corridor when Faramir steps out of Eomer's rooms and they look up at him in stunned amazement. Faramir's face heats, and he silently curses himself when he sees their eyes widen. He hears a stifled giggle as he strides swiftly away, and grimaces.

He reaches his quarters and flings himself into a chair, sick to the stomach, his head throbbing. It could not be worse, the gossip among the citadel servants is legendary and Faramir knows that within a few short hours the tale will be told throughout the entire city, and not only that, it will be embellished and added to.

Faramir had known that it would eventually happen but the reality is so much worse. Whispers follow him everywhere he goes during the day and so do the speculative and sneering expressions. He sees the confusion in the eyes of his men but also their loyalty, and twice he sees quickly stifled disagreements between them and some of the other guards. He is grateful and touched but he wonders how long they will keep their faith.

Faramir is pacing his quarters, steeling himself for the evening meal, when the door crashes open and Boromir strides into the room.

"Word is out," he says, and Faramir can only laugh in his brother's face.

"Did you think I had not noticed?" he asks, bitterly.

They stare at each other for a moment and Faramir can see the fear in Boromir's eyes.

"I should at least tell the men the truth of it," he finally says. "Your men are loyal to you and if the others remain ignorant we will have open fighting in the barracks."

Faramir shrugs. "You know as well as I do, what our father intends. His reaction will not confirm your story and they will not believe you," he replies. "Have you seen him?"

Boromir's eyes light with anger. "Privately. He actually seems pleased."

"Well, so he would be," Faramir points out. "As far as he is concerned his plan has worked out perfectly. It is I who bears the shame of it."

"At least there will be some relief from this," says Boromir. "We leave for Ithilien tomorrow."

Faramir nods but he cannot be so sure that this will be so for he knows that Denethor will not allow dissension in the ranks to continue for long.

He enters the Great Hall with Boromir at his side and takes his seat beside Eomer silently. His very skin itches with shame and he is unsure how to act, so he spends most of his time staring at the table, fervently praying that the time will pass quickly.

"You look pale," Eomer says to him, and Faramir briefly meets his eyes and sees the concern in them. "You should eat more."

"Don't tell me what to do," he whispers fiercely before he can stop himself, and Eomer's brow rises before he turns away.

Faramir curses himself. He knows that Eomer is not to blame for what is happening to Faramir's life, but the anger and humiliation that has been building in him all day is beginning to overtake him. He looks up, anxious for a distraction from it, and sees that his brother appears to be arguing quietly with Denethor, and his chest tightens.

When the meal is over Faramir hesitates as the Great Hall empties. He does not want to leave with Eomer and he is relieved when the Marshal finally exits the Hall. The relief is short lived when Boromir approaches him and he sees the expression on his brother's face.

"Walk with me," Boromir says, and Faramir follows him from the Hall.

"You are not to leave with us tomorrow," Boromir says without preamble.

"I see," Faramir says, and he is hardly surprised.

"Our dear father wishes you to remain here," Boromir continues. "I'll be honest with you, Faramir, he not only suspects that you would take the opportunity to flee Gondor, but he also suspects that I would aid you. And I would," he adds, "if you asked it of me."

Faramir swallows heavily. "So, I am to be a prisoner of the citadel."

"It's monstrous," Boromir explodes, slamming his fist into the wall, and Faramir flinches. "I should never have allowed any of this to happen. I'll take you out of the city myself, tonight."

Faramir shakes his head, too tired to argue. "The damage is done, Boromir," he says flatly. "It's too late, you know that. And there is no point in injuring yourself," he adds, nodding at Boromir's bruised and bleeding knuckles.

Boromir looks at him, his expression as hopeless as Faramir feels.

"Do you know what he expects me to do now?" he asks.

Faramir shakes his head.

"I'm to ensure that you go to Eomer tonight," Boromir says. "I am your guard," he adds, his voice bitter.

"Well, we both know that father is always thorough," Faramir replies. He begins to walk to Eomer's rooms and Boromir trails after him, despondent.

When they reach the door they both stop and look at each other for a moment and Faramir flinches at the pity in his brother's eyes.

"Don't look at me like that," he snaps, and Boromir's eyes widen for Faramir has never spoken to him in such a manner before.

"Are you able to act with him?" Boromir asks, nodding at the door. "For if I find out that he knowingly takes you against your will, that he hurts you, I will kill him."

It is a terrible question, and one that Faramir had not expected Boromir to ask, so Faramir's face flames with embarrassment. He briefly closes his eyes and tries not to think about the fact that he is going to lie to his brother again, but it is necessary for neither of them have ever been able to deceive Denethor and Faramir does not want to put his brother at risk.

"He does not take me unwilling," he finally says, his voice thick with tension, sees the shock on Boromir's face and realises the mistake he has made. "I mean that he does not hurt me."

Boromir stares at him for a moment, his eyes full of doubt, and Faramir cannot hold that look and gazes at the floor.

"He gives you pleasure?" Boromir whispers.

Faramir's head snaps up.

"You cannot ask me that, Boromir," he says, anger making his voice too loud and he forces himself to lower it to a furious whisper. "It is not fair of you to ask me that. It is too much. Isn't it enough that I must do this or must you humiliate me as well?"

"I am sorry," Boromir says, and his hand grips Faramir's arm. "These are… difficult times," he smiles ruefully at his inadequate description and Faramir cannot help returning the smile. "Whatever happens, you will always be my little brother, Faramir."

They wordlessly clasp hands and then Boromir leaves. Faramir watches him go with a heavy heart, and then enters Eomer's chambers.

Eomer is seated at the table, once more writing on parchment. He doesn't look up when Faramir enters the room and Faramir is reluctant to disturb him even though he feels he owes the Marshal an apology.

A sudden wave of exhaustion makes his knees tremble and Faramir slumps in a chair, resting his head in his hands. He knows that he has had neither enough sleep or food recently but he cannot bear the thought of either.

Faramir is not sure how much time has passed when he feels a hand rest on his shoulder. He looks up and Eomer stands before him, offering a goblet.

"What is this?" Faramir asks.

"It is good wine from Rohan," Eomer replies. "You will not have had it before for it is a rare vintage and we do not trade with it."

Faramir nods and takes a sip. The warmth of it runs through him, easing his muscles, and he sighs.

"It's good. And I apologise for the way I spoke to you earlier."

"There is no need," Eomer says. "You should get some rest. We must rise early."

Faramir shakes his head. "I am not going," he says flatly.


"My father demands that I remain in the citadel," says Faramir, closing his eyes.

He hears a soft curse and when he opens his eyes Eomer is pacing the room. He frowns, puzzled, when Eomer turns to him.

"I have committed all of my men," Eomer says. "I cannot draw any of them back."

Faramir cannot understand why Eomer is telling him this and the strain of making the effort to figure it out is too much for his tired mind. He sighs in sudden frustration.

"I am tired of this," he says to Eomer. "Can we talk of something else? I have discovered that I know little of Rohan besides bare history and am curious to learn more. Would you talk to me of your home?"

Eomer looks surprised at this but takes the seat near Faramir and begins to speak. Faramir realises that this is the first time they have really talked at length to each other since the day he guided Eomer through the city and he relaxes as he listens to Eomer's warm voice. Eomer is a gifted storyteller and he answers Faramir's questions easily, unwinding the stories of Rohan with simple pride and unashamed love. Faramir finds it touching and he tells Eomer so.

Eomer laughs easily and stands. "It is getting late," he says.

Faramir stands also and stumbles a little, for the strong wine on an almost empty stomach has made him light-headed, and Eomer's hands grip his arms and steady him. The sudden contact is unexpected and Faramir cannot stop the gasp that passes his lips. Eomer quickly releases him and steps away.

Please don't say anything, Faramir thinks, and is relieved when Eomer leaves the room without speaking. He quickly changes, climbs into the bed and stares at the ceiling, waiting for Eomer's return, and for the first time he becomes aware of how much he has trusted Eomer in this. He wonders what he would do if Eomer should decide to break his oath and realises that he has little power, indeed none, left. He has become a prisoner in his father's house, and in Eomer's bed.

It is the clatter of a bucket that wakes him late the following morning and when Faramir sits up and sees the face of the frightened serving maid staring at him he silently curses Eomer for not waking him.

"Leave," he says quietly, and she scuttles from the room with a last backward glance. Faramir sighs and looks down at the obviously too large nightshirt slipping off his shoulder, and knows that the whispering will be even worse this day.

He dons his uniform defiantly although his heart beats hard as he deals with the daily administration of the barracks. The men he works with are not his own and at times he sees clear contempt behind their professional demeanour but nothing untoward is said so, perhaps unwisely, he says nothing himself.

It is when he goes to the stables that Faramir notices that his day has been remarkably similar to the previous one, except in one instance. The horses of Rohan are gone, and so are the Rohirrim, and Faramir realises that the previous day at least two, usually three of the Men of Rohan had always been within his field of vision. They had not spoken to him, they had not always been the same men, and he had been too distracted to take particular note of it at the time, but now their absence is striking. The meaning of Eomer's words of the evening before becomes clear. The knowledge that Eomer had thought it necessary to protect Faramir from his own people, and in his own father's house, is sobering.

With his men gone under Boromir's command there is little for Faramir to do over the following several days so he spends much of his time in the Archives. He has always felt the most comfortable here and now it is a refuge, away from the whispers, the mocking laughter, and the sneering looks that follow him through the corridors of the citadel. The evening meals in the Great Hall of Feasts are excruciating and the worst part of his day, but as much as he knows he is hiding in the Archives, he will not slink away completely. He daily expects a summons from his father and the disgrace of losing his rank but it never comes. He wonders if his father is drawing it out in order to inflict more torture on his son and realising that he is becoming increasingly paranoid, he leaves the Archives and wanders into the lower levels of the city.

He is in the fourth level of the city when the attack comes and he realises his mistake. Six men in uniform seize him and pull him into a tight alleyway in a move so fast that he doubts anyone else has noticed. He does not recognise their faces as he tries to fight them off, but six against one are never good odds for the one, and he soon finds himself overcome. They are careful to avoid his face and hands and aim their kicks and blows at his uniform with malicious intent, as if his wearing of it deeply offends them.

"You are no Captain of Gondor," one of them snarls as they leave, confirming this suspicion.

It is some time before he can move, and he knows that his legs and back will be covered in bruises. He tenderly feels his ribs and sighs with relief that none are broken. He waits for darkness before leaving the alley and then stumbles and staggers through the city, avoiding any wandering citizens, and reaches his quarters with relief.

In the morning his father finally summons him and Faramir grimaces at the timing. He walks stiffly to the council chamber, and it is a small comfort that he has hidden the injuries so well when he sees his father's cold eyes.

"You are no longer a Captain of Gondor," his father says. He doesn't offer an explanation for the decision and Faramir doesn't expect one. He knows the game his father is playing.

"Very well," Faramir replies, calmly. "And what of my men?"

"I have word from Boromir," Denethor says. "The clearance was successful and I have ordered that your men will remain in Ithilien. A new Captain will be sent to join them."

Faramir nods, his father has thought of everything and he knows how effectively he has been isolated.

"Very well," he says again, feeling his calm slipping into anger. "May I leave?"

"One moment," Denethor says. "Your quarters are part of the barracks and are no longer appropriate for you. You will take your belongings and join the horse-master in his rooms. Boromir and the Rohirrim are already making their return to Minas Tirith and I am sure that Eomer will be delighted to have you so available to him."

Faramir no longer trusts himself to speak so he simply nods again and turns to leave.

"Faramir," his father barks, and Faramir stops but does not look at Denethor. "If the horse-master tells you anything of his plans about the alliance you will report it to Boromir immediately."

And that is too much and the anger finally erupts out of Faramir.

"I will not spy for you," he says, and ignores his father's furious roar as he leaves the room.

Faramir returns to his quarters, slowly and painfully, half expecting to be called back into Denethor's presence at any moment. But the summons never comes and when he reaches his rooms he is not surprised to find the bed already stripped and waiting for its new occupant, and his clothing neatly packed into carry-sacks.

His uniforms are stacked on a chair and Faramir changes into a tunic and soft leather pants and then places the uniform he had been wearing onto the pile. He hoists the sacks onto his shoulders, staggering slightly as they swing painfully against his bruised back, and leaves his former quarters without a backward glance. He sees no one in the corridors, for which he is thankful, and when he arrives in Eomer's chambers he slings the sacks into a corner and then sinks with difficulty into a chair.

A platter of food has been placed on the table and Faramir eats a little, deliberately striving to keep his mind blank. He can't help feeling that he is in some way to blame for his predicament, for in hindsight he knows that he should have left the City on that first night, regardless of Boromir's warnings.

He does not leave the room for the rest of the day and his confinement irks him even as he knows it is necessary. He cannot show more weakness now, and his movement is still measured and obviously painful. At night he rests fitfully, waking often, unable to find comfort as his muscles ache and his bruises throb.

He is heavy-eyed in the morning but thankful to rise, even though his body has stiffened and it is difficult to move freely. It is late in the morning when he hears the sound of many horses entering the citadel and Faramir moves slowly to the window, where there is an excellent view of the courtyard, and sees Boromir and Eomer standing with Denethor. His father greets Boromir warmly and with pride, and Faramir turns from the window quickly.

It is many minutes before he hears footsteps outside and the door is flung open. Eomer enters the room, looking over his shoulder, and Faramir hears his brother's voice.

