1. It Is Custom
AN: There have been some slight changes from last time to keep it more in line with what is actually in the book, but the main discussion is still valid.
They had been trudging away from Moria for hours now. Boromir put on a weary burst of speed to come up even with Aragorn, whose long paces threatened to leave them all behind. "We are all weary, and the sun is high," the Steward's son counseled, shifting Pippin who rode piggyback behind him. As if to illustrate his point, the young hobbit burrowed his face into the Gondorian's shoulder, shutting his eyes against the glaring afternoon light. "You said there was a place where we might pause . . ."
Aragorn checked his pace, nodding. "It is not far, and you are right. We must stop soon, for the sake of the little ones. Hear the river? Let us reach it first." The two men soon broke through a stand of trees, reaching a sheltered clearing where the small stream burbled on its way to the Silverlode. The rest of the group stumbled in one by one. Frodo clutched his side, and Sam his head, but the rest staggered due to weariness only.
"Sam, you should have told me you were hurt," the Ranger chastised, washing the shallow cut on the hobbit's forehead until it ran clear, clean blood. Wrapping the, thankfully unpoisoned, gash with herb-soaked linens, Aragorn called to the rest of the company where they gathered around the fire. "If anyone else is hurt, speak now, while the athelas is boiling."
"Not all hurts are mended with a weed," Boromir grumbled. "I will find more healing in a pint of ale and a sturdy wench." Shocked silence greeted his statement. Looking up, the Gondorian warrior challenged, "Do not tell me I am the only one who feels the call of life to burn away the cold of death."
"We all feel it, but not in that way," Frodo murmured from the where Aragorn was binding his side. "Among the hobbits, such behavior is left behind in the tweens, when we frolic with each other before settling down with a spouse."
"And what of after a battle?" the man returned. "What do you know of taking comfort in a pair of living arms to forget the embrace of ones now dead?"
"There are no battles in the Shire," Pippin pointed out, "unless you count the Fell Winter of 2911." The young hobbit paused, as if something had just occurred to him. "Come to think of it, a lot of the gaffers were born in the fall of 2912."
"There, you see?" Boromir crowed. "Among the men of Gondor, it is not right if a soldier spends the first night after a battle alone. Life is hard and dangerous and over soon; we take what joy we can, brief though it may be." He scanned the faces around the fire, finally fixing on Gimli. "How with the Dwarves?" he asked.
Gimli snorted. "There are not enough women among my people to marry, let alone dally with, but I will admit that after a particularly hard battle, I did seek another to guard my dreams. It is not normal, but neither is it frowned upon. What about you, Master Elf?" The Dwarf looked over, only to find that Legolas was no longer sitting next to him. The princeling was pacing along the edge of the clearing, ostensibly keeping watch.
Sitting down at the fire in the elf's place, Aragorn answered for him. "The elves are immortal. They have eternity to find their love, and they must love before they lust. The consequences of binding yourself forever to one you do not love are too terrible. Legolas has not found a love."
"You mean he's – " Boromir began.
"Yes," Aragorn cut the other man off. "And will remain so until he bonds."
"But surely, a single night," Boromir trailed off unable to comprehend the thinking of the elves.
Aragorn attempted to explain. "Where you would find comfort, Boromir, Legolas would find a curse. When two bodies become one, so do souls. Elves live long enough that they appreciate the gift of a soul that is whole and untarnished by loveless coupling."
"And now he despises me for my custom," the words dripped with disgust, whether at himself, of the aloof elf was uncertain.
"I do not despise you," Legolas called, emerging from the shadows beneath the trees. "Your ways are not mine. Your life is shorter and more perilous, I understand. I do not begrudge you what brings you joy, even though it would be nothing more than empty pleasure to me until I find my mate."
"Then why did you run like the frightened virgin you are?" Boromir scoffed, receiving hard glares from the rest of the Fellowship.
"I did not run," the elf insisted. "I knew the question would eventually be asked, and I did not wish to be mocked or feel like I must apologize for keeping this treasure to give my wife. The centuries are long, and if I come to my marriage-bed already knowing all there is to know, it will soon grow tedious. In the end, I do not need one night to prove to myself that I am male."
"So where do you go, Legolas, when your friends have fallen around you and your soul bleeds as much as your body? How do you forget enough that you can live the next day, if not by losing yourself in a willing embrace?" The soft question was bitter.
Legolas shrugged. "I sing. I sing and remember, and from memory I find the strength to live. A lament is not for the dead, who cannot hear it, but for the living to draw courage." The elf looked over at Aragorn. "I have heard that this is how the Dúnedain overcome battles."
"Some, yes," the Ranger responded. "Those with wives will go home to them, to find solace in a loving embrace. The others may do as they will, save that the girl be willing."
"And what of Aragorn?" Boromir asked, eyes glittering with some form of petty pride in the anticipated answer. "Does he do as he will?"
Aragorn looked long and hard into Boromir's eyes. "I am Elven in this," he said at last. "My heart is already given, and my body will follow that or not at all."
The entire Fellowship fixed their eyes on Boromir, waiting for his response. Nodding, the broad man stood. "Then I shall seek my own comfort," he murmured, heading toward the woods. When Aragorn moved as if to follow, Boromir waved him back with the whispered, "alone."
Aragorn's eyes followed the retreating figure. "You are never alone," he countered, his voice lost to the wind.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.