From the Ashes a Fire

by Nefertiti

Rating: NC-17

Pairing: Gandalf/Aragorn

Summary: Gandalf and Aragorn develop a deep love during their time spent working to counter the forces of Sauron, and they struggle to maintain it once the Ranger becomes engaged to Arwen.

Disclaimer: No rights, no income.

Archiving: Meddling in the Affairs of Wizards; LoM; others please ask.

Author's note: The action takes place in 2976 of the Third Age. Aragorn is now 45 years old and under the name Thorongil has over the past nineteen years served originally in the army of Rohan and currently in that of Gondor. He and Gandalf have been lovers for twenty years.

The action is based on the chronology for these years in Appendix B, as well as on a passage concerning "Thorongil" in the section of Appendix A called "The Stewards."

Thanks to Elanor as always for the beta work. Gratitude also to Sarah and Henrika for their encouragement.

Part 2

Gandalf smiled at the cheerful greetings from the guards as he arrived at the most northerly of the gates in the wall enclosing the Pelennor. The wizard was a fairly frequent visitor, being well liked by the current Steward, Ecthelion, who always welcomed him and permitted him full and lengthy access to the archives of Minas Tirith. Gandalf's visits had become distinctly more frequent since Aragorn had volunteered for military service in the Gondorean army, though that fact was noted by no one.

"Welcome, Mithrandir!" the leader of the guards said. "Have you come for the wedding of the Steward's heir, Lord Denethor?"

Gandalf nodded as he looked with pleasure southward toward the magnificent stone city, gleaming in the late-morning sun. "Indeed I have, and to examine some ancient writings in the archives, as usual." And to lie with your rightful king, he thought as his grin widened. It has only been two months since his last visit-not long in terms of his usual pattern of trips to Gondor but any stretch of time away from his lover seemed too long. Both had pledged themselves exclusively to the other, and the wizard always felt that he was well compensated for the frustrations of lengthy celibacy by the passionate reunions that he and the Ranger experienced. His loins warmed slightly at the thought, and after exchanging a bit of news with the guards, he rode on eagerly toward the City.

The wizard and Aragorn had kept their relationship completely secret, not so much out of shame as for political reasons. It would not do for the king, should he come into his crown eventually, to be known to have had a lengthy affair with Gandalf. Apart from every other consideration, that would hardly be fair to whatever woman became his queen.

For Gandalf, arriving in the City and trying to determine Aragorn's whereabouts had sometimes been a bit awkward in the early years of the Ranger's military service in Gondor. Fortunately, his gradual rise to fame and glory through his exploits made things much easier, since it would be quite logical for the wizard to inquire about so important an officer. Now Gandalf went immediately to the military headquarters and asked the soldier in charge where "Thorongil," as Aragorn was known here, was.

"He is not in the city, Mithrandir. I'm sure you're aware that the Steward's son, Denethor, is soon to wed. Thorongil received the honor of leading the military guard that went to escort the Lady Finduilas from her home to Minas Tirith for the wedding."

"Really? That is certainly a mark of the Steward's favor. And when is that group due in the City?"

"We expect them to arrive late in the afternoon of the day after tomorrow. The wedding will take place the next day."

Although disappointed to hear that his lover was not in the City, Gandalf smiled with fond pride as he rode upward toward the palace of the Lord Ecthelion. If Aragorn-Thorongil, he reminded himself-was receiving such prestigious assignments, he must be much treasured by the Steward. And deservedly so. Well, he would occupy himself in the city's archives and wait with as much patience as he could muster for the next two days to pass.

After leaving his horse at the nearby stables and going to the wing of the royal palace devoted to guest rooms, Gandalf was shown to the one that he was to occupy. Having arrived a two days before the actual wedding, with the wing still only partially occupied, he was shown to one of the larger, more luxurious rooms. He was not surprised, for Ecthelion had always been most cordial to him. In fact, it happened to be the same room to which he had been assigned during his last visit. As he put down his bag and staff, his glance fell on the large bed, and memories of what had taken place there during that visit made his cock shift and swell slightly. He sighed with frustration at the thought of two days of waiting. It was often the case that Aragorn was away from the city when he arrived, but that didn't make the current situation any easier to bear.

