Flowers or Strawberries
Flowers or Strawberries?
Summary: Sam doesn't know how to talk to Rosie. And he needs help.
Disclaimer: All characters and places belong to the great professor. All I own is the poor chicken that gets eaten. The passage in italics is taken from the book.
Note:This story was written for the Teitho Challenge "Love" It placed first. Thanks and hugs to everyone who voted! You made my week!
Breathtaking. There was no other way Sam could describe Rivendell, and yet the Elven Haven possessed some kind of a cold beauty and it seemed unable to give him something he longed for. Now that Frodo had finally started to recover from the morgul wound, the loyal gardener's mind was finally free from worry over his master, and free to return where it has always been.
And his mind had always been set on Rosie Cotton. Maybe not always, but for a few years at least, and he had grown used to seeing her every day when he looked up from the tomatoes he had been planting, or from the potatoes he had been digging out of the ground. Sam had never been away from her for such a long time! When he had agreed to accompany Mister Frodo to Bree, he had never thought that the journey would turn out so long and that they would go to Rivendell. He was overjoyed to see the Elves, something he had dreamed of for a long time, but he had had enough of being far from home already. And far from Rosie.
Fortunately, their task was done and they would turn back soon. The Ring was safely brought to Rivendell. True, there were still some formalities – Sam knew that Lord Elrond planned to hold a Council and many strange being from distant lands had arrived to attend it – but whatever it was about, he did not care much. He and Mr. Frodo had done their fair share and nothing could keep them here anymore.
There was one thing that troubled the hobbit. Once they returned to the Shire, he was planning to do something very brave - talk to Farmer Cotton and ask for Rosie's hand. What would he say? But, much more important, what would she say?
He wanted to talk to Rosie first, but he had no ideas what he could say to her. Whom could he ask for advice? Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin? Certainly not! They would make fun of him for weeks! Frodo? He would not laugh at him… much. Or maybe he would, but it would be good-naturedly and he would not tell anyone. But what experience did Frodo have in talking to lasses? Would he be able to give him good advice? Hmm, who else could he ask? Gandalf? Umm… no. One of the Elves? He barely knew any of them. Mr. Bilbo? No, not a good idea. He felt uncomfortable discussing this with Frodo's uncle. Besides, the older hobbit never got married, so it was doubtful that he would be of any help.
Sam rested his back against a tree and sighed dreamily. Was he the only one in Rivendell who was in love? Apparently yes. He knew that he would find no sleep this night and it would be better to stay outside and enjoy the stars, which seemed even brighter above the Elven Haven. There was a full moon, and when he gazed at it, he seemed to see Rosie's face. Her big eyes, her crimson cheeks, her brown curls. Every detail was vivid in his mind and engraved deeply in his heart. But why did the right words refuse to come to him? 'I love you, Rosie' – too simple, too commonplace. 'I cannot live without you. I think about you every single moment, I hear your voice in every bird's song, I see your face in every star' – sure. Every fool could think of that. Why was there no one to give him guidance?
Sam's attention was suddenly diverted from the starry sky as he saw a slender figure moving among the trees. An Elf! Sam had seen so many already, but still his heart leapt in excitement every time he saw another one. So beautiful, so ethereal, so lovely, and yet this one surpassed all others he had seen. He recognized her easily. Lord Elrond's daughter.
Her dark hair was casting a soft glow around her, and her pale face rivaled the magnificent moon. Her eyes were bottomless pools, fixed on something only she could see. Her body was slender like a birch tree and agile like a wild panther's. What force had made this beautiful maiden, this perfect creature of light, leave her bed at night and wander through the dark woods?
Curiosity got the better of the good hobbit and he swiftly followed her. Hobbits had the ability to move quickly and quietly, but still she was an Elf. The fact that she did not notice him spoke a lot of her state of mind. Apparently her heart was somewhere else, somewhere far away. Or perhaps not that far.
"You have come early, my Lady," a voice came from the trees and nearly made Sam jump.
"I can see that you have come even earlier, my Lord," the elven maiden said. "Eager to see me?" The title was spoken lightly and teasingly.
The man walked out of the trees and took her in his embrace. Sam's jaw dropped. Strider?! What was the scruffy, filthy, and unkempt ranger, about whom Frodo had said that the servants of the enemy would look fairer, doing with this ethereal creature? Well, he had to admit that the ranger was far from scruffy and filthy at the moment. He had obviously taken good care to make himself look presentable for the occasion. In fact, he was clean and well dressed, and the Hobbit noticed for the first time that the scruffy ranger they had met was actually quite handsome.
