West of the Moon

A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive



Tipsy Hours
When Frodo goes out drinking with Merry and Pippin, Sam puts him to bed and has to deal with some unexpected kisses.
Author: Kathryn Ramage
Rating: PG-13


Frodo had gone out with his cousins somewhere in the city. The three hobbits had disappeared just after dinner, but Sam didn't know to where.

Hurt that Frodo had left him behind, whether by accident or intentionally, Sam considered going in search of them, but Minas Tirith was huge; its level-upon-level of circular streets were confusing even in daylight, and more so after dark. What would he do if he got lost? Better to stay here, but he couldn't think of sleep until his master had come safely home. So, instead of going to bed, he took a chair by the fire in Frodo's room, and sat up to wait.

It was past midnight and Sam had almost nodded off, when he was jolted into full wakefulness by the sound of high-pitched laughter in the courtyard, followed by urgent shushing. Hands fumbled at the latch on the kitchen door and bare feet shuffled on the stone floor of the lower corridor. Then he heard a shout, a thump, and more shrill laughter. Sam went out.

The trio had gotten as far as the half-flight of stairs between the scullery level and the floor their bedrooms were on. The four steps were a little high for hobbit legs, but easy enough to run up and down in normal circumstances; in their present, wobbly condition, however, it was too much. Pippin sat on the stairs, giggling hysterically, and Frodo lay sprawled at the bottom. Merry stood over them, looking from one to the other as if he couldn't decide which to go to first.

"Here, what d'you mean coming in at this hour?" Sam hissed. "Do you want to wake up the whole house?"

"Sorry!" said Merry. "We didn' mean to wake anyone up."

"Didn' mean to," Frodo echoed. He was shoving at the floor with both palms in an effort to push himself up, but wasn't able to manage it. "Ssh. Must be more quiet."

Sam went down the stairs to him. "What've you been up to?" he demanded of Merry, who seemed the most sober of the three, or at least the one who had kept his head best.

"We only went down to the Steward's Arms for a few pints."

"Whole pints?"

"They don' have any ha'fs!" said Pippin.

"And how many did you have, Mr. Frodo?" Sam asked as he crouched over his master.

"Three or four... maybe five. I lost count."

It was a wonder that he'd gotten home at all! Sam threw an angry look at his master's cousins. "You let him drink that much?"

"Don' blame us." Pippin had crawled to the top of the stairs and leaned on the wall near the door to the room he and Merry shared. "'s not our fault."

"You always think we get Frodo into trouble," said Merry with a tone of injured dignity, "but he did this on his own. We didn' drag 'm off to the pub, you know. When he heard we were going, he asked to come along. If he drank more'n was good for him, he's only got himself to blame, not me and not Pip."

"'Tisn't fair," Pippin added sulkily, head on his drawn-up knees. "Most unjust of you, Sam. I'm think I'm gonna be sick." He scrambled into his room and pulled the chamber pot from under the bed. Merry went after him.

Whether this was true or not, Sam felt certain that they could have stopped Frodo if they'd wanted to. He slipped both hands under Frodo's ribs to help him up; as Frodo gained his feet, he flung an arm around Sam's neck and focused on his face.

"Sam..." he said, as if he were only now aware of who was helping him. "My Sam." Frodo smiled and stretched up to place a moist, ale-flavored kiss on his cheek before nestling his head in the hollow of Sam's shoulder. "Thank goodness y're here. You'll get me off to bed, won't you?"

Merry, who had paused at the bedroom doorway, chuckled. "Now's your chance, if he isn' sick first."

Sam gaped at him, but before he could answer this astonishing remark, the sound of Pippin retching came from the bedroom. Merry turned and went in to take care of his cousin.

Once they were alone, Sam caught Frodo's legs behind the knees to scoop him up, and carried him up the steps. Frodo lay quietly in his arms; except for one or two unintelligible but pleased-sounding murmurs against his shirt collar, Sam would have thought that his master had fallen asleep.

