West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
To what lengths will Frodo go to protect someone he loves?
Author: Daffodil Bolger
A/N - For Wyna Hiros, because she did
It was too much, absolutely too much and so much more than he could ever be expected to bear. It was only a matter of time before the collapse he knew was inevitable and Sam spent the time waiting for it by doing as he always had done - working. From the moment his eyes opened before dawn every morning - feeling gritty and swollen and coated with sand - his body moved itself, applied itself to task after task after task without any real thought, its only real goal to toil toward that exhausted state that would allow him to stumble to his bed each night and fall immediately into a sodden, dreamless sleep. Because he couldn't afford to dream, else the days would be impossible to face with the waking.
Sam swung the sledgehammer, a little more forcefully than was probably necessary but oh, the strain in his back, the heavy, leaden feel of his arms, the sweat on his brow... each its own tool and he used them all with precision and purpose, hurling himself, stroke by weary stroke, toward that blessed nothingness that crowded out thought and voice. He couldn't think on it anymore, couldn't hear it one more time, else...
"I'm so sorry, Sam. I thought you understood."
He closed his eyes, pressed his grimy sleeve to his brow. He would not break down, not here, not within sight of Bag End, not where those eyes might cast their gaze at any moment. He wouldn't. He wouldn't!
Sam choked back a sob, gritted his teeth. He swung the hammer in a sweeping arc above his head, brought it down and his arms quivered with the impact, the force resonating through his chest, up through his head. A constant ache had taken up residence behind his eyes and he blinked away the tears that lay in wait within it.
Almost two weeks now; two weeks of strained, heavy silence, of crushing pain behind his breastbone, of only watching, no closer than arm's length, where once he'd had leave to...
He couldn't think on it, couldn't bear it and he swung the hammer again, driving the tent peg into hard-packed soil, flattening the head in a mash of soft, grey splinters then pulled back for another swing. The real work in setting up for the Summer Faire wouldn't begin until tomorrow but Sam took advantage of the vacant field and the promise of empty sleep, deciding to get a good start on the work ten hobbits would put their hands to tomorrow.
Nothingness was what he was after, a blank void where he might lose himself in the rhythm of his movements, crowd out the voice, the pain... those eyes. Every day it worked less and less, the words beating beneath his brow, the burning in his chest spiking just a little bit more and it wouldn't be long before he either collapsed into a compost heap or just sat down and began to weep. And oh, he hoped it wasn't the latter because he knew that if he let loose one tear, let one sob escape his dry and aching throat, he'd never stop.
"I never meant to hurt you. I'm so sorry, Sam."
If he only knew why. If Frodo -- Mister Frodo -- would only give him that much, that one tiny speck of reason that might help him wrap his mind around it all.
"I thought you understood. It was never love."
But Sam didn't believe that, couldn't even let himself think on it. That way led only to perdition and there was just enough rage in him now to want to save himself from that abyss. The rage was the only thing that kept him upright, kept his legs moving the rest of him about, kept his hand shoveling sustenance into his mouth, kept him from just laying himself down in a damp, dark hole and waiting to die. At least then the pain in his chest would ease, the roil of his stomach would retreat and he wouldn't see those damn-blasted-bloody eyes every time he closed his own.
"I thought you understood."
No, Sam hadn't understood, would never understand, didn't want to understand. What's more is he didn't believe it, not for a single moment but not believing didn't take him any closer to knowing why. "It was never love," Frodo had said and he'd looked right into Sam's eyes as he'd said it, had worn an expression that was sympathetic and rueful but so very... 'distant' was the only word Sam could think of to describe that look.
It was only later - after the world had stopped spinning and his body had lost some of the numbness, after he'd stumbled from Bag End as a drunk after four-too-many belts of stiff liquor - only then had he realized that there had been just as many tears behind those eyes as had built behind his own. Only after he'd left, having not been able to force a single word of protest from his too-dry mouth, had he been able to see the awful, bone-deep regret crouching beneath that aloof gaze. And now all that was left was to try with every breath to keep back those tears and to wonder why. Why?
Sam hunkered in the dirt, clutched the hammer until his fingers grew numb and rubbed his sweaty brow against his sleeve. Almost two weeks and Sam was worse off now than he'd been when he'd first been called into the study. He'd stood on the rug before the great desk, as a lad called to task for dropping frogs down his sister's back and watched Frodo's mouth move, heard the words tumble from it, felt his entire world shatter into a million pieces and crumble down around him. It had been all he could do to remember to breathe.
"I'm so sorry, Sam."
And it was Sam's fault. Of course it was. It had to be. Frodo -- Mister Frodo -- had done the breaking, right enough but Sam was the dullard of them; of course it had to be his fault. No matter that only two weeks ago he'd dared to think himself his master's love, his friend and, wrack his poor, sorry brain though he may, he couldn't fathom a single thing he'd done or said or even thought to bring about that horrible, one-sided conversation in the study that eve. No matter... because with only those few words, it was done. Over and done and it seemed there wasn't a blessed thing he could do about it. Like being struck by lightning, it had been, out of a clear blue sky and Sam was still reeling with the blow.
If only Mister Frodo would tell him what he'd done, let him try and fix it - whatever it was. If only Sam could know then maybe he could set about mending whatever it was that he'd gone and broke.
