Much thanks to Frayach and Calanthe for inspiring discussions, and to Europanya for beta-comments.

by Cara J. Loup

Frodo stepped into the small room and wished at once that he could turn back. The impulse leapt up inside him like a flash from over-burdened clouds, and for the space of a breath grew so strong that it locked his fingers at his sides.

"Here you are, Mr. Frodo." Mrs. Cotton raised the candle, and its halo flickered briefly over the dark bedstead, stretching the blunt shadow of a bedpost against the wall-timbers, to subside again as she hooked the candleholder over a peg. Wool and clay and damp straw – those smells hung on the air like a weight barely suspended by the small flame.

"Thank you–" Frodo cleared his throat, but she had turned about quickly, and when the light caught her again, she carried a water-basin and a drying cloth. "I really shouldn't put you through so much trouble."

"'Tis no trouble at all, Mr. Frodo. You've had a long road, coming all the way from Buckland, and need your rest, I might say." Before setting the basin down on a stool, Mrs. Cotton quickly wiped a corner of her apron across it.

"There," she murmured and smoothed her frock with both hands. The candleflame bent in the draft from the open door, and within that fleeting breath her expression seemed to waver from uncertainty to expectation. "If there be aught else you require," she added in a stilted tone, "just you ask."

"Thank you for your kindness." Frodo set his pack down by the foot of the bed and smiled for her. "I shall be very comfortable here. A good night to you, Mrs. Cotton."

"We'll all sleep tight as cleavers, I expect, after all the affright and to-do." When she paused again on the threshold, her gaze filled with a calm curiosity, as if, for the first time in the day's turmoil, she could afford a moment to notice something odd about his return. With a slow nod, she reached for the door. "Good night, Mr. Frodo."

The door shut firmly, with a rattle of wood to wood. Frodo sat down on the side of the bed and watched as the candleflame stilled, reaching its glow to the slanted roof and the room's shadowed angles.

Well. Here we are. The words wandered through his head in a voice that vaguely resembled Bilbo's, at once soft and quizzical.

Not yet, he answered. But tiredness enveloped him again, in so sudden a rush that his breath dropped in his chest, and grey veils shifted before his eyes. Even raising his hand to knuckle them aside seemed like a pointless effort. His fingers scrabbled along the sturdy bedframe. Not yet.

Not while richer scents might seep through the crack between the window-frame and the shutter, and the distant sounds from the Bywater Pool could be heard if he listened closely. And Sam – Sam would be back soon, from his last watchful round with the farmer's sons. Frodo pulled himself up and unlatched the shutter, opening it to a hand's breadth.

All he could see was a dark rise of land, barely outlined against the shrouded sky, and a pale, thinning triangle where the south lane ran towards Bywater. A faint whiff of rain lingered next to the scents of smoke and raw earth, like a last trace of their journey that began outside Bree, two days ago, when the air suddenly smelled of the Shire, and he breathed it deep and shakily to the bottom of his chest. Still, he had turned in his saddle to glance back, more than once, towards the dike where Gandalf left their company, urging Shadowfax into a leap and a race against the wind.

Evening had crept along with them as they approached the Shire's eastern borders and finally overtook them on the edges of Buckland. Then it sank, like a muffling grey blanket, spun from the threads of a drizzle that fell so softly over meadows and woodland, not a rustle traced it.

One long nightfall, Frodo thought, while the moon's curve appeared briefly among the clouds and brightened the grassy bank beside the field. He could spend hours here and do nothing but watch those short spells of light etch out the matted grass beyond the fence-poles, or the brambles by the ditch. He was back, back at last, and it still seemed as if he'd never expected it. But from the direction of Bywater and Hobbiton stretched a pall of stale smoke, and the wind that drew the clouds into long ribbons didn't touch the ground.

There should be other smells, he knew, of burnt stubble from the fields after harvest, of malt in the kiln, and juniper smoke from the kitchens where hams and sausages were prepared against the coming winter. There should be –

But what, he couldn't say, not now. Though the night-air touched his face with an edge of frost, tiredness seemed to spread from his bones, as if to fill his insides with grey wool. Frodo turned from the window to the stool, the single piece of furniture beside the bed and the clothes chest, where Mrs. Cotton had placed the basin. Only when he dropped both hands into the cooling water did he notice that he'd forgotten to roll up his sleeves. Under the swirling surface, his maimed hand was a shape half-formed, sliding away from the candle's confused shimmers. Frodo unfastened his soaked cuffs, and dashed some water against his face.