In Frodo's room, Sam lifted him up onto the high-posted bed with some difficulty and tried to set him on the mattress, but Frodo's arms remained firmly around his neck; once Sam put him down, he was pulled down himself. The next thing he knew, he was sprawled on top of Frodo, face very close to his.

"Sam..." Frodo focused on him again. "My wonderful Sam. You don' know how wonderful you are. In all the worst times, you're there. Where would I be without you? Lost. Hopelessly lost." More sloppy, ale-flavored kisses landed on Sam's cheeks and jaw, until Frodo found his mouth.

Sam tried to draw away, but he was caught by the arms around him and unable to break free without fighting Frodo harder than he wanted to.

And, in truth, part of him didn't want to pull away. He'd never dared hope for anything like this to happen. It wasn't proper-- didn't he know that well enough!--but he had his dreams, scarcely acknowledged even to himself: one day, all his devotion and care would count for something. Frodo would see his love for what it was.

Maybe Frodo did see it, if tonight was any sign. Mr. Merry, with his smart remarks, certainly did! Perhaps the truth was bound to come out sooner or later--Sam knew he was no good at keeping his feelings hidden--but if Frodo had seen, he'd been a gentleman about it up until now...

Why must it be now?

If Frodo had been lonely at Bag End and invited him in, or had turned to him for comfort during those worst days on their way into Mordor, Sam wouldn't have said 'No.' Even if this had come about here at Minas Tirith in the ordinary course of things, he would have been happy to do whatever Frodo asked. But not like this! Not because Frodo was the worse for too much ale and didn't know what he was doing. If Sam let anything happen between them tonight, it would be taking advantage of his master in a moment of weakness, and he would never be able to forgive himself for it--nor would Frodo, come tomorrow morning.

Maybe he wasn't a fine gentleman, but he knew what was decent.

Frodo's kisses were growing less insistent. His head fell back onto the pillow, and he murmured, "My Sam..." one last time before his arms dropped limply from around Sam's neck.

Free of the clinging embrace, Sam pushed himself off and sat up, huffing for breath. Once he was calm, he turned to look back at his sleeping master; Frodo was obviously out for the rest of the night. Sam considered undressing him and getting him into his nightshirt, but decided it was easier--and safer!--to let Frodo sleep in his clothes.

He pulled the quilt over his master, and crept out of the room as quietly as he could.


Late the next morning, Sam tapped softly on the door to Frodo's room, then ventured in without waiting for an answer. Frodo was awake, but lying in bed with one arm thrown over his face.

"How's your head?" Sam whispered as he cautiously approached the bedside.

"Rotten," groaned Frodo. "My eyes feel like eggs that haven't been boiled long enough. I'm almost afraid that if I open them, the whites will run out. Leave the curtains closed, please. I couldn't bear the light." But when he heard the sound of a cork being pulled, he moved his arm and opened red and bleary eyes to watch Sam measure out a spoonful of dark, syrupy liquid from a small bottle he had brought in with him. "What's that?"

"Something that'll help you feel better. I sent to the herbmaster for it. Mr. Merry recommended you try it when I saw him at breakfast." Merry had also made more jokes about Frodo's cuddlesome mood last night, but Sam wasn't going to mention that. "He told me that he and Mr. Pippin both had a dose of the same, and they were up and about hours ago."

He poured out a glass of water from the pitcher on the nightstand, and had it ready. Frodo had crept closer to the edge of the bed; when Sam held out the spoon to him, he swallowed the dollop of medicine, made a face at the bitter taste, accepted the glass of water from Sam, and gulped it quickly down.

"Better now?" Sam asked as he took back the empty glass.

Frodo lay back and shut his eyes. After a minute, he nodded.

"Can you stand a bite of breakfast? I'll bring you up a tray."

"Thank you. Tea, and perhaps some dry toast. I couldn't even look at an egg."

