'So he was not at home in early March and did not know that Frodo had been ill. On the thirteenth of that month Farmer Cotton found Frodo lying on his bed; he was clutching a white gem that hung on a chain around his neck and he seemed half in a dream. But the fit passed, and when Sam got back on the twenty-fifth, Frodo had recovered and he said nothing about himself.'
The Grey Havens - Return of the King.
'But what if Sam had found out Frodo was ill? In this story he does, and, to borrow from Terry Pratchett, he and Frodo go hurtling together down the other leg in the Trousers of Time.'
March 1420 S.R.
"But Sam, we've only just come home!"
"We'll wait until you're feeling better, Mr. Frodo, then we'll be off. If we delay too long it'll be October before we know it and you'll have to go through all this again."
"We don't know that it will happen every anniversary."
Sam shrugged. "Well, if I'm wrong we'll have a nice visit with the elves and Mr. Bilbo. No harm done."
"Do you really want to leave so soon, Sam? You've been so busy since we got back you haven't had time for, er, all the things I thought you'd be doing."
Sam blushed and ducked his head. "Plenty of time for that, Mr. Frodo," he muttered.
"Are you sure about that, my lad? Wouldn't want to miss your chance."
"Anyway," Sam said hastily, to forestall any further comments. "If I am gonna settle down into quiet Shire life for the next fifty years or so, I should have one last adventure, right?"
"I'd have thought you'd have had enough adventures to last a lifetime, Sam!"
"You'd think so, wouldn't you?" Sam said seriously. "But I'll tell you, Mr. Frodo, sometimes I wake up in the morning with itchy feet, you know? Wondering what strange ground I'm goin' to tread today. It's a relief most times just to find good solid floor beneath my feet, but sometimes..."
Sam frowned, for the first time trying to put into words the vague feelings that assailed him now and then. "Sometimes it's like something's calling me, you know? Some voice I've never heard before, yet it's somehow so familiar. Like songs, or birds crying out, or water."
"It's the sea," Frodo said, his own eyes growing distant.
"How do you know that?" Sam asked, surprised. "You've never seen the sea, no more than I have."
Frodo shivered, as if a chill wind had blown over him. "I don't know," he admitted. "But I think that's what it is. Like the elves, who say the sea is calling them home."
"But we are home," Sam puzzled.
"Of course we are," Frodo shrugged. "But sometimes I feel those itchy feet too, Sam, except I've nowhere to go. There's a restlessness in me, a longing. Like the one you spoke of."
"I don't say it was a longing," Sam denied. "Just a dream I have sometimes. I'm not longing to sail away from Middle Earth forever! And neither are you." He frowned when Frodo looked away from him, down at his hands. "Mr. Frodo?"
"Not yet," Frodo admitted. "But maybe, someday..."
"Well that's it," Sam said decisively. "If feeling poorly has got you thinking about sailing off with the elves we better fix you and right quick."
"I don't think the elves can fix what ails me, Sam," Frodo said quietly. "I don't think anything can."
"I'll believe that when I hear it with me own ears, and not before," Sam said firmly. "Until then, plan on getting well, because when you do we ride for Rivendell."
"But you only just got home!" Rosie exclaimed. "You can't just ride off again."
"We've got no choice," Sam said firmly, checking his pack with an experienced eye. They'd be traveling by roads this time, and inns as far as Bree, but after that real roads would be few and far between, and he didn't want to trust his supplies to the Big Folks town.
"Yes, you have a choice," Rosie said angrily, taking him by the arm and pulling him to face her. "If Mr. Frodo needs the elves he can just go off and see them himself. Old Mr. Bilbo did, often enough. Why do you have to go?"
"Because he needs me," Sam said simply.
"But he's better now," Rosie insisted. "He looks as good as new! He doesn't need you."
"He'll always need me, Rosie," Sam said quietly, looking into her pretty eyes, willing her to understand. "No matter what happens, if the elves make him well or no, he will always need me."
Rosie frowned, tears in her eyes. "I don't understand! What about us here at home, Sam? We need you too."
"I've done all the planting that needs doing for now, I-"
"That's not what I mean and you know it!" Rosie shouted, stamping her foot. "First you go off and leave for months and months, until everyone thinks you're dead, and then when you finally do come back..."
"You're different," Rosie whispered. "You... you're different."
"I reckon I am," Sam allowed.
"Why won't you never talk about it, Sam?' Rosie pleaded. "You talk to Mr. Frodo all the time, when you're here, and the rest of the time you're out and about the Shire. It's like you're not even really back home yet, not in your head. And now you're going off again!"
"It'll be a few weeks, months at the most."
"You say that now," Rosie said sadly. "But what you're telling me is that he comes first. He needs you and you go haring off again. If he asks you to go off on another adventure you'll go!"
"Adventure?" Sam huffed. "That's one word for it."
"What else am I to call it, when you won't tell me any different?"
Sam sighed. "You're right. You're right, Rosie." He took her hands in both of his. "And we will talk, I promise. When I get back."
Rosie wrenched her hands from his. "If I'm here when you come back," she cried, then turned and fled.
Sam took a step after her and then stopped, hands clenching by his side. She was right. Frodo did come first. He always would.
April 1420 S.R.
Elrond greeted them warmly. "Alas," he exclaimed. "Bilbo has gone off traveling with Gandalf." The ancient elf tilted his head enquiringly at Frodo. "We expected to see you in September?" he said.
It seemed to Sam there was some meaning in his voice. Frodo was avoiding his glance and Sam resolved to ask about it later.
Sam explained why they had come and Elrond listened carefully to their troubles. "As it happens a great healer from the Realm of Mirkwood has lately been to stay with us, Nestadren is his name. He was much interested in your trials, Master Baggins, and has read extensively the reports I wrote of your healing and recovery."
"Well, that's lucky, isn't it Mr. Frodo!" Sam said excitedly, hope lighting in his breast.
"Hardly luck, Master Gamgee," Elrond smiled. "It seems to me that fate has led your footsteps and Nestadren's here at this time. Would you like to meet him?"
Frodo nodded and smiled. "Very much."
Nestadren was tall and fair as many elves were, but his eyes were a soft greeny-brown and they were kind and welcoming, not distant and farseeing as many elves seemed, even the nicest of them, Sam thought. The healer bowed as he was introduced and Sam and Frodo bowed back, a little awkwardly, for bowing is not usually the hobbit way.
"I am honored and delighted to meet you," Nestadren exclaimed in a soft musical voice. Straight away his accent reminded Sam of Legolas, their good friend, and he felt himself warming to the stranger.
Frodo's cheeks were a little flushed but he accepted the enthusiasm with grace. He'd had to get used to a great deal of attention at Minas Tirith after all.
"Please, sit," Nestadren indicated two comfortable looking chairs and Sam was pleased to see they were normal sized. All this giant furniture made for a lot of undignified scrabbling to climb up on chairs and things. "The Lord Elrond has been kind enough to lend me these fine rooms to work in, while I study the many books on healing that are new to me here."
"It's the finest library I've ever seen," Frodo enthused.
"But surely you've been to the great city of Minas Tirith," Nestadren said warmly. "It is said much wisdom from past ages is stored in their library."
"I'm sure it is," Frodo said doubtfully. "But for man war has been his pastime this last generation. Old knowledge, unless it dealt with that subject, has been rather pushed aside."
"Captain Faramir was very learned," Sam reminded him. "Or Prince Faramir I should say now."
"Perhaps under the new king knowledge will once again become prized," Nestadren said softly, the words sweet in his strange/familiar accent. He smiled and nodded. "But as much as I would enjoy speaking more of this, Lord Elrond has told me why you have come." He studied Frodo frankly with his keen brown gaze. "Your old wound is bothering you?"
"Wounds," Sam corrected when Frodo nodded. "For Mr. Frodo was stabbed by more than that cursed blade."
"I had not heard this," Nestadren exclaimed. "But I'm sure your sufferings as Ringbearer were great. Can you tell me what other wounds you bear?"
Frodo lifted a hand to the back of his neck, above his left shoulder. "Here a spider stung me," he said lowly. "A giant creature from evil days, or so Sam tells me. It was he who fought and killed it."
"Not killed it," Sam corrected. "Wounded it, I hope badly enough to have ended its rotten life, but of that I could never be sure."
"You saved me though, Sam," Frodo reminded him. "From being her meal."
Sam shivered, the memory too close. "March the 13th," Sam said, trying to shake the feeling away. "I was beyond reckoning dates out there, but this March 13th was when Mr. Frodo's illness come on him again, the anniversary like."
"And the wound from the Morgul blade?" Nestadren asked seriously. "Was that anniversary also marked by illness?"
Frodo nodded and Sam jumped in. "Why should that happen?" he said curiously. "Either something makes you ill or it doesn't. Why should it happen every year after?"
Nestadren nodded. "The wounds you sustained, Frodo, both sting and steel were instruments of evil, accursed and foul. The wounds and scars they left you will never fully heal. You know that, don't you?"
Frodo nodded and Sam tried to suppress the tears that wanted to start in his eyes. If Frodo could always be so brave, than Sam wouldn't let himself weep.
"Each of the wounds you sustained were enough to kill you on their own. The fact that you survived is a testament to the strength of your race, something I have marveled at when I read Lord Elrond's description of your treatment."
"I'd have died then if it wasn't for him." Frodo acknowledged.
"Many would have died even under his care, I assure you," Nestadren said gravely. "As many have died before at such a wounding. As for Shelob's sting, yes, Samwise, I know the name of the creature you spoke of, it too has taken many lives, more than you and I could count in all our years."
"So what do we do?" Sam appealed. "How do we fight such evil?"
"Some wounds cannot be healed," Nestadren said baldly. "Some poison has no cure."
Frodo took a deep sigh. "I have felt it," he admitted lowly. "The poison inside me. You spoke of my survival, but I don't think I can take much credit for that. The Ring I bore kept me alive, and now the Ring is gone the poison is taking me." He sought Nestadren's gaze. "Isn't it."
"I fear your anniversary illnesses will grow worse with each passing year, lasting longer and paining you more, until eventually..."
"They will take my life," Frodo finished evenly.
"No!" Sam exclaimed. "There must be something you can do," he implored the elven healer. "What good was fighting all that evil if it's just gonna take him in the end?"
"Sam," Frodo said sadly. "Lots of people fought the evil and didn't survive it. At least I got to go home. At least I got to see the Shire again."
"Now you sound like you're giving up!" Sam exclaimed in horror. "That's not what we came here for. We came looking for hope. If he can't give it to us," here Sam turned and bowed hastily to the elf. "Begging your pardon, sir, I don't mean to be rude. But if you can't help us we'll search 'til we find someone as can."
"I didn't say I wouldn't try to help you, Master Samwise," the elf smiled. "It would be my honor to try. And may I say how much I admire your strength of conviction. Of course there is hope, there is always hope!"
Sam felt himself calming at the sincerity in Nestadren's keen brown gaze. "But you just said that some wounds can't heal."
"And some have cures we have yet to acknowledge. Let me tell you a legend and a story, my friends. One concerns my kin, many centuries ago. He too was struck by a poison, one that took a hold of his body."
"Is that why you study the subject?" Frodo asked curiously.
Nestadren nodded. "Exactly why. While many of my people shy away from the study, fearing to be tainted by it, I try to learn all I can. My hope is that by shining a light on such darkness we can drive it away forever."
"If you could help Mr. Frodo after all he's suffered," Sam said gratefully. "That would be a shining light indeed!"
"I agree," Nestadren said with a smile. "If I could help the one who so bravely destroyed the great evil of our time, then all my studies would be worthwhile."
Frodo looked away as he always did at such praise, but Sam beamed, warming to the elven healer even more.
"Please, tell us your story," he said eagerly now.
"It begins with a legend actually, of long ago. It is a legend not told much these days, but it is a part of my family lore and I know it well. An elven maid named Yivanna, who forswore a peaceful maiden's life but longed for the road and adventure, left the home of her father to roam the earth. It is said she traveled for many years, encountering many adventures and fighting much evil, but after one such adventure she returned home at the side of her companions, gravely ill. Some evil poison had taken her, wounded her to her soul, and she was falling under its devices. Many tried to heal her and failed."
"What was the poison?" Sam asked in a hushed voice when Nestadren paused.
"It is never said, but there is no doubt it was taking her life. Her father was a master of elven magic, much famed in his realm, and he perceived that a great emptiness had taken a hold of her, was eating away at her, inside. He saw that if the emptiness could be filled, if light could replace darkness, then she might be saved. One of her companions was a good friend who had stood by her for many years and cared deeply for her, although the legend does not call them lovers. It was to the two of them that the father proposed a spell. A child."
"A child?" Frodo repeated.
"Conceived in love, with the aid of magic, Galinsell, Child of Light whose growth inside Yivanna would dispel the darkness, fill the emptiness, and cure her."
"And did it?"
"So the legend goes."
"But that's just a legend," Sam said in disappointment. "How could such a thing help Frodo?"
"That's only the beginning of my story," Nestadren smiled. "For I told you it concerned my kin, did I not? Many centuries ago a warrior elf lived not unlike Yivanna. Sian was his name, and he traveled the world and fought evil, although he did it with one companion only by his side, his cousin, Sial. Sian it was who fought the Witch-King of Angmar very near Rivendell itself, and for his bravery was struck by a Morgul blade."
"Witch-King!" Sam exclaimed. "The same one who stabbed Frodo?"
"Now you understand my interest," Nestadren nodded.
Frodo was rubbing his shoulder and Sam reached out a comforting hand and stroked his arm. "He feels it all the time," Sam said, angrily. "It's not right!"
"Please finish your story," Frodo said quietly, smiling at Sam and nodding a little, to show he was all right.
"There's not much more to tell," Nestadren said, although Sam noted that he too was nodding, as if in approval at them. "Sian began to wane, much as you have done, Frodo. Elvish medicine eased his pain, but the emptiness grew inside him, until at last all around who loved him prevailed upon him to make his final journey. To sail to the Uttermost West and there be eased of all pain in the undying lands."
"I hope that's not how your story ends," Sam interrupted fiercely. "We already know that way is open to us."
"Not us, Sam!" Frodo exclaimed. "To me, for this is my burden."
"I've heard that before," Sam said wryly.
"You didn't listen then either, as I recall."
"And that was the problem between Sian and Sial," Nestadren said swiftly. "For much as Sian felt the call of the West he knew that if he sailed Sial would sail with him, unable to be parted from the other half of his heart. Sian would not take his beloved cousin away from the world before his time, and in truth, even though he was weary and sick inside he did not want to be separated from the other half of his heart either."
Sam turned and saw that Frodo was looking at him, all his own heart in his eyes. Wordless they exchanged a long glance.
"Nor was he quite ready to leave the world himself," Nestadren continued. "And that was when the old tale of Yivanna and the Child of Light was retold."
"But what good would that do them, or us either for that matter?" Sam asked. "Unless male elves can have babes, something I've not heard before."
"It's doubtful you'd hear such a thing., Master Samwise," Nestadren smiled. "For males are males in the elvenkind, just as they are for hobbitkind, and for mankind too, as far as I know."
"In all of nature, I should think," Sam retorted.
"Ah, do not be too sure of all nature," Nestadren counseled. "She has many aspects other than the ones we could claim to know. But no, of course male elves didn't bear children, still, for Sian and Sial time was running out, and the story of the Child of Light was the only legend that told of such an evil poison being purged before."
Nestadren studied them both gravely in the afternoon's pale light. "And so elven magic was proposed. A spell of conception, the very spell used on Yivanna and her companion long ago. A spell that would allow Sian, although male, to conceive and bear a child. Galinsell, Child of Light, whose growth would dispel the darkness, fill the emptiness inside Sian, and cure him."
"This must be a legend too," Sam exclaimed. "Who ever heard of a lad bearing a babe? It's unnatural!"
"So said many," Nestadren agreed steadily. "So many still say, long years later. It is why the story is shunned, why the study is discouraged, especially for me."
"Why for you?" Frodo asked softly. "Are you this Sian then, so called long ago?"
"No," Nestadren smiled. "He and his Sial sailed into the West together, when their time at last came, although it was much much later than many think he should have sailed. Can you guess then, who I am?"
"Their child!" Sam exclaimed, then blushed in case he was wrong.
"Yes, Samwise," Nestadren confirmed. "Child of Light, conceived by magic and by love, between Sian and Sial. In my growing I saved his life, and made a happy one for myself, for no child was ever as loved and cherished as I was by my unusual parents."
"So it's not just a legend then?" Sam said, still doubtful even though it had been his guess. "It's really true?"
Sam absorbed this, the strange details of the story washing over him. Magical babes born to elf princesses, (because to Sam all elven lasses were princesses,) well, that was something easy to understand. The kind of story told to young hobbits around a campfire, the sort that made lasses smile and clap their hands and lads shuffle their feet and ask for more tales about sword fights and dragon treasures.
But an elven lad with child? It wasn't romantic or anything like it. It was unnatural, and wrong. It was magic, which Sam often admired, but never really wanted to be a part of. He was a plain and simple hobbit, and liked things he could touch and feel and understand. Magic made him uneasy.
Magic was where dark magic came from, and it was dark magic poison that was killing Frodo.
He cast a glance at his friend, but Frodo's head was turned away, his hands still in his lap. He doesn't like the idea any more than I do, Sam thought. And what was the idea, anyway? That Frodo should go through such a spell? That a hobbit lad should have a babe?
"It's crazy!" Sam said aloud. "I'm sorry, I know you want to help, but it can't be right. It just can't!"
"So many said," Nestadren repeated, his face resigned. "It was said to Sian while he carried me, and so Sial took him away and kept him safe during his confinement, vowing they would be together forever no matter what happened. And I grew and healed Sian before Sial's eyes, but no other eyes saw it, so many did not believe it when they returned, with Sian bursting with health again, and a wee babe in their warrior arms. Those who did believe did not approve. They said that Sian should have accepted his fate and sailed to the Undying Lands, waiting for Sial to sail when his time came."
"It wasn't much of a choice," Frodo said at last. "And I don't see how it is a choice for me. I'm not an elf, just a hobbit. A babe?" He chuckled, but his mouth stayed sad. "Sam said it. It's crazy."
"Light dispels darkness," Nestadren said. "Life over death. Love banishing hatred. How is this crazy?"
Sam felt pain inside his chest. "It just is!" he shouted, jumping to his feet. "You've no right to give us hope with mad stories like that! We need real help, not fairy tales!"
"Sam!" Frodo exclaimed, standing and taking his friends arm. "Don't! He's trying to help us!"
"You don't believe him do you?" Sam said shakily, catching Frodo's forearm with his hand so that they stood face to face, arms pressed together. "He's talking about some elf making you pregnant, Frodo! Just saying it aloud makes me feel a fool, how can you believe that?"
"You misheard me, Master Gamgee," Nestadren said simply. "An elvish spell, yes, which I can cast. But the Child of Light must be conceived in love. It is from your seed that Frodo's child would need to grow."
Sam gaped at him for a moment and then his face flamed. He and Frodo released each other's arms so quickly they appeared to leap away from each other. The implications of the elven healer's words spun through Sam's brain even as the flush covered his fair skin from his chest to the tips of his pointed ears.
He wanted to speak scorn, he longed for a sword at his side, he really really wished the ground would open up and swallow him. Instead all he could do was stand with his mouth flapping until it all overwhelmed him and he turned on his heel and fled.
This home of the elves was always autumn, and Sam wondered if that was a magic spell too. Was that why the elves were all leaving Middle Earth? Because immortality lost its appeal when even the weather bowed to your whims? What joy in living if you couldn't be surprised by an unseasonal warm day, or an unexpected flurry of snow? What joy in living if nothing could surprise you any more?
Of course, he could have done without one surprise today.
You came here seeking elven magic, Samwise, he lectured himself. What was that old saying his gaffer quoted? Be careful what you ask for, you might get it? You wanted a cure...
"And I got a fairy tale," Sam muttered.
"You said that before," Frodo said from behind him and Sam jumped. He looked over his shoulder as Frodo stepped over the stone bench and planted himself down on it with a sigh. He held a book on his lap, a small elvish tome with a worn blue cover and faded gold writing. "But I never heard a fairy tale like the one Nestadren was spinning."
"I doubt anyone has," Sam said bitterly. "He's cracked, if an elf can be such a thing." He made a circle in the air by his head. "Loopy. Too many legends and not enough hard sense, that's what's wrong with the elves, in my opinion."
