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In earlier days – before the Ring, and the war, and their truest joining – they could never have stood so close as this. They were not yet married, and so there were some boundaries Aragorn knew he could not yet cross.

At times, that had struck Aragorn as pointless, and absurd. He had pledged his heart to hers, and if the two had not become as one flesh, in his heart Aragorn knew he was tied to her. Bonded. If she had sailed West or met Celebrían's fate, if aught happened to her before he could meet her father's bride-price, Aragorn knew he would never choose another. Elendil's line would fail.

Aragorn had known the difference between beloved and wife. She might rush to meet him when he came in from the wilds, and he might sit beside her in the Hall of Fire or at banquet. He might kiss her, too, at night's end. But always as a farewell; never as a prelude. He had known these things and accepted them, for he knew what their love must cost her father. So they had waited.

Now, Aragorn stood so close that he felt her breath along his neck. Reaching out, he traced a finger along her ear and stepped closer still, capturing her mouth in his. Even now, he blushed at this brazen intimacy and he felt her chest rising against his. It was all he could do to keep from laughing; the joy of this moment threatening to sweep him away.

Yet this moment was different, somehow, than he had imagined. Once Imladris had seemed filled with magic, a timeless land that no evil could touch. Now, he saw the cracks in the masonry, the mold and the moss and the mud. Perhaps no land was ever so green as in memory; or perhaps, with the breaking of Vilya's power, even Imladris might be marred by time's march.

What might it have been like, to hold his wife like this, here, at the height of Imladris's glory? Such were the days of the king: blessed, to be sure, but never truly complete. Each gain came at some cost, some dimming of a faery-world he had ever only known in stories.

Still, he would not trade this life for anything. Just now, with her hair against his fingers, her lips like silk against his – this was enough. More than enough. Breathing deeply, he let her scent fill his chest, and he smiled.