An Impatient Week

Please note this story is slash (centered on Sam/Frodo); if you are underage or not allowed to view such material, please be responsible and do not read on.

This story will be posted in seven chapters, one for each day of the week. Please enjoy, and feedback is always appreciated.

1. Sterday: Gardening

Something was tickling Frodo's nose. Something terribly delicious. A warm, slightly sweet smell sneaked through the cracks around his door, travelling along the carpet, past the tumbles of parchments piled haphazardly on his desk, making its way to his bed.

Yawning, Frodo pulled the blankets around his body and stretched his arms and legs. Taking a moment to let the remnants of a dream float from his sleep-riddled mind, he opened his eyes. Dashes of bright sunlight slid into the room through the gauzy curtains, drawing long lines of gold across the carpet. Birds sang to the early morning breeze, welcoming the dawn.

Another yawn cracked his jaw, and he hastily clapped a hand over his ever-widening mouth. He snuggled into the crisp sheets, grateful that he was able to lie in bed each morning sheltered in peace and quiet.

Frodo remembered when he had shared a room with four younger lads at Brandy Hall. He usually awoke to the sounds of quarrelling, lads elbowing each other over the wash basin, playing at tug-of-war with the washcloth, or cupping water in their hands to splash at each other. Frodo would pull on his clothes quietly and slide out before they could bring him into the fray as well.

Frodo threw one hand behind his head, arching his chest, letting out a sigh. How might he spend the day? Re-reading a favourite story? Lying in the sun whilst sunbeams bathed his face? Helping Uncle Bilbo with the accounts? Frodo made a face at that. He thought of the gardens outside, and considered that there were pleasures to be had whilst lying in bed that he couldn't have imagined at Brandy Hall.

Pleasures that Frodo had found himself indulging in a great deal lately.

Frodo heard a clatter of crockery coming from the kitchen, and the smell wafting deliciously beneath his bedroom door finally found a name in his mind: evidently Sam had decided to fry a batch of pikelets for breakfast.

Sam.

Frodo smiled as he thought of the young gardener.

Increasingly Frodo's thoughts were drawn to Samwise Gamgee, who had changed in a few seasons from a tow-haired child to a strapping lad, grown to be someone more beautiful than Frodo could have dreamed. Like a butterfly, thought Frodo, guiding a hand over his chest.

No -- of course not. Sam wasn't an ugly caterpillar before -- it was just that Frodo had never noticed how...special he was.

Frodo moved his hand over his stomach, idly drawing circles around his bellybutton. His skin rose to tiny goosebumps at the touch, prickling with a want that simmered through him. If he lowered his hand he would find a tangle of curls.

Frodo stilled his hand for a moment, straining to hear the sound of Sam's voice as he flipped the pikelets. But the air brought no sound other than sweet birdsong and the clink of dishes rattling about.

With a short moan Frodo moved his hand till he found his need, already straining and tight from the thoughts that had sparkled in his mind. He squeezed himself gently, feeling his mouth water at the pleasure, allowing it to weave up his body till heightened desire called for a new stroke, a new pull...

"Rise and shine Mr. Frodo!"

Frodo blinked as a stout figure strode across the floor. Sam pulled back the curtains to let a blinding flash of light fall into the room, then pushed the shutters out, letting a soft breeze billow the curtains.

Stemming his ache with a groan, Frodo pulled up his knees and curled his body into a ball. Sam stood next to the bed, peering at him. "Sir, are you feeling well?"

Bunching up the sheet around his waist, Frodo said, "I'm fine, Sam."

"Let me just change the bedclothes." Sam made a move towards the sheets. Frodo grabbed them tight.

"Sam! Just...could you wait a moment?" Heat tinted Frodo's cheeks.

"Sorry, sir." Sam stepped back, placing his hands in front of him to wait for Frodo to leave his bed. A long minute passed where Sam began to frown slightly and Frodo tried desperately to think cold thoughts.

"Mr. Bilbo asked if you could help me today with the plantin'," Sam said finally. "If you're taken poorly...I'll tell him I'm fine doing it misself."

"I'm not feeling poorly," Frodo muttered, gripping the sheet in one hand, while silently cursing his uncle.

