The West wind blew cold that fateful day. The clouds colored the October sky grey and crowned the rising sun so that only a sliver of sunshine peeked though, like a frost upon the dawn.
Dream With Hope
by Talisha Hibdon
RATING: G (future NC-17)
DISCLAIMER: The disclaimer telling you that I don't own Frodo or Sam or any of Tolkien's world was trampled on by Ents. >=D
SUMMARY: A drama in the works. Frodo decides to return to Middle-earth to try and find new meaning for his life without the hope of ever having Sam's love. But is there really no hope?
NOTES: This fic may take a LONG time to write. I've no clue how many chapters there will be, but this fic WILL be long. Have patience and you will be rewarded! ^_^ All feedback welcome, especially as this fic is still in the drafting stages.
SPOILERS: If you have not read the Return of the King, or at least know how LOTR is going to end, you probably shouldn't read this fic, that is unless you peeps like spoilers, like I do. ^.~
The West wind blew cold that fateful day. The clouds colored the October sky grey and crowned the rising sun so that only a sliver of sunshine peeked though, like a frost upon the dawn. Only the proudest of birds sang now, as if to prove their fearlessness in the face of the approaching autumn. The trees sighed and gave up their leaves to the breeze, leaving speckles of red and gold upon the ground. The Shire was becoming sleepy, quiet, and outside Bag End's closed windows, only the sound of the ringing windchimes filtered through to the inside.
Samwise smiled a secret smile to himself as he stepped outside, rubbing his hands together for warmth and watching his breath on the air. He hustled over to his work shed to fetch a sack and his old spade. Once he had these, he moved towards the edge of the white picket fence that surrounded Bag End and began to work studiously at the dirt. He was careful, oh so careful, not to harm the now sleeping roots of flowers that lay buried in that bit of earth, and whenever he encountered a bulb, he gently lifted them out if its damp embrace. These he set aside with special care within the sack for transplanting elsewhere. Time flew, and the sounds of activity began to echo from within the smail, alerting him to the beginnings of the family's first breakfast within.
He did not stop, however, finding his work nourishing in its own right, and it wasn't until the clattering of plates ceased and the thumping of bare children's feet reached the door that he at last set his trusty spade aside and leaned back on his haunches with a grin. Fifteen bulbs he had retrieved, and though he would miss their presence come spring time, he was not in the least bit sorry to see them go.
They will no doubt bloom brighter for him, anyhow.
The round green door flew open and the herd of Gardner children leapt out the door, chattering gaily amongst themselves and almost completely bypassing their father without the slightest notice. It wasn't so very odd an occurrence; Sam's garden had become so much a part of him that he almost seemed to blend in with it. The hurried good-byes tarried behind them, and only Frodo-lad managed to skid to a stop at Sam's beckoning.
"Go on and give this to Mr. Baggins when you see 'im this morn'," Sam instructed his bright eyed son, handing him the wrapped bulbs. "And no need to tell 'im where you got it. Just so long as he keeps it, I'll be pleased."
"Will do," Frodo-lad piped up before peeking in to see what the parcel contained. A giggle erupted from the boy's chest and he flashed his father an excited grin before bolting out the gate, his books swinging madly behind him.
Sam stood up and stretched his back, hardly caring for the dirt that stained his working trousers, nor that which covered his hands. He knew that Mr. Frodo would simply adore the offering of bulbs for his garden, and that in itself would be thanks enough, no matter that he would not know who was in fact the true benefactor. Nay, Frodo did not need to know what Sam had done. Just to see him smile...
He just preyed that that smile would last him the day through, just until he could tell him...
"Good morning, class," the teacher of the Overhill school greeted his student from the front of the class as the children filed into the room, chattering excitedly together.
"Good morning, Mr. Baggins!" their many young voices rang out in chorus, passing by the desk to drop off their homework along with the customary courtesy apple for their mentor. Frodo-lad was among them, seeming to bounce upon his over excited furry feet, eager to reach the desk and feeling restless when the line didn't move faster. He stood on tip toes to look over the many heads of the other students occasionally, flashing the gentlehobbit a wide smile whenever he happened to glance his way.
Soon (though not soon enough in his opinion) he found himself standing before the desk, grinning now from ear to ear all the while holding something behind his back. Frodo Baggins looked at the younger Frodo and returned his smile. "Good morning, Frodo my lad," he said. "I hope you did your homework like I asked."
"I always do," Frodo-lad sniffed, almost indignant at being asked such a question, though his grin never left his face. "Here it is, and here is something else too."
Mr. Baggins' eyes widened slightly as the boy prompted dropped a brown, dirty sack upon his desktop. The other children giggled at the look of surprise on his face. "Ah," the adult uttered, touching the bag almost uncertainly. "I'm guessing that this is not merely a bag filled with apples."
"Nope, something you'll like better," the lad beamed. The teacher raised his eyebrows questioningly before untying the parcel and looking in.
"Bless my soul!" Frodo Baggins exclaimed in a delighted tone. "Flower bulbs. Where did you get these?"
"Ooooh, from.. somewhere," Frodo Gardner twiddled his thumbs and whistled innocently.
The gentlehobbit observed his student for a moment longer before guessing the only possible place they could have come from. Clever, Sam, he thought with an inward grin. Almost had me taken in a moment there. "Thank you kindly, lad," he said aloud. "I'll find some way to repay you. Now, better be in your seat. Class is about to start."
"Right! You're welcome!" the teenager chirped before hopping away happily to his desk.
