Disclaimer: None of them are mine I have but borrowed them from the Prof. for a while. I'm not making any money out of this and should be doing other stuff that earns me money, but what the hell, I'm enjoying it!

Summary: Sequel to 'Come to Harm' when Faramir risks all to regain his honour.........................

Author's Note: The events occur seven years after those described in 'Come to Harm', which was set some years after the end of the war of the ring.

Thanks: To everybody who took the time to read 'Come to Harm' especially those who took the time to leave their much appreciated comments and who implored me to write more. A special mention to Lady Wenham and Raksha the Demon – Kickass Faramir is for you!


Chapter One - Desperation

Aragorn breathed in a deep sigh. It was a wonderful summer evening, following another blisteringly hot day. To the west the sky, over the treetops, was etched with the vivid red and gold of a mesmerizing sunset. He gazed out over the beauty of Ithilien, drinking in the sight before him like a thirsty man. The trees were bedecked with luscious greenery, the bushes and undergrowth laden down with bounteous fruit. Everywhere he looked the sheer harvest of life was evident, swelling, growing, and plentiful, just waiting to be picked.

It had been a scorching summer. Minas Tirith had shimmered in the heat and Aragorn was glad to be away from its sweltering towers and bad tempered inhabitants, if only for a while. They had reason to be angry, for the City's sewage system had been faltering badly and regularly, waves of repugnant odours have drifted across the magnificent vistas. Aragorn breathed in the scent of the forest all about him and quelled the guilt that lingered. Was he not their King? How could he desert his people to their fetid fate?

In truth the burdens of the State had hung heavily on him for some time. He felt he was drowning in bureaucracy and paper. Too many complaints and too many problems, weighing him down, sapping him of his strength and vitality. He could see no way through the maze and worse, could not summon the energy to try to find one. Time and again his mind had sought refuge in memories of earlier times when, although danger had been at every turn, he had felt alive. With the loss of such peril, he had lost something vital and infinitely valuable too. He did not know if he would ever be able to retrieve it but he did know that its loss brought a bitter taste.

Part of the reason for his descent into the horror of 'official procedure' was the man who walked beside him through the forest. Faramir, once Steward of the White City, a man whose temperament was infinitely more suited to the perils of paperwork. A man who would have eagerly grasped the issues and found the simple solutions that seemed to elude the King. Aragorn had no doubt that if Faramir had been at his side, then the sewage system of Minas Tirth would not have become such an insurmountable dilemma.

But Faramir was no longer Steward. Aragorn felt he should drag the younger man back to Minas Tirth, tie him to a desk and leave him there until he had sorted the sewage, the rubbish, the new building programme... all the issues that caused Aragorn's head to ache. He smiled to himself ruefully at the thought. Instead, he would try to persuade Faramir back to his rightful position, as he had so often in the past. He would try to out think the thinker and out maneuver the logician. His smile faded on his lips. He had not been successful on the other occasions he had tried this tactic, and his desperation was growing - maybe kidnapping was the best way!

The playful lilt of children's laughter drifted towards them on the light breeze. Aragorn stopped.

"You build a paradise here, Faramir," he said softly.

Faramir turned to regard his King. He shook his head slowly. "Not I, Sire," he began. "Prince Legolas....."

Aragorn lifted his hand to silence him. "I know exactly what contribution Legolas makes, and it is a mighty one. But there is also another, more human aspect, involved here. And don't give the credit to Anborn either. Although he has his talents, your Captain would be the first to admit creation on such a scale is not one of them. Anborn is as destructive a force as any born soldier. No, I know the source too well, Ithilien benefits from what all Gondor needs."

Faramir shrugged and looked away, his face inscrutable in the fading light.

Both men knew the reason for this twilight walk but neither seemed prepared to break the peaceful serenity of the moment by actually starting the conversation. Aragorn regarded the other man intently, while Faramir's gaze remained stubbornly on the middle distance.

Finally, unwilling to start, but pressed to it by the other's apparent comfort in reticence, Aragorn began.

"You are a stubborn one, Faramir. For seven years you have shown this Kingdom your strength, while denying it your talent. How much longer? How can you deny your potential? I am failing; I feel everything is slipping through my fingers. I stand on the brink of the abyss. I need you"

Faramir shook his head. "You don't need me, Sire, I am not strong," he said with no emotion.

Aragorn grunted. "Most men, no matter their courage, if treated unfairly and undervalued will eventually come to fail. Even the strongest heart will come to believe it is worthless, if told it often enough. You suffered, Faramir, I know you did. Always second, not quite good enough, always belittled and undermined, but you never gave up. You let your misery neither cloud your judgment nor steal you from your duty. You retained your honour and your dignity through it all. What is that if not true courage, true strength? Although your father broke your heart, you never reacted against him. You held your pain deep inside and never revealed its depth to anyone. You endured, Faramir. But more than that, you did not let it destroy you, and through such fortitude, you made yourself even stronger."

