Title: Breaking the silence

Author: eretria

Rating: G

Archive: If you liked it, just ask. Oh, and please keep the header. Thanks!

Time line: Shortly before the Coney stew :o)

Summary: " . . . Gandalf had told him to take care of the Ring Bearer. But what now? He felt the lack of closeness beginning to gnaw at him . . ."

Disclaimer: Middle Earth and all its inhabitants, the Sundering seas and Over-heaven belong to the incredible genius that was J.R.R. Tolkien. No copyright infringement is intended, I am not making money from this at all, and will always stay in deep and humble adoration of the wonderful world he has created and in which I have lived since I was 4 years old. Thank you. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so they say. I hope this is at least a little flattering and enough to make the great man smile from up there.

Feedback: Yes. Yes! Even the smallest note can change an author's look on the day. :o) To rephrase Galadriel slightly. :o)

Send it to: tiny_eretria@yahoo.com

Author's Note: A great big thank you goes out to Quiller for being merciless. Can't ever thank her enough for the simply awesome beta reads she does. I can't think of a better phrase than: Enlightening. Thank you.

Dedication: To Kati-Wan. Because I love her. And to Sleepwalker, because of her undying enthusiasm for Tolkien.

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In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning.

(F. Scott Fitzgerald)

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'He shouldn't be here. Neither of us should. This whole wretched quest has been a bad idea right from the beginning.'

Samwise Gamgee's gaze strayed over to the huddled form of the sleeping Frodo Baggins. Deep lines marred the youthful face – even in sleep. Lines carved deep by pain and grief. Sam wondered if those lines were visible on his own face as well.

He had been glad to see his Master eating the meagre supper he had managed to prepare. Nothing much had been left for him, but Sam ignored his stomach's defiant growls. He was built sturdier than his master.

He looked around and was strangely relieved to find that Gollum had left once more. Repressing a shiver, he admitted to himself that the creature unsettled him more than he could possibly say.

Again his eyes lingered on Frodo, wrapped in the grey cloaks the people of Lorien had woven for them, his face barely visible. The other Hobbit shivered, despite the heavy material. Was he cold? Sam rued not being allowed to keep the fire lit.

Mr. Frodo looked so ghastly small and cold, there, huddled between two jagged and sharp edged boulders. There wasn't all that much of a contrast between the two of them anymore. The Hobbit's face was pale and drawn, with an unhealthy grey hue upon it – much like the stone. His features were shrinking to gauntness, the nose standing out sharply while the haunted blue eyes sank farther and farther into his head. Eyes so expressive that Sam could read the emotions simmering in Mr. Frodo, even though he did not display them.

Sometimes it seemed to Sam that his Master wasn't actually using those eyes to look at his surroundings anymore. More and more he seemed to be seeing a place inside himself, a place only he could travel through.

Sam desperately wanted to follow him.

'Don't you lose him, Samwise Gamgee.' That's what Gandalf had said. 'Don't you lose him.'

He had been trying so hard.

But the wee talks he had with Mr. Frodo were getting shorter and farther between and he felt the gulf between them growing bigger by the minute. Why was Frodo leaving him? Why would his Master decide to go to a place where he, Samwise, couldn't follow?

The horror of being stranded in this awful place with nothing but the shell of Frodo and that horrible Gollum creature struck Sam anew. Thoughts were swirling in his head with increasing pandemonium. Sam ran a tired hand through his thick curls.

They were drifting apart. Out here. In the one place where they needed each other the most. Never before had Sam felt so horribly alone.

'Don't you lose him, Samwise Gamgee.' Again Gandalf's words assaulted him. 'Don't you lose him.'

A dreadful weight, similar to the one he saw his Master carrying, dropped on his shoulders and weighed him down. A thought struck with appalling clarity.

'Forgive me, Mr. Gandalf, Sir. I think I already have.'

Frodo's chest rose and fell slowly, calmly. For once his sleep didn't seem to be troubled. A few of the harsh lines were smoothing themselves out. A smile flickered, restoring the face momentarily to youth.

What was Mr. Frodo dreaming about?

He should never have allowed him to leave Bag End. If his task was to never leave nor lose Mr. Frodo, as Gandalf had charged, then why hadn't he stopped his Master from ever going on this ghastly journey into the unknown?

