An Empty Mirror

Note: Written for the iconography challenge.

Sam hadn't expected it to be so different.

Sure, he had known that the world of the Big People was different from the Shire when he had set out. He had expected it to be, had been prepared for it, at least, as much as possible for a hobbit who had never even been to Bree before. But what he hadn't foreseen were the differences in those people he had counted on to use as anchors, familiar rocks in the turbulent seas of their quest. He hadn't expected his friends to be so changed.

He didn't like it. It made him feel even more lost, more lonely, more frightened. He wanted to be able to rely on Frodo, Merry, and even young Pippin, to be there, reminders of the way things were supposed to be, giving him strength when he felt small and insignificant in this world where everything was big and dangerous. Sam needed to be strong, now more than ever, and he had always drawn strength and confidence from things, from people, he was familiar with.

Now he looked around the Fellowship and felt lonely in a way that living as a part of the big Gamgee family, in a part of the Shire that he knew every tree and stone of, had never prepared him for. His companions were all strange to him -- Men, Elf, Dwarf, races he'd only ever heard of in travelers' tales, and the only one known to him lost in the Shadow forever.

But Sam could have lived with that. He found he actually liked his companions, trusted them to help Mr. Frodo in any way they could -- except for Boromir, who Sam had resolved to keep a watchful eye on. However, it was not the strange glint in Boromir's eyes that made Sam uncomfortable; it was the way the three people closest to Sam had changed. Especially Mr. Frodo, who was the reason Sam was on this strange journey in the first place.

He didn't like the way Frodo looked lately one bit. It was as if he was wearing the weight of the world on his shoulders and had no one to help him carry it -- and Sam wanted nothing more than do just that. It had always been what he did, helping Mr. Frodo, making sure he was alright, but now Sam wasn't sure if his help was wanted anymore, or if it would even make a difference.

Thinking about it at night, lying on the hard ground, the moistness of the early morning dew seeping through his blanket and making him shiver, Sam figured that this was the crux of the matter. Taking care of Mr. Frodo had always been the center of what Sam was, and feeling it slip away from him scared him like nothing else had ever done, not even the ring wraiths or the Balrog.

Sam looked around the dark campsite, over to where Legolas was standing guard, Elven eyes roaming the forest, ears searching for any unusual sound. Sam sighed, and Legolas looked over, making sure that everything was alright. Yes, Sam thought as the archer pointed his attention elsewhere again, it must be fear of losing Mr. Frodo that had him so troubled.

He looked over to the other side, where Merry and Pippin were curled up around each other. Pippin was almost on top of Merry, held there securely by strong hands, making it hard to tell where one hobbit ended and the other began. Sam suddenly tasted something cold and slightly bitter in his mouth. Those two were lucky -- they had each other, now more than ever. And Sam, who had he, now that Mr. Frodo was drifting away from him more and more?

Quickly Sam checked his train of thought. This was another new feeling, this envy, which made Sam feel petty and ugly, and he wouldn't stand for it. He should be glad for Merry and Pippin, and he really was, at least most of the time.

They had always been close, but, like everything, they had changed, too, and so had their relationship. Sam figured that it had always been there, this love, harder and deeper than it had any business being between two lads -- but it would probably have remained dormant had they stayed in the Shire and played with the lasses. Instead they had gone away with Frodo and Sam, with only each other to hold on to. And hold on to each other they had, with all the perseverance and single-mindedness that they had used for pranks and mischief in the Shire.

They were still close to their old selves during the day, although the change in them was obvious to someone who had known them as long as Sam had. Still, they came close at times, cheering the others up in the process. Yet, looking at them, there was something that told Sam that their seemingly carefree behavior during the day was made possible during the nights. The tangle of legs and arms, breath coming and going in the exact same rhythm, nightmares shared and soothed, the whispered endearments and stolen kisses -- this was what gave them the strength to carry on. Sometimes, now, these nighttime Merry and Pippin seemed more real than their daytime counterparts.

Sam only wished he had someone to draw on for strength in the same way.

But wishing would bring him nowhere, least of all to Mount Doom with Mr. Frodo. He would be watchful and keep not just one but both eyes on his Master. It didn't matter so much that Frodo seemed to be pushing everyone away and withdrawing into himself more and more since Lothlorien -- Sam wanted to be there for him, help him carry his burden. He didn't need Frodo to look at him the way Merry looked at Pippin.

At least that was what Sam was trying to tell himself as he watched Pippin burying his head in Merry's neck, while Mr. Frodo was lying on the other side of the fire, as far away from the others as possible.

Sam didn't need to see those blue eyes, which seemed almost unearthly these days and far, far away, to know that Frodo was awake and fighting his demons, alone. Maybe back in the Shire there might have been something in those eyes that asked for Sam's help, for his presence, his comfort -- at least Sam had sometimes liked to think so -- but now that was gone, replaced by fire and shadow and a responsibility too heavy for those slim shoulders.

Seeing Merry smooth back Pippin's curls, tenderly chasing away yet another nightmare of Gandalf falling, Sam felt something weighing in his chest, hard and cold and lonely. Their presence was at once the best and the worst thing for him. Looking at Merry and Pippin sparked hope in his heart, a spark that was extinguished whenever his eyes met Frodo's and all he could see in them were weariness and distrust, quickly hidden behind the cool blue surface of an empty mirror.

Sam hadn't expected it to be so different.