"Then you can help?" asked Sam, brightening with a smile.

"Of course," said Frodo lightly. That smile was not helping matters. "I'll be glad to." He thought to change the subject. "Are you cooking pikelets for breakfast?"

"That I am, sir," said Sam proudly. "With clotted cream fresh from Farmer Muddyfoot's."

Frodo grinned when his belly grumbled in response. Certain situations now seemed to be settled in his body, so Frodo could promise: "I shall get up and dressed to enjoy them. I'll just be a moment."

"Right, sir." Sam eyes sparkled with mirth when Frodo waved that he should leave the room.

Once Sam had shut the door behind him, Frodo kicked the covers that pressed down on his body and crawled off the bed. The rich, green carpet tickled his feet as he crossed to his wardrobe. He pulled out a pair of breeches and a shirt -- it would be too warm for a weskit today.

Tugging up his trousers, Frodo spared a scowl for a certain part of his anatomy, fastened his buttons and went to the kitchen.

Uncle Bilbo sat at the table, a pipe clenched between his teeth, pouring over a mess of papers. "The Browntrees are late on their payment again," he muttered, his brow furrowing in concern. "I hope little Hanna's well."

Frodo sat across from Bilbo, welcoming the smoking cup of tea Sam placed in front of him. "Good morning, Bilbo," he said pointedly, taking a sip.

"Ah, Frodo-lad, good to see you up." Bilbo took the pipe from his mouth and let a smoke ring float across the table. "And how are you today?"

Frodo tossed a look at Sam, who managed to shake his head as a pikelet almost slipped off the turner. "Very well, thank you, Bilbo."

"Then you'll be able to help Sam whilst I go collect this month's rents, eh? Master Hamfast's hands have swelled up again so he can't work, and Sam tells me much gardening needs to be done."

"He'll be fine soon, Mr. Bilbo, begging your pardon," put in Sam as he laid a plate of steaming pikelets on the table. "Mrs. Marchbank's given him some liniment that oughta help. I 'spect he'll be back working in the garden in a day or two," he added as he placed a bowl of cream next to the plate.

"Mmmm," murmured Bilbo as he spread cream over his pikelet. "It's just -- how old are you, Sam my boy?"

"Twenty, Mr. Bilbo," answered Sam, rubbing at the spot where a lump of cream had fallen onto the table.

"Twenty?" Bilbo fell silent as he began to eat.

Frodo kept his eyes firm on his plate as he bolted down his breakfast. Sam rattled around the kitchen, humming to himself as he collected dishes and fried the rest of the pikelets.

"Is there something wrong with Hanna?" asked Frodo. Hanna was the Browntrees' babe, only a few months old, brown-haired and rosy cheeked, with a frightful squeal.

"I don't know," said Bilbo with a shake of the head. "There's a fever that's been sweeping Bywater, and Hanna seems to have taken it -- Mrs. Browntree's been unable to tend to her washing duties nursing her. I expect the loss of that extra income is hitting them hard. We shall have to see how we can help."

"I know you'll do your best, dear Bilbo," said Frodo, seeing Sam stop and stare from the corner of his eye. "Just remember you can't mend every problem in the four Farthings yourself."

"I will, Frodo-lad." Bilbo shook a forkful of pikelet at Frodo. "Best you learn from me what a responsibility we owe to our tenants; it's not just a matter of collecting rents."

Frodo sighed; he wished all of Bilbo's business interests only involved taking cakes to sick tenants and seeing they were well-settled. The other matters were frightfully complicated. Bilbo owned several houses in Hobbiton and Bywater, and as Master of the Hill must settle disputes between land borders and ensure the harvests on his fields would produce a yield that would feed all the hungry mouths in the Westfarthing.

"Well, I'm off!" cried out Bilbo as he pushed back a plateful of crumbs. "I shan't be back till this afternoon at least. I might perhaps have my lunch at The Ivy Bush, and after that I think I'll go see your dad, Sam."

Sam looked down at his hands as he wiped them with tea towel. "Aye, his hands were giving him a bit o' trouble this morning, but he'll welcome you, sir."

