Till the End of His Days

Author: nacey

Email: tosh@opera.iinet.net.au

Category: Drama, Romance, AU Rating: PG

Spoilers: All six books. Summary: The story of Frodo's life after the journey of the Ring. DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JRR Tolkien, and Tolkien Enterprises. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author notes: This story is not properly edited. The final version may differ greatly from the one you are reading right now. This is just to air the idea and to see what others think of it, so I know whether to bother publishing it on the net or whether to keep it amongst my close friends. I very much thought that Lord of the Rings didn't need fan-fiction when I was reading it, until I read the ending. Then I saw the movies and it inspired me to write this little "Alternate-Universe" fic. I think that the ending that Tolkien did was absolutely perfect, and this is just my attempt at a different idea of what it could be like, mainly borne of my experience being amongst and being a person living with depression (I believe that poor Frodo had one of the most chronic cases of Post-Traumatic Stress that ever was). Constructive criticism is welcomed with open arms. Website: http://www.nancylorenz.com/lothlorien/

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Chapter One - Concerning the Ringbearer.

Frodo Baggins was, as a rule, considered to be a very strange, very odd, hobbit. The Baggins name had been one held in high esteem for many years, at least until Bilbo set out on his very first adventure with a band of swarthy Dwarven folk and, sadly, since that day things had never been the same for the Bagginses. Frodo had never known much respect. Oh, it was given to him, as no hobbit would dare turn their nose at their rich influential folk, and not at the Bagginses at least, who were rumoured to be the richest in the Shire. The fact that Frodo had inherited all that Bilbo had, and was half Took, did not please the other Baggins in Hobbiton, least of all the Sackville-Bagginses, who were widely regarded indeed.

These little things, these in-clan bickerings and disputes, were abandoned like chaff in the breeze when the invasion of the Men ripped the Shire apart. Frodo remembered keenly, escorting his dear Aunt Lobelia from the cramped decrepit hold she and other rebellious hobbits had been shut into, a mere shadow of the strong opinionated hobbit-lady she had been before the Men had come. Any ill will or conflicts they had ever had collapsed away to nothing, and he embraced the lady warmly, his heart twisting painfully to see her in her terrible state. He cried deeply when she died that year.

The strangest thing that clung through all this pain, the strangest thing that the hobbits held onto, was their secret and quiet disapproval of Frodo. He was still considered rather peculiar, and the rest of the Shire had no idea whatsoever what he did for them, what he sacrificed so that they could keep what they had to a certain extent. And he knew very well that they didn't really care to know. They had Sam, Pippin and Merry, their heroes of the hour, and all lauded them and praised them highly. Frodo came to expect it, and on some level it saddened him, deep down within him, but mostly he didn't mind. He was too busy with other pains, with the scars that his journey had left him with, and he enjoyed the peace and quiet that unpopularity had brought him.

That's why it surprised him when there was a soft knocking upon the newly repainted door at Bag Hall. This puzzled Frodo greatly, for he was not expecting anyone to be visiting. Sam and Rose were tending to the gardens together, and restoring much of the damage done to the Hill. And besides, should they want to enter, they would have done, with perhaps a nod of their heads or an acknowledgement to their Master, Frodo. He was quite curious as to just who would think to visit him.

Upon opening the door he saw one of the ladies from town. She was of Peregrin and Meriadoc's age, some twenty years shy of Frodo's, and her round sweet cheeks were rosy and full. Looking upon such a face that seemed never to have been touched by the savage darkness that lay beyond awoke a pain inside of Frodo, and he fought to keep a soft welcoming look on his face. He knew this young lady as Periwinkle Proudfoot, and of all the Proudfeet, was one of the sweeter about the face. Her eyes were large, a warm brown that was common amongst hobbits and the round face had a button nose that was blunt at the end, and red chiselled lips that were full in parts. She was very much the vision of hobbitly beauty, as beautiful as hobbits were considered in the wider world, which wasn't much at all. Their features weren't doted upon amongst the rest of the Middle Earth folk; then again hobbits were very much ignored outside the Shire altogether. He had seen this lass often in the Markets and about town, and on the day where the young folk of Hobbiton visited the Green Dragon she was there in a pretty dress, clapping and singing to music. He stood there for a long moment, wondering why she would want to visit him of all people. Periwinkle shuffled her long furry feet and brought forward a basket, curved brows lifting.

"Begging your pardon, Sir, Mr. Mayor," she stuttered, "I hope I've not interrupted you during some important business."