"He was not in the courtyard and his quarters are empty," his brother is saying. "I do not know where he is."

Eomer halts before Boromir has seen Faramir, and Faramir sees his eyes flick to the sacks of clothing that Faramir has not moved from the corner.

"I hope you do not mind," Faramir says, his voice thick with tension.

"Faramir!" Boromir strides forward, his arms open, and Faramir takes a swift, avoiding step backwards and leans awkwardly against the table. His brother grips his shoulders and then embraces him anyway and Faramir cannot stop the gasp of pain leaving his lips. Eomer's eyes snap to his, a questioning frown on his face, and Faramir shakes his head, gently pushing away his brother, who thankfully does not seem to notice his slip.

"You are not in uniform," his brother says, anger sparking in his eyes.

Faramir is silent for a moment in surprise; somehow he had expected Boromir to already know of his loss of rank.

"No," he says quietly, his eyes pleading with his brother to say no more.

Boromir seems to understand, but his expression is bleak.

"I must see my father," is all he finally says, and Faramir shakes his head.

"I would not advise it," he says.

Boromir nods slowly and then looks around the room. "Why are you here?"

"I am here because I no longer live in the barracks," he says shortly, his face heating, for he had not wanted to talk of this in front of Eomer, and Boromir's eyes widen with the knowledge that their father has not provided Faramir with alternative quarters.

"Finally you understand," Faramir snaps at his brother, as he sees Eomer leave the room quietly. Boromir flushes and stiffens but then his eyes meet Faramir's and he obviously sees the humiliation in them. He grips Faramir's arm gently.

"I am sorry," he says, quietly. "I should have known what was happening here when he ordered me to leave your men in Ithilien. We must do something, Faramir, this cannot continue."

"I don't want you to get involved in this, Boromir," says Faramir, firmly. "Gondor needs you and if you take my side against father and public opinion too openly there can only be trouble from it."

Boromir shakes his head. "I won't abandon you, little brother," he says.

"And I know that," says Faramir. "I know if I need your help you will give it, and that is all I need to know."

The door opens and a few Rohirrim enter, carrying some saddlebags. One of them places a small chest on a table and then they cross to the other room quickly. They do not say anything but their presence breaks the tension between Faramir and Boromir, for which Faramir is thankful.

"I must go," Boromir finally says reluctantly.

Faramir watches him leave and then sighs. Boromir will have much to do, and amongst those duties will be recommending someone as Faramir's replacement.

The door opens again and Eomer enters, he casts a quick glance at the small chest on the table and then looks at Faramir.

"You are injured," he says.

Faramir does not deny it. "You expected this, didn't you?" he says. "That is why you were concerned about taking all of your men." He doesn't wait for Eomer to reply. "I suppose I should thank you for trying to protect me," he continues, but he can't keep the bitterness from his voice.

"You should not thank me for failing to protect you," Eomer answers, with a raised brow. "It was I who suggested going along with your father's plan and therefore placing you at risk. Did you think I would not attempt to keep you from harm?"

Faramir blinks in surprise. "You have nothing to blame yourself for," he says. "I was at risk either way."

Eomer does not reply and Faramir is grateful for it. He wants no sympathy from the Marshal for the situation he is in. A part of him feels that he should apologize for the presumption of moving into Eomer's chambers but he can't bring himself to admit that his father has forced him to it, although he suspects that Eomer is fully aware of it.

"Did you seek treatment?" Eomer asks suddenly, and Faramir's head snaps up from his contemplation of the floor. He realises that he is still leaning awkwardly against the writing-table and that Eomer is watching him, his expression unreadable.

"It is only bruising," Faramir says.

Eomer draws off his riding gauntlets and places them on the table. He opens the small chest that the Rohirrim had brought in earlier and removes a couple of small bottles of colourless liquid.

"What is that?" Faramir asks.

"It is an oil that we use for injured horses," Eomer replies. "But we have also found it very effective for men. It is very good for bruises and muscle pain."

He moves nearer to Faramir and holds out the bottle, Faramir takes it and examines it, and then he looks up at Eomer.

"Thank you," he says. "I will use it."

"You will need help," Eomer says softly.

Immediately the heat rises in Faramir's face and he curses himself for the reaction as he sees the spark of amusement in Eomer's eyes. They are both soldier's and they both know well the aid that sometimes must be given to another warrior in the field so Faramir knows that his reaction could be taken as an insult to Eomer's professionalism, regardless of the situation they are in. And within that situation Eomer has proved himself nothing but trustworthy.

"I would not attempt a seduction in a manner so obvious even if I had not made an oath," Eomer says, and Faramir winces but Eomer's eyes are full of good humour and he is smiling. Without really thinking about it, Faramir returns the smile.

"Come," Eomer says, holding out a hand. Faramir takes it and Eomer leads him slowly to a bench. Once he is seated, Eomer helps him remove his tunic and Faramir hears the slight hiss from Eomer once the bruises are revealed.

"How many?" he asks.

"Six," Faramir answers, and is thankful when Eomer asks no further questions.

He feels Eomer's fingers lightly trace along his side and shivers.

"These are deep," Eomer says. "They will heal slowly but the oil will help. It will also aid your sleep."

"Thank you," Faramir says, and he finds he thoroughly means it as Eomer smooths the oil onto his back. His hand is large and rough and the oil is warming and fragrant, and Faramir finds the combination so soothing that his eyes begin to drift shut.

"Do not sleep yet," Eomer says, his voice fully amused. "I would not like to see you injured in a fall."

"You would not catch me?" The words are out of his mouth before Faramir can think and he opens his eyes in confusion and horror for he knows exactly how teasing he sounded, and how naturally it came to him.

Eomer's hand stills at Faramir's waist and Faramir holds his breath, his heart suddenly hammering in his chest.

"Aye, I would," Eomer says, softly. "If you fell."

The meaning is clear. Faramir shifts uncomfortably on the bench and immediately Eomer's hand is gone.

"You should rest," says Eomer, "and let the oil do its work. I am due in council."

After Eomer has gone, Faramir struggles into a nightshirt and lies on the bed, staring at the ceiling blankly. He cannot understand how it has been he that has breached the barrier that Eomer had put in place for Faramir's own ease, for he has never been so careless with his words before.

Nor has he ever teased anyone in such a flirtatious manner and for the first time in his life Faramir wonders why this is so. Why is it that he has never sought a dalliance, or something even more intimate, with a woman in the way his brother often has? He has always thought simply of 'when he was married' but the truth of it is he has never even begun to think of courting someone with that aim.

He has never even imagined what it would be like, to hold a woman in his arms, to make love to her, and now when he finally tries to think of it, he finds that he cannot. It is a concept so strange to him, so foreign, that he begins to think that he will never feel sexual desire for another person.

But, of course, there is an idea that lingers around the edges of his mind that he cannot avoid forever. He has flirted with another man, he can only describe it so, and he remembers the feel of Eomer's fingers on his skin and the shiver that went through him at the touch, and finally recognises its meaning.

Faramir flings an arm across his eyes and stifles a groan of self-disgust for now the barrier is down he cannot escape the images and feelings that come to him. He wonders if this is why his father has always despised him, if his father saw this in his son before Faramir ever knew it was there himself, and finally if this is why his father knew the opportunity was there to make use of it.

His eyes burn and he cannot stay in this room. As swiftly as he can he redresses and then leaves, his pace measured and careful. After a short distance he hears footsteps behind, darts a quick glance over his shoulder and is not surprised when he sees three Rohirrim some distance away. He stops and waits.

"You may as well walk with me," he says dryly when they approach.

"Aye Captain," replies one of them with an easy smile.

"I am not a Captain," Faramir says bluntly.

The Rohirrim do not respond but they walk beside him, matching their pace to his. After a moment, Faramir looks at them.

"If we are to spend the day together, I had best know your names," he says.

The eldest of them answers, "I am Eothain, this Aldhelm," then he points to one with vibrant red hair, " and this firebrand is Garulf."

Faramir nods.

"Where do we go, Captain?" Eothain asks, and Faramir shoots him a quick, puzzled look at his continued use of a title Faramir no longer holds.

"To the stables," he finally says. "I would see the Horses of Rohan again for they are a marvel."

It is a spur of the moment reply but he sees that his answer has pleased them. They walk with him as with a friend but he sees the care in their eyes when anyone approaches and that, combined with their superior height, makes him feel as a child.

When they reach the stables Eothain, Aldhelm and Garulf show him their mounts and it becomes clear to Faramir that there is a special bond between the Rohirrim and horse. There are other Men of Rohan in the stables, including the pair that Faramir had seen on the first day he had gone to the stables with Eomer. He watches them for a moment and even though they do nothing to show it, he can see the relationship between them. He frowns, unsettled and confused, and then sees Aldhelm watching him.

"I was told they are bonded," Faramir says, quickly.

"Aye," Aldhelm replies. "For ten years now."

Faramir's brow rises in surprise. "Ten years. Akin to husband and wife?"

Garulf, who is standing nearby, laughs. "Aye, but it would not do to describe it as such to them."

"What do you mean?" Faramir asks, now fully curious.

"They are bonded – man to man," says Aldhelm. "If a man wants a wife then he has a wife. If he wants a man then he has a man. A man is not a wife."

Faramir nods, he is beginning to see that for the Rohirrim, whilst the bonded relationship is a different one where the traditional roles do not apply, it is as significant as the relationship between a man and a woman.

"Are any of you bonded also? Or married?"

"I have a wife, as does Eothain," says Aldhelm. "And this one plays the field." He nods at Garulf, who is blushing to match his hair. "Who knows if he will bond or marry? I doubt he knows it himself."

The Rohirrim nearby laugh loudly as Garulf continues to redden, and Faramir feels his own discomfort. His recent discovery of himself has made him curious about the Rohirrim but he cannot stop the shame that rises in him at the knowledge that he has felt attraction towards another male, and it is difficult to see the ease with which the Rohirrim seem to deal with such matters.

He is still with Eothain, Aldhelm and Garulf when he enters the Great Hall of Feasts. It is the first time that he has attended the evening meal since the attack, as well as his loss of rank, and there is a lot of whispering when he enters the hall. The three Rohirrim stay close to him and Faramir does not know whether to feel frustrated or grateful.

He knows he is grateful when he sees that Eomer is absent, as is his father, and he takes the seat next to Boromir with a questioning look at his brother.

"They are in the Archives looking at maps," Boromir says. "Father has thought to offer the Rohirrim land usage in exchange for a concession. Eomer did not seem very interested but they are looking to see if anywhere would be suitable."

Faramir nods and they eat for some time in silence. He can see that his brother is looking thoughtful and is not surprised when eventually Boromir turns to him with a concerned look.

"Faramir," he asks quietly. "Do you think that Eomer is a good man?"

Faramir closes his eyes briefly because at this moment Eomer is the last person he wishes to talk about. His nerves are already rising at the idea of being alone with the Marshal so soon after he has acknowledged his own attraction to him, an attraction that still fills him with confusion and shame.

"Yes, I do," he finally says, shortly.

Boromir nods. "As do I," he says. "He is a fine warrior also, and I cannot help but like him. Faramir, since the Men of Rohan have been here I have begun to feel that our dear father's opinion of them is too harsh."

Faramir is stunned at Boromir's words and can only stare at him blankly for a moment.

"You mean that you do not think their habits offensive?" he finally asks in amazement, for he had always thought that his brother had felt the same contempt for the Men of Rohan as Denethor.

"It would not be my choice," Boromir says. "But I spent much time with them in Ithilien and I do not see that they harm anyone."

"You are not saying this because I… because of my situation?"

He sees Boromir flush. "No," his brother says. "It is true that I could wish that Eomer's eye had not settled on you, for if it had not our father would never have…" he falters and then clears his throat and continues, "or that you had not been unwilling, but you say he has treated you well and I find that if you do not resent him for what he does not know, than I cannot either."

Faramir feels his face heat. "And if I had not been unwilling?" he asks his voice thick with tension. "How would you have felt then?"

Boromir glances at Faramir, his expression again thoughtful. "I would love you, little brother, as always."

Faramir is speechless as he gazes at his brother and eventually he feels his brother's hand on his arm.

"Faramir," Boromir says, "have you thought about what will happen to you when Eomer leaves? I have changed my opinion but many have not and I do not think you will be safe here."

He does not say 'without the Rohirrim' but Faramir knows that he thinks it and that if he knew about the bruises on Faramir's body he would be sure of it.

"Are you saying I should leave Minas Tirith and go with Eomer?" Faramir asks, sharply.

Boromir gives him an anxious look but says nothing more and Faramir cannot bring himself to continue the conversation. His mind is overwhelmed with all the revelations of the day and his exhaustion is beginning to return. The bruises on his back are aching and he can feel the muscles stiffening again. He waits for Boromir to leave before he rises from the table, and he smiles wryly when his Rohirrim escort immediately joins him.

"Back to quarters, Captain?" Eothain says, and Faramir nods.

He is thankful the corridors are mostly empty as his pace has slowed and his stiffness is now more obvious. At one point, Garulf attempts to take his arm and Faramir shakes him off with a scathing look.

"Is it not enough that you guard me, would you carry me as well?" he asks, and Garulf hangs his head.

"Sorry, Captain," he mumbles, and Faramir takes pity on him.

"No matter," he says with a sigh. "I am not ungrateful for your company this day."

This earns him a smile from all three and Faramir cannot help returning it. When they reach the door to Eomer's chambers each of the Rohirrim clasp his arm briefly and wordlessly, and then stride away.

