Time To Be
A day in the life of Sam and Frodo
Rating: R

Warning: This fic contains much angst.

Watery sunshine sifts through the window as Frodo lifts open an eyelid, his mind still fogged from sleep. The nattering of early morning insects lifts to his ear, and the scent of rain wanders in from the half-opened window.

He lies still for a moment, weighing each breath in his chest, before letting it go with a soft hmm.

Warm and time-caressed skin touches Frodo's hand like a blanket on a cold night: Sam's arm, cosy in the downy coverlet. Sam's breaths come even, in and out, in and out, kissing the curls of hair tucked beneath Frodo's ear. Frodo wets his lips with his tongue, a hasty flick, studying his beloved. Sam's hair is now entirely grey, like puffs of silver cloud, his skin wrinkled by time's heavy tread, his once stout body more fat than muscle.

But Frodo wouldn't have it any other way.

Frodo doesn't care what Sam looks like, he knows he looks the same. Where once were earth-coloured curls are now grey hairs, where once was smooth skin is now creased flesh, parchment-like to the touch.

The sea outside crashes to shore, breaking to white foam, before taking in another deep breath.

He leans forward, bed and limbs creaking, to kiss Sam awake.

For a moment nothing happens; Sam sleeps soundly these days, nestled in dreams. Then his cheek twitches, and his eyelashes flicker, and now moist lips part. Eyelids open to reveal brown eyes, now slightly cloudy, but full of everything Frodo loves.

"Sam," he whispers, and it's more a gentle sigh than a word.

Sam shifts, toenails dragging across Frodo's calf. Frodo watches Sam, watches those brown eyes, that face, waits, waits...

It happens; Sam remembers. Briefly his eyes close, but before they do Frodo captures a look of quiet fear. Teeth grasp at lipflesh for a trice, and a throat moves to swallow. Frodo smiles, understands.

"Sam," he says again, not for reassurance, but just to delight in the sound. Sam. Sam. Sam.

"Frodo," Sam says; he, too, is rejoicing at the sound.

Frodo takes Sam hand, tracing the paper-like skin and arthritic joints. He wants to say something special, but all he says is: "It's cloudy today, Sam-dear."

"Aye," Sam spells out. "'Tis no bother. It will be sunny this afternoon, I reckon." In all their years away -- how long? Frodo sometimes wonders -- Sam still has a thick Hobbiton accent, a bit of home in this faery land.

Frodo laughs; it comes out hoarse in his sleep-dry throat.

"Why do you laugh?" Sam's fingers tighten around Frodo's.

"I'm happy," Frodo answers. "And I love you."

Sam replies with a kiss to Frodo's nose, and says nothing. He doesn't need to: Frodo knows every time Sam looks at him what the answer will be.

On an impulse Frodo takes Sam's cheeks in his hands and kisses him deeply, tender-hot, like they had done many times in the years after Sam arrived at the Tol. Sam purrs low, kissing Frodo back. Sam tastes the same, always the same: fresh-made tea and pipeweed smoke. A velvet tongue tickles Frodo's, and he breaks away, giggling.

"Reckon we're like a brace o' tweeners," says Sam, face swept with a blush. "But I can't say that weren't a good wake-up."

"No." Frodo rests his thumb on the curve of Sam's lips. "It was perfect."

Sam settles his head on Frodo's shoulder, a hand playing absently at Frodo's nape. Now that Frodo is sitting half up, he can see clouds rolling about in the sky, and the seam, far away, where the sea and sky brush. Out further, beyond the sundering seas, lies the Shire: The Brandywine snapping the banks of Buckland, The Ivy Bush jolly and noisy, Bag End embracing plump-faced hobbit-children in its arms. Frodo's breast stirs, but he has no regrets.

Frodo's eye catches a rock sitting on the table next to the bed. It's water-worn, smooth and brown, the colour of coffee. Bilbo gave it to Frodo the night they first arrived at the Tol. They had had a party; Gandalf had fashioned firecrackers and the elves prepared a traditional feast of seasoned fish and clear, cold draughts that had the faintest tang of the sea. The night had worn on, with golden lamps rippling light over the speckled sand and the elves singing in their crisp, high voices. But Frodo was weary, and he walked down the beach alone, and found that Bilbo had also left the party. Then Bilbo pressed the rock into Frodo's hand, and it met Frodo's skin warm and wet, like a kiss. Keep this, Frodo, and you will remember me, Bilbo had said, and when he raised his head Frodo saw lamplight brushing the glimmers in Bilbo's eyes.

