West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
A Summer's Folly
Those summer's nights, they've just begun...
Author: Elderberry Wine
This was written for the Hobbitsmut "Silver Scream" challenge - the quote and the movie are given at the end.
Part of the Shire Morns series, follows A Rustle of Spring
The late spring air was fragrant with rose and jasmine, the fresh blue sky had only the puffiest of pure white clouds drifting by, and Merry and Pippin stood in Bag End's doorway with the sort of matching smiles that clearly promised misfortune for someone. Sam knew. He had seen those smiles on Frodo's cousins' faces before. "Mornin'," he greeted them expressively, raising a guarded eyebrow. But Frodo was directly behind him, having developed a sixth sense about this sort of thing, and greeted them both with considerable more enthusiasm.
In the process of the usual hugs and back-thumping and cheek-kissing, the standard ceremony that even Sam had come to accept, it was noticed that the visitors had rather more baggage than normal. "Well, of course," Merry gave a cheeky grin when this fact was pointed out to him. "Seeing as it's entirely your fault that we're here, you'll have to put up with both of us for a while. At least, as long as it promises to be interesting."
"Merry, you are making far less sense than you normally do," Frodo replied complacently, hoisting up a valise to tote down to their usual guestroom, "but I can see that Pippin is positively bursting to clarify that statement."
A grinning Pippin, however, was not to be lured into premature revelations, as he followed behind the other three, dragging a badly packed pack as well as his cloak down the main hallway of Bag End into the cozy room next to the one Frodo and Sam shared. "You'll just have to wait, Frodo," he snickered in quite a self-satisfied manner. "This must not be revealed until you are properly seated. There's no accounting for the consequences otherwise."
Sam had headed straight for the kitchen. He had been on his way out to transplant some of the seedlings, for it was past time to be starting up the lettuces, but he was all too familiar with the feeding habits of the visitors, and if he didn't have sufficient food out, and soon, they'd be rummaging through the storeroom, and would certainly find the seedcake he had tucked away for afters for this evening. It was hard enough to keep something hidden away with which to surprise Frodo, but it was impossible as far as the other two went. The lettuces would have to wait for the morrow, because he could not pretend, even to himself, that his curiosity was not captured.
But once the tea had been poured, and a few preliminary slices of bread-and-butter had vanished, and the strawberries-and-cream, biscuits, and the soft cheese had been set out on the worn kitchen table, Merry leaned forward with a gleam in his eye. "It was quite the turnout you and Sam had here this past Yule, was it not, Frodo?"
Frodo swirled one of the strawberries contemplatively about in the cream, and popped it into his mouth. "Well, I suppose it was," he replied, after a moment. "Rather filled the old place, I believe. I know we found the odd ribbon or pocket handkerchief in the most remote corners for at least three weeks afterwards, so I expect all and sundry had an enjoyable time of it."
"Ah, a truer statement than you may realize," Merry retorted, with a distinctly mischievous smirk, causing Pippin, halted during the process of consuming stacks of biscuit and cheese, to giggle quite helplessly.
"Then let me guess," Frodo smiled over at Sam, meeting his eyes with a look of amusement at his cousins' antics. "Your mother is quite put out that she was not at the festivities, and wants me to find Gandalf and bring him on over for tea."
"Oh, mum is put out, all right, and absolutely blames you," Merry laughed, as Pippin managed to choke on his tea.
"That was a given, Merry," Frodo grinned, cheerfully thumping Pippin on the back. "I never know for what, or why, but surely I am behind the mischief, whatever it may be."
"Lobelia came to visit Uncle Saradoc!" Pippin suddenly burst forth, with a rather red face, as soon as he got the coughing under control.
"What!" Frodo exclaimed, with a burst of laughter. "She never did! She did seem to have the eye on him that night, now that I think on it. Well, good for the old girl, I never thought she had it in her. I'm assuming Aunt Esme was less than enchanted with her coming to call?"
"Oh, no, she wasn't there," Merry looked quite smug. "And Lobelia knew that, too."
Frodo's eyebrow suddenly hoisted itself wildly up, and even Sam's mouth dropped open slightly at this bit of news. "Well, if that ain't fit to beat all," he exclaimed, beginning to grin as well.
Pippin, however, wiggled excitedly in his seat, as Merry winked mysteriously at the other two. "Ah, but that's not the best of it," he grinned. "That may have been who she came for, but that was not with whom she left."
"Fatty Bolger!" shrieked Pippin, in a perfect transport of giggles, unable to hold it in a moment more.
The look on Frodo and Sam's faces was deeply satisfying to see.
The full recounting of the events that had transpired at Brandy Hall took most of the morning, not to mention the theorizing as to motives and objectives. Sam, in particular, was not happy as to the way that Frodo's and his relationship had proved to be a key point in the proceedings, and commenced to let Frodo know exactly that, as soon as they were alone. It was just past lunchtime, when that moment came, and Merry and Pippin had retired to their room for a nap, after their wearying walk up from Hobbiton that morning. The two inhabitants of Bag End had come to realize that this first nap of the visit tended to be a rather noisy affair, and the day, out of doors, was lovely, after all, so they had left for a walk through the back fields of Bag End.
