Originally written in 2006. A completely improbable sequel to the equally completely improbable story More Things in Heaven and Earth. (But don't you wish it were true????)
It was the sort of morning made for lovers, thought Sean as he strolled across the front lawn of Bag End, sipping at some coffee. Ridiculously fluffy white clouds floated serenely across a sea of deep turquoise blue, dew sparkled like diamonds on the grass, birds twittered and chirped in the trees, and the air was redolent with the perfume of roses.
Sean felt like he’d stumbled into an animated Disney movie. Any moment now, a cartoon bluebird of happiness would flutter down and land on his shoulder and start serenading him, or maybe Bambi would peek shyly out of the bushes at him, or the Seven Dwarves would come marching into view singing ‘Hi Ho, Hi Ho’.
Or perhaps this wasn’t the work of Disney at all, but of Peter Jackson, making use of the wizards at Weta Workshop to digitally enhance the colors, sounds and scents of his personal hobbit hole and the gardens around it. Sean wouldn’t put it past him.
There was one crucial element missing, however, and that was the lover with whom Sean should be sharing this glorious morning. Sleeping Beauty was still sprawled facedown, naked and unconscious on the bed in the master bedroom. Sean had done his best imitation of a fairy tale prince, and tried to rouse Elijah with a kiss, but he’d only muttered “Go ‘way” in a very un-fairy-tale-like fashion, and pulled a pillow over his head.
So Sean was left to wander barefoot as a hobbit through the garden alone, instead of hand-in-hand with Mr. Frodo the way he’d have preferred.
But it would be churlish of him to fault Elijah for sleeping in. Sleep had been at a premium since they’d arrived at Peter’s estate three days ago, for they’d been determined to make up for their recent lovemaking drought while they were on opposite coasts filming movies. While they’d been making up for the lost time splendidly and with the greatest enthusiasm, it was getting pretty hard to keep up the pace. Sean was actually rather proud of himself for managing to outlast Elijah for once.
Anyway, Sean thought as he let his feet carry him down a side path, deeper into the garden, if Elijah was with him, he’d no doubt bring up that crazy dream again, and try to convince Sean that they had mysteriously entered another dimension or time-traveled or some absurd shit like that. He’d insist that this extravagant, fantastical, über-garden belonged to real hobbits, and any moment they were going to come across Frodo and Sam sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G, no doubt.
Sean huffed with amusement and no little exasperation. Ever since he’d had that dream two nights ago, Elijah had clung stubbornly to his conviction that it hadn’t really been a dream at all. Which was utterly ridiculous, of course. There was not one thing in Elijah’s dream that could not be explained employing ratiocination. If Elijah chose to believe that Frodo and Sam had really existed for six thousand years, and were now Internet-surfing Mac geeks who read steamy fanfiction about themselves in order to improve their love life, that was his business. But Sean wasn’t buying it for a minute. No sane person would. Well, that wasn’t to say that Elijah wasn’t sane, of course, just that he was… overly impressionable.
Okay, yeah, sure, if Elijah was here right now, he’d point out that these gardens were far, far larger than logic would dictate was possible, given how short a time it had been since Peter had had Bag End reconstructed in the backyard of his New Zealand estate. But in Sean’s experience, if you were wealthy enough, you could in fact accomplish the seemingly impossible. Elijah, with his frugal mid-western roots, would much rather believe in alternate universes or parallel planes than someone spending a fortune on landscaping.
It’s a good thing Elwood has me around to keep him grounded, he congratulated himself, as he rounded a bend in the path. Goodness knows what other wild ideas…
Sean came to a halt, and stared.
There, before his astonished gaze, stood a tree: a tree where no tree should have- could have- been. A tall, graceful tree with silver-grey bark and quivering golden leaves, a tree that stretched its arms toward the sky as if reaching up to touch the sun. It stood in the center of a field of lush green grass dotted with flowers of golden yellow and misty white.
No way, thought Sean. This was simply not possible. A tree that tall would have been easily visible from the front door of Bag End. Wouldn’t it?
Without conscious volition, Sean abandoned the path he had been following, and began to walk across the dew-damp grass toward the towering silver tree. The grass certainly felt real enough, cooling the soles of his feet and tickling the backs of his ankles. And those small star-shaped golden flowers, their heads nodding gently on their stems as if in welcome, seemed strangely familiar- even though Sean was absolutely certain he had never seen them before.