Eomer is already in the room when Faramir enters it and Faramir cannot stop himself from pausing on the threshold in a sudden moment of anxiety. The Marshal smiles warmly, his eyes bright with good humour, and Faramir steels himself as he closes the door.

"You look pleased about something," he finally says, and is dismayed at the tension in his voice.

"Aye, I have what we came here for," Eomer replies.

Faramir frowns thoughtfully. "Land usage?" he asks.

Eomer nods.

"And did you have to concede much for your gain?" Faramir asks, his tension rising for the knowledge has come to him that now the Rohirrim will soon depart. Boromir's words echo in his mind and with Eomer now in front of him it is hard not to remember the feel of his hands on Faramir's skin. He makes himself move from the door but his stomach is clenched tight with anxiety… and fear, for the night stretches endlessly before him full with the risk of many temptations.

"No more than was intended," Eomer replies, his eyes watching Faramir carefully as Faramir slowly moves across the room.

"You are a skilled negotiator then," says Faramir.

"Perhaps," says Eomer. "You have not rested."

Faramir casts him a swift glance, sees that the Marshal is now holding the small bottle of oil, and stumbles a little in a moment of sheer panic.

"I am fine," he says quickly. "The oil has worked well."

"I am glad of it," Eomer says, moving to Faramir's side. "But more will aid your sleep."

"Nothing will aid my sleep now."

Faramir almost groans with despair as he realises that the thought has left his lips and once more he has spoken without caution to Eomer.

Thankfully, Eomer ignores the comment and merely drags a bench closer to the fire and points at it.

"Sit," he says, with a smile.

For a moment Faramir freezes, because the thought of Eomer touching him again now that Faramir's mind is open is terrifying but Eomer stands, implacably waiting, and eventually Faramir moves stiffly to the bench and takes his seat.

He begins to tremble as Eomer helps him remove his tunic and curses himself for it but he cannot stop and when Eomer's hands, slick with the oil, finally touch him, Faramir closes his eyes tightly, for this is torture now.

His breath comes shallow and quick and he hopes that Eomer does not notice but he knows that the Marshal will because he suspects now that Eomer has seen this in him from the beginning, and sees it in him now. When Eomer's hand traces over the bruise at his waist, Faramir cannot hold his gasp.

"Perhaps I would use such an obvious seduction if you wished it," Eomer says, his voice soft, "for I would like to give you pleasure."

Faramir's eyes fly open, his face flaming. He should move from the bench, perhaps flee the room, but he cannot whilst Eomer's heavy hands are on his body and he shakes his head in dismay at his own weakness.

"How can there be pleasure in this?" he asks, bitterly.

"Release me from my oath," Eomer whispers, and he must be closer now because Faramir feels his breath ghost across his shoulder, "and I will show you."

And how did it come to this so quickly, Faramir thinks, as behind him Eomer waits, his hands resting and still at Faramir's waist. Only a few short hours since his moment of self-knowledge and he is already faced with the choice, and the temptation is there, so strong, because if he does this than he will finally know, for sure. And Faramir finds that he wants to know.

"You are released," he finally says quickly before he can halt the words, and with a voice that is rough with tension.

He feels movement behind him and Eomer's hands are gone. When they return they slide around Faramir's waist, pulling him gently back until he feels the bare skin of Eomer's solid chest resting against his back, Eomer's bare arms sliding around his torso. Faramir trembles at the feel of warm skin against his body and fights the confusing urges to either push Eomer away or press closer to him.

"There is nothing to fear," Eomer says, his lips close to Faramir's ear. "If you wish me to stop you have only to say it."

Faramir nods his understanding because he cannot speak. He tries to relax as Eomer holds him but his tension only increases as he wonders what will happen next. It is almost a relief when he finally feels the press of lips to his throat, although he cannot help jolting slightly in shock and Eomer's arms tighten. Faramir gazes at those arms as Eomer's lips move gently on him. They are strong, more heavily muscled than his own and he cannot resist the urge to touch, to slide his hand over smooth skin. There is a scar on Eomer's left forearm and when Faramir slowly traces a finger over it, Eomer's lips suddenly press more firmly against his throat.

After this, as much as he tries, it is hard for Faramir to focus on anything besides Eomer's mouth on his skin as it travels down his throat and across to his shoulder and back again. When Eomer reaches the back of his neck and bites gently into the skin there, Faramir discovers that this area is more sensitive in him then he could have thought possible and he actually shivers in Eomer's arms, and cannot completely stifle the moan that escapes his lips. His face heats in a mixture of pleasure and shame because there is an excitement rising inside of him that he knows is the desire for another that he has never felt before.

Eomer shifts behind him and his long hair falls forward over Faramir's shoulder, teasing the skin there, and Faramir shivers again. He has been trying to keep his mind away from what has been happening with increasing difficulty and he can no longer try to ignore his body's reaction to Eomer. Finally the barrier breaks; a strangled sound, almost like a gasping sob, escapes from his lips and he sinks back against the body behind him and tilts his head in a silent plea to the lips that move against his throat.

It is clear that Eomer sense's his surrender for his hands begin to move across Faramir's chest, brushing against his nipples in way that makes Faramir's breath shorten and hitch, and his mouth is no longer gentle but moves hungrily, hot and wet as his tongue darts out to taste Faramir's skin. Eomer turns Faramir on the bench, sliding him around as his lips slide along his jaw and Faramir knows that soon Eomer will take his mouth, and he won't be able to stop himself from letting it happen.

And when it happens, it happens swiftly, so swiftly that Faramir would not have had time to draw away even if he had thought to. One moment Eomer's lips are behind his ear, then a hand on his jaw turns Faramir's head, and before he can think, Eomer's mouth is on his, hard and unrelenting. Faramir's hand rises and whether he originally intended to push Eomer away he will never know because a moment later his hand is tangled in Eomer's hair, clenching at the back of the Marshal's head.

For the first time, Eomer makes a sound, a low, rough moan against Faramir's mouth that takes him by surprise and makes him gasp. Eomer immediately deepens the kiss and his tongue slowly slides against Faramir's. And suddenly Faramir's heart is hammering in his chest and his skin feels too hot and too tight. His arousal is almost overwhelming, his groin aching with it as he struggles for breath between the kisses that are becoming increasingly passionate. Eomer's hand is hard and firm on Faramir's thigh and Faramir can feel the rapid rise and fall of Eomer's chest against Faramir's arm and when he hears Eomer moan again, the sudden awareness that Eomer is as affected by desire as he is, and that Faramir is the cause of it, is too much.

Panic begins to rise even as his arousal rises and he finally pulls his mouth away and turns his head, gasping for air. Eomer's lips are on his throat again, teeth scraping and suddenly he bites down and it sends a spark through Faramir's body that makes him jolt.

"Stop," he finally manages to say, his voice rough and breathless, and he cannot deny that the fear is there that Eomer will not obey. "Stop, it's too much."

But Eomer does stop. The hands that have been holding Faramir so tightly become gentle and he pulls his mouth away from Faramir's skin. His head drops to rest on Faramir's shoulder and Faramir can feel his panting breath, hot against his arm.

Faramir cannot speak. He'd wanted to know and now he does and there is such a tangle of emotions churning in his stomach that he doesn't know what to do. Eomer is still holding him, one arm around his waist, his other hand on Faramir's thigh, and Faramir thinks that he should move away, but he is frozen as he listens to Eomer's breathing slow down and become steady.

"Are you all right?" Eomer finally says softly, his head rising from Faramir's shoulder.

Faramir shrugs. "You knew, didn't you?" he asks. "You knew that I was like this."

"Does that matter?" Eomer says.

And Faramir suspects that it doesn't, but he finds it humiliating all the same that someone he'd only known a few short days should see something in him that he had been so blind to.

"I imagine that in Gondor, just as much as in Rohan," Eomer says, "that there are men who favour women, men who favour men, and men who will dally with both. The only difference is that in Gondor it must be hidden, and in Rohan it is not."

Faramir sighs, he understands what Eomer is telling him but it isn't easy to hear it. For now he knows that his life in Gondor will never be normal unless he denies who he really is - unless he lives a lie.

"Will you ever marry?" he asks Eomer. He's not sure why he needs to know, it could be a distraction, or the need to know that someone else has the self-acceptance that he is struggling to find, but he waits for Eomer's answer anxiously.

Eomer shakes his head. "No," he says. "I would only bond, if I found someone, for I do not favour women." It is said easily and openly and for a moment Faramir is deeply envious.

Faramir finally forces himself to meet Eomer's eyes.

"I want you," he admits, his face flushing. "And the shame of it… lingers," he adds in a whisper.

"I wish that it did not," Eomer says. His tone is light but Faramir sees the brief flash of hurt in his eyes, and knows a moment of regret for his honesty.

He places a hand gently over Eomer's where it still rests on his thigh.

"I'm sorry," he says. "Perhaps I should not have said that to you."

"There is no shame in the truth," Eomer says, with a smile. "I said once that you were a kind host, and you are, for you have a generous heart, Faramir. Even with all the trouble upon you, I have seen how you have shielded your brother. You do not need to shield me from what you are feeling. I would help you, if I could."

And Faramir hears the silent 'if you would let me' as clearly as if Eomer had spoken it aloud.

He cannot deny that a part of him wants to turn back into Eomer's arms and take what he is offering. It is an ache that he has never felt before and now that the need is awake inside him it is difficult to suppress it. But what will his life be if he fully takes this step, and even though he fears that his life in Gondor may be over, in his own mind he is still unstained by the disgrace that others have placed upon him.

He leans forward, resting his head in his hands, and sighs.

"I do not know what to do."

"I am tempted to say that you should let me show you more," Eomer says, and then he laughs, "but that would be my desire for you speaking."

Faramir smiles wryly for he has begun to appreciate this side of Eomer, the good humour that softens his honesty.

"There is something else you should consider," Eomer says and now his voice is serious. "It is a matter for which I know your brother feels some anxiety."

Faramir shifts uncomfortably. "I know what it is you would say," he says, "but Gondor is still my home and I have pledged my life to her service."

At this, Eomer finally releases Faramir and crosses the room to the table where sits a flagon of wine and some goblets. When he returns to the bench he hands Faramir one of the goblets and then drinks from his own.

"I wish that I had thought more of the repercussions when I suggested that we play your father's game," he finally says, with a rueful smile, "but I will tell the truth - I was blinded by the opportunity to be closer to you."

Faramir feels his face heat as he takes a sip from the good Rohan wine. He shakes his head.

"The repercussions if we had not could have been far worse, at least for me, and I, after all, agreed." He grimaces. "It is a fine trap my father has caught me in."

Sudden weariness, both physical and mental, overtakes Faramir and he sighs as he puts the goblet on the bench.

"I think I must try to sleep," he says.

"Aye, it grows late," Eomer agrees easily, and as has become his habit he goes into the other room, leaving Faramir with some privacy for which he feels sorely in need.

Faramir wonders if sharing the bed with Eomer will now be even more awkward after what has passed between them but by the time Eomer slides into the bed beside him, Faramir's eyes are already heavy and his body is relaxed, and for the first time in many nights he drifts into sleep easily.

In the morning he wakes just as Eomer is dressing. He watches through half-lidded eyes the play of muscles on Eomer's back as he pulls on a tunic and feels his pulse quicken. A foolish part of him had been hoping that somehow the events of the previous day would be as a dream and simply fade away but he knows that now this door has been broken open, it cannot be locked again.

Eomer ties his hair and then turns, meeting Faramir's eyes, and Faramir's face heats at being caught so openly watching, but Eomer merely smiles and then leaves the room.

It is after he has washed, dressed and eaten that Faramir realises that he has nowhere to go and nothing to do. His back no longer aches with every movement and he longs for some activity but the day stretches before him, endless in its tedium and boredom.

He knows that he cannot stay in this room though, locked away with the thoughts and memories of the night before running through his mind and he quickly leaves. He is not surprised to find Eothain, Aldhelm and Garulf lounging against the wall outside the door to Eomer's chambers and is strangely glad that they seem to have become his permanent escort, if he must have one.

They look at him expectantly and when Garulf breaks into a wide grin, Faramir finds himself returning it with a wry smile.

"Where to, Captain?" Eothain asks, and Faramir shrugs.

"Is there anywhere you would like to go?" he finally asks them after a moment of silence.

Aldhelm glances at Eothain briefly and then smiles at Faramir.

"A friend of ours was injured in Ithilien and is in the Houses of Healing," he says.

Faramir nods. "The House of Healing it is then."

Their way takes them across the sparring yards and for a moment Faramir wishes that he had not agreed to go, for at this time of day there are many training sessions and the yards are full of men, and it is with another twinge of bitterness that Faramir wonders how it came to this, that he should want to avoid the men that he was once so proud to call his own.

And the moment is only reinforced when some of the men nearby laugh and he sees a few of them cast swift, sneering glances in his direction. They are in uniform and as he meets the eyes of one of them he has a brief flash of recognition.

"… never a Captain of Gondor," he hears the low, angry mutter, and his footsteps falter.

Then suddenly Aldhelm is standing in front of him and beside him he can feel Garulf bristling, his hand reaching for the sword at his side and Faramir realises how quickly this could escalate into something dangerous to the alliance between Gondor and Rohan. An alliance that Gondor needs, he now suspects, more desperately than Denethor would ever reveal.

