Disclaimer is the same as in Chapter One.

Author's Note located at the end.

On the Beach—Chapter Eight : Comings and Goings, Part Two

Alone at her place of study Enaiowen viewed the culmination of so many years of waiting. She watched the reunion feeling very much like an intruder. He had allowed her to wait with him in this quiet place of beauty for so long she almost could not imagine that it would ever come to an end. No need to wait any more. She wanted to be happy for him and in a profound way she truly was. He had found a joy he had denied himself. To watch them together at last was like looking into the sun. Their brilliance hurt her eyes. She felt unworthy.

He could be healed at last but not by her.

Why had he let her wait with him? No one else sat with him on the beach. Only her. He saw something special within her that she couldn't see. He taught her more than of beasts and spirits. He taught her of herself, the value of peace and what it felt to be cherished. With him she no longer felt the crushing pressure of her destiny.

Time and fate had caught up with them both. He had what he had long desired. She sighed deeply and began to turn away. It was right for her to leave. She had served her purpose to him. He no longer needed distraction. Her continued presence would merely interfere and the sadness of yet another good-bye would mar the perfection of his reunion.

She no longer belonged on the beach. She turned her back to the sea. A letter would have to suffice.

But she had not moved quickly enough. The wind carried her name over the sound of the waves. She had not escaped her teacher's detection. She looked over her shoulder to see him running through the sand to reach her. He pulled Sam behind him. The two had found it difficult to part from one another.

Frodo wore a smile of undeniable joy as he caught up to her. Enaiowen tried her best to reflect his happiness no matter how pale her rendering might be. "Enai, this is Samwise," he beamed.

Sam looked to her with awe. He couldn't help but think of the other great elven ladies he had known. Arwen personified the night, Galadrial the dawn. Enaiowen must be the sunset. She looked no less important. Her reddish hair shined in the sunlight with all the colors of the autumn trees. To his great amazement she bowed low to him. "It is a great and timely pleasure to finally meet you," she said with respect. She looked to him with a radiant smile that he found hard to believe was aimed at him. "Your master has waited long and patiently. I do hope that you did not hurry." Her voice sang with the warm affection of someone who had known him for years.

His cheek flushed with red as he returned her bow. "No, ma'am," he replied earnestly. "I came when I was ready." He felt at a disadvantage. He knew nothing of her, save her great beauty but his master edged closer to her with a familiarity borne out of years of close friendship.

Her smile endured. "That is the best time for any change," she stated. She straightened to her full height. She was small for an elf but to him she still appeared tall and graceful, dressed in the majestic manner any great elven lady should be.

Sam felt Frodo's hold on him weaken until he finally let go. He turned to see his master's smile fade. Frodo's eyes focused on the elf as a frown creased his brow.

"You're leaving, aren't you?" Frodo accused her quietly. He saw at once her cloak, her braids, her crest. He understood their meaning. Her lessons had ended. She looked more beautiful than he had ever seen her and terrible at the same time.

Enaiowen's smile vanished. She turned away with shame knowing that she would cause distress. "Yes," she said softly.

"Where are you off to?" Sam asked her innocently. He could sense a growing unease between the two that he did not understand. He did not expect explanations to be forthcoming.

"I have been appointed Vice-Warden to the outer coast of the Western Continent in the New World," she replied, saying her title aloud for the first time. She did not face them. Her eyes stared far away.

"Will it be an adventure?" Sam asked. Enaiowen could not help but meet his eyes. The kindness of his voice translated to her the years of devotion. The memory of a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. "It's been ages since I had an adventure but I've had enough of them sure enough," he continued. He laid a hand on Frodo's shoulder hoping to draw him out. "Wouldn't you agree, Mr. Frodo?"

Frodo did not answer. He only looked at Enaiowen sadly.

"I don't know if it will be an adventure, Mr. Samwise but it is my duty," she answered him. She wished that she had escaped and slipped away unseen. Her teacher stared at her hopelessly and her heart ached at her bad timing. She had no words to comfort him or herself. Sam's presence and his simple questions provided them their only solace.

