When She Smiles

The soft glow of firelight filled the halls of Bag End as shadows danced upon the closed shutters holding out the chill evening air of late autumn. Within the study the gentle creak of a rocking chair well worn with age fell softly upon the wooden floor that lay littered with mountains of crumpled papers and maps of eras long past. A soft hum could be heard as the light of the fire burning inside the large stone hearth played upon Frodo's face as he rested in his uncle's favorite chair holding a book with deep red covers between his hands. Nearby sat a small table laden with a tall mug of warm tea and a cake baked earlier that morn with only a tiny morsel missing from its side. Closer still was a cream white feather quill standing upright in a glass pot of black ink carelessly placed beside the luscious cake. Without even looking away from the book Frodo reached to the quill quickly taking it from the ink, dripping the fluid along the delicate lace doily that adorned the table and over his cake, etching but another line of ink across its surface. He scribbled but a few lines beside words written days earlier and replaced the quill before taking his mug up into his hand. Frodo brought the cold stein to his lips and took a tender sip of the warm tea reading over the writing upon the pages of the book once more. His hand then fell back to the table setting the mug near the vessel of ink as his fingers searched for a bit of his long forgotten cake. He broke a piece off into his hand bringing it up towards his lips taking it all into his mouth. As quickly as it went in it came back out as Frodo's eyes went to the table focusing on the thin lines of black ink drizzled across the sugary topping. A smile came to his face as he mocked his own carelessness while he placed the remnants of his half eaten treat back onto the plate. Frodo then closed the covers of the book setting it within his lap as he closed his eyes leaning deep into the chair, rocking it ever so slowly. All was peaceful and the night was silent until the soft whimper of a babe could be heard gently caressing his ears. Frodo opened his eyes and stood to his feet placing the book onto the seat of the chair before making his way out the door towards Sam and Rose's room that was but a mere ten paces away. The door was slightly ajar and the warm glow of candlelight fell upon the floor near Frodo's feet as he brought his hand to the door tenderly pushing it open. There Sam lay with Rose at his side, both deep in sleep, smiles on their slumbering visages which shone in the amber light that filled their room. A cradle rested at the end of the bed gently rocking to and fro as a tiny hand and foot came out from under the woolen blanket while another whimper passed over the little ones lips. Frodo slowly made his way towards the cradle leaning over it as he reached inside pulling out a small bundle with eyes bright and smiles never ending.

"How bout we let your mum and dad get a bit of rest tonight?" Frodo replied with a whisper so soft it could barely be heard as he brought the babe up to his chest. "What do you say to that Elanor?" A tender laugh fell across her lips as she reached her hands into Frodo's hair gently tugging at his curls. Frodo then brought the blanket up around Elanor while he passed slowly out of the room closing the door behind him.

*******

Frodo made his way back to the study where he took Elanor to his Uncle's chair reaching down to set aside the book that he read through just minutes before. He brought a small cushion up from the floor and placed it into the chair as he sat down with Elanor still held close in his arms. Frodo drew Elanor away from his chest looking deep into her bright blue eyes as he held her out before him while she tried to touch her tiny hands to his face. She smiled deeply then a yawn passed over her dainty lips as she brought her hands to her eyes rubbing them gently.

"Sleep wishes to find you too." Frodo said quietly as he brought Elanor down, setting her in his lap. "I too long for sleep but I can not seem to find it." Frodo replied. "Many thoughts are within my mind for tomorrow is a big day little one, yet it is too much for you to understand." Frodo said touching the tip of her tiny nose with his finger. Elanor giggled and wrapped her fingers around Frodo's as she brought them to her mouth chewing on them softly. Another yawn soon passed her lips and Frodo brought Elanor's blanket up around her shoulders drawing her close to his chest. Her eyes met with Frodo's and he smiled cheerfully as Elanor nestled into his soft tunic listening to the gentle rhythmic beat of his heart. Her hand soon found its way towards her mouth and her thumb fell between her lips as her eyes softly fell closed. A deep sigh passed Frodo's lips as he began rocking in the chair ever so slowly quietly humming an old elvish melody that he could remember his Uncle Bilbo once singing to him during the time he had come to stay with him shortly after the death of his parents when he found many restless nights of sleep. Time and again Frodo would look to Elanor sleeping soundly within his embrace, imagining the peace and tranquility found in restful slumber. A peace that he had not found in so many sleepless nights since his return to the Shire. Frodo took in a deep breath closing his eyes as he brought Elanor in closer while he made himself comfortable in his chair. Still a tender hum could be heard passing over his lips as he began rocking once again until at last in the late hours of the evening Frodo finally found his tranquil rest.

