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17 March 2012 | 3273 words
Title: The Cage
Pairing(s): Faramir/Éowyn, implied Faramir/Aragorn
Warnings: Angst, het, implied slash, sexual scenes.
Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me. All written in good fun with no offence intended!
Author’s Note: (Happy Birthday to me :P) If you’ve not read my previous story, The Price of Love and Duty, I suggest that you do before proceeding otherwise this won’t make very much sense at all! I never usually write more than one story set in the same AU, but this wouldn’t leave me in peace. Terrified as I am that I’ve spoiled someone’s own theories as to what happened next, you have my permission to pretend this doesn’t exist if it doesn’t match your expectations! This is set one day after the events in the first piece. There will be one more story in this AU to follow, mostly from Aragorn’s point of view. I hope you enjoy!
(My apologies for any inconsistencies/plot holes between the stories, I did write this quite a while after the first piece.)
Looking up, she sees stars.
Seven of them, on a white banner, flying free in the evening breeze, the tree they encircle upon the pale cloth distorted with the whim of the wind. Éowyn wraps her cloak more tightly about her shoulders and steps to the edge of the rampart, a small figure above an expanse of white stone terraces.
He is waiting for her, not ten paces distant, but she will not go to him, not yet.
Her hair whips about her face wildly, lashing her cheeks, beating at her be-robed shoulders until she frees her white arms and reaches up to braid it into submission. The sky darkens and no moon looks down upon her. She closes her eyes for a brief instant, letting the heavy golden plait swing down against her spine. She will not go to him.
When she was a girl, Éowyn had had but one desire; to ride, to ride well, to ride into battle, to ride with the waving grasses and through singing streams with the sun tanning her fair skin and her hair knotting itself endlessly as it flew out behind her. When she grew older, her needs changed. To ride, yes, to battle, yes, but to die, to die well with sword in hand. To be free, to fight, to be seen as equal to any man. To live a good life, and die a good death, if that was her lot. There was nothing beyond that, in those days when shadow loomed. It was only when her arm had been broken, when she felt useless and weak and helpless, trapped, caged in white stone with only echoing thoughts of failure as counsel, it was then that she saw a new way out. To love, and to be loved; could she accept that? Not hero-worship, no great epic ballad of tragic love; simple, honest, perfect affection and grace, kindness, comfort, a gentle kiss upon her brow. Faramir was the unlooked for anchor in a sea made choppy with loss, and she clung to him, more fervently than she ever thought herself capable. She had begun, to her utmost surprise, to feel sated. Happy. Complete.
Aragorn had rejected her. And Aragorn had ridden off into the mists. And when he returned from the Morgul vale Aragorn had dared slip back into her life so quietly she had not noticed until it was too late.
Earlier in the evening Éowyn had watched from this very spot- down, down over the roofs and spiralling streets, out across to the Pelennor as two miniscule horses and riders came ever closer to the gates far below. Too small to be recognisable, but she knew who the men were, and she knew where they had been. After a time, Faramir had crested the stone steps behind her and approached, quietly, a hand outstretched as he neared to lay upon her waist as he stood beside her. Éowyn had looked up at him, her fine, gentle husband, and what she saw this day in his eyes brought her to weep. She had cursed herself; her promise to show no weakness in this matter had been a foolish endeavour from the start. She took Faramir’s hands in her own, and they faced one another in silence.
On their wedding day, they had stood thusly; alone together before all they knew and loved. Aragorn was there, joining them, and looking back now Éowyn’s stomach tightens when she realises he was there at the beginning, and now the King seemed bent also on bringing about the end. Faramir had had colour to his cheeks, and when he pulled her to him and kissed her for the first time as his wife, so deeply and with tender love, she had tasted the sweet spice of wine upon his lips and smiled against him; she too had swallowed a mouthful to calm her nerves before stepping forward, arm looped through Éomer’s, into the great hall. She had been so achingly happy, that day, looking into the eyes of her husband, loving him so much she felt fit to burst with joy, something now that she finds herself lacking more with each passing day.
She had turned from him, and walked to the edge of oblivion, and he waited for her to make her decision.
There was a time long ago when she imagined what it might be like to kiss the strange Dúnedan King. It is with bitter humour that she acknowledges that she has indeed now done so, after a fashion. Faramir’s kisses are ever more ardent when he has come from the King’s presence, perhaps to prove to her where his loyalty and desire truly lie. To prove to himself, perhaps. She wonders in lonely moments if this is how the King kisses Faramir, or whether Faramir lets him go that far. Perhaps they are only chaste tokens; she has never brought herself to ask for the details. If it is only kisses, she had said, but Éowyn has begun to regret the acceptance she gave in the soft waves of afterglow; with her small, pale fingers curled around the tanned palms of her husband, she knew that it was her mistake in the first place. The sorrow she sees daily in Faramir’s eyes only drives the knife deeper into her heart. What have they done together, out there in the wild? What now has Aragorn out of pity driven her good husband to? Why must the King tear them asunder, his own misery is enough, surely. Why bring it also upon two others?
