Disclaimer: I own none of these characters, and I certainly do not own that revolting dead mouse.

Faramir's heart stopped in his chest at the screech that floated down the corridor. Fearing the worst, he flew down the hallway into the sitting room to see his wife cowering in the doorway. Cowering, hands over her face, shoulders twitching, but neither bruised nor bleeding. In fact, not injured in any way he could see.

Grateful that she was whole, yet confused as to the cause of her uncharacteristic posture, he cautiously laid a hand on her shoulder. "Éowyn," Faramir said quietly, trying to hide his concern.

Éowyn jumped as if he'd poked her with a sharp stick. "Faramir!" she gasped, raising a pale face to his. Her eyes were wide and slightly wild as she seized his hand gratefully. "Oh, I'm so glad you're here!"

"What is it?" he questioned, peering into the room and seeing nothing untoward. No broken crockery, no overturned furniture, nothing. "Éowyn, I was afraid you'd hurt yourself – whatever is the matter?"

"That," Éowyn replied, pointing a shaking finger at the window.

Faramir looked, and saw only dusty draperies, and what looked like a scrap of bread lying on the floor beneath them.

He frowned. "What?" he asked. "Éowyn, I don't see anyth—"

"That!" Éowyn insisted, pointing her finger more forcefully. "Right there!"

Faramir went into the room, leaning down by the draperies to get a closer look. Éowyn did not follow him; in fact, she took a step backwards, giving a little shake of disgust.

"Éowyn, dearest, I still do not see anything," Faramir admitted after a moment's searching, "only an old piece of bread, and a dead mouse –"

"Exactly!" Éowyn exclaimed, shuddering. "Get that thing out of here!"

"A dead mouse is what caused you to scream so ferociously," Faramir said, skeptical.

"I don't like dead mice," Éowyn replied in that flat voice which meant this could easily turn into a fight, but Faramir was having trouble coming to terms with the notion that a tiny dead rodent had made his formidable wife act in such a strange manner.

"It's dead, Éowyn," he pointed out, bewildered. "It is not as if it could scurry over your foot in that state and I have never know live mice to make you shout like that…"

"Will you get it out of here?" Éowyn asked plaintively, wrapping her arms around herself. "It's filthy, it's nasty and I am not going into that room until it's gone! Please, Faramir, mock me all you want, just get rid of that horrid thing!"

Faramir stared at his wife, then looked back at the mouse, wondering if he'd missed something. Its body was no longer than his finger, and it looked to have died a quiet death. That in itself was unusual, for the cats of the Meduseld were very serious in their eradication of all rodents, and rarely allowed one to expire peacefully or intact. If this had only been half a mouse, Faramir could have understood Éowyn's reaction, at least a bit. But it was a whole mouse; a perfectly whole mouse that just happened to be dead.

"Éowyn, it's just a ..."

"Did I hear the 'dead mouse' scream?"

Éomer had appeared in the doorway, carrying a hearth-shovel and a broom against his shoulder as if he were a common labourer.

Faramir's astonishment only increased when Éowyn promptly took cover behind her brother.

"Trying to talk sense into you, is he?" Éomer asked, grinning but not unsympathetic. "Don't trouble yourself further, sister – I will dispose of the vile creature for you if your hard-hearted husband will not."

"Thank you," Éowyn sighed in relief, throwing Faramir a wounded look, rather unfairly, in his opinion. "I will be back in a few minutes and I am going that way," she pointed, "so…"

"Yes, yes, I'll take it out the other way," Éomer finished. "I have done this before, Éowyn."

With a final revolted glare at the rodent, Éowyn took herself down the hall.

Faramir waited until he was positive she was out of earshot before exclaiming, "Éomer, what was that all about? Is she having me on?"

Éomer's grin was now definitely unsympathetic. "She is not," he confirmed, entering the room and going straight to the source of Éowyn's offense. "She has had a loathing for dead mice since she was small, and she cannot shake it."

Faramir watched Éomer sweep the mouse into the hearth-shovel, a suspicion growing. "Tell me, brother, how did my lady wife acquire this loathing?"

A spark of mischief flared in Éomer's eyes. "I am not certain," he replied blandly. "Perhaps someone put a dead mouse in her bed, or her bath, when she was still just a girl."

"Someone," Faramir repeated, crossing his arms over his chest. "I'm sure you've no idea who that someone might have been."

"Of course not!" Éomer defended himself with less-than-believable innocence. "I do hope you're not accusing me of any such mean action."

"Oh, of course not," Faramir assured him with obviously feigned sincerity. "I am certain you would never have tortured your sister thusly."

"Never." Éomer shook his head to emphasize the point. "Now if you will pardon me, I must needs rid the House of Eorl of this vicious assailant."

Faramir gave an exaggerated bow as Éomer made his way toward the door.

He stopped before entering the corridor, saying, "I would find a way to apologize, if I were you," he advised, "and I would make it flowery."

"That is not quite fair," Faramir argued, "after all, I would not expect the slayer of fell beasts and Witch-Kings to be afraid of one dead mouse. How was I to know?"

Éomer rolled his eyes. "As you value sleeping in your bed rather than the stables, do not use the word 'afraid'," he said as if he were speaking to a rather dull child. "Éowyn is not 'afraid' of dead mice she 'hates' them. It would take a braver man than I to ever call Éowyn 'afraid' to her face."

Faramir had to admit the wisdom of Éomer's words, even if it did not make any type of logical sense. But even as he was composing his flowery apology, Faramir could not help being pleased at discovering there was something Éowyn wanted to be protected from.