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Title: "Dum Spiro, Spero"
Featuring: Aragorn, Boromir Faramir
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: All rights belong to J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson, not me.
Summary: In any war, hope is a precious, fragile commodity. Gen-fic.
Notes: Written for Phantomas for the 2008 Sons of Gondor Treat or Treat 2008 Challenge.
Special thanks to Dee for the betas, Sally for the advice, and for Cormac McCarthy for the inspiration.
Dum Spiro, Spero: (Latin) While I breathe, I hope

Sunlight glinting through the leaves in prisms of color. The rasping sound of his own breath. The almost imperceptible scent of decay, heralding the end of all things. Rough bark against his back. A warm body pressed against his. Aragorn's choked sobs close to his ear.


Even the birds above were afraid to sing. Even the lowest of creatures were afraid to show themselves after his betrayal.

His mother's comforting scent. His father's gruff voice. His brother's steadying hand and reverential gaze.

Another gasp. Air rattled his lungs, gurgled in his throat. Reality splintered. A rough hand cupped his cheek. Brought him back with a tender touch. Copper coated his tongue. His vision clouded, then cleared, focused on Aragorn's too-bright gaze. He clung to a muscled arm, desperate for the anchor. There was so much and so little he needed to say.

I would have followed you.

I would have followed you to Minas Tirith and beyond.

He could see it so clearly, even though the light was growing dim, darkness curling the edges, around him. Everything he'd missed with his stubborn pride and righteous anger. Every clue he should have seen, but he had not the strength to look for them. He was a seasoned warrior; yet blind in the only thing that mattered.

Because, even now, he could see it. Even grimy from the hard journey and bloodied from battle, with silent tears coursing a clear path through the dirt on his cheeks, Aragorn radiated strength. Conviction. Nobility.

Everything he'd been sent to find. Everything his dream had prophesized.

I would have followed you. My Brother.

My King.

His arm ached. His vision blurred. Every muscle screamed for mercy. His feet were unsteady as he raised his weapon again. Brought down the killing blow. Steel clanged against steel. The fetid odor of the Orcs assailed his senses. He almost lost his footing on slick leaves, regained his balance long enough to fell another foe.

It should have been mine.

I'm sorry.

He feinted. Whirled. Brought the heavy blade up again. Each reflex had been honed over endless years. Each movement was gracefully calculated, a deadly dance he'd performed countless times in practice and earnest.

Give it to me; it should have been mine.

We're all afraid.

Another blow. Another parry. He ducked, sliced through armor, sinew and bone. Death cries rang in his ears, blocking out all other sound. He willed himself to keep fighting. He had so much to atone for.

Hold on, little ones. Aragorn will come.

The rage hit him, visceral, cold and complete. His vision went red, then white. Blood surged through his veins, boiling under the surface. Ungrateful Halfling. It's not yours to keep.

He lunged, grappling for purchase on the smooth fabric of Frodo's Elven cloak. His world narrowed to a single blade of purpose.

Taking back what was Gondor's what was his by right.

The dulcet, mournful tones of the Elves lamenting the wizard's passing. The whispering babble of the nearby brook. The verdant greens of the grass, the vivid reds and yellows of the fall leaves clinging to ancient trees, the smooth white of the stones rising from the ground. The sight should have eased even the hardest of men. Yet his heart remained heavy. His body would not rest. She was in his mind. Twisting the knife further with honeyed lies, with promises he knew were false.

Even now, there is hope.

He choked back the sob. He longed for his brother's soothing voice. He would find no peace here. He'd failed them all. His Doom was near at hand. The dream that had brought him here had turned into a nightmare.

His mind was slowly betraying him, but he could not stem the tide. There were so few of them now, and their greatest champion had sacrificed himself for naught. Isildur's Bane would be the undoing of them all.

Even now, there is hope. But he could not see it.

For a moment, the White City shimmered and appeared before him like a dream. The silver glinting in the morning sun. The majestic rise of the spire. The joyous cries of welcome from the soldiers at the guard towers. The brilliant flash of his brother's smile. His father's approving nod. The weapon of the enemy safe behind Gondor's walls.

Aragorn riding at his side. Home, where he belonged at last.

Victory, after so many lost years.

The uneven ground trembled with the stamping of heavy feet. Of foes too many to count. Orcs shrieked, the sound inhuman, piercing even through the deep shadows of their prison cave. The cave troll bumbled forward, strewing careless destruction around itself.

An arrow bounced off his shield. He stood his ground. Coiled his sword in a tight circle, took a deep breath. Steeled himself for the fight. For victory, because there was no other option. Legolas stood behind him, calmly dealing death with otherworldly grace. Hot satisfaction filled him as his own blade slid into putrid flesh.

By the blood of my people, I will keep you safe...

No one trusted him. He didn't trust him. Arrogant bastard. Out gallivanting about, playing at Ranger, while his kingdom fell to ruin. Letting the Stewards and sons of Stewards, letting the brave men of Gondor, risk all and sacrifice all for a glimmer of hope. For even the faintest trace of light in the east that meant all was not lost. These were dark, desperate times. And their long-lost, fabled leader had been with the Elves. Not his own kind. Hiding like a coward, afraid to claim his birthright.

By the blood of my people are your lands safe. My people. Mine.

Imladris was beautiful beyond measure. A shining beacon of light after so much time spent adrift. Over a hundred days he had wandered. Lost. Forsaken. Searching for information, following every rumor and lead that would take him closer to the forgotten realm of Elrond. Fearing he would never find the Elven City. Fearing it would be too late when he did. Every day away from Gondor was one day closer to ruin. The eastern sky grew dark. The echo of thunder still roared in his ears.

This was a fool's errand.

There was no other choice.

His people were dying. His people were losing faith. It was up to him now to turn the tide. To seek answers and council, to bring hope back with him.

He would not let his people down.

His brother had begged for the chance to make the journey to Rivendell. To seek the fabled city. To see the terrible beauty of the Elves with his own eyes. But the long road, filled with pitfalls and the great unknown, was too dangerous for a scholar; no matter how well-versed in battle. His brother's light was too precious to let him fall to the enemy. Such a burden should fall to the eldest.

It was his job to keep his people safe. His sacred duty. And he would see it fulfilled, to his dying breath. He would follow any path, seek any ally, prostrate himself at the Black Gates, if need be.

Anything for Gondor.

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