West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
Wherein humor fails and tradition prevails. Also in honor of May, but in a sweeter, more subtextual sense. The hobbits seem have spring fever worse than I do, and that's saying something.
In the end, Sam went to the party field with some lily-of-the-valley in his hand. He had thought of violets first, then of his Gaffer's loveliest crocuses, and only after these came the thought of those white daffodils gone wild along the hedge. He had ventured forth in search of the palest and most perfect, but he had emerged with a few delicate fronds of tiny white bells instead. They smelled even sweeter than he had remembered them last year at his mother's grave, and they reminded him of the pattern on the wainscoting in Bag End's best parlor. He had taken tea there with Mr. Frodo just that morning.
"It has never rained on this day," Frodo had murmured into his teacup, staring out the window with an absent smile, "in all my years of living here."
"Nor in mine," Sam agreed, then realized what a perfectly foolish thing he had said and took a hasty bite of his biscuit.
The curve of Frodo's lips faltered, breaking on a helpless laugh. "Sam, of course not! But what about your Gaffer, does he tell any tales of cursing thunder and lightning on the first of spring?"
"None that I can remember, sir," Sam murmured, entirely unable to coax his attention away from the sparks of gold caught in Frodo's eyelashes. "Surely Mr. Bilbo did?"
"He never said anything, either," Frodo said, taking a sip of his tea. "My guess is that there must have been foul weather at some point in the last century."
Sam resisted the urge to laugh himself. "Begging your pardon, but you sound as if you'd not half mind it."
Frodo finished a biscuit off in two bites, holding Sam's gaze for a moment before drifting idly back to the sun-glazed window. "At this time of year, a good storm is welcome. Even the fairest of these warm days grow tiresome."
"Aye, 'specially when the heat settles in deep enough to chase out the breeze." But there was a perfectly lively one blowing, and it drove the lilac and rhododendron leaves to knocking gaily against the glass.
"Not till June at least," Frodo said, tugging his napkin out of his lap and draping it next to his plate. He looked up and smiled again. "Will you be at the Dancing, Sam, or has your Gaffer pinned you to some hapless patch of weeds or another?"
"No, sir," Sam replied. "What weeding as needed done around here, well, that's finished. And if there's any at home, he'll be seeing to it himself on a day like this." He couldn't help but follow Frodo's fingers down the weave of his weskit, fixed more on the minutely braided threads of periwinkle and sage than on the crumbs flicked away by Frodo's even nails.
"I wish him a merry afternoon at his work, then," Frodo said cheerfully, rising from his seat. "That is, if you're going home first. Would you walk with me?"
Sam bit his tongue on an enthusiastic yes and stood up, hastily brushing the crumbs from his own weskit. "I'll pass it along, sir. I've got to get Marigold, and--"
"Sam!" Frodo gasped in a terrible imitation of shock. "You've given your flower away!"
"I haven't," Sam said with mild irritation, grinning all the same. "It's my sister that needs getting, and as for posies, you'd do well to think on your own instead of worryin' over mine!"
"Forgive me," Frodo murmured, grinning back at him. "It was a miserable excuse for a joke. Shall I see you at the field?"
Sam swallowed what had jumped to the tip of his tongue, which introduced itself as a bit of poetical nonsense on the subject of how silver Frodo's eyes seemed that day. "Yes, Mr. Frodo," he promised. "So long as Marigold don't take too long finding her posies."
"Has she misplaced them?" Frodo asked, still in a mood. His eyes fair shimmered.
"Like as not she hasn't found 'em," Sam said, nodding to take his leave. The sooner he got out of there, the sooner he would lose the chance to utter a ninnyhammer's mouthful.
Frodo tilted his head thoughtfully. "Have you, Sam?"
"I haven't found 'em, either," Sam replied with a shrug, halfway out the door. "But I have an idea or two of what I'm lookin' for."
"Of course you do," Frodo had said softly, and that was the last thing that Sam saw, his Mr. Frodo standing with his graceful fingers perched on the edge of the tea-table.