"Keep moving," he orders, his voice firm, and he steps around Aldhelm quickly and hopes that they will have the sense to obey him, for after all, he has no right to command them, as he has no right to command anyone anymore.

But after a moment's hesitation they fall into step beside him and Faramir releases the breath he has been holding in relief. He can sense the tension that Garulf is still holding in his body and briefly lays a steadying hand on his forearm, for Garulf is very young and, Faramir suspects, as quick to anger as he is to laughter.

Garulf glances down at him, the anger fading from his eyes as they fill with a different heat, a heat that Faramir now recognises. He sees the flush rising in Garulf's face before he quickly looks away and, with a shock, realises that he could have Garulf if he chose to. Faramir feels the desire rise in him followed by a swift moment of temptation. This is also a shock for as much as he has felt that desire and temptation with Eomer, he had wondered if he would really feel it with another male, and he knows now that a part of him had foolishly hoped that perhaps Eomer was some sort of aberration, a unique temptation that would pass once Eomer was gone.

He can't stop himself from letting out a sigh of confused frustration and beside him Eothain clears his throat and Faramir catches the swift, warning glance that he directs at Garulf. This, for some reason, sends the heat of embarrassment to his own face and for the first time he wonders exactly what Eomer has told them. Do they know that his seeming liaison with the Marshal has been an act, or do they believe that he has whored himself for Gondor, he thinks bitterly, but at least they seem to have some sort of respect for him, and he manages to suppress the bitterness as they enter the Houses of Healing.

He stands at the window, as the Rohirrim talk with their friend, and looks out over the city. The view from the Houses of Healing has always been a spectacular one and Faramir's gaze wanders over it rather wistfully. The city is beautiful and it has always been his home but he is starting to feel disconnected from it in a way that he had never thought possible.

Behind him he hears Garulf's loud laughter and he glances over his shoulder at him, his eye running over the Rohirrim as he leans against the wall. He lets himself wonder, for a moment, what it would feel like to be pressed against that body and again feels the tightening of desire in his stomach, and when he turns away and thinks of Eomer the rush of heat he feels is almost frightening in its intensity.

This is almost becoming unbearable, he thinks, the pressure of the thoughts trapped in his head making him shift restlessly as a sudden desperation to talk to someone, anyone, sweeps over him. And suddenly he realises that with his men gone (and he would never have spoken so personally to them anyway), he has only Boromir, who he cannot talk to about this he is certain, and Eomer, who is so entwined in the thoughts tangled in his head that he doubts that he could sort them out enough to be able to talk comfortably to the Marshal. He has never really had any close friends, his father's attitude towards him has been too widely known for anyone to really take the risk of earning Denethor's displeasure by befriending Faramir.

And it is that thought, more than any other that tells Faramir that he will have to leave Gondor. He doesn't belong here and possibly never has.

His eyes drift once more over the view of the city and a soft sigh escapes his lips. He senses movement at his side and when he looks up Eothain is standing beside him, smiling faintly.

"Where to, Captain?" he asks, the smile broadening into a grin.

"I'm going to take you on a tour of the city," he replies, returning the grin with one of his own.

Faramir does not take them to the well-known squares or public gardens or the Archives or any of his other favourite parts of Minas Tirith. Instead he explores, delving into areas he would never have thought to go near before, diving into dim alleys and seedy streets with a frenetic sort of energy that makes him forget the bruises that still cover his back. The Rohirrim follow him, at first with puzzlement, and then with growing amusement, as they discover sights like the rat-catcher's alley and then an array of inns and taverns filled with disreputable characters that are as entertaining as they are disturbing.

There are brief moments when Faramir wonders at himself as he downs another tankard of ale in some backstreet tavern. He has never been one to drink like this - that has been one of Boromir's habits - but he cannot deny that the buzz of the alcohol is pleasant as he drifts through the afternoon and the city in a languid haze.

He doesn't think the Rohirrim have been drinking as much as he for they seem to be able to walk with more purpose and finally, early in the evening, they pull him into a tavern near the citadel that is full of other Rohirrim. Immediately a tension that he had not really been aware of leaves them and he belatedly realises that he had actually made their task of protecting him more difficult.

"Sorry," he says softly, tugging on Garulf's arm and blinking up at him apologetically when the movement seems to make Garulf lose his balance, but Garulf only laughs and wraps an arm around Faramir's waist and when Faramir leans against him the room is steady again.

"There's a table over there," Eothain says, as Aldhelm pushes forward to the bar. "Best sit him down. I'll be back soon." He frowns for a moment at Garulf. "And take care, Garulf."

Garulf nods, his expression slightly guilty, and Faramir frowns at them both. He opens his mouth to question them, but already Garulf is pulling him through the crowd and before he can discover where Eothain could be going, Garulf has pushed him gently onto a bench against the wall and taken a seat beside him.

Faramir stares at Garulf, still trying to get his muddled thoughts straight, and when Garulf returns his look and he sees the heat in his eyes that he'd seen before, something in his stomach twists.

"Why don't you kiss me?"

It takes a moment for Faramir to realise that the words have come from his own mouth and the flood of heat to his face only increases his embarrassment, but it is an embarrassment that is tempered with excitement as he sees Garulf's eyes drift to his mouth.

"Aye, I'd like to," he hears the soft reply, and then Garulf's eyes return to his. "But I shouldn't."

"Why shouldn't you?" he asks, and he frowns at Garulf. "I'm not a whore, you know, whatever you may have heard."

He sees Garulf's eyes widen in shocked dismay, and a part of Faramir cannot believe that he is saying these things, and he suspects that some time in the future he will be thoroughly horrified at himself, but at this moment something inside him thrills at the freedom of finally voicing the thoughts that have been trapped in his head, and his heart, for so long.

"No, really, I don't…" Garulf is saying, the words tumbling from him, "…we don't think that. You shouldn't think that we think that. But the Marshal…"

Faramir places a hand on Garulf's thigh, effectively silencing him.

"I want to know if it will feel different," he says softly, leaning into Garulf's space. "So, what about if I kiss you? Would you let me?"

He hears the quick breath that Garulf takes, and there is a feeling of power in Faramir in this moment that he has never felt before and it is almost as intoxicating as the alcohol he has been drinking throughout the day. And that thought is sobering, because this power that he is feeling, and he realises that it is the power of someone else's desire for him, could lead him to take advantage of the moment, take advantage of Garulf and compromise his loyalty to the leader that he clearly admires.

Faramir shakes his head and moves away, smiling gently when he sees the flash of disappointment in Garulf's eyes. He senses someone placing some tankards on the table and when he looks over, Aldhelm is taking the seat opposite them, his eyes moving between Faramir and Garulf, full of concerned curiosity.

"I'm sorry, Garulf," Faramir says, after taking a satisfying sip from his tankard. "I shouldn't have done that to you." He puts the tankard down and turns back to Garulf, frowning as the room seems to waver around him. "And I shouldn't have lied to you either."

"Lied to me?" Garulf's voice is hesitant and confused.

Faramir sighs. "When I told you I wasn't a whore," he says, ignoring the gasp he hears from across the table. "Because that's exactly what I am. I didn't run, you know, instead I obeyed him and I was going to go through with it. So, there you are," he says, raising the tankard in a toast to himself, "a whore for Gondor."

He takes a deep drink and then looks at the other two in irritation when all they do is look back at him blankly.

"You're supposed to drink," Faramir reminds them and then sighs again. "Mind you," he says thoughtfully, "I do wonder if the reason I didn't run is because Eomer is so… attractive."

"Thank you," says an amused voice and Faramir looks up to see Eomer standing beside the table with Eothain hovering behind him.

Faramir shrugs and then waves his tankard at Eomer in a silent toast. He takes another mouthful of ale and watches as Aldhelm stands and begins speaking rapidly into Eomer's ear. He sees the brief frown that crosses Eomer's face but he only nods once and then slides onto the bench beside Faramir and Faramir blinks in surprise because surely that means that Eomer is actually sitting on Garulf. He looks around in confusion, and then spots Garulf standing with Eothain in the exact space that Eomer had been a moment ago.

"How did you do that?" he asks Eomer curiously.

Eomer laughs and takes a sip from his own tankard.

"I hear you've had an interesting afternoon," he says, turning to Faramir.

"Yes," Faramir agrees firmly. "I've seen rat-catchers and I'm drunk. And I should probably tell you that I tried to kiss Garulf."

Eomer raises an eyebrow and casts an unreadable look at Garulf, who flushes and shuffles his feet and then turns away, striding towards the bar.

"You're under no obligation to me, Faramir," Eomer finally says, but there is a look in his eyes, akin to disappointment, that Faramir does not like.

"I was only curious," he says softly. "I wondered if it would be different, but I don't think it would have been as good as it was with you."

For a brief moment, the haze around his brain lifts, and Faramir knows with perfect clarity that when the next day dawns he will feel absolute horror at the things he has been saying in the last hour or so, but then the cloud descends again and he laughs gently.

"But it does mean," he says, "that I've not been very successful with the occupation my father has chosen for me. So, I think I might try piracy next."

"Piracy?" Eomer repeats, his eyes now full of amusement.

"Yes," Faramir nods seriously. "I'm going to have to find something to do when I leave Gondor."

"So, you've decided to leave?" Eomer asks, and Faramir nods again.

"I don't belong here anymore," he says simply. "Boromir will help me get out of the city."

"I had hoped to talk to you about this," Eomer says, and then he smiles. "But I don't think that this is the right time."

Faramir barely understands the words because his eyes are drifting over Eomer's body and the slow burn that is rising in his own body is fairly distracting. He'd reacted to Garulf physically as well and he'd thought he wanted to kiss him, but he knows, without any doubts, that he wants to feel Eomer's mouth on his again. He leans closer to Eomer, invading his space, and his excitement grows when he sees Eomer's eyes watching his lips.

Faramir presses closer again and it is almost a relief when Eomer's arm slides around his waist and he turns to face Faramir fully, his head bending until his lips rest gently against Faramir's in a kiss that is soft for a moment and then quickly becomes heated as Faramir completely loses his head and surges forward into the slick, wet heat of Eomer's mouth.

His arms wind around Eomer's shoulders, his hands tangling in Eomer's long hair that is like soft silk between his fingers, and he moans into Eomer's mouth as Eomer turns them, pressing Faramir hard against the wall. For a moment he feels a sharp stab of pain from one of the bruises on his shoulders, but it fades quickly when Eomer's tongue slides hotly against his.

And then, just as suddenly as it seemed to start, it is over, as Eomer pulls away and looks down at Faramir.

"It would be so easy for me to have you tonight," he says, his voice a low murmur against Faramir's ear as Faramir blinks in confusion. "But this will not happen, not while you are drunk, not while you may still have doubts, and not while you think that you are still under your father's orders in some way. You are not a whore, Faramir, and you never will be."

Faramir flinches slightly and he feels Eomer's arms tighten around him. The buzz of the alcohol is receding and a dull ache is beginning to pound in the back of his head. He leans forward and rests his forehead on Eomer's shoulder, not caring that it might appear as a weakness to those around him, for he has learnt now that the Rohirrim judge these things differently.

Eomer's final words echo in his head, and whilst his first reaction to them had been distressed disbelief, because this was something he had never wanted to talk about with Eomer, now he finds that he is grateful for them. A part of him had been serious when he had wondered if the reason he had obeyed his father instead of fleeing had been because somewhere deep and unacknowledged inside him, he had already been attracted to the Marshal. He can see now that if Eomer was not as he is, than Faramir would not have followed his father's command, and the feeling of relief is so tremendous that Faramir only now realises how much the shame he has been feeling has been tangled up with that situation.

He sighs against Eomer's shoulder. "My brother said you were a good man, Eomer, and he was right."

Eomer's arms tighten again. "Then you trust me?" he asks against Faramir's ear.

"You haven't given me a reason not to," says Faramir, and then lets out a low laugh, "whereas I… my father told me to spy on you, you know."

"Aye," Eomer says easily. "I thought that he would have for that is his measure, but it's not yours."

"No," Faramir sighs, and then frowns as his head spins. "I'm sorry," he continues, "but I think I'm going to pass out now."

The last thing he hears is Eomer's laugh.

It is with a stifled moan that Faramir wakes the following morning. He knows that it is morning because the room is far too bright when he finally opens his eyes and he clenches them shut again in painful reaction. His head is throbbing and his mouth is dry and he can't yet remember too much of how he came to be this way but when he does he knows that he is not going to like it.

He hears the soft murmur of voices somewhere in the room and cracks one eye open again carefully. He knows that he is lying on Eomer's bed and it is with intense relief that he sees that he is fully clothed except for his boots. Of course, the thought of Eomer immediately brings to mind the kiss of the evening before and Eomer's words to him, which of course immediately leads him to the memory of what he himself had been saying, and doing… and he is definitely not looking forward to seeing Garulf again.

Faramir sits up on the bed carefully and looks across the room to see Eomer and Boromir sitting on the bench beside the fire talking quietly. He almost groans loudly because he is not sure that he can deal with his brother this morning, but instead settles for a soft moan that makes Eomer turn his head quickly.

"Finally," it is Boromir's voice, impatient and full of urgency, and he swiftly rises and crosses the room to stand beside the bed, looking down at Faramir with an exasperated look that has Faramir frowning back at him in annoyance.

"Don't yell," Faramir says, his voice rasping in his throat.

"I'm not yelling," says Boromir, and a brief grin crosses his face. "You chose a fine time to start this sort of behaviour. We need you with a clear head today so get your act together, little brother."

