That's all I have this time.
The Captain and the Queen [4/6]
Characters/Pairing: Gradually-building Boromir/Arwen; established Aragorn/Arwen and Aragorn/Boromir; leading up to Aragorn/Boromir/Arwen. Also featuring: Faramir and a literal village full of OCs.
Rating: PG in this part
Words: ~5300 in this part
Disclaimer: All recognisable characters belong to the Tolkien estate. I’m just playing with them.
Summary: Three years after she was crowned the Queen of Gondor, Arwen finds Boromir in a small village near the Stone of Erech. Finding him seems easy when compared to her new Quest of bringing the Son of Gondor back home. Sort of fulfils this Arwen/Aragorn/Boromir prompt on hobbit_kink.
Notes: Subtitled “An Exploration of the Problems of a Postwar Gondor”. By the way, the fic is done – I’m just posting it part by part due to the length.
Warnings: Violence in this part, eventual threesome, Arwen-centric.
The next days passed with such a strange tension between Arwen and Boromir that Dagmar asked if all was right, and if they had quarrelled. Arwen despaired then, for her long years of living were inadequate at supplying her with words that could help Dagmar understand that they avoided each other not for hatred but for the deep ache in their heart whenever they were together or even looked upon each other. So she could only shake her head, trying to reassure, but Dagmar remained unconvinced.
They were waiting for the King they both loved so well; the Man whose absence they felt with every second they breathed. Strange it was: when Arwen’s heart belonged wholly to Aragorn, it did not pain her nearly as much, for she knew it rested well in his hands though he was far from her. Yet now she thought she might hold half of Boromir’s heart in her hands, and it was a fragile thing, constantly pulling and tugging her eastwards towards Minas Tirith, towards the King who unknowingly held the other half.
So it was a great disappointment that greeted her when she saw that it was Faramir who was in the leader’s camp. She had heard the soldiers coming through Tarlang’s Neck, and she crossed the river before dawn.
The Steward of Gondor stood at her arrival, giving her a wry smile when he saw her face. “My apologies, my lady – I know ‘twas not I whom you were expecting.”
Arwen could not help but duck her head, embarrassed at her loss of control. Surely she had learned to hide herself much better by now, after so long spent concealing her true identity from the villagers. Surely she had known it possible that Aragorn would not be here to greet her: his duties weighed heavier on him than ever, so few years after the end of the war when there was so much left to be done. Duty had parted them often in the long years they had known each other, yet disappointment had never tasted so bitter.
“No, ‘tis…” She stilled her wringing hands with an effort. “Is anything the matter in Minas Tirith?” Is that why Estel is not here?
“Much work is left for the King to oversee in the East if we wish to reclaim Minas Ithil before winter comes,” replied Faramir. He picked up a heavy envelope from his desk, holding it out to her. “He entrusted me with a letter to give to you.”
I do not want a letter, Arwen cried deep in her heart. I wish for naught more than his presence. She swallowed the words, instead taking the letter and hiding it deep in her sleeve. Later she would read it and pore over every word, but now Faramir deserved her full attention.
She took a long and careful look at him. Faramir was a stranger to her still, for his duties often took him far from Minas Tirith to Ithilien where he was Prince. When he was in the Capital, he was more oft to be in private counsel with the King, and Arwen had little opportunity to speak to him. Yet, Arwen thought, only the blind would have missed the tension at the sides of his eyes and the strained nature of his smile.
He knew, then, the true reason why he was called here.
“Forgive me,” she said quietly. “I have been selfish. My words are true, my lord Steward – I have found your brother.”
Faramir gasped, stumbling, his hands scrabbling at the edge of his desk before he gripped the thin wood tightly. He stared at her, eyes uncomprehending, and Arwen nodded once more.
“He is in the village over the river. They have named him ‘Dwyte’, and that is the name he now answers to.”
“A Rohir name,” murmured Faramir. “Why has he hidden himself from us, my lady? Why did he not—” He trailed off, eyes faraway, but Arwen heard his words nonetheless, for she had pondered the same for many days.
Why did he not come home?
“I know not the full measure of his tale,” replied Arwen. She shook her head. “Even so, my lord, ‘tis not my tale to tell.”
