Written for Teitho's "Night" challenge, where it placed third.
Many huge thanks to Sian22 for taking the time to review and critique the story - it's so much stronger with her suggestions!
November 13, 3020
Faramir rolled his neck as he walked from his study towards his chambers, working his right hand to ease the tension that always came from spending too long holding a quill. The halls were dark, but he had no need of a candle to light his way. He had made this journey many times through his life, and had long ago fallen into the practice of doing all he could to avoid discovery at such a late hour of the night.
As still happened more often than not, he almost walked past the narrow door that led directly from the hall to his dressing room. He had seen no reason to move into the Steward's chambers before the wedding, and seven months was not nearly long enough to break the lifelong habit of going to his old room at the end of the hallway.
Shaking his head at himself as he opened the door, he slipped inside quietly, as he didn't want to wake his wife in the adjoining room.
Not yet at any rate.
A small lamp had been left burning for him, giving enough light for him to find his way about the room without stumbling. He smiled. It was a little thing, just a lamp after all, but that Éowyn left a light burning for him when she knew he would be working late was just one of the many ways in which she had made his life sweeter since she had come to Minas Tirith as his bride. He was the most fortunate of men, and he knew it well.
Sinking down onto a padded ottoman he worked off one boot, then wriggled and flexed his toes with a soft sigh of relief. As he worked off the second boot he paused mid-pull, looking towards the door to the bedroom. Had he heard a sound? After a long moment of being still he returned to his task, and once the second boot had been removed he set them both aside.
Standing, he loosened his tunic just enough to pull it over his head, and then draped it across the top of the chest of drawers. He was just starting to undo the ties on his shirt when the noise came again, louder and unmistakable this time.
Éowyn was crying out in her sleep, and from the sobbing sound he knew that it was a dream of the Pelennor. It tortured him that she had these dreams, though they had thankfully become rare. With a softly muttered oath he opened the connecting door and moved quickly into the bedroom. Crossing to the bed he bent over her, murmuring soothing words as he stroked damp hair back from her forehead.
To his surprise she did not calm as she normally would at his voice, but instead leapt up from the twisted sheets, moving quickly. Before he was entirely aware of what was happening she had the knife that she kept on the bedside table unsheathed and at his throat, and him backed against the wall.
"You will not touch my child!" Her voice was little more than a hiss, but was filled with a cold fury.
Breathing as deeply as he dared, he slowly raised both hands to shoulder height, palms held outward in sign of peace. "Éowyn… Meleth nîn... It is me, my love…" He kept his voice low and calm, still hoping to soothe her from the dream. "I will not hurt you... I would never hurt you… You are dreaming, Éowyn… Hear my voice and wake, love"
As he spoke her eyes slowly cleared. Though it felt like hours passed while he stood as still as he could, with the thin blade pricking dangerously against his skin, it was really only moments before she released the knife with a gasp. It clattered to the stone floor at their feet. "Faramir!" She staggered back, horror clear upon her face. "Oh, Faramir… What have I done? Did I…?"
He shook his head as he reached out to her, stepping forward as she stepped back and putting his hands lightly on her arms. "No. No, love, I am well. You did not hurt me." He pulled her gently back towards him and wrapped her in an embrace, and burying his face in her hair.
She was shaking and breathing hard, as if she had truly been prepared for a fight. His own breaths were less than even as he held her, not because he truly feared that she would harm him but because of the expression on her face as she held the knife.
Leaning against his chest she took a few deep breaths, each one a little more steady than the last. Several minutes passed before she pulled back enough to look at his neck. With a small sound of dismay she reached up as if to touch it. "Faramir, I did hurt you. You are bleeding! Let me…"
She made to pull away but he held her close, tightening his left arm even as he lifted his right hand to where the blade had been pressed.
His fingers came away smeared with red. A wound, yes, but only a little one. He gave a small smile. "It is but a nick, Éowyn. Nothing to be concerned over..."
With a shake of her head she spoke over him. "It is still a cut, however small and it…"
When she paused to take a shaky breath he cut in. "Éowyn, I have had worse casualties from shaving."
"It must be tended, Faramir. Please… Let me…" And she pulled away to flee into her dressing room.
Faramir knew her well enough by now to know that she truly wished for a moment to gather herself, and so he let her go, watching with concern as she went.