"Why did your travels never took you to Lothlórien all those years, Estel?" She asked, her voice raised slightly in a gentle reprimand. "Did you have no desire to see me?"
"I have never had a greater desire, meleth nîn," the man replied. "And, thankfully, my wish was granted. I could see you every night in my dreams, and every day as a lovely vision before my eyes."
Sam blinked in surprise. This sounded exactly like the way he felt about Rosie! Was love the same for Men, Elves, and Hobbits? Why had he not thought of Strider before? If the man had captured the heart of this beautiful maiden, surely he would give him good advice how to talk to Rosie.
"This should never be enough for you, Estel," she whispered and leaned forward as if to kiss him. He pulled back, trying to ignore her frown of displeasure.
"Do not tempt me, meleth," he said softly, his eyes large and pleading. "I do not deserve you yet. Your father was clear about this – I cannot have you until I am the King of Gondor and Arnor."
Sam's jaw dropped even further down. King of Gondor and Arnor? Strider? What was happening here? He was clearly missing something!
"My father?" Arwen asked sadly. "Does it matter so little to you what I think?" Sam scratched his head and made a mental note to himself to talk to Rosie before he had talked to Farmer Cotton. It seemed this was what maidens liked. "You do not need to prove me anything, Estel," she continued. "You do not need to show me that you are worthy of me or of my love. My heart will be yours no matter what path you choose or what future awaits you."
"It is too early to say this," the man said bitterly. "You know my destiny. I might rise above all my ancestors, but I may prove to be too weak and may fall into darkness. And if I do…"
"… I will love you still," she finished for him. His eyes widened in surprise and he shook his head, but she touched his cheek to still him. And when she tried to kiss him once again, he was unable to pull back on time.
'Not that he tried that hard,' Sam thought with a grin.
Surprisingly, Arwen was the one to break the kiss first. She smiled and whispered something in Elvish that Sam could not understand. Strider nodded and let her hand slip into his. Then the two started walking slowly, hand-in-hand, coming closer to the bushes where Sam was hiding.
Suddenly Strider reached towards the bush and pulled out a terrified young hobbit. "I…I am so… so sorry, Mister Strider, Sir! I did not mean to eavesdrop! I was only picking some… flowers, yes, some flowers, and I heard you were saying something."
Arwen tried to suppress a smile. "If you had said that you have been picking mushrooms, I might have believed you. Where are the flowers you have picked?" Sam blushed and turned his face away.
"What did you hear?" The ranger asked, his voice unreadable.
"Ah, nothing, nothing, Mr. Strider, Sir, I swear! Only about you loving Lady Arwen, but being unable to marry her before you are King of Gondor and Ar-Ar-Arnor, yes, Arnor, and that you might never be King because you might be too weak and fall into darkness like your ancestors… no offence, Mr. Strider, but that's what you said, if you know what I mean! But I didn't mean to listen! Please, don't lock me in the dungeons or somewhere dark and nasty!"
"There are no dungeons in Rivendell, Sam," Arwen said gently.
The ranger's face, which had been unreadable until now, suddenly turned sad as he gazed at Sam's terrified eyes. "No, Sam, there is no dungeon here, and even if it was, I would never think it necessary. But I fear that there will be plenty of darkness in your future, and one day you will wish you have been thrown in the dungeons."
The elleth turned towards him, her fair features marred by a worried frown. "Man sa, Estel?" She whispered and searched his eyes. She knew very well that her beloved possessed the gift of foresight and although it was not nearly as strong as her father's, he sometimes had visions that could prove to be true. The ranger only shook his head slightly and met her eyes. He did not know yet. It was too early to tell, and there was no good in scaring Sam.
Taken by his thoughts, he released Sam's collar that he had been holding. The hobbit hopped to the ground and ran towards the bushes, not turning back, his face burning red with shame. How could he be so foolish! Strider had been perfect to ask for advice. But now this was impossible. How could he ever face the ranger again?
He disappeared into the bushes, unaware of the warm smiles of the man and the elleth who watched amused his hastened retreat.
Sam knew it that this 'council' Lord Elrond was planning would end badly. Now he would travel with his master instead of returning home. Who knew how long the journey to Mordor and back would take? What if Rosie did not wait for him? What if she found someone else?
These thoughts plagued the young hobbit and he tried to busy his mind with preparations for the journey ahead. He looked through the extensive collection of pans he had prepared, trying to decide if what he had taken was enough. Finally satisfied, he started scrambling down a list of the food they needed to take. "Seasoning!" Sam suddenly exclaimed. "This is what I am missing!"