"You'd think that gentlefolk in a great place such as Brandy Hall'd have naught else t'be talkin' about other than what goes on in other folk's bedrooms," Sam groused, walking beside Frodo, with a firm hand wrapped around his waist.
"I must say, I fail to find why we are still so very interesting to them after all these years, Sam love," Frodo sighed in agreement. He held up a hand then, the one that was not snugly tucked into Sam's trouser waistband, and watched in amusement as the small white butterflies of summer swirled up from the salvia and circled around it. "But if ever there was a couple who should prove far more fascinating than we have been, it should be this pair. Fredegar Bolger and Lobelia Sackville-Baggins," he added with a laugh, and the butterflies scattered in the breeze.
Sam shook his head and laughed as well. "Old sour-faced Miz Lobelia, and Fatty," he mused with a grin. "He certainly seemed a nice enough lad the times I'd be seein' him before. No accountin' for some tastes, no ways."
Frodo nodded thoughtfully and continued to stare out over the lush green field. But Sam watched him carefully, and was not at all surprised when Frodo suddenly turned to him, one eyebrow quirked up, and an impish smile suddenly on his face. "We really never get to see that much of dear old Fatty, do we?" he asked, in all apparent innocence. "Perhaps we should have him over, especially since Marry and Pippin are here. You don't suppose he would want to bring a guest along, do you?"
A vivid picture of that potentially interesting occasion arose immediately in Sam's mind, but the horror of the premise was immediately erased by the sight of Frodo's mischievous expression, and really, anything that could make him look that lovely was, in Sam's judgment, completely worth it. So all other discussion had to take second place to Frodo's being, gleefully laughing all the while, immediately pinned to the grass under the larch tree, quite proficiently stripped of all clothing in less than a minute and a half, and kissed and caressed and loved in a terribly exhaustive manner.
It wasn't until much later, as the evening swallows were winging their way upwards in the pink-streaked sky, and the two hobbits were ambling homeward, quite satisfied with their afternoon, that the question of Hobbiton's latest scandal was considered once again.
No sooner had Sam and Frodo entered the kitchen of Bag End, finding within two rather rumpled hobbits cheerfully sipping tea and eating, Sam noted with some dismay, seedcake, than there was a soft knock at the round kitchen door. It was Daisy Gamgee, with a basket of neatly folded laundry, as well as three fresh eggs carefully nestled on top, under her arm.
"Daisy!" came a pleased cry from Pippin, and he launched himself, past both Frodo and Sam at her, as she dexterously swung the basket around and passed it off to Sam.
" 'Tis glad I am to see you too, Pippin," she laughed, returning his enthusiastic embrace. "And how is your dear sister?"
"Well, there are three of them," Pippin chuckled mischievously, "but the one you are referring to is missing you terribly and taking it out on the rest of us. Isn't it about time for you to come and take our healer in hand again? Vinca and Nell and I shall be ever so grateful, you have no idea."
"Well, then, you are lucky indeed," she teased him affectionately, "for May herself came from Hobbiton just this night, w'a bit of her things, for she'll be stayin' w'Da in a fortnight. And if she didn't have a bit of news t'tell, likewise!"
Sam drew out a chair for Daisy then, in the now rather crowded kitchen, and watching his sister with a smile, couldn't help but think of a time when she would have thought it most unseemly to be gossiping with a group of gentlehobbits so. But the long stays at the Great Smials had certainly changed her. Tooks did seem to have that effect on a body, he had noticed.
Frodo handed her a cup of tea, and chuckled, "It's entirely possible, Daisy, that we might have an inkling, but do tell us anyway."
"Well, 'tis Mistress Sackville-Baggins," she began, and then looked about, startled, as the other four broke into laughter.
"We'll explain in just a moment, my dear," Frodo finally got out, giving Daisy a sympathetic pat on her arm, "but our pardons, go on."
Daisy gave the others a mystified look, but not being loathe to continue, she went on. "Seems she found herself a young lad," she confided with a grin. "A very proper gentlehobbit, seemingly, and a very well-dressed one, too, for all, May says, you'd naught be seein' him if he stood sideways. He'd not be known much in Hobbiton, true enough, but they say as he'd be much younger than her own son, that Mr. Lotho as had to leave town a year or two back. All Hobbiton is abuzz w'it, to be sure!"
" 'Tis our own Fatty Bolger," Merry laughed at the description of his friend. "And why, yes, he certainly is a bit younger, being but barely older than I am." Of course, nothing would do then but tell Daisy the full tale, and she left later that evening shaking her head at the strange whimsies of some gentlefolk.
Sam wandered into their bedroom wearing nothing but the towel that was casually draped over his shoulders. Their guests had retired a few hours ago, but that didn't matter, since Sam had long since abandoned worrying about decorum in their presence, they seeming to have so little sense of it themselves. Frodo had been reading, propped up on the pillows on their bed, but found the sight distracting enough to slip a piece of paper in to mark his place, and let the book fall to the floor at the side of the bed. Sam, however, was preoccupied, and standing before the round open window, began to moodily towel his wet hair.
