Many thanks to FrodoDoesNotLeave/CRB for her help with getting Sam right!
Sam was worried about Frodo.
In spite of his weariness and irritation at their wandering attempts to find a path through the bleak hills, Frodo had seemed in good enough spirits that morning. A nice breakfast of lembas and water had put some heart back into them both, after the cold night they had spent in the shelter of a stony hollow. It was a dreary business scrabbling about amidst the rocks of the Emyn Muil, seeking a way down to the flatter lands to the East; but Frodo had seemed relieved to be on his way, and the difficult terrain had not bothered him. At least, not at first.
Now as they walked, he seemed ill at ease, stopping at times to listen, or to look over his shoulder, as if worried that something or someone was following them. He must be thinking of that Gollum, thought Sam. They had seen something that had seemed like eyes looking out at them from the rocks on their first evening alone, and it had given them quite a turn. But there had been nothing since then, and Sam was convinced they had given the creature the slip.
Midmorning came, and they stopped for a rest. Sam observed Frodo closely as he handed him the water skin and urged him to drink. Frodo took it and drank thirstily, but he continued to look back over his shoulder in the direction from whence they had come. There was an odd expression on his face -- worried, yet at the same time, wistful.
"Don't you be fretting about the others now, Mr. Frodo," said Sam, putting aside his own worry and trying to inject some cheerfulness into his voice. "Strider'll look after them, they'll all be fine. I know we were worrying that day we left, when we thought we'd heard that Horn of Boromir's blowin' from across the water -- but I'm sure 'twas just them trying to find us in the woods. Why, I expect they've been lucky enough to find an easy path down to the plain and are already well on their way to Boromir's White City, by now... That ought to make Boromir happy, at least, since that's all he's been thinking about, lately..."
Frodo glanced up warily at the mention of Boromir, then started in sudden fear at the sliding sound of rock falling somewhere behind him. He leapt to his feet and put a hand to his sword, as if he expected an enemy to spring out at him.
"Mr. Frodo!" exclaimed Sam. "What's wrong? It's naught but rock falling, beggin' your pardon, sir... that's been happening over and over again since we started this trip through these wretched hills. Why, do you think we're still being followed by that Gollum?"
Frodo sighed and sat down heavily.
"I'm sorry, Sam," he replied. "I am feeling a bit on edge. Forgive me."
He struggled visibly to calm himself, but he still could not keep from looking over his shoulder once more.
"It's not Gollum I'm worried about," said Frodo in a low voice. "There are others who might be following..."
"Who?" asked Sam, puzzled. "Strider? And why'd we be afraid of him? I'd be happy to see Strider again, I would! He'd find a way out of this maze quick enough."
"No... not Strider..."
Sam leaned forward, and grasping Frodo's arm, looked him sternly in the face.
"Something's happened, hasn't it? Tell me!" he demanded. "Who's it you're afraid of, master, and why?"
A distant, secretive look appeared briefly in Frodo's eyes; then his head drooped, and heaving a long, shuddering sigh, he covered his face with his hands.
"I delayed too long, Sam, and he was done with waiting," moaned Frodo. "The Ring was too strong! He tried to take it from me."
Sam felt sudden, intense fury like a hot wave flowing over him.
"Boromir!" he said in a flat, strangled voice. "You mean -- Boromir tried..."
Sam fell silent, unable to say the words.
"Yes," sighed Frodo. "Boromir tried to take the Ring."
"Did he hurt you?"
"No!" replied Frodo firmly. "No, he did not hurt me... though he might have, had I been slower. He... he tried to grab hold of me, but I put the rock between us."
Frodo shook his head sorrowfully.
"Oh, Sam! He did not touch me, yet it did hurt... It hurt to see him so... to see the madness... His fair face was changed so that I hardly knew him!"
"And you're thinking he might be following us? To try it again?"
"No.. yes... I don't know!" stammered Frodo. "He seemed so desperate; I can't help but think he would try again... the Ring is that strong -- It would twist him again if It could! And yet, I wonder... I wonder if he would be all right, once I had gone. I almost think I heard him calling after me as I ran from him, calling out that he was sorry... But I couldn't really hear, not well, anyway, for I had put on the Ring. I might be wrong..."
Frodo looked up into Sam's eyes, and the expression on his face was one of hope mixed with dread. "He would have recovered his senses, surely? After I took myself away?"
Looking at Frodo in amazement, Sam suddenly understood that the fear and sorrow his master felt now was not for himself, but for Boromir.
Sam was surprised to feel the edge of his own anger dulled by this revelation. He drew in a deep breath to steady himself before speaking.
"Tell me what happened, Mr. Frodo. Tell me everything."
