Sam and Rosie watched after Frodo as he walked down the Hill. Sam felt unease about his master, but recognized he could not forbid Frodo to do as he pleased. He found himself quietly invoking the Valar to keep Frodo safe.
The Sun set and the last of their families left, and finally Sam and Rosie were able to retreat into Bag End and close the door behind them. Catching Rosie’s eyes, Sam’s fears for Frodo were forgotten, and he smiled. “I think, Missus Gamgee, as we’re alone now,” he said. He took a long breath and examined her closely. “Missus Gamgee--I never thought when we was goin’ through Mordor as I’d ever be able to say that to you, you know. And now--” his eyes examined her with a sense of wonder, “--now we’re married--really married. You’re my wife!” He reached out a tentative hand and stroked the side of her face, his smile broadening, and a matching smile mirrored his on her face.
Suddenly he was reaching for her and pulling her to him, and they kissed, then kissed more deeply--and more deeply still. When she murmured, “My Sam!” and initiated the next kiss he began breathing more heavily.
Rosie was surprised when, during a moment taken for both of them to breathe freely and look on one another once more, he pulled back and his face grew solemn and even concerned. “Rosie--Rosie, I’ve tried to tell you as what we did, for if we’re to be husband and wife, you really need to know.” She nodded. He drew her into the parlor and he sat down on the comfortably soft narrow sofa that stood to the left of the fireplace, then pulled her down onto his lap, giving a jolt of surprise to realize how much he wanted to consummate their marriage right then; but he had one more thing to prepare her for. “Rosie, you know as I told you I was hurt a few times, and you--you can’t of ignored the scars on my forehead.”
“And the one on the side of your head as well, Sam.”
His nod was just slightly delayed. “Well, my Rose-bud, I have a few more. Mine’s not as bad as the ones Merry and Pippin have, and nowhere near as bad as the ones as Mr. Frodo has--but I have ’em, and they’re bad enough. The ones on my forehead--one was where I was grazed by an orc sword in Moria. The other is from when I fell when that Gollum tried to knock me out with a rock so as he could get to Frodo to take the Ring from him. The one on the side of the head--that’s where he actually hit me with that rock.” She nodded her understanding.
“I got several from when I’d fall in Mordor, especial when I fell on the side of the Mountain of Fire. And there’s some from where hot ash fell on me and burned me. That’s most on my back and my feet and my arms.” Again she nodded. “I was bit twice by that Gollum, once on my left shoulder, and the other time on the right side, close to my neck. Was tryin’ to bite my throat out, he was.” She turned rather pale.
“Then there’s the ones on my legs on the fronts from when I was crawlin’ on the side o’ the mountain aside Frodo, part of the time with him on my back, even. And--and I have places on the backs o’ my legs and my behind where I was hit with a whip by one o’ them orcs, the slavedrivin’ one I’d hoped to be able to kill. I suppose as he is dead now, and good riddance. What he did to me was bad enough--but he kept hittin’ my Master, again and again, seein’ as he was havin’ difficulty in keepin’ up, like. Oh, I wanted to strangle him, or take his whip away from him and drive it down his throat--make him eat it if I could.”
“Why are you tellin’ me this, Sam?” she asked.
“The scars--they’re not as bad as they was, but--but they’re right ugly anyways. I just think as you should know afore you have to see them. If you want the lights out so as you don’t have to see ’em--well, I’ll understand.”
She sighed. “Samwise Gamgee, you and Master Frodo--you went to the ends of the earth and back to help protect us all. You think as I don’t want you however you look, as long as I’ve waited for you to speak? And you think as I’d be disgusted by some scars as I know show just how brave and how much of a hero as you are? Think again. I know as how them scars was got, and I’ll be proud of every one of them. I’ll be proud of them ’cause I know as how they was got and ’cause I’m proud of the Hobbit as carries them.” She ran her finger down the side of his cheek, and he flushed, his attention focused fully on her. She leaned forward to kiss him again, and he kissed her back. She rose, and taking his hand, pulled him to his feet, leading him back through the smial to the master bedroom, now theirs.
