West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
One fine evening a starry-eyed hobbit meets a ranger in the woods of the Shire.
Written for the I'm doing WHO Hobbit Smut Challenge
Notes: Thanks so much to shirebound and baranduin for their awesome betas!
Even the cleverest of rangers rarely could discern the tread of hobbit feet through the woods. And yet to a hobbit, with his sharp hearing, even the stealthy stride of a ranger sounded like an oliphaunt crashing through the brush. Therefore, Halbarad had never actually encountered any of the Shire folk, even while camping so close to their little villages that he could sometimes make out the faint ring of jolly voices raised in song and laughter. Rare indeed was the hobbit that wandered so far from his hole to walk in the woods under the starlight.
But then one fair evening, when the stars were sprinkled across the sky like carelessly strewn gems, Frodo Baggins strolled into the clearing in which Halbarad had set up camp, his ethereal face tilted toward the moon. Halbarad blinked, wondering if he might have dozed and fallen into an elvish dream. So fair was this slender halfling that Halbarad could only stare in wonder. In that moment he at last understood the spell under which Estel had fallen when he had first looked upon Arwen Undomiel.
But the enchanted moment ended when the halfling suddenly noticed Halbarad. He stopped, nearly stumbling over his ungainly feet, and stared at Halbarad like a startled deer, clearly not sure whether to bolt or to speak. Halbarad could now see the rare jewels that were his eyes, and was so captivated that he could do nothing more than hold out his trembling hands, palms up, and hope that the halfling understood that he meant no harm. For many minutes, neither of them spoke.
Then the halfling broke the silence. "Are you a ranger?" His refined voice was steady, and his initial fear of Halbarad had seemingly faded.
Still, Halbarad kept his voice low as he nodded, careful not to make any sudden movements. "Halbarad Dunadan, Ranger of the North I am."
"Frodo Baggins at your service," Frodo said, bowing. "My cousin Bilbo once told me about your people's selfless service to the Shire. Most of my countrymen know nothing of it and would appreciate it none the better if they did know."
"Still, I do it gladly," Halbarad said. The moonlight seemed treacherously bright, and it bathed the grass in the clearing with fairy light. When he was a young lad, he had been convinced that if he could capture the moonlight in a jar he could use it as light on a dark and rainy night. If he could but hold this very moment in a jar, gladly he would do so. For he could not imagine that this fair halfling would wish to remain in his presence for much longer.
But Halbarad was wrong.
"May I...that is, would you mind company?" Frodo asked. "I do so love to hear news of the outside world. We hear so little of it here in the Shire."
Halbarad tried not to sound too eager. "I would welcome your company."
And just as he had as a child, Halbarad harbored a yearning that the sun would never rise so that he could truly believe for a time that he had captured the moonlight, that it was his to hold.
Frodo had dressed as lightly as possible, but the chill of autumn had put a damper on his longing to wear naught but a shirt and breeches. Therefore, Halbarad was forced to unbutton weskit and shirt, as well as to unclasp braces with his large awkward fingers, and just as he had day after day for the past fortnight, he showed no signs that he begrudged the extra effort. Rarely did he remove all of his own clothing, including his muddy boots, but rather he unclasped his belt, put his weapons aside, and pulled down his worn breeches.
Halbarad had earlier spread his cloak on the ground, and now he pushed Frodo on it so that he lay on his back. The curled, dead leaves crackled beneath them. Frodo wrapped his arms around Halbarad's neck, breathing in the worn leather of his tunic, which abraded his skin in delightful tingles. Then when Halbarad entered him, shuddering with need, they rocked together, knowing no greater joy than not only hearing, but also feeling the rapid beat of one another's heart.
"What is this?" Halbarad asked. With Frodo, one never knew what delightful surprises he would spring on any given day.
Frodo threw himself down beside him and opened the wicker picnic basket. Always with hobbits, it was food. Halbarad had once jested that he had counted how many times their conversation had turned to the topic of food of some kind or other, whether literal or figurative, and it had worked out to be nearly half of their conversations.
