West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
Not all the scars from Mordor are visible. Companion to "Then--And Now".
I lie in the dark beside you. The candles are guttering, the moon is rising full through the window, but for once I'm the one who can't sleep. You're finally back where you belong, surrounded by the earth and wood atop the Hill, yet it's the beginning of the end and I know it. Another fortnight and things will change. I'll be bringing a bride to Bag End, bending to the demands of kin and maturity... and your wishes, as well. She's a lovely lass, and worthy of love, and of a passing kind understanding of you and me, but still... Things will never be the same.
You turn away in the day, distance yourself from me. You use words as a shield held up before you, sunlit protests of emptied yearnings, but you haven't yet brought yourself to deny me your bed. Just like now. Caught in some fey dream-time that only you can see and hear; the nights still make you mine. You can't gainsay need when the night fancies turn you inside out; they betray you, tell me that you don't sleep very well any more. It's always restless, you are, tossing and turning. Your eyelids flicker, your brows clench, your chin tremors. Only my hands seem to still you and I reach out, touch you, brush the dark from your white forehead, and wonder how you will be able to sleep when you make me leave you here to lie all alone...
Things have never been the same since we returned, have they? And I watch you lie there, pale and twitching, wishing I could turn back the clock. I wish we were once again young, that you were whole. The worse of the scars aren't on the outside, are they?
You're trying to let me go. I don't want you to let me go.
You sigh, and murmur, and turn your face into my hand. You smile, but it is hesitant as a butterfly's landing, ghosting my palm. My thumb brushes at your cheekbone as if stropping paint from a join of wood, traces a thin, light scar faint with the years, so small as to barely be noticed. You were scarce twenty when you took this and several like it hidden in your forelock, an orphan lad come to visit Bag End on the Hill, fair undone with unhappiness and confusion...
This from Brandy Hall.
My thumb travels down to your lower lip, traces the tiny indentation there. Hardly any besides me knows this one, either. The Party done, mister Bilbo vanished and mister Gandalf gone and you left abandoned in the smial. I wasn't about to leave you alone because you'd been trying to drink away misery, and a good thing that was, because you were so tucked away into tipsy that you tripped and fell against the table, bit nearly clean through your lip. Blood everywhere, and ice chipped from one of the Party's straw-packed buckets, and you in my lap as I watched tears and bloody ice drip down your chin and onto my breeches...
This from Bilbo.
Your eyelids flicker with dreamings that I can only hope are sweet, your lips tremor beneath my fingertips as if filled with questions. For moments all I want to do is still any questions with my own mouth, take you, wake you... but instead I bend to the tiny, puckered knot a hand's span above your left nipple and touch my lips to it. It is chill, cold as the frost on the windowpanes that even the stove's heat can't stave off, and I warm it with my breath, suckle this source of remembered pain as if I can draw away the ache, my fingers kneading your collarbone and shaping change, even if only for a while. It still sickens you. You thought to hide it from me, that really bad turn, but I knew something had gone wrong. Rosie's da told the Gaffer and the Gaffer told me, and he also told me that I needed to stop wandering the Shire and look to my own home and hearth. I don't regret the replanting, and the tending of our sweet, battered earth. But I should have known that something was wrong and you were hiding it, pretending then just as you now pretend that you need no one. It's almost as if this hard, cold knot is trying to grow again, to freeze your heart, to succeed in making of you what it sought to the first time: a walking, emptied shell...
This from the Witchking's steel.
Your brow furrows as if puzzled, your head arches back into the pillows. The invitation, unwitting, is still too strong and I curl tightly next to you, lay kisses along your throat. Your pulse is so strong against my lips, the skin about it too soft, too pale, as if there's no substance to it. You've always been a confusion to me there; you've never been one or the other, always somehow both hard as elf-steel yet pliant as the blossoms in our garden. The feel of you is the same: thin skin that strangely thickens against my lower lip. Rough, reddened patches mar the once-smooth lines of your neck and a thick, ragged one trails down your breast, all shackled markers dotted dark like burns. They were burns. They've never properly healed.
This from the chain.
A murmur escapes your lips and your head tosses on the pillow. Dark curls scatter on the pale linen, and strands of silver catch the firelight, writhing like sorcerous spiderweb beneath Sting's keen edge. I run my fingers through winter-touched russet and sable, press loving concern into my fingers at your nape, my smallest two fingers sinking into the small hollow to one side of your spine. Her kiss poisoned me as well, somehow. Why else would the tears come so hard and ragged; why else of all the scars and memories and nightmares would this one tear at me so? Because it wasn't real, and you aren't dead and we're back home... but I can't abide a spider's web in the corner now, no matter how tiny or helpful, and you have nightmares of lying suffocated and trapped and abandoned...