"They've been our friends and allies," Frodo reminded him firmly. "And are now our hosts."
Sam hung his head like a chidden nipper. "I know, I know," he muttered. "But I got my hopes right up, and now... Well, we're back to where we started."
"You don't think some part of the legend could be true, Sam?" Frodo said tentatively. His fingers stroked the book, his mutilated hand showing starkly against the blue binding. "He seemed very sure. It is of his own parentage he spoke, after all."
"Of course no part is true," Sam bellowed, his face flushing again at the memory. "How could something so unnatural be right?"
Frodo took a deep sigh and looked out over the ravine spread before them. It was almost too heartbreakingly beautiful in the evening light. "I suppose so," he said quietly. Then he turned and smiled at his friend. "It's all right, Sam," he said softly. "I'm not like Sial and Yivanna. When my time comes, I can accept the ending. Maybe I will sail into the West."
"No you bloody well won't!' Sam erupted. "Just because there's no help for us with this one healer, doesn't mean we stop lookin'! We've crossed Middle Earth before, and that time we had evil trailin' us. We can do it again, in search of a cure."
"Sam, Lord Elrond is one of the oldest and wisest elves alive. If he can't help me..." Frodo reached out to lay his hand on Sam's.
But Sam pulled away, getting up off the bench and gazing bitterly at the view. "I won't accept that."
Lord Elrond did not dine with the others, so Sam had to use all his hobbit stealth to find him. He did not want Frodo to know he was looking, and he certainly didn't want to meet the crazy healer on the way, so he wracked his memory and finally his footsteps led him to a pavilion all by itself in a wooded glade. From the trees he could see the tall dark haired elf sitting at a desk, reading. Sam wondered how there were still any books to read for someone so ancient, but he put the thought away and straightened his spine. He'd faced more frightening things than an angry elf after all.
He crossed the glade and climbed the worn steps, watching cautiously as Lord Elrond lifted his head and gazed curiously at him.
"Master Gamgee," he said in surprise. "How are you this evening?"
"Fine," Sam said nervously. At least he didn't seem angry. "I wanted to thank you for your hospitality, but you weren't at dinner tonight."
"But surely we shall meet later?" Elrond said, closing his book and laying it aside. Everything elves did seemed graceful and even as upset as he was Sam watched the gesture appreciatively.
"Well, that's what I wanted to talk to you about. Frodo and I, we'll be leaving soon, and I wanted to thank you before you left."
"Leaving soon?" Elrond repeated in surprise. "But I spoke to Frodo earlier, he said nothing of leaving."
"You spoke to Mr. Frodo?" Sam asked in surprise. "This afternoon?"
"After your visit with Nestadren," Elrond confirmed. "Frodo had some questions and he sought me out."
"Questions about Nestadren?" Sam asked quickly. "He didn't mention that legend, did he?"
"I know the legend already, Master Gamgee," Elrond said quietly. "I've heard it many times myself."
"There is such a legend then?" Sam asked in surprise.
"Of course, did you think Nestadren was lying to you?"
Sam flushed. "Not lying exactly," he began awkwardly, then his innate honesty rose up. "Well, now that you ask, yes actually, I did think he was lying. Or just plain cracked."
Elrond surveyed him in some surprise for a moment, and then threw back his head and laughed. Sam wouldn't have called it a hearty laugh exactly, but for an elf it seemed downright hysterical, and Sam felt his confidence waning a bit. Oh, how hard it was sometimes, to be among these big folk! How they did loom over a fellow and make him feel like a child!
"I'm sorry, Master Gamgee," Elrond apologized, with a twinkle in his eye. "But even by those who do not approve of him, Nestadren is not considered... cracked. He has walked many dark places in the world and faced much evil in search of truth. I admire him greatly." Elrond smiled at Sam kindly. "I would not have introduced him to two such important guests as yourself and Frodo if I'd thought he was a liar, or cracked."
"But, that means..." Sam broke off, his head swimming. "You don't mean to say you believe him? That he's some Child of Light born to two warrior elves?"
"Believe him?" Elrond said softly. "I was there, Master Gamgee. During the battle with the Witch-King, when Sian was wounded and Sial bore him home on his back. I was one of those who counseled him to throw off his burden when the pain became too much to bear. I spoke out against the spell that might save him."
Sam didn't even feel the strength leave his legs, didn't even realize he'd sat down on the stones with a bump until Lord Elrond was putting out his hand and lifting him kindly onto a seat. "It's true then?" Sam said, a radiant hope blossoming in his heart. "There is a way to save Frodo?"
"It seems there may be."
Sam put his hand to his chest to try to slow his racing heart down a little. "But that's wonderful," he said shakily. "Just when I thought we were back to the beginning, there's hope. Wait until I tell Frodo!"
"Frodo already knows, Samwise," Lord Elrond informed him gravely. "We spoke of it in depth this afternoon. I gave him a copy of the book with Sian and Sial's story in it." With another graceful gesture Elrond indicated his own book. "I was rereading Yivanna's legend myself when you arrived."
"Frodo knows?" Sam exclaimed. "But why didn't he say anything to me about it?"
"Ask yourself that question," Samwise," Elrond said gently. "Frodo accepted the possibility of truth in Nestadren's words when you rejected them out of hand. He stayed to hear his words, but you fled. Why?"
Sam felt the cursed blush again and he bit his lip. "I- I was embarrassed," he admitted. "At what he said."
"Do you know why so many opposed Nestadren's conception?" Elrond asked.
Sam shook his head, feeling his ears still bright pink.
"Because to elvenkind, nature is everything. We walk with nature, in all things, and love her and all her aspects. To go against nature, as some saw it..."
"Did you see it that way?"
"I did," Elrond confirmed. "Like many I opposed their decision, even while I understood why they made it. For my kind, the years can be light or heavy, and when we love, we love forever. Can you understand what forever means, to an elf?"
"Not really," Sam said honestly. "But I can understand the feeling of the rest of your life stretching away in front of you after you've lost someone you love. Knowing that you'll never see their face again, or hear their voice, or touch their hand. Forever might not mean the same to elves and hobbits, but I imagine fifty years or a thousand all feel pretty much the same when your heart is torn in two."
"Yes. So although I understood the need for the cousins to be together, I could not approve of their method. To go against nature."
"Do you still feel like that?" Sam asked, sensing that it was very much of the past that Elrond spoke now.
"No," Elrond said simply. "Even elves can change their mind, long after one would think them set as stone. When Sian and Sial returned to Rivendell with Nestadren, all that I had believed was turned around. I saw then that I was arrogant and foolish to think that I knew all of nature's aspects. She showed us a new one when Sian lifted away his son's covers with one battle scarred hand."
"And it really saved his life?" Sam said. "Could it do the same for a hobbit?"
"I do not know," Elrond said honestly. "I cannot foresee it. But I believe it is possible."
"Did you tell Frodo this?"
"And he didn't tell me." Sam clenched his fists. "Stupid, stubborn hobbit that he is, he'd rather die than ask this of me!"
"Perhaps he thought it would go against your nature?" Elrond said mildly.
"Well, maybe he had cause to think that," Sam admitted, not one whit abashed. "But like you said, nature has many sides. We'll just have to see how many Sam Gamgee's got!"
Sam found Frodo in the chamber they shared, sitting with his feet up on a window sill, looking out into the night. He looked up as Sam slammed the door.
"Sam!" he greeted him in surprise. "Where did you get to after dinner? I searched everywhere for you."
Sam stopped in the middle of the floor with his fists propped on his hips. "You are the stubbornest hobbit I ever met, and that's sayin' summat!"
Frodo's eyes rounded. "What did I do?"
"What did you do?" Sam shook his head in exasperation. "Sat there with that book on your lap, like butter wouldn't melt, letting me go on and on about crazy elves. What did you do," he muttered, pushing Frodo's feet down and leaning against the wide stone sill.
"Don't you 'Oh, Sam' me," Sam said severely. "What if I hadn't gone talkin' to Lord Elrond? Would you have let me drag you around half of Middle Earth lookin' for a cure when there's one here, right under our noses?"
"You spoke to Lord Elrond?"
"It's no more'n you did," Sam said stoutly. "Why didn't you tell me?" he appealed more softly. "How glad do you think I was to hear there's a way to make you well again? I should of heard that from you."
"You made your opinion on that quite clear when you ran out of Nestadren's room, Sam," Frodo reminded him.
"Don't throw that in my face," Sam muttered, cursing his blushing ears. "It's his fault for coming right out with it like that. Talkin' about my- my seed!"
Frodo hid his face in his hands as his cheeks blushed rosy red.
"See," Sam said triumphantly. "You're embarrassed too! Admit it!"
"Well, of course I'm embarrassed," Frodo cried. "Who wouldn't be? I love you dearly, Sam, but the thought that you and I would have to - to lay together..."
"Is the thought of dying better?" Sam shot back. Then he assumed a hurt expression. "I may not be the prettiest hobbit in the Shire," he began pitifully.
"Oh, Sam," Frodo chuckled through his hands, but his fingers were trembling. Sam reached over and took both his hands and held them tight.
"Oh, Frodo," Sam mocked him softly. "How do we get in these pickles?"
Frodo was laughing in earnest now, his chest shaking. "It's-it's crazy," he stuttered through his chuckles.
"That's what I said," Sam pointed out.
"A baby, Sam! How can I...? How could we...? Sam?"
Sam pulled on his hands and gathered him up in his arms and they stood together by the window, holding each other tight, rocking back and forward a little for comfort.
"Anyone lookin' at us right now might think we'd have no trouble makin' a baby," Sam teased and Frodo smothered a chuckle against his shoulder. Sam was glad to see his ears were bright red though. He'd hate to be the only one.
"What are we going to do, Sam?"
"You know what we're goin' to do, Mr. Frodo," Sam said clearly, pulling back and taking Frodo's eyes. "You knew the minute the healer told you that story. It's why you wouldn't look at me, wasn't it?"
"Couldn't look at you," Frodo admitted.
"It's why I ran out of the room," Sam admitted back. "Why I couldn't let myself think about it, let alone believe it."
"But you believe now, Sam?"
"You ever tried callin' Lord Elrond a liar?" Sam joked and Frodo smiled. "I do believe it, and I'm glad I do. To make you well, to keep you home, why, there's nothin' I wouldn't do."
"That's what worries me," Frodo said, and he pulled away and sat back down. A cool breeze wafted in through the open window and Sam shivered at the sudden lack of warmth against him. "You've already given up so much for me, Sam," Frodo said worriedly. "Now here you are, offering to make another sacrifice. I can't let you."
"Fft," Sam dismissed. "Sacrifice? It's not like you're askin' me to drink poison or anythin'."
"But you would, wouldn't you, Sam? If I asked you to?"
Sam cleared his throat at the emotion in Frodo's voice. "Now don't start gettin' all dramatic on me, Mr. Frodo. It's like my old gammer used to say: 'There's no use cryin' over bad medicine, might as well drink it down, tain't gettin' any sweeter.'"
"I think I should take that as an insult," Frodo said thoughtfully.
"I think what you should do, my dear, is put yourself in my place," Sam said sternly. "If my life hung in the balance, what would you quibble at doin'?"
Frodo thought about it for a moment or two and then shrugged. "Nothing, I suppose," he said.
"Don't sound so surprised," Sam chided, just to make him chuckle again. "Now instead of worryin' about makin' it, we should be worryin' about you carryin' it. I still can't get my head around the whole thing. Did the healer say any more to you after I left?"
"Some," Frodo admitted. "But I wasn't thinking too clearly myself by then."
"Well, no offense, but once we get the first hurdle out of the way, my job's the easiest. I just have to look after you, you're the one who will have to birth it."
Frodo shivered and hugged his middle. "It's getting cold," he said. "I'm going to bed."
They shared the big bed in the room just because that seemed most sensible, and they remembered very well how sometimes the breeze got a bit chilly in the night and how another warm body helped keep off the chill. And Sam had lost count of the nights in the wild when they'd curved together for warmth. But for the first time Sam felt awkward as he pulled his night shirt on and climbed into the bed.
Frodo was already under the covers, hugging the edge of the bed, looking like he was going to fall right off.
Sam lay back on the pillow and studied the shadows on the ceiling, the drift of leaves on the windowsill, the thin curtains moving gently in the breeze.
Frodo heaved a sigh next to him. "I guess elves don't feel the cold," he whispered.
"Don't get mad again," Sam whispered back. "But as much as I like them, they seem to have lost the grasp of practical things, if you take my meanin'. For instance, have you seen the gardens? If elves can build a place like Rivendell, you'd think they could invent a rake."
Frodo snorted into his pillow and a moment later Sam started chuckling.
"Come here," he said, and hauled Frodo over so they were lying side by side.
"I would have told you, Sam," Frodo whispered.
"Not just died bravely you mean, legs firmly together until the end?"
"Don't joke," Frodo chortled.
"I wouldn't dream of it," Sam said innocently.
Frodo turned his head on the pillow and gazed at Sam in the shadowed moonlight. "How are we going to do this, Sam?" he breathed.
"Like Nestadren said, Mr. Frodo. With love." Then he leaned over and kissed Frodo on his forehead. "Night," he whispered.
"Night, Sam," Frodo whispered back.
But it was a long time before they fell asleep.
They were outside the healer's rooms first thing after breakfast. Sam stopped by the door and looked at Frodo, Frodo lifted a hand to knock and then looked at Sam.
"You might as well knock, Mr. Frodo," Sam said resignedly. "The medicine tain't gettin' any sweeter."
Frodo quirked a brow at him and knocked, waiting for the call to summon them inside. Nestadren sat at a desk with books open and spread before him. He greeted them with a smile.
"My friends," he said warmly. "I'm glad to see you back."
"But not surprised," Frodo guessed, sitting down.
"I know I gave you much to think about yesterday. And the Lord Elrond came to me last night and told me of your conversations with him."
"I want to say I'm sorry," Sam said straightforwardly. "I shouldn't have said you were crazy."
The elf smiled. "I've been called worse. I wish there had been an easier way to prepare you for what I had to say. But I feel time is not our friend in this."
"What do you mean?" Frodo asked.
"Your illness will reoccur in October, yes?"
Frodo nodded agreement.
"And the spell must be performed by the light of a new moon. There's one in a week."
Sam felt his chest tighten. A week.
"The Child of Light within you must be strong enough by October to bear the brunt of the accursed illness that will come over you. We cannot delay then. If Frodo is to conceive, it must be the next new moon."
"And the, er, the child will be strong enough?" Frodo asked uneasily. "I wouldn't want it harmed. I mean." He stopped, looking discomforted. "To use a life, to create a life, just to heal myself. It seems very selfish."
"To create life in love is to give, not take."
"All the same, I can see why so many opposed it. It's a frightening notion."
"So my parents must have thought when faced with the same solution to their problem. I cannot speak for their concerns before I was born, two warriors who had spent centuries roaming the wild and challenging evil. But I can and will speak with love of my life as their son." Nestadren smiled, his warm green-brown eyes alight with joyful memory. "I was cherished, and beloved. One day I will share with you some stories of these two warriors who loved me with all their hearts."
Sam cleared his throat. "I don't know much about elven magic," he began. "But this babe... Will it be an elf or a hobbit?"
"The spell I will cast on Frodo allows him to conceive of you, Sam. It will be your child, yours and his. Like the child of any two parents he or she will have aspects of both of you."
Sam and Frodo couldn't help but stare at each other then, and once again Sam felt very small and out of his depth. There was a frightened determination in Frodo's eyes too.
"What do we have to do?" he asked bravely.
"Relax," Nestadren counseled warmly. He circled his desk and perched on the other side of it between them, reaching out and taking one of their hands in each of his. "My friends, this is not a punishment or a sentence to be carried out." He turned to Sam. "Samwise, the gift you give Frodo will save his life and his health. It will give him back his hope in the future. Yes?"
Sam felt his heart swell within him at the words and he nodded and smiled.
"And Frodo," Nestadren said, turning to him now. "All that you bear will be for Sam's sake, so that he will no longer be torn in two, but will be whole and one for all the days of his long life. Yes?"
Frodo's tense shoulders relaxed and a smile blossomed on his face.
"Yes," he agreed softly.
"Then relax, my friends. You are both young and beautiful and will find pleasure in one another. Spend the next week not in fear of what is to come, but in anticipation of all your dreams coming true. Shy not away from one another but stay close and touching, so that when the new moon shines her light on us next you will be ready to take that one step that will begin the healing."
He squeezed their hands and then released. them. "As for the spell, that is my concern, and I am already preparing for it."
The hobbits stood, but there was one last thing Sam had to know. "Mr. Nestadren, sir," he began meekly. "When we, er, when the new moon shines. Frodo and I, um. Where will we be? Exactly?"
"Secluded, Samwise, Nestadren smiled his understanding. "I will cast the spell and leave you to your seclusion."
"Good," Sam breathed in relief.
They took their leave and walked slowly down the stairs into the sunlight.
"Well, that's that," Frodo said thoughtfully. "I've just thought of a hundred things I want to ask him, but I don't somehow want to go back now. Sam?"
"I had my two questions, Mr. Frodo," Sam said earnestly. "And he answered them both."
"I didn't think of either of them myself," Frodo admitted.
"Well doubtless the question about the babe being an elf was a foolish one. But as my gaffer would say, better a foolish question than foolish mistake."
"And your other question, Sam? As soon as you asked it I felt myself trembling like a leaf. I had a sudden image of us having to do it while being watched by Nestadren!"
Sam's ears went red again but he could still chuckle at the alarmed widening of Frodo's eyes as he described his thoughts. It was easier to laugh now the question had been answered.
"Don't!" Sam protested through his laughter.
"Or Lord Elrond!" Frodo continued in horror and then he too began to laugh, bending over and holding his stomach.
Sam leaned against him and they laughed together, much more than the silly thoughts warranted. But Sam felt better for it as he straightened, wiping his eyes, and Frodo looked better too, somehow more relaxed.
"Nestadren's right though, Sam," Frodo went on as they continued down the shaded walk. "We have to put this in perspective. It might seem difficult and frightening now, but we're friends. We'll make it work."
"I just want us to stay friends," Sam said awkwardly, eyes on the path ahead. "I'd hate for us to go through this and not be able to look one another in the eye again."
"Like you're doing now?" Frodo teased gently and Sam chuckled.
"This is really gonna to happen, isn't it?"
Sam leaned against a banister and gazed up at the trees. "In a week."
"May," Frodo agreed.
"So it'll be more than halfway through by October," Sam mused, counting in his head.
"But it will be February by the time it's done."
Sam chuckled at the way they both avoided the key words. "Another year away from the Shire. I wonder how my trees are going?"
"You don't have to stay with me until February, Sam."
"It's not just trees waiting for you back home."
"You know, I'd like to hear more about those warrior elves, Mr. Frodo," Sam mused, kicking idly at the leaves near his feet. "I'd like to know what it was like for them."
Frodo raised his eyebrows at the change of subject. "Nestadren said he would tell us what he could."
"But he said he can't say what it was like for them before. When they were where we two are now. I reckon I know one thing though."
"That Sial wouldn't have left Sian alone to just get on with things. Warrior or not a fellow would need a lot of love and care while he was goin' through something like that. Sial wouldn't have left his Sian alone."
"No, I suppose he wouldn't," Frodo agreed with a faint smile.
Sam turned over a few more thoughts. "I don't think Nestadren has known many hobbits, do you?"
"I'm not sure. Why?"
"He called me beautiful," Sam pointed out. "He couldn't have seen too many hobbits if he thinks I'm beautiful."
"Well, Sam Gamgee," Frodo said firmly, throwing his arm around his friend's shoulder companionably. "I think he's a pretty smart elf. I can't think of a fairer hobbit in all the Shire, right at this moment."
"Mebbe you're the crazy one," Sam grumbled, but his ears were flushing just the same.
"Half Baggins and half Gamgee," Frodo mused as they continued down the path. "This will be something to see."
Sam and Frodo learned more from Nestadren as the week crawled by.
"A slit will form here," the healer said, indicating a place where the masculine swell of Frodo's belly ended.
"A slit?" Sam repeated fearfully.
"Don't worry, Sam," Nestadren assured him. "Frodo's body will know what to do. It will begin to form in about the sixth month, and you won't notice more than itching, Frodo. When the time comes you will go into labor and the child will emerge from the slit. Then it will close and heal, leaving no more than a silvery scar."
