West of the Moon

A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive



Rustle Of Spring
Love in bloom. Or, at least, lust.
Author: Elderberry Wine
Rating: R


This story was written for the hobbit_smut Livejournal Community "I'm Doing WHO?!" Challenge.

Notes: Part of the Shire Morns series. Follows In The Very Best Of Company. Het and slash contained herein.

Saradoc burst into the back drawing room of Brandy Hall with a distinctly frazzled look about the eyes. Merry glanced up from the solitaire game in which he had been engrossed, giving his father a puzzled stare.

"At Frodo's, last Yule, did I mention visits of any sort?" the older hobbit stammered in a surprisingly breathless manner.

"Erm, visits?" Merry had to ask, genuinely bewildered. "By who? To whom?"

"To me," Saradoc clarified. "By anyone."

"Well," Merry scratched his ear thoughtfully. "I was rather in and out of the room a good deal, so I really couldn't say. Why do you ask?"

"Because apparently I did," Saradoc fairly hissed, his agitation threatening to make him incoherent. "Or why else would she be here?"

"She?" repeated Merry, rising to his feet, curiosity seizing hold of him.

"That Baggins creature! Or at least part Baggins," his father nearly wailed, noticeably wringing his hands. "Some relation of Bilbo's, I think."

"Lobelia Sackville-Baggins?" Merry asked in delight, a tickled grin breaking across his face. "You invited her here?"

"Certainly not in one of my sober moments," the Master of Buckland declared grimly, grabbing his son by the arm and proceeding to haul him unceremoniously from the room.

Fredegar Bolger, who, ignored by the two Brandybucks and calmly draped over a nearby armchair rather like a lanky, scone-munching afghan, slowly rose to follow. "Red Jack of Hearts would have won it," he proclaimed laconically, to no one in particular, and ambled down the hall after them.

"Good thing that mother's not home," Merry chuckled, following his father down the wood paneled halls towards the front door. "She'd have a proper fit."

"It's always a good thing when your mother's not home," growled Saradoc, not turning around, and also not bothering to hide his feelings under the mask of polite pretense, as he normally did. "But she will be back in a couple of days, and I'm sure that the presence of any relative of Bilbo's, no matter how remote, will not lighten her mood."

Merry couldn't help but silently agree to both sentiments. Esme Brandybuck was paying another strategic visit to the Bolgers, the cause of Fatty's appearance at Brandy Hall. "Too many females," he had announced frankly, showing up, as usual, uninvited, and Merry and Saradoc had sympathetically taken him in, at least temporarily. They both rather felt it was the least that they could do, considering. Thus he now sauntered after the two Brandybucks, curious as to the sort of hobbit who could rattle Saradoc Brandybuck so.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

She had just been assisted down from the hired wagon, and, adjusting her voluminous shawls and veils, shelter from the light early spring rain that had just begun to fall, turned to greet her hosts. The wagon driver rapidly unloaded an ominously high stack of baggage next to her, and without even waiting for any sort of tip, was off in an instant, not even letting the ponies be watered first. Merry, whose exposure to Frodo's cousin had been brief the night of the festivities, took this to be not a propitious sign. He had heard tales from Frodo, however, and even more surprisingly, occasionally from Sam, so he studied her carefully, from behind his father.

She was tall, and the section of her face that could be seen amidst the wrappings bespoke a certain grim weathered dignity. She now stood imperiously in the front courtyard, and her regal bearing, as she glanced haughtily about her before spying Saradoc and his son, was alarmingly reminiscent to Merry of his mother.

But upon catching sight of the Master, she theatrically threw back the coverings from her face, advancing upon him, and managed to convey, entirely without a smile, her satisfaction upon being able to bestow the rare pleasure of her visit upon him and his household. Both Merry and Fatty, who had by now joined him at the door, watched in awe. This was a level of impenetrable majesty to which Esme Brandybuck could only aspire.

"Mistress Sackville-Baggins," Saradoc proclaimed, advancing towards her with an outstretched hand, and neatly managing to disguise his agitation. "What an unexpected pleasure. A pity Esme is not here at the present; she'll be so disappointed to have missed you."

