West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
One and Whole
When time blurs the memory of Frodo's face, Sam sees this as a loss until something teaches him otherwise.
Author: Gentle Hobbit
Disclaimer: This story is a way of re-interpreting concepts and ideas already present in The Lord of the Rings. All characters within belong to J.R.R. Tolkien. This story is for fun and for sharing, but not for profit.
One and Whole
Sam had stopped keeping track of how long it had been since Frodo had left -- left to sail. At first it had been days, then weeks. Then time had widened into months, and finally into years.
Meanwhile Sam's family had grown, each new child a joy. He and Rosie, too, had grown in their understanding of each other, and in their deep affection.
Neither spoke of Frodo. There was no need. Even while the fine details of his face faded from memory, a sudden quick recollection of laughter, of spoken words, of pain or of fear would bring back an image or sense of who Frodo had been, of how he had been, far more vividly than would any yearned-for picture of his face.
Sam was happy with Rosie -- he loved her deeply, and she him. But the absence of Frodo, dearer than brother, was an ache that all too easily was jolted forth by a certain turn of phrase or mention of the times of trouble.
However, Sam did not know what had done it this night -- what had brought on the melancholy and the yearning.
The children were tucked up in bed, the flurry of protests, sleepy yawns and fumbled goodnight kisses on warm cheeks over for another night. Yet in spite of it all, Sam sat, shivering slightly in the study--his study now, although here perhaps the strongest of all, the faint presence of Frodo still lingered.
Sam sat in that old familiar wooden chair and stared into the flames that crackled merrily despite his gloom. It was a crisp autumn night, and no doubt there'd be a touch of frost by morning -- no doubt the brown leaves still hanging would be silvered at the edges.
And then something happened in that early evening that he did not expect. Sam fell asleep. Of course, he didn't reflect on this odd happening at the time, but later on he would shake his head and say, "It was a queer thing and no mistake."
He slumped in his seat and his head nodded forward.
The flat sandy path seemed to stretch out impossibly long in front of him, curving gently to the right in the distance to the wall around Mount Doom. High plateaus loomed on either side of the path -- a corridor of yellow sand. This did not seem strange to Sam -- it was Mordor and there was light sand beneath and blue skies above. There was something much more important to think about, to do. And so Sam, dirty and thirsty, doggedly followed after the stumbling figure ahead in the distance.
Yet, even as Sam followed far behind, he did not see the curve of the path and the small figure ahead. No -- instead it was as if he hovered in front and was looking back so that he could see Frodo close to him and clear as his master trudged doggedly onward.
Frodo was filthy. Sam could remember this of course, but while they had been in Mordor, every colour had seemed dulled, dulled from the murk in the air, and dimmed through memory and time. Here, however, colours were vivid and edges were sharp -- every detail brought forth by some brilliance -- some trick of light or place.
Frodo's shirt, once white, was stained through countless trials and wear. The almost delicate light brown was interrupted by roughened and frayed suspenders, deep brown, rubbed with dirt. The once red-brown breeches were soft and dark with wear and toil. Frodo's hair too was stiff with filth -- his curls stood out in a wild disarray. Long (for when, in their Quest, had either he or Sam had a chance for a trim?) and dark, it framed his face thickly. Yet, Sam realized that the wispy ends of his curls were edged in a reddish glow.
Sam remembered this, for when the Eye of Sauron fell upon Frodo for that one terrible moment, the hair had been edged by a fiery glow. No Eye sought Frodo now; nevertheless, that red halo about Frodo's head still filled Sam with unease.
This array of soft browns and fiery red, oddly rich, framed Frodo's face. The face was pale, startlingly so, as if all energy or life had been drained from it. That was close to the truth, Sam knew. And yet, as Sam gazed at Frodo's eyes, he felt a cold thrill run through him, for Frodo's eyes were brilliant, an unnatural blue. As he peered closer, Sam fancied that he could see a tinge of madness that lurked within. The eyes were fixed and staring, never wavering from sight of Frodo's goal. Sam could not look behind him where he hovered, but he knew Mount Doom was near.
Frodo's arm came up fretfully, warding off imagined evil. At times it would seem as if he were reaching forward, questing, as if he were blind, but inevitably the arm would jerk and sweep to the side. His other hand clutched at his chest.
Not once did Frodo see Sam. There was no recognition in those eyes. Sam wanted to cry out, to tell Frodo that he was not alone, but no sound came from his lips. It was clear -- Sam could not speak. He could only watch.
And watch he did, for it had been long since he had seen this beloved face. It gave him both joy, for he could rediscover every detail that had faded from memory over time, and sorrow, for this was the time most painful to recall. He hated to see Frodo like this, yet he could not tear his eyes away. He could not help but study every detail: the arched sweep of those finely-drawn eyebrows, the straight nose, the lips that were too often pressed thinly together through endurance or slack from exhaustion.
How he longed to draw that weary head to his breast and give Frodo comfort, yet he could not. Those staring, brilliant eyes would not waver -- would not soften.
And even as he mourned this, Sam could feel himself pulling away, the scene receding before him. In his mind he cried out desperately, but it was to no avail. Frodo was gone.
And as Sam was jolted awake, he felt the new-found memory of Frodo's face fading once more. Just as Sam himself had been pulled back out of the dream (or so it had seemed to him), some inexorable force now drew a veil over the memory of Frodo's face. Fine features dulled, and try as Sam might, the dream slipped further away, receding into the distance.
But Sam told Rosie of this later as they held each other close under the bedcovers and the wind keened outside the windows.
"It was as if he were standing right here in this room, Rosie," he said. "Terrible, he looked -- just as I remember, but more so, somehow. Not different more, but more there if you take my meaning. Beautiful he was too. Beautiful and grim and desperate. It were hard to see him again like that."
Rosie spoke. "You have sometimes said, Sam, that you wished you had a portrait of Mr. Frodo."
"Not like that, Rosie-dear," said Sam and he shuddered. "If that would be what it meant to have a picture of him -- why, I would be content with faded memories!"
"Then," said Rosie, and she kissed Sam's cheek, "perhaps that dream was a might-have-been. You said he sailed to heal with the Elves. So perhaps we are meant to forget just a little. Forget exactly what he looked like -- and forget, Sam, forget every small detail of what happened in the Black Land. Not the big things, mind, but all the little details that make it raw and hurting. For if he were still with us, wouldn't he still be hurting? Isn't it better that he could go, and that the small, sharp things can be forgotten?"
Sam squeezed her hands under the covers. "He would be," he admitted. "Perhaps you're right. I'm holding on to things that can't stay... shouldn't stay. Not... not if I'm to be... what was it, he said? One and whole. Oh, I don't know. I'm talking nonsense, like as not. But mayhap you've got the right of it, Rosie-lass."
And so, as the wind howled, Sam and Rosie curled up together in a familiar embrace and each fell asleep, comforted in each other and content with the softened, blurred and gentled memory of a dear friend.
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