B2MeM Prompt and Path:"And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good." John Steinbeck. Purple Path;
Format: Short Story
Genre: Angst, friendship, hurt/comfort
Characters: Aragorn, Faramir , Sam, Rose.
Pairings: Aragorn/Arwen, Sam/Rose
Creator's Notes: The story is set before the ban on Men entering the Shire.
Summary: Aragorn and Faramir discover all is not as well as it seems in the Shire.
"So what do you think of the Shire, Faramir?" Aragorn asked sleepily.
"I like it well. It is as green and fertile as Ithilien and it is good to see our friends again. I just wish the beds were a little larger, though."
"So do I," Aragorn debated whether to stretch out his legs which meant his toes would hang over the bed, or whether curling them beneath the covers and risking cramp was the greater evil. He and Faramir had been paying a brief visit to Éomer on an important matter of state and were now visiting the Shire or their way home. They were staying at Bag End as Bilbo had had a special room constructed for Gandalf's visits, which was furnished with a man sized bed and chair. It was proving rather cramped for the two former Rangers, though.
"I should like to bring my lady to visit Merry," said Faramir.
"We should see him tomorrow afternoon and can maybe arrange a visit," said Aragorn. He yawned. Weary after a day of travelling, the King and Steward soon fell asleep.
Aragorn was lost in a pleasant dream that he was beside Arwen in his own bed and when he kissed her lips they smelled like rose petals bathed in the first morning dew.
A loud shriek rudely awakened him. He sat bolt upright, feeling for a dagger beneath the pillow and finding none. He looked around the room, for a moment unsure of where he was. The room was dark apart from a low burning candle on the nightstand. He took a deep breath. He was in Bag End, not some place where danger might threaten.
"Whatever was that?" cried Faramir, clambering out of bed and reaching for his sword.
"It came from Sam and Rose's chamber," said Aragorn. He strained his ears, listening. He heard another cry then the soft murmur of Rose's voice. "I hope Sam is not ill," he said. He got out of bed and pulled on his robe over his night attire.
Making his way to Sam and Rose's bedchamber, he tapped on the door. "I heard a cry, is aught wrong?" he called.
After a moment, the door opened and Sam's head appeared. "Sorry you were disturbed, Strider. The baby gets restless when teething. All will be right as rain come morning."
"Is there any way I can aid you?" asked Aragorn.
"Thanking you, Strider, but Rose and I can manage."
Aragorn could do nothing but bid the Hobbit goodnight and return to his room where he told Faramir what Sam had said.
"If that was a teething baby we heard I am the Kha Khan of Harad!" said Faramir.
"I agree with you, but I cannot force Sam to tell me what is wrong," said Aragorn, pulling off his robe. "I suggest we try to sleep and see what we can learn on the morrow."
Faramir gasped at the size of the breakfast Rose had prepared. There looked sufficient to feed at least a dozen. The platters were piled high with thick crusty bread, creamy butter, cheeses, sausages, eggs, bacon and crocks of several different varieties of preserves.
"A Hobbit spread more than fit for this King," said Aragorn as he piled his plate high. "So how are things in the Shire, Sam?"
"Well enough save for all the big folk who come here to gawp at us," said the Gardener. "I was planting taters not long ago and a group of them just came and stood there staring as if they were watching a play or something."
"That should not be!" Aragorn said angrily. "I shall see what I can do to ensure that you are not treated thus in future."
"Things were way better when Men hadn't heard of Hobbits," Sam continued. "But apart from that, the Shire is thriving and things are growing just as they ought to. You should see the new Party Tree grown from the Lady's gift, Strider! If was as if she knew we would need her help!"
"Galadriel saw many things," said Aragorn. "We shall not see her like again, I fear."
"Eat up now," said Rose. "I hope the food is to your satisfaction, sirs. You must be used to fine cooks preparing your vittles."
"I have never tasted crustier bread or tastier eggs," said Faramir. "Our cooks would have much to learn from you."
"We make sure the hens are happy." Sam smiled. "It makes the eggs taste good when they are."
"I've some fresh baked scones, goose eggs and a nice bit of chicken for second breakfast," said Rose. "Then there's a loaf of bread to go with them or two if they are needed."
"It sounds delicious." Faramir loosened his belt, wondering how he could find room for any more food before nightfall.
Sam cleared his plate and put down his knife and fork. "Beggin' your pardon, Strider and Lord Faramir, but I need to water my herb patch before the sun gets too high. Are you coming to help your dad, Elanor?"
Sam left the table followed by his eldest child.
