Death on the Brandywine by Kathryn Ramage

A tap on the door awoke them the next morning. The two were curled up together--not an unusual situation, until they realized they were not at home.

Sam tumbled out of bed. The sunlight on the slope of the hill outside the window told him that it must be mid-morning. He didn't know where his nightshirt had gotten to, and there was no time to run to his own room to dress, so he plucked up Frodo's robe from the post at the foot of the bed and pulled it on on his way to the door. Frodo, still in bed, pulled the blankets up to his chin.

A maid, the yellow-haired girl Sam had questioned the day before, was standing there when he opened the door; she smiled at him as she entered the room, bearing a tray laden with teapot and cups, a rack of fresh toast, and small pots of honey, butter, and jam.

"The Missus sent this up to Mr. Frodo, as he wasn't down at first breakfast," she announced as Sam took the tray from her. "And she says she hopes he didn't have too bad a night."

"I'm much better, thank you." Frodo peeked out from the blankets. "Please tell Aunt Esme that I'll be down soon."

The maid curtseyed and departed. Sam brought the tray to the bed and set it down at Frodo's feet. Frodo sat up, tucking the blanket around his waist, and took a piece of toast to nibble on while Sam poured out some tea for him. In spite of what he had told the maid, he looked pale and there were shadows under his eyes.

"We shouldn't have slept in so late," he said. "There's too much to be done today. I have to see that Melly talks to the sherriffs, and Merry is set free. Once that's done, I've finished what I set out to do."

"No more investigating?" Sam asked.

Frodo shook his head, and buttered another piece of toast. "It's not my business to catch this murderer, Sam, if there is such a creature. As a matter of fact, I'm beginning to think that the aunties have the right way of looking at this: If it wasn't an accident, then it must have been some wandering ruffian. Not one of us."

This seemed like an odd thing for Frodo to say, but Sam realized he was still afraid that one of the Brandybucks was involved. If there was to be an arrest, then Frodo did not want to be responsible for sending a member of his own family to prison... or the gallows.

"There's something else I've been wanting to speak to you about. It's been on my mind," Frodo went on as he brushed off the toast crumbs that had fallen on his bare chest. "Do you remember what Merry said that first time we visited him at the guardshouse--about how he might be willing to marry a girl who understood how things were between him and Pippin?" And when Sam nodded, "That might work for us too, don't you agree?"

Sam was surprised, and somewhat alarmed, by this question. "Are you thinking of getting married, Frodo? Not- Not to this Miss Melilot?" He couldn't help but recall how vehemently Frodo had defended his pretty cousin last night, nor how much time Frodo had spent in her room.

"No," Frodo laughed, "not Melly. Merry isn't the only one who regards her as a sister. There's no one I intend to marry. But, Sam, you used to be sweet on Rosie Cotton."

"Maybe I was," Sam replied defensively, "but that's all over and done with." Even if he had a wistful thought or two of might-have-been's whenever he saw Rosie at the Green Dragon, he had decided to stay with Frodo and he meant to stick by that. "I've made my choice."

"You would probably be married by now if it weren't for me--if not to Rosie, then to someone else. You'd make a wonderful husband, Sam," Frodo said as he accepted a cup of tea. "Girls like you. You've made quite a stir among the housemaids here at the Hall. Lily... and what's the name of this one?" He nodded toward the door to indicate the maid who had brought in the tray. "Daffy?"

"That's right," Sam answered, blushing. "Her name's Daffodil."

"I saw how she smiled at you."

"What of it?" Sam wasn't certain what to make of this teasing, but he was sure he didn't like it. He'd been pleasant with both girls, all right, but he would never have said more than was ordinary in the way of politeness to either if Frodo hadn't sent him to make inquiries from them! Why was Frodo talking to him like this? And why bring it up now, when he was sitting naked on a bed still mussed from their lovemaking the night before? Was it some joke? If it was, Sam didn't see the point.

"I wouldn't like to keep you from having a normal life," Frodo told him.

"If I'd wanted a normal life, I would've stayed home in the Shire and never gone off with you! I wouldn't-" Sam didn't know how to finish this. Love you as I do? Agree to live with you? Share your bed? Care for you as the most treasured thing I have? All of them were true, and just as fitting.

But Frodo seemed to understand what was left unsaid. "I know, Sam." He smiled softly as he took Sam's hand, and leaned over the tea-tray to give him a quick kiss. "I could never tell you how very glad I am to have you. But it isn't fair that you should spend your best years caring for an invalid." Sam let out a cry of protest, and Frodo responded swiftly, "I'm not well, Sam, and you know it as well as I do. I heard you tell Aunt Esme so last night, and you would never have done that if it weren't true."

Sam began to see what this nonsense was about. "You'll get well again," he insisted. "You just need to rest. Once this business is done and we're back at Bag End, I'm putting you right to bed and you'll stay there for a week! You're in particular low spirits this morning because of that bad turn you had last night. It's made you say things you don't mean. I don't mind looking after you, Frodo. You know I don't! If I'd ever wanted anything more, I would've said so. When you asked me to come live with you, I'd've said, 'No, thank you. I'm going to marry Rosie Cotton if she'll have me.'"

"And if you had, I would've said that both you and she were welcome to come and live with me," Frodo rejoined. "I would say just the same now, Sam: if you want to marry Rosie, and if she is agreeable and understands how it is between you and me..." He squeezed Sam's hand. "Well, I wouldn't mind it either. That's all I wanted to tell you."

"All right," Sam accepted this. "You've told me. Are you done with this foolishness?"

"For the moment," Frodo answered, smiling.

"Then you finish that tea and get washed up and dressed. You'll feel better once you have a proper breakfast in you."
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