The Road Goes Ever On And On by Sam

Chapter notes: A freak storm rips through the Shire, endangering more than just crops.
"Gaff... Gaff!" young Samwise Gamgee tugged on the worn sleeve of his father's coat. The older Hobbit turned with a tired smile, which encouraged his five-year-old son to go on. "Gaff? Look..." He pointed a chubby hand towards the tree gracing Bag End above them.

The Gaffer, as he was known among the local Hobbits, looked up, squinting against the sun. Studying the tree, wondering what in middle-earth his youngest son could have seen, he shaded his eyes for an easier view. Still nothing stood out and the gardener sighed. With a shake of his head he turned to the little boy. "What, Samwise? Can't see nothing."

Sam nodded and pointed again. "Uh huh... nothing." His speech had been hard to understand until last summer. Now it was clear, though limited by his youth and lack of vocabulary. "Nothing, Gaff."

With another shake of his head, Gaffer looked back up at the tree. His eyes strayed for a moment to the building bank of dark clouds in the near distance. It seemed to be gathering rapidly. Then, eyes widening in horror, Hamfast Gamgee, the Gaffer, knew just what his son had sensed without being able to put into words. There was not an animal, bird, or insect active anywhere around them.

Normally that Bag End tree was alive with song and chatter. Insects would be flying everywhere on this early summer day. The heat might be oppressive, but it wouldn't be as close... as heavy as it was right then. The older Hobbit had been so absorbed in their work that he'd never paid attention to the signs.

"Samwise, run on up to Bag End. Go inside." His voice was calm, yet there was urgency in the father's tone as he instructed his son to safety. "Tell them inside not to even peek out. There's a storm coming, lad. Run now."

Sam looked confused. "Gaff, not allowed..."

Gaffer shook his head and gave his son a hard shove in the direction of the distant faded green door. He eyed the sky, going a bit pale as he noted that the ever-nearing clouds hid the sun. This storm was going to be a ripper.

Looking around, he could already feel the winds picking up. He gathered the small amount of tools he'd strewn about and merely shoved them willy-nilly into the nearby shed, locking the door securely. Heading over the party field, the quickest shortcut to his own home at Three Bagshot Row, the Hobbit prayed he'd be ahead of the storm. He needed to make certain Hobbiton knew of the threat coming so quickly.

With a fearful glance over his shoulder, Gaffer estimated they had maybe ten or fifteen minutes before that storm would sweep in. These strong winds and hard rains rarely tore at the Shire, but when they did, the entire community could lose their winter crops. Now, however, was mid-summer and this kind of storm should not be occurring at all.

At the push, the little boy took off running. He wasn't accustomed to being encouraged to break the rules, especially the rule about going into Bag End while he was supposed to be working. But he'd sensed something in his father, something which spoke to his innermost fears. Gaffer was afraid of something.

As he reached the door, he glanced towards the tree, frowning, trying to see what Gaffer had seen. He knew that he hadn't seen the normal birds; it's what he'd been pointing out to his father. Why would that scare the normally solid, intrepid elder? When Sam realized the sun was gone, he was startled. It had been so pretty and bright earlier.

Sensing somehow that the missing sun was what has frightened his father, the boy turned and started running harder towards his employer's nearby home. He assumed Gaffer was following, so never looked back as he stumbled and panted his way up the steps from the roadside, where they'd been trimming the grass around the gate.

Reaching the door, Sam started trying to open it, fumbling as the wind picked up and slammed him away from the hole and sideways towards the windows. With a yelp, he tried to hold on, wondering if the strong winds would blow him all the way to town. He continued to fight, finally getting to the door, but it was a close shave.

As he pounded the door now, he felt the wind increasing once more, tugging and tearing at him. "Help! Frodo, help! Help!" His voice was snatched away, lost in the ferocious roar of the cold air tearing around his small, shivering body. Tears, unchecked, ran in streams down his chubby cheeks as he continued to fumble with the knob, pounding and screaming as he could.

