A/N: I wanted to write this as a companion piece to "Flawless" because I felt it was lacking something…perhaps a reality check. I often feel that fanfic writers need a reality check when writing about Faramir and Eowyn. Their life could not have been so perfect. Just think about it. So I wanted to write something which portrayed their struggles, but also their accomplishments. I feel this piece does that, but feel free to write me and disagree.

I also don't think their life was a series of even more traumatic events, though I have read several good stories about that (hey, I've written one!). I think they struggled day to day with the act of living a normal life, and I think that was something very real they needed to overcome. And I hope I didn't make Faramir out to be the hero and Eowyn out to be the psycho case, because Faramir had some major problems of his own. The guy was a recognition freak---c'mon, admit it. Maybe he was forced into being that way, but he was.

So in essence, my story. I kept the same writing style for this as I did for "Flawless". I don't by any stretch of the imagination think this comes anywhere near "Flawless", but I hope it gives you a little insight into their marriage and their emotion ups and downs.

I hope the style of short vignettes doesn't bother you, but I wanted to create a sense of their entire marriage, not just one area. Enjoy!

Peace At Last

In the mornings, she wakes early and goes for a gallop on her horse. She never allows anyone to accompany her, no matter how hard he begs. She merely tosses her head and refuses, telling him that she will not be caged. It is her way of escape. The most important things, to her, are those that make her feel free. Often those things are the activities he hates the most.

When she leaves the room, he rises from the bed and stands at the window to watch her ride off. When she is gone, he drops his head into his hands and sighs in frustration. He doubts himself, asking what he is doing wrong---where he could change to make her happier. Then he clothes himself. His workload for the day will not wait for self-doubt.

Out in the forest, she laughs in happiness as her horse plunges through trees and thickets. This, she decides, is what life is about. The freedom she feels on the back of her horse delights her. Were she to feel the whim, she could simply ride off and never come back. That makes her happy. She always comes back. She always will. But simply having that option creates in her a sense of joy and hope that she needs to get through the long days. When she returns, she pauses for an instant outside the gate and asks herself the question she has asked ever since they were married: "Am I happy with him?"

Every morning the answer is the same, and she rides through the arch. Were the answer to be different, there would be no change. Long ago she found out that marriage is not about her own happiness. It is about much more.

Every night he walks in the garden by himself. No matter how cold, how late, or how tired he is, he needs that time to think on the day and remember. Just remember. She snaps at him, from time to time. "Why do you live in the past?" she asks him. "You have a new life now, and a family. You have me." He simply shakes his head and tells her again that some things need to be the way they are.

When the night is especially cold, he comes in frozen stiff, and has to sit by the fire until he can feel his fingers again. From the bed, she watches him and tells him he is ridiculous. Then she arises and rubs his hands and feet for him, and he smiles shyly at her, as if they had just been married yesterday. When he wakes in the morning stiff and ill from the cold, she simply pulls him into her arms and holds him, biting back the comments that rise to her ever-ready tongue.

He loves his reflective time, and no matter what she says, he will always do it in the garden. When he is alone with his thoughts, he sees things clearer than ever he can in the company of others. He remembers the time before his life changed and he married his wife, and before his brother and father and mother died. Sometimes his memories are good. Sometimes they are bad. When he remembers the hardest days, he stands gripping the stone wall and sobbing silently. He is still broken. Some of the cracks, he thinks, have been patched, but not all of them. Some never will be. But she knows this, and she knew it from the beginning.

Sometimes, when she is holding their children, a sudden fey mood will take her, and she will call the nurse quickly. The babe she is holding in her arms looks up in wonder at his mother, whose arms have suddenly grown stiff and uncomfortable. She leaves the room without a word, heading somewhere where she can be alone.

He always finds her. She never bothered, or even wanted, to know how he does. But he always finds her. He does not say a word, but merely takes her hand and sits with her. She does not want him, at first, but soon she lays her head on his shoulder and cries. He doesn't know why she does this; neither does she. She only knows that something in her is not right, and she has to deal with it. Something once happened, something she cannot even remember, that will make her act in such a way, and so she does. However much she wishes it were not this way, it is.

He does not care. Once, he tried to tell her how silly she was being. "They are just your children," he said, his voice taking an authoritative tone. "Why should you not wish to be with them? What have they done?"

She stood fiercely and walked to a window. Her hands wrung themselves together in agony as she blazed back, "I don't know, and I don't care! If this is the way I am, this is the way I am. I am sorry if that is not good enough for you." She stood like that for a long moment, and then his hands touched her back. She dropped her head, and he took her in his arms. From then on, the flaws in her character were overlooked. She still suffers, and he cares not.

