Title: Strength of Steel

Rating: PG-13 (at the moment)

Fandom: Lord of the Rings

Chapter: 8/?

Length: 3000 words

Pairings: Arwen+Eowyn (not until later,) implied Faramir+Eowyn, Aragorn+Arwen

Summary: Eowyn is determined that she may have lost a battle with Arwen, but she will win the war, and she musters her strength to face the woman who conquered Aragorn. But what she sees is not quite what she expected

A/N: Not a very long chapter- as I am explaining on all my stories I was the victim of a very rare neurological illness that paralyzed me completely for two months- I couldn't so much as breath. I've now been in hospital six months, and hope to be walking by October. Hope that explains how long it took me to update!

Thanks for reviews to: quirky21, anonymous, Eliza, anonymous, NajaMoonshadow

She did not know how long she remained huddled beneath the stars, but when she arose the sky was tinged with the pink of a glorious dawn, and there were one or two elves already engaged in the gardens picking not only flowers, but herbs and grasses as well. Legolas was still sitting on the stone wall beside her, his eyes closed as though he wished his thoughts to remain utterly private. Eowyn's heart was cold, and the beauty of the day was lost on her completely as she fought to block out the agony that had resulted from what Legolas had revealed to her. In the time that she had crouched on the floor she had made her decision.

Hers would be the love that never let its presence be known. She would petition Faramir on her return to let Arwen return home with all the haste that could be mustered. She would even let him believe if need be, that it was because Arwen was Aragorn's wife, and that she desired Aragorn still- would that she did! For all of their sakes this love must never be known. To Aragorn she must remain the stoic shieldmaiden of old, heart untouched by deeper feeling than joy of battle, and light of admiration. She must remain protector of his wife for his sake. To Faramir she must remain dutiful wife, and chatelaine. Love she could not give him- she had always known that. But she would give him everything but that- even children if she must. To Arwen she must be distant friend, the woman she suspected might be in love with her husband. She could be permitted to believe that- but never to find out who really was the object of Eowyn's desire. And finally for her own sake, for her honour, her chastity and her pride she must never by word or look allow proof of love to be revealed. Yet her heart cried out against what she said, rebelled; and pleaded love's cause in an eloquent tongue.

She put her hand gently on Legolas's shoulder, and he looked up at her with eyes that were still lost in the seas of time. "Lady..." he breathed, reading her thoughts through her eyes, and she bowed her head to his voice. "You understand now," he breathed softly. "Yet oh how I wish for our sakes that things could be different. That I could be a worthy match to the one who wishes to love me, and you and her untied and free as maidens in the dusk of these times to come." He stood, and together they watched the sun come up, black and blond hair mingling in the gentle breeze, as they made their silent compact. Then together in the cool, dewy morning they made their way back to the main dwelling.

Once inside her room, Eowyn strode restlessly to and forth, rubbing her hands together as she attempted to work out how she was going to keep up the act that she would have to until such a time came when the only time she met Arwen would be at court occasions, christenings etc when they would always be with others and never in such a compromising position as could lead to the expression of her hidden feelings. She decided with a grim determination that she would have to dissemble with the best of her ability, and crush ruthlessly any sharing of feeling between them. Yet still she moved back and forth, even with her decision made, unable to stop, seeing before her always that beautiful face, that rich mass of raven's wing hair, those eyes as blue and deep as the seas, and as serene as those of a babe. And yet, as she discovered wonderingly, her beauty was the least of her attractions, and though the first thing noticed it had not been the first thing loved. Her intelligence, kindness, strength, serenity and above all her humanity had been the dower that brought love to the heart. Eowyn tried to forget the subject entirely, but everything in the room reminded her of the Queen. The bed, of the nightmares, and the fragility she had shown. The dressing table of the hairpiece Arwen had lent her. Even the mirror of the time Arwen had braided her hair for her. With a shout of anguish Eowyn dashed a glass from the table, regretting it instantly. Kneeling she began to pick up the shards, breathing deeply to calm herself down. She must not go on like this, or Arwen would guess she was unhappy, and that she hid something of great import, and the Queen's gentle questioning, would be as the most severe tortures inflicted by the West's enemies.

