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Sacrament

by CRB and Ladyhawk Baggins

25 March 1420sr

During the first meal of the day, Hal carried most of the conversation, trying not to notice the unhappy state of the couple at the table; Rose gave him a commiserating glance when Frodo and Lily were not looking. Hal wondered it if might be better if his sister-in-law simply stayed, but then reminded himself it was unthinkable until she was properly spoken for.

It was just after first breakfast when Hal and Lily finished preparing to leave. Frodo watched them quietly, standing near the fireplace, his left hand on the mantel’s edge. He remembered her sweet, greeting kiss, earlier this morning. It was difficult to think of her leaving. It seemed she had only just arrived...

“You know,” Rose mused aloud, as she joined the other three in the greatroom, “if you know you’ll be walking from Hobbiton to Bywater on a ‘specially hot day, you usually take a long drink of water first...” She turned her attention to Hal. “Would you like a look at the back garden?”

Hal glanced at Rose, then at Lily and Frodo. “Indeed I would. I’d like to see what Master Samwise Gamgee has done with it, as Frodo has told me so much about it.”

He then offered Rose his arm, and they left the greatroom and stepped out the front door at a leisurely pace.

“We’ll not be gone long,” Rose called over her shoulder.

Frodo and Lily, bemused, stared after the retreating backs of the pair; then Hal shut the door. They heard Rose’s voice float back to them as she and Hal passed the greatroom window, headed to the kitchen garden. She was talking animatedly about Sam, and Hal appeared to be listening intently.

Then they could no longer hear Rose, as she and Hal turned the corner from the kitchen garden to the back garden. The air which had entered the smial held a slight chill. Frodo saw Lily shiver; it was only a reaction to the cold -- or was it? he wondered.

They stood several feet apart. Frodo left his place by the fire, and as he approached, Lily smiled faintly. He returned it, matching her mood. He stopped one whole pace away from her.

“Spring has kept her promise, so far, dear Lily. She is early this year... but I think she’ll stay. I hope to keep my own promises...”

The last words were spoken to himself, or so it seemed to Lily; his thoughts were nearly closed to her. It was not like him.

He smiled for her, and she returned it; although heartfelt, their smiles were strained. They were aware of what few moments they had left to each other.

“Frodo, dear, you are somewhere else, somewhere very far... is it the Quest? Can you tell me?”

He looked away from her, toward the front window. Toward the East.

“The Sunrise is hidden, a little, from our sight...” she offered, turning to gaze along with him. “It may rain later in the day; this afternoon, mayhap...”

Just as it did a year ago, Frodo recalled, when the rains fell over all the earth -- even on lifeless Mordor. Oh, Ilúvatar, I am happy she cannot seem to read these dark memories of mine. Perhaps they are buried too deep within me for her to see them. But is this a dark memory, or bright? What would Lily say? He smiled to himself slightly, his eyes unfocused.

She would say they were bright memories, for the world was saved that day. Why can I not see things as she does? It is a curse. I was cursed by that Ring. Gandalf told me never to put it on. I disobeyed him. I disobeyed, and now the most beautiful thing I have ever known, ever, so much more beautiful than It... she is cursed along with me, cursed forever to illness in my presence. I have the effrontery to think she could be mine, and I hers. She does not know. She does not know... She cannot possibly know how deep this evil is, for she would run from me.

Lily is brave. She has never run from you. She has ever drawn near you, to comfort you and strengthen you. Why will you not take heart?

Frodo recognized the Light, but did not know what to say.

The dark voice threatened, but Lily was calling his name, dreamlike, as light streaming from the source of all Light, like cool clear water. They had none that day, so long ago, but not so long... Oh, Sam. Please come back. She’s leaving today. I cannot be alone here. Not today.

Frodo endeavored to pray, but only desperate and confused thoughts would come. It was hardly a prayer. Oh, this will be harder than I dreamed... her going back...

“Frodo? Dearest Frodo, it is about the Quest... You need not tell me now. There shall be other times, other days...”

Still he searched the horizon. He could only hope Lily was correct, but the voice would return as soon as she left; Frodo knew this.

He turned away from the East, to face Lily again, and smiled for her.

“I hope so, dearest.” I hope so.

At his lightened tone, she endeavored to follow his mood once more. “You’ll write?” she teased.

Frodo lost his smile. “Lily, it might be better if I did not.” He hurried on as her eyes grew wide. “It would give you time to consider -- to consider whether or not we should continue to pursue...”

