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     Frodo was crushed beneath the weight of his own silence. He walked quietly through the halls of the Last Homely House. He sat, voiceless, in the bath house. He smiled, frowned, gesticulated, quirked his brows. Shook his head in silent amusement, bemusement, assent or denial during meals, merrymaking, and idle conversation.
     Oh, but the silence was so hard to break! The cold in his shoulder too harsh to ignore. The worry that his speech would devolve into a shriek of agony pressed him so closely at times that he felt almost as if he were choking.
     His friends all chattered at him as though he were fully engaged in the conversation, turning to him when they sought his input and then back to one another when he'd given his wordless response. Their quiet acceptance of his taciturn behaviour at once relieved his anxiety, and comforted him: They would not force his voice, nor would they turn him aside.

 

     Slowly, members of the council began to arrive. Two Dwarrow, relations of Dwalin, who had so captured the heart of his uncle Bilbo. Wood elves that charmed Sam so thoroughly, Frodo half worried he'd lost his gardener. And but one other man, tall and dark, with stern eyes like a storm. He arrived on foot, though he was dressed for riding. Like Strider, his hair was dark, but his eyes shone like sunlight through thick summer leaves. His stern face was haughty, his smile slow. He was not so tall as Strider, and seemed wider in the chest, his shoulders thick under the weight of his armour. Frodo watched him, the man’s skin glistening in the sun like a babbling brook.
     The man approached, and he addressed Frodo with a dark, rolling voice that broke almost as thunder, “Greetings, little one. Tell me, do you know where the Lord of the house is? We must speak.”
      The corner of Frodo’s lip curled, partially annoyed, partially amused, for he was like as not older than the Big Person. Silently, he tilted his chin away down the hall, and flicked his glittering, flower blue eyes between the man's face and the farthest door.
      “Are all elfin children so reticent?” The man's lips quirked into a small smile as he leaned down to look Frodo more closely in the eye. Frodo released a huff of amusement, shaking his head slightly, ‘What a fool,’ Frodo thought privately. The man's head tilted to the side, his eyes narrowing as he took in Frodo's brilliant blue eyes, dark, curling hair, and his rosy copper skin. “But you are not-”
      “Ah, you must be Boromir, son of Denethor, Steward of Gondor,” Elrond’s silky voice pierced through the gathering tension like an arrow. “I see that you've met Frodo son of Drogo, of the Shire.” Elrond swept up to his two guests, his footsteps as silent as Frodo's voice. “He is not our most loquacious guest,” he reached down, his fingers brushing delicately over Frodo's Adam's apple, the barest tips of his fingers resting under Frodo's chin, lifting the hobbit's face upward. Frodo's eyelids fluttered as he gasped: He felt that his voice had nearly been released. “But lovely company, nonetheless.” Frodo sighed, his eyes flashing from Elrond's smooth face, and the bemused countenance of the man, Boromir.
      “Come now, Boromir, you must be weary with travel, and ravaged with needs. I have a room awaiting you, and hot water shall be sent. The evening meal is not for some time, but I am sure that if you were to visit the dining hall, the other hobbits will have a spread of some sort.” Elrond turned, his silver mantel whispering like wind in the leaves, and he motioned Boromir to follow him. The man straightened again, his eyes lingering on Frodo, and slowly, he began the follow the master of the house.

     Frodo was lounging against a tree, watching the lazy play of a fountain. Merry and Pippin ran their fingers through the catchment, giggling and chatting, while Sam puttered about the plants, smiling and singing quietly to the blossoms. Boromir looked on, barely listening to the idle chat the group was having, watching instead the silent replies that Frodo gave his companions, the way he laughed without sound, the glitter of his monkshood eyes. Quite apart from being forlorn in his silence, he was attentive, cheerful even, and seemed perfectly hale, aside from his self-imposed mutism.
      “He is quite beguiling, is he not?” Elrond appeared, seemingly from thin air by Boromir’s shoulder, “yesterday, when you were just arrived, I thought his voice would come. He seemed as though he was ready,” Elrond turned curious eyes upon Boromir, who returned the gaze calmly.
      “He was stabbed, at Weathertop,” Boromir gasped, for who would stab a hobbit? “The Witch King of Angmar broke a dagger in the thick of his left shoulder; the tip worked its way toward his heart.” Boromir cast a swift, horrified glance at the little hobbit - an apparent battle veteran. To experience the Nazgul, to suffer the sting of their insidious barbs… Boromir felt a fierce respect nestle itself into his breast.
