West of the Moon

A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive

 

 

A Garden of His Own
An unexpected twist in life chez Baggins-Gamgee
Author: Elderberry Wine
Rating: R

 

Written for the Topsy Turvy challenge -

A/N: Part of the Shire Morns series, follows A Change in the Weather




It was the rabbit hole in the back field, and Sam never knew it was there, but stepped into it as smartly as anything, and heard the ominous crack in his shin before he felt it. Feel it he did however, instantly thereafter, and sat heavily down on the field with tears springing to his eyes from the sudden intensity of the pain as well as the outraged sense of the unfairness of it all. One moment he had been gazing at the poppies peeping scarlet through the grass in the sloping edge, and thinking dreamily of some fried taters and tomatoes with a rasher of bacon for dinner, since he'd not be back in time from the lettuces for cooking anything elaborate, and the next moment he was on the ground and his immediate future had just taken a distinct turn for the worse.

He cursed himself roundly for being such a ninnyhammer as had his head in dreams, and his mind not where he was stepping, just to take the edge off of it, and then, with a quick swipe of his eyes, considered his options. There were not many.

Frodo had gone into town, for a look through the bookseller's latest acquisition, and perhaps a drink or two at the Green Dragon, and did not expect to be back before nightfall. And since there was no-one else likely to stumble across him in these fields, the only available plan was to try to make his way home as best he could. Unfortunately, since the leg was clearly not going to bear his weight, and there appeared to be no fortuitous sticks about, it seemed that crawling back to Bag End was to be the order of the day. Sam took a deep breath, and started off.


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The sun had set below the horizon, but there was still light when Frodo arrived back at Bag End. That was odd, he thought to himself as he walked up through the kitchen garden to the round door, with a puzzled frown. There was not a warm glow to be seen in any window, and no smoke from any chimney of the smial. If Sam were still in the lettuces, that would be unexpected, for he knew Sam had not thought there was much work to be done. Otherwise, he would have waited until the morrow for the books, and would have made dinner for the two of them himself. It was evident, as he walked through the cold and dark kitchen, that Sam had not yet been home, and with more than a bit of worry, he left Bag End quickly, and headed for the back fields to look for him.

Sam had not made it very far from the lettuces, for Frodo found him, curled in a miserable heap, on the pathway that led back to the fields that Sam used for their primary vegetable garden. With a cry of surprise, Frodo flung himself down on the path next to Sam, as Sam lifted his head up in immeasurable gratitude. "My leg, Frodo," he moaned, trying rather unsuccessfully to keep his voice steady as he reached out to him. "I smashed it up but good, seemingly."

Frodo stifled a gasp of dismay then, as even in the dusk, he could see the swelling and ominous purple hue of Sam's right leg. "Oh, Sam, my dear, we need to get you home," he exclaimed, carefully drawing Sam up.

With another cry that he quickly bit off as fast as he could, Sam gingerly stood up on his good leg, leaning heavily against Frodo. "Very good, Sam-love," Frodo encouraged him, as Sam closed his eyes against the pain. "Just lean on me, my dear. Think how lovely it will be to be lying in our bed. We'll take as long as you like; just let me know if you need to rest a bit."


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It was a laborious, and for Sam, painful process, but at last they had reached Bag End, and their bedroom. Never had he realized how vast the lands of Bag End were, as when he had to traverse them, with Frodo's unflagging assistance, inch by tedious inch. But there at last was Bag End, dark and chilly, for Frodo had not taken the time to light a fire before he left, but wonderfully welcome all the same.

"Don't lie down yet," Frodo counseled him gently, as Sam sank appreciatively on the side of their bed, "for you'll surely never want to sit up again, once you're down." That was good advice, Sam had to agree, so he sat numbly still, trying to ignore the pounding pain in his leg, as Frodo found a nightshirt for him, and carefully began to undress him. "I'm going to fetch Daisy, Sam-love, and I don't want to hear another word about it, for I'm afraid you've gone and broken that leg, my dear." Dutifully, Sam let Frodo unbutton both his workshirt and wesket, for there had still been a bit of chill that morning in the late spring air, and allowed both to be eased off of his shoulders. "Just lift yourself up, dear, just a bit," Frodo's gentle voice coaxed him, as he unfastened Sam's breeches, and soon enough slid those off as well. With the nightshirt drawn over Sam, Frodo readied the pillows, and with a strong embrace, drew Sam back against them, and then carefully raised Sam's damaged leg up and onto the bed; Sam shoving his fist in his mouth and biting back a cry of pain.