“Are you saying you don’t want me to come back?” she whispered through her tears. What happened to everything they shared yesternight? she wondered.

Her words tore through his heart. “Lily,” he sighed, sadness colouring his eyes. “It’s been long since you’ve been free of the pull of the darkness. After a few days away, you may find you’re quite relieved -- not to be enduring the daily contact... I should -- I should tell you to go home to Deephallow and never come back. I should tell you to forget about me and enjoy your life without any torment of the darkness. I should... I should--”

Tears cascaded down his face as he whispered, “I should, but I cannot.”

“You’ll not tell me not to come back, but you’ll not write, then?” Her lip trembled, and tears trickled down her cheeks.

Deep within, It vied for his attention, as if to draw him away from her; as if to distract him further. He pushed It down; he would not allow It to affect his judgment. At this thought, Frodo nearly laughed at his own brave assertion, as bitterness welled up within him. You have no control over me, It mocked.

Frodo’s heart sank. He struggled to concentrate on her light and her calm.

“Lily, I should -- I should let you think in peace, without trying to sway you...”

“Frodo, my mind -- and my heart -- are decided. I know what I want, and your illness has not changed that.”

He seemed pained at her words. She started again.

“Then write only of Sam’s return, and of what he does in the garden... write of the weather... anything... but please, write to me, Frodo...”

The teakettle, forgotten after first breakfast, whistled suddenly as if announcing itself. They startled. Then Frodo stood completely still, and watched while Lily took the towel and removed the kettle from its hook. She set the pot down on a trivet on the hearth-table, then wiped her hands on the towel, and turned back to Frodo. He appeared so sad, and so confused...

She swallowed hard and approached him, stopping inches from him. “I’m sorry. You’re only trying to protect me, and I’m making it difficult for you. I’m sorry,” she whispered. She lowered her head as her shoulders began to shake from her weeping.

“Oh, Lily...” Frodo stood helpless, his arms at his sides.

Yes, this is best...

Lily’s eyes flew to Frodo’s, as understanding dawned. “The darkness! It’s growing stronger...”

Frodo turned his head away, unable even to glance into her eyes.

Lily lifted her hand and gently touched his face until he met her gaze. She searched the misery in his eyes. “I did not understand; but I do now.”

Frodo drew his brows together in question.

“As you’ve rested and regained your health, so too has the darkness, as though it feeds on your strength...”

“Lily,” Frodo choked. “You must get away... escape...”

Lily shook her head. “No, Frodo...”

She almost told him of her gift. “I need a few days to be with my family, and I shall think on things, only because you’ve asked... otherwise, I would be staying here. I cannot believe Ilúvatar would help us find each other, only to tear us apart.”

“But the darkness... what it does to you...”

“And what it does to you, dearest... There must be a way...” Again, Lily wanted to tell him the darkness would vanish completely when they wed, with no harm coming to her. It would make things so much easier...

She paused in her thoughts. The things that really matter are not easy, she reminded herself. The darkness will fight all the harder if It learns -- if I tell Frodo of my gift. It might even claim him before the wedding takes place.

Several tears coursed down her face. She whispered, “You said I should be allowed to think in peace; but I shall know no peace without you.”

Frodo could not hide the anguish growing in his heart as he murmured, “How can you know any peace, with the darkness ever drawing on you?”

Please, Ilúvatar, give me the answer, Lily prayed. She searched Frodo’s eyes and felt within him the faintest flicker of hope that she might know the answer and share it.

“The darkness only makes me weary, which is easily overcome with rest. But when I’m with you, I know overflowing joy, and peace beyond measure.”

Frodo’s breath caught. He hesitated a moment, then gathered her into his arms, holding her close. He struggled not to weep as he felt the sudden strong healing in her touch. Lily wants to help me, he reminded himself. She has offered this freely, as Sam offered his help, a year ago. Frodo fought to keep this knowledge in his mind and heart. He sighed against her.

Lily breathed deeply of him and returned his tight embrace. She slipped one hand into his locks, and felt his hand slide into her tresses. She pulled back a little to gaze into his eyes.

“I miss you,” she whispered, her eyes still glistening with tears.

“Lily--” Frodo breathed. He lowered his head slowly, and softly kissed her, then whispered against her lips, “I -- miss -- you, so much.”

He offered a lingering kiss and she eagerly accepted; it expressed without words their longing. Their embrace tightened as their caress lengthened, and deepened, and each drank deeply of the other. Their thirst was only partly assuaged, but it would suffice. It would have to, Frodo reminded himself, as he endeavored to stay with her, in this world which was theirs for the asking. Was it? To stay with Lily... the very idea made it impossible to think clearly.