Sam shook himself and tucked the lilies-of-the-valley halfway in his pocket, glancing ahead to where Marigold was already more than halfway down the hill, her blueberry-dark skirts caught up in a ruffle as Rose Cotton and Saphy Proudfoot ran to meet her. They collided and fell like petals on the grass, light and laughing. Saphy had two pink-striped morning glories tucked behind her ear. The third had landed beside her. Sam watched as Marigold sat up, shook herself, and plucked a tulip the color of ruby wine out of her braid for Rose's envious inspection. Rose had a yellow daffodil in the ribbons at her waist.
"Hoy, Sam, hurry!" called Tom Cotton, racing towards him with about as much grace as his sister had overtaken Marigold. "Be a good lad and dance with us. There's one more spot to fill!"
Sam stopped short so that by the time Tom reached him, his gallopping speed had mostly run out. "Nick would be more'n glad, I'm sure," Sam said, accepting a vigorous handshake and a clap on the back. "Last year's weave came out for the worse, if you follow me."
"That were no fault of yours, and you know it," Tom scoffed, adjusting the sprig of violets tucked into one clip of his braces. "If you come along now, we might--"
"Marigold seems to have lost her posies after all," Frodo remarked. He was standing so close beside Sam that his warmth nigh blocked out the sun's.
"Mr. Baggins," Tom murmured politely.
"No, sir," Sam replied, turning to look Frodo full in the eyes. "Miss Sapphire's the one as lost her morning glory."
"And found it again," Frodo said, nodding with satisfaction. "What seems to be the trouble, Mr. Cotton?"
Tom shook his head and waved at Sam. "This lad thinks he's no good for the dance."
"Worse still for the ribbons," Sam volunteered. Frodo chuckled and squeezed his elbow, then took a step towards Tom. "I would be glad to take his place."
"Now, sir, I couldn't ask--"
"You didn't, and I shall do it anyway," Frodo said with a smile over his shoulder at Sam.
There was little else left for Sam to do than sink down in the grass and make himself comfortable as the gathering of hobbits milling about on the breeze-swept expanse of the field became steadily larger. There were a few Bolger cousins up from Bywater, and perhaps a few Bracegirdles of Lobelia Sackville-Baggins' ilk, though the persistent cause of Frodo's grief herself was nowhere to be seen. Mr. Lotho was there, though, trailing half-smitten after a Hornblower lass with a chain of bluets in her hair, and in her ruddy curls the flowers quite mercifully remained. Lotho's bunch of daisies was beginning to wilt.
Remembering his own fragile offering, Sam removed the lilies-of-the-valley carefully from his pocket and lay them out along his thigh. Frodo probably hadn't seen them, and with that thought, Sam realized that he hadn't seen any flowers on Mr. Frodo, either. Surely he hadn't forgotten -- or perhaps he had already given them away. The thought stung as fiercely in Sam's eyes as it stung in his throat. Through the dozens upon dozens of festively clad hobbits, he spotted his master at the pole.
Frodo stood between his cousin Angelica and a black-haired lass that Sam didn't know, a ribbon of bold emerald clutched in his hand. Ten banners for ten dancers, whipping fierce and bright in the stretch of breeze between tightened fists and the pole's mooring. Six lads for six lasses, palms damp with dye and sweat. Judging by the look in her eyes, Marigold would trade her tulip for Tom's violets when the weaving brought them together at last. Angelica was staring hard over Frodo's shoulder at the wreath of larkspur in the stranger's midnight hair. Frodo turned his head and smiled.
Sam nodded to him, then glanced down at the tiny lilies hesitantly. Why hadn't he chosen the daffodils?
As it always had and always would, the music struck up without warning. The Dance was ready-or-not, wild and driving, but a good number of folks couldn't have cared less, having come more for the talk and inevitable picnics than for the show. But the dancers didn't mind, nor had they ever. Sam sat forward to the swoop of the flute and the graceful duck of Frodo's dark head under Angelica's ribbon of crimson, remembering how the same maneuver had nearly cost him his neck the year before. Tom's memory was worse than he gave himself credit for: Sam's blunder had resulted in a tangle for the Ages, to be sure.
