We are many days into the journey before I see it. See green eyes light up with humour and good nature. Until then, I have seen only antagonism and contempt in those eyes. Only a grim determination to protect the White City from the ravages of Mordor, whatever the cost.
It took the hobbits, his ‘little ones,’ to bring out this side of his nature. Took Merry and Pippin to bring out his gentleness and grace. His protectiveness. And his willingness to be made fun of.
I share the laughter as the hobbits tackle him, dropping the great captain of Gondor into a heap on the ground. I laugh even harder when I become their victim, toppling awkwardly as they sweep me off my feet.
Too late the moment is over, disturbed by Saruman’s winged spies. But I carry the memory of the sunshine in his eyes with me. And I watch for it.
And I begin to see more.
I see the doubts that trouble him. Doubts that he is strong enough to do what must be done. Doubts that he will be able to do what is expected of him.
I see the vulnerability he would hide.
And I see the way he looks at me, heat licking at the edges of his expression. Heat that I had taken for scorn. Heat that now begins to look like something else. Heat that begins to brand me as well.
I start staying by his side, sharing his spot by the fire, standing the same watch while the rest of the company sleep. I only want to see the brightness in his eyes again, the humour. The heat.
But the road is not easy, and there are many trials on the way.
My veins freeze when he picks up the Ring on the mountain. I do not want his blood on my blade, do not want to see his eyes dulled in death. Do not want to kill that which I half-suspect I love.
I despair when I see him tossed by the cave troll, his body striking the hard stone like a rag doll thrown by a careless child, and rejoice when I see that he lives still.
I approve of the compassion he shows towards Gimli and the others after Gandalf falls, even as I force the company to press on, to seek the protection of Lothlorien.
It is in Lothlorien when I can stay mute no longer, when I seek him out, only to find him with barely dried tears on his face, despairing of the survival of his city. I offer what comfort I can, but my words ring hollow in my ears. It is not enough.
He needs more. And, perhaps, I can give it to him.
Silently, I pull him to his feet and lead him to an alcove away from the others. When he tries to speak, I stop his words with my lips. He almost pulls away, but then the heat that I suspected was there, that I knew was there, erupts.
His arms tighten around my back and his mouth opens under mine. I revel in the feeling of cloth against cloth, then skin against skin.
Mouths clash and I taste a sweetness and a bitterness both. Our legs tangle and we fall onto Elvin cloth and cushions. Teeth bite my shoulder and I keen with the pleasure of it. Blood rushes in my ears as my hands greedily travel his body, feel the well-muscled arms and legs, take hold of his sex even as he takes hold of mine.
We strain together, both seeking release in the other’s touch. And when release comes, it pulses through me with a rhythm more elemental than my heartbeat.
I hold him close as our breathing returns to normal, feel his body ease, the tension of battle and death and fear fading to memory. Head cradled on my chest, he sleeps at last, a measure of peace showing in his features. Peace I have brought him. Peace I hope he can keep.
But like my good captain of Gondor, a darkness threads through the fabric of my soul. I have my own doubts, about him, about myself, about our quest.
I pray to always see the sunshine in his eyes, but fear the coming of the night.
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