so um I wrote a sad thing about the hobbits
When Rose Gamgee looks at Sam, she sees something in his eyes that was never there before. The innocent expression that used to fill his gaze is lost now, replaced by fear, pain, regret. Sometimes when she speaks to him he doesn’t hear her for a moment, and when she reaches out and touches his arm to get his attention, he jumps and gasps and jerks away from her in terror. Sometimes she catches him staring into the distance with an empty look on his face, as if he is remembering something he never wants to think of again, some memory that haunts him in the night and drags him down into darkness. Sometimes she sees an unquenchable rage burning in his eyes, a fire that roars and consumes and tears at his soul until he is blinded by it, fighting an invisible foe, clutching a weapon that isn’t there. In those moments, Rosie feels afraid, afraid that her usually sweet and gentle husband has gone off the deep end, that there is no coming back. But then the moment passes, and Sam looks at her with anguish in his eyes, and he sits as Rosie rubs his back, and he sobs brokenly until he has no tears left to cry.
When Fredegar Bolger, Fatty no more, sees his once best friend Frodo, he is always concerned to find a haunted gaze resting in Frodo’s once peaceful blue eyes. Frodo sits quaking in his seat, as his nine fingers, scarred and torn, finger a chain that hangs around his neck, as he stares ahead with an empty look that chills whoever it falls upon to the bone. Frodo’s gaze whispers suffering, as he sits with Sam in the Green Dragon, and tries to be happy, but fails. Fredegar sees the tears glistening in Frodo’s eyes as he looks around him, as he sees hobbits laughing and talking and acting like normal, when Frodo knows he never can be normal again. Fredegar sees him, with pain etched on his face, tucking his four-fingered hand in the pocket of his jacket, and feeling for something that is no longer there, and he sees how Frodo is lost, trembling and staring with a hollow gaze, his eyes leading to a barren soul that has been crushed by the world. Sometimes he closes his eyes, and then Fredegar sees him weep, burdened by something no one but himself knows the actual weight of, longing to be free, to be lighthearted again, but knowing that is impossible.
When Pearl Took looks at her brother Pippin, she sometimes catches a sad look in his normally cheerful eyes, a remembrance of something that broke his heart. When she cranes her neck to look up at him, marveling at his astonishing height, she sometimes sees tears hiding behind his laughter, a broken heart shuddering deep inside his soul. No longer the innocent and carefree lad she used to know, Pippin has become something much greater than Pearl ever could have imagined, almost like a giant looming over her head, a giant who understands so much more of the world than anyone in the Shire ever had before. Sometimes Pearl shivers when she sees him sitting with Merry, drinking an ale, for Pippin laughs harshly, long and loud, to cover the emotion buried in the depths of his eyes, and he sloshes his ale around and speaks with fumbled words, but he is not fooling her. He is still perfectly rational when he does this, which she knows whenever she sees him holding back a sob, pressing his fist hard over his mouth or leaning against Merry, who is silent and understands what Pearl cannot.
When Esmeralda Brandybuck looks at her son, who in only a year has shot up well over the heads of anyone in the family, she sees a gravity resting in his hazel eyes, a sorrow that he cannot always hide. He does his best to cover the jagged brown scar on his forehead, but sometimes it shows through his messy hair, and then Esmeralda wonders, and wishes she could know what haunts him. She sees the way he draws his cloak tightly about him, the way he tucks his helm, inscribed with strange symbols, under his arm, as though he is recalling a painful memory, and she sees the way he strokes the muzzle of the white pony he brought home with him, talking to it in a broken voice and speaking strange names she cannot comprehend. Esmeralda knows he does not sleep at night, for often she will hear him, sobbing in his bedroom, or flailing in his bedsheets and crying out, and she wants to go to him and comfort him, but the fierceness, the withdrawal, she sees in his eyes gives her pause. She notices the way he holds his arm, wincing as though in great pain, as shivers wrack his body, and she wishes she knew how to help him, how to heal his hurts, but during those times Merry sits with Pippin, and they are quiet together, remembering.
And many hobbits notice the four of them, sitting off at a table together in the Green Dragon, not really drinking their ale, but just sitting and staring into the depths of their mugs. They notice the way Frodo breathes tensely sometimes, as though something is binding his chest, or suffocating him, the way he clutches the chain around his neck as if it is the one thing that can save him from whatever haunts him. They see the protectiveness of Sam, who lingers, touching Frodo’s arm, trying to bring him back, but they also notice the pain in Sam’s eyes, the emotion as he grips the handle of his mug, and remembers humans and dwarves and elves, and deep shadows and screams and eyes leering at him from the dark. They see the brashness of Pippin, who smiles and laughs, who raises his mug and drains it noisily, but who cannot use his bravado to cover the terror that rests in his eyes when he remembers the stench of bodies, and the smell of burning flesh, and the helplessness he felt when he found his cousin wandering senseless and wounded. And they see the way Merry holds his arm, cradling it as though it pains him, smiling but not laughing, his hair partially concealing a gash on his forehead that whispers tales of torment, as he remembers standing cold and weeping by the body of one whom he loved as a father, as he leans close to Pippin for security, the two relying on each other for strength.
They see the four hobbits, and they wonder, especially when their number drops to three. For then Sam becomes even sadder, staring at an empty chair where another should have sat, and Pippin laughs even louder, but clutches his mug with knuckles stained white from the intensity of his grip, and Merry wraps his arm in his cloak, and shivers, and smiles no more.
They see, and they wonder, and they do not understand.
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