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by this hand, i do love thee

Chapter Text


 

"Not you again,” Eomer grumbles.

“Eomer!” Cries Eowyn, horror plain in her voice.

“Yes, me again,” Lothiriel chirps, unfazed by his less-than-polite greeting. “And it will be ‘me again’ until my cousin asks for a different chaperone.”

“Which I will not,” said cousin adds, grinning at both of them over Eowyn’s shoulder.

“Chaperone,” Eomer grumbles. Gondorian courting methods are entirely too stuffy for his taste. Eowyn, however, seems not to mind them, as long as she is still able to spend time in her Steward’s presence.

As it is, his little sister is staring daggers at him until he begrudgingly offers the princess his elbow. Her touch is dainty, proper, and barely-there, as if it discomforts her to touch him. They stroll aimlessly around the gardens for a while, a “respectable” distance behind Faramir and Eowyn. Neither of them speak, though he knows silence comes as easily to her as it does to Pippin.

The sudden press of her fingers at his elbow after they round another corner startles him. She must feel his flinch because she offers him a wry smile, nodding down at a particularly colorful flower. “Do you know what this flower is, my lord?”

“Gardening is not amongst my strong suits,” he admits. “So no, I do not.”

“Hm, let me think,” she says, peering at the flower with apparent interest. She looks and looks and looks--Eomer can feel his irritation mounting.

He knows very well she is Imrahil’s daughter, Faramir’s favorite cousin, and no person of little importance to Eowyn, either, who has so few female companions in Gondor, but he cannot stop himself from finally spitting out, “Are you quite finished, my lady?”

She blinks innocently up at him. “Yes, I remembered its name. A peony. It represents a wish for a happy life and a happy marriage.”

“Thrilling,” Eomer answers, unable to keep the sarcasm from his voice.

The princess remains unfazed, saying, “Isn’t it? Perhaps Eowyn would like--oh, but where have they gone?”

The garden is empty. Neither Eowyn’s blonde head nor Faramir’s darker one are anywhere in sight.

“Oh, dear,” Lothiriel says in an entirely unconvincing tone, “I suppose they will have to continue on without us.”

He blinks down at her in surprise. “You...planned this?”

“Not all of us Gondorians enjoy stuffy traditions,” she answers with a smile. “And I like Eowyn. She and Faramir have earned their happiness, don’t you agree?”

“Yes,” he murmurs, staring at her as if seeing her for the first time. Surely, she has not always been so lovely? It must be the sun-soaked garden, or the heady smell of the spring flowers, that are making him notice the raven-sheen to her hair, the dark depths of her eyes, the flush of pink in her cheeks.

Eomer’s hands move of their own accord to pull the nearest flower--the peony--and he tucks it into her hair, just behind her ear, before common sense has the chance to catch up with him. The pink in her cheeks darkens, but a small smile plays at her lips as well. “You do know you have just wished me a happy life and a happy marriage, do you not?”

“I can think of no thing you deserve more,” is his honest answer.

This time, when her arm comes to rest in his again, there is nothing dainty--or proper--about her touch.


 

Chapter Text


 

As Aunt Ivriniel launches into her third story concerning the local delicacies of Dol Amroth, Lothiriel can see the King of Rohan’s head dip dangerously close to the rim of his soup. Hiding a smile behind her hand, she lays her free one at the top of his wrist.

Just as she suspected, he all but shoots into an upright position, coming out of his daze at a warrior’s pace.

“It is only me,” she murmurs.

Lothiriel sees, rather than hears, his sigh of relief. “Thank Bema for that.”

“Is my aunt boring you, my lord?”

The spots of color in his cheeks, just visible above his beard, are utterly endearing. “I--I would not say boring --”

“It is alright if you do,” she interrupts, “Amrothos and I have said the same thing for years.”

She nods to where her youngest brother sits, exhibiting extremely un-princely behavior by picking at his nails with the tiny seafood fork. Eomer snorts, disguising his amusement with a cough as a few people shoot him curious looks.

Lothiriel considers the recklessness of what she is about to say, but the way that Eomer has failed to shift his hand out from under hers gives her courage where she might have hesitated. “How good are you at escape plans, my lord?”

His eyebrow arches, but he answers readily enough, saying, “I was not made a marshal of the Mark without knowing how to move stealthily, my lady.”

“Good,” she whispers, “for I intend to show you something much more exciting than Dol Amroth’s stew recipes.”

She departs the table first, complaining of a headache. Ada merely waves her off with a sympathetic smile--he loves his sister, truly, but even he knows how long-winded she becomes after two glasses of wine--but Elphir frowns, clearly suspecting some mischief.

Always too wise for his own good, is her oldest brother.

Eomer must manage his own exit graciously enough, for he meets her on the stairs leading down towards the shore in nearly record time. Emboldened by their success, she slips her hand into his, though she could make this climb blindfolded, and he has a warrior’s grace in nearly everything he does.

Eventually, they reach the shore, coming to stand along the sea-wall she knows so well. “Look up,” she orders, gently.

“Bema,” he says, “I have never seen so many stars.”

“It is my favorite view in all of Dol Amroth,” Lothiriel admits.

“Then it is mine as well,” Eomer answers, and something in his tone makes her shiver, despite the warmth of the sea-breeze.

She can feel him shift, behind her, and then he is behind her in truth, his arms slipping around her to pull her back against the warm, strong breadth of his chest. Lothiriel bites her lip to keep from smiling and threads her fingers through his.

“This is,” Eomer says, his breath hot against the shell of her ear, eliciting another round of shivers, “infinitely preferable to listening to your aunt wax poetic about shellfish.”

Lothiriel could not agree more.


 

Chapter Text


 

His phone buzzing at 2:30 in the morning is not the way Eomer would prefer to be woken up. In fact, he’d like to not be woken up at all, seeing as how Derby season was only a few weeks away, and he’d need every second of sleep he could get between now and then to properly function.

Groaning, wondering if it was Eowyn, fretting to him about her impending wedding, or more likely, Theodred, complaining about one horse or another, he lifts his phone.

< Did you know male penguins give females penguins pebbles to express interest in them? >

Blinking at the unfamiliar number, and the even more perplexing text, Eomer can only stare at his phone in confusion. It must be the wrong number, he thinks, and sets his phone back down with a grumble.

A week later, he’s forgotten the text entirely, too caught up in preparing Firefoot for the races to worry about a surely accidental message from a random number.


 

But then it happens again: slightly earlier, and on a Saturday night, when he and Aragorn have agreed to meet up for a beer.

< Mated seahorse pairs travel around holding tails! Isn’t that sweet? >

“What the hell,” he says.

Aragorn peeks over his shoulder and snorts at the text. “Interesting topic of discussion, Eomer.”

“I didn’t start this,” he protests. “I don’t even know who’s sending these messages--”

He’s not fast enough to stop his friend from snatching the phone from his hand and reading the other text about the damn penguins. The look on Aragorn’s face after he’s read it is horribly, terrifyingly smug. “I think,” he says, smirking, “someone’s got a crush on you, Eomer Eomundson.”

Eomer rolls his eyes. “I think some kid has the wrong number.”

“Why don’t you answer and find out?” Aragorn prompts.

But Aragorn and Arwen--his wife of two years come summertime, not that either of them would let anyone forget it--are notorious matchmakers, and Eomer is not a fool.

“No,” he says, tone final.


 

And he holds to it. At least, he does until he gets another message, three weeks later, after Firefoot makes it through semi-finals.

< Bowerbirds construct fancy houses for females when they’re courting. Maybe human men should take note? >

Eomer mutters a curse, finally texting back in the hope that the person--prankster, kid, weird veterinarian, whoever--would finally leave him be.

< Stop sending me weird stuff late at night! >

The response is immediate, and weirdly enough, normal: < Well, all you had to do was ask. >

For some reason, that’s almost more disarming than the texts themselves.

< Then why do it in the first place? >

< Maybe it was my pebble. See if you were interested. >

Belatedly, he realizes this person must know it’s him they’re texting, making him the only one in the dark. Against his better judgment, he finds himself saying: < And if I was? >

< Meet me at Fangorn Coffee Company tomorrow morning. I’ll be the one with the real pebble, this time. >

Eomer hesitates--it could be anyone texting him. A nasty prank from one of his exes, a less-than-tasteful joke headed by Merry and Pippin, or truly a wrong number after all...but he agrees, anyways, blaming the insanity on the stress of the season, of the fact that Eowyn was about to be married and move thousands of miles away, for his lapse in judgement.

The next morning finds him wired off two cups of coffee, anxiously tapping his leg underneath the slightly ramshackle table. He doesn’t recognize anyone--a good sign, and a bad one--and he’s honestly debating leaving when there’s the sudden appearance of a hand at the opposite corner of the table. In said hand is a moderately-sized pebble.

“I didn’t think you’d come,” comes a familiar voice, warm with amusement.

He looks up to find Lothiriel--Faramir’s cousin Lothiriel, who he hasn’t seen since she left two years before to do a stint with some endangered species protection agency--smiling down at him. She’s always been pretty--not that he’d have admitted it before now, because she was Faramir’s cousin and younger than Eowyn to boot--but she looks nothing short of beautiful now, her hair longer than ever, her figure more filled out, a smattering of--frankly--adorable freckles across the bridge of her nose. Abruptly, he’s reminded of that one, ill-timed kiss at her graduation party that they’d both agreed never to discuss again.

Apparently, they hadn’t been in as much agreement as he’d thought.

He’s strangely happy about that.

“Well,” he says, reaching out to pluck the pebble from her hand, “I wasn’t about to be outdone by a bunch of animals.”

Lothiriel’s smile is worth every hour of missed sleep.


 

(She doesn’t stop texting him weird things late at night, even when they’re married.

< Did you know lions can have sex for up to 20 hours straight? >

< Just lions? ;) >

< Oh, I think we could give them a run for their money ;) > )


 

Chapter Text


 

Lothiriel isn’t sure if she wants to strangle Pippin or kiss him, for pulling such a stunt.

“Come to Hobbiton!” Her supposed friend had said. “Merry and I’ll put you up!”

But Pippin had failed to mention that Merry had invited Eomer as well, and that both he and Merry had live-in girlfriends now, the pair of them wouldn’t mind sharing the guest room, would they?

“Besides, we all shared a room for Eowyn and Faramir’s wedding!”

Well, they had, but it had been a very large room, with eight separate beds for the bridal party, and three other women--Tauriel, a friend of Eowyn’s from roller-derby, Wilfled, Eowyn’s cousin, and Arwen, Aragorn’s obscenely pretty and kind wife--there as well.

Eomer must be thinking something similar, if the muttered cursing is anything to go by.

“Eomer, it’ll be fine,” she finds herself saying. “We’re both adults, the bed is plenty large. It’ll...it’ll be like a sleepover!”

“Lothiriel, we are not a pair of teenage girls,” he grumbles, pinching the bridge of his nose. “And I’ll ask you to please refrain from referring to this weekend as a ‘sleepover’.”

“Well, fine,” she says, determined not to let him catch on how much the idea of sharing a bed with him--Elbereth, just being in the same room as him--makes her pulse race, makes her think horrible, dirty things about her best friend’s brother, “I’m taking the right side.”

Dinner manages to be a pleasant affair, despite it all. Diamond--Pippin’s girlfriend--and Estella--Merry’s girlfriend--are exceedingly friendly, and balance out Merry and Pippin’s tendency towards the inane with grace. Eomer relaxes after his third whiskey enough to smile at her, when she tells some story about Amrothos embarrassing himself at his latest sailing competition. His smile is as handsome as ever and she’s very, very glad that the wine has already put color into her cheeks.

This is fine , she thinks, it’ll be fine.

It is not so fine, however, when they manage to stumble their way to the guest bedroom after one last drink. Lothiriel has to nearly hurl herself into her suitcase in her hurry to look away when Eomer carelessly flings his shirt over his head. She shimmies out of her jeans, trying--and failing--not to notice how the noise from his side of the room abruptly stops as she wiggles into the big t-shirt of Erchirion’s she usually sleeps in. She never sleeps in pants, but would have brought some if she’d known, of course. Damn Pippin.

Lothiriel crawls into bed, trying to ignore the frantic thrum thrum thrum of her heart in her ears. It’s only made worse when Eomer slides in beside her, the heat of him nearly unbearable, even under the thin sheet.

“The light,” he says, voice strangely hoarse.

She nods, flipping the switch and blanketing the room in darkness.

It does little to help: she feels hyper-aware of everything. The sound of his breathing. The smell of whatever shampoo he uses. The gentle brush of his hand over her jaw--wait.

“Eomer?” She asks in a tiny voice.

“Lothiriel,” he says, and Elbereth, she can feel his nose nearly against hers, his breath a hot gust horribly, wonderfully close to her mouth, “tell me if...tell me if this isn’t--”

She laughs, a quiet huff in the stillness of the room. “You are,” she says, reaching out blindly and finding his shoulder, sliding her hand until she finds the back of his neck, “so incredibly thick-headed, Eomer Eomundson.”

His kiss is exactly what she expected and not: passionate, of course, and achingly, wonderfully good, but infused with so much tenderness that she could nearly cry from it. The press of his mouth and the heat of his hands is made better by the dark, by the way he pulls back to kiss her forehead before trailing a string of kisses along her jaw, down her neck--

Merry glares at both of them, the following morning, bags apparent under his eyes.

Pippin, however, looks positively gleeful. “You’re welcome,” he tells her.

“Oh, eat your food,” she says, half-heartedly, because Eomer’s hand is in hers under the table, and she can’t recall feeling this happy in a very, very long time.


 

Chapter Text


 

The King of Rohan is staring at her.

Lothiriel cannot fathom why he is; he is friends with her father, of course, and with her brothers, but they have exchanged perhaps five words at most. She is not a beauty, not in the high, otherworldly way of her new Queen, nor in the golden, fierce way of his fair sister, but she knows she is not unpleasant to look at. (Or, if she is, everyone has been very good at keeping it from her.)

And yet the king is staring at her, as if she has suddenly grown a second head.

It is...disconcerting, to say the least.

“You are blushing,” her sister-in-law murmurs, low enough for just Lothiriel’s sensitive ears. “Would you tell me why?”

“Aly, please,” she begs, dropping her gaze. “Don’t tease me so.”

Alycia frowns, but pats her hand under the table subtly enough. “Alright. For now.”

Lothiriel tries to eat her meal as gracefully as she can, but every time she looks up he is still staring . On one such time, she meets his sister’s eyes as well. The White Lady of Rohan had been intimidating at first--so fair! So brave!--but she has come to know her cousin’s betrothed very well, and likes her very much.

So of course, Eowyn reads the distress in her face, follows her embarrassed gaze to her brother. Who is promptly elbowed--rather viciously, from what Lothiriel can tell--in the side.

Finally, he seems to realize he’s been making her uncomfortable, grimacing into his wine glass as Eowyn whispers Valar-knows-what into his ear.

Still, she feels ill at ease. Why had he been giving her such scrutiny? She is not much like the other ladies of the court. Too soft-spoken, taking the most pleasure in small, intimate groups of those she already knows than the loud, raucous celebrations the end of the War dictates...Lothiriel rarely calls attention to herself.

Her father offers her a sympathetic smile when she slips from the table--Amrothos would usually call her out, or Elphir would join her, but both are absorbed in conversations with various members of the famous Fellowship.

The garden is a quiet relief after the loudness of the hall. Lothiriel could sit all night, alone, under the stars, and wish for nothing else in all the world.

But it is not to be.

The footfalls that announce someone’s presence are light, controlled. The walk of a soldier, she thinks, and turns to face them, expecting her one of her brothers, or even Faramir.

But no. It is the King of Rohan, once again.

“I owe you an apology,” he says, startling her. “I should not have stared at you so.”

Lothiriel gulps. He should not be frightening--he is a king, a friend to her family, remarkably tender with his sister, and prone to sincere smiles when talking with Merry and Pippin--and yet there is something about him that makes her face flush, her pulse race faster.

“I am not accustomed to such attention,” she admits in a quiet voice. “But you need not apologize.”

His small smile only makes her face heat further, and she is grateful for the relative darkness of the garden. “Will you let me explain, at least?”

She nods, rather curious herself.

He reaches out towards her and her breath nearly stops in surprise--what is he doing , does he not know how improper it is for a man to touch an unwed maiden’s hair--only to wince when something catches, tugs a few strands of her braid out of place.

“There was a leaf in your hair,” he says, holding the offending item up for inspection. “And as I have never seen you anything other than perfectly poised, I could not imagine how it came to be there.”

Flushing deeper still, she tucks the loose strands back behind her ear. “I am fond of the outdoors, my lord. Even we Gondorian princesses are permitted some imperfections.”

His laugh is perhaps the most charming thing about him, and she finds herself wanting to bottle the sound, to keep it for times when things are less easy, less happy.

“I am glad to hear it,” he says, and offers her his elbow.

Her fingers tremble, but she laces her arm through his all the same.


 

Chapter Text


 

“You call that music?”

Lothiriel startles, the harp tumbling noisily to the floor.

Eomer merely grins as his wife glares at him, crossing the room to sit on the carpet at her feet.

“I am trying to do something productive today,” she says. “Would that you would do the same.”

“I have been productive all morning, swete ,” Eomer argues, holding the harp out of her reach. She’s such a little thing, his wife, and it is easy to tease her like this, using his longer arms to his advantage.

She huffs, blowing a few strands of hair out of her face. “Please, Eomer. I have tried every instrument I can think of, and the harp is the only one that seems to not fail me.”

Eomer frowns, looking down that the stringed instrument in his hands. “I still do not see why you can’t just sing.”

A flush enters her cheeks--even after a year in the Riddermark, there are still parts of her that are so Gondorian--and she frowns at him. “It is not proper for a lady to share her voice with a large assembly.”

“In Gondor, perhaps,” he says. “But we are not in Gondor.”

“I am well aware,” she says with a roll of her eyes, but he knows she isn’t truly irritated by how she leans willingly into the touch of his hand on her cheek.

“And you have such a lovely voice, Lothiriel,” he wheedles. “Surely it is more...improper not to share it? Every Eorlingas would agree with me.”

Lothiriel blinks. “I...had not thought of it like that.”

Sensing victory, he rises to his knees, crowding her back against the chair. “I would be happy to help you practice.”

Her eyes are dark as always, but the pupils are blown-wide--he suspects his are, too. A week of marriage, a year of marriage; either way, she was as desirable as ever. “And how should we go about that, husband?”

She gives a shriek of surprise when he stands suddenly, tugging her into his arms.

“Vocal warm-ups,” he says, before dropping her onto their all-too-inviting bed.

Lothiriel laughs, bright and warm, and opens her arms up to him. “By all means, instruct away.”

Eomer does not need to be asked twice.


 

Chapter Text


 

Not for the first time, Lothiriel curses her friends, vodka, and Friday nights all together.

“I think my head is going to split open,” comes Merry’s voice, from somewhere in the vicinity of her couch.

“Mine’s already cracked,” says Pippin, who Lothiriel can just make out sprawled across the sleeping bag left over from her one attempt at camping. “Remind me to never challenge Legolas to a drinking contest again.”

Lothiriel manages a snort, despite the pack of wargs currently pounding behind her temples. “Gimli could have told you that, Pip.”

There’s a knock at the door and they all groan. Eowyn’s amused face appears, with Faramir not far behind. “Good morning.”

“The light, the light!” Cries Pippin dramatically. “Turn it off!”

“That ‘light’ is the sun,” Faramir says. “It lacks a switch, I’m afraid.”

Eowyn comes to sit beside Lothiriel and gives her hair a stroke. “On a scale of 1-10?”

“Oh, a 15 easy,” Lothiriel says. “Thanks for coming to pick us up.”

A sudden stillness falls over the room.

Something like panic creeps up Lothiriel spine. The headache suddenly seems minor, unimportant. “What?”

Wordlessly, her phone appears in view, presented by a clearly-struggling-with-laughter Faramir.

“What,” Lothiriel repeats again, “did I do?”

She looks at her phone, feeling on the verge of vomiting--and not from the hangover.

“Oh,” she says. “Oh, no.”

In her phone, Eowyn’s name (which is accompanied by a horse, heart, and sword emoji) is directly next to Eo mer ’s name (which is accompanied by the much less flattering grouchy-faced emoji).

“Damn auto-correct!” She cries and then winces as her head throbs in response.

“It might have been better that you did call Eomer instead, Lothiriel,” Merry offers tentatively. “After all, I don’t think Eowyn could have carried you out of the bar after that last shot.”

Lothiriel groans, burying her face in the pillow. “Oh, Valar.”

“And I don’t think you would have been waxing poetic about Eowyn’s biceps, either,” Pippin says. “No offense, of course, ‘Wyn, but I think your brother has you beat.”

“None taken.”

“Kill me,” Lothiriel whines, grasping Faramir’s hand in desperation. “Please, if you love me at all, you’ll take this pillow and smother me with it.”

“I’m afraid he can’t,” Eowyn says, sounding horribly, awfully cheerful. “Because you have a date in approximately twenty minutes.”

Lothiriel shoots up, nearly knocking her forehead against Faramir’s. “I have a what .”

“With Eomer. At the coffeeshop on the corner. In twenty minutes,” Eowyn says. Her eyes narrow in a way that Lothiriel has long since learned tends to indicate a hidden death threat. “And since he was kind enough to bring you and these two drunken hooligans--”

“Hey!” Protests Pippin. “We prefer the term ‘wastrel’, thank you!”

“--home last night, I suggest you go. And explain yourself.”

She’s out of the door in under 15 minutes, the hangover still pounding dully behind her temples, but it’s less nauseating than the guilt and panic swirling under her breastbone. Of all the people to call--Eomer! Damn autocorrect! She must have been much, much drunker than she thought--she’d done so well up until now, to not let him (or anyone else, especially Eowyn) know about her very small, hardly-there-at-all crush on one Eomer Eomundson.

Every nerve in her body is on-edge when she opens the door to the coffee shop. His arched eyebrow is as familiar--and attractive--as ever and she makes one last attempt to smooth down her likely horrible looking hair before settling into the seat across from him.

“So,” she says, “I’m...sorry?”

“For which part?” He asks. “Calling me at 2 in the morning? Singing with your head out the window of my car? Calling me a ‘grade A Rohirric beefcake’ in front of my sister and her fiance?”

Oh, Elbereth. “All of it?”

Eomer snorts. He fixes her with a look then, and this one’s. Oh. It’s...different, somehow, with a hint of vulnerability in his dark eyes. “What about the part where you tried to kiss me?”

Lothiriel’s stomach drops to somewhere near to the depths of Moria. Or lower, maybe. “I. Um. Yes?”

That vulnerability shutters away, and Valar, she knows this look--irritation, anger, and yes, a little bit of hurt, too. She’s said entirely the wrong thing.

“Of course,” he says, bitterness in every tone, “of course you regret that--”

“Eomer,” she interrupts, drawing courage from Elbereth knows where to reach across the table and take one of his hands--warm and calloused and attractive, something must truly be wrong with her, to be so entranced by his hands --”I only regret that I was falling-down drunk when I... When I tried to kiss you. That’s not something I think would have been pleasant for either of us.”

His hand is stock still in hers for a moment and she cringes, tries to pull hers back--maybe she can tell him that she’s still drunk, or that this has been some kind of weird fever-dream--but then his fingers are laced through hers and he’s. Oh. He’s smiling. A real, honest-to-goodness Eomer Eomundson smile, complete with crinkled eyes and that one dimple she’s-never-noticed-not-once.

“Another time, then,” he says, voice pitched low, and Valar, if she doesn’t want to launch herself across the table to test the truth of his words. But this is a public place, and her head still hurts, and part of her isn’t entirely sure she hasn’t dreamt the entirety of the last hour up.

“Maybe breakfast first?” She asks.

Eomer nods, his hand still warm around hers.

“What do you like here?” She asks, suddenly curious.

The spark of mischief in his eyes is utterly, utterly terrifying. “I don’t know. I hear they have great grade A Rohirric--”

She flings her napkin at him and he laughs.


 

Chapter Text

 


 

PART ONE


 

To say he’s less than surprised when the door slams open not two minutes after he’d pushed it closed is an understatement. He knows his wife of just over a year better than most, and knows even better about that temper of hers that lies hidden under layers of well-taught Gondorian propriety and an iron will.

“Lothiriel, this is not up for discussion,” he says, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Clearly,” she bites back, dark eyes flashing with anger. “Considering how you decreed what I was to do, in full view of the entire hall.”

Eomer winces; it had not been one of his smartest moves, nor one of his most considerate. But, Bema, what was he to do? He had renewed the Oath of Eorl when Aragorn had become king. There was nothing to do but answer his friend and ally’s call for aid. It matters very little that the thought of seeing any Mûmakil again makes his stomach turn, that the thought of marching past Morannon only brings back the smell of death and terror and blood--

“--I do not understand it, it is not as if I have not gone with you before--”

Lothiriel’s voice pulls him from his musings. She is right, of course, as she so often is. In previous skirmishes within their own borders, it would not be odd for her to accompany him. While no warrior herself, Lothiriel was an accomplished healer in her own right, and had enough sense around battle to not put herself in harm’s way.

But this was different. The ride alone would be arduous for even the most experienced Eorlingas, and the well-trained armies of the Haradrim made even the most organized Dunlending band look like unruly children. The thought of Lothiriel being even remotely nearby...it felt like ice sliding into his stomach. Nearly terror enough to match what he’d felt upon finding Eowyn on the Pelennor Fields.

“It is different,” he says, tone sharp. “These are no starving Dunlendings, nor mindless Orcs--”

“I know that,” Lothiriel snaps. “I am not a fool! But if I can help our men, help Aragorn’s soldiers, surely it is worse for me to remain here--”

“Worse?” Eomer asks, turning to face her. “ Worse to remain in Edoras, safe and well-guarded, miles from any who would wish you harm?”

Lothiriel scowls at him. “I am not a trinket, to be placed in a tower and kept well protected , Eomer!”

“You are deliberately misunderstanding me,” he fires back. “All the more reason why you should not go--”

“You have not given me a reason!” She cries, stepping closer to stick a finger under his nose. “You have not given me a single, valid reason as to why you are acting like this--”

“It is dangerous--”

“Life is dangerous--”

“You are needed here --”

“The council can run things in our absence--”

There is something like panic burning in his veins. All he can think of is the day they’d brought his father home, the horrible sound of his mother’s grief over his body. Finding Theodred, nearly face down in the water of the Fords. Theoden King, broken and bloody, under the body of the once magnificent Snowmane. Eowyn, still and pale, in armor beside the wreckage of the Nazgul’s mount.

“You cannot come, and you will not come,” he says, voice sounding distorted even to his own ears.

Lothiriel’s face is nearly red, likely matching his in her anger, her confusion. “I will go where I please, Eomer King--”

The panic bubbles over again--had Eowyn not also ignored a king’s orders? Was it to be his wife’s body he finds next, would it be Lothiriel that he would fail to protect?

“I cannot risk you!” He finally yells, hands gripping her shoulders. “I cannot---the thought of something happening to you…”

Her eyes are wide as realization dawns. “Eomer,” she murmurs in a much softer tone.

Suddenly, he finds that he cannot face her. The had not married for love, it’s true, and yet he has come to love her all the same. He has not found the strength to tell her, yet, and it would feel like a bribe now, a trick to get her to agree to remain behind.

“I have lost all of my family save Eowyn to violence,” he says instead, hiding his eyes behind his hand. “I...please do not ask me to do it again.”

They are both silent for a moment. He nearly startles at the sudden feeling of Lothiriel stepping up to wrap her arms around his waist. She presses her face into his chest, and they both give a sigh when he runs a hand through her hair.

“I did not think,” she murmurs, the sound slightly muffled. “I am sorry, Eomer.”

“I should have explained,” Eomer argues, not willing to let her take the blame on his inability to communicate properly--something Eowyn has always berated him for, come to think of it. “You are my wife and my Queen, and deserve a proper explanation.”

“Yes,” Lothiriel agrees, a touch of her usual humor back in her voice, “but I should not have pushed so.”

The longer she stands there, arms wrapped around him, the quicker the lingering sense of panic--fear, if he’s honest with himself--recedes. Feeling more settled, he moves to unwind himself from her--he will have to meet with the council soon, to detail their plans in his absence, but her hands on either side of his face stop him.

“Since I am not to come with you, you must promise me something instead,” Lothiriel says.

“Anything.”

“Come back to me,” she says. “For I do not think I could stand losing my family to violence, either.”

What else can he do, but kiss her? He should not promise her such a thing, for life is uncertain, even with Sauron defeated. But he does, all the same.

As it turns out, it was a very easy promise to keep.


 

Chapter Text


PART TWO


 

Dimly Lothiriel is aware that she should move, that dozing on a bench in the middle of Meduseld with her head on her husband’s thigh is likely not something a queen should do.

But she is so warm, and so comfortable, and she has missed him more than she can possibly express. More than she ever expected to, if she’s honest. Their marriage, unlike so many that had occured in the wake of the War of the Ring, had not been for love.

Lothiriel had not minded that--in Gondor, love matches were rare, and she knew her father would never suggest that she marry a man who was not at the very least a decent one.

And Eomer has proven himself to be much more than decent.

Brave, of course, and a surprisingly considerate leader. She had thought him gruff, serious, at first, but now she knows that is merely part of the mask the War had forced on him. He is funny, her husband, if in a less obvious way than her youngest brother, and kind. And handsome, that too. Was it any wonder that she had fallen in love with him?

Of his own feelings...she is less sure.

She is a woman grown! A wife! A queen!

And yet the thought of asking her husband if he loves her makes her feel as if she is a little girl again, standing on the cliffs of Dol Amroth. Exhilarating, to be sure, but frightening, also.

Eomer’s fingers carding through her hair relaxes some of the tension such thoughts have brought.

How does he do that, she wonders, comfort me without a word?

“Now, that’s a sight to see,” comes a familiar voice.

“Erkenbrand,” Eomer greets, quietly. His fingers continue their steady motion through her hair, and she has to fight a shiver when he brushes the shell of her ear.

The bench creaks as the older man sits across from them--or Lothiriel presumes so, as she keeps her eyes shut.

“She ran things admirably in your absence,” Erkenbrand says, and Lothiriel could blush for the almost fatherly-tone of pride in his voice. “If not for her hair, I would think her a natural-born Eorlingas.”

“I would expect nothing less from Lothiriel,” Eomer answers. “She is the best queen I could ask for.”

“I am glad to hear it, sire,” the counselor says. “For I do not think you could get another one.”

“There is no other I would want,” he says.

Lothiriel forces herself not to stiffen in surprise.

Erkenbrand is silent for a moment. “I am happy for you, Eomer. I admit, I have long hoped that your marriage was more than a purely political union--”

“It was, at first,” Eomer interrupts. “But now...I do not know when it became something else--”

“I would imagine around the time she told Torfrith to stop knocking on the doors to your rooms unless he wanted to see his queen in an indecent state of dress.”

Eomer chuckles and Lothiriel is glad to be still feigning unconsciousness. Poor Torfrith still would not look her in the eye, and somehow Eowyn had found out about it, and had sent her a robe for her last birthday.

“Perhaps. I think it might have even been before,” he shifts, his hand stilling in her hair. “Bema, Erkenbrand, I...she...”

“You love your wife,” Erkenbrand says. “Hardly an unusual thing, Eomer King.”

“Love,” Eomer murmurs in a nearly dazed tone of voice.

Oh, she wishes more than anything that she could sit up, fling her arms around him, and say she loves him too, she loves him so much she can scarcely breathe for it--

“If you truly love her, though, I would suggest carrying her to bed,” Erkenbrand says. “She’s worked awfully hard while you’ve been away. She deserves the rest.”

Lothiriel forces herself to remain limp as Eomer shifts, somehow lifting her into his arms as if she weighs nothing at all. The beat of his heart is fast, thumping heavily against her ear--

“Erkenbrand,” he says, quietly, “what if she--”

Erkenbrand’s laugh is gentle. “Sire. On that front, I think you have nothing to fear.”

She somehow manages to stay still and pliant in his arms on the walk back to their rooms. She even remains still as he lays her on their bed, brushes the hair back from her face. She opens her eyes slowly, offers him a small smile as he stares down at her.

“Hello, husband,” she says.

He leans down for a kiss. “Wife.”

“I have something to tell you,” she says, stroking her thumbs across his dear, dear face.

“Hm?”

“Erkenbrand is right,” she says, watching as realization dawns, “you have nothing to fear.”

He gulps, voice hoarse, “Lothiriel--”

“Your Queen wishes to tell you she loves you,” she says--or starts to, because then he’s kissing her again, with so much passion her head spins.

He only lifts his head to say, “Lothiriel, I love you so,” before his mouth is back on hers and all rational thought stops.


 

Chapter Text


 

If Eomer were a wiser man, he would insist on someone--anyone--else to be the one patching up his bruised shoulder. As it is, Eomer has never been very wise--stubborn, yes, courageous, so they say--but wise? Not hardly.

As it is Lothiriel huffs at him from across the room, the pungent smell of whatever poultice she’s currently making thick in the air.

“Remind me again,” she says, aggravation clear in her voice, “why you and my idiot brother decided it would be a good idea to go sailing?”

“I had never been,” he says, “and Amrothos said that the weather was ideal for speed--”

“For him, an experienced sailor!” She interrupts. “You are a novice at best, and the winds were wild today--”

“Yes,” he sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. He’d already heard as much from Eothain, then again from Imrahil himself. Who must be as mad as his youngest son, to permit his daughter to be the one to doctor him after the afternoon’s...accident. “I know.”

She sets her jaw, stomping over to him with bandage in hand. “If you knew, then why did you do it?”

He opens his mouth to respond--that Amrothos had seemed so confident, that he would like to learn more about the things she enjoys during his short visit here--but swallows any defense at the look on her face. Anger, yes, irritation in no short supply, but Bema...concern. Worry .

“Nevermind,” she says, waving a hand at him. “Shirt off, troublesome king.”

The world seems to spin. Perhaps he had been hit in the head, after all?

“What?” He asks.

“I can hardly put a poultice on over your shirt,” Lothiriel says, slowly, as if he’s a small child. “Thus the shirt must come off.”

Oh, helle .

“Lothiriel, that’s--is there no one else--”

Abruptly, she looks amused. “I have three brothers, Eomer. You need not worry about being the first man I’ve ever seen shirtless.”

This is decidedly different , he thinks, grumpily, but concedes to her point. She is well-trained in healing, and has likely seen men besides her brothers unclothed. The thought makes him strangely...irritated. She waits, mostly patient, as he strips out of the thin shirt Erchirion had loaned him. He winces as it jostles the injured shoulder. Being pinned against the mast by a loose piece of rigging had not been pleasant, but he had not expected the bruising to be so bad. The front of his shoulder is mottled, a mix of red and purple, and he can only imagine how the back looks.

“Here,” Lothiriel says in a much softer tone, “let me see.”

Her fingers are gentle, though he cannot fight back a hiss as she touches a particularly tender spot. She is disarmingly close, strands of her hair falling loose around her face as she smoothes the poultice into his skin. There is a band of freckles along her nose, spots of pink her cheeks, the soft fullness of her lips slightly parted as she contemplates him--

Forget the rigging , Eomer things, this is true torture .

By the Mark’s standards, he would be well within his rights to kiss her, as her betrothed. But, as he has been reminded on numerous occasions by her brothers, Eothain, and even traitorous Eowyn: they are not in the Mark.

Mercifully, she steps around him, hiding her all-too-tempting mouth from his sight, to examine the other side of his shoulder.

Her sudden sharp intake of breath startles him. “Lothiriel?”

She’s silent for a moment, and then--

Eomer flinches at the sudden touch of her fingers along his back. Ah. The scars.

One does not lead an eored for the majority of their life without accumulating some lasting injuries, and Eomer is no exception. The one she’s touching now came from a Dunlending’s arrow, luckily prevented from causing further damage by his mail. Her fingers flit over to his shoulder blade--this scar is faint, he knows, a luck swipe from some Southerling’s spear. He had not noticed it until well after Morannon--how could he have, with Eowyn nearly dying in the Houses, Theoden lost?

“Eomer,” she murmurs, voice thick. “Oh, Eomer--”

“They are old wounds, swete ,” the pet name comes naturally, because for all her temper, Lothiriel of Dol Amroth is sweet, and gentle, and kind, “do not trouble yourself.”

She’s silent again, before she steps around to face him again, setting the bowl down with an angry clatter. “Do not trouble myself?! What kind of woman do you think I am, Eomer!”

Eomer can only blink at her. “I meant no offense--”

“Who is to worry for you, if not for me?” She cries and he can see tears in his eyes--Bema help him--and she jabs a finger against his chest. “I am--I am going to be your wife !”

It is the first time she has ever said it aloud. It is the first time he has ever heard her acknowledge, in truth, what this betrothal means for her, for him.

So, Bema help him, he can do aught but reach out, tug her close, and kiss her. She is stiff for a moment before relaxing, all but melting against him, her mouth hot and welcoming against his. She winds her fingers into his hair and he moves to pull her closer, damning Gondorian propriety for denying them this--

The sudden sharp ache of his shoulder is enough to make him gasp a curse and Lothiriel freezes, blinking at him and then at his shoulder in surprise.

“Oh, Elbereth,” she murmurs. “Your shoulder--I am sorry--”

He kisses her, gently, to stop her ramble. “You need not apologize for that .”

She huffs a laugh, drifting back closer to press her forehead to his. They’re both silent for a moment, until she says, in a very soft voice, “I will always worry for you, Eomer. Please do not ask me not to.”

He can only draw her closer, strokes a hand through her hair. “I suspect I shall be very bad at forbidding you anything,” Eomer says, smiling slightly as she laughs again, “much less something as kind as that.”

“Good,” she says, lifting her head from his uninjured shoulder to smile at him.

Not for the first time, he suspects he owes Eowyn a very large favor for insisting on him taking a trip to Dol Amroth after her wedding.


 

Chapter Text


 

Lothiriel well knows the importance of horses to the lives of the people of Rohan. She would not consider herself a good queen if she did not. And as this makes her third spring in the Mark, she also knows that the foaling season is amongst the most vital, the most sacred to the Eorlingas. Man, woman, and child, to a one, there was no time of the year that garnered more joy, more excitement.

Her husband is no exception.

The past two springs, she has not minded his absence, his tendency to abandon anything and everything to hurry down to the stables to help with the foaling--he is the King, the embodiment of what Rohan stands for, and his presence is considered a blessing for every colt and filly born.

But now...returning to their rooms after a long day to find them empty makes her...well, nearly angry. Sad. He is their king, yes, but her husband also! Happy as she is to share him, his continued absence from their rooms is vexing. On numerous levels.

On the rare instances she does manage to catch him, he is distracted, weary, but with an undeniable current of excitement lingering underneath.

“Four more strong colts today,” he tells her, pressing an absent minded kiss to her forehead. “Ceola thinks another three mares will go into labor by nightfall.”

If you love the horses so much, perhaps you would have been better off marrying one of them instead , she thinks, bitterly.

And then Lothiriel shakes herself--she is being ridiculous , petty and small over something that brings both Eomer and their people such happiness.

“Will I see you for dinner?” She asks.

Eomer frowns, the first unhappy expression she’s seen since the first foal was birthed nigh two weeks ago. “I am afraid not, swete . They have need of me in the stables--”

Sighing, and forcing back her retort that she might be better served by his hands than the horses, she kisses him briefly. “Do try to remember to sleep sometime, husband.”

Giving her a smile and nod, he is gone again, in a whirl of blonde hair and the soft smell of hay.