He has irrational fears. The city gives him a wild look in his eye, as only she can tell. It was not always this way. When they were first married, they loved to visit the King and Queen. They visited the city just to reminisce about the days they spent there, falling in love. But at some point, memories returned to him of a less kindly sort, and it sends fear rippling through him when they enter the gates. She is obliged to ride close to his side and hold his hand when they dismount.

In the Steward's house, he never goes into the study. She has tried to force him over his fear, but it will not be banished. Once she forced him to come into the room with him. "You are a grown man," she said with a frown. "Your father is dead." As they entered the room, his hand grew so tight on her own that she cried out. He stood, woodenly, in the middle of the floor as she opened the curtains and let sunlight filter in. There, in the middle of the room, was the great wooden desk and chair. Other various furniture pieces littered the room, but his eyes were fixed on that only.

"You see," she smiled bravely, taking his hand again and rubbing his back. "It is not so bad." She looked up at his face and saw that his mind was not with her. "My love?" she asked. "Are you with me?" Her words were in jest, but her tone was serious. She tugged on his arm harshly until he drew a long breath and closed his eyes.

"I can't" was all he said. "Please do not make me."

Her patience snapped. "You can't because you won't," she cried. "Let go of whatever you are holding onto. You must!"

He could not swallow. "Thirty years, it was thirty years of him. Always, always, it was in here. Don't make me!"

She dropped his hand and stalked over to the desk. "Just because of this?" she asked, striking the desk with her fist. "Was this what made him so terrible?" She walked back to him. "You are stronger than that, I know! Now be a man."

He wiped the back of his hand over his brow. "I—I—"

She grabbed his arm. "Will you live all of your life in the shadow of a man who is dead?"

He fell to his knees, convulsively shaking his head. The sound of his sobbing was the only sound for a long time, and she realized what she was doing to him. Sending a wild glance around her, she dropped to her knees as well and touched his arm.

"No," he cried, jerking his arm away. "Don't touch me! You're right---I will always live in his shadow. I cannot help it. I'm sorry…"

She bit her lip and pulled his hand into her own. "I was wrong," she said softly. "I should not have brought you in here. Forgive me." He did not reply, and she drew him up to his feet and led him out, closing the door after her. Never again did she ask him to enter the room, for she realized that some things can never be mended.

Only a few know how broken they both are, and those few are broken themselves. Her brother, for one, often visits or writes from his Kingdom. She never feels more free than when she is with him, though she realizes if she was with him permanently, life would be just like it was before things changed.

The King understands them too, for he healed them and sees their true struggles. It often seems wrong to him that two so broken should be together, trying to make the other whole again, but he knows there is no going back. When there is no compromise, and things are broken between them, the King waits until an opportunity to remind them they cannot live without each other.

The wizard, too, for the short time he was still on earth, knew better than all how hard things would be for them. He also knew how well they could love each other---for that is what keeps them together. They know they cannot just give up, for this is what they were meant to do.

Sometimes in the middle of the day, he will surprise her with an invitation to get out of the rigors of daily life and take a short trip with him. They explore the hills and forests around them, and he continually amazes her with his knowledge of the land. When the sun sets and they make camp, they enjoy being all alone, out in the wilderness. Every so often he tells her a story about his life during the war, and the things he had to do, and the men he knew. Sometimes they weep together, for the people and lives that have perishes.

She, in turn, tells him about her childhood, and admits how lonely and scared she was. He never interrupts her, but lets her tell him as much as she wants. He knows how much she needs to tell him.

When he feels doubt, looking down at his sleeping children, she simply touches his arm and tells him what she always does: "You are a great man." He will shake his head with a rueful smile and whisper to her of all his fears. She listens, but as always, in the end he realizes his stupidity. Then she draws him away with her and tells him how much she loves him.

As soon as he reaches the city, when he goes on trips to consort with the King, he dispatches a herald to tell her he has arrived safely. Every third day he sends her a message, and it is always full of love and flattery (of which she takes no account) and his fears and angst (to which she replies with encouragement). They count the days until the moment they can see each other again, and when that time comes, they embrace like passionate young lovers. More often than not, their children roll their eyes when they witness their sweetly innocent greeting. He rolls his eyes back when they ask him when he will ever learn to act his age. She simply snuggles up to his chest.

Sometimes his shoulder will throb, or her arm will be stiff and cold. Sometimes they both wake in the night, unexplainably. He used to wake screaming, and she used to wake sobbing, but they have moved past that stage. Now they are merely silent, rolling over and finding the other awake, by instinct, and ready to console. Their children will never understand the burden they bear. They would have it no other way. The hardships of their past were almost too much for them, and they are thankful daily that their children will never go through what they did.

They will never shake off the past. They will never be whole again. They will never be able to simply be normal. But somehow, they can see beyond that, and have learned to love each other despite their past. He overlooks her flaws, and she ignores his.

In their flawed souls, they have found peace at last.