West of the Moon

A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive

 

 

A Warm, Wet Welcome
Frodo seeks revenge for Lotho's way of welcoming him to Hobbiton. Part of the "Shagging Through the Haystacks" series.
Author: Mariole
Rating: R
Category: Canon-Humor/Parody

 

This story was written for the hobbit_smut Livejournal Community "My Birthday Suit Needs Pressing Challenge.




Frodo Baggins was a randy young fellow

Right loud his orgasms, and his mood was mellow





Young Frodo Baggins, eyebrows furrowed and jaw set, marched down the lane towards Hobbiton. His plan was simple: he was going to find Lotho Sackville-Baggins, and beat him to a pulp.

In truth, Lotho could not be blamed for all that had happened yesterday. But he had instigated the affair, and Frodo, still burning with humiliation, had resolved that that was enough for him.

Frodo had not been in Hobbiton two weeks since Bilbo had adopted him. Frodo felt more than the usual discomfort over changing his home. Not only was he leaving Buckland, but he was arriving as the heir of the famous (or infamous) Bilbo Baggins of Bag End. Frodo's anxiety had gradually eased over the succeeding days. Bilbo had kept the introductions limited and quiet, "until you can find your feet." Bilbo's plan had been so successful that, several days later, Frodo was relaxed enough to take advantage of the mild weather to do some quiet fishing. Taking Bilbo's advice and his fishing rod, he followed a path fragrant with autumn leaves to a straggling pond that wound in and around the marshes near the Water.

Unwilling to wet his feet so late in the season, but seeking deeper water, Frodo settled himself at the end of a log that extended into the pond. It was a somewhat precarious perch, but he didn't care. He had already cast in his line when he realized he wasn't alone; another young hobbit was already there, fishing from a bushy brake farther up the shore. Frodo waved companionably, but the other hobbit, a sullen youth about Frodo's own age, simply stared at him without acknowledging. Frodo was disappointed, but not entirely surprised. He knew that not everyone was pleased about his coming to live with Bilbo. He turned his attention towards enticing the fish, and let the matter be.

A snap in the thicket behind him startled Frodo from his pursuit. The sullen hobbit stood there, his gear in one hand. He must have come along the shore quietly whilst Frodo was occupied. Frodo turned a little awkwardly to face him; the log was not entirely stable. "Hello," he said.

The dark-haired hobbit eyed him. "Are you Frodo Baggins, from Buckland?"

Frodo wasn't sure how to read his tone. It sounded challenging. "Yes."

The youth put down his gear. Deliberately, he put both hands to the end of the log and sneered, "I hope you enjoy Bag End!" He twisted his hands suddenly, pitching Frodo into the icy water.

He came up spluttering, waterlogged hair in his eyes. He thrashed blindly, and touched the log with his fingertips. It skittered away. The wrench the other hobbit gave it must have cast it from shore, so it now floated free. Gasping from the cold shock, Frodo flung the hair from his eyes, but the prankster, whoever he was, had vanished among the trees.

Fortunately the water itself presented no difficulties, apart from its temperature. Frodo collected his wits, and his fishing rod, in that order. The free-floating log forced him to swim a longer route round to shore. His teeth were chattering by the time he waded through the muck at the pond's rim. There was no sense in staying; mild as the day was, the chill of the water had got into his bones, and only a fire would dispel it. He gathered up his gear, and squished with soggy clothes and trembling limbs back down the path.

There were few tenants on the way--so naturally one of them saw him. Carl Bellows hailed Frodo as he neared the lane that led to Hobbiton. "Your pardon, sir! Might I be of assistance?"

Frodo stopped reluctantly, as the worried farmer hurried towards the path. Behind him, the entire porch of his house filled with faces ranging from babes to tweens, all of them gawping curiously.

"Master Baggins," the farmer puffed upon reaching him, "I'm Farmer Bellows. You might remember your uncle introducing us last week at The Ivy Bush."

Frodo recalled the visit well. Everyone had looked at him suspiciously, as if reserving judgment. He nodded, rather abruptly considering his shaking. He would have spoken, were he not trying so hard to keep his teeth from chattering.

"It's late in the year to be walking about so wet," continued the farmer. "Had you not better come inside?"

Frodo did speak then--through the clatters of his teeth. "Thank you, Master Bellows. I think it best that I go straight home."

"Not wet like that," stated the farmer flatly. "Mr. Bilbo Baggins will have my hide if I let you go off like that, and you were to come down with a cold."

"I really don't--"

"Now, young sir, I won't hear no denials. You'll get out of your wet duds and into a warm blanket straight away. By then I'll have Maybell hitched to the cart, and I'll give you a ride home."

"You really shouldn't bother," said Frodo, though his voice and body quaked.

"Nonsense. Your lips are blue. Hai, Hilly!" he called towards the house. "A warm blanket for Master Baggins!"

The goodwife on the porch gave her tallest daughter a push. "Jasmine! A blanket, and a towel to dry him with. Be quick!"

