Title: Some Other End

Author: Lexin

Pairing: Frodo/Faramir

Rating: PG/soft R for the whole story, this section G.

Beta: Gloria Lancaster, Ringbark, Regina Berndt. Any remaining mistakes I probably put there after they'd made their comments.

Warning: Interspecies. Bail out if that bothers you. AU. Likewise.

Feedback: All comments accepted, email to pmrommel(at)hotmail(dot)com

Archiving: Please ask before archiving.

Summary: In an alternate universe, Boromir survived Amon Hen, Denethor was not driven insane by the palantír and Frodo is offered an unexpected reward.

Part X

I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr Jones.

Oh, no, my Lord. I assure you! Parts of it are excellent!

Punch, vol. cix p.222 1895

"Do they really need us?" said Faramir.

"King Elessar commands us. Not Strider, not even Aragorn," said Frodo. He sounded unimpressed; it was not often these days that Frodo was commanded, it seemed he had slowly become accustomed to being Prince of Eriador. "We're not being asked but told."

"Then we'll go. What a pity that neither of us much cares for celebrations."


Despite his initial misgivings, Faramir rode through the Gap of Rohan with a light heart. He had not returned to Minas Tirith since his handfasting ten years ago, and he was excited at the prospect of seeing the work that the King had done to the city, at seeing it for the first time in his life not weary, draggled and at war, but clean and bright and full of life. Seeing it as it should be, as it should always have been. But first there was Edoras.

Éomer met them the door of the Golden Hall and came forward to greet first Frodo and then Faramir and behind them Meriadoc and Peregrin - for they too had been commanded south. The only person in their party who was visibly less than thrilled was Rose, and Faramir stepped back to stand beside her. "Why am I here?" he heard her say.

"You're an honoured guest of the King," said Faramir, a little amused.

"He can't want me here..."

"His invitation was to both you and Samwise," Faramir glanced down at her.

"Out of courtesy, I'm sure," said Rose.

Faramir looked up; to his surprise Éowyn stood beside Queen Lothíriel and he looked automatically for Boromir. Éowyn frowned, but a moment later her expression cleared, and she greeted Rose serenely.

"Where are the children?" Rose asked Éowyn. Rose was finding her feet at last, or so it seemed.

Éowyn smiled, "They're with their tutors in Minas Tirith."


"Have you any idea what's going on?" asked Frodo, later when they were alone.

"No more than you, though it appears that Éowyn has not returned to Boromir."

"Has she said why?"

"Not to me. But then she and I...she was pressed to marry Boromir, and I married you."

Frodo sighed, "Yes, I suppose it would have...appeared wrong had you been too friendly with your brother's wife."

"A polite distance was safer."

Frodo looked away suddenly. He appeared weary, far beyond what Faramir would have expected from the journey, though it was that time when Frodo was usually unwell. "I am sorry, Faramir."

"What for?" he crossed the room and knelt by Frodo. "None of this is any fault of yours. If Boromir and Éowyn are unhappy that is their doing. We cannot know what would have happened had any of us taken another path."

Frodo reached out and touched Faramir's face, "You and she are so well suited."

"If she cannot be happy with Boromir, how much less so would she be with me?"

Frodo pulled Faramir to him, "You compare yourself with him still? My husband, you are the better man. I knew that as soon as I met you."

They kissed, gentle and undemanding.


So it was a large company that rode south to Minas Tirith. All the way Faramir could see signs of the changes and improvements that the return of the king to Gondor had wrought. Tilled fields instead of farms lying empty and wasted, farmers and peasants who stood by to watch them pass, their eyes curious rather than afraid, their children running alongside the cavalcade, laughing in pleasure.

Frodo looked ill, the journey exhausted him. Faramir tried to hide his worry, but Samwise was not fooled either by Frodo's dissembling or by Faramir's. "Can't think what King Elessar was thinking of," Samwise said, the night they camped by the Mering Stream, "dragging Mr Frodo all this way."

"He wants to share this anniversary with his friends," said Faramir. He tried very hard to keep the tinge of bitterness out of his voice, but Frodo's hand had been cold when Faramir had tried to tempt him with soup, and though it was barely sundown he was already asleep.

Samwise looked at him, and he realised how few times he and Sam had been in total accord. Samwise laughed, and Faramir said, "What?" in concern.

"I never liked it that he ended up with you, a great stern Man, rather than some merry hobbit-lass. But you care, and that goes a long way with me.