This from Shelob.
You turn beneath me, now only half asleep, and I trail my hands down your back, soothe you still. More ruched flesh puckers against my fingertips, the silver-pink marks catching the light, jagged across wiry, freckled shoulders. Those cursed orcs cut you when they caught you, thinking to take you down--as if losing the Ring wasn't enough to whip you into submission. One in particular always draws me; I cup my hand over it, stroke the trail of cold fire running across your ribcage and to the small of your back. It's the one they gave you when you heeded my call of verse, answering like some songbird deprived of its mate, telling me where to find you in that blighted vault of crimson and black...
This from the Tower.
I lay my cheek to my cupped palm, nuzzle your side. You're nothing near to as thin as we both were when they peeled us off that mountainside, but still your belly is too flat and your cheeks too hollow. Your breathing quickens beneath those washboard ribs and your breath, once soft and familiar and soothing as warm milk in the evening, now echoes wrongly in my ears. Your voice has changed, somehow, so subtly that most people probably don't even hear it, but I do. Shire air may be sweet as can be, but it still wheezes in your lungs with that peculiar sound that we both gained yet you've never managed to shake.
This from the fumes of Mordor.
You curl up with a deepset shiver; your feet are frigid as hoarfrost and I reach down, take the chill of them in my hands. I trail my fingers over the arch of one foot, whiffle through dark, soft fur up to your ankles, clutch just below your calves, pull you straight when you would try to draw away from me. I bow my head, hair scattering across your thighs, tracing the tiny white lines along your ankles and feet--ones to match the deep-graven marks on my own. Those scars seem so paltry now when laid against the ones in our hearts; still, I begrudge them.
This from the rocks and the ash.
You moan low in your throat, shift beneath me, still lost in that place you go between dreams and waking. It takes you too long to respond now, when and if you even can--now there is flat calm where once fire reigned, where once a sweet, wanton lad teased from behind boundless eyes. I want him back, that lad. Sometimes the dreamings are my ally, they give a hint of what once was. Sometimes they open you to my touch and your desire. Sometimes, if I'm clever in my time and the night is kind, I can wake you with the wanting even when earlier you've been unable. I kneel next to you, my knees sinking into the feather ticking, and lave my hands down your breast and belly and thighs. Back and forth. Again. Soft, silent running of flesh against flesh, coaxing, then finally to your hipbones, tracing the line of muscle that runs down to where you stir lightly beneath my fingers, quivering slowly, drawing up firm within my hands. Desire for anything, even for me, has all but been burnt from you, and both of us must work for this.
This, from the struggle. This, from the battle for your soul.
You shiver beneath my hands--the fire is warm, and I'm warm, but you're still chilled, your flesh cold and pale as corpse-candles from the Marsh, and I fold you to me. You've been cold too long, and getting colder every day, and I need to warm you, to make you need me. I want to hold you, to touch you, to hear your voice hoarse not by circumstance, but with wanting of me. I stroke you, grip you, bend to take you in and you arch soundlessly against me, hands reaching out, one twining in the sheets, the other reaching down to tangle in my hair. I feel that gap between your fingers, the missing one burning against my skull as if it was still there. You twist beneath me, teeth sinking into your lip, but you cannot bite back the gasps that my caresses steal from you. I cover your hand with mine, take you deeper, try to once more draw a cry from you. I've longed for such; tried time after time to once more make you cry out and fill my ears with proof of your passion. But those moments no longer exist, all stifled and faint ever since that day I heard a voice from you that nigh stopped my heart from beating. Ever since that day your voice seized and died upon a scream of loss--when you lost the Ring, when you lost the finger that even absent clutches to me, holds my mouth against you.
This from the Slinker.
You open your eyes, and for an instant as you open them I see the glint there, always there, instinctive and undeniable, naught but the loss and the burning and the fear. My own eyes fill, for I can't take it from you. I can't take it from you...
This from the Ring. All of it, from the Ring.
And then the fear is gone, replaced by wonder and tension as you shudder and give a strangled, sharp whisper, my name: Sam! The darkness fades, vanquished if only for a while. Your eyes are gentle once more, your face flushed and young once more, your frame again pliant and pressing against mine, your lips once more opening to my own. The sleepy, sated content that lights your face as you hold to me, curl against me, touch me... smile for me. The sweet success of it fills me, flares within me like oil poured to flame and I hold you close, so close...
This. Please, let us... let us have just this...
And this, damn it all and blacken its doors...
And this, from me.
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