Frodo stepped inside the house to change, as there was nowhere else to do it. It was a freestanding log cabin, small but tidy. He had to admit it was a relief to peel off his soaked clothes, although he felt extremely self-conscious stepping out of the farmer's bedroom wrapped in nothing but a wool blanket. The goodwife took his sodden things and bundled them into a cloth.

"There," she said with satisfaction, returning them to him. "Now you've a chance of lasting your first winter here."

"Thank you," Frodo answered meekly. He tried to ignore the giggles and stares of the young faces all round. The eldest daughter in particular kept dissolving into mirth, so Frodo felt his cheeks grow warm.

Fortunately the cart was ready by then. Frodo climbed into the box carefully, all too aware that a blanket was not best designed to conceal an active body. A squeak from the eldest girl made him wonder if he might not have let something or other peep out. However, he was now seated in the wagon. He tucked the blanket under himself carefully, to avoid splinters. Carl clucked to the mare, and they rattled off to Hobbiton.

They came out near the Bridge. Before they could turn up the lane towards the Hill, Carl gave a grunt of surprise. "Why, there's your uncle now, near the grocer's." And he turned the mare's head towards the center of town.

Frodo wanted to shrink through the wooden bench. Hobbits stared as they passed; the "Brandybuck lad" in naught but a blanket was an interesting sight to them. To make matters worse, Carl bellowed, as they drew close, "Ho, Mr. Baggins! Look what I found on my doorstep."

Frodo hunched on his seat as multiple heads turned. Bilbo's eyes widened, then he hurried forward. "What happened?"

"A loose log tipped me into the pond," Frodo mumbled, unwilling to elaborate in front of so many strangers.

"Well, we'd best get you home!" Bilbo cried. "Adalbert, would you put my bags in the back of the cart? Frodo, stay there. I'll ride in back."

But Frodo refused to let his ninety-nine year old benefactor ride in the dusty back of a farmer's cart whilst he huddled up front like some useless thing. He rose to his feet. "Nonsense, Bilbo. There's room enough, if I move--"

But that was all Frodo could say. Between the gathering crowd, the grocer rushing forward with his bags, and the rising up of a billowing object on the box, the little mare spooked. She jumped forward against the traces, making the cart lurch. Carl snatched at the reins, shouting, "Whoa, Maybell! Stand!" But it was too late. Frodo, off balance, toppled over the side.

Bilbo managed to catch Frodo's arms as he fell, keeping him upright and preventing a hard fall to earth. For a moment Frodo looked into Bilbo's startled face, wondering what had happened. Then he felt the cool October air curl about him. Slowly, he looked over his right shoulder. The blanket had caught on the edge of the seat. It hung limply at the side of the cart--whilst Frodo stood below it, looking up. Frodo felt his face flame into heat.

The crowd reacted then--some guffaws, some squeals, and a lot of amused shushing.

Bilbo, as usual, was never at a loss. He took two steps towards the cart, and yanked at the trailing blanket. It snagged on the edge, then he snapped it free. He stepped back and draped it round Frodo without any fuss. "There you go, lad. Into the cart."

Frodo stared at his toes. He must be red to the tips of his ears. What a dreadful thing to happen! It would have been bad enough in Buckland, but here...!

Bilbo squeezed his shoulder. "Come along, Frodo. Climb up."

Frodo clutched his wrap. He didn't know how he made it into the box again; he daren't lift his eyes. On every side he could see faces turned towards him, and could imagine only too well their stifled sniggers. Feminine giggles now entered the mix. Oh, this was a thousand times worse than his stop at the farmer's house!

Bilbo crammed himself onto the edge of the bench, so Frodo was nicely wedged in the middle. Bilbo nodded to the driver. "Up the lane, if you'd be so kind, Master Bellows."

"Hup, Maybell," the farmer said. The mare started off with a jerky trot. "Easy, girl," he called soothingly. More quietly, he added, "I apologize for that jump she gave, sir. She's normally mild as a spring day."

"Please do not fret over it," Bilbo answered. "It is kind of you to drive Frodo home."

Further conversation was impossible until Frodo was bundled into Bag End. Once he was clean, with his hair toweled off and his toes brushed, he was able to tell the whole wretched tale to Bilbo.

"Ah, that would be Lotho Sackville-Baggins," Bilbo said, upon hearing Frodo's description. "The only son of Otho and Lobelia--thank goodness for small mercies. They've never forgiven me for failing to die on my adventure, and it looks as if they are classing you in the same category, as a ruiner of plans. Ah, well. This saves me the trouble of inviting them to tea. I was afraid I might have to introduce you to them, once you'd settled in. That's taken care of! And now, I urge you to forget all about it. There are worse things in the world, my dear Frodo, than flapping in the breeze in front of one's neighbors."

But Frodo could not put the incident out of his mind. In fact, he could do little save mentally relive his humiliation, over and over all that day and into evening. Only two weeks in a new neighborhood, and already to have the reputation of being foolish enough to fall into a pond, and clumsy enough to topple off a cart! Not to mention being naked--naked in front of the whole village! His face heated again and again with recalled embarrassment. It could not be borne!

