Title: The Gentle Season
Fandom: Lord of the Rings, post-RotK
Rating: G (maybe a very tame PG for slight implications)
Pairings: Éowyn/Faramir, Aragorn/Arwen
Disclaimer: These are by no means my characters. I wrote this only for fun.
Summary: Faramir and Éowyn take a day trip in good company. And though there are a few worries, the real problem is largely unforeseen.
Notes: *points at pairings* Look! I can write het! *giggles and hopes this turns out well* I did spend considerable time studying geography and history in order to write this... so I also do hope it's accurate. I started this story nearly a year ago in hopes of writing it for a spring challenge... which we ended up never holding. So I finished it for this challenge.
Beginnings & Endings Challenge Bunny: #2
Feedback: I would be delighted
The Gentle Season
Somewhere in the far distance, over the mountains and distant villages, there was a loud crack of thunder. It could not be heard from where Lady Éowyn sat at her window, but she could just make out the flash of lightning in the dark evening sky and knew it was there whether it touched her ears or not. She sat on her window seat, a pillow hugged to her stomach, her legs folded beneath her body, and her dress billowing as a cool breeze traveled in through the cracked open window. For early spring, there had been an unusually large number of storms. They were only just getting past one when it seemed another threatened to come their way.
"My Lady," Faramir said, his voice soft and kind as he emerged from the bathroom attached to their chamber. His garments from earlier that day, grass-stained and mud-soaked, had been discarded and replaced with clean, proper garments for a night in court. Likewise the rest of his body from ankles to hair was scrubbed clean, and though his hair was still wet, otherwise he shone with regality. "You are always looking out to the North-east when I take leave of your company. I wonder sometimes if you would not rather be with your brother in the land of your fathers."
Éowyn lowered her head, shaking it gently, then turned it and looked up. "No, My Lord. There is but one man I wish to be with. He who has shared his dreams and his bed with me, shares my heart." She held her hands out, and he came to her, taking them in his own. They were not the gentle hands of a lady, but one of a rider and a fighter and he was proud to have them as such. He sat down beside her on the seat and shivered as a cool, well-timed breeze swept through the partially open window. Alarmed, Éowyn pulled the window closed and latched it at once. "My apologies. I only meant to take in a bit of the night. But there is a chill on the air, and you with wet hair yet..." She reached up and took a bit of his hair between her fingers, feeling it. It was soft with wetness, and little drips fell upon the seat as she ran her whole hand through his hair, combing. As she did so, she picked up his hand with her other, squeezing it.
He tilted his head so she could reach better, smiling at her touch. "Yes, I felt the chill, too. I am concerned about tomorrow." Before he could continue, and before she could agree or disagree and reassure him, he pulled back, head, hand and all. "kihtchhhh!"
Alarmed, Éowyn jumped to her feet and retrieved the hand towel that sat beside the basin on their dresser. She began patting and rubbing at his hair with it, drying it as best she could. After a few moments, she took his hand back up and pulled him across the room to the fire. He laughed as she dried his hair while they walked, wasting no time once she had begun her task. With the fire's assistance and Éowyn rubbing, his hair was dry in no time. "There," she said, setting the towel down so it, too, could dry by the fire. "Now, there's no use in worrying about tomorrow until tomorrow. I'm concerned about tonight, and I'll not have you catching a chill."
He cupped one side of her face in his hand, gazing into her eyes for a moment, then swooping in for a strong kiss. When they broke away, he took both of her hands and bid her rise. "May I have the honor of escorting you to dinner, then?" She nodded and took his arm. But as they walked across the room, both looked back at the window and the darkening storm clouds in the distance. The last thing they wanted right now was more rain, and worrying on the subject would be done by both before the night was through even if it was a thing beyond their control.
