A/N: This story's just a one-shot... it's actually a spin-off of another one of my stories here, An Act of Desperation. So if you've been following that, it would probably be best to read chapter 22 first. But hopefully it can stand on its own... I'll put a bit more explanation at the bottom for those who haven't read the other story. Hope you like it... I wasn't planning on putting Faramir's POV into this story at all, but he asked so nicely here that I couldn't refuse. :)
Faramir rested his elbow on the heavy wooden desk he was sitting at, rubbing at his temple with his hand and absently trying to figure out how long he had been staring at the same document. This is hopeless, he thought; he simply could not concentrate anymore. He abruptly shoved his chair back, ignoring the harsh scrape of the wooden legs against the stone floor, and began pacing the room in an attempt to clear his head. It did not help, and he finally decided he needed some air.
He quickly climbed the stairs up the Tower of Ecthelion, then opened the door to the stairs that led up to the roof. The roof was flat, with a pole in the middle that held the city's banner aloft, and mostly encircled with a low wall, save where the stairs joined the roof. Hardly anyone ever came up there, and so it had always been a favorite spot of Faramir's when he needed time alone to think. As he walked over to the edge of the roof, the cool night breeze ruffled his dark hair and made the snow-white banner flutter as it gleamed faintly in the moonlight. Faramir turned away, fighting back the deep sense of loss that rose in him as he saw the banner of the Stewards. I wish you were here, brother, he thought. I sorely need your advice now.
From this, the highest point in Minas Tirith, he could forget he was surrounded by the city if he looked out over the fields. But now his gaze was drawn down over the quiet city, towards the sixth circle. Most of the city was dark, its occupants who had returned from the surrounding countryside or who had stayed through the siege asleep. But he could still see the faintly flickering lights in the windows of the Houses of Healing; the healers always worked late into the night to ensure the comfort of those they were tending.
Faramir sighed as he leaned heavily on the top of the wall, unable to look away from that faint glimmer of light. During the days since he had taken his office, he had been able to occupy his mind with the rebuilding of the city and trying to ensure that the survivors had sufficient food and shelter. It was in the evenings, when he was left alone to sort through the mountains of paperwork that went along with his office, that his thoughts would inevitably drift back to the golden-haired maiden who now occupied one of those rooms. Even now, as he looked towards the Houses, he could not keep his mind off of her.
During the first few days of his recovery, he had heard the tales of her as they spread from the warriors of Rohan under the healers' care: the sister-daughter of their king, they said, who had ridden into the battle disguised as a man, who had even managed to slay the Captain of the Dark Lord's armies. But he had still been completely unprepared when he first saw her in the gardens of the Houses; he had not expected her to be so beautiful. Nor had he expected that the strange mix of strength and vulnerability that she possessed would touch him so deeply, though she tried desperately to hide any sign of weakness from him and everyone else. In spite of her beauty, it had been the hollow look in her eyes that had first drawn him to her; he could see that she, too, had lost more than she had ever believed possible in this war, and he had been grieved that one so lovely should be weighed down so heavily with sorrow. From that moment, he had determined he would help her in any way he could.
She had spurned him at first, had almost seemed afraid of him. Completely understandable, he thought, since like a blundering fool he had told her almost immediately that he thought she was beautiful. He could not help but be reminded of a newborn foal that would shy away whenever someone attempted to approach too quickly. But he had thought that he was finally starting to win her trust. Though she had seemed rather distant, almost cold, when they first met, she had seemed to be softening around him. And although Éowyn had told him during that first meeting that she would not be able to ease his mind, her company had been a much-needed distraction from his own grief. He truly did not know how he would have gotten through that time of waiting without her.
It was strange that he could not think of when, exactly, he had first begun to love her. That had come on so slowly, so naturally, that he had no warning that he was starting to care about the shieldmaiden as anything more than a friend until it was too late, and he had truly believed that she was beginning to feel the same for him. Normally, he was good at reading the hearts of others; he could not understand how he had so completely misread her.