Faramir’s eyes widened. “He has told you nothing?”
Arwen blinked, taken aback. “He has not,” she confirmed. “There is little reason for him to, my lord; we met but once in Rivendell before this, and much of him is still a mystery to me.”
Ducking his head, Faramir rubbed the back of his neck. The gesture was so much like Boromir – not to mention the physical resemblance Faramir bore to his brother – that Arwen found her breath snatched out of her lungs. She wondered, distantly, if it had ever hurt Aragorn to look upon Faramir and to see the man whom he thought he had lost. Her heart ached too for Faramir, for surely he was reminded of his brother whenever he looked into a mirror and saw the same red-gold strands, proud nose, and high cheekbones.
“Forgive me, my lady. I presume…” Faramir shook his head. “He had surely recognised you, and yet he stayed. I had thought that you had convinced him to do so.”
“’Twas not I who convinced him to stay but his own honour,” Arwen told the Steward of Gondor. “Though he knows I called Minas Tirith for aid, he did not break the promise he made to me.”
Faramir dealt her a suddenly sharp glance, eyes narrowing.
“I see,” he said eventually, sighing. “The time that passed since the last I saw my brother has been short indeed, but so much has changed in the world that I now feel that he is a stranger to me.” He hesitated, meeting Arwen’s gaze almost shyly. “Will you tell me of him, my lady? I wish to know more before I look upon him again.”
He paused. “Perhaps ‘tis foolish—”
“Nay,” Arwen interrupted. “I will be glad to tell you more of Dwyte.”
They took seats in the rickety little chairs in the corner of the tents. Arwen was reminded once more of the first time she met Boromir, and wished inanely for teacups and leaves to busy her hands. Instead, she took out Aragorn’s letter, rubbing her fingers over the wax seal stamped with the Ring of Barahir.
“You knew a warrior, my lord, a soldier of Gondor, but in the village you will find a farmhand,” she said quietly. “He has grown much thinner, though he is still strong, and his hair and beard are unkempt.” She gave Faramir a wry smile, “I say he resembles more of a Ranger of the North than the Captain-General of the White Tower. He works with cows and horses now, and not even the dealings with the orcs did he use a sword. No; he chose a staff, like a shepherd.”
“My lady,” Faramir interrupted. “About the orcs…”
She waved a hand. “They had long been dealt with. I saw few men outside, my lord; I’m sure you have already predicted that.”
Faramir nodded. His eyes were solemn, and Arwen felt her momentary mirth fading quickly. Staring down once more at the thick, creamy paper in her hands, she continued, “Boromir is haunted, my lord. He is far more uncertain than he ever was in Imladris. Then, he was a strange land, but he still knew his place. Yet now he seems a man lost. He clings to Dwyte, unwilling to reclaim his true name, but he is a warrior still. Of that I am certain. He fought against the orcs like any warrior wishing to protect, and though the villagers do not know his true identity, he views them as his people still.”
“My brother has always been far more a warrior and soldier than I,” murmured Faramir, deep in thought.
Arwen bit her lip, nodding. “Aye. I wager ‘tis the events of Amon Hen that will not leave him be. He believes he lost his honour then, though I have tried many a time to convince him otherwise. Has…” she hesitated a moment, glancing at Faramir out of the corner of her eyes. “Has Elessar told you of what happened then?”
“Nay.” Faramir shook his head. “I know only of what Pippin has told me. I asked the King if he would tell me of my brother’s last moments, but he refused, saying the grief was still too near.”
“He told me the same,” Arwen replied, disappointment clenching her heart tight in its fist.
She had hoped that Aragorn would have told Faramir more, for they were both Men who loved Boromir deeply. Yet it seemed that Aragorn kept all deep within his own heart, refusing to even share the burdens of grief with his Steward and his Queen. Perhaps only Boromir was allowed to enter that locked, mournful place in his heart. Would Aragorn ever release his sorrow if Boromir had not been found? Arwen knew not, and she found another reason to be glad that she had found Boromir in this village.
“Will… will tonight be too soon to find him?” Faramir asked, his voice jerking Arwen out of her thoughts. His eyes were dark with unspoken words.
