Sodden Leaves: 1. Autumn in the Shire, SR 1400

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1. Autumn in the Shire, SR 1400

It was late autumn in the Shire; the leaves, having parted company with the trees, lay in little piles of fading colour in the lanes and in the gardens; hobbit lads and lasses threw up russet-coloured windfalls by armfuls, dancing and skipping in a flurry of garnet rain. Broken stubs and edges of leaves, trampled by many hobbit feet, lay scattered in untidy piles over the tracks, pressed between the cobbles by the
occasional cart. The surface of every stream, lake or indeed puddle was littered with indefinable scraps of orange and brown. The Brandywine had been flowing red for weeks now; an enormous cluster of once golden, now faun-coloured leaves had caught in the waterwheel, moving softly in the current.

Leaves were the bane of Sam Gamgee's existence. He was only seventeen, but as the hatred of the annual windfall was hereditary his age did not dilute his passion. Leaves in the flowerbeds; leaves in the lawn; leaves in the windowboxes; Bag End was a veritable graveyard for half the Shire's trees. On this particular morning Sam was stomping up and down the rows he himself had meticulously planted in the
vegetable patch, muttering under his breath and picking up leaves rather aggressively in an attempt to rescue the plants and restore them to sight.

"Frightened they'll die of lack of air, are you, Sam?" The voice was amused, but in no way derisive, and it was a voice that Sam was never unwilling to hear. He looked up.

"No, Mr Frodo, but you know how the Gaffer and me are about leaves in the beds, sir. Awful nuisance, they are, to be sure. They don't half look a mess." Sam surveyed the leaves ruefully.

Frodo's smile broadened at this little outpouring, edged by an honest passion only childhood can give. It wasn't funny, really; Frodo remembered aunts tittering behind their hands at some of the strange things he had said as a child. He had hated it. The statements may have sounded queer to them, but he had felt strongly about them. He
tried to force the smile away, having no wish to inflict the same frustration on Sam.

"Yes, Sam, but you needn't be so worried about it. Besides, don't they fertilise the soil, or some such?"

Sam looked agitated. "'Course they do, Mr Frodo, but only after I've mulched 'em up and spread 'em about proper. I don't plan to leave 'em lying in your flowerbeds."

Frodo permitted the smile to return. His blue eyes twinkled with mirth. "Well, Sam, can't you do that later? Come inside with me now, and we can play cards, or something." He held out a hand, feeling a light, misty drizzle, barely more than a fog. "See, it's raining."

"I like rain," Sam commented.

"But you don't like being wet, do you?"

Sam looked thoughtful. "No," he said slowly.

"Well then, how about we stay out here for a bit in the rain, and then go into the dry? Does that sound all right?"

"If you're sure, sir," Sam agreed, trying not to sound too enthusiastic.

"Come on then; we'll go up to the tree," Frodo said, holding out his hand to the younger lad. He was thirty -two now, as much a fully grown hobbit as made no difference, but days spent with Sam had been part of daily routine for the last ten years and he had no intention of altering a perfectly acceptable routine.

They walked slowly up the sloping side of the garden in the rain, which slowly got heavier and heavier until they were both drenched, hair plastered to their heads in frozen curls of indefinable darkness, eyes screwed up against the driving force in an expression of chill ecstacy.

They paused underneath the tree in which they had always sat, their interlocked palms the only parts of them still half-dry. Without hesitation Frodo sank onto the wet cool earth, in a patch of deep green moss, and pulled Sam into his lap.

"Why do you like rain, Sam?" he asked, grinning, and Sam noticed that one drop of rain hung frozen, intact and inert, in his left eyebrow, although water was coursing down his face in torrents.

"I like the smell," Sam said. "And I like the smell afterwards."

"Yes," Frodo agreed. "I shouldn't like to try and guess what the smell is, but I like it too." The earth felt fresh and cool and clean, smelling almost like wild garlic and yet equally like dying buttercups; almost like moss and yet more like roses. He hugged Sam to his chest, still grinning, and said, softly, "Can you swim, Sam?"

Sam pressed his face into the rain-saturated fabric of Frodo's jacket, feeling the loose weave, its pattern enhanced by moisture, impressing itself in his smooth cheek. He caught a handful of Frodo's waistcoat and squeezed it tightly in his small strong fist, until little rivulets poured down his arm and into the sleeve of his cardigan. It, too,
was sodden, black where it had been grey, heavy on him like chainmail, clinging to his skin through the shirt and linen waistcoat beneath. Sam smiled. "Can't swim, sir. When would I need to swim?"

