Broken souls.

T: welcome again to the organized madness that is my mind…no only kidding this is just another of my LOTR fics. Unfortunately due to the nature of this fic I can't actually say anything here about content etc without giving the whole thing away so I'm going to employ a notes system at the bottom explaining thingies that might not make much sense.  Disclaimer wise its still Tolkien's, though I am now well on my way to owning Sam…or at least his rustiness! Of slash leanings, though I'm not telling you if it's unrequited or not! And technical spoilers for ROTK...you'll see!

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 Everything seems to have changed since I was here last time. The grass is greener somehow, the air sweeter. It is odd I suppose that I find such beauty here when I have just left behind me the land of Valinor, the great elven paradise itself. Yet my paradise has always been here on middle earth, though for a time I was blind to that fact.

I can still hardly believe that I am here again; it seems very much to me as the dreams…the nightmares…that haunted me in Valinor. The nightmares that have brought me home again.

For how can I heal when I too am torn in two? I truly believed that in time we would both heal. Yet even though the blade wound has gone and I again have ten fingers, I still feel empty. Alone.

The nights were always the worst, for then I would see you, feel your warmth and strength healing me again, only to have it cut away from me by my own hands. I was haunted always by your eyes, your deep hazel eyes and the pain that I brought to them. The tears I caused.

Such was my suffering that both Bilbo and Gandalf conspired to help me however they could…Returning me to Middle earth was their last resort.

I have orders to talk to you as soon as I can, to begin to mend the ills I have done myself. Yet I cannot. You are married now after all and the one thing I desire the most to receive from you has already been given to another. And so now, but a day from my home…your home, I have decided that I shall not stray into those lands. Cross into your path.

Instead I have directed the horse, bestowed upon me by Ciridan, towards Buckland where I am almost sure I shall find Merry. (1)

I wonder how much he has aged. It has been nineteen years after all…a fact I am still finding harder to believe; it feels so much longer to me somehow.

Ah! I am close now, for that distant sound of running water can only be the Brandywine, which means I should be in Brandy hall by mid morning, Merry shall not be happy with me interrupting his lunch, but I am sure he shall forgive me.

                                        Eventually.

A soft knock on the door started Meriadoc enough so that he spilled a little of the ale that he was drinking. (2) Not expecting company at such an early hour the Master of Buckland came quickly to the door, fearing some great ill or calamity. He almost fainted when on opening the door he was greeted with the morning glory blue eyes of his dear cousin Frodo.

"Merry are you well? Do you need me to get a doctor?" Frodo enquired.

"I am well Frodo, I just never expected you to be at my front door." Merry said, as he swept his cousin into a tight hug. When Frodo eventually escaped the embrace he notice that there were tears in Merry's eyes.

"Oh Frodo, you are real! But I must tell Pippin and Sam…"

"No Merry! Sam must not know that I have returned. Not yet." Frodo said. Rather than protesting with the stubborn Baggins he invited him in with a swift gesture of his hand.

Once Frodo had eaten a little and word had been sent to Pippin that he had returned, Merry set to gleaning all that he could from his cousin, both as to Frodo's time within Valinor and to why he had returned. On the first subject Frodo was free with his information, telling his grey-eyed cousin all that he could recall of the great beauty of the elven paradise. Of the second though Frodo would say nothing and a silence descended between the two, which was broken only by a knock on the door. Merry went to admit his guest, Frodo recognising instantly the voice of Peregrin Took when he told Merry,

"If this is a joke, my dear Merry I shall not talk to you fro a very long time."

"It is no joke Pip. Come see." Merry replied. A moment later Pippin was bustled into the living room, his deep green eyes drinking in every inch of his cousin before breaking into tears. Merry came instantly to the comfort of his cousin, but Pippin pushed him away.

" I am fine Merry, I just thought that it was a joke. But you are real aren't you Frodo?"

"As real as you are Pippin."

"I am glad! But you shall have to meet Diamond, that is my wife." (3) 

"Then you are Married Pippin?"

"For thirteen years now. My dear son Faramir will be ten at the end of this week." The young Took said. There was a faint light in his face that took Frodo a moment to recognise as pride, both for his son and his wife.

"Congratulations Pippin, I am sorry that I could not be there to witness your wedding."

"You needed time to heal Frodo, I understand that. What I do not understand though is why you returned."

"I do not wish to discuss my reasons for returning quite yet Pip…however I would greatly like to know what else has happened since I have been gone." Frodo said. Merry and Pippin exchanged a glance before Merry said,

"Aragorn has made the Shire a free land under the protection of the Northern Sceptre and issued an edict that no man is to set foot within the borders. Pip is now Thain of Tuckborough while I'm Master of Buckland. Aragorn came to see us a few years ago and gave Sam the star of Dùnedain. Elanor was made maid of honour to Arwen, apparently because of her beauty and purity of spirit. Sam has been mayor of the shire twice now…" here Merry trailed and catching Pippin's eye again fell once more into silence. Frodo was aware that the pair were keeping a secret from him, but he did not pry, even though he was curious to know more of Samwise.

