Beta: Jennifer M (Shapedfromsin)
Chapter 2 - Tick, Tick
Aragorn stood with the rest of the Fellowship as Galadriel and Celeborn descended the radiant stair. He heard the silent voice of the enchantress in his head, probing his thoughts, testing his resolve. It was a test he passed easily, as did all of the Eight save one. Aragorn took note of the strain on Boromir's face. As the Company was being led away, he fell into step beside Legolas.
"If your amusement at my expense has passed...?" he said with a touch of bitterness. Legolas's face remained suitably grave under Aragorn's scrutiny. If he smiled at all, it was internally. Aragorn felt satisfied that he would no longer tease about this... this... tangle in which he was trapped.
"He expects there to be a 'later,' " Aragorn said tensely. "What can I say to him? How do I explain? You should have seen him Legolas. He was so happy when he thought that I wanted him, he was almost gay."
"You never did explain how it was that this, er, 'misunderstanding' occurred. Where did he get the idea that you...?"
Aragorn scowled. "There was a tick."
"A what?" Legolas asked startled.
"A tick. I am certain that Elves never get ticks but surely you know what a tick is?"
"I... yes, of course I do. And where was this tick?"
"It was crawling into his hair." He looked over at Legolas who was obviously struggling again not to laugh.
"Hair?" Legolas gasped eventually. "Hair, where?"
"On his head. This is /not/ why I came to you, Legolas, to hear you jest with me. I need your help. I know not what to do."
Legolas squared his shoulders and seemed to put his mirth behind him.
"I will tell him if you wish it."
Aragorn frowned at this. It was an attractive thought, but... "No. I must tell him myself. It would not be right to use him thus. But would you try to find out why he spoke Frodo's name as he did."
"Why does that yet disturb you?" Legolas asked in exasperation. It seemed the least important of loose ends. "We already suspect that he desires the Ring. We now know that he desires men. Frodo is a comely lad. Perhaps the Warrior desires the Bearer as much as what he bears."
Aragorn's frown deepened and he shook his head in certainty. "He spoke to me as if I was the only one he wanted. I don't think him capricious. It was not for love that he sighed."
"He was naked in a pool."
"He was bathing. That is not the riddle's answer, Legolas."
"Aragorn, you almost sound..."
"Nothing. I will do what I can to uncover the truth of your puzzle, my friend. And I will leave the breaking of his heart to you." Aragorn glared at him a moment suspecting the Elf of irony, but Legolas looked steadily back. Finally Aragorn's eyes dropped. They had reached the end of the stair and the two parted to help the others set up camp beneath the roots of the Mallorn tree.
Sam finished declaiming his rhyme about Gandalf's rockets and sat down in frustration to castigate his muse. Aragorn looked across the makeshift camp to Boromir sitting far away from the rest. He squared his shoulders. Now was as good a time as any, he thought and walked over to where he sat.
"Take some rest," he began. "These borders are well protected." He watched in surprise and concern as pain played across the man's face. He listened as Boromir vowed he would find no rest there and why. Galadriel's voice had sounded in Boromir's head as well. But he had not been at ease with her words. Aragorn sat down beside him, touched by his suffering. He listened as Boromir, in a just a few words, poured out his heart about his Father and his place as a son of Gondor. Aragorn understood how it felt to let a father down. He often felt that he was letting down two of them. Eventually he left Boromir and wound his way to Legolas's side.
"You tell him," he said in depression. "I find that I cannot." Legolas nodded and Aragorn left him, immersed in his own sense of failure.
Boromir stood alone in the Wood, trying to drink of the peace and beauty of Lothlorien. He was failing miserably. Perhaps he would try to sleep after all. He had hoped that Aragorn would come to him again, but he had watched him bed down and realized that he would not be invited to join him tonight. So he had gone for a walk to try to calm his disordered heart. He recognized that Lothlorien would be a difficult place for Aragorn to tryst in, what with a prescient relation of his Beloved in the vicinity. But his heart leaped when in the corner of his eye he noticed a figure approaching. He turned.
"Arag..." he began joyfully, then recognized the lithe figure approaching him. "Oh, Legolas. Cannot you sleep?"
"I can, but I have a duty to perform before I do."
"I cannot imagine that there would be a need for duties in this place. Surely we don't require a watch here." He smiled. Legolas paused a moment and then smiled in return. Then his face became solemn.
"I am here to speak to you for Aragorn," he said. The smile faded from Boromir's lips as a feeling of dread jolted him.
"I cannot imagine what Aragorn would need for you to say to me," he said, his lips stiff with discomfort.
"I believe that you can," Legolas replied carefully.
Boromir grimaced. "His feelings have altered."