But the following dawn broke clear and calm, with nothing in the sky apart from white, fluffy clouds. There was a gentle spring breeze that did not make their way into the bed chamber where the Steward and his wife slept, for the window had been shut the night before. The sounds of birds, however, made it through the thin glass windows, and caused Faramir to wake first in the morning. Éowyn lay beside him on her back, her hair spread upon the pillow beside his head. His bare arm was already out from beneath the covers, and he draped it over her, hugging her close until she woke as well.
When she did, with a yawn, she smiled up at him and placed a kiss on his lips, then snuggled closer to him. "It is a wonder to me, how you do not get overheated beneath the covers," Faramir said, for much of his shirtless torso stuck out above the layers of thick feather comforters and velvet blankets, yet she lay snuggled beneath in a long-sleeved nightgown.
"I suppose it's in my blood," she said, shrugging, though the gesture could not be seen well as even her shoulders and neck were beneath the covers. "But how could I not be comfortable lying beside you in bed?" Still, she slid out a little in order to kiss him again. Then she pulled her hand out and caressed his cheek.
Hers was a gentle touch, something soft and soothing for him to begin to wake to, and he smiled until her fingers snuck up to touch his forehead. And then his smile turned into a grin, and she pulled her hand back. "You were checking to see if I have a fever," he presumed.
She smiled. "Well, you were chilled last night." Truthfully, she had never fully trusted him when ill, not after his injury, resulting fever, and subsequent long stay in the houses of healing.
"I guarantee I am well this morning," Faramir replied with a sigh. "Well enough to ride out with you this day at the very least. I am warm and ready, and quite looking forward to it, I will admit." He knew she was looking forward to it as well. He tightened his arm around her in a hug. They both knew he would go, whether he felt well or not, so that was little comfort to Éowyn. Nonetheless, she snuggled close and enjoyed the time in bed with her husband before they were both forced to rise and dress for the day.
But that time came quickly, and they dressed just as fast, taking breakfast in their chamber as they did so. Éowyn would sneak a biscuit in between taking off her nightgown and pulling on long white undergarments. Then she would take a bit of tea before pulling on her powder blue dress. Faramir did similarly, trying to pull on clothes with a piece of toast clenched between his teeth. They dressed quickly out of eagerness, and were soon heading down the stairs, adjusting their clothes to be sure they fell properly.
Once outside, a large party met them, with men and women hurrying to and fro to be sure everything was packed and to call upon those who had not yet arrived. A man spotted them and brought over their horses, who were already set with tack. "Good morning," he called out as he arrived in front of them.
"Good morning," Éowyn and Faramir both replied, though Faramir's voice sounded much more sleepy as he said the words.
"Is the party generally ready?" he asked the man, who nodded back.
"Indeed," the man said with a nod. "We're waiting on a few still, and one last bundle from the kitchens, but we'll be off in no time, Sir."
While it was customary for most women to ride side-saddle, or be offered a knee when mounting a horse, the man knew Éowyn well enough to have provided for neither of these. Her hand dug into the horse's coarse mane, then stroked its cheek. "And a good morning to you," she said, slipping the reins over the lower portion of her arm while she checked the saddle's tightness, tightened the girth, and checked the length of her stirrups. She flashed Faramir a smile as he was doing the same to his horse, albeit at a slightly slower pace. "I do hope we'll be on our way soon," she said, once she'd stepped into a stirrup and swung herself into the saddle. She surveyed the enormity of their party, then glanced back up at the sky to be sure thunder clouds had not suddenly rolled in to spoil the outing already.
"Presently, I'm sure," Faramir reassured her before pulling himself up onto his horse and readjusting the reins in his hands. He looked over the rest of the group as well, feeling a twinge of excitement stir in him. He had not ridden with so many since the battle, and being on a horse again amidst them all brought back many less than fond memories of leading his men to almost certain death.
There was movement to his side and a familiar hand reached over and touched his with much gentleness. "This is a time to be happy. Not even memories of the hardships we have endured can bring us down on such a day."