*******

It was not until the very early hours of morn, before the sun even began to rise, when Sam came upon Frodo sleeping within the study when he awoke to find Elanor no longer in her cradle. A smile was held fast upon his face as he looked upon his dear friend holding his daughter in his arms as she rested close to Frodo, rising and falling upon his chest with each breath that passed his lips. Sam then quietly made his way into the room coming to Frodo's side reaching out to Elanor, gently bringing her up into his arms. It was then when Frodo's eyes opened as he looked to Sam standing at his side.

"Sorry to wake you Mister Frodo." Sam whispered as he drew Elanor close to his chest. "It seems a pity to part the two of you but seeming how I'm awake I shouldn't burden you with tending to little Ellie."

"It is no burden Sam." Frodo said quietly as he reached his hands high above his head. "She woke last night making a fuss so I went in and brought her here to the study so you and Rose could get some rest."

"Why thank you Mister Frodo." Sam replied blushing. "But you need your rest too. There is a big day ahead of us you know."

"I know Sam." Frodo said his words growing quiet. Elanor then turned about in her father's arms looking to Frodo with a tender smile as gentle coos fell past her lips.

"Well I should leave you now." Sam replied looking towards the doorway. "There are still some hours left before the sun will rise Mister Frodo. You should find some sleep before they pass you by."

"Aye. That I shall." Frodo said softly as Sam made his way out into the hall as little Elanor peeked up over his shoulder smiling at Frodo one last time. "That I shall."

*******

The pale light of the rising sun came through the cracks in the shutters of the study touching their light upon Frodo's face as he opened his eyes hearing Sam's soft voice close by. Minutes had only seemed to pass by when Frodo last remembered closing his eyes shortly after Sam had left the room earlier that evening when he finally found sleep once more. Sam then passed before Frodo reaching his hands up to the shutters of the window nearby opening them just a bit to let in the crisp dew scented air.

"The morning has come." Sam whispered as he came away from the window taking Frodo's cloak away from the wooden peg that hung near the hearth. "I have gathered all our things near the front door ready for us to take leave. Rose has fixed together a delicious breakfast for the both of us too. hotcakes and sausages with lots of warm syrup and eggs." Sam said with a smile.

"Their scent lingers full upon the air." Frodo replied softly. "Though it may be best to close the shutters before all of Hobbiton comes a knocking on the door wishing for a bite too after smelling it on the passing breeze." Frodo laughed tenderly. Sam said nothing as a smile passed over his lips while he took a small knapsack up into his arms that rested on a small stool nearby. Frodo then stood to his feet rubbing his neck while looking back to his unwise choice of sleeping arrangements. He then followed Sam out into the hall watching as he made his way into the den placing the knapsack near the pile of bundles and bags that he had put together for their journey that morn. No words were spoken as Sam came back to Frodo's side but to him it seemed Sam knew he was leaving, never meaning to return, though he had not yet told him it would truly be so. Frodo sighed heavily and then turned towards the scent of hotcakes to take in one last bit of Rose's cooking before setting out to leave the Shire on the road towards the wood.

