Disclaimer: See Prologue. Gwen is mine.
Many, many thanks for the handful of readers who so loyally review this story – all of you are so amazing. As a writer, I've found it difficult to strike a balance between my vision and Tolkien's vision, and to do them both justice (as apposed to butchering one or the other). I greatly appreciate the feedback I've gotten about canon and toeing that line.
The Light Within:
Chapter Fifty-Three: Intimate Moments
Year 3019 of the Third Age
Gwen woke just as the sun was setting, comfortably intertwined with Éomer's body. His heavy chest served as her pillow, and sometime during the night he had thrown a massive, heavy thigh across her hips possessively. She wasn't sure there was much better in the world than being close to him. They slept as they had made love – deeply, with abandon, and completely wrapped up in one another, as close as they could get. The intermittent tenderness and ferocity with which the big horse lord had claimed her body with his own would remain forever etched in her memory. The flashes of deep care he had shown her, as if she was precious and fragile – made her feel as if she was the center of his world.
Frankly, she couldn't think of a better way to lose her virginity than to the ferocious warrior.
Pinned underneath one brawny arm and thick leg, she stirred, her body needing to stretch, and quickly growing restless under the heavy cage he made against her. Éomer woke, then, instantly alert, tense at first (as he had been every time) and then relaxing as he realized where they were once more. Instead of releasing her, he pulled her even closer with a grunt, pressing their bodies together and nuzzling his face against her chest.
"Good morning," Éomer rumbled against, looking pleased at her position beside him. He brought the arm that pinned her to him up to cup her face with a gentleness that made her heart stutter. "Hi," she murmured, stretching luxuriously under his body. A moment later, he sat up, studying her with new, hotly intimate eyes. He watched as she sat up gingerly, wincing when her joints protested. Sex, it seemed, did burn calories. She wanted to giggle at the remembered conversation she had endured with Jessie so long ago, but stifled it in favor of stretching.
"Are you very sore this morning?" He pulled her against him, his fingers gliding to delve between her legs. Gwen's breath caught as he fondled her gently. "It is definitely evening," she teased, sounding breathy. "Mmmm." Éomer made a sound deep in his throat, and it was a cross between a growl and a purr. His hand was making her warm and needy again. "But are you hurting badly?" His voice was ragged and slightly hoarse from sleep, and the husky quality of it made her shiver deliciously. Even after a near marathon of sex with the man, she still was affected by him. Is that normal? Gwen inclined her head back, enjoying the quiet intimacy between them, and smiled a little. "No, I do not hurt there as badly as my shoulder does." He gaze probed her for long moments, but she waved him off, saying, "I think it's normal to be sore after the first time." Éomer inclined his head in acceptance of her words before removing his hand and turning his attention to the waning light still trickling into the space. She missed his touch already.
"We need to be going soon," he sighed, "though I would give nearly anything to stay here with you another fortnight, at least." He smiled devilishly over his shoulder. "Helm's Deep is not very far, but on foot it will take the better part of the night at least, and your companions will be expecting us." His eyes lost their intimacy as darker thoughts crept in, and Gwen was sad to see it go. She, too, started to think of all the things she had to make amends for in regards to Legolas and Gimli. She would be lucky if they forgave her at all. Still, Gwen believed she could and would do better in the future. Beside her, Éomer stood from the floor and began to dress, silently. Gwen watched him go.
The Éomer she had come to know that day was everything she could want or desire in a lover – attentive, passionate, and knowledgeable. He had set her on fire with a single touch. He still did.
But reality had returned, reminding them both of their duties and responsibilities. Christ, this is the heir to a whole effing realm, besides! She knew what that had to mean for him, and for her. What was between them was amazing, but it would never be more than sex. Even as she accepted that, Éomer surprised her, pulling her from her thoughts by dragging her up and into his now-dressed lap with a hot kiss on her neck. "What are you thinking so seriously about, woman?" His breath teased her throat, and he nipped playfully at the juncture of her shoulder, making her shiver and want him all over again. She smiled up at him, again struck at how utterly masculine he was. It was little wonder she had fallen into a puddle of desire around his feet.
He waited for her reply, his eyes missing nothing in her face, and she hoped she was careful enough to cover up her thoughts. "Just thinking about the battle coming," she hedged. His features hardened again as he, too, considered what was to come. She tried to shift away, to begin to dress, but he tightened his arms around her, effectively shackling her to him. Gwen laughed up at him, smacking his chest lightly. "Let me up. I need to dress."
Playfulness returned to him, and he stroked one lean hand from her breasts to her hip, a clear possessive move. He watched her carefully. "And what if I prefer you like this, completely bare for my every desire?" She shivered at the intensity in his eyes, and she felt her body tense with now-familiar desire. Still, they really did have to be going. Joking, she said, "That's all well and good, Lord Éomer, but I would wager every man at Helm's Deep would prefer the same, and I am definitely not for doing the naked parade into battle." She laughed, but he didn't seem to think the thought amusing as she did. Heartbeats passed, and he didn't respond. When his features darkened worryingly, she twisted in his lap and pressed herself against him in reassurance.
"You know I'm playing right?"
Éomer didn't answer for a moment, looking faraway, but he played with her hair and after a heartbeat, he bent to kiss her possessively. When he released her lips, he murmured, "Yes, I know you jest, little one. But I do not doubt the truth of your words – how can any man look upon you and not desire to see you as I have?" His eyes trailed her face. "To claim you for their own as I have?" His mouth twisted into a snarl at the thought, and Gwen realized in that moment that there was so much about this man and his ways she did not know or understand at all.
