RATING: All right - PG for what might look like implied slash. Though it isn't, really. It's just a funny little What-if; short, silly and cute is what I intended.
ARCHIVE: Ask first, keep name on, etc - otherwise ok.
FEEDBACK is welcome at the email address given on my top page (http://hem.bredband.net/MsFanfic in case that's not where you found this story).
COMMENT: Written on 2004-01-10. The title is hardly original, I know. Quite possibly not even in the LotR universe, but I haven't been in there lately. Or at all, come to think of it. Got to remedy that some day. Anyway, here's the story:
Frodo was lying in Sam's arms, unconscious with exhaustion. Sam felt hot tears coursing down his own grimy cheeks - they were so close. They had come all this way, endured so much, and now, at the end of time, nothing would be achieved after all. No dark lord stopped, no world saved. Sam knew that giving up was unthinkable. But Frodo's strength was spent, all of it; there was no pushing him any further.
Nevertheless, Sam tried. He began by shaking his master a little, but so gently as to have no effect at all. Then he stroked Frodo's hair, at a loss for what else to do. And finally he bent over him and kissed the long lashes - the hollow cheeks ... and finally, the parched lips.
It was not unheard of. Granted that it was a rare custom among hobbits, but the Big Folk were kissing each other all the time, in greeting and farewell. Mostly on the brow, but not always.
Besides, this wasn't the first time Sam had thought of it. Right before the two of them had set out for the heart of Mordor, there had been a moment when Sam had declared his intention to follow Frodo wherever his quest might take them, and Frodo had thrown himself into Sam's arms, crying with gratitude and perhaps also lament over the sacrifices such a pledge might call for. Then he had looked at Sam with those almost unnaturally blue eyes filled with tears, and soft lips quivering.
Perhaps it had been Frodo's slightly androgynous appearance - strange though it was in a hobbit, Frodo had always had a touch of the elven about him. But Sam was as heterosexual as they came, and he didn't reflect on the possibility. He loved Frodo deeply, with a fierce loyalty that caused him to panic at the first chance of their being parted, and his need for closeness had fired an urge to touch the delicate curve of Frodo's lips with his own. But, such an intimacy was not usually initiated by servant to master, and the moment had passed. Not that Frodo ever had pulled rank or feudal standing on Sam - or that he ever would.
Sitting back up, Sam looked towards the top of Mount Doom. Walking into the maw of an active volcano ought to mean certain death, but if that was where Frodo needed to go, then Sam would follow. How far could it be? Sam knew from experience that vistas were deceiving - he only hoped that the distances could sometimes be shorter than they seemed, and not always greater.
Resolutely, he stood, gathering Frodo's lifeless body into his arms and hoisting it up across his shoulder in a fireman's carry. "I can't carry your burden, Mr Frodo - but I can carry you."
Much later, standing in Rivendell, in the doorway to Frodo's bedchamber, Sam watched his master being cheerfully greeted upon awakening from his long coma. Merry and Pippin went positively wild with joy and relief, hugging him and being hugged back, repeatedly. Sam knew well how little hope they had all had of Frodo ever coming back to them. Indeed, Gandalf had warned them that they could not expect to. Well, it looked like the old wizard had been wrong for once. Didn't it?
When everybody else had taken their leave, Sam walked slowly into the room, meeting again those huge, blue eyes - tearfilled again, but with happiness this time. Or so Sam hoped at least. He didn't want Frodo to dwell on the past now that they had finally - against all odds - made it through.
Frodo was sitting up in bed, dressed in fine elven silks and with his hand properly bandaged, no blood stains showing where Gollum had chewed his finger off. But he still looked delicate; no silks in the world could compensate for his rather obvious loss of weight or the haunted look that dwelt like a shadow deep behind tears of joy.
Then he spoke. "You took something from me, Sam", he said quietly, "when you thought I was too far gone to know."
A chill raced down Sam's spine. "The ring? But Mr Frodo, I told you. T'was just for safe-keeping."
Frodo shook his head, not quite smiling. "Not the ring, Sam. Something - if possible - even more intimate."
Sam never knew afterwards where he plucked up the courage to answer that. "I never meant to take anything from you, Mr Frodo", he said. "If it seems that nevertheless I have, then there's nothing else for it - but give it back."
He walked up to the bed and sat down on its edge, taking Frodo in his arms - cautiously, as if he feared that his master might break. It was as if their shared hardships had somehow lessened the impact of social standing. This time, Sam did not let the moment pass. He touched his lips gently to Frodo's, noting that the softness was back - the softness that he had somehow expected to be there. He felt the warm lips quiver a little in an initial moment of surprise, then Frodo was kissing him back, surprising Sam in turn. For a moment, something felt very much like the sweet flutter of a tip of tongue - but he must have imagined that.
In the end, Sam was the first to let go. He reminded himself sternly that this would in all likelihood never happen again - after all, it was not the done thing among hobbits.
And perhaps just as well - for he could quite easily get used to it.
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