Shaking her head at his antics, Lothiriel lets her hands slide to rest on her stomach. The curve there is small, not noticeable at all through her clothes. But significant enough that he would not have failed to notice it if they had actually shared a bed for more than a few passing moments--or to do something more than sleep--in the past weeks.

Perhaps if I told him I was foaling, he would not be so eager to spend all his time in the stables , she thinks, wryly.

Still. The idea of telling him such a thing without his having his full attention makes her stomach twist. Only she and Master Duilin know of it now. It is better this way, she knows, and in a way she’s grateful that there is a reason behind her strange melancholy, her embarrassing envy of the horses of Edoras’s stables.

It is another two weeks of this state, with her remarking to a laughing Wilfled one day that it is almost as if she does not have a husband, rather a ghost who must delight in leaving dirtied shirts all over the floor and tracking mud on her carpets. Finally, late one night, she’s pulled from slumber by the sound of horns: the last foal has been born, the season officially ending in Edoras.

Eomer tries to creep in quietly, but she rolls over to face him anyways, smiling softly at his guilty expression.

“Did I wake you?”

“The horns beat you to it,” Lothiriel answers. “How is the foal?”

“Healthy and beautiful,” he says with a grin. “Another filly.”

“She took her time,” she says, watching with not a little pleasure as he peels off his shirt, then his breeches.

“As is the prerogative of a beautiful lady,” he answers, eyes glinting in her direction.

Lothiriel laughs, shakes her head. “Flattery would usually get you everywhere, Eomer, but tonight I am tired.”

“That is just as well,” he says, sliding into the bed beside her. “For I am tired, too.”

Regardless, she sighs happily when he curls himself behind her. She has missed this--missed him --very much, and the lingering smell of horse isn’t detriment enough for her to move from where she’s pressed herself into the curve of his much larger body. Eomer kisses her neck, moves his arm to wrap around her better, his hand coming to rest on--

Oh, Valar , she thinks as he suddenly goes stiff as a board behind her.

Her nightgown is thin and clings rather obviously to the slight swell of her stomach, where Eomer’s hand currently sits.

“Lothiriel,” he says, tone unreadable.

“Would you believe,” she interrupts, trying to keep the laughter from her voice, “that Rohan’s cuisine is simply more hearty than Gondor’s?”

He tugs her to face him, dark eyes wide in his face, his hand still somehow pressed to the curve of her stomach and she takes pity, reaching up to cup his face in her hands.

“Are--are you--”

“It seems we will have a foal of our own, come winter,” Lothiriel says. “Though I do not think Duilin will permit you to help with this one’s birth.”

Eomer gives a dazed laugh, his smile nearly blindingly bright. She can still feel his smile when he kisses her.

As it turns out, they are not that tired, after all.


 

Chapter Text


 

Lothiriel has been working in the markets in Minas Tirith since she was old enough to count money. Ada doesn’t like it, per se, but Naneth had started the tradition, and he was hard pressed to deny her anything that reminds her of her mother, gone the past two years.

The shopkeepers know her here, and are kind enough to indulge her for the few hours a week she can drop the role of princess and diplomat, and simply be . There are few things on this earth she loves more than flowers, the lovely smells, the way you can use them to send a message of hope, of love, of joy.

Which is something the man before her is utterly, utterly failing to do.

He is not the first suitor to know nothing of the language of flowers, but as he haphazardly chooses another bloom--hyacinths are lovely, but she sincerely doubts he means to express that whoever the bouquet is intended for brings him sorrow --Lothiriel cannot help but wince.

Mistress Alwien catches her expression and snorts. “Go on then, my lady. It would not be the first time you have aided a befuddled suitor!”

Lothiriel smiles, making her way to stand at the man’s side. He is a Rohir, that much is obvious, from both his dress and his hair. A tall man, taller than even Faramir, with all of his Numenorian height, and a handsome one, made even more apparent by the breadth of his shoulders, the grace with which he carries himself, even in confusion. She can feel the blush creep into her cheeks and berates herself; he is clearly looking for flowers for his sweetheart, and here she stands, writing odes to how handsome he is! It is not like her, and she will blame it on the giddiness surrounding the return of the King.

“Can I help you, my lord?” She asks. The man jumps, turning to offer her a near furious expression that almost immediately softens as he takes her in. “With the flowers,” she explains.

The man’s face contorts into an impressive grimace. “I assume I have done it all wrong, then?”

“There are good intentions, here,” Lothiriel answers, wanting to be gentle. They have been through so much, these men of Rohan. There is no need to embarrass him for not knowing flower-lore. “Hyacinths are lovely, but a purple one means ‘sorrow’.”

The man nearly drops the flower as if it had burned him. Definitely a suitor, then , she thinks, plucking the flower and returning it to its proper vase. “A white one, however, indicates ‘unobtrusive loveliness’.”

His sudden snort makes her smile. “That will not do either, for I have never met the lady.”

Lothiriel can feel her eyebrows hit her hairline. Arranged marriages are common amongst Gondor’s nobles, but from what she has heard from Eowyn, it is not so in Rohan. “You are making a courting bouquet for a lady you have not met?”

Now it is his turn to look shocked. “No! I--I wished to express my gratitude to someone who has been kind to someone very dear for me.” His embarrassment is palpable. “It was a foolish thought--”

“Oh, no,” she says, unable to stop herself from reaching out to grasp his elbow. “It was a lovely one. And I can still certainly offer you my help, if--,” at this she bites her lip, suddenly self-conscious. “If you would still like it?”

He smiles then, warm and sincere. “I think it is not a matter of liking, and more a matter of necessity.”

Lothiriel laughs, pleased at his wit. “We shall see. You may surprise yourself yet!”

As it turns out, he has a good eye for color, though he flinches after suggesting asphodel and she must tell him their somber message, and laughs aloud at the thought of the tansy, so bright and cheerful, declaring war on its receiver. “I did not know flowers could be so...talkative,” he says, amusement clear in his tone.

“Like many other beautiful things, there is often more to them than just their appearance,” she agrees.

“Indeed,” he murmurs, something bright in his eyes.

Lothiriel blushes, looking down at the arrangement they’ve managed to put together. Sprigs of sweet basil, for good wishes, lavender for admiration, and finally cheerful bluebells for gratitude. It is a kind bouquet, and a respectful one. “I think this should satisfy your helpful lady.”

He smiles again, somewhat softer this time, and she gulps when his fingers brush hers as he takes the flowers from her hands. Mistress Alwien bustles over, to help bundle the arrangement for its journey. In the past, Lothiriel would have turned to other customers, or said a final farewell, but she simply feels...stuck, staring at his back as he pays for the flowers. Oh, she had not even asked his name! Nor given hers, like a foolish child--

He is suddenly in front of her, looking uncertain as he had with the flowers before she’d begun to help him. A bloom is in his hand, offered up to her. White jasmine, she realizes. A many-meaning sort of flower. Paired with others, it meant appreciation or good luck, but on its own...Carefully, she takes it, eyes on his. “I wonder if you would offer this so freely, if you knew its meaning.”

“I suppose I will have to come back again, for another lesson,” he says. He lifts her hand to his mouth, presses a kiss to its back, and grins when she flushes scarlet. “Until then, blóstm cwén .”

Mistress Ailwen chuckles as Lothiriel presses a hand to her mouth, both of them watching him leave. “Careful now, Princess. Can’t have you losing your heart to a Rider of Rohan over something as silly as a flower!”

Still, that does not stop her from tucking the bloom behind her ear, nor does it stop her from smiling the entire walk back to Faramir’s rooms. Eowyn is waiting for her, startling out of her happy daydream by nearly pouncing on her once she’s entered the doors.

“Where have you been all day?” She asks, impatiently.

“Mistress Ailwen’s flower stall,” Lothiriel says, thinking of dark eyes and surprisingly deft fingers, “oh, Eowyn, you would never believe--”

Eowyn huffs, the fond expression on her face at war with her clear impatience. “Lothiriel, I promise I will listen happily to you waxing poetic about whatever star-crossed suitor came looking for the perfect flowers today, but for now, there is someone I would very much like you to meet.”

Lothiriel’s brow furrows and then--”Oh, Valar,” she groans, “Eomer King comes today?”

“Even worse, he is already here,” Eowyn says, sounding utterly cheerful. “Faramir he knows already, and I am afraid we have both told him nothing but good things about you--”

“Eowyn!”

“--but fret not, my brother is notoriously hard-headed when it comes to first impressions--”

Thinking of how frazzled Faramir had been after meeting the man, Lothiriel can only agree.

“--but seeing as how you are a beautiful lady, and not a man intent on courting his sister, he should be somewhat more polite to you--”

“I need to change,” Lothiriel tries to interrupt, though they are already nearing the gardens and she can make out the sound of masculine laughter above Eowyn’s footsteps, “Eowyn, please --”

“Nonsense,” Eowyn insists. “You are as lovely as ever.”

And that’s how Lothiriel finds herself stepping out into the garden. Faramir grins when he spots her, standing and pulling her into a warm embrace that serves to take away a small measure of her nervousness. “You smell of fresh blooms and sunshine, cousin. Has Mistress Ailwen worked your fingers to the bone in her stall?”

“I enjoy the work, as you well know,” she answers, pinching his side in retaliation. “And you are being very rude, Sir Steward.”

Faramir winces. “You are right.” He turns, ushering her with an arm around her shoulders, saying, “You’ve met my other cousins, Eomer, but this is Imrahil’s youngest. Lothiriel, of Dol Amroth.”

But Lothiriel can only gape in, in--shock? Wonder?--as the man from the shop, the Rohir, her Rohir, stands, grinning so widely his face looks likely to split in two.

Blóstm cwén ,” he says, offering her the bouquet they’d spent the afternoon putting together, “I can think of no one else who deserves this more.”


 

Chapter Text


 

Lothiriel is not an outdoorsy sort of woman.

Eomer knows this, her brothers know this, and Faramir and Boromir know it. So Eomer cannot fathom why--or how--they managed to convince her to join them on this camping trip of theirs. Eowyn is much more comfortable climbing rocks with a pack strapped to her back, but Lothiriel…

It is not a bad thing, merely a fact. Her face is already flushed pink from exertion, her pack looks exceedingly haphazardly jammed full, and her once-neat braid is already unravelling. They are, perhaps, two hours into the hike. And yet, she has not once complained, not asked for help from any of the men or even from Eowyn, who keeps shooting her concerned looks over her shoulder.

Were they with any other group of people, Eomer would have already offered to take her bag--he is used to this sort of physical activity, after five years in the military--but as they’re surrounded by his meddlesome sister, her over-protective brothers, and all three of their respective too-knowing cousins, he can’t.

It’s not that he wants to keep the fact that they’ve been on a handful of dates a secret--Bema knows he could do worse than Lothiriel--but their families would blow it absolutely out of proportion. Helle, they’d probably try to force them to get married on the spot.

Another two hours later, they’ve finally reached the campsite. Lothiriel all but collapses, laying comically across her pack as Amrothos laughs at her.

“I hate you. All of you,” she says faintly. “You said this was an easy trail!”

Boromir snorts. “Easy for us, little flower. It is not our fault you were always more interested in books and tea than the great outdoors--”

“I like books and tea, too,” Faramir defends, passing a now sitting-up, if still wobbly, Lothiriel his canteen. “There is nothing wrong with not liking hiking.”

“And you two,” Eowyn says, pointing accusatory fingers in Boromir and Amrothos’s directions, “could have chosen an easier path.”

“And missed the opportunity to reduce Lothiriel to a pile of mush?” Asks Amrothos. “Eowyn, it is as if you don’t know me at all!”

Eomer ventures over, pulling Lothiriel to her feet as Faramir and Eowyn do their best to help dig through her pack for her sleeping bag.

“Ugh, my legs are jelly,” she grumbles, trembling slightly in his grip.

He grins, leaning just close enough not to be overheard. “I’d offer to rub them down, but I think your brothers might have something to say about that.”

She swats him, but the pleased blush in her cheeks lets him know she’s not truly upset. “Fiend. Now that’s all I’ll be able to think about.”

It’s all he can do to keep from bending to press a kiss to the particularly sensitive patch of skin behind her ear, brothers and cousins and sisters be damned, but then a sudden groan from Faramir calls him back to their surroundings.

“Lothiriel,” he says, sounding exasperated, “you did remember to pack a sleeping bag, didn’t you?”

Any lingering color drains out of Lothiriel’s face. “Of course I did! I put it on top this morning--”

But there had been a mad rush for all of them to pack the car and the more Eomer thinks about it, the more he thinks he remembers seeing a dark blue bundle laying on the counter as Theodred had locked the door behind him. Lothiriel’s face is ashen as Amrothos begins to laugh anew, as Erchirion sighs and passes money into Elphir’s outstretched hand, and Theodred ambles over to give her shoulder a sympathetic pat.

“Cheer up, Lothiriel,” his cousin says, kindly. “We’ve all spent a night on the ground. It won’t kill you.”

But she isn’t used to such things, though the stubborn set of her jaw tells him that she won’t complain, that she won’t say a word even if she ends up curled around a root with dirt in her hair. She’s quiet all through dinner, though she offers Eowyn a sincere smile when she offers her an extra blanket, nestling down into it as if she’d like to disappear.

Eventually, Eowyn and Faramir disappear to stargaze--Eomer chooses to believe that’s what they’re actually doing, and likes his blissful innocence--while Elphir, Erchirion, and Amrothos amble off for a midnight swim. Boromir is asleep already, snoring loudly from where his head is pillowed on Theodred’s thigh. Lothiriel is nearly asleep as well, leaning a chin on her hand and wavering dangerously close to the fire. Eomer frowns, coming to gently shake her shoulder.

“Lothiriel,” he says.

“Hm?” She hums, blinking sleepily up at him. Even uncomfortable, more than a little disheveled and with a smudge of dirt on her nose, he’s struck by how lovely she is, how soft.

“Take my sleeping bag,” he says.

Eomer can see Theodred grinning at him out of the corner of his eye, and he shoots his cousin a rude hand gesture out of Lothiriel’s range of vision.

“No, that’s not fair,” she protests. “It’s my fault I forgot one, I don’t want to inconvenience you--”

Despite knowing Theodred would be absolutely insufferable in the morning, Eomer ignores her protests, bending down and scooping her up in his arms. Her outraged squeak is equal parts hilarious and endearing. “Eomer! What are you doing!”

“If you won’t take it, I suppose we’ll have to share,” he says. He won’t lie down, for fear of what her brothers might do upon finding them spooning , but he sits, back against a nearby tree as Lothiriel adjusts herself more comfortably in his lap.

“They’re going to be merciless, you know,” she murmurs, lips brushing distractingly over his neck as she speaks.

“You are not sleeping on the ground,” he argues. “It’s damned Amrothos’s fault you weren’t well prepared.”

She lifts her head to smile at him, reaching up to lightly scratch her nails along his jaw. “Hm. I can’t say I mind, really.”

He chuckles, pressing a quick kiss to her forehead even as Theodred all but snickers from across the campfire. “Sleep, Lothiriel.”


 

(Amrothos’s squawk wakes the entire camp a few hours later.

“Do shut up, Amrothos,” Lothiriel grumbles, burrowing her face deeper into Eomer’s shoulder. “Aren’t you lot always going on about needing to adapt to one’s circumstances?”

“This is not what I meant!” Amrothos cries.

Eomer hides his smile in Lothiriel’s hair.)


 

Chapter Text


 

Lothiriel’s not sure why she agreed to do this.

Well, that’s not entirely right. She’d owed Eowyn a favor, and apparently the only thing her cousin-in-law wanted her to do was to go with her pain-in-the-ass of an older brother to his high reunion.

“Eomer will never admit it,” Eowyn had said, both of them bone weary and sweaty after yet another grueling roller-derby match, “but he’s dreading going to this thing. And he can hardly take his kid sister, and it’s not like you have trouble making friends with anyone--”

“Except Eomer,” Lothiriel had pointed out. She’s interacted with Eowyn’s brother numerous times over the past three years, and only a handful of those interactions could be described as somewhat polite.

Eowyn frowned. “Eomer only picks at you because you let him.”

(Which was...probably true. And it’s not as if Lothiriel doesn’t give as good as she gets. Having three obnoxious older brothers and two--well, one, Faramir was a saint compared to the rest of them--obnoxious older cousins had left her well prepared for Eomer’s never-ending barbs.)

Which brings her here, now. Where she’s watching an obscenely pretty blonde woman practically drape herself across the table while Eomer squirms in discomfort.

“Oh, helle ,” says Eothain--Eomer’s childhood best friend that Lothiriel does actually like--”she certainly didn’t waste any time.”

“Who?” Lothiriel asks.

“Dreda,” Wilfled, Eothain’s red-haired spitfire of a wife nearly growls, her hand tight around the stem of her champagne glass. “His ex.”

Now Dreda’s a name Lothiriel’s heard before, usually with a lot of frankly impressive Rohirric curse-words, both from Eowyn and Eothain alike. Much as Eomer annoys her, she understands a thing or two about terrible exes, and something about this woman, who is clearly gloating about the obscenely large diamond ring on her finger and the man lingering at her back, makes her jaw set in anger. Eomer may irritate her more times than not, but no one deserves this .

Steeling herself, she slinks across the ballroom in a way that would make Aunt Ivriniel proud, very aware of how good she looks in the dark blue of her dress, the way the pearls Faramir had given her for her sixteenth birthday catch the light as she tosses her hair over her shoulder. “Oh, there you are, melith ,” she drawls, emphasizing her Dol Amrothian accent as much as she can, kissing Eomer’s cheek before sliding into the seat next to him, “I brought your whisky. Neat and on the rocks, of course.”

Eomer, to his credit, only looks gobsmacked for roughly two seconds before he reacts, sliding an arm around her and reaching for the glass with the other. “Thanks, swete ,” he says, and for once, the endearment doesn’t sound like a joke.

Dreda narrows her eyes at her--she really is pretty, except for the bitter twist of her mouth that Lothiriel knows all too-well from society girls back in Gondor--and reaches out to press Eomer’s elbow. “You didn’t mention you’d brought a...companion, Eomer.”

Lothiriel’s no fool; she knows what the other woman’s implying. (She’s honestly more amused than anything. Her, scion of the House of Dol Amroth, a call girl! Amrothos would have a fit .) It’s what prompts her to lie, pretending to fix Eomer’s tie before offering the other woman a decidedly unimpressed look. “Wife, actually. Lothiriel Eomundson, nice to meet you…?”

“Dreda,” the other woman spits, anger and surprise bringing an unattractive flush to her cheeks.

“Hm,” Lothiriel hums, turning to meet Eomer’s increasingly wide-eyed gaze, “I don’t think I’ve heard the name before.”

There’s a choking noise to their left--Eothain, Lothiriel suspects, likely wasting the very nice bourbon she’d bought him--and Dreda’s face only darkens more. “I could say exactly the same thing, Lothiriel . And I think I would have heard if Eomer were married--”

Wilfled’s scoff makes Lothiriel smile and she leans her chin on her hand. “I don’t see how. Neither of us has a policy of keeping irrelevant people up to date on our lives--”

Another round of choking, though this time it’s Eomer, and Lothiriel dutifully pats his back, as any good wife would. Wilfled looks positively gleeful over his shoulder, and Eothain is looking at her as if she’s performed some sort of miracle. “Are you alright?” She asks. It’s a double-edged question--she doesn’t want him to choke, Eowyn would kill her, but she also has dug them into a bit of a hole here. What if he’d actually wanted to talk to Dreda?

“Never better,” he says, and his hand finds hers under the table. “It was nice seeing you, Dreda.”

“But--” The other woman starts to say.

“The tables have assigned seats, my love,” the other man--who must be her husband, the poor bastard--says,“we should find ours.”

Lothiriel waggles her fingers in the seething woman’s direction. As soon as they’ve disappeared into the crowd milling around the ballroom, Eothain gives a delighted laugh, leaning over to clink his glass against hers. “Bema, that was one of the best things I’ve seen in years .”

Lothiriel grins, though her expression dims when she turns her head to find Eomer staring at her. Wincing, she says, “I’m sorry, I know I took it a bit far, but she looked so--so-- smug , with that stupid gaudy ring, and I know we rarely see eye-to-eye but no one deserves that --”

“Marry me,” Eomer says.

Lothiriel laughs--oh, her hand is still in his, when did that happen? “Maybe a dance first?”

His smile’s been directed at her so rarely--and certainly never this close--that she’s never noticed how lovely a thing it is. (Oh, alright, objectively, she knows that Eomer is far from a bad-looking man. He’s...alright. He’s handsome. Very handsome.) “Seems like a fair trade.”

(As it turns out, Dreda isn’t invited to their actual wedding, either.)


 

Chapter Text


 

When Eomer is twenty, some of his uncle’s councilors get the bright idea that forming a stronger “diplomatic tie” with Gondor is something his uncle should consider. Which, in other words, means someone is getting betrothed.

Now, the ideal choice is Theodred: he’s young yet, the Crown Prince besides, and there’s no denying his charm, his easy leadership. But as the only eligible lady of high-enough rank and bloodline to marry a future king is apparently twelve years old , both Gondor and Rohan alike have qualms about entering into an arrangement that will leave the Mark without an heir at least until the girl comes of age, which is nearly six years off.

Which means it’s entirely acceptable that Eomer--marshal of the Mark, third in line for the throne, and years younger than his royal cousin--be betrothed to her instead.

“She’s a child!” He rages, tearing at his hair as Eowyn and Theodred watch on in barely concealed amusement. “They would bind me to an--an--infant--”

“You have heard of this marvelous thing called ‘time’, have you not?” Asks Eowyn. “She will not always be so young.”

Eomer groans. “This is madness--”

“It is diplomacy,” Theodred interrupts, clapping a hand to his shoulder. “And it is what your king requires of you.”

There isn’t much he can say to that.


 

“But Ada,” Lothiriel says, lip quivering, “I do not want to wed the marshal!”

Her father frowns at her. “Lothiriel, have you been listening to your uncle’s patrolmen again? The people of Rohan are not savages--”

“It is not that!” She cries--truly, it isn’t, she’d met a very nice tradesman from Rohan in the market with Faramir a few weeks back, and she cannot imagine him coming from anything other than good, kind, people--and comes around the corner of the desk to grip her father’s hand. “But Ada, he is old . Older than Amrothos! Surely that means he will be grumpy, like Elphir, or--or--”

Imrahil chuckles, smoothing a hand through her hair. “There will come a time when twenty will seem exceedingly young to you, little flower. And his age now does not matter. It will be another six years before the betrothal will be formally announced--”

“But what if I meet someone of my choice?” She asks in a small voice. True, boys now held as little interest to her as the fish that her brothers brought back from their sailing trips, but she did not doubt that would one day change. Another thought occurs--”And what if the marshal should meet someone he likes better?”

“Oh, daughter,” Imrahil says, drawing her close. “I forget your kind heart. If that occurs, on either side, I am sure Theoden King would understand. But having this link, here and now, with war looming so close...it is what we both need.”

She thinks she understands this.

But that doesn’t mean she has to like it.  


 

It is not until he is king, the war won, and Theoden buried, that someone thinks to remind him that he is technically betrothed.

“Oh, helle ,” he groans. “Not this again.”

“The contract is still sound,” one of the councilors says, “though in light of Lady Eowyn’s betrothal to Lord Faramir, it can be discarded--”

“It should not!” Another man interjects. “We could use more ties to Gondor, especially to Dol Amroth, with all of their trading routes--”

And so it goes on. Eomer will admit it is not the first time that he’s thought of the arrangement and the girl it links him to: the Princess Lothiriel of Dol Amroth. She had not been in Minas Tirith before his return to the Mark, but having met numerous examples of her country women, he cannot imagine her being entirely objectionable. Soft, likely, prone to powdery make-up and half whispered platitudes, more than likely, but not...horrid. Still, he would rather wed a woman of his own choice, one that he knows will make him and his people a good queen.

The council’s argument rages on as an idea dawns on him. Reaching for the nearest piece of parchment, he begins to write, hoping none of the other men think to ask what he’s doing.

Dear Princess,

I do not know if you were ever made aware, but nearly six years ago, my uncle and your father entered into an...agreement concerning us. As we are two grown people now, capable of our own decisions and choices, I would like to propose that we find a more agreeable alternative to a forced betrothal…


 

Lothiriel has never met the man she’s been betrothed to for a third of her life, but she almost regrets it, upon reading his letter. It’s blissfully straight-forward, with none of the flowery prose that Gondorian suitors favor, and surprisingly insightful. This is a man used to leading, a man used to duty and honor, but also with a stubborn-streak a mile wide.

It’s almost a pity, really. She thinks she might have liked him, without this expectation hanging over their heads.

Dear Eomer King,

I was made aware, actually. And at the tender age of twelve, you can imagine I was none-too-pleased to be promised off to someone older than my brother like a broodmare. Obviously none of this was your doing, and thus I have no ill-will towards you. I agree that we should work towards a more fitting solution for both of us. I’m not sure what the grounds are for breaking a betrothal in the Mark, but in Gondor, they’re relatively straight-forward…


 

And so it goes. Letters back and forth, throwing out one scenario after another. A scandal would do too much damage to both of their reputations, Gondor didn’t recognize a woman’s preference in a husband the way the Mark does, and the Mark would never allow a member of the royal household to get a divorce, and so on and so forth.

But that’s not all their letters consist of. It’s boring, to only write about one thing after all, so bits and pieces of their lives start slipping in amongst the plots. His love of morning rides, when the sun is bright on the greenness of the plains. How much she longs to travel, to see more of their world now that it’s safe. Stories of their respective siblings, of the trials of leadership, even favorite recipes squeezed into the margins.

It’s not until the sixth letter that she realizes she might have made a friend of her somewhat-fiance, and it’s not until the twentieth one that he thinks he might be halfway in love with her, this girl he’s never seen.

Neither makes the other aware of these observations.

Still, that doesn’t stop Lothiriel’s heart from giving a traitorous little lurch when she reads, at the end of letter twenty-eight--not that she’s counting, mind you-- will you be at Eowyn and Faramir’s wedding?

Of course I will, she writes back. She only just stops herself from writing and I cannot wait to meet you .

If only just.


 

Eothain nearly laughs himself hoarse at Eomer’s fidgeting, despite the fact that he’s his King and as his marshal he should show him at least a modicum of respect.

“Modicum,” Eothain parrots. “Bema above, Eomer, that princess has given you all new vocabulary.”

Eomer makes a rude gesture in his marshal’s direction. Eowyn sees this and scowls--it is her wedding day, after all, and he should be on his best behavior. He would be, if he weren’t so damnably nervous.

The doors open, revealing another bevy of guests. Imrahil he recognizes almost immediately, along with his three sons, and one lady he knows must be Elphir’s wife, judging by the child on her hip, and then--

Oh, Bema.

The princess is certainly a child no longer. And nothing like the powdered, pampered ladies he’d met just after the war--that he knows from her letters alone. She is not a world-stopping beauty like the Queen, nor does she have the bright fairness of his sister, but it matter so little. He can see the woman from their letters in the sudden curve of her smile, the easy way she reaches out to give her brother’s hair a tug, the gentle way she offers her nephew another pair of arms to curl into when his mother takes her turn to greet Aragorn and Arwen.

Eomer scarcely has time to school his expression into something less than lovestruck-idiot by the time the Dol Amroth royals reach him and Eowyn, with Eothain snickering somewhere from behind him.

“Lothiriel, it is so good to see you again,” Eowyn says, startling him. He hadn’t realized they’d met, but the easy way she steps up to meet his sister’s embrace confirms it. Eowyn isn’t prone to falseness, and neither, would it seem, is the princess.

“And you, Eowyn!” She says, her voice bright with happiness. Her eyes flick over to his and she blinks as a blush enters her cheeks. “And it is just as nice to finally meet you, Eomer King.”

Eowyn’s grin is smug but Eomer can’t bring himself to care, choosing instead to reach out and grasp one of her hands in his own. A small hand, and soft, but steady and dry. “The pleasure is mine, my lady.”

Eothain snorts a laugh.


 

(Later, after their third dance of the night, she tugs at his hand. “Can I tell you a secret, my lord?”

“Of course.”

“I do not think we need to continue to search for a way out of our betrothal.”

He grins, bringing her hand up to his mouth to brush a kiss across her knuckles. “I am inclined to agree with you.”)


 

Chapter Text


 

He’s just gotten settled on the couch, beer in hand, and all too ready to watch whatever Netflix show Eowyn had mentioned earlier when there’s a sudden round of frantic knocking on his door. Groaning, Eomer hefts himself to his feet. The last time someone unexpected had knocked, it had been the bratty kids three doors down, attempting to play ding-dong ditch.

“Bergil, Borlas, I swear this time I really will hang you from the fire escape by your toes,” he thunders, voice loud enough to carry through the still-closed door. “I know your mother has told you to stop this nonsense--”

He opens the door to find that it’s not his precocious pre-teen neighbors, but rather the somewhat drenched but still very, very attractive girl he’s been seeing in the lobby for the past couple of weeks. Frankly, Eomer’s not sure what he should be more confused by: why she’s knocking on his door in the first place, or why she looks like a drowned cat.

Years of his uncle’s attempts to teach him and Theodred kick in and he manages to ask, “Can I help you?”

“I hope so,” she says, her voice thick with the Dol Amrothian accent. “You’re not scared of spiders, are you?”

Eomer blinks. “No. Can’t say that I am.”

The relieved smile that spreads across her face is nearly blinding in its intensity. “Oh, thank the Valar.” At that, she reaches down and plucks him by the hand. Still bewildered, Eomer barely remembers to close the door behind him before she’s dragging him down the hall--passed Bergil and Borlas’s door, where he can see the boys peeking out to stare at them--and to what must be her apartment.

“I don’t--” He tries to say, but she’s already pulling him inside. It’s a neat apartment, certainly cleaner than his own, with a large assortment of blue throw pillows on the couch and picture frames and flowers covering nearly every inch of available table-space. Eomer scarcely has time to register any of this before she’s stopped in front of her bathroom door.

Turning to face him, she bites her lip, looking equal parts sheepish and--damn him--attractive. “I did say why I needed your help, didn’t I?”

“If you did, I must have missed it,” he says, trying and failing to hold back a smile. By all rights, he should be irritated, because he’s tired after a long day at work, or worried, that she’s some psychopath dragging him off to some sort of murder dungeon, but…

She’s a tiny thing, for starters, all soft curves and curling hair, made even more adorable by the over-large shirt hanging precariously from one shoulder. Plus, he’s seen her in the lobby. They’ve nodded at each other once or twice, her arms usually laden down with obscene amounts of flowers. Not exactly the hobby of a serial killer.

“Oh, Elbereth,” she groans, pressing her hands to her eyes. “You must think I’m some sort of lunatic, just carting you off into my apartment--I’m so sorry. There’s a spider the size of a warg in my bathtub, and I can handle any other sort of creepy crawler but there’s just something about the legs--”

“Say no more,” Eomer interjects, well-used to Eowyn’s own dislike of the furry little creatures. “I’m well-trained in the art of spider extraction.”

He is, and manages to have the little--or not so little, Bema, she really hadn’t been exaggerating its size--pest dislodged in a matter of minutes.

“Don’t kill it!” Comes a muffled squeak from the otherside of the bathroom door. “It’s not its fault I can’t stand its creepy, beady eyes--”

Chuckling to himself, Eomer secures the spider in the cup she’d so eagerly provided. “Alright, I’m coming out,” he warns. By the time he’s opened the door, she’s scurried to the other side of the apartment, perched on top of a white barstool.

“The window’s open,” she whispers, as if the spider will hear her and understand their intentions.

The spider is deposited outside without a hitch and he shuts the window behind it. Grinning, he turns back to announce its dismissal, when a picture on the nearby end-table catches his eye. His arachnophobic neighbor is there, with her arms thrown around a horribly familiar person’s neck.  

If that bastard is cheating on Eowyn I’ll kill him , he thinks grimly, scowling down at the picture of Faramir and the girl--who’s now climbing down off of her perch and stepping closer with a smile.

“Thank you so much,” she breathes, her face bright with gratitude, “I know I’m a grown woman and I should be able to handle a little spider--”

“How do you know Faramir?” He interrupts, not caring--or, at least convincing himself he doesn’t care--that she flinches at the sudden harshness of his tone.

“Faramir?” She repeats. Stepping closer, she sees the picture frame in his hands. “Oh! I’d forgotten all about that one! We’d finally convinced my dad to let him take me to the Shire to visit a friend of his from university--”

Dammit, now he really would have to kill Faramir. And possibly catch that spider again, if only to torment the damnably cute woman who would have a hand in breaking his sister’s heart--

“--people can’t believe we’re cousins most of the time. I suppose we don’t really look alike; Faramir takes after Uncle Denethor, poor soul, and I look more like my mother--”

Eomer almost drops the picture frame in surprise. Cousins. Cousins . Hadn’t Eowyn mentioned Faramir had an abundance of them, most of them from Dol Amroth?

“How do you know Faramir?” She asks, pulling him from his reverie.

Intensely grateful she lacks mind-reading abilities, Eomer offers her a smile, relieved not to have a reason to dislike her. “He’s my sister’s boyfriend.”

Her eyes widen almost comically. “You’re Eowyn’s Eomer?”

Eomer can only laugh at such a name--Eowyn’s Eomer, Bema, the hell he would give his little sister for that one. “Guilty as charged.”

“No wonder you’re so wonderful!” She blurts out, before promptly turning red. “Oh, Valar, I mean--I only meant that she always talks about you, her favorite big brother--”

“Her only big brother--”

“Still,” she interjects, smiling. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Eowyn’s Eomer.”

He takes her offered hand--it’s small, soft, and warm in his--for a shake. “Nice to meet you too, Faramir’s…?”

“Lothiriel,” she says, smile growing wider.

A beautiful name for a beautiful girl, he thinks. 

It would seem he owes the spider a thank you.


 

Chapter Text


 

Eomer doesn’t much care about working out as anything other as a way of staying in shape. Faramir and Legolas have their archery club, Eowyn still keeps up with her roller-derby team from school, and Bema knows he doesn’t want to know anything more about Aragorn and Arwen’s couples’ workouts than he already does.

But still. He does like burning off his excess energy in a productive way, now that the racing season is over. (He’s too tall to have ever made it as a jockey, but every horse racing team needs a trainer.) Eowyn has been insistent about a balanced work-out--Eomer would be happy enough with just strength training, but he’s caved to her wishes. It’s what has him on a bike, now, absentmindedly pedalling to cool down from his earlier lifting session.

And being on that bike has put him in the prime position to watch an incredibly attractive woman run through her own work-out. She’s a tiny thing, yes, but he doesn’t think he’s ever seen anyone--Eothain included--punch a punching bag with such force. Such determination.

In the back of his mind, he knows Eowyn would murder him for staring so openly at a woman in the gym, but--Bema. How can he look away? She’s beautiful despite the flush in her cheeks, and the frankly almost terrifying way she’s pummelling the punching bag, and--

He can only swear under his breath when she suddenly drops down, clearly intent on doing push-ups. He almost falls off his bike when she twists one arm behind her back--a one-armed push-up isn’t something he’d ever thought of as hot before, but. Here he is. Thinking it’s pretty damn hot.

“You’ve stopped pedaling,” comes a horribly familiar voice, startling him out of his staring.

Aragorn is grinning at him, with Arwen looking similarly amused from over his shoulder.

“I--” He looks down, to find that he has, the bike having shut off in his distraction.

“Have you ever thought of taking up boxing, Eomer?” Arwen asks innocently. “I’m sure Lothiriel has room in her classes.”

That makes him nearly choke on the sip of water he’s just taken. It dawns on him why the woman looks so familiar: she’s Faramir’s cousin. He hasn’t seen her in years, not since Eowyn’s wedding, and the soft-spoken, smiley eighteen year old he remembers doesn’t match up at all with the woman who’s gone back to punching the punching bag again.

“She teaches boxing?” Is the only semi-intelligent thing he can think of to say.

“Monday, Wednesday, Friday, at 4 and 7:30,” Arwen answers. “She’s an excellent teacher.”

“Can’t hurt to mix up your work-out,” Aragorn adds, still grinning in a terrifying fashion. “Since you won’t take Arwen and I up on our offer to join us--”

“You need to be part of a couple to do a couples’ workout,” Eomer groans, relying on his usual excuse.

“Maybe after a few boxing classes--” Aragorn starts to say, only to earn a swift elbow to his stomach.

Arwen merely grins.


 

Feeling like an utter fool, Eomer signs up for boxing anyways.

The class is small, and mostly women, who all eye him with looks ranging from appreciation to suspicion.

Lothiriel, at least, seems to recognize him, and greets him with a smile. “Eomer Eomundson. Long time no see!”

It seems wise not to mention he’d spent the better part of twenty minutes the week before oogling her, so he just smiles, and shakes her offered hand. “Lothiriel. Eowyn didn’t mention you were a teacher here.”

“It’s more of a side-job,” she admits. “I didn’t know you had any interest in boxing.”

“I wanted to try something new,” he says.

“Most men prefer taking Erchirion’s class,” Lothiriel says. “Apparently, being taught how to throw a punch by a girl is offensive to them.”

“You do know who my sister is, don’t you?” He asks. “I think she has a better right hook than I do.”

Lothiriel’s smile only widens. “Not after I’m through with you.”

Eomer thinks he likes the sound of that.


 

As it turns out, he does enjoy boxing. It’s more enjoyable than weight-lifting, takes more effort than pedaling on a bike, and more social than running with his headphones in.

Of course, the biggest bonus is getting to spend more time with Lothiriel.

She’s as good a teacher as Arwen had made her out to be, but she’s also funny, smart, and with just enough of the sweetness he remembers from her teenage self. She also packs a mean punch, as he learns on more than one occasion. It’s worth it though, even if his jaw does ache for three days after she’d caught him off-guard, because she’d insisted on icing his chin down herself, her fingers gentle and her eyes soft as she apologized half-a-dozen times.

“Lothiriel, I’m fine. I’m a grown man, I can handle a punch.”

She’d frowned at that. “Still. Free one-on-one class, on me. To make sure this doesn’t repeat itself.”

He’d opened his mouth to say that wasn’t necessary, only to clamp it shut. He’d have to be some kind of idiot to turn down an offer like that.

“Well,” he had said, grinning at the sudden splotches of pink in her cheeks when her eyes flick over to his, “if you insist.”


 

Eomer nearly chokes on his tongue when he opens the door to the classroom a week later. Lothiriel offers him a cheeky grin before planting her hands on her hips. She’s in a sports-bra and leggings, gloves already strapped on.

It’s not that he hasn’t seen her in a similar outfit before, but this set is--is--well, it’s green and gold, the colors of the stables he works at, and he somehow doubts that the colors are a coincidence.

“Lesson 1,” she says in a sing-song voice, “don’t be afraid to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses.”

Which Eomer takes to mean he’s done much, much worse at concealing his obvious attraction to her than he’d thought. Peachy .

Still, turnabout is fair play. He doesn’t think he imagines the sudden intake of breath she takes when he pulls off of his jacket. Tank-tops aren’t really his thing, but the weather’s been so warm lately that it made more sense to wear it. And boxing has been, in his humble opinion, not terrible on his arms.

She’s still blushing when he turns to face her. “Lesson noted,” he says.

“It’s a good thing I already have my gloves on, so you can’t see what finger I’m holding up at you right now,” Lothiriel grumbles, but her smile gives away her true mood. “Alright, Eomundson. Put em’ up.”

They spar for a little while--he’s nowhere near as good as she is, but he does have the advantage of size--both clearly trying to suss out each other’s real weaknesses. His right shoulder is still somewhat tender from a fall from a horse months ago, and Lothiriel always seems to do a double-step sort of motion to give herself a minute to breathe. It ends up all going to hell when her follow-through is too thorough, sending her careening into his chest, and knocking him off his feet in surprise.