   Pippin and Merry worked together to buy a small smial for Frodo to live in, firstly within his old roaming ground of Hobbiton but after great argument from their cousin, changed to purchasing property in Buckland. The property was bought on temporary lease "Until you get Bag End back." Merry had said. Frodo had no desire to inform his cousin that he had no wish to re-purchase Bag End, for to do so would be revealing more to Merry than he wished at the moment.

As it was Frodo settled quickly into his new home and was soon the talk of Buckland, his face being vaguely familiar to some as it was. To all that asked he was a hobbit from Bree who had discovered he was descended from the Brandybuck line and had wished to meet his relatives and learn more of them. His name now, to those that enquired, was Isengar Brandybuck, a name he had chosen in memory of an uncle of his mother's who had been rumoured to `have gone to sea` in his youth. (4) His reputation as a gentle hobbit grew quickly and soon he was receiving many letters from hobbits who wished to `do` for him. Frodo had no desire however for any hobbit to `do` for him as Samwise had and so refused each offer that came, with a gentleness that all respected.

Not wishing to live always in off of his cousins Frodo took a small job writing poems for the Buckland newspaper, (5) which paid easily for all the small items he need to live a healthy life. Indeed now that he was again in the shire and surrounded by familiar faces, he felt altogether happier, yet there was still a hole deep inside of him, a coldness which he knew could only thaw within the warmth of Samwise's embrace.

A tentative knock on his door stirred Frodo from where he was composing another poem. Removing himself from the warmth of his living room fire he made for his front door. (6) Opening it cautiously he was greeted with the eager brown eyes of a blond haired hobbit still obviously in his tweens. (7)

"Are you Mr. Isengar Brandybuck?" The lad enquired, his voice tainted in a rustic accent.

"I am lad. What can I do for you?" Frodo enquired.

"My sister tells me that you are good at composin' elven sonnets.  And I was wonderin'…if it wasn't no bother that is, sir, if you could write me something to give to me dad?" The lad enquired.

"What sort of thing would you have me write lad?"

"I don't rightly know, sir."

"Well then, how would you like your father to feel when he reads it?"

"Happy, sir and not at all torn in two. My father is so sad at the moment you see sir, eatin' himself away with grief and despair."

"I will try my best lad."

"Thank you sir.  If you would deliver it to Bag End when you've finished and I'll pay you then." The lad said, turning to go. Frodo stopped him before he could go far, his body still shaking from the shock he had received at the mention of his old home and enquired,

"Would your father be Samwise Gamgee?"

"He was sir, He's Samwise Gardener now though. Do you know him sir?" The lad enquired.

"I did once lad."

"Then perhaps seeing you will make him a little happier. Dad hardly gets visitors these days."

"I am not all too sure that your mother would appreciate me visiting lad." Frodo replied. The young Gamgee quietened at the mention of his mother, his eyes flicking around him before they came to rest again on Frodo.

"There will be no problem there then, sir. My mother has been dead going on nine years now." The lad said after a moment. The news saddened Frodo, for it had seemed to him that Sam was gladdened always by Rose's presence. 

"How did she die?"

"She took sick not long after my younger sister Goldilocks was born. She went quickly, sir…" The lad replied, the sadness dulling his eyes. It was a sadness that Frodo had seen only one in the eyes of the boy's father, a sadness that had haunted his sleep for nineteen years. Stooping he took the boy in his arms and without thinking began to sing,

" In western lands beneath the Sun

    the flowers may rise in Spring,

the trees may bud, the waters run,

   the merry finches sing.

Or there maybe 'tis cloudless night

  And swaying beeches bear

the Elven-stars as jewels white

  amid their branching hair.

Though here at journey's end I lie

  in darkness buried deep,

beyond all towers strong and high

  beyond all mountains steep,

above all shadows rides the Sun

  and Stars for ever dwell:

I will not say the day is done,

  Nor bid the stars farewell…" (8) Before he remembered himself and whom he was talking to and stopped himself. He was too late however for the lad was already searching his face again with those all to familiar brown eyes. After a moment Frodo felt warm calloused hands on his face,

"Are you him, sir?" The lad enquired, "The Mr. Frodo?"

"Yes I am." Frodo replied. The lad smiled brightly and dropping his hands hugged Frodo tight to him before proclaiming,

"I'm Frodo as well, sir, Frodo Gardener that is and it is very good to meet you at last. Father talks of nothing but you, though I've never believed half the things he told us until now." The joy he felt evident both in his voice and the light that caught in his eyes, ever as it had been with Sam.