"You must be starved, my poor Sam, but I believe fetching Daisy comes first," Frodo declared, laying his hand compassionately on Sam's forehead. Sam could only nod, not trusting his voice, but Frodo gave a slight answering smile, and then quickly left the room. It was not for long, however, as he returned with a candle lit from the kitchen fire, and placed it at the bedside. Walking over to the fireplace, he busied himself with stacking the wood and kindling just so, and soon a brisk fire was beginning to warm the room. Returning to Sam, he looked down at Sam's injured leg, with a rapidly hidden frown, and leaned over Sam, kissing him tenderly. Sam couldn't help but respond, drawing an arm around Frodo's neck, eliciting a warm chuckle from Frodo. "I'll be back as soon as I can, Sam-love, with your sister," he murmured, cupping Sam's face tenderly as he drew himself back up. "You might want to be keeping yourself covered, excepting the leg, my dear. It's a chilly evening, without a doubt, but that would not be the only reason. Nightshirts can be unforgivably revealing, don't you think?" And with a light chuckle, he was gone.


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When he at last returned, Daisy Gamgee with her bag of healing herbs in tow, he found that Sam had prudently taken his advice. That was well, for Daisy, even though her brother had been living on the Hill at least four years now, was distinctly uncomfortable about finding him there in the bed that he and Mr. Frodo obviously shared. But her calling as a healer rose to the occasion, so she approached the bed with no more redness in her cheeks that might be accounted for by the brisk walk up from Number Three in the nippy night air, and studied her brother's leg in a most professional manner.

Sam, for his part, was so glad to see her that the indelicacy of his position quite escaped him, and he gave a cry of relief at the sight of her. "If I ain't the clumsiest creature," he muttered in apology, for disturbing her evening so.

"Clumsy? Naught a bit of it, Samwise dear," she smiled, reaching out for the basin of warm water and cloth that Frodo had just brought in. "But you do get yourself into a fine mess, time t'time, and alus have, since you'd be a fauntling." Cautiously, she wiped his leg and foot, studying it carefully. Frodo stood quietly behind her, keeping out of the light, with his arms wrapped tightly around himself, and a worried look plain enough across his face. "I'd remember Mum shakin' her head over your latest scape," she continued in a soothing voice, as she dipped the cloth in the water again. "That Samwise, she'd be tellin' me; that little mite'd alus be doin' afore he'd be thinkin', she'd say. That'd be a little tender, just there, dear?"

Sam's quick inhale of breath and bite of his lip were answer enough, and Frodo winced in sympathy behind Daisy's back.

"But there'd be no sayin' you no, and once Mr. Frodo appeared up here at Bag End, why, you'd be at Da's footsteps every day. May, she'd be supposed to be minding both you and Mari, but there'd be no keepin' you home, no ways," Daisy's quiet voice continued on, as her hands did likewise, gently sponging and probing, but Sam, as she had calculated, was more distracted by her words than her actions. "And Da'd more than have his hands full w'what he should be doin' and there you'd go, into some mischief as like as not. I'd never be understandin' why he'd let you follow him here."

"Well, aye, but Da alus knew as I wanted t'be a gardener..." Sam mumbled, shooting a quick glance at Frodo.

"Oh, now, not so much afore as after," Daisy gave a light chuckle, her hand running lightly but skillfully over the now cleaned but purple and swollen shin. "You were still so young, Samwise, but I'd be rememberin' it clear enough. Da'd have to be after you all day long to pluck the snails from the greens, but then all of a sudden there wasn't any chore you didn't want t'be helpin' him with. Long as 'twas at Bag End, o'course. Aye, 'tis broken, no doubt about it," she added, with a final prod that caused Sam to give a sharp yelp.

Sam shot a quick glance at Frodo, and the expression he saw on his shadowed face was definitely a distraction from his leg. But Daisy chose that moment to rise, hands on her hips, and give Sam's leg a final look of dissatisfaction. "Well, there's naught t'be done with it this night," she announced with a certain amount of asperity in her voice. "It needs t'be bound, sure enow, but 'tis too swollen to truss it up good," she added, ignoring Sam's wince at the thought of that procedure. "It'll be hurtin' right fierce tonight, no mistake, Sam dear," she laid a compassionate hand on his shoulder then, "so I'll make you a sleep posset, if Mr. Frodo'd be so kind."

