West of the Moon

A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive



Hands Off
Pippin wants to see if his older cousins can rein in their natural tendencies at a party.
Author: Mariole
Rating: NC-17
Category: Canon-Humor/Parody


This story was written for the hobbit_smut Livejournal Community "Double Dare" Challenge.

Pairings: Frodo/OFCs, Merry/OFCs (implied)

Warnings: Mild bondage, wild het.


Frodo set down his teacup rather more firmly than was necessary. "I do not, Merry."

"You do, too!"

"You're exaggerating."

"I'm not! You see, Pip." Merry turned towards his younger cousin, who was following the conversation with twinkling eyes and red-faced delight. "Every time Frodo attends a party, he ends up... attending to one of the parties. Every... single... time." Merry lowered his voice and added, "Sometimes he ends up attending to more than one."

Pippin barely smothered his excited giggle and turned shining eyes towards Frodo. Frodo ignored him, favoring Merry with an extremely sour look. "Every time we have one of these conversations, you bring up that silly Hornblower incident.  Every... single... time!"

Merry waved dismissively. "Oh, the Hornblower incident is only the most famous. But let us not forget the Brockbore's summer party, or the festival at Stock--"

"All right, Merry," Frodo interrupted, keen to keep Pippin's eyes from bulging out of his head. "I admit there has been a time or two--"

"Or ten."

"--when I might have ended up..."

"With a lapful of lass."

Frodo narrowed his eyes. "You are not helping matters, Merry."

Merry raised his eyebrows innocently. "Tell me if I'm wrong! When have you ever attended a party of pleasure, and not come away with some winsome wench wrapping herself about your sturdy ramparts? And before you say anything, the harvest party in the Marish doesn't count." Merry turned to explain to Pippin, "Foolish Bert Bogbottom ran through the middle of it, with Maggot's dogs after him. Scattered the party to the four winds before it hardly began."

Frodo, who had in fact been about to mention the Marish harvest party, snapped shut his mouth. It was time to take the high road. He picked up his teacup fussily.

"Pippin, twenty is an interesting age, and you are quite right to ask Merry and me about the... new territory you will shortly be exploring."

Merry whispered to Pippin, "He's a great one for exploring territories, that one." Pippin snickered.

"However," Frodo continued firmly, "Merry is giving you a completely lopsided view of our activities. Here he is, making me out to be the biggest ram in the farthing--"

"Two farthings," Merry interjected, "as we must count the West and East in this case."

"--whilst completely leaving out his own proclivities and prowess, which are rather extensive for one still in the middle of his tweens, if I may say so."

"So what you're telling me," Pippin said, "is that neither you nor Merry are capable of keeping clear of a lass's skirts, if there's one anywhere in the vicinity."

Frodo felt a blush coming on. "That is not what I'm saying at all."

"Not at all!" Merry chimed in. "What he's trying to say is that I cannot keep clear of a lass's skirts, while I'm saying that he can't."

Pippin's eyes gleamed. "Well, I've certainly come to the right smial."

Frodo set down his cup. "Pippin, I'm afraid that Merry is steering you false. The fact is, there are many occasions where neither of us ends up laying a hand upon a lass."

"Really?" Merry arched his brows. "Name two."

"You cannot expect to score every time." Frodo glared at Merry significantly. "Can he, Merry?"

Merry shrugged. "I have no idea what Pippin's capable of. I just know that you can't make any such claim."

Frodo pursed his lips. "For your information, there have been a number of times when I have refrained from setting a finger upon one of the fairer sex."

"Prove it. "Merry leaned forward. "I'd like to see you attend a party--any party--where you did not end up exhaustively satisfying some lass, and need I add, satisfying yourself in the bargain."

Frodo felt his cheeks grow warm. "That is hardly a circumstance a gentlehobbit would admit to."

"Which means I'm right!" Merry crowed. "Frodo cannot attend any social function without fondling some maid. That's all I've been saying."

"And I might say the same of you," Frodo added with some heat. "Incapable of keeping his hands off?" Frodo pointed an accusing finger across the table. "There he sits, Mr. Fondler, himself!"

Merry's eyes narrowed. "Are you turning this into a challenge, Mr. Ram?"

Frodo stopped. He hadn't any idea of making a challenge out of it. But there sat Merry, looking so smug, and there sat Pippin, mesmerized. Frodo assumed a casual air. "If you're challenging me to not lay a hand upon a lass at our next party, then I accept." Frodo pinned Merry with his stare. "But only if you promise to do the same."

Merry answered with a steely smile. "You're on, Mr. Ram. I'll be able to keep my hands in my pockets far more successfully than you'll be able to keep your trousers buttoned, were your hands tied behind your back!"

Pippin squealed. "A challenge! We must have one immediately, Merry, before you have to go home."

"It's summer," Merry pointed out reasonably. "There's nothing going on."

Pippin set his face. "Give me two days, and I'll have something worked out at the Smials. No arguments! I'm putting together a party, and you both had better be there. I'll find out how easily you resist the lasses, once you're put to the test!"

"That will not be a problem," said Frodo stoutly, even while regretting the necessity of putting his hormones on hold for an evening. "I have been raised a gentlehobbit, and will act that role to perfection. You will see nothing but socially acceptable charm from me."

"And I'll see you socializing that charm to perfection," said Merry, "unless I quite miss my guess." Merry chuckled, then sobered. He looked forlornly across the table. "Frodo, what has become of us, when we enter into a competition with each other to not get laid?"

Frodo tried to look indifferent. "We are merely demonstrating the genteel manner of behavior for our tweenage friend. Landing a lass is not the be-all and end-all of every social engagement. We can be refined and witty and enjoy ourselves, without falling into a bed or a barn. That is the important point for Pippin to learn."

Pippin wiggled in his chair. "This is going to be the best party I've ever had."


Frodo was never quite sure how he agreed to it all. Answering the invitation was a given; after all, Pippin had set up the party expressly for him and Merry. But then the three of them had gotten into this ridiculous argument before leaving Frodo's guest room to join it. The combatants being Pippin and Merry, he should have expected the debate to spiral quite beyond sense. Yet even he was unprepared for the heights of lunacy that were to be attained, and allowing for the fact that he was presently in Tuckborough.

"It's a challenge," Pippin argued. "I have to be able to see what both of you are up to."

"Pippin," Frodo sputtered, "I'm not going to be sneaking a feel in the middle of a party!"

