It happened before he even realized it. One moment Faramir was riding with the rangers along a narrow path heading south from Henneth Annun, enjoying the sunshine and the joy that came from a job well done and the knowledge that they were heading home. The next thing he knew, he felt a sting on his leg and his horse reared and screamed. And then he was falling....
The light was bright when he opened his eyes, and he snapped them shut. Then a shadow blocked the light and he risked opening his eyes again.
The King was leaning over him.
"My liege...?" he murmured.
"Shh, Faramir, lie still," Aragorn commanded softly, running his hands over Faramir's face, head, shoulders....
"Aaah!" Faramir cried out as Aragorn moved his shoulder, and he jerked away. That brought a stabbing pain through his skull and instantly, a terrible nausea. He turned his head and was violently sick, Aragorn holding and steadying him as he vomited. Every contraction sent more waves of pain through his head and more nausea, until he collapsed back and everything grayed and vanished.
The next Faramir knew, he was being carried. His shoulder ached and his hand was numb. His head and neck throbbed and he couldn't focus his eyes. There was still a lingering nausea and he swallowed, hoping to keep the sensation at bay. Worst of all, he had no idea where he was, nor how he'd gotten here.
He closed his eyes, trying to remember, but everything was a blur. He remembered opening his eyes and seeing fire, seeing his father on a pyre, alight and burning. But no, that was months ago. Denethor was long dead. He remembered the agony of being struck by arrows and then falling from his horse.... No, that was even longer ago. Something about falling, but as soon as he thought he had it, the memory slipped through his grasp.
He took a slow, deep breath, grateful not to feel pain from the effort, then let it out equally as slowly. So, whatever happened, it was probably not life-threatening. Unless those who carried him were Orcs. But no, the Orcs were gone–destroyed or fled. He had a vague impression of the King leaning over him, but his mind was jumbled enough that he couldn't be certain whether he was remembering that from the Houses of Healing, or more recently.
The light vanished and he risked opening his eyes again, but couldn't see anything in the shadow. He felt himself raised up, then someone said, "Careful with him." The voice was vaguely familiar, but he couldn't place it. Many hands were upon him as he was carried to somewhere, he had no idea where. Then he heard a roaring, and a smell struck him: the smell of damp, and rock, and old cooking odors, and human bodies. He knew this place.
The caves at Henneth Annun. He was among friends, then. But when had he come to Ithilien? His breath caught as he was jostled, and the voice repeated, "Careful!" Then, "Bring him over here." He was carried a little farther and lightly set down.
He opened his eyes, blinking in the gloom. The King was kneeling at his side. "Welcome back," he said. "How do you feel?"
Faramir swallowed against a dry throat and licked his lips. "I've been better," he admitted, his voice raspy.
Aragorn reached for a water skin. "Here, drink slowly." He suppored Faramir's head as he sipped. The pain in his head intensified, but the water felt good. When he'd had his fill, he turned his head away with a sigh and Aragorn settled him down again.
"What happened?" he whispered.
"A group of raiders we didn't see until it was almost too late. They got your horse; you were thrown and went down the embankment."
Faramir frowned. "Raiders.... I can't remember. We're in Ithilien?"
Aragorn frowned. "Yes. We've brought you to Henneth Annun."
The King stroked a gentle hand over Faramir's forehead, skull and neck. "Faramir, what do you remember?" he asked.
"Don't know...," Faramir admitted. "Everything's...jumbled. Keep thinking of Osgiliath, but that was a long time ago, wasn't it?"
"Yes," Aragorn nodded, his face set in a frown. "Do you remember the reports of Easterling raiders on Ithilien's northern borders?"
Faramir tried to shake his head but winced at the movement. "You were in Rohan. I wasn't expecting you for another week."
Aragorn's hands stilled. "You remember nothing past that time?"
Faramir closed his eyes and concentrated, but images would flash through his memory and then be gone before he could be certain of them. "Not clearly. There's a fog...in my mind. As if I almost see things, then they're gone."
Suddenly his eyes opened wide. "Eowyn! Where is she?" He attempted to sit up, but the pain overwhelmed him and he fell back down with a cry.
"Shh, brother," Aragorn soothed. "Do not fret. She is safe in Minas Tirith. All is well with her."
Faramir closed his eyes with a sigh. He was so tired....
His mind wandered, images of so many things just touching on the edge of consciousness and then vanishing again; it was making him dizzy. He tried to concentrate on a single thing. Concentrate on Eowyn. He saw her as she stood in Edoras, kissing him goodbye. He concentrated on the feel of her in his arms, and suddenly there was a flash of something: Eowyn in his arms, but it was not Edoras behind them, it was....