Faramir turned from the city and looked up; the star-sprinkled sky reminded him of his mother's cloak, which now rested at the foot of his bed. He had thought to put it away, that removing it from his sight would somehow ease the sense of loss he felt whenever he thought of Éowyn, but somehow he could not bring himself to do so. Even now, if he closed his eyes, he could still see the surprised, yet grateful look on her face when he had wrapped it around her shoulders; he could almost feel the soft brush of the velvet under his fingers as she had drawn closer to him while they waited for a doom that never came. He could hear her bright laughter in those rare moments during the days that had followed, when she was able to forget her sorrow; he knew that he would give almost anything to hear that sound again. He could also see the look of guilt and regret in her eyes as she had handed the mantle back to him, the last time he had seen her.
He opened his eyes. She had not intended to hurt him by returning the cloak; of that he was certain, but it had still stung. He had known from the start about her infatuation with the man who would soon be the king of his country; Merry had told him about her grief when Aragorn had left Dunharrow. He had heard that Aragorn was betrothed to another—an elf-maiden, it was said—and so he had believed that she would move on. But it seemed that she would rather cling to a hopeless dream. Faramir could not help wondering if she had ever thought about him at all since he had left, if she missed his company as deeply as he missed hers.
What advice would you give me, Boromir? he silently asked, looking down towards the Houses of Healing once more. His brother would have teased him relentlessly, he decided, before telling him to stop being a coward and just tell her that he loved her. There had certainly been enough opportunities where he might have been able to tell her. But they were always either interrupted or he simply could not find the words, for fear of frightening her away for good—though, if he were honest with himself, it would seem that he had already done so. And perhaps he was taking the coward's way out; he had not set foot in the Houses of Healing since the day that Merry had left Minas Tirith, and though he had lost count of the number of times he had sat down to write a message to her, the right words would never come, and inevitably the note would end by being consumed by the flames within the hearth. He simply could not bring himself to inquire after her when it clearly seemed that she did not want his attentions. Faramir almost wished that Éowyn had decided to join her brother in Cair Andros; the frustration of knowing she was so close, yet so far from him, was almost unbearable. He might as well have fallen in love with one of the stars that twinkled brightly overhead, forever just out of his reach.
Faramir sighed and turned away from the darkened city, going back to his study. He would find no answers tonight, and he had work to do.
He had just set another document out and dipped his pen into the inkwell on his desk when a knock sounded at the door. "Yes?" he called out.
One of the household servants opened the door. "My lord?" the servant asked, bowing. "The Warden from the Houses of Healing is here to see you."
"Can it not wait until morning?" Faramir asked, somewhat impatiently.
"It is very important, my lord." Daeron, the Warden of the Houses, stepped out of the shadows behind the servant.
Faramir groaned silently. "Come in," he said, carefully wiping the excess ink from the nib of his pen and setting it down. Once the Warden had stepped inside the study, Faramir folded his hands in front of him on the desk. "What did you wish to speak with me about, Daeron?"
"It is the Lady Éowyn, my lord," Daeron answered, fidgeting nervously. Faramir could feel his jaw tensing slightly as the Warden added, "I'm afraid that she is not well."
"Not well? What is wrong with her?" Faramir demanded as he jumped out of his chair, filled with a sudden fear.
"I… we do not know, my lord," he stammered. Faramir eyed him levelly, and Daeron grew even more nervous as he continued. "She has been steadily growing worse over the last several days. She will not eat, she barely sleeps. The healers tending her thought that perhaps you might be able to help the lady."
Faramir winced inwardly. "I doubt that; I am no healer," he said. He could barely keep a note of bitterness out of his voice, though it was all he could do to keep himself from running to the Houses that very minute and demanding to see her.
Daeron eyed him critically. "Perhaps not, my lord. But I am certain that the company of a friend would be good for her."
Faramir turned towards the window, silently debating with himself as he looked up at the stars once more. He could not bear the thought of her turning him away again, but neither would he be able to forgive himself if any ill had befallen her in his absence.
Nor would he have any peace until he had at least attempted to speak with her, he realized. With that thought, he looked back at Daeron.
"I will come."
A/N: Just to explain: in my other story, Eowyn returns the starry mantle to Faramir, thinking it was just a loan. So the inspiration for this came from thinking of how he would have reacted to that.