Title: Hearth and Home
Characters: Aragorn, Fellowship members, Faramir
Prompt: Written for the LOTR Gfic Third Anniversary challenge
Elements: Verse: "We'll wander back to home and bed."
Word Count: 1544
Disclaimer: All of Middle Earth comes from the hand of Tolkien. I own nothing. I make no profit from the story.
A/N: This was much fun to write. :) Also, this is unbetaed, so any errors are mine. It will be revised in the future.
Summary: A newly crowned king dwells on the past and looks to the future. He is home at last.
The day had been long and breathless. In part, Aragorn still struggled to fully grasp it; that the heavy crown he bore was truly his and was given freely. Joy filled him, reaching deeper than he had thought it could. Long he had dreamt of this day, yes, yet how could he have predicted the sudden trembling that assailed him standing high upon the walls of the great city of Kings? How could he have known the awe and reverence and love that would seep into him from the mere feeling the rough surface of the White Tree beneath his fingers?
He had, he remembered vaguely, expected to feel like a king, expected the emotions of a king; pride, final, wonderful fulfillment of his destiny. So long he had fought for this, so long biding and waiting and longing for this day. How proudly he imagined this first day of lordship.
And yet, as Denethor’s son knelt before him, offering the bright sea-bird crown in cradled hands, as Frodo, dearest Frodo, laid the birthright of the ancient kings into Gandalf’s care, where ever it had been, as the wizard, more ancient even the bones of this city, smiled down at him, Aragorn did not feel pride. As Gandalf laid the crown on him, he closed his eyes, feeling the weight of Numenor’s sands, the love and blood of generations fighting in hope and in despair for this, this one moment.
I would have followed you my brother…my captain. And, at the memory, and to see all that brave man had loved kneeling before him, Aragorn’s heart shuddered with grief and pain and gratitude.
My lord, you called me. What does the king command?
The crown’s weight was that of a mountain, and he knelt humbled by it, humbled by the trust granted to him, humbled to be deemed worthy of such hopes and dreams, that such faith could be given freely, and with love.
Gandalf smiled at him with great tenderness, pride and gladness making his eyes soft. “Now come the days of the King, and may they be blessed while the thrones of the Valar endure.”
Smiling, Aragorn raised his head to meet the eyes of his oldest friend. Gandalf gave him a very small nod. Go on. And, having borne the crown that far, Aragorn found he could bear it further, found he could stand and face the people of Gondor. His people.
As he saw the reverence and love in the eyes of the brave men and women lining the streets, throwing flowers at his feet, Aragorn felt his heart swell with pride, and take root somewhere in these ancient white stones, in this land stained with blood, yet healing still.
Yes. He was here, at last. The throne of his people. The place he had always belonged, for all he had so often doubted. He was home. Bless the Valar, he was home…
Now, after a sumptuous feast in honor of his coronation and the swearing of many oaths, Aragorn felt weary enough to sleep for a day. His muscles pained him he had smiled for so long. He had never expected a day of such joy to be so exhausting!
Standing at last in the chambers of the King, Aragorn stared about in wonder at the intricately carved stone walls, the rich furnishings scattered about in every room. Many places he had dwelt in this city, and many more he had seen, yet these had ever been a mystery in those days of uncertainty, a half-realized dream in the back of his mind, swiftly hidden away lest it grieve him.
Nightfall had cast the whites of the city in blue. In the streets, the cool air soothed him. Yet, here, the dark pressed close into the corners, and Aragorn saw in them suddenly, fiercely, the chill of shadows long untouched by the sun. Someone had dusted meticulously, so it did not seem these rooms had sat unoccupied for hundreds of years, and lavish tapestries and rugs adorned every side. Yet the moonlight did little to bolster the light of the torches and the shadows curled thick and still over the doorways.
Despite himself, Aragorn hesitated.