His misery was only slightly less acute the next morning. After a miserable breakfast, during which Bilbo's deliberate good humor could in no way alter his mood, Frodo decided to take the obvious course. He would find Lotho Sackville-Baggins, and make him pay for his jest. A good thrashing would be just the thing to cheer Frodo up.

To that point, he strode now towards the village. Entering Hobbiton so soon would not have been his preference, but as he didn't know the paths hereabouts, he had little choice. He had wheedled out of Bilbo the information that the S-Bs lived over the Bridge and somewhere up the Bywater Road. Therefore, Frodo must cross the Bridge and seek him there. If he timed the adventure for one o'clock, he could be assured that most of the shops would be closed and the villagers within doors, enjoying their day meal. Not only that, but Lotho would have finished eating by the time Frodo finally met up with him. Lotho was a deal larger than Frodo, but soft-looking. Frodo had no doubt that he could outmaneuver him, particularly if Lotho was slowed by a heavy meal. Ah, it would be satisfying, to pound the sneer off that face! Frodo smiled grimly, and tightened his fists.

His heart fluttered as he approached the Mill. He was nearly into town. Painful memories rose, as fresh as if the incident had only just occurred. Frodo put down his head and marched briskly over the Bridge. If he could just cross the Road, he could follow the back lane past the houses and shops; surely he would escape notice there.

He was in luck. The main intersection was nearly deserted. Walking quickly, he had just reached the shadows between the opposite shops, and begun to think himself safe, when a startled feminine voice said, "Ooh!"

Frodo glanced over his shoulder. He shouldn't have, because then he saw the lass that had just stepped from the door of the nearest shop. She put a hand to her breast. "Master Baggins!"

Frodo cringed, fearing some public announcement. Instead, astoundingly, the girl smiled. "It's very good to see you about today. I was frightened that we might not see you for some time, after what had happened yesterday."

That did it. Frodo's face flushed as hot as it had at the time.

The lass looked sharply up the street. A few other hobbits sauntered down the next block, but had not noticed them yet. She plucked Frodo's sleeve, much to his astonishment.

"Come along," she murmured. "It will be quieter back here."

"Thank you!" he said, considerably startled.

She directed him to a shady nook, just behind the wood shed adjoining the shop. "There." She released his arm and smiled at him. "Now no one will see a thing you don't want them to."

Frodo blushed. "Unlike yesterday, I suppose, where you undoubtedly saw much more than you'd bargained for."

Her smile broadened. "Oh, it was worth it. In the normal way, I wouldn't get to see very much of the future master of Bag End. Not in such record time, anyway."

Frodo blinked, not altogether certain what she was suggesting. "Do you mean to say, you wouldn't expect to see the future master very much, or that you wouldn't expect to see so very much of him?"

She stepped closer, until her bodice pressed into his waistcoat. Her eyes were the most extraordinary shade, a deep violet blue. "I mean to say, I was very pleased with what I saw. In fact," her arms went round his neck. "I wouldn't mind seeing it again."

Frodo swallowed. Something besides his cheeks began to grow warm. "You mean, here, in the alley?"

"I mean here, or anywhere. Including the alley." She leant forward, and kissed his lips.

Oh, yes. Frodo was definitely feeling nicely warm. He breathed, when he could, "But anyone might come."

"Let's certainly hope so," she whispered.

Frodo was right about someone coming, but fortunately it was confined to the two of them. Somewhere between the bloomers coming off and his partner climbing up, he learned that he was sharing the company of the vivacious Violet Grubb. She was all that Frodo could have hoped for in an alleyway encounter: fast, enthusiastic, and above all, able to climax breathily without actually screaming. Frodo found he had to bite her collar to muffle his own completion, but it was definitely worth it. Afterwards, they walked along the stream, and then shared a nibble that Frodo picked up from one of the shops. He didn't even mind the suppressed smirks and elbows digging into others' ribs as he passed--not with Violet looking so satisfied beside him. He was far too relaxed to plot any further revenge that day, and went home quite pleased with his new familiarity with Hobbiton.

The next morning, Frodo blinked awake to the realization that his plan for Lotho yesterday had been all wrong. It was foolish to precipitate a fight; that would only lead to complications. No, what he needed was to humiliate Lotho, the way Frodo had been humiliated.

Frodo recalled passing a pig farm on his way to the pond, or so the faint odor had seemed to suggest. His new plan was this: he would find this farmer, and purchase a cartload of manure. He would then have it hauled to the S-Bs', and dumped on their lawn. When they came out to investigate, he would shove Lotho face-first into it, and dance upon his back. Yes, that should meet the need for humiliation.

Frodo made a good second breakfast, and then set out. He gave the Bellows place a wide berth; the memory of their "assistance" was still too keen for him to bear. He regained the path and followed it along until--yes. The unmistakable odor of pigs tinged the air. Following his nose, Frodo left the path to climb a small, wooded hill.