"But I don't know that, Frodo. The challenge is for neither you nor Merry to lay a hand upon a lass all evening. Well, I can't be watching your hands all the time. How am I to know that you aren't craftily stroking some tender thing's hand beneath the cover of a table, tricking me into thinking that you are simply chatting about the weather, when a clever finger teased across her palm is really telling her, `Meet me at the second pantry at half past twelve, and don't forget the cream.'"

"That does sound like Frodo," said Merry, making Frodo glare. "I think we had better take steps regarding other possible tricks as well."

"What other tricks?" Frodo cried in frustration. He had been rather counting on the table trick. He wondered if Merry had suggested it earlier, or if Pippin had figured it out on his own. If the latter, his younger cousin might well end up becoming the ram of his generation, as he showed a promising streak of cunning.

"We should neither of us be alone," said Merry. "It would be far too easy to set something up. We must agree that neither of us should leave the party, for any reason, unless Pippin attends us."

"Agreed," said Pippin instantly. "That includes potty breaks. You can go together or separately, but I must be your guide."

"You really shouldn't frown, Frodo," Merry pointed out. "That line between your eyebrows is most unbecoming."

"I accept the escort idea," Frodo said, "but not the rest. For goodness sake, Pippin, people will notice! You can't expect Merry and me to walk in with our..."

"Hands tied behind your backs," supplied Pippin.

"...and not have people notice! What on earth will we tell them?"

"I will tell them that it's a challenge, and it's none of their business." Pippin cocked his head. "You know I'm right, Frodo. I'll never keep track of you, otherwise."

Frodo glowered, then sighed. The length of silk scarf that Pippin held in his hands didn't look inherently uncomfortable. It was more the idea of having his hands compulsorily pulled behind him that made him cringe. He looked at Pippin mournfully.

"That's better." Pippin cheerfully accepted his lapse in verbal protest as compliance. He skipped round behind Frodo. "Now, I won't make this tight, just enough to keep your hands out of the way. We can't have you initiating any unauthorized touches." Silk whispered against Frodo's skin.

"Keep the band wide," Merry suggested, overseeing the process. "And make sure you lay the cloth smoothly. It will bind up and become uncomfortable, else."

"I am entirely eager to learn how you came to know that, Merry." Pippin gave a couple of gentle tugs, then patted Frodo's wrist. "There, how's that?"

Frodo pulled experimentally. The restraint was in fact quite comfortable. Pippin had left enough slack between the wrists that his arms weren't held too severely behind him. "It's... all right."

"Give me a yellow one." Merry's voice held entirely too much enthusiasm. "It will go well with my new waistcoat."


Frodo's entrance into the party was every bit as humiliating as he had imagined, if not more so. What was worse, he saw his humiliation coming before he even set foot inside the door.

Pippin steered his victims down the long corridors of the Smials, towards the second party hall that was the usual place for medium-sized entertainments. The argument and wrist-binding had made them all rather late, so a pleasant chatter and lively music already poured from the open doorway. A few late arrivals were just disappearing inside. Frodo faltered. Oh, no.

"Pippin!" Frodo whispered over his shoulder furiously. "You invited Posy? Posy and Honeysuckle, both?"

Pippin answered smoothly, "I understood they were your... particular friends."

"Ah!" Merry cried. "The temptation thickens! Tell me, Pippin, did you think to invite any of my particular friends?"

"I thought every lass in the farthing was your particular friend," Pippin answered blithely.

"Oh." Merry mulled. "You're probably right, there."

"Step lively, now. The party's already begun!"

Frodo suppressed a groan, as Pippin propelled his charges into the room. There was a two-second pause where everything was normal as could be. Some fifty hobbits milled in various configurations, a dozen or so dancing at the far end of the room where the band had set up, others conversing in clusters here and there, and quite a few spread along the sideboards, helping themselves to a variety of treats and glass cups of some pale, green punch. Then the hobbits nearest the door looked towards them. They paused, the puzzlement clear on their faces. Frodo could only imagine what they must be seeing: the two of them being guided in, hands behind their backs; himself, dour and embarrassed-looking, Merry smirking, and Pippin grinning with glee.

The truth dawned first on Isemson, who knew Pippin well. He smothered a laugh, then called, "I say, Pippin, what have you done to Frodo and Merry? Giving you trouble tonight, are they?"

At his call, everyone looked over--and suddenly the entire room was falling about with laughter. That is to say, almost the entire room. Posy and Honeysuckle had turned quickly round upon hearing Frodo's name. Now their eyes ran over his form, ascertaining his predicament. They both froze, then Posy's eyes went black with lust. Frodo wondered if it was possible to cringe and get an erection at the same time.

"Now, now, just a little bet," Pippin answered cheerily. "Nothing to get excited over."

Posy's expression clearly suggested otherwise. Honeysuckle looked as if she might eat Frodo alive.

Isemson laughed. "So they both lost, eh? What was the wager?"

Pippin tried to look unconcerned. "As it happens, they've neither of them lost... yet."

"Neither lost!" cried Isemson, as a murmur swept the room. "So the wager is still underway, is it?"

"Very much so," said Pippin. "I must ask you all to behave quite normally. Pretend that there's nothing amiss."

Posy smirked. Deliberately, she crossed the small space between herself and Frodo. The entire room watched, fascinated. Even the musicians had stopped playing.

Posy positioned herself directly in front of Frodo, her eyes fixed on his. He wondered if his face was as red as it felt. Posy licked her lips, then said in a sultry voice, "Welcome to the party, Frodo." Then--oh, dear. She wrapped her arms round his neck and pressed her body against his, to Frodo's delight and complete discomfiture. It was warm and soft and luscious, all the way from his thighs to his magically stimulated middle to the clever tongue that pushed into his mouth and began lazily exploring him as he was swept into a deep, passionate kiss.

Somewhere beyond the thudding in his ears, he heard Merry say, bemusedly, "Well, that ended even faster than I had expected. You might as well untie me, Pip. It seems the wager's won."

"What was the bet?" inquired Honeysuckle, from somewhere beyond Merry. "Were you seeing which of you would be kissed first?" Frodo couldn't look, as Posy was still doing that thing with her tongue and keeping him warm all the way down. Her arms were wrapped round his shoulders to hold him close; her hands twined suggestively in his hair.

"Not nearly!" Pippin sounded distressed. "This is not the way it was supposed to go. I say, Posy, you are in a room full of people!"

Posy broke the kiss, and murmured against Frodo's lips, "I could change that, if you'd rather."

"He would rather not, as it happens," Pippin said crossly. "Posy, you're ruining everything."

"`Ruined,' I should say," said Merry.

Pippin whirled on him. "Not at all! It isn't Frodo's fault."

"It never is," Merry murmured.

