Author's note: Written at about 1 a.m. because it was a very warm night and I was trying to induce sleep by wearing myself out; that, and I hoped catharsis would help do the trick. This was supposed to be a drabble – I got carried away :)
Needless to say, it's pretty much written in a hurry, so, apologies for the lack of an actual point and any failings in style…
It was unbearably warm.
The hottest days of all the year had come down upon the White City, and the Lady Éowyn, wife to the Steward of Gondor and Lady of Ithilien thought she would stifle in her bed. The night had fallen – many hours had now passed since then – the skies were clear, leaden with shining stars, and she could see the moonlight come down in white and silver through the open windows; there was no gust of wind that she could hear, no breath of air that she could feel, cool, sweet and longed for. All things were calm and still, and the City was sleeping; she herself was not.
Beside her she could hear Faramir breathe, the even, shallow breaths that came from weariness and not from dreams; he too was sleepless. Under her cheek the limp pillows were warm, and no amount of turning had found a corner cool enough for comfort – of that she had abandoned hope hours before. Her night shift, soft and thin, clung at her legs and back, and bunched around her elbows, pressing against her, heavier than mail. With tired eyes she spied it as it gleamed white against the dark of night, white as the casing of her pillow, her husband's shirt, the sheets upon the bed, as every stone that made this City. White in itself was cool and fresh, like the glistening of snowflakes against her face, the hard edges of ice held in her hands, the polish of marble slabs beneath her feet – how could it smother so?
She turned and faced the other way, praying for sleep to come, but knowing it would not. The night before had been the same – she had twisted and turned while Faramir lay quiet, and in the end she had been claimed by sleep, unknowingly, and so much later than she had desired. Only four other days, no more – so he had said when this time of the year had neared, when these, the first hot days of Gondor that she had had to suffer had come at last. She had not thought they would truly be so to hear her husband speak of them; he had smiled at her then, a glimmer in his eyes, whispering that whatever ice was left in her would surely melt before the days were gone – and she had laughed and kissed his lips, holding him close and sighing as they sat together in the shade of a tree.
Now she lay as far apart from him as the bed would allow, teetering upon the edge, feeling a touch of guilt, but thinking that his touch would send her screaming… she could not bear the heat! She sighed and wished that she would scream, and that the scream alone could take away the warm weight of her hair, the slickness of her skin, the soreness of her eyes that would not pass whether she closed or opened them, the need to scream, itself. But it would not; and so, she only moved to lie upon her back, raising her arms above her head – taking great care not to touch one against the other – and sighing once again.
Between the last two sighs she had reached up to seventeen in counting. Between the pair before, forty and three; before that, thirty. And now, even her sighs were grating, each of her breaths was nigh a sigh, the air was close and thick, her palms were wet, her arms ached where she held them, her back was stiff – and there beside her was her lord and husband, giving no sighs – a tired yawn now and then, only – turning, it seemed to her, only once every half the mark, barely moving at all in all the hours of this accursed night!
She seethed quietly for a time, feeling still warmer than before, and then she stopped her breath and fought her temper – her thoughts came from the heat, she told herself, no reason was behind them. But still, she could not see how he could bear to make no sound and only lie in wait. Aye, on patrol or when out hunting she could well see him stand or sit as still as mountain tops for hours on end – but now? In such a time? In such a heat? The thought unnerved her, and she wavered between the deepest envy – would sleep not come the sooner if she could lie as still? – and the annoyance that he did not join her in her suffering – which in itself was bothering, as she knew it to be unjust.
"Husband?" she asked, feeling her mouth dry and her voice as heavy as the air around them
"Are you not warm?"
"Unbearably so," he sighed, and his voice bore the weariness and strain that she had not guessed in his body.
A guilty smile pulled at her lips – it was unreasonable, she knew it well, yet still she smiled – and she turned towards Faramir once again. He turned to face her also, and in between the shadows of their room she thought to see him smile. She moved her hands towards his, not touching them, but coming close, and when at last she sighed once more she felt content.
Sleep came soon after.