West of the Moon

A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive

 

 

Ice Storm
When glittering disaster sheds a fell light, hidden love shines forth at last.
Author: Notabluemaia
Rating: NC-17

 

This story was written for the hobbit_smut Livejournal Community "Hold Me, Heal Me" Challenge.
 

Notes: If you were to suspect that I had another Ice Storm in mind, you might well be right - but mine has an infinitely better conclusion... Thank you, Tiriel, O Best Beloved Beta, and dear Widgeon.

 

Crystal, etched with elvish script. Clear water, light glistening, Frodo's pale hand wrapped around...

Shimmering light through slender fingers...

Sparkling, all asparkle, silvered crystal, scattering rainbows...

Cut glass goblets flickering across a glow-lit table, reflecting candlelight to the faces of kith and kin.

Crystal as fragile and strong as the hand that raises it, fingers curving around its brilliance, as he leans to say something, laughing, and the sparkle dances in his eyes.

Light gleaming from the darkness of the damson syrup, poured with care over the creamy, icy, wintry treat.

And fruits heaped high on sparkling silver dishes, polished all alike to finest gleam.

Glittering harvest of my love, of all that I can give - sharp, bright apples, lustrous pears. Juicy plums, their sleek, smooth skins hiding golden flesh to gild his lips, where mine may never film soft kisses...

But a vicious sparkle, now - keen, glinting shards to slice and rip - a killing beauty...

Everywhere... that sharp, fell radiance.

A sudden stinging crack, a dance of crystal, falling.

Darkness... Bitter rain and drifting smoke. The glint of tears.

Then, warmth and shelter - and his arms wrapping safety all around...

*****

"It was so beautiful. Beautiful. Did you see it? Did you think it was beautiful, sir?"

"Shhh... Yes. Yes. It was beautiful. Shhhh..."

"But terrible, too. I never thought it could sound like that - something living, breaking up 'cos its own weight was too much. Just its own weight and a bit of ice, tearing it apart. Just all too much for it to bear..."

"It was. Too much..."

"That's what I can't stop hearing - I can't stop hearing it - the tearing, and the crashing..."

"I know."

"Those beautiful old trees. Oh... the orchard... Blooming so pretty. But now... Not a bud left for bee to spread pollen to. All frozen, and what trees aren't broken, past shoring up, likely barren from the shock. All of them this year, and maybe for years, broken as they are."

"No, dear, not so broken as that. Shh... There..."

"Oh, Mr. Frodo! There won't be so much as a cherry pie or apple crumble for you this year. Neither stalk nor stone to give you..."

Frodo tugged at the blanket, wrapping it more securely around them both. "Warmer now, dearest?"

"Aye, but it's no matter. I need to go back out there, and..."

But there was nothing more to be done.

"No. You need to stay right here. All that needs to be done is done. Rest, love... rest..."

"I am so sorry... Oh, Mr. Frodo, I'm so sorry..."

"Shhh... dearest Sam... it will be all right..."

And all Frodo could do was to hold him, to offer a loving barrier between Sam and his bitter sorrow.

*****

They had tried to forestall it. They had tried, together, with increasing desperation, far past the point of exhaustion.

All morning and through much of the afternoon Sam had watched the skies, and worried. Grey had layered grimly in the east, despite the day's crisp spring sunshine. He'd kept an eye to the looming cloud, and by mid afternoon, the unseasonable chill of its approach alarmed him. Time to take action. Better prepared and no needing it, than to wait to see and have no time.

Certain enough of his concerns to alert his master, Sam stood in the study doorway, taking comfort, as always, from Frodo's serene focus upon a task he enjoyed.

Frodo sat in a cleared circle of sunshine on the hearthrug, completely surrounded by unfurled maps, their corners weighted down by sealed pots of ink and heavy tomes. He was bent close over one, peering through the magnifying lens he held as he walked his fingers over the faded vellum. Intent upon the exploration beneath his fingertips, he scrawled a note, without looking, upon the paper at his side.

"Mr. Frodo? Sir?"

"Mmm?" A last quick flourish. "There!" And he looked up, smiling warmly. "I'm sorry, Sam, I had just measured off a distance and feared I would lose my place - What is it? What's wrong?" He sat up straighter, and twisted, the better to see Sam as he hovered in the dimness of the doorway. Had there ever been a time when he could not read Sam's mood with only a glance?

"Sir, I think there's weather coming. A change, and it doesn't look good to me, much as I'd like to wish it away." Sam frowned; his fears went against his experience of the seasons, and it was hard even to suggest an alarm based only upon an ominous feeling and a grey sky... but Mr. Frodo needed to be told.

"What needs to be done?" Frodo was alert instantly, and scrambling to his feet. No question about Sam's good judgment, even though the spring breeze that had required his papers to be weighted was so mild. If his calm gardener had raised an alarm, then alarmed he would be.

"Well, sir, I've covered the beds, and spread tarps over the bushes, 'specially anywhere there's new leaves, and that should be enough against a little frost. Covered the peach espalier; it should be sheltered enough there on the south wall. I've filled the old smudgepots for the orchards, just in case. For whatever good they might bring, maybe only the good will from their woodsmoke. I used the slash from the last clearance down by the lower pond, sir - none of it was fit for hearth fires, and I doubt it'll last long as needed, but it was to hand, and good and damp enough to smoke, which is about the best that can be said for it."

Sam took a deep breath. This was likely more than his master ever had wanted to know, though he was watching Sam closely, and looked interested enough.

"There isn't anything you need do, sir. Mostly I just wanted to let you know, and tell you I'm going down home for a bit to see if there's anything needing doing there. I'll place the pots soon as I'm back, unless this blows over." Sam hesitated, twisting his cap in his hands, and took a step into the room. "Sir. I feel a fool even saying all this, on such a pretty, sunny day. But if there's anything you might be needing from Hobbiton for your work, I'd be glad to fetch it, in case..."

"That bad, Sam? Do you think we will be hole bound?" Frodo's look was surprised as Sam nodded ruefully, but Sam saw it as doubt until his master straightened his waistcoat with a firm tug on its hem, and glanced down to his supplies. "Thank you. I do have an errand - none of my paper is large enough..."

He gestured to the maps spread before him, and Sam could see now, with a strange little twist to his heart, the upside down key for mountains and the Sea, and the outlines of lands Frodo wandered so often in his imagination. At least he had taken Sam there, too, carried on fine words and lilting verse... Sam's gaze lifted back to Frodo, already rolling his treasured maps to keep them safe; irreplaceable they were, and he'd never leave them lying about. "I had meant to go later, but shall do so now, upon your recommendation... Hole bound?"

"Yes, sir. I fear we might well be, but whether it's rain or snow I can't tell. But it'll be here tonight, and I reckon it'll be unseasonable cold, whatever it is. I'll top up the hearth baskets, by the time you're back, sir. Hadn't thought to do so, warm as it's been."