When she had gone, he walked to a sitting chair that was placed beside the hearth, silent in his bare feet, and picked up the soft throw that was draped across the back. Gently he laid it across an arm, and sat on the seat's edge to wait for her. The flames of the small fire that burned in the grate to ward off the chill of autumn night drew him, and he sat he drifted into his own memories of those dark days, and of the fire that had haunted him.
The faint splash of water being poured from a pitcher into a bowl shook him from the past. A moment later Éowyn returned, carrying a dampened cloth, and came to stand before him. With her fingers she lifted and directed his chin to the proper angle for her see the cut, but she still would not meet his eyes. The cloth was quite cool against his skin, unpleasantly so, but to give to give her comfort he allowed her to fuss over the tiny cut far longer than was truly necessary.
Eventually, though, he took the cloth from her, dropping it carelessly to the floor beside the chair, then took both of her hands in his own. Gently, he pulled her down into his lap, and she curled into him, hiding her face in the curve of his shoulder. She still trembled slightly against him, not yet fully over the effects of the dream.
He pulled the throw from the arm of the chair and draped it about them both before wrapping his arms around her and resting his cheek against her golden hair. The clean scent of the lavender oil she brushed into her hair each evening seemed far from the reek of mud and blood and smoke, and allowed him to push away the last vestiges of the shadows that had come over him.
Running his hand down the length of her wonderful hair, a gesture he had learned only a husband would make by Rohirric custom, he murmured "Do you wish to speak of it, love?"
She gave no answer for a long moment, but then he felt her very small shrug. "It was much the same as always. The Pelennor… All the dead surrounding me... My parents... My cousin... My uncle... Éomer..."
Her voice grew quieter as the list went on, and finally trailed off into silence.
As she had said, it was the same list she always gave. He pressed a kiss into her hair and finished the plaintive litany for her. "Me."
When she shook her head he was surprised.
"No. Not this time. You were there, and there was an arrow in your shoulder, but you were not dead. Not yet."
A small shiver ran through her. "There was so much blood… I tried to stop it, to save you, but… there was so much. And more every second..."
She reached up with shaking fingers to cover the arrow's scar on his left shoulder, and he covered her hand with his own, tightening his protective grip in reassurance the wound was now healed, and nothing to fear.
Silence fell between them again for several minutes. If not for the slight movement of her fingers, brushing gently across the scar through his shirt, he might have thought she had fallen asleep again.
"And then he appeared." She murmured softly, a rough edge rising in her voice. "Crouched on his heels on the other side of you, shaking his head as if he was watching… a… a child trying to put a broken plate back together."
Faramir tried to follow her words, but could not. "Who was there, love?"
"The Worm. Gríma..."
He gave a soft ah as he understood, and tightened his arms a little more, but she continued on...
"He asked me why I bothered. Said it was foolish of me to try to save you when all knew that I was his, and that I had only been making…." She stopped and drew a short, sharp breath as if only just realizing what she had almost said.
Running his hand down her hair once again he urged, "Go on, love. What did he say?"
Once more she moved quickly, pulling away from his arms and crossing to the window. The throw fell to the floor and was forgotten as she stood looking out into the night, her arms wrapped tightly about her waist.
A heavy silence fell in the room.
"He said I was only making a whore of myself by playing at being your wife."
Fury surged through him, driving him to his feet before he was aware of the urge to move. That a man would dare to say such a thing to any woman would anger him. But to say it to her... To his wife! To a woman he knew to be virtuous and true, and strong enough to endure all she had experienced in her life...
Reason came back to him slowly, and he became aware of how the rage had contorted his face, and made his hands clench as if they were about the throat of the man that had made his wife think such things of herself.
He was not proud of it, but there was envy coiled in his heart that the hobbits had been the ones to slay this worm before he had a chance to.
But, none of these emotions would help her tonight.
He sighed to himself and released the hands from their fists, schooled his features, took a moment to draw a calming breath before he walked slowly over to her. Putting his hands lightly on her shoulders, he ran them down her arms until he could twine his fingers through hers as he spoke quietly. "You know that is not true, Éowyn."
"Aye. I know…" She leaned back against him, turning her head just enough that her cheek pressed against his jaw. The softest of kisses brushed her temple and she sighed. "It was nothing but a dream. He never had any claim on me, save in his twisted mind."