Now that the younger Frodo knew the true identity of the hobbit he was talking to, he had no desire to leave, but instead returned with the elder Frodo to his smial. The pair talked long of insignificant things, the younger hobbit asking much about the Ring and his father's part in the tale. For the elder hobbit it reminded him of a time before the Ring had come into his keeping, when he and Sam would sit by the roaring fire of Bag End and listen to the tales woven by Bilbo. So lost was he in recollection and in listening to the younger Frodo talk that he lost track of the time. So much so, that when Merry came to call on him late in the evening as they had agreed the previous night, the elder hobbit was surprised to note that the sunlight was fading fast. Standing to answer the door he told the young Frodo,

"I think it best that you set home soon, lad, before your father comes searching for you." Before he walked out into the hallway and opened the door. Merry walked in and bidding his cousin good evening handed his coat to Frodo to be hung. As Merry wondered into the living room he came face to face, or at least face to chest (9), with the young Frodo,

"Well, well! Frodo Gardener or I'm a blind man. So this is where you have strayed to, your father thinks you've gone looking for elves again." (10)

"I intended to Mr. Merry, but then I found out that Mr. Brandybuck was actually Mr. Frodo, the Mr. Frodo. I was so curious after that Mr. Merry that I had to stay."

"I agree young one, but you'd best be off home now and don't tell your father about Mr. Frodo yet. We have a surprise planed for him."

"Will there be fireworks?"

"Perhaps, if you can keep quiet." Merry promised. The young Frodo smiled and barrelling by the larger hobbit, set off on his way home. The older Frodo appeared a moment later, a cup of tea in each hand.

"How did you find him?" Merry enquired as he settled into the chair nearest the fire.

"He is very much his father's child. There is an energy, a purity to him that I remember well in Sam." Frodo said, passing his cousin his cup before settling into his other chair. (11) 

"I think that is because in his way Sam loves that boy more than his other children and so has given more of himself into raising him. He tells me often how he can see you in him Frodo." Merry paused for a moment, sipping his tea thoughtfully before enquiring, "When shall we be able to tell him Frodo? He deserves to know that you have returned and I feel so cruel keeping something like that from him, especially since…" Here Merry trailed, his grey eyes turning to glance at the fire.

"Frodo-lad has told me about Rosie's death Merry and he has told me that Sam is very upset of late, so you may continue onwards without fearing to harm me."

"No, no I can not Frodo. The lad can only understand half of his father's pain, you see, for he can only perceive half of it. Ever since you left Sam has been torn in two, a broken soul always, even though he had a wife and daughter to love.

"When Rose died, Sam…collapsed. He eats but a little now Frodo and his hands have not touched soil since you left. He sticks only to his duties as mayor, but even then there is an emptiness to all that he does. The only reason that Hobbiton remains as green and whole as it was, is that young hobbit who has just left us.

"I know, deep in my heart, that to see you, just once, would bring back a little of the Sam you remember."

"I can not Merry, I just can not. Even though I know that to see Sam, even once, would heal me also." 

"What are you hiding Frodo? It is clear to me that you came back to be with Sam again, yet you remain away from him. What do you fear cousin?"

"Loneliness Merry, at least now, with things as they are I am content and almost entirely healed. If I were to see Sam again I would ruin that."

"Why?"

"Because I desire more from him than he can give. I had my chance, Merry and I destroyed it because I believed that somehow I would be healed in Valinor…that Sam would be healed here on Middle earth.

 "I too was torn Merry, yet I could not escape my pain, doomed always as I was to dream of his eyes and the pain I brought to them. Yet the wound that pain has caused me is healing now thanks in part to the joy I perceived in young Frodo's eyes today." Frodo said, a small smile gracing his lips for the first time since the topic had been breached. Merry's eyes found his own again and for a moment it seemed that there would be no counter argument from the Brandybuck, yet resolve caught at Merry's eyes and reaching to take his cousins hand pleaded,

"Come and see him Frodo. I am going to Bag End tomorrow afternoon; you could come with me if you wished. I know that if you were to see him as he is now you would argue with me no longer on this point."

"I shall not go Merry."

"Please, I have not yet told you everything. I have a plan you see…"

Hobbiton and Bag End itself seemed very much as Frodo recalled, in fact it seemed to Frodo that he had been away but a few moments rather than nineteen years and over come with a torrent of emotions he wept silently. Once he had calmed slightly he allowed Merry to lead him, unresisting up the familiar path towards the small round door.

Merry's plan was a simple one. Sam's birthday was rapidly approaching and the scheming Brandybuck had arranged to see the mayor so that he could organise the celebrations. If Sam was to ask about Frodo, Merry was to explain that this was Mr. Isengar Brandybuck, long lost relative and the infamous Buckland poet. Merry would also explain that Mr. Brandybuck was horribly allergic to light and so had to remain completely covered at all times during the day light hours. Hopefully the young Frodo would be there to aid them should the conspiracy turn sour, if not the pair had created both a signal and an accident to follow that would allow a rapid escape. To aid in the charade, Merry had asked Frodo to create a new voice for himself that was suitable for his role as Mr. Brandybuck and could be utilised in small answers and long discussions.

