Merry was about to protest, when he realized that Frodo had sat back down on the bed, looking a little unfocused.
“Come on, Pip.” Merry took Pippin’s arm again and led him away. “There’s a feast to see to, and I’m sure we’ll both have duties.”
When they had gone, Aragorn knelt in front of Frodo. “I want you to get a bit more rest. I need to leave to take care of a few things, but Gandalf will stay here with you.”
Frodo was shaking his head in bewilderment. “Merry and Pippin………” He looked up. “What’s happened to them?”
“Remember when Lord Celeborn warned us to stay away from Fangorn Forest?”
Aragorn grinned. “They didn’t listen.”
“It’s just all so difficult to believe.”
“I still feel so sleepy, Aragorn. Am I all right?”
“Frodo, I want you to listen to me,” said Aragorn seriously. “You’re having a natural reaction to something that makes no sense to you --- that you’re still alive. Do you understand?”
“I think so.”
“Here, lie down.” Aragorn guided Frodo back down, and tucked the blanket back around him. “Just take it all in a little at a time,” he said encouragingly.
Frodo nodded and curled up again next to Sam. He closed his eyes, his head spinning.
Aragorn rose to his feet and walked over to Gandalf.
“He needs quiet,” said Aragorn softly. “This is very overwhelming.”
“He’ll get it.” The wizard sat down in one of the chairs. “Go on, Aragorn. I’ll watch them.”
“Gandalf,” said Frodo sleepily, opening his eyes.
“I am here, Frodo.”
“You’re so different now, and Merry and Pippin are so tall………”
”Well, has *everything* changed? Did Gimli shave off his beard, or did Legolas go bald?”
The wizard chuckled. “You will find them unchanged. Their friendship is the wonder of the South.”
“That’s good,” murmured Frodo, letting himself fall back into sleep.
Frodo had been asleep for several hours when something comforting and familiar wrapped itself around him, drawing him upwards. He felt the drowsy fog clear away and he sighed deeply. Sam’s voice………
“………But I hope he’s all right otherwise. He’s had a cruel time.”
Frodo opened his eyes to a sight he never thought he’d see again. Sam was standing over him.
“Sam,” Frodo sighed. He sat up and drew his friend down until Sam was sitting next to him, his face a mix of joy and concern. Frodo lay his head on Sam’s shoulder, and felt Sam pull him close.
“I’m all right otherwise,” murmured Frodo. “I’m all right.” He pulled back and looked into Sam’s eyes. “Are you?”
“Right as rain, Mr. Frodo,” Sam said softly. “Never doubted we would be. Not for a moment.”
“You never did,” marveled Frodo. He smiled. “I fell asleep again waiting for you, Sam, you sleepyhead.” He reached up to brush a few tears away from Sam’s cheeks. “Have you been crying?”
Sam smiled. “It was just when Gandalf started laughin’, I couldn’t help myself. When did we last hear anything that wonderful?”
Gandalf left the pavilion for a moment to ask the Men keeping watch to have basins of water and some food brought to the Ringbearers. He smiled as they eagerly raced to off to comply, and to spread the word that the brave Pheriannath were awake and well.
Sam was looking Frodo over.
“We were so busy out there, stayin’ alive and all, I never rightly noticed.”
“Noticed what, Sam?”
“You really need a haircut, sir.”
Frodo frowned. “It’s that bad?”
“Well, I’ll just stay by your side in case you trip over something.”
“So that’s why you’ve stuck by me so closely,” said Frodo thoughtfully. “You were afraid I’d lose the Ring altogether if you didn’t keep me from tripping over everything in Mordor.”
Sam nodded, grinning. “That must have been it.”
Gandalf returned in time to overhear their conversation.
“The Army of the West is no doubt expecting dignified, regal heroes,” the wizard sighed, “graciously accepting thanks and accolades for their miraculous feat and return from the dead. Whatever will they make of you two truants?”
Frodo chuckled. “We can be dignified, can’t we, Sam?”
“I’m not the one who got up on a table at the Prancing Pony and started singin’ in front of all those folks, Mr. Frodo.”
Frodo looked up at the wizard. “Sam can be dignified, Gandalf; surely there’s no need for both of us to do so?”
Gandalf could not suppress a smile of his own. “I believe you’re both going to be all right.” He looked at Frodo closely. “Are you feeling more settled, Frodo?”
“Yes.” Frodo took a deep breath. “I think, as long as Sam is the same old Sam, it’s all right that everything else has changed.”
“Has everything changed, Mr. Frodo?”
“Oh, Sam,” Frodo said, his eyes sparkling, “you won’t believe it. Merry and Pippin are each at least seven feet tall, and Gimli has shaved off his beard………”
Sam gasped in amazement.
“……… and Legolas, Sam, he’s as bald as a hen’s egg!”
Sam eyed Frodo suspiciously. “Sir, I think you’re pulling my leg.” He looked up. “Isn’t he, Gandalf?”
“Both of them,” said the wizard. He winked at Frodo. “Merry and Pippin *have* grown --- but only six feet tall, I would say.”
“Now you’re both teasin’ me,” said Sam. “Well, it’s good to hear that they’re both all right, anyway.”
At that moment, a half-dozen Men approached the pavilion bearing basins, towels, and trays holding covered dishes of food. They set down their burdens in front of Frodo and Sam, bowed deeply, and left.
Sam looked bewildered. “Is *that* how things are goin’ to be, now? Bowing and all?”
Gandalf chuckled. “Surely you can handle it, Samwise, after everything you’ve been through?”
Sam didn’t look too certain about that. “I suppose.” He looked at Frodo. “How about you, sir?”
“Sam, as long as *you* don’t start bowing to me, I’m not worried.”
“Fair enough.” Sam looked down at Frodo’s right hand, and tears came into his eyes.
“It’s all right,” said Frodo softly. “It doesn’t hurt, but it does feel strange --- like the finger’s still there, somehow.”
Sam didn’t say anything, just took Frodo’s hand in both of his and held it gently.
“Frodo, Sam………” Gandalf said. “Before you wash and eat a bit, here are your two treasures.”
Frodo took the phial, and Sam took his box with joy and amazement that it had survived. Frodo closed his hand over the glass, lost in thought, and it seemed to both Gandalf and Sam that there was as much light shining from within their friend as from the glass itself. Gandalf, watching Sam’s face, knew that the humble gardener could see it as clearly as could he. Frodo looked up, peaceful and content, and smiled.
“Yes, dear boy?”
“I’m starving.” Frodo surveyed the trays suspiciously. “And there’d better not be any lembas under those covers.”
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.