Yet the tall and proud City of Guard, especially its higher circles, lingered in an unwelcoming wintry chill.
It was still quite early in the evening, the dusk only just settling, the sky above a thick dove blue-grey, everything around silent as though with sleepiness. Beregond drew his long dark cloak closer about his shoulders as he walked through a deserted narrow side-alley, following his habitual shortcut home from his place of duty. This path was hardly ever used by anyone else: there were no back-doors opening onto the passageway, no clothes-drying lines, just a bare cobbled road, and sometimes it seemed to the guard that it existed for his benefit alone.
Much as he was generally an outgoing man, Beregond always enjoyed these few minutes of complete solitude in his day – and on this particular day more than usual. Although he had developed a great fondness for his young new companion and was veritably cheered by his presence – not to mention much moved by his strange tidings – Beregond was weary of heart. He had stood on the walls earlier that day, helplessly watching as the man he prized above all was chased by death itself, and defied the death – while he, Beregond, had been but a waste of space, a useless onlooker…
But then the guard raised his face and, to his great surprise and considerable unease, saw that this evening he was not alone in the street. A tall figure, the lines obscured by a thick long cloak, could be seen heading in his direction some way off.
Beregond was not a suspicious kind of person, yet in these gloomy days, when each new piece of news was queerer and grimmer than the previous, he was beginning to find himself wary and on edge more and more often. The stranger was a strong man, judging by his size and gait, and Beregond had noted the tip of a sheathed sword showing from beneath the rim of his cape.
“Show yourself!” Beregond called with authority, for, despite having finished his work for the day, he was still attired as Guard, and had every right to halt a passerby. He had stopped short and pulled himself to his full height, blocking the way as the unknown warrior came within several yards of him. The dimming light was behind the man, thus not letting Beregond see his face under the low-drawn hood.
Without stopping in his stride, in one smooth gesture the man pulled his hood back, and in another second was already right before Beregond – and the light finally fell on his wan face.
“Oh,” Beregond felt hot colour rush to his cheeks at once. “My apologies, your lordship, I did not recognise you.” Bowing respectfully, he hurried to step aside and let the Steward’s younger son – and, as it had been learnt several days ago, heir – continue on his way.
Yet Faramir did not appear intent on leaving, and was now regarding him with a thoughtful and faintly amused expression. Beregond usually very much liked to see his lord’s rare smile, yet as of late Faramir’s face was on the whole so pale and weary, that every expression it bore acquired an unsettling tinge of irony and detachment.
“’Tis all right, don’t apologise,” the young lord said in a hollow indifferent voice perfectly matching his countenance. “Your vigilance is only praiseworthy – and, in any case, I did not wish to be recognised.”
Beregond bowed again, desperately trying to think of something to reply, anything at all. It was such rare fortune to stand so close to his lord, to have a chance to talk with him, and now Beregond hated himself heatedly for this adolescent loss of speech.
“I am sorry… for your loss, Captain,” he said to end the awkward silence, by then actually wishing Lord Faramir would just go, relieving him of the seemingly insurmountable task of gathering his bearings and acting like a sane cultured person.
Faramir lowered his face as though in thought. “Yes, I am sorry also,” he said somewhat blankly, his gaze grave and absent, not even directed at the guard. Then the Ranger’s eyes returned to Beregond’s face, a flicker of recognition lighting in them. “You… you are called Beregond, right? It is in your company that my father has placed the Halfling who saw my brother fall, is that not so?”
“Yes, your lordship, that is correct,” Beregond replied carefully, giving a bow of confirmation. “I spent almost all of today with Peregrin.”
Faramir crossed his arms, growing even more thoughtful. And it seemed to Beregond that this elaborate connection he now had to Captain Faramir’s slain brother had instantly brought him much closer to his lord than all the years of living in the same city and serving in the same army had managed to. He even felt a certain kind of companionship arise between them – and he wished to say something else, but again, his mind was like a freshly wiped slate.
So he just stood, looking at Faramir, waiting for the man to say or do something. After all, it was only to be expected that the heir would give him an absent-minded nod and continue on his lordly way wherever he had been heading before the oh-so-vigilant Beregond interrupted him. Yet the warrior stayed in his place, seemingly lost in thought.
“May I be of some service to your lordship?” Beregond said at last, when the silence had stretched so long his cheeks were beginning to burn with embarrassment.