Frodo started up at her suggestion, and quickly assured her that he'd be more than glad to assist her. It took awhile, indeed, to prepare, for even though Frodo was sure Sam had whatever ingredients Daisy might not have brought, he wasn't always quite sure where to find them, so several trips back to the bedroom and consultations with Sam were required, as well as a rather thorough search of the back larder. So it was quite late, indeed past midnight, when the mixture was complete. Frodo insisted then on Daisy spending the night in the back bedroom, and immediately set off to start a warming fire and search for an extra quilt in the wooden chest at the foot of the bed, for the night had become quite cold, after all. Daisy gave only a token objection, for she had been up very early that morning with Rose Marlow's fauntling, all the way into Hobbiton, and a rather bad case of croup. She accepted the warm room and comfortable bed then, in lieu of the cold walk back to Number Three, with gratitude, and was soon fast asleep.

The moon was high in the dark night sky when Frodo finally slipped carefully into bed next to Sam, taking great care not to touch his leg. He had only a moment to spare for the realization that both he and Sam had probably had nothing to eat since breakfast, but Sam certainly wasn't bothered by that right now, Daisy's draught having had its customary immediate effect, and he himself was quite honestly too tired to care. So the cloudless moon shone through the window, soon enough, on two deeply slumbering hobbits.


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Sam had woken groggily a couple of times during the night to roll towards Frodo in his usual way, but the sharp pain when he moved his leg had reminded him of his situation. Daisy's potion, however, was a powerful one, and he sank quickly and gratefully back into sleep, only reaching out a hand to touch Frodo in recompense.

But this time when he woke, there was no familiar warm body next to his, and the light behind his resolutely closed eyes finally persuaded him that it was morning. It was a bit of a shock, when he did at last open them, to find that not only was it morning, but mid-morning at the very least. Sleeping in was not a habit in which he normally indulged, but there was no doubt that he had done just that.

Frodo, apparently, had not, for there was evidence that he had been already busy this morning. There was a decent sized fire warming the room, and that was well, since the morning glories that encircled their bedroom window blew this way and that, indicating that it was a brisk morning out of doors. Glancing to the side of the bed, he noticed that there was a tray there with a teapot well covered with a rather threadbare cozy (one of Bilbo's old favorites) and a tempting plate of bread and butter, as well as a small dish of sugared strawberries. Sam smiled fondly at the sight, and moved to push himself up into a sitting position.

The smile immediately vanished as he received a cruel reminder of exactly why he was still in bed. The pain from his leg that shot through him was sudden and sharp, and caused him to yelp out in distress before he could help himself. It wasn't a matter of minutes before Daisy appeared in the doorway, looking as collected and tidy as ever, and gave him a warm smile.

"Ah, you'd be awake at last, you great idle creature," she teased him affectionately, walking over to the bed and drawing the coverings from his leg with care. Sam held his breath, as she gazed critically at the limb.

"Well, 'twill look no better any time soon," she muttered cryptically. "So we may as well be binding it but good. That is, after Mr. Frodo gets back," she added, with the hint of a twinkle in her eye. " 'Tis not a task I'd care t'be tryin' on my own. You are quite a sturdy lad, Samwise, these days, after all."

"But where'd Frodo be then?" Sam asked, with a bit of bewilderment. "He'd not be mindin' if you fetch him from the study, t'be sure."

"Ah, but he'd not be there now, would he?" Daisy's smile widened. "He'd be up that early this morning, and said sommat about lettuces to me. Would that be makin' any sense t'you, Sam lad?"

"Now, if he's never gone off t' finish plantin' them," Sam smile began to answer hers.

Her eyes met his frankly then, and she gave him the slightest of nods. "'Tis no surprise, none at all," she spoke slowly, holding his gaze. "He thinks the world of you, Samwise, no doubt about it. I'd not be surprised if there ain't nothing he wouldn't do for you, even if it means the Master o'Bag End plantin' your lettuces. I was that wrong, all those years ago, seemingly, and glad I am to say so. You did right by following your heart, Sam lad."

Sam's smile quirked up a bit more at her words. "As did you, Daisy, m'dear," he answered mildly.

Uncharacteristically, she laughed out loud, a merry look in her eyes. "No doubt, dearie," she repeated, "not a one. And ain't we the pair!"


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It wasn't long before a clatter in the kitchen announced that Frodo had returned home. Daisy, who had just finished drawing Sam into a more upright position, started a bit at the sound, and made a move to leave, but Sam, with color starting to come back to his face after that ordeal, caught gently at her arm.

