Sleep on the Road to Mordor by Lbilover

For the Fan_Flashworks prompt 'Role Reversal'. Inspired by the accompanying drawing of Frodo and Sam in the Dead Marshes by Griddlebone on DeviantArt. It intrigued me because it is clearly Sam resting with his head on Frodo's lap, and that is not the usual dynamic for them. Book verse, specifically referencing The Two Towers chapter 'The Passage of the Marshes'.


Sam is asleep, curled up on the marshy ground, too exhausted to care that his cheek rests in the mud or that a chill dampness seeps through his clothes. By the flicker of the unnatural light leaping up from the foetid marsh water, Frodo studies him. Sam's sleep-relaxed face has regained the round smoothness that the events of the past months have chiselled away and rendered far older than his actual years.

The dead faces in the water had rattled Sam; his dismay as he wrenched himself free from the oozing, clinging muck and stumbled to his feet, had been almost palpable. Then the shadow of horror, the wraith on wings, had flown over, and perhaps that had been one shock too many, even for his stalwart Samwise. A terrified Gollum had refused to let them journey on, so they'd hunkered down in place, and now Sam sleeps a heavy, almost drugged sleep.

Frodo sometimes forgets exactly how young Sam is, for his erstwhile gardener had flung himself into this adventure, if such it can be called, with the same fearless devotion and reckless abandon that he flung himself into the icy embrace of the Anduin to prevent Frodo from going off to Mordor alone. It occurs to Frodo now that, as Sam had needed Frodo to pull him from the river, perhaps there have been and will be other moments when Sam needs the same metaphorical helping hand. Must it always be Sam who is the caregiver? Even preoccupied with his burden as he is, can he not sometimes be the one to comfort and console, wonders Frodo.

On the thought, he shifts, easing closer to Sam, and slides his filthy hands underneath Sam's shoulders. He carefully lifts him, aware of Gollum's unblinking pinprick gaze observing him all the while, just far enough that he can pillow Sam's dirt-smeared face on his thigh. Sam remains a lax weight throughout the procedure, without stirring so much as a muscle.

It isn't much as comfort goes; but while his trousers are soiled, they are at least drier and warmer than the ground. Frodo leaves his right arm in place, supporting Sam strongly about the shoulders, but his left hand comes to rest lightly on Sam's chestnut curls, sodden and snarled. Gently Frodo works his fingers through them, separating the tangled strands in a soothing, repetitive motion that works to calm his own frayed nerves.

Sam will be horrified when he wakes and discovers that he has slept while Frodo has not. He will demand to know why Frodo didn't wake him, and likely call himself more of his gaffer's hard names. Almost Frodo smiles as he pictures Sam's indignant expression, but what tugs at his lips is as much the product of tenderness as it is of humour.

He may sometimes forget Sam's youth, but Frodo never forgets his loving heart.