Title: Hands of the King|
Author: Juxian Tang
Characters/pairing: Boromir/Faramir, Aragorn
Warning: AU, corporal punishment
Summary: Another AU where Boromir is alive; and Aragorn has to do what he must. Inspired by this picture seen on Gladio's LJ
HANDS OF THE KING
He's growing restless again, and Aragorn knows that soon he will have to do it. It doesn't make him happy - the truth is he would have given almost anything to avoid it. But he knows there is no other way.
Boromir's face is pale and very tired, and his hands are moving, twitchily, as if seeking something and never finding it. But when he raises his eyes, they are dark and wild, glittering dangerously, and his lips are a thin line twisted in an unkind smile. The curve of his mouth makes Aragorn think about Denethor - and it is a painful reminder. Boromir shouldn't look like Denethor, shouldn't sound like him as he turns to Faramir, the edge of cruelty in his voice unmistakable:
"Why don't you keep your suggestions to yourself, brother? Sometimes you surprise me. Did you really hope to gain anything by your reckless ideas?"
Everyone in the council goes quiet, astonished, and Aragorn thinks helplessly that yes, he's not mistaken. It has started and he cannot put it off any more.
For some reason it's always Faramir who's the target, at the times like this. Maybe it is because of a wounded, vulnerable expression that glimpses in his face for a moment, before Faramir manages to regain control and look as composed as usual. Or maybe Boromir knows that insulting Faramir is exactly what will get him what he wants soonest. It is not a conscious knowledge, rather an instinct - as he always acts on instinct caused by unbearable need at these moments.
He knows Aragorn will protect his brother - them both - when Boromir himself can only destroy.
Aragorn protects them; despite the feeling of unease that seizes him every time he looks at two of them. They... what they are, what they do goes against everything he thinks normal, appropriate - goes against nature. They are male; worst than that, they are brothers. And yet - what else can he do? If he doesn't want to bear it, what will he have to bear instead? To see them exiled? Or dead?
It's not a choice at all.
He did have a choice, eight years ago, when he could stop it almost before it started. When it was infinitely more convenient for him, for Gondor, if Faramir had just married Eowyn, as he had been going to before he got to know that his brother was alive.
But he remembered how stunned Faramir looked when seeing them entering the city, recognizing Boromir in the crowd behind Aragorn. He remembered how tears trickled from Faramir's eyes as he kept looking at his brother - but his voice never faltered as he continued with the words of the ceremony and no one else around them noticed anything.
And he remembered how Boromir tried to look away, unhappy and exhausted, as if seeing his brother hurt but not seeing him hurt even worse.
And it was breaking Aragorn's heart; he didn't want to see them hurt even more - more than they already were. Because he had come to love them both and because he had almost lost both of them once and didn't want it to happen again.
And when he got to know, when he understood what was between them - he didn't put a stop to it, even though he supposed he could. Maybe it was his fault that he'd never got to care for Eowyn, deep in his heart, despite respecting and admiring her. And he told himself she would be happier elsewhere than with a husband whose heart didn't belong to her - and it was right eventually as she married another and seemed a content mother and wife.
But maybe the thing was that Aragorn had what he wanted then - what he had dreamed of for so many years: Arwen, family, his city. And they - they had nothing, apart from their shameful, clandestine affair.
Could he deny them even that?
He has sworn to himself to protect their secret with all his power of the king. He has promised to do all he could for them.
So now Aragorn keeps his promise.
"Stay behind, Boromir," he says - and sees a gentle, unconditionally supportive look Faramir gives to his brother.
Boromir nods and steps away a little as others leave the room. He knows what will happen - and Aragorn can see the tiniest tremble of anticipation in him, even through he seems apparently contrite for displeasing the king.
Yes, Boromir wants it, wants what is going to happen. This indignity, this shame, this guilt - something he would have never taken from another - and no other would give him.
How twisted he is... But Aragorn knows it. And it is his fault that Boromir is twisted and broken. He should have never left him then, after Amon-Hen, should have never let Boromir go alone, wounded and repentant as he was.
There are things they never talk about. One of them is whether what Boromir shares with Faramir is more than brotherly love. Another is what happened to Boromir after they had parted. Sometimes Aragorn tells himself that Boromir was broken even before then. But he can never know, can he?
Boromir's eyes look like black pits as he stands there. The door is shut behind the last man, and Aragorn himself walks up to it and bolts it. His gaze never leaves Boromir who seems calm but his eyelashes tremble unceasingly, as if even candlelight is too bright for him.
"Do you think I can allow you to insult a member of the council," Aragorn says, "and your brother?"
His stare meets Aragorn's, steady and fearless. But Boromir's eyes are dark, so dark, the pupils are dilated unbearably wide.