*******

Just a few short hours later the time had finally come for Frodo and Sam to leave for the journey at hand. With a heavy heart Frodo brought his hand slowly to the bright golden knob that lay within the middle of the deep green round door of Bag End as a sigh fell past his lips. Frodo turned the knob gently bringing the door open to the fair golden morn that had swept over the Shire. The soft song of a woodland thrush could be heard on the passing breeze as Frodo looked to the road leading east of Hobbiton while the sun rose slowly over the horizon. He then felt the tender touch of a hand fall upon his shoulder and he turned to see Sam standing at his side with two bags draped over his shoulders and another in his hand, ready to depart. Frodo then reached down and took his small bag up into his arms just as Rose came to the door holding little Elanor in her arms watching as Sam walked down the front path towards his and Frodo's ponies as they stood near the front gate saddled and ready for the days ride. Quietly Sam began to fasten his bags to his pony Bill as Frodo looked on in silence trying to find words to say. He then turned to Rose and smiled as little Elanor gave him a joyous grin when he looked her way.

"He should not be gone for more than a fortnight." Frodo said softly. "I promise that he shall return safely." Frodo replied looking back to Sam. For a moment all was silent and then Rose took in a deep breath, her glance falling on Frodo as his tear filled eyes met back with her own.

"You speak as though you are not coming home with him Frodo." Rose whispered as Frodo reached out to Elanor. He smiled through the heartache tenderly brushing his fingers along Elanor's tiny cheek blushed with the warmth of the morning sun before letting his hand fall to Rose's arm.

"I shall miss you both." Frodo whispered quietly as he gave Rose's arm a gentle squeeze. "Goodbye." He then turned to the front walk making his way down the narrow stone path as Sam pulled himself onto his pony watching as Frodo came slowly to his side. Frodo placed his bag over his pony's saddle as he lifted himself onto its back while holding onto the reins. Frodo sat upright on the saddle looking back to Bag End taking a glimpse of it one last time before leaving the Shire. He then raised his arm to Rose as he and Sam both turned towards the road ahead, riding off into the light of the ever rising sun.

*******

Just a few short hours into their journey Frodo turned away from the road riding southwards through the valley cutting across field and pasture as he let his pony walk at his leisure. Sam continued on along side his dear friend saying naught a word for he thought he could guess where they were going since the 'morrow would be Bilbo's birthday and also Frodo's. Then at last they came to the Stock Road taking it onward towards the Woody End until the afternoon wore away pulling the sun from they sky as the day turned to night. It was then when Frodo drew away from the road bringing his pony to rest under a tree in the Green Hills.

"We should make camp here for the evening." Frodo said softly as he came down from his pony pulling his cloak tightly around his shoulders to hold away the chill night air.

"Yes a rest would be nice Mister Frodo." Sam replied riding up alongside Frodo's pony. "Since the stars have begun to shine I've been shivering with cold longing for a warm fire to sit myself beside." Sam said as he brought himself down from Bill tightening his woolen coat about his chest.

"And I also." Frodo said with a smile as Sam stood near his side looking about for pieces of wood to start a fire. Frodo too followed suit and in no time they gathered together a large pile of branches and sticks big enough to warm an army of Gondor. Sam began arranging the wood neatly on the ground taking care not to disturb anything nearby such as the wild flowers with their petals closed tightly for the evening and the small sapling that stood tall and proud far below the canopy of the towering oak trees above. Within the hour a fire was lit warming Frodo and Sam while its warm amber light fell upon their tired faces. As the minutes passed slowly by all was silent until Sam took in a deep breath looking high into the moonlit sky.

"I wonder how my sweet Rose is fairing while I am away." Sam said quietly. "I have not been away from her since we returned to the Shire."

"She will do well." Frodo replied tossing a small twig into the fire. "She has many friends to watch over her and your little Elanor while we are on the road."

"Ah yes." Sam said smiling. "Little Ellie will keep her company too. She is full of smiles and laughter."

"That she is." Frodo replied softly. He then brought a small bundle to his side and opened it drawing out a heavy cotton blanket. Frodo pulled it up around his shoulders and sat looking into the fire as Sam lay upon the ground drawing his own blanket up over his body.

"Goodnight Mister Frodo." Sam whispered softly. "The night will pass us by quickly and the morning will come upon us soon. You should rest." Sam said as he closed his eyes.

