West of the Moon

A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive

 

 

Mothballs
Frodo undergoes a strange transformation after his first night with Sam.
Author: Semyaza
Rating: NC-17

 

Chrysalis


"Why have you got your head stuck under the pillows, Mr. Frodo? It's nearly time for elevenses and you're still abed."

"Yes." The answer was curt and not the least bit encouraging.

Sam stood hesitantly by the clothes press, fiddling with his brace buttons. He was unsure of his position in the household now that he and Frodo were lovers. Should he draw open the curtains as he always did of a morning, or was he expected to doff his clothes and crawl into bed for an hour or two of merrymaking?

"Are you sick? Shall I fetch a hot posset?"

"No, thank you. I fear that a hot posset won't cure what ails me."

"And what's that, sir?" Sam asked, more boldly than he'd intended.

There was a muffled cough from amidst the bedclothes, followed by a faint, reedy moan. Sam leaned forward with a worried frown, but nary a glimpse could he catch of his master's face beneath the mound of pillows, counterpanes and stray articles of clothing torn off in haste the night before. He picked up Frodo's best breeches, and folded them neatly.

"I appear to have had a misadventure during the night, Sam." The voice was hesitant, not like Mr. Frodo's usual firm and decisive manner.

"A misadventure? I never left your side. You scarce moved a muscle, you were that tuckered out. Whatever--"

"I--found something where there oughtn't to be anything, if you see what I mean. Well, no, I don't suppose you do and I don't think that I can bear to show you."

Sam struggled with the notion that there was some part of Frodo's body that he hadn't either seen or handled in the course of the night, then gave it up with a shrug.

"You can't lie there with your head under the pillows forever, sir. T'ain't natural. You'll stifle."

"Many things aren't 'natural', Sam, but they happen nonetheless."

Sam pondered this for a moment, not certain of Frodo's meaning.

"So they do," he said at last. "Take you and me, we--"

He paused, a look of horror dawning in his eyes.

"You don't mean to say--you haven't--you're not--"

Sam's head whirled. It wasn't possible, was it? His Gaffer would have a conniption fit.

"Yes, I'm afraid so, my dear. I've fallen victim to that same queer ailment that afflicted great-uncle Pongo. Bilbo warned me many years ago, but I wouldn't listen. I was a reckless tween, with no care for the dangers inherent in a hobbit's coming-of-age. I shouldn't have let you--"

Sam shifted uneasily. It was an awkward situation, as he had scant experience with mornings after, and the wrong words now might ensure that there would be no more such mornings; leastways, not with Frodo.

"Let me, Mr. Frodo? Begging your pardon, sir, but you dragged me to your bed willy-nilly, and threw yourself on me as eager as a new-born lamb at its mam's teat, if I'm not mistaken. And then you--well, I went places where I never thought to go, and if it means I'm to be a father, I'll have to take my punishment whether I like it or not. But what will my sisters say, and them not even wed yet?"

Sam could make out very little in the darkened bedroom, but it was apparent from the rustling of bed linens and creaking of springs that Frodo had moved. Sam imagined that he caught a flash of pale skin in the shadows, and he smiled happily to himself, remembering the feel of that silken warmth wrapped around him as they'd pleasured each other. He wasn't sure if it was a good idea, since things had come to such a pretty pass, but he would love to do it again, preferably right away. Mayhap they could try a different position, just to be on the safe side. They could--

"What are you wittering on about, Sam? Have you taken advantage of some poor hobbit lass? Not Rose Cotton, surely? She squints. If I were you I'd give her a handsome settlement--a large sack of the Gaffer's best seed potatoes might do the trick--and see that she's handfasted to a distant cousin as soon as may be."

Sam blushed, vastly grateful that Frodo couldn't see him. As it happened, he and Rosie had enjoyed each other's company in Farmer Cotton's back pasture on a number of occasions over the summer. The old shepherd's hut was snug and dry and Rosie had a trick or two to keep a fellow happy. It certainly wasn't Rosie he was worried about.

"No, sir. I meant, if you're with child on account o' me, then I'll not deny it."

There followed a deafening silence, a silence so profound that Sam began to wonder if his master had run short of air sooner than anticipated. If last night's dealings were anything to go by, Frodo had a sight more air in his lungs than Sam would have thought likely for such a slender hobbit. Still, it wouldn't hurt to check, would it?

He bent towards the coverlet, his hands coming to rest lightly on what seemed, judging by the shape of it, to be Frodo's hip. There was a gasp and a giggle. Ah, not only his hip. Mr. Frodo was plainly in the same predicament as Sam, and speedy intervention was called for. Lasses had odd whims at times like this and could be uncommon lusty, or so Tom had said t'other night, with a nod and a wink at the innkeeper's wife. As far as Sam could tell from his limited experience, Mr. Frodo was lusty enough in the ordinary way of things. No wonder he was testy this morning.

Fortunately, Sam saw where his duty lay. Squeezing--right there--would bring Frodo out of his funk in a jiffy, and they could get down to business. His master would feel more content once Sam had seen to him. Sam shrugged off his braces and was about to drop his breeches when Frodo spoke.

"I hate to tell you this, dearest Sam, but hobbit lads can't--they don't--you know. They just don't--not even great-uncle Pongo, who was awfully peculiar, but not in that way. No, not at all."

"Then what--"

Frodo's arm slipped out from beneath the covers; at this distance, Sam could clearly see the white linen sleeve of Frodo's nightshirt and the thin hand below it. The long fingers wiggled gracefully and pointed at the pillows. They were skilled and expressive fingers--Sam knew that only too well--but in this case the meaning of the gesture was puzzling. Sam scratched his head.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Frodo, I don't understand. Is there summat wrong with your bedding?"

Frodo's hand fell back in defeat, and a heartfelt sigh issued from the pillows.

"I have feelers."

Sam hardly knew where to look; he hadn't thought to receive a declaration of affection on their first morning together, and his cheeks grew a tad warm with suppressed excitement.

"I know you have feelings, me dear. I said nowt last night, not being accustomed to such rumbustical carryings-on, but when you called out my name in the heat of passion I could tell that--"

"No, Sam. Feelers."

Sam's eyebrows shot straight up his forehead while his breeches fell to the floor unheeded. His fingers tightened. His toes curled. Other parts stirred curiously.

"Oh my."

--------

"Quite so," answered Frodo, with a languid wave of his hand. "Family records indicate that great-uncle Pongo never showed his face in public again, once the feelers had emerged. Perhaps--" He paused.

Sam took the opportunity to bend over and pull up his breeches. He felt more than usually foolish in nought but his shirt and a set of flimsy underlinens now that the conversation had taken a serious turn. Should Frodo happen to poke his head out from the pillows, Sam wanted to look dutiful, not eager for sport. He no longer expected to be cavorting between the sheets with his master anytime soon.

He wished his breeches weren't so binding though. He'd have to nip out to the potting shed later to see to things; he'd pop his buttons else.

Frodo was strangely quiet and Sam cleared his throat.

