Enjoy this story, please! I think it's just the sweetest thing, and I don'tknow whereit came from. It's kind of like the Faramir and Eowyn story to end all Faramir and Eowyn stories, for me:-) So have fun. Please tell me what you think!
She came to him and sat, silently, at his side on the cold marble. His hands were icy, and she took them in her own to hold them and warm them. He did not speak for a long time; nor did she. They let the breeze play with their hair and watched the distant stars twinkle far off over the Anduin and higher. When time had slowed enough to almost taste, he spoke.
"I always knew in my heart he loved me," he said as softly as the breeze, and for a moment she thought it was the breeze. "When I rode out, when the people were weeping in the streets and my heart was dead, I knew deep down. But he would not let me know outright, and I was weary of my loveless life. It was not right of me. I should have been more resilient...should have been a stronger man."
She was sitting straight up, her long hair unbound. Her blue eyes filled with tears, and in the moonlight they shimmered like the stars in the heavens. Her pale throat bobbed once, twice, and then she spoke too. "You must not blame yourself," she said, her own voice as quiet as his. It seemed for a moment that water played behind her voice, and it was warm and soft. He closed his eyes and stopped a shiver. "No man can be that strong. You are stronger than any man I know...he wanted only what was impossible. It was he who was in the wrong, not you. You held to your wisdom, and that was why he disliked you. But you are right. He loved you." She was silent for a long moment. "Do you regret your choices?" she asked, for the first time looking into his eyes.
"Never," he answered her, and he pulled his hands away. Without looking at them, he hid them in the folds of his crossed arms. The scars he bore were too ugly to show to the utter beauty before him. "Yet that only makes it worse. If there was something I could change...something I know was right that I did not do and he loathed me for that, all would be well. I could reform---I could change to please him. But there is nothing. Nothing that would have made him love me more."
The two shadow figures were silent again, gazing out into the soft night. The sky, for all its darkness and harbored evil, was velvet-like and gentle to them, and both took joy in the silence of the sleeping city---if either could take joy.
He had hollows around his eyes where his lack of sleep showed, and she was painfully thin. When he stood, he walked slowly and with a limp, and he could not move his right shoulder. His cheeks were still pale and sunken. She cradled her arm to herself at all times, and walking tired her more than anything. The skin on her right arm was ice-cold, and not even the warmest touch could break the ice. In his eyes, which were once, long ago, so alert and alive, was only the deadness of refusal and pain. In hers, the desire to live was no longer evident. Yet there they were, trying to make the other's life more bearable.
"I---I never had a childhood," he began again. It was not his way to talk, and it was not hers to listen, but both somehow knew they needed to try, for the other's sake. "Most men swear their oath of fealty at twenty-one, but I swore at sixteen. Most Captains do not begin to lead until twenty-five---I was eighteen. Thirty men under me, and I still a lad. They still haunt me, those men. All the men over the years that have died under my guard. There must have been a way to prevent all their deaths, and yet what way? I should have found it. There was one man; I do not even remember his name. He was almost as young as I was, and we became a sort of friends. At least, we were as close to friends as you can come in war. He was killed in a skirmish, nothing fancy, but I remember seeing his body lying on the ground. That was the first time I realized the weightiness of the burden put on my back. I was not allowed to grieve for him. I had ten men all looking at me to get them safely back to the caves, and I was the youngest. I was the youngest. I tried, Eru knows I tried. Seven of them made it back.
"After that I made a treaty with myself. I would be friends with no man, for no man lasts in war. My men loved me, but I was always just the Captain. I have kept a friendship with all of them, but none more than others. It's...been difficult. Sometimes at night in Ithilien, I would sit watching the curtain of water and imagine what it would be like to be merely one of the men. There was such a camaraderie between them. They had no others depending on them for mere survival. They were free to say, 'You watch my back and I will watch yours.' As simple as that. It seems such a small thing, but do you know how important it can seem when you have so many men hinging on you?"
He had been rambling, but she cared not. She had never before seen into his heart like this, and somewhere deep within her, she knew he needed to tell her this. She was honored that he would talk to her. The healers had been worried about him, and she had promised them she would do her best. "I can imagine," she whispered gently. "I do not know...I am a woman and my line has never, alas, been battle."
He bent his head and swallowed roughly. "Be grateful it wasn't," he murmured. "Their faces still haunt me in my dreams. When I enter the houses and see my men wounded and suffering, and I myself am mending, I feel that this should not be. I should have died. If not for my cowardice, perhaps more men would be alive today, and the widows of Gondor would not look at me with hate in their hearts."