"When will you be coming back?" Sam asked. He truly did not understand the gravity of this parting. His mind had been filled with the idea that the Blessed Realm held no sad stories, no good-byes. What reason could anyone have to leave such a wondrous place?

"Will you be back?" Frodo asked. He spoke to her voicing the only hope he had left. In his eyes, Sam saw the truth. His hope was lost. He was saying good-bye. He understood his master's pain. He held that same look in his eyes in the Gray Havens a lifetime ago.

Enaiowen looked down and said in a small voice, "I don't know." Wardens weren't supposed to come back. She was to make her life in the New World now. Her father had been special. He had the unique task of being her guardian. She could not expect any special arrangement. "That depends on too many things that I cannot see from here," was all she could offer him. She tensed, trying to summon her resolve. Time was slipping away. Soon they would call for her. She did not have the luxury for a long good-bye. "I have been prepared for this step as far back in my life as I can recall."

Frodo stiffened and swallowed hard. Something in her last statement chilled him. "You're ready then?" he asked.

She would not look at him. Even to venture a glance would shatter her. "I didn't say that," she replied.

Frodo reached for her hand. Her fingers felt like ice. "I'm not ready," he told her.

With those simple words he had brought Enaiowen to her knees. They cut through her. Her resolve was once again lost. Their parting had been meant for a time far in their future. Not now. Not on this happy day. She still felt the need for his lessons, for the things he taught her that were not in books. Nothing in their lives or in their days on the beach had prepared them for this. Its coming had seemed like a bad dream that they could banish from their minds upon waking. "We both knew this day was coming," she said resignedly. "Just as we knew that Master Samwise would one day come. Now he is here."

"And you are going," Frodo said as they leaned against one another. "Is it selfish of me to want both of you here?" he asked.

"No," she sighed, "just impossible. I don't want to leave but I have to. You know that. My path has been set." She choked her last statement in a sob. The tears had built within her and they released themselves without her knowing. Even as they spilled down her face she could not wipe them away. "I wanted so badly to be grown about this. I wanted to make you proud but now here I am weeping like a child," she cried shamefully. "I'm sorry."

He held her face in his hands and gently wiped her tears away with his fingertips. He had shed none of his own but his eyes held no less sorrow. " The absence of your tears would not have eased the pain of your leaving," he said quietly.

She fell against him suddenly, hiding her face in his chest. Somehow he had felt it and did not stumble to catch her. Somehow he knew. He wrapped his arms around her and lowered his head to hers. "Nor has it given me any strength," she said, her words muffled against him. "I have accumulated all this knowledge and I possess so many skills." She lifted her head to face him. "It's all supposed to make me this formidable paladin but yet my heart is breaking and I haven't the strength to move."

"You shall have what I can give you," Frodo whispered. If her strength should fail he'd will to her his own. If her heart should break…

"We could wait for you," Sam offered in his small voice. He had watched the sad exchange feeling that somehow, irrationally he had been the cause. In all the years they had been apart he had not wondered of the friendships Frodo would forge. He had only hoped for his happiness. This elf must be very dear to him. How cruel that she must leave now. Did the divine powers perceive his master's loss and bring his Sam to comfort him?

Enaiowen turned her tear-streaked face to him. For a moment she pictured the two hobbits sitting on the beach waiting for her. It seemed wrong, an act of devotion too grand for her worth. She shook her head. "No, I can't ask that," she said.

"Why not?" Frodo protested.

"To wait for me is to put your lives on hold. You have already done that for far too long." Enaiowen reached her hand out to Sam, to pull him back to his master's side, to where he belonged. "You are together now," she declared. "It is time for you to live. Don't wait for me."

Frodo would not hear her. His waiting could not make her come back but it gave him hope. In the distance he heard pounding hooves approaching. Someone coming to take her away. His hands clutched at her cloak. He would not let her go. "You are a part of my life, Enai. To lose you now would be losing a part of myself."

