Disclaimer: I own nothing or importance and certainly not any character from LotR.
Author's Notes: This is a drabble that ran away with itself. Thanks as always to Mandi for being such an excellent beta.
The dimly lit room was far enough down the corridor to be nearly silent, away from the hustle that could always be found in the Houses of Healing. He entered on nearly silent footsteps, removing his cloak and gloves as he went and laying them on a chair before bending slightly to examine the man wandering in a restless daze on the bed.
He was covered with a blanket to ward off the chill, though it had not prevented slight shock from setting in. He shivered beneath them, his forehead damp with sweat and his eyes moving rapidly behind eyelids that were clenched shut.
When the hand touched his clammy forehead he gasped, the touch nearly painful in its suddenness, and his eyes flew open. He tried to move, not entirely aware, but could only give a pained groan and tense on the soft bed.
"Shh, my Steward, you are injured. Remain still." Silver eyes looked upon him gently and Faramir swallowed.
"Sire…" His throat was dry and he found it hard to concentrate enough to form words.
The blanket was removed and warm hands touched his left side lightly. He hissed in pain.
"The building... the child..."
"The child is fine, the building can be repaired." Aragorn frowned looking at the bruises that seemed to dominate Faramir's body. "You managed to get him out of the way, yourself on the other hand…"
Faramir drew in a sharp breath as Aragorn prodded his side a bit more sharply. A warm hand moved up to rest on his forehead. "Your ribs are not broken, thankfully."
Faramir made an indistinct sound, his head lolling to the side. The hand slipped across his temple and half into his hair as he moved. Aragorn covered him with the blanket again, adding another as well. He touched the back of his hand to Faramir's cheek before rising.
Faramir heard him moving about, heard jars being opened and the snaps and crackles of a fire being lit. It made him uneasy, the sound of the fire when he could not move freely about. The pain dulled, when he did not move, into a muted throbbing sensation that radiated from his left side to the finger tips of his right hand. But when he tried to move the pain became sharp.
His breathing quickened as a log split with a loud pop in the fireplace. He heard rustling and a soft clinking sound. Silver eyes swam into his vision, gone foggy with fear.
Hands helped him rise enough to swallow warm liquid that tasted faintly of bad wine and overripe fruit and made a comforting darkness creep around the edges of his vision very quickly.
Aragorn felt his heart tighten as Faramir's head fell limply against his side, a murmured name escaping his lips as the sedative claimed him. He brushed the dark hair back from the pale forehead tenderly before removing the blankets to see what he could do for his Steward.
Faramir was not injured severely but the injuries he did have were painful. Deep bruises and scrapes covered most of his chest, trailing off down his left leg. His ankle was swollen badly and two toes were broken. His left shoulder had been dislocated. Three fingers on his left hand were broken. A small cut had left trails of dried blood down his cheek.
The healers had waited for Aragorn to come, after tending briefly to Faramir when he had been pulled from the rubble, not crushed to death as they had originally feared and not even wounded terribly. He had been unconscious but when his shoulder had been popped back into place. The pain roused him and the King was sent for as Faramir was carried to the Houses.
They would wait for the King to tend to Faramir out of love for the injured man. There was always such a look in his eyes when he had to enter the Houses, not fear, but a deep hurt, and they knew he was haunted by ghosts there, so they waited for one he trusted absolutely, something rare, and they would not hurt him by beginning to treat him while the ghosts were prominent in his eyes.
And Aragorn had seen it too, though Faramir's trust in him overshadowed the memories. They were not friends, not yet, though Aragorn thought they could be. Duty brought them apart as often as it brought them together, for there was much to do, enough to keep both busy at separate tasks.
When they were brought together Faramir seemed aloof, and Aragorn would have thought him like his father save for the love and respect he saw in the grey eyes, and the hushed oath the Steward had sworn to his King before the Host road forth. A discreet inquiry with Imrahil, already a great friend, and all doubts were put to rest for his uncle, who knew him best, saw not aloofness but almost painful shyness, stemming from years of disapproval at his father's feet.
It was not always so but Faramir was still in awe of his King and Aragorn could be so much in appearance like his father in his younger days that it was painful. It would take subtle coaxing to draw Faramir from this habit and it moved Aragorn to pity to think of what the younger man would have suffered to feel so when in so many other ways he was wise beyond his years.