"Leave him be," he said softly, with the hint of a smile. "He really does all right about the kitchen, you know. Not much of a body for being waited on, Frodo is." He gave a sniff then, at the tempting aroma that had begun to waft into the room. "Ah, fried taters," he added appreciatively. "He does that right nice. I'd never thought of the onion, and now I never want it without."

Sure enough, it wasn't long before Frodo appeared, another tray in hand, this time laden with a second tea pot, a covered dish with the most glorious scent emanating from it, and a plate with a heaping stack of buttered toast. "Oh, Mr. Frodo, let me help you," exclaimed Daisy, hurrying over to him, but Frodo shook his head.

"You are our guest, Daisy, this morning, and deserve to be waited on hand and foot for all that you've done for Sam," he insisted, drawing a chair over near the bed for her, and sitting at the foot of the bed himself.

The pain that still throbbed in Sam's leg was nearly forgotten for the moment, as he gratefully accepted a full plate from Frodo. The wind out of doors must be lively indeed, he decided, for Frodo's dark curls were mussed thoroughly, tossed in every direction, and there was a decided smudge of dried mud along one fair cheek and across the sharp bridge of his nose. His cheeks glowed rosily from the combination of the morning's exertion and the chilly temperature, and Sam was quite sure that he had never looked lovelier. This wretched leg of his, he realized with a sinking heart, was going to put an unmistakable damper on many matters of the greatest of significance for him.

If Frodo had guessed at Sam's train of thought however, he gave no sign but chatted cheerfully with Daisy in his most charming manner, and Daisy's initial reticence was quickly thawed out by the warmth of Frodo's attention. However, when the impromptu second breakfast had been thoroughly devoured by all three of them, without a crumb of toast or errant onion left, Daisy collected up the dishes and firmly insisted on doing the wash-up. "I'd best be back t'Number Three, and check on the gaffer's breakfast, too," she added, "and I'll be looking for a proper stick. You'd better be resting up now, Sam lad, for when I come back, Mr. Frodo and I, if he'd be that kind, are going to have to bind up that leg proper. And then it's going to be at least a week in bed before you'll be able to be up and about. Shall I inquire about the village for a lass t'do for you in the meantime, Mr. Frodo?"

"No!" came instantaneously from both residents of Bag End at that thought, and Sam reddened slightly, but Frodo gave him a quick reassuring glance. "Thank you kindly for the thought, Daisy," he continued courteously, "but Bag End really doesn't need a lot of doing. I cook tolerably well, and I won't mind caring for Sam until he's up and about again."

"Very good, Mr. Frodo," Daisy nodded her head, hiding her smile at their simultaneous reaction. "Then I'll be back afore noon."

Frodo stoically waited until Daisy had left, and the muted clatter of dishes from the kitchen indicated that the clean-up had begun, before he burst out in laughter. "Oh, Sam, the look on your face, my dear!"

"Probably much like yours," Sam grinned. And then his expression became slightly wistful. "You are too far away, Frodo," he murmured, stretching a hand out towards him.

"Never for long, dearest," and Frodo was instantly at Sam's side as he sat propped up by pillows in their bed. "Just lie back; that leg must pain you something awful," he added, drawing an arm firmly about Sam's shoulders, holding him close and lightly kissing his forehead.

"Not a'that bad, not really," Sam lied stoutly, but closed his eyes and settled his head gratefully against Frodo's shoulder. "You finished the lettuces, didn't you, Frodo-love," he murmured, giving the side of Frodo's neck, so very available, a quick kiss.

"Mmm," Frodo smiled, tightening his embrace just a bit. "You know I love a salad, come warm weather. Wouldn't be having that, not without the lettuce."

"But Tom or Jolly wouldn't have minded, nor Ned or Nibs," Sam insisted, catching up Frodo's other hand with both of his, studying the dirt still ground into the cuticles.

"It's planting season," Frodo gently reproved him, tightening his hand around Sam's. "I'm sure they have more than enough of their own to be doing. Fortunately, you managed to put in a few, I discovered. So I just went by what you had done for the distance apart, and the depth. I think I did them right," he continued, just a note of doubt entering in his voice. Then he shook his head slightly, and turned to Sam, with new determination in his voice. "But never mind that. A lettuce is but a lettuce. Let us see how we can distract you from that tedious leg of yours until Daisy returns."