Elanor. The word popped into his mind. These were elanor flowers! But surely elanor was something Tolkien invented, something only to be found among the imaginary mallorn-trees in the imaginary land of Lothlórien in the imaginary world called Middle-earth?
Sean halted again as he realized what he’d just been thinking. Wait a minute. Mallorn-trees? A strange, crawling sensation stole down his spine, as if the chirpy Disney Magic Kingdom had suddenly morphed into a creepy Fangorn Forest. Nuh-uh. No way, he thought again. That could not possibly be a mallorn-tree. It had to be a fake tree, an animatronic tree created by Weta the way they’d created Treebeard. Any second now Peter was going to jump out from behind the trunk, grinning like a fiend, and say, “Aha, gotcha, Sean!”
But damned if the tree didn’t look real. Sean moved slowly forward and placed the palm of his hand against its bole. Words he dimly recalled from The Lord of the Rings came back to him. Something about Frodo touching a mallorn in Lothlórien and thinking that he’d never before been so keenly aware of the life within a tree. Sean understood now exactly what Frodo had meant. He fancied he could almost feel a pulse beating beneath the smooth bark of the mallorn. The life force within it was strong and vibrant- this tree was alive.
Even Weta couldn’t have faked something this real.
To the left of where he was standing, Sean noticed a low curved bench set at the base of the tree. He was certain it hadn’t been there when he walked up.
What the hell was going on here?
Well, wherever the bench had come from, Sean was glad it was there now because he really needed to sit down. Immediately.
Hand to his forehead, he sank onto the bench, extending his legs in front of him to prevent his knees from hitting him in the chin. The bench was unusually low, as if it had been designed for a child, or for an adult far shorter than his vertically challenged five foot seven.
A hobbit, perhaps? The insidious words crept into his mind.
Oh no, Sean, he berated himself. Don’t start channeling Elijah. Hobbits don’t exist, remember? There is a logical explanation for all this. There has to be. There always is.
The only logical explanation that occurred to him, however, was that he was in the midst of an extremely vivid dream, no doubt inspired by Elijah’s, and that any moment now he’d wake up in bed with Elijah, tell him about it and they’d both laugh at the sheer absurdity of it.
But… could one be dreaming and yet be aware that one was dreaming and that one was in fact dreaming about someone else’s dream?
Oh, his brain hurt. Sean set aside his coffee mug, and rested his head in his hands. He gave an experimental tug to his hair. The pain was sharp and real. “Shit!” he exclaimed aloud. “This has to be a dream.”
“But it’s not,” said a quiet voice at Sean’s elbow. “The elanor, the niphredil and the mallorn-tree are as real as you are. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, as your William Shakespeare once said. Professor Tolkien might not have been a fan of Shakespeare, but the Bard did have a way with words.”
Sean jerked his head up. Sitting close beside him on the bench was a man, a man who hadn’t been there moments before, a man who had simply… appeared out of nowhere. A man who was regarding Sean with sympathetic amusement in his round brown eyes. A tiny man whose head barely reached the top of Sean’s shoulder. He was the size of one of the scale doubles they’d used in the movies, in fact, but he wasn’t Kiran or Phat or BJ or anyone whom Sean recognized.
“Where the hell did you come from?” Sean demanded, shocked into unaccustomed rudeness.
But the stranger didn’t seem offended; in fact, he smiled faintly. “Oh, I’ve been here right along,” he replied, “it just took you a little while to notice me, is all.”
Sean didn’t even attempt to puzzle out the meaning of this cryptic statement. “Did Peter hire you to impersonate a hobbit? Is this some sort of crazy practical joke he likes to play on his guests? To make them question their own sanity?” he demanded, almost angrily.
The unknown actor was certainly dressed right for the role. He wore three-quarter length brown wool trousers, a leaf-green satin waistcoat beautifully embroidered in gold with interlacing patterns of leaves and vines, and a cream-colored linen shirt similar in style to those Sean had grown accustomed to wearing as Sam- only of much finer workmanship. He had thick curling brown hair on both his head and his feet, but these prosthetic feet were far hairier than the ones Sean had had to wear- the curls extended right up the front of the actor’s foot to above the ankle. Jesus, and he thought he’d had it bad in Feet- it must take frigging days to put those prosthetics on and take them off. Poor guy.