Not so with Mr. Frodo as he let a giggling Marigold under his arm, which set the tulip's petals a-flutter. Gathering his flowers, Sam stood up and ventured nearer with murmured apologies to the hobbits in his path. He pushed past every one of them and came to the edge of the circle, close enough for any of the dancers to touch. A Bolger lass whose name he had forgotten dipped past, her crown of ivy and crocuses knocked askew by the passing of Tom's orange ribbon. Frodo was on the far side of the wheel now, his ribbon raised high for Rose. She ducked coquettishly, her daffodil nowhere to be seen.
Sam watched as if in a dream, each ribbon and blossom weaving close in an ever-tightening spiral. The beat was slower now, and the dancers moved with increasing care. Sam caught the brush of Marigold's tulip through Tom's hair as he ducked for her, saw the careful tuck of her fingers behind his ear as she let the short stem slip from them. Tom hesitated for a moment, looking as if he might turn back, then smiled sheepishly and continued on his way. Marigold stole a glance in Sam's direction, the twist of her lips wicked as she drew her fingers up from her bodice and kissed a single violet trapped between thumb and forefinger. Sam tightened his fingers protectively around his own small bunch of blossoms.
There would be time, he told himself as he watched Frodo dodge the swift cut of Angelica's alarmingly short red ribbon. Time enough to say yes, and he would walk with Frodo for a while, if only they might get away. Time enough to ask Frodo what flower he had chosen and where it had gone; time enough to show off his lilies-of-the-valley, by then perhaps sad and wilting, and ask if Frodo had seen a lass bearing blooms as equally discouraged or dead. More than enough time, Sam thought, sighing heavily. He tucked the lilies back in his pocket.
The dance ended as all things do, with ribbons neatly tied off in a lattice-working of rainbow vibrance. Angelica stood back and congratulated herself with a nod, a branch of wisteria drooping from her tightly laced cuff. Rose and Marigold exchanged smug, secret glances across a short space; Rose's daffodil was now perched at Freddy Bolger's collar, and mayhap those were his bluebells in its place at her waist. Even the black-haired lass had cast off her larkspur in favor of a crown of bluets, though Sam didn't think about that till much later. Frodo was edging away from Angelica, his eyes slowly drifting to meet Sam's with a welcome spark.
Perhaps you could get me out of this? Sam heard it clearly, as if Frodo had spoken it.
"Why Mistress Angelica, I hope you've been well," Sam said rather loudly, jogging up behind them. "It's been months since you was askin' after how to make my Gaffer's mutton stew, and I thought--"
"Well enough, Sam Gamgee," she said, turning around to look him up and down. "Has he finally decided to share?"
"I--well, I don't rightly know," Sam stammered, "but if you took a stroll up the Row you'd see him just as plain as day--"
"How helpful of you, Sam," Frodo said, his voice full of admiration, giving Sam a meaningful look. "Since I'd all but forgotten to ask on her behalf."
Angelica hesitated for a moment, then stole a glance up the hill. "I suppose it's a fair enough venture, cousin," she murmured, distracted. "Thank you."
"Don't thank me," Frodo said, fixing Sam with such an earnest look from those fine grey eyes as could make him forget to think.
"Yes, well, Sam Gamgee -- to your health and your Gaffer's," she said with a curtsey, then started off towards the hill, drooping wisteria and all.
"I swear you must remember everything," Frodo muttered under his breath, watching his cousin only as far as it took for her to become lost in the crowd, which wasn't far at all.
Sam met Frodo's gaze and swallowed, feeling his cheeks turn hot. "Not so difficult to forget, begging your pardon, when for three Septembers that's all she's been after!"
"Not all," Frodo said softly, "but nonetheless, that is all she will get. If your Gaffer obliges, of course."
Sam wished that Frodo's hovering fingers would take his elbow, his shoulder, something. "He's in high enough spirits, so I don't see--"
Frodo's fingers settled on his forearm, hesitant and inviting. "Walk with me?"
"Yes," Sam replied, no longer minded to stay his tongue. "I will."