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Binding up Sam's leg tightly to the support of the stout stick, so that it could heal straight and proper, was an agonizing procedure, as swollen and tender as it was. Frodo had all he could do, to follow Daisy's directions and stop himself from demanding that they stop hurting Sam so. And Daisy, for her part, had her lips tightly compressed and did her very best not to look at Sam's face. Sam managed not to cry out but proceeded to gnaw a towel that Daisy had thoughtfully given him quite thoroughly in order to keep from doing so, and by the time the setting was over, was perspiring heavily and was very pale about the face. So Daisy thought it prudent to fetch a basin of warm water and clean cloths and definitely take her time about preparing another sleeping draught.

Frodo immediately understood, and sitting on the side of the bed, gently bathed Sam's face as Sam fought to steady his breathing. "There, now, love," he murmured tenderly, carefully brushing Sam's now darkly wet and bedraggled curls back from his forehead. "That's the worst of it. Daisy's fixing another potion for you, and when you awaken, you will be already on the mend. You are so young and strong, Sam-love, I am sure that your bones will heal in no time at all."

"Aye, mayhap," grunted Sam, finally finding his voice, even if it was still slightly uneven. "But this could not have come at a worse time, this nonsense. That rain last week kept me from plantin' as I should, and that sun'll be scorching the seedlings something fierce if it gets put off much further."

"What else is there yet to plant, Sam-love?" Frodo's low and soothing voice gently asked, as he tucked the curls behind Sam's ears, and carefully bathed up to the tips.

"Ah, Frodo, I'll naught be able to be thinkin' of a thing else if you'd be doin' that much more, now," Sam mumbled, closing his eyes and turning his face into Frodo's hand.

"Sorry, love," Frodo gave a slight smile and moved on to the back of Sam's neck, only a slightly less provocative zone. "Tell me about the vegetables again."

"Carrots and, um, those onion sets, and, and, taters t'be sure," Sam dutifully stammered out, his eyes now quite tightly closed and a slight smile beginning to appear, as he lost himself in Frodo's caresses. "And the long beans, and you know I never got to the berry thicket last year, but those canes would be needin' prunin' that bad, and stars above, Frodo, talk about needin'..."

But precisely what it was Sam was needing was lost for the moment, as conscientiously loud footsteps were heard to be coming up the hall and Daisy entered the room, a mug containing an unappealingly murky liquid in hand. It turned out to have been sufficient warning, for she found Frodo over at the chest at the side of the room, placing the basin on it, and wiping his hands on a towel. Sam, looking to be in far better shape than when she left, was sitting calmly up in the bed, with only the stick-bound leg out from under the bedclothes. She gave the both of them a satisfied nod, and Sam dutifully, and with a nearly completely hidden reluctance, took the draught, and was left to sleep the afternoon away.


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The room was dark, with only the light of the glowing embers of a well-banked fire, and that of a bed-side candle to see by when next Sam awoke. As his eyelids flickered open, and his groggy mind tried to recall why he felt so sapped of all energy, and why one of his legs was apparently being alternately roasted and set upon by a hoard of stinging insects, he heard a rustle next to him and turned to see Frodo, propped up on an elbow next to him in bed.

"Ah, I thought you were coming around," he said lightly with a slight smile, brushing the back of his hand lightly across Sam's cheek. "That mixture of Daisy's is amazingly potent, I must say. You've been fast asleep since this morning, and I'd not be surprised if you nevertheless don't manage to sleep the rest of the night away as well."

"Daisy alus said we heal best asleep," Sam muttered, finding his throat dry and scratchy. Obviously, he realized with some dismay, he must have been sleeping with his mouth open. "No wonder you're still awake," he added ruefully. "I must have been snorin' something fierce."

Frodo's smile widened at Sam's observation. "The sweetest music there is, to me, Sam-love," he replied warmly. "It reminds me that you are here beside me, and nothing in all the world could ever make me happier than that. But I suspect," he added, playfully kissing Sam on the tip of his nose, "that you might find some water just the thing."

Sam certainly couldn't deny that, so Frodo immediately rose, and walked over to the water pitcher on the chest under the window. "No moon," Frodo remarked thoughtfully, glass in hand, glancing out into the night. "It did smell quite damp this evening as well. I suppose we shall have rain tomorrow."

Sam watched him, struck as always by the beauty of the play of firelight on Frodo's luminous skin, for despite the chill, he was wearing no nightshirt, as well as the reddish streaks that it brought out in his dark hair. But as Frodo turned back to him with a smiling apology about dawdling about his water, there was no room for any other observation in Sam's heart than the sudden need to hold and be held by this fair being, to kiss and be kissed, and perhaps more, and the issue of his leg was not to be allowed to deny his desire.

