Author: crazyx4

Title: "Duty"

Characters: Frodo/Sam, Faramir

Rating: PG

Genre: Angst/Romance

Feedback: But of course. crazyx4@hotmail.com

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Summary: Sam's devotion to Frodo stems from a deep and unconditional love, but whence came his devotion to the quest? Takes place during TTT.

Disclaimer: I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy! All hail the great and powerful Professor Tolkien.

Notes: Kudos to Cara Loup for beta-reading; this story is better because of her. If you like it, thank Cara. If you hate it, blame me.

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Sam hesitated for a moment, then bowing very low: 'Good night, Captain, my lord,' he said. 'You took the chance, sir.'

'Did I so?' said Faramir.

'Yes sir, and showed your quality: the very highest.'

-Sam and Faramir, The Two Towers

It's all quite useless. He said so himself. You are the fool, going on hoping and toiling. You could have lain down and gone to sleep together days ago, if you hadn't been so dogged.

-Sam (to himself), The Return of the King



Sam lay quite comfortably on his bed, but despite his weariness, sleep eluded him. For the first time in countless nights, he felt safe and warm, but to his surprise this now-unfamiliar feeling was not enough to allow him the rest he needed so desperately. His master's sleep was uneasy in the bed beside his, and Sam found he missed the closeness in the night that he had become accustomed to since the parting of the Fellowship. In the wild, Sam and Frodo lay close together in sleep, ostensibly for warmth, but both of them drew comfort from the other in more ways; the familiar touch of a friend in this strange land eased their rest beyond the simple comfort of a warm body. Here, though, in Captain Faramir's abode behind the falls of Henneth Annun, Sam could not remain in his own warm bed and touch his master. Frodo's restless movements and soft moans drew at his heart, and he desperately wanted to go to him, to encircle that too-thin body with his own, as he had done on so many nights since their journey began. 'Wouldn't be proper, though,' he muttered to himself.

A sudden cry from Frodo, louder than his previous moans, caused Sam to cast aside his misgivings and cross the short distance to sit on the edge of Frodo's bed. Frodo seemed to be in the grip of a nightmare, something that had become a very common occurrence of late. Even in the scant torchlight of the cavern, Sam could see that Frodo's brow was slicked with sweat. One hand twisted and gripped the front of his tunic, but the other hand reached out in the darkness, seeking…something. Sam grasped Frodo's outstretched hand in his, and used his other hand to soothe his master's furrowed brow. 'Shhh, master, your Sam's here, I'm here,' Sam's voice was a murmured whisper.

Whether it was Sam's gentle words and touch, or whether his nightmare was simply fading away, Frodo soon seemed soothed. His body stilled and his breathing became even, although his hand still held the Ring close beneath his tunic. Sam remained seated on the edge of the bed, stroking Frodo's brow and murmuring soft words. He was increasingly troubled about his master's health. Frodo looked sickly; the dark smudges that marked his pale skin beneath his eyes looked almost like bruises, and his thin body felt far too cool. Sam longed to hold Frodo in his arms, but he refrained. Most of Captain Faramir's company slumbered, but there was a watch posted, and even in the dim torchlight Sam feared that his actions would be seen. Besides, Faramir himself had placed his bedding near the hobbits, and Sam had seen him stir at Frodo's earlier cry. Sam doubted that these noble men would understand his actions, and while he cared little for their opinions of him, he would do nothing to disparage his dear master.

Now that Frodo's nightmares had apparently ceased, Sam looked toward Faramir's resting place. When Frodo had cried out in his sleep, Sam had only spared the quickest of glances to Faramir, choosing instead to focus his attentions on Frodo. That quick glance had been enough for Sam to realize that Faramir's sleep had been disturbed, but the Captain had merely turned onto his side and settled back into his bedroll. Now, though, Faramir had turned to face the hobbits, and his eyes were open and clear. As Faramir caught Sam's gaze, he rose from his blankets and came to kneel at Frodo's bedside.

'His burden lies heavy on him.' Faramir's voice was barely above a whisper. He spoke to Sam, but his gaze was on Frodo's pale face above the blankets.

Sam said nothing; no reply seemed necessary. This man had certainly won his admiration, but Faramir himself had stated that no further mention of the Ring was needed, and Sam had already given away far too much earlier in the evening.

'So much depends upon him, and he is already frail. I fear that he will lack the strength to go on ere his quest is complete.'

Again, Sam failed to find words. What could he say? Faramir echoed his own fears; Sam's own life was tied to Frodo's, for better or worse, but it was not for his own life that Sam feared. He could see the effect the Ring was having on his master, his friend. Frodo's body was weary even beyond what could be expected from the hardships of their journey, and his eyes were often clouded now, and seemed to notice little beyond himself. What would become of him once they crossed into Mordor?