"Thank you, Sam," said Faramir, gravely. "You honour me with your trust. Even if it has been a long time coming."

"And perhaps one day you might learn to crack a joke," said Sam. Faramir blinked at him and Sam went on, "But I won't hold my breath."


In the years since he'd last seen Minas Tirith, it seemed to have grown. Then Faramir realised that this was not an illusion: it has grown. People were starting to live, and build, outside the city walls. That had been unthinkable in the days when Gondor was at war, but it looked and felt somehow right, if rather messy. Faramir wondered what his father made of it. Another contrast, as they drew closer, the great gates of the city stood open, and even as evening started to draw in they could see comings and goings - mostly goings at that hour - of people in and out of the city.

They had considered resting another night and waiting, but the prospect of decent beds, and baths, and food, drew then on until at last they reached the top of the citadel and were greeted by the King and Queen themselves.

"Is he always like this?" asked Queen Arwen, looking at Frodo after the initial greetings were over and they were all together.

"Every March and October, yes, my Queen," said Faramir.

Her concern deepened, "I had no understanding it was so bad. I had imagined that it was merely the journey that tired him."

"No," said Faramir. "This is how he usually is at this time of year."

"I may be able to help. I will consider the matter."

"I think in the meantime, my Queen, I shall take my husband to bed." He caught her look, and said, "I never did apologise for subjecting you to such a..."

"No apology is necessary, Faramir."

"But I..."

"Truly. I found it entertaining then and I would still now."

Faramir wanted to fall through the floor, "My Queen!"

"Come, we will talk away from all these people." She led him out onto a starlit terrace to sit on a seat where they could look down into the town, where the lamps were lit.

She paused for a moment, then said, "When I wedded Estel I had little experience of...lying with a man. None, actually. Though I am old by the measure of your kind, my father had guarded me well, and though I knew what men and women did together Estel had to teach me the reality of it. One understands, of course, that others do these things, but it is hard to imagine anyone one actually knows..."

Faramir felt his face heat. "I know," he said.

She laughed, "I will not embarrass you with the secrets of the king's marriage bed."

"I am grateful."

"But that night in Bree, you showed me that what Estel had said was true: others did enjoy it as he wanted me to and as I wanted to - and rose next day and faced the world without a hair out of place. Looking, actually, rather more cheerful than you usually do."

Faramir had to ask, "And the whip?"

"That was Estel's idea. More than half of my jokes are his idea." She looked around. "Oh. The Ringbearer looks exhausted. I think you really should take him to bed."


At the first Council meting they attended, Frodo was higher placed than Boromir as Prince of Ithilien and as equal to Imrahil of Dol Amroth. Faramir, as Frodo's consort, sat beside him and as he did so he noticed that Denethor did not look pleased. Boromir, on the other hand, looked as delighted as if it had been him receiving the honour. That the consort sat beside the prince was, Faramir knew, also a departure on the part of King Elessar, and it appeared that his father did not approve of that, either.

Frodo looked better with rest, and outlined their actions and decisions in Eriador to the assembled princes and lords, with emphasis on trade and taxes. As Faramir knew the contents of Frodo's speech - he'd written parts of it - he allowed himself to look around the Hall of Council. Elessar had had it thoroughly cleaned, possibly for this meeting, and the gold and marble showed up well: better than it ever had done in the Councils of Faramir's youth.

Éowyn, as Boromir's consort, sat beside him. Though they were in the same room, from their expressions they might as well have been in different countries. Faramir reminded himself firmly that the state of his brother's marriage was hardly his concern, but he could not help but wonder if there was ought he could do. He sighed, inwardly. He doubted it, and there was the risk that in trying he might mar more than mend.

Denethor, beside the King - who was ignoring his steward - looked at Faramir as at something grey and squirmy he'd found under a rock, but for the first time in his life Faramir found he didn't care. He and Frodo had achieved much given that Eriador and Arnor had not been ruled for many generations and that the King had acknowledged such in his introduction.

As soon as the meeting was over, Faramir sought out Boromir; he was alone, Éowyn had stalked off as soon as she could. Boromir turned and embraced his brother, "You're looking well - and uncommonly well dressed. Fashion in Eriador tends towards the..."

"Embroidered?" supplied Faramir.

"Something like that. Still, if Frodo likes it..."

"Frodo upsets the woman we have who deals with such matters by dressing very plainly. I try to cheer Ketas by wearing what she gives me. But how are you, my brother?"