"P'raps what, sir?" Sam asked, staring at the untidy heap of bedding, and wishing he could suppress the shiver of illicit desire that coursed through him at the notion of Frodo's feelers slowly extending and unfolding and.... He turned away and thought hard about onion rot.

"Perhaps," Frodo continued, "I shall have to wear a close-fitting hat whenever I'm out-of-doors, unless I'm prepared to become the subject of a fireside tale at The Green Dragon: 'Frodo Baggins of the Blue Feelers'; or, if you prefer, 'Frodo Baggins and the Feelers of Doom.' But I don't imagine I would be the first prodigy to have his name bandied about at the inn."

There was a whiffling moan from the depths of the feather bed, and Sam arranged his features into what he hoped was an expression of both reassurance and concerned interest, just in case.

"No, indeed you wouldn't, me dear. I've heard tell of a hobbit with six toes on each foot, and another who could knot a cherry stem with his tongue. I never believed a word of such nonsense. Tales from Buckland, I always thought. Mind you--" Sam started. "Blue, did you say, Mr. Frodo?"

"Yes, Sam, blue. They couldn't possibly be bluer."

Sam narrowed his eyes and edged forward until his shins touched the footboard of the bed, but he couldn't make out a thing.

"It's that dark in here, sir, how did you--"

"They're on my forehead; I could see them clearly. They droop, not unlike a spray of larkspur on a windy day."

Sam frowned. That didn't sound right.

"Droop? A proper set of feelers shouldn't droop, sir. They should stand up pert as a pear-monger, unless someone happened to get clumsy with the watering can and--" Sam remembered himself in time and tightened his lips, fearing that he might already have said too much about one of gardening's darker corners. Hopefully his words hadn't reached Mr. Frodo's ears through the feathers.

For while it was true that a moth with soggy wings and feelers was often a source of merriment in the garden--the Gaffer having a somewhat ribald sense of humour--this was not the right time to mention it. In all likelihood the right time would never come. Mr. Frodo might take the remark personally, or as a slur upon the good name of Baggins. To Sam's way of thinking, an ancestry involving feelers was a very peculiar ancestry indeed, and not one to boast of in mixed company, but perhaps he should keep that thought to himself as well.

"Thank you, Sam, and if I'm unable to take a bath or wash my hair again, I shall know who to blame. All I can tell you is that whether they are meant to droop, they droop notwithstanding. I don't wish to talk about it any further."

"Oh, fewmets," Sam muttered under his breath and pinched the bridge of his nose firmly. Mr. Frodo was difficult when he was in a snit.

"You'd know best I suppose," he answered. "It's not my place to say what your feelers should look like, sir. Bees and beetles, butterflies and moths--I understand them better than most, and can name each kind by its feelers. But a hobbit's feelers are beyond my reckoning. As for bathing with 'em--" He hesitated.

In truth, Sam didn't care to be blamed for anything, leastways, not for a hobbit losing all sense of what he owed his body in the way of comfort and cleanliness. The only hobbit he'd ever heard of who refused to bathe was old Filco Bracegirdle, and all he'd gained by it was a corner to himself at The Ivy Bush.

Bathing was an established Shire custom and generally a source of cheerful banter. Nevertheless, there were several thorny issues that no one could agree upon--the best time of day for it, the proper temperature of the water, whether to use soap before, during, or not at all, how long to stay immersed, and if it was safe to go outside directly afterwards. Sam had seen a pamphlet in the market once on The Celebrated History of Cold Bathing, a practice which had sounded a bit too much like swimming for Sam's taste. Yet if anyone, in market or inn, had mentioned how a hobbit with feelers should keep himself decent, Sam wasn't aware of it.

For his own part, Sam was fond of hot, soapy baths at any hour. In fact, he wouldn't mind one this very morning, before elevenses; a hasty wash with a damp cloth at dawn had left him yearning for a good, leisurely soak. He'd used muscles during the night that were more familiar with gardening than bedding, and as he'd been hunkered down in the vegetable patch sowing the spring cabbages for the past hour, his lower back was beginning to ache something fierce. Surely Mr. Frodo would also want a bath soon; it stood to reason. The copper bath at Bag End, with its high sides and padded head rest was wide enough for two friends to take their ease, or so Sam fancied. He had no experience of it as yet, but dreams aplenty.

The idea made the back of his neck prickle with anticipation and embarrassment both, for what his Gaffer would say if he knew that hobbits might want to do more in the bath than clean themselves off Sam daren't think. There would be no doubt as to where his dad would fix the blame for such an unwholesome practice though; Brandy Hall had a name in Hobbiton for outlandish jiggery-pokery.

And yet Sam knew that if he and Mr. Frodo were to share a bath after what had passed between them in the night, he would be able to teach his master not to mind about the unforeseen trimmings on his forehead. It was true that he hadn't looked for such an outcome when he'd climbed into Frodo's bed the evening before--or been dragged by his braces more like. Word of Pongo's peril had never found its way to the ears of lesser hobbits, but he couldn't say he didn't welcome it, now that it was upon them. If anyone had a proper appreciation for feelers and their purposes, it was Samwise Gamgee, because--

"Sam? Are you there?"

Sam jumped at the sound of Frodo's voice, and barked his shin against the bedpost as he stood briskly to attention.

"Yes, sir, I'm here. I was thinking I might fill your bath, if it's all the same to you." He hadn't been thinking any such thing, of course, but Mr. Frodo needed a few moments alone to rally his spirits before Sam brought up the subject of bathing together.

"Oh, very well. You're free to return to the garden as soon as you've finished indoors. I don't want to keep you from your dibbing. If I can find a suitable hat I'll be with you at luncheon, otherwise I'll have to ask you to leave a tray of comestibles by the door and possibly--" Frodo coughed delicately-- "empty the chamber pot at some point."

Sam's spirits sank to his toes at the realisation that Frodo wished to keep this secret to himself, as he did so many others. When Frodo had opened up to Sam last night, Sam had believed that naught would ever come between them. Now it appeared that the most he could look forward to was a servile life of fetching, carrying and waiting patiently for a stray breeze to blow his master's hat off.

He bit his lip and peered at the disapproving row of painted Bagginses on the wall opposite. You're a daft apeth, Samwise, and no mistake, imagining that you could be the equal of such as them.

"And, Sam--would you mind draping a sheet over the cheval-glass? There's a good lad. I rather think that even a fleeting glimpse of the feelers at full length might bring on a seizure."

"Yes, sir, it might at that," he began, but the words froze on his lips when a sudden presentiment of Frodo's reflection as it would appear in the glass, more white and shimmering than fog on the downs, smote him where he stood, hand half way to his forelock. His master's voice, muffled and anxious, quickly faded; even the sour faces of Frodo's ancestors--great-uncle Pongo either conspicuously absent or unadorned--hid their eyes. The feelers rose in all their rampant glory before Sam's febrile imagination. And, strange as it might seem to those unfamiliar with a gardener's dreams, there was a part of Sam that rose higher in willing acknowledgement of such a wonder.

Regrettably, his buttons were no longer able to accommodate the demands put upon them by so importunate a member, and the topmost button, already hanging by a thread, dropped to the floor and rolled into the sooty darkness beneath the bed.