Gondor may be, but this place was not home. His heart reviled against the cold far corners, the dullness that had crept across the intricately carved tales of his deceased kin in long years since their fall. And, standing on the threshold of his new world, he knew, and the taste was like ash in his mouth. This could not be home, not unless Arwen stood by his side. Until then these rooms would remain cold and dark and lifeless, for without her how could he return life to a place yet echoing with the breaths of the dead? Alone he lacked the strength. There could be no life without her.
Swallowing back the hollowness in his throat, he longed for the stars above his head, to lay still amid the sounds of the night, not here, anywhere but here. Here there was only stillness, an absence he did not wish to face, not to end a day so full of joy.
He started, though he recognized the voice. Faramir stood by the door, watching him worriedly. Aragorn turned, confused and unsettled. He had thought Faramir gone after showing him to his rooms, otherwise he would not have wandered so far in his thoughts.
Faramir hesitated under his gaze, but only for a moment. “I took the liberty of preparing a room for your use in the residence of your companions, my king, should you desire it. I hope that is agreeable…”
Aragorn blinked, then broke into a wide smile, feeling relief of unexpected strength. Whatever else he proved to be Faramir seemed a considerate man. “It is most agreeable,” he said warmly. “Thank you, Faramir.”
He was glad of Faramir’s small smile as the Steward shook his head. “The hobbits would have insisted, had I not, sire.” He looked out at the King’s chambers, and Aragorn thought he saw a mixture of sorrow and reverence in his face. “It did not seem…right to separate you on this night,” Faramir concluded finally.
In his gladness, Aragorn clapped Faramir on the shoulder. “Then I shall take my leave of you, and go to them. Good night, Faramir.” Faramir jumped at the gesture, Aragorn noted, but relaxed after a moment.
Faramir raised an eyebrow. “You do not require escort, I assume, Sire?”
Aragorn paused, taken aback by the statement; they had already been there once today. Did Faramir think him so absentminded…? Wait. That twinkle in his eye…why, his Steward was making fun of him! Aragorn laughed. “No, indeed, I knew this city long before you were a babe in arms. I shan’t lose my way, if that worries you.”
Faramir shook his head faintly. “I have no doubt. Only…” He paused, hesitant again, though this time he did not look away. Aragorn raised an eyebrow. If patience was required to coax his Steward to speak, he was willing to try.
Faramir remained still for a long breath, but finally he said softly, “We have only now regained our king, to great joy. I will not lightly lose him now.” He searched Aragorn’s face earnestly. “Take care, my lord.”
Aragorn almost chuckled, almost told his young Steward there could be no cause for such worry. Yet something in Faramir’s voice stilled the thought, an honest, deeply felt emotion that hushed his words.
Warmth again filled Aragorn‘s heart. Valar, when had he earned such love? He nodded solemnly. “I will. You have my word.”
Faramir smiled a little. “Thank you, Sire.” He bowed. “And welcome home.”
He was left beaming like a giddy child. Aragorn let Faramir withdraw without correcting that ‘Sire‘. There would be time enough later to cajole his Steward into using at least one of his names. He found himself looking forward to it.
It was well after midnight, but cheerful lamplight spilled from the windows of the hobbits’ house even so, welcoming him in from the star-strewn streets. Before Aragorn could so much as lay hand upon the door, it swung inward to reveal a smiling Gandalf. In moments, he was ushered inside to the greetings of Gimli and Legolas, and the last dregs of the uncertainty that had assailed him in the King’s quarters fell away, dropped at the door with the night chill.
Glad as he was to be home, Aragorn was too tired to speak much, the whirlwind of the day leaving him weary and heavy-eyed. Too soon the others saw it; concealing such things from them had proved ineffectual long ago. Lacking the endurance to argue, Aragorn tolerated their fussing and teasing as his friends bundled him off to bed.
Curled in warm blankets, wrapped in the slumbering murmurs of the Hobbits and the quiet laughter of wizard, elf, and dwarf, Aragorn smiled, and let himself fall into stillness and sleep. Tomorrow, he decided as he drifted away, he would invite them all to his chambers to help him brighten the place. For if anyone knew means to take such a house and make it home, surely it would be four hobbits.