Written for Gentlehobbit as part of the Live Journal Spring 2006 Frodo Fic Exchange, the story's elements were things she requested (but I've lost her wording, so you'll just have to trust me on that). Thanks to Hanarobi and Baranduin for beta-reading and suggestions.

Coming About
by Laura Mason

He woke with a start, aware the fire hadn't been tended.

After that initial thought, a sleep-dazed Frodo pulled the blankets he must have kicked away in his sleep back up and over his chilled body. Shivering, he tried to concentrate on what had alarmed him.

He'd been dreaming of a vast, fog-shrouded landscape. Noise surrounded him, sounds he now realized he'd only ever heard in dreams -- the movement of the waves and the cry of sea-birds. He'd been unable to catch sight of the water, though, with the sky and the horizon both the grey-white color that promised snow. He'd been stumbling forward while the cold numbed him and sapped his strength, just as it had during the blizzard on Caradhras. The light faded as he struggled along...

Frodo had closed his eyes while remembering the dream, and now they flew open again. His room wasn't dim, the sun was already up. But Sam had not come in to rekindle the fire.

Frodo moved as if to rise, then sank back against his pillows for a moment. He was fully recovered from his recent illness, yet he knew Sam would never question him if he chose to remain in his room all day, tucked into his warm bed, ignoring the crocuses blossoming on the lawn. Frodo could hide away, too, from the miracle happening in his home --

He threw back the covers, hastily washed his face, and quickly pulled on his clothes.

Just as expected, Sam was pacing outside the pointedly closed bedroom door. Frodo gently tugged his friend toward the kitchen and got him settled in a chair. Sam's hair looked as if he'd been pulling at it for hours, and he was still in his nightclothes. Frodo imagined Sam running down Bagshot Row to fetch the midwife wearing only his cotton nightshirt, propriety utterly forgotten. Frodo smiled to himself, thinking about love, as he built the kitchen fire up, filled the kettle, hung it, and spooned tea into Bilbo's brown clay pot.

Sam watched Frodo perform these chores without one word of protest or apology, reinforcing how flustered and worried he must be. Frodo thought that perhaps, from now on, the new father might be so busy with his babe and Rosie that he wouldn't fret quite so much over how well Frodo ate, how often he slept, or how many nights he sat alone at Bilbo's old desk. Of course, Frodo knew Sam's heart was big enough to love the entire Shire, not just his own circle of family and friends. And honestly, he didn't want him to change much. Sometimes -- most of the time -- he truly appreciated Sam's fussing. It wasn't even fair to call it fussing, not really. It was just Sam's way...

By the time he was pouring hot water over the tea, Frodo was ready to admit that he didn't want Sam to change one bit, despite knowing that such a wish was completely futile. Sam had already been altered by their Quest, and fatherhood was another adjustment.

His cousins were changing, too, and Frodo was happy that they would now experience normal, everyday hobbit joys and frustrations. Still, it wasn't right to wish away the growth they'd experienced during the war. It was hypocritical as well -- Frodo knew that he, too, had been changed, and his transformation affected his friends, though he tried to spare them.

Once the tea was ready, Frodo left Sam at the table, clutching his warm mug, and went to retrieve some proper clothing. The midwife, Mrs. Tunnelly, opened the door to his soft knock and quickly agreed to bring him Sam's things. The door closed again and as he stood waiting he noticed how loud Rosie's gasping breaths were in the silence of Bag End. He could imagine how Sam had paced the hallway, wincing at each whimper and moan. Frodo wished he'd woken sooner -- how could he have slept through all the stir? Sam should have roused him instead of trying to face this alone.

By the time Frodo had Sam warmed up and dressed, the sun was high in the clear, cloudless eastern sky. Rosie's voice was now loud and harsh, a nearly continuous litany of struggle and pain, counterpointed by the midwife's soothing and encouragement. Frodo held Sam's hand for the worst of it, until there was a long, strained silence that ended in a baby's wail. Sam took off like one of Legolas' arrows, and Frodo began to tidy the kitchen, forcing himself to give Sam and Rose their privacy.