Aragorn's voice brought him back. "You hit your head when you fell," he was saying.
"I...gathered," Faramir murmured with a small smile. There could be no other explanation for why he felt so wretched.
Aragorn's answering smile was small, but warm. "But you have other injuries that need tending. Your shoulder looks to be–"
"Is my arm broken?" Faramir asked.
"No. But your shoulder looks to be out of place. Your wrist is broken, though."
"I can't feel my hand," he said.
"The shoulder will cause that, more than the broken bone," Aragorn said. "I can reset the shoulder, but it will hurt."
"It hurts now. I cannot imagine it could be worse."
Aragorn gave a wry smile. "Not once the shoulder is back in its socket, no. But getting it there is very painful. Shall I continue?"
Aragorn gave him a leather strap to put between his teeth and stretched Faramir's arm out straight, putting his other hand behind Faramir's shoulder. A pull and a lift and Faramir cried out before biting down hard on the leather.
There was a warm sensation that flowed through him, and the pain went away as blood returned to his arm.
It was only then that Faramir could feel his other injuries. He let the leather fall from his mouth. "Oh, that broken wrist," he gasped.
Aragorn chuckled softly. "I will set it now. It will be painful, but less painful than the shoulder. It looks to be a clean break and should heal well. You are fortunate it is your left hand." He put the leather back between Faramir's teeth and worked to align the bones, then splint and wrap the wrist. Faramir bit hard on the leather but did not cry out. It hurt, but the shoulder had hurt more.
Eventually, Aragorn finished and gently laid his hand across his body, setting a folded blanket beneath his shoulder to act as a pillow. "How does that feel?" he asked.
"Better," Faramir whispered. "Would that my head would stop pounding."
"I could give you a sleeping draught, but I would rather you stay awake for a little while, so I can be sure you have suffered no other damage. Does anything else hurt?"
"Leg," Faramir said. His tongue felt thick, and the fog in his mind seemed to grow heavier. "Itches."
Aragorn frowned. "Which leg?"
"Left. Below my knee." Faramir was feeling dizzy again.
The king tugged off his boot and slit his trouser leg up past the knee. He let out a soft curse. "It was a poisoned dart that felled your horse. It looks like one got you, too. We did not see a dart when we found you, so it may have only grazed you. Faramir, stay with me!"
"I'm here, my lord," Faramir forced himself to answer. Poison. That could explain why he felt so sick.
"I must attempt to draw out the poison. This will hurt."
"Getting used...to pain," Faramir said and managed to smile, though he couldn't be sure it wasn't more of a grimace.
Before he could think anymore, there was a sharp sting on his leg, and then another one. And then a pinching and the warmth of Aragorn's breath. Then the King raised his head and spat to the side, grabbed the waterskin, drank and spat again. And again. He put his head down and Faramir felt the pinching again. This repeated several times, until finally Aragorn wiped his mouth with his hand. The other hand still pinched Faramir's leg.
"I want this to bleed out a little more, so I'm sure I've got it all. Eldane!" he called over his shoulder.
"Sire?" a voice answered.
"Fetch my satchel, quickly."
Faramir closed his eyes, the effort to keep them open becoming too great for him. He heard Aragorn fiddle with his bag, then felt something wet and slimy pressed against the wound on his leg. It stung at first but then felt soothing. Finally, the King bound it with a cloth.
"Stay with me, brother."
"I am here, brother," Faramir whispered, but something jarred at his memory and he opened his eyes again. The king was looking down at him worriedly. Not Boromir. Aragorn. "My lord..." Faramir mumbled, "I thought...Boromir...."
"Shh, brother," the King soothed. He held a steaming bowl and dipped a cloth in the liquid, laving Faramir's forehead with it. The water was scented with herbs and their scent was calming.
"So tired...." Faramir mumbled.
"I know. But stay with me, Steward. Stay with me."
He wanted to. He wanted to obey his King. But the grayness overtook him....
He heard snatches of voices, thought he recognized some of them, but then they were gone again....
It was silent and dark when Faramir next opened his eyes. He felt strangely alert, and for a brief flash he remembered everything: where they were, why they were there, what had happened, everything. But then just as quickly, it was gone and the fog came again. He felt like he was standing on the edge of a precipice, watching something of great value fall away beneath him, and he could not catch it no matter how hard he tried. He sighed and turned his head. The movement hurt, but not as badly as it had earlier. He saw shadows and the flickers of a flame. He knew he was in Henneth Annun, remembered the King telling him he'd been hurt, recalled pain and sickness, but couldn't pinpoint any details. As if his memories dissolved as soon as he moved past them. He could no longer clearly remember talking to Aragorn, though he remembered having talked to him. He could not remember falling, though he knew he had fallen. He could not remember coming to Ithilien, yet here he was.
