After the Storm by Lbilover

Implied Frodo/Sam in this story.


~*~

The storm arrived during the night on gusts of wind that howled in the chimneys and torrents of rain that lashed at the windows. The fury of it roused Frodo from sleep, and he lay awake listening to the rumble of thunder and watching flashes of lightning illumine the darkness outside to almost daytime brilliance.


Such weather was rare on Tol Eressëa. Time here in the Blessed Realm could not be translated into days, months and years as it had been in the Shire, but Frodo knew that it had been long since it had stormed with such fury. Life seemed to flow by in an endless succession of days filled with warm sun and gentle breezes, and the occasional equally gentle rainfalls that kept everything green and growing. 


Frodo had known the storm was imminent before he retired to bed. Dark clouds had begun massing on the horizon at nightfall and a chill breeze off the Sea had borne the distinctive tang of rain. He’d welcomed its coming, and been unable to keep the anticipation from his voice when he’d gone to Bilbo in his study and asked for his assistance in battening down the hatches of the smial.


Bilbo never quite understood the strange humour that came over Frodo at such times. The old hobbit had become increasingly Elvish in his outlook on life: content, despite the new vigour that he’d gained here in the West, to spend hour upon hour lost in song or poetry, living as much on the nourishment from these as from the simple, hobbity meals he and Frodo cooked and shared in their home by the Sea. 


For the most part, Frodo was as contented as his cousin with their life on the island. His wounds had gradually healed, and he grew healthy and strong once again, as he had been in the long-ago days before the Quest. He and Bilbo had made many friends among the Elves of the Blessed Realm, and visited them in Avallonë, or were visited by them, on a regular basis. Gandalf and Elrond, too, were frequent visitors. There was much laughter and merriment in the tidy smial the Elves had built for their honoured friends in the hills that faced eastward and overlooked the Sea. 


Yet despite this, a restlessness would grow upon Frodo sometimes, a discontent that manifested itself in hours spent locked in his bedroom, writing furiously; or in days spent alone, walking through the woods or along the beaches, fending for himself and returning tired, thinner, but at peace- for a while. The rare violent storms always corresponded with one of these moods; Frodo sometimes wondered if the storms came in answer to some call he did not even realise he was making. So much that happened in Valinor was, and would always be, beyond the ken of a hobbit, even one so changed as he.


Bilbo had shot several speculative glances at Frodo as the two hobbits worked outside in the freshening wind, securing shutters, tying down vulnerable plants and carrying inside any loose objects that might blow away. But he had said nothing. He knew the futility of reasoning with Frodo when he was having one of his restless turns (as Bilbo called them); and he had come to embrace the Elvish philosophy that one did not offer advice, particularly unsolicited advice, except in extremity of need. 


Frodo tossed and turned in his lonely bed for some time, before rising in the deep watches of the night to pace around the smial or stand by the window gazing out at the storm. At daybreak, unable to resist the call of wind and rain any longer, he returned to his bedchamber to dress. When he entered the kitchen, he found Bilbo already up and seated at the table, eating a muffin by the light of the candles necessary to dispel the unusual gloom. 


The old hobbit gave him a considering look, but only said, “Enjoy your walk, Frodo my lad,” and returned to his muffin with seeming unconcern. Yet Frodo was aware always of Bilbo’s caring, and the untold gestures of love and kindness that he offered, and knew that he would worry until Frodo was home once more, safe and sound.


*** 


Frodo stood on a bluff overlooking the Sea, the wind buffeting him so that he had to grip the sandy soil hard with his toes and hold his arms out to the side to remain upright; even so, the occasional gust would cause him to stagger sideways. His Elven cloak protected him from the worst of the rain, but he had pushed the hood back, the better to feel the wind on his face, and his sopping hair was plastered flat to his skull. Water dripped into his eyes and ran in icy rivulets down the back of his neck, raising goose flesh all along the skin there. But the exhilaration Frodo felt as he looked down at the stormy Sea was worth the cold and discomfort. 


After so many years spent on Tol Eressëa, he knew the Sea in all her moods. Such fury was rare; the Sea was kind here, pellucid and tranquil, yielding its bounty with little struggle. Frodo had been awed by the power and vastness of the Sea when he first arrived on the island, but years of fishing, swimming and sailing in the sheltered coves along the coast had taught him to love her. Yet he felt awe once more now as he watched the huge waves pound the beach, tossing up froths of white foam as they crashed down: awe, and an overpowering urge to go down and witness the fury up close.


There was a steep path that zigzagged its way down the cliff to the beach below. Frodo set off down the narrow sandy trail, his steps confident and sure, for he’d made this descent countless times. But the wet sand broke out from under his feet, and he was facing due east, directly into the storm. In order to keep his balance, it became necessary to grab hold of the tufts of dune grass that lined the path and descend in starts and stops, turning his back to the wind. By the time he reached the beach at the base of the cliff, he was sandy, breathless and sweating. 


Down below, the sound of the waves became a deafening roar that drowned out all other sounds as it reverberated off the cliff walls. The wind was weaker here than at the top of the cliff, but it blew strongly still: stinging sand and spray from the waves mingled now with the rain on Frodo’s face. He drew up his hood to protect his eyes from the wind-whipped sand and began to walk along the beach, marveling at how this tranquil spot where he and Bilbo spent so much time swimming, fishing and clamming, had been transformed. The Sea was no longer pellucid, but opaque: a dark green-grey, with white-capped waves that towered high above the water and dwarfed Frodo’s slender form.


