Disclaimer: I own nothing, except the plotline. Even Gildor Inglorion isn't mine--Tolkien had him first.
Warnings: None except that it's slash. A faithful reviewer, Melanie, asked so nicely for this that I couldn't refuse. For anyone familiar with my previous work, this has a very different tone. Melanie wanted a tender, romantic little fic that discussed Gildor's and Haldir's relationship, so that's what this is.
Archiving: OLAS and anyone else who wants it, just let me know.
A/N: This is a continuation of my previous Unspoken story arc (Unspoken/Revelations/Changes.)
One Last Time
By Rune Dancer
Fourth Age, year 61 (Shire date September 21, 1482): The Shire
The grave had been dug in mid-summer, and rose bushes planted around the newly turned earth. It had been beautiful throughout the months since, as it was soon covered over by a blanket of new green grass and crimson rose petals. Now, however, the first golden brown leaves of fall blew over the ground, forcing the bent old hobbit that tended it to have to keep a daily vigil to clear them away. He sat beside the grave now, as evening's shadows crept slowly over the little glade, and brushed aside a bright gold leaf. It reminded him of his wife's hair when she had been young, and was now reflected in that of one of his daughters.
He had already had his own grave prepared, right beside that of his beloved and much mourned wife. Frankly, he was getting a bit irritated at the wait to join her. His joints pained him whenever he moved and he could no longer walk completely upright; neither could he kneel for the length of time needed to tend his garden, which had forced him to give it up the year before. His neighbour's little daughter had kindly brought him flowers every day that summer (for which he had rewarded her generously with treats) but it wasn't the same as when your own hands tended them. He sighed. He was 109 years old and felt every one of them, especially when autumn breezes blew chilly blasts beneath his door, causing him to already have to wear several extra layers and to huddle round the fire each night for warmth. He was not looking forward to an icy winter in the Shire, with no constructive work left to do. No, better that he join Rosie before then.
He couldn't imagine what was taking so long. He had already put all his affairs in order and was perfectly willing to go. Indeed, he had thought that the cold he'd had a month back might have done it, but no; Elanor had come to nurse him and he hadn't had the heart to send her away. So he had recovered. His continued passable health was making him grumpy. Samwise Gamgee, seven times mayor of the Shire, was not accustomed to having his will thwarted. He had been such a successful mayor because he never let obstacles stand in his way. Others praised his fortitude, a fact that caused Sam no little amusement considering that the matters they viewed as insurmountable problems, seemed to him mere inconveniences. After all he had been through with Frodo, it took more than any Shire troubles to daunt him.
Ah, Frodo. Sam settled back on the little bench he'd had installed beside Rosie's grave, and thought back to a face that--yes, he could admit it now--had been dearer to him even than hers. He had wanted to accompany Frodo across the Sea, when the sickness brought on by Shelob's bite did not fade, but had been forbidden. "You are needed here, Sam," Frodo had protested, his face contorted with pain, as it had been much of that year. "If Elbereth wills it, we shall see each other again someday," and Sam had hugged him fiercely and, reluctantly, let him go. Frodo had had to leave--there simply was no medicine in Arda that could cure him; even the elves had failed. And Sam knew that Rosie was counting on him, and there was so much to do in the Shire, and he did feel that he had been useful . . .
At first, he had thought of Frodo every day, and agonized over his decision. But time passed and children and work intervened, and his time to think of his best friend became less: once or twice a week, then a few times a month, and, in recent years, only on Frodo's birthday, or when some casual mention brought him to mind. But this year had been different. Since Rosie's death, he had found himself thinking about Frodo more and more, and wondering again what might have been, had he chosen differently.
He sighed and removed a brilliant red leaf from the grave with the tip of his cane. It was foolish to sit here, mooning over events that were now little more than ancient history to most of his kind. The events of the Last War were told as bedtime stories to children, and Frodo's and his adventures were no more real to them than any other fairy story. But oh, he remembered, and had taken to reading again of late the Red Book of Bilbo's adventures, in which Frodo had also inscribed the story of their own. It had all come flooding back, to the point that now, at the end of his life, he wondered if that year, that whole wonderful and terrible year, had not been the only time he had ever really lived. Strange, that thinking of Frodo made him want to live so badly, when he really needed to be thinking along other lines . . .
Sam was so caught up in his memories that he failed to notice his visitor until the tall stranger seated himself on the bench. "Good evening, Sam."
Sam squinted up at the grey cloaked figure--his eyesight was another thing that had been failing recently--and wondered why he was being addressed so familiarly. No one but Rosie and a few old friends had called him just Sam in more years than he could remember. "This is private land," he informed the stranger gruffly. The elf--for so Sam realised he must be when gracefully curved ears were revealed when he lowered his hood--looked at him in amusement but did not shift from the seat.
"Oh, we will not tarry here long, although it is a pretty place." The stranger regarded the little grave, and the meadow and ring of trees surrounding it, with appreciation. "I was told you were a handy gardener."
"Once, perhaps, but no more," Sam said testily, waving a gnarled hand under the stranger's nose. He had long ago got over his childish infatuation with elves, and did not appreciate one trespassing in his little glade, especially when he wanted to be alone.
