A Night Below Lorien

~ For kaly, who lets me talk her into silliness.

He knew what Sam was thinking. He knew what everyone was thinking; it wasn't so obvious that only the blind, or the object of affections could miss it. He knew how Sam felt -- it would have been impossible to miss, years before this much less in the long weeks spent side by side. Impossible to misunderstand, despite however the others might think he did.

Merry and Pippin had even taking to sounding him out, searching for clues and trying to drop the subtlest of hints. He'd been as oblivious as he could without insulting them -- or letting on he knew. Their concern for him, and for Sam, touched him, and he was as grateful as he could be for such friends. He almost wished he could just take them aside, and tell them, and ease their minds.

But telling them that would have meant telling them why, and telling anyone why was out of the question. *She* knew, but he thought she was not in the business of telling secrets to more than those who held them. The lady elf would keep his secrets and say nothing -- matters of mortals hearts even less her concern than other things.

So he knew as long as he did nothing, everything would be... not fine, but as well in hand as he could possibly hope. His friends would not understand, and Sam himself would be hurt -- but would be less hurt than if he had acknowledged those looks in his friend's eyes, or responded to those fleeting touches, or did as he truly wanted to do and took Sam someplace private, far away from the friendly, eavesdropping ears that would pretend not to notice until the next day when there would be smiles and whispers and a ceasing of the hints dropped.

What he would give to lie in the arms of a lover, with or without the comfort of finally letting go of all the fears in his head and stoppered words in his throat?

But he could not, and dare not consider it even for fantasy. For he knew what he must do, and though he feared doing it, he did know one thing. He could not let even the slightest hint of his intentions show, else his friends would follow, despite him. Sam, especially, if he knew his love returned, would not stop until they had walked together to the edges of Mount Doom.

So the only way to keep him safe, was not to love him, too.