He saw the pig fields directly as he crested the hill. A prosperous-looking farm extended to the following ridge, with well-maintained fences, stout shelters for the pigs, and tidy pastures. A large heap of manure rested in the center of the field, ready to be sold as fertilizer for whoever might need it.

"May I help you?" said a female voice, startling him.

Frodo jumped. A hobbit lass had materialized to his left. Frodo only then noticed the burrow she had come from, built into the side of the hill. Well, it only made sense that she would have a hole here, considering the nature of the terrain. Frodo cleared his throat. "Yes, Miss..."

"Brown. Heather Brown."

"Miss Brown. I wondered if you would be good enough to sell me a cartload of that manure."

The lass came closer. She was neatly dressed, and very composed for one so young. She looked only slightly older than Frodo, perhaps twenty-three or four. "What does a gentlehobbit need with a load of manure?"

"It's a... gift."

Heather frowned slightly. "Does this have anything to do with your being so wet the other day?"

Frodo jumped. "You saw that?"

She pointed down the wooded slope. "I saw you walk by the day before yesterday, on the path. You went very fast, or I should have come down to help you." She returned her green eyes to his face. "Your clothes were quite soaked. Very... clingy."

"Yes, well." Frodo blushed. His reputation for clumsiness was certainly spreading through the neighborhood. "I had a misunderstanding with a log by the pond."

"But you weren't hurt."

"Oh, no. Just damp." Frodo blushed again. Oh, that his adventure had ended with that, and he had never made that disastrous detour into Hobbiton!

"And now you wish to purchase manure."

"Yes."

The lass placed herself directly in front of him. She was clean and fresh-faced, with a sprinkling of freckles across her nose. Not at all what Frodo should have expected from a pigherd's daughter.

"You realize, of course," she said slowly, "that once you purchase the manure--to be of any value, you will have to spread it."

There wasn't anything in the phrase, really. Perhaps it was merely the way the lass was standing, feet solidly apart, looking at him archly as she said, "spread it."

"Er." Frodo felt his heat problem returning. "I really don't think spreading will be necessary in this case."

"But spreading is what makes it good." The lass held his gaze; her eyes were pools of sparkling emerald. "The wider you spread it, the better it will be."

Oh, dear. His heat problem had returned with a vengeance. Who would have imagined such a thing, in search for a load of manure?

"I think," said Frodo thickly, "that a simple pile will satisfy me."

"So," the lass began--and it wasn't his imagination; her hips swayed slightly as she spoke. "You want to make a pile on the ground. Like a hump."

"Er..."

"But that won't do anyone any good at all, unless you... spread it."

Frodo swallowed. "I suppose... spreading would be good."

"Oh, it's essential. But first, you must find a suitable place for the hump." The lass suddenly walked away, into the woods. Frodo hurried after her, very conscious of the rubbing of his clothes. He was extraordinarily glad that he wasn't burdened by anything clingy today.

"A place like this." Heather stopped on the edge of a little grassy glade partway down the hill. She nodded with satisfaction. "Yes. This ought to do nicely." She turned to meet his eyes. "I suppose a handsome hobbit like yourself knows all about... spreading. You must be quite an expert at it. You shouldn't need my help there at all."

"Oh, I don't think anyone can say they know all about spreading," Frodo managed, through a very tight throat. "It's the kind of thing one cannot practice too much."

Her breast pushed into his, and her arms crept up his back. She whispered, "I am so very glad to hear you say that. For I like to practice it often."

Heather's practice had certainly paid off. She was so very good at spreading, she managed to do it there in the glade, and then farther into the woods, and then again under a little copse round the hill. By then the afternoon sun was high. Frodo lay contentedly on his back, whilst Heather returned to her smial to prepare a picnic lunch for them. Frodo enjoyed it tremendously--both the picnic, and the subsequent picnic spread. By then it was far too late to arrange for cartage, even had Frodo been inclined to end such a pleasant day in the pursuit of such unpleasant business. Frodo therefore bid his new neighbor a fond farewell, and returned atrociously late to tea. Bilbo scolded him, but soon gave it up when he saw how relaxed Frodo was.

"I just don't like you missing lunch," Bilbo quarreled. "Particularly after you had that bit of trouble the other day."

"Oh, that." Frodo waved his hand. This afternoon, Lotho and his rudeness seemed of small importance. "I assure you, Bilbo, I'm quite capable of handling myself, and anyone else who happens to cross my path."

"That's what I worry about. I shouldn't want you to find yourself tempted beyond restraint."

"Restraint is overrated. No, be easy, my dear Bilbo! I'm just being silly. I assure you, everyone in these parts has been extremely kind and neighborly. I believe I'm settling in quite well."

Bilbo harrumphed. "That's the first time I've ever heard a reference to the S-Bs connected with the notion of `kind and neighborly.' Never mind, Frodo. It's clear you aren't holding a grudge, which is more than I can say for myself. I applaud your self-command. Very well. I shall trust you to keep out of mischief. But try not to disappear on me again, there's a good fellow."