Sam pulled at the loose thread, resigned to being betrayed by his clothing twice since breakfast. Nature will out one way or t'other, as the Gaffer often said, and what was true of a good root crop was no less true of a hobbit who couldn't keep himself from wool-gathering at the thought of a pair of blue feelers. Now he'd have to rummage around under the bedstead when Frodo was out of the room.

What's more, he'd missed something important while his mind had wandered down the primrose path, for his master was groaning and thrashing about like an oak in a tempest.

"I should have heeded Cousin Bilbo's advice, but at the time it struck me as preposterous. I never dreamed that a Baggins would stoop to playing the lesser part." Frodo's right foot sneaked out from the covers and the toes twiddled pensively. "Bilbo was a canny old hobbit, and knew me better than I know myself."

Sam agreed that Bilbo had been canny enough, but he'd also been daft as a brush towards the end, constantly patting his weskit pockets as if he'd lost something. It made Sam come over all queer whenever he saw it. As for stooping--Mr. Frodo had fallen on Sam like a hawk to its prey, there was no two ways about it. Why that should be the lesser part, Sam really couldn't say.

"If you don't mind me asking, sir, you mentioned earlier about Mr. Bilbo and a warning. What sort of warning would that have been?"

Frodo stilled and the counterpane slid to the floor, revealing two slender legs below a rucked up nightshirt. A whimper escaped Sam's lips in spite of himself. You wouldn't think it to look at them, but those legs had a knack for taking hold of a fellow that even withywind couldn't match. As for what lay hidden between--. He adjusted his breeches, hoping the other buttons would hold until he could ease himself.

"I'm sorry, Sam; I thought you'd gone. Please disregard that last remark. I didn't--you're not--. Oh bother."

Sam moved to the side of the bed, wishing that words came at his bidding as they did for gentlehobbits such as Mr. Frodo, but he was overwhelmed, all at once, by what he had never seen yet longed for with a terrible hunger, and the words tangled on his tongue.

What colour of blue might the feelers be when seen in the shadowy depths of Frodo's mirror or in the mist-filled air of the bathroom? Would they be lavender blue, with the heady resinous scent of the open blossoms; or cobalt blue, like that fine bolt of woollen cloth in the window of Proudfoot's, set there to dazzle the eyes of a passing hobbit; or the metallic blue of a dragonfly catching the sun on a stem of reedmace; or the sullen grey-blue of a storm-cloud bearing the promise of thunder? Or would they be the calm, knowing blue of Frodo's eyes as Sam had taken him?

Sam knew one thing for certain--there had to be a way to prise Frodo from his bed without further harm to his dignity. And if the blue feelers went pleasingly with his master's new velvet jacket, as Sam thought they would, so much the better. Appealing to a hobbit's vanity was often the most prudent course of action.

"That's alright, me dear," he said soothingly. "Tell me about Mr. Bilbo."

"There isn't much to tell," Frodo began in a hollow tone. "Bilbo revealed the family secret to me directly after I came to live at Bag End. It was far too late in my opinion, given the risks I'd unwittingly taken at Brandy Hall, and I told him so. He should have found a means to inform me sooner. I could have been waylaid one night on my return from the privy or enticed into some dark corner of that vast warren and--" Frodo paused.

Sam had travelled to Brandy Hall on more than one occasion, and anywhere less liable to be a setting for serious mischief of that sort he couldn't imagine. There were countless young hobbits underfoot at all hours and servants by the score rushing hither and thither. Besides, if any of those namby-pamby Bucklanders had found the nerve to take advantage of Mr. Frodo, a single look from his master's icy blue eyes would have frozen the culprit in his breeches.

"But, sir--"

"I'm sorry, Sam. I'd prefer to draw a veil over that portion of my life. Suffice it to say that I emerged from the Hall intact. Had that not been the case, Bilbo would have been forced to give up the search for an heir, and you would be working for the Sackville-Bagginses seven days a week."

Sam shuddered at Frodo's tale of woe, which was waxing more sensational by the minute. It was not unlike one of Mr. Merry's Yuletide plays that made a mess of the Bag End sitting room each year, what with curtains, costumes, and bits and pieces crafted specially for the festivities. Those plays always had something in them about a son cheated of his rightful landhold, a gardener thrown out into the cold by his cruel mistress, or a lass who dies from a surfeit of peaches. Sam couldn't see the point of such a farrago of nonsense, but gentlehobbits enjoyed the mummery, never having known hardship themselves and with a servant to do the tidying afterwards.

Mr. Frodo was enjoying this particular tale as well seemingly. The longer Sam stood in the gloom of the curtained bedroom, the more he could see of the shape in the bed--the flimsy nightshirt clinging to flushed skin, the tender nape, and the shadow of dark curls encircling the staff that was rising nicely now, pushing up like a satiny round of bread dough under a moistened tea-towel.

"The disgrace of this calamity would have been a heavy burden for Bilbo," Frodo continued. "I'm glad that he left before I tarnished his reputation beyond repair. Lobelia will see to it that my name is effaced from the family tree."

Sam thought it would be a far greater calamity if the nightshirt failed to slide further up Frodo's legs--at the moment it was touch and go--but as for Mr. Bilbo's reputation, he didn't have one to begin with, and the villagers would more than likely shake their heads and claim that the feelers were a just return for his ill-gotten riches.

"I knew the time of utmost risk would follow hard upon my coming-of-age. Should I happen to--" Frodo broke off and clutched the sheet, cloth bunching tightly between his fingers. Sam had serious misgivings about Frodo's ability to breathe for much longer with those pillows over his face. He'd never known his master to talk so grave and bookish.

"Yes, sir?" Sam had a notion that he wasn't going to care for the answer to this question.

"Well, Sam, I scarcely know how to put it. I was hoping that you might take my meaning without need for further explanation. A gentlehobbit isn't comfortable talking about such things."

Sam had little sympathy for Frodo's discomfort, on account of that morning he'd happened upon Mr. Merry and Mr. Folco playing silly buggers in the arbour with their breeches round their ankles. He found it odd that gentlehobbits could spend so much time doing what they couldn't bring themselves to talk of after.

"What things would those be, Mr. Frodo?" he pressed, determined to either bring the matter to a head or get back to his potting shed.

"You're being deliberately obtuse. It's 'putting' and 'taking' that are at issue here. Do you catch my drift?"

With Frodo's knees slightly raised and the nightshirt losing its hold, Sam began to have an inkling. He closed his eyes as a sensation of profound awe gripped his inner hobbit. It was as he'd feared--he'd deflowered his master.


Imago


Sam's only hope now was that he'd given satisfaction. Frodo had lain as limp as a dishrag after, so he supposed he must have.

"Begging your pardon, sir," he managed to say around the lump in his gullet, "but it seems to me I wasn't the one as did the taking and the putting to begin with. You grabbed my yard and popped it in so fast I hardly knew where I was."