"My dear Saradoc, it should not be that unexpected," Lobelia responded with what looked alarmingly like an archly raised eyebrow to the amazed onlookers. "And even in the benighted hamlet of Hobbiton, we do receive some news, you know."

Sweeping past the speechless Saradoc, she advanced upon the two younger gentlehobbits, sheltered in the doorway from the rain that was now beginning to come down in earnest. "Your dear son, I remember from that evening, and of course, he looks so very much like you, the dear lad. And this would be?" Stopping under the overhang, in front of Fatty, she surveyed him cautiously.

But Fatty was equal to the challenge. "Fredeger Bolger, my dear lady," he announced loftily, raising a competing eyebrow, and producing a finely calibrated bow for the occasion. "And I can't believe that Frodo managed to fail to introduce such a lovely creature as yourself on any of my previous visits. I shall have to speak severely to him, indeed, I must."

Lobelia fixed him firmly with her gaze, but Fatty faced the threat with aplomb, dispensing out a rather insouciant grin. However, by this time, Saradoc had managed to get movement back into his limbs, and hastening toward her, escorted the guest toward the front room, directing Merry to make sure that the best guestroom was prepared, and that her things were delivered appropriately. A quick desperate glance towards Fatty, as he passed him in the entryway, was understood, and with an unseen smirk, Fatty followed the older pair of hobbits into Brandy Hall's best parlor.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dinner had at last been maneuvered through, and the general boundaries of polite conversation had been staked out, as the four gentlehobbits withdrew back to the parlor for another bottle of wine, sweet this time, and the afters. No one brought up Esme, and indeed, surmising from one or two stray remarks made by the guest of honor, the fact that she would not be present was known to Lobelia when she made her travel plans, a detail that caused Saradoc to mutter a quick command to Merry, as he had passed him in the hall on the way to the parlor after dinner, that he was not to be left alone with her under any circumstance.

Bilbo was also found to be a touchy subject, and was rapidly dropped, and even the subject of Lotho was politely brought up exactly once, and subsequently left alone, by surprisingly mutual silent consent from all those present. However, Merry was finding the politesse of a conversation based on the weather, and the likely outcome of this year's crops, wearying in the extreme, and took a great impish delight in Fatty's sudden bland inquiry into Frodo's health.

"I'm sure I wouldn't know. I rarely see him," Lobelia gave the speaker a distasteful glance, as if he had brought up a topic eminently unsuited for polite company.

"But if I understand all this properly, because you know, I do get so dreadfully confused at times, you met these other two at some sort of festivities that Frodo was putting on?" he pursued the topic artlessly, beaming a broad smile beneficently in her direction.

"Well, yes," Lobelia admitted reluctantly, dabbing at her lips daintily with a linen napkin, "but that was only because he assured me that there would be some hobbits of quality there, rather than the normal low sort he keeps about the place. Of course, with the lack of a proper upbringing that he has had, one can hardly expect..."

"Oh, now that's curious," Fatty was shaking his head in bewilderment. "Since he was, after all, raised right here in Brandy Hall, one would think some of it would have taken."

"Well, of course he was certainly started off right," Lobelia hastened to assure Saradoc, with a swift murderous glance in the direction of the other guest. "It's just that all those years under Bilbo seemed to have had their effect." Sensing a certain resistance toward this hypothesis from the other three present, she quickly added, "I'm afraid my dear cousin never had much of a sense of responsibility, and left Frodo to more or less finish growing up on his own. And then, Hobbiton society is so very limited, and there are just not enough gentlehobbits for a young lad with whom to associate."

"Oh, why then your Lotho and Frodo must have got on swimmingly," Fatty brightly interjected, "being such a small pool to choose from, and all." He beamed cheerfully as Lobelia obviously tried to calculate the possibility that this young stranger was actually fully aware of the fact that Frodo and her son loathed each other with a vibrant passion.

But with that, Saradoc stepped into the matter, determined to halt the escalating tension in the room, much to Merry's disappointment. "I am so sorry to have to excuse myself," he spoke firmly, rising to his feet, with only the thinnest veneer of regret. "A matter of business, I'm afraid. Merry will be more than glad to show you about the smial, and I have no doubt that you would welcome an early evening after your travels."