Too much had been given into the other halfling's hands. He was but a Hobbit. Mr. Frodo shouldn't have to carry the fate of middle earth on his fragile shoulders.

"Sam?" A sleepy, raspy voice. Out here, dwarfed by the endlessness of the land surrounding Cirith Gorgor and the knowledge of what lay ahead, that tiny voice still had the power to stop the nauseous waves of guilt crashing over Samwise Gamgee.

A tousled head rose from under the travel-cloak, and worried eyes opened slowly to fix on the other Hobbit.

"Sam, you need to sleep. I will take over the watch."

"No, I don't need to sleep. I can stay awake, don't you worry, Sir. There is no need for you to . . ."

"Sam."

Sam swallowed the torrent of protest ready to spill from his tongue. Was Mr. Frodo smiling? Even through the murky darkness, out here, in the most unwelcoming of all surroundings, in the most dreadful of places possible – Mr. Frodo was smiling at him. An utter calm rushed into Sam's heart. That smile could still light up the darkest of times. Much like Galadriel's gift to them.

Maybe not all hope was lost.

A cool little hand pushed him down insistently, and his cloak was tucked around him.

"You were smiling in your sleep, Mr. Frodo," Sam ventured carefully. "Was it a nice dream?"

The slim Hobbit turned to look at him. Blue eyes sparkled brightly, with a liveliness that warmed Sam's heart. He couldn't begin to express how much he had missed this.

"Yes, Sam. It was."

Silence settled over them once more and for a few moments, panic clawed its way into Sam's mind. Had those few moments been all there was? Were they going to retreat back into strained silence again? He was supposed to be the strong one on this journey. Gandalf had told him to take care of the Ring Bearer. But what now? He felt the lack of closeness beginning to gnaw at him. He mustn't let this happen. He had to find a way to bring them back together. Gloom mustn't win the battle for their hearts.

"Mr. Frodo?" He tried to keep the worried quiver out of his voice.

"Yes?"

"It has been a long time since we spoke more than just the bare necessities. And . . . And I know all of this is hard for you. And . . . I really don't want to overtax you. But I . . ."

He didn't dare look up to see the effect his incoherent babble might be having on his Master, but he heard the amusement in the soft voice when it asked: "Sam, what is it?"

"Would you . . . would you mind telling me one of Bilbo's stories?"

For a long time, there was silence. The wind howled lowly around the jagged rocks and the murky darkness seemed to grow even blacker. The air smelled of sadness and fear.

He knew he shouldn't have asked. Bilbo was probably the last thing on Mr. Frodo's mind. Or the first – and if so, Samwise Gamgee cursed himself for being so insensitive.

"I . . . I shouldn't have . . ." he began, but was silenced by a soothing hand on his head. It pushed away the unruly curls from Sam's forehead and lingered for a while, before he could hear it being tucked away in the wide sleeve of the travel-cloak.

The gesture was small, but oddly comforting.

Then Frodo Baggins began talking. Of the elves in Rivendell, of the happiness and laughter Bilbo had shared there. Of the ride on the big eagles, and Bilbo's terrible fear of heights after that. A few tales of the shenanigans of the inseparable Merry and Pippin. He kept the stories light-hearted, and attempted to make Sam chuckle ever so often.

None of the stories were new to Sam. In fact, he might have heard them a hundred times before. But that didn't matter in the least.

It was Mr. Frodo talking.

He had lit his pipe, and his voice and the occasional laughter in it wove a cocoon of safety and familiarity over their hide-away.

Sam could almost imagine being in the Shire, sitting in front of Bag End and listening to old Bilbo in rapt excitement. The soothing smell of the pipe lulled him. Mr. Frodo's voice had sunk down to a soft murmur and Sam lost the battle with sleep. Fatigue prevailed at last.

The last thing Sam felt was the heavy cloak of his Master being spread over him. He was too tired to argue.

'Don't you leave him, Samwise Gamgee.'

The wizard's voice oozed into his sleep.

'I don't mean to, Mr. Gandalf, Sir. I don't mean to.'

And in his dream, the lost wizard smiled.

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finis