It had been a magical year for Gondor. The king had returned, the White Tree flowered and the people knew a peace such as had not been seen in generations. All were content; all knew joy.
All save one.
As the nights grew colder and the shortest day of the year approached, Elessar, King of Gondor began to dream. In those dreams, king was once again a mere ranger in the company of those who would protect the Ringbearer. In those dreams, all members of that special fellowship were alive and whole and, most importantly, full of a foolish hope that they would succeed in their impossible quest.
Chief among the fellowship in those dreams was Boromir, Captain of Gondor. In the dreams, he had not yet succumbed to the lure of the Ring, had not yet had his honour torn from him, had not yet regained that honour at such a terrible cost.
In the dreams, Boromir laughed and smiled. He taught the Hobbits swordplay and woodcraft. He hunted for their evening meals with man and elf and dwarf. And he shared the bedroll of the ranger who would become king, shared warmth and tenderness and love.
Each morning, Elessar awoke with tears on his cheeks and Boromir's name on his lips.
In private, Arwen, queen of the realm, shed her own tears for her husband. She mourned that when he should be celebrating their victory, he was instead holding close his grief for a man nearly a year dead.
"You must let him go, my love. You do both of you wrong." She did not need to say Boromir's name; they both knew of whom she spoke.
Elessar smiled sadly and nodded, but Arwen knew he would pay no heed to her advice. Would not, could not abandon his pain.
And so Arwen knew that if fell to her to release the pain, to ease the grief of the man she loved.
She sought for the answer in the great library of Minas Tirith. She stalked through overflowing shelves, looking through volumes of history and dark magic written by men and elves and wizards. She hunted through scrolls so ancient and brittle that to read them was to risk their destruction. She found knowledge thought long lost and some as fresh as yesterday's snowfall. But she still did not discover the key to the door she must open.
Faced with new failure daily, she nearly surrendered, but her need was too strong. She always returned to search.
Finally, it fell to her hands: a slim volume with tattered cover and ragged pages, containing great and terrible secrets.
As she read the book, her hands shook. The risk was great, to herself and Elessar and the dead, but to not take the risk was worse. She would not see her man descend into the grey half-life that overwhelmed him more with each sunrise. Clutching the little book to her chest, she began to prepare for the trial ahead.
King Elessar reluctantly dressed himself in robes that befit the king of Gondor. There was a feast this night and the king must appear presentable. By rights, his page should have been helping him, but he had no patience for any company of late and he'd sent the boy away.
He was fastening the final button on his surcoat when he heard the whisper of quiet footsteps behind him. His beloved wife and queen stood in the door to the chamber. As always, her beauty caught him anew and he smiled in spite of the darkness that seemed to perpetually shadow him.
"My wife," he said, and held out a hand.
"My husband," Arwen replied, taking the offered hand with her own. He stroked her hair, astounded that such a creature had sacrificed all for him. A slight frown creased his brow as he reflected how unworthy he was for her. Even now, with his wife in his arms, her breath tickling lightly at his neck, he could not help but think of the man he had also loved, who had also sacrificed all for the good of their world.
"You think of him more than ever now."
Elessar started, shocked at how well Arwen could read his thoughts, even when he would hide them from her. Since it was useless to deny what they both knew was true, he merely nodded.
"Do you trust me?" she asked.
He dropped a kiss to her palm. "Always, my love."
"Will do grant me a favour?"
"What is it?"
"I cannot tell you, except that it is for your own good. Will you do this thing, not knowing why I ask it?"
Elessar frowned. Never had they kept secrets from each other. Yet, he trusted Arwen with more than his life. He would trust her now.
He nodded. "I will do as you ask."
Arwen smiled, yet her expression held some pain in it.
"Thank you my love." She took one of the simple wooden candlesticks that Elessar favoured over the more opulent things that decorated the citadel and lit the taper it held. Then she held a hand out to her husband. "Come my love."
She led him up stairs and down hallways not used since before his coronation. Abandoned rooms and halls told the tale of a city and court too long ravaged by war and death. He hoped that soon the sound of children would fill these cold chambers, that the whole city would be filled with the light and merriment he seemed so unsuited to seek out for himself.
As Arwen turned down yet another gloomy hallway in a far off tower, the candle casting unnatural shadows on the wall, her passing raising swirls of dust, Elessar's heart was filled with strange misgivings. But he continued to follow his wife, trusting that she acted out of love.
At last Arwen reached her destination and laid her hand on the handle of a dark wooden door.
"I would have you find some peace within, my husband."
"What lies inside?"
"You must find that out for yourself. And you must do it alone. I cannot follow you."
Wondering at what might be found in this forsaken room, he could only nod. Arwen passed him the candlestick and opened the door. Steeling himself against he knew not what, he stepped over the threshold, jumping slightly as he heard the door shut behind him.
