West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
Lessons in Maturity
A month before Frodo comes of age, Sam asks him some questions about being an adult. Frodo offers private lessons to help Sam understand. It's all fun and games until somebody loses their innocence.
Author's Note: Clearly, I'm going with the version of the appendices that says Sam is twelve years younger than Frodo rather than fifteen.
* * *
"I'm not bothering you, am I?" asked Frodo. He was straddling a branch in one of Bag End's apple trees, plucking down dead leaves and dropping them on the ground below, where Sam put them in a bucket with the weeds he was pulling from the lawn.
"Nay, sir; you're helping me."
"You don't need to 'sir' me. I'm not old enough."
"You're a gentlehobbit. Anyhow, you'll be of age next month. I'm just getting into practice." Sam grinned up at him.
"Ugh; don't remind me. That's why I'm out here, you know. Bilbo's burying himself in invitations and lists of party supplies. He's starting to drive me mad. I offer to help, but he says he wants to take care of everything himself."
"Wants you to enjoy your last month of being a youngster, perhaps."
"Yes. An irresponsible, useless, ignorant youngster."
"You're hardly any of that," Sam reproached.
Frodo sighed and dropped a twig onto the ground, and watched Sam dutifully pick it up. "I don't know. I don't feel any different than I did ten years ago, really. When I was your age."
"I'm twelve years younger, not ten."
"Now, you must have learned quite a bit in all that time," Sam encouraged. "Think of all those books you've read, and all the interesting folk you've talked to."
"Yes..." Frodo dragged his leg over the branch and slid down to the ground, where he sat against the trunk thoughtfully, rubbing bits of bark off his trousers. "I've learned a fair bit of Elvish, whatever that's worth. I've learned the names of the folk who own various pieces of land in the Shire, just in case I ever have to talk to them about grazing rights or anything. I've learned where Bilbo hides some of his treasure." He lifted an eyebrow at Sam, who cast him a properly impressed look. "I've learned..." Frodo suddenly laughed, and lifted his arms over his head, stretching against the tree.
"You've learned what?"
"Oh, nothing. Just...I've learned what some of those dirty jokes and stories mean."
Sam smiled bashfully at the ground. "I'm still wondering about some of them, meself."
"That's because you're ten - er, twelve - years younger."
They were quiet for a few moments, Frodo enjoying the warm summer breeze in the shade, and Sam continuing with the weeding. All of a sudden, Sam asked, "What does 'come' mean, the way the lads say it in those stories?"
Frodo was shocked into speechlessness, then went into peals of laughter. "Sam, what a question! You honestly don't know?"
"I sort of know," Sam defended. "It means...at the end of those dreams - you
know, those dreams - when it leaves you kind of..."
"Sticky?" filled in the laughing Frodo.
"Aye. Or wet at least," Sam muttered, blushing deeply. "That part, then, that's what they mean?"
"Yes, that's what they mean. Any other questions I can help you with?"
"It can happen with a lass? Not just in those dreams? That's what they say..."
"It can happen with a lass, if you're doing certain things with her. In fact, it has to happen, if you want any children. Haven't you worked with enough farm animals to have an idea of this?"
"I know about that. But with animals it doesn't happen in their sleep, for one," Sam pointed out. "So how do I know what other ways we're different?"
"Fair enough," Frodo conceded. "To sum up: it can happen asleep or awake, with someone else or without. Though it generally takes a little bit of effort."
"Without someone else...that's when you're asleep?"
"Well, not necessarily." Frodo grinned, and plucked a piece of grass to chew on.
Sam paused in tugging at dandelions and frowned. "By yourself, when you're
awake...is that true, then? A fellow can...come...that way?"
Frodo's grin faded into a look of concern. "You're twenty years old and you're telling me you've never..."
"I've tried," Sam said, face very red by now. "But it doesn't, well, end that way. That's only happened in dreams. And just a couple of them."
Frodo was now so puzzled that he forgot to be embarrassed. "Well, how are you doing it?"
"With...with my hands," Sam mumbled.
"Yes, that's customary. Are you giving up too early or something? I mean, it takes more than two minutes, usually, you know."
"I've spent near half an hour sometimes before giving up."
"Well, don't worry about it," soothed Frodo. "You probably just need a little more practice. You're still young, after all."
"I'd like to do it." Sam bitterly threw some dandelions into the
bucket. "Everyone says it's so grand. I just wonder if I'm doing it wrong or
something. How am I supposed to know? Who am I supposed to ask?"
"I suppose this isn't the sort of thing one can ask one's parents," Frodo mused. "I always assumed everyone just worked it out for themselves."
"Or learned from their friends." Sam pressed the weeds deeper into the bucket, and glanced furtively at Frodo.
Frodo, catching the glance, couldn't breathe for a second, as all the blood in his head and chest seemed to dive downward. Was Sam hinting that he should... No, surely not. Sam was too innocent to hint anything of the sort. But then again, wasn't it worth asking, at least? For Frodo was finding himself, to his own surprise, not only willing but strangely interested in teaching Sam what he was seeking to learn.
Frodo stretched again and said, keeping his voice somewhat flippant, "I suppose it would be highly improper of me to offer to show you."
A shy smile spread on Sam's downcast face. "Ah, you're just teasing. You wouldn't do that."
"Well, I've certainly never done it for anyone before. But for you I would. Just to further your education." It was difficult, keeping his tone so light, when his insides were doing somersaults and his erection was stiffening by the second. What in the world is wrong with me?, he wondered. What am I doing?
But now the invitation was out there. And Sam was considering it. "You're not just making fun of me?"
"I'm not," Frodo assured. "But you couldn't tell anyone, Sam, or I'd never forgive you. I want to help you, you know, but it can't be turned into some awful bit of gossip."
"I wouldn't dare!" said the affronted Sam. "Wouldn't do my reputation no favors, neither."
They gazed at each other, both blushing, until Frodo nodded, and broke into a smile. "All right. Where would such lessons take place, then? One's bedroom is the usual spot, but Bilbo's positively haunting Bag End these days..."
"And my room won't do; folk are always in and out of the place," Sam said.
"Hmm. The woods, somewhere?"
"There's the treehouse," Sam suggested, after a moment's thought. The treehouse he referred to was a structure built perhaps four feet off the ground, in the arms of a massive oak, by young hobbits a generation ago or more. Sam had shown Frodo where it was, back when Frodo first arrived here with Bilbo, and occasionally Frodo would still go out there to read. It was a ten-minute walk from Bag End, surrounded by nothing but woods. Frodo almost never saw anyone else there. The local children had found better and more accessible places to play.
"Yes." Frodo's eyes returned to Sam's, from their study of the blue sky. "The treehouse would work. It seems mostly abandoned."
"Were you thinking this evening, or..."
"When will you be finished with your work?" Frodo asked.
Sam looked around the garden. "I could be done in maybe an hour."
"I could fetch a book and wait for you there."
Sam nodded. "I'll see you there, then."
Frodo stood up carefully, dusting off his breeches. As he did so, he noticed how obvious his arousal was. He thought of moving the fabric around to hide it, then realized it was a silly time to start being modest. With a thrill that sent goosebumps rising on his limbs despite the summer warmth, he said in a low, amused voice, "I hope you don't keep me waiting long. Looks like I'm ready now."