"That may be, and I don't want you to think I'm blaming you in any way; I'm merely making an observation. On the whole, I should say that the putting and taking were mutual." Frodo stopped to clear his throat. "And very fine putting it was, too, if I may be so bold. Nevertheless, the fact remains that I was well and thoroughly taken, resulting in the emergence of the feelers. At least, that would be my understanding of the chain of events, based on Bilbo's rather circumspect description. Bear in mind that he was a confirmed bachelor with scant experience of amorous sport."

As a regular patron of The Green Dragon's common room, and after countless evenings spent listening to Shire gossip over a pint or two of mulled cider, Sam knew otherwise. Bilbo had been a rascal in his younger days, according to old Daddy Twofoot, and not just in the company of dwarves neither.

"You've never--" Sam made an involuntary gesture in the direction of the nightshirt, relieved that Frodo couldn't see him. This wasn't an easy thing for a gardener to ask his master, nor would Manners for Gentlehobbits have any useful advice. Maidenheads weren't a topic for genteel drawing-room conversation in this part of the Shire.

"No, Sam, never."

"Am I your--" he said with a catch in his voice. He didn't think he'd been anyone's first--not even Rosie Cotton's--and he'd never loved a lad in any wise.

Frodo mumbled something and tapped his fingers on the mattress impatiently.

"Let me explain the situation to you, my dear. I was thirty-three on my last birthday. Wouldn't it have been outlandish in the extreme--for a hobbit, that is--if you had been my first in every sense? What do you suppose I've been doing all these years, cooped up in Hobbiton with an elderly cousin and a bevy of young relatives to distract me? Reading?"

"Oh. I thought--"

"Yes, I know you did. I'm sorry. When I said that I'd escaped Brandy Hall intact, I meant that I'd taken my pleasure of several of the lesser Brandybuck kin, but that no one had done the same to me. It wasn't only mushrooms I was stealing at that age."

Sam felt uncommonly young of a sudden; he didn't think that Mr. Frodo had ever been this young. Of course it wasn't to be expected that his master would have waited for him to grow up and come to his bed. No hobbit would do such a thing, especially not with the likes of Folco Boffin or Meriadoc Brandybuck to while away the hours with. It made him sad, though, all the same.

"I'd do it again," he said at last.

Frodo was silent, and Sam moved to sit beside him, resting one hand on his master's foot in companionable silence. After awhile he became aware of the muted ticking of the mantel-clock, the soft scrape of rose thorns against the window, and the eerie call of a chough in the distance. He remembered how, as a young sprig of nine years, he'd found a cocoon among the bilberry bushes behind Farmer Goodbody's salting house. He'd waited, as still as stone, through second breakfast, lunch and tea-time as well, until the moth broke free from the papery husk that held it captive and began its slow climb up the bilberry twig. He'd watched with admiration as the moth's wings dried and flexed and spread like Nan Gamgee's sunshade, showing off their rusty yellow markings. And he'd stayed, hunched beneath the bushes, while the moth's feelers steadily unfurled and then, with one flick of its broad wings, it was gone into the evening. If his mam had called him, he had been too immersed in the moth's unfolding to hear, and when he'd dragged himself home as the sun was lowering beyond the far hills, his Gaffer had given him a good licking. In time, he would be able to tell his master all of these things and more, but not today.

"I'm sure they're beautiful--the feelers, I mean," he spoke into the silence.

Frodo said nothing for a long while, and Sam carded his fingers through the silky foot hair, singing quietly to himself about the old gammer tossed up in a blanket to brush the cobwebs out of the sky. He thought it passing strange that Mr. Frodo Baggins of Bag End would ever look his way; perhaps it would all turn out to have been a mistake at the end of the day, or a dream brought on him by too much of Daisy's sticky ginger pudding. He wouldn't regret it, in either case, even if he hadn't been the first. He looked at Frodo--legs parted, nightshirt twisted round his middle, toes curling into Sam's palm--and his heart warmed.

"It's past time you came out from beneath those pillows, me dear. There's no reason to be ashamed."

Frodo sighed.

"Oh, if you insist. You've been very patient. Truly, I don't fancy spending the remainder of my days confined to the bedroom, in spite of your aptitude for indoor work. It wouldn't be fair to keep you from the garden, and I would be frightfully bored here without you. But whether I shall ever again grace the streets of Hobbiton is another matter."

"You might venture out after dark," Sam offered, with barely concealed relief. "In a deep hood or a broad-brimmed hat."

"I could at that. Possibly Gandalf will bring a spare when he comes to visit." Frodo grasped the edge of the pillow, and then hesitated. "I hope I can rely on you not to go spreading tales. You mustn't speak a word of this in The Ivy Bush or The Green Dragon. And if you were to drop so much as a hint within earshot of your sisters, the news would be all over the village before nightfall. I'd have hobbits queuing at my door on the morrow, and the laundress would be searching the linens for keepsakes."

"You'd make a fortune in the Tuckborough Museum of Curiosities," Sam acknowledged.

Sam held his breath as the pillow inched up and something fuzzy and blue--two somethings, in fact--poked coyly from behind the lacy border of the pillow-slip. Unless Frodo had taken to wearing a knitted cap in bed, it appeared that he did indeed have feelers budding from his forehead, feelers that looked, at this distance, like down on the breast of a fledgling chick.

Sam was chiefly thankful that Frodo hadn't been pulling his leg all this while. Though such a jape would be more to the taste of Mr. Merry and his friends, Frodo had a pawky sense of humour, and a bumptiousness in bed that had been pleasantly out of the common way. To the mind of a gentlehobbit, a teasing jest on the morning after might have seemed perfectly in keeping with the situation.

"You'd have to install shutters on the windows," Frodo was saying, "and an extra lock on the kitchen door. The aftermath of Bilbo's Party would be nothing by comparison."

"Mum's the word," Sam promised, ready to swear a solemn oath if needs must, provided that it won him a chance to touch the feelers.

"I suppose that will have to do. Did you cover the mirror, as I asked?"

"No, sir, I clean forgot, what with worriting over my buttons and--. Never mind. I'll get right to it." Sam took a fresh sheet from the linen press and flung it over the glass so that it hung down to the floor on both sides. The mirror on the dresser was small and not within sight of the bed.

"Your buttons, Sam? What's wrong with your buttons?" Sam heard the creak of springs and the rustle of silk as Frodo bent down to pull the counterpane onto the bed.

"Naught's wrong with 'em; there just aren't as many as there were at first breakfast, and one of them is beneath your bedstead. I'll root it out while you're taking a bath; that way the dust won't bother you."

"I'm not sure that I ought to take a bath today. I don't know what the steam would do to the feelers. They sting and itch enough as it is without being sodden into the bargain."

"The steam won't hurt the feelers, Mr. Frodo, if you don't mind me saying so. Moths don't--" Sam turned without thinking, and there was his master, crouched in the middle of the bed with his nightshirt slipping off one shoulder, and the blue feelers--oh, the pungent blueness of them!--nodding and dancing with every breath.

"Well, I'll be buggered!" he blurted out, then clapped a hand over his mouth before he could put the other foot in it. Samwise Gamgee, you're a nincompoop!

