This Side of Paradise
Part One: Filthy, Naked and Dreaming of You
At last! The journey had been long and treacherous, but finally, he was home. The hobbits were safe, and Frodo was recovering. Aragorn and Glorfindel had reported all they had seen to Erestor, who would pass it along to Elrond when he finished his healing duties with Frodo. Now Aragorn could take care of some basic needs.
He slipped the dusty leather jerkin from his shoulders and hung it on the peg until it could be cleaned, a habit drilled into his head over his years growing up in Imladris. Gilraen had been quite fussy about such things. His mother had drilled certain habits into young Estel's head for as long as he could remember, insisting on everything being neat and tidy. Dirty clothing left scattered around a room cost him the loss of more pleasant activities and once he had achieved a certain age, his help actually laundering the items.
"We do not make more work for others, even if they are assigned to collecting the laundry," Gilraen had often told him. At the time, his little boy mind had not understood that concept. Now he understood it far too well. Maids had enough to do without picking up clothing strewn from one side of a room to another.
Slipping his filth-encrusted boots off, Aragorn sat them under the jerkin, and then peeled off the tunic he had worn during his journey from Bree with the hobbits. He wrinkled his nose in disgust as he glared at the shirt. Though his family often teased him about his appearance when he arrived from months spent in the wilds, Aragorn did not enjoy being filthy and smelly. He endured it simply because it was necessary to surviving in the wilds; he much preferred clean clothing and hair and regular bathing.
Scratching at his scalp with one hand, and trying not to think about what he might find hidden in his dark locks, he tossed the soiled garment into a bucket next to his boots. Off next came his leggings, even fouler than the tunic. They smelled of sweat, swamp muck, wood smoke and would probably offend even an orc's nose. The stiff leggings joined the tunic in the bucket, followed by his unmentionably filthy small clothes. Those were more fit for the fire than the laundry tubs!
Completely free of every stitch of clothing, Aragorn stepped into the large tub filled with hot water that sat in the center of the bathing chamber and moaned in pleasure as it began its magic of washing away the grime. He bent his knees so he could lay back and immerse as much of his body as he was able, allowing the water access to his sore muscles. Various cuts and abrasions stung but it was a welcome pain. Laying in the water, he closed his eyes and allowed himself to be lulled to near dozing. He would need to scrub with a soapy cloth and wash his hair, but not just yet.
He let his mind wander, as the smell of some crushed herbs in a dish on the small table next to the tub pulled him back in time to a hill in Lothlórien many years prior. There he had heard the most beautiful voice utter vows that he cherished and relived in memory as oft as he could. He wiggled down a bit more so his head rested more comfortably against the edge of the tub and let his mind drift to the future, a wicked smile turning his lips.
Lost in imaginings of soft, creamy skin, dark hair and depthless grey eyes, he never heard the light steps in the hall, or the latch lifting — or the creak as the door was swung open.
To Be Continued….
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