"Well, perhaps you will tend another garden elsewhere," the elf commented, while settling himself with the patience peculiar to his race, as if intending to allow himself to grow to the bench.
"I have not seen an elf in these parts in many a year. What brings you here now, and do you have a name? I dislike conversing with someone who hasn't even introduced himself." For some reason, this irritable diatribe seemed to amuse the stranger, for he laughed in the silvery tones peculiar to elves, and the sound was so sweet that Sam almost forgot to be annoyed.
"I recall saying much the same to you once," he answered, "so it is fitting that you should return the comment to me. I do apologize, Master Samwise, but I thought you might remember me. I am Gildor Inglorion, of the House of Finrod, and we have met before."
Sam looked the elf over, from head to toe, and tried to think back. He was possibly telling the truth, for Sam could imagine no reason why he would lie, but his memory refused to cooperate and bring up the requested image. He recalled the meeting, but not the face. He sighed, so much seemed to be slipping away these days. "And why do you travel in the Shire, Master Gildor? For we almost never see elves anymore."
Gildor smiled, and Sam felt warmth breaking over him like the sun on a summer's day. "Why, for you, of course, Sam. I would have come before, but some preparations had to be made. They are now complete, and I have been sent to fetch you."
"Fetch me to where?," Sam demanded, and then continued on before the elf could speak. "I am not going anywhere. It has been many years since I last traveled, and besides, winter will be coming soon." He drew his heavy woolen shawl closer around him and thought once more about the long, cold months stretching ahead. It would be his first winter without Rosie . . .
"I was told you might be difficult," Gildor commented, but his eyes were merry and his smile, if anything, broadened. He did not seem to be taking Sam's mood to heart, and it made the old hobbit all that much more exasperated.
"I am sitting calmly on a bench, watching the dusk fall on my own land, not bothering a soul. I am not the one being difficult," he huffed.
Gildor continued to regard him calmly. "You are not watching night fall, Samwise, and we both know it. You are sitting at your wife's graveside, and mourning all that could have been. While you should be pursuing what is yet possible."
Samwise Gamgee, seven times mayor of the Shire and last of the Ringbearers still in Middle Earth, respected by all and feared by those few who had dared to cross him, had not been spoken to in such a manner in longer than he could remember. "Have a care, Master Gildor, for I am no elfling to be rebuked so! If I choose to sit by my Rosie's grave, what is it to you? You elves are famous for never meddling in the affairs of others, so go away! Leave me to the dusk and to whatever memories I choose to visit."
Gildor just continued to regard him. Really, Sam thought, he did not recall him being nearly so aanoying. "I would, Sam, but then, Haldir would never forgive me, and I do not intend to make the whole voyage having to deal with one of his sulks. He pouts very prettily, but it does get a bit wearing on the nerves, after a year or two."
"I care not what troubles you have with your friends, and . . . ," Sam stopped, thinking. Why did that name--Haldir--sound so familiar? Oh yes, he had it now--that arrogant elf from Lorien. He was rather proud of himself for remembering, actually. "Why should Haldir of Lorien have sent you to disturb my rest?"
"Because he promised Lord Celeborn, who had promised the Lady Galadriel, who had promised the Ringbearer, to see to your safekeeping, once the business of your life was done. When we heard about your wife's death, and knew that your children were all married and happily living lives of their own, and that you had not been mayor for more than a decade, we knew the time had come. So, as I said, preparations were made, and here I am. Haldir awaits us at the Grey Havens." Gildor looked up at the stars, the first of which had just begun to emerge against the rapidly darkening sky. "My people have waited long to return over the Sea, and now the time is here. We exiles are departing Middle Earth one last time, and we are taking with us those whom we do not wish to leave behind. And that, Samwise--Elf-Friend, Ringbearer and hero of the Third Age-- includes you."
Sam could only stare at Gildor, openmouthed. Could he possibly mean . . . but no. It must be an old hobbit's fancy, nothing more. "You make little sense, Master Gildor," he said, but his voice was weak with longing. He could suddenly see Frodo's face more clearly than he had for years, and it was not old and wizened like his, but young and strong, just as he had been before the war. A great rush of energy filled Sam, such as he had not known in many years. To be prepared for death and suddenly be granted life . . . to see Frodo again . . . it was all almost more than he could bear.
"Oh, I think we understand one another," Gildor said, rising. "Come, Sam, you have packing to do. I am sure you will want to say goodbye tomorrow to all your many friends, but then we must be off. Our ship is waiting, and must not tarry."
On September 22, 1482, by the reckoning of the Shire, Master Samwise Gamgee rode out from Bag End. He traveled to the Tower Hills and gave Bilbo's Red Book to Elanor, his daughter. He then passed the Towers, where he met a lone, dark-haired elf, and together they traveled to the Havens and from thence over the sea with a great company of elves. Thus did the last of the Ringbearers depart Middle Earth.
A/N: A special thank you to Ithilessar, Greenie, Matreya, Alex Cat, Celebrethil and any others who reviewed. Your encouragement was greatly appreciated, and helped me have the resolve to finish this.
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