Genre: General

Characters: Faramir, Aragorn

Rated: G

Summary: As, arguably, the second most powerful man in Gondor, Faramir must learn to understand his new King's way of doing things.

Author's Notes: A response to A'mael Taren's March Challenge: Faramir and Aragorn/Elessar. How do these two powerful political figures grow to know and trust one another?

Thanks to: Lady Wenham and Raksha

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AN UNDERSTANDING

I said yes to everything the King had requested. How could I not?

For though I had only held the post for a short time, I was the Steward of Gondor, and I knew that the King expected results from me. I was not there to bring additional problems; I was there to resolve the ones the King had.

It was only when I left the council chamber with the long list of orders under my arm that the true enormity of what he expected began to worry me. I felt suddenly hot, and the confines of the Citadel's walls stifled me. How I longed for the woods of Ithilien, so I changed my direction and headed for the courtyard gardens where at least there would be a little more air.

As I entered the gardens, I wished I had not, for there came into view a group of tittering court ladies obviously out for an evening stroll. How quickly the fears of war had left these pretty young things as they dallied, without a care in the world. I bowed to them stiffly as I passed, feeling the colour rise in my cheeks. It heightened when I heard them giggle as I moved on. Resolutely I continued onwards, past the White Tree and on to stand on the very walls of the City.

It was a warm spring evening, although the chill wind blowing across the Pelennor was still enough to cause me to shiver. I realised my hands were shaking.

Taking the scroll from under my arm, I read the list of requirements once more and felt my anguish grow. There was so much to do, and although I should not like to admit it, after twenty years in the field commanding men, my professional experience was first and foremost as a soldier not a Steward.

But how difficult could it be? My father had managed it, in a time of war. Now, with the King returned, a high proportion of the responsibilities that wearied Denethor's shoulders were not even mine to administer, so why did the panic rise in my gut when I looked at the list? How difficult was asking cooks to prepare a special feast when compared with asking men to go out and die for me?

I became aware of someone clearing his throat behind me. I turned to see the King, regarding me with twinkling but unreadable eyes. I bowed.

"You look pale, Lord Steward," the King began. "Are you recovered from your wounds?"

I nodded. "I am well, Sire," I replied, nodding. "Although on wet days, I still have a twinge in my shoulder."

He smiled, "Such is the lot of a soldier."

"Indeed."

We stood together looking out over the plains. The King prepared his pipe and lit it eventually.

"There is much to do," he said finally.

I could not stop my eyes from resting on the list, still clasped in my hand. I felt my shoulders droop a little.

"It appears to me that keeping the peace may be harder than winning the war," he muttered. I looked at him quizzically as he continued, "We both must play new roles, Faramir, ones that neither of us ever believed we would be expected to fulfil. I deem that it would help us both if we were at least honest with each other."

"I do not understand, Sire," I replied softly. "While I was the second son of the Steward with little expected of me," and here I tried to stop even the hint of bitterness tainting my words, but I fancied from the way his eyes glinted at me, that I was not successful. I carried on regardless, "You were born to be a King."

"To be born to something does not mean one will achieve it," Aragorn responded, with what I thought to be deep sadness. "Nor does it even mean that one would want to. I do not believe that the role of King is suited to my temperament or my humour. I have a great deal to learn."

I stared at him with eyes wide in shock. "But...." I began.

He stopped me with a wild, generous guffaw. "That is the first time I have seen an emotion cross your face that you have not planned and worked on deep in the depths of your mind before you allowed it to come forth and be seen by the rest of us. My Lord Steward, you hide yourself well."

I shuffled my feet uncomfortably, unsure as to how to respond and turned away from his gaze. My face assumed the neutral expression that I had long practiced in times of disapproval.

"See how quickly, you close in on yourself," he continued. "You are tight as a bow string. I mean that not as a criticism but merely as an observation, Faramir. As I said I want us to be honest with each other."

I nodded. "Showing emotion is something that I have learned will be perceived as a weakness, Sire," I said. It sounded pompous even to my own ears.

"Indeed," he replied as he sucked on his pipe and turned his eyes back to the darkened plains below.

He remained deep in thought, and I fiddled nervously with the corner of my quickly crumpling list.

"The Lady Eowyn is a good catch," he said finally.

The complete change of subject surprised me. This man's mind seemed to fly from one place to another. It was rather disconcerting.

"Perchance, I would have ordered you to marry her anyway," he continued. "It is a good alliance between Rohan and Gondor."