Lothiriel’s legs end up on either side of his hips, her gloves pressed against his chest, and her hair hanging in messy tendrils around her face.

He doesn’t think she’s ever looked more beautiful.

“Pinned you,” she says, once they’ve both caught their breath.

“I’m not complaining,” Eomer murmurs, the words out of his mouth before he can think better of it. Her face flushes further and he feels like an ass. “Shit, Lothiriel, I--”

She’s somehow managed to get her gloves off, and presses a bare, calloused finger against his lips. “If you apologize, I really will punch you. I don’t offer just anyone one-on-one lessons, you know.”

He can only give a huff of laughter, cursing the glove from keeping him from feeling the curve of her hip when he slides his hand there. “No?”

“No,” Lothiriel says. Her hand slips around the back of his neck to thread into his hair. “Only devastatingly handsome, funny, sweet, oblivious men named Eomer get one-on-one lessons.”

Eomer tries to open his mouth to argue--what did she mean by oblivious --but finds he’s unable to, because Lothiriel has pressed her mouth to hers and kisses the fight right out of him. He sits up to kiss her better, groaning appreciatively when she shifts closer to him, slanting her mouth over his to deepen the kiss.

They’re both so caught up in each other that neither hears the door opening.

“Lothiriel, are you still--”

Lothiriel pulls back with a gasp. Eomer already has his eyes squeezed shut in horror, because he knows that voice.

“Well, well,” says Boromir, “looks like Theodred owes me $20.”

“Boromir,” Lothiriel starts to say, something dangerous in her tone, “I swear to the Valar--”

The click of his phone’s camera is her cousin’s response. “Don’t let me interrupt. Though I don’t think this is what the gym had in mind when they let you start teaching private lessons, Thiri--”

Eomer’s lets his head fall back--to groan? To laugh? Both?--and he can make out the sound of Lothiriel flinging her glove at him.

Boromir’s laughter echoes long after the door has closed behind him.

Lothiriel groans, hiding her face away against his neck. “This is going to haunt us forever.”

Eomer grins, turning his face to hers to steal another kiss. “I can think of worse things.”


 

Chapter Text


 

Lothiriel can only blink in horror at the sight that greets her.

The usually quiet cafe is jam packed. Every table is full. Every chair occupied.

And there’s not a familiar face in sight.

Though, to be fair, she’s fairly short, which makes craning over the press of bodies nigh impossible. She thinks she might spot Sam’s riotously curling hair somewhere near the back, but she also thinks she sees Rosie Cotton’s equally curly head beside him, and she wouldn’t interrupt that for all the world.

Finally, after dodging a few elbows and nearly ending up sitting on a table surrounded by what appears to be an entire rugby team, she spots an empty seat.

And a familiar face.

Glad that the stuffiness of the cafe has already put some color in her cheeks, Lothiriel manages to wind her way over to where Eomer is sitting. Normally, she can barely string two coherent sentences in front of Eowyn’s obscenely attractive brother, but desperation to sit and start studying for her final makes her usual tongue-tiedness seem ridiculous.

(Alright, it’s ridiculous all the time. If only he weren’t so good-looking. Or nice, underneath his gruff exterior. And so good to Eowyn, only mildly terrorizing to Faramir, and able to manage all three of her brothers. There’s good reason why she’s had a crush on him for the better part of two years.)

“Eomer,” she says, willing herself not to flush when his eyes flick up to meet hers. “Can I sit?”

Lothiriel nods at the chair where he currently has his feet propped up; it’s rather inconsiderate, come to think of it, when the shop is so crowded, but she knows how much he values his privacy.

He stares at her for a moment, unmoving. “There’s nowhere else?”

Crush or not, there’s no reason for him to be so rude! “Does it look like there’s anywhere else?” She asks, a little more snark than she usually displays around him seeping into her tone.

Eomer blinks at her, as if he’s never seen her before. “I’m comfortable.”

“Oh, for Valar’s sake,” she groans, because she needs to do well on this final and she’s tired of sitting in her flat while Eowyn and Faramir coo at each other, “just shift your feet over a bit.”

He does, albeit grudgingly, giving her a tiny amount of space to squeeze herself into. The upside? His feet have made the chair warm. The downside? He’s obscenely tall on top of being criminally good-looking, which means her feet are nowhere close to reaching the chair he’s currently watching her warily out of.

“I’m not going to bother you,” she finally grumbles, after she’s successfully extracted her book from her bag and gotten settled. “I just need to study and I couldn’t stay in the flat anymore.”

(Honestly, she’s a bit hurt by his reaction. They’ve known each other for years, and while she’d be hard-pressed to call them friends, she certainly doesn’t think she’s ever done something to make him dislike her.)

He nods, turning his attention back to his own book.

And Lothiriel buries her nose in her textbook, willing herself to understand the material she feels as if she could recite from memory. She doesn’t mean to slump lower in the chair, doesn’t mean to be lulled into a daze by the low murmur of the other cafe-goers’ conversations, or the warmth of the nearby fire--she’s just so tired , and surely no one would mind if she shut her eyes for just a few minutes..


 

Eomer looks up to find Lothiriel asleep in the chair across from him, head slumped over onto its arm and her book dangling precariously from her fingers.

He feels an absurd rush of fondness before irritation follows after. Lothiriel’s been a puzzle since the moment he’d met her. Eowyn had had nothing but good things to say about Faramir’s youngest cousin: how sweet she was, how funny, how genuine. But the girl he’s seen the past few years has been anything but, when it comes to him. Bema, it’s as if she’s scared of him. Always the first to ease out of a conversation he joins, rarely speaking directly to him if she does get roped into staying...none of it makes sense.

He’s seen her with her brothers, with Eowyn, with Faramir. Helle, even Eothain knows a more outgoing Lothiriel than he does.

To say he’d been surprised that she’d spoken to him, let alone all but demanded the chair, would be an understatement. There’d been nothing of her usual silence, her wariness when she’d dropped herself into the chair, ignoring his feet, as if this were a normal event.

It doesn’t follow.

“Well, well,” comes a familiar voice, “isn’t this cozy.”

Eomer turns his head to glare at his best friend.

Eothain grins back at him.

“She didn’t give me much choice,” Eomer grumbles. He considers getting up, to move away to stave off whatever inane--and completely inappropriate comments--Eothain is bound to make, but there’s no way to do so without jostling Lothiriel out of her sleep. Judging by the dark circles under her eyes, she needs it.

Eothain snorts. “I’d imagine not. Lothiriel must have been truly desperate to sit by your feet, Eomer.”

He can’t help but bristle at at that; even Eothain seems to know the reason she’s so reserved around him. “She could have gone anywhere else.”

The other man looks bemused at his suddenly harsh tone. “I only meant it must have taken her quite a bit of courage--”

“Courage?” Eomer spits. “Because I’m such a frightening, crass, uncivilized Northman?”

Eothain’s expression morphs from confusion to exasperation. “Bema’s balls, Eomer. Is that why you think she’s so shy around you?”

It is, of course it is, though deep down he knows enough about Lothiriel to know she’d never think such a thing. Eowyn is her best friend and flatmate, and she and Eothain are as thick as thieves. She has as much problem with them being from Rohan as she does with Legolas’ archery competitions, or Gimli being a jeweler, which is to say, none at all.

“You really can be thick headed sometimes,” Eothain is saying, running a hand through his unruly red hair. “She can scarcely get two words out around you because she fancies you, you great tit.”

Eomer can feel his mouth fall open into a gawk. Lothiriel, fancy him ? In his experience, that would require actually getting to know and spend time with the person one was interested in, rather than running for the hills any time they so much as looked at you. “Right,” he says.

Eothain rolls his eyes. “I am right, thank you very much. She’s liked you for years, to listen to Wilfled tell it, but has herself so convinced of your general indifference that she wouldn’t dare say a word about it. Not to Eowyn, and certainly not to you.”

“You’ve lost it,” he mutters, but the more he thinks about it...oh, Bema , it does make sense. It has been shyness , not dislike, that had made her so reluctant to speak, and all of those blushes hadn’t been born from aggravation, but embarrassment

“You like her, too,” Eothain informs him, as if Eomer needs anything else to digest at the moment. “Else it wouldn’t have bothered you so much to think she was afraid of you, or some shit--”

Lothiriel’s book slips from her lip fingers at the most inopportune moment, falling to the floor with a loud smack . She jumps, head shooting up and eyes opening in an almost comically quick motion.

Her eyes dart to his, then to his feet--where one of her arms has been wrapped around for the better part of twenty minutes--then to Eothain, who Eomer can just make out offering her a jaunty wave. The blush that floods her face is a familiar sight, by now, but there’d be no reason for it to be out of irritation, or disquiet. It’s sheer, unadulterated embarrassment that has her stuttering out an apology and starting to shove her book back into her bag.

“Lothiriel,” he says, willing his voice to be as gentle as possible. “It’s fine. I should be the one apologizing.”

Her eyes--wide and dark and impossibly pretty--flick back up to his. “For what?”

“For not giving you the chair in the first place,” he says. “And for acting like an utter arse.”

Eomer ignores Eothain’s gleeful snort.

“I--it’s alright,” she says, reaching up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. “I didn’t really give you much choice on whether you wanted to share the chair or not--”

“Oh, don’t let him out of this one, Lothiriel,” Eothain interrupts. “Man owes you a coffee, at least, for not moving his giant feet out of your way.”

A small smile tugs at the corner of her lips. It’s an utterly endearing expression that he’s too distracted by to say anything, until he flinches at the the sudden dig of Eothain’s elbow into his side, accompanied by a loudly hissed, “Dinner, ask her to dinner, you great idiot.”

Lothiriel blushes anew, shooting a glare in Eothain’s direction. “Coffee is just fine.”

Eothain grins, unapologetic. “I’d say both. Milk it for all it’s worth.”

“Eothain,” they both groan at him, and he holds his hands up in a placating gesture. He ambles off not long after, leaving them smiling somewhat helplessly at each other.

“So,” he finally says, “start with the coffee?”

She nods, still blushing, but there’s no mistaking the pleased surprise on her face. Bema, he’s been such an idiot .


 

Eothain, unsurprisingly, gives an absolutely mortifying toast at their wedding.

“You thought I was afraid of you?” Lothiriel asks, incredulous.

“It seemed like a possibility at the time,” he grumbles, shifting a little so she can balance more comfortably in his lap.

She rolls her eyes, leaning down to kiss him. “You really are an idiot.”

“You married me anyways.”

“True,” and at this, she grins, “and the only one who should be afraid of you is Eothain.”

“Clearly not enough,” he grumbles.


 

Chapter Text


 

No one seems to want to stop celebrating, though Eowyn and Faramir’s wedding is two days past now, and surely wine and ale supplies must be running low.

Lothiriel doesn’t feel much like celebrating, herself.

Oh, she’s wonderfully, incandescently happy for Faramir and Eowyn--there has never been a couple so well-suited as them, no pair more deserving of their joy--but now that the wedding has come and gone, it will mark the end of having everyone she loves within arm’s reach.

Merry and Pippin will return to the Shire, Eowyn will settle into her role of Princess of Ithilien with Faramir at her side, Erchirion will likely set off on some sort of trade endeavor for Ada, Gimli and Legolas have made their plans to visit a number of the Dwarven kingdoms known, and…

And there is one person it will pain her above all others to be separated from.

Not only because many of the others have expressed their intent to visit Dol Amroth already--Eowyn has never seen the sea, and Naneth has already extended a similar invitation to Aragorn and Arwen--and he has not, but also because somehow, over the past months, he has become her closest friend, someone she trusts, respects, likes, lov--

No. She will not let herself think that last, terrifying word. Admitting it, even to herself, will end in nothing but heartbreak.

“I thought I might find you here,” comes a familiar voice.

Lothiriel jumps nearly a foot; it never fails to surprise her, how a man so impossibly tall can walk so softly.

“Hm,” she says, willing herself to sound calmer than she feels, “you thought or were told?”

“Pippin is a notoriously bad secret keeper,” Eomer answers, coming to stand beside her. “If you did not want to be found, you might have trusted someone else with your location.”  

She huffs a laugh. He’s right, of course, which is part of the reason she had chosen Pippin in the first place. But she had not thought it would have been Eomer to notice her absence. He’s had his hands full the past few days, between duties as the bride’s brother and duties as king. Not to mention the overabundance of ladies--Gondorian and Rohirric alike--keen on claiming his attention.

Lothiriel had liked that less than she would care to admit.

“I wanted a break from the noise,” she says instead. “You would think they would be tired of the same stories--”

“You have met Gimli,” Eomer interjects, and even though she’s kept her gaze on the mountains in front of them, she can hear his smile, can picture the way his eyes crinkle at the corners, “I think he only knows six stories.”

Lothiriel elbows him, but without heat. Gimli does have a habit of repeating himself, especially after a few mugs of ale. They stand in companionable silence for a while, the faint strains of music just audible from the far-away ballroom.

“You return with your family to Dol Amroth soon,” he says, something of a question in his voice.

She nods, throat abruptly tight. “Yes. It will be good to see the sea again. But I will admit, I will miss Edoras very much.”

“Just Edoras?” He asks. “Eothain will be very offended to hear that--”

“Of course not just Edoras,” Lothiriel says, finally turning to face him. It is both sweet and bitter, to have him so close, to tease like this. Sweet, because there is nothing she likes better than having a hand in making him happy, in seeing him drop the heavy mantle of leader and king for a moment to be a young man. Bitter, because he is to leave tomorrow, and she may never see him again, like this. It will be different when they are both wed to other people.

Eomer’s smile is a little sharp now and he chuckles, though it’s far from happy. “I am wary of returning myself.”

She blinks in surprise. Eomer has fallen into his role as king so naturally, as if he was born to be so. His people adore him, his council respects him...and he has always been vocal in how much he loves the Riddermark. “Why?”

He shifts, turning his face back out towards the mountains. “No one is waiting for me there, Lothiriel. Eowyn will remain here, Legolas and Gimli will continue on their travels, you return to Dol Amroth--”

“Oh, that’s not true,” she interrupts, heart aching at the picture he paints. “Your people will be ecstatic to have you back. And soon enough you will have a Queen--”

“Will I?” He asks. “None of the council’s suggestions have appealed to me and--” At this he stops, seemingly steeling himself before continuing. “And the woman I would choose will not have me.”

Her surprise renders her speechless for a moment--what fool of a woman would not want to wed Eomer? But heartbreak lurks behind it, because of course he loves someone else. He is young, and handsome, and lord of a fell people. 

“I am sorry,” Eomer says, suddenly, “I should not trouble you with this. I would not have us part talking of such unhappy things.”

“She must be a very great fool,” she says, the reminder of their parting forcing the words from her throat. “Whoever your lady is. She must be--be blind, or dumb, to not realize how lucky she is, to have earned your regard--”

Abruptly, she finds herself being turned to face him. Eomer’s hands are tight on her arms, his eyes hot and fierce in the dark. “Lothiriel, do not tease me--”

“Tease you?” She repeats, bewildered. “I have never felt something so strongly in my life--”

He gives a bark of laughter, his hands sliding from her arms--leaving goosebumps in their wake, oh, Valar--and coming to rest on either side of her face. “Lothiriel. Do you mean to insult yourself?”

She can only gape at him. “I--what?”

“I will not hear the woman I love slandered, even if she is the one saying such things,” he says, thumb moving in a distracting swoop along her cheekbone.

“You--I-- what ?” Lothiriel says again. She must be dreaming. Or the last glass of wine has gone to her head, or Eomer himself has had too much to drink--

“I love you,” he interrupts, “I have for…Bema, it seems as if I cannot remember a time before I did.”

She can only tremble--he cannot be serious, this cannot--! But she knows him. She can see the sincerity in every line of his face. He...loves her. In truth.

“Oh, Valar,” she whispers. “I have been blind.”

Eomer chuckles, bending to press his forehead to hers. “So have I, it would seem. I will not ask you to say anything you do not--”

She kisses him before he can finish, love and happiness bubbling up wildly behind her breastbone. It is every bit as wonderful as she thought it would be, when she could not talk herself out of hoping.

“We are a well-matched pair, because I can scarcely remember a time I did not love you, either,” Lothiriel murmurs fondly.

Eomer’s smile is a beautiful thing, surpassed only by his wide grin when Ada gives them his blessing.


 

Chapter Text


 

The first time it happens, it’s because Lothiriel can feel the waves of discomfort rolling off of him. After two months on tour, she likes to think she knows Eomer Eomundson pretty well, or at least well enough to know that the three women that currently have him cornered against a nearby speaker are making him distinctly uncomfortable.

(Honestly, though, what did he expect? The Marshals were the biggest up-and-coming band in rock-country, or whatever genre it was the label had stuck them with, and none of its members were remotely bad looking.)

“Hey, honey,” she finds herself saying, slipping around one of the girls to bump her hip against his. “I hate to interrupt, but they need you to run through another warm-up on vocals.”

To his credit, Eomer only looks mildly alarmed for approximately three seconds before he realizes her interference for what it is: a life preserver to save him from over-eager groupie-wannabes.

“Thanks, sweetheart,” he says, dropping an arm around her shoulders for a quick squeeze. “Ladies, if you’ll excuse us.”

Lothiriel can feel the daggers the other women are staring at her as they walk away, and is weirdly glad for the sense of safety Eomer’s arm gives her. “You know, you couldn’t have picked a worse industry to get into if you don’t like talking to pretty women.”

Eomer snorts. “Those weren’t women, those were sharks.”

“All hungry for Grade A Rohirric beefcake?”

“You swore you wouldn’t repeat that,” he groans. “You promised, Lothiriel--”

“Where’s the fun in that?” She retorts. “I could go on about how the article talked about your rippling pectorals and brooding good-looks--”

The brusque ruffle of her hair is decidedly uncouple-like, but luckily they’re out of sight of the women by then.


 

The second time it happens, it’s him coming to her rescue, much to her chagrin. She and Faramir’s tiny singer-songwriter duo isn’t anywhere near as popular as The Marshals , but since their label had stuck them together for this tour, they were beginning to gain a little more traction in terms of fans and recognition.

Which was great, except for the fact that amongst all of the sweet, hopeful teenage songwriters and the starry-eyed middle age women who were “warm for Faramir’s form” (something Lothiriel desperately wishes she could unhear), there were also a few loons who had declared her their dream girl. Most of them were harmless, sending weird-but-strangely-flattering letters or asking her to sign their biceps, but a few...well. They pushed the limit.

One such guy had found her at the bar they’d all gone to after a particularly successful show--Faramir is usually around to fend them off, but Eowyn’s taking up the majority of his attention nowadays. (Lothiriel’s not complaining; they’re tooth-rottingly sweet, and there’s nothing so amusing to the rest of them as the idea of sweet, poetic Faramir with guitar-goddess supreme Eowyn.)

Still. She wishes they weren’t so wrapped up in each other when the guy boxes her in against the bar. Theodred and Eothain are off playing pool, she thinks, and Merry and Pippin, their tech duo, appear to be dancing on a table--thus taking four more potential outs out of the running. Perfect.

“Listen, beautiful, let me just get you one drink,” Skeezy is saying, “all that time singing, you must need something to wet your whistle--”

“She has already has a drink, thanks,” comes Eomer’s voice to her left, followed by said drink being placed into her hand. “Sorry it took so long, sweetheart.”

“That’s alright,” she answers, torn between annoyance and sheer unadulterated relief when Skeezy backs off, leaving her with Eomer, the drink, and a wobbly barstool. “I could have handled that myself, you know.”

“I owed you one,” he says, clinking his glass against hers. “Drink up, Swann, I paid good money for that.”

It’s a Dark and Stormy, with exactly the right amount of rum. Her favorite. Huh.


 

After that, well, it becomes a pattern.

Eomer’s worried uncle calls, concerned that he needs a calming influence in his life? Lothiriel finds herself suddenly elevated to girlfriend status, at least as long as the Skype call lasts.

The record label wants her to bring a date to some award ceremony, and Faramir’s already asked Eowyn? Eomer has a tux.

And so on and so forth.

One night, still in the same city as last night’s show but with nothing else to do, she drags him out to the local boardwalk. It’s got carnival games, rickety old rides--Eomer tries to refuse to go on the “death-traps”, as he puts it, but she can be persuasive when she wants to be, and wheedles him into going with promises of beer and fried food after.

When the roller coaster fails to kill them, they find a hole-in-the-wall bar that claims to have the coldest beer and best chicken tenders in town.

“Thank you,” he says, abruptly, after the fifth--maybe sixth? She’s lost count--beer.

“For what?” Lothiriel asks, leaning her chin on her hand. She’s suddenly hyper-aware that their legs are tangled together under the table, and that she’s failed to give him his jacket back after she’d started shivering on the last go-round on the roller coaster.

Date date date date echoes in her head, but instead of feeling panicked, or weirded-out it just feels...well, normal.

“For this,” Eomer answers, as if it’s obvious. “I don’t think I’ve taken a night off in weeks.”

“Can’t have you working yourself into the ground, Eomundson,” she fires back, hoping the sudden revelation that she wouldn’t-mind-maybe-dating her fake boyfriend isn’t obvious on her face, “who else would protect me from stalkers and halfway-rotting carnival rides?”

Eomer smiles, something fond and, well, hot in his expression. “Someone else could. But not as well as me, sweetheart.”

“Whatever you say, honey,” Lothiriel says.

(They stay out until 2 A.M., and if Lothiriel almost tells him to just stay in her room instead of his that’s less than 10 feet away--well, that’s her business, isn’t it?)


 

It comes to a head on the last night of the tour. The Marshals have been nominated for a Grammy, of all things, and Faramir and Lothiriel--recently dubbed Archer and Swan , with a brand-new five year contract--well, to say everyone’s in high spirits is an understatement.

After the show, both bands gather to celebrate each other, the tour, Faramir and Eowyn’s recent engagement, the general good will of the world.

Eomer has his arm slung around her shoulders, hers is around his waist, and Valar she’s going to miss this.

He must read some of the sadness in her expression, because suddenly he’s pressing his lips against her temple. It’s a sweet gesture, one of comfort, but she shivers all the same, because now she can’t stop imagining what those lips would feel like pressed to less innocent places--

“Hey, there’s no paps around, Eomer,” says Eothain, smirking as he twirls a glass of champagne around with nimble fingers, “no need to fake for our lowly eyes.”

Eomer stiffens. Lothiriel finds herself suddenly overwhelmed with--with--well, anger, irritation, because it’s not a joke, it stopped being a joke so long ago--

“Who’s faking?” She hears herself asking, as if from far away. And then Lothiriel turns, reaching up to wind her arms around his neck, and pulls him down to her height so she can press her mouth to his.

She’s vaguely aware of the deafening silence of the bus around them, but Eomer proves much more than a little distraction--he’s somehow lifted her off her feet, and is kissing her back with such fervor that her heart aches, just a little, when it’s not trying to beat its way out of her chest in happiness.

They eventually break apart, Eomer’s arms around her waist and her feet dangling helplessly as they grin at each other like the apparent idiots they’ve become--

“Told you!” Crows Pippin, breaking the silence. “Pay up, pay up--”

Lothiriel hides her smile against Eomer’s neck.


 

Chapter Text


 

When he’d first been told of the tradition, he’d thought it was a joke.

“You cannot be serious,” he says.

Aragorn’s wide grin makes his skin prickle, in the worst way, and Imrahil’s obvious struggle to keep his composure only compounds the feeling. “I am afraid not,” the Prince of Dol Amroth says. “It’s an old ritual, starting with our Elvish ancestors--”

Eomer narrows his eyes in Legolas’s direction.

Legolas blinks benignly at him in response. “You do realize I am young by the standards of my people, and am not related to those who founded Gondor.”

“You are still an Elf,” Eomer grumbles. “And therefore responsible for this...insanity.”

Aragorn snorts, earning a glare of his own.

“It is tradition,” Imrahil continues on. “My wife and I did the same, as did Elphir and Alycia. It is merely meant to permit a courting couple the opportunity to spend uninterrupted time together, to better develop intimacy--”

At this, Eomer chokes on the large sip of ale he’s taken, and coughs as Eothain thumps him on the back.

“It’s intended to be platonic,” Aragorn adds, his tone of voice incredibly worrisome. “Hence the bundle.”

Eomer eyes the man-sized pillow with distrust. “It looks if it hardly weighs more than a sack of grain. I do not see how it ensures only platonic interactions.”

Imrahil actually blushes , which only serves to make his dread increase. “Well. It is more of a...reminder, than an actual deterrent.”

Eothain makes a choking noise; Eomer turns to find his traitorous marshal nearly purple with laughter.

Bema, spare me , he thinks. It is not as if he can refuse them tradition , not when Faramir has been so accommodating to Rohan’s own. “Fine. I do not wish to know anymore about it than I already do.”

“You do not wish to serve as a witness?” Gimli asks in an irritatingly innocent tone of voice. “I believe you would remain outside the door, horsemaster, but as Eowyn’s only living kin--”

Aragorn and Eothain double over with laughter and Imrahil only sighs when Eomer throws the rest of his ale in the Dwarf’s face.


 

He knows the...bundling must have begun, because there is a certain sort of hush over Edoras. Eothain has wisely warned everyone away from him; it is not that Eomer does not approve of Faramir, or wishes to keep Eowyn from her happiness, but this tradition…

It goes against everything he knows about stuffy, proper Gondor. Where maids are not allowed to walk the streets alone with their suitors! Where exchanging something as trivial as a certain kind of flower is nearly a proposal of marriage!

But allowing a courting couple to share a bed, with only a sack between them, is apparently completely normal.

He is aware he is likely wearing a hole in the carpet, but he cannot stop pacing even if he wished to. If he stops pacing, he will be forced think about the flimsiness of that damned bundle , Eowyn’s flushed cheeks, Faramir’s awestruck expression when she’d appeared for dinner, the japes of his men and Aragorn’s alike--

“Oh, for Valar’s sake,” comes a familiar voice. A full goblet of wine is abruptly thrust in front of his face, held aloft by a slender, brown hand. “Have pity on the rug, Eomer, and drink this.”

Blinking, he lifts his head to meet the exasperated gaze of Lothiriel of Dol Amroth. “How did you--”

“I could hear you pacing from three rooms over,” she answers. “It seemed cruel to let you fret on your own.”

He chuckles, slightly relieved to have something other than the sound of his own footsteps to distract him. “I had not realized I was being so loud.”

“I am well-accustomed to the sound of a brother’s fretting,” Lothiriel says with a grin.

She eventually coaxes him to sit, joining him on the bench with a glass of wine of her own. He’s surprised to see her, but far from displeased. Faramir’s youngest cousin has captured his attention for months now, and he can think of no better distraction than spending time in Lothiriel’s presence.  

“Tell me truly,” he says, because he has never known her to be false, “is this really a Gondorian tradition? Or some cruel jape your family has decided to pull on us uncouth, uneducated Northerners?”

Lothiriel laughs, bright and happy, and he’s struck by how it transforms her face from merely pretty to beauty enough to rival Arwen herself. “You give us Southerners far too much credit for scheming, I’m afraid. It really is tradition, albeit a much debated one.”

Eomer arches an eyebrow at that. “Meaning?”

Lothiriel shrugs, tucking a strand of dark hair behind her ear. Eomer’s hands itch, suddenly, with the urge to do so himself, to know if her skin was as soft and smooth as it looks--

“Some nobles think it was only meant for our Elvish ancestors, and not for us. Elves tend to love only once, and are only physically attracted to the one they love--so say the scrolls, anyways. We mortals are much more fickle, but bundling has been going on for the better part of two Ages, and I do not think it is likely to stop.”

“What do you think of it?” He asks.

Lothiriel’s dark eyes flick to his. “I do not think it so ill a thing. How are you to know if you can spend the rest of your life with someone if you cannot manage even one night?”

A valid point and a good one. But... “I still do not see the need for the bed. Or the bundle.”

At this, a blush floods her face, but she holds his gaze. “I think both are necessary. There must be a certain amount of...compatibility for a marriage to be a happy one, don’t you think?”

“And a kiss is not enough to know if a pair is compatible enough?” Bema, what is he saying ? She is a princess , daughter of his dear friend, cousin to his sister’s betrothed--no matter how attracted he is to her, how much he values her quick wit and kind heart--

But her eyes have left his, now focused on his mouth. “A kiss is a good start, I suppose.”

Later, were someone to ask him, he could not have said who moved first, only that very suddenly he finds himself with an armful of eager princess. Lothiriel’s lips are warm, and soft, and she gives an audible sigh when he moves to rest a hand at the curve of her waist.

The kiss is as sweet as she is, but she offers no resistance when he deepens it; quite the opposite, actually, given the sudden pressure he feels that must be her fingers in his hair. She tastes of wine and something else, and the slide of her tongue only increases the urgent sense of close-close-closer --

He’s only trying to shift her closer, but his hand slides too high, brushing the underside of her breast--

Lothiriel whimpers and Eomer can feel all rational thought leave his head. It’s what keeps him from stopping her when she all but clamors into his lap, what fails to stop him from pulling away to trail kisses down her neck, groaning against the curve where it meets her shoulder at the sudden bite of her nails against his back even through the fabric of his shirt--

A sudden crack makes them both jump. Eomer briefly spares a pray to Bema, to Vana, that it is not her father or any of her brothers opening the door--but then Lothiriel starts to laugh, pressing her face against his shoulder as she does so.

“The wine,” she says, breathlessly. “I hope that glass wasn’t an heirloom--”

He laughs, at the absurdity of it all, and reaches over to crook a finger under her chin. “Even if it was, I would think it worth it.”

Her smile is softer, gentle, and she leans down to press her forehead to his. “See? I told you it was a good start.”

Eomer groans, goodnaturedly, and is rewarded with another--albeit, much more tame--kiss.

(He also suspects he’ll learn to appreciate that damn bundle sooner rather than later.)


 

Chapter Text


 

Eomer’s doesn’t believe in love at first sight.

It’s not that he doesn’t believe in love at all, but not that instant ‘oh-it’s-you’ nonsense. He can scarcely deny it, after all, considering that he lives amongst a veritable herd of happy couples--Eowyn and Faramir, Aragorn and Arwen, Eothain and his wife, Legolas and Gimli, Merry and Pippin and their respective girlfriends--but they’d all come together in the normal fashion. Knowing each other first. The awkward first date, meeting the family...you know. Things sane people do before jumping into a relationship.

“I’d known Wilfled for a week before I knew she was it for me,” Eothain reminds him, arm slung around his smiling wife’s shoulders. “Love isn’t logic, Eomer.”

“It should be,” he grumbles. “How on earth can you just--look at someone, and decide they’re it? What if they’re a serial killer? Or a Dunland United fan?”

“You’re just a cynic,” Eowyn says, poking him between his ribs with the unerring accuracy she’s honed over twenty four years of being his annoying little sister. “One day some girl is going to knock you on your ass, and I’m going to have the immense pleasure of saying ‘I told you so’.”

“Don’t hold your breath,” he says.


 

A month later, he’s coming back from work, more than a little irritable and ready to kick someone’s ass--hopefully Legolas’s--in pool, only to nearly run smack into a woman laden down with what looks like to be an entire apartment’s-worth of boxes.

“Helle, woman!” He cries. “Haven’t you heard of making more than one trip?”

He can just make out a pair of dark brown eyes peeking out from over the top of a box. Her voice is muffled when she answers, saying, “I have, actually. But I left my keys upstairs and I can’t reopen the lobby door otherwise…”

Feeling like an ass, he holds out his arms. “Here. Give me a load. No sense in you breaking your neck before you’ve moved in.”

She holds tight to her own boxes, but waves him towards the slightly smaller pile that’s currently holding the door open. Eomer gathers what he can--Bema, some of these boxes are heavy --and follows her slightly hesitant steps up the stairs.

The mystery woman lives on the floor below him, in what used to be Eothain’s apartment before he married Wilfled. She tells him where to set his boxes before taking a few steps towards the kitchen and abruptly stopping.

“I know I shouldn’t ask you for another favor,” she says, still only her eyes visible and voice muffled, “but would you mind taking this box off of the top? I think it’s my dishes.”

Rolling his eyes, he ambles over, lifting the box with ease.

Without the box in the way, her face comes into view. Brown eyes crinkled in amusement, a sheepish grin curling the corners of a very pink mouth, a smattering of freckles across flushed cheeks that are framed by loose waves of dark brown, very soft looking hair.

Shit .

“Thanks,” she says, in a voice that’s every bit as lovely as she is, “I know I shouldn’t hurry, but the Gondor-Umbar game is on later, and I want to get my TV unpacked by then--”

Oh, Bema . Eowyn was going to be merciless .


 

Alright so yes, Lothiriel--Faramir’s cousin Lothiriel, because of course the world is that fucking small--is gorgeous, and sweet, and a football fan to boot, but that doesn’t mean he’s in love with her.

Eomer thinks he’s told himself that at least three times a day, every day, since he’d helped her move into her apartment. It doesn’t help that she insists on cooking him dinner as a thank you, or that she has an uncanny ability of sensing when he’s had a shitty day at work, often turning up with an “extra six-pack she just happened to have lying around” or leaving a plate of obscenely good cookies outside his door after a late shift.

She goes out of her way to talk to him in the lobby, grinning up at him as he grumbles about Rohan’s latest match, Aragorn’s most recent match-making attempts, Merry and Pippin’s ill-fated attempts to run their food truck efficiently.

“For Bema’s sake, Eomer,” Eothain groans, as Eowyn grins, sharklike, from over his shoulder, “you fancy her, and she clearly fancies you. Ask her out!”

But he’s seen Lothiriel with the rest of them, too. She’s every bit as affectionate, every bit as kind, with all of their mutual friends as she is with him. She doesn’t flinch away from Eowyn’s fouler moods, knows when to intervene with some of Pippin’s more inane antics, is permitted the high honor of telling Boromir when he’s being too “Denethor-ish” for his own good without getting her head bitten off.

He has no doubt she’s fond of him, but Lothiriel is fond of everyone .


 

He knows it’s bad when they’re all crowded into Lothiriel’s apartment, watching the highly anticipated Gondor-Rohan game. He’s been a fan of the team since he was old enough to walk, and winning this game would give him bragging rights over Faramir and Aragorn for a year.

And all he wants to look at is her.

“Oi, Eomer,” cries Pippin, “quit making moon-eyes and--”

Mercifully, someone--Eomer suspects the too-innocent looking Legolas--drives his elbow into Pippin’s stomach before he can finish.

“You’re hopeless, big brother,” Eowyn murmurs, low enough just for him to hear. “Please, take pity on yourself and ask her on a date.”

“You just want to be able to say ‘I told you so’,” Eomer retorts.

Eowyn wrinkles her nose. “Well,” she says, “that’s not the only reason--”

She shrieks when he pinches her, swatting him back in retaliation, but she doesn’t bring it up again. That night, anyways.


 

Two days later, he’s woken by loud knocks on his door. The culprits are revealed to be a grinning Aragorn, Gimli, and Eothain, with a much more sedate Legolas lingering behind them.

“What’s this?” He asks, immediately on edge.

“An intervention,” Eothain declares.

“Inter--no. No, Eothain, dammit--”

“Too late, lad,” croons Gimli, stepping to his other side to better box him in, “you gave us no choice.”

It takes all three of them to force him into one of his nicer shirts and he’s fairly certain Gimli nearly succeeds in ripping out half of his hair with a brush until Legolas takes over, muttering something about ‘presentation’ that makes him even more uneasy than anything else they’ve forced him into.

“There,” Aragorn declares thirty minutes later. “You’ll do.”

“Piss off,” Eomer hisses, but when a grinning Gimli forces him in front of the mirror, he can’t help but agree.

“Deep breaths, Eomer,” Eothain drawls, “just remember: you only get one first chance to successfully ask out the love of your life without stuttering--”

Punching his best friend in the gut actually helps with the ridiculous churning sensation in his stomach.


 

It’s still somewhat early, for a Saturday morning, but he can’t handle sitting in his apartment anymore with the four meddlers from Hell grinning at him, so he finds himself standing outside of Lothiriel’s door.

Alright, Eomundson , he thinks. Moment of truth .

His knock sounds terribly, awfully loud in the morning stillness of the hall. The only sound louder is the frantic thrum-thrum-thrum of his heart in his ears.

Oh, Bema, she wasn’t home. Relief and disappointment swoop in his stomach; relief, because he feels like an utter idiot , dressed up in his nicest clothes, and disappointment, because if she wasn’t home, she’d spent the night somewhere else, which pretty much renders him asking her out a moot point--

“Sorry, sorry, coming!” Comes Lothiriel’s voice through the wood, and then the door’s being wrenched open, and--

Eomer thinks his brain might make an audible sound of incomprehension, because she’s here, yes, beautiful and bright as always, but she’s also standing in front of him in a bra and shorts and nothing else and--

He thinks he says something, an unintelligible jumble of sorry-I’ll-come-back-later-oh-Bema-is-that-lace before he high-tails it back up the stairs.

Legolas offers him an arched eyebrow when he hurls himself back into the apartment, chest heaving.

“Bema, man, what happened?” Eothain asks, clearly baffled. “There’s no way she said no --”

All five of them jump at the sudden knock on the door.

“Eomer?” Lothiriel’s voice is muffled in the same way it had been the first day he’d met her. “I know you’re there, I would have seen you out front if you’d left!”

“Shit,” he hisses. “I’m not here, I’m moving to bloody Harad and changing my name--”

Gimli starts for the door, but Eomer is bigger and quicker, and lunges for the shorter man. Eothain curses, joining in the fray as Aragorn and Legolas edge around them towards the door.

The sound of it opening stops their tussle. Cursing every one of them in his head, Eomer looks up from where he has Gimli in a headlock, and meets Lothiriel’s eyes.

She bursts into laughter, slumping against the doorway as they hurry to untangle themselves.

“Oh, what I’d give for a camera,” she gasps, “the looks on your faces --”

Gimli and Eothain chuckle, but Aragorn and Legolas have their eyes on Eomer, and both grimace at his expression.

“I think our work here is done,” Aragorn says, bending to offer Eothain a hand up. “Shall we go, gentlemen?”

Gimli starts to complain, but a sharp look from his boyfriend silences him. They shuffle out, single-file, with only Eothain pausing to offer Eomer a thumbs up from behind Lothiriel’s back.

Eomer pinches the bridge of his nose, willing this hellish day to be over.

He nearly jumps at the soft brush of a hand over his, pulling his away from his face. Lothiriel is peering up at him, concern mingled with mirth in her expression. “Now,” she says, “would you care to explain what that was all about?”

She’s put a shirt back on, thank Bema, so he feels slightly less likely to swallow his tongue. “If I say no, will you let it go?”

“No,” she says, smiling softly. She still has his hand in hers and he stifles a gulp when she laces her fingers through his. “Because I have a guess, but I really, really don’t want to be wrong.”

Eomer blinks. Looks at her-- really looks at her.

“Oh, helle,” he says, “they’re going to be insufferable .”

Lothiriel’s smile is radiant and she steps closer to wrap her arms around his waist. “You still should ask, you know. I’ve only been waiting for you to since you helped me unpack my apartment--”

He pinches her, lightly, grinning when she gives a squeak, and kisses her before he can talk himself out of it. It feels right and good and Bema , why did he wait ?

“Are you free?” He asks, when they break apart to breathe.

“When?” She says, brushing her nose against his.

Tonight. Tomorrow. Any day. Everyday.

Her laugh makes him realize he’s said that out loud, and he wants to sink into the floor until she kisses him again and says, “Yes. To all, actually.”


(“I told you so,” says Eowyn, a week later.

Eomer can’t bring himself to mind.)


