West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
21 Halimath, 1421 S.R.
Author: Daffodil Bolger
It's late and the stars are thick -- white-cold and harsh -- and he wonders if they'll look the same to him the next time he dares cast his glance to the night sky. Perhaps there are different constellations over... where he's going, and why is it so difficult for him to contemplate his destination, to even allow himself to name it inside his own mind?
He turns his head, examines Sam's profile, all silver-blue and peaceful, trusting eyes closed, mouth set soft, and slow breaths in and out of his wide frame. His hand holds to Frodo's even in sleep, warm and rough.
This is why, of course. This is why his future, such as it is, hides behind a veil of guilt, woven thick by the threads of pending betrayal. Tomorrow, he will see that trust snuffed like a candle in a storm when they make the turn west, will see his deceit drawn plain in gilded-hazel, but he's done worse to Sam before, has forced him to witness the ultimate treachery, and somehow he's still here, still holding on, and sometimes Frodo doesn't know if he should weep in gratitude or regret.
He thinks it doesn't matter anymore. Tears are for the living, gratitude for the victors and regret for...
He supposes there's enough of that to go around.
His eyes fall closed again, and he thinks he might like to look a little while longer, but it's likely just as well. He's weary beyond sense, and sad, and it makes him sadder still to look at Sam.
A deep, long breath and he holds it until the chill of it hugs his chest, tingles just the smallest bit, then lets it go, opens his eyes and watches with strange interest the thin plume of vapour that mists from his mouth with the expulsion. A ghost-breath and he shudders a little, adjusts himself on the bedroll and pushes the thick blanket from his chest. He'd thought the lack of a feather-mattress might be telling on his bones, but it seems the body remembers what the mind would sometimes refuse, so the aches and pains he'd anticipated have yet to creep through him, though he knows it's only a matter of time.
Sam sighs a little in his sleep, hitches a sharp breath and his fingers twitch against Frodo's palm. Dreaming, perhaps, and Frodo wonders if Sam remembers his dreams, wonders if he'd want to, and he thinks no, probably not. Some things are best left buried deep, and there's a small prick of envy that Frodo seems to have lost the ability to turn away from his own dreams, bury his own ghosts, but he's glad that Sam's spectres stay in their graves where he's put them.
And he wonders how long he himself will remain a phantom in Sam's dreams. How long will he be just another phantasm to be endured by night and then pushed out of perception by day? And how long will Sam be the same for him? Except Frodo remembers his dreams, whether he wants to or no, and Sam is blessed with the ability to forget the ones that hurt too much to remember.
It isn't how he would have wanted it, isn't how he'd wish it, but he's long-since come to understand that want and wish are empty promises, and he's made enough of those.
I can't... A long, steady breath. I can't be what you need.
It has the sour-sweet taste of confession to it, and Frodo has stopped feeling shame that these admissions only seem to wander free when no one can hear them.
I can't even be what I need, and what I have left...
He closes his eyes tight, digs his thumb and forefinger into them, before he blinks and turns them back to the stars again.
What he has left, he can't afford to give. Too simple, he thinks sometimes. It seems such a cold thing to him, clinging to the last vestiges at the expense of all around him, willing himself to life because he doesn't know how to do anything else, he never has, and he supposes even the betrayal he plans tomorrow pales against the one his own will has wreaked on him -- crawling into Black, refusing death, when in some ways, it was all he really wanted. Holding onto life and Self by cutting all else loose, snipping away threads of love and home one by one, as one might snip away the still-healthy bits of a vine: salvage the small life still bleeding through the veins, forsake the rotted roots...
Pretend you don't hear the screams at the separation.
His teeth clench and he tries not to fist his hand.
You won't understand. Another deep breath, though this one shakes and his throat grows tight. And I'm sorry, because I can't make you understand.
More -- he doesn't want to make him understand, couldn't bear it, really, and it's a coward's way, but he's beyond the sort of shame it should bring. Sam, more than most, understands necessity, understands pruning away sickness and disease to prevent its spread, and perhaps once the shock of revelation recedes into memory, he'll understand the necessity of it all.
