Title: Bitter Cold

Pairing: Gríma/Éowyn

Rating: Eh… High PG-13 for some REALLY mild sex… could possibly be an über-low R.

Summary: Gríma would rather be numb than face the pain of unrequited love.

Warnings: Yup. Gríma/Éowyn, as per usual. Very, VERY mild sex scene, not descriptive AT all, in face some people might not even identify it as sex. Flew out of my head before bed. I still will not apologize for my rampant teenage hormones. Let's face it, Gríma and Éowyn deserve some dirty sex once in a while.

Setting: Rohan, Edoras, Meduseld. Can be either bookverse or movieverse, whichever you prefer. Pre-TTT.

Genre: Angst, angst, and more angst. Welcome to my life.

He likes to stand outside, sometimes, in the bitter cold of the winter nights, and let the freezing wind chill him to his bones, so that even when he returns to bed he is still shuddering, and no fire in the hall can warm him.

Only she, thinks the counsellor; only she…

She, Éowyn, whom he loves and hates, is cold, cold like ice, like a frozen lake, like snow, like the winter wind. Her wintry gaze, her frigid words, her icy, frozen form, all make him feel as though he were standing unprotected in dead of a frosty night. He likes being cold; he likes shivering inside the warmth of his robes, likes how his lips turn purple and his hands turn so chill that just to brush against him makes other shudder. Ice is unfeeling; he wishes he could be unfeeling, too. Numb.

He, Gríma, whom she hates and does not, will not love, is bitter - bitter as herbs, as plain tea, as tears, as a grave, as a kiss from husband to adulteress. He has loved painfully, achingly, for so long, and it has eaten away at his soul, destroyed him as love never should, and he hates her for it. Hates her, and taunts her in his silent way, while adoring her, worshipping her at the same time. He will have her, someday, he is certain, and then she will be as bitter as he. Perhaps she already is.

He can stand outside at night and feel the cold, the contrast, and open himself to the torrents of passionate loathing and loving, feel the heat of his fury and agony rushing through him, and then feel it all die in an instant. Numb, finally. Pain, gone. Feeling, dissipated. At last he can be released, and hide it all again.

She watches, sometimes, from above her window, shuddering in a thin, itchy woolen nightgown, her body shaking at the coldness of the air, and she wonders how he can stand to be so frozen, how he has not died yet. Curiosity and fear and a strange sort of aching wanting combine and compel her, Go to him. But she hasn't. Not yet.

She watches again this night, eyes burning with that curious horror at his masochistic urge to freeze himself. He stands, shivering in nothing but a thin black robe and breeches, his bare feet nearly frozen to the stone. His lips are purple in the moonlight, his face a raw red from the beating wind, his hands clenched into fists.

She wants to run and bury her face in her warm pillow, forget she ever saw this strange and sickening ritual of pain, and forget that she knows its cause. Herself. Oh, how she hates herself, how she hates him, she for causing pain to another human being, he for wanting her so desperately and frightening her so much with the force of his desire. She has never had a good experience with men. They treat her as a bauble, as a thing, and she disdains them all for this lack of insight into her character. She is terrified of Gríma because he does not lack this insight; and he will better know how to break her. He certainly is doing so already, standing outside in the cold where he must know she will see. Wretched worm! she thinks, and then she turns and runs from her room, runs down the stairs, runs down the corridors and throws wide the doors to the outside of Meduseld.

He does not even glance over his shoulder as she walks out, skirt blowing wildly around her in the bitter winds. "You will catch your death of cold, my Lord," she whispers, barely to be heard above the wind, but he catches her voice anyway and turns his eyes to hers. Ice, she thinks, and takes a step backward.

He stares at her appreciatively, and his frozen lips twitch into a smile. "I haven't died yet, have I?" he asks. He knows that she watches, that this is not the first time she has seen him; just the first time that she has had the courage to come to him.

She wraps her arms around herself. "You cannot continue to do this," she says sharply. "I forbid it!"

He laughs, the sound so icy and bitter that it cuts her to the core. "I obey my princess in everything she asks of me," he says bitingly. "I shall return to my chambers at once."

