Originally written for the 2014 Frodo/Sam Fest on LJ. Based on the prompt:
Time Period: quest or post-quest. Location: Mordor, Minas Tirith, the Shire, can be all of them
LotR is a book without any obvious eroticism. But at the strangest moment, when Sam finds Frodo wounded in the Tower of Cirith Ungol, we read this description of Frodo, notedly through Sam's eyes: He stood up, and it looked to Sam as if he was clothed in flame: his naked skin was scarlet in the light of the lamp above. One can read this sentence in many ways, but the choice of words - "clothed in flame", "naked skin", "scarlet" – is suggestive of the erotic. To me it's one of the central moments in LotR that speaks to the sexual connection between Frodo and Sam. I would love to read a story, or see art (!), which explores this quote and this vision, as the quest continues or (probably more likely) after the Ring is destroyed. Three word prompts for inspiration: death, sparks, the colour of Sam's hair
Late Rethe, 1421
'The days are getting longer,' Frodo says, gazing east across greening fields to the hills turning purple-grey with shadow. He hasn't seen Sam join him at the gate as much as felt him, for he always knows Sam's direction whether he can see him or not: like the sun.
'And glad I am for that.' Sam leans on the smooth ash handle of his hoe and wipes at his perspiring brow with a soiled shirtsleeve. 'There's still not enough hours in the day to do all that needs doing, and that's a fact.'
Frodo glances at Sam, taking in every smallest detail of his appearance. His broad, cheerful face is flushed. Beads of sweat adorn the shallow indentation above his prominent upper lip and the bridge of his freckled snub nose. A streak of dirt arcs across his right cheekbone. His hair, not yet bleached from honey-gold to flax by countless hours spent hatless in the garden, is wet-dark at the temples and brow. His coarse linen work shirt is open at the collar; the top button-hole is frayed and the second button down has a loose thread that clings wetly to his throat; it rises and falls with the pulse that beats strong and steady there. Heat radiates from Sam's body, bringing with it the clean, healthy smell of his toil.
In Lórien, on Cerin Amroth, Frodo had laid his palm against a tree bole and become keenly aware of the life within. So it is with Sam and has been since they awoke in Cormallen. At times, his very breathing is a thunder in Frodo's ears and the slightest brush of his hands or his body reverberates through Frodo with a power that dwarfs Orodruin's dying throes. If he dared, he would lay his palm against Sam's chest now as he had that mallorn months earlier. If he dared, he would do even more, a fact that both alarms and astonishes him.
Because he's never been in love before nor had he ever imagined he would be, not during the happy years as a contented bachelor or especially during the darker one as the appointed Ring-bearer sent on an impossible Quest from which he never expected to return.
But he did return, a changed hobbit in so many ways, and not least by having fallen in love for the first time in his life, and with simple, honest Samwise Gamgee. The gardener with the soul of a poet. The servant who took on a task beyond any he should have been asked to assume and rose not only to meet the challenge, but to far exceed it and become, as Gandalf had said, truly among the great.
Mordor had stripped them raw as the lash of an Orc's whip, flaying away every layer until nothing was left but the essence of their true selves. And what had been revealed in Sam Gamgee was akin to the roots of a mountain, or a cold clear spring that wells from the earth and feeds streams and rivers that flow into the sea. He is unshakable, indomitable, and endlessly sustaining.
'Frodo? Are you all right?' Sam is looking at him quizzically, head tipped slightly to one side. No doubt he is wondering if the old wounds are plaguing him again. His gentle loving care has never faltered. Not once has he put himself or his needs and desires before Frodo.
The question, Frodo has come to realise, isn't 'How can I be in love with Sam Gamgee?' but rather, 'How can I not?'
'I'm all right,' Frodo replies, and smiles a reassurance. He tries not to worry Sam. A nearly impossible task, but when he manages it, as now, and those changeable eyes brighten and the lines that bracket them crease into a pleased smile instead of a worried frown, it's as if a small fire has been kindled from the ashes of his former self. Not much has the power these days to dispel the darkness encroaching on his soul, but Sam's smile surely can. 'In fact, I came out to tell you that tea is ready, before I got distracted by the view.'