You'll bloom, once I've gone.
And he refuses the voice that wants to ask him if this is reason or defence.
Blossom. In ways that you can't while I remain. I am the dead growth now and if you can't bring yourself to make the crucial severance...
Another sigh and Frodo opens his eyes.
Well, at least I've still the courage for that much.
Rosie understands, and that makes Frodo smile a little. She'd been there, after all, had muddled through Sam's long absences right along with Frodo, and she'd seen more than he'd wanted, but she let him pretend she hadn't, and oh, he loves her for it. Bag End hasn't had a mistress since Belladonna, and Frodo thinks even the old Dame herself would have been pleased with her heir.
She'll see to you.
And it's funny how this smile feels so real.
Even better than she saw to me, if that's possible.
He remembers her hands mostly -- cool and soft against his cheek; gentle and small in his own. Her hands told him that she understood that this goodbye was forever, that she was sad but glad, too, that her parting gift to him was her love for her husband and her silent promise that she would see to him. No words, but he'd understood and she'd known he'd understood, and they'd both wept secret tears as Sam tacked the ponies.
And Frodo remembers her hands.
Sam's hand twitches in his, closes firm, and a creeping little panic wants to well in Frodo's throat, swamp him. Too often, he's caught himself speaking things he'd thought voiced only inside his head, caught himself confessing aloud to an empty room, traitorous words given the power of voice sometimes seemingly by their own conscious will. Pen and paper don't seem to be enough to confine them, as if they're too big and too potent to be contained within the page or his own failing spirit, so they give themselves voices of their own. And he'd often horrified himself with the irrational suspicion that his own ears were not the only ones that might have heard.
Now he peers through the indigo silk of night, studies Sam. Perhaps he's awake, perhaps he heard, perhaps...
But Sam only shifts a bit, turns to his side and draws Frodo's hand to his breastbone, curls in on it.
A shaky sigh and Frodo forces tense muscles to loosen, relax. He'd known that the prospect of trying to explain it all to Sam -- Why? and How could you? -- terrified him, but he doesn't think he'd realised how much until just this moment.
I can't even explain it all to myself; what makes you think I could find the words for you?
What makes you think you've the right to demand such from me?
And he's always surprised by the small bite of anger that rises in him, the instinctive reflex to snarl and snap at the prospect of being cornered so wholly. He doesn't think he knew before that love could be a trap, and he's helpless not to bash himself against its restraint, to bloody himself and anyone who gets in his way in the struggle, even when he suspects that the sweetness of freedom might be more than he can bear. And he knows it isn't fair, and he knows it isn't deserved, but it's as primal and intuitive as a wolf baring its fangs.
Or chewing off its own foot to escape its snare.
A small shudder ripples through him and he clenches his teeth.
He'd never understood his own solitude, never really thought much about it; now he understands that it was a weapon as much as a defence, and it had served him well when he'd needed it. Asking him to betray it now would be to ask him to betray all he has left, and it won't matter if the request is made in ignorance and love; the level of destruction would be the same.
Because he's not sure if he'd be able to refuse. And that...
He shakes his head, clenches his hand into dirt and grass.
And that, he knows with more surety than he knows almost anything else now, would end us both. A small sardonic laugh, bitter and cold. I can't speak it and you can't hear it. He pushes out a long sigh, turns to Sam. What a pair we--
And stops cold. His throat closes up, tightens.
Sam's eyes are black in the darkness, bright and glittering with starlight. Frodo almost thinks he can see his own pale face in their depths.
He's spoken aloud, he must have done, faithless confessions escaping his mouth on ghost-breaths, and he'd laugh at the irony, but he thinks he'd lost the definition to the word too long ago for it to matter any more.
How much did you hear? he wants to demand and the panic wells again in his throat. How much did you understand?
The sounds of the wood are loud, but he's somehow deaf to them, can only hear the rapid in-and-out of Sam's breath, and it's like a roar in his ears.
There is a driving pain through his chest, lancing through his heart, and it isn't just the sudden slip-thud of it pounding in his temples, the jittering pulse of it that sends adrenaline slamming through muscle and tendon -- his heart hurts, his heart hurts, and the question that rises feels too much like dying.
Will you try and stop me?
And it's only another small death in the face of too many, but this ache is almost unbearable, because it's worse than any other, but it's still not enough. Not enough to keep him, not enough to stay him, not enough to feel.
I'm so sorry, but I couldn't bear it if you asked it of me, because it won't matter, and I want it to matter, I want it to be enough, but it won't make me stay, won't make me want to, please don't make me hurt you, don't...
Don't make me beg you to let me go.
A tear glistens in the corner of Sam's eye; Frodo can see entire worlds, whole universes, swirling inside it, and he can't look away. He's mesmerised, snared, and he watches suns die and stars give birth, as he waits for Sam to shatter him with a question.
And then Sam swipes at his eyes, wobbles out a smile.
"Can't sleep, love?" is all he asks.
It's smooth and low, steady, and Sam's gaze is steady, too, and dry, calm, with no suspicion lurking beneath it. But his hand tightens on Frodo's almost painfully, and Frodo wonders if he didn't hear or if he's only convinced himself he didn't.
And decides that doesn't matter, either. There is still comfort to be found in refusal and what are he and Sam, what is all that's left between them, if not the last bitter dregs of necessary denial?
He leans in, brushes a kiss to Sam's mouth, light and warm.
Sam stills at first, breath held and body tensed, and Frodo wonders if it's only surprise that makes him shudder so. It's been long since he's reached for Sam, and it's his doing, and in this, at least, he'd been strong. There were times when he'd wanted to be weak, wanted to answer an asking glance with a smile or a nod, but it was too much like deceit and he's had his fill of that.
Now, his choices have grown thin, and he isn't yet ready to face the look in Sam's eyes. So, he lifts himself, slides an arm over and props himself across Sam's chest, presses down deeper, more insistent, soft swipes of his tongue and gentle nips to Sam's bottom lip, demanding acquiescence to this play for one last denial. And Sam gives with an acceptance so quiet and solemn as to break Frodo's heart into a thousand little shards of sharp, fractured hypocrisy.
He reaches up, slides rough fingers into Frodo's hair, pulls him in, and Frodo lets himself disappear inside the kiss, lets Sam's hands drive away the ghosts. Memory rushes through him from every angle and all at once; had he been standing, the weight of it would have driven him to his knees. Everything they've been to each other, everything they've lost -- all of it, all of it slams through his chest, cramps tight and cruel about his heart.
He'd thought he'd wanted merely to distract, to deflect, but he's lost the ability to lie to himself, and now he knows he wants this, wants Sam, and it terrifies him, because he's not allowed this for a very long time -- withdrew, pushed away -- and now he wonders if perhaps this was a mistake. It hurts too much, hurts to remember, to feel, to know. Perhaps he'd rather the questions, perhaps he'd rather the bitter confrontation, the accusations, the admittance.
And then Sam's hands sweep over Frodo's back, tug him so close he feels Sam's heat warming his bones, and an ache wakes in his core, lays him out and levels him.
He knows these hands -- remembers them -- welcomes them as they rekindle the smouldering ash of things he'd only told himself he'd long forgotten. He'll pay for the remembrance tomorrow when he finally reveals his own small conspiracy, watches the pain bloom in Sam's eyes and drive through his own soul; tonight Sam's eyes are closed, Sam's hands light welcome fire beneath Frodo's skin, Sam's mouth presses small groans into Frodo's own, and they rumble through his chest and belly.
He rocks, instinct and desire both, and Frodo hadn't known the want could be so close, so quick, fracturing through memory and sorrow to burn away hesitation. It rips through him, guiding his body to fold into Sam's, mould against him, and he should be surprised that they still seem to fit together so smoothly -- one's push to the other's pull -- but he refuses to submit to the distraction of wonder.
He wants to feel, wants to pulse with the rhythm building between them, wants blank instinct to take him, break him, wind him, bind him, snarl him in blind sensation until perfidy and penitence are no more than vaguely-remembered words to which he's lost the meaning.
Sam's hands slide down, purposeful, fingers slipping between them, thumb dipping below the waistband of Frodo's trousers to stroke and smooth at the dip of a hipbone. A small shove to his chest and Frodo gives to the touch like driftwood to the power of the Sea, lets Sam roll him under, and he's a little surprised that he cedes control so easily, bends to Sam's touch as though he's bewitched, but he thinks maybe he is, and so many things don't matter anymore, but this does, this always has, and it's all he has left for either of them now.
A small grunt looses itself from his chest as Sam shoves him to his back, presses him down into the earth, slips his tongue over the pulse-point in Frodo's throat, and Frodo can almost feel his heart rising up to meet the touch, hammering through his veins. His back arches and his eyes roll closed and he thinks maybe he's begging for something, but he can't hear through the pounding in his ears.
It doesn't matter, because Sam hears, whether Frodo has spoken or no, and those hands move over him, broad and possessive, urgent in absolute necessity, and Frodo can't even pay attention to buttons popping and cloth parting until he feels bare skin pressed hot to his own. Sam's mouth is driving his mind to the brink, sliding slick down his throat, over his chest; Sam's hands are pulling his soul loose, dragging over him in wide strokes that warm places Frodo didn't realise had gone cold.
Sam lifts up, hovers over Frodo, straddles him, and Frodo's own hands reach for bronze skin rippling over wide swells of muscle, fill themselves with a soft trace of fur that runs from breastbone to navel, and Sam lets his head dip down with a gruff sigh. A roll of his hips and he peers down at Frodo, asking, and this is one question Frodo won't fear tonight.
"Frodo," Sam says.
And Frodo stutters out a sigh, answers, "Now."
His mind whites when Sam sinks himself down, tosses his head back, and Frodo is only just aware enough to be taken by the way the starlight glints white-gold through his hair, how it shafts over the wide swath of skin exposed by his open shirt, skews over the thick muscles of his thighs. Sam is almost swallowed by starlight, made somehow more beautiful for its borrowed brilliance, and Frodo doesn't need to burn this into his memory; he thinks it will haunt him now until his eyes close forever. And he won't yet consider the price he'll pay for the favour.
It's too fast, he thinks, it should be slow, allow him to sear each moment into memory, brand it into his soul so he can card through remembrance when this touch is just another ghost-breath on his skin. But he can't make himself slow down, can't make Sam belay the tempo, because he doesn't really want to. He wants the rough breach of sensation, wants the endless pressure of feeling, wants it to swamp him, sweep him away and let him drown in it.
A low groan as Sam sways, hips rocking, muscles tense and bunched, as his wide chest heaves in breath, whimpers it back out, and Frodo tries not to notice that Sam's breath is not a white mist on the autumn air. He closes his eyes, forces his mind into oblivion as he sinks into his own senses, lets the warmth of Sam's breath set fire to his skin, the pulse of Sam's rhythm flood his nerves, and he smiles as the blaze begins to unfurl in his belly and down through his thighs.
Sam's hands sweep over him again, glide up his arms, over his shoulders and take hold, clutch for purchase, and Sam's cadence never falters, never pauses, as his fingers dig into Frodo's shoulders. The rush of feeling hits Frodo like a blow to the belly, building, building, and he smiles again and wonders why he'd ever tried to forget this. Sam bends, kisses him, and the smile stays with him, burrows into his soul, as love and need don't break him, but take him.
And then Sam's hand smoothes over his throat, his collarbone, settles on the Star -- stops. Frodo's eyes fly open, his breath stills, his own hands almost claws against Sam's skin, as he waits, almost resigned, for the question to which he thinks Sam already knows the answer. Sam's eyes lift slowly to Frodo's, and they're sad, hurt, and Frodo isn't surprised because he knew this would come, knew this would be the price for his few moments of freedom, but he hadn't counted on it flaying him in this way, hadn't understood that the brief liberty from his snare would make the pain upon re-entering it hurt so profoundly.
Promise me, Sam's eyes say.
And Frodo closes his own, turns his face away.
I can't. I won't.
He won't look, so he doesn't see Sam's eyes turn from sad to betrayed, from hurt to angry, but he feels the tremor run through Sam, feels his hands turn hard. He growls a little, takes hold of Frodo's wrists, slams them to the ground above his head, as Sam rocks with a force that drives Frodo's body ever closer to oblivion, even as his heart sits still and waiting behind his breastbone. Frodo's hands fist, but he doesn't fight, doesn't resist, only opens his eyes, stares up at Sam, and he can tell the calm dark of his gaze ramps Sam's anger up that much more, but he won't pretend. He may have learnt duplicity a little too well, but he won't lie in this.
"Frodo," Sam whispers, hoarse and broken through teeth bared in fury and frustration, and Frodo almost doesn't hear it, but he feels it like a knife slipping through his ribs.
He shakes his head slowly, keeps peering up at Sam.
It's all there is, all I have left, and I can give it to you and disappear, or I can keep it and survive. Forgive me for loving you the only way I can. Forgive me for choosing endurance.
Because even if you don't know it, it's what you'd choose for me, too.
Teardrops fall from Sam's eyes -- one then two -- and down onto Frodo's cheeks, and it almost razes him that tears are something he thieves as well, borrowed tracks of sorrow leaking down to his temples. He leans up, lays his mouth to Sam's, clumsy and a little bit desperate, and Sam sobs a little, returns the kiss with a frantic misery that rules his motion.
He ramps up his movement atop Frodo, anger and hurt and sorrow fuelling his limbs, turning it all into something visceral and raw, but his hands let loose on Frodo's wrists, slide up, and his fingers twine with Frodo's, hold on. Frodo closes his fingers around Sam's, kisses him deeper, harder, wills every last bit of what he can give into Sam's heart. Sam's thighs tremble against Frodo's ribs, his breath stutters fast and harsh, but he keeps his mouth pressed to Frodo's, keeps the tempo fast and frantic, keeps his hands twined with Frodo's.
Frodo couldn't hold against it, even did he want to. It takes him, throws him down and opens him up, pulls his soul from his body and sets it loose. A small cry leaks from Frodo's mouth and into Sam's, and Sam answers it with one of his own, pulls back just enough to drag a breath into his chest, and tilts his hips, drives himself down, and he sends Frodo to the stars with a sharp snap of his torso.
Frodo's hands grip Sam's, and his back jerks, arches, and his limbs go rigid. The worlds he'd watched born in Sam's eyes before now flare behind his own, as his body rocks and his throat seizes on a scream, and just before his mind blanks, Frodo thinks this is one freedom for which he'd be willing to pay in blood.
The warm breath puffing into the crook of his shoulder is the first thing he becomes aware of; Sam's hands locked in his own the second. Frodo squeezes Sam's hands, turns his head and buries his face in Sam's hair, closes his eyes, and he almost laughs a little, because there are tears on his cheeks and he thinks they're his own.
Sam takes a long, shaky breath, sighs it out into Frodo's throat. "It's past midnight," he breathes; his voice is a little watery and he sniffs. "It's your birthday."
And Frodo sighs, too, gives Sam's fingers another squeeze.
Tonight is a fitting gift in ways that Sam will understand in time.
"Sam, I love you so," he whispers and he's sure this time that he'd spoken aloud.
Forget what you saw, forget what you know, forget what you heard, if I spoke what should have remained unspoken. Let me give this one last thing to both of us.
Sam is still for long moments, his grip on Frodo's hands still strong, and the steady in-and-out of his breath his only movement. And then he sighs, wobbly and coarse, and he shifts, slides himself to the blanket and wraps himself about Frodo. Frodo pulls him in, guides Sam's head to his shoulder and he slides a knee over Sam's hip. He closes his eyes, lays a kiss to the crown of Sam's head and holds on, runs his fingers through sweat-damp curls. Smiles a little, soft and sad, and closes his eyes tight against the burn behind them when Sam finally answers:
"I know, Frodo."
And when Sam looks at him tomorrow, pain and surprise shredding his gaze, Frodo thinks that surprise will be real.
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