“There are no words that will dissuade you,” said Arwen wryly. She stood, hiding Aragorn’s letter in her sleeve again.
“Come alone, my lord. Assure your loyal soldiers of your safety, and I will bring you to your brother. I know his lodging-place.”
She turned to leave the tent, but Faramir caught her sleeve.
“My lady,” the Prince of Ithilien said urgently. “No words suffice to thank you for what you have done. You have brought my brother back to me when I thought him lost forevermore. If there is aught I might do, now or in the future…”
Arwen smiled. “There is no need for thanks, my lord,” she murmured. “I have my own reasons to rejoice at Boromir’s return. I wish only for you to convince your brother to come home with us to Minas Tirith, where so many miss him still.”
Faramir lowered his head, raising her hand to press a soft kiss on the knuckles.
“If we have to linger here for years or decades, my Queen, we will do so,” he said, the steel in his voice ringing clear. “’Twill be with my brother that we return to the city, or not at all.”
“Are you truly leaving with Dwyte, Ioreth?”
Arwen’s hands paused above the mule, turning around, unsurprised to see Dagmar standing behind her.
“Aye, I am,” she replied steadily, turning back to heave the last of ‘Ioreth’s’ meagre belongings onto the mule.
She would be leaving on the beast until they were a few miles away from the village, then it would be used for only for the carrying of provisions and she would ride a horse back to Minas Tirith. Arwen asked Faramir for the measure for it seemed unlikely that a seamstress would be comfortable on a proper horse, and she would rather not break the illusion that she had so carefully woven these past months.
“It’s a shame to lose the both of you at once,” sighed Dagmar. “We meant what we told the soldiers. If we have to choose a leader of the village, it’d be the either of you, especially after what you did with the troll.”
“Sadoc will do much better,” Arwen replied lightly. “I am ill-suited for a position so grand.”
Dagmar gave her a sly look. “I’d say that it’s a position that ain’t grand enough.”
Arwen stared at her, and it was with honest surprise that she said, “What do you mean?”
Shaking her head, Dagmar laughed. “Nothing. ‘Tis only that soldiers make for bad liars, and they have loose tongues when you’ve watered ‘em enough with ale.”
Faramir’s soldiers kept mostly to themselves within the village, with the exception of the Steward and his right hand Beregond, both of whom seemed impossible to pry from Boromir’s side. The only other soldiers in the vicinity were the old soldiers, and Arwen knew they had not recognised her.
She blinked at Dagmar, eliciting another bout of laughter from the woman.
“In any case, Minas Tirith is a grand city,” she said, smiling at Arwen as if they two shared a secret none else knew. “I left too early to see her, but they say that the Queen is an Elf. That’d be a grand sight to see, wouldn’t it?”
Arwen kept her hand still as she could by her side, resisting the urge to touch her hair and check that the strands still covered her Elven-pointed ears.
“’Twill be grand indeed,” she murmured for the lack of anything else to say.
Dagmar sobered almost immediately, and she gave Arwen a small smile, uncertain at the edges.
“All jokes aside, Ioreth… if you are ever sick of the city, you can always come back here. We’ll give you a right welcome. Dwyte can come too if he so wishes. I reckon Sadoc’d open his doors for him easily enough.” She chuckled. “I’d offer him my lodgings, but I’m a respectable woman now.”
“Dagmar—” Arwen tried to say.
“We won’t forget you both,” she said, her eyes suddenly serious, gaze burning into Arwen’s. “Our children will be told the story of how Ioreth and Dwyte managed to smite a mountain troll with just a few wooden sticks and sheer bravery. We won’t forget you, so…” she jerked her head away, biting her lip. “So don’t forget ‘bout us once you’ve gone to the city, alright?”
Arwen’s heart ached deep in her chest, and she reached out, pulling Dagmar into her arms and holding her tightly. “I will not,” she said, voice hoarse. “I promise that neither of us will. If Dwyte shows any sign of forgetting, I will bring him back here so he will be reminded of all that you have done for him, for us.”