"That's not the point!" Pippin quarreled. "He didn't do anything. He was just standing there. She touched him."

"Oh, ho!" Isemson cried, even as intrigued muttering broke out. "I get the picture. Our naughty lads are not to touch anyone who might tempt them to... well, do what Frodo's doing right now."

Frodo considered dissolving through the floor. He certainly felt hot enough to melt, between the flaming of his face and the kindling that Posy was managing to ignite. She had by no means released her hold of him, merely backed off from the kiss, but left her hips strategically angled to press into that most particular spot. Which was fine for the moment, but would present a real puzzle for Frodo when she ultimately stepped away. From the way she was smiling and continuing to lean against him, the constant pressure of her weight interleaved with barely discernable pulses, Posy knew exactly the effect she was having on him. Drat, drat, drat. Frodo should have had a party of his own before attending this one. It had been far too long since a lass had practiced her wiles on him; and he'd always been a pushover for that sort of thing anyway.

"All right!" Pippin snapped. "The secret is out. Yes, Isem, those are the basic rules. Now, listen, everyone--Posy especially. The wager is that Frodo and Merry are supposed to act as gentlehobbits tonight. That is to say, they are to keep their hands to themselves, and every other part of them. They are to exhibit proper behavior only."

"What is the fun in that?" Honeysuckle's question provoked chuckles throughout the room.

"Now, my dear Honeysuckle," said Pippin more kindly, "I must ask you to cooperate. And all you other lasses as well. Frodo and Merry are pledged to behave like civilized hobbits. For one evening only, I think we might indulge them. Flirt, dance, do what you will--but I must ask you not to take advantage of my poor cousins' handicap. Posy, feel free to unwind yourself at any time."

Posy let her arms slide free. She stepped back barely a pace, her eyes never leaving Frodo's for a second. His cock throbbed; sweat had broken out all over his body. He longed to run back to his room and hide--only he wouldn't be able to get in with his hands tied. Perhaps Posy could come along, and open the door for him. No, no, no! That would lose the bet. That's it, the bet. That's why he was standing here with his hands behind his back, about to be revealed before all the world, or at least before this assembly, in the, er, fullness of his glory.

"I suppose ordinary touches are all right." Posy's deep voice betrayed her sexual desire. "For instance, the poor dears can't even feed themselves. Surely it will be all right if I slip Frodo a few morsels. After all, we don't want him to starve."

Pippin deliberated, but he could hardly refuse the request, delivered though it was by someone who looked as if she'd like to throw Frodo to the ground and eat those tidbits off his bare skin--not that Frodo would mind especially, but that would hardly win the bet. The bet! Why did he keep forgetting that? It was very hard to think, with Posy standing there staring at him the way she was, her eyes seeming to drag his soul from his body, while the white mounds of her breasts rose and fell, rose and fell, against the stiff confines of her bodice.

"You can feed him," said Pippin reluctantly, "so long as it doesn't go farther than that."

"Come along, Frodo." Posy took his arm. "Let's get you some refreshment."

To Frodo's immense relief, Posy's proximity and the fullness of her skirt provided sufficient cover for his unintended... enthusiasm. Frodo walked along tamely, heart pounding, and hoped no one would call her aside until he could, well, subside.

Honeysuckle took his other arm. She smiled saucily through her ringlets. "Imagine it. The two of us, here with you, and nothing at all to stop us from doing what we like."

"Er, we are in company," Frodo reminded her.

"But sooner or later," Honeysuckle murmured, "you shall have to step out."

"Now, now, none of that!" Pippin's cry easily pierced their conversation. "Behave, Honeysuckle. I mean it!"

"We're all on our best behavior tonight," Merry added, from behind. "I for one intend to be particularly well behaved. And what might your name be?"

"Myrtle," giggled a high-pitched voice.

"I'm Violet," crooned another.

Frodo glanced behind to see that Merry had picked up his own set of escorts. Younger, and therefore likely to be less conniving than Frodo's own. Merry caught Frodo's glance, and winked. "First lesson," he mouthed.

Frodo turned back round, slightly less confused now that the blood was working its way back to his brain. First lesson... for Pippin? Of course. Frodo cast a glance at his youthful host, who was trying to greet his friends, whilst simultaneously keeping an eye on Merry and Frodo. Yes, Pippin would come away from tonight's adventure enriched by this little pearl of wisdom: declare something off limits, and it became instantly desirable. Frodo should have foreseen that himself. Well, it was too late to do anything about it now.

Fortunately, Posy seemed to have reined herself in by the time they reached the sideboard. "Mushroom, Frodo?"

"Oh." There was quite a spread there--huge, tender mushrooms stuffed with every imaginable delicacy. "Yes, thank you. I believe I will."

An older hobbit leaned in and patted Frodo on the back. "Well, done, lad, well played. I might try this means of keeping off the lasses myself, at some future date."

"Um," was all Frodo could reply, as Posy chose that moment to pop one end of the huge mushroom into his mouth. "Honey," she said to her friend, as Frodo hastily munched--it was delicious, flaky goat's cheese filling with just a dusting of herbs. "Would you be so good as to fetch Frodo a cup of punch? He'll want it after his snack, I daresay."

Honeysuckle had a mischievous glint in her eye. "Of course, Posy dear. I'll be right back."

To Frodo's relief, their playfulness went no farther. Posy remained at his side for some time, popping a selection of treats into his mouth, while Honeysuckle plied him with punch between. Frodo was frankly stunned by the first sip. He hadn't expected anything this... potent. It looked like the usual party fare, a fruity, sweet concoction. Likely, it was probably Pippin's idea of a joke--spiking the punch with... whatever that was. Fiery, but pleasant. Indeed, the more he drank, the pleasanter it became. Soon he was as comfortable as if naught were amiss. Folk giggled and danced and flirted all about him, and the band kept things lively. Nothing could be easier than standing round with his hands behind his back, having two lasses tend to his needs, babbling idly with them about nothing whilst others dropped in on occasion to tease him or chat. Before long, his laughter rang as freely as anyone's.

After his third cup of punch, Frodo was feeling entirely too cheerful to merely stand round, like some wall flower in training. His fair companions graciously assisted him to the dance. There was a deal of laughter and good-natured ribbing as Frodo joined the set. Yet everyone was more than willing to have a bash, adapting the dance to grab other parts of Frodo when required, as his hands were unavailable--the elbow being the chief object of choice, but there were plenty of shoulder and waist grabs as well, and one giggling lass actually held his ears when they were supposed to make a bridge.

