Eavesdropping in Emyn Arnen
Summary: Aragorn, though he wished them joy at their troth-plighting, always harbored a suspicion that Éowyn did not hold Faramir first in her heart. A chance opportunity to observe the couple shortly after their marriage serves to erase that fear for good.
Standard disclaimers apply, I don't own the characters. The italicized text (as if you didn't know) is from The Return of the King, Chapter VI, Many Partings.
At the last when the feast drew to an end Éomer arose and said: "Now this is the funeral feast of Thèoden the King; but I will speak ere we go of tidings of joy, for he would not grudge that I should do so, since he was ever a father to Éowyn my sister. Hear then all my guests, fair folk of many realms, such as never before been gathered in this hall! Faramir, Steward of Gondor, and Prince of Ithilien, asks that Éowyn Lady of Rohan should be his wife, and she grants it full willing. Therefore they shall be troth-plighted before you all."
And Faramir and Éowyn stood forth and set hand in hand; and all there drank to them and were glad. "Thus," said Éomer, "is the friendship of the Mark and of Gondor bound with a new bond, and the more do I rejoice."
"No niggard are you, Éomer," said Aragorn, "to give thus to Gondor the fairest thing in your realm!"
Then Éowyn looked in the eyes of Aragorn, and she said: "Wish me joy, my liege-lord and healer!"
And he answered: "I have wished thee joy ever since first I saw thee. It heals my heart to see thee now in bliss."
He had wished her joy then, and he had blessed their marriage at the wedding celebration held several months later, but Aragorn, the King of Gondor, had spoken prematurely when he said that his heart was healed. He could not quell the suspicion that rose in his breast, a suspicion that the Lady Éowyn, once of Rohan, now of Ithilien, did not hold her husband Faramir first in her heart, as she should. Aragorn worried that she had accepted Faramir because he asked, and because he loved her, but not because she loved the Steward in return. He worried that she still held tender feelings for him.
He owned that he had not been present during their encounters in the Houses of Healing, nor had he studied Éowyn as he should have the day of her wedding. He was too besotted with his own wife and too concerned with his own duties on that day to observe her properly. He wished now that he had. He hadn't seen them together often since their wedding and this was his first visit to Emyn Arnen since the Steward and his wife had left Minas Tirith for their new home. He hoped to leave Ithilien with some assurance that their marriage would be a happy one.
He had arrived shortly before dinner and the meal had been delicious. Éowyn was as solicitous as she should be as a hostess and Faramir kept the conversation flowing at the table with talk of the rebuilding in Ithilien. Éowyn commented often and it was obvious that she had embraced her role as the Lady of Ithilien and was of great assistance to her husband in governing the region. They shared an easy manner of conversing between them that pleased Aragorn, but did not serve to dispel his fears about their future happiness. They both retained an air of formality and he was unsure whether it was due to his presence or if it was indicative of their relationship.
After dinner he and Faramir retired to the Steward's study to continue their discussion as Éowyn had business to attend to in another part of the house. The men did not stay so ensconced for long. The King admitted to being wearied from the day's journey and wearied in general of political matters. They postponed their discussion for the morrow and Aragorn requested a tour of their home to which Faramir readily complied.
They ended their tour in Èowyn's sitting room where the housekeeper was rising after being in conference with the lady of the house for some time. She curtseyed to her lord and her king on her way out of the room and Éowyn immediately began praising her incomparable skills as a housekeeper. She asked Aragorn to again express her thanks to Queen Arwen, for it was she who had recommended the woman.
Faramir glanced out of the window and saw that the sun was beginning to set. He shared a look with his wife and then begged his lord to forgive them for keeping him when he surely wished to rest after his long day. Aragorn was surprised by the sudden application but allowed the couple to lead him toward his rooms. The Steward assured him that he was welcome to wander as he would if he was not tired but that he and his lady would retire for the night. They left him with a promise to show him their celebrated gardens the next day and Aragorn was pleased to note as they walked away that Faramir's hand came to rest on his wife's lower back and she in turn seemed to lean closer to him.
Rather than sit alone in his chamber, Aragorn made for the gardens of which he had heard so much. As he walked he reflected on all he knew of Éowyn and Faramir separately and together, hoping to discover some clue that would assuage his fears. So entrenched in his reflections, he did not notice how far he had wandered into the now moonlit garden until he was startled by quiet voices. He recognized them immediately as belonging to the Lord and Lady of Ithilien. He was confused by their presence, having assumed they would retire to their rooms. Looking though the branches of a bush he saw them and was touched by the picture of domestic felicity they presented. Clearly the formality he had observed earlier was due to his presence.