Quickly he swallowed down the offered water and, hastily setting the glass on the bedside table, stroked Frodo's arm beseechingly as Frodo climbed back into bed again at his side. Frodo needed no more invitation than that, and with a quiet chuckle, and his eyes dark and joyful in firelight, turned to Sam and covered his mouth with his own. Sam gave a quiet moan, with sheer want and aching need, and threw his arms heedlessly about Frodo's shoulders, tugging him down and over him. Frodo broke away for the moment, laughing softly, and slowly drew Sam's nightshirt up to his waist.

Sam groaned deeply, closing his eyes and drawing an unresisting hand downwards. Frodo's smile broadened, and his hand was all of a sudden in the best of all possible places, as Sam lurched up into it, oblivious to the pain that shot through his leg and only conscious of that glorious touch, and his heedlessly rash craving that gave any limitations no credence whatsoever. With an acquiescent abandonment, he opened his mouth to Frodo's, gave his tongue to his, and mingled their breathing, until he no longer knew where he ended and Frodo began, if, indeed, there really was any separation between the two of them. His body, too, had fallen into the rhythm of Frodo's hand, and once more, he felt the wild rush of unthinking rapture as he gave everything he had, everything he was, to Frodo.


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Frodo straightened up, his hand unconsciously massaging the aching small of his back, and stared down at the ground with a frown. Sam had given him detailed instructions, but he had the dreadful feeling that he had managed to muddle it somehow, and a crop of potatoes gone bad was unthinkable. He had been right about the rain, but fortunately it had settled for a steady misty drizzle, so he had proceeded with the planting irregardless, ignoring the steady dripping of water off of his nose, and the sensation of his curls being well-plastered about his face. The ground was, of course, a total morass, but he realized why Sam had never minded a light rain, since it certainly was much easier in which to dig. However, he was caked in mud, he seemed to be developing a twinge of some sort in his right wrist, and there was a dull throbbing in his temples that indicated the loss of a meal or two had occurred, and most definitely that of several desperately needed pots of tea.

It was then that he heard the amused voice behind him. "It's a topsy-turvy world indeed, cousin, when I come to find Sam snug abed reading to his inestimable sister, and you mucking about out here in the back fields."

With a broad grin, Frodo spun around to face the intruder. "Either sod off, Merry," he growled good-naturedly, "or just tell me if these potatoes are planted deeply enough. Sam will never forgive me if they aren't."

Merry cast a critical eye down at the hole Frodo had just prepared in which to plop another seedling. "About half an inch too shallow, I should think," he judged it. "They'll grow, but they'll be bigger if you go slightly deeper."

"Then thank the stars you happened along," Frodo sighed with relief. "I haven't gotten too many in yet. Sam would have been most upset if our lot had paled against those of the Cottons, or even the gaffer, and of course he never would blame me. Make yourself useful, Merry, for I don't mind telling you that this is distinctly uncomfortable work, and the sooner I am through with it, the more cheerful I shall be regarding unexpected company."

Merry laughed, but shedding his jacket, tossed it on the nearest hedgerow and rolled up his sleeves. "So what happened to the old fellow, anyway? Something to do with his leg? It looked to be rather oddly wrapped."

"Broke it," Frodo grunted. "Rabbit hole. This very field, too, so look sharp. You do the digging," he commanded, tossing the trowel to a startled Merry. "I'll set the seedlings."

"Erm, certainly," replied Merry, taking up the tool with not a great deal of dexterity. "But I generally just watch, you see. I'm not particularly handy with the actual doing, so to speak."

"No time like the present to remedy that condition," Frodo replied, giving him a sideways grin. "The Master ought to always appear as if he could do it, if he were not so particularly busy at the moment, you know. Your father always does."

Merry gave a gruff laugh. "You are absolutely right about that. And he could, I have no doubts."

"As can you," Frodo watched his attempts with approval. "At least as well, if not better, than I."

Merry said nothing more in reply, but Frodo watched with satisfaction as his movements quickly became more practiced and assured. The two hobbits worked swiftly then, in the increasingly heavy drizzle, until at last Frodo straightened up with a groan of relief.

"That's it, then?" Merry knocked the mud on the trowel off and gave Frodo a hopeful glance.