After a moment's thought he slipped off his boots and lay on the bed. Perhaps a short nap before lunch, and then on to the city archives. He shifted uneasily as he rested, visions of Aragorn lying against him, caressing and kissing him, came to him unbidden, and he could not dismiss them, try as he might. He often relieved his own need during his long absences from the Ranger, but he usually abstained for a few days before he knew he would see Aragorn again. Now he hated to diminish the intensity of their coming reunion by even a little bit. Better to remain randy and frustrated, he told himself, and take delight from the anticipation of bliss to come.

As if to test his own desire, he slid his hand across his chest until he could rub one nipple through the rough weave. At once a jolt of intense pleasure made his partially swollen cock stir and straighten within his clothes. That was certainly a mistake, he thought with a rueful little smile. Despite his intentions, he rubbed again, circling and rolling the little nub until he was moaning softly, imagining Aragorn's beautiful lips moistening and teasing his sensitive flesh. His other hand crept down to run along his hardening length. Could he bear stopping, just for a slight enhancement of their pleasure later? He knew that even if he came now, he would be quite ready again by the time that he and Aragorn could share this bed. Drawing in his stomach to loosen the waistband of his trousers, he slipped his hand inside, his fingers immediately encountering the moist, hot head of his erection. He flinched and ran them down its underside very slowly, feeling the veins throbbing. He pinched his nipple, his body tensing slightly as he pulled tentatively on his member and paused. He really should stop, and if he was going to do that, it would have to be now. Any further caresses would drive him past all rational reflection.

With a little grunt he reluctantly pulled his hand out of his trousers and lay panting, desperately counting the little squares in the elaborately carved border that ran along the edges of the ceiling. Eventually he felt reasonably calm and rose to wash his hands and face and go into the dining hall for lunch. Our first lovemaking will be worth waiting for, he thought with a little smile as he walked along the corridor. It always has been.

The great gate of Minas Tirith swung majestically open, and Aragorn felt the same rush of joy and pride that he always experienced when entering the great city of his forebears. He had ridden through that gate many times by now, and yet the beauty of the soaring white tiers of buildings never failed to overwhelm him. As the leaves of the gate came to a stop, Aragorn recalled himself to his current task and urged his horse into a walk. The streets of the city soon became lined with citizens, craning their necks and peering eagerly as the small procession moved inside and up along the twisting street that led to the royal buildings at the top. They were hoping to see the betrothed of the Steward's heir, Denethor, the daughter of Adrahil of Dol Amroth, the lovely Finduilas.

Aragorn was proud to have been chosen to head the escort bringing Denethor's bride from the southern coast of Gondor to the City for the wedding. He was more used to entering Minas Tirith as part of a triumphant band of soldiers returning from battles on the eastern banks of the River, near the Land of Shadow. He had long grown accustomed to the cheers and shouts for "Thorongil," as he was known in the South, for the people of Gondor had come to love him not only for his bravery but for his cheerfulness and his friendly behavior toward people of all ranks. Despite not being able to reveal his true identity here, Aragorn had come to regard this place as his true, ancestral home, and he delighted in helping to defend it.

His greatest pleasure in his current situation, however, was that he was living up to the expectations of his lover, for during his visits to the City Gandalf never failed to be delighted when he heard of the Ranger's latest exploits. Not that Aragorn boasted of them himself, but there were always soldiers or citizens ready to tell the wizard tales of them. Gandalf always insisted on visiting pubs early in his visit, eager to hear such news. He had never lost his taste for good ale and simple food-though he contended that Minas Tirith did not offer sausages that could compare with those served in The Prancing Pony. Aragorn let himself be teased about such culinary failings of his new home, thinking back to that wonderful night when Gandalf had inspired him to leave his mundane wandering existence and come South to learn of the dangers and glories of battle. That night had changed his life, in more ways than one. He speculated briefly on whether, if he had refused Gandalf's suggestion and insisted on remaining a Ranger of the North, he and the wizard would ever have become lovers. How lucky he had been, he thought. Not during all his life, to be sure, but certainly since that fortuitous meeting one night in the woods near Weathertop.

As the small group of guards escorted Finduilas up to the highest level of the city, the citizens continued to rush to their doors and windows or turn from their tasks to stare at the beautiful lady and to greet Thorongil and the others cheerfully. The crowds seemed rather small until Aragorn remembered that they had not been expected back until later that afternoon. The citizens had been caught off-guard, but a few tossed flowers down upon them from balconies. One proud housewife had sewn a banner with the crest of Dol Amroth, and had it hanging from a window-ledge. Finduilas beamed happily as she gazed up at it and waved to its maker.

