Fic: Still There (for [ profile] hyel)

Aug. 1st, 2007 03:28 pm
[identity profile] posting in [community profile] a_conspiracy
Title: Still There
Author: [ profile] baranduin
Characters/Pairings: Sam, Elanor
Rating: G
Word Count: 1519
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters are the property of the Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. No offense is intended, nor profit made.
Title, Author and URL of original story: No One There, by [ profile] hyel.

Still There

Elanor stood at the door of Undertowers and watched her father walk away from her for the last time. A lump thickened in her throat as he disappeared into the predawn mist. The fog muffled any sound he might have made, but Elanor doubted she missed anything.

Sam Gamgee was traveling light, walking with a quick step on his last trip through Middle-earth. He'd arrived with a quiet tap on Elanor's bedroom window in the middle of the night and was leaving again before the morning light came, flying west ahead of the sun.

The last glimpse she caught of him was his ancient hat's waving crown. He'd unearthed it from the chest of treasures he'd brought with him.

"It does look like a bag now that I see it. It's going to fall apart around your ears," Elanor said while she watched him putting it on and adjusting his light pack. Almost everything he'd brought was staying with Elanor, including his pony, one of old Bill's great grandsons.

"Well, this hat will see me on my way far enough, I expect. I'll not ask it to go farther than the near shore."

Elanor reckoned it would not only make it that far but would also accompany him across the Sea, that is, if he found a ship to take him. Though perhaps he wouldn't find a ship, perhaps Mr. Frodo had been wrong about that or maybe the Elves had grown tired of waiting and really were all gone, even Celeborn and Elrond's sons.

"Enough of that. It does no good. You always knew he'd go," she said to the disappearing hat and wiped a tear or two away from her face with an impatient fist.

She thought she'd prepared herself for his leaving. After all, they'd talked about it, the two of them.

"Ellie," he'd said more than once while Rosie was slipping away from them, "I'm counting on you to keep Mr. Frodo's book safe." There'd been many things to watch over, other mementoes of a long life well-lived as well as the great treasures brought back from the Quest—Sting, the mithril shirt, the small wooden box with the G-rune. All were kept in honor. But the book, ah now, that was the most important thing, the treasure beyond price.

She couldn't see him anymore, but still Elanor stood outside her front door and waited for the approaching dawn. Her closest neighbors, the three towers, stood with her. For some reason she thought of them as the Three Sisters; she liked to talk to them and they seemed to hear her, nearly bending down solicitously to hear her tell her joys and sorrows. She'd been the eldest child in the family, so it was restful to think of the towers as wise older sisters, and they didn't seem to mind. They'd kept her secrets well as the years passed and she had more secrets to keep, more sorrows to soothe, more joys to share.

"I'll come visit you soon," she said as she looked at them shining in the early light even through the heavy mist. "My dad's gone. You'll watch him on his way, won't you? Or maybe I'll follow him, like I said I would, back before I was even a tween. Perhaps the Elves would take me if I was with him."

She turned around then and walked back into her house, closing the door behind her without a sound. Fastred kept its hinges oiled that well.

Though all were sleeping safely in their beds, none of them waking when Sam had tapped at her window two hours before, Elanor had to adjust to the level of noise inside. It startled her at first after the muffled quiet of the leave-taking and the watching. But there it was, Undertowers was filled with homely sounds even when all were sleeping, and it wasn't just Fastred's steady snoring that Elanor heard. After a minute of standing just inside the door listening to her family and her smial sleep, she pushed all thought of them away with an effort, her hands raised, palms out and fingers flexed, as if she was encountering a stone barrier that had to be conquered rather than thin air.

The large chest Sam had brought with him and left with her drew her, capturing all her attention. She knelt by its open lid and peered inside, knowing what she was looking for. Its old comfort was what she needed most, or so she thought when her fingertips found it.

"There," she whispered. She pulled it out and held it close to her chest, inhaling its familiar scent. It wasn't anything grand, not a weapon or a treasure made of mithril, not even the little wooden box from Galadriel that Sam so cherished and that Elanor would now cherish for him.

It was nothing to do with the Adventures Outside.

Elanor sank onto the floor, tucked her legs under her, and spread the old quilt across her lap. Though the hearth fire was low, enough embers glowed in its heart to allow Elanor to read the quilt's history. She knew it well and traced its famous stories with her fingers.

"Why didn't you take it with you, Sam-dad?"

After all, it was Frodo's, the legendary Frodo, the one person she could never compete with, though she knew any competition existed only in her own mind. But she loved the quilt and remembered it protecting her, keeping her warm, from her earliest memories. She pulled it closer and rubbed her cheek against its worn cotton. It still smelled of Bag End, of her father's pipeweed. He must have laid it across his lap during the lonely evenings after Rosie'd gone, thinking and filling his pipe. Something rose from Elanor's heart to her throat, full and warm and aching.

"I could still follow," she said. "I said I would once upon a time. Wouldn't take me but a minute to pack and leave a note. They'd understand."

She dropped the quilt back onto her lap and began to trace some of its peculiarities—neatly mended tears, stains faint and ghostly after so many years of careful washing, the occasional patch of cloth where a tear had been too grievous to mend.

Oh yes, she remembered that little one, the one almost in the middle of the quilt, skillfully mended so long ago. She'd torn it herself when she was but four and had somehow gotten hold of a sharp-edged seashell (where had that come from, she now wondered). Rosie had mended it, clucking a little at Elanor and lecturing her about the needfulness of keeping Mr. Frodo's things in proper shape, to say nothing of the danger of fooling with things that didn't belong to her and might cut her. Her Sam-dad had set his face in stern lines, but when Rosie wasn't looking, being fully engaged in mending the small tear, he winked at Elanor and she knew all was well.

"Perhaps it would have made him sad to think of what he'd left behind," Elanor finally said, and a tear dropped onto the quilt. She rubbed at the little stain with her thumb and raised her head, alert to the sounds of stirring from the smial's bedrooms. They were beginning to wake now and would soon be wanting their breakfast, expecting her to be there with it. "Though I think he'd like to see it again and show it to Mr. Frodo. I could bring it with me …"

It really would be an easy thing to follow him. She need only take the quilt, leaving everything else behind with a loving note explaining how torn in two she'd been. They would understand that she needed to follow Sam and make sure he was well taken care of. Fastred would understand even if the children didn't at first. In time they would, just as Elanor understood about Mr. Frodo.

Her fingernail caught on a more recent tear, one she'd mended herself a little too quickly. Elfstan had been the culprit, though it had been a sharp rock brought inside rather than a seashell. She gently pulled her finger away. The rough mend pulled a little but held.


That was Fastred. She could hear him now, making his way through the hall, stretching and yawning loudly.

She froze a moment, her hands holding the quilt tight. Too long, she'd waited too long, mooning over the quilt that she thought tied her to Mr. Frodo and Sam-dad, not realizing it bound her to her little family here at Undertowers just as strongly. No, more strongly.

She wasn't sure if she was glad or not, she was not sure how she felt other than knowing that her way was clear.

"Ellie? What's for breakfast?"

"I'm here. Still here. Coming," Elanor said. She stood, the quilt draped in her arms but not for long. Soon it lay folded neatly on top of the other treasures. She closed the trunk's lid and patted it once, twice.

"Be whole, Sam-dad, if you can. I'll try too."
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