 

Chapter Text


 

It would seem Lothiriel had been rightly wary about her brothers and cousins wanting to “properly” welcome Eomer to the family. Apparently, the fact that their families have been intertwined since Boromir had finally gotten his head out of his ass about Theodred some six years previously is irrelevant when it comes to “male bonding time”.

“Come on, Thiri,” Amrothos had swindled, one arm thrown around her shoulders as he made puppy-eyes only in the way he can. “You both owe us for sneaking around behind our backs for months. And, yeah, we’ve known Eomer for years, but never as your boyfriend . Can’t have him thinking he just gets to ride Theodred’s coattails into bro-time.”

Bro-time ,” she’d groaned. “Honestly, Amrothos, it’s like you’re fifteen instead of twenty-five. You’re seriously like a man-child.”

“You love me,” he’d argued. “Maybe not as much as your lion-maned boyfriend, but enough to not stop me, either.”

Now, blinking awake to find eighteen missed texts on her phone, she wishes she had.

The most recent, coming in at about 3:45 AM, was from Faramir, with the ominous message of: I tried to stop them .

Well, at least he’d been coherent enough to send a grammatically correct text.

Amrothos, it seems, had not been so fortunate.

Am, 9:30 PM: Bro-time is commencing!

Am, 11:07 PM: Your boyfriend can hold his liquor annoyingly well. Trying a new tactic.

Am, 12:45 AM: Whisey did t’trick. I luv drunk Eomer.

Am, 2:00 AM: Don’t luv Drunk Eomer. Made fun myyyyy hariof!! Mean!!!

Am, 3:30 AM: ur my favorite sis the best sis pls dont kill me tmr pls thank u

“Oh, Elbereth,” she mutters, opening the accompanying picture. It’s Eomer and Amrothos, both looking incredibly intoxicated, in a tattoo parlor.

Surely not , she thinks. Most reputable places wouldn’t even begin to think of tattooing people as clearly drunk as the pair of them, but something about the cracked leather of the chairs tells her that this place may not have been as discerning.

There are a few intermittent texts from Eowyn-- We still on for brunch tomorrow? --and one from Pippin-- Di finally said yes to a date! --and a rather alarming one from Naneth: Why are your brothers texting me about their health insurance policies?

The remaining nine messages are from Eomer.

Eomer, 9:25 PM: It’s too late to turn around and come over to your apartment, isn’t it. It is. Dammit.

Eomer, 9:45 PM: Amrothos just bought a bottle of tequila and drank at least half of it in the 15 minutes we’ve been here. How he survived to adulthood remains a mystery to me.

Eomer, 10:30 PM: It doesn’t seem fair that Boromir and Theodred get to have couple time in the middle of “bro-time”. I smell a conspiracy.

Eomer, 11:42 PM: You told them about my weakness for whiskey, didn’t you? Traitor.

Eomer, 12:30 AM: Miss you. Muchc ratherr be at home w/you.

Eomer, 1:15 AM: Loth Loth Loth talk to me, brothers are buying more alc n left me alone w/ Borodred.

Eomer, 1:45 AM: Did not mak fun of Am’s hair. Not as ncie as urs. Sall I said.

Eomer, 3:00 AM: U like tattos rite>>>

Eomer, 3:15 AM: Luvu>#3333

Muffling her laughter into her pillow, Lothiriel quickly types How are we feeling this morning, sunshine ? Not expecting a response--given that it’s only 9 and she imagines all of them save maybe Faramir will be sleeping off the after-effects for a good while longer--she texts Eowyn as well, confirming brunch.

Eowyn, 9:15 AM: Meet at Fangorn in 30? I’m sure you have as many interesting texts as I do.

Lothiriel can only agree.


 

Eowyn is practically vibrating in anticipation when Lothiriel seats herself across from her at the table. It’s their favorite brunch spot, Fangorn Cafe, with a lush, leafy outside eating area and the best mimosas in town.

Eowyn flutters her fingers in her direction once they’ve both ordered. “Alright, spill, Lothiriel.”

Gamely, Lothiriel hands over her phone, but motions for Eowyn to hand over hers too.

Eowyn’s messages tell a similar story--Faramir had remained mostly sober, texting her to complain about the increasing volume of Theodred’s voice, Boromir’s disastrous attempt at karaoke, Amrothos’s drunken antics. She has fewer from Eomer, but the last one isn’t so jumbled that Lothiriel can’t make out its meaning.

“Why did he ask you if I like flowers or not?” She asks, lifting her head to meet Eowyn’s similarly amused expression.

“Maybe he felt guilty for texting you so late?” Eowyn offers.

“It’s possible,” says Lothiriel, “but I don’t know if he, or any of them, were capable of feeling anything other than drunk last night.”

Eowyn snorts. “An accurate assessment.” At this, she lifts her glass and waits for Lothiriel to clink hers against it. “You up to torment them after we finish?”

“I can’t think of anything else I’d like to do more,” she answers with a grin.


 

It’s 11:30 by the time they’ve finished eating, which Lothiriel deems an acceptable time to check on their assorted family members and significant others. Theodred and Boromir’s apartment is an easy five block walk from Fangorn, but Eowyn’s legs are a good bit longer than hers, and Lothiriel finds herself nearly out of breath by the time they reach the lobby doors.

“Valar, Eowyn, did we have to run?”

“The quicker we get there, the more likely more of them are still asleep,” Eowyn says, smirking. “And thus vulnerable to torture.”

The “torture” begins as soon as they get to the door. Eowyn pounds on it, as hard as she can, and shouts, “Room service!”

Lothiriel can just make out the sound of pained groaning. Eowyn’s smirk is sharklike as she knocks again.

Faramir appears a few seconds later, looking fondly exasperated but not too terribly green. “Why am I not surprised,” he sighs, though he accepts Eowyn’s kiss in greeting.

“Good morning, Fara!” Lothiriel chirps. “How was bro-time?”

“Ask your brother,” he tells her after dropping a welcoming kiss to her forehead, “or yours, for that matter, Eowyn.”

“With pleasure,” says Eowyn, moving passed him into the living room. It smells like a brewery, with a number of bottle visible on the counter, and various shoes and shirts strewn across the floor.

Lothiriel spies Elphir in the kitchen, nursing a cup of coffee, but looking relatively unscathed, much like Faramir. Erchirion, on the other hand, looks decidedly worse-for-wear from where he’s sprawled across one of the couches. He groans in protest as she smacks a loud kiss to his cheek.

“Mercy, mercy,” he mutters, shoving his head back under a pillow. “I haven’t earned your wrath, Thiri, I promise.”

“That remains to be seen,” she says, smiling to herself as he shivers in mock-horror. “There’s aspirin on the table next to you, if you want it.”

“Do I have to move to get it?”

“Only a little.”

“It can wait until my head feels less like it’s been trampled by an Oliphaunt.”

Lothiriel gives his arm a gentle pat before continuing on through the living room. The door to Boromir and Theodred’s room is still shut, and she has little desire to walk in on anything, like poor Amrothos had back when he’d stayed with them for a week over the summer. Speaking of Amrothos…

There’s a familiar set of legs poking out of the guest bathroom. Muffling her laughter into her hand, Lothiriel opens the door, revealing her youngest brother, snoring loudly with his face pressed up against the base of the toilet.

“We tried to move him,” comes Elphir’s voice at her shoulder, colored by grudging fondness, “and he told us to, and I quote, ‘fuck off and let him worship the porcelain throne in peace’.”

“He has such a way with words, our brother,” she whispers back.

A sudden burst of cursing, followed by Eowyn’s laughter, comes from the next room over.

“I think that’s your cue,” Elphir murmurs, grinning.

Lothiriel follows the sound, pushing the door open to find Eowyn, pillow hoisted above her head, clearly ready to hit Eomer with it again.

“This seems like a fairly mild form of torture,” she says, causing them both to jump.

Eomer looks--well, he’s looked better, that’s for certain. His hair is a wreck, eyes bloodshot, and more than a little pale in the low light filtering through the blinds. Still, her heart lurches traitorously at the sight of him.

“Lothiriel, make her stop,” he begs.

Eowyn, with pillow still aloft, says, “I will, if you tell me why you asked me about flowers last night.”

Eomer’s face turns red at an alarming rate and he curls further under the covers. A muffled ‘no’ is all Lothiriel can make out. Eowyn winds back, but Lothiriel stops her.

“I think I might have more luck getting it out of him,” she says in a low tone, “go pester Erchirion for me?”

Eowyn purses her lips, but reluctantly tosses the pillow back towards where Eomer is hidden. “Fine. But I want answers, Lothiriel.”

Giving her a jaunty salute, she waits until Eowyn’s footsteps have faded to perch on the edge of the bed. Gingerly, she reaches over to run a hand through Eomer’s tangled hair, and bites her lip to keep from smiling when one of his arms emerges from his cocoon of blankets to drape around her waist.

“So,” she says, keeping her voice soft, “how was bro-time?”

Eomer’s groan is muffled. “Your brother is a menace.”

“I’m well aware,” Lothiriel says. “Both his texts and yours were evidence enough of that.”

“Oh, Bema,” he says, his face coming back into view. “What did I say?”

“I believe you referred to Boromir and Theodred as ‘Borodred’. And told Amrothos that my hair was nicer than his. And,” at this, she slips her other hand over, to cradle his jaw, “asked Eowyn about me liking flowers.”

Lothiriel’s only ever seen Eomer nervous a handful of times--at Eowyn’s rehearsal dinner, on their first date, when he’d been waiting to hear back from the stables about being promoted--but he looks it now, pale and wrapped in blankets as he is.

“Amrothos is a menace,” he says again. “And we, uh--”

“Went to a tattoo parlor?” She offers.

Eomer nods, eyes flicking away from hers. “Did...did anyone tell you what we got?”

Lothiriel shakes her head, suddenly anxious. Knowing Amrothos--especially drunk Amrothos--it could be anything, ranging from the odd-if-appropriate to the truly bizarre. Lost in her thoughts, she doesn’t realize that Eomer’s slowly inching himself into a sitting position, though the pallor of his face only grows worse as he does so.

“Valar, Eomer, it can wait, there’s no sense in you puking all over Boromir’s guest bed--”

Eomer manages to roll his eyes at her. “I’ll be fine. Might as well get this over with without an audience.”

“Get what--” And then she sees it. The right side of Eomer’s chest is wrapped neatly in plastic--as any new tattoo should be, to avoid infection--but through the layers she can just make out the design. It’s a white daylily, not entirely unlike the one he’d given her for their sixth month anniversary. Flowers for my flower-garlanded maiden , he’d said, and she’d laughed. But now...now she doesn’t feel much like laughing.

“All I remember is Faramir telling me to get something I wouldn’t mind having on my body the rest of my life,” he says, looking a little anxious as she stares at him.

“I really, really wish you weren’t hungover right now,” she says, gently laying a hand as close to the tattoo as she dares, “and I really, really wish we were at home and not in my cousin’s guest room, so I could show you just how much I like this--”

Eomer’s kissing her before she can finish the sentence. She hums happily, despite the slightly stale taste of alcohol on his tongue, and lets him pull her into his lap for a few minutes. Valar, how she loves him, weakness for whiskey and all.


 

(Later that night, slightly sweaty and sprawled across Eomer’s chest, she thinks to ask, “and what did Amrothos get?”

Eomer snorts. “A swan. On his ass.”

Lothiriel laughs so loudly the next door neighbor bangs on the wall for them to shut up.)


 

Chapter Text


 

What was supposed to be a simple, pleasant, diplomatic visit from Aragorn goes sideways rather quickly. They had scarcely been able to welcome him to Meduseld with bread and salt before Lothiriel had given a quiet gasp, hand flying to her rounded stomach.

The midwives had predicted the child wouldn’t arrive for another two weeks, and that alone has Eomer nearly in a panic, despite Duilin’s assurances that it was perfectly normal for the child to come early, that there was minimal risk to either Lothiriel or the babe.

“Children rarely arrive when we plan for them to,” Aragorn offers, as if that’s in any way helpful. Eomer cannot get the image of Lothiriel--smiling one minute, then nearly white with shock in the next--out of his head, and his friend’s flippant comment only serves to set him more on edge.

Aragorn must read some of the irritation on his face, for he winces, reaching out to clap a hand to Eomer’s shoulder. “I am sorry, brother. I forget you’ve not seen as many births as I have.”

The only births Eomer’s ever witnessed have been of the equine variety, a fact he suspects Aragorn knows. “I think that might be an understatement, Aragorn.”

The older man grins. “It’s just as well that your Master Healer turned down my offer for assistance. I do not know who looked more aghast at the idea: him or your lovely wife.”

That makes Eomer chuckle, despite the lingering panic that’s taken residence behind his breastbone. “They would not even allow me into the room.”

“Neither would Arwen, when Caewen was born,” Aragorn admits. “I suspect both our wives know how little help we would be at the sight of them in pain.”

Eomer’s mirth vanishes. He knows, logically, that childbirth is something that women have lived through for ages over, that there is no better healer in all of the Mark than Duilin, that Lothiriel comes from a large family with no discernable history of having trouble in the childbed...but still, the sense of helplessness makes his heart race. Bema, how can he not help her? How can he sit, useless and idle, while his queen, his wife , suffers to bring their child into the world?

He flinches at the sudden pressure of Aragorn’s hand on his shoulder again. “Come. I will do for you what Legolas and Gimli did for me when I was in your position.”

“Surely you would need another person in order to debate whose song about trees is best?” Eomer suggests.

Aragorn snorts. “I have something else in mind.”


 

Something else ends up being food, a large mug of ale, and the latest news from the Hobbits.

“Pippin’s courtship of Diamond of Long Cleeve is apparently going well,” Aragorn says. “Well, well-enough, given that she has only dumped a bucket of water over his head twice in the past month, as opposed to the usual six times.”

Eomer rolls his eyes. “Only Pippin would consider that ‘going well’.”

“He’s prone to optimism, yes,” Aragorn agrees. “Though I do feel as though I owe him and Merry my thanks.”

Arching an eyebrow, Eomer asks, “Meaning?”

“If not for their antics during our quest, I doubt I would be half as good at managing Caewen’s mischief,” Aragorn says. “So says Arwen, anyways.”

Eomer grins. He has only met Aragorn and Arwen’s daughter briefly, but there was no denying that the three-year old has an almost uncanny knack for appearing in places she shouldn’t be. He’d nearly choked when her little dark head had appeared from beneath the table in Gondor’s councilroom; neither Aragorn nor Faramir had so much as blinked, indicating this was clearly a common occurrence.

Aragorn truly does have a way with Caewen--an easy confidence, a gentleness, that Eomer envies. He has spent time with his friend’s children, yes, but the last time Eomer has spent an extended amount of time with a newborn, it was Eowyn. His memories of that are hazy at best, and heavily feature either his mother or father’s hands helping him hold her in his lap.

Bema, how he wishes his father were here. Eomund, gone more years now than the ones he lived, with his back-cracking hugs, his booming laugh. Eomer knows he is not as light-hearted as his father had been, nor as reckless. There is still so much he would have liked to ask him: about marriage, life, fatherhood.

Lothiriel will make a wonderful mother. He has seen her with children numerous times--her nephew and niece, Eowyn and Faramir’s son, even Caewen herself. Her hands are gentle with them, and the way she speaks to them is never anything less than sincere and interested. But him, as a father….he can hardly picture it. What can he offer a child? Protection, certainly, love, of course...but that gentleness feels beyond him. He has been a warrior all his life, a leader of men, and yet the thought of a tiny babe unnerves him in a way nothing has before.

“Every father alive has had those same thoughts before their first child,” Aragorn says, startling Eomer out of his melancholy musings.

Frowning at having been so obvious, he asks, “Did you miraculously acquire Lady Galadriel’s mind-reading skills?”

Aragorn smiles, unfazed. “I believe I made a similar face before Caewen was born. Hence Gimli and Legolas’s attempts to distract me.” He pauses for a moment before reaching over to grip Eomer’s hand. “You are not wrong to be afraid, brother. Though my councilors would no doubt disagree with me, there is no greater role than being a parent. Not even the role of king. And it is doubly as terrifying. But also doubly as sweet. You and Lothiriel will be fine, and this babe will be luckier than any I can think of, save one.”

“You know, it’s impolite to brag about your own parenting skills to your friend who is clearly nervous about his own,” Eomer quips back, mood already lightened.

Aragorn shrugs. “It must still be the Ranger in me. A King would never say such a thing.”

Snorting, Eomer raises his mug in his friend’s direction. “My thanks to Gondor, regardless, for once again coming to Rohan’s rescue.”

“I only hope Rohan will return the favor, someday,” Aragorn answers. “Particularly when it comes time to vet Caewen’s suitors.”

That sets him laughing, earlier fears lessened. Had Aragorn not been a warrior as well? And yet fatherhood has come to him with ease. Perhaps it will not be so daunting, after all.


 

Hours later, Eomer all but shoots to his feet when the door to his solar opens, revealing a weary-but-smiling Wilfled. “Congratulations, Eomer King. You have a daughter.”

A daughter . Oh, Bema--a little Lothiriel, with her mother’s bright eyes and dark hair--”And Lothiriel?” He blurts, gripped with a sudden terror that she is gone, the best part of his life, his wife, his queen, his love --

“Fine,” Wilfled answers, squeezing his hand as Aragorn claps a hand to his shoulder. “The midwives are cleaning her up.”

“Cleaning--” He starts to say, anxiety making his thoughts hard to follow--

Wilfled’s expression is wry. “Surely you would not begrudge the mother of your child a small bit of vanity, Eomer? No woman emerges from the childbed looking or smelling like a bed of flowers.”

Reassured, he still makes his way to the door. Before he can reach it, it’s opening again, revealing Duilin, with something--no, someone--cradled in his arms.

“Impatient as ever,” the older man grumbles. “Though I cannot blame you for wanting to meet this little one as quickly as possible.”

Eomer’s hands shake as he reaches for her--his daughter --and she feels so impossibly small when Duilin slides her into his arms, pushing gently at him until she’s settled comfortably. She is a tiny, wrinkled thing, red-faced and with a dusting of dark hair on her head.

He’s never seen anything more beautiful in his life.

Eomer isn’t aware that he’s crying until Duilin sniffles himself, and Aragorn’s hand alights on its now familiar place on his shoulder.

“Welcome to fatherhood,” his friend says, and Eomer can only laugh.


 

(He supposes his reaction isn’t out of the ordinary, given that Lothiriel bursts into tears as well the minute he appears in the doorway with their daughter in his arms.

It takes them a minute to get settled, but eventually, they maneuver the babe into Lothiriel’s arms, and Lothiriel into his.

“I suppose Aragorn will never want to come back to Edoras for a visit, if this is how he’s welcomed,” she teases, voice tired but warm with amusement.

“On the contrary,” he answers, pressing a kiss to her temple, “how many kings can say a princess was so eager to meet them she insisted on being born early?”

Lothiriel laughs softly, careful not to disturb the babe.

Eomer’s earlier worries seem leagues away, with his family in his arms.)


 

Chapter Text


 

“You,” says Eowyn.

“Me,” answers Lothiriel, not looking up from her book. “Did you need something, Eowyn?”

The loud clunk of a bottle of wine being set on the table in front of her is her friend’s only response. Blinking, Lothiriel lifts her head to meet the other woman’s narrowed eyes.

“You’ve been seeing someone,” Eowyn says. It’s not a question. “And I find myself very offended that you haven’t told me, your supposed best friend, a thing about him.”

Lothiriel’s bites her lip, guilt curling hotly in her stomach. Eowyn’s not wrong--she has been seeing someone. Normally, she wouldn’t hesitate to tell Eowyn anything and everything about a potential boyfriend, but seeing as the man in question is...well, already well-known to her, telling her about him would be somewhat pointless.

Not to mention incredibly awkward , considering just where’s she’s spent the last two nights of their friends-and-family beach vacation.

“I’m sorry,” she says, honestly. “It’s just...I really like him, Eowyn, and I’m afraid to jinx it by talking about it too much.”

(It’s not the whole truth, but it’s not entirely false either. She’s never felt this way about anyone before, and it’s equal parts exhilarating and frightening.)

Eowyn’s expression softens and she sits down on the couch beside her, pouring them both large glasses. “Well, what can you tell me?”

Setting down her book, Lothiriel takes a large sip of wine, trying to gather her thoughts. “He’s as stubborn as a mule, but secretly a big softie at heart, much as he’d deny it.”

Eowyn smiles. “I assume handsome?”

“Mm,” Lothiriel hums dreamily. “Very.”

“Smart?”

“Perhaps not as brainy as your boyfriend,” she teases, giving Eowyn’s ribs a gentle nudge, “but no slouch there, either.”

Eowyn’s expression turns mischievous. “Good kisser?”

Lothiriel can feel the blush creeping up her cheeks. Oh, Valar, if they were discussing any other man, she wouldn’t hesitate to Eowyn about his kissing skills and more, but--

“That good, hm?” Eowyn interrupts, clearly interpreting her blush. “He sounds like quite the catch, Lothiriel.”

“Who’s a catch?” Comes a familiar voice.

Lothiriel stifles a groan, if only just.

“Lothiriel’s mystery man,” Eowyn answers.

“Lothiriel has a mystery man?” Asks Eomer, arranging himself in the chair across from them.

If looks could kill, Lothiriel’s quite certain she’d be short a ‘mystery man’.

“Ah, ah,” Eowyn protests. “Don’t get too comfortable, Eomer. This is girl talk, so leave.”

“I don’t think I will,” he says, offering them both a wide grin. “I want to hear more about this mystery man.”

Lothiriel opens her mouth to add something along the lines of well, he can also be an utter ass but Eowyn speaks first, saying, “He’s a total paragon, apparently. Smart, handsome, an excellent kisser--”

Eomer’s mouth twitches. Lothiriel is going to kill him. “Is he, now?”

“But also a stubborn, secret softie,” Eoywn concludes. “Does that sound like anyone we know?”

“It’s not ringing any bells, no,” Eomer answers.

“Funny,” Eowyn says, and Lothiriel hears the note of smugness in her voice too late, “I wouldn’t know about the kissing thing, but everything else sounds suspiciously like you , Eomer.”

Despite her own mortification, Lothiriel has the intense pleasure of watching her apparently not-so-clandestine boyfriend nearly choke on the sip of wine he’s just taken.

“Subtle, you two are not,” Eowyn smirks. “Faramir saw you sneaking out of Eomer’s room two mornings ago, Lothiriel. Won a substantial amount of money from Theodred because of it, in fact, so thank you both for that.”

“Eowyn,” Eomer groans, but she cuts him off with a swift kick to his shin.

“You’re both still in trouble for not telling me sooner,” she says, “but I must admit, watching Lothiriel squirm trying to think of appropriate things to tell me about you was very entertaining.”

Lothiriel groans this time, hiding her face behind her hands.

“Though I do have to wonder,” ah, Eowyn isn’t finished, “just why you two tried to hide it from us.”

This ,” Eomer grumbles, “is exactly why we didn’t tell any of you.”

“Hm,” Eowyn says, “well, Amrothos will be glad it’s not because the two of you were ashamed about the whole thing, like he was theorizing--”

“I’m going to strangle him,” Lothiriel hisses. “As if there’s anything to be ashamed about being in love with someone--”

She cuts herself off as both pairs of Eomundson siblings’ eyes--one pair green, the other dark brown--flash to her face. Oh, Elbereth , she didn’t just--

Eowyn’s face splits into a wide grin, but Eomer--oh, Eomer--looks like she’s just hit him over the head with a frying pan.

“You’re--you--”

Wishing the floor would open up and swallow her, Lothiriel says weakly, “Well, I hadn’t planned on telling you quite like that.”

There’s an agonizing silence. She’s halfway ready to turn and run, but then Eomer is standing, alarmingly slow. His stare is intense and he takes the two steps between the couch and his chair slowly, as if he might startle her. He crooks a finger under her chin, forcing her to look at him.

“Did you mean that?” He asks, in a low tone.

“Of course,” she says, equally serious. “I’ve been meaning to tell you for--for ages, but I was afraid--”

And then he pulls her up into his arms for a searing kiss. She’s vaguely aware of the noises of mock-disgust that Eowyn is making, from somewhere behind them, but most of her senses are consumed with Eomer--the heat of his skin, the wet, hot press of his mouth, the strength of his arms around her--

“Keep it PG, you two,” comes Faramir’s amused voice. “The rest of us would like an explanation as to when this all began.”

Eomer looks ready to tell Faramir something decidedly impolite, so Lothiriel stops him with a finger to his lips. “Later,” she promises, before turning to give her cousin a sheepish look. “I suppose there’s no way out of this?”

“Not a chance,” he promises with a grin. “And Eowyn and I are the least of your worries.”

“Boromir and Amrothos?”

“Elphir.”

Eomer groans, dropping a kiss to Lothiriel’s temple. “Bema, spare me.”


 

One excruciatingly long conversation later, Lothiriel offers no resistance when Eomer scoops her up, tells all of their meddling relations to piss off, and carries her to his room. They lay in comfortable silence on the bed for a moment, Eomer’s hand moving in a soothing, steady motion through her hair.

“So,” she says, “that could have been worse.”

Eomer snorts. “Your definition of worse and mine must be two very different things.”

She laughs, propping herself up on one elbow to meet his eyes. “Well, there is one thing I’d change.”

“Being interrogated by your obnoxious brothers while my sister laughs her head off?”

“Alright, two things,” Lothiriel concedes, reaching out to run her fingers over Eomer’s cheek. “But the one I meant was telling you I love you with an audience.”

She can see him swallow, but his voice is steady when he says, “Yes, I’d like to change that, too.”

Smiling softly, Lothiriel stretches to press a gentle kiss to his lips. “I do love you, though.”

Eomer hums, pulling her closer. “I love you. Meddling siblings and all.”

Lothiriel grins. “Prove it.”


 

(He does. Perhaps a little too well, because Amrothos declares the following morning: “I am never going on a vacation with the two of you again! My therapist is going to need a therapist!”

“That’s nothing,” Erchirion grumbles, looking similarly queasy, “try sharing a wall with Theodred and Boromir.”

Lothiriel and Boromir clink glasses, smirking, as Theodred and Eomer groan in horror.

“Your family,” Eowyn says to Faramir.

“They’re yours too now, love,” he advises. “Best get used to it.”)


 

Chapter Text


 

If there’s anything she’s learned about the King of Rohan in the past few months, it is that he does not find sleep easily.

She can scarcely fault him for it--none of her brothers, nor her father, and she assumes Faramir, sleep well either. How could they, with all that they have seen and suffered?

The ladies of Gondor would likely be scandalized to find that she knows such a thing, but it is knowledge she has acquired innocently and unintentionally. The first she had ever heard of it was Eowyn’s whispered concerns during their journey from Minas Tirith to Edoras for Theoden King’s burial. The second time she witnesses it with her own eyes: Lothiriel is an early riser, always has been, and can well-tell the difference between someone who has just awoken from slumber and one who has never found it.

Eomer King, sitting bleary-eyed and with hunched shoulders on a bench in the middle of Meduseld, is the latter.

It bothers her all through her visit to Rohan’s capital, but they do not know each other well-enough for her to feel comfortable remarking on it.

Still, she tries to help in the most unobtrusive ways she can. A bundle of soothing herbs left in his saddlebags, a gentle nudge of his elbow towards a mug of tea instead of ale, and so on.

Eowyn approves, with a knowing glint in her eyes, but Lothiriel is less concerned of being the subject of match-making and more concerned with the King of Rohan falling from his horse from lack of sleep.

But Eomer is a smart man, and catches on to her scheme much more quickly than she would like.

“Do you tend to all of your father’s friends this way, or am I one of the lucky few to be so coddled by a Princess of Gondor?” He asks, something like disdain in his voice.

With three older brothers, Lothiriel is well-accustomed to teasing scolding, to sharp-tongued rebukes. But something about his question--as if she has done anything wrong , in being worried about him!--sets her teeth on age. “My apologies, Your Grace, for showing my concern in a way that is so distasteful to you.”

“If you are thinking to worm your way into my good graces by taking an interest in my sleeping habits--”

The gall of him! As if she is in need of another suitor! “I would just as soon as be in your good graces as I would be found wading through a midden.”

“That can be arranged,” he had all but growls at her.

“Then arrange it,” she snaps back. “It would be a welcome respite from your ill-humor.”

She turns on her heel and stalks off, not waiting for his response, and too angry to care much about the open-mouthed stares the majority of the hall are giving her.


 

“Oh, Eomer ,” Eowyn groans, when Lothiriel tells her what has happened. “He has spent so long on his guard that he does not recognize simple kindness when it is given to him.”

Lothiriel’s ire softens, a little; she has heard tales of Grima Wormtongue, of Theoden King’s strange illness, of Eomer’s sudden banishment. She cannot fault him for being wary, but she does take issue with him interpreting her concern as a way to manipulate him into courting her!

“I will let you handle the subject of his sleeplessness from now on,” Lothiriel says. “Since my meddling is decidedly unwanted.”

Eowyn’s lips quirk up into a wry grin. “I am not in the habit of making my brother’s life easier, Lothiriel. I think it would do him good to realize not everyone is so easily intimidated by his fearsome stare and status as king.”

There is something in her expression that goes beyond mischief, and Lothiriel wonders if she should be more concerned about this member of the House of Eorl than the elder.


 

So. She continues in her efforts to keep the King of Rohan from expiring from sleep deprivation.

Eomer remains standoffish, at first, but after she witnesses him slumping over into a bowl of porridge, any lingering hesitation she has vanishes.

“Honestly, you are no use to anyone like this,” she says, poking him between the ribs and stifling a smirk when he flinches. “Take my help or seek some other source, but you need to force yourself to sleep .”

Begrudgingly, he begins to accept her herbal teas. Slowly, carefully, she shows that it is mere kindness, concern, that has her worrying after him, this young man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, this king who cannot find sleep even behind the walls of his own home.

Eomer is...not what she expected, on further discovery. Despite his mercurial moods--something she is willing to write off on the lack of sleep--he is...kind. Funny, if with a dark sort of humor, and deeply devoted to his people, his country.

Weeks in, she considers him a friend, a true friend, and this makes her comfortable enough with him to ask for the true reason behind his lack of rest.

Nightmares. She should have known.

At the start, he will not give her details--whether because they are too personal or because he thinks her too tender-hearted to handle them--but she notices that the dark circles under his eyes finally start to recede, at least slightly.

“And you have them every night?” She asks, concerned.

Eomer shrugs. “I have since Theodred’s death. I did not have the time to truly think of them, nor let them keep me from sleep, during our ride to Pelennor, or Morannon, but now…”

Now, he has all the time in the world. A King’s duties, however heavy, are not quite the same as being involved in a battle between the forces of Good and Evil.

Lothiriel knows, truly, that she is probably one of the last people that he would like to unburden himself to. Eowyn would be an apt choice, or Aragorn, or even any number of his loyal Eorlingas. But he has not told them. And it is apparent that he must tell someone ; why not her?

“Tell me,” Lothiriel says, boldly laying her hand on his wrist and forcing herself not to withdraw it when he turns his dark, fierce gaze on her. “You cannot keep this to yourself any longer, Eomer.”

It is the first time she has ever called him something other than his honorific, and she can see the significance is not lost on him. His free hand drifts up to cover hers and that touch sends a bolt of heat through her veins, completely ill-timed and ill-advised.

Oh, Valar. There could not be a worse time for her to realize there may have been more truth to his first, spiteful accusation than she’d thought.

“Not here,” Eomer finally says, his eyes still bearing into hers.


 

They ride, his guards and Eowyn in tow, to a beautiful meadow a good five miles from Edoras’ gates. It lovely, this place, littered with wildflowers and a few young trees. The guards drop back, talking merrily amongst themselves, leaving the three of them alone.

Eowyn murmurs something about collecting fresh flowers for her rooms and ambles away; still in sight, but not close enough to hear their conversation.

Eomer is silent, though she can feel his arm twitch restlessly every now and then from where her hand is curled around his elbow.

“Lovely as this place is, I do not think we are here to look at the flowers,” she murmurs, hesitantly.

“No,” he agrees.

She lets him lead her under one of the nearby trees and sits when he bids her, not caring for the grass and dirt stains that will likely remain on her dress.

“If I must tell you the horrors that haunt me, I might as well do it in a beautiful place,” he says, scrubbing a hand over his face. “There are no shadows here to frighten you, at least.”

“None except the ones under your eyes,” Lothiriel answers, reaching up to catch his free hand in hers to tug him down to sit beside her. “I promise I will tell you if something is too much for me to handle, but my comfort is less important than your peace of mind.”

Eomer’s fingers tighten around hers, his expression…soft, soft enough that her heart gives a traitorous lurch. Part of her wishes that she could say ‘nevermind’, and they could spend the day talking of more pleasant things, in the sunshine and with the smell of wild flowers in the air.

But that would defeat the entire purpose of coming here, and she is no so selfish as that. Or, at least, she can force herself not to be.

So Eomer begins to talk, haltingly at first, and then with more emotion, as descriptions of his nightmares tumble from his mouth. That he dreams of Theodred’s death is unsurprising, that the things he saw in battle linger with him equally so, but she is not prepared for the sharp ache she feels as he describes one nightmare where he relives finding Eowyn on the Pelennor Fields, but this time he is too late.

Another features his father and mother, dead these many years, and another of reaching Helm’s Deep too late, or without Gandalf at his side--oh, Elbereth, the things this man has seen, the sheer amount of people he has lost.

Lothiriel is not sure when she does so, but she somehow manages to maneuver Eomer until his head is pillowed on her thigh, and she finds herself carding her fingers through his hair in an attempt to soothe him. One of his hands is clasped loosely around her shin, and no matter the impropriety, she would not move him for all the world.

Eventually, he runs out of nightmares to describe, falling silent as she continues to stroke her hand through his hair.

“I have upset you,” he murmurs, and she can feel him begin to shift, as if to stand.

“No,” she says, both to the thought of him standing and to the idea of her being upset. No, that’s not right; she is upset, but not because he has told her of the things that so trouble him. She is upset that he has had to fight dreams like this for so long, and without help. “I’m...I’m glad you trust me.”

Lothiriel cannot help but gulp when he turns his head to meet her eyes. “I do. Though I wish I had chosen a kinder way to prove it.”

“Hm,” she hums, hoping he cannot feel the way her hand trembles as she slides it through his hair again. “I think it is my turn for a show of faith.”

So she tells him about her dreams--the pleasant ones, only the sweetest and dearest ones she can think of. Silly ones, from childhood, like when she dreamed of turning into a swan for weeks on end. Happy ones, where she had extracted her revenge on Amrothos by dumping a bucket of sea slugs, of all things, on his head. Secret ones, ones not even Eowyn has heard, of staying in Rohan when the rest of her family returns home--she has come to love the country very much, after all, and its people, and its--

Her voice dwindles off as the realization hits her: it is not just Rohan’s land and people and traditions she loves, but the man whose head is cradled in her lap.

Whose hand has drifted up to cup her cheek in her inattention, causing a riotous blush.

“I think that last one was my favorite,” he says, somehow sitting up without moving his hand from her face. “Better still because it is not an impossible one.”

Lothiriel scarcely has time to open her mouth to ask him what he could possibly mean before he’s kissing her, soft and gentle and true.

“You cannot mean it,” she says, when he’s pulled back enough to allow her to catch her breath, his forehead still pressed warm and reassuring against hers.

“Would you like me to pinch you?” He asks, teasing evident in his voice. “This is no dream, Lothiriel, and certainly no nightmare.”

She laughs, dipping her head to rest on his shoulder even as their fingers twine and untwine around each other.


 

(Eowyn finds them, asleep under the shade of the tree, a few hours later.

“You know,” she says, grinning as they both startle awake, “this isn’t quite what I meant when I asked you to help me to get Eomer to sleep.”)


 

Chapter Text


 

“I can’t stand my own reflection.”

“You’re being overdramatic,” replies Eowyn.

“I don’t know,” Aragorn says, grinning from where he’s sprawled bonelessly across Eomer’s couch, “mullets did go the way of the dodo back when I was in elementary school--”

Eomer shoots a decidedly impolite gesture in his friend’s direction before giving his hair--his horribly, horribly, abused hair--a desperate tug, as if doing so can make it grow back to its normal length. “Remind me to punch Amrothos. Again.”

Apparently, Faramir’s cousin’s idea of a good time includes making the brother-of-the-bride look like an 80’s hair band member.

Eomer’s idea of a good time had been showing Amrothos how little he liked his new haircut with a fist to his face.

The younger man remains unashamedly amused. Eomer’s hair remains cut. A lose-lose situation.

“I’ll have to ask you to refrain from giving one of my groomsman two black eyes before the wedding,” Faramir says drolly, as if this isn’t entirely his fault. “One we can excuse on clumsiness, but two begins to look like assault.”

“Good,” Eomer says, “because it would be.”

Eowyn rolls her eyes, coming to stand in front of him with a hair tie in her outstretched palm. “Luckily for you, I know someone who can fix this.”

“Who? Harry Potter?”

His sister wrinkles her nose at him as his traitorous friends chuckle in the background. “No. Someone decidedly more real than Harry Potter. And substantially better looking, I might add.”

Eomer begins to suspect the solution may be worse than the problem at hand. “Again: who?”

 


 

The shop Eowyn drags him to is absurdly cheerful, in various shades of blue and vases of fresh flowers scattered everywhere. It only serves to increase the dull throbbing at his temples--she still hasn’t said who the mystery miracle worker is, but Aragorn’s smirk and Faramir’s parting wink were. Worrying. Very worrying.

Eowyn taps on the silver bell on the front test three times in quick succession.

There’s the muffled sound of cursing from the back of the store before the curtain--also blue, also dotted with flowers--is pushed aside, revealing--

Oh, Bema.

He’s going to murder his sister.

“Eowyn!” Lothiriel cries, her typical megawatt smile making her pretty face even more so. “What a pleasant surprise!”

“I’m glad you think so,” Eowyn says, shooting a sly look in Eomer’s direction--oh, he really is going to murder her, the meddling witch--before she steps forward to give the younger woman a hug. “Are you busy?”

Lothiriel snorts, gesturing at the empty shop. “Not hardly. Saturday mornings are strangely slow--”

Her voice trails off as she looks at him. Eomer can feel the sharp, sudden rise of a blush in his face as she gawks at his hair.

“Erm,” she says. “Nice...haircut, Eomer?”

“No,” he says, embarrassment making his voice sharp, “it isn’t.”

“Amrothos may have gone a bit far,” Eowyn explains.

Lothiriel groans. “He needs a shock collar. Or a good thrashing.”

“Eomer has provided one of those already,” chirps Eowyn.

“I assume the thrashing, shock collars are terribly difficult to acquire on short notice,” Lothiriel quips.

Despite it all, he can’t help but snort a laugh. Lothiriel grins up at him, clearly having gotten the reaction she wanted.

“Come on then, Van Halen,” she says, crooking a finger at him. “Let’s see what I can do with this mess.”

 


 

Eomer’s had plenty of haircuts in the past--not including the one that took place during the wee hours of the morning the night before, thank you very much again , Amrothos--but they’ve never been so. So.

Uncomfortable.

Not uncomfortable in the sense that Lothiriel doesn’t know what she’s doing; it’s obvious that this is her profession, from the ease at which she settles his absurdly long frame in the chair, the gentle scratch of her fingernails over his scalp--

Well. No. That’s partially why it’s so uncomfortable.

Getting a haircut from an attractive woman is not a new experience for him, but getting a haircut from an attractive woman on whom he’s been harboring an apparently not-so-secret crush? Definitely new.

And definitely uncomfortable --she’s just so close, the sweet floral smell of her perfume heady and enthralling, the press of her fingers damn near intoxicating--

“--mer?” Lothiriel repeats, startling him out of his daze.