Gandalf hadn't even been gone a fortnight and here Sam'd already queered his plans on him, not even a day after he'd left. And who would take care of Frodo -- Mister Frodo -- on his dangerous journey, now that he'd made it so blisteringly clear that it wouldn't be Sam? Certainly, Sam couldn't expect to protect him as well as a wizard could; he wouldn't fool himself into believing he was any great warrior, not when it came to dark beasts and monsters out of legend, come to hunt down his master and--
He couldn't bear to think on it.
But surely Mister Gandalf wouldn't know how Fr-- Mister Frodo liked to have his tea extra-strong of a morning, with exactly two sugar lumps and a splash of cold water, so's he could drink it right away and not have to wait for it to cool. And would anyone really expect a wizard to have that tea ready when Mr. Frodo woke? More likely he would expect Mister Frodo to be doing for him -- Sam's teeth clenched at even the thought.
And oh, but what was he supposed to tell Mister Merry? He closed his eyes, balled his hands into fists. It was almost mid-July already and Mister Merry and Master Pippin were expecting Sam to keep them apprised of his master's plans, expecting him to alert them if he showed any signs of up and leaving before the date he'd settled on with Gandalf. But how was Sam supposed to do that when Mister Frodo wouldn't even look him in the eye? How was he supposed to tell if his master had a pack all ready and waiting if he wouldn't even let Sam into the smial anymore, except to pick up his paypurse? How was he supposed to tell if Mister Frodo was hiding something if he barely even showed himself - and that only for the most fleeting of moments, as if he couldn't even be near Sam, as if Sam had done something so vile, so horrible that...
Sam opened his eyes. He lifted his head, not seeing, not breathing. Twilight crept its way steadily toward him, shadows lengthening at his feet but Sam saw nothing but eyes full of a sort of grief that he couldn't put a name to, heard nothing but a voice that spoke steadily, until breaking just the slightest bit on, "It was never love."
Sam knew it for a lie the moment he heard it, even as his chest had constricted and his mouth had gone dry. He'd known it for the lie it was but hadn't been able to fathom the why of it. Mister Frodo had never lied to him, never - not to anyone, to Sam's knowing - and for him to start with a lie this big...
"He knows I been talking to Mister Merry," Sam croaked.
Of course. What else could it be? Frodo had found out that Sam had been betraying his trust, even after he'd told Sam that he'd keep it a dead secret, if he loved him. Of course, Sam did love him - with his whole heart - but by then the damage had already been done and Frodo wouldn't know that, would he? He'd only know that Sam had gone and opened his mouth, after he'd promised not to. Maybe there had been some small hint in one of his cousins' letters or some such and he'd figured out that they were on to him. And who else could have let them in on it but Sam?
Frodo was angry and hurt and why shouldn't he be? Here, he'd been taking Sam into his bed, into his heart and Sam had repaid him his trust by sneaking around and reporting on him to his cousins. And wouldn't it be just like his master to keep all that hurt inside, not even ask for an explanation because one thing Sam knew about Mister Frodo was that he expected people not to love him, not really, not the same way he loved - with his whole heart and every bit of his body and soul. He just couldn't seem to believe that sort of love was his due and he expected the ones he loved to leave him. And why not? He'd been left and shuffled about his whole life, had spent far too much time mourning more losses than a body should have to bear, so it shouldn't be surprising that he'd learn of Sam's betrayal and just... just take it, as if he knew it was coming, deserved it, even.
"Oh, Frodo," Sam whispered. He jammed his fists into his eyes, trying desperately to hold back the tears that were almost inevitable now. His whole body shook, his throat far too tight and he bit down on his lip to hold back the wails that struggled for life behind his tongue.
It was too much. So much pain, so much heartache for the one he loved most in the world and he'd caused it; he was the one who'd put that grief in Frodo's eyes, he was the one who'd shown him one more time that he couldn't rely on his own heart, that he couldn't trust to anyone but himself. Sam had done that and now all he wanted to do was throw himself at Frodo's feet and beg him to forgive him, tell him he'd done it all out of love and because he knew in his heart of hearts that he couldn't protect Frodo all by himself and please, just please, couldn't he forgive him this one mistake, this one abysmal lapse in judgment?
Sam pictured it in his head; just standing up, stalking into Bag End and demanding that Frodo at least hear his apology, let him explain, let him at least come along because, though Frodo might have every reason not to want him near right now, he needed his Sam with him on the hard road ahead. And oh, Sam was just so bleeding sorry and couldn't Mister Frodo please forgive him just enough to let him come along and look after him? He needed someone taking care of him, even if it was just to lay out his bedroll of a night, or get a fire going when it turned cold or make that tea that Mister Gandalf most certainly wouldn't be making. Of course Mister Frodo could do all those things himself but sometimes a body just needed to be done for and, what with all the things Mister Frodo was taking on right now, he needed to be done for even more, whether he'd say so or no.
Sure, Sam supposed that Mister Merry or Master Pippin might know how to brew the tea the way Frodo liked it and he might even suppose that one of them would keep him close and warm in the cold, dark night, though the very thought of that made Sam's jaw lock and his teeth clench. But Mister Merry and Master Pippin were used to being done for, too and Sam couldn't imagine either one of them doing for Mister Frodo the way he deserved with any enthusiasm. More likely, Mister Frodo would end up having to do for them, just to keep them behaving themselves and not getting Mister Gandalf so irritated that he'd turn them both into stink bugs or some such.
