Title: What May Come

Author: Frodo Baggins of Bag End (FrodoAtBagEnd), AK A Febobe (FBoBE)

E-mail: febobe at yahoo dot com

Characters: Celebrian, Frodo, Elrond; Gandalf, Galadriel, Bilbo, various others.

Rating: PG-13 or so. It's probably just PG-13, generally, but I don't know angstiness and h/c level for every single chapter yet. This chapter rated PG-13. If I write any chapters which are tougher in future, I'll upgrade the rating on the whole thing.

Summary: Frodo's healing in the West is not as he had hoped. . .and yet it is more; in Tol Eressea he finds a new home and family, and a different kind of healing...

Feedback: Welcomed. Constructive only, please. . .no flaming.

Story Notes: I am delighted to continue a story I began many, many years ago; I had never planned for it to officially "end," but rather to be an ongoing fic, and yet I had never planned to trail off at the point that I left it for so long. And I cannot say it will not undergo further revision before some final version. However, it is very dear to my heart, and I thought I might go ahead and share it here as a work-in-progress in hopes that you, too, might enjoy it. The interpretation, of course, is purely mine and was touched upon in "The Memory of Taste" (original publication of first chapter 1/18/03). . .others may disagree, or may share this view, but this is an old project of mine and simply a view I hold. I hope that whether my rationale is important to you or not, you will enjoy the story. . .I don't think it's necessary to know the reasoning behind my thought pattern in advance to find pleasure in the tale. :) At least I hope it isn't!

And yes, I - like some other authors - assume that elves are capable of mind-to-mind unspoken communication. I am also assuming that as a Ringbearer, Frodo might also have some limited ability to hear them calling thus to him, and might perhaps be able to answer in like fashion. In this chapter, I assume he actually could be quite capable of it, given practice, once arrived in the Undying Lands. If this bothers you, I'm sorry it does, but I hope you can simply enjoy the story. :)

Chapter XI Notes: I have drawn some inspiration from my recent Mother's Day fic, also available on this site ("An Orphaned Son's Longing"). My fics don't always connect; I tend to connect some and not others, and sometimes I restart my fanon completely between fics. But this time, the two are related. I hope you enjoy this chapter as well as that piece. :)

Warning: pure fluff (sometimes angst-filled, sometimes not) written for its own sake. It's not intended to have a grand plot. Lots of Frodo h/c in this, though, so if you like that, you'll enjoy this, especially if you like food detail! If you don't. . .my apologies; to each her (or his) own taste. :) I make absolutely no claims whatsoever that this is a canonically thematic portrayal of the West, though I have attempted to follow some canonical points, at least, of what we know, including that there was never a guarantee of how Frodo's healing would come, if it did, but that he might seek it there. . .as well as in some other matters, such as some of the book's characters actually being there at this time. Beyond those little points, I'm not even attempting to create a canonically purist story. This is purely for pleasure.

Part XI: A Mother's Heart, A Child's Longing

He had come back. She had managed to reach him. Yet as Frodo drowsed in her arms, Celebrian could not help cradling him close, kissing his brow every few minutes. She could scarcely believe that she had managed to go back into the darkness and find him, and now that she had him back, she feared losing him again. She did not feel at all sure that she could do it again so soon - the more present she kept him, the better.

Narien brought warm milk with honey in a feeding-cup, and Celebrian took it. "Little one," she said tenderly, stroking Frodo's pale cheek with her thumb, "drink for me."

The heavy lashes fluttered weakly. Frodo's eyes seemed unfocused - and then - they fixed upon her face, and he smiled, and let her slip the spout just between his lips, tipping it so he could nurse.

You have never known this, and yet you have taken to it. Elrond's voice sounded in her mind. She tried to control her smile, to no avail - though she felt weaker than when she had come out of her own wound, she felt alive, alive in a way she had not felt ever before.

I have missed having a small living soul in my arms, she replied. I have missed having someone to - to mother. Someone to guide. And I have never had a child like this before.

He is no child, Bri.

I know that. She held the cup back while Frodo recovered breath a little, then offered it again. I know he is no child. But have you not thought that some of his suffering could be eased if you and Ami and everyone else would stop treating him as if he is, being an adult, unworthy of coddling?

Bri -

No. Celebrian cradled Frodo closer, delighted when his eyes focused on her face again. "Stay with us," she whispered. "This is real. The shadows cannot hurt you. I will not let them." He has had enough adulthood for an entire lifetime, she told Elrond firmly. For many lifetimes. Let him have instead a second childhood. Let him be petted and coddled and cossetted, though respected in his decisions, and let me give him that.