Since Frodo seemed to be recovered enough from his night's adventure to receive a scolding, Sam gave him one: "Why'd you want to go out and do such a thing, Mr. Frodo? Now, I like the taste of ale as much as anybody, and a half-pint or two never did a bit of harm, but you oughtn't drink so much you can't see yourself properly to bed! I've been to the Green Dragon with you a hundred times or more, and never seen you falling over drunk like that before last night. You've always kept your head."

"Merry and Pippin were just as bad."

"What Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin do is none of my concern, and thank goodness for that! I wouldn't want the chore of looking after those two. Besides, they're used to carrying on. I like to think you're a bit better'n them." Actually, Sam thought that Frodo was miles above Merry and Pippin, but he knew how fond Frodo was of his cousins and tried to be tactful.

"That's why I didn't ask you to come with us last night," said Frodo. He opened his eyes to meet Sam's. "I intended to get falling-down drunk, you see, and you would have tried to stop me."

"I certainly would!" answered Sam, flabbergasted. "And Mr. Merry and Pippin should've done just the same when they saw you'd had your limit, 'stead of sitting by and letting you pour down more."

Frodo sighed. "You think that Merry and Pippin are reckless and irresponsible, and maybe they are, but aren't the same boys who left the Shire with us, Sam. They've been in battle. They've survived some terrible experiences, almost as bad as you and I have. The tavern they go to is a favorite haunt of the city guard, and they like to spend an evening there in the soldiers' company. They say that a drink shared with friends who've seen war together helps to smooth hard memories. It seemed like an appealing idea. There's so much I would like to forget." He considered his maimed hand, then curled his fingers to hide the stub of the missing one.

Sam knew exactly what memories Frodo wanted most to wipe from his mind, but he didn't think this was the way to do it. He said so.

"If it comforts you, Sam, I won't drink so heavily if I go out again," Frodo assured him. "I've paid for my folly. As much as I'd like to seek forgetfulness, I don't need to feel this awful for it. Besides, this Gondorian ale has a very strange effect on me. I had the oddest dream last night..." He glanced at Sam and blushed, then laughed to cover his embarrassment. "No, I'd better not tell you. It's too ridiculous."


The next time Merry and Pippin went to the Steward's Arms, Frodo went with them, and on other nights after that. Sam accompanied them a few times, but stayed home once he saw that Frodo didn't want him there. His disapproval wasn't welcome. When he went to the tavern, Sam would spend his evenings nursing one mug and watching Frodo to be sure that he didn't drink past his limit. Even when Frodo kept himself to a pint or two, Sam was worried by the way he was drinking--not for fun and good fellowship, but to escape, and no good ever came of that! If he tried to intervene, Frodo put him off with rebukes such as, "I'm a grown hobbit, Sam. I don't need a nursery-maid to look after me."

Very well then. Maybe it wasn't his place to speak against it, but he'd rather not sit helplessly and watch it either. Nor would he push his company on his master when it wasn't wanted. He wished he could offer Frodo comfort against the troubles that tormented his mind; failing that, what else could he do but be ready when Frodo needed his help?

Thereafter, whenever the other hobbits went out, Sam sat up in his room, waiting and listening for their return. As long as Frodo could get into the house and up the stairs unaided, then Sam stayed where he was, but if it sounded like Frodo was having trouble, then Sam went to assist him. On most nights, there was no trouble; Frodo was usually a bit giddy, but to Sam's relief, never so drunk as he'd been that first night.

Then, one night as he sat up, he heard a clamor in the kitchen; Frodo and his cousins weren't laughing or singing, as they so often were when they came in, but their voices were rising in what sounded like an argument. Sam left his room to be certain that everything was all right.

As he stepped out into the hallway, he heard Pippin's voice, squeaking incredulously: "You'll do nothing about it?"

"Nothing," Frodo answered mournfully. "How could I?"

"Why not? If what Merry says is true..."

They came out of the kitchen, leaning on each other as a doubtful means of support. Merry was on Frodo's other side.