Finally the group reached the palace, and Aragorn gave the Lady his arm to escort her up to the open door where Echthelion and Denethor were waiting to receive her with all due ceremony. After the Lady gave a short, formal, but smiling thank you to the guards, the noble group withdrew into the palace, and Aragorn dismissed his troops to go and take their lunch in the barracks. He had other business, though, and he walked quickly toward the guest quarters.

Putting on a business-like air, he inquired of the housekeeper whether the wizard was there. "Nay, Thorongil, he said he was planning to spend his time in the city's archives. I cannot imagine why he would want to coop himself up inside that musty, dark place in such lovely weather . .. but there's no accounting for wizards." She shook her head. Suppressing a little smile, Aragorn turned and went out. Upon reflection he decided to get a quick bit of lunch, since the barracks lay between him and the archives along the great spiraling street. He would need his energy, he thought with a chuckle. After gulping down his food, he strolled as casually as he could toward the archives, one level further down in the City, trying to look for all the world as if he merely had a message to deliver.

Aragorn passed quickly along the corridor leading to the city archives. The thick wooden door was slightly ajar, and the faint odor of deteriorating parchment wafted out to him. As he went inside, the archivist looked up inquiringly from his desk. "Good afternoon, young fellow. May I assist you?"

"I seek the wizard Mithrandir and was told that he is here."

"Ah, yes. If you walk down to the end of that row of shelves, there is a small arched opening to the left beyond them. Then a narrow corridor, and if you go through the third door . . . Well, it's a bit confusing. I may as well show you myself. I have a few things that need to be put away in the room where Mithrandir is working. Indeed, there are always things to be put away here." He smiled with a combination of amusement and pride around at the myriad dusty volumes and scrolls that were stacked on every available flat surface, including in some cases the floor.

"An impressive collection," Aragorn murmured politely. "Oh, may I assist you with some of those?"

"That would be very helpful. The large stack to your left . . . yes, that one. Fine, that's everything, then. My name is Mindaril, by the way. I am pleased to meet you." As the archivist picked up another stack, he gazed more closely at Aragorn. "Are you not Thorongil, the officer who behaved so heroically in the recent skirmishes in Ithilien? I seem to recognize you from the victory parade."

"Thorongil is my name, to be sure. Thank you for your kind words about my deeds. They were no more than my duty."

"Well, duties can be performed well or badly. The tales that were told of you were most impressive."

Aragorn nodded, slightly embarrassed at this, and was glad when the man set off down the room. He became grateful to have a guide as they went through a series of dark corridors and smaller rooms equally jammed with documents. Finally they reached another long hall with a table against one wall and another row of shelves opposite it. Gandalf was seated reading a scroll, and he looked up as the two entered. Fleetingly, before he mastered himself, an expression of immense joy passed over his face as he saw Aragorn, whom he was not expecting for a few hours yet. Fortunately the archivist had been occupied in looking around for a place to put down the considerable stack that he was carrying. Aragorn deposited his own burden and with a pounding heart moved to stand beside the Istar's chair. Gandalf twisted slightly to gaze up at him with a polite smile, but the man could see that his teeth were clenched and he was breathing more quickly. Looking around, Aragorn saw the archivist disappear between two shelves to put something away, and he briefly brushed his fingers across Gandalf's cheek, smiling fondly at him.

"Good afternoon, Thorongil. It is a pleasure to see you again." The Istar paused and mouthed, "A great pleasure." The two grinned at each other, wryly amused that they should be close enough to feel the heat of each other's bodies and see the clear signs of suppressed desire in each other's faces and movements and yet not be able to embrace each other. Gandalf leaned his head to the side briefly to glance around Aragorn's body at Mindaril, who was now puttering slowly about, slipping a page or a slim volume onto a shelf at what seemed like maddening long intervals. The two large stacks that he and Aragorn had brought would clearly take hours to put into their proper places at this rate, and the archivist seemed to have no other duties calling him elsewhere.

Aragorn sighed in frustration. "Welcome back to Minas Tirith, Mithrandir. I am happy to see you as well." "Very happy," he mouthed, then whispered, "Can we not go to your room-quickly?"

Gandalf shrugged slightly. "Call me away on some errand, why don't you?" he whispered back. "And let me just make a note of where I left off in this document."

"Mithrandir, I was sent-" Aragorn began, but he realized that the archivist was suddenly at his side, beginning to speak just as he did.

"Mithrandir, I am afraid that I have no idea what this particular scroll contains. I know several languages and writing systems, of course, but I have nothing like your wealth of learning. Could you possibly .. . ?"

