9. Chapter Eight - Wait
Had it been only a scant few hours ago that he had been thoroughly kissed by Sam Gamgee in the shadows of a tree on Hill Road? And only this morning, just before dawn, that he had tasted that astonishing mouth for the first time? It felt to Frodo as if weeks had passed, months perhaps. And how could he have thought that he might actually be able to sleep? Frodo rolled over in his bed for the hundredth time and gazed at the faint silver-blue hint of moonlight on his bedroom wall.
In addition to the exquisite aching hunger he now endured, Frodo felt somehow painfully hollow. And his head spun with worries. What if Sam's hand got worse? Simple cuts, especially with garden tools, had been known to progress into something much more dire. When would he see Sam again? Had Aster really cleaned it well? She generally knew what she was doing when it came to things of that sort, but what if she was wrong this time? Did the Gaffer believe their story that Sam had gotten nauseous and they had simply stopped until he felt better? When would he see Sam again? Sam couldn't work tomorrow with his hand like that. What if Sam wasn't sleeping either? His hand was probably throbbing horribly. When would he see Sam again? And Sam would feel awful in the morning on top of that. Would it be too forward if he went down there with some of Bilbo's remedy? What if the hand got worse and Sam couldn't use it at all? What would Sam do if he couldn't work the soil? When would he see Sam again?
Frodo groaned and rolled out of the bed. It was useless. He had no idea what time it was at this point, but he might as well take a hike or do something productive as lie there and twist up the bedclothes for yet another night. Pulling his nightshirt off over his head, Frodo grabbed his discarded breeches and stepped into them, snagging his shirt from the laundry basket as he strode over to the open window.
As he finished buttoning his breeches, Frodo stood at his window gazing into the moonlit night and inhaled a long deep breath. Pulling himself up into his favourite perch on the windowsill, he felt his breathing gradually slow and steady as he sat there. The moist air whispered softly against his skin, barely moving. Even the night creatures that usually trilled and chirped beneath his window seemed to have hushed for a moment. He could almost hear, with the movement of air, a soft sound as if the night, too, was breathing quietly. Frodo felt the strange tension that had been building inside him slowly unravel and ebb away.
The landscape beyond his window was brushed with silver like some vast bright sea, with the mulch and fresh plantings in the Bag End gardens forming dark islands just beneath his window. Frodo could smell the heat of the day still lingering in the freshly turned soil and the gentle perfume of something blooming nearby. He leaned out to scan the meticulously tended beds around his window and spotted the source of the scent, a clutch of delicate white blooms. Frodo carefully swung out and gingerly placed his feet in the soil, then, watchful of the new plantings, made his way cautiously to the plant. Hunkering down in the mulch, he leaned into the pale flowers, sniffing cautiously, then inhaling deeply. It seemed something fragrant was always blossoming under his window.
Frodo stood up and slowly turned, taking in the bounteous splendour of the garden all around his window. He was struck yet again by how blind he had been all this time. How self-absorbed. Wrapping his arms around himself, Frodo sank to his knees in the deep rich mulch, groaning at his own heedless acceptance of all this lovingly nurtured glory. He had been agonizing over his own feelings, wary of showing anything at all in his demeanour or speech. His mind had been tediously occupied with dry reason and logic, wasting time, blissfully unaware. Frodo had been the one waiting. Not Sam.
Sam hadn't been waiting at all. Sam had been declaring his feelings with every season, with every scent and colour carefully selected, with every seed sown, with every delicate cutting sheltered, with every wilted bloom snipped back. True to his generous spirit but constrained by class, and age, and his own shy diffidence, Sam had instead poured his heart into the soil. Frodo gazed about in wonder. As clearly as if he had written it in black ink on ivory parchment, Sam had recorded his love in colour and scent on rich dark loam beneath Frodo's window. And he had splashed it in riotous profusion across the green-gold canvas of the hill.
Frodo dug his hands into the mulch and lifted it to his face, closing his eyes as he inhaled the lush verdant scent. It was as if he held a part of Sam's spirit in his fingers, warm and vital and alive. He could almost hear and feel Sam's gentle voice thrumming in the soil.
Frodo looked at the garden around him, silent and flourishing in the moonlight, pulsing quietly with life and song, and felt a sweet pain swell up from within him. He realized suddenly that whenever Sam was not within reach or hearing, he felt empty, somehow bereft. Just being here, in this place where Sam had sown so much of himself into the soil, somehow filled that emptiness, but not completely. He would never be complete again without Sam.
Frodo gazed back down at the rich loam in his hands.
“He is yours, my lady. As certain as you fall asleep to his lullaby in the winter, and quicken to his touch in the spring. He is yours,” he whispered. “But in all your abundance, I hope you will trust me with this one gift -- your Sam.”
