Totally unauthorised LotR fanfic. No copyright infringement meant to the Tolkien estate, New Line Cinema, Saul Zaentz Inc, or anybody else for that matter.

For www.fanfiction.net/books/LotR

Characters: Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee, Peregrin Took

Rating: Light PG-13

Author Note: I started this one some time ago and forgot about it, and just finished it up. The conversation Pippin mentions having with Merry occurs in my fanfic, "Solemn Promise". BOOK-verse, this time.

Summary/tagline: Frodo had to leave the Shire, but was it as much a surprise to those closest to him as it seemed? NON-slash.

Secrets, Long Kept

By Olivia Sutton

"Sam, Sam, could you come in my study for a moment?" Frodo called from the doorway of his study in Bag End.

Sam heard his master's call, and he answered, "Coming, Mr. Frodo," but his heart wasn't as light as his voice. He felt he knew what Mr. Frodo would tell him and he didn't want to hear it. Sam walked to the study, heart heavy, and entered. He closed the door behind himself, but didn't realise that the door didn't latch. As he walked over to the desk where Frodo sat, the door opened a crack.

Frodo took a large, red leather bound book, and handed it to Sam.

"But, Mr. Frodo, it isn't finished," Sam said. He knew how much Frodo had worked on it, and how much he still had to do.

"I've written all I can, Sam, the rest is for you."

Sam quickly read the last few pages, and then looked at him, "Frodo?"

"I can't bear to write about the journey into--into that place, you know what I mean, Sam. And I know you will set down the right of it."

He nodded, solemnly, accepting the duty. "Frodo, does this mean you're leaving?" Sam said, though in his heart the gardener Hobbit already knew the answer.

Frodo nodded, "Sam-- I can't-- I thought I could stay here, I thought I'd watch your children grow-up, but I can't. I'm tired, Sam."

He nodded again.

"And, I *hurt*, Sam, I didn't want to worry you, but I've been ill..."

"I know that, Frodo, I know."

The older Hobbit looked at the younger, in surprise.

"You think Farmer Cotton, or Master Merry, or even Rosie, wouldn't tell me you had been ill? Even if I was on the opposite end of the Shire, working? No, I knew, Mr. Frodo."

"Oh, Sam. You were my strength in Mordor. You were always my rock. You never gave up, never despaired. I've lost hope, Sam. Here in the Shire, I've been ill and I'm in pain. The burden is still with me, Sam. That's why I need to leave. In Valinor, I'll be whole again."

"Then I'm going with you, Mr. Frodo."

"No, Sam, no. You have a wife, a child, and you will have many more if you stay. You can have a life, here, in the Shire, Sam."

Sam's eyes filled, "Aye, all right, Mr. Frodo, I'll stay. I can't deny, it would be heartache for me to leave Rosie and Elanor. But you are wrong about one thing."

"What's that, Sam?" asked Frodo, surprised again.

"About not despairin'. I did despair, Mr. Frodo, when-- when I thought you had died--" Sam broke off.

Frodo leapt forward and put a hand on the younger Hobbit's arm, "Sam--"

Sam swallowed, "I didn't want to worry you, Mr. Frodo. And before long, we were too busy just surviving for me to think on it more, but I did despair, when I found you lying there, all cold, no heartbeat to be heard," Sam shuddered, and his eyes glazed, as he spoke softly, his gaze inward.

"What happened, Sam?" Asked Frodo, quietly.

Sam took one of Frodo's wood and leather study chairs from near the fireplace, and sat it in front of Frodo's desk chair. He sat, and leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. "Frodo, I thought you were dead. After Shelob's attack. I couldn't go back, I was afraid to go on, and all around me war was being prepared. I thought we had failed. I--looked at my sword with longing, Mr. Frodo, and I-- I seriously considered, that is, I thought, very seriously, mind you, of throwing myself on my own sword." //There, it was out// he thought, the secret he'd thought he'd never tell Frodo, nor any other living Hobbit.

