Title: Fealty Kindled
Author: [livejournal.com profile] empy
Pairing: Aragorn/Boromir
Rating: PG at most.
Disclaimer: The characters belong to the Tolkien estate. No infringement whatsoever is intended.
Note: Many, many thanks to the stellar [livejournal.com profile] caras_galadhon for last-minute help and invaluable support. <3
Note 2: written for [livejournal.com profile] halfthewords for the 2013 [livejournal.com profile] sons_of_gondor Trick or Treat Halloween exchange.
Summary: He refuses steadfastly to accept this ragged Ranger as the true heir. It is the raving of madmen, surely.

* * *
He was born in a stone city, amid the spires and walls of the White City hewn out of a mountain, and yet now, stone offers him no solace. Instead, it reminds him of how impenetrable it is, how it allows neither air nor light to pass. Moria is a tomb, no matter how grand its outward trappings.

Something cracks under his feet, nearly toppling him, and he realizes with a sick jolt that it is the crack of bone. He has lost count of how many bones he has trod on during the stumbling journey through the dark stone halls, and at times it has seemed they have all but waded through the sorry remnants of a massed guard too weak to withstand the onslaught of goblins. He would give much to have more light than is afforded by the reflection of the meagre fire multiplied in the slick-polished walls around him.

He has sought out the darkness and the unfamiliar turns and hollows of the corridors around them in a bid to get just a moment's respite from the suffocating huddle they have been forced into.

The little folk bother him little and the Dwarf and the Elf, while still strange to him, are not by far as grating a presence as Aragorn is. Isildur's heir. He refuses steadfastly to accept this ragged Ranger as the true heir. It is the raving of madmen, surely, a conspiracy of mages to unseat his father and drive the House of Hurin out of the White City.

A hand settles on his shoulder, and he turns, grasping his attacker's wrist out of instinct.

"You should not venture--"


Before he can temper the impulse, he grasps Aragorn by the front of his ragged tunic--

"--into the other halls. You may not find your way b--"

--then pushes him against the nearest pillar, cutting the admonition off mid-word. Aragorn does not fight him, and somehow the passivity angers him more than a riposte might. Before he can stop himself, he draws his arm back. There is enough light for him to see Aragorn tilt his head back a fraction, as though appraising him and finding him wanting, and that is enough.

The blow connects with a dull sound as sickening as the splintering of bone he heard earlier, though this time no serious damage is inflicted. In fact, he notes with some bitterness, his hand may have sustained more damage than Aragorn's jaw has. He scowls, looking up, and Aragorn's answering blow catches the flat of his chin so hard he bites his lip. Blood wells up, hot and salt, and so does anger. He charges at Aragorn, catches him just right and sends them both toppling to the floor. Aragorn turns in the hold, and they strike the floor in tandem, on their sides. A broken spear hits his side like a kick, and though his shirt of mail renders the risk of damage negligible, the impact jars him. He twists, gaining the upper hand and pinning Aragorn to the ground.

Their harsh breaths mingle in the stillness, the sound echoing off the stone until it seems like the panting of some beast waiting in the shadows.

He can still feel the anger shiver in his muscles, but his heartbeats are different from the thrum born from fighting. It is a sawing rhythm that settles too low, and he can hear his breathing change. He cannot make out Aragorn's features properly in the dim light, but where vision falters, his hearing grows all the more keen. Aragorn's breaths come short and sharp, but not because he is winded.

His forearm rests over Aragorn's throat, and he finds himself leaning in without knowing why. Aragorn has a hand set against his shoulder, but it neither pulls nor pushes, and it is such a curious deadlock. His lips part to let him give voice to some angry challenge or to berate Aragorn for startling him, but the words wither in his throat when Aragorn catches his gaze. There is very little anger in his eyes, and no fear.

The silver shard that nestles in the hollow of Aragorn's throat glitters unnaturally bright. It cuts through the golden haze in his mind, shines an unwelcome light on the folly that drove him. What right does he have to fly at Aragorn thus? And for what? For a courtesy, a fair warning. He bends his head, closes his eyes, and feels the dull beating of shame behind his eyelids.

You are a son of noble house and yet you squabble like a boy who has had his favourite plaything taken from him.

It is his own voice and that of his father all at once.

"Forgive me," he says, voice hollow.