With a sigh, Frodo turned the page of his book. It was written in Elvish and he was having trouble concentrating on the beautiful poetry. The sun was shining brilliantly and he wanted to be outside enjoying the birds and green, green grass. But, as per his agreement with his adopted-uncle Bilbo, he was required to study until luncheon. Normally, he would enjoy this quiet time, as it was one of his favorite things to do. Somehow today he was restless, though, the air heavy inside the normally comfortable Hobbit Hole.

Another sigh escaped and he pushed away the book, looking longingly towards the window. Cerulean eyes widening, the seventeen-year-old jumped out of his chair and hurried to the round window, mouth forming an Oh of wonder.

Outside the sun was completely obscured by thick, heavy dark clouds. A wind was whipping the branches of the large tree above the hole. Grass was flattened and the occasional branch or bit of organic debris blew by. That wind was heading towards Hobbiton; it was obvious by the way the clouds swept in. Frodo had never seen such an ominous looking storm approach.

Idly, Frodo wondered at the sound of distant knocking. Was a branch hitting the door? He ignored it, watching fascinated, as the sky became completely dark overhead. That knocking was getting distracting, however. He turned, frowning, towards the door. With a sigh, he started towards the entryway, intent on dislodging the annoying branch so he could enjoy the coming storm.

As he got to the door, the knocking stopped. Had the offending branch been blow clear, then? He reached for the door and froze, a chill sweeping over him. There was a distant voice crying.

"Help! Oh, help!"

Tearing at the door, Frodo flung it open, ignoring the fact that it hit the wall, most likely damaging it. The force of his tug ripped the door from the child's hands, and the older Hobbit had to fling his entire body onto the smaller boy to keep him from being blown about in the strong winds. He huddled there, practically crushing the boy, covering his head as debris whipped past.

Thankfully, an annoyed voice hailed from inside, coming closer. "Frodo! Why are you flinging the door open in this wind? You've blown all my... Oh, my!" The elderly Hobbit grabbed hold of Frodo's foot and started dragging his cousin back into the hole. "What in the Four Farthings do you think you're up to, my boy?"

As soon as Frodo, still huddled protectively, was dragged over the threshold, Bilbo managed to slam the door shut, tisking at the damage done the wooden structure. He shook his head and looked down at his cousin whom he'd adopted as a nephew. "Now, will you explain what you were up to? I cannot..."

His tirade ended before it really began; a small, frightened sob had broken the air. Kneeling, hazel eyes wide in concern, the old Hobbit touched his cousin's curls. "Frodo?"

The teenager lifted his tear-stained face from the floor, shaking his head. "I'm fine, Bilbo. It's Sam." He rolled off the crying child.

Bilbo sat on the ground with a thump, all color fleeing his face. "Goodness gracious me! Samwise Gamgee, why were you out in that wind? You should have been home, lad." He reached for his servant's son but drew back when Frodo touched his arm.

"Let me, Bilbo. He's frightened."

With that, the dark haired teen scooped up the sobbing, shaking child and carried him into the warm kitchen. Bilbo followed, frowning in concern. As they made it inside, Bilbo glanced out the window and shuddered. "A storm like this is rare enough in winter, my lad. It can't mean good to be coming on in summertime."

"Bilbo, please, he's frightened enough," Frodo's voice was a gentle admonishment. He was busy checking over the little boy, noting the scrapes and scratches he'd received from flying debris and his travel across the threshold of Bag End. "Sam? Sam, please don't cry. You're safe now. I've got you." Frodo gently lifted the child's face and smiled for the boy.

Sam threw his arms around his older friend, sobbing into Frodo's velvet waistcoat. He tried to burrow against him, knowing, just knowing that the older Hobbit could make everything better. He had always done so before. "Frodo... it near blew me away..."