He nodded and bowed his head a little, feeling foolish that his thoughts had been so obvious to her. He supposed it might have been because her thoughts had been similar, and he gave her a reassuring smile.
Balanced and comfortable in her saddle, Éowyn reached over and brushed the long hair back from one side of his face so she could see it better. He turned his head and kissed her hand as it lingered by his cheek. "I would ride into it all again if I was assured you and I would come out of it to see such days as these." She smiled back at him.
"All present and accounted for," called a man, riding up on Faramir's other side, a banner in hand. "We're ready to move out on your order."
Faramir nodded and looked from the man to his wife, who gave him an approving nod. Then he turned and nodded to the man. "Then let us do so, and keep the pace steady."
It was done as such, and the party moved out of Emyn Arnen north-west towards the flowery vale of Lossarnach. The party was impressive to the eye, though relatively slow-moving. Banners led them, streaming high when caught in the spring breezes. Horses in the procession numbered nearly a hundred, with most carrying a man, woman or child, and more than one in some cases. The horses with no rider carried instead dozens of baskets and bundles all tied together. The party carried no weapons, however, for today they were not hunting or riding into battle, but maying.
It was early in the morning, yet, and they arrived in Lossarnach well before lunchtime, with plenty of time to set up. However that was not done immediately, as their arrival was met with greetings from the king's party, who had less of a journey to make, and no great river to cross. The two parties melded into one, with the Steward's banner placed beside and just below the king's. It was an area of beauty with special significance to Éowyn, whose grandparents had lived in the area for some time after just marrying. Its beauty was spectacular, with rolling fields and flowers just beside the great
White Mountains. It was a place of tranquility and solace, and still held its beauty a year after the war.
Faramir and Éowyn saw to their people, helping the little ones down from ponies, and helping unpack the horses. A roped corral had been created over a wide distance on one field, and the horses were let lose within it to enjoy the beautiful spring day as much as the people were. Some people had brought dogs, or falcons with, as well.
Faramir and Éowyn set up their blanket near the banners, assuming one of the vacant nearby spots had been occupied by Aragorn and Arwen. Already a bit exhausted from the travel and set-up, they both collapsed onto the blanket. Children were running about with balls and kites which danced merrily in the high breezes. Men and women were already helping themselves to the banquet of food that had been brought along. Others were picking flowers or chasing one another in games. Far to one side of the encampment was a group of young men and women playing Blindman's Bluff for kisses. To another side, three young girls were making garlands of flowers for their hair.
Feeling inspired, Éowyn plucked a flower beside their blanket and stuck it behind her ear as though it belonged there. The deep red stood out even against her long blond hair. Faramir watched her, looking relaxed and interested. "Have you not seen these before?" she asked, gesturing towards the flower and its bright petals. He shook his head. "Oh," she said, grinning. "I was told that these were once the flowers of love in this land. Maidens would wear one when they wished for a kiss from their suitor."
"Is that so?" asked Faramir with a soft smile. He leaned in and pressed his lips to hers gently.
"So I have heard," she said, smiling back. "I have also heard that if they tickle your chin, it means you're in love. And not just any love. The true, steadfast, undying kind of love."
"Oh," he lifted his strong chin up, looking down at her. "Then by all means, test me. We must see if that legend is true."
Éowyn selected and picked another flower. So numerous were the flowers that everyone in their party could have plucked ten and still the ground would be covered in red petals. For a moment, Éowyn's thoughts strayed back to the war, and the sight of the bloody battlefields just after. The bright red of the flowers made her think of more than just a symbol of all the lives lost and of all the noble fighters who had given their lives to protect the land. No, it also made her think of all of those who remained now to enjoy the beauty and fill their hearts with peace in such ways that would not have been possible before.