Frodo would have thought he'd have stumbled over his own feet, without his hands to use for balance--and indeed, he was rather clumsier than was his wont. Yet a lass or lad was always ready to extend a hand and save him from a fall. Only once did he trip outright, bringing down half the set. But everyone was laughing, and they soon got going again. Frodo wondered if he had needed a boost precisely there when the lass helped him up, but he supposed, without a hand to grab onto, she did the best she could. Judging from the way she swung him round after they got moving, she was merely feeling merry, and hadn't meant anything by it.

All that dancing made Frodo thirsty again. His latest partner escorted him to a blank spot of wall, but before she could return, Posy reappeared with a full cup of punch. "There's such a line," she explained, "I thought I had best bring this to you at once. It might be some minutes before Ivy returns."

Frodo was pleasantly warm and winded. "Thank you, love. You're a treasure."

Posy smiled.

Frodo quaffed the drink. Curious; this seemed the most powerful draught yet. Fire warmed his belly, and the sound in the room seemed to pop, taking on a surreal quality. Altogether, it had been a very surreal evening. Here he was, standing in company plain as plain, with his hands tied behind his back, and no one gave it a second thought. This wager wasn't turning out to be all bad. Posy had curled up next to him to give him his drink. She stayed there still, a warmth all down his left side, while her right hand stroked up and down and all around his bum, unceasingly. Frodo wondered if this was a socially acceptable touch; he did have his back to the wall, after all. Half the room was probably having their bums stroked right this minute. Frodo hummed happily, dividing his attention between Posy's caresses and watching Merry take his turn about the dance floor. Merry was provoking much laughter with his antics. He seemed surer on his feet than Frodo had been. Likely he'd had more practice dancing.

Ivy reappeared with a punch cup. She seemed slightly put out to find Posy there. "Oh." She halted, eyeing Posy's empty cup, before giving Posy herself the eye. A quite narrow eye, Frodo noticed.

Frodo wasn't thirsty anymore, but it would be rude not to taste Ivy's drink, after she had gone to such trouble. He nodded at her and smiled. "Come closer, my dear. A hobbit can always use another swallow."

Reassured, Ivy lifted her cup. Then--Frodo was certain he must have been mistaken, because it looked as if Posy deliberately lifted her elbow, to knock the drink aside. Most of the contents splashed over the brim, to spatter their collective toes. Frodo blinked. His finely brushed feet glistened with tiny green droplets.

"Oh, I'm so sorry!" Posy stooped immediately, and began blotting Frodo's feet with a handkerchief plucked from her bosom.

Ivy stared at her, green rivulets coursing down her fingers. Her hand looked entirely too drippy for her to offer Frodo a sip now. He'd get it all over his waistcoat.

"No worries, love!" cried a new voice. Frodo turned to see Honeysuckle emerge from the throng, a cup of punch held high. "All is well."

As Ivy stared, Honeysuckle raised her cup to Frodo's lips, whilst passing Ivy a clean cloth with her other hand. "Sorry about the mess, dear. Posy is often a butterfingers."

Frodo was in a spot now, because Honeysuckle's raised cup was forcing him to drink, even as Posy was tidying some droplets that had apparently run down his instep. She stroked the sensitive flesh there, causing him to jump. He very nearly choked, but held out, managing to down the brew in one go. Overall, it was quite interesting, the two lasses on either side of him, and the one crawling about below. A butterfingers Posy might be, but she was exceptionally talented in the tactile department. Her cunning touches seemed to shoot right up his leg, stopping where they would do the most good. Oh, yes, that was very nice. Everything was very nice indeed. Frodo drifted to a pleasant land, where he had nothing to do but absorb the grateful attention of a bevy of beautiful, gifted fingers.

Honeysuckle, smiling, set her empty cup aside. Keeping her eyes on Frodo, she said, "Ivy, dear, I hope you're not too put out?"

Ivy finished wiping her hand slowly, her eyes traveling speculatively from Honeysuckle to Posy, who had moved away from Frodo for a moment to quickly blot her own feet. Ivy said, "I think I'd rather hear how Frodo is feeling."

Frodo started upon hearing his name, although part of him was distracted by Posy sliding her hand up the back of his thigh as she rose to her feet. It's a good thing thighs were curved, because Posy seemed to need a great deal of support, from his inner thigh, especially. Frodo may not have wanted that last cup of punch, but look at where it got him. Posy couldn't have brushed her hand there even if he'd had a table to hide behind. Frodo jumped as her fingers tickled an already sensitive bit, then tried to focus on the conversation. He blinked at the two lasses before him, as Posy resumed her former place at his side.

"Frodo?" Ivy prompted.

"Better than a table," Frodo told her. "It's all working out quite well."

Ivy stared, then looked directly at Honeysuckle. "You didn't."

"We had to," said Posy. "Frodo is very stubborn."

"Very stubborn," Frodo agreed, too mellow to argue with anything.

"He would never risk it otherwise," Posy continued. "Not if it meant losing his wager with Merry."

The thought of a lost wager struck Frodo as very sad. "Not even a table to hide behind," he lamented.

"So we took matters into our own hands to... make it easy for him."

"Quite easy," Frodo chattered. "It's all quite easy." He stood a moment in watery thought, as multiple conversations washed over him. Washing, rolling. Oh, dear. He abruptly announced, "I must find Pippin."

"Why?" asked Honeysuckle.

Frodo was uncertain how to express his need delicately; for some reason, it was frightfully difficult to think. "I'm not allowed to leave the room without Pippin, and I mustn't let Merry win."

Posy shot Ivy a look. "See?"

"I should never have had that last cup of punch," Frodo told Honeysuckle confidentially. "That was one cup of punch too many."

Ivy gave Posy a withering look. "I'll say."

"He'll be fine!" Posy quarreled. "You don't know Frodo as I do."

Ah, lasses. One never knew what they were on about. Frodo beamed at Ivy. "I'll be happy to teach you all about me, my dear. I should like that above almost anything--after, of course, I find Pippin."

Honeysuckle patted his belly--a rather dangerous undertaking, considering the circumstances. "Pippin is just there, love, watching Merry in the set. I won't be a moment."

As soon as she whisked away, Ivy narrowed her eyes. "Suppose," she said to Posy, "I told Pippin what you were up to?"

When Posy hesitated, Frodo said, "Please don't. My back is to the wall. He can't see anything."

Ivy blinked in surprise, then gave Posy a sour look. This exchange, like the previous ones, left Frodo completely at sea. Oh, dear. He shouldn't have thought, "sea." He chewed his lip fretfully.

Posy darted a look over her shoulder, where Honeysuckle was detaching Pippin from the laughing spectators. She turned back to Ivy and lowered her voice. "All right. You're in. Just don't say anything."

