Beta: Jennifer M (Shapedfromsin)
Chapter 3 - Tick, Tick, Tick
Aragorn stared uneasily into the curve of the Anduin as he, Sam, and Frodo slid smoothly along in the embrace of its current. Behind him rode Boromir, Pippin, and Merry and alongside of him, Legolas escorted a moonstruck Gimli. Gimli had discovered his hidden love of Elves in his admiration of Galadriel and was entertaining Legolas with his new-found obsession. But Aragorn was wrestling with a new-found obsession of his own.
He was at a loss to explain it, this blossoming attraction to the Gondorian soldier. Aragorn had never felt this way for another man and it was a puzzle that was irritating him increasingly. He was glad that Boromir seemed determined to glide along in back, so he didn't have to watch as he avoided him. After the look he had sent him, Aragorn could hardly blame the man. He was going to have to apologize for that.
They stopped in the late afternoon to make camp, pulling the boats up onto the sandy ground. Aragorn watched as Boromir studiously kept from looking his way, immediately disappearing into the brush. Aragorn saw his chance and followed, wanting to get it over with as soon as he could. He trailed along after the man, watching as he gathered an armful of firewood.
When his arms were filled, Boromir turned and Aragorn knew he could see him coming up behind him. Boromir froze, looking so wary and uncomfortable that guilt again bit hotly into Aragorn's gut. His eyes fell and he approached the man slowly, as one might approach a skittish horse. Boromir didn't move, but Aragorn could feel him staring as he neared him. Aragorn stopped in front of him and his eyes found those of the other man. Boromir began to edge to one side as if to go around, but Aragorn dodged over to block his path. He stepped forward and took the firewood from the other man, placing it carefully on the ground in a pile.
"I would... I must speak with you, Boromir."
Boromir shook his head and moved forward to pick up the firewood again.
"Please." Aragorn put the suffering he had been feeling all day into the single word and it stopped Boromir cold. He straightened up and reluctantly nodded his head, giving Aragorn his full attention. Now that the time was upon him, Aragorn found he could not look at the other while he spoke. His eyes slid away as he began what he had rehearsed all the way down the Anduin.
"I wish to apologize for treating you... the way I did today at Lorien. I had no right to resent the relationship that you built there with Haldir. You have... You deserve any happiness you can find and I should have been glad for you, not condemning. I regret my actions." He breathed out in relief after getting it all out and looked up anxiously. Hopeful blue met stony green. Then Boromir jerked his head once, but his face didn't soften. He bent forward again to gather the wood into his arms and this time Aragorn let him take it. He watched as Boromir walked slowly past him, hoping for a word. Any word. Then, just beyond the other man, Boromir stopped and turned.
"When you looked at me like that, you reminded me of how my father looks every time he looks at my brother. I have always hated that look because of the way I thought it must make my brother feel. But I never really knew how he felt until this morning. Now I do. It's awful." He turned to go and Aragorn, unable to leave things the way they were, lurched forward grasping him by the arm and pulling him around to face him. Boromir turned surprised, his armful of wood separating him from his frustrated companion. Aragorn tried to lean over the bundle, intending to press his lips to those of the other man's. Boromir recoiled in shock.
"What are you doing?" he yelped, backing away in consternation. Aragorn maneuvered forward, trying to lean in upon the man again. Boromir backed away once more and tripped over a log in his path, falling backward, dropping the gathered wood as he fell.
"Boromir!" Aragorn stepped forward, holding his hand out to help Boromir to his feet. Boromir ignored the proffered hand and scrambled to his feet while continuing to back away from the other man. "Are you all right?" Aragorn asked.
"Get away from me," Boromir gasped. Aragorn paused, his face closing up in pain. He turned away from the man. He didn't want to watch as Boromir walked away from him. From them. He closed his eyes and dropped his head forward, waiting for him to go. A few moments passed. Surely he had gone by now, he thought, although he hadn't heard him leave. After all, he couldn't stay this way all night. He straightened and then started heavily as a hand fell on his shoulder. He spun and saw... Legolas.
"Aragorn?" his friend asked, sounding uncertain. "Anything wrong?"
