Disclaimer: Yeah, yeah, not mine, J.R.R. Tolkien's. Ooh, and how obvious is it that I describe Elijah Wood as the younger Frodo? I'm a sucker.

Author's Note: Yea! More Frodo-and-Sam hobbit-angst. I had the idea about Sam going west a long time ago, and the story was just a vignette: the first and last sections, all from Frodo's standpoint. Then TALEWG, my content beta-reader, informed me that hobbits do, in fact, get old in the West, so I realized that she was right, as usual (she did read Lord of the Rings long before I did and has reread it many more times) and I felt dumb and let the story sit awhile. Then I added the middle part because I wanted Sam's perspective and I had the idea about the letters, changing what TALEWG had told me was inaccurate. There's another reason I'm a sucker – I was writing Frodo's letter to Sam and listening to "The Breaking of the Fellowship" on the soundtrack and I read Frodo's speech to Sam in the chapter of The Return of the King "The Grey Havens" for reference. Bad move. What with the music and the most moving passage in all of Tolkien's text, I dissolved into tears. Anyway, the title of this story is a reference to something said in the timeline of "Later Events Concerning Members of the Fellowship of the Ring" in Appendix B of The Return of the King.

Although it is not necessary, this story can be seen as a follow-up to my vignette "Remember Me" about when Frodo sails to Valinor. You can read that, if you want, then come back to this…or read this, then do that for background…or ignore that altogether.

Last of the Ring-bearers

Frodo had been gazing east expectantly for several hours; since dawn, in fact, when Gandalf informed him offhandedly that Sam was finally joining them in the western lands, the last of the Ring-bearers to leave Middle-earth for Eressëa. Frodo had been overjoyed to hear this – until he thought to ask why Sam was coming. Rosie was dead. Frodo wiped his eyes; the ocean winds were strong, cold, and salty, and they were blowing the sand at his feet about in the air. Poor Sam must be heartbroken. His dear wife had been his love, the light of his life, his solace in the years when he had to be whole. Even his many children, it seemed, could not comfort him in the absence both of his spouse and his best friend of old, if his soul was too wounded to ever find healing again in the Shire.

Frodo thought about what to say to his friend. He wanted to ask how beautifully Elanor, sweet golden-haired Elanor, had grown up; he wanted to ask if Frodo-lad had come, if he was anxious for adventure or if he still loved the peace and rustic beauty of the Shire. Frodo wanted to know all about the exploits of Merry and Pippin, if they still flaunted the armor of the City and the Mark, still rode on the quaint little roads of the Shire singing songs of the far-off lands they had seen. Had they gone back to Rohan and Minas Tirith? Had they any children? How fared Strider, Legolas, and Gimli? It had been so long since Frodo had last seen Sam that he had no idea what his friend would look like, touched by the brush of age.

He squinted into the east against the sea breezes so intently that he did not hear light Elven footsteps behind him until a melodious voice said, "You still miss him – even here, where the soul may know no pain."

Startled, Frodo turned around to see nothing but a white skirt, until the tall figure knelt and Celebrían's gently concerned face became level with his.

"How did you know?" Frodo inquired.

Celebrían's kind smile was somewhat veiled as she responded, "Though here I came to find healing, still I longed for my husband, my parents, and my children whom I had left behind. And even now do I yearn for my daughter Arwen – her I may never see again. Even the most complete of cures leaves a scar, Frodo, as well you know; if we could entirely forget our wounds and what we have left behind, retreating into oblivion, we would lose ourselves, lose our souls."

"Yes; well, I know my soul is there every time it aches, anxious for Sam's arrival. But I have been happy for years here, where my older wounds have had the chance to heal so that they do not pain me anymore."

"One hurt for another?" Celebrían said, her half-sad laugh clear and sweet as birdsong. "So it always must be." She sighed. "The scars of wounds never leave, even after they are long healed." The Elf placed a gentle hand on Frodo's shoulder…his left shoulder. He craned his head around again to look at her. Her hand looked aged; her knuckles showed signs of old breaks – but it was only a trick of Frodo's eyes, it seemed, for the Elf lady's lily-white fingers were as slender and graceful as ever. "Whether they pain us any longer is up to us – and the West helps."