Frodo was relieved to see Ivy's irritation disperse. "My lips are sealed," he said.

Posy tapped a finger against his mouth, though her eyes sparkled. "That goes doubly for you! You must keep very quiet."

This conversation was beyond him. Everyone in the room was laughing and dancing and the music was bright and gay. Frodo said thoughtfully, "I should hardly be able to make myself heard above the noise."

Posy patted his shoulder. "That's a good lad."

Honeysuckle reappeared with Pippin in tow. Frodo had rarely been so glad to see anyone in his life. "Pippin!" he cried. "You must rescue me. I am awash. Positively floating."

"Have no fear!" Pippin laughed. "The Pippin Fairly-Floating Ferry service is here to lead you to shore."

Frodo nodded, catching his head short of a topple. "Lead on, Priceless Pippin!"

Posy and Honeysuckle waved. "We'll be here when you get back!"

"Lovely lasses," Frodo told Pippin, as his host maneuvered him through the swarm. He wished they wouldn't bump so; his need was growing acute.

"Yes, yes," said Pippin, bemused. "Just don't get too friendly with them. I am certain Merry took that fall deliberately to plant his face in Violet Bracegirdle's bosom. Of course, I can't prove anything. And Myrtle is getting a bit grabby, but I can't really fault Merry for that, not unless he encourages her. In your case, I'm more worried about those wenches jumping you than the other way round. How do you do it, Frodo? I've been watching you all evening, and I can't work it out. You seem simply to stand there, and the lasses flock round. Is it your toilet water, or your tooth powder, or perhaps the cut of your coat?"

Pippin was extremely bewildering this evening. Frodo had no idea what he was talking about. All he really noticed was that they hadn't reached the door yet. "Hurry," he whimpered.

Pippin chuckled. "All right, Frodo. Just a few steps more."

Frodo hadn't realized how loud it was in the party room until they stepped into the hall. A great boom seemed to be left behind him. Other pleasures were left behind as well, but Frodo was a bit too desperate to mourn their loss overmuch at present.

"In here." Pippin guided him to the neighboring room. "I'm untying your hands for this. We aren't such good friends that I propose to hold it for you."

Inside the gents' room, Everard Took stepped from behind the curtain, buttoning up. He grinned when he saw the pair in the antechamber. Frodo was unable to grin back. He was intensely conscious of every move that Pippin made to untie him; the process seemed painfully slow. He feared he might have an accident.

"Having a good evening, Frodo?" Everard smirked. "Never saw such a reaction in so many female faces as when you and your Brandybuck friend showed up tied. Did you do it on purpose? In which case, I ought to thank you. It's not every hobbit that can set a fire in the loins of uncounted numbers of the opposite sex. For which the rest of us are commensurately grateful, I assure you."

Unable to sort out what Everard was talking about, Frodo told him the only thing he could presently grasp. "I'm about to pop," he said.

"Well, well, I won't keep you." Everard patted him on the shoulder, and slipped past. "I'd wish you luck tonight, though I doubt you'll need it. Carry on, gents." Everard went out, closing the door behind him.

Frodo's right hand came free. The left wrist still trailed the scarf, but that wasn't important now. Frodo lunged for the curtain. It was deuced difficult to pull aside; it seemed to get all wrapped round Frodo's arms and the scarf tangled in his legs and there were still his buttons to get through when he'd fought his way clear of those. Frodo doubted he'd be able to manage, but he fumbled through the final barricade in the last critical instant. Free! He sighed with relief as the chamber pot filled.

It was rather more difficult to do up his buttons again. The floor wasn't quite steady, and the walls of the narrow room kept swaying. They made a particularly nasty pitch just as Frodo tried to step beyond the curtain, so he lurched into the wall before he stumbled into the plush antechamber. Pippin was standing there, and Frodo was happy. Pippin was such a good friend! Only, something wasn't right, because Pippin wasn't smiling. He looked, in fact, rather worried.

"Frodo?" he asked.

"Pippin?" Frodo answered. This was good. This was just the sort of conversation he liked. Short, simple... what had they been saying?

Pippin stared at him. "You're pie-eyed."

Pie. Now, that sounded good. Pie, and some of those goat's-cheese mushrooms. "Pie," said Frodo.

"You don't have to tell me." Pippin led him to the bench seat. "It was Posy and Honeysuckle. I saw them feeding you drinks."

Oh, those drinks! "Someone spiked the punch," Frodo told him.

"Yes, my dear hobbit, I'm afraid they did. I've been drinking it myself, and it's quite untainted. I expect they doctored your cup specially before they gave it to you."

He'd certainly drunk a lot of punch. "I think I had one cup too many."

"Yes, my dear cousin. One cup too many." Pippin sighed, and rubbed Frodo's back. Frodo felt quite comfortable now. Quiet room, padded bench, not too much punch under his pockets.

"I feel a perfect ass," said Pippin. "I was so bent on preventing you and Merry from cheating, I forgot that some of tonight's participants might try a little trick of their own."

The scarcity of tricks filled Frodo with regret. "Not even a table to hide behind," he said.

"No, no tables. But that didn't keep certain parties from laying plans of their own."

Frodo liked the sound of that. "Laying plans," he said. Yes, that had a nice ring to it. Laying, laying, laying. He smiled with content.

"Laying something--or trying to, I should say." Pippin sighed. "Well, I've certainly made a hash of things. There's no point in playing any longer. You should go directly to bed. I'll get Merry to watch you. I'd stay with you myself, only I'm the host and I can't. Besides, it wouldn't be fair to let Merry bury himself in Violet Bracegirdle's bosom, simply because I was too great a simpleton not to call the whole thing off, after Posy made me spill the beans right at the beginning."

"Posy." Frodo, who'd gotten rather lost in Pippin's speech, caught up with him then. Dear, sweet Posy. He sang, "Posy in the morning, Posy in the evening, Posy at sup-pertime..."

"That's supposed to be `Honey,'" Pippin pointed out.

Frodo was flexible. "I'll take either."

"You'll take neither." Pippin rose. He placed his hands on Frodo's shoulders, and looked into his face. "I want you to stay right here. I won't be a moment. I'll bring Merry from the party, and we'll get you to your room, safe and sound. Do you understand me?"

Frodo tried very hard to follow along. Clearly, Pippin thought this was important. Frodo was stymied for the moment. However, he'd had reasonable success with repetition, and decided to stick with that. "Safe and sound," he told Pippin. "I won't say a word."