Faramir looked up at him, and Beregond realised the captain must have completely forgotten about his presence. But now that the older man gazed at him, it seemed that he finally saw him properly for the first time that evening – probably for the first time ever. Faramir’s black brows furrowed slightly as his keen steely eyes studied Beregond’s flushed attentive face.
“Service…?” he repeated vaguely, as though weighing the word up. “Why, it is very kind of you to ask.”
Beregond blinked in confusion. It was not ‘kind’ of him to ask – Faramir was his lord, not his friend, and it was only a duty of courtesy to offer his assistance in whatever the captain may require. And he felt the heir’s strange reply send a peculiar warmth through him, making something in his belly contract sharply. It is very kind of you – that had almost sounded like a compliment…
What are you thinking about?! Be careful and don’t humiliate yourself. It is already written all over your face…
“Tell me, Beregond…” Faramir said, bringing him out of his reverie. The Ranger stepped just a little closer and lowered his voice for privacy, as though they were not already completely alone. “Well, I don’t usually like bluntness in such matters, but these days… Really, I am rather weary, and time is short – definitely no time for elaborate courtesies. And I have just one simple question for you. Tell me, Guard – do you like men?”
Beregond would have expected any other question but this – and he just stared back at his lord. Faramir’s clear grey gaze was boring right into Beregond’s heart, or so it seemed to the younger man, for he could not break the contact, could hardly even inhale.
And he answered perhaps the stupidest thing he could have come up with. “I am a married man, and I have a son, my lord,” he heard himself saying before he could bite his tongue. Now, just where had this come from? Not that he had ever seen his covert passion for the captain as infidelity to his wife…
Faramir, however, did not seem to react to the reply at all, as though, in not being to the point of the question, Beregond’s words had not even registered with him. And Beregond added hurriedly, “But I very much do like men, Lord Faramir.”
At this the older man tilted his head to a side, still not taking his eyes from Beregond’s, and a faint smile came to his sensually-carved mouth – and again, Beregond saw irony in that smile.
“Well,” Faramir said softly, “and what of me, Beregond? Do you like me?” His sharp eyes narrowed slightly as he asked this, and their gaze became both painfully penetrating and slightly derisive. Well, one had to be at least a little derisive when asking such things – to save oneself some ground for retreat, should it be required.
Beregond breathed in sharply. Had he not dreamt so many times of being asked this simple question, of hearing those words come out of the Captain’s mouth…?
“You, my lord, are quite beyond compare,” he said very quietly, but clearly. He knew his face must be a bright scarlet even in the blue powdery light of the evening, and his heart was beating so loudly he was sure the lord could hear it – but what did it matter, really? Lord Faramir was here, right before him, alone with him, and seemed to want him…
And Lord Faramir leant in to him, planting his hand on the wall just above Beregond’s shoulder. Beregond shut his eyes and lifted his face up at once – yet Faramir did not meet the man’s parted lips, but rather touched his nose to Beregond’s neck just below the ear. He inhaled deeply – and drew away, staying the guard from virtually falling forward after him by lightly touching the man on the chest.
Catching his balance, Beregond looked up in bewilderment, searching Faramir’s features desperately, fearing he had done something wrong, had insulted his lord, had made a fool of himself... But the Ranger only grinned with a corner of his mouth.
“Not here,” he said as a way of explanation.
And Beregond understood. That brief contact, what it was for – Lord Faramir had wanted to know what he smelled like, to see whether this guard he hardly even knew could indeed arouse desire in him. And, judging by his words, he had liked the scent. He had not said ‘no’ – he said ‘not here’, which meant that, in the right place, he would have… Beregond felt his head beginning to swim. I shall touch you, and embrace you, and take your clothes off, and possess you, ravish you and drive you mad with joy – I shall, just not here.
For Beregond’s part, that little gesture already had him aching with longing. Despite Lord Faramir’s undeniably attractive appearance, and despite Beregond’s unfading desire for the man, the guard had nevertheless always seen him as a being so faultless and above everyone else, that it was nigh to impossible to imagine the captain actually doing something remotely carnal or indecent. And that Faramir should in fact have an ostensibly strong feral side to him – which seemed to be the case, given he had just smelled Beregond like they were a pair of wolves and not the sons of Men – that was almost too much to comprehend…
The younger man managed to nod, mumbling vaguely, “Of course, my lord, I am sorry…” What a fool. Had he truly expected the heir of Gondor to just bend him over and fuck him in a back alley, the guard’s silver helmet still on and his trousers around his knees…?