Sam glanced up from his crouch on the ground, saw the front of Frodo's trousers, and hastily looked away with a self-conscious chuckle.
"You might as well look," Frodo said, even lower. "You'll have to be looking, in an hour."
Sam's lips parted on a breath that lifted his chest noticeably. He let his eyes travel up and settle there for a few seconds longer. Then he looked at Frodo's face and answered, "That's the same reason I'm not daring to stand up right now, sir."
Frodo's boldness dissolved into another laugh, and he shifted his clothing around. "'Sir.' Indeed. Well..." He backed away, smiling shyly. "See you soon."
* * *
"Frodo?" came Bilbo's voice, from down the hallway.
"Yes?" Frodo called back. He was in his room, trying to concentrate on selecting a book, but he seemed to have lost the ability to read, or to keep his hands steady. He been standing at the shelves for the last ten minutes, touching the books' spines and staring stupidly at them without choosing one.
"Are you going out again?" Bilbo called.
"Yes - I'm just getting a book; I'm going to read for a while outdoors. Did you need anything?"
"Is it suppertime yet?"
"No - it's only four."
"Well, bring home some blackberries if you see any."
"I will." Frodo was used to Bilbo's non-sequitur style of conversation, and was fairly sure that blackberries would not be missed if he forgot them, and that supper could probably be held off until at least seven without Bilbo noticing. His uncle got very involved when he was working on something, even something as inane as party invitations.
Impatient with himself for being so jumpy and indecisive, Frodo grabbed the nearest book and headed out the door. He called, "Bye, Uncle," and heard a murmur of some sort in return.
Once he reached the treehouse, Frodo knew he would be completely unable to sit down and read. He felt like he should be preparing his presentation, though of course that was silly. This was something he had done a thousand times, just never in front of anyone. Maybe Sam would like a verbal explanation as he went along. Maybe he should rehearse that. Frodo paced, coming up with a few half-formed bits of dialogue he could use, and promptly forgot them in his nervousness.
What was he doing? That was the real question. This was, without question, improper and naughty, and would meet with harsh disapproval from Bilbo and Mr. Gamgee if they ever found out. In the space of one short conversation, the footing between himself and Samwise had changed into something entirely new and rather frightening. Well, nothing had quite happened yet, he reassured himself. He could still back out. He could say to Sam, when Sam arrived, "I'm sorry; I wasn't thinking when I offered this. I can't. It isn't right. Please forgive me."
But he knew he wasn't going to do that. The hard ache between his legs was undiminished. He had been bored before this; he had been frustrated; he had felt caught uncomfortably between youth and adulthood, and suddenly this opportunity had opened before him like an intoxicating vista. He wanted to do it; the idea excited him; it was as simple as that. Anyway, it didn't have to be such a serious issue, he rationalized. It was just to help Sam take a desired step toward adulthood. It was a relaxing and healthy thing to do, and one should know how to do it. Was it so wrong to have a friend show you? And was it so wrong to enjoy the idea of showing a friend? Everyone should do something a little bit scary and naughty sometimes, shouldn't they?
He wondered if he would have been willing to show anyone other than Sam. Perhaps Merry, if Merry lived closer and spent more time with him. But probably no one else. Sam was, lately, Frodo's best friend, though their friendship had always been casual and easygoing before this. He hoped he wasn't about to ruin it. He hoped Sam wouldn't be too scared to face him. What if Sam didn't come to the treehouse at all?
But as Frodo stood looking anxiously out one of the square gaps that served as windows, he saw a patch of white shirt and golden-brown hair in a sunbeam. The colors resolved themselves into Sam, moving swiftly toward the treehouse and casting occasional secretive glances behind himself. Frodo caught his breath, feeling both happy and skittish.
"Hello," Frodo said giddily. He held open the rusty-hinged trap-door in the floor as Sam climbed the few rungs nailed to the trunk.
"Afternoon." Sam hoisted himself onto the faded wood planks and stood watching as Frodo fitted the door back over the hole and tied down the ropes that served as a handle.
"Wouldn't want anyone else getting in too easily," Frodo murmured.
"No," Sam agreed.
Frodo stood and looked carefully at Sam. Sam was keeping his distance, and fidgeting a bit, but was smiling. Frodo decided to give him one last chance at canceling. "Sam-lad," he said, "if you're at all scared, or have changed your mind, I won't hold it against you. I'm willing to do this, but only if you're honestly ready."
"I'm ready when you are," Sam said resolutely.
"Have a seat, then." Frodo gestured to the wall facing the direction of Hobbiton. "Look out that window now and then, will you, and watch for anyone coming."
His choice of the last word sent one of Sam's eyebrows darting upward, but Sam moved back to the window and sat down next to it, a suppressed smile on his lips. Frodo laughed and hid his face in his hands as he slid down the opposite wall to a sitting position. "Stop distracting me with puns, curse you," he said.
"Sorry, sir." Sam's smile broke into a grin.
Frodo sighed, and set about rolling his sleeves up to the elbows. "I don't even know if I'll be able to," he warned. "No one's ever seen me..." He nodded to fill in the missing word. "Not by any method whatsoever."
"You and the lasses have never..."
Frodo gave a bark of dry laughter. "What lasses? All I've done is kiss them, really. Mostly at parties, primarily for games. I'm an innocent, Sam, is the awful truth." Frodo's hands moved to the trouser buttons at his waist, and paused. "This is more or less the only thing I've any practice at."
Sam's breathing seemed to be increasing in pace. His eyes were sliding from Frodo's face to trousers, back and forth. "It's good of you to do this."
"I hope it is good." Frodo took a deep breath, undid all his trouser buttons and the two on his under-drawers, and shoved the whole bundle down to his knees before he could lose his nerve. The wood floor was rough on his bare behind; he took off his waistcoat and spread it underneath him to sit upon. "That's better," he said, keenly aware that his white shirt-tails were hanging between his legs and not covering him quite sufficiently. He glanced at Sam, who was doing a good job of looking composed, but had blushed a dark crimson. Frodo awkwardly pulled one leg out of the trousers so that they were out of the way, and then slowly lifted his shirt to display everything.
Still hard; still moist with perspiration. Hopefully not too shocking a sight for young Sam. Apparently not - Sam had pulled up his knees loosely and folded an arm across them, and was absently toying with his hair while staring at Frodo's groin with round, serious eyes. He lifted his gaze to Frodo's face, questioning, waiting.
"So." Frodo cleared his throat. "It's quite simple, really. You just take your hand...ah..." The last utterance hadn't been voluntary - Frodo had wrapped his right hand around himself, and found it so pleasurable he had moaned aloud. "Sorry," he sighed. "Seems I've been wanting this for the last hour. I don't think there will any trouble..."
"Coming?" Sam suggested, voice soft and throaty.
"Exactly. Coming...after all. Now, I don't know how you've been doing it, but I've always just moved my hand, squeezing, like this." Frodo demonstrated, which again felt frightfully good. His eyelids were heavy; he wanted to collapse on his back in a swoon, and stroke himself to a quick finish. But that, perhaps, would not be quite as educational. And he had to admit that the majority of the excitement in this particular situation was the demonstration, and the audience. Prolonging it another minute or two would be very satisfying.