"We are all tense, Boromir," replies Aragorn, sidestepping the apology as he rises to his feet and offers his hand. "No lasting harm was done. Now, please return to the rest of the Company. We cannot afford to lose one of its members now."

They return to the others in silence. The signs of their scuffle cannot be invisible, but not a single member of the Company mentions them.

He examines his split lip as they sit huddled once more, presses his fingers against the wound his teeth cut. The pain is not enough of a distraction, and does not take the edge off his restless thoughts. When he looks over at Aragorn, taking care not to be noticed, he finds himself searching the stern lines of his face. It is not the face of a King, yet it is not the face of some beggar or luckless ranger.

The stresses of being buried in snow and then shut into an abandoned mine pale into insignificance when the howling of goblins fills the chambers and hallways. The pain he had thought harsh is nothing compared to the bruises and agony left by the cudgel-blows dealt out by the enraged cave-troll. And fear and sorrow are worsened a thousandfold when he sees Gandalf plummet into the night-dark chasm under the crumbled ruins of the bridge of Khazad-dûm. It is only instinct that allows him to grab Frodo in the shivering second before the Halfling would have followed the wizard into the abyss. Fear drives him forward now, and he shouts orders to the others as he scrambles away from the precipice, words he does not even register, because someone must rally them now that Aragorn seems frozen in place.

What King is unable to lead his company in battle?

Once out on the mountainside, in the sudden blinding daylight, Aragorn seems to shake the paralysis of fear, but in the process, it seems he also takes leave of sympathy. No sooner have the Halflings collapsed in their terror and grief before Aragorn barks an order for them to rise.

"Give them a moment, for pity's sake!" he snaps at Aragorn. What King fails to see when a moment of peace is needed?

On his orders, they keep a harsh pace, with the Elf leading off like a hare bolting over dry grass.

The Golden Wood, grandly named though it is, seems to him as chill as the mines of Moria. When the Elven Queen turns her shimmering blue gaze on him, fear sinks silvery claws into him. Soft words fill his ears, but her lips do not move. She tells him things she cannot know.

Though night has fallen long since and weariness sits like a leaden cloak on him, he knows that he will find no rest in this strange Elven city. He wanders among the giant silver-barked trees, turning their strange name over in his mind: mellyrn.

When he casts his gaze skyward, toward the dark canopy of branches and leaves, he wishes for the dark vaulted ceilings of Moria. He wishes for stone to swallow sound and shield from prying eyes. He does not know what spurred him to confess his doubts to Aragorn, nor does he know what drove him to finally acknowledge what he was told in Rivendell: that Aragorn is a lord of Gondor as much as he himself is. But only a lord, he tells himself. Not a King.

Could he follow Aragorn into battle?

A shadow grows sharper to his left, and he realizes that it is Aragorn, who moves soundlessly and so like the Elves that surround them. Aragorn's back is still turned to him. He looks down at his feet to search for wayward branches that might betray his presence and tries to recall what his brother has taught him about moving on soft feet. Those had been hunting lessons, however, and this is no hunt. And what is to say that Aragorn has not already marked his presence but chosen not to acknowledge it?

He moves as silently as he can, and the grass bends soft under his booted feet. When he is less than half an ell from Aragorn, he stretches his hand out and settles it softly on Aragorn's shoulder. The reaction is immediate. Aragorn's hand, strong as steel, grasps his wrist, and the hold tightens for a moment. Then he turns, and there is a sly smile on his face.

"Did you expect me to fight you?" The reminder of his reckless behaviour smarts a little, but Aragorn's question is not unkind.

He finds he has no ready answer. "I-- I would ask forgiveness for my behaviour," he says finally.

"It has been forgiven long since." There, again, is a flicker of nobility. "I would be a poorer man for failing to see the worth of the House of Hurin."

Aragorn's hands are dry and warm as they settle on both sides of his face, and all strength drains out of him as Aragorn leans in to kiss him. The kiss is chaste, a kiss of peace, but he is helpless to resist the pull of his heart and loins. His hand tangles into Aragorn's hair to keep him in place, and it takes but the smallest of movements to deepen the kiss.

The grass bends underneath him anew, now brushing his back and the nape of his neck, and the branches of the mellyrn blend into the dark of the night sky as he casts his gaze skyward, but now he does not wish for stone to enclose him. If he sees the silver pendant around Aragorn's neck hang like a blade between them, he does not acknowledge it.
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