by Sasjah Miller


It's been a full day now since we escaped the watcher in the lake and fled into the mines of Moria. A full day of oppressive darkness, of listening without end to sounds and whispers in the dark, waiting for that one sound that will tell us they know we are here.

This journey has been riddled with disaster, turning worse with each move we make. And now we've landed ourselves in these wretched mines, filled with death for friend and foe alike.

I hate this place: we should have taken our chances at the Gap of Rohan. Mountains are to be scaled, not burrowed through, and I have this strong feeling that something terrible will happen here. I may not have the farseer's sense of the Kings of old my father possesses, but I have not survived in battle for so long without developing a keen sense of danger.

Aragorn and I have walked together, forming the rear through no other arrangement than our shared sense of dread. And now we've finally found a relatively safe resting place where we can take care of our wounds, prepare some food and maybe even get a chance to sleep for a while.

We both have been hurt in the fight with the monster, as have the little ones, but Gandalf has already taken care of them. I have taken it upon me to take care of Aragorn, to check his wounds and dress them with the things we have at hand: torn and dirty cloth, tepid water from our flasks, some salve from our packs. And he will do the same for me in return. It is only natural for us, seasoned warriors, to take care of each other, to touch another man's body after a attle, making sure that your comrade in arms does not die from his wounds after all.

He doesn't want to at first, claiming he will take care of himself, and that there are far more pressing matters than a few scratches. But I have seen that the kraken had its tentacles wrapped firmly around his neck when we attacked it to free Frodo. And I know that he must have sustained wounds from those horrible suction pads. I have seen the red welts in his neck. I tell him it will eventually incapacitate him if he doesn't have them taken care of.

This convinces him, if only barely, and as if by unspoken agreement we move out of view from the others, who are already busying themselves with food and sleeping arrangements. We find an outcropping near the side of the cave where we have halted and he sits down before me, silent, closed up, negating my presence. Suddenly hesitant, I carefully pull up his shirt and over his head, and lift up his hair to check his neck and I draw in a deep breath: the wounds are worse than I thought. The tentacles have left their grisly markings on him: deep, round patches of blistered skin cover the back of his neck. It must hurt terribly.

But I also note his strong back, his well-formed shoulders that show years of sword practice and living off the land. He is of a slighter build than the men of Gondor are, but this only adds to the effect he has on me. He is different, and yet so like me. I shake myself inwardly, cursing myself for feeling this strange attraction to the man that I should be hating with all my heart and I force myself to concentrate on his wounds. I must not fool myself: Aragorn does not need my affection, he just needs my attention. I pour some water over a piece of cloth and start to wipe the wounds clean, gently, carefully. His tensing body tells me that my actions cause him pain.

And yet...

He does not flinch from the touch of my hands the way one does if a touch is merely painful. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but I feel his body lean into my touch ever so slightly and I dare not think about the implications. I force myself to resist the urge to let my head rest against his, to let my hands explore further, to make him mine. I do not know where this urge comes from, but I know I have wanted to touch him ever since I felt his gaze on me in the halls of Elrond, scrutinizing me, dissecting me, laying me bare and filling me with want and need.

I have finished dressing his wounds and I pray they won't start to fester. We cannot miss him. I cannot miss him.

"You will be fine now," I say as I stand up and hand him his upper clothes, averting my eyes. I do not want to frighten him. He takes them from me, but lies them aside, almost thoughtlessly, and then he takes the flask and salve from me. My gaze is drawn to his naked torso, even if I try to fight it and I take in every muscle, every inch of bare skin, wanting to save this view for the rest of my life.

"Turn around and sit down, Boromir."

His voice is still husky from all the dust we inhaled when the entrance of the cave collapsed and I feel a shiver run down my body, my whole being revolting against being commandeered so brusquely and yet so sensuously. And I do not want to turn around because I want to keep looking at him forever. But I obey, seeing the wisdom of the words as I have spoken them myself.

I turn my back towards him and rid myself of my vestments, gingerly favoring my left arm. During the fight the monster wrapped one of its tentacles around it, pressing the chain mail into my flesh leaving bloody markings all around my upper arm. Now I am exposed to him and again I feel like he is seeing right through me. I do not like this and yet I yearn for his gaze on my body. But I yearn for his hands as well, even if they only touch me to dress my wounds. I try to relax, to not let on what I feel, but the moment his hands, warm fingertips coated in cool salve touch the flesh wounds on my arm, I can barely control my reactions.

I have had my share of battle wounds, and healing masters' hands have soothed my injuries countless times, have nursed me back to health in Gondor's Houses of Healing, readying me for the next battle. But never have I been so aware of the sensation of skin touching my skin, of rough hands administering tender care. To feel his hands on me, his long fingers touching my bloodied flesh, is almost more than I can bear.

