West of the Moon

A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive

 

 

The Coming, the Going and the Gone
There was once a time when hobbits were hobbits and their world was unchanging. But change, as they say, was in the wind. This fic was written for the Livejournal Hobbit Smut community's Silver Scream challenge.
Author: Peachy
Rating: R

 

Frodo Baggins was beautiful, but he seldom realised it even when hobbits were as smitten with him as his two cousins. In his face were sharply blended the delicate features of his mother, a Brandybuck with Tookish heritage, and the strong ones of his Baggins father. It was an arresting face, clefted of chin, square of jaw. His eyes were blue without a touch of hazel, starred with bristly black lashes. Above them, his thick black brows slanted upward, cutting a startling oblique line in his simbelmyne-white skin - that skin the mark of gentry and so carelessly guarded, as was his unusual slenderness of outline.

Seated with Merry and Pippin in the cool shade of the garden at Bag End, his older cousin's smial, that bright Rethe afternoon of 3001, he made a pretty picture. His new blue shirt spread over his shoulders and exactly matched the waistcoat Bilbo had recently brought him from Bree. The shirt set off to perfection his feet with their dark fur, the softest in three Farthings, and the tightly fitting breeches showed a bottom well shaped for his thirty-two years. But for all the hobbityness of his well-buttoned shirt, the leisure of his posture and the quietness of fine white hands, his true self was hardly concealed. The blue eyes in the fair face were thoughtful, happy, lively with ideals of adventure, distinctly at variance with his decorous demeanour. His manners had been imposed upon him by his mother's gentle admonitions and the discipline of his kin; his mind was his own.

On either side of him, the cousins lounged easily in their chairs, squinting at the sunlight through tall mugs of ale as they laughed and talked. With their legs hairy to the knee, and smoke curling their pipes, they were more fun than two amusingly shaped mushrooms. This afternoon, Frodo was amused because the two hobbits had been kicked out of the Gilded Trout for singing songs of a too bawdy nature. Pippin said he wouldn't darken the Trout's doors again until it changed its name and improved the quality of the beer.

"Beer, beer, beer," said Frodo, puffing happily on his pipe. "That's all you two ever think of. If it had been good there, you would never have come as far as Hobbiton to visit."

"Oh well," said Merry carelessly. "It doesn't matter much. We'd have had to come to Hobbiton before the month was out anyway."

"Why?" said Frodo.

"The party, goose! The party's going to start any day, and you don't suppose any of us would stay in Tuckborough with fireworks going on, do you?"

"You know there aren't going to be any fireworks," teased Frodo. "It's all just talk. Why, Bilbo told me just last week that he'd come to an amicable agreement with the Bolgers about that sort of party business. And anyway, the lasses are too scared of fireworks. There won't be any, and I'm tired of hearing about it."

"Not going to be any fireworks!" cried the cousins indignantly, as though they had been defrauded.

"Why, Frodo, of course there's going to be fireworks," said Pippin. "The lasses may be scared of them, but after the way Bilbo described the last lot, I'm not going to expect any less than a hundred. Why, Gandalf - "

Frodo pretended bored impatience.

"If you say 'fireworks' just once more, I'll go in the smial and shut the door. I have never grown so tired of any one word in my life as 'fireworks', unless it's 'Lobelia.' Bilbo talks of the party morning, noon and night, and all the dwarves who come to see him shout about the Great Battle and Smaug and wargs. If you say 'fireworks' again, I'll go in the smial."

He smiled when he spoke, unconsciously deepening his dimple and dipping his black lashes as swiftly as butterflies' wings. The cousins were enchanted, and they hastened to apologise for boring him. They thought none the less of him for his lack of interest. Indeed, they thought more. They loved Frodo and would gladly have shagged him into next Wednesday if it made him smile.

"Look, Frodo. About tomorrow," said Merry. "Just because we've been away and didn't know about the party, there's no reason why we shouldn't get plenty of dances tomorrow night. You haven't promised them all, have you?"

"Of course I have. How did I know you would be there? I could hardly risk being a wallflower just waiting on you two."

"Frodo Baggins a wallflower!" The lads laughed uproariously.