Merry swallowed, and rose with as much politeness as he could manage, wordlessly coerced by a certain tone in his father's voice. "It would give me great pleasure, Miss Lobelia," he bravely said, walking over to her and offering an arm.

"Oh, please, just Lobelia," she unmistakably giggled at his formality, rising and sweeping back her rather elaborate frock with a flourish before taking the arm Merry was offering her. "After all, we are cousins to a certain degree, are we not?"

With that disturbing thought in his mind, Merry nearly didn't hear Fatty's low chuckle, as he followed the others from the room.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Saradoc strode into the kitchen of Brandy Hall, where he customarily took a quick first breakfast before making his initial rounds of the morning, and nearly tripped over his feet in consternation. There, seated at the center of the unusually empty long table, where the working folk of the Hall customarily took their first breakfast, was an unexpected figure, hair elaborately curled, and clad in something ruffled and beribboned in a brightish green velvet, daintily sipping a cup of tea, smallest finger fully extended in the height of current fashion. There was a plate of toast in front of her, pieces of which had been liberally smeared with honey, and elegantly picked at. The rest of the kitchen staff was warily watching her, while theoretically attending to their chores, and Cook gave Saradoc a dark look immediately upon his entrance.

Saradoc gulped. His wife, in a foul mood, could be handled, but it really didn't do to upset Cook. "Why, Lobelia!" he proclaimed, with a somewhat forced cheerfulness. "What an unanticipated pleasure, seeing you up so very early."

Lobelia rose at his remark, and Saradoc did have to admit that, whatever her age might be, a fact about which he dared not surmise, she had managed to remain a fine figure. With a gracious tilt of her head, she indicated that she might be entertained by a tour of the estate, and Saradoc, to his very great amazement, found himself agreeing to precisely that. It was several hours later when they returned to the Hall for elevensies, and Saradoc could not remember the last time he had had quite such an entertaining conversation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Merry was poking moodily at his cinnamon roll as Fatty, a large platter of cream scones before him and in the process of vanishing, one by one, kept a close eye out the round front parlor window.

"Ah. Your father and his illustrious guest," he casually mentioned, his mouth only somewhat obstructed by the pastry. "They've been gone all morning," he further observed pensively, washing down the scones with half a pot of tea as Merry stood up and glared at the pair out the window from behind Fatty's shoulder. "What do you suppose she has in mind?" Fatty turned, glancing at Merry.

"Why, she's after him," Merry observed scornfully, his eyes narrowing. "Any fool can see that."

"Well, yes," Fatty nodded impatiently, "but, you see, my dear thing, the question is why." He continued to stare meditatively out into the drizzly morning, pondering the question. "It can't be the money, you know, for there's certainly no chance of that. Her son seems to be a bit of a catastrophe, from what I've heard, but I really don't see her taking you in instead, Merry. So what could it be that lures this impressive creature here?"

Merry could not help but raise an eyebrow at that question. "She is also a very ancient creature, Fatty. They have reasons the rest of us will never fathom."

"Perhaps," Fatty murmured thoughtfully, continuing to stare out of the window. "Perhaps."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Luncheon was a decidedly more comfortable affair than the previous evening's dinner had been. Saradoc, heartened by the interest that his guest had shown in the estate that morning, was in an expansive mood, and Lobelia, with the merest hint of a smile, and the appropriate nod of her head from time to time, kept him positively chattering throughout the meal. Merry watched his father with undisguised interest. He had always considered him to be the sort of hobbit who generally kept his thoughts and emotions closely guarded, but apparently, he had been quite mistaken. He wasn't at all sure how Lobelia was managing this entrancement, for when her keen glance occasionally fell upon him, he felt as if he was once again an awkward teen, mistakenly allowed in the room with his elders, when he really should be having milk toast in the nursery. He gave a quick glance towards Fatty for support, but as usual, Fatty's expression was serene and thoroughly inscrutable.