Gandalf hesitated, glancing from the yellowed roll of parchment up to Aragorn's face and back. His look of dismay was lost on Mindaril, but it made the Ranger smile slightly in combined sympathy and amusement. "Um, certainly, certainly," Gandalf said, straightening to face the surface of the table as the archivist carefully unrolled the scroll and placed it before the wizard. Despite his distraction, Gandalf chuckled as he swiveled the scroll around so that the bottom was facing him and carefully placed small weights at each curling corner to keep it lying flat.

The archivist gave a little embarrassed smile. "I'm sorry. As I say, this writing is completely unknown to me." He picked up one of the pens scattered on the table and stood poised to write at the Istar's dictation. Expert though he was, Gandalf found this obscure text slow going, and he had to pause frequently to struggle with a phrase or word. Fortunately, he thought, it's only a single page. At least I hope that the fellow doesn't have any more of this manuscript! He sighed with frustration, though he passed it off as annoyance over a particularly difficult passage.

At first Aragorn paced about slowly, glancing at the singularly uninteresting pages that were visible among the shelves. He could not keep away from his lover for long, though, and he wandered back to stand by Gandalf's right shoulder, the archivist being bent over the table on the wizard's left. He could tell that Gandalf was very much aware of his presence, and he entertained himself by imagining what might happen if he were suddenly to push his tongue wetly into the wizard's ear or brush his straining trouser-front against his arm or even reach down to cup the bulge in the wizard's own trousers. At last he could not bear the lack of contact and leaned over as if to examine another document lying on the table. As he did so, he managed to press the side of his body slightly against Gandalf shoulder. The wizard gasped and then quickly managed to turn the sound into a slight cough. He frowned up at Aragorn, who looked at him with an innocent expression. Gandalf returned his eyes to the scroll and concentrated hard on the text before him as the Ranger shifted slightly and rubbed against him.

The wizard despaired of ever getting through the text, but fortunately after about five minutes longer the archivist stopped writing and nodded. "Thank you, Mithrandir. That's enough to give me some idea of what this document is and where I should shelve it. It's not my job to study these things, after all, only to know how to find them when scholars like you visit and ask for them."

"Of course. Well, I'm happy to have been of assistance."

Quickly Gandalf wrote the note to himself and arranged his papers neatly for his next day's work as Aragorn explained, in case Mindaril was listening to them, that he had been sent to fetch the wizard and introduce him to one of the important officials who had arrived with Finduilas' entourage. Thanking the archivist, Gandalf quickly led the way through the little maze of rooms and corridors. When they were nearly back to the outer hall and the wizard judged that they were well out of the archivist's hearing, he turned and pinned Aragorn against the wall of the narrow corridor with his body, kissing him deeply and ravenously. After their tongues had thrust and twisted against each other for a short time, the Ranger pushed him away slightly.

"Surely you do not intend for us to celebrate our reunion here!" he gasped with an incredulous grin.

Studying his beautiful face, Gandalf sighed reluctantly. "No, of course not. Mindaril may stay in there for hours puttering about, but we cannot count on it. It's just that I could not refrain from welcoming you back in a somewhat warmer fashion. The old fellow could not have been more interfering if he had planned it, could he?" he said as he moved on into the main hall of the archive. He took his cloak down from a hook by the door and put it on. "Luckily this is loose enough to cover any lingering impact that your presence has had upon me," he added, glancing downward to be sure and then looking with amusement at the clear evidence of Aragorn's own arousal. They stood for a few minutes to wait for it to diminish a bit. The wizard chuckled. "I feel as if I have spent half my time for the last two days trying to rid myself of the effects of my longing for you."

To force their minds in other directions, Gandalf added teasingly, "So, you have survived your highly dangerous mission, my brave warrior."

"You know full well that commanding the guard for the Lady Finduilas is a great honor," Aragorn replied with a somewhat exasperated little grin.

"Oh, to be sure. And is the future wife of the heir of the Steward as beautiful as people say?"

"She is indeed surpassingly lovely. I had some occasional conversations with her. She seems very gentle and kind to all about her, not haughty, as the daughter of a great nobleman might be. I hope that she will be happy here in Minas Tirith," he concluded with the hint of a frown.

Gandalf and Aragorn left the archive as they talked and walked up the winding street toward the guest quarters. The wizard looked closely and curiously at Aragorn. "Is there any reason to suspect that Finduilas would not be happy?"

