1. Your hand in mine
The question is loud enough to turn plenty of heads towards the two sitting at separate but closely placed tables, but my head turns for the name, as surely as if it had been my own. A quick look at Rosie tells me that the abrupt end of our conversation is forgiven, and then I turn back to watch, for I have an idea that I’ll be needed.
It’s no more than an honest question, falling unprepared from Old Noakes by the shock of seeing the mutilated hand resting on a mug of ale, but Mr. Frodo’s eyes stray to the tabletop and the offending limb is quickly curled up and hidden behind the mug.
His reply is light, but laced with wariness. “Would you believe it was bitten off?” His eyes dart up with the mischievous look that makes you feel like he’s sharing something with you alone, “I’m quite alright, although I’m afraid I shall never grow another one.” For the untrained eye he must seem but shy. To me he looks haunted.
Old Noakes’ shoulders drop a little, although he is still drawn between fascination and repulsion at the missing finger. “A rabid dog then, I suppose,” he asks. He’s hoping it’ll be some great beast, which would make for a far better tale, but I reckon he’d neither believe it nor be able to imagine it if he got what he wanted.
“Not quite.” Mr. Frodo’s smile is secretive.
Oh, but he was a dog, beaten and starved and sent to find us, but I won’t hold anything against him now, neither Stinker nor Slinker; he took the Ring with him to the deep, and so we’re alive and the world is bright and clear.
It looks like Noakes wants to ask more, and there are those around other tables as are as curious as he, but Mr. Frodo doesn’t have the strength for such a tale tonight, or any night, and so I interfere.
I take guilty pleasure in seeing his genuine smile of relief when he looks up to find me next to him. “Sam.”
It stops Old Noakes with his mouth half open, but I pretend not to have heard their exchange. “I thought I’d make my way home, Mr. Frodo, and wondered if you’d be headin’ the same way soon.”
He is so frail when he stands from the bench, I want to reach out and lift him into my arms, carry him through the night to his bed, and cradle him there until he sleeps. Restraining myself ain’t easy, but it wouldn’t do to lift him about as if he was an old invalid, or even as if he was a lass I was sweet on. And what he is or isn’t, well… I’ll think on it later, when I’m alone and Rosie ain’t watching me so carefully from behind the bar.
Mr. Frodo says goodbye to a disappointed crowd and leaves the Green Dragon with me. Once we are outside and some ways up the road he says, “Thank you, Sam,” in a quiet way.
Well, we didn’t come all this way together for me not to know when he needs me.
The night is cool, sweet and full of stars, and I’m feeling daring. So, hoping he’ll blame the ale I’ve had if I seem too friendly, I venture to take his injured hand in mine, very gentle-like. My index finger sets against the stump of his, not moving but staying. Because I figure he needs this too; to touch the world and not let it, or any part of himself, become foreign.
At first he says nothing, and looks down, but then he smiles softly and wraps my hand more securely in his. It near hurts the way it warms. As long as I have him here, and I ain’t daft; I know that time is short now, he won’t want for care.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.