"I shall Sam." Frodo said taking in a deep breath. He then looked down to Sam as he rested peacefully close to his side until the minute finally came when he fell into sleep with a tender smile held fast upon his lips. A gentle sigh fell past Frodo's lips as he watched Sam in silence his heart aching with the thought of what would come to be in the days at hand. Frodo reached to Sam softly touching his fingers to his dear friend's brow as he slept under the gleaming moon of the starlit night.

"Please forgive me Sam." Frodo whispered softly as the brought his hand away from Sam's face only to stray it to his own to dry away his fallen tears. In all the years Sam had been in his life Frodo could not imagine another day without him by his side but as their road continued on the day would soon come at hand when he would have to finally leave his companion behind.

*******

With the coming morn few words were spoken as Frodo and Sam repacked their ponies after a small breakfast of crisp bacon and eggs cooked over the flames of their campfire still burning from the night before. They soon began on their way once more riding steadily along the road when at last they came through the wood as the late hours of the afternoon were fading away. They continued on until the day faded to night bringing with it the light of the stars shining brightly as they littered the darkened evening sky. Sam was lost within his memories as they rode through the wood until the soft sound of Frodo's voice rose him from his thoughts when he became aware that Frodo was singing the old walking song. yet the words were not quite the same.

Still round the corner their may wait A new road or secret gate And through I oft have passed them by A day will come at last when I Shall take the hidden paths that run West of the Moon, East of the Sun

Then as if in answer Sam could hear voices ringing up from the valley down below.

A! Elbereth Gilthoniel! Silivren penna miriel O menel aglar elenath Gilthoniel, A! Elbereth! We still remember, we who dwell In this far land beneath the trees The starlight on the Western Seas

For a moment they halted and sat silent in the shadows until a shimmer of glistening light shone through the night as the travelers came towards them. Sam could say nothing as before him rode Elrond and Galadriel followed by a company of elves. Slower still behind the gathering rode a small grey pony and as the weary traveler passed his way Sam could see it was Bilbo himself almost nodding off to sleep. Frodo rode up to the company greeting them with a warm welcome as Bilbo smiled brightly upon seeing his face.

"I have passed the Old Took today!" Bilbo exclaimed patting Frodo on his shoulder as he rode up along his side. "Now that's settled I think I'm quite ready to go on another journey my dear Frodo. What do you say to that my lad. you coming along?"

"I am coming." Frodo said softly turning back to Sam. Suddenly his face changed and his eyes welled with tears for at last he understood where his and Frodo's path would come to its end.

"You are riding to the Havens." Sam replied quietly. "And I can't come."

"Aye Sam." Frodo said with a sigh. "But you can not come quiet yet, at least not now, but you can go with us as far as the Havens."

"But I thought you would stay and enjoy the Shire after all that you have done." Sam said as tears began to fall along his cheeks.

"At one time." Frodo began. "But I have been hurt all too deeply Sam and there comes a time when one must give things up so others may keep them and remember them how they used to be." All was silent for no words were spoken as Sam looked to Frodo wishing to find more words to press beyond his lips before his master was gone for all time. He then took in a deep breath reaching his hand to his face, drying his tears.

"I can not say I'll truly understand, but I must not let myself be torn in two for all time." Sam replied softly.

"Then will you ride with me?" Frodo asked reaching out to Sam placing his hand on his arm.

"I shall." Sam whispered. Frodo then smiled as the gathering of elves slowly began on their way once more, their gowns and robes glistening under the light of the moon as they continued on through the forest back towards the lands of the Shire, while two faithful companions followed quietly behind riding together on one final journey to the western shores.