"Never mind that, Sam. Do as you must at home and in the garden. I will bring in the wood as soon as I return." Frodo smiled, adding, "And Sam, the thought of one last spring storm is rather pleasant! I think that calls for some hearty fare tonight. Perhaps you could stay for dinner? Hmm. I think a pork roast, rubbed with rosemary and thyme... I wish we had fresh asparagus. Not yet. But there's rhubarb! Oh, yes, a nice crumble, with a custard... Hmm. Potatoes, scalloped, and applesauce..." Frodo broke off, and smiled again, wryly this time. "Samwise, there's nothing like talking about a good meal to set me off on a ramble."

"Yes, sir. Thinking up that kind of a feast would set anybody off, sir, me included. Thank you, sir. I would like that, very much, and I'll try to be finished in time to help."

"See? This will simply be an adventure - and I hope no real bother to anyone."

Surely, this late in the year, it could not be too bad. Sam was always so careful for the garden, protective of every living thing that sheltered beneath his touch. Including his master - who knew how much he benefited from Sam's touch, if not quite in the way he would have preferred it...

But there was genuine worry on Sam's face, and Frodo laid his hand upon his shoulder, and gave it a comforting squeeze.

"Sam, the garden will come through. It flourishes under your excellent care and your gift. And perhaps we face only a thunderstorm."

"I hope so, sir. I truly hope so..."

And then they had gone their separate ways, cheered by the thought of a cosy evening with an excuse to linger over a shared dinner, talking. A quick cold snap, requiring only a little extra precaution - no lasting damage, certainly not this late in the year...

*****

By the time Frodo climbed the Hill back to Bag End, the day had turned cold as the front of whatever was coming arrived, and fog had settled into the sheltered field around the Party Tree. As he let himself into the entry hall, a stealthy cold crept in behind him, chilling the smial as though it were deep winter instead of late spring. He set his packages just inside the door, hung up his coat, and hurried to the kitchen. At least he had started their dinner before he left; the rhubarb crumble had turned out well (it had required a taste test before he left), and what remained to do were merely the pleasant last touches: removing the roast and letting it set, juices absorbed by the tender meat; make the custard; choose a wine. And prepare apples, somehow, to go with the pork. Something simple... Surely it would not be long before Sam came in out of this building cold?

The kitchen was redolent of rosemary and the warmer tang of roasting meat, and he sighed his appreciation. First, he should bring in the wood, as he'd told Sam he would do, and lay a fire in the study. Sam might stay long enough for a pipe, and a brandy, and a chat about the source tale from which he was drawing a more detailed map. If it were only cold or a storm, he would not need to hurry away. And if it were worse, perhaps he could stay until it passed...

The log pile was already damp; he should have thought to bring these in before his errands. No matter - the kitchen fire was burning merrily enough to take damp wood. He took already dried logs from kitchen to study, laying them on kindling in the grate, lighting it to take off the chill, and then collecting a tray: a wedge of good strong cheese, crisp apples, and digestive biscuits; a small crock of fresh butter and a rich plum chutney of last summer's make - that should be plenty for afters, whether with brandy or tea. And it would keep till needed, cool as the room had become. He would start dinner, and take brandy and glasses to the study as soon as it was well underway. He glanced out of the window at the deepening gloom. Sam's instincts had been right, as usual, for something unpleasant was definitely moving in. Just the sort of night for a good dinner, and warm companionship.

Humming an old tune he'd heard at the pub last time he'd enjoyed a pint with Sam and his Gaffer, he grated apples and added cinnamon and sugar, and set it to cook down as he took the pork loin from the oven, and covered it with a clean cloth. He decided to wait to put the potatoes in until he was certain how much longer Sam would be. They could warm up with a cup of tea while they waited, if dinner wasn't quite ready when he arrived.

But he could go ahead and mix the custard, and set up the water bath, even if he waited to bake it. He cracked the sturdy brown eggs one handed, spilling their contents into the bowl, and tossed the shells into a bucket to take to the compost heap: Sam had trained him well, to keep all shells, tea leaves, parings, and offcuts - everything bar meat, which would attract vermin, Sam said, should be returned to the soil, and the garden would grow the better for it. With a deft hand he whisked the eggs into a froth, then set the bowl upon the table and combined the simple ingredients: nutmeg, grated to a fine powder, some reserved to sprinkle on the top; sugar, a little extra to satisfy his guest's sweet tooth and likely hunger.

A few more whisks would do it, and then he could turn his attention to the fog thickening outside. He finished, then tasted the mixture one more time. Yes, its creamy sweetness would be a delicious accent to the tartness of the rhubarb. He poured it into a baking dish and sprinkled nutmeg across the foamy surface, thinking how much Sam would enjoy the fragrance as it baked during dinner. Hmm. Perhaps he was returning even now, climbing the Hill, weary and hungry.

Only then did Frodo peer through the window; in this twilight his own reflection obscured the dim landscape beyond, and he had to place his hand to the cold glass and look through its shadow.

Dusk had come early beneath that lowering dark cloud. He could no longer see down the Hill, and could barely make out the hedge at the back of the kitchen garden. The long canes of the climbing roses tapped and clicked against the panes; tiny new leaves left streaks upon the glass - and he realised that the developing fog had crept up fast and coated everything with moisture. Fog? No, in the lamplight cast through the window he could see it was instead a heavy mist, almost a rain, and as he watched, it collected and began to roll in slow, fat drops down the pane. Night was thickening fast, and Frodo's nagging worries took on a sharper shape.

Where was Samwise?

Perhaps he'd encountered a problem, and could use an extra pair of hands? Dinner could wait. If Sam had not come in yet, he needed his master's help to complete the job. He needed to be safely out of this raw chill. He needed to be where Frodo knew that he was safe. Nothing here in the kitchen that could not be done later. He set aside his cooking, and untied the cloth he'd wrapped round himself as an apron and tossed it to the bench by the table.

Frodo hurried to the entry, shrugged on his coat, and swung his heavy winter cloak around his shoulders; he hadn't thought to need it again for a good while, with spring well underway and summer not so far off. He stopped in the kitchen long enough to light a lantern, and set forth through the kitchen door, determined to find Sam.

And his feet flew out from beneath him on the slick step, and he fell, hard, flat on his back, knocking the wind right out of him.

"Blast!" Frodo caught his breath and sat up, gingerly, muttering his irritation as he rubbed his backside. "Ouch! Sam was right. It has taken a turn, and a nasty one, at that. Ice!" This was the reason the roses had clicked, and the drops had seemed so slow. Not even a mist, now, but a fine, thick rain, that was freezing, coating a layer of ice upon everything. He couldn't recall ever seeing ice this late in the year, and seldom freezing the rain this way, even in the heart of winter. One certainly would not want to take a fall far from home... and his chest tightened with worry for Sam. Wherever he was.