"Look, old fellow. You've got to give me the first dance and Pippin the last one and you've got to eat supper with us. We shall sit on the table like we did at the last party and get Mistress Buckthorn to tell our fortunes again."

"I don't like Mistress Buckthorn's fortunes. You know she said I was going to fall in love with a hobbit with sun-coloured hair and a trowel, and I don't like sun-coloured hair."

"You like 'em brown-headed, don't you, Frodo?" grinned Pippin. "Now come, promise us all the dances and the supper."

"If you promise, we'll tell you a secret," said Merry.

"What?" cried Frodo, alert as a faunt at the word.

"Well, there's going to be an announcement tomorrow night at the party."

"Oh. I know about that," said Frodo, disappointed. "That silly cousin of Uncle Dudo's, Charlie Goldworthy, and Honey Bunce. Everybody's known for years that they would get engaged some time, even if he did seem rather lukewarm about it."

"Do you think he's silly?" questioned Pippin. "Last Yule you let Charlie feel you up under the mistletoe."

"I couldn't help him feeling," Frodo shrugged negligently. "My shirt was caught in the door hinge."

"Besides, it isn't their engagement that's going to be announced," said Merry triumphantly. "Bilbo's going to leave the Shire!"

Frodo's face did not change but his lips went white - like a person who has received a stunning blow without warning and who, in the first moments of shock, does not realise what has happened.
So still was his face as he stared at Pippin that the young Took, never analytic, took it for granted that he was merely surprised and very interested.

"Of course we knew you'd be in on it, but you didn't think he'd tell everyone at the party, did you? It's to be a grand surprise. One of those dwarves got talking to my aunt's sister's first cousin once removed. Now, Frodo, we've told you the secret, so you've got to promise to eat supper with us."

"Of course I will," Frodo said automatically.

"And all the dances?"

"All."

"You're sweet! I'll bet the other lads will be hopping mad."

"Let 'em be mad," said Merry. "We two can handle 'em. Look, Frodo. Sit with us at the dinner in the evening."

"What?"

Merry repeated his request.

"Of course."

The lads looked at each other jubilantly but with some surprise. Although they considered themselves Frodo's favoured cousins, they had never before gained tokens of this favour so easily.
Usually he made them beg and plead, while he put them off, refusing to give a Yes or No answer, laughing if they sulked, snogging them if they became angry. And here he had practically promised them the whole of tomorrow - seats by him at the dinner, the dances, and the supper. This was worth getting kicked out of the Trout.

They continued to jibe and chat, but Frodo seemed abstracted and Merry decided they must not wear him out, or let him change his mind about the dances. They bowed, shook hands and told Frodo they'd be at the Ivy Bush early in the morning, waiting for him. Then they were off down the walk.

"Say Merry, wouldn't you think Frodo would have asked us to stay to dinner?"

"I would have thought so," said Pippin. "But maybe it's all the party business. He didn't want to bother old Bilbo, you know."

"But Bilbo wouldn't mind us, and neither would Frodo, you would think. Perhaps there's a book he's dying to get back to."

"Well - you know how the Baggins are. Folks say they are kind of queer about music and books and scenery. Mother says it's because their grandfather ate funny mushrooms. She says Bagginses set quite a store by such things."

Meanwhile Frodo sat as if frozen to his seat, heart pounding. "It can't be!" he thought. "Bilbo wouldn't leave - would he?"

The he heard Sam's tread on the floor of the hall and hastily tried to rearrange his face in more placid lines. It would never do for Sam to suspect anything was wrong. Sam felt he owned Frodo, body and soul, that his secrets were Sam's secrets; and even if they weren't, he usually found out anyway. Frodo found it hard to keep anything from Sam.

He emerged from the corridor, a hazel-eyed, cheerful, sturdy hobbit, devoted to his last drop of blood to the Bagginses, the Gaffer's mainstay, and the terror of garden slugs. Sam had been raised strictly, the Gaffer sparing none of his children their just punishment for any infringement of decorum. He had a sweet, timid face but a plain one, and the lad had no tricks of allure to make observers forget its plainness. Sam looked - and was - as simple as earth, as good as bread, as transparent as spring water. But for all his plainness of feature, there was a deep wellspring of emotion within him that was oddly touching and far older than his twenty years.

"Mr. Frodo, you'd best be coming in now. It's getting right chilly."