That settled it in Sam's mind: Mister Frodo needed Sam along, whether he could bear to look at him or no and Sam would just have to fix things so that Frodo could bear to look at him. He'd apologize, try and explain why he'd done as he'd done, try to show Mister Frodo that, though maybe Sam couldn't be trusted to keep his secrets anymore, he could be trusted to at least keep him warm and fed and step in front of an arrow, should it come to that. And maybe Mister Frodo would never welcome Sam into his bed ever again, maybe Sam had gone and killed that well and good forever but Sam could live with that, though it would near kill him, if he could only make sure that his master came back home, safe and whole. He'd make him see that maybe blabbing to Mister Frodo's cousins, though certainly a betrayal, was done only because he loved him with his whole heart and was so deathly afraid of losing him completely. He would. He had to.
Sam stood, unclenched his hand from the handle of the big hammer and dropped it to lay on the ground. His legs were stiff and sore; night had fallen while he'd been wallowing and he didn't even want to take a guess at how long he'd been crouched in the dirt. He brushed at his trousers then wiped his brow with the tail of his shirt and tucked in everything that hung loose. He turned to make his way up the Hill.
He stopped at the well, drew up a bucket and dipped his hands, splashed his face. He wanted to dip his whole head in the bucket, it was that hot and he was that sweaty, but he couldn't bear to let this go on one minute longer, not if there was some way he could take away some of the misery he'd caused. So, he settled for giving his hands and face a quick wash then dumped the rest of the bucket onto his feet for a quick rinse. He took a deep breath and started for Bag End.
So intent on his new resolve was he that he was almost halfway up the Hill before the niggle in the back of his mind began to gnaw at him, growing louder and more insistent with each step he took. It was only when he'd reached the gate and laid a hand to the latch that he finally allowed himself to admit that his revelation had a serious flaw: Mister Frodo couldn't know that his cousins were on to him - if he did, he'd've been off on his own long-since, as soon as he'd found out that Sam had been blabbering. That was the whole point of having kept it from him in the first place; Mister Merry had been very insistent about that and Sam had agreed. If Mister Frodo had any idea at all that his cousins intended to come along, or even knew of his plans, he'd have his pack strapped to his shoulders and his walking stick in-hand before either of them had even saddled a pony and hied themselves to Hobbiton to stop him.
So, if Mister Frodo didn't know that his cousins knew, that couldn't be the reason he had closed Sam out of his bed and his smial and his life. And now Sam was right back where he'd started from.
"I'm so sorry, Sam." He closed his eyes, swayed. "It was never love."
But it was a lie! Sam knew it was a lie, knew it with every single bit of his heart, knew it with more certainty than he knew the grass was green and the sky was blue. It was a lie - Frodo did love him. He couldn't fake that look in his eye, that catch in his breath... he just wasn't that good at lying. He was terrible at it, in fact and Sam had spotted the only lie Frodo'd ever told him the second it was out of his mouth, so how could he have been lying all that time? Impossible.
And then, as these things tend to do, it struck him all at once and with a force that near knocked him off his feet.
How could he have not seen? He'd listened with his ears, been trying to think about it with his head while his heart was too busy tearing itself to pieces for it to pay much attention. He'd let himself be blinded by grief and all this time...
Of course Frodo would do this - and wait 'til Gandalf was gone to do it. It was just so... so Frodo and Sam had to be the halfwit his name told him he was not to have seen it before. There he'd gone thinking about it with his head again when he knew better than to trust it; it was his heart that always steered him right and it was his heart he should have been putting to work all along.
Gandalf had said Sam was to come, not Frodo and Frodo hadn't been terribly pleased with the idea to begin with. He'd quietly argued with Sam for weeks over it before Gandalf had left, went on and on about how it was too dangerous and he didn't want anything to happen to Sam because of him. As if Sam would have it any different. And then the wizard was hardly out the door when Frodo had cut Sam's knees out from under him. And Sam had been so preoccupied with his grief and keeping Mister Merry's conspiracy secret that he'd never even thought to consider that the reasons for Mister Frodo keeping his secret from his cousins might be the very same as the ones for pushing Sam away.
Frodo loved Sam - of course he did. And loved him so well that he was willing to turn him away, to make him stay behind in the only way that might have actually worked. Sam didn't think it would have in the end, but it might have and now his cheeks burned with shame for having even thought about letting Frodo go off without him. Oh, it was all so bloody-damned simple and he'd spent so much time wandering about in a haze of misery that it had eluded him without him putting up even so much as a struggle.
Of course he wouldn't want Sam to go into danger with him, just as he wasn't going to want Mister Merry and Master Pippin to tag along, once they finally sprang that little surprise on him. Not because he didn't want them along and not because he was going to be angry with them for conspiring but because he loved them - each and every one of them - and he was the last person in the world who would willingly place one he loved in danger.
Sam might have laughed, had he not been afraid it would wrench out as a sob. He'd been so miserable these past days and all the while, Frodo must have been... oh, he hated to even think on it. It must have broke his heart to do what he'd done and to watch Sam fall apart as he'd done it. And all of this on top of what he was going to have to do in only a few short weeks. Sam couldn't imagine what must be going on inside Frodo, couldn't stand to think that what he'd been going through himself for these long, horrid days must have been felt tenfold by Frodo. And all for him! And he'd been too blind to see it.
