Mithril in Moonlight by Lbilover

Based on the following Shirebunny: At Cormallen, or in Minas Tirith, Frodo discovers one effect of the Ring's destruction - a grey hair (or hairs) sprouting up on his head. After so many years of Frodo being "well-preserved" by the Ring, compounded by what he went through to destroy it, it seems likely that the aging process would at last show up in him at least a bit.

“…and after breakfast, I thought we might take a walk down to the market on the second level. 'Tis a fine morning, and the fresh air will do you good, Frodo. But if you’re not feeling up to it, there’s a walled garden on the fourth level we could visit instead. Mr. Pippin showed it to me the other day, and ‘tis a peaceful, quiet place. Why, if you close your eyes, you might imagine you was back in the Shire, for there’s naught to hear but the songs of the birds, and the rustle of the leaves in the trees. Don’t it sound lovely, Frodo?” Sam Gamgee paused in the middle of buttoning his weskit, and looked up, surprised when he got no response to his question. “Frodo?”

Frodo Baggins was perched on a stool in front of the low wooden dressing table in their Minas Tirith bedchamber. He was holding a silver-backed hairbrush in one hand, but he was not brushing his hair. In fact, the brush was suspended in mid-air, as if Frodo had somehow become distracted and completely forgot to finish drawing it through his sleep-tangled dark curls. Instead, he was staring into the large oval mirror hanging on the wall above the dressing table, apparently mesmerised by the sight of his own reflection. 

His back was to Sam where he stood beside their bed, but even from that distance Sam could clearly see Frodo’s expression in the mirror, and it drove all thoughts of markets, walks and gardens from his mind.

For Frodo looked pale and shocked. His eyes were huge, and his pupils dilated so that his blue eyes appeared almost black. His body was rigid, every muscle frozen in place, and his hand was clenched around the handle of the hairbrush so tightly that his knuckles were white.

“Frodo, what’s the matter? Are you feeling ill?” Alarmed, Sam abandoned his buttoning and flew across the room to Frodo’s side. “Frodo? What is it?”

Frodo gave his head a small shake, like one emerging from a trance, or perhaps a bad dream. He smiled, a smile so patently false that Sam grew even more alarmed. “Why nothing, Sam,” he replied with a forced cheerfulness that did not deceive Sam in the least. “There’s absolutely nothing the matter with me. I’m perfectly well.”

“If you’re well, then I’m the King of Gondor,” exclaimed Sam. He took Frodo gently by the shoulders and turned him round on the stool to face him. “Look at you: why, you’re white as chalk. I’ve half a mind to march you straight to the Houses of Healing. I’m not taking no chances on you getting sick, Frodo dear, not after all you’ve been through. In fact,” Sam added, sliding his hands down Frodo’s arms to his hands and taking them in his own, hairbrush and all, “I reckon you’d best get back into bed, whilst I run and fetch Strider.” 

Sam tugged gently at Frodo’s hands as if to pull him to his feet, but Frodo resisted, flushing as bright red as he had been chalk white but a moment earlier.

“Sam, no!” he said, tugging back, trying to free his hands, and sounding flustered in a most un-Frodo-like manner. “That’s not necessary. Truly. I promise you I am not ill.”

“But if you’re not ill, then what’s wrong? And don’t you go saying ‘nothing’ again, for I won’t believe it,” declared Sam as Frodo opened his mouth to say exactly that, and then closed it again. Sam’s voice softened. “Whatever it may be, you can share it with your Sam. There’s naught so bad we can’t face it together, like we did on the Quest.” He knelt on the cold stone floor, holding Frodo’s hands now with the utmost gentleness. “Tell me what’s troubling you, my dear.”

“I’m- oh, I’m just being silly, really.” Frodo’s voice sounded small, and his head drooped as if he was a hobbit child confessing to some mischief. “You’ll think I’m the most foolish hobbit who ever lived when I tell you.”

“As if I ever would,” replied Sam, smiling a little despite himself at the absurdity of the idea.

“You haven’t heard what it is yet,” Frodo protested.

“Well, I’m waiting, and this stone floor’s not getting any softer, if you take my meaning.” Sam released Frodo’s hands, and sat back a little, knowing Frodo would get to the point in his own way and time. 

For answer, Frodo showed Sam the hairbrush he still held in his left hand. “Look at that, Sam.”

Sam did, wondering what it was he was supposed to be noticing. There didn’t seem to be anything unusual about the hairbrush. It was a pretty thing, made of silver engraved with the Seven Stars and the White Tree on the back, and thickly set with black boar hair bristles. What there was about it to upset Frodo, he couldn’t begin to say. “I reckon I’m a bit of a fool myself, my dear, for there must be something I’m missing.”

“You mean you can’t see it?” Frodo sounded incredulous.

“See what?” Sam was completely at a loss.

“The hair, Sam. The- there’s a hair stuck in it. A grey hair.”

Sam looked again, and now that Frodo had pointed it out, he could see a thread of silvery grey caught in the bristles, twisting and winding through them like a tiny silver snake. 

“So there is.”

“It- it came from my head,” Frodo confessed, and then added in a near-whisper, as though revealing a deep, dark secret, “and I’ve just discovered that there are others, Sam. Several others. Right here.” He pointed at the crown of his head, and Sam saw that there were indeed about half a dozen silver hairs mixed in with the russet-tipped dark curls that he so admired. 

