“You saved her life.”
His voice was weary, almost as though he didn’t wish congratulations for his deed.
“I know. It wasn’t difficult.”
“Not—difficult? Then by all the Valar, what was it?” I exclaimed, catching his shoulder, turning him to face me. The grimness of his face broke in a half-smile.
Inspired. As though Something Else worked through him. A something he knew well. That I did not.
Change of subject, now. Fast.
“Why can’t you love her?”
I saw feelings briefly revealed pass over his face. A smile shone quickly on his features before they faded into sterness again.
Oh. That I hadn’t caught.
Was that a sigh I heard? Yes, most definitely.
“Arwen Evenstar. Daughter of Elrond,” he stated, flippantly, as though the name didn’t really matter. “I doubt you’ve ever heard of her.”
I hadn’t. But….Elrond, Rivendell…Elves! She…an Elf…with Aragorn?
“Does Eowyn know?”
Very unsure look. Damnit, my hand was still on his shoulder, frozen there, it seemd. I moved it off, deliberately, as he stepped back a pace.
“I…” slight pause to take a shaky breath. “I think she does. I tried to get it across. At Dunharrow.”
What exactly had gone on at Dunharrow to leave my bright sister Eowyn a depressed wreck and Aragorn hardly able to look the girl in the face? I stepped a little closer, to better watch his face in the starlight just outside his tent.
The better to know the truth.
“At Dunharrow?” I questioned, voice deceptively soft. “You didn’t…?”
Words failed me there, but I think he understood. Raising his hands in the classic I’m-innocent gesture, he stated clearly, firmly: “Nothing happened between us. I would never do that to a woman.”
“Do what?” Now was no time for generalities.
He blushed slightly, barely enough to sense in the darkness.
“Make promises I could not keep. Lead her on and toss her aside. I never would. I couldn’t.”
He stared at me, eyes close to mine in the dimness, and I believed him.
And then the world came to an end.
Sparks exploded in my mind, suddenly I realized how close we were, how close I wanted him to be.
Tension thick enough to cut lay between us. He was standing a bare handsbreadth away, piercing me with his gaze.
I caught my breath.
I’d been raised all my life to act, just jump and damn the consequences.
But now, it seemed, even with both of us knowing vividly what we wanted, I hardly could move. Though I’d been wanting him, Varda help me, for days, ever since I first saw that tall perfect form stand up out of the grass of Rohan.
And I was a king. His friend. His equal. His future ally.
And I sprang. Pulled his body close to mine, my lips against his in a fierce kiss, felt his surprise yet obvious desire as his arms went around me.
The kiss was sweet. When we broke for breath I looked up into his eyes, startled by the raw passion I saw there.
We drew back a little. Gasping for breath, I attempted to tease him.
“Would you do it to me? Lead me on and toss me aside?”
His hands captured mine, and as he pulled me inside his tent, he whispered, “Lead you on, yes. Toss you aside, never.”