A timid knock sounded at the door, and the serene faced woman who had met her yesterday stood there. If she noticed Eowyn wore the same robe as she had worn to the feast she showed no indication of it. She merely smiled, the warmth of it bringing light to her features. "Shall I show you to the bath-house my lady?" she asked. In her arms was a neatly folded pile of towels, and a robe like the one that Arwen had woven for her as a wedding gift, though the embroidery and working were less fine. It was a very pale grey, belted with green, and Eowyn nodded following the woman through the gentle turning halls, until they reached a small enclosure. The woman explained that the plumbing system supplied hot water as well as cold, though the explanation of how left Eowyn lost- her command of elvish though fluent enough was not enough to cope with technical explanations. Leaving the clothes on the side, the woman showed Eowyn how to obtain water, then gave her a quantity of soft soap in a bowl. "I hope this scent is pleasing. It is very rare and difficult to make. If however it is not, please feel free to use any of the others" said the woman, smiling at her. Eowyn smiled back, then curtsied a little. The woman bowed in response then left, leaving Eowyn to marvel at the room.

High white ceilings, the bath easily big enough for three large men to one side of the room, and the large dressing table with the different soaps. There was a large mirror, indeed three of them, so positioned so you could see your behind as well. All of it was different from Rohan and her present home where bathing was a tin tub filled with water it took three kitchen boys twenty minutes to drag up, a small cracked mirror, and where you bathed quickly so you could let your sibling, or as she had grown up her maid bathe as well. She well remembered Eomer insisting she go first, claiming she had less dirt than him, a fact her warlike ways so often disproved. She smiled, remembering her brother and all the kindnesses he had done her. Then she let the bath fill, putting a little of the soap in as she had been instructed. When it was full she slid in, sighing as the warm water enveloped her body, washing her cares and troubles away as it seemed, until she floated in a blissful state of cleansliness and warmth. Remembering the soap, she hauled herself up, sitting on the broad white ledge that ran its way around the bath. The soap smelled familiar, indeed it was the most comforting smell she could imagine, and she breathed deeply as she smeared it generously on herself. It wasn't until she set it aside and began to rub it into herself that she was reminded of exactly what she was reminded of. It was Arwen's scent- the fragrance that clung around herself and her clothes always- of strange flowers and indeed of spring itself. Unbidden tears sprung to her eyes, and she batted them away scornfully. Stupid. Being here reminded her of the time under the waterfall when Arwen had washed her hair so gently and carefully for her. Reminded her of the heat she'd felt as she felt the other woman's breasts so close to her.

No. She squeezed her eyes shut. No. She loved Arwen, but she could not desire her. Must not. It was going to be hard enough to be around the other woman, when all she could think about was the love she bore her, it would be nigh on impossible if her body wanted her as well. Besides between men she could understand, could understand that desire complemented the love that Legolas and Glorfindel had for each other. But between women? It could not work. So why was it all she could think of in this privacy was that there had been no greater happiness in her short life than waking up with Arwen curled in her embrace, than the touch of the other woman's hand on her face, the press of her breasts against her back, and the sisterly kiss on the cheek that Arwen had bestowed upon her? It was useless now that she had cast aside the blinkers that had blinded her to the reality of her love for Arwen, to deny that her body which had not stirred once no matter the caress that Faramir had given her, had only to think of Arwen to heat up. She closed her eyes to let no tear escape. Just once, she told herself. Just once she would pretend. Leaning her head back against the cool tiled wall, she let her hands glide gently down her body, over smooth flat stomach, full breasts, brushing past nipples hardened either from cold or desire, with nothing more fixed in her mind than Arwen. Then her eyes snapped open, and she snatched her hands away. Weakness of the first order, first to seek pleasure from one's self, and second to use as a fantasy the image not only of a woman but one who would always be forbidden her by every law that existed. That of hospitality, that of matrimony, that of city law. Feeling her cheeks heat up, she stared at her hands. She had been about to touch herself. It wasn't something that had ever been forbidden to her, but it was not something she had ever done before. The thought had never occured to her, and besides she had no idea how. Faramir had once suggested it to her in a roundabout way, in veiled words indicating that maybe if she felt comfortable touching her own body that she would feel comfortable with letting him do the same. She hadn't given it a second thought.

Sliding back into the water, she rinsed herself and her hair as clean as possible, then stepped out and rubbed herself down, not bothering to glance in the mirror. Once she was dry, she put on her underwear and the grey robe, noting how it clung to her, and inferring that it must be a size too small, though she was far too well bred to complain. Besides the colour suited her, and having combed her hair through thoroughly, she went to find a place where she could dry it. She gathered the towels and her old clothing and placed it in the large basket as she left, then checked the weather. The sun was shining hotly, and gladly she went to her room to sit at the large window, and let her hair dry. An hour later she woke with a start. She had fallen asleep while waiting and soaking up the sun. Arwen was looking guilty. "I'm so sorry," she said, a flush tinting the perfect cream of her face. "I didn't know you were asleep."

