West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
Secrets are confessed on Rose Gamgee's deathbed.
Author: Bill The Pony
In this mild AU, I theorize that Sam altered the date of Frodo Gardner's birth in the Red Book to protect Rosie from any chance of shame.
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When he came out from his mother's room, numb, his father had the Red Book open in his lap and was dipping his quill, scratching painstaking numbers in the family tree. His hands were none too steady any more, and they'd always been rough and a little clumsy from hard work. Delicate work like writing was near beyond him now.
Frodo's eyes dazzled as he stared into the lamp; his father was writing the date of his mother's death. She had been failing in health for a long time; this day came as a mercy to her, though it was a great grief to all who knew and loved her.
And yet, Samwise Gamgee, husband to Rose and father to Frodo, did not weep. His eyes were dry and his leathery cheeks unstained. He dipped the pen and touched it to the paper again as Frodo tried to choke back his tears.
"She's gone," he said, more harshly than he intended, and Sam nodded. He set aside his quill and blew over the fresh writing to dry it. When he was satisfied he closed the book with a soft crackling of paper and set it on the shelf.
"Is that all?" Frodo demanded. "Won't you go in to see her?"
Sam's eye was still bright and keen when it fixed him, but Frodo did not flinch. "I see her in my heart's eye, the lass she was when you were only a babe."
Frodo's hands shook and he turned away. He could not see such things, only his mother's time-bleared eyes, and her rattling voice... and the final words she'd spoken, to him alone.
"Elanor." Sam stepped into the hall and called. Frodo's sister stepped in, sparing him a single look of liquid sorrow, and went in to tend her mother's corpse.
"Your mother sent us all out, lad, to talk to you alone." Sam beckoned to Frodo, who crossed the room reluctantly, his feet dragging. "I reckon she had a reason."
"I won't tell you what she said." His voice was thick, on the verge of tears, and he avoided Sam's roughened hand.
"Well enough then, keep your peace, though I've known it since before you were born." Sam caught Frodo's startled stare gravely.
"Why?" His voice broke, and he hugged himself-- his father, not his father at all. He'd never known the hobbit who was, though he had hovered about the family like a ghost for all the years of Frodo's life: a ghost who had touched him, a ghost whose name he bore, a ghost who haunted him with a hazy vision of distant sorrow and beauty.
"Does it matter?" Kind and soft, Sam's voice nearly broke Frodo. "Have I loved you any less for it? I've loved you the more for it, if anything. You're all I've got left of him."
And there lay the paradox; if anything, his father *had* loved him more. Had taken him under his wing with special fondness, as his firstborn. Had taught him and carried him along on his journeys-- even once to meet the King!--, and none of the others had ever complained, though often when his mother had watched them together, her eyes were sad. And now he knew why. He was loved for another's sake, and not for his own.
"No," Frodo choked. "But how could you-- how could she...!"
"I didn't love your mother less for it!" Sam's eyes snapped. "Don't go blaming her for such as you don't understand. He was in pain too bad to bear, and I was away-- you've read the book, or heard me read from it often enough, and you've heard me tell of how he was, after. Your mother had a kind heart, lad, and though she loved me, she wouldn't stand by and see him suffer. And what's more, she knew I wouldn't, neither. I'd have bid her do it, or better yet, done it myself if I were here, but I wasn't, and I've never regretted what came of her choice!"
Frodo eyed him with shock for a long moment, then turned away. "I've never believed in your book." Frodo's voice was low and bitter, and though he did not mean the words, he had often wondered how much of the tale could possibly be true, especially when he saw his father handling a spade in the garden.
"Not even when Strider held you on his knee and told you of the White City? The King Elessar, with your uncle Peregrin at his side, all in the mail of Gondor?" Sam's voice was thinned with pain. "Not when I took you to visit Tom Bombadil, and we stayed at the Pony in Bree?"
Frodo turned away, his spirit rebelling against his father's words in the extremity of his pain.
"She shouldn't have burdened you with this, then." Sam bent his head. "Not if it makes you hate him who'd have loved you more than himself, if he'd stayed. Not if it makes you hate me, when I've loved you like my own." Sam reached into his pocket and took out a packet of papers, sealed with wax. "I've left you Bag End, whether or no. It's yours, as it should be." He straightened and reached for Frodo's chin, studying his face. "You've been a bright light to your mother and me. I'll tell him of you, when I've gone."
Frodo blinked at that; so much lay at his fingertips, ready for him to understand, if he dared. But a hobbit who put the blessing of his name on the child of another's bed... who would have bid his wife to go in to another...? Who would have gone in himself...? The knowledge was beyond his strength to bear in this, the hour of his mother's death.
"Then you never loved her?" He could not quench the pain in his voice.
Sam's hand was still strong, and it hurt as it clenched on his shoulder, and shook him. "Don't you go dishonoring her memory. I loved her every day of her life, and I loved your father, too." His eyes filled and threatened to spill over onto his cheeks.
"Where are you going?" Frodo regretted his father's pain even as he hated that only the thought of Frodo Baggins, and not his wife's death, could drive the Old Gardener to tears.
"On a journey I'd have taken before your mother ever bore you, if I hadn't loved her so well." It was Sam's turn to be sharp. "To cross the sea with the elves, if they'll have me, though at this rate I won't be telling Mr. Frodo all of what I left behind me; I wouldn't want him knowing what a lout his only son grew up to be!"
The words hung between them like a knife, and Frodo felt the blade cut him; with a low sob he threw himself into his father's arms and wept-- for his mother, for himself, and for the father he had never known and the one who was not his.
"Your heart is hurt, lad." Sam smoothed his hair. "Like as not you don't mean the half of what you say, no more than I do. Give it time to heal before you hate those who made you." Sam let him go. "I've a few things yet to care for before I leave, Frodo lad. I'll leave in the fall, I think."
"Take me with you." Frodo was suddenly earnest. "I want to meet him-- you think he's still alive there, don't you. In the West."
Sam blinked at him and then laughed through tears. "I've doubts enough that the elves will take me on their boats." There was fear in his voice, and old sorrow.
"If he's all you say, he'll see to it that they do," Frodo scrubbed his sleeve across his wet face, and the words were the right ones, for his father smiled.
"You've so much of him in you." His fingertips, rough and harsh, touched Frodo's cheek. "Too much of him, perhaps, and not all of it such as he was before the Ring. Go to Pippin when I've gone, if you will, and ride with him to Gondor. You should see the world; your heart's too big for the Shire, seemingly."
He raised himself painfully; his eyes were clear, and his face lined with sorrows. "And now I've a last garden to be planting, Frodo my lad." He reached to the wall for his faded coat, and his left hand closed around the handle of his spade. "I'll be laying your mother to sleep at the foot of the hill, next to her roses." He went out.
Frodo stood a moment in thought, looking back at his mother's door, then taking his cap, he found another spade and joined his father, whom he knew would soon be lost to him.
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