Aragorn paused, as Faramir remained motionless beside him, his face hard and closed, with no indication that he even heard the other's words.

"I need that strength, Faramir," Aragorn continued. "I have had enough of court lackeys, of people who will always say yes to me because of who I am. I am floundering, losing direction and appetite. I cannot right myself. I need someone at my side who shares my vision but more than that, who can lead others to it. I need a man who I can trust implicitely, someone who will dare to tell me when I speak nonsense, who will tell me when I am being ignorant or arrogant. A man strong enough to argue with me when he is convinced he is right. There is only one such man in my Kingdom."

Still refusing to look at his King, a small muscle had begun to flex on Faramir's jaw.

"There are others," he said softly.

"No," the King retorted abruptly. "There is only one who has the breeding, the background, and the experience."

"Elboron will be of age soon"

"In five years!" Aragorn's frustration was beginning to become evident from the way he flexed his fists. He took a deep breath to calm himself before continuing. "Elboron will make a good Steward, given time. But he needs to learn from one who knows the history of the role. He needs to leech experience and understanding, and you are the only man alive, Faramir, who can give him that. But no, you determine to stay in Ithilien and deny his potential just as you deny your own."

Faramir remained unmoved as Aragorn pressed.

"Seven years, Faramir, since you walked in Minas Tirith. Think what we could have achieved together in that time. Think what we will yet achieve, and think what we could leave for our sons! Your self-imposed exile has been too long already. I have allowed you to punish yourself as you felt fit. Now as your King I can no longer justify it. The punishment is now too great for the crime you committed, and now we all pay. I will not let Gondor suffer as you wallow in self-centered anguish."

"You tell me naught you have not told me before," Faramir counted stiffly. "Have you found Saruman?"

"No I have not. There are whispers and rumours but no substance, and I have never been this desperate, this afraid that I cannot cope without you, before," Aragorn replied.

Faramir turned to regard his King at last, his eyes shining with respect at Aragorn's honesty. He nodded almost imperceptively.

"I will think on it," he said.

Aragorn hit the tree trunk he stood next to in an explosion of uncontrolled fury. "It is too late to think!" he snorted. "Do you want me to beg, because I will?"

Faramir's face furrowed with shock but he remained immobile as if caught in a prison of inaction. He had never seen his King so affected, so close to the edge. He wanted so much to give in to his demands and resolve his conflict, but he found he lacked the conviction to do so.

The two men stood facing each other for an immeasurable length of time, Aragorn breathing fast and angrily, and Faramir tottering on the edge of decision. Finally he drew himself back from the verge. He pulled in a long ragged breath and averted his eyes to the distance once more.

Aragorn growled in frustration. "What more can I say?"

Faramir shook his head. "There is nothing more. I cannot trust myself still; that is all I have to say."

Aragorn bit down the rebuke that rushed to his lips. He wanted to hit back, but he suddenly felt empty. Too many times had they had this or similar conversations, and every time his ex-Steward had refused him. How could Faramir be so stubborn? Why could he not see this was no longer about personal pain? This was affecting the whole of Gondor. For a man so committed to his land, Faramir was behaving with complete selfishness.

They were silent for some time. The night had come, and through the trees they could see the twinkling lights of the houses.

Although he did not show it, Faramir felt most uncomfortable. His mind desperately searched for a change of subject to something less sensitive. "How go the negotiations with the Harad?" he asked finally. It was not a good choice.

Aragorn shook his head, his anger building. "Such information is only for those who serve me," he snapped.

Faramir's shoulders stiffened. It had been a low blow, but Aragorn had meant for it to hurt. His own frustration at Faramir's intransigence was spilling over, pushing him into tactics he would not normally contemplate.

The hot anger that flashed across the younger man's eyes testified that the blow had hit the mark but the heat was quenched equally quickly, by a sudden sad smile of cold acceptance.

"I understand," Faramir, said, his voice controlled and emotionless. "And I will think on what you have said, Sire."

Aragorn nodded, his own anger having lost its intensity in the face of his friend's dignified acceptance. "If naught else will sway you, remember this Faramir, for all the time that he keeps us apart, Saruman is winning. He doesn't deserve to!"

With that the King turned on his heel and walked back down the path to where the rest of the jubilant throng were enjoying the summer night.

Faramir watched the King's powerful form retreat but did not follow immediately. Instead he turned back, to gaze unseeing at the beautiful scenery. The words of his Monarch drifted around his head, but the thing he could not forget was the glint of desperation that shone in Aragorn's eyes. And he knew deep in his heart, that no matter his own plight, it was wrong that those he loved and the rest of his country should be made to suffer.