“Sam,” Frodo said in tragic accents, “my hair’s going grey!”

This completely unexpected answer to the riddle of Frodo’s distress left Sam torn- between relief on the one hand that it wasn’t anything more serious, and laughter on the other at the sheer absurdity of the situation. And indeed, it was difficult not to laugh when he imagined the look on Strider’s face if Sam had gone haring off to the Citadel and dragged him back to tend to a Frodo whose only injury was, it seemed, to his vanity. 

But Sam did not laugh, for it was clearly no laughing matter to Frodo. Instead, he said gently, “Most hobbits have a grey hair or two, or more even, by your age, Frodo. ’Tis only nature taking her course, and naught to fret about.”

“I know, Sam dear, truly I do. But it was such a shock when I discovered that hair in the brush.” He sighed. “The sad truth is, Sam, that I’m vain. I’m a vain, foolish hobbit, and no better than my cousin Angelica. Bilbo would be so disappointed in me,” Frodo added bitterly.

Sam gave him a considering look. “Well now, that’s one way of looking at it, I suppose,” he replied. “But that’s not the way I see it, my dear. Why, it does my heart good to know you’re caring about your looks again. Seems a long time since you’ve not had a heap of worries so big that you’d not have noticed them grey hairs if they’d jumped off your head and started dancing in circles, right in front of your eyes.” 

That brought a reluctant smile to Frodo’s lips, but he said, “You’re much too kind, Sam; far kinder than I deserve. When I think of your poor feet, so burned in spots that they will never grow hair properly again, and here I’m complaining about a few grey hairs… well, I feel ashamed.”

“There’s no call for feeling ashamed, Frodo. It was a small enough price to pay for seeing you rid of that evil thing at last. Besides,” Sam went on softly, “I consider myself the luckiest hobbit alive, having you rubbing that athelas oil into my feet every night. How much worse would they be without you tending to them that way?” 

“Sam.” Frodo shook his head as if in disbelief, but his eyes shone with love and light so strong that the quiet bedchamber seemed aglow with a soft blue flame.

Sam stood up, for his knees were beginning to protest the hard floor, and once more turned Frodo about on the stool, so that he faced the mirror. He remained standing behind Frodo with his hands resting on his shoulders, and over the top of Frodo’s head met his reflected gaze. 

“I’ll tell you something else, my dear,” he said, smiling. “As lovely as them dark curls of yours are, that bit of silver makes ‘em even lovelier.” He touched the grey hairs almost reverently with one forefinger, and they twined around it, clinging as if they were alive. “Look at them, Frodo, and how they shine- like mithril in the moonlight, if you ask me. I’ve never seen a fairer sight.” His smile widened. “Only don’t you go giving them away to Gimli, mind,” he teased gently, “no matter how much he begs you. There’s not enough of them to spare, and he’s already got three strands of the Lady’s golden hair to set in crystal.”

“I won’t, Sam.” Frodo tilted his head back against Sam’s chest and looked up at him, for the meeting of eyes in the mirror was not enough to show Sam all the love and tenderness he felt in his heart at that moment. “Although I expect there will be plenty to spare before too long.” But Frodo spoke lightly, with no hint now of bitterness or regret.

Sam pressed a soft kiss on the silver strands. “When that day comes, you can give them away to all and sundry. Only be sure you save a few for me.”

Frodo’s hand went to the back of Sam’s head, fingers threading into the soft chestnut curls at the nape, and he pulled him down into a loving kiss. “You shall have first choice, dearest Sam, I promise.”

At that moment, a voice called from the other side of their bedchamber door, “Frodo, Sam, breakfast is ready. You’d best hurry down before Gandalf eats it all.” It was Pippin, and they heard the jingle of his armour as he clattered down the stairs to the kitchen.

Frodo laughed, and set aside the hairbrush on the dresser without a second thought. “Before Gandalf eats it all?” he repeated with a quirk of one eyebrow, “I suspect it’s not Gandalf we need worry about, but my two cousins.” He stood, and turned to Sam. “But you can’t go down with your waistcoat half-buttoned,” he said, noticing Sam’s disarray for the first time. “Here, let me fix it for you.” 

Sam, his heart full, stood patiently whilst, biting his lip with concentration, Frodo did up the remaining horn buttons, a bit slowly and laboriously, for he struggled still with the use of his maimed hand. His head was bent as he worked, and Sam could see the silver hairs standing out in sharp relief. Sam thought once more how beautiful they were- but then everything about Frodo Baggins was beautiful to him, and always would be.

“There. All done,” Frodo said at last with satisfaction, giving the not-yet-quite-returned-to-normal hobbity-roundness of Sam’s stomach a pat. He looked up, smiling. “Ready, Sam?” he asked.

“Aye,” replied Sam, and followed Frodo out of their bedchamber and into the hall. “And what shall we do after breakfast, my dear? Shall we go to the market or the garden?”

“Oh, the market, I think.” Frodo gave him a mischievous glance over his shoulder as he began to descend the stairs. “I might be able to find some dye for these grey hairs.”

“Don’t you even think of it, Frodo Baggins,” growled Sam, but they were both laughing as they ran lightly downstairs to join their friends at the breakfast table.