Eventually old Mrs. Tunnelly came to the kitchen to fill an enormous tray of food for Rosie, and returned after she delivered it to have a cup of fresh tea and several slices of seed cake with Frodo. She assured him that Sam's daughter was healthy, and said Rosie could be up in a few days, too. Then she suggested that Mr. Baggins might want to hire one of the local girls to help in the kitchen for the next few months.

"Not much sleep time with a new baby," she chuckled. "Miz Gamgee'll feel more tired three months from now than she does right this minute."

"Thank you, Mrs. Tunnelly, I appreciate your advice," Frodo replied politely, though their plans were already made. After Frodo walked the midwife home, he stopped at 3 Bagshot Row and returned to Bag End with Marigold Gamgee and her valise in tow. She shooed him out of the kitchen, muttering about a nice healthy lunch and starting some hearty soups a-making.

Frodo took just a moment in the hallway to listen to the happy voices in Sam's room. He knew he could knock and ask to see the baby, but instead he went to his study and settled at his desk. He prepared a pen for himself, but Frodo was too unsettled by the day's events to write. Instead he stared out the window, watching the birds chasing each other among the tree limbs lightly tipped in tender green. A more serious bird was busy building a nest in the juniper bush.

Frodo could feel the new life everywhere, inside Bag End and outside in the yard. It disturbed him, irritated him -- but for the first time since Mount Doom, he thought there might be another chance for him, too. He called up Lady Arwen's parting words to him, remembering how he'd instantly rejected the idea of taking her place. He'd thanked her as graciously as possible, yet as he touched the stone she'd placed around his neck, his hobbit-sense told him such things weren't for his kind. Even when Gandalf and Elrond spoke of it, Frodo couldn't believe he would ever be able to leave Middle-Earth.

But now, though the Shire was dearer than ever and he loved Sam with all his heart, Frodo knew he could choose to accept the gift and join Bilbo when he sailed. What had he learned from his travels except to press forward and accept assistance from unexpected sources? Frodo's dreams kept showing him the Sea, he'd seen visions of it almost nightly since the new year, as if to change the seascape from a mysterious unknown to an old friend.

"Mr. Frodo?"

He jumped a little at Sam's voice. "Yes, Sam?"

"Rosie and I wondered if you'd like to see the baby. Our girl."

"I'd love that, Sam, if Mistress Rose doesn't mind." Frodo was a little surprised at how happy he felt that Sam thought of him, and how much he did want to see the baby.

"Rosie is so pleased and proud, Frodo, I think the whole of Hobbiton could parade through our bedroom today with her in her nightgown."

Frodo laughed and Sam looked delighted as he smiled back at him.

"Perhaps we'd better limit it to me and your sister today, Sam. Just in case." Frodo put his arm around Sam as they walked down the hallway to find Rosie proudly holding her tiny girl for his inspection and admiration.

Once Frodo was settled in the rocker, Sam carefully placed the newborn into his arms. The baby was sound asleep, so light and still that she was easy to hold. Frodo could easily carry her if necessary, at least at this tender age.

"She's lovely," he told the happy parents, though in truth she was very red and wrinkled, and Frodo couldn't have formed any opinion on a resemblance to either Sam or Rose. Still, she was a miracle and Frodo found it very easy to extend the love he felt for Sam to include the tiny new life he held. Looking down at the baby, then at her parents' happy faces, Frodo felt that the world was righting itself at last. There was a family in Bag End again.

And then, just as easily as the babe fit into his arms, the decision that this would be his last Shire spring settled into his mind. The decision he'd been denying for months was made, and there would be no more agonizing or questioning. Frodo would take the chance for an easing of his pain.

