Promises and Pledges: 2. Kindling

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2. Kindling

After several days, the companions forgot their teasing of Boromir, and Aragorn persisted in asking his opinions of the routes and their provisions. With that change, the others became easier around Boromir as well, particularly Frodo who had not seemed to trust him from the beginning. Gandalf had accepted his promise to see the Ring destroyed in Mordor, yet the little one gazed upon him uneasily and always made certain others were present when the man spoke to him.

At first Boromir suspected that Aragorn had warned them to treat him with pity, and he seethed quietly. Was it not humiliation enough that the fate of his lands had been entrusted to a halfling who let the fears of a wizard lead him? But the Fellowship banded together as the long days passed, and Boromir came to enjoy the friendly banter among the companions, with stories to fill the long days and laughter against the dark nights.

Aragorn walked with him often to scout ahead or to guard the rear, asking about the captain's triumphs in battle and describing his own life defending the wilds of Eriador. Though the Ranger could slay and skin an animal with the deftness of a hawk, he could also admire the beauty of birds in flight and the fierceness of a badger with pups. Aragorn quoted poetry as well as Legolas and loved to describe the untamed beauty of the land, pointing out features of the fertile valleys and colorful stones of the hills as they passed. Sometimes he seemed more a bard than a guide.

Boromir, who had always ignored poetry in favor of military history and tactics, found himself listening intently. Most of the stories he knew were bawdy tales told by men in battle camps which could reduce Gimli to guffaws and make the hobbits blush. Aragorn would bite his lip, struggling to keep his dignity, but on a few occasions he bent double with laughter and leaned on Boromir for support. Once Boromir had to haul him to his feet, their hands on each other's elbows, and though the laughter had faded, they did not immediately draw apart but stood together in giddy distraction until one of the others spoke.

Slowly the warrior came to acknowledge his pleasure when Aragorn sought him out for opinions, conversation or quiet company. On the cold evening when the Ranger drew his cape around them both, falling asleep shoulder to shoulder, Boromir delighted in the freely offered warmth. On the damp morning when he woke from a dream with his heart pounding and Aragorn's name on his lips, he silently conceded the longing that his flesh already proclaimed.

This, then, would be his doom, this desire that brought joy and pain together. Much as he wished to become Steward of Gondor like his father before him, he wanted just as fiercely to remain at the side of the heir of Isildur. Aragorn was a man of integrity and mercy, fearless in battle and willing to lay down his life for the safety of his people. As the bond of kinship between them grew stronger, Boromir knew that his own ambitions might have to take their place behind those of the only man worthy to wear the crown of his land.

But beneath the surface ran another feeling, darker than love and more bitter than loyalty. Boromir felt it most strongly when he was in the presence of the Ringbearer, but even when he walked alone, it whispered to him, making promises for Gondor and the strength of the Stewards. It fed him dark images of Aragorn, filled with lust and violence. When he strode away from the others to hunt or scout, sometimes his head would clear, and he feared the source of his visions. Then anger would well in him, and he would see the path to triumph all too clearly.

The Ring promised the safety of Gondor and his role as its protector, with Aragorn always in his debt.

After their encounter with the crebain, when Gandalf insisted instead upon taking the Pass of Caradhras, the Ranger decided that one of them must risk visiting the tiny village nestled in the foothills for provisions. There would be no food to be found high on the mountain and they had no smoked meats nor grains, nor did they carry enough blankets and rope to make the journey safely. "You'll come with me, Boromir," he stated. Both Gandalf and Legolas looked askance, but neither voiced an objection, although Boromir suspected that Gandalf would rather have gone with Aragorn and left a warrior to guard the little ones.

For more than a day the two men descended the rocky hillside toward the hamlet, carrying the small treasure they had brought from Rivendell. It was a pleasant journey and they kept a rapid pace, eating as they walked, sleeping for only a few hours. As they approached the little village, Boromir took note of how filthy they had become on their travels and wondered briefly whether they might be refused accommodations. The fine cloth of Gondor that he wore had frayed, stained and become crusted with dirt. Although he could not see his own hair, Aragorn's hung like an animal's matted fur.

