I do not own the characters places or main events of this tale. They all belong to JRR Tolkien his heirs and anyone else with a finger in the Lord of the Rings pie, and they may never forgive me for what I have done this time.
For those of a squeamish nature please note that this story follows Frodo on his journey to the Undying Lands. I do not agree with giving away story endings but neither do I wish to be flamed so I will give you a very broad hint . . . I am NOT following canon. The tale has a rather dark, but I hope sensitive, ending and is intended as an exploration, not as an indication of how I would wish the original work to end. I am quite happy with the master's ending and am only giving in to the nibbling of a persistent little plot bunny.
The main core of this story is based around role-plays between Elwen and FrodoBagginsOfBagEnd and I give Febobe full credit for her input to Frodo's characterisation and reactions.
WHEN I COME HOME
CHAPTER 1 – Whispers of a nameless fear.
Many thanks to Febobe for the tray-setting training. For those of you interested in such details . . . this chapter is not based upon a role-play.
At the sound of a whispered conversation outside his door Frodo turned from the window and his contemplation of the early evening stars beyond, sitting down wearily at his desk. It was a little past nine o'clock but his body insisted that it was much later, begging for the comfort of his bed. Frodo would not give in to it, however. Sleep brought troubles of it's own nowadays.
He could not make out the words of the conversation in the hallway but it appeared to be an argument, which was such an unusual event that he set himself to listen harder. However it stopped, and he heard Sam's steady footfalls heading off towards the parlour, followed by a light tap at the study door.
"Come in, Rosie."
The door swung open and the rattle of crockery preceded the entry of Sam's pretty wife. She carried a large cloth covered tray and Frodo quickly made room for it on the corner of his desk. Rosie set it down gratefully and tweaked aside the cloth, standing folding it as she watched Frodo's eyes widen. It was crammed with dishes.
There were small triangular ham sandwiches marching on their ends down the centre of a plate, flanked by fresh washed watercress. On another plate was a slice of cold game pie and next to that a hard-boiled egg had been quartered, dressed in a fine white sauce and sprinkled with grated cheese. Brown bread and butter, cut into fingers was arranged around a little dish of purple skinned radishes and a bowl of finely chopped tomato and onion, in a liquor of vinegar and sugar. A slice of rich fruit cake shared a small plate with a cube of crumbly white cheese and next to that was a dish of quartered apples and pears in a light syrup, dressed with a dab of smooth creamy custard. Finally, there was a pot of tea with a jug of fresh milk, and a small dish of honey.
"You didn't eat much at dinner so I've brought you a bite of supper."
Frodo forced a light laugh. "You made a lovely dinner, Rosie and I ate my fill. I'm not sure I shall do justice to such a lovely spread as this."
Rosie tucked the folded cloth into the waistband of her apron and put her hands upon her hips. "You may have eaten your fill, Frodo Baggins, but it wasn't the fill of a grown hobbit . . . more like that of a sparrow . . . and don't you try to deny it."
Frodo sat back in his chair, surprised at her harsh words. Rosie had never spoken to him like this. He was actually too taken aback to even think to deny it and she pressed her advantage.
"You may have fooled Sam with your pushing of a small bit of food around your plate and bright conversation to try and distract us. But I know what goes into those tureens before they reach the table, I know how much me and Sam eat, and I see what comes back to my kitchen. You hardly eat enough to keep body and soul together."
Frodo finally gathered his wits. "I'm sorry Rosie. I'm just a little under the weather of late. I didn't intend to worry you."
"Under the weather of late?" Rosie folded her arms. "It's been longer than, "of late". Sam and me have noticed that your walks have got shorter and shorter over these last months. You don't even go down into Hobbiton any more . . . ever since that day a couple of months ago when Sam found you pale and sweating in the hall, after you'd been out to the bakers." When Frodo's eyebrows shot up in surprise she nodded. "Oh yes, he told me. We don't have no secrets from each other. It's difficult to keep secrets when you're living under the same roof and I'm afraid you don't have many secrets from us.
For instance . . . you've been wearing that baggy old tweed jacket all through the summer. It hides your shape from most people but I know how thin you are under it. And you've been getting thinner. You're sick, Mr Frodo. That's why you're going to Rivendell. You don't think the doctors in the Shire can help you and you're going to see that elf . . . that Master Whatsisname."
"Elrond," Frodo supplied quietly.
"That's him." Rosie unfolded her arms and stepped closer to the desk, her voice softening. "I don't mind that you're going. And I'm glad that you're taking my Sam to look after you. But are you strong enough for such a long journey if you can't even make it into Hobbiton? It will kill my Sam if you . . . if you . . . you know." Her words petered out.
Frodo closed his eyes and thought for a moment before trying to reply. "It seems there's no fooling you two. I'm sorry that I've worried you." He straightened the cushion in the small of his back. "You're right. I am going to see Lord Elrond because I'm ill. I'm very ill Rosie and I'm getting worse, but I think I can make it to my destination and we will be using the ponies." He smiled, trying to lighten his words. " Strider and Bill need another outing . . . they're getting too fat and lazy."
Rosie's face softened. "I'm sorry to go on so, but I was worried and . . . and I wanted you to know that we cared. Sam said it wasn't our place to speak up but I disagreed. You don't have Mr Bilbo no more and it ain't right for someone to be alone, especially when they're not well. I just wanted you to know that you only have to ask and I'll do whatever I can to ease you. Sam will, that goes without saying, but I've come to be very fond of you too, and I want you to know that I'll help in whatever way I can."
Frodo sighed with relief. "Oh Rosie. Thank you. It's been so hard trying to put a brave face on it. But you have a baby to care for and I didn't want to burden you with my troubles."
"Bless you, Mr Frodo. You're not a trouble. You're the sweetest, kindest hobbit that I've ever met, apart from my Sam of course." Rosie wiped her hands on her apron. "Now we've got that all said and understood . . . is there anything you want that isn't on that tray. Just say the word and I'll get it for you. And don't you worry about finishing it. I'll not press . . . but please try a little."
"Just for you, Rosie. And I can't think of anything else that I would rather have to eat. I'll try a little."
"Right then. I'll leave you to it and your writing." With that Rosie turned to leave. Just as she reached the door Frodo's gentle voice fell on her ears.
"Sam's a very lucky hobbit to have you, Rosie. You make him whole."
Rosie turned. "No more than he makes me, sir." And with that she left, closing the study door quietly behind her.
Frodo leaned back in his chair once more. His decision to leave had been correct. He could not blight their lives any longer. He felt so weary and yet he could not sleep for his dreams were dark, leaving him whimpering and sweating more often than not. Sometimes he had even screamed, waking little Elanor, and Sam had to come running to comfort him while Rosie saw to their child.
He had to go. What sort of a life would Elanor have with him in the house? He would grow weaker and weaker, taking up more of Sam and Rosie's time. The poor child would be forever shushed because Uncle Frodo was resting or not feeling well. No. He must leave now. But had he left it too late? He hoped Rosie's fear did not come true.