Aragorn shook his head. "I merely came out to apologize to Boromir. I have done so. Hopefully we can put all this behind us."
Legolas searched Aragorn's face, then he nodded in approval. "Good. I'm glad. Boromir is a good man. If we can help him resist the pull of the Ring, we should be able to finish this affair." Legolas turned, then glanced back over his shoulder. "Are you coming Aragorn?
"Soon," he answered. Legolas disappeared in the direction of the camp.
Aragorn turned back around and sat down on the log Boromir had fallen over. He placed his face in his hands and rubbed at it in fatigue. He felt like such a fool. Of /course/ Boromir didn't want him anymore. First he sent Legolas to tell him he didn't want him, then he was ugly to him about his new... -Aragorn struggled with the label- ... love, and then he tried to kiss him. Aragorn squirmed in discomfort at the light in which he must appear to Boromir. Well, he had tried and he had failed. He steeled himself to return to the rest of the group.
There was a slight rustling and Aragorn said over his shoulder, "I'm coming Legolas." He stood and turned, almost walking into Boromir. He fell back in surprise. "Boromir," he said shocked by the man's sudden reappearance.
Boromir scowled. "What do you want of me Ranger?" He asked in anger. "Why did you try to kiss me? I don't understand you."
"I find that I have... feelings for you."
"Feelings," Boromir took an agitated turn around the clearing. "For me?" He stopped back in front of Aragorn again. "What of your Evenstar?"
Aragorn dropped his chin to his chest. "I have released her from our bond. I must be honest and tell you that I do not think she will allow me to release her. But this is the first time in my life that I have hoped that she would."
"Why?" Boromir sounded stunned.
Aragorn continued to look down. "Because I would know you, Son of Gondor," he murmured.
"Why?" Boromir asked again. "If not before, why now?"
Aragorn's head lifted. "I'm not sure. I... it has been a long time for me, I cannot even tell you how many years it has been since I last felt the touch of a lover. Perhaps when you had your hands on me, you began something inside of me, something that has been growing ever since. All I know is that when I saw you with Haldir..."
"You saw us?" Boromir asked in fury.
"Yes, did he not tell you?"
"He saw me when I came to check on why you had not returned to camp."
Boromir looked away from him then. "Why did he not say?" He muttered in confusion. Then he looked accusingly at Aragorn. "And you were spying on me?"
Aragorn did not try to avoid the charge. "I admit I was having trouble trusting you. I wanted to see who you were with in case it was someone I had to worry about."
"I see. I take it that you are not worried about Haldir."
"No, I do not doubt Haldir's loyalty."
Aragorn was silenced. Boromir continued.
"So having seen us, you did, what?"
"I returned to camp and awaited your return..." his eyes flickered briefly. "For days," he said quietly.
"I see. You were jealous."
Aragorn frowned. "I had not thought of that, but I suppose that it is true."
"So, having decided that you did not wish to be with me, your mind was changed by my touch?"
"Yes," Aragorn said in relief. "At least, I think so."
Boromir slid around behind Aragorn who closed his eyes as the man came up behind him. He felt a lurch of excitement at his nearness. Boromir leaned in to whisper in his ear.
"A bit like what happens to a man when he turns down the overtures of a harlot, who then falls against him, using her hands in the darkness to change his mind for him."
Aragorn's eyes popped open and he frowned again. "Er, I don't think..." he began.
Boromir slid over and breathed into the other ear, "Tell me Aragorn, why were your hands in my hair, your eyes closed, and your lips parted as though awaiting my kiss when we were out in the woods that other day?"
Aragorn closed his eyes again, this time in annoyance. If he had to tell this story one more time... "You see there was this tick..."
Boromir, his mouth open in disbelief, came slowly around to the front of Aragorn as the Ranger explained what had happened. When Aragorn finished speaking, Boromir stood silent, evidently absorbing what he had said. When finally Boromir spoke, his tone was lighter.
"Well, I should thank you, I suppose, for saving me from the bite of this... fell creature. And I might not have met Haldir if this misunderstanding had not occurred, and I would not have missed him for all the rings in Middle Earth. As for your newly discovered feelings," he paused. Aragorn looked at him, waiting. "Perhaps there is another who could fulfill your yearnings as well as I. Frodo is a handsome lad..."