For a man who had always borne the standard of his home with pride, it was a shameful state to meet with strangers, though he had often found himself so when fighting on the borders, and this small cluster of houses could scarcely be called a town. "I think we need not worry about unwanted guests coming close to try to learn our business," he said. "We smell like horses."

Aragorn grinned. "If we can find lodgings, we can clean ourselves and our clothing. Then we can do our trading in the morning and set off."

The old stable that had been furnished to serve as an inn was filled with stale smoke and cobwebs, but the proprietor made no comment about their appearance and asked no questions about their business. They ate cheese and pudding for the first time in a month while Boromir drank weak ale and Aragorn smoked his pipe. A mountain stream ran behind the inn, and they washed their cloaks and tunics in the icy water.

When they went inside, they asked the innkeeper to build a fire and to bring basins of water so that they could take turns scrubbing the soot from their faces and bodies. Aragorn borrowed a needle from the innkeeper's wife to mend the holes in his breeches. Boromir found himself watching as if entranced as the Ranger's scarred hands carefully stitched the fabric together. He had been taught to think of mending as menial work, left to scullery maids in Gondor and to young soldiers in the camps of war, yet his friend appeared to be skilled at the craft.

"I can fix yours as well," Aragorn offered.

"It is my shirt that has ripped."

"Then give it to me."

Boromir felt heat flood his face as the other man glanced up. He tugged the shirt over his head, scrubbed at it in the basin and tossed it into Aragorn's hands without meeting his eyes. Then he turned back to the basin, hoping to quench the fire that had turned his cheeks red. Most of the dirt had been scrubbed from beneath his fingernails, turning the water a muddy brown. Though Aragorn's fingers were similarly tanned and scabbed, he came from a world of white elven hands, delicate and fine as no man's would ever be.

Turning, Boromir caught his own bright hair reflected in the metal blade of his newly polished sword. Though it was unstained for the first time in weeks, his darkened complexion and uneven beard still marked him a man of dirt and sweat -- a man who unlike the fair elves would one day become dust. As he gazed into the mirror of the blade, Aragorn came into view behind him, dressed only in a smock left open at the neck. The younger man felt goosebumps rise over his still-damp throat; he spun around, though he knew that he should look away.

Framed by the high white collar, Aragorn's face looked like a portrait of the kings of old, otherworldly as the huge sculptures of the Argonath, too astonishing to belong to any living man. His hair, which had been matted and filthy when they reached the inn, fell in a shining curtain at the sides of his face, reflecting hints of bronze from the fire. And to Boromir's shock, the bright blue eyes, no longer surrounded by the grime and haunted dark circles, were filled with the same wistful hunger that he had seen in his own reflection.

He stepped forward with rare hesitation, longing to touch the loose hair that draped the other man's cheek yet knowing that he must hold himself in check. He felt heady as when he had first seen the Ring at Elrond's council, with light gleaming on its surface the way it now played over Aragorn's features. This temptation, equally intoxicating, might prove just as lethal or just as rewarding. Boromir would not willingly have endangered their quest, nor his future king's bond with the elvish princess, yet he ached to surrender to his desires, if only for a moment.

Gruffly he said, "I have never seen you so clean."

"Nor I you." Amusement flared and faded. Aragorn's eyes flickered briefly to Boromir's bare chest. The glance made him burn like some potent drink swallowed down too quickly, and he felt his breathing grow harsh. Defying the turmoil in his body, he gave in to the small, permissible urge to stroke his fingers through the lock of hair softly brushing the Ranger's cheekbone.

Aragorn closed his eyes and hissed out a shivering sigh, turning to the side as if he would kiss Boromir's fingers, but he stopped and bowed his head. "You must know that my heart is not free."

Boromir felt a chill dampen the flames inside him, but he was not surprised. He had doubted that Aragorn would betray Arwen, and in truth would have been sorry to learn of any faithlessness that might stain his friend's nobility. "I know that you are betrothed," he nodded.

