Title: Summer Twilight

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

Characters: Arwen, Frodo

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. 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. However, the visions of Frodo and Arwen are entirely my own interpretation, and are not expressed in Tolkien's writing. I will note, though, that the Ring appears to have a marvellous ability to appeal to the heart of whomever carries it, whether king or gardener, and my interpretations are thus based upon that. I have not labelled this as AU, since it does not create any dissonance with what we know in that sense.

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

He slept.

The little Ringbearer slept at last, and I cradled him close, wishing.

Wishing I could soothe his pain.

Wishing I could assuage my father's grief, a bitter thing without words that left an acrid taste in our mouths.

Wishing I could heal the rift between him and Estel. Our marriage had only partially salved the injury. . .in some ways, it was like an act of defiance. . .and though I knew my father was glad to see the restoration of his brother's line begin, to see me happily wed, to see that great darkness he had so long fought against vanquished, I could see the pain in his eyes.

And in Frodo's.

He had come so close to death yet again. Estel told us all in low murmuring conversation upon my arrival, taking Father aside with us and explaining how the little one had been delivered to his arms, scarcely more than a bundle of orc-rags, right hand bleeding profusely where a finger had been torn away, the jagged marks of some evil teeth still visible at the stub. He and his servant had both been exhausted to collapse, dehydrated and starved, their small bodies battered and bruised. . .but it was Frodo's that spoke of evil beyond expression, his tiny frame scarred by whip, chain, and spider-bite, his throat burned so badly that he could scarcely swallow. Despite a raging fever, he shivered so violently that his teeth chattered, forcing Estel and the others to wrap him in blankets and hold him close, to offer their own warmth in an effort to soothe him. And even now, months later, as the others grew hale and hearty again, he remained pale and quiet, easily fatigued, taking little nourishment. Would Father see him, Estel wondered, and determine whether aught could be done?

I cannot forget Father's face when he returned.

Truly, I have seen nothing like that since Mother's sailing. Nothing.

Frodo stirred in my arms, a soft moan escaping his lips, and I rocked him a little, comforting him as best as I could.

When I first saw him again, I understood.

Father had asked me to go in and see to the Ringbearer, leaving him to prepare medicines. . .fragrant oils and herbs to soothe, cordials and elixirs to help his appetite and ease his pain. Taking one of my favourite wraps - a silk shawl my mother had given me - I came to the room, knocking lightly and waiting for the soft response before entering his chambers.

White as midnight moonlight, pallid as any spectre.

As Mother had been.

He smiled a little for me, and rose, but the indentations along the comforter revealed that he had been in bed, resting. I came to him, gathering him up gingerly without a word, wrapping the shawl about him. Initial attempts at protest swiftly gave way: he folded against me, and cried himself to sleep in my arms. Many hours later, when my father returned with medicines and warm liquids, we reluctantly awakened him and began to coax slow sips down his throat: beef broth with barley and mushrooms, strained and sieved. . .chamomile tea with honey. . .miruvoir. . . .

It was only after we had fed him, and my father left to prepare more medicines, after I sponged him with warm water and wrapped him in a soft night-shirt and blankets, that he began to speak of things beyond imagining. . .things that chilled even my blood, even one who grew up hearing tales of the First Days from those who were there.

Darkness. Cities and villages awash in blood.

Living shadows. . .every shade of darkness, alive with some whispered malevolence.

And yet worst of all. . .none of these, but the last.

His memory of those days was a vivid haze of ash and shadow. Yet inside Orodruin, all haze had seemed to lift, as if all were suddenly clear to him: he could not speak of it to anyone, he insisted, and begged me not to hate him for it.

He had seen something else.

The Shire. . .one of the most beautiful days of late summer, just as it had been the year that his parents drowned.

His parents; his father smiling and good-natured, his mother all flurried dark curls and laughter.

Bilbo, chasing his favourite "nephew" through Bag End on a rainy day, playing a goblin in the Misty Mountains.

Rivendell, just as Bilbo had described it to him, just as he had awoken to it. . .intricate networks of peaceful paths and streams, just right for elven or hobbit feet. . . .

And Lorien.

And the fading of it all. . .a needless, preventable thing, if he would but have the courage to do what he should.

Yes, he had come to destroy the Ring; he still knew that. . .and yet. . .the Wise had not foreseen all; perhaps they had not foreseen this. He *could* wield it, and would. It was *his* and his alone. . . .

This he explained to me through intermittent tears, at times sobbing and at others strangely calm, always remaining curled fast against me, shivering. . .he always seemed chilled now, and expressed a firm conviction that once I had heard that, surely I would not think him worthy of honour, and would wish him to explain to Estel. When I merely held and rocked him, insisting otherwise, he seemed relieved, and at last cried himself back to sleep, as if the energy and water that could not be wasted on tears during long weeks and months of torment must at last be released.

He seemed no failure to me.

The Ring had known him too well by then. . .nothing more.

I felt relieved when he slept for several hours, awakening only at brief intervals to take sips of milk-possets and calming cordials. Yet I already knew that there was little else we could do.

And how could I speak of it to anyone, what the Ring had whispered to me? Why must your father suffer more than he has? You need not hurt him further. . .you could restore what he has lost. . . . Just imagine. . .no need to sail West, no need for separation. . .your mother could return, and your family could be together. . .always. . . . Your father could hold his grandchild, the firstborn of his only daughter and his foster-son, could see the fruit of what he has protected for so many centuries. . . . The little one has suffered enough, has he not? Would you force him to continue carrying that burden? He is hurting, and wishes to rest here. . .and he could, if you would but take the Ring, claim and wield it. . . . Your father's halls would no longer need protection, not with the Ring safely in your care. . .all the world could be as Imladris, save for the Shire and such similarly lovely places. . .and Vilya could be turned solely to its healing use. Your father could restore the little one to full health. . . . You and Estel could reign over a restored Arnor, and a reunited Arnor and Gondor. . .the world as it should be, as it would have been save for this evil. . . . Is it not wrong to know what good one could do and turn away, shunning the opportunity?

It would have been an easy enough matter.

After all, I helped my father tend him. It was my mother's chain: somehow it struck me as more suitable, and I searched through the little case left in her room until I found it. . .a fine, strong chain made long before my birth.

I believe that we already knew.

All of us: Mithrandir, Ada, myself. . .

Ada would be with him, at least. It was the only gift I had for them both, and for my mother.

The sleeping Ringbearer stirred a little, and I pulled my wrap more closely about him, unable to contain a smile despite my tears, stroking his curls.

My parents would look after him. I could not mend any broken heart, but perhaps with enough pieces together, there would be hope.

The sky continued to dim, passing on into evening. My father would be watching as Earendil's star rose, standing silently in some private contemplation before the window. I did not doubt that my mother, too, watched it from the West. And that, Frodo had explained, was what he sought every night during their journey. . .a glimpse of that star. That light, in the phial, was what Sam insisted kept his master alive, even when it was tucked away in some pocket or another.

Darkness or light, we are all of us bound to it, sure as the Firstborn are bound to Arda, the Secondborn to leave it.

Perhaps only in the twilight do we see clearly.

~THE END~