Later that night, after dinner, Frodo and Sam talked while Rosie and the baby slept. Marigold had already been installed in the guest room closest to the kitchen, and was no doubt asleep and planning a housekeeping assault for the morrow in her dreams. Sam lit a pipe, something he rarely did, and they built up the fire and relaxed together. During their meandering conversation, full of Sam's hopes and plans for the future, they chose Elanor's name.

When Frodo noticed Sam was nodding off in his chair, he walked him to bed and helped him to undress and climb in beside his sleeping wife. Elanor was tucked in Rosie's arm on the side opposite Sam. Frodo thought the babe would be safer between them, or in her cradle, so he carefully lifted her away. He stood holding her close for a few minutes while he thought about where to place her. She was sleeping soundly, her tiny face creased as if with deep thought. She smelled new, Frodo thought -- not yet as he remembered his cousins' baby-scent. He'd never held any of them when they were less than one day old, though.

Surely it wasn't proper to be standing here in Sam and Rosie's room, no matter what the reason. Frodo carefully stooped and took the heaviest blanket from Elanor's cradle, wrapped her tightly, then carried her out of the warm room and down the cool hallways to the fire-warmed parlor. He settled in the old rocker with her and scooted it closer to the hearth. Long after the fire had crumbled to embers, he still rocked and talked to her, singing snatches of Bilbo's songs and Elvish rhymes. Only when she began to fuss from hunger did Frodo force himself to rise and carry her back to Rosie's arms.

As if she'd heard a call, Rosie woke as Frodo entered the room, and soon she and Sam were cuddling Elanor between them. Frodo stumbled to his own room. It was no later than he often sat up writing, but he was exhausted. Frodo fell into a deep sleep and dreamed of bright, clear skies overhead as he swam in the cool, refreshing waters of the Sea.

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The sunlight and Elanor's drowsy warmth felt wonderful to Frodo. It was Rosie's baking day and the scent of the breads in the oven combined with his view of Sam's delphiniums and geraniums in a very pleasant way.

Sam, like Rosie, was busy with his work, digging in the vegetable beds that sloped down behind Frodo's chair. But Frodo had no work to do for the house or the family, and no desire to miss such a beautiful day working in his study, so he'd offered to be useful in the one small way available to him, holding the baby and rocking her to sleep.

Elanor at three months was still tiny, a negligible weight for Frodo to hold. He looked down and noticed how her eyes were squeezed tight against the sunlight, and shifted her gently. She didn't move, finally asleep. That meant he could put her down, but Frodo didn't want to let go of her just yet. Elanor would not remember him, he knew that, but he would always remember her. The fuzzy down on her head, her tiny pursed mouth and the baby-smell of her skin -- Frodo loved it all, and wanted to enjoy it like this for as long as his arms could hold her.

The days seemed to be passing ever more swiftly, and there were still many things to do before he left. But holding Elanor was too precious a privilege to neglect, no matter what else he did.

"My girl," he whispered, and knew it was true. Sam had wanted to give Frodo a boy child, a namesake. But Frodo was happy with his girl -- she would always belong to him, thanks to Sam's generosity of heart. Frodo would carry Elanor with him across the Sea.

Frodo fell asleep with her held tightly to his chest, and dreamed that she was older, a fair-haired toddler holding his hand as they walked in the warm surf by the shore. Frodo resisted releasing her, although he knew she would be safe. Sam and Rosie were on her other side, holding on tightly and keeping her from following him into the deep waters.

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Frodo remembered Bilbo telling him that there would always be a Baggins living in Bag End. The old hobbit had been wrong, but it stung less than Frodo thought it would with Elanor's cradle wedged between the fire and his desk chair as he carefully wrote out his will. He was leaving the smial and its lands to Samwise Gamgee and his heirs. Elanor's happy gurgle made it possible for Frodo to smile as he wrote clear, detailed instructions, then carefully blotted and rolled up the document to store in the desk's cubbyhole.

