Title: When the World Ends

Pairing: Gríma/Éowyn. As if I write anything else in the LOTR universe.

Summary: Rohan falls to Saruman's machinations and Gríma gets what he's always desired. G/E romance, AU, one-shot.

Rating: R. My rampant teenage hormones are at it again. Go figure.

Warnings: Gríma/Éowyn fic complete with a sex scene. Pa-CHING!

Genre: My personal favorite duo: Romance/Angst

Disclaimer: G/E sex would happen a lot more if I owned LOTR. And Saruman would die a much longer, slower death. And Miranda Otto would actually be capable of falling correctly in the scene where she defeats the Witch King. But that's another world, sadly…

- - - - - - - - -

I'm gonna rock you like a baby

When the cities fall

We will rise as the buildings crumble

Float down and watch it all

Miss the burning, we'll be churning

You know love will be our wings

Passion rises from the ashes

When the world ends…

- "When the World Ends" by Dave Matthews Band

Rohan will soon fall.

Éowyn has accepted this fact, much as she hates it, despairs in it, despises it. She has stopped bothering to deny it. There is little use, now that her cousin has died of orc-inflicted wounds and her brother has fallen in battle. Her uncle is soon to follow; and once he, too, has abandoned her, she will have only one man to turn to.

Wormtongue openly watches her now without fear of punishment. He slips into her bedchamber every night and kneels by her side, watching her steadily with his pale blue eyes, hands resting just on the edge of the bed. She never sees him enter; indeed, she always falls asleep before he appears. But when she opens her eyes in the morning, he is sitting there staring unblinkingly into her face. His is a quiet, calm victory. She expects some sort of taunting, but the only indication that he feels any triumph at all is the quiet, assured look that seems to permanently occupy his face in these dark days. It is quite enough.

She awakens every morning to those pale blue eyes, and she studies them with a detached curiosity, certain that on a not-so-distant morning she will wake to find this same man in her bed beside her. She neither welcomes nor loathes the notion of Gríma called Wormtongue as her husband; she is beyond the point of caring any longer. What shall be shall be. If he is to win, Éowyn does not see how she is ever to refuse him. He has defeated her so thoroughly already that it seems to her there is no longer anything worth fighting against.

One morning she opens her eyes to find him standing, facing the wall. His hands, held loosely behind his back, clutch a piece of parchment with a large wax seal. Éowyn recognizes it as Théoden King's mark. With a sinking feeling, she realizes what must have happened. She sits up and says softly, "My liege has passed on."

Gríma turns to look at her, and his gaze is surprisingly gentle. "Yes, my Lady," he says. He does not sound remorseful, but he feels at least some small sympathy for his final victim. "The Valar took him this morning. I tried to wake you, but you slept heavily. Such rest I fear you will desperately need."

Éowyn nods, her eyes fixed on the page in Gríma's hand. "What says he in his will?" she asks.

Gríma hands it to her so that she might read it for herself. "He proclaims you the next ruler of Rohan, as you are of the line of Èorl," he says. He pauses, and adds cautiously. "However, he wishes you to wed before you accept the throne."

She is not surprised. She waits for him to finish.

He draws in a deep breath and says, "Théoden King requested on his deathbed that I marry you, my Lady."

So his victory is complete. She opens the scroll, reads it pointlessly. She knows he does not lie. Théoden was too fully in Gríma's thrall to have done anything opposite what he desired. She finds the specific segment dictating her marriage to Gríma son of Gálmód and then closes the scroll once more.

Gríma is shifting a bit nervously from foot to foot. "I understand such a marriage is undoubtedly undesirable to you," he says anxiously. "But you will not deny your Uncle his dying wish, will you?"

Éowyn looks up at him slowly, her gaze dead and defeated. "No, I will not," she says. "Have I any other choice?"

Gríma hesitates, and then shakes his head.

Éowyn turns away, lies back in the bed and curls into a small ball. "Then it is done," she says quietly. "Now, I wish to mourn my Uncle's passing. I trust you can be parted from me for at least an hour or two?"

Gríma bows and utters a small platitude, and then rushes from the room, undoubtedly ecstatic and anxious to plan for his upcoming marriage.

Éowyn simply lies on her pillow and weeps.

- - - - - - - - -

Théoden is laid to rest that night. Éowyn wears deep black, and a black veil hides her face from view. She has no tears, not any longer; she feels as though everything inside of her has run dry.

