Sam’s Hand Should Not Be Broken

by Auntkimby

For you, RosieCotton, with love.

November 20, 1420.

Sam heard the kitchen clock chime the hour of five, and he sleepily rolled over and automatically reached out for Rosie. He grasped the empty air and remembered with a sigh that his dearest was staying at Tom and Marigold’s place for a week, assisting with the care of their newborn daughter, Bell. Sam pushed the covers back and shivered as he quickly dressed; the temperature had dropped dramatically overnight and the floor felt cold beneath his feet. Mr. Frodo was still asleep, or at least Sam hoped he was still asleep. At least he had made it to his bedroom last night; many mornings Sam found him asleep in his chair in the sitting room, a book held limply in his hands or at his writing desk with his head pillowed on his arms, a pen forgotten between his fingers, and the pages of the Red Book open beneath. Sam always suspected each time that Mr. Frodo had been awake nearly all the night before, and had only just dozed off as day broke.

Sam put a kettle on for tea, and then built up the fires in the kitchen and the study hearths first so these two favorite rooms of Frodo’s would be thoroughly warmed by the time he wakened. He went to the sitting room next, and saw through the round window that the grass was covered by a fine shimmering frost that glistened in the early morning sunlight.

“A bit early for a frost, but it’s happened before,” he mused. “I hope my Rose doesn’t lose her footing on Tom’s front walk-those stones might be slippery.” Their first child was not due until spring, but Rose was already round as a barrel, and Sam thought she had never looked more beautiful. She was basking in a maternal glow that made the sun seem dim by comparison, and she had been sewing and knitting clothes and blankets enough for ten babies. Sam had come home one evening and found Rosie knitting a tiny cap and Frodo holding the skein of yarn for her as they chatted pleasantly in the sitting room. It pleased Sam that Rose and Mr. Frodo had grown so close; she was one of the few who could coax a genuine smile from him, besides himself and Merry and Pippin. The two cousins were still living at Crickhollow, and having more fun than perhaps was seemly for the future Master of Buckland and Thain of the Shire. However, after all they had been through, they were more than entitled to some pleasurable pursuits, Sam thought. They visited Frodo often, and he was always glad to see them, but even the presence of his beloved younger cousins still could not erase the sadness from his eyes, or the wistful sighs that often escaped him when he thought no one was there to hear. The hurts of being the Ringbearer still lingered heavily upon his master, and Sam wished with all his heart that he could do something to drive them away more quickly so that Frodo could once again enjoy life in his beloved Shire.

“Good morning, Sam. It looks like we’ve had a frost.”

Sam turned around with a smile. “Aye, Mr. Frodo, we have. It does look rather pretty in the early mornin’ sun, doesn’t it?”

“Indeed it does,” Frodo returned the smile, and he seemed more refreshed and at ease this morning than he had since his illness in October. As if he heard Sam’s thoughts, he added, “I fell asleep shortly after nine o’clock last night, and only just woke a few minutes ago. I have not slept that well in many weeks.”

“I’m pleased to hear it, Mr. Frodo. I woke earlier than usual, myself, as I’m not used to…”

He stopped and blushed, and Frodo laughed. “You are no longer used to sleeping alone. Really, it’s all right to say such things to me, Sam. Bag End feels empty enough to me without Rosie here, so I can only imagine how it is for you. When did she say she would return?”

“She’ll be home at the end of the week, sir. This is the first niece, after all; her other brothers have had all lads, and Rosie an’ her mum are overjoyed to have a wee lass to fuss over.” Sam added a few pieces of kindling to the fire. “There’s tea fixed in the kitchen, Mr. Frodo, an’ after I bring in some more wood, I’ll make first breakfast. My porridge doesn’t match up to Rosie’s, but I could fix that, and a nice fry up of tomatoes and bacon, if that would suit you, sir.”

“Thank you, Sam, I am famished this morning. I would like that very much.”

Elated to see his dear master much more his old self today, Sam whistled as he got his jacket and headed out to the woodshed for an armload of kindling. He piled his arms with wood, almost too high to see where he was going, a habit from his childhood days when he tried to carry as many logs as his elder brothers, Hamson and Halfred. Sam decided to cut through the more level garden path with his burden, even though going down the hill was quicker.

Sam kept several dozen four-inch-high clay pots for seedlings lined up neatly on a stone bench beside the path for easy access while working in the flower and herb gardens. One of these tiny pots, already perched precariously near the edge, succumbed to a puff of wind and tumbled from the bench, and rolled to a stop in the middle of the flagstone walk. Sam, unable to see the ground beneath him, stepped on it with all the force of his forward stride and a huge armload of wood. He uttered a cry of surprise as his feet went out from under him and the firewood sailed into the air, and he desperately threw out his arm for balance. There was a sickening crack as his weight came down on his right wrist, and hot shooting pain raced up his arm. Sam grabbed his wrist and groaned with frustration and anger, muttering a few words that would have earned him a mouthful of soap as a lad.

“Sam!”

Sam looked up and saw with astonishment and distress that Frodo was running toward him, clad only in his nightshirt and thin dressing gown in the early morning chill.
“Mr. Frodo, what’s the matter?” Sam exclaimed.

“You’re the matter, Sam,” Frodo returned, dropping to his knees next to Sam, not heeding the cold or the roughness of the stones digging into his skin. “I heard you cry out in pain.”

