A/N: This is RotK movie-verse, even though only a few lines of dialogue are taken directly from the movie. I kinda decided there was a lot left out of the movie version of events once the hobbits returned to the Shire, especially where Frodo is concerned. So this is my way of filling in the gaps. :)

_No Going Back_

So quiet... so cold. He hugged his dressing gown more securely around himself as he restlessly paced the dark smial. Sleep was eluding him, and at first he'd risen to fetch a calming cup of chamomile tea, but even that failed to settle him, so now he wandered aimlessly as if seeing his home for the first time. It was not the first night he had spent here; no, he'd resumed residence almost a week ago, much to the dismay of the Sackville-Bagginses. But until now he'd not been alone.

His kinsmen left that morning at his urging; he could finish the rest of the work in his hole on his own, and he reasoned they had been absent from their families quite long enough. There was certainly plenty of work to be done: thirteen months of remaining undisturbed in all respects led to quite a mess. He and Sam had continued the cleaning and arranging until past dinnertime, and after a cold supper he'd urged his friend to go home to his Gaffer. It took many reassurances that he'd be fine, and no, it would not be any trouble before the faithful gardener finally left.

He had then taken a long bath to soothe away the stiffness that days of household tidying had left in his muscles and joints and calm his mind as well. The warm water fulfilled his first aim quite well, but proved useless in regard to the second. Yet even as his mind raced and kept him from sleep as the hours grew later, if asked what troubled him so, he would not have been able to say. He didn't know. And that bothered him almost as much as the purposeless wanderings of his mind. His mood was one of unvented frustration -having no identified cause and thus nowhere to release it- and it had been steadily growing in him since his return.

Perhaps it was due to coming home to find a cluttered hole that showed every day of his absence in the thick layers of dust coating everything, the mustiness of rooms long unused, the smell of food long past being edible. That first night saw them eating supper at the Green Dragon, having found nothing suitable in the pantries, except for some nicely aged ale, of course. This they cheerfully consumed after sating their appetites for food. The stale-smelling bedrooms saw no use that night, which was likely for the best, since the moths had found things quite to their liking. The next day found the four hungover hobbits picking themselves up from the floor and various other surfaces before brewing a succession of very strong pots of tea and listing what needed to be done to make the hole hospitable once again.

Perhaps it was due to being cooped up for so long, constantly being asked what should be done with this, and where would you like this, cousin? His overeager relations had driven him to distraction as they sought his direction on everything they did, even when by all rights they were perfectly capable of determining what was to be done with hard, mouldy bread and rotting fruit. The mischievous cousins had volunteered to clean the kitchen and pantries, no doubt hoping to find more overlooked liquor; he knew they would not find any, but had not the heart to curb their enthusiasm by telling them such. He and Sam began with the bedrooms -none of them relished the thought of another night spent on the floor- and disturbed a number of moths in doing so. The cedar linen chest, however, had performed its duty well, and produced enough whole linens to suitably replace those afflicted by insects. Even the damaged bedding proved useful when divided into a virtual multitude of cleaning cloths, almost all of which were used in the busy days following.

Perhaps it was due to the vast amount of possessions now before him to sort and put away. Some of it was displaced by the thorough cleaning, but much of the clutter had been out and about even before he left, still remaining from him who had been Master of Bag End before. After the older hobbit's sudden departure, it had comforted him to leave things just the way they were, as if his uncle had briefly stepped out and would return at any moment. It had felt as if Bilbo were still there, even if only in the way the books were strewn about and the papers were in jumbled heaps. He'd told the others to leave these just as they were, though whether in memory of how things used to be or in dread of tackling the mess he wasn't sure.

The crackle of brittle paper crumbling underfoot brought him out of his musings to find his wandering feet had led him to the study, the only room as yet untouched. He'd placed Bilbo's red book upon the desk and then closed the door, resolving to get to it later. Now pale moonlight streamed in the lone window, painting the desk in shades of silver and grey; shadows shrouded the indistinct forms out of reach of the fingers of light. In that moment he came to a decision: he would finally put those things away that had been lying about for what seemed an age. He had been hoping leaving things as before would help him get back into his old way of life, but instead, the clutter was making him feel claustrophobic where he should feel most comfortable. He had grown so used to having nothing to his name that having everything was overwhelming, and he was tired of dealing with it.