Frodo slept soundly that night, and woke with a brilliant realization that put his previous realization to shame. He'd been going about this business with Lotho all wrong! Even the manure solution had been far too violent. No, he must move the contest from the physical realm to a psychological arena. Fear, that was to be his tactic. Ironically, Lotho himself had shown Frodo what he should do.

Frodo had long known that the Hobbiton hobbits feared water. Scarcely one in a hundred could swim; judging from Lotho's belly, Frodo had no doubts that his distant cousin was in the timid majority. Just look at his attack upon Frodo--pitching him into water so close to shore. Why, it wouldn't have bothered Frodo a whit, had the day been warm. But Lotho, now--he probably thought it would be terrifying to be thrown into water that was (however briefly) over his head. Frodo already knew that Lotho liked to fish; he had been there before him, after all. It was now three days since the dunking incident. Lotho was probably secure that he had warned Frodo off his grounds. It was up to Frodo to prove to Lotho how very mistaken he was. Frodo would return, and keep returning, until he caught Lotho at the pond. Then, it would be his turn to watch his victim flail! Frodo chuckled, as he buttoned up his shirt. Yes, let Lotho learn just how far he had intimidated Frodo Baggins!

To support his cover story, Frodo packed a good lunch along with his fishing tackle. He could lie in wait the whole day to catch his prey, and Bilbo would never worry. Whistling, Frodo set off down the path. He detoured round the Bellows farm, as usual, and then (somewhat wistfully) around the Browns' pig farm; he hadn't time to stop today. Perhaps on his way home. He neared the pond about noon. Stowing his rod and tackle in the shrubbery, he crept in for a closer look.

When Frodo peeped cautiously through the colorful leaves, he received quite a start. Instead of a burly, morose gentlehobbit, perhaps smirking to himself over the memory of Frodo's discomposure, there were... skirts. Three sets of skirts, bent over to look in the water.

"I am certain it was here," said the red-haired lass on one end. "You can see the footprints coming out. And here is where that log must have rested. I suppose it rolled out from beneath him--silly log."

"Poor baby!" cooed her brown-haired friend. "I hope he wasn't hurt."

The third, who bore a wild tangle of curls on her head, said, "Oh, I don't think so. Master Baggins looked very fit to me, my dear Lilac, I can tell you!"

Oh, dear! They must have come from Hobbiton. From their conversation, Frodo didn't doubt that at least one of them had been present at his... unveiling. Of course, the encounter with Violet had not turned out badly, but this lot sounded as if they'd been discussing his... personal attributes rather freely amongst themselves for days. Confident as Frodo was in his abilities, he doubted he'd have the self-possession to approach that.

He eased himself back on a heel, preparing to slip away--so of course a twig snapped.

All three girls whirled round--to meet Frodo's startled expression. The middle one yipped in startlement, but the curly-haired one gazed keenly. A smile quirked on her face. "Well, well! If it isn't the hobbit himself! You had better come out of there at once, and tell us how long you've been spying on us."

"I wasn't spying on you." Frodo pushed his way through the bushes.

"What, then? Sneaking up on the pond, as not to frighten the fish?"

"Well, er..." The three of them were staring at him, so Frodo invented the best excuse he could on the spur of the moment. "I wasn't sure if I was trespassing, so when I heard voices, I thought I'd better come up quietly, just in case..."

"In case it was someone who might throw you off his land," supplied the redhead.

Frodo nodded, although "someone who might throw you into the lake" would have been nearer the mark.

The curly-haired one pursed her lips. "Well, I still say he was spying. Gracious, if you heard our voices, you must have known we were maids!" She cocked her hips. "I think you wanted a little peep."

"If he did," said the redhead, "it would only be fair play."

Frodo colored at her words. So, the two of them had seen him. Seen him, and been intrigued enough to investigate, to the point of finding their way all the way back to the pond where he had fished. He didn't know if they were mad or merely extremely bored.

The middle one spoke up at last. Her wide hazel eyes showed trepidation mixed with awe. "So you," she gasped, "are Mr. Baggins' new heir."

Her discomfort had the odd effect of reassuring Frodo. Her question made it clear that she, at least, had not seen him before--clothed or un. He bowed. "Frodo Baggins, at your service."

She curtsied. "Lilac Boffin. And these are my friends, Ruby and Bramble." She looked up at him through her lashes. "I thought they were exaggerating, but I see now they only spoke true."

Frodo's mind raced. Considering how cold he had been that morning, he could have benefited from a little exaggeration--but that was silly. Lilac couldn't possibly be referring to that. "Exaggerating?" Frodo prompted.

"About your skin." Lilac blushed, and it struck Frodo how very becoming she looked. "It is fair, like a maid's. And your eyes..." She tipped up her face to stare at him again.

Frodo tried to make light of it. "Often my duties keep me indoors."