Rose set the dish rag aside with a sigh and unlaced her apron, wincing only slightly at the abnormal stiffness in her back. The bed had proved to be quite contrary the night before and thus she had woken up with several aches she wasn't used to. The hobbit-hole was still around her. Sam had gone off right after breakfast to take care of certain business matters within Bywater, telling her that he might not be back until around after tea time. Had it been a few months ago, she would have hardly paid it any mind. But the absences had grown more frequent since then, and it wasn't always Mayor'ing business that kept her husband away for so many hours.
Sometimes I wonder, she thought, does he even know I exist anymore?
The door bell rang. The Mistress of Bag End stopped short of leaving the kitchen and moved back to peer out the window in front of the sink. A small wagon sat parked in front of her gate and a hobbit with a bundle in his hands stood waiting at the door. Hmm, the mail is coming early today, she mused silently. Without any further hesitation she made her way to the front door and greeted the hobbit before politely relieving him of his delivery. She held the bundle of letters against her chest then, her step more lively now than it had been as she entered the living room and sat herself down in her rocking chair.
Le'see here, Rose thought as she sifted through the letters, searching expectantly, hoping that... Yes! She beamed as she snatched up a single envelope addressed to herself. Tossing the others carelessly aside onto the other chair, she leaned back comfortably and turned her prize over in her hands, as if to savor the moment before she opened it. What she found inside was in no way less pleasing. A letter written out to "Dear Rosie" in Robin Smallburrow's handwriting.
This would not be merely the second time she had received a letter addressed to herself alone and not to his friend the Mayor. She had in fact almost lost count, for she continued to received these private messages from the Shirriff every week since the first, sometimes even coming twice a week when good fortune was with him. They had begun to become the highlight of the week for her, though she dared not speak a word of it to her husband. It had become hers and Robin's secret, and the idea of keeping even so simple a secret as this was enough to send her into a giddy fit of excitement.
Simple... At least that's what she told herself...
Without further hesitation she unfolded the letter and read over the words slowly, taking her time as she still had yet to master the art of reading fluidly and without error.
"Rosie, I have wonderful news! My superior has asked me that I come down to Hobbiton the week after next to escort the Mayor to a meeting with the Four Farthing officials what's taking place at the end of the month. That means I got myself almost a week before me and old Sam have to head on back to Michel Delvings. Don't worry, I haven't a mind to stay in Bag End and trouble you like before. My cousin owns a cottage a little bit out the way from Bywater, and he said I could make use of it. I'm looking forward to perhaps seeing you again, if you're willing."
Willing? Larks, she could hardly stand to wait! Mistress Rose sighed happily and held the letter to her chest. For a brief moment she was able to forget all her troubles and simply bask in the glow of the attention Robin was giving her. She wished, as she always did after one of his letters, that he was there with her right then, so that she could tell him personally how much his letters had meant to her. She closed her eyes and pictured that reunion, the smile on her lips growing wider as she called up the image of his laughing eyes and good-natured face which had never held anything but kindness and affection.
Real affection. Now there was something she missed.
Rosie blinked from her musings and sat up, her features becoming troubled as she pondered this unexpected thought. It was true that she could never accuse Sam of being cold to her. On the contrary, he was the kindest, most considerate soul she had ever known, with the exception Robin maybe, who had grown up with the same roots and teachings as her husband. But when had it truly been the last time he had held her of his own accord? Not a hug to banish away fits of anger or sadness, but just a simple embrace, for no reason except to show that he cared?
The frown on Rose's gentle face grew tight as she tried to remember, but memory seemed to elude her. But surely he had done so... hadn't he? Even once?... She didn't like where her thoughts were turning and tried to think of something else. He cares. He does. Why, it was only a few weeks ago that they had made love... But.. wasn't it she who had initiated it? In fact, hadn't it always been so? She searched her memory for a time, even once, when he had... But she couldn't. Sam never had been the first to initiate any intimacy between them, not even on their wedding night. It had always become her duty to urge him, to seduce him into it.
Well, he's just shy, she thought stubbornly. He's always been so. He even still looks the other way when I dress in the mornin'. It's just how he was taught to behave. But that don't mean he doesn't care about me. Why, he thinks of me all the time. He must. Elsewise why was he so blame eager to come home after traveling in the Blue with that Mr. Frodo? Sure, the Gaffer was still here right enough, but he'd already lived with him his whole life. What he truly wanted was to see me again. He just realized what a mistake it was to go off and leave me alone, and he wanted to come back quick as maybe so that he could be with me, where he's supposed to be. That's the truth of it. It must be.
By the time the sounds of baby Daisy crying reached her ears, she had once more thoroughly convinced herself that those guesses were indeed fact. She rose from her chair, tucking Robin's letter into her dress pocket, and marched off into the babies' room, but not before remembering the one possible documentation in Sam's study that could prove to herself her point, and promising herself to do just that the next chance she got.
"And when heard, the sea gull's cry from afar
Reminds the Children of Ilúvatar
Of once, so far away, that distant star
That shines so bright upon the Unseen Shore
And into the light of that Unseen Shore
My heart shall crave and seek out evermore."
The children sat in rapt fascination as Frodo read a passage from 'Translations from the Elvish', his words seeming bittersweet and strange even to the youngest of them. It was in fact the first time Frodo had even touched upon the subject of Elvish literature, and though he knew he would be hearing the worst of it before too long, he felt inclined to teach them of it anyway. In any case, there were far too little books written by hobbits which weren't wholly composed of cooking recipes and the like.
Frodo looked up from over the top of his book and smiled encouragingly. There was a collective sigh throughout the classroom, as if they had been holding their breaths until they saw that their teacher had finished. "Aye, fairly good, isn't it?" the Baggins' lips quirked into an amused smile. Multiple heads nodded vigorously and made sounds of approval. The village circle's bell rang the 1 o'clock hour. "All right, class, you're free to go. Don't forget to finish your writing assignments at home if you haven't finished them in class. I want them on my desk first thing tomorrow morning."