The room was full of flowers, and before leaving Lily had come in and lit the lamp and candles about the room. Frodo had come here before taking his goblet of wine to the second parlor, having decided to change the blankets on the bed for two of those sent by Lord Halladan. These were beautiful things in golden brown shot through with twists of many colors in the threads used in the weaving of them, and Rosie looked on them in delight. A bottle of wine and two glasses sat on a tray on the desk with a platter of early fruit and candies. The light caught the facets of the crystal set into the star carved by Gimli on the mantel and sparkled on the panes of the round window. Rosie and Sam stood, side by side, looking about the room that had been fitted for their habitation, and they slipped arms around one another’s waist. Finally they looked once more at one another, and again their attention was caught. Again they were embracing and kissing, and they were beginning to allow their hands to caress and explore.
At length Sam asked, huskily, “Shall I put out the lights, dearling?”
Slowly but definitely, Rosie responded, “No. I need to see them. They’re part of you, after all, and are the proof of your courage.”
As he removed his waistcoat and vest he said, “I wasn’t always brave--I was right scared a good bit of the time.”
“Did it ever stop you from doin’ what needed doing?”
She smiled. “That’s real courage, you know, Samwise Gamgee--doin’ what’s needed in spite of bein’ scared witless.” He flushed a bit, but his eyes were shining.
She had stripped to her shift and sat on one side of the bed when at last he indicated he was ready. She gestured for him to come stand before her and looked at him, smiling in response to the flush he again was showing. He stood tall, however. She reached out and touched the scars caused by falls and from crawling over the coarse yet sharp cooled lava and ash of Mount Doom, and he found himself responding with a surprising degree of pleasure. Her eyes widened somewhat, but she felt she needed to see all first, and at last indicated he should turn around.
She could definitely see scars from a few of the whip weals, and she again reached out to gently touch them, seeing them, accepting them, resenting the one who’d done this to her Sam, loving him for having borne them as bravely as she knew he must have in order not to have been found out and taken prisoner at the time. She rose and examined the bite on the shoulder and again caressed it, then walked about him to look at the one closer to the neck itself, took him in her arms, leaning forward to kiss it, to imbue it with her own love that from now on he would associate it not with Gollum’s hatred but her joy in him....
“Oh, Rosie!” His voice was even more husky, and she could feel just how much her kiss filled him with desire. He was loosening the lacing on her shift, was kissing her more deeply.
She was suddenly filled with an intense sensation of triumph. She’d married him, this beautiful, dear, sometimes foolish, loyal, brave Hobbit--he was hers now!
“You found him at the Maggot’s farm?” Esmeralda asked.
“Yes, and it appears he’d been on the verge of collapse when they found him,” Saradoc answered her.
She looked past him to where Frodo sat with Brendilac and Beri and Merimas near the fire in the main sitting room, a goblet of wine in his hand, a small plate with a slice of roasted beef between slices of bread by him, his eyes alight with interest as he listened to the story Merimas was telling of the landing of the great salmon he’d hooked the preceding week. Other than the fact he’d wrapped the shawl that was draped over his chair about him and that his face looked, if possible, even thinner than it had at the wedding of Sam and Rosie a few days earlier, there was little enough to indicate he wasn’t in fairly decent health.
Little enough, she reflected, other than the aura of transparency and increased fragility that lay on him. She’d never seen him as he appeared now, even when as a child he’d all but collapsed on learning of his parents’ deaths. Then she and Sara had been concerned for his health, considering the news he had a whispering in his heart often tied to fragile health and premature mortality.
Well, he truly appeared fragile now, once one looked closely at him. But she and Sara had learned the hard way that the quickest way to drive him into a decline was to appear to be trying to protect him. She’d not make that mistake again, particularly as they’d found Merry had also responded by withdrawing when they’d been too protective of him. Frodo had given Merry and Pippin the Crickhollow house to stay in, and the two of them had retreated there. She and Sara had to admit all four of them had been badly hurt in ways they couldn’t yet appreciate. Sara was trying to understand, but was finding it hard to do properly.