Hope surged in Boromir's breast. "Then he still..."
"No." The Elf looked sadly at the man. "He never."
"What do you mean? He... I... we... er, shared..."
"I know. Aragorn is... a kindly man. But he loves the Evenstar, Boromir. He has never, in the many years that I have known him, wavered in that devotion."
Legolas's words struck Boromir as piercingly as one of his arrows would have. He looked up and saw the Elf wince and realized the devastation he was feeling must be showing on his face. He reined in his grief and smoothed out his features.
"I can only assume that you know what you're saying," he replied without expression, "as he has obviously sent you to me. I do not understand why he didn't feel he could tell me himself."
"He didn't wish to hurt you."
"Ah," Boromir said and rolled his eyes.
"Yes, well," Legolas smiled. "Perhaps he did not think that out very clearly."
Boromir turned away from the Elf. Then said with an effort at nonchalance. "Well, now that you have delivered his message, you can retire with a clear heart."
"Hardly that. The news was reluctantly given."
Boromir dropped his head and laughed bitterly. "Apparently not by him."
"No. He just didn't know how." Legolas paused. "Perhaps there is another who could give you what you need. Another who attracts you?"
Boromir shook his head. "I need no other. There is no other."
"No?" Legolas asked probingly. Boromir turned his head in surprise at the Elf's persistence. Then he raised his eyebrows in a silent question.
Legolas looked taken aback. He evidently hadn't realized how he sounded. "No," he smiled. "I am not offering myself. I only wondered if there was another."
"Who?" Boromir laughed. "Gimli?"
"You would indeed be fortunate if that were the case," Legolas answered seriously, to Boromir's surprise, as he had been speaking facetiously. "I was thinking more of Frodo."
"Frodo! Is he then..."
"Oh, I do not know."
"You were heard, while bathing, sighing his name."
Boromir grimaced in annoyance. Had he no privacy within this group? "Who...?" he began and then as he realized the obvious answer, "Aragorn?" then, as another thought struck him. "Is that why he...?"
Legolas shrugged. Boromir sighed, then decided to answer him. What, after all, could it matter?
"I was merely thinking about how small and helpless Frodo was. How innocent. How it saddened me to see him burdened thus. I meant nothing... lustful."
"Aragorn thought not as well," Legolas admitted. "The lust was entirely my idea." The two sat quietly together for a moment, then Boromir rose.
"Well, now that you've discovered all of what you came to find." He paused. "You have discovered all?" Legolas nodded uncomfortably. "Yes. Then you can go and report to him. Let him know that he is safe from me, as is Frodo."
Legolas stood. "I'm sorry, Boromir." He left him. Boromir watched as he disappeared into the greenery then he curled up within himself and gave himself over to his pain. He had never felt so alone in his life.
Aragorn felt someone squat beside him as he lay in the darkness. His eyes flew open and found Legolas looking down at him.
"I thought you would want to know, I have spoken with him."
Aragorn sat up. "So soon?" he asked. "He was... unhappy?"
Legolas shrugged. "He was, but he hid it well. I asked him about Frodo, who, by the way, is not in his blanket."
"He left with Galadriel. Did you think I would not have heard him go?"
"I knew I would have," Legolas smiled. "I was unsure about you."
Aragorn suppressed a sudden desire to shove the Elf over onto his rear. After all, Legolas had information he wanted. "So what did he say? Not that he wanted Frodo?"
"No. You were right about that."
Aragorn felt rather smug. He thought he knew Boromir better than that. "So?"
"So, he was musing."
"Musing? About what?"
"The innocence of Hobbits. Even Hobbits who have the weight of the world around their necks."
Aragorn nodded in relief. "That's all right then. However he would still bear watching. Do you agree?"
Legolas nodded and Aragorn stretched out again. "Thank you, Legolas." The Elf retired to his own place under the tree. Later, both of them heard Frodo when he returned. But neither heard Boromir return because he did not come back.
The Company was to stay several days in Lothlorien, which all knew after they met with the Lord and Lady of the Golden Wood. Boromir did not return the next day either. Aragorn's relief had now completely evaporated. He knew Boromir would come back when it was time for them to go, but he felt horribly responsible for the pain the man was in now. He began to track him through the Wood. He knew they had to talk.
Aragorn had gone perhaps two miles into the Wood when he heard sounds of laughter. One of the people laughing was Boromir. Aragorn was certain of it. He was surprised by how annoyed he felt at the sound. Here he was, worried that he had really broken Boromir's heart and the man was out here amusing himself... with someone else. Then he began to laugh at himself. He should be glad that Boromir had found another. This trip was long and arduous. They must take their rest where it was offered.