Sam had heard the approach as well. He understood immediately its meaning. He stepped around to protect the two. He would do all that he was able to prevent their parting even if it was just to buy them time.

Enaiowen held just as tightly. She shook with desperation. Her eyes wide with sudden fear she pleaded to Frodo, "Ask me to stay." If you ask me to stay I will defy them.

Frodo froze. He had not expected her request and did not fathom the entirety of its meaning for him. Her staying was a larger unknown than her leaving, filled with a hope for which he could not dare to reach. An image passed in his mind's eye, one that made his chest tighten. Echoes of laughter. He knew what it meant. The old weakness threatened to return. For a reason he could not explain, he became afraid. Imperceptively, he shook his head.

She sensed his hesitation and nodded. "I know," she said, forcing a weak smile. She wiped her tears with the back of her hand and pulled herself to her feet. "I don't know if I could have truly done it either."

"For a moment," Frodo admitted sadly speaking of a promise he knew he had lost.

She nodded again. "I know. For a moment," she repeated.

The horse and its rider came within view. It was Gandalf on his beloved Shadowfax. He had provided her time by offering to collect her himself. Sam ran ahead to meet him, to hold him off if need be.

With her hand still in his, Frodo pulled Enaiowen towards him for one last embrace. "I have no words to say for this," he said to her softly. "I cannot say good-bye."

She kissed his cheek and whispered close to his ear, "So we shall say nothing more."

She straightened and took her first steps away from him. Their hands remained together until only their fingertips touched and then they parted as well. She did not look back but he would watch her until she disappeared out of sight.

As she passed, she placed her hand upon Sam's shoulder. She paused at his side. "I'm sorry, Sam," she said.

Sam looked up at her with a frown, "For what, ma'am?" he asked.

"I'm afraid I've quite ruined your day," she said. For a moment, his vision of her slipped. She no longer seemed the regal lady whose mere presence demanded respect. Beside him stood a simple girl in clothing that seemed too big for her. She was Frodo's friend and her leaving would hurt them both. He had only been in her presence for a handful of moments and he already felt the loss.

But being the hobbit he was, he knew that hope still lived. He shook his head and smiled slightly. "Nonsense," he said, "It can't be ruined. It's not over yet."

Enaiowen smiled and leaned down to kiss him on the forehead. This time he did not blush. He watched as she climbed astride Shadowfax behind Gandalf. Without a word, the wizard reined the horse around and at the slightest encouragement the beast carried them away.

With Sam by his side, Frodo found his way back to his home. He felt very old as if years had come and gone since he parted with Enaiowen on the beach, but less than an hour had passed. They had walked in silence with Sam's comforting arm around Frodo's shoulders.

Sam watched him with concern. His master's mind seemed very far away.

Frodo opened the door but he stopped, unable to cross the threshold. Sam peered inside. The interior reminded him of the days when Frodo lived with him in Bag End. Books and papers laid about in various stages of work. Notes in the margins of open pages. Diagrams and charts painstakingly drawn out. All of it sat waiting in this sunlit cheery room awaiting the view of eager eyes ready to learn.

Sam gently pulled him in. "Come in, Mr. Frodo," he said.

"She's lost to me now," Frodo said quietly from what seemed to be a great distance.

Sam shut the door as Frodo sank into his chair by the fireplace. "I don't think so. She'll come back. You'll see." His tone was not cheerful and reassuring. He spoke as one with much experience. His youthful face belied the greatness of his years.

"That may be, Sam," Frodo replied, "but duty changes a soul. It changed me."

Sam stood before him. He looked closely at his master to see if could find what the years had done to him. "Not so, Mr. Frodo," he said gently. "At least, not completely." He crouched before him to place himself within Frodo's view. The sad hobbit could not help but face him. "It's still there, the hobbit you were before. He didn't go away. I still see him in your eyes when you smile. He's just a little lost behind all that your life has placed on you. She'll be a little lost too when she comes back."

Frodo nodded weakly. He had nothing else to say as his thoughts consumed him. All these years together he never guessed the true origin of his dreams but now he knew. They began and ended with her. Without her even the memory of them would fade.

