Title: Beginnings & Endings Part I, Chapter 1,

Series: Desperate Hours AU

Disclaimer: Everything recognizable belongs to Tolkien.

Warnings: AU.

Beta: Proofreading assistance and helpful comments received from KC, Beth, and FC. All remaining errors are my fault.

A/N: This is all an AU, most things are the same but I have, in some ways, mixed book and movie canon (though primarily going with book). There is also one major change, obviously AU, that occurred when Aragorn (as Thorongil) sojourned in Gondor, which will become clear as time goes on (or if you've read Wise Child, in Tales of the Wizard's Apprentice). This story is set beginning at the end of ROTK, and goes through a little over a year after that (summer of Third Age 3020). The main character is Faramir, but it is an AU rendering of how the developing friendship between Aragorn and his Steward might have come about, so various other characters are developed (including OCs as needed) to bring depth and interest to the story. One clear departure from canon is that the eagles brought Sam and Frodo to Minas Tirith rather than the Black Gate after rescuing them, and that the celebration at Cormallen fields did not take place in the same way, so that the first time the ringbearers will be reunited with Aragorn and those of the fellowship who marched to Mordor will be when the armies of the West return to Minas Tirith.

Beginnings & Endings

Part I - Beginnings

Chapter 1 - Of Breakfasts, Gardens, and Brighter Days

The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm that is not easily disturbed.
Carl Jung

Extraordinary people survive under the most terrible circumstances and they become more extraordinary because of it.
Robertson Davies

In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.
Kahlil Gibran

In a pleasant little garden attached to Gondor's House of Healing, a small group of companions gathered for breakfast, as had become their habit over the past few days. It was an odd group, not because all of its members bore the signs of war and hard use. That alone would have been common enough in the days immediately following the end of the Ring War. Rather, it was odd because three members of the group were small people - hobbits, or halflings, as they were called by humans. It was rare in those days to see hobbits wander so far from their shire as to be observed in Gondor. One of the hobbits was dressed as a Squire of Rohan, another still wore the comfortable pale blue leggings and tunic of a patient of the Halls of Healing. It was impossible to tell what the third hobbit wore, for he lay swaddled in blankets in a lounge chair, dozing whilst his companions ate and spoke.

The rest of the group consisted of two humans who frequently paused to hold hands or meet eyes, in the way that those newly fallen in love are wont to do. The woman was blond and slight, but her bright blue eyes hinted at a will of steel. And so it was, for she was Eowyn of Rohan, who together with the hobbit Meriadoc, had slain the witch king of the Nazgul. Eowyn wore white, the color of mourning in her native Rohan. She had lost a beloved uncle mere days ago, and not long before, an equally loved cousin.

The man was tall with a warrior's mien, though his piercing gray eyes, and the musical tone of his deep voice, were more apt to be gentle than fierce. His shoulder-length red-gold hair hinted at a heritage foreign to the land of Gondor, where dark hair and dark eyes were the norm. He was Faramir, and he was a reluctant, though effective, warrior and leader of men. Son of the former Steward Denethor of Gondor, brother of the former Captain-General the Lord Boromir of Gondor, he wore black in mourning for his lost father and brother. As the former Captain of the Ithilien Rangers, he had visited his few surviving comrades in the House of Healing. Those who had, like himself, been too badly injured to join the siege of Mordor with the King-to-be, Aragorn, Isildur's heir.

At the Lady Eowyn's side, Faramir had visited those Riders of the Mark similarly afflicted, thanking them, on Gondor's behalf, for their bravery and sacrifice. The hobbit Meriadoc, who preferred to be called Merry, had accompanied his human friends, for he took his duties as a Squire of Rohan quite seriously. The Riders were happy to see their beautiful Shield-maiden, and the brave Hobbit who had become one of them, and took heart at their returning health. Faramir, sometimes with Eowyn's company, also visited those wounded members of the Dunedain, the northern rangers of lost Arnor, who had come early to Gondor at the request of their King-to-Be, and had been wounded too gravely to accompany him to the Black Gate. No one who met the soft-spoken young Lord forgot him, though he had not the overwhelming presence of his departed brother, or of Aragorn who would be King.