The lethargy stole over him, taking his breath and every ounce of energy he had, and when the grayness came again, he welcomed it.
A warm cloth on his face roused him. He smelled herbs and had a vague recollection of the King tending to his injuries. He remembered he was injured but couldn't remember what his injuries were, nor how they were sustained. But Aragorn was wise and a good healer; he knew he would be well-cared for.
He opened his eyes to thank his Lord and the words died in his throat. He blinked several times to clear his vision, for it had to be an illusion that leaned over him and tended him so tenderly.
"Eowyn..." he whispered.
She smiled at him, but her eyes glittered in the torchlight revealing unshed tears. "My love," she murmured. "Rest now. All is well." Her hand stroking his hair felt better than anything had in a long time.
"How are you here?" he asked.
"The King sent for me," she answered. He felt all the blood drain from his face and she put a hand against his chest in comfort. "Your life is not in danger, my love, do not fear. But the King believed that you would make a faster recovery with me here. Once you are stable, we will return to Minas Tirith, so it is my job to see you get well." She gave him a shaky smile.
"Oh, Eowyn...." He raised his hand to her and she clasped it in both of hers. "My mind is all fog...."
"The king told me," she said. "Hush. Do not fret, all will be well. You are alive, that's what matters. You will recover, my love."
"The last I remember, you were still in Rohan," he said. "Did I know you were come to Gondor?"
She stared at him, her eyes gone wide. "Do you not remember?"
He shook his head. "I remember...images...fleeting. Like a dream. I remember kissing you, and I do not think we were in Edoras. I remember your tears. And angry voices, but I don't know why. I–" He looked at their hands clasped together and saw a ring on her finger. All his breath left him.
"Eowyn–! Are we wed...?"
A tear escaped to spill down her cheek and she nodded.
A fist tightened around his heart. "Eowyn... Oh, Eowyn, love...I...." He swallowed in a mouth gone dry as dust. "I want to remember, oh, how I want to remember, I–"
"Shh," she cried, putting her arms around him. He held on, feeling his eyes burn. How he had hurt her, the most wonderful woman he'd ever known, the love of his life. How he had hurt her, and there was nothing he could do about it. The harder he tried to remember, the muddier his thinking got and the worse his headache grew until when tears finally came, they were as much for the pain as for the sorrow of hurting her. He moaned and pressed his fist against his forehead, trying to stop the swirling and the dizziness and the pain.
"Aragorn!" He heard her cry out, but she sounded so far away. He heard Aragorn's voice and Eowyn's, mingled together, until he could no longer tell one from the other. He felt hands upon him but didn't know whose. He longed for the grayness again, but it stubbornly refused to grant him the respite he sought.
Fingers rubbed at his scalp, his temples, his neck, pressing here and there, easing tension. He turned his head, burying his face in the palm that held his head, powerless to stop his weeping. The voices of his friend and his beloved drifted away to indistinction. And when everything finally faded again, it wasn't the grayness but simple exhaustion that claimed him.
He opened his eyes to shadows, and the form at his side was Aragorn's, the glow of his pipe and the scent of its leaf distinctive. "My lord...?" he whispered.
Aragorn set his pipe aside. "Shh, just rest," he said, kneeling next to Faramir's pallet and brushing his forhead with calloused but gentle fingers.
"She is resting," the King assured him. "She sat with you for a long time until I persuaded her to take some food and rest."
His earlier conversation with Eowyn came back to him, but filtered as through a screen of gauze. He couldn't remember words, just feelings, and the knowledge that he'd hurt her terribly. And then in a flash, he remembered exactly how he had hurt her. "I did not remember our wedding," he said miserably. "How could I forget something so important?"
"Shh," Aragorn soothed.
"Is it the poison? Or my injury?"
"Either. Both. I do not know," Aragorn admitted. "You are still fevered, though it seems to be slightly lessened." He moved to Faramir's leg, loosening the bandage and checking the wound. "No additional infection; that is good." He made up a little more of the herb paste and applied it to the wound before binding it again. Then he moved his hands over Faramir's skull and neck. Faramir winced when he reached the large lump just behind his ear, and the king's fingers tenderly prodded the spot, no doubt checking the swelling.
"Your head injury is not life-threatening, but it is bad enough. You have seen it before, men who fall in battle and remember nothing of the fight."