He reached out with his foot and felt for traction. The flagstone was covered with shockingly thick ice - but the grass offered enough grip under his toes for him to be able to walk more safely. Just about. Scrambling up, he bent to reclaim the lantern, grateful for its sturdy construction and thankful that it had somehow stayed both upright and alight.

Where to look? The grass glittered coldly in the spill of lamplight before him.

Smoke? Was that smoke? Not the homely scent of his hearthfire... but familiar. Ah, yes... Sam must have set the smudge pots alight - very little flame, but an acrid smoulder to drift among the trees. Frodo could remember a distant, frosty spring, walking throughout the orchard, waving improvised fans like wings, to circulate the warming smoke through the blossoms and the setting fruit. Had Sam expected this to be a damaging frost? Could the smoke possibly help protect against the ice it had turned out to be? Was he simply being Sam, and trying to guard against harm, any way he could?

He must be tending the smudgepots, somewhere. Frodo had no ideas whether the effort could ward off disaster, or for how long it must be done, but he was determined to find Sam, find out, and do whatever he might to help. He set off for the orchard, picking his way through the gloom as fast as caution would allow.

"Sam?"

If Sam didn't hear him and answer, he might never find him in the dark and the smoke and the mist. Frodo's chest clenched tight. If Sam didn't answer, and he'd not come in yet, and these pots were only recently lit... It was so slippery, especially upon the slope of the hillside. Why hadn't he looked for Sam as soon as he returned? He should have realised that Sam's notice about the weather was probably understated - his deepest fears delivered calmly, with no more fuss than the simple, necessary facts. That was just how Sam was - even when concerned for his beloved garden.

But this wet freeze had come on so fast. And the errands and kitchen tasks had taken longer than he had expected, and he'd savoured every minute thinking of how much Sam - how much he would enjoy an evening with Sam's warm companionship. Although this weather would be more likely to drive him home early.

"Samwise?"

No answer, but at least he had reached the edge of the orchard. The first smudge pot lay at his feet, its cloud of smoke acrid and thick, without any warmth to comfort his shins and ankles. He coughed, and pressed the back of his hand to his nose. The lamplight could not penetrate far through the smoke; he waved ineffectively at the haze, peering for any sign of movement. The patter of slow dripping and the odd crackling of branches and grass were an eerie combination, and he felt very alone in the muffling smoke and mist. He pulled his hood closer about his face; the rain had picked up, making the ice underfoot even slicker - and adding to the ice layer on everything all the faster.

When had Sam started all these little smoking pots? He must have realised that his fears were quite right, and that a devastating freeze was about to attack his beloved orchard. Could the warmth of these clouds of drifting smoke make a difference to the vulnerable flowers and setting fruits? Perhaps it might protect against a rare late freeze, but Frodo feared that nothing could save the harvest from this ice - but if Sam wanted to try, he would do all in his power to help, right at Sam's side.

If he could find him.

He took several good breaths, bending low to the clearer air below the rising smoke, and set forth into the orchard.

"Sam!" He could not see far into the trees looming at him out of the smoke. It would have been quite an effort to prepare and bring all these here; Frodo could not imagine that they had had so many in reserve for such a rare event. But obviously they had, unbeknownst to him. And what, actually, did he know about all that must be done to bring forth a harvest from the land? He knew sunshine and rain, the basic facts of seed and pollination, but beyond that, his expertise was all for the product, and little for the production. There lay Sam's gift - an ability to turn seed to harvest, to call forth life from everything he touched, and then, to share the bounty with those he cared for... with those he loved...

And in this bleak landscape, alone and chilled, and more and more distressed by his failure to find Sam, Frodo felt a tightening in his breast, as concern for Sam rose to fear. And all around him, the unfurling buds were encased in ice and the promise of their fruit withered upon the stem.

"Sam?"

He was not here. He must have left the seething pots to do the best they could.

He would have answered. Unless he could not... Frodo called once more into the darkness before him. Nothing. He paced out into the gloom, the distance for another pot, but there was no one there, and no huddled shape lying on the ground, as he had half feared... And best not go into the darkness beyond where Sam had tended, for it was treacherously slippery now, and there was an ominous groaning from the branches as they strained beneath their increasing burden of ice. If a wind were to rise...

Shuddering at the thought as much as from the cold, Frodo turned back, and raised his lantern to cast a wider circle; its light glittered like fireworks in the branches above the pots. It was beautiful, and fell, and treacherous. And he wished for Sam at his side, even as he wished for Sam already to be safely inside, wondering when his Mr. Frodo would finish the promised dinner scattered about the kitchen. Perhaps he was there, finishing it himself - it might be laid and waiting even now, and Sam wondering what had delayed him... No. Knowing Sam, had he found the hastily abandoned kitchen, and no answer in the smial, it would have sent him bursting forth, searching - and Frodo did not want to be the cause of any worry.

Might it be best to return as quickly as he could? Staggering, Frodo tried to think. Surely he hadn't been out here that long. Sam would be there... he would... Frodo was shaking with the cold now, and aware that it was difficult to think as clearly as he was used to do. It must be his hunger...

Wearily, he trudged on. He slipped - ice sliced painfully at his ankle; he looked down and in the lamplight could see blood smeared in the thick hair over his feet, and myriad small cuts oozing. Oh. Those would sting, if he could feel his feet better - and he wished for a warm bath to soothe them almost as much as he longed for the dinner he had missed. And for Sam... He clasped his cloak more tightly around himself, and glanced to the trees, disturbed by the creaking of their burdened limbs.

And there, a lantern's glow bobbing through the trees. Preoccupied, he had almost missed the glimmer of movement and light off to his right.

"Sam! Sam!" He let his cloak free of his tight grasp, and it billowed behind him as he struggled across the slippery ground.

"Mr. Frodo?" The warm light drew closer, and Frodo could make out Sam's figure bundled heavily against the cold. He stooped, setting his burdens on the ground - a small lantern and another heavy pot - held out his arms to Frodo.

"Oh, I am so glad to find you!" Frodo put down his lantern, and flung his arms around Sam. To Frodo's dismay, Sam wore no cloak to shield him from this dripping rain. But the embrace he returned was warm, and Frodo sighed his relief as they stood hugging in this small circle of sanity amidst the orchard's frozen destruction. They clung, shivering in the freezing rain.

"Sir, what are you doing out here?" At least Frodo seemed to have dressed for the weather; his good wool cloak would shed the rain as well as anything could. Sam slipped his hands further along his body, around to his back to make sure. Yes. Dry, there, at his waist, and here, across his shoulders, at least. Frodo did not seem to notice his questing hands - he didn't question their explorations, and in fact, reached searchingly to Sam, finding his hair and clothes completely and alarmingly sodden.

"Samwise! You are soaked! I was looking for you. You must have gone for more of those pots?"

"Aye, sir, though what good they'll do, I don't know." Sam's voice was heavy, and Frodo could not recall him ever sounding more disillusioned.

