A/N: This is a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNGGGG overdue companion piece to 13 o'clock Erik's beauteous one-shot, "Selfish." He asked me to write it in September and here it is, May. Wow. I am truly sorry. I am not deserving of your insanely awesome fanvid skills. grovels on the ground Anyways, it is finally finished, and I am mostly satisfied with it at last. I just didn't know how to start this one, or how to make it work. But here it is at last. It takes place the night after "Selfish," which I pictured as happening at night. Apologies if that was not that case... I have read it at least 400 times by now... :) Go give Erik some loving and leave him a review on "Selfish." Pay him homage, for he is great.
I hate him. I hate him. I hate him.
I mouth the words over and over again as I lie on my bed, my face buried into my pillow. They comfort me, with their cold edge, their harsh, alliterative sound; they flow from my tongue so easily. Have I not been trained to say them, to think them, since I became a woman? For it is not only me who sees Lord Counsellor's poisonous thoughts – my brother and my cousin know, too, what he desires. Me. Their cousin and sister. Their ward. The ward they apparently believe is impossibly fragile...
I give a cry and smash my fist into the bed. "I hate him!" I shout aloud.
My voice is louder than I meant it to be. I hear someone stir in the room next door, and I look up hesitantly, fear blossoming within me. The room next to mine… his. Gríma's. The snake's. What is he doing in there, locked away in the darkness of his chambers?
I cringe bitterly. I can guess well enough. I know as well as any what he dreams of in the dark – what he wishes for. Alone in his bed, he imagines me there beside him, beneath him, giving up what I never would. I shudder and roll onto my back, staring now into the dark shadows of my room. A single candle flickers by my bed – I hate the dark. The dark is Gríma's refuge; within it he can move freely, without notice, and strike – as he struck last night.
I could not sleep last night, either. I was… restless. I am always restless in these dark times. And I could hear the counsellor breathing my name into the night air, gasping for me, his voice low and choking and desperate. I was both disgusted and… and stirred. To have such power over a single man…
No. I must not think that. I must not.
I had heard his door creak open, and my heart began to pound. I do not know to where the Counsellor wanders at night, but I do not trust him to do it freely. Foolishly I chose to confront him. And that had ended well – with the bastard capturing me and me, pinned against the wall, and his lips to my throat, and his hand between my legs…
I flush in the near dark. Oh, save me… his fingers, his lips…
I clench my teeth. No. I am stronger than this. My will is steel, my heart is steel; I am like my sword, deadly and unforgiving. My will is steel…
I hear his door open, the soft sound of his robes on the stone floor, and before I realize what I am doing I bolt out of bed. Last night I had crawled beneath my furs fully dressed, knowing I would find no rest; tonight I wear only my nightclothes, for I had hoped to sleep. But sleep will not come, not with me so overwrought, remembering his touch – his violation - and waiting to hear him try to slip away.
I open my door slowly, staring into the dark corridor before me. He is walking towards the throne room, away from me. His back is turned. He, of course, is fully dressed. I don't believe he ever sleeps.
My voice is a fragile, tremulous thing that escapes my mouth before I can call it back. "Gríma?"
He freezes. Turns. Slowly. We have not spoken since last night. We have not even looked at each other. His pale eyes flicker over me, taking me in quickly, and he licks his lips hurriedly.
"My Lady," he says, his voice hoarse. He is restraining himself; that is obvious enough to me from his stiff posture, his hands clutching at the folds of his robes, his knuckles white with the tightness of their hold. He bows mockingly to me. "What can your humble servant do for you tonight?"
The inflection in his voice hints at something sensual, and I flush. "Where are you going?" I demand, lifting my chin and crossing my arms over my chest. "You should be sleeping."
"I did not realize my sleeping habits were of any concern to my Lady," he says, rising from his bow.
"I cannot imagine you function best in your position on no sleep at all," I say icily.
"You cannot imagine many things, my Lady, but that does not mean they are not – or will not be so."
I press my lips together into a thin line. "You will never have me," I spit.
"I did not suggest that, my Lady," he says, a wicked gleam in his eye. "But since you mention it… why is it, precisely, that you so firmly believe I will never claim you?"
