Wow, sorry this is so late in coming! I could have sworn I posted this chapter. *taps temple* It's going, it really is . . . Well, thanks so much for getting to the end! I'm impressed. =) Thank you for your kindness. I
don't take well to flaming.

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Chapter Six

The Steward and the King

Time passed. Days, weeks, she lost track of time. The sun seemed only a mockery to her, abandoned in the City that was not her home.

Éowyn walked alone in the gardens, her heart heavy. She cursed her misery, as there was no cause for it. The Dark Lord had fallen, and Aragorn was alive and well. They had won. The war was over. The long years of darkness that had been her former life were gone; it was time to start anew.

Start again, she thought, but start again where?

It the midst of her musing, a messenger, no more than a lad, ran up behind her. "My-my Lady?" he asked. She turned to look at him.

"Yes?"

"Y-your brother sends for you. At the celebrations. O-on the field of Cormallen, in Ithilien. He asks if you will join him."

"Éomer asks for me?" she asked slowly. The boy nodded. "But, Éomer only?" The boy nodded again. Her voice caught with suppressed misery. "No one else has sent word to me?" Confused and a little frightened, the boy shook his head no.

"Very well then," she told him. She turned away, and walked steadily up the nearby stairs to the wall, leaving the boy alone and puzzled. Éowyn did not see him turn and run to the Warden's small house.

***

Éowyn stared down at the field below. Her mind wandered, wondering if she should answer her brother's message or not. Something held her back.

It would mean leaving the city, going to Ithilien. It would mean travelling long miles, to what? To see Aragorn? Even the thought of him left a bitter, remorseful taste in her mouth. What good would it do her to see him now?

Wrapped up in her own thoughts, she jumped when a voice behind her spoke her name.

"Éowyn."

She recognized the voice, even without turning. But she turned to face him anyway, wondering why he had come up here, with all he had to do to prepare for the coming of the King. Suddenly, she remembered with terrible clarity the dream she had had, all that time ago. She swallowed and pushed it away.

"Faramir."

He smiled, and moved towards her. She swallowed and turned back to stare across the empty field. She felt him put his hand gently on her shoulder. She made a half- hearted attempt to shrug it off, and he let it fall.

"Éowyn, why do you tarry here, and do not go to the rejoicing in Cormallen, beyond Cair Andros, where your brother awaits you?" His voice was soft, and she had a feeling he already knew the answer.

"Do you not know?" she asked him, without turning. The question was flat, emotionless, but something inside her was aching, aching to be let out. And she was intensely aware of how close he was standing to her.

"Two reasons there may be, but which is true, I do not know."

She looked back briefly, to say, "I do not wish to play at riddles. Speak plainly!"

He smiled sadly, and that sad smile made the thing in her ache all the more, so she turned away. "Then if you will have it so, lady," he began, and she winced.

"You do not go, because only your brother called for you, and to look on the Lord Aragorn, Elendil's heir, in his triumph would now bring you no joy." There, he had said it. She closed her eyes, unwilling to look at him.

"Or because," he continued calmly, unflustered, "I do not go, and you desire to be near me."

Too clearly she saw his face as it had been in her dream. Teeth clenched, she tried desperately to forget. Nothing, it meant nothing. Just as there was nothing left for her now that Aragorn had not remembered her.

"And maybe for both of these reasons, and you yourself cannot choose between them. Éowyn, what is it you wish for?"

Her voice was choked. "I wish to be loved by another. But I desire no man's pity." She realized his hand was on her shoulder again, but this time she made no move to get it off. There were tears starting in her eyes, and she hated them.

"That I know," he responded. For the first time, she heard a change in his tone. "You desired to have the love of the Lord Aragorn. Because he was high, and puissant, and you wished to have renown and glory and to be lifted far above the mean things that crawl on the earth."

She cringed at the bitterness in his voice, the thin, almost hidden edge of desperation. His words became harder, but his voice did not rise. "And as a captain may to a young soldier, he seemed to your admirable. For so he is, a lord among men, the greatest now that is."

The ache inside her was painfully strong. His words should not have hurt her as they did; there was no anger, nothing threatening. But still, she wanted to block her ears to him, to make him stop telling her this. A helpless tear trickled down her cheek. But he continued.

"But when he gave you only understanding and pity, then you desired to have nothing, unless a brave death in battle." His voice shook, and the next words came out as a whisper, however commanding.

"Look at me, Éowyn!"

Slowly, so slowly, she turned all the way around, and looked up into his face, into his gray eyes. She did not blink, but she could not speak, either. No longer could she forget the dream.

And Faramir looked into her eyes, and slowly brought the hand that had rested on her shoulder up, and gently ran it through her hair. She could feel the hand trembling, and closed her eyes against the tears. One escaped and trickled down.

"Do not scorn pity that is the gift of a gentle heart. But I do not offer you my pity. For you are a lady high and valiant and have yourself won renown that shall not be forgotten." His hand ran down her face gently, brushing away the tear. "And you are a lady beautiful, I deem, beyond even the words of the Elven-tongue to tell.

"And I love you."

Suddenly, Éowyn felt a stirring in her heart, and the ache began to subside into something else. He gently cupped her chin in his hand, and tilted her face so that their eyes met.

"Once I pitied your sorrow." His voice had sunk to a whisper, his face just inches from hers. "But now, were you sorrowless, without fear or any lack, were you the blissful Queen of Gondor, still I would love you. Éowyn, do you not love me?"

She looked into his eyes, and there she understood. The heart of Éowyn changed then, and the ache became a fierce and overwhelming love. Finally, finally, she understood, and wondered how she had not seen it before.

"No longer do I desire to be a queen," she breathed.

And the tears that had been stinging behind her eyes subsided, as Faramir's face relaxed into a grin.

"That is well," he said, "for I am not a king." Then he caught her mouth gently with his own, and his arms dropped around her waist, beneath the blue cloak that she still wore, despite everything, and pulled her close.

All former cares evaporated in an instant. Flinging her misery to the winds, Éowyn curled her arms around Faramir's neck, knees shaking so hard that she was sure that if he hadn't been holding her up, she would have fallen. Joy bubbled up inside her even as she returned the kiss with every bit of passion she had in her.

There was something pure born in that moment. Something untainted by sadness, jealousy or desire. Something that would last until the end of time and beyond, through grief and war and strife. Something immortal.

She was trembling. He was trembling. But they clung to each other, and together they stood, in the tower of Minas Anor, and the last of the shadow of Sauron passed from Middle-Earth, forever.