Frodo recognized the symptoms at once, and noiselessly leaving the bed, approached Sam from behind, wrapping loving arms around his waist, and resting his chin on Sam's shoulder. "You're thinking of something, Sam, love," he murmured, staring past Sam out into the warm dark night. "You're not worried about the proximity of our visitors, now, are you?"
Sam chuckled briefly, and dropping the towel, crossed his hands over Frodo's. "Not that pair, not any more," he replied wryly. "Even at your best, Frodo-love, you don't near make such a fuss as that Merry does at times."
Frodo laughed, and nuzzled directly under Sam's ear, a location that invariably produced the desired result. "I'm glad that you are feeling so generous to those two scamps, Sam. After all, this is their haven, you know."
"Aye, I know that," Sam said warmly, turning around to wrap his arms around an approving Frodo. "And far be it from me to begrudge them that." Reaching up with one hand, he ran an affectionate finger down to the tip of Frodo's nose, following that action by giving it a light kiss, however Frodo was not entirely distracted.
"There is something on your mind, though," he commented with a smile, running a hand through Sam's damp-darkened curls, and shaking them slightly. "Out with it, my lad."
"Oh, 'tis not all that much," Sam sighed depreciatingly. He turned back to gaze at the moonlit night out past the window. " 'Tis only that I know what'd be like to be the talk of the town, and even if Miz Lobelia can be a bit sharp at times, well, it still don't make it right."
"Oh, Sam," Frodo answered warmly, tightening his grip around him. "No one's ever had such a kind heart as you. Very well, then, I'll do my best to stall my cousins' schemes, for scheme they will, you know."
Sam had to give a chuckle then. "I'd not be askin' for the impossible, me dear."
"Suppose we just ask Fatty around to the Green Dragon for a mug, then. After all, we can't very well pretend that we don't know he's here, now, can we?"
By now, though, the moonlight was reflecting on Sam's warm skin in a way that was quite impossible to resist, casting shadows under his eyes where his eyelashes had flickered down, and shining against the perfect bow of his mouth, and really the only thing to be done now was to firmly grasp his hand, and pull him willingly, eagerly, to bed. There, Frodo knew exactly what was to be done about those strong arms and hands, and that deliciously rounded stomach, and that sweet voice that could say his name in such a wonderfully husky manner that it caused shivers to run up his frame every time. This time, it wasn't Frodo's voice that caused Merry and Pippin to sleepily stir in the room next door.
Even with the influx of newcomers, for the Summer Solstice was but four days away, and many in the outlying areas came early to Hobbiton for the festivities, Frodo was able to secure a back table for Sam and himself, as well as his visitors, in the far corner of the Green Dragon. The innkeeper, in particular, took a certain amount of pride in such notables as the son of the Master of Brandy Hall, not to mention the son of the Great Took himself, stopping by on occasion for a half-pint of an evening. Frodo had mentioned as he picked up his and Sam's drinks, the other two, as guests, having already started on theirs, that he was expecting a fifth party, and he would appreciate it if someone would be so kind as to point him in the direction of the back table when he arrived.
Upon discovering who that last guest was to be, the publican couldn't help but chuckle. "Bless me, Mr. Frodo, if you'd not be knowin' him? A fine young gentlehobbit he appears to be, for he has stopped by, a time or two, and my stars, if I've ever seen anybody go through a pastie faster than that lad. But none of us here had any idea as to his name, and we felt right foolish to ask. Fredegar Bolger, is it? Why, that'd make him one of those Bolgers as live out Buckland way, now, wouldn't it?"
Frodo didn't mind the questioning, familiar with the owner of the Green Dragon's need to recognize all his customers and arrange them in their appropriate slots, and returned to the table with a mug in each hand just as a quite slender, rather brightly dressed young hobbit entered the establishment.
"Fatty! Fatty Bolger!" came the cry from Merry, as he spotted the entrant.
Fatty gazed briefly about the room, which had come to a noticeably enthralled sudden silence at the unfamiliar name, and glided in his customary effortless manner toward the gentlehobbit contingent at the back. "Frodo." He pronounced the name with his usual somnolent drawl. "Dear boy. And your ever-entertaining cousins. And Sam, my dear old thing. How frightfully amusing to find you all here."
Frodo arose and gave Fatty an affectionate hug. "It certainly has been awhile, Fatty, and I had absolutely no idea you were staying in Hobbiton. These two just informed me yesterday. Have a seat, and I'll fetch you something to drink."
"No need," Fatty replied airily, and indeed, there was not. The publican was already making his way to the back table with a full mug, and an even fuller plate in hand, having recognized a promising new customer upon his first visit, nameless or not.
The customary polite inquiries as to the health of all of Sam's various relations was then made, as Merry exchanged knowing glances with Pippin, and obviously contemplated the most productive way of bringing up the one local relative of Frodo's. Somehow, the plate had been emptied, as it generally was in Fatty's vicinity, and Fatty had just questioned, with a certain amount of interest, as to whether rumors were true that the Green Dragon did a particularly good pickled egg, when Merry could finally stand it no longer.
"So, Fatty, she hasn't bunged you out yet?" he grinned, his eyebrows rising in a decidedly devilish manner.