“Did I make that much noise?” Sam asked, mortified. “I was just startled, sir; I was hurryin’ down the path, not mindin’ my step like a ninnyhammer, an’ next thing I knew I was sitting on my bottom an’ wood all over the place. It’s really nothin’, sir.”

“I’ll be the judge of that,” Frodo said quietly. “Let me have a look at your hand, Sam.”

Over Sam’s protests, Frodo took Sam’s arm and gently raised it to have a look at the rapidly swelling wrist. The other hobbit stifled a gasp of pain.

“Can you move it at all?” Frodo asked. “Can you move your fingers?”

“Mr. Frodo, it’s really nothin’. You’ll catch cold, sir, out here dressed like that…”

Frodo gave him a look that silenced him at once. “Sam…can you move your wrist or your fingers at all?”

Sam gritted his teeth with pain as he manipulated first his wrist, and then his reddened, puffy fingers. “I can’t move my first two fingers, sir,” he admitted, shame in his voice.

“You’ve broken them, then,” Frodo said softly, “though I think the wrist is merely badly sprained. I know the healer is not at home at present; the one time in twenty years she decides to take a holiday.” He helped Sam to his feet. “I’m afraid you’re stuck with me, dear Sam, to offer what aid I can. I do know a thing or two about setting broken bones, however; come along inside.”

“Y-you do?” Sam asked with a note of wariness in his voice. Frodo chuckled. “I saw it done often enough at Brandy Hall when I was a lad-and I was the one with the broken bones at least twice due to my childhood escapades. Also, do you remember when Pippin fell from the balcony in Rivendell and broke his arm during our second week there? I think you might have been exploring Elrond’s kitchens when it happened, but Merry and I were there while they set the bone, and it turned into an impromptu lesson in case we should need to know how to do that while on our journey.” They had reached the kitchen, and Frodo pulled out a chair. “Have a seat, Sam.” The other sat down carefully, still sore from his fall on the unforgiving ground.

Frodo poured a basin of steaming water from the kettle. “When that cools sufficiently to not burn you, but still provide heat, soak your wrist in that. I will get the things I need to fashion a finger-sized splint, and make you some tea that will help ease the pain.”

The throbbing in his wrist pounded in Sam’s temples, and he felt slightly sick to his stomach. “You don’t have to go to all this trouble, Mr. Frodo,” he managed.

Frodo looked at him with a mixture of affection and exasperation. “Sam, you old donkey, as if I would allow you to endure this agony in favor of waiting for the healer to return. Besides, it is the very least I can do for you.”

He brewed the tea for Sam, and urged him to sip it slowly while he found bandages and two small, stiff pieces of wood that Sam used to stake beans in the garden. Frodo used a knife to whittle them down to hobbit finger size, and then returned to the kitchen.

“All right, my dear Sam, we’ll give that athelas tea a few more minutes to work, because when I set the bones, it’s going to hurt a little, I’m afraid.”

Sam swallowed visibly before he replied, “I appreciate that honesty, Mr. Frodo.”

The clock ticked on the wall, and chimed seven times.

“And you’ve not even had breakfast, nor even your own first cup of tea yet,” Sam mourned.

Frodo patted his uninjured hand. “I’ll make breakfast this morning, Sam, in fact, probably the grandest breakfast ever served in Bag End since it will be both first and second breakfast combined, by the time we get this little task finished. I make a rather decent fry-up myself, you know. All right, dear Sam, let’s have that hand.”

Sam winced as Frodo took his hand; Frodo saw for the first time that the palm was skinned and bloodied from the fall as well. He tried to focus on the swollen fingers, and to set the bones as he had been taught, but as he stared down at Sam’s hand he was nearly overwhelmed in a rush of emotion.

This hand of Sam’s…his strong right hand…Frodo’s throat tightened as he stroked the three uninjured fingers and a thousand memories flooded his mind.
That strong right hand that could both tenderly sponge a fevered brow and fiercely wield an elven sword; that strong right hand that pulled him to safety through the trapdoor in Cirith Ungol and carried him up the blazing slope of Mount Doom; that strong right hand that Frodo had felt grasping his wounded hand when he wakened in Cormallen and nervously held it under the table as they were honoured at the victory banquet…Sam’s strong, faithful, beloved right hand…Frodo could not bear to think of what could have happened without it, and him.

“Sir?” Sam asked, worried.

Frodo looked up at him, tears glistening in his eyes. “Sam’s hand should not be broken,” he whispered.

Unable to understand his master’s emotion, Sam tried to comfort him. “It’s not broken, sir, only the two fingers, an’ they’ll mend. I’m sure I’ll be able to do most of my work…”

Frodo swallowed hard and regained his composure. “That’s the very least of my worries, dear Sam. Come now…let’s have a look at those fingers.”

Frodo worked as quickly as possible while Sam clenched his teeth and valiantly stifled the howl of pain he dearly wanted to release. At last the fingers were splinted properly, and Sam held up his hand to survey the results.

“I think you missed your callin’, Mr. Frodo,” he said. “I don’t think the healer could have done a better job.”

“Thank you, Sam, though I think you’d have a few less fingernail marks in the kitchen table if had been the healer,” Frodo observed regretfully.

The clock chimed eight, and their stomachs chose that moment to rumble loudly.

“A decent fry-up you said, sir?”

‘Yes, I did. Bacon, tomatoes, fried bread, everything. It’s the perfect after-bone-setting meal.”

“Thank you, sir,” Sam said quietly.

Frodo looked at him, and all the love in his heart was in his voice when he replied, “My dear Sam, I could do no less.”