Summary: Another moment with Rosie and Sam; a follow-up to Heavy is the Sky.
Category: Lord of the Rings
Word Count: 2896
Their picnic would be ruined.
Rosie sighed as she stood on the doorstep, basket in hand, and eyed the dark sky above her. If it rained, of course, it was time for it to rain. They’d been getting just the right amount so far this spring—no more, no less—and the newly planted crops and trees and shrubs and grass were springing up like … well, like an Elf queen had blessed their land.
Was the Lady a Queen? She couldn’t quite manage to keep it all straight, somehow, with so many Lords and Ladies and Kings and Queens and Elves and Princes and …
Well. It didn’t really matter. What did matter was that the sun shone and the rain fell like someone had planned it out minute by minute just for the Shire. What they had all feared would be a hard, lean year looked to be anything but, and her Sam had been right there in the middle of it.
In the middle of it? No, he’d been leading the way. Rosie sighed happily and leaned back against the round door behind her, disappointment for a moment forgotten. Her Sam had been working nonstop since the Troubles had ended and the Ruffians had been driven out, and all that hard work had just brought their land back to life again. The Lady’s special dirt had helped, of course, but Rosie really put even that mostly up to her betrothed. The Lady had looked in his heart, after all, and this is what she had gifted him. If Sam wasn’t exactly who he was, they wouldn’t have this soil from an Elf forest far away to make their Shire beautiful again.
Her betrothed. The thought made her shiver happily—and in only a few short weeks, he would be her husband. She had spent a long time waiting for Samwise Gamgee, and with all that waiting about to end she was as happy as she had ever been.
He’d not been around much lately, of course. Sam had been all over the Shire since he and the others had been home, rebuilding and planting at first but lately checking up on all that had been done over the past months. Sam’s hand was in almost everything, since it seemed that wherever he had been flourished best. He had got back last night, though, and was home to stay until the wedding and for at least a few weeks after. Rosie had greeted him at the door when he had stopped by on his way through to Bag End. They had taken a few sweet moments together, but he was tired and she had sent him quickly on his way with the promise of a picnic lunch on the morrow.
And now the blessed rain coming. Rosie peeked under the cloth that covered her hamper, surveying the roasted chicken and fresh-baked bread and cinnamon apples and fresh strawberry tarts—strawberries, this early in the season!—with the jar of thick cream to pour over the top. A small bottle of plum wine was tucked in, too. She wore her nicest everyday frock (Sam was always somewhat dirt-covered these days, and it wouldn’t do to ruin a party frock for a picnic), had tied back her hair with the ribbons he had brought her last time he had come home, and had dabbed a little drop of her new scent behind each ear. She was ready for a picnic and some time with her Hobbit!
Rosie sniffed and pushed away from the door. Well, they would just have to find someplace under cover. It wouldn’t be the same as to be out in the middle of the party field, but they would be together and that was the important part. She hurried along the front path to the road, then turned toward Hobbiton and set off for her betrothed and her picnic.
It was past noon when Rosie reached the party field, but she wasn’t worried. Sam would be wanting to check in on his tree anyway, and would be perfectly content until she arrived.
That tree! Another wonder come to the Shire from the Elf Lady. Rosie had never heard of a mallorn before her Sam planted this one, of course—no one had, because none grew in the Shire or anywhere west of the Misty Mountains, as far as Sam knew. The tree had shot up this spring with a speed that just didn’t seem believable, even with all the other amazing growth happening this year. There it was in front of her now, though—tall and straight and strong, with the most beautiful silver bark and delicate golden flowers. In all her life, she could never have imagined something so fair and wonderful.
Rosie had expected to find Sam beneath its branches, hand on its trunk and speaking soft encouragement to the tree as he often did when he was alone or in the company of close friends. Instead, she found him out in the center of the party field, standing still as stone, eyes turned up toward the dark, rain-laden sky. She approached from behind, wondering what had caught his eye. Sam was more pensive since he had returned, that was certain. Whenever she’d had the chance to work alongside him over the past months, she’d often seen him stop in the middle of his task—whether digging or planting, building or cleaning—and his eyes would take on a distant look. He would spend a few moments with his hands buried deep in the soil, or his nose buried in the leaves of a shrub, and then he would shake himself and move along with his work. Rosie wondered what he thought about during those times—if he was remembering, or planning, or just getting to know the Shire again—but he’d not offered any explanation, and she didn’t feel it was best to ask.