And so a day later, with the sun a comforting warmth on their backs the pair were on Sam's doorstep waiting patiently to be let in. Merry a picture of naive innocence and Frodo covered from head to toe with a large hooded black cloak, which masked his face but did not hamper his vision.

The door opened eventually to reveal young hobbit lass so like Rose in appearance that Frodo started slightly. A studying grip on his shoulder from Merry calmed him enough so on second inspection of the woman, he could see enough of Sam in her elven beauty for him to realise that this then was Elanor and not her long dead mother.

"Good evening Mr. Merry, and?" Elie's eyes flicked to Frodo in a silent enquiry,

"This is Mr Isengar Brandybuck, Elie. I know that it was presumptuous of me to bring him without asking but he is still new to the area and so has no real friends apart from myself."

"That is quite all right Mr. Merry, Mr. Brandybuck's name is known to me and I am quite sure that one who writes such fair poetry will be welcome in this house."

"Thank you." Frodo replied, a smile ghosting his lips at this show of the much-remembered Gamgee courtesy to well thought of strangers. Elie returned the hidden smile and gestured for the two to enter. When Frodo failed to remove his cloak, Merry hastily explained the false aliment and Elie with a blush and hurried apology continued onwards towards the living room. She stopped the pair just before they reached the journeys end and ducked into the room on her own, returning a moment later, the smile on her lips now no longer reaching her eyes.

"You're fine to go in Mr. Merry, Mr. Isengar. I'll be in the kitchen if you need me."

"And the little ones?" Merry enquired.

"Frodo-lad is in the living room with father, Merry-lad and Pippin-lad are out causin' trouble no doubt, just as you did at their age, Rosie-lass and Goldilocks are off with their friends." Elie replied her smile again catching the dark green of her eyes.

"Thank you Elanor." Merry said, bowing politely before he walked into the living room, Frodo close on his heals.

The living room was as Frodo remembered it, right down to the small patch of dust in the far corner that Sam never could seem to reach. The younger Frodo was curled up in the Bilbo's old chair, his eyes half closed in quiet contentment. Across from him, slumped in Frodo's old chair was Samwise…or at least the hobbit that had once been Samwise. His once handsome features had become pinched and haggard, the bags and shadows at his eyes telling of the ill rest and fit full nights that dogged him always. His once healthy, work toned physic (12) and browned skin that had shown always his love for the sun and the soil of the Shire had faded away, his bones showing occasionally now through the washed out hue of his skin. However it was the emptiness in his eyes that spoke the clearest to Frodo about how far Sam had fallen, for the life that had once sparked those eyes had been life itself to Frodo even while within the grasp of the Ring, for even in the darkest of times that light had never been extinguished.

"Welcome to ye Mr. Merry and indeed to your relative. Mr Isengar wasn't it sir?" Sam enquired, standing to offer his guest his hand. Frodo was aware of the soft intake of air from his namesake, before he was lost in memories brought to him through the faint scent that was purely Sam. Memories of Sam poised over him at Rivendale, his eyes sleep deprived yet thankful that his master had woken, memories of Mordor long scored from him by the magic of Valinor…memories, sadness and grief so strong that his assumed voice was lost for a moment within his true one as he replied,

"Yes indeed, Mr. Gardener, it is a pleasure to meet you." And a light sparked in Sam's eyes, something wild and hopeful before he shook his head slightly and caught Frodo's gloved hand. (13)

"I have heard your name spoken often by my Elie, she regards your work highly, though I regret I have yet to see anything for myself." He said. The panic Frodo felt as he realised that Sam could see what he had written, recognise it as his own work was muted by the emptiness that had filled those eyes again. Sam, his strong, loyal and courageous Sam lost within the darkness at last. Lost because of Frodo's stupidity…his selfishness.

"Aren't you going to ask us to sit down Sam?" Merry enquired, his voice shattering the silence. Sam blushed then and pulling his hand free of Frodo's at last replied,

"Sorry Mr. Merry, you'd think me Gaffer raised me with no manners. Please sit down." He said gesturing to the empty chairs scattered about the room. Merry grabbed a seat almost instantly, shifting it slightly until he was within the heat of the fire. Frodo however hesitated; this was Sam's home now, Sam's life. To stay would be laying claim to something he could no longer have, something he had given up the moment he brought the emptiness to Sam's eyes.

"You can have my seat Mr. Isengar, the garden won't tend itself and I've dallied already to long in idleness. It was good to see you again Mr. Merry, don't keep dad up too long." The lad said as he stood and made his way to the hallway, pausing only long enough to whisper a plea of `stay` to his namesake before he was gone again. Defeated, Frodo fell into the chair easily, his nose catching at the faint scent of Rosie still present in its fabric.

"To business then Sam. What shall we do for your birthday this year?" Merry enquired after a moment of silence.

