Trembling by Victoria Bitter
Summary: Nearing the desperate end of the quest, how much strength does Sam have left?
Categories: FPS > Sam/Frodo, FPS, FPS > Frodo/Sam Characters: Frodo, Sam
Type: None
Warning: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 1335 Read: 805 Published: August 09, 2012 Updated: August 09, 2012

1. Chapter 1 by Victoria Bitter

Chapter 1 by Victoria Bitter
There was a time when he was strong.

He closes his eyes now, trying to remember those days, call them back to the substance of the world that has become such misery around him. His mind stretches for it, grasping, yearning, but he would have better success catching water in his fist. It slips away, leaving only the now, and in the now, his strength is failing him.

Sam can feel his body beginning to mutiny against the demands of his will. The edges of his vision have become unsure, blurring the outlines of rocks that snap blood from his feet as though the land itself had sprouted insatiable teeth. Shadows and stars flit across the landscape that he knows are not there, but his eyes refuse to heed his reason, laughing off maniacal little pranks: cool pools of water on the horizon and fearsome eyes in the darkness somehow equally cruel. His breath scours his lungs, begging him to ration the air to himself, take only what he needs of this acrid vapour, but what he needs is already too much, and there seems never enough poison to sate him, no matter how hard his chest heaves.

At least the worst pain has passed. Like a screaming child that has lost its voice, the pain that once cramped and scalded every muscle and joint has now dulled into a strange numbness, a sense that his body has fallen away from him, leaving only a gap in its wake that doesn't quite know that it moves, doesn't quite know that the footprints it staggers behind it gloss scarlet. His body has become an absence rather than a presence, a vaguely hobbit-shaped space in the air of Mordor that to him only exists as a faint and formless ache. Hunger and thirst have fallen away too, black companions left sullen and ignored unknown miles behind him. His tongue has swollen in his mouth so that his few words are muddied to his own ears, and his cracked lips drip salty warmth to his chin every time he dares speak, but the gnawing demands of his stomach have silenced, and even his parched throat has stopped asking for what it knows he cannot give. Even his hunger knows that what little there is does not belong to him.

It belongs to Frodo. Mr. Frodo must have what food remains, what precious water they might still hope to come across. Frodo must have it, for if his Master should die, all of Middle Earth would scream his eulogy on the black-edged blades of the Orcs. Frodo must live, and the Ring must be destroyed. Once, he was strong, and that strength was the stuff of a boy's games, but he is strong no longer, and the days of games are long past. As if laughing at his previous efforts, the memories of those grotesquely innocent games come skipping brightly into his mind, memories of happier times only two years and a thousand lifetimes past.

A sack of taters, two stone, slung over his shoulder, his spade serving as staff in his free hand as he made his way easily towards the square, his step light and timed to the rhythm of a jaunty tune bubbling in his head. The sun was only just rising, but he was bright and alert, and nodded happily to all the familiar faces around him, faces plump and rosy and happy as hobbits should be; the women laughing greetings, the men bobbing their heads and sending a slight scatter of pipe-ash into the morning breeze. It was market day, and the taters were in, as fine a crop as do any Gamgee proud, and Mr. Frodo had come walking with him.

His Master had insisted on carrying the same weight of taters himself, and Sam remembered the smile he had not quite smothered enough at the flush to Frodo's cheeks and the weight of his breathing. He'd offered to take the taters again, and again Frodo had refused, and Sam had chided him ever so gently about not being meant for that sort of work. It was a fair ways from Bag End to the square, and Mr. Frodo was a gentlehobbit, not suited for lugging taters. His Master had shaken his head, temptation in his eyes but affection in his voice as he pronounced the burden of both their loads too great for Sam to carry.

Perhaps it had been the intoxicating sweetness that floated on the autumn air of the Shire, or perhaps some fragment of imp that giggled in Sam's blood, but he had set the taters down and tucked the blade of his spade into the dirt at the side of the road. Quick as a song, Mr. Frodo - two stone of taters and all - was upon his back, and with his own taters in his hand and his Master laughing like a lark, he had carried the lot to market with barely a heavy breath. He had been strong then, strong and round and healthy as any hobbit could hope to be with six meals a day and a snug hole with a lovely green garden besides.

Now he wears two weskits, and Mr. Frodo's spare shirt besides, ignoring the blazing heat of Mordor in the hope that they will pad the truth of his ribs from Mr. Frodo's worry. Now he moves only because he is too tired to fall, and because his legs have forgotten how to do anything else but press onward, always onward, always up towards the belching stink and fire of Mt. Doom. Now the ground beneath him is like razored snake scales, and no mug of beer waits in a cozy inn at the end of this road. Only death crouches there, that fearful countenance growing fairer by the step.

Sam only hopes he can make it that far. His strength is failing him. Abused beyond all will to forget, he has begun to tremble. He can't feel it. Only his ears, of all his senses the last still utterly faithful, tell him the truth. It is like the faintest jingling of a delicate bell, a sound bitterly, beautifully out of place in this darkness. The clasp of his Elven cloak, trembling against the shuddering muscles of his chest. He fears the tremours, because they are the first true rebellion. After that, bits of him will begin to simply cease to go on, and he will stumble. He will fall, and once Sam's journey ends there, so too ends Frodo's, and all the world's besides.

An image comes dark into his mind. Himself, whispering in a few last gasps of poisoned air, but still aware enough, still strong enough to watch Frodo die there, to watch Stinker come with his gollums and his moon-strange eyes, oozing those nasty flapping hands over Frodo's still-beautiful shattered body, ripping the Ring cruel from that graceful neck and hissing over it. His Precious. Oh, his Precious, and who knew what Stinker might do to Frodo then for keeping it from him in life.

No. He can't let that happen. If he must to go until he falls, he will crawl. If he can no longer crawl, he will pull himself along like the lowest of beasts until even that strength fails him, and then he will go further still. He will get Frodo to Mt. Doom even if it is on the broken shards of his last strength, even if it is his final breath that carries Mr. Frodo into the Cracks of Doom.

The strength of his body is the ruins of a memory, but the strength of his love has yet to be sullied by black dust or stinking air, and as he sucks sweet desperation from that love, he hears the jingle fade, then cease as the trembling, for now, leaves him. He can go on, and he will, and he will keep his promise.

He has strength enough for that.
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