Sam threw the gate open and sprinted up the lawn, not even heeding that his steps took him right through the decorations and banners laid out so carefully in the grass, waiting for the groundwork to be done tomorrow in preparation for the Faire. Silk and crepe scattered beneath his feet but all he saw was the light burning in the study window ahead, all he felt was his heart racing with a peculiar mixture of joy and relief and horrible sorrow. He pulled up short as he skidded to the door and swung it open, the little Gamgee within screeching indignantly at his cheek in not even bothering to knock.
"Mister Frodo!" He barreled into the study, scanned it quickly. Not there. "Frodo! You're awake, I know you're awake, the lamps are still lit. Where are you?" He turned and bolted down the tunnel to the kitchen. "Answer me, Frodo, please!" He stopped short, panting, his mouth suddenly dry again and his heart thumped against the cage of his ribs.
Frodo stood at the basin, calmly rinsing out what must have been his supper dishes. His back was to Sam and Sam could almost feel the tension travelling the length of that rigid spine from where he stood panting in the doorway. Frodo's shoulders were set square, head bent just a little to his task. The kettle was spitting over the fire and Frodo was in his dressing gown, his hair damp - curling in soot-dark tendrils down his nape - evidence that he was in the process of settling down to some tea after his evening bath.
Sam could smell him, all the way across the room, all clean and fresh as spring rain, even in the heat of this oppressive, sultry July evening. And oh, he wanted nothing more in the world than to vault across the room and bury his nose in that scent, wrap his arms around that firm body that he'd not had leave to touch in far too long. But his belly cramped and twisted, now he was here. He'd never been tested, not like this and suddenly it all seemed too much, too big. His words formed as blocks of ice in his mouth and froze his tongue, for he daren't say the wrong thing, not now.
"What is it, Sam?" Frodo asked as he methodically ran a dishcloth over the plate in his hand. He paused to scrape at a stubborn bit and the scritch of fingernail to porcelain in the heavy silence skittered straight up Sam's spine. Frodo's tone was cool, his posture forbidding approach and all the surety of only a moment ago abandoned Sam just that quickly.
Sam stood in the doorway, his feet fixed fast to the floor. His mouth worked but no sound seemed to want to shake loose from it. The protests from the kettle grew loud in the silence. It weighted Sam down, his limbs feeling heavy and stupid and all the while, Frodo just continued to slowly clean the dish in his hand, the cloth swiping over its surface over and over again, though surely it was as clean as it could get by now.
And then Sam knew that Frodo was just as rattled as he was himself; the smooth, steady swipe of the cloth most likely veiling the tremor that Sam knew his sudden presence must have borne. Oddly, it gave him the courage to speak.
"I know what you're doing, Frodo."
There was a miniscule pause in Frodo's motions, so small that one who wasn't paying very close attention would not have seen.
"Doing?" The tone of his voice hadn't changed, still detached with a touch of frost. He shook his head, seemingly intent on washing a hole through that dish. "Sam, please state your business and take yourself home. I'm on my way to bed."
"Turn around and look at me," Sam said quietly. "You owe me that much."
Frodo's head came up at that and he turned it just the smallest bit, only enough so that Sam could see a partial profile. His back straightened yet further.
"Owe you? I hardly think--"
"You owe me that and more and you know it! Stop playing with me, now and turn around!"
Frodo stood still, as something carved from granite. His fingers clenched on the plate for long seconds before they relaxed and he placed it deliberately in the basin. He reached for a dry cloth, methodically wiped his hands before placing it back on its hook. Then, finally, back ramrod straight and jaw clenched, he turned very slowly to face Sam.
Only 'facing' Sam wasn't quite what he was doing. He leaned back against the washbasin, folded his arms over his chest and directed his gaze just past Sam's left shoulder.
"You're right," he said softly, no hitch in breath, no quaver in tone. "I owe you that much, I suppose."
A tiny crack in composure, the smallest quiver of his bottom lip. "Sam..." He closed his eyes briefly with a defeated sigh. "Please just say what you came to say and then go."
Sam squared his own shoulders then, lifted his chin. "I know what you're about, Frodo. You had me fooled for a while but I've finally put my head to it and I know what you're doing."
Frodo turned his head, looked at the floor. "And what is it that you think I'm doing?"
"You're trying to push me away, make it so that I won't go along with you in September."
Sam saw Frodo's lip twitch, saw his fingers stiffen where they clutched his arms and it confirmed all of his suspicions. Yet, still, Frodo kept on.
"Sam, I know I've hurt you and I'm truly very sorry. But I can't pretend I feel something that I don't and I can't allow you to fool--"
"Don't you lie to me, Frodo, you just stop that right now. It doesn't suit you."
"That's Mister Frodo to you, Sam."
That one stopped Sam cold. He gasped, as though he'd been sucker-punched. In point of fact, he supposed he had.
"And I will thank you," Frodo went on coldly, "to not stand in my home and call me a liar." For the first time, Frodo met Sam's eyes and Sam had his first moment of real doubt. "Now, if you don't mind, please see yourself to the door and do your best to remember to knock the next time you have a sudden urge to storm into my home and berate me."
He held Sam's gaze evenly for another moment then he turned back to the basin in clear dismissal and resumed the washing-up. Sam faltered. Could he have been wrong? But it all made so much sense - he couldn't have made this big of a blunder, not with something this important. He was so sure; the arguments over how Frodo didn't want Sam put in danger, that awful conversation in the study... the look of misery beneath that remote gaze. Sam couldn't have been this wrong, he just couldn't have.