"Nothin' Mr. Merry. I allowed you to come today because I wanted you to know that I had come to a decision. Rosie's been gone nine years now and Elie is mature enough to raise them on her own. I'm crossing the sea, sir. I can't be torn in two no longer you see, sir and by rights I should have gone with him that day, but I could never could go against his orders." Sam said, the wildness again sparking his eyes. Merry paled visibly, his eyes drifting to Frodo, who had tilted his head now towards the fire, his body language showing clearly that he had removed himself from the conversation. Merry became desperately aware that both Frodo's happiness and Sam's sanity now lay within his hands and so he began to think.

Now Merry was well known within the Shire both for his exploits as a child and for his great strength. Indeed not for nothing had they named him 'Meriadoc the Magnificent`, yet there was an intelligence underneath this strength and impish nature that escaped even the notice of his closest friends. Yet the intelligence was there and when he set his mind towards a problem, he nearly always formulation a solution of sorts and it was no different on this occasion, for one Merry had realised that he needed time a plan formulated in his mind.

"Why not leave after your birthday Sam? As Bilbo did all those years ago, though I do not think it shall be necessary for you to insult everyone who comes. That way the sadness of your departure will be counteracted by the happiness of the occasion."

"Do you think it would truly 'elp me family if I were to leave afterwards Mr Merry? For it would ease my heart greatly to know that they were not torn as I was."

"True fully, I do not think it shall ease all of their pain, Sam, but it will defiantly help things."

"Then let us have a party Mr Merry. With fireworks, music, laughing, drinking and dancing…of course I shan't want as big a party of Mr. Bilbo's, perhaps if we just invited the Hobbiton hobbits and of course me friends from Buckland and Tuckborough?"

"It'll hardly be a party Sam, but if that's what you want you'll hear no argument from me. Though it may be hard to find a hobbit to make fireworks as Gandalf used to, (14) it is a great shame he had to sale all those years ago…"

The preparations for the party continued well into the night, Merry constantly suggesting large spectacular things only to have Sam suggesting something more low key. Eventually Sam told Merry that a simple gardener, even one who had been lucky enough to be mayor for a short time, didn't need gentle hobbits making a fuss of him.  Merry wished to point out that Sam was as much a gentle hobbit as himself, but knew that such an observation would do nothing to help his cause.

Frodo remained with his head bent towards the fire until his young namesake returned and with a small amount of sweet-talking, convinced his father and Merry to release the elder hobbit into his care. The younger Frodo showed the elder all that was new to the Bag End garden and as he pointed out flowers in his soft rustic voice, his back bending slightly so that he could take in the scent of the garden, the elder hobbit could almost believe that he was there with a younger carefree Sam. The thought coaxed a smile from his lips at last and the elder hobbit relaxed into the familiarity of the situation. Often while watching his young companion, Frodo had a desire to free his head from the hood of the cloak so that he could take in the familiar feel of the sun upon his skin. He would catch himself before he moved to do as such, aware always of Eleanor's watchful gaze from the kitchen window of Bag End. Eventually the light dimmed and Merry appeared to usher the younger hobbit indoors and to tell the elder that, if he so wished, he could retire back to his smial.

Taking the invitation with thanks Frodo left his old Smial quickly, having no desire to linger now that he had seen all that Merry had wished him to. He did not rush back to Buckland however but took his time taking in the sights, sounds and smell of Hobbiton. He came, almost without thought upon the small glade where he and Sam had first met and lingered long there, his mind recalling a time when things had been simpler and when his greatest grief had been the death of his much loved parents. Eventually he left both the glade and Hobbiton behind him and headed for Buckland, his mind now full of nothing but sleep.

However, the sleep he found that night was troubled both by the nightmares that had plagued him always on Valinor and by new, more frightening nightmares. He saw Sam crossing into Valinor, his brown eyes searching the faces for Frodo's own. He saw the frown that crossed Gandalf's face as he saw Sam and he heard clearly the shattered sob from Sam as he found out that Frodo was again upon middle earth. He tried to force his dreams…his nightmares from the next image but it came anyway, hurt and betrayal in Sam's eyes. Understanding his position at last. Before Frodo fell again into a dream less sleep he heard Sam's voice, full of a determination that Frodo had never heard before,

"You were no more than his servant, Samwise Gamgee, a servant he's no more need for now. So forget him and never try to reach for the stars again."

Morning came eventually and Frodo was stirred away by the sound of two individuals talking animatedly. Curious as to what had broken his sleep he slipped out of his bed and headed in the direction of the kitchen and so, dressed only in his pyjamas Frodo came upon Merry, Pippin and a young lad creating only what could be described as organised Chaos. Clearing his throat Frodo drew sets of green eyes and one set of grey towards him before enquiring,

"May I ask how you came to be in my kitchen at such an early hour? Especially since I do not recall allowing you in." Pippin began to chuckle softly, Merry following suit a moment later. One the pair had calmed Merry shook his head and explained,

"I was coming to see how you were after yesterday, when I bumped into Pip, who was on his way to introduce you to Faramir here…" Merry said, gesturing to the young lad who was now staring, unashamedly at Frodo. There was much of his father about the mix between elfin beauty and pure Tookish Mischief found in his features, thought the black hue of his curls was evidently taken from his mother.