"It doesn' matter what Merry says. I couldn't!" Whatever it was Frodo refused to do, it sounded as if he were about to burst into tears over it.

"Rubbish!" said Merry. "'Course you could, if you wanted to. And you do want to. You can bet he does. All you have to do is say the word."

"Doesn' matter," Frodo repeated. "Whether I want to or don't, it wouldn' be the proper thing..." As they reached the foot of the stair, he lifted his eyes to find Sam waiting at the top. "Hullo, Sam. You agree with me, don't you?"

"Agree with what?" Sam had only caught the very end of the conversation, and had no idea what they were talking about.

"Oh, don't ask Sam! He'll say he agrees even if he feels the opposite," scoffed Merry. "For a clever hobbit, you can be an awful fool, Frodo Baggins. I've always said you think too much for your own good. What're you so frightened of?"

"Stop thinking, and go!" Together, his cousins each took an elbow and shoved him toward the stairs; Frodo stumbled upwards, and Sam caught him before he fell on the top step.

Finding himself suddenly close against Sam, Frodo stared at him, uncertain and bewildered, then let his head droop to his friend's chest. "I can't."

Sam didn't know what sort of game they were playing, but since the point of it seemed to be to embarrass Frodo, he refused to go along. "Never mind, Mr. Frodo," he said. "Let's get you to bed."

Merry and Pippin sniggered. Sam ignored them. With one arm around Frodo to keep him on his feet, he escorted his master down the hall and into his bedroom.

Frodo sat on the bed to be undressed, so deep in thought while Sam helped him out of his waistcoat and shirt that Sam believed he must be in a stupor. He gazed up at Sam's face with disconcerting intensity, as if searching for something there. When Sam pulled his nightshift on over his head, he lifted his arms to help, and once his head was through the collar, blurted out, "Sam, are you in love with me?"

The question caught Sam so completely off guard that his mouth moved soundlessly for what seemed like an endless moment as he tried to form an answer. "Don't you know by now how I feel about you?" he said as lightly as he could once he had regained some composure.

"No, I don't know if I do. Merry says- He says he's watched you. He saw the look on your face when I kissed you." A slight, puzzled frown creased Frodo's brow. "Sam, when did I kiss you? `M afraid I don't remember."

Sam was mortified to realize that this was what that argument he'd heard the end of in the hallway had been about. He knew now what Frodo was insisting he just couldn't do.

"I love you, Sam."

"Yes, Mr. Frodo, I know."

"I do," Frodo said earnestly. "`Tisn't proper, but I do. I can't help it. When I imagine what it'd be like to have someone love me, you're the one I think of. I think how nice it is when I'm close to you, and how we might be closer." He grabbed Sam's shirt-sleeve and looked into his eyes. "We are close, aren't we?"

"Yes, we are." His heart was thumping hard, belying his careful replies. Why did Frodo only talk like this on nights when he'd been drinking?

"Dear, dear friends," said Frodo, "but there's more. We might be anything." His voice rose hopefully as he reconsidered. "Why can't we be? I could do it. I could love you..."

Sam was not very surprised when Frodo kissed him this time. He let it happen. Maybe it wasn't right, but he was dizzy with the warmth of that mouth on his just the same. In spite of himself, he wanted so much to believe that Frodo meant what he was saying and it wasn't just the ale going to his head.

As the kiss deepened, Frodo made urgent sounds in the back of his throat. He plucked at Sam's shirt, pressed against him with peculiar little surging movements, brushed his flank with one knee--but it wasn't until he led Sam's hand to the buttons of his trousers and whispered, "Help me get out of these," that Sam realized that Frodo was clumsily trying to offer himself.

"No..." This had gone too far. Taking Frodo by the forearms, Sam pushed him away and gave him a good shake. "Stop it!"

Frodo stared at him, wide-eyed and horrified. "I'm sorry!" he sobbed and, when Sam let him go, flopped onto the bed.

