Note to Readers: Yes, this is *The End*. "Epilogue" means something tacked on to the end of a story to tie up loose ends, does it not? Would go look it up in the dictionary but do not want to leave my lovely warm cup of morning tea to do so.

Thank you for all the wonderful comments. I cordially invite you to visit my other stories and leave a calling card on the hall table. We can take tea together and talk over old times. Tea is at four o'clock, I think Bilbo said, tho' sometimes we cannot wait and have ours at three.

I always wanted to give Frodo a happy ending, so here is my AU version which allows him to live as they do at the end of all those fairy tales (and no, I'm not talking about the grim original versions that ought to scare the daylights out of any little ones at bedtime readaloud time).

Anyhow, in my mind's eye, Frodo is still out there... happily pursuing his vocation... can you toast with tea? I know you can *eat* toast with tea. Ah, well, raising my cup in a toast anyhow. And now... to our story...

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12. Epilogue

They were nearly back to Hobbiton when Sam gave a sudden exclamation, pulling up his pony.

'What is it, Sam?' Frodo asked, stopping his own mount.

'I just recalled the date; Mr Frodo, do you know what day this is?'

'I hadn't thought about it,' Frodo admitted.

'Well, I had, when you proposed your journey and all, I worried about this day.'

'You worried?' Frodo asked.

'I was wondering what I'd do if you fell ill on the journey.' Sam met his eyes. 'It's the Sixth of October, Mr Frodo.'

'So it is,' Frodo said wonderingly. 'Well, it appears that the potion cured more than we thought.'

'How are you feeling?' Sam asked.

'Fine,' Frodo answered. 'Couldn't be better, except...' he saw the concern creep back into Sam's face and laughed to put him at ease. 'I'm awfully hungry,' he said. 'What do you suppose Rose will fix for dinner?'

They rode on in silence for awhile, which Sam broke. 'Mr Frodo?'

'Yes, Sam?'

Sam looked puzzled. 'If that there... e-lix-ir,' he said, having trouble fitting his mouth around the unfamiliar word, 'could cure all your ills, then why didn't they give it to you in the first place, the last time we were at Rivendell?'

Frodo did not answer, riding along as if in deep thought with his eyes down.

'Mr Frodo?'

Frodo looked up. 'The potion was much more dangerous than you knew,' he said slowly. 'There was very little chance that I'd survive the dose.'

Sam was dumbfounded. Frodo nodded and went on, 'Celeborn didn't want to tell you, he told me later. He didn't think you'd ever let me take such a risk if you knew how little chance there was.'

'He was probably right,' Sam admitted.

'Sam,' Frodo said suddenly, but when Sam looked up, he rode for awhile in silence, as if searching for words. 'I'm afraid I've used you very ill, old friend,' Frodo confessed.

'What do you mean, Mr Frodo?' Sam asked. He couldn't imagine his master using anyone ill.

'I brought you along to break the news to Bilbo, if things didn't turn out right. I didn't want him to see me... or not to see me, rather.' He sighed. 'I'm sorry, Sam. I shouldn't have.'

'There's nothing to forgive, Mr Frodo,' Sam said. 'It would have grieved Mr Bilbo no end to see you the way you were. I think it would have been less shock for him to believe you just died, somehow.'

'Yes, Sam, I think you're right,' Frodo answered. He was silent for a quarter of a mile or so, then stretched in the saddle. 'But now I'm healed, well and whole again,' he marveled. 'I've my whole life ahead of me; I hardly know what to do with myself!'

'Maybe you could run for Mayor,' Sam suggested.

Frodo chuckled and shook his head. 'No,' he said, 'I would hate to be tied to one place for so long, but I think you'd be perfect at the job.' He gazed into the far distance. 'I think I'd like to become a mapmaker,' he mused. 'Travel far distances, see the lay of the land, bring it to life on paper. This line a road, another a river...'

At Sam's questioning look he sighed. 'Don't worry, Samwise, I'll always come back to Bag End. As long as you don't rent out my room, that is.'

'We'll manage somehow,' Sam answered.

Frodo nodded. 'You always do, Sam. That you do.'

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'You know,' Pippin said reflectively over his cup of morning tea, looking at Frodo's pillow-creased face and sleep-tousled hair, 'Being invisible had its good points...'

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