“’Tis no practical joke, though I reckon I can understand why you might think so,” replied the stranger. “I apologize for startling you. When I realized you could see the elanor and the mallorn-tree, I was that pleased, for though Frodo reckoned you might wander into our garden while you were here, I wasn’t so sure. Elijah, aye, I thought he might after Frodo met him in that dream the other night, but not you.”
Frodo thought? Wander into our garden? Dream? Sean took in the twinkling brown eyes, the good-humored face with its rosy cheeks, the nicely rounded belly, the hairy feet. Oh no. It couldn’t be. It simply couldn’t be.
The man offered Sean his hand, saying, “This is the proper way to greet someone from your land, I believe?”
Automatically Sean took the hand in his own: small, square, strong, callused, it was the hand of one accustomed to manual labor… such as a gardener might perform.
“Samwise Gamgee at your service,” he said, shaking Sean’s hand vigorously, “and ‘tis an honor indeed, Mr. Astin. I’ve dearly wished to meet the man who played me in Mr. Jackson’s movies.”
This certainly was the mother of all bizarre dreams, Sean decided. The hand that held his in a firm, warm clasp certainly looked and felt real- right down to the dirt stains around the cuticles, the kind of stains that came from a lifetime of hard work and couldn’t be removed with a simple hand washing.
But as he stared into the hobbit’s eyes, Sean had to fight a crazy conviction that this was no dream, no impersonation- but the real thing. More words from the book sprang into his mind, this time words he hadn’t even realized he’d memorized, words that Sam Gamgee had spoken to Frodo about the Elves they’d met in the Woody End: They are quite different from what I expected- so old and young, and so gay and sad, as it were.
For Sam, despite the fact he appeared no older than Sean was himself, seemed a being old beyond measuring, wise and experienced in ways Sean could barely comprehend. He felt oddly like a child in the hobbit’s presence, exactly the way Merry and Pippin must have felt in the presence of Treebeard, he realized.
He was still holding Sam’s hand, so tightly it must have hurt, although the hobbit didn’t appear to feel any discomfort, or care if he did, just continued to watch him with those sympathetic eyes.
“I-I’m sorry, Sam,” Sean said, releasing his hand. “This has been kind of a shock, to put it mildly. Forgive me if I’m… well… a bit- stunned.”
“I’d be surprised if you weren’t. It ain’t every day you get to meet a hobbit. We live quietly and keep to ourselves, and we’ve had no dealings with Big Folk, other than Mr. Tolkien and his son Christopher, for many a long year. But you and Elijah… well, when we heard you were coming to stay at Mr. Jackson’s Bag End we hoped we’d get a chance to meet you and thank you properly. And here you are.”
“But where is here?” Sean asked almost plaintively. “I feel like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.”
“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore?” the hobbit quoted, smiling. “Where do you reckon we are, Sean?” He paused and tilted his head. “You don’t mind if I call you Sean, do you?” he asked. “I ain’t much of a one for formality.”
“No, of course I don’t,” Sean replied automatically, while his mind was busy trying to wrap around the oddity of a hobbit being able to quote The Wizard of Oz. But in answer to Sam’s question he said, “Is this the green isle Frodo dreamed about in Tom Bombadil’s house? The one he sailed to at the end of the books? I’m sorry I can’t remember what it was called. Wasn’t it Tol something-or-other?”
“Tol Eressëa, the Lonely Isle,” Sam supplied. “Aye, this is it. Though it ain’t a lonely place, far from it.”
“But how?” Sean asked doubtfully. “How is it possible that I could be in New Zealand one moment and in Tol Eressëa the next?”
“There have always existed places where you can bypass the Straight Road to the West and step right from one world into the other, Sean- despite what the Professor wrote in The Silmarillion. Not everything he learned here was included in the books. The Valar don’t want it known that ‘tis possible, and so we asked him to leave it out. But that’s how we met Professor Tolkien; he found one of them places quite by accident.” Sam smiled reminiscently. “I don’t know who was more startled that day he appeared in the garden, him or us. O’course, Frodo’s always held that it was no accident, that the Professor was meant to find us so’s he could tell our story. I reckon Frodo’s right. He most always is.”
“Do you mean to tell me that the Red Book really existed?” Sean asked incredulously, while a part of his mind was thinking what an imaginative dream this was, and hoping that he would remember it long enough after he woke up to write it all down in his journal. Hell, he could make it into a movie: When Sean Met Sam, he’d call it.
