Title: Some Other End
Rating: PG for the whole story, this section G.
Beta: Gloria Lancaster, Countess Axylides, Zander Nyrond, Unearthly Calm. Any remaining mistakes I probably put there after they'd made their comments.
Warning: Interspecies. Bail out if that bothers you. Likewise AU.
Feedback: All kinds accepted, review using the button or email to pmrommel (at) hotmail (dot) com.
Flames pointing out that this is slash, AU and interspecies (and the writer will surely rot in hell), though entertaining in their way, will be treated with the contempt due to someone who ignores warnings like this one and reads a story they know will upset and offend them.
Archiving: I will upload or send the story to other archives when complete.
Summary: In an alternate universe, Boromir survived Amon Hen, Denethor was not driven insane by the palantír and Frodo is offered an unexpected reward.
Disclaimer: I don't look like the "Tolkien estate" and I'm definitely not making a profit out of this.
"Some Other End"
"Advice to persons about to marry. -- Don't."
Punch, vol. viii p1 1845.
"What did my father want?" From what Faramir knew of hobbits, which was still too little, Frodo appeared amused. In which case, he could not imagine what his father could have said.
Frodo joined him on the bench overlooking the city and the rebuilding of Minas Tirith's largest tower. "Were we at home in the Shire, I would believe that I had been asked my intentions towards you. As we are not, I have no idea what to make of it."
"Your intentions?" Faramir stared in increased puzzlement. "What kind of intentions?"
"I believe he was asking me when I am going to wed you."
Faramir could not stop himself. He laughed. "He was joking," he said, when finally able to control himself. "He must have been."
Frodo laughed along with him, but with less force. He said, "If it were anyone but your father, I would agree, but from what little I know of him I would not consider Denethor a man who indulges in practical jokes. Or jokes of any kind."
"Perhaps Queen Arwen..."
"The Queen has been known to tease me...and you. And Aragorn for that matter. But I doubt even she has caught Denethor in one of her jests."
They sat for a while in silence, watching the sunset.
At last Faramir said, "What do you really believe my father wanted?"
Frodo shrugged, eloquently.
"Do not protect me, Frodo. He wants me gone from here. I...my presence is a humiliation to him." They looked at each other and Frodo opened his mouth. Faramir spoke first, "I know this to be true." Somehow saying it himself was less painful.
"Your father is fond of you," said Frodo.
Faramir heard the unsaid. "But he loves Boromir."
"Everybody loves Boromir."
"Not everyone, Faramir," said Frodo. "Come, we will be late for dinner." He stood, and Faramir followed him.
Most nights at Minas Tirith, dinner was the main entertainment, and, most nights, Faramir sat beside the lady Éowyn of Rohan, with Boromir on her other side. He could see Frodo and Samwise, as usual placed next to the King, but was too far away to speak to them. His father was placed next to the Queen.
"Little brother!" Boromir's usual greeting. It had lost any sting it might have once possessed the first time Faramir had bested his brother at practise; that didn't happen often, but that it happened at all was a comfort. Unfortunately, their father had never witnessed the phenomenon.
"Some wine, Lord Faramir?" Lady Éowyn, beautiful and kindly. Faramir held out his goblet. When she'd helped him to wine, he immediately added an equal amount of water.
"Still over-careful, little brother?" Boromir smiled.
Faramir smiled back. "As you say," he said. Then, to turn the conversation away from him, "I saw you ride out together; what did you do with your day?"
He knew it had been the wrong thing to ask when Éowyn turned to Boromir and blushed. But surely his brother would not have... No. Definitely not. Boromir said, "We saw the remains of Osgiliath; the engineers are beginning to work on the reconstruction."
"The sewers are most interesting," Éowyn's voice was laced with a laugh.
"The sewers?" said Faramir. "Surely, my brother, you did not take the lady to visit the sewers."
"Nothing else would please her," replied Boromir.
Faramir realised there was some joke here, something from which he was excluded, but he smiled dutifully.
"And you? What did you with your day?" Éowyn's gentle tone robbed the question of anything other than polite enquiry.
"I showed Frodo the library; he is learned among his kind and has long wanted to see it."
