I sit on the chair by the bed. My hands are in my lap. I'm staring at them. Just staring. They're folded, fingers laced together. Long, thin hands, with long, strong fingers. But they're not doing anything right now.
A little while ago they were hitting Gandalf. And when Aragorn and Éomer dragged me off of him I started hitting them. By the time I was done hitting people I'd graduated to hitting the walls. And screaming. I remember screaming.
I won't look at the bed. Oh, damn. My eyes are filling up again and my hands have gone all cloudy.
I can see the edge of the bed at the top of my peripheral vision. The comforter is blue. I bought it after Faramir left me. I was so tired of pink, I guess I wanted the antithesis. So it's blue.
I blink the tears away. I'm so tired of tears. And my throat hurts from screaming. And it's tight.
Merry's sitting next to me. They've all taken turns sitting with me. They don't say anything, just sit there.
Sometimes I don't sit. Sometimes I lie down on the floor. It makes a change. But after I've laid down on the floor for a while I get back up and sit in the chair.
But I don't look at the bed. I know what it looks like. Heaven knows I did that enough.
Merry sighs. I can tell from the corner of my eye that he's looking at me. But he doesn’t say anything. No one does, not any more.
He gets up, walks out of the room. I can hear his shoes on the tile, clunk clunk clunk. He walks away, into the living room. Now I can hear voices, people talking. They're probably talking about me. I don't care.
I won't look at the bed. I know what's on it. I don't want to see it. It hurts too much, and I’m so tired of hurting.
I'm restless, I want to stand up. But if I stand up I might accidentally look at the bed.
Someone's walking down the hall to the bedroom. Footsteps stop at the doorway, I can hear someone breathing. It's a man.
It's Éomer. Oh please, don't talk to me. I can't talk. Every time I open my mouth my throat gets all tight again and I get that feeling like someone's just punched me in the stomach.
Silence. He waits. Then he tries again. "Éowyn."
I shift my feet, letting him know I'm listening, but I don't look up.
"Do you want me to sit with you?"
His voice is shaky too. Everyone's is. No one who's said anything for the past six hours has been able to say it straight. Wobbly, trembly, unsteady voices.
Six hours. It feels more like six centuries.
I decide to not stare at my hands any more. I’m going to stare at my feet. At least that's a little different.
Long thin feet, red painted toenails. No calluses, no corns, no bunions. Just perfect feet to go on the ends of my perfect legs.
My two-klick legs.
It hits me like a blow, I double over, I can't breathe. I've got my hands over my head and I'm rocking, rocking, back and forth, the pressure building up in my skull until I think it's going to explode. There's a whining, a high keening noise coming out of me, like a prelude to an eruption. I feel hands on me, Éomer's hands, he's holding me, rubbing my back, trying to hug me. But I would have to sit up, my stomach hurts, and I might see the bed. He's speaking, he's saying something, he's crying.
Then the sob comes out, horrible wrenching in my chest, tearing out my throat. How can I have any liquid left in my body to make more tears? Surely I must be dehydrated by now.
I slide out of his arms to the floor. Cold hard tile on my face, my elbows, my knees; I'm hiding, hiding from him, hiding from this horrible pain.
More footsteps. Aragorn is speaking, low quiet voice, bedside voice, the hands of the king are the hands of the healer.
"Just leave her alone, Éomer. There's nothing we can do, nothing we can say. We all just have to ride it out."
His voice shakes. He's crying too.
The footsteps leave, the breathing leaves. There are two people in this room but only one of them is breathing.
I don't know how long I crouch there, my tears making a puddle under my face, but after a while the racking sobs stop again and I roll onto my side. I lie there, waiting for my chest to stop hurting.
I keep doing this. I stop, then I start and my chest hurts. I stop until my chest stops hurting, then I start again.
It was worse at first. The screaming was definitely worse. I'm not sure who was louder, me or Gimli, but this place was mayhem for a while.
I open my eyes. I can see under my bed. A shoe, an earring, a couple of dust bunnies. When was the last time I vacuumed under here? I stretch out my arm and pick up the earring. I thought I'd lost this at work. I'd put it in my jewelry box but that would entail getting up, and I'm so tired. So I cradle it in the palm of my hand and stare at the dust bunnies.
I'll never answer the phone again.
I didn't believe him at first. I could hear yelling in the background, Gimli yelling, Éomer yelling. It was Aragorn, trying to explain what had happened. I didn't understand. Fifteen thousand years of survival, and one touch does it? It didn't happen. He'll be all right, just wait a couple of minutes. I'm sure you're mistaken.
Then Gandalf. Hysterical. The staff, the ring, the flash of light. He's a Maia. He knows.