“Exists,” Sam corrected, smiling. “I left the original with my Elanorëlle when I departed from Middle-earth, as it says in the books, but what it don’t say is that I brought a copy with me so that Frodo might read about all that happened after he left. We loaned it to the Professor to edit and publish when he asked if he might share our story.” The hobbit looked pensive. “I doubt we’d ever have trusted another to do the job. He lived through the Great War, see, and he understood better than most what Frodo’d suffered and lost, and how important it was that his sacrifice never be forgot. And it never will be now,” he added softly, and Sean could see a faint sheen of tears in Sam’s eyes. “Not only thanks to Professor Tolkien, but thanks to you and your Elijah.”
“Actually, I think we should be the ones thanking you and Frodo,” Sean commented. “Without the two of you and your story, Elijah and I might never have found each other and he wouldn’t even be my Elijah. Look at all the years we worked in the same industry without ever meeting.”
Sam looked struck by Sean’s words. “Why, me and Frodo were matchmakers. Fancy that.”
“I guess you were,” Sean agreed, and smiled at Sam’s almost childlike delight at the idea. But the smile quickly died. “I keep forgetting that this is just a dream,” he said softly. “That you don’t really exist.”
Sam did not reply, only stood and extended his hand to Sean. “Come, let me show you around the garden. I’ve been wishing for the chance ever since you arrived. We gardeners have to stick together.”
“I’m afraid I’m not much of a gardener,” Sean admitted as he took Sam’s sun-browned hand and was pulled effortlessly to his feet. The hobbit was far stronger than his small size would lead one to believe. Strong enough to carry Frodo and the Ring up a mountain, without harnesses or people standing by to catch them if they should fall.
“Ah, but I can tell you’ve a love for all that’s green and growing. Didn’t you make them film a scene of Sam gardening? I’ve to thank you for that,” Sam said as they walked hand-in-hand across the grass. He stopped in the midst of a large patch of blooming elanor flowers and smiled up at Sean. “Your daughter Alexandra looks akin to my Elanorëlle at the same age. She’s a beautiful young lass. You must love her very much.”
“I do.” Sean felt a sudden pang of longing for the sight of his Ally. They spoke every day on the phone and text messaged and emailed each other often, but it wasn’t the same as seeing her, as holding her close. “How did you bear it, leaving your family and Middle-earth forever?” he asked impulsively. God, it was difficult enough to be separated from Ally and Lizzie for a few weeks; it was impossible to contemplate forever.
“It was hard, I’ll not deny it. But they had lives and children and grandchildren of their own. They didn’t really need me no more. But there was one who did,” Sam said softly. “Frodo. He waited sixty-three years for me to join him over Sea, and not a day went by in all those years that I didn’t remember how it felt to watch him sail away from me. He didn’t want me to be torn in two, and I had a good life and much happiness with my Rose and our children. But… well, there was a piece of me that went with Frodo that day, whether he would or no.”
“I’m sorry, Sam.” The emotional toll of filming the Grey Havens scene had been considerable on him and Elijah, not to mention Dom and Billy. But it was nothing by comparison to what Sam and Frodo must have suffered, living it in truth. He’d thought he’d understood, but he could see now that he hadn’t, not really. “I’m so sorry,” he repeated quietly.
Sam was staring down at the elanor flowers, clearly lost in some distant memory, but at that he looked up, his face breaking into a smile. “You don’t have to be, Sean. We’ve a wonderful life together, me and Frodo, and every moment of it blessed. He’d scold me, and rightly so, for dwelling on sad memories, especially when we’ve so much joy now.”
He searched in the pocket of his satin waistcoat for a moment. “Here,” he said, pulling out a small, neatly folded brown paper packet. “I’ve a little present for you. I’ve been carrying it about with me since you arrived, hoping I’d have the chance to give it to you.” He held the packet out to Sean.
“What is it?” Sean asked curiously as his fingers closed around it. It felt so real: the slightly rough texture of the brown paper, the small bumps at the bottom of the packet where whatever was inside had gathered.
“Seeds from the elanor flower. I thought you might like to plant them in your garden at home, and, if you would, at Project Elanor, too. I’ve read about it on the Internet, and it would mean a great deal to me to know her flower grew there.”
It was Sean’s turn to feel the sting of tears in his eyes. “I promise you I will plant them in both places. Thank you, Sam. I can’t think of a more wonderful gift you could have given me.”
Sam pressed his hand. “I’m right glad it pleases you, Sean. Now come with me, there’s so much I want to show you.”
