Heart Of Refuge
by Your Cruise Director

The slant of sunshine looks eerie through the leaves of the mallorn trees, yet it warms Boromir's blood. And the fruit that Aragorn presses between Boromir's lips is strange and rough-skinned, yet the taste is sweet. So is Aragorn's mouth when he brings it down to Boromir's, sticky with berry juice and swollen with kisses.

"Do you like it?" he asks, and Boromir smiles, licks the sugary stain from Aragorn's chin, sucks the syrupy heat of Aragorn's tongue.

"I have never eaten this fruit in Gondor," he replies.

"Then we must plant it there," murmurs Aragorn, and the words are sweeter than the berries, warmer than the afternoon light.

Though Boromir is limp with fatigue, sated on pleasure that has lasted most of the night and half the morning, he pulls Aragorn close and kisses his forehead, his lips, the hollow of his throat above the glistening pendant he wears. The salt of his skin contrasts with the taste of the berries, overwhelming Boromir's senses.

The voices in his head are silent.

Perhaps it is the safety of the woods, or perhaps he is still drunk on Elvish wine from the night before, but Boromir feels free from fear -- fear for their quest, fear for the future, fear for Gondor. It is like being in another world, beyond even that of the Elves whose hidden cities barely touch the world of Men.

Here in the forest, the Ranger has taken him far from everything he knows. Here words like duty and honor have different meanings. Here the touch of fingertips or the whisper of his name can drive away a bitter wind, summon a hidden wellspring, even silence the call of the darkness.

Fingers twine through his hair, at once soothing and arousing, and Boromir feels his exhausted flesh strain toward Aragorn once more. Aragorn chuckles and shifts, pressing belly to belly, thigh to thigh. He inhales in the same rhythm as Boromir until they are pulsing against each other, holding one another tightly, sharing quiet gasps.

Boromir shudders when Aragorn's hands begin to knead him in time with his breathing, and his voice comes out as a moan. "Did you learn this, too, from the Elves?"

"You are teaching me this now," comes the hoarse reply, and Boromir cannot speak again, can only cling to Aragorn as the ripples in his loins become storms, tilting the ground and the sky, sparking flashes of lightning behind his closed eyelids, filling his nostrils with the scent of spring rain and grass and seed.

"I am no Elf," Aragorn reminds him with a breathless laugh when he can open his eyes again. "I am only a Man."

"You are much more than that," contends Boromir.

Rather than arguing, Aragorn presses his palm to Boromir's, reminding him that their hands are of a like size and shape, that they are equally strong and scarred. "No more than you are, Boromir," he insists. His eyes cloud suddenly. "If we were only Men -- if we could do as we pleased -- "

Then his voice trails off, and though his gaze remains fixed on Boromir, the younger man can see that Aragorn is far from the woods, perhaps far from his world. "Yes?" Boromir queries, calling him back to the afternoon light and the sweet scent of berries mingled with the dampness on their skin, the cool of the wind and the warmth where they touch.

Aragorn's expression clears, and his brows furrow as he looks at Boromir. "If you were not the Captain of the White Tower, and I was not Isildur's heir..." he

begins again. "If you did not expect to be a Steward and did not expect me to become a King...if we could tell our lives as tales of ordinary Men, not as if we were names inscribed in scrolls in a library...who would you want to be?"

Boromir looks up at the tall, fragrant trees, towering over him so differently than the spires of Minas Tirith. These woods are not like the borders of Gondor, either, where Easterlings threaten by day and Orcs by night. This is a place out of time, where Elves have lived since Ages long past; it is not a place for Men.

Still Boromir wishes that they could stay longer, filled with berries and sunshine, the joy between them silencing all unanswerable questions, dispelling doubts like smoke rings.

"We are who we are," he replies. "But I wish that we could be who we are with one another, outside this place."

"This is how I will always think of you," Aragorn promises, kissing his forehead. "When we must resume our journey, when the shadows fall over us, I will not forget."

Aragorn's hair smells of the leaves and grass where they have been lying. His cooling skin is as damp as the soil where the dew always clings under the trees. Pressed close to him, Boromir thinks that he will never again rest on the ground without remembering this day. Even if he falls in battle, he will be able to summon it in his last moments: the memory of golden light breaking through the treetops, of Aragorn's eyes and hands moving over him, of love sweeter than fruit and warmer than the sun.

Soon they must leave Lothlórien, and it may be that their paths will part forever. Boromir vows that he will never lose this haven -- not in anger, not in terror, not even in death.


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