That same Aragorn had ordered that Faramir, Eowyn, and Merry rest in the Houses of Healing over the last ten days. It was the longest period of time that Faramir had been still and comparatively idle since he began military training at the age of ten. Faramir had been frustrated, unable to do anything to help the distracting army, but glad to have Eowyn, and Merry, as companions in his waiting. Then the sky lightened, and Minas Tirith realized that Sauron was no more, defeated by two small hobbits. At that point, Faramir felt a joy and relief he had never before known. Having Eowyn and Merry to keep him company, and later the ringbearers as well, had made the remaining time pass quickly. Still, Faramir had not truly been idle.

Although he had learned all he needed to know of the future King when Aragorn healed him of the black breath, Faramir had realized that others would not be so easily convinced. Son of a politician, Faramir was also aware that the new King would need help claiming the Kingdom which was his birthright, despite winning it again through bravery and feats of arms and heroism. Also, Faramir by nature was as curious as a cat. So Faramir had gently teased out details about Aragorn and his wife-to-be from the three hobbits and Eowyn, as well as from the Dunedain. Drawing upon that knowledge, Faramir made another attempt to engage the quietest member of their group, the hobbit wrapped in blankets.

"Frodo," the young Lord called softly, "what was the name of the elven rider who saved you from the Nazgul the first time you escaped them, outside Imladris?"

"Umm." The hobbit murmured, allowing himself to be coaxed to the table, and seated beside his good friend Sam, also still a patient of the House. "I believe it was Arwen."

"It was, Master Frodo!" The hobbit Sam commented, joyful that Frodo had deigned to join them. Eowyn quickly handed the most injured hobbit a cup of hot chocolate and a biscuit slathered in butter and jam.

Merry, understanding Faramir's gambit, put in his own oar. "And she was an elf of rank, as well, wasn't she, cousin?" He asked Frodo, frowning thoughtfully. As Frodo's attention turned to the new question, Merry met Faramir's eyes, nodding his thanks. Merry and the human lord had become fast friends, building on Faramir's respect and affection for Merry's cousin Pippin. Moreover, Faramir and Merry had found in the other a kindred spirit. Both, though less outgoing than many of their companions, were beings who liked to prepare for every contingency in advance. Merry had told Faramir of how he had planned for Frodo's travels from the shire for several years, such that they had been ready when the Nazgul came. Faramir, much impressed, had shared some of his own stratagems for fighting off a superior force with inferior numbers, learned from his experiences holding Ithilien.

Frodo nodded, slowly chewing the biscuit. "Lord Elrond's daughter," he commented after a moment of thought.

"Lady Arwen," Faramir said thoughtfully. "That would make her the same Lady Arwen who is betrothed to Aragorn, our King-to-Be?"

"She and Strider did seem friendly," Merry observed, "though I'd not heard they were properly betrothed."

Faramir smiled. "Apparently," he related, "Lord Elrond is a most difficult father-in-law. Although by all other tales he treats the King-to-Be like a son, he told the future King in no uncertain terms that Aragorn could not be engaged to his daughter until he had taken up Isildur's heritage, and seen the dark lord defeated!"

"Oh my," observed Frodo, drawn in to the tale, for he loved stories, and cared deeply for Strider. "That is quite a figurative dragon to be required to slay, merely for an engagement."

"Indeed." Faramir continued, playing to his audience. "Moreover, 'twas nearly fifty years ago that Aragorn and Arwen first went to the Lord Elrond, and asked for his permission to wed. So, in a sense, they have been waiting to be engaged for fifty years!"

The hobbits all gasped in surprise, shaking their heads at what a trial their poor Strider had been put through. Hobbits were accustomed to long engagements, they explained to their human friends, but, fifty years! That was above and beyond!

Eowyn met Faramir's eyes over the heads of their diminutive companions. What passed between them was difficult to describe, for they could, even after such short acquaintance, exchange an entire conversation in one loaded glance. But it had something to do, on Eowyn's side, with acknowledging her shame for having loved a man who could not love her back. Now that she had met Faramir, and come to know him, Eowyn realized how foolish was that earlier infatuation. Without words, Faramir's gentle, loving glance told his Lady that he held none of that against her, that he saw no shame in falling in love with an honorable man. There was also, in the gaze exchanged between the two humans, a layer of great admiration for a pair of lovers who could wait out fifty years of time and great trials. The White Lady of Rohan and the new Steward of Gondor desired to be married as soon as possible. The two young lovers knew they both had obligations which might make the hasty marriage they desired an impossibility. Still, they could comfort themselves that they should not have to wait fifty years.

