When Winter Comes by Marta

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Author's Chapter Notes:

For the unlearned, old age is winter; for the learned it is the season of the harvest. (The Talmud)

Faramir bent over and tried to unlace his bootstrings, his fingers clearly made clumsy by the chilly winter air. His task at last accomplished, he kicked his shoes against the wall with a passion. "You'd think I would be used to this cold by now. This is hardly my first trip to Rohan."

Éowyn, lounging on the bed under a thick bear pelt, propped herself up on her elbow. "Nay," she said. "I am sure you are from hardy enough stock, but no land south of Tharbad holds a candle to the Riddermark's winters. To endure our winters well, it is a trait bred more than acquired."

She pulled herself up to sit against the headboard so she might see her husband better. His hair, once raven but now speckled with the first silver signs of old age, framed his still-beautiful face in tangled locks; clumps of snow caught in his beard glittered in the firelight. His riding tunic was nearly soaked through, even his socks clung to the arch of his foot where they had been half pulled off when he removed his boots. It was all Éowyn could do to stifle her laugh, he looked so disheveled.

Faramir sat down on the low bench before the fire and peeled off his socks, placing them on the drying-rack. His tunic soon followed, and for a moment Éowyn felt as if the breath had been knocked out of her. She was no simpering maid, so impressed by a fair-formed body that she overlooked other faults. Wulf had been handsome enough, so the stories said; she had never been moved by a fair-faced coward or fool.

Her lord was brave and noble, a good man and a better husband and father; she could scarcely have loved him as well and for as long as she did, if that had not been so. Yet there was more to him than that. That sight of him -- hair soaked and tangled, bare chest glistening in the firelight -- called to mind a similar scene from another stay in the Golden Hall. He'd been soaked by river's water then, not half-melted snow. There had been a tale, something about berries and stones and birds that she could hardly remember. But the sight of her husband, half-stripped then as he was now, had stayed with her.

"How do you do it? You should be as spoiled by southern winters as I am." Éowyn looked up, pulled from her memories. Faramir still faced the fire, his long legs stretched across the hearth, and she was surprised to see he still wore his damp britches. This time she did laugh.

"'Tis no great secret. We just have the sense to get out of our wet clothes entirely." Deciding to brave the world beyond her covers, she left the bed and fetched a robe warming on a hook opposite the fire from Faramir. Handing it to him, she said, "Get you dry, and then get you to bed – it's quite as toasty as any hearthside."

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