I have lain with men before. Fevered couplings before a battle: celebrating life in the face of death, but it has never been more than that. A meeting of bodies, glistening in the light of burning campfires in the open field, men acting on impulses stronger than themselves. But somehow it is different now. This is more than lust or want. I need him even if I do not want it. And I want him even if I don't need it.

His deft but gentle ministrations assure me that I will sustain no lasting damage from the deep flesh wound and that I will regain the full use of my arm. But I know he will not be able to take care of that other wound. The invisible one, the one that will not heal even with the best of care. For my heart is a gaping dark hole inside me, created the moment Legolas hotly informed me in the council of Elrond that this man whose touch is turning sensible actions into sensual sensations was Aragorn, son of Arathorn, and the legal heir to the kingdom of Gondor. His words broke my heart.

I do not doubt it, though. I realized it was true the moment I heard Legolas speak those words, but it goes against everything I grew up believing in. I grew up believing that the Kings had gone forever, never to return; that the Stewards would continue to rule Gondor as they had for countless years and that I would become Steward when my father would finally lay down his burden. I would be Boromir the Second, Steward of Gondor, surpassing all others in justice and might, defending our people and all the other lands of Middle Earth against the shadow of Mordor. And then, with a mere sentence, the Woodelf destroyed all the future and past I ever had. I would never rule Gondor now, and my claim that Gondor had no King, that Gondor needed no King, rang false in my ears the moment I uttered those words.

His hands have stopped their ministrations and now they rest on my shoulders, kneading them, easing the sore muscles that have tensed up during the fight. Warm spots that seem to draw all the energy from my body and at the same time return it manifold. This is beyond endurance. I find myself turning around, facing him on my knees on the cold hard rock. His hands have slid from my shoulders by my movement and I keenly feel the loss, the absence of warmth turning into a deeper cold than I thought possible.

Dirty, unshaven, matted hair, clothed in dirty leather and torn rags. To me he is the epitome of beauty and valor. I say nothing, my mouth is dry, I have no words. This is the pivot around which my whole existence now turns. A hint of a smile, the tiniest wrinkling around the eyes and I am undone. I reach out and grip his shoulders, feeling his strong muscles, feeling the salve I have put on his wounds. My hands slide upward, until they rest against the sides of his head, my thumbs lying on his cheeks, an unspoken question. He does not move, but I feel like I have been given permission by the merest hint of relaxation, a smile broadening just the tiniest bit. I pull him towards me, into a soaring kiss.

Our mouths meet, and a hunger inside me that I have only guessed at is roaring inside me now. I kiss him, turning it into a battle as I have done with all the things in my life. But now I have a worthy opponent. I am no longer the eldest Steward's son, the Captain of the Guard, the highest in rank among Gondor's men. If anything, I am an equal at best.

And he knows this as well, acts upon it accordingly. His mouth captures my own, returning the battle call. His left hand grips my hair, pulling me backwards and with his free hand he reaches down into my breeches, finding me hard and ready. He takes me firmly in his hand, his thumb gliding over the moist tip and I suck in my breath, sharply, suddenly, painfully. It's been over four months since I have felt a hand other than my own on me. I tense up, not wanting this, not knowing what I want.

But I cannot deny that it is this I want. His hand on me, his mouth on my throat, his body pressing me down against the cold hard rock. I don't feel the rocks, do not feel the soft vibration beneath me of living rock hewn by dwarves, I only feel him against me, on top of me, wanting him in me, and I struggle to turn over, because I cannot ever give in to him.

I partly succeed, wringing myself from under his body and putting one of my legs over his, and I turn him over using my body weight, landing him on his back. I grab his wrists and put them above his head, pressing him down on the hard stone, using my weight to hold him down. He grins, relaxing for a moment, seemingly giving in and I gloat, feeling victorious, as I start to reach down and kiss him once more.

Until he suddenly lifts his hips, works his knee between my leg and lifts me up, turning me around on my back again in one fluid motion, now gripping my own wrists and crossing them above my head, taking advantage of my momentary shock of having his knee shoved up forcibly between my legs.

He mutters something unintelligible as he trails kisses down my body, and I shiver, trying to put up a token resistance, but failing miserably. My body is betraying my mind, rising up to meet his lips and hands. I manage to free my hands from his grip and reach down and around his body, working my way into his trousers, cupping his ass. But he glides down over my legs and my hands slip up over his back. He slowly yet urgently pulls down my trousers and sits up between my legs, pausing momentarily.