The thought scared her. One thing was clear – he felt she was his, now, and no other man's. She didn't have a clue how to handle it. Did she accept his claim or deny it? Gwen couldn't help but feel this was a very sticky path to tread. Finally, she decided to take a little of both paths. "For as long as you will have me, Éomer," she pledged, "there will be no other." She wasn't that kind of woman anyway, but he seemed to need the reassurance. She reached to bring his head back to hers, and kissed him to seal her words. It lingered, and the rising crest of desire nearly took them both. He released her with a groan.
"I will hold you to that, you temptress," he hissed with a hint of humor, eyes hot on her face. "Begone from me – and dress, quickly, before I have you again." He pushed her from his lap unceremoniously, tossing her clothes over her playfully. Seriousness crept back into him, though, after a moment's pause and he motioned to the entryway. "I will scout the perimeter, and ensure the uruk-hais are not too close." Grimly, he strapped on the last of his armor, trying not to watch as Gwen dressed. He pushed his big body through the opening they had made and was gone before she could finish tying her breeches. Her own body protested every movement she made, but it wasn't unmanageable pain. It was strange – she was pleased on a visceral level to carry Éomer's marks on her body, and the reminder of the day they had shared together. Is that a good thing?
But there was so much she didn't understand about herself and him and them, so she didn't dwell overmuch on her strange reaction. Éomer stuck his head back into the cave a minute later, saying, "We should be safe traveling close to the passes. Are you ready?" She was, nearly. Delighted to have her blade in her hands once more, she strapped Burningstar to her back along with her pack before turning to the entrance. Getting out of the cave was much more entertaining than going in had been, but she managed well enough with her brawny lover's help. Together they made for Helm's Deep.
They came way too close to Saruman's army for her comfort.
Éomer seemed unconcerned about their nearness, but she couldn't tell what he was really thinking. Gwen found it worrisome that she was unable to read him when they were in situations like this; Gwen needed to be able to react quickly if something were to go wrong. But beyond that, it felt like he had completely closed off from her since they left the cave. She had expected this behavior to a degree – he was at heart a warrior, not a lover, and he always became a different person during a fight, anyway.
Sleeping with the man had done little to change that, and she tried not to take his sudden cool demeanor as a slight against her; he was doing simply what he had been trained to do his entire life. But there was a part of her that expected something more after the night they had shared. Her head was spinning, she was so confused, but Gwen knew it would do little good to share them with a man like Éomer. He'd probably just look at me weird, anyway. She skirted a jagged rock, only half-aware of her surroundings. Do women in this time have conversations like that with their lovers? It seemed a little too modern, she thought. So, she brushed these feelings off as vulnerabilities to be dealt with later, but still they niggled at her.
Suddenly, Gwen slammed into Éomer's back as he came to an abrupt halt, signaling for quiet when she would have questioned him. His hand on her arm was both reassuring and a warning for silence. Thankfully, she had the good sense not to make a sound, despite the fact her abrupt stop caused her to bite her tongue painfully. The reason for his actions became quite clear a moment later when n orc – a tiny, slavering little maggot compared to the huge uruk-hai they had seen all day – moved noisily just up ahead, muttering and cursing to itself psychotically. Oh eff.
It was coming towards them. With every step the creature took, she felt Éomer grow more tense, and she knew he was preparing to strike. Like a coiled snake, his muscles bunched in growing readiness, his hand at his blade. Gwen, too, reached slowly up for her blade, not knowing if the witless orc would see her obvious movement or not. The tension in the air ratcheted upwards, and the orc came so close she even held her breath for fear it would hear her.
The ugly creature stopped just shy of their hiding place, and dropped its britches, revealing mottled, fleshy, pitted thighs and a hairy ass. Oh Jeeezus, I could have lived without that sight. Yellow piss streamed down from the orc's standing position, and she grimaced when it came within a hairsbreadth of her feet. Still, neither she nor Éomer moved an inch for fear of bringing down the entire uruk-hai army on top of them.
Long, awkward moments later, the creature hiked up his filthy britches and moved away, rejoining the slow-moving caravan of uruk-hais a short ways away. Gwen and Éomer shared a look of dual relief and disgust before continuing on, silent as wraiths. When the keep came into sight later, in the wee hours of the morning, she wanted to whoop with joy. Her breeches were chaffing her thighs and womanly bits from where wetness had been leaking out of her all day. Women in the romance novels never seemed to worry about that kind of thing after sex!
She wondered if it was normal to crave a hot shower after sex, and if Éomer would find it insulting or not. But God knew, she really, really wanted a hot bath right now. Gwen contemplated that as they ascended the stone causeway leading up to the keep, trying not to wince. What had started out as a mild ache between her legs at the beginning of their journey had become a throbbing pain. Her shoulder, however, was curiously pain-free. As she thought of that particular wound, of course, the pain returned.
When the victorious whoops of the Rohirric warriors guarding the keep's walls rose up, unexpected tears rose in her eyes. These men sounded so glad to see them ascending the stone path to the keep gates, and she really was happy to be safe - if only for a few days - but there was a visceral part of herself that cried out that she hadn't found Aragorn. She would be so happy to see Legolas and Gimli again – she did have apologies to give to her friends, but sadness for the man whom she had risked all this to find was still gone – dead.
She had no choice but to accept that now.
Aragorn is still out there somewhere – and it's my fault.