"I think that she seemed a bit subdued as we neared the City. She comes from the beautiful vales near the sea, and I believe that she misses them already. She has never dwelt in a city of stone battlements and towers. Moreover, as we crossed the Pelennor and saw the Mountains of Shadow far off to our right, she seemed fearful and questioned me about the Dark Lord and the threat he poses to Gondor. Of course nothing that I could truthfully tell her could really quiet her doubts."

"Well, I hope that Denethor can make her happy. I wish I could be a little more confident on that score. Has your own relationship with him improved at all, or does he persist in treating you as if you were somehow a rival of his?"

"Oh, he definitely persists in that. I wish I knew what I have ever done to make him think of me in that competitive fashion."

"I would say that the people obviously respect both you and him, and yet they find it far easier to love and admire you. With him there is that imperiousness and a sense of coldness that he will probably never overcome. A real pity, since he is undoubtedly a wise and powerful man and in most other ways highly suited to succeed his father."

The Ranger frowned and put a hand on Gandalf's arm to detain him, looking around to make sure that no one was nearby. They had reached the center of the large courtyard outside the guest quarters. Its expanse of close-cropped green grass was empty, and the splashing of the fountain in its center would cover their speech. "Gandalf, I have learned one rather disturbing thing about Denethor. You know that in recent years I have cautioned Ecthelion about putting too much trust in Saruman. Ever since you told me about your growing disquiet concerning your fellow Istar, I have tried to make sure that he does not gain the Steward's confidence. Of course I have tried to turn Ecthelion more toward your counsels."

The wizard looked at him with a puzzled frown. "Yes, and indeed Ecthelion welcomed me quite cordially upon my arrival. We had a very productive conversation yesterday afternoon, and I was most impressed with his opinions-and his willingness to listen to mine."

"No doubt, and I am not particularly worried about the Steward changing in that. Yet Denethor has lately been trying to convince his father that he should welcome Saruman's aid and pay less attention to you."

"Really? Yes, that is disturbing. Frankly, I agree with you in doubting that Ecthelion will do any such thing. He really is one of the wisest Stewards that I have ever dealt with. Still, your news bodes ill for the time when a new Steward rules Gondor."

"Yes, and that cannot be too many years off now. I have been thinking lately that I should leave Gondor. Not immediately, to be sure, for I think that I can serve Ecthelion usefully for a time yet, but perhaps in a few years. I truly think that things would become very uncomfortable for me here once Denethor assumes the office of Steward."

"You are probably right. I must say, you have become every bit the great warrior and leader that I had hoped. If you must leave Gondor, you will do so well-equipped to return someday. And I must admit, it would be both useful and very pleasant to have your help in some of my missions. More and more I sense that great troubles will soon arise. Well, it will not be an agreeable task, but I should speak with Denethor, to try and sound him out about all this." He hesitated. "Aragorn, is there any possibility, do you think, that Denethor suspects who you really are?"

Aragorn stared into the fountain and thought for a short time. "I would not be entirely surprised to learn that he does, but that opinion would mainly stem from his behavior toward me. I have no specific evidence of it at all, and I cannot fathom how he would discover such a thing. Can you?"

"No, but it might explain not only his rivalry with you but his attitude toward me. He knows you and I are close friends. Speaking of which, we should not be seen talking here for too long. I shall go to my room, and much though I hate the idea, perhaps you should leave and come back in a little while, making sure that no one sees you near my door. Needless to say, I shall be awaiting you with eager anticipation."

Aragorn sighed and looked at the wizard longingly. "Do you really think that is necessary? No, wait, I know that you would never suggest it if you did not, so I shall go and wander about on the ramparts for half an hour or so. Does that suit your sense of caution?"

Gandalf grinned at him. "Make it twenty minutes."


"Fifteen, then. Now get out of here, young man, before my need for you does away with caution altogether!"

The soft knock on the door came roughly seventeen minutes later, and the pacing wizard quickly crossed and opened it cautiously, glancing about and stepping back to allow Aragorn to enter before quickly closing it again. He stared at the Ranger in mock annoyance. "Two minutes late!"

"There were some guests arriving. I had to allow them to get ensconced in their rooms before I came here. Do you really think that I would delay coming to you a moment longer than necessary?"

Gandalf grinned lovingly at him and shook his head. Assuming a polite and formal manner, he bowed slightly and said, "I am delighted to see you again, your majesty."