Frodo smiled gratefully. He sighed and turned back around to scan the waters for signs of a ship. "It's well that I haven't forgotten Sam. But I don't think I could, even if I'd tried to forget all that I left behind. I owe him my life…I owe him everything."

Frodo didn't feel when Celebrían's hand left his shoulder and he was alone, gazing at the endless gray waters and listening to the spirited cries of the gulls, tiny specks wheeling freely in the sky.

~~~~~~~~~

It had been so long…sixty-one years to the day since that ship departed in the gloom of evening, and a flash of light blurred by their tears vanishing into the endless distance of the sea had been the last Sam, Merry, and Pippin saw of Frodo. Sam had kept his promise and remained whole all that time. His children had grown up, the Shire had bloomed and flourished, hobbit kind lived in peace with the kingdom outside. But now Rosie was dead. It had been a peaceful death of ripe old age, Sam was thankful to acknowledge, but still painful to him, for he had loved her for so long and their lives had been complete and happy together. There were two people whom Sam loved above all on the earth; when one of them had been gone, the other had provided ample comfort and joy, but Sam could not live without both. He had found that the old wounds inflicted by his separation from his dearest friend, with whom the most soul-trying time of his life had been spent, had not truly healed and closed and gone away, but had only lost the edge of their pain with time. And so it was that the last of the Ring-bearers – however short the time had been that Sam had carried the Ring of Power – rode from his too-empty home on September 22, 1482 of the Shire Reckoning. He left the keeping of the annals of bittersweet memory to Elanor his daughter, and followed his own memories to the shore of the sea, where that last flash of light had disappeared over the darkened waters so long ago.

Ship by ship, the Elven kind left Middle-earth for the lands of light in the West that were promised as their home. Sam went with them, a small, silently accepted stranger among the tall, beautiful, melancholy figures of light who belonged in the West. Ethereal, divine song enveloped Sam's waking hours on the ship and crept into his dreams, lending peace and beauty to his darkest haunting memories of trials and suffering in Mordor, memories that had never left him through all his happy and contented years in the Shire. Elbereth Gilthoniel! the Elves cried their praise; Snow-white Queen of Starlight! To you we return at last; hearken to our joyful song! Sam could not help but be pierced by the poignant sweetness of these heavenly beings' rejoicing. It would be his rejoicing, too. To you I return at last, Mr. Frodo, dearest friend, companion in our darkest hour. To you I return to be healed of my sorrow.

With him, Sam had taken only three pieces of parchment: the three letters that Frodo had left in secret for Sam to find after his master's departure, after he had found out that from this visit to the Elves, Frodo would not return.

Trying to renew faded memories of Frodo, of whom only fragmented images remained in Sam's mind, Sam unfolded the first – the letter for Elanor. She had been but a year and a half old when Frodo had left, never to return. She had grown up since to marry and bear children of her own. Only recently, when Sam had left to Elanor the Red Book in which both Bilbo and Frodo had documented their adventures, she had given him a copy of the letter Frodo had left her – the writing was in Elanor's hand, not Frodo's.

I do not know if it is right that the book should be given into my keeping,

a note from Elanor at the top of the page read,

for my only memories of Mr. Baggins are vague and half-formed, only given any shape by this letter, which I admit to rereading often so, for your sake, I do not forget what few memories I have. But I will take good care of the book as you have requested, Father, and have copied below the letter left for me by Mr. Baggins, also at your request.

– Elanor

My dear Elanor,

I doubt that years from now, when you are old enough to learn your letters and read this on your own, I will be anything but a hazy image lost in the innermost recesses of your earliest memories, if that. I hope that some recollection will remain of the friendly, somewhat reclusive old hobbit who lived with your family in Bag End for a few years. If not, I will supply you with the main details: I had very dark brown hair, streaked with a bit of premature gray; my eyes were blue; my skin was pale, my face weathered; and I loved your father very much, for he and I marched through hell together and I came out alive to tell about it because he was with me. Just as importantly, I loved you, because you were like the sweet, beautiful daughter I never had; but I never wanted a child of my own, because you were more than I ever could have asked for.

Even if you do not remember me, for when you knew me you were surely too young to form many distinct memories, I will always remember you along with your mother and father, for you are all very dear to me. I will count being in and shaping your life for these few short years among the highest of the blessings I was granted in Middle-earth, blessings that are diminished not at all by my departure to the West.

With the greatest affection,

Frodo Baggins

P.S. Try not to torment your younger siblings to excess, though I would be intrigued to hear what colorful and delightful variations can be made on my name for the purpose of teasing, should it be shared by one of your brothers.