Pippin ruffled his hair, which puzzled Frodo greatly. Wouldn't he only have to brush it again? Then Pippin shook his head. "I have never seen you this potted. I'll have Erling make a nice vat of his hangover medicine. Something tells me you're going to need it."

Frodo was amenable. "A vat."

"Yes, Frodo. Now, I'm leaving you for just one minute. Will you sit right there?"

Why would he leave? Life was fine. Frodo began to sing, "When Elvish eyes are smili-i-i-i-ing, sure it's li-i-i-i-ke a mo-o-o-orning spri-i-i-i-ng..."

"All right." Pippin backed away, holding up his hands. "Just... don't move."

Pippin might have his concerns, but Frodo felt only the joy of the moment. "In the li-i-i-i-ilt of Elvish laughter, you can he-e-e-e-ear the Mai-i-i-i-ar si-i-i-i-ing..."

Pippin was gone, out the door. This was a nice room. The walls were so richly decorated. And the carpet was quite luxurious. Frodo had never spent much time in the antechamber of the gents' room before. It was a shame, really. Someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to make it atmospheric. He sang, "When Elvish eyes are smili-i-i-i-ing, all the wo-o-o-rld seems bri-i-i-i-ight and ga-a-a-a-y..."

The door opened, but it wasn't Pippin. Frodo sat up, delighted. "Posy!" he cried.

Posy rushed forward, with a finger to her lips.

"I never said a word," Frodo explained, as she helped him to his feet.

"Yes, darling. You were very, very good. Now, you must come with me quickly. Otherwise, Pippin will spoil everything."

Frodo thought back. "Pippin didn't spike the punch."

"Yes, you can see what a party pooper he is. Now, hush." Posy hauled him to the door. It was easier to walk when he had someone to lean against. Frodo smiled happily. Posy was soft and warm. He enjoyed leaning on her. He could take a little nap. Even better, he could do something productive with all that warm softness, and then take a nap.

"The coast is clear," she whispered. "Quickly, now."

Frodo was not sure he could do anything quickly. That dratted scarf was still tied round one wrist. He tripped over it the moment they entered the corridor. Posy snatched it up and held it out of the way. Almost instantly, Honeysuckle appeared out of nowhere, propping up Frodo on his other side. Now, this was more like it. Lasses all round.

"A lass for everyone!" Frodo cried.

Posy and Honeysuckle simultaneously shushed him. Frodo felt rather hurt. Who was the party pooper now?

Party poopers or not, these lasses moved at a tremendous pace. Frodo hadn't a hope of keeping up with them, but fortunately he got along well enough if he leaned heavily and let them handle the actual transport.

All these quick turns were making Frodo's head spin. Or maybe it wasn't the turns making his head spin. He'd been a touch disoriented in the party room, as he vaguely recalled, and he was certain he'd been standing still then.

The flames of the wall sconces were hypnotic. Frodo had never before noticed the tiny hissing noises they made, as the flames flickered in their metal cups. It was like they were trying to tell him something. Frodo listened very hard as the lasses pulled him past one sconce after another, but he couldn't figure out the message. The night was full of mysteries.

Say, there was an open door ahead. Even more interesting, there was a lass coming out of it. Wait, he knew that lass. Why, she had just been at the party.

Frodo took a breath, intending to call, "Ivy!" when Posy, anticipating him, put her hand over his mouth.

"Now, Frodo dear," she whispered, as Ivy helped pull Frodo into the room. "We are all your friends, and we are here to help you. You cannot let Merry win this wretched bet."

Frodo struggled to understand her. There had been something about a bet earlier, but it had faded into the background, along with the band and the guests and the noise and the fact that Pippin was going to bring Merry to the party. Or from it, or something.

Frodo did notice, however, that he had been pulled into a coat closet. A rather large coat closet, with a wooden bar across the middle and pegs on the walls, but no coats. There were cushions on the floor, and a candle burning on a small corner table. It was snug, but very cozy-looking for a coat closet. "There's a candle in the corner," Frodo said.

Honeysuckle seemed not to attend. "Fortunately," she said, "there is a loophole in the bet, one that we intend to exploit."

Exploiting a loophole. Frodo liked the sound of that.

Posy moved towards him, pointedly bust first. "The bet is that you cannot touch a lass yourself. It says nothing about lasses touching you. Pippin acknowledged that himself, before all the party."

"Therefore," Honeysuckle took one end of the scarf, "the way for you to win, is to... not touch us yourself." She pitched the scarf over the bar, so it floated down on the opposite side. Ivy caught it, and started to pull. This tugged on the end that was tied to Frodo's wrist.

"My arm's moving," he told them.

"Just raise your other one, dear," coaxed Posy, patting his arm. "That's right, over your head."

Honeysuckle climbed atop a couple of cushions. "Hold still, love. We'll have this bet won for you in a jiffy."

"You're tying my hands together," Frodo observed.

"We're just hanging them from the bar, dear," said Honeysuckle. "There. How's that? Nice and comfy?"

Frodo pulled at his wrists. It wasn't comfortable at all, truth be told. In fact, it was deuced awkward having his hands up there. He leaned against the fabric. "I'm not at all certain--"

What was this? Someone unbuttoning his waistcoat? That seemed promising. Frodo saw Posy work her way down his belly, fingers moving surely and a smile on her face. Honeysuckle stood behind her to one side. She wasn't watching Posy. Instead, she looked into Frodo's eyes, then began loosening the stays on her bodice. Frodo's eyes widened. Things were definitely taking an interesting turn in this coat closet. Perhaps it wasn't so terrible, having to leave the party.

The laces were loose, allowing a lovely bit of abundancy to bulge forward. Oh yes, this was quite the fascinating coat closet. Frodo watched the unveiling, rapt, whilst Posy began undoing the buttons of his shirt.

Honeysuckle's hands moved to the back of her gown. Oh, that was quite the tantalizing view. Things were pressing forward in a most promising fashion, and not just on Honeysuckle's side. Part of Frodo's anatomy had clearly caught the spirit, and was bulging forward to meet her.

Posy undid the bracers and untucked Frodo's shirt, so it flapped loose all round. A pair of hands seized it from behind, then tied the whole bundle up and out of the way. Oh, dear. His clothes were going to be terribly wrinkled. Perhaps no one would notice.

Honeysuckle's gown fell to the floor, instantly reclaiming Frodo's attention. Her thin underslip was low-cut, tight... and translucent. Frodo's gaze was riveted by two dark circles, each accented with a rosy nub that jutted just below the upper seam of the slip, half an aureole peeping out above, and the whole thing set in such a bounteous setting that Frodo's mouth watered. Slowly, Honeysuckle brought her hands to her breasts. She cradled them, cupping her fingers round the tips. Gently, she squeezed the pert buttons, and let her head fall back with a moan. Frodo's breath quickened. Tugging against the scarf, he strained towards her.