"No doubt you saw. She does not speak to me, and I do not see enough of the children."

"Can nothing be done?"

Boromir shrugged, eloquently.

"Have you told her?" asked Faramir. No need to say what.

"Are you mad?"

Denethor interrupted them, "Where's your wife?" addressed to Boromir. Faramir was honestly shocked; he'd never heard Denethor speak to Boromir in quite that tone. Himself, yes, he fully accepted his position as family disappointment.

Boromir said, "She was here a moment ago. I expect she has returned to her room."

"When you see her, tell her I wish to speak to her about the road to Emyn Arnen."

"Would it not be quicker to speak to me?" said Boromir. Faramir wondered that his brother was keeping his temper in check. It was clearly a strain.

"No, it would not. Unlike you, Éowyn can be relied upon to remember what she is asked to do beyond the next meal."

"I see," said Boromir. "I will ask her to call on you at her convenience. If I remember beyond lunch."

"See that you do."

"Good morning, father," said Faramir, feeling he should say something.

Denethor turned to him, "Your husband spoke well."

"Thank you, father. I shall convey your compliments."

"He exaggerates, of course..."

"No, father, he does not," said Faramir. He knew that Denethor did not like to be interrupted, but could not let the slight to Frodo pass.

Denethor obviously didn't believe him; he could not say so without giving offence but for some reason was avoiding doing that. Faramir waited with what he hoped was polite gravity, Denethor gave both his sons a look in which disgust blended with irritation and turned on his heel.

"Is he always like that or has he become worse?" said Faramir as soon as their father was out of earshot.

"Everything has to be someone's fault; as you're not here for it to be yours, it has to be mine. Or the King's. Or Queen Arwen's. But mostly mine."

Faramir winced; he knew only too well what it felt like to endure Denethor's scorn day after day. "I'm sorry, my brother," he said, knowing it to be inadequate.

"Éowyn says it's good for me," said Boromir, sounding incongruously cheerful. "I expect she's right."


Faramir looked around the garden of the Houses of Healing; here at least were few changes. The recollection of the days following his waking were bittersweet, he was thankful that he remembered little of the fevered dreams he'd had after being struck with the Southron's dart - he knew he'd been close to death and his father to madness, but could see nothing of that time in his mind other than jagged patterns of red, black pillars, and then the face of King Elessar calling him back from where a yawning pit beckoned.

He stood on the parapet and looked out to the east and as if he had stepped back in time Éowyn came out of the door to the house and stopped. The illusion shattered a moment later when two boys followed her into the garden. One of them carried a ball which she caught in her hand as he passed her, "Not here, Elboron. It will go over the wall and then where will you be?"

Elboron looked sulky, but made no protest, the other boy said, "But mama! What are we to do?"

"Play 'hide'," said Éowyn, "there are plenty of places."

"Don't want to. I want to play ball," said the boy.

"Barahir! No! You will lose it."

By this time she was close to Faramir, who smiled at her politely. "Good afternoon, Éowyn," he said.

"Who are you?" said Barahir, then "Ow!" as Éowyn smacked him - fairly gently - on the back of the head. He rubbed the place, scowling.

"Manners!" said Éowyn. "This is your uncle, Prince Faramir of Eriador."

"Oh, yes," said Barahir after a moment's thought. "The one grandfather sold off to a halfling man."

Faramir knew he would never forget the horrified look on Éowyn's face. "Yes," he said, looking down at the boy as gravely as he could, "that Uncle Faramir."

"I am so sorry, Faramir," said Éowyn. "Apologise to your uncle. Immediately! I don't know where you pick up such things."

"A man in the stables told one of the grooms," said Barahir. "Isn't it true, then? Because I thought it sounded really exciting. Nothing exciting ever happens here."

"Apologise!" said Éowyn.

"I really think you should," said Faramir. "Before my husband hears of it."

"Would he run me through?" asked Barahir, "In vengeance for the stain on his honour?"

Faramir was reminded of the tales of the Rohirrim told in the halls of Meduseld - no doubt the boy had heard them from babyhood. "No," he said, "but he would be annoyed to hear that you insulted me."

Barahir looked up at him, clearly thinking. It was a shock to see Boromir's eyes in so young a face. The boy said, "I suppose grandfather would be annoyed as well?"

"Yes, he would," said Éowyn.

Another pause. "I'm sorry I insulted you, Uncle Faramir. No slight was intended to you or your husband."

"Thank you," said Faramir. "I accept your apology."

