Title: Home
Author: Arien
Publish Date: February 28, 2002
Rating: PG, for dark atmosphere.
Canon: Book
Synopsis: Frodo tries to hide his illness from Rosie and Sam, but they care about him too much not to notice.
Archive: Welcome, but please contact me first.
Disclaimer: J. R. R. Tolkien drew the lines, I'm coloring them in. I'm honored to do it for such a talented artist.

Author's Notes: This story takes place on March 13, 1421, shortly before the birth of Elanor Gamgee. Frodo's dreams are taken form a poem by J.R.R. Tolkien called "The Sea-Bell", which was dedicated to Frodo and was said to describe the dreams that haunted him while he was ill. It's one of my favorite poems.

Also, I was getting a bit sick of fic authors portraying Sam and Rose as an unloving couple. I've always held the belief that Sam loved both Rose and Frodo. He had room in such a big heart for the both of them. :)

It was the same dream he always had on these days, the one that plagued him with questions he couldn't answer. As he woke, the last bit of it clung to his mind. He'd been wandering some city street, yelling out to the people passing by to talk to him, but it was as if he were invisible. No one saw him, no one heard his cries.

Full consciousness came to him, and with it came the pain. It seared his side and shoulder, an icy feeling that managed to burn painfully at the same time. It hurt to breathe. He'd gone to bed last night hoping that it would not return, but it had.

Frodo moaned softly, trying not to move in hope that the pain would lessen. It still crashed through him in aching waves, like he was swimming in a sea of glass shards that cut him deeply. The thought of getting up and moving was too much to bear. All he wanted was rest, just to lie in bed and let the day pass. Sam would come in and find him later, most likely...

Like a slap, it came back to his mind. Rosie was about to give birth, and Sam was worried enough about her as it was. If Sam knew Frodo was ill, it would just cause him more distress. Sam had enough already to worry about.

Frodo felt so weak, but he had to get up. "Mustn't worry Sam," he whispered, his words slurring.

He pulled himself out of bed, slowly. Getting up made him dizzy. It was difficult for him to see clearly and he leaned on the furniture for support, stumbling around the room as if he were blind. The familiar decor of Bag End was hidden in the grey mist that obscured his vision. He dressed himself somehow, though his hands were shaking as he fastened the buttons on his waistcoat and it was hard to move his left hand. Did his clothes even match? Everything around him was grey and it was hard to discern colors.

He walked out of his room, carefully placing one foot in front of the other. He used his good right hand to try and guide himself through the hallway, as if he were stumbling to the kitchen early in the morning before the Sun had risen. He paused in front of the door he was looking for, trying to gain some composure. He took a deep breath, but his side stung and he nearly doubled over in pain. He put his right hand on the wall to steady himself, breathing slowly, trying to calm his racing heart.

After a few moments, he felt better and opening the door, walked in to Sam and Rosie's room. Rosie, hugely pregnant, was sitting in bed, knitting something for the child. "Good morning, Rose," he said, trying to make himself sound cheerful.

"Good morning, Mr. Frodo," she said, most of her concentration on her knitting. "Sam's gone off to the market, but he should be back this afternoon." She turned around to look at him, and her eyes, before content, widened with concern. Frodo did not look well at all, more like he was nearly ready to fall on the floor. "Mr. Frodo? Are you well? You look pale this morning."

"No, I'm fine, thank you." He sat down at the edge of her bed, grateful to be off his feet for a few moments. "How are you?"

She patted her stomach. "He's been moving around a lot this morning. I think he's getting restless, wanting to get out." She laughed. "In a sense, I wish he would already! My back is killing me!" Frodo smiled slightly. "Is there anything I can get for you, Rose?" he asked, hoping that she would say no. It took all his will to try and stay upright and keep his voice and hands from shaking.

Rosie looked deep into his eyes. It lasted only a moment, but she knew. He was trying to hide being sick, not wanting to worry them. "No, thank you, Mr. Frodo," she said, playing along. "I'm going to finish my knitting. You go ahead and do your studying." She patted the hand he had placed on the coverlet to steady himself.

"Just call me if you need anything, Rose," he said, standing up. He swayed slightly, but smiled at her, hoping that she wouldn't notice.

"I will, Mr. Frodo. Thank you." He nodded and went out, leaving the door open behind him.

Rosie wanted badly to run after him, to see why he was so ill, maybe tend to him if she could. Mr. Frodo was such a kind person, he deserved to be taken care of. Her midwife had ordered her to stay in bed, though, and Sam would be upset if he found out she had gotten up. "I must talk to Sam about it when he returns," she said aloud. She clasped her knitting in her hands, but did not return to it. "He's trying to hide it from us, poor thing. He doesn't want to worry Sam, most likely."