Aragorn gave him a suitably regal smile. "I am happy to greet the favored royal wizard, the most gifted conjuror," he murmured, moving suddenly close to Gandalf and placing his palm flat against the wizard's lower belly and sliding it down to cup the swelling trouser-front as he continued, "and the eminent courtier upon the King's right hand."

Gandalf squeezed his eyes shut in pleasure. His head tilted back, and his hips pressed rhythmically against Aragorn's palm. He said hoarsely, "I think that last title is my favorite!"

"I don't wonder," Aragorn said with a soft chuckle, burrowing under the wizard's vast beard to tongue his neck avidly. He began to stroke the swelling member.

"Don't!" Gandalf gasped reluctantly. "I'm all too close already." He opened his eyes, pressing his fingertips over Aragorn's erect nipples. With a moan he clumsily and roughly unfastened two of the middle buttons and pulled the resulting gap to the side, exposing one chocolate-brown nub and leaning in to suck it hungrily.

Aragorn panted with closed eyes, caressing the wizard's hair and body lightly. "I have missed this so," he whispered.

Even as he sucked, Gandalf undid the rest of the shirt's buttons and managed to slip it off without allowing his lips to leave the hard bead. Aragorn also unfastened their clothes, then reluctantly pushed the wizard slightly away so that he could strip them both. He looked downward and then up into Gandalf's eyes, licking his lips lasciviously. "Come, let's go to bed. I'm hungry for that luscious plum of yours."

Gandalf's cock, already fully upright, twitched against his belly at the thought, and hand in hand they crossed the short distance to the bed. Panting with desire, Aragorn coaxed the Istar to lie back on the pillows and then climbed up to rest on hands and knees above his body. For a brief time they stared into each other's eyes with little smiles that mingled affection with barely restrained desire. At last Gandalf spread his legs and bent them, and the Ranger lowered himself until his belly was pressing down on the wizard's rampant cock. He licked his fingers and pinched Gandalf's nipples, watching as the wizard's head shifted on the pillow and he moaned with delight. Aragorn sucked and tongued each nipple in turn, continuing to roll the other between scissoring fingers. At last the wizard began to squirm in growing excitement, trying to thrust up against the heavy body. His wanton abandon led Aragorn to slide further down until the stiff member rose slightly from the wizard's abdomen and bobbed before him.

"Such a beautiful color," he murmured as he tilted his head back and forth, gently kissing as far as he could reach around the shaft near the base and then licking slowly up its entire length over and over. With one hand he rolled and squeezed Gandalf's balls, while with the other he inserted a saliva-slicked finger into the tight hole. Immediately the wizard jerked and shuddered. "You are so good at that!" he managed to say before further rubbing along the front of his passage rendered him incapable of more than desperate keening. Aragorn stretched his neck and managed to draw the head of Gandalf's cock entirely into his mouth. He sucked gently, forcing the wizard to hover maddeningly short of the bliss he now frantically wanted. Then abruptly Aragorn withdrew mouth and hands. Gandalf opened his eyes just as abruptly and was about to remonstrate when he saw the Man's eyes go to the bedside table. The wizard smiled and glanced over at the small bottle of oil and folded cloth set neatly to hand.

Aragorn reached for the bottle and oiled his fingers to prepare the wizard further. "As I traveled that long way from Dol Amroth, thoughts of you occasionally caused me to harden a bit and press quite maddeningly against the saddle. Of course I tried to turn my mind in other directions, but visions of riding you instead insisted on returning over and over. Now, at last I have you exactly where I want you, old man," he added teasingly.

He had deliberately avoided inserting his fingers too far, not wanting to drive Gandalf to climax too quickly. The wizard had calmed enough to be able to smile in response. "I think I am ready, your majesty. Why don't you anoint that big scepter of yours and-"

Despite his arousal, Aragorn's mouth dropped open indignantly. "And you tell me never to make jokes about your 'big staff'!"

Gandalf chuckled breathily. "Well, I have been enduring staff jokes for nearly two thousand years, young man, whereas mine is the very first pun of that sort you are likely ever to have heard."

"True. And in some ways I rather liked it, I must say. Scepter, eh?" He studied his member as he stroked oil over it and then grinned up at Gandalf, amused despite his protest. "Well, then let me give you some royal treatment." He knelt between the wizard's legs. Gandalf handed him a pillow and raised his hips so that the Man could slide it underneath. With a low moan Aragorn pushed the tip of his cock through the wizard's entrance and paused, panting as the excruciatingly tight heat gripped him. He slowly stroked Gandalf's length and began to rock his hips, entering a little further each time until the wizard arched his back and dug his fingers hard into the mattress.