She knew the promise was true. The memories of Elves would never fade; if she was ill-fated enough to live until the ending of Arda, she would remember this short time she spent with these Men, and all the love and care they had given her and she had tried her best to return.
Closing her eyes, she let the tears fall. The Queen of Men did not cry in front of her people, and neither did an Elven princess in front of any who was not of her family; but Arwen was no royal here. She was merely a seamstress from Lossarnach named Ioreth, and despite all that she concealed from them, they still loved her.
“I’ll keep you to your word,” said Dagmar fiercely, pulling from Arwen’s arms so their eyes could meet. “I’ll remember what you said, Ioreth, if I ever go to Minas Tirith again.”
Arwen nodded. Dagmar took another look at her before she wiped her eyes, smiling through her tears.
“I’d better make sure that Sadoc’s giving the soldiers a proper farewell,” she murmured. “A good job we did choosing a leader – we picked one who has no skills with words.”
She turned and walked swiftly back into the inn, and Arwen was left alone. She busied her hands with the mule’s bridle, giving herself some moments to swallow her tears before she had to return to Faramir as the Queen of Gondor once more.
Barely a few heartbeats passed, however, before she was interrupted again.
“They are good people, all of them.”
Arwen turned, meeting Boromir’s soft, wistful smile with one of her own.
“Are you regretting your promise?” she asked.
“Nay,” he said, fiddling with the straps of his own pack. “’Tis long past time that I returned to my city.”
Boromir stood taller now, returning to his full, true height as one of the nobility of Men, a true Captain-General of the White Tower despite the poor clothes he still insisted on wearing. His talk with Faramir seemed to have done him much good. Arwen knew that the brothers talked long into the night once they had met again, but she had closed her Elven hearing to their conversation so she would not eavesdrop. If there was aught she needed to know, she hoped that they would tell her when the time came. She trusted them enough for that.
Now, she reached out hesitantly, feeling the warm thrum of Boromir’s pulse beneath his fingertips as she took his wrist.
“You will not be alone in your return,” she murmured. “And there will be many awaiting you. The silver trumpets will sing once more to welcome the Lords of Gondor home.”
Lowering his eyes, Boromir took her hand and pressed his lips to her knuckles. Arwen shivered at the gesture, for though this was a common courtesy amongst noble Men, there was a look in Boromir’s eyes that took her breath away.
“They will welcome the Lady of Gondor home as well,” he said, voice so quiet that it seemed only Arwen would hear him.
She let her hand fall by her side, taking the bridle and checking the mule’s mouth to ensure that the metal bit was not cruel to it. Boromir came over to her side, taking the reins, and they walked side by side towards the edge of the river. Arwen found her heart strangely heavy, for surely this would be the last in some time before they would find themselves alone once more.
They walked in silence until they reached the soldiers, who were all waiting for them. Arwen swung up as clumsily as she could onto her mule, still mindful of watching eyes, and she watched as Boromir took a horse from his brother’s hands, moving as if he was born on horseback like one of the Rohirrim. She hid a grin, wondering what the village would think if they saw this, and if it only confirmed their suspicions about ‘Dwyte’s’ Rohir blood.
Some of the soldiers would be staying behind for the sake of the new villages and settlements growing at the base of the White Mountains. Peace was still new and weak, and even if there were no orcs, there was still the danger of raiders and bandits; of Men used to war and battle but who were less kindly than Beranor and the other old soldiers. Faramir had told her the previous night that there would be an outpost set up at the opening of Tarlang’s Neck, for the times when these farmers and villagers might be attacked without their Queen and Captain to personally protect them.
Arwen nudged her mule to follow the soldiers, keeping her silence as she watched the village grow smaller and smaller as they headed south of the river Morthond. It was strange to ride away; it seemed only so recently that she had stumbled into the village, her disguise still new and strange on her skin, her tongue heavy when she spoke the name she had given as her own. Now months had passed and she had found a gift she had not expected when she first came, and Arwen wished the village had a name.