'What foul beings chase him in his dreams, do you suppose?' Faramir's voice had risen slightly.

Sam finally found his voice. 'I don't know for certain, my lord, but we have seen more on our travels than I ever thought lived. Things I would rather not speak of, if you don't mind. Mr. Frodo has been having nightmares for some time, but he doesn't talk of them. I'm not sure he remembers. Usually, he doesn't wake up, and I'd rather keep it that way, if you take my meaning.'

Faramir's voice quieted to a near whisper again. 'I do. Do you think we are disturbing him?'

'No, sir. He's so very tired; I don't think we will wake him, if we keep it quiet. He seems to be resting quite well right now; better than he was before, at any rate.' Sam continued to stroke Frodo's brow as he spoke.

'You love him, Master Samwise.' It wasn't a question.

Sam, flustered at Faramir's words, tore his eyes from Frodo's resting form and stared almost angrily at Faramir. Faramir gazed back, not unkindly. 'I meant no insult, Samwise. It is an admirable thing, for a servant to show such love and devotion to his master.'

Sam dropped his gaze from Faramir's kind eyes and muttered, 'Of course I love him.'

Faramir watched the hobbits silently for long moments. Sam's hands never left Frodo, and even in his exhausted slumber, Frodo seemed to respond to his servant's touch—it was in the way he breathed and in the peaceful expression on his pale face. 'Perhaps there is more to it than the love and devotion of a servant for a kind master.'

Sam's gaze shot back to Faramir, alarmed at the words, but there was no malice in the man's tone or in his eyes. Sam sighed deeply as Faramir gave a dismissive wave of his hand. 'No matter, really. Love in any form is admirable, and the love between you and Frodo is strong; I can see that clearly, even in the short time that I have known you. You are devoted to him, and he to you. Do not take offense at my words, Master Samwise. Such love and devotion is worthy of praise. Yet I cannot help but wonder if you are quite as devoted to this quest as you are to your sleeping friend.'

Sam's gentle brown hand continued to stroke Frodo's dark curls. 'Begging your pardon, sir, but I'm not sure what you mean.'

'Sam, surely you understand that everything depends upon the completion of this quest. *Everything.* Frodo carries a burden beyond my understanding, but my heart warns that he may lack the will to continue to the end. The quest must succeed, for all of Middle Earth. I fear that there may come a time when the longing to rest, to merely lie down and give up, may grow too tempting. I admit that I do not fully understand why this burden came to your master, but I feel that it is indeed his to bear. Will he be strong enough to see it through? Not alone, I fear. You may have to be his strength, ere the end comes. Will you see the quest completed, if he wants it not? Or will your love for your master persuade you to allow him to do his heart's desire: to lie down, to rest, and to give up the quest?'

Faramir's words pierced Sam's heart. He ached with regret; his eyes stung with unshed tears. Gazing at Frodo, he knew the truth: his heart resided with the pale figure in the bed; it was with his dear master and friend that his allegiance lay, not with the task set before him. Even though he understood that everything depended upon Frodo's success, even though Sam realized that peace could never come until that wretched band of gold was unmade. If indeed there came a time when Frodo's will was gone, when he only wanted to give up, how could Sam deny him? What else could he do? He would not want to see Frodo give up the quest, that was certain. Giving up would mean death, and Sam could not even think of that, in spite of the warnings of his heart. Nor could he listen to the other warnings his heart sometimes seemed to whisper—whispers not of giving up, but of giving in; warnings that a day might come when Frodo refused to continue struggling, not because his will was gone, but because he was finally in the Ring's control. Sam would never speak of such things, but he would answer plainly; he owed Faramir that. 'He holds my heart, my lord. How could I say him no?'

'You must. For everyone, you must. Sam, this quest is so much bigger than you or your master. He holds the fate of everyone in his hand. If the time comes when Frodo is without strength or will to continue, you must shoulder that burden for him. You must be his will, his strength. You love him, surely, but are there not others that you love? Can you see beyond your love for Frodo to a love of all that dwell in Middle Earth? For that is the true meaning of your master's quest. For the love of Middle Earth, and all who dwell here, it must succeed.' Tentatively, Faramir reached out to Sam. He rested a gentle hand on the young hobbit's shoulder, and the caring and concern in the man's touch proved Sam's undoing. He bent his head, and a soft sob escaped his tight throat. Tears fell from his eyes and wet the blanket that covered Frodo.

