For Kitty for her birthday. Beta by RiverOtter.
“Really, Frodo—you spend much of the day in Faramir’s archive looking up details on old laws for Aragorn, and now I find you in the Great Archive? Do you not long to spend the afternoon with your friends down by the Anduin? You used to be quite the swimmer, according to what Bilbo, Merry, and Pippin have all told me.”
Frodo looked up from the ancient codex he’d been perusing, his eyes shockingly passionless and nearly empty, Gandalf thought. “Go down to the Anduin with the others? Why?” His voice was quiet and rather flat.
“It’s been a hot day, and I would think you would wish to be out of this city of stone for a time.”
The Hobbit’s voice grew tighter as he turned his eyes back to the Tengwar script he’d been reading. “It is cool enough in here, I’d think.” He closed the volume suddenly and shoved it to one side. His voice was low as he spoke. “And what could I do there, there by the river? I can barely make it from one end of the Sixth Circle to the other. I could not walk so far, and am loath to ride when the others chose to walk.” There was a look of near desperation in Frodo’s eyes when he looked back to face Gandalf’s concern. “And I am not certain that I can swim now, as weak as I’ve become, Gandalf. This is what the Ring has left of me—I walk any distance only by going slowly and deliberately. I cannot dance a full set and stand afterwards. I cannot bear to stand for long periods of time, and doubt I could help with the harvesting of the apples from Bag End’s orchard were I home—not that I have a home any more. I cannot eat until I feel full, and must watch even what I drink if I would not have it make me ill.”
He turned deliberately away from his friend. “I am little more than a shell any more, I find, and I fear to go home to the Shire, even. The Ring has left me unfit for polite company, and I am so changed by what I have seen and endured I do not feel that I fit in anywhere I have ever heard of here in Middle Earth. I do not know if I will ever again find a place for myself, even amongst those I love more dearly than life itself. Perhaps this is what I am destined to be now, a little considered volume in someone else’s library, to be consulted from time to time to tell how things once were, dry words to beguile the time until the weather grows more favorable and the reader puts me back upon the shelf to go out and live more fully, with a few additional thoughts to ponder in the spare moments afforded between the activities of living. For I don’t feel today as if I am truly living, Gandalf. I don’t feel that I will ever truly connect with life again. This is where I belong now, here amidst the old records, amidst the dry words and half-forgotten memories.”
He turned back to his book, and squeezed his eyes shut, his right hand once again kneading at his left shoulder, his brow furrowed at the pain and emptiness he felt.
And what could a mere Wizard say to offer comfort to the Ringbearer? After all, Gandalf himself had set Frodo’s feet upon the path he’d walked, the path that had so nearly brought him to death and the loss of his very soul.
He found himself wishing he could face his Masters and berate them, demanding that Frodo be granted the peace and happiness the Hobbit so deeply deserved. Aragorn had his reward, and had married Arwen beyond all hope. Sam would return to the Shire and claim his place as Rosie’s husband. Merry and Pippin had learned much, and once they’d come to their destinies as Master of the Hall and as Thain to the Shire they would be honored beyond all others. Why should Frodo alone be denied the comfort he had so dearly earned?
All he could do was place his hand upon Frodo’s shoulder, and at last Frodo relaxed some, lifting his own hand from where it had clutched at his shoulder to lay it briefly on Gandalf’s in acknowledgement of the desire to comfort. And at last Frodo opened the book again, and set himself to read….