"Perhaps enough - but it is time to go inside, Samwise." Frodo released Sam reluctantly.

"Yes, sir. You go on - and I'll be there as soon as I set out the rest."

"Sam, I insist. You must come in. Now." Frodo looked at Sam's face with concern. If a hobbit so vigorous and young could look haggard, Sam did. "You're exhausted and soaked and have done all that you can and more than you should."

"No, sir, begging your pardon, not while there's still a hope for the fruit. Not much of one, but even less if I don't set out everything we have."

"Then let us do what must be done." Frodo stooped and picked up the heavy pot, grimacing as the drifting smoke stung his eyes. "Where for this, and where do I go for more?"

"Sir, you should - You're not going to go inside, are you, sir?"

A raised brow and a direct look confirmed his master's stubbornness, and despite his worries, for orchard and for Frodo, Sam had to smile, and his heart lightened, just a little. "The rest are in a barrow by the stile, sir. You can light them from your lantern - I put a twist of straw with each pot. Set them about every ten, fifteen feet -"

A creak, a groan - and a crash nearby as a branch snapped. Frodo and Sam, startled, exchanged a look of concern.

"Sir, you really should go inside." Much as I love your company, and your help to save the fruit, I couldn't bear to lose you...

"Yes, clearly we both should - and you are far wetter than I am - but we will do this together or it will not be done at all. With the two of us, we can make short work of it."

But it was not short work, and the steady slow rain had penetrated even Frodo's good wool cloak and frozen on his hood and shoulders by the time he staggered to place the last smoking pot. By now, he could no longer smell it, surrounded as he was by its fumes. But he could feel it in the dry burning of his eyes, and the rawness of his throat. And he could not tell if the smoke was really that much thicker, or if his vision was clouding with the irritation to his eyes. Finally the barrow was empty of pots, and with relief, he looked about for Sam.

"Sam?" Yes, there he was, close enough that Frodo could make out his figure, a darker shape under the looming, creaking trees.

"Sir? I'll be right there. Don't you come over here, sir, this row's all old trees, and they're likely more brittle -"

Rain fell more heavily, and Frodo flinched as the tree above him crackled, and ice shards shattered to the ground. He crouched, turning his shoulders to their impact, flinging his arm overhead -

And then, from Sam's direction, another crack, a crash, a cry--

"Sam!"

The ripping sound of wood torn asunder. Another crash. And that, oh, no, that was a cry of pain, and Frodo's muddle headed fatigue dissipated in a blaze of terror.

"Sam!"

He fell twice as he made his way, slipping over the ice, heedless of branches splitting and breaking under the sudden downpour, throughout the orchard. The heavy smoke was washing away, but it still was difficult to catch his breath -

But then he was there, and he choked back the anguish rising in his breast.

The smoking pot that Sam had been carrying had rolled from his grasp. Flames leapt as the fuel from the overturned pot caught light suddenly in the open air, and they illuminated a terrible, glittering scene. Sam lay on his belly, face down in the icy grass, silent and still, beneath tangled branches. The ancient tree had split under its coat of ice, thick and heavy on branch and trunk and twig alike. The branch that had fallen upon Sam remained connected to the trunk, but was angled down to the ground, covering Sam like a wicker cage - like a crystal cage, sparkling in the flamelight from the overturned smudgepot.

It could have crushed him!

Frodo checked his first instincts - to heave the branch aside, whatever it took from him, to pull Sam out from beneath, to roll him over and call his name and touch his face and demand that he be all right -

Instead, he calmed himself and looked. The fallen branch remained attached to its tree by split and shredded wood, glaringly white at the break. When he pushed at it, it seemed secure enough not to fall further. Could he lift it from Sam's body? He tried - but he could get no grip on the slick ground. The limb was too heavy for him to raise it, and the way it hung, skewed away from the trunk, prevented a push to the side. No help for it - he'd have to crawl underneath, through the branches, now he was reasonably confident that would not bring the entire thing crashing down and hurt Sam more.

For hurt he clearly was; Frodo could see a dark stain trickling on his forehead, and his eyes were closed. Let him simply be unconscious, let him be all right! Frodo flung himself to his belly and wriggled through the sharp, sparkling branches. He heard a voice, a ragged litany of 'Sam... Sam...' , and knew it for his own - but there was no movement. And then he was there, lying perpendicular to Sam's body, and he could touch Sam's cheek. But, oh, no, it was so very cold! And in desperation he thrust his hand beneath Sam's collar to find the hot living pulse at his throat; and he gasped his name as his tears of relief fell to ice on Sam's hair.

"Sam, oh, Sam! Please, Sam..."

Perhaps Sam's injury was not so bad - or perhaps it was Frodo's desperate call, for Sam would ever respond to that - for he groaned, and stirred, and tried to turn over, his hands sliding out from beneath him. He fell heavily back to the ground, but turned his face towards Frodo, trying to focus upon him.

"Mr. Frodo?"

"Don't move, Sam... here, Sam dear, let me see..." Frodo peered closely. The bleeding was from a small gash, just at his hairline, and though the blood was worrying, Frodo knew that head wounds often bled worse than they really were. And Sam was lucky to have only one, with so many sharp twigs and ice shards all around him. At least they did not seem to be resting anywhere upon Sam's body; perhaps if he could wake enough, he could manage to crawl out from this disaster.

"Frodo... sir?" And this time, with Frodo's help, Sam was able to turn over despite the restraining branches.

"Does it hurt anywhere else, Sam?" He ran his hands carefully over Sam, watching his face - nothing seemed to be broken, thank goodness. But he was alarmingly cold. Frodo slipped his hand under his collar; it was as he had feared. His clothes were dangerously soaked through to his skin. If only he had insisted that they go inside... But no time for regrets now.

"My shoulder, where the branch hit. Cold more than anything else... Are you all right, sir?" Sam's teeth were chattering, his voice hoarse, but filled with concern. "Yes, yes. Can you move? I think that if you can, this way is easier..."

"I think so."

And he did, bemused though he seemed, as Frodo held back the ice sharp twigs and branches that impeded their slow progress, ready to fling himself protectively over Sam's body if the limb gave the slightest sign of coming down on top of them. A careful wriggle, a check to see if Sam was with him, and then another. Finally free of the ice fall, they sat, and fell into each other's arms for soft comfort in the midst of hard ice, and then helped each other stand.

Their journey back to Bag End was slow and agonizing. Soaked through and lightheaded though he was, Sam refused to take Frodo's cloak, although he did allow Frodo to fling it about his shoulders and hold him close beneath its voluminous folds - and Frodo accepted that, reluctantly, knowing that his own ebbing strength was clearly needed as Sam leaned more and more heavily upon him, his shaking worse now, as shock set in, and the sodden clothes leached his body heat into the icy air.