They slipped in and out of the crowd till they came to the edge of the field, then skirted around a copse of trees to where the road took a turn on its long, still journey towards Buckland. Sam scanned the treetops for newborn blossoms and asked after Frodo's cousin. Frodo simply laughed and combed at the high grass with his toes, saying that Merry by and far had better things to do at Brandy Hall on a holiday than come for a visit.
"Does their Dancing put ours to shame, sir?" Sam asked enviously, following Frodo's path of curious intent over to an oak sapling with a bird's nest in its branches.
"It's a much bigger affair, of course, speaking strictly in numbers," Frodo said, peering through the freshly unfolded leaves, as if searching for something. "But that's the problem, you're very quickly lost--"
"I doubt they're hatched, sir," Sam said, leaning to peer over Frodo's shoulder at the eggs and snatch his hand back carefully. "I don't hear..."
"No," Frodo said evenly, turning toward Sam with a white daffodil caught between his deft fingertips. "Though I did find something quite different. Would you care to explain how a bird might produce such a thing?" he asked, pulling his wrist free of Sam's grasp and pressing the flower into his disbelieving hand.
Sam stared at the daffodil, then blinked at Frodo. "I... sir, that is, I don't..."
"A mystery indeed," Frodo murmured, then looked away. "Though I can't blame you for not wasting your breath on a guess. It was a foolish question, forgive me."
Without thinking, Sam reached into his pocket and drew out the lilies-of-the-valley. "No more foolish than keepin' these tucked away. I reckon birds haven't got anywhere else for putting posies."
Frodo hardly breathed as he accepted not only the lilies, but Sam's entire hand, then drew it up to his cheek. "No, I suppose they don't," Frodo said with his voice full of wonder. "Sam..."
"It's these that I wanted for you in the first place," he said, giving Frodo's daffodil a twirl between his fingers, "but somehow that weren't right. Mayhap it's that I wanted 'em myself."
Frodo grinned unexpectedly. "Isn't that so often the way of things?"
"Aye," Sam murmured, stepping close enough to tuck the lilies-of-the-valley in at Frodo's collar with trembling fingers, seeing no other place for them at the moment. "I'm glad..."
Frodo caught his arms and draped them around his neck with utmost care, as if they were some vines or laurels to be worn. "Seems to me, Sam," Frodo said, "that you've given your flower away after all." Frodo took a deep breath, and Sam knew what was coming, customary and inevitable. "Do you wish to take it back?"
"No," he said, the words more choked than spoken. "Do you, sir?"
"Not even for a day," Frodo breathed, taking the daffodil from Sam and tucking it in between the buttons of Sam's weskit. His fingertips lingered for a moment, brushing Sam's skin through the fabric of his shirt, making Sam wish he wouldn't stop.
"We're of the same mind, at least." Sam blushed, reaching for the lilies at Frodo's collar, threading them into a safer spot through one of Frodo's unoccupied buttonholes. Frodo's skin was warm enough to make him shiver.
Frodo took hold of Sam's wrist, smiling tremulously through the flood of color to his own cheeks. "I'm glad," he whispered, drawing Sam's knuckles up to his lips to brush a kiss against them.
It spun through Sam sweeter than the sugar glaze on the biscuits they'd had that morning, warmer than sunlight that knew no threat of rain. Indeed, the only thing sweeter was the feel of Frodo's fingers against his own lips when he drew them up for kissing, and Frodo's breathless laugh fanned the warmth of touch into flame. Frodo tasted him first, mouth against mouth, his breath more welcome than the caress of the breeze, his tongue reminding Sam of tea. Helpless, he held tight to Frodo's hands and tasted him in return.
"I think," Frodo murmured on one stolen breath after another, "that there might -- be a storm coming after all. I think I can smell it, so -- perhaps--"
"We ought to get inside and consider luncheon," Sam supplied helpfully, kissing the corner of Frodo's mouth, though he couldn't think of much else that he'd like to be tasting -- well, he could, but not without blushing afresh. "And I reckon those poor lilies need some water, and your daffodil--"
"Can wait a few moments longer," Frodo said, and this time took Sam in his arms.
Yes, he thought, holding Frodo for all that the delicate spark in the air around them might be worth.
There will be time.
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