Burden of Guilt

Fear and Frustration

These Characters are the property of the Estate of J. R. R Tolkien and New Line Cinema. This story has been written for pleasure and no profit has or will be made from it.

Filled with alarm, Aragorn hastily bent over the prone form of his Steward and reaching under his tunic, felt his heartbeat. Like the previous night it was far too rapid and again he massaged under his jaw until it slowed somewhat.

"What's wrong with him? What have I done?" Eowyn asked in horror, bending over the prone form of her husband, "Is it his heart?"

" I believe he has fainted. I do not think it is anything more serious, though his weakened heart may be to blame as it still beats too rapidly." the King told Eowyn, trying to reassure her. "Do not kneel on the floor in your condition,I beg you !I will move him to the couch.Get some blankets, he needs keeping warm!"

He lifted Faramir and carried him over to the couch noting how alarmingly light he felt. Two months ago, he had been difficult to lift unaided but now he seemed to weigh hardly anything.

The servants brought blankets and built up the fire as Eowyn frantically issued instructions.

Eowyn moved back to her unconscious husband's side. "At least we can look at his wounds now. Help me undress him!"

Aragorn sighed, he hated going against Faramir's wishes, especially as he felt responsible for his current plight, but he could not let his friend fade before his eyes.

"Perhaps someone from the Houses of Healing should attend him in this case?" he suggested. "He made it very clear that he objects to me touching him."

Eowyn shook her head vehemently. "No, you are the only one skilled enough to help him! He needs you, whatever he might say, remember how he clutched at your hand last night?"

"He has little cause to trust me." Aragorn said sadly as he helped Eowyn lift Faramir's tunic over his head.

"The same could be said of me." Eowyn replied. "If only I had never written that letter or remembered to destroy it! We all failed him!"

Undressing Faramir was far from easy as he was a dead weight and was wearing both his tunic and shirt tightly laced.

Finally they succeeded in unlacing the shirt and eased it over his head. Eowyn gave a low cry while Aragorn gasped in horror once Faramir's hurts were finally revealed.

Although the stripes on his back had closed they still looked livid and had healed badly as had the sword cuts across his side and chest.

Worst though was where Eomer's sword had sliced into his arm as the scar tissue looked inflamed and ugly, while the muscle in the upper arm had started to waste away.

Only the bruises had faded, though bluish tingedpatches remained and the uncovered part of his belly was still distended and blotched in places.

The Steward had never carried much flesh but now was little more than skin and bone, each rib clearly visible. It appeared that nothing had been done to tend the wounds since the last time Aragorn had applied salves and the neglect was having disastrous consequences.

"Why?" Aragorn gasped. "He told me that you would care for him."

He could have wept at the pitiful sight before him as he remembered the day they went swimming. How he had rejoiced then that Faramir looked so well and happy! Now he was so frail, ill nourished and covered in scars that he was hardly recognisable as the same young man.

"And so I would gladly, but I thought you were tending his wounds. I thought you treated him when he saw you about the paperwork he deals with until last night." Eowyn too was near tears. "Little wonder he would not take off his shirt as he knew what we would uncover!"

"Obviously he does not want to heal, but why?" Aragorn's sensitive fingers were already probing the damaged arm muscle. "I tried to heal him weeks ago but felt that somehow he was resisting me. I put it down to him feeling angry with me"

"He doesn't blame you .You must help him!" Eowyn pleaded. "You have skills that I do not. You must find out what ails him!"

Aragorn pressed his ear to Faramir's chest and frowned again at his feeble and erratic heartbeat. Such damage was not uncommon after a brutal beating but his heart should have started to recover from it by now.

Obviously the events of last night were far from an isolated incident. It made Aragorn's task all the harder in treating his reluctant patient as any agitation could prove fatal while his heart was so weak.

Although still apparently unconscious, Faramir shivered and the King swathed him in blankets, while trying to decide what he should do next.

Eowyn started to remove her husband's breeches but Aragorn shook his head. "The bruising was fading when I last saw it." he said. "There is little point in distressing him further and it could further damage his heart. Just loosen his belt for now so I can see. I need to examine him more thoroughly when he is awake and can tell me where the pain is worst." He pulled the clothing aside to examine the fading bruises, before gently replacing it again.

Just then there was knock on the door and a servant announced.

"The Queen is here, my Lord!"

"Tell her to come in!" Eowyn bade her friend enter, while Aragorn hastily pulled the blankets up to Faramir's chin.

Arwen hurriedly joined the group clustered round the couch.

"Estel told me what happened last night so I came to see if I could be of any assistance, "the Queen announced, placing a comforting arm around Eowyn."Eldarion is sleeping in the care of his nanny."

Aragorn smiled at his wife for a moment before indicating with his eyes that he needed her help.

"What has happened to Faramir?" Arwen enquired anxiously.

