Title: Hope

Category: Angst, POV

Characters: Frodo Sam

Rating: G

Warnings: None

Feedback: Pleeeeeeaaaaaassssseeee????? Trilliah@hotmail.com

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It's almost time.

Gandalf says that the last of the Elven ships will be crossing the sea within a fortnight. I am so torn between apprehension and eagerness that it is a marvel I am still sane.

This is it, Sam: the last chance. If you're not on this one, I'll never see you again.

You'll come, I tell myself, day in and day out. You'll come. You won't forget. Not you. Not my Sam.

Oh, Sam…faithful, loyal Sam…

It's been a long time…over sixty years, I suppose, though in this place time does not exist in the same way it does in the shire. We are far more aware of the passing of the days, the hours…even the minutes…than we are of the years. They slip by, unnoticed, and leave us unchanged. Nay, not just unchanged: I am *younger* than I was the last time you saw me. Or so my body thinks, at any rate. And the worry and fear that I carried for so long has melted away in the light and song and beauty that surround me each day. I am healed, Sam. Only one thing keeps me from being truly happy:

You are not here.

How well I remember the day I left. The look in your eyes when you finally realized what my intentions were still haunts my dreams. The tears, the embraces, the kisses, and then you were lost to me.

But I've held on to hope. 'Your time may come,' I told you, and so I believe. For you, too, bore the great burden, and it has left its mark upon you. Though you had not noticed it when I last saw you, I could see it. There was a look in your eyes, and while your mind was trying to convince you that you were content in the shire, your heart's desire to put Middle Earth behind you was clear to me, even then. And though Rosie and your children will have kept you content for many, many years, the call of the sea cannot be ignored forever.

I suppose I cannot overlook the possibility that you've already died. But my heart tells me that you haven't. I would have known, somehow; I'm sure of it. Because we are too connected, Sam; we are bound in bonds of friendship and love that run deeper than any sea, longer than any distance, and I would have *known.*

I can still feel you, Sam. The years have not left their mark on my memory, either. I can still remember the way you held me, comforted me in the darkness of Mordor; the way you supported me, lifting me up, giving me hope when I was sure all hope had failed. I can still see, too, with perfect clarity, the trust and love in your clear brown eyes, the ready and eager smile on your ever-cheerful face.

I have not forgotten, Sam. But have you?

The years in the shire will have left their mark on you. Time wears on the heart, and memories grow faint. Absence makes the heart grow fonder for a time, perhaps; but that same absence can also make the heart forget. Forget the closeness we shared for so long; forget the times we spent together, and the times we might have had.

Have you forgotten? My heart hopes you have not. My soul aches to see your face again, aches to hear you speak my name, aches to feel your arms around me, holding me close again as you once did. Then I would truly feel at home. And then, at last, I could rest.

Sitting here on the shore, I gaze out over the crystal waves crashing on the sandy white beach, and I wonder if your thoughts ever travel west as mine now travel east. East, over the waters, back to the shire, back inside the comforts of Bag End.

Do you think of me, even now?

Do you remember?

A strange irony: a fortnight may not have seemed like a long time in my youth, when time was precious, but now that time is endless it seems an eternity. Because if you're not on that ship, Sam, then I have to let you go. I have to accept in my heart that you're lost to me forever, and I must finally let hope die.

I don't want to, Sam. More than anything, I want to see your face on that ship when it pulls into the harbor.

I almost laugh as I think of it. Will you know me? I look so like Bilbo now, that he has returned to the prime of his life as well. And will I know you? Have years under Rosie's care made you grow plump and happy in your old age? That curly brown hair that was forever falling into your round face, will it be white and thinned? Or will you, too, have shed the years like excess baggage on your journey across the great seas? Will you look as you did when I last saw you, so vibrant and full of life and love and joy?

I try to hold back my tears, but as I sit here, the pain of the long years without you has finally caught up with me, and through my tears it finds release.

You will come, Sam. I know it. You have to. Because I can't go on any longer without you, Sam. I can't.

You'll come.

I just have to wait a little longer.

* * *

It's almost time.

I've already spoken with Glorfindel. The arrangements are made. Elanor is going to accompany me to the havens tomorrow morning, and then I'm leaving middle earth forever. She is opposed to my going, poor lass; doesn't think I'm well enough. I've been a might tired these past few months, I'll have to admit; but I don't suppose that's too unnatural given I'm nearly 101. Can you believe that, Mr. Frodo? There for a time it was looking as though I wasn't going to even see it past my 40th birthday. But we made it, didn't we?

