We were all sitting around -- a quite frequent occurrence, in those days, with the War done and the Fellowship allowed to rest at last. I say 'all': in truth, it was only the four hobbits, myself, and Gimli. Gandalf and Elessar, as ever, were elsewhere, concerned with the business of Gondor and rebuilding. But we six of the Nine Walkers sat and spoke of nothing.

"They're already making songs of it," Meriadoc said suddenly. He sat half-sprawled on the floor, propped up by young Peregrin so they leaned together.

"So we heard," Samwise said. He sat on a low couch, with Frodo's head in his lap. The Ringbearer's eyes were closed, but none of us made the mistake of believing him asleep, not any more.

"What?" Meriadoc blinked, then grinned suddenly. "No, I don't mean songs like at the feast that night. Those are fine and, well, elvish." He glanced at me. "So to speak."

"No offense taken," I said. "These Men are capable of fine things indeed."

"But no, I didn't mean the grand songs," Meriadoc went on, sitting up a little (Peregrin made a small startled noise as his backrest shifted so abruptly behind him). "I meant the, well, the tavern songs."

"They're making rude songs about us?" Gimli rumbled from where he sat, next to me.

"It's been a few weeks," Frodo said, without opening his eyes. "Awe fades after a while."

Sam made a soft annoyed noise, and stroked his master's hair. "Doesn't mean there's any call for tavern songs about us, sir."

"They don't even make sense," Peregrin said, sitting up himself, since his backrest had deserted him. "I could see a song about, well, me and Merry. Or you and Frodo. But they're singing about -- oh -- me and Merry and Boromir."

"What sort of taverns have you been going to, young hobbit?" Gimli sounded more amused than anything.

"He did die for you," I pointed out.

"But not because we were sleeping with him," Meriadoc said, sounding rather cross. "I mean, who wouldn't die for your lover? It makes it not mean as much." He hesitated a moment. "And then there was the one with Strider and Frodo."

I almost laughed. I'd been down to the taverns as well, and had heard those songs, though I'd known better than to say anything. More, I'd seen the way Elessar had treated the Ringbearer during our journey south. But I held my tongue.

"What?" said Sam, slower on the uptake than I. "A song saying Mr. Frodo and Strider was sleeping together?"

"Not much sleeping going on," Peregrin muttered.

Sam flushed and opened his mouth, but was stopped by Frodo's chuckling. "They haven't seen the lady Arwen yet," he said, opening his eyes.

"It's more than that," Gimli protested unexpectedly. "They tell of looks and trust."

"Of course I trusted him," Frodo said, propping himself up on one elbow. "He guided us through terrible danger, and proved himself a true friend while doing it. If it's merely a matter of looking straight at a man, and trusting him, I wonder there aren't songs about Gandalf and me."

I must have made some noise -- I had indeed heard at least one very rude song indeed that suggested several unorthodox uses for Gandalf's staff -- because I suddenly found myself the object of five surprised gazes. Sam broke the silence, sighing loudly and shaking his head. "A lot of people with nothing better to do," he said.

"I suppose we could always distract them," Meriadoc said, settling back against Peregrin. "Pip and I could go down to the biggest tavern, and kiss each other in front of everyone."

"No, they'd just say we're missing Boromir," Peregrin said thoughtfully. "Maybe Frodo and Sam could go down and kiss. The folk would probably stand them a round of free ale, too."

Sam shook his head again, and Frodo laughed, lying back down on Sam's lap. "I think I'll stay up here, thank you. The ale's better. Send Legolas and Gimli down, if you want to distract everyone with a public kiss."

Gimli's laughter rumbled beside me, and I am quite certain I blushed as no elf has done since Valinor. "You assume they aren't writing songs about that," I said as quickly as I could. "But I think we'll stay up here too."

The hobbits smiled at me, and the conversation turned once more.


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