Faramir frowns at him again, and then blinks when a hand waves a goblet in front of his face.

"Here." It is Eomer, who now stands beside Boromir with a far more patient look on his face, which Faramir greatly appreciates.

"What is it?" Faramir asks, because he really does not think he wants to even see alcohol ever again.

"Water," says Eomer.

"Thank you," Faramir breathes with heartfelt gratitude that has Eomer grinning down at him, and he quickly empties the goblet in one long swallow and then slumps back on the bed, closing his eyes.

"Faramir, you cannot go back to sleep," says Boromir. "We have to talk to you. Get up."

"No," says Faramir, firmly. "I think unfortunate things may happen if I move right now. If you really insist on yelling at me, Boromir, you can do it right here."

He hears Boromir huff, and opens his eyes to look up at him.

"I told you, I'm not yelling," Boromir says, smiling ruefully. "And we don't have time for you to be an invalid. The Rohirrim are leaving tomorrow and we must act quickly."

Faramir's eyes slide to Eomer, who is still standing beside Boromir.

"Is that true?" he asks quietly.

Eomer nods. "Aye, the alliance agreement will be signed this afternoon and there will be a banquet tonight. My injured are ready to travel so we will leave in the morning."

"So, any last minute changes to the alliance must go through this morning," Boromir says, "and we have some last minute changes."

Faramir frowns. "What are you talking about Boromir?"

It is Eomer who speaks. "You said last night that you would leave Gondor. Do you still hold to that or do you regret it?"

Faramir looks up at him for a moment and then sighs. "I said a lot of things last night that I regret but that is not one of them. I know that I will have to leave."

"Exactly," says Boromir. "But you know what father is like, if you just try to leave he'll have you dragged back."

"Do you really think so?" Faramir asks puzzled. "Surely my disgrace is so complete now, and my usefulness will soon be over, why would he want me to stay?"

He sees the blush rise in Boromir's cheeks, and frowns.

"There are powerful men in Gondor," Boromir says slowly, his eyes sliding away from Faramir's, "with certain… appetites."

Faramir feels the blood draining from his face. "Tell me you are jesting," he says, his voice barely loud enough to be heard. He cannot say anymore and he searches Boromir's face for some sign that he has misunderstood but when he doesn't see it he cannot even find the emotion to be angry. All he can do is wonder if his father ever had any feeling for him.

His eyes meet Eomer's, his face flushes in humiliation, and he quickly turns back to Boromir.

"Well, that just makes me more determined to go," he finally says. "But Boromir, I begin to question our father's sanity and I worry for you. You will have to be strong for Gondor alone and I would rather stand beside you, but I will keep contact and you know that if you have need of me, I will return."

Boromir sighs in exasperation but he smiles at Faramir fondly.

"Will you shut up and listen," he says. "I'll be fine, you know that, but you must leave and leave soon, and it would be best if you went in some sort of official capacity," he glances at Eomer and then continues. "We have the opportunity to make that happen and our dear father would not really be able to argue against it because in a way it's his own idea."

Faramir's head begins to pound even more as he looks at Boromir in confusion.

"Could you just get to the point before I die?"

It is a relief when it is Eomer's warm voice that answers him and it is with a quick burst of gratitude that Faramir is finally able to look at him again.

"Your father spoke of wanting to send someone to oversee the land usage agreement. I blocked it at first because I wanted to be able to specify who it would be and I also wanted someone who would be able to assist me with an idea I have for setting up a proper Archive in Aldburg and also, eventually, in Edoras."

"And you want to specify me?" Faramir asks flatly, and while one part of him can see the sense behind the idea, another part of him is humiliated and angry, and he knows that it shows on his face when he sees Eomer's eyes widen.

"Faramir-," Boromir begins, and then stops when Eomer rests a hand on his shoulder.

"Can I speak with Faramir alone for a moment?" Eomer says, and Boromir frowns.

"We don't really have time for this," Boromir says, and Eomer smiles at him.

"It will be fine," he says and Boromir shrugs his shoulders, glances at Faramir with an anxious look and then goes into the other room.

After he has gone Eomer sits down on the end of the bed and gazes at Faramir.

"You don't want to go to Rohan?" he asks, his voice mild.

Faramir pulls himself up and leans back against the headboard of the bed, stalling for time. His head is still pounding and it is worsened by the anger that is still running through his veins.

Finally he shrugs. "Better one client than many," he says, bitterly, "so by all means, go and arrange my life with my father and I'll just lie here and take it, which is after all what I was always supposed to do."

"That was uncalled for, Faramir," Eomer says, his voice tight and when Faramir looks up he sees the fury in his eyes.

Faramir runs a hand through his hair and winces at the contact with the tender skin of his aching head. The anger is draining away now leaving him exhausted and full of shame.

"I know," he says quietly. "I'm sorry, I don't know why I said it."

"I'm not suggesting this because I want to have you near," Eomer says, his voice still full of tension and his eyes still angry, "or to hurt your pride."

"If you came to Rohan you would be free of all this," he continues. "Free of a situation that I am partly responsible for and you would be safe. You would not even have to see me if you did not want to, and you would certainly be under no obligation to me. That would be your choice, just as it is your choice now. If you do not want to go to Rohan I will not make the suggestion to your father."

Faramir sighs again, this time more forcefully, because the anger that had faded is overtaking him again.

"Will you stop lecturing me," he says, his voice rising. "Not to mention patronising me. How kind of you to offer me so many choices, Eomer. Obviously it has not escaped your notice that I've not had many of those given to me lately but that doesn't mean I'm a child."

"Then stop acting like one," Eomer says tightly, "and tell me what you want to do."

Faramir gasps, speechless with anger, but he closes his eyes and forces himself to calm down because he knows that this conversation is getting out of a hand, and because he also knows that what he had said earlier had hurt Eomer and that Eomer has a right to be angry with him.

Before he can say anything though, he feels a hand resting on his leg and he opens his eyes to see Eomer watching him with wry amusement.

"Well, that was interesting," Eomer says. "And I apologise. I know this isn't easy."

"No," Faramir says with a sigh. "I'm sorry. You're right, my pride was hurt and I took that out on you and I shouldn't have. You've been a good friend to me, Eomer," and he blushes slightly as he thinks of the other things that Eomer has been, and of what he could be.

He feels Eomer's hand tighten on his leg and for a moment he is tempted to move closer.

"Do you think my father would agree to this?" he finally asks.

"With some manipulation from Boromir and I, yes I do," Eomer says.

Faramir takes a deep breath and looks at Eomer doubtfully.

"Could you give me a moment?" he asks. "I know that we don't have much time, but I need to think about this."

Eomer nods and Faramir closes his eyes. He feels Eomer leave the bed and hears him move over to the fire and for a moment his entire focus is on the Marshal as he strains to hear the sound of his movements. Faramir frowns slightly and forces his attention away from where Eomer is standing by the fire, but the moment seems significant, as if it is bound to the decision he has to make. The truth is, he knows, that until this morning his decision to leave Gondor had not formed much beyond the moment of departure, he had not really thought on where he would go or what he would do.

And now the path to Rohan lies before him, a gleaming road full of temptation and if he follows it how will he ever avoid succumbing to his own desires? He would have work to do there, and work that would benefit Gondor and the alliance with Rohan, and this he can embrace, but Faramir knows that if he goes to Rohan he will eventually have to embrace a part of himself that he is still, in some small way, trying to fight.

He hears the door open but does not open his eyes as footsteps cross the room.

"You should not have let him sleep," he hears his brother's impatient voice. "We are running out of time."

"Patience, Boromir," Eomer says, his voice so low that Faramir strains to hear it. "There is still time and he is not sleeping. This is a hard decision and you must give him the time he needs to make it."

"I wish he did not have to make it," Boromir replies, but his voice is now quiet and full of sadness and suddenly Faramir's throat is tight. "But at least I will not constantly worry about him if he is in Rohan."

And Faramir sighs, because with those words Boromir has effectively made the decision for him, even if he had not already begun to feel that he would be foolish not to take the opportunity offered to him.

Faramir opens his eyes and moves off the bed, sighing again in relief when he notices that his head is no longer throbbing. The two standing by the fire turn to him in expectant silence and Faramir nods.

"You had best go and see our father," he says to Boromir. "If he agrees, I will go to Rohan."

He does not look at Eomer, for he is not certain what he wants to see in the Marshal's eyes, but watches as Boromir nods and then moves to the door. After a moment Eomer follows and once they are gone, Faramir pours himself another goblet of water and drinks deeply. He notices his belongings still in carry-sacks in the corner of the room and smiles ruefully with the knowledge that at least he does not have to pack.

He has washed, dressed and just managed to slowly eat a piece of bread when a page arrives with a summons from his father. He had expected for this to take longer and is impressed, it seems that his brother and Eomer make a formidable team.

His nerves are rising as he leaves the room and they only increase when he finds his usual escort of Eothain, Aldhelm and Garulf waiting for him outside. The heat rises to his face and he sees an answering blush on Garulf, and takes a deep breath. Best to get this over with as quickly as possible, he thinks.

"Where to, Captain?" Eothain asks with a grin, and Faramir smiles.

"Council chamber," he says, "but first I suspect that I owe you all an apology for yesterday, particularly you Garulf. I did not mean to embarrass any of you for I have come to count you as friends."

He hopes that he has not said too much, for after all they have merely been doing the duty placed on them in guarding him, but he is relieved when he sees the pleased expressions on their faces.

"No need, Captain," says Eothain. "We've all had too much ale at one time or another. Especially Garulf."

Their laughter is natural and unforced and Faramir finds himself joining them. He meets Garulf's eyes and some of the nervous tension he has been feeling lessens as he sees the simple good humour in them.

But the tension returns when he enters the Council chamber and sees the grim face of his father. Eomer is not there, but Boromir is, leaning against the wall in his usual way, his face closed and guarded. Faramir can see the quiet triumph in his eyes though, and is taken aback when a wave of relief sweeps through him.

"You wanted to see me, father?" he asks finally, as Denethor continues to glare at him.

"It seems the horse-master cannot be parted from you," his father replies, his voice full of contempt and Faramir senses Boromir shift restlessly. "He has suggested that you return with him to Rohan, as a representative of Gondor, to oversee the land usage agreement. I have agreed. At least in Rohan you will be of some use. You will leave with the Rohirrim tomorrow."

Faramir bows his head. "Very well, father," he agrees, wondering if there will be any words of farewell between them. "Is there anything else?"

"You have your orders," his father says, his eyes hard, and Faramir lets out one last sigh of regret before turning on his heel and heading for the door. His relationship with his father, if he ever had one, is over and as Faramir wonders if he will ever see him again he finds that he does not really care.

At the door he pauses for a moment, looks back, and feels a wild impulse to sever the connection so completely that his father will never call him back to Gondor.

"Perhaps, father," he says, "it is I who cannot be parted from the horse-master."

He sees the sudden fury in his father's face, and the disgusted contempt in his eyes, and almost wants to laugh. Instead he bows his head once more and leaves.

When he returns to Eomer's chambers, Eomer is there, standing by the fire, looking down into it thoughtfully. The firelight flickers on his face and makes his hair glisten seeming with gold, and Faramir pauses for a moment on the threshold, strangely breathless.

Eomer looks up and smiles. "Did all go well?"

Faramir finally closes the door and steps slowly across the room, drawn to Eomer like a moth to lamplight and, he feels, almost as helplessly.

"Yes," he replies, "I am fairly certain that I will never be welcome in Gondor again."

"What did you do?" Eomer asks. He looks puzzled but there is soft amusement in his eyes.

Faramir takes a deep breath. "I told him that I could not be parted from you."

"I see," Eomer says, his voice very low and the amusement fading from eyes. "And is that true?"

Faramir closes his eyes. He remembers that moment earlier, before he had made the decision to go to Rohan, when he had felt so intently focused on Eomer, and the moment in the council chamber when he had felt the relief flood through him. He had thought that the decision he had made had been about practicality and easing Boromir's worry but now Faramir acknowledges to himself that behind it all, pushed back deep, has been the thought of Eomer.

"I think," he says quietly, opening his eyes and meeting Eomer's intent look, "that it might be."

Eomer's hand on his arm pulls him closer and Faramir steps into Eomer's embrace even though his heart is hammering and his stomach is tight. Once again the situation has moved forward quickly and, once again, it is he that has driven it forward and Faramir wonders at how natural this now feels, to stand with Eomer's arms tight around him, with Eomer's head bending slowly towards his. The shame he had felt no longer lingers and it is almost too easy to raise his head and meet Eomer's mouth with his own.

"I would not be parted from you either," Eomer whispers against his lips, the kiss deepens and Faramir feels the passion between them rising swiftly.

Their mouths are wet heat together, biting and hungry. Faramir moans into it and does not resist when Eomer pulls him towards the bed. When Eomer lies back, Faramir follows blindly, his mouth seeking Eomer's again as he hovers over the Marshal's body, gasping at the feel of Eomer's firm hands sliding down his sides and clasping his hips.

Then Eomer's hands move between them and begin to loosen his laces. Faramir almost draws back but the movement against his aching hardness is tantalising. He has felt his own hand there as all men have, but never another's and the thought of Eomer touching him sends a wave of hot longing through his body that is overpowering. He feels his arms trembling and once Eomer's hand is upon him he can no longer hold himself back.