She smiled back at her husband as he brushed some of her hair from her face, over her shoulder, careful not to disturb the flower behind her ear. "I am sorry," she apologized for her straying thoughts and lifted the flower. The moment the very ends of the petals touched Faramir's chin, he grinned and exhaled hard. And when she touched the flower more fully to his chin, and dragged it beneath, Faramir chuckled. "Do you play as though it tickles, My Lord?"
He shook his head, still chuckling as she moved it from one side of his chin to the other, and then up against his cheek. "I promise you my reaction to the sensation is genuine." He pulled his head away as the tickling grew too strong, and then overtook her hand with his own. His fingers plucked the flower from hers, and then tested her chin. She laughed outright at just the slightest touch. The laugh was beautiful and made him continue to tickle, even though the test was complete.
Unable to bear the fit of laughter for so long, she playfully pushed him down onto the blanket. He chuckled and lifted the flower to his nose, sniffing its sweet aroma.
"Oh! There are Aragorn and Arwen," Éowyn said, putting a hand on her husband's thigh as she spotted them and pointed in their direction. The royal couple was just settling down on a blanket with a bit of a picnic lunch in front of them. "Shall we go over and say hello?"
Faramir was just about to nod when a tickling sensation struck his nostrils and stole his breath. He swallowed hard and sniffed harder. "You go on ahead and say hello," he said, his voice strained. He waved her on, and she kissed him before leaving, not noticing his situation.
With a hand clutching the folds of her skirt so it would not drag upon the flowers, Éowyn headed over. She greeted them with warm hugs, and both hugged back and kissed her cheek. Arwen offered her a cool drink, and Aragorn offered a box of sweets. Éowyn accepted both with an appreciative nod. "We were worried it might rain today and ruin the festivities," she said, settling in front of them on the rich purple blanket. "I should have known you would not have let it."
As Arwen laughed, Aragorn pulled her onto his lap and wrapped his arms around her. Éowyn smiled at them both, then glanced back to her blanket and her husband upon it. Faramir had a hand clamped to his face. His eyes, however, moved upwards and caught her gaze. His hand dropped, then raised in a wave. Faramir's smile mirrored hers, and she looked back at the King and Queen. "Funny how there can be so much beauty from so much destruction. So much happiness from so much death."
"That is the way of things always," said Arwen, who had many years upon even Aragorn. "The natural balance of good and evil." She looked around at the others who were enjoying the day and being as merry as anyone could. "But I sense many hundreds of years before another evil tries to take hold here." Her dark eyes traveled from men to women to children. And her hand unconsciously slid onto her belly which had only just started to fill visibly.
Éowyn's hand covered hers and she smiled. "And all of ours will be much loved and cared for in this time."
Arwen nodded in blushing agreement and then, addressing Éowyn, "Perhaps a good place to start would be with your husband."
Aragorn narrowed his eyes, looking over Éowyn's shoulder. "Is Faramir ill?" Feeling strangely uneasy, Éowyn followed their gaze back to the blanket.
With his hand cupped over nose and mouth, Faramir sat hunched over. He fell forward repeatedly as strong sneezes seized him one by one. "KIHTchhh!" A pause. "KShhh!" A breath. "KIHChh!" A snuffle. "hahh-KahShhhh!"
At this distance, Éowyn could not hear the sneezes, but she could still clearly see them. Faramir snapped at the waist, hair falling against his cheeks. She pulled a small, beautifully embroidered kerchief from her cleavage and ran her fingers over the fabric in concern as she stood. Aragorn cleared his throat and she looked down to see him withdrawing a large, thick handkerchief and offering it to her. "Thank you," she said, tucking hers away and taking his in hand. "Faramir was fine this morning. I cannot imagine what ailment could have arisen in so quick a time."
Faramir, on the other hand, was quite certain what sort of an ailment it was. The sneezes came quickly and steadily, and he had managed only to sit upright in-between them. They seemed completely out of his control, drenching his hand and shaking his usually powerful frame. "KahShuhhh! KuhShhhhh! KUHTChhhh!" With the hand not cupped to his face, he propped himself up. "hah...KShhhh!" A sniffle. "KahhTChhh!" A congested cough. "hahhKShhhh!" And a handkerchief brushed against his face. "hah...?" The surprise was enough to hold back his current sneeze as he looked up at his wife.