"You are a traitor and a liar," I snarl, "And I cannot give my heart to such a man."
"Cannot? That's an interesting turn of phrase," he says, taking a step towards me. "May I conclude, then, that you would like to give your heart to me, but cannot due to the restraints placed on you by your brother and cousin?"
"You may not," I say acidly, my eyes narrowing. "I cannot, because I can never forgive the crimes you have committed against my people."
"Ah, so they're your people now, are they, and not mine?" he questions.
"It has been long since any could call you a man of Rohan," I reply coolly.
"I'm wounded," he drawls, and I snort. Of course he does not care about such things; I know well that he feels Rohan was never his home. "But I think you will find, under certain circumstances, that you would give in to me."
"I cannot imagine such circumstances," I say angrily.
"Which brings us back to the original point – you cannot imagine many things that will come to be." He comes closer, studying my slyly. "But I have a much better imagination than you, my Éowyn," he purrs, dropping my title. "Would you care to know what I envision?"
"I've heard the moans your imagination inspires in you enough times to guess," I say sardonically, and his eyes narrow, his face reddening slightly. I smirk at the response.
The smirk infuriates him, but as usual he is one step ahead of me. "Those imaginings I plan to show you in the near future… unless you'd care to experience them now?" He nods towards my still-open door and the view within. "Your bed is looking rather deserted at the moment."
My grin disappears. "What circumstances?" I ask sullenly.
He smiles triumphantly. "When you consider the situations in which you might find yourself, my Lady, you are imagining conditions in which you are fully independent – where nothing – and no one - depends your decision to deny me," he explains. "You see, my precious, you forget one very important detail: you are selfless."
I frown. "Your point?"
His smile widens. "One of the qualities for which you are so admired is your willingness to do anything to save your countrymen and your land," he says. "Your own life matters little to you, but the lives of others… you cannot willingly bring harm to them." He comes very, very close to me, his gaze intense. "So imagine this, my love: your brother is to be executed by Saruman's servants. I can save him for you, but you know that I won't, because nothing is stronger in me than my hatred for your brother… except for my love of you. How, exactly, shall you find a way to rescue him from his fate? Will you sit by and watch as Saruman's orcs tear him to pieces in front of all Edoras – or will you do anything… anything… to save him?"
I feel the blood drain from my face, my heart thudding to a sudden stop in my chest. Oh, Eru…
"Or, to follow the same thread," he continues mercilessly, "Let us say the fate of your people could be entirely altered if you were to give me your hand. Could you refuse me willingly and gladly, knowing what horrors surely await them under Saruman's command? Could you force that fate upon them in good consciousness?"
I shake my head in mute horror, a tear sliding down my cheek.
He gives a short not. "I thought not," he murmurs. He reaches up and brushes away the tear, his hand lingering on my cheek. His eyes flicker towards my lips, and he leans forward ever so slightly, but abruptly he drops his hand and turns away. He starts down the hall, moving with a speed that almost suggests he is fleeing. I recover myself and call after him, "Gríma!"
He freezes. He does not turn to look at me. "Yes, my Lady?"
My voice trembles as I speak. "Would… would it change their fate? If…" I choke on the words, unable to speak them.
He says nothing for a few moments, and then his shoulders sag in defeat. "No, my Lady," he says softly. "No, it would not."
Anger overtakes me again. "Why not?" I demand.
"Because, unlike you, love, I am not selfless," he says painfully. "I value my own life above all others, save yours, and if I betray Saruman – even for you – I will be slain, and even without me he will still claim Rohan's throne. At least this way, I know both of us are safe."
I am disgusted by his selfishness. "Coward," I spit.
He sighs. "Not everyone can be brave, my Lady," he murmurs. "I need you for that."
With those words, he hurries off again, melting into the shadows far down the corridor, disappearing from my view. I stand in the door a long time, and raise a hand to my cheek, where his fingers brushed away my tears, and the aching need inspired by those same fingers the night before sears through my flesh.
Maybe, I reflect with despair, I am not so selfless as you think…