"Oh Sam, I'd like to sit here and watch the sunset. It's so lovely. I'll sit here till Bilbo comes home."

"You sound like you're coming down with something, sir," said Sam suspiciously.

"No, not at all," said Frodo. "I'll just fetch my coat."

Of course Sam already had it, and put it around Frodo's shoulders.

Frodo sat in the drowsy evening light, gazing over the fields. He loved Bag End, with its soft green hills and the distant ploughed fields and contented, sweet-smelling spires of chimney smoke. Sweet winding rivers tumbled down the hills, and birds took interest in Sam's sunflowers. The peace of the place infused Frodo's being, humming through his soul.

And here he came, Bilbo, pegging along the path with a stick and humming to himself. It was clear to be seen he enjoyed a bit of fresh air after a day clammed up indoors on party affairs, and a merry reunion with Gandalf which must have been as enjoyable for the old hobbit as Frodo's had been earlier that day. He might be called Mad Baggins by some, but he was a delightful character even in his fussiest (or grimmest) moments of irascibility.

He was eleventy-one years old and his crisp curly hair was silver-white, but his shrewd face was lightly lined and his eyes were young with unworried youthfulness. His was as Baggins-ish a face as could be found in the length and breadth of the Shire - but with elements of Tookish curiousity and the knowing of a world outside his door.

Frodo leapt up and went to meet him. Bilbo greeted him with open affection, for Frodo was his favourite, a bright, blessed boy who would carry on the Baggins name.

"Hello, my lad!"

"Oh Bilbo!" Frodo hugged him, breathing the scent of Old Toby and coffee that lingered around his cousin.

"How have you been, Frodo? Flirting with that Pippin and Merry, I suppose."

"Bilbo, they're more interested than each other than me, and one day they'll realise it. I - I just wondered how your plans were going. Have you got everything ready?"

"I've made my plans," said Bilbo cheerfully. "All in order, Frodo, I promise you."

Oh, he's perfectly all right, Frodo thought. Not leaving at all!

"Is there anything I need to do?"

"Well, no-oooo. The invitations all sent, ticked off, mathoms wrapped. Wait!" Bilbo jerked to a standstill. "Silly of me. I was going to er.. wrap a special present for you."

"You know you don't have to give me anything, Bilbo."

"On your coming-of-age? Nonsense! I er... well... I might as well warn you, Frodo dear boy." Bilbo hemmed. "There might be - some - surprising news tomorrow. As it turns out."

"Ah," said Frodo, his stomach plunging.

"A grand surprise," said Bilbo, more firmly. "I don't want to spoil the surprise for you, dear boy. But know that it will be a special day for you, and it will be an excellent joke."

"I'm sure I shall enjoy it," said Frodo.

Oh dear, Bilbo was looking uncomfortable. He took Frodo's hands in his grip. "And remember this, Frodo. You're my heir, and everything I have is yours."

This wasn't going well at all.

"Bilbo, this surprise - "

But Bilbo cut him off. "You have a love of the Shire, Frodo, and it's only right you stay here. Listen, dear boy. I'm telling you in the strictest confidence that I'm going on a long holiday. It's to be announced tomorrow."

Frodo's hand fell from his arm. So it was true!

"Now Frodo, you're a grown hobbit and it's time you were your own master. You have cousins who love you and will keep an eye on you. And Gandalf. Yes, Gandalf will too, I'm sure of it. Now you know, you can help me and not spoil the joke?"

Gandalf! Frodo nearly gasped aloud. Why, Bilbo hadn't told Gandalf about his scheme. The wizard was bound to set him straight, reason with him and make him see sense where a young cousin like Frodo would not be taken seriously. Frodo knew there was a presence at Bag End that was essential to his being, and this, he was certain, was Bilbo.

"I'll do whatever you want to make it go off ," Frodo assured him, and was rewarded with a chuckle and a long list of extra mathoms to be given out after the party, or some such thing.

Bilbo is a sweet, selfish, irresponsible darling, Frodo thought, with a surge of affection. In the prime of his life, too. And he loves the Shire. There is no reason Bilbo should leave now. Or if he does, that he shouldn't come straight back again.

