09 November 2007 | 3905 words
Title: To Open Her Eyes
Warnings: AU; timelines are off, the story is different, only the characters are familiar
Disclaimer: All make-believe; the characters belong to Tolkien but I’ve taken them out to play.
Author’s note: Written for alexajohnson in the sons_of_gondor Halloween Trick or Treat Fic/Art Exchange. This is my first attempt at writing het and I so hope you like it. The story is a different take on the classic romance between Faramir and Éowyn. Tolkien and Peter both seem to believe her mental recovery was quick and easy. I tend to think it would have been more difficult.
When the shieldmaiden and the steward met she had been withdrawn from the world and he had been lost in it. For her, life held no hopes, no dreams, no desires. Time seemed to move through a morass of viscous water, clinging to her skirt and threatening to drag her under. For Éomer alone she resolved to endure the pain and grief, to return to Rohan and take up her duty at her brother’s side. However, when he found the woman destined to be his wife she knew she would be replaced with no purpose to give meaning to her life. Only then would she drift, able to sink forever beneath the deceptively calm sea of despair.
For him, although the king had returned and led him from the blackness in his mind, he now found himself in a world he felt unprepared and unworthy to face. He still feels the loss of his brother like a dull knife slowly digging through his flesh, but his father’s death and the circumstances surrounding it have also hit him with formidable force. He felt the full weight of Denethor’s venom and insanity even as he worked to maintain the city until Aragorn’s return. But he held tight to the strength of his uncle and prayed for his safety, not knowing if he could face the world with no family save a few cousins he had but a passing connection to.
But although he struggled with the knowledge that he was now steward, even though he mourned and worried along with everyone within the city’s walls, the moment he saw her his heart became hers. The strength of her bearing even withered by injury could not be denied, the beauty and sorrow in her eyes compelling. He lived for their quiet walks in the garden, to stand together looking toward the battle they were both trained to fight but now unable to engage. The mere sight of her golden head bowed in thought was enough to disperse the foul remnants of his father’s madness that often closed around him. And he longed to find the key that would unlock the deep misery that surrounded her.
The victory was heralded throughout the city, but other than relief that her brother had been spared she did not rejoice. She remained within the Houses of Healing, with no outward sign apparent that the darkness that threatened their world had been overcome. Each day she would walk in the gardens or accompany the warden on his rounds caring for the sick and injured.
When she did not ride out to Cormallen to join Éomer in celebration, Faramir grew concerned and searched for her. For the first time she had left the warden’s care and stood alone looking across the Pelennor still scarred from battle. She acknowledged his approach with a brief nod then continued looking out across the field, searching for her destiny but finding nothing in front of her eyes but the dusky pallor of the sky.
“You must be eager to see the plains of Rohan once more,” Faramir remarked, his voice hushed against the sadness that lay thick around her. “After so long away I imagine you’ve grown homesick for its rolling hills.”
“I love my country and all its beauty, both wild and tame, but no home awaits me there. I have no purpose in the Golden Hall, no lasting mission to fulfill.”
Faramir wanted nothing more than to gather her into his arms and chase the desolation from her lungs, to lighten her burdens if only for a few minutes. Instead he turned toward her and clasped the wall, determined to finally ask the question he had been too wary to voice before. “Although time will no doubt alter your view, perhaps you would still consider a proposition.”
Éowyn turned her head, her eyes full of fire. He tried to ignore the restrained fury in her face.
“Ithilien was once a verdant land and it is my will to see it returned to its former glory. And while the war has been won, there remain many skirmishes still to fight to ensure our security. u are a shieldmaiden but also a healer. I have seen you beside the warden of this House, administering remedies with practiced skill and knowledge.”
Daring to ignite her anger further, he paused and took her hands in his own. He heard a short gasp, quickly hidden behind a cough. Her eyes were focused on their joined hands, and he thought he could feel a slight tremor through her palms.
“These hands were taught to wield a sword but also to grow and nurture new life. I ask you to stay here, to come to Ithilien and help restore it to the lush country it once was, to continue healing the wounded. And I can think of no one better suited than one as brave and accomplished as you.”
Her eyes snapped up to meet soft grey, honest and gentle. She saw nothing but admiration for her in their depths, no condescension or pity. She wanted to withdraw her hands, pull away from even this simple contact. But she could not bring herself to sever the connection.
“Why would I not simply fulfill this goal in Rohan, among the burned out villages and destroyed farmland of my people? Why should I bestow whatever gifts I have upon Gondor?”