"Another scar," Frodo joked, although he was very pale. "Just what I need."
"And the babe?" Sam asked with a dry throat. "I can't help but worry about the poor mite, doing all that hard work like banishing evil and so forth. And it still not born!"
"It won't be working in the womb, Sam," the healer assured him with a reassuring pat to his shoulder. "It's very presence will drive the evil away."
"Well, I can see that happenin' with an elf child, sir, and no mistake. Sounds like the kind of thing an elf would know how to do, even before he was born. But a hobbit babe," Sam said doubtfully. "I'm pretty sure all he'll know is how to be hungry, sir. And maybe kick a lot."
Nestadren and Frodo laughed but Sam was still worried. He was starting to get his head around the fact that he was being asked to father a child, and he couldn't help thinking that a Gamgee babe might not be up to the task of being a Child of Light. Course there was Baggins blood there too, and they were a pretty bold lot, so it might be all right.
"If the child is conceived, Sam, then he will know what to do beyond all thought. Even as he dreams and grows his light will banish the dark. And no harm will come to him. Or her."
"And if a child isn't conceived?" Frodo asked. "When will we know if it has worked?"
"The next day I will be able to perceive a life within you, Frodo, if there is one."
"And if there isn't?"
Nestadren shook his head. "We have one chance at this," he said gravely.
May 1420 S.R.
The night before the new moon Sam and Frodo lay close together in the big elven bed.
"It's not too late to change your mind, Sam," Frodo said quietly. "I wouldn't blame you if you did."
"Make it easier on you in a way, wouldn't it Mr. Frodo," Sam realized. "The choice would be out of your hands."
"I don't want to die," Frodo said baldly.
"But you don't want to lay with me either," Sam returned. "Or get pregnant and go through all those things Nestadren was describing. I don't blame you."
"It's not so great a price to live," Frodo said somberly.
"Course it is!" Sam replied heatedly. "And it would be even if you was a lass, and birthin' babies came natural to you! Someone casts a spell and tells you to give your body up to another, to do something so intimate, so lovin' whether you want to or not..." Sam felt tears in his eyes and he turned his face into the pillow to hide them.
"Oh, Sam." Frodo wrapped an arm around his shoulders and pressed against him for comfort. "I'm sorry. All I've been thinking of is myself, and not about what this must be like for you. You love another, and I'm asking you to do this with me. It's not fair."
Sam rubbed his face on the cool pillow, willing the tears away. "Whoever said life's fair?" he huffed. "This whole thing just seems so... So cold blooded is all. All this planning and plotting, looking at the moon, casting spells. I'm not sure it's the way babes should be made. It's not the way love should be made."
He turned his head and looked at Frodo's worried face. "I'm not afraid to be with you," he admitted lowly. "I'm takin' the role nature made for me after all. Playin' the ram, if you'll pardon the expression."
Frodo chuckled through the tears in his eyes. "I don't think I will, no."
"You know what I mean," Sam said, heaving himself onto his side. "I have the easy part."
"Actually I've been thinking the only easy part for me in this whole thing will be laying under you," Frodo said, then flushed. "That didn't come out like I meant it to."
Sam's ears were burning again. "How did you mean it then?" he asked in a strangled voice.
Frodo rolled his eyes. "I mean all I have to do is lay there," he muttered.
"And that's the easy part?" Sam said incredulously. "That's what I was talking about before! We are not lasses! We don't just lay there! Nature meant us to plant the seed, and here you're being told to let me do the plantin'!"
"Please don't compare me to your garden."
"Tomorrow night I'm to get you pregnant, because the moon is new and some spell will be cast. I feel like this is all rushin' by too fast, and for all the talkin' we're doin' about the whys and wherefores we haven't talked about the how. How are we gonna do this?"
"It's a fair enough question."
"How about an answer then?" Sam demanded.
"I don't have one!" Frodo exploded, sitting up and pushing Sam away from him. "All right? I can't even think about you kissing me, Sam, let alone all that comes after that!"
Sam sat up in the bed and watched Frodo swing his legs around and sit on the edge, as far away from him as he could be. His face was burning again, from shame this time. His chest felt tight and he struggled to form words.
"I'm sorry," he whispered.
"Don't apologize!" Frodo said angrily. "None of this is your fault!"
"This isn't going to work, is it?" Sam said dully. "This is supposed to be about love, Nestadren said so, but all we're doin' is tearin' at each other now."
"You started it," Frodo said bitterly, burying his face in his hands. "It's too cold for you, you said. Crying while you said it. Nestadren has it wrong, love isn't enough, not when you love another more than me. She should be with you, it's her that will bear your children, and that's as it should be. I'm a nuisance, a burden, getting in the way, asking unnatural things of you, dragging you from home!"
Sam listened in disbelief to Frodo's ranting, hearing at last the desperate edge of fear in his dear friend's voice. His body was shaking and even from here Sam could see the tears running through his fingers, silver in the moonlight. All Sam's own fear died away, withering like the autumn leaves that gathered in drifts around the gardens. Here Frodo was trying to be brave and Sam was stirring up his fears, asking questions neither of them had an answer for.
"Frodo," he whispered. Then he kneeled on the rumpled bed and took Frodo's shoulders in his strong, gardener's hands. The other hobbit shivered and shook but didn't fight him as Sam pulled him gently around and lifted his chin. Confused blue eyes opened and Frodo blinked up at him as Sam smiled tenderly. Then he leaned over and pressed a kiss to trembling lips.
Frodo gasped and Sam took a moment to run his tongue just inside the parted lips, then he closed the mouth with his own and laid one more kiss there before lifting his head.
"Now you don't have to imagine me kissing you," Sam murmured. He wrapped his arms around Frodo and lifted him into a kneeling hug, warming him and holding him close.
"You're just frightened, aren't you?" Sam said into a pointed ear. "I am too, my dear. I'm sorry I said those things, made you cry."
"I'm sorry too, Sam," Frodo shivered and gasped into his shoulder.
"I'm a clumsy fool for saying it that way," Sam said huskily. "I'm just worried for you, is all As if prattlin' on about it is gonna change it." He pulled away from Frodo and sat back on his heels. "But there is something you should know. There is no other that I love more than you, and that's as honest a truth as I can tell."
Frodo sat back too, rubbing at his wet face. "But, Sam-"
"And you're not a nuisance, or a burden, shame on you for sayin' so. If I was the one who needed help, would you call me a burden?"
"Sam," Frodo began again but Sam cut him off.
"Now let me finish, Mr. Frodo. You've had your say now I'll have mine. For the record, and I mean that book you're always scribblin' in, you did not drag me from home. Makes it sound like I have no will of my own, when as you well know the only stubborner hobbit in the world is yourself."
"Yes, Sam," Frodo agreed meekly.
"Now what else was there? Oh, yes. Rosie."
Frodo sniffed and snuffled his nose with the back of his hand. "She's waiting for you," he said softly.
"No, she isn't," Sam returned. "She might have, if I'd asked her. But I didn't. Wasn't sure when we'd be coming back, see. Or if we would at all."
"But you wanted to ask her, Sam?"
"I had my chance, Mr. Frodo. I had more than one, once we got back home. But instead I went trampin' over the Shire plantin' trees."
"You were doing what you had to," Frodo protested.
"But I didn't have to do it alone," Sam said sadly. "Mebbe she'd have come along if I asked her. She'd have waited if I asked her. But I never did."
"She said it, before we left this last time. I've changed. I'm different than the lad she knew. I've got these itchy feet and the bad dreams that wake me up, and the scars that don't go away."
"Maybe she could have healed those scars, Sam," Frodo said, covering his hand with his own. "If you'd stayed, given yourself some time, maybe she could have helped heal you."
"If I'd let her," Sam agreed. "Mebbe she could have. But she said something else, Frodo, that's had me thinkin'. I never have told her about what happened to us. The details like. There's been times when it's all welled up in me and she's smiled so kindly that I felt like I could, but then I think, where do I start? How do you tell that story? I don't have the right words, not to do it justice."
"I understand, Sam. I write the words too, but they can't express the way it was, what we felt, what we went through."
"I'm not sure any words can then, if you can't find them, Mr. Frodo. But see, with you, I don't have to find the words. You just know. Rosie said I only talk to you but she doesn't know that we never talked about the past all them times back at the Cotton house. That we talked more of the future."
"We don't need to talk about the past," Frodo said quietly. "It's a part of us now."
"I'm tired," Sam said, and he lay back down, pulling the covers up to his chest. Frodo lay back with a sigh too. "It doesn't matter now anyway," Sam went on, staring up at the ceiling. "I couldn't go back to the lass after all this. She wouldn't understand, and I wouldn't expect her too. This is all too big and scary for plain hobbits like us."
"Why were you so sad before, Sam?" Frodo asked lowly. "You say it's not so terrible for you to lay with me, but if you don't love another, what had you so upset?"
"It doesn't matter," Sam shrugged. "Did you mean what you said? That you can't even imagine doin' that with me?" His heart hurt again a little at the thought.
"I'm sorry," Frodo said. "I was just scared. And now you've kissed me at least I don't have to worry about that any more."
"Your lips didn't fall off or anythin'," Sam huffed, not ready to forgive quite yet.
"It was sweet and nice, actually," Frodo said thoughtfully, and Sam forgave him right away. "But you still didn't say why you got so upset?"
"Oh, it's silly," Sam said, embarrassed now.
"Please, Sam," Frodo pleaded. "Tell me what you're thinking. I need to know."
"Oh, Mr. Frodo," Sam said helplessly. "I wish I hadn't said anything now!"
"You said it was too cold blooded," Frodo recalled. "Casting spells and being intimate with another person. But if you're not afraid of being intimate with me, why did you cry?"
"Because." Sam swallowed nervously. "Because I've never done this before!"
Frodo frowned. "Neither have I, Sam," he said confusedly. "You know that. You're the first lad who's so much as kissed me." Then his eyes widened and Sam felt his ears flame up again. "Oh, Sam," he breathed. "You mean with anyone, don't you? You've never had a lover?"
"I wish I hadn't spoken," Sam groaned, turning his hot face into his pillow again.
"Now I understand," Frodo was saying. "Your first time, Sam, and of course you want it to be special, with someone you love."
"Don't be daft, it don't mean nothin'! I've fought trolls and goblins and a giant bloody spider," Sam gasped into his pillow. "Don't talk to me like I'm some moony maiden."
"Well, I've fought trolls and goblins and that bloody great spider as well," Frodo reminded him. "And if I'm allowed to be scared witless about this then you certainly are. Now look at me, Sam."
Sam moaned and buried his face deeper.
Sam sighed and rolled over, mouth turned down. Then he was opening his mouth in a gasp of surprise because Frodo was leaning over and kissing him. And it wasn't a quick kiss and a flick of his tongue, it was long and lazy and gave Sam whole new levels for the word intimate, Finally he lifted his head and smiled down at Sam through the darkness.
"Why did you do that?" Sam asked, lips tingling. "We're not supposed to do that until tomorrow."
"There's a job we have for tomorrow, my lad," Frodo agreed. "And it's one I'm sure we'll be up to. But your first time's not going to be because of some spell, with all the pressure of our futures at stake."
"It isn't?" Sam said, his heart pounding.
"No," Frodo said, shaking his head slowly. "Your first time is going to be with someone you love, who loves you back, and for no other reason than because it will feel so good."
Sam swallowed hard. "How do you know it will feel good?" he asked nervously. His lips felt dry now and he dampened them with his tongue, then instantly regretted it when Frodo's eyes dropped back to his lips for a moment.
"Why I knew from the moment you kissed me," Frodo said, as if surprised he asked.
Sam's nerves faded a little as this soaked in. "Did you?"
Frodo smiled, and it was so like the old wicked smiles the young hobbit used to flash around the Shire that Sam's heart was wrung. "It was quite the nicest kiss I've ever had," he pronounced.
"Now you're teasin'," Sam accused. He was suddenly conscious that Frodo was leaning over him and their bodies were pressing together all down one side.
Frodo sobered, his eyes so tender that for a moment Sam wanted to hide away from them. "No, I'm not, Sam. I'd never tease about this." He stroked his fingers down Sam's blushing cheek and then leaned over and touched his lips to Sam's ear, feather soft. "It feels strange, doesn't it, my lad," he whispered. "Strange, but good, hmm?"
With a shamed sob Sam wrapped his arms around Frodo and pulled himself into his arms, cuddling into his neck like a small child looking for comfort.
"Oh, Sam," Frodo whispered tenderly, cradling him close. "If you'd tried for a hundred years to find a way of making all this easier for me, you couldn't have done better than this. Let me take care of you, Sam. Let me love you tonight, and tomorrow night will be your turn."
"You want to do that?" Sam stuttered. "You want to be inside me?"
"I want to make you feel good, Sam," Frodo told him sincerely. "You'll be surprised at how good just hands and lips can feel. We'll leave the other for you to find out for yourself."
"I-I'm scared," Sam admitted in a tiny voice, not sure whether he was talking about now or tomorrow, but sure that there wasn't another person in the whole world he could have whispered it to.
"Me too," Frodo whispered back. "Can we try then, my Sam? Can we see if love is enough?"
His stomach was twisted, his heart was pounding, and Sam wasn't sure how all this had turned around so suddenly. But his healthy young body was telling him that Frodo's hand felt wonderful on his face, and that Frodo's lips had made his skin tingle, and that even after all the times they'd lay side by side in the past, something was different now.
He couldn't speak, but he pulled back a little and answered with the tiniest nod of his head. Frodo smiled again, and this smile wasn't wicked at all, yet still somehow made Sam's treacherous ears flame all over again.
"You- you know what to do?"
"I know what will feel good," Frodo assured him. He leaned over and bestowed a soft, teasing kiss on Sam's lips, then one on each corner. He lifted his head and smiled into Sam's worried eyes, then kissed his lips again, opening his mouth slightly and skimming his tongue along the seam of Sam's trembling lips.
"Open your mouth, Sam," he breathed, and more from surprise than anything else Sam did.
"Oh!" Sam moaned when Frodo's tongue slipped between his lips and stroked his tongue with a tingling rasp. This was the most intimate thing he'd ever done with another person, and all he could do was shiver and clutch at Frodo's shoulders as the other hobbit playfully made love to his mouth.
Frodo lifted his slightly swollen lips and Sam managed to unstick his eye lids.
"F-Frodo," he stammered, his mouth numb and tingling.
Sam swallowed and nodded.
He parted his lips as Frodo lowered his head, but this time Frodo's mouth found his cheek, skimming and suckling gently down to his jaw line. And all the time his hands were stroking gently, fingers caressing, finding sensitive places Sam didn't even know he had.
Sam's mind was racing, but so was his heartbeat and his pulse. This felt good, really good, but still strange, a little alien. This was Frodo touching him and stroking his lips on his skin. His friend, the person that mattered most to him in all the world.
But not his lover, for all the plans that they had made and the spells that were being cast. Sam's breathing hitched in and out as Frodo's lips found their way to his throat, soft kisses turning to sweet suckling pleasure. Sam's skin felt too hot, his chest too tight, and Frodo's body against his own all of a sudden felt too strange, too alien to be borne.
With a shudder Sam caught Frodo's hands and pushed them away from him, their fingers tangling.
"Sam?" Frodo whispered, and his wide blue eyes were hooded and a little dazed.
Sam's hands tightened on Frodo's as he tried to form the words to explain the panic that had overcome him, but as he sought his fingers found the rough stump where Frodo's own finger was missing, and just like that the alien became familiar again, the strange became normal.
"Frodo," he said, as if to reassure himself.
Frodo's eyes seemed to focus on him and understanding lit his face. "Too fast?" he murmured and Sam nodded gratefully.
"Frodo," he repeated.
"I'm here, Sam" Frodo assured him. His eyes grew a little worried. "Is it too much for you? Do you want me to stop?"
"No!" Sam exclaimed, and he meant it. This was all leading somewhere, and Sam needed to know where. There was a path here he had to take himself very soon, and he was suddenly being shown it was not going to be as easy to travel as he'd fooled himself into believing.
Between saying and doing there was this dark intimate world of warm touches and burning kisses. Familiar fingers could rouse odd feelings, lips he thought he knew could set him on fire. Something was driving him on, and he needed to find out what it was, how it would feel. Frodo was in charge now, and Sam was all of a sudden aware that Frodo was a part of a world that he, Sam, hadn't even realized existed. This was not to be borne. Not again.
"What about you, Frodo?" he asked nervously. "Does it feel good to you?"
"Can't you tell?" Frodo said, his voice husky, and then he pressed against Sam's side gently. Sam's eyes widened and his breath caught again as he felt a hard press of arousal against his thigh. "Oh, Sam," Frodo laughed low. "Do you know your ears go red when you're embarrassed?"
"So do yours," Sam defended, but he was too breathless to make much of a fuss. A liquid heat was pooling in his belly now, and suddenly who was touching him didn't seem quite as important as how. He moved restlessly and Frodo pulled him closer, his body moving over him and pressing Sam into the mattress. Now Sam could feel that burning hardness, it dueled with his own through the thin fabric of their nightshirts. The pressure made him groan and his body moved restlessly.
"Now not fast enough," Frodo observed breathlessly, and he deftly tugged Sam's nightshirt up, and then his own. Flesh met flesh and Sam's thoughts were drowned between swirling impressions of velvet hardness and liquid fire. His body bucked again but Frodo gentled him and then taught him the rhythm that he needed to ease his need, although the more he fed the hunger the more it seemed to grow. They were moving together now, slick flesh against slick flesh, Frodo's mouth on his neck, his own hands on Frodo's hips, helping the thrusts as their lower bodies dueled.
Sam never afterward knew who reached completion first, there was just an end, warmth, pleasure, deep deep pleasure that wrung him, drained him, left him breathless and panting and limp. Frodo's lips rested against his skin now, only the tip of his tongue tracing a burning place on his neck that glowed and simmered like the fire running through his veins.
Sam's heartbeat slowed, his sawing breaths eased, and slowly he became aware of Frodo's weight pressing him down, and the damp stickiness that sealed their bodies together. He pushed gently at Frodo's shoulder and with a sigh he felt him roll off. Their bodies actually made a sound as they separated, and cool air made Sam shiver as he became aware that his nightshirt was bunched up around his hips and the blankets on the bed had been kicked away.
He tugged at the hem of his shirt, wincing at the stickiness of their drying seed. Frodo pulled at the covers and Sam gratefully seized it and tugged it up.
"Sam?" Frodo murmured.
"Is- is that the way it always is?" Sam asked, embarrassed that his voice sounded so small.
"You mean so scary?" Frodo asked affectionately, taking Sam's chin between his fingers and tilting his head to look into his eyes. Sam ducked his head, but after a moment found himself peering up and meeting that familiar blue gaze.
"You didn't seem scared," Sam said in surprise. "Were you really?"
"I still am, a bit," Frodo confided. "I wanted to make it good for you, but I got so carried away making myself feel good I kind of lost control."
Sam's nerves settled and he relaxed a little back into the mattress. His bones felt all melty, his skin felt kind of shimmering and tender. And Frodo's eyes, although a little anxious, seemed all of a sudden languorous and drowsy, as if he too was feeling wonderful inside.
"Did I really make you lose control?" Sam marveled. "Fancy that!"
Frodo smiled and curled up next to him on the mattress. "I'm a bit surprised myself," he admitted. "I was already feeling very good indeed, and then suddenly I was overwhelmed."
"Me too!" Sam exclaimed. "I was nervous and feeling queer about it all, and then I just suddenly knew what to do." He ducked his head a little again. "Well, maybe not exactly what to do. You showed me the way."
Frodo leaned forward and laid his forehead against Sam's. "Thank you for trusting me enough to let me show you the way," he whispered. "Tomorrow we'll trust each other, hmm? And learn something new together."
"Oh, tomorrow!" Sam exclaimed. "I'd forgotten all about it!"
Frodo threw his head back and laughed uproariously, and Sam buried his face in his pillow again.
"There go my flamin' ears," he groaned and Frodo pulled him close and cuddled him for a moment.
"Ugh," they both said together, and then pulled apart.
"I'll get us a cloth," Sam said, still flushed. He sat up and the world spun a little. Frodo sat up too and rubbed his back gently.