Frodo raised an eyebrow, and the feelers stood up with marked interest.

"It's curious how the feelers seem to know things," he said. "Now--quite out of the blue, if you'll pardon the expression-- they want to know more things. For a start, they find your vocabulary most intriguing. The pesky things have been aching and throbbing like a bad tooth since you came to wake me and at last I've twigged. Had it not been for the dampening effect of the pillows, I couldn't have failed to notice your--" Frodo's right feeler made a crude gesture.

"My what, sir?" Sam shifted from foot to foot, unable to keep from gawping at his master. He'd never seen a pair of feelers so like a bird's pinions, but coiled at the ends, as if they had yet to find their full growth.

"Your arousal, my dear, your very prominent arousal. It's spicy and sweet at the same time, or so the feelers tell me. They want--I want--" Sam had been hoping Frodo hadn't spotted his problem; now he felt like a prize rooster at the fair--the one with the biggest comb you ever did see. "Come here, Sam."

Sam had no intention of climbing onto the mattress in his grubby work breeches, even if the bed-linens did need changing--his mam had taught him better--but he sidled over to the bed, and awaited his master's orders in as calm a fashion as he could muster, given the state of his tackle.

Frodo examined the breeches' placket with a critical eye and shook his head.

"I suppose a missing button means one less hurdle to overcome. I'll try to prevent you from misplacing any more of them in future."

Frodo undid the remaining buttons without delay, and tugged off Sam's breeches, followed by the worn cotton drawers, then sat back on his heels to have a proper look at the goods on offer. Sam glanced at himself, fearful that he wouldn't measure up to Frodo's expectations, although from this angle he seemed ferociously stiff and ruddy and more than willing to do the job.

Since he didn't know where to put his hands while Frodo was gawking at him like a ferret down a rabbit-hole, he stroked his master's hair, seeking out the hard knots of flesh at the base of each feeler, and rubbing until the feelers began to quiver.

"They're reaching for you," Frodo murmured.

"I reckon they are a smidgeon longer, sir. If I had my measuring rod handy I could--" Sam didn't know where he'd left his jacket the night before, but he was near certain the rod was in the topmost pocket, neatly folded. He turned to see if the jacket was hanging from the coat rack behind the door, but Frodo grabbed him by the hips and spun him round.

"Sam! Stop squirming. I want to look at you."

"I'd be glad to lie down, Mr. Frodo, if you don't mind. My knees are like to give out any moment with you watching me so close. Otherwise, I'd best be going, because I'm a mite uncomfortable, as you can plainly see."

Frodo made room on the bed, and Sam sat gingerly at the far edge of the mattress, unsure if he should take off the rest of his clothes when Frodo was still covered from neck to ankles in his nightshirt. This wasn't the same as yestereve, when Frodo had grappled him unexpectedly whilst he was stoking the kitchen fire and he'd not been called upon to think about what they were doing or where it might lead. On that occasion, their clothes had been doffed and strewn about the room before he'd had time to empty his pockets.

"Then lie down, by all means."

Sam scooted back, feeling shy as a lass on her wedding night. He tried to fix his eyes on the ceiling, and the dust webs that swung between the brass lantern and the chimney breast. He'd been sadly neglectful of late and would need to tend to those, when his duties here were done and he had time to fetch the step ladder from the tool shed. A new coat of paint would do no harm--the walls were mottled from years of Mr. Bilbo's pipe smoke.

Sam was so distracted by his mounting list of chores that he didn't notice Frodo creeping nearer until he felt someone else's hands pushing up his shirt, and a warm mouth grazing across his stomach, nipping and sucking and humming a familiar ditty--'How does the little busy bee' he thought it was--which sounded queer against his skin, akin to the drone of the honey-bee itself burrowing arse backwards into a snapdragon. Frodo's bottom wasn't covered with pollen, but it was a sore temptation nonetheless, waggling about just beyond arm's length. As if he'd overheard that thought, Frodo raised his head and smiled, while the feelers fluttered beneath Sam's nose like a feather duster.

"You taste of burnt toast, and tea with honey and sweet galenas on an autumn day." Frodo knelt on his haunches and raked his eyes down Sam's body, as if he were sizing up a side of mutton at the village butcher's. Sam's hands inched towards his crotch protectively--he'd never seen such a keen glint in the eyes of the lasses he'd lain with--but Frodo got there first, quick as thinking.

He wrapped his hand around Sam's cock and tilted his head one way and then the other.

"I don't recall it being this big last night. It seems--" the feelers brushed to and fro as if taking its measure "--different somehow. More--" Frodo leaned forwards and took Sam in, drawing his tongue over the plump head and then pulling away again to consider "--effulgent." He licked his lips.

Sam hadn't heard that word before, but if it meant that he was flushed pink as a poppy he couldn't deny it. Not once had he ever looked at himself as hard as Frodo was looking at him now, not before lunchtime at any rate. 'T weren't fitting. Certain parts were meant to be put to use, not stared out of countenance.

"Intending no disrespect, sir, but could you maybe do summat. I've been like this since I came in from the garden and--"

The feelers flicked upwards with curiosity and concern.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Sam. I hadn't fully realised. It's just that it's so colourful. I hardly know which flower to--" Frodo cleared his throat delicately. "--where to start, I meant to say."

He stroked his fingers up and down the shaft, and then finally--oh bless all growing things--he closed his eyes and tickled the slit--once, twice--with the tip of his tongue and--

Ah, there! Sam slumped onto the pillows and spread his legs with a happy sigh as Frodo's mouth came round him, warm and wet and close. It wouldn't be long at this rate. He ought to warn his master before an unfortunate accident overtook them, although Frodo clearly had a fondness for the taste of the seed. Sam had heard of hobbit lads who were supple enough to amuse themselves in that way and so were accustomed to the flavour, but he hadn't tried it himself for fear of ruining his livelihood. If Frodo would lie still long enough, Sam would like to take a turn among the parsley. Share and share alike, as his Gaffer would have it.

But for now, Frodo was fidgeting like a bee that craved to sample all the blossoms at once, humming to himself as he sucked and pulled, one hand busy with Sam's cock, whilst the other gently rubbed what hung below, full to bursting. In next to no time Sam found himself bobbing free in the cool air, while Frodo quested and probed further down, altogether further down than Sam had thought anyone would be inclined to go.

Glory and trumpets, there was a rum do! Frodo's tongue must be as long and tough as a cutler's strop to get all the way inside like that. Sam determined not to ask the lads at The Green Dragon about the matter, in case word got back to the Gaffer somehow. Mr. Frodo wouldn't be the only one then who couldn't show his face out-of-doors--or his backside neither.

Frodo withdrew his tongue before Sam had a chance to take a peek at his own nether regions, and leaned up on one elbow, eyes drowsy and distant as he admired Sam's cock. Even though he must have had its size and shape graven on his memory--he'd been gripping it that tight-- it was almost as if he'd never seen it before, and Sam wiggled nervously, wanting to cover himself with the corner of the sheet.

"Sir?"

"In the garden, Sam. I want to take you in the garden."