As the small sounds trickled away, a wooden creak and a murmur stirred from somewhere on his right. The outer walls of the farmhouse had been built from large, barely-hewn river stones, but within, the rooms were separated by half-timber screens. The bedroom next door belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Cotton. Frodo reached for the drying cloth and rubbed it over his face until his skin tingled.

This isn't your country, and you're not wanted, he heard again Farmer Cotton's voice as he confronted the band of ragged Men. His voice parted the November dusk as easily as if he'd called to his plough-team, while he warmed his hands at the forbidden fire. For a moment there had been complete silence, suspended and angled obliquely between Farmer Cotton and Merry and the ruffians' leader. Until the Man rushed forward, into arrows that flew no louder than a hard gust of wind.

Frodo felt another sharp sting under his breastbone just as he had then. If he couldn't stop it, there would be more fighting tomorrow. He wandered over to the foot of the bed and laid a hand to the dark wood. On every side of the bedpost, close towards its rounded top, a single flower had been carved with a rough gouge – the only tool to cut old oak at all, and the most relentless instrument that a hobbit's hand should wield. Its marks were still visible around the broad petals, and age had split a crack through one of the blossoms. Frodo ran his thumb across it and imagined the long hours of patient carving.

Had Sam slept in a bed like this, down in Bagshot Row, a bed built generations ago and passed along through the family? He would never know, he could never ask, not after Bagshot Row and the Gamgees' home had been destroyed, if all of the images Sam had seen in the Mirror were true – and they must be.

If we could go now, and look... Perhaps the darkness would make it easier to see what remained unchanged. So many memories returned to Frodo with the sudden, aching clarity of a blade snapped from its scabbard. He could hear the frogs' rasping chant in the reedy banks along the Water and see the shadows of bats dance, quick as heartbeats, over the clear spots in the grove west of the Hill. He remembered how the wind would rush through long rows of rye below the Party Field, and how the narrow path north of Tuckborough that wound over the Green Hills back towards Hobbiton always seemed to call to him. Only once on their journey from Bree, as they passed beneath a group of old elms, had he sensed the same, when he looked up and patches of the sky's dark silver hung in the branches that dripped with rain.

Frodo rubbed a hand over his tired eyes. He should give in, get out his nightshirt and lie down, but he had to will himself to move. For so many months he'd been vulnerable in his sleep.

He bent over his pack when muffled sounds floated from the window – the voices of Merry and the youngest Cotton boy, followed by Sam's quiet tones and a short shuffle on the stoop. Frodo leaned back against the bedstead and listened to the soft creaking of floorboards until the door opened.

With Sam, a fresh wisp of the night-chill entered the room and, laced through it, a faint stable-scent. Sam must have paid one last visit to Bill and the other ponies before he returned indoors.

"I thought you'd have gone to bed, Mr. Frodo," he said when he'd closed the door behind himself, "but then I saw the light in the window."

"I said good-night to Mr. and Mrs. Cotton only a short while ago."

Candlelight fell against the side of Sam's face as he stepped forward and showed the high colour that walking in the cold had raised to his cheeks. "Tom says we won't need a watch for the night. I walked him and Jolly up the road, and there wasn't a stir out of the village, neither."

This close, Frodo could smell the nip of pipeweed from Bree, piercing the cloudy scents of frost and straw. Sam raised a hand, and the brush of his fingertips against Frodo's cheek was like a clean breath of winter, with the warmth of sheltered coal pulsing underneath.

"You'll catch yourself a chill with that window open," Sam said quietly.

"Yes, I should really–" Frodo moved towards it and knew that Sam followed half a step behind when a shadow at the corner of his eye broke his movement. It shivered large and thin against the wall, and from a fold in Frodo's mind slipped a memory of sudden blindness.

It passed as Sam's hand curved gently around his shoulder. "Master?"

"It's – oh, nothing." Nothing that you don't know. He didn't need words when his breath dipped under Sam's touch, and Sam's hand drifted with slow ease from the tense span of his shoulderblade to the small of his back.

"I'm tired." Frodo turned only when Sam reached past him to draw the shutter inward and fasten it close. "But I'm not sure if I should be here."

Sam shook his head, and the candle lit a keen glint in his eye. "But where else should you be?"

The shadow danced on the cross-beam over the door now, quick and troubled. A moth must have strayed in through the window, or tumbled from its resting place under the roof-spars.