For Boromir first Aragorn had thought to take extra care of his Steward, for it had been impossible to miss the great love and reverence Boromir had for his younger brother, a feeling echoed in Faramir's face when his slain sibling's name was uttered.
It had not taken long for Aragorn to wish for Faramir's friendship for his own sake, for few who knew him did not love him and Aragorn wondered at Denethor's folly in not seeing the man who was his youngest as all others seemed to see him.
Befriending him though was not as easy a task as Aragorn would have thought. For all that his people loved Faramir, few knew him intimately. His men had forged with him bonds only possible through the times they had shared together and he had his family and now Eowyn but... others loved him, yes, and would even sacrifice for him but they did not know him.
None of those who did were with him, though. His family was in Dol Amroth, his men in various places about the city, and Eowyn still in Rohan for the time being. Soon, she would come to Minas Tirith a bride and soon, together, the Lord and Lady would make Ithilien beautiful again, but she was not here yet.
Aragorn was and if nothing else he had trust and love from Faramir and gave it in return. He would see the ghosts banished from Faramir's eyes even if it meant moving him from the Houses.
Boromir had attended Faramir here whenever he was wounded, and the same was true for Faramir when Boromir bore the injuries for their country. Neither man had a like of healers, Boromir being the more outward in his hatred of them; his temper would flare passionately despite the most serious wounds if he failed to be unconscious. Faramir withdrew into himself and as the healers were not without their love for him it pained them to witness it.
Often the only way to calm one was to have the other near and if that was not possible... Denethor would step in as a substitute and a surprisingly willing one. It was how Boromir knew he did not lie to his younger brother when he said his father loved him, despite appearances. He had seen Denethor's tender manner at the bedside of his youngest child.
It was one of the few times Denethor showed affection for his youngest. When his child was injured, and on occasion had hovered near death, his heart softened and he cared for his son as he did not seem to in other times. It pained and confused Faramir, who wished for his father's love, but those times were the best he remembered with his father, past hazy snatches of tenderness when his mother still lived.
Faramir stirred and made a soft sound of distress. Aragorn paused in spreading ointment onto the scrapes on his chest and waited. He knew, from various sources, that Faramir was prone to visions when injured but that he could simply be reacting to the stinging sensation the healing ointment would cause.
But he stirred again and, Aragorn reflected, if discomfort had been the cause it would likely have come when Aragorn was examining his ankle. Aragorn washed his hands quickly and moved to the head of the bed.
Faramir's eyes moved rapidly behind closed lids and sweat beaded from his forehead to roll down the side of his face into his hair. His face was creased with distress and Aragorn could only guess what he was dreaming. Imrahil had warned him of the visions, the most distressing dreams Faramir suffered, but there were also the nightmares of any soldier to be had as well and Faramir had seen too many horrors in his days.
Aragorn wished he had a draught to give Faramir that would keep him from dreaming but the stocks of herbs in the Houses were still depleted and he had not had the time to make one as it was, for they took longer than normal tonics.
Aragorn laid a gentle hand upon his brow, surprised to see Faramir still slightly beneath his touch. Boromir had told him worriedly one night on their journey that even he could not keep Faramir from dreaming often enough.
Faramir twitched and moaned, the lines already on his handsome features deepening in his restless sleep. Aragorn pushed back the clingy strands of sweat-dampened hair from his face and held them back, his thumb moving in a slow motion over his forehead.
"Faramir," his voice was low and compelling, "Faramir."
Faramir quieted. His expression was still troubled but not as it had been. Aragorn was surprised but thankful to see him calm.
Faramir moved ever so slightly into his touch and the lines on his face softened slightly. His dry lips moved in a whispered murmur, shaping a name he could barely make out.
Aragorn's heart sighed to hear it. He remained there for a time, the only motion in the room his thumb against Faramir's skin and occasional twitches from Faramir, for his dreams would not be driven away, only could Aragorn take the bite from them.
Faramir remained peaceful, to an extent, gradually fading into deeper sleep where dreams and comfort touched him even more remotely. Only then did Aragorn stir and finish tending to his injuries, the most serious attended before Faramir's sleep was threatened.