"Indeed.." Eowyn commented at length aloud. "As good and reserved a man as the King is, and as virtuous a lady as I'm sure Lord Elrond's daughter is, I should not be surprised if theirs is a very brief engagement."

"Hmm." commented Faramir, eyes dancing. "I would not care to bet against you, Lady Eowyn. In fact, I have heard from Lord Hurin that the King-to-Be has, in fact, asked for quarters for the Lord Elrond and his daughter to be made available by the end of this week, and that the necessary formalities for a wedding of the King be explained to him at Hurin's earliest convenience."

The hobbits and Eowyn all laughed merrily.

"Speaking of Hurin, my Lord," Eowyn inquired "Shall he come to meet you here again this morning?"

"Nay, my lady, today I shall go to meet him at the Citadel, and take over my work as Steward. Much to poor Hurin's relief, though he has been faithfully, if not uncomplainingly, discharging those duties during my convalescence. One of the northern Dunedain and one of my rangers shall be discharged this morning as well, and I shall take them with me as guards to the Castle. Apparently the Steward of Gondor may not walk about unaccompanied, as Denethor's second son, the Captain of the Ithilien rangers, was wont to do." Faramir gave his love a weary half-smile, and she smiled in understanding back. Eomer's daughter had never thought to be second in line to the throne of Rohan, where now she stood.

Their breakfast was interrupted by the arrival of Warden Del, the chief Healer and Administrator of the Houses of Healing, and two of his assistant healers. The Warden smiled widely to see Frodo sitting up and eating, but, upon checking the hobbit's pulse rate and eyes, insisted that he go back to resting, though he might rejoin his friends for lunch and dinner. Sam accompanied Frodo, and the two assistant healers left to aid the hobbits on the short walk to their rooms, which looked out on the same garden. After they had left, Faramir invited the Warden Del to join them for breakfast, and asked the healer's honest opinion on the recovery of the Ringbearer and his companion.

Warden Del shook his head, "I wish I could tell you, Faramir. They seem to be recovering, but Frodo in particular is more wearied than he should be after several days of rest. More, his wounds heal very, very slowly, even after application of the King's foil which was so efficacious on others' injuries. Both Frodo and Sam are suffering from a lingering fatigue beyond what I would expect. I simply don't know how to help them, besides copious amounts of food and rest. I've treated hobbits before this, but I am not an expert. I rather wish we had the future King's elven kin already amongst us, for many of the elves have made a study of treating all manner of light beings, including hobbits."

Faramir nodded, deep in thought. He had directed Hurin to write the King-to-Be and tell him of the hobbits' arrival and prognosis. Aragorn had written back with advice for the hobbits' recovery, and to ask that the hobbits, if they were well enough, be present for the King's arrival at Minas Tiirith, and his coronation that same day. Faramir very much wished that the two ringbearers could be present for such momentous celebrations. Their victory over Sauron and Mordor was, after all, mostly due to these small, brave, souls. But Faramir was reluctant to risk their recovery, which Warden Del had told them such exertions might, and Warden Del, out of all the human healers, should know.

Del was acknowledged to be the best and most talented of the healers at the House, and Gondor's House of Healing was justly famous throughout Middle Earth for the skill of its healers and the breadth of their knowledge. It was where Faramir had spent much of the first five years of his life, when those same healers had been powerless to stop his mother's gradual decline and eventual death. Faramir had been reluctant to leave the houses of healing during his early years, because it had often meant leaving his mother.

The young Faramir had learned to read by following his mother's finger as she traced lines in ancient texts, desperately trying with the last of her dying strength to learn more about the ways that their ancestors had fought the Dark forces of Sauron, that Gondor may be fortified with knowledge as well as armed men against foes which could twist men's minds and deaden their spirits, 'ere ever facing them in battle.

