Disclaimer: Not mine. Well, the characters aren't anyway.

Story Notes: Set several years post-ROTK and probably won't make sense to anyone who hasn't read all three of the books. This is a slash story, so if you don't like that sort of thing, why are you here? I put a warning in the summary.

I never wanted to be a shadow, but it seemed that all my life that was what I was destined to be. As the son of the Steward it was only to be expected that I would be compared to the great rulers of my country, even though I would never be one. Or at least everyone hoped that I never would, not out of malice, but because it would have meant the death of my brother.

Boromir. So ironic and so damning that the name that followed me everywhere was never my own. I was expected to follow him, five years and a few steps behind; a younger version of him, except that we were as different in thought as in looks and I was to be condemned to a life that was not my own and one that contained him in every waking moment. Even if I had achieved twice what he did it would barely have been noticed, just as successes I had were. Some nights I would sit on the west wall, gazing outwards and pray to the Valar to take him away, to let him die the honourable death in battle he desired and to allow us both to be happy.

When that death finally found him and I saw him almost as an apparition in the water, I cried, but not from grief. Guilt perhaps, that my prayers had finally been answered, but at the cost of a life, or shock, as that of a limb violently severed from a body. But I was overwhelmed by empathy, for the first time in years I saw him alone as I so often had been. There was no hero's funeral, no national mourning, he was not to be lain in the silent street with our mother; he was alone, but at peace in a way that I could never be for I knew then that in death he would be even more revered, held up as an example of unattainable perfection by our father.

Denethor. Another name that followed me. From birth I was recognised by our resemblance, as a living miniature model I seemed. I needed not the ability to read his heart when I told him what I saw in the river for it was written so clearly in his face and nor did I need foresight to tell how our fates would be altered – I knew that to pronounce the death of Boromir was to pronounce my own as well and that of our kingdom.

But knowledge and foresight are so often proved to be wrong, and so I began to pray for that instead - that or some token of hope. And hope was what I was granted. My Estel, my hope from the North. A figure from my childhood who appeared, magically unchanged by the years as in the tales of our ancestors recorded in the great library and one of the few who ever shared my interest in them, although he seemed to know them so well and much more besides. Then I held him in awe and I still do, and he knows this, but wants me to love him as an equal: his lover, not his servant.

Aragorn. My hope and my life. Not only did you bring me back from death, but you gave let me live. We may have been married, but we found something between the two of us that they could not give. I have tried to liken it to the bonds between men who fight together, but more refined and in these days of peace driven by something other than the need for comfort and release, it is a celebration of life and how it continues. The battle is over and we have survived it, though others have not. In these past few years we have watched our families leave us, but we have found new ones with ties built from love instead of blood and they are so much stronger for it.

But love is so difficult to define. I love my wife, or at least I thought I did and at first I followed her and worshipped her in way unseemly for one of my years, and I still am tightly bound to her and our children. History will remember me, but mythology will remember her and make her great, and despite this I am not bitter, I can allow her that. Or can I? I allow Aragorn this privilege, just as I allow him so many other things, but I owe him those things and to Eowyn I am not so obliged.

At first he was afraid that obligation was all that I felt towards him, but it was much deeper. I knew what I felt was reciprocated – his many visits could not be explained as nothing more than his duty as king, his own obligations. At first I thought, even feared, that perhaps it was my wife he wished to see, but I could read something else in him and knew that he saw the same in me.

And I see him now, alone, like a Ranger instead of a King, but bearing the star on his forehead like Earendil whose long-sundered line is reunited in him. Affairs of state will not take long to organise and then we will be able to concentrate on the true reason for his visits – a matter which seems all the more urgent now as with the passing years I am ever more aware of time, apart from when I am with him.

I never wanted to be a shadow, but it seemed that all my life that was what I was destined to be. I am as his shadow, but for the first time it seems right to say that; it is where I belong and it is where I am going to stay.