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Frodo's Return to the Shire

2

On the ride back to Bag End, Frodo determined to tell Sam that very day what he had decided. Actually, there was a good deal more to be decided, but he had come to one conclusion at least. Gandalf had gone on his own way. The ride was quiet and even peaceful. The westering Sun began to throw shadows across the landscape. Birds in great flocks flew overhead, on their way perhaps to a last meal of the day. Frodo paused to watch them. He had realized months ago that he ought not to take anything for granted, even the birds, for what would come tomorrow no one knew. And it was good to see life in the Shire continuing as it always had.

He came inside quietly, still in a thoughtful mood. He was grateful for the cooler air here in the Hobbit hole, being underground. As he approached the kitchen Rosie came out.

"Why, Mr. Frodo! I wasn't expecting you back yet, how was your ride?"

Frodo had given up trying to convince Rosie she didn't need to address him that way; she insisted that he deserved the respect. "It was hot but a good ride. Poor Strider began drinking the moment he got to the water basin! Have you seen Sam?"

"He's out tying up some of the sunflowers, they're getting droopy now. Will you be wanting dinner, then?"

"Oh, there's no rush, when ever you're ready to start it will be fine. And Rosie, as soon as I find Sam I need to talk to both of you, just for a bit."

"Of course, Mr. Frodo!" She smiled her bright smile and went back to the kitchen.

Frodo went outside, toward the back of the hill. The gardens were their usual riot of color and he enjoyed looking at the blooms as he went along. He found Sam standing on a short ladder, tying the top of one sunflower to a pole. "Sam! You're very ambitious in this heat, you've got almost all of them tied already."

"Hullo Mr. Frodo! And they've given me some trouble with their height. But I've been managing. D'you want me to see to Strider?"

He was already off the ladder and ready to go. "No, I've done that. He's quite enjoying his drink. If you have a moment, though, I'd like to see you and Rosie."

"I'll take that as a reason to go inside," Sam said, and so they went back. They went to the sitting room, which had an East facing window letting in some cool air. Rosie had gotten some tea and put ice in it for them.

"I'm going to Oakleaf soon," Frodo began. "I don't know how long I'll be gone. If the heat holds I expect I'll travel slowly. The reason I'm going is, I want to see Lily again. Truth be told I miss her."

Rosie beamed. "Oh Mr. Frodo, that's the best news I've heard since Sam asked me to marry him! I wish you all the very best of everything! I'm as happy for you as I could be!"

"Well, now," Sam said, "Don't be rushing Mr. Frodo, Rosie! There's nothing unusual about wanting to see a friend."

"Sam!" Rosie exclaimed. "You're blind as stone! Lily isn't just any friend! Why do you think Mr. Frodo would be going all the way to the Southfarthing when he could write her a letter easier?"

Sam looked from Rosie to Frodo and back. Frodo sipped his tea. Rosie eyed Sam. Sam's entire expression suddenly changed and he slapped his head. "You're right, Rose! I'm blind! Mr. Frodo, how- when-"

Frodo tried not to laugh. "It's like I said to Gandalf, love is for healing, and watching the two of you everyday over these past many months has made that even clearer to me."

"Oh...." Sam's eyes widened. "You'll be *back*, Mr. Frodo, won't you? I mean, will you stay there?"

"No no, I seriously doubt it! But I need to find out if I can be healed without having to go even farther away." He grew more sober. "You see, I've been meeting with Gandalf on most of my rides. He's been letting me know about the Elves' plans to sail over the Sea. Elrond will be going this fall, and I told Gandalf to let Elrond know I'd join him."

Sam jumped up. "Oh Mr. Frodo! You've been planning to leave all this time? Without telling me?" He dashed tears away. "That Gandalf! You've been planning that all along?" Rosie quietly stood by him, putting an arm around his shoulders.

"It was the only thing I could think of that would bring me any measure of peace. Being here with you and Rosie has been a blessing, Sam, I would have left long ago if not for you both. But- with the wounds I've received, I'm no longer myself. You see with your own eyes how the Darkness still grips me sometimes. I believed I had one last task to do and then I could leave. I'm still working on the Book. I still believe it is my last important thing to accomplish for others. The more I think about sailing into the West, though, the more I think about what I would be leaving behind.

"Leaving you and Bag End and Merry and Pippin would be bad enough. I've been still trying to reconcile myself to that. And then I remember Lily, and that makes the thought of going even more difficult." Frodo went up to Sam and set his hands on his friend's shoulders. "You've given me nothing but friendship and loyalty. I could never have stayed here this long without you. I thought to spare you the long months of anticipation if I didn't tell you I was leaving until the very last moment. Today I realised that maybe, I can even stay here for good. It's worth a try."

Sam still looked unhappy. "But.... how could you still be so hurt, if you liked living here?"

Frodo shook his head. "It's hard to put into words. I simply haven't felt like myself, even here. Despite everything here my heart and soul have been so changed I was certain I would never be truly happy again. That does *not* mean you failed me! You did everything in your power to help me, more than you should have, and it is to your great credit that I am alive at all and able to complete the Book. Please believe me, Sam, there is nothing more you could have done. What in fact you should be thanked for, is living your own life and showing me that perhaps I was giving up too soon. The devotion you and Rosie show to each other is wondrous."

Rosie smiled, kissing Sam's hand. "See, my heart. Even without trying you serve your master."

Sam blushed and Frodo laughed, embracing him. "I won't go until I talk to Pippin and Merry. I'm rather afraid of their reaction but they deserve to be aware of what's happening."

"Afraid?" Rosie said. "Why, they adore you."

Sam snorted. "I know what he means. And Mr. Frodo, maybe you should be afraid!"