"You...move...the skin?" Sam asked, chewing anxiously on his lip as he watched. "I've usually tried sort of petting it, like you would a cat or something."
"You can do that too." Frodo switched to dragging his fingers up and down the shaft and circling them at his testicles. "Don't forget to play with...this area too." He found it necessary to take breaks to breathe, every few words.
"Which way's better?"
"This is nice...for teasing...but the other way is best...for results." Frodo switched back to gripping and stroking.
Sam made a hum to indicate he understood. He shifted slowly against the wall.
Frodo thought he spied something solid at Sam's crotch, through the shadows of his knees. "Go ahead and try, if you like," Frodo breathed. "I feel a bit of an ass here, being the only one doing this."
Sam swallowed, and inched his hand down between his own legs. Through his trousers he started rubbing, shyly but with a firm press.
Frodo's breathing doubled in speed at the sight. "And you see..." he tried to explain, "there's a point at which...you can't turn back, almost...where it all becomes quite urgent...and if you stop after that...without making yourself come...it will be a long, long time before...the hardness goes away."
"Have...you reached that point?" Sam asked, sounding similarly out of breath. His hand groped more fervently, and his knees fell open farther.
"I've been past that point...ever since taking down my trousers for you." Frodo gave a shaky smile.
Sam managed a smile back. Then he pulled his hand up and plunged it down into his trousers, to stroke that way. He groaned quietly. "Might be reaching it meself."
"Ordinarily..." Frodo panted, "I would be holding a handkerchief right now...see how it's leaking...here?" He slid his thumb over the oozing head. "Mm...the way it's slippery...feels so good..."
"But that's not...coming?"
"No. It's just a sign that you will be...soon. Very soon. And I'd be...taking a handkerchief to...catch it, but I think you probably want to...see..."
"Yes," gasped Sam.
"Then...watch." Frodo arched back; his shoulders pressed against the wall and his hand pumped, and with a series of moans he came. He was so excited that the first spurt shot nearly to his feet. The next fell closer, and with the rest of the spasms the fluid dribbled over his hand and onto the wood floor.
"Oh..." Sam said, "I think I'm going to..." He suddenly unfastened his trousers in a hurry, and tugged himself out. Frodo, barely beginning to recover, felt his breath snag dizzily at the sight. Sam clumsily seized and rubbed himself, until reaching a point where his jaw fell open, his eyes fell shut, and he held his breath. Then a pearly white fluid streamed out, and he released his breath in a whimper of ecstasy, stroking until he slumped back against the wall in exhaustion.
"Well," Frodo finally said, when he could speak. "It seems I've been witness to a great occasion."
Sam opened his eyes bashfully. "Witness to, and cause of," he answered. "That was..." He shook his head and widened his eyes, speechless.
"Yes, it was," concurred Frodo. "Very. Now, where's that handkerchief?" He located it in one of his pockets, and cleaned himself up. "I brought an extra, in case you need it."
"Nay, thankee, I've got one."
They were shyly quiet for a minute as they dabbed up their hands and clothes (and the treehouse floor), and fastened up their trousers. When they climbed to their feet, Frodo staggered a bit. "I can barely stand," he chuckled.
"I know," said Sam. "It's like my legs have turned to pudding."
"I thought it was jelly."
"You choose your comparisons, and I'll choose mine," Sam chided. He flashed Frodo a grin, and knelt to untie the trap-door.
They climbed down the ladder, Sam first, then Frodo, and walked unsteadily back toward Hobbiton. On the way, they spoke mainly of other things - Bilbo's party, and who would show up, and what would be eaten - but when they got near Bag End and stopped to part ways, Sam looked at the ground and then into Frodo's eyes and said, "Honest, sir, I can't thank you enough."
"You're welcome, and I want to thank you in return. I haven't had such an
interesting afternoon in...well, my whole life."
Sam smiled, shy but proud.
"Keep practicing," Frodo added. "Let me know if you...need any help."
A sultry spark was alight in Sam's eyes as he responded, "I might, at that." Then he nodded and said, "Night, sir," and trudged toward Bagshot Row.
Frodo swirled on his heel like a dancer, caught the gate dreamily, and strolled inside. Not until he was putting his unread book back on the shelf did he realize that, for one thing, he had forgotten the blackberries (not that it mattered), and for another, he and Sam hadn't actually touched each other the entire day.
This struck him as funny. He stared at the bookshelves and laughed.
* * *
Of course, it wasn't long before he wanted to touch Sam. As soon as the
idea had occurred to him, he found his mind creating interesting scenarios where
this would take place. He ate supper with an air of distraction, which didn't
seem to bother Bilbo, across the table, who was staring past Frodo's shoulder in
similarly deep thought, as he often did. Bilbo hardly spoke, in fact, until
bringing biscuits and cream to the table for dessert.
"No blackberries, then?" he said.
Frodo looked up. "Er - no. I forgot. Sorry."
Bilbo waved a hand to dismiss the topic, and handed Frodo a biscuit.
Frodo's dreams that night were full of erotic imagery and shocking dialogue, with Sam showing up in many odd outfits and differing stages of undress. In the morning he awoke aching and unfulfilled, not sticky and wet as he might have expected, and sighed with his arm draped over his sweating forehead. He knew that yesterday hadn't been enough. He wanted to do it again. How could he ask Sam to do that? He would look disgusting and bizarre.
Frodo was too disturbed by his own thoughts to have much appetite; he only picked at his breakfast. He wanted to see Sam, but at the same time wasn't sure he could face him. What if Sam had decided that yesterday was a mistake, and didn't want to talk to Frodo anymore? What would Frodo do, when Sam arrived to begin working on the garden? Was it a better idea to hide in Bag End for a while, or should he go out immediately and give Sam a friendly smile?
The decision was made by Bilbo. While Frodo was putting on his shirt after his bath, Bilbo appeared in his doorway. "Ah, there you are. I need your help for a bit."
"Doing what?" Frodo asked.
"The invitations are done, and the envelopes are addressed. But they need to be sealed."
Frodo lifted an eyebrow, skeptically. "You want me to seal envelopes?"
"Don't take that snobbish Brandybuck tone with me, Frodo-lad. You're not too good to hold a stick of sealing wax, I presume?"
Frodo looked at the nearest wall, not sure whether to laugh or be annoyed. "Of course not. I'll be right there."
"Well, you said you wanted to help."
"I do. I said I'd be right there."
Bilbo stared at him, then nodded, with a sudden sunny smile. "Good! There are nearly three hundred; we must get started."
Frodo groaned to himself, and trudged out to Bilbo's study.
* * *
It was two hours before Frodo got out, fingertips sore from pressing heated wax against paper, and by then he was most definitely ready to face Sam again. Nothing like a tedious job to restore a sense of adventure, he thought as he bounded out the front door and started looking around the garden.
He found Sam snipping grass at the edges of the rosebushes. He flung himself down into a patch of shade next to him and greeted, "Hullo!"
Sam looked up and answered him with an amiable smile. "Morning, Mr. Frodo."
"Been here long?"
"Hour or so, maybe."