She remembered the day last spring when Frodo had not come down for breakfast and her father had gone upstairs to check on him. Farmer Cotton had come down, white as holiday linen, telling Rosie and her mother that Frodo had taken ill. "I don't know what's wrong with him, but he looks like a living ghost," he had said. Rosie and her mother had run upstairs, anxious to see what they could do to help him.

He'd been laying on his bed, clutching a white gemstone on a chain he always wore. He was shivering, sweating, and whispering strange things they could not make out. They had stood over him, touching his clammy skin and calling his name, but he didn't seem to hear them. "I've never seen a fever like this before," her mother had said. "Mayhap he's taken ill from all that travelling he's been doing? It might be some strange illness from foreign parts."

"Should we fetch a healer?" Rosie had asked. Frodo had moaned in protest. "N-no healer," he said, his voice trembling. "It w-will pass."

"Mr. Frodo, you look very ill. Isn't there anything we can do to help you?" asked Farmer Cotton, looking very concerned.

"No," Frodo whispered, falling into his dream again. "It is gone forever."

They stayed with him all that day and deep into the night, wrapping the blankets closer around him when he shivered. He moaned, weeping at times, talking about shadows and strange creatures in a faraway voice. He called out for Sam a few times, and Rosie's heart ached. "I don't care what he says, he needs to be looked at!" Her parents had shushed her. "Rose dear, let him be. He said he didn't want anyone to see him."

Late that night, his fever had broken and he had fallen into a deep sleep, his breathing easy. When he woke the next morning, he was all but cured, much to the amazement of the Cottons. When Sam returned to Hobbiton later that month, Mr. Frodo's mysterious illness had been forgotten.

It had happened again, last fall, during the early months of Rosie's pregnancy. She had been preparing dinner and asked Sam to call Mr. Frodo, who had been in his study most of the day, to dinner. Sam left, then rushed back in to the kitchen in a panic. "Mr. Frodo is very sick. Help me, Rose."

They ran back into the study. Frodo sat at his desk, piles of papers in front of him. He was shivering and looked very pale, and his eyes were closed. Sam wrapped a blanket around him, kneeling in front of him, stroking the side of Frodo's face with love and concern. "Mr. Frodo, wake up. Please wake up." Slowly, Frodo opened his eyes and turned his head to Sam, recognizing him. "It's your wound again, isn't it?" Frodo had nodded, his eyes looking clouded. The very action seemed to exhaust him.

Sam and Rosie had debated what to do. "Let me fetch a healer," she had insisted. "It isn't right to just let him be sick like this."

"T-there's nothing that can be done," Frodo had said quietly, his voice breathless and full of despair. "I am so cold. Please, Sam, put me in front of the fire."

They'd managed to get him up and make him walk to the sitting room. Frodo leaned heavily on Sam, his right arm around his shoulder. Sam put his arm around Frodo's waist, gripping him too tightly at first in his nervousness and making the sick hobbit cry out from the pain in his side. Rosie had started crying and Sam had loosened his grip, whispering a clumsy apology in Frodo's ear. Sam walked with Frodo slowly, helping him keep his balance. "That's it, Mr. Frodo," Sam had said, trying to be soothing, but his voice was husky with unshed tears. "Just keep walking. Rose and I won't let you fall." Rosie walked on Frodo's left side, holding his icy left hand, tears rolling down her face. "It's not right, it's not fair," she had said later when they'd placed Frodo in his favorite chair before the hearth, wrapped in blankets. "What can we do to help him, Sam?"

"Nothing," Sam had answered. Silent tears of pity and fear fell down his face. He stroked Frodo's dark curly hair, which was beginning to tinge with grey. Frodo's eyes were open, but it seemed to them that he could barely see anything around him.

Sam and Rosie sat up with him all that night. She had told Sam about what had happened the year before, while he was away. "I'd plain forgotten about it until tonight, Sam, with everything that was going on," she said. "I am so sorry." Sam had kissed her, telling her that it was okay. "You know Mr. Frodo," he said. "He's never been one to talk about himself." Frodo still sat in front of the fire, but he slept peacefully now with no signs of struggle. In the morning, he woke and was back to normal, if a little tired. His illness had passed.

Walking slowly through the seeming endless hallway, Frodo went into his study, settling down into his chair and putting a blanket around himself for comfort. His shoulder ached and his body felt icy cold, though he was sweating.

He remembered Saruman's last words to him, just before his blood had stained the road in front of Bag End. 'But do not expect me to wish you health and long life. You will have neither. But that is not my doing. I merely fortell.' He hadn't been afraid of that voice and knew that it was only a final trick of a desperate man, but he wondered if Saruman's prophecy was coming true. Was he dying? No matter how many times Frodo had been ill in the last few years, he'd never grown used to it. As hard as he tried to fight it, it still came. He wondered if gradually the weakness would overpower him and he would slip away, too worn out to fight any longer. In times like these, the darkness was almost welcoming, promising an end to the pain...

