Summary: Frodo and Sam struggle to keep watch…over each other. Post quest.
Chapter 5 Lies
The winter went hard for them all. Rosie was heavy with child and had to spend much of the time resting for the sake of the baby, which left Sam in charge of the house. Although Sam thought it terribly improper, Frodo helped out where and when he could, but many days he just seemed too tired to do the chores, and he was unfortunately not much use in the kitchen.
And Frodo’s nightmares had continued…Sam would find himself in his master’s room more often than not, and on the nights he was not awakened by Frodo’s cries he was sure that his master did not sleep at all. Frodo was working on the Red Book quite determinedly now, and several mornings Sam had found him sprawled over its pages, mumbling in a fitful sleep.
Frodo had never spoken to him again about the nightmares…sometimes Sam wondered if he was even truly aware that he was there with him on those black nights. He suspected that at least some of the time Frodo recalled his presence there, but Sam was loath to remind him of the dreadful specters that disturbed his slumber. He hoped that by some given grace Frodo did not even remember the nightmares, but he always seemed a bit subdued the morning after those horrible nights.
Finally, March had come and spring was beginning to blossom out from under the darkling blanket of winter. Even though the air was still chill, the earth and its creatures were stirring with the promise of life. Sam had felt refreshed and renewed, and Rosie was eager to greet the new baby, but Frodo was restless, and growing more so with each passing day. Since the month had begun Frodo was spending whole days in the study, and he only saw his master at mealtimes. What he saw did not please him. Frodo was exhausted. He looked as if he hadn’t slept in weeks, and he spoke very little beyond general courtesy. He had let this go on for several days, and had finally decided that enough was enough and he was going to try and talk to Frodo.
He sat in the parlor on the morning of the tenth of March, gathering his thoughts to confront Frodo about what was bothering him. He suspected it had to do with the approaching anniversary… he was aware of the coming of this date, for his own memories seemed to be stirring and taking him back to those black and desperate hours in the Tower.
Sam sighed heavily and dropped his hands into his lap. This was going to be difficult. Frodo never talked of their journey, or any memories that he had. The only way Sam knew that he remembered anything at all was what he gleaned from Frodo’s nightmares. Frodo never spoke of any of it, and he did his best to keep everything going on in his mind to himself. Did he honestly think that Sam couldn’t see him struggling? He thought it was time that they talked about at least some of it. Maybe it would ease his master’s mind…
He was startled from his reverie as Frodo came running into the parlor at full tilt, eyes wide and haunted. Sam jumped from his chair, old fears and instinct taking control as he turned in a defensive crouch to protect his master. It took him quite a few seconds to realize that nothing was there; Frodo was being chased by phantoms. He reached out to stop his master as he began to lunge forward again, but too late…
Frodo ran head first into the back wall and fell stunned, nose dripping blood onto the floor before him. Sam stood still for a moment, shocked by the violence of the impact, but he was galvanized into motion as Frodo attempted to rise from the floor, laying his hands on him and restraining him as he struggled to take flight again.
“No, Sam, let me go, you mustn’t let her catch me!” Frodo pleaded hysterically, his voice breaking with tension and terror as he tried in vain to break free of Sam’s strong grasp.
“Oh, mister Frodo, I can’t stop her from catching you!” he exclaimed painfully, his heart clenching in his throat with every hitching breath that Frodo took as his panic escalated. He wept into Frodo’s hair as he embraced his quivering master…
And then She came…
Frodo went stock still for a moment, and then fought him tooth and nail to get free. He had to apply quite a bit of force to hold Frodo down, as his master begged to be let go so he could escape. He almost fell to pieces with every word Frodo spoke, almost didn’t have the strength of heart to imprison him there, waiting for her sting. Mercifully, he did not have to wait long. With one last desperate thrash, Frodo screamed in utter agony, a sound which paralleled the piercing wail that had been ripped from him as Gollum had reclaimed his treasure, and went limp, driven to unconsciousness by the pain.
He released his master immediately and held him close, his bitter tears mixing with the blood still trickling down Frodo’s face. Frodo was already lost in delirium, his fever spiked high by her phantom sting. But Sam could not move, could not tend to Frodo as he should. He just sat there trembling, unable to control the mix of terror and rage and sorrow that tore through him. He wept in great convulsing sobs that rattled them both, until his chest was so sore he could barely draw breath. Reason came back to him then, and he took Frodo into his arms and cradled him, carried him to his bedroom to clean him up and care for him.