“Because I ask not only for your aid, but for your hand in marriage, to forever unite the Mark and Gondor in friendship. I make no demands of you as a woman, nor will I as a wife, for my love will endure merely by being allowed in your presence.”
As the word ‘love’ passed his lips, Faramir could feel Éowyn tense and begin to pull away. “Forget the word. It’s not important. All that matters is the good work you could do here and the alliance our union could create between our countries, one that would not be rent by future pique or folly.”
This time when she began to back away he regretfully released her. Éowyn clasped her hands together, rubbing them slowly against each other still feeling the odd sensations his touch sent through her. Collecting her thoughts she turned and walked back toward the center of the garden. He followed quietly behind and when she sat on the bench they had shared many times before he joined her keeping a respectful distance between them.
“I will never love you,” she said firmly, the resolve in her eyes making the message clear.
Faramir could not hide his hurt at the statement, but did not let his eyes waver from hers. “I don’t deny that it saddens me to hear this, but I understand. I do not go into this arrangement blind.”
She looked at Faramir for long minutes trying to take the full measure of this enigmatic man. Finally she stood and faced him. “I will consider your proposal, Faramir,” she said giving him a small smile and only just stopping herself from reaching for his hand once more. “I will give it much thought and discuss it with Éomer, and when we have buried our uncle I will have an answer for you.”
Faramir accompanied the party as steward to his king, but Éowyn was his true purpose. He wished for there to never be a great distance between them, and it was most important that he be by her side for Théoden’s burial. He stayed as unobtrusive as possible while at Edoras, spending most of his time with Aragorn or exploring the country. And all the while he waited for her decision, hoping his heart would not remain in these lands when he returned to Gondor. If she rejected him he wanted to hear the words from her lips, not read through a missive from a nameless messenger.
For her part, Éowyn tried to ignore Faramir’s presence but was unsuccessful. The more he stayed in the background the more her attention was drawn to him. She found herself growing ever more irritated at the amount of time she spent thinking of him and his offer. This was business, a formal arrangement for the betterment of her people, nothing more. So why could she not stop thinking of how it felt to have her hands held between his, the roughness of a soldier’s grip somehow soft and comforting.
Aragorn’s time in Edoras grew short, and Faramir was hard pressed for an excuse to stay after the king continued north toward the Shire. He was beginning to think Éowyn was content to keep him waiting, to delay her decision until he returned to Ithilien before finally sending word of her refusal. Faramir debated whether to go looking for her, to force her to tell him once and for all, but he chose instead to take one last walk around the grounds and horse yards of the city. As he opened his door, he was surprised to find Éowyn outside, her hand raised as if about to knock.
“My lady,” he said, stepping back to let her enter the room.
“You have great patience, Faramir,” she remarked. “Most men would have insisted on an answer before now.”
“It was a grave business that occupied your time. But I admit to growing anxious you would choose to refuse me by an impersonal message rather than to my face.”
“Refuse you? Nay, I have decided to accept the proposal.” She marveled at the look of delight that passed across Faramir’s face, her chest tightening in spite of her efforts to quell the feelings that were beginning to grow. I would not believe it, but he grows more handsome with each passing day, she thought, wanting desperately to see that look and more brighten his face for the rest of her life. She looked at length into Faramir’s eyes as if seeing him for the first time. Faramir did not flinch under the scrutiny and spoke not a word. He sensed the burgeoning emotions passing through her and began to finally feel hopeful that all he wanted could some day be his.
At last she seemed to pull herself out of the momentary reverie. “It is a provisional acceptance, of course, until I speak with Éomer.”
“I will go to him at once,” Faramir declared, his hand already reaching for the door.
“No, I will speak to him first. He must hear it from me and no other.”
Faramir wondered what the King of Rohan would think of him for not asking for his permission directly, but deferred to her wishes without another word.
“Do you love him?”
Éomer sat with his sister in their “secret” room, the small antechamber they often escaped to as children that served as a refuge against the strife and turmoil around them. His eyes searched hers for some sign, something that would put his mind at rest that she would at least be content in her life.
“That is not to be, Éomer. I am not destined to be filled with love for another.” She quieted him as he began to protest. “No, let me speak. Faramir is a good man; noble, strong and generous of spirit. I could do much worse in a husband. And the political benefits cannot be denied. I will not be unhappy there, and with him my duty will continue for years to come. Here I will be displaced when you marry. What future is that for me?” She took his hand and held it tightly. “Please give us your blessing.”