Frodo forced the thoughts out of his head. They were just trickery of the darkness in his mind. He wrapped his right hand around the chain that Arwen had given him in Gondor. He cleared Saruman's horrible last words from his mind and focused on her, robed in beauty and wisdom and power, sitting by the White Tree. 'In my stead you shall go, Ringbearer, when the time comes, and if you then desire it.'

Arwen's gift to him: a chance to go West, where mortals were forbidden to go. A chance to be healed forever of his pain and sorrow, but also requiring him to leave all that he knew and loved, never being able to return. Back then, in Gondor, it had seemed so remote, but now he realized that she had seen the pain that lay within him, back when it was only a whisper. He thought of Sam and Rose, who had become so dear to him, and Merry and Pippin, and all his friends and companions. He could be healed, but it would mean leaving all of them behind, all the people he loved and who loved him.

He understood at that moment the bitterness of the choice of the Elves, having to leave behind all they had built because the One had been destroyed. Because of him. Now, he was faced with their choice as well -- to live with the sadness and the pain, or to pass away to the West, away from everything he'd ever known.

All he wanted was peace, if he could have it.

His head fell forward and he fell asleep, filled with dark dreams of the Sea and a faraway land where gemstones were mixed in with the white sands on the shore.

Sam arrived home at mid-afternoon, looking in on his wife. "Hullo, Rose!" he said cheerfully, striding into the bedroom. He saw his wife, whose eyes were red-rimmed from crying, and went anxiously to her, taking her hand. "What's wrong? Are you well?"

"I'm fine, Sam," she said, stroking his hand. "It's Mr. Frodo that isn't. He's sick again. He's been in his study all day."

Sam turned around to leave, wanting to run to him, but Rosie firmly grabbed his arm. "No, Sam," she said sternly. "He did not want us to know. He tried to hide it from me this morning, but I knew right away, as soon as I saw him."

"I want to help him," he said, a touch of anger in his voice. "I don't care what he says."

"Yes, you do," Rosie answered. "You've always cared about what he says. He didn't want you to be worried, Sam. He knows that you're worried enough as it is, with me and the baby." She paused. "He didn't want me to be worried, either, poor thing."

Sam sat down on the bed, his face sad, but with a look of fondness in his eyes. "That's Mr. Frodo all right, puttin' others before himself. He's always been that way." He sighed. "I'm the same way, too. A fine pair we make."

Rosie smiled at him, gently. "We all want to help him, Sam. We love him, you most of all. But as you said before, there's nothing we can do for him." She laughed quietly. "Last time, it was me wanting to help him and everyone else saying no. Now I'm the one saying no."

Sam shook his head. "I thought he'd come back from everything and be okay. He deserves his rest. Instead, he can't seem to find it. It's like he's haunted by something. I wish someone could help him, but everyone's tried. They can only heal him for a little while, not for good as he needs." He fell silent, and Rosie did not speak again. After a short while, Sam got off the bed and headed toward the door.

"Sam, no," Rosie protested. "Let him be."

Sam kissed his wife on her cheek gently. "I just want to have a look at him. I won't wake him." He walked out of the room, Rosie's eyes following him.

Sam walked in to the study, being as quiet as he possibly could as to not awake Frodo. The hobbit sat up in his chair, his head resting on his shoulder. He twitched in his sleep, moaning with pain and fear. His right hand was wrapped around Arwen's stone, his left lay twitching around his belly. Sam knelt in front of him, looking long into his face and listening to his breathing. His brow was furrowed and Sam knew he was having a bad dream. Sam longed to touch him, to put his arms around him and try to comfort him in any way he could. No, he could not do that. If Frodo woke and saw Sam in front of him, he'd be even more distressed than he already was.

"I want to go home," Frodo whispered in his dream, sounding like a lost child.

Sam kissed him on his forehead, as gingerly as he could, and then stroked his cheek lovingly. Frodo's skin felt cold and he was sweating. "Mr. Frodo," he whispered. "You are home."

He stood up, still staring at Frodo, lying in his chair lost in his dark dreams. His eyes stung and his chest burned with the tears he kept inside. Sam knew he would break down as soon as he left the room, but he couldn't here, not in front of Frodo. Frodo had wanted so much not to worry him. Sam wrapped the blanket around him closer, but Frodo never noticed his touch. He stood up again, noticing the light that shone through him. Even now, with all that he'd been through, it was still there.

Sam turned around and walked silently out of the room, closing the door behind him. Frodo never heard a thing.