Chuckling fondly at this lighthearted postscript and at Frodo's earlier verbal self-portrait, both of which he could almost hear his old friend's voice speaking with a humorous lilt, Sam tucked the first sheet of parchment behind the other two. He turned his glance to the next epistle he held, the letter to Rosie. A pang of grief stabbed at his heart and a lump rose in his throat remembering her, for the pain of her loss was still fresh. By Frodo's neat, graceful, even handwriting were other half-painful memories evoked.

Dearest Rose,

the letter read;

You and I have not known each other well for very long – certainly not as long as Sam and I have been close friends. Yet I feel that I must offer a fond farewell to you as well, as a housemate and surely also as a friend.

When you and Sam were debating moving your entire future family to Bag End, Sam expressed concern to me that you would be intruding on my privacy and imposing upon my hospitality. I must assure you now, and foreclose all lingering doubt by asserting, that you were nothing but a pleasure and joy to share my home with; you and Elanor have become very dear to me, and my memories of you after I have gone into the West will only be fond and happy. I admit (with some laughter, should I be speaking to you) that I often felt the intruder and wish I could have been more helpful and less worrisome to you. I extend my warmest, profuse thanks for your understanding and care during my frequent and peculiar illnesses – then, I felt the most like a burden on you during the work that occupied most of your time and industrious effort, the most important labor of all: the work of raising a family.

May all your children be as sweet and beautiful as the golden mallorn that crowns the hills in which they will spend their childhood days; it matters not to me whether they are as numerous as the mallorn blossoms or if Elanor is the first and the last, for she alone is all the sunshine I need to light my blessed memories of home, or any hobbit could need to turn all his days golden. Sam told me when Elanor was born that should the child have been a son, my name would have been his; I would be more than honored if any son of yours should bear my name.

Take care of Sam, for he will surely grieve for some time after I have gone. He is dearer to me than any other being on all the earth – but I believe you already know. You need to do no more than you have all along to fill his years with joy and love. He will heal, and your care will always be a salve for his every woe, for he loves you, Rose, as deeply as any person has ever loved another.

Yours in truth, sincerity, and love,

Frodo Baggins

Sam put his hand over his eyes for a moment to control the tears that threatened to spill from them. Rosie had kept the letter safely tucked in her personal drawer for all these years, and Sam, going through her belongings to divide them as Rosie had requested between their daughters Elanor and Goldilocks, had found it. He had not read it since then, until now. His near, sharply defined memories of Rosie burned like a fire behind his eyes; truly, her love had sustained him through all these years, as Frodo had known it would.

Through the fresh memory and grief that cut like cold steel, older, vaguer memories began to emerge: memories of a different sort of love and loyalty that drove him to endure a land of shadow and face the fires of doom. 'He is dearer to me than any other being on all the earth,' Frodo had written, 'but I believe you already know'…

Dashing tears from his eyes, Sam put this letter behind the other two he held to peruse the last: the one addressed to him. Sam, too, had reread his letter many times, but only in the few years after Frodo's departure. Perhaps in an effort to put memories – painful, beautiful, and bittersweet – behind him, he had kept it in a drawer among papers he never touched. He had not wanted to dwell on memories of Frodo, for the wounds of all farewells will lose their ache in time if simply left to close and scar.

But Sam read the letter again now, deliberately reopening old wounds that they might be truly healed when the absence that caused them was filled.

Sam, closest and truest of friends,

began the last and shortest letter;

What have I left to say that I have not already said? What words to ease our parting are left? What tears have we not already shed? In little time, I assure you, you will come to terms with the fact that we may never see each other again…though I pray my heart does not deceive itself when it whispers to me that this is not a final goodbye. Perhaps this is because no farewell is forever when memories remain. Oh, Elbereth, I'm getting the paper wet and sounding ridiculously sentimental. You understand why I must go – I am no longer the hobbit I once was, and never again will be. But if not for you, I surely would have perished from despair alone – you, Sam, sustained me; and you, also, bore the Ring to Mount Doom; and you will be whole and happy in the years to come.

My love and my thanks,

Frodo

Sam allowed a few tears to trickle down his cheeks, but then wiped them away and smiled. He had lived a full, happy life and was completing it in the West, a land of peace and healing. Reclining on his below-deck bunk, Sam slipped into a peaceful sleep, rocked by the ship's motion on the starlit waves and lulled by the impossibly beautiful hymns of the Eldar who also made their way home.