Rain beat cold upon hood and hair, branches crashed from the trees behind them. A misstep by one, caught by the other - and then only Frodo catching Sam, when Sam was no longer able to catch Frodo's slips, and they would both tumble to the ground, shaking, clutching, scrabbling for purchase, bracing against each other to rise... Frodo left the lantern, even though it survived their third fall; his hands were needed to help Sam more than to carry its light.

And ever the trudge towards the smial, in darkness and enduring silence.

And then, Sam began to mutter - and a chill far colder than the weather stabbed Frodo's heart. From his practical, ever hopeful Samwise came confused words of despair - and Frodo knew that Sam was taking a perilous chill, and feared that the blow to his head might be graver than he had thought.

But the far off circle of yellow light in had grown - slowly, unsteadily - to be the kitchen window, and never had its glow beckoned a welcome more needed. Frodo thought grimly that they were likely no more than two hard falls - and one that they might catch - from sanctuary. He forced his frozen thoughts to make sense of what he must do as soon as he could get Sam inside. Warmth, first. The kitchen would be warmest, with the hearth still stoked for cooking. Strip Sam's iced clothes off. Dry him, wrap him in a blanket. Something warm inside him - tea, or brandy, perhaps? Tea. A bath would be best, but he knew that to be beyond his strength right now, even to warm his Sam.

But as soon as Sam was dry and wrapped warmly, he would move him to the study, where he had lit the fire before he went searching. He could lie down there - not as comfortably as in the bedroom, but warming it would take too long. Find something dry for Sam and himself. Perhaps finish dinner. Yes, a hot dinner would be nice... He shook himself; this cold was muddling his thoughts, and he knew they would be well blessed if his failing strength could bring Sam indoors to safety. Concentrate.

Frodo kept his eyes fixed upon that circle of light, their beacon, as he clutched Sam close, his hands trembling now. Yes. He was still thinking. Yes. This was a plan, and he took comfort in foreseeing these next steps, even if he could not see - or feel - those beneath his feet. He glanced at Sam, able to glimpse only his wet hair and his eartips as he trudged with his chin tucked to his chest.

"Sam, we are almost there." His voice rasped, and he could barely make out his own words, but Sam roused, and seemed to take heart; he looked up at Frodo and managed a smile.

"Aye, Mr. Frodo. Almost..."

And then they were there, bursting from frozen death in a crackling wasteland into the golden warmth of firelight and the aroma of dinner. Frodo pushed Sam to sit at the bench, and kissed his frozen curls, then took his trembling hands between his own. He was not sure that he could stand but he drew strength from his knowledge that Sam needed him.

"We made it, Sam. Just a little longer, and we will have you dry and warm." Frodo picked up the towel he had discarded and started drying Sam's hair, his face, his neck.

And even in his bleary haze, Sam saw - and his heart broke - Frodo's poor hands, oh, his fine hands, reddened and scraped from their falls, awkward as he dried Sam's face. This cold trembling touch was so very different from the heated one in Sam's dreams - his master was almost as done in as he was.

"Sir, I should... I can -" Sam's teeth were chattering so much that he could scarcely speak.

"No, Sam dear. Do not move."

Sam sighed and his head dropped to his chest.

"No, don't sleep! I can't let you sleep yet. Talk to me, Sam!"

And never one to disobey his gentle master, especially with his tone so unusually stern, Sam made himself talk - but he rambled, and the words he strung together made little sense to Frodo, half of them beneath his breath, and others slurred and broken.

"Mr. Frodo needs me! And I'm no good to him... No use, no use... I dragged him out in the cold for nothing... nothing..."

"No, no, Sam..." Frodo frowned, and looked to him in concern. Sam's gaze had fixed upon fire past his shoulder, and he no longer seemed to see Frodo.

"They'll all be barren, no fruit for the harvest... nothing for my love! And he's chilled to the bone, so cold, so cold... and I can't help him..."

"Oh, Sam! You did too much; you've taken a chill! I should have come for you sooner." Frodo heard something he wished he had time to think through, but he concentrated upon undressing Sam.

"... what's to become of the garden... what can I give him then..."

"Here, dear, lift your arm..."

"...how will he know... so cold... so beautiful... did you see it?"

Frodo was frantic to find a way to restore Sam to sensibility, and murmured soothing words between Sam's. With stiff fingers he managed the buttons on Sam's winter jacket; its sturdy wool could fend off most weather, but it had never been designed to repel such constant, icy rain. He peeled it from Sam's shoulders, as careful of the one struck by the falling branch as his own shivering would allow. Frowning, he loosened the soaked waistcoat and shirt, spreading them aside from Sam's broad chest, clammy and damp beneath all these layers. He pulled off the sodden mess and rubbed his skin briskly with the kitchen towel. Just warm him, warm him, then he'll make sense, don't let him sleep, not with that bump on his head, not till you check it...

Perhaps a glass of brandy. Now, for both of them. With shaking hands, Frodo sloshed it into one of the glasses he'd set out before, and took several burning gulps before curling Sam's hand about it, and raising it to his lips. Sam looked up and met his eyes then, over the rim of the glass, and drained it dutifully, swallowing as though it was water, senses still so dulled that he didn't seem to taste or feel its fire in his raw throat or his empty belly.

He needed something warm and dry. His cloak? No, it was completely sodden, with ice melting from it. No help to either of them, and he unclasped it and shrugged it off. At least he was drier than Sam had been, but dangerously chilled. A blanket - yes, there were lap robes in the study.

"I will be right back." He limped across the hall and returned with one around his shoulders, and another which he wrapped around Sam.

"This should help. And tea..." Frodo took the kettle from its hook and made tea, spilling only a little water onto the table, trying to control the shivering that was building in his slender frame; he wrapped his hands around the heated porcelain teapot until their trembling ceased, then poured a mug for each of them and added honey.

"Drink this, Sam." Frodo pressed the mug between Sam's hands. Drinking it would be best, but the warmth from holding it would help.

Sam looked up at him dully. His trembling had not slowed, but he was able to say, "Thank you, sir. I'll help... just a few minutes... fetch more logs... for your study..."

"Of course not! Sam, what are you thinking?" That was the problem, wasn't it? Sam was not thinking clearly. "Stay there, don't move! I will be right back. Do not move, Samwise Gamgee."

Sam nodded and leaned back against the table, holding the warm mug against his chest.

Frodo hobbled down the hall as quickly as waves of shivering and sore feet and the drag of exhaustion allowed. Strip off his own damp things and dry himself, or he'd be no use to anyone. Throw on his old robe; collect his better one for Sam. Time enough to dress later, as soon as Sam was made comfortable. Light the fire in the bedroom: no time to lay one in the guest room. Gather towels, blankets. Pull the couch closer to the fireplace in the study. Dinner? No, not till he rested; he knew himself on the very edge of collapse. Everything he had left must be for Sam. Return to Sam, back to Sam, how was Sam...

He was sitting as Frodo had left him, his head bent down, clutching the cloak close about himself. Frodo laid his hand upon Sam's shoulder, bent, and spoke quietly.