"Oh! That is so exquisite!" the wizard managed to gasp. The Man leaned forward and swirled his tongue over Gandalf's ear. The wizard wrapped his legs around Aragorn's waist and began to push upward to meet each thrust, twisting his hips to force the man's stiff column of flesh to press against the front of his passage until he was uttering loud, harsh groans of desperation.

Aragorn was true to his word and rode him vigorously, though he murmured at one point, "Careful, old man!" when Gandalf's heels dug painfully into his buttocks as the wizard sought to impale himself even further onto his cock.

"Well, hard, then!" Gandalf begged.

"I thought that was hard-oh!" Aragorn groaned as the frantic jerking of the wizard's hips tipped him over into ecstasy, and he began to thrust even faster as he spilled long and copiously deep inside Gandalf. His fist tightened on the wizard's swollen length, and Gandalf's back arched convulsively off the mattress as he moaned with the force of his release and his hot seed repeatedly gushed over Aragorn's hand and his own belly.

For a few moments they remained still, panting and savoring the immediate aftermath of their mutual fulfillment. Then Gandalf reached shakily for the cloth and handed it to Aragorn, who slowly withdrew as he cleaned them both. He lay down on his side and embraced the wizard, kissing his damp cheek and laughing softly as Gandalf turned his head to gaze at him with half-closed eyes and a blissful little smile. Both were too tired even to banter tenderly as they recovered but instead drifted off into a brief nap.

As they gradually awoke about an hour later, their hands and mouths moved lazily, fingers plucking at nipples and lips teasing at ears until finally they moved their hands lower and began more seriously to bring each other back to arousal. Their mouths dropped slightly open, panting as they grasped and pulled at the swelling members pressed between them. At last Gandalf said, "I have dreamed for so long of being inside you. Let me take you, my sweet Aragorn. Please."

"You don't have to beg me. I have dreamed of that as well. Take me . . . long and hard and deeply," he said provocatively next to the wizard's ear. Gandalf's cock twitched in his hand, and quickly the two rose to their knees. Aragorn grasped the headboard of the bed and spread his legs wide, arching his back until the wizard could clearly see his puckered entrance. Gandalf moaned and edged closer, pumping his own nearly firm erection until it was iron-hard in his grasp. Quickly he oiled his fingers and prepared the Man, and soon the wizard pushed halfway inside in a smooth, deep stroke and paused. Aragorn tensed at both the slight pain and the searing moment of pleasure as the wizard's tip passed over his prostate. After a few moments, he nodded, and Gandalf thrust slightly harder until he was buried deep. After that, both slipped into a haze of pleasure, oblivious to anything but the intense sensations pervading their loins. The wizard moved slowly enough to prolong their rapture for a very long time but firmly enough to make them both shudder and whimper. At last Aragorn threw his head back and began to keen a desperate, inarticulate plea for release, and Gandalf drove into him fierce and rapidly until the Man's face twisted into a tight grimace of utter bliss. It took the wizard another minute or so to finish, and he came with a harsh groan, hugging the Man's muscular stomach and thrusting into him with slowly diminishing force as the last tiny flickers of pleasure faded.

At first both were too dazed to move, but eventually Gandalf lifted his head from the Ranger's upper back and pulled out. Aragorn slid down to lie on the mattress, and the wizard collapsed, sweaty and spent, into his arms. After lying silently in sheer contentment for awhile, Gandalf said quietly, "And what position in the King's court do I occupy now?"

Aragorn grinned lazily with closed eyes. "Oh, I should think the prime minister of the royal bedchamber."

Gandalf pulled his tongue up across Aragorn's chest, reveling in the salty taste of his lover's exhausted satiation and lingering on the left nipple. "Well, I have certainly done my best to minister to the king's most primal needs."

Aragorn suppressed a smile and winced broadly. "I shall ignore that. But speaking of needs, it is well past dinner-time."

The wizard groaned. "Must we really wash and dress and walk out of here? And if I want to eat with you we would have to go to a pub, which would mean quite a stroll. I feel as though I could barely stand steadily, let alone do all that."

"If I were really the king, I could order a meal to be fetched to us here."

"Yes, if. I have some lembas in my bag. Would you be willing to settle for that."

The Ranger nuzzled against his cheek. "Being able to stay here with you this evening would be worth it, I think."

"Do you mean all night? You've never done that when there are this many people staying here."