*

It was ten o'clock in the morning. The day was warm for Rethe and the golden sunlight streamed brilliantly into Frodo's room through the blue curtains of the round windows. The cream-colored walls glowed with light and the depths of the mahogany furniture gleamed deep red like Old Winyards. Waistcoats were scattered about the room, draped over the mirror and the bookcase. Frodo was not usually one who fussed greatly about his attire, but this was a special party.

The green tweed was becoming, but he had worn it last summer when visiting Brandy Hall and folks would be sure to remember it. The black velveteen, with its silver embroidery, set off his white skin superbly, but it did make him look a trifle elderly. Frodo peered in the mirror at his thirty-two-year-old face as if expecting to see wrinkles and sagging chin muscles. It would not do to appear sedate and elderly before someone like Pippin's fresh youthfulness. The lavender silk waistcoat was beautiful with its ivory lining and gold buttons, but Frodo felt it made him look like a tween. It would never do to appear tweenish at a coming-of-age party.

The watered blue satin, edged in grey ribbon, was most becoming, in fact his favourite waistcoat. Lasses said it turned his eyes to sapphires. But there was unmistakably a grease spot on the right breast. Of course, a scarf could be pinned over the spot, but Sam had sharp eyes. There remained varicoloured cotton shirts which Frodo felt were not festive enough for the occasion, handsome jackets and the waistcoat he had worn out to lunch yesterday. It was not suitable for a party, for it was of dark muted colours. But there was nothing else to do but wear it. After all he was not about to outshine Bilbo, even if it was his coming-of-age.

As he chattered and laughed and cast quick glances into the tent and the yard, his eyes fell on Sam, standing alone in the hall, staring at him in a shy awestruck way that brought Frodo up sharply with a mingled feeling of pleasure that he had attracted a lad and an embarrassed sensation that he shouldn't be attracting his gardener.

Sam's hair had been washed for the party, but despite an attempt to control it, it tumbled over his broad forehead and down the crook of his neck. His eyes were glowing and clear as lamps, and yet somehow as dark as mossy wood. When Frodo's eye caught his, he smiled deferentially as usual, then blushed, and looked away.

"Sticklebacks!" said Frodo to himself in indignation, using Bilbo's favourite oath. "He looks as if - as if he was thinking of what I looked like without my breeches," and, glaring down at his waistcoat, he went up the steps.

*

The party was so grand and magnificent the hobbits were to remember it for years. Torchlight danced on a hundred eager faces, Grubbs and Chubbs, Brandybucks and Boffins, Bolgers and Hornblowers, Proudfoots and chattering Tooks. Frodo and Bilbo had ducked the Sackville-Bagginses successfully, and eaten and drunk and presented mathoms, and Frodo had started to dance before Bilbo hauled him off to chat to one of the prettier Brandybuck lasses. Then Bilbo told some of his favourite troll stories to the fauntlings, scaring them half out of their wits.

Frodo sent Sam off to dance with Rosie Cotton, but Merry and Pippin had apparently forgotten their promise, and had vanished in the direction of Gandalf and the fireworks. Anyone looking at Frodo would suppose him the happiest of party hosts, but he had not been able to manage one word with Gandalf. Frodo had a rising sense of panic. If Bilbo should make his announcement there would be no going back. And constant numbers of relations were coming up to him for congratulations and chitchat, while the music skirled tauntingly behind him.

Blast those fireworks, and Tooks and Brandybucks too! Perhaps if Frodo could keep the dancing going, Bilbo would forget about speeches for the time being and Frodo could keep the party side of things going long enough to get hold of Gandalf. He signalled to the band and looked around for a partner. It seemed everyone was taken, with the older gammers and gaffers devoted to their gossip. Children were playing with their new toys, sweethearts had stolen outside the tent for kisses, and the fireworks were about to start.

Then the music broke into the rollicking strains of the Springle-ring, and Frodo thought he would howl. He wanted to dance. He wanted to dance. He looked across the floor and tapped his foot to the music and his blue eyes blazed so eagerly they fairly caught fire. All the way across the floor, a hobbit saw them, started and watched closely the longing eyes in the rose-cheeked face.