Frodo's lips were red and succulent, twitching with interest as a tiny bead of moisture welled from the tip of Sam's cock. One feeler grazed the shaft lightly and Frodo's tongue, narrow and pink, darted out to capture the droplet. Sam shivered, wanting to have Frodo's mouth over him straight away or a more solid weight between his legs than that teasing warmth at his opening. It was funny how you could crave what you'd never had, like your first pint of ale or a cheese and onion pasty with a generous dollop of turnip pickle.

"It's broad daylight, Mr. Frodo. What if someone were to see?"

Frodo glanced at the clock on the mantel, holding Sam firmly so that he daren't so much as sneeze for fear of losing the family fortune.

"The messenger won't be making his second delivery for at least another hour. That should give us ample time if we don't dilly-dally on the way. Come along." He let go of Sam's privates and crawled from the bed, arranging his nightshirt and smoothing both hands down the blossoming feelers, which dipped and swayed before settling in a tidy arc above his glossy dark hair.

"I don't--" Sam found it singularly difficult to tear his eyes from the ever more luminous members sprouting from Frodo's forehead. "--that is to say, it's nippy in the garden, even for a hobbit who's got his clothes on. I don't fancy lying on the hard ground with my bottom bare to the four winds, not in Winterfilth. Nor in any other month, truth be told."

Frodo smiled, and the feelers trembled in Sam's direction like a dowsing rod.

"Your bottom won't be bare for long."

"But the bed is--" Sam had read a story once about a snake in the southern lands that could charm its victim with a single glance. He hadn't believed the tale, thinking it nought but a travellers' lie, but now he thought there might be something in it after all. "I'll change the sheets when we come back, make some luncheon maybe. I suppose-"

Frodo snatched the bolster from the bed and a half-empty bottle of oil from the nightstand.

"Stout lad! I imagine you'll be comfortable enough. The side garden is sheltered from the lane and we can wrap ourselves in the old travel rug if necessary. Somehow I don't think it will be." Frodo smirked and twirled the bottle between his fingers. "We'll come indoors as soon as we're done. But I'm rather afraid that it won't be the first time for the arbour, nor the second. I trust you don't mind?"

So Frodo had known about his friends' tomfoolery all along. Mr. Merry must have told Frodo afterwards how Sam had caught them unawares with their bottoms hanging from their breeches; Merry hadn't minded at the time, judging by the way he'd carried on about his business, and Sam didn't think Mr. Folco had espied him standing nearby. Or maybe Frodo had even made use of the arbour himself when Mr. Bilbo was off visiting his relations. A tingle of possessiveness shot through Sam.

"But--"

"You're a gardener, Sam. Haven't you ever hankered for the rustle of cool, damp leaves on your belly, or the morning sun drying your wi--

"No, sir, I can't say as I have," Sam interrupted before Frodo could finish. "Eating, drinking, sporting with a lass or a lad--those things are for indoors, where it's snug and dry and private-like. Begging your pardon."

Frodo shrugged dismissively.

"How odd. Personally I feel an unconscionable need to be in the garden. Other than that time when the pony cart lost a wheel and Merry and I were forced to wait by the side of the road until the messenger came by to carry us with him to Frogmorton, I've never had occasion to--what's wrong, Sam?"

Sam knew that his mouth was gaping wide as the inn door, but he rallied himself and slid his feet to the floor, checking to see that his shirt was long enough in front to hide the nuts and bolts.

"Nothing, sir."

Sadly, the shirt hardly covered much of anything, and Sam felt peculiar padding into the passage behind Frodo while the ancestral portraits glowered at his retreating bottom with lofty disdain. He was fully as bemused as they were to see a Gamgee follow his master out into the garden for anything more than a frank conversation about blackfly or the cost of chicken manure.

A cold breeze swirled around his bare legs as he stepped onto the flagstones, lifting his shirt above his belly and playing over his exposed parts with unseemly curiosity. Not surprisingly, his interest flagged for a moment, and he gazed at the concealing shadows of the front hall, thinking of bed and bath and a bite or two of toast. Then Frodo smiled at him, feelers beckoning and the sun shining through the sheer linen of his nightshirt without embarrassment. Little was left to Sam's imagination, brimming as it already was with downy skin and lustrous curls and rosy--

He followed gamely, keeping one eye on the lane and both ears open. If worse came to worst, and the posthobbit were to come up the Hill before he was due, Sam could always claim that he'd burnt a hole in his breeches and was going to fetch an old pair from the rag-bag in the potting shed. There was no way in Middle-earth to account for Mr. Frodo in his nightshirt.

The arbour, which Sam and the Gaffer had woven from hazel withies a few summers past, was enclosed on three sides and covered with the twining stems and fluffy seedpods of Traveller's Joy. Mr. Bilbo had added a table for books and a rough-hewn bench that wasn't really meant for more than sitting on fully-clothed with a pipe and a cup of tea. Sam's heart sank when he saw it; he'd have splinters from here to aft if Frodo made him lie down.

Frodo, unaware of Sam's disquiet, tugged off his nightshirt, careless of the feelers, and threw it onto the grass where anyone could spot it should they happen to come up the garden path. Then he stretched lazily and turned to Sam with brows raised and feelers ruffled.

Sam had never seen a hobbit naked in broad daylight before, except maybe for the time that Blanco Puddifoot had run through the market square and frightened the stock. Blanco had been ninety years old if he was a day, and it scarcely counted for aught.

Mr. Frodo, on the other hand, was fine and bright as a new penny piece with no clothes on, not brown as a nut from too much sun. Sam wasn't sure if he wanted to be naked alongside him, all things considered.

Being under the covers in a deep feather bed with candles snuffed and curtains drawn to keep out the chill was one thing, but this was entirely beyond Sam's experience. Even with Rosie and the others there'd been the shepherd's hut or the ruined barn on Farmer Proudfoot's land, and the lasses had never demanded he shed all his clothes no matter how hot the weather. A fellow could catch a fever that way, or a good walloping if someone had caught them at it. No reason to go bare-arsed unless you couldn't help yourself.

He was about to ask if he might leave his shirt on, but Frodo had other ideas. Sam didn't know just how it happened, but moments later the morning air was riffling the hair on his arms and there was naught between him and the inevitable but a bottle of comfrey oil.

"Mr. Merry and the others--" There would be time for a serious talk in the days and weeks ahead, once Frodo was acting more like himself; there were words that wanted saying. Sam knew he oughtn't to mind about Frodo's past adventures, any more than Frodo should mind about his, but--.

"Others?" Frodo was rolling the bottle of oil between his fingers and gazing at Sam's groin in a hungry manner.

"Yes. You said there'd been others and I wanted to know if you're planning to--" Sam paused uncertainly.

Frodo bit his lip and unstoppered the bottle. He looked nothing like Blanco Proudfoot, not with his cock standing up tall and sleek like it was.

"No, Sam. Never again. Only you."

"Only me?" Sam swallowed loudly as Frodo poured a trickle of oil into his cupped palm.

"Yes, my dear. Only you."