Fatty gave him a cool glance. "Mistress Sackville-Baggins and I are still on quite amiable terms, if that's the sort of thing you're talking about," he observed mildly. "I certainly do not anticipate any 'bunging out', as you so delicately put it."
"Well, I can't pretend that she and I've ever been on the best of terms, Fatty, but still this news did surprise me, I must admit," Frodo couldn't help shaking his head in amusement. "I would have guessed that she would have had an eye for the more mature sort of hobbit."
"I suspect she saw something in me that does not meet the general gaze," Fatty replied with a certain amount of complacency, draining his mug fastidiously but efficiently.
"Pip, there's a good lad, run and fetch Fatty here some of those eggs," Merry swiftly interposed, correctly judging food to be the best means of hanging on to Fatty. "And anything else that's lying about, while you're at it," he quickly added sotto voce. Pippin, immediately seeing his point, quickly dashed off, and hastily returned with a rather odd but generous assortment of comestibles.
"I imagine that I must have inherited Bilbo's quarrel with her, although I must say that her treatment of Sam certainly has been less than kind," Frodo summoned up as much sympathy as he could for his somewhat distant cousin. "Still, all in all, I shouldn't wonder if she hasn't been rather lonely as of late."
"Which is where I fit in, as solace for the lonely widow?" Fatty's manner remained unruffled, but there was a certain edge that crept in to his voice at that remark.
"Not at all, my dear fellow," Frodo hastened to assure him, "but that is why I invited her for Yule. Absolutely a whim of the moment. Just the thought that no one should be alone at that time, and that," here his voice softened, as he gave Sam, sitting silently next to him, a rapid glance, "I could so easily have been in that very same situation." That earned him Sam's warm smile, and a strong hand was quickly laid upon his thigh, under the table, but Merry scoffed at the notion.
"You would never have been alone on Yule, Frodo. What rubbish. Pip and I virtually come to blows over you every year."
"You can be with company, and still alone," Frodo said quietly, laying a hand soothingly over the one that tightened at his comment.
Fatty, however, had been watching this exchange surreptitiously as the food before him vanished down his throat. "You do rather have a point, Frodo," he said quietly as both the younger hobbits turned to him in surprise. "A very nice point, indeed."
But villainy wears many masks, none of which are more dangerous than virtue. Bracegirdle arrived, via wagon, five cases and serving hobbit in hand, three days before the Summer Solstice. The few rooms at the Green Dragon had already been filled, but some unavoidable adjustments were made, and a couple of the wealthier farmers from the outlying areas found themselves forced to find room with their more distant relations within Hobbiton. It was not a desired redistribution, but a necessary one, considering that the new arrival had, with the purchase of three more farms from local childless widows, become one of the wealthier and more influential landowners within the Hobbiton area. Word of the new arrival had even reached Bag End, and Frodo remembered with great displeasure his encounter with Bracegirdle several Yules ago, at the Great Smials. With ample notice, though, he assumed that avoidance would be possible.
Mistress Burrows was not nearly as fortunate. She had long held the de facto position of the mistress of festivities for the Hobbiton Summer Solstice celebration, since she and her daughters had a vast love of dancing, and adorning themselves for that event, and her husband was wisely indulgent. The mayor, Will Whitfoot, was a widower, and more than happy to delegate those organizational duties to her, as long as the provisions for food and drink, especially the latter, were taken well in hand as well.
Thus it was that Bracegirdle came to call upon Mistress Burrows, two days before the event. The Burrows household was in a positive flurry of frantic decisions regarding whether raspberries or strawberries should be atop the cream cakes that were to be their contribution, whether the yellow ribbons or the pink were more flattering on Petunia's dark blond curls, and whether Iris's dress needed one more strip of lace hastily stitched around the hem. But when Bracegirdle politely rapped upon the door, all other matters were put to the side for the moment, for Bracegirdle's contribution to the entertainment this year was significant indeed. Instead of the small group of enthusiastic but not terribly proficient local musicians who usually provided the music that served as the excuse for dancing, Bracegirdle had arranged for a more professional band to be hired for the occasion, directly from Brandy Hall itself. So Mistress Burrows hastily straightened her flyaway curls, and pinched her cheeks, and had the visitor shown into the best front parlor.
Her daughters, as well as May Gamgee, who made her home with them in Hobbiton half the year, were not to be denied, however, and clustered as noiselessly as they could about the door in the next room, which had been cracked open by the least possible amount. After a certain amount of silent but heated scrambling for the most advantageous position, they froze into place, and concentrated on Bracegirdle's polite inquiries into the upcoming day's events.
"I would hope, my dear lady," came Bracegirdle's unctuous tones through the crack, "that quadrilles and other more, shall we say, decorous dances, will be the mainstay of the festivities."
"Well, now, Mr. Bracegirdle, there's those as like a fast dance or two," Mistress Burrows interceded, rather uncomfortably. She had innocently assumed that all bands knew more or less the same tunes, and hadn't really given much thought to the matter. "Reels are a bit of fun, you know, and there's naught wrong with a lads-only dance. Gives the lasses a bit of a breather, as you might say."
"Oh, but my dear lady, there should be no need of that," Bracegirdle responded with a fastidiously disguised look of disgust. "Dancing, after all, is a matter of finesse, of courtliness."