He surges forward, his mouth hard against Eomer's and presses down against the Marshal's body. Eomer's hand guides his hips and when their groins meet, Faramir realises that Eomer has also unlaced himself for his erection presses against Faramir's, hot and smooth and hard. It is shocking and overwhelming but it does not stop Faramir from thrusting down against it, and then again.

Eomer groans against Faramir's lips and then pulls his mouth away, sliding it against Faramir's throat and biting the skin there gently as Faramir strains against him. They have found a rhythm now and Eomer's hands are firm and encouraging on Faramir's hips, his fingers pressing into the cheeks of Faramir's rear as he meets Faramir's thrusts with his own.

Faramir is gasping now, struggling for air, as the heat rises between them, feels the tingling pressure and knows that he cannot last much longer. Beneath him Eomer shudders, his hands clamping down on Faramir's hips and pulling him hard against him. Faramir feels the surge of moisture between them, feels the pulse of Eomer's climax in the erection pressed against his own and follows him into it, hard and bone-jarring, a rush of sensation that leaves him trembling and moaning in Eomer's arms.

Eomer rolls them to their sides and Faramir stays there even after his trembling ceases, feeling Eomer's chest moving against his own as they both breath deeply. Uncertainty is beginning to intrude in Faramir's mind. The moment has happened so swiftly, taking him almost unawares, and now he has lain with another person and that person is a man. He is unsure of what to say or what to do and can only lie in Eomer's arms, his eyes tightly closed, and wait.

Finally there is the soft brush of lips against his own, and Faramir opens to it, letting the doubts slide away against Eomer's tongue. He is sure they will rise again, and soon, but for now he focuses on the languid satisfaction in his body and the gentle press of Eomer's mouth.

Eventually Eomer pulls away and a sigh ghosts over Faramir's lips.

"The time for the signing is near and I had best go while I can," he says softly against Faramir's ear, "for soon I will want you again."

The promise behind the words sends a tremor through Faramir's body and for a moment he wants to tell Eomer to stay, not only for the pleasure that would follow, but because once alone he knows that he will not be able to avoid his thoughts. For while the sense of shame over his desire is gone, there is now a rising embarrassment that he has allowed himself to succumb to it so quickly and completely. And if he has gone this far, what else will he allow himself to do?

Eomer rises from the bed and Faramir stretches out on his back, pulling his tunic down over his open laces and keeping his eyes closed. He can hear Eomer moving about the room, and the rustling of clothing as he changes, but still Faramir does not watch. He suspects that he might be hiding so when he hears Eomer move to the door he forces himself to open his eyes.

"I'll see you at the banquet," he says, and Eomer smiles and nods and then is gone.

For a moment, Faramir sits silently, staring at the closed door but then, before his thoughts can rise, he quickly moves across the room to the washbowl and cleans himself off, then changes into more formal clothing.

He has just finished dressing when there is a knock on the door and Boromir enters.

"I saw Eomer on his way to the council chamber so I knew you would be alone," he says. "Thankfully father has now recovered from your interview. Nicely done, little brother, but I could wish that I had not been left to deal with the aftermath."

Faramir returns his brother's grin with a quick smile. "I'm sorry," he says.

"No matter," Boromir says, taking a seat on the bench by the fire. "Eomer looked in very good humour. It made me wonder if you had perhaps spoken the truth to our dear father?"

The question is an echo of Eomer's earlier one but this time Faramir is reluctant to answer it, for if he does he will have acknowledged something that until now he has only admitted within the privacy of his relationship with Eomer, and he now realises that there has been a certain sort of safety in that.

Boromir is watching him carefully, and Faramir feels the flush rising in his face.


"When Eomer…" Faramir begins, and then halts searching for the words. "I have not been unwilling when…" he shakes his head in frustration as Boromir looks at him, concern growing in his eyes.

"I can't talk about this with you yet, Boromir," Faramir finally says. "But I won't be unhappy in Rohan. Can you be content with that?"

Boromir is silent for a moment, his eyes searching Faramir's. Finally he nods.

"Yes," he says, simply.

Faramir smiles and then quickly changes the subject, thankful when Boromir follows his lead.

They are still talking when they realise it is time for the banquet and they enter the Great Hall of Feasts, with Faramir's escort trailing behind them, and take their seats together.

Eomer is seated with Denethor and it is easy for Faramir to focus on Boromir. Long after the feast is over he sits with his brother, beside the dying fire, as they tell stories and reminisce over the days of their childhood. Faramir knows they are both dreading the morning, for all the other times they have been separated it has been for a finite amount of time, and now neither of them knows when he will see the other again.

Finally the servants begin to clear around them and they reluctantly leave the Great Hall. Faramir is thankful that his escort seems to have decided that he is safe in his brother's company for when he reaches the door of Eomer's rooms and turns to Boromir he knows that this is their real farewell. In the morning, they will part in public, in the most formal fashion, but this moment, now, is their final together in Gondor, as brothers.

"Boromir…" he begins, and then the tightness rises in his throat and he is unable to continue.

Boromir smiles but it is more of a grimace.

"Be safe, little brother," he says, dragging Faramir into a tight embrace.

"Come to Rohan when you can," Faramir finally says against Boromir's shoulder, and inadequate as it feels he knows that Boromir understands everything he is feeling behind the words.

They stand in the corridor for many moments before Boromir finally pushes Faramir gently away and strides swiftly and silently down the corridor. Faramir watches him until he is gone and then enters Eomer's room.

He knows it is very late so he is not surprised that Eomer is already in the bed, sleeping soundly, and Faramir changes into a nightshirt as quietly as he can and slips into the bed beside him.

He is exhausted, so much seems to have happened in such a short time, and he has made so many quick decisions that he almost feels as if time is racing ahead of him as he struggles to mentally keep pace. Even so, it is some time before his eyes grow heavy and drift shut.

It is still dark when he wakes and he wonders how long he has slept and what has woken him so suddenly. A moment later he feels the arm sliding over his waist and the soft press of lips to his shoulder and gasps.

"You are awake?" Eomer whispers.

"Yes," he responds quietly, and already he can feel himself hardening as Eomer's lips slide along the back of his neck.

He cannot stop his moan when Eomer's hand slides under his nightshirt, stroking across his stomach as Eomer presses close behind him. He can feel Eomer's own hardness firm against him and in the close darkness it feels safe to press back against it. When he hears Eomer's soft gasp, he does it again.

Then Eomer's hand is between them, sliding between Faramir's thighs and pushing his leg upwards. Faramir remembers the stories about the Men of Rohan that Boromir had told him so long ago, and freezes.

"I'm not… I can't-"

"Hush," Eomer interrupts his faltering words. "All will be well. Trust me."

And Faramir releases a soft sigh of relief for Eomer has already released his leg and has wound his arm around Faramir's waist again. He grips Faramir's erection, his hand slick with some sort of moisture, and Faramir moans at the sensation.

It is only when Eomer thrusts against him that Faramir realises that Eomer's own erection is trapped between his thighs. It is a strange sensation and when Eomer presses harder against him, his erection sliding along the crease of Faramir's rear, and Faramir hears Eomer's stifled groan and feels his hot breath against his shoulder, Faramir decides there is a great deal of pleasure in it. He rocks back against Eomer, and then forward into Eomer's tight grip and stifles his own groan.

His excitement rises steadily as Eomer moves against him and Faramir finds himself wondering about the stories Boromir once told him. At the time, he had thought them disgusting and he had not been able to believe that men would do such things for pleasure but now he finds himself straining back, trying to feel more of Eomer, and in the moment that he wishes that he could feel what it would be like to take Eomer inside him, his body shudders and tenses and his release comes, unexpected and intense.

He is still trembling with it when Eomer groans again and pulls Faramir tightly back against him and a few moments later Faramir feels the warm spread of Eomer's seed between his thighs and grimaces at the mess.

A few moments later Eomer presses a kiss to Faramir's shoulder and leaves the bed. Faramir hears the sound of water pouring into a bowl and is relieved when Eomer returns with a wet cloth but he still blushes in the darkness when Eomer presses the cloth between Faramir's legs.

After the sticky mess is gone Faramir rolls onto his back and finds himself lying in Eomer's arms, as Eomer presses soft kisses to his jaw and lips.

"What time is it?" Faramir asks.

"We have a couple of hours yet," Eomer says. "You should get more sleep."

Faramir laughs softly. "You will not wake me up again until we must rise?"

"I cannot make any promises," Eomer says, his voice full of amusement.

Faramir laughs again but his heart is still beating hard in his chest as he remembers what he had thought just before his release. He wants to ask Eomer about it, ask whether he has ever done such a thing, and if it was enjoyable, but he cannot find the courage, and sighs.

Eomer presses a light kiss to Faramir's mouth and when he then deepens it, Faramir returns it eagerly, but after a moment Eomer pulls away.

"We should rest," he says, a hint of regret in his voice. "We have a long journey to make."

Faramir frowns as he realises that he knows they are going to Rohan and that is all he knows.

"Are we going to Edoras?"

"Not immediately," Eomer replies. "First we go to Aldburg, my home, and that will take several days. Some time after that we will make the journey to Edoras. My sister is there and it is some time since I have seen her, and I must present Gondor's representative to my uncle," and Faramir feels a soft kiss pressed to his shoulder.

"You have a sister?" Faramir asks, curiously.

"Aye," says Eomer. "Eowyn. She is some years younger than I and my uncle rears her as he did me, after our parents died."

Faramir wants to ask more but Eomer moves away and settles beside him, and Faramir feels his eyes grow heavy, and his body is so relaxed that he cannot fight against it.

When next he wakes dim, grey light is filtering through the window and he can hear Eomer moving around the room. Faramir leaves the bed reluctantly, for there is a chill in the early morning air and it will be some days before he feels the comfort of a bed again. He washes quickly, the water is cold, and he has just finished dressing in riding leathers when Eomer's arms wind around his waist and a soft kiss is pressed to his throat. Faramir jumps slightly and feels Eomer's puff of laughter against his skin; he is not used to this sort of affection and he is learning quickly that Eomer has an easy warmth that he is not reluctant to show.

Faramir presses a quick kiss to Eomer's mouth and then pulls away, blushing, as the door begins to open. His blush deepens when it is Garulf who enters the room but the Rohirrim only nods at them with a grin, and then collects Faramir's carry-sacks from the corner.

"Pack-horses are almost ready," he says to Eomer, and then leaves.

"I had best get to the stables and find a mount," Faramir says, but Eomer stops him with a hand on his arm.

"Stay and eat," he says, pointing to the tray of food on the table. "Your father felt it would be better if the Rohirrim supplied a horse for you. I had a casualty in Ithilien so I have a spare," he adds, frowning.

Faramir nods, his eyes full of sympathy for he knows that it is not easy to lose a man, especially far from home, but a part of him is also pleased at the idea of riding one of the horses of Rohan.

Half an hour later he is in the great courtyard when Eomer places the reins of a beautiful bay gelding into his hand.

"This is Feredas," Eomer says. "He comes from a line of my father's making. It is a strong line and he will carry you well. He is yours now."

Faramir is almost speechless as he gazes at the horse in wonder. "This is a great gift, Eomer," he says, his throat tight.

Eomer smiles. "Rohan must be your home now," he says, quietly. "And a Rohirrim does not have a home without his horse."

Faramir returns the smile and sees Eomer's eyes focus on his mouth. He takes a quick step backwards, suddenly anxious that Eomer will attempt to kiss him out here in the crowded courtyard, and flushes. Thankfully, Eomer does not seem to notice this reaction, and with another smile he moves away.

Faramir does not see his father again, not did he expect or want to, and it is not until they reach the final gates of Minas Tirith that he sees Boromir waiting for them. He dismounts as Boromir approaches them and clasps his brother in a quick, tight embrace.

"I would admire that horse," Boromir says quietly in Faramir's ear, "but I cannot when he carries you away from Minas Tirith, little brother."

Before Faramir can speak, Boromir has turned away and is talking quietly with Eomer, his hand gripping the Marshal's arm. Faramir cannot hear them but he sees when they both glance at him, and he swallows heavily at the sadness in his brother's face.

One more quick embrace from Boromir and then they are riding through the great gates of Minas Tirith. The farewell seems to have happened so quickly that Faramir feels slightly dazed. He rides beside Eothain almost blindly, and then finally he takes a deep breath, and turns for one last look at the city.

The gates are fully open and between them is the figure of a man with one hand raised, and Faramir knows that it is Boromir. He raises his own hand, even though he is certain that Boromir cannot see it, and then turns away. He does not look back again.

The first few hours of riding pass in a daze for Faramir; his thoughts are still full of his brother as he wonders how much time will pass before he sees Boromir again. In the middle of the day they halt, to rest the horses and to eat, and it is then that he realises that the Rohirrim are more relaxed and good humoured than he has ever seen them and he can sense the relief they all feel at leaving Minas Tirith.

His own relief is bittersweet and he finds himself nervous at the thought of the future before him. Eothain has told him that it will take another seven days to reach Aldburg and, in a way, Faramir is dreading their arrival there for it is then that he will have to face a life for which he feels ill prepared. He sits with Eothain, Aldhelm and Garulf as they eat and whilst he is not deliberately avoiding Eomer, he knows that he is reluctant to be near him in case Eomer attempts to show him affection in front of all the other Rohirrim, and it is a reluctance that grows into anxiety when he sees that some of the Rohirrim, who had obviously acted with discretion in Minas Tirith, are now openly affectionate.