Gradually, they ended the kiss and stepped apart, breathless.

She cupped his face in her hands. Her speech was only slightly broken, as she attempted to control her breathing. “Frodo, you’ll be all right until I return?”

He nodded his head.

Lily searched his eyes. “If you need me to stay, I’ll stay.”

Frodo swallowed his tears. “You need to be with your family. I’ll be all right.” He gave her a crooked smile. “You know Rosie’ll watch after me, and Sam’ll be home any day now...”

The tears welling in Frodo’s eyes spilled over his cheeks, and Lily once again could not stay her own.

“I promise I’ll return within a fortnight, dearest.”

She felt the protest rise within him and gently covered his mouth with her fingers. “I’ll return with Will and Bell.”

Frodo kissed Lily’s fingers, unable to find any words.

She trembled and struggled to concentrate. “I’ll pray for you, every day.”

He removed her fingers from his lips and held them close to his heart.

“I need them -- your prayers... And I shall pray for you, dearest Lily; I shall do my best...”

Then they offered prayers, each for the other. When they finished, they wrapped their arms around each other and held on tightly until Rosie and Hal returned.

---------

They could not resist one final kiss before Frodo helped Lily into the pony cart. She clung to his hand, searching his eyes.

“I’ll return as soon as I may, dear Frodo.”

Hal piped up. “Will and Bell are thinkin’ of coming home after the 7th of April.”

Lily glanced over her shoulder at her brother-in-law and smiled in appreciation, then gazed into Frodo’s eyes again. “I’ll return, then.”

Frodo returned her encouraging smile, but she still saw the sadness in his eyes. “Please, Lily, remember to consider everything,” he pleaded softly.

She bent and kissed him swiftly, then whispered against his lips, “The only thing to consider is whether you want me.”

His breath caught in his throat. He spoke so Hal could not hear. “Whether I am willing to risk your life...”

“We shall pray for each other, Frodo Baggins. Then I shall see you again in a fortnight.” She caressed his lips once more, then sat up straight in the pony cart, allowing her hand to touch his cheek for a moment.

Frodo gently removed her hand and kissed the back of it, finally placing it in her lap.

The pony started off into the morning mist at Hal’s soft urging.

The couple gazed at each other, Lily turning toward Frodo on the seat, until the pony cart crossed the bridge into Hobbiton.

---------

Hal and Lily rode in silence until they were well out of Bywater, on the Great East-West Road.

“Lily, is Frodo going to speak for you soon?”

“I don’t know, Hal.”

“Is he going to speak for you?”

Lily considered her answer. “I think so, given enough time.”

“What’s keeping him from speaking now? Is it the illness you told us about?”

Lily nodded, startled for a moment. She had forgotten she mentioned Frodo’s illness briefly to Hal and Daisy. “Yes. He worries about how it’ll affect me.”

“It’s that serious? If’n it is, mayhap you should reconsider...”

“Hal, it’s not unlike the spells I live with. It’s just... well... I’ve lived with it my whole life. The seriousness of Frodo’s illness is only of the last year or so. I believe he’ll overcome his illness, but he needs to believe he’ll get well...”

“Are you sure of that?”

She smiled at her brother-in-law. “Yes, and I’m willing to wait for him.”

Hal smiled. “Mayhap we can talk Will and Bell into returning a little earlier.”

Lily giggled and quickly embraced him. “Thank you.”

---------

Rosie was in the kitchen at Bag End preparing luncheon when Sam walked in the front door.

“Mr. Frodo?” he called.

“Sam!” Rosie caught herself before she flew from the kitchen. Instead, her heart racing, she turned toward the greatroom and waited, struggling not to appear impatient. She could not hide the smile lighting her face when Sam appeared in the doorway with surprised pleasure etched across his tired face.

“You’re home,” she stated.

Sam stepped close and she could no longer hide behind her calm facade. She rushed unerringly into his open arms.

Frodo heard the exchange from the study. He thought about going to greet his friend, but decided to allow the couple as much time as they wanted... and needed, he corrected himself. Sam would find him when they were finished.

For the first time, Frodo realized he understood their need for time alone... but they can’t afford to have too much time, he smiled to himself.

Suddenly his heart ached for Lily.

She’s not coming back.