"Ah. I was stuck inside, helping Bilbo seal the invitations. All three hundred. If I never see that 'B' seal again, I'll die happy."
Sam chuckled. "So he let you help, today?"
"Made me help, is more like it. I came out here as soon as I could."
Frodo self-consciously plucked at the grass. "Well...I didn't want you to think I was avoiding you."
Sam sent him a shy glance. "Crossed my mind, but I didn't reckon you were."
Frodo smiled in relief, and studied Sam with more playful interest. He saw a returning twinkle of mischief kindle in Sam's eyes. By the time Sam looked down at the grass again, Frodo had almost no doubts that another invitation would go over well.
"I was thinking of going out to the treehouse for lunch today," Frodo said. "Join me, if you like."
"I'll take you up on that," Sam answered, smooth and casual as you please. He stretched his back, glancing around the garden. "Wait till I finish this row, and we can go then."
Frodo's heart started skipping ahead of its usual pace. "I'll just go fetch some things from the pantry." He scrambled up and darted inside, where he threw rolls and jam and carrots and almonds into a basket in less than a minute, then darted back outside without even bothering to tell Bilbo where he was going.
Sam was rinsing his hands at the pump when Frodo found him. When he had dried them on a rag, he took the basket from Frodo, and nodded him onto the road that led into the woods. As they began walking, they heard Bilbo call from a window, "Hoy, Frodo!"
Frodo took an impatient hiss of a breath, and turned around. "Yes?"
"Out for a picnic, are you?"
"Yes - we're going out to the - into the woods."
"Well, don't be long. You mustn't encourage Sam to be as idle as you are."
"I won't," Frodo answered patiently, though a blush stung his cheeks. If only Bilbo knew the things Frodo was encouraging Sam to do.
Bilbo waved and left the window. Frodo and Sam continued walking into the forest.
"Good thing you didn't mention that treehouse," Sam commented.
"You think I'm daft?" Frodo grinned at him. "It's true, though - I almost did. I shall have to be more careful."
When they reached the treehouse and climbed inside, Sam knelt and tied up the ropes the way Frodo had done the previous day. Frodo, watching, felt his pulse beat faster. Sam looked up, and said, hesitating, "I...I'm assuming we're not just here to eat."
"Not just to eat," Frodo agreed, with a small smile.
Sam's breathing took on that lovely shallow quality again, and he eased back to sit against a wall. Frodo approached, and sat down beside him. Their knees almost touched.
"I started to practice what you showed me, this morning," Sam confided.
"Really?" Frodo was already hard, and a subtle glance downward proved that it was noticeable if you knew what to look for. "How'd it go?"
"Was going fine, till my Gaffer came and hollered me out of bed. I didn't appreciate that too much."
Frodo clicked his tongue in commiseration. "Bilbo's done that to me countless times. Can always finish up in the bath, of course. Remind me to demonstrate with soap some time." This conversation was getting too exciting; Frodo's hand itched to touch the ridge in his breeches.
"Thought of it, but then figured I'd save it for later. Thought maybe you'd happen to meet me again, show me if I've got the right idea - just if you wanted to, I mean. And if you didn't, I could always try it by meself, later tonight."
"I want to," Frodo assured quickly. He let his hand squeeze himself, and took a shaking breath.
Sam's hand immediately did the same, to himself. "Then what are we wearing all these clothes for?" Sam asked. His mouth stretched into a dazzlingly naughty grin. At the same moment, they both undid a row of buttons and shoved down their trousers.
But this time, as Frodo got close to the end, murmuring occasional directives or encouragement to Sam, he cast a longing look down at Sam's left hand, which lay twitching on Sam's thigh while the right did most of the work. Abruptly, Frodo switched to using his left hand on himself, and placed his right on Sam's hand, fingers running down fingers. Sam turned his hand over and grasped Frodo's firmly, and when they came, almost at the same time, their fingers were interlaced and their palms were pressing together.
Lunch was eventually eaten, but in a hurry. Sam had to get back to the garden, and Frodo didn't want Bilbo to suspect anything. As they ate, and hastened back to Bag End, they spoke of other naughty things they had done in their lives - spied on lasses undressing, or tried to make sleeping friends wet the bed, and so on. They were laughing like mischievous children by the time they separated in the garden.
The next day was even more delicious. Frodo strolled into the garden with the secure assumption that Sam would find time to join him in the treehouse, and he was right. At lunch they repeated the previous day's activities, but this time their knees were touching, and Frodo's hand slipped out of Sam's and began rubbing Sam's bare thigh. The moan this elicited from Samwise was dangerously exciting. It led Frodo to make an even braver suggestion: "Can I...finish you?" he asked breathlessly, hand creeping toward Sam's groin.
Sam nodded and moved his own hand out of the way, and gasped as Frodo touched him. A few strokes, less than a minute's time, and Sam was indeed "finished." Frodo pulled away his slippery hand, seized himself, and brought himself off in a matter of seconds.
"Now, that's hardly fair," said Sam, teasing, as they shyly took out their handkerchiefs and cleaned up. "I didn't get to finish you."
"Mm." Frodo ran his eyes up and down his companion. "Would you like to, tomorrow?"
"I'd like to tonight, if you think you can."
"Oh, I can, lad. I can."
* * *
Frodo was true to his word: even in Sam's somewhat clumsy hand, he found it easy to be satisfied, and blissfully so, when they met six hours later. For that matter, he found it easy to use his hands to satisfy Sam in return. By the time the summer sun touched the horizon that evening, they had made a fascinating and important discovery: that while it was certainly exciting to play with themselves, it was a thousand times more exciting to play with each other.
The next several days rolled by in a series of heated, sticky, addictively pleasurable meetings, colored in Frodo's mind by the green of the sun through the forest leaves, and the gold of the fine hairs that grew upon Samwise - not only on his head but in places Frodo was beginning to learn intimately. In a picnic basket, Frodo smuggled out a thin blanket from his bedroom closet, and they kept it at the treehouse, spread upon the floor, to make their increasingly daring adventures more comfortable.
They agreed that it definitely should still be kept a secret. It was just for
fun, they assured each other. It just felt good, that was all. No need for
their guardians to be shocked and disturbed and worried by it, which they
undoubtedly would be. "And, in truth," Frodo pointed out, "it's safer than
either of us carrying on this way with a lass. We can't get each other
pregnant." Sam laughed and admitted that this was a good point.
Bilbo eyed his rosy-faced charge one afternoon, as Frodo looked over a list of meal suggestions for the party and commented on the food choices. When Frodo handed it back to him with a flourish and stood up to leave, Bilbo asked curiously, "What do you and Samwise find to talk about? He seems a bit young to have the same interests as you."
"Oh - anything," Frodo said airily. "He's very bright." Moved by an impulse to
play a reckless game of half-truths, he added, "Sometimes I teach him things."
"What sort of things?"
"Whatever he wants to learn." Frodo was amusing himself too much; he tried not to laugh.
"Elves, I suppose," Bilbo mused, examining his list again. "Samwise always liked his Elves."
"Samwise likes several things." Frodo now knew he would have to leave the room soon, or he would most certainly collapse in hilarity.