"You need explain no further Merry. It seems to me that I have been a hapless victim of the infamous Took and Brandybuck appetite."

"Yes indeed Frodo, we knocked but when you did not answer…well it was Merry's idea."(15) Pippin said.

"Well I like that." Merry said, a sparkle coming to his eyes that Frodo knew meant trouble. Indeed Pippin was just puffing himself out to begin a mock fight when Faramir came, unknowingly, to the rescue. For his eyes still fixed, unblinking upon Frodo he pulled at his father's trousers and enquired,

"Is he an elf dad?" Distracted immediately Pippin smiled lovingly down at his son and replied,

"No my lad, this is your dad's cousin Frodo."

"You mean Mr. Frodo (16) dad?" 

"Yes son."

"But Mr. Frodo went across the sea after the war did he not dad?"

"That I did Faramir-lad, but I have come back." Frodo replied before Merry could.

"Why?"

"Because I knew I was missed lad."

"That you were, sir." The lad admitted, a smile creeping onto his face at last.

"Now that the introduction and explanations are done, do you think you could get dressed Frodo? You really do look ridiculous in those pyjamas." Merry said. Frodo blushed and retiring to his room pulled off his pyjamas and quickly dressed himself.

When he returned a moment later he was again the picture of gentle hobbit perfection, though perhaps the shadows at his eyes spoke of the flaw amid that perfection. He was unsurprised to note that in his absence the mess had been cleared, along with a few extra items of food,

"That is much better on both accounts, I did not feel like talking to you seriously while you looked so humorous." Merry remarked, from his position in the living room.

"Then perhaps I should go and change back, for I am not much in the mood for serious talk." Frodo stated as he crossed through the dinning room into the living room. As he sat he caught the determination in Merry's eyes and was aware of Pippin's voice floating from the hallway, the serious edge in his voice as he told his son,

"Go and play for a while Faramir-lad, your uncle Merry and I need some time alone with Frodo." Telling Frodo easily that there would be no escape. When Pippin eventually re-entered the living room he caught Merry's eyes and settled himself without complaint onto the floor by his cousin's feet.

"I hope you see now what a mess this has all become Frodo. If you had just gone to see Sam at the beginning."

"I could not Merry. I still cannot, but for the thought of him believing that he was nothing to me…the thought of him fading into nothing upon Valinor."

"I still can not understand why you are hesitating Frodo. You told me that it was because you desire him just as Rose did…that you love him…but you have always loved him. Though perhaps you did not know that until now.

"I watched you watching him during the quest Frodo. I saw the craving in your eyes and its mirror in his. I watched him starve himself so that he could remain by your side. I watched him weep when Elrond told us that you might not live out the night. I watched him speak his wedding vows to you as well as his bride and I saw the envy on Rose's face every time he was with you.

"Frodo answer me a question, true fully, then I leave you alone. Ask nothing of you that you are not willing to give. Who is Frodo Baggins without Samwise Gamgee?" Merry enquired. For a moment Frodo could not understand what he was asking, it was such an odd question after all. Then he heard his own words, spoken so long ago, `He would not have got far without Sam.` and the answer came to him then.

"No one. He is shadow and pain. He is the Ring and he is Gollum, but he is not himself. For there is no Frodo Baggins any more, not without Sam at least." Frodo replied. Merry smiled then, the intensity melting from his face,

    "Perhaps you see now what I am telling you Frodo. Your personality exists on its own, as does Sam's, yet your souls are made of one thing.

"He told you he was torn all those years ago Frodo as you set out to leave us. You believed he meant torn between his devotion to you and his love for Rose, yet you know in your heart that was not true. He was torn because half of himself was leaving forever. You took his soul Frodo, left him to live by instinct and heart alone. When Rose died what did he have left?" Here Merry paused, his eyes dipping to find Pippin's,

"Tell him Pip." He said.

"You sure Merry?"

"Yes." Came the reply and there was something in the tone and the way in which Pippin leapt to his, restless for a moment, which told Frodo that their silence was about to be breached.

"Frodo." Pippin said after a moment, stilling so that he stood directly before his cousin. "Frodo, Sam…Sam tried to kill himself." Pippin paused, his eyes slamming shut as the memories took him, " I found him. Thank Elbereth I found him, half dead in the glade where you first met. There was blood Frodo…so much blood." And again he paused, the distress evident on his face. Frodo recalled how relaxed he had been within that very glade the evening before, yet now that memory was tainted with images of what could easily have occurred there. He was stirred a moment later from the all too real image of Sam's cold, dead body by Pippin's voice, forcibly mute now as if he were attempting to separate himself from the emotion he was feeling. "He would not let me help him Frodo. `There's nothin' left of me to save Mr. Pippin. ` Is what he told me. It scared me so much Frodo, so very much. Sam was always the strongest of us mentally, he always had hope…to see him so week." Pippin shuddered and without thought Frodo stood and pulled his cousin tight to him. Their tears mingling together as he said,

" I am sorry Pip. I am so sorry."