As soon as he had gone, Rose looked around somewhat furtively. "I was wondering if I could have a word, Mister Strider, in private like.
"Of course, Mistress Rose," said Aragorn.
Faramir got to his feet." I should like to take a walk round the village," he said.
"You should walk up past the duck pond to see the Party Tree," said Rose. "Sam and I never tire of that walk."
" Thank you, Mistress Rose, I will see you later." Faramir left the room.
"What troubles you, Mistress Rose?" asked Aragorn as soon as Faramir had closed the door behind him.
Rose twisted her hands nervously. "Sam won't like me saying anything, Mister Strider,"
"I shall not tell him you spoke to me," said Aragorn. "You have my word."
Rose continued to fidget. She then took a deep breath and said, "It's the nightmares, you see, Mister Strider. They've troubled him something dreadful since Mister Frodo left. He won't talk to me nor to Merry and Pippin for fear of bothering them. As you were in the Black Land too, I wondered if you might be able to help, you being a healer and all."
Aragorn reached out and clasped her hand. "I shall certainly do all I can, Mistress Rose."
Despite Rose's protests, Aragorn insisted on helping her clear away the dishes. It was not long before Sam came in from the garden. He sent his little daughter off to play with the new toys Aragorn and Faramir had brought for her.
"Would you take a walk with me, Sam?" asked Aragorn. "I should like to see the new Party Tree in the daylight."
"I'd love to show it you," said the Hobbit. "I'll just get my cloak."
King and Hobbit strolled together through the village. It was yet early and few folk were abroad. Aragorn at first encouraged Sam to talk of his family and his garden. Then he said "Do you ever suffer from nightmares about the war, Sam? I do and wondered if you did too?"
Sam flushed scarlet. "I'm sorry, Mister Strider, I shouldn't have told you an untruth last night. I'm just so ashamed!"
"There is nothing to be ashamed of. It happens to almost all old soldiers including myself."
Sam paused as if lost in thought. "Well, I reckon if it even happens to you too, maybe I can speak about it. I just feel so daft that I wake up crying and shrieking like a bairn. When I've so much to be thankful for what with Rose and the little ones and my garden and everything fair and growing and - " He suddenly stifled a sob.
Aragorn reached out and took his hand and squeezed it gently. "When did this start, Sam? When you came back from Mordor?"
Sam shook his head. He sniffed loudly and blew his nose in his handkerchief. "No, things were alright until Mister Frodo left. I had to be strong for him, you see and we'd talk about things together. Now, though, almost every night, I have such dark dreams. That Mister Frodo is being tormented by orcs and I can't save him or that Mount Doom is erupting and I'm choking in the ash and smoke. It's horrible, Mister Strider, just horrible!"
"I know, Sam," Aragorn said softly. "I have these dark dreams too as result of the war and other things that have happened to me."
"You are strong, though, Mister Strider."
"And so are you, Master Gamgee! Nightmares are the way the brain allows us to live normal lives during the day, as the bad thoughts have to be released. Don't bottle it up, Sam. Talk to Rose, or if you feel you cannot, to Merry and Pippin. They will understand. Then remember, you can write to me anytime in complete confidence. I will give you my seal that no other is allowed to break"
"I feel I have to be strong for the young Hobbits."
"You are good, Sam, but you do not have to be perfect. I expect it would help Merry and Pippin to talk too."
"You really think so?"
"I do." They had reached the new Party Tree. Even after a few years' growth, the young Mallorn looked strong and vigorous. They gazed at it in silence for a few minutes the resumed walking. Then Aragorn said, " Do you grow athelas in your herb garden, Sam?"
"I do. I used to try and help Mister Frodo with it when he was taken bad on the anniversaries of his woundings."
"Then I suggest you crumble a leaf in hot water at bedtime and sleep with the mixture beside you. It makes the air more wholesome."
"I will do that, Mister Strider."
"I will do it tonight for you."
"Thank you, Mister Strider. I feel lighter somehow talking to you."
"Remember, Sam, I am your friend and you can always talk to me. Now we had better get back, Mistress Rose will be waiting for us with second breakfast."
The morning sun had reached Sam's garden by the time King and Hobbit returned. They found Faramir outdoors playing with Elanor while Rose carried the baby round the garden, pointing out the brightly coloured flowers to him. Faramir was bending to allow Elanor to place a daisy chain around his neck.
"Is all well?" asked Rose." I was beginning to wonder if you were going to be late for second breakfast."
Sam smiled at her. "All is very well or will be in time."