THANKS TO **TATHAR** for giving me the idea for this story!

DISCLAIMER: Of course. The characters don't belong to me, I just get to think about them day and night.



Chapter 1

"And the Halfling forth shall stand," someone quoted softly behind him. Frodo turned quickly at the sound of Faramir's voice. He left the edge of the parapet where he had been gazing East and ran to the Man who stood smiling at him.

"Faramir, how wonderful," he laughed, taking Faramir's hand in his. "And look how you're dressed now!" Frodo gazed with wonder at the beautiful clothes and billowing robe of the Steward. "I was so proud of you at the crowning."

"I was proud of you as well," Faramir said, taking in Frodo's joyous face, the silver circlet in his hair, the white, silken shirt. He looked past the hobbit and his eyes took on a faraway look. "Did I not say that perhaps someday we would sit by a wall in the sun, laughing at old grief, and telling each other tales?" He shook his head in wonder. "And so it has come to be." He looked down again at Frodo and could stand it no longer. Laughing delightedly, he picked the hobbit up and whirled him about with joy.

Finally he put Frodo down, both laughing. "Frodo Baggins," he said softly, "However did you do it? Did you ever think this day would come?"

"No," said Frodo with a smile, "But Sam did!"

As if on cue, Sam dashed out on the balcony looking for Frodo. "Mr. Frodo, Gandalf wants to know if.... Captain Faramir!"

With a wink to Frodo, Faramir quickly knelt and bowed his head before Sam.

"Captain Faramir, whatever are you doing?" Sam gasped in horror.

"Samwise," Faramir raised his head with a broad grin, "Your fame has preceded you. You showed your quality; the very highest!"

"Sir," Sam said blushing, "I said that to *you*. You have no cause to be saying such things to me. We all did what we had to do, and that's that."

"Come, sit," said Frodo, pulling Faramir to his feet and over to a low bench. "It is so good to be away from the crowds and everyone staring and pointing. Sam, does Gandalf want to know anything that he cannot hear later?"

"Just some questions about the banquet, Mr. Frodo, and whether you want to say anything." Sam joined them on the bench. "Do you?"

"Just that this is very uncomfortable," said Frodo, removing the circlet with a sigh of relief. "I don't know how Aragorn can wear that enormous crown for more than a few minutes. It's so heavy I almost dropped it before giving it to Gandalf."

"Perhaps because he has waited to wear it all his life," said Faramir. "And perhaps because he knows the people wish to see their King wearing it." He smiled. "They also wish to see the brave Halflings who single- handedly stormed the Black Tower and cast the Lord of Darkness into the fire!"

"Is *that* what we did?" Frodo shook his head in amusement. "I seem to remember things somewhat differently."

"It matters not," said Faramir. "The tales will be told and the lays sung. What truly matters is that the Shadow has departed and that beyond hope you have both returned safely."

"Without your aid, Faramir, and the provisions you gave us, I doubt we would have made it to the Mountain," Frodo said, remembering. "But without Sam...." Frodo's voice broke and he turned away for a moment.

"Don't you believe him, sir," Sam said indignantly. "Mr. Frodo walked until he could only crawl. No one else could have done what he did."

"I remember crawling, Sam," said Frodo softly. "And then I remember being carried."

"I am honored to have been of service to you both," said Faramir.

"I'm sorry we don't still have those beautiful staffs you made for us," said Frodo. "I fear mine is lost somewhere in the Tower of Minas Morgul. I don't know what the Orcs did with it after they questioned me and took.... everything." He sighed. "The Nazgûl were coming, we couldn't take much time to look around."

"And mine broke when I smacked that Gollum good with it," said Sam regretfully. "But that giant spider would have been off with you, Mr. Frodo, if I hadn't been able to get away from him."

"Perhaps it was good that we lost them, Sam," Frodo laughed. "When we marched with that company of Orcs you might have been tempted to smack a few of them as well! There were so many times when-----" Frodo looked up, concerned. "Faramir, are you all right?"

Faramir was staring at them both, speechless.

Frodo took his hand. "It has been a long day, Faramir. Perhaps you need to rest before the banquet?" He stood up. "Come, Sam, let's escort him to his room and settle things with Gandalf. Perhaps after all I *can* think of a few words to say tonight. After all, we knew the King when he was still a scruffy, wild Ranger who prowled about the Shire and..."

Faramir let himself be led away by Sam and Frodo, his head spinning. The three of them went down the stairs and out to the courtyard, the hobbits talking gaily and seemingly oblivious to the cries of "Praise them!" and "Come and see the Pheriannath!"