Not yet, not about this. There were other things they talked about, but for the time being, these moments were still his own.
Something was … different about this time, though. Something in the set of his shoulders, tense and tired at once, and in the way his hands curled into fists as they hung limp at his sides. Her own heart started to beat faster, and Rosie picked up her step. Rain started to fall as she circled around Sam to look him in the face.
He looked down at the sound of his name, and his eyes were blank and unfocused.
She tried to keep the fear from her voice, but didn’t think she managed. Rosie set aside the hamper and reached for one fisted hand, taking it gently into hers and trying to thread her fingers in with his. Sam shook his head then and blinked, and when he looked back down he was her Samwise again—strong and sun-browned, sleeves rolled up and collar open at the throat, smelling of rich soil and green leaves and good honest sweat from a morning’s work. His eyes softened as he saw her, and then he tensed, stepping away as memory of the last few moments caught up to him. Rosie scooped up the hamper and went after him, taking his arm and tugging gently toward the mallorn. Sam followed without protest, for which she was glad. So far they had done all right together, she and her Sam, working through his memories and fears from his time away, but it seemed somehow new to her every time—what to say, what to do to comfort him, to make him feel safe.
Well. They would get through this as they had all the rest.
They ducked beneath the branches of the young tree, where it was somehow still dry even though its leaves and flowers couldn’t possibly have stopped all the rain that was now falling. Rosie set the basket down again and then turned, taking both of his hands and lacing their fingers together. She caught his beautiful dark eyes with her own and held his gaze.
“What was that, then?”
Sam took a long breath and started to look away, but she shook his hands gently and he returned his eyes to hers. Rosie saw the beginnings of a pink blush on his cheeks.
“It … it’s only happened one other time. Well, two, I guess, but I was asleep the first time. Strider—the King, that is—wasn’t worried, didn’t think it was a big thing. He said it was possible it would happen again, though, and not to worry about that either, if it wasn’t bad or often.” Rosie remained silent, waiting for him to get to the point. She had learned quickly that trying to help him organize his thoughts only ended in an argument. “It’s just …” Sam nodded out toward the field. “The sky. It … when it’s heavy like this, with all the clouds, it reminds me of Mordor sometimes.”
“Mordor?” How could that be? The little he had told her of that cursed land had drawn it as a stark, hot, dry place.
A faint, crooked grin touched his lips. “Well, these things don’t always make too much sense, I don’t think. I mean, look how often it’s rained since we got back and it hasn’t happened any of those other times. Maybe I was … who knows. But, the sky in Mordor was always … it was like it was pressing down on us, pushing us down into the ground. And when the clouds get so low like that …”
Rosie nodded, though she didn’t fully understand. “So, you were remembering Mordor?”
“Well …” Sam’s body tightened again, but this time he didn’t look away. “Not remembering, exactly. This time wasn’t quite the same, I was just on the edge, but the last time … I thought I was in Mordor. I didn’t know I had ever left.”
She sucked in a quick breath. “How …”
“Strider says it happens sometimes,” Sam hurried to reassure her, stepping closer and drawing their joined hands to rest against his chest. “He says there’s nothing wrong with me, that sometimes it just … happens.”
“Samwise Gamgee!” Rosie pursed her lips, gripping his fingers tightly. “Of course there’s naught wrong with you!”
He laughed softly, and it was like the sun shining through the rain. “Thank you kindly, lass.”
She hmmphed softly. “The very idea.” Of course she would need to think on this more, and they would likely have to discuss it further, but for now her fussing was what he needed. “And how did you … how did it stop? Did Mr. Frodo or one of the others wake you?” It was strange, trying to decide how best to speak about things such as this that she knew naught about.
Sam laughed again and shook his head. This time when he stepped back she let him. “No, I wasn’t even in the house. I ended up sleepwalking all the way from the sixth level to the second. I woke up sitting against a half-torn down building with no idea how I’d got there, and I had to ask directions back. I was halfway up the third level when it … it happened again, only this time I was awake.”
“Sam!” she gasped. “You could have been hurt!”
Some might have said it was a silly thing to say, after all the truly serious danger he had faced on his and Mr. Frodo’s quest, but Rosie knew that Sam appreciated her concern for him.
“I did tear up my feet a bit. Strider wouldn’t let me walk anywhere but to the sitting room and back for the next couple of days, and Mr. Frodo hovered something awful, when he should have been worried about his own self.” He shrugged, sighing. “But really it could have been a lot worse. I ended up in a little herb patch behind a house—I smelled the plants, and even … wherever I was, knew that wasn’t right, not for Mordor. And I just … came out of it.”