But Frodo had just looked him in the eye, spoken to him in a tone that damn near had frost dripping from it. And Frodo might well be terrible at lying but, if Sam was right, he seemed to have been honing his skills at play-acting. Surely it was play-acting?
Sam swallowed the dry lump in his throat, clenched his hands into fists and took a deep breath. He'd come this far, taken this much of a chance - he refused to run home weeping again, at least not until he was sure, one way or the other. He took a cautious step forward.
"Turn around, look me in the eye and tell me you don't love me, Frodo." His heart was thumping in his chest but his voice was level and sure. "If you can do that, I'll walk away now, though I'll follow you when you leave and that's a promise. Whether you love me or no, I'm coming with you, even if you fire me and I have to skulk in the bushes along the way. I'm coming and you'll not stop me, so there's no point in pushing me away if I won't go. I can go as lover or spy but either way, I'm going."
He took another leaden step toward Frodo, clammy sweat sticking his shirt to his chest, dripping from his brow. Tears built hot behind his eyes and he willed them back. He'd never been so frightened in all his life but he refused to let anything so small as fear stop him from taking the only chance left to him. He took a shaky breath and, with the last of his courage, trained his voice steady and said, "Now, look me in the eye and tell me how it's going to be."
Frodo's hand tremored - visibly this time - and he only just caught the plate before it went crashing into the basin. He placed it carefully on the counter then clutched at the rim, leaned over, his head hanging between his shoulders.
He choked a little and Sam allowed himself a small, sobbing sigh. He'd been right, then. He blew out a long, shaky breath and closed his eyes on a silent prayer of thanksgiving.
"Don't ask me to do this," Frodo went on thinly, his voice no longer able to maintain its even calm. His breath whistled rapidly in and out of his chest and Sam only watched, hypnotized by the quick rise and fall of Frodo's ribcage through the thick flannel of his robe. "Tell yourself whatever you need to but I've said what I had to say. You're not coming, Sam. I won't let you."
Sam took the last few steps and closed the distance between them, his hand steady and assured as he brushed strands of black silk from Frodo's nape and tenderly laid his mouth to the smooth skin beneath it. Frodo's breath wheezed in sharp, caught and Sam let a tear slip.
"And I won't let you leave me behind," he whispered.
Sam actually felt Frodo surrender then; his shoulders slumped and he gasped out a choked sob then leaned minutely into Sam's touch. Frodo's entire body shook and Sam smoothed his hands up and down his arms, across his shoulders and ran his mouth slowly over the side of his throat to pause just below Frodo's ear.
"No, love." His voice was gentle, a wisp of breath at Frodo's ear. "Don't be afraid for me. You can't take that on along with everything else. This ain't your choice to make. I'll do what my heart says and nothing less."
Frodo shook his head. "And if your heart tells you to walk down a dragon's throat or take on the Dark Lord himself for me, Sam - what then?"
Sam smiled a little, wrapped his arms around Frodo's waist and rested his cheek to soft flannel. "Then we'll just have to hope the old bugger ain't as all bad as Gandalf makes him out," he said.
And suddenly, Sam was holding onto an explosion of limbs. Frodo's head came back and slammed him in the shoulder, only just missing breaking Sam's nose by a fortuitous turn of Sam's head. An elbow caught him hard below the ribs and Sam's breath left him, a whoosh of air forced out in a sharp whistle between his teeth.
"That's the point, that's the whole bloody point!" Frodo was shouting and he twisted in Sam's grasp, trying to writhe from his hold, elbows flying and fists striking blindly behind him. Sam held on tighter and Frodo snarled, used his knees for leverage against the cupboard and pushed back hard.
"Let off! Stupid, bloody, stubborn ass! You're dead already and I can't bear to have you touch me! Leave off!"
Sam didn't. He pushed forward, pinned Frodo's legs to the cupboard with his own, leaned his hip in and caught the flying arms at the wrists. He gripped tight, crossed Frodo's arms over his own chest and held on. An inarticulate growling cry rumbled up from Frodo's throat and he twisted some more, swore in ten different colours then he slumped into Sam, panting.
Sam clenched his teeth, took a deep, calming breath, put his mouth right to Frodo's ear. "Now you be still and listen to me, Frodo, because I'm only going to say this once more: this is not your choice - it's mine and mine alone and I won't have you making it for me. I could take that bloody ring from you right now - I'm a mite stronger than you, in case you hadn't noticed, and 'twould be an easy thing to hold you down and take it, steal away with it before you could stop me. I could make off with it and go bury it somewhere and then you wouldn't have no reason to go off into danger at all, would you? And don't think for one minute that I ain't thought on it. I could take that choice away from you easy but I wouldn't. You know your own mind and your own heart and you'd be fair gone to throttling any that dared to make your choices for you, so don't you dare try to make mine for me!"
Frodo's arms relaxed a little and his head dropped back to Sam's shoulder. He took a deep, shuddering breath and closed his eyes tight. A tear leaked from the corner of his eye, slipped against Sam's cheek and Sam felt a guilty sting at Frodo's obvious defeat.
"Don't cry, love," he whispered and kissed the tear away. "Sam will bring us both home, you wait and see if I don't."
