Well, yeah. I'm pretty much a horrible person for leaving you all hanging for so long. I got sidetracked by other projects, vacation and other RL stuff. Sorry about that, hopefully future updates won't be so slow. But finally, FINALLY, here is the long-awaited Boromir and Morloth 'why the hell won't you marry me?' chapter! I'm happy to report that Sofasoap and Aleixa guessed correctly the reason why Morloth felt she couldn't marry Boromir, so congratulations and virtual cookies to you both. And thanks to everyone who reviewed, I appreciate all my reviews so very much, and some of the suggested reasons were *very* imaginative!

This chapter is a tad shorter than usual, but the next big event is the Council meeting which will be a fairly lengthy chapter in itself. (And you know there'll be some more M & B action before B heads off to Mordor as well.)

Enjoy!


Chapter 32

Halbarad stood back and watched the object of his mission for a few moments before approaching her. She had not been hard to find; there had been no other women of such beauty and clear Númenórean lineage in the Houses of Healing. The sight of Boromir's lady brought with it an unexpected pang of longing; in height and coloring she very much resembled a woman of the Northern Dúnedain not unlike his wife and daughters.

He waited until she finished with her current patient before catching her attention. "My lady," Halbard said earnestly, "I am told that you could help me. One of my kinsman is injured and is in need of treatment."

She turned and gave him a bright smile, "Oh, you are one of Lord Aragorn's company, are you not? What seems to be the problem?"

"Young Amras has a wound that needs attention," Halbarad explained, furrowing his brow worriedly. "It appeared minor—or at least he thought it was," the ranger added in his best 'oh, the folly of youth' tone. "And now it has become infected."

"Of course, I'd be happy to take a look at it," Morloth replied earnestly. "Where is he?"

"We were given a room just across the hall here," he said easily, grasping her elbow lightly and guiding her into the corridor.

"I am surprised that you did not have Aragorn tend him, I know he is a healer of great skill," the dark-haired woman commented.

Fortunately, she seemed more curious than suspicious. "Aragorn has been busy with military matters," he replied smoothly, opening the door. He kept his eyes firmly fixed on her and she responded in kind, so consequently she did not occupants of the room until the door was closed behind her.

Morloth turned to find the patient she expected and instead saw a very healthy-looking Boromir gazing at her, flanked by Beregond and another guardsman. The gray-cloaked man who had asked for her assistance with what was now clearly an imaginary patient smiled and bowed contritely, "Apologies for the deception, my lady. I am Halbarad of the Dúnedain."

"What…why?" she sputtered as Boromir strode up to her, tension etched across his face.

"Please don't be angry with Halbarad, Morloth," he pleaded. "He was only trying to help." He nodded his thanks to the Ranger, who quietly left the room, closing the door behind him.

"Boromir, how could you?" Morloth demanded furiously. "How could you stoop to tricking me like this?"

"I'm sorry, my love," Boromir lifted a hand to touch her before dropping it with a sigh. "I…I had to speak to you, and you've been avoiding me."

"I…I should just walk right out that door," she replied, trying to maintain her outrage in face of the beseeching look on Boromir's face.

"I know that, Morloth, and on my honor I will not try to stop you if you do. But please, please give me a chance—hear me out. If afterward you wish to leave and never speak to me, I will not approach you again."

Morloth sighed, uncertain, yearning for Boromir but terrified what might happen if she stayed. Taking her silence as consent, he motioned for the guardsmen to leave.

Still a mass of conflicting emotions, she rounded on Beregond as he passed, "Beregond, I can't believe you would condone this! You're supposed to be my friend!"

He paused to meet her eyes, clasping her arm affectionately. "I am your friend, Morloth. And as your friend I have never known you to run from hard choices. Boromir is my lord and commands my loyalty, but more importantly he is a good man who loves you. He deserves the truth from you."

Morloth's eyes fell; she knew he was right and she was ashamed of her cowardice—for that was surely what it was. She was afraid—afraid to see the pain on Boromir's face and know she was responsible. Afraid that even though it was impossible for them to be together she could not lie and tell him she didn't care.

She nodded briefly in acknowledgement and Beregond embraced her for a moment before exiting quietly, taking the other guardsman with him.

Finally left alone, the silence stretched between the lovers until Boromir cleared his throat. "Thank you for staying, my lady. I think you know what it is I want...what I need. An explanation of why you say we cannot be wed."

Still reluctant to meet his gaze, she turned away and sighed deeply. "You know the reasons as well as I do, Boromir. Now, even more so than when you were your father's heir. You are the Lord Steward and will be expected to marry according to your station—a…princess or some other woman of high noble birth. Most certainly not the daughter of a guardsman and the widow of a Ranger."