Sam relaxes. 'Ah, then that explains why my nose has been twitching this hour past. You've been baking.'
'I have. I needed a break from my writing and I've been woefully lax about cooking of late.' Relying too much upon you, Sam. But he doesn't say it aloud.
'And... how is the writing coming along?' The question is slightly hesitant. Sam rarely asks him about his progress, perhaps feeling that it isn't his place.
Which is ludicrous, Frodo thinks, because as far as he is concerned, Sam no longer has a 'place' - unless it is above him, where he belongs. 'It's coming along well enough,' Frodo says. 'But I've reached a difficult point and I would welcome your input, if you're willing.'
The undoubted pleasure on Sam's face makes his answer, 'More than willing, and that's a fact', unnecessary. How had he not realised until now that Sam might wish to help Frodo with the writing of their story? He'd believed it his burden to bear alone, like the ring, but hadn't Sam borne the ring, too, if only for a little while?
'Good. Perhaps this evening? Or will you be busy elsewhere?'
He tries to keep the question matter of fact, although it is anything but. What lies between Sam and Rose Cotton is an ongoing agony for Frodo, a thorn embedded so deeply in his heart that it cannot be dislodged, but shifts and draws blood with every rumour that reaches his ears about Rosie and Sam. Every time Sam asks Frodo if he might 'have a word' with him, Frodo waits for the thorn to pierce him straight through, so that his heart's blood will slowly but surely drain away.
Thus far it has not happened, and the puzzled murmurs he's overheard recently at the Green Dragon, 'Why is our Sam a-dragging his feet?', echo his own surprise. Why is Sam dragging his feet? A year and more has passed since their return, the Shire is nearly whole again, and the weddings have been as numerous as the babes born since the Troubles ended - and Sam is still living with his gaffer and spending his days up at Bag End.
But Frodo cannot ask Sam such a thing. 'It's not my business' is what he tells himself, but the truth is that he is a coward, afraid of what Sam will answer. So he waits and wonders, endlessly, half dreading and half hoping that it will happen before the coming autumn when he will meet Bilbo, Elrond and the others in the woods of the Shire. His own selfish feelings aside, he would like to know that Sam is happily settled before he departs from the Havens. It will make leaving more bearable, even if it sounds the death knell for any hope of that kind of happiness for himself.
Sam chuckles at the question. 'Busy doing what?' he asks. 'Gallivanting about like Merry and Pippin? Any road,' he adds, humour fading into sober sincerity, 'I don't reckon there's aught I'd put before you, Frodo.'
Suddenly Frodo is scared, as much from the pleasure Sam's words give him as the fear that Sam cares too much about one who is entirely unworthy of that devotion. A blindness takes him as he stares straight ahead, and he clutches dizzily at the fence-post. 'Sam,' he begins then stops, afraid of what might fall, unguarded, from his lips.
A hand - large, square, brown - covers his. 'What's wrong, Frodo dear?' Sam gently asks.
It's Sam's gentleness that nearly breaks Frodo every time. But he rallies and replies, 'Nothing, Sam. I'm fine, honestly. Let's go in and have that tea.'
Sam doesn't argue, though unlike earlier, he looks entirely unconvinced. As they walk toward the front door he says, 'One of these days I won't take 'nothing' for an answer.' His stomach rumbles loudly and he chuckles again. 'Only not when the tea is waiting.'
Laughter, sweet and freeing, sweeps through Frodo and chases away his fears, for the moment at least, and in perfect harmony they go inside Bag End.
Frodo finds himself surprisingly nervous as he waits for Sam to come up from Number Three that evening. He paces back and forth by the sitting room hearth, where a bright fire is burning, trying to quell his nerves. He wonders now if he was wise to ask Sam for his input. Perhaps if it were any other chapter of their journey he might feel calmer about it. But Cirith Ungol? It was a dark time for Sam, perhaps darker than any other on the Quest, and one that might test even his dauntless heart to revisit.