He began to slip away, to leave the man in his haven, when a thought intruded. Who was Boromir's, er, friend? The more he thought about it, the more it bothered him. He had to know, he decided. As leader of the Company, he needed to know if alliances were forming that might compromise their mission. He would just ascertain the identity of the other, then slip away again. Then he would know if he would have something else to worry about.
He slid silently up the hill that was between him and the voices. The laughter had stopped and other sounds had taken its place. Aragorn's head carefully cleared the top of the hill and he looked down into the corrie that held two figures. Two naked figures. Boromir and... the long blond hair of his partner slipped to the side and a cold blue eye locked its gaze in his. He should have known an Elf would hear his approach. Haldir smirked at the Ranger and then bent his head to the lips of the man in his arms. Aragorn slipped back down the hill and left the two to their bonding.
Boromir had slept alone in the Lorien Wood the first night after Legolas spoke to him about Aragorn. He had awoken stiff and miserable the next day still unwilling to return to the others. He didn't want to see Legolas, couldn't bear to see Aragorn, and was even a bit uncomfortable seeing Frodo, considering what the leaders of the Company had thought of him and the attractive Hobbit.
But he was hungry. And thirsty. And was uncertain of what to do about either without returning to the camp. He sat silently, putting off the inevitable, knowing he would have to go back soon when a sound caused him to start, spring to his feet, and whirl around.
"You must like solitude as much as I," the haughty voice observed. "Are you tired of your companions that you avoid them so thoroughly?"
"Damnably tired of them," Boromir replied wearily. "But about to be driven back to them by the need of food and drink."
"There is no need to return just for that," Haldir said. "I can help you with those needs here. Then you can enjoy your isolation in peace."
Boromir smiled at the Elf. It was the first smile he had felt like giving since the embarrassing confusion with Aragorn.
"You have a nice smile," Haldir said, smiling in return. Boromir just stared in surprise at the change that came over the Elf's face when he dropped his ice and was friendly.
"So do you," Boromir said and felt a stir of interest awaken inside of him. He felt his face flush and noticed Haldir's eyes dilate in reply. All at once, he found he was no longer hungry. At least, not for food.
Suddenly Haldir leaped toward Boromir who stepped up and met him full on. Boromir was not one given to impulsive couplings, but he was lonely, confused, and heart-sore. And Haldir /was/ a beauty. And he wasn't one of the sacred Fellowship, so it was no one's business but his own what he did with the Elf. Not even Aragorn's. He could wall the Ranger out with the golden light of Lorien after all. So he caught the Elf's full-bodied rush with his own and their lips met in a crushing kiss. He gripped Haldir's tunic, pulling him tight against his legs and hips. Haldir hissed his enjoyment and twisted, easily taking the man with him down to the ground.
"You are stronger than you look," Boromir said, gasping from underneath him.
"And you are softer," the Elf laughed and writhed against the soldier. He leaned forward to lick the lips of his opponent. Boromir caught the questing tongue between his lips and tried to suck it into his mouth, but Haldir eluded him, rolling off the top of him and disappearing into the brush in a twinkling.
Boromir groaned and lay his head back down against the ground. He didn't want to have to chase anyone, let alone one as fleet as an Elf. In the name of Isildur, was nothing in this world ever simple? He considered just laying there and allowing the Elf to return or escape, as he saw fit, but then the loneliness he hadn't even known he was feeling settled down on him again, and with another groan -this one of resignation- he got up and trotted off after Haldir.
He found him easily enough, in a clear pool. The Elf was nude, bathing in the bright water. Boromir's shoulders shook lightly as he chuckled at the Elf's elegant way of letting him know that he preferred him freshly washed. He stripped and followed Haldir into the water, allowing him to wash the sweat and dust from his skin and the despair from his heart.
The Company was gathering their things to leave when Haldir brought Boromir back to the campsite. Aragorn watched as Haldir collected a knowing smile from Galadriel when he joined her in distributing the gifts she wished to give to the group. He watched Boromir take his place in line and receive cloak, brooch and a coy look from Haldir that set Aragorn's teeth on edge. Boromir had been gone from the group for five days. Aragorn was not pleased.
Once the gifts had been distributed, the line broke up, and Merry and Pippin ran to Boromir, welcoming him back by showing him the sword moves they had been practicing. The face of the usually grim man was split in a sunny expression as he watched the exhibition made by the two Hobbits. Gimli slapped the man on the back as he and Legolas headed for their canoe. Boromir's expression stilled as he looked at Legolas, but the Elf smiled encouragingly at him and, hesitantly, Boromir smiled back. Then he turned and came face to face with Aragorn. Before he could stop himself, Aragorn's eyes swept the man from part to sole with an expression so repellant that Boromir blenched. Aragorn made it clear that he thought better of Boromir and been disappointed. He passed the shaken man and strode to the canoe that held Sam and Frodo. Legolas grabbed his arm before he could board the boat.