"But not always," said the curly-haired one, whom Lilac had identified as Bramble. She took a step closer.

"Today, for example," said the red-haired one, Ruby. "You're quite definitely outside again, today." She, too, began to approach.

"Only this time," said Bramble, "you have your clothes on."

"Yes, well." Frodo stepped back a pace. "That was a mistake."

"Which?" Bramble continued coming closer. "Taking your clothes off, or leaving them on?"

"Taking them off. Er, well, it wasn't a mistake, really. Farmer Bellows insisted."

"Are you sure it was Farmer Bellows?" asked Ruby, closing in on the other side. Lilac trailed her friends, looking both nervous and hopeful. "Was it rather not Jasmine, his eldest daughter?"

Frodo recalled hearing the name upon his visit to the Bellowses, but he hadn't been in any condition to appreciate who it belonged to at the time. "No, it was quite definitely Farmer Bellows," he babbled, just before he fetched up against a tree. He flattened there, like a trapped cat.

"Because Jasmine would think as we do," said Ruby.

"She would want to know if that wonderful skin was as nice to touch as it looked," said Bramble.

"I suppose," Frodo nattered, pinned against the tree. "I hadn't really thought about it."

"No?" Bramble trailed her fingers down his waistcoat. Frodo was so aware of her touch, the light stroke over his nipple zinged straight to his groin.

"How very odd." Bramble pressed close against him, her breasts bulging against her bodice. In a husky whisper, she added, "I've thought of little else."

Oh, dear. She was definitely giving Frodo... ideas. But... three of them? Frodo looked from face to face. Bramble pressed herself along his left side, one hand continuing to stroke his waistcoat, and the other twining in his hair. Her dark eyes were heavy with lust. Ruby closed in on the right, moistening her lips, her breasts heaving above their over-tight bounds. Little Lilac stood behind, looking worried and excited and extremely kissable.

Ruby leaned in, and nibbled his ear. Her finger tickled down the side of his face. "Is all your skin this soft?" she murmured.

"Most of it," Frodo gasped, as her mouth fastened upon his neck. Her suddenly flicking tongue nearly undid him; his knees quivered, and he slipped a little down the tree.

Bramble's hand grew bolder; she was making quite low sweeps on his waistcoat now. In his mind's eye, Frodo pictured little Lilac staring at the spot below it with astonished interest. (It had to be his mind's eye, for his actual ones had closed, and he had no notion of how to make them open again.) He was certain she had never... well, wouldn't it be nice if Frodo could help her appreciate one of life's finer pursuits? He would be gentle, and she would respond very nicely; he was certain that she would. And both her friends were here, for support. Really, it would be a kindness to send sweet little Lilac over the edge for the first time. He smiled, imagining how well the look of unbearable bliss would suit her.

Ruby's voice in his ear startled him; he'd forgot they'd been having a conversation, of sorts. "So," she breathed. "Your skin is not soft all over?"

Frodo shook his head. His waistcoat buttons were coming undone. Well, that had a tendency to happen lately.

Ruby's tongue fluttered in the hollow of his collarbone. "So, what part is not soft?"

Frodo was certain she could see very well for herself what part must be sticking up like a lamppost. He whispered back, "It's a surprise."

Bramble sank to her knees. "Ooh, I love surprises!"

Her mouth closed over him, through the cloth. Frodo shouted to the trees. Despite the fact that he'd had a nasty one three days before, Frodo decided that he, too, was becoming very fond of surprises.

#

Frodo returned even later that afternoon than he had the day before. The walk home had taken somewhat longer this time, as his legs were rather rubbery. He was forced to rouse himself from his pleasant stupor to make some sort of explanation to Bilbo.

"Really, I was about to come after you," his uncle fussed, relieving Frodo of his fishing gear at the front door. "Look at you! You look as if you've been rolling in mud. You'd best change before dinner."

"Yes, Bilbo," Frodo answered meekly. Though he tried to suppress it, his smile kept bursting through.

"I don't know what you're so happy about." Bilbo set the gear aside and hurried Frodo down the hall. "Out all day long, and not a single fish to show for it!"

"Well, it's not as if I hadn't had a nibble now and then." And he bit his lip to keep from smirking.

"Only a few nibbles?" Bilbo inquired, bustling ahead to draw Frodo a bath.

"Oh, some positive bites. I had three large ones on my line, at one time or another. In fact, I'm certain I had the same fish on my hook more than once."

"Well, as long as you enjoyed yourself. And what would you like to do tonight? Something a little more productive than what you did today, eh?"

Frodo leant dreamily against the doorjamb, as Bilbo filled a kettle with water. "I think I should like to bake," he mused. "I'm in the mood for something sweet."

#

Lotho Sackville-Baggins dawdled about the drawing room. It had been four days since he'd tipped that Brandybuck into the pond; four days since he'd learnt the sweet aftermath where Frodo had ended up bare-arsed naked before the entire town. Much as he exalted over his unforeseen success, the days since had been spent largely in a cloud of anxiety. So far, there hadn't been a whisper of Lotho's role in the pond incident. But Lotho felt it in his bones: sooner or later, the Brandybuck intended to get even with him.