"You need not be sorry Frodo. Just promise never to leave again and that you'll come to Sam's party…uncloaked."

"I promise Pip." Frodo said, the sincerity in his voice leaving no room for doubt. 

It was not all, things considered, a large party. Yet it quite made up for its lack of size in its magnificent splendour. In fact, several of the guests present were of the mind that it was equal to Bilbo's leaving party, thanks in part to the magnificent fireworks provided at last by Frodo, who had learned the skill of creating truly magnificent fireworks from Gandalf himself.

As according to Merry's grand plan Sam was kept busy by seemingly innocent things almost the entire night through. Firstly by Pippin, Diamond and Faramir requested that the Mayor read a few passages of the red book to the children present, then Merry collared him into pint after pint of golden ale, until Sam was so drunk that he barley recalled his own name. Then the young Frodo requested a speech and Sam, drunk as he was, obliged contentedly and rattled off a speech, which was recalled for weeks afterwards as the best birthday speech ever given.

However even with the constant distractions and his intoxicated state, Sam could not miss the rumours floating around the party about a `mystery guest` supposedly invited by Merry and who had been promised to give everyone a shock when he appeared. Yet as the night drew on and the guests fell deeper into their cups the mystery guest was not forth coming and excessively addled and horribly sober again Sam sought out Merry to get some answers.

He found him eventually, in animated conversation with the young Frodo. Merry was explaining how timing was adamant in these things for dramatic effect and the young Gardener was arguing right over the explanation that time was running out. Sam tactfully cleared his throat and the pair started out of the argument, quickly smiling innocently when they saw whom their companion was. Placing his hands to his hips, Sam drew himself up as much as he could and said,

"If one of ye doesn't tell me what mischief you have planned, I'll knock your heads together so hard that ye'll forget your own names."

"It's not mischief we're plannin' dad honest. Merry and I have a big surprise set for ye, is all."

"Would this surprise be having anythin' to do with the mysterious guest that supposed to be gracing us with his presence?" Sam enquired.

"It may do at that dad. Please just wait and see, it'll be no fun now if you make me give it away." The lad pleaded. Sam wavered, then lowering his hands again remarked,

"Confound you Frodo Gardener, ye always have a way with makin' me agree with ye even when I know nothin' good is going to come from doing as such." Before he left the pair to their argument.

"I think you may be right Frodo-lad." Merry remarked after a moment. "One second more and he'll leave to spite us."

"Good. I'll get the crowd going, you get our `mystery guest`." The lad said as he stood. Merry watched him leave then stretching he gained his feet and rather shakily headed out of the bear tent towards where he and Pippin had secreted Frodo earlier. Glancing up the tree he called,

"Coasts clear. It is best you come down before Frodo-lad has need for the Ring you so thoughtlessly tossed away." He was rewarded with a soft chuckle before Frodo slid down the tree; evidently weary of marking the fine selection of clothing he was wearing.

"I feel so nervous Merry and yet silly as well. It is only Sam after all."

"Frodo, dear, I believe that is half the point. There is no hood between you now, he will see you and know you again. You have been given another chance Frodo, Take it!" He said, pushing his cousin towards the party. The younger Frodo had built the crowd to fever pitch and catching his namesake's eyes across the field he announced,

"Ladies and gentle hobbits, I give you Mr. Frodo Baggins." And a hush drew over the crowd and turning they beheld a Frodo they had known long ago, when Rings and Wizards had been of no concern to the Shire apart from Bilbo's occasional joke.  They saw now a Frodo full of happiness and contentment, a Frodo who was not quite Mad Baggins' heir and not quiet a respectable hobbit. His eyes were searching the crowd now for Sam, his heart-stretching forward looking, and hunting. Then pair of arms was around him, warming his heart and as Frodo caught his eyes, those warm brown eyes, he knew he had made the right decision. For there was light now in his eyes, a light so bright, that it almost blinded Frodo. There were tears trickling down his face, tears that Frodo swiftly wiped away with his hands.

As Frodo dropped them again, Sam wrapped them into his own, softly massaging them. Almost hesitantly Frodo caught the hands and re-familiarising he sought only one thing. Soon he found it, a line of scar tissue on his wrist, its presence a reminder as with the lack of calluses on his friends, of how much he could hurt Sam. 

"I am so sorry." He whispered as he pulled him close again. Sam grabbed at Frodo's face and pulling his head until he could stair into his eyes he said,

"Don't never be sorry, Sir, you left to be healed. You couldn't know that Rose would leave me…you couldn't know how much your leavin' would  hurt me." Frodo frowned then and pulling Sam closer again, whispered,

"But I did know Sam, deep in my heart. And I am sorry for leaving you alone for as long as I did…I am sorry for not telling you I was here earlier. And I am very sorry indeed for allowing you to hurt enough that you felt it necessary to end your existence.  But I promise now, just as you once did, that I shall never leave you again, that I shall never allow you to hurt like that again. I love you, as well and truly as I can Sam and I hope that is enough to bring you back from wherever you have gone to."