“Hm?” He grunts, not trusting himself to form words.  

“I’m sorry Amrothos did this,” she says. “It really is a shame. Your hair looked so good long.”

Eomer swallows. Reminds himself that she does hair for a living , that it’s likely a compliment on how healthy it is, and has nothing to do with whether or not she thinks he looks good or not.

“S’alright,” he mutters, keeping his eyes closed. “Shorter hair for me, a black eye for him. Seems like a fair trade.”

Lothiriel huffs a laugh. “Men.”

He has to open his eyes when she tells him to move to another chair--Eowyn is suspiciously absent, but Lothiriel merely smiles up at him again, leading him over to her station. His reflection in the mirror is a little better than it had been this morning--freshly washed, his hair’s mullet-fied state is not as apparent.

“Now,” she says, coming to stand behind him, “you’ve had long hair for as long as I’ve known you. So I’m betting you know next to nothing about any other sort of style.”

“You’d be correct,” he agrees.

He can see her eyes crinkle in the mirror. “Hm. Do you trust me?”

It’s a simple question, but it makes his heart give a lurch all the same. “Yes,” he says, his eyes meeting hers in the mirror.

 


 

Lothiriel keeps a steady stream of chatter while she works at his hair. It’s equal parts soothing and distracting--soothing, because she likely knows how close he is to panic with every long strand of hair he sees floating to the floor--and distracting, because it’s Lothiriel . Eomer can’t remember a time when she hasn’t been distracting.

“...and then Pippin did some sort of flip--honestly, how he hasn’t killed himself yet remains a mystery--and Merry caught him, all the while singing about the Green Dragon--”

He’s grinning full on, both at the mental picture she’s painting, and at the animated facial expressions she’s making, reflected in the mirror.

Lothiriel’s eyes meet his when he laughs and her face flushes crimson. “I forget the mirror is there, sometimes,” she admits, something like shame in her voice. “Sorry, I know I tend to get carried away in a story--”

Frowning, Eomer reaches back to catch her scissor-less hand in his. “Don’t apologize for being you, Lothiriel.”

She blinks, eyes wide and beautiful and surprised , in the bright lights of the shop--Bema, does he have it bad--

“Well,” she says, in a softer tone, a smile pulling at the corners of her mouth, “if you insist.”

 


 

“And, viola!” She declares, maybe twenty minutes later. “You are officially mullet-free.”

“Thank Bema for that,” he says, waiting for her to spin the chair back to face the mirror. She’d turned him away from it for the last few trims, insisting on him not seeing the finished work until it was truly ready.

Lothiriel smiles, giving the chair a substantial push, and--

Bema , Eomer thinks, that can’t be me .

His hair is short, shorter than it’s ever been since childhood, cropped close to his head on the sides, and styled artfully--he’s never going to be able to replicate this on his own--at the front. He looks--well. Not too terribly different from that Hemsworth bloke in the latest Thor movie.

“I always thought your long hair suited you,” Lothiriel murmurs, “but this is, um, good, too.” She’s blushing as she says it, and blushes deeper when he reaches up to rub a hand over it. “Do you like it? I--there’s not much I can do, lengthwise, but I can re-do this bit--”

His hand closing over hers stops her short. “Lothiriel. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” she says, eyes meeting his in the mirror again. “And it’s on me, since Amrothos was responsible for the 80’s themed monstrosity to begin with.”

“No,” he says--Bema, he’s still holding her hand, but he can’t bring himself to let it go, not when she’s still standing so close behind him, flushed and beautiful-- “that’s not necessary, Lothiriel, really--”

“It is,” she insists, her stubbornness apparent in the furrow between her brows, “I am not letting you pay a single dime for this, Eomer--”

“Let me buy you lunch, then,” he interrupts, the words coming out of his mouth before he can think better of them. Likely spurred on by the fact that she hasn’t moved her hand either, and that her free hand has drifted up to rest on his shoulder.

“Oh,” Lothiriel breathes, her cheeks darkening again. “That, um. That could work.”

Eomer grins, standing abruptly and tucking her hand into the crook of his elbow. “Is now alright with you?”

Her smile is. Bright. Beautiful. All Lothiriel. “I think I can pencil you in.”

 


 

(“I never would have cut his hair if I knew this is what would come of it!” Amrothos wails, some months later.

“Serves you right,” Eowyn says, smug as she leans back into Faramir’s open arm. “I, for one, can’t thank you enough.”

“I’m sure Eomer and Lothiriel feel the same,” Faramir drawls, grinning.

The couple in question remains oblivious to their audience, too busy kissing across the pool table to hear them.

Van Halen’s Why Can’t This Be Love comes wailing out of the jukebox, manned by a grinning Aragorn.

He receives a less-than-polite hand gesture from Eomer from behind Lothiriel’s back.)

 


 

Chapter Text


 

 “Pippin,” he says, pinching the bridge of his nose in an attempt to stave off the migraine he feel swiftly approaching, “explain to me again, why there are five kittens in my house.”

Pippin offers him what Eomer supposes is supposed to be a winning smile, but all it serves is to make his head throb in response. “Well, me and Merry’s place doesn’t allow cats, Arwen is allergic so she and Aragorn are out, Gimli and Legolas are off galavanting around the country again, Sam and Rosie have the baby--there’s nowhere else for them to go! The closest shelter is nearly full, and isn’t no-kill-- ”

“And Lothiriel said they’d be welcome,” Merry pipes in, unhelpfully.

I love my wife, Eomer reminds himself. I love my wife, I love my wife, I love my wife--

“Lothiriel isn’t here, now,” he reminds them. “And I am much, much less fond of cats than she is--”

“Oh, come on, Eomer,” Merry wheedles. “She’ll be back from Faramir and Eowyn’s in a day or two--what’s the worst that can happen?”

 


 

The ‘worst that can happen’, as it turns out, is one leg of their vintage leather couch being scratched to smithereens, two of the kittens outright refusing to use the litter box--they prefer the floor of Eomer’s closet, instead--and Eomer nearly having a heart attack upon waking up to find all five kittens perched on his chest, watching him sleep.

“I love my wife,” he mutters, cleaning up yet another bowl of spilled milk, “I love my wife, I love my wife--”

“Your wife is glad to hear it,” comes Lothiriel’s voice, startling him out of his scrubbing. She must have come in while he was busy cursing the cats in Rohirric, and now she stands in front of him, grinning widely. “What have I done to deserve such adoration?”

“Given Merry and Pippin the idea that we’re running some kind of cat sanctuary out of our house,” he grumbles, but still rises to his knees to accept her kiss in greeting.

“What?” She asks, clearly confused.

As if on cue, a round of high pitched meowing starts in the other room. Lothiriel’s face splits into an enormous smile and she all but knocks him over in her hurry to move into the living room. He groans at the sound of her happy squeal, followed directly after by cooing at the demons that happen to be conveniently kitten-shaped. “Eomer, come here! I need to know what we’re calling them!”

Grumbling, he hefts himself to his feet. The sight that greets him is, admittedly, adorable: his tiny, beautiful wife, all but covered in kittens, happily stroking her hands over each one in turn. Or, it would be adorable, had the kittens not made themselves the bane of his existence over the course of the previous 48 hours.

“I haven’t named them,” he admits, begrudgingly settling down beside her on the floor, his back pressed against the ruined couch-leg.

“Oh, bad form, husband mine,” she chides, scratching the solitary orange cat between its ears, “no wonder they’ve done a number on you. They don’t feel welcome!”

“They’re cats, Lothiriel,” Eomer grouses.

“Kittens,” she corrects, bumping his shoulder with hers. “And they need names.”

The orange cat is quickly named ‘Tigger’, his three grey sisters deemed ‘Smoke’, ‘Cinderella’, and ‘Twilight’, until only the last, tawny colored kitten remains. He’s been a particular thorn in Eomer’s side, responsible for both the couch leg and the majority of the accidents in his closet.

“Trouble,” he suggests.

Lothiriel smiles, crooking a finger under the kitten’s chin. “What do you say to that, little one?”

The answering purr decides it.

 


 

(“Lothiriel,” he murmurs, the following night when he finds her curled up in bed, the kittens arranged in the space where she’s curved herself around them, “we’re not keeping them.”

She shoots him a look that he knows all too well--it’s one of the first things he’d ever fallen in love with about her, that look. “We’ll see about that.”)

 


 

As it turns out, they don’t keep all of the kittens. Eothain and his wife could use a mouse-hunter for their stables, and Cinderella has been training by pouncing on Eomer’s feet for the better part of two months. Elphir wants a calm, gentle first pet for his little daughter, and Smoke, with her wide-green eyes and sweet disposition, is the perfect fit. Tigger and Twilight are adopted by Gimli and Legolas, not only for their personalities but also for the high likelihood of their presence in the men’s apartment to guarantee the absence of irritating in-laws--on both sides.

Trouble, however, stays. Much to Eomer’s chagrin, the cat has been Lothiriel’s special darling from the very first, curling himself around her feet at every opportunity, being pampered with tuna packs and chin scratches.

He also has the particularly annoying habit of hissing at Eomer any time he shows Lothiriel the barest semblance of physical affection. Takes her hand while watching a movie? Hissing. Dare to kiss her temple while they’re making dinner? More hissing. And Bema forbid he attempt to coax his wife into the bedroom with the damned cat watching--Eomer’s got three, claw-shaped scars on his ankle for daring to want to make love to his wife.

“He’s just protective,” Lothiriel reasons, plastered pleasantly to his side, lips swollen from kissing and her hair a rumpled mess from his hands. Trouble is yowling his displeasure from outside the door, but thankfully, Eomer is proving to be a better distraction to his softly smiling wife.

“He’s a damned nuisance,” Eomer grumbles, but he kisses her responding frown away before she can truly get upset. “But he has his uses.”

“Such as?” She asks, with an arched eyebrow.

“Well, for starters, he helps keep those ice-blocks you call feet warm--”

Eomer receives a pillow to the face for his comment, but a kiss follows quickly after, before he can bemoan abuse.

 


 

The day he decides Trouble is worth, well, the trouble, is when he comes home to find all of the lights turned off. It’s a dreary day, anyways, with rain pattering against the windows, but something feels...off.

“Lothiriel?” He calls.

There’s no response. The kitchen is empty, as is the living room, the dining room...Concern mounting, he opens the door to their bedroom. Lothiriel is there, curled beneath the covers, with Trouble perched by her head. The cat offers him a steady look, for once not on the verge of attack at his appearance.

“Lothiriel,” Eomer says again, worry turning swiftly to panic when her response is a slightly muffled sob. He kicks off his shoes, gingerly settling onto the bed behind her. Usually, if he gets this close, Trouble is waiting with his teeth bared and claws at the ready, but instead the cat has scooted closer to the object of their shared concern, his tail twitching nervously as she continues to cry.

Eomer tucks himself behind her, relaxing slightly when one of her hands drifts up to pull his arm around her. “Sweetheart, please,” he says, trying to keep his voice even, “talk to me.”

It takes a few more minutes for her to calm down to where she’s not shaking in his arms anymore, and even then, it’s not until Trouble gently nudges his face against her own before she speaks, saying in a tiny voice, “I’m not pregnant.”

Oh, Bema, he thinks, even as he pulls her closer, pressing a kiss to the back of her head. They’ve been married nearly three years now, and they hadn’t been in any particular hurry to have children. But with Aragorn and Arwen pregnant with their second, and Elboron born a few months back, it’s understandable that Lothiriel has had babies on the brain, and apparently, in her heart. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart.”

She sniffles, but threads her fingers through his all the same. “It’s so stupid--I was only a week late, but I thought--I hoped--” He can hear her swallow, and sees Trouble nuzzle her again. “What if something is wrong with me?” Lothiriel asks, voice as small as he’s ever heard it.

“Then we’ll go to a doctor,” he says, firmly, “it could easily be on my end, Loth, and it isn’t if we’ve really been trying.”

“I know, I know,” she says. “It’s stupid.”

“Not stupid,” he assures her, giving her a gentle tug until she’s rolled over in his arms, facing him, “ never stupid. And if something is wrong, well...we’ve got Trouble, haven’t we?”

That startles a watery laugh out of her and she tucks her head under his chin. “You don’t even like Trouble.”

“No, but you do,” Eomer concedes. “I will insist we draw the line at calling him our ‘fur-baby’, or anything else nausea inducing--”

She pinches him. They’re both quiet for a moment, Eomer absent-mindedly running a hand through her hair. Her murmured, “I love you”, is almost lost under the sound of Trouble’s purring, but Eomer hears it all the same.

 


 

(A year later, when Elfwine is born, Eomer can only laugh at Faramir’s disgruntled expression when he’s preventing from holding his nephew by a hissing ten-pound ball of yellow fur.

“I see why he’s earned his name,” Eowyn laughs, balancing Elboron on her hip. “What I can’t fathom is how you’ve put up with him for two years, Eomer.”

“We’ve reached an understanding,” Eomer says, attempting to sound regal.

“Or they both realized how much it upset me that they didn’t get along,” Lothiriel adds with a grin. “Neither man nor cat enjoys being made to sleep on the couch.”)


 

Chapter Text


 

“Are you even trying?”

“Be nice, it’s my first time!”

“Well, that explains a lot--”

“Can you just--no, a little more to the left--”

“Is that better?”

“Mm--”

The sound of someone clearing their throat makes them both jolt guiltily.

“I can honestly say, I never thought I’d see...well, this,” Eowyn says.

“Um...it’s not what you think?” Lothiriel says, from somewhere around Eomer’s ribcage.

Eomer groans. “What else is she supposed to think, Lothiriel?”

“We,” comes Faramir’s voice, making Eomer groan again, “had no idea either of you were quite so, ah, flexible.”

Lothiriel’s huff of laughter is startlingly warm through the thin fabric of his shirt and nearly makes him topple over. He knees her shoulder in response and earns a smug grin for his trouble.

“You’re just jealous,” she says, contorting herself in a truly impressive position to smile at Faramir. “We must have played Twister hundreds of times when we were little, Fara, and you never won once.”

“That’s because you and Amrothos cheated constantly, not because of my lack of flexibility,” he says, loping around to inspect the way they’ve managed to bend themselves around each other. “How exactly were you planning on spinning for the next turn?”

Lothiriel lifts her left foot gingerly off of a yellow space, nearly kicking Eomer in the face as she does so.

“Show off,” he grumbles half-heartedly as she stretches a toe towards the spinner.

“Oh, for Bema’s sake, let me,” Eowyn says, snatching the spinner out of Lothiriel’s reach.

She gives the arrow a hearty flick and watches closely as it spins, spins, spins, finally landing on ‘Right Foot Red’.

Eomer groans again, trying to figure out how he can possibly maneuver himself without doing permanent damage to either of his legs.

Lothiriel, on the other hand, stretches out with ease, insinuating herself effortlessly under his much larger frame as she does so.

Eomer is abruptly grateful that she’s so much shorter than him; if she were any taller, her face would be very near to uh...very inopportune place. As it is, she’s still plastered closer to him than he’d like--well, more than he’d like with an audience. Especially when said audience is his sister and her cousin.

Once they’ve both placed a food on the correct dot, Eowyn gives the spinner another flick.

“Left hand blue,” she announces, sounding entirely too amused for Eomer’s taste.

“What are the stakes?” Faramir asks, abruptly.

“What makes you think there are stakes?” Lothiriel asks innocently.

“Because I know you and the sharks you call brothers,” is Faramir’s answer.

“If I win,” Eomer answers, stifling a curse when Lothiriel arches her spine, pressing her back flush against his chest, “she has to do trash duty the rest of the time we’re here--”

“And if I win,” Lothiriel interrupts, “Eomer has to be responsible for Boromir, Theodred, and Amrothos the next time we all go out.”

Faramir whistles lowly. Eomer lifts his head to glare at Eowyn when she gives his shoulder a sympathetic pat.

“Poor choice, brother mine,” she says. “That’s too big a job for any one man, even you.”

“Which is why,” he grumbles, “I’m going to win.”

“Hah!” Crows Faramir. “Famous last words, Eomer.”

He lifts his right hand from its yellow dot to shoot his brother-in-law a decidedly impolite gesture.

“Hey!” Lothiriel says, nudging his arm with her knee. “You can’t take your hands off the mat!”

Eowyn snickers.

“Come on, ‘Wyn,” Faramir says, though there’s obvious laughter dancing in his voice as well, “let’s leave them to it.”

“And close the door after you!” Lothiriel calls. “If we wanted an audience, we would have said so!”

They’re both still until the distinct click of the door being fully closed.

“Eomer?” Lothiriel murmurs.

“Hm?”

“Can you reach the spinner?”

He looks up and curses under his breath; Eowyn has left it--likely on purpose--on the low coffee table that’s at least half a body-length out of his reach. “No.”

“Ugh!” She cries. “How are we supposed to finish the game?”

Eomer contemplates this for a moment. He’s not as flexible as Lothiriel, nor as accustomed to holding his body in such static positions for extended periods of time. There’s a good chance she could beat him, fair and square, without the spinner. Or…

Lothiriel yelps in surprise when he tugs on her ankle, moving her out from under him before he lets himself flop gracelessly onto the mat. He reaches for her arm before she can form a protest, hauling her up to his eye-level.

“Cheater!” She cries, but her eyes are sparkling and her smile is wide. “Of all the low, dirty tricks--”

“You’ll get over it,” he says and then kisses her for all he’s worth.

Her body goes pleasantly pliant, her fingers winding into his hair. She sighs when he slides his hands under her shirt, pressing against the warm, slightly damp skin of her lower back.

“Good thing Eowyn and Faramir didn’t walk in on this,” she murmurs, pulling back just enough to wind a trail of hot, open-mouthed kisses down his neck.

Eomer chuckles despite the sudden flare of heat he feels when Lothiriel presses her hips against his. “It’d be worth it.”

“Hope it’s worth taking care of the terrible trio tomorrow night,” she says, voice going slightly breathy as he trails a finger up her spine, “because I won.”

It is, in fact, entirely worth it.


 

Chapter Text


 

Eomer has never felt anything less than proud of the land he comes from, nor its people. Oh, he knows they are not as “cultured” as the Gondorians, nor as graceful and poised as the Elves--but there are so many other qualities that they do possess that he admires.

All his life, he has been proud of their traditions. Proud of their resilience, their bravery in the face of hardships, the bonds that have been built across generations through hard work and steadfastness. Proud of the vein of honesty, of uncomplicated speech, that seems to have passed all of the other Races by, except perhaps the Dwarves.

Until now.

He can only stifle a groan as yet another of his riders sweeps his betrothed onto the floor, hands too familiar and grasping at her waist. Dances in Gondor are much more sedate, with only the barest touches between a man and a woman.

He knows Lothiriel is not used to his riders’...exuberance, but her smile doesn’t falter. Neither do her feet--her grace is something he’s admired in her from the start. Not only in her motions, but also in what she says, and how she says it. Her ease of speech and manner is one of the reasons he’d agreed to an arranged marriage in the first place. Well, that coupled with her sweetness and beauty, but he’d been far from lovestruck, like Eowyn and Faramir, or envious of the easy intimacy between Aragorn and Arwen, so long together.

In direct contrast to Lothiriel’s palpable happiness are the disapproving looks his men are receiving from nearly every other Gondorian lady present. Lady Geldis, Elphir’s wife, looks near to fainting, especially when the rider--Grimbold, who is nearly double Lothiriel’s age--lifts the princess with ease.

His men’s familiarity should not bother him. It is a mark of how much they have come to like their soon-to-be Queen, a reflection of the hard work Lothiriel has put in to learning their customs. But as he looks out at the hall, wood-beamed and packed to the brim, the knowledge of how...rough it all must seem to the Gondorians is what stands out the most to him.

She has not said--she would never say, his polite, kind, bride-to-be--that she dislikes anything about Edoras, but the expressions on her country-women's’ faces say it all. How uncouth they find his people, how sparse the Golden Hall is in comparison to all of Minas Tirith’s finery--

“Bema, sire,” comes Eothain’s voice, “looking like that, you’d think you were preparing to clean out the stables tomorrow, not for your wedding.”

Eomer offers his marshal--and childhood friend--a fearsome scowl.

Eothain, the bastard, is unfazed, flopping ungracefully onto the bench beside him. “Come now, Eomer. What’s got your feathers ruffled?”

“Your meddling,” Eomer grumbles, not wanting to share the true reason for his suddenly foul mood.

“Tch,” the other man scoffs. “You have had years to grow accustomed to that. It is something else.”

Eomer takes a long sip from his mug, willing his friend to let the issue go. As if on cue, there is another burst of raucous laughter; Gimli has entered into yet another drinking contest against Legolas, and a group of Eorlingas are clearly enjoying the spectacle that is an inebriated Dwarf. A pair of Gondorian women are looking on as well, though their expressions are closer to horror than ones of amusement.

His scowl deepens. Eothain follows his gaze and gives an exasperated sigh. “Lothiriel is not like her country women, Eomer. You would not have agreed to marry her otherwise.”

Irritated that he’s been so easily read, he mutters, “She is not like them now , during her first few days in Edoras, but who is to say she will not grow tired of our rustic hall? Our uncouth manners, our boisterous celebrations--”

Of me , he thinks, but does not say.

Eothain pinches the bridge of his nose. “Eomer, son of Eomund, I have rarely had cause to say what I am about to say to you in our many years of friendship, but I say it to you now: you are a fool. I suspect I know the reason why, which makes it understandable, but Bema, Eomer! If you truly believed any of that, this betrothal would never have become anything more than a suggestion from Imrahil’s mouth. You do yourself a disservice and Lothiriel an insult, for thinking such a thing.”

Eomer bristles. Nervousness, insecurity--neither are emotions he is accustomed to feeling, and here is his marshal, his friend, ridiculing both things! “ Do not mock me for being apprehensive--”

“I do not mock you for having a bridegroom’s jitters,” Eothain interrupts. “I am trying to make you see you are thinking like an utter blockhead--”

“Would you two care to explain,” comes Eowyn’s voice, sounding decidedly unamused, “why you look like you’re about to start brawling in the midst of a celebratory feast?”

Wincing, both men turn to face her. She and Lothiriel stand, arm in arm, both eyeing them closely. But where in Eowyn’s face Eomer can see exasperation, in Lothiriel’s he only sees...concern.

“Because your brother is a stubborn fool,” Eothain mutters, earning a dark look from Eomer.

“Nothing new, then,” Eowyn answers succinctly, receiving a black look of her own. “You’ve been neglecting your guests, Eomer King.”

He hears the reproach there, and the warning. Eomer cares for neither of them.

“I will do as I see fit, Eowyn--”

“Then perhaps you would come with me to take some fresh air?” Lothiriel cuts in, likely knowing a brewing siblings’ spat when she sees one.

He can scarcely refuse her and finds that he does not want to, as it is. Fresh air might help him shake this uncomfortable feeling. He stands, pausing just long enough to let Lothiriel loop her arm through his, before they make their way to one of the side doors of Meduseld.

Elphir frowns at them, but Lothiriel shakes her head, managing to ward off her oldest and stuffiest brother with a stern look.

“Honestly,” she grumbles, “our wedding is tomorrow. I cannot imagine what harm they think it will do now, for us to have a moment alone.”

Eomer snorts a laugh, despite his ill-humor. To say that Lothiriel’s three older brothers were over-protective would be an understatement of the biggest sort. In their nearly year-long betrothal, he and Lothiriel have had to scrape and scheme for any sort of privacy.

Not that they had ever truly needed it--they were not a love match, after all, and the privacy they sought was more to have conversations than exchange stolen kisses.

The slightly cool air of Edoras in summer is refreshing after the hall’s heat. Even in the dim light provided by the moon, the plains of the Mark stretch out before them, lush and green.

“It is very different than the sea,” Lothiriel says, abruptly, “but I think it lovely all the same.”

“You will not miss it?” He asks. Dol Amrothians love of the sea is one of their most well-known traits, and in this, Lothiriel is no exception.

“Of course I will,” she answers, turning her face towards his. “But its absence does not lessen Rohan’s beauty.”

“Nor do my people’s lack of refinement highlight the opposite in yours, I suppose,” he says, earlier irritation returning. She is not the right target for his displeasure, but he cannot help himself. His temper has always been one of the worst things about him, rising rapidly and choking out logical thought when truly stoked.

Lothiriel’s brows draw together in obvious confusion for a moment before something like realization dawns on her face. “Is that what you fear? That I will forever be comparing Rohan to Gondor?”

As soon as she says it, he hears how ridiculous the thought truly is. Lothiriel has been nothing but accepting of the differences in their cultures, of the traditions she has seen thus far before their wedding. “No. It is only…” He falters, feeling exceedingly foolish and not wanting to hurt her. Bema, he does not think he could forgive himself, were he to hurt her. She has been kind, and understanding, and--

Oh, Bema , he realizes, the true reason for his irrational anxiety dawning on him. I love her .

“Your life here will not be what it would have been, if you remained in Gondor,” he says, trying to keep his revelation from his voice. “We are more involved with labor, with nature, with--”

“Eomer,” she interrupts, gently, “I know all of this. And I have consented to being your wife and queen, with all of the roles that will entail.” She bites her lip, looking suddenly shy. “Have I done something to make you doubt me?”

“No!” Eomer says, reaching to take her hands in his. “Bema, Lothiriel, I am making a mess of this. I only--I had never thought to ask, if you were prepared, if you knew, if--”

Her brow furrows again and he’s struck, not for the first time, but certainly for the first time that he will admit it to himself, how beautiful she is. How precious.

“I should have asked you this, your first day in the Mark,” Eomer murmurs, trying to ignore the sudden spike in his pulse when she threads her fingers through his. “Could you be happy, here? With...with me?”

Lothiriel’s expression shifts from confusion to realization to exasperation rapidly, though Eomer is fairly certain he’s not mistaken in the tinge of fondness on her face as well.

“Eothain was right,” she says, “you are a fool.”

Eomer frowns. “I am trying to--”

She silences him with a finger to his lips. “You are a fool because you needn’t ask such a thing, Eomer! I would be happy in a midden, in a barren wasteland, in Mordor , of all places, as long as you were with me. And Rohan is certainly a step up from any of those.”

It is his turn to be confused. “I--I do not understand.”

Lothiriel huffs, beautiful even in her irritation. “Then let me put it in simple terms: I love you. If I had my way I would never be parted from you again. There is nothing anyone could offer me in Gondor that could change that.”

Eomer swallows. Words feel beyond him, but he thinks he may manage a hoarse, “What?”

Her face crumples, all earlier bravado gone. In a tiny voice, she says, “Even if you do not feel the same, I need you to know that I am honest in this--”

Oh, Bema, there are tears in her eyes and it aches, to see her so hurt.

“Eothain may be right,” he says, squeezing her hands until she lifts her head to meet his eyes, “that I am a fool. But I am not so much a fool as to not love you, Lothiriel.”

Her eyes widen. “You--you--”

“Love you,” he finishes, leaning down to press his forehead to hers, “and perhaps your brothers were right to worry, this time, for now I intend to kiss you.”

Lothiriel gives a tiny laugh, pressing upwards on her tiptoes and winding her arms around his neck. “I think you had better, Eomer King.”

 


 

(There are furious whispers amongst the Gondorian contingent the next day, of the King and now-Queen of Rohan being caught kissing like teenagers in one of Medusled’s gardens the night before.

“Young love,” Gandalf chuckles.

“Absolutely disgraceful,” murmurs Lady Adrahil, who was, should the truth be known, still rather miffed that Rohan’s King had not chosen her daughter as a bride.

“Thank Bema,” mutters Eowyn, smiling in spite of herself as a grumbling Eothain slides Faramir a stack of coins across the table.

“Another reason to prefer Rohan to Gondor,” Lothiriel whispers, teasing, her breath ghosting warmly over Eomer’s ear. “This would be a scandal for months there, rather than a cause for celebration.”

“Hm,” Eomer hums, grinning widely when she shivers against his side, “how bad would it be if I were to kiss you here and now?”

Lothiriel smiles. “Shall we find out?”

 


 

The gossip about the King and Queen of Rohan’s wedding lasts for three years, two months, and eight days after the fact in Gondor.

In Rohan, no one bats an eye. The King and Queen been caught at worse, now, after all.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Since the very first, Lothiriel has made it her mission to learn everything she can about Eomer. No, they had not married for love, but if he was to be the man that she would spend the rest of her life with, is it so very wrong of her to want to know him?

It does not help that he seems determined to remain unknowable , even after their wedding. And their wedding night ! And the many nights following, when they have been as close as it is possible for two people to be! He seems perfectly willing to share his bed with her-- and it should be said that she is not unwilling, either, because for all of his gruffness and his mighty temper, there is no denying that her husband is a very handsome man, and a good one, underneath it all--but everything else about him he keeps sealed up tighter than an oyster.

She suspects, much like an oyster, there is a treasure inside of her taciturn, stubborn husband. If only he would tell her!

At least she can say she has learned the physicality of him. She has spent many hours--likely more than she should--studying the planes of his face, the way his mouth curves in the smallest of smiles, as if it is against his will to do so. The way his eyes darken when they kiss, the overwhelming heat of his hands on her skin, the slight-but-not-unpleasant sting of his beard.

And the scars. Those fascinate her most of all.

It is not as if they are unexpected--she is the daughter of a war-time Prince, sister to three warriors, and cousin to a ranger. Lothiriel knows very well that such lives lend themselves to injuries and thus, scars. And it is very clear that Eomer’s life as a marshal has been no different.

Eomer does not like to talk about them--Eomer does not like to talk about most things, from what Lothiriel can tell--but she finds herself looking at them when his back is turned in their rooms, or when he is asleep beside her in the slowly dying light of the fire.

It is not that he is sharp with her, nor unkind. He is just...distant, though they spend most of their nights together. His answers--when she can eke them out of him--are short and to the point. Lothiriel does not mind, not truly; she has always liked puzzles, and her husband is the most intriguing puzzle she has ever faced.

 


 

“Eomer,” she murmurs, one night when he is very nearly asleep, face pressed against her collarbone. One of her hands is stroking through his hair--the full long length of it, made more golden than ever by the dim firelight and she feels absurdly envious--the other resting gently on his arm.

“Hm?” A customary response, similar to other times she has spoken--or tried to, anyways--to him like this.

“How did this come to be?” She asks, sliding her finger along the raised, curved edge of a scar on his shoulder.

He lifts his head to meet her eyes. Confusion, for once, is writ plainly on his often stoic face. “The scar?”

“Yes,” Lothiriel says.

“Why?”

Ridiculous man, she thinks, though it’s tinged with fondness, even now he cannot give me a straight answer! “Because I wish to know,” she says.

Eomer’s brow furrows. After a moment of silence, he finally murmurs, “An Orc’s arrow grazed me. I was sixteen.”

Frowning, she covers the scar with her hand. “That is so young, to be fighting Orcs.”

“Most Eorlingas do not have the luxury of long childhoods,” he says. “I joined my first eored at fifteen.”

At fifteen, Lothiriel had finally managed to convince Ada that she was old enough to ride along the shore with only two Swan Knights for guards. How different their lives have been!

“Was it very painful?” She asks, unable to keep herself from asking.

Eomer shifts, leaning his chin on his free hand while letting her keep her grip on his opposite arm and the scar there. “At the time, I thought it so. But I have endured worse since then.”

That makes her frown in the way Aunt Ivriniel always warned her against--deeply, with lines pulling at the corners of her mouth, oh, Lothiriel, you have wrinkles before you are thirty, if you keep making faces like that --and it is her turn to shift, rolling herself out from under him and turning on her side to meet his now very confused stare. Before he can ask what she’s doing, she stretches forward, replacing her hand with her mouth. The scar is puckered, strange feeling under her lips.

There , she thinks, all better .

“Lothiriel,” Eomer says, in a tone that she doesn’t recognize, “what was that for?”

Abruptly, her cheeks flood with color. It is a childish notion, and a silly one at that. To think that her kiss can heal a hurt over a decade old.

“In Gondor,” she says, looking away from his piercing, searching gaze, “when children are hurt, we tell them that a kiss can heal any ill. Or help heal it, anyways. I--it was foolish--”

Her words peter out. The silence is like a weight, pressing down on her chest. For all that she has tried--and wanted--to know her husband, perhaps he does not have the same interest, when it comes to her? Perhaps he really had just wanted someone to fill the role of Queen, to have an heir quickly and then be done with, like Lady Istoril had said--

Please, she thinks, I want to know you, and I want you to know me, we need not always be such strangers--

The sudden press of his thumb and forefinger around her chin makes her jump. “You are so kind,” he says, an even more unrecognizable tone in his voice. “So very kind, lȳtlu gesinge.

“I try to be,” Lothiriel stutters, unmoored by the softness in his expression. “I--you deserve kindness, Eomer, after all you have suffered--”

He snorts, and pulls her into his arms, mirroring their positions from before. “I deserve to be horsewhipped, for not speaking to you of this--of anything --more easily,” Eomer grumbles. “Words are not my strong suit, Lothiriel, but I have been miserly with them with you. I am sorry.”

Stunned and elated, all at once, she presses closer to him. Her hand brushes along his ribs as she moves. She feels another scar there, thin and jagged.

“You are forgiven,” Lothiriel says, “if you tell me the story behind this scar as well.”

Eomer’s lips turn up in the small smile she knows so well by now, but it looks anything but reluctant this time.

“Very well,” he agrees. “But it must receive the same treatment as the one before it.”

 


 

They are up very, very late. Eomer has almost too many scars to count, and words to go with them, now that she has pried them from him.

Just like I thought , Lothiriel thinks to herself as she yawns through the morning meal, just like an oyster.

Although she suspects that the treasure to be found within Eomer will be worth much more than a pearl.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Eomer is not a fool.

He knows, very well, that his betrothed is a beautiful woman. While the idiots in Minas Tirith may have never appreciated her, it’s clear, here and now in Dol Amroth, that she has no shortage of admirers. No matter how much she has--and will likely continue to--deny it.

There’s Lady Alycia’s younger brother, visiting from Umbar, with his wide smile and dark eyes, who has already laid claim to three dances. And he’s not alone--there is a veritable army of Pelargiarian lords, dark-haired and handsome and charming to the last, all clamoring for Lothiriel’s attention. Eothred, too, has not been shy about twirling Lothiriel about--but his marshal’s flirtations, unlike the rest, are harmless.

He also knows damn well that Lothiriel is only being polite. It is her duty, as a Princess of Gondor and the future Queen of Rohan, to accept all of the well wishes of her countrymen. But he certainly is not obligated to enjoy watching man after man lavish compliments on her, when he himself has only been able to look at her from across the wide expanse of Imrahil’s finest ballroom.

Lothiriel shoots him a fond, apologetic smile from across the room, clearly as unhappy with their somewhat forced separation as he is. She takes perhaps two steps in his direction before she’s waylaid by a grinning Amrothos, flanked on either side by two noblemen.

Eomer scowls as yet another Pelargirian lord bows over Lothiriel’s hand and presses a kiss to its back. The entirety of Gondor knows about their betrothal now. Amrothos, instead of being useful, has chosen to egg his countrymen on, trying to see which will be enough to raise Eomer’s considerable ire. It is a game, nothing more.

He will not give his almost brother-in-law the satisfaction. Bema knows enough of the Gondorians see his people as uncouth Northman--the last thing he needs to do is prove them right by striding across the room and laying hands on whatever lord that has decided to drip honey in Lothiriel’s ear. She would not be swayed by such a thing, anyways.

Gritting his teeth, he takes a deep sip of his ale.  It is too fruity, in comparison to Edoras’ own offerings, and only makes him long for home more.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate--it makes him long for Meduseld, yes, but also for the prospect of having Lothiriel all to himself, as his wife , far away from her meddling brothers and these charming Southern lords, where the only pair of lips she would have to concern herself would be his--

“How much do you know about Pelargirian dancing, Eomer?” Asks Lady Alycia.

In contrast to his near constant desire to strangle Amrothos, Eomer likes his soon-to-be sister-in-law very much. Alycia is as kind as Lothiriel has always said, and has a knack for heading off potential disasters before they can unfold. He suspects she’s had large amounts of practice with Amrothos and that is what has her speaking to him now. She has only known him a few weeks, but it is apparently enough time for her know that his mood is taking a turn for the worse. “Not much, my lady.”

“Oh,” she says.

Eomer has never heard a single syllable sound so ominous in his entire life.

“Oh?” He repeats.

Alycia attempts to rearrange her expression into something less amused, but there’s no mistaking the mischievous quirk of her mouth. “It is...very different than how the rest of Gondor dances. Likely different from your own traditions as well.”

Eomer frowns. “Different how ?”

A sudden murmur ripples through the crowd as a new song starts up. The music is unfamiliar--not string heavy in the way of the Mark’s, nor full of harps like Elvish music. Its rapid beat something else entirely.

“Amrothos,” Elphir groans, materializing beside his wife so abruptly that Eomer nearly flinches. “He cannot help himself, can he?”

“We both know that he cannot,” Alycia murmurs, tucking one arm into the crooks of both men’s elbows.

Lothiriel seems to share their sentiments, frowning mightily at her brother as he sweeps his arm in a dramatic bow in her direction. She accepts his hands nonetheless and Eomer can only blink in surprise when they whirl into a fast-paced dance.

This explains why she enjoys Rohirric dances so much , he thinks, smiling a little at the memory of dancing with her at Yule. All the dances he’s seen in Minas Tirith are much more sedate, compared both to what he’s accustomed to and the display happening now, but knowing what he does of Lothiriel’s Southernmost family, this sort of dancing seems fitting. Despite her earlier discomfort, it is obvious that Lothiriel is enjoying herself, laughing as a few other couples join them on the floor.

Both she and Amrothos are grinning, nearly identically, as they cross their arms over each others, into an intricate turn that draws appreciative murmurs from the crowd. Amrothos bends, allowing Lothiriel to all but roll herself along his shoulders, slipping her hand back into his with grace. Eomer himself is impressed--he’d have never pegged Amrothos for being so agile--or, he is at least until it becomes obvious that this dance involves switching partners.

Lothiriel is propelled from Amrothos’ brotherly embrace to the arms of one of the Pelargirian noblemen--Lord Donnion, his brain supplies, unhelpfully--where the dance continues. He is the sort of man that the majority of Dol Amroth, if not Gondor in its entirety, had likely imagined she would eventually marry. Tall, dark-haired, with the tanner skin of Southern Gondor, and lord in his own right of an impressive keep, if the court gossip is anything to go by. Certainly a more acceptable match than the King of the wild, cold Riddermark, so far removed from everything the majority of Gondorians consider good and decent--

And then the bastard has the audacity to dip her, causing another round of gasps as Lothiriel’s hair brushes the floor. Her cheeks are flushed, but whether in embarrassment or pleasure Eomer could not say.

Almost instantly after he thinks it, guilt creeps into his stomach. He cannot place his own insecurities and jealousies on Lothiriel’s shoulders. It is clear this is a Pelargirian dance, one she knows well, and she should be able to enjoy it without him ruining it by reverting some sort of barbarian who will not permit her to speak to any other man.

“You know,” Alycia says, pulling him from his dark thoughts with a gentle press of her fingers to his elbow, “much as Lothiriel enjoys the dances of Pelargir, I think they’ve been quite surpassed by Rohan’s in her eyes.”

Elphir’s sudden snort causes Eomer to arch an eyebrow in surprise--of all of Imrahil’s children, his eldest is the most proper, the most prone to traditional Gondorian mannerisms and actions. To make such an undignified noise is something he’d thought was beyond the future Prince of Dol Amroth. “An understatement if there ever was one, melanamin . Just last week I caught her in the gardens practicing some sort of footwork with a rake, of all things.” At this, he pitches his voice higher, in an admirable imitation of Lothiriel’s slightly accented Westron, “ Stop laughing, Elphir, this was the only thing I could find that was remotely Eomer’s size --”

That startles a laugh out of him, despite the still lingering prickle of jealousy.