Came out of it. What a terrible, frightening thing to happen—and who even knew such things were possible? She was sure he’d been more disturbed by it all than he was letting on, but that was his business for now and she wouldn’t press him.
“So …” Rosie looked around them, at the tree and the party field. “What about now? It smells like all kinds of green things here.”
Sam turned troubled eyes toward the field and the rain. “I know. Maybe it didn’t help this time because there’s green growing things everywhere now? Minas Tirith was nothing but stone all over. Any kind of plant stood out. Here, though …” He sighed. “I’ll sleep with some athelas for the next few nights, it helped the last time, but overall I’m just going to have to be careful, I guess. Don’t know what’ll happen if it comes on again.”
“Someone could watch you, to make sure—”
“Rosie.” He took her hand again, making a face. “I can’t be having somebody follow me everywhere for the rest of my years, just in case.”
It was true. They were both silent for a moment, as the rain fell all around the slim young mallorn and the breeze swirled droplets underneath to land upon them. She smelled the wet grass and the light fragrance of the mallorn blossoms and …
It might not work … but then again, they’d naught to lose.
Rosie smiled up at him. “What do you think of my new scent?” Sam’s brows drew down, bewildered and a little hurt at this sudden shift in topic. Rosie shook her head and reached for his other hand. “I’m not changing the subject, my Sam. But, what do you think of it?”
“I don’t …” Sam hesitated, searching her face for some clue what she might be thinking. Finally, though, he shook his head and leaned in. He took a long, deep breath and then went still, eyes closed. After a long moment he glanced up at her. “What is it?”
“And you call yourself a gardener!”
His grin flashed then, and her knees went weak. Sam shot a glance around the empty, rain-drenched field to be absolutely sure before ducking close, his nose just nuzzling the soft skin behind her ear where he knew she applied her scent. Rosie concentrated on her breathing, and then he whispered, lips moving against her neck as soft as butterfly wings, “Buttercups.”
She shivered, and gasped, “Buttercups,” before moving out of his grasp.
Sam grinned unrepentantly. Rosie straightened her hair. He laughed out loud, and she was that thankful to see the sparkle back in his eyes.
“I didn’t know they made buttercup scent.”
“They don’t.” Rosie shook her head and sat down beside the hamper, uncovering their luncheon meal and setting out plates and goblets. He was quick to join her. “But there’s a Hobbit lass in Bywater who makes unusual scents, and I was feeling like I needed something new.” She handed him bread and half a chicken. “Do you remember what buttercup means?”
Sam worked the cork out of the wine, brow furrowed. “Buttercup is for … good cheer?”
“Yes.” Rose smiled at him, that smile she had always kept just for him. “And I’ve been that happy since you came back, that I just wanted a scent that matched how I felt. She agreed to make up a batch and see how it turned out.” She lifted a brow at her betrothed. “What do you think?”
“I like it.” Sam poured the wine and handed over a goblet to her, grinning. “And I’m not saying that just because it’s you wearing it.”
Rosie laughed. “That’s good! I’d not want you to!”
“Ah, you say that now, lass …”
She snorted softly, then shook her head. “Now we are off topic.”
“Right. But what about this is on topic, exactly?”
“Only this.” Rosie leaned forward. “You know that scarf of mine you like so well?”
“Aye, of course I remember. It’s the only bit of your clothing I do remember.”
He was rather blind about that sort of thing, her Samwise. “I will put buttercup scent on it and give it to you to carry. You keep it close. If you ever feel whatever this is coming on again, you hold onto it and remember that buttercups mean Rosie, and they mean good cheer, and neither of those is to be found in Mordor, so you can’t be there either.”
Sam was quiet for a long moment, and his eyes glimmered briefly. Then, he reached across the hamper and took her hand, bringing it to his lips for a gentle kiss. “I do love you, Rosie Cotton.”
“And I you, of course. Never anyone else.”
Gentle thunder rumbled. Rain soaked the party field and New Row, Hobbiton and Bywater … everywhere but the ground beneath the young mallorn. And Rosie and Sam picnicked in its shelter.
“Can I smell your new scent again?”
“You can eat your lunch, Samwise Gamgee.”
“Just so I know I’ll remember it, just in case.”
“You’ll remember it just fine.”
“You never know …”
A soft snicker. “Yes, Rosie.”