That's why I attacked him when he came back. It was his hand that did it. I was screaming, "Bring him back! Bring him back!" as though it was just as easy to reverse it as it was to do it. But then Éomer brought him in and I knew.
I still tried to argue. How did they know? Stupid of me. A doctor and a Maia. Of course they knew.
What are the stages of grief again? Anger, denial, bargaining, what comes next – is depression one of them? I think I went through the first three and I'm stuck on the last one. No, wait, the last one is acceptance. Fuck that. Like I'll ever accept this.
My cheek is starting to hurt from lying on the tile. I roll over onto my back and stare at the ceiling. There's a crack in the corner, and a stain from an old leak over my head. It's kind of shaped like a teapot. Or an amphora.
That's it. I could drink. I could drink and drink and drink and drink until I passed out, then when I woke up I'd be hung-over, and have a damn good reason to feel this bad.
That's what Gimli's doing. He hit the tequila within minutes after coming back.
Tears streamed down his cheeks into his beard, his eyes were red, bloodshot. He could barely speak for sobbing. "He said he was sorry," was all I could get out of him.
Sorry. Sorry for ending it. Sorry for obeying his master. Sorry for hurting me.
I get punched again and I curl in. My stomach hurts, my throat hurts, my head hurts. My eyes burn from so many tears. I roll over onto my other side and face the wall. Something digs into my hand when I clench it into a fist. It's my earring. Another sob rips its way out of me and it hurts.
Footsteps, soft ones this time, soft hands on my side. The smell of baby powder and hairspray. Small strong arms in soft silky sleeves slide under me, pull me up into a warm comfortable bosom, hold me there, rocking me like a baby. A quiet voice, a mother's voice, a mother who knows death and loss and pain and sorrow.
"Go ahead and cry, dear," says Rosie, and I do what she says, I cry and cry and cry into her breasts until her pretty satin shirt is all stained with my tears, but I can feel drops of water on my head and I know she's crying too. I don’t know how long I cry but when I'm done I lie there, staring past her at the wall, one hand on my mouth, the other holding my earring. And still she rocks me, rocks me like a baby, and I lie there and let her.
When she speaks again I can hear her voice through her chest, can hear it over her heartbeat. "We all loved him," she says softly. "But you and Gimli loved him best, and you two are the ones hurting the most."
Oh, you understand, don't you; you understand what I'm feeling. You know that sucker-punch, the jab to the kidneys. I inhale, a deep shuddering breath.
"Rosie," I say. I'm still sobbing, my voice thick and choked. "What am I going to do?"
"There, there, now, dear," she croons, and I feel her hand stroking my hair. "You'll do just what he would have wanted you to do. You'll go on and do things and go places and meet people. You'll be strong, you'll be his Shieldmaiden."
I start to sob again. It's too hard. "I don't want to be a Shieldmaiden anymore," I say, I know it's stupid but I say it anyway.
Rosie sighs. "Well, you might change your mind about that eventually, dear," she says, and gives me a squeeze. I shut my eyes. "Now then, dear, would you like a cup of tea? Might settle your stomach a bit."
I haven't had anything to eat since dinner. We all sat around the table when the guys left, swapping stories, trying to distract ourselves from what they were going to do. Not that I think any of us really knew what they WERE going to do – if I'd known Gandalf was heading out to off Faramir I wouldn't have been as calm as I was.
Lothíriel kept asking me what he was like in bed. Arwen and Rosie wouldn't listen; Arwen because he was like a brother to her and it grossed her out, Rosie because it "wasn't proper-like." But Lothíriel, Diamond, and Estella hooted with laughter when I told them how many times we'd done it.
Twenty-four hours. We were together barely twenty-four hours.
Rosie squeezes me again, and I say, "No thanks. No tea."
"No?" She kisses the top of my head, where her tears wet my hair. "Well, let me know if you'd like any. Do you want to come out with us into the lounge? We won't talk to you if you'd rather not."
"No," I say. My voice is a little stronger, I think I'm done for now. "I want to stay in here a little while longer."
Rosie pauses. I know she doesn't like me being in here, but she knows now would be a very bad time to start ordering me around. "All right then, dear. Do you want to get back up into your chair?"
And look at the bed? Hell, no. "No," I say. I roll out of her lap and lie on the floor again. The tile is cool on my cheek. She kneels beside me for a minute, stroking my hair; then she squeezes my shoulder, gets up, and pads out of the room.