“But even then, they are not her favorite thing from your beautiful country,” Alycia adds.

Eomer quirks an eyebrow. “What is, then?”

“What indeed,” she murmurs with a knowing smile.

Me , Eomer realizes. Which he knows , and has known for months now. It should not make him feel like a green youth, giddy with the blush of first love--and yet.

Here he stands. Giddy. And in love.

There’s a round of clapping, indicating the dance’s end. Lothiriel offers Lord Dollion a swift curtsy and nearly barrels directly into another lord in her haste to make her exit. She shoots a pitiful look in their direction-- help me is written across her face as clearly as if she had spoken it aloud.

“A distress call if I’ve ever seen one,” Alycia murmurs. “One of you, be a good gentleman and aid a lady in need.”

“I am quite comfortable where I am, thank you,” Elphir says, slipping an arm around his wife’s waist. “I leave the rescuing to the very capable king beside you."

Eomer huffs a laugh. "My thanks, Prince."

“All I ask in return is that you try to keep the maiming to a minimum,” Elphir says, “it’ll be a diplomatic quandary if I have to explain to my uncles in Pelargir why they’re suddenly short a dozen warriors.”

Alycia rolls her eyes at her husband’s antics--Eomer supposes he should have known Elphir would have the same mischievous streak as his siblings--and she releases his elbow gracefully. The crowd parts as he makes his way across the floor. Amrothos’s face is gleeful from where he stands beside the lord currently trying to claim Lothiriel’s attention. Lothiriel’s back is towards him, which is the only reason she gives a quite gasp in surprise when he takes her hand.

She turns her face to his, mouth open to scold whomever she had thought him to be. It snaps shut when Lothiriel realize it is him, and her face softens in a smile. He takes the opportunity to kiss the back of her hand, lingering longer than any Gondorian matron would deem appropriate.

“Hello, bryhitu cwen ,” he murmurs, grinning to himself when she shivers, “I believe you have need of me?”

“Eomer,” Lothiriel breathes, and he very nearly gives a shiver of his own, at how breathless her voice is. “I was just telling Lord Barandir that the Mark’s dances could give even the Pelargirians a trying time.”

“I do not believe it,” the other man--short, slim, with a nasal voice that immediately grates on Eomer’s nerves--says. “No dance can best the people of Pelargir!”

"And I was saying,” Lothiriel says, clearly reading the sudden flash of temper on his face at the hint of insult towards his country, “that we would be all too happy to give him a demonstration.”

Oh, Bema , he thinks, she truly is a wonder.

It doesn’t take much time to coax some of his riders into playing the music of the Mark. It takes even less time for Eowyn and Faramir--who looks far too amused by the entire situation--to join them, along with a few other couples.

But Eomer’s focus is not held by any of them--instead, he grins down at Lothiriel. Her hands are warm and small as ever in his. “Are you ready?” He asks.

Lothiriel smiles. “You are the only partner I have wanted all evening. So I think it is safe to say I am more than ready.”

There are numerous gasps--both appreciative and scandalized--the first time he lifts her. But they are nothing compared to the noise made when Eomer lowers her from the lift, not to the floor, but directly into his arms for a searing kiss.

 


 

(“I suppose I warned him about the wrong sort of diplomatic issue,” Elphir muses as a group of Gondorian ladies whisper behind their fans.

Eomer and Lothiriel, across the room, are unaware and uncaring, arms still locked around each other.

“So it would seem,” replies Alycia, smiling.)

 


 

Chapter Text


 

“Remind me again,” Eomer asks, breath hot and all-together-too-distracting along the shell of her ear, “why we’re doing this?”

Lothiriel, who is well aware that it is the dead of summer and they’re standing behind thick curtains of an outdoor theater, does not shiver. Not even a little bit, not even when Eomer shifts behind her as he ties the bow at the back of her dress, the heat of his hands making her skin itch with awareness.

“Because,” she says, “we made a promise.”

“A promise,” he grumbles, and she can’t help but smile at the gruffness of his tone, now that she knows him well enough to know it’s an act 97% of the time, “to four of the most devious kids I’ve ever known.”

“Don’t lump Sam and Frodo in with Merry and Pippin,” Lothiriel argues, turning to face him and hand him his mask all in one swoop, “they genuinely like the idea of a play.”

“Hmph,” Eomer snorts. “Or are at least better at looks of wide-eyed innocence.”

That, Lothiriel concedes, might be true.

Regardless, there’s no backing out of this now. Not when Sam shyly presents her with a flower-crown he’s clearly woven himself, or when Frodo emerges from the make-shift dressing room in the tiniest--and arguably most adorable--ceremonial robes she’s ever seen. Merry and Pippin are more comical than cute in their respective costumes, but their mops of curly hair and faces rounded with baby fat tip the scales back in their favor. Faramir and Eowyn, however, aren’t so lucky.

“Laugh all you want,” Eowyn grumbles, tugging at the long, scraggly grey wig that looks disturbingly like Gandalf’s beard, “but you two have the lead roles. Pressure’s on.”

Faramir, who is far too tall and broad to be the wizened old magic man he’s supposed to be, grins widely at Eomer’s long suffering groan. “It could be worse. They roped Eowyn and I into being Romeo and Juliet last year. But with zombies.”

Wait a minute , Lothiriel thinks. This is her first year at the camp as a counselor, after all, but she’s close enough to Faramir to remember him coming home the summer before on Cloud 9, muttering dreamily about the horse riding instructor, four wonderful boys from Hobbiton, and Shakespeare. The little devils are matchmaking, and it’s very apparent who this year’s targets are.

It...should bother her more. Eomer is her soon to be cousin-in-law, after all, and a good bit older than her, and is the complete opposite of any man she’s ever dated before. But he’s also incredibly gentle with the kids, as good of a brother to Eowyn as Lothiriel’s own are to her, smart, incredibly handsome, and--

Well, she’s really running out of reasons as to why she should mind that her campers have apparently noticed her not-so-pint-sized crush on him.

 


 

The first run through of the play is. Well.

It’s funny, above all else, because Pippin can’t remember his lines for the life of him--

“You fell victim to one of the most classic blunders--the most of which is ‘never get involved in a land war in...in…’

“Arda!” Merry hisses helpfully from just off-stage.

“Right!” Chirps Pippin.  “--in Arda, but the only slightly less well-known is this: “Never go in against a goblin--”

“--you’re not a goblin, Pip, you’re just a man--”

“But that’s boring , Merry!”

And the only thing funnier than watching a 10 year old bumble his way through lines from the Princess Bride would be watching Eomer (Westley), Gimli (Fezzick), and Legolas (Inigo) try to keep a straight face as he does so. But Lothiriel, as Princess Buttercup, is blindfolded, and has to content herself with making due with hearing the muffled laughter coming from stage-right. (It’s Aragorn, presumably, who has been entirely miscast as the Priest.)

The stage isn’t really made for some of the feats the boys so loved from the movie, but they do the best they can. The stage is entirely flat, but somehow Eomer manages to roll--rather dramatically, much to the enjoyment of the rest of the campers avidly watching from the benches--across it, groaning “As youuuu wissshh” as he goes.

Lothiriel flops herself down next to him, equally as dramatic, and has to bite back a smile when he leans himself over her. The kids gasp appropriately when he removes his mask. Lothiriel nearly does too, but not for the same reason. He’s even more handsome than usual, this close, and the brush of his hand over her cheek sets off a riot of butterflies in her stomach.

“I told you I would always come for you,” he says, and oh, that’s really not fair, not fair at all. “Why didn’t you wait for me?”

“Well,” she says, grateful that the waver in her voice is appropriate for this, “you were dead.”

“Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while,” he says, still looking a touch too smug for her taste because he knows , he obviously knows how much this is affecting her right now.

Valar help her, but if Pippin can go off script, why can’t she? So she kisses him before she can think better of it--which, hm, isn’t technically out of character, especially after a line like that--

Eomer’s tongue sweeping into her mouth is a shock, and a good one, and she could no more stop herself from curling her fingers into his hair than stop breathing--which, come to think of it, she just might, if he keeps kissing her like that--

“And I think it’s time for intermission!” Someone--vaguely, Lothiriel thinks it's Faramir, but she's too-lightheaded to be sure--cries.

Eomer lifts his head, looking as dazed as she feels. The sudden cacophony of noise filters back in around them--wolf whistles, cheers, squeals, all coming from the campers, oh Valar --

“Two for two, Merry!” Pippin is crowing. “I told you it was a good idea--”

“Shh, they’ll hear you,” Sam hisses. “And then we’ll never get the chance to put Legolas and Gimli in a play--”

Lothiriel stifles a laugh into Eomer’s shoulder.

“And you thought Sam and Frodo were innocent,” he grumbles.

“Do not,” she orders, poking him lightly in the chest, “say I told you so.”

Eomer grins. “As you wish.”

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Aragorn is smirking.

This, Eomer has come to learn, tends to bode ill for whomever the smirk is directed at. And given that the rest of their table has moved on to side conversations or moved off to mingle around the room, he can only assume he is the cause of the High King of Gondor’s amusement.

Wonderful.

“Stop making that face,” he hisses.

“Do you know,” Aragorn says, clearly ignoring him, “that I have had eight noblemen–three of whom served throughout the entire War–ask me to speak to you on their behalf?”

Eomer blinks, irritation lessening as surprise takes its place. “What? Why?”

“Why indeed,” Aragorn says. “It would seem, Eomer King, that you have a knack for appearing….less than open to discussions of potential brides.”

Eomer is aware of this. It had been his intention.

“And?” He asks.

“I told them you have long reminded me of the ocean,” murmurs Aragorn, turning his still-dangerous smirk out to the rest of the room.

That is perhaps one of the strangest things his friend has ever said to him. And Aragorn makes a habit of saying strange things. “Why the ocean?”

“Because,” at this, he turns back to grin at Eomer once more, “you, like the ocean, are rather salty and tend to scare people.”

“Aragorn–” Eomer starts to growl, but he’s interrupted by the sound of someone violently spluttering. He turns his head to see one of the Gondorian noblewomen hastily mopping at her nose. She’s dark-haired, like most of her countrywomen, and decked in the blue they all so favor. With her hand hiding most of her face from view, he can only make out her dark eyes that are most certainly dancing with amusement at his expense.

Bristling, he barks, “And I suppose that your father is one of these noblemen too afraid to speak to me in person?”

She moves her hand to reveal a wide, beautiful smile. “Not exactly, sire.”

He blinks, taken aback. “Then who–”

“Lothiriel,” a familiar voice exclaims, “are you alright?”

“I am fine, Ada,” the woman answers, holding out her other hand to meet Imrahil’s concerned one. “Our king just made a rather amusing observation while I was mid-sip.”

Oh, Bema, Eomer thinks. Of all the people to insult–

“My apologies, Princess Lothiriel,” Aragorn says, though he sounds far from apologetic.

She waves him off with another dazzling smile. “Think nothing of it, my lord. Though I think you do both Eomer King and the ocean a disservice.”

Eomer narrows his eyes at that, earlier guilt dissipating. Even he, knowing as little as he does of the intricacies of Gondorian society, knows that Dol Amrothians revere the sea above all others. The princess’s implication, however, does not sound complimentary.

“What is that supposed to–”

But the princess is standing, murmuring a polite excuse to both her father and Aragorn before dashing off to join her brothers across the ballroom.

“The ocean? And Eomer?” Imrahil is saying, as he takes his daughter’s seat. “What have you been saying, Aragorn?”

“Oh,” he says, flashing another dangerous smirk in Eomer’s direction, “nothing that isn’t true.”  

Eomer takes an angry sip of his ale. Damn these meddling Gondorians–king and princess alike, they have all been sent to vex him.

And what had she meant? Aragorn’s initial comparison was far from positive, but the princess’s follow-up had had an undeniable tone of mischief to it. Imrahil’s arrival has drawn Aragorn’s attention, thankfully, which leaves Eomer free to glare daggers at the back of the princess’s head.

She turns, seemingly sensing his stare, and offers him another smile and a quick flick of her fingers.

He decides, then and there, to get a full explanation before the night is out.

 


 

Lothiriel sighs, bringing her wine to her mouth for another sip. The cool, dark, quiet of the garden is a pleasant reprieve from the endless chatter inside. She enjoys parties, she always has, but this one is seemingly unending.

And it does not help that all of her brothers–even stoic Elphir and dependable Erchirion–have been dropping hints as to why it was so important that she not retire early.

“A husband,” she grumbles, swirling the wine around in its glass, “a captor, more like.”

There is a sudden snort to her right and she jumps nearly a foot.

A tall figure emerges from the shadows–even though they have never officially met, there is no mistaking the King of Rohan’s broad shoulders, or his absurdly long blonde hair.

“Oh!” She cries. “Ah–good evening, my lord.”

“Is it?” He asks. “Because I have found myself insulted. More than once.”

Lothiriel is grateful for the dark, because it lessens the chance that he can see her flush to the roots of her hair. Oh, she had not meant to be so rude earlier, but she has heard tale of how prickly Eomer King is when it comes to the suggestion of marriage, and Aragorn’s comparison had been too funny not to remark on!

Though, as she said earlier, not entirely accurate. Eomer King is nothing like the ocean, or at least, nothing like the ocean she knows.

“That must be the famous Rohirric straight-forwardness,” she says, hiding her embarrassment with a quick quip. As is her way, no matter how many times poor Ada has tried to train it out of her. “I had always thought my brothers to be exaggerating when they spoke of it–”

“My people,” he interrupts, the sound of him gritting his teeth obvious, “are not prone to mincing their words or speaking in riddles. If you have a problem with me, my lady, I would hear it plainly.”

She can feel herself flush deeper. “You are not like the ocean at all,” she blurts. “The ocean is–is changeable, and cold, and intimidating, surely, but it is not frightening–”

“You…were defending me?” He asks, seemingly bewildered.

“In a way,” Lothiriel admits, voice tiny. “Aragorn should not blame you for being reluctant to deal with meddling fathers seeking to find an advantageous match for their daughters. We cannot all be so lucky as to have a beautiful Elven spouse.”

Eomer blinks at her. “I do not understand. We…we have never met–”

“My father and brothers speak highly of you,” she says, nervously twisting the glass around in her hand. “And I myself have been known to be less than welcoming to the idea of a spouse being chosen for me by some…some courtier who could care less about what I want or how I feel or–”

The shock of his large, calloused hand closing around her startles her into silence.

“I think,” he says, and Valar, his voice is so deep, his eyes dark and serious and sincere, even in the low light, “we understand each other in this, princess.”

She smiles, somehow, and feels her anxiety dissipate when he smiles back.

“I am glad,” Lothiriel says. And finds that she is.

She could, after all, do worse things than befriend a king. Even one as un-ocean-like as Eomer of Rohan.

 


 

Later, when they’re betrothed, he thinks to ask her.

“If not the ocean,” he murmurs, lips pressed close to her ear, “then what do I remind you of?”

Lothiriel shivers and pinches his hand lightly where it rests at her waist. “Eomer, of all things–”

“I asked you a question, Lothiriel,” he says, emboldened by the way that she fails to lean away from him, even with the disapproving eyes of her brothers on them.

She sighs, but the smile tugging at her lips ruins her attempts at exasperation. “The ocean is not an apt comparison for you. The sun, on the other hand…”

“The sun? Why the sun?”

“Oh, you know,” Lothiriel says, her own hand splaying in a very interesting way at the dip of his spine, “bright, entirely too warm for its own good, full of hot air–”

He kisses her before she can elaborate more.

Across the hall, Aragorn smirks.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Lothiriel sighs happily as the wind blows her hair into messy tangles. It is the first time she has been back to Dol Amroth since her marriage, and she has missed the sea more than she can possibly express.

“Nothing like this in Rohan, eh, Loth?” Crows Amrothos, from his perch near mid-mast.

“Oh, I don’t know,” she calls back, “Rohan makes up for it in other ways.”

At that, she turns a teasing look towards her husband--who’d been such a stranger when they’d wed, but is now her dearest friend, her confidant, the man she loves--only for all mirth to be sapped away at the sight of him.

Eomer--usually straight-backed and even-faced at every challenged--currently is hanging on to the side of the sailboat with an iron grip, his face nearly as white as the deck of the boat. No, Lothiriel realizes, as she hurries towards him, he’s not white but green .

The reason why becomes quickly apparent as the boat gives another lurch as they pass over a wave.

“Oh,” she cries, kicking herself as she takes him in. “Oh, Eomer, I am sorry!”

He acknowledges her with the smallest of nods. She presses a hand to his forehead and winces at the sweat she finds there--it is far from a hot day, and the wind is pleasantly brisk. Neither thing has been helping him battle what appears to be very intense sea-sickness.

“Erchirion!” She calls. “Turn the boat!”

Her brother’s head pops up from behind the wheel. He takes one look at Eomer and winces, before complying with her request. Immediately, the rocking sensation of the boat lessens.

“Looking a bit green, Eomer King!” Amrothos yells down.

Eomer makes a very rude hand gesture in his direction, but given his still pale face--and the fact that Amrothos is the biggest nuisance she knows--Lothiriel finds herself unable to scold him. Instead, she smooths one hand over his back in a gentle motion, reaching to apply pressure at his wrist.

He tries to shake her off and she frowns.

“Eomer, this will help,” she says, gently. “Trust me.”

Elphir appears with the anchor. “We’ll stop for a while, until his stomach is settled. I’d hate to have to explain to Gamling why the King of Rohan expired from seasickness on our boat.”

He receives the same hand gesture as Amrothos had and Elphir chuckles as he tosses the anchor overboard.

“I am so sorry, meleth ,” she says again, feeling wretched. “I did not think--”

“Hardly your fault,” he says, nausea having apparently passed enough that he feels comfortable attempting speech. “I felt sick the minute we left the dock, but I didn’t want to call your damned brothers’ attention to it.”

Lothiriel smiles, softly, the guilt receding. “They will tease you about it for some time, I imagine.”

Eomer snorts. “Until I die or they do, most likely.”

He’s relaxed out of his ramrod posture, leaning on her the slightest bit as her brothers bustle around them, clearly digging out their supplies for lunch. Once she’s certain he’s not on the verge of being sick any longer, she gently leads him to the long bench across the back of the boat.

“Wine?” Erchirion offers, holding a full glass towards her.

Lothiriel accepts it eagerly but Eomer winces, clearly not overly enthused at the thought.

“You do need to eat something,” Elphir cautions. “We have some very plain crackers, if you’d like.”

“They’re the first choice of all landlubbers with upset stomachs,” adds Amrothos. “Even kings.” Lothiriel glares at him--they have all been seasick at least once, it is not as if Eomer is some sort of oddity for being so--and Amrothos holds his hands up in a placating gesture. Her brothers keep up a steady stream of chatter as they eat, whereas Eomer remains mostly quiet, one arm tucked around her waist and the other holding his half-eaten cracker.

“Well, lads,” Amrothos declares, once the first bottle of wine has been finished, “I think it’s time for a swim.”

Erchirion and Elphir both grin. In no time at all, they’ve all stripped out of their shirts and shoes. Lothiriel casts her husband a look from under her eyelashes--he’s still rather focused on keeping the cracker down, from what she can tell. Appealing as the water looks, it feels wrong to leave him alone.

Amrothos hurls himself in with a loud whoop . Erchirion follows in a graceful dive. Elphir, though, pauses, giving them a thoughtful look. “Are you two coming?”

Eomer grimaces and Lothiriel has her answer. “No,” she says. “We’ll just enjoy the shade.”

Elphir shrugs, but shoots Lothiriel a conspiratorial wink before he jumps in. As soon as he’s overboard--and out of sight--Eomer lets out a sigh of relief, moving over on the bench until he can comfortably lay down with his head in her lap.

“Poor love,” she says, combing his hair back from his face.

“I know you want to swim,” he grumbles, the sound slightly muffled by the fabric of her skirt, “and I know how you have missed it. You should not have to stay and tend to me--”

“Eomer,” Lothiriel interrupts, “when have you ever known me to do something I do not want to?”

He’s silent for a moment before saying, “Never.”

“Mm,” she hums. “So it stands to reason that if I am sitting here, tending to my poor, seasick husband, and not in the water with my troublesome, meddling brothers…?”

“Then you are where you want to be,” he finishes, turning his head so he can meet her gaze. “Bema knows why.”

Valar, it overcomes her sometimes. How handsome he is, how good, how brave. “Because I love my poor, seasick husband,” Lothiriel answers, brushing her fingers along his bearded cheek.

Eomer smiles, soft and slow,  in the way he only ever seems to save for her. She leans down to kiss him--just a gentle press of lips that only begins to express the overwhelming affection she feels for him.

Lothiriel huffs a laugh against his mouth when his hand slides into her hair, turning the kiss from something sweet and casual to one with more than a hint of promise for later, when they aren’t on a boat, surrounded by water and her annoying brothers.

“The water can’t give me that,” she says, once he’s released her.

“More pity for the water,” Eomer teases. He sits up--a little gingerly, it must be said--and then tucks his arm around her once again. “I think I will take some of that wine now.”

She pours them both generous glasses, and snuggles more comfortably against his side.

 


 

“Oh, gross ,” groans Amrothos.

“You are such a child, Amrothos,” Elphir retorts. “It is a good thing that they care for each other.”

“Yes,” Erchirion agrees, smiling at the picture Lothiriel and Eomer make: curled against each other, asleep in the late afternoon sun. “But we have a bigger problem.”

“A bigger problem than our baby sister canoodling with her Rohirric warrior husband on my ship?” Amrothos scoffs.

“Much more dire,” Erchirion says. “For our baby sister and her Rohirric warrior husband have drank all of the wine.”


 

Chapter Text


 

Lothiriel loves her brothers. And her cousins, too.

Enough that she’s willing--or, mostly willing--to allow herself to be very abruptly dragged to a concert out in the middle of nowhere. The crisp, cool air makes her shiver and very glad for the wooly headband around her ears. But Boromir has brought heavily-spiked cider, which he passes to her with a wink once they’ve exited the car, and Faramir lets her tuck herself against his side good-naturedly, even as Amrothos teases her about her aversion to the cold.

(Alright. Sometimes she loves her cousins more than her brothers.)

“It’s barely chilly, Loth, honestly,” he says, poking her cheek.

“It’s cold enough,” she grumbles as they trudge their way along the winding dirt road to what appears to be the concert venue: a large barn, adorned in twinkly lights, and with about 12 ramshackle vans parked out front.

EDORAS STABLES TALENT SHOW: ONE NIGHT ONLY reads the large banner over the doorway. At this, she turns narrowed eyes on Faramir, and is rethinking that she loves him best.

“You told me this was a concert,” Lothiriel says.

“It is,” Faramir answers, unruffled. “Of a sort.”

‘Of a sort’ means his not-so-secret girlfriend’s band is performing, and he’d agreed to bring them all for both support and an impromptu meet-and-greet. Which she can’t really blame him for--she wouldn’t want to introduce anyone to her family with the menacing, disapproving gargoyle that was her uncle hovering in the background either--but she wishes she’d known .

“I look like--like an idiot, ” she grumbles, “all bundled up like this, she’s going to think I’m some kind of baby--”

“Eowyn,” Boromir interrupts with a dangerously dimpled smile, “doesn’t put much stock in appearances, Lothiriel. I can promise you that.”

“Is that an insult to my good looks?” Faramir asks drolly.

“She may not, but I’ve heard all of those blokes she plays with are a handsome bunch,” Amrothos says cheerfully. “So it’s probably best that I stand out as the best looking sibling, instead of you.”

“There’s no chance of that,” adds Elphir, “you’re only the third best-looking sibling on the best of days, Am.”

This, of course, results in a scuffle, despite the fact that Elphir is in his mid-thirties and Amrothos is a good head shorter than him.

“Idiots,” Lothiriel grumbles, though not without fondness. “And more cider, Boromir, if you please.”

 


 

She’s two full cups deep before the first group goes on and feels slightly warmer. It’s hard not to smile at the sheer cuteness of the tiny brother-sister duo performing, even if they forget a few chords and stumble over a few words in their enthusiasm. They’re followed by a truly bizarre, if amusing, rendition of Beren and Luthien on an accordion, and then there’s a fantastic fiddler that she wishes had played for a bit longer.

The next singer has a beautiful voice--the songs are all Rohirric, of course, but lovely all the same. Lothiriel likes it very much, and leans her head on Erchirion’s shoulder, who nudges her.

“See?” He says, gently. “Not so bad.”

“Not so bad,” she agrees.

She quickly finds herself revising that statement, because the next band that comes on is. Is. Well. They’re not bad , per se, but Lothiriel’s never been a particular fan of….whatever sort of music it is they’re playing. The lead singer--a very pretty woman with a veritable waterfall of blonde hair--has a good voice, and the guitarists--equally handsome and blonde--are good too, but there’s just….something about it that she doesn’t like. There’s a bassist, too, darker-haired than the rest, and in the back she can just make out the drummer, banging somewhat nonsensically on the drums. It’s rock, she thinks, but with some sort of local twist, and she can’t follow it.

She opens her mouth to ask what the song--and the audience, for that matter--could have possibly done to be tortured in such a manner when she catches the look on Faramir’s face.

It’s completely twitterpated, complete with slightly flushed cheeks and starry eyes.

She looks to Boromir, who snorts a laugh into his cider before giving her a small nod, confirming what she suspects--the beautiful blonde wailing into the microphone is none other than Faramir’s girlfriend.

“Oh,” Lothiriel mutters, “oh, Valar.”

“Remember, when they ask if you liked the music,” Boromir whispers, “say yes.”

 


 

The band-- the Riders of Rohan --has the longest set thus far, and Lothiriel’s ears are ringing by the end of it. She excuses herself to “get some fresh air”, and it’s a mark of how much cider the rest of them have had that not one of them questions her. The light has faded outside to the prettiness of twilight and she takes a deep breath of cool air to clear her head.

“You alright?” Asks an impossibly deep voice.

Lothiriel jumps, whirling around to find the source. It’s--Valar--a very tall, broad-shouldered, nearly insultingly handsome man. Who is most certainly Rohirric, with long blonde hair, and is also, bafflingly, in only a t-shirt and jeans, and what appears to be a pair of very sturdy work boots.

“Fine,” she answers, softening her short answer with a smile. “Just wanted to get a bit of fresh air.”

“It does get stuffy in there,” he agrees, with a soft smile of his own. “You here for the show?”

“I’d hardly been in a stable in the middle of Rohan otherwise,” Lothiriel answers, and then winces as his face shutters at the unintended rudeness. “Sorry--I--that’s not to say it isn’t a very lovely stable, or that Rohan isn’t nice, I just--I’m not good with the cold--”

“And yet you still came outside,” he interrupts, stormy expression veering dangerously into smirk territory. It shouldn’t be attractive--Lothiriel’s never been one for teasing from any men outside her brother and her cousins--and yet.

“It’s peaceful out here,” she says, blushing even though it’s not technically a lie. “My ears were ringing a bit.”

He nods, mercifully no longer offended. “I keep telling them the acoustics are a bit...off. It’s a stable. Not a concert hall.”

“Yes!” She cries, realizing what had been troubling her during the last set. “I couldn’t pinpoint it, but that’s exactly it.”

“You like music, then?” He asks.

Lothiriel nods. “Very much! I sing, a bit.”

His smirk has softened back into a smile and Lothiriel finds that she prefers it that way. “What do you sing?”

So she tells him, forgetting to be nervous in the face of his earnest, uncomplicated questions--so she can sing but can’t play an instrument, but has she ever tried? What were her favorite sort of genres, favorite bands? No, he hadn’t heard of them, but he’d happily give them a try, if she’d try out some of his favorites. Alright, yes, Gondorian music was decent, but she really should give Rohirric folk a chance, if she wanted something really different--

At some point, she’d shivered, despite how much she was enjoying the conversation. He’d frowned before pulling a flask from his back pocket. “This’ll help you warm up,” he says, “if you’d like.”

“Normally, I wouldn’t accept alcohol from strange men,” she says, snagging the flask anyways, “but seeing as how any fan of Prancing Ponies can’t be anything other than a good person…”

He laughs as she takes a swig. The taste is sweeter than she’d expected, but with a lovely burn at the end. “Wow,” she says, blushing slightly at the sudden husky quality of her voice. “That’s delicious.”

“Rohirric whiskey,” he says, though she doesn’t think she’s imagining that he’d had to take a gulp of his own before he’d answered.

Lothiriel’s not usually one for things like this--having 3 over-protective brothers and 2 nosy cousins tends to put most men off, after all--but the combination of the cider, the whiskey, and the way this handsome, funny, kind man is looking at her makes her want to be bold. So she takes another deep sip before slipping the flask into her own back pocket.

She steps closer, gently taking one of his hands with hers. “You must be cold, too.”

He huffs a laugh. “Really, really not.”

“That’s a shame,” she says, ignoring the sensation of her heart in her throat, “because I was going to offer you a taste to hel--”

He’s kissing her before she can finish the sentence. Lothiriel would be embarrassed, if she could think of anything outside of the incredibly warm press of his skin when she slides her hands up his arms, or the sensation of strong, nimble fingers in her hair, and the sinful slide of his teeth along her neck. She’s not sure how he managed it, but she’s pressed up against the side of the barn, her legs around his waist, and this is a terrible, horrible idea, because her brothers are inside and she doesn’t even know his name--

But then his mouth is back, at the bend of her neck, and Lothiriel decides not to worry about any of that for a while.

At least, she does until there’s a sudden flurry of cheering from inside, followed by a bellowed, “Eomer! Eomer, get your arse in here, we’ve won!”

And he--Eomer, she supposes, a handsome name for a handsome man--pulls back to meet her surely flushed face with a dazed expression.

“I--I have to go--”

“It’s fine. Really,” she says, trying to keep the disappointment from her voice, “and congratulations by the way, Eomer.”

He huffs another laugh, gently lowering her back to her feet. His friend--whoever it is--is yelling for him again, but he helps her tuck her hair and jacket back into a less disheveled state before stepping back. “I should have asked, but,” at this he swallows, reaching up to run a gentle finger along her cheek, “what’s your name?”

“Lothiriel,” she says, relieved.

Eomer Eorlsson I will skin you alive if you don’t appear in the next five--

“Lothiriel,” he says, and she’s fairly certain her name has never, ever, sounded so good. “I’ll remember that.” And he kisses her again, quick and sweet, before dashing off towards his friend’s voice.

Lothiriel sighs, letting her head hit the side of the barn with a thunk .

 


 

Once she’s composed herself--with maybe a sip or two more of whiskey, who could blame her?--she ventures back inside. Boromir raises an eyebrow, but lets herself tuck against his side without complaint.

“Get enough fresh air?” He asks, in deeply suspicious tones.

“Yep,” she chirps. “Just the right amount!”

“And now we’d like to congratulate this year’s winners--”

“It’s rigged!” Someone crows, but there’s a round of good-natured laughing, so Lothiriel assumes it’s an old joke.

“To the Riders of Rohan ! Thank you again for a wonderful show!”

There’s whistles and cheers throughout the whole barn, but no one louder than Faramir. Lothiriel is too busy smiling at her cousin’s obvious happiness to take much note of the other bandmembers as they accept their prize-- however questionably deserved , she thinks, though not unkindly.

In fact, it’s not until Eowyn has launched herself into Faramir’s waiting arms that she thinks to look at the rest of the band. The two guitarists are introduced as Elfhelm and Eothain, the bassist as Theodred, Eowyn’s older cousin, and the drummer--

“Oh,” she squeaks as Eomer steps into view.

Numerous pairs of questioning eyes turn on her. Eomer looks equally gobsmacked.

“Have...you two met?” Elphir asks, sounding baffled.

“Er--”

“We--”

“Oh ho,” one of the guitarists--Eothain, she thinks--says, looking worrisomely amused, “I think we’ve found the reason why Eomer was gone so long after our set, lads.”

 


 

There’s a lot of yelling--mostly of the amused, happy variety--and no shortage of drinks before Lothiriel has the chance to talk to Eomer.

“You forgot something,” she says.

Eomer smiles, leaning against the door of one of the paddocks. “I certainly did.”

She pulls the flask from her pocket before he can say anything else and presents it with a sheepish expression. “This looks very nice. I wouldn’t want to keep it from you.”

Eomer laughs again, gently, and she twists her foot in the dirt to keep from looking at him. “Alright, apparently I forgot two somethings.”

She crinkles her nose at that, confused. She didn’t remember him handing her anything else--

“The flask,” he says, taking it from her with one hand and tugging her closer to him with the other, “and your number, Lothiriel. How else am I supposed to be sure you get a proper musical education?”

She tucks her face away against his shoulder, feeling happy enough to burst.

Alright , she thinks, maybe the music wasn’t so bad, after all.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

“You have no one to blame but yourself,” Eowyn says, smugness apparent in every word.

Eomer, sitting with his arms crossed in the cramped back seat of her car, rolls his eyes. “Not true. I can absolutely still blame you for this.”

His sister, turns her head--an impressive feat, considering the pointy pink elf hat perched on top of her hair--and smirks, full mega-watt, into his face. “After twenty-odd years of being my brother, you should know better than to bet against me when it comes to football.”

Which is...a fair point. But that doesn’t mean he has to like it.

“It could be worse,” Faramir adds, though from what Eomer can see of his face in the rear-view mirror, he’s grinning too, “you, at least, don’t have to wear tights.”

Eowyn frowns at him. “You said you didn’t mind!”

Faramir lifts her hand to press a kiss to its back, clearly ignoring Eomer’s noise of disgust at the show of affection. “And I don’t. But I have to admit, they’re not the most comfortable thing I’ve ever worn.”

Eomer can only agree when they manage to all unfold themselves out of the car--Faramir’s a good bit shorter than him, of course, but still tall enough that his legs look both absurdly long and strange in the bright yellow tights. Personally, Eomer doesn’t quite understand how Buddy the Elf qualifies as a Halloween outfit and not a Christmas one, but his ego and shoulder have already taken a bruising because of the outfit his sister has forced him into, and he’s not willing to face more of Eowyn’s wrath by asking.

Eowyn tucks her arm through Faramir’s and reaches back with her other hand to adjust Eomer’s jacket. “Try to at least look like you’re enjoying yourself, won’t you?”

“No promises,” Eomer grumbles, but he follows them up the pumpkin-lined path leading to Boromir and Theodred’s house. The sight of the jack-o-lanterns makes his palms sweat, which is ridiculous and embarrassing, all at once. Glad that Eowyn and Faramir are facing away from him, he scrubs a hand over his face, willing himself to calm down.

It’s just a party , he reminds himself.

They can hear the music before the door is open and Eomer forces himself not to grimace. But he’s agreed to be here, knows it makes Eowyn happy that he is, and besides, it’s a bit late to back out. It’s not as if he can walk around in public, considering the way he’s dressed.

“Come in!” Someone--he thinks possibly Boromir--yells. So they do.

The scene that greets them is happy chaos; the house is packed to the brim with friends and family, all decked out in their Halloween best. Merry and Pippin appear to be Mario and Luigi, who are clearly battling Sam and Frodo--who are a little more sedately dressed as a pair of M&Ms--in beer pong. Boromir gives them a wave, recognizable even with the long blonde wig on his head. Now that’s a costume Eomer could have happily worn--it’s not a bad thing to dress up as Thor, or any other superhero, but this--

“It wasn’t my choice,” Eomer grumbles, tugging at the front of his jacket as one of Faramir’s archery buddies offers his dubious compliments.

“Oh, no doubt of that,” Theodred agrees. “Just wait until you see who you match, cuz.”

Eomer turns accusatory eyes on Eowyn and Faramir, both of whom look abruptly--and unconvincingly--innocent. “Who?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Eowyn says. “Oh, look, Aragorn and Arwen are here!”

Hearing their names, the other couple walks--or rather, Aragorn walks as Arwen glides effortlessly beside him--over. Aragorn’s hair has been slicked into some semblance of elegance and Eomer can only arch an incredulous eyebrow at the red checkered robe and the strange curl to his mustache. Though, once he’s been able to look more closely at Arwen, it makes sense--much as he loathes Halloween, even he recognizes the long-sleeved dark dress, pale makeup, and red lips as Morticia Addams.

“Festive,” Aragorn says, grinning at all of them. “Though I have to say, I thought Hell would freeze over before I’d ever see Eomer dressed as a Disney prince.”

“Don’t remind me,” Eomer groans.

“I think you look nice,” Arwen says, in that sincere way of hers. “The hair helps, of course.”

“Exactly!” Eowyn chirps, brightly.

“And I think I’ve seen your princess around, somewhere,” says Aragorn.

“My what --”

“Oh, you made it!” A familiar voice cries.

The group turns in unison towards the sound. Eomer thinks his brain may make an audible noise of incomprehension, because Lothiriel is hurtling herself into Faramir’s arms with a happy yell. Lothiriel, whose wide yellow dress and dark coiled hair leaves absolutely no doubt about who she’s supposed to be.

Beauty and the Beast , he thinks sourly, more annoyed at Eowyn than ever as she makes her way around the circle for hello’s, as cheerful and sweet per usual. Fitting .

“Hello, Eomer, how--” And she stops, eyes widening as she takes him in. “Oh.”

Eomer snorts. None of their friends have been particularly subtle about trying to matchmake the pair of them, but this is the most blatant attempt so far. “Not my idea,” he assures her.

If he didn’t know her so well, he thinks he might have missed the way her face crumples, just a bit, before she forces a smile. “Of course not. I know you don’t like Halloween.”

“S’not so bad,” he says, because nothing is guaranteed to make him feel like an ass as much as Lothiriel Prince directing hurt puppy-dog eyes in his direction. She brightens a little at that and he’s forced to admit that her costume--and its meaning--fits her well. Lothiriel is beautiful, always has been, and he’d probably have asked her out for real ages ago, if it wasn’t exactly what every single one of their meddling friends wanted him to do.

Eowyn’s smirk is shark-like and dangerous, but he ignores it in favor of offering Lothiriel his elbow--she’s drinkless, currently, and he is too, and they could probably both benefit from rectifying that particular situation as quickly as possible. Lothiriel’s smile widens and she lets him escort her--as if they are the characters their costumes suggest instead of a racehorse trainer and a med student--to the bar.

“Be honest,” he says as she grabs them both cups, “how ridiculous do I look?”

Lothiriel huffs a laugh, pouring a generous amount of rum into their drinks. “I think it would take something much worse than that to ever make you look ridiculous , Eomer.”

He blinks, surprise shifting into full on shock--she’s flirting . With him .

(Which isn’t a first, of course, but it’s a first when they’re dressed in a pretty damn obvious couples’ costume.)

“Well then,” he asks, willing his hands not to shake when he takes the offer drink from her, “what do you think would do the trick?”

Her smile curls into something mischievous and the urge to kiss her flares to an almost painful point of want somewhere in his gut. “Oh, I don’t know,” she says, in a tone that suggests she absolutely does know. “Maybe that charming Peter Pan ensemble from grade school?”

He can feel his face heat in a blush-- damn Eowyn, he’d told her to never, ever show those pictures to anyone--and he gulps down a large swig of his drink. “Remind me to throttle my sister.”

“Wrong culprit, I’m afraid,” she answers, taking a sip of her own. “Though I think that might only be because Theodred beat her to it.”

Eomer groans. “Of course he did.”

“Don’t worry,” she says, threading her arm through his and smiling up at him, “your secret is safe with me.”

Trouble , he thinks, I’m in such trouble .