"You managed to separate him from Samwise? An achievement indeed!"
There seemed to Faramir an odd expression in the Éowyn's eyes, and he looked down at the white of the table cover. "Indeed, my Lady."
"And then? For it cannot take all day to look at a library - can it, Boromir?"
Faramir hoped his surprise did not show. He knew well that indeed it could take all day to look at a library, and after today he knew also that Frodo agreed with him. Éowyn was still looking at him, her beautiful brow slightly creased.
Boromir's turn to laugh, "I would say not, my lady, but my brother can spend a week in a library and the Ringbearer would appear to be another of the same kind."
Faramir felt his face grow hot. Once again he was compared with Boromir and found wanting. He looked up at Frodo, who caught his eye. He'd enjoyed the day spent with Frodo and Mithrandir, the slightly musty smell of the books and scrolls which so slowly revealed their treasures to the curious mind. He could not regret it.
He turned around as Éowyn patted his arm reassuringly, and wondered what he should say, but before he could speak, her attention was on Boromir again. With no one to talk to, Faramir looked up to the King's table and to his father, now engaging the attention of Queen Arwen. From the Queen's expression he'd been talking for some time.
"You are difficult to find, Lord Faramir, and no mistake." Samwise fell into such step beside him as was possible.
"Ah, Samwise," said Faramir, slowing slightly. " I was at practise." Like all Gondorians, he struggled with the nicknames the hobbits used. It felt wrong to him to shorten someone's name, as if he were giving short measure.
"So I was told. I want a word with you, private-like. Is there somewhere nearby we can go?"
"I was going to my rooms in the White Tower, you can accompany me there if you like."
"No, that wouldn't be wise. Are there Inns in this city?"
Faramir stopped and thought. "Indeed, there is -- there was -- a clean wine shop near here." For a wonder there still was, and Samwise chose a seat, as much at home as if he were in his own rooms. Rather less comfortable in these surroundings, Faramir chose a low seat so that he and Samwise were eye to eye.
"Good ale here," Samwise lifted his mug and drank appreciatively.
"Almost as good as at home."
"You, and Frodo too, will return there soon? Is that what you sought me out to tell me?"
Samwise seemed to come to himself somewhat. "No. No, that wasn't it. I have a message from Queen Arwen."
The silence stretched and Faramir said, "Go on. It cannot be urgent if it can be delivered in a wine shop, but I would hear it."
"The Queen wants you to know... Would like to warn you..."
Again a wait. Faramir said, "What is your warning?"
"Tonight, at dinner, your father is to announce his betrothal to the Lady Prestoliel."
"The niece of the Prince of Dol Amroth?"
"Why did Boromir not warn me?" Faramir's hands grew cold.
"He hasn't mentioned it because he doesn't know himself. The Queen sent Pippin to warn him." Samwise paused and took another pull on his ale. "Your father also plans to announce your brother's handfasting to Éowyn of Rohan - a surprise to both of them. The Queen knows from Éowyn that they have discussed a match, but she isn't sure of her feelings for your brother."
Faramir coughed, he was lucky he hadn't been taking a sip of his wine. "Surely my father cannot announce this without the agreement of her brother."
"He's got it. It's not crossed Éomer's mind that your father wouldn't have asked Boromir first. I mean, it's not something that Éomer would do to Éowyn is it? He wouldn't dare."
Faramir considered this, "No, he would not."
"But from what I know of your customs, it's not necessary for a father to ask his child before announcing their marriage, whether girls or boys."
"That is so," said Faramir. Indeed, a concern he had not shared even with Boromir was that their father would trothplight him to some chit he had never met while he was out in the field. That would have been further than custom would strictly allow, but that his father was capable of it Faramir did not doubt. He swallowed, "And what does he have planned for me?"
"He'd like to announce your marriage, but he's having difficulty gaining the agreement of the other party."
"My master, Frodo." This time Faramir did choke on his wine, and it was some time before he could speak again.
"Better now?" asked Samwise.
"Yes," said Faramir, eyes streaming and aware that his throat would hurt for some time. "Thank you." He swallowed some more of his wine. "And will Frodo accept me?"