Frodo nodded and stroked the strawberry-blond curls, so unusual for a Hobbit. "I know, Sam. But you're safe now. Come, look at me, Sam, and stop crying."

Impatiently, Bilbo broke in, though he used a very gentle voice, "Why were you outside instead of at home on a day like this, Samwise?"

The child threw a worried look at Bilbo then at the door. "Gaff..."

Frodo stiffened and whirled towards the entryway. "Is he out there in that, too?"

Neither Hobbit saw Sam's worried nod. They'd noticed at the same time that hail the size of pebbles was raining down from the dark clouds. The wind was whipping the sharp ice stones everywhere, damaging a lot more than just the crops for the winter harvest. They'd gotten Sam into the hole in the nick of time.

"Elbereth! If he's out in that..." Bilbo hurried towards the door but Frodo stopped him, grabbing his arm roughly.

"No, Bilbo! You won't be able to help him. Let me." Without waiting for permission, if it would even be granted, the younger Hobbit ran towards the door, grabbing their cloaks from the hooks as a flimsy hope of protection from the biting ice and driving wind. He was out the door before his cousin could stop him.

Sam whimpered. "Frodo?"

Slowly, the very young and the very old Hobbit turned their heads, eyes meeting. Sam's eyes had darkened to a frightened jade while Bilbo's were a soft, concerned deep gray. With a sigh, the ninety-five year old Hobbit scooped up the whimpering lad, carrying him towards the window so they might keep an eye out for their loved-one.

Outside, Frodo almost regretted his impulse to go help Sam's father. The wind pushed him over the ice-slicked grass, chunks of sharp hail biting into him in a storm of pain and noise. He could barely keep his eyes open as he searched the roadside for his uncle's gardener. Calling out was useless, as the wind tore his voice from his throat; he couldn't even hear himself.

There was no sign of anyone on the road or lawns. Turning towards the party field, Frodo desperately searched for the aged Hobbit, knowing he couldn't give up now he'd committed himself to the search. He opened the gate at the top of the steps and the world spun out of control.

He was falling.

Bilbo couldn't stop pacing, checking the window looking over the road time after time. Sam sat with his face pressed to the pane of glass, forgetting to be fascinated with the unusual commodity in his worry over Frodo. He ignored Bilbo's pacing, but the tension was still there, between the two worried Hobbits.

"Frodo's been gone ten minutes already. Ten minutes in that weather, Samwise. How can the lad stand it out there? He should have let me go; he really should have." The older Hobbit wasn't really conscious of the fact that he was revealing his woes to a five-year-old. He was merely talking to try to calm himself, though it wasn't working.

As he paced back in front of the window, he glanced out and hugged himself. "Oh, what a horrible storm! Will it never end? They never last this long. You'd think the clouds would have run out of hail by now." He once more took up the plodding shuffle over the tiled floor.

Sam wiped a hand over the glass and pressed his nose to it once more. His eyes strained for any sign of that dark, curly head, that too thin frame, that pale, pretty face. But no matter how he strained and searched, Frodo did not appear. Neither did the Gaffer, which also ate at the boy. He truly worried that his father might be hurt. After all, Bilbo seemed worried, so something had to be dangerous out there.

Turning at last, as Bilbo once more stopped and muttered; the child tilted his head, curls brushing one chubby shoulder. "Mister Bilbo?" He'd picked up the title from his father's speech patterns. "Frodo not hurt... 'kay?"

Bilbo looked at the boy as if he'd forgotten the lad was there in the same room with him. "Frodo? Hurt? Of course not. Whatever would give you that idea, my boy?" Bilbo wasn't about to deliberately worry the child. "He's probably taken your father back home and waiting out the storm there."

With a nod of certainty, Bilbo approached and scooped the child up. "Yes," his voice was more sure with the plausible reasoning he'd found, "Frodo's out at your hole waiting out the storm. He'll be up quick as a wink once it's ended."