I can hear voices in the living room. Gandalf is explaining something; his Oxford accent is slipping, catching, snagging on his sorrow. "I don't know why he did it," he's saying, for about the twentieth time. "But the Valar accepted the substitution. I didn't know, I couldn't stop it – "
He sobs, I hear Frodo say something like, "It wasn't your fault," and I close my eyes.
Typical of the stubborn bastard, dying just because Manwë told him to.
I'm not sure whether I admire him or hate him for it. Faramir goes free and the Listener dies.
I haven't thought his name since I came in here. I started out looking at him, then I sat down and looked at my hands, and now I'm here on the floor again. I open my hand, look at the earring. It's not even a real pearl. I drop it on the floor.
I can't lie here forever. I'll have to get up eventually. I may not ever stop hurting, I might cry for centuries, I might slog through the rest of my days doubled over with pain, but even ceramic tile isn't eternal and if I lie here long enough watching the dust bunnies reproduce I'm sure I'll miss out on something important.
It's only cowardice preventing me from getting up. If I can just get up and look at him, if I can just walk out of this bedroom and leave him behind for a while, I'll have proven that I really AM a Shieldmaiden, and not that gutless, weak-hearted, spineless wimp I was when he picked me up in Pasadena. He spent twenty-four hours awakening my Inner Shieldmaiden and I'll repay him poorly by cowering under the bed, refusing to face him.
First things first. I roll onto my knees and elbows, rest my forehead against the tile. How he'd laugh at me if he saw me, my butt stuck up into the air. I push up so my arms are straight. He wouldn't laugh now. He'd be biting my ass, or reaching around to unbutton my fly, or rubbing up against me from behind. I feel the thrill of anticipation quiver through me and more tears drop onto the floor. Never again . . . It takes me a minute, but I close my eyes and stand up.
I can see the reddish glow of the bedside table lamp through my eyelids. I'm facing in the right direction, right next to the bed. All I need to do is open my eyes.
I know they're not glued shut. They just feel like it.
Oh god, why did this have to happen? Why did he even come? It would've been better if he'd never come.
No, that's not true. Even twenty-four hours with him is better than no hours at all, despite the horrible ending.
I open my eyes and look down at the bed.
I knew he was dead when Éomer laid his body down on my bed. That quick, kinetic, twitchy, energetic form was limp, flaccid, sagging in my brother's arms, head lolling back, limbs askew. The eyes were half open, lightless, dull; his jaw was clenched, teeth gripping the tip of his tongue, testament to the torment of his death. As I look down upon that still gray face I remember hearing Aragorn speak to Arwen and Lothíriel – "Did he suffer?" Lothíriel had asked anxiously. Aragorn was sobbing. "Oh god, he was in agony – " And I heard Pippin in Diamond's arms, brokenly describing his screams, his thrashing, the long body arching up in anguish before the light left his eyes and he dropped lifeless to the ground.
It's so strange to see him like this; it's almost as though it's not really him. That translucent abalone skin is colorless, waxy; the hair has lost its luster, spread out on the pillow, the thin nimble fingers lightly flexed, perfectly still. It's the lips that convince me he's gone, he's left the shell of this body and gone elsewhere, where, Gandalf couldn't say; rejected by Námo, he said. Harborless, anchorless, homeless; abandoned, deaf, mute, halt and blind – a worse agony than the physical death is the spiritual one.
The rose-leaf pink of those cupids-bow lips is gone, replaced by a lackluster purply-blue. The marble cheeks have lost their hint of color, the creamy thick eyelids darkened, wrinkled. When they first laid him down I threw myself across his body, wanting to make him start breathing, make him come back. The chest was still, I couldn't hear a heart beat, and I just lay there with my face in his cold dry hair, until the scent of rosemary faded completely.
Then I started screaming.
The tears roll down my cheeks, down my neck, down my chest, over my breasts. I'm not sobbing, but the tears roll down and down, like a dull trickle from a heavy gray sky, a drizzle, dribbling down my chin and soaking into my shirt.
All right. I think I've looked at him long enough. I KNOW what he looks like dead. Now I want to think about what he looked like when he was alive. It's all I've got, now.
I can't, here in this room, with his body lying there inert in front of me. It mocks my memory, reminds me I'll never hear his loud brassy laugh, smell the rich piney scent of his hair, feel the satiny smooth hardness of his skin. I'll never lie with my head on his breast, hearing the comforting thrum-thrum of his heartbeat after we make love.
Love. I never told him I loved him. I was too scared. The Shieldmaiden was too fucking scared. He kept trying to tell me, casting hints, hoping I wouldn't run off screaming.
Well, it's too late now.