There was another matter preying upon Merry's mind, however, in addition to his father's unanticipated transformation. Esme Brandybuck was due to return to Brandy Hall on the following day, and by a very unfortunate turn of events, Pippin had not been able to time his visit to coincide at all with her absence. Merry suspected the hand of Aunt Lana in that, and even more likely, that of his mother, but fortuitously enough, Pippin had finally managed to solve whatever difficulties had been placed in his path, and was due to arrive at Brandy Hall this very afternoon. Fatty was pleasant enough company in his own way, to be sure, but Pippin's companionship was incomparably more desirable. Merry suddenly felt impatient beyond all bounds with the conversation and with every other hobbit in the dining room, and heartily wished that his father might be enticed to continue his tour of the Buckland estate for Lobelia's entertainment, and that, somehow, they could be persuaded to pack Fatty along besides. And much to his amazement, and great delight, exactly that did happen.

In fact, as he lay in his bed with Pippin, precisely two and a quarter hours later, Pippin was equally as puzzled by Fatty's actions. The customary greetings between the both of them had been immediate, spontaneous, and extremely gratifying, involving, as it always did these days, all clothing being shed as quickly as possible, just as soon as Merry had kicked the door of his bedroom closed behind them. Sated for the moment, Pippin sat next to a sprawled-out Merry, absently trailing his hand down Merry's chest and across his pleasingly lightly padded stomach.

"Why on earth did he want to go poking along after them?" Pippin mused, before Merry sighed dramatically, unable, however, to stop the grin that Pippin's actions were causing.

"Pippin, really, you do need to give me a few moments here."

"No, actually, I don't think I do," Pippin continued watching his hand descend even further, as if it were entirely unrelated to him, and the truth of his statement was instantly quite evident.

"I suppose not, you insatiable Took," Merry laughed at that, and abruptly pulled Pippin down for quite an extended kiss, wrapping both of his legs around Pippin's backside, as Pippin, with an only slightly muffled giggle of delight, settled his hand strategically between the two of them, and soon had to break his mouth away, passionately breathing Merry's name. With an uncontrollable thrust upward, and a shudder that flooded deliciously through his entire frame, Merry gave a hearty cry of joy, followed by an answering echo from Pippin. Before very long, the two figures were comfortably, if somewhat stickily, tangled together, and asleep in the light of the reddish late afternoon sun as it streamed in through the high round window, completely oblivious to the matter of Fatty's motivations for now.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For the afternoon's excursion, Saradoc had brought out the ponies, and he had been delighted to discover that his guest was quite a competent rider. She rode beside him, in the fine mist of the grey afternoon, and he could not help but notice her straight back, and easy sway to the gait of the animal. Esme was a fine rider, as well, one of the qualities that had originally attracted him to her, but he had to admit that Bilbo's cousin was every bit as proficient. Catching a glimpse of her sharp profile, as he brought his pony up beside her, he indicated the path that wound down from the spring pastures to the Brandywine, and vainly tried to remember anything Bilbo might have mentioned about her. Unfortunately, Bilbo had been rather fixated on her ambitions regarding Bag End, and had said very little otherwise. He had mentioned something as well about spoons, he recalled vaguely, but whether she collected them, or disliked them, or gave them freely away, he really had no idea. But certainly, Bilbo had never mentioned that she was quite handsome, in a stern sort of way, and amazingly easy to talk to.

They turned down to path to the river, and Saradoc cast a casual glance behind them. Fatty was still following along, affably silent as usual. Saradoc had been perplexed all afternoon by his son's young friend's uncharacteristic desire to bond with nature, and was a trifle disturbed and annoyed by it as well. Surely, he needed no chaperone, but Fatty seemed to consider being the third of the party to be his duty.

As it neared the river, the path suddenly dipped down through a wild tangle of branches, and Lobelia gave a short exclamation of annoyance as one caught in her hair. "You might want to clear this dead wood out, Saradoc," she exclaimed, with a light laugh, as Saradoc quickly came to her aid, reaching over from his mount, and gently freeing the twisted and whitened branch from her grey curls.

"I do beg your pardon," he smiled apologetically, holding up the branch to let her pass before him. "I so seldom ride this way, I hadn't realized how overgrown this path had become."