Frodo kept well up the beach, above the high water line, yet the waves reached his feet even so, leaving a rime of yellowish foam and bits of seaweed behind when they receded. The waves as they curled and raced toward the shore reminded him in some fashion of the Fords of Bruinen and the shining white horses that Gandalf had conjured in the churning flood that swept away the Black Riders. That memory held no fear for him now; he could recall those horses, and the hint of pride in Gandalf’s voice as he told Frodo about them in Rivendell, with a reminiscent smile.


Adrift in memory, Frodo literally jumped at the first touch of water, startled by how cold it was. The storm had churned up the frigid depths, and the soothing warmth to which he was accustomed was gone. His feet soon grew used to the temperature, however, and he walked on, splashing through the water, occasionally darting back as a particularly strong wave rushed upon him. 


But as exhilarating as it was, Frodo was keenly aware of the danger. Were he to be knocked down by one of these powerful waves, he would be helpless in its grip, and likely dragged out to sea. He could swim- quite well he thought, considering how late he had come to it- but even the most expert swimmer would be hard put to stay afloat in such conditions, and he had no wish to rely upon Lord Ulmo’s bounty to rescue him.


Frodo walked until his calves ached and the salt and sand became encrusted in the curling hair on his feet; walked while the storm raged around him; walked until the wildness of the storm seemed to take his own wildness into itself, leaving a pool of calm behind inside him, as the tide would leave behind tranquil pools of seawater as it receded. In that calmness, he could think of the future and a long-desired event, and possess himself to wait with patience and hope rather than worry and doubt. 


The rain began to lessen at last and the wind to die. Frodo threw back his hood and looked out to sea. Far to the east, the sky was beginning to lighten as the clouds broke up, a sign that the end of the storm was nearing. Sea birds that had been beating their wings frantically and futilely against the wind were now flying out to sea, no longer driven back to the cliffs, or held suspended in the air as though restrained by an invisible hand. 


Peace and calm were returning to Tol Eressëa, and Frodo knew that it was time at last to turn back. 


He was tired and ravenously hungry by the time he toiled to the top of the cliff and along the sandy path to the smial. He found Bilbo waiting by the door to greet him. The old hobbit tut-tutted as he helped Frodo remove his cloak, towel dry his hair, and clean his feet of the sand and salt in a bucket of warm water. Then Bilbo hustled Frodo into the kitchen where a bright fire and a steaming pot of tea awaited. He got him settled at the table and poured him a large mug of tea prepared exactly the way he liked it, with plenty of milk and honey. There was food, too: hot soup and bread and cheese, and Bilbo would only take his own place at the table when he was sure that Frodo was tucking into his meal with a good appetite. 


“Bilbo,” Frodo paused with his spoon halfway to his mouth, and fixed Bilbo with a look that made the other hobbit fidget and blush. “You are so good to me. I’m sorry I sometimes do things to cause you worry. I don’t mean to, it’s only…”


“My dear Frodo, if I thought you gave me these white hairs on purpose, I’d be very put out,” Bilbo said humorously, though the look in his sea-grey eyes was quite serious. “And I understand, you know, perhaps more than you think. It is Sam, isn’t it?”


Frodo started slightly at the matter of fact statement, and it was his turn to colour, the faintest flush of rose staining his cheeks. “Yes,” he admitted, staring down into his soup bowl. “Not that I haven’t been happy here, of course, but I miss him, Bilbo, and sometimes… oh, sometimes the waiting is so hard to bear.” He blinked furiously against the sting of tears. 


Bilbo leaned forward and laid a warm, comforting hand over Frodo’s where it rested on the table. “Sam will come, Frodo,” he said with quiet conviction in his voice. “Have faith.”


***


When Frodo awoke next morning, the room was filled with golden sunlight, and the white muslin curtains at his bedroom window billowed out in a light breeze. He threw back the bedcovers and went to the window, leaning far out over the sill. The sky was a flawless blue as far as the eye could see, and the flowers and herbs that grew in profusion beneath his window were releasing scents intensified by yesterday’s rain. 


As he stood there breathing deeply of the fragrant air, Frodo felt a sudden, compelling urge to be out-of-doors, almost as if he was being summoned by an unheard voice. Like the impulse to be out in the raging storm, this one could not be denied either; he turned away from the window and swiftly washed and dressed. 


Without pausing to question why, he ran outside and up the path to the very edge of the bluff. He looked northward in the direction of Avallonë, and his breath caught on a gasp of wonder and sudden knowledge.


There, anchored in the shelter of the harbor, was a great ship. The sails were being furled, and a rowboat was making its way from the ship to the dock, the oars dipping rhythmically in and out of the water with a flash of sunlight gleaming on wet wood. Standing in the bow was a tiny upright figure, too far away to be distinguished clearly even with Frodo’s sharpened vision, but Frodo didn’t need to see him clearly to know who it was. The glad leap of his heart told him, and the mad rush of joy that filled his entire being.


The storm had brought his Sam home to him at last.


~end~