I can tell you two are arguing, Galadriel cut in, and I can tell you now, Elrond, son of Earendil, you are going to lose. I know the look in her eyes. You had better apologise at once.

But - replied Elrond.

Trust me, Galadriel replied. You will be happier if you choose your battles. I know her mind about Frodo, and if it is that, I believe her mind is more than made up.

Elrond sighed. It is not that I do not wish to welcome him into our family. But is that what he would want?

Celebrian smiled. There is only one way to find out. When he recovers, we must ask him. Mithrandir will help us discuss it with him. He must have a hole to share wtih Bilbo, or one of his own if he so prefers - but I hope he may choose to spend much of his time with us here. It was horrible enough leaving our children as I did, and them grown to adulthood. His mother was taken from him, I am told, before he was half grown.

Galadriel suddenly seemed quiet. At once Celebrian recognised the look on her face.

Ami, she chided gently, what are you keeping from me?

Galadriel looked away, then back at Frodo, and at her daughter, and this time Celebrian could feel that her mother had opened the conversation to Elrond as well.

I did not tell Arwen what you saw in my Mirror until she had already wed, she said softly. I did not tell her that you saw that she and her brothers would never come. I did not wish to be the one to influence their minds in the matter. Only after she had come to me, and told me that she and the twins wished to give their places to the dearest of their hobbit companions, did I tell her the truth. And it wounded her heart. 'I have hurt Ami,' she said, 'and allowing Frodo to do this has hurt him, though it has saved the world. So much hurt, and though it be for the greater good, I would still spare them both the pain if I could do so without taking away that goodness.' But then - her eyes kindled with a fresh light, and a determination I had not seen before. 'Let me speak with Frodo,' she said. 'I have a gift for him, and more gift shall I give him in the opportunity to sail - but, unless I misdiscern, I believe he longs for something no one has yet offered him, for all that Estel has promised him gold and honour.' And then - it was nearly a week before she returned to me, her face soft and yet triumphant.

Celebrian could hardly breathe. Frodo trembled in her arms, and she wrapped her old quilt about him more securely, rocking him with tender motions. What did she say? she asked.

That Frodo longed for a mother.

The world seemed to rock at cross-purposes to Celebrian. She forced herself to keep the motion going, for Frodo's sake, but she could scarcely believe what she had heard.

She told me that he had confessed to wishing for someone to care for him, and comfort him, as a mother would have, Galadriel went on. That - that he could not have his own mother back, and without her loss he would not have been involved in that journey, but - now, after his trials, what he wished for more than aught else was to be mothered. She, of course, offered such comfort as she could, making the excuse that she needed the practice, but - she told him that her mother could not have her children again, and would welcome him. Galadriel's tone sharpened a little. Did Arwen guess amiss, or does she have perhaps a measure of foresight herself?

She does, replied Celebrian. She sees. She understands.

And now at last she understand what Frodo meant. He was her final love-letter from her daughter, a gift. She could never replace Frodo's long-departed mother, nor would she try. He would never be her little girl, nor the little boys she had accepted sticky hand-prints from, all raised to adulthood, as Frodo too had been, after the manner of his own kind.

But a mother could have both natural-born children and children of her heart. Had not she known that Elrond would take a foster-son of his brother's lineage? Had not he loved Estel as a son? Had not Estel benefited from his foster-upbringing?

Perhaps she could be the mother that Frodo so longed for. Perhaps he could fill her empty arms and mend the hole in her heart.

Perhaps, in fact, he already had.

Suddenly she wondered whether something might work. Of course, it might not. There was no reason it should. But - she had reached out with her fea in the darkness, and found Frodo's, and -

Tithen min, she whispered, can you hear me?

And after a moment, there came a soft reply. Yes.

Barely containing her joy, she decided to try something more. I cannot dissipate the pain of this day, little one. I cannot make it go away. I can only hold you close, and keep you safe, as much as I can.

I do feel safer here. Thank you.

Celebrian felt her heart fluttering in her chest. Frodo, she ventured, if you could ask for anything in the world, anything you could ever want and find, anything which could be restored to you, besides your health - what would you wish for?

A hesitation.

It is all right. You do not need to feel timid or embarrassed. I will keep your secret, if you so desire.

Another hesitant moment, and then the small voice replied, more sure than Celebrian had yet heard it.

I wish I could have a mother to take care of me. I am so tired. So awfully tired. The best night I had in Minas Tirith was the night Arwen took me into the chambers she shared with Aragorn, and held me, and rocked me, the way you are doing now - and she gave me milk, and told me I was safe. Since I left Gondor, I have never had so much peace again. Until here. I would wish for a mamma.

Celebrian bent to kiss his brow.

You have found her, she whispered back. You are home.

-to be continued-