I bristled, caught between the need to defend my position and to submit to my duty. As ever, the latter won. I muttered, "I would have done it, Sire, if you commanded it, even if she was the foulest ogre on this Earth, which of course she is not."

He, thankfully, ignored my rather ungallant and clumsy comment about my future bride, his eyes turning to regard me once more. They held me entrapped by their clarity and intelligence. "Would you indeed," he said. Then he shook his head slowly, "Never let it be said that the sons of Denethor were not slaves to their duty. Maybe Mithrandir was wrong when he described you as a man of pioneering vision."

It struck me then that this whole conversation had been some sort of test, and I could tell from the change in the way he looked at me that I had failed. The thought hit me hard, for I wanted so much to be well regarded and valued by my King. I hesitated, unsure of what he wanted from me, and he carried on smoking, letting his last sentence hang in the air rather like the smoke from his pipe.

"We are now the two most powerful men in Gondor, Faramir," he said finally. "How does that make you feel?"

Again I hesitated. He asked me for honesty, and yet when I was frank with him, it seemed I did not give the answer he desired. What was it he wanted from me?

He was regarding me again, that sly smile playing across his lips, and his eyebrows slightly raised.

"Frightened," I said finally with all the openness I had. Oh, but it hurt to reveal it.

"As am I," he said, his eyes twinkling once more. "Do you not feel that the expectation is almost too great? You and me, Faramir; we must be all things to all people. No longer is it enough to be the master of the battlefield, now we must rule in the council chamber and the court and the bedroom as well, for we must provide heirs to share our doomed fate."

I rolled my eyes at his candour. So when he said honest, he truly meant it. This was so different from anything I'd experienced before. The only person who had ever taken me into his confidence in such a way was my brother, Boromir. And here I was, sharing the fears of the King.

It slowly began to dawn on me what was happening, what this conversation was all about. He must have discussed me with others, his comment earlier showed that he had with Mithrandir. Suddenly his motivation became clear to me. I was an enigma to him, just as much as he was to me, and though he knew of my reputation, he was obviously searching for understanding, looking for evidence to support or foreswear what he had been told. For he recognised, where I had forgotten, that the success of his rule depended so much on the people who served him. He had to trust them, and they had to be honest with him. What good was a Steward who lacked the integrity to understand such concepts?

I almost laughed out loud at the revelation. Wasn't that the first lesson that a leader of men learned? In my worry over the contents of the ludicrous list in my hand, I had overlooked the basics that I had discovered as a Ranger Captain in the wilds of Ithilien.

But the King, on the other hand, was very aware of the situation, its bearing on our future relationship and its importance to what we ultimately managed to achieve together. He was re focusing me, with great subtly showing me what he wanted and how he wanted it. Then waiting to see if I had the wit to understand, for without it I was useless to him. He had taken a calculated risk in declaring me Steward, now he must be hoping that I would show him that I was worth the gamble. That was the test.

I looked at the list in my hand and sighed deeply. "This doesn't matter, does it?" I said, waving it limply before him.

His eyes beamed at me, beacons through the gathering gloom. "I hardly think the details of my coronation don't matter, Faramir," he said. "But I think you understand the point, finally."

I smiled, somewhat ruefully, and nodded.

His eyes became earnest. "I know the way I do things may not be the way you are used to. Only remember this, my Lord Steward, I value more the man who tells me with good reason why he cannot do a something I ask, than I value the man who simply absorbs all I throw at him with his heart groaning with despair, for he knows he will not achieve what I require. Talk to me, I beg you. Let us discuss the issues and find a resolution together. Individually we are powerful but together we can be invincible!"

Taking the list from my hand, he lit it from his pipe, and we both watched as it leapt into flame. He let it go, and the wind took it far out on to the Pelennor.

"No more docile acceptance," he said. "You have a brain; a good one, Faramir – use it! Argue with me. Tell me when I am ignorant or arrogant. Tell me when I am wrong. I may not like it, but I will listen, and I promise I will always value your opinion. Do we have an understanding?"

I smiled as my heart swelled with joy and unconditional love for my King. He was everything I had ever dreamed he would be.

"Yes, Sire," I replied. "We have a perfect understanding."

"Good," Aragorn said. "I knew Mithrandir would not be wrong about you."

He embraced me then, and it seemed as if I was the only person in the world that mattered to him at that moment. It was such a feeling that I had never felt before. Finally after a lifetime of fighting for it, I felt I truly belonged.

The End Clairon

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