Sam let loose Frodo's wrists, skimmed his fingertips over the rise and dip of tensed muscle beneath soft flannel then smoothed a hand inside the robe. He rested his palm over heated skin, the thrum of Frodo's heart drumming beneath his hand. He slid his mouth along Frodo's throat, dabbed his tongue just beneath his earlobe.
"You had to know I'd figure it out eventually," Sam breathed, hot and moist against smooth, fragrant skin and his fingers took up a gentle caress, ran soft and measured down ribs that rose and fell in rapidly rising counterpoint.
"I'd hoped..." Frodo's breath caught a little and his head canted to the side, allowing Sam further access, "...hoped you wouldn't..." and his hand reached back, tangled in Sam's hair.
Sam ran his hands freely over Frodo's chest, feathered his fingertips over a peaked nipple. Frodo shuddered and a warm thrill moved through Sam's chest. He pushed his hips forward only the slightest bit.
"Sam, I... you don't..."
Sam dipped his tongue to the shell of Frodo's ear, slid his other hand lower, toyed with the sash of Frodo's robe. He smiled a little in heady satisfaction at the shiver that whip-lashed up Frodo's spine.
"What, love?" he whispered through his smile then gently sank his teeth into the soft flesh of Frodo's earlobe.
"I can't..." Frodo moaned a little, pushed back into Sam. "I can't think when you--"
And Sam dipped his hand low, settled it firm over risen heat and Frodo gasped. "You think too much already," Sam rumbled.
Frodo twisted around in Sam's arms and this time, Sam let him. He pressed in flush to wiry muscle and Frodo took hold of Sam's hair with both hands, dragged his mouth to his own. It was hot and sweet and oh, so thorough and, just that fast, Sam was on fire. He pressed in more firmly, plunged his tongue deeper and was overjoyed to feel strong arms wrap about his shoulders and grip as though they'd never let go.
Frodo's hands swept down Sam's arms, over his back then hauled him in tight, pulling him firm while he ground against Sam, slow and sinuous. Hard heat pressed against Sam's hip and his heart beat faster 'til he thought it would thump right out of his chest. He moaned, he was sure of it and Frodo answered with a nameless, urgent sound that came right up from his soul, beat against Sam's brain 'til all sense abandoned him.
He plunged his hands into soot-black silk, his senses awash with the scent of clear rain. He tilted Frodo's head a little more and sank yet deeper into his mouth. Fire lit over his skin, burst into sparkling embers in his chest and set his whole body to blazing.
Through the fog of sensation that crackled over his skin, Sam felt Frodo's hands pushing his braces off his shoulders. He shrugged them down and off his arms then pulled back just a little to let those hands go to work on the buttons of his shirt. Frodo's dressing gown was an easy task and Sam set himself to it, untying the sash, pushing the flannel back and away, pushing it to the floor and...
Oh, this skin against his palms, smooth and hot and rippling sleek over sinew, muscles bunching and gliding over bone at his fingertips. So many long, terrible days without this skin beneath his touch and Sam needed to feel every inch of it, relearn its curves and angles, feel again the heat of it. He ran his hands down over the curve of ribs, pulling Frodo tight against him, sliding his palms over the arch of Frodo's spine, the rise just below as Frodo wrapped his leg around Sam's hip and pressed in harder, thrust against him smooth and slow. Sam groaned, his hands roaming everywhere, touching everything in their path and still, he couldn't bring himself to take his mouth from Frodo's.
But then Frodo pulled back, tearing himself away from the kiss, only to lean back in, press his face into Sam's throat. His tongue was hot against Sam's skin, sending shivers whipping down his spine. Sam's head dropped back as Frodo's mouth travelled from his throat to his collarbone, his hands pushing the shirt down Sam's arms and off while his tongue burned a fiery trail to Sam's nipple. He circled it leisurely several times before closing his lips around it and sucking it slowly into his mouth, tongue flicking and toying. Sam gasped, thrust his hips forward and clutched at the back of Frodo's head, pressing him in more firmly. Frodo answered by sliding one hand around Sam's back and going to work on his trousers with the other.
Fingertips brushed lightly over Sam's arousal, on their leisurely way to his buttons, and Sam growled, pushed himself into Frodo's hand. Frodo responded by wrenching open the trousers with one swift release of buttons and the faintest chuckle. Sam might have protested but then fingers, wickedly knowing and impossibly cool, were sliding around him, cupping, stroking and Sam lost the power of speech. He cried out, thrust himself forward and Frodo gripped him firmly with a practiced hand, slid his tongue back up Sam's throat. He pulled back just a little, reached into the cupboard above Sam's head and took up a small earthen jar of salad oil. He dipped his mouth into the crook of Sam's neck and whispered throaty and slow into his ear.
"I've missed you, Sam. Come to bed?"
And Sam's knees near spilled him to the floor. He choked out a shaky groan then nodded dumbly and pried himself away. But then he got caught in that wanton gaze, felt fire and silk shivering in his hands and Sam lost all control. He growled, took Frodo by the shoulders, pushed him up against the table and sank to his knees. Frodo had just enough time to regain his balance, clamp onto the table then Sam was taking him swift and hard into his mouth.
Oh, perfection - there was no other word for it. Sam wrapped his mouth around familiar heat, reveled in the small moans that inevitably bubbled through the panting whispers above. It was all so right, so absolute and he'd thought he'd never be here again, thought all of this lost to him forever and he almost could have wept then and there, the pain and relief was still that raw and real.