Stepping gingerly, he crossed to the fireplace to start a small fire so he could see what he was doing. It didn't take long to start a blaze, even fumbling in the dark as he was, and he began his task by picking up some of the papers off the floor. Many of them were discarded drafts of letters, lists of what to get at market, and other useless bits of a former life, so these he discarded into the fire. He had managed to clear a path from the door to the desk and then to the hearth before he noticed his eyes were watering and his throat was itching.

Bother! He tripped over to the window and threw it open, coughing as he gulped fresh air. He cast a scathing glare at the smouldering fire and the smoky room, and left the window ajar while he went for some water to put the fire out. He wouldn't be able to continue work in the study until someone cleared the chimney of whatever was clogging it -a nest of some kind, most likely. He'd have Sam look into the matter in the morning. But for the moment, he wanted to return to bed. He might be able to sleep now...

~~~~

When Sam arrived the next morning, he found Frodo already busy, sitting on the floor of the study in a sea of papers and books, his nose buried in a sheaf of parchment sheets. The gardener stood and watched for a few moments, unsure what to make of the scene before him. It was unusual to see Frodo out of bed this early. His master did not notice his presence, absorbed in his work as he piled some sheets next to him and tossed others toward the unlit fireplace. "Good morning, Mr. Frodo," Sam greeted him finally. "Back to work already?"

"Morning, Sam," he replied automatically. "Couldn't sleep, so I thought I'd do something useful. I'm afraid I didn't keep this up as I should have before we left," he said ruefully, looking up as he finished sorting the papers in his hand.

"You all right? D'you need anything?" Sam asked, slightly concerned by Frodo's somewhat disheveled appearance.

"I'm fine, really. And if you would do me the favor of checking this chimney, I'd be much obliged. It seems to have something in it," he gestured at the fireplace with a look of distaste.

"Of course, Mr. Frodo. I'll go up on the roof and see if I can find the problem."

He turned to leave, but paused when Frodo again addressed him. "Oh, and Sam, don't worry about coming back in to help me. I know you have your own work to do in the garden, and you're anxious to get it all done before winter comes."

"'Tis true," Sam admitted with a small smile that was returned by Frodo. As the sound of his footsteps retreated, Frodo picked up a new bundle of papers and continued as before.

A few minutes later, Sam's voice drifted down the chimney. "I think I've gotten it. Some squirrel decided to nest in 'ere."

Frodo crawled over to the fireplace and stuck his head in, peering up. "Should I try starting a fire, then?"

"Aye, an' I'll see if the smoke comes out proper-like."

He piled his discarded sheets and topped them with a few small logs, striking the flint with practiced fingers until a flame caught and burned merrily. The papers quickly burned away, bits of their ashes floating lazily upward in the chimney draft. "Is it working?" he called up.

"Aye, 'tis," Sam affirmed.

"Thank you, Sam," he said, then returned to his spot on the rug amidst the mess.

~~~~

Dusk had fallen and night was creeping across the twilight sky when Sam finally put away his tools and went inside Bag End in search of Frodo. The smial was dark, and the fire in the kitchen had gone out, so he relit it before continuing down the hall, having an idea of where to look. He found him just where he'd left him, though there seemed to be slightly less of a mess on the study floor than before.

"Mr. Frodo? Have you even eaten anything today?" He thought it a fair question, since Frodo seemingly hadn't moved all day, but Frodo didn't answer. "Frodo?" He ventured into the room, trying not to disturb anything, and crouched in front of the preoccupied hobbit, stilling the busy hands with his own. "Frodo, you need to take a break," he said, letting his concern become evident in his voice.

"Sam? What is the time?" he asked, confusion in his eyes as he looked up. He looked back over his shoulder and saw darkness outside the window. "I didn't realize it was so late," he said with a small laugh.

"Interesting reading?" Sam teased as he pulled Frodo to his feet.

Frodo stumbled a bit and grimaced as he shook out first one leg, then the other. "Oh... I'm a little stiff, I'm afraid," he admitted. "And no, I haven't found anything very interesting. Unless you consider long, unopened letters from Aunt Dora interesting."

"Is she still alive?"

"Hm? Oh, no... she died some time ago, though after Bilbo left, I believe."

They reached the kitchen in silence and wordlessly set out some food for a modest supper: a wheel of cheese, a loaf of sliced bread, some chilled meat cooked earlier in the week, and cider warmed on the stove. Frodo spoke first. "I hope there wasn't a squirrel in that nest."

"No. My Gaffer must've noticed it, b'cause I found wire mesh tied over the chimney hole. So 'twas an empty nest."

"Good. How's the garden?"

Sam gave a short laugh. "Weedy. Very weedy. I think the Gaffer did what he could, an' things seem to have fared as well as could be expected."