Sam was immediately ashamed of himself. He'd made Frodo cry! Frodo had been on the brink of tears since he'd come home, and it was only a matter of time before he started in, but knowing that didn't make Sam feel less despicable.

He climbed onto the bed beside the curled-up figure. "Here, Mr. Frodo. Hush, now. Don't cry. Please, don't cry!" He patted Frodo's back, then rubbed between the shoulder-blades to soothe him. "I'm the one that ought to be sorry. I didn't mean to be so rough." He'd really been more angry with himself than Frodo for not putting a stop to things sooner, as well as alarmed at how badly he'd wanted to go on.

"No, 's all my fault. I shouldn' throw myself at you. A gen'leman ought to behave himself better." Frodo curled more tightly into a ball. "I've made a fool of myself. You don't want me."

"That isn't so."

Frodo lifted his head and twisted around to look at him. "You mean, you-?"

"Hush," Sam answered firmly. "No more of this nonsense." He'd already said more than he should. "Don't fret yourself over it. You'll feel silly you made such a fuss in the morning." He doubted that Frodo would remember any of this tomorrow, but he would. Every word.

*Why couldn't we be?* That hopeful cry echoed in Sam's memory as he went on rubbing in soothing little circles until the sobs lapsed into fitful hiccups, and Frodo was quiet at last. Once he was quite sure that Frodo was asleep, Sam leaned down to kiss one salty, tear-dampened cheek, and wished with all his might that this night had been different.

If Frodo had said these things to him with a clear head, then- Oh, then! He wouldn't push him away. No. He'd give back every one of those kisses, and a dozen more! He'd unfasten those trouser buttons--not as he'd done many times before, to help his master undress as part of his duties, but to slip a hand inside. He'd caress the soft skin of Frodo's belly, run his fingers into that puff of dark curls. He might even reach farther down to touch-

Sam stopped there, shocked at how far his imagination had led him. He drew his hand away from Frodo's back, as if it were wrong to touch him at all while having such carnal thoughts. He shouldn't be thinking of Frodo that way, not even if Frodo had started him off. Even if a gentleman threw himself at his servant, the servant had no business to catch him!

The things Frodo had said to him tonight weren't to be taken as truth; they were only the maudlin outpourings of an ale-addled head, and would never be spoken in the light of day. He must guard his heart against them, and forget whatever happened in these tipsy hours with the morning, just as Frodo did.


The mornings after had become routine: Sam crept into Frodo's room, made certain that the curtains were completely closed and no bright shaft of sunlight slipped through, then waited for a sign that his master was awake.

This morning, Frodo lay sleeping exactly as Sam had left him the night before, curled at the center of the bed, wearing his nightshift and trousers. When he stirred, Sam spoke softly, "Mr. Frodo?" and received a groan in reply. "How're you feeling?"

"Awful." Frodo pushed his hair out of his eyes and, after a confused moment, found Sam standing at the bedside. Sam marveled that anyone could look so appealing in such a sorry state. He knew what a mess he'd be with his eyes all blood-shot, hair in a tangle, and dried tears streaked down his face, but then he wasn't half as pretty to begin with.

The bottle of medicine stood ready on the nightstand, in case it was needed. Frodo sat up as Sam poured out a spoonful of the accustomed remedy, then swallowed it obediently. "Better?"

"Yes, Sam, thank you." Frodo touched the rumpled quilt where his cheek had lain. "I cried myself to sleep, didn't I?" Then he looked down at his mismatched clothing. "I must have had a wretched night."

"A bit rougher 'n usual." Sam didn't scold, but his disapproval was plain in his tone.

Frodo looked abashed. "Perhaps I do need a nursery-maid after all," he said by way of an apology.

"Someone's got to look out for you, if you won't do it yourself."

"I know it's no excuse for behaving so foolishly, but I was very upset at the pub last night."

"What about?" asked Sam, although he had a good idea.