And so, to his everlasting wonder and delight, Sean found himself strolling through the garden at Sam Gamgee’s side, and listening with a respect bordering on awe as the hobbit rattled off the names of the different plants in the Common Tongue and in Elvish and explained how they grew and what their uses were. Occasionally Sam reached out to pinch a dead blossom or pull a weed, and once he stopped to cut a perfect pale pink rose with the secateurs he carried in his back pocket.
“For Frodo,” Sam explained as he took a sniff of the fragrant barely-opened blossom, its smooth petals beaded with droplets of dew. “I bring him a flower every morning. Would you like one for Elijah?”
Sean nodded, but wondered what on earth Elijah would make of Sean bringing him a pink rose. Probably hit him over the head with it, he decided with amusement. But the faint pink blush on the velvet-soft petals did look remarkably like Elijah’s skin when they made love. Perhaps later, Sean thought, he’d have a chance to compare them… He caught Sam watching him, and had a sneaking suspicion that Sam knew exactly what he was thinking. He remembered Elijah’s dream, and felt certain that Sam had done any number of such comparisons himself.
Carrying their roses, they wandered on. It felt so comfortable to be with Sam, as if he was a dear friend whom Sean had known most of his life, as if they were merely picking up the threads of a conversation dropped the last time they met. That’s because he’s not real, only a figment of your imagination. You’re dreaming, remember? But the small voice in the back of his mind was beginning to lack conviction. Could anyone have such an insanely long and vivid dream?
Sam halted again. “Here’s a pretty spot,” he said. “Frodo and I like to sit by this waterfall on hot days and cool our toes.”
A terraced hill rose before them, down which a waterfall cascaded in silver sheets over steps of rock, ending in a deep pool where red-gold carp swam lazily among blooming water lilies. There was another of those low carved benches set beside the pool, and Sam and Sean sat down.
“Sam, did you do all this work yourself?” Sean wanted to know.
“Nay, I’ve had help from the Elves and Frodo, and even Bilbo.” Sam chuckled and added, “Though Bilbo ain’t what you might call the most reliable help. Many’s the time he’s forgot all about what he was doing because he had an idea for a poem or song come to him sudden-like. Not that we wouldn’t rather have the poetry, of course, so we don’t mind.”
“You sound so happy, so content,” Sean said abruptly.
“Well, I reckon that’s because I am.” Sam cocked a quizzical eyebrow at Sean. “You look surprised.”
“But you and Frodo and Bilbo have been here so long. Don’t you ever tire of life, or of each other’s company?”
“Time passes differently in the Blessed Realm, Sean. It don’t seem all that long, truth to tell. And now we’ve got the Internet, why there’s a whole new world opened up to us.” He smiled at the expression on Sean’s face. “You look flummoxed.”
“Every time I think I’ve accepted that this is really happening, my mind rebels,” Sean admitted ruefully. “Six thousand year old hobbits surfing the Internet? It’s crazy.”
“No more crazy than Big Folk walking on the Moon,” commented Sam. “Took some getting used to, that did.”
“I suppose. But while half of me believes this is happening, the other half is standing back and saying, ‘You’ll be waking up any moment now’.”
“There were folk in the Shire who never did believe I really saw an oliphaunt. Don’t change the fact that I did.” Sam raised his knees and wrapped his arms around them. He studied Sean thoughtfully. “It ain’t for me to lecture you, nor tell you what to believe. I’m only a simple hobbit. But it seems to me you ought to trust your heart, Sean. Why are you so afraid to believe that this is real?”
Afraid to believe. Sam had hit the nail squarely on the head. “Because if it turns out to have been a dream after all, I’ll be hurt and disappointed,” Sean admitted. “The way I’ve been hurt and disappointed before, ever since I was a child and I never knew from one day to the next if my mom loved or hated me.”
He hesitated, but Sam said nothing, and there was that in his steady, sympathetic gaze that gave Sean the courage to go on, “The way I’ve been afraid to trust completely in Elijah’s love for me, Sam.” The secret fear he’d harbored and never shared with anyone came spilling out at last. “I know in my heart,” Sean touched his breast, “that he loves me, but in my mind I constantly doubt and worry and wonder if some day he’ll stop loving me, or if I’ll lose him somehow.” Sean grimaced. “God, listen to me! I can’t believe I just told you that. It makes me sound so… so…”
“Human?” Sam said gently. “I reckon most folk imagine that I stepped off that ship in Avallonë and threw myself into Frodo’s arms and we lived happily ever after.”