It was in the white halls and green gardens of the House of Healing, redolent with the smells of herbs and occasionally with the less pleasant odors of the dying and the sick, that the young Lord Faramir had first learned to walk, talk, and manipulate those in power over him into doing as he willed.

This latter lesson was probably not intentional, but being the youngest child in a family haunted by his mother's sickness, and possessed of a prodigious intelligence that Gandalf the Gray once referred to as "catastrophic, in a less well intentioned soul," it had come about somewhat naturally.

The lady Finduilas felt better on days her sons were with her. With Boromir starting military training at the young age of 8, Faramir, at age 3, appointed himself his mother's near constant companion. Therefore Faramir, by age five, knew thirteen different ways to go from the nursery in the Steward's quarters of the citadel to the Houses of Healing without being observed. The schedule of Healers and wisewomen caring for the ailing Lady of Gondor had been carefully memorized by both of her sons. Oddly, those healers who were unwilling to permit the unplanned company of Boromir and Faramir usually left after a very short period of time, claiming that "ghosts" were tormenting them. It had actually become easier for Faramir to see his mother after Boromir started military training, for Faramir alone was less likely to be missed. Denethor had frequently come into the nursery or schoolroom to look for Boromir, but hardly ever sought out his second son. Faramir had yet to start formal school lessons, his nurse had long since given up keeping track of her fey charge, and, as a small child, he had no other duties to claim his time.

Faramir had learned, at this early age, that one must not be too picky in acquiring allies. Just because a certain healer always had an unpleasant expression on his face, or because a certain janitor always smelled unpleasant, didn't mean they might not be willing accomplices to two young boys who wanted to spend time with their sick mother. The frowning healer- who, it turned out, was simply always worried about his patients - was quite willing to mislead the Lord Denethor as to where and when his boys had been present, provided that those boys did nothing to set back their mother's recovery. The janitor who always smelled of astringent cleaners was perfectly willing to lend said boys whatever supplies they needed to convince their victims that malignant spirits meant them ill.

After his mother died, Faramir for many years avoided the Houses of Healing, save on those few occasions where his brother Boromir ended up there. When Faramir joined the Ithilien rangers, he made it a practice, as his duties permitted, to visit any of his fellows who ended up in the Houses of Healing, as he recalled what a difference visitors had made to his mother. Seeing the care and compassion with which his men were treated, Faramir convinced Boromir, and some of their allies on the council, to direct more of the city's resources to the Healers, so that more of Gondor's injured soldiers might be returned to the ranks of healthy fighters with little delay. That, or re-trained to other occupations, so that they might be able to continue to support themselves in another manner, had they lost the will or the ability to continue to fight.

Still, Faramir preferred not to linger beyond duty visits at the House of Healing. This stay, his longest since he was five, had been different. The overwhelming malignancy of Sauron's presence was gone, the threat of Mordor all but vanished for the first time in anyone's memory. More, the King would soon return to Gondor, and Faramir had fallen in love with the most beautiful and wonderful woman in Middle Earth, who, miracle of miracles, loved him too. It only made sense to linger and have breakfast with her on the day of his release, although Faramir smiled at the irony of his actually voluntarily staying at the Houses of healing longer than forced to. The Warden, probably seized by the same irony, offered the Slayer of the Witch King his welcome to stay as long as she wished, should she continue to have a calming effect on one of their most difficult patients.

"You, my lord Faramir?" Eowyn exclaimed, smiling a little in surprise.

"Aye, dear Lady, to my shame." Faramir admitted. "These good Healers oft despair of me. I am afraid I cannot, generally, abide being still once I begin to feel better."

The Warden patted the young Lord Steward on the shoulder. "You're a good boy, Faramir ...er, my Lord, but you're a terrible patient." The Warden smiled ruefully at the young Captain, who, like most Numenoreans, healed quickly. Since his brother Boromir had died, the younger son of Denethor had refused to stay in the House of Healing once he could walk out under his own power and rejoin his unit. "At least," the Warden thought in amusement, "until the King bade him stay, and left him the White Rose of Rohan for company!"

Faramir shook his head. "Please, Warden Del, do continue to call me by name, unless we're in an official situation. You've known me for far too long for such formality."