"Mushrooms!" Bilbo exclaimed, confusing Frodo fleetingly before Frodo realized he was focusing on the party food suggestions. "How could I have forgotten mushrooms!"
Frodo nodded to his uncle, and escaped to his own room, where he rolled onto his bed and hid his light-headed laughter in a pillow.
* * *
By the time twelve days had passed, Sam and Frodo had taken off all their clothes for each other, not just their trousers but every last stitch, had touched just about everything there was to touch, and had found many new ways to excite each other. On one of the days, while they sat facing each other naked on the blanket, with legs straddled around one another, all four hands stroking with a slick soapy lotion Frodo had brought from home, Frodo tipped his head forward and brushed his panting lips against Sam's. This damp kiss led to another, and another, each less awkward than the one before, until their hands slowed and they sat there doing almost nothing but kissing. The other caresses were remembered soon, of course, but kisses had now been firmly added to their repertoire.
On a day not long after that, Sam had said that he wanted to feel Frodo lying on top on him, naked. They had done this, and slid against each other, with frenzied and wet kisses, to such a glorious end that Frodo had insisted upon having Sam lie on top of him the next time. This went equally well, and they had a good-natured debate about who would get to be underneath the time after that.
The more they did, the more they wanted to do. Eventually, they couldn't refrain from starting to kiss and touch each other as they walked through the woods to the treehouse. They ended up pressed against the trunks of trees more than once, and even lying on the ground in a carpet of tiny twinflowers on one occasion, rubbing at one another through (or under) layers of clothes, whispering breathlessly what they wanted to do. Only by serious effort were they able to make themselves stop and get all the way to the treehouse where they could finish in privacy.
On the fourteenth morning after they had begun their interesting lessons and experiments, Frodo awoke to discover Sam caressing his cheek and cajoling in a most suggestive tone, "Rise and shine, Master Frodo; time for your bath."
Frodo caught his hand, looked around in shock, and laughed, "What are you doing here? Where's Bilbo?"
"Went out to have a visit with some dwarves as are passing through, he said. Met me on my way into the garden. Told me he'd be spending second breakfast and lunchtime in town, and that Master Frodo was still in bed, and could I please wake Frodo up and prepare his bath as he's been sleeping far too late these mornings." Sam's grin flashed white teeth at Frodo, and his eyebrows lifted briefly in merriment.
"He didn't!" Frodo fell back on his pillow with a cascade of astonished laughter. "I suppose that answers the question of whether Bilbo suspects anything. He obviously doesn't." Then he wriggled erotically, eyes fixed on Sam's, and pushed the blankets down with his feet. His nightshirt, already scrunched up nearly to his groin, betrayed a marked spike at that location. "Well, it seems I'm still in bed, Samwise. What are you going to do about it?"
Sam, though fully dressed, slowly straddled Frodo and pressed against him. Frodo stretched his arms above his head, on the pillow, and lifted his hips, groaning. Sam pushed up Frodo's nightshirt, pausing to slide rough thumbs over the bare nipples, and leaned down to suck on each one. Frodo had done this to Sam the day before, and now found the reciprocation very welcome indeed. He squirmed against Sam's thighs, and begged, "Touch me..."
Sam suddenly got up, and said in a cheery voice, "Nay, sir, you're to get out and have your bath."
"Curse it, Sam, don't play with - oh. A bath?..." Frodo sat up, pulled his nightshirt over his head, dropped it on the bed, and got up, naked, to stand beside Sam. He watched Sam's eyes fall to his prominent arousal, and he pushed his hips forward so that it touched Sam's thigh. "Lead the way," Frodo said.
Sam fixed his eyes on Frodo's face, closed his hand around Frodo's erection, and gave it a tug. "Come along."
In the bathroom, Frodo found that Sam had already filled the tub halfway with hot water. "Shall I get in?" he asked, squirming against Sam's grip, which still held him.
Sam tickled him between his legs, watching Frodo twist and laugh, then answered shyly, "Aye. You said something once about demonstrating with soap..."
"Ah...so I did. Well, then." Frodo climbed into the tub, and slid down. The water reached just to his lower ribs. He took the bar of cream-colored soap and lathered up his hands. "I'm surprised you never discovered how good this feels." He pulled himself up out of the water just enough to begin stroking himself. "So wet...and warm...and slick."
Sam was kneeling beside the tub, watching with a look of heavy-eyed lust that Frodo now knew well. "Think you better let me take care of that," Sam murmured, and reached into the water to take over Frodo's hand motions.
Frodo moaned, turned his head and started kissing his friend. "Won't you get in?" he pleaded.
"I daren't," Sam lamented. "If anyone came back..."
"But don't you...want to try?"
"Yes," Sam groaned. "You know that."
"We'll...work something out, then."
What they worked out, after Frodo had been satisfied, was that Sam opened his trousers, leaned forward over the tub, and let Frodo squeeze and clasp him with his wet, soapy hands until reaching an explosive finish.
As Frodo got dressed afterward, Sam emptied the tub, and then walked up behind Frodo and took his hand. Frodo turned and smiled. Sam kissed every inch of his bath-wrinkled skin, and took Frodo's index finger into his mouth. The way he suckled and lapped at it, the velvety wet feel of the inside of Sam's cheeks and his tongue, made Frodo gasp.
Sam bashfully pulled his mouth away and murmured, "Was thinking of doing that to you somewhere else, sometime."
"Funny," Frodo said, "I've been thinking I'd like to do it to you, too."
This earned him a full-body clasp and a deep kiss from his gardener. They finally untangled themselves, and strolled out into the kitchen, where Sam began slicing tomatoes and bread for lunch, and Frodo got out the plates and silverware.
"It'll be your fault if I fall asleep in the daisies this afternoon," Sam told him.
"Why will it be Frodo's fault?" asked Bilbo, who had suddenly walked into the kitchen.
Sam sucked in an audible breath, and Frodo nearly dropped a plate.
"Bilbo," Frodo said. "You're back."
"Well, I've only been to town. It's not as if I traveled to the moon." He was still carrying his walking-stick and an armful of new maps which the dwarves had likely given him. Frodo started to relax as he realized that Bilbo must have just arrived this moment, and could not have heard anything other than Sam's last comment. "Now," Bilbo demanded, "I want to hear why Frodo is causing Sam to fall asleep in the daisies."
"Because," Frodo said, "I was telling him a frightening story about Orcs and serpents and things yesterday, and he says he couldn't sleep last night because of it. So today he's tired."
Sam glanced at him with a mix of gratitude and exasperation - probably didn't much fancy being called a coward, but had no choice except to go along with the story. "Aye," Sam agreed, "he makes up disturbing images, he does."
Bilbo looked vaguely intrigued. "You'll have to tell it to me sometime, Frodo. Might be worth turning into a poem."
"I just made it up as I went along," Frodo said quickly. "Hardly remember any
"Oh, well..." Bilbo started to look distracted, and hefted the maps under his arm. "There's not enough time anyway..." He turned and wandered off to the study.
When he was out of sight, Frodo and Sam both sagged with relief, exchanging wide-eyed glances, grinning at how close they had come to revealing their little secret.
"What did he mean, there's not enough time?" Sam asked, hushed, as they sat down to eat lunch.