"Oh, Sam, no!" Said Frodo, then he asked, quietly, "What changed your mind?"

"I thought, no, to do that, would be-- that it would mean that I'd be doin' nothing, not even to mourn. Then I decided to take the Ring and continue on. I vowed to return and lay myself at your side, when the Quest was finished."

A small sound, like the mew of a kitten, sounded from the hall. Sam whipped around, startled, then he hurried to the door. Pippin stood there, tears in his eyes.

"Sam!" he cried, then ran into the room and hugged the older Hobbit.

"Pippin, What--, How--, Why are you here?"

"Merry and I--" Pippin sniffed, then swallowed and continued, "Merry and I expected you hours ago, at The Green Dragon, and when you didn't arrive, we thought that maybe Frodo was ill, so I came to see, and to help. No one answered at the door, so I let myself in."

Sam sighed, "And you heard all that?"

Pippin nodded, "Sam, you didn't-- you wouldn't have-- Sam, Did you really think about-- about stabbing yourself with your sword?"

Frodo looked up, seeing the tear streaked face of his younger cousin, and the stormy look on Sam's face. //Oh, Elbereth, he meant it. He really meant it.// Frodo thought.

Sam reached out to Pippin, and touched his arm, Sam saw understanding in the young Hobbit's face instead of the innocence he expected, "Yes, Pippin," answered Sam, quietly.

Frodo involuntarily pulled in a deep breath.

"Sam," said Pippin, seriously, "Why, Sam?"

Sam looked softly at Pippin, then over his head at Frodo, and his eyes shone, "Because of the circumstances. Because of Mr. Frodo."

"Sam, you're not alone, you know. You are not the only one who was brought to despair in this war," Pippin said, then added, "I always thought you were the most solid, the most content of Hobbits, unlike me, unlike Merry."

"You, Pippin? What are ya' talkin' about?"

Pippin just nodded, then glanced at Frodo. He hadn't wanted his older cousin to know, but he was all in now, "At Cormallen, before the Black Gate. I-- before that moment I always had hope, at least. When the Orcs took us, took Merry and I, I had hope-- I kept trying to find a means of escape, for both Merry and I. He was injured and I had to take care of him, including finding a way out. When Gandalf took me to Minas Tirith, I kept hope, even when Denethor despaired. When Merry collapsed in my arms, I. . . I had hope too, hope that Merry would recover with the help of the healers, and Aragorn. But..." Pippin took a deep breath, then said, "But at the field of Cormallen, when that guard-thing held up Frodo's cloak and mail, and your sword, I thought you were both captured or dead. I was sure the Quest, in the end, had failed. I vowed to die on that battlefield, Sam. I finally understood why Denethor wanted to die and wanted Faramir to die with him, because I wished for Merry to be at my side." Pippin took a deep breath then continued, "I wanted Merry at my side, to die, Sam. I felt that it was better to die in battle than to starve during a siege."

"Does Merry know this?" asked Sam.

"Aye, that he does. When I woke up in Ithilien, Merry was at my side. I couldn't even look at him. But, I had to tell him, what I'm telling you both now. He told me he had despaired as well, when we were captured by the Orcs," Pippin's voice dropped, as he remembered that conversation.

Sam placed a hand on the younger Hobbit's shoulder. "Go on, Pippin, " he said softly.

"When the troll attacked Beregond, I just re-acted, Sam, I struck the troll, killed it, but as I stood there, watching it totter, I knew I'd be crushed. And I let it happen, Sam! I could have jumped out of the way. I'm young and quick, even if I'd sprained an ankle with jumping, or broken a wrist in falling, I could have gotten out of the way. But I stayed, Sam, I thought it was best," Pippin stopped talking, spent, and bowed his head.

Sam looked at the young Hobbit in shock. Then he held out his arms. Pippin crawled into them, safe. Sam shushed the young Hobbit, and let him cry.

"It helps to talk about it, Pippin," whispered Sam.

"It does," said Frodo, "Pippin, I'm sorry-- you lost so much, joining me on our 'adventure'."

