West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
Sam can't let himself give in because tomorrow he'll still be the gardener-lad about his chores - maybe.
It was going to be one of those sumptuous Baggins parties. One of those splendid affairs that lit the Hill with a rainbow scattering of lantern-light and there'd be music and dancing and songs and story-telling. There'd be tables groaning under the weight of the food on them and rivers of ale. And he thought that he might stay at home and clean something. Or perhaps stay home and go to bed early and hide under dark blankets until there were no more parties.
There was a time, not so long ago, when he'd looked forward to such jollification and laughed to see the preparations and rushed to help and fallen over his own feet and laughed again and wished that every day was a party.
He should be there now. Should be turning a spit or tapping a barrel or chasing the light across the dancing green with his sisters.
But Sam was standing by the door at Number Three and staring moodily at the step where the mortar was crumbling away and thinking that he'd get to that tomorrow. He'd have to lift the stone slab and dig the dross away and level the place where the step should be sitting flat and reliable and ready to bear the weight of a thousand feet. His pipe had gone out while he frowned to think of certain feet dancing without him and he went inside before his own feet could carry him along to the field that was already dancing in the swaying lights as the sun dipped away in a golden spill behind the trees.
He'd wait the evening out and things might seem different in the morning - except that things were never different in the morning and there was no reason why they should be. Tomorrow he'd still be the gardener-lad about his chores: he'd make his apologies for missing the party and they'd be accepted and he'd still be sick at heart and crying into the cabbages.
It was full dark now and the merry music too close to ignore and the page under his hand too full of words.
He'd have to go soon or they'd come looking for him - it was all a game of make-believe he played sometimes, imagining how it might be if he had a choice.
* * *
He stood at the gate and thought that he could see old Mister Bilbo piling his plate with those little spice-cakes that Daisy baked so well; and there was Mistress Lobelia flouncing with her nose in the air like she did and Daddy Twofoot sitting with the Gaffer over by the kegs. And that might be Miss Angelica dancing with a lad he didn't recognise.
Here by the gate with the dark gathering around him he was invisible. And he shouldn't be here at all and there was nothing to be gained by it but he couldn't stay away - and he understood that he shouldn't stay away but he wished that he had.
* * *
Tom Cotton saw him first, raised a friendly hand in greeting, smiled a little but stayed where he was with Jolly and the other lads. Sam waved back and smiled too and thought for a moment that he might join them where they sat at their ease blowing smoke rings.
There was a pause in the dancing and a lass was singing one of the old counting songs and folk around her joining the chorus and tapping out the simple rhythms he knew as well as any of them.
Daisy saw him next. She hurried over, linked an arm through his and kissed his cheek because she cared even when she didn't understand what was troubling him.
"I'm glad you're here at last, Sam; Dad's been 'bout ready to come lookin' for you."
"Sorry." He wondered briefly whether he should talk to Daisy about the feelings that were tormenting him but he knew he couldn't do that because there was nothing to be done for him unless the world turned upside down.
She patted his hand, "come and fetch something to eat; you'll feel better."
* * *
Sam drank his ale and smoked his pipe and watched the dancing; and he's seen everyone and said all that was proper everytime and helped stand the kegs on the trestles and squired old Mother Muddytoes to her seat after a particularly vigorous ribbon dance; and he hadn't seen Frodo at all. He'd reason to be grateful for that but more reason to wonder at it. And he did wonder between the dancing and the smoking and he filled his mug and drained it and the lights were starting to blur so that he blinked a few times and thought he might be imagining things because there was Frodo standing in front of him, watching him.
He blinked again and made some kind of vague gesture with his pipe and Frodo smiled and sat down next to him. Too close but that was nothing new.
"The ale's good isn't it, Sam? Are you having fun?"
Ah! Fun, yes, indeed. I need to tell him how much fun I'm having here and how I haven't been watching for him since I walked through the gate.