Éomer mourned the sister he once knew, the fire and vitality that intimidated men as much as they desired her. He had hoped over time she would return to him full of light, her cares less pronounced, but his prayers had fallen on deaf ears. The new Prince of Ithilien may be suited by rank for her hand, but he was unsure if he was truly worthy of one such as Éowyn.
Faramir was expecting the visit and stood calmly as Éomer approached. The man was always imposing, but today his concern for his sister seemed to have made him grow in stature.
“Is this how men of Gondor manage their affairs? Did you not think it your place to come to me yourself and ask for Éowyn’s hand in marriage?” He was practically growling, the words rumbling from deep in his chest.
Faramir remained calm, this outburst not unexpected. “She wanted to speak to you herself.”
“And are the men of your country so weak-minded they cannot think for themselves?”
“Quite the contrary. We are so keen of wit that when a woman such as Éowyn, one whom I love and respect above all others, makes a simple request I heed her wishes.”
Éomer seemed to deflate before Faramir’s eyes, his bad temper diminishing. “She said this was not a love match.”
“For her it is not.”
“Do not mistake misery for weakness. She is as strong of will as she is of body. If she says she will not love you, then it is likely you will live the rest of your days without it.”
“I understand and if that should come to pass, I accept it as my fate. I do not have the words to describe the love I have for your sister, and cannot begin to understand how it grows in strength despite her rejection of my affection. But I will be a good husband, you have my word of honor. I will protect her and be true to our vows. She will want for nothing. Most importantly, and I cannot explain, I believe in my heart that I alone can lift the veil of despair that clings to her.”
Éomer looked at the man before him and for a moment a picture flashed across his mind of his beloved sister walking through a path of lilacs hand in hand with Faramir, her laughter as music on the wind. Perhaps he could bring back the joy that was now a stranger in Éowyn’s life. He nodded his approval and firmly clasped Faramir’s hand.
For several months the couple worked side by side directing scouting parties and construction crews. They complimented each other perfectly, and when Faramir was called away to Minas Tirith, Éowyn easily took up his duties running the restoration efforts and directing the soldiers as they hunted down the enemy that had escaped into the region after the war. The work was physically hard and mentally draining, but neither shirked from the tasks at hand. Faramir often consulted his wife on matters of state, valuing her opinion and judgment. And he left many of the land negotiations in her capable hands, cataloguing and reallocating parcels as owners and tenant farmers returned to reclaim their homes.
Over time Éowyn’s admiration for Faramir grew. At first she was taken by his humility and the ease with which he interacted with both nobility and servants. She watched those who had known him for years go out of their way to do whatever he requested, and others he had just met immediately trust and respect him. He was the king’s most valued advisor, his intelligence and strategic mind an incomparable asset in all matters. But beyond that she was amazed at his genuine kindness, his humor and his tenderness toward all living things. She greatly admired that none of it diminished the fierce warrior beneath the surface; he remained a master of both bow and sword.
In all the time they worked as partners Faramir never once broke his vow to her. She did not know how a man could spend so long without the company of another, and on several occasions almost granted him permission to seek comfort from wherever it could be found. But something always held her tongue. She tried to keep herself distant, tried to bolster the wall she had erected between them. But every day it crumbled further, and her soul’s cry for its mate became harder to ignore.
She lay in the dark thinking of him yet urgently trying to get him out of her mind. With each passing minute he emerged as a more solid presence, pushing back her defenses and becoming a preeminent fixture in her thoughts. His eyes always reminded her of welcome storm clouds, promising life-giving rain and the end of drought. They were so true and honest she often felt herself falling into them, enjoying their warmth and security. She wanted to know what it would be like to card her fingers through his hair, to feel the strands brush her skin as he bent toward her. She imagined how safe it would feel to be enveloped in his arms, to feel his heart against her palm, the steady rhythm beating just for her.
Staring blankly at the ceiling, longing for the one thing she had refused herself, she realized that despite fighting against it she had fallen in love with her Gondorian ranger. A tear slid from her eye as she wondered if it was too late to claim the heart she had spurned for so long. Sighing in exasperation, she wiped furiously at her face. Tears would solve nothing, and she refused to believe all hope was lost.