"Will you tell me how it was, then?" Barahir asked.

Éowyn's expression became anguished, "No!" she said. "It's none of your affair."

Faramir smiled at her, and then down at Barahir. He thought of his own curiosity at that age, "What is it that you wish to know?"

"Your husband is a halfling - I saw you with him from the balcony when you arrived. So that part is true. But where does the money come into it?"

"The receiving of a dowry on marriage is a custom of my husband's people - it's the opposite of being sold. You have heard of the periannath, Frodo of the Nine Fingers?"

"Of course. They will sing the Lay again tomorrow, they always sing it at New Year. I wish they wouldn't. There are not nearly enough deaths."

Faramir winced. Poor Frodo, he thought. He said, "My husband is the Ringbearer, the hero of the lay."

"I thought all lays are about people who are dead."

"Well, we are not yet dead. Have you ever listened to the end, when they sing of your mother's battle with the Nazgûl, the Witch King of Angmar?"


"Stay awake for that, it should be a battle enough to satisfy even your tastes. Much better than the end of the story, the stanzas when the King marries the Queen and Frodo marries me. Fall asleep through that. I always do."

"I like you, Uncle Faramir. You're wild!"

"Wild?" said Faramir to Éowyn as Barahir ran off to join his brother who was reading under a tree.

"All the children of the city are saying it about anything good," she said. "I'm sorry he was rude to you: I'm afraid our stays in Edoras have not been good for his manners."

"I know what people say about me on the street, as opposed to the cleaned and sanctified words of the Lay."

"I'm sorry, Faramir. It must be hard for you."

"No. I'm too busy to pay it much mind." He sat down on a nearby bench.

She joined him, "And Frodo? What does he say?"

"He's never mentioned it. I would imagine he knows, but we've both got better things to do than to upset ourselves over ignorant gossip. And in Eriador they understand the concept of a dowry."

They watched the children; Barahir seemed to object to his brother reading, and Faramir was reminded of the days when he would have his book pulled out of his hand by a brother intent on a game. But of course he had been the younger; Elboron was so far managing to hold on to his book.

After a time, she said, "I would have handfasted to you."

He smiled at her, to soften his words, "And I would have asked, had my father not made it clear to me that my brother was preferred."

"Not by me."

"To my father, marriage is a matter of politics. It has nothing to do with affection."

Éowyn smiled back, "Had that been the case for Théoden, I would have been handfasted to Grìma Wormtongue as soon as I had my menses."

He looked out over the garden, not really seeing the flowers, "I know. Not that it helped me, father would never have given his consent to my handfasting anyone he preferred for Boromir unless my brother were dead. And, perhaps, not even then."

"Denethor often speaks well of you," said Éowyn, after a moment. "Of your obedience to Frodo, at any rate."

Faramir smiled to himself, "At least I have one good quality in my father's eyes, now. That's one more than when I left."

Éowyn waited for a moment and then stood and turned to face east. "It's still hard, sometimes, to remember that we're over it and everything changed. We owe everything we have and are to the Ringbearers."

"Yes," said Faramir. He also stood, and looked down into the city; he could see Boromir and a company of men toiling up the incline towards the citadel. He opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it again when he saw the carefully blank expression on Éowyn's face.


"You saw Éowyn," said Boromir. "How were my boys?" Faramir must have looked puzzled, because he added, "One of the healers told me."

"Oh. They're both fine - spirited lads."

"They're splendid, aren't they?"

"Wonderful. Elboron seems rather shy, but that can't be said of Barahir," Faramir was trying hard not to laugh.

"What did he say to you?" Boromir had the guarded look a parent prepared for the worst.

Suddenly, Faramir was sorry for teasing his brother. "It was nothing," he said. "And he apologised for it in any case."

"If he had to apologise, it can't have been nothing. But I will not press you; if the blame can be laid at my feet then no doubt Éowyn will tell me what it was."

Faramir sighed, he hoped silently.


Frodo coped with the singing about as well as Faramir expected he would: his expression was frozen into a mask of mild enjoyment. Faramir remembered that Sam and Frodo had been genuinely thrilled when they first heard the lay sung here in Minas Tirith. The pleasure had worn off very quickly for Frodo; it never had for Sam.

Faramir resigned himself to a disturbed night; bad dreams assailed Frodo when he was reminded of Mordor and Mount Doom. There was little Faramir could do to help, but he would do what was possible - a relaxing simple before they took to bed, keep Frodo warm, a supply of heated spiced wine on hand should he wake. No poppy tincture - it made the dreams worse and Frodo could not wake so could not throw them off.