I can't even ask Gandalf to tell Manwë to tell Námo I said I loved him, because he's
been denied entry to the Halls of Mandos and no one's talking to him now. I screwed up. I spent thousands of years desperately loving a worthless piece of shit, and when the perfect guy came along I was too fucking timid to put my heart on the line and tell him how I felt. Oh sure, I sang him that aria, but he was the one who said, "Die Liebe ist’s allein." And how did I respond? " Réponds à ma tendresse, verse-moi l’ivresse." What a cop-out.
I turn my back on the bed.
Will I come back in here later? I don't know. Probably.
I look at the door.
Gimli is standing there. Well, propped up against the door-jamb, anyway, holding a nearly empty bottle of tequila. Bleary-eyed, still damp about the beard area, red-nosed and sniffling.
Someone who feels as bad about this as I do. Amazing.
He swallows a couple of times; I can tell he's gearing up to say something and doesn't want his voice to break again. I wait. I have forever to wait, after all, and nothing to hurry to do. At last he says in a quavery voice, "Gonna sit here a while, 'kay?"
I nod. He totters in, his eyes on Legolas' body. I step aside and he sits heavily in the chair, broad shoulders sagging, hands drooping limply from the ends of his arms, bottle swinging, staring blankly. Neither of us moves for a long time. All I can hear is his breathing, heavy, through his mouth, and my own, whistling through my nose. I clear my throat.
"Okay?" I ask.
He nods. I turn and walk out.
People are lumped around the living room like sacks of potatoes. No one's moving, they're just sitting around, slumped over, heads in hands, drooping. Only Rosie is upright, weary-eyed but alert; Sam's head is in her lap, and he's asleep.
I look at the clock. It's almost six thirty. The sun will be rising soon. I look out of the sliding glass doors to the patio. The back wall is a black shadow; the sky is lightening from deep blue to purple. Suddenly I want to see the sunrise. I missed it yesterday morning; by the time I woke up I was in Legolas' arms as he made sweet love to me in our bedroom.
Our bedroom. Not mine.
Quite a difference twenty-four hours makes in a person's life.
I cross to the glass doors and unlatch them. The click makes Lothíriel's head jerk up; she's curled up in Éomer's arms. They both look over at me.
"Where are you going?" she asks, brushing her hands over her face. Tearstained face, like mine.
"Outside," I say. My throat is getting tight again and I don't want to talk.
"Do you want to be alone?" Arwen turns to me from her spot on the floor, where she's cushioned in Aragorn's lap. Her lovely eyes are ravaged, bright with tears. He was like a brother to her, the brother given her after the Twins broke ties.
"Yes," I say. It's hard enough handling my pain. I don't want to have to deal with someone else's, too.
The door rumbles open, I step onto the rough stone floor of the patio, and slide it shut behind me. I hear crickets, tree frogs, the soft distant roar of traffic. I inhale. Damp grass, concrete, the faintest after-scent of barbecue. The Christmas lights are still up, turned off but hanging from the palm trees and oak branches; the tiki torches are burnt out, black and smelling of fuel. I walk carefully, trying not to hurt my feet on the bumps and knobs of the patio tile, and when I get to the edge I sit down and put my feet in the cold grass. I look to the sky. It's lighter now, almost lavender, and the stars are fading.
Yes, this is better. Better than sitting in that hot little room, watching him grow colder and stiffer. Better than watching the others watch me, better than fielding questions about how I'm doing, better than hearing the self-recriminations, the angry accusations, the weeping. I think I'll stay out here forever and not ever go back inside, never never never.
Shit. My feet are cold, and the dew is soaking my butt.
Okay. Not forever. But at least for a while.
I wish I could turn my brain off. I keep seeing him alive, then him dead. I see him in my head, talking and cooking and throwing his head back to laugh, then I see him limp and gray and cold. I watch the sky as it gets lighter, then I get tired of that and bury my head in my arms, propped up on my knees.
I raise my head, look around. Who said that?
I am Yavanna.
Oh shit. I'm either going nuts, hearing voices in my head, or . . .
Or I'm hearing voices in my head, and I'm NOT going nuts.
Either prospect scares the shit out of me.
You are not going mad, Shieldmaiden. With the Listener gone, I must speak to you directly, for his intervention has been taken from you.