Faramir kissed her temple once again, and tried to fold her a little closer into his embrace, but it did not help. Though she smiled her shoulders remained tense, and her gaze was distracted and elsewhere.
Silence fell between them again as they stood together, his cheek against her hair, each lost in their own thoughts.
There was clearly more to the dream than she had shared. From long experience, he knew that speaking of the darkness was often the fastest way to break it's hold and let the dreamer return to untroubled sleep.
Yet he also knew that if he pushed too hard Éowyn could dig in her heels, or let her temper flare up until they tumbled into an argument, and neither scenario would be helpful to either of them tonight.
After moment's unsteady peace he tried again, choosing his words carefully. "Was it the Worm that you were attacking when you woke?"
She started slightly when his voice pulled her from her thoughts, then nodded. "It was. He threatened to… "
Slowly, she pulled away from him enough to turn within his arms and looked up and met his eyes directly for the first time. The normally clear grey was clouded and troubled but also held concern. "You cannot think that it was you I intended to harm? Faramir… I would never wish to harm you."
She was parrying his point, deflecting his question to avoid telling him the rest of the dream, but he decided to let it rest. For now. He could be patient.
"Would I stand so close to you if I thought you wished me harm?" His lips quirked up at the corners as he lifted his hand to brush his thumb across her cheek. "You could have another knife hidden somewhere about the room, to use to complete the assassination when I let my guard down."
She chuckled, and shook her head at him fondly. "You are being foolish."
Faramir laughed with her, pleased that her mood had lightened. "I am." She gave a small squeak of surprise as he reached out and pulled her tightly against him. He breathed across her ear, his voice a husky whisper, "But you love me, in spite of my many faults."
Éowyn looked up at him thoughtfully, but with mischief in her eyes, then tilted her head to one side. "Aye… I suppose I do."
His brows flew up as he gave a short laugh. "Suppose?"
"Let me consider…" She looped her arms around his neck, humming softly as he loosened his and lowered them to circle her waist. "I have left my own people, and come to this stone city to be with you."
Smiling, she stretched up and pressed a light, teasing kiss to the corner of his lips. "And I have become your wife..."
His smile became rakish as he hummed, and he bent to rest his forehead against hers. "You have…"
She laughed, brushing the tip of her nose across his. "And I am..."
She stopped abruptly and took a sharp breath as her eyes widened.
Slowly, he lifted his head enough that he could look at her face, and smiled to see her cheeks were flushed with color. "And you are...?"
With a small shake of her head she hid her face against his neck.
"I should not have said so much."
"Said so much? You have said nothing that I did not already know, Éowyn." He teased "Is my wife keeping secrets from me?"
"You are!" He grinned, certain now, for the flush had spread from her cheeks to her neck, and even down so far as to disappear under her thin night rail. "Should I be concerned for the safety of Gondor?"
Exasperated, she pushed away from him. "You, Lord Steward, are incorrigible!" All at once her temper sparked, and her eyes flashed even in the dim light cast by the small fire. "Am I not to be permitted to keep something to myself because I am your wife? Does it not occur to you that I may be trying to shield you?"
"Forgive me, love." He gently drew her back and set to smoothing down the feathers he had ruffled by running a hand gently along her back, easing it slowly up to her shoulder then back down to her waist. "I meant only to tease you, and went too far."
The spine she had stiffened in her flash of anger slowly eased. "Nay… Nay, it is I who should ask your forgiveness, Faramir. You were trying to help me, and I knew it well, and still I screeched at you like an old crone."
He chuckled softly, "You did not sound at all like a crone, my love, old or otherwise. And you were provoked, so there is nothing to forgive."
She settled into his arms again, and he continued to rub her back in long, soothing strokes until at last she gave a contented sigh and looked up at him. "Faramir… The room has grown chilly, and I am cold."
The soft speculating gaze he had come to love set a fire in his veins even before she continued. "Take me back to bed, that I may be warm again?"
"Gladly." And he lowered his head to kiss her again, this time on her lips.
Later in that night Faramir lay with Éowyn pressed against his side, her head on his shoulder and her arm wrapped about his chest, but he could not sleep. Instead he pondered her dream, and what it could mean. Something about it nagged at his mind, and the words she had spoken before she awoke repeated endlessly, tumbling about like dice that never quite landed to form a pattern.
