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prelude: A Different Point of View
Frodo stood at the window of his study, staring out at a sky so intensely blue he thought he could have swum in it, could he only find a way to dive up. Swim around those puffs of cloud as if they had been islands, looking down at Sam’s planting of Michaelmas daisies and mums in the Bag End garden. He chuckled to himself at the fancy – that would be an interesting vantage point on the world…
You never see a sky that color in Mordor, he mused, and wondered why Mordor was on his mind this day. Mordor and the orcs – well, Canohando, to be honest. He thought of Lash only briefly and with a smile; Lash was perfectly content with his human wife and his little half-orc children. But Canohando… I wish I could have shown him the Shire, he thought. Canohando was like Frodo himself: wife-less, childless. Absent-mindedly Frodo fingered the carved bear tooth that hung around his neck, a gift from his orc brother. I will never see them again, either one of them. The thought grieved him.
"Ready for tea, Mr. Frodo?" Sam came in carrying a tray and Frodo hurried to take it from him.
"Sam, why must you lug that heavy thing in here, when we could just as well have tea in the kitchen, simple and easy?"
"There's more important things than easy, Mr. Frodo." Sam was preparing a plate for him, bread and butter sliced thin and a bowl of late raspberries drizzled with cream. "It's more fitting, you taking tea in your own study. I always liked having it in here, when I was Master."
"You're still the Master, Sam." Frodo grinned; they had been repeating this same argument ever since he got home, so often that it had become a joke. "And the proof is that we're having tea in the study, carried in by the most stubborn hobbit ever to be seven times Mayor of the Shire!" He took the filled plate out of Sam's hand. "Thank you, old lad. Sit down now, and I'll pour out."
"Are you glad to be home, Mr. Frodo? Really? You were looking kind of down, when I came in." Sam watched him, concern clouding his eyes, and Frodo rested a hand on his old friend's shoulder.
"Yes, Sam, I am glad! Don't worry, I won't slip away from you again; I'm myself again, as I was before… before it all happened. Before the Ring."
Sam frowned. "You're looking back a long way, to see back before you had that cursed thing. You had it from the day you come of age, a good many years afore we knew what it was. And you're not the same as you were, even those years when you already had it, before we left the Shire."
Frodo walked over to look out the window again, carrying his cup with him. He sighed. "No, I suppose I'm not. How much of that is the Ring, and how much is just age, the things that happen to us over time?"
"What were you thinking about, when I came in with the tray? You looked a thousand miles away." Sam flushed. "Begging your pardon, Mr. Frodo. I don't mean to pry; it just bothered me, you looked so –"
"Don't apologize, old lad. After the last time – I can't blame you for keeping an eye on me, can I, after I rode off in the middle of the night with never a word to you! Although what I could have said, under the circumstances…" He met Sam's eyes; they both knew what the circumstances had been. Frodo had been going off to make an end, before his torment over the lost Ring drove him mad.
"There hasn't been a day since but I've thanked old Radagast in my heart, for saving you," Sam said in a low voice. "Not but what I still say they should've taken you along, Gandalf and Elrond, when they went over the Sea. They owed you that much, after you saved Middle Earth from Sauron!"
"It was Gandalf, or whatever Power he served, who saved Middle Earth." Frodo rubbed his forehead as if it hurt. "I had my part to play, and so did you and Aragorn and the rest… But it was Radagast who saved me." He gave a little snort of laughter. "A much smaller deed, but I'm grateful for it. It's all right, Sam – I was thinking of Mordor, but I'm not going anywhere. I was wishing I could have brought Canohando home to meet my Samwise."
"That orc of yours? Well, I'm glad you didn't, then! The orcs we saw on the Quest were more than enough for me; why would I want to meet another one?"
Frodo smiled slightly. "Because he saved my life? He did, you know. I would have drowned if he hadn't dragged me out of the water. Or because he became my brother?"
Sam stared at him in silence, and Frodo went to sit by him.
"I grew up without brothers or sisters, and then I came to live with Bilbo. He adopted me, made me his heir, but you adopted me, too, Sam. You came to the door the very first morning I was here; you took my hand and led me round the garden as if you'd known me all your life."
"It felt as if I had," Sam muttered, and Frodo nodded.
"Yes. I felt as if I had found a little brother. You made Bag End seem like home to me, right from the start."
"And this orc, this – Canohando? How is he your brother?"
"Well –" Frodo made a wry face. "He certainly didn't make me feel at home! I was afraid he might slay me at first –" Sam looked up sharply, opening his mouth to speak. "But he didn't, Sam! He saved my life, when Yarga tried to kill me. And later, much later, he offered me his friendship. His brotherhood."
Frodo held out his hand, revealing a white scar that cut diagonally across his palm. Sam reached out and traced it with his finger, disgust written plain on his face.
"You made yourself blood-kin to an orc, Frodo? To an orc?"
"To an orc, yes, Sam. So I have another brother now, or are you going to disown me?"
Sam stared into Frodo's face, and slowly his old eyes filled with tears. He shook his head. "No, I won't disown you, Mr. Frodo. No matter what you did, I couldn't never do that." He bowed his head, and Frodo took his hand between both of his.
"What is it, old lad?" he asked, but Sam shook his head again without answering.
"Sam?" An idea struck Frodo – it seemed ridiculous, after all they had been through together, but was it possible that Sam was jealous? "Sam? We're brothers already; you're closer to me than Canohando could ever be. But – would you make yourself blood-kin to me, even now?"
Sam looked up at that, his lips twitching into a crooked grin. "A little old for that game, aren't we? No, you're right: we've been brothers all along, ever since we were lads, though I can't say I ever thought about it in just those terms. Cutting our hands won't make it no more real than it is already, and we're just as likely to drip blood on the carpet."
Frodo laughed until tears ran down his face, finally leaning back in his chair when his mirth was spent, and his eyes were warm with affection. "That's what I've missed, all those years away – you'll follow me to the Crack of Doom when I need you, but you'll spare a thought for the state of the carpet! Plain hobbit sense – Sam, I am so glad to be home!"
Sam smiled. "Just pour me another cup of that tea, will you, Mr. Frodo? You're closer."
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