Watching From Afar by Nienna Calaquendi

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Story notes: Many thanks and chocolate hobbits to LeLe, World's Best Beta.
Once again I sit and watch him, unnoticed, despite my own lingering sense of guilt. I have always watched him, more closely than I care to admit. From the earliest days when Frodo came to live with me, orphaned and adrift, I could not help myself.

I took him in because I saw something in him that set him apart, a swan amongst a gaggle of geese, so to speak. Of all my many relations, he was least afraid of what people thought, most willing to accept me at face value. That unquestioning acceptance was in itself appealing, but even then he had a powerful magnetism about him. I've long had an eye for handsome lads, of course, and Frodo is handsome and then some. But he's immensely more than that--a rare and precious spirit.

Always he seemed to underestimate his effect on others, heedless of the impact of a glance cast by those brilliant, unearthly eyes. Yet I knew from the gossip that flew around Brandy Hall that lads and lasses alike had been easily bewitched by him, and that he had succumbed to the charms of others freely and often. I had hoped that the move to Hobbiton would bring him a fresh start in that respect.

And in most noticeable ways it did. Far removed from any social life to speak of, there were none of the enticements that had previously led him astray. I hoped that Frodo could relax and heal the emptiness within that seemed to lead him to seek fulfillment through others, and hoped that he would find Bag End a home in every sense of the word. Deep affection grew between us, and for a time our life was peaceful as we adjusted to each other's moods and quirks, as he adjusted to a more isolated existence and myself, to a less lonely one.

But something about him, just into his tweens--young but decidedly not innocent--drew me as surely as a moth seeks the flame. Having him in the house, locked in the everyday intimacy of living under the same roof, quickly started to wear on me. Indeed, the simple things were the worst. He would often stumble into the kitchen, sleepy-eyed, hair mussed and clad only in his underlinens, to make a cup of tea before heading off to his morning bath. Or wander from the bath to his room, dripping wet, with a towel clutched only loosely about his slender frame. Always I would hastily turn away, ever fearful of betraying myself, and despising myself for feeling the way I did. Frodo trusted me and because of that, because he needed me to be family, I kept my distance.

I wanted him, yes, as badly as I have ever wanted anyone. I can acknowledge it now, many years later. I wished to know how that creamy perfect skin felt under my hands, what kisses were bestowed by those sensual lips, what his face would look like flushed with passion and what his cries of pleasure would sound like. I dreamed of it, far too often I'm afraid. Many times I lay awake far into the night, aroused simply by the knowledge that he slept in the next room, so close yet so far. I thought sometimes that I was slowly driving myself mad.

Oh yes, I felt guilty. Yes, and ashamed of myself too. But guilt and shame be damned--I would have welcomed him into my bed, had he been so inclined.

Luckily for both of us, he never was. And it was inevitable, I suppose, that he took up with the only other soul with whom he came into close contact. Who else but Samwise, the gardener's son, always close by, always ready with a kind word or a helping hand. I had long been pleased that Frodo had a friend as steady and sensible as Sam. For their friendship to grow deeper was not unexpected, but I never expected them to become lovers. Despite his unmistakable devotion to Frodo, Sam just didn't seem the type for that sort of thing. Obviously I've been proved wrong, quite so.

Just the way they looked at each other was enough to tell the tale, and yes, tongues wagged around Hobbiton. Little surprise, that--the gossips had long speculated about what really went on between Mad Baggins and his all-too-attractive young cousin alone together in Bag End. As I said, nothing did--though not for lack of hopeless wishing on my part.

It finally reached a point where my silent desires caused me enough pain that I made the decision to leave. I put the blame on myself, yes, an egotistical old hobbit's need to relive his glory days, but that was only a part of it. Frodo needed to be on his own, away from any pressure I might present, even unwittingly. He had matured, and he had his ever-capable Sam to love him and look after him. It was time. I regret not saying goodbye properly, but at that point I simply could not trust myself.

And then there was the matter of my ring--the Ring, as I later found out. At Gandalf's insistence I left it behind, an odd sort of heirloom left in Frodo's keeping. Many times since then I've wished I'd thrown it into the Brandywine to take care of itself! Better that someone else--anyone--would have stumbled upon its evil legacy than bequeath it to Frodo as I did, placing that fateful responsibility directly on the shoulders of the one I love most in this world. For that I will never forgive myself. Soon he and his companions will set out to destroy it, and I fear for his safety. I fear I will never see him again.

For now, I am thankful for our time here in the city of the elves, able at last to sit and visit for long hours into the night. It is a blessing I do not deserve. But I have said or done nothing untoward, acting the perfect model of an affectionate elderly relation. That is as it should be, for I have grown old and long ago resigned myself to being a parental figure, nothing more. My secret remains untold, and that too is as it should be.

For a little while longer, we can enjoy being here together. Sam remains at Frodo's side, as always, and I am immensely grateful for that. Though I do not know what the days ahead will bring, I know, as surely as the heavens turn, that I will love Frodo as long as I draw breath. And as long as I am able, I will continue to watch him.
Chapter end notes: published 21 Feb 2003
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