Gríma walks by her side, occasionally brushing his fingers against her hand. She always pulls back, and the guards look on in stoic disapproval; but they can say nothing. The announcement of Gríma and Éowyn's betrothal came with word of Théoden's death, and all in Edoras know now that Rohan's defeat is nearly completed.

Éowyn neither weeps nor sings as Théoden King is enclosed in his eternal tomb. Gríma, still standing beside her, is as emotionless and unfeeling as stone, his expression blank and his eyes lowered. The stone door is shoved into place by the guards with a heavy slam, and Éowyn feels her heart rend in two; but she says nothing; does nothing; does not even shed a tear.

The other Rohirrim depart slowly, murmuring under their breath of the great tragedy that has befallen Rohan, but Gríma remains, ever patient, by his princess's side. He does not speak to her, respecting at least a little her need for silence, for a moment of mourning before moving on. She stares vacantly at the stone before her and considers her memories of her Uncle; the bright and glorious Golden Hall, and his smile and laughter; the way he would ruffle her hair as he told her how much she reminded him of her mother; the way he proudly carried her about Meduseld when she was small enough for him to do so; and the slow, downward spiral of his robust health as Gríma became increasingly prominent in his life.

She remembers, also, a dark-haired young man who used to tell her stories when she awoke, frightened, in the blackness of night, and went running out of doors to seek solace in the stars. She remembers the way he smiled, a shy smile, rare and precious, and how she loved to hear him laugh. She can recall the eloquence with which he spoke, the gentleness of his personality. And she remembers, also, how rapidly things changed between them; how she went away to be "finished" at a ladies' school, and how when she returned and ran to embrace him he simply stared, eyes wide and filled with some emotion she could not comprehend. She remembers the way he whispered in her ear at that first embrace, "My princess! Forgive me, I did not know your face… you have indeed grown fairer since last we met…" And she remembers how quickly she withdrew from him, refused to be seen with him any longer, and how bitter and cold he became as she hid herself away.

She turns, now, to look at that same man, much changed now since they first met, and she lifts her veil from her face to see him with her own eyes. "What happened to us?" she whispers, and he looks at her, startled. "We have changed so much over these long years; and now I cannot determine who is really to blame for all of this - you or I?"

He gazes at her beautiful face sadly and reaches out to brush his fingers across her cheek. "I cannot tell you, my Lady," he says softly. "I am afraid I do not know…"

She lowers her eyes, lets tears spill down her cheeks at last. He reaches out and pulls her into his arms, and holds her while she weeps.

- - - - - - - - -

That night the Uruk-hai march into Edoras, led by none other than Saruman, whose eyes glitter with triumph that Rohan has at last fallen to him. The Uruks are set loose upon Edoras, plundering, murdering, burning. Only the Golden Hall remains untouched; for that palace is to be Gríma's reward, or at least the second half of it, and he will rule from the sidelines inside its walls. Éowyn is, truly, only a figurehead for this arrangement; a figurehead that will keep the people of Rohan happy.

The palace guards rush out to fight against the Uruks at Éowyn's command, but she knows already the fight is hopeless. She watches her men fall, but she cannot cry any longer; after the deaths around her, she is at last truly spent of tears. From a balcony high above the city she watches fires light the sky, sparks leaping into the air and smoke billowing. She knows Gríma is standing just behind her once more, watching the destruction, and she idly wonders whether he feels any remorse for what he has done to her and her people. She turns to glance at him to determine this. His eyes meet hers briefly, and then he looks down as though frightened. He is ashamed, then, that his actions would go so far; but he is also ashamed that he feels no guilt for having done it.

Éowyn turns away from him and watches the world end.

- - - - - - - - -

The marriage is simple and quick, just as Éowyn wishes it. There is no celebratory banquet, no balls, no singing of ballads and drinking in the Golden Hall. Only Éowyn's dress is new-made for the occasion: pure white satin decorated with soft, light blue velvet and delicate emeralds. Her hair drops like a river of gold across her nearly bare shoulders, and a crown adorns her head. She is fairer than any have ever seen her, and more solemn than usual.

Gríma also has new robes for the occasion; black and rich deep blue, blue that brings out the ice of his eyes. His hair is pulled back from his face, and Éowyn studies him as the ceremony passes, more fascinated with the strange dark man she will soon call her husband than she ever has been.

The ring on her finger is delicate and beautiful, made by Gríma himself. A deep blue sapphire sits in the center of coiling golden vines that embrace her pale, delicate finger. He slips it on her hand reverently, his eyes glowing with pleasure at this small marker that Éowyn belongs to him and him alone. He lifts it to his lips and kisses it gracefully, a small indication of a much deeper love.