The hobbit rushed to the kitchen and opened the door. He gasped and jumped back as he saw Strider sitting at the table and eating a piece of chicken. Sam took a step backwards and shifted nervously. He had not talked to the ranger since the midnight incident, and he feared the coming conversation. At the same time, however, he longed to repair what wrongs he had done and what bonds he had broken, and now seemed as good a time as any.
"Good morning, Mr. Strider," he started hesitantly and suddenly felt all his confidence crumble. "I-I-I came to get some food and seasoning, yes, seasoning for the journey."
"Good morning, Sam," the man replied simply and returned to his chicken.
The hobbit frowned in confusion. Everyone had gathered for breakfast about an hour ago, and he had seen the ranger there. Why was he eating again? "This is strange, Mr. Strider," he blurted out, before he could think of what he wanted to say.
Aragorn looked up surprised. "What is strange, Sam?"
"Well, you had breakfast already, and now you are eating again. This means that you are either having a second breakfast, or you are troubled. I doubt that you normally have a second breakfast, unless you have spent too much time among hobbits and have adopted our better customs. So the only explanation is that you are troubled."
"Why would I be troubled?" The man asked, keeping his voice emotionless.
Sam frowned, wondering if he was not mistaken. "I eat when I am troubled," he said and scratched his head in thought. "When I think about it, I eat even when I am not troubled, but this is beyond the point. What troubles you?"
The ranger shrugged. "All of us are troubled. The road ahead is insecure and full of trials I am not sure we will be able to pass."
"It is more than that," Sam said wisely. "I know what troubles you. It is her." He suddenly closed his mouth and glanced at the ranger insecurely. Did he have the right to talk about that, especially after spying on something he was not supposed to see? But what was done was done, and now that he had started to talk, he could as well finish. "I… I know how you feel."
"You do?" The man looked at him, and suddenly his eyes lit with understanding. "Ah, I see. So there is a Hobbit lass, waiting for you in the Shire." Sam blushed extensively and looked down, and Aragorn continued. "What do you fear, Sam?"
"I fear that she will not wait for me," the Hobbit murmured miserably. "I fear that she might choose someone else. I mean, she is so lovely that everyone who sees her would fall in love with her, that I know. You yourself would fall in love with her if you saw her, Mr. Strider!"
"I am sure I would, Sam," Aragorn said with a smile. "Then do not let anyone take her from you. Ask for her hand."
"I want to ask her to marry me when I return, but I do not know how," Sam admitted.
"What is so hard?" The man asked calmly.
Sam sighed. "I do not know how to say it. I do not know what words to use. It is so much easier for you. I mean, how would you describe Lady Arwen for example?"
The man sighed and his eyes took on a faraway look. "For me she is the brightest star. She is a gentle elanor flower. She is-"
"See?" Sam interrupted him. "This is why this would never work with Rosie! You could tell Lady Arwen that she is like a star for you, but I can never tell this to Rosie!"
"Why not, Sam? Is she not as bright as a star for you?"
"On the contrary, Mr. Strider!" Sam protested. "But for me she is much more that a star! You see, Elves value stars so highly, but for us, Hobbits, they have little meaning. They are nothing more than pretty, twinkling dots. Rosie means much more to me than that. But I… I just don't know what to compare her to. Nothing seems good enough."
"What about a flower?" Aragorn suggested. "Rosie is her name, you say? Why not tell her that she is the most beautiful rose you have ever laid eyes upon. And you are a gardener, so this should mean something."
Sam snorted. "You think she would like this nonsense?"
"Why would she not?"
"Well, it is true that I am a gardener, but I take much greater pleasure in growing carrots than in growing roses. It is the same as with stars, Mr. Strider. We, Hobbits, do not value flowers that much. There are other things more meaningful to us."
"What do you value a lot Sam?" The man prompted.
"Food," the Hobbit said. "And pipe-weed. But I cannot compare her to a roasted pig, or to Mr. Bilbo's pipe, can I?"
Aragorn laughed. "No, I would suppose that would be a bad idea. Sam, you worry about words too much. It is not the words that matter, but who speaks them. If she loves you, nothing you say or do not say will change that."
"Are you sure, Mr. Strider? Sam asked and looked at him skeptically.
"I will show you," the man said. "Name me someone you do not like. Someone you cannot stand at all."