"Frodo at my hole?" Sam looked surprised. He played with the idea, smiling wider as he pictured being able to show off his room to his friend. "Can play in my room." He nodded decisively, willing to believe Bilbo's thin explanation.

Sam lifted his arms to the elderly Hobbit. "Down. Sam, down." He couldn't get off of the windowsill on his own without injury and so was hardly ever allowed up so high. Sam was not the most graceful of children, as proven by the broken leg he'd received at his last birthday party.

Bilbo nodded and picked the child up with a grunt. "Samwise, you're getting to big to be carted around, lad. You should be running about on your own." He placed the child on the tiled floor and smiled as Sam hurried off to lose himself in the interior of Bag End. As the child disappeared down the hall, Bilbo's smile slipped and he glanced worriedly back out the window. "Oh, Frodo, where are you?"

Gaffer made it inside his hole just as the first hail struck around him. He shook off his coat and hurried into the family room, relieved to see his wife and daughters there. "It's one of them ripper hail storms, Bell."

She nodded calmly not looking up from trying to get their youngest child, Marigold, to eat something she apparently wasn't fond of. "Hamson's in town and Halfred's over to the Cotton's to help with something or other." She smiled up at her husband, quickly replacing it with a frown as she noticed the absence of their other son. "Where's Samwise?"

"I sent him into Bag End. Knew I couldn't get here with him fast enough. I'll be helping the town clean up after the ripper." He looked out the small, greased-wax-paper covered window; he was unable to afford that pretty glass which graced Bag End. "With luck we can save the crops. If not, we have time to put in a late crop if the weather stays fine. It's early days yet."

Bell looked over at the window and sighed. "Those crops won't survive that hail, Hamfast. We'll be planting for certain. Bilbo Baggins will have to make due with Sam's services alone until the crops are replaced." She knew her husband, a very prominent gardener and very capable potato farmer, would be needed for the survival of Hobbiton.

"Mister Bilbo's a good Hobbit, Bell. He'll make due and won't complain, neither. You just see. Fortunate he keeps Master Frodo inside of a morning. That lad wanders so far 'round he could've been stuck out in this."

A shudder went through Bell. "I haven't seen a storm like this for many a year, Hamfast. Frodo might never have seen one."

The Gaffer sat down on the edge of a chair, ready to spring up as soon as the storm passed. "Like I said, Bell, he's inside mornings. He won't need to worry about how to survive it if he's not out in it. I'd say Mister Bilbo's seen more of these rippers than I can count over his long life. He'll be able to answer any of his cousin's questions and keep hold of Samwise, as well."

"Yes," the Gaffer's wife stroked the red-brown curls of their youngest child. "You're right of course." She didn't sound convinced, however, as she looked back towards the window. "They'll be fine."

The storm lasted mere minutes with half of Hobbiton's crops destroyed. As soon as the sounds of hail hitting earth ceased, Hobbits burst from their holes to try to salvage what they could. Very little complaint emerged from the group as they aided their neighbors in the backbreaking work of clearing up and replanting the crops, which would keep them through the coming winter. It would be weeks before anyone could slack off and once again enjoy the beautiful summer.

No one thought to send for young Samwise, as the entire family had turned out to aid their neighbors. After all, it was naturally assumed that Frodo and Bilbo would care for the boy, safe in Bag End, leaving the rest free to work.

On Bilbo's part, he merely waited for Frodo to come up from around the bend with a story of how he'd been in Bagshot Row for the storm. Of course, if that was the case, he'd be busy set to work helping recover the Hobbiton crops and they wouldn't see him until nightfall. Thus, the elderly Hobbit kept reminding himself for half an hour or more.

Finally, however, he couldn't take it any more. Even if Frodo was still holed up somewhere, Bilbo would be needed down in Hobbiton to lend a hand. He'd never shirked his duty to the Shire before, and he wouldn't begin now. The only problem was what to do with young Samwise.