He moved to pull the blankets back around him when a noise at the door turned his attention. He gave a weary smile as his wife entered, though he pulled the blanket covering Faramir up a little higher. Arwen was not embarrassed, she rarely was, being her age and having two mischievous brothers, but if Faramir ever learned of her being there when he was... bereft of coverings he would be.
She laid a hand on Aragorn's shoulder. "You will stay here tonight."
She knew him well, it was not even a question. He nodded nonetheless. "His rest is uneasy and he should not move about. It would only pain him."
"Stifle the fire. The sound will add to his nightmares," Arwen advised. Aragorn cocked an eyebrow at the knowledge. "I have sharp eyes, the sound distresses him though I know not even if he understands it is so yet."
"I shall have to fetch more blankets," Aragorn thought aloud. "For he could easily catch chill."
"This may help," Arwen offered, passing him a heavy blanket made of soft fur. "Adar brought it, among other items, but we have blankets aplenty."
Arwen obliging turned about so Aragorn could tuck the blanket around his Steward, an amused smile playing about her lips. She had a soft spot for the Steward, seeing easily the sadness still within him and wishing for nothing more than it to be released. Aragorn added the other blankets on top of the fur one, arranging a cocoon of warmth around Faramir before extinguishing the fire.
"You will sleep at some point," Arwen stated. Her eyes told Aragorn there would be no argument and he thought it unfair she had been able to copy Elrond's look so well.
"Yes dear," Aragorn replied with a chuckle.
Arwen rested her hand on her husband's shoulder. "Rest at some point, my husband, I know you worry for him, but there shall be other taxing matters that will need your attention on the morrow."
Aragorn grunted. When he was a Ranger, if one of his comrades was injured and in need of him he stayed with them until they were well. It was simple.
But… As much as he despised it those days had ended when he took the Crown. No, if he was honest with himself, he knew that his days as a Ranger had ended when he leaned over Boromir's dying body and pledged in his heart he would give all for Gondor, as his companion had. He, too, would sacrifice his life for his country, in a way.
"It is the price of being King, love," Arwen said. She brushed the back of her hand to Faramir's cheek tenderly. "He understands that."
"And I would not trade it," Aragorn murmured a bit sadly.
He had been born for this, he had once heard Gandalf remark to Elrond. Ever his champion, even when being his adversary, his foster adar had replied his ion had been born to be whatever he so pleased. Gandalf had been correct though. Elrond had sheltered him for as long as was in his power to do so and had given him the love of a father even after he could no longer protect him, but this was his destiny. He had been born for this purpose and now that it had passed he could not think of having given it up.
Arwen touched his face lovingly and bent to bestow a kiss upon his lips. His fingers reached up to trail across her smooth cheek and touch wisps of her silky hair reverently, taking comfort in her nearness. How he loved this being!
"I will bring dinner up from the kitchens for you to eat," Arwen said. Any other in Gondor would have offered, Arwen stated it and would brook no argument.
Faramir stirred, murmuring indistinctly. Aragorn's hand rested on his brow to calm him. He looked at his wife. "Thank you."
She nodded and smiled before departing, leaving him to his vigil.
Faramir healed. The bruises began to fade and, fortified with a tea of Aragorn's making that dimmed the pain he felt, he was able to at least sit, propped up by pillows, and meticulously check over the documents that poured forth. A country had to be reordered and rebuilt after war, the paperwork was endless.
Aragorn went about the business of being King. It was incredibly tedious on some days and tremendously invigorating on others. He hoped when he eventually became used to the notion that he was in charge of all that he saw and beyond the extremes would balance out.
It had escaped his attention, before then, how much Faramir did when he was well. It was, Aragorn had observed to his wife with a frown, too much for one man.
He had heard the stories of Faramir's duties upon Boromir's departure to Rivendell. He knew Denethor had stretched his youngest son thin to the point of nearly breaking him before the disastrous decision to send him and his men to strengthen the outer defenses.
He had gotten rather an earful about it from Prince Imrahil who had been livid about the treatment of his nephew. Faramir's men shared his anger and were less forgiving of their former Steward for it. Aragorn had the impression that if either party had known the true extent to which Denethor was driving his son Faramir would have been taken to Dol Amroth or Henneth Annun and kept there until he was well and truly recovered, not only from his exhaustion but his unreleased grief as well.