"I'll get the cloth," he volunteered. "You get us some fresh nightshirts. I'd say we could manage without them, but this place doesn't get any warmer."
Sam nodded and shivered a little in the cold air. He found them two more nightshirts and pulled his own off, wiping absently at his belly with the soft fabric.
"This will work better," Frodo said, and he handed over a damp cloth. Sam yelped at the cool dampness, and made short work of the cleanup. He was still shivering by the time he scrambled back into bed and the two hobbits cuddled together under the covers, cold feet tangling.
"Well," Sam yawned against Frodo's shoulder. "I wasn't expectin' all that."
"No," Frodo agreed sleepily. He slipped chilled fingers under Sam's arms and sighed at the warmth. Sam squirmed and returned the favor.
Sam thought he should say something more, but Frodo's eyes were already closed and his own were drooping. They'd have plenty of time to talk, Sam thought as he drifted off to sleep. All the time in the world.
In the morning they awoke still cuddled together, and for a few moments it seemed like any ordinary day to Sam. He shifted and sighed, wishing he could stay warm but aware now of a growing need to pee. Frodo was snuffling in a dozing sleep next to him and Sam twitched uncomfortably, scratching idly at his belly.
The covers shifted and the scents of their bodies wafted out, sweet, spicy, different. Recollection returned full force as an aching tenderness in his lower body and the flaky itchiness low on his belly connected all at once. Sam's eyes flew open just as Frodo's lashes flickered and lifted. Totally unprepared to face his friend after all that had happened the night before Sam shot backwards off the bed and raced for the bathroom.
Need relieved, Sam stood in the doorway of their room, shifting nervously from one foot to another on the chill tiled floor. He could see Frodo sitting up on the edge of the bed with his back to him, stretching his arms out in a yawn, rubbing idly at his tousled curls. His nightshirt was riding up and Sam looked away as a hint of pale flesh was revealed in the stretch. He wasn't ready to think about how much of that familiar flesh had been pressed up against him last night. He really wasn't ready to think about how much more of it he would see and touch tonight.
Frodo turned his head and looked over at him. "Sam?"
"I'm starved," Sam said hurriedly, reaching for his clothes and shaking them out.
"Are you all right?" Frodo slid off the bed and came towards him and Sam took a quick step back and then realized he was holding his pants up to his chest like a shield.
"Foolish question," Frodo said, stopping in his tracks. He raised his brow quizzically but Sam looked away and pulled his britches on under his nightshirt. Then he grabbed a weskit and backed towards the door, braces still trailing.
"I'm going for breakfast," he muttered, eyes still on his feet. Then he was through the door and away like a hare chased by a fox. He didn't stop running until he reached a quiet part of a garden he didn't remember seeing before. Then he stopped and leaned against a tree, panting and feeling like a darn fool.
"Samwise you idiot," he puffed, rubbing a shaking hand over his face. Wasn't he the one who'd begged Frodo not to treat him like some moony maiden the night before? And here he was blushing and running like a swooning tweeny lass.
"I suppose I should leave you alone," Frodo said behind him and Sam jumped. Hobbits could move wonderful quiet when they wanted, and Frodo had taken him by surprise. Sam really wanted to say something that would break the tension he was feeling but the words wouldn't come. Words never did come easily to him.
"But time is moving on, Sam, and today is the last chance we have to change our minds. Have I ruined everything?" Frodo asked him quietly, laying a hand on his shoulder.
Words really didn't come easily, but actions did, and Sam lifted his hand and gripped Frodo's where it rested on his shoulder. He didn't turn around though, still not quite ready to face those perceptive blue eyes.
"Why won't you look at me, Sam?"
"I- I," Sam tried to gather his thoughts. "I feel a bit of a fool, is all," he muttered, chin on his chest. "Cryin' and makin' such a fuss last night. I should of kept it to myself."
"Why, Sam?" Frodo asked deeply. "Why should you think you had to keep something like that a secret? Did you think I'd - I'd laugh? Make fun?" There was real hurt in Frodo's voice and Sam's soft heart wrung. He turned and looked his friend in the eye at last.
"Of course not!" he denied. "I know you'd never tease me about summat like that."
"Then why not share that with me? We've known each other most of our lives, Sam. We're about make a new life together, if you can believe that! Why not trust me?"
"It's not about trust," Sam said moodily, kicking at some dry leaves at his feet. He stepped back and leaned against a tree. "I've just been takin' care of you so long, it's got to be habit, that's all. When all this come up, and it seemed there was this spell to be cast, I felt like it fell to me to take charge. Like I took charge and brought us here to find a way to make you well. How could I admit that the one thing you needed from me now was summat I had no clue how to give you?" He slumped against the tree. "I still don't," he muttered.
"You seemed to pick it all up pretty quickly last night," Frodo said softly, and Sam saw a glimmer of a smile around his lips.
"Yeah, well, you were leading the way," Sam returned gruffly.
"I'm only slightly more experienced than you, Sam," Frodo revealed, his blue eyes clear and direct. "And it's been a very long time for me since I've shared anything approaching what we had last night. But if I led the way at times you still showed me a thing or two."
Sam recalled the last desperate moments of their coupling, Frodo's moans of passion, his own abandonment to pleasure. "It did seem a bit of a surprise," he allowed reflectively. "I never would have thought it could be like that. That someone could touch me and it would be like... like fire."
"I don't think it would happen with just anyone, Sam," Frodo mused. "That's why I haven't had much experience since I grew up. To be that intimate with someone I have to really trust them, care for them."
"Yes," Sam agreed thoughtfully. "Come to think of it I can't imagine letting anyone else do what you did last night." He ducked his head shyly. "What we did together, I mean."
"So I haven't ruined it then?"
"I thought I'd ruined it, acting all wet like that!" Sam exclaimed. "Thing is, I'm still not sure how it will be, you know, tonight. Are you?"
"We can only do our best, Sam." Frodo wrapped his arms about his middle and gazed out at the vista of trees and rocks around them. "It might be, dear Sam, that it's not our fate to succeed at this."
Sam frowned. "What do you mean?"
"It just seems as if we're being selfish expecting an elven spell to solve all our troubles. We set out to save the Shire, Sam, and it has been saved. My dearest wish after that was that you should get home, live safely there. It seems too much to ask now, for me to have a happy ending as well."
"But why?" Sam asked, heart breaking at the solemn sadness in Frodo's face. "Why should it be selfish to want to live?"
"What if there's more than Morgul poison at work inside me, Sam? I bore that evil thing across the world, its left its own mark on me. What if that poison can't be cured?"
"It's left a wound inside you," Sam said shakily. "But wounds heal, if you let them. Don't give up on me now, Frodo. You didn't give up then, did you? You walked until you couldn't walk any more, and when you couldn't walk you crawled."
Frodo reached up and cupped Sam's cheek gently with his mutilated hand. "And when I couldn't crawl you carried me."
"Then let me carry you now," Sam begged. "Don't give up when we're so close to finding our way. Please!"
Frodo kept his eyes on the distance, his face still and pale as he seemed to turn Sam's words over in his head. "All right, Sam," he said at last. Before Sam could smile his relief Frodo turned and looked at him gravely. "But if this spell doesn't work, then I'll take it that it wasn't meant to. And that will be an end to it. No more haring off over the world looking for a cure, all right?"
"But-" Sam began. Frodo pressed a tear damp finger to his lips.
"I mean it, Sam. If this doesn't work we'll go back home, to the Shire. Whatever time I have left I want to spend in Bag End."
There was no mistaking the determination in his eyes and Sam swallowed all his arguments. There'd been enough tension between them, and if this did fail he'd have time to muster more arguments later. For now he wanted harmony between them, a return to peace.
He nodded his agreement, and Frodo smiled and took his hand.
"Thank you for understanding, Sam," he said gratefully.
Sam lifted his hand and kissed it, as he had a hundred times before. Then he grasped it more firmly and began to haul his friend along. "It's goin' to be a long day," he pronounced. "And now I really am starved."
What it was was an odd day, as by unspoken agreement all talk of what was to come was put aside. Instead they wandered the peaceful forever autumn of Elrond's realm together, discussing all the changes they would make in Bag End's garden when they returned home. They laid out the flower garden, and the vegetables, and even talked about fruit trees and a small orchard behind the hole. As the day wore on however, Frodo seemed to grow more and more distant, he spoke less and drew away from Sam's touch. Finally before the evening meal they separated and didn't meet again until the appointed time outside Nestadren's study. Frodo was pale and silent.
Nestadren greeted them warmly but although his glance lingered long on Frodo's bent head he did not comment upon his obvious withdrawal. Instead he gathered up a soft gray pouch and led them out of the low stone building and down a paved path. Oddly Sam noticed it was the path he had fled down this morning, as if his feet even then knew what journey they must make. They walked a long way, past the lip of the gorge and then back down onto an unpaved track, worn smooth by the soft tread of the elves.
Finally they came to a pavilion in the trees, so covered with vines and creepers that it was almost indistinguishable from the old forest around them. In the late afternoon light it seemed to slumber, and even bird song was muted and hushed.
"All has been prepared for you," Nestadren said, his own voice soft. "When the spell is cast I will leave you, and from that time until the morning light appears no one will be able to come or go from this glade. Here you will be cocooned from the world while the spell does its work within you."
He led the way up the worn steps and pushed open a smooth wooden door. Inside was a large round bed and Sam looked away from it in sudden embarrassment.
"Sit," Nestadren invited, and to his relief Sam saw he was indicating a low lounge, its velvet cover soft and smooth with age.
They sat side by side but not touching, and Sam tried hard not to let his worry show. They were inches apart, and yet he felt further from Frodo than he ever had.
"Sam," Nestadren said kindly. "No magic need be performed on you, but would you like to hold Frodo's hand? I think he is scared and worried, and it might make him feel better."
Sam wished it was Frodo who'd asked for his hand, it almost felt like an intrusion for him to reach out and take the trembling fingers in his. Now that the time had come it all seemed impossible, ridiculous. This was elven magic, high and distant, way beyond two plain hobbits from the Shire. Their work was gardens and books, not mystical spells and moon magic. This was beyond them, a door closed to ordinary folk, and they were sad fools for ever believing different.
Hope left him then, and it was for his own comfort now that he clutched Frodo's fingers and listened while Nestadren chanted elven words and crumbled leaves around them. There was more to the spell, much more, but ever afterwards when Sam tried to recall it all he could grasp were vague memories. He thought perhaps there was a song, but the tune escaped him, like a silvery fish darting through a nipper's fingers in a shallow stream.
And then, suddenly, Nestadren was rising and standing before them. He laid a large gentle hand on each of their heads and blessed them quietly in elvish and then the common tongue. Then with a swish of his robes he was gone.
Sam couldn't help studying Frodo then, even though he no longer believed in the miracle cure he'd so longed for. Was there a change in his friend? Could there be some sign of this magic on him?
But Frodo looked no different as he sat there, his head bowed, his hand lying slack in Sam's.
"What are we doing here?" he finally said hoarsely. "Sam, what did we think we were doing? This is not for us."
"I know," Sam admitted, and in a way it was like a weight being lifted from him. He heaved a deep breath. "I know it's not."
Frodo sought his glance and his eyes were dark and shadowed. "I should have listened to you when you first spoke of this. It's crazy, unnatural."
"Maybe if we was elves," Sam agreed solemnly. "Like that Sian and Sial. Hobbits don't have magic, leastwise not high magic like this. All our magic lies in the good earth and coaxin' the life out of it. Life can't come from us, Frodo. Not two plain hobbits like us."
"I wanted so much for there to be a cure, Sam. For your sake as well as mine. It was nice to believe, for a while, that there was a future for us together in the Shire."
Tears pricked Sam's eyes. "All our plans for the garden," he said lowly. "And for Bag End. I bet Merry and Pippin have it looking right good by now. It's all cozy and warm and waitin' for us. Shame I ever dragged you away from it."
Frodo tightened his grip on Sam's hand. "You did it for me, I know," he said gratefully. "Like you went along with all this for me."
"Went along?" Sam marveled. "It's a wonder you don't have a print on your back from my hand pushin' you along, Mr. Frodo!"
Frodo looked around the room, eyes lingering on the big round bed. It did look inviting, all crisp sheets and soft embroidered quilts. But it was unnecessary now, almost cruel, a reminder of their scattered hopes and dreams.
"What now?" Frodo said, his voice lost.
"We'll go home tomorrow," Sam said huskily. "Leave all this behind us. Why, I bet by the time we cross the Brandywine into the Shire it will all seem like some dream."
"Will we forget it, do you think?" Frodo caught his eyes and gazed at him. "Will we forget everything?"
Suddenly Sam couldn't help himself, he reached out and gathered Frodo's drooping form to his breast. "I don't want to forget," he cried into Frodo's throat. "For a while we had it all, I don't want to forget that!"
"Sam," Frodo whispered, holding him close and rocking him. "I don't want to forget either, I know I never shall. No matter what happens I want to hold on to the memory of last night, when we were closer than I thought any two people could be. You gave yourself so sweetly, my dear, so sweetly. We were so hungry for one another, it was like we were starving all that time and didn't know it, like parched earth soaking up a soft gentle rain."
Sam nodded fiercely. "Then I don't regret coming here," he vowed. "Even if it's not the end we hoped for, I don't regret it. Why, when I think I might have gone my whole life never knowing what it was like to kiss you, or be kissed by you, it just hollows me out inside, makes my heart hurt."
Frodo nodded too, his soft fragrant curls stroking Sam's skin, his hands stroking Sam's back for comfort.
"Frodo," Sam whispered in his delicately pointed ear. "I wanted so to heal you, with love the way Nestadren said." He pulled back a little and looked into Frodo's eyes. "Now I just want to love you, the way you did me last night."
Frodo's face was wondering. "You want that, Sam?"
"I do. And not for any spell, or moon magic, my dear. Just because I'm hungry for you again, and if this is the dream we leave behind us I want it to be the sweetest dream we could share."
"We don't have to, if you don't want to. Even if we don't do more than cuddle together in that big nest of a bed, and maybe kiss a little bit, I'll be happy."
"I do want to, Sam," Frodo said, smile trembling. "My Sam, I want that more than anything."
There were no nerves or fear in them when they undressed this time, no blushes or hidden looks. They simply took off their clothes and climbed naked into the bed, drawing together naturally under the big quilt.
"It's warmer than the one in our room," Sam observed, snuggling his toes down between the crisp sheets. Frodo tangled their feet together and stroked his curls on Sam's ankles. A shiver ran through them both.
"Softer too," Frodo agreed huskily.
"Your skin's fairer than mine," Sam marveled as their chests touched. "Oh, it feels good to touch you all down me like this."
"We didn't even take off our nightshirts last night," Frodo chuckled into Sam's neck.
"We didn't did we," Sam marveled. He stroked his callused hands down the wings of Frodo's shoulder blades, loving the feel of the smooth flesh, and the shiver that shook that narrow frame. "You need some feedin' up, Frodo," he observed.
Frodo nodded, his own hands stroking Sam's shoulders and down his front, tangling in his chest hair. "I've always been too thin," he agreed, breathing in Sam's scent and sighing pleasurably. "I like how solid you feel against me, Sam."
"And it don't feel queer to you," Sam asked curiously. "Us both bein' lads?" He shuddered a little as the proof of them both being lads touched and stroked.
"Uh, no," Frodo gasped. "Does it to you?"
"I've never known any different," he reminded Frodo, his hands now finding the swell of Frodo's backside and sliding boldly down over it.
"Um, oh, Sam," Frodo quivered, as Sam's hands cupped the soft globes appreciatively. "Right now I find it hard to believe that! You seem to know just what to do!"
"Just following my nose, so to speak," Sam said smugly, and then he followed his instincts and began to put into practice all he'd learned of kissing the night before. It was his own turn to squirm as Frodo's hands stroked down and cupped his sturdy buttocks, and then all thought of just cuddling went out the window as ardent young flesh met and mingled. They both found the rhythm naturally this time, and soon they were rocking together and moaning each other's names in mutual passion and joy.
Their pleasure exploded and this time Sam didn't push Frodo away after their passion had spilled, he held him even closer if that was possible, still moving his body languidly against Frodo's, still stroking, hands less urgent now, more gentle and soothing.
Finally Frodo rolled off him, but he didn't go far, they stayed locked together from chest to thigh, heads close together on the pillow. Sam ran his hand down his chest, stroking the milky fluid into his skin, massaging it into his belly. Frodo's hand joined his and they stroked together, as if marveling at the proof of their passion.
"I'm that parched earth," Sam joked. "Soaking up your rain."
"Plenty of your rain here too, Sam," Frodo smiled back. He lifted a hand to his lips and licked one of his fingers, eyes curious. Sam shivered, feeling with disbelief another shot of pure arousal through him. Frodo was close enough to feel the jerk of his body and his smile widened appreciatively.
"You like that?"
"Um, how does it taste?" Sam answered the question with one of his own.
"Try it," Frodo invited, extending his finger invitingly.
Sam swallowed, but he couldn't refuse, curiosity and lust burnt within him, and when the finger reached his lips he didn't just extend his tongue, he took the entire tip of it in his mouth, suckling the salty seed, licking languorously at the quivering flesh.
Now passion darkened Frodo's eyes and he licked his lips, gazing at Sam's mouth as he slowly pulled his finger away.
"That's your seed, Sam," Frodo whispered roughly. "It was supposed to spill inside me tonight, I even prepared my body to receive it."
Sam's eyes widened in shock. "How?" he quavered.
Frodo took his hand and guided it down his body, past his hardening shaft, past his firm sac, down to the warm dark hidden place between his legs. Here Sam's fingers found a slickness he had not expected. There was scent too, rising above the musk of their bodies.
"You oiled yourself?" Sam whispered in disbelief. "You made yourself ready for me?"
"I wanted it to be good, Sam. To be easy."
Tears pricked Sam's eyes and his heart swelled in his chest, almost choking him with love. "You were so scared and worried," Sam managed, throat tight. "You were so pale and silent today you fair broke my heart. But you still did this, you made yourself ready for me."
"For your seed," Frodo nodded fiercely. "I still want it, Sam. Even if it never quickens inside me, I want it. Even if I have to let you go and have a future without me, I will still have that part of you, inside me, forever."
"Frodo," Sam choked, and then he was kissing him wildly, all his new found skills forgotten as he pressed Frodo back into the bed and ravished his mouth, his throat, his neck. Frodo met his ferocity with his own, his fingers bruised as they tried to touch Sam everywhere at once, clutching at his shoulders and then down to his hips, guiding him as Sam pushed between Frodo's legs, widening his stance, pushing his knees up high.
There was no fumbling now, instinct and love and pure passion guided him as his blunt shaft found the portal that had been prepared for him and nudged against it.
"Don't let me hurt you," Sam begged, beyond stopping himself. He pushed, feeling the slickness welcome him in a little way, then he withdrew and pushed again, broaching the tightness, groaning as it engulfed him. "Don't let me hurt you!" he cried again, but Frodo was setting the pace now, legs wrapped around Sam's waist, head flung back as Sam pushed into him, gaining inch by inch, feeling the buttery heat surround and absorb him.
"Sam!" Frodo cried, his hands fumbling between them. Sam pushed his last inch in and grasped Frodo's thighs, pulling him up even higher so that there was no space between them, only Sam buried in Frodo, Frodo engulfing Sam.
"All right?" Sam managed, every instinct begging him to thrust, only love holding him back as he panted over Frodo, waiting for the eyes to open, to tell him to move. But Frodo seemed lost to the passion himself, his head was flung back, his hands were on his own hardness, stroking it, pushing it up against Sam's belly.
"Please," Frodo finally said, eyes opening to slits. "Don't stop, Sam. I need, I need."
It was the signal Sam needed too and he began to thrust, strong back and thigh muscles working as he pulled out of Frodo as far as he could bear before driving back in. Frodo cried out as he drew away, mewled as he thrust, pushing his own body up, his hand a blur on his own hardness. Frodo came, long drawn out spurts but still Sam thrust, lost to passion, drowned in love, the rhythm driving him in the push pull of his body, the beat of his heart, the thrum of his pulse.
Frodo's legs were still locked around his waist, his head still thrown back in the pillow when Sam finally began the shorter harder thrusts that would lead him to completion. Frodo moaned his name and then opened his eyes, and as Sam came they gazed right at each other, right into each other, souls open as Sam's seed spilled inside Frodo, filled, him, overflowed, bound them together, forever if they but knew it.