"I hope so," chuckled Bilbo, turning to his young cousin. "Frodo, don't be squirming out of your duties. See to it, Sam."

"Aye, sir," said Sam with a flush as Bilbo gathered up his papers and scurried out of the smial.

Frodo looked at Sam for a moment. "Shall I help you with the dishes?" he asked, and, without waiting for a reply, plucked the tea towel off the bench.

Sam stood awkwardly for a moment. "Right, sir," he said after a moment's thought, and turned to fill the sink.

*

Frodo knelt next to Sam, the aroma of slightly damp earth drifting up to his nose. Sunshine warmed his skin till fine droplets of sweat gathered underneath his collar. Creamy-white clouds hovered over the horizon, dividing the blue strip of the Water from the sparkling blue of the sky. This spring had been one of the finest in Frodo's memory: the grass had a particular shade of green; bees buzzed at the hearts of rich, fragrant flowers; and the size of the tomatoes in the garden and the abundance of cherries in the orchard had exceeded all expectations.

A light breeze ruffled Sam's hair, lifting his brown curls as it swept by on its way to the sea. Beside him lay a tray of seedlings, leaves limp and pale green; but soon they would grow to be strong, strapping plants that could withstand even the frosts of winter. They had been sown by the Gaffer last month and taken to the greenhouse to sprout, and now they needed to be planted so they could take root before winter.

Sam lifted a seedling from the tray, gently shaking it so dirt fell from its roots to the ground. "See, Mr. Frodo?" he was saying. "You dig a hole, put the seedling in and pile dirt 'round it so's it comes up to its middle. You give it some water to lap up, and when it all drains away then you can put the rest of the dirt on top."

"I see," said Frodo, watching as Sam put the seedling into the soil, moisten the soil with a watering pot, and tamp more dirt around it so it was snug.

"Then you add a bit more water so the roots have something enough to drink," continued Sam, taking the watering pot and carefully pouring it over the freshly-planted seedling. "Not much to it really, sir."

"Perhaps for you," said Frodo, trailing a finger through the soil, "but to me it seems, well, stranger than dwarvish."

"Ah, I thought you knew some of that talk."

"Not much, just some cuss words," laughed Frodo, reaching over to pick up a delicate seedling from the tray. He looked around the garden, silently marvelling at what Sam's –- and the Gaffer's -- skilled hands have given life to. Lipped snapdragons and hazy love-in-a-mist swayed quietly, while sprays of cornflowers bearing colours of white and blue perfectly complemented the tall spires of pink hollyhock nestling against his bedroom window.

"How do you know this seedling will grow strong?" asked Frodo curiously, twisting a leaf around his finger.

"You've got to plant in the right season and make sure the soil's rich. I've already composted this garden, so that's no concern." Sam paused, looking up to the sky with a creased brow. "Today's not what I'd choose for planting; better to dig when the clouds gather overhead to protect the seedlings from the sun, but we don't have much choice 'bout it."

Sam's face lit up as he spoke proudly, as if he'd swallowed up a sunbeam and it was shining through his skin. Frodo touched his own cheek as if to stop his blush of sudden want from rising.

"Mr. Frodo." Sam turned his attention to another seedling in the tray.

Frodo swallowed a breath. "What is it, Sam?"

"You've gone and messed your face."

"Oh." Frodo wiped his cheek. "Is it gone now?"

"It's that much worse," Sam grinned.

"Bother!" Frodo rubbed at his face. Thankfully, Sam had quickly turned away to plant another seedling.

Copying Sam, Frodo gently shook the roots of the seedling to let the soil fall. With his fingers he dug a small hollow, and carefully lowered the seedling inside. Bits of black earth lodged under his fingernails as he piled dirt around the thin stem, tamping down as Sam had done.

"Mr. Frodo?"

Rough brown fingers caught Frodo's wrist, startling him. "Y-yes, Sam?"

"You didn't add water before you packed the rest of the dirt around the seedling," Sam blushed. "Begging your pardon."

Frodo stared helplessly at the seedling, wondering why he was such an ass that he couldn't even follow a simple instruction in Sam's presence. And those fingers still rested lightly on Frodo -- oh, they were so warm! He shyly lifted his gaze, meeting sober brown eyes. For a moment a thread of thought wove between them, then Sam, realising where his hand was, blanched and withdrew his fingers.