Éowyn lowered herself to the ground, the fabric of her dress falling around her folded legs. She covered his fallen face with the thick handkerchief, just as he gave way to the sneeze. "huhhChufffff!" His eyes closed, he blindly gripped her forearm to hold her hand there. "huhh... uhhh-KUFFfff!"
"Blessings," she whispered, leaning forward and hugging him close to her chest. An embrace would spare her husband some embarrassment. She was certain Aragorn and Arwen were still watching him, and there was no telling how many others had now noticed the suffering. He took the handkerchief from her and she wrapped her arms around him completely. Her long sleeves hung down and hid his face from any onlookers. "Dear Faramir. What is this?"
He shook his head and sneezed again. "huhChfffff!" He snuffled and blew his nose, allowing himself a few moments of peace before the next tickles struck. "I think I had best leave. Keh! Before this becomes any... worse... KEFShhhhhhhh!" He only half-smothered the sneeze into the handkerchief.
"Worse?" Careful to keep her arm in place, her hand reached up and stroked the back of his head. He looked perfectly miserable, and she had difficulty imagining that he could get any worse.
He nodded woefully. "Yes. Worse. I... I-hahhh..." He looked up at her beautiful face and the bright red flower adorning her hair. "Oh... hahSchufffff!" He pulled away from her, snuffling into the hanky. "Stay add edjoy the day, Éowyd. I will ride quickly add go straight to bed, I swear it." He gave his nose a strong wipe with a clean part of the handkerchief, then straightened up. He lifted his head to give her a kiss, but his nose twitched and nostrils flared. His lips, so close to hers that they could feel each other's breaths, pulled back. He turned his head sharply to the side, nose pressed to his shoulder. "kahhCHUSHHH!" He shook his head, rubbing at his nose. "I ab sorry. I bust go." He rose and backed away, giving her an apologetic look. Then he turned and headed straight for the horses, still pausing after every few steps to sneeze.
Éowyn stood at once and returned to Aragorn and Arwen. "I am sorry," she began.
"You must go," Arwen said with a kind, understanding smile.
"We will see that everyone understands and gets back safely," Aragorn agreed, nodding. "Go after him. And wish him well on our behalf."
There was no time for hugs of appreciation or goodbyes, but her gratitude was well understood. She made way for the corral at once, saddled a horse, then tore off after Faramir.
The way was an easy one to find, not only for the trampled ground underfoot from the procession earlier but for the sound of sneezes she could follow. When she spotted him in the distance, just disappearing over a grassy hill, she dug her heels into the horse's sides and eased it to go break into a gallop. The horse seemed to like the idea of catching up to the other, and took off at high speeds. She gripped the reins and the horse's mane, and bent over to encourage it to keep its quick pace.
It did not take her long to catch up with him. At her command, her horse fell into a canter as it came alongside Faramir's. She reached out and took his reins in her hand along with her own and they both slowed to a quick trot, then a more moderate one. "I thought you might need some protecting," she called over to him, above the sound of the horses' footfalls. "If you're ill you will at least need someone looking after you on the journey home, if not also when you reach it." Already her mind was spinning with images of putting him to bed and sitting over him with herbal tea and a basin of refreshing wash water.
"I am not ill. And you did not need to come after me," Faramir said, looking hurt. "Now I feel terrible for having ruined your day."
"Without your company, it would have been ruined even had I stayed. How could I have enjoyed myself knowing you were ailing?" she asked, reaching out and brushing her fingertips against his cheek.
He shook his head. "I am fine, Éowyn."
She then noticed how his sneezes were gone. There was still an unmistakable note of congestion in voice, but no more sneezing. His nose seemed calm now. And she was confused.