But it's true that Frodo has found it difficult to write about Cirith Ungol, for though he heard Sam's side of the story, he didn't live it with him, being first unconscious and then in the clutches of the Orcs. Of his own part there is little to say. He was stung, captured, questioned, rescued. But Sam... oh, there is much to say of Sam Gamgee's part. He wants to do it justice if he can.
He pauses to pour a glass of wine, needing the fortification it will bestow, and returns to his pacing, drinking ever and anon of the fragrant ruby liquid. It sparks a glow of warmth in the pit of his stomach and he feels his nerves steady, so that when Sam comes in some ten minutes later, Frodo is able to greet him with a modicum of calm. He guides Sam to an armchair by the fire, pours him some wine, and finally sits opposite him.
Between their chairs stands a low round table, and on it rests the red leather journal that has become almost as a living, breathing being to Frodo. For the most part, he considers it a friend, familiar and comforting; but oftener of late it seems a tyrant, demanding and exhausting. But always Frodo is aware that inside its pages reside multitudes, from the tiniest hobbit to the greatest oliphaunt, whose stories will endure for as long as the book is read by even a single person - and that gives him the strength to pick up his pen each day and struggle on.
Sam appears unwontedly abstracted. He turns the stem of the crystal goblet back and forth in his fingers so that it catches the glow of firelight with a gleam like dragon-scales. Frodo watches him, wondering what thoughts are passing through his mind: his father? the garden? Rosie? Whatever the cause of Sam's abstraction, it's clearly not pleasant.
After a few minutes of speculative silence Frodo asks, 'How is your gaffer faring, Sam?'
'My gaffer?' repeats Sam, starting as one roused from a trance. 'He's well enough, though he's complaining about his knee joint paining him, says there'll be rain sure enough tomorrow.'
'Based on past history I expect his knee joint to prove prescient,' Frodo says with a wry smile.
Sam smiles, too, but his smile seems strained.
'If all is well with the Gaffer then what has you so distracted? The weather?' Frodo doesn't dare broach the topic of Rosie.
It seems to Frodo, observing Sam closely, that his cheeks redden more than can be accounted for by the warmth of the fire. Indeed, he appears distinctly uncomfortable and hastens to say, 'Just thinking on all I won't get done tomorrow if it does rain.' But Sam evades Frodo's gaze, looking as ill-at-ease as he had done at Crickhollow when Merry revealed him to be the chief spy of their conspiracy.
Once more Frodo tells himself that it's none of his business; but once more he knows he's a coward, afraid to push Sam into revealing what could cause a difficult situation to become intolerable.
'A day's delay won't make a difference, surely,' Frodo remarks. 'You've made a good start on the planting.'
'No, I reckon it won't,' agrees Sam then adds, sounding determined to turn the subject away from himself, 'But I'm here because you need my help, Frodo, not to natter on about myself.'
Frodo is nothing loathe to change the subject. He sets aside his wine-glass and picks up the book. Its red leather cover is smooth and worn from so much handling, and again he is struck by the sense of life it possesses. Almost it seems to sigh at his touch. He runs a palm over its familiar contours before opening it and paging through it until he reaches the last line he has written, in a script more laborious than it had been before Gollum bit off the third finger of his right hand. But he considers that part of the penance he must pay for his failure.
I was alive but taken by the Enemy.
'I've reached Cirith Ungol, Sam,' he says quietly.
Sam's reaction to this announcement is odd and surprising. He goes very still, then says in a tense voice, 'You have?'
'Why yes. But you seem surprised.'
'It's only that I didn't think you'd got so far,' Sam replies, and Frodo is certain he's not imagining the redness of Sam's cheeks now.
Frodo doesn't want to tell Sam that he is writing against a deadline. 'You'd be amazed at how quickly the pages fill up when you've got nothing to do all day but write,' he says humorously.