"Oh," Frodo gave a nervous little laugh, "Merry and I quarreled, and of course Pippin took his side. I could hardly stand up to both of them at once, not over so many rounds." He hesitated, then glanced up timidly and said, "It was about you, Sam, about something Merry said." Color rushed into his pale cheeks. "And afterwards, I had another strange dream... only... I wasn't dream- ing, was I?"

Sam stood frozen; his heart seemed to stop at Frodo's halting words:

"I kissed you. I've done it before. Merry's been making jokes about it. I thought he was doing it to tease, until he told me he saw..." The sentence trailed off, and he stared at Sam with great perplexity.

Sam was in a panic. How much did Frodo remember? He must have recalled that he'd already told him what Merry had said. But what else? Would he ask the same questions again? Sam waited in an agony of suspense, not knowing what to say.

But whether or not Frodo remembered what had been said last night, he decided not to repeat it now. "Well, perhaps it was only one of Merry's jokes," he said instead. "I suppose he and Pippin thought it would be funny to tell me all sorts of wild stories, then toss me at you." He tried to laugh it off, but the color in his cheeks had deepened to bright red.

As frightened as he was at the prospect of having the truth come out, Sam was somewhat disappointed by this unexpected reprieve. Frodo couldn't have meant what he said last night--or, at least, he was ashamed to recall it this morning and would rather pretend it hadn't happened.

"I wouldn't pay any mind to what Mr. Merry says," he agreed. "He doesn't mean half of it."

Frodo seemed relieved. "Yes, that's true. I never meant to embarrass you, Sam. I hope I wasn't too-" he paused delicately, "too difficult?"

"No more'n I could manage," Sam assured him. "But I'd rather it didn't happen again, and I'm sure you don't either." He didn't know what he would do the next time Frodo threw himself at him; he wanted to be strong, but there was only so much he could stand. Summoning his courage, he met Frodo's eyes. "You don't, do you?"

Frodo looked away. "No, Sam," he murmured. "I won't do it again."


Frodo went out immediately after dinner that evening. Even though he left without his cousins, Sam could guess where he must have gone.

He waited up as usual, but it wasn't long before he heard the familiar creak of the kitchen door and the pad of bare footsteps in the hallway, only one pair of feet as far as he could tell. One hobbit had come in, alone. It must be Frodo. Sam listened eagerly as the footsteps pattered up the stairs, then stopped. He waited for more than a minute, but when he did not hear Frodo go farther along, he opened his door and peeked out.

Frodo sat on the top step, hugging his knees to his chest. At first, Sam was afraid that he had tripped coming up the stairs--but, no, there had been no sound of a fall. Frodo must have been unsteady on his feet, and chose to sit down here rather than walk another ten feet down the hallway to his room. Although how he had managed to get into such a state so early in the evening was more than Sam liked to imagine!

"Are you all right?" he asked.

"I'm fine." Frodo looked up as Sam came to stand over him. "I was just thinking. I've been the worst sort of fool."

Sam had heard this type of maudlin talk before. "That you have," he answered. "And after you promised me this morning that it wouldn't happen again! Well, there's no help for it. Come on." He reached down to pick Frodo up.

"Sam-" Frodo protested. "Sam, I'm not-" He squirmed briefly, then resigned himself to being carried; wrapping one arm around Sam's neck and resting his chin on his shoulder, he let Sam take him to his room. By the time Sam set him down on the bed, he seemed more amused than indignant.

"Just like last night," he said as Sam unbuttoned his waistcoat and shirt and pulled each off in turn.

"Just like," Sam echoed, and wondered again how much of it Frodo remembered. Frodo's eyes were searching his face in that same intense, questioning way--and then Frodo leaned to give him a kiss.

Sam stepped back. "Stop that," he said mildly, not wishing to make Frodo cry again by being too rough with him.

He turned away and walked over to the chair by the fire. "Why d'you only want to kiss me when you've been drinking too much?" he muttered as he lay the discarded clothing over the back of the chair. He spoke more to himself than to Frodo, and he was startled when Frodo responded:

"Is that why you pushed me away the last time? You thought I was too drunk to know what I was doing?"