Next day Faramir felt half awake; it had been worse than usual. Much worse, as if proximity to Mordor brought the memories closer. He left Frodo in bed, sleeping at last, and walked slowly through the halls of his childhood, remembering.


He looked up to see Aragorn surveying him with puzzlement and concern. He felt his face heat; he'd walked straight into the council chamber unannounced. "My apologies, sire."

"None are needed," said the King. "I was alone here. You look tired."

"Oh," said Faramir, wondering if he were making sense.

"Ah. I take it Frodo had little sleep, so you didn't either."

"Yes," said Faramir.

"This way," said Aragorn, finally taking him by the shoulder.


Faramir woke up. From the feel of the day it was some hours later, and he looked around in puzzlement; he had never seen this room before, at least as far as he knew. A door opened behind him and Queen Arwen said, "Welcome back, Faramir." Then to someone else that he could not see, "Put the tray there, I'll manage." The door closed again.

"Some tea?" Arwen sat down.

Faramir realised he was on a soft couch, covered with a blanket. He sat up and the blanket fell away. He was dressed, but without his boots, "Where am I?"

"Our apartments. That is, Estel's and mine. Estel brought you here - and don't worry about Frodo, Estel is with him."

"I... That is, it is my duty. I must go."

"No, Faramir. We have been remiss in letting you carry this burden alone. At least while you are here it can be helped."

"It's not a burden," said Faramir, immediately coming to Frodo's defence. "It's not usually this bad."

"I know. It is the time of year and the closeness of it. Estel and I, we should have considered that before requesting you make the journey. We are sorry, both of us."

"It's nothing."

She smiled at him, "Have something to eat and drink. Sit with me for a while, then you can return to your husband."

Faramir took the cup she offered him, "Thank you."

"And we will talk of other things. I understand you met Boromir's sons? How did you find them?"

Arwen's company was soothing and restful, almost as much as the sleep he'd had. He returned to the rooms he shared with Frodo feeling very much better. Frodo was also sitting up, he and Aragorn in quiet conversation. From the little Faramir heard before they were aware of his presence, it was once again about trade and taxes.

This was no surprise to Faramir; absent the Dark Lord and his minions he'd noticed while growing up that fully three quarters of his father's conversations had been about trade, taxes or both. Most of the rest were about roads or crops. Several times it had occurred to Faramir to wonder why anyone wanted to become king, prince or Steward. He recalled long days spent learning his father's duties - the time Denethor had spent five days in meetings discussing city drainage stood out in his mind. In Bree, he had himself spent two days discussing wells and the water supply.

"What are you thinking about?" asked Aragorn. He sounded amused, and had obviously been watching him for some time.

"Matters of great moment," said Faramir. "At least to princes and kings."

"I had hoped it would be gossip, at least," said Aragorn.

"Only if you consider wells and drainage to be gossip."

Aragorn looked suddenly interested, "You know about city drainage?"

Faramir sighed.


Next day Frodo was much better - he and Faramir had slept well, which had a great deal to do with it, but it was more as if, with the coming of the New Year a crisis had passed, and once more Frodo was able to look forward with some degree of confidence. Faramir was deeply relieved, and he could see that King Elessar and Queen Arwen shared his feelings. He had always known that the king cared for Frodo, it shone from his letters, and he now saw that caring demonstrated in person once again as it had not been for years.

With that in mind, Faramir wondered that his thoughts turned back to Eriador. He was surprised that he now thought of the north as his home rather than Minas Tirith and Gondor, but he supposed it came from putting so much of himself into building it up - given the state of Eriador one could hardly say rebuilding it. He and Frodo were very much starting from scratch.

He could also very quickly become bored with council meetings - the more so as there was no council in Eriador. The one he was currently attending seemed to have been going on for an age, though the shadows on the pillars showed it to have been merely an hour or a little more. Perhaps it was unworthy of him, but he was amused to note that Boromir looked bored and impatient. Faramir had always known his brother to be more of a warrior than a councillor and it appeared he had not changed. Even during the war, Boromir had been more inclined to action than strategy.

Faramir wasn't even quite sure why Boromir or Éowyn were there - the king had called this meeting to discuss his plans for the north, and in theory he only needed Denethor, Frodo and Éomer. He had invited their consorts out of courtesy; as Arwen helped him rule Gondor he assumed their consorts did likewise and besides, he liked his example followed.