She stares at him, terrified of him and for him. "You will sit on your bed and shiver all night," she says sternly. "You must have a fire, and extra furs, and - "

He waves a hand carelessly. "Leave me to my own devices, my Lady. I will care for myself. No one else will care for me, after all."

His words sting her, leave a painful wound on her already-guilty conscience. "If I was not frightened for you would I be here saving you?" she demands.

He bestows upon her a contemptuous smile. "You mock me, my fair one," he says. "You are not frightened for me, but of me."

She looks away, ashamed. "That may be as may be," she says softly. She will not lie to him; she cannot. "But this night I will see to it that you are in no danger."

"If it will aid my Lady in easing her guilty conscience," Gríma sneers with a mocking bow. "Then let her come to my rooms. Let her light as many fires as she will, and bring me furs and hot drink to warm me; you will find all of these of little use. There is nothing left in me but bitter-cold, and no fire you light will melt it."

She studies him, wondering, fearful, and takes a few steps closer. He watches warily, waiting. She takes another few steps towards him, until they are only inches apart. They are on even levels, she notices as she stares directly into his icy blue eyes; he was never particularly tall. She lays a hand on his cheek and feels the ice searing her hand, but she ignores what is almost pain, what is almost numbness, and leans forward, pressing her lips to his.

A tingling heat-numb feeling covers her from head to foot, and she feels Gríma's cheek warm to her touch, feels his frozen lips turn warm, as though her body is transferring heat to his. Stunned, he stands a moment, frozen as ice, and then melts in her embrace, sinks against her, holds her, returns the kiss, more… more… more!

She is shuddering in his arms, becoming as he is, becoming ice, even as she comes to understand the full force of his emotion for her, the heat that bursts and aches and burns inside… the heat that both of them always hide. He sinks down onto the cold stone of Meduseld's outside, and draws her down with him, holding her to him, warming himself as he has never been warmed before.

Bitter-cold… no longer. Not for this night.

She sinks back, lies against the stone, cries out as he takes over her completely, and burns and freezes all at once in the midst of the deadening winter night. She knows the meaning of numb and blazing, now; knows how a volcano, a frozen lake, would feel, were they sentient.

He is released so briefly from the chains that have bound him, and is numb no longer. He feels. He feels everything, every emotion, every shudder of her body beneath his, every breath from her lips against his neck, every kiss and touch and movement of her fingers, every cutting slice of the icy winter wind, and he feels as though he has burst into flame as a phoenix does as it is reborn into a new life.

When it is over he collapses, weary and exhausted from the burst of passion, and breathes raw and ragged in her ear, feeling her heart beat against his. The bitter wind begins to freeze the sweat on his body, and he shudders, pulling his princess closer, not wanting the moment to end. But she pushes him away, pulls herself to her feet, and looks away.

"I warmed you," she says quietly, ashamedly, as he stares at her with wounded rage. "Even as you said I could not. I have done for you what I can. You should return to your rooms."

He stands weakly, feeling as though he has been stabbed with a thousand swords. "And next," he snarls hatefully, "You will remind me that this 'never happened.'"

She closes her eyes tightly and says fiercely, "You do not understand what our people, what my brother and Uncle and cousin would do, if they knew what had happened here tonight."

He reaches out, tilts her chin in his direction. His fingers burn with heat; her cheek is frozen to the touch. "You, Éowyn of the House of Èorl, are a coward," he says frigidly. "Not in battle, perhaps, oh no; you could take down all the armies of Mordor with your battle fervor. But you, my darling, are afraid to love, to open yourself to anyone, and you wrong yourself and me by your weakness."

Tears slide down her cheeks. "You wrong yourself and me," she whispers brokenly, "By seeking my love in all the wrong ways."

His hand drops, and Éowyn feels the heat dissipating from him like a wave. "I go to my chambers, my princess," he says, and all his emotion is veiled again, numbed, except for the flame in his eyes. "I bid you rest well this night… and think well on what has transpired here."

He turns and disappears inside. Éowyn stands in the midst of the shrieking wind, and lets herself become bitter-cold, like him.