"We'd be wanting some breakfast," Sam breaks Frodo's thoughts, "afore we go."

"Yes." Sam braces his hands on the mattress, slowly and surely, then lifts himself off the bed, feet meeting the floor with a soft thud. His skin is bare; there's no need for nightclothes at the Tol: the nights are never chill, not even in the grip of winter. It's as if the wind knows when they are cold, and all Frodo has to do is push open the window and a warm breeze will flow in, smoothing the goosepimples from their skin.

Sam tugs on a plush ruby robe, tightening the belt around his ample waist. A soft smile resolves itself on Sam's mouth, and he pulls on the coverlet twisted around Frodo's chest. "'Twould be so that I have to drag you out of bed," Sam says with a fond shake of the head. "You've changed naught, Frodo Baggins."

Indignation flares two fiery-red spots on Frodo's cheeks, but he chuckles. "I was just about to rise!" he protests.

"Aye, that's what you would tell Mr. Bilbo," smiles Sam. "Come on!" The coverlet draws over Frodo and into Sam's hands, where it's quickly folded and laid on the floor. Frodo watches, quiet, and when Sam's done his gaze wanders the curves of Frodo's skin. There's no blaze of heat awakening in Sam's eyes, nor even a sigh, as he looks upon Frodo's body. They have looked at each other so many times, perhaps as many times as there are grains of sand on the beach, and though desire has not faltered, it has made way for gentle love.

"You're lovely," Sam states simply. "I wanted to tell you, even after all this time."

"You too," murmurs Frodo, catching Sam's fingers. "I think I always thought that."

Sam's head tilts. "Yes."

Frodo quickly dresses while Sam starts the breakfast. He finds his best clothes: green velvet and silk, and glinting gold buttons. As Frodo is leaving the room, he spots a shaft of golden sunlight from the corner of his eye pouring onto Bilbo's rock, but when he looks back only grey light is falling. His forehead creases, and after a thought he picks up the rock and drops it into his pocket. I have not forgotten you, Uncle Bilbo, he thinks, nor could I ever, not after all you have done for me.

Sam has cooked plump, orange-red tomatoes; thick sausages; and boiled eggs for breakfast. He's enjoying a bite of runny egg yolk when Frodo wanders in.

"Your favourite breakfast," says Sam around a finger as he wipes a dash of bright yellow yolk from his lips.

Frodo sits down and cuts a wedge of tomato, takes a mouthful and sighs. "Delicious, Sam," he acknowledges.

They finish the meal and clean the dishes, stacking the crocks neatly in the cupboards. Sam and Frodo fill their packs with provisions for their journey: cheese wheels, a flask of wine, a loaf of sliced bread, slivers of ham, apples and a rug to lie on. They're silent as they move about the smial, wrapped in their own thoughts. Frodo smiles at the portrait of him and Sam above the hearth, painted by an elf friend of theirs. Often Frodo remembers the day when the elf sat them down and painted them. It is Frodo's fondest memory, a perfect day. He and Sam had visited Bilbo, enjoying a delicious lunch and telling stories long into the afternoon. After, they had decided to walk along the beach, holding hands as they listened to the swell crash to shore. It was there that they met an elf artist, who delighted in painting them. Frodo had thought Sam had never looked more beautiful, with the sunlight twining in his greying hair, setting it to glinting silver, and a flush blossoming on his cheeks from the wind and sun. Later, when the elf had given Frodo the finished painting, he and Sam had found a cave in the clutches of a water-eroded cliff. The cave walls were rough to the touch, made of sandstone, hard and orange-brown. But the floor was layered in soft sand, deposited by a recent storm, and the dying rays of the sun fluttered over the cave's walls, giving a bit of light. Carefully Frodo had laid down the painting, and he sheltered Sam's body with his own, and they made love slowly till the moon drew silvery tongues of light over their bare skin.