A voice, low on the wind. “My wife.” Faramir only called her that on these hollow days, when they were to each other but titles only. She turned then to see defeat was writ upon his face, and Éowyn felt the tears prick at her own eyes once again. What have you done, my love? What has he made you do this time?
She goes to him and stands close to him and the wind blows their hair together, copper and gold. The uncertain fear that thrums within her reminds her of the quiet terror of their wedding night; the unknown, the excitement. Would he throw himself upon her? Ravage her against the door as it closed behind them? She was no stranger to self-pleasure, but she had been told how lying with a man was different and would hurt and she was afraid. Faramir had turned the key in the lock, and turned to her, taking her hands in his and kissing each white knuckle with the barest of touches. She could not utter a word, but he filled the silence with soft endearments, soothing in his low voice. They lit the candles together, his hand gripping hers and guiding the taper to the wick. The room was comfortable, homely, with cushions scattered and soft furs beneath her feet. The bed loomed in the midst of it all, coverlets pulled back in invitation, but Faramir hastened her not, ushering her to sit upon the edge of the mattress as he reached for something in the bedside drawer. “Close your eyes, my heart,” and she had complied, terrified for a dreadful second before letting out a laugh of nervous relief as her new husband began with a comb to calm the golden waves that cascaded over the cliffs of her shoulders. Lovingly he gentled her with brief caresses of fingertips over the back of her neck as they passed downwards, growing bolder each time but with no urgency that would startle or unsettle her. Éowyn closed her eyes and listened to the soft songs he sang to her; his voice was raw but lilting and it began to excite her, the knowledge that he was so loving behind closed doors calming her fidgeting hands. Soon his fingers explored further, feather-light digits snaking upwards, trailing along the ridges of her ear, swirling in the hollow of her collarbones, slipping beneath the cloth of her dress to draw a line along the angle of her shoulder blade. With a leap in her stomach Éowyn realised the fastenings of her gown were at the rear and so Faramir would be the one who decided when she undressed- were he a man uncouth and ruled by base instinct. But he only parted her flaxen hair at the base of her neck and left a kiss there, the sharpness of stubble an electrifying delight.
She turned, then, and framed his face between her hands. He watched her, expectant, happy, content; she could tell lust was there, beneath it all, but it did not frighten her so much now. Love for him surged within her, and she kissed him, surprising herself at how hungrily she sought his tongue. He pulled her close, wrapping strong arms about her body and making a home for her there within them. “I am ready,” she said, when they were looking at each other again, and Faramir smiled and lifted her hands to the lacings of his tunic.
“Undress me.” The command was softly said, but the trepidation dulled her fingers as she fussed with the knots. She had seen men before, unclothed, bathing in the river, or shirtless on a hot day, but never like this; so close, with permission to touch, and she had not seen Faramir so. It occurred to her suddenly that he might be just as nervous, his guidance of her a mask to hide his own fears, but she thought herself foolish; she would not be upset to find that she was not her husband’s first conquest, and indeed she rather hoped she was not. The thought of them both un-garbed in the bed, looking at one another in clueless confusion brought a smile to her lips, and she suppressed a giggle, which in turn brought forth a rumble of humour from Faramir and they grinned at each other for a single, silly, shared second. The lacings unravelled in her hands, and she lifted the tunic from her husband’s shoulders, casting it aside, leaving him tousled in his undershirt.
“Your turn,” she said, turning her back upon him again and sweeping her hair to the side to expose the fastenings of her wedding dress. It had been her mother’s, and the delicate gauze slithered downwards over her arms as Faramir set to work, and she shrugged out of the loosened fabric. She stood, catching it in her hands and stepping out of it, draping Théodwyn’s legacy carefully over a nearby chair, aware just how thin the fabric of her under-shift was. Faramir watched her from the shadows at the head of the bed, eyes glinting in the flickering light. He aches to see me, she had thought, and I him. It was a delicious notion, but her stomach tightened when Faramir rose to join her and his body’s eager state became more than apparent. She would not cow before him though, and she bit her lip as he kissed her forehead, gently brushing the palm of her hand over the bulge in his breeches, much to Faramir’s murmured delight. It was hot and hard, and she did it again and Faramir began trailing kisses from her jaw down to her collarbones, pushing himself gently into her exploratory grasp.
Later, when they had returned to the bed, and Faramir, shirtless now, had lifted Éowyn’s shift up over her head, his hands returning immediately to her shoulders, her neck, sweeping down her sides, over her stomach and breasts, softly, so softly, she had been less worried about being so utterly exposed than she was about how he was going to fit inside her. She was sure he was fully aroused by now, the shape beneath the cloth a daunting prospect, but it was difficult to tell with his breeches obscuring the details. Her heartbeat drowned out all words of desire, and Faramir cocked his head and realised where her gaze had fallen so intently.