He looked around, not spotting the child, frowning. "Sam? Sam, my boy, come on out. We need to take you home." He got up and headed further into the corridors of his life's home. It wasn't hard to locate the child. Sam was curled up in Frodo's bed, smiling and daydreaming... or so it appeared.

"There you are, lad. Come along. We're to go to your hole now. We'll see Frodo and you'll get some luncheon."

Sam climbed out of the bed with a smile. "Okay." He grasped Bilbo's hand in his and eagerly let himself be led off. "Frodo my hole?"

Bilbo smiled. "That's right. He's at your hole helping your father in the field. Come along."

The pair left the hole and turned towards the field, merely to see what damage may have been caused by the sudden storm. The tree had lost a couple of large branches, which would need cutting up. The grass was pitted in many spots, bearing the scars of the hailstorm. Paint was chipped from gate and door. It would take some time to repair the damage done to Bag End... and Bilbo could imagine that Bag End had received the least damage of Hobbiton.

As he turned towards the road, Sam pulled away with a cry. He started heading towards the Party Field, leaving the gate swinging open and skidding down the ice-slicked hill. The little Hobbit tripped halfway down and went into a head-over-heels tumble to the level surface below.

"Sam!" Bilbo hurried after the runaway child. "What are you up to, lad? We need to... oh, my boy!" He realized what had set Sam off.

Frodo lie in the Party Field, having tripped and fallen during the storm. He looked so still and small down there, Bilbo's heart caught in his throat. "Oh, Frodo!" He had to remind himself not to tumble as Samwise had done. He'd be needed to aid both boys most likely. "Stay still, lads, I'm on my way!" He'd lost sight of Sam, unfortunately.

Sam's tumble ended in a hard quick stop. He whimpered, but was fairly unhurt and knew it. Shaking, the boy pushed himself to hands and knees and cried out as he realized Frodo was lying, face down, next to him. "Frodo!" He touched the older Hobbit's cloak covered head.

A deep gasp and moan answer the tiny plea and Sam pulled back in surprise. "Frodo? Frodo 'live? Please?"

With great difficulty, the injured Hobbit pulled himself up enough to reveal ice-stung cheeks and scraped forehead. "It's all right, Sam..." His voice was tired and pain-filled, "I'm all right."

"Lie still, lad!" Bilbo skidded to a halt next to the pair. "You've fallen a bit, I'd suppose, and had that storm over you all the while. Samwise, are you hurt?"

"Sam?" Frodo's voice took on a new worry at the thought that Sam might have also been out in that horrible storm. Fortunately, the child was able to relieve him.

"No hurt. Sam 'kay. Frodo hurt."

Bilbo nodded. "How badly are you hurt, my boy? Can you stand? Here, lean on me..." He reached down to ease his cousin up, hoping there was nothing broken on the delicate-looking teen.

Frodo gasped, whimpering again, but allowed himself to be aided to his feet. He felt Bilbo's arm supportive around his waist and leaned into the older Hobbit. Sam's hand on his hip brought a soft smile to his scraped face. "Thank you. I can walk."

Nodding as he guided his ward towards the steps, Bilbo called back, "Samwise, fetch that cloak from the grass. I might be needing it later." With that, he left the five-year-old behind as he helped his boy up to their home.

Sam opened the big faded green door. Peeking in, the child clutched the cloak to him, worried about how hurt Frodo might be. He knew that any hurt was bad, and Frodo had a lot of them from what the boy could see. Finally, with a deep, steadying breath, he slipped inside and dropped Bilbo's cloak in the corner of the entryway, unable to hang it next to Frodo's torn one.

Quietly, the five-year-old headed for Frodo's room. He checked every doorway he passed, just in case, but nothing of note distracted him from his quest. He somehow knew that Frodo would be in his own bed, not somewhere else. The house seemed quiet, as quiet as everything had seemed right before that storm came.