"It isn't dead, you know," came a quiet voice from behind them, and they both watched, puzzled, as Fatty rode past them, and stopped his pony not far ahead. "Forsythia," he commented, nodding to another tangle of grey branches, closer to the river. But unlike the others, these were covered in brilliant golden bloom, shining like the sun itself through the mist rising above the river. "Spring isn't that far off, you see." Turning toward Lobelia, he added, with a slight smile, "You might not want to be too hasty in judging what might be lost."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Saradoc poured himself another goblet of wine, and studied his dinner partners. There were now five at the table, but his son and Pippin had long since given up any pretense of involvement in the rest of the company, and he well knew that they would probably be leaving before the afters could be served. He couldn't help but smile slightly as he watched his son, golden curls catching glints of candlelight, but his eyes shining even more brightly as he exchanged stolen glances with the hobbit seated next to him. It had been a very long time ago, but Saradoc could still remember what that had felt like, the excitement of the lightest of touches, the thrill knowing what was to come. He didn't begrudge his son a bit of the happiness that he knew he felt, and it was with great regret that he had come to realize that he would never be able to persuade his wife to feel the same. Duties and responsibilities would be inevitable in his son's life, but there should be some joy as well.

With a shrug, he turned his attention back to his guest of honor. She would be leaving on the morrow, and quite considerately, had managed to arrange for the wagon from Hobbiton to pick her up before Esme's arrival later in the afternoon. Not that he planned on hiding her visit from his wife, of course, but it just seemed prudent to him, somehow, that their paths should actually not cross. Certainly, Esme was not given to jealousy, especially when the thought of having any cause to be jealous of anyone at least a full twenty years older than she would never have occurred to her. Possibly more than twenty years. That was not a speculation Saradoc was prepared to make.

He was beginning, however, to understand why Lobelia might have come to Brandy Hall. He knew that her husband had died a few years back, and that her son had been involved in some sort of trouble, and was currently not welcomed in Hobbiton. Frodo seemed to have inherited Bilbo's attitude towards her, with absolute justification, he had no doubts, but that must have left her feeling, at least in Hobbiton, quite isolated. And isolation was something Saradoc understood all too well. With an effort, he dragged his thoughts away from a cold foreboding regarding the morrow's dinner, when he and Esme would sit alone across from each other at this table, eating in silence.

And then there was Fatty. Characteristically, he seemed to not be noticing in the least that he was, in a manner of speaking, the odd hobbit out. Occupied as Fatty was with his meal (and Saradoc could only admire Cook's skills when she aspired to greater heights, as she generally did in Fatty's presence and Esme's absence), he was still managing to inject the occasional comment into the conversation. Indeed, to Saradoc's way of thinking, he was taking an odd delight in introducing subjects that very nearly crossed the boundaries of decorum, given his fellow dining companions. He seemed absolutely incapable of keeping to topics such as next summer's Market, and the possibility of it being an especially fine year for oats, and had, once again, brought up the especially touchy subject of Frodo.

"You must forgive me, my dear lady," he glanced in Lobelia's direction directly after a large bowl of creamed parsnips that had been in his vicinity quite suddenly managed to empty itself, "but I find it quite curious that you and Frodo don't manage to see more of each other. These family connections do get me so very confused, but aren't the both of you the last of the Baggins in the vicinity? Excepting your charming young son, I might add."

Lobelia lifted her head with a frosty air, and even Merry and Pippin suddenly directed their attention back towards her, since her response promised to be interesting. "I'm afraid that he brings the name of Baggins no honor," she said briefly, engaging Fatty's eye with no hesitation. Merry almost had to say something at that remark, but caught his father's eye at just the last moment and subsided, squirming slightly in his seat. Pippin watched the exchange guilelessly, his glance immediately reverting back to Fatty.

But Fatty nonchalantly picked up a piece of bread, and quite without shame, began wiping up the gravy on his plate with it. "How very odd. I had always thought he was rather well-respected in Hobbiton. But, of course, I go that way so infrequently."

"He would be thought of more highly," Lobelia sniffed, "if he had had the decency to live alone, as long as it seems he has chosen not to marry, rather than moving that working class lad into his home."