“This is what you do to me, my heart,” he said, kind laughter in his voice. Éowyn felt herself blush and forced herself to avert her gaze, though it was not easily done.
“It shames me to say I have not done this before,” she found herself murmuring, but Faramir reached forward and lifted her chin with his hand, leaning in and pressing his mouth to hers. When he drew away, but a hair’s breadth, his hot breath rushed over her face and sent ripples of anticipation through her, soothing her worries a little.
“There is no shame in that,” His cheeks coloured suddenly too, and he bit his lip. “I think the one who should be…ah, honest, is I. I have lain with women in the past.” He tilted his head. “The distant past, I might add. But more than one. I mean,” he fumbled, smiling. “One at a time, naturally!”
Éowyn laughed, forgetting her nakedness and the worry with which the notion of it had bombarded her as she had walked with Faramir to the bedroom what seemed like a hundred years ago. He was her life now, her future, a part of her, so why should she ever feel embarrassed? “I am glad!” At Faramir’s raised brows she elaborated, reaching forward boldly to undo the knots holding her husband’s breeches closed. “You are older than I, I might have thought you a little odd had you not lain with another before this night. I grew up with young men, I know their appetites, though I did not bend to their whims.” She paused, looking up at him with an expression that dared him to make mockery of her inexperience. “Some might say that makes me a woman of honour- others see me only as a child in matters of the heart, no matter my skill with the sword or horse.”
“Your swordsmanship is not in question, my dear wife, nor is your ability as a horsewoman. You outdo me, there, I will fully attest.”
Éowyn giggled. “I admit I do not think you make a very good horsewoman!”
Faramir grinned and began to wriggle out of his breeches. “You are the most honourable woman I have ever met, and you honour me by marrying me, and I will spend the rest of my life serving you; I want only your happiness.”
“My happiness is assured, Faramir, but please, do not let us begin our married life with one in service to another. We are equal, you and I, and I love you for that. Let us never change, and let us love one another in honesty and with grace.” She paused, suddenly shy. “There is but one thing I would ask, though, and be assured that it would make me happy.”
“Anything, Éowyn, you have but to name it and I will strive to attain it.”
She bowed her head, the heat in the room and in her innards like a fire that would not be quenched. Her hands clenched into fists, and then she relaxed, laying one pale palm upon the firm muscle of a copper-scattered thigh. Her eyes met his. “Be gentle with me, tonight.”
“Of course,” Faramir murmured, letting his breeches fall to the floor and covering Éowyn‘s small hand with his own. “Always.”
He had been gentle, and Éowyn had taken the memory of their first night together and placed it deep within her heart where not even Aragorn could ruin it. She took it out often, re-examined it, relived it, wondered at it. Faramir had kept his promise. Gently he had climbed atop her, gently he had kissed her, so gently had he taken her, but she had still cried out in pain and he had held her close, gently, gently. The last thing she remembered was his body curling around hers as she drifted into sleep, protection, a wall against all intruders, safe harbour. His hands had found hers, fingers interlocked, his lips forming words of affection in her ear as dreams enveloped her. She had felt utterly happy.
When she awoke in the morning, he was there with the sun, hair messy and flat, eyes heavy with sleep, smile splitting his features. Happiness flooded her heart to see him and she had rolled over and kissed his mouth and lain with him again as the day began.
Gently, months later, he had told her of Aragorn as she lay in a half-dream, fingers woven absently into the long hair of her husband. She was not listening properly the first time, and when she chanced to turn her head she saw with surprise tears upon his cheeks. The pain of the memory has caused her to wipe from her mind the specifics of their conversation, of the words Faramir chose to use in the hope of dulling pain, but she remembers the gist all too bitterly. And because she loved him, and because she had loved the king and pitied him, and because it was only kisses, she relented.
Now Faramir stands before her on a windswept rampart with eyes full of self-loathing, bereft of pity. She wants to be angry, she knows she should be, but already as she lifts her hand to brush away the hot tear that so quickly runs down his cheek can she feel the resentment emanate from him as if steam on the breeze. She can detect a ghostly scent of pipeweed upon him, and feels unwell.
“Tell me you did not-…” she tries, hope striking a cold note in her heart. Faramir looks at her. “Tell me-…no.” She gathers herself, and remembers the love and contentment she once harboured within herself, cocooned within blankets and strong arms. Maybe she is a fool for still loving him, but love and fury can co-exist. “End it. It is all I ask. Or it will be the last I ever ask of you, my good husband.”
And Faramir nods without hesitation, and the tears spill over, and the knot in his brow tightens and he takes her hands in his. “Anything, Éowyn. You had but to name it.”
She looks at him. She is angry. She is heartbroken. She is still in love, and she finds in herself the onus to be forgiving, one last time. Éowyn feels the rise and fall of her husband’s chest against her cheek as his tears wet her hair. She imagines over the howl of the wind she can detect the steady thump of his heart and prays that henceforth it will be hers and hers alone.
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The following people read the story, enjoyed it, and would like to thank the author: alecia