"I meant – well, whose room is this?" Frodo asked, though something else wanted to leap to the tip of his tongue.

Sam's glance shifted aside, towards the bed, after a long moment. "All the lads must have slept here of a time, but there's none save Nibs now without a wife or a hole of his own." His eyes found Frodo's pack then, and he stooped to unlace it. "'Tis getting on the wee hours, and we'll need to be a-rising early."

"Yes," Frodo said, "yes, I know." But as he watched, he remembered that Sam's own pack had stayed behind somewhere in the main room, along with their cloaks and swords, and that Sam's Gaffer – "We should let your father have this bed."

"Oh no, there's no need."

Frodo smiled to hear Sam answer with calm assurance, not a thought or breath wasted on ceremony, while he set the pack on the bed and rummaged for the nightshirt.

"My Gaffer's fast asleep in the best chair," Sam went on, tipping his head towards the door. "He'd not take kindly to being waked now, not for the finest bed in Bywater, and anyways he's more comfortable here than he ever was in that... that shed."

His voice grew rough and strained, and Frodo moved to stand close by him, his fingers catching Sam's hand before it disappeared again among the jumble of his clothes. "Sam... what did you see?"

"Those blighted and dirty huts as they've put up along Hobbiton Road, and–" Sam swallowed and glanced down, though not quickly enough to hide the flash of anger in his eyes.

Don't, Frodo thought, don't, Sam, please. Sudden apprehension rose hard in his throat, pressing with a force he'd not known since –

"That's what they cut the trees down for, to make room for those sheds," Sam murmured thickly. "They're all gone, every single tree from here to Hobbiton, and most've been left lying dead in the fields, what's worse."

Grief etched a small, tight line beside his mouth, and Frodo leaned forward so he might touch it with a word, a breath. "I know. But... the village is still there, and the Hill... They can't have ruined it all."

He stopped before the hope could stretch too thin in his voice. Sam tightened the grip on his fingers, silently spelling We haven't seen the worst of it yet through the brief trembling pressure.

"Well, we're on the forward road now." Sam set his shoulders, a small movement that could easily go unnoticed. "And whatever mischief's been done, 'twill meet us soon enough." He let go of Frodo's hand to resume sorting through the pack's contents and finally tugged the nightshirt free.

"There now..." He spread the linen garment out on the blanket, and when he turned again, his eyes were clear and steady. "Before you wonder about Mr. Merry – if he's going to sleep at all, he's got a place for himself in the bedroom with Nibs."

Frodo needed another moment to follow the resolute change of topic, of mood. "Well, that shouldn't bother him. Merry must be exhausted, too."

"Oh, I daresay 't won't bother him." Sam chuckled, a soft and wistful sound. "But Nibs now, he might be a thought flurried to lay himself down with one of the gentry."

As if he'd spoken them himself, the words prickled strangely on Frodo's mouth, and his breath caught on them. One of the gentry. "You never–" he raised his hand to Sam's cheek, "–you never thought that."

"I know you," Sam murmured, and with the short shake of his head, his mouth brushed Frodo's thumb, a chance caress that lingered between them. But his frank look, when he met Frodo's eyes, held so much more of an answer, folding him in a certainty that knew no bounds.

As if he belonged, fully and unquestionably, where they had arrived. As if? Frodo wanted to unravel that doubt to its source, at once. But he was tired, so tired it dragged in all his limbs like a slow and steady pull from the earth itself, and he longed for a hold, a hold as strong as the grip of Sam's hand only moments before.

"Will you stay?"

In that instant of asking, Frodo knew exactly what it meant, as if morning had already come and they found themselves caught and appraised within a mesh of considering glances. Too many fine cracks ran everywhere between timber and clay, in a house not built to keep secrets, that passed on every tread and whisper. Perhaps he should not have asked. Perhaps –

But Sam only leaned nearer, as if he'd sensed him wavering. "Aye," he murmured, his breath at Frodo's temple, "where else would I be going?"

His hand rose to the laced fastening of Frodo's shirt, one of many gifts from Elrond's household, and the knot fell loose at the slightest tug. "'Tis our first night back in the Shire – well, save for last night in Frogmorton, but I'm in no mind to let that count."

