Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lord of the Rings belong to their respective creators, Joss Whedon and J.R.R. Tolkien.
The room they took him to was not a cell, but a chamber higher in the Tower. Three men dragged him in, the captain holding open the door, and were forced to push him, almost off his feet, in order to retreat and get out the door before he could turn and come at them again.
The captain's face worked as he tried to quell his own feelings. “My lord,” he said, and his voice was hoarse with effort. “My lord, forgive us.”
Faramir said nothing. He rushed for the door, almost getting his hand broken as the captain staggered back and pulled it closed with a slam. Faramir seized the handle and heaved, nearly dislocating his shoulder and causing the men holding it to curse as he managed to get it open a few inches before they hauled it back. He heard the rasp of leather against metal, the scratch of wood, and knew that someone had slid a blade through the handle on the other side.
Despair made his throat close up and his breathing grate. He tried to quiet himself, tried to listen for how many men were standing outside his door, but all he could think of was the point of the elven knife set at the back of her neck before cutting down through her tunic and surcoat and all he could hear was his father's voice as he said, “Bare her back.”
Faramir cried out, and pulled at the door with all his desperate strength. He heard a sharp, metallic noise as the blade snapped, and then he was through the door and the men shouted as they came at him.
When they had got him back in, the three Guards bruised and bleeding and still loath to lay hands on him, the captain said to him, “My lord, I beg you, this does not help her!”
The captain held in his hand the sword they had taken from him, unsheathed. It glimmered in the dimness, the two trees silver-wrought in the blade, and when they shut the door again, he heard the scrape as the captain passed it through the handle.
Faramir cried out again, incoherent, and collapsed on his knees. He struck at the floor so that his hand burst into agony, and then he slumped back against the wall and stared unseeing at the door.
The room was very small. It was disused and dust-covered, and the air was stale. There was a window above his head, but it was small and glassed, nothing a grown man could climb through. There were no candles. The room was dark, the only light the line of pale luminance beneath the closed door.
He thought of Buffy, her face as the whip struck.
He had brought this on her. He had caused this misery, had behaved irresponsibly and without thinking, and now she was punished for it, for his father's hatred of him. He had not been able to stop it, had not seen it coming, had done nothing to prevent it. Now she bled and suffered.
He remembered her face as she told them “No.”
All she had had to do was give him up. If she had disavowed him, if she had unspoken her oath and made nothing their plight, she would have spared herself. His father would have had his way and she would have been let go, could have left Minas Tirith and put him out of her mind. That was what he himself had wanted her to do. No.
She had not forsaken him. Not even to save herself.
He tried to think. He had to go back, had to stop what was happening. He could not get through the window. He could perhaps break down the door—he thought of the sword, her sword, barring the way—and then? There would be the captain and at least his three Guards, four jailers to overcome and maybe others. Faramir knew he would not be able to do so without killing them.
And then? If he were, by some chance, to get all the way back down to the Tower Hall, then what? There would be all the assembled lords and the Steward himself, and the rest of the Guards of the Citadel. He was the Steward's son, but the Steward was the Steward and his command was law. They would not hesitate to cut him down, especially when he was seen to be a traitor and a murderer. Would Mablung face him, blade in hand? He would. Though they were friends, though they had stood beside each other in war and in battle, he would.
There was nothing he could do.
He remembered her the way he had seen her, only an hour or so ago. He remembered her laughing, her smile, touching his hand and sitting by him so that their arms and hips touched. He remembered her tears, her trembling as he took her in his arms and held her close. It was as if she were there now, as if he could see her eyes, feel her skin, taste her mouth as he kissed her, smell the scent of her hair. He could hear her say, low and serious, as if his name were an oath, “Faramir.”
Did they scourge her now? Did she writhe beneath the lash as her back became torn and bloody from each stroke? Were they putting the iron into the coals, heating it red while they waited to put it to her cheek?
Did they watch? Did no one say anything? Could any lord of Minas Tirith, any man anywhere, bear such shame, though it be a lawful command?
Did she scream?
Faramir did not know if time passed. He could have looked out the window, but there were no stars or moon to tell time. There was no noise from the hall beyond the door, and each moment was more unbearable than the last. His head hung from his shoulders, his back was to the wall, and he sat so for minutes or hours, he could not say.
A failure. All his life, he had disappointed his father, had failed to win his affection, had never been able to come out of Boromir's shadow. And now his failures racked the woman he loved.
She was so small. He thought of the whip on her skin and grew light-headed and felt as if he would retch.
Would she die under the lash?
He felt madness stir in his heart, the madness of one who had lost all to grief. If she died...
If she died...
When he heard the noise of the sword being pulled from the handle of the door, he looked up. When the door opened, the light was low enough that he was not blinded, and he saw the tall shape of a big man step into the room.
“Faramir?” said Boromir's voice, and he saw that it was his brother, dressed as he had last been but for wearing no cloak, and his face, though tired, was perplexed. “Faramir, what has happened?”
He wasted no time but stood, hobbling when his leg was numb with cold. His fingers found Boromir's surcoat, grasped handfuls of the cloth, and he clung to his brother as to life.
“They've taken her,” he said, and his voice was a guttural gasp. “They've taken her, Boromir, they're taking the lash to her—”
“What?” said Boromir. “Who, what—what do you mean, the lash—” “Buffy,”
he cried, and he saw his brother's face still. “Father has had her taken to the Hall, he has had her arrested—he has said that she broke the law, he has commanded that she be punished by whip and brand, brother—she is being scourged even now
Boromir thrust him back, turned, and tore out of the room.
Faramir listened to the fading drum of his brother's footsteps as he took the hall at a dead run, and felt a double-edged blade in his heart.