Frodo moved, whispered his name and his fingers traced slow and gentle through Sam's hair. Soft breaths and a deliberate undulating waver of hips and Sam closed his eyes, willed himself to believe that this was really happening, that the pain was done and well worth the reward. He ran his palms over firm flanks, skimmed his thumbs over the join of thigh and groin, gripped Frodo sharp and possessive and thought, 'Mine!'
Sam wasted no time on play; he took Frodo deep, sank his fingers into his hips and moved his mouth firm and fast. Frodo threw his head back, arched with a sharp cry and clenched his fingers in Sam's hair. Frodo's knees tremored and Sam firmed his grip, held him still while he moved his head up and down, twisted his tongue and Frodo jolted, thrust himself forward with a shout. Sam would not allow it to falter his rhythm; he kept to his task, smooth and quick, bobbing his head and sliding his jaw just so, flickering and fluttering his tongue, driving Frodo into a frenzy of half-formed cries and stuttering ripples of his hips.
Sam breathed in deep, savored every sharp breath, every ebb and swell of movement, every twinge of pain as long fingers twisted at his scalp. Only hours ago he'd thought he'd never have this again, thought he'd never again be blessed with this body beneath his touch and he meant to have it all now, meant to rend every cry from Frodo's chest, meant to pull every reaction from this body, meant to take it all and give it all back again, thrice over.
He reached around Frodo's knee, flung his leg up and over his shoulder, pulled him yet deeper and Frodo swore, dug his fingers sharper into Sam's scalp. Sam winced just the tiniest bit, greedily relished even the pain, then redoubled his efforts. Frodo was leaning heavily on his elbow now, jar still gripped tight in his hand and arched back so far, his hair brushed the tabletop. He dug a heel into Sam's thigh, pushed against him and strained in deep and then deeper. He rocked and moaned, tried to buck his hips and groaned in frustration when Sam's grip would not permit it.
"Sam, I..." Frodo wheezed, "Sam!"
And Sam had no mercy; a quick scrape of teeth and a swirling ripple of his tongue and then Frodo was wailing his name on a long, drawn-out cry, clenching the table in a grip that bid fair to wrench the boards apart. His whole body went rigid, shook and spasmed then he was spilling into Sam's mouth, liquid fire that splashed against Sam's tongue and he rocked, bucked with a howling, guttural groan.
His fingers relaxed their grip on Sam's hair, his hips slowly rocked to a stop. He spiraled down and all was still for a moment. And then Sam swirled his tongue again, swallowed and Frodo juddered with a low, pleading whimper and collapsed to his back on the table.
Sam stood slowly, the joints in his knees popping in protest. Frodo's leg slid bonelessly over Sam's shoulder and Sam caught it up in the crook of his arm. He looked down at the tableau before him as though for the first time and wondered that he could be so blessed as to have this for his own. Smoke and ivory, all sated and spent and stars shining bright in those knowing, half-lidded eyes.
Frodo raised himself languidly, breath flowing ragged from his chest and then he leaned into Sam, rested his brow to Sam's own, closed his eyes. "Sam," he whispered then drew a fisted hand between them, pried open his fingers, one by one, to reveal the jar of oil still held in his palm.
And Sam's knees near failed him yet again. He whimpered as Frodo reached to push his trousers away from his hips, his eyes still closed, directing his actions through touch alone. Sam watched, fixated and still as stone as Frodo removed the cork, tipped some oil into his palm and reached for Sam's hand, slicking his fingers. Frodo lifted his head then, eyes still shut tight, and laid his mouth to Sam's, slow and sweet.
Sam groaned, dipped low into the kiss. He hadn't thought he could get any hotter, hadn't thought he could want so very badly but then Frodo leaned back, still holding Sam's mouth to his own, and guided Sam's hand between his legs. Oh, and only then did Sam know real heat, only then did he truly understand absolute consuming flame. He sank deeper into Frodo's mouth and slipped a finger home.
Frodo gasped, pulled his mouth away and his whole body rippled. Sam smiled, twisted his wrist, crooked his finger then added another. It was Frodo who groaned this time. He wrapped his free leg around Sam's back, pulled him in.
Slow and gentle, Sam moved his hand and Frodo reached up, laid his hand to Sam's nape and hauled him in for another kiss. Sam went willingly enough, sank into Frodo's mouth and began a methodical exploration with his tongue.
It might have been hours before he pulled his mouth away, slid it down Frodo's throat and then wandered over to a nipple. Frodo's breath caught and he bowed his back. His hips rocked and Sam was gratified to see that Frodo was hardening again. He pushed Sam's hand away, leaned back, threw a smoky gaze at Sam through his lashes.
"Now, Sam," he breathed. "Please." And Sam loosed a sound that fair dripped with need.
He closed his eyes tight, clenched his teeth. A hot, slippery hand gripped him and Sam had to wrench himself away, gasping and fisting his hands to calm himself. He took several deep, painful breaths, put his hands to Frodo's shoulders and pushed him back to lie on the table. Frodo's leg was still hooked over Sam's arm and now he lifted the other, pulling Sam against him. Sam went willingly, eagerly and oh, so slowly, guided himself in.
Blistering, searing and oh, just so bloody damned good and Sam dropped his head back and howled. There was nothing like it, no words to begin to describe it - it just was and Sam stopped trying to think it through, sank deeper.
