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Antane's Anthology  by Antane

A/N: This is my birthday present to Queen Galadriel, harrowcat, Frodo Baggins, Larner, starfire_moonlight and all my other dear reviewers. Hannon le for so enriching my life! Im mil le, God bless, Antane :) Hope you enjoy!

Frodo had been anxious to test his strength for a long tramp through the Shire as he had used to be able to do without effort. He had started out slow at Sam’s insistence, taking small trips usually with his beloved friend and guardian and building up his strength that way. He was restless and impatient to do more, but still he paced himself as much as he could for he could not bear to see the hurt in his Sam’s eyes when he over exerted himself. And that was so easy to do these days. Frodo sighed in frustration and more than once had been close to tears or had cried when he realized that his former strength may never return, that the Quest had taken too much from him.

One day, though, he could wait no longer. The day was bright and beautiful and called to him. He ate well at both breakfasts, took an apple and some bread and a full water bottle and put on his traveling cloak as he was always so cold even in the summer. That was another thing that galled him, but he hoped that would change also. Frodo decided he was going to walk until he dropped and it was going to be a long walk. Perhaps the warmth of the day would reach into his soul where it was still so cold, so empty. He wanted to fill himself with the Shire again, instead of the void that only the Ring filled. He told Sam that he planned to be out for the day and would return well before sundown.

Sam gave him one long look, with a glance at the very short rations his master was taking for a day-long jaunt and stopped Frodo in his tracks without a word. The gardener packed a picnic for his treasure and himself, told Rose that he would be back after lunch, and then set off with Frodo. They stopped for elevenses and further on for lunch. Sam watched him the whole way and when he was satisfied that his master had eaten enough both times and showed that his stamina had improved, the younger hobbit let him continue on, but still not with a little concern. Frodo thanked him for the meals and company and then walked on alone, turning around to wave once. Sam returned it and then returned home.

Frodo had wanted to continue on further, but he had turned around shortly after he had separated from Sam. He collapsed right at their front door, unable to go a step further. His legs were trembling and he knew he would have to catch his breath for a minute and rest before he could go inside. He felt at once content with his progress that was much further than he had ever gone since he had returned and saddened that was still much less than he used to go, but perhaps he had to accept that now.

The voice of the Ring and his hated longing for it remained, though it had helped to be out among his favorite haunts. He winced at that word. He was still so haunted inside. Perhaps that was something else he had to accept, but he was not going to stop fighting it. If that fight had to be continued and could only be won outside the Shire, he would have to accept that too. He had hope for healing, even if it couldn’t be done here. The thought of leaving, this time truly not to return, pained him like nothing else, but this time it also settled and calmed him in a way that surprised him. Strangely, he felt part of the sadness lift from him with that realization, that acceptance that he couldn’t, wouldn’t be able to return to who he had been, that looking for joy and peace in the past was not the right way to go about it. His search was in front of him, not behind him. He would know joy and peace again, even if it wasn’t here. But how, he wondered as he clutched at Arwen’s gem, how can I leave my Sam and my cousins? Curiously, the calm inside still did not leave him.

The door opened and Sam nearly stepped on him before he could stop himself. “Mr. Frodo dear! Are you all right?” he asked, taking in more than the strain of the trip on the master’s features and the sweat soaked clothing and curls. Sam always did see so much more than with just his eyes, Frodo knew.

“Perhaps I overdid a little,” the elder Ring-bearer acknowledged.

The gardener sat down next to his master and wrapped his arm around his shoulder. Frodo leaned his head against his dearest friend. “It’s all right, Sam,” he said when he was surprised to hear quiet weeping.

“No,” the younger hobbit said, “no, it’s not.”

Frodo looked up into his beloved guardian’s eyes. There was so much love there and pain and concern. He wiped at Sam’s tears, then wrapped both arms around his friend and held him tightly. “Yes, my Sam, it is,” he said. “This is how things are now. Not the same, but something to grow into, like a new cloak or pair of breeches. I think I needed today to figure that out.”

Sam looked at his dearest friend and master beseechingly. “Then it truly will be all right? Everything sad will become untrue? You won’t always be so hurt?”

Frodo’s arms tightened around his beloved friend turned brother who had surrounded him for decades with such incredible love. He knew without a doubt Sam would always be with him, even if they had part physically and he felt the peace only deepen within him. He kissed his brother’s head, then rested his own head against Sam’s chest where he could hear his heart.

  “Yes, dearest Sam,” he murmured in soft, joyful assurance, “it will be all right. Sadness will turn to joy and neither of us will be hurt.”

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