Aragorn's eyes opened as he lifted his chin. "You misunderstand me. She would not be troubled by any passing pleasure shared between us. The elves do not hold such things in the same shameful regard as men do."

"Then...you have been with..."

"For many years now I have known no other. I do not have the span of many lifetimes to unravel the mysteries of love, and I have seen the pain it can cause. Arwen would not ask me to deny myself what relief I might find on this journey, but I fear it is not only relief that we seek from each other."

Breaking away from the piercing gaze, Boromir clenched his fists to stop himself from clutching his friend to him. He would have offered relief, comfort, and whatever measure of passion the man would have allowed, but this was no soldier eager to share solace before the havoc of battle. This was Aragorn, his sworn companion in the Fellowship of the Ring. Aragorn, last Chieftain of the Dúnedain. Aragorn, son of Arathorn, heir to the throne of Gondor.

And this was Aragorn who had not loathed Boromir upon learning his most dishonorable secret, but who had shared blankets, tactics, trust. Aragorn who had asked for his company on this journey, a journey he might easily have made with another. Aragorn who stood before him with fire lighting his features, confessing that his yearning for Boromir might be more than passing pleasure.

Aragorn who cared for him, it seemed, with some measure of the love Boromir bore for him.

Filled with wonder such as he had not known since he first dreamed of the broken sword, Boromir felt his lips curve upward. He could see Aragorn's confusion at his happiness, for Aragorn believed he had voided his friend's hopes. Boromir stroked his hair again, cupped his face, whispered his Elvish name. "Hope. That is all I seek, and what I find in you."

His companion's voice was urgent. "There are many roads that we must walk before this quest ends. My destiny may bring me into conflict with yours, for my will alone cannot dictate my choices. I did not think it would be kind to you -- " Falling silent, Aragorn placed his hand against Boromir's face, mirroring the warrior's gesture. "Boromir. I have never seen you smile so." Wistfully Aragorn's mouth turned up in response.

It was strange and wondrous that in a semblance so little like a sovereign, so open and trusting as a child, Isildur's heir could command such devotion. Boromir pulled Aragorn to him, too swiftly for the other to resist. The kiss he pressed to the parted lips was chaste, reverent, yet at the same time the most intimate touch that Boromir had ever shared. "You have treated me like a friend when other men might have avoided my presence, offended in reputation if not in principle. I will always love you as a brother for that. And you have let me know your heart. I would not add to your burdens, but if it is your wish, I will be yours tonight, even if you cannot be mine."

He expected further argument, for he knew it would not be so simple for either of them, and feared that pity had stirred Aragorn's consideration. Yet he received only a long, searching gaze, followed by another smile and a head bowed in acceptance. "I fear that I am too much yours already, though I cannot give you all that you deserve," Aragorn whispered. Boromir had not dared dream that their desires would converge in such unity. If they could not remain so -- if the burdens of the Ring and of Gondor were destined to separate them -- he hoped he would always draw strength from the memory of this night, this moment.

He lowered his arm to Aragorn's waist while Aragorn's muscular arms went around his neck, fingers gripping the curve of his shoulder. The Ranger smelled of soap and the herbs burning in the fireplace, of solid oak and sharp pine, of home. "I wish that we could have known one another in a simpler time," Aragorn said. "I wish that I had met you before the Ring came into our lives..."

As Boromir regarded the face he already knew by heart, he saw too that he had never known it free from the grip of darkness. He meant to inquire further, but Aragorn pressed closer, and kissed him, and Boromir's thoughts flew away like sparks from the fire. The other man was as strong as himself, and as eager, now that he had put aside his restraint. They grasped for what they wanted, grappling together, crying out in triumph and surrender, in joy.

Boromir felt no regret over a future he could not foresee. In the unkempt room of the little inn, he knew only the bliss of fulfilled longings, the blessing of requited love.

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Cruisedirector

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: Drama

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 12/06/03

Original Post: 05/15/03

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