by Laura Mason
#1 -- The Shire
Frodo doesn't need as much sleep now he's in his 40's. He remembers times, in his tweens, when he slept for 12 hours without waking. Growing time, Bilbo had called it. Sometimes when he sits in his study in the wee hours, staring into the fire, he wishes he could sleep more.
On nights like this one Frodo's thoughts wander, following Bilbo on paths he's never seen. Sometimes they light on Gandalf, who hasn't been back in the Shire for some time now. But eventually, Frodo picks out a book and reads until he falls asleep.
Sam, as usual, finds him in the morning sprawled beneath a book beside the dying fire, a gutted candle melting on the table beside him. And Frodo, as usual, is disoriented as he wakes to Sam's cheery tut-tutting and fussing.
For some reason, when Frodo sleeps in this chair, he always dreams. It's the same dream most nights, never varying no matter what he's been reading or who he's been thinking about. Frodo always dreams of the Shire, starting in Brandy Hall with his cousins and aunts all very tall as they move around him, as they seemed in his childhood.
These dreams are full of laughter and love, and often his parents are there. Frodo runs to them, crying "I thought you were dead!" And they laugh and hug and comfort him, saying it has all been a horrible mistake.
But the dream always ends in Hobbiton, with Frodo wandering the fields and woods he knows so well. Someone is always beside him; Frodo knows that though he can never see who it is. The dream is still so full of contentment that when Frodo starts to wake, he fights to go back to sleep and stay in the dream.
And when he fully rouses to Sam's cheery voice, to breakfast smells from the kitchen and the whistle of his teakettle, Frodo always knows who was beside him in all his dreams.
So, as always, Frodo rises and washes his face, smiling vaguely at Sam's scoldings as he makes the tea for them. They eat, discussing the garden briefly -- Frodo never questions Sam's judgement in these matters. Still, Sam insists on getting approval for all his plans.
And Frodo never fails to ask after Sam's family, sending his regards along to the Gaffer, who is happily retired and tending his own garden now. Then, finally, Frodo forces himself to it, though it seems to hurt more every day.
"Were you at the Green Dragon last night, Sam?" And when Sam shyly nods, Frodo continues "So how is Miss Rosie?"
Frodo watches Sam blush and smile as he replies, but he doesn't need to listen to the words. He knows Sam is telling him how many times Rosie smiled at him, and whether Ted Sandyman was flirting with her. Frodo sits and smiles woodenly, his tea chilling and the rest of his food untouched, wishing he could remain in his dreams forever.
Sam is too fanciful, he's been told that since he was a child. Now that he's nearly of age, his father constantly tells Sam he needs to grow up, settle down and behave like a sensible hobbit.
So during the days, Sam is the most sensible hobbit imaginable. He goes up to Bag End early, no matter how late he's been out the night before, even though Mr. Frodo would never complain if Sam slept another hour in the morning. He has breakfast with Mr. Frodo most days -- he worries that if he didn't cook for him, Mr. Frodo would forget to eat. And he works in the garden and around Bag End steadily, taking as much pride in the place as if he owned it. Lunch with Mr. Frodo is part of their routine most days, and then a long afternoon of careful work. The Gaffer approves when Sam gets home after five most nights, leaving Frodo to find his own dinner.
The Gaffer even approves of frequent ales at the Green Dragon, and approves of Sam's flirtation with Rosie Cotton. Sam is a steady, sensible hobbit. He behaves just like all the other hobbits his age -- no, he behaves better than some, for Sam never takes too much ale, never causes trouble or starts a fight. Sam behaves more like a 50-year-old than like a lad, but that's fine with him. He wants to be a sensible hobbit.
But once he's home, with the stars so clear and pure above and moonlight pooling over his bed, Sam is once again the fanciful boy his father abhors. He stares out the window for hours on clear nights, smelling the darkness. He listens to the wind in their garden, and imagines it brings him news from Bag End as it travels. Perhaps that same wind speaks to Mr. Bilbo later that night, wherever he is. For Frodo is positive Bilbo is still alive and well, though he has not had news of him since he left Hobbiton. And Sam believes what Frodo believes.
Which is why he believes that elves pass through the Shire, though he has never seen them. Sam knows all the tales of elves that Frodo can tell, and has borrowed books of lore from Bag End to slowly pore over on long winter nights. The Gaffer doesn't approve, but he acknowledges that there's not much else to do beside their fire, save have a smoke.
When Sam finally climbs into his bed and sleeps, his dreams take him on wild adventures far from the Shire. He dreams of mountains, and cities of men and elves, and wide rivers larger than any in Hobbiton. As he wanders these fanciful landscapes, made up from the stories Bilbo told of his travels, Sam knows there is someone with him. They are right beside him, though Sam cannot see them.
Sam has pondered this many mornings as he washes and dresses for another day of work. He does not know who is the companion of his dreams, but he is always very happy in his dreams, so he tells himself not to question their presence.
Sam feels a little guilty about his dream adventures, for he knows the Gaffer would not approve. But since Sam always wakes smiling and anxious to get to work, no one will ever know.