"Here, Sam. Can you put this on? And, um... If you can take off those wet trousers...?"

Sam glanced down. Yes, soaked, and suddenly noticeably uncomfortable, now that Frodo had drawn his attention to them. He nodded, set the mug aside, and stood shakily, with Frodo's help. Leaning heavily upon the table, he pushed down his trousers and underlinens, and stepped out of them, wearing nothing now but Mr. Frodo's fine wool cloak - and it looked like the only thing to change into was Mr. Frodo's even finer blue dressing gown. Well, so be it; Sam was too tired and too worried to much care, and anything of Frodo's, whether his robe or his soft voice or his gentle hands, was a comfort.

He turned toward the fireplace, his back to Frodo, and let the cloak slip from his shoulders into Frodo's hands, leaving him standing bare, but dry, before his master.

"Your poor shoulder!" There would be quite a bruise, there... but nowhere else on Sam's back could Frodo see anything other than rolling muscle and smooth golden skin; his arms ached to embrace him and pull him close, and offer kisses of healing to the reddened shoulder, and of gratitude to everything unharmed. He took a deep breath, and held up the robe.

"Just put your arm through..." Frodo held up the robe, and gently guided Sam's arm through the sleeve, then the other, and Sam pulled the soft robe around his nakedness, too lethargic to tie the sash. Frodo slipped his arms around his waist, tied it loosely, and turned him back to face him. And then Frodo was pushing him to sit again, and his hands were tender at Sam's scalp as he examined and cleaned the gash.

"Not nearly as bad as I thought from all that blood..." Frodo took a deep breath. "Not likely a concussion, but enough for a headache..."

His voice faded as he stepped away; Sam was aware that Frodo was still talking, but he could not concentrate upon his words. And then he was back, and kneeling before Sam. Gently, he took Sam's foot in hand, dried it, and examined it. Strong fingers ran through the curling hair, explored, then tended the cuts from the ice with soothing balm, before switching to Sam's other foot.

Sam stared at the top of Frodo's head. His hair was drying in ringlets; they'd make a dark cloud about his face soon as he ran his hand through them, but for now were sleek and spiked against the firelight. Sleek... like Mr. Frodo himself... Who was now looking up to him, with firelight behind him and candlelight full in his face, and his eyes were dark and his voice soft.

"I think you will be more comfortable in the study... Oh, Sam, I know I should put you right to bed, but the bedrooms are so cold... The study for now. Here, let me help."

And it was only then that Sam realised that Mr. Frodo had shed his clothes as well; he was wearing his familiar robe, the soft green one that made his eyes all the bluer, tied loosely, as though he'd been hurrying. And it fell open down to his waist as he leaned to help lift Sam from the bench, and Sam's face was for a moment almost within touching... kissing... distance of smooth, shadowed pectorals and one peaked brown nipple. The cold... it is just the cold. Sam was mildly surprised that the fuzziness of his thoughts cleared for such a lovely focus, and he took a deep breath. Oh. Frodo's skin smelled good, too, despite the heavy smokiness - sweat from hard work, dried on a clean body; a trace of that sage and mint soap he liked; and a muskiness that was pure Frodo, and smelled, well, private... And Sam's thoughts drifted from the need to stand, to a need to inhale that scent more deeply, to trace it to its source, letting it bring to mind a vision of delicate rose-petal flesh growing firm amidst fragrant curls... and he heard a sigh, as of longing.

And he snapped back to the reality of the hobbit before him, who had gasped, with the effort of trying to lift him, his hands gripping Sam firmly beneath his arms. He'll be trying to carry me if I don't make myself move...

"Come on, Sam, dear. To the study."

"Yes, sir..." Sam pushed himself to his feet and stood, unsteadily, grateful for Frodo's arm wrapped securely around his waist.

"Put your arm around me, Sam." Frodo guided Sam's arm, offering his shoulder for support. This would be so much easier than their struggle from the orchard, but it seemed an almost insurmountable distance. Slowly, shivering, they made their way to the warmth of the study. Frodo settled Sam on the couch, close to the hearth, then tucked himself into the far corner, facing the fire.

"Come, lie back against me, Sam. We will be warmer together." "Yes, sir, if I'm not too heavy for you?" The world hesitated, and to Sam, Frodo's answer seemed to float into a dream.

"Not at all." Frodo pulled Sam, unresistant, to lie against his chest, and wrapped his arms around him. Here Sam would be warm, with the hearthfire on one side, and whatever heat his own chilled body could offer on the other, with blankets tucked snugly over both of them.

"Oh, Sam... we can rest now... rest, dear Sam."

*****

Frodo let himself relax back into the cushions. Tenderly, he stroked Sam's hair, dry now from sitting before the kitchen fire; the ruffling released a stronger smell of smoke, and he realised that he must have become used to it, covered as he was with soot and smoke himself. No matter. Time enough to bathe later. He just needed to rest for a while, first - he was exhausted, and Sam was beyond that.

He closed his eyes and laid his cheek upon Sam's head, comforted by the weight of his body resting upon him. He shivered; it would be warmer for them both to hold Sam more closely. He slipped his hands further beneath the covers, finding Sam's robe fallen aside, and his muscular chest bare. He hesitated, but he could not imagine that Sam would begrudge him this intimacy; Sam did not flinch from the touch of his cold hands, and instead, laid his own over them, pressing Frodo's to his breast. Oh, this was warmth of the very best kind.

"Thank you, Sam..." Frodo whispered.

"Of course, sir..." Sam's voice was low, and Frodo could feel it rumble in Sam's chest beneath his hands as much as hear it.

"Did you see, sir? How beautiful? The blossoms, and the crystal all around..." Sam spoke hoarsely of beauty and light and loss, and Frodo held him close, and listened as Sam let go of his worry, turned it over to what would be, and he soothed him with gentle murmurs and laced their hands together.

Finally Sam fell silent. Long moments passed, and gradually his shivering subsided, and his breathing slowed; he twitched as though dreaming and clasped Frodo's hands more tightly. Frodo thought he might have fallen asleep. Better that way, than to continue his exhausted rambling, to hear the distant cracking of trees in his orchard and the insidious drip of freezing rain.

So strange that something so slow could rip the fertile growth from the land as brutally as the fiercest wind. Every spring blossom, sheathed in crystal that froze the season's fecundity...

Ice melt popped and hissed in the logs, and a downdraught wafted fragrant steam and smoke into the room. It seemed that the wind might have come up since their return; an occasional rush across the chimney sent sparks flying into the screen. The ticking sound against the panes counted one more hour of ice, interspersed with countless crashes.

Frodo tried to set aside his knowledge of what such accumulating weight alone was doing to ice laden blossoms and trees.

The couch creaked as he shifted, trying to relieve pressure upon the foot tucked beneath them. He pulled Sam closer, never mind if his whole leg fell asleep. Carefully, he lifted his hands from Sam's tender grasp, and caressed gentle circles over his chest, his throat, his cheeks: warm now, and so smooth. No damage to a distinctly upturned nose, or to strong white teeth, or softly mobile lips, or lovely golden skin...