“You didn’t?” It was absolutely the last thing Sean would have expected Sam to say.
“Nay.” Sam suddenly seemed to be looking inward, it was clear that he was reliving some moment from the past. “The fact is, the moment I clapped eyes on Frodo, standing on the quay with Bilbo and Gandalf, I realized something I’d not realized in all the years we’d been apart.”
“What was that?” Sean prompted gently when Sam continued to stare with unseeing eyes at the cascading waterfall.
He stirred at last and sighed. “I was angry,” Sam said simply. “Angry at Frodo for leaving me. Angry at him for leaving Middle-earth.” He lowered his voice. “Angry at him for not giving me the chance to heal him, or the choice to go with him. A body can build up a deal of hurt and anger in sixty-three years, Sean. But… that wasn’t the worst of it.”
He sighed again. “Frodo seemed healed and whole and as Elvish as any Elf to my eyes. I was that happy for him- how could I not be? It was what I’d hoped for more than anything, that his wounds would be healed at last. But I couldn’t rightly see that I fit into his life any more, or that he could possibly still love plain old Sam Gamgee, hobbit of the Shire. It was a cruel hard time, especially for poor Frodo. He’d waited and waited for me to arrive, and there I was at last, and all I could do was sit around mumchance and miserable. He thought I regretted that I’d ever come.”
“What happened then?” Sean wanted to know. He was completely absorbed in Sam’s story. He’d never have imagined that their reunion could have been anything less than joyful from the start.
Sam hugged his knees tighter. “Well, one night I couldn’t sleep nohow for fretting- oh, I was a right misery, I was- so I got up and went into the kitchen, meaning to make some tea, and who should be there but Frodo, a-sitting at the table with his head buried in his arms. He was crying, Sean. Crying! Frodo, who never cried, not on the Quest, not even when we parted that terrible day on the shores of the Sea. But me, Sam Gamgee, the one who claimed to love him ‘whether or no’… I had made him cry.”
Sam dashed his sleeve across his eyes. “I felt a proper fool and worse for hurting him that way, for shutting him out when he loved and needed me. But the sad truth is, I’d stopped trusting my own heart, and his as well. Well, I finally came to my senses and told Frodo the truth that night, as I ought to have done days earlier.” He added quietly, “We make our own unhappiness most times, or so it seems to me. My old dad used to say, ‘Don’t you go borrowing trouble, Samwise Gamgee, there’s plenty enough already in your life’.”
And whether it was hearing Sam’s story, so unexpected that it couldn’t possibly have been the product of Sean’s imagination, or hearing him quote his ‘old dad’, Sean suddenly did believe. The small voice of doubt inside him fell silent. Sam and this garden were no dream; Elijah had been right after all.
Oddly, at that very moment Sean became aware of seabirds flying overhead, beating their wings against the breeze. Gray and white gulls, their raucous cries plainly to be heard. A faint trace of salt on the air teased his nose, and he thought he could hear in the distance a roar like the crashing of waves. “Are we near the sea?” he blurted out.
Sam looked startled by Sean’s outburst. “Aye,” he said. “‘Tis not overfar from here to the cliffs and the path down to the beach. Could you not hear the gulls crying?”
“Not until now,” admitted Sean.
“Ah,” Sam breathed, his eyes lighting with understanding. “Then you’ve decided to trust in your heart at last. I’m that glad.”
“If Elijah doesn’t doubt, how can I do any less? I love him, Sam.”
“We could tell that from the first moment we saw you together on the screen in The Fellowship of the Ring. Me and Frodo looked at each other and we knew Mr. Jackson had chosen rightly.”
“I knew from the moment Elijah and I met…” Sean began.
“In the lobby of the Hotel Sofitel where Elijah had just finished getting his wig fitted, and you were arriving to get yours fitted,” Sam filled in for him, almost bouncing in place in his enthusiasm to continue the story, “and you ran and gave each other a great big hug!”
Sean started to laugh. “Yes, that’s right. You’ve heard the entire story, I take it.”
Sam’s eyes were twinkling. “That one, and many others, Sean. I told you the Internet opened a whole new world to us.”
“Hmm, yes, Elijah told me about that fanfiction you and Frodo discovered,” Sean said. “And then there was a certain email I received from someone called luvs2garden.”