But the captain did not appear annoyed with him in the slightest – in fact, Beregond’s flustered state seemed to pleasantly amuse him.
“Well, do you know a place we could spend an hour or two in comfort and privacy?” Faramir asked patiently, raising his brow in question.
Beregond inclined his head. “Yes, your lordship,” he said before having even thought where such a place would be.
The Ranger made a little contented nod and gestured for Beregond to lead.
Beregond swallowed and walked on the way he had been going before meeting with Faramir, impulsively continuing towards his own house. Before he had made a dozen paces, however, he realised that it was out of the question: his wife must have already returned from her daily business, not to mention his ten-year-old son… In any case it would have been too risky. But he had to think of something – this was his one chance, and he could not let it slip.
And then he knew. His younger brother Iorlas lived less than a mile away from Beregond’s family – and Iorlas would not be returning to the City for at least another day. Beregond, as always, had the key to his front door…
So this was it. Convenient and easy.
He could hardly believe it. He felt like that fairy-tale man who had been walking down a country-lane when coming upon a fist-sized diamond lying in the dust. What had Beregond done to deserve such a blessing, such a gift from fate? He could not remember how that tale ended, whether the character had benefited from his discovery – but who cared about that? No matter what happened afterwards, he was going to have his one moment of glory, his one dream come true.
Had he not berated and shamed himself so many countless endless nights for even daring to wish after such a thing? He may have long since grown to accept his inconceivable desire for men – inconceivable and unrealised desire, that is – yet with Lord Faramir?! Lord Faramir was perfection embodied, perfection in all senses, and especially as of late pretty much the last beacon of hope to most in Minas Tirith and Gondor on the whole. Quite like a talisman in the eyes of the people – as long as all was well with him, they could defy despair. And Beregond, a simple tower guard, dared to desire him?!
There! he almost felt like shouting out. I am not a pathetic deluded fool after all! It is going to happen, for real.
He could barely hear his unexpected companion walking just a couple of steps behind. Faramir was a tall man, taller even than Beregond himself, and must likely heavy at that, and his cloak was long and wide – yet the soles of his riding boots met with the cobbles of the street with hardly a sound, and the fabric of his cape never rustled, not even a faint whisper. The leather of his jerkin did not creak, the links of the mail underneath did not scratch at each other – a true Ranger he was, moving with the soundless grace of an Elf.
Beregond, for his part, felt like a mūmak in full military attire stomping down the street, thud-thud clink-clank, for all the good people to hear and look, and laugh at his clumsiness. And he did not dare throw a glance over his shoulder to check that Lord Faramir was indeed there.
Oh, for the Valar’s sake, you are not sixteen years old. Get a hold of yourself. If you keep on fretting like this, you’ll be all sweaty and shaking by the time you get to the bedroom, and your prick will likely go into a stupor… Not that Beregond had ever actually encountered such a problem, yet he had heard it could happen if one was too high-strung. Needless to say, the notion was doing little to soothe his nerves…
The walk that could not have possibly taken more than ten minutes felt like the longest hour in his life. By the time they finally climbed the several steps to Iorlas’ porch, Beregond was indeed having trouble fitting the key into the hole.
Perhaps I got it all wrong. How can he possibly want me, when he could have anybody, the fairest, the noblest, the freshest, the most skillful…? He probably just wants to have a bite to eat and have a talk about… about… what was his name… Peregrin, yes. He wants to talk about Peregrin, I am sure. Nay, he cannot possibly desire me…
Beregond sighed in relief when the lock clicked at last, and pushed the door, leading his lord into the dim corridor.
He knew he ought to say something welcoming, some perfunctory words, yet all speech was stuck in his throat, and he gave up on courtesy. Still not looking back at the captain, he quickly pulled his helmet off and put it down on a small bench, then just as hastily undid his cloak to hang on one of the hooks by the door.