"Yes, but to forget something as important as my own wedding!"
"You remember your bride," Aragorn offered.
"But not that she is my wife," Faramir added miserably. He looked up at Aragorn. "You were there? At my wedding?" Aragorn nodded. "Tell me about it. I cannot bear the look on her face. If I hear about it, perhaps I will remember."
But the King just shook his head. "I can tell you about the ceremony, but not your night together. Only you and she know that."
"Night. Just one night?"
Aragorn nodded again. "We came to Ithilien the next morning."
Faramir sighed and turned his head. "What you say sounds right, like I should know it. But I don't."
The King dampened the cloth again and wiped Faramir's brow. "Do not worry so, it will not help your recovery. It is barely three days since you fell. Give your body time to heal. Give yourself time."
"And if I never do? If those memories never return?" Faramir felt the panic rising in his gut.
"Then we will just have to make new memories." He turned his head. Eowyn stood at the mouth of the chamber, a hand resting against the low opening. Tall, slender and beautiful, his Eowyn, gazing at him with eyes full of love.
"Eowyn," he whispered.
She smiled and came into the chamber, sinking to her knees at his side, taking his hand. "Have you rested?" Aragorn asked her.
She nodded. "Enough." Then she turned her attention back to Faramir. "Our wedding was hurried, small," she told him. "Just you and me, the king and queen, my brother and your uncle. There was no time to prepare for the big wedding we had planned. There was no feast, only a quiet shared toast after the ceremony.
"And then we retired, and we came together for the first time as man and wife. And it was more wonderful than anything I had ever imagined. I had never known such feelings, not only to receive them, but to give them as well.
"We loved each other long into the night and eventually fell asleep, entwined."
Faramir gazed at her, feeling the sensations her words evoked. His mind might not remember, but his body did. He brought her hand to him, kissing her palm.
"It was not quite dawn when you left our bed," she continued. "I tried to convince you not to go, and for a moment you almost agreed. But we both realized you had to go, to do your duty, and there would be time for us later, once the battle was won and the enemy defeated. I kissed you goodbye on the steps of the Citadel and you rode to Ithilien.
"That was three weeks ago, and not a moment has gone by that I have not missed you or yearned for your touch."
She stroked his cheek. "You have been sorely injured and ill. But if you still love me, there is nothing we cannot overcome. Even this."
Faramir felt his eyes fill with tears and hated himself for his overblown emotions, but knew he was powerless to control them, especially now, when everything else within him was so raw. He reached for her but his injured shoulder protested and he gasped in pain. "I need to hold you," he whispered, and she leaned down, wrapping her arms around him, letting him hold on with his one good arm. He buried his face against her hair. He'd never felt so vulnerable nor so needy. When she tried to pull back, he tightened his arm and heard a moaned cry, only belatedly realizing it came from himself.
She slid her arms around him and carefully lifted him up. He had no strength to help her, could only hold on, his body trembling with emotion. The move from horizontal to vertical made his head spin, but he stayed still until the feeling faded.
He eased the embrace, needing to gaze into her beautiful face once more. It was tear-stained and he knew his own was, too. He reached to wipe a tear from her cheek and she reached toward his at the same moment, laughing softly when she realized their twin movements. She slid her hands to either side of his head and leaned in, kissing him, opening her lips to him, claiming his mouth as her own.
The kiss gentled and she brushed feather kisses over his cheek, his temple, his closed eyes and his forehead. Then she gazed at him again. "Does your head hurt too terribly?"
It aches," he admitted. "The dizziness is worse."
She ran her fingers through his hair; it felt wonderful. "Will you rest with your head in my lap?" she asked.
"I could rest on cold stone, as long as you are with me," he said and she smiled.
She released him and sat on his pallet, a pillow propped behind her back, and guided him back down, his head and shoulders resting against her thigh. He winced as his shoulder shifted, but she took the folded blanket and pressed it between his shoulder and her thigh, giving his shoulder the elevation it sought. "All right?" she asked once he was settled.
He closed his eyes and let a verbalized sigh signal the affirmative. She chuckled softly and the feeling of her stomach fluttering against his cheek was beautiful. Graceful fingers stroked through his hair, massaged his temples, soothed the creases between his brows.
All else disappeared for him: the cave, the firelight, Aragorn. His only reality became the comfort of his head in her lap and the wonder of her hands upon him. She hummed a soft song, its tune unfamiliar to him, its note progression not of Gondor. He wondered if it were a Rohirric lullabye. If so, the children of Rohan must have the most peaceful of sleeps.
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