It was now mid-morning of day four. Mum had been complaining about him skulking about the smial, but Lotho was certain he'd be in danger if he stepped beyond his door. The Brandybuck was smaller than he was, true, but he looked wiry. Lotho knew his limitations, and physical prowess had never been his strong suit. A sneak attack followed by strategic withdrawal was very much more his style.

A ring at the door startled him. It was probably the help; Wilks was overdue to mend their front walk. He'd been sulking, just because Lotho had held out part of his pay for the job he'd done on the hedge. Well, he had trimmed it too closely; how was anyone to learn, if Lotho paid them regardless?

Lotho opened the door, and then backed up a full step. It was the Brandybuck! He was here, on Lotho's front step! He was dressed very finely, looking every inch the gentlehobbit. His queer, angular face glowed with delight, making those oversized peepers look even more unearthly. But what alarmed Lotho the most was the pie he held in his hand; a great, golden, oversized pie, with trickles of sweet syrup decorating the lovely symmetrical slits in the top of a perfect, flaky crust. Lotho flinched, half expecting it to be flung into his face.

"Good morning!" said his guest. "Master Lotho Sackville-Baggins, I presume."

Lotho flapped his jaw, unable to speak. Why should the Brandybuck look so happy? Why should he greet Lotho by name? Something terrible was about to happen; Lotho could feel it.

A quick step up the hall calmed Lotho's terror. Here came reinforcements, indeed! He took a step back, as his mum bustled towards him. "Well, what is it? Don't stand there with the door open, you'll let the flies in." She pushed past him, and positively started when she saw who was standing on her doorstep. "The Brandybuck!" she cried.

"Frodo Baggins, if you please." He bowed low, adroitly holding the pie to one side.

His mum's mouth flapped much as Lotho's had done. Then she recollected herself. "What do you want?" she demanded shrilly.

The Brandybuck straightened, smiling. "I want to personally thank your son for the delightful welcome he gave me."

Lobelia snapped her head towards Lotho, so he jumped. "He gave you what?"

"Yes, Ma'am. Because of your son's actions, I have found myself more warmly received into this neighborhood than I had ever expected or envisioned. I know that I shall delight in living here, and I shouldn't have known that so quickly or so well, had it not been for Lotho's introduction."

Lotho felt his mum's dark eyes boring holes into him. "He introduced you, eh?"

"In gratitude for which," the Baggins continued, "I would like to offer him this peach pie. It is just a token, for I can never repay him for what he has done. So please, accept this gift, with my compliments."

Lobelia tipped her head towards the door. Lotho realized she meant for him to take the pie. He did so, trying to avoid making contact with the Brandybuck's hand. The pie certainly felt real; it smelled real. It was heavy enough, too; imagine that scrawny Brandybuck, carrying it all this way. Lotho had been right to avoid him.

"Thank you," said Lobelia, as Lotho returned inside the door. "Now, good day to you!"

She slammed the door on the Brandybuck's bow--even deeper and more elaborate than the first, now that he had no pie in his hand. She turned towards Lotho with a fierce expression. "What's this? Making friends with that Brandybuck behind my back? Introducing him to the neighborhood? What were you thinking!"

"Honestly, Mum! I didn't do neither."

"Then what is he going on about?"

"I don't know, Mum, I swear! I... you remember four days ago, when the Brandybuck turned up starkers in the center of Hobbiton?"

Lobelia narrowed her eyes. "Yes?"

"Well, he didn't fall in the pond that morning. I... pushed him."

Lobelia stared. "You pushed him."

"Yes."

"Into the pond."

"Yes, Mum."

"For which he is now thanking you."

Lotho spread his hands. "So it seems."

Lobelia knitted her brows. "He's cracked. All of those Bagginses are cracked, I always said."

Lotho was silent, relieved that he appeared to have escaped his mother's wrath. The next moment, the pie was whisked out of his hand. "Mum?"

The fierce look was back. "You'd best not touch this. It's probably poisoned."

"Mum!" Lotho nearly wailed. The truth was, the pie smelt very appealing, and it had a light and tender crust, just the way Lotho liked it. "He wouldn't poison me."

"Then he spit in it, or did some other nasty thing. Never accept gifts from strangers, Lotho! I thought you knew better by now. You could take a nice bite of pie, and find you've a dead frog on the end of your fork. No, Lotho. We are by no means going to eat it."

Lotho sagged. His mouth was watering already.

His mum tapped her foot. "We'll give it to Wilks," she decided. "If it's poisoned, it's no great loss. If it isn't, it might jolly him out of his sulk, and get him to mend the front path as he promised. Well?" Lobelia glared at him. "Bring it to him! And no nibbling. I won't have you turning green just because you've no common sense. Get rid of this wretched thing, and then find something useful to do!"