"What purpose did you serve by treating him thus?" he snapped. "He was happy. He was past what went on between you. With one look you destroyed it all. Why Aragorn? I have never known you to be so clumsy."
Aragorn jerked his arm away from Legolas. He was furious with himself. He had not known how angry he was with Boromir until he saw the two of them return so obviously relaxed and involved with each other. He was sorry for the look he had given him, but he hadn't been able to stop it. He savagely attacked the water with his oar, causing the canoe to leap forward, and Sam to grasp the edges of the boat in terror. He was going to have to get himself under better control than this if he was to continue to lead the Company in their quest.
After Aragorn had glimpsed Haldir and Boromir entwined, he had returned to camp in a rage. He realized now that seeing them together had been a mistake. It bothered him terribly that Boromir was coupling with one he had only first seen a few hours before. Of all failings that a man could have, Aragorn found inconstancy the worst. After he had fallen in love with Arwen, he'd had to fight the urge to find release in other arms over and over again. He had initially not been successful which chafed him terribly, adding to his loathing of his own human weaknesses. These early failings were still a source of shame for him and it was this shame that drove his condemnation of Boromir now. Even though he had rejected the man, Aragorn felt it should have taken him longer to get over him. He knew this was a ridiculous expectation. Once again, Aragorn's head and heart were at war. And once again, his heart had won.
Still he fought against his feelings of judgment where the man and the Elf were concerned. He threw himself into activities at Lothlorien. He met with Celeborn and spoke with Galadriel, he poured over maps of the best paths to use to pursue the quest, and watched as the Hobbits practiced their fighting, explored the beauty of the Wood, or pursued their custom of eating eight meals or so per day. But he chafed at the continued absence of Boromir. He suddenly realized that he missed the man.
Finally, on the fourth day, at the midday meal, he saw Haldir, obviously packing food for two, or even three, Aragorn thought critically, into a basket. He wandered over to stand near the Elf. Haldir turned and nodded coldly at Aragorn, making him wonder what Boromir saw in such a distant sort of person. Then he considered that maybe Haldir wasn't that way with Boromir. Even as that thought entered his head, he saw a gleam of amusement warm up the chill in Haldir's eyes.
"Aragorn," he said demurely. "I would like to thank you for bringing your group to us. I have enjoyed getting to know... each of you."
"Some more than others evidently," Aragorn said stiffly. If Haldir noticed his displeasure, he ignored it. His smile broadened.
"Yes, and to think, I almost didn't let you in. What a tragedy that would have been for me. As you saw." He smiled conspiratorially and winked.
"Why /were/ we barred at first?" Aragorn asked, suddenly distracted. "That has been a puzzle for me. It did not make sense to me then or now."
Haldir looked long and silently at the Ranger. Then he leaned forward, lowering his voice. "You know who wears the White Ring, Nenya?"
"Of course," Aragorn answered.
Haldir shrugged. "Celeborn was concerned. A sip of power can sometimes cause a thirst for a longer drink."
Aragorn started in surprise, his eyes flying up to meet Haldir's. He remembered hearing Galadriel pass the camp and Frodo rising and following her. He dropped his head in self remonstrance. He had never considered she could be a threat. Evidently she had not been, but if she had, Aragorn would never have seen it coming. Again he was overwhelmed by his shortsightedness. He looked at Haldir. It must have cost him to admit this to an outsider. "Thank you for telling me," he said.
Haldir smiled. "You came to find him. You were worried about him. For love of him I give you this knowledge." He nodded to Aragorn and glided away.
Aragorn watched him go in distaste. Love! How could he speak of love when he'd known Boromir such a short time. He watched the Elf disappear into the trees and was surprised to find himself longing to follow after him.
On the fifth day Boromir had at last returned to the group, looking more relaxed and happy than Aragorn had ever seen him. Aragorn listened numbly to Celeborn's warning about the creatures marked with the white hand, and then Galadriel was speaking to him of the possible diminishment of the Evenstar. He told her of his request that she leave Middle Earth with her kin; his freeing of her. His heart was filled with despair at the possibility of losing her, and he turned, just in time to see Haldir simpering at Boromir as he pinned the Elvin cloak to his shoulders with the brooch of Lorien leaves. A hot anger started in Aragorn at the sight and then Boromir had turned, coming face to face with Aragorn.
Aragorn had managed to alienate Boromir within the first five minutes that he had returned to the group. He stroked miserably along in the fast flowing river and felt his helplessness growing inside of him. He finally knew... he was beginning to have feelings for Boromir.
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