Expressions in the next room darkened at that remark. The lads-only dance was quite a favorite, for the frenetic movements did tend to show off the lads' finer points, much to the lasses' secret delight.
"And of course," Bracegirdle continued on, blithely ignoring Mistress Burrows' lack of agreement. "Slow dances would never be proper, being most immoral, and indeed, dare I say it, downright lascivious."
There were immediate scowls in the adjoining room upon hearing this statement, and at least one sharply sustained hiss of disapproval. Even Mistress Burrows, taken completely aback at this remark, and harboring very fond secret memories of a certain "Come To Me, My Fair Lass, Whilst The Stars Sing Of Love", found it quite necessary to dissent, although in the very mildest of tones.
But Bracegirdle paid no heed, as he arose and gave her a courteous bow. "Oh, and my dear lady, I hardly find it necessary to mention this, but certainly there should be no unseemly couples to mar this festive event. There has been the rumor of a certain gentlehobbit who has, of late, taken up with a young, not even of age, but no, I need not mention such matters to you, I am sure."
"Mistress Sackville-Baggins?" Mistress Burrows gasped innocently, and indeed, she could scarcely have failed to recognize the rumor that had been on so many lips in town as of late. "I really don't think, that is to say, she really isn't much for dancing anyway, but you surely don't mean to say that she shouldn't..."
Bracegirdle smoothly cut her off, though, by reaching for her hand and planting a rather damp kiss upon it. "And I'm sure I need not mention that any such vulgar displays as dancing between such unnatural couples as that Baggins fellow and his consort should have no place in reputable society. Indeed, I thought not. Certainly, they should not be encouraged to attend. A very good day, then, to you, my lady." And he was gone.
Immediately thereafter, the adjoining door was thrust open. Complaints on several matters were registered, but all others paled in comparison to May's. "If that loathsome bit o'filth is thinkin' as he's too good for my brother and Mr. Frodo, he's askin' for a bit of explanation," she declared grimly, her eyes narrowing in a manner that caused the Barrows lasses to fall back with respect. "That may be the way o'it in Brandy Hall, but I'd be supposin' there's a bit he still has to be learnin' about Hobbiton."
"Oh, but May, my dear, I'm really not sure what we can do at this point," Mrs. Burrows fluttered, wringing her hands in a distressed sort of way. "There are those in town as would agree with him, my love, and I can just imagine what those disagreeable sorts would have to say if we offended him, and he took the musicians back to Brandy Hall. Oh, dear me, this is all so distressing." And she sank feebly down on the settee, Iris fanning her mother anxiously.
Ignoring the others entirely, though, May glared out of the window at the retreating gentlehobbit's figure, when suddenly her eyes widened. She had not realized it before, but this was the very same Bracegirdle, she was immediately quite sure, that had been her intended's, Lar Hoarfoot's, employer a few years ago. She had seen him only briefly, during that first visit to the Great Smials, where she had first met Lar, but she knew that Lar's experience with his former master had been quite distressing for him, for reasons that he seemed reluctant to divulge. She had her own private suspicions, however, and there was now another reason to wish Bracegirdle gone. Lar was due in Hobbiton, on the morrow, and she was hoping to convince him to finally set the date. Bracegirdle's sinister presence would not be at all conducive to matrimonial planning.
Newly determined, she turned back to the Burrows sisters and their still flustered mother. "Don't you fret, now," she said resolutely, "for I'll just be goin' to pay my brother a visit this afternoon. He has a fair helping of hobbit sense, he does, and there's no one cleverer than Mr. Frodo. They might be givin' us a hand, for that old prig can say what he will, there's still no one in all Hobbiton that the lasses'd rather have a dance with than Mr. Frodo. No festival would ever be the same without him."
May, who had stopped by Number Three, Bagshot Row, scooping up an equally indignant, once informed, Daisy, found a rather larger than expected audience when she arrived at Bag End that afternoon. She had hoped to catch Sam, and perhaps persuade him to inform Mr. Frodo as to the dilemma, but instead she found no less than four gentlehobbits, not to mention her brother, draped about the backfield of Bag End and apparently just finishing lunch, when she and Daisy finally discovered them. Her first instinctive reaction was to turn rather pink, and fight off the instinct to skitter away, for although she had seen her brother and Mr. Frodo together before, it was perhaps not with her brother's head lying quite contently in Mr. Frodo's lap, and my stars, if that wasn't Mr. Frodo's cousins, (Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin, was it?) who were quite entangled under the ash tree, and feeding each other strawberries in quite, she had to admit, a distinctive manner. Daisy, however, took no heed of the various goings-on in the field, and neatly shoved her forward, nearly causing her to trip over a fifth hobbit whom she had not noticed as he stretched his undeniably lanky self under the birch, urging her to, "Tell, May. Tell them what that blackguard is up to."
So May relayed her tale, as the five straightened themselves up, making various adjustments, some more discreetly than others, and Daisy stared in the distance, with her hands on her hips and a storm in her eyes. There was a moment's silence when she had finished, which was broken by Fatty.