"Well, the first lot. There's more in the greenhouse yet to go." Then seeing the expression on Merry's face, he added sympathetically, "But I could certainly do with a pot of tea first." Laughing at Merry's sigh of relief, he threw a warm arm around Merry's shoulders as they began to walk back to Bag End from the back field, and Merry immediately had no regrets about his strenuous morning.

"Did you startle Sam and Daisy much?" Frodo asked good-naturedly as they walked carefully around the largest of puddles in the muddy path. "I'm assuming that you made your usual highly dramatic entrance, and Daisy is undeniably not used to that sort of thing."

"Well, yes," Merry admitted with a certain amount of embarrassment. "I might have been a trifle harsh with the door, for it was definitely looking as if it was taking you forever to get there, and when the door opened, it wasn't you at all. I wouldn't be surprised if she had thought me some wild-eyed dangerous sort, out for the fabled Baggins gold, but fortunately, she did recognize me. And her resemblance to Sam kept me from truly disgracing myself, and assuming that you had unaccountably hired on a serving lass."

Frodo gave a snort at that thought. "Since the fabled Baggins gold is quite precisely that," he stated dryly, "there really is no danger of my hiring on some sort of retinue. Sam and I do very nicely on our own, I think. But you did pop in to say hello to Sam, now, didn't you?"

"Of course, Frodo," Merry replied, with a certain amount of indignation. "I really am well-mannered, you know, at least when I choose to be. The most curious thing, though, Sam had been reading to his sister; I noticed the book beside him. I know he knows a few words of Elvish, but I never supposed that he could actually read it."

Frodo gave Merry an amused glance, and tightened his arm just a bit, as a quick hug. "Silly lad," he exclaimed lightly. "Sam and I really do share quite a few interests, you know, and always have. After all, you can't be spending all your time in... Ah, but here we are." And they were at Bag End's kitchen door.


&&&&&


The evening's meal had begun under rather constrained circumstances, but the influence of a couple bottles of Old Wineyards was nearly magical. Frodo had fortuitously realized that their bedroom was quite untenable, in regards to dinner, so with his help, Sam had managed the study, and had thereby been ensconced with pillows and warm blankets, and had enjoyed quite a throne for himself upon the settle. A small table was quickly set up next to him, and Frodo discovered just enough room on the settle in which to nestle next to him, and to proceed to feed him the dinner that was sorely past due. Merry and Daisy were provided trays, and comfortable seats near the cheerfully blazing fire, and in no time at all, had decidedly settled in, and conversation had rapidly proceeded from polite pleasantries to more delicious gossip. Merry's recent visit to the Great Smials was illuminating indeed, from the reason Pippin had been unable to accompany him (ostensibly due to the pony sales in Michael Delving, but Merry thought quite otherwise), to the extremely unlikely possibility that Iris, the apprentice healer at the Grand Smials, was ever going to be able to manage without the expert assistance and sage advice of Sam's sister. Daisy made no comment as to that judgment, but bent her head, glowing with pleasure. Frodo gave Merry an approving glance, and Merry quite unaccountably felt himself glow as well.

But all pleasant things eventually come to an end, and Daisy, with a quick tidying up of the Bag End's chief guest room, headed back to the gaffer, firmly accepting no accompaniment whatsoever for the walk back. The room was thus given over to Merry, and Frodo and Sam at last found themselves abed in the quiet night.

"I've missed you, m'dearie," Sam murmured softly, as he clumsily turned himself on his side, and reaching up a hand, cupped Frodo's face. Despite his aching muscles and deep weariness, Frodo smiled warmly at him.

"And I you, dearest," he turned his face and kissed Sam's palm lightly. "It must be tedious indeed for you to be stuck abed like this. When did Daisy say that she thought you'd be up and about?"

"Four more days at the very least," Sam sighed, not appearing at all pleased by that prospect. "And even then, I'll be stumping about for at least a week or two more."

"Ah, my poor Sam-lad," Frodo exclaimed sympathetically. Closing in on Sam's neck, he gave a supportive nuzzle, and Sam returned a happy purr.

Encouraged by this reaction, Frodo found that certain spot at the base of Sam's neck that always made Sam throw his head back with a hopeful gasp, and Sam did not disappoint. From there, it was simply a matter of trailing his kisses down that enticing chest, with a side trip or two to those alluring nipples, and there was no mistaking Sam's interest in the matter. By the time, therefore, that Frodo passed the gently rounded stomach, he could hear Sam's soft cries of want, and with a last throaty chuckle, he took pity on him, and found Sam with his tongue and mouth. Limited as his mobility was, Sam had to content himself with broken cries of, "Oh! Oh, Frodo, oh!" and a not entirely successful attempt to refrain from clutching at Frodo's dark curls.