Oh Boromir. Aragorn's heart clenches. He can only imagine how it is to feel this constant unrest, always wanting something, something more. It's like he's poisoned, and maybe just a part of it is the Ring. And only Aragorn, his king, can help him - even in such a way.
He doesn't like it. It's not what he would like to do for his Steward. But it is what Boromir needs.
"Your behavior disgusts me," Aragorn says, with a faint hope that this time it will be different. Boromir readily nods.
"Please forgive me, my King."
"It is not me you should beg for forgiveness. It is your brother." Please let it work this time.
Boromir's eyes are so dark that it is difficult to figure out their expression. And his lips are compressed, as if in pain - or in a stubborn refusal to say the expected words.
Not Faramir. He would apologize to Aragorn but not to Faramir. Faramir who is everything he has, Faramir who has no one but him - just like Boromir has no one.
But it is a game, a condition Boromir will refuse to fulfill - and Aragorn knows he won't hear these words, no matter how he tries.
He will try.
"Then you don't leave me another choice."
He looks at the bolted door once again, rechecking, even though he remembers locking it. But it is crucial; no one has to know. Because it is sordid, like their brotherly twisted love is. Only sometimes it is the only way to live. To love.
As Aragorn loves both of them.
He doesn't say anything any more, just points with his chin - and does he really see this glimpse of relief - of joy - in Boromir's eyes? He doesn't want to think about it. He follows Boromir to another room, the one that is used for a single purpose. They have been there three months ago and nothing has changed since then. And Aragorn hoped they wouldn't need to go there ever again.
There is nothing to say, and Aragorn watches silently as Boromir unbuttons his waistcoat and then tunic, every button undone carefully, his head lowered, his long hair falling over his face, half-hiding it. The tunic slides down on the floor, leaving him shirtless, just in his pants. He pushes his hair away from his face and it falls onto his shoulders, reaching his collarbones.
The marks from the last time have faded, and now the only traces on Boromir's body are the rough scars left by orc arrows. He's untanned, his skin almost milk-white, smooth over hard muscles, and for a moment, for a split second, an odd thought visits Aragorn, of Faramir's long fingers sliding over these shoulders, touching this chest.
He never thinks about it, never even talks to Arwen about it, although he thinks she likely knows as much as he does. He never wonders what they do between themselves or how it feels. But sometimes thoughts are a strange, uncontrollable thing.
The image dispels as Boromir moves, comes to stand between two rings hanging on chains from the ceiling and puts his hands into the hard belts tied to them.
Aragorn thinks it's enough, he knows Boromir will never move, never let go - but everything has to be done properly.
As he's used to.
Faramir's face, slightly flushed in a rare moment of open content, comes to Aragorn's mind. He talks about their childhood - and then, after a pause, he says: "Boromir always took the blame for everything I did. I think our father knew the truth and thought me a weakling, rightly so - and detested me even more. But I was so afraid of his anger then, of his cane - and Boromir never seemed to fear."
And Boromir says: "Yes, I enjoyed it," with a chuckle that clearly makes it a joke - except for those three of them who know that it isn't.
And Aragorn thinks of Faramir, a lonely child whose whole world was centered upon his brother; and this brother who already had demons to expel and found such a strange way for it.
He comes up and tightens the belts around Boromir's wrists, jerking his arms wider apart. His shoulders strain, muscles of his back hard, long hair falling - and he is beautiful, he is perfect, and Aragorn thinks he shouldn't be, not now, not in the position like that.
"It is your brother who should hear from you how sorry you are," he repeats. He sees Boromir's jaw tighten - and his voice sounds composed and distant, deadly stubborn.
"I am sorry, my King."
Aragorn sighs. The whip is heavy in his hand, and he steps back, swings, and sees Boromir tense.
"It is up to you to change your mind."
Just say those words, and it will be over - but he knows that even though Boromir's body reacts involuntarily in anticipation of a blow, he really wants it.
And it lands, across his shoulder-blades, the sound swishing, the trace bright pink and swelling almost instantly, and Boromir sighs, not quite a gasp, and Aragorn also hears relief in it.
It's only the beginning, Aragorn thinks, how many of them will you need to chase away your demons for days, for months? He lashes again, and another welt falls across the first, and the sigh is barely audible, and Boromir's body plays a betraying game of trying to escape pain and yet leaning into it.
Do you need it? What do you punish yourself for? For being weak? For falling? For the wrong way of your life? How long do you know you're not like others?
Or do you punish others for it? Your brother? Your king?
Blows land, one after another, and even Boromir's strength is chipped under them as he reels slightly every time the whip licks his skin. His shoulders and back are criss-crossed with welts, and there are a few on his sides, skin marred and marked everywhere. There is blood; not a lot of it but in some places it is seeping, and Aragorn feels a surge of anger at that.
Why do you make me do it? Do you think I enjoy it? Anger puts more strength into his hand, into the blows, and they fall and fall, on Boromir's back and sides, and his head tilts down, long hair falling onto his chest, and sometimes it is already a hiss through the clenched teeth, not a sigh accompanying a blow.