The problem was Faramir thought nothing of taking on such work, so long as it served Gondor. His efforts were so quiet and unassuming when he undertook more tasks that one hardly knew to credit him for them even after it was accomplished, not that Faramir expected or even wanted credit in most cases.
It was maddening and entirely an unconscious action on Faramir's part. He had gone so long with only criticism from his father for all his efforts that to simply not be told of his failings was something akin to praise for him. To bring an accomplishment to light only brought to light potential mistakes.
It had been five days since Faramir had been injured and, though he could move about again, his movements were stiff and slow and still caused him pain. The healers had refused to release him and Aragorn had not disagreed. Seeing how much work Faramir had been doing, and doing without pause since the Host rode forth, convinced Aragorn his Steward needed the respite from his duties.
Faramir plainly disagreed and had somehow found a way to get work, even if it was only paperwork, into the Houses to pour over. It was not in him to lay idle when there was work to be done, no matter the condition of his own health.
It had allowed the King to spend more time with his Steward though. He visited often, both as Faramir's healer and his friend. Faramir could not have been more embarrassed at the attention but as it continued he found himself being coaxed from his shyness, quickly coming to realize that Aragorn was a man much like himself.
The fledgling friendship deepened with the hours Aragorn spent at his Steward's bedside, speaking to him for the first time of matters other than the rebuilding of their country. It was an enlightening experience for both of them. Faramir had a love for his country that took Aragorn's breath away, for his heart dwelt there, but also in the lands of his childhood. Much could be learned, he knew, from Faramir's devotion to Gondor.
Aragorn rose early, as he had since the fall of the building that injured his Steward. Faramir awoke with the dawn without fail and was never at ease when he woke to the dark of his room in the Houses, with only the dim light and the crackle of the dying fire as companions until someone arrived. Aragorn tried to be there when he first stirred.
He was early, this morn, though Arwen was up before he even stirred, an occurrence that happened quite normally for his wife still needed all the sleep of one of the Eldar. The stars still cast their glow upon the sleeping city as the moon began to fall.
He walked slowly, breathing in the cool night air. It tasted new in his mouth and he lingered outside the Citadel, walking where his feet took him.
He stopped before the white tree. It had been nearly a year since he had shifted the good earth beneath his hands. Nearly a year since he had dug a hole in place of the withered tree and, with hands brown with soil, covered the roots of this tree, this symbol of renewed hope.
It had not flowered that year, being only just transplanted, but buds had been forming upon the branches in the weeks before and now... now there were blossoms.
His heart felt light and he laughed his pleasure aloud. There were only a few blossoms, doubtless the tree would be ever so much more beautiful once the rest of the buds unfurled, but they were the first.
His first thought was that this was something that had to be shared. He thought to find his wife and was bemused to find himself entering the Houses of Healing. Bemused, but content, he supposed it would not mean as much to Arwen.
Faramir slept as he entered the room. For a moment he reconsidered. His Steward did not always sleep easily and Aragorn was wont to let him continue if he slumbered peacefully.
But… no, this had to be shared and he had found who he wished to share it with, who he needed to share it with. He put his hand upon Faramir's shoulder and called to him, "Faramir. Faramir, wake up."
He stirred at the words. The King's voice had more power than any thing to draw him from slumber, no matter how deep. Grey eyes blinked open and looked up at him fuzzily. "Aragorn?"
Aragorn smiled, hearing his name slip from his Steward's lips so easily was in itself a small victory, for but a week before Faramir would call him by naught but his title without blushing fiercely. "How fares my Steward this morn?"
"Well enough," Faramir responded, though it was what he would have said even if he had been upon his death bed, provided his King asked. "Is something the matter?"
"No, no, but… Do you think you can stand and walk with me but I short while if I support you?" Aragorn asked.
"Yes," Faramir replied without hesitation. There was little he would not do, should Aragorn ask it of him.
"Then there is something I would show you," Aragorn told him.
Faramir looked at him with some bewilderment as Aragorn eased him to his feet and helped him don his thick, warm robe over his sleep clothes. Aragorn supported him gently with an arm about his waist, careful to avoid the still healing bruises, and his own arm was around Aragorn's shoulders.
Slowly and stiffly, for Faramir could not move otherwise, they made their way through the night. The air held a hint of chill but the freshness roused Faramir more and his eyes grew bright.
