Burden of Guilt

A Sad Awakening

These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien and New Line Cinema with the exception of Caranthir who appears by kind permission of Evendim. This story was written purely for pleasure and not for profit.

Warning - This Chapter contains themes which some readers may find disturbing

The pain filled eyes flickered open and focussed on Aragorn's face. Anxiously, he tried to read the emotions reflected within them.

For a fleeting instant Faramir looked upon him with love and trust, only to be swiftly replaced with an expression of great pain and fear.

The King held a cup of water to the parched lips and waited while Faramir sipped it and moaned softly.

"Why?" Faramir whispered.

"I am so very sorry, I never meant you to be harmed!" Aragorn said remorsefully, grasping Faramir's hand only for his Steward to pull away.

"Why?" he repeated, "Why did you bring me back? If you ever loved me or Eowyn, or even our unborn child you would have let me die!"

"I know you are in a great deal of pain, Mellon Nin, but it will pass." Aragorn soothed, trying to conceal his dismay. "You must not think like that!"

"The pain I have now is nothing compared with that I will suffer when I die a traitor's death!" Faramir whispered, "I know I richly deserve it for killing Eomer but I had hoped for the sake of the love you claimed to bear me you would allow me to die of my wounds instead."

"What?" Aragorn gasped in horror, "How could you even think such a thing? To think that I would have you executed and in such a fashion too!" Dismay that Faramir should think him capable of such a thing made him sound harsh "You did not kill Eomer, he was badly injured but recovering well."

Faramir sighed but even that was painful. Although relieved that he was to be spared the dreadful fate he had envisaged, he wondered however could he endure living with the knowledge that he had attacked his own wife's brother and by so doing had betrayed both his King and his country?

The memories overwhelmed him; the fury of the Rohirrim, his time in the prison and the way Mahrod had leered at him and pulled at his clothing. What had happened to him while he was unconscious? How could he ever hold his wife in his arms again after such shame or even embrace the King as a brother?

What right had he to live as a traitor, defiled both by his deeds and by what had most likely befallen him?

"Come you need your wounds tending!" Aragorn said rather curtly as he was so weary and disheartened. He had hoped so much that his friendship with Faramir would survive the appalling mistake he had made, but it seemed that Faramir thought even worse of him than he had feared.

He pulled pack the blankets and draped towels around Faramir to cover him as he worked.

Faramir groaned with pain and flinched away from Aragorn's touch while his many injuries were treated until the most embarrassing bruises were uncovered and coated with salve. Then he wished the earth would swallow him to escape the shame of it all.

The final humiliation came when he needed to answer a call of nature, which was when tears of both pain and shame rolled down his cheeks, despite Aragorn's best efforts to be both kind and discreet.

"Would you rather someone else tended you?" Aragorn asked feeling his friend's discomfort acutely and too weary to think of suitable words to calm him. "Eowyn or Caranthir or maybe someone else?"

Faramir shook his head. It was bad enough that even his closest friend should see him thus.' The one who was his closest friend,' he corrected himself, for how could Aragorn ever forgive him for what he had done? Sparing his life alone had been magnanimous beyond all measure.

He felt it was somehow defiling Aragorn to even touch one such as he, and yet much though he felt he deserved punishment he was in too much pain to bear the thought of anyone less gentle touching him and the humiliation of the far less discreet and understanding Healers from the Houses tending his wounds made him shudder.

"You need to be propped up for a while or your lungs could become congested, I will give you some dandelion root to help. Maybe tomorrow your back will be healed enough for me to strap up your ribs." Aragorn told him as he washed his hands and slipped several pillows behind him. "Would you like a nightshirt to wear now, as maybe you would feel more comfortable?"

"Yes, please," Faramir, replied weakly.

Aragorn slid the garment over Faramir's head and pulled it down." I will have some broth sent up from the kitchens for you while you are awake. That should make you feel better as you have had nothing but water and herbal teas these past days."

With every fibre of his being, Aragorn yearned to comfort Faramir, draw the dark head against his shoulder and tell his Steward how sorry he was and crave his pardon. Then kiss his brow and tell him much he loved him and ofhis anguish when he thought he would lose him. Yet how could he when it seemed very obvious that Faramir could hardly endure his touch? He could only withdraw behind the mask of the Healer and do what he could in that capacity.

Aragorn fed Faramir the broth spoonful by spoonful. He swallowed obediently but without enthusiasm as his ordeal had left him unable to care whether he lived or died.

The King then sent a message to see if Eowyn could be spared from her duties with the Queen for an hour or two before sinking into an exhausted slumber on the far side of the bed.

" Faramir, you are awake! How are you feeling? " Eowyn asked as she hurried into the room and kissed him on the lips, before tenderly taking his hand in both her own

He barely opened his eyes when she entered and shied away from her touch. Knowing he had almost killed her beloved brother and was most likely defiled after his time in prison made him fear his touch would dishonour her

Eowyn sighed and blinked away the tears feeling it was little wonder Faramir pulled his hand away from hers after all the pain she had caused him. Were it not for her letter to Eomer, her brother would not be facing a lifetime of disability nor her husband be lying here in agony.

It seemed now that Faramir would most likely survive, but maybe only to face a lifetime of pain as even Aragorn was still uncertain just how severe his injuries were.