Frodo trembled. The voice was relentless, and had been, ever since Lily’s departure several hours before. He had fought It, willing himself not to give in to the despair It offered. So easy. It would be so easy to just give up. You could rest.

It sounded reasonable enough; kind, almost. While it was true he had slept better last night, with Lily and Hal and Rose all here in Bag End, he had lost sleep every night she was away at the Gaffer’s... at least a week of fitful sleep. Yes, I am tired, he replied.

No, no... I was talking to It. No, I cannot...

“Please, Ilúvatar...” Frodo lay down his quill pen and covered his face, then rubbed his eyes. “Please, help me to believe You, and Lily. My faith is dying. I am dying...”

Lily carries my faith for me, as Sam carried all my hope...

He rested his elbows on the Red Book and covered his face with his hands again. “Did it really happen?”

Frodo pulled his hands away, and the evidence, as always, was before him. The voice laughed at him as he examined his maimed hand, turning it over, palm up.

But Lily loves me, despite my hand. Despite everything. But why does she love me? Why? She told me once, in February... and I have forgotten why. Ilúvatar, why?

You cannot see all ends, neither for ill, or good. Rest, but rest in Me. Calm your heart. She loves you. Trust her.

“I love her.” His heart and mind were calmed. I need to tell her I love her... Please give me more faith. Please, help me to be more like her.

The darkness retreated in the face of the Creator. Frodo felt it and sighed deeply, endeavoring to understand what he had heard. Several moments passed, and he looked once again at the book before him, but it was no use. He put it aside.

After a time -- he did not know how long -- he came out of his daydream, and set himself once again to sorting Bilbo’s notes for the Red Book.

“Mr. Frodo?”

A smile spread across Frodo’s face as he laid down the note he was skimming, and he turned in his chair to look at his friend. He rose from his seat and the two friends embraced, tears streaming down their faces.

They stepped apart and laughed.

“How was your journey, dear Sam?”

“Fair t’middlin’, sir. A bit wet at times.”

“Tell me everything.”

“Everything!?” Sam smiled, and to Frodo it seemed as though light filled Bag End. Sam opened his mouth to speak, then shook himself.

“Rosie says it’s time for luncheon.”

“Good; we’ll talk over the meal.”

The two friends stepped into the hall together, and Frodo stopped, staying Sam with a hand on his arm.

“Your Rosie is quite something, Samwise.”

Sam smiled proudly. “She is. I’m trustin’ she took the bestest care of you?”

Frodo smiled. “She did, far beyond her duty.” He looked his long-time manservant in the eyes. “I could ask for no better friends, Sam.”

A blush crept over Sam’s face. “I -- we best not keep her waiting...”

“I know. I’m certain she’ll be wanting to hear your tales as well,” Frodo grinned.

---------

Sam spoke of his travels all through the meal, and when they were finished eating they began cleaning up.

Rosie eyed Frodo critically. She wanted to shoo him off for his afternoon rest, but found herself wondering how she could do so without alarming Sam. “We can take care of all this,” she assured Frodo, hoping he would hear the underlying message.

Frodo smiled and was tempted to tease her, but suddenly realized he felt quite tired. “Thank you, Rosie. If it’s all the same to the two of you, I think I’ll rest for a while.” He addressed the question in Sam’s eyes. “Sorting Bilbo’s notes can be a bit wearing. Why don’t you see Rosie home, Sam?”

Sam nodded, and Rosie smiled appreciatively. Then Frodo disappeared down the hall.

---------

After tea with Rosie in Bywater, Sam returned to Bag End and found Frodo in the study, standing next to the wing-backed chair, seemingly staring at nothing.

“Mr. Frodo, why is Miss Lily not here? Today, of all days?”

Frodo glanced up at his friend, startled. “Oh, hullo, Sam. You’re back. It’s good to have you home.”

Sam heard the distraction in his master’s voice. “Thank you, sir. But why’s she not here?” he persisted.

Frodo knew what his friend meant. He did not wish to speak of this day. One year ago, now... His thumb rubbed where the finger should have been. “I didn’t tell her -- about today.”

“Why not?”

“She needed to return home.”

“She’d’ve stayed one more day, if she’d’a known, and her family wouldn’t’ve minded, Mr. Frodo.”

“Mayhap... Sam, I’m not sure what to do. She’ll certainly be left alone for far too long a time... I’m not well, and I never shall be...”

Sam realized his master’s thoughts were far graver than he suspected. “Mr. Frodo, my mum passed much sooner than the Gaffer ever expected, but even if’n he’d known she’d leave this world when she did, I know he’d still’ve married her.”