      “When he came, the only sound he made was a lament of agony; he was weakened from long battle with the poison in his body. But, hobbits, it seems, are extremely resistant to Fading.” Elrond turned his clement eyes upon Frodo, “His companions tell me that his song is as sweet summer berries, as light as the wind…” Elrond's face became clouded by gentle longing as his voice trailed off. Frodo lifted his eyes, now glittering the colour of inkberry in the slanting sunlight, ‘They think themselves sly, I suppose.’ Frodo mused, vaguely intrigued by the tense set of Boromir's shoulders.
      “I very much wish to hear his voice raised in joy,” Elrond turned his attention back to Boromir. “Perhaps the simple company of a different type. Speak to him, and mayhap he will respond, for he does not know you.” Elrond's eyes became implacable as he looked back to Boromir, the stern gaze shaking him deeply. Elrond floated away then, as though carried on the breeze.
      Boromir turned back to the hobbits, but found that Frodo was now alone, his eyes half lidded as he regarded Boromir with calm curiosity. Boromir felt drawn, as if in a trance, bewitched by eyes now blossoming the colour wild false indigo, by skin glowing like burnished copper.
      “I hear that your silence may desire a more vociferous companion,” Boromir smiled as he sat on a low bench. “My brother always said I had the most passionate love of my own voice…” Frodo smiled up at him, ‘That would explain the wordiness,’ he thought, and raising an accepting hand, rolled his wrist in an encouraging motion. Boromir felt the most intense compulsion to join the delicate creature on the ground, but forced himself still. Frodo had not invited him down, he had merely encouraged his chatter. Glancing skyward, Boromir began to talk.

     Boromir strolled along, despairing of ever befriending the other Little Folk. They seemed both shy, and extremely skilled at slipping from one's sight. It had been weeks, and yet he still only saw the other three in passing, and even then, solely in the company of Frodo. The only time they ever came into his sight was when there were others present, and typically only when there was food on offer. How was he to develop rapport with Frodo, if his friends would not help the endeavor?
      Boromir heard a gasp, but saw no one when he turned about-face. Later, a flash of sunlight glinted off of a short, golden head, which disappeared as he turned to face the light fully. Once more a small figure flickered, and disappeared from the corner of his vision. He sighed, for he was certain that it was the hobbits: Who else in Elrond's house was possessed of such quiet, everyday magic? He turned again, making for one of the many stunning gardens in the city. A silent companion was suddenly at his side as though borne of the very air, startling him slightly.
      “Is it simply impossible to hear your kind move?” His voice sounded slightly stained to his own ears. He glanced down at Frodo, dressed in a light cotton shirt that hung unlaced nearly to his navel, and dark green trousers that looked to be of velvet. His coppery skin shining like freshly polished finery, he flicked an amused glance at the Man. His luminous coal black curls bounced as he nodded, his bow shaped lips quirked in a half smile. Boromir groaned - this would not help his pursuit of friendship.
      “How is it that you always know that it is me? I swear to it that I have come upon one of your backs!” Frodo's face lit up with a grin as he indicated his ear, pointed to Boromir's sturdy boots, and quirked an eyebrow in seeming remand. Boromir shook his head, shrugging in exasperation. ‘Poor thing,’ Frodo thought, ‘he has no idea the mischief my cousins would gleefully visit upon him if they knew of his discomfort…’
      They walked in companionable silence for a time, simply meandering. Elrond appeared nearly as silently, and quite as unexpectedly as Frodo had done, only a short time previous.
      “My guests,” he smiled gently, his hands open in benediction. “Won't you join us for the midday meal? It will be served soon,” his eyes wandered over Frodo's small form, and he stepped forward. “Your Master Samwise has been instructing the preparers on your favourites,” he reached down again, his fingers stroking from the hollow of Frodo's delicate throat to his chin. A storm of emotion seized Boromir as he watched Frodo lift his chin toward their host, his raven lashes nearly touching his cheeks. Frodo sighed, lifted his chin from Elrond's fingertips, and shook his head. Frodo looked up at Boromir, a gentle plea in his larkspur eyes.
      “Perhaps later, my Lord Elrond. We were going to take a turn about one of your captivating gardens.” Boromir caught the Lord's eye, trying to convey… something. He was still sorting through his reaction, himself.
      “Of course, my dear friends: The guests run the house.” Elrond caught Boromir's elbow as he turned, and leaned forward to whisper in his ear “Perhaps your touch could coax his voice.” Boromir jerked, and looked up to ask what, precisely, Elrond had meant, but the master of the house was gone like a wisp of mist in the sunlight.