~~~~~~~~~

The crimson setting of the sun and the purple-dusk rising of the moon found Frodo still watching the sea, his back to the beautiful sights of the coming of night. His anticipation was so great that he could barely eat supper. The years apart from his friends in the Shire had seemed short, peaceful, and carefree in passing, but Frodo more acutely felt the time as he waited on the beach.

Yet darkness had fallen and the gray sky was starting to show bright patches of sparkling white stars, and the head of the solitary hobbit sitting in the cool sand began to droop with the approach of night. He was almost asleep when he thought he felt someone touch his shoulder. Startled, Frodo roused himself and looked about. Seeing no one there, he focused his bleary-eyed attention once more on the ocean – and the silhouette of a ship was in view.

Suddenly no longer weary, Frodo stood up quickly. He considered running to tell Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond, Gildor, Celebrían, and everyone that Sam was here, but he didn't want to leave the shore for an instant. He was eager to hear about all of Sam's children; affairs in the Shire; all the members of the Fellowship, his endearing, with any luck no-longer-clueless younger cousins Merry and Pippin especially. He was more eager than he had known for years to see Sam, his best friend, without whom he surely would have been lost in the darkest of hours.

Slowly, its progress interminable, the gray ship drifted close to shore; its anchor was dropped, its gangplank extended as Frodo watched. Elven passengers debarked as Frodo waited impatiently. Finally, a small figure with curly, age-grayed hair; shaky legs; and bare, grizzled, furry feet appeared on the gangplank. Frodo rushed forward, and Sam caught sight of him and smiled, a sad, tearful, but at the same time joyful smile. The aged hobbit ran a little awkwardly to meet his friend, who – though in the West, not quite ageless – also was much grayer than he had been when he had left, but was unmistakable.

As he greeted Sam, reunited for the first time in over fifty years, all Frodo's burning questions about the place that was once home vanished from his mind. Sam's tears for Rosie, for the lost days of their youth, for the years they had lost, made questions seem trivial. Though given wisdom with the wrinkles of his years, Sam ran into his old master's arms for comfort as though he were many years younger.

And though he had many, many things to ask and many things to say, Frodo's throat closed and words would not come. Frodo embraced his dear Sam as the old hobbit's tears wet his shirt and hair. Words of comfort or reason were pointless. Tears of his own trickling from closed eyes, Frodo simply held his friend and let tears say everything that needed to be said of joy or grief, pain or love.

The best friends were together again, and would stay and heal together in the Undying Lands, until they passed to the very farthest West with the sleep granted only to mortals at the end of the day. And that was all that mattered.

Author's Note: If you have not read "Remember Me," I really do recommend it, as well as "'Samwise Gamgee and the Ring,'" "Drowning Alone," "Though I Do Not Know the Way" (my personal favorite, though it has very few reviews), and "Pity" for fans of my hobbit-angst. *cheesy advertising grin*