Disclaimer:† The brothers of Gondor belong to Professor Tolkien.††Inspired by Sarah McLachlanís song of the same name.

Time

It was late afternoon, and it seemed like it had been forever.

Boromir lay on his brotherís bed, staring out the westward window at the unmoving sun, as Faramir slept beside him.† Shadows crept slowly along the walls, if they moved at all, and everything was limned in warm golden light.† It transformed his brotherís rather spare bedchamber into a place of beauty he imagined would only exist in the realm of Elves.† It even turned Faramirís worn scabbard into something beautiful where it leaned against the wall, and made his bow gleam.

Faramir muttered in his sleep, shifting restlessly.† Boromir smoothed his brotherís hair back from his face, kissing his brow, and he settled back into deeper slumber, his nose buried in Boromirís neck.† Once heíd quieted again, Boromir eased him into a more comfortable position, where the gold braid decorating his tunic wouldnít dig into Faramirís cheek.

Normally, Boromir would have begrudged that Faramir slept through their all-too-brief time together.† Often, they would go weeks without seeing each other, and then have no time to spend in each otherís company when they did happen to be in the same place at once.

But Faramir had been swaying with weariness when he rode in to Minas Tirith that morning, and Boromir had been quietly alarmed by his brotherís haggard face, by the dark crescents under his eyes.† Even though he could barely keep his feet, Faramir had insisted that he make his report to their father before seeking any rest.

Denethor had, of course, railed at him for his delayed arrival, despite the fact that he had only sent out the messenger demanding his sonís presence a few days before.† Once he had received the message, Faramir had traveled hard and fast from North Ithilien, crossed the river above Osgiliath and taken a horse from there to ride across the Pelennor.† He had gone without sleep for at least two nights in order to return to Minas Tirith as his father had commanded.

Boromir had insisted on being present during his brotherís report, and the gratitude in his brotherís tired gaze warmed his heart.†

It did not make up for the fury that burned in him at the way their father treated his younger son.† In the end, Denethor dismissed Faramir without a word of thanks or concern for his condition, and had not even noticed that he nearly fell over when he bowed.

Boromir had, though.† He made his escape from his fatherís presence with much less grace and courtesy than usual, and caught up with his brother quickly.† Faramir had tried to declare that he didnít need any help, but had stumbled with the next step he took.† Boromir had overridden his protests and supported him back to his room, had taken care of his brother as he had when Faramir was but a child.

But as he was about to leave, heíd stopped, feeling Faramirís eyes on his back, and had responded to the silent request for him to stay.† He settled next to his brother, drawing his head to rest on his shoulder, and Faramir had fallen asleep almost instantly.

That had been hours ago by the normal reckoning of time, and yet . . . the odd quality of this day was such that much more time had passed than that.

And even more strangely, Boromir did not mind the passage of time.

Itís not often I simply get to hold him like this, he reflected, fingers drifting lazily over Faramirís shoulder and upper arm.† And this unfamiliar feeling . . . is this contentment?

Whatever it was, he hoped that time would never resume its normal passage, that this day, this feeling, would go on forever.† The rest of the world meant nothing, and only he and his brother existed . . .

A wry smile twisted his lips.† A pretty dream, that, he thought, then sighed.† If only . . .

Ah, there were so many ďif onlyísĒ he could think of, enough to fill a day like this with wishes and dreams.† And he knew that few of them would ever come true.† There was no such thing as someday; there was only now, filled with battle and doubt and fear that they would not see the next dawn.† There was no future.

Still, Boromir mused, a now like this isnít at all unpleasant.The only thing I could wish more is for Faramir to wake.

The shadows had moved but imperceptibly further across the wall when Faramir stirred once more.† He yawned deeply, muscles tensing, and then relaxed again, one arm thrown across Boromirís chest.† He muttered something unintelligible, muffled into his brotherís collarbone.

Boromir chuckled.† ďYouíll have to say that again, little brother, for I canít hear with my shoulder.Ē

Faramir smiled, eyes still closed.† Then he shifted, placing his mouth against Boromirís ear instead.† ďThank you for staying,Ē he said, his voice soft and husky from slumber.

Boromir shivered as Faramirís breath tickled against his ear and neck.

At last Faramir opened his eyes, and took in the way the light washed his room.† He sighed gustily.† ďIím sorry.† I didnít mean to sleep away the whole day . . .Ē

Boromir grinned at that, laughter rumbling deep in his chest, and when Faramir propped himself up on an elbow to quirk an eyebrow at him, he said, ďTime has been kind to us this day, and if it continues, there are still many, many hours yet before either of us must leave.Ē

No matter how Faramir questioned him, both then and later, he would not explain his words.