Every body in the class shot to their feet and scrambled for the door, chattering excitedly about this and that, and Frodo waved after those who remembered their manners and bid him goodbye. He watched them go, feeling strangely at peace with the knowledge that he was at least making some small difference in the children's lives, and hopefully for the better. It was what he wanted, after all, to make a difference. His close friends could go on all they like about the 'wonderful' doings of the Ringbearer, but it was of far greater importance to the hobbit himself that he could teach a child and perhaps make them better adults in the future to come. And so it was with this feeling of contentment and peace that, turning back towards the inside of the schoolhouse, the teacher picked up after the day's activities and swept the dust that had been trailed in under hobbit feet back out the door.
The day had been surprisingly calmer than most. A quiet stillness hung like a sleepy fragrance of moisture in the air. The wind carried the whispers of the trees and grasses, bringing with them the news of autumn's decent upon the Shire. These were the kind of days that Frodo found himself so fond of as a tweenager. Days like these could coax the mind into reflection and remembrance, so that even the aimless ramblings of the locals would slow into a peaceful murmur.
It was on such days in particular that Frodo had most enjoyed reclining with a good book against a tree in the Wood, or in the garden. And more often than not, little Sam would come scampering up to sit beside him, eager to listen to tales of the Outside as told by his best friend. Frodo smiled wistfully, remembering with yearning for that simpler time.
"How come there aren't any hobbits mentioned in this tale?"
Frodo looked up from his copy of the Valaquenta and regarded his friend's puzzled look. Sam's big brown eyes blinked at him in an expression of childish curiosity. "Well.. You see, Sam, hobbits aren't in fact a well known people to the races of the Outside. I don't believe the Elves were even aware we existed when this was written."
"Whaaat?" Sam's mouth fell open in a comical look of indignant shock. "Not know we exist??"
"Yes, I'm afraid so," Frodo tried not to laugh at how amusing Sam's reaction had been. "It really isn't all that surprising, as you might imagine. There are yet many hobbits today who do not believe in Ents or Elves either, you know. So I think we can forgive the Elves this once, don't you agree?"
Sam's mouth clamped shut and he seemed to consider this very seriously and deeply. "I guess so," he relented with a pout. "But wouldn't the Vala-what-cha-ma-call-its know about us? Wouldn't Eru?"
"Maybe not the Valar, but certainly Ilúvatar knew," Frodo informed him. "There were yet parts of the Song of Creation that even the Valar might not have known or understood. A secret, you may say."
"Oooh, really?" Sam's eyes sparkled at this. The very concept of secrets had always managed to fascinate the boy, which led Frodo to believe he could grow up to be an eavesdropper if he wasn't watched. "Eru kept us secret! Neat! I like keepin' secrets."
"I know you do, lad," Frodo allowed himself a fond chuckle.
"I have a secret too." His voice was suddenly soft, cautious. Frodo's blue eyes studied the lad for a moment, wondering at what he could possibly mean. Sam bit his lip in a nervous gesture, hesitation causing him not to elaborate immediately. "Can ye keep a secret?"
"Certainly," Frodo answered, putting as much warmth and reassurance into his tone as he could.
Sam's cheeks grew pink and dark lashes hid his brown irises as he cast his eyes downward, still biting his lip. Then, quite suddenly, the hobbit lad closed the small space between them where they had been sitting under the elm tree and threw his arms around his Mr. Frodo's neck. Frodo almost started, confusion and even some concern now plain on his features as the boy curled up against him, his little arms surprisingly tight around him.
"My secret... is that yer my most favoritest person in the whole world," little Sam uttered, his voice muffled against the older hobbit's shoulder. "And I love you."
This admission caused what felt like a sunburst to spread through Frodo's chest, warming him thoroughly. Frodo felt a laugh bubble up inside him and he wrapped his own arms gently around his little friend. The tension in the boy's frame seemed to relax instantly as he did so and Sam could be heard giggling slightly in return.
"You're my most favoritest person in the world as well, Sam-lad," the tweenager replied. "And I love you right back."
Sam pulled back and looked at the dark haired hobbit with wide, happy eyes. "Really??"
"Really," Frodo tussled the lad's blond hair, which earned him another laugh. "It's getting late. Would you like for us to stop reading and continue tomorrow?"
"No!" the hobbit lad protested. "No, sir. Couldn't we stay just a bit longer? Till the Sun sets? My Gaffer won't be needin' me home till then anyhow. And besides.. I love listenin' to you read."
Frodo studied Sam for a moment, feeling a swell of pleasure and happiness he had rarely felt since his parents passed away. Only Samwise had ever been able to make him feel like that, and for that alone he was grateful to him. The tweenager smiled. "All right, Sam my dear lad, let's read until the Sun is set..."
He could almost feel him coming long before he heard him. Then the sound of hobbit feet reached his ears, drawing steadily nearer, as if in answer to his reminiscing. It did not seem long at all for the smell of flowers and sweet pipeweed smoke floated on the breeze towards him, alerting Frodo's senses. The gentlehobbit smiled, almost to himself, keeping his eyes ever fixed upon the ground he swept. "Hello, Sam," he greeted, feeling his cheeks warm slightly as if a bright summer sun was shinning upon them.
"Hullo, Mr. Frodo," came the melodious tone of the gardener as his brown furry feet stepped into view. "Had a good day of teachin', I expect?"