"Who knows," Frodo said. "Too busy preparing for the party to do anything else, I suppose."
"There couldn't be that much left to do."
"I know, but he spends all day in there." Frodo smiled over his sandwich, and gave Sam a fond kick under the table. "Lucky for us."
"Enough of that. You'll get us caught," Sam reproached. But he smiled back, just as fondly.
* * *
That evening, at dinner, Bilbo announced quite suddenly to Frodo, "I've had enough of being cooped up indoors. I'm going off for a day or two, with those dwarves."
Frodo looked up from his plate in surprise. "Off - where?"
"They're going to the mountains, of course, but I think I shall only go with them as far as Bree. I'll stay a night there, and then find someone coming this direction to accompany me back."
"But...what if you can't find anyone?" Frodo asked.
"Then I'll travel alone," snapped Bilbo. "It's only Bree. I've seen much worse, you know."
Frodo raised his eyebrows and meekly looked down. He wasn't inclined to argue.
"Yes," mused Bilbo, a minute later, after chewing on some bread. "I could use a night away."
Frodo, who had just thought of a significant benefit to Bilbo's absence, began to smile. "Well, you've earned it, Uncle," he said generously.
* * *
It took all of Frodo's self-restraint to wait until the next day to tell this
news to Sam. He was afraid Bilbo might change his mind, as he often did, and
Frodo didn't want to get Sam's hopes up.
But early the next morning, Bilbo was up and packing a bag, and he got Frodo out of bed to tell him he was leaving. Frodo obediently got up, wrapped a robe around his nightshirt, and, yawning, followed Bilbo out to the front gate. The morning sun slanted bright across the road. Sam, as it happened, was just arriving, in a clean brown jacket, looking freshly bathed and (to Frodo's eyes) supremely kissable.
"Ah, Samwise, good," Bilbo said. "I was just telling Frodo goodbye. I'll be off traveling with the dwarves as far as Bree. Won't be back till late tomorrow, I fancy."
"Sounds exciting, sir," Sam said. "Are you walking or riding?"
Bilbo laughed. "Dwarves don't ride, Sam. Not if they can help it."
"Ah, right; forgot. Long journey, then."
"Yes, yes, I must get started. They're meeting me at the river. Drop in and look after Frodo sometimes, will you? Make sure he doesn't forget to eat."
Frodo, leaning on the gate, rolled his eyes, smiling. He and Sam held each other's glances a bit longer than necessary.
"I'll see to it," Sam promised.
"Goodbye, then, lads - see you on the morrow!"
Frodo and Sam said goodbye, and watched as Bilbo walked swiftly up the road and vanished from sight around the bend. Then they looked at each other, across the gate.
"So. I'll have the house to myself," Frodo commented.
"Fancy that." Sam drew closer and put a hand on the gate.
"It will be rather lonely."
Sam tilted his head in regret. "Ah, you know I can't stay overnight...the folk at home, they'd..."
"I know. But..." Frodo glanced up and down the road to make sure no one was around, then leaned forward and nuzzled Sam's neck. "To get you in my own bed...after dinner tonight, and then first thing tomorrow morning...that, I imagine, will be enough."
As it turned out, it was difficult even to wait until that night, for they had gotten accustomed to their lunchtime sessions. But they wanted to save their energies for the special treat of frolicking in Frodo's large, soft bed, and so Sam hurried through his afternoon tasks, told his Gaffer he was to spend supper at Bag End, and then joined Frodo.
Their supper was eaten quickly, with many interruptions for kissing and fondling, and Frodo managed to thoroughly distract Sam by picking up a warm stewed baby carrot and drawing it provocatively in and out of his own mouth. They skipped dessert, pushed the dishes aside to be washed later, and raced to Frodo's room, where Sam pounced upon him. In the light of a pair of candles, they undressed completely, clothes strewn around Frodo's bed, and Frodo slid down and performed upon Sam the act he had pantomimed with the carrot, unsure of what he was doing exactly, but very encouraged by the sounds Sam was making. This ended quickly enough, with Sam vowing that it was one of the most pleasurable things he had ever felt, and then Frodo found himself being thrown on his back so that Sam could return the favor.
Sam's claim about pleasure had been right, Frodo realized - in fact, it had been an understatement. He pushed his hips up to Sam's mouth, writhing, moaning, biting his arm to keep from seizing Sam's hair.
Which was the position they were in when a sputtered sound made them look at the open doorway, to see Bilbo standing there.
The shock it gave Frodo's heart should have been enough to kill him, he thought. But he found, when the first fog of horror cleared from his mind, that he was in fact moving very quickly for someone who thought he might die at any second. He, along with Sam, was busy grabbing the nearest clothes and hiding himself, and heard his own voice saying, "You said you'd be back tomorrow!"
Bilbo was still in his traveling cloak and seemed to have just walked in. His face had registered astonishment at first, but was now evolving into quiet rage. He turned halfway so that he wasn't looking at them, but he didn't leave the room. "The dwarves changed plans," he hissed, each word cut off sharply. "I spent the day visiting your Brandybucks. I told them you were fine." The last word was nearly spat at Frodo.
Frodo's hands had never shook so badly in his life. He was having severe difficulties getting his trousers buttoned. So was Sam, from the look of him. Frodo hoped Sam would not be scarred for life by this.
"Uncle, don't be angry. It's all right," Frodo begged.
Bilbo rounded on them, eyes smoldering with fury. "I don't think his father would think it's all right!" He pointed at Sam, who was shrinking back, shirt halfway on, and looked close to tears.
"It doesn't need to be anyone else's business!" Frodo insisted.
Bilbo ignored him. "Samwise," he ordered. "It's late; go on home."
"Yes, sir," whispered Sam. Waistcoat and jacket in his arms, he looked quickly at Frodo, who could only return him a helpless and longing glance, and then Sam darted past Bilbo and disappeared into the corridor. Frodo bowed his head to his chest. He heard the front door close softly a moment later.
Frodo carefully took a breath, picked up his shirt, and started putting it back on. He could not bring himself to look at Bilbo.
"Come out to the front room when you're dressed," Bilbo snarled, and stomped away.
Frodo did as he was told. A few minutes later he tiptoed out and found Bilbo pacing in the front room.
"Sit down," Bilbo snapped.
Frodo sat down uncomfortably on the edge of the nearest chair. "Uncle, I'm sorry you happened to see..." Frodo rippled his fingers a little to indicate the whole scene that Bilbo had been subjected to.
"I'm sorry I happened to see it, too! I came in quietly, you know, thinking you were asleep, only to find-" Bilbo broke off, and surged into a new sentence: "How long has this been going on?"
"About two weeks," said Frodo softly.
"So it's a new hobby, is it? I thought you two were close, but I never thought - 'I teach him things' - oh, Frodo, that's disgusting!"
Frodo winced, and squeezed his hands together between his knees.
"You've always been romantically-minded," Bilbo went on. "I had no doubt you would find yourself a lover someday, but I at least thought it would be a lass-"
"Would that really help?" Frodo countered. "Would you really feel better if it had been one of Sam's sisters in there?"
"No, I'd rather you not molest any of the Gamgees at all!"
