1. This Side of the Sea
On this Side of the Sea
A couple of days ago Frodo finished the telling of their tale. All is set in black letters on the pages of the book Bilbo left him, with a few left for Sam to fill in his part of the story. Since Frodo finished the tale, a burden has lifted off his mind. Something is drawing him onward, beyond the borders of the Shire, and now his final task is done. The days ahead are mostly invisible to him but he is granted glimpses here and there. He will not stay in the Shire much longer.
The heavy leather-bound book lies open on the desk; he has been writing for hours. He is going through the pages, revising and adding little things he remembers when he re-reads his words. They lack the sparkle and flourish of Bilbo's prose but he is content. It is a honest recounting – Bilbo's and his own memoirs, the Great Story of their age seen through the eyes of the little people. Frodo hopes it is worthy of the great deeds done by the Valiant and Wise.
The scritch-scratch of the quill is the only sound in the study. The rusty smell of ink hovers in the air, laced with the scorched fruitiness of gallnut. So familiar, these sounds and smells, and the bright light of a Shire afternoon streaming in through the open window. An invisible breeze brings Sam's voice with it, low and full as he is talking to someone at the gate. Master Hamfast on a visit to see the youngest of his grandchildren, is Frodo's guess, and already the croaky voice of the old gaffer can be heard rambling about the weather and how the potatoes are not yet in the ground where they should be.
"It's too late for second earlies if you want them out by Afterlithe," the Gaffer says, and Sam chuckles, a bit exasperated if Frodo is not mistaken but with a warmth that betrays how deeply he loves his father.
Frodo turns back to the book and reads: Sam walked beside him, saying nothing, but sniffing the air, and looking every now and again at the great heights in the East. He wrote those words himself, as true to memory as he could. And yet he wonders what Sam really saw when he looked up to the snow-tipped Misty Mountains. Frodo adds a few words, the ink running on the parchment and in his memory the pine-woods of Imladris shimmer a dark green.
And what if he explores the deep-cut valley, what if he gets into those pine-woods now? Frodo walks on soft needle-strewn ground. And it is the Northern slopes, wooded and steep, of the valley of Imladris where he sniffs the air that is ripe with the scents of autumn and a brisk cold that speaks of winter ahead. He is a wanderer here, between time and place. Frodo turns towards a presence at his left (Sam, are you with me?) and a clear light slants through the trees, soft like the afternoon and bright like the morning. He walks into it as it shines through him, spreading from the scar above his heart down his left side, and as if he were made of glass, it fills him, fills him to the brim –
Sam's hands are on his shoulders, warm and safe, and Frodo turns to look up into his eyes.
"Nef aear, sí nef aearon," he whispers, the Elvish rolling of his tongue, and he says, "a river's disguise, the hyacinth wild on my shoulder," alien words that his lips form without conscious thought. He tries again, tries to find words that make sense in this place, which has been home for most of his life. But no sound comes from his mouth and Frodo can just look at Sam, pleading with him to understand. And perhaps Sam does because he places his hand gently over Frodo's chest, covering scar and light, and Frodo feels the beat of his own heart, steady still. Still here.
Sam comes more often now to Frodo's bed. In the blue hours of the morning, he will move against Frodo, body solid and warm, and eager in a way they have not been with each other since Minas Tirith.
Perhaps it is because Sam is not yet invited back into Rosie's bed after the birth.
Perhaps it is because of all the women fussing over little Elanor and making sure Rosie is getting enough rest. Weeks like this, when Sam has just returned from his travels in the Northfarthing, caring for the seedlings he had planted last year, there is always a gaggle of womenfolk around, cousins and aunts of the Cottons, or May and Marigold up from New Row. Having the smial full of women makes Sam seek refuge in the garden or in Frodo's rooms, the study, the front parlour and in Frodo's bedroom beside the big green door.
After all those years of living with only Bilbo, and after, when the smial was his alone, Bag End now reminds Frodo of his youth at Brandy Hall, the endless stream of visitors, light female voices echoing from the kitchens, laughter (and occasionally crying) of children coming from the gardens. He enjoys the hustle and bustle even when he is no longer part of it. At odd times, he will find himself walking down the hallway, quiet like only the little people can be, and tuck himself in the window seat by the kitchen door – to listen to the clatter of voices and kitchenware, to the women's songs and the kettles' soft hissing over the fire.