But Sam doesn't smile. His hand tightens on the stem of his wine-glass, so tightly that Frodo is afraid it might snap. 'I don't know if I can help you with this, Frodo,' he says. 'If it was Moria or Lothlórien, maybe, but Cirith Ungol...' Suddenly seeming to realise the death grip he has on the stem, he forces his fingers to relax and he sets the glass aside. 'But if you need me to, I will,' he says with grim determination.
Frodo is dismayed by Sam's reaction, which seems to confirm his own earlier fears that Sam would be reluctant to relive that dark time. 'No, no, Sam, it's not to be thought of,' he says at once. 'I wondered if it might be painful for you to revisit it: the Watchers at the gate, all those dead Orcs in the tower and then having to go through their things to find me clothes to wear. I should have trusted my judgment and not asked you. I'm sorry.'
'Don't you never apologise, Frodo,' says Sam with some heat. 'You've every right to ask. Aren't you having to relive it all, every blessed minute?' He glances at the fire, at Frodo. Seems to weigh something in his mind while Frodo watches with mystification and a weight of dread that he can't explain. At length Sam sighs and says, 'If I'm reluctant, it's naught to do with any of those things you said.'
'Then what does it have to do with?'
Again Sam's gaze slides to the fire and back again. 'The firelight,' he softly replies.
'The firelight?' Frodo repeats in bafflement. 'There was no fire in the tower that I recall.'
'Not then, but here and now, a-shining on your face.' Sam stops, biting at his lip, clearly conflicted about having said that much.
But to Frodo, it's not nearly enough. 'I don't understand, Sam. Please, won't you explain?'
Sam shakes his head, looking miserable. 'I shouldn't ought to have said anything, Mr. Frodo. Please don't make me say more.'
Sam's regression into the old name speaks volumes and convinces Frodo that he must and will get to the bottom of the matter. 'Sam, I'm sorry, but I think you had better tell me what this is all about. I can't bear to see you this distressed, and on my account.'
'It's not your fault,' Sam insists. 'It's me.' He clenches a fist at his breast. 'Feeling things as I shouldn't. Wanting things that I can't have.'
A glimmer of light penetrates the darkness of Frodo's bewilderment. The queerest sensation passes over him, as if he is at once both burning hot and icy cold. 'Can you... do you...' he stammers then gathers his wits with difficulty. 'Sam, are you saying that you have feelings for me?'
Looking even more miserable, Sam says, 'Aye. Ever since I found you in that tower - or maybe long before, but I reckon I knew for certain then, even if I didn't admit to myself until we were safe in Cormallen and I didn't have to worry about keeping us both alive no more.' He looks away, swallows hard. 'You can't know what it was like, Frodo, looking and looking and never finding you. And then when I did, and I held you in my arms...' Sam blinks furiously. 'I didn't ever want to let you go, and that's a fact.'
Sam's words crash over Frodo like a wave, pulling him under, tumbling him round, and then casting him, born anew, onto warm, golden sands. His throat works as he struggles to speak. 'Oh Sam,' he says. 'I had no idea. But the light - the firelight. What is that about?' He can't yield to his emotions, not yet, not while Sam still holds a clue to an unsolved mystery.
'Do you recall the lamp in that chamber?' Sam asks.
'Yes, I recall it. It was quite a lurid red, if memory serves. Even the lamps in that horrid place were evil.' Frodo represses a shudder.
'They were. But I - but I...' Sam closes his eyes, his face screwed up as if in pain, and finally he whispers, 'But I can't stop seeing you as you were then, Frodo: naked with your skin stained all scarlet by the light from that lamp. I try not to think on it, on how it makes me feel, but it's cruel hard sometimes. I even dream about you like that and I - I wake up aching.' He stifles a sound suspiciously like a sob. 'It's wrong, I know it's wrong, but I can't seem stop myself. And when I see you in the firelight, it's like I'm living it all over again...' He draws a shaky breath and pleads, 'Please don't hate me, Frodo. Forgive your Sam.'