"Well, I do think that considering me a sinister influence upon the community, while highly flattering, is perhaps stretching the truth of the matter a bit far," he mentioned mildly, propping himself up on one elbow and plucking disinterestedly at the grass. "But certainly, Frodo, you and Sam are quite the salt of the earth, and the central pillars of the community, and are absolutely entitled to as much in the way of refreshments and general frolicking about as you could possible desire. I, to my rather considerable misfortune, have had a previous acquaintance with this wretchedly boring fellow. You really do not want to let him get away with this sort of thing, unless you want Hobbiton to suddenly have all the joie de vivre of Brandy Hall, deeply begging your pardon, my good Merry."
Merry took no offense at this, however, and shaking his head, glumly affirmed Fatty's verdict. "He's absolutely right. This old trout and my mother get along quite chummily. That really tells you all you need to know."
"Ah," Pippin suddenly laughed, "That Bracegirdle, is it? I believe my father said something about horsewhipping, the last time we saw him."
"Far too good for him, really." Fatty glanced over at Frodo, who had been silent thus far. "But it's entirely up to you, old thing. After all, it's the both of you who actually live in this enchanting little village. The rest of us can always skulk away into the night, should this affair get messy."
Frodo remained silent, but turned to the hobbit sitting next to him with a questioning look. Sam's expression, however, was anything but forgiving. "That fellow's poison, no mistake," he muttered gruffly, giving May a sharp glance.
Frodo nodded at Sam's verdict, knowing his reasons for saying no more. "Absolutely agreed," he added crisply. "So, lads. Hobbiton must be rid of Bracegirdle. Does anyone have a plan?"
At this question, all looked expectantly to Fatty, who did not fail them. "This could be rather entertaining, in fact, it could be decidedly so," he mentioned, with a sly smile stealing across his features. "After all, Hobbiton is such an out of the way place that I would imagine... " He brought himself up at those words to an uncharacteristically upright position, finding the full attention of the other six in the field firmly fixed upon him. "Frodo," he questioned him sharply. "This innkeeper of yours, the Green Dragon chap. He has struck me as not only a proprietor who undeniably knows his way about a bang-up mixed grill, but a fellow of firm principles as well, rather a leading spirit of the community. Seems to know everyone, keeps a hand in every pudding, that sort of thing. Would I be close to it?"
"Absolutely," Frodo grinned at that description. "He is all that indeed, but quite a good sort, nonetheless."
"All the better," Fatty continued serenely. "Then you just might want to have a quick word with him this afternoon, and suggest that any requests that his guests might have should be run through him personally. And Merry, you might want to accidentally bump into this Bracegirdle person this evening at the inn, and stand him a mug or two. Assure him that Hobbiton is a virtual backwater of society, and that the general motto around this place is the less said the better. Feel free to point out Mistress Sackville-Baggins and myself as a prime example of the abounding loose morals hereabouts. I rather think that will do the trick. Pippin, old thing, you best stay here with Sam. Merry will never manage it with a straight face if you are anywhere about."
With some mystification, but confidence in Fatty's capabilities, the others agreed to their roles. "You'd be sure this'll be all it'll take?" May asked, with a slight frown, as she and Daisy prepared to leave.
"Rest assured, my lovely young lass, that it will," Fatty gave her a complacent bow. "Being a hobbit of regular habits can be a mixed blessing at times."
Word began to spread late that night, and by early on the morning of the Solstice Festival, all of Hobbiton knew that Bracegirdle had left town rather abruptly late the night before, and what was more, not entirely by his own accord. Speculation as to the cause was rampant and for the most part, highly inaccurate, albeit quite imaginative.
The true reason was disclosed at a meeting hastily called, by the Green Dragon's proprietor, of a select few of the town's leading personages; that is to say, Will Whitfoot, Ned Proudfoot, and Frodo Baggins. "When that lad came to me last night a'askin' for a bridle and a riding crop, well sirs, I knew by the look on that poor lad's face that it had naught to do with ponies, if you know what I mean," the innkeeper huffed indignantly, "for I never have seen a lad look as scared as that poor creature did. So I went to that scoundrel's room, and didn't ask for a penny, neither, but just told him as his kind was not welcome in my inn, and he best be gettin' himself off, and not be botherin' decent folks."
"An' the lad?" Ned asked immediately, with a scandalized expression. "What of the poor lad, then?"
"Oh, I can always use an extra strong back about the place," the innkeeper immediately assured him, "so I'll be lettin' the lad stay on for awhile. No worries on that score, sir."
"Well, I always thought there was something irregular about that fellow from the start," Whitfoot harrumphed, shaking his head, although he had certainly given no indication of it, if he had. "Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. It does, however, put us in a bit of a pickle for this evening."
"Nonsense," Ned chided him at once. "Those as have been playing at the festival all these past years are still good enough for the likes of us, I say. Old Bob can keep a steady beat, after all, and that's really all that matters. That young Billy's been practicing his fiddle something fierce, and you can almost recognize the tune, sometimes. We don't need that lot from Brandy Hall; our own lads are good enough for us."
Whitfoot laughed then, and winked at the Green Dragon's proprietor. "And with an extra barrel or two out there, they'll naught be knowin' if the music's playin' or not. Come on, lads, we've a festival to start."
As they began to leave, Frodo drew the innkeeper briefly aside. "That was a good thing that you did," he murmured approvingly.