"'Molest'! I beg your-"
"Fine," Bilbo returned, "'seduce', 'play with', whatever you call it!"
"Why? Are they not good enough for me? Or am I not good enough for them?"
"It's not about being 'good enough' for anyone! It's about not doing such things with respectable hobbits before you're wed to one another!"
"I could do it with un-respectable ones, then?"
"Oh, stop playing word-games with me," Bilbo said. "You know this is wicked; the guilt is written all over your face."
Frodo looked down at his lap. "This isn't guilt," he said a moment later. "It's shame. It wasn't a moment anyone else should have seen. One would say the same of a wedding-night."
"It is not the same thing. That lad is, what, nineteen?"
"And you'll be of age in two weeks; Frodo, you should know better! Think how his father would see it!"
Frodo looked up in fresh fear. "Please don't tell Mr. Gamgee, please, Bilbo. It would destroy Sam's life - and the Gaffer's."
"I certainly don't want to tell him. Good thing I'll likely be gone soon, or I'd have to face that question."
"Gone? What do you mean?"
"Nothing, boy, nothing. But, think - I shan't be around forever, you know. If I were to...well, if I were to leave..."
"Are you ill, Bilbo?" Frodo was now alarmed for a new reason.
"No, no, but - I'm old, you know. Things happen." Bilbo's voice had gotten softer as he muttered all this, but suddenly he turned on Frodo, and it sharpened again. "And how can I leave you here in good conscience, knowing that this is the sort of despicable thing you do in your spare time!"
Frodo buried his head in his hands. "I wish you wouldn't think of it."
"I have no choice but to think of it! You carrying on in this foul way, right here in our own home - oh, yes, I know, you probably fancy yourself very much in love." Bilbo nearly sneered the word. "But think realistically, Frodo! How long could this last? You think you'll never get tired of each other? You think you'll live out your days here as a pair of bachelors? What will the next ten years bring, Frodo, really? Where will you both be?"
Frodo wanted to cover his ears. In truth he had not defined, in his own mind, his relationship to Sam; he would have perhaps called Sam his playmate or best friend, but when Bilbo had called him a "lover," and then suggested Frodo fancied himself "very much in love," it had felt as if someone were pressing hard upon a bruise under his ribs. If he really did feel guilty about what he and Sam were doing, if he really didn't love Sam, wouldn't this be the perfect time to promise he would stop? But Frodo wanted nothing more than to take Sam in his arms and tell him everything would be fine and that he would never betray him. What did that mean?
"I don't know," Frodo whispered.
"Well, start thinking about it!" Bilbo kept pacing. When Frodo didn't answer after half a minute, he added, "Needless to say, I expect you to stop doing this at once."
Frodo still did not answer.
"Do you promise?" demanded Bilbo.
"No," Frodo said, quietly.
"What do you mean, no? If you don't stop..." sputtered Bilbo, "...if I leave soon, and you haven't stopped..."
"Are you leaving?" Frodo asked.
"I very well may!"
"Because of this?"
"No; I've wanted to for years! But you weren't old enough, and now - now, how can I know that it's safe to leave you alone?"
Frodo was looking at him anxiously. "You'd leave me here without telling me?"
"Well, after you're of age, I've no reason to be tied down!"
"This is not the issue! Listen to me: I want to see nothing of this little hobby of yours, ever again, do you hear? I want no one, no one, to have any cause to suspect the two of you, I want you to behave yourself, privately and publicly, and I want you to think very hard about what you've already done to someone who is too young to say no to you. Do you hear me?"
Frodo, trembling, jumped to his feet. "I hear you," he said as he made his way to the front door.
"Where are you going?"
"Out to see him?"
"Out," Frodo repeated, and slammed the door behind him. He scarcely knew where he was going, but was pushing through the gate and walking fast down the road within seconds. The night wind was cold, for late summer, and blew his hair into his eyes, but it was not the temperature that was making him shake. There were so many horrible and strong emotions tumbling over each other in his mind that he didn't know which one to examine first. The cruel words Bilbo had thrown at him were all too fresh in his ears; they stung like a burn whenever he thought of them.
But most of all, he could not stop thinking of Sam. He thought of the occasion a couple of days earlier when they had done nothing but kiss for a quarter of an hour. He thought of Sam murmuring afterward, "Ah, you're a treasure, you are." He thought of the way they glanced at each other over the tops of hedges and windowsills, and how he delighted in the knowledge that Sam was much cleverer than people realized. He thought of Sam frightened, cowed, slinking out of Bag End in disgrace; the grief of this thought made him almost unable to breathe. And now, at a time of trauma, Sam was the only person he wanted to see.
He turned toward Bagshot Row, making up a story in his mind that he would tell the Gaffer or whoever answered the door: I'm sorry for the late hour, but I need to talk to Sam...I was preoccupied today and was rude to him, you see, and I can't rest until I've apologized...if he seemed upset when he came home, that was the reason; I'm terribly sorry...could you please send him out to speak to me alone...
But his speech was not needed. As he walked down the road, he heard a voice -
Sam's - call out in a hushed tone, "Frodo!"
Frodo spun around to see Sam, in the moonlight, emerging from a clump of trees at the edge of a field, where he had apparently been hiding. Frodo rushed toward him and caught him in the shadows with a solemn but fierce hug. Sam seemed taken aback; he paused a moment before wrapping his arms around Frodo. Frodo realized ruefully that they had practically never hugged each other in a non-erotic situation before. That will change starting now, he swore grimly to himself.
"You haven't been home yet?" Frodo asked, as he loosened his hold on Sam.
"No. Was too frightened." Sam's voice was shaky, and when Frodo looked more closely he could see the marks of tears under Sam's eyes. "Will he tell my Gaffer?" Sam whispered miserably.
"I don't think so," Frodo said. "I begged him not to, and it doesn't sound as if he wants to."
Sam sighed and sank to sit against a tree, in a spot hidden from the road by a
screen of branches. "Oh, I hope not."
Frodo sat beside him, his body turned halfway so that he could huddle against Sam's side and rest his head on his shoulder. He clasped his arm across Sam's chest. "I'll protect you any way I can," Frodo said. "I'm the one who got you into this."
"Nay, I'm the one who asked you, in the first place."
"You were ready, weren't you?" Frodo entreated. "You didn't just do it because you were afraid to say no to me?"
"Of course not!" Sam put his arm around Frodo's shivering form, and lowered his head to touch Frodo's curls.
"You knew I wouldn't have done it if I didn't care about you, didn't you?" Frodo continued. "You knew I wasn't just playing you about? You knew I...I..."
"I love you, you know," Sam mumbled, running the words together. It was the first time either of them had said it.
Frodo took in his breath, and some of his anxiety vanished as a warm sparkle seemed to wash through his skin. "Exactly. I love you, too," he answered. "All I wanted was to come out here and find you and tell you that."
Sam hugged him tighter, and Frodo lifted his face for a long, tender kiss.
"What did he say to you?" Sam finally asked.
The bitterness returned, swelling in Frodo's chest until it felt like there was a stone lodged there. "That I'm disgusting, and foul, and irresponsible, and that he wants me to stop. And that...that he might be leaving." Frodo's voice cracked. He fought back tears of anger.
"Leaving, because of this?"