It should have one. If it did, she would make a song out of it, though she was clumsy with rhymes, telling of all the plain men and women who birthed themselves out of the ashes of their old lives and faced up with their lifelong terrors with such courage. Perhaps she would write to Merry and Pippin in the Shire, asking if they knew good rhymes for such Men. Her brothers in the south of Eryn Lasgalen would lend her a minstrel, and she knew many of the same in Minas Tirith’s courts would gladly do the bidding of the Queen, but their songs would be too stilted and grand-sounding for such an affair.
Boromir had ridden up to her quietly while she was occupied with her thoughts. He watched her with words hidden beneath his tongue, and Arwen nudged her mule closer, cocking her head to the side.
“Do you fear for the village’s safety?” she asked, searching for a topic that would not give them away to Faramir’s sharp eyes.
“Nay,” said Boromir, chuckling to himself. “There is naught to worry about: the old soldiers have found plenty of reasons to stay, and they are canny creatures.”
Arwen cocked his head, waiting for him to continue.
“Hallam said,” he leaned in closer, as if sharing a secret, “they recognised me from the moment they had a good look at me. Yet they said nothing for,” he raised his voice to a higher pitch, roughening his accent to impersonate Hallam: “If the Lord Boromir decides to call himself ‘Dwyte’ and pretend to be a farmhand, then who are we to argue?”
He shook his head, looking almost shocked. Arwen pressed her hand hard to her mouth, trying to keep her dignity, for she understood Dagmar’s parting words now, and with insight came mirth.
“Dagmar knew as well,” she told Boromir, trying to keep her voice steady. “I daresay Hallam spilled the secret while deep in the cups she brought him.”
Boromir blinked, and he threw his head back and laughed, free and loud. Arwen felt her own chuckles dying down as she watched him, for he was beautiful in that moment. The setting sun turned his hair like gold that had just left the forge, and his eyes were brighter than any gems could claim to be. She felt her heart tug deep within her, its threads wounding even tighter around Boromir.
He would heal, she thought. He was already healing, for surely he would not have laughed like this mere weeks ago, when they had first met again.
“We thought ourselves cunning to have deceived them,” he gasped for breath between chortles. “Yet it seems that we are the ones fooled instead.” He glancing at her through the strands of his dishevelled hair, and his smile faded as he caught sight of her solemnness.
“My lady? Is aught the matter?”
Arwen blinked, shaking her head hard. Her hands were trembling, and she hid them by twining her fingers around the mule’s reins.
“Nay,” she murmured. “’Tis no matter.”
Boromir nudged his horse even closer, reaching over the gap to brush his fingers gently over her shoulder.
“There is no danger in their knowing,” he said. “The old soldiers make for good keepers of secrets, especially if Sage and Dagmar are looking after them.”
She barely heard his words, for her eyes seemed fixed upon his lips, watching them curl and uncurl with every syllable. There was an ache deep within her, below her stomach, and she wished for nothing more than to be alone so she might reach over and taste him.
“I…” she trailed off, her mind scrambling for words. “I am not worried, my lord.” She brushed the thoughts away as much as she could, turning her head up to give him a smile.
“Surely ‘twas not only Hallam who spoke? Will you tell me the rest of the tale?”
Boromir gave her a doubtful look, but Arwen held his gaze.
“Aye, my lady,” he said finally, but there was a hidden iron to his tone that told her that he would not let this matter rest.
The small company came to a stop at the Stone of Erech, for the sun was setting and though the Dead was cleared from Tarlang’s Neck, it would be pure folly to enter the passage when all was tired from the day’s long ride. Arwen watched as Faramir and Boromir took counsel together once more before she headed towards the little tent erected for her, lighting up a candle.
Once she was settled, she drew Aragorn’s letter from within her sleeves and unfolded it carefully. She had read it many times throughout these few days, but it had not ceased to give her great warmth and comfort.
My lady Undómiel,
Autumn approaches once more, bringing with it the chores of the harvest. It has gone well this year and none in Gondor will lack for eating, but I am sure you are more certain of that than me. Has it truly been thirteen moons since you left the Citadel? The days seem unending yet the months are short. The passing of the seasons are lost to me, and more oft than ever I believe I will drown amongst these white walls and papers.
Worry not, Arwen. My duties do not warm me at night, but I am long used to your absence. I hope only that during the nights when I reach out towards the empty air that you are too, and under the light of Eärendil’s bright star our hands will meet. Even if I do not feel the warmth of your skin, the thought gives me great comfort.