"Are you ready?" Sam's voice steals into Frodo's thoughts. He has his pack slung over his shoulder, and he's dressed in his best clothes, as fine as Frodo's and similar, though fashioned in a deep brown colour of soil and all things earthy.

"Yes," Frodo answers. "I was just remembering..."

"Aye, so many memories." Sam studies the painting. "Good and bad."

"What is good without bad?" Frodo wonders aloud. Sam glances at him quick. "Would we know good if it weren't for evil?"

Sam swings his head from side to side. "I don't rightly know," he says, "though I know that if some bad things didn't happen, some good things wouldn't happen neither."

Frodo remembers the Ring, and the pain after his return to the Shire, and the first difficult years of healing at the Tol. And then he remembers kissing Sam's eager mouth when Sam stepped off the ship, and knows Sam is right.

Sam slips an arm around Frodo's waist, and touches his lips to Frodo's cheek. "Let's go, love. There's much to do."

Frodo leans into Sam's kiss, sweeps a gaze over the room where they first made love and sighs in resignation. "Yes, Sam."

A lush garden of asters and daisies and love-in-a-mists and nasturtiums curls around their smial, and bright sprays of wildflowers dapple the grass, bending in the sighing breeze. Though Sam's eyes moisten as he looks at the coloured flowers and vegetable patch, the tears only begin to slide as he drops to his knees before a gathering of yellow, star-shaped flowers. "Elanor," Sam breathes, digging fingers into the black soil.

"Take one," suggests Frodo. "Put it in your pocket, near your heart."

Sam takes a flower between his old brown fingers, tugging gently till it tears from the stem and lies in his hand. He smiles, raises the petals to his mouth, and puts the blossom in his shirt pocket.

"You were surprised to find elanor flowers growing here," reminisces Frodo. "You asked the elves if you could have a single flower, and they gave you a seedling of your own."

Sam gazes at the small flower. "She wanted to come; she told me once. But after I gave her the book I snuck away when night came. She knew where I was going." Sam hangs his head and is silent. Frodo lays a hand on Sam's shoulder. Sam had never told him that story in all their years at the Tol. Grief burns Frodo's throat, hot and heavy, as he kneels next to Sam.

"I am sorry," Frodo whispers.

"I'm not," Sam breaks his silence.

Frodo wonders at this, and Sam dusts a puffball from Frodo's breeches. If some bad things didn't happen, some good things wouldn't happen neither.

The sea is rough, tossing and foaming as the wind whips over it. Sand falls over Frodo's feet as he walks, clinging to the dark tufts of fur. Gulls cry as they negotiate the wind, bobbing into the water to catch a fish. Frodo watches as a wet gull lifts from the water, a sparkle of silver in its beak. It glides out to sea, becoming smaller and smaller, till it is only a speck of white on the horizon.

Sam's hand holds Frodo's steady, righting him if he stumbles over a stray stone or shell. The beach is littered with shells: heart-shaped clamshells, hollow tubes and graceful spirals vacated by the tiny creatures that carry their homes on their backs. Drifts of black seaweed fan out over the dunes, and the hard remains of cuttlefish lie half buried in the sand.

Tangy, salt-heavy wind grabs Frodo's and Sam's hair, lashing it over their brows. Thick, labouring clouds jumble across the sky, and soon a light mist begins to fall upon them. Frodo laughs at first, and Sam with him, as the cool spray wets their lips and age-dry skin. But soon the mist turns to quickening raindrops, and the water blinds Frodo's eyes.

Frodo squints through the watery veil, and can make out a hollow in a looming cliff not far away. "Our cave!" he shouts, and stumbling and cursing they duck into the cave's warmth, tossing their heads to scatter the rain from their hair. They discard their packs, and Sam lays out a rug to sit on.

"I suppose we ought to have our lunch here," says Sam. "I know you were hoping to eat on the beach."

"I think this is even better," replies Frodo, searching his pack for food. "This is our special place."