Faramir exchanged a smile with Lothíriel of Rohan; Éomer's wife had grown up in Dol Amroth, had learned to weave and sew as was usual for women of her station, and had not expected any part of the running of Rohan to fall on her slender shoulders, but she had risen to the challenge magnificently. She looked down, studying the map of the north with a slight frown on her face.

The only consort missing was Prestoliel, her excuse a headache. She had attended only one meeting since Faramir and Frodo had arrived in the city, and appeared to wilt through that, to Denethor's visible irritation. Faramir spared some pity for her; being one of Denethor's sons was bad enough, being his wife must be all-but intolerable. He had been too young when Finduilas died to be aware of all that was going on around him, but all said that Denethor had loved his first wife. It was clear to Faramir that Prestoliel was not so fortunate.

The meeting started to break up at last, and Faramir gathered his and Frodo's papers together. He kept his eyes down, intentionally not looking at anyone: he could hear Éowyn speaking to Boromir, and he winced. If Denethor was rude to Boromir, Éowyn was positively caustic, and if this was an example of what she could do when annoyed, he was relieved that he hadn't married her.

He could no longer reasonably pretend to be ordering papers, and when his father passed he looked up. Everyone except Denethor had found reason to look away - Éomer was staring at a stylised leaf on a pillar as if it were truly remarkable and the King gazed out of the window. Denethor stood, impatiently waiting for Éowyn to finish.

Finally, Boromir spoke, "You would rather I were a dead hero than a live coward." He was looking straight at Frodo.

Faramir stood up, though he had no idea what he might say.

"Nobody believes that of you," said Denethor, into the silence that followed.

"Then they would be wrong," Boromir turned away from Éowyn to face his father, "and nobody knows that better than you."

"I don't understand," said Éowyn.

"He ran," said Frodo, as if discussing the prospects for the wheat crop in the Southfarthing. "That day at Sarn Gebir."

Faramir saw his brother close his eyes for a moment, but the only surprised face was that of Éowyn. She looked at Boromir, "Why didn't you tell me?"

"That was my doing," said Frodo. Faramir stared at him in puzzlement, aware he was not the only one who did so.

"Ah," she said. "Had I turned him down..." She looked at Faramir.

"Just so," said Frodo. "Come, my husband."

"Did you mean that?" asked Faramir, as soon as they were outside.

Frodo glanced up, "Have you ever noticed," he said, "that very often what people need to bring them together is something outside themselves to thoroughly dislike?"

"Yes," said Faramir. Then, "Ah, I see."

"She now knows the truth about him, and they both have someone to blame."

"And we live leagues away," said Faramir. He thought for a moment, then added, "He still has to explain his actions at Sarn Gebir."

"It is long past time that your brother discovered that one must admit to failures, disappointments and temptations as well as successes. Admit them at least to one's wife - or husband."

Faramir took a deep breath, "Did you know I was...?"

"Tempted by Thorin? It was written all over you." Frodo considered for a moment, and then said, "I doubt anyone else noticed - other than Thorin - but I spent a long time desperately wanting someone who wasn't interested in me."

Faramir said, "He didn't really want me. There was no honour on my part in resisting him."

"I think you do yourself a disservice, but he too was married. Dwarves don't discuss their women but from what I understand, if his wife - her name is Filís - ever discovers he even looked at you, king or no, there won't be enough left of Thorin Stonehelm to fill a chamber pot. Dwarves and their women don't give second chances." By this time they were alone in their rooms. Frodo removed his jacket and sighed, "You need have no doubts, my husband. You are very much admired and I am much envied." Then he smiled, "I admit this gives me a certain quiet joy."

Faramir laughed, "You have the most curious way of improving my mood."

"Did it work?"

"Yes, it did. Thank you."

"Is my cunning sufficient to persuade you into my bed?"

Faramir smiled, "You could persuade me to take on the forces of Barad-dûr single handed."


Night had fallen when they arrived at the castle of Chetwood. Faramir noticed that someone had re-hung the gates since they left and that there was some slight improvement to the portcullis, though he sincerely hoped they never had to trust their lives to it. He and Frodo exchanged a long-suffering glance as Cheesman ambled out of the main door, and looked at them mildly curiously as if they were passing flower sellers rather than princes. "Oh," he said, scratching an unshaven chin, "it's you."

"Yes," said Faramir. He dismounted and handed the reins of his horse to an equally dishevelled groom. "We're back."

The end.