Sam closed his streaming eyes and forced his mind away from his master's fate. He thought instead of the Shire, and images arose in his mind, of people and places that were dear to him. The Gaffer. Marigold. Rose. The gardens at Bag End on a spring morning. Bilbo smoking his pipe and telling tales of Elves. Merry and Pippin, drinking too much ale and making mischief. Nights spent with friends at the Green Dragon. Rich dark earth freshly tilled.

But Frodo's quest reached far beyond the borders of the Shire, and other images rose unbidden in Sam's mind. The trees of Lothlorien. The Lady Galadriel. The mighty peaks of the Misty Mountains. Elrond, noble and wise. Strider, who had become so dear to Sam. Legolas. Gimli. The fire hall at Rivendell.

To Sam, Faramir's voice seemed reminiscent of the voices of the elves in Lorien. He spoke softly near Sam's ear, and whether it was caused by the ever-present sound of falling water, or the sound of Sam's heartbeat thrumming in his own ears, Faramir's voice was haunting, almost hypnotic. 'You *must* be his strength, Samwise. It is not enough that you love him. When he cannot carry on, you must. For the love of *all*, you must.'

He must. But how could he? Sam loved the Shire, and in his travels he had found beauty and love beyond the Shire, sometimes in unexpected places. Even here in Ithilien, so close to Mordor, there was beauty. But it was with his master that his heart dwelt; he did not want to return to the Shire, indeed he wanted nothing in all of Middle Earth, without Frodo.

'Master Samwise?' Faramir's voice was a bit stronger now. His imploring look begged for an answer from Sam; some sign that his words were heeded.

Sam drew in a shaking breath. His tears had stopped falling, though his heart felt near shattered, but he knew what Faramir was asking. He knew. 'I will try, Captain Faramir. I love him, 'tis true, with all my heart. But I understand something of duty, too, lord. Like your men who follow you. I will do my best, sir, to do my duty. You understand, though, that I will never do anything to cause him harm, don't you, sir?'

Faramir drew back and smiled. 'Of course I do. I would never ask such a thing of you. Your master is indeed special, Sam. He bears a burden no one should have to bear, and he bears it well. Forgive me for what I ask of you, Samwise son of Hamfast. You too bear a great burden. You will understand if I say that you, too, bear it well.'

Sam smiled faintly. 'Thank you, sir.'

Faramir gave Sam's shoulder a gentle squeeze, then rose and returned to his bedroll without another word. Sam shook his head slightly. Faramir had demanded no oath of him; his simple words had been enough. * I will try.*

Frodo's sleep was now peaceful; he had not been disturbed in the slightest by the quiet conversation at his bedside. Sam's hand still rested lightly in Frodo's curls, and he now bent to kiss his master's brow, intending then to return to his own bed. But as soon as Sam's soft lips brushed Frodo's skin, his master's eyes opened. 'Sam,' he said, his voice thick with sleep. 'Sam, what are you doing?'

Sam drew back quickly. 'I'm sorry, Mr. Frodo. I was just…' His voice trailed off.

Frodo smiled sleepily, and Sam felt his eyes sting yet again. 'You were just taking care of me, like always, weren't you, Sam? Sweet Sam.'

Sam smiled back; there seemed to be nothing else to do. *Of course I was.* 'I am sorry I disturbed your sleep, though. You'd best be getting back to it, sir.' He rose to go back to his own bed, but a warm hand on his arm stopped him.

'Sam. Could you…' This time it was Frodo's voice that trailed off, the thought incomplete. Sam looked in his dear master's eyes and understood, though. *How could I say him no?* He would never want to, that was certain.

Sam quickly drew back the covers and slid into the bed next to his master. *He holds my heart.* Frodo buried his face in Sam's shoulder, and Sam slipped tender arms around him. Frodo had not really been fully awake, and his eyes closed almost immediately, and his breathing was steady and rhythmical. Sam lay awake a few minutes longer, feeling the warmth of his friend's breath on his neck, and breathing in the scent of Frodo's curls against his face. He knew that the words he had said to Faramir marked a change in him somehow—he now understood that his duty lay not with Frodo alone—but he found that he was too warm, too tired, to think more on it tonight. The feel of Frodo next to him seemed, for the moment, to be the most important thing of all. *Maybe home isn't in the Shire at all*, he thought sleepily. Amidst all of the fear and uncertainty on their journey, it seemed to Sam that as long as he could be at Frodo's side, he would always be home.

The sound of falling water and the feel of Frodo's steady breathing quickly made it impossible for Sam to remain awake. His eyes soon slipped close, and in his dreams he was back in the Shire, tending flowers in the garden at Bag End, and the sky was startlingly blue, and the sun was bright, and Frodo was with him, telling him tales of elves while he worked.