"A very good day," Frodo felt his heart begin to beat to a slightly different rhythm, the one melody it played within Sam's presence alone. Looking up, he noted that he was wearing that utterly perfect smile of his, the one that made his eyes crinkle at the corners and caused a rare dimple to appear for his delight. "Your son Frodo has been very kind to me. Today he has brought me a generous number of bulbs to plant in my garden."
"Oh, did he?" Sam's grin seemed to grow wider, if possible.
"Yes," Frodo felt his own lips curve irresistibly upward. "I simply must find someway to thank him someday."
"Oh, I'm sure a bit of elf song or story tellin' would be enough to satisfy that lad any ol' time," Sam offered, shuffling his feet slightly into the dust and thrusting his hands into his pocket.
"Would it be enough to satisfy you, I wonder?" Frodo inquired softly. Sam stopped moving and regarded his friend with a surprised expression, his brown eyes suddenly aglow with thoughts and feelings both warm and indiscernible. The teacher only smiled in response and set aside his broom to wave him inside. "Sam, would you accompany me for tea today, and perhaps some lunch? I should dread to imagine what the neighbors would think seeing their Mayor left talking on my doorstep without so much as a polite invite."
Now it was Sam's turn to blush and cast his eyes downward shyly. "I would like that very much, Mr. Frodo."
"Good! Then come inside and we shall discuss all you wish to know of story and elf song, then I shall ask you of bulbs and planting them."
The study door creaked upon slowly. Rose poked her head in almost warily, glancing about her as if she expected her husband to pop out of the desk drawer and demand an explanation for her intrusion. She should have had nothing to fear. She had sent her daughter out only moments before to do the shopping, and her infant and toddler children would be sleeping for a good two hours yet.
Even so, she could not shake the uneasy feeling from her. She had never felt very comfortable in this room. It held fare too many tales, secrets, and memories that did not belong to her. The walls were lined with books of all kinds, and she could only imagine the unnatural, outlandish contents that must have filled more than half of that collection. Even had she been completely literate, she was sure she would have never been able to read them all in one life time.
Not that she wanted to, of course. At the moment, there was only one book she was interested in looking at.
The Book of plain red leather sat upon the top of the desk, were Sam always returned it after his nightly story telling hour with the children. It was thicker than any book she had ever seen, even the ones she had seen written on Shire history. And yet the tales told therein were anything but hobbit-like. Elves and Wizards and Dwarves and the like... It was all too surreal to be believed. In fact, she almost didn't believe it. It would have been so much easier to simply chalk the whole story up as one big fib in order to grab at some attention.
And yet, did Sam really need that attention? The three Heroes, her husbands and his friends the Thain and the Master, surely had enough fame as it was from their deeds in the Shire. Surely being responsible for ending the dreaded Occupation must have given them grandeur enough, so what need was there to lie?
Rose shook her head at these thoughts and decided rather to focus upon her purpose for coming there. Reaching toward the book, she untied the leather strings that bound the book closed and parted the pages slowly towards the middle, falling open with a heavy bump. The pages were utterly filled with flowing words, written in a firm yet elegant hand which Rose quickly recognized as not being her husband's. Must be that Mr. Frodo's handwriting, she thought, stiffening slightly. Would his words tell me anything? She scanned the writings for a moment, looking for some shape of words she could recognize.
Such a natural care had been given to the writing of that simple name that Rose couldn't help but notice. She began to read slowly, mouthing out the words as best she could. "'Sam sc-scramblin' below the outfall' - outfall? what's that? - 'outfall of the lake, smellin' and touchin' the unfamiliar plants and trees, forgetful for the moment of.. Mmm... Mmmordor..." Rose beamed at herself. She was getting better and better at this reading thing. And the description of Sam's interest in the plant-life caused her smile slightly in recognition. But as she read on, noticing the words "bones" and "skulls", she wrinkled her nose in disgust and quickly turned the page.
Frodo's hand continued on for half a page more before it ceased. Rose blinked. The words that followed suddenly grew bold and angular, as if written by a heavy hand. These she recognized instantly as her husband's hand. This was exactly what she had been looking for!
Now to find the truth, that Sam really had been thinking about me while he was away.
Rose skimmed the writing again, searching eagerly for a mention of her name. She looked.. and looked again. Yet her name did not appear even a single time through the whole section which Sam had written. She began to look for other possible key words, such as fiancee, wife, she, her, even lass and love. She searched carefully for nearly a full ten minute, being doubly sure not to accidentally bypass even one word. She looked and looked and.. There! Her face brightened as her hazel eyes spotted the word "love" written carefully upon the page.
I was right, he WAS thinkin' about me. Thinkin' about his love for me, thinkin' about...
She skipped ahead to the beginning of the paragraph and read slowly, and as she did so, the smile fell away from her lips. The focus of the paragraph soon became plain. Not her name, but Frodo's name filled every corner of the page. The words capturing the image of Sam, HER Sam, watching his master as he slept, envisioning the light within him, watching him.. thinking of him.. only him...
'He shook his head, as if finding words useless, and murmured: "I love him. He's like that, and sometimes it shines through, somehow. But I love him, whether or no.'
"So you are finally teachin' from the Elvish Poets," Samwise commented with a pleased grin as he cut a piece of his poppy seed cake with his fork and popped it into his mouth. He and his former master sat beside each other in the parlor, enjoying each other's company far more than their lunches.
"I decided that it was about time," Frodo responded over his tea cup. "They seem eager enough to listen and learn. However, I'm still concerned about how their parents will take the news."
"Beggin' you pardon, Mr. Frodo," Sam uttered, setting his fork down on his plate to look at him seriously, "but I don't hardly think that should matter much. It won't be doin' them little ones any harm to learn from the other Peoples, 'specially not something as harmless and fair as their poetry."