The candle guttered in a draft, and he shielded it with a hand as his eyes adjusted to the further gloom of this shuttered room. It appeared to be the bedchamber of a well-born man of the court. There were thick tapestries on the wall and luxurious fabrics on the bed, more than one would expect of an ordinary courtier. As Elessar wondered who the owner had been, his eye caught a flash of reflected light from the corner. He turned to find a full suit of armour, emblazoned with the White Tree. And this was no ceremonial armour; it bore signs of hard usage in battle.
A high born man who fought with the Tower Guard and had not returned to the city? Elessar's breath caught as he realized who the room's owner must have been. This had been the room of Denethor's eldest son. Boromir had slept here, had lived here.
A harsh sob ripped from his throat as he blinked back tears that overflowed his lashes and turned the light from the candle into liquid, glittering jewels. He wondered what peace Arwen had expected him to find in this place.
He turned on his heel and strode toward the door, not caring that the candle extinguished in his haste to leave the reminders of one he had lost. He was reaching for the door handle, when the sound of movement behind him stayed his hand.
"Aragorn." The voice was quiet, barely more than a whisper, but enough. Enough to root him in one spot; enough to turn the blood in his veins to ice. Hesitantly, he turned. At first, he saw nothing, only the empty room mocking his grief. Then, his candle reignited and a swirl of mist began to appear as from nowhere. As he watched, the ghostly vapour solidified and took on the shape of a man.
Boromir was dressed as Aragorn had seen him last, in breeches and tunic, leather surcoat and cape.
"No," he said. "It cannot be you."
"Aragorn?" Boromir's face was struck with wonder and confusion. As Aragorn watched, the Captain of the White Tower raised a hand tentatively toward him. "How..." Boromir started to ask, then stopped as his legs gave way beneath him.
Grief-stricken and horrified as he was, Aragorn quickly set the candle down and rushed forward to catch the man before him, and found flesh where he had expected only spirit.
Supporting the man he had loved in his arms, Aragorn wept open tears.
"Why do you weep?"
"You were lost," Aragorn gasped out.
Boromir touched him lightly on the cheek. "Lost, but always with you."
"Boromir," Aragorn said, choking on the name. Then they were kissing, the very act seeming to restore Boromir's strength.
Aragorn steered them to the bed. They had never known such a luxury in their brief time together. The closest they had come was a bower in Lorien. Now, he took pleasure in the soft mattress beneath them as they collapsed onto a bed instead of the hard ground. He revelled in the feeling of rich cloth against skin as they shed their clothes in a rush. Running a hand down Boromir's flank, he delighted in the shivers he caused in the other man.
His own pleasure spiralled higher and higher as their bodies came together in a clash of sensation. He drank in the touch of Boromir's skin, the taste of his mouth, the musky smell of his sex.
Without words, he encouraged Boromir to take him, to possess him. He relaxed as the length of Boromir's sex filled him, engulfed him in flame. Then Boromir was kissing him and caressing him, driving his passion higher than he thought possible. At last, he reached his climax, taking Boromir with him in the final throes of their desire.
Spent, they lay in each other's arms. Boromir let his hand drift in delicious circles across Aragorn's stomach.
Boromir was the first to speak. "The war is over."
"You did not let the White City fall."
"I kept my promise."
"You have brought peace and happiness to our people and all Middle Earth. And yet still you grieve." Boromir looked at him in wonder and traced a finger over his brow, drew his thumb over Aragorn's lip.
"I missed my Captain and my Steward."
"My brother is your Steward now, is he not?"
"Faramir is a good man, but he is not his brother."
"He is a better man than his brother and will serve you well."
"Not a better man," Aragorn said and followed his words with a fierce kiss.
"A kiss is not an argument," Boromir said. "You must not let this grief take you."
"You cannot stay?" Aragorn had harboured a small hope that whatever power had given him Boromir would not be so churlish as to take him back.
"My time grows short. I was allowed to return only for an evening. To see you again. And to see my city in time of peace."
Those words stirred Aragorn to movement as he remembered that Boromir's thoughts had always been for his people. He quickly pulled on his breeches and threw open the shutters, then the windows. His actions let in the cold winter air, but also something else: the sound of singing.
"You, more than anyone, deserve to hear the sounds of your people celebrating." Aragorn held out Boromir's cloak and wrapped it around his lover. Boromir pulled Aragorn into his arms, and they stood like that at the window, watching the light of the bonfires gleaming in the courtyard far below and listening to the people of Gondor raise their voice in songs of peace and hope.
When the songs faded away to nothing, Aragorn turned to Boromir, and found the other man's eyes misted over with unshed tears.
"Thank you." Boromir kissed him lightly. "Now, you must return to your lady. You must live for her and Gondor. You must live for yourself."
For the first time, Aragorn thought that he could do exactly that. But embracing one love did not mean forgetting another. "I will remember you."
"And I will remember you," Boromir said.
One last kiss was all that was left them, and then Boromir faded away back to the mist, returning to the shadows that had delivered him.
Elessar watched until the last wisp of Boromir's form had disappeared, then smiled. He had lost the man he loved again, yet this time there was more than grief in the parting. This time, there was also joy.
Pulling on the rest of his clothing, he ran down the corridors towards his chamber and his lady wife.
He would live now. He would live for them both.
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