Changed: 1. Changed

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1. Changed

"It is time, Frodo."

It is time. You knew it was coming, but you couldn't bring yourself to think about it, or even tell your friends. Perhaps you should have told them, warned them, prepared them for this. But you didn't. You've become so cold, Iorhael. Burnt out from the inside by both the dark fire you battled, and the Secret Fire that drove you. Maybe the Morgul wound did its job. You've seen yourself in the mirror. You know you look like a wraith of yourself. Sam and Rosie might say you're beautiful, but they're simply being kind. You are a shell of what you once were, Iorhael. Everything is cold and savorless. Salt tastes like ash.

So you found out, there was a chance to be healed: to feel life again, to feel whole. That would be wonderful, wouldn't it, Iorhael? And you want to go. There is nothing here, except ... except a road not taken. And you know you can't take that road now. It wouldn't be right.

But now you have to say goodbye. Credit them this: they understand quickly. Merry does instantly. Good old Merry. Always on top of things. Pippin is still distracted by Gandalf. He'll miss the wizard most of all.

"What does he mean?"

You've been dreading this. Best to explain as gently as you can.

"You can't mean that. You can't leave."

You can't stay; to stay would be to tear him in two. How shameful to admit it even now. You've always been a proud one, Iorhael; proud and stubborn.

Merry. Weeping. He should be laughing. Where is the laughing little child who brought such sunshine into the depths of the Hall after all the lost ones before him? Who brought such light into the wounded heart of an orphaned boy? Your little brother in all but fact. He cried so hard when you crossed the river; now you're crossing the Sea.

Hug him. Let him know you trust him. Let him know you know he'll be all right. That he will be a great leader, a fine husband, a wonderful father in the proper time. You know he weeps for no reason now. You know the darkness lingers on his soul like fumes before the Sun. But he will handle it. He's Merry. He can handle everything.

Who is this again, this tall fellow with the gravity of a Man of Numenor? Not the scamp, not the squeak, not the little apple in the eye of all the first families. So full of questions, but not asking any now. You hug him and you feel it in his arms, his shoulders: Gondor's stone.

You want him to smile again. To look at you with that sweet daft look of the perfectly innocent. But he can't, and you know why. You led him away from his childhood and he grew up too high too soon. His father named him Peregrin as a jest. But Peregrin suits better now. He knows why you're leaving. He hasn't come home yet either. You see it in his eyes, green as the Sea. Oh, Gandalf, what did we do to Pippin? He looks into the distance with a faraway gaze. Part of him is always elsewhere.

You hope Pippin will find what he seeks, as you turn to what you sought but didn't see right in front of you: the one always beside you, the one who accepted you in all your queerness, the one who understands. This hurts worse than Gollum's bite. To leave him now, after everything! You are cruel, Iorhael; cruel and cold, to make him cry.

But he has to understand; understand this, at least, as he grasped everything else. There can be no happiness here between you and he that won't be stalked by the memory of shadow. There can be no time when you will not wish for the peace you sought at the end of all things; and he will follow you, and then where will he be for his wife, his children, the Shire for which all of this was done? All of this was for him, in the end. That much you know, Iorhael; he can go on; he is the stronger.

Perhaps this is the last time you will put your arms around him. The last time you feel the fullness of his cheek against the hollow of yours. The smell of his hair. You remember that round little lad who greeted you the day you came to Bag End, who wanted to see the Elves. You watched him grow. He has grown great. And somewhere in those simple years he stopped being simply servant and started being friend. And through darkness and fire he became more. By all that's holy, so much more...

He bore It. For a brief time, but It took no hostages, only victims. If you stay, you will only remind him of Its effects.

He's crushed. He thinks you're leaving him forever. Oh, Sam! I would not leave you if I could stay. But I can't. For you and for me. Please don't think me so cruel. Please, I couldn't bear it, as I can barely bear your tears now. It was a lighter burden than your grief.

Sam, "I love you."

Did you say it?

Did he hear it?

He pulls away. He looks at you, and there's nothing but love shining back.

You went to the end of all things, there and back again, for the love in those eyes.

If love is the foundation of all the world--as in your deepest thoughts you suspect it is--then not even the Sea can sunder it.

This is your blessing. This kiss on his face. Let them all see. Let them all know. All you had, all you would have had, is his.

It's done. You straighten up. You see Gandalf on the pier. You see Galadriel on the deck. You will join them now, and just hope things turn out the way they should.

How strange. Is your heart beating quicker? Is that blood flowing in your veins? A wraith can't feel such things. Why should you, Iorhael?

There are your friends. The ones who went with you. The leader who learned weakness; the fool who found wisdom; and the servant who is greatest of all.

They suffered for you, Iorhael.

Before Elves and Men and all Free Folk, beneath the thrones of the Valar, by the One above all--my name is Frodo Baggins.

(Frodo slowly smiled.)

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.

Story Information

Author: Chip of Dale

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Post-Ring War

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 08/19/04

Original Post: 08/19/04

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