"It's not easy to set myself up against gentlefolk," the older hobbit responded wryly, "but they are not all of your quality, Mr. Baggins. I will hope I never know, though," he added, shaking his head, with a slight shudder, "the reason for wantin' the chicken."
The light summer rain that had been promising all afternoon finally began to fall early evening, not long after teatime. There was a laughing scurry for the tents, but most of the celebrants were fairly philosophical regarding the dilemma. After all, there still was dinner to be had before the dancing would begin, and this time of year, rain tended to go as easily as it came. There was also, at least for the extended Gamgee clan, another reason for celebration that had nothing at all to do with the change of seasons. May Gamgee and Lar Hoarfoot had at last settled on a date, and what promised to be the last of the Gamgee weddings would be held during the upcoming Harvest Festival.
May, her eyes sparkling, was prettier that night than anyone had ever seen her before, and for once, could not have possibly told anyone what the frocks around her were like, or even who was planning to dance with whom. Lar, likewise, was beaming with happiness as he was subjected to hand-shakings and back-thumpings without number, and Sam could see no more trace of the forlorn hobbit he had first met during that eventful first Yule visit to the Great Smials. He gave Lar a warm hug, when it was his turn to greet the latest family member, and assured the joyful hobbit that he could be counting on his help, as well as that of the Cotton lads, this summer, when the ground had dried enough to dig a smial for the happy couple.
In the midst of the warm congratulations, however, Pippin and Merry returned from a brief foray to the food tent with the news that the dancing was going to begin, regardless of the rain, and if there was anything the newly engaged couple loved nearly as much as each other, it was that. All of Hobbiton, with many a giggle and squeal, was beginning to make their way out into the slightly soggy field, as the glowing lanterns hung from the Party Tree in the misty drizzle. Then, with a thump, and a preliminary squeal from the fiddle, and a loud blat from the sacbut, the musicians, in their hastily improvised shelter, announced their readiness, and it was time for the dancing to begin. And the question of the first couple of the leadoff reel took precedence over all other matters.
For the last several years, Mistress Burrows had graciously agreed to accompany Mayor Whitfoot in the opening figure, since he no longer had a wife, and never had a daughter, but she had confided to her daughters this very morning, with a distinctly delighted giggle, that it was not to be her this year. Mr. Baggins, himself, had mentioned something to her, but what that fascinating piece of information was, she refused to divulge.
So it was to nearly everyone's surprise that the couple stepping smartly out at the first flourish from the crumhorn was no other than Mayor Whitfoot and Mistress Sackville-Baggins. Indeed, a number of on-lookers had to be informed as to exactly who this mysterious female was, for she was, in truth, very nearly unrecognizable. The frown, the lines of discontent on her face, her permanent look of disapproval, all of them had quite vanished, and several older hobbits suddenly recollected the time when she had been considered to be quite the beauty. There was even, to the amazement of those who had not seen this phenomenon in at least a decade, a smile on her face.
The reason for her astounding rejuvenation (and certainly there was positively no disagreement on this score) proved to be, however, even more remarkable, for it was discovered that within Fatty Bolger's lean frame was apparently stored a wellspring of unrelenting energy. He bounded into each dance with glee, and such a remarkable dexterity of foot, that his friends could only laugh and shake their heads in wonder. Even Merry had to admit that he had never suspected the depths of frivolity that had lurked behind that suave fašade.
Fast dance followed slow, one after another, and as the rain continued to drizzle down and the field became positively treacherous, there was many a slip and slither, and it was quite obvious that many of the lasses' frocks had seen their last dance. But no body seemed to mind, and indeed, the glow of this particular celebration lasted well into the summer.
The musicians had, at last, begun to show signs of eventually faltering, and the melancholy melody of the last of the slow dances was drifting out into the night, when Frodo finally found Sam under the ash grove that bordered the field. "Dance with me, Sam," he murmured, coming quietly up behind him, and lying a gentle hand on his shoulder.
With a low laugh, Sam swung around, and caught Frodo up in his arms. "Aye, I'll dance with you, me lovely one," he smiled. There were others coming and going through the trees, and the night and the grass were both wet with the misting rain, but it made no difference to either of them, as they held closely to each other, and danced away from the tents, and into the night.
They only stopped when they had made their way far enough away from the tents that there was barely enough light to see each other's face, but slowed, still in their close embrace, until it was only a matter of rocking to the ghost of the melody that had been left in the air. "Oh, Sam," Frodo murmured then, his hand making its way into Sam's wet curls, "I do love you so, you know."
Sam smiled dreamily in return, one of his hands reaching up to touch the rain drops that were rolling down Frodo's cheeks. "Aye, I do know that," he sighed, before bringing his mouth to meet Frodo's. Their kiss was long and sweet, tasting of wine, and strawberries, and rain. Opening his mouth hungrily, Frodo's tongue found Sam's, eagerly answering his, and sighed happily, deep in his throat, as he explored that which was so familiar but ever enticing. Sam's jacket was sodden at this point, and difficult to push away, but Frodo managed anyway, never letting his mouth leave Sam's. There was the wool, and then there was the fine linen of Sam's best shirt, equally as wet, but at last, that was tugged up, and out, and then his hand discovered Sam's skin underneath, warm and supple, the muscles so palpable to Frodo's avid touch, just under the skin.
