The daffodils are late this year.
Éowyn, Lady of Ithilien, stands in her garden, tending to her plants. The sun is warm against her skin, the air sweet, and birds sing to their mates. Spring is come again to Ithilien, after the long, cold winter.
All is well in the world, she thinks, all is as it should be.
But the daffodils are not in bloom, and once again, she is alone.
Faramir is in Minas Tirith, while the king is off to war. Once she'd have chafed over being left behind, but she has not the strength recently to care.
She lays a hand on the flat of her belly. It is the first day she has been allowed out of bed since her loss, the first true day of spring.
The gardeners hover and she dismisses them with a brusque wave. "Tend to the north lawn," she says. "I wish to be alone."
They are used to her, have grown to love her in the years she has lived there. They have no use for the idle gossip that labels her a barbarian, a woman who masquerades as a man, a stranger who stole Lord Faramir away from the ladies of Minas Tirith.
She laughs at the gossip; the venomous tongues of women have no power to harm her. She has been inured to them since her days as a young girl, trailing after Éomer, learning how to fight with the boys.
No, it is her inability to present her lord with a child that troubles her, and she lavishes all her care on her garden, as if in bringing the bare earth to life, she can quicken life within her belly.
"'Tis a beautiful day, my lady."
She starts at the sound.
"Aye," she agrees.
Legolas, lord of the Elves of Ithilien, and chief among the healers who have watched over her these past few days, raises his face to the sun. She catches her breath at the way sunlight limns his form, gold and green, as if the Sun herself has taken on flesh and walks the gardens of Ithilien.
He turns to her, and the moment is lost. He is again the boon companion of the king, and an ever-present comfort in her own life, which is sadly lacking warmth and growth these days.
"I am worried about the daffodils," she says, and fears her desperation shows in her voice.
They bloomed on her wedding day, and she, who has never been one for superstition, has begun to imbue the flowers with mystical powers. As they go, she fears, so goes her marriage.
"It was a cold winter," he replies. "They will be fine."
He holds out a hand and she takes it, cursing herself for this show of weakness.
"They are hardy, and of good stock."
He traces a small circle over the back of her hand with his thumb. She shivers at the touch, and longs for Faramir's hand, no less strong and ever more dear. She wonders if the news has reached him, and why a messenger has not been sent in return. She wonders if this, her second failure in the three years of their marriage, will bring a frost upon their love.
"Gerthil mentioned digging them up and replanting them." And now she can hear the tears that prick at her eyes and stop her throat.
"There is no need, Éowyn," Legolas says, drawing her into an embrace. "The daffodils will bloom."
She buries her face in his tunic, breathing in the scent of leaves and loam and the lightest hint of something else, which must be his own particular musk.
"The daffodils, aye," she chokes out, her words muffled. "And what of my marriage?"
He squeezes her tightly for a moment, then places a hand on her chin to raise her face to his.
"You worry needlessly," he says. "All things happen in their own time, and your time is not yet at hand."
"It is easy for you to speak of time," she says bitterly. "You have all the time in the world. What can an Elf know of such sorrow?"
His blue eyes, normally clear as the sky, darken with pain, and she knows she has scored a hit. Some part of her, fierce and cruel, is glad that she can still wound with words, even if she no longer wields a sword. Mostly, though, she is ashamed. Legolas has been nothing but kind to her; she knows he would rather be with the king, or rather, with Gimli, who rides at the king's side on this journey, but Faramir had asked him to stay, to watch over her, and she knows her previous... difficulties were much in their minds.
"I'm sorry," she whispers, and the words sound as brittle as she feels.
She sometimes wonders who this creature is that she's become, puttering around the gardens, wishing for a child to fill her belly, shaming herself with bitter words and hot tears at the turn of a moment.
"It is hard to be left behind," he says, and she knows he speaks not only of the battle they are missing, but his own abiding on these shores whilst so many of his kindred sail away to the Undying West.
He disentangles himself from her and leads her to the flowerbed. "See, they are green and growing, and soon to burst into flower."
At first she cannot see, and it is on the tip of her tongue to tell him so, that she has not Elvish eyes to see things that aren't there, but then she spies a small bud bending one of the long green stalks. It heartens her; she turns to him and smiles, letting the warm sun dry her tears.
His arm tenses, then, and she knows he can hear something she cannot.
"A rider approaches," he says. "At great speed."
A moment passes, and another, and then she can also hear hoofbeats. It is her turn to lead and she pulls Legolas along the garden path to the front of the manor. She is sure in her heart that it is a messenger from Faramir, and she is eager for the words of her beloved.
And he is there, dismounting as they reach the front lawn.
"Faramir," she cries, releasing Legolas' hand to fly into her husband's arms.
"Éowyn, my love," he says, raining kisses on her hair and face before taking her lips with his. When they are finally able to speak again, he says, "Ought you be up and about?"
Legolas steps forward then, and offers Faramir an embrace. "We have been taking the sun in the garden," he says. "It is a healing warmth."
"Just so," Faramir replies, and though his smile is tinged with sadness, Éowyn cannot help but note that he smiles.
"I will heal the faster now that you are here," she says, wrapping her arm about his waist, caring not for what the servants say of such displays of affection.
Legolas nods. "What nature does not mend, love often will." He inclines his head. "I will take my leave now, and return tomorrow."
"Thank you," she calls after him. Then, to Faramir, "When no word came--"
"I set out at once, as soon as the message arrived," he interrupts. "It was faster, and I was loath to lose time."
"I'm so sorry I have failed you again," she says, searching his face.
"Failed me? No. Never that," he replies. "Not as long as you are well." He pulls her close for another kiss and then says, "There will be time, my love. There will be time."
"When the daffodils are in bloom," she murmurs, and he laughs against her lips.