Trembling in anxiety, unsure just what he'd find, Sam made his way down the hall, step by soft step. He kept imagining his friend's face and a whimper escaped. Scrubbing at his eyes with dirty hands, the child wanted to run to Frodo's room but something held him back. He was... afraid... to go. What if Frodo was really, really hurt?

Step by step, Sam made his way down that hall. It seemed far longer than ever before. With a gulp, scrubbing again at his teary eyes, the boy finally stopped and sobbed. He didn't want Frodo hurt. He sobbed again, trying not to, but unable to hold it back. Finally, wailing in fearful misery, Sam hurtled down the hall, bursting into Frodo's room.

"Frodo! No be hurt!" He tossed himself onto the tall bed, sobbing and reaching blindly for Frodo.

Stunned, the seventeen-year-old turned and caught the crying bundle of Hobbit child to him. "Oh, Sam! I'm fine, Sam, really. Just a few bruises and a scratch or two. See?" He tried to lift Sam's face to show him.

Sam refused, shaking his head and burrowing against his friend. He was afraid to look. If he looked, it'd be real, and he didn't want Frodo to really be hurt. So, the boy burrowed and clung, whimpering in his fear and need.

"Oh, Sam..." Frodo gave up trying to show the boy and merely cuddled him. "You poor thing. I didn't mean to scare you, love, I didn't." He kissed the damp curls, surprised that they would be. He supposed it was sweat or the weather and pushed the distracting thought away, kissing the child again.

Bilbo merely sat to the side, linens and medicinal ointment ready. He watched the seen with soft eyes, empathizing with the little Gamgee boy. He'd been that worried, as well. When the embrace didn't let up, the old Hobbit merely shook his head and moved around to tend his cousin's back first.

His ward's back was perhaps the most severely injured of all. It was bruised and scraped, but fortunately had apparently nothing wrong that would have resulted from his tumble down the hillside. The injuries appeared to have come from the storm itself. Bilbo worked gently.

When he could no longer put off tending Frodo's other wounds, he softly cleared his throat. "Frodo, my lad, I can't take care of you if you pull away."

Frodo looked up, tears in his eyes. He nodded and gently pulled back from the child, offering a wavering smile to the tiny Hobbit. "Sam, are you all right?"

The boy sobbed then nodded. "Uh huh." He studied the pale, exposed skin, frowning at the bruises he saw. "Frodo hurt..." he sounded sad, resigned. Frodo ruffled his hair.

"I'll get better, Sam. See? It hardly hurts now. You've made it all better." Softly ruffling Sam's curls again, Frodo glanced at Bilbo. "We'll... uh... need to help out in town, Bilbo, won't we?"

His adopted-uncle nodded. "We'll take Sam back down to his hole and offer to help clean up the destroyed crops. That'll clear up two more for planting the new crops." Stepping back, finished his bandaging, the older Hobbit nodded. "Are you sure you can walk, Frodo? You'll be expected to do quite a bit down there."

"I can do it, Bilbo. I'd rather not leave Sam's sight; he's still shaken. He'll need to see his father's not hurt, though, so that means I'll have to be going."

Bilbo sighed and nodded. "Very well." He retrieved a fresh shirt for the teenager and backed up, gently scooping up a protesting Sam in the process. "Now, calm down, Samwise. Frodo needs some clothes on before we leave." He rocked the boy a bit, but knew that it wouldn't help.

The only thing that would help would be cuddling into Frodo's arms once more.

Frodo dressed quickly. He hissed as bruises refused to cooperate, but finally he was ready and slowly stood. Sam clambered to get to the floor so he could take Frodo's hand. "Ready, Sam? Bilbo? Let's go help Hobbiton." He smiled painfully around the linen-bandaged scrapes on his face.

Bilbo nodded and the trio set off, hearing the noise of Hobbits piecing their lives back together in he cooler air of the Shire after a disastrous storm.
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