Frodo sighed in resignation. “Yes, but the Gaffer did not risk shortening her life.”

Sam’s brows drew together. “What are you talking about, Mr. Frodo? Every time a lass carries a child, she risks not living through it. For some it’s a bigger risk than for others. Mum carried six of us, her health gettin’ frailer each time, but still she wanted ‘just one more.’ Then Marigold was the last, and I’m thinkin’ that was only ‘cause Mum passed first; otherwise she’d’ve borne another.”

Frodo stared wide eyed at Sam. His voice was hushed when he replied. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know any of that, Sam.”

Sam shrugged. “O’course, you didn’t know. How could you? It’s not like you’ve got lots of experience with the fairer folk. Just know your argument won’t hold water with me, or with Miss Lily, so you’ll need to think of another. Though why you’d want to is beyond me.”

Sam’s eyes grew wide, and he blushed. “Beggin’ your pardon, Mr. Frodo. That was sure and certain above my place, as my old Gaffer would say, to be sayin’ such a thing to you.”

A smile spread across Frodo’s face. “Sam, with all we’ve been through together, I think we’re past such things now...”

Sam grinned sheepishly. “Not if you ask the Gaffer.” He looked Frodo over. “I know it’s above me to be askin’ such things, but when are you going to ask her?”

Frodo’s eyes widened in surprise. “I -- what about you and Rosie? Why haven’t you announced your betrothal yet?”

“I can’t, Mr. Frodo,” he mumbled. “I need to find us a place to live, and then there’s you o’course. You still need looking after.”

“What if you and Rosie lived here? There’s plenty of room.”

“We couldn’t, Mr. Frodo. If you were here all alone, sure and certain, we’d be over the moon, but with Miss Lily here, it’ll get a mite crowded, and I’m thinkin’ my Rosie’ll want a place of her own. I’ve got that gold Mr. Bilbo gave me, but it’s no easy thing to find a proper home just right for my Rosie. And there’s nothing close by... Mr. Frodo?”

Frodo stood in stupefied silence. Lily... living here... in Bag End... his heart raced and his breathing quickened. He gulped and struggled to calm himself. The voice clawed at him for attention, insinuating one lie after another, but It could not break past the overwhelming joy.

“Are you all right, Mr. Frodo?”

Sam’s alarm grew with each passing moment. “Master? Here, let’s sit you down here next to the fire.” He helped Frodo settle into the wing-backed chair.

Frodo wondered if his heart would burst. She could curl up in this chair whenever she wished... He shook his head, struggling to concentrate on the moment.

A smile touched his lips. “Sam, you’re usually a bit better at working through these things... The answer’s simple enough. If you’ll set a date with your Rosie, I’ll arrange for a special wedding gift, a smial, to be built, large enough for a good-sized family... hmmm... say next to the Gaffer’s, #4, or any name you like -- the Garden Hill? -- and include the adjoining land to be your own...”

Sam’s lip trembled. “Now, Mr. Frodo, seems you’ve not lost your sense of humour... but you shouldn’t tease so...”

Frodo searched his friend’s eyes. “I am serious. I can’t have you going off to some place where you can’t keep an eye on me, especially if Lily’ll not have me...”

“You don’t need to be worritin’ about Miss Lily...” Sam burst into tears, and just as quickly stopped them. “You’re far too generous, Mr. Frodo.”

“No, Sam.” Frodo shook his head. “If I gave you all the land and Bag End itself, it wouldn’t be enough...”

Sam’s face became stern and set. “I’ll not be wantin’ Bag End. There ain’t no one should be living in it but you... and Miss Lily o’course.”

“Then it’s settled.” Frodo smiled.

“Yes, sir,” Sam grinned.

The two friends swiftly embraced.

“You’d better go tell Rosie,” Frodo chuckled. “And set a date with her, Samwise Gamgee!”

“Yes, sir!” Sam laughed out loud and hurried out the door, then rushed back in. “I forgot! Rosie’s invited us both to dinner and supper. She said something about you chaperoning us for a change.”

Frodo laughed. He moved to join Sam and stopped. Briefly, he allowed his hand to wander across the back of the over-stuffed chair. Memories flooded through him.

Sam smiled. “Have you written her today, Mr. Frodo?”

Frodo glanced up, startled. “Hmmm? No, not yet...”

“You can write her as soon as we get home tonight, sir.”

Frodo nodded as he left the room with his dearest friend.