"Ah," Fatty picked up a bit of mashed carrot along with the gravy on his bread. "Of course, marrying is, I suppose, the ideal situation." He shoveled the bread into his mouth at that moment, leaving his audience to reflect upon the astonishing possibility of Frodo's choosing, at some point, to marry.

Some of the drawbacks to that proposal immediately presented themselves to at least one member of the audience, and she hastened to interject, "Not that there is anything wrong with him choosing not to marry, of course. Some hobbits are by nature not meant to marry. It's just that I find it so unsuitable for a hobbit of his position to be so obviously infatuated with his gardener."

"So, and do try to help me out here, because I get so horribly muddled," Fatty, with a puzzled air, pursued her relentlessly. "Then it's the discrepancy in their status that you believe is the issue? But my dear lady, I had always understood that it's precisely those differences that give the mystery of love its power. The known, the expected, the commonplace? Why, what's the charm in that? Nay, I would claim it is the mysterious, the ambiguous, the sweet thrill of connecting with the unknown and unknowable other, that allows love its supremacy over all other emotions."

Merry and Pippin sat mesmerized, staring at Fatty as if he had suddenly gone green and sprouted leaves. Even Saradoc was taken aback by Fatty's odd eloquence. But Lobelia narrowed her eyes, and gave him a thoughtful look.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The room had remained unlit, by mutual consent, to keep the distraction of sight from allowing them to maintain their focus on the other senses. There was a certain concession in this, as much as the acknowledgement of the loss of firmness and elasticity of flesh. And yet there were compensations as well. There are skills that are not known to the young, and a stamina and sense of pacing that are likewise a mystery, as well as a curious sense of joy in undertaking such a gesture of trust, of reliance on another, at an age at which the risks are fully understood.

No time had been wasted on kisses, nor indeed in leisurely disrobing, for there was no question as to what was intended by either of them. Both were acutely aware, however, of the ebb and flow of sensation, the natural rhythm of their bodies, the laughing tease of coming to the edge, and then retreating, seductively, from that moment.

It was late into the night as she lay, lulled into a delicious lassitude, glad beyond all measure that she had taken this chance. But she could tell that her partner was not in the mood for sleep either, as she felt those strong hands on her again, stroking up her sides, molding themselves around her breasts. His erection, strong once again, pushed into her backside as she stretched herself tantalizingly back against him. Giving a throaty chuckle, she turned suddenly in his arms and guided his hand down between her legs and grasped him appreciatively. "Thrice before you sleep, my dear?" she murmured, serenely delighted. "Well, that's rare."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The next morning, and a beautiful clear lovely morning it was, Lobelia Sackville-Baggins departed with, what was for her, positively a grin on her face. She had, after all, received what she had come for, if not entirely in the manner she had expected. She was extremely pleasant to the apprehensive driver, and had nothing but kind words for the Brandy Hall staff that helped bring out her luggage. And as a matter of fact, as the scullery maid told the astonished Cook, she was actually humming some antiquated tune, and gave Saradoc Brandybuck a hearty kiss on the cheek on parting.

Saradoc, still full of regret over missed opportunities, was rather mystified as well, but bade her good-bye with genuine reluctance, and sincerely insisted that she would be most welcome to come at any time, even if the Mistress of Brandy Hall should also be present.

Merry and Pippin, who had shown up just in time to wish her farewell, not being present for either first or second breakfast, received each a cheerful parting wave, and a sincere invitation to stop by anytime they happened to be in Hobbiton, causing them to eye her warily, as if age had quite suddenly taken her wits.

But at the very last moment before she left, Fatty sauntered out, bags in hand, and giving his hosts a bow, tossed them lightly into the cart as well. "Think I'll be pottering on, old things," he grinned complacently in their astonished direction. "I understand the spring bloom is especially fine in Hobbiton this year. I'll drop you all a line."

Lobelia gave him a cool glance as he joined her in the wagon. "Such an impertinent young hobbit," she murmured, and only Fatty could see the smile she was hiding.

"I'm afraid I am that, my lady," he answered, with a remarkably cheeky smile, settling himself beside her. "But I've been told I have my good points, as well."



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