Bowing her head, Eowyn wept silently offering a silent prayer to the Valar that both her husband and brother would be restored to her soon sound in body and mind.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Two weeks had now passed since Eomer and Faramir's fateful encounter and while Eomer was well on the way to recovery, apart from still having no feeling in his arm Aragorn was still very concerned about Faramir.

Now Faramir was out of danger, Imrahil had returned to Dol Amroth where he was urgently needed to sort out a land dispute in which the parties were threatening to come to blows. Aragorn had greatly missed his help and support

Today Aragorn decided he was now fit enough to return to his own apartments but although his body was slowly healing and the wounds were closing, he remained silent and withdrawn. His kidneys were working property but his heartbeat was still too rapid and erratic, which worried Aragorn greatly.

Also the injuries were healing far more slowly than they should have done, given the healing and care, Aragorn had freely bestowed. It was as if something within Faramir's troubled soul was resisting any attempt to restore him to health.

That afternoon, Aragorn carried out the now familiar ritual of tending his wounds, first removing his nightshirt and then arranging blankets round him, both for warmth and dignity, so he could examine one injury at a time.

Faramir was monosyllabic in the King's company, which hardly surprised him, as he was the prime cause of his Steward's misfortune. He had reluctantly concluded that maybe it would be best to keep some distance between them for a time, though he would miss his friend's company very much but it seemed that only time could blunt the edge of the anger and hurt Faramir must be feeling towards him.

Not only that but the embarrassment the Steward felt when some of the injuries were treated was unpleasant for them both and Faramir doubtless needed time for the memories to fade.

Not that the Steward seemed any happier in the company of his wife as he pulled his hand away from hers and feigned sleep when she tried to talk to him. That was hardly surprising either as they had both contributed to Faramir's injuries though the greater part of the blame lay undoubtedly with him.

Increasingly he longed to embrace Faramir and tell him how much he loved him and plead for his forgiveness but how could he just yet when Faramir recoiled from even being in the same room as the one whose orders had caused him so much pain?

He greatly desired to spend more time with Arwen and his infant son, but had always hoped that Faramir would be able to share his joy in fatherhood by regularly visiting with Eowyn, but it seemed only time might fulfil this wish.

Arwen had even offered to bring Eldarion to show the Steward but Faramir had shown no enthusiasm for the idea.

He had seemed genuinely pleased that the birth had gone well but insisted that his sickroom was no place for an infant.

Tearing himself away from his thought, Aragorn concentrated on his task as he very gently felt the bruises covering Faramir's belly and extending down into the groin area. There seemed to be no permanent damage and the swelling was gradually subsiding though Faramir would be sore, maybe for months, but he was hopeful that nothing was life threatening, though it worried him that his Steward recoiled in agony when certain areas were touched

Poor Faramir looked ready to weep with shame as he finished applying the salve, despite his best efforts to be as discreet as possible.

"I see much the same every time I take a bath, just a little less colourful, so there is nothing to be upset about! Remember only a few months ago, you had to care for me and I survived the experience!" Aragorn soothed, trying to ease his embarrassment, "You can have the salve to apply it yourself from now on as I believe there are no worse hurts inside you apart from bruising which I fear could cause you discomfort for some time yet, though I will do all I can to lessen the pain."

Faramir nodded mutely as Aragorn helped him don his drawers and breeches.

He then turned his attention to removing the stitches from the wounds inflicted by Eomer's sword. "The cut on your arm damaged the muscle and you will need to use the salves frequently, followed by massage and healing. then you also need to take the herbal teas daily, especially the hawthorn berries." Aragorn said as he re-bandaged the wounds. Maybe I should come and treat it daily for you?"

Faramir shook his head." You have already done a great deal for me, Sire. Eowyn is trained in the healing arts. Your wife and son need you, as does Gondor as I am unable to serve her at present."

Aragorn frowned at the formality but let it pass. "Yes, I am needed in many places but Arwen would never begrudge me spending time each day helping you recover'" he said, thinking he would have to wait a week or two before offering the essential healing again, not to mention the Elven remedy for the livid scars disfiguring his Steward's back, which he was now rubbing salve into.

Faramir tensed at his touch.

'He must associate me with nothing but pain at present.' Aragorn thought sadly as he strapped Faramir's ribs and helped him into his shirt and tunic.

"Is there anything at all you would like?" he asked him, willing to offer almost any gift no matter how priceless to try to compensate for what he had done.

" I would like to see Eomer." Faramir replied.

Aragorn hesitated, wondering how Eomer would react to the sight of his brother in law as he still spoke of him with hostility, despite strenuous efforts from both Eowyn and himself.

Maybe though he would soften when he actually saw how pale, thin and contrite, Faramir was. As the meeting could not be postponed for much longer, it was perhaps best to get it over with.

TBC

A/N .A big thank you to all my readers for your much appreciated comments. I have passed the 500 reviews mark now!

In Chapter 11 Faramir blurts out ""Only one and she was not forced and there was no impropriety as he was near death." in reply to Eomer's accusations over Eowyn's honour.

Eomer did NOT say "I need to use my arm as I am a King of Rohan!" . I can only suggest that any readers who dislike my writing style find other stories which suit them better as the majority have told me they likethings as they are.

With Arwen's Elven abilities and close bond with Aragorn, I doubt he could keep any secret for long. Her pregnancy temporarily dulled her perceptions.

Eowyn does love FAramir but this was a very different era.

I promise I would never abandon a story unless unforeseen circumstances beyond my control made it impossible to continue, such as having no computer, being run over by a bus or serious illness.

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