"That's very good," he replied with a smile. "It will be nice to see everything blooming again."

"Aye, 'twill indeed."

"Thank your Gaffer for me. He has done far more than he needed to."

"I will."

Nothing more needed to be said, and the meal finished as quietly as it had begun, the two hobbits putting the meagre remains away with no talk needed. A pipe and much discussion of Sam's plans for the garden later, as the evening grew chilly and chased them back indoors, Sam departed for Bagshot Row and Frodo returned to the quiet Bag End.

That day set the routine for many days following; Sam would often arrive to find Frodo already digging through whatever mess he'd set his sights on for that day. Most of his days were devoted to setting the study to rights, though every couple of days he would pick a closet to rifle through or a bedroom to reorganize -Sam insisted on it, to give his master's eyes a break from all that reading, and to try to break the melancholy mood that seemed to settle on Frodo when sorting through Bilbo's old papers. The gardener passed his days in the garden, where there was enough work to keep him busy for at least a month, though after that first day he made sure to go inside and prod Frodo to his meals. For his part, Frodo didn't seem to notice the attention, which worried Sam more than Frodo's habitual preoccupation with what was before him.

After about a week of such cleaning, Frodo came across a familiar envelope. He'd forgotten he'd thrown it in the study after the Gaffer had returned it to him by way of Sam. It had sunk to the bottom of the mess due to its heaviness in relation to the rest of the discarded papers, and lay in wait for him to rediscover it. He stared at the blank front thoughtfully before turning it over and pulling out the two folded packets of paper, one sealed and one unsealed.

Gandalf's coming had been unexpected, yes, but in waiting until just before dawn to depart the wizard had given him some time to set his affairs in order, or at least as close to order as could be achieved in a few short hours. He'd written a letter to whomever may inquire that he was leaving on a journey of undetermined length, and if he had not returned within the space of two years and a day, to assume he was gone permanently and distribute his property as set forward in his will. The letter also explained he was leaving the will and the key to Bag End in the keeping of old Gaffer Gamgee, who would hand them over to the Mayor of Michel Delving if the Master of Bag End failed to return in the specified time.

He remembered when he had taken the envelope to the Gaffer, Sam a step behind him and Gandalf waiting behind Bag End. Sam's father was more than willing to accept the envelope and the key inside it for 'the young Master,' though he resisted the small bag of money Frodo also tried to press into his hand. Finally he'd told the aging hobbit, 'Consider it an advance on Sam's wages for the time we'll be gone,' and with that reasoning, the Gaffer grudgingly accepted it. As they returned to the wizard's side, they exchanged a glance- Sam relieved, and Frodo understanding. He'd realized that Sam had worried about his Gaffer's keep and what would happen to him while they were gone, since his wages supported his father, and no other arrangement could be made on such short notice.

The letter was the unsealed packet; his eyes skimmed over the familiar words -being, after all, his own- without really reading them. Upon finishing the lengthy letter -he'd tried to anticipate every possible scenario, knowing that certain hobbits would likely seek to have the letter and his will ruled invalid if it failed to provide for any particular situation- he crumpled it and threw it in the crackling fire before turning his attention to the sealed packet of papers: his will.

He debated for several moments over whether to open it or not, but decided it wouldn't matter if he did break the seal since he would need to draw up a new one anyway, so without further hesitation he slid a finger beneath the flap and gently pulled open the wax. It was fully legal, with seven signatures in red ink just as was required, though the flourishes and grandiose language he'd used in parts made him shake his head in amusement. He'd been so proud of that will, having written it not long after Bilbo left, just in case, and with childish simplicity he'd tried to make it sound as regal and important as he'd imagined a royal proclamation would be (though now he knew he'd been far short of the mark).

Things had certainly changed since he penned that document... In any case, he needed to write a new one, one that included Sam as his inheritor. He just wondered how long it would be... how long he would last. He was already having trouble getting back into life in the Shire, and as far as he could tell, it would not get any easier. He is no longer who he used to be...

Frodo was tempted to throw the obsolete will into the fire where the letter was disintegrating into ash, but decided against it. He'd destroy it once he had written the new one, or he'd be stuck with no will at all, and that wouldn't do with relatives such as he had. He set the folded paper under the edge of the Red Book, so he would remember to draft another one.

With a bit more work, he finished clearing up the mess on the floor and tackled the bookshelves. They were in better order, though with considerable gaps in places that he knew belonged to certain tomes. In search of these absent books he roamed the entire smial from top to bottom, often having to take an armful to the study to drop off before returning for the rest.