But before he could even turn to the older man, Faramir decisively gathered him up in a strong urgent embrace and, simultaneously twisting him around and pressing him hard against the wall, in the next instant was already kissing him deeply. Beregond gasped – and melted at once. His lord’s kiss was strong and masterful, and unlike anything Beregond had known before – and he returned it like he had never done before. Had he been able to retain some thinking ability, he would have perhaps marveled at actually having Captain Faramir’s agile and demanding tongue in his mouth, at having those sweet hungry lips grind against his, at feeling that hot rapid breath against his face, at having the first hint of a stubble scrape against his cheek…
But he could hardly understand anything at all as his arms came to snake around the Ranger’s neck – except that at least two of his previous concerns had been entirely ungrounded. For one, Lord Faramir apparently wanted him. And two, he was not going to disgrace himself as a man, for already he was as hot and rigid as a freshly forged blade, his groin hurting from all the boiling blood that had suddenly surged there. He was aware of nothing else: not of his full quiver biting painfully into his back, all the arrows cluttering drily; not of Faramir’s long sword bumping unpleasantly against his leg and then thudding at the wall behind them; not of the way the two of them had knocked the bench, setting Beregond’s winged helmet falling to the floor with a loud clank – only Faramir’s mouth on his, only the lord’s hands on him…
Then Faramir pulled away a little, although not slackening his embrace, and, letting out a long breath, grinned contentedly. Beregond stared up at him hazily, his own breathing so hard he even heard it himself. In Faramir’s grey eyes he saw that expression again: appraising, sharp and faintly ironic, only now there was a new shade to it – hunger and overpowering masculine confidence.
Regarding the guard in thoughtful amusement, the Ranger pressed his lips together, as though to suppress a smile, and moved his hand to brush a lock of hair from Beregond’s forehead.
The younger man closed his eyes and leant into the touch, immediately forgetting himself again.
“Now I want you to get something straight, my good guard,” Faramir murmured and, when Beregond looked at him, gazed darkly right into the younger man’s eyes. “In the course of the next hour or so, I am going to fuck you, and do it hard – and I shall damn well make sure you enjoy it. The only little thing I ask of you is to relax – all right? The less you worry, the smoother everything will go. I know this is all very sudden, and perhaps seems a little strange to you, but you are a man of war, aren’t you, Beregond? You should’ve been trained to deal with the unexpected.”
“I… I was,” Beregond breathed out dreamily, still drowning in Faramir’s eyes.
“Good,” Faramir nodded with a dry grin – and let him go, then took a couple of steps further down the shady corridor, his cloak still on. “Now, I wager there should be a bedroom in this house.”
“Yes, ’tis upstairs, my lord,” Beregond replied, his voice still disobeying him somewhat. At least managing to abstain from leaning against the wall for support, he bowed his head, trying to digest it all. His lord had just… Had touched him, had kissed him, had said such things to him… Beregond felt his already straining manhood give a tortured twist at the mere memory. Faramir’s easy confidence fascinated him, and the warrior’s apparent and absolute lack of inhibitions – and shame – was so frighteningly arousing…
But Lord Faramir was right, he had to pull himself together. The captain, weary and busy as he was, was going to spend some of his precious time on Beregond – Beregond had to give him the most for it. Just breathe out and relax. This is all overwhelming and unfamiliar – but this is exactly what you have always hungered for! Just follow the Captain’s lead and enjoy what you get.
Perhaps people who had the jitters regularly grew used to it somehow, and found a way to carry on regardless – Beregond’s problem was, he had never been like this. He may not have been the most dashing man around, yet he had always secretly prided himself on being level-headed and confident in his abilities. He had never been scared in the face of mortal peril or daunted by the need to make an important decision, nor had big loud companies ever intimidated him. He had not suffered from any insecurities in the bedroom either, not even when losing his virginity with the girl who had been just as clueless as he.
“Lord Faramir, may I…? Would you perhaps like a glass of wine or water first?” he called after the captain, finally remembering some hospitality.
“Aye, that would be most agreeable, thank you kindly,” Faramir replied lightly.
Beregond almost wished he had not suggested that. First he had trouble recalling where his brother kept the wine – then the corkscrew, and now he could not open the dratted bottle…
He barely heard the footsteps before he felt his lord come to stand inebriatingly close behind him. Beregond lowered his face a little, but, not knowing how to acknowledge their closeness, simply continued to struggle with the drink. At least he had had enough sense to leave his bow and quiver in the hall, and now they would not get in the way…
Without a word, Faramir laid his hands on top of Beregond’s, and, in a couple of seconds and one strong movement, the bottle was open.