Sam was panting as he collapsed on Frodo, sweat dripping off his forehead, running down his cheeks. Frodo's chest was rising and falling beneath him as if he had been running, his own body was slick with perspiration and seed.
"My dear Sam," Frodo was whispering.
"My love," Sam whispered back. Tears were mingling with the sweat now, but he hid them from Frodo, burying his face in his neck. Frodo seemed to understand though, his hands stroked Sam's back lovingly, comforting him for long minutes while their heartbeats slowed and their breathing eased.
Finally they had to separate and Sam reluctantly pulled his softness out and away, gathering Frodo to his side and cuddling him close.
"Did I hurt you?" he whispered.
"Only when you left me," Frodo whispered back, and Sam understood.
Bird song awoke Sam, just as the silvery light of dawn crept in through the wide windows. It was cool in the little pavilion, but Sam was warmed by the sleeping body that was nestled against him. Frodo's head rested on Sam's shoulder, his eyes fluttered a little as he slept, impossibly long lashes stirring. His skin was cream smooth, pale with a light flush on his fine cheek bones. Sam breathed in a sigh of pure delight at the sight of him.
How can he always take my breath away?
When did that happen? When did all this happen exactly? Last night Frodo said we came together as if starved for each without knowing it. All those times we held each other for comfort, all the times I pressed my lips to his hand, his brow, was I hungry for his touch? I know I never imagined anything like this before. But now I can't imagine going back to not knowing. To not feeling free to lean over and stroke the curls off his brow or run my thumb over his lips.
Does he feel the same way? That night when he gave me my first time, what was he feeling? I know he loves me, the love long unspoken between us, seared into us by trial and fire. But when he kissed me so deeply, when he lay his flushed body on mine and showed me the way, what was he feeling then?
Where are the lines drawn in this love of ours? Are there any? Is there anything he wouldn't let me do now, anything I wouldn't ask him to do?
Once I was content to be his friend, honored that such a fine hobbit would take to me, laugh with me, confide in me. Once my greatest gift was to see him smile, to make him laugh. All I wanted then was to be near him and to take care of him.
But what does he want? When this spell is lifted and we go home, what are we going to? Not master and servant, that's far behind us now. Are we still friends? Can we stay lovers? Or is this all I get, these nights of passion, these sweet dreams?
Please, Sam thought. Please.
"I wish." Sam was startled by Frodo's soft voice. Long lashes stirred again and Frodo opened his wide blue eyes. His lashes were wet and spiky.
"What do you wish, Frodo?"
Make your wish, my love. If this isn't the time for wishes, I don't know when is.
But Frodo didn't seem to have any words, so they lay together in silence and watched the sun rise.
When Nestadren arrived they were sitting side by side where he had left them the night before, hands still clasped.
Sam was miserably aware of time passing as Nestadren climbed the stone steps, pushed open the door, crossed the room to where they sat. Every second ticking away measured the end of the dream, every second took them closer to reality, outside the veil that had held them captive all night. Nestadren approached and loomed over them and Frodo tilted his head back and looked at him, dread on his face, in his eyes. His face was pale and his lips were compressed as the healer crouched before him and reached for his hands.
Sam's hand felt cold when Frodo lifted his own away, cold and empty. To stop them trembling he clasped them in his lap, eyes fixed on Frodo as Nestadren held his hands and stared deeply into his eyes.
Nestadren's eyes closed and he frowned, his smooth skin wrinkling. Then he opened his eyes again and laid Frodo's hand back in Sam's.
Sam's breath sobbed as a smile lit up the elf's face.
"Rejoice, my friends," he said quietly. "For your healing has begun."
Sam couldn't even move to turn his head. His eyes flicked to Frodo and saw that he too was frozen in shock. Nestadren seemed to understand, he perched on the edge of the seat he had sat on the night before and nodded his head.
"It is so," he confirmed. "New life is within you, Frodo. Can't you feel it?"
"I... I feel..." Frodo's small voice trailed away and he raised a hand to his chest. "I don't think I feel any different."
Sam opened his mouth but found he had nothing to say that would actually come out, so he closed it again.
"Are you sure?" Frodo asked and Sam nodded vigorously. That's it! That's what he was going to ask!
Nestadren nodded again, his smile curving up a bit more at the edges. "Yes."
Sam looked at Frodo again out of the corner of his eye.
Again Sam got the impression he should be saying something but he still wasn't sure what. They should be hugging now, right? Rejoicing? For some reason the spell had worked and Frodo was going to get well. This really called for words.
"Um," Sam managed. "Are you really sure?"
Nestadren threw back his head and laughed. "Are all hobbits so skeptical? I assure you, my good friends, it is done. And done by all of us, for elven magic alone could not have brought this about. In love a Child of Light has been conceived." Frodo's free hand still rested on his chest and Nestadren gently reached out and tugged it further down until it rested on the masculine swell of his belly. "It is here you should lay your hand, Frodo. Here lies nestled the beginnings of your son."
"Son," Sam repeated and he actually felt the blood draining away from his face. Frodo looked down at his hand. If his eyes were any wider they would have swallowed his whole face.
"I fear that my skills as a mage have been called into question," Nestadren said, as if to himself. "Did either of you actually believe this spell would work at all?"
"We did!" Sam hastened to assure him. He faltered a little as Nestadren looked at him and raised a brow. "Mostly," Sam finished weakly. He swallowed, finally allowing himself to look at Frodo. The young hobbit still sat with his hand limp on his belly.
"I think I'm going to be sick," Frodo said, gulping.
Sam's protective instincts were roused and he let go of Frodo's hand and rubbed his back soothingly.
"Shall I get you a glass of water?"
"I see Frodo's confidence in me never waned either," Nestadren observed dryly.
"We had so much hope at first," Frodo said dazedly. "But I'm afraid last night we quite convinced ourselves it wasn't going to work."
"Nothin' to do with your skills," Sam put in swiftly. "Just, us being hobbits and all, we thought your elf magic a bit beyond us, if you take my meanin'."
Nestadren stood up and laid a hand on both their heads, as he had the night before. "I will leave you alone while you absorb this news then. If you had given up hope I expect seeing it completely fulfilled is a bit of a shock to you." He bowed and walked over to the door. Then he turned and smiled. "In case you didn't hear me before, rejoice! Your healing has begun!"
And now Sam did hear it and take it in. They had done it! Frodo was going to live!
Sam put his face in his hands and started to cry.
"Oh, Sam," Frodo murmured. He wrapped his arms around Sam and Sam's own arms came up and held him against his breast fiercely.
"You're goin' to be all right," Sam wept brokenly. "Frodo, Frodo."
"Yes, Sam. It's going to be all right."
When they emerged into the new day it felt to Sam as if Frodo had never seen the sun before. He blinked for a moment and held his hand up as if to shield is eyes from it, and then he smiled and wrinkled his nose. Tilting his head back he turned to the east and he faced the morning, the light gilding his face, stroking it, caressing it. His smile widened and then he laughed, throwing his head back and spreading his arms out as if to gather all the sunshine to him.
Understanding lit Sam's eyes. "You feel it, don't you?"
"I feel... full, Sam." Frodo tilted his head at him and grinned. "It's probably just relief, or maybe it's shock." He chuckled, shaking his head. "That's it, I'm in shock."
Joy bubbled up in Sam as he caught the mood. "Now, Mr. Frodo," he teased, catching the outflung hands and swinging his friend in a circle. "What do you have to be so giddy about?"
"Giddy?" Frodo laughed, doing his share of the swinging so that Sam had to skip to keep up. "That's the right word, Sam! Giddy, and full and in shock!"
"Shock!" Sam repeated. "Shock all 'round! Shock for everybody!" They spun and twirled in the clearing, faces turned up the sun, spinning until they both lost their feet and landed on the ground with a bump.
Frodo collapsed on the grass and flung his head back, weak with laughter.
"Careful," Sam wheezed, rolling onto his back and clutching his aching chest. "You're spinnin' for two now! Remember the babe and don't overdo."
"Uh uh, Sam," Frodo chided, hauling himself over and straddling Sam's hips. "I won't have talk like that." He planted a hand on each side of Sam's head and leaned over him, his lips still twitching with joy. "Let me get over my giddy shock before you start talking about all that."
"All what?" Sam puzzled, reaching up and catching Frodo's narrow hips between strong hands. "You mean the babe?"
The words hardly escaped his lips before Frodo was smothering them with his own. Surprised but pleased Sam returned the kiss as best he could, sliding his hands up to Frodo's shoulders and pulling him down until he lay on top of him.
Well, now he knew that the intimacy wasn't going to stop just because the goal had been reached. That was a relief.
"No babe," Frodo murmured into his mouth. "No talk about all that, all right?"
Sam took charge and rolled, easily laying Frodo on his back and half covering him. He enjoyed another leisurely kiss before pulling away. "I don't see how we can ignore it," he observed lazily, licking at his lips and enjoying the Frodo aftertaste. "Since it's the reason you're feeling so frisky."
"Frisky and giddy," Frodo teased, reaching up and locking his hands behind Sam's head. "But still not quite ready to think about it all yet, Sam." His eyes grew serious for a moment. "All right, Sam?"
Sam nodded, not quite understanding, but willing to go along if it kept Frodo this happy. "Whatever you say," he agreed, before leaning down for another kiss.
That night Sam felt a little nervous as he sat on the edge of the bed, but Frodo drew him close and hugged him tightly.
"Sam?" he whispered. "Thank you for last night. It was beautiful."
"I never knew anything could feel so good," Sam said in wonder. "Did you?"
"Took me quite by surprise," Frodo revealed. "Although it shouldn't have after the night before." He ran his hands down Sam's muscular back with a pleased hum.
"If anyone had told me I could want something like that," he whispered, his red cheek against Sam's. "I'd have fallen over in shock."
Sam kissed the blushing curve and took a deep breath.
"Do you want me like that?" he burst out, ears burning.
Frodo drew back in surprise. "I don't know," he confessed thoughtfully. "I think I should, Sam, if it feels as good giving as taking."
"It does," Sam said fervently. "Feel good I mean," he added hastily. "As I've only given not taken I can't speak for the other." His ears burned and he closed his eyes crossly. "Bother."
"Dear, Sam," Frodo laughed huskily. "I think I will want you every way there is. But for now let's practice the other ways, hmm? Hands and mouth and hugging still take a little getting used to."
"And me taking you?" Sam managed. "Maybe we shouldn't be doing that either, you carrying and all."
"Sam," Frodo chided. "Please let's not talk about it yet, all right? For my sake? I've so much swirling around in my head, I can't think any further than today and tomorrow. All right?"
"All right," Sam agreed, bewilderedly. "My head's spinning too."
"Sam," Frodo whispered. "I love you."
Sam's heart sang. "I love you too," he said joyfully.
As the days went by Frodo bloomed like a rose . His appetite returned to its usual glory and Sam marveled. He'd quite forgotten that Frodo could eat like that. They spent their days in the sunshine, reading, singing old songs and making up new. They walked the length and breadth of Rivendell, stopping only to sample the basket of food provided by its kitchens. They admired the trees and gardens, and Sam secured the promise of seeds and cutting to take back to the Shire when they went.
Needing the activity Sam begged a corner of garden for himself and Frodo from Lord Elrond, who happily agreed.
"Neglect is settling in some corners," he said sadly. "There is a place I have in mind that you might like. I would be honored if you could give it a new lease on life."
It was a wild tangle, but Sam's good gardener eye could see the finely laid out beds and overgrown shrubs. It was late in the season to be pruning back, but he thought the even climate would make up for it. He and Frodo spent happy days making plans and beginning work.
Of course there was no outward sign of pregnancy on Frodo yet, and Sam soon learned not to mention the subject, even idly. Frodo would change the subject, or walk away, or even stop his mouth with kisses.
"We have plenty of time, Sam," he would breath delightfully into Sam's ear. "Let's just enjoy the sunshine, hmm?"
And taken with delight, Sam could only agree.
June 1420 S.R.
"I haven't even thanked you yet," Sam said shyly.
"Seeing Frodo so well is thanks enough for me," Nestadren said with a smile.
"He is well," Sam agreed. He looked down at his hands in his lap, his fingers were twisting nervously. "But he's also... I don't know. He won't talk about what's happenin' to him! And he won't let me talk about it neither. I'm fair mazed, I don't know what to do."
"It's understandable though, isn't it?" the healer said perceptively. "All your efforts were bent on getting you so far, little thought would have been spared for after."
"But now it is after, we have to think about practical things."
"You have time, Sam, for the practical. For Frodo this time is for healing, and coming to terms with what now sleeps inside him."
"But if he won't even talk about it, how can he come to terms with it?"
"Frodo's body knows what to do, Sam, and I think Frodo's heart knows what it needs now too. He's doing all the right things, eating well, exercising."
"He soaks up the sun," Sam agreed. "Fair revels in it, it does my heart good to see him."
'The sun," Nestadren mused. "How interesting."
"Well, he's a hobbit after all," Sam pointed out. "We live close to the earth in all things. And I know when I've been poorly that getting back out in the sun and feeling the wind on my face brings me right back up."
"Yes." Nestadren turned to him with a smile. "Don't worry about tomorrow now, Sam. Frodo doesn't need that pressure. For now, concentrate on today, on getting him well, taking care of him. What you must remember is that Frodo is not a female, even though his body is being asked to bear a female task. He hasn't the instincts of a female in this situation."
"Like nestin' and such like?"
"Exactly. Sam, Frodo may never feel towards this child what you or I think he should. It may be that it will always be a burden to him, something he has had to bear to get well. If that's the case he will need all your love and understanding."
"I never thought of that," Sam said, his heart aching a little. "That poor little mite inside him. I hope it don't feel that from him."
"You task, Sam will be to love the both of them," Nestadren said firmly. "Never doubt that the child will feel your love, even though yours is not the body that bears him. Love and protect them both, Sam, that is your role now. Can you do that?"
"Course I can!" Sam cried, jumping to his feet. "Why, sometimes I think that's what I was born for, takin' care of Mr. Frodo."
"He will need it in the days and months ahead. Soon enough he will no longer be able to ignore this. When he needs me, come to me at any time."
August 1420. S.R.
"You're ticklish!" Frodo exclaimed as Sam squirmed beneath exploring fingers.
"Don't," Sam gasped, laughter stealing his breath.
"Oh, but I must!" Frodo declared, teasing fingers delving beneath Sam's arms, which he held close to his body. Giggling and laughing they wriggled, Sam rolling on top of Frodo and then the other hobbit gaining the upper hand, all the time his clever fingers stroking under Sam's arms, down his side to his stomach.
"Surrender!" Frodo finally declared, straddling Sam's belly, holding his hands high above his head.
"I give!" Sam wheezed, tears of joyful laughter rolling down his cheeks. "You bully!"
Frodo shifted his weight back a little with a gleeful laugh, surveying Sam spread out beneath him like a conqueror surveys his prize. Sam gazed up at him, his eyes still creased with helpless laughter. How beautiful Frodo looked in the bright morning sunlight! His curls bounced with life and vitality, his skin fair glowed, impossibly smooth. And his eyes, Sam had forgotten how wicked and fey they could be, lit up from within like a lantern, heartbreaking blue, forget-me-nots aflame.
His heart must have been in his own eyes because Frodo's teasing expression faded as he gazed down at him, and those impossible eyes softened.
"Sam," he murmured, as he did a dozen times a day, and as it did a dozen times a day Sam's heart melted in his breast. When Frodo leaned forward Sam was already lifting his lips, their kisses now were easy and plentiful, soft lips practiced and sure as they affirmed their surprising love with all their hearts.
There was no drive for passion though, just the joyful sweetness of touch, and then Frodo curled up on Sam's chest, head tucked under his chin.
"Sam," he whispered again. "Are you happy?"
Sam wrapped protective arms around him, his mouth curving into a smile as it always did when Frodo was so close. "Aye," he whispered back simply.
"These days have been like a dream," Frodo sighed. "The sun is inside me, Sam, warming from the inside out. I haven't felt so well in years."
Sam cupped Frodo's head in his hand, cradling him close, fingers carding through sun kissed curls. It was time to speak, but he hated breaking the mood. "There's more than the sun inside you, my dear," he said tenderly.
"Sam," Frodo reproached, stiffening a little in his arms.
"Now don't take on," Sam said as Frodo pulled back. Curls slipped through his fingers and he missed them instantly. "I've done as you asked, given you the time you needed, but time's getting on, Frodo." Deliberately Sam lifted his hand and cupped it over Frodo's belly. There was an unmistakable bulge there now, curiously firm under his fingers. "This is tellin' us so."
"It's too soon," Frodo said, head averted. But he didn't pull away from Sam's hand, instead he lifted his own and laid it over the top, as if exploring the swell for the first time himself.
"I swear it's bigger than last night already," Sam marveled. "Do you feel anything inside there?"
"No," Frodo said lowly.
Sam rubbed Frodo's back comfortingly with his other hand. "It's all right," he allowed. "I guess we've got a little more time, if you need it. Not like this tiny bump can be seen through your weskit anyway."
"Oh, Sam," Frodo said miserably. "It hardly seems fair, does it? I'm enjoying all the benefits of this... bump, without giving anything back in return."
"You're giving him life," Sam pointed out reasonably.
"But that's just it," Frodo exclaimed, launching himself to his feet. "I can't even bring myself to think on it as life. It's like I'm fooling myself into believing I'm well but there's no price! And then I think it's cruel to think of it as a price. Even worse, this thing is making me well and I still think of it as a thing." He hunched his shoulders moodily. "Selfish."
"Don't worry about it, Frodo," Sam said, sitting up cross legged on the grass. He dusted his back and thighs with a few strokes. "You just worry about getting well and strong. I'll do all the rest of it."
Frodo dropped down on the grass in front of him, and Sam admired the graceful ease of his movement, even envied it a little.
"Rest of it?"
"Well, all the bits you can't bring yourself to do yet," Sam said reasonably. "Loving him, and thinkin' about him and such."
Frodo's eyes were wide. "You think about him, Sam?"
Sam smiled a little, noting the 'him'. "Course I do! All the time. I think about whether he can hear us, whether he can feel how good we feel when we're together. I wonder if I should read him poems and such, when he gets a little bigger in there. Maybe sing him some of our songs, he's a hobbit after all, he'll love good songs."
"You have thought about it," Frodo said in wonder.
"Hardly thought about aught else, love, but you and him." His eyes creased and he nodded and smiled. "Don't you worry about it, Mr. Frodo. I'm doin' all the lovin' for both of us for now."
"Sam," Frodo said fearfully. "Maybe you shouldn't let yourself get so... caught up in all this."
"Because in two months it will be October, and my illness will come upon me. What if... Well, what if this doesn't work out? It would be hard enough losing hope, without you breaking your heart too."
"But you're well now," Sam said fiercely. "You won't get sick again! Look at you, you're good as new!!"
"I'm being healed, Sam, but remember what Nestadren said. There's a battle still to come, and it's one that we might lose."
"No," Sam said stoutly. "We haven't come so far to lose now. Almost from the moment I planted my seed in you, you've been getting better. You're strong now, and the babe is strong inside you. Nothing will hurt you, either of you. I won't let it."
Frodo looked away, his cheeks flushed. "I wish it was as easy for me as it is for you," he grumbled a little. "You've taken to this like a duck to water."
"Well, nothin's really changed much for me after all," Sam pointed out. "I'm just takin' care of two of you now, that's all." He chuckled. "Better get used to it, I guess."
Frodo shook his head and heaved a breath, as if there was something important on his mind, that he'd been meaning to say. But at that moment there were voices on the path nearby and they both sprang to their feet, surprised. Their garden was far from more frequently used paths, and of all the places of Rivendell it felt like their own.
Through the trees two tall elves appeared, stooping gracefully beneath the low boughs. They were dressed all in green and brown, and their soft leather boots seemed barely to touch the ground or disturb the leaves were they trod. They paused in surprise when they saw the hobbits, and instinctively Sam moved closer to Frodo.
"Friends!" the tallest elf exclaimed. He was fair haired and pale skinned, his eyes were blue. "Do not trouble yourselves. We are visitors new to Rivendell, and did not know others dwelt here. Are we trespassing upon your privacy?"
"Not at all," Frodo said warmly, greeting them with a smile. It lit up his face and he saw the elves exchange a quick look at the sight. Probably can't believe how fair he is, Sam thought proudly.