Sam would be so disappointed if this year's harvest were destroyed. He had tried so hard. They both had. Better not to think about the likely futility of their efforts... Or worse, about what might have happened if - if in that bleak and ruined orchard, his gardener... his friend... his Sam... had been felled to lie broken under freezing rain - and he not there to rouse him... A shudder passed through Frodo's body, and the aftereffects he'd held off so long finally overtook him. He buried his face in Sam's hair, seeking his scent beneath the smoke.

He found comfort there, and, for a while, he slept.

*****

Sam dreamed of harvest's bounty, crystal shards, and of a light shining through slender fingers. He woke gradually, and found himself cradled warmly in Frodo's arms, with one hand holding Frodo's to his breast, and the other resting loosely upon Frodo's ankle, fingers buried in the soft curls of his foot. His earlier confusion had cleared to full memory now, of smoke and ice, and his master's determination and gentle care amid so much random destruction; his hand tightened reflexively around the slender foot - and Frodo winced.

"Oh, Mr. Frodo, I'm so sorry - I hurt you! What is it? What have I done?" His master was hurting; in his own dogged insistence upon trying to save the orchard, he had let his Mr. Frodo come to harm. And 'twould be bitter indeed, if he had neglected his own need to care for Sam's.

Sam pushed back the heavy blankets and twisted around to see Frodo's face, lit by firelight. His fair skin was blotchy - but at least not the dreaded white of frostburn - his eyes a little puffy from the smoke sting, soot smudged around them in bruising streaks. The corners of his mouth, that tender, mobile mouth, were tense and tight, with blood drying dark in chapped creases.

And he was still the fairest thing that Sam had ever seen.

"Not you, Sam, it was the ice - my feet are a little sore. You'll find that yours are, too. But you seem better?"

"Aye. But I'm sorry to be such a bother, sir. And if you hadn't managed to get us back..." Sam's chest tightened - it wasn't right that Mr. Frodo had been doing for him when it was so obvious that he needed tending himself, but when he thought of what might have happened... He railed at his own failure - despite all his efforts, he'd protected neither fair blossom nor fairer master from the icy blight, and that was hard enough to accept. But that Frodo should risk himself to save Sam -

"I've been no help to you at all!" he burst out.

"Sam, that's not true - of course you have, you are! All you have done this day, every day, is for me. And I am so glad that that I was there... that you are here..." Frodo's voice caught, and he coughed - the smoke, oh, his throat had to be as raw as Sam's own - and he traced Sam's chapped lips with his fingers, whether to silence, to soothe, or something more, Sam could not tell.

"I know what a blow this must be for you, Sam."

"Yes, sir, but -" How could he explain - it wasn't so much the damage, for every gardener knew full well that storm or drought or any of countless events might come along and do harm; a simple, if hard, fact of working on the land. The season's turn brought its own healing and the return to flower and fruitfulness. But without the garden's bounty, how could he show Mr. Frodo how much he meant to him, what he meant? He had somehow never had the words - but now, there seemed to be little else left to offer. He sighed.

"It weren't just the garden, sir. That can be put back in order with some work, and nature has a way of healing... a few months, a year or five, and you'll never tell it happened. It's more that there's not likely to be much to harvest, if anything, from the entire orchard. And - and I can't do as much as I want to for you..." Sam looked away. There. He'd said it, but not so bluntly that Mr. Frodo had to hear the entire truth, if he didn't listen too close. Though Sam couldn't think when Mr. Frodo had not listened closely...

"Oh, Sam. You do so much for me... You cannot know... you have such a gift, such a way of bringing everything to life..." Frodo's voice was a soft breath in Sam's ear as he tucked his chin upon Sam's shoulder. He squeezed Sam's hand and hugged him to his chest. "Are you feeling better now? Warm enough?"

"Aye, sir, plenty warm enough. Maybe even too warm with so many blankets." Sam pushed them further away; yes, Frodo's body offered all the warmth he desired just now, and maybe a little more than he needed. He pulled his thoughts away from those desires and needs, though Frodo's chin, a little pointed, on his shoulder, and his arm, snug about his waist, made that difficult.

"And you, sir?" He certainly felt warm enough at Sam's back...

"Mm. Yes. Much warmer... Oh, Sam, I was so worried for you!" Frodo turned his face into Sam's neck, and with a gentle hand pulled aside the collar of the robe, and pressed a kiss to the soft skin in the hollows that he found there. "Dear Sam..."

The tenderness of his master's kiss set free the words Sam had never dared voice; unguarded truth burst forth unchecked.

"Oh, Frodo, you are the dearest thing I've ever known--" And he brushed a kiss upon the soft curve of Frodo's cheek, so warm, right next to his own.

Sam would not have called back his words or his kiss, even if he could have done so. Maybe on this frozen night, some things had melted - and maybe there were ways besides his gardening that he could show Frodo how very much he loved him. And when better to tell him, than now, lying before the firelight in his arms; lying between firm, bare thighs; both of them half naked and his own hips and bottom pressing back, back against - something hard, heated... And that was most definitely his Mr. Frodo, as well -

"Oh, Frodo!"

"Sam..." Frodo could not find words to answer more, or duplicity to deny; his body had betrayed every considered judgment and all his restrained decisions, and spoken the truth at last. It had responded honestly to Sam's nakedness, telling of his love and desire as he could not have done with words.

"What you do to me, Sam. Is that all right?" Frodo's voice was a heated whisper in Sam's ear. His chest, his belly, his groin were fiery against Sam's back, and Sam wished that he'd never put on the robe, no matter how cold he'd been, for he longed for the feel of Frodo's bare skin pressed to his own.

"All right? Oh, Frodo! Yes! Is this?" Sam raised Frodo's hand, and brushed chapped lips over the roughened skin and tiny cuts, wanting to take away the hurt, but more... He turned that willing hand over, and kissed the very centre of his palm, the pulse in his wrist, throbbing fast and strong, then upwards to suckle the soft inner flesh of his elbow, and Frodo laughed at the tickle, then sighed as want bloomed suddenly beneath his skin...

"Sam...ohh... more... I want to feel you..." Frodo withdrew his arm, brushing Sam's lips with his fingertips - and there was a rustle of fabric. Arms bare and white now, he reached around Sam's waist to his belly, and untied the loose belt, then slid the robe from Sam's shoulders; he pressed tender kisses to the one reddened by the branch as Sam pulled his hands through the voluminous sleeves.

