I wake up screaming.
Not that that’s anything new – I’ve woken up screaming every night since I got my memory back. And some nights before that, to be honest.
Almost as soon as my scream has died away, though, I feel Sam’s arms holding me tight. He rocks me gently. I look up at him, and with a sad smile he brushes away my tears. I bury my face in the front of his shirt and we sit like that for a while, while I cry and he cries a little, too – tears for me, because he doesn’t want me to feel any pain. Finally I wriggle out of his arms and climb off the bed.
“I hate this so much,” I say, going to the window and looking out. “It’s over, but it isn’t. It seems so unfair.”
“I know,” says Sam. “I don’t like seeing you this way.”
I laugh bitterly. “I don’t like burdening you.”
“I know. I know. But that’s how I feel.”
“Dearest, you aren’t a burden to me.” He gets up and places his hand on my shoulder. I lean my cheek down onto his hand, catching his arm in my grasp and holding on tight. He wraps his arms around me from behind. I lay back, covering his arms with my hands, leaning against him. He kisses the side of my head once, very gently.
“Do you want to talk?”
“No. Just hold me.”
He obeys, kissing my head again, then burying his face in my hair.
“Do you want to go back to sleep?” he asks, his voice muffled by my hair.
“I couldn’t sleep.”
He straightens up, lets me go, and holds out his hand to me. “Well, let’s go for a walk, then.”
He shrugs. “Envin’s, I guess?”
I give a laugh. That room is certainly not Envin’s anymore. Now it has been completely taken over by Merry and Pippin every time that Merry needs medicine, rest, tea, or anything else that Pippin and Sam prescribe for him. Envin is practically their servant. Tonight Merry is there for some medicine and poultices. I smile. “Alright. Let’s go to Envin’s.” I reach out. Instantly, his fingers clasp my own. He runs his thumb along the back of my hand and smiles at me. I smile back, and we head out the door of our room and down the hall.
I realize at once that maybe I should have put on something warmer than just my thin nightshirt. It’s plenty warm in my bed, with Sam beside me – Sam, who is always warm even when it’s colder than ice outside – and about fifteen quilts on top of me, but out here it’s freezing cold. I shiver. Even my bed felt cold tonight without the extra warmth of Merry and Pippin.
“Am I the only one who finds it strange that all four of them want to share the same bed?” Envin huffed once.
“Yes, you are,” said Pippin, sticking out his tongue.
“We provided each of you with a fully furnished room, each with a bed the same size as the one you all insist on squeezing into. Why bother sharing?”
“We like sharing,” said Merry, “and we want to be extra warm, right?”
Envin would never understand. We needed to be close. So many times, we had been afraid we would lose each other. All of my nightmares are about fire or losing Sam, so waking up without him right beside me, arms around me, heart beneath my head – unthinkable. Envin’s always been rather clueless, though.
We open the door. Sam lets me into the room first, and I sigh. It’s warm here. There’s a fire crackling in the hearth. Pippin jumps up from the chair where he is strapping bandages to Merry’s arm.
“Doctor Sam! You’re here!” He hugs Sam tight. “And you too, Frodo!” he says, hugging me.
“Hello!” calls Merry from the bed. “Forgive me for my rudeness. I would hug you, but Pippin has me securely wrapped up in here and I can’t get away.”
“Doctor Sam,” says Pippin, “I have given him his medicine, I have wrapped him in bandages, and I have applied the kisses to his face! Envy kind of left us.”
“Good job, but he doesn’t really need bandages. His arm isn’t bleeding anymore,” Sam says.
Pippin shrugs. “Eh, you always want to be careful.”
“Alright,” laughs Sam. “If you want to be really careful, you can.”
“Oh, and Sam, can you please check this medicine? Because it says it erases the final trace of pain from a wound that’s almost healed, or something like that.” Pippin holds up a bottle. “And here’s a list of medicines and their ingredients. Can you try to find this one?”
“‘Course I will,” says Sam. He goes over to a table and sits down, examining the bottle.
“Frodo!” Pippin turns his attention to me and nuzzles his head into my shoulder. “Come sleep with us? Please?”
“Please?” calls Merry.
Sam looks over at me, knowing I was scared to go back to sleep, but I smile. “It’s alright,” I say. Pippin tugs on my arm, tugging me towards the big bed Merry is bundled up in. I lay down, and the two of them snuggle against me.
“Yay!” says Pippin, and I kiss the top of his head. “Night-night,” he mutters, and falls asleep. Merry yawns and follows him into dreams. I look over at Sam, sitting at the table reading the ingredient list carefully. That sight comforts me. I hug Merry and Pippin tighter, and then I am aware of nothing.
I wake up and my cousins are still asleep. Quietly, so as not to wake them, I crawl out of bed. It must be early morning. Sam seems to have fallen asleep reading the ingredients. I smile, take a blanket from the end of the bed, and tuck it around his shoulders. I kiss his cheek.
“Sleep well,” I murmur. I’m about start down the hall to our room to get our bags. We’re leaving for Minas Tirith soon – all of us are well enough to leave the Houses of Healing – but as I take my hands off of his shoulders, one of his hands flies up and seizes mine.
“Frodo,” Sam groans in his sleep. I kiss the hand that clutches mine.
“It’s alright,” I say. “I’m alright.” I gently untwine his fingers from mine, and then slip away and out the door.