"Time to give up frivolous behaviour I should think," Aunt Dora was saying at his elbow. "There's any number of lasses keen to settle on you, Frodo, and I should think you'd avoid Bilbo's odd style of living. Melantha Heathertoes, for instance. I know she's young, but I was wedded at nigh-on twenty-seven myself."

Frodo nodded politely, trying not to look over at the dancers. He was not prepared for the sight of a lad coming up to him, shoulders squared, saying "Mr. Frodo, would you like to dance?"

"He certainly will not," snapped Aunt Dora. "Dance with a gardener, indeed."

"Oh yes I will!"

Frodo heard his voice without recognising it as his, but he was out of his seat, his hand firmly gripped in Sam's, and they were on the dance floor.

"Mr. Frodo..."

"Hush, you have nothing to apologise for. I'm glad you asked me. You're an excellent dancer," he added, in some admiration.

He felt Sam relax. "You are the most beautiful dancer at this party, Mr. Frodo."

Sam drew Frodo a few inches closer, and Frodo followed his steps. Dancing with Sam was easy and comfortable. Sam's jaw brushed pleasantly against Frodo's, and he smelled of soap and a whiff of ale. His hands slid down and locked around Sam's waist. The quick steps of the dance melted away in Frodo's ears, and Sam's motion faltered, almost stopped...

BANG!

The fireworks had started, to oohs and aaahs of delight. Frodo had a sudden impulse to grab Sam and pull him into a private corner where they could watch them. Or not watch them. Then he saw Bilbo in the crowd, and dashed forward. He had to see - had to stop -

"Bilbo, watch out for the dragon!"

"Dragon?" Bilbo repeated, but Frodo hurried him out of the way just as the stunning red-gold firework swooped down on them.

The dragon exploded in a shower of sparks, and Bilbo hopped up.
"That is the signal for supper!" he said happily, and everyone rushed to the tables.

*

The next hour was dreamlike to Frodo. He was eating, and drinking, and sharing jokes with friends. Then Bilbo was being cheered for a speech and went up to give it, fiddling with something in his pocket. The great birthday cake caught on fire, but nobody noticed. For Bilbo was making his announcement. Frodo heard "excellent and admirable hobbits", "leaving" and then Bilbo vanished from sight.

Frodo felt flat and cold. So that was that.

"I'll think of it all tomorrow, when I can stand it," he whispered to himself.

He mechanically ordered more wine to be served, and took a glass of Old Winyards he had intended to use to toast Bilbo. He made the toast silently, swallowing the rich wine as if it was vinegar.

He made his way back to Bag End as soon as he could, tripping over things on the lawn. But when he entered the smial and found the magic ring on the floor, he knew it was too late. Gandalf had little in the way of comfort - indeed, he barely spoke to Frodo, it seemed, before he was rushing out the door again.

He stood in the quiet, clean smial, hearing the faint racket of the party. He barely looked up when the door opened, cautiously, and Samwise slipped in. He went to the kitchen and turned a china cup on the table, talking over Mr. Bilbo's disappearance.

"Sir? Are you all right?"

His voice went on in the quiet and Frodo heard words, but they made no sense to him. His mind was tiredly trying to take in the harsh truth that Bilbo had gone, gone perhaps forever. His mind said: "He's leaving me. He's leaving me." But no emotion stirred.

"I'm fine. You should get back to the party, Sam."

"Not while you're here on your own," Sam countered.

"I'm perfectly capable of staying here by myself."

Sam moved forward as if to cup Frodo's cheek with his hand. He withdrew it, and looked around the smial.

"Well, it doesn't feel right, that. Not wanting to invade your privacy none, but maybe I should stay here the night, by the fire. Just to keep an eye on things. Folks'll be running up here to ask questions, you can be sure of it."

Frodo thought of that, and almost groaned.

"I'll shut the place up for now - no wait, Merry and Pippin and Fatty are bound to come back soon, and they can help me out. I'll go to my room for a rest."

"I could make you a hot toddy or something, sir. Mr. Bilbo did say as I should look after you. He didn't tell me he was leaving, but I know what he meant now."

"Thank you Sam," said Frodo, somewhat coldly, "but I'm not a child and if I need anything I shall tell you."

"Anything?" Sam repeated.

Why did he stare at Frodo so? Really, it was getting irritating.

"Yes, anything. I'll wait for the others."

