Written for the LOTR Community "Mad as a March Hare" challenge. For Aiwendiel. Beta by RiverOtter.
“He’s been pacin’ about the smial like a mad thing!” murmured Rosie to her husband.
“It’s the weather, and the smoke from that fire what took the field just west of the village. Too hot and dry, and the smell of smoke. Enough to make anyone go mad, considerin’ what him’s been through.”
“You think so?”
“I know so, Rosie my love. Makin’ him think as he’s back in Mordor, or so it strikes me. Been too hot for much of anything the last week or so, and those headaches are enough to drive anyone wild.”
She nodded thoughtfully. “Been havin’ nightmares, too. Even when he’s not shoutin’ out loud, they’re there. You can see it in his eyes when him gets up in the mornin’. Wish as there was somethin’ as we could do to make it better for him.”
Frodo was out in the garden, visible easily from the windows in the dining room. He was leaning on his stick, glaring uncharacteristically down at a weed at his feet as if it were some urchin who’d sought to steal his wallet—or as if it were an orc offering threat to the smial. Suddenly he raised his stick and brought it down sharply, then ground his heel heavily against the hapless plant, his expression particularly savage.
“Sun and moon!” Rosie whispered, crowding closer to Sam’s side. “I’ve never seen him do that before!”
Sam nodded, himself unsure. Rarely did Frodo lose his temper, and usually he had pity even for weeds.
The gardener lifted his eyes, and peered west. Were those clouds, that distant line of grey, barely wide enough to be seen? If so, maybe a few days would bring relief to the heat, and relief to his beloved Master as well. It seemed that it was to the west they looked so often for any blessing toward Frodo Baggins, no matter how small. Otherwise, he felt helpless, for he and Rosie were doing all they could to give his Master comfort and reassurance.
Frodo stood there a moment longer, his eyes now closed, his jaw clenched, his body stiff, before he finally relaxed, opening his eyes to look down at the damage he’d done, and nodded tiredly, then turned toward the back door to the smial.
Sam hurried to open the door for him. “Had a turn about the garden, then, did you?” he asked, sensing the inanity of the observation even as he uttered it.
Frodo shrugged as he gave the walking stick to Sam. “For as much good as it did me,” he said. “There was a fight going on out there—a simple beetle seeking to have a meal of dandelion, and a spider assaulting it. I crushed her, though. And for a moment I felt like you, seeking to bring down that monster there when we came out of the tunnel. I don’t know that I could have done then what you did.”
“You cut off her claw, and did for her eye. If it had been me she’d gone after, you’d of done the same as me.”
“Perhaps,” Frodo said. He gave a thin smile, but one that was honest enough. “Never thought of you as a warrior before we left the Shire, but you’ve proved yourself well enough.”
He turned toward the privy, then looked back over his shoulder. “The yellow beetle—at least I saved it.” So saying, he went out of the room, leaving Sam feeling some relief of his own.