Sam whirled around. Frodo was perched at the edge of the bed, regarding him with a small smile.

"You were too drunk," he answered. "It wouldn't've been decent."

"No, it wouldn't have been," Frodo agreed. "Would you like it if I kissed you some other time?"

"I might." He was saying more than he should, but he felt more free to speak his mind in these moments. Frodo didn't seem so bad off tonight, but Sam was sure his memories of this conver- sation would be blurred by tomorrow.

"You mean, when I'm sober?"

"At least then I'd know for sure whether or not you mean it."

"What about now?"


That small smile grew wider. "I'm quite sober now, Sam. I went out walking tonight. I stopped at the tavern, but I only had one pint and I barely touched it. I didn't feel like chasing myself into oblivion."

Sam gaped at him. Frodo was telling the truth; he could see that for himself. Frodo's speech was clear and distinct, not at all slurred, and when he jumped off from the bed, he landed lightly on his feet without a hint of a wobble.

"I thought I might find greater comfort here, in the company of a dear friend who knows me better than anyone," he continued. "We've been through so much together, Sam. Surely we can be honest with each other? I hoped we could talk about what happened last night. I don't remember all of it very clearly, but I remember enough. We were in such a muddle this morning, so confused and feeling so awkward, that I don't think either of us meant half of what we said. But I've had time to think things over since."

He began to walk slowly across the room--agonizingly slowly to Sam, who stood with his mouth hanging open as Frodo came toward him.

"I wanted to go to you and see if we could try it again, but I stopped before I got your door. I didn't know if you'd be glad of my coming, or if you'd tell me not to be silly and turn me away. I was trying to think what to say, when you came out... And the problem seems to have taken care of itself." He had come to stand on the hearth. "Merry was right: I am a fool. I worry too much about what is and isn't proper between us, when we both might be so much happier if we didn't think of it. We've gone so far beyond the old rules that it's absurd to consider ourselves bound by them anymore, not if we don't wish to be. I _was_ afraid. I couldn't even admit to myself what I felt for you unless I was drenched in ale, and then the truth all came out just when you were least likely to believe me. But you believe me now, don't you?"

Sam nodded mutely. Frodo was so close, still smiling, eyes shining into his. Bare to the waist, his skin glowed red in the fire's light, like something out of a secret dream. So close... It fairly took his breath away.

All the feelings he'd kept so carefully in check were about to burst forth. But why hold them back any longer? Frodo had come to him with a clear head, had said that what was proper between a gentleman and servant didn't matter for them. What more could he ask for?

"Then there's no reason we can't love each other," Frodo concluded. "That is, if you do love me, Sam?"

"Of course I do!" The words came out in a sob. "What d'you think? I love you so much, sometimes I can't bear it." And he wrapped both arms around Frodo to take him up in a fierce hug. Frodo was too surprised to do more than yelp as he was lifted off his feet, and hold on when Sam began to kiss him as he'd always wanted to.

"Merry was right about a lot of things," he said rather breathlessly after Sam finally let him go and his toes had regained the floor.

"Let's not tell him that. It'd only go to his head, and then there'd be no living with him."

Frodo laughed and gave him another kiss. "It'll be our secret."

Then, with his eyes on shyly on Sam's, he led one of his hands to his trouser buttons. Sam undid them for him and stole both hands inside the waistband--not daring yet to do what he had imagined, but to compass Frodo's hips. Frodo's hands covered his own, and together they pushed the clothing down. The trousers dropped and Frodo stepped out of them, freeing each foot in turn with a little kick. A servant would have placed them neatly over the back of the chair with the rest of his master's clothes; tonight, Sam let them lie on the floor where they fell. He didn't give them a moment's thought, for he was in a daze of wonder and happiness--almost as if he were drunk himself--as Frodo took his hands and, stepping backwards, led him away from the fire and toward the bed.



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