"More than enough, more than I ever believed I could have, yet everything I have ever desired. I love you to Frodo, as much as I always have and perhaps a little more so because I've suffered to have you here again." And pulling away again Sam kissed Frodo's forehead. Yet Frodo would not allow Sam far from him now and shifting slightly caught him into a kiss,(17) so soft that it expressed clearer than words ever could, Frodo's wish never to hurt Sam again.

                                                 *

And there we go. There will defiantly be another chapter to this, recording Sam's P.O.V on the whole thing. Though it might take me a while to write, due to the shear volume of Sam angst.

Before we get to the notes I just like to thank Talisha for her wonderful series Dream with hope, which has of course inspired me towards writing this. Keep up the good work Talisha!

1. This was my way of pointing out, quietly, that as far as Frodo is aware Merry is still free to be his old troublesome self, being ignorant as he is to the fact that Merry is now the Master of Buckland.

2. I suspect it is a little too early to be drinking, even for a Hobbit, but Merry has a few dark memories that can excuse the drink…hopefully!

3. I am aware that Merry also gets married, but its not mentioned in the handy dandy time line in the back of my copy of ROTK so I've kind of assumed he gets married a little after 1440 (SR) which is approximately the year that I've got Frodo to return in. If I'm wrong please tell me, I'll be glad to add in Estella.

4. Actually completely true. For those of you who have the family trees in the back of ROTK go and have a look. I couldn't resist a little nudge to the impish Tookishness that still runs in Frodo's blood, though perhaps to a smaller extent than it does in Bilbo's.

5. I really couldn't picture Frodo doing anything other than writing as a profession and poems seemed more logical to me than articles as he's not exactly in touch with all the news. The fact that it is a Buckland newspaper is important also, firstly because the strange nature of the poems Frodo is likely to create would be more welcome in Buckland than in Hobbiton and because Frodo assumes that the poems will not be viewed by Sam, who will of course recognise the style. It becomes clear later though that the poems have reached the Gardener house, though it seems that Sam hasn't read them. Keep reading it gets explained…kind of!

6. The layout of Frodo's new hovel is pretty much the same as Bag End, all open plan without doors. However I hated the idea of eating in the kitchen just because it's really unclean (no offence to those who do eat in the kitchen), so I created a sort of dining room thingy which sits in-between the kitchen and the living room.

7. He's actually 18 so I'm not entirely sure if he is in his tweens, I haven't read Fellowship for ages now so I can't quiet remember when the tweens begin. If I'm wrong tell me!

8. I know its not exactly comforting but the tower poem just seemed the ideal thing to put here as its entirely a Bilbo concoction and so therefore lends itself well to causing the young Gamgee/ Gardener to look again at Frodo.

9. The first time I think I actually mention Merry's great height, as even though the younger Frodo may not yet been a tweenager, he has defiantly stopped growing and so therefore is of normal hobbit height. Just thought I'd make that clear!

10. Ah! The infamous Gamgee elf loving gene, though this is also a little tip of the hat to the younger Frodo's rather Bagginsy like behaviour.

11. I suspect he has a few not so nice chairs stashed away somewhere in case of more than one guest, but I have a feeling as his only visitors until this point have been Merry and Pippin Frodo has been encouraging them to come one at a time to avoid chaos.

12. I am very much with Athena on the subject of Sam's build. He works and so therefore is going to be slightly less bulky than the upper-class hobbits rather than more so. Not that I'm saying Sean Astin is a bad Sam, in fact he's exactly how I thought Sam would be, I just can't see Sam as `large` not matter how huggable it makes him!

13. The gloves are logically to keep up the pretence that Frodo, as Isengar is allergic to light, though they assure that Sam doesn't recognise the hands either.

14. The logic here I suppose is that hobbits just don't have the same knack as Gandalf for creating fireworks, though I am sure having magic helped a little!

15. I love Pip too much to believe he is naturally mischief and so the blame must lie completely on Merry's head as being older than Pip he has naturally corrupted him to his ways of evil!

16. I couldn't resist the idea of all the children knowing Frodo through Sam's term of endearment, after all Sam is the one with the Red Book and so the logic is that he is the one that has told them about the war of the Ring, thus the kids all know Frodo as Mr Frodo.

17. I think by this point the lads have forgotten about their audience…he he! There will defiantly be a scandal up and running in Hobbiton after this and I'm sure poor Frodo-lad is very confused about the whole thing!

Ta dah! R+R but no flames, this took me far to long to create to put up with them! Criticism welcome, it improves me, but please no complaining about my grammar and spelling, I know its off but I'm doing my best! Part two a.s.a.p.