"No. Just leaving, when I come of age, the way he sometimes talks about...you know all those maps...I suppose that's what he's been planning. But now he hates me..." Frodo drew a shuddering breath. A tear escaped onto his cheek. "...and he'll leave thinking the worst of me, and I might never see him again..."
Sam made a sympathetic sound, smoothing the tear off Frodo's face with one thumb.
Frodo swallowed, trying to regain control of himself, and not doing very well. "I'm so angry with him, for all the things he said...but I don't want him to leave...and nothing would make him happy unless I promised to stop seeing you, and I can't...I can't promise that..."
Sam cradled him, and they leaned unhappily against each other in silence for a while. Finally Sam said, "I know it'll be hard, and I know it's not what we'd prefer, but maybe we could try doing things less often, just for a couple weeks. Till the party. If it'll make him feel better, we can stop for a while."
"I'm not going to pretend I don't care for you," Frodo said fiercely.
"You don't have to pretend that. Just - doing things, that's all." Sam
gave him a regretful smile. "You did teach me those things so's I could do it
by meself. Might as well practice."
Frodo's mouth twisted bitterly, but he pulled Sam in for a kiss. "You may be right," he sighed. "Two weeks...I suppose we can handle that."
"We'll still talk, now and then," Sam assured. "We'll get through."
A horrible suspicion occurred to Frodo. "Are you...ending this?" he asked Sam. "Is this your way of letting me down easy?"
"No!" Sam held him by the shoulders to look at his face. "After telling you how in love with you I am! Are you daft or what? Look, I just don't want us in trouble. I couldn't stand it if we had another night like this one. That's all."
Frodo smiled, placated. "Well, tonight wasn't all bad." He was pleased to see a hint of pleasure flicker in Sam's returning smile. Frodo leapt forward and hugged Sam as tight as he could. "Don't ever leave," he whispered. "Ever, ever."
"I promise," Sam whispered back.
Soon after that, Sam decided he was calm enough to go home, and Frodo agreed it was time to try mending some of the differences between himself and Bilbo. He and Sam kissed, and parted reluctantly.
When Frodo quietly entered Bag End, he saw the back of Bilbo's head, in the chair facing the cold fireplace. A candle on the mantel was the only light. Bilbo did not turn around when Frodo closed the door.
"I'm sorry, Uncle," Frodo said softly, standing at a distance. "I didn't handle any of this very well."
After a spell of silence, Bilbo answered, "Have you been off to see him, then?"
"Yes. I - we - agreed we should...behave...and not upset anyone."
Bilbo sighed heavily. He glanced aside, so that Frodo could see his face in profile. Bilbo looked weary and sad, not angry. "That boy thinks the world of you, Frodo," he said. "Don't hurt him."
"I wouldn't hurt him. He..." Frodo looked at the floor, cursing the tears that threatened to overtake him again. "He's all I have here, other than you. I've never had many friends. And if you leave..." Frodo couldn't continue.
"Oh, come here, Frodo," Bilbo scolded, reaching out his arms.
Frodo came forward, fell on his knees at Bilbo's feet, and hugged him around the waist, crying silently. Bilbo stroked his back and his tangled hair.
"I know you're not the most wicked lad in the world," Bilbo admitted, "nor the stupidest. I know you've a good heart. You're just young. I can forget what that's like, sometimes."
"Are you leaving?" Frodo whimpered into the fabric covering Bilbo's knee.
"Well, not yet, not yet. Don't fuss, lad. It's all right."
* * *
It was late at night, after Bilbo and Frodo's party. Through the open window, where the curtain swirled in the wind, Frodo could still hear the last knots of revelers singing down on the green. He sat motionless on the chair before the dark fireplace. Gandalf had left a while ago, after ascertaining what Frodo had already suspected: Bilbo was gone. If he had any further doubts, he needed only look about him at the various possessions sitting in the front room with notes pinned to them, fluttering in the draft, specifying who the items were to be given to. Frodo wondered when Bilbo had managed to do all this.
He looked down at the envelope in his lap, which contained the ring Bilbo had taken from Gollum. It was responsible for Bilbo's final vanishing act, his little joke on all his party guests - and on Frodo. That would be the last time they saw each other for...how long? Frodo could hardly guess.
He turned over the envelope and noticed that it was sealed with wax, and that the wax bore the imprint of the 'B' seal Frodo had been made to use on the invitations. A faint smile touched his lips. How impatient he had been to leave Bilbo that day and see Sam...ah, Sam.
Dancing with Rosie tonight to keep up appearances. Winking at Frodo when he had drunk sufficient amounts of ale. They had kissed just yesterday, a stolen kiss, both of them on their knees behind the boxwood hedge, still not sure how long they would have to go on hiding from the one person who knew about them. Well, that part was over. Frodo was relieved of it, but he knew Sam would understand if he was not entirely happy for a little while.
He heard the footsteps outside, and turned an expectant look upon the door as someone knocked. "Come in," Frodo called softly.
Sam entered, alone. He came to stand beside Frodo's chair, handsome and boyishly tousled from the dancing. "So it's true?" he asked solemnly. "Mr. Bilbo's left?"
Frodo nodded. "It's mine, now, Bag End. I can do as I please with it."
"And what do you please?" Sam asked. It wasn't a sly, suggestive question; it was honest and curious.
Frodo reached up a hand. Sam took it. Frodo brought it to his cheek and closed his eyes. "You're all I have now, Samwise," he said, nearly a whisper.
"I'm not going anywhere," Sam assured.
Frodo used Sam's hand to pull himself up, then took Sam's face in both hands and gave him a long, soulful kiss on the lips. "Good," he said. "I'll need you. I never learned how to be alone."
"That's something I've no mind to teach you," said Sam. "Speaking of which, um..." Holding Frodo's hand, he looked down shyly at it. "I told me Gaffer that you might be needing help tonight, putting things away and seeing to the other guests. He won't miss me if I stay over till morning."
Frodo smiled. "You wise lad, you. Then come help me rescue the rest of the food. We'll find you a place to sleep after that."
"Do I get to choose where that may be?" Sam asked, playfully.
"I'm open to suggestions." Frodo tugged his hand, and led him toward the door.
As Frodo reached for his coat, he found a note pinned to it. He unfolded it and read, in Bilbo's elegant handwriting, "Dear Frodo: You're a wonderful nephew, and I trust and love you entirely. Be kind to the Gamgees. You, and they, are the only people I shall really miss. Happy birthday. Love, Bilbo."
Frodo's eyes blurred with tears. He handed the note to Sam silently. Sam read it, and murmured, "Ah. That's all right, then." He gave it back to Frodo. "Do you feel grown-up, at last?"
Frodo shook his head, and pocketed the note. "Not really," he said, wiping away the tears. Then he laughed, suddenly. "But I might tomorrow, once Aunt Lobelia finds out what he's done. I imagine she'll be using words unfit for children's ears."
"Can't wait to see that," Sam agreed. He ran his knuckles gently up Frodo's arm. "Ready to go down, or you want to stay here a while?"
"Let's go down. It's my birthday, after all. They're my guests."
Sam smiled. "Yes, sir." He opened the door for Frodo, followed him out, and shut it gently behind them.
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