You know what you have to say, Aragorn thinks. He is already getting tired, trickles of sweat run on his temples - and he forces his arm to rise every next time. Boromir is silent.
When will it become too much for you, damn you?
It doesn't become too much. Aragorn wonders if with Denethor it had been the same way - or if everything hadn't reached such extremes then. Because Denethor was even more stubborn than his elder son. But he loved Boromir, just as Aragorn loves him.
Blood is already small rivulets, running over his back and soaking into the waistline of Boromir's pants - and his skin is sleek with sweat, his hair wet as he tosses his head and bites his lips - as the whip bites into his flesh. The sounds he makes now are unwilling gasps, low and hoarse, caught in his throat.
Why don't you just say that, Aragorn thinks helplessly. How long do you think I should go on like this?
Boromir wants to break but he cannot give in, and he offers Aragorn a false feeling that maybe one more blow and it will be enough, he'll submit and everything will be over, never will have to be done again.
It is a helpless feeling, of near hatred, and yet another emotion, equally strong and burning, goes through Aragorn. Yes, he can go on, he can continue - but he knows Boromir won't yield, will better die than submit, and it is not even his fault, Boromir is tormented and hates himself most of all for it.
So will he have to whip him until there is no skin left? Even if Boromir will accept it, maybe wants it - Aragorn doesn't want it. He can't allow it.
And so the next blow never lands. Aragorn doesn't plan anything - he just stops. And makes a step towards Boromir, and touches a trickle of blood running over the torn skin.
He wraps his arm around Boromir's waist, pulling them together, and the whip slips out of his hand, and Boromir trembles hugely - maybe because he is hurt, his back is pressed to Aragorn's decorated tunic, but Aragorn doesn't think so.
"Please," he whispers against Boromir's hair, nearly pressing his lips to it. "My dear, my friend, my child. It is enough, is it not?"
And all the rules are broken and don't matter. And Aragorn's hands slide over Boromir's sides, careful to avoid the welts, caressing, pacifying like one would pacify a nervy horse. And Boromir shivers, leaning into this touch, his head tossed back against Aragorn's shoulder, and his chest is heaving - and the words come with ragged breath, difficult but relieved immensely:
"Yes... it is enough."
I cannot hate you, Aragorn thinks. I cannot even stop loving you.
He loosens the belts on Boromir's wrists, and by the time Boromir picks up his tunic from the floor, he is already composed and deferential. He sweeps his hair away from his face, straightening, and this familiar gesture touches some very tender string in Aragorn's heart.
He tries not to wince when seeing Boromir put on his shirt right over his bleeding back - but he knows that Boromir likely doesn't even notice that, and indeed his face doesn't change.
His face looks smoother, younger - as if lines and shadows are wiped away from it, and Aragorn thinks, yes, it all was worth it.
He will do it again, if he has to.
"My King," Boromir says - and now he sounds both repentant and vulnerable, just in those two words.
"Go, Boromir," Aragorn says. He is tired but he feels strangely accomplished. At least for a while the demons are gone. It is the most he can do - but he can do no less. "Good night."
Go to Faramir, he almost says - but they never talk about it, he doesn't even know if they think that he knows - or if they are still afraid that one day it might come up, still try to be cautious around him not to give themselves away.
They had given themselves away a long time ago, eight years ago, when Aragorn saw them on a small, shielded terrace late at night. Boromir's hands were feverish, sliding all over Faramir, his face, his hair, his chest, like he didn't know what more he wanted to touch and couldn't let go of anything. And Faramir was holding onto his shoulders, his knuckles sharp and white and his voice quiet and brittle as he said: "I will never let you go, don't even ask me to. I'll die with you but I can't let you go."
Aragorn couldn't bear to think about it then, them both dead, and he can't now. That is why he does what he must.
Boromir leaves, nodding once, reverently, and for a few moments Aragorn stays alone in the room with morbid proofs of what has happened there - rings, and the whip - and yet it is peace he feels. He has paid a price for this peace.
He will go to his rooms now, and slip to bed to Arwen, to the sleepy, wonderful comfort of hers, and feel her soft hands cup his face, her pliant, strong body press to him. And his life will finally be complete.
And Aragorn knows that meanwhile Boromir goes to Faramir's bedroom, unnoticed, as he always does, and his brother waits for him. And Faramir silently will help him to remove the shirt, blood-soaked in some places, and will run a wet cloth over his back, gentle and quiet, and the kindness in his eyes will be more than words - and it will be what Boromir needs - even if he doesn't think he deserves it.
And Aragorn knows that later, in darkness, their hands intertwined like his own fingers are twined with Arwen's, Boromir will say it.
"I'm sorry, Faramir."
And then he will feel complete too.