Faramir lingered in the shadows as he peered out on to the balcony. He could see the king's silhouette against the morning sun. He stood facing the city, watching it wake up.
Faramir took a step in to the sunlight, then changed his mind and retreated further back into the darkness. He couldn't bother the king with his insignificant problem. Not when there were more important things to worry about. King Aragorn practically had to rebuild the city from the ground up. He would brush aside Faramir's problem as foolish.
Faramir turned to leave when he thought of Éowyn. She had asked him to talk to Aragorn. She'd only asked once, a month ago; it had taken Faramir this long to gather enough courage to go through with it. He couldn't back out now, if only because of Éowyn.
Faramir took a deep breath and stepped out onto the balcony. He cleared his throat to announce himself as the king turned around. Aragorn smiled at his steward. He noticed the hands clasped tightly behind his back and the sleepless nights played painfully across the steward's face.
"Good morning Faramir."
"Good morning, my lord." Faramir took a few steps forward to come to stand next to the king.
"How many times to I have to ask you to call me Aragorn, Faramir?" Aragorn asked.
"Too many, my lord." Aragorn caught Faramir's eyes and smiled. Faramir smiled back. He still felt uncomfortable calling the king by his given name, even though he was asked countless times to do so. Aragorn turned back to the city. Faramir stood in silence. He didn't want to disrupt the king's peaceful morning. He was contemplating leaving when Aragorn said,
"Something troubles you, my friend."
"I think something is wrong with me." Faramir blurted out.
Aragorn turned, a slight look of surprise on his face.
"What makes you say that?" Before Faramir had time to think the words rushed out of his mouth.
"I'm not sleeping at night, and when I do, I wake up screaming. I've lost my appetite, become snappish and irritable. I have vivid memories in the middle of the day that leave me delirious and confused, loud noises cause me to jump and cower." Faramir paused for a breath. "I could go on, my lord," he said. Aragorn's face softened with understanding.
"There is no need."
"You think it foolish then, foolish that I am fretting over nothing. Good day, my lord." Faramir stared to walk away.
"Come back, Faramir." The king's voice was soft but commanding. Faramir slowly turned. Aragorn was standing with his hand outreached.
"I don't think you foolish, but you are right. You are suffering." He saw a flash of fear pass across his steward's eyes.
"Not what you would expect," the king continued. "You are suffering from something soldiers call battle fatigue."
"Battle fatigue, sir?"
"For a lack of better name, yes. When a person has experienced a traumatic and life threatening event, such as war, his mind reacts."
"So you are saying my mind it is injured?" Faramir asked.
"If you want to look at it that way."
"How do you fix it?"
"Time," said Aragorn. "Time and belief. You have to give it time to heal like any other wound, and belief that you will become whole again. Talking with someone helps." Faramir hesitated before asking his next question.
"Do you suffer from it sir?" He looked at Aragorn, hoping.
"Yes, I do. It affects everyone one way or another." Faramir snorted.
"They always talk about the riches and glory, but they never talk about what happens after."
"It's not easy to talk about it."
Faramir didn't say anything. Aragorn could see the pain in Faramir's eyes, a pain he knew only to well.
"Come Faramir," he said softly. Faramir obeyed and Aragorn directed his attention to the street below. It was just starting to wake up. A young woman made her way with a basket. A small child followed sleepily behind his mother. An elderly man stepped out of his door to feed a stray dog some scraps.
"Do you see these people?" Aragorn asked. Faramir nodded.
"It is the price we pay for their freedom, the ultimate sacrifice, our innocence and sometimes sanity for their safety. " Aragorn turned to Faramir. "Don't think of it as a curse, but as a badge of courage. Wear it proudly."
Faramir continued to look off the balcony. Aragon could see a hint of understanding in the younger man's face. With time he would learn and heal. After a moment a silence, Faramir asked,
"May I come here tomorrow?"
"Of course." Softly Faramir said,
"Thank you, Aragorn." The two men locked their eyes for a moment, complete understanding between them, before they turned to watch the city welcome the new day.