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finished, just begun

Finished, Just Begun
By Molly
January 2002

***

There are times when hobbits smile without smiling at all. Or, there are times when Frodo does.

The times he wakes from dreams that are really just scattered fragments of memory, and takes deep breaths and closes his eyes just to see the clean darkness, unbroken by flashes of fire, or the glint of pale light in Gollum's eyes, or the stark color of blood coming fast, too fast, from his own hand. The times he's grateful to the point of laughing just to know he's awake, but is still too jarred to actually curl his mouth in joy and let out the shaky sound.

Sam has those times, too; Frodo sees them, understands them. It's not because of dreams, though. Sam... Sam looks at him sometimes and it would be blank, expressionless, except for the way every emotion flows out of his eyes.

Sam tries to make his love a gentle, unassuming thing. He tries so hard, to make the best of being torn, and Frodo sees it anyway. But not through any smile. Only because Sam's eyes betray him, each and every day.

***

The night of Elanor's birth, after Rose falls into a heavy sleep with the baby cradled close, he sits in the garden with Sam and looks at the stars. The memory of illness is still sharp in his mind when he speaks. "I dream of it still, Sam," he says softly. "Of all the parts I can't bring myself to remember when I'm awake."

"I know, Mr. Frodo. I believe we all do."

"And do you remind yourself, when you are awake, that this isn't a dream, that it truly did end?"

"Sometimes, yes." Sam pauses, smokes silently for a moment. "Tonight, all night, I've been telling myself this is real. But I never feel completely sure, Mr. Frodo. Never sure at all."

"It is real, Sam. For you, I am quite certain it is all very real."

"And for you?"

And Frodo bows his head, looks at his forever changed hand. "Well, Sam, I never could have imagined any of it. So perhaps it must be real for me, as well. At least for now."

Sam doesn't understand, but that may be for the best. Frodo bids him a good night and goes in to sleep.

He dreams again. He always dreams.

***

There are other times, different awakenings. When he drifts out of sleep and forgets the last of it, the journey home and rebuilding the Shire, and Lobelia and Bag End and Rosie and all the rest. When he has precious moments of believing himself in Ithilien, ghost of pain where a finger once was, quietly anticipating the miracle of Gandalf and the warmth of Sam beside him, sleeping and well and simply *there*.

But he is always alone, for the days of having Sam so close by are over. The end of some things, it was. And those times, those mornings, he thinks of autumn, fast approaching, bringing with it the day when he will depart and bring about another end.

Those times, he has brief regrets. That he lived and did not die, cold and injured upon the quaking ground.

With Sam beside him, as it always had been, and shall not be again.

***

"It is a marvel, I suppose," he had said once, not long after parting from the Company. Chasing sleep through the dark, chasing small hopes of success and strength, only to be distracted by stray thoughts of how the stars in these faraway lands were the very same as those of the Shire, and yet it felt like such an altogether different world.

Sam had lifted his head a bit, watched him for a brief moment, and let it fall again. "What's that, Mr. Frodo?"

"Of this land, I mean. It is a marvel that I am not swallowed whole and alive by it."

"Why would it go and do any such sort of thing?"

"The land does many a strange thing, Sam. We have seen it. And should it not give way to something, someone so... I feel very heavy. Heavier than my own feet should be able to bear, I would think."

"Mr. Frodo?"

And Frodo had thought of the fractured fellowship, and the things that could not be borne by any band of well-intentioned men. Only the desperate, struggling on alone. "Boromir said to me, he said 'so much depends on you.' I feel that in my bones, Sam, and it is a dreadful thing. I know what I must do, and why I must do it, but I also feel, with every step, that I will be unable.

"I long to see the Shire, Sam, and that makes me heaviest of all. It may be as I draw my last breath and know I have failed, but the business of the Ring will be finished for me, somehow. But when I close my eyes, the Shire seems too far away to ever find again."

Sam had said nothing, for nothing could be said. But there was a touch, of strong, cool fingers, slowly reaching to rest atop Frodo's own. And he understood that some parts of home were, indeed, right within his grasp and not lost forever, and he lifted Sam's hand and kissed it softly.

"Perhaps I am wrong," he said quietly. "It is possible that I am wrong."

***

Gandalf lays a warm hand on his shoulder, at the very moment that Middle-earth fades from sight forever. "He will come, Frodo, someday. And then it will be as it once was. You will find him at your side, and yours alone, once again."

Frodo nods and longs to believe. "There is no end, is there, Gandalf? Everything leads to something else, and there is always the waiting to see how it goes."

"No, Frodo. All things do have their end, while new things begin. But sometimes, some things have their chance to begin once more. In the meantime, nothing is really lost forever. There are fond memories, are there not?"

And Frodo smiles, a real smile. "There are. Memories, Gandalf, and better dreams to come."

*end*