Boromir sighed and ran a hand through his hair distractedly, "Morloth, you know I did not look to become Steward so soon; by preference my father would have been healthy and sane and held the Steward's rod for many years to come. But it seems to me that one of the few boons to come of my taking on the Steward's mantle so early is that now I may marry whomever I wish and no one can gainsay me."

"But…but people will expect you to marry someone near your own station…" Morloth began, her brow furrowed in concern.

"Some will be surprised, and yes, some even offended," Boromir replied with a snort, "but that will always be true. Whichever noble lady I chose, others will find reason to object if I did not pick the one they favor.

"And as for princesses," he rolled his eyes, "who do suggest I marry? Éowyn of Rohan? Given the look on my brother's face when he speaks of her, I doubt he would be pleased to learn I was courting her, even if she were inclined to hear my suit, which is not at all certain."

Morloth's eyebrows flew toward her hairline. "Really? Faramir and the Lady Éowyn?"

Boromir shrugged, "I suspect so, though I am not certain. Besides," he continued, waving his hand dismissively, "she is far too young for me. As is the only other princess of my acquaintance, my cousin Lothíriel, Prince Imrahil's daughter. She is even younger than Éowyn," he said, glaring at Morloth, "and I flat out refuse to marry anyone I dandled on my knee as a babe."

Despite herself, Morloth couldn't help but giggle at his exasperated tone.

"So, unless you are urging me to seek out a princess of the Easterlings or the Haradrim, an unlikely prospect given that our realms at still at war…"

"Of course not!" Morloth huffed. "But for the Ruling Steward to wed a commoner…"

"My lady," Boromir said soothingly, "I think you are forgetting that it is likely my tenure as Ruling Steward will be brief. Even if we all survive this war, which is by no means assured, I will do my utmost to put Aragorn on the throne of Gondor. And since he plans to wed the daughter of the elf lord, Elrond—a princess in all but name and descended from the highest of high elves—I think there will be far less concern about the lady that Boromir of Gondor decides to marry."

"Aragorn is to marry an elf?" Morloth squeaked, her eyes huge.

"Aye, her father has agreed to it, I understand, if Aragorn becomes King. I believe that is in part the reason why Arwen's brothers accompanied the other Rangers in their search for Aragorn. If you are worried that the noble ladies of the court will be unkind to you because of your birth, keep in mind that the highest ranking lady of the court sets the tone for behavior. If Arwen becomes queen I am certain she will not tolerate the kind of petty back-biting that you might otherwise rightly fear.

"Morloth…" His voice fell and he searched her face; after a moment she looked away, unable to bear the yearning on his face. "If you are wondering why I spoke now, when all is still so uncertain, please be assured it was not simply a whim."

"I…I never said I believed that, Boromir," she said softly.

He smiled, looking off in to the distance, "All those hours I waited, and paced, and thought during the siege, my mind turned to you so often. I vowed to myself then that I would make my intentions known at the first opportunity. With all that was in doubt, I needed for you to know without reservation that my heart is yours and yours alone, and I mean for all to know that."

"Oh, Boromir…" Morloth sighed, her voice sad.

"Especially now, I could not ride off to war tomorrow without you knowing how I feel, my love; I felt I must declare myself," he added fiercely.

Morloth paled and clasped his arm tightly, "Riding off to war? What in Eru's name are you talking about, Boromir? I…I heard that there will be an army marching to the Black Gate, but surely you are not going with them? You…you are still injured; you are needed here!"

There was an edge of panic of in her voice that caused Boromir's heart to lighten unexpectedly. Surely if she was worried by the prospect of him going into battle it suggested she was not indifferent to his fate!

"I'm not completely healed, it is true, but I well enough, and certainly in better shape to fight than Faramir," he replied.

"Why must either of you go?" she asked plaintively, distress still clearly written on her face.

"Someone must command Gondor's forces, Morloth," he said soothingly. "And although Uncle could if neither Faramir nor I were able, I…I want to go, my love. Everyone tells me it is not so, but I still feel that I did much less than I could have during the siege. I want…I need to do this." He shook his head, "My only regret is that I must leave you behind." He smiled and took her hand, "But it would ease my mind considerably if I knew you were here waiting for me. Please, Morloth," he pleaded, tipping her chin up to meet his eyes, "can you truthfully tell me that you don't care for me after all we've been through."

She choked back a sob, "Of course I care for you, Boromir, how could I not?"

He took her hands in his, "I know the odds are slim that either of us will survive the coming days and weeks, but if we do live to see happier times, I beg you, please, say you will marry me. You have all my heart, and I want nothing more than to have you as my wife and the mother of my children."

Morloth pulled away, tears brimming in her eyes. "Boromir, I can't, please don't ask me!" she cried in an anguished voice.

"My love, you must tell me why," the Steward said urgently, determined that this time she would answer. "I can marry whomever I wish and I want you, so that cannot be the reason. What is it that is troubling you?"