As they ride through the afternoon, Faramir wonders about this reluctance he feels – it is not shame, but something more akin to awkwardness. He still does not know if the Rohirrim are aware of his relationship with Eomer, if they have been told that it was a convenient act or if they know that it has turned into something more. He's not sure why it is so important to him except that he knows if it becomes confirmed public knowledge then it will be harder for him to draw back from it if he needs to. As soon as he realises this, an uncomfortable feeling of guilt rises in Faramir because this is hardly fair to Eomer, and he sighs fitfully.

An hour before the sun sets they finally stop for the day and set up camp. The bruises that still mar Faramir's back are aching and his muscles have tightened but it is manageable and he is able to hide it as he dismounts from Feredas. The horse nudges him gently with his nose as Faramir removes the saddle and Faramir laughs, glad that a bond is already growing between them.

Faramir is giving Feredas a rub down when he feels a hand on his waist. He turns swiftly; already Eomer is stepping close, and without thinking Faramir places a hand on Eomer's chest, holding him back.

"Don't," he says quietly, and he sees Eomer's eyes widen.

"Are you in pain?" Eomer asks, a slight frown on his face.

For a moment, Faramir is tempted to use the excuse but he knows that to do so will only delay the inevitable.

"Not really," he says, trying to move away, but he is trapped against the horse, and Eomer's frown deepens as he sees this. "I'm just not comfortable with… this," he falters.

"That is not the impression I had from yesterday," Eomer says, and Faramir sees the confusion and hurt in his eyes, and for a moment he wishes he could take the words back.

"I'm not ready," Faramir says, eyes drifting to the men working near them. "I'm not ready to be so… open."

Eomer shakes his head. "So, you want to hide this? I am not used to living like that, Faramir, and there is no need to amongst the Rohirrim."

Faramir feels a flash of anger, which he stifles as best he can for he can still see the disappointment in Eomer's eyes.

"And I am not used to living as you do," he says. "I need some privacy. I need some time."

"I see," Eomer says, and the sigh he makes is laced with frustration. "So, you want me to stay away from you while you take this time."

Something painful twists in Faramir's chest for this is not exactly the result he had been aiming for when he had asked for time and privacy, and he is not sure how this misunderstanding has developed so quickly.

"I cannot say that this does not hurt me, Faramir," Eomer continues, before Faramir can speak. "If I did not know you better, I would think that you had played with me for I had thought that you had lost your doubts and the shame you had felt. And now it seems that you expect me to wait, from a distance, until you are ready. Have I not been patient enough?"

The anger is rising in Faramir now and even the knowledge that a feeling of guilt fuels it does not help Faramir to suppress it.

"I apologise if I have tested your patience, Eomer," he says, his voice low and tight. "It was certainly never my intention to do so, and I certainly never meant to mislead you, but if you think-"

"Faramir," Eomer interrupts, laying a hand on Faramir's arm. "I know that you have much to adjust to, but I had hoped that you would let me help you, not that you would keep me at arms length."

Faramir takes a deep, frustrated breath but his anger is already fading, as he sees the regret that is in Eomer's eyes.

"I did not mean that I wanted you to stay away from me," he says. "Just that I do not think I can yet be so open about this in front of everyone. I don't even know…" he falters, and shakes his head in frustration. "I'm not sure what I feel besides… desire, and I spoke the truth when I said that I did not mean or want to mislead you."

"I see," Eomer says, his eyes thoughtful. "Then, perhaps to be fair to both of us, we should wait until you are ready. My feelings for you grow strong, but I don't want to lead you into something that you are not sure about, Faramir, and it will be better between us if you are sure. You should have the time to lose your doubts, without distraction."

Faramir is speechless, gazing up at Eomer with a rapidly beating heart, not sure what to think about what Eomer has said. He sees Eomer take a swift look around them and then he steps forward and presses a gentle but heated kiss to Faramir's mouth and Faramir gasps, but before he can react Eomer has already pulled away.

"Come to me when you are ready, Faramir," he says in almost a whisper. "I will wait for you, you have my oath on it, but I confess, I hope it will not be for long."

Faramir is still stunned as he watches Eomer walk away, and his heart is still pounding but from what emotion he cannot be certain. All he knows is that Eomer continuously surprises him and that he has never met anyone like him before.

The night is a mild one, so instead of pitching tents they sleep in their bedrolls under the stars. Faramir lies awake for sometime, watching the embers in the dying fire, and wonders at how swiftly his life has changed. Eothain and Aldhelm lie beside him and he cannot see Eomer, where he sleeps on the other side of their fire. Perversely, now that Eomer is away from him, Faramir finds himself missing his presence nearby and he shifts restlessly in his blankets and almost hopes that Eomer is having the same problem.

The next day's ride is long and tedious. Eomer does not exactly avoid Faramir but neither does he spend a great deal of time with him, and while their conversation when they do ride together is easy, Faramir cannot help feeling some discomfort. He finds himself wishing that he had not said anything the day before – perhaps he would have adjusted more quickly and easily to his new situation and the relationship with Eomer if he had just suppressed his embarrassment and acted as the Rohirrim do. But as he looks around at those amongst the Rohirrim who are obviously bonded he still does not think he could have behaved so openly.

He sighs in frustration, as he sees Eomer riding some distance ahead talking to Garulf, and then jolts slightly in his saddle when Eothain, who is riding beside him, clears his throat.

"They are distant cousins," Eothain says, quietly, "and have been close since childhood. You have nothing to fear there."

Faramir's face heats as he glances at Eothain and sees the curiosity in his eyes.

"I did not think…" Faramir begins hastily and then falters. He glances away from Eothain and finally manages to speak again. "It does not matter."

"Aye, it does not," Eothain agrees easily. "For any who know Eomer well can see how it is with him."

The words make Faramir's heart beat hard with a sort of excitement, even as he shifts uncomfortably in his saddle, and he casts a quick glance at Eothain's good-humoured face, unsure if he wants to acknowledge that he understands Eothain's meaning, even though he counts Eothain as a friend. In the end, he stays silent, hoping that Eothain will understand his reluctance.

"This time must be difficult for you, Captain," Eothain, continues, and Faramir almost wants to groan in frustration. "Particularly after what happened to you in Minas Tirith, but you should know that there is no judgement of you amongst the Rohirrim, if that is what is holding you back."

Faramir can sense Eothain gazing at him expectantly, as his heart still beats franticly in his chest. He wills himself to calm down and meets Eothain's eyes briefly.

"Thank you," he finally manages to say, rather breathlessly. "I had wondered."

He is surprised at his own admission and equally surprised that he has confided in Eothain, and he begins to wonder if the isolation of his life in Minas Tirith has forced a reticence upon him that is perhaps not to his nature. With only Boromir to confide in he has been limited, and with his father's disapproval hanging over his head, Faramir realises that he has held himself aloof - he had thought out of choice, but now he wonders if it was out of necessity.

Faramir glances at Eothain, and makes a quick decision.

"Has Eomer spoken to you of this?" he asks, and then holds up a hand as he sees the slight frown that crosses Eothain's face. "I only ask, "he continues, "as I don't want to place you in a difficult position."

Eothain nods his understanding. "I do not think he has needed to," he finally says, "for it seems that he knows what he wants."

Faramir gasps slightly. The implication is clear, and he feels the heat rising in his cheeks once again, and he knows that the look he directs at Eothain must be tinged with reproach.

"I have not felt like this before," he admits, striving for calm, "about anyone, and I never expected it to be for..."

"A man," Eothain finishes for him, nodding thoughtfully. "Aye, it is a difficult adjustment for one of Gondor, but you are not the first. Did you know that there are a few in Rohan who are bonded with men from Gondor? Men who have fled your lands so that they could live as they wish to, freely."

Faramir nods. No one has told him of it, but he has guessed that it must be so.

"And will you now tell me that I shall be as content as they must be?" he asks, wryly.

"Perhaps with the Marshal, you may be," Eothain says. "If you let yourself."

"You do not hold back with your words," Faramir snaps, struggling against a rising irritation.

"Aye, it's a fault of mine," Eothain says with a disarming grin. "Many have complained of it."

They ride on for a few minutes in silence, Eothain almost seems expectant, and Faramir takes a settling, deep breath.

"My childhood, and my life in Gondor, instilled a level of restraint in me, and it is a struggle to overcome it. I never thought that I would want to, but your people are so open, and Eomer also, with their feelings and their thoughts, that I find myself wishing…" he falters, and stops, taking another deep breath. "I would like to overcome it, I think," he finally says.

"Have you spoken of this to Eomer?" Eothain asks, and Faramir almost winces at the blunt question, and then forces himself to look at Eothain ruefully.

"I tried," he says. "I don't think I explained it very well, but Eomer understood some of it. At the moment, I feel almost as if every day my eyes are opened anew, and I learn something about myself that I had not realised or had ignored before. It is very unsettling."

"Aye, it would be," Eothain agrees.

"And, in many ways," Faramir continues, "Eomer is the reason for all of this but he is also very… distracting."

He flushes as he sees the flash of amusement in Eothain's eyes, and then finds himself smiling wryly.

"Although, to be fair," he says, "he is trying not to be."

Eothain laughs, and for some reason this eases the sense of discomfort that Faramir has been feeling throughout the day. He feels so at ease with Eothain now that it is with a slight sense of shock that he remembers that Eothain is closer in age to Faramir's father, for his friendly nature makes him far more approachable.

"Perhaps," Eothain finally says, "if the distraction leads you to the moment of knowledge and acceptance, then it is not a distraction."

"But how can you know that until the moment has come?" Faramir counters.

"And that is life," says Eothain. "The moment may never come if you do not take the chance. You cannot stand still all of your life. The rider must ride, and follow the road."

Faramir sighs gently; he knows that Eothain speaks the truth, it is an idea that he has always believed, but it is easy to believe when you are the only rider.

"I would not want to hurt Eomer," he says, softly, "if I cannot do this, if I cannot ever feel comfortable with this."

"That is the chance that Eomer takes," Eothain says, "and if he is willing to take it, then it is not for you to make that decision for him. You must decide about this for your sake, not his, and he is wise enough to know that. Besides," he continues, giving Faramir a searching look, "I think that, deep down, you know that you have already made the choice, you made it in Gondor. You wanted a new life, and now you have it, you just need to let yourself enjoy it. You deserve to be happy, Captain."

Faramir cannot restrain the gasp that leaves him, for Eothain's words have struck him deeply. No one has ever spoken to him in that way, not even Boromir, and that is as much as a shock as the wisdom and the confidence with giving advice that the Rohirrim has revealed. He feels that he has underestimated Eothain, that he has assumed that he was a mere guard amongst the Rohirrim, and he quickly scans the riding uniforms of the others around them and notes the extra decoration that he can see on Eothain's.

"You are Eomer's second-in-command, aren't you?" he asks, the shame rising at his own lack of observation.

"Aye," Eothain says, eyeing Faramir with surprise. "I thought you knew it."

Faramir briefly closes his eyes, and then meets Eothain's look with a slight flush.

"In Minas Tirith… you were guarding me."

It is the only explanation he can offer, and it is a poor one, he knows, for it is telling of how distracted he has been that he has not observed the signs that, as a soldier, he should have noticed.

Eothain actually looks amused.

"Aye," he says, "that is why we all know how much the Marshal values you."

Faramir's flush deepens, but his heart swells with emotion at how these near strangers have accepted him so freely and offered him not only their friendship, but also their respect. He smiles gratefully at Eothain.

"I have much to thank you for, Eothain," he says.

"There is no need, Captain," Eothain responds, with an answering smile. "Your life is in Rohan now, and it can be a haven for you from the prejudices of your people." He glances at Faramir, his eyes becoming serious. "But you should know that, while Rohan is free of that particular prejudice, it is not without it's own problems in regards to other areas of society. There is much prejudice amongst the classes as I can tell you first-hand, for some would say I married beneath my class, and it was certainly against my father's wishes. With Eomer as it's Marshal, Aldburg is a more accepting city, but Edoras is a political mire, and when you go there you will need to keep your wits about you."

"I see," says Faramir, thoughtfully. "Thank you for warning me."

"Fortunately, the land outlined for land-usage is close to the Eastfold, and therefore it will be easier to administer the agreement from Aldburg," Eothain continues, and then he grins at Faramir. "I give you fair-warning, I am the Rohirrim agent for the agreement."

Faramir returns the grin. "As long as you stick to the agreement, we shouldn't have a problem."

Each day's ride seems less tedious after his talk with Eothain, for the Rohirrim has given Faramir much to think about, and he dwells much on their conversation. Aside from this, the landscape slowly changes, and Faramir finds himself noting the differences with interest, and this is often a welcome distraction from his thoughts.

Often Eomer rides beside him, and Faramir grows easy again in his company as Eomer talks about the countryside and the culture of Rohan. At times, Faramir almost feels as if he is a student again, trying to absorb as much knowledge as he can in as short a time as possible, but slowly he starts to feel better prepared for the life that now lies before him.

But still, there are long moments where he rides in silence, lost in thought and Eothain's words often echo in his mind. The desire he feels for Eomer only seems to grow stronger, and during the darkness of the mild nights, it is hard not to think of Eomer's lips against his, of the strength of his body pressed against Faramir's. Many times Faramir regrets his need to draw back into privacy, but still he cannot yet abandon it.

Finally, late in the afternoon of the seventh day of their departure from Minas Tirith, they ride over a rise and Faramir sees the ancient fortress town of Aldburg standing on a green hill in the distance before him.