"No . . . I mean . . . " Sam didn't dare to look at Frodo, so he looked at his feet and tried to remember that tomorrow he'd still be the gardener-lad and nothing would be different.
"Have you changed your mind, Sam?" The light-warm voice trembled a little in the light-warm night. "Might you change your mind?"
Little Mari was dancing with Tom and her cheeks were pink and she was minding her steps but he was guiding her and watching her with a fondness that made Sam ache all the way to his bones.
He didn't mean to make a scene but there it was: golden ale spilling and sparkling onto the grass and his voice saying things he didn't mean about how he'd never change his mind and then stumbling away, looking for somewhere to hide until it was tomorrow.
* * *
"Will you forgive me, Sam?"
No. I can't forgive you for offering everything I want and everything I can't have. The tears were cooling on his face and he was glad for the darkness in the hollow of the field.
"Nothin' to forgive, Mister Frodo. Don't worry none 'bout me."
"But I do worry. I know I keep saying the wrong thing but I thought . . . I thought you felt the same, Sam."
He turned away and the tears were spilling faster now and he couldn't speak.
If the fates were kind Frodo would walk away and he could run home and do something that didn't involve making a fool of himself. But he was beginning to understand that the fates took no account of the wishes of one Samwise Gamgee.
"I know you feel the same."
There was unexpected anger twisted in those words and, for the first time, Sam understood that it wasn't just about him and his feelings and his pain. A tentative hand stroked his shoulder and he thought that he'd been burned through the coarse weave and tried to stifle the exclamation that burst heedless from his mouth.
"Sam, I know you feel the same."
Softer this time and sadder and he buried his face in his hands and couldn't help but lean into the touch of that nervous hand.
"Aye, Mister Frodo. All you're feelin', all you're wantin' . . . 'tis the same for me but 't'aint right." He felt the words gusting against his own fingers and leaned harder against the caress at his shoulder, and knew that if he touched back everything would fall into ruin; so he listened to the music and tried to think about the step at Number Three and stirring mortar in the old wooden bucket and smoothing a place for the step to sit for a hundred years for all the feet that would tread there.
He looked up then; saw dark curls falling around the bright-dark face that was painted in his dreams; and he couldn't bear the hope that looked back at him and breathed at him on a sweet sigh.
* * *
He'd never meant to come here tonight; he'd never meant to behave like the child he'd left behind on a night he no longer recalled; he'd never meant to let anything happen because tomorrow he'd still be the gardener-lad about his chores.
But there were warm lips under his own and he couldn't hear the music for the thumping of his own heart. Lips were opening under his tongue and all the sweets of a thousand imaginings of a thousand nights tangled in his sweaty sheets. And Frodo gasped against his mouth and wound against him and what was proper and what was needful fought a last battle in the hollow of the field while the lanterns swung in the small trees along the Row.
He watched his calloused fingers, unexpectedly steady in the shadow, pushing out the carved buttons of a brocade waistcoat; felt the fine linen of a blue shirt move under his hands and heard small moans answering his own when he leant forward to capture damp lips moving under his again and again . . . and then silken skin under his touch.
What did he understand before this? Sun and moonlight and the seasons turning and sweat dripping into his eyes at harvest time and a dark kitchen in slow winter evenings; and walking up the Hill into a new sunrise every morning of his life.
All that was before; and he forgot to be self-conscious when he felt his shirt pulled down over his shoulder and prickling against his skin like dry hay and a damp-warm hand against his need and fumbling with the buttons of his breeches and closing around him. All this sang to him about now and the urgency of another body writhing under him responding to his touch and there was no tomorrow and the world turned upside down.
* * *
"It's tomorrow, Sam." Warm breath in the crook of his neck and languid limbs sprawled over his body and trusting him. "Our tomorrow, Sam."
He saw the light, low on the distance and it spread like spilt milk over the track and the grass. He'd never let go. Not now. He ducked his face into the warm, close smell of milky skin.
"Aye, me dear, it's a new day."
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