"As you wish, Lord Faramir." The Warden conceded, smiling fondly at the young Steward. The Warden Del, as a young healer, had been one of the child Faramir's allies in his secret comings and goings to the Houses of Healing to visit the Lady Finduilas. He knew the young Lord of old, and knew better than to expect him to stay where he had been bid, barring extraordinary circumstances.

Eowyn, who had heard something of Faramir's childhood, knew not to inquire further as to how the Warden and her beloved had come to know one another. Instead, she asked the young Steward to please join her for dinner that night if he could, and exulted in the delight her request brought to his dear face.

"You will be staying here, then?" Faramir inquired gently of his intended bride. "You are quite welcome at the Citadel, there are rooms set aside for visiting dignitaries..."

"Actually," Eowyn replied, looking to the Warden, "Now that I am recovered I would like to help others who have been hurt in the war. Provided that your healers could use my help, of course."

The Warden looked somewhat taken aback. It was not normal for ladies of the city of Gondor to do more for the Houses of Healing than raising money or occasionally rolling bandages, except, of course, during this last battle when all of the normal rules of society had fallen by the wayside. However, the Lady Eowyn could be an asset, as the wounded arrived from the siege of Mordor. She was physically a sturdy, though slender, lass, now that she had mostly recovered from her injuries. More, she had shown herself to have a strong stomach and a soothing way about her when accompanying Lord Faramir on his visits to their wounded comrades. The Warden considered that, when comforting the terribly wounded, or assisting a healer or wisewoman with a procedure, during her stay the last few days, the Lady Eowyn had never faltered. Lastly, the Lady planned to marry the Steward of Gondor, and Faramir was not the type of husband to care whether his wife was doing a job which "wasn't fit for a lady," provided that she found it fulfilling. He was too much his mother's son for that nonsense. Nodding after a moment, the Warden gratefully accepted the Princess Eowyn's offer of assistance, soothing himself that he was also guaranteeing the continued visits of Faramir, who could be examined on a regular basis for signs of working too hard and jeopardizing his recovery.

"What about you, Squire Merry?" inquired Faramir. "Shall you stay to keep the lady Eowyn company, or would you like to join those Riders of the Mark who have recovered from their wounds, and are supplementing the number of the city's remaining guards?"

"Hunh." Commented Merry, pondering where his duty lay. "My lady, could you use my assistance?"

Hiding a smile, for Eowyn could tell the brave hobbit wished to be out and about after having been cooped up in the Houses of Healing for a ten-day, Eowyn demurred "No, dear Merry. I shall be fine. Healer Engle and Wisewoman Ioreth have offered to have me accompany them on their rounds today, and the House is well supplied with guards."

"And will continue to be so, despite my departure." Faramir commented with some asperity, for he had discovered only the previous day that part of the reason for the entire guard patrol of twenty men at the Houses of Healing was the protection of the recovering Steward. Faramir had spoken politely and softly, as was his wont, but the contingent had been permanently reassigned to the Houses of Healing. There they would stay at least until after the King's coronation, despite the Guard Captain's and the Keeper of the Keys Hurin's strenuous objections.

"Say, Merry," offered the Lord Faramir "Would you like to join me for the morning? I am meeting with the senior Rider of the Mark early this afternoon, to go over guard schedules for the next few days and the King's arrival and coronation. You could rejoin him then."

Merry smiled. "That sounds fine, Faramir. If it doesn't bother you, I'd be very interested to see how one goes about running an entire human city."

Faramir laughed. "So would I, friend Merry. I suppose we'll figure it out together."

Warden Del assured the hobbit that he, too, would be welcome to return to the Houses of Healing for dinner and to sleep, so that he might spend more time with Frodo and Samwise.

Their breakfast was then interrupted by another visitor, not Faramir's regent during his incapacity, the Lord Hurin (who had been half-expected, despite his agreement that the Lord Faramir could make his own way to the Citadel), but instead a dark haired, dark eyed woman, announced only as Mistress Nessanie of the Lower City. To Eowyn's surprise, Faramir smiled and rose to greet this visitor eagerly. The Princess of Rohan was not jealous, for the mental and emotional intimacy she had formed with the Steward of Gondor precluded any doubt as to the fidelity of his regard for her. However, Eowyn was intensely interested in this Mistress Nessanie, for she wanted to know everything about Faramir, including who were his friends.