"Yes, I realize that," Frodo nodded, closing his eyes. "Yet I am in doubt. The elder folk will not see it as harmless, I don't think, and remember that it is they who have the power to pull their children out of school if they don't agree with what's being taught."
Sam grumbled. "True," he relented. "'T'ain't right, but it's true all the same."
"Indeed," Frodo nodded. "It just a shame that the children will end up being the ones to suffer for their parents' close-mindedness."
"Well, none of MY laddiess and lassies will be leavin' school before they're ready," Sam declared firmly. "Of that you can be sure of."
Frodo's lips curled into a soft, fond smile, causing Sam to suddenly flush and look away, his heart instantly brimming with gladness. Yes, Frodo me dear, he thought silently to himself. Just keep smiling like that. I never want to see you sad again..
"Oh bother," Frodo's irritated tone suddenly snapped him out of his private musings. Sam looked back instantly to regard his friend, who was currently glaring into his and Sam's now empty tea cups. "I apologize. I forgot to bring the tea kettle with our lunch. I better fetch it."
"No, 'tis all right, I can-" Sam started nervously, springing out of his chair at the same instant that Frodo began to depart for the kitchen. Frodo walked right into Sam, both hobbits crying out in surprise as Sam's hands reached out to steady his friend to avoid falling over. Frodo quickly regained his footing and barely heard Sam's many muttered apologies, so startled was he to find himself so close to him, to feel his hands on him.
"Are you all right, Mr. Frodo?" Sam asked in a breathless voice.
Frodo suddenly did not trust himself to speak. Sam's hands had not released their protective hold on his shoulders, and now he swore he could feel the hobbit's thumbs stroking the fabric of his linen sleeves. He tried to take a deep, calming breath, but all he could manage was a short, sharp intake, the scent the of younger male impacting his senses like a spell. He dared not move, for if he did, he was almost certain he would not be able to resist the desire to fall into his arms.
"Frodo..." Sam whispered, no longer a question, but a simple statement. His hands on his shoulders grew firmer, and for an instant, Frodo was sure that Sam was going to pull him in towards -
Suddenly the door flew open, banging against the wall beside it. Sam and Frodo started, the contact between them broken as quickly as the moment had been. But not quick enough for the intruder not to see it.
Blood pumped headily in her veins, coloring her vision red. Her limbs were numbed to all feeling and she could see nothing of her surroundings. All she could see was the two of them, standing side by side, only just taking their hands off the other. Her hearing failed her and her flesh was as hot as the haze of anger over her eyes. She had become deaf, mute, and blind to all else happening around her. There was only herself and him, only his ice blue eyes mocking her with their innocent surprise.
The intruder had crossed the room before those eyes were given a chance to blink, before he had a chance to see her hand coming up to meet with his cheek. Feeling in her hand and hearing in her ears thankfully returned to her just in time to register the sound and impact of her palm against soft skin. The force of the blow snapped his head to one side, presenting a satisfying view of his already reddening flesh and his wide, stunned eyes, imagining the sting that must have been lancing through his face with no small amount of grim justification.
"Rose!" she at last remembered that her husband was there as she felt his hands grab at her shoulders and push her away from the older hobbit, feeling his fingers dig into them and expressing to her his anger at her attack on his former master far more than the shocked, concerned tone of his voice did. "What are you doin'?! Why did you-?"
"Why?" the ladyhobbit snapped back as she wrenched herself away, her blazing hazel eyes finally turning to take in the sight the of gardener, the utter shock and horror on his face seeming almost comical, had she been in any mood to laugh. "You dare ask me 'why'?!"
"Yes, why?" Sam insisted, holding out his open palms to her in a gesture of confusion and ill wonder. "What's happened to you?"
"Stay away from me!" Rose gasped, as if she were finding it hard to swallow air around her outrage, batting his hands away from her even as they attempted to reach out to her. "'Why?' HA! You shouldn't need me to tell you that. First you lie to me about leavin' the Shire, then you lie about your feelings for me, and now this!" She gestured wildly to the gentlehobbit who had not moved from where her strike had left him, his eyes seemingly unseeing. "When did it end for us, Samwise? Or did it ever really begin?"
"Rose, me dear, please," Sam tried to take a step toward her, his bewilderment now leaning towards intense worry. "Ye aren't makin' any sense."
"Don't call me that," Rose hissed, taking a step away. "Stop lyin' to me. I read what you wrote in the Red Book. I know how you really feel. You never loved me or even thought about me then. Only HIM." She pointed an accusing finger at Frodo. "It has always ever been HIM." And the only reaction they received from him was a single blink, his eyes becoming dark and his flesh white except for the reddened welts where her fingers had struck him.
Sam grew equally pallid and his hands fell limply to his sides, his mind freezing momentarily in horror. No, no, his heart throbbed out painfully. This can't be. This is not the way this was supposed to happen. He wanted to look on Frodo, to go to him and try to explain, but he was unable to make himself to turn towards him to see his reaction. All he could see was the betrayed look on his wife's face and he felt his own face contort into a look of sorrowful guilt.
"Don't look at me like that, Sam Gamgee," Rose hissed, her face red and her fists clenched to her sides. "Just tell me the truth, for ONCE. Are you or are you not in LOVE with Mr. Frodo?"
Samwise closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. She was right. It was time to stop with the deceiving. It was then, in that moment, that he decided to disregard and cast off all of his other selves away from him. He was no longer the Mayor of the Shire, no longer Sam Gardner, husband to Rose Gardner and father of ten. He was no longer the hero of the Shire, nor either of all Middle-earth. He was just Sam, a simple gardener's son. A servant. A friend. One half to a whole.