***

When Boromir woke, it was into soft, autumn-hued light that danced delicately across his eyelids.† Smiling, still half-lost in the world of dreams, he stretched out one arm, searching the expanse of the bed for Faramir, for surely this meant that his wish had come true, that time had stopped for them, even if only for one day . . .

He found no one, nothing, only cool linen, and sat up too quickly, eyes darting around the room in alarm despite the way his head spun.

It was not his bedchamber, nor Faramirís.† He was clearly not even in Minas Tirith.† The walls were decorated with hangings and tapestries of strange design, and the door- and window-frames seemed almost as if they had been grown in that shape rather than carved.

Memory finally penetrated his sleep-fogged mind, and he sighed, resting his head upon one hand.† He was in Rivendell at his fatherís behest, many long and weary miles from home.

Too long away from his brother.

How does he fare? He could not stop himself from wondering, as he had every day of his journey.† He must have returned to Ithilien weeks ago.† Then another idea filled him with dread.† Would Father make him defend Osgiliath in my stead?† He shook his head, trying to drive the sudden, vivid images awayóof black rivers of orcs streaming through the streets of the ruined city, of its defenders dead, left where they had fallen, of Faramirís blood staining the stones, his eyes sightlessly reflecting the sky . . .

No.† Boromir took a deep breath, burying the familiar fear deep.† Of course Father has sent him to Ithilien.† My brother will not die in Osgiliath just because I am here.

He is awaiting my return, and how dearly I yearn to be home with him once more . . .

Shivering at the thought, he looked up again and stared at the room, awash in the pale golden light, without seeing it.† He had arrived only a few days ago, but it already felt to him that an eternity had passed.† And this day stretched before him, as endless as the ones before, filled with far too many hours, time that he could only fill with dark, brooding thoughts.

There was no one here who could coax him into better humor, whether it be with gentle teasing or a shy smile.† Faramirís absence was a throbbing ache that could not be soothed.

When he turned his gaze, he saw the light glinting off his shield, outlining the scars it bore and making it seem fragile and useless.† His sword looked similarly unreliable, rusted to its ancient scabbard and unable to be drawn.

Though the shadows crawled as deliberately across the walls as they had that day in his memory, they were sharper, more distinct than he recalled the ones in Faramirís chamber.† They were almost menacing in aspect now, painting things starkly black to contrast against the faded light.

Boromir closed his eyes, inwardly cursing his flight of fancy so many months ago.† There is no beauty here, he thought, not even in the Elves.† Their hearts are ice, all feeling leeched out of them.

Though the Fellowship, as Master Elrond had dubbed them, would be leaving in but a couple more days, Boromir wished it were today.

He was trapped in the cool amber light, unable to escape.

Time flowed differently in the land of the Elves; it was too slow to bear.

***

The light was white, weak and winter-thin, but it still hurt Boromirís eyes when he opened them.

Then, as he took a shuddering breath, agony filled him, blazing through his chest and stomach, and he knew he was dying.

The knowledge was torture, nearly as unbearable as the pain, and he could feel tears welling up.† He was a warrior, a son of Gondor, and heíd known since the first time he held a sword that death would come for him, and perhaps sooner rather than later.† But to die here, so far from his city, so far from his brother . . . no.† I would see you once more, Faramir.

The arrows jostled in his flesh as he tried to stand, sending white-hot shards of pain down his nerves, but his limbs would not obey.† They were distant and heavy and he could not force them to move.† He gritted his teeth, and the tears escaped his control. Once more, he thought, I just need to get to my feet once more . . .

Blood pooled around the arrowheads in his flesh and overflowed; he could feel it seeping over his skin, soaking his tunic.† Casting about desperately, knowing his time was short, he saw a tree a mere hand span behind him.† If I can brace myself against that, I can stand . . . and if I stand, I can . . .

But his arms and legs were no longer merely distant, they were numb, and no matter how he strove to move them, they would not.

The moments of his life trickled away through his fingers even as he tried to hold them back.

Oh, cruel time, to flee from me now when most I wish you to stay.

When the silhouette appeared over him, blocking the cold white glare, he could focus only on blue eyes in deep shadows, and for one wild moment, he believed that his brother had found him.

No, he thought, regretfully, Faramir would not abandon his post . . .

Aragornís voice, filled with grief, reached his dulled ears, and despair overwhelmed him.† A weight settled on his chest, and it was so hard to breathe.† He was riddled with guilt, though the veil that had blinded him until he could see nothing but the Ring was gone.

He would not have one final, perfect moment; he would not see Faramir again.

Iím sorry, little brother.† Who could have predicted I would die here?† I always thought you would be near . . .

Even as he stuttered out his confessions, the weak light was overcome by swift shadows, his vision blurred again by darkness.

There was no time left for a farewell for his brother; it had all stolen away.

***

September 5, 2005

© randi (K. Shepard), 2005