"Boromir used to do this," Faramir found himself saying, his voice but a whisper. Aragorn heard. Faramir felt his head turn towards him. "Sneak me out when I was injured. We were, neither of us, comfortable in the Houses. When I was wounded he would carry me out to see the stars. I could not do the same for him so I snuck in and stayed with him."
He swallowed and looked down, "My father would be ever so cross when he found me there in the morning."
Aragorn looked sadly at the younger man, though Faramir did not see, his eyes still on the ground, his concentration on moving in the way that caused him the least pain. "The past still dogs your steps, my Steward, I would not have it be so."
"The past is with me still, yes, and I think I shall never be fully rid of it." Faramir paused and was silent for a moment. "But as much as there is pain, there is also joy, though perhaps not as plentiful. It may dog me at times, and for that I am regretful, but it guides me also, and I am thankful."
"I would have you without sorrow," Aragorn said quietly. "As I would have all our people."
"Sorrow is but the flip side or joy," Faramir replied softly, his eyes distance. "Without one there cannot be the other and for the joy I have been granted…"
His voice faltered slightly, though Aragorn could not tell if it was from pain or emotion. "There is much I would alter of my life but not my joys and if for my joys I must bear the weight of my sorrows than I will gladly do so."
Aragorn chuckled as he helped Faramir settle into a seated position on a stone bench. Faramir looked at him questioningly and, Aragorn thought, with perhaps a bit of hurt as well. Aragorn took his face between his hands and smiled gently.
"You a very wise, my Steward, and sometimes it takes me by surprise because of your age. I certainly had not half the wisdom when I numbered your years," Aragorn explained.
Faramir flushed a dull red. It was not noticeable because of the dim light of false dawn, but Aragorn could feel his cheeks heat beneath his palm. "I suppose you are wondering why I woke you?"
"It had crossed my mind," Faramir replied quietly.
Aragorn sat, Faramir's curious eyes still on him and pointed to the tree before them, its branches swinging gently in the soft wind. "Look."
Faramir did. His eyes widened and his breath caught in his throat. Aragorn smiled even as the body beside him shivered suddenly. His gaze turned expectantly to his Steward.
Faramir was weeping, overwhelmed by joy as much as by sorrow. Aragorn's eyes softened. The King's arm slid around his shoulders and guided his head to rest against his shoulder, Faramir's tears trickling down his neck.
Tears came also to his silver eyes and Aragorn sighed, releasing them into the dark curls. He shed tears for those who were not with them to see their days renewed and for the blessing of those who were there to live it with him and he felt immensely thankful that, of all his noble ancestors, these days, this journey, should be his.
Faramir, he knew, was right in his wisdom, that they were blessed to have such times, good and bad, be theirs.
"Faramir," Aragorn murmured as he felt the tears falling against his neck cease, "Faramir?"
There was silence and then Faramir spoke, nearly too quiet for Aragorn to hear. "For so long I held hope within myself, afraid it would be lost, that we would be lost, what that is like…"
He trailed off. Aragorn held him still and he did not wish to move away. "And then you came and restored what once was and I no longer had to cling to the ghost of it for hope was all around me. I am glad, though it often feels bittersweet, still, I am glad I am here to see it. The tree…"
He faltered and Aragorn spoke not but moved his fingers tenderly through Faramir's hair. It was a healer's touch. It soothed him.
"It has for so long been our symbol of hope but tarnished and withered and so it has been all my life. It had seemed surreal, seeing it renewed, seeing the White City shine again and finding myself in a time of peace which I so longed for but now, to see it bloom…"
"It is real, no longer does it feel as a dream would," Aragorn finished when Faramir's words deserted him. "As if you could wake and find it gone."
"Yes," Faramir's voice was hushed, then louder and it shook with laughter and sudden relief. "Yes."
Faramir moved stiffly out of the embrace then and looked upon Aragorn intently, finding much of himself mirrored in the other man, more than he had supposed, but there was difference enough that they complimented each other when they could have clashed. And Aragorn saw the love in his Steward's grey eyes and was honoured, for he had only loved one so, Eowyn's being of a different sort, no lesser or great.
Faramir looked back to the tree and a smile grew over his face. The sun was rising and the white tree bloomed.