Sam needed no time to think. "Frodo's aunt Lobelia," he said. "But what does she have to do with Rosie?"
"You will see, Sam. Imagine this – Aunt Lobelia walks to you, and tells you that she loved you like she had loved no other Hobbit, that you are her light when all else is dark, and that every night you fly into her dreams like a little butterfly, fluttering with your colorful little wings. What would you think?"
Sam's eyes were wide with horror. "Do not speak like this! What would I think? I would scream and run away! What a silly thing to say, Mr. Strider, isn't it? But she is brainless, so she would say anything!"
The man laughed. "Silly? Then what would you think if Rosie walked to you and told you those same words?"
Sam thought for a while and his eyes gradually lit up. "Rosie? Tell me that I am her light? Like a little butterfly that flies into her dreams?" The Hobbit laughed, grinning widely. "Do you think she would ever say that to me? Then, Mr. Strider, I would think that those are the most poetic words someone had ever spoken, and I would be happy for the rest of my days!"
"Do you see what I am trying to tell you? Words have little meaning without the person speaking them. The one who says the words gives them a different color, a different flavor. The same words could seem silly or beautiful to you, depending on who speaks them. They say that love is blind, Sam – and indeed everything the one you love says would sound wonderful to you, no matter what it is."
"So I should simply go to Rosie and ask her to marry me?" Sam sounded insecure.
"Yes," the man said. "And if she loves you, she will like whatever words you choose. Then you have nothing to fear. And if she does not," he added, "then she is a fool."
The Hobbit's face quickly turned red. "Now, Mr. Strider, don't you dare speak like that of my Rosie! If she does not like me, it is because I do not deserve her! She is no fool! You do not know her!"
"Peace, Sam," Aragorn said with a smile. "I believe I already know her answer."
"Well, this is good," Sam murmured unhappily. "Because I don't."
Sam had almost given up hope that he would ever return to the Shire again, but here he was. His return, however, turned out quite different from what he had imagined. It seemed that a lot had gone wrong in his absence and much work needed to be done. He hastened to find Framer Cotton and discuss their future actions with him, but during the entire conversation he mind strayed to his beloved.
"What about Mrs. Cotton and Rosie?"He finally blurted out the question that had troubled him for a while. "It isn't safe yet for them to be left all alone."
"'My Nibs is with them. But you can go and help him, if you have a mind,'"said Farmer Cotton with a grin. Then he and his sons ran off towards the village.
Sam hurried to the house, and gulped nervously. He had waited for this moment for so long, and he was eager to see Rosie, but he was afraid. How would she accept his return? What would she say to him? He finally found his courage and looked up. By the large round door at the top of the steps from the wide yard stood Mrs. Cotton and Rosie, and Nibs in front of them grasping a hay-fork.
"It's me!" shouted Sam as he trotted up. "Sam Gamgee! So don't try prodding me, Nibs. Anyway, I've a mail-shirt on me."
He jumped down from his pony and went up the steps. They stared at him in silence. "Good evening, Mrs. Cotton!" he said. "Hullo Rosie!" The Hobbit's voice was laden with emotion. So many times, while he and his master had slowly ascended Mount Doom, he had thought that he would never speak those words again. That he would never see her again.
"Hullo, Sam!" said Rosie."'Where've you been? They said you were dead; but I've been expecting you since the Spring. You haven't hurried have you?"
"Perhaps not,"Sam admitted somewhat guiltily. It had not been his fault, had it? If he had had any say on the matter, he would have returned a long time ago. But some things had needed to be done, and now he had no regrets. "But I'm hurrying now. We're setting about the ruffians, and I've got to get back to Mr. Frodo. But I thought I'd have a look and see how Mrs. Cotton was keeping, and you, Rosie."
"We're keeping nicely, thank you," said Mrs. Cotton. "Or should be, if it weren't for these thieving ruffians."
"Well, be off with you!" said Rosie. "If you've been looking after Mr. Frodo all this while, what d'you want to leave him for, as soon as things look dangerous?"
This was too much for Sam. It needed a week's answer, or none. He turned away and mounted his pony. But as he started off, Rosie ran down the steps.
"I think you look fine, Sam," she said. "Go on now! But take care of yourself, and come straight back as soon as you have settled the ruffians!"
Sam looked back one last time and saw her running after him, with her curly brown hair flowing around her shoulders. His hand curled around the hilt of his knife, and his eyes shone with newborn hope. He was going to finish those ruffians as quickly as possible. He had something to say to Rosie when he was done.