"I'm glad I went, though, Frodo. I'm glad I went," Pippin stood up, and dried his eyes, "Sam," he said, placing his hands on Sam's shoulders, seriously, "We're not the same Hobbits we were before when we set out from Crickhollow. Merry and I saw Boromir die. All of us saw Gandalf fall with the Balrog. I've been forced to kill, in battle, both Orcs and a troll. I've been attacked physically, tortured mentally, and lost my own innocence. I've seen men die, horribly, in battle. All of us nearly died at one point or another. We've been through, through the worst, Sam. We've all lost part of our souls," Pippin shuddered, "But we're home, safe now. And we've got to go on. Raise children, keep the Shire safe."

"I know, Mr. Pippin, I know that-- and I have. I've worked to re-build the Shire, to keep it safe."

"You're not despairin'?"

"No, leastwise, I don't mean to. It's Mr. Frodo here, who's talking about Valinor, the Grey Havens and all."

"Sam, Pippin, I-- I know what you mean. And I wanted to try to live out my days in the Shire-- but I can't. I'm in too much pain. Every March and every October, I've been ill and full of despair. I need healing. Healing only the Elves can give me."

Pippin nodded and went to Frodo's side, "Can't we do anything, Frodo? Can't we make it better?"

"I don't think you can, Pippin. But you can take care of Sam for me."

Pippin nodded, then sighed, "So you're really leaving, then?"

Frodo, signed again, "Pippin, Sam, I... We saved the Shire, all of us. But not for me. Lady Arwen, said that all the Ringbearers were welcome in Valinor," he looked at Sam, meaningfully, "*All* the Ringbearers," he turned his attention to Pippin, "I have to leave, Cousin, Can you understand?"

"I'm not a child anymore, Cousin Frodo. I understand," shadows came into his eyes as he returned Frodo's look, "I *do* understand, Frodo. But..."

"But what?"

"Can't you wait until after my coming-of-age? Merry's promised me the biggest party the Shire has ever seen. Well, since Bilbo's 111th and your 33rd." Pippin smiled at the memory.

"And after that your wedding? Or Merry's? Pippin, I...I need to leave, now, very soon. I'm sorry. I wish I could stay. I wish I could watch Sam's children grow. Dance at your wedding, at Merry's. I wish I could celebrate with you. But...I can't watch you and Merry and Sam walking on eggshells around me. I can't...steal your youthful energy. Every March and every October, Pippin. I can't go through that...for another two years. I'm sorry."

Pippin stood, "No, Frodo, *I'm* sorry. I shouldn't be so selfish as to make you stay. You couldn't want to leave unless you had to, unless you needed too. Just...Frodo, don't try to slip away, unnoticed. Let Merry, Sam and I ride with you, to say goodbye."

Frodo nodded, "That I will do, Pippin. I'll send word to you, and Merry. Probably, next fall, before October comes again. I'll enjoy one last summer in the Shire, and then...sail. I'm sorry, Pippin."

Pippin wiped the tears away that had started to fall during Frodo's words. "No, it's all right. I'm fine, Frodo." He turned towards Sam, "Don't forget, Sam--you can come to me, or Merry, whenever the memories get too dark. We'll be there for you. Merry and I..." Pippin's voice faltered, "Merry and I have been through dark times too."

Frodo stood and embraced his young cousin, then with a motion of his hand, Sam joined the hug. The three stood, holding each other for a moment, then broke apart. Each began to wipe his own tears away.

"So, What's all this about The Green Dragon?" asked Frodo.

"We...Merry and I invited Sam to come for a night out at the pub."

"Can your old cousin join you?"

Pippin looked at Frodo, and the last of his tears dried, "You'll come?"

Frodo nodded, "A night at the finest pub in the Shire is just what I need."

Sam smiled, Pippin smiled, and at last Frodo smiled, as they all left Frodo's darkened study, and Bag End and then walked to the warm, coziness of the Green Dragon, finest pub in the Shire.

The End