Disclaimer: All characters and events contained herein are the property of J.R.R. Tolkien, or based upon the writings of the same. Some passages of the following story are direct or edited quotes from said writings. I just like to play, with no profit or assumption of ownership.

25th March 1420 (SR)

Frodo sat gazing into the red glow of the dying fire. He knew he should get up and do something else, or at least get up and stir the embers into a proper blaze. But instead, he sat motionless in his chair, seemingly unable to move under the weight of his spirit. In body he was well - his illness of the last week had passed with no lasting effects that he could determine, but that did not stop his mind from whirling down paths he would rather avoid right now. A year ago... one year ago today. Gollum. The Fire. The Ring. His finger... he looked down at the hands curled in his lap, rubbing his fingertips gently over the stump, where a year ago exactly there had been a working finger.

Frodo sighed, and shivered, but made no effort to move or warm himself. There was a knock at the door, but he ignored it, hoping whoever was calling would assume he was out with Sam or the Cottons and just go away.

xxxxx

"Sam, don't worry, there's nothing wrong with it."

"Merry, Master Pippin's breaking and entering, and that's just not right."

"We're just concerned about Frodo."

"If Mr. Frodo wants his peace and quiet, then that's his business."

"So you normally stand hammering on the door for fifteen minutes at a go, do you?"

Sam started. "You didn't ought to have spied on me, Merry."

Merry sighed lightly. "We just wanted to see if Frodo would give up and answer the door if he knew it was just you. You know how bad he is for bottling himself up, and he'd not answer the door all night if he was low and knew we were all out here."

"So what exactly is Pippin going to do?"

xxxxx

Frodo sighed as the knocking resumed. After fifteen minutes had come a lull, and he had thought perhaps to be left alone, but he should have known that Sam would not give up so easily, and for certain it was Sam out there. The fire popped and threatened to go out altogether, and with a disgruntled mutter, Frodo uncurled himself from his chair and crossed to the hearth.

Like an arrow shot from the swiftest of Elven bows, something shot towards him down the corridor. Frodo cried out, his heart thumping and the thought crossing his mind that Gollum was somehow there - but as the something collided with him and brought him ccrashing to the floor, he realised that it was giggling. He had no time to catch his breath before it began to tickle him mercilessly, causing him to kick and writhe and laugh and cry all at once.

As suddenly as the whirlwind had appeared, it disappeared again, and Frodo rolled weakly onto his side, gasping, in time to see Pippin scurry to the door, draw back the latch and swing it open. Promptly Sam entered and hurried straight over to Frodo, apoligising profusely for the behaviour of the other's cousins. Frodo, however, could not help but smile as Pippin staggered back over, red-faced, followed by Merry. Both of their arms were laden with bottles and baskets, and Sam excused himself just long enough to fetch plates and cups for them all.

"What's all this?" Frodo asked, shaking his head in bewilderment.

"You should know by now that we know you far too well," announced Pippin bluntly, loading a plate with pastries and pushing it into Frodo's hands. "And quite frankly, cousin, we weren't about to let you pine away on your own."

Merry nodded. "Just because the rest of the Shire doesn't know that it's New Year's day, doesn't mean you get away without celebrating. We all want to, and it can't be done without the hero of the hour."

Frodo flushed. "You don't need me, then," he said. "The hero of the hour was out on that doorstep for a long time."

"Enough of that, Mr. Frodo," said Sam briskly. "We'll have no more misery tonight, or I shall fetch Mrs. Cotton, and then won't you be in trouble when she finds that you're low. The world's been free for a year today, and if anyone deserves to celebrate, it's you."

Frodo looked around at the three determined faces and decided it was best to give in. "I suppose we had better do something to rival the celebrations in Minas Tirith, hadn't we?" He smiled broadly, and raised the mug that Merry had just passed him.

"Happy New Year, my dearest friends."

fin