Sam looked at the bolster lying near his feet and the old rug on the bench for when it was needed. He looked at the withies curving overhead, blocking out the sky, and the dirty teacup sitting on the table. He heard the hum of a bumblebee in search of the last speck of honey for its winter store, and the whistle of a shepherd somewhere on the other side of the Hill.

"Oh. That's all right then," he said.

Frodo smiled.

"Kneel down, Sam. Yes, like that."

Sam adjusted himself on the bolster and spread his legs, bending forwards to ease his back some. There was a heavy silence. He could tell Frodo was staring at him. He didn't think there was anything wrong with his hinder parts, but as he hadn't seen them--no one had since he was a nipper--he couldn't say for sure.

He yearned to look at Frodo, and yet for some reason his eye was caught by a ladybird that was crawling along the edge of the bench, just by where his hand rested, its stubby feelers searching the nooks and crannies on its path. More than likely, it was seeking shelter from the cold. Sam moved it aside so he wouldn't crush it by accident when Mr. Frodo--when he--

"Is there summat amiss, sir?"

"No, Sam; you're well-favoured in all respects. However, the sight of your arousal is having a most unusual effect on the feelers, and I'm afraid I'll have to be a little hastier than I'd like to be. I'll be with you as soon as I apply this oil."

Sam knew what Frodo was doing; he had watched the oil being smoothed on his own cock the evening before--more than once, in fact. His shaft had glistened, red and shiny as a lollipop, until Frodo made it disappear inside him as easy as can be and Sam had closed his eyes at the feeling of being held so firmly in place that his breath near stopped with the bliss of it.

He was fretful and impatient to get to it, when there came a sudden prickle between his shoulder blades and a soothing warmth at the base of his spine. He glanced over his shoulder to find that Frodo was with him already, watching Sam's hand where it touched the bench, and placing his own hand, slippery with oil, where his tongue had passed not long before. Sam was opened up with no fuss or nonsense, and as the fingers pressed inwards, Frodo's feelers curved across Sam's shoulders and encircled his nipples, each to each, flicking the nubbly skin and then stretching to dip into the wetness on the head of Sam's cock. When did the feelers grow so long wasn't more than a hint of a question in Sam's mind before--oh yes, there, and he pushed back against the weight of his master, crying out softly as the warmth entered him and Frodo's arms held him close, and he was wholly filled and emptied and filled again until he thought he'd burst.

When Frodo sat back on his heels, drawing Sam with him, the feelers throbbed with colour in time to the beat of Frodo's pulse--dark as midnight, bright as shot silk--and Frodo bit Sam's neck and sucked and moved in him. Then he paused, and the feelers coiled around Sam's twig and berries, cradling them.

"I wish I could be still forever," Frodo gasped, and Sam stroked the feelers where they enfolded him, and Frodo's fingers, slick with sweat, resting above his heart.

"Shh, me dear. What more could we ask for, feelers or no? They're right pretty, and that's a fact; handy as well, if I do say so. But we need to shift ourselves afore our legs cramp, and I'd like to--. Well, you've had me on tenterhooks for an age."

"I'm sorry, Sam. You're such a tasty morsel, and I--" The feelers were taut around the base of Sam's cock, holding him in place and making him stiffer than he'd ever been in his life. Weren't feelers a fine thing when all was said and done, and not a curse by any means. He thought he'd known everything there was to know about them, but it seemed they had another use. He wanted to tell his master as much, but he couldn't contain himself any longer. As Frodo began to thrust, Sam arched--gasping and astonished--stroking the feelers with something like thankfulness as the milky seed shot from him. As he did so, Frodo pulsed deep inside and the feelers flicked upwards past Sam's head like a crown of feathers.

They sat there for several minutes, coupled together, sticky and sated, till Frodo kissed the bite mark on Sam's neck and the feelers went slack.

"I don't think I'm able to--"

"What, sir?"

"Pull out. I don't think I can pull out."

Sam relished the sensation of Frodo filling him, but a cup of tea in the kitchen would be nice, or a nap before dinner since they'd obviously missed elevenses. His back was warm with his master draped over him like that, but his front was colder than a well digger's lunchbox.

"Why would that be, if you don't mind me asking?" His knees were getting sore as well; the bolster wasn't meant for dry packed earth, and there was a pebble below his left kneecap if he wasn't mistaken.

"I don't know, to be honest. I feel we ought to stay in this position awhile longer. A few hours perhaps." Frodo's breath was warm at Sam's nape, but Sam trembled at the dangers all the same.

What if May were to come visiting with a basket of fresh bread and catch a glimpse of Mr. Frodo's bottom peeping out from the arbour? Sam would have a hard time explaining to his Gaffer what he and his master were doing out-of-doors at eleven in the morning with not a clout between the two of them and joined like a pair of butterflies in the grass.

"That wouldn't be seemly, if you ask me," he managed to say. "I'd be happy to have another go-round, if that's what you fancy, but in your bed, sir, if you don't mind."

Frodo sighed.

"You're right, of course; you generally are. I don't know what's come over me, but the garden is more vivid than usual, more welcoming. The smial is a mere hole in the ground by comparison. Besides--" Frodo licked Sam's earlobe and one feeler descended to tickle Sam's nose. "The wind in my hair is quite--stimulating."

Sam knelt up, releasing Frodo with a damp pop, and snagged the travel rug from the bench. He stood and picked up the soiled bolster.

"That's it, sir. We're going indoors."

Frodo looked woebegone and beautiful as a new day, albeit a mite grubby, crouched on the bare ground with a seedpod stuck above his ear. Sam held out his hand.

"You need a bath, then a rest and a bite of summat to eat. You're pale and half asleep as it is. Tea in the garden after; how does that sound?"

Frodo allowed himself to be dragged to his feet, still dazed by the look of him and with one feeler slightly askew.

"Fine, Sam. It sounds lovely. A nap it is." His voice was dreamy and low, as if he scarcely knew where he was.

Yet as Sam led Frodo back to the safety and comfort of Bag End, he couldn't help but notice that Frodo's gaze remained fixed on the arbour and he hardly minded his steps.


Metamorphosis


Sam woke to an icy cold draught on his backside and a rumbling in his stomach. He groaned and fumbled for the wool blanket--the one his Nan had woven for him--but it wasn't where it ought to be and neither was the edge of his pallet. He opened his eyes carefully to the sight of a mountain of counterpane and a tuft of brown curls sticking out higgledy-piggledy from the top. Frodo had pulled all the covers to his side of the bed and was burrowed beneath them as if it were the dead of winter. For the first time in his life, Sam hadn't spent the night at Number 3; he was in the master bed at Bag End.

"Don't you worry, Mr. Frodo," he whispered. "I won't tell anyone. You don't have to hide your head from me."

"What are you talking about, Sam? Won't tell anyone what?" Frodo asked sleepily.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Frodo. I didn't know you were awake. I shouldn't have spoken."

"Quite alright. Won't tell anyone what? I didn't promise to give Lobelia the rest of the silverware, did I? No, don't tell me. I'd prefer to live in ignorance."