Sam turned bright red, and said contritely, “It was just a bit of fun. Frodo was right; I oughtn’t to have sent it. I’m that sorry…”
Sean reached out and pulled Sam into a warm hug. “Hey, I was just teasing. If we’re going to be friends, you’ll have to get used to me teasing you.”
“Friends?” Sam asked with a hopeful look.
“Yeah, friends.” He grinned at the hobbit. “Now that I’ve accepted you’re for real, you don’t think I’m going to forget all about you after today, do you? I’ve got a million questions I want to ask you, Sam, enough to keep you talking for the next six thousand years at least.”
Sam laughed, and returned Sean’s hug with interest. “And I’ll be right happy to answer them. But,” he added, springing to his feet, “before we start, I reckon we need some food inside us. How would you like me to cook you a proper hobbit breakfast?”
“I’d love it,” Sean replied with enthusiasm. “Elijah and I aren’t either of us very good cooks, I’m afraid, and our breakfasts tend to be of the coffee and bagel variety.”
“Coffee and bagels for breakfast? Not when it’s S. Gamgee who is doing the cooking,” Sam said, looking delighted as only a born cook can at the prospect of a new mouth to feed.
As they walked along, Sam entertained Sean with a list of the dishes he’d prepare when they reached the smial- “I’ve a new waffle iron that Bilbo gave me for Yule I’ve yet to try”- but Sean said little, for he was thinking about the strange and surprising directions one’s life could take. He had auditioned for the role of Sam Gamgee naively believing he understood what it would mean for him: long months away from his home in exchange for the chance to be part of a unique movie-making experience, one that any actor worth his salt would jump at.
But it had turned out to be so much more than simply the making of an epic in a foreign land. Every aspect of his life had been changed and his feet set on a new path, one with more twists and winds than the path he was currently treading with Sam. He had discovered the kind of love he had never really believed existed. He had forged bonds and made friendships in a Fellowship that would last for the rest of his life. And he had even met an honest-to-goodness, flesh and blood hobbit…
Wait until Elwood discovers I actually met Sam Gamgee. Sean grinned to himself, picturing Elijah’s reaction. He could hear him now, crowing, “Didn’t I tell you my dream was real, Irish?” And then he’d undoubtedly ask to meet Sam, not to mention Frodo. But surely that could be arranged, now that the ice had been broken, figuratively speaking…
As it turned out, it wasn’t necessary. Around the very next bend in the path, Sean came face to face with none other than Elijah himself: barefoot, wearing jeans and a tee shirt, and with his auburn hair sticking up every which way as if he’d just rolled out of bed, which given how soundly he’d been sleeping when Sean left him, was likely the case.
But Elijah wasn’t alone. At his side was a slender, dark-haired man whose head barely reached his shoulder, and Sean didn’t have to think twice to know who it was. The sight of Frodo Baggins with Elijah was arresting: for to Sean’s intense fascination, he was both so like and yet so unlike the young man who had portrayed him in the movies.
That he and Elijah were getting along like a house on fire was evident. They were so deep in animated conversation that they didn’t notice Sean and Sam at first. It wasn’t until Sam, unable to contain his excitement, burst out, “Frodo, look who I found wandering in the garden!” that Frodo Baggins glanced up. His eyes locked with Sean’s; the dark blue-gray of a storm cloud and piercing as a lance, they saw straight into Sean’s heart- and seemed to approve of what they found there, to judge by the welcoming smile that then warmed them. Sean let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding.
“Sean! I don’t believe it.” Elijah ran and threw himself at his partner who staggered a little as he caught him. “Jesus, this is friggin’ fantastic,” Elijah exclaimed, hugging him exuberantly. “You’re here, too! I was afraid you’d think I was completely nuts when I told you that I’d gone out looking for you and met up with Frodo instead. You were so sure he couldn’t be real.” He leaned back and studied Sean curiously. “But what happened to that doubting Thomas streak of yours, Irish? It was a mile wide at least. What on earth made you finally change your mind?”
Over Elijah’s head, Sean looked at Sam, who was standing with his arm around Frodo’s shoulders. The hobbit’s brown eyes were shining with happiness. It was as if this coming together of the four of them in the garden was the fulfillment of a long-cherished dream, one that Sean had nearly ruined with his skepticism.
“A very wise person advised me to trust my heart,” Sean replied, smiling at Sam. “So I did.” And then he handed Elijah his rose. “For you,” he said. “Courtesy of a friend.”