However, the moment came, as it inevitably must, when Sam could no longer resist, but surrendered to Frodo's greedy attentions, and lay feeling spent and blissful beyond all words. As a satisfied Frodo tucked himself around him, he turned awkwardly toward him, and grasping his hand tightly, softly asked, "And what of you, m'dear?"

"An excellent question, Sam, my dearest," came the amused reply, accompanied by a loving hand gently drawn up Sam's side. "I am keeping a tab, I hope you know, Sam-love, and soon as you can manage, I hope to collect it."

"Aye, would you then?" Sam laughed happily, twining his fingers through Frodo's.

"Mmm, certainly so," replied Frodo, giving Sam's ear tip the tiniest of nips, causing an unmistakable squeak from Sam. "And just as soon as you are healed enough, dear, I plan to claim redress. All day should just about do it, I believe."

"All day, my dearest," Sam whispered warmly, just before turning his head to find Frodo's mouth. "All day, any day you wish. Always, Frodo-love, always yours."


&&&&&&



For Merry, this visit had turned into a visit like none other. He spent the day in the garden and fields surrounding Bag End, assisting Frodo as he sought to keep the grounds as Sam would have wished. The work was long and frequently rather grueling, he developed blisters in places that had certainly never seen them before, and the simple pleasures of a cool glass of water at midday, and a hot pot of tea at the ready, as they trudged into the Bag End kitchen as of a late evening, had never seemed quite so fine. His mother, as he was well aware, would have been horrified by his descent into common labor, but he suspected that his father would have been inordinately pleased. But all of that quite paled, of course, to the quiet satisfaction of working side by side with Frodo, and the gratifying thrill of elation that Frodo's glance of approval gave him as they ended a long day together and returned, arms around each other's shoulders, to Bag End in the dimming daylight.

In some ways, it seemed to him that life could go on forever like this, but one morning, Daisy gave her approval, and with Frodo's assistance, Sam was on his feet and made his way out to the back gardens of Bag End, and Merry knew that his visit was near its end. But somehow, he could not find it in his heart to regret anything, as Sam turned his face to Frodo and, beaming, murmured, " 'Tis lovely, m'dear." And then Merry felt startled as Sam turned unexpectedly to him and gave him an awkward hug. "Thank you for bein' here, for always bein' here for us," he said softly, and Merry, for the first time ever, wrapped his arms around Sam in a heartfelt embrace.

"Whenever you need me," he found himself saying, with the utmost sincerity. "Whenever, wherever. After all," he added, trying to regain his normal light air, "it would be such a shame to see my cousin's garden fall into ruin."

"Well, that's where you'd be mistaken, my dear Merry," Frodo's voice was nonchalant, but the warmth in it was unmistakable. "Look at this garden." Merry did so, and realized what Frodo meant. The crops were well-planted, healthy and in true rows, but there was far more to it than that. Everywhere, there was beauty, harmonious plantings, and a wonderful combination of order and the fortuitous. There were all the necessary crops, to be sure, but also flowers planted for no more reason than catching the eye as well. Flowering honeysuckle and clementis were interspersed through the hedgerows, scarlet poppies grew unrestrained amidst the spring wheat, and there was nowhere that the eye could not turn without a pleasing, colorful composition to be seen.

"It's never been my garden," Frodo spoke softly, his gaze solely upon Sam and his hand tightening about Sam's waist, as Sam's cheeks unaccountably reddened. "I don't think this has ever really been my garden, nor Bilbo's for that matter. I could never have shaped such beauty. It needs its creator as much as it needs sun and rain, and I only hope that we have kept it in trust for you, Sam."

But as Sam gave a rather convulsive swallow, Frodo took pity on him, and linked his arm with Sam's, turning them back to the smial. "Enough of this nattering though. The evenings are growing longer, and tomorrow we must manage to make our way to the Green Dragon. Perhaps the Cottons would be so good as to lend us their cart, for the spring beer will not last much longer, and we cannot let you go, Merry, without at least an attempt at thanking you."

"No better way, I'm thinking," Merry agreed with a smile, and linking his arm with Frodo's other, the three began to walk back in the dusk. The evening nesting had begun, and looking up, Merry watched the diving swallows as they found their twilight shelter in the stately larches that lined the lane with a rare contentment in his heart.



 

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