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B2MeM Challenge: I18, Write What You Know (a character with whom you have something in common)
Format: Ficlet
Title: No Longer the Same
Genre: Angst, mild hurt/comfort
Rating: PG/K+
Warnings: Angst, some food detail. NOT a deathfic, despite the angst, okee?
Characters: Frodo, Aragorn
Pairings: N/A
Summary: Frodo's suffering failed to end with the Quest.
Author's Note: Frodo is the character to whom I relate most closely; I also relate to some degree to Sam and Eowyn, and I may do ficlets for them at some point...but my nickname in childhood cancer circles has been Frodo for about a decade and a half, because Frodo's experience is mine. There is a myth that the endpoint of treatment is the end of the suffering, but in some ways it is only beginning. I have struggled for decades with survivor guilt, post-traumatic stress symptoms, and severe depression, including suicidal thoughts. Frodo tells my story. It is only right that I, in turn, should tell his, which is why I spend so much time writing Frodo h/c fic.

Aragorn knocked lightly upon Frodo's door. There was a moment's hesitation, but then Frodo's voice called out, "Come in!"

Opening the door, Aragorn was disturbed to find Frodo's breakfast-tray untouched. Frodo himself was up and dressed, sitting in his chair facing the windows which looked out onto the Sea, some distance away. His gaze was nearly as distant as the water. He did not look toward the door.

"Frodo, why have you not eaten? Was the food not to your liking? If you prefer something else, that is easily arranged - "

"No." Frodo shook his head. "It was fine. I - did not feel like eating."

Aragorn shut the door and crossed to Frodo's chair, laying a hand on the small forehead. Cool enough to the touch. He squatted beside Frodo's chair. "What is the matter, my friend?"

Frodo sighed. "Nothing, Aragorn. Nothing is wrong."

"Something must be. Else you would eat."

Frodo looked at him then, and the blue eyes suddenly shimmered with tears. "You don't know what I did."

Aragorn dropped to his knees, sitting beside the chair. "What you did?"

Frodo nodded, lips tight.

"Tell me. Please, Frodo."

Frodo bit his lip. "I...it's my fault people died."

"Frodo, I do not see how you could help that - "

"I took it! I took it, and if I had just hurried, and thrown it in, less people would have been killed - "

"Oh, Frodo." Aragorn shook his head. "Frodo, you could not help what happened. You had no control over that."

"Didn't I?" Frodo raised his voice, until finally he was shouting. "Didn't I? *I* did it! *I*! To whom it was entrusted! Aragorn, it's my fault so many people died! My fault *Gollum* died! He - he never h-had a ch-chance!" Tears flowed freely down Frodo's face, and he began to sob. "I n-never *gave* h-him a ch-chance...."

Aragorn enfolded Frodo in his arms, settling the dark mop of curls against his shoulder, allowing Frodo to weep. "Little friend, you did nothing wrong. Gollum made his own choices long ago. You gave him every opportunity for redemption...and perhaps, in the end, he managed to redeem himself by destroying it. Who can say? But what I *can* say, Frodo, is that you fulfilled your quest."

"But..." Frodo drew a shuddery breath. "Things c-cannot be as th-they were."

Aragorn closed his eyes tightly. He had expected this, but he had hoped for better. The other three hobbits, and Bilbo, all seemed so resilient, so...so unlike Frodo, who, though resilient as anyone, had not - nay, *could* not have - returned.

"No, Frodo. Nothing will ever be the same for you. I know that, and I am sorry. Forgive me."

"You couldn't h-help it." Frodo sniffled.

"But," Aragorn went on firmly, "I *can* help some things. And one of them is that you shall never go hungry again. Do you think you could eat something if I brought it for you, and we ate together on your balcony?"


Aragorn laughed. "Yes, mushrooms. A mushroom and bacon omelet, and some sandwiches, and fresh strawberries with cream, and whatever else I can find in the kitchen."

"And tea. Don't forget tea."

"I won't. I promise."

Frodo smiled, and Aragorn was filled with hope afresh.

Frodo would never be the same. But he was strong. He would endure.

-the end-


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