'Hate you? Forgive you?' Frodo fairly leaps from his chair, lets the book fall in it and drops to his knees in front of Sam. 'Oh Sam, never think so, not for a moment. Why, you've just given me one of the greatest gifts of my entire life.'
Frodo's fingers begin to fumble at his waistcoat. As Sam watches in dumbfounded silence, he stands and casts off his clothes until he is naked in front of the fire. 'Is this what you saw, Sam? Is this what you want? Then take it, for it is yours.' He holds out his arms, unabashed and unafraid.
Sam rises slowly from his chair, clutching at the arms as if uncertain whether his legs will hold him. His eyes move over Frodo's still too-thin body, travelling from the knife wound in his shoulder to the faint dark line left by Snaga's whip. Frodo's skin is not stained scarlet, but limned with amber-gold, in shifting patterns that dance along his flanks, arms and legs.
'Am I dreaming again?' Sam asks in wonder. He stretches out a tentative finger and reverently traces the burnished shadow of a flame flickering on Frodo's smooth chest.
But Frodo doesn't want Sam's reverence; he wants his passion. Sinking back to his knees, but on the hearth-rug this time, he draws Sam down with him and takes him in his arms. Between tentative kisses that grow ever more assured, he helps Sam shed his clothes until he, too, is naked. As Frodo pushes him onto his back, the firelight sheds its warm glow over them both and gleams in eyes gone dark with need and desire.
'I have wanted this and you for many months, Sam,' Frodo confesses, settling over him. 'Ever since Cormallen.'
'You have?' Sam couldn't possibly sound more astonished.
'Can't you tell?' Frodo shifts his hips and smiles with pleased delight at Sam's answer: a low moan.
'Frodo, oh Frodo,' Sam breathes shakily, and then cups his hand at the back of Frodo's head and pulls him down into a fevered kiss. Soon limbs are entwined, hardnesses matched and they begin to move, awkwardly at first, until they find a rhythm that suits them both. Faster and faster they move, in perfect unison, until a shattering climax sweeps over them, leaving them dazed and spent in its aftermath.
They hold each other fast as their racing hearts slow to one steady, synchronised beat. Eventually Frodo says, 'You'll have to move in with me now, Sam. Make an honest hobbit of me.'
Sam chuckles, a low rumble that goes right through Frodo, so close are they. 'Reckon you're right. Any road, I've always wanted to sleep on that feather mattress of yours.'
That Sam accepts so readily, with the old easy humour, fills Frodo with inexpressible joy. 'Have you? I never knew. What other secret wishes do you have?'
'Not a one that hasn't just come true,' Sam replies. Then he says slowly, 'Frodo, is this the 'nothing' you were talking about earlier?'
'Yes,' Frodo admits, shamefaced. 'I nearly told you how I felt, Sam. But I was too afraid.'
'Oh Frodo, I reckon I shouldn't have taken 'nothing' for an answer, tea or no. But we ended up in the same place anyway, praise be.' His arms tighten almost painfully, as if he still has trouble believing it, even with Frodo naked in his embrace.
Sam's arms are so strong, Frodo thinks dreamily. Strong enough to support and protect him. Strong enough to lift and carry him. Are they strong enough to shelter him, hold the ever-looming darkness inside him at bay? A tiny tendril of hope unfurls inside him, fragile as gossamer, strong as hithlain.
'We can still work on your book if you like,' Sam goes on. 'It won't be hard now.'
'Maybe tomorrow, Sam. I don't want to think about Cirith Ungol or my book at present. There is only one thing on my mind, and that's you.' Frodo presses a kiss directly over Sam's heart. 'I love you, Samwise Gamgee,' he says, then he rests his cheek in that spot and sighs with content.
Perhaps he should be thinking of his book, of the autumn and stories still to write, of unhealed wounds and white shores waiting across the Sea. But instead he will grab with both hands the tendril of hope that fate and Sam have offered, hold on tight, and wait to see which road the future has in store for him.