He found himself shaking his head, and for a moment was lost for words. He hadn't spoken to anyone other than his cousins, Sam or other such male-folk folk in years. He'd certainly not made it a habit since his return to speak to young lasses. He quite simply forgot how to. Looking to the space between them, he stepped forward, remembering himself. "Uhm... Of course not, Miss Periwinkle. What brings you here?"

A blush rose in her already red round cheeks, and she lifted the basket. "Well, Mr. Baggins, I was thinking of all the wonderful things you've done for the Shire of late, and I thought of how tired you looked when you came back Sir, if you'll forgive me for noticing. And Diamond - you know Diamond, yes?"

Frodo nodded faintly.

"Yes well she always talks of Master Pippin, and all the town speak of him and Merry like they were Lords from the very King's own court-"

"They are," said Frodo. "Of a sort."

Perry blanched. "Yes well, again, begging your pardon, it's all well and good to praise them. They deserve all the praise that they've gotten, I agree. But I can't help noticing that people very much tend to overlook all that you've done."

He blinked, staring at the young woman in some surprise.

"So," she said, continuing as if doing so would rid her cheeks of the blush renewed from Frodo's puzzled gaze: "I thought that I'd make a little something for you. I went by Farmer Maggot's the other day, as I was going there anyway you see, and Master Samwise said you liked his mushrooms so-"

It was now Frodo's turn to blush. For a hobbit that had never left the Shire, Farmer Maggot was some distance. Hobbits that didn't live around the Bucklands took time to go there to get the very best mushrooms to be had, but usually it was a rare trip to get a large stock and then to return.

"You went all that way?" he muttered without thought.

Her large brown eyes widened. "As I said, I was going there anyway, for my Ma."

"Doesn't Fredegar Bolger's son make the trip to Maggot's for them?"

Perry looked as if she had been caught picking flowers from Daisy Chubb's garden. Shame tinged her cheeks. "I went along for the trip, Sir, to make sure the very best were saved for you."

The thought of Farmer Maggot's prize mushrooms made his stomach tighten and rumble in anticipation, but reason and modesty took a hold of the rest of his self. "You needn't have-"

"Oh!" Perry put her hand over her mouth and pointed to the basket. "I nearly forgot. Master Gamgee also helped me make these cakes that I know you so like... just like Bilbo used to make, he says."

Frodo felt a fresh pain spring within, and he gave a faint smile to ward off any ill looks that might have slipped to Perry. "This is all very kind of you, Miss Perry," he said, "But Sam and Rose take very good care of me." He sighed a little. "I would hate to think that you would wear yourself out on my account."

Much to his shame, hurt welled in the eyes of Perry, and she stuttered, shuffling her feet once more. "Well - I mean I - "

"I am sorry," he said suddenly. "I've been writing solidly this morning, and I've forgotten my manners. Please - come in. We will share the cakes at least."

Perry gave an odd curtsey and stepped in, looking about the place as if something horrible might jump out of a corner any moment. It hadn't been too long since 'Sharky' had been dispensed of, and the fear that had welled at Bag Hall haunted it still.

"Please be comfortable," Frodo said, guiding the hobbit lady to the kitchen. "I'll make us some tea."

"Thank you," said Perry, the tenseness in her lifting some. "As I was saying before, if you don't mind me continuing-"

Frodo glanced up and shook his head, before getting back to putting the kettle on.

"You just looked so tired on your return. And I remembered you all those years ago at Bilbo's eleventy-first party, and you seemed so different then. Like a spring that didn't know of winter."

He turned as she said that, meeting her eyes. That day felt lifetimes away, and he could remember himself, dancing merrily, his thumbs hooked under his suspenders as he kicked his legs to the sound of the flutes and drums. He looked to himself now, altogether more drawn and thin. Since that time, he felt no will to sing, and dancing was a sport he wouldn't use again. As these thoughts ran through his mind, his old wound in his shoulder thrummed in dull pain. He rubbed the scar absently as he pulled some cups from his cupboards. He fixed the tea, and sliding Perry a cup he sat across from her at the table.

"I wondered why you were so weary, why you'd changed so," said Perry, continuing on. She tilted her head and ran her fingertip around the rim of her cup. "Diamond didn't know anything, but I dared to ask Master Peregrin. Forgive my inquisitiveness," she said, blushing behind a hand. "It troubled me to see you so sad. Something behind your eyes changed."

Frodo swallowed, not meeting her eyes.

"Oh I am sorry, Mr. Baggins!" Perry exclaimed, looking thoroughly embarrassed. "That was rude of me!"

He found it in himself to look at her now, and he gave a shadow of a smile. "You were merely being observant, Miss Periwinkle." A terrible thought occurred to him then, and he looked to Periwinkle once more. "So, what did Pippin tell you of me?"