Éowyn accepts it, but does not return it.

- - - - - - - - - -

The night descends more rapidly than either had anticipated it would, and as Éowyn sits in her bedchamber she finds her long-dormant emotions pounding to life in a rush of panic and excitement. This is her wedding night, the night most women anticipate their entire lives; and although she has not bothered to think about it, now it hits her with full force exactly what she has to do tonight. And she, the Shieldmaiden, the warrior princess who will never fear death, is terrified.

Gríma must sense her fear the moment he slips into the room - if it is not made obvious by the way she leaps to her feet, so startled is she at the sight of his face in the mirror. "M-my lord!" she stammers. "I -"

He smiles slightly, catches her arms, and pulls her into his embrace. He presses his lips delicately against hers, tests her reaction, and deepens the kiss. He is careful, as though he realizes there is a certain fragility to his steel lily. He lets his hands wander across her body, once he is assured of her permission, and then lets her hands roam over him. He turns her in his arms to undo the laces of her wedding dress, and she stands as frozen as a statue, her heart pounding so loudly Gríma can almost hear it leaping against her ribcage. "I won't hurt you," he breathes, kissing her neck, descending to her shoulders, tracing her collarbone. "I promise…"

She still holds herself stiffly, but she reluctantly shrugs free of her dress, lets it drop to the floor around her ankles. She shudders in the chilly air, whirling around and burying herself as best she can in the warmth of Gríma's robes. She shivers against him and whispers, "It's so cold…"

He kisses the top of her head and lifts her from the floor. He lays her on the bed and covers her with the furs. "Better?"

She nods slowly, watching him with wide, frightened eyes. He studies her briefly and then turns away, walking to the other side of the bed and shrugging his robes off simultaneously. Éowyn watches the layers drop away with a hot flush of embarrassment, wishing she were not so curious, wishing he were not quite so willing to indulge her hungry eyes. And perhaps he is not; he shrinks back into the shadows when he notices her staring at him. His skin is pale, but it is lined with scars and bruises. Éowyn suspects many of them are self-inflicted. "You have hurt yourself," she says, sitting up.

Gríma shrugs slightly in embarrassment, slinking out of the shadows and slipping under the furs beside her. "I… I'm easily injured, my Lady," he says, toying with the furs now covering his bared legs.

Éowyn runs her hands over several almost identical scars on his upper arm. "What are these from?"

He continues to look down. "I cut myself on something," he mumbles.

She gently strokes the scars, and then bends and kisses them. He draws in a sharp breath and whispers her name hoarsely to the air. "Éowyn…"

She pushes his black hair back from his neck and finds other scars, smaller. She presses her lips to them, and then moves on, finding others crisscrossing his chest, shoulders, and arms. She does not ask for the cause of each individual one, but the mere action of her kisses leave them tingling, make them seem to disappear a little more. A certain type of magic, she thinks, sitting up again and meeting Gríma's eyes evenly, and then she wraps her arms around his neck and pulls him down onto the bed.

He kisses her deeply, desperately; he has wanted this for so long and is at last about to be rewarded for his patience. He makes some small effort to hold back a little, but nonetheless the kiss is fierce, as are his hands, wandering once more across Éowyn's nearly flawless form. He finds her weakest points exactly, and exploits them, making her gasp and whimper in startled pleasure. He smiles against her neck, thrilled that this moment has at last arrived, and he breathes in her ear, "I love you, Éowyn…"

She smiles a little and kisses his lips. He moans in ecstasy at this touch, this final, perfect caress, and then presses himself inside her.

He's careful with her, at least at first, learning her body and what she desires from him, but he grows more impatient, more insistent, with each moment that passes. Éowyn does not object to this, finding in it only a startling blissful perfection, and a terrifying sort of passionate release, a release that should not exist between them. There is something too sacred about this moment, something too precious and delicate; Gríma should not be allowed to share such ecstasy with her, and she should not allow herself to feel this way for him.

But in the moment, nothing matters; nothing matters at all but knowing him, discovering him, feeling him smile against her neck, pulling him closer and deeper, entwining her fingers in his hair and whispering his name into the dark, until at last they both are spent and can only lie astounded in the blackness of the night.

The world as Éowyn has known it has indeed ended, if such perfection can be shared with one traitor like Gríma Wormtongue.