At an early hour the next morning, Sam rose to get dressed and be out before daylight, but Frodo detained him awhile longer. Frodo lay in bed, flat on his back; Sam leaned over him, braced with his hands on either side of Frodo's chest.
"To think," Frodo said, "I've been away from you for three whole days! I can't remember the last time we were parted for so long."
"You'll have to get used to it. We won't have many nights like this after I'm married." Sam leaned down to kiss him, then said solemnly, "I won't do it if you don't want me to, Frodo. Me 'n' Rosie haven't settled matters yet, only talked about how it'd be if we married, sorting out the household business, you might say. That's all."
"Is that all, Sam?" Frodo recalled what Melilot had said about country folk getting on ahead of the wedding night. "You and she, you haven't...?"
"No!" Sam was shocked at the delicate question. "What d'you think? Rosie's a nice girl!"
"I don't doubt it. All the same, I wouldn't mind, you know, if you did."
"Well, we haven't--and we won't!" Sam insisted. "Not 'til we're properly married. That's only decent."
Frodo wondered if it was Rosie's sense of decency that had kept the two chaste, or Sam's. He was not unaware of the absurdity of Sam making such a firm declaration after having spent the night making love to him, and--without vanity--he understood that this was why Rosie had come to him to ask that he give Sam up. She was admitting defeat, and asking for mercy. If there was a rivalry between them for Sam, then he had already won. He had Sam as his lover, and that was something that a respectable girl like Rosie couldn't do without a firm promise of marriage unless she wanted to ruin her reputation.
"But you don't think it indecent to bed with me," he said, teasing.
"That's different! I'd've married you, Frodo, if it was allowed. I can tell Rosie I've changed my mind."
"She'll hate you if you do."
"She will," Sam agreed, "and she'd be right to. But I haven't made any promises that bind me to her. I was promised to you long afore she came into it. I won't marry her if you say you don't want me to."
"But I do want you to," Frodo said. "You have my blessings."
"Blessings!" snorted Sam. "Blessings, you call it? You pushed as hard as you could to get me and Rosie together. I'd almost think you were trying to get rid of me."
"Oh, Sam, no!" Frodo tried to sit up, but Sam was still leaning over him and the best he could manage was propping himself up on one elbow, and reaching up to wind his other arm around Sam's neck. Brow to brow with Sam, he gazed solemnly into his eyes. "Please don't think that. I only want you to be happy. Rosie loves you, and you care for her. Don't deny it, Sam. I can see it's so. You were miserable when you broke off with her."
"I was. But I had to choose between her and you."
"No, you didn't. You can have both--don't you see? You can live at Bag End and stay with me, and marry Rosie too." At a moment like this, with Sam in his embrace, the last thing Frodo wanted was to let go. He wanted to be selfish. He didn't want to think about either of them marrying anybody else, but to cling to Sam as hard as he could and not share his lover with anyone... but he knew what had to be done. "We'll have to adjust ourselves to having three in the household rather than the usual two, but we'll be happier for it in the end. And there will be children in the house. That's something you could never have with me, and I can't deprive you of that."
"I don't mind about children," Sam lied.
"Yes, you do," Frodo rejoined. "It's only natural. Just what every hobbit wants, and you're just the sort of hobbit who ought to have a dozen of them. You'll be a marvelous father and, you know, Bag End will belong to you and your children one day."
"Not for years and years!" Sam insisted, and Frodo could see that he didn't like the turn this conversation had taken. They still had not discussed the matter openly--Sam wouldn't hear a word of it, didn't want to think of it--but he was beginning to acknowledge the truth.
Sam sat back and regarded him with pained eyes. "Is that why you're pushing so hard for me 'n' Rosie?" he asked.
"I don't want you to be alone, Sam."
"But you've been so happy this summer. You've rested, and you're getting better every day. I can see it."
"Yes, I am feeling much better," Frodo admitted, "and if we're lucky, it will be years and years... but it will happen, Sam-"
"I don't want you to be alone, even for a day." Frodo sat up and laid a hand on Sam's arm. "It would be nice if you had your family about you instead of an empty house. And who's to say that Rosie Cotton's willing to wait that long for you? She might get tired of waiting, and decide to marry someone else."
Sam didn't answer this, but got up. "It's getting light out," he observed. "I ought to be getting back to Mr. Pippin's room--I can't be seen slipping out of your door first thing in the morning!" He pulled on his trousers and shirt, left in a pile on the floor the night before, and returned to the bed. "See you at breakfast?"
"Just as soon as I've washed and dressed." Frodo smiled. "That is, if I can bear to be away from you for so long." He gave Sam a parting kiss, and let out a small squeak of surprise when Sam picked him up off the bed and hugged the breath out of him.
"We'll meet here again afterwards," he said once he had caught his breath, when Sam was at the window. "We'll start our work. I've so much to tell you."
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