Standard Disclaimers Apply:  Don't own 'em.  If I did I wouldn't be in my little two bedroom townhouse writing this.  I'd be in my mansion in Tahiti writing this with Sean Bean's and David Wexham's clones doing my evil bidding.

Warning:  AU, Character death and major angst.  If you do not like, the back button is there for a reason.

Enjoy!

Weakness

Faramir looked out over lush greenery of the Pelennor Fields.  He looked to the east, marveling at the orange flame of the coming sun.  Even after three years the sight was enough to take his breath away.  It was not as if he hadn't seen the sun rise before the destruction of the ring.  Still, to see it from his rooms, which had faced ever eastward to remind him of his duty to put mind and body between his people and the Shadow of Mordor, was…rewarding?  Fulfilling?  A relief?  Wordsmith that he was, Faramir could no more put word, Elvish or Common, to the feeling coursing through his breast, than he could rid himself of the stench of Simbelmynë floating up from the street.

I'm afraid….

A small strangled sob escaped his throat as he turned from the window.  Lying on the chair was his best tunic, silver grey to match his eyes and a band of black silk tied around the left arm. 

Rohan's traditions did not allow mourners to wear black.  Gondor's traditions required that they do.  So he compromised, as he did in all things, to smooth the way, to make things easier for others, without thought to himself.  If someone had asked if he preferred to wear all black, he probably would not have been able to answer.

He drew the tunic over his head and pushed his arms through the sleeves.  Looking down to adjust the garment, he frowned.  In the short time it had lain on his dressing room chair, Rhir, Eowyn's giant mastiff , had shed all over it.  Faramir almost grinned in spite of himself.  He considered Rhir a friend, even though the great beast had almost neutered him on his wedding night.  Rhir had perceived that this stranger who was now taking his place on his mistress's bed was a threat best dealt with swiftly and permanently.  He had started to take matters in hand, or more accurately jaw, when Eowyn's voice, whip-crack sharp, had called him to heel.  She had sat down on the floor with the brute and explained how things were.  Rhir had regarded him out of the corner of one doggy eye somewhat skeptically but still had acquiesced to his beloved mistress's wishes.  An uneasy truce had been formed that night; and if on occasion Rhir misjudged one of his enthusiastic good morning leaps onto the bed and with his mistake brought into serious question the continuation of the House of Hurin, well Faramir could forgive him.

At that thought Faramir's eyes shut tightly, barely keeping the tears from forcing their way from behind the clenched lids.

Faramir, it is too early!

Please, my love, tell me what do!

Sweet Eru! Please...no...do not go!

From his great cushion in front of the fire, Rhir rose and walked over to his sorrowing friend.  He leaned against Faramir and tried to lift one of his hands with his massive head.

Faramir drew a deep shuddering breath and tried to pull himself out of the memory but it clung to him like a shroud and his rooms faded from sight …

"My heart, the healers say it is too close to your time, and given the difficulty you have had, you must remain indoors."

Eowyn frowned at her husband, always he was too cautious.

"Faramir," she said as if addressing a small child, "my mother rode everyday almost until the moment I was born."

"But—"

"—But what?  I am tired of being caged within these stone walls.  I long to feel the breeze lift my hair and smell the coming summer on the wind."

Faramir smiled gently.  This confinement had been difficult for them both; Eowyn constantly railing against being a 'prisoner in her own rooms' and Faramir ever trying to sooth his wife's fractious mood.  He stood behind her and wrapped his arms around her, his hands resting on her swollen belly where his child lay.  Judging from how hard he was kicking today, his son was as eager to be free from his confines as his mother was from hers.

 "At least you are free to attend council meetings, ride wherever and whenever you choose, I cannot even leave this horrid room."

"Now Eowyn, you know this is not true. First freedom and council meetings are mutually exclusive ideas.  Second, you may travel anywhere within the house as long as you do no got to the stables or up and down  the stairs or—"  Eowyn's body stiffened in his arms and Faramir realized it might be best if he  quit while he was ahead. He paused, gently kissing her neck.  In the past that had been enough to cause her to melt against him sighing softly.  Not today. He tried again.