“My lord,” said the captain where he stood. He, and all three of the battered Guards who stood behind him, looked as if they struggled with emotion. “My lord, please go back into the room.”
Faramir did not look at them or answer. He only turned and went back to the wall, the door closing behind him and the blade replaced.
Boromir would stop this. He would go to her, stop them from hurting her. Boromir would save Buffy. She would be spared. Boromir, his brother, would be her shield.
He sat down again, with his legs bent in front of him so that his elbows rested on his knees, and he waited.
He did not notice the cold anymore, nor time. He was thinking of nothing at all, only sitting by himself in the dark and staring at the door. He did not know if anyone passed his door or if the Guards spoke to each other or if it rained again outside. He kept his position, his head up and eyes forward, and he only moved, perhaps an hour or three later, to pull the tree on its chain from beneath his shirt and grip it so tightly that an edge pierced his palm and there was a sharper pain over the dull throb of the earlier nail-marks.
He was seeing again the look on his brother's face, the look he had seen earlier that night, when he had taken Boromir to see the girl he loved.
Boromir had not known. To not know, when all the other lords to be found in the Citadel that night knew, could only mean that their father had purposely kept Boromir from the Tower Hall. He had tried to keep the doings of that night from his firstborn son.
What did that mean?
An age seemed to pass while he sat there, cold and numb and thinking of his father and brother.
Dulled, Faramir came slowly out of his torpor when he again heard the blade removed from the door. The room was lighter, and he saw through the window that dawn approached. When the door opened and Boromir came in, his tread slow and weary, Faramir did not stand.
Boromir stopped, looking at his brother from the doorway. Then, stiffly, he came and sat beside him, putting his back and head against the wall, his left leg stretched out before him, the right brought up as a rest for his knee. A sigh filled the room.
They sat, silent, as the room whitened and the gray of dawn lit the stone. At the door, a hand reached out and pushed, leaving it only slightly ajar, to give the brothers privacy.
“What has happened?” asked Faramir, and his voice was thick and broken.
“She is gone,” said Boromir, and then, “I sent her away.”
Faramir thought on this. “Father?”
“I did it without his knowing.” At Faramir's expression, Boromir laughed without smiling. “I know. I may be joining you here before the day is out, little brother.”
They did not speak for a while, and the call of the changing of the guard drifted on the air and even through the window shining with morning light. The Guards at the door spoke to each other in a quiet murmur, yet another small courtesy.
“I did not do this, Faramir.” Boromir's whisper was low and heartsick. “I swear I did not. I went to my own chambers, would be there still if your Madril had not come to find me.” A murderous anger came into his voice and made it dreadful to hear. “I will
find the man who did this,” he spat, “and cut out his tongue.”
Then he hung back, and Faramir closed his eyes.
“I did not reach her in time,” said Boromir finally. “They lashed her. I stopped them scorching her, but...but...”
He made a noise in the back of his throat, and Faramir looked over to see his brother with his face in his hand. He said nothing, watching while Boromir regained his control.
“She never made a sound,” said Boromir roughly. “Never! Though they lashed her bloody, she never screamed or whimpered or even spoke. Her face...has anyone ever seen such a face! Not a cry, not a tear, while they stripped the flesh off her back...”
Faramir turned away, his hands throbbing.
Boromir's voice shook. “They brought out a boy. Did you know she had kept servants? He said he was her apprentice, that she was his lady. Poor boy, he could not have known...well. They brought him and they sentenced him to a lesser whipping, and when they went to strike him...by all that is good, Faramir, that girl! Buffy. She—she did not hesitate, you understand, when she—she went to him and threw herself over him, over his back, and offered hers up to be beaten in his stead, though—though it had already been torn open—”
Faramir cried out, and the sound of it seemed to silence everyone who could hear it. The Guard stopped talking, then resumed, louder and more forced. He heard Boromir moving against the stone, but he had turned his face to the wall.
“They put her in a cell,” said Boromir, and now his voice was detached and casual, the same voice with which he spoke of battle plans. “I would never have gotten her out, if...if there were not certain persons, there, who had not taken your side in this. They turned their backs as I took her from her cell and brought her out. The gate, however, it was so heavily guarded, I thought we were lost! But—one man, I think you know him, you are familiar with him—he came and begged them as his comrades, and they let me pass.”
Faramir had recovered himself, and now straightened against the wall, his jaw aching where he had clenched it. Boromir was still not looking at him; his hands were fists.
“I found him,” said Boromir, as if he were distracted. “I remembered what you said, and I found him—Theodred, I mean.”
When Faramir did not answer, Boromir continued.
“The Rohirrim stayed near the walls, you see, in the guesthouses on Lampwrights' Street. The—the man who helped me get her out told me this. I got Theodred up out of his bed, I begged him. I got her onto a horse and then I sent her with him out of the city. They are halfway to Rohan by now.”
Then he fell silent, as if he could not think of anything else to say or how to say it. They sat, not looking at each other, and Faramir put his face in his hands. The Guards' voices were a low murmur of false cheer.
“She is safe, little brother,” said Boromir quietly. “Theodred...Theodred will protect her.”
Faramir said nothing. He thought of her riding from the city, her back lacerated and bloody, Theodred's eyes on her, the horse bearing her farther and farther away, and he felt strangely as if this was what it was like to lose her forever, and despair made his heart into a stone.
There was a tentative touch at his neck—Boromir. He felt his brother's large, hilt-callused hand hang above his hair, and then, with great and unpracticed tenderness, Boromir put his hand on Faramir's head and held it there.
“It will be all right, Fara,” said Boromir, and the agony Faramir heard in his brother's voice seemed to mirror what he felt in himself. “It will be all right.”
They stayed there, not looking at each other, Boromir's hand on his head, until the light from the window was bright and golden and the captain knocked on the door to tell them the Steward had called for them.