Frodo reverently lowered the rich soil back to its resting place.
“I'll not betray that trust,” he breathed.
For long moments Frodo knelt there, hands pressed into the soil, heart strangely content and full, taking deep breaths of that scent that was so much a part of Sam.
Eventually, as always at this time of night, his hill and his sky called to him. Frodo felt the tug somewhere under his breastbone and heard the music of his stars, distant and serene. But somehow, with his fingers still buried in the warm mulch, his senses overwhelmed with the scents and sounds, his heart more full than he had thought possible, he felt strangely unwilling to leave this haven that Sam had lovingly created under his window.
Frodo looked up to see if he could glimpse the stars from here. The bulk of Bag End blocked most of the sky, the trees above hid the rest, but he could see a wide expanse of stars if he looked in the right direction. The moon, however, was somewhere just out of sight behind Bag End. He looked around for the best place to recline so that he could see it from the midst of all this abundance. And he thought of the other garden that Sam had carefully cultivated on the hill.
In that moment, Frodo realized the true gift that Sam had given him. He could lie in the midst of the magnificent wild-seeming spread on the hill, surrounded by everything that Sam had coaxed and sung and loved into being, surrounded by that essence of Sam, and watch the stars bloom in their own glorious profusion in the sky above Bag End. He could have Sam and the stars in his sky as well.
Frodo got to his feet and ran, up and around the smials, his feet certain on the familiar path, running upwards to the deep shadows of the great tree.
And he flew out into a vast field of stars that bloomed in the sky above and in the grass below. Out into glorious moonlight that painted his hill with silver. Frodo stopped there, beyond the tree, and for long moments he stood still, full of untrammelled joy, his hand stretched up and drifting across the moonlit sky, as he watched the stars shine and shimmer through his fingers. Then he lowered his hand and turned, completely entranced, his hand drifting out and over the multitude of blooms glimmering and dancing all around him. At last, his eyes were drawn back up to the beauty above him as he knelt, then sank sideways into the turf, throwing his hand out for balance and yelping with surprise as he sat on something hard and unyielding in the grass.
Frodo reached under his protesting backside and pulled out a cloth-covered package, gazing at it in puzzlement in the silvery light. Then his face cleared and he felt carefully through the cloth, hoping against hope that he hadn't broken whatever was carefully wrapped in that bundle. Frodo sighed with relief when it appeared that, whatever it was, it was still one, very hard, oddly-shaped piece.
Frodo remembered very clearly the moment yesterday morning when it had fallen from Sam's lax fingers into the grass. Remembered all too well the package sliding from Sam's hand, those fingers instead covering his as he cupped Sam's cheek, and the kiss that would forever burn on his palm.
Frodo clasped Sam's mathom to his chest and fell back into the cushioning grass remembering that moment, and Sam's mouth on his, and Sam's every hitching breath, and the stars in Sam's eyes. That was the true gift, he thought, sliding his fingers across the cloth covering the package and gazing at the sweep of stars above him. He needed no other.
Gradually, as he lay there suspended between earth and sky, Frodo began to sense once more the solemn march of music from the stars above him. But this time, a beloved, familiar melody rose from the stars blooming in the grass around him as well. It wove a counterpoint through and around that tune. He could almost hear Sam's beloved voice humming in harmony. It seemed the very air shivered with song. He closed his eyes and shivered along.
Frodo wondered, as Sam's deep tones grew louder and trembled through him, if it was possible to die of this. It sounded as if Sam was actually humming somewhere on the hill, coming toward him . . .
“You are beautiful you know.”
Somehow that voice, so loved and so familiar, did not startle him. Frodo opened his eyes slowly to find Sam gazing down at him and wondered if he had simply dreamed his song, and therefore Sam as well, into existence on the hill.
The luminous silver light sculpted the perfect features above him, chiselling that firm jaw and highlighting sleep-tousled hair into a glimmering crown. Frodo envied the moonlight, tracing a path down the strong column of that neck, caressing the sculpted muscles of that chest, gilding the sparse fur that arrowed down across that stomach . . . Sudden heat bloomed in Frodo's chest and he nearly moaned with desire when he realized his shy, sensible Sam had come up the hill from Bagshot Row with his breeches unlaced.
No. This was no dream. One tanned hand was swathed in white. And obviously it had proved an encumbrance. The shirt was also unbuttoned, gaping open, and while a brace rested on one shoulder, the other dangled.
Frodo looked up into Sam's eyes and he found he couldn't breath properly beneath that heated gaze. He levered up from the grass and felt the cloth-wrapped mathom slide down his chest to rest, somewhat uncomfortably, in his lap. Sam's eyes followed its path, lingered for a moment, then lifted to meet his.
