The next day, Faramir was gone when Aragorn arose. "He went for a walk," Legolas said. At Aragorn's rather sharp glance, he continued, "He seemed quite well, Aragorn, strong, and in good color. I offered to go with him, but he said he wished to walk alone for a time."
Aragorn nodded. "I am sorry for doubting your judgment, my friend."
"'Tis of no matter," Legolas said, his voice calm.
"But it is," he replied. "I know your concern has only been for my well-being these past days, and I have given little enough credit to it. For that I am sorry."
He offered his hand to Legolas, who grasped it in return. "You are loyal to your friends to a fault, Aragorn, I only wish it did not lead you down such dangerous paths."
He smiled. "Speaking of paths... I believe I will try to follow Faramir's," he said, taking his leave.
He found Faramir sitting on the banks of a stream, regarding the water as it rushed by. He did not notice Aragorn's presence until he sat beside him, then he smiled a silent greeting. Aragorn was pleased to see that his condition was much improved, as Legolas had said. His skin held good color, and his eyes were clear, though they still held a lingering sadness.
"How fare you today, Faramir?" he said quietly.
"I am well," he replied with a wan smile. "I slept true for the first time in months, I deem."
"Yet your eyes still reflect a sadness within," Aragorn said.
"Perhaps," he acknowledged. "I remember everything we saw so clearly, much more clearly than I recalled from the nightmares."
"What we saw gives much cause for sadness." Aragorn said. "Do you allow yourself to feel it? Even during the horrors and sorrows we saw in the dreamworld, you did not weep, Faramir, not once."
His voice was quiet, bereft of feeling. "I could not shed enough tears in my lifetime."
"Perhaps not," he conceded. "But you are not a man given to holding his feelings so close. It helped the nightmares come."
Faramir regarded him steadily, but did not speak.
"I accuse you not of wrongdoing or weakness," Aragorn said. "But you cannot begin to move past the pain and the terror until you acknowledge it. Let yourself grieve, Faramir. For your brother, your father. The men you mercied in Osgiliath, and the ones who fell on the Pelennor. For everything and everyone you have lost in this long campaign."
"I remember them all, Aragorn," Faramir's voice was tight and forced, but the emotional armor with which he had shielded himself was starting to melt away. "Not only my father and brother, and my friends. But every man who died under my command. I remember them all." His voice had begun to shake.
"Then consider yourself fortunate, my friend," Aragorn sighed. "For it is when you no longer care enough to remember that you are truly lost."
The tears began then, slowly, silently. Faramir tried to turn away, but Aragorn would not let him, offering a steadying hand on his shoulder. For a while, Aragorn said nothing -- there was nothing he could say, he knew. Faramir had seen too much, had suffered every time a man under his command was struck down. Added to the loss of his beloved brother, and the horror of his father's death, it was nothing short of a miracle that he had managed to cope as well as he had.
"Feeling such grief and pain is not weakness, Faramir. It does not unman you. The only weakness you have shown is your lack of faith in those who love you, those who would help you through this, if you permit them," he said gently.
Faramir wiped his eyes, then turned away. "My father would not have thought so."
"He was wrong!" Aragorn bit back a curse at Denethor for the cruel legacy he had left his surviving son.
He looked back at Aragorn. "Do you share your grief?"
Aragorn stifled a snort of surprise at the question. "The night we won the War -- when all were celebrating -- the weight of all that had been lost struck me harder than a troll's hammer. My foster brother Elladan held me in his arms for hours as I grieved for Halbarad and my other friends lost at the Black Gate and on the Pelennor. I wept until I had no tears left," he recalled somberly. "And you may, if you wish, ask Legolas or Gimli of the tears we shed for Boromir."
At that, their eyes met. "I used to grieve," Faramir said. "When I learned of Boromir's death, and my father's, I wept. But once the War was over, there was so much to think on, so much to do, and there was joy, too." Faramir's eyes flickered over him, and Aragorn knew a part of Faramir's joy had come from the King's return. "The sorrow felt out of place, wrong, and I pushed it away when it beckoned. And so it has been long since I allowed myself to weep."
"Grief is different for each of us, and it lingers for as long as it will. There is no shame in grieving even as better days return." He still grieved for those he had lost in the War, and in the long years leading up to it, and for his mother. "Embrace the days ahead, but grieve as you must. And seek solace with those who care for you most," he said. "I would have you happy, Faramir. If the memories of battle pain you, and you never wish to lift a sword or bow again, in practice or in war, then you should not. You have done enough. And the Valar know there is enough else for you to do."
Faramir's lips curved gently; it was almost a smile. "If it had been left to me, I would not have chosen a soldier's life."
"I know, my friend, and it need not be your life any longer."
"You risked your life to save me," Faramir said. "I have not thanked you."
"There is no need for thanks. Had our places been reversed, I know you would have done the same."
"That is true, but it would have been my duty to do so," Faramir said, his eyes meeting Aragorn's.
"Is it mine any less?" he asked. "'Fealty with love,' Faramir, is also part of that vow. Though you are more than worthy of any help I could offer, even were I not sworn to it." He stood, offering Faramir an arm up. "You have seen little of the Golden Wood," Aragorn said. "We must leave soon for Edoras, but we have today."
Faramir nodded, and Aragorn led the way into the woods to show his friend Lothlórien's many wonders.
Narquelië 3020 T.A.
"Faramir!" she cried, running down the Golden Hall's steps to greet him. Arwen was just behind her, approaching her own husband more quietly, but with no less enthusiasm.
He smiled, sweeping Éowyn into an embrace. "Faramir, how fare you?" she breathed into his ear, and he could feel her tension.
"I am well," he said firmly, taking her hands in his as she pulled back to look into his eyes. They lit with a smile as she recognized the sincerity in his words.
"Oh," she said softly. "I am so relieved, so happy. Arwen told me what had happened, and I could not help but worry."
He led her away from the others, to the edge of the portico. "I know, and for that I am sorry."
"You need not be," she said. "I am just glad you are well. You were able to find healing in the Golden Wood?" she asked.
"Aye," he said, his eyes flickering towards Aragorn. "Healing I found there, and much more. I will tell you everything, when we have time to ourselves. But I believe there is a wedding approaching, is there not?"
"Yes," she smiled. "It promises to be glorious. Lothíriel and her family arrived with Arwen last week, and she and Éomer are so happy. They have a bright future ahead of them."
He wrapped his arms around her again, reveling in her strong and sure embrace. Across the portico, he saw Aragorn and Arwen similarly entwined. As his eyes met Aragorn's, he felt the King's warm affection toward them both. He and Éowyn had much to discuss indeed, but for now, he was content, his heart truly at ease.
"I am sure they do," he said, replying to her comment about Éomer and his cousin before dropping a light kiss on her lips. "There are bright futures ahead, I think, for us all."
-- The idea that Faramir killed some of his wounded men during the retreat was inspired by Isabeau of Greenlea's Captain My Captain, and is used here with her kind permission.
-- I know there is some authority in the History of Middle-earth for the idea that Eowyn would have learned Sindarin as a child in Rohan, but I decided not to go that route.
-- The words Denethor speaks in Rath Dinen are taken verbatim from The Return of the King.
-- Among other sources, I did some research on dreamwalking at this site:
-- For the Elvish, I used a variety of sources. Mistakes are mine. Thanks to Aerlinnel at HASA for help on conjugating goheno.
-- Thanks for reading this far! Any comments are appreciated -- e-mail, review, wherever.