"No..." Frodo slipped his waistcoat down his arms, and in that fleeting slide ran memories from the night before. The sour and clammy smells of little airing, the rustles of straw-filled sacks that served as bedding, and Pippin's attempts to distract them with exaggerated complaints. Sam's arm stealing under his cloak in the dark to wrap firmly about his waist, and the dripping of rain on the shutter like a guard turning weary circles around and around the Shirriff-house.

"Mr. Frodo..." The brush of Sam's knuckles below his throat drew him back to a blunt, undeniable warmth, and the waistcoat dangling from his wrist.

"You are tired," Sam murmured with a note of worry and took the waistcoat to hang it over the nearest bedpost. "Won't you lie yourself down now? I'll be back with you in a moment."

As Sam crept out of the door to fetch his pack or his nightshirt, Frodo looked down at his own – at the fine-spun linen he'd worn thoughtlessly since the nights cooled in Rivendell, and which seemed so at odds with the blanket's coarse wool. He undid his shirt's fasteners, from collar to waist, with abrupt impatience. It was this that he wanted to feel on his skin, only the raw and fretted wool. He stepped out of his trousers and climbed naked under the blanket.

A brown shimmer edged through his closed lids, and he was suspended in it, between the sheet and the blanket that shifted coolly against his breaths, until the door turned on its hinges, and he knew that Sam's eyes had found him before he looked up. They held him through the restless flickers that the draft had stirred from the candle, in a solemn stillness. Sam had grown quiet between evening and nightfall, quiet and vigilant. From his seat near the door, he'd observed as Merry shaped plans with Farmer Cotton, and often his eyes came to rest on his father. Those hours past now seemed to surround him with a deep, waiting silence.

Frodo watched as he set down his pack, pulled his tunic over his head and draped it over the bedpost in tumbled folds. Sam's clothes had been mended with patches of finer fabric in Gondor, and his tunic showed the mailshirt's imprint in uneven crinkles, but a waft from the stable had attached itself to the cloth.

"How does Bill like his new lodgings?" Frodo asked, tracing Sam's movements through the unsteady rim of candlelight as he turned towards the wash basin.

"Right well," Sam answered over a brisk splash and trickle. "He's not been spoiled in Bree, though I daresay Mr. Butterbur treated him kind."

A thin glow rippled over his back as he washed, softening the contours of honed muscle, yet even now his shoulders were set tight. Braced for the burden to settle anew, Frodo thought.

"And your family? How are they?"

Sam glanced over his shoulder, suddenly intent as if he'd heard another question, one that Frodo didn't quite recognise himself.

"Tom and Marigold, they got wed." His voice dropped a little more. "Such a lively lass, my little Mari, and now she's a wife, and expecting, too." He scooped up some water to bathe his face, drowning a troubled silence.

"Why, you'll be an uncle again." Frodo hadn't thought to say this, but it seemed he couldn't think while he watched Sam across the short distance, while he, too, was waiting.

"Aye, for the seventh time over." Without turning again, Sam reached for the drying cloth and rubbed it over his chest and arms.

"Did they – did you expect it?" This, too, sounded callow and awkward. Frodo knotted his fingers into the blanket's seam. "Were they already planning to get married when we left?"

So much that he didn't know. So much that he'd never even thought to consider, but he could not have missed the careful balance in Sam's bearing as he spread the cloth over the basin, so that the water wouldn't chill too quickly during the night.

"Not planning, I wouldn't say, but it were plain enough to see."

When Sam lowered himself on the side of the bed, straw whispered somewhere beneath the wool-stuffed mattress, but now his eyes revealed a helpless dismay. "My Gaffer," he said haltingly, "he's got none but me now..."

A strong breath rushed up Frodo's chest, escaping with a relief that carried him forward. He sat up to cup Sam's face in his hands. "We won't go back to Crickhollow then."

There had been no decision to make, only the naming of a necessity long known.

"But–" Sam broke off. The misery on his face had grown stark, edged with a rawness that could only be meant for Bag End and its garden, shadowed quickly in the sweep of his lashes.

"Sam..." Now that he cradled the full weight of sorrow in his palms, Frodo found a confidence he'd not felt all evening. "We will see." His fingers stroked slowly over Sam's cheekbones, to caress the fine crinkles at the corner of his eyes. Sam's breath moved against the ball of his thumb, warm but heavy as he lowered his head to leave all these questions be for the night. Frodo brushed his mouth against the curls over Sam's forehead where the fading rain-scent of their journey lay nestled. But you – a response too sharp to be gratitude leapt inside his chest – you're with me.

"You'll be cold without your nightshirt on," Sam's voice fell muffled into his hands.