All was done. The Shire was free again, and Sam took a deep breath in a vain attempt to quench his growing fear. Another battle still lay in front of him.
He had walked into Mordor. He had fought Orcs, faced Nazgûl, and recently battled against Saruman himself, and now he was afraid.
Rosie walked to him, the accusation clear in her shining, brown eyes. "So what made you come back?" She asked.
Sam was at a loss. "What made me come back?" He muttered. "I had always wanted to come back. Back home. Back… to you."
"Do not lie to me, Sam Gamgee!" Rosie said sharply. "Do you mean to tell me that you did not want to stay with the Elves?"
The Hobbit laughed. "The Elves have lovely homes, Rosie, and they are wonderful to visit for a while, but my place is not there. It is here. It has always been here."
Rosie frowned doubtfully. "Maybe the Elven maidens were not pretty enough for you?"
Sam grinned. "Ah, Rosie! The elven maidens possess a beauty I had never imagined possible, but they are not for me. They are like… like flowers – gentle and pretty, and you can gaze at them for hours. But why would one want a flower? You can gaze at it, yes, you can admire it, yes, but you cannot eat it or smoke it, can you?"
Rosie stared at him in pure incomprehension. Sam sighed and tried to explain.
"As a gardener I have learned something," he said. "Flowers are grown in separate gardens from the fruit and vegetables. I am not a flower, Rosie, and my place is not with the flowers. I am more like… hmm… like a tater I suppose."
Her eyes widened. "Are you saying that I am a tater too, Sam?"
The Hobbit laughed merrily. "No, you are far from being a tater, Rosie! You are much more like a strawberry."
"Yes, a strawberry!" Sam cried enthusiastically. He had found the answer at last. "Ripe, and fresh, and beautiful. If someone gave me a flower and a strawberry, there is no doubt in my mind which one of the two I would choose."
Sam suddenly acquired the color of a ripe strawberry and looked her in the eyes. "Rosie Cotton," he asked in a trembling voice. "Will you marry me?"
She looked up and her eyes were smiling. "Well, you've wasted a year, so why wait longer?"
When all was at last ready Frodo said: '"When are you going to move in and join me, Sam?"
Sam looked a bit awkward.
"There is no need to come yet, if you don't want to," said Frodo. "But you know the Gaffer is close at hand, and he will be very well looked after by Widow Rumble."
"It's not that, Mr. Frodo," said Sam, and he went very red.
"Well, what is it?"
"It's Rosie, Rose Cotton," said Sam. "It seems she didn't like my going abroad at all, poor lass; but as I hadn't spoken, she couldn't say so. And I didn't speak, because I had a job to do first. But now I have spoken, and she says: 'Well, you've wasted a year, so why wait longer?''Wasted?' I say. 'I wouldn't call it that.' Still I see what she means. I feel torn in two, as you might say."
"I see," said Frodo: "you want to get married, and yet you want to live with me in Bag End too? But my dear Sam, how easy! Get married as soon as you can, and then move in with Rosie. There's room enough in Bag End for as big a family as you could wish for."
And so it was settled. Sam Gamgee married Rose Cotton in the Spring of 1420 (which was also famous for its weddings), and they came and lived at Bag End.
The night after their wedding Sam and his wife sat on a bench in front of Bag End, and she lay cuddled in his arms, half-asleep. His fingers caressed her thick curls, and his gazed drifted towards the stars. They were beautiful, indeed, but nothing could compare to the beauty he now held. His gaze left the stars, and moved downwards, towards his star. His rose. And, most of all, his strawberry.
"Thank you, Strider," Sam murmured with a grin. "Thank you for my strawberry. If I ever have a daughter, I would name her after your flower."
And at the same time, on a high balcony in Minas Tirith, the King stood and gazed at those very same stars. They were bright, and yet they paled in comparison to his star, the one waiting for him in their bedroom. His elanor. His nightingale.
"I am sure you will find your path, Sam," he murmured in the night and turned towards the brightly lit room. The Queen was sitting on the bed, waiting for him with an inviting smile. "As I have found mine."
elanor – sun-star; a golden flower blooming in Lothlórien. Later, the name of Sam's first daughter
elleth – a female elf
Man sa? – What is it?
meleth nîn – my love
Note: To all readers of "The Only Way to Kill the Dragon" – Chapter 11 is almost finished and will be posted in a few days at most. It is called "The Only Way to Save the Elf", but although we've progressed from killing to saving, don't get too hopeful.
Thanks for reading! As always, feedback is very welcome!