Frodo ruffled his hair, and the curls stayed where they were put. He laughed and immediately began attempting to create some sort of implausible style in Sam's rain-darkened hair.

"Don't..." Sam resented people touching his hair or patting his head as a rule, mainly because so many of his mother's friends had a tendency to do it. He didn't mind Frodo ruffling his hair when it was dry, but this was an insult to his dignity and could not be tolerated.

"Why not?" Frodo was still grinning broadly, well aware of how far he could push Sam.

"Well, because I don't like it, and how would you like it, sir?" Sam's small hands closed in Frodo's hair, forcing it into various different directions at once, although not without Sam's customary strong gentleness. Frodo laughed as Sam twisted and clambered up in his lap, and he fended him off gently at the waist, wincing.

Eventually Sam tired of being indignant and began to laugh too, and gently he patted Frodo's hair straight. His brown eyes so full of hidden depth flickered to Frodo's, and then he laughed again, and his little white teeth were pearlised with water.

"We're wet," he observed.

"Brilliant observation. Someone reward the one who named you Samwise," Frodo replied cheerily, standing and smiling down at Sam. He held out his hands. "Ride?"

Sam never refused a ride. As he clambered up onto Frodo's back, rain pouring down his body, water soaking up through Frodo's clothes, legs clamped around his waist and arms around his neck, he never gave a thought to the fact that one day the position might be reversed. And why should he have done? Why would he possibly have thought that one day, when he was the strongest and stoutest and most steadfast, he would be carrying Frodo, light and fragile as a doll, up a volcano? How could he have imagined that this game in the rain of the Shire could reflect a later pig-a-back ride through acrid fumes and asphalt, in the face of pure peril? And yet it was a direct reflection as if in a mirror. every factor opposed; where now the rainwas cool and liquid, then it would be burning ash and molten metal; now where the earth was green and fruitful, then it would be barren and dry as death.

Sam's hands twined together, pressing into Frodo's ribs, his little fingers pressing down on his belt. Jolts vibrated in his pelvis as Frodo walked, and quickened as he began to run towards the door as the rain turned to hailstones...

They skidded in through Bag-End's round green door to land in a sodden heap on the mat, dripping water onto Bilbo's clean floor. Sam was horrified at the initial mess they had made on landing and leapt to his feet, but Frodo remained seated in a puddle on the varnished floor, laughing. Sam's feet slithered on the slick surface and he grabbed at a peg in haste, pressing another hand to the door for support until his
feet found the safety of the porch-mat.

Frodo recovered himself, wriggled onto the mat and then stood up. He surveyed the sopping-wet Sam critically. "Your Gaffer will have the Shiriff on us if I send you home like that, Sam; but Bilbo will be after my blood if I let you in like it. I think it's outer garmnets at the door, I'm afraid."

Sam peeled off the cardigan and waistcoat and let them fall. Each hit the floor with a sharp slap, spraying water all over Sam's feet and legs. Frodo dropped his jacket and waistcoat onto the pile. It felt strangely pleasing to Sam to see his home-knitted clothes tangled up with Frodo's fine linens imported from many miles away. The reason was not that he yearned for Frodo's class; indeed it was quite the opposite. It was rather that it reminded Sam of their closeness despite the difference in status. The way they spoke, the prefixes Sam tended to add to his master's name - these were social etiquettes, but they meant nothing to Sam. Frodo's drenched clothes - drenched because of Sam - combined with the grin on his face said it all.

They pattered a little way into Bag End, until they reached Frodo's bedroom door. Frodo opened it. "In."

Sam gaped. This was the inner sanctum. However, he would not refuse. He went in, acutely aware that he was dripping water all over the carpet. Frodo was rummaging in drawers and eventually emerged with some old breeches and a shirt; too small for him, still a little too long for Sam if not too wide. Sam smiled.

They sat later in the living-room, drying their clothes on the fireguard, having exhausted every card game they knew and told every story Sam was willing to hear again - which amounted to almost every one Frodo could remember. Now it was three o' clock; lunch had been forgotten about, and Sam was nestled lethargically against Frodo, his warmth on one side and the crackle of the flames on the other. His
eyelids drooped, and he did not resist; Bag End was too warm, too comforting, too much like his home.

Frodo glanced down into the face of the sleeping child in his arms and smiled. He leaned over and kissed Sam's forehead. There was a gentle flutter of eyelashes on a smooth cheek, just once. And then Sam smiled too.

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Janette Le Fay

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: General

Rating: General

Last Updated: 04/27/03

Original Post: 04/12/03

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