Frodo hunched his shoulders. Although the November cold had leached into the room, little by little, his skin knew none of it – not until Sam's hands took a slow path up his arms, measuring every inch from his wrists to his shoulders, and pressed him back gently into the comforts of mattress and pillow.

The bed enveloped Frodo with slight prickles that scurried across his chest and back. When Sam leaned over him, his face was cast in a soft twilight, and his shadow folded over Frodo like a relaxed wing. Sheltered within it, he remembered nothing – only Sam, only the quiet spanned by Sam's hands – and the space between them filled and eased away as Sam bent low.

His mouth touched the spot below Frodo's throat, found it with keen, undeniable knowledge that could only be lodged inside his own skin, and fanned a light into being under Frodo's breastbone.

The swift surge of his pulse drummed between Sam's splayed fingers, where his voice drifted, low and tender, over Frodo's heart. "You're all but shivering, Mr. Frodo... Are you–"

A hard breath interrupted Sam's question. He could not finish, and he shouldn't have to, either.

"Afraid of what we will find, of what we must do tomorrow?" Frodo bowed his head to watch his fingers sink into Sam's curls, and when the candlelight glanced across the tangled strands, he could picture the sun crackling through rows of raked hay. "Yes, I am."

Sam buried his face at Frodo's neck, the damp heat of his mouth trembling over a vein that pulsed sharply, but he wasn't crying.

"There's so much to be done," he whispered.

Frodo closed his arms over the rise and ebb of Sam's breaths, but as Sam shifted nearer, he thought again of the bed in which Sam had slept through all the years before, and no matter what he chose to do, he could never give it back to Sam. A startling jab of anger flared under his heart. This... this should not be. Tomorrow should not begin with another fight.

Perhaps it was his own anger, the way it leapt so lightly over the ragged edges of his thoughts, that he feared. Tomorrow. Promise me, Sam...

But he couldn't ask for this, couldn't wish for Sam to stand back and let others drive the intruders from the Shire. Not when such a need to do lay coiled in the muscles along Sam's back and stirred under each of his breaths. Frodo slid his palm downward, across that wakeful rhythm, and felt how the cool air chased goosepricks over Sam's lower back.

"Now you're the one who's getting cold," Frodo murmured against his curls.

A reluctant mutter skimmed his chest, then Sam tugged himself away and sat up to unfasten his breeches. They should blow out the candle now, Frodo knew – they couldn't be as wasteful with light as they'd been in Minas Tirith or Rivendell – but somewhere nearby, a numbing dark lay in wait, patient and unmoving, that would settle over him the moment he stilled, the moment he gave in. And he could not.

He allowed himself another pause, to watch as Sam pulled down his breeches, baring the strong line of hip and thigh, until he could link their fingers and draw Sam to his side. Then he turned towards the diminishing candle. One gust of his breath flattened the flame, and it disappeared as if torn off the wick, its red glint reflecting for another moment at the heart of a wooden flower on the bedpost.

When he settled back, Sam had slipped under the blanket beside him, and they moved quietly to hold each other in the hollow of the mattress. A gentler heaviness crept into Frodo's limbs, culled from the warmth of Sam's skin that flowed under his palm like a sheen he might see when he opened his eyes again. Into the dark rose a tart whiff of tallow, and from the bedroom on the other side of the wall-timbers seeped another whisper of wood or voice.

What would it mean to the Cottons, to know that master and servant lay joined in the closeness of a shared bed? Perhaps they'd consider it a whim, or a strange habit, disconcerting as Merry and Pippin's war-like array. But whatever their thoughts might be, no questions would be asked.

Now we are invisible, unthinkable. Frodo breathed past a sudden dryness in his throat. Like this. He tightened his arm around Sam's neck, and the fretful beats scudding up his chest caught where Sam's breaths rose against his own.

I don't want to sleep. I don't want to miss the break of day, I don't want to miss a single morning –

"Frodo..." Sam's voice parted the darkness with barely a sound, soothing without effort. His fingertips followed the curve of Frodo's ribcage in a slow arc, before he pulled away and pushed himself up on an elbow.

"My mam used to say that an empty stomach makes for crabbed dreams, and you've not had enough of a supper, Mr. Frodo..." The mattress shifted with his movement, and Frodo heard him fumble for something in his pack on the floor. "Here... I brought this out of Mrs. Cotton's kitchen, but I don't think she'll mind you having it."