She must face it--none of them really understood what had been done out there in the outer world by their son, their nephew, their cousin and former ward, and Samwise Gamgee. They’d read the dispatches sent them by the King and found they beggared the imagination. Sam was a dear lad and both wise and responsible beyond his station, they knew; how was it he and Frodo had been declared Lords of the Free Peoples of Middle Earth? And what were Ents and Ent draughts, and how had the latter served to cause their son and nephew to grow so far beyond what was normal for Hobbits of the Shire?
Merry and Pippin spoke so easily of Dúnedain and coronations and the Great Eagles, of Bilbo’s spiders being but a shadow compared to one that had reportedly threatened Frodo and Sam. In Bilbo’s stories had appeared a magic ring which he said made him invisible. So funny and advantageous a thing it had been in those stories; so funny to think of Bilbo, wearing it, leading foolish and evil spiders the size of ponies off into the darkness of the forest of Mirkwood, chasing a taunting voice whose source they couldn’t see.
Now she was expected to believe this fabled ring of invisibility, which no one had ever seen, was not only real, but far more, the Ring of Power spoken of in the old story of Elendil and Isildur, the one cut from the hand of the Enemy by Isildur using the hilt of his father’s broken sword? And she was expected to accept that that story, also, was not just a great and rousing adventure, but fact, that Frodo, Merry, Pippin, and Sam had seen that broken sword both broken and reforged; had traveled with its bearer, the heir of Elendil and Isildur himself; had seen him evolve from a wanderer to the King Returned? She looked again beyond her husband at her beloved cousin Frodo, and shook her head in amazement.
Then there was a noise at the door as Merry and Pippin entered, tall and laughing, their eyes alight to see Frodo sitting near the fireplace. “So you managed to convince Sam to let you go after all, did you?” Merry was asking. “I didn’t think that he’d really let you go so quickly.”
Frodo shook his head. “I rather insisted, I fear. After all, it was their wedding night. The last thing they needed was to be distracted by the old Hobbit bachelor in the next room. They deserve a bit of privacy to learn to accept one another as husband and wife. After all, Pippin kept even Belveramir from entering Aragorn’s chambers when he and the Lady Arwen were first wed.”
Pippin laughed. “And most disgruntled he was at that. I know he said he’d just leave the wine he’d brought on the table in their sitting room, but I’m certain he hoped to lay his ear to the bedchamber doors to find which one they’d retreated to.”
And then they were explaining, and as Esme drew her husband to join the younger Hobbits they were describing the wedding of the King and Queen, who Belveramir was and his former relationship to the King when long ago Aragorn had served in the armies of Gondor under an assumed name, the finding of the small sapling of the White Tree of Gondor and its planting before the Citadel....
But as the talk continued Frodo was allowing the descriptions increasingly to be given by Merry and Pippin, and more and more his own attention was being drawn to the flickering light in the fireplace. He would pick up the bread and meat from time to time and take a bite, then would set it back down. He nursed his wine for quite some time. Finally, when at last a lull ensued in the talk he excused himself and went to the room that had been his here in the Hall since his parents’ deaths.
When Esmeralda looked into that room an hour later, bringing with her a cup of perry, a glass of water, and a plate of crackers and fruit, he was asleep. He’d left a lamp burning, and the book lying now on the rug by the bed indicated he’d fallen asleep while reading. She came to blow out the lamp, but was arrested by this close view of his face, pale, thin and drawn, a line of pain between his eyebrows which wasn’t fully eased by sleep.
She felt a wrench in her heart as her attention focused on the right hand that lay, palm up, on the blanket near where the book had slid to the floor, seeing the gap there where his ring finger was definitely missing. His left hand lay against his breast, appeared to be closed about that pendant he’d worn the few times she’d seen him. She wondered what it meant, much less who’d given it to him and why.
Finally she blew out the lamp, and reflected moonlight filled the narrow bed, reflecting from his white nightshirt and his pale skin.
“Sleep well, dearling,” she murmured as she went out and pulled the door closed behind her.