 


 

The party is still in full swing, hours later, and Eomer has escaped outside for a few minutes of peace and quiet. The cool darkness of Boromir and Theodred’s backyard is a welcome reprieve--he’d been alright as long as Lothiriel had been with him, happy to listen to her tell him about her classes and trade stories of friends and family alike, but she’d gotten swept up in some sort of Halloween competition between Legolas and Gimli and he’d felt...uneasy in the way that only Halloween makes him, standing alone.

He relaxes into the chair, focusing on the stars above him as he takes another long sip of his drink.The back door slides open and shut just as quickly, just a murmur of the party inside reaching him as it does so.

Sighing to himself--it’s probably Theodred, or Eowyn, coming to check on him, he says, “I’m fine, just wanted some fresh air--”

“Me too,” comes the response and he nearly hurts himself shooting into a sitting position. Because it’s not his cousin or his sister that drops into the chair beside him, but Lothiriel herself. Her hair is a little disheveled, the tiny golden crown slightly askew, and his hands itch with the effort of not tucking it back into place.

“Sorry about abandoning you,” she says. “It’s hard to say no to Gimli when he’s in that mood.”

Eomer snorts. “An understatement if there ever was one.”

They sit in companionable silence for a moment.

Then he’s aware of slim, soft fingers fitting around his. “Eomer?”

“Hm?”

“You don’t have to tell me,” she says, hesitancy clear in her tone, “but I was wondering--have been wondering for ages, actually--why is it that you hate Halloween?”

He swallows, throat suddenly dry. “It’s ah. Not really a fun story for a party, Lothiriel.”

Her fingers tighten around his. “I don’t mind.”

He turns his palm up to meet hers and relaxes, minutely, when she doesn’t pull away. “Eowyn was too small to remember it, but Halloween was...was when they told us my dad had been killed in action.”

He can make out Lothiriel’s small noise of distress but he continues on, gritting his teeth. “I was dressed up like a soldier, too--Bema, how stupid I was, wanting to be just like him, reckless and brave and a damn fool--”

He can still remember it, so vividly--the knock at the door, the sound his mother had made when they’d told her, the brightly lit jack-o-lanterns looking more like goblins than friendly decorations in the background--

“You were a child,” she whispers. “Eomer, you were a little boy and he was your father . Of course you’d want to be like him.”

Eomer presses at his eyes with his free hand. He hasn’t cried about this in years , hasn’t talked about it in nearly as long, and the prospect of her seeing him like this--so...so...weak is mortifying--

Lothiriel’s hand leaves his and he wants to kick himself. Of course she was going to pull away from a grown man who cries at a party over a man who’s been dead for the better part of twenty years. But then she’s climbing into his lap, swinging her legs over the left arm of the chair and pressing his face into the crook of her neck. “I’m sorry,” she says, stroking a hand through his hair, “I’m so sorry, Eomer, and even more sorry I agreed it would be a good idea to make you come tonight--”

“You couldn’t have known,” he mumbles, feeling less unmoored with her anchoring him to the here and now.

“Well, I know now,” Lothiriel says, stubbornly. “Do...we can leave, if you want? I’ll think of an excuse to tell everyone, they’re probably too drunk to notice much, anyways.”

But the pressing, painful sensation is fading, bit by bit, the longer they sit in the peace and quiet. “No,” he finally says. “I’m alright. I think I’ll stay outside for a bit longer, though.”

He expects her to nod, to unwind herself from him now that he’s not so embarrassingly distressed, but instead Lothiriel snuggles closer, settling more comfortably against him with her head on his shoulder. “Alright. I will, too.”

“Lothiriel,” he says. She’s one of the most social people he knows, and he knows she’s been looking forward to this party all year. “You--you don’t have to, I’ll be fine--”

“I know I don’t have to,” she interrupts, lifting her head enough to meet his eyes. “But I’d like to, all the same.”

There’s not much he can say to that. So he tucks a still trembling arm around her waist and breathes in the sweet, rose-scent of her hair.

“Eomer?” She murmurs, after a few moments of silence. “Thank you. For trusting me with that.”

It hits him, abruptly, that there is no one else he would have admitted such a thing to. And that despite Eowyn’s meddling, he probably should ask her out, for that reason alone. But that’s too much to even attempt vocalizing right now. So he settles for lifting her hand up to his mouth to press a kiss to her palm. Her answering kiss to his neck would be nothing short of hot any other time, but he recognizes it for what it is for now: one of comfort.

 


 

Soft, warm light is the first thing Eomer is aware of. That and the weight of something equally soft, and warm, pressing against him. His neck is twinging a bit uncomfortably, body stiff from sleeping mostly sitting up, but--

The sound of a yawn pulls him to full awareness and he finds Lothiriel looking sheepishly up at him. “Good morning,” she says, subdued as he’s ever heard her.

Eomer can’t help but smile at her--she’s still beautiful, rumpled as she is--and he shifts her weight a bit, trying to bring sensation back to his leg. “Morning.”

“I’m sorry,” she mumbles, not meeting his eyes. “Your poor leg--”

“It’s a small price to pay for ruining your evening,” he promises.

At that, Lothiriel’s expression turns fierce. “Ruining my evening? Are--are you joking?”

He blinks at her. “Well, I’d hardly say I improved it--”

She makes an adorably frustrated noise. “Listen to me, Eomer Eorlsson, and listen closely. I’m glad you told me what was bothering you so much, and I’m glad I could help in some small way--a Halloween party doesn’t compare to that at all, you absolute--”

He’s kissing her before he can stop himself, hands gentle on either side of her face. Her outrage fades quickly and then she’s kissing him back, arms wound around his neck.

When they finally pull back for air, he knows he’s grinning like the absolute idiot she was about to accuse him of being. Last night’s sadness, the anxiety that Halloween stirs up in him, seems miles away.

“I know this is backwards,” he says, “but do you want to get breakfast?”

Lothiriel’s answering smile is as wide as his feels.


 

Chapter Text


 

Lothiriel truly never thought to find herself in this position.

After he’d broken her heart–and their all but certain betrothal–two years previously, Eomer, son of Eomund, Third Marshal of the Riddermark, had not been high on the list of people she would expect to find herself defending. Even now, with the truth behind his sudden change of heart revealed by Eowyn–Wormtongue’s quest for Eomer’s estrangement from his uncle had not been limited to things in the Mark, it would seem–she cannot bring herself to forgive him in full.

Oh, she understands it had been an impossible situation. He could never have married without the blessing of his uncle and king. And that combined with Wormtongue’s less-than-subtle hints of harm befalling her should he maintain the connection had pushed him to it. But he had lied. Painfully so, saying that he did not love her, that she had been little more than a passing amusement, too young and too flighty to have truly won his heart–

Well. It still stings, even now.

But that does not–cannot–matter now, not with the murmurs flying unchecked before her.

“He is handsome enough, I suppose,” Lady Candis whispers, “but Elbereth knows all of those Northmen are savages.”

“I heard tale he has a terrible temper, as well,” Lady Himmeth says. “Likely as much a brute in the bedroom as he is on the battlefield!”

His shoulders–broad as ever, much as she hates to find that she remembers that, that she can still be affected by the sight of him–are stiff, rigid with the effort of not reacting. It is highly likely the women are unaware of how keen his hearing is, but the fact that they are saying such things at all rankles her to the core. Eomer and his people had sacrificed so much so that Minas Tirith might stand, that all of Middle Earth would not fall into darkness, and yet they still spew such venom!

It does not help that she knows, perhaps better than anyone, that their statements are false. Oh, Eomer has a temper, fierce and bright, but he is no raging monster! He is kind, despite it all, and brave and intelligent. And gentle–Valar, how gentle he had been with her, before it had all gone so wrong.

Lothiriel knows Eomer well enough to recognize the signs of his discomfort, even if he is not exactly the same man she had loved so ardently two years before. Hardly a surprise, considering the death of his cousin, his uncle, and sudden ascension to the throne. But his discomfort is tinged with something else–

It is misery, she realizes, that keeps him silent. Misery and loneliness, and Valar help her, she cannot stand idly by while these two vipers have it in their power to wound him.

“Tell me, my ladies,” she says, gratified when both women jump, clearly having not noticed her quiet approach. “What would your brothers say, to hear the King of the people who saved their lives so maligned?”

“Lady Lothiriel,” Lady Himmeth recovers first,  her dark eyes alight with spite, “I am surprised to hear you defend him! Especially considering the rumors surrounding the pair of you. I wonder if it was not just your heart he rode off with two years ago, if you still can find it in you to speak well of him.”

Lothiriel looks at her evenly, even as her stomach twists with anger. Before she can even open her mouth, however, a tremor of awareness snakes up her spine. Eomer is suddenly beside her, looking as stern and foreboding as she has ever seen him. It jars, sharply, with the memories of the gentle suitor he had been, and even with the cruelty of their last meeting. Her heart gives a painful–and shameful, she thought she was passed this, over the loss of what could have been, over him–lurch.

“Say what you will about me, my lady,” he says, voice tight with barely controlled rage, “insult my home, my horse, my temper. But you will not speak of the princess in any way other than with respect.”

Lady Himmeth turns bright red and Lady Candis appears to want to sink into the floor. “We beg your pardon, Your Grace,” the younger woman murmurs. “And yours, Princess Lothiriel.”

“As you should,” Lothiriel says, latching onto her anger to prevent herself from feeling anything else. “And consider yourselves lucky that you are more wrong about Eomer King than you could possibly understand.” At that, she turns to face him fully. His eyes are as dark as ever and bear into hers with the same intensity as they had two years previously.

Oh, Valar, it hurts. It hurts to see him so close, it hurts to still be so angry at him, it hurts to not be able to rage at him the way she wants, or to kiss him as she used to.

But to reveal that would break her and that Lothiriel will not allow.

“Thank you, Your Grace,” she says, sinking into a flawless curtsy.

Lothiriel turns on her heel as soon as she has risen, not giving him or either of the women time to speak. Elphir catches her eyes from across the room, his face a study in worry, and she makes her way towards him.

“Lothiriel,” he starts to say and the concern in his voice nearly undoes her.

“Don’t,” she whispers. “Please, Elphir, a drink.”

 


 

“You know, the point of these balls is to enjoy yourself,” comes Eowyn’s voice.

Eomer grits his teeth. “I am aware of that, Eowyn.”

“Then why do you look as if you’ve been kicked in the arse by Firefoot?”

He turns his head to glare at his sister. “I do not.”

“Well, you’re doing a remarkable impression of an Orc’s scowl, then,” she says, unaffected by his glare after years of being on the receiving end of it. “What has upset you?”

Eomer swallows, thickly, and risks a quick glance across the room, towards dark hair and bright eyes that are as every bit as beloved now as they were two years ago. Her back is to him, of course, but he would know her anywhere. In any world.  

Eowyn follows his gaze.

“Oh,” she says, in a completely different tone. “Oh, Eomer.”

“Don’t,” he manages to choke out. “I have no one to blame but myself.”

Eowyn frowns. “Is it truly so hopeless? I told her of Wormtongue’s machinations myself and she seemed to believe me.”

“I broke her trust. And her heart,” Eomer mutters. “Thoroughly enough so that she would have no cause to care for me again. Wormtongue had little to do with that.”

She squeezes his hand. “Perhaps. But both hearts and trust can be mended. If you are willing to try.”

There is nothing he would try harder for, but that matters very little if Lothiriel is unwilling.

“Try,” Eowyn insists. “I do not think it is as impossible of a feat as your thick head is making it out to be.”

Eomer snorts, despite himself. “Thank you for that ringing endorsement.”

“And,” she adds, something dangerous in her voice, “you will not forgive yourself if you do not.”

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Eomer’s eyes are burning with fatigue. It is late, well past any decent hour. Even the ever-busy hall has gone silent and still.

But what sort of king would he be, to sleep after receiving such news? A fire in the much-damaged Westemnet, begun because of dry wood and a bolt of lightning, has ruined some of the few remaining workable fields. Many have been displaced, a score badly injured, and winter is fast approaching. Even now, with a fire crackling in the hearth of his study, there is a chill to the air.

How is he to help his people handle tragedy after tragedy? As a marshal, he had the freedom to join his men in rebuilding houses, in hunting down Orcs, in doing something tangible . Now, as king, he is instead holed up in the safety of Edoras, arguing with his council about what is to be done. His uncle had handled things like this with an effortless grace. Theodred likely would have been much the same, as king. What good is Eomer King’s warrior heart and strong arm against a fire? Against the cold?

The door opens and he grits his teeth--he’d expressly told his door-wards that he was not to be disturbed and is certainly in no mood for the petty clucking of the council--

“I said I was to be left alone,” Eomer growls, pressing his hand to his temple to alleviate his building headache. “Will no one in this blasted hall respect their King’s wishes?”

“They would, when not challenged by their Queen,” comes Lothiriel’s voice.

Eomer turns sharply, meeting his wife’s worried gaze. She is wrapped in her thickest robe, her feet poking out from beneath clearly enclosed in the wool-lined boots Eowyn had gotten for her as a wedding present. His Gondorian bride is averse to the cold and he feels a sharp spike of guilt at the thought of her crossing Meduseld’s icy floors to find him.

He sighs, leaning back in his chair. “Lothiriel, it is very late.”

She gives a soft hm of agreement, winding her way around the clutter of the room before gracefully settling herself in his lap. She is, as ever, a warm and welcome weight there, though he frowns anew at the coldness of her nose when she brushes it along his temple.

“I am aware of the hour,” Lothiriel murmurs, “given that I was both surprised and disappointed to find myself without my usual source of heat in our bed.”

Eomer cannot help but chuckle at that--he runs hot, always has, and has many times served as her own personal foot-warmer. He scarcely minds, for there are certainly worse jobs than keeping his Queen comfortable against the cold.

They sit in comfortable, familiar silence for a moment, the quiet pops of the wood in the fire the only noise in the room.

“What troubles you?” She finally asks, turning just enough to meet his eyes.

“What do you think?” He answers, scrubbing a hand across his face wearily. “This fire is a huge setback--”

“And we will take it in hand as best we can,” Lothiriel interrupts. “It is not so late in the year that the people affected cannot be properly sheltered. The fields will thrive again, in time. The Westemnet’s eored is well-trained and able-bodied. It is unfortunate that this has happened, of course, but it is not so disastrous a thing.”

Eomer sighs. Lothiriel’s pragmatism was one of the reasons he’d even considered Imrahil’s initial offer of a betrothal, and he is grateful for it again now. “You are right.”

“I know,” she answers, smile somewhere between sweet and smug, “I often am.”She gives a slight squeak when he pinches her, but makes no move to give up her seat. She does shift, however, looking at him seriously and steadily. “And I wish you would share these things with me. I do not like to see you so troubled.”

He groans. “Lothiriel, you have duties enough as it is. There is no need--”

Her eyes narrow. “No need ? I am your Queen. Your wife . Your partner through all things in this life, both the good and the ill. What is my duty, if not to help you in any way I can?”

Eomer can only stare at her. They had been friends when they wed, often thrown together by circumstance and meddling relatives, but it has not dawned on him until now that he might love her. That he does love her.

Lothiriel’s face has pinked at his continued silence and she moves as if to rise. He stops her, arms tight around her waist and face buried in her shoulder.

“You are right,” he murmurs again, unable to look at her for fear that she will see his sudden realization, and an even greater fear that she will not return it, “I--my crown is often heavy. But I find that--” Bema help him, for he is no poet, no great wordsmith like his brother-in-law or kingly Aragorn, but for Lothiriel he must do this, he must make her understand. “It is lighter when you are around.”

“Oh,” she breathes, softly. Her arms slide around his neck, trembling with what he hopes--prays--is not discomfort. “I am glad,” Lothiriel whispers, voice thick with something he daren’t name. “I am so glad.”

They sit in silence again, still wrapped tightly around each other, until Eomer’s back begins to protest the awkward positioning. He gently releases her, waiting until she’s leaned back far enough that he can comfortably cup her face in his hands. Lothiriel smiles, softly, and winds her fingers into his hair. Her nose is still ice cold when he kisses her, but Eomer cannot bring himself to mind.

Lothiriel makes a surprised noise against his mouth when he abruptly stands, taking her with him as he goes. “Eomer, what--”

“I have been remiss in my own duties, my lady,” he says, “in leaving my Queen with cold feet.”

She laughs, bright and true, and tightens her arm around his shoulders. “A grievous offense! How will you fix such an error?”

He kisses her again, with more passion this time, and hums with Lothiriel sighs. “Will warming her up entirely suffice?”

Lothiriel swallows heavily. “I suspect that is the only remedy.”

His door-wards are badly hiding smiles when they pass them, but with Lothiriel in his arms, Eomer cannot bring himself to care.

He knows the problems of the night will still be present in the morning, but for now, the weight of being king of the Mark has never felt so light.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

He’s just managed to curl himself comfortably around Lothiriel, pressing his nose into her sweet-smelling hair. She gives a contented sigh , likely as pleasantly drowsy and sated as he is--or at least Eomer hopes so.

“Mm,” she hums, “this is nice.”

“Just nice?” Eomer asks, playfully nipping at the shell of her ear.

Very nice,” Lothiriel corrects.

And it is--this is the first time they’ve dared stayed in the same room during the weird-but-nice family and friends vacation Aragorn and Arwen have put together. No one, except maybe Faramir, who always seems to know everything, suspects that they’re a couple. They both prefer it that way, at least for now.

Though it does, obviously, make the urge to kiss casually or hold hands or do any of the things they normally would when not surrounded by their meddling friends somewhat inconvenient. But right now, in the dark, cool pleasantness of Lothiriel’s room, there’s no need for secrecy. So Eomer presses another sleepy kiss to Lothiriel’s shoulder. She sighs again, threading her fingers through his.

“Good night,” she murmurs, voice gone soft and thick with tiredness.

“Night, sweetheart,” he answers.

Lothiriel’s breathing evens out fairly quickly. Eomer smiles to himself; he’s never known anyone else who can slip into sleep as easily as her.

He’s nearly asleep himself when a sudden beeping erupts from the direction of the kitchen.

No , Eomer thinks, surely not .

It surely is , because the beeping is abruptly accompanied by loud--and impressive--cursing in Sindarin. And in--in Rohirric , in a distinctly familiar, female voice.

“WAKE UP!” Cries Amrothos. “EOWYN’S GONE AND SET THE KITCHEN ON FIRE!”

Groaning, Eomer untangles himself from Lothiriel, who is blinking herself awake, looking adorably confused.

“I think our siblings might have just lost Aragorn the deposit on the house,” he grumbles, pulling on his pajama bottoms and groping around for his grey t-shirt. Lothiriel plucks it off the lamp nearest her with a sheepish grin and passes it over.

“That’s unfortunate,” she agrees, shimmying into her own pajama bottoms and shirt. “Should I go first or…?”

“I don’t think they’ll notice where we’re coming from in the chaos,” Eomer says.

He’s right--every light in the house has been flipped on while they got dressed, and the sound of voices has reached a new, frantic pitch. Aragorn has found the fire extinguisher, it would seem, and he and Boromir have bravely attacked what resembles a formerly frozen pizza, charred to oblivion on a baking tray.

“Oh, Eowyn,” he groans.

“It was not ,” his sister hisses, sticking her finger in his face, “me.”

“Oh, yes, blame the man with third degree burns instead,” whines Amrothos, “very chivalrous of you, Eowyn--”

“You have a first degree burn, at worst,” Lothiriel says, inspecting the pink skin of her brother’s hand with exasperation. “And I have no doubt it was you behind this, Am.”

“Betrayed by my own sister!” He cries, dramatic as ever. “How shall I stomach this pain?”

“By opening the windows to let some fresh air in,” Theodred suggests, rubbing at his eyes wearily. “Bema above, this was supposed to be a nice, relaxing vacation--”

“What’s a vacation with this lot without trouble?” Boromir asks, slinging an arm around his boyfriend’s shoulders. “Anyways, I think we got the worst of the damage contained.”

“Don’t be so sure about that,” Eomer says. “I haven’t spotted Arwen yet. I’m sure she’ll have something to say about this late night cooking adventure.”

Amrothos pales as the rest of the room chuckles. Eowyn scowls at him, lifting her finger again to jab him in the chest, before blinking--almost comically--in surprise. “Eomer,” she says, slowly, “what on Earth are you wearing?”

It’s Eomer’s turn to blink as eight pairs of eyes turn to him. He looks down, expecting to see the familiar, faded Rohan United lettering of his favorite t-shirt, but instead--

“Is...is that my shirt?” Lothiriel asks in a horrified whisper.

Well, he certainly doesn’t recall buying any crop tops, let alone one that has two middle fingers reading boy, bye on them.

Everyone’s eyes are darting back and forth between them, like some demented game of tennis.

“Why would Eomer being wearing your shirt, Loth?” Boromir asks.

Eomer cycles through a number of excuses: a mix up with laundry, he’d accidentally grabbed the wrong one from one of the beach bags, he’d suddenly acquired a taste for crop tops--

“Oh for--they’re dating,” groans Faramir. “They’ve been dating for months now and doing an admirable job of keeping it from us. Though,” at this, he offers Eomer a truly terrifying smile, “I would love to hear how you were going to explain this away.”

“I--”

“We--”

The room dissolves into chatter--Eowyn is occupied with punching his arm, put out about being kept in the dark, Amrothos is groaning loud enough to rattle the walls about his baby sister not trusting him, while Aragorn, Boromir, and Theodred shuffle a was of bills around, grinning widely.

Arwen appears, suddenly, in the doorway of the hallway. She’s six months pregnant, terrifyingly beautiful even half-awake, and clearly irritated about having to get out of bed.

Aragorn’s smug smirk morphs into a look of guilt rather rapidly. “Ah. We--we solved the problem, melamin , I promise--”

“Good,” she says, softening a little at her husband’s obvious concern, “that means we can all go back to bed.”

Everyone shuffles off rather quickly after that, the ruined pizza banished outside along with most of the burnt smell. Eowyn shoots him a look as they trek down the hall that implies they will be having a very long discussion in the morning. Faramir offers him a wry wink, gently pushing his wife into their room. Lothiriel is still flushed, bright pink, and hides her face away into his chest as soon as he’s shut the door behind them.

“Well, that was mortifying,” she mutters.

Eomer chuckles. “They were going to find out eventually.”

“True,” she agrees, tipping her head back to meet his eyes. Her hands are very, very warm on his lower back and he has to swallow, thickly, when she drags a fingernail along his spine. “And there’s the added bonus of discovering that you look very, very good in a crop top--”

Eomer’s not sure he agrees, but can’t bring himself to mind that she thinks so, really.

 


 

(“This is going to become a thing, isn’t it,” Amrothos says grumpily on the beach next day.

“Oh, I do hope so,” Lothiriel says, her hand in Eomer’s and one shoulder bared by the over-large neck of his Rohan United shirt.

“I hope you get terrible tan lines,” he informs Eomer.

Eomer shrugs, pressing a kiss to the back of Lothiriel’s hand and settling more comfortably into the sand. If nothing else, a crop top was proving to provide cover for the evidence of Lothiriel’s...enthusiastic appreciation for it on his shoulders.)

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Eomer can hear the squabbling before he opens the door.

“Oi,” a high-pitched voice whines. “That’s my hot chocolate!”

“Nu uh!”

“Yes it is!”

“No, s’mine!”

“No!”

“Yes!”

No !”

Yes!

Frowning, wondering why a thing like hot chocolate was causing the usually well-behaved Darwyn and Blodwyn to throw such a tantrum--and doubly curious as to where their respective parents had vanished to--he raises his hand to the door.

The much more controlled voice of his wife stops him short. “Girls, what seems to be the fuss?”

“Blodwyn is trying to steal my hot chocolate!” Darwyn chirps.

“S’mine!” The younger girl insists.

“You have your own!”

“Aunt Firi didn’t make it,” is the petulant response. “S’not as good!”

Eomer hides a smile behind his hand. Both at his goddaughter’s charming name for Lothiriel, and for the overall silliness of the argument.

“I see,” murmurs Lothiriel. “What if I were to make another hot chocolate for you, Blodwyn?”

“But then hers will be fresher!” Pouts Darwyn. “That’s not fair.”

There’s a noise of disagreement--presumably Blodwyn--and a slight scuffle. Eomer takes this opportunity to open the door a hair. The scene revealed is exactly what he imagined; Blodwyn cradling the warm mug of cocoa to her body as Darwyn stretches herself across the table towards her, frowning mightily.

Lothiriel’s eyes lift up to meet his and she offers him a small smile before reaching a gentle hand between the cousins to separate them.

“Now, Darwyn, Blodwyn,” Lothiriel says, voice losing its warm amusement and turning towards gentle scolding. “Neither of you will get hot chocolate if we can’t find a peaceful way to resolve this.”

That makes both girls pause. Darwyn slumps back into her seat as Blodwyn’s lower lip begins to quiver.

“But Aunt Firi,” she mumbles, “we like your cocoa.”

“I know that, lylting, ” Lothiriel answers, running a gentle hand through Blodwyn’s bright copper hair. “And I am more than happy to make some for you. For both of you.” She taps Darwyn’s nose gently to get her attention and smiles when she wrinkles it. “But I do not want you to quarrel over something that is meant to be a treat.”

The girls eye each other and the mug of cocoa closely.

Eomer drifts closer, smiling at the amused twitch of Lothiriel’s lips. “I think an apology is needed,” he whispers, smile blooming into a grin as the girls turn wide, surprised eyes on him.

“Oh!”

“Uncle Eomer!”

“Good afternoon,” he says, dropping a kiss to both of their heads and then Lothiriel’s cheek. “I see I am interrupting hot chocolate.”

“And a battle,” Lothiriel adds, leaning against his side. “But Uncle Eomer is right--I think you both need to apologize before we can enjoy our cocoa.”

Looking incredibly like Wilfled in miniature, Blodwyn blinks blue eyes in her cousin’s direction. “I am sorry I took your cocoa, Darwyn. That wasn’t nice.”

“I am sorry I shouted at you. It wasn’t very nice either.”

Satisfied, they both give Lothiriel a pleading expression. Laughing, she pulls another mug towards her, evenly distributing the much debated hot chocolate. “There now. And I’ll tell you a Dol Amrothian secret: hot chocolate tastes better when it’s shared.”

Both girls eagerly slurp their drinks, giggling at each other. Eomer tucks his arm around his wife’s waist, leaning down to press a kiss to the tempting curve of her neck. “A Dol Amrothian secret, hm?”

“Amrothos and I had similar fights many times over as children,” she murmurs. “It seems as good a claim as any.”

Chuckling, he steals a sip from her own mug of cocoa. It’s as delicious as it was the first time she’d made it, the first Yule after they’d wed. For the girls’ benefit, he says, “Mm. Definitely better when shared.”

Lothiriel rolls her eyes fondly. The rest of the afternoon passes pleasantly--Darwyn and Blodwyn are both old enough now to have very firm opinions on Yule, presents, and snow--until Eothain appears to shepherd them home.

“Thank you again for watching them, Lothiriel,” he says, hoisting Darwyn onto his shoulders and Blodwyn on his hip. “With Wilfled and Lisswyn both feeling so poorly--”

“It was no trouble at all,” she promises him. “I hardly mind taking the burden off two of my dearest friends in the midst of pregnancies.”

Ah , Eomer thinks, that explains it .

Eothain chuckles. “At least we have peace for now. I imagine once the two new little ones are born, none of us will know quiet ever again.”

“As if you know what quiet is,” Eomer adds. “Let me remind you, my friend, it was your voice that always got us in trouble as children.”

Eothain makes a rude--and discreet--hand gesture behind Blodwyn’s back. “I dearly look forward to the day that your rooms also are filled with the laughter--and screams--of babes, Eomer King.”

Eomer nearly winces--Eothain is sincere in that, he has no doubt, but he cannot tell his captain and friend how sore a subject he has just trod on. He and Lothiriel have been trying for months for a babe, with no success.But his wife looks unfazed by his declaration, instead giving Darwyn’s foot a gentle squeeze, Blodwyn’s tiny hand a kiss, and patting Eothain’s cheek. “Go on now, Eothain. I am sure my brother is being run ragged between his own wife and yours.”

Chuckling, he offers them a jaunty salute before making his way out of their rooms. Eomer wraps himself around Lothiriel from behind, resting his chin on her shoulder. “You are a brave woman, to take on those two hellions alone.”

Lothiriel snorts. “Well, I thought it best to have ample practice.”

Eomer’s brow furrows. “For what?”

She turns in his arms, eyes bright with happiness as she slides his hand to rest on the--oh Bema , how could he have missed it?--swell of her stomach. “It seems Eothain’s wish for you will be coming true sooner than expected.”

His breath leaves him in a rush. “I--Lothiriel--you--we--”

“You are so terribly hard to find Yule presents for, my love,” she teases. “But perhaps a child will do?”

He kisses her laughter away, until she’s wrapped very snugly in his arms, breathless.


 

Chapter Text


 

The sound of furious whispering is the first thing that greets her as she enters the royal chambers. The second thing she takes note of is the equal parts humorous and endearing sight of the heads of her three children bent together, clearly conspiring something.

“Olfete, Ecwen, Elfwine,” she says, smothering a smile when they all jump in surprise. “Dare I ask what mischief you’ve gotten into this time?”

Olfete cringes--as the oldest, and most level-headed, she’s most accustomed to to cleaning up the messes of her younger siblings, with varying success. Ecwen, on the other hand, offers her best, most guileless smile, which means something is afoot indeed. Elfwine, at only 3, hasn’t mastered lying in any capacity, so it’s he who answers her, saying, “We let Fi out of his stall!”

Fi is what poor Firefoot has been dubbed since Olfete began talking. He’s in his old age now, much more gentle than he had been in the height of the War, little as Eomer wants to admit it. All of her children are as fond of him as their father, but generally with more disastrous results.

“Ah,” Lothiriel says. The mess in the courtyard--an overturned watering trough, a very shaken groom, and a rather muddy warhorse--makes much more sense now. “I see.”

“It was Ecwen’s idea,” Olfete says. “I tried to stop her but--”

“Tattle tale!” Cries Ecwen. “You helped! I couldn’t lift the latch on my own anyways, Modor knows that--”

“I helped too!” Elfwine declares, proudly. “I gave Fi an apple!”

“Did you now,” Lothiriel murmurs. She drifts closer and Olfete--holding off a now wailing Ecwen with one arm--presents her free hand for inspection. It’s dirty, certainly, but there’s no other sign of injury. Ecwen’s hands are much the same and Elfwine’s are entirely clean, likely thanks to his smaller role of apple provider.

“And why did we decide to unleash Firefoot on Edoras?”

“Faeder said he needed a good walk soon!” Ecwen says, through tears. “We were just trying to help!”

“Who was to walk Firefoot once you’d released him?” She asks, gently lifting Ecwen to place her on her hip. She’s nearly too big for it now, at 6, especially with the way the new babe has set her stomach to swelling, but Lothiriel knows there is no better way to calm her middle child’s tears.

“W-well, I thought I could hold his bridle,” Olfete admits in a small voice. “I am 9 now, and Faeder said that is plenty old enough to manage my own horse--”

“Yes, your own horse,” Lothiriel agrees, giving a small sigh of relief as she settles into the chair nearest the fire. Her back hurts nearly all the time now, and it is not helped by Ecwen’s added weight. “A gelding or a yearling, swete , not Firefoot.”

“But Fi likes us!” Elfwine protests, coming to lay his head against her knee. “He does, Modor!”

“I know he does, lytling . But Firefoot is much bigger and stronger than you. It isn’t safe for the three of you to let him out by yourselves. You need to ask someone to help you take him for a ride. And you should always as your faeder’s permission first.”

She doesn’t miss the guilty look that crosses Olfete’s face, nor the nervous way Ecwen starts chewing on her fingernails.

Oh, Valar .

“Olfete, Ecwen,” she sighs, knowing the answer before she can truly formulate the question, “did you even ask Faeder if Firefoot needed a stretch?”

“He said so last night at dinner!” Ecwen protests. “He did--he was telling Uncle Eothain--”

Resisting the urge to groan, Lothiriel places a finger to Ecwen’s lips. “What have I told you about eavesdropping, dohtor ?”

“That it’s not nice manners. But Faeder’s voice carries, Modor! I didn’t mean to hear it.”

“And he’s let us all ride Firefoot before,” Olfete adds. “Even Elfwine.”

“I held the reins!” adds Elfwine. “Faeder said I was good!”

That is news to Lothiriel, and certainly something she and Eomer would discuss in detail later. Once he’s been fully convinced of his beloved horse’s lack of injuries. And once likely all of their children have been suitably chastised.

“That is beside the point,” she says. “He was with you then. If Firefoot were to accidentally hurt one of you, or you to accidentally hurt him…”

She trails off, watching realization dawn on all three of their dear, sweet, troublesome faces.

“Faeder would be sad,” Elfwine says, lip quivering.

“No, Faeder would be furious ,” Olfete amends, twisting her fair hair nervously.

“Nu uh!” Protests Ecwen, contrary to the last. “He’d be proud of us for being eorlingas and taking care of Firefoot--”

“So,” comes Eomer’s voice, cutting across their daughter’s argument, “It was you.”

All three children flinch. Elfwine tucks himself more securely against Lothiriel’s legs, Ecwen does her best to hide her face in Lothiriel’s hair, and Olfete--who takes after Lothiriel most, in all things--turns bright scarlet.

Lothiriel can’t say she blames them; Eomer looks anything other than happy. She shoots him a look-- be gentle, they meant well --that has his shoulders relaxing, at least a little, as he crosses the room to stand in front of them. In nearly 12 years of marriage, Lothiriel doesn’t think she’s ever seen him so stern.

“Faeder,” Olfete starts, “it was my fault, I turned the latch--”

“Yes, under considerable duress,” he interrupts. “Or at least that’s how Heurbrand tells it.”

Herubrand, Master of the Stables since Eomer was a boy, would not lie. Lothiriel presses a hand to her temple. Ecwen, for all her good intentions, is trouble made flesh in many things. In contrast to Olfete’s natural responsibility and Elfwine’s innate sweetness, she is the source of most of the mischief the children get up to. It would seem now is no different.

Ecwen is crying again, tears dripping down on Lothiriel’s neck. “I just wanted to help,” she whispers miserably. “Modor says--”

“Modor says to help when you can and if you can, Ecwen. Firefoot is not your responsibility. You could have been hurt. Olfete could have been hurt. Elfwine could have been hurt. Poor Freca very nearly was hurt when he tried to get Firefoot back in his stall.”

“Is he alright?” Lothiriel asks. Freca has been a loyal groom for years and has a family to feed.

“He is fine, thank Bema,” Eomer confirms. “But you owe him an apology, Ecwen. And Firefoot as well. He is an old man, now, dohtor , and does not do well with surprises.”

Lothiriel purses her lips to keep from smiling. Eomer’s eyes narrow; he knows her too well to not easily read the he’s not the only one so clearly writ on her face.

“I will go with her,” Olfete offers. “I should apologize to them too; Ecwen could not have opened the door without my help.”

“Yes,” Eomer agrees. “And then to your rooms. You will eat dinner alone tonight.”

“B-but foranlencten starts tonight--!”

“It does. And you should have thought of that before disrupting Firefoot and the stables.”

Lothiriel presses a kiss to Ecwen’s forehead before gently depositing her on the floor. “You owe your faeder an apology too, swete . It was kindly meant, what you did, but not well done.”

Sniffling, Ecwen murmurs a muffled sorry into Eomer’s hip as she hugs him. Eomer sighs, stroking her hair once before giving her a nudge towards the door. He chucks Olfete under her chin as she passes him, earning a wobbly smile. She takes her younger sister’s hand and leads her back out into the hall.

“M’I in trouble too?” Asks Elfwine, finally removing his head from her leg.

“That depends on what your role in this was, my son.”

“He gave Firefoot an apple,” Lothiriel murmurs. Eomer pinches the bridge of his nose.

“Yes. You’ll stay with your sisters during dinner as well. And no more rides until foranlncten is over.”

Elfwine frowns. “But Faeder--”

“I agree,” Lothiriel interrupts. “And it is high time you had a nap, Elfwine.”

His frown only deepens, but he mercifully doesn’t cry even when one of Lothiriel’s ladies appears to take him to the nursery. Eomer sinks into the chair opposite her with a groan when the door closes behind them.

“Bema, what did we do to deserve this?”

“I certainly got up to my fair share of mischief as a child,” Lothiriel says, crossing the distance between them to run a soothing hand through his hair. “And with a sister like Eowyn, I suspect you did too.”

Eomer snorts. He wraps an arm around her waist and reaches for the swell of her stomach with his other hand. “And yet we have been mad enough to try for another.”

“I do not recall you complaining during the trying--”

He snorts again. “Well, I may be mad, but I am certainly not a fool.”

She’s still rolling her eyes, albeit fondly, when he rises to pull her into a kiss.

“And perhaps,” he says, pulling away just enough to press his forehead to hers, “this little one will be less trouble?”

It’s Lothiriel’s turn to laugh. “Do you truly think we could be so lucky?”

Eomer’s expression softens. “Do you not think we already are?”

And what can she do but kiss him for that?

 


 

(Five months later, when Mistress Deorwyn emerges from the birthing chamber to inform Eomer is father to twin boys, he cannot help that think that lucky may not be quite the right word.

"Well," Lothiriel says, smiling despite her weariness, "they do call you 'the blessed', my love."

"I did not think they meant it in number of children," Eomer grumbles, half-heartedly. He is too overwhelmed by the sensation of one of their son's tiny hands wrapped around his finger to feel anything other than content.)

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Lothiriel jolts awake with a gasp. The room is dark, the fire long burned out. She cannot remember all of the dream that had so distressed her--only the sensation of being chased, with heavy, dragging footfalls behind her--but it has made sleep feel impossible.

It does not help that she is alone and in an unfamiliar place. As welcoming as Eowyn and the people of Edoras have been, there is nothing comforting in her borrowed room, so many miles from home. Throwing back the blankets, she swings her feet the floor. The flagstones are icy, even in the dead of summer, and she hurries across the room to find the sturdy slippers Eowyn had so kindly loaned her.

It is made difficult by the dark, but eventually she locates them and her dressing gown. Tying it closed, she settles on making her way to the kitchen. Leofrida had been very kind to her thus far, and would likely not mind if she asked for warm milk and a crust of bread to distract herself from nightmares.

The hall is mostly silent, everyone being long a-bed. The only other people awake are the guards, who eye her curiously, but mercifully do not remark upon her bedraggled appearance. Rohan does not hold its nobility to the same standards as Gondor and for this, Lothiriel is very grateful.

She hurries down the darkened corridor, trying to forget the creeping terror of her dream, when--

There is a muffled curse from the hall.

Surely no one else is awake at this hour , she thinks.

But there is another sound: the clatter of wood being tossed on a fire.

Warm milk and bread forgotten, she makes her way towards the source of the sound. She blinks in surprise upon finding it: the King of Rohan, hair loose and clad in what must be his own version of sleepwear, scowling into the fire place.

Oh, Valar .

She has liked Eomer very much from the first moment she’d met him--how could she not? Brave, bold, gentle with his sister, respectful of his people, and--

Handsome. Very, very handsome.

But she cannot dream he thinks highly of her. Lothiriel is only the daughter of his dear friend, little sister to his respected brothers-in-arms, and friend to his sister. She is young and unschooled in so many things. She is certainly no shieldmaiden; the thought of weilding a sword or firing a bow deeply unsettles her. And for all of the supposed beauty of her family’s Elvish heritage, such lineage had surely passed her by. She is not tall, nor gracefully slender in the way of her brothers. She is a short, rounded thing, with wavy hair that cannot be contained by anything other than the sturdiest hairnet.