The robe dropped, and Frodo pulled it aside, and then he was back, and they were skin to skin, Frodo's chest, belly, loins... and fiery heat... snugged tightly against Sam, his hand curved round his flank. He slid his other hand beneath Sam's arm, over his belly, and traced around his navel... down along the soft line of fur across his belly, brushing slowly, tantalizingly, past what arched to meet him, across his thigh, then up... and inwards to cup gently, to tangle through tight curls... and then, oh, so very tenderly, he took Sam in hand -

Sam gasped, and looked down to see Frodo's hand, oh, his beautiful hand, enfolding him as though he were the most beloved hobbit in all of the Shire. And the jolt that shuddered through him at that loving caress lifted his hips, and he dropped his head back upon Frodo's shoulder with a cry.

"Let me, Sam... please, love."

"Frodo... oh, Frodo." Sam turned his face for a soft kiss, tender and sweet, this first sharing of a love that had brought one to help, and the other home from a frozen wasteland.

Frodo moved then, his hand stroking a promise to straining flesh. His touch was as familiar to Sam as a dream - tender explorations that changed to a firm grip and hold, a slide, and a deft flick of strong fingers - sensual skill his solitary master must have learned in his youth, or from what pleasure he had found in the long and lonely nights. The thought of Frodo's hands upon himself, and the feel of Frodo's heated flesh pressed hard and pulsing against him, brought forth Sam's cry, and he knew that so soon now his longing would be sated - and his beloved's would not.

"Oh, Frodo, wait, wait..."

Gasping, Sam laid his hands upon Frodo's to slow their urgency. He could receive no longer and must turn to his beloved master, whose touch had answered every doubt in his heart as to how best he might serve him, and what best he might give.

They pulled apart, and Sam twisted around on the couch, and kneeled between Frodo's thighs.

Frodo lay open before him, his limbs sprawled loose and pale and welcoming. His chest rose and fell with rapid breaths, and one hand lay at his groin, his fingers entwined in the nesting curls, stroking himself as he had just held Sam. Firelight sparkled in his eyes, and a beckoning smile curved his lips. He met Sam's gaze and he lifted his hips, and he reached for his hand.

"Please, Sam. Oh, Sam, your love is the only thing I need you to give me!"

"Frodo. Frodo, love..." Wanting nothing more than to lie with his master, to bring them together, to bring him from sharp desire into full joy, Sam hesitated, concerned that this might give harm rather than pleasure.

As ever, Frodo read his thought at a glance. "There, right there... on the tray... please... just touch, for now, and we will see..."

Sam glanced to the tray of fruit, cheese, and there, yes, there - exactly what was needed for the unforeseen pleasure they might find together this night. He offered the little pot to Frodo, and Frodo plunged his fingers into the creamy depths, reaching for Sam, spreading, coating him with slick warm strokes.

"Yes, yes... Ohh..."

Sam joined his hand with Frodo's upon himself, and gasped. Slippery as heated ice, together their hands massaged pleasure, Frodo's strong and small beneath Sam's, curving, sliding gracefully, powerfully, as Sam swelled, aching and strong, beneath his touch. Of course his sensitive master would be gifted, and giving, in this as so many other things...

And now Sam stayed their hands, lest they pull from him every bit of what he so wished to plant elsewhere. Despite his breathless desire to cover, and take, and bring Frodo panting to fruition beneath him, he asked again what Frodo had earlier answered.

"Will I be too heavy...?"

"You are what I need, Sam - beyond everything, you are what I want." Frodo's voice was ragged, panting with his need - from Sam's need, hot and hard within his hand - their hands... from what he knew now they would do.

"I love you, Frodo Baggins! Here, love..." Sam bent low, to kiss, to stroke, to cherish. Love and quivering need told him just what pleased the most, and with lips and tongue he swirled and suckled... slippery hands stroking a groan of desire from his Frodo as he slid lower, tracing puckered flesh with tender touch, slipping inwards...

"Ahh! Oh, please, Sam, now!" Frodo's hands flexed and gripped his shoulders, his hair, and his hips lifted, seeking...

Sam offered one last kiss to what had grown so strong beneath his nurturing touch, and slid upwards to rest chest to chest, bracing some of his weight upon his elbow. Oh, his Frodo was heated, and smooth, and sinuous, and he wrapped himself around Sam's shoulders, his hips, his hardness...

Kisses passed between lips roughened by weather, tasting of brandy and blood and salt, Frodo's musk and buttery sweetness, softening storm-chapped lips. They built a hard sliding rhythm of small circles, pushing into the hidden places of mouths and groins - and then Frodo tilted his hips, and Sam offered himself into slickened hands, guiding, placing... just to see, just to know, only to press, only a little, ever gently, oh, so slowly... and all resistance, every barrier between them was removed, and with all the tender desire in the world, Sam slipped into his love.

"For you, Frodo... always... for you."

"For now, forever... ahhh!"

Strong legs enfolded sturdy hips, and pulled Sam closer... a push, a little more, and then - Sam buried his face over Frodo's throat, and wrapped his hand around him, and they slid together into joy. No seed Sam ever planted gave more pleasure than this, love spilled within his Frodo, love returned, with seed, in fullest measure, to fulfil, to grow, and to come to fruition together, forever.

*****

"It is beautiful, isn't it?"

"Yes."

Frodo wrapped his arms around Sam from behind, and pulled him close, locking hands over his rounded belly. They stood before the kitchen window, looking out to a crystal scene that sparkled beneath the rising sun. The warm kitchen smelled of rosemary, and nutmeg, and cinnamon; the dinner Frodo had set aside the night before was almost ready, and it mattered not to either of them that first breakfast would have been the more usual meal.

Hunger was hunger. That of the night had been sated by loving, and sleep, and more loving. And a wedge of good cheese with apples, damson jam and biscuits. Although there was no more butter. And soon, a bath, a good dinner, and then, again, to bed.

And later, a day confined happily to smial, watching the slow melting ice, wandering through ancient tales, across Frodo's newest maps, and in and out of strange new lands, or bed, as curiosity called or desire demanded.

"It will recover, Samwise. It will be well again, with time and your good gift."

"Aye, that it will, and all that grows will be for you. Always. A reminder of what I want to give you the most." Sam spun within Frodo's embrace and pressed a kiss to his smiling lips.

"As if I would need reminder! But remind me, Sam, often. And I will know just what you mean with every damson, every pear, every stick of rhubarb or daisy or rose! But what will remind you of my love, my Samwise?"

Sam just shook his head, and laid his forehead to Frodo's quizzical frown.

"Oh, Frodo, how can you ask that? There's not any good thing in my life that doesn't remind me of you, of you loving me. That clear sky out there, going on forever, tells me of your curiosity and wit. The sparkle of sunlight on the ice, or water, that's the gleam in your eyes when you're happy, or the tear when you're not. And everything that grows in the garden says 'Frodo' for the life that just bursts from you. Always has and always will. Tender, and strong, and reaching always for the sun, and for the moon, and the stars, as well!"

"Samwise! I love you so! You call life from me - you are my sun!"

And they swayed together now into a new kiss, for the shining love revealed to them in the glittering destruction of the ice storm.

Finis

 

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