This illness was far worse than the last. Frodo had an extremely high fever for five days and was almost constantly delirious. He seemed to be in tremendous pain, crying out and writhing in response to whatever haunted his fevered dreams, and resisting Sam’s efforts to give him water or medicine.
By the fifth day his master hardly moved at all and his breathing had gone shallow and ragged. Terror like he had never known pulsed through him…Frodo was not going to survive this. He couldn’t possibly continue to go through this kind of pain and horrific remembrance any longer. His master was going to give in, surrender to the evil that held him and leave his poor Sam forever.
But Sam knew at that moment…it would be better that way. He did not want to lose Frodo, but even more desperately he did not want to see him suffer like this. If Frodo gave in, he would manage somehow, knowing that his master was at last at peace.
But it was not to be. Late that evening, Frodo’s fever finally broke and he fell into a deep sleep. The demons had released his master and Sam wept in grateful relief, a release of his terror and fear for Frodo’s life.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
As he floated on the verge of consciousness, the first sound Frodo heard was soft snoring beside him. He opened his eyes cautiously to discover that he was lying in his bed and the source of the snoring was Sam, asleep in the chair beside him. What had happened? The last thing he remembered was…
He had been in the study, and it had been so hard to concentrate on the translation before him. He had felt like something was watching him…and then it all went blank…to now.
When was now?
He shifted a little on the bed, preparing to sit up, but stopped abruptly as pain shot up the back of his neck. He raised his hand from the coverlet with a great effort, stunned at how much of his strength it took to summon that trembling arm to bring his hand to the back of his neck. As he rubbed it gently toward the center of the pain, he encountered a small indented area with a slightly roughened, raised scar in the middle…Shelob…
He must have fallen ill. But it was the tenth, three days from the dreaded anniversary! He had thought he was ready for it this time. He had planned to close himself off in his room when he began feeling ill, and stay there until the fit passed and he was himself again. What had happened?
He dropped his arm wearily beside him with a soft thump, but it was enough to make Sam jerk awake rather suddenly. Sam looked exhausted. Smudges of darkness were gathered under his eyes, but his pale, worn features came alive with a brilliant smile as his eyes fell on Frodo.
“Good mornin’, mister Frodo, how are you feelin’ today?” Sam inquired, seemingly with all the cheerfulness he could muster.
“What…happened, Sam? How did I get here?” he asked slowly, not really sure he wanted to hear the answer.
Sam’s face clouded a bit.
“You’ve been ill, sir. You fell ill on the tenth of March.” His eyes slid away from Frodo’s to fix on a point somewhere to Frodo’s right.
“And what day is…today?” Frodo could feel the anxiety growing in the pit of his stomach. This must have been worse than the last time he fell ill…
“It’s the sixteenth, sir, this mornin’,” Now Sam’s eyes sought to meet his again, but it was his turn to pull his gaze away as he stared at the ceiling in disbelief.
“The sixteenth?! I’ve been ill for five days?” An incredulous whisper aimed at the ceiling.
“What happened, Sam? Did you find me in the study in the afternoon? I hope I wasn’t too much trouble…” He paused at he heard Sam catch his breath beside him. His friend’s gaze was riveted to the coverlet.
“What is it, Sam?” He prodded gently, his heart clenching in his breast as he watched Sam fidget with his reply.
Sam couldn’t bear to tell him the truth, couldn’t even voice that Frodo’s hallucination of Shelob had been so vivid that he had crashed into the wall with enough force to make his nose bleed, that he had held Frodo down while that hideous evil had pursued him, restrained him while She descended upon him and paralyzed him with her kiss. That he had sat there and wept until he couldn’t anymore at how unfair it was that Frodo should have to endure this…
He couldn’t protect Frodo all these past days, not from the hallucinations, the pain, the fell creatures that ravaged him in the night…but he could protect him from this.
“Yessir, I found you in the study at your desk.”
Sam still wasn’t meeting his eyes, which made Frodo quite uneasy but he continued slowly, “I remember feeling like something was watching me…”
“It was…Shelob, mister Frodo…She…She came for you…an’ I was there holdin’…your…hand,” it was soft, breathless, and now Sam’s eyes did meet his, and the pain that was etched there seemed to run deeper than his own. He could not bear it. With a great effort he turned his head, gasping as agony flared anew between his shoulders.
“Oh Sam, I’m sorry!” he exclaimed, not thinking before he spoke.