"Ness!" Faramir said, taking the woman by both hands, and looking at her carefully, as friends were wont to do upon meeting in these days when so many had lost so much. "How do you fare? And Tavan?"

Nessanie, called Nessa, smiled in response. "We fare well, my Lord, and my heart is lighter that you seem well on the road to recovery yourself. Tavan and I were so worried when the whole city thought you were dead."

"Princess Eowyn, Warden Del, Squire Meriadoc" Faramir introduced, recalling his manners, "This is my friend - and business manager- Mistress Nessanie, daughter of Saelas." Looking to Eowyn especially, Faramir added "Nessa was a good friend to my brother Boromir, as well."

Picking up on the subtext, Eowyn realized this woman had probably been Faramir's dear brother's lover. Knowing that, and having watched Faramir in action these past few days, Eowyn guessed that the appointment as business manager, while probably not undeserved, had likely been another instance of her husband-to-be matching the skills of those for whom he felt affection with jobs which needed to be done.

Warden Del, for his part, shook his head. "My apologies, Mistress Nessa - had I known you were a friend of Lord Faramir's as well as his business manager, I would have permitted you to visit him days ago. As it was, I have had to let Lord Hurin disturb my Lord's rest several times a day, and I did not want to add more disruptions to his recovery."

"It is no worry, Sir Healer." The elegant brunette assured. "Lord Faramir is ever wont to do more than his share, no matter the state of his health. I am glad that those who guard his recovery do so assiduously."

Faramir, smiling at the Warden in mingled affection and annoyance, soon turned to his business manager and asked "How fare the lower levels of the city? "

Eowyn, who had been present during several of Hurin's debriefings with Faramir, at first wondered why he was asking the same question of Nessa.

Nessa grinned tolerantly at the Steward. "Well, the refugees are overflowing the spaces allotted to them, but you already knew that, since you ordered Hurin to make room for them in the soldiers' barracks. Incidentally, what are you planning to do when the army gets back?"

Faramir waved a hand. "The soldiers of Gondor's army are accustomed to living off the land. They'll be fine with tents in front of the city for a week or so while we get something else figured out. Its harder for the refugees, what with grandparents and small children. What about.."

"The merchants are doing just fine, mostly." Nessa replied before Faramir had finished his question, smiling more broadly when he gestured for her to continue. "So many refugees means there is always someone to buy their goods. But those who mainly sell outside Minas Tirith are hurting, as trade has been badly disrupted."

Faramir nodded, then proceeded to ask Nessa a number of detailed questions about different people in the city. Eowyn quickly lost track of who was who, but she did understand why Faramir would want a briefing from Nessa after his daily consults with Hurin. Nessa knew different things about the city than its official regent, and didn't feel the need to hide any of the problems from her old friend the new Steward.

Glancing at the sun, Faramir winced. "Ladies, Warden, I must beg your pardon. If I do not leave soon, I will be late to meet with Hurin, and then he really will send the guard after me.

Nessa chuckled.. "Take care, Faramir. And listen to the poor healers' discharge instructions this time, or there will be no fruit pie for you, the next time you stop by."

Faramir grinned. "I'll behave, Ness." He assured.

The Warden excused himself to oversee the Steward's departure. Faramir collected Merry, and turned with obvious regret to bid Eowyn farewell. "Until tonight, my Lady." Faramir kissed her hand respectfully, his eyes intent.

The White Lady's eyes followed the Steward until he disappeared from the Garden, then she invited Nessa to stay for a cup of tea, which the dark haired woman readily accepted.

"Faramir asked me in his letters to tell you anything you want to know about his business dealings and his holdings, my Lady." Nessa explained to Eowyn in a friendly manner. "He is obviously quite taken with you."

Eowyn smiled softly, amazed to be so content, having known little of such during her life. "We mean to be married as soon as possible, though it may be some months, even a year. My younger brother is now King of Rohan," the Lady broke off, her uncle's death still causing her grief..

"I am sorry, my Lady." Nessa consoled. "You and the Riders of Rohan have all of Gondor's thanks for your brave rescue of Minas Tirith, but I know it was bought at a dear price indeed."