I dawdle with my words, and I am certain you are tired of them. Let me address your short missive.
I know you to be free from all guile and cruelty. I know that you do not lie to me, Arwen, yet my heart can scarce believe what I read. If the dove could speak, I would have interrogated her and forced her to tell me all she knows. If Boromir is truly alive, I do not think I will believe it until I see him once more with my own eyes. Do not think I doubt you; I doubt myself. His skin was cold the last I touched him, and it was my hands that sent him down the river in the Elven boat. If he was alive, then I surely—
Arwen touched the dark splotch of ink on the thick paper, pressing hard against the spot where Aragorn’s neat hand trailed off into a mass of scratched out scribbles. She swallowed her frustration; even now he refused to tell her of Amon Hen.
Shaking her head to herself, she continued reading.
There is naught more I wish for than to ride out now. I would take Brego and allow him to fly with all speed westwards until I reach you. Or perhaps I would take Asfaloth – he is restless lately, for it has been long since his mistress has appeared before him. If we ride faster than the winds themselves, then surely I would arrive before the orcs?
Yet I find myself without the ability, for my duties are heavy chains indeed and I cannot shrug them off easily. Faramir will go in my stead. I know he will wish to be the first to look upon his brother, and though I trust your eyes, my love, I believe he will wish to see Boromir with his own.
A small company of soldiers will follow him. If it is truly Boromir whom you have found, then I believe those swords will be needed for immediate defence. However, I have read your words between the lines, my lady, and Faramir will be given orders to set up an outpost near the base of the White Mountains in the north. Aye, you were right: the westlands have been too long neglected, and there is much to be done.
Though my heart aches to feel your absence by my side, I know Gondor will profit from your travels.
“So it is the lot of those who rule,” murmured Arwen to herself. “Duty reigns above all, for the King serves the pleasure of his people, and not his own.”
Arwen nearly jumped. Elven hearing she might have, but she was far too occupied with her thoughts and Aragorn’s words that she had heard nothing. Her fingers had folded the letter and hid it without her knowledge, and she chuckled softly to herself as she placed it on her lap, raising her eyes to meet Boromir’s.
“’Tis late, my lord,” she said, cocking her head to the side. “Is anything the matter?”
“Nothing urgent,” replied Boromir, looking down. “If you are busy…”
Standing, Arwen walked over to him, taking his fidgeting hands into her own. They were warm and callused, the hard skin made by the handling of a sword made even rougher by farm work.
“I was simply reading, and it can be done at any time.” Motioning to the letter, she said, “’Tis a letter from Aragorn. Would you like to read it?”
“I…” he bit his lip. “Nay, though what I have to say will have much to do with the King.”
Why did Boromir avoid saying Aragorn’s name? Why did he seem to flinch at the sound of it? Arwen did not know, but she hid her curiosity, leading him towards the small chair in her tent. She perched herself on the desk. The company had packed lightly for the journey, and she would rather not waste the time that could be spent talking in finding another chair.
“My ear is yours, my lord,” she said gently.
Boromir rubbed at his nose and mouth, a gesture that was now familiar to her. He opened his mouth, but fell into a long silence. Arwen felt impatience crawl along her spine, but she tampered it down, refusing to rush him. He would tell her all that he needed to, in his own time. Dawn was still far off.
She took in the sound of his heartbeat, drumming hard in his chest, and his forcibly stabilised breathing. Yet it was only a few moments that had passed before his lips parted once more.
“I suppose it began… well, it was during the Council in Imladris,” he said, taking a deep breath. “’Twas then that the Ring called to me.”
So the tale of the breaking of the Fellowship finally came to the ears of Arwen Undómiel from the tongue of Boromir of Gondor. It came halting and hesitant at first; then the words poured out of him like a waterfall, as if they had long hid underneath his tongue awaiting their escape. His knuckles were white during the telling, and often he choked on his own breath before carrying on, and Arwen had to still her own hands so she would not reach out for him.