All things that would certainly keep someone as interesting and strong as Eomer from ever seeing her as more than a diplomatic guest at best, and a child at worst. They are friends--at least she thinks they are--and that is as much as she can hope for.

Still, his fierce expression makes her heart ache. She is no warrior, it’s true, but she knows very well what tends to ail warriors, after a war like the one Middle Earth is still recovering from.

“My lord?” She asks, softly. “Are you well?”

He turns towards her, half his face in shadow. “Lady Lothiriel?”

“Yes,” she says. “I was on the way to the kitchens when I heard you tending to the fire. I am sorry if I am disturbing you--”

“You are not,” he interrupts. “Anything would be a welcome distraction, at the moment.”

Pushing down the ridiculous--and unhelpful--sense of disappointment at being just a convenient intruder instead of a welcome one, she steps closer. “You cannot sleep?”

He nods. “I suppose you cannot either, my lady.”

“I--no,” she admits. “Though I would not presume that my reasons for being awake are anywhere near as important as yours.”

His brow furrows at that and she has to repress a wince; something she said has upset him.

“You do not think very highly of yourself,” Eomer murmurs, stunning her.

“I--I do not know what you mean--”

“Ever since you have come to Edoras you have helped my sister in every way you can. You answer all questions about Gondor--both from her and from others--without complaint, you do whatever tasks are assigned to you without question, and I do not think I have ever seen you anything less than happy while doing so. And yet whenever someone thanks you, or compliments you, you...reject it, somehow. Or turn their concern for you away.”

Lothiriel can feel her mouth hanging open in what is surely an unattractive gape but she is helpless to close it. He had--noticed? Her? Why ?

“I cannot understand it,” oh, he isn’t finished, “for you are a kind person, well-loved by your family and friends, and yet it as if...it is as if you think you do not deserve it.”

“I--well,” she manages to say, “I am no one of importance, my lord. My brothers are the brave ones, my father smart, my mother beautiful. And you and Eowyn and many of our friends have played roles in saving our world. I am only--I am only a young woman, and a sheltered one at that. Surely that does not measure up to those who have accomplished great deeds--”

Her voice dies away as he takes her hands in his. Elbereth, but his hands are warm, and worn, and so achingly gentle even as he frowns down at her from all his great height.

“Kindness is not a small thing, my lady. It is as important as these ‘great deeds’ you claim I have done. Perhaps more so.”

Lothiriel gulps. Valar, but he is even more handsome this close, and so plainly in earnest, that her heart gives a pitiful little lurch, as if it is trying to beat out of her chest and into the hands holding hers.

“I had not thought of it that way,” she admits, voice small. “I--I did not mean to displease you, by not accepting praise--”

Eomer groans, though she thinks she sees something of a smile tugging at his lips. “Lothiriel. You should think better of yourself for yourself. Not because I ask it of you, or because it would please those who love you.”

“Oh.”

“Though I will admit,” he says, thumbs stroking very, very distractingly over the backs of her hands, “it would please me for you to see you as I do.”

Lothiriel blinks. This is--it is too much to process. He cannot--he cannot mean the clear implication there. She has seen the women his council would have him marry; tall, thin, blonde, graceful. All things she is not and can never be--

“And...how do you see me?” She asks, because it simply doesn’t make sense .

One of his hands slides to rest at the side of her neck, thumb pressed to surely racing pump of her pulse. “As someone worthy of all things good in this world. If she would only let m--someone give them to her.”

There’s very little to do but stretch up on her toes and meet him when he leans down to kiss her. It is--everything she expected and more ; gentle and shot through with heat, all at once, and wonderfully, miraculously true . She cannot doubt it anymore than she can doubt Eomer, little as worthy as she feels for...any of this.

He pulls back to press his forehead to hers. “Be kinder to yourself, Lothiriel. Or at least try. Please?”

“I am not in the habit of refusing kings,” she says, somehow finding the courage to tease. “It would not do to start a diplomatic dispute during my time in Rohan.”

He chuckles and the sound rumbles through her chest. “Good.”

They do not speak much more; the earlier terror of her nightmare is long-since faded, and when she returns to her room for sleep, Lothiriel dreams of sunshine, and a kinder world.


 

Chapter Text


 

It is a beautiful spring day in the Riddermark. There is a gentle breeze coming in from the south, stirring up the scent of honeysuckle and lavender in what was once Theodwyn’s garden. Eomund had built it for her, in their house in Aldburg, as a wedding present, years ago.

Not for the first time, Lothiriel wonders what her mother and father-in-law would have made of her. Never more so than now that she, at Merthwyn’s insistence, has been all but banished from Edoras for a few days, for some much needed reprieve from her duties as Queen.

“You’ve done your duty admirably these past few months,” the housekeeper had tutted. “And we are all very proud of you, but no eorlingas alive would begrudge you a break, nor time with your children. The council can handle the Riddermark, and I the Hall. Go, my lady, and spend time with your babes!”

And so she is. Olfete is playing with her carved horse--a much beloved gift from Eothain--under the dappled sunlight of a nearby tree, while Ecwen gurgles happily around a wooden teething ring, one hand fisted in the fabric of Lothiriel’s skirt.

All in all, a perfect day, but for one thing: Eomer’s absence.

He has been away on campaigns before, of course. Sauron’s fall and the dissolution of Mordor’s armies had not rid Middle Earth of evil. After re-swearing the Oath of Eorl, he has had to aid Aragorn numerous times in keeping their mutual enemies at bay, both within Gondor’s borders and without.

But he has never been gone quite so long. Ecwen had been six months old when he’d left, and six months has it been since his departure. To say that Lothiriel misses him would be an understatement. He has been as consistent as he can, with his letter writing, but that is simply not the same as having him home. Of being able to turn to him for help with Ecwen’s midnight tears, to laugh about Olfete’s attempts at making a flower crown, or to be able to press her face into the curve of his neck at the end of a long day. Their bed has been cold, in more ways than one, for six months. Lothiriel is weary of it.

His last letter had said he would be home sooner rather than later, as quickly as Firefoot’s hooves will take him, but there is the well-being of the returning eorlingas  to consider, the new treaties with North Harad to solidify, and all the many miles still to travel.

Lothiriel had known what it would mean to wed a man in such a leadership position. How many times had Ada been called away for just as long when she was a child?

That knowledge helps--somewhat. The ache of missing him--of their girls missing him, for surely that explains at least some of Ecwen’s fussiness--will not be eased by anything other than his eventual return.

“Modor, look!” Cries Olfete, pulling her from her melancholy thoughts. “ Buterflégan !”

And it is. A handful of them, brightly colored and graceful in the spring sunshine.

“They’re pretty,” Olfete declares, abandoning her play to climb into Lothiriel’s lap for a better view.

“Pree!” Echoes Ecwen.

“They are indeed,” Lothiriel agrees, “thought not as pretty as you, min swetes .”

Ecwen babbles happily as Olfete giggles, leaning her head against Lothiriel’s shoulder. Their oldest daughter looks very much like her. Dark skin, dark eyes, darker hair-- hræfnsweartu , Eomer has always said of them both. Ecwen, even at only a year old, has her father’s tawny hair, his green eyes. But there’s no mistaking the House of Eorl in both of them, in the delicate point of Olfete’s nose, in the stormy expression Ecwen makes when she is well and truly displeased. it has been both balm and pain to see Eomer so plainly in them during the campaign.

“But where’d they come from?” Olfete asks.

The butterflies , Lothiriel thinks, and resolves to stop being so gloomy. Being so will not make Eomer arrive faster and will only serve to upset the children. Olfete has always been very perceptive and Ecwen mercurial, so even the hint of a sour mood is enough to make them both less than happy.

“From far away, I expect,” she says, stroking a hand through Olfete’s dark hair. “Perhaps Haruni sent them.”

Haruni sent them? Why?”

“Let me show you.” At this she reaches out, gently, carefully, toward the flock of butterflies. One--bolder than the rest--inches towards her finger from its safe perch on a bloom. Lothiriel waits, patiently, until it is settled on her finger to slowly bring it back towards them. Olfete is watching in wide-eyed fascination, one fist tight around the silver chain of Lothiriel’s necklace.

“She will not hurt you, Olfete. I promise. Can she give you her gift?”

Cautiously, Olfete nods. Lothiriel brings the butterfly close to her daughter’s cheek where it obligingly flaps its wings. Olfete giggles, wariness quickly giving way to delight.  

“It tickles! What is it?”

“A butterfly’s kiss. Our loved ones can send them to us on their wings, no matter where they are.”

“Ecwen should have some too!” Olfete declares.

“Mo!” Cries Ecwen, in obvious support of the idea.

Lothiriel laughs, bringing the butterfly close to Ecwen’s nose. Fearless as ever, Ecwen eyes the animal with fascination--so much so that her eyes cross. Lothiriel laughs, Olfete giggles, and Ecwen grins, even though it is likely she doesn’t understand what is so amusing. She grins wider at the touch of wings to her nose and mercifully doesn’t try to bat the butterfly away with her chubby, baby fists.

Eventually, the butterfly takes flight, fluttering off to rejoin its kin in the flowers.

Ecwen has crawled into Lothiriel’s lap as well, her head on Olfete’s shoulder. They watch the butterflies in comfortable silence for a while.

Just as Lothiriel begins to contemplate gathering them both up for a nap, Olfete stirs, turning a little to fix her with a piercing stare. It is such an utterly Eomer-like expression that Lothiriel’s breath nearly catches.

“Modor, did the butterflies have to come from Haruni ?”

“Well, no,” Lothiriel assures her, shifting Ecwen more comfortably into the crook of her right arm. “Any one we love could have sent them. Aunt Eowyn, Mistress Brandybuck, Legolas--”

“What about Faeder?”

Oh , Lothiriel thinks, willing herself not to cry. “Of course. That is who probably sent them, Olfete, you’re right.”

Olfete’s lip quivers in what is a valiant--and heart wrenching, Valar, how strong she is, for one so young--attempt not to cry. “S’not as good as Faeder’s real kisses, but. It would be ok. If he did send them.”

“I am sure he did. And besides, he will be home soon. He said as much in his last letter, remember?”

Olfete sniffles and leans her head back against Lothiriel’s shoulder. “Soon is taking forever .”

Lothiriel cannot help but huff a laugh before pressing a kiss to her eldest’s forehead. “I know. I think so, too.”

“Fa!” Declares Ecwen suddenly, with a very forceful point in the direction of the butterflies.

No, not the butterflies, but rather the broad-shouldered figure rounding the hedge behind them--

Faeder!” Cries Olfete, launching herself from Lothiriel’s lap with every ounce of her four year-old’s strength. She is down the path before Lothiriel can even draw a breath to urge caution--surely it could not be Eomer in truth, she would have been told if his eored was so close--

But no, it is him, handsome and tall as ever, bending down to sweep Olfete up in his arms with a relieved laugh.

“How tall you’ve gotten, mitting !” He is saying, as if he hasn’t been gone for months. “And even more freckled than I remembered--

“Faeder, you’re home , I missed you--” Olfete cries, wrapping her little body as tightly as she can around him.

“I missed you too, swete .”

“How much?”

“Very much.”

Lothiriel’s heart is in her throat. Oh, Valar, she’s so happy she could burst. And there has never been anything more touching than Eomer with their children. But she also is torn between the distinct urge to throttle her husband, no matter how much she’s missed him, and give Merthwyn a serious piece of her mind, so for so obviously--in hindsight--tricking her into coming here.

“Say hello to Ecwen, too, Faeder!” Olfete orders.

Somehow Lothiriel manages to stand though her legs feel like water beneath her, with Ecwen balanced on her hip. Eomer has shifted Olfete to one side, so that one hand is free to reach out to her and Ecwen both. For once Ecwen is uncharacteristically shy and hides her face in Lothiriel’s hair as they approach. Eomer’s expression shifts--happiness to incredible sadness and regret--in the blink of an eye. Valar, how could she even feel a moment’s irritation with him? It is not as if the separation has been easy for any of them!

“She does not remember me,” he says, voice rough. “I had not thought--I should have expected--”

“Give her a moment,” Lothiriel assures him. Ecwen had not hesitated to pet a stallion the other morning; surely her own father is less threatening than that?

Mercifully, she is proven right, for Ecwen lifts her head from her shoulder with a small--but still sunny--smile. “Fa,” she says, again.

Eomer swallows. “Yes. That’s--yes, Ecwen.”

He reaches out to touch the soft curve of her cheek. Ecwen giggles, pressing her face further into his hand, and Lothiriel gives a helpless sort of laugh. “She was just surprised, I think.”

Eomer’s eyes shoot up to meet hers. “I do not think she was the only one. I--it was meant to be a kindness, Lothiriel, but--”

She steps forward to kiss him, unable to bear the note of uncertainty in his voice. As if she can be anything other than happy to have him back again, safe and whole. It’s much more chaste than the welcoming kiss she’s dreamed of giving him over the course of the past six months, but it achieves its purpose; Eomer relaxes, his hand sliding to grip her arm that’s around Ecwen’s back.

Olfete’s giggles pull them from their embrace. “See? Told you Faeder’s real kisses would be better than the butterfly’s!”

Lothiriel laughs at the confused expression on Eomer’s face. “The buterflégan you sent,” she explains, with a nod in the direction of the flower bushes.

Mercifully, he follows her line of thinking. “Ah. I am glad I can stand up to their kisses, Olfete!”

“Silly Faeder,” she says, wrapping her arms tight around his neck again, “you’d always win!”

The blush that fills his face is so endearing that Lothiriel cannot help but kiss him anew, even as Ecwen gives a sharp tug on her hair. “I agree. And welcome home, Eomer King.”

His smile is no less beautiful than it was the day she knew she loved him. “There is,” he says, nudging his nose against her temple, “nowhere else I’d rather be.”


 

Chapter Text


 

“My lady! My lady, come quickly!”

Lothiriel blinks in surprise as Layfled all but yanks her towards the doors. It is not like the girl to be so improper, nor hasty, and alarm begins to set in.

“Layfled, what is so urgent?”

“Grima is needling Lord Eomer again! I fear he will not keep his temper this time.”

That is cause for fear, for there is no one in Edoras that Wormtongue dislikes so thoroughly as Eomer. Whether it is because of his renown as a warrior, his position as heir-presumptive to the throne, or the fact that there is no one in Middle Earth that Eomer dislikes so much as Wormtongue, Lothiriel cannot say, but he should no better than to tangle with the King’s slippery advisor. Grima has been amassing more and more power in recent months and there’s no telling what he plans to do with it, besides ill.

So Lothiriel hurries, heart in her throat, towards the main hall of Meduseld.

The sight that greets her is a terrifying one: her husband, with his arm at Wormtongue’s throat, hissing something so angry and so cruel that she nearly flinches, even though there is no denying that the sentiment was likely justly earned.

“Too long have you watched my sister,” she hears him hiss, “too long have you haunted her steps.” 

“Eomer--” She starts to say, so afraid for him that she can barely speak, but it is too late. Some of Grima’s men are already gripping his shoulders, pulling him off the slighter man.

“You see much, Eomer, son of Eomund,” the snake is saying, his tone filled with a hateful sort of glee. “Too much.”

Lothiriel gasps as one of the men punches Eomer in the stomach. “Stop! Stop this at once!”

They all turn to her, even Grima, and she forces herself not to flinch under his beady stare.

“Lothiriel,” Eomer starts, “go, do not concern yourself--”

“Do not--! You are my husband and my utmost concern,” she interrupts.

“Touching,” Grima drawls. “And good timing, my lady, for you will not have to hear of your husband’s punishment from any false source.” 

“Punishment? For what?”

“For warmongering, to start. For failing to serve his King in the way he requires--”

Eomer snarls. “It is not I who is failing him, wyrm --”

“No one can question his loyalty! He is Rohan’s greatest protector--”

“You are young,” Grima interrupts, “and biased, I’m afraid. Too long has your husband been given a pass on his more...questionable activities due to his cousin’s influence. But now, with Theodred gone, our King’s eyes have been opened to what he truly is.”

Lothiriel’s hands tremble with the effort of not slapping him. “You dare. This is overreaching, Grima, even for one such as you.”

“Oh, I have only begun. I am glad you are here, my lady. It will spare me the trouble of having to inform you of your husband’s banishment at a later time.”

The air is all but forced from her lungs. Banishment!

“You have no authority here!” Eomer cries, struggling against the men who hold him. “Your orders mean nothing!”

“Oh, but this order does not come from me,” says Grima. He pulls out a roll of vellum and unrolls it with a gleeful flourish. “It comes from the King. He signed it this morning.”

“Theoden King would never,” Lothiriel says hotly, but the signature is there, stark against the paper, and she feels sick.

The men begin to drag Eomer away, looking far too happy to be doing so, and she darts forward. 

“No! This is not right! How can you justify this?”

“My lady,” Gamling is there, gently gripping her arm, “you cannot question the King’s will.”

“You call this Theoden’s will? Banishing his sister-son, his heir, his greatest captain? It is Grima’s will, not his!”

“My lady,” says Grima, smiling in that horrible way of his, “I assure you I am more than happy to send you with your husband, if that is what you desire.”

“No!” Eomer cries, still struggling against his captors and she shakes Gamling off long enough that she can reach for his hand. The men glare at her but her presence--her closeness--is enough to stop Eomer’s angry fighting. She reaches for him but he is dragged out of her reach, just for spite.

“Give us a moment, for pity’s sake!” She cries. “Have you no hearts?”

“Traitors deserve neither moments nor pity,” intones Grima. “Surely you, as a daughter of princes, should understand that.”

“Lothiriel, stay,” Eomer says, agony clear in his voice, “you must stay where you are safe, I could not bear it otherwise--”

How can I feel safe knowing you are not, she thinks, but that will not help now.

“I will stay,” she says, “and Eowyn will be with me--we will help each other, I swear--”

“You presume too much of your sister-in-law, my lady. Eowyn has responsibilities to her lord king, not to the foreign wife of a traitor--”

Eomer hisses again, something fierce and low in Rohirric and earns another swift punch to the stomach for his efforts. Lothiriel cannot help the whimper that tears itself from her throat. She steps up, unheading of Gamling’s murmur for caution behind her--how can she focus on anything else other than her husband, her mighty, brave, strong, good , husband, being so unjustly treated?

She takes Eomer’s face between her hands, ignoring the guards that keep her from embracing him the way she wants to. 

“Stay safe,” Lothiriel says, “you must promise me that you will be safe. That you will come back to me--”

“Lothiriel,” he starts, his dark eyes bright with what must be tears, something she never could have fathomed before now. But she never thought Theoden could have been persuaded to think so poorly of him, never thought that Theodred would truly fall, never thought that Eowyn would turn so brittle--

“I love you,” she manages to choke out, because if she does not say it now, she may never get the chance. “I love you, Eomer, be safe, please --”

She only gets one glimpse of his shocked expression before the guards haul him off in truth. Gamling is at her side faster than she can blink, standing steadfast between her and Grima’s malevolent stare. 

“Come away, my lady,” he says, putting his arm around her shoulders in a way that makes her miss her father so suddenly she nearly weeps, “come away, you should not have to see this--”

“Oh, but she should,” Grima murmurs. “Lest she forget that she is a guest of the House of Eorl. And must act accordingly.”

Lothiriel has thought Grima vile the entirety of the time she’s known him, but the hate that sears in her stomach now is like nothing else she’s ever felt. She will not let him see her hurt, her fear. Not now. Not ever . For Eomer, for Eowyn, she must do that much. She must stand tall and strong against this poisonous creature. 

“I am a member of the House of Eorl, Grima, son of Galmod. And a daughter of the House of Dol Amroth. I may not have the foresight that my cousin possesses but I say this now, without a doubt, that all the evil and pain you inflict on others will be brought back to you ten-fold.” At this, she smiles, in that razorsharp way Ivriniel has always tried to teach her and has remained out of her grasp--until now. Perhaps it can only be brought on by one so loathsome. “And I very much look forward to that day, my lord.” 

Grima still looks too smug and satisfied, but she can see that she’s shaken him, just a little. 

So she turns on her heel, head held high, in search of Eowyn. 


 

Chapter Text


 

 

Dol Amroth is known for its sea views, yes, but Lothiriel has always had a soft spot for its rivers.

Growing up the sole girl-child in a house full of men, she is perhaps not the most...lady-like of Gondorian noblewomen. She much prefers a horse-back ride--none of that side-saddle nonsense, thank you very much, Aunt Ivriniel--to a leisurely stroll through the city, a rowdy day spent racing on skiffs with her brothers to Ada’s friends pleasure cruises, and Valar knows there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a quick, refreshing bathe in one of the cool rivers of the Belfalas instead of constrained bath in her rooms. So yes, she quite likes the rivers and all the freedom they afford her. To escape the pressures of being a princess, to escape the responsibilities of being a sister, to forget she is “the only trueborn Lady of Dol Amroth”--if only for a moment. 

She may not have fought in the War of the Ring with arms, but she has fought her own battles. Helping to keep the Coast defended in her father and brothers’ absence, keeping her people fed, trying against all good sense to keep her own spirits up--

Well. It is past, now, and she can enjoy the quiet trickle of the water and the warmth of the sun on her skin. Aunt Ivriniel would be appalled at both Lothiriel’s casual riding attire and the fact that she has abandoned said riding attire in favor of her shift, but she cannot bring herself to care, at present. Besides, she’s chosen a part of the river she knows well--removed from the more traveled paths, but shallow enough that she need not fear drowning should she fully submerge herself. 

Which she does, sighing blissfully as the cool water flows over her. The sky is blue, the leaves summer’s beautiful green, and she is alone for once, with only dear Niprehdil for company. Her horse, at least, cannot pester her with questions about the upcoming feast. 

“It is a lovely day, isn’t it?” Lothiriel asks, swimming back towards the bank and settling on the cleanest rock she can find to slowly dry off. 

Niprehdil nickers softly in response. Smiling, Lothiriel sets about combing her hair--it will tangle horribly if she does not, and the last thing she needs to do is give her aunt another reason to scold her in front of “their” guests. As if the running of the household has not been firmly in her hands for the past three years! Besides, no one save her family knows about her habit of swimming in the river--

The sudden crunch of a branch being stepped on makes her stop her combing. The sudden appearance of a man--blonde haired, bearded, and shirtless --makes her freeze. 

Muffling a surprised squeak, she rolls off the boulder, intending to crouch behind it until he goes away. Oh, why was he here ? No one has ever, ever happened upon her before, not in all the years she’s been coming for her swims. This bend of the river was hers !

Slowly, she raises up on her toes to peer at the intruder. His hair gives away his heritage: one of the Rohirrim has found her sanctuary. Too late she remembers that their encampment is situated in the nearby valley. She has met a few Rohirric soldiers before, in Ithillien visiting Faramir, but this man is unlike the rest. His height is extraordinary, even from this distance, and his shoulders are no unhappy sight either. The thought makes her blush. Aunt Ivriniel really would have cause to scold her, this time.

A whinny precariously close to her ear makes her jump; Niprhedil, having clearly sensed her distress, has ambled over to inspect her sudden descent from the rock.

“No, no, no,” Lothiriel hisses, running a hand over Niprhedil’s snout, “I am fine, go back to your grass--”

“Who goes there?”

Oh, Valar , she thinks, squeezing her eyes shut.

“I can see your horse,” comes the voice again. 

Cursing herself, rivers, and nosy Rohirrim in general, Lothiriel forces herself to stand, pressing closer to the rock so that her state of undress is not readily visible. “Good afternoon,” she says, attempting politeness.

The man’s eyebrows shoot up towards his hairline. “....good afternoon.”

They look at each other in near painful silence, long enough that she is able to take stock of 3 things: that he seems to show no sign of retreating to another spot along the river, that he has a hairbrush of his own in his hand, and that he is horribly, distressingly handsome. 

“I--”

“Are you lost?” He asks before she can speak.

Lothiriel’s brow furrows. “Lost?”

“Aye. For I cannot fathom why else a lady would choose to venture out alone” 

Oh, Valar. If he discovers who she is, it will be an utter disaster! Lothiriel likes her soon-to-be cousin very much, and cannot bear the thought of Eowyn thinking poorly of her. Which she surely shall , should this man report back She opens her mouth, intending to...to.to lie, to tell a half-truth, to do something , but what comes out instead is: 

“And how do you know I am a lady?” 

The man’s stern expression morphs into something wry. It does nothing to lessen his appeal. “Well, you do have the look of one.” 

Lothiriel looks down at herself--she is mostly hidden by the rock, it’s true, but her shift is hardly what would pass for appropriate attire for any Gondorian noblewoman, especially when in the presence of a man.

“You must not know many ladies, then,” she says before she can stop herself.

The man snorts. “So you are not a lady, then? Or at least not a lost one.”

“I am not lost,” she admits, “and as to being a lady, I fail to see how that is your business.” 

“You are certainly a noblewoman. And a foolish one, at that, to go off unaccompanied.”

Lothiriel bristles. “I have been exploring these woods since I was a child. I need no guide, no chaperone, no--”

“Clothes, apparently.”

“I have clothes! They are just--” She flaps a hand in their direction, where she left them neatly folded on top of her satchel. “....over there.”

The man snorts again and Lothiriel decides he is not truly that handsome. How could he be, and be so rude!

“You are lucky indeed, my lady, both that I have a younger sister and am accustomed to the mischief young women can get up to, and that I am only here to wash my hair. What would you have done if I were a thief? Or a lingering soldier from Harad? Or some other man who meant you harm?”

She scowls at him. “I am not so defenseless as you think!”

“Oh? Pray tell how a young woman of noble birth, alone save her horse, without clothes , would defend herself from harm.” 

Years of prodding and teasing from her brothers has made Lothiriel slightly prone to impulsive acts, and that’s what has her flinging her hairbrush at him. Its heavy oak handle catches him in the temple. She only has a moment to see the surprised look on his face morph into one of pain before he stumbles back into the river with a mighty splash. Lothiriel feels a brief surge of triumph before it becomes clear her victim is not resurfacing.

“Oh, Elbereth!” She cries, darting towards the water as quickly as she can. It is not so deep and the current is hardly strong here, but her unexpected attack has clearly left him stunned. Irritating as he may be, she scarcely wishes drowning on the man. She dives in, the water making the burden of his weight a much easier thing than it would be on land.

He splutters back into consciousness once she’s hefted him onto the bank.

“I am sorry!” Lothiriel cries. “Really, I did not mean--I’d forgotten the handle was so heavy, I never meant to make you fall in--”

A rumble of laughter stops her panicked apology. She can only gape at him as he rolls over to lie on his back, shoulders shaking with the force of his amusement.

“...my lord? Are you ...are you quite well?” 

“I stand corrected,” he finally manages once his laughter has stopped. “You are adequately armed, my lady.” 

That startles a laugh out of her. “I will be sure to keep a case of them on hand at the next feast. If I am accosted by a boring or pushy lord, I will have my hairbrush at the ready!”

The man snorts again, turning his face towards her with a wide smile. She smiles back, feeling much more inclined to deem him handsome anew, with his dark eyes softened by good humor and the corners of his mouth curved upward, and--

And still completely bare-chested. 

His eyes dart down and back up again, and Lothiriel blinks, confused, as his face floods with color. “My lady, while I am grateful for the rescue, I think it best if you return to your rock.” 

The reason is rapidly apparent: she is still in her shift--her completely soaked through shift--that is now clinging very, very improperly to her skin. 

“O-oh, yes, of course” Lothiriel stutters, leaping to her feet and moving away from him, “I-I had really better head back regardless, I know my aunt will be looking for me soon. You...you will be alright, my lord?”

“As long as there are no other hairbrush-wielding noblewomen to be found in these woods,” comes his wry response, “I suspect I will be fine.”

“Good!” She cries, yanking her dress on over her head--it will be soaked through by the shift, but there is nothing for it now. “A pleasant day to you, my lord!”

Niprhedil mercifully allows her to clamor into her saddle without complaint. By the time she is settled, the mystery Rohir is standing and watching her with obvious amusement. 

“Good day, my lord!”

“So you’ve said already.” 

Unable to help herself, she sticks her tongue out at him, earning another deep laugh. Blushing and thanking the Valar she’s been able to extract herself without revealing her identity, she tugs gently on Niprhedil’s reins, turning her towards home.

“So am I never to know the name of my rescuer?” Comes the Rohir’s voice again. 

Lothiriel’s flush deepens and she throws him a glare over her shoulder. Surely he has guessed that to do so could be damning, certainly for her, and mayhaps even for him!

“There is a higher chance of you falling in that river again than me giving you my name, my lord. This is farewell, truly.”

She thinks she catches a flash of disappointment in his expression before she presses her heels against her mare’s side and rides off.

 


 

“You are very distracted this evening, brother.”

Eomer winces as Faramir steps up beside him, looking far too smug and knowing in the flickering candle-light of Imrahil’s hall. He likes his almost brother-in-law, but he likes less the man’s damnable ability to read people so well. 

“Perhaps I am simply unaccustomed to you Gondorians’ idea of an evening well spent.”

“Hm,” murmurs Faramir, “I suppose that could be true.”

Minutely, Eomer relaxes. Perhaps the Steward’s famed powers of perception have been addled by the flow of fine Dol Amrothan wine and Eowyn’s presence?

“But I think there is another cause.”

“He met a mystery lady in the woods today,” chimes in Eothain, nudging Eomer’s shoulder as he does so. “Hasn’t been able to think of anything else since.” 

Eothain ,” he hisses, annoyed and mortified all at once. Annoyed, because his captain should know better than to say such things in front of Farami. Mortified, because it’s true. 

“Oh?” Says Aragorn, appearing from seemingly nowhere at the worst possible moment.  “Did I hear something about a mysterious lady?”

“Just so, sire,” Faramir confirms. “And in the woods, no less.” 

There is something worrisome in Faramir’s tone. 

“Rather an odd place to meet a lady, Eomer.”

“I did not intend to meet anyone. I only wanted to wash my hair before tonight’s...festivities--”

“On Eowyn’s orders, no doubt--”

“Yes,” Eomer begrudgingly admits. “She told me I was under no circumstances to smell of horse in Imrahil’s ballroom.”

“A wise woman, your sister.”

“The wisest,” agrees Faramir.

“You,” Eomer says, pointing a finger at Aragorn, “are meddling, and you,” a jab in Faramir’s direction, “are biased.” 

Faramir shrugs while Aragorn grins. 

“Come now, Eomer, tell them about your lady! One of them is bound to know her--”

Which is precisely why he hadn’t said anything in the first place. What if she was no lady? Or worse, what if she was already someone else’s lady, which would make his cursed, illogical fixation on her even less appropriate? But Bema help him, when was the last time a woman had surprised him like that? Made him laugh so easily? Before the War, most likely, and certainly before the Kingship that has made him such a prize for Gondorian and Rohirric noblewomen alike. Besides, if she had wanted him to find her, she would have given him her name, instead of riding off in a righteous--and infuriatingly attractive--fury. 

“I have not been to Dol Amroth in many years,” Aragorn says, pulling him from his thoughts. “And am likely to be of little help in your search for her.”

Eothain turns hopeful eyes on Faramir, whose expression is far too contrived to be truly innocent.

I may not know many ladies of the area,” he admits, “but my cousin might be of more use to you.” 

Eomer cannot help but arch an eyebrow at that; Elphir, many years married, has eyes only for his own wife. Erchirion’s great love is the sea, and Amrothos knows far too many ladies to be a trustworthy source.

“I do not mean any disrespect to your cousins,” Eomer says, “but I cannot see Elphir, Erchirion, or Amrothos being acquainted with such a lady.”

“You might be surprised. As it is, I wasn’t referring to them.” 

“You have another cousin?” Asks Eothain. “Bema, just how many children does Imrahil have?”

“Four. The three boys and a single daughter.” 

Eomer’s brow furrows. Yes, he does think he remembers Imrahil mentioning a daughter, at some point between Pelennor and Morannon. The week remains a blur, even now, and it’s not a time he particularly likes to dwell on--no matter how grateful he is for the Prince of Dol Amroth’s friendship and Eowyn’s miraculous recovery. 

“She’s here somewhere,” Faramir murmurs, before his face splits into a wide smile. “Ah. Found her. Lothiriel!”

A tendril of worry slides abruptly and unpleasantly into Eomer’s stomach. For the back of Faramir’s cousin’s head is worryingly familiar: long, dark waves of hair, raven-sheened in the candles’ glow, tumble down her back. 

And then she turns, clearly searching for the source of her name and Eomer nearly chokes. For she--Lothiriel, Faramir’s cousin Lothiriel, Imrahil’s daughter Lothiriel--is the hairbrush wielding lady from the river. 

She drifts over, so focused on her cousin that she seems not to notice him, saying, “You called, Faramir?”

“I did. It seems Eomer King needs assistance in locating a lady I think you know very well.”

Her brow furrows in the same adorable way it had earlier, when he’d accused her of being lost, and then she turns sharp, dark eyes on him and--

“Oh, no ,” she moans. “ You are Eomer King?”

Aragorn and Eothain burst into laughter while Faramir’s smile sharpens into something nearly predatory. “He is, Loth. Won’t you be a good hostess and introduce him properly to the lady of the river?”

Blushing to the roots of her hair, she drops into a quick curtsy. “I--hello again, my lord.” 

“Hello,” he says, grinning despite the own warmth he feels in his face, “I am glad I did not have to go for another swim to learn your name, Lady Lothiriel.”

 


 

(Months later, the betrothal of Lothiriel of Dol Amroth to Eomer King goes smoothly, until--

“I cannot say how grateful I am to you for allowing me to visit your home, Imrahil,” Eomer says, ignoring the sharp pinch of his fiance’s fingers at the insde of his elbow. 

“It did seem to suit you, on your last visit,” Imrahil says benignly, similarly ignoring the glare his daughter gives you. “The sea air has that effect on people, I’ve found.” 

“The sea is lovely,” Eomer agrees, unable to keep from smirking as Lothiriel blushes beside him, “but I myself have always preferred rivers.” 

From behind them, there is a sudden gasp and then a cry of “Lady Ivriniel!” 

“Oh, Valar, she’s fainted again,” grumbles Amrothos. “We’re always telling her she needs to wear less layers in the summer months--”

“Yes, that’s exactly it,” Lothiriel squeaks. “Too many layers.”

“Too many layers indeed,” agrees Eomer, with a kiss to her knuckles. 

She hits him with a hairbrush for the second time that night. Eomer can’t say he truly minds.)

 


 

Chapter Text


 

 

Dol Amroth truly is beautiful.

It being so is doing nothing to quell the nausea rolling in his stomach. The fact that the serving girl has led him to the garden--their garden--helps even less. 

Perhaps I should just leave , he thinks, desperate for some alternative. Perhaps if I simply went away, stop replying to her letters, she would forget me--

“I did not expect you back so soon!”

Eomer forces himself not to flinch. 

He turns. 

Lothiriel is hurrying towards him. Her hair is unbound, glossy and black in the midday sun, and her pretty face is set in its familiar smiling lines. Bright eyes sparkle with unrestrained happiness at seeing him. Bema above, but she is beautiful.

She is hugging him before he can stop her, arms tight around his waist and her face pressed into his chest. Everything in him aches to put his arms around her. But he cannot. For her sake, above all others, he cannot. 

She stiffens, slightly, in surprise at his lack of welcome. Tipping her head back to meet his gaze, he can see the confusion writ on her lovely features. The concern.

“Eomer?” She asks. “Is something wrong?” 

“My lady,” he says, willing his face to remain impassive and still, despite how bitter the formal address tastes on his tongue. “I--I am afraid I have bad news.”

Lothiriel gives a sharp gasp, tugging him down to sit beside her on the nearest bench. “Oh, Eomer, I am sorry! Is it your uncle? Has he grown so ill?”

“My uncle is fine. Thank you for your concern.”

She blinks again. “My...concern? Eomer, why are you speaking like this?”

“Like what, my lady?”

“As if we are strangers! Surely we have not grown so distant in only a month’s time,” Lothiriel teases, nudging him.

Of course not , he thinks, I know you better than anyone. I would know you anywhere in the world. 

But he cannot say that. Not with Grima’s threats still ringing in his ears.

It would be a shame if something were to befall the Princess of Dol Amroth. So fair, so young...so unused to the dangers of the road. Of travel. Of men . Take her to wife by all means, Eomer, son of Eomund. But do not expect a long union should you do so. Such a...delicate creature surely would not last long amongst the Eorlingas.  

“I am afraid that we have and that we must,” Eomer says. “Due to the news I must give you, my lady. My uncle will not permit me to marry outside the Riddermark.”

There! It is said. A lie and a truth, all in one. Theoden King had refused his petition to court Lothiriel. Or Grima had, somehow using his uncle as a puppet to keep Eomer from finding even the tiniest shred of happiness. And the councilor’s hold on Theoden is horribly, terribly strong. Eomer has no doubt that he would hold good on his threats to Lothiriel, should he do what his heart wants and marry her regardless. Even if she were to stay here, in faraway Dol Amroth. Grima’s reach is long and his mind is cunning. Bema, how he hates that wyrm --

“I do not believe you,” she says, pulling him from his thoughts. Her brows are drawn together, eyes sharp. Oh, Bema. He knows that face. She is as stubborn as Eowyn, when she sets her mind to something, and it is very clearly set now. “You have never mentioned such a stipulation before. And--you are unsettled, I think, rather than upset.”

The urge to press his forehead to hers, to tell her that she is right, that she has used her uncanny ability to read him once again, is strong. So very strong. 

A Marshal’s wife faces many trials , Grima’s voice whispers, and all of them stem from her choice of husband. Would you really want to subject her to that?

He will not risk her. Not even for the chance of their happiness. 

So. It is to be the more painful way, in which he must break her heart. 

“I was trying to spare you discomfort,” Eomer forces himself to say, “but I see now you will leave me no other choice.”

“No other--Eomer, what are you--”

“Please, my lady. Do not make me say it.”

“Say what ?” Lothiriel explodes, shooting to her feet. “That you are not acting like yourself? That you are frightening me? That you are not telling me the truth?”

“Then let me tell you it now. Yes, it is true that my uncle did not give his permission, but it is also true that I no longer require it. For I do not love you.”

Lothiriel’s pinked cheeks drain so rapidly of color that he cannot help but reach out to steady her--Bema, this will be the last time he touches her and it feels like a dagger in his heart--to prevent her from fainting. 

But his mðdleófu is made of sterner stuff than that. She stands firm, eyes baring into his.

“You--you do not--”

“Love you. I have been dishonest to both of us--”

“You are being dishonest now ! How can you say--after everything--”

“My time away gave me clarity. It was an infatuation, nothing more. I should not have taken advantage of your youth and inexperience--”

“Taken--you--Eomer, I do not understand--”

“I am sorry to cause you pain. But you would not make me a good wife. Nor I you a good husband. I cannot continue to lie to myself, or to you.” 

Bema, this was true torture. Every word out of his mouth is a lie-- Eorlingas do not lie --and painful ones at that. Lothiriel is crying now, try as she might to keep the tears at bay.

“But--you said--you said I was--”

Mðdleófu. Beloved above all others. Dearest. 

“I was mistaken.”

“A-and what of me? My love matters so little to you?”

It is more valuable than I know how to say. It is more than I ever thought to have, and more than I expect to ever know again .

“I cannot change my heart, my lady.” 

At this, she slips out of his grip, wrapping her arms around herself. As if she is holding herself together. “Nor can I change mine,” she cries, “for it is still yours, even as it breaks!”

Oh, Bema. His hands shake with the effort of not reaching out to her. She will not forgive him for this, even if the truth ever comes to light. That is well enough; he will not forgive himself either. 

“I am sorry that it is so,” Eomer manages to say.

That, of everything he’s said, is true.