Sam reached for his hand, guiding it till it was folded around the fruit he held in his grasp. A faint odour reached Frodo on the next breath he drew in. He traced the curve of Sam's fingers against a rounded shape, and he could see it then – pale yellow, softly wrinkled skin – as bright and present as the imagined taste of pear on his tongue. Quick as a shiver, surprise pierced his breath. He closed his fingers without taking, not yet, while he searched for the impression that had stirred him so.

It was the way Sam cupped the pear in his hand, holding it out to him, how it made him think of ladders leaned to plentiful trees, of branches dipping and rustling as countless invisible hands shook off their burden, and the younger lads climbed to daring heights.

Frodo raised the pear and took a bite. It was small and hard, and Mrs. Cotton must have set it aside with those fruit that had to soften further before they'd be stewed to jam or serve as filling for a cake. But as he chewed, a mealy sweetness gathered at the back of his mouth. He could taste winter in it, when such rare freshness would be savoured by the hearth, mingling with a hint of woodsmoke.

The fingers of his free hand remained curled into Sam's, moving slowly as he ate. From this first night, the long months ahead of them seemed to unfurl like a road, thin sheets of ice covering the puddles that stood in the ruts and wheel-tracks. At the end of this road lay a frozen view of the Bywater Pool, and captured in it, the harsh angles of tarred roofs, the broken stump of a willow, about to be swallowed into the clemency of nightfall. But now he could hold that memory in his mind, draw it close–

"Do you know, I don't think I truly saw..."

"What, Mr. Frodo?" Sam asked just as softly.

"Tomorrow..." He paused again to gather the notion closer. "I want to remember everything as it once was, and as it is now, and not shut my eyes to anything, regardless." It was startling, to feel how the threads of anxiety had unwound from his thoughts, unnoticed.

"Oh, but you're braver than I." Sam's clasp on his damaged hand grew tense for a moment, as if to caution him.

"I think not." Frodo moved the back of his hand against Sam's palm, reading in the ridges of scar and callus – more than memory, more than strength – and now the way Sam's fingers cradled his own told him so clearly that Sam didn't mean to draw blade again, that he'd returned home to take up hoe and spade, like old friends. These beloved hands, joined to the hands of so many others –

"Here, Sam..." Frodo held the pear to his mouth. "It's good."

Sam didn't protest, as he so often had. In the quiet, Frodo could hear him chew thoughtfully, then a small hum of relish from the back of Sam's throat. Frodo's fingers slid along his shoulder, and he pressed his lips where the skin would always be a little rougher from being bruised and scraped raw too often.

"Why, that's better than the finest peach in Gondor..." When Sam turned his head, his breath fell against Frodo's cheek with a near-soundless chuckle. "Though Strider might want words with me for saying so."

"I think he'd be glad to hear it." Frodo raised his head. His eyes had come to terms with the room's darkness, and the hovering shades of grey revealed Sam's smile like a secret. "I am."

Sam's answer was wordless, a hitch of sound in his throat as he dropped the pear's core down on his pack.

"Sam," Frodo whispered when Sam took him in his arms again, in a strong embrace, and it was all that he could hold, a small tremor spreading out from his shoulders, from the clouds of tiredness. With it welled a knowledge of fullness, of home and hope that his arms could encircle, rising on a wish that clenched, hot and bright, in his chest. He reached up blindly, and Sam's lips softened against his own, pressing closer, as if to relieve him of every question that might burn behind his breath. Sam's tongue slipped past his teeth and filled his mouth with the taste of pear, and it was easy to imagine that they lay together under open sky.

When Sam drew back, the air tingled on Frodo face and mouth, crisp as a frosty draft that might herald a snowfall. The night had worn so thin, it must soon give way.

"Rest now, my dear." Sam's voice was a husky burr by his ear. "You're never alone."

He tucked the pillow firmly under Frodo's head and pulled the blanket up over them, sealing this night's peace with a mild rustle. Frodo turned his face to the curve of Sam's shoulder, thinking of the morning that would come, and that Sam would wake him to it, and with that thought he was adrift in a vast twilight that unclosed behind his eyes.

In his dream he saw the full moon mirrored in the wash basin, and stars glinting through a barn's broken roof. He dreamed wide expanses of grass that rippled like the sea, the long green sweeps running ever outward, and in his dream, he held his breath.

* * *

| Continued in Blotmath | back to top | send feedback |

to return to main page, close this window