"Yes," Sam opened his brown eyes, dark and soulful, laid completely bare at last. "Yes, I love Frodo."
The hobbit could suddenly see moisture glitter in her anger filled eyes. "You..." She could hardly find the words to accuse him, to curse him. "Why? What did I do?" Tears spilled down her cheeks. "Wasn't I a good wife to you? Didn't I love you enough?"
Sorrow filled the gardener's eyes. "You never did anything wrong, Rose. I.. I have always felt this way, for as long as I can remember."
"Then why didn't you tell me?!" Rose screamed hysterically before she choked herself into a sobbing fit.
"I was a coward," Sam told her simply, hanging his head.
"You're a liar," Rose grated out, her rage overcoming her again even in the midst of her grief. "A coward and a liar. And.. and... unnatural!" Sam flinched heavily. There. It was said. His feelings for his master were unnatural. And it hurt. It hurt so badly he thought he would cry out in pain. But how? How could love be wrong? But the evidence was there right before his eyes, the sight of his wife hugging herself stabbing at his heart like a knife. "Liars... Unnatural... Both of you...." she repeated, almost to herself. "Liars... Liars..."
Abruptly, Sam noticed a movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned sharply to see Frodo slowly place his hand upon his cheek, the shock that had never left his face now lanced with - oh, by the Valar, no! not that! - horror. Frodo was horrified. Sam could see it in his eyes even as they avoided his gaze. Before he could get even a word out, the gentlehobbit turned about and walked briskly out of the room, out of the smail, never once looking at anything or anyone, not even at the grounded before his feet.
"Frodo!" Sam started to follow, fear freezing in his breast, but upon hearing cold, bitter laughter behind him, he stopped and turned about.
"Go on then," Rose bit out, her eyes red from weeping. "Run after him. Like you always do."
Sam wanted to. By Eru, he wanted to! But something held him back. He couldn't abandon Rose now. Not like this. So he walked back to his wife, his friend, to try and explain, hoping in vain that somehow she would understand, and yet at the same time feeling a sense of dread at what could happen if he left Frodo alone for too long. "Rosie.. I never meant to hurt you," he said truthfully, placing a hand upon her shoulder. "Please believe me."
"Leave me!" Rose moaned, pulling away forcefully. "I hate you." Sam's hands fell back to his sides. "Liar." It was the only thing she could think of to say before it became too painful to speak anymore. So she darted past him and ran out of the smail, barely caring where her feet led her, as long as it was away from HIM.
Sam watched her go, taking with her any hope of redemption. In a single afternoon, his whole life had fallen to pieces at his feet. And he wondered, falling upon his knees, whether he would ever be able to set anything to rights again.
Grey clouds covered the autumn sky and the wind moaned softly through the trees. Windchimes that hung over the door of some houses rang against each other like little bells. A gust blew leaves of orange over the Road and upon his feet as he walked blindly along. He could not see them, nor anything else around him. Everything seemed surreal, like something out a story book or like a dream he could not wake up from, try as he might.
Yes, I love Frodo.
I love Frodo.
The phrase had not ceased repeating itself in Frodo's ears since he first heard it uttered from it's least expected source. And yet he still could hardly believe what he had heard. Me? He loves.. me?? It was almost incomprehensible. But he could not doubt the conviction he had heard in his voice. No matter what Rose had called him, Sam was never a liar.
He knew he should have been happy. He knew he should have been singing with joy and elation at the realization that his one true love, his other half, loved him in return. But he could feel no happiness, no elation. All he felt was the sting of Rose's hand upon him. Only dread and heartache.
It was a pronouncement of doom to him. And he knew she was right. He had known since the first time he had realized just how far his feelings for the gardener extended. And he had also known that such unnatural affections could only bring about pain and unhappiness. And now it was here. That pain and unhappiness that he had tried so hard to hold at bay was now being visited upon the very hobbit he had striven to protect. What would happen to Sam now? Surely his wife would not wish to stay with someone who felt unnatural impulses. The betrayal in her words spoke of that much at least.
Guilt thudded against his skull, the pain causing him to cradle his head in his hands. He walked on, not caring to look where his feet lead him, only knowing he needed to get away. But he could not outrun the guilt, the accusation in Rose's voice. Liar. Unnatural. He knew the truth of those words, knew that she had truly meant them for him. That much had been conveyed when her hand had struck him blind. The lie had been his all along, not Sam's. Only his... Hours passed and he did not stop walking, nor did he look up from his palms, until he felt something cold and wet envelope his toes.
Bywater stood strangely still that afternoon. The chill in the air had blown the inhabitants indoors for the comfort of their hearths. Green grass grew long and tall around him, brushing against his thighs. His feet stood on the lapping shore of the Bywater Pool, mud slipping between his numbed toes. There was little disturbance in the water and he could see his own reflection staring back up at him.
Memory struck him then. It had been Sam's wedding, the day which Frodo had decided was the worst day of his life. He had escaped the wedding feast to run blindly through the street, just as uncaring of the direction he took as he was now. He had not been paying attention to anything except the pain in his heart and had fallen headlong into the Water. Here, in this place. And here it was that he had decided not to drown himself, as he had longed to do. He had chosen to live.. for him. Only for him.
It had been a wrong choice, he realized. If he had drowned himself, as he had wished, Sam would have been hurt, it was true. But Sam now stood to lose far more than just his former master. If he had left Sam then, at least he wouldn't be in the pain he was in now with the danger of losing everything now looming like a cloud over him.
And it's my fault, he thought, finding it very hard to breathe. I never should have encouraged his affections. I never should have come back to Middle-earth. I should have waited for him, had more patience. If he truly loved me, he would have come after me, and we would have been together. But now...