Eowyn blinked tears away. "I thank you, Mistress. But please, call me Eowyn, and I shall call you Nessa, for if you call my Lord by name, then we should be friends as well."

Nessa nodded. "I would like that, Eowyn." Nessa poured herself a cup of tea, and one for the still-quiet White Lady, then began to explain with a humorous gleam in her eyes. "Your husband-to-be has a good instinct for which businessmen are honest, Lady Eowyn, and for which enterprises will prosper, but no head for numbers, I'm afraid."

"It is well he has found you to aid him, then." Eowyn replied, and the two spoke of Faramir's various accounts and holdings within the city, and in Ithilien and Dol Amroth, for a short time. Then Eowyn could not contain her curiosity any longer "How did you first meet Faramir, if you don't mind my asking?"

"I met him through his brother." Nessa explained with a sad smile. "To befriend one of the sons of Denethor is to befriend them both, or was, rather."

"I am sorry for your loss as well, then." Eowyn offered. "I remember Lord Boromir a little from when he visited Rohan. I was but a child, however he seemed a wonderful man and a courageous soldier, and I know he was very dear to Faramir."

Nessa took a deep breath. "Boromir was all of that. When I met him, he was barely a Captain, and Faramir only a scape-grace Lieutenant. They grew into wonderful men." Nessa looked at Eowyn carefully, weighing her, and then spoke further. "About Faramir, Eowyn...you should know that, other than his brother, he has never had anyone to take his side, first and foremost."

"I had realized some of that." Eowyn spoke softly. "I assure you, he does now."

Nessa smiled. "Welcome, then, Eowyn, to Minas Tirith, and welcome to the circle of Faramir's friends." Smile turning into an irreverent grin, Nessa expanded, "the few, the brave, the patient."

Eowyn grinned back. "I thank you. As a friend of Faramir's, and a woman of Minas Tirith, is there anything you can tell me about what other pies my Lord has his fingers in? If I'm to help him, I must know more of what he does in a day."

Laughing, Nessa inquired. "All of what Faramir does in a day? Oh my...how much time do you have? Before he even left today, he had sent me several messages, asking for this or that information. That's not even including the reams of messages he has sent me over the last eight days, asking for special foods and books to tempt the Ringbearers in their recovery, and a recommendation for a Lady of the City to serve as our future Queen's secretary and personal assistant."

Eowyn, somewhat taken aback, asked "How did he get you so many messages, my Lady? I had thought the Warden was monitoring how much work my Lord was getting done in any given day..."

Nessa, with an air of frustrated patience, explained "Faramir can get almost anything almost anywhere, Eowyn. He has a secret way of going anywhere in the city and beyond, 'twas I who had no means of getting in touch with him until today."

Frowning worriedly, Eowyn asked Nessa, "Does my Lord often disregard the instructions of healers, and sicken again?"

Nessa, sympathy and amusement in her eyes, answered honestly. "Yea and Nay. Faramir often doesn't listen, but being of a strong constitution, heals nonetheless. Faramir preferred to stay with his command at Ithilien, even if hurt. On those rare occasions when Faramir was so badly injured that his officers felt the need to bring him to the Houses of healing, before my Lord Boromir died, he would hasten to Minas Tiritrh to care for his younger brother. Boromir used to insist that Faramir stay here until the healers were relatively sure he would be fine recovering elsewhere. Then Brom would bring Fara to my house, and take all of his clothing but a night shirt, and stick him in my guest bedroom. Thus handled, Faramir would generally stay put, at least until he could convince one of my servants to risk my wrath and Boromir's by bringing him clothes. Even then," Nessa's eyes twinkled "Faramir would openly defy his brother on rare occasions indeed, for very well do older brothers know how to make their younger brothers suffer."

Eowyn smiled, somewhat taken aback by how very much her beloved did not like to be still, even when healing, but delighted beyond measure to have found this woman who had almost an older sister's perspective on Faramir. "Oh my." The lady of Rohan said. "I see I have my work cut out for me. Perhaps I shall put a sleeping draft in my Lord's wine tonight."

"It might be for the best." Nessa agreed sagely.