"No, sir. I meant I won't tell anyone about how you're different from most other hobbits." Sam was afraid to utter the forbidden word, in case Frodo was still tetchy on the subject.

Frodo snorted.

"Everyone in the Farthing knows that I'm 'different', my dear; I've never made a secret of it. It was impossible to do so after the messenger caught Merry and I--well, we hadn't quite finished, if you see what I mean."

"But, sir, you told me not to--"

"If I were you, Sam, I would pay no attention to the ramblings of a hobbit bent on seduction. Whatever I may have told you yesterday, trust me when I say that the villagers are well aware I have a distinct preference for lads. Why else do you suppose that Cousin Lobelia is continually throwing that obnoxious Lotho at me? She hopes I'll take him to my bed and then he can artfully wheedle his way into my lands and assets with his charms."

"That wasn't what I meant. I--"

"Although it's true," Frodo continued in a musing tone of voice, "that I hadn't been on the receiving end with any of the lads at Brandy Hall, if that's the secret to which you're alluding. We might do something out of the ordinary to celebrate the event--an almond tart or a brace of woodcocks for supper on Friday--as long as it doesn't involve the news being shouted in the market square or announced in the society column of The Tuckborough Bee."

"No, I--"

"Because if it does, you won't be playing ram to my ewe again; no more topping for you. Pity--you have a singular talent for it."

"But I wasn't on top, Mr. Frodo, at least not that last time out in the--"

Frodo tutted.

"No, Sam. When I say 'top', I'm not referring to the hobbit who is physically on top; I'm referring to the hobbit who--. Oh blast. I'll have to drag out those chapbooks for tweens that Bilbo gave me; the illustrated ones. You seem a trifle confused. Did your Gaffer teach you nothing?"

Mr. Frodo wasn't listening, as usual. Sam knew perfectly well what 'topping' meant, and 'tupping', too, for that matter. And wherever Frodo had been in the course of the night--which was everywhere that he could possibly lick and stroke and fondle as far as Sam could tell, even if Sam was flat on his back for most of it, blessing his good fortune--he had been on top out in the garden by anyone's definition of the word.

Sam had hoped they could try that position again before lunch; he was desperate to have another go at those feelers. They might have grown some since elevenses, and who knew how long they would be by supper? But now his master was being difficult. Well, perhaps the old saying was right--faint heart never won fair hobbit. He rolled onto his side and slipped an arm around Frodo's waist. His master stiffened.

"What's that pressing up against my bottom, Sam?"

"It's the same as what you've got here between your legs, by the feel of it."

"I'm barely awake; I'm hungry; I need a bath, and all you can think of is--yes, just there." Frodo moved his leg to accommodate Sam's fingers. "You have beautiful and cunning hands."

Now that he had a secure grip on his master's purse, Sam fancied it was time to make his request.

"I thought mayhap you could tickle me with them feelers again, Mr. Frodo, before we get to brass tacks. They felt nice on my cods earlier." Sam was blushing at his own boldness, but as the Gaffer always told him--it never hurts to come right out and ask for summat if you need it badly enough.

Frodo's leg came down with a snap and Sam pulled his hand away.

"I'm sorry, Sam, you'd like what?"

"I want you to turn to me as you did afore and brush my--you know--with your feelers."

Frodo threw off the covers, generating a gust of air which blew on Sam's parts in a most interesting fashion, and stood up as if he'd been pinched. It was unfortunate that his arse was so smooth and agreeably flushed in places, soft and vulnerable and inviting; Sam felt his willingness to be on the bottom for a second time that morning shrivel and die within him. All he could see was the perfect moon of Frodo's rear summoning him to further explorations.

"Come to bed, me dear, and don't be upset. I'll do whatever you want, and if you don't fancy running your feelers across my privates, well--"

Frodo spun round and glared at Sam with a look that would have scorched a lesser hobbit, but Sam was finding it troublesome at present to fix his eyes on Frodo's face when that fine-looking pole was rising so hard and needy from his master's crotch, asking him a question. It--

"Samwise!"

Sam looked up into frigid blue eyes, eyes brighter and more eloquent than.... Oh, snakes and adders--what had become of the feelers?

"Sir, they're gone!" he cried, an acute pang of something akin to grief colouring his voice.

Frodo glanced downwards, with a worried frown.

"Everything's in good working order. There's nothing missing. What's gone?"

"The feelers, sir."

Frodo cocked an eyebrow.

"I beg your pardon?"

Sam didn't care to spend his last days in the madhouse at Michel Delving, alongside Tom Cotton's Uncle Wilcombe. If Frodo had forgotten, Sam was at a loss for a way to explain the events of the morning that wouldn't result in his immediate dismissal at best.

"When I came to rouse you for elevenses, you wouldn't come out from under your pillows and--"

Frodo eyed the clock and raised his hand.

"Excuse me, Sam. It's only just gone nine. We're late for second breakfast but nowhere near elevenses."

"I can't help that, sir. I'm telling you what I know. You'd sprouted feelers in the night seemingly, and it was my fault, on account of how I took your--well, I can't call it a maidenhead can I, sir, but whatever it was I took it notwithstanding. And the feelers popped up after, like chickweed in damp ground. But you came out from under the pillows in the end and we went to the arbour and you--"

Sam blushed, and Frodo's gaze sharpened with interest.

"Yes?"

"You took mine," Sam finished in a small voice.

Frodo placed his hands on his hips.

"That I would have remembered, but as I remember none of it, I have to conclude you're feverish. Was there any particular reason why I would sprout feelers after we'd coupled?"

"It was the Baggins Curse. Your great-uncle Pongo had--" Sam waved his hands above his brow, in hopes that Frodo would understand.

Frodo shook his head.

"I don't have a great-uncle Pongo. There was a cousin Polo who was a bit of a wastrel in his youth. He nearly depleted his father's fortune through over-indulgence in games of chance, but I wouldn't describe that as a curse precisely; it was more of a temporary aberration. Why would you think I had a great-uncle Pongo?"

"You told me you so."

"I never did any such thing. You were dreaming, my dear. I'll fetch a cup of willow bark tea and you'll be better presently."

Sam hung his head, and sniffed. He'd best get to the garden right away, since he hadn't sown the cabbages or the broad beans. Everything was topsy-turvy and he wished he had a hanky. He thought Mr. Frodo had put on his dressing-gown and left the room until he felt the bed settle and an arm come round him.

"Feelers, Sam? Is that what you fancy?"

"They were blue as a harebell or the frill on May's best petticoat," Sam said, coming over mournful thinking of them.

"Ah," said Frodo, kissing his nose in spite of the drips. "And we went into the arbour to--"

"Yes."

"How odd. I don't enjoy outdoor sports as a rule, but I suppose we'd have time before second post if you'd like to try."

"It wasn't me that wanted it the first time."

"Really? In that case I'd rather stay here, but only if it's what you want. I can't do much about the errant feelers but there's another puzzle you might be able to help me solve."

"What's that, sir?"

"What on earth has happened to the bottle of comfrey oil that I left on the nightstand? It seems to have vanished into thin air."

 

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