Footfalls. Someone was behind him. Frodo turned about, dreading having to speak to anyone in his state. Golden curls could not hide the concern, colored in earthy brown, that met his gaze, his own eyes widening in startlement. The haunting image of those eyes, those same eyes he had seen so many times before, pierced his heart, making his hands shake feverently and his voice depart him.
"Mr. Baggins," Elanor Gardner regarded her teacher studiously, her hands clasped around the handle of the loaded shopping basket she was bringing home for her mother. It was a look Frodo had seen all too often on her father's face in the past. He hid his hands behind his back so she could not see how hard they shook. "Good afternoon, sir. I wasn't expectin' to see you so soon after class. Is.. everything all right?"
"I.." Frodo started, prepared to say the natural, automatic response to such a question. Yes, everything was all right. It was wonderful. It was... "Actually, lass, I'm not certain that it is," he admitted softly, looking back into the Water.
"How so?" Elanor inquired in a curious tone.
Frodo sighed and ran his hand over his eyes, trying mightily to get a hold of himself. It would be utterly unfair to unload his problems on an innocent child. He needed to try and reassure her somehow, tell her not to worry about his problems, tell her-
"I see.." the lass murmured softly, surprising him with the sudden clear understanding in her voice. "I suppose it never is all right, is it? Not completely anyway."
Frodo smiled wistfully, sorrowfully. "I used to think I could pretend that it was all right. I used to dream that life was right and perfect, that everything was as it should be and that I was happy."
"Everyone deserves to be happy," the girl nodded.
"But then.. things happened. And I deluded myself, thinking I could make everything all right again."
"And yet you can't always change how events occur," Elanor's voice floated over his shoulder. "You can only try to make the best of things."
"I thought I could do that too," Frodo laughed softly. "I came here thinking that I could. But things have only seemed to become worse, not better."
"Do you think so?" Frodo turned back around and looked upon his student, who now stood next to him, watching the water of the Pool slosh against the grass. "Before you came here, my little sister Goldilocks didn't know how to read or write a single word, nor did many other children. Before you came, my brother Frodo used to keep to himself around other children and spend all day in the home garden, coming out to play with our siblings only when they goaded him into it. Before you came, none of them gave a lick about learning." Elanor turned to look at him seriously. "And before you came, Father never read to us from the Red Book, never used to smile quite like he does now."
Frodo closed his eyes and turned away, finding it too painful to look into her father's eyes. "What good does all that do if I end up hurting the one I care most about?"
The lass sighed and looked back into the Pool, watching a frog emerge from the grass and leap into the water. "You know what my grandpa used to say to me? 'Ye can't grow a garden in a day, Elie-lass. Ye just have to plant a little at a time and think about how fair it'll be come spring.' Happiness doesn't come easy. It takes work, and faith. Cold seasons will come, but the warm seasons are what we have to look forward to."
"Some things are more complicated than growing a garden," the gentlehobbit uttered softly.
"And still it takes no less amount of faith and effort to accomplish the desired end," Elanor pointed out.
"I used to have faith," Frodo whispered. "But I lost it somewhere."
Elanor looked at him, a sad look in her earth warm eyes that made his chest ache. "Than even dreamin' that everything is and will be all right is in vain." She turned about then and hiked her way back up the slope and onto the Road that led back to Hobbiton. But before she left, she stopped and looked at him over her shoulder. "Oh, and pretending... Fine thing, that is. When the other children used to call Frodo-lad bad names, I used to tell him that it was just their sense of humor. I think he's still pretendin' that..."
Frodo stared after her for a time until she was long out of sight. He found himself somewhat stunned at the unlooked-for wisdom in his student's words. He didn't know why he had opened up to the child, but it had been so easy, he never considered that he oughtn't until she was already gone. A smile miraculously appeared on his face and he laughed softly. Sam and Rose had raised themselves a fine ladyhobbit indeed..
The smile suddenly dropped and his eyes went wide with remembrance. Elanor.. she was Sam's daughter. Sam and Rose's eldest. And there were other children, nine others, that depended on their parents even more than she. They were a family, and a happy one before he came. And now... Sam stood to lose all that, lose his wife, his children, everything he had worked so hard for and had earned. All because -
Because of me.
Frodo at last felt the grief he had been fighting take a sudden, painful hold on him and he sank slowly to the ground, allowing the tall grass to hide him from prying eyes as he wept silently to himself. He had been such a fool, wasting so much time! Even if Sam loved him, it didn't matter now. He was married and had a family, and Frodo could never let him abandon that for him. He cursed himself endlessly, feeling ice freeze his hope within his breast. He knew what he had to do now, and the thought of it nearly made Frodo wish he could just die instead.
Too late. Forgive me. The cold season was too long. It's too late. We waited too long, and now hope is dead. Too late... Oh Sam...
Samwise sat upon the front porch of Frodo's hobbit-hole, his chin resting upon his palm as he stared with a bleak expression towards the Road. It had been hours now, too many long hours since his wife and his love had both left him suddenly alone, walking out the door as if they meant to walk out of his life for good.
Another tear stung at his eyes, yet he did not even care to notice as it slipped silently down his cheek. Everything seemed hopeless. He wasn't even sure why he was bothering to stay around that place any longer, knowing how little good it would do him. Still, he knew that he needed to see Frodo again. He needed to speak to him, to try and explain himself, to come off clean with him even if it meant earning his pity or disgust forever.
But... oh Eru, please, I beg you... don't let him turn away.. Don't let me lose his friendship now. Please.