The last book finally in its place, he stood in the doorway of the study and admired his work. All was now in order, with the last stack of papers awaiting burning neatly arranged on the hearth for the next time he needed kindling. Bereft of the task that had kept him busy for so long, he wasn't sure what else to do to wile away the last hours of the day. He ended up pacing the hole, finding anything out of place and taking it to where it belonged, putting things in various closets or trunks if the items had no home (which was quite often) until the rooms practically echoed in their emptiness.

When Sam came in that evening, he noted with some surprise the absence of many familiar objects, having been relocated in Frodo's eagerness for something to do with himself, and was suitably impressed by the order in the study. But some part of him couldn't help but miss the way things used to be, both in the study and outside it. Bag End used to have such an air of sprawling welcome, with no shame in its untidyness, which added to its charm of feeling very lived in. One could tell upon stepping inside that the those who lived there felt very comfortable in it and the guest felt invited to share in that comfort. Now Bag End felt gutted, all of its distinguishing trinkets and mathoms replaced with spartan emptiness. Something was missing, and its absence took the joy, the life, out of the hole. It made him sad, though he couldn't explain why.

At dinner Frodo was quiet, even for him, and yawned profusely throughout the meal. Finally he excused himself and went to retire early, which pleased Sam. He'd noticed the growing dark circles beneath his master's eyes and wondered at the cause of Frodo's lack of sleep, worried that something was wrong. But as long as Frodo didn't acknowledge his weariness, Sam wasn't going to say anything, knowing full well that Frodo likely wouldn't listen, especially with that mood he'd been in of late. Still he'd done what he could, encouraging Frodo to turn in early and slipping certain herbs into his tea, but all seemingly to no avail. Whatever kept Frodo up at night resisted his attempts to assuage it.

Sam used the time before returning home to do a few things that Frodo didn't normally think of, like sweeping the ashes out of the fireplaces. He paid particular attention to the study, with the papers Frodo had been burning and all, and he noticed the stack of unburned pages. His curiosity got the better of him and he leafed through them. Most were as uninteresting as Frodo claimed, but there were some that Sam wondered why Frodo would dispose of: drafts of translations that Bilbo and Frodo had worked on as part of Frodo's schooling, sheets of Frodo's first efforts at capturing the flowing Elvish script from a copybook, and a few pages of smudged block letters in his own hand.

The next morning over breakfast, Sam asked about them. "Frodo, why are you burning all of those papers? I would've thought you'd keep some for memories' sake."

Frodo fidgeted with his food, shifting uneasily in his seat before answering. "They mean nothing to me," he stated flatly, as if challenging Sam to oppose him.

Sam let it go at that, but turned it over in his head countless times during his work that day as he tried to understand. Once Sam went outside, Frodo wandered into Bilbo's old room, still unchanged from when his uncle left. For a while, he'd come in here whenever he was especially missing Bilbo, and the old hobbit's smell still lingering in the bedding would comfort him as he closed his eyes and imagined his guardian was still there.

Now he flung himself on the bed as he used to, hoping for reassurance or at least a reminder of the good times of old. The counterpane just smelled musty now, and the only memories his mind dredged up of Bilbo were those from seeing him in Rivendell, so old and frail. He wanted to remember his uncle as the active and energetic hobbit who adopted him, but could only see him as the aging hobbit who was asleep more often than he was awake.

Beginning to despair, Frodo rolled onto his side to survey the room, staring at the objects so long associated with his uncle. But they seemed foreign to him now, mathoms to be disposed of rather than keepsakes to be treasured. 'They mean nothing to me,' mocked the words he'd said at breakfast. They mean nothing... mean *nothing*... the words repeated over and over in his reeling mind and fueled the tears gathering in his eyes. Oh, to remember what these things were to him before!

He buried his face in the counterpane and wept, wept for all he had lost in his long journey, wept for the days he would never have, wept for what he could never hope to have. Time was meaningless as he lay there upon the large bed he'd never claimed as his and wallowed in his sorrow.

Finally he again sat up. While he grieved for the life he'd lost and the manner in which he'd lost it, there was no going back. There was, however, going forward, and that was what he would concentrate on for now.

With new vigor, he stripped the bed of its bedding, replacing the dirty linens with clean, and then turning to his uncle's clothes chest, emptied it completely and, having gone to the pantry in search of empty crates, packed the breeches and vests, shirts and undergarments into the crates and stowed them in one of the hole's back closets. Once he was sure all of Bilbo's personal items had been removed from the room, he closed the door. No longer would the meaningless objects haunt him, taunting him with the knowledge of what he had no more. And when the time came, it would be easier for the next change of masters to occur...