#2 -- Mordor
Sam thinks about the Shire constantly. He walks in a dream, visions of water and sunshine, plain food and smiling faces blotting out the ugliness surrounding him. But in his dreams, the true dreams that come while he sleeps a few hours each time they rest, Sam sees only one thing.
When Sam dreams, it is a dream of Frodo. Not the ghost walking beside him, starved and bent with pain. No, Sam dreams of the real Mr. Frodo, rosy-cheeked and glowing with happiness. He dreams of Frodo in the kitchen at Bag End with him, helping clean up a cooking disaster as they laugh like lunatics. He dreams of Frodo in the Woody End, tucked under a tree with a book, then looking up as Sam approaches. His eyes glow with welcome, and Frodo calls to him, join me, Sam...
"Sam. It's time." Only these words are husked out of a parched throat by a dirty scarecrow. Not his Mr. Frodo at all.
Sam manages to get to his hands and knees, then finally to struggle to his feet. He begins to walk, ignoring the voice telling him he can have his Mr. Frodo back and never face the scarecrow, or pain, or loss. The voice promises happiness, though it is what has sucked all light and goodness out of the world.
Sam knows the Ring is lying and keeps walking in his waking dreams of home, which are far less dangerous for him.
Frodo knows he sleeps. They stops to rest, he is unconscious, then Sam rouses him. But he never feels rested, never feels he's slept. And he no longer dreams.
Frodo thinks this might be a blessing, for he sees Sam stumbling beside him, half awake even as he supports Frodo over rocks, walking in a daze of confusion. Sam can't reconcile their brutal reality with his dreams, and Frodo thinks that might hurt more than not remembering any other reality.
Frodo sees nothing but Mordor's eternal darkness and blasted landscape. He feels nothing but pain and pressure to put on the Ring. He hears only Sam's gasping breaths and the Ring's whisper, always tempting him.
But Frodo can see nothing but the Ring itself, a wheel of fire in his mind. He doesn't remember any existence outside this hell, so there is nothing to tempt him with -- except silence.
#3 - The Havens
Frodo isn't sure the rest he and Bilbo take here is actually sleep. He's fairly sure the images that enter his mind while he rests aren't dreams. They're too detailed, full of things that he could never have imagined for himself. Things that must be actually happening.
All the dream-events concern Sam. Frodo sees Bag End, almost unchanged by the years, finally full of the thriving family such a large smial was designed to house. He's watched Elanor grow and bloom, still fairer than most hobbits. He's seen all her brothers and sisters be born, learn to walk, and heard Sam patiently teaching them their letters, bind up their scrapes, and tuck them in. Frodo listens as Rosie sings lullabys to them -- and to him.
Some days, even here, Frodo doesn't want to leave the Shire. He'd prefer staying in these memory-visions, watching beloved trees bud and the garden bloom. Watching Sam, Mayor Gamgee-Gardner, working in his garden -- the entire Shire -- the love of growing things still plain in his eyes.
Sam is growing older, but Frodo can see he's still young inside, the wise youthfulness that keeps wonder and delight in a life instead of cynicism and despair. Even here, as he waits, Frodo needs that kind of a heart. He still feels his own lack clearly. So he watches Sam, until Bilbo crossly shakes him and says "Stop wasting your life away, Frodo my lad. Come for a walk with me."
Even as he obeys, Frodo is dreaming -- daydreaming now -- of his next rest, when he can return to Sam.
Sam is the model of a sensible hobbit. The inhabitants of the Shire think of Merry and Pippin as exotic, lordly -- changed. But not sturdy Sam, mayor-husband-father. They believe he is unchanged by his travels, and Sam does nothing to convince them otherwise.
Of course, things are changing. Sam notices he works a little slower now, which is fine since he's aided by young Frodo and the boys. Rosie, too, leaves the cooking to the girls and spends more time in her rocker. She still has knitting or sewing in her hands, but more often now she stares into the fire while her hands remain idle.
When Sam joins her, Rosie rouses herself enough to talk about their day, their fine family, or to watch the grandchildren play. And when the children gently push them off to bed, earlier than they'd choose to go, Sam takes Rosie's arm, just as always.
Neither of them sleep as much now. Sam wonders why it is so as he lies awake late into the night, holding Rosie. She is also awake. They've moved their bed under the window, despite May's protests, so they can watch the stars when sleep won't come. It reminds Sam of his youth, which seems more and more like something that happened to another person.
When Sam finally does sleep, his dreams are full of a sound he's only heard once in his waking life -- the churning murmur of the Sea. It is there as the background to all his dreams, whether of the distant past, his journey with Frodo, or even the infrequent nightmares of Mordor. Sam never sees Frodo in any of his dreams. He doesn't expect to, for he's never allowed himself to dream of Frodo, waking or sleeping.
But Frodo is always there, by his side though out of sight. In the day, Frodo is in the garden, in the trees, in every bright and blooming corner of the Shire. At night, Frodo is there in the noise of the Sea, waiting for him, supporting him -- giving him all he had and might have had.
Sam intends to return it all to Frodo, a thousandfold. He knows it won't be long now.
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