Frodo arched, near bending himself in half and rocked, propelling into Sam's rhythm. Sam took his time, a slow, rough glide of cadenced movement, his mind spiraling right along with his breath as Frodo closed his eyes, his mouth caught open on a jagged moan.
Beautiful, Sam thought. Cool, smoke-misted sable and ivory lit by the stars themselves and he held it all, right in his hands. And to think that he had, not just the body, but the very heart of this star-touched creature that curved and stretched with untamed, wanton grace beneath him... it was almost too much to bear and Sam had to close his eyes, relax his tempo, else risk the finish before he'd so much as started.
Frodo tossed his head, arched his neck and Sam eyed the supple curve of his throat, bent and brushed his lips to it. He trained his movements slow, rocked with motion deep and deliberate and scraped his teeth against sweated skin.
"Don't ever push me away," he whispered. "Don't you never leave me behind."
He angled his hips, slid deeper. Frodo's eyes flew open as Sam hit his mark and he gasped, sharp and breathless.
"Sam," Frodo groaned and he writhed, twisted beneath him. "Oh, like that."
Sam gritted his teeth, pushed again and the sounds sliding from Frodo's throat set his nerves to humming. "Say you won't," he grated. "Promise me."
"Please," was all Frodo managed and his hips rolled, inducing Sam deep. His hands clawed at Sam's shoulders, scraped at his back. "Please."
It was all Sam could do to keep his pace slow. Sweat dripped from his hair, trickled down his neck and his arms shook. Yet he held back the pounding drive his body clamored for and kept his movements smooth and measured.
"Promise me," he said again.
"Sam!" The cry was wrenched from Frodo's chest. "I... I'm..." and he reached down, gripped himself and began to stroke. "I feel like I'm flying apart. Please!"
And that was more than Sam could take. He lifted Frodo's legs higher, grasped his hips and gave a mighty thrust. Frodo yowled, arched yet further, dug his heels into Sam's shoulder-blades and rocked against him hard. He hung suspended in Sam's grip, his hips grasped firmly in Sam's broad hands and Sam snapped his own hips forward and drove Frodo's back into the table.
Oh, how had he ever thought he might withstand the draw that Frodo had on his very soul? How had he even entertained the idea that he might survive without this body against his, these hands skimming over him, scraping his nerves into a wild frenzy from which there was only one release? Surely he'd never thought that his heart could possibly stutter on alone, without the answering thrum that moved now beneath his skin, blossomed to flame low in his belly and spread fire through his limbs. Surely not.
He sobbed out a hoarse shout, bent Frodo's knee to his chest, thrust himself deep and bucked his hips. Frodo cried out again, hard and rough and Sam did it again. Gripping Frodo's knee with one hand and the table's edge with the other, Sam pulled back then pounded in again, fast and hard. His pace fed on itself and he was suddenly caught in the driving rhythm, losing all sense, all thought to the pure sensation of it all. His hips bucked, moving him at their own command and Sam surrendered himself to it, to the sharp moans that rippled over his skin, to the fiery heat that clenched around him, lit a holocaust beneath his brow and set his blood to blazing.
He rocked and thrust and Frodo moved with him, matched him. It was only dimly that he heard Frodo's cries of release, felt him twist and writhe and then the flame sparked brighter, hotter, bloomed within and Sam cast himself into it, consumed and remade, ruined and delivered in the space of one eternal moment. His back bowed, his head flew back and he ripped a shout from his chest, let it flow long and loud as the fire lit his skin, rolled right through him and left him gasping, weeping, wrapped in a gauzy haze of sweat and ivory and the cool, clean scent of rain.
He lay heavily atop Frodo, chest heaving, breath flowing in stumbling wheezes, his limbs weak and heavy. It was only when Frodo laughed a little, pushed at his shoulder and tried to maneuver his legs that Sam found the will to move. But still he couldn't bear to wrench himself from Frodo's skin, so he wrapped his arms about him and pulled them both to the floor. He sat heavily and Frodo slithered down atop him, straddling his hips and burying his face in Sam's shoulder, still trying to catch his breath. He wrapped his arms around Sam and Sam did the same, tracing his fingers up and down Frodo's back in long strokes.
He sat for long moments, just breathing and smelling and feeling. He closed his eyes and pressed his nose into rain-scented sable, held on tight and rocked them to and fro.
"You wouldn't say it," he whispered hoarsely then placed a soft kiss to Frodo's temple. "Why won't you promise?"
Frodo was silent for far too long, fingertips gliding lightly over Sam's broad chest, pausing now and again to toy with a scattering of chest hairs. He swayed to Sam's rhythm, lifted his face and kissed the side of Sam's throat then, in a whisper so small, it was almost not a sound at all, he said, "Because I love you so."
Sam knew the truth of it now, should have known it all along and promised himself he'd never doubt it again. He smiled sadly, squeezed Frodo tighter.
"Promise or no, I'll not let you leave me, not ever again," he murmured into Frodo's hair. "I'll follow you to death and back again and even beyond, don't you doubt that."
Frodo closed his eyes and Sam felt tears slip from them, runnel down his chest. He shivered against Sam and Sam wrapped his arms more firmly about his shoulders, rocked them back and forth. There was a long pause before Frodo spoke again.
"I know, Sam," he whispered.
* * *
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