"Rose, can I sit with you?"
Rosie looked up from the potatoes she was peeling to find Frodo standing in front of her. It was mid-afternoon, and Frodo had spent most of the morning packing and getting ready for the trip he wanted to make in honor of Bilbo's 131st birthday. He and Sam were departing the next morning, and Rosie wanted to make them a special meal before they left. "Of course, Mr. Frodo!" She patted the seat of the chair next to her, indicating to him that he should sit down.
"Wait a minute," he said, then walked over to a drawer and started going through it. He found another small knife and sat down next to her, taking a potato from the pile in front of her and peeling it. Rosie chuckled slightly -- Frodo loved to help her cook whenever he got the chance, although he usually ended up making more of a mess than she did. Frodo looked up at her with a content smile on his face.
They were interrupted from their task by Elanor, who sat near her mother. She had spotted Frodo sitting at the table. Elanor was very fond of Frodo, always smiling at him and giggling when he smiled back. She would pull at the shiny brass buttons on his clothes, attracted by their color, and sometimes grapped his earlobes with her strong fingers, much to Frodo's chagrin. Frodo was very good with children; the majority of hobbits were. Rosie always thought it was sad that he'd never had any children of his own, but he doted on Elanor as if she were his own daughter.
Elanor smiled at Frodo, then made a laughing grin when he smiled back at her. She already had golden curls and beautiful green eyes. She went back to playing with her doll, and Frodo's gaze rested on her, his eyes touched with sadness.
"Mr. Frodo?" Rosie asked, putting her hand on his wrist. "What's wrong?"
He looked back at her, his eyes still sad. "Sam and I are leaving tomorrow. He'll return here, but I will not. That is what I wanted to talk to you about."
Rosie looked concerned. "Why won't you be returning?"
Frodo stared down at the table for a few moments, averting her steady gaze. Finally, he raised his eyes and looked at her. "Did Sam ever tell you the stories about the Elves, how they sail West from Middle-earth and never return?"
"Yes, Sam told me when I was a lass, but I never more than half believed them. Sam always had stories he heard from your Mr. Bilbo and he'd tell anyone who would listen."
Frodo smiled, remembering Sam when he was younger as he listened to Bilbo's tales, wide-eyed and full of awe. "The stories are true, Rose. After the Ring was destroyed, all the beauty the Elves created here began to fail. The Dominion of Men has begun, and soon all the Elves will be gone, maybe within your own lifetime. When I was in Minas Tirith, Queen Arwen gave me her pendant, but she also gave me another gift. She told me that if I was still in pain, I could sail West with the Elves in her place with Bilbo and be healed. But I can never return, for when the ships sail West, they do not come back for anyone."
Rosie looked at him sadly. "Oh, Mr. Frodo. You're going with them, West with the Elves." She paused and lowered her head in grief, then looked back up at him, taking his right hand in hers. "I knew you were ill in the spring before Elanor was born. You tried to hide it, bless you, but I knew, and Sam knew. And when you were ill that horrible night last fall, I demanded that a healer should come and see you, but Sam said it was no use. He said that no one could help you. They could heal you for a while, but they could never heal you for good." The tears that had been brimming in her eyes as she spoke fell openly. "I knew you were going to leave us, somehow. I feared that you would get one of your spells and not recover from it, or you'd just slip away from us one day when everything got too much to bear."
A few tears slipped down Frodo's cheeks. "If I don't leave, that will happen," he said. "It's getting harder to fight off, Rose. The darkness and pain haunt me, both in my dreams and in my waking hours. I walk around the Shire, and it's never quite as beautiful to me now as it was before. I cannot pretend anymore. I care about all of you too much to put you through my pain." He paused, his eyes pleading with Rosie. "Please, don't tell Sam. I have to tell him in my own way."
Rosie stroked his cheek, smiling at him through her tears. "I know, Mr. Frodo. He loves you, and I love you. I understand why you're leaving, and I know Sam will, too. But we'll miss you forever, Mr. Frodo. Bag End will never be the same without you."
Frodo looked at Elanor, who sat still playing with her doll. The sunlight filtered through the window, catching the edges of her curls and making them glow. He remembered the dreams he had sometimes, the peaceful ones where he saw Sam and Rose and their family. Elanor was always beautiful, with hair the color of spun gold and eyes that were every bit as gentle and kind as those of her parents.
"She will be very beautiful, you know," Frodo said. "All of your children will be."
More tears sprang to Rosie's eyes. "How I wish you could be around to see them."
He smiled at her, but said nothing else. There was nothing left to say.
In the morning, he kissed Rosie on the cheek goodbye and embraced her, as if he were leaving for a few months and not forever. She stood in front of the gate at Bag End, Elanor cradled in her arms. Frodo ran his fingers through Elanor's soft hair, and she smiled at him, grabbing at his long, nimble hobbit fingers with her tiny hands. "Goodbye, Elanor," he said tenderly. She laughed in reply, her eyes shining at him. He looked again at Rosie, smiling at her sadly.
Climbing on Strider, his horse, Frodo smiled again and took a long last look at Bag End. The image of his beloved hole, with Rosie standing in front of it holding her daughter, was forever etched in his mind. Sam embraced his family, kissing his wife and daughter. "I'll be home soon! Take care!" he said, and mounted on Bill, giving them a last wave. Together, he and Frodo rode down the road, and they did not look back. Rosie, however, stood by the gate and watched them until they had disappeared into the hills. Her heart mourned for Frodo, but she sent her blessing after him, hoping he would find a safe road and a good wind, and finally be healed. She kept what Frodo had told her a secret until the end of her days.
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.