Title: Poisoned

Author: Frodo Baggins of Bag End (FrodoAtBagEnd) E-mail: frodoatbagend@yahoo.com

Characters: Frodo, Sam, Gollum

Rating: PG-13 (Rather dark themes; no profanity, no sexuality, non-slash)

Summary: The addition of Gollum to the Quest prompts dark thoughts. . .and painful realisations. . .for Frodo.

Story Notes: TTT movieverse-based. ***SPOILERISH: If trying to avoid spoilers for the movie, you may wish to save this fic for later reading.*** Please don't flame me for slight AUness; I do realise this is somewhat deviant from Tolkien, and I make no claim that it necessarily follows the spirit of the tale as he wrote it.

DISCLAIMER: The characters, places, and story of The Lord of the Rings are the property of J.R.R. Tolkien and consequently of the Tolkien Estate, with select rights by Tolkien Enterprises. This piece appears purely as fanfiction and is not intended to claim ownership of Tolkien's work in any way. Please e-mail me if you have concerns. Furthermore, please do NOT consider any treatments or remedies within this story safe or effective for use: these are included as fictitious hobbit care, not real human medical practice, and while some can indeed be traced to actual therapeutic practices, could be dangerous. Please consult your health care professional before treating yourself or others for any condition or symptom.

POISONED

Part I: February 3019 (1419 Shire Reckoning)

Sam doesn't understand.

I could see it from the very start, in the way he jerked the rope, making me wince in merely watching.

Maybe he does deserve to die.

Maybe.

"Because that's what he is." Meaning Stinker, of course. Of course, that *would* be how Sam would see it. And yet in the same breath, he points out what I cannot explain to him: that I no longer eat unless pressed to it, and I hardly sleep. I cannot tell him. . .cannot bear to tell him.

Already the lembas chokes me, unless taken with a great deal of water.

It seems to catch in my throat, no matter how I take my time with it, no matter how small a bite I try.

And it burns. Burns at my throat, then my stomach. On nights when Sam has pressed me to eat more than a thumb-sized portion, I cannot sleep for the feeling of sickness, and though he has seen this on occasion, he has attributed it to worries or ill health, thoughts which I encourage in hopes that he will not yet recognise the truth.

The rope stings my hands a little, though that is a less difficult matter, for it is Sam's, and he handles it far more than I do. Our cloaks do not seem to cause me discomfort, somehow, nor do our blankets. . .but sleep is difficult, for I half-fear that the Ring will somehow find its way from its chain about my neck and into other hands, or some stream or crevass. A ridiculous fear, I assure myself, but it desperately wants to return to its master, and I do not doubt its capability for treachery beyond imagining.

I do not think Sam believes that Smeagol has ever been anything but a thief, murderer, and liar. . .or that I have ever been less than good- natured if somewhat melancholy, pleasant, and good-hearted. I have *him*, he reminds me, patting my back as he attempts to coax me into eating a bit of lembas and taking some water, or as he tucks a blanket over me at night, taking as many pains with my bedroll as he might with my feather-bed in Bag End if I were ill. I have him, he points out proudly, and he isn't going anywhere.

Smeagol had a friend, too, once.

Sometimes I wonder which it was. . .the siren soothing of the Ring itself, or the frustration that so often comes in the wake of the simplest things. . .things that once would hardly have troubled me, yet now cause me to lash out at Sam with bitter anger: a concerned glance, a gentle scolding about my needing to sleep or take a bit more food. . .they grate now on my nerves like rough stone against fingernails.

Was it really that Smeagol merely coveted the Ring greedily? Once I wanted to believe so, and believed it easily.

Now I feel less certain.

Sometimes I wonder if Smeagol would ever return to himself, were the Ring destroyed.

Sam says of course not.

Sometimes I'm afraid he's right.

~to be continued~