“You? Sorry for what, sir? It weren’t your fault!” Now Sam was up and at his side. He sat down lightly on the edge of the bed and took Frodo’s hand tenderly within his own, touching Frodo’s cheek with his other hand and gently turning his head back to face him. Their eyes met again, hazel confusion to clear blue sorrow and frustration.
Frodo looked down, unable to agree with Sam and wishing he could retract his apology. He could do nothing about how ill he had been, so it was best just left alone. But Sam still looked uncomfortable. Frodo could sense that he was holding something back, there was more to the story than this. He eyed Sam a bit quizzically, but he suddenly became aware of how tired he was as a yawn escaped him.
Seemingly relieved by the distraction, Sam reached up to brush the curls from Frodo’s forehead.
“Here now, mister Frodo, you’ve been right sick an’ I bet you’re exhausted from all this talkin’. Why don’t you rest for a bit now, an’ I’ll bring you some breakfast later?”
He wanted to pursue this now, but his eyelids seemed to be closing of their own accord. He would have to let it go.
“Thank you, Sam, I think I will,” he mumbled as sleep overtook him.
Sam sat there on the edge of the bed, still holding Frodo’s hand in his own, and bowed his head.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The illness had weakened Frodo greatly and he had lain in bed for another week still, unable to summon the strength to leave the confines of his room. They did not speak again of his illness, and Frodo did his best to appear cheerful and not complain. On the eighth day after the fever had broken, Frodo walked to the parlor, arm thrown over Sam’s shoulder and leaning heavily on him.
He settled his master on the couch, and Frodo smiled up at him pleasantly. “Thank you, Sam, I do feel much stronger today,” all the while trying to hide the fact that he was out of breath and trembling with the effort from just that short walk.
Before he even allowed himself to think about it, he blurted out, “No, I don’t think you do, and you know it.”
The silence hung there between them, and drew out so taut that the air seemed to crackle with its intensity. Well, now he had started it, so he had better finish it.
“Mister Frodo, I’m worried about you,” he said, gently. “Why don’t you tell me what’s goin’ on?”
Frodo gazed up at him, features under firm control, but he could not hide the pain blazing in his eyes as he evenly stated, “Nothing’s going on, Sam. I was ill, and now I’m getting better.”
The words cut into him like little knives as Frodo said them; it was a blatant lie.
“Do you remember, Frodo, what happened on that mountain?” he asked in exasperation, knowing he was probably going too far with this, but wanting, needing Frodo to tell him the truth about something. As he spoke, Frodo caught his breath and his hand traveled up his chest to Arwen’s gem around his neck. He sat there quietly, eyes closed, holding his breath for what seemed like moments, his maimed hand clutching the stone so tightly that his knuckles appeared white even through his pale skin. After what seemed like an eternity, Frodo let his breath out slowly and met Sam’s eyes with as shuttered a gaze as he could manage.
“No, Sam, only what you have told me. I still don’t remember anything on my own.”
Frodo couldn’t hold Sam’s gaze as he spoke, and it was a good thing, too, because otherwise his master would have seen the disbelief and raw pain wash over his features. He went weak in the knees, reached out to grab the arm of the couch as rage and anguish fought for control of his mind. He couldn’t bear to take this conversation any further. Frodo was lying. Lying directly to him, and the worst part of it was that Frodo seemed to be aware that he would know it for a lie. But his master had lied to him anyway.
“I’ll go fix you some tea.”
He tried to keep his voice steady, but what issued from his lips was broken with so much tangled emotion that it was barely understandable. He left the room quickly, stumbling not into the kitchen but backwards and out the front door, closing it behind him with no small amount of force.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Frodo recoiled as if he had been struck as the front door of Bag End slammed shut with a mighty crash. He had never felt so alone in his entire life. Even on the quest, at least Sam had been there and had had some notion of what was going on, and Sam’s own quest had been to protect him and care for him. And small comfort though it had been, on their journey the Ring had been there, a constant presence even though he tried to keep it at bay…but now he was alone…
He could not allow Sam to watch over him, now it was his turn to protect, but it seemed not to comfort.
Oh Sam, can’t you understand why I have to do this? Can’t you see that there’s no other way?