      He returned his attention to Frodo, who smiled at him coyly, eyes again as brilliant as wild false indigo. ‘You wonder if he means the sort of touch you mean,’ Frodo's internal monologue provided, mischievously. He lifted his chin in invitation, but Boromir did not touch him.

      Boromir walked with his quiet companion, commenting on the paintings they passed. Sometimes he offered historical commentary, other times he invented wild stories to accompany the images. Frodo delighted in both of these, encouraging with his expressive gestures, his silent laughter. ‘Perhaps this love of your own voice is not so unfortunate as your brother told you,’ he thought.
      They came to the painting of Isildur, and Boromir told the story with a somber lilt to his voice, for this was his history. Frodo listened with rapt attention, his eyes once again inkberry blue in the dark light of the hall.
      “The shards of Narsil await smiths, that the blade reforged may herald the King of Gondor's return,” the Ranger had appeared, and he smiled at Frodo.
      “That blade commands much more than simple steel.” Boromir watched as Frodo beamed up at the Man. It was quite a ways up, too: The other man stood nearly a full head taller than Boromir. The storm of emotion seized him again as he watched the man stroke Frodo's beautiful throat as Elrond had. Frodo sighed, a delicate blush blooming in his full cheeks. Boromir suddenly recognized the feeling that pierced his heart like an arrow through a buck’s eye: Jealousy. Pulling a harsh breath through his nose, Boromir looked away in an attempt to control himself.
      “Ah, but our manners, Young Master Baggins. You have not introduced me to your friend,” Frodo turned and motioned Boromir forward. He caught Frodo's hand, despite having gotten very familiar with Frodo's gesticulations, and knowing that Frodo had not meant for Boromir to take it. Frodo gasped up at him: This was the first time that Boromir had touched him. His cheeks flushed a deep, sultry red, as though stained with raspberry juice. Boromir suppressed his desire to follow the colour as it crept down Frodo's neck.
      “Boromir, of Gondor,” he tried to keep his voice steady for he had not let go of his lovely little one, and Frodo's brilliant blush flamed in his peripheral vision.
      “Strider,” the man's lips quirked, “if it please you.”
      Frodo chuckled silently, ‘You care not what it pleases him,’ he admonished Strider in his thoughts, ‘for you simply wish to keep him off guard.’
      Boromir felt Frodo's surprisingly long, clever fingers work their way out of his grasp as the three other hobbits appeared.
      “Frodo! Come see the spread they've set for you!” The redheaded one was earnest, clasping Frodo by the shoulders, while the other two beamed on. Frodo sent an apologetic look to Boromir and allowed himself to be lead away. “They've berries I've never seen before! And they've clotted cream for our scones!” The joy with which the redhead spoke of the food brought a gentle smile to the men's faces.
      “Come, Son of Gondor. I find myself in want of your undivided attention,” Strider’s glimmering silver eyes pierced Boromir's breast as surely as the jealousy had stabbed his heart. “Perhaps the library will suit our needs.”
      Leading the way a short distance to a graceful arch, Strider turned aside, dipping his head slightly, he motioned Boromir through. While not wanting the Ranger at his back, he was obliged to repay respect, and walked to a table and sat beside a wide window, which was inviting the warm afternoon light into the room. Strider laid himself in repose in a chaise nearby, smiling faintly.
      “You've quite enthralled Frodo,” he began, “perhaps you can bring his voice from him again…” silvery eyes lowered, and the man suddenly seemed much older, crushed by sorrow.
      “I am no Healer,” Boromir objected, mainly to be contrary. “There is nothing that I can do that the elves, nor even his friends cannot.”
      Strider smiled mysteriously. “Indeed, Son of Gondor. For your make is of a warrior, not a healer. But I see Lord Elrond's point,” he motioned toward his body, “you are not unfamiliar to him, simply unknown.” Pewter eyes pinned Boromir to his seat. “You have not delighted in his voice, nor basked in his laughter, and so do not expect it of him.” Boromir began to fidget, the other man's keen eyes stripping him. “While we are kind, patient, and loving, we desire to hear his music once more. You have no such need, for you have never known it,” Strider finally looked away, and Boromir released a great breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding. He had been found worthy after being judged, he thought.
      “I do not… I am unsure of what to do.” Boromir felt as though he had bared a terrible secret: This admission wounded his pride.
      “Be as you are with him,” Strider approached Boromir, suddenly towering over him, and leaned forward, trapping him in a cage of arms, “and heed his silence, should he keep it.” Boromir inhaled sharply, offended at the implication that he would force anything upon anyone, let alone Frodo.
     “I wou-” he was interrupted nearly as soon as he began to speak.