“You forgot your mathom...my mathom. I forgot my mathom,” Frodo managed.
“I see that.” Sam's mouth quirked briefly.
Sam looked down at the white wrapped appendage as if it were a bit of a surprise. “Aches some,” his eyes slid back to Frodo's meaningfully, “but not as bad as other things.”
Frodo tried to speak, but only uttered a croak. Then he managed a strangled, “Sam...”
Sam lifted the sound hand. “Begging your pardon Mis...Frodo, I didn't get to finish what I was saying before. And I am a bit uneasy of being interrupted again . . . by someone else. Not by you, of course. If you get my meaning.”
Frodo frowned. “Saying?” The only thing left unfinished before was not, he thought, anything to do with words.
“You asked me... You said it was a surprise to you, me coming up here and all, like that. I...”
“Sam.” Frodo managed to push himself up to sit cross-legged in the grass. “I don't mean to interrupt, but at least sit down.”
“Yes, sir.” Sam sank down quickly.
Frodo noted that he was carefully just out of reach.
“No 'sirs', Sam.” Frodo peered at him. “Are you sure you are all right?”
“Had a thumping good ache in my head, but it's gone now,” Sam responded, “Daisy gave me something awful-tasting to drink. I was a trifle sick with that, on top of everything else I think I drank.”
Frodo sat silent and expectant. Sam blushed furiously and looked down at the bandaged hand in his lap.
“This goes back a ways, this,” Sam managed.
Frodo tried to school his face to show calm acceptance of whatever Sam felt was so terrifying and important.
“A while back, when you'd first come to Bag End, I heard me gaffer tell how Mister Bilbo -- he was down at the Ivy Bush -- Mister Bilbo let slip to some of them down there that he, well, he found you...”
Frodo noticed with apprehension that Sam's sound hand was tightly clenched in his lap, so tightly that his knuckles were white.
“You were floating all quiet and still, facedown and all, at the bottom of his big bath tub. He was laughing an' all about it. Said he thought you had gone and drowned in there, an' he tried to save you. Said he fell in himself and nearly drowned.”
Frodo frowned. Something about this nagged at the back of his mind, but he couldn't quite grasp what it was.
And still Sam hadn't looked up.
“Mister Bilbo had told 'em how you weren't afraid of water -- which I know for sure, seeing you swim like a pure fish an' all -- but back then, I didn't know that. I couldn't see how anyone could not be afraid of it. But...”
How many times had Frodo gone for a private dip in the stream, early in the morning, late in the evening, and risen dripping out of the water to find his young friend just standing or sitting on the shore, nervously watching?
“Well, me gaffer and the rest got to talking -- not meaning no disrespect -- but they were worrying with you doing that -- kind of holding yourself underwater like that till you nearly, well... I...I got a tad worried about it.”
Sam looked up at this, and Frodo smiled supportively, remembering the fear in the hazel eyes of a younger Sam -- watching him dive and swim. Remembering how he would walk right up to the water's edge, almost frantic, when Frodo didn't come up fast enough.
“I mean, being just... I mean, I was young and all you know. I kinda decided that if Mister Bilbo wasn't worried over it then he likely wasn't watching too close when you were around water, an' I...”
How many times had Frodo told Sam that he really didn't want him getting in trouble for taking time away from chores just to make sure he didn't drown? And how many times had Sam ignored him and just kept suddenly showing up?
“Well I, not that I could do any good or anything, but I wanted to make sure you could come up when you decided to, whatever it was you were doing when you stayed down there like that.” Sam blushed furiously, and gazed back down at his hands. “And I... Well, I could always tell when you...when you were bathing by the steam coming up outta the vent we built and the smoke. And... And...”
Frodo was suddenly lost. “When I was bathing?”
But Sam did not raise his head. He just kept talking, his voiced strained and shaking. “And, those times Mister Bilbo weren't around to watch over you, and I could manage, I would just make sure you... Well, I just kind of watched to make sure you came out safe an' all.”
“Watched?” Frodo said hoarsely, suddenly realizing where this conversation was really going. He stared first at Sam's bent head, then at the ground, feeling his face go hot.
“No! Not that way! Not the way you think!”
Frodo closed his eyes, running his fingers shakily through his hair, trying to gather his scattered wits. All the times that he had taken a bath, had Sam watched?
“I mean, I would stay out in the cellar and listen, just to make sure you were all right an' all. Wait until I heard you get out, then leave.”
Frodo let out a hiss of relief at that and opened his eyes.
“Least ways, not till day afore yesterday.”
Frodo's eyes snapped up, locked on that hesitant hazel gaze, then widened.
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.