Title: Summer Twilight

Author: Frodo Baggins of Bag End (FrodoAtBagEnd) E-mail: frodoatbagend@yahoo.com

Characters: Frodo, Arwen

Rating: PG to PG-13 (dark, but no profanity, no sex)

Summary: On the night before the departing members of the Fellowship and their company leave Minas Tirith, Arwen and Frodo share serious conversation in the library.

Feedback: Welcomed. Constructive only, please. . .no flaming.

Story Notes: Pure angst-filled stuff written for its own sake. It may be a two-parter, with Arwen's viewpoint in a second "chapter" - but I'm not sure yet. Lots of Frodo h/c in this, though, so if you like that, you'll likely enjoy this. If you don't. . .my apologies; to each her (or his) own taste. :) For quick reference in case you aren't familiar with more than the movie - Celebrian, wife of Elrond, daughter of Celeborn and Galadriel, mother of Arwen and her twin brothers Elladan and Elrohir, was captured by orcs while returning from Lothlorien to Imladris when her party was besieged and scattered. Wounded, she was rescued and was healed in body by her husband, but her spirit was never the same afterward, and the following year she sailed West from the Grey Havens.

DISCLAIMER: The characters, places, and story of The Lord of the Rings are the property of J.R.R. Tolkien and consequently of the Tolkien Estate, with select rights by Tolkien Enterprises. This piece appears purely as fanfiction and is not intended to claim ownership of Tolkien's work in any way. Please e-mail me if you have concerns. Furthermore, please do NOT consider any treatments or remedies within this story safe or effective for use: these are included as fictitious hobbit care, not real human medical practice, and while some can indeed be traced to actual therapeutic practices, could be dangerous. Please consult your health care professional before treating yourself or others for any condition or symptom.

SUMMER TWILIGHT

"You could stay, you know."

Arwen's voice was soft behind me, sweet as ripe strawberries like the ones we'd had that afternoon for tea. She and Aragorn were sufficiently familiar with our customs now to offer seven meals a day, liberally interspersed with plenty of snacks, to "their periannath," as I had once heard us called by a rather awed but confused serving-lass. The others delighted in it.

I had not the appetite.

Not yet, at least.

At least. . .I hoped that was it, though a part of me suspected otherwise.

"I know. Thank you."

"I brought something for you. Come and sit with me for a little; the others will not finish for many hours."

It was true: everyone was downstairs, drinking and talking, and likely would remain there until the early morning hours. We had finished our packing: all that remained was the leave-taking and our morning departure. For this reason, I was surprised to hear Arwen's voice: I had thought that she would be with Elrond. They would not see one another again, and my heart felt a stab at the thought, as if it had been my doing.

Had it not, in a way?

Unable to refuse her, I turned, following her dutifully to the large windowseat, abandoning the smallest window of the library, where she had found me. She set a tray between us, gesturing gently for me to inspect the dishes and begin as she curled her feet beneath the full skirts, a habit of hers to which I was well accustomed by now.

Vegetable soup. . .miniature mushroom turnovers, one of which would have filled my entire hand. . .cherries in a dish. . .applesauce with blueberries dotting the surface. . .blackberry cake drizzled with caramel icing. . .a glass of my favourite white one. . .a tumblerful of cool water. . .and a tiny glass of some scented, bright-coloured drink. The last looked almost medicinal, and she must have caught my skeptical gaze.

"Strawberry cordial. The last summer strawberries of Imladris. I have packed the rest for you, but thought perhaps it would be fitting for you to have a taste now."

Another result of my actions. . .no, inactions, rather. "Thank you, Hiril. . .you are too kind."

She smiled, hair falling into her face. She was wearing it down tonight, as I had often seen here there, leaving it unbound as she never did here. "Haldir gave my grandmother some of their blueberry cordial, also from last summer. He wished it to come to you as well, so that you might remember Lorien in happier moments. I have packed that; you may prefer it over plain white cake. That is how I grew up eating it, at least."

Despite the merriment in her eyes, I feel cold and close to despair, my throat tight. Dropping my gaze, I nod. "I would remember Lorien always even without it. . .but I will try that. It was very kind of him to send it, and of Galadriel to bring it. . . ."

"Ringbearer - "

I looked up abruptly. So rarely had she called me that. . .many did, but Arwen used it only sparingly, usually calling me Frodo instead.

"I do not wish to grieve you, and yet I do so. . .just as I do not wish to grieve my parents. Yet I do, and I will." She put out her arms to me, and I scooted around the edge of the tray, careful not to upset it, allowing her to cradle me against her, curling us into a comfortable fluff of silken finery and dark hair in the window-seat. "You did not wish to grieve us. I know that, as do Father, and Grandmother, and Grandfather. . .a great darkness has passed from this world, and for that good we are happy, though we wish that evil did not have to come of it."

She took my maimed hand in hers, kissing it lightly.

"But such is the way of things. The happiest events are often bittersweet. There is a loss that we regret even above the fading beauty of the elvenhomes."

I nodded, swallowing numbly as I settled against her.

"You are frightened."

"Yes." I had not dared admit it before the others, but much as I longed to return home, I dreaded the arrival. Bag End I had sold, and though I could live out my life at Crickhollow in peace, perhaps, I had felt strangely relieved when Arwen had placed her white gem about my neck, reassuring me that I might go to the Havens, when the time came, should I wish.

Already I wished.

She settled back, taking the cup of soup in one hand and offering it to me, grey eyes so coaxing that I could not refuse her.

"When Mother was wounded, I hardly saw her. Father was shut in her rooms for hours at first, treating her. I only saw her once she was asleep, so pale and quiet I could hardly believe it was her. Yet when she woke. . .she was hardly different."

