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Seasons of Wonder

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In later years, Eowyn will claim that she understood her heart at last when Faramir told her that he loved her. At that moment, she will declare, she comprehended finally that what she felt for Aragorn was not love but admiration: the childhood pretend-game of a girl who wished to be a queen.

But in truth, her heart changes after Faramir kisses her.

His arms are strong, and his hands warm her skin when he draws her to him. Although much about him resembles Aragorn -- a lesser form, she has told herself, lacking the blue-gray eyes and broad forehead of Elendil's line, and not the king, not the king -- she sees then that Faramir reminds her of another as well, not in face and feature but in his resilience. He might well be a Rider of the Mark.

"For a moment you made me think of my brother," she whispers, before stopping to think how unseemly such words may sound to a man she has just kissed. Yet Faramir looks startled only for a moment before he smiles.

"I had thought that you brought me to mind of my mother, but it is not so," he tells her. Eowyn knows that he sent for his mother's mantle to cloak her, a robe the color of summer night with silver stars about the hem. She thinks that Faramir must look upon her as a delicate beauty like Finduilas of Amroth, for he has never seen Eowyn wield a sword.

Still, he kisses her once more high upon the walls of the City of Gondor with less courtesy and more passion, and he says, "I often came here with my brother. He was proud and determined, and sometimes terribly grave, but the sun made him splendid. When I am with you, I do not feel his loss so keenly."

The breeze ruffles Eowyn's hair and her long flowing skirts, so different from the safe armor of Dernhelm. Perhaps, she thinks, Faramir might truly wish to know her, even the secrets she would hide forever from the King of Gondor. Lightly, but with defiance in her voice, she confesses, "It was my brother who taught me how to kiss."

For a time Faramir gazes at her in amazement; then he smiles, not the adoring beam of a suitor but the conspiratorial nod of an ally. His head bows. He does not meet her eyes as he admits, "So did mine."

Perhaps this should be a greater shock, though Eowyn feels only the relief of Faramir's understanding, and, perhaps, his unease. Hand on his arm, she speaks: "Then no matter your losses, you had your brother's love to trust in, as I did."

"Yes." Faramir trembles in the wind. How lost he must feel, Eowyn worries, without father, without brother, though he is filled with joy at the coming of the King. And he has grown to care for her as well, not as a distant vision of beauty but as a warrior wounded like himself, who has come through shame, loss and despair just as he has.

An aching thaw begins to swell in Eowyn, though she can only stare at first at the sudden flush rising on Faramir's handsome face. She begs him, "Show me," and raises her head when his mouth moves over hers like a spring storm, fierce and inescapable. Then she knows that she could love him as she has loved none before, not even Aragorn.

"I think that perhaps I envy your brother," she sighs when they have drawn apart.

"No, but pity him," replies Faramir wistfully. "For you are here, while he is not. And your brother shall be King of the Mark, while I stand here in Boromir's stead."

Putting her hand to Faramir's chin, Eowyn tilts his head in the sunlight. "As Steward, perhaps, you shall stand in his stead. But in my heart there shall be none before you," she murmurs before she kisses him again.

"I pity the Lord Aragorn," sighs Faramir when they separate, their chests heaving with quickened breath. "For he may have the throne of Gondor, but he will not have this."

"But will you pity his bride?" Eowyn teases, laughing with him when he shakes his head and twines his fingers in her hair. "I shall pity her, for I think none could help but envy her a little. And when we smile and whisper together, perhaps they shall envy us as well."

Faramir smiles merrily and draws her close. "I do not ever want you tamed, wild shieldmaiden of the North," he promises. "But I would see you joyous in a garden in Ithilien, never more to look upon the darkness of war. Will you take my hand and walk among the flowers with me?"

And Eowyn answers him, "I will."