Samwise considered. "Hobbits are oft accused of bluntness, Captain Faramir. The question is, do you want him to?"
"There are risks..."
"Frodo knows that. Your father will talk of the handfasting as a thank-offering to the Ringbearer and the Shire. If Frodo says no, he's ungrateful in the eyes of all of Gondor. Daft, but that's what folks'd say."
"I could refuse," Faramir began, and then stopped. His father would merely imply refusal shamed them all, that he did not appreciate the Ringbearer's sacrifice. A thought struck him, "But my handfasting now requires King Elessar's permission."
"I thought of that," said Samwise. "It's come up in the negotiations. It strikes me, though, that if Strider..." Faramir smiled at the use of the King's nickname and Samwise corrected himself hastily, "...King Elessar refuses for you, you father could make it look as if the king doesn't appreciate what Frodo went through to get him his throne." Samwise took a swallow of his ale. "I don't think that'd go down too well."
"And despite everything, there are a few malcontents who are not pleased to have the king restored," said Faramir.
"Your city is more like Hobbiton than I expected."
"In what way?"
"However much a change is an improvement," Samwise smiled, "there's always someone who preferred it the way it was."
Faramir put is goblet down, "Ah. I see what you mean."
There was a silence, and then Samwise said, "There's something else."
"What?" Faramir had been deep in thought, and it took a moment for him to pull himself out of it.
"Frodo's been through more than enough. I know you men of Gondor think a lot of your honour, but if you accept and make him miserable you'll catch it hot from me. Just so's you understand that." Samwise took another pull on his ale. "I'm dealing with your father over this - and a tricky one he is and no mistake. Let me know what you decide by dinner time tomorrow." Samwise put his mug down and stood to leave, "Thank you for the ale."
Faramir sat alone in the wineshop over the lees of his wine for a very long time. His face must have been grim, for none dared approach him.
He hoped the lack of attention he paid to his food that night would be put down to a day spent drinking; he knew his father would have no difficulties in ascribing it to that cause. He saw Denethor's eyes on him, and tried to regret appearing every bit as worthless as his father thought him. He did not miss the glances between Éowyn and Boromir, and Boromir, who would normally have made some jest about his brother spending the day in a wine shop, held his tongue.
"Did Sam warn you?" Boromir asked, as the servants brought in the sweetmeats and fruit.
Faramir nodded, minutely.
"And what of you?" asked Éowyn.
"That is a tale for another day," said Faramir.
"So there is..." Éowyn was unable to finish; the Steward had called for silence.
The hobbits and Mithrandir had been placed in the lodgings the city reserved for the most honoured guests. Faramir knew this at least partly because of the afternoon he had spent at practise in the company of one of the Prince of Dol Amroth's captains. The man had felt, though he was careful not to say so in so many words, that his master was slighted because of it.
Faramir himself had never previously visited this house. Though such honoured guests had given dinners to which the Steward had been invited, if any showing-off of sons had been expedient the chosen one would be Boromir. In Boromir's absence on campaign or during his journey to Imladris, Denethor had elected to show no son.
The house was impressive, far more so than the rooms in the Tower that Faramir himself occupied, though that did not surprise him. What did was that he could wait so long for a servant to answer the door. Finally, the door was opened by a young man still wiping his mouth free of soup. "I wish to speak with Master Samwise," said Faramir.
The young steward pulled a long face, "I think he's out, my Lord."
"Please find out for me."
"At once, my Lord."
"Tathar tells me that you wanted a word with Sam," said Frodo, when he appeared a few moments later.
"Yes," Faramir could not help but be surprised by the sudden appearance of one who had been filling his thoughts but whom he had not seen or spoken to for a couple of days.
"I don't think he'll be long. Come in."
"I..." Faramir began.
"We will not be alone," said Frodo, impishly. "Pippin is here. I trust that will be sufficient of a chaperon for you?" Faramir thought that obviously Frodo had been receiving instruction on Gondorian marriage customs, and equally obviously he thought them absurd.
"I can leave," said Peregrin, as they entered a large and airy room.
"No, you don't," said Frodo. "Just go and sit over there and...read a book or something."