"He appears to have fainted and I am also concerned about his heart still. His injuries are not healing well," her husband told her, uncovering Faramir's arm to show her. "He was very distressed at the prospect of showing me his wounds and collapsed."

Arwen bent over Faramir and laid a hand on his brow. She stood for a moment, concentrating, then straightened up, looking grave.

"His body cannot heal because his mind is deeply troubled," she said. "I fear he will break and descend into darkness if we cannot find a way to prevent it!"

"If he would permit me, I believe I could heal his body but only if his spirit is calmed." Aragorn said sadly.

"Oh, no, it is even worse than I feared!" Eowyn looked desolate. Her back now ached worse than ever and her head was beginning to throb too.

"I am sure, Estel will find some means of helping him." Arwen said reassuringly. "And you look in need of help too, my friend, come with me and let me care for you a while. Faramir will be safe with my husband."

" I ought to stay with him!" Eowyn protested.

"Even without Estel having told me, I can see you are in pain! " Arwen said firmly, taking Eowyn's arm and steering her towards the door, " You have your unborn child that you must consider too. Come with me and leave the men alone for awhile!"

"Very well, maybe you are right!" Eowyn freed herself and pressed a tender kiss on Faramir's pallid lips, before reluctantly allowing herself to be led to the Queen's apartments.

Aragorn sighed; relieved that Arwen had removed the distressed Eowyn from the scene but unsure if Faramir would even talk to him let alone allow him to examine and treat him properly.

As Faramir tensed as he examined the wounds, Aragorn suspected that his Steward was awake but too distressed to open his eyes. From the way Faramir flinched at the contact; it seemed obvious that after all that had happened, Faramir found his touch highly distasteful.

He could feel the Steward's will resisting his healing powers, so there seemed to be little he could do apart from applying salves and administering herbal remedies.

"Please, no!" Faramir whispered though bluish tinged lips. He slowly opened his eyes and stared at Aragorn with wild agitation.

Aragorn removed his hand.

"Why not?" he asked gently. "It must be causing you a great deal of pain. I seek only to ease your pain."

"I do not ask to be healed." Faramir said numbly. "I can still hold a pen and carry out my duties at present. I desire nothing else, my Lord."

His obvious distress combined with the stiff formality that Aragorn had fought long and hard to make him shed in private torn the King's heart. He greatly feared Arwen was right and his Steward would be lost to him if the torments that so obviously plagued his soul were not released.

Faramir's fear of his presence reminded him of when they first met; though then there had been hope that they might learn to be comfortable with one another. Sighing again, he settled himself on the couch beside his Steward.

"I understand your anger towards me, " he said contritely, feeling Faramir would have every right to hate him now.

"No, my King, you never gave me cause." Faramir replied listlessly.

The Steward was so tense; he looked as if he could snap at the slightest movement. His breath came in shallow ragged gasps.

"Come!" he said, raising Faramir to a sitting position and drawing him close, unable any longer to resist the impulse to comfort him He held him, as lovingly as he had cradled his infant son earlier that day but it was far easier to calm a crying babe than a despairing man.

For a few brief moments Faramir allowed himself to be held in those strong yet caring arms. His features relaxed as he buried his head against Aragorn's broad shoulder. He felt loved and secure; relishing the comfort he had denied himself so long.

Then the image of Mahrod groping at him and pulling at his clothing before he fainted returned. This touch was so very different but how could he allow one so pure and noble as Aragorn be tainted by one such as he?

The haunted look returned to his eyes and he pulled away. Sighing, the King laid him back against the cushions on the couch, his eyes full of pain that Faramir obviously found his touch so loathsome.

At last he dared risk taking up a pot of healing salve containing hypericum and calendula. " May I?" he asked and began to rub the salve in the stripes disfiguring his Steward's back in his most detached manner, devoid of any Elven techniques,deliberately being as impersonal as he could. Faramir recoiled still further as the touch could have been that of any gentle fingered Healer.

" I do not wish you to touch me!" he protested after enduring the ministrations with weary resignation for a few minutes.

"Why not?" Aragorn asked very gently. "I am treating you as any healer would though I understand your feelings towards me, yet maybe I can make amends somehow by tending your hurts? If something else burdens your heart, I would have you tell me."

For a moment Faramir hesitated, sorely tempted to tell Aragorn everything. His suspicions of what had happened while he was unconscious in prison and the constant nightmares that tormented him every time he closed his eyes. But how could he confess to such dishonour? Was it not shame enough to have almost killed Eomer and brought Gondor to the brink of war?

Aragorn waited patiently, all the while applying the salve. He had just started on Faramir's wounded arm when Faramir finally spoke.

TBC

A very big thank you to all my readers for your interest and kind reviews. To my amazement I have almost reached the 600 mark! Here is a quick update to show my appreciation.

You are right to be concerned about Eowyn. She is about eight months pregnant so the baby is not yet due.

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