He knew the answer to that question: Sam would never understand why he had to do these things. He wouldn’t understand why Frodo couldn’t tell him that the nightmares were becoming more and more intense as his mind pieced together the shattered fragments of memories from those horrible days. Why Frodo couldn’t voice that his longing for the Ring was still as gnawing and insistent as it had been the moment his treasure was ripped from him, and possibly even moreso. He wouldn’t understand that Frodo couldn’t bear the thought of telling him that this last illness had weakened him almost to the point of submission. That he had to fight every day to regain his strength, and that he would not be the same again. He knew this in his heart.
It had pained him deeply to lie to his dear Sam. He couldn’t even look him in the eyes to do it, he felt that guilty and ashamed. And it was becoming more and more difficult to conceal the truth. Sam knew he had been lied to, time and again, and today it seemed it was just too much for him to bear. He had hurt Sam horribly today.
But what else could he do? He knew that Sam had painful memories and nightmares from Mordor, but they were nothing compared to what he was slowly discovering had gone on in his own mind, what was now consuming all he had left. He could not let Sam see that the Ring had violated everything he was and torn it asunder, even if it would comfort him to do so. He had not been able to protect Sam from any of the trials they’d endured together on their journey, but he could spare Sam the anguish of knowing what had been lost inside himself. If only he could continue to endure it…
Oh Lady, how am I going to continue on like this? Will there ever be an end?
He was alone and trapped…fettered by his only two choices–to wound both himself and Sam by lying to cover up his struggle and heartache, or to unburden himself to Sam and allow his friend to share in his suffering.
There was only one choice.
For the first time since Cormallen, he allowed himself to weep in utter despair.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Sam fled to his garden, the one place in all of Middle Earth that usually gave him peace, no matter what his troubles were. It was not giving him peace today. He paced back and forth between the rock-bordered plots he tended so carefully, trying to calm himself.
It was too much for him. He was still on edge about the lie he had told Frodo just days before, and still recovering himself from the trauma of watching Frodo suffer so. After caring for Frodo through this last illness, after all they had been through together, Frodo was still hiding things from him at every opportunity. Why did Frodo have to do this? He wanted to scream to the heavens above, WHY?
He didn’t think he’d ever been this angry before. He wanted to shake Frodo, knock some sense into him if he could, convince his master to trust him again like he had on their journey. Why could he not trust him now? Why did Frodo feel he had to go through this alone? Couldn’t he see that he was not going through it alone, that it affected those around him, whether he liked it or not?
Whether he liked it or not…that thought gave him pause for a moment. Frodo probably did not like it. He most likely did not like it at all. He could not control this situation, could not hide everything he wanted to from the eyes of his friends. So why try? Why lie like this, knowing that his Sam would not be deceived? Now he was puzzled. He stopped pacing and sat down heavily on the stone bench in the middle of the garden where Frodo usually sat with his books.
What would make it worth Frodo’s while to hide the truth, knowing that he could not convince anyone? Yes, Frodo was lying to try and protect him from what was going on. But what if there was so much more to it that Frodo was willing to lie as best he could to keep Sam from seeing how bad things truly were for him? What if they were much worse than he had even guessed, and that’s what Frodo was guarding away from him? The answer hit him like the Three-Farthing stone and he gasped and nearly fell over from its weight. What if Frodo knew he was going to die?
The thought was almost unbearable. He clenched his arms around his stomach and leaned forward, trying to erase the thought from his mind. But it was more than a thought…it had a distinct ring of truth to it. The first truth he had come upon concerning his master in many months. All his anger turned to sorrow and fear, realizing for the first time that Frodo’s quest was not over, and that the greatest sacrifice was yet to come. He did not know how long he sat there before he had spent all the tears he had, and his resolve grew firm.
If Frodo wished to bear this alone, he would make it as easy as possible for him to do so. He would not ask Frodo any more questions about what he remembered, and he would do his best not to become angry when his master tried to keep things from him. He would allow Frodo the dignity of choosing to spare his friends from his pain. It seemed that Frodo had so few choices left to make now, he would not rob his master of his right to make this choice, no matter how much it pained him.
When he returned to the smial he found that Frodo had fallen asleep propped up on the couch where he had left him, tears still staining his hollowed cheeks, and Sam realized with a stab of anguish that it pained his master to lie to him just as much as it pained him to be lied to. He gathered Frodo up into his arms and carried him back to the bedroom, gently settling him under the blankets and brushing his silver-dusted curls away from his face. His hand lingered there, as he recalled all the things Frodo had done for him over the years of their friendship…yes, he would do this one thing for Frodo. It seemed like all that was left that he could do.