Lotho did his mother's bidding--it never paid not to. Wilks was excessively pleased about the pie, and Lotho watched regretfully as he carried it inside to his excited household. All that afternoon, he wondered. Wilks would never notice a bit of spit, but perhaps he was even at this moment writhing with cramp. Was there dirt in the sugar? Had he gotten a frog after all? By evening, Lotho found the suspense was too much for him. Though it was by no means his habit, he decided to stroll down to The Ivy Bush. If something dreadful had happened to Wilks, they'd know all about it there.

Lotho approached the pub cautiously. No one was in the street at the moment, though the buzz of voices inside came through the open windows. Slowly, Lotho pushed open the door, and froze. There was Wilks! Sitting in the middle, with his back to the door. His neighbors were crowded round, quizzing him. "Master Lotho did that?" said one. "Truly?"

Hurriedly, Lotho eased the door shut, grateful that he hadn't been seen. He crept round the side of the pub, to stand outside the window that was nearest Wilks' table. He might as well learn what Wilks was saying about him.

"... no one more surprised than me." Wilks' voice carried over the mutter of the crowd through the window. "After the way he stiffed me on that hedge job. But there he was, looking sheepish, with this monstrous pie in his hand." Wilks paused. "Mayhap the Mistress made him do it."

"'T would have to be something special, to loosen that tightwad's fist," chimed in Old Noakes. Lotho clenched his fist in anger, then realized what he was doing, and loosened it again.

"Mayhap it was that young Master Baggins' example," said a voice that Lotho couldn't immediately identify. "He brought me a pie today as well--a lovely peach one, same as what Wilks got. I hadn't felt I'd earned it, not after Maybell misbehaved herself in the middle of the market the way she did--"

There was a round of chuckles as everyone recalled the incident of four days ago, although Lotho was alarmed to note the indulgent quality of the laughter.

"--But that young Master Baggins," the farmer continued--for it could only be Farmer Bellows speaking, "did he hold a grudge? No, sirree. Instead, he gave me the most luscious pie I ever tasted, along with the prettiest thanks I've ever heard a gentlehobbit speak. Say what you will about Brandybucks, I think Master Frodo Baggins is a fine addition to the neighborhood."

"He is indeed," said Noakes, "if he can shame that Master Lotho into behaving more as a gentlehobbit should."

Lotho curled his lip and ducked away from the window. Insults and insolence; he should have expected as much. Now the whole town was embracing that Brandybuck, all on account of some stupid pie. Pie which Lotho should have eaten himself, as it had undoubtedly been perfectly good! The unfairness of the situation galled him. He turned to slink away behind the pub; he had no desire to be noticed in the street.

The buildings were close together, making the back alley quite dark. Lotho had barely turned the corner, when a shuffle and a gasp made him freeze. He held still, until his eyes could adjust.

A feminine voice moaned, accompanied by the wet sounds of kissing or sucking. Brilliant; he'd walked in upon some tawdry tryst. He stepped back round the corner, intending to go the other way, when a murmured name halted him in his tracks.

"Oh, Frodo."

The Brandybuck! In the alley? Tonight? He was doomed to be the scourge of Lotho's life.

However, an alleyway affair could hardly help the Brandybuck's reputation. Lotho listened. If the lass were someone unsavory--or better yet, someone respectable--well, Lotho might be able to use that information to advantage.

At the moment, no names were forthcoming, only plenty of licking and groaning sounds. Lotho curled his lip in disgust.

"Oh, Frodo," said the lass, accompanied by a wet popping noise. Hmm, definitely sucking noises. The Brandybuck was probably tasting a bit of teat. Lotho's envy began to rise. It was so unfair!

"Frodo," the lass murmured breathlessly, "show me again how you make a pie."

The Brandybuck's voice was low and amused. "Again?"

"Please."

"Well, first you prepare the surface, rubbing it nice and smooth..."

The feminine moans resumed.

"And then, you make sure the lower part is ready to receive the filling..."

A gasp. "Yes. Oh, yes."

"Then you... introduce the filling."

"Oh! Oh, Frodo!"

"And keep..." A pant. "Keep filling, until it is entirely full."

"Oh, Frodo! Yes, Frodo!"

"And then," puff, puff, "when it can hold no more..."

A long, contented sigh followed this statement.

"...you press firmly round the edges, like this."

"Oh, Frodo! Yes, Frodo! Firmly round the edges! Oh harder, Frodo, please!"

Lotho slunk away. Damn the Brandybuck, damn his eyes and his pies! "Firmly round the edges," indeed! Never mind finding out his sweetheart's name. If Lotho heard one more "Oh, Frodo," he would become positively ill.

As he rounded the front of the pub, he heard many raucous voices raised together in a pie-eating song. Lotho snarled and stalked off. Lotho had no pie, nor any prospects for filling one. He wasn't sure how, but he was certain this must be the Brandybuck's fault. Lotho stamped moodily off, bitterly lamenting the unfairness of life.

 

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