     “You are a powerful man, used to your way. He is a gentle-hobbit, of kind raising, and gentile manners. Respect him, and he will reward you richly.” Strider's mouth twisted in a somewhat vicious smile, “And it will save poor Samwise the expense of learning the feel of blade parting flesh.”
     Suddenly Strider retreated, disappearing through the archway, and out of sight. Boromir did not return to Frodo that evening. 

      Frodo sat in the tub, soaking himself in the warm, scented water. Of all of the things he had missed on the road, the simple pleasures of bathing had rankled him most. Smiling, he cleaned beneath his nails again, despite there being nothing to clear away. He snapped his eyes to the door that began to open, spotting Boromir coming in to freshen himself. Faster than the kiss of whip, Frodo turned, rendering himself nearly invisible to the man's unfocused gaze.
      Boromir stripped away his tunic, wiggled out of his boots, and slipped out of his breeches, sighing. Certainly, he enjoyed the quiet company of his lovely little companion, but it was somewhat tiring to do all of the talking. Since his conversation with Strider, he had been examining his reactions to the beautiful hobbit, cataloguing his breathing when Frodo's shirt slipped (which seemed to be happening with increasing frequency), the fluttering in his stomach when mirth lit Frodo's eyes like a roaring fire, the roiling hunger that gnawed at him when Frodo blushed, his soot black lashes shuttering his poisonous blue flower eyes. It all seemed to amount to lovesickness. Boromir huffed as he soaped, and rinsed. ‘Lovesick at forty…’ he chided himself.
      Boromir turned to the tub, and stopped short. He was not alone, it would appear. The tub was already brimming with hot water, steam curling lazily from the surface. Or did it appear? He was only passingly attentive, and could see no one else as he approached the tub, gingerly climbing in. Moaning as he sunk into the hot, creamy, scented water, Boromir glanced about more intently and became hazily aware that he did, indeed, have a bathing companion.
      Frodo. Who seemed to have a quiet, almost elfin magic that allowed him to slip in and out of sight. And - apparently - baths.'Of course,’ he said inwardly.
      Smiling outwardly, he said “I did not see you at first, my lovely little companion,” he could not be sure if Frodo were blushing, or simply warm from the bath. “How do you fare?” Frodo smiled at him coquettishly, his Misty Mountain iris eyes flashing beneath onyx lashes as he moved closer to the man, making an airy gesture of dismissal before tilting his chin curiously at Boromir.
       “I see,” said Boromir, though - clearly - he did not. “I am well, thank you,” he said, “I do wonder, though. Did you add milk to the bath?”    Frodo smiled again, nodding silently as he shifted along the tub’s bench to sit Boromir's left. The man sucked a swift breath, Frodo's thigh so close to touching him that he shivered slightly.
       “Might I ask why?” To this, Frodo raised his right arm, his fingers barely grazing Boromir's knee, and traced his fingertips delicately over the inside of his forearm, creating a tantalizing image for the man to revisit in the privacy of his rooms. Boromir's wits were abandoning him at an alarming rate. Frodo's small, pink tongue darted out to wet his lower lip, which was then pulled between teeth, and nibbled while Frodo's gaze meandered over an exposed shoulder.
       'Valar…’ Boromir's internal monologue was becoming a jumbled mess. Frodo must have meant everything in innocence. How old was he? Certainly, he must be at whatever hobbity age meant almost-petting someone in a bathtub was innocent. Yes. Because baths were places where one went to be clean. Frodo's monkshood eyes were expectant as he dropped his arms back into the water, resting his fingertips on Boromir's left knee.
       “For… your skin?” Boromir was making wild conjecture; thinking clearly was getting rather tricky. Frodo was undoubtedly naked. He vaguely recalled his mother bathing with milk? Yes, one is typically nude in a bath. Would it make his skin softer? Maybe they had bathing costumes in the Shire? Would his skin feel like silk? Velvet? 'Yavanna, save me from your child!’ Boromir's desperate prayer went entirely unanswered.
       Frodo rewarded him by turning his chin into his shoulder and smiling up at him from beneath his eyelashes. His eyes were darkening to inkberry again, and Boromir has the distinct impression that he may have ingested some of the poisonous plant, for his heart began to flutter, and his breath faltered.
       “It occurs to me,” he said, shifting to stand in front of his gorgeous bathmate, “that the voice is not birthed solely by the throat.” Frodo's head tilted back slowly as he raked his gaze over Boromir's exposed flesh in an entirely lewd fashion. Unmistakably un-innocent. Boromir sucked an unsteady breath, his mind becoming tranquil, as it did sometimes before battle, or after a particularly satiating romp. Frodo's age be damned: he was making an offer that Boromir found himself ravenous for.