More often than not, Sam will find him and come sit with him, arm circling Frodo's waist like he often does, ever since Mordor. Those bitter days left their mark on them, and it shows in the way their bodies seek each other out, at mealtimes and under the flowering apple-trees. They have been lying with each other long before Sam married Rosie, and it has never been just about a body's needs between them. But in those still moments Frodo thinks there is something new and urgent that makes Sam hold him close.
Rosie has come down with a cold, common in spring like daffodils, and Cousin Hazel from the Brown side of the family arrived shortly after elevenses, to "help out" she said, taking the besom right out of Sam's hand. The tall lass is Rosie's age, and the women are close, so Hazel is sleeping in Rosie's bed tonight.
Which makes it easy for Sam to slip into Frodo's room at nightfall, after they smoked a last pipe in front of the door. It is not unusual for the lads (Rosie's words, not his) to share a bed, and it is not as if Rosie does not know. She is a shrewd one, Frodo learned during the last year. She is also generous in her loving, or else she knows she can never come between her husband and his Master.
Sam moans beside him, a needy sound that still makes Frodo want to touch him in the most intimate places. In the darkness their lips find each other amidst a heated tangle of limbs. They share breath, and it is Sam's tongue that opens Frodo's mouth to the sweet taste of the Shire. They share their bodies' desires, and it is Sam's hands that make him arch in pleasure. Sam's solid weight covers him whole, starlit like the Shire sky, and when it is Frodo's turn to touch, he rejoices in the sturdy softness of Sam, skin-close and closer even. The smooth linen, the scent of lavender sprigs beneath the pillow, the creak and squeak of the bed – all of this Frodo notices when he lies in Sam's arms, sated and anchored in this world.
The moonlight's silver glitter makes him feel at home then. He can look at Sam and imagine him whole beside himself, quiet years together stretching before him, with the trees growing wide and tall and Sam's family filling Bag End with children and their children in turn, like Bungo and Belladonna once envisioned all those many years ago.
"My dear Sam." Soft words in the darkness, and no matter what words Frodo will say in the days to come, he will always remember those words.
Sam pulls him closer, so warm, so undeniably here. "Me dear", he whispers, a breath across Frodo's skin. This is what they are to each other. What they will be, forever.
Frodo wakes in the early morning. At his side, one arm flung over Frodo's chest, Sam is softly snoring. In his sleep Frodo walked through the pine-woods of Rivendell again, under a sky that knew neither sun nor moon. If he listens closely he can still hear the music, swelling and subsiding like the tide. Words rise in his mind, the moss ... the flood of your beauty ... your dancing, and others he can taste (but not say), sweet like honey, on the tip of his tongue. They make Frodo's blood sing and fill him with such aching longing. He slips out of bed, out of Sam's arms without a look back. Impatiently, he puts on his trousers and snatches a shirt from the hook. In the hallway he takes his Elven cloak, out of habit more than anything else.
Something is waiting for him outside, something mighty like the sea. He has no words to describe it but it is all around him in the wind, in the promise of dawn just behind the Hill. He is wrapped in blue darkness as the stars pale in the sky. The grass is wet with dew. His heart goes out to the West, he can taste salt water in the air. His feet find their way to the Party Field, like they always do, without fail.
When the orange ball of the sun rises over the Hill, Frodo is standing below the young Mallorn tree. The Lady Galadriel's gift for Sam, who will be staying in the Shire, has also become a gift for Frodo, who will soon be leaving. There is music in the whisper of the leaves, there is a rhythm to the swaying of its supple branches. Frodo touches the gem he always wears on a chain around his neck. It alights with a sparkling brilliance of its own. Frodo tilts his head far back, and through the leaves he can see the pale moon to the east and the sun blazing in the west. This is his road, this is where he will be going. Not much longer now ... Frodo hums along with the leaves, he moves to a rhythm beating strongly underneath his skin. Slowly, he starts to dance.
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.