She turned away, arms wrapped around herself, shoulders shaking. He came up behind her and laid his hands gently on her shoulders. "Please, Morloth; unless you're secretly married to someone else, I doubt very much that anything you say could shock or disgust me.

"Very well, Boromir," she responded after a moment of silence, her voice breaking. "I had hoped I would never have to tell you this, but…I'm afraid I won't be able to give you children." Her face was bleak and she carefully avoided Boromir's gaze, her eyes brimming with tears.

Boromir strode over and pulled her against his chest. "Sh, sh, my love. Morloth, my lady, why would you think that prevent us from marrying?"

"You…you are the Lord Steward, Boromir, and I know you must have an heir." Before Boromir could speak she blurted, "I…I know I should have said so before, but it seemed so unlikely that we could ever marry…"

"Morloth, stop," he said gently. "Make no mistake, nothing would make me happier than to have children with you, and yes, I would like to have a son to be Steward after me." He shrugged, "But if it happens, it happens. And if not, then Faramir can get busy and provide and heir for the House of Hurin," he told her with a smirk.

"But Boromir, I can't cheat you like that! You should marry some young noble lady as everyone expects, one who you know could give you children."

Boromir harrumphed dismissively, "If I wanted to marry some young thing with good bloodlines and wide hips to give me children, I could have done so anytime in the last twenty years! My father had more suggestions than you can count. But that is not what I wanted. I wanted…needed someone who could do more—be more—than a body to warm my bed and give me children. And although I never knew it was you that I was waiting for I can see now it must be so."

Morloth was speechless; she had dreaded this conversation for so long, certain that Boromir would try to find a way to withdraw his proposal once he had learned the truth. She honestly did not know what to say or what to feel.

Into the silence Boromir murmured, "Do you know for certain that you cannot have more children, or do you simply fear it?"

The question gave her mind something to focus on other than her churning emotions. "Bregor and I wanted to have more children," she responded in a quavering voice. "I had a miscarriage a few years after Cirlan was born, and I never conceived again." She sniffed, and Boromir held her tightly, "In the last few years, the Dark Lord's armies increased their presence in Ithilien and Bregor was seldom home, so I suppose it could have just been ill luck."

"We will hope, then, that it was so and that our luck would be better," Boromir pulled away to meet her eyes. "But believe me when I say it does not lessen my desire to marry you in the slightest." He grasped her chin meeting her eyes, his voice rough with emotion, "So I ask you once again, Morloth; do you love me and will you be my wife?"

"Boromir, I…" Morloth began and fell silent. Ever since his proposal she had been trying to harden her heart against her love for him, certain that the obstacles that separated them were too great. But now she was standing in the rubble of her fears; when faced, they had just…crumbled.

She shook herself and gazed up at Boromir—her Boromir, who was waiting expectantly for an answer. She felt a joyful smile spread over her face and threw herself into his arms. "Yes!" she cried, "I will marry you, I love you so much!" He let out a sob of relief and a moment later his lips found hers for an ardent kiss and she knew she had chosen rightly.

-ooo-

Some time later, Boromir and Morloth emerged from the room hand in hand. A glance at their glowing faces told Beregond all he needed to know. Beaming, he pulled Morloth into his arms and murmured, "Am I right that congratulations are in order?"

Unable to trust her voice, Morloth nodded, and the guardsman clasped her more tightly, "I am so happy for you, my dear friend."

She finally found her voice, "We are not announcing it yet, but I want you and Aerin to know." She sighed, "I'll need to tell my sister and her family as well. And Cirlan, of course. I'm…I'm not certain how he'll feel about this or whether it makes sense to tell him and my sister before Boromir…returns," she added uncertainly. "He has been so restless and bored since the siege ended; I know I need to find some occupation for him…"

"Morloth, there's no need to worry about that now," he assured her, giving her a comforting squeeze. "It'll work out, you'll see. He's a good lad and wants you to be happy."

"My lady…" Boromir began hesitantly, obviously reluctant to interrupt them. "I'm afraid I must meet Uncle now, but will you join me later?" he asked hopefully.

Beregond released Morloth and Boromir promptly claimed her hand. "Of course, Boromir," she smiled. Eyes full of promise, the Steward placed a lingering kiss on her knuckles before departing with his guardsmen trailing behind.

The nephew that Prince Imrahil met in the Steward's study a few minutes later was in a far happier mood than the last time they had spoken. He strode into the room, a broad smile on his face, and could almost be described as…ebullient. Imrahil gazed at him narrowly, uncertain how and why this dramatic change in attitude had come to pass.

But before he could speak Boromir clapped him on the shoulder and asked, "So, have the Council members been notified?"

The Prince nodded, "Aye, they will be assembling at three hours past noon, as you requested. And some rather smug about it, I might add."

Boromir grinned, "We'll let them enjoy it while they can. If I have anything to say about it, they will find the results of the meeting to be far less pleasing."