"I am Silasigil Eastfern," the tall one said. "This is my brother Glamren. We are from the Realm of Mirkwood."
"We could tell by your accent," Frodo smiled and nodded. "I'm Frodo Baggins, of the Shire, and this is Samwise Gamgee."
"Pleased to meet you," Sam nodded politely.
"We know who you are," Glamren said softly, and for a moment the sunlight in the day seemed to fade, chill a little. The elf inclined his head, smooth reddish hair moving gently at the graceful gesture.
Sam felt himself tensing a little at the traces in Glamren's voice. Was that menace he heard?
"Of course we have heard of you," Silasigil said warmly. He stepped forward and bowed smoothly.
His manner was so kind and courteous that Sam forced himself to relax. He was being foolish. What could possibly menace them here, in the home of Lord Elrond?
"Stories of the fame of the Ring Bearer have spread far and wide over Middle Earth," Silasigil continued. "I would be honored if you would sit with us at dinner tonight," he invited charmingly. "There is much we would like to hear from you."
Sam saw Frodo flick an uneasy glance at Glamren, who stood silent behind his brother, his face expressionless. "We don't usually eat in the dining hall," he explained, and to Sam's surprise he reached out and took Sam's hand, holding it tightly.
Sam gripped the hand and stepped closer, not caring now how it looked to these two newcomers.
Silasigil tilted his head and laughed under his breath, and now Sam was sure of it, there was an undercurrent of menace here, running through every word and look. "How charming," he said softly, and then his brother leaned forward and murmured something into his ear and he chuckled again. "Yes, brother," he agreed, eyes hooding. "It seems you were right."
Frodo had stiffened next to him and Sam remembered he spoke some elvish. He wished he had his sword or even a dagger with him. There was a threat here, and Frodo sensed it too.
"We'll leave you to your solitude," Silasigil said easily, then his eyes ran over Frodo and lingered deliberately on the buttons of his waistcoat. Sam knew quite well no sign of pregnancy showed through the clothes, but all the same he had to fiercely fight the urge to step in front of Frodo and shield him from the elves keen gaze.
"They know!" Frodo exclaimed after they had disappeared through the trees. His face was white. "They know!"
"How could they know?" Sam argued, although he too was sure Frodo was right. "Elrond and Nestadren are the only two who know, and they won't have told anyone."
"I don't know," Frodo said, still holding tight to Sam's hand. "We have to find Nestadren, see if he knows who they are, and why they have come."
"Frodo?" Sam asked as they hurried down the path. "What did he say, that Glamren? What did he say to his brother?"
"I only heard a few words," Frodo muttered, dragging Sam by the hand.. "One I knew though. Thaur," he forced out. "It means abomination."
Nestadren greeted them with a smiling face, but he turned grave when he heard their news.
"This is very bad," he said hollowly, sitting down in his chair as if his legs would no longer hold him up. More alarmed now by their friend's worry, Frodo and Sam moved closer and laid reassuring hands on his shoulders. Nestadren attempted a smile.
"Please stay close to me until we have seen Lord Elrond," he requested.
"But who are they?" Sam said urgently.
"And how can they know about this?" Frodo's face was drawn and pale.
"They know because they know me," Nestadren said simply. "They know my background. When Sian carried me it was the brothers who spoke out most loudly against them."
"Abomination," Frodo said lowly and Sam clenched his fists hard.
"What business is it of theirs anyway!" he burst out.
"They see themselves as guardians of nature," Nestadren said gravely. "At least I believe they did in the beginning."
"Once there were three brothers. They were the reason that my parents left the safety of Rivendell where I was conceived and ventured to a secret place of their own in the wild."
"Your parents were afraid of them?" Sam said fearfully. "But they were warriors!"
"Who must have felt very vulnerable at that time." Frodo laid a hand on his belly for a fleeting moment and then clenched his own fist. "What happened, Nestadren? Why do they hate us so?"
"When I was small my parents could protect me. We traveled mostly, and when we did stay in one place it was Mirkwood, my parents true home. With my parents I was safe, and for long years the threat seemed dim. But when I left my family to train in the healing arts, it loomed large again. The brothers attacked me, wounded me, and I was forced to flee for my life."
"How did you survive?"
"My parents," Nestadren said simply. "From the time I was born they were gifted with insight concerning me. Sian dreamed I was in danger and with Sial he found me. The third brother, Brandereb, was killed in the fight that followed. He was high born and his family powerful, but Sian and Sial were well respected, and although a war threatened eventually negotiations between our families bought about a truce."
"I don't understand?" Sam said, puzzled. "A truce?"
"The brothers, indeed the entire family were forced to swear an oath not to interfere with me during my lifetime."
"And that was enough to keep them away from you?" Sam said in disbelief. "Even though their brother died at your hands?"
"Such oaths are not taken lightly, Sam. Nor were the negotiations easy. Much had to be given up." Nestadren's face grew gray with an old grief for a moment. Then he shook his head." But the oath was a powerful one. Such that bind my kind to them with their very lives."
"They've taken no such oaths regarding us though," Frodo said numbly.
"And their hatred now is blind. The death of their brother is not forgiven or forgotten."
"But how do they know for sure?" Sam cried. "How could they just look at Frodo and know?"
"The light from the Galinsell is strong and pure, Sam. All elfkind seeing Frodo will know that he holds some secret. My guess is that the brothers heard that we were all here together and already suspected my spell. One look at you, Frodo, would have confirmed it."
"Then we are in danger." Sam reached out and took Frodo's free hand, gripping it tightly. "What do we do?"
"See Elrond," Nestadren said, rising to his feet. "He will let no harm come to you while dwell within the borders of Rivendell."
"And when we leave? The brothers waited a long time to kill you, Nestadren. They have long lifetimes to wait." Frodo's eyes were wide with dismay. "How can we fight them?"
Nestadren shook his head. "I do not know."
But when they reached Lord Elrond's hall he was standing talking to the two brothers. The hobbits slowed their steps when they saw them, and after hearing Nestadren's story Sam didn't even want to enter the large, airy room.
"I am glad you are here, my friends," Elrond greeted them warmly. "The Eastfern brothers have come to reassure me that their intentions here are peaceful ones."
"Right," Sam muttered under his breath.
"I fear we startled you, out in the garden," Silasigil said smoothly. "That was not our intent."
"What is your intent here?" Nestadren asked politely. Sam realized the two brothers had neither looked at nor addressed the healer.
Silasigil bared his teeth in what might have been a smile. His eyes focused somewhere over Nestadren's shoulder. "I believe it is the master of Rivendell only who has the right to ask that question," he said tightly. He bowed at Lord Elrond politely. "We heard stories of the Ringbearer's illness. And when we heard of the healer's presence here we feared the worse."
"This is none of your business!" Sam burst out, unable to stay silent any longer. He felt Frodo take his arm and squeeze warningly, but he could not regret speaking. Menace was in the very air, and despite the presence of Nestadren and Elrond his instincts told him that even at this very minute Frodo was in danger. Glamren was silent, but there was no doubt in Sam's mind that he was the most dangerous of the pair. His eyes studied Frodo in a way that made Sam want to run him through.
"On the contrary, young halfling," Silasigil said condescendingly. "Oaths taken long before your birth give us the right to probe into this matter."
"It is my understanding that those oaths concerned Nestadren only," Elrond pointed out mildly.
"It is this evil spell they concern!" Silasigil said shrilly. It was Glamren's turn to place his hand on his brother's arm and the fair elf bit his tongue. "Your apologies, Lord Elrond," he said more quietly. "This is a matter of some concern to us, as you are aware. A council must be called to discuss this matter."
"There's nothing to discuss!" Sam said loudly. "This is none of your business! We're hobbits, not elves. Your councils have no say over us."
"Master Gamgee is correct," Elrond agreed. "No elven council has the power to interfere now. What's done is done."
"But the oath-"
"I know that oath to its very letter," Elrond said, his voice turned to steel. "It binds Nestadren, and he has kept his side of it. But nowhere does it say he cannot cast that spell on those in need."
"The spirit of the oath was clear enough to those who took it," Silasigil said bitterly. "And those of us who have kept it over the years. And..." He straightened his shoulders and faced Elrond proudly. "What is done can be undone."
Sam gasped and felt Frodo stiffen beside him.
"Long have our clans been friends and allies," Elrond said, his eyes blazing fiercely. "Long have I stood by while this feud raged. But here in my home I will not tolerate it! No threats against the guests of Imladris will be sanctioned. Please leave, and do not return while these halflings are my guests."
Silasigil met the angry eyes for long moments and then bowed. "As always the sons of Eastfern bow to the wishes of the Lord of Rivendell," he said smoothly.
He straightened and turned for the door. "I would like to thank you," he said, looking at Frodo directly. "Your sacrifice saved the world. It is a shame that those who seem the most innocent should be called upon to make such a sacrifice."
With a mocking smile he bowed again and left, his silent brother at his heels.
Frodo swayed and Sam clutched at his arm. "This isn't over, Sam."
Nestadren shook his head sadly. "No. I fear it is not."
"I will contact the Lord of Mirkwood," Elrond informed them. "It may be that a council of sorts is inevitable."
"What?" Sam cried.
"Sam, we must find a way to keep these brothers in check," Elrond said gravely. "We must find a way to settle this, before it escalates into violence. I fear the long years have not reconciled the Eastferns to this spell."
"Nestadren?" Frodo asked lowly. "What was the price you paid?"
The healer shook his head. "It has long ceased to matter," he said, eyes averted.
"Seems to me all the wrong elves are sailing into the West," Sam said grumpily. "Shame those two didn't go."
They settled back into the garden, the mood of the day broken. Sam lay back on the grass and Frodo sat beside him.
"It's a mess," Frodo said fearfully. "I never thought we'd be threatened by elves! Never imagined what it must feel like to be an enemy of such an ancient and powerful people."
"There's only two of them," Sam said as comfortingly as he could manage. "And I'd bet on Lord Elrond against them two any time."
"Elrond can't protect us forever."
"We'll figure something out, Frodo." Sam reached up and cupped one velvet cheek. "We haven't been through all this to give up now."
"But the way they were looking at me! I realize now how lucky we have been here, Sam. I've felt some curious looks from the elves here, but nothing like the... hatred in Glamren's eyes."
"And Silasigil's voice," Sam recalled with a shiver. "Another problem with living so long. When these fellows hold a grudge they really hold it!"
Frodo's eyes were distant. "Do you think the elves here even know about the spell? What if when they find out they are all like the brothers?"
"Elrond would warn us if he thought we'd face that kind of thing," Sam assured him. "To tell you the truth, I think he feels right guilty."
"About the way he treated Sian and Sial himself all those years ago. Did you see the way he looked when he talked about the price Nestadren had paid in that oath? I think it must have been somethin' fearful."
"I think so too," Frodo agreed. He laid his hand on Sam's chest and stroked the fine white cotton gently.
"But this has got me thinkin' about the future and no mistake," Sam mused. "Folk aren't goin' to understand any of this, and I would be right surprised if they did! We have to figure out what we're going to say. I mean, wait till we ride into Hobbiton with a babe in arms!" Sam chuckled. "That'll take some explainin' and no mistake."
Frodo plucked at a trailing thread in the embroidery on Sam's shirt. "You know, Sam, I was thinking maybe we shouldn't even try to make those kinds of explanations. We can't tell the truth, all we can do is weave a web of lies."
"I don't like the idea any more than you do, Mr. Frodo. But what choice do we have? Folk are gonna notice a baby around the place, it'd be hard not to!"
Frodo kept his gaze locked on the thread, tugging at the soft blue stitches as if it absorbed him. A prickle of unease ran up Sam's spine.
"It'll be all right, Frodo," Sam said again, as reassuringly as he could. "We'll think of something."
"I've already thought of something, Sam," Frodo said quietly, head still down. "Something that's best for all of us. I was thinking maybe we might find some hobbits with no children of their own. Or perhaps a good kind family with room for one more."
Sam sat up abruptly, barely able to speak for the shock. "What?"
Blue eyes remained downcast. "Where he can grow up as a hobbit should, surrounded by other little ones, running in the sun."
"He'll do that with us," Sam said desperately, not believing what he was hearing. "Look at me, Frodo!"
Frodo set his jaw stubbornly but would not meet Sam's eyes. "With a mother and a father-"
"I'm his father!" Sam shouted.
"But I'm not his mother," Frodo shot back, now at last looking directly at him. "A child deserves that much at least! I owe him that much. A normal life."
"What's normal?" Sam gasped. "Given away like an unwanted gift? Thanks for the healin' now shove off?"
"Sam!" Frodo shook his head angrily. "You know I don't mean that!"
"What do you mean, then? Because I don't understand." Sam pointed a shaking finger at Frodo's belly. "That's a part of us growin' inside you, you and me. We made him with love, remember? How can you talk about givin' him away?"
"How can you lecture me about it like you know?" Frodo shouted. "I'm the one who has it inside me! I'm grateful to it for the life it's given me, but all I can give it in return is its own life! I can't love it, Sam, not like you do." He bit his lip, his anger fading from his face. "It's easier for you..." he trailed away miserably.
"What do you care how easy or hard it is for me?" Sam spat, bitterness twisting his lips. He couldn't ever remember feeling so angry at Frodo, couldn't ever remember feeling angry at him at all. What Frodo wanted, what he needed Sam was there to give him. "I gave you this," he hissed. "Because I love you so much. I'd love your child even if I hadn't fathered it. Even if it was all just some elven spell and I had no part of it."
Frodo bowed his head. "I know you would, Sam."
"So why can't you love it for bein' part of me then?" Sam beseeched, fists clenched.
"I don't know. I'm just trying to do what's for the best, for both of us."
"I don't want to hear this any more." Sam said shakily.
"Anything you asked of me I would do," Sam said bitterly. "Anything! But you can't ask this of me, Frodo! Not this."
Frodo's eyes were dry and hard, they burned in his pale face. "I'm sorry, Sam, but I won't say what you want to hear just to make you feel better."
"Is this the choice I'm left with then?" Sam asked, eyes stinging, jaw aching with the strain of keeping his mouth from trembling. "Am I only allowed to love one of you?"
Frodo shook his head, his arms wrapped around his swelling middle. "I can't help what I feel. Or don't feel."
"Do you regret your wish now?" Sam asked, and he knew he was asking so much more. Do you regret us, he was asking. Do you regret inviting me into your body?
Frodo bowed his head miserably. But he didn't answer. Suddenly afraid of what he might say Sam turned on his heel and left.
Tears blinded him as he staggered down the path, not even sure where he was going.
"Something wrong, little halfling?" The voice was like the hiss of a snake and Sam reacted as if bitten, springing back on his feet and reaching automatically for the sword that no longer hung on his belt. Silasigil emerged from the dappled shade, soft footsteps inaudible even to sharp hobbit ears.
Sam sniffed, scrubbing at his face with his sleeve.
"Where's your thaur, perian?" Glamren said from behind him and Sam spun, now caught between the two of them, forced to back up until he was pressing against the age pocked old balustrade.
Sam remembered that word and it stung him like a whip. Abomination.
"Let me pass," he said bravely. Behind him the water of the falls echoed in the deep gorge.
"Gladly," Silasigil said with a false smile. "It's your big eyed whore we seek anyway. Didn't leave him alone, did you?"
To his horror Sam realized they were now between him and Frodo. The bitter anger of their fight died as fear for his lover and their child rose up inside him. He remembered the worry in Nestadren's voice when he spoke of the brothers, how Sian and Sial had taken themselves away from Rivendell and into the wild to protect themselves from these two elves. And they had been brave warriors. He should never have listened to Elrond! Should never have believed they were safe.
"He's not here," Sam lied. "He's still with the Lord Elrond."
"Is that why you weep, little halfling?" Silasigil said, pity on his face. His sweet words betrayed a venom that he no longer bothered to hide. "Does your whore prefer another now he has what he wants from you?"
"Shut your filthy mouth!" Sam shouted.
Glamren stepped closer and Sam pressed back automatically. Small rocks cascaded down the cliff behind him as he shifted his feet.
"We stood by once and let a foul poison taint the blood of the elves," Silasigil said conversationally. "And now it's spreading to the blood of your race."
"Why should you care?" Sam challenged angrily. "You despise my kind!"
"On the contrary," Silasigil said, radiating injured innocence. "We honored your kind when we learned of the sacrifice a perian made to save the world." He shook his head sadly. "And we mourned too, when news of his fate reached us. To give one's life to save others is surely the most noble way to die."
"He's not going to die," Sam said, trying to keep his eyes on both the brothers at once.
"He must die," Silasigil said softly. "Him and the curse he carries. We will not stand by again while evil is unleashed into this world."
"You will not touch him," Sam gritted through his teeth.
With a soft slither Silasigil pulled a wickedly curved blade from a sheath at his back. "I will cut the poison from his body," he said simply.
With a primal growl Sam rushed forward, unsure what he would do even if he was swift enough to make contact, knowing only that he would not just stand there and let them force him over the gorge. The knife flashed and Glamren actually chuckled as he reached out to catch Sam's curls in a clenched fist.
"Hold!" The voice boomed throughout the gorge and for a moment even the wind in the trees stopped soughing. "Who dares draw blade against a friend of Imladris?"
"Elrond," Sam gasped as Glamren released his hair and flung him on the ground.
"Sam!" Frodo cried out, running to his side.
"Keep away from them, Frodo," Sam managed, terrified at the memory of that wicked blade. He hefted himself to his feet and pushed his way between Frodo and the brothers. But they now faced Lord Elrond, and had their backs to the hobbits.
"Speak!" Elrond commanded, and Sam found himself stepping back at the rage in his cultured voice. He had never seen the ancient elf so angry, his eyes bored into the elves who stood before him, his hands were clenched into fists of rage by his side.
"I have given my protection to these two hobbits," he said grimly. "These heroes who are owed respect and honor. How do you dare to disobey my request to leave and face them with a naked blade and a threat on your lips?"
"You know why," Silasigil said with deadly intensity. "This foul abomination must not be allowed to live!" He continued on in Sindarin, his voice rising.
He was barely given a chance to speak before Elrond cut in, also in their own tongue, his rage naked on his face. The sky around them seemed to shimmer with it, and Sam locked an arm around Frodo's waist and held him protectively to his side. Finally Elrond cut the air with a slice of his arm and for a moment all was silent, no wind, no birdsong, even the distant rush of water in the glade vanished.
The brothers backs were stiff, but after an age they bowed, and without even a look behind them they walked away.
"Frodo, Sam," Elrond said, his face ashamed. "How can I apologize for this?"
"There's no harm done," Sam managed. He cast a fearful glance at the departing elves. "Maybe Frodo and I should find somewhere else to stay."
"No, it is Silasigil and Glamren who are leaving," Elrond said fiercely. "It seems I must make sure this time, so please excuse me. I will speak with you more later. Again I offer the sincere apologies of my house." He bowed and hastened after the brothers.
"Sam, are you all right?" Frodo said anxiously, running his hand over Sam's scalp. "Did they hurt you?
"I'm fine," Sam said shakily. "Do you think they really will leave, Frodo? I'm not sure if we're safe here any more."
"They're leaving all right," Frodo said, his skin very pale. "I couldn't understand all of it, but I heard enough to know that Lord Elrond has banished them from Rivendell. Forever."
"I should think so too," Sam said, remembering with a shiver the naked blade flashing in the sun.
"Sam, it's a very serious punishment," Frodo said urgently. "Forever to the elves really means something."
"I wish folk would stop saying that," Sam said grumpily, pulling away from Frodo and smoothing his unruly curls back down. "Forever is forever. Living longer than everybody else don't change that."
"I'm not sure I agree there," Frodo returned. "All the same, I wish Elrond hadn't been so swift to banish them like that."
Sam gaped at him. "You're joking, aren't you? You did just notice that bastard about to cut my throat?"
"I didn't mean that," Frodo shook his head. "I meant it's just going to make them angrier and more determined, that's all."
"Or maybe you're stickin' up for them," Sam said angrily. "I forgot, maybe you're on their side now? After all, it would solve your all your problems, wouldn't it? If they cut it out of you!"
Frodo gasped and swung his hand before Sam even realized what he'd said. By the time he did Frodo was staring at him aghast, and Sam's skin was red both from the slap and the shame.
"I'm sorry," Frodo gasped.