"It's just the Healers--"

Eowyn gave a most unladylike snort, "Bah!!  Healers!! Why care I what those charlatans say? If they had their way I would not have been allowed to leave the bed once it was confirmed I carried the 'Great Heir'."

Faramir winced.  This was well traveled ground but perilous none the less.  Arwen's inability to provide an heir to the throne had long been a concern of the court.  An heir was a necessity.  So much so that, against Faramir's wishes and to Arwen's shame, Aragorn had named his Steward heir, until such time as an heir of royal blood was born.

Eowyn and Faramir had married that fall and then as if to add insult to Arwen's injury, Eowyn had conceived almost on their wedding night.  The babe within her was second in line not only to the twin thrones of Gondor and Arnor, but was first in line to the throne of Rohan should his uncle Eomer prove childless.  Faramir assumed with the arrogance of all first time fathers that the child would be male, but knew he would love the babe no less should he prove to be a she. 

Faramir started as he felt the first hot drop splash his arm, followed quickly by two more. He turned Eowyn around and tucked her head into his shoulder.  She began to sob in earnest. He held her tight though the breast of his jerkin was becoming uncomfortably damp.

After a few moments the sobbing quieted into soft hiccups and Faramir called to her gently, "My love?"

In response she buried her face deeper into his shoulder. 

"My love, will you look at me?"

 Eowyn shook her head and mumbled something he could not make out.  He placed a finger under her chin and gently forced her to meet his gaze.  Her normally porcelain skin was blotchy, her lower lip trembled and her eyes were enormous with unshed tears.  She sniffled once and Faramir did not think he could have loved her more than at that moment.  He placed a kiss on her forehead, "I will see what I can do…"

            Faramir needed little effort to hold his mount to a sedate pace.  It was as if the stallion felt his master's pain and did not want to add to it.  The streets of Minas Tirith were lined with mourners throwing bouquets of Simbelmynë before the horses' hooves; tribute to their beloved lady's Rhorric ancestry. The sickly sweet fragrance of the crushed flowers threatened to overwhelm him, but he kept his seat.

Eomer rode to his right, daggers from his eyes raking Faramir's already battered soul as they traveled ever upward to the Silent Street.  He had no doubt the young king blamed him.  That was fine.  Faramir blamed himself.  So when his brother by marriage placed a gauntleted hand on his shoulder as if to comfort and squeezed painfully, he made no move to dislodge it.  Nor did he flinch when Eomer leaned in to hiss words of solace.

"Brother. Neither Rohan nor her king shall forget the service you have performed for us. We did worry for our fair sister in this city of stone and silence."  Eomer looked pointedly to the litter bearing her shrouded form.  "Now we need worry no more for she has gone to be with her ancestors and you have sent her there."

Tears burned hotly in Faramir's eyes and throat.  Eomer let go of Faramir in disgust. 

"You must not dare to weep for the precious gifts you have squandered.  Rohan will not allow it.  I will not allow it."  The young king's voice broke.  Faramir nodded dry-eyed as if he knew this to be true and just.  He had no doubt that there would be a reckoning. 

 "Luncheon in the garden?"  Eowyn beamed at the thought of leaving her rooms, "How ever did you manage it my love?"

Faramir beamed at the endearment.  Eowyn so rarely called him anything other than 'husband' or by his given name.  It was not that she didn't love him, he decided, it was just her way.  He sometimes was embarrassed that his father's lack of affection had left him so in need of approval from others, but in truth it was as it was and after thirty-eight years it was unlikely to be any different.

Knowing his next statement would most likely bring on another outburst of Eowyn's fiery temper; Faramir took a deep breath, "I promised Ioreth that I would carry you out to the garden, so that you would not exert yourself too greatly." He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth, preparing for the worst.

"Carry me?!  Exert myself?!" Eowyn frowned; angry, as Faramir knew she would be, at the restriction.  Did they think she was some simpering maid of the court that needed to coddled and cosseted like a prize doll?  She, who had ridden onto the Pelennor Fields and fought in the last great battle of the Third Age! She who had slain the Witch King with her own hand!! She spun furiously in the circle of her husband's arm to see that his eyes were closed and his face twisted as if expecting to weather a maelstrom.  So he thought he knew her did he?  It would not do for him to think he could read her so easily.