Smiling, he reached over the distance between the two horses and plucked the flower from her hair. "It was the flowers, you see," he explained as he could not have before because of his constant sneezes. He rolled the green stem between his thumb and index finger, and the flower twirled in a beautiful blur of red petals. "Often in the springtime... when confronted by a large number of flowers with overpowering fragrances... I cannot help but submit to tickles in my nose." Her look remained one of concerned and confusion. So he sighed and resigned himself to a demonstration.
He reached forward to the ends of the reigns and slowed his horse to a walk, then a complete stop. She did the same, coming to a rest beside him. He pulled out Aragorn's handkerchief, which had been folded over several times, and shook it out. He held it at the ready as he brought the flower to his nose. He inhaled deeply, his eyes closed.
Éowyn watched curiously and cautiously. She studied his face closely, but saw no trace of sneezes. They both waited, but sneeze-less seconds turned into minutes and nothing happened.
Just when Faramir was beginning to suspect his nose was too stuffy or, perhaps, the single small flower was not enough to trigger even a slight tickle, it struck. His nostrils twitched and his mouth dropped open with a frown. He took several strong, silent breaths inward, each of which filled his chest more and more, and then a pair of sneezes burst from him, causing him to fall forward. "KahCHUHHH! HAH-Shuhhhh!" Quickly, he buried his nose in the handkerchief and blew heartily. The runs and tickles in his nose had been renewed, and he shuddered as the urge to sneeze more overtook him. "hhhhKFfshhhh! huhhKUFFFF!"
"Faramir!" Éowyn exclaimed, taking the flower from his hand and tossing it to the ground. She put a hand on his back to steady him. She would not allow him to fall off the horse while in the midst of sneezing. "It's all right..." she soothed. "The flower is gone."
He nodded in understanding, his mouth still open and the handkerchief less than an inch from his face so he could sneeze into it. "hahh-Chuffff!" He wiped his nose. "I dow. But it will still take sub tibe for be to sdeeze these tickles ow... out... hahhhCHIFFfffff! Uhh..." He sighed and mopped his nose with the handkerchief before refolding it and readying it for another sneeze. "hahhh-Shhfffff!"
Éowyn waited patiently again, this time for her husband to finish sneezing, rather than to start.
"hahhh-Chshffff! KahhShuffff! ahhhHshffffff!" He started to blow his nose, but another struck quickly in the middle of the process. "HSchhhhhhh!" When he finished blowing his nose, however, he straightened back up and sniffed hard. "Ah," he said, looking pleased. "I think that's it, then." Then he looked to Éowyn apologetically. "I am so sorry. I thought perhaps I might escape my affliction this spring by staying in Ithilien for the most part. I really had no idea those flowers would make me sneeze so." He sniffled again and dabbed the damp handkerchief at his nose. "I will be fine so long as I keep my distance from them." He sniffled yet again.
"Here. Wipe your nose dry." Éowyn pulled her handkerchief out again and handed it over. He used it gratefully. "And do not feel guilty. You cannot help what makes you sneeze."
He nodded in agreement, quite glad she understood now. "Now that you see that I am not ill, you are more than welcome to rejoin the party. It is a beautiful day and you have so been looking forward to it. I would be there as well in a moment if it were not for this nose of mine."
But she shook her head. "As I told you last night, my place is with you. We will find ways to make merry on our own. We will find ways to celebrate that do not involve flowers of any kind."
Smiling, he leaned over. She did the same. Faramir's lips touched hers and did not pull away this time. Instead, he tilted his head and applied pressure, kissing her sweetness and tasting her smile. He pulled back, taking his set of reins with him, and nodded. Her eyes dancing almost playfully, she dug her heels into her horse gently, clucked her tongue, and went from motionless to a gallop in mere seconds. Laughing, Faramir hurried to catch up with her as they headed back to Emyn Arnen.