I have no reason to stay. My children are all grown, even my youngest has come of age. My Rosie is gone; she died not four months ago. We buried her right alongside her brothers and her father; it seems I'm getting to be the only one left around here who remembers the old ways. The only one who remembers *you,* Mr. Frodo.

Not that they don't know. Oh, you're something of a legend around the Shire nowadays, if you'll pardon me for saying so. The children all love to hear the tales of our adventures, and of the great ring. They help me weed my garden, and I tell them of the Lady Galadriel and of Strider and the Riders of Rohan. They help me clean up about Bag End and I tell them of the armies of orcs and the eagles and of old Gandalf. They help me repair my fence and I tell them of Boromir and Faramir, of Legolas Greenleaf and Gimli the Dwarf. Sometimes I tell them of Shelob. That one is still hard for me, Mr. Frodo, as it was quite the darkest time of my life, when I thought you were…but never mind. It turned out all right in the end, didn't it?

It was hard, though; right hard, I'll tell you, when my Rosie passed on. Eighty-nine she was, and a happier maiden you couldn't find in all of the shire. She is sorely missed, not the least by me. Master Merry and Master Pippin have been a great comfort; they came up from Buckland and stayed with me for two weeks, and right glad I was to have them for friends. They left for Buckland only two mornings ago, and I knew it was to be the last time I should see them. They've been wonderful to me, and I shall miss them greatly. I think they suspected I was up to something, for they were nearly as emotional as I was when we said our goodbyes; but perhaps it was them as was up to something. Master Pippin talked quite fondly of returning to Gondor, and Master Merry seemed to agree. So perhaps we're all going out separate ways now, and leaving our beloved shire as you did so long ago.

I'm ready now, though. I didn't understand it when you left; I thought that nowhere on earth could compare to the shire. But I understand it now. The ring has been destroyed these sixty years, and I still remember the feel of it, cold against my neck, and so heavy as to drag my head to the ground, nearly. How you bore it for so long I didn't know and still don't, but why you felt the need to cross the sea I now understand. Because I feel that need, now, too, and with my Rosie gone, the last tether has been cut, and I must sail.

I can't tell you how long I've waited for this day, Frodo. My hands are shaking and I'm as nervous as a school lad. I can't say why; perhaps my old heart is just aching for one last adventure. The last of them all. But it's not only that. I'm scared, too, Mr. Frodo. There, I'm out with it. I'm scared. What if you don't remember me? My heart tells me that's foolish thinking; you were never the type to go forgetting your friends. But you're still as dear to me as you ever were; what if I've faded to just an old memory to you? Someone you once knew, perhaps?

What if I get off that ship, and you don't give me no more than a faint nod and a smile? What if you're not even there to say hello? I've longed for nothing more these long years than to hold you in my arms again, to see your eyes fill with love as they once did when you looked at me, to feel your hand clasp mine…but what if you've forgotten?

What if you've forgotten me?

And what's worse, what if you don't even know me anymore? I'm old, Frodo…and the years have not been exactly kind to me. I reckon I look much like my old Gaffer did, before he passed on. What about you? I can't imagine you ever ageing. You always did have a certain Elvish quality to you. What if you're still young, and I'm now ancient? Will you recoil in disgust at my aged flesh, my feeble voice, my thinned, white hair? You know, I can hardly walk now without my cane. I'm not the same strong young hobbit as you knew, Mr. Frodo.

What will you say?

My heart tells me to hold on to hope. It always has been a trifle stupid about things like that, but as it was hope that finally got us through Mordor, I don't suppose I should go on ignoring it. Still, it's hard.

I'm crying now, Mr. Frodo. Crying for the times we had, crying for the times we lost. Crying for my beloved shire, which I shall never see again. Crying for my children, my home…but mostly, I'm crying because I miss you so terribly, Mr. Frodo. These long years without you near me have not all been intolerable, don't get me wrong…but they have been the longest of my life. They feel as triple the time when you were with me, if you follow me. And now, finally, I'm going to find you again.

You'll still know me. My heart tells me so, and I suppose I should listen, seeing as how my head's never been the best part of me. I'll listen.

*You'll be there,* it says. *I know it.*

*Coming, Mr. Frodo. Coming.*

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