His hands are resting on my stomach as he gazes down on me, a look on his face which can be only described as admiring and I feel torn again: I crave this attention and at the same time I strive with all my might to deny it.

"So beautiful," he whispers as his hand reaches up to stroke my cheek while the other one holds me again firmly in his grasp. He bows down, and takes all of me in his mouth, his hair falling before his face and I nearly explode from feeling his lips around me. It's been so long, so long, and I hear myself starting to moan. I cannot help it even though in the back of my head I know I am endangering all of us by making so much noise and Aragorn realizes it too. His right hand, his sword hand covered in worn leather like a second skin, slides upwards again, brusquely covers my mouth in an attempt to stifle my moans while he takes me in even further. It is the final push. I fall, deeper than I had ever thought possible, until I reach the bottom of a deep black pit and know that my redemption lies in his hands.

Afterwards we lie together, under my blanket, my back pressed against his stomach, feeling for once on this miserable journey warm, sated, content. I know we have to get dressed, ready ourselves again for any possible fight, but I want to linger just a little longer. My head rests on his arm, my cheeks still hot against his cool flesh. His hand lies against my lips so I kiss them, enjoying the feel of callused fingertips against my bruised lips. I sigh softly, almost inaudibly. My hand reaches backwards, finding his hip, caressing his skin, sliding slowly, very slowly down his legs. I feel his long muscles under my hands, the soft hairs on his legs, his skin still damp from our exertions. I close my eyes, wanting only to feel him, pretend we are lying in my room in the White Tower, not wanting to be distracted by the dismal surroundings in which we find ourselves.

I feel on the side of his leg an old scar, not unexpected in a warrior, even one as fierce and valiant as Aragorn, but still it stops me in my tracks. I turn over, slowly, not wanting to lose even the slightest contact with him, and I face him, my hand still on his shank, propping myself up on my elbow, his arm still around my shoulders.

"What's this, then, did I miss a spot when attending to your wounds? How inattentive of me", I say smiling as my fingers gently stroke the scarred flesh.

He glances at it, occasionally, as if it isn't a part of him. And maybe it isn't. He is silent for a moment.

"Ah yes. That one, Boromir. A wild boar tried to skewer me, long ago in the lands of Ithilien. I was young then, and feeling almighty. Growing up around Elves does that to you, you know. They make you feel like you will live forever, cannot be hurt, cannot die."

I nod, knowing what he means: being the Steward's son and surviving as many battles as I have gives the same false sense of immortality. He pauses ever so slightly, gazing at me, gauging my nod, then continues his tale.

"I upset a boar with young, straying too close to her lair and she attacked me, speared me right there in my leg, hurtling me against an oak tree. I managed to crawl behind it, bleeding and hurting with only my dagger to defend me, but fortunately she quickly lost her interest in me. The wound, however, turned bad and started to fester. I lay in the woods for three days, not knowing whether I would live or die. And then I was found by a reconnaissance party of Gondor, and nursed back to health."

"So the hands of the king do not always have healing power", I say, a half smile on my face, my hand still cupping the once wounded flesh, stroking it with my thumb, feeling the ragged edges.

He looks at me intently, trying to guess the meaning of my words, whether I make fun of him, taunt him, deny him what is rightfully his. But I don't. In all honesty I can say that I don't. I think I did mean my words in jest, a challenge even, but as they leave my mouth I know that they are true and that Aragorn is my king. He was my king long before I knew he was the true and sole heir to the throne of Gondor. He became my king the moment I met his eyes in the halls of Elrond when I picked up the shards of Narsil and cut myself, my blood flowing from the wound, showing him my humanity. Only until now I was afraid to admit it.

His gaze scrutinizes me, and he knows what drives me, what is hidden deep inside me, what moves me beyond all. Then he smiles, suddenly, and he looks incredibly young. Almost playfully he grips my hand and guides it to his lips, kisses the tips of my fingers, pressing them against his lips.

"No, they don't, my Arandur. Sometimes it is only the hands of the king's most trusted steward that will do the trick."

And then he moves even closer and he kisses me once more, commanding my servitude, claiming his birthright. A fleeting, unbidden thought of what will happen when he will claim the throne of Gondor threatens to tear open the scab that has formed over the wound in my heart, but I choose to ignore it. Right now I have no past, nor a future, only the present. The darkness has been driven away, I am whole. I feel myself becoming aroused once more; and as Aragorn sets my hands and mouth and body to good use, for once in my life I do not fight for dominance. For now I live only to serve my King.

The End

Story notes. Technically this is an AU story if you follow the plot line: I exaggerated the wounds they sustained in the fight with the lake monster. I just wanted to give them a chance to feel each other up. :-) Furthermore, Arandur is the Elvish translation of steward.