He told her of the fears he confessed to the Man who would be King in the lands of the Lady of Light, her grandmother, and the quarrel they had on the river bank. He shivered as if the night had turned into winter when he told her how he succumbed, when the sweet songs of the Ring turned impossible to ignore, and how he attacked the Ringbearer.
Boromir shook more than the candle’s flame in the gentle wind, and it was then that Arwen drew him into her arms. She wished to shush him, to let the tale continue another day, but his words came like the rushing Rauros falls, wearing away at the stone of his long silence. Akin to the sun breaking through the clouds it was, he said, as he told her how his heart had cried in joy at the sight of Aragorn bursting through the trees; how the arrows embedded in his flesh gave him no pain in that moment for he looked upon Aragorn and he knew that the King long-awaited had truly returned.
“He told me I had kept my honour, and though I named him King then, I still cannot believe his words,” whispered Boromir, closing his eyes and laying his head upon her shoulder. “In truth, I am naught but a disobedient soldier, for I have refused the words of my King into my heart. I know I should, yet…”
Leaning back slightly, Arwen cupped his face gently with her hands. She closed her eyes and pressed the softest of kisses upon his lips. Boromir froze, tensing against her for a long moment before he sighed, falling forward, his lips moulding to hers. Their breaths mingled, and Arwen drew Boromir’s warmth into her own lungs before she pulled away.
She pressed two fingers gently on his mouth, stopping any further words. “’Twas a kiss for comfort, my lord, and a promise. Let us not speak more of it for now.”
Taking in his faint nod, Arwen pulled away, staring at her hands. When she was sure that she had the words, she spoke, “My father thought ‘twas Isildur’s weakness that led to his fall to the Ring’s powers, and though he is wise in many things, in this I believe he is blinded still by his grief at the loss of his comrade. Nay, Boromir; Isildur fell to his bane because of his nobility and his love for his land and his people.
“The Ring is a terrible weapon: it preys not only on the shadows within our hearts, but the light as well. Wisdom is turned to greed, courage to fear, and nobility to desperation.”
Arwen shuddered, remembering the terrifying moments on the banks of the Ford Bruinen before Glorfindel found them: when she held the Ringbearer in her arms and felt the burning heat of the Ring pressed against her own chest. She reached out and tangled their hands together, holding Boromir’s dulled gaze with her own.
“I have heard its voice as well, and ‘twas strength that allowed you to withstands its luring.” She squeezed his fingers, weaving as much steel into her voice as she could. “You are not weak.”
“Strength I might have owned once, but I gave up all that is decent within myself when I attacked Frodo,” said Boromir, swallowing hard. “I do not know how you stand to look at me, my lady, knowing what I have done.”
“A Man without decency would not have protected the Hobbits,” she said fiercely. “Guilt will not threaten to swallow him whole like it does you. A Man without decency would not have protected the village.”
She slid her fingers into Boromir’s hair, tilting his head up so he could not avert his gaze. She knew her grip was too tight, was Elven-strong, but she could not help herself.
“I know my words might ring empty in your heart, Boromir of Gondor, but do not try to convince me of your unworthiness again. Let me be my own judge; let all those who love you judge you themselves.”
“What if they don’t forgive me?” asked Boromir, and the shivering uncertainty in his voice had Arwen leaning forward, touching their foreheads together.
“If they do not forgive you, then ‘tis only because they did not blame you in the first place.”
She saw his doubts in his eyes, and knew that he did not believe in her words. The wounds were still raw after the war, and there had been little time for healing for this Man. Mere words would not close these lacerations of the heart.
Arwen had patience bred from a thousand eight hundred of living, and nearly forty years spent in waiting for Aragorn to claim his place. She knew she would wait for him; wait until his heart was calm, and he could look at himself reflected in her eyes without flinching.
Closing her eyes, she whispered, “Perhaps ‘tis not my right, but you have long held my forgiveness.”
Boromir made a rasping gasp, like a man who reached shore right before he drowned, and he crashed their lips together. It was an inelegant kiss, their teeth smacking against each other, their skin almost cut by the force. Yet it was still sweet, still warmed her heart and stilled the shaking of his hands upon her shoulders.
For now, for the two of them, it was enough.