Eowyn blinked. "Don't worry," she said smiling at the taller woman. "I didn't mean to be asleep." With a relieved start, she realised that her worrying had been for nothing. She loved Arwen more than anything it was true, and she had to hide that fact. But while she was with Arwen, she only thought about the things she had thought of before. She loved the other woman too much it seemed to distress her by ever letting her know the truth. That did not mean that she did not feel the familiar tingle as Arwen offered her hand to pull her up, or catch her breath at the scent of the other woman. She just didn't show it. "What shall we do today?" she asked.

Arwen smiled. "I thought perhaps you would like a tour of Rivendell, then have a day of rest. As you are a guest you have no work to do," she smirked mischeviously. Yet there was a sadness behind her words, that Eowyn with her new sensitivity to emotions immediately picked up.

She laid a hand upon Arwen's arm. "What is it?" she asked softly.

There was a pause, then Arwen sat down. Her tears did not fall, though her eyes were full, and there was sorrow enough in them. "Oh," she said quietly. "I never expected to miss it so much. It is like a knife wound to my heart every moment of being here, I am tortured with an almost unbearable pain, and an unbearable sweetness. I have but one liftetime now, and I shall not see these people my kin and friends ever again, until the universe ends and we are reunited. Yet I can not imagine being parted from them, anymore than you can probably imagine being seperated from your twin in such a way. I am like a kitten with its eyes still closed, blind, weak, puling for its mother milk in this lifetime. Once I was wise and great, now I am merely human and memory fails of all that once was. Yet even if I would go back, there is no return. The way is shut and fire kindled in the path."

Quietly Eowyn knelt at her side. "Look at me," she whispered, and almost unwillingly Arwen turned her head. "If you could would you return?"

The answer was very quiet. "No. Not just for the love of Aragorn for whom I gave up immortality, but for the sake of what I have found, worth more than gold and jewels, worth more than any fortune whether temporal or no. Yet to be amongst the people and places of this beloved House is exquisite torture to my soul, and it is only your presence here that keeps me strong. If you were not then I would be tempted to beg of my father to find a way that I could cross back."

"But what about your one true love. Legolas mentioned that once you were bound in the marriage bed, and indeed soul bound it could never be broken."

The reply was almost inaudible. "Only between elves, and I am no longer an elf. I am subject to all the trials and hardship of humanity, without this one thing to keep me afloat. Aragorn and I love one another, but we do not know the secrets of the others heart as we would if we were bound. We can not exchange strength and comfort as we should do so if we were elves, and indeed as even those who are not bound in the marriage bed can do. My brothers Elladan and Elrohir share no woman or man's bed, having decided when very young that they loved each other more than they could ever love a bed partner. It is as though they share one soul in two bodies they are so close." She put her head in her hands. "I have not told even Aragorn of this," she said unevenly. "Only you know me now, better even than my husband for all the love I bear him. We are women in a man's world Eowyn, and women must shield women otherwise we shall fall. As you have guarded me through my nightmares, and my longing for home, so in turn someday shall I be able to bring you healing, my frost flower."

"I don't need healing," Eowyn said quietly, though she knew she lied as she said it. Arwen's expressive face showed that she knew Eowyn lied, there was still a thousand times as much wisdom and sight in that beautiful woman's face than there was in any one man of those who had been born human, yet she said nothing, merely smiled through her grief.

"You are you Eowyn. I thank the heavens that you are so every day."

Eowyn lowered her eyes, as she replied. "Anything. I would do anything to let you feel a part of this world." She looked around at the beauties of Rivendell, its silent and quiescent majesty of form and colour, and again felt the nameless tugging at her heart, that she had felt on first arriving here- the restless pulling that called quietly to something inside of her, as though this was home. She shook it off. She was nothing. Nothing but a ragtag shield maiden given the name of princess merely because Rohan claimed royalty. Next to the powerful lineages of Aragorn, Arwen and even Faramir, Rohan was but a child. She was not worthy to feel that this was a place of sanctuary. Then the face of Elrond appeared in her thoughts, and the memory of his calmness and peace flowed through her, and calmed her troubled soul. She could hear words echo through her thoughts almost as though he was there. I deny refuge and sanctuary to none who come to claim it, especially not to you my daughter.

But, she thought to herself bitterly, would you welcome me thus, if you knew of the evil and wicked lusts that consume my nature. That prevent me from sharing my husband's bed like a good wife should, and cause my eyes to turn in the direction of the jewel in your crown.

Arwen Evenstar

There you all are. Hope you all enjoyed the major breakthrough that has finally occured.

Review would be nice