Aragorn jerked his head away from him then. "There is no need to be cruel, Boromir. A simple 'no thank you' would suffice. I regret all of our misunderstandings and I hope that we can accomplish this quest without further difficulties. I consider you a valuable member of the Fellowship and I am glad to have had this chance to know you." He started to plunge away, farther into the brush, but he was stopped by two hands that gripped the backs of his arms and pulled him gently backwards.
The breath caught in his throat as Boromir came up against his back again, nuzzling the hair from his neck and burying his face there instead. Strong arms slid around his waist and Boromir pulled him tightly to him.
"I am sorry," Boromir whispered into his ear. "I have been hurt and very, very angry."
Aragorn nodded. "I never thought you wanted Frodo," he said.
"I know you did not."
Aragorn turned around then, breaking the other man's hold. He and the Boromir looked at each other for a moment. Then Aragorn realized Boromir was moving in to kiss him and he closed his eyes in anticipation. The light and teasing touch of the lips that brushed against his was nice, but he wanted more. He pressed forward greedily, seeking to flatten himself against the other. Boromir staggered at first at the man's assault, then braced himself and pushed forward as well. They came together in a fierce binding of bodies and mouths and Aragorn felt the other man's arms encircle him again as they each squeezed closer together. Aragorn thought of the gentle and elegant toying he did with Arwen and found himself shaking with the desire to be swept completely away.
His control crumbled and a sob escaped him. He began to move convulsively against Boromir, completely lost in the closeness of him. He opened his eyes and stared into the green eyes across from him, brushing the hair back from either side of Boromir's face, cupping the strong jaw in his hands, then stroking his cheeks with twitching hands. He pulled the other's face closer and placed a deep and loving kiss upon his mouth. When he pulled away, Boromir drew a shaky breath.
"By the hand of Isildur, Ranger, even after all that had passed between us, you still had the power to undo me with a glance. But I never would have guessed that you would be so eager, or that such eagerness would be so captivating." He moved forward to engage the lips of the other man again. Aragorn finally broke away, still wanting more from Boromir.
"When I saw you with Haldir," Aragorn began, as his fingers carefully unclasped the Lorien brooch at Boromir's throat. Boromir's hands came up to do the same to Aragorn's brooch. "I was fine until I looked down on the two of you. Then I wanted to rush down the hill and tear him off you. I told myself that it was because I was shocked. That you had just met him and shouldn't be with him so soon. But I wanted you myself. I wanted to take you right then and make you my own. So you would never look at another again. It was so powerful. I knew then that I was in trouble. That I would never be satisfied until I had you."
"And once you have had me?"
"I never really had the chance to get past the other thought to consider that. I kept thinking the feeling would go away, but it only got stronger, until I thought I would go mad from it. And still you stayed away. With him. I wanted to kill him." Aragorn shook his head. Boromir moved away from him, then, uncomfortable.
"I needed him," he said. "And... I wanted him."
"If I had not seen the two of you together, I might never have realized how I felt about you. The next time I see him, I will welcome him with open arms. You'll see." He returned to divesting Boromir of his clothing.
"Don't you think it would be better to wait until dark?"
"The others will wonder where we are."
Aragorn gave an irritated yank at the chain mail he was endeavoring to pull over Boromir's head. "I will not wait for you any longer unless it is that you would prefer to wait yourself."
Boromir stared at the fierce look on Aragorn's face. Then he smiled. "No. I do not wish to wait for you either. But let us move deeper in the wood. Or we might be seen and I have had enough of that sort of thing."
Aragorn's eyes flew wide at the last comment. Then he realized Boromir was teasing. He regarded the man reprovingly. "Well I have not had the ministrations of a wanton Elf to cool my ardor and so I ask you, if we are to move, let us do so quickly."
Boromir laughed and led the way, walking briskly until they entered a small clearing with a grassy sward that lay beneath thickly branched trees. He turned around in the pretty place and caught the lips of the other man, sliding his tongue swiftly past Aragorn's teeth.
Aragorn's hands returned to stripping the clothes from his lover and soon both men were naked and clasped tightly in each other's arms. Boromir bent his knees and pulled at Aragorn and they lay down together on the soft grass.