Gríma had threatened her with something… She would not let him touch her child… Was this said in response to his threat? But… she had no child...
You will not touch my child...
His eyes flew open in the dark.
Her response was a sleepy "Hmmm?"
"Are you…" He looked down at her in wonder, but also with some trepidation. "Are you with child?"
Hers eyed flicked open. She drew a deep breath, and held it for a long moment before answering. "Faramir, I…" She sighed. "I am not certain."
"But you might be?"
She gave a small nod against his chest.
"Éowyn…" His thoughts raced as he tried desperately to find the right words to say. "Why… would you want to hide this from me?"
Her head tilted back so she could look up at him. "It is not that I wished to hide it, Faramir… I wanted to tell you... I almost did! But… I know how much you want children, and … What if…" She shifted so that she was propped on her elbow and could look at him fully. "What if I am wrong, and there is no child? I could not bear to give you that hope only to take it away again because I spoke too soon…"
"So... you did not tell me to shield me from disappointment?"
"Aye… I had not thought of how it might seem to you that I wished to keep it secret from you..."
He caressed the arm that was still lying across his chest as his lips started to curve into a smile. "When will you be certain?"
"I am to assist in the Houses tomorrow, and will speak to the Warden while there, for I trust he will be discrete. Perhaps he will be able to confirm it right away, but… it could be a few days? Or even a few weeks, maybe…" She gave a self-deprecating laugh. "If I were a mare I could tell you exactly when the signs would be clear, but I'm afraid I have paid little attention to the ladies' chatter about such things..."
He laughed softly, and lifted the hand on his chest to bring her fingers to his lips. "No matter, love, the Warden will know." He brought her hand back to his chest and pressed it against his heart under his own. "How long have you suspected?"
"Only since this afternoon."
He smiled, and relaxed back against the pillows as she continued.
"I was feeling restless and could not focus on any task I tried to take on, so went to the kitchen to offer my help with preparing the evening meal, and Merethyl asked me to carve the chickens for the stew. I started to carve the first one, and... the texture of the raw meat in my hands… I barely reached the privy before being ill." She closed her eyes and paused. "The thought of it makes my stomach roil even now."
Faramir wrapped his arm about her shoulders, pulling her close to comfort her while hiding his grin in her hair. The thought of his fierce shieldmaiden, the celebrated slayer of the Witch-King of Angmar, laid low by a chicken...
She continued. "Merethyl was waiting for me when I returned, and pulled me into a corner away from the others." She gave a short laugh and looked up at him again. "If ever you have need of someone to question a prisoner I can attest to her skills as an interrogator..."
Adopting a theatrically neutral tone which made her grin, he said. "I will keep her in mind."
"She seemed rather frustrated with me when her line of questioning did not bring about the expected realization. Eventually, she had to tell me bluntly what the list of symptoms she had drawn from me pointed to. She at least is already certain, even if I am not."
Faramir answered with a laugh. "Given that she and Beregond have five children under the age of twelve I would surmise she knows the signs."
Laughing, Éowyn rested her head on her hand to look down at him where he lay against the pillows. "I want it to be true. I find myself elated one moment and then terrified in the next, but..." With her free hand she lightly traced the line of his jaw. "I want your child, Faramir. I want it more than I had ever thought I would."
He cupped the nape of her neck and kissed her slowly, languidly "Our child."
Her slow smile was brilliant, and by far the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. "Ours…"
They spent the rest of the night wrapped in each other and talking, sharing their wonder and dreams for this hoped-for child, and their fears also. They wondered who the child would take after, and whether it would look like one of them or take features from a more distant relative.
When at last the windows showed the night sky growing lighter in anticipation of the dawn, and Éowyn could no longer hold back her yawns, Faramir urged her to get some sleep while she could. She curled herself against his side once more, and was asleep almost as soon as her eyes closed, a contented smile on her lips.
The kiss he pressed into her hair was soft, and full of emotions he did not have words to express in another way. That this wonderful, strong, loving woman was his wife filled him with awe. And now she was going to give him a child... His arms wrapped protectively about her as she slumbered.
No, not just her now. Them! His family, here in the circle of his arms...
The clear ringing of the watch bell signaled the night had ended, and he smiled to himself as he drifted into sleep himself. Their night had indeed come to an end, and the days to come looked bright, and full of hope.