1. Gracious Days
The morning fog hangs like curling smoke between the apple-trees; Mr Frodo walks through it, slim frame wrapped in his Elven cloak. Most days now he steps out into the garden in the cold hour before sunrise. Sometimes Sam feels him leave the bed they share more nights than not. Other times he wakes and Mr Frodo is gone, but he knows where to find him. Strolling through the orchard underneath the gnarly apples and the sweet plums. Or standing in the middle of the Party Field, at the young tree, waiting for the first light to shine on its golden leaves.
Today Mr Frodo walks along the fence without haste, as if he's measuring Bag End's gardens. The cloak's hood has fallen from his head, he looks up towards the early morning sky. There's a tree where the doves go to die, in the cave at the tip of the lily, he told Sam just yesterday, and that is how Mr Frodo will speak often now. At first Sam thought he was quoting Elvish poetry to him, but he understands now that to Frodo saying those beautiful, strange words is no different than talking about the blackbirds nesting underneath the old shed's eaves. No different than talking about how sweet the rosehip tea has been this glorious year. How Rosie's speckled bread is a right treat when it comes fresh out of the oven. All of this, their quiet life in Bag End – and then Mr Frodo will talk about a cry filled with footsteps and sand. Something's changing in him, Sam sees it most every day when he's looking at him, asleep at night, dark curls on the pillow, or – as he does now – from the kitchen's window. Something's changing in Frodo, and whatever it is, to Sam it's bright and blazing like the sun peeking over the Hill.
It's Bilbo's birthday today, his one hundred and twenty-ninth. One year short of the Old Took, Frodo said yesterday with his dear, crooked smile. They were stocking the kitchen and the cellars for the Party tonight. Later Pippin and Mr Merry will come and likely other folk will show up, too. There will be feasting and drinking and singing until the wee hours of the night. Rosie went to her mother's for the week, leaving them rabbit pies and crumpets and punch. You lads do your celebrating, like in the old days, she said with a quick peck on the cheek for Sam, and she's a wise one, his sweet lass, she is.
The old days. There are moments during those gracious days, with just Mr Frodo and him in Bag End, that Sam is reminded of those long peaceful years, when Mr Frodo had been Master of the Hill and he his gardener and nothing more. But they can't go back to that, and it's not that Sam wants to. He knows now how Frodo's skin feels against his own, how Frodo's sweat tastes, his pain, his dreams, he knows how Frodo desires. There is no going back, knowing all this of each other.
Mr Frodo has his face turned towards the new day, his face alight in joy and wonder. He raises his hands as if to touch the warmth of the sun, but then he stretches his arms out wide and starts twirling. Round and round Mr Frodo is spinning, gracefully and ever faster. It's the third time now that Sam has seen him dance like this, to music that only Mr Frodo can hear.
Darvishes, the men in Gondor called the lithe, brown-bodied dancers from the South, eating swords of flames and bewitching snakes to rise from their wicker baskets. Mr Frodo dances like them, cloak whirling around him, in Bag End's orchards. Sam can see the joy on his face, radiant and so alive. Something's changing in him, and it makes Sam's heart ache.
Folk are talking about Mr Frodo, Sam knows, talking behind his back about Mad Baggins, who's now cracked for certain, and even madder than his old fool of a cousin, Old Bilbo Baggins. Sam glances up at the fence, to see whether there's an early riser strolling across the meadows. Mr Frodo is dancing in plain view, and Sam worries what folk will say if they ever see him like this. The talking Sam can't help, but he won't stand for them making fun of Mr Frodo. Folks are cruel that way, when they don't understand. And how can anyone but Sam understand him now? Mr Frodo's brought something Elvish home, or perhaps, it's always been within him and their long journey has but brought it out. Sam's heard him talking to plain Hobbiton folk in his beautiful, strange words, and Sam's seen them shake their heads and whisper amongst themselves, once Master Baggins left. Sam can't help it, but it makes his heart hurt, to see Mr Frodo like that when he should be praised and honoured for all that he did and gave to save the Shire.
It's Mr Frodo's fifty-second birthday today. A good age for a hobbit, just coming into his prime. He has his life still before him; he can marry a lass befitting his standing, and start a family of his own. But as Sam watches him dance under the trees, spin and twirl, arms and hair flying, he knows that this will never happen.
The garden is drenched in the pale golden light of the morning now. Mr Frodo's ended his dance, he stands all still, face flush, the sun on his face. Then he turns and looks over to Sam as if he's known all along he's been watching. Mr Frodo raises his hand, and for a moment Sam thinks he's inviting him to come dance the Darvishes' dance with him. But the gesture turns into a wave, and Mr Frodo walks across the garden to the kitchen door. Sam hears the latch open, soft, quick steps and the shuffling of clothes as Mr Frodo takes off the cloak. He's still standing at the window when Frodo steps close and leans against him.
"Sam," he says, still a bit out of breath from his dance. His fingers seek Sam's skin underneath the night-shirt. They are warm and heat rises in Sam, when Frodo turns him around.
"I brought you a piece from the morning," he whispers, and then he kisses Sam, and Sam tastes it, tastes the sweetness of apples and plums, glittering dew on grass, a breeze rippling through crisp air. He tastes all of this and more, something wild and blazing that is all Frodo.
They kiss, long and sweet, and Sam's hands find Frodo's skin, too, and he draws him close. Always, when they are like this, it's as if salt water is flooding him whole, with a sharp sting and an aching tenderness that leaves Sam shaking when they pull apart. But Frodo's arms are around him, holding him tight, brown eyes sparkling.
"You," he says with his crooked smile, "always make me come home."
"Home for your birthday, Mr Frodo, and just in time," Sam says, for what else can he say?
And there, just when Frodo is about to turn and put the kettle on for the tea, Sam hears it. Like far-away bells and flutes, he hears the music that Frodo's body dances to.
Author's Notes: Frodo's "beautiful, strange words" are taken from Leonard Cohen's "Take This Waltz." The title is taken from Annie Lennox' "No More 'I Love You's'.
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.