Boromir's hand stroked at Aragorn's hip and slipped over to touch the hardness that was pressing into his leg, but Aragorn stopped him, catching his hand with his own.
"What is it?" Boromir asked in disappointment.
"It has been so long, I fear if you touch me, it will all be over before we have even begun."
Boromir placed his mouth against Aragorn's and murmured into it. "Then we will just have to continue, that is all. I am certain we will be able to draw more from you if we persevere. Do not you agree?"
Aragorn nodded and released Boromir's hand. Sure enough when Boromir touched him, Aragorn gave a moaning cry and spilled his essence into the grassy loam of Middle Earth. Boromir ignored the reaction and kissed and licked his way down the shivering body of the Ranger. He waited, lapping gently, in the mean time, at inner thighs and belly. When the spasmodic shaking ended, Boromir took the softening desire in his mouth. Aragorn cried out in amazement as a wet heat surrounded him. He immediately grew hard again and caught himself as he was beginning to thrust between the kneading lips.
"By the Valar, Boromir, stop, or its going to happen again."
Boromir released him laughing and moved up to kiss the man underneath him. "You make me feel like the most desirable man in Middle Earth."
Aragorn smiled and hid his face in Boromir's neck. "You /are/ the most desirable man in Middle Earth."
Boromir held the other man close. "Okay, tell me then, what can I do."
"You can lie still. And let /me/ try some things. Some things I was considering in Lorien."
Aragorn fixed the man with a jaundiced eye. "You were gone five days, Boromir. Five. Long. Days."
Boromir looked at Aragorn with compassion. "If I had known that it was upsetting you so thoroughly..." he paused.
"Yeeeesss?" Aragorn said, a dangerous light in his eye.
"I would have taken seven."
Aragorn grabbed Boromir rolling him over to lay beneath him. "Will you or will you not be still?"
"Anything for you my Companion. Please. You may take point."
Aragorn chuckled and did just that.
Later the two men wound their way back to the campsite, separating at the last and entering at different times and from different places, but it was obvious that the others had noticed their combined absence. There was a tension in the Company that had nothing to do with the Ring. But it lessened when the two made it obvious in their demeanor that whatever they were doing, it had not been fighting. As both men joked and mingled with the Hobbits, Gimli and Legolas sat off to one side, watching.
"It seems things are better between those two," Gimli observed, sharpening his axe.
"Yes," Legolas frowned. "It certainly does. I wonder how it was that that happened."
Aragorn caught Legolas watching him and smiled gaily. Legolas's sucked his breath in with a hiss. He was going to have to have a talk with Aragorn tonight, he realized in anger.
Sam nodded tiredly on his Watch. Aragorn lay quietly, watching him. It was almost time for Pippin to relieve him and then Aragorn would be able to slip off to join Boromir. Boromir had left a few moments earlier. He licked his lips in anticipation. Finally Sam straggled past and shook Pippin who arose and staggered to where Sam had been sitting, dropping down and promptly going back to sleep. Aragorn snorted and got up, shaking Pippin awake again as he left the campsite.
He had gone less than a dozen steps when Legolas stepped out of the trees to block his path. Aragorn stopped in surprise.
"Legolas," he said, after a moment in which the two friends eyed each other warily. "What are you doing up?"
"I'm always up during Pippin's Watch. He sleeps straight through it."
"Oh, I didn't know that." Aragorn felt taken to task by the fastidious elf. "It is good you are so, er, conscientious," he said lamely.
"Hm," Legolas answered. "Yes. Well there is something else. Boromir is not in his bedroll."
"It seems Pippin is the only one that sleeps during his Watch," Aragorn joked nervously.
Legolas did not smile. "Why are you up, Aragorn?" Aragorn inhaled to answer him, to lie to him, but Legolas gave him no chance. "How many decades have we known one another Estel?"
Aragorn's eyes narrowed. Legolas rarely called him by that name. "Too many to count," he answered cautiously.
"In those years I have watched as your youthfulness and gaiety settled into a rather dour stoicism. You were always serious, but as you aged, you became almost hard."