It would be much easier for Sam and Rosie to move in this way. Sam would marry Rosie, and he was going to give them Bag End, somehow. But he stopped himself from getting too carried away in plans for that just yet. He had a story to write, and a very long story at that. He'd better get started...

~~~~

There. Finished. Finally finished.

As he waited for the last bits of ink to dry, he carefully laid the ribbon upon the page, then turned to the front of the tome. After scratching a few more words upon the leaf, he dropped the quill into the inkpot with a sigh and let himself massage his aching shoulder. Wincing, he moved it a bit, but stopped the motion when he heard footsteps behind him.

"Mr. Frodo?" came the familiar voice as Sam entered the room and set a few books on the desk. "What is it?"

He looked up at him briefly. "It's been four years to the day since Weathertop, Sam. It's never really healed." He answered the query honestly; his friend knew by now that some things bother him at certain times, and likely always would. It was the price he had to pay. But he didn't want to dwell on that, and stopped rubbing the wound, placing his hand back upon the page before him.

The distraction worked and Sam's eyes followed the movement. "'There and Back Again: A Hobbit's Tale' by Bilbo Baggins... and 'The Lord of the Rings' by Frodo Baggins," he dutifully read aloud. "You've finished it!"

He shrugged a bit as he gently closed the soft red cover. "Not quite. There's room for a little more."

"But that little more can wait until a little later. Beggin' your pardon... you don' look too good."

"I know," he sighed. "I wanted it to be finished..." Both understood what remained unsaid: he wanted it to be finished before they bid farewell to Bilbo, an event which loomed in the very near future.

"Now 'tis, and you should get some rest."

Frodo nodded slowly in agreement. He was weary, so weary; he'd spent the last couple of weeks working especially hard, to ensure he would be finished when the time came. That effort had not come without a price, and now he had the wound's misery to deal with as well. The book was done and he could rest... if rest was to be found.

He rubbed dry, swollen eyes with one hand before rising unsteadily from his seat with a shiver. Sam slid a hand beneath his elbow, silently supporting part of his weight as he regained his feet, and keeping it there while they ventured from the study. Frodo began to turn toward the kitchen, but Sam urged him toward the bedroom. "Let's get you into bed and I'll fetch whatever you want," he suggested as he gently nudged him the other direction down the hall.

He conceded and allowed himself to be led, only reasserting himself once within the confines of his room. "You go ahead to the kitchen; I can take care of things here."

Sam nodded briefly. "Would you like anything in particular?"

"No... I'm not really hungry, I would just like some tea." He set forth in search of his nightshirt, pulling the soft fabric on a little awkwardly with his sore shoulder, then sat on the bed, slowly immersing himself in the warm sheets and quilts.

The kitchen proved distressingly bare under Sam's perusal. At length he located a covered bowl of thick beef stew with generous cuts of fresh vegetables in the cold cellar, which looked rather familiar. Rosie had sent him up with it a few days past, and Frodo had accepted it with a protest that they shouldn't have, with a growing family to feed. He'd insisted, and his master had taken it, though obviously he had put it away and likely forgot about it.

As the stew warmed and the tea steeped, the former gardener mused that Frodo's habit of becoming fixated on a task before him was becoming distressing. It was a tendency of his even before he'd left the Shire, but now was much more pronounced, to the exclusion of all ordinary activities. It almost reminded him of Frodo's single-minded determination to get the Ring to the Cracks of Doom, and the comparison disturbed him more than he cared to admit.

By the time he returned to Frodo's room with the bowl and a mug of tea, Frodo's eyes were drooping and he looked about ready to fall asleep. "Don't sleep yet, now," Sam admonished, setting the mug down atop the trunk beside the bed. "Let's get some food in you first."

Frodo reluctantly uncurled and sat up. "I thought I told you I wasn't hungry," he said with a yawn, but accepted the bowl anyway.

"Food's never hurt anyone, and you could use it," Sam answered.

Once Frodo had eaten enough to satisfy his critical caregiver and finished his requested tea, he again burrowed underneath the covers. Sam had lit a fire -for warmth rather than light, being only late afternoon- and checked on it before collecting the dishes and turning to leave the room. "Make sure you lock the front door behind you," Frodo murmured, half-asleep.

Sam stopped in his tracks. "I'm not leavin'," he said simply.

"But--"

"I'm not leavin' you 'ere alone, not tonight. Now get some sleep," he instructed before disappearing down the hall. Frodo was too sleepy to protest further.