The ferocity of her hand on his arm startled him, and he looked down into bright eyes, brightened more with tears. "Do not say such things," she said sharply---more sharply than she meant. "You were no coward."
He shook his head. "I knew the mission was suicide. But I had nothing left to live for. In my despair, I forgot that other men might. Had I refused to go, those men might have been spared, instead of giving their lives needlessly."
"That would have been treason," she said.
The look he gave her betrayed the fact that he had pondered this question too many times and was weary of it. "Yes," was all he said. Then they were silent once more.
"Please," she said after they had watched the lights across the street burn and go out, "tell me more. Anything. I wish to know more."
He looked away from her for so long she thought she had said something amiss. She was about to ask him when he looked back at her, and she saw the tears on his face. "I told you that I never had friends, because it was too painful. That was not entirely true. I had Boromir." He turned his face away, and she knew it was because he did not want her to witness his tears. So she waited, patiently. Already this man was doing something to her, for never before was she one to be patient. But now she waited.
"I have not spoken of Boromir with anyone since the day I delivered my brother's horn to my father, and that day I never wish to speak of again. When my brother died, something also died within me. Yet the hope that sprang from the thought that perhaps my father would...it nearly made me ill. It was wicked of me. I can never forgive myself for that, never. And when things only got worse, and no acceptance came from him anyway...something else died in me. Something I don't think will ever be alive again."
Her hand went to his hair, haltingly. She knew not why she was doing it, and she even tried to stop herself, but her impulse was too strong. She drew her fingers through his long, silky hair, and she felt him tense beneath her fingers. Perhaps he would resent her gesture. Perhaps this would ruin the delicate threads of friendship they had woven over the past few days. She knew deep within her she would have to try it. Every inch of the man beside her was craving love, and had been since he was a child. He would not be able to drink up enough love if he had a fountain of it for a lifetime. And surprisingly, she found that she wanted to be loved too. The man beside her was strong---stronger than any other man she had ever met. She had not lied.
He jerked away from her, clutching the edge of the marble bench. "You do not want me," he said roughly. "Do not waste your love on me. I cannot be what you want me to be. I am broken."
"I do not want you to be anything you are not," she said, her hand still extended. "I too am a broken person, and I too know what sorrow is. But I love you."
He was breathing quickly, in short, shallow gasps. His hands turned white at the knuckles, and for a long moment she saw all the emotions pass before his eyes. Could he trust her to love him? He had been hurt so many times it did not seem possible she would not hurt him herself. And yet he loved her more than anything. "Sometimes," he said so softly she had difficulty hearing him, "I feel as if I am drowning."
Her hand once more touched his bowed head, and as her fingertips ran down his hair to his forehead and cheek, she added, "And you can't find anyone to pull you out of the water. I too have felt this. But I have found someone to pull me out. Have you?"
He raised a shaking hand to clasp her wrist. His brown, scarred hand rested against her cool, white skin that seemed almost transparent in the moonlight. "You will not like me," he finally said. "I have dreams at night. I wake screaming. I obsess about the smallest things. I am unsure and I cannot lead men well. You will tell me over and over that I worry and that I drive you insane."
She smiled a little bit, her fingers moving over his cheekbones and nose, and down to his lips. "I am not perfect either. I am strong minded and stubborn. I am given to wild passions...I am emotional. I will have to be tamed."
His hand moved down her arm to her back and he very, very slowly pulled her toward him. Their eyes locked. "I have never loved a maiden before," he whispered.
"I have never loved a man," she smiled. "I thought I did once."
"What happened?" he asked, their faces inches apart.
"He told me the truth," she answered, and her eyelashes dropped a little.
"He was a fool," he murmured. Their lips met.
It was a gentle kiss; neither could have shared a passionate kiss had they wanted to. His shoulder and her arm were gently protected, and neither had enough breath to continue the embrace long. But when they parted, both faces were radiant.
"I never knew I could feel such happiness, anymore," he said, and in his eyes the tears spilled over. "Are you real?"
"If you are, I am," she replied, and she too felt hot tears on her cheeks. "We will have so many difficulties."
"It seems nearly impossible," he agreed. His good arm encircled her waist, and she leaned her head against his shoulder. "But all things will be made new again, with the end of the war. Many things that could not have happened before will come to pass."
She closed her eyes and savored the feeling of the wind playing with their hair and entwining it together. "Promise me one thing," she said.
"Anything." His voice came sure and steady in her ear.
"No matter what happens, we will never forget this night."
The promise did not need to be spoken. He helped her to her feet, and together, they walked slowly along the wall and down into the garden. Their bodies had been broken, but they were mending. Their hearts had been shattered, but they had found the pieces to re-form in each other. He limped. She coughed.
They were flawless.