"Sorry, Mr. Frodo," he said. "The seedling'll be all right, like as not."

Wiping a sprinkling of sweat from his forehead -- was the sun really that hot? --, Frodo plucked a new seedling from the tray, concentrating very hard on making sure he planted it right this time.

"Begging your pardon, sir," said Sam after a while, tipping a trickle of water over a seedling. "But I don't reckon you have to do all this -- it doesn't seem right, nohow."

"What do you mean?" asked Frodo, his stomach clenched in sudden dismay.

"Well, Mr. Frodo, why should you be working in the garden, seeing that hands as fine as yours could be put to better use?"

Frodo shook his head. "Spending a day pouring over elvish lore or old contracts is not nearly as important as what you can do: bringing things to grow and bloom."

And at that, both hobbits blushed, and for the moment busied themselves with their tasks.

They worked in silence, Frodo watching Sam's able hands hold and caress the seedlings as gentle as you like. Hands that carefully tended Bag End's garden as if it were Sam's own, Frodo realized, and shuddered to recall his gardener touching his wrist.

Biting his lip, Frodo shifted on his knees, digging another hollow, not being able to stop himself from staring at Sam's hands holding the green fragile seedling.

Frodo sucked in a deep breath, trying to still the throbbing of his heart.

I love him.

Scraping his fingernails through the dirt, Frodo forced back a sob, shaking his head quickly to sweep out the lingering cobwebs. It was plain obvious where Sam's love lay: in Bag End's garden, not with its minor inhabitant -- a rather slender and bookish hobbit. And in a few years when Sam came of age, a lass would bear his children and make his eyes sparkle brighter than the stars above.

"Should we make lunch now?" suggested Frodo quickly, patting the soil around the last seedling with a satisfying smack.

"A quick one for me, I reckon, Mr. Frodo, seeing as my Gaffer's not here," answered Sam, picking up the empty tray. "There's still the lawn to mow and the weeds to pick." He fiddled with something in the tray. "Thank you, sir, for helping," he added with a timid smile.

Frodo brushed bits of dirt that clung to his breeches. "I hope I was a help to you and not a hindrance," he said, the words feeling clumsy and sticky on his tongue. "It's not everyday you help give life to the land."

"It is like that, sir," said Sam. "Sometimes I feel that -- that the seedlings and such are my own children!" He laughed and ducked his head then, as if he thought Frodo might take such thoughts for foolishness.

*

Frodo watched Sam across the table as he broke off pieces of buttered bread and dropped them into his mouth. He took a sip of his own cambric tea, feeling it tumble down his throat and warm his belly. Bilbo had yet to return, leaving Frodo to take his lunch with Sam alone. The novelty of this combined with fear made Frodo light-headed and prone to breaking the piece of bread in his hands until it became a pile of breadcrumbs scattered across the table and in his lap.

"Sam," asked Frodo quickly before the words were chased from his tongue, "do you ever think you'll have children? Marry a lass I mean?"

With a bit of cheese raised to his mouth, Sam stopped, flicking a stray crumb onto his plate. "I 'spose, sir," he said. "My Gaffer says I oughta have a large family so they can follow in my footsteps, so to speak. Mayhap one of 'em will garden Bag End one day."

Frodo nodded faintly. It had never occurred to him that one of Sam's children would tend Bag End's garden. He could imagine Sam being followed into the orchard by a line of tow-headed hobbit lads and lasses in descending height, but how did he see of himself? Much the same as he was now, but grey-haired, bent over his writing desk, alone without Bilbo.

"Do you think, if you pardon me asking, you'll be getting married, sir? Since you're nearly of age." Sam busied himself scraping butter on another piece of bread.

"Sam," said Frodo quietly. He knew he'd never marry. Bilbo had seen it when he had chosen Frodo as his heir -- that Frodo was quite like him. Frodo traced the scallop of his plate with a finger. He would tell Sam now -- tell him that no little Bagginses would run around Bag End whilst he lived under the Hill. "I won't be married -- I'm like Bilbo. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

Sam only stared at his plate.