---------

The two friends were met on the road by Nibs, Rosie’s youngest brother. He chatted all the way to the smial about the work he was doing, and his plans for hiring out that summer. The moment they arrived, dinner was served, and Sam again shared a few stories of his time away. Nibs and Nick hung excitedly on Sam’s stories, at both dinner and supper.

Frodo suggested Sam and Rosie enjoy some quiet chatting out on the front porch, alone. They quickly agreed, then Rosie reminded him their chaperone should be close by to keep things proper.

The blank look on Frodo’s face elicited a giggle from Rosie.

“It’s your turn, for awhile,” she insisted with a smile, as she guided Frodo and Sam out the door.

Frodo grinned, then eyed Sam pointedly. “There may be things you’d like to talk about, just the two of you.” Frodo thought of Lily, and sighed; the voice pleased by his loneliness. He struggled to imagine Lily and himself embarking on this step, the one Sam and Rosie were about to take...

Sam turned to Rosie and grasped her arms. “Rosie love, Mr. Frodo has offered to build us a smial of our very own, right next to the Gaffer’s. What d’you think?”

Rosie threw her arms around Frodo’s neck with a squeal, and then released him self-consciously. “Thank you, Frodo...” She blushed furiously.

“There’s more, Rosie love,” Sam grinned. “He’s also addin’ the land next to it. He thinks we ought to call it Garden Hill.”

Rosie gazed into Sam’s eyes. “I think it’s a lovely, fine name for the place.”

Frodo hid a smile behind his hand as he murmured, “You may kiss her if you like, Sam.”

The couple glanced at Frodo and laughed, then shared a gentle kiss and a long embrace. They decided to start the building project the very next day, and the three of them talked excitedly of their plans well into the evening.

When it was time for Frodo and Sam to return to Bag End, Frodo remembered Rosie’s example and went on ahead, advising Sam to catch up before too long.

Once Frodo was through the gate and headed up the lane, Rosie turned and gave her full attention to Sam.

“Samwise, there’s something I’d like to tell you about Lily and Frodo, but you couldn’t reveal to Frodo what you know.”

Sam considered the lass before him, his mind momentarily distracted by thoughts of how pretty she was. He came back to himself and cleared his throat.

“Rosie, dear, truth be told, I’m thinking I’d rather not know, if I can’t tell Mr. Frodo. I’ll not soon forget how betrayed he felt that day, when he found out I knew about him leaving the Shire, and I’d told Merry and Pippin and Fatty. I don’t ever want to see that look in his eyes again. So if it’s all the same to you, do you mind not telling me, love?”

Rose smiled softly and planted a firm kiss on Sam’s lips. “Samwise, dear, seems you’ll share not knowing with Frodo.”

---------

On their return to Hobbiton, the friends walked along in silence. Sam wished to speak of the day, a year ago, but Frodo was reluctant, barely responding to his comments. A light sprinkle of rain dampened their last half mile.

When they reached Bag End, Frodo stood in the open door, looking out over the Row, where a few candles glimmered in the smials, and breathed deeply, while Sam built up the fire in the greatroom.

“It smells different,” Frodo commented.

Sam stepped up behind him and gazed out over the Shire with his master. “It’s clean.”

“Yes. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the stench of that place.”

“Neither’ll I.” Sam’s voice caught.

Frodo glanced at his friend, and shut the door on the rain.

They settled in the greatroom and talked long into the night.

Sam had begun to wonder if Frodo would speak of it at all. Now he allowed his master to speak unhindered, then found himself sharing his memories as well. Tears were shed, and occasional laughter, as they endeavored to bolster each other’s spirits.

In the early morning hours of March 26, Sam cajoled Frodo into getting some sleep, though Frodo knew he would not sleep well at all. The long talk with Sam had been comforting; perhaps he would sleep for an hour, or more...

“I’m glad you’re with me, Sam,” Frodo smiled. “I’m glad you’re home. You were missed terribly, by all of us. Let’s send Will a letter in the post first thing in the morning. He’ll be at Deephallow, for the remembering of their parents’ anniversary. But I do think he’d post letters back here to his workers quickly. Mayhap they could start on #4 tomorrow?”

Sam could only nod wordlessly. He and Rose would have a home...

After Frodo went to bed, the darkness came calling. It would be a long night... and his vivid memories of one year ago were adding to his misery. As a defense, he prayed, and allowed Lily and her words of comfort to fill his thoughts. And he gave thanks for his dearest friend, for Sam being back was as a balm to his soul.