It sure the hell has. What's up with that, anyway? What the hell was Manwë thinking, doing that to him? All he ever did was obey perfectly, he Listened when he was supposed to, told everyone what they were supposed to do, did everything you and Elbereth and Manwë told him to do. And what thanks does he get? An excruciating death and eternal damnation. I don't call that very fucking fair. In fact, it's fucking UNfair, and I'm pissed as hell, and I don't want to listen to you, I don't care what you have to say to me, I'm mad and I don't give a flying fuck about ANY of you any more, so you might as well just shut up and leave me alone. You've never done a damn thing for me anyway, just gave me a worthless trashy husband who treated me like shit, and just when I think things are finally going right you fucking pull the rug out from underneath me, and if that's not bad enough you punished the GOOD guy and let the BAD guy go off scott-free. What the fuck's up with that? Don't you have any sense of right and wrong? Or are you so removed from normal people's lives that you just sit up there on your damn fat immortal asses, throwing lightning bolts down at the poor shitheads living beneath you, thinking it's some damn computer game like the Sims? Oh no, we don't matter at all, we're not Valar after all; we must not have feelings or opinions or anything else that matters to you, so you think you can just jerk us around and ruin our lives and do whatever the hell you want with no consequences or responsibility at all. Well, fuck you! Take your Valinor and your Two Trees and your stuck-up superiority complex and shove it up your ass, because I am NOT having ANYTHING to do with ANY of you ANY MORE.
The crickets chirp and the tree frogs croak. I lift my head. The sky has streaks of green in it now, and it's a pale blue – like his eyes were blue – clear blue – deep blue. Oh god, I miss him.
I know how much you desire to be with him, and it pains me to feel your grief. But sorrow, like night, has its end; you need only wait for it to dawn upon you.
Sorry, Yavanna, there's no end to grief for me. I've got to live for at least another fifteen thousand years, and if I can't have him there's nothing for me to do.
Ah, there you are mistaken, my Shieldmaiden. There is much left for you beneath the circle of this earth. There is sorrow here, and hurt; pain and suffering, toil and poverty, confusion and hatred. All these things you are here to combat; you are our vessels, our hands. And the soul that has felt these griefs is all the more mighty to oppose them.
Oh, great. So not only do I have to live alone for another hundred centuries, I get to work my ass off trying to get people to treat each other properly. What a charming prospect. Thanks all the same, my lady, but I think I'll just stay here.
Would you reject your calling, as your husband did, and cower beneath a cloak of mortality, rejecting our commands?
Um . . . well, when you put it that way . . . no, I guess not. And besides, if I did that, I'd lose touch with everyone else again, and that would suck.
Do you then accept your destiny?
Do I have a choice?
You always have the choice, Shieldmaiden. Well? Do you accept what I have planned for your future?
Sure. Why the hell not? I'm not doing anything right now, anyway.
Hey. Since I can hear you, does that make me a Listener, too? I mean, now that Legolas is gone, you're going to need someone else to Hear. Does this mean you've picked me? Am I the one that's going to go all weird-glowy-eyed now?
I told you, in the Listener's death, other channels had to be sought. For now, you are that channel.
Oh. Well. Okay, I guess. I can do that. I mean, that's not so bad. And Legolas never seemed to mind. And you're always there, right? I mean, as long as you're speaking to me. So it's not like I'll ever really be alone.
I promise you, beloved Shieldmaiden, you are never alone.
So I can talk to you when I need to?
And ask you questions, things I need to know?
Like, what do I do now?
I would suggest you rejoin the rest of the Chosen. See, the sun is rising; night is ended. Sorrow endures only for the night. Your presence will reassure them.
It will? Funny, thought I was being a major downer. Guess I'd better stop moping and start doing something. Like fix breakfast or something, right? Well – I'm not much of a cook. Maybe I'd better let Sam and Rosie do that. Or – wait, I know. Rosie keeps pushing cups of tea on me. I bet it would make her feel better if I had a cup of tea, it would make her feel like she was helping me. Is that a good idea? Is that sort of what you meant?
Well done, Shieldmaiden! Your desires honor you.
Should I go inside now?
Okay then. Oh – and, um, I'm sorry about cussing you out – but I'm still kind of pissed, you know.
Anger fades as well as sorrow. Be well, Shieldmaiden.
I sigh, heave myself to my feet. Damn – my butt's drenched. Oh, well. Water dries eventually. And if I do it right, I can leave little butt-cheek-shaped wet spots all over the furniture. Legolas would've liked that. Probably just because it would've pissed off Faramir, but still.
I turn back to the sliding glass door. Now it's lighter outside than it is inside, and I can't see through the glass. All I can see is the reflection of the sky on the glass, and as I watch, the sun-reflection rises over the wall-reflection, and I'm bathed in light.
Things could've been worse, I guess. I mean, he could've died without our having had that twenty-four hours at all. Sure, I'd never have known what I missed, but I wouldn't have had all that happiness, either. It hurts like hell now, but he was worth it – oh man, was he worth it.
I turn around, watch the sunrise for a while, and wish like hell he was standing next to me.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.