"We have made good time," Eomer, who is riding beside him, says with satisfaction. "Another half hour and we will be riding through the gates." He glances at Faramir, who is still gazing with curiosity at the city. "What do you think?"

"It has a look of Gondor about it," Faramir says, slowly, for the fortress is not what he had expected, although, if asked, he doubts he could say exactly what he had expected.

"Aye, originally it was a settlement of Gondor, and much of the lower stonework is from that time," says Eomer. "Some say that this is why King Brego built the Golden Hall and transferred the court to Edoras. He wanted a capital that was purely of Rohan. Myself, I think he could not stand the draughts."

Faramir blinks at this and turns to Eomer in surprise, and is caught off-guard by the sparkle of amusement in the Marshal's eyes. Without thinking, he laughs loudly, joined a moment later by Eomer, as those around them glance at them curiously, and suddenly Faramir feels himself lost in Eomer's eyes, his heart pounding loudly in his ears.

He feels his face begin to heat, sees Eomer's eyes darken, and quickly looks away, wondering at the strength of his reaction, for this now seems more than mere desire. He can feel the tension that is now in Eomer's body and instinctively he wants to ease it, even as he wants to shield Eomer from any further anxiety.

Faramir cannot stop the slight gasp that escapes his lips for this moment seems to have come upon him so swiftly, and from such a simple incident, that it almost seems unbelievable, but he knows now, with certainty, that he would do anything to stay beside Eomer.

He feels a nudge against his knee and realises that Eomer has manoeuvred his horse closer. Faramir steels himself and meets Eomer's eyes, knowing the emotion that must be in his face.

"Eomer," he says, his voice almost a whisper, but stops when Eomer nods.

"Tell me," Eomer says quietly, "should I assign guest chambers to you, or will you share mine?"

He smiles gratefully for Eomer has made the moment so easy, and it is a simple matter for Faramir to answer.

"I will share yours," he says quickly, "if you will allow me."

Eomer's hand rests for a moment on Faramir's thigh, squeezing gently, and then he nods as he moves his horse away. Faramir had thought that Eomer would be in agreement but he is still taken by surprise by the relief that sweeps through him, followed swiftly by rising excitement, for he had seen the heat in Eomer's eyes before he had moved away.

A short time later, the company rides through the gates of the old fortress town, and then follows the narrow winding street up the hill to the Great Hall of Aldburg. Before the Hall is an open courtyard, and off to one side Faramir sees a large building that he assumes are the stables. When servants run out and one of them takes the reins of Feredas from him he knows that he is correct. He leans for a moment against Feredas' strong neck.

"It was a good ride," he murmurs, "thank you," and he smiles when Feredas give a gentle snort.

When he looks up, Eomer is watching him expectantly, and Faramir gives a quick nod, and then follows Eomer into the Hall. This is a huge open space, with two large open fire-pits spaced evenly along the center, and large banners adorn its walls. At one end is a simple wooden chair placed on a fur rug with several other chairs spaced around it in a half-circle, and now that Faramir knows Eomer better, he does not wonder at the informality of the setting.

"Behind the Hall are the living quarters," Eomer says suddenly, close beside him, and Faramir jumps slightly. "I warn you, it is a labyrinth back there." His hand rests gently on Faramir's back and Faramir does not even try to suppress the shiver that runs through his body. "Would you like to see?" Eomer asks.

Faramir can only nod, his throat tight with rising excitement at the thought that soon he will finally be alone with Eomer again. With the quick acknowledgement of the strength of his feelings, it is as if all of his restraint has gone, and he cannot bring himself to wonder at it or regret it, nor does he want to, for finally, he feels, he is free. Free of Gondor and it's limitations, free of his father's judgement, and free of his own fears.

Eomer's hand is still on Faramir's back, as they walk quickly through the corridors, but it is not long before his arm slides around Faramir's waist, his hand gripping Faramir's hip. They meet no one in the hallways, but Faramir knows that he would not care now if they did.

Finally they reach a solid, wooden door, beautifully carved with some sort of design that Faramir can barely take note of before Eomer has pushed him through it and into the room beyond. He stands for a moment, as behind him Eomer closes the door, and looks around the large room.

The walls are based in stone, topped with wooden panelling and in one wall a large window has its shutters still open revealing a fair view over the town and beyond. In the large stone fireplace a welcoming fire burns and in front of it is a table and some chairs. The walls are lined with wooden shelves containing equipment, and also books, and Faramir can see that his carry-sacks are already on the floor beside a large, ornate cupboard. In the far corner, is a carved screen, behind which he can see the end of a wide bed that seems to be covered with furs.

"Do you like it?" Eomer says, still standing behind Faramir, and Faramir can hear the hesitant tension in his voice.

"Yes," Faramir says, and he means it, for the room is attractive and comfortable, more so than his own quarters had been in Minas Tirith.

Eomer does not answer, but instead his hands land firmly on Faramir's hips and he turns Faramir, steps around him and presses him into the wall. The anticipation that had momentarily left Faramir returns as Eomer's head bends towards his but he almost groans in frustration when Eomer's mouth barely brushes against his.

"Do you still have any doubts?" Eomer whispers against his lips.

"No," Faramir says, firmly, and surges forward, capturing Eomer's mouth in an eager kiss.

Eomer responds immediately, his hands as urgent on Faramir's body as the press of their tongues together. When they finally pull apart, both panting and breathless, Faramir realises that Eomer's hands have been as skilful as they were urgent, for both of them are missing their tunics, and Faramir's leather pants have already been unlaced.

It is Faramir who takes Eomer's hand and leads them towards the bed, and it is Faramir who pushes Eomer down onto the furs, removes the rest of their clothing and then crawls over Eomer to press downward in delicious friction. His advantage does not last long, for Eomer quickly rolls them, and begins to thrust lazily, as Faramir moans against the warm skin of Eomer's throat.

Eomer finds his mouth again, his tongue sliding hotly against Faramir's, and Faramir feels as if his body is aching with need. He pushes up against Eomer, desperate for more friction, but Eomer keeps the pace steady and relaxed.

"Eomer," Faramir whispers, a hint of frustration in his voice.

"Easy," Eomer says into Faramir's ear, soft and low. "There is no hurry, we have all night."

A shiver goes through Faramir at the thought of all they can do during the long, dark hours ahead and somehow this calms the frantic desire he has been feeling into something deeper and sensual, a burn of arousal that makes the very air around him seem thicker, and he matches Eomer's rhythm, sinking into the waves of pleasure that build but never peak, and leave him wanting more.

"Take me," he finally gasps against Eomer's mouth, and then repeats it when Eomer stills against him.

"Are you ready?" Eomer asks, but Faramir can hear how his voice has roughened with desire. "If you are not, you could take me."

Faramir briefly closes his eyes, for a moment sorely tempted, for the idea of being inside Eomer is a thrilling one, but he has wondered about doing this and he knows that he wants it.

"I am ready," he says, and then widens his eyes in surprise when Eomer leaves the bed. "Where are you going?"

"Not far," Eomer says, sounding amused, and a moment later he is back, holding a small bottle in his hand. "We need something to ease the way," he adds, and Faramir flushes, knowing that in these matters he is still woefully inexperienced.

Eomer lies along Faramir's side, his lips seeking Faramir's mouth once more, and when his slick hand slides onto Faramir's erection, Faramir moans deeply. Eomer strokes Faramir a few times, until Faramir lets his legs fall open onto the bed, and then Eomer's hand drifts lower, his fingers brushing gently over the entrance to Faramir's body.

The sensation is shocking, but also intensely pleasurable in ways that Faramir had not been expecting. As Eomer pushes an oiled finger inside him, Faramir gasps, and then his whole body trembles finely. He feels as if he is sinking into a luxury of sensation, the fur beneath his back is almost decadent in its soft caress of his skin, and Eomer's mouth on his is hot and hard, as their kisses become more urgent and demanding. And the movement of Eomer's fingers inside Faramir, a slow slide in counterpoint to their hungry mouths, leaves Faramir writhing against the bed and spreading his legs wide in eagerness for more.

"I cannot believe how good this feels," he whispers against Eomer's mouth, and then breaks the kiss, moaning when Eomer's fingers twist deeply inside him.

"Aye," Eomer says. "I would put my mouth on you and taste you, except that I do not think I would be able to stop myself from finishing us, and I am eager to be inside you."

A wave of heat flushes through Faramir at the images these words put into his mind and he looks at Eomer in a daze.

"Don't say things like that when I'm…" he begins, and then Eomer's fingers twist again and Faramir's hips jerk violently. "What is that?"

"Something good," Eomer says with a breathless laugh and suddenly the exquisite pressure of his fingers is gone and he is moving swiftly between Faramir's spread thighs, almost looming over him as he presses closer.

Faramir grips Eomer's strong arms, and for a moment wonders that he feels no fear, only nervous excitement at what is about to happen. Eomer moves closer again and brushes a soft kiss across Faramir's mouth.

"It will burn at first," he whispers, and Faramir has only just understood the words and nodded, when he feels it. Tension floods his body, and he takes a deep breath, fighting to ease it. Eomer has gone still above him, his eyes on Faramir's face, and Faramir turns his head away slightly, the blush rising in his skin, because the intimacy of the moment feels almost overwhelming, when he feels so breached and stretched open, his thighs spread wide around Eomer's hips.

Then Eomer moves forward again, his chest pressing against Faramir's, and his lips moving on Faramir's throat, and suddenly the tension in Faramir is gone. He slides his hands along Eomer's back and presses his face into Eomer's shoulder, gasping against his skin.

Eomer's hands slide under Faramir's shoulders, gripping him firmly as Eomer's hips begin to move against him with more force. The burn is gone now, replaced with a full pressure that rises throughout Faramir's body. His shaft, which had softened, is now fully hard again from the friction of Eomer's stomach pressing against it as he thrusts into Faramir's body, adding to the building tension.

Eomer is deep within him now, his body pressing Faramir down onto the bed, and Faramir feels almost as if he is melting into the fur beneath his back. His hands hold tightly onto Eomer's arms and he tries not to dig his fingers into the flesh there, as the waves of fine tremors begin to run through his body. Eomer's lips are moving against Faramir's ear, his low voice uttering words that Faramir cannot focus on, but the sound of it grounds him and finally he is able to move, his arms winding around Eomer's shoulders as his hips begin to meet Eomer's in a matching forceful rhythm.

Eomer groans, and then finds Faramir's mouth with a kiss that is hard and harsh, bruising against Faramir's lips. Faramir moans into it and then again louder when he feels Eomer's hand slide between them and grip his erection, stroking it only a few times before Faramir lets go into an intense climax that leaves him gasping and shuddering in Eomer's arms. Eomer moves against him for a few more moments and then there is one last, hard thrust and he holds himself deep inside Faramir, trembling, as Faramir grips him tightly, wanting to keep him there as long as possible.

They are still for many moments before Eomer finally relaxes against Faramir, and then eases away. Faramir grimaces, both at the loss and the burning sting as Eomer's shaft leaves him, and then blushes as Eomer presses a quick, apologetic kiss to his lips.

Eomer settles at Faramir's side and slides a cloth through the mess on Faramir's stomach, and then slips it down between his legs as Faramir shifts uncomfortably, but the cloth is damp and soothing against his skin and he finds himself grateful for it.

Faramir stretches, yawning widely. He doubts that he has ever felt so relaxed in all his life and when Eomer moves closer and grins down at him, Faramir returns the look with a sleepy smile.

"I think I have exhausted you," Eomer says.

Faramir raises an eyebrow. "It's been a good, long ride," he says, and then grins when Eomer laughs. He yawns again, his eyes growing heavy.

"Sleep," says Eomer, brushing his lips against Faramir's shoulder. "I must go back to the hall, but I will send food here for you."

Faramir nods, his eyes closing. He can hear Eomer moving about the room, but before he hears him leave, he has already drifted into a deep sleep.

When Faramir wakes, moonlight is shining through the still unshuttered window, filling the room with a dim, glowing light. He can feel Eomer beside him, and can tell by his breathing that he is asleep, so he moves gently from the bed and quietly across the room.

His stomach feels hollow and he is relieved to see the platter of bread and cheeses, and the bowl of fruit on the table and settles down to a welcome meal. It is very quiet, no sounds drift through the window, and he wonders what time it is, guessing that it must be not long beyond the middle of the night.

After he has eaten, he goes to the window, and leans forward to look over the city. He winces a little at the soreness in his body, but it is the soreness born of satisfaction and he cannot regret it.

The moon gleams over the houses of Aldburg, almost like a pale road, leading to the great gates and beyond, and all seems peaceful. The unfamiliar town intrigues him and Faramir is looking forward to the morning when he go down and explore it, learning its habits and its secrets. Soon, he will be a part of it and he has a feeling he will belong here in ways that he could never have belonged in Minas Tirith.

Behind him, there is a break in Eomer's steady breathing and then the sound of restless movement. Faramir turns, and sees that Eomer is now leaning up on one elbow watching him, his hair falling down his shoulder. The moonlight falls on Eomer's face, and Faramir's heart leaps as his breath catches in his throat. He suspects that he knows what this feeling is, and while it is still too soon for the words of love to fall between them, he knows that it will happen in time.

Eomer lifts his arm, reaching for Faramir, and Faramir moves forward, takes the offered hand and slides between the sheets into Eomer's warm embrace.

The End.