       Bringing his head to rest against the lip of the tub Frodo opened his legs, bringing his knees to rest on the outside of the man's thighs. Making a rolling gesture with his right hand, he brought his left arm to rim of the tub, his dextrous fingers brushing his luscious lips suggestively, bidding the man speak. Boromir inhaled deeply, heat stirring in his gut.
       “The lungs, the diaphragm, the muscles of the chest, all are necessary to bring the voice forth; to release-” Boromir's voice faltered as Frodo arched back, both arms flung wide over the rim of the tub, his nipples were tightening in the cool air, russet and textured like raw garnets, he looked debauched: He looked delectable. Drawing a shaking breath, Boromir reached forward slightly, “May I touch you, Frodo?” A sly grin curled the corner of Frodo's succulent mouth. 'I thought you'd never ask!’ Frodo thought, triumphant in the face of Boromir's hunger.
       “Yes.” The word slipped solely from Frodo's mouth, sounding like the sigh of gentle wind through autumn leaves. No voice touched the utterance, and yet it rocked Boromir like a clap of thunder.
       “Yes,” moaned Boromir, leaning forward to trace his fingers from Frodo's navel to his sides, running greedy palms along his chest, raking his fingertips over tantalizing nipples. Curling his left hand around Frodo's right shoulder, he slid his right hand over Frodo's delicate throat, forefinger and thumb catching the edge of his jaw, sketching a delicate line over the graceful curve of his chin, and finally, finally, finally, teasingly brushing over Frodo's bottom lip.
       Frodo rewarded him with a soft, incendiary moan.
       The heat in Boromir's gut exploded into an all-consuming blaze, hot as dragon fire, bright as sunlight.
      “Please…” Boromir gasped, “may I?” He clutched at both of Frodo's shoulders, heedless of the chill of the Wraith scar, he moved himself from the sinful vee of Frodo’s perfect legs, watching the hobbit for signs of distress, or the beginnings of disagreement. Slipping behind Frodo, Boromir brought the hobbit to rest on his lap. Gently, he slid his throbbing erection between Frodo’s slender, powerful thighs, their sexes brushing lightly.
       “Yes…” Boromir moaned again as Frodo gasped, rocking back against the Man's length. Boromir brought his lips to Frodo's slender neck which arched toward him as the hobbit's head lolled back against his shoulder. “Move for me, Frodo, show me.”
       Frodo slid dextrous fingers around their erections and squeezed, moaning aloud at the feel of Boromir's heat against his own arousal. Yavanna, he had had dalliances in the past, but Boromir's sturdy mass was so incredibly arousing that Frodo was certain he'd embarrass himself by reaching his climax too soon. And the Man's rough cheek combined with his coarse words weren't soothing his raging passions.
       “You pretty little thing… so needy,” he nipped Frodo's pointed ear as he ran a hand from Frodo's length up his torso, across his nipples, up his arching neck, and to his perfectly formed lips, where he pushed his index finger in, pressing down on the wicked tongue that had haunted his fantasies. “This next, minx. I'll keep your mouth busy,” Boromir jerked his hips into the hobbit's clever hand as Frodo circled their aching heads with his slender fingers.
       “You always seem to have something between these beautiful lips,” he caught one of Frodo's nipples with his other hand, and rolled the precious bud between his battle scarred fingers. “I'll feed you, love,” Boromir's thighs began to tremble as his crisis approached, his lover's fingers wreaking havoc on his control. “Fill you-” he gasped as climax ripped through him, torn out by a clever little twist of Frodo's wrist. His vision was just clearing as Frodo went rigid against him, his back bending like a bow as he released against Boromir's softening sex. It was an enchanting sight, but the rasping moan of “Boromir, I-” that caused him to pull the hobbit's body back to his chest, utterly enchanted by the lilting rasp of his lover's ejaculation.
       “You?” Boromir purred into a delicate ear. “You what, lovely?” He smoothed a hand over Frodo's chest while the other wrapped around a shapely thigh, cradling the hobbit. “You want more?” Frodo moaned, letting his head fall back onto Boromir's shoulder.
       “I do,” Frodo said quietly. “But perhaps a nap, first?” Boromir worried a line of kisses over the hobbit's shoulder, stopping to whisper an oath into a delicate ear: “Whatever you need, I will give you.”
       Boromir rose from the bath, and extended a hand to Frodo, devouring the sight of glistening skin as it was revealed to him. He flashed a sultry smirk at the hobbit - whatever he needed, indeed.