Arwen's voice remained calm, but I sensed a small hint of effort in the steady smoothness.

"She walked the halls like some ghost. . .a shadow of herself. The others who had been in her party, who had been scattered, were recovering from their own injuries, and could laugh and talk, celebrating her return. Never did she refuse when they toasted her, and sang of her courage: she sat always beside Father, smiling appreciatively. But the smile was hollow. . .empty, like the husks of plants bitten too sharply by the frost to bear fruit again.

"Father tried to heal her spirit, but. . .there was never any change. She would not consider sailing West. . .her children were not married, and she wished to see that, she reminded us. . .but it grew worse and worse. Upon the anniversary of her capture and wounding, she fell into such pain that not even Father could soothe her, and it was that day the decision was sealed."

She grew silent, and I continued taking slow sips of the warm soup as her hand brushed mine, pressing me without words to drink and eat.

"Yours is as well, Frodo. . .for I have seen it."

I nearly choked on a mouthful of soup, looking up at her. With her news coming so recently, I should have been surprised. . .and yet somehow I felt no shock. "How?"

A sorrowful smile played at the corners of her lips, and she settled me more comfortably against her. "When you came to Imladris, as soon as you were up and about. . .I saw traces even then of the emptiness that haunted Mother's smile, the weariness in her gaze. When we arrived here, I found myself faced with what I had never thought possible: an empty sorrow deeper than what I saw then, though perhaps better concealed to most. Until then, I had felt uncertain.

Her hand slid over mine.

"When Mother sailed West, I chose to return with Grandmother to Lothlorien. My heart was broken, as was my father's. . .but he had my brothers, and they shared a like grief, as different from mine as the dawn is to the night sky. Galadriel shared my pain in ways I could not ask of them. . .and perhaps it was because of this that she offered me the opportunity to look into her mirror.

"What I saw there I will not say in full. . .many things, not all of which would interest you. I had hoped to catch a glimpse of Mother, though my grandmother warned that the Mirror's power would not likely extend to the Undying Lands. Yet it *did*. . .as we discovered when we saw Mother, laughing and happy and whole, her eyes alight. . .full, no longer hollow with pain."

Suddenly Arwen's smile softened and brightened, and she lowered her voice.

"She was waiting somewhere. . .at a dock, as if preparing for a ship to arrive. . .and I saw her face light up as Father came to her. How she laughed! It was like the sound of bells, merry as summer, sweeter than wine. . .but then. . .she turned, and he released her, as if to greet another. . .and there I saw someone no taller than I was as a child, someone pale and slight, with hollow eyes darkened by great grief. I would have taken him for an elven scholar or warrior of my father's household, one who had lived since the earliest days, and had seen the great darkness. . .had he not been so much shorter, with bare feet covered by dark curls like those upon his head. My mother came to greet him, and knelt to speak at his height. . .she embraced him tightly, and held him in her arms."

"I told no one of this. Not even my grandmother."

She sighed, sliding one hand up to rest gingerly upon my left shoulder, warmth soothing the nearly constant ache.

"My mother will love you dearly, Frodo. . .as one of her own children. She would have taken great pains to see to your care, as would I now, such as I can. But she needed healing, and peace. . .and those she now has. The choice falls to you, but my heart foresees that you will sail West when the time comes. . .and you shall find healing there."

Her voice warmed.

"And my mother will be so delighted to meet you. . .you will see her as she was before she was wounded, and you will not lack for care or comfort."

Silence fell between us. I eased the mug - long abandoned - onto the tray, and Arwen made no move to stop me. At last she gathered me into her lap, rocking me for a while before reaching for a spoon, nodding in question toward the tray as she tried to interest me in eating. I did not struggle. She stirred the applesauce and blueberries, allowing me to take the spoon from her hand and venture small mouthfuls.

"If you wish, you may remain in Minas Tirith, or return here after visiting Rivendell. Estel and I would ensure your safe passage to the Havens when it is time. . .we would pass through your beloved Shire, and you might see it again then. . .as well as your companions. But you gave up your home and your heart's desires for the sake of others, and I would not attempt to dissuade you from what you wish. Though my father will grieve, he will be with my mother again. . .and I will be with Estel. Wherever you wish the end of your road to find you, there you may go, with all the blessings that we can bestow."

I nodded, taking a sip of wine before speaking.

It was chilled and crisp, exactly the way I had always liked it most.

"The others. . .do not understand."

"They will not. None of us could understand, and that hurt Mother all the more. In the end, she had to do what her heart told her. It did not mean she loved us less. . .or that she had failed in any way. . .or that we had failed her. It simply *was*. . .as things are, sometimes."

"Yes." Nodding, I took another sip, looking up at her. "It seems. . .that is how it will be with me. . .somehow I feel I must return. From there. . . ." My voice trailed off; I could not continue for the tightness in my throat.

"From there, you will know what path to take." She pushed my hair back from my eyes, reaching forward to retrieve the small glass of cordial, which she held to my lips. "Drink."

It was sweet, as I had suspected. . .heady, too. . .rich with the taste of June strawberries, vivid and pure.

"The twilight shone upon our first meeting, Ringbearer. But not all twilight bodes the coming of darkness."

She was right, I knew. Sometimes twilight brings peace.

Finishing perhaps half the glass, I held up my hand, motioning the liquid away and nodding for her to drink. She looked at me gravely for a moment, then did so, finishing all save the dregs, and set the glass aside as we curled up in the window-seat, both of us gazing out at the star of Earendil in the heavens.

It was already beginning to brighten as the summer sky's glow faded to a soft darkness.