~~~~

When Frodo awoke, it was bright outside the window and he felt... reasonably comfortable. Still tired, yes, and a chill yet remained deep beneath the wound, but his warm nest made that slight bit of cold seem irrelevant. He shifted experimentally and discovered a few hot water bottles tucked along his left side -Sam's doing, no doubt.

Sam himself was draped over a chair he'd dragged in from... the hallway, from the looks of it, his head thrown back and snoring softly, a book dangling from his limp fingers. A smile tugged at the corners of Frodo's mouth as he watched the other in his peaceful slumber. Dear Sam. A friend of friends he was, without a doubt.

But as much as he was grateful for friends such as Sam, it pained him to cause such worry and distress to others. Sam had a wife and family he should have passed the night with, rather than sitting here and watching over a sick and selfish hobbit. And that was why...

He extricated his hand from the bedding, reaching to the top of the trunk standing by his bed. Wincing as the increased weight on the shoulder made the pain stab down his arm, he reached out with his other hand and carefully picked up the well-worn paper tucked under the edge of the water pitcher. He unfolded the letter -for a letter it was- with one hand, gazing yet again at the graceful strokes of an ageless hand. 'Dearest Frodo,' it began, then related that the time had come for the rest of the elves to leave Middle-Earth, on the last ship for the forseeable future. It told that Bilbo had been granted passage on this voyage, which was to leave in a moon's time. Details were given: when to meet him, how long of a journey it is to the Havens, and an encouragement to come and say farewell.

But it was the postscript, the elegant lines of Quenya around the edges of the parchment, made to appear as a decorative border to those unschooled in the ancient tongue, that conveyed the bit of hope he now harbored in his heart. For it was an invitation for him to sail as well, in hope of healing his hurts and helping him find peace with his role in the story of the Ring. And he was going to do it. He would sail.

Sam did not know; Sam could not know. He would try to convince him not to go, but Sam could not understand. Well... Sam *will* understand, but not yet. There will be many years before that choice is before him.

Frodo moved his gaze from the paper to the sleeping hobbit beside him. Yes, he would do it. That was now certain. The paper easily folding along the worn creases, he dropped it back onto the trunk lid and pulled the counterpane again up to his chin. He allowed his eyes to drift closed, wondering dreamily what the sea would look like...

~~~~

"What have you got there, my boy?"

"Your book, Bilbo. I finished the story." He held open the neatly written pages for his uncle to see.

"Did you now.." the aging hobbit glanced at him with no small amount of amusement. Frodo's proneness to leave things only partially completed had been a frequent cause for gentle teasing in the past and resulted in many half finished projects lying about. "It looks... very nice..." he said with a sigh, closing his eyes and lapsing again into a short nap, heedless of the wagon's jerky motions.

Frodo watched him fondly, and once certain his uncle was asleep, pulled a few more items from his small pack. He'd brought little, so as not to arouse Sam and his cousins' suspicion, but made certain to bring everything necessary for this one last thing he had to do. Finding where the ribbon marked the last page of his writing, he lifted it and turned the leaf, then tied the key he produced from his pocket to the ribbon before settling it again into the crease.

Next came his will -the new one, signed by a number of his relatives he'd recruited for the occasion- also tucked into the crease between the blank pages. He closed the book reverentially, feeling it experimentally to be sure the secreted items were not obvious or in danger of falling out. After a few minutes he was satisfied and slid it carefully back into his pack. He would give it to Sam before he left.

Frodo wasn't sure how Sam would react to inheriting Bag End, but knew he would fill it with laughing, happy children as it was meant to be. He'd hoped to have Sam move in with him once they returned to the Shire, but felt awkward asking him and his bride to live with a bachelor. They'd stayed in the Gaffer's hole in Bagshot Row to take care of him, Sam being the only child still nearby to attend to his aging father.

But the Gaffer died not too long ago, to the grief of all Hobbiton, though everyone acknowledged that he'd led a full and happy life. And now there would be nothing to prevent Sam from moving his family to a larger place that he so rightly deserved. Just knowing he was giving his friend this opportunity for a better life, unencumbered by tending anyone undeserving of his care, would give him peace of mind.

Gandalf glanced back at them and Frodo met his eyes with a small smile and a nod. The wizard returned his attention to the ponies, and the hobbit sat back, content.

~~~~

"The last pages are for you, Sam."

~~~~