Sam wasn't sure when he had taken his eyes off the Road to bow his head in shame and dismay. Nor was he certain when he had stopped listening to the world around him. All he knew was that in nearly the next moment, he saw two muddied feet step into his line of sight, standing directly in the spot his eyes had been boring into. Sam froze for an instant. The feet did not move. Slowly, cautiously, the gardener raised his gaze, taking in with an almost desperate want the fine lines and curves of him, the velveteen of his clothes, the tenseness in his hands, the soft smoothness of his neck, and his face, stained with tears.
Frodo simply looked at him and said nothing, Samwise finding it just as difficult to speak. The moment stretched for a life time between them, and the setting sun cast is red and rose pink light against the autumn clouds and the curls of their hair ere Sam found it in himself to stand at last. Frodo watched him without expression, never blinking his reddened blue eyes, almost as if he were memorizing him. Sam's stomach lurched painfully at that look. It had been hardly any different on the day that Frodo had abandoned Sam at the Grey Havens, and that thought alone was enough to fill the hobbit with silent terror.
Please, don't let him turn away.. Don't let him leave me again...
"Frodo..." he started, his voice sounding hoarse and rough with weeping. Frodo did not respond. "I.. wish you could have found out some other way. I - I've tryin'.. trying to tell you for a long time and I-"
Suddenly Frodo raised his left hand and Sam ceased all attempts at speech. With a single gesture, Frodo could silence Sam forever. The knowledge alone was more than either thought they could bare. Still, Sam waited, holding his breath, waiting for the pronouncement of doom he was sure that would come.
I knew it. He doesn't... how could he, though? I must have been mad, to think he might...
Then, for the first time since Rose's hand struck him, Frodo truly looked at Sam. Blue eyes pierced into him like knives, echoing of pain and loss and bottomless sadness. No hate. No disgust. No pity. Only regret as deep as heaven. He wanted to cry out, wanted to reach out and hold the older hobbit and drive away his sadness, but he knew he could not. He could only stand still and look back, dread and longing filling his own eyes.
"Samwise." Frodo's voice sounded lifeless, dead of emotion, though his eyes spoke of a million, chaotic thoughts, only serving to heighten Sam's sense of foreboding. Silence stretched once more. It seemed as if Frodo was almost struggling against something, to say what he needed to say. Sam felt compelled to move forward, to embrace his former master, to take his hand, to do something - anything but just stand there waiting. But still Frodo's injured four fingered hand stilled him utterly.
"Samwise," the Baggins attempted again, sounding weak yet firm at the same time. "I do not think you should come here anymore."
Agony. Sam felt his heart instantly shatter to a thousand pieces, each shard cutting him deeper than any sword could. No, no! his soul screamed. Please, don't! The gardener began to shake and felt his knees grow weak, yet he somehow managed to remain upright. This can't be happening, it just CAN'T! He reached out with open palms, silently begging him to take it back, to say that everything was all right and that they were still friends...
But the look on Frodo's face left no room for protest. He moved forward then, walking stiffly past his life long friend and companion onto the porch to open the front door. This was worse, far worse than the Grey Havens had been. That day, they had parted on the promise of their eternal friendship and their future reunion. Now both were being taken from him. Sam whirled around, nearly blinded by tears yet still able to see with painful clarity as his love, his life, turned his back on him.
"Frodo-" Sam choked out, willing him with all his being to turn and face him-
"Don't!" Frodo's voice gasped out, as if he had been struck a second time, his head bent low as hurt throbbed from him.
It was over. With one word, Frodo had ended everything that had ever been between them.
Sam could not see his Frodo walking away from him. He could not see the door close on him. He stood, as one turned to stone, blinded completely by his grief and heartbreak. He did not move again for a long time.
"She's late," Frodo-lad commented while idly chewing on a straw of wheat.
"They're both late," Rose-lass agreed from where she sat by the window, playing cat's cradle with Goldilocks.
"And she left us to watch the babies," Merry-lad complained from where he and Pippin-lad sat at the table doodling.
"Ye mean she left ME to watch 'em," Frodo-lad corrected with an arched brow. "You two ran out to play as soon as you'd dropped off yer school books."
"Wonder what she was in such a hurry for," Rose-lass murmured, "that she couldn't wait for Elie to get home."
Elanor came out of the kitchen momentarily, wearing one of the apron's her mother usually wore while cooking. "Dinner's just about ready, sibs, so you all best wash up before-"
In that instant the door opened. All the children looked up expectantly as they witnessed their mother walk in with dragging steps. None could see her face as her hair fell in a tangle about her head. Goldilocks smiled brightly and leapt out of her chair to greet her, the strings still stretched in a pattern about her fingers. "Hullo, Mummy! Looky what Rose showed me."
But this earned the five year old nothing more than a slow glance with hardly a blink to suggest that she actually saw her. It was only then that the children saw her bloodshot eyes and stained cheeks, the sight causing every face to grow creased with worry. The ladyhobbit walked on, no longer acknowledging her children as she passed silently into the hall. A few moments later, they heard the master bedroom door click shut.
Goldilocks stared after her, looking utterly perplexed. "Mummy's acting odd," she said simply before seeming to forget all about it and hopping back over to her older sister Rose.
Frodo-lad was frowning deeply after witnessing what had taken place and quickly got up from his seat against the wall and walked over to his elder sister. "Elie, what's going on with Mum? She looked terrible and she acted as if we weren't even here! What..."
Elanor stared solemnly after her mother, concern making her suddenly look older than the teenager she was. Upon looking down at her younger brother, she noted the equally intense worry in his own sapphire blue irises. She smiled a small smile for him and wrapped her arm about his shoulders, drawing him in close to her side, trying to offer what reassurance she could.
"Try not to worry, Frodo dear," she uttered softly. "It'll be all right... Everything will be all right.. somehow..."