Legolas held up his hand for quiet. Aragorn subsided. "I knew why this was happening to you. Your avoidance of your destiny, your love for an immortal whose father wanted better for her, your desire to prove yourself to the living father that you shared with her and to the dead one that you didn't. Your inability to obtain his permission to marry her and your unwillingness to betray him with her behind his back."
"Legolas what is this?"
Legolas ignored him and continued. "Today after being lost in the weeds with our Gondorian Steward for several hours, you smiled at me like the youth you once were." Legolas leveled a glare at Aragorn. "So don't bother to lie to me about why you are out here."
Aragorn pursed his lips and his eyes studied the ground. Legolas continued. "In those many years of our friendship, during which you have confided in me many things and have never once, before now, felt the need to lie to me, there has been one word that I have heard from you morning, noon and night. Arwen. It has been Arwen, Arwen, Arwen until I thought my ears would bleed if I heard her name one more time from your lips. And now, after rolling around in the dust for a few minutes with a man whom we do not know, whom we do not trust, you abandon everything you once held dear and betray us all with this clod, this arrogant boor from Gondor."
Aragorn's face took on a set and angry look. "Do not call him names, Legolas."
"Names! What if the names I wind up calling him are Usurper, Destroyer... Ruler?"
"You think he still wants the Ring. He does not, I promise you."
"You are blind, Aragorn. The Ring merely bides Its time before It takes him away from you. What if, in your new-found love that you think will obscure the Ring from his mind, you are actually strengthening the hold It has on him?"
"How could that be?" Aragorn scowled at Legolas, but he felt the sting of fear in his heart. "You're hysterical. There has been no sign of what you say. Boromir is true to the Company. To the Fellowship. To Frodo."
"To you, you mean. Hysterical you call me? Well I call you irrational. You are lost in this infatuation that has claimed you and you think not with your head, but with your heart. And your heart is wrong Aragorn. It is wrong and it will ruin us."
"You're right Legolas. We have been good friends for many years. And because of those years, I will overlook this conversation. I am sorry you are disappointed in me about Arwen. I have loved her a long time and waited for her all these years. But I found that I could not stop the feelings I was having for him. I'm happy Legolas. For the first time in years, I'm happy."
"And how many years will it take for me to be happy Aragorn?"
Aragorn looked flummoxed. "I don't know what you mean."
"Of course you don't. You never do know, do you? Not until something horrible happens. I have spent years loving you and you never suspected it. And I have listened to you in your adulation of the Evenstar and supported your love of her and never once asked for anything from you, but I can not and will not support you in this. This man is dangerous and he leads you to your doom."
Aragorn's mouth had opened in disbelief as Legolas declared his love for him, but at his return to the subject of Boromir, he lowered his brows in a scowl. "I can't talk to you of this now, Legolas."
"Of course not. He is waiting is he not? Well hurry up and go to him. I will keep the Fellowship safe in your absence." Legolas spun on his heel and disappeared into the brush.
Boromir wondered what was taking Aragorn so long. Finally he saw the man enter their clearing. Boromir smiled broadly and watched as Aragorn approached him. Then his smile began to wobble. There was no answering smile from Aragorn. Something was wrong.
"Your doubt of me is back," he said accusingly.
Hurt flickered across Aragorn's face. "I have been talking to Legolas," he said.
"He can't have you," Boromir snapped.
"That is not the problem. He is worried and is right to be."
"What worries him if it is not that he wants you?"
"He worries about you... and the Ring."
Boromir stiffened. Guilt curled a powerful hand around his heart and squeezed. He /had/ intended to speak to Aragorn about taking the Ring to Gondor. But what was the harm in that? As a member of the Fellowship, he had the right to make suggestions to the group. And if he had had some stray thoughts about a grateful and awestruck Aragorn watching as a Ring wearing Boromir slew the Dark Lord, clearing the land of his evil, and opening the path for Aragorn to re-take the throne, then what of it? His motives were pure. His intent was clean.
He realized that Aragorn was waiting for a response and his answer had already taken too long. He opened his lips to speak but a pale and stricken Aragorn turned away from him, stumbling away into the scrub. Boromir seethed with grief and anger. He knew he had lost it all.
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