I rolled over and groaned, not wanting to get out of bed. I knew I had to make the obligatory call at Bag End to check up on Rose and Sam's daughter, but I didn't want to look Frodo in the face, or even give him so much as a good-morning. Reluctantly, I rose, washed and dressed, figuring I could at least call on my other patients. Before I could decide exactly what to do, there was a soft knock at my door. To my surprise and abject horror, Frodo was standing there, a slight grin on his face.
I blushed beet-red to my very toes in an instant. "Good morning, Frodo, " I stammered, not sure what else to say.
"Can I come in?" he said shyly, and I beckoned him in wordlessly. He looked about my humble abode with great interest, taking special note of the herbs hanging on the kitchen walls and the great books of medicine on my shelves. "I've never been to your house, Lily. You have a pretty home."
I looked at him then, and my expression must have been incredibly pained, for the corners of his mouth turned down in response. "Lily, are you all right?"
"Fine," I stammered, acutely aware that I was bungling the whole situation. "I just thought…what happened last night…might have been a mistake?"
Frodo smiled with some effort. "Not a mistake. I honestly care about you. And I stopped thinking of you as just a friend a long time ago, if you must know." To my utter surprise, a flush crossed his cheeks. "I love you…but I can't stay with you. I can't be with you the way Sam can be with Rose, the way you deserve."
"Why?" The connection between my brain and my mouth seemed to have stopped working. I decided not to worry about it. "If you care about me the way you say you do…and I can't doubt it after what happened last night…then why…?" I trailed off, uncertain of the question I wanted to ask. Then I knew what I had to do. I knew in my heart's core why he couldn't stay…but I needed to hear it from him. I took his hand, gazed directly into those deep blue eyes, and said:
"Frodo, tell me about the Ring. Tell me."
We sat in my kitchen for hours, but I was unaware of the passage of time as Frodo finally told me the whole story of his journey, about the burden he had borne silently for so long. I traveled with him across the mountains, down Anduin to the dark lands of Mordor, even to the Cracks of Doom. When it was too hard for him to speak, I held him in silence until he found his voice again. We cried together, and I could feel the pall lifting from his soul as he poured out the story of the Ring.
Finally, we moved from the chairs to the rug and I held him close to my heart and he finished it. "Now it is gone," he sighed, "but I cannot be the same as I once was, Lily. It has forever changed me and put a mark of strangeness on me. I don't belong here any more," the tears began to roll down his cheeks again, "and I wish that I did because I want to stay with you. I want to stay more than I've wanted anything in my life, but not even you can give me the peace I long to find."
"I understand," I murmured, stroking his curly head gently. "I understand, and I am not angry with you. When you are ready to leave, we will go together as far as the borders of the Shire."
He turned to look up at me, a relieved expression in his eyes. "You can't know how grateful I am for you, how happy I am that you understand."
"Where will you go, Frodo? I have to know at least that much." I didn't think I would be able to stand it if he left the Shire and I had no idea where he was going.
He sighed and shook his head. "Not anywhere that I can return from. I will sail from the Grey Havens to Elvenhome in the West. The Elves have offered me a sanctuary there, and it's the only place that can possibly heal my soul." He took my hands in his, leaning his head against my shoulder. "I wish things could be different, Lily, if only for your sake…"
Tenderly, I laid a kiss on his forehead. "I love you and I want you to be at peace. Even if you sail beyond the farthest sea, my heart is yours."
He looked up at me, every thought visible on his face. "Do you want to know something, Lily? I have loved you ever since that day at Farmer Cotton's when I was so sick, and you came and made me well. You have tried to heal me in every way that a person can be healed, and I love you for it."
He reached up to kiss me on the lips, and I can hardly describe how I felt…my heart filled with pain and yet bursting with joy at the same time. It was bittersweet, and yet I would not have traded that moment, or the night that followed, for fifty happy years with another hobbit.
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.