*******

All through the evening they rode under the cover of the darkened night straight on through the wood and hills. As the sun finally began to break through the veil of moonlit sky Frodo turned to Sam watching as he rode along beside him saying not a word since they came upon the company of elves. His face was long and saddened yet his eyes would look to Frodo time and again as a faint smile came across his trembling lips. Soon the day had come as they traveled westward across the Shire passing from it near mid afternoon as they went about the south skirts of the White Downs, towards the Far Dawns and finally to the Towers where they could look out on the distant sea. Frodo took in a deep breath as the gleaming waters shone in the light of the setting sun casting shadows of gold upon its surface. Then at last they rode down to Mithlond, to the Grey Havens in the long firth of Lune. At that very moment Sam could feel his heart sink deep within his chest for this was the hour when at last he must say goodbye. Frodo was leaving and he was never coming back. Slowly they made their way down the grassy hill to the gates where they were greeted by an elf tall in stance with a beard grown long wavering in the gentle breeze. His eyes were keen as he looked upon the company bowing low and quietly replying "all is now ready." Before them all lay a great white ship sails unfurled waiting to catch the eastern wind to carry all who boarded away over the sea where healing could begin and lives start anew. There too waited Gandalf robed all in white and as Frodo came down from his pony two familiar voices called his name from afar and he turned away to see Merry and Pippin riding towards him in great haste. Frodo stood in silence as the elves traveling in their company began to board the ship making ready to depart. It seemed he was for a loss of words yet Pippin laughed amid his tears scolding Frodo in a playful Tookish sort for trying to give he and Merry the slip reminding him that in the past he failed at such a sneaky attempt. Frodo smiled as his face grew wet with tears and he looked to Sam standing between Merry and Pippin his eyes focused on the ground. Frodo left a kiss upon Merry and Pippin's brow touching them each upon the shoulder before coming to Sam as he tear filled eyes met with Frodo's. Gandalf looked on as a smile shone over his face and he whispered softly to the young hobbits saying "not all tears are an evil; do not be afraid to weep." Sam then fell into Frodo's arms as his dear companion caught him bringing him close to his chest. Frodo placed his hand onto Sam's head, his fingers clutching tightly to his soft curls. He then let his lips fall to his brow as Sam came away from Frodo's embrace. Frodo then reached into his trouser pocket and pulled out a small satin pouch tied closed with a fine silken cord.

"All I had or may have had I am leaving to you Sam." Frodo whispered as he placed the pouch into Sam's hand closing his fingers over it gently. "This is for your little Elanor. Something for her to remember me by when she gets a bit older. It is a gift to her from me for I have always felt comfort in her company when she smiles." Sam then opened the pouch turning it over in his hand as a ring made of mithril silver fell out into his palm while one single stone shone brightly upon it in the light of the fading sun. It was then that Sam remembered it being placed on Frodo's finger by Gandalf before their feast with the King on the Field of Cormallen. Sam then brought his eyes up just as Frodo began to board the white ship holding his arm up to his dear friends as they stood in silence upon the shore.

"Keep the memory alive of the age that has passed us by Samwise." Frodo replied as the wooden plank was pulled away from the ship as it slowly began to sail away from the quay. Sam watched on his heart filling with sorrow as the ship passed down the long grey firth until at last Sam could see nothing on the sea but a tall grey shadow that soon slipped away in the darkness that had fallen in the west. There he stood far into the night saying not a word as he listened to the soft sigh and murmur of the waves falling against the shores of Middle Earth. They sank deep into his heart for even now Sam could feel himself longing to sail across the sea just to see his master once again. A heartfelt sigh then passed over his lips and he looked down to his hand opening it once again to gaze upon the treasure he held. The light of the moon seemed to play upon the band as Sam began to remember days long past. For some time he was lost within his memories until Merry placed his hand on Sam's shoulder whispering softly that it was time they head home. Sam brought his eyes up towards the sea taking in a deep breath as he turned away following Merry and Pippin to where their ponies stood waiting for the journey home. Sam carefully brought himself up onto Bill's back as Merry and Pippin started on their way stopping in the path awaiting their friend to come and ride along their side. Sam looked to the ring in his hand one last time for it now shined brightly like a shining star as the memory of Frodo's smiling face came to him when he too remembered how warm he felt inside when he seen his daughter smile.