"I could get up early and no doubt avoid having them see me as I leave."

"Try not to wake me, will you?" the wizard replied somewhat drowsily. "I suppose that your barracks-mates will simply assume you are with some wench and not be particularly surprised or worried."

"Well, I wouldn't be particularly surprised or worried if any of them were to do the same. Who knows, there may be no one at all sleeping in those barracks tonight." They both chuckled. "All right, I suggest that we at least wash. I think we're beginning to stick together a trifle."

Aragorn sat up and winced. "I always forget that I should let you enter me the first time that we make love after a long absence. The second time always lasts so long, you virile, randy old man!"

Gandalf laughed smugly. "Well, it's your own fault. Can I help it if you're always on top of me the moment we get into bed? You're bigger and stronger than I am, after all-and just as randy."

Aragorn smiled ruefully as he stood up and winced again. "Yes, and considerably sorer at the moment, I'll warrant."

They washed quickly, and after Gandalf had dug the lembas cakes out of his bag, they slid in beneath the bedclothes and began to nibble at them. Gandalf stared wistfully off into space. "Coming to Minas Tirith will not be nearly so pleasant once you have left-especially if Denethor is as set against me as you suggest. You said a few years. What do you still hope to accomplish while in service here?"

"For a long time now I have been telling Ecthelion that the rebels of Umbar are a growing threat to Gondor, especially to the southern fiefs. If Sauron launches open war, he could exploit them in a deadly fashion. The Steward keeps saying that 'someday' he will let me move against them. It would require a small fleet, though, and he has never got around to implementing the plan. I think with the Shadow growing in the East, though, he will realize that he can delay no longer. If I can finally lead a successful attack against the Corsairs of Umbar, I would feel that I leave the country in a much better situation. Is there anything that you foresee needing me to do for you?"

"It is always useful to have information of the Dark Lord's doings. Anytime you can go to Ithilien and get word of him from the troops there, it would help me. I dread the thought of you doing anything as dangerous as attacking Umbar . . . but I can hardly tell you to refrain from it, given that I encouraged you to gain experience as a military leader. I know that you will be able to triumph, my dear Aragorn."

The wizard laid his head on Aragorn's shoulder, and the Man asked, "What are your own plans for the coming years?"

"I am rather concerned about the situation in Erebor. After the death of Smaug the Dwarves seemed quite happy and content there, but I think now they begin to grow ambitious again. For more wealth, more territory, more influence in the world. I feel that I need to visit there at intervals to discourage their leaders from doing anything foolish. And I am somewhat disquieted about the Shire as well. Saruman still has his spies lurking about there. I have not been able to learn why, but it must be something important for him to persist for twenty-three years in wanting news from there." He paused. "I am also increasingly worried about Bilbo."

"Oh? And why is that?"

Gandalf still hesitated before finally saying, "I have never told you one thing about the Quest of Erebor. During our travels Bilbo came by a mysterious golden Ring under odd circumstances. It has the power to make one disappear, and hence it must be one of the Great Rings."

"How very strange! Do you know which one?"

"No, although my first thought is that it might be one of the Dwarven Rings. They are thought all to have been taken by Sauron or destroyed, but it may be that one survived and was lost. Over the past 35 years Bilbo has shown not the slightest sign of age. He is in his mid-80s by now. It is not natural. And he has grown increasingly touchy if I mention the Ring. I'm sure that he would not give it to me, and I hesitate to risk our friendship by asking him. I can't think what I should do about it. Beyond checking on him at as frequent intervals as I can manage, that is."

"Yes. Well, Erebor and the Shire. You could hardly have chosen two places further from here. When shall I next see you?"

"Frankly, I don't know. No doubt this will be a longer separation than most. But I did not choose these places to protect. They chose me." He sighed. "Once you leave here, it will be much more difficult to get in contact with each other when we have to travel separately. We shall need to work out some sort of system."

"You once said that someday I could help you with your great tasks. Perhaps we shall be able to travel together a great deal."

"Perhaps, and yet the problem that you mentioned then persists. There are simply too few of us patrolling the endangered areas of Middle-earth. I shall often need someone with your sharp eyes and ears and wits to be places and do things when I cannot. Still, we shall always need to consult each other, to give news and make plans. And to keep up each other's morale," he concluded with a grin, then yawned suddenly. "You have obviously boosted my morale until you have exhausted me! If you are going to slip out of here so early, we should get some sleep. After all, we have a wedding to attend."