"But I don't want to leave you alone."

"Sam, please! I won't vanish into thin air." Frodo managed a sickly smile. "You should be out by that pavilion, kissing Rosie Cotton."

Sam glared. "Me! 'Tis you should be out there. You should be kissed, and often, and by someone who knows how."

The clock ticked. Loudly.

Sam stammered. "Sir, I - "

"And I suppose you're the one who knows how?" Frodo blurted.

"Well no sir, I don't," Sam amended, blushing. "But I know what you need and - I'll just go and make that toddy." He vanished almost as quickly as Bilbo.

*
Before Sam had finished in the kitchen Merry, Pippin and Fatty arrived and took charge. Frodo was ordered to rest. Frodo saw no more of Sam until later the next day, and then helping his Gaffer take a load of potatoes home to Number Three.

When the mathoms had been dealt out, and the will shown to the Sackville-Bagginses, and any number of after-party things completed, Frodo sent his cousins off to the Ivy Bush. It was difficult to avoid going as well. But he had managed it, waving them off and sitting in the garden to enjoy its autumn fragrance unhindered.

He patted his jacket, extracted a pipe and held it to his nose for a moment. A match flared. He leaned back against a post and, clasping his hands about his knees, smoked a while in
silence. The still darkness of the warm night closed about them. A bird, which nested in the tangle of roses and honeysuckle, roused from slumber and gave one timid, liquid note. Then, as if thinking better of the matter, it was silent again.

From the shadow of the porch, Sam suddenly coughed. Frodo felt both pleased and awkward. That kissing comment... He was indignant that Sam had read his mind. Frodo liked to believe himself a thing of mystery, but he knew Sam thought him transparent as glass.

Sam came forward, his face shadowed. Frodo smelled pipesmoke and ale again, that delicious heady combination. He suspected Sam had been drinking quite a lot, from the awkwardness of his gait.

"Are you still feeling lonely, sir?" His voice was slightly slurred, either with drink or emotion of some kind.

"Well, yes, but not much," Frodo said hastily.

"Did you think about what I said?" Sam said suddenly. "The kissing?"

"Of course not, not at all," Frodo said, sitting very still.

Sam looked downcast. "Then - why are you pouting up your mouth that way?"

"Oh!" Frodo turned scarlet and tried to stand up, but Sam was a solid bulk in his way. Frodo sat back, half-expecting to be pushed.

Taking Frodo's hand with his own trembling one, Sam turned it over and pressed his lips into the palm. Something vital, electric, leaped from Sam to Frodo at the touch of his warm mouth, something that caressed his whole body thrillingly. His lips travelled to Frodo's wrist and he knew he must feel the leap of his pulse as his heart quickened and he tried to draw back his hand. He had not bargained on this - this treacherous warm tide of feeling that made him want to run his hands through Sam's hair, to feel his lips upon his mouth.

Then Sam's arms went around his waist and shoulders and he felt the hard muscles of Sam's thighs against his body and the buttons of his coat pressing into his chest. A warm tide of feeling, bewildering, swept over him, carrying out of his mind the time and place and circumstances.

"I've waited a long time, me dear," Sam said into Frodo's neck, "Oh, so long. Let me, just once. Just one - beautiful - memory."

He was kissing Frodo now, kissing him with slow, hot lips that were so hungry as though he had the whole night before him. Merry had never kissed him like this. Never had the kisses of Pippin made him go hot and cold and shaky like this. Sam bent his body backward and his lips travelled down Frodo's throat to where the first button fell open at his collar.

"Sweet," Sam whispered. "Hot."

He swung Frodo off his feet into his arms.

"This is one night, Frodo, when you won't be lonely."

His head was crushed against Sam's chest and he heard the hard hammering of Sam's heart beneath his ears. He was a mad stranger and this was a passion he did not know. Frodo made a move to break out of his arms and realised he did not want to.

He was muttering things Frodo did not hear, his lips were evoking feelings never felt before. Sam was light and he was flame and there had never been anything before this time, only his lips upon him. Frodo tried to speak and Sam's mouth was over his again. Suddenly he had a wild thrill such as he had never known; joy, fear, madness, excitement, surrender to arms that were too strong, lips too sweet, fate that moved too fast. Somehow, his arms were around his neck and his lips trembling beneath Sam's and they were going up, up into the fire again, a fire that was soft and swirling and all enveloping.