Almost at the same instant, another pair of buttons slid down Frodo's naked back, making him jump in surprise. Then two hands reached round, to slide up his chest. The buttons and their soft button holders pressed into his naked back. Warm breath whispered over his skin, as a lass who was wearing considerably less than Honeysuckle at the moment pulled him into a hug.

Frodo fought the scarf harder. These knots were a blessed nuisance. Tits and tarts on every side, and not a bloody thing he could do about it. Yanking wildly, he yelled, "Let me loose! It's more than I can bear!"

"Shhh!" whispered all three lasses at once, and Posy jumped up to clap a hand over his mouth. There was some rustling behind him, then the naked arms reached in front of him again, holding something white below his chin.

"You mustn't cry out," Posy said, removing her hand. "Someone will hear us, and you'll never, ever win the bet then."

"Oh, bugger the bet!" Frodo intended to say, only he never got the chance. As he opened his mouth to speak, the hands slipped in a soft but bulky cloth. All Frodo managed to say was, "Phoh-phfuppapah-phuff!" Which didn't communicate anything at all clearly, as the lass behind him--Ivy was it? Yes, Ivy. As Ivy--completely starkers Ivy, with her pointy bits poking his back--tied the gag in place. There was a ribbon of lace in there. Frodo wondered if she had used her undershift to muffle him.

"Now." Posy's hands drifted down his naked belly again. "You mustn't make... a noise."

Which was fine for her to say, but difficult to do, as each word left a puff of moist, warm air against his skin, all whilst she was sliding towards his entirely vulnerable stimulated area. Frodo squirmed with anticipation. Then Ivy began sliding her bare breasts up and down his back again, whilst Honeysuckle leaned against the closed closet door, and placed a foot on the edge of the low table, to open up her hips. Then she drew an arm up the inside of her leg, drawing the shift up with it, until she stopped just short of the appealing juncture of thigh and hip. Then she rocked her hips slowly, squeezing one of her nipples with her free hand, while she stared at Frodo as if the mere sight of him would send her careening over the edge.

Frodo screamed something inarticulate, and futilely lunged forward. These were the wickedest lasses on the planet! Suddenly, he stopped. His trousers were coming down. Thank goodness! Clever, perfect Posy had understood his predicament, and saw fit to free him from his prison. Blessed Posy, wondrous Posy! The cloth pulled away, making him wince. Oh, that was lovely, he thought, as he sprang into the air. The fabric whispered down his legs and pooled round his ankles. Dear, kind, miraculous Posy knelt before his quivering body. Tenderly, she helped him step clear of the pile, so he was completely unencumbered. At last, things were looking up! Or standing up. Or... oh, bother. Why didn't one of them do something?  

Honeysuckle slipped her hand higher, beneath the fringe of her shift. She sighed and laid her head against the jamb of the door. Moist sounds came from her fingers. Her other hand continued to squeeze her nipples. Frodo wondered if it was possible to explode from lust. What was wrong with these silly creatures? Here were three lasses, all apparently available, yet not one of them had seen fit to take into hand the item that Frodo was jiggling anxiously for their attention. Frantically, urgently jiggling, but not a hand nor mouth did he see. It was most unjustifiably vexing.

Posy was still on the floor. She was tickling his instep again with her fingers. Now, that was hardly helping. The thing Frodo did not need at this moment was more teasing.

From behind, Ivy wrapped her fingers about his chest, laying her body all along his backside. There, that was an improvement. She stroked his body reverently. Lower, Frodo commanded the shapely arms. Go lower! But what they did was wander across his chest until they reached Frodo's nipples. She stroked and fondled them into peaks, making him twitch. Ah, he was going to go insane. They would find him the next morning, Pippin or somebody. He would still be hanging in this closet, totally starkers, and stark raving mad!

Oh, good. Posy was beginning to move. She was kissing her way up the inside of his leg. Higher, he thought, spreading his legs. Come higher! Honeysuckle seemed oblivious to it all. She moistened the fingers of her upper hand (the lower ones being completely moist, by the sound), then let that hand drift to her breast. She pushed her shift that crucial inch lower, to completely reveal the erect and alluring tip. Then she caressed it with her wet fingers, so it gleamed in the candlelight. Frodo growled, yearning to cross the distance. Just a lick and a suck--surely she wouldn't mind that? And plenty of nuzzling and nibbling, and perhaps a light nip or two--what was the harm in that?

Ai-yai-yah, what was happening now? Posy was nearing her goal. There was breath, definitely hot, misty breath, hovering almost exactly where he had hoped something--anything, might shortly catch hold. She was taking her time about it, though. Touch me! Frodo mentally screamed at her. But Posy circled him from every angle, exhaling upon him so closely that he could now and again feel a whisper of her lips. He was bathed in the sultry moisture of her, and suddenly he could hold out no longer. Frantically, he bucked his hips, desperate to reach her, but she only pulled farther out of range. He thrashed recklessly, chest heaving and prong aching, and he really intensively wanted to get down off this coat rack, whose rotten idea was this anyway!

Adjusting to his convulsions as well as might be, Ivy began to move lower. He didn't mind the kisses down his spine, truly he didn't. It's just that there were far more vital things to kiss. Far more needy items that urgently required attention at this particular moment than his spine, thank you very much. Oh, now, that was nice. She was reaching round his buttocks. Good girl, Ivy. Make a run through the middle, and beat Posy at her own game. Frodo widened his stance to accommodate her, whilst arching blindly towards Posy's face, in the hopes of landing a lucky shot. Posy chuckled, then licked him once with her tongue. He shouted, and his cock jumped nearly to his belly. Posy was laughing, he felt her laugh, though her curtain of wild locks obscured his view. Then a wet tongue drew all the way up his shaft, from root to tip. Frodo howled and shuddered, wondering if he might faint. Then the clever mouth took him in.

Never mind the gag; he was certain the point came across. Oh, glorious, wonderful, lovely, enveloping heat! Ah, that fluttering tongue! Ah, that technique! Frodo squealed with satisfaction, sinking again and again into that dual haven of torment and relief.