The rain plinks onto the sandstone outside the cave, and draws a silver curtain across the cave's mouth. Inside the cave it is dark, shadows haunting the gravelly walls. Sam pulls a candle from his pack, lights it with a match and lays it to one side so it won't be tipped over. The candle wavers in a slow dance, throwing light about, flaring sparks in Sam's thoughtful eyes.

They feast on the food they have packed till their bellies are full, though making sure there is enough for a comfortable dinner. Frodo lets the dark taste of the wine roll around in his mouth, savouring it, enjoying the buzz in his head after his second glass. After eating, Sam and Frodo rest side by side on the blanket, dozing as the rain continues to sing outside the cave. Frodo dreams of an echoing hall, crowded with silent elves, and of a river of glittering stars weaving across a black sky.

When he awakes Sam is smoking on his pipe, staring hard outside. It is still raining, though now it's a light mizzle. The candle has sunk low, lumps of melted beeswax surround its feet. Frodo takes his own pipe, cream-white and laced with elvish devices. From a pouch Frodo takes a pinch of Old Toby, tamps it into the bowl of his pipe and lights it up. He puffs, smiling at the familiar sweetness of the smoke wafting in the air. They've been saving this pipeweed for many years; although weed for smoking grows in abundance in the forests at the centre of the Tol, it is not as fair as Old Toby. It's not from home.

The pipeweed smoked, Sam and Frodo pack the pipes and food away into their packs. Their fingertips caress as they both put their glasses into Sam's pack.

"Sam..." Frodo breathes. "Shall we?"

"We shall," answers Sam, touching their lips together.

Slowly they undress each other, laying lamb-soft kisses on cool, bare skin. Shaking fingers slip buttons through buttonholes, candlelight seeking the creases of shadowed skin. Between them heat flares, and Frodo feels the first tendrils of aching pull at his nerve endings. When bare, they lie pressed together on the blanket, soothing kisses over breeze-chilled skin. Slow-waking desire gradually comes upon them; many years ago they would fall into bed and make love in hasty, passionate throes, but now their lovemaking is steady, thoughtful, their bodies taking time to respond.

"My dearest Sam," Frodo murmurs, placing fingers over Sam's lips. "My sweet." Tears collect in Sam's eyes. "Hush, don't cry," says Frodo. "Let us make love."

Frodo nibbles Sam's shoulder, rubbing his body against Sam's to create warm friction. Sam sighs low, and takes to holding Frodo's ears between his lips and whispering hushed lovesounds to Frodo's neck. Raindrops patter the smooth rocks as Frodo memorizes the soft lines of Sam's back, and the way Sam's lightly furred chest tickles at his skin. When Frodo feels Sam is ready, he rolls atop him, straddling Sam at the waist. Suddenly a stab of sunlight penetrates the cave mouth, running fluid gilt across the floor and over Sam's face.

Sam's face.

The candle jumps and is blown out, but Sam watches Frodo, eyes calm and waiting. Like the ebb and flow of a tide, Frodo begins an unhurried rocking on Sam's belly, drifting his thoughts like a piece of netting being tossed about in the sea. He can see Sam running around Bag End's garden, squealing as his fist holds a gathering of flowers. He sees Sam's grimy face as they climb on their hands and knees like babes up the Mountain. He sees the sea-spray cling to Sam's curls as the star-white ship crests wave after wave as it sails into the harbour. And now, now, he sees his Sam, one and whole and ready.

Back and forth Frodo moves, one hand braced on Sam's chest, throwing his head back to sob to the holes in the cave's roof, carved by flushing water. Sam is breathing in rough gasps, lifting his old hips to brush Frodo's backside; and a hand grasps Frodo's, and they hold tight.

Biting at wet lipflesh, Frodo looks down, sees his shadow grazing Sam's chest, watches Sam's eyes grow black-smoky as he falls. Frodo closes his eyes, concentrates, smells brine and, amid the raw panting, hears the heavy sigh of the waves. He moans Sam's name, relishing it, tasting it.

Sam's sweetly close, Frodo can tell by the way he arches his back, the way he grinds himself against Frodo's own aching. Frodo slides them together, so much love and wanting desperate to be released, cherishing every moment of blessed oh-so-closeness.