*

Frodo woke the next morning in his own bed feeling thoroughly - well - shagged.

The memory of that wild night came back to him, making him blush. His very body remembered it, propping to attention. What had he been *thinking*, letting his gardener - his gardener! - do such things? Licks to a place he'd never been licked before, making him hard as a wagon axle and hot as a forge fire. He had tangled his fingers in Sam's hair and stroked and squeezed in return, making Sam yip like a puppy and growl like a hound. He had squirmed and panted and bobbed, a slave to that wonderful patient hand and gentle, torturing tongue. Sam had been inside him, solid and welcome, and he had gushed like a geyser, and watched Sam collapse in ecstasy three times in a row, and loved it, and... and... Well. Great balls of fire.
He stretched languorously, only then remembering Bilbo's departure. The pain returned, but dully, fading away under the memory of sensuous thoughts.

Sam entered the room, met Frodo's eyes briefly and deposited the firewood into its wicker basket.

"Morning, Mr. Frodo," he said.

Morning, Mr. Frodo?

Frodo struggled to sit up. "H - hello, Sam."

"Right cold morning," Sam observed. "Best be chopping more wood today. Breakfast's waiting on the table for you, sir."

"Oh. Thank you."

Frodo looked at his rumpled pillow, the places his clothing had hung until Sam had folded them away. He stood self-consciously for a moment, the light glinting on his sun-coloured hair.
Frodo sipped his tea and felt that awful cold descending on him again.

"Mr. Frodo, I'm thinking I should go to the Southfarthing for a while. I've some relations that way, and - "

"You mean leave?" Frodo sat right up, noting he still had a nightgown on. Sam must have put it on him after last night. Last night. Oh, that.

Sam met his eyes. "Now sir, I'm going and you're not stopping me. I mean it. Things has gone too far, and - "

"Leaving? But - what I am going to do without you? What will I do? Where will I go?"

"What's the good of me staying?" Sam burst out. "I wanted to comfort you, and you - you let me. But you don't care, all last night, you never said.." his voice cracked and he turned aside.

""I love you so much, and if you'd said you loved me just once I think I would have kissed your feet. But you didn't, you never did. There, I've said it. And I can't stay now."

Frodo paled. Had he been so selfish, so locked into his missing of Bilbo that he had taken Sam for granted?

And then he knew and fear squeezed his heart. In a hundred nightmares, he had fled through fog, through a haunted country without landmarks, thick with cold cloaking mist, peopled with clutching ghosts and shadows. Flying blindly he knew not where, driven by a nameless dread, seeking in the grey mist for the safety that lay somewhere.

Sam! That was his safety. That was who he was looking for. Home was Sam!

It was not Bilbo - though he did love him dearly. It was Sam - Sam who had strong arms to hold him, a broad chest to pillow his tired head, throaty chuckles to pull his affairs into proper perspective. And complete understanding, because he, like Frodo, saw truth as truth, and with that every good notion of honour, sacrifice, and high belief in beauty. Sam loved him! Why hadn't Frodo realised that he loved him?

Sam had stood, loving him, understanding him, ready to help. Sam at the party, reading the impatience in his eyes and leading him out in the reel, Sam helping him out of the bondage of mourning, Sam who would follow him through fire - why, no hobbit did such things without loving his master to distraction!

"And I love him," Frodo thought and he accepted the truth with wonder, as a child accepting a gift. "I don't know how long I've loved him but it's true."

He struggled to force the words to his lips. He had taken Sam for granted, but he loved Sam, and whether they shared a bed again or no, he had to know that.

"Sam, I was wrong. I do love you, I do! It's just, things have changed so suddenly. You were my gardener, and now you're ..."

"Aye," Sam said wearily. "I'm sorry, Mr. Frodo."

"Sam." Frodo's mouth closed around the name. "I thought it was Bilbo I would miss most when he left Bag End, but it was you. Forgive me. I don't regret what happened last night." He began to get out of bed, but Sam stiffened as if ready to flee.

Oh, what was the use? Frodo thought, wretched. He's leaving just like Bilbo. By the time that mist comes up he'll have disