West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
Captured and afraid in Ithilien, Frodo escapes into a warm memory.
Author: Singe Addams
Terribly large and strong hands guided Frodo this way and that, sometimes pushing, sometimes pulling, often lifting him into the air and over obstacles he couldn't see. Those same hands would occasionally give him a comforting pat on his shoulder, his back, even his stomach once. Frodo was not reassured. The black blindfold covered his entire, sweating face and he was desperate for air but he dared not lift his tied hands to tug at the cloth. He heard a thud and a small "Ah!" of pain from an equally bound Sam. Frodo stopped, alarmed.
"I beg your pardon, Little Sir." said a deep and contrite voice far over their heads. Frodo turned towards it, towards Sam, wanting so badly to help. "I didn't see that root."
"Neither did I." Sam's muffled voice groused and Frodo heard the Big Man help Sam up and dust him off. Faramir's men weren't bad people. But they were so, so terribly dangerous...
"I shall guide you better in the future." the man apologized.
"Oh, I'm alright. You're too tall to see anythin' on the ground anyway." Sam answered and Frodo smiled, unseen behind his mask of a blindfold. Dear, forgiving Sam...his own guide prodded him and Frodo started walking again. He felt a stir of familiar air and was overjoyed to realize that his friend was directly beside him now. Sam obviously sensed him, too, and, they reached for each other. Walking slowly they clasped their tied hands together the best they could. Frodo stroked Sam's fingertips, feeling the dirt on his skin and his ragged nails, giving the best comfort he could and dreading the moment when they would, inevitably, be pulled apart again. If only he could see.
Suddenly a strong, welcome memory came to Frodo and he pinched. "I think I can guess you...I think...you're Rosie Cotton?"
He was rewarded with a surprised gasp of smothered laughter. "Oh, NOW you guess Rosie? Well, wrong AGAIN..." Sam said before rough terrain separated them and the Men lifted their prisoners high. Frodo's fingers were cold again. Tired, afraid and lost in a dark world he desperately escaped into the memory he had teased Sam with...a much different place...a happier time...another blindfold...
Tooks. Tooks everywhere at the Great Smial's Yule Gala. Dancing, drinking, laughing, drinking, eating, gaming, drinking, singing and drinking some more and Frodo Baggins was in ecstasy amidst the crush; the dim, empty tunnels of Bag End a far and unpleasant memory. Pretty Emmemine Took threw her arms around him and landed a kiss on his chin but danced away before he could reciprocate. Frodo was grasping at thin air and realized he'd drunk more blackberry wine than he truly needed. But he needed more if he was going to drown his sudden disappointment and the wine was so cool, dark and luscious. Where did he see that wine barrel last?
"C'mon, Frodo! Come and play!" Merry's welcome voice rose above the shouts, giggles, music and breathless talk that surrounded him. Merry and at least fifty cheerfully inebriated Tooks, all friends and relatives of Frodo's, were crammed into one corner of the packed dance floor. They surrounded a single plush chair and Merry held a strip of blue silk high in his hands. "We're playing Guess Me!"
Frodo balked. "NOT I!" he shouted and began to swim through the crowd in the opposite direction.
Merry shouted "GRAB HIM!" and Frodo was absolutely staggered to find himself seized by Nick and Jolly Cotton. They dragged him backwards towards the laughing crowd and dumped him in the chair. They were big, burly Hobbits, the Cottons, and for all their plain, tough homespun and thick Bywater accents, their joy and delight made them practically indistinguishable from their rapturous hosts.
Frodo gaped up at them, surprised but pleased that the hard-working brothers were obviously having a wonderful time in the Smial of his kin. "What are you two doing here?!"
Nick slung a friendly arm around him and leaned in too close, Frodo's eyes almost crossed. "Weez invited! By Master Pippin! Love 'im! Love the Tooks! Love you!" He fell over. Jolly, grinning, grabbed him under the arm and hauled him out of the way. Frodo stood up but an entire passel of revelers pressed him back down again. Frodo yelped as he felt the cool press of Merry's silken band on his forehead and he slapped at his cousin's hands.
"Stop that! I'm too old for this game! Merry! I'm too old!" Frodo struggled to get out of the chair but he was firmly shoved down again.
"Awwww!" Merry sympathized and gave Frodo's jaw a sarcastic squeeze. He snatched his hand back before Frodo could bite him. "Does Cousin Frodo look too old to you?!" he asked his young friends. A great chorus of NO rose up almost loud enough to drown out the dancers and the beat of their feet on the floor as they whirled to an old, lively tune.
"He's barely out of his tweens from the looks of him!"
"He's just a BAY-BEEEE!!"
"I'm almost fifty! Let me up!" Merry plopped down in his lap and Frodo dumped him to the floor.
"YOU! Hold him down!" Merry shouted and strong hands on Frodo's shoulders sat him firmly in the chair. Other hands joined in to hold him in place. There was no fighting them and Merry scrambled up to wind the silk around Frodo's eyes. Merry's flushed and grinning face was cut off from Frodo's sight and for that, at least, he was grateful. He shook his head in blind disgust and gave in, holding still at last. One of his guards, the one with the impossibly strong hands, gave him an apologetic pat.
"I'm too old. I'm too old for this..." Merry adjusted the silk. "Stop fussing, Merry. I can't see a thing. But this isn't at all dignified..."
"Oh, shut up, you were a master at this game, I heard tell..." girlish giggles broke out of the blue darkness. Merry got out of his lap and Frodo made a show of brushing off his party trousers. More giggles. The too-old Master of Bag End sat still, then, and smiled and waited, his good humor completely restored but he kept his arms sullenly crossed to tease everyone. "Who's first?" Merry called. A whispered 'me!' floated to Frodo's ears and he recognized the voice. His smile threatened to become a grin but he stifled it just in time. It would never do to play your hand, as it were, too soon. He truly was a master at this game. This and ring-toss and chess. "You?" Merry asked. "My heart is breaking but all right...now, Frodo, guess who this is? And no touching, Frodo!" Frodo planted his hands firmly on his knees. He heard the rustle of skirts...there was a light touch on his shoulder and a brief scent of ale and cinnamon before warm lips pressed against his own. Frodo returned the kiss with a great smack.
"Estella!" he called and applause rang out from the circle. He could hear Diamond crowing with laughter at Estella's dismay and wondered if the North Took was going to be next.
"Stel's too easy..." Merry ignored her insulted shout of 'I am not!' Dinny guffawed again. "Who's next?" Merry called as Frodo tried to recall all who was in the circle around him. There had been Diamond, Estella, Jolly, Nick, Olly, Red, Chica, Lollo, Merry...Merry? Where was Pippin? There was a sudden smell of apples and cake and his mouth was playfully mashed by his cousin's lips. Frodo jerked back and made a show of wiping his face with his sleeve.
"Bleah! There you are, Pip!" Frodo shouted and he felt Pippin give him a swat on the head for the insult. He could hear Pippin laughing as he was dragged away by Merry.
"Oy, Pip, stay away from there. I mean it! Don't give me that innocent look, I know you!" Merry played the part of The Jealous Lover to a tee and he was cheered. Frodo clapped his hands and laughed. The dancing was becoming impossibly louder, now that he couldn't see it, and he found himself tapping his foot in time to the music. The world was silky blue and full of music and laughter and the scent of rich foods and perfumes. This was fun! He really must come to Great Smials more often. "Frodo needs a challenge." Merry decided and his voice lowered into a stage whisper. "Bring me Pot's prize-winning piglet!"
"NO!" Frodo screamed. "NOT AGAIN!" He lurched to his feet in feigned terror.
"Hold him!" The strong hands on his shoulders were back as well as Merry's arse on his lap and Frodo's struggles came to a quick end. Hands petted and soothed him and he allowed himself to be 'calmed' as he choked back his laughter. "Guard him. Watch him carefully. He's tricky." Merry admonished and Strong Hands grasped Frodo's collar and shook him to show they meant business to the great amusement of everyone.
"I hate this game!" Frodo declared and clutched his chest. "Yuck!" He got a sympathetic stroke on his hair for his distress and he leaned into it to show his appreciation. Then his guard's hands rested comfortably on his shoulders.
"YOU!" Merry suddenly yelled. Frodo heard the thuds on the floor and felt the vibrations as Merry jumped up and down and called to someone in the distance. "You! C'mere! We're playing a game! Have you ever...don't speak, just nod your head. We don't want him to hear you. Have you ever played Guess Me before? No? You kiss him and he has to guess who you are. That's all. He gets three guesses and, don't worry, he can't touch you. All right? Oh, c'mon!"
Frodo tilted his head towards the conversation. This game was popular in Brandy Hall and the Tooklands. Who was this person that hadn't heard of it? "It's not fair picking someone I don't know, Merry!"
"You know her." Merry assured him. "Or him, I mean. Balls, I gave it away!" Pippin laughed at him. "All right, it's a her, Frodo. Good luck! Not like you need it, though!" Frodo laughed and tilted his head up, resisting the ridiculous urge to pooch out his lips. Certainly he had had too much wine. He felt gentle fingers on his chin. They quickly disappeared. She, whoever she was, was hesitant.
"Go on!" Pippin urged. "Go on! He won't bite much!" More encouragement and applause from the circle rang out. She moved closer. Frodo could feel her skirts brushing against his hands where they rested on his knees.
"It's all right. They mean no harm." Frodo whispered. "Neither do I. You don't have to play if you don't want to." The soft fingers were back on his face and, suddenly, Frodo felt a keen anticipation. It surprised him. She leaned in and he breathed deep. He could smell...hay. The sun. The kiss was quick and soft. Warm. Chaste. Just a sweet peck, really, he barely felt it on his lips. He could smell roses. He could dimly smell...cotton? He froze. Rose Cotton. Oh, oh, oh, this was Rosie! She moved away and Frodo swallowed in shock. Rosie. Laughing, warm, alive, beautiful Rosie. What was she doing here? Of course, of course, she came with her brothers. Frodo winced.
"Well, Frodo?" Merry asked. "Who is it?"
They were beautiful together, Sam and Rosie. They watched each other. They flirted. Nothing more than that. For now. Where was Sam? Was he back at Bag End weeding Frodo's garden? Was he here? What would he think if he saw this? Wait, he had to be here, somewhere, Jolly and Nick were his best friends and they wouldn't leave him behind as long as someone could take over his duties for a spell. Would Sam be angry with him or...
...would he take a turn?
The opportunity to, ah, guess Rosie AND Sam? Now that would be a wonderful, wonderful opportunity. And it was just a game, really, just a game. Rosie. Rose Cotton. Frodo lost control of his words. He lost control of himself. It was Yule! It was a party! Where was the harm? Really. "I...I don't know who it is."
"Whaaaat?" He could hear the doubt in Merry's voice. Frodo shrugged.
"I don't know. I haven't a single, solitary clue." He tried to sound innocent and several Tooks laughed. Frodo smiled. With three tries possible, guessing wrong, obviously so, was also part of the fun. Yes. Good, clean fun.
"Oh, dear!" Merry was sarcastic and the circle was cheering again. Frodo could hear Jolly laughing hardest of all and Nick, awake again, was practically howling. "You have two more tries, cousin. As you well know. AHEM! M'lady?" Frodo tensed. This was part of the game, too. Rosie wasn't stupid. She could refuse. She knew that he knew, after all. And she knew that he knew that she knew. And he knew that she knew that he...
Her timid mouth was on his again and his reason disappeared. Ahhh, yes. Rose. Strong, almost tortuous, memories of past temptations surfaced in Frodo's addled mind. Rosie laughing up at him in the morning sun of his garden. Rosie resting her hand on his shoulder as she bent over his book, her curly, soft hair falling forward into the sunlight streaming through the window, as she argued with him about what the characters were truly up to.
Frodo felt her begin to draw away so he quickly leaned forward and followed her mouth with his own, gentle but insistent. No, no. Don't go away just yet. I have to thank you, I have to show you...and here was another memory of Rosie telling him earnestly that she thought he was wonderful, really, even if everyone else believed he was a tad bookish and odd. Oh, she had hugged him that time and her hair had smelled of Spring and her body...
Such a tortuous multitude of instances when he had wanted so badly to lean in, to close that small distance, to just do this. Claim this. Give this. This and this and this. And she was kissing him back, gently, she was kissing him, she was indeed, and their mouths were open, just enough, and they were drinking each other in, oh, delicious heat and salt and sweet, sweet, sweet...
His tongue pressed at her lip and she broke away with a gasp. Oh no, too much. Too, too much. Was she angry? Was she disgusted? He really was a bit strange, after all, he had no illusions there. What was she feeling? Frodo felt the heat from Strong Hands seeping through his waistcoat and his shirt. At least he knew how his guard felt. Small consolation. Curse this blindfold. Curse Merry, curse all the Tooks and Cottons. Frodo's face burned and he hoped the lanterns and torches weren't bright enough to give him away. Music, laughter, dancing feet. Oh. The Yule party. It was still here.
So was Merry. "Lovely! Lovely! Ah, I'm envious!" The circle agreed, laughing. Lovely, just lovely. "Who is it, Frodo?"
"Uh." Frodo began a debate with himself. Rosie's desires weren't something he could ask about over tea. That would be humorous, Rosie, would you like sugar or honey? Cream? Would you like me, too? If he asked for a third try and she accepted then he'd know she didn't mind him so much. Wait. Rosie was his friend. Why was he doing this? Because. Because it was Rose. And Frodo wanted, more than anything, he wanted more and he wanted it now. "I still have no idea, Merry." Everyone cheered and whistled and clapped. Frodo managed a smile and another helpless shrug. His palms were sweating and he surreptiously wiped them by tugging his waistcoat. She could still refuse. It was a game! Just a game! A game to be laughed over later. A game to be dreamed about during the nights he was so tortured with longing he was sure he'd go mad before morning. Weak. He was weak.
Merry was laughing. "My dear lady, it's up to you. Personally, I think Cousin Frodo is a lying sack and should be dumped into a ditch. I really do." He was answered with cries of 'Hear, hear!' and Frodo blessed his cousin. It was up to Rose. All up to Rose. If she said no...if she said yes...either way he would die.
"Yes? No? YES!" Merry cheered. Frodo's heart simply stopped. Yes. She said yes. "Make it good, then!" His cry was taken up...make it good, make it good, make it good!
Frodo felt soft fingers on his face and breathed in deeply as all became right with his blue world. Rosie tapped his mouth gently and he smiled as she ran a tender fingertip over his sensitive bottom lip. All the Tooks shouted their approval with Merry, Pippin, Jolly and Nick baying loudest of all. Her hands embedded themselves into his hair and Frodo leaned his head back into their caressing support. He felt delirious chills circle all through his body as his anticipation built and the happy shrieks from the crowd grew louder. She was going to make it good. "I CAN'T STAND IT! KISS HIM ALREADY!!" Estella shouted as Frodo barely succeeded in keeping his hands down, though his traitorous fingers caught at and held the fabric of Rose's skirt. Then his mouth was attacked and Frodo moaned.
Roses, he could smell heat and roses and he had what he wanted, her lips, at last, and there, her tongue, and she wasn't disgusted with him at all, at all, oh, yes. Rosie was sweet and warm and gloriously willing and if she thought she was going to escape his bed tonight she was insane. Frodo leaned back, another trick of the game he knew well, and she followed, practically climbing into his lap, and kissed her even more deeply as he cheated and reached up to wrap his hands in her hair. He was dimly aware of the circle of Tooks stomping and clapping in unison and giving out veritable yowls of encouragement...
...before Strong Hands jerked him to the side and separated them. "Sam!" Rosie cried. "Don't!"
Frodo lifted the blindfold and looked up, blinking. Strong Hands was Sam. He was here. And he was angry. Oh, no. No. Sam's face was red and he still held Frodo's collar in a tight-fisted deathgrip. "'Ere, Rosie, that's going a bit far!"
"It's a game!" she practically screamed and Frodo stood. The lights and the colors were painfully bright, even the embroidered flowers on Rosie's best party dress were almost too much for his eyes.
"Sam! I didn't mean..." Sam let go and stood back, away from him. He didn't look up, he kept his eyes on Rosie as if Frodo didn't exist. "Sam! It was a game! Listen to me!" Frodo insisted.
"Hmmph. Tweren't no game and I know it." Sam's arms were crossed and he wasn't looking at anyone now. Frodo wanted to kill himself. His lips were moist and he wiped them with his shirt cuff.
"You don't know anything!" Rosie's fists were on her hips and her eyes were blazing.
"Both of you, listen to me!" Frodo shouted. The three of them were suddenly surrounded and forcibly dragged apart. Jolly and Nick had Frodo again and hauled him East while Pippin, Estella and Diamond went for Rosie and pulled her North. Sam disappeared Westward practically carried aloft by a crowd of Tooks.
"He was angry, Jolly. He really was. But I didn't know! I didn't know they had an understanding." Frodo mumbled. Nick gave him a sorrowfully drunken hug.
"They don't have an understanding." Jolly reassured Frodo, thumping him repetitiously on the back as if he were choking. "They've been dancing around each other forever but they've never said yea or nay one way or t'other. Well, this woke 'em up, didn't it, Nick?"
Nick nodded and then gasped, suddenly horrified. "Don't sack Sam! He din't mean to hit you!"
"Sam din't...he didn't hit me." Frodo began to straighten his clothes as his heart tried to bash its way out of his chest. The shoulders of his waistcoat were damp and puckered. "Too old. I'm too old for this." He wanted to scream. He wanted to get out of this haze of smoke and racket. He hiccupped.
"He din't? Oh. That's lucky, then. Sam could break you in two." Nick decided and fell over again. Jolly and Frodo just let him fall.
Merry burst out of the clamor. The game, Frodo noticed coldly, was continuing with Emmemine in the chair and she was giggling wildly as her eyes were covered with a checked handkerchief. Frodo realized he was still holding the blue silk. He stuffed it in his pocket. Merry reached them and stepped over Nick. He was distraught. "Frodo! I didn't know! I swear, I didn't know! I never dreamed Sam would get jealous!"
"No one knew." Jolly reassured him. "I don't think even they knew, really." Frodo had a sudden grim thought. Did Rose play along to make Sam angry? He had been standing right there with his fingers digging into Frodo's shoulders...
"Mister Frodo!" Rosie suddenly hurtled out of the crowd and into his arms. He stared down at her in shock. "Estella Bolger said I did it to provoke Sam but I didn't! I wanted to!" She was crying.
"I told you not to listen to Stel! You know how her mouth is..." Diamond appeared and took hold of her. Dinny was much taller than Rosie, taller even than Frodo, but she had a struggle on her hands. Rosie aimed an angry swipe at Merry as the cause of all her troubles and he ducked behind Jolly.
Frodo rushed to reassure her, catching her hands. "Now, please, Rosie, don't be upset. Everything's fine. It was just a game, after all. It didn't mean a thing."
That seemed to bring Rosie up short and she blinked. "You...you're sure?"
"I'm positive." he lied and gave her his best smile as he let her go. Her hands hovered in the air for a moment before they dropped to her sides like leaden weights. Frodo straightened his waistcoat again with a fussy jerk. If he looked directly into her eyes he'd be lost.
Rosie then took Dinny's arm and began to back away. "Well, good. Good. All right. Everything's fine then." Frodo concentrated on her left ear and nodded pleasantly. She nodded back. Maybe it was his imagination but she didn't seem comforted. He thought she'd be relieved, at least. She had stopped crying. Suddenly, Rosie spun around and walked away, hauling the North Took with her, and Dinny threw a look over her shoulder at Frodo that he couldn't quite interpret.
Merry reappeared. "I'm going with 'em. I want to talk to Stel about that mouth of hers." Merry ran to catch them and stretched up to put his arm around Dinny's shoulders. Frodo sighed.
Nick came awake again and pulled himself up Jolly to stand upright. He spotted something over Frodo's shoulder. "Uh oh." he said conversationally. "Look out."
"Mister Frodo!" Frodo turned around and became horribly alarmed. It was Sam, barely a foot away, and he had three Tooks hanging off him.
"Run, Frodo!" one of them gasped but Sam suddenly had Frodo by the waistcoat and wasn't letting go. Frodo tensed but Sam hung his head, his entire body a picture of regret and misery.
"Mister Frodo!" he cautiously looked up. "I'm sorry! I'm not mad. I am so, so sorry." The Tooks relaxed and flanked Sam to show their support.
Frodo was relieved and he patted his best friend on the shoulder. "Don't apologize. Please. I'm sorry, too. I didn't know."
Sam was shaking his head, dismissing everything Frodo was saying. "No, you don't know. I mean...listen I...I promise I won't get jealous again. I didn't mean to..." Sam blushed. "...wreck everybody's fun. Please come back to the game."
Frodo looked at Sam with wide-eyed horror. "Go back to the game? Oh, no, Sam, I think I've had quite enough for one night...wait, that sounded wrong..." Nick was snickering.
Sam drew in a deep breath and looked Frodo straight in the eye. "Are you sure you've had enough, Mister Frodo?" He asked and his small chorus of Tooks looked at Frodo keenly.
"I'm sure, Sam. It was just a game. Just a game." Frodo nodded encouragingly and turned away. "At my age I can only stand so much fun." The Tooks were disappointed and all three gave Sam commiserating glances and pats on his arms and back. Frodo wondered why. And people thought HE was strange?
"All's well!" Jolly hastily reassured everyone a little too loudly and pushed Sam away. "C'mon, Nick, let's put Sam to bed before things really go wrong. And you, too, you soused idjit." The brothers were big and strong, especially Nick, and Sam was dragged sorrowfully away. The three Tooks disappeared into the dancing.
"I am not a soused idjit." Frodo protested weakly to no one.
"He was talkin' to his brother." Pippin cheerfully informed him and Frodo looked around wildly at his cousin and wondered where he had sprung from. People come and go so quickly at Great Smials. Pippin tucked his arm around Frodo and led him towards the door. "But he might as well have been talking to you, too. Idjits. All three of you."
"I didn't mean to."
"Yes, you did."
"Yes, I did. And it was glorious." Pippin grinned but Frodo sighed. "Ohhh, what have I done, Pip?" he groaned and Pippin tightened his grip.
"Nothin' much, love. Nothin' that won't be laughed away later." He laid his head on Frodo's shoulder in a comforting sort of way.
"That's what I'm afraid of."
On this day, this frightening, bleak day, Frodo finally realized what he regretted the most. Not playing the Game itself. Not the fact that he had tried for more with Rosie and failed. Not making Sam angry. No. He regretted running away. He had lain low until the following morning had dawned cruelly bright and his hangover was immense. Frodo had crept out a side door and there they were, Sam and Rosie, walking hand in hand in a sunlit field and obviously in accord at last. Frodo wanted to join them so badly. He wanted to...what? Break their joined hands apart and jump in the middle? What a ridiculous notion. He crept back inside instead and tried, very, very hard, to keep his resentment down. What right did he have to be jealous?
The game, what people could remember of it, was indeed dismissed lightly and Frodo, Sam and Rosie, though awkward around each other for days, never mentioned it. Until today. And Sam had laughed.
Perhaps the time had come to talk about it. Perhaps Frodo would tell Sam that he had fully intended to give the blue silk handkerchief back to Merry but he put it in a drawer instead. Maybe he'd tell Sam that sometimes, when the night was ticking away horribly slowly, he would take it out and breathe it in, remembering music and dancing and strong hands on his shoulders and warm lips on his own. He would insist that the game was one of his grandest memories that still stood out clear and bright in the grey mire that his mind had become. Maybe they'd talk about Rosie and Frodo could finally and genuinely apologize.
Maybe Sam would explain what he had meant by 'Are you sure you've had enough, Mister Frodo?' if he had meant anything at all. Maybe they could sift through Rosie's words together and find a deeper meaning there. Though 'I wanted to.' was painfully direct, wasn't it?
Frodo shook his head. Maybe Faramir would kill them both. And Sam would never know, never guess, never assume, just how much he meant to Frodo. Neither would ever return to Rosie. Rosie would never know. Ah, if Frodo ever had another chance, if Faramir let them live...
Fool. He imagined himself bolting from the dim safety of Great Smials and chasing down Sam and Rosie as they walked hand in hand in the morning sunlight of their meadow and shouting 'Wait for me, please, wait for me! I didn't mean it!'
Why did he understand so much now? Why did it take war and pain and horror for him to open his eyes? He loved Sam. He loved Rosie. And it wasn't inconvenient or lewd. It just was. And Frodo was weary of not acknowledging it and, no, it was no game at all. Sam had been right all along. There was passion and there was love, here, here in the Shadow. The truth of that gave him hope as he fumbled about the land in the dark.
He breathed out a deep sigh of regret and the coarse blindfold spread the heat of it all over his face. Still, he was comforted. He couldn't see but, at last, he was no longer blind.
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