Sam got back to his feet and left him in search of a kettle for tea.

What change would come over Enaiowen in the New World? She could face its monsters with strength and steel but what of its people, a people shaped by the darkness which housed demons? This darkness would shape her as well. What of the prophecies which dictated her childhood? Would she avoid them in this haunted, dismal world? Or would fate find a way to bring them to her? Frodo stared into the quiet fireplace as question after question assailed him. The answers were effectively out of his control. He could protect her no longer.

Sam slipped up to him silently and placed a cup of tea in his hand. He accepted the cup with a weak smile but did not drink. Sam seated himself on a nearby stool next to the desk. After a long silence, Frodo said, "I should have asked her to stay."

Sam stared at his own tea contemplatively. "Would you have stayed if I had asked you?" he asked quietly.

Frodo looked to him, startled. "Sam?" he asked with sudden concern. The reflection of their own parting had not occurred to him. In Sam's patient manner he revealed he was not just an observer. He had relived his own sorrow through his master's.

"She knew she couldn't," Sam explained. "Just like you knew then." He looked up and met Frodo's eyes. A frown pulled the corners of his mouth downward. "I know how it hurts to be left behind."

Frodo rose and reached for Sam's hand. "Oh Sam, I'm so sorry." Only now did he see the pain he had caused.

Sam cupped both his hands around his master's. "Don't trouble yourself about it, Mr. Frodo. That's all passed now," he said reassuringly. He had set his tea next to an open book on the edge of the desk. On the book laid a letter. "For myself, at least," he added.

Frodo placed his hand on Sam's shoulder. "I never meant to hurt you, Sam."

Sam clapped the top of Frodo's hand with his own. "I know you didn't, Mr. Frodo. I know," he said. "I'm sure she didn't want to hurt you either." He released his master's hand and reached for his tea. Instead of picking up his tea, he picked up the letter. "Everybody's got something they have to do in their lives. You did. And now this is something she has to do." He handed Frodo the letter.

Frodo's brow creased with worry as he turned the letter over in his hands. No one needed to identify its creator. What new surprise would be contained on this simple piece of paper? Would it bring him new worries or ease his fears? He returned to his chair and opened the letter.

I cannot say good-bye as I would wish to for if given the choice, I would never have to. I am what you have made me, for good or ill. Please trust that I will do what I must and by God's grace I shall return to you. For you have taught me the true meaning of home, something I shall carry with me to the end of my days.

Your Enai

Frodo closed his eyes and clutched the letter to his breast. The tears came silently this time and at the first sight of them Sam returned to the floor at his master's feet. He laid his hand upon Frodo's knee and Frodo reached out to grasp it.

"Nevermind what she says, Mr. Frodo," Sam said suddenly, his voice full of hope. "We'll wait for her."

Frodo opened his eyes and saw his Sam there to comfort him. In spite of his sadness he began to smile. The beach called to him with renewed purpose. Waiting did not delay his life. It gave it new meaning. That was where the healing took place. "Thank you, Sam."

The end…

Author's note: I know that for some of you this was not the ending that you were hoping for. This was, however, the ending I had intended from the start. Frodo's happiness was never meant to be a quick fix. With Sam's presence and a couple of revelations, he is at least a little closer.( I do plan on doing a couple of follow-up stories, time permitting (starting with one called "William"). I also have a prequel story playing in my head detailing the omen surrounding Enai's birth ("Choice of Blood or Fire"). The story that has taken the forefront, however, has nothing to do with my melancholy elf. If I get so inspired, I'll put it to paper. It will be an AU story where Frodo actually kept the ring. It will be like nothing you have ever read. Be on the look out. It will be called, "Hostile Takeover".

If you read "Buffy: the Vampire Slayer" stories, I highly recommend mine (shameless plug!!). I do plan on continuing "Blessed".

Thank you so much for all of your encouragement. Thank you for your concern with my kids' health. Thank you, October, for your correction. I fixed it. I look forward to reading work from all of you and hope that I continue to entertain you.