Sam lifted his hand to his burning cheek. There was a copper tang of blood in his mouth. "No," he said quietly. "I deserved it. I don't know what I was sayin'."
"You're still angry with me," Frodo said miserably.
Sam dropped his hand, suddenly overcome with weariness. "Does it matter? I mean, does it really matter to you what I feel?"
"Of course it does, Sam," Frodo cried out, but Sam was turning on his heel.
"Come on, let's go see Nestadren, make sure those brothers really are leaving. I won't sleep safe in my bed until I know they're gone."
"No, don't go," Frodo implored, grabbing his arm to stay him. "Please, Sam, we have to talk about this."
Sam blew out a breath, ruffling the curls on his brow. "I'm tired, Mr. Frodo, real tired. Can we just do all this later?"
"Sam," Frodo begged, but Sam kept walking, only glancing over his shoulder now and then to make sure Frodo was following. Even mad at him he couldn't stop protecting him.
Nestadren was waiting for them at the door of his room, his face pale, his eyes worried. "Are you all right?" he exclaimed. "Elrond sent word to me what happened. It is beyond belief that their hatred should carry them so far."
"Are they gone?" Sam asked, while Frodo collapsed in a soft chair.
"Banished," Nestadren confirmed. "This time a spell will be cast to warn us should they try to broach Rivendell's borders again. Are you hurt, Sam? Your lip's bleeding."
"I'm fine," Sam said shortly. He backed out of the room. "I need to take a walk," he said hurriedly. He saw Frodo lift his head and open his mouth and rushed into speech. "Alone." He looked away from Frodo's hurt face to the healer. "Take care of him," he asked lowly, and then he turned and rushed from the room.
Night fell and the air grew dim, but Sam didn't move from his seat in the corner. No one came to this place it seemed, it was quiet and dusty. There were paintings on the walls, great scenes of battles that Sam knew nothing about, heroes whose names he didn't know in shining armor and helm. They were his only company as the shadows grew longer and then were swallowed up in darkness.
"Samwise, you fool." he whispered to himself. What did you expect? Mr. and Mrs. Gamgee returning to their cozy home with their bundle of joy? Frodo playing mother, himself proud father, teaching his nipper how to tell the flowers from the weeds, how to fish, what the difference was between mushrooms and toadstools?
He'd never felt any particular desire to be a father, and if Frodo had wanted children he'd forgotten to mention it. Neither of them had set out to make a family. This was a cure, a way to save Frodo's life, and the fact that the price being paid was the creation of a new life didn't change anything.
Everything you wanted you got, he told himself. You sought a cure and you found it. You made a wish and it came true. And along the way you lucked out, didn't you? You found a soul mate, a lover, the true other half of your heart. You thought you'd forged bonds before, but they were leaves in the wind compared to the bonds we have now.
All of this, you have.
And you want jam on it.
Sam rubbed his face tiredly. "Time to let it go, old son," he whispered. Time to let this last, hopeless dream go. Frodo can't help what he feels and it's not his fault you've been mooning around weaving these silly fantasies. It's time to stop trying to pressure him into feeling something that just isn't there.
Let it go. You have Frodo. Your job is to take care of him, remember? It's what you were born for.
Some dreams die, and some dreams fade away. But some you have to wrap up carefully and put somewhere safe. Sweet dreams. Hopeless dreams.
Sam spent the night running those dreams through his head, memorizing them, cherishing them. Until at last, as another Rivendell dawn lightened the sky he tenderly kissed the last of them and laid them safely away.
Frodo stood up as Sam quietly opened the door. His face was red, his eyes were puffy. Even his curls stood on end and Sam smiled a little to see them.
"Didn't you get any sleep?" Sam asked, closing the door and walking over to him.
Frodo swayed a little, his eyes enormous, his hands clasped together.
"I can't sleep in that bed without you," he said thickly.
"Can't you, my dear?" Sam curved his hand around one pale cheek. "I'm sorry."
Frodo's face crumpled and he threw his arms around Sam and burrowed against him. "I'm the one who's sorry, Sam!' he cried into his neck.
"Now don't upset yourself, love," Sam said, his heart aching. He rubbed his hand down Frodo's back, feeling him shiver. "It's all right. I shouldn't have left you all alone."
"Sam," Frodo gulped and pulled back. "Sam, I shouldn't have said those things yesterday, I know how you've set your heart on this-"
"Now I said don't worry and I meant it," Sam said firmly, overriding him. "You were right to speak up when you did, Frodo. Best to get things clear once and for all. Before I got too carried away with all that nonsense."
"It wasn't nonsense, Sam." Frodo sniffed and rubbed his nose with the back of his hand. "Of course you were thinking all those things. If I hadn't spent these last months ignoring it-"
"Best thing to do," Sam interrupted him again, pressing a quick kiss to shaking lips. "Now come on, climb into bed and warm yourself up. You'll catch a chill from sitting there all night."
"Sam?" Frodo said in confusion as his waistcoat was unbuttoned and pulled off his shoulders. "Please don't ignore this. I want-"
"You want to talk, right?" Sam interrupted again. "And say what, love? What's changed since I went off in a huff yesterday? Your mind?"
Frodo opened his mouth and then closed it again, biting his lip.
"No," Sam said dryly. "I didn't think so." He sat Frodo on the edge of the bed and sat down next to him, chafing the chilled hobbit's cool fingers. "It's all right, Frodo," he said reassuringly when his dear love peered up at him in confusion. "I haven't lost my senses, in fact I've come to them, you might say. All you have to worry about is gettin' well and stayin' well, all right?"
"What about your worries, Sam?" Frodo asked in a small voice. "You said yesterday what you feel doesn't matter to me, but it does, Sam! It does!"
"I know it does," Sam said sincerely. "Truly I do." He looked down at their hands. "I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life lovin' you. And now I get to, because you're gettin' well, right before my eyes." He looked up at Frodo and smiled. "That's all that matters."
"But the baby, you-"
"No!" Sam said loudly. He huffed a rueful sigh and smiled again. "No," he said more softly. "You've been right all along, Frodo. I should have trusted your instincts. We don't talk about - about a baby. Just about you gettin' well and us goin' home." He squeezed Frodo's hands lovingly. "All right?"
"If - if that's what you want, Sam," Frodo said worriedly. "But are you sure it is what you want? I can see that you're hurting now."
"A little," Sam admitted. "But I'll get over it." He lifted their joined hands and kissed Frodo's fingers. "All the easier if we put it behind us and get on with things. It's all for the best. Right?"
"I really think so, Sam," Frodo said earnestly.
Sam kissed him again and then lifted the covers and pointed with his thumb. "Into bed with you. I'll go get us some breakfast and then I'll climb in with you, if you don't mind. I didn't get much sleep myself last night."
"Sam," Frodo said, once he was tucked up and sitting against the pillows. His eyes were enormous in his pale face. "Will you ever be able to forgive me?"
"There's nothin' you could do that would stop me lovin' you," Sam said honestly. "And there's no talk of forgiveness between us. I'm not just sayin' all this because I'm givin' in to you, you know. Or because I think it's what you want to hear. I just realized you were right."
"What changed your mind?" Frodo wondered.
"I just woke up, that's all."
That evening they were visited by Lord Elrond, who apologized once more for the actions of the visitors. He would say no more about them than that they were banished from Rivendell, by spell and upon their word of honor.
"What about when we leave here?" Sam wondered.
"I have sent messages to their family and lord in Mirkwood," Elrond said gravely. "As the brothers have sworn an oath not to interfere with Nestadren's life, so a similar oath must be taken to do no harm on the three of you when you leave the protection of Imladris. Don't worry, I will arrange it."
Sam nodded, carefully avoiding a glance at Frodo. From now on he would follow Frodo's lead, and not acknowledge that one day the two of them would be three. They wouldn't be three for long anyway, Sam thought, and then squashed the thought and the emotion that went with it.
The weeks that followed were both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because Frodo was so well, and if anything getting better. He had so much energy Sam could barely keep up with him, and they began work in earnest on their patch of garden, tending the trees, pruning the bushes, pulling weeds. Sam worried a little that Frodo might overdo, but he vowed not to speak of it, not even to Nestadren. Frodo knew what was best for his body.
Getting their hands dirty again proved to be just what they needed, making the days rush by, sweetening their sleep at night. Dinner found them hungry as hunters and at lunch they would find a patch of grass and open up their ample picnic basket joyfully. Frodo's appetite was growing and he would tuck in with relish, but Sam bit his tongue on any comments about eating for two. Instead he enjoyed how round and rosy Frodo's cheeks were getting, and how buttery his lips tasted after scoffing six scones in a row.
Frodo's appetite wasn't all that was growing though. And this was the cursed hard part for Sam, because as his belly swelled little by little, it became harder for Sam to ignore it. When they made love he would lay on one side of Frodo or another, careful not to crush him. When he slid his warm hardness against Frodo's body it was from behind, while his hand reached around and cupped Frodo's hardness, milking it gently and firmly, wringing dazed cries of pleasure from his lips. But he never wrapped his hands over Frodo's belly any more as they lay spooned together.
When Frodo got up too suddenly and swayed a little dizzily, Sam would catch his elbow and steady him, but he would not meet Frodo's eyes, he would not speak. When Frodo woke more often in the night to make water Sam would not show that he had awoken too. He would lay with his eyes shut, pretending to be asleep until Frodo returned to their bed. Only when Frodo's breathing relaxed back into sleep would Sam let himself sleep too.
And if he stirred in the night and found Frodo had curled up against him, the warm pumpkin swell pressing against his back, Sam would gently draw away and determinedly close his eyes, willing himself to sleep, ignoring how cold it felt alone.
Sometimes he thought Frodo was studying him and he would force himself to smile, to nod at another weed that needed pulling, another branch that needed lopping. When Frodo tried to speak of the future he made light talk instead about how the autumn was drawing in, and how the garden would look during a Rivendell winter.
So they did not speak of the future, nor did they talk any further of the now than the garden, their next meal, or their gentle loving. Weeks passed this way, as September arrived and drew to a close.
Frodo stirred in his sleep, his hand lifting and pressing briefly against the hard swell of his belly. Sam stroked his arm soothingly, watching as he settled back to sleep. He was on his back now, and the bump was outlined by the thin lawn nightshirt. Sam couldn't help gazing at it, feeling freer while Frodo's eyes were not on him. How much bigger it was now! Even as Sam watched something rippled under the skin, and before he had time to think about it he lifted his hand and laid it over the warm hard curve, something he hadn't done since their argument weeks before. It was warm and smooth under his fingers for long seconds and then there it was, a flutter, a stir so small that Sam thought he must have imagined it. And then it was there again, a tiny limb stretching in its cozy nest. Sudden wonder lit Sam's heart and he couldn't help the smile, the low chuckle, the huff of pleasure.
Then he looked up. Frodo's eyes were open, wide and luminous in the moonlit room. They were deep wells of pain. Sam slowly lifted his hand away, then he turned on his side, putting his back to the unwanted sympathy.
"Go to sleep," he said brusquely.
At breakfast they were quiet, but Sam happened to be watching Frodo as he lifted a buttery treat to his lips. So he saw a spasm cross Frodo's face, watched him grimace for a moment and lift a hand halfway to his belly. Then he dropped his hand and munched the treat down.
"Frodo? Are you in pain?"
Frodo licked his lips. "No, it-" he broke off and picked up another bun with a grin. "I'm fine. Must be eating too fast."
"And furiously," Sam teased him gently. "If the elves throw us out of Rivendell it'll be because you're eating them out of house and home."
Frodo made a face and poked his tongue out.
Sam relaxed, glad his weakness in the night hadn't made things awkward between them. October was nearly on them, and soon Frodo's anniversary illness would arrive. They needed to be united now, with no distance between them.
"Are you coming to bed?" Sam asked sleepily.
Frodo smiled over his shoulder. "In a minute. Go to sleep, Sam."
Sam lay back with the weary sigh, but he couldn't rest without Frodo beside him. He got up and tugged a quilt off the foot of the bed.
"At least wrap up if you're going to stare at the moon all night," Sam ordered huskily, draping the quilt around Frodo and tucking it under his chin. His love's profile was somber as he gazed into the night, a small furrowed frown on his brow. His hands caught the edges of the quilt and clutched it close, knuckles whitening.
"Frodo?" Sam asked softly. "Are you all right, love? Are you sure you're not in pain?"
Frodo shot him a glance and then looked away. A fleeting smile crossed his lips and then they twisted derisively. "I'm not in pain." He caught Sam's eye again and then lifted his shoulders. "It's um... moving," he said lowly. "Kicking, I guess."
Sam felt as if he was the one who had been kicked. He stared at Frodo in silence for a moment, then backed away and climbed into bed. Curling on his side he set his back to Frodo, eyes open and burning.
Behind him he heard a sigh and steps. The bed dipped and he felt Frodo settle against the head board.
"Sam?" he whispered.
Sam stared into the dark room, willing him to lay down and go to sleep.
"Please, Sam." Frodo's voice was soft and deep. "Come sit by me."
Sam turned and sat up, his face set. Frodo was sitting cross legged, the quilt discarded, clad only in his thin lawn night shirt.
"Give me your hands, Sam."
Sam shook his head. "Don't do this," he pleaded lowly.
Frodo reached out and took Sam's unresisting hands and carefully laid them on the small swell of his belly.
"Please don't do this," Sam begged, but he didn't fight or pull away, he let Frodo lay his right hand down low on the right side, and his left a little higher on the other.
"There," Frodo said quietly. "Feel that? It's a foot I think."
Sam jerked as the tiny movement rippled under his right hand.
Frodo laid his hand on Sam's left and curved it a little higher. "So I figure that's his head. He's stretching, I guess."
Tears blurred Sam's eyes as his rough hands shaped the tiny tender movements. He glanced up at Frodo who watched with sad eyes as he traced the tiny shapes. Another movement rippled and they both gasped a little.
"He's dancing a jig in there," Sam said thickly.
"Usually when I'm trying to sleep or eat," Frodo agreed.
Sam's tears spilled and his mouth trembled. He wanted to hold in his sobs, like he had been holding in his grief for the last few weeks, but it was too strong, everything in him too close to the surface. This life stirring under his hands was the last straw. All strength left him and he leaned forward, resting his forehead against Frodo's chest, sobs bursting from him. He wept loudly, huge tears rolling down his face, soaking Frodo's shirt, his body shaking, his trembling hands clutching. He barely felt Frodo's hands come up and stroke his hair, the nape of his neck. Lips were pressed to the crown of his head but they just made him cry all the harder.
It was like a storm in him, but like a storm it passed, and Sam found himself on his side in the bed, curved against Frodo, small breathy sobs still shaking his chest.
"I wish you hadn't done that," he hiccupped. "I was trying so hard, Frodo. Why did you do that?"
"I don't know," Frodo admitted. "I didn't mean to. I know how hard you've been trying, Sam, and it's been breaking my heart to see you."
"I've been doing my best to protect us both is all," Sam insisted. "Just like I've always done."
"You've been pretending you think this is right for my sake," Frodo corrected him. "Just as you've always done. I'm only sorry it took me so long to admit it."
Sam tilted his head back and gazed at Frodo in confusion. "Isn't this what you wanted?" he beseeched.
"What about what you want, Sam? While you're so busy protecting me, who's protecting you?"
Sam opened his mouth but Frodo laid a finger on it. "I am, that's who," Frodo finished. "Even if sometimes it's me you need protecting from."
Sam let this soak in for long moments. He lifted his hand and laid it back on Frodo's belly, but he couldn't feel any movement there now.
"We put him to sleep, I think, with all our dramatics," Frodo joked.
"I've never heard you talk about him this way," Sam said in wonder. "You barely ever even say 'him'. What's changed?"
"Nothing's changed, Sam," Frodo said sadly. "I still can't feel for him what you do. But you love him, don't you? You've loved him from the moment you knew he existed. It was wrong of me to think you shouldn't."
Sam gathered his courage. "Why don't you love him too, Frodo? Please, tell me so I can understand?"
"I barely understand myself," Frodo admitted. He tilted his head back and gazed at the ceiling. "But I guess I owe you this much at least." He was silent for long moments as if gathering his thoughts. When his voice came it was low and intense, it sent a shiver through Sam. It was almost familiar.
"It's like something is taking me over, Sam. Changing my body, making it seem like it's not my own. Putting thoughts in my head, feelings that don't belong to me. I feel it moving and it's something alien and strange." Frodo turned his head and looked intently at Sam, as if willing him to understand. "It's trying to make me love it, Sam. Trying to take me over. It feels like the Ring, Sam."
"He's nothing like that!" Sam exclaimed. "He's nothing to do with the Ring!"
"I know that," Frodo said simply. "He's giving me the life the Ring was taking away. He's given me back the sun. But I still wake in the night with these feelings, Sam, and I know they don't make sense and I know they're wrong, and that just makes it even worse. I've hurt you, the one person I should die rather than harm, and now I feel this life stirring in me I know I've harmed him too. Soon he'll do battle on my behalf, Sam. And I still can't love him." Frodo closed his eyes and slumped down.
"There," he said wearily. "There's the hero half of Middle Earth is singing ballads to. A sniveling coward who'd rather risk an innocent baby's life than face his own end. Really heroic."
"Oh, Frodo." Despite the depth of emotion charging the air around him Sam couldn't help a small smile at the sight of Frodo, his curls sticking straight up, his mouth drooping, slumped against the headboard with his small bump of a belly pressing against his shirt. "What have I been doing?"
Frodo opened one eye, looking miserable. "What?
"You know I think you were right, Frodo. Maybe I do need protecting from you." Sam's mind was racing. He felt as if he was waking from a nightmare and was now looking back at it in the morning light. Night's fears always seemed slightly ridiculous in the light of day.
Frodo opened both eyes and straightened. "Sam?"
"You're frightened and worried. You've mixed the past and the present up and you're sitting around brooding about it." Sam shook his head in disbelief. "And I've let you," he said incredulously. "The other half of that heroic team what saved the world. Some hero I've turned out to be as well." Sam reached over and smoothed down unruly curls, stroking his fingers tenderly over a smooth curve of cheek, cupping a stubborn pointed chin.
"You are pregnant, Frodo," he said deliberately. "It's time we stopped tryin' to run and hide from it. Your poor body is tryin' to cope with all of that, while at the same time it knows it's not meant to."
"I guess running and hiding isn't really an option any more, is it?" Frodo laid a hand on his belly with a grimace.
"Frodo?" Sam said gently. "Why didn't you tell me how frightened it was makin' you?"
Frodo shrugged awkwardly. "I just said. Because I know how ridiculous it sounds."
Sam shook his head, still not understanding.
"And I know it doesn't make any difference why. I can't love him, Sam. I can't give myself away like that again, not so completely. I'm afraid this time it will destroy me," he ended miserably.
"Oh, my poor dear," Sam sighed, gathering Frodo close. "Your head is still swirlin' around, isn't it?"
"What on earth are we to do, Sam?"
"How about we stop worryin' for a while? If you can't love the little mite, let me. In a way it's just my love for you spreadin' out to make room for him anyway. If you're feelin' bad, tell me! If he's dancin' a jig and keepin' you awake, tell me that too! Let's get through this together, and worry about the rest later, hmm?"
Frodo looked doubtful. "Isn't that just ignoring things again?"
"No, that's us coping with this one day at a time. But not bottlin' it up, or pretendin' it's not happenin'. Right?"
"I will try, Sam," Frodo said sincerely. "I will make it up to you as well. But please be patient with me? This is really hard."
Sam lay down on his pillow with a sigh. "It can't be any harder than the last few weeks have been," he pointed out with a yawn. "Come here." He tugged Frodo down onto the bed and spooned around him. Then he deliberately lifted his hand and covered Frodo's belly, smoothing over the bump firmly.
"Mm, that feels good," Frodo sighed.
"And aren't we the silly fools for ignoring what might feel good all this time?" Sam chided.
The next morning they worked in their garden again, raking leaves and lining beds. But at lunch time Sam called a halt.
"Mornings only from now on," he said firmly.
"But what will we do all afternoon?" Frodo protested, cleaning his spade with a rag.
"We'll find something."
Frodo shot him a look and Sam blushed. "Not that," he said sternly, then dropped a wink making Frodo chuckle. "We can read, or you can catch up with your writing."
Straightening Frodo pressed his hand to the base of his spine. "A nap might be nice."