Perry looked guilty, and she shrugged. "He told me of your quest, er... mission... thing. It was then I understood why you have changed so. What I gathered for you is but a trifle of what you deserve." She looked down to her tea and seemed to shrink a little. "What that I could give it to you."

"It is enough that you know," Frodo said, meaning that in many ways. Still, it wouldn't have done for him to be angry in front of Periwinkle because of Pippin's loose tongue. He forced a smile to his face and looked to the basket. "Those cakes! I very nearly forgot about them."

Perry couldn't help but smile as Frodo lifted the cloth covering the contents of the basket, and he let out a soft gasp. His anger slipped away as he saw the bounty before him. She must have wrestled these out of Maggot's very own hands, he thought. From the basket he pulled a field mushroom the size of a saucer, nay larger, and his blue eyes twinkled merrily.

"These are the finest mushrooms I've ever seen!"

"Mr. Gamgee said he'd helped Farmer Maggot restore his farm after Sharky had had his way with everything."

Frodo smiled knowingly - Galadriel's gift. Of course, of course. He nodded, smiling graciously. "This is wonderful, Perry. You must stay and help me cook these. You went so far for them and you must be thanked in proper order!"

Perry blushed, looking to her tea. "Oh, t'is really nothing, Mr. Baggins."

"Just call me Frodo," he smiled, placing the large mushroom carefully back and unwrapping one of the cakes. He sniffed it and sighed. "Yes, yes. This takes me back to afternoons with dear Bilbo." For a moment, those large blue eyes became dewy, and he stilled. He looked to Perry then, smiling fondly. "This is really very kind of you."

The lady-hobbit couldn't help but laugh, the ever-present blush burning. "Dear me, Frodo! All I did was bring you a bite to eat to make your days a little lighter. Many would have said less 'Thank you's and had more thoughts of eating!"

"Food is to be enjoyed, Perry, and doubly so the generosity and kindness of others," said Frodo. "To take it for granted is to dishonour the gesture." With that he laid the cake on a plate and began to slice it up.

The dark-haired girl tilted her head curiously. "Advice from when you had little of those things?"

"Perhaps," Frodo said. He said no more about having little, and taking a small piece of the cake, he sampled it very carefully. Perry looked to him expectantly, and he gave a deep, appreciative sigh. "This is very good cake, Periwinkle."

Perry smiled broadly, cheeks rosy and full.

"Now, for the mushrooms!"

"Let me help!" said Perry, jumping to her feet without a thought. Frodo pulled out some frying pans, and Perry dug around in the larder for butter and herbs. She cooed. "My, your herbs are very well ordered!"

"Sam Gamgee's doing," said Frodo, stoking his stove. "They're always fresh too."

Perry brought over some pepper and salt, and as Frodo began to cook the mushrooms, she added dashes of the condiments. So thrilled over the mushrooms was Frodo that for a little while the pains in his heart that he'd felt a moment ago faded into the background, almost forgotten. He smiled as he cooked, and so eager to sample the mushrooms was he that he plucked a morsel from the pan and blew on it, eating it straight from the fire. He patted his stomach the flavour was so wonderful, and he brought the fork to Perry's mouth and offered her a bite. She took it, and clapped in elation.

"Make no mistake, Mr. Baggins, Old Maggot has the best mushrooms in the whole of the Shire!"

Frodo shared out the mushrooms with his guest, and this said much of his graciousness, considering how very much he loved mushrooms. They sat across from each other at the table, plates full of steaming hot fried mushrooms, warm cups of tea at hand. For the most part the hobbits spoke little as they consumed the food, but they found themselves looking to each other and smiling fondly. Ever since his return, Frodo rarely had any private company besides Sam and the other hobbits of the fellowship, except Rosie of course, and despite the fact that this visit was thoroughly unexpected, after the initial shock of her arrival he began to enjoy Periwinkle's company. After finishing off the mushrooms Frodo cut up some cake, and the two of them sat and nibbled it, sipping their sweet tea and ignoring the sunlight in the window grow lower in the sky and more golden. Perry told Frodo of all that she did during the recent ravaging of the Shire, and little stories of her family and her brothers. Frodo didn't go at all into his business with the One Ring, but he did tell her of some of the more pleasant experiences; the Elves, Rivendell and some of his cousin's more ridiculous adventures.

They'd spent such a long time chatting, food and tea abandoned and conversation feeding them alone, that it was a surprise when Sam came trotting in from his gardening, taking off his wide-brimmed hat and putting it on one of the multitudinous hooks. He gave a warm smile to Frodo, bowing slightly, Rosie stepping in after Sam and giving her usual bright smile that was set off by her unusual golden curls.

