|For alex_quine: Gratitude (Aragorn/Boromir, G)
||[Dec. 24th, 2006|11:46 am]
Lord of the Rings Secret Santa
Author: Galadriel (caras_galadhon)
Feedback: Always appreciated.
Disclaimer: I have a vivid fantasy life, but I do not pretend to be JRR Tolkien, nor do I pretend to own his characters.
Summary: At Yuletide, Aragorn counts his blessings.
Notes: Written for alex_quine for lotr_sesa. After a little turn around the block, I found myself back in her Cold Pressing AU. I hope you don't mind that I've dipped my toe into your pool, Alex, especially as I couldn't ask for permission for fear of revealing that I had received your prompt. I humbly beg your forgiveness for any mistakes I may have inadvertently made in continuity or characterization. This is, for all intents and purposes, an AU to an AU, and written entirely in the spirit of paying homage to a fascinating and beautifully-written universe. (The Cold Pressing series, as well as the rest of Alex's fics, are available here.) Additionally, my unending thanks to savageseraph for both her beta work and moral support as I wrote.
There were few things in this world that Aragorn was thankful for. Arwen, certainly. Eldarion, without a doubt. Peace and a kingdom that was moving toward reuniting in more than name, absolutely.
But Aragorn was not grateful to be King. It wasn't that he did not wish to take his rightful place, nor that he regretted the burden placed upon him by a legacy of blood, nor even that he wished to shrug off the mantle of leadership. He knew deep in his bones that his line, his intentions, and the station itself mattered more than who he was, but kingship came with all sorts of trappings specifically designed to make a ruler feel above his subjects, as if he were somehow entitled to more.
He had always made do with less, understanding that no matter what was expected of him, his deeds were not to be motivated by a lust for more. He was entitled to the same level of care and comfort as any of the Free Peoples, but as Hope incarnate, he was expected to give, not receive. This lesson had been driven into his mind over and over as a child, both by his mother and by his foster-father, until it was imprinted behind Estel's eyes, exhaled in his every breath.
It was this lesson that left Estel -- now Elessar -- deeply uncomfortable with the trappings of kingship, especially during a season as laden with tradition and spectacle as Mettarë.
As a child, he had been welcomed with open arms by the Elves, treated as kin, and while they did indeed mark the changing of the year with gifting and bounty, in their long, long ages on this earth they had a mutable sense of possession, one that extended beyond "yours" and "mine" into something greater. It was this sense of life beyond himself that had guided him true and straight when he had left to join the Dúnedain, that had steered his hand and mind when making decisions that almost certainly would send men to their deaths.
In war there was no time for sorrow nor joy, both needing to be pushed aside in favour of the rule of reason. There would be time later to grieve, just as there would be a time of celebration; these were the promises that their chieftain whispered into the dark of night, no one but the distant, cold stars to hear and remember.
He did not partake in the Yule celebrations of the rest of his people, and they, in turn, did not press him to do more than take a mouthful of honeyed wine and endure a round of stout thumps and stouter greetings before he retired from their presence. He was grateful for their kindness, their knowledge that a weight larger than one man should bear kept him from lifting his voice in shared song, just as he was grateful for the small sprig of athelas that would inexplicably turn up, tucked carefully into his pack, on the eve of the Elvish Mettarë.
Indeed, as the stain of the Shadow spread across the land, Yule became a time of postponement, usurped by more urgent matters of sword and shield. Spice and song faded, no more than whispers of scent and sound on the wind as the Dúnedain bedded down in silent camps, fires tamped down against discovery. The Rangers found themselves wandering far more than even they were accustomed to, marking Yule alone in the underbrush, no more than one passing thought amongst many.
Aragorn had lost many men at Yule, and many more throughout all the seasons of the year, until each day brought with it fresh memories of spilled blood.
Even now, crowned in peace, the turning of the year was nothing to be grateful for. Nor, in truth, was the pomp and circumstance that attended his smallest sniffle, never mind Mettarë itself. He was accustomed to doing for himself, fending for himself, and no matter how many times Faramir had lectured him on the importance of appearances, Aragorn was unable to allow himself to enjoy the status that being King brought. He wished to be free of the fetters of tradition, leading the Gondorians from the safety of the brambles, marking the passing of days quietly, gently, a reverence born in the knowledge of the vast expanses of the world. He would not slip the bonds of duty, but he would not be thankful for them.
But there was one thing that Aragorn thanked Gondor daily for bringing to him, as sure as he thanked Námo for closing the doors to his Halls.
His steps were silent against the stone and wood floors, his Ranger-honed talents never truly falling out of favour. As he walked, he reflected that he had waited far too long for his own miracle, finally finding it in the unlikeliest of places: a shining seed long-buried in miller's dust.
And as he passed by Arin's room, the door open enough for Aragorn to catch a glimpse of Rullo tucked up against Arin's side, the dog's head under the boy's chin, he smiled and checked himself. There were two things he had found to be grateful for in Gondor, and the well of gratitude ran deep.
Just as their son's door stood open, so did Boromir's chambers invite entry. Aragorn slipped inside, disturbing little that was not air. He divested himself of his clothing, sliding under the furs and sheets, curling close to his sleeping miracle. Boromir's breath was sweet with cinnamon and cloves, his skin warm, an errant sprig of greenery caught in his hair. If Aragorn could find no cheer in Yule, Boromir would find it for him.
Blindly, barely surfacing from sleep, Boromir turned towards his King, murmured remnants of dreams escaping between his lips. His arms instinctively wrapped around Aragorn, pulling him close as the dreamworld tugged Boromir back into its grasp.
Aragorn smiled, his body suffused with waves of warmth. He pressed a kiss to Boromir's temple, followed the brush of lips with whispered reassurances. As Boromir settled and stilled, Aragorn allowed his hands to wander, his fingertips seeking and finding three puckering scars, faded reminders of a path happily not followed.
There were many things in this world that Aragorn was grateful for: a strong and loving family, a kingdom relearning the joys of peace, and his own, simple miracle, breathing slow and sweet beneath his hands. Now was the time of celebration finally come, and he would honour Mettarë in his own way; in quiet, in memory, in reverence, and above all, in hope.
(December 22, 2006)