No, what was that? Ivy, the sweet child, was lapping him from below. She was after his balls, the innocent thing. Oh-no-no, that tickled! Frodo writhed, but he couldn't get away, not with Posy keeping him so happily and necessarily occupied. He had no intentions of disrupting that major accomplishment, after he'd worked so hard to achieve it. He did the best he could; he widened his legs and leaned forward, arching into Posy's mouth. Luckily, charming Ivy took the cue. She shifted her attentions to the bulb of his base. Frodo jerked in bouts, doing his best to endure it. Now, if this wasn't the most incredible blow job in the entire world: Posy, deep-throating him as only she could, and Ivy capturing that magnificent stimulation and shooting it back, as it were, into the fray. Pleasure shot up and down his shaft and into his belly, constricting his breath. He was bobbing and rocking and it was, oh, so good. He would hate to have to end it, but already he was tightening up, all over. He was harder than a stone and he hadn't a chance of holding out, not with two such talented tongues twirling away at both ends. He could hardly hold up his head, but every time he did manage a peep there was Honeysuckle, eyes fixed on his, but glazed now with desire, her breasts rising and falling rapidly as she stroked, stroked, stroked herself and watched him, open-mouthed, panting, licking her lips and rotating her pelvis to the movements of her hand, as far gone as if Frodo himself were doing the honors...

No! Posy was leaving! Where was she going?

Gasping, Frodo looked down, to meet Posy's twinkling eyes. Her mouth was wet, her lips full and swollen. She smiled, then began to rise, sliding up his belly so close that her breasts tickled him all the way up. She kissed each nipple soundly, sucking it into her mouth to give it a thorough tasting. Frodo shuddered but otherwise held still, unable to move for fear of displacing Ivy. Posy continued her languorous torture. She was still wearing her gown, the wretched thing. Not that the gown was wretched, particularly, it just was in his way and he needed, he wanted, he needed to get where that gown was covering up...

Now Ivy abandoned him as well. She moved round to straddle his leg across the thigh. Frodo blinked in surprise. He'd never felt short curls and wet heat on that part of him before. One of Ivy's hands was squeezing his buttock, the other was straying over his front, searching out a nipple to tease now that Posy had left them wet and neglected. Yes, she had. She was down on the ground again, piling up cushions near his feet. Had there ever been such a confusing collection of lasses? Here was a hobbit, randy as could be, and all they could do was scrabble about on the floor moving cushions and squeeze his titties and hump his leg and fondle themselves, for pity's sake. When was a rabidly raging hobbit to get some relief?

Oh, good. Posy was coming back. She was climbing onto the cushions in front of him to gain some height. Interesting maneuver, particularly as it was combined with lifting her skirts. Yes, this was a maneuver Frodo could fully support, and intended to, if it led where he hoped it might. There was some fiddling about as Ivy and Posy made room for each other. Then--oh bliss, blessed blessed bliss! He was sinking in. Sinking, delving, disappearing into that heavenly, dewy cavern. He wailed his relief, even through the gag. Posy was managing it somehow. She had one leg wrapped round his hip, and both hands up on the bar for support, and one foot (or so he imagined) still on the cushion to give her height, and she was driving and he was slapping into her and each thrust was pure, succulent delight. And Ivy was humping frenetically and Honeysuckle was touching herself. Then Posy arched backward, and Frodo sank to the hilt into the deepest, hottest sanctuary a hobbit could possibly find. He clenched the gag in his teeth and roared.

Then Honeysuckle screamed, knocking against the door as she came. And Posy shrieked and slammed into him, banging so hard he should never have been able to support her, had it not been for Ivy steadying them both and whimpering as she bounced. Oh, oh, he was being ripped apart by rapture! For a moment he hung in the balance, poised, arching between wrists and toes, with that plunging body crashing into him until it overwhelmed his senses, his labored breath mingling with the cries of the lasses that split the air like sobs. Then blazing glory shot through him, tearing from balls and base up his tight and straining shaft, to burst in heady ecstasy into heaving, pulsating pleasure, pounding into the hollow of gratification that bucked against him.

Spasms wracked him, crested, wound down, grew still. Relief. Frodo sagged. His whole weight hung from his wrists, and he couldn't begin to care. Oh, that was just, just...

Someone ripped off his gag and delivered a fervent, tongue-filled kiss. Honeysuckle. Weary but willing, Frodo answered her; he reckoned she deserved some hands-on attention, after all her lovely teasing. Posy slipped bonelessly to the ground, to land heavily on her cushions. She clutched one of his legs, panting, then kissed the inside of his knee. Ivy collapsed on the other side. She continued to fondle his buttock, but otherwise leaned against his leg, breathing hard.

For a moment, they were all quite happy, breathing and snogging and otherwise letting their heart rates return to normal. Then a call came faintly from the corridor outside. "Frodo?" Merry's voice.

The lasses reacted instantly. Posy leaped up, brushing down her gown. Honeysuckle snatched up hers from where it lay on the floor. "Hurry!" she whispered to Ivy. "They sound like they're just up the hall!"

"My clothes!" Ivy wailed.

"Take them with you. Move!"

Ivy frantically collected her things. Posy paused to stare at Frodo, then put both hands to his head and delivered a deep and thorough kiss. She broke away with a smack. "More later, love. I promise!"

"Mm," said Frodo, only too happy to indulge her in whatever she wished.

There was scrabbling on the floor behind him. Goodness! Ivy, still naked and with her clothes under one arm, pulled a cushion from the wall--to reveal a passage there! A small, rectangular opening, as if it let from the cloak room into a storage area behind. Ivy ducked through first, followed by Honeysuckle, carrying her bundled-up gown. Posy trailed her fingers down Frodo's belly, then gave his wet prick an affectionate tug, making Frodo jump.

"All's fair in love and war, my dear," she whispered. She winked, then bent to follow the others, just as someone rapped on the door.

"Frodo?" Pippin's voice came through the wood. "Frodo, are you in there?"

Posy blew a kiss at Frodo, then vanished into the passage. The last thing she did was prop a cushion behind her, to disguise the opening from the door.

Not a moment too soon. The door whooshed open. Merry's hand was on the handle, but his head was turned towards the side. He was speaking to Pippin. "Don't be so polite, Pip. I'm certain the noise came from here. If it's anyone else, we'll--" He stopped, noticing Frodo for the first time. Pippin, beside him, went perfectly still. His eyes grew wide and his mouth dropped open, but otherwise he didn't move a hair.

Now, in the ordinary way, Frodo supposed he should have been embarrassed. He was, after all, strung up by a scarf in a cloak room, with his upper clothes tied behind his back and his lower half completely starkers and rather obviously... used. But he had complied with the rules. Merry's expression was priceless, as he took in Frodo's condition and gaped.

Frodo stood as tall as he could manage, considering his restraints. Proudly but smugly, he announced to his astonished cousins: "I win!"


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