Eowyn laid a gentle hand on Faramir's cheek and made her voice as meek as she could, "How kind and generous Ioreth is.  You will thank her for me will you not?"  Faramir's eyes flew open.  Eowyn tried to hide her laugh behind a pale hand, his expression of surprise was so comical, but her quaking shoulders gave her away.

"Y-you are not angry then?"

"Of course I am.  I am furious," Eowyn continued in the same docile tone, "but my dear husband, despite what some would believe, I do know how to retreat until such time as the odds are in my favor."

Faramir smiled lovingly, and scooped her up into his arms…

They reached the Silent Street.   Faramir shivered as they entered the marble causeways that were the resting places of all his forbearers.  He realized with a start that of his closest kin, only his mother was buried here.  The place beside her, reserved for his father, lay empty.  Nothing had remained after the Steward's fiery passing into the next world.  His eyes fell to a small stone plaque above his mother's tomb, "Boromir, beloved son of Denethor and Findulais, beloved brother of Faramir, beloved guardian of Gondor, be at peace."

Hot tears pricked his lids once more at the thought of all he had lost.  How alone he truly was, had always been, even during the imaginary bliss that had been his brief time with Eowyn.

Faramir smiled as Eowyn crowned him with a circlet of Simbelmynë, woven deftly while they sat together on the grass in the garden of the Houses of Healing. The day was beautiful and the breeze soft. He laid his head in Eowyn's almost vanished lap; the scent of the flowers was sweet and tickled his nose.  

The luncheon had been light and delicious, the fresh fruit set off perfectly by a soft cheese and a flagon of fine wine from Dol Amroth.

Faramir sighed contentedly.  The wine had been quite good and as Eowyn was expecting it had been up to him to do it justice.  He was by no means fall down drunk, but certainly the hard edges of the world seemed a little softer than usual.

An hour passed quickly and when at the appointed time Faramir had suggested they return, Eowyn had looked down at him and pouted.

"Please my love," she pleaded prettily as she stroked his cheek, "can we not remain here for a little while longer?"

Faramir opened his eyes and was done in by her beauty.  He was ever weak when it came to Eowyn.  He could deny her nothing.  He nodded and closed his eyes again, "A few more minutes, my heart and then we must return. Though the King was kind enough to excuse from council duties for the day, it does not excuse me from other work I must finish."

At the mention of the King, Faramir felt Eowyn shift.  He cursed himself ten times a fool.  Why had he brought him up?  There time together had been blissful, why must he always sow discord? It was almost as if he feared happiness.

"I have not seen Aragorn for almost a week.  How does he fare?"

Faramir cringed to hear the eagerness and familiarity in her voice as his wife asked after her first, and in the darkest places of his heart Faramir suspected, her only love.

"Our King and Queen fare as well as can be expected.  They will begin their Progress next week and there is much to prepare."  Faramir's voice was tight and his tone clipped as he tried to find a way off the subject.

"Oh," her voice light, "Will they be gone long?"

"Almost six months."  The lightness in Eowyn's voice did not fool him for a moment. He sat up and reached for the flagon.  Empty?  When had that happened?

"Then they will not be here for the birth of the baby?"  Eowyn's disappointment was palpable.

Faramir stared into his empty cup, "Does that disappoint you my lady?"

Faramir glanced up at his wife to see puzzlement writ large on her smooth features, "Of course it does.  What a strange question to ask."  Eowyn held out her hand and Faramir helped his wife to her feet.  Once she stood she went to pull her hand from his to find he would not let it go.  He pulled her close and stared deep into her eyes.

"Why?"

"Why?  Because I would like Aragorn to be there for the birth.  He is our King and should be there to deliver the blessing."

"Is that the only reason or is there another reason?"  Faramir watched as Eowyn's eyes narrowed and he screamed at himself on the inside. What was he doing?  He knew that he had gone beyond the pale but could not stop himself.  This possibility, this nightmare had been eating at him like a wasting disease.  Did Eowyn wish him to be another?  Did she wish the babe she carried was not his?

Eowyn drew herself up to her full height and the ice that radiated from her small frame was enough to chill the sweet spring air to winter reborn.

"What are you suggesting my lord?"

Oh Valar help him.  He had to know.