Sam gently pulled Frodo's hand away and rubbed the spot firmly, smiling as Frodo stretched and purred.
"A wash and lunch," Sam pronounced. "And then I'll find some oil and give you a good massage. How does that sound?" Frodo's beaming smile was his answer.
"I think I ate too much," Frodo groaned, flopping back on the bed.
"I know I was impressed," Sam said mildly, sniffing curiously at the bottle of oil Nestadren had given him. "Even for a pregnant hobbit that was something."
Frodo rolled on his side and eyed Sam ruefully. "How many times do you think you can get the word 'pregnant' into the conversation today, Samwise Gamgee?"
"As many as it takes before you stop wishin' you'd kept your mouth closed last night," Sam shot back.
"I don't," Frodo denied, although he didn't sound very convincing.
Sam tossed a bath sheet on the bed. "Strip down, love, and I'll give you a rub down before your nap."
"Now you're treating me like Bill the Pony," Frodo grumbled, but he climbed to his feet and stripped to his drawers eagerly enough.
Sam eyed his suddenly modest love with a grin, loving the way the gentle swell looked nestling atop his draw string drawers.
Frodo suddenly looked down at himself in dismay. "I don't think I can lie on my stomach, Sam."
Sam chuckled, stripping down to his own drawers and sitting on the edge of the bed. He spread the huge bath sheet out and patted it invitingly.
"Lay on your side then."
Frodo lay back on the soft towel, stretching out and pointing his toes, purring at how good it felt.
"Or," Sam said huskily. "Maybe we could start off with you on your back." He poured a little oil in his hands and warmed it, smiling down at Frodo's pink cheeks. "How about this?" And he gently tipped the warm oil on Frodo's belly, watching with pleasure as it flowed over and down the swell. With a soft sweep he gathered the dribbling oil and carefully smoothed it into the hard bump.
"Oh," Frodo moaned involuntarily, his eyes squeezing shut in pleasure. "That feels good!"
"I thought it might," Sam said, pleased with the reaction. "When I rubbed your tummy last night you seemed to enjoy it."
"It feels very tight sometimes," Frodo admitted.
"Course it does. He's growin' by leaps and bounds. Now, don't turn your pretty mouth down, Frodo," Sam ordered. "We're done ignoring this, remember?"
"We were only pretending to ignore it anyway," Frodo admitted sleepily, yawning and rubbing his eyes. "I felt your eyes on me all the time, felt your concern."
"Did you?" Sam gentled his strokes on the flushed skin, now just smoothing the oil, enjoying the feel under his hands.
"Sam?" Frodo asked reluctantly. "How big do you think I'm going to get?"
"Well, let's see," Sam said, sitting back thoughtfully. He eyed the firm mound. "I'm no expert, and you're not yet five months gone... But I reckon I've seen some lasses near their time that would put you in the shade. You've a ways to go yet, love."
"I know," Frodo said worriedly. "Remember Grunilla Ford? You could see her coming around a corner five minutes before she arrived, Bilbo used to say."
"Aye, but she was carrying twins. And big lads they was too. Course, I was a big baby, so I'm told."
"Now, don't you fret," Sam said kindly. wiping his hands and laying the oil aside for the moment. "Nestadren said your body would know what to do, remember?"
"He said a lot of things," Frodo said nervously. "Most of which I've spent the last few months blocking out."
"That's part of the problem. We've both been bottlin' all this up. Worries should be aired and shared as my gaffer would say."
"You're still angry with me about that, aren't you."
"I'm not angry," Sam denied.
"Well you were," Frodo said, opening one eye and surveying him sternly. "You're just not very good at being angry with me. Not enough practice."
"Hm," Sam agreed dubiously. "Maybe I better start practicin'."
Frodo smiled seductively and held out his arms invitingly. Heart beating faster all of a sudden Sam lay down and cuddled close.
"Later," he murmured huskily.
"Sam," Frodo whispered sleepily in his ear. "I'm glad you still want me."
"Did that worry you too, my silly?" Sam said tenderly into Frodo's sweetly pointed ear. He kissed it gently and felt Frodo shiver against him.
"Sometimes," Frodo confided. "As I get bigger I feel so clumsy and fat."
"Only one part of you's bigger," Sam chuckled. "And it's not fat." He ran his hands over Frodo's belly which was still warm and soft from the oil. His voice caught. "Oh, Frodo, if you knew what I think and feel when I see this sweet curve..."
Frodo swallowed. "Tell me?"
"I think... I did that," Sam said possessively. He felt the warm blush sweep over Frodo's already flushed skin. Sam cupped Frodo's belly from underneath with both hands, grip firm yet as gentle as he could be. "This is my baby inside you, Frodo. I wish you could know how proud that makes me." He growled a little under his breath and spoke even lower. "And how hard."
"Oh, Sam," Frodo moaned faintly as proof of Sam's desire firmed against his belly.
"I want you, love," Sam groaned, his hand pressing his hardness against Frodo's taut skin. "I'll be gentle, I promise. Let me have you again? Please?"
Frodo heaved a great breath and pulled away for a moment, but Sam was not concerned. He felt Frodo's own arousal against him, he knew what Frodo was reaching for. A moment later the bottle of oil was pressed into his hand and Sam felt his heart over flow.
"I trust you, Sam," Frodo said passionately.
"I won't hurt you, love." Sam oiled his hardness and Frodo turned his back and pressed his round bottom back against Sam's slick hardness. "Nestadren said this is fine if I don't go too deep," Sam groaned. He stroked Frodo's tiny opening with his oily finger.
"You asked Nestadren about this?" Frodo said in surprise, squirming back against the gentle probe.
"Actually, he told me, some time ago," Sam revealed breathlessly. "He said it wasn't dangerous, in fact..." Sam eased a second finger in and paused while Frodo gasped and stilled while his body adjusted.
"In fact?" Frodo panted.
"What?" Sam carefully pulled his fingers free and grasped his hardness, pressing against the slick opening and groaning at how good even that pressure against the sensitive head felt.
"He said it wasn't dangerous, in fact..." Frodo managed.
"Oh," Sam groaned, pushing in a scant inch and stopping. Frodo's body tensed and then relaxed. "He, um, said that it might even be good for you," Sam finally managed to say.
"Oh, he's right," Frodo moaned, pushing back a little to signal to Sam that it was all right to proceed. "He's right!"
And then Sam was pushing another inch and pausing, and then another. It was agonizing, it was sweet, it was unbelievably arousing. His hands gripped Frodo's hips, his hips trembled, his mouth suckled Frodo's neck and then laved it with his tongue, tasting salt sweat and Frodo. Finally he was in as far as he felt he should go and they lay for long moments, bodies shaking, Sam's hands still gripping tightly, Frodo's hand holding the swell of his belly.
"All right?" Sam whispered hoarsely.
Frodo nodded and sobbed a moan as Sam gently withdrew, just a little and pushed back in. Frodo mewled and groaned and Sam swallowed hard at the effort it took not to slam in all the way, not to lift Frodo onto his knees and push his face into the soft mattress and ram him until they both groaned and screamed.
One day, he swore to himself. I will take him that way, and I will kneel for him too.
For now he contented himself with a gentle push pull, his hand now reaching for Frodo's hardness, loving the feel of Frodo tensing around him as he grasped it and carefully began the practiced strokes that would bring him to completion.
This was their second time this night and they both wanted it to last, and for long dreamy minutes Sam took them both to the edge and then slowed back to a soft rhythm. Frodo began to sob and push back against him, and thrilled with the power his new skills had over his love Sam sped up the pace, always careful not to push too far, now sweeping his hand more firmly on Frodo, loving the grunts and mewls and sighs.
Finally Frodo arched back against him and came, and the sweet tightening of his body bought Sam off at almost the same instant. He poured himself into Frodo's body, tears pricking his eyes as he remembered the last time, when proof of their loving mingled to form a new life.
"I love you," he wept against Frodo's neck.
"My Sam," Frodo sobbed back. "I do love you."
October 1420 S.R.
October had barely begun before Frodo began to draw back into himself. He covered himself with more blankets at night and a second coat in the day, but now even the sun couldn't warm him, even in their little garden. Before lunch on the sixth day of the month he stopped even pretending to read, and instead huddled into Sam's arms, pressing his head into the warmth of Sam's neck.
Gasping at how cold his skin felt Sam held him close, dread in his heart. He had so hoped that this battle would be an easy one, but it seemed if anything worse than any illness before. Frodo muttered something into his neck and Sam squeezed his eyes shut in dismay.
"It's getting dark, Sam," he whispered dully. "It is all so empty."
"I have you, my dear," Sam said as warmly as he could manage. "Let's go back to bed, hmm? We'll cover you with blankets and warm you up, and we'll have a nice rest."
"Where shall I find rest?" Frodo murmured against his shoulder as Sam lifted him into his arms and carried him down their now worn track.
Grimly Sam carried him back to their room and sent for Nestadren. The healer had seen Frodo many times in the last few days, and this time as the last time he could only shake his head sadly.
"This is not our battle, Sam," was all he could say. "The light battles the darkness now. We must hope to Frodo's strength, and the strength of that light." He laid a consoling hand on Sam's shoulder. "Do you want me to stay with you?"
Sam shook his head, his eyes full of tears. "No, thank you. I just want to hold him now. I want him to feel my strength, and know it's there if he needs it."
The day drew on, but no matter how close Sam pressed or how many blankets Frodo could bear over him, the coldness would not go away. As the evening faded to deep night it seemed to spread, and by midnight Frodo could only lay on his good side and shiver.
Sam's worry became desperate. "I should go get Nestadren again."
"He can't help me." Tears leaked from the corners of his eyes. "The darkness is winning, Sam. This time it will take us both."
"No!" Sam said fiercely, gathering Frodo in his arms and holding him closely. His whole side was frighteningly chill, an unnatural cold that even seeped into Sam and made him shiver.
"Sam," Frodo moaned, opening tear swollen eyes. "I want to go back to our garden. Take me to our garden, please."
Sam looked out into the darkness. "But the sun's gone in, love. It's cold."
"I can't get any colder. I need the earth, Sam. I need to lay on the earth and feel its life. Please, I need to get out of this room!"
Unable to deny him anything, but against his better judgment, Sam gathered Frodo in his arms again, blanket and all. He was no lightweight, but Sam was strong and broad shouldered, in the best of health. He would carry Frodo anywhere he needed to go.
Outside the night was October crisp, silver moonlight lit their path, but with his hobbit eyes and senses Sam could have found the way blind folded. Sure footed he made his way to their patch of earth and lay Frodo down on the gentle slope where they had spent so many happy hours, laughing and loving. Tears were in his own eyes now as he sat down and cuddled Frodo back against him, cradled between spread legs.
"It's not fair," Sam wept. "You've been so well, love. It's not fair that you should suffer so."
"It's my fault, Sam," Frodo said brokenly. "He knows I never wanted him, wouldn't love him. Now I'm going to lose him, and I never said, I never let myself..." He sobbed, hands wrapped around Sam's arms, head bowed in sorrow.
All Sam could do was rock him and weep with him.
"Why couldn't I see the difference? Before, during that terrible time, I was so lost, so lost, Sam. I couldn't tell where I ended and it began, I couldn't tell what thoughts or words were mine. But why couldn't I see that this was different? How could I confuse that darkness with this light? I'm a fool and our baby is suffering because of it." He broke into sobs again. "Our baby, Sam. Our baby."
"Please, Frodo," Sam begged. "Please stop weeping so, you're hurting yourself more. I know you love him, so he must know. Even if you couldn't admit it to yourself or me, I knew."
Frodo's breath sobbed. "Y-you knew, Sam? How? I didn't realize myself, until the darkness came upon me. Wouldn't let myself."
"Just lately, my dear," Sam said, all his love in his voice. "You should see yourself when you lay your hands on him at night. Your half smile when he stirs inside you. Day by day I've watched you fall under his spell, but I couldn't say anything. You were so scared of that very thing."
"I just knew I was losing myself again and I couldn't see the difference. I'm so cold, Sam." Frodo lay his head back on Sam's shoulder, his breath still hitching. His hands lay on his belly. "He's stopped moving, Sam. The cold is winning. We're losing him."
Sam's heart was breaking. He'd only felt this hopeless once before in his whole life, when he cradled Frodo's seemingly lifeless body in his arms and faced a world without him in it. Even at the end of all things he hadn't felt as if his very heart was breaking, because at least there he had been in Frodo's arms. Now he was holding his love close but the cold was taking him further away. He was losing them both.
Suddenly Frodo lifted his head and turned in the darkness. "Something's happening," he breathed.
Sam opened his eyes and peered through the trees. In the distance lights were moving erratically, and he thought he could hear shouts on the wind. Such a disturbance in this peaceful place was immensely shocking, and even through his grief and worry Sam could feel his instincts screaming at him.
"Something's wrong," he whispered. The same thought must have struck them at the same moment. They turned and met each other's gaze.
"The brothers," Frodo managed. He tried to rise but he was too weak and he collapsed back against Sam.
"Elrond said he would know if they trespassed into Rivendell again," Sam muttered helping Frodo up and wrapping one arm around him.
"They know I'm ill and weak." Frodo clutched Sam's waist. "They're looking for us!"
Again hobbit instinct kicked in, and moving as silently as only their kind could they merged with the shadows of the trees.
"The old Mallorn tree," Sam whispered against Frodo's ear and the shivering hobbit nodded. The old tree had huge roots and gaps in its ancient trunk, and they made their way as quickly as they could, Frodo struggling to move quietly, Sam's eyes darting around the dim forest. They reached the tree and gratefully scrambled into a huge fold, crouching back against the dank earth, feeling it close around them.
Sam pressed back against a root, wishing he had a weapon, any weapon. His hand found a decent sized stone in the dark and he handed it to Frodo, quietly scrabbling for another. Thus armed they waited in the dark, trying to breath as silently as they could.
"Are you hiding, little ones?" a whisper shivered through the trees, sending a chill down Sam's spine. "Hiding your shame? It's too late for that."
They voice seemed to come from all around them.
"That abomination you carry cannot be allowed to see the light of day. Come out, Frodo Baggins. I will cut it from your body."
Sam's fists clenched and in the shafts of silver moonlight he could see the rage and fear on Frodo's stark face. Sam had killed orc and goblin in his day, but he had never dreamed he could so long to wrap his hands around someone's neck and squeeze the life out of him.
In the distance there were more shouts and suddenly one of the brothers called softly to the other in their own language.
"They're coming this way!" Frodo whispered into Sam's ear, clutching him hard. "He just told Silasigil he has our trail!"
"I have to lead them away," Sam whispered back. Frodo stiffened against him and twisted in his arms, shaking his head. Sam stilled him and laid a hand on Frodo's swollen belly between them. He met his love's eyes in the moonlight, blue washed to silver, and smiled.
Frodo's mouth quivered, but he bit his lip and nodded, once.
"I love you," Sam mouthed silently, then still clutching his rock he climbed as quietly as he could out of the hole and into the night. He ran soft footed on the grass until he reached a path, then deliberately brushed a bush, hearing the crackle of wood like a firework in the night. Behind him was shadow and Sam saw that he had one chance. Turning he flung the rock with all his might at his pursuer, but the elf easily dodged and was upon him, one hand in his hair pulling his head back, wicked knife blade at his throat.
"It's the other one," Silasigil said carelessly over his shoulder. "Follow his tracks back."
Glamren whispered something and Silasigil laughed. "Good idea," he breathed. He hauled Sam up by his hair and laid the knife back to his throat.
"Frodo Baggins?" he whispered into the night. "I know you're near. I know you can hear me. Those who follow us will not reach you in time, but it doesn't have to end for both of you. Come to us now, and I will let this one go. He has no part in this."
"I have every part in this!" Sam struggled and clawed at his captor, uncaring about the blade drawing blood at his throat. "That's my son you're trying to murder, you filth!"
"You understand me, halfling?" Silasigil hissed. "I will cut his throat and then I will spend forever tracking you down. Do you understand what forever is, to my kind?"
"No, Frodo!" Sam screamed.
"Let him go," Frodo said from behind them, and both elves spun quickly to face him.
"Run," Sam sobbed, struggling fruitlessly against the hand that held him, feeling his scalp pull agonizingly.
Glamren took a step forward and drew a long blade from the sheath at his side.
"Please," Sam choked, hands clawing at his captor. Like a dream in slow motion the tall elf drew closer to the small figure outlined by the trees. His blade caught the moonlight as he held it out, the light catching as he twisted it and drew it back. At his throat Sam felt the pressure of the knife increase, gasped in pain as the blade began to cut, knew in that final instant that the elves meant to kill them both, that the whole of the dream would end in the moonlight of a Rivendell October.
And then as Glamren pulled his knife back to strike the blade at Sam's throat drew back and fell away and Sam blinked in shock as the path seemed suddenly lit with a golden glow. Behind the still form of Frodo the black outline of the trees seemed to stretch into the distance and the light flashed suddenly into a glare so bright Sam had to cover his eyes. The last thing he saw was Glamren cowering back, covering his own face, the last thing he felt was the pressure on his hair vanishing as he dropped like a stone.
On his knees, spots dancing behind his eyes Sam heard a shout and found his own voice. "Help!" he screamed. "Over here!"
Silasigil cursed next to him and, still blinded, Sam groped along the ground, trying to scramble away. Under his fingers he found the hilt of the knife and as a hand clawed at his leg Sam turned and plunged it home, instinct guiding his hand.
"Frodo!" he screamed as he felt it connect, heard the sickening sound of knife piercing flesh, grinding against bone.
"They're here!" A voice called, as clutching at his bleeding neck Sam tried to stand, collapsing back onto his knees.
"Samwise!" Strong hands lifted him, pressed against the wound in his neck. Squinting in the moonlight Sam saw that Elrond stood before him, his own blade naked. "Nestad, Sam has been cut!" The night was normal now, no golden glow, no piercing silence. Just the path, and elves all around him.
"Sam!" Frodo called out and Sam felt his breath leave him at the sound of his love, safe and alive.
"Frodo," he sighed. Then he knew no more.
"Frodo!" Sam jerked awake, then clutched at his burning neck.
"I'm here, Sam."
Sam blinked, his eyes still a little dazed, his panic subsiding at the sound of that dear voice. "Are you all right?" Sam managed.
"I'm fine, love," Frodo said tearfully. He pressed Sam back into the mattress with one hand and laid the other one over Sam's hand at his throat. "You're the one who's hurt."
"Bastard was going to cut my throat," Sam said gruffly, his eyes devouring Frodo, running anxiously over all he could see of him sitting by his bedside. "Again. Did he hurt you?"
"He never even reached me." Frodo stroked his hand. "The others arrived just in time."
Sam focused on two forms at the end of the bed, Elrond and Nestadren, standing patiently.
"Are they dead?" Sam asked starkly.
Elrond inclined his head. "Yes. Silasigil died by his own knife, Sam. You found his heart with it. And Nestadren fired one arrow into Glamren as he tried to stab Frodo."
"I aimed for his heart," Nestadren admitted. "He was too close, and there was a feral rage in his eyes. I could not risk harm to the innocent."
"And the light?" Sam frowned. "Where did the light come from?"
Nestadren and Elrond exchanged glances.
"We saw no light," the healer said uncertainly. "Did the brothers have a light, Sam?"
Sam slanted an confused glance at Frodo, then he realized something all in a rush. "Frodo! Your hand! It's warm."
Frodo squeezed his fingers, smiling through his tears. "So is the rest of me," he revealed huskily.
"The darkness?" Sam breathed, hardly daring to hope.
Frodo took Sam's hand and laid it on the swell of his belly. Beneath Sam's trembling fingers there was only still smoothness, for long moments. And then...
"He's moving!" Sam said joyfully, and uncaring of the pain in his neck he sat bolt upright and hugged Frodo to him.
"The light has banished the darkness," Nestadren pronounced, joy on his own face. "The battle is won, Sam. Frodo is healed."
"And your child is well," Elrond said with a grave smile.
After they were gone Frodo lay down next to Sam, all four of their hands on his tummy, feeling with delight each rippling movement.
"You saw it, didn't you, Frodo?"
"And felt it," Frodo whispered. "Brilliant, like the sun. And I think I saw him, Sam, just for an instant. Not his face or anything, just him, curled within me, sleeping. I think he was smiling, Sam."
They held each other close for what remained of the night.
October the seventh dawned.
Continued in Part Two!