Relieved, Beregond laughed out softly. “I am sorry, lord, I am so nervous.”
“’Tis all right, don’t be embarrassed about that,” Faramir replied quietly, his voice thick with warmth and amusement. “Your agitation quite flatters me,” he added, letting his fingers linger for a moment on the backs of the younger man’s hands. Then he stepped back, leaning against the counter used for cooking. “Water my glass down, if you please: on such occasions I prefer to have myself rather sober than not.”
So Beregond poured half a cupful of fragrant dark-coloured liquid, and then filled the glass up with clear cold water. He was going to have some explaining to make to Iorlas – his brother looked well after the household, he would notice the absence of even one bottle. But all that Beregond would worry about later.
He passed the cup to Faramir, jolting faintly when their fingers met. Faramir acknowledged the younger man’s reaction with a shadow of a smile. “Pray serve yourself also, Beregond – you surely need it.”
And Beregond gladly obliged.
They drank slowly and quietly, not even trying to put up a pretence of making small talk. Beregond had no doubt that Lord Faramir for his part could have easily chatted about a subject of any degree of difficulty, had he so wished. Likely, he was just sparing Beregond the embarrassment – the guard was quite certain his current inability to support a conversation was rather obvious.
So they just stood looking at each other – that much Beregond had been able to manage: their eyes had met over the rims of their cups, and the younger man had not let go. And once again he marveled at the turn things had taken, and at the way Lord Faramir was bearing himself. Beregond was not used to any of this at all: for one, he had always thought only women for sale got picked up on the street like that… And he had never thought his beloved captain (all right, it was time to start calling things by their proper names already, given the way the events were progressing) – had never thought Faramir would ever go finding company for himself in such a manner. Really, was it just the lord’s weariness and lack of time that had led him to make this questionable proposition to Beregond? Well, admittedly, from Beregond’s point of view, the proposition was a sheer blessing, and nothing questionable about it – but he had to face it, this was not the socially appropriate sort of conduct for a man, especially for a man of Captain Faramir’s rank… Of course, taking into account that he was about to get laid, it was very tempting for Beregond to allow that his long-kept-in-secret feelings were actually reciprocated, that there was a deep personal reason – but he knew better than that. Lord Faramir may have known him by face, but had had trouble recalling his name earlier in the evening – oh please, what feelings could there possibly be?
And the way Lord Faramir behaved himself… Maybe it was simply Beregond’s lack of experience in this area, really, maybe this was the usual mode for men in such situations. Not that he minded – far from it: the Captain’s strong ungentle embrace, his bold marginally ironic glances, the way he said ‘I am going to fuck you’ with such unassuming matter-of-factness… All of it was powerfully arousing in a faintly intimidating way, getting Beregond to think of how masterful and forceful his lord was going to be in bed, and thus making the guard even hotter between his legs than he already was.
Only somehow it did seem a little odd that the heir said and did things like that. No, it did not feel like Faramir’s own, natural style. Beregond’s impression of the lord had always been that of a reserved and rather gentle man, one touched by a ringing, radiant pureness, albeit stern of face – a man who had refined manners and was careful with the way he spoke. If anything, Beregond would have never deemed him capable of uttering things like ‘damn well’, let alone ‘fuck’, especially in its literal meaning… Of course, it was not uncommon among warriors. As far as the guard remembered, Lord Boromir, for instance, had used to say ‘fuck’ and suchlike quite a lot, even when it was not entirely called-for – but Lord Faramir, certainly, was made out of a different sort of dough…
Beregond felt himself getting confused and actually growing strangely uneasy – and waved these musings away. He had not even as much as shared a kiss with a man until some ten minutes ago – what did he know of such things? What did he know of sex at all? He had wed early, and in all his thirty-two years had ever only been intimate with his wife, who had always been a good sensible person with serious kind eyes – he had never allowed himself any ‘indecencies’ with her. Their style had always been that of quiet, careful tenderness rather than of unbridled passion – he had only ever dreamt of passion and unabashed lust, and the forms his dreams took had often perplexed and frightened him…
Well, very soon he was going to discover whether his fantasies had much in common with reality.
“You said upstairs, right?” Faramir asked casually, putting his empty glass down on the table and heading out of the kitchen.
Beregond drowned the rest of his wine in one draught, and silently followed.