The next morning, Éowyn woke early and sent word through one of Faramir’s attendants that she wished to meet him in the banquet hall before breakfast, stressing that he should bring his sword. The room had once been a grand hall of state but now was in disrepair, it’s roof caved in and vines creeping along the walls. Most of the debris had been cleared or pushed to the side, but it would be one of the last rooms they’d renovate so for now was barren. Many in the household had used the space for sword practice in the past, but until today Éowyn had turned down all invitations.
When Faramir entered he found his wife moving through a well-practiced exercise, the sword swinging with precision through the air, her footwork flawless. He watched her quietly for a few moments, feeling his heart break slightly more knowing this incredible woman still would not accept his love.
“Are you going to stand there all morning or join me for some sparring practice, my lord?” Her voice taunted him and she did not pause in her practice, but continued to move through steps long committed to memory.
Chuckling, Faramir immediately entered the room and stripped off his cloak, dropping it to the ground. They crossed swords and before he could take another breath, he found himself quickly driven back, surprised by the ferocity of her attack.
“Do you dare to underestimate me?” Her eyes twinkled in mischief, and Faramir wondered at the change in her demeanor. Since coming to Ithilien their relationship had definitely broadened, he thought it fair to even describe it as friendship if still somewhat constrained. But this lightheartedness was new to him, something he wanted to see more of.
“My apologies, fair lady,” he replied, parrying another powerful thrust. “Rest assured it will not happen again.”
For the next half hour they moved through the empty hall, matching each other blow for blow. She was highly skilled and clever, and had obviously learned to use her smaller stature against her opponent. They had both worked up a healthy sweat when Éowyn grew tired of the game.
“Enough,” she exclaimed, then set off on a blistering attack. Faramir was forced backwards and stumbled on an uneven stone, falling to the ground. The tip of her sword was immediately at his neck.
“Do you yield?” she asked, her voice playful yet still with an icy edge.
At his quick nod, she began to draw her sword back, quickly angling it at his chest when he began to rise from the ground, holding him in place.
“Ah ah ah,” she chided, slowly lowering herself to kneel beside him. She replaced the sword with her left hand, firmly pressing against his chest as she laid the weapon to the side and leaned over him, her hair falling in a wave next to his face.
“May I take my reward, husband?”
Faramir swallowed thickly, his heart beating hard and fast against his ribs, his eyes glued to the fullness of her lips. Smiling at the surprise and desire in his eyes, she closed the distance between them. Their first kiss was not delicate or tentative, but rather all consuming. Her tongue instantly demanded entrance as she slid down to lie beside him, her hands moving to cradle his face. At first stunned into passivity, Faramir quickly recovered. Rolling to his side and pulling her fully into his arms, he returned the kiss with equal fervor. The passion between them was instant and white-hot, the feeling almost overwhelming after so long bereft of any affection.
Just as quickly as it started she pulled back to look into his eyes. I was right, she thought, to be held in his arms is to feel safe, to be cherished. She began to smile then burst into joyous laughter, the gleeful sound filling the room and Faramir’s heart with its delightful lilt. He ran a hand through her hair and idly traced a finger along her cheekbone and jaw, his other arm still holding her close as he quietly held his beloved until her laughter died down.
“Faramir,” she whispered, grasping his tunic in her hands as she leaned forward and gave him a gentle kiss. Too quickly to his liking, she was pushing up onto her feet, extending a hand to help him up.
“The ground is too hard and cold. And breakfast is waiting, my love.” She emphasized the final words, pulling him closer to her and reaching to curl her free hand into the hair at the nape of his neck. “Are you not hungry?”
“Yes, but not for what the cook has prepared,” he replied, his words ghosting across her lips as he leant closer still.
“Then let us retire to our quarters and sate your appetite.”
“But why now? What has happened?”
“Does it matter? I have been stubborn and foolish, and now my heart is open and my eyes clear. I had retreated on a desolate and bleak sea where all the brightness in the world was dimmed, hiding me from all that is pure and good, shielding me from you. But no more. Bring me to our marriage bed and show me the love I have denied us for far too long.”
Faramir took her hand, and with one final kiss led her from the room and into their new lives, once simply partners now truly husband and wife.
NB: Please do not distribute (by any means, including email) or repost this story (including translations) without the author's prior permission. [ more ]
Enjoyed this story? Then be sure to let the author know by posting a comment at http://www.faramirfiction.com/Fiction/to-open-her-eyes. Positive feedback is what keeps authors writing more stories!
Thank the author
The following people read the story, enjoyed it, and would like to thank the author: Laurel , chloé , fira