I crouch over you, my hand on your face, praying that you might be spared, that what grace is given me be passed to you. "I would have followed you, my brother ... my captain ... my king," you whisper, and my eyes fill with tears at the devotion in your voice. But miraculously, you do not die. Legolas reaches us and teaches me secret elf-magic like that which Elrond used to heal Frodo. We pull your arrows out. While the others run to save Merry and Pippin, I hold you. I nurse your wounds and fill you with joy until you become whole again. Together we ride to the White City, and the tower guard takes up the call, "The Lords of Gondor have returned!"
The Horn of Gondor calls out in the forest. Its high round notes sing to me, summoning what strength is in my blood to respond. I fight with the rage of Isildur against Sauron himself, I cut down orcs by the dozen. I reach your side before any can harm you. Together we destroy an army of darkness, we defend the little ones, we stand shoulder to shoulder as the enemy flees these shores. Frodo and Sam go on ahead, yet the Fellowship holds fast.
Before Merry can discover that Frodo has wandered away, I see your shield on the ground and realize that you have drifted from us. Isildur's Bane calls to you; you cannot resist it alone. In the woods I track you before you find the Ringbearer. Taking your hand, I fall to my knees, I tell you of my love until there is no room in your heart for anger or fear or doubt. Together we send Frodo and the Ring to their destiny and turn toward our own.
At Lothlórien, you unburden yourself to me. You confess that the people lose faith in your father and that you want to set it right, offering me for the first time a role in that quest. You call your home my home. When you tell me that one day our paths will lead us there, to the white tower of Ecthelion, I promise that I will go with you. I call you brother. Over our clasped hands, King to Steward and Steward to King, we vow allegiance to our home, where the darkness cannot bind us.
In the depths of the mines, there are no orcs, no troll, no balrog. Gimli's cousin Balin greets us before a roaring fire. During the four days which Gandalf says it will take to cross beneath the mountain, we walk in well-lighted chambers, we feast on malt beer and red meat off the bone. The dwarves give us mithril and arrowheads for the journey beyond. We lie together each night, you and I, apart from the others, the firelight making your hair and skin gleam brighter than the finest treasures ever dug from the earth.
High on the shimmering mountain, late in the night, I sit amidst the ice aching with the cold. Suddenly I feel something soft against my cheek and a weight against my back. It is the fur lining of your cloak, which you have wrapped around my shoulders. I reach out to pull you to me, so close that the steam of our breath mingles in the air above us. Together we huddle beneath the heavy mantle until we have both stopped shivering. We spend the long night keeping each other warm. In the morning, when Frodo drops the Ring, I need only say your name and you give it back to him without a second thought.
Basking in the bright sun and your smile, I sprawl on a rock where we have climbed to scout the hills. This moment belongs only to the two of us, with no other cares, no charges, no Ring. All the shadows have fled your face. For the first time I see how simple it is for me to make you happy -- I have only to touch your hand or ask you to tell your stories. Readily you give your heart to me, yet grow more alive in the giving. I am humbled by the knowledge of such power, uplifted in the face of such joy.
The Fellowship rests in a temperate valley beneath the Misty Mountains. You have been coaching Merry and Pippin with their swords; your body runs with sweat, your eyes gleam with the pleasure of exertion. The little ones are exhausted, but you want to keep striving. "Come hunt with me," I suggest. In the forest, you sneak behind me to pin my arms above my head against a tree. We wrestle playfully until I am as damp as you. Before we return to camp with the others, the hunter has become the prey.
You are washing in a mountain lake when a sudden wave knocks you off your feet. I surface beside you, grinning as I splash at your chest. You slap the water back at me, and I dive beneath to grab your ankles. We are both laughing as we plummet together. When in the course of our grappling I discover that you have become as excited as I am, I stop teasing and try to hold you still, though you are slippery as a fish and forceful as an eel. We come together like two turbulent rivers spilling their waters into the same embracing sea.
While the others go off to make preparations for our journey, I find you on the bridge at Rivendell staring down at the running water. You meet my eyes with anger but also a grudging respect. I apologize for my blunt words in the meeting and assure you that I want only peace for Minas Tirith. Though I know that your blood is still riled, we walk back to the House of Elrond together, to your rooms. There among the strewn petals and silks of the elves, you make your claim as Lord of Gondor, yet I welcome you so eagerly that we end in mutual commitment to our land and our fellowship.
At the council, before Legolas can rise to speak for me, I tell you, "I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn." I make no demands for allegiance and you pledge no duty, but because I have met your challenge, you treat me as an equal and my words seem to hold new weight with you. When the Ring begins to enflame all who sit at the meeting, you meet my eyes. Together we understand that we can resist this evil only in unity. Silently, with the smallest gesture of my open hands, I promise you that I am no rival but a friend who will walk by your side.
When you stride away from the shards of Narsil, I call out to stop you. I tell you my true name and express my admiration for the line of Stewards. You are wary at first but once you realize that I am sincere, you begin to speak to me of the White City and the men you command there. I tell you of my longing to return and my fear, ashamed to make such a confession to a stranger, yet knowing that because you love Gondor, you will understand better than Elrond, better even than Arwen. "You are Isildur's heir, not Isildur himself; you are not bound to his fate," you remind me as she would. We speak of our fathers and the burdens we bear. When you kneel to lift the fallen sword, you raise it to me, and our hands together return it to its place.
I study you for the first time as you stand before the shrine to my ancestor, holding the blade that is my birthright. The reverence on your face inflames me, along with the strength in your hands, the confidence in your stance. I think I have never seen before a man who so looks the part of a king. You feel my eyes upon you and turn, disturbed to find anyone spying on your reverie. Quickly I rise and move toward you, taking your wounded hand in mine. Then I lift it to my lips, kissing the knuckles. The broken hilt of history clatters to the floor, its lonely legacy lifted forever from my shoulders.
Far along the hallway I see you approaching, the silveren man of Gondor come to seek your destiny. As you reach the shrine, I step from the shadows, saying, "I am Aragorn, and I have wished to meet you, Boromir." Startled, your eyes widen, but there before the mural you return my salutation and we begin to speak, together from the beginning in a bond not even the fires of Mordor could breach. My brother. My captain. My heart.