It was years ago that he began to take fond note of Sam's hands.
The hands of a hobbit of the garden, of the earth, of the Shire. Never completely clean, with traces of dirt always work-worn into the joining of nail and finger, into every tiny crease, caught on rough edges and sometimes caked with careless abandon after long afternoons of lovingly tilling small patches of soil on his hands and knees.
In the garden, they always moved with gentle purpose. Frodo has long been convinced that Sam could find and pull weeds with his eyes shut, just by the feel of them. He knows what to pluck out and what to leave, when to plant and which areas need to rest and recover before growing anything again. There's a wisdom involved that Frodo could never even hope to grasp.
Wisdom that can be seen, if anyone pays close enough attention. The calluses could be a map: one for the carrot patch, another for the cabbages, a few for each kind of flower he nurtures into blooming health. And several, so many, for the potatoes. "My Dad'd have my head if I turned out bad potatoes, I tell you that," he used to say. He needn't have worried. Sam's potatoes always showed the Gamgee expertise.
And yet tough as they are, Sam's hands can be hurt in so many ways. There was an accident one day, years ago; Frodo heard a startled yelp from outside the window and went out to find Sam tying a strip of old cloth around his hand. "Sam, no," he admonished, and took Sam inside to carefully clean the wounded area. He wiped every trace of dirt from one small patch of skin, on just the one finger, and it seemed to shine brightly, surrounded by darker dirt with a slash of red in the middle. And there were blisters, small scars, tiny half-healed knicks and scrapes that lessened the potential relief of putting on the bandage; Frodo could still see the signs that even those strong hands were not invulnerable. "There now," he said softly. "Shall we have some tea?"
"Thank you, Mr. Frodo, but there ain't no call to be takin' breaks over stuff small as this." Sam shrugged and wiggled his fingers. "I'd never get anything done in that case."
Tireless, his hands are. The stuff has gotten bigger, more dangerous, and still Sam goes on. These days, his hands tend to curl into defensive fists even while he sleeps, and Frodo can see the sturdy solid shape, the compact form and the deep folds spreading from within, easing out into scraped knuckles. Still dirty, always dirty, but with foreign grime that should never have touched Sam's hands. Cut and bruised by things other than shears. Some mornings, it's hard to look at Sam, because Frodo sees his hands and flushes with guilt at the changes brought about because of him.
The long and short of it is that he's realized that Sam's hands, these things of wonder, tell the story of Sam himself. And sometimes, lately, Frodo wants to touch them, kiss them gently, leave marks that may be invisible but which will be remembered. He wants to be written into Sam's hands, into Sam, forever, as something other than the cause of pain and injury. He feels like he may have lost his chance to do that.
Because he learned to love Sam's hands long ago. But he never understood how much that meant.