Frodo grinned as he pulled item after item out of the basket. "Pickled mushrooms, made with herbs grown freshly in the garden. Tea cakes with poppy seed, pound cake drizzled with honey, bread baked fresh just this morning, apple jelly, made with apples fresh from the orchard beyond Bagshot Row. Oh, and this - a specialty of the Gamgees. Pickled cow's tongue."
"Now -- that's rare!" Halbarad laughed. "This alone makes the labors of my people to protect the Shire worth it."
"You cannot keep eating as little as you do." Frodo patted Halbarad's taut abdomen. "If you are to spend so much time in the Shire, the least you can do is sample the native food."
"I am not complaining," Halbarad said, but he winced just a little. "But cow tongue?"
"You will find it delightful." Frodo rose up on his knees and threw his arms around Halbarad, pressing his mouth against Halbarad's and sliding his tongue inside his mouth. Halbarad hardened at once - Frodo had this effect on him and it had not faded over the months they had taken pleasure in one another in these woods of the Shire. Frodo wriggled his bottom over Halbarad's arousal in tantalizing promise of what was to come later before he pulled away to sit primly beside the wicker basket again. "After all," he said, raising his eyebrows. "You clearly enjoy hobbit tongue."
"That I do," Halbarad said, chuckling before biting into a fresh slice of bread drizzled with honey. He took comfort in the knowledge that he could soon satisfy the maddening itch that sometimes flared just from a casual touch or a light kiss or even a glance into those expressive eyes.
After they ate, they leaned against the fat trunk of an oak, too full to do much more than doze. Even idle conversation took too much effort, and Halbarad's arousal had relaxed somewhat.
After a time, Frodo fiddled with his foot. He had no qualms about grooming his feet in front of Halbarad, pulling out burrs and clumps of dirt, untangling curls with his deft fingers. Halbarad stared in fascination. Hobbit feet were enormous, even more so than Halbarad's - and Halbarad was tall for a man. And Frodo's feet were so sturdy. Such a foot could tread on shards of broken shells and still not bleed.
Halbarad had never told Frodo this, but he had once snapped the neck of a man from a distant wild country who had killed a hobbit from Staddle for sport. Before killing him, the man had brutally cut the hair from the hobbit's feet, leaving them hairless and bloody.
So much of what encapsulated hobbits lay in their feet - sturdy, warm, and of the earth. And yet there was something that Halbarad read in Frodo's eyes that spoke of an ephemeral existence, something that slipped between his fingers. And this yanked at Halbarad's heart until his chest ached and he could scarcely breathe.
"Why?" Frodo asked, his heart mirrored in his wounded eyes.
Halbarad wished he could take back what he had said. He could continue to have this delicious creature night after night, and neither of them would tire of it. And perhaps one day they could make a home together, perhaps a quaint lodge in the woods out of prying eyes of ranger or hobbit. But a dark shadow had pressed on his heart, a portent of evil to come. One day their fates would twist together in great deeds and an unhappy ending, and sometimes Halbarad dreamed about fire and ash and of a great battle at the end of the world.
But Halbarad could not tell Frodo this. Instead he kneeled, grasping Frodo's arms, more to steady himself than to give false comfort. "I cannot do this."
"You cannot...?" Frodo looked puzzled, although his lips had paled and he had begun to breathe in sharp gasps. "But you have."
Halbarad uttered, "Moonlight does not last. Nor can you capture it. And in the end there is only darkness."
Frodo did not blink. "But moonlight is constant and gives of its light freely." His voice choked. "Do not do this. I love you." His hand trembled as he reached for Halbarad's chest, as if to feel if his heart were still there.
"And I, you. My heart tells me that we might meet again one day, although not under this sun."
Frodo fell against him with a cry of grief, and they held for so long that Halbarad feared he would never let go.
When as a lad Halbarad had been unable to trap the moonlight in his jar, he had taken the jar and dashed it against the rocks in a fury. He had wept bitter tears, but far better to mourn greatly for a short time than to grieve each time the sun rose.
Halbarad watched as Frodo walked out of his dream, bathed in the light of stars and moon, and he never again, as he had foreseen, saw him under this sun.
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