Éowyn was sitting on the soft grass, leaning against a tall tree. Faramir was lying perpendicular, his head resting in his wife's lap. She absently massaged his temples as he wrapped his fingers through the ends of her hair. His eyes were closed and she looked out over their peaceful garden. Before he could think better of it, Aragorn, using the stealth that had served him so well in all his years as a wandering ranger, crept close enough to hear their words clearly without being seen himself.
"Do you think we left the King too early?" Éowyn asked, her gaze still far off.
"No. It was late and he was wearied by the day's travel. I am sure he did not think it disrespectful." She smiled and turned her gaze to him.
"I am glad you think so," he opened his eyes to look at her. "For I would not miss our peaceful time in the garden for anyone, even the King of Gondor." She said before brushing back his hair and placing a light kiss on his brow. Aragorn surmised correctly from this that their presence in the garden at this time was a nightly ritual.
"Indeed, nor the King of Rohan," Faramir agreed, "For I recall you nearly locked your brother in his rooms so that you could escape your sibling reunion to steal away here with me." She smiled at the memory.
"To those who do not know him well, my brother may seem taciturn, but I, who have known him all his life and to whom he can have no claims of reticence, know better." She sighed with a smile. "That night he apparently wanted to relive every episode of our childhood before retiring." Aragorn couldn't help but chuckle inwardly at this depiction of the King of Rohan.
"Perhaps whenever he marries we may travel to Edoras and you may keep him from his wife in a similar manner." Éowyn laughed at his suggestion before looking out over the garden again.
"He did compliment our garden here, saying it was finer than any he had seen and needed only simbelmynë to make it complete."
"Which no doubt he will supply aplenty when he visits again in the autumn." Éowyn smiled in agreement. He sighed happily. "I defy any garden, even those in the Houses of Healing, to compare with our peaceful patch here in Ithilien."
"I cannot agree with you, my lord, for though I love this garden, in my heart none shall ever compare to those which you have now mentioned. For it was there that I first knew such joy and happiness as I have never felt before in my life." Faramir smiled.
"Aye. As usual, I have spoken hastily and you have corrected me, my lady. I defer to your infinite wisdom." She shook her head, chuckling.
"I most certainly am not infinitely wise." Her face grew serious. "If I was, I would have seen my heart more clearly earlier than I did."
"I can hardly fault you for taking several days to understand your feelings, love. I would not have faulted you for months of reflection. There was much for you to sort through. I did not wish to rush you. Indeed, I did not intend for our conversation that fateful day to take the turn it did." She raised her eyebrows, surprised. "I believe I was as surprised as you were at my confession of my feelings, and then your own." She smiled affectionately at him, running her fingers through the hair on his brow.
"The King may have healed my body, and my brother may have called me back to the land of the living, but it was you, my only lord and love, who touched my heart, my very soul as no one else ever could. Truly, I never knew my heart, until that day on the wall when you asked me if I loved you. It was as if a veil had been lifted from my face. The shadow had literally faded, to be replaced by the light that is your love. Until that day I did not know of what love I was capable."
"I never knew true contentment until I saw you, spoke with you. I counted myself blessed that such an angel would deign converse with a mere mortal like myself." She chuckled in an attempt to chide him.
"Your words, lord, as always, are sweet, though excessive. You exaggerate, my love." He shook his head.
"I do not." He said, his words very quiet and genuine. "So you have always been to me, Éowyn, the loveliest sight I have ever beheld. You have brought so much joy to my life, more than I ever thought I deserved." He smiled and looked at her stomach as he raised his fingers to trace her gown there. "And now you have given me even more cause for joy." She smiled and he sat up beside her.
"Every day I feel it more real, the life that grows within me. I cannot wait to hold the gift of our love in my arms, though it will be many months yet." He nodded.
"We will have to announce that you are to bear a child soon."
"I suspect that you would wish to inform your brother first." She nodded.
"But I would wish to keep it as only ours, our secret, for just a little longer." Faramir smiled.
"I understand that wish, for it is mine as well." Éowyn smiled, succumbing to the desire to tease her husband.
"How is it that your wishes always mirror mine so perfectly, my lord?" He smiled in response, shrugging his shoulders slightly.
"We are simply blessed, my lady." All thoughts of mirth vanished as she was drawn into the intensity in his eyes and the truth in his statement. She felt, rather than saw, him lean closer.
"Indeed." She whispered before his lips captured hers. His hands came to cradle her face in reverence.
"Éowyn, my own love," he murmured between kisses.
"Always, love, always." She returned, allowing him to take her more fully into his embrace.
Aragorn withdrew after hearing Éowyn's response. He suddenly felt very much the intruder on such a private and intimate scene. Yet as he walked back towards the house he could not regret coming upon the Lord and Lady of Ithilien in their garden. Theirs was clearly a marriage of the deepest love and affection. He entered the house with a very satisfied smile. Now his heart truly was healed.