It is Frodo who first comes, his cry blending with a gull's as it swoops down the cliff face. Sam follows, shattering the air with an ahh! Frodo sinks to Sam's side, kisses away the salty tears on Sam's cheeks, and weary to his very bones, falls to sleep with his mouth pressed to Sam's brow.

When they awake the sun is hovering about the horizon, dipping tentatively into the sea. Quickly they dress and pack up, and, sharing a kiss, hurry from the cave and step onto the sun-warmed sand. They leave the spent candle to rest in the dark cave till the springtide rushes in and sweeps it out to the ocean, when the moon is bloated and full.

They pass an outthrusting finger of land, calcium-white, and laced with tiny shells and other strange patterns. A phalanx of birds flies over their heads, squawking and dripping guano onto the sand. The tide is creeping up the beach, lapping closer and closer, and the water shimmers liquid amber as the sun slowly slips beneath the world.

"Up here," Frodo says, gesturing to Sam. Sam nods, swings his pack and follows Frodo up the dunes, through the thick streamers of beach grass and prickly grey-green plants.

It is situated in a hollow of soft-swaying flowers, and wreathed in dark rocks that glitter with jewels when sun or star light catches them at the right angle. Deep purples and fern greens and blood reds vein the rocks, cut deep from the earth under the tall mountain of Taniquetil in Valinor. Frodo drops to his knees before a smooth rock at the rock circle's centre, runs his fingers over elegant etchings of Tengwar and moves his lips in silence. The rock in Frodo's pocket suddenly pushes against his thigh, and almost he thinks it's alive and smiling at him. I have not forgotten you, my dearest Bilbo. I don't think I have ever told you how much I appreciated all you have done for me. I know you always wished for my happiness, and I love you for it. Do not fear that since you have passed I have been unhappy. Sam is here now, you know, and we are happy. I wish you could have seen him again, but I know you were weary, and ready to leave on your next adventure.

"Sam," Frodo whispers, finding Sam's hand. "I had hoped I wouldn't cry."

"Now, listen," says Sam, and he's crying too, "remember what an old friend told us once: I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil."

They weep quietly on each other's shoulders, and finger smooth stone, and lay coloured flowers around the stone's base. At last Sam tugs Frodo, and Frodo touches the stone with his lips, and they leave the hollow as the stars begin to be born in the pale violet sky.

Sam and Frodo slip through the forest like moonlight-limned ghosts. The trees twist around them, grey limbed and jumping with shadows. They clutch each other's hands, weaving between glimmering bushes till they reach a grass-covered hillock. Again Sam lays out a rug, and they sit upon it and eat the rest of the food in their packs.

With nary a shake Frodo pours the last of the wine; he and Sam solemnly clink glasses and drink till not a drop is left to swallow.

Sam is quiet, head tilted to look at the stars strewn in glittering puddles above. His hand wanders to his pocket, stroking at something inside. "She is gone," he whispers, head nudging his breast. "I knew for a while now, but I never wanted to face it."

Frodo cups Sam's face. "It won't be long," he soothes, and Sam nods.

The wind begins to pick up, lifting the corners of the rug. Frodo and Sam lie down, wrapped in each other's arms, kissing, just kissing and kissing over and over. Sam trembles beneath Frodo's hand; he is frightened.

"Shh, my dear," says Frodo, brushing Sam's mouth with his lips. "I'll be here, always I'll be here."

"I love you, Frodo," Sam says, sniffling.

"I love you, Sam. My dear. My dear. Oh, my dear." Frodo tightens his grip on Sam's, pushing his face into the crook of Sam's neck. Sam buries a sob on Frodo's shoulder.

"Always, Frodo, always," says Sam fiercely, answering Frodo with an open-mouthed kiss.

Frodo looks deep into earth-coloured eyes, knows it is time. "Forever," he says.

For a breath Sam is quiet, and the world treads beneath them. "Forever," he repeats. "I am ready, dear. Goodbye."

"No." Frodo's voice is strangely strong. "Say rather hello."

For one last time Frodo's heart beats next to Sam's, and Sam's stops next to his, and breath ceases to leave his lips. And he beholds a curtain of silver-water, and slowly it falls back, and he sees a lush green land rolling beneath a swift sunrise.