So Frodo told him -- how Boromir had come upon him suddenly in the forest, and had tried to convince him to go to Minas Tirith. He told how Boromir had grown angry and impatient with fear and longing, and of the madness that had suddenly changed him. He told how he had run from the Man, and of everything that had happened afterwards to bring himself to the point of deciding to set out for Mordor alone.
When Frodo had ended his tale, he sighed and fell silent, then sat with his head bowed over his drawn-up knees. Sam watched him for a long time and did not speak, as he mulled over in his mind all he had heard from Frodo and seen for himself on their journey. A small tear trickled down his cheek, at the thought of his master's suffering, and in one part of his mind the sturdy hobbit wondered at how Boromir could have fallen so far... they'd talked about the gardens in his fair White City... they'd talked about his Rosie, waiting for him back home in the Shire... He knew he ought to be very angry with the Man, but he felt sorry, somehow, at what had happened. That look on his dear master's face, and the worry in his voice, moved Sam, though he could not have put into words exactly what was taking place within his own heart. He only knew he was sorry, and sad.
Frodo broke the silence with another sigh, and looking carefully at his master, Sam saw a faint smile upon his face -- a smile of relief, perhaps, at having finally shared the burden of his secret sorrow over Boromir's betrayal. But the smile was only there for a moment, replaced soon by a look of regret.
"I did not want anyone else to be hurt by my indecision," Frodo said sadly, "and so I left to make my way to Mordor alone. If I had stayed, who else might the Ring have tempted? Aragorn? Merry and Pippin? I should have parted with the Company long ago; it would have been better for all of us."
Frodo glanced up suddenly at Sam and smiled.
"But I couldn't escape you, could I, Sam?"
"No, you couldn't, and it's a good thing, too!" replied Sam stoutly.
"I wish I'd left sooner," said Frodo, as if to himself. "It is my fault Boromir fell; if I'd gone sooner, perhaps he'd not have been tempted beyond his endurance..."
"Maybe," said Sam doubtfully. "But don't you go takin' on more than your fair share of the blame, Mr. Frodo. It's hard enough deciding things for oneself day in and day out, but to have to decide things that affect the whole world? Well, that's more than should be expected of any hobbit, or Man, for that matter! I think you've done fine so far, sir, and I'll not hear any more of you second-guessing yourself. What's done is done, and we have to go on from here, like it or not. Like I said before, they'll be fine... Strider'll look after 'em, and I'm going to look after you. Even if Boromir does come after us, I'll be here to talk some sense into him. Maybe he's been taken in bad by that horrible Ring, but he's still a good Man underneath. He's more than that, even, he's a lord! He's got to think higher, or different, somehow, to other Men! He'll listen to reason, I expect, sir, and if he don't, I'll make him listen."
Frodo smiled fondly at Sam.
"You are right, of course, Sam. I am glad you are here with me to remind me of these things."
Sam looked thoughtfully back in the direction of the lake, and Frodo knew he was thinking of the friends they had left behind.
"Thing is," Sam said musingly, "I'm thinkin' that Boromir won't be following after us. Sure, it makes me plain mad to think of him trying to hurt you -- him bein' so much bigger and all; he should've known better! But you say he might've been sorry, and I think you may be right. He near as said as much himself, that day we parted company. Not with words, maybe, but you could tell he was sad, come to think of it."
Frodo looked up startled and wary.
"He... he said that? You saw him? When?"
"Well," said Sam slowly, trying now to recall all that had happened that morning when things had suddenly fallen apart. "We were all there waitin' for you to decide which way you were going, and he disappeared and I thought he'd gone off to his City like he said he was going to. But then he came back, lookin' kinda upset and all. Strider asked if he's seen you. That's when he said he had, but that he'd gone and upset you -- he said he'd got angry because you wouldn't come with him to Minas Tirith, and he said you put on the Ring. He was right upset about it, I could tell, but I wasn't listening by then -- I was that desperate to find you for fear you'd go off without me. I ran off after you, and I don't know what happened after that. I'm thinking Strider was giving him a talking to, so maybe he'll have helped him settle the matter?"
Frodo looked at Sam hopefully.
"And he seemed... sane to you? Like... like himself, as he was before?"
"Why, yes, sir, surely," replied Sam. "Just upset and sad, like."
Sam scowled suddenly. "He'd better be sorry, that's all I can say! He had no call to try to hurt you like that!"
"Oh, but he did, Sam, he did have call to hurt me -- at least, it would have seemed so to him, if only for a moment. And a moment is all it takes for the Ring to take hold of a person and twist him."
Sam looked at Frodo with grave worry on his face.
"Don't you fret now, Mr. Frodo," he said firmly, trying to keep the fear in his heart from reaching his voice. "I won't let that happen to you. I'm here, and you're safe now. Don't worry about Boromir; Strider'll help him find his way."
"I hope you are right, Sam," sighed Frodo. "I hope you are right!"