Disclaimer: The Lord of the Rings, all characters, places, and related terms are the sole property of J.R.R. Tolkien's estate and New Line Cinema.
Aragorn quietly stirred the embers in the fire pit with a log, causing the flames to awaken a little from their slumber. While he performed this task, he occasionally turned his head ever so slightly to the left, to look at Eowyn sleeping on a chaise a few feet away. Her head rested on a valet cushion; her hair seemed to glow in the light. A light blue coverlet was draped over her body. Only her bare feet were exposed to the breezes that moved through the drafty hall.
Slowly, the ranger rose from his crouch beside the fire. He gazed on Eowyn for a moment, studying her stern, weary face, softened by sleep. He should return to the room he was sharing with the others… He really needed to get some sleep… But her feet…
The man told himself it was only out of fear that she would catch a chill that he walked to the chaise she laid on. When his fingers brushed, oh so softly, against her feet as he drew the coverlet over them, he reasoned his nearly silent gasp was a reaction to how cool her feet felt. He convinced himself the reason he did not move away was because he was relieved at the faint hint of peace on Eowyn's face. He told himself he was simply concerned when his hand moved farther up and folded the top of the coverlet, lined with warm fur, over her shoulder.
Aragorn willed himself away, to return to the silent room and his companions and his lonely bedroll. But his treacherous, wildly beating heart, which had been drowned out by his thoughts of honor and duty earlier, would not claim defeat this time. He watched, almost in a daze, as his fingers rose from the coverlet to tenderly, wistfully, dance over Eowyn's cheek.
The ranger let out a quiet sound between a moan and a sigh which spoke better than words how wrong, how right, this moment was. He watched, with no denial this time, as his fingers gently explored her cheek.
Finally, he knew. Ever since he had caught a glimpse of her afar off, on the terrace of the Golden Hall…. Since she had spun around and he brought his dagger up to meet her sword….Since he had seen her laugh and smile on the road to Helm's Deep…. Since she had passionately begged to be allowed to fight and behind veiled words had confessed her love…. Since the embrace they had shared following the battle… And since just this evening when she came to him through the crowd, looking like an angel, and he knew he would betray himself if he spoke or lingered…he had desired to touch her, to know what her skin felt like against his own.
And now he knew. At last. He found her skin to be soft and smooth, a balm to his rough hands. There was something familiar and comforting in the warmth of her cheek, something endearing. He felt for a moment he was home.
He was jerked out of his thoughts when he realized he was slowly tracing the edge of Eowyn's bottom lip with one finger. Aragorn's heartbeat quickened. As he stared down at her thin, pink lips, a burning light of undisguised longing and love shone in his face.
Soundlessly, slowly, he knelt beside Eowyn. His fingers returned to her cheek, stroking it lightly as he leaned towards her. The ranger felt her soft, even breath on his face when only an inch was between them. He tilted his head slightly and moved in to claim those tempting lips.
He froze as Eowyn stirred in her sleep. Her head turned as though to lean into the touch his fingers provided. Then she grew still, not having awakened.
Suddenly realizing what he had nearly just done, Aragorn cautiously pulled back. He breathed heavily, and his heart strained against his ribcage. The ranger did not know if he was relieved that he now recalled his honor and pledge to another or if he cursed the passing of this opportune moment.
His expression was that of a man torn and divided as he carefully, reluctantly withdrew his fingers from Eowyn's dear face. Effortlessly, he got to his feet. He allowed himself to make an imprint in his memory of the sleeping shieldmaiden, and then left the hall without a backwards glance.
In her sleep, Eowyn sighed almost sadly.