Sam shifted, pressed his cheek against Frodo's. Frodo sighed, turned, nestled. Sam's arm slipped over Frodo's side, drawing him in. Frodo smiled drowsily, drifted...
Somehow his mouth found Sam's. Brushed against it once, again; then Sam's reclaimed his, held it longer. Frodo's lips parted, tentatively; Sam's tongue found his lips, caressed them, slipped inside. And then Sam and Frodo were pressed tightly against one another, open mouths exploring, taking, surrendering as their bodies almost imperceptibly began to undulate together, their arms clenched around each other -- till abruptly Frodo snapped back, suspended in a taut arc, then slumped against Sam.
A low chortle erupted from deep within Sam. "A good thing you're not the marrying kind," he murmured, opening his eyes. "You'd not have a happy wife, going off that quick." Frodo flushed, lowering his gaze.
"Here, now." Sam reached for him as he drew away. "No call to be embarrassed. Wish we always had such sweet dreams." He let his fingertips drift down from Frodo's arm, brush up his chest, lift his chin. "Eh?"
In spite of himself Frodo smiled. "I'd better wash," he said.
Eyes twinkling, Sam let him go. "I'll be here."
Frodo returned to find Sam already sound asleep. Carefully he slipped back under the blankets, lying on his back, not daring to again curl up against Sam.
The next thing he knew, morning light was prodding his recalcitrant eyelids to acknowledge the new day. Blinking, Frodo looked up blearily to find Sam's face hovering above his, eyes glittering. "You're really home," Sam murmured, awestruck. Then the threatening tears burst into a flood.
"My dear Sam--" Instinctively Frodo reached for Sam, embraced him, as much to conceal his own welling eyes as to comfort Sam. "Oh, I have missed you," he sighed, and then there was no concealing it: He wept openly on Sam's shoulder, even as Sam wept on his.
"Pardon me, Mr. Frodo," roughly Sam swiped his face with the back of his hand as he pulled away, "but it just hit me all of a sudden-like..."
Tenderly Frodo traced a fingertip along Sam's cheek to wipe away a stray tear. "Mr. Frodo," he softly repeated, smiling.
A smile trembled on Sam's lips. "I mean, Frodo, sir -- I mean--"
"Never mind, Sam." He cupped his hand lightly against Sam's face. "It's just good to be home." Wonder suffused his countenance, and he said it again: "Home."
Sam lifted his hand to Frodo's cheek. "Yes," he quietly said, looking deeply into Frodo's eyes. "You're home."
"I'm home," said Frodo, holding his gaze. Without thinking he leaned forward to brush his lips against Sam's, but abruptly he stiffened and drew back, feeling the heat flood his face.
"Frodo." Once again Sam was the calm, assured Mayor of the Shire as he gently turned Frodo back to himself. "I'll not have you thinking we can't be sharing a simple kiss of friendship, all on account of me being used to sharing a bed with Rosie." And before Frodo could say anything, Sam leaned forward and kissed him, firmly yet within the bounds of decorum. "Now, about the journey," he gave Frodo a sound pat on the arm, "I've been thinking, to begin with, we'll head over to those towers on the downs."
"Mm-hm." Sam absently rubbed Frodo's arm as he gazed pensively back toward the west. "Looking over the sea."
At the mention of the sea Frodo tensed. "Why the sea?"
Sam drew a long breath. He took Frodo's hands and clasped them gently between his own. "Because," he slowly replied, "as I recall you told me in your letters that sitting by the sea helped to ease your troubles."
"Oh." Frodo blanched, and his eyes betrayed sudden dread. "When...?"
"In a few days, near as I can reckon." Sam gave his hands a quick squeeze. "I left on your birthday -- a belated happy sixtieth," he added. Frodo returned a faint reflection of his smile, but his eyes remained clouded.
"Come now," Sam told him, letting go of Frodo's hands to put an arm about his shoulders. "You did say it was getting better, and this time you won't be all alone. See?" encouraged Sam, hugging him. "You'll never again have to go through it alone, not if I can help it."
The smile broke through like the sun through dark clouds. "Thank you, Sam."
Frodo leaned against him. "I can't begin to tell you how much that means to me, to have you with me."
*You already have, I reckon,* thought Sam, suppressing a grin. But he kept the thought to himself.
Sam tethered the pony at the base of the old stone tower, which after many hundreds of years yet stood watch atop the downs. Then, in somber silence, Sam and Frodo ascended the steps, till they reached the topmost chamber. Sam halted in the doorway, but Frodo drifted over to the window that looked out to the west.
Tight-lipped and pale, Frodo gazed silently upon the distant sea. Seven years earlier, he and Sam had stood in this very place on the way from the Shire to the Havens. The anguish of memory mingled with dread of the morrow, each warring for purchase within his soul. Lowering his eyes, Frodo turned his back to the sea.
"I'm sorry, Frodo," Sam softly spoke up. "I didn't think...and now I've done and made it worse--"
"No, Sam." Frodo wondered how the words had managed to emerge. "Nothing can make it worse."
Sam awoke to a gray, mist-shrouded morning. Looking about, he saw Frodo seated against the wall, face pale and beaded with moisture, his eyes wide as they gazed into dread shadows and terrors beyond speech.
Quietly Sam arose and crept over to Frodo's side. He slipped his hand over Frodo's. "Is it...?"
"Sam." Frodo's hand clenched around his. "Don't leave me, Sam."
"Never," answered Sam, pressing his other hand tightly upon Frodo's.
"Do you know what, Sam?"
Sam glanced down to where Frodo leaned on his breast. Frodo's voice, though weak, was his own; the shadows, for now, had passed on. "What, Frodo, dear?"
Frodo smiled. "It wasn't the sea, after all."
"You said I wrote you and said that gazing out to sea helped ease my pains."
"Mm. That I did. You did."
"It wasn't the sea," mused Frodo. "It was thinking of who was on the other side. You."
"Oh?" Sam stroked Frodo's shoulder. "Then how come--" He stopped himself, cursing silently.
Frodo breathed in shakily. "Because, dear Sam," he answered with just a hint of strain, "I didn't turn to you, before. I kept to myself."
Sam sighed, letting his hand settle on Frodo's arm. "Well, you know you don't have to, now, and I hope that may be a comfort."
"Oh, it is," Frodo murmured, closing his eyes. "It is."