When Merry and the rest came to visit, he'd have them witness the will. Frodo was looking forward to seeing them, despite his nearly constant fatigue. His will contained bequests for his cousins and friends, and those had been easier to plan and to put in writing. If it wouldn't have alarmed them and led to days wasted in arguing and pleading, Frodo could have taken great pleasure in giving away his belongings in person, though sometimes he felt as if he'd been bidding farewell to people and places since the day he learned the truth about Bilbo's ring.

Frodo closed his eyes and imagined himself with Fatty, Merry, Pippin and Sam, sitting in the parlor with full mugs of ale. They would toast Bilbo, bless him, and sing one of his old songs. Rosie would shake her head and ask them to be careful not to wake the baby, though Elanor slept through anything. When it grew late and the fire was low, Frodo would tell stories about Bilbo as he passed along the old hobbit's remaining treasurers.

Well, it would happen anyway, after he was gone and Sam was master here. They would read the will and come back to Bag End, and someone else would cuddle the baby while Sam went to Frodo's room to find the objects mentioned in his bequests. Frodo would be careful to leave them out in plain sight, lined up, and Sam might wipe away a tear and shake his head, angry and sad all at once.

Elanor fussed a bit. "Are you too warm, dearest?" Frodo asked, bending to check on her. The fire was necessary this rainy afternoon, but the baby did feel warm. He picked her up instead of simply moving the cradle, and pushed his nose into her stomach. She laughed and cooed at him, just as comfortable with him as with her parents. She was getting bigger every day, it seemed, but Frodo could still lift her, play with her, and enjoy the happy smiles she shared so freely. She was a sunny baby, just like Sam, the Gaffer had assured them. Not that Frodo or Rose needed his words to see Sam's loving personality in Elanor.

Dear Sam. Frodo knew his friend might feel abandoned or worry that he'd somehow failed Frodo. He wished he knew how to explain that Sam's happiness had freed Frodo to choose life, not death.

There was a soft knock at the door before Sam looked in at them. "And here I was thinking she'd still be asleep."

"No, her naps aren't as long on rainy days. She wants to be out crawling on the grass."

"Well, my girl, we can't do that when it's all wet and muddy," Sam replied, taking the baby from Frodo and swinging her high, much to her delight. As she laughed Sam continued, "More rain than usual, but I suppose it means the autumn is coming quick-like this year." He smiled at Frodo, Elanor's face just as happy, and Frodo tried to lock the moment in his memory to take with him as he forced a smile in response. Sam hadn't meant to remind him that the days were now short.

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They were at Bag End, settled comfortably in the parlor. The noise of the gulls was loud through the open window, though Sam and Rosie didn't seem to hear it as they happily chatted about their upcoming visit to Gondor. Frodo wondered how he could be sitting with them, when he knew he was in his bed. Still, he watched young Frodo-lad sprawl on the carpet, amusing baby Tom with a dangling trinket at the same time he read one of Bilbo's books of elf-tales. Merry and Pippin were at the parlor table, supposedly practicing their writing, though their giggles made it sound more as if they were plotting to expose Rose-lass, who was mooning over a love letter in the corner though she pretended to be helping Goldilocks with her sewing.

Daisy came running in from the bedrooms, red-faced with excitement, and announced "She's coming."

Elanor stepped into the room, the late afternoon sun burnishing her golden curls. She was only 20, but Frodo thought she looked like a fully-grown young lady in her finery. She held out her skirts and twirled for them, laughing at their comments as she bent to kiss Sam, then Rose. She turned and seemed to see Frodo, for she smiled and bent to whisper, "Don't wait up for me, Uncle." As her lips brushed his cheek, Frodo smelled saltwater.

Young Merry said something that made her blush, but Frodo couldn't pick out the words; the crashing of the waves was deafening now.

She was going to the Midsummer Ball, her first, but Frodo knew it was autumn, not spring, and there was no reason he felt cold water on his toes when the bright sunlight still poured through the window. Then a wave hit, and he wanted to call out a warning to them all -- but there was no need. They were safe and warm, and far away from him.

Frodo lay back and let the water lift him, knowing it was carrying him away forever.

 

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