"Hello there, Mr. Frodo," Sam said, rubbing his hands on his pants, "And how are we this afternoon?"

Frodo's mouth opened, and he couldn't find any words. He finally spluttered. "What? Is it that time already?"

Sam's smile gained a cheeky curl, and he nodded. "Why yes it is, Mr. Frodo, Sir. The sun is ready to go to bed!"

Frodo glanced to the window, and shaking his head he sighed. "How the hours of this day flew by!"

At this time Periwinkle was smiling at Frodo, quiet and withdrawn with the new company. Rosie stepped forward, and being the outgoing hobbit she was, squeezed Periwinkle's shoulder and hugged her fondly.

"Hello, Perry!" she said. "You do look lovely today. Doesn't she look lovely Sam?"

"Oh yes, cheeks are very merry and red," said Sam. "Just the right kind of cheery company Mr. Frodo needs."

Subtlety was never Sam Gamgee's strong point, so upon hearing this Frodo tilted his head at Sam, giving him a stern look.

"Sam."

Sam lifted his brows.

"You're going to embarrass our guest."

Perry shrunk into her shoulders, blushing wildly. "It's all right, really. Uhm. I should get going." Periwinkle jumped to her feet, taking the now empty basket and curtseying to Frodo briefly. "Again, I'm sorry if I interrupted your day, Mr. Baggins."

"You didn't, Perry," said Frodo. "In fact I haven't had such a lovely day in some time." This was very true.

It brought a bright smile to Perry's face, and she curtseyed again nervously before racing out the door, bidding them all goodbye. In the silence that followed her departure, Sam gave a long satisfied smile, eyeing Frodo fully. Rosie tapped a foot, arms behind her back, eyes filled with laughter.

"You two are incorrigible," said Frodo, standing up and still looking stern. He wagged a finger at Sam. "Did you suggest to her that she should come over here?"

Sam looked wounded. "Why Mr. Frodo, I did nothing of the sort!"

"I suggested it!" said Rosie, obviously trying to hold back her laughter. It was a clever thing for Rosie to admit to - she was a strong willed hobbit lady and quite imposing when she wanted to be. She knew Frodo wouldn't have the gall to give her a telling off, not if he wanted to deal with her killer stare. Frodo sighed, putting his face in his hands.

"Yes, it seems like the sort of thing you would do, Rose."

"And what of it, Mr. Frodo?" asked Rose, walking to the kitchen and putting the newly dirtied pans in water. "You know you could do a lot worse than Periwinkle Proudfoot! I know plenty of gentlehobbits interested in her, and for good reason! She's a pretty one, and she would make a wonderful wife!" She tapped her lip and then pointed to Frodo. "Probably even a better wife than me!"

"No!" exclaimed Sam.

"It doesn't matter kind of wife she would make," said Frodo, walking over to his fireplace and taking out his pipe. "You know that I'm perfectly happy the way things are."

"Yes, I know that Mr. Frodo," said Rose. "I just don't see what harm a little female company would do you."

"I think you're all the female company I need, Rose." Frodo looked wry as he lit his pipe. At this Sam frowned.

"That may be, Sir, but I think you'd be better with a girl of your own!"

"I thought it was clear that I don't want a girl at all," said Frodo.

"You're a stubborn hobbit," said Rosie, shaking her head. "And you don't know what's good for you!"

"Perhaps, but it is my decision in the end, and I won't have you both making designs behind my back." Frodo gave his friends a weathering smile, affection warm in his large blue eyes, and he had a long puff of his pipe. "I am going to write some more of my book. Mind yourselves, and no more scheming!"

Rosie waved after him, shaking her head. As he left, she frowned to Sam.

"Mr. Frodo lets himself wallow in his troubles far too much, Sam," she said, pulling out pots to make dinner. "It's not good for him."

"Perhaps, Rosie, perhaps." Sam gave a sad frown. "He's been through much, my dear, much I daren't ever repeat."

"That's true," said Rosie. She grinned to Sam then. "You know, I don't know if we'll need to be doing any designing at all! Perry was right taken with him, I think!"

"I don't rightly know a girl in the Shire that doesn't think kindly of 'im, dear, despite 'is reputation." Sam rubbed his face, wincing. "D'ye think it was right to encourage her, though? Especially seein' as we know Frodo isn't keen on gettin' married."

"I said it before, love; he doesn't know what's good for him!" She shook her head. "He's gone through a lot, aye, but I don't think he realises what good it'll do him. Like it or not, Perry's got a thing, and he'll have to deal with it one way or another."

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