Frodo's stomach heaved; he stood up to lean against the window sill, the spicy scent of herbs from the window box only intensifying his queasiness.

"Don't hate me," murmured Frodo, afraid that his tears were evident in the way his voice wavered.

"No." Sam's voice quiet, while the world seemed unbearably still. "My dear...sir. I could never hate you..." The younger hobbit could no longer speak, and Frodo could not bring himself to turn around. Then, "I ought to go..." Frodo heard Sam shuffle nervously on his feet.

Frodo dared to glance over his shoulder.

"Thank you for luncheon," Sam said softly when he reached the door.

Frodo's eyes swam, so that the figure of his gardener became a blur. "You're welcome."

Frodo waited until the door closed, then he ran to the sink and vomited. He rested his forehead on the cool porcelain and rinsed his mouth, cupping the water in a shaking hand. A sickly-sweet smell hovered in the air.

What had possessed him to speak his thoughts aloud? Now Sam would watch him with a wary eye, wondering what each twinkling smile, each soft touch really meant. He stared into the garden. Sam was nowhere to be seen. A fear like rope tightened around Frodo's throat. Where was Sam? He would have to go talk to Sam. Tell him...what? That he had nothing to fear? Frodo shook his head in confusion and dismay.

There was no sign of Sam anywhere in Bag End's garden, nor at the compost heap or clothes line.

Frodo took the flagstone path, following its curve toward the back of the Hill. He soon came upon a small outbuilding -- the shed where all of the Gaffer's and Sam's gardening tools were kept; clippers, buckets, shovels, hoes and other things beyond Frodo's naming.

Faint murmurs reached Frodo's ears, carrying in the light breeze that brushed at his cheeks. The shed door swung gently.

For a reason he didn't know, Frodo crept along slowly, hearing his breaths come fast, finally reaching the shed. The wooden slats of the building had warped over time to leave narrow cracks. Frodo put an eye against a slit and saw Sam, sitting on an old wooden bucket, running his hands through his golden curls, mumbling to himself.

"What would your Gaffer say, Samwise, if he knew?"

Heart pounding, Frodo knelt, breathing shallow. Sam seemed to be having some kind of debate with himself.

The planks were prickly against Frodo's hand, yet again he looked through the gap, splinters poking at his cheek. Now Sam was viscously swiping a hand across his eyes, shoulders trembling.

"Hey, Sam--" He snapped his fingers. "--what would Mr. Frodo say? Get you gone, that's what he'd say."

Sam pounded the dirt floor with his feet in frustration. "But then, what was he sayin' 'bout him being like Mr. Bilbo? Ah, but you're seeing more than you should. You know better than to listen to old Sandyman's drunken talk."

Frodo stood rooted on the spot. He wasn't sure what he was listening to.

"So what're you going to do 'bout it, Sam? Speak up." And then the hobbit gave such a heartfelt sigh that Frodo felt tears spring up in his eyes.

Sam shook his head, curls flopping over his brow. "You really are a ninnyhammer, Samwise Gamgee -- keep your eyes to the ground, not to fancies that are above you and your like."

Then Sam put his face in his hands. "But I love him with all my heart."

Frodo clapped a hand over his mouth to stifle a gasp. He watched as Sam sat and swayed gently from side to side.

Unable to bear the sight of his friend in such pain, and unable to go in to him, Frodo ran up the path, back inside the smial, and shut the kitchen door behind him, breaths coming short and raspy.

What was Sam...?

He said something about speaking up...

I love him with all my heart.

Who was the he Sam had referred to? It couldn't be...but could it?

Is it me? Frodo wondered.

If Sam felt the same...

Frodo glared down at his hands, pale and shaking where they grasped the kitchen table for support.

A chance, the smallest of chances... How was he to let Sam know that he would welcome and return his love?

And it was his hands, his fine hands Sam called them, that gave Frodo an idea: applying the skill that had been finely honed by Bilbo's patient teaching all these years. The skill of shaping thoughts and feelings with loops and curls drawn onto parchment would help Frodo reveal all of his heart's desires.

~*~

To be continued on Sunday…