"Ah, Sam," he groaned, breaking his mouth away from Sam's, and feeling the surge of desire flood through his veins. "Bag End is entirely too far away."
"Aye, me dear, that it is," Sam murmured somewhat breathlessly, directly before his mouth found the base of Frodo's throat, causing a noticeable and disconcerting weakness in Frodo's knees as he bent back against the solid arm that was wrapped about his waist. Even with that support, though, he could not help falling back a step or two. Sam must have directed him however, the thought came dimly to him as he felt his back and head meet the trunk of a mature ash. He heard a low chuckle then, as he opened the eyes that had automatically shuttered closed at Sam's kiss, and gazed dazedly into Sam's smiling face, the curls darkly plastered to his cheeks, raindrops dripping off of his eyelashes, and that lovely nose simply begging for a kiss.
"Sam," he gasped, caution beginning to lose its battle with need. "Dare we, my dear?"
And oh, if the deepening smile on Sam's face didn't immediately determine the outcome of that skirmish. " 'Tis a dark night, sure enough," Sam's voice was becoming distinctly husky, and as he pressed closer to Frodo, there was no longer any question but that the need was reciprocated.
The music had all gone, and if there were any others about in these wet fields this dark night, surely they were distracted by their own concerns, and as if in final answer, the lanterns that had lit the Party Field were blown out, and the darkness was complete. Light was certainly never needed, as Frodo pulled Sam closer to him, bracing himself against the tree, and found the fastening of Sam's trousers. His hands knew their way here, without a bit of hesitancy, and the wet material was urged lower down Sam's hips, as Sam laughed, and followed suit.
Then there was nothing but that glorious flesh in his hands, both soft and velvety to the touch, but hard as bone beneath, leaping wondrous and slick into his fervently stroking hand. Then there was Sam's answering grip and pull and caress on himself too, and he had to fight the wanting and craving that would end it all far too soon, but forced himself to hold to the rhythm that Sam was setting and follow it, winding a leg around Sam, and pulling the both of them impossibly close together. Surely, nothing else mattered now but the feel of Sam in his grateful hands, and Sam's touch upon him, and the rain that fell on both of their upturned faces in the dark night. But his breath was quickening and his pulse was beating faster now, as he could feel Sam's answering throbbing and hear his ragged gasps in his ear, and the need was now, and with a choked wail, he could hold back no longer, because to be lost in this astonishing giving and taking, with the one whom he loved with all his heart, was everything, and would always be so.
He collapsed against Sam, hearing as he did so Sam's answering groan, and together they bonelessly slid down the wet rough trunk, folded together on the muddy field, their hearts racing in tandem, and their arms full with everything that mattered.
It was a dumbfounded and somewhat worried Merry and Pippin that greeted the owners of Bag End, as they let themselves in the kitchen much later that night. Sam had stopped by the door to pump water for a bath, for, as he chuckled to Frodo as they squelched their way through the kitchen garden to the back door, "I'll not be answerin' to Daisy for the state of the sheets if we get into bed like this."
So it was a dripping Frodo who was rousing up the kitchen fire as he heard hasty footsteps pattering down the hall. "Frodo!" cried Pippin, as he burst into the room, smoldering pipe in hand, and Merry on his heels. "How the pair of you could manage to lose yourselves..." and then he stopped short, staring with an open mouth at an immensely soggy, and incredibly muddy, but impishly grinning, Frodo.
"Hullo, lads," he said complacently. "Into my best pipeweed, no doubt?" Rivulets of water still coursed down the sides of his face from the wet hair stuck against his forehead, and the pool of water under his feet was rapidly extending itself to the hall, when the kitchen door was sharply kicked open and produced a Sam in a matching state of grimy dampness, a full bucket in each hand.
"Ah, you'd be back then. Good." he glanced briefly at Frodo's cousins. "It'd right kind of you to tote the pair o'these to the bath room, if ye'd not be mindin'." Dropping the two buckets, at their feet, he turned and left with only a briefly muttered, "Be needin' more," to Frodo as he passed.
"You heard the hobbit. Be off with you, make yourselves useful," Frodo chuckled as he shook the kettle and peered inside.
"But," Merry had finally found his voice. "What happened to the pair of you? Did you roll down a hill? Chased escaped livestock in the rain? Had a half-pint too many?"
Sam had re-entered the kitchen just then with two more buckets, only catching the last phrase. "Cheeky, ain't we?" he growled, staring pointedly at the two buckets still remaining at Merry and Pippin's feet.
"Cheeky and decidedly in the way," Frodo laughed, catching up Sam in a tight and firmly returned embrace after he set the last two buckets down. "Certainly you two don't think we're going to go down the halls wearing these muddy things? Off with you, lads. And don't be looking for breakfast early tomorrow."
The two visitors made a hasty exit. And indeed, the morning sun was quite high in the brilliantly blue sky the next day before any of the residents of Bag End began to consider food. Summer had begun.
The quote is "Villainy wears many masks, none of which are more dangerous than virtue." and is from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
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