"Tell me the truth, Eowyn. Do you wish I were another?  Do you wish the babe you carried was his?" His voice barely crossed the short distance between them but he knew she would understand every word.

The slap when it came was expected.  Faramir savored the stinging pain. 

"How dare you?" Eowyn was shaking with fury.  "How dare you question my honor?  I plighted my troth to you because you were the one I wanted.  Your eyes the ones that haunted my dreams.  Your embrace the one I craved."

He watched horror-struck as she fell against him beating his chest with her small fists

 "How could you do this to me Faramir?  I know not how to show you I love you more than I have.  Tell me.  Tell me what must I do to convince you.  Tell me what I must do to erase the self-hate and doubt that Denethor has bred into you."

Faramir closed his eyes and whispered, "I do not know.  It is such a part of me; would I even still be me without it?"

The cry ripped from Eowyn's throat reminded Faramir of a wild thing that knows it has been defeated at last and has nowhere to turn.

She turned from his embrace and ran toward the house.  Taking the circlet from his brow he crushed it between clenched fingers.  He watched dry-eye, his throat aching to call her back, until she was out of sight.

They arrived at Eowyn's final resting place. It was not in the ice cold mausoleum that had housed the Stewards and their families for generations, but rather it lay just off of the pathway in the Gardens of Remembrance.  Eomer had begged that his sister, if she could not be buried in Rohan, at least be buried where the sun and wind did not have to travel through so many layers of cold stone to caress her cheek and stroke her hair.  Faramir had agreed.  As he dismounted the memory of the last time he'd seen Eowyn struck him like an arrow.   His knees almost buckling, he took a moment to steady himself against Adrihim's flank.

"My lord, please come quickly!!"  Faramir looked up at the young page from the unseen accounts on his desk.  He'd been looking at them for over three hours, since Eowyn had run from him in the garden, and had yet to read one line.  She had loved him and he had destroyed her love.  He could never expect to win her trust again, but perhaps with time she could come to not hate him as much.

"What is it lad," he asked tiredly, running his hands through his hair,

"It is the Lady Eowyn, she's gone into labor and the midwives say it is too soon!"

Faramir let out the groan of a mortally wounded animal and ran for the Houses of Healing. He knew in his heart it was the strain of their argument in the garden and that he was to blame.  He begged and pleaded as he ran with every god he could think of to not punish Eowyn or their wee babe for his failings, his weaknesses.

He entered the birthing room, his eyes desperately searching out his wife.  Oh sweet Elbereth.  So much blood!  He immediately went to her side.

He gently took her hand; half afraid she would take it from him or curse him.

"My love, I am here."

Eowyn turned pain-filled eyes to her husband, "I am afraid…"

Faramir lifted Eowyn's shroud wrapped body.  She felt so slight.  Unshed tears blinded him. Even in the depths of his grief he remembered and obeyed his father's admonishment, given to a child who stood by his mother's tomb, biting his lip to bleeding to keep from crying out in loneliness and pain.

 "Let no one see any weakness in you, Faramir" Denethor had advised his hollowed-eyed youngest, "for they will certainly use that knowledge to their advantage." 

Are you proud of me yet father?  That I am so your son I cannot cry at the death of my wife and child. 

Laying his precious bundle in its place of rest, Faramir turned to the litter that carried the body of his infant son. He gently lifted the lifeless form realizing that this was the first and last tine he would ever hold his child.  He cradled him for a moment and then laid him in the arms of his mother.  He stood back and let his King speak the words that would guide his wife and son to the Halls of Mandros and beyond.

 Once the king was finished, the honor guard moved the temporary covering that would be replaced by a marble effigy, an effigy of Eowyn standing as he had first seen her, looking out over the gardens of the Houses of Healing, her face ethereally and eternally beautiful.  The only difference, an infant child would lay in her arms, playing delighted with the ends of his mother's hair.

The thought that this moment that never was would be forever etched in stone was Faramir's undoing.  The loneliness hit him like a wave driving him almost to his knees.

Aragorn reached to catch him before he fell.  Faramir leaned heavily against his King.  No longer able to hold back the tears he sobbed openly in his King's arms.

I am sorry father to disappoint you yet again, he thought.  All now know how weak I am.