Faramir was hard put to keep from laughing; it was clear that while Frodo had confided all to Samwise, Peregrin remained in ignorance.
"What's going on?"
"Never you mind," said Frodo, then added, "at least for the moment."
"What did you mean by 'chaperon'," said Peregrin.
"Pippin! Go and sit over there and be quiet! I'll tell you when the time is right." Frodo turned back to his visitor, "Please sit down, Faramir." He paused to allow Faramir to do so. "I can think of only one reason, one real reason, why you would come to see Sam."
"To give him my answer."
"Tell him I... That he is to... That I..." Faramir seemed to be having trouble speaking, which hadn't happened to him for a long time. He started again, "Tell him that I agree to handfast with you. And also that I understand his terms and I agree to those also."
Frodo surveyed him seriously, "Am I to know what those are?"
"It is a matter entirely between Samwise and me."
Frodo looked at him for a moment longer, and nodded. "I will convey your words to him." He smiled, "So Denethor gets what he wants. I hope he's happy with it."
"What is going on?" asked Peregrin, who had clearly not gone far. "Are you really going to marry Faramir?"
"That is his father's earnest wish," said Frodo. He was so solemn that Faramir suspected a joke of some kind.
"But he's... He's a Man."
"And none the worse for that," said Frodo. "At any rate, it's not something he can help or change."
"Is it wise?" asked Peregrin.
"Pippin!" Frodo took Peregrin gently by the shoulders. "Since when has marriage anything to do with wisdom?" He let go.
"What did you mean, that Denethor would get his wish?"
Frodo sighed, "I will speak plainly and hope that Faramir forgives me." Faramir inclined his head. He guessed what was coming. Frodo continued, "You have noticed that Aragorn does not care for Denethor?"
"Yes," allowed Peregrin, unwillingly. Faramir remembered that Peregrin rather admired his father.
"He would replace Denethor with Boromir in an instant and with Faramir in somewhat less. Denethor has also noticed this. Denethor has therefore arranged Boromir's marriage to Éowyn and his naming of Prince of Ithilien. It is a promotion for him, and an honour to the House of the Stewards, but as Prince, Boromir will have to live in Ithilien, which is some distance from Minas Tirith and the seat of power.
"Denethor has arranged his own marriage to the Lady Prestoliel, a lady of high and noble birth. On her he will father new heirs.
"That leaves Faramir. He is being offered a choice, if it is a choice, between marriage to me involving a life far away in a place about which Denethor knows nothing, and remaining here, a threat to his father's power."
"I don't see it," said Peregrin. Faramir knew the hobbit reputation for stubbornness was well-deserved. "Lord Denethor would never..."
"Am I not right, Faramir?"
"You are," admitted Faramir. Though he had realised during Frodo's recitation that if Frodo were right about the King's preference for him over Denethor and even Boromir for the position of Steward it was not just political turmoil he risked by remaining, but death. Not by his father's hand, Faramir could not believe his father would harm him knowingly, but even in Gondor there were those slightly too desperate to do the bidding of the powerful.
Peregrin appeared convinced at last. "What sort of a dowry will you get?" he asked, smiling as if at a huge joke. "Don't accept any bent spoons like old Otho ended up with for Lobelia."
Frodo didn't smile back. "It's adequate," he said.
The giving of a dowry was not a Gondorian tradition; when one negotiated for a spouse, one was supposed to have a home and sufficient to support them without needing payment from their family. Faramir wondered what his father had made of the idea; he himself didn't know whether to be offended or not. He thought of asking Frodo how much, but on mature consideration he decided against it. That Denethor went along with hobbit custom at all argued that he was desperate to get rid of him. It was probably better that Faramir did not know just how desperate.
No mention of the matter of the dowry was made when Denethor announced Faramir's trothplighting to the assembled Court a few days later. So foreign was it to Gondorian custom that Faramir knew he could have avoided the whole situation by privily letting the information be known among the people, but to do that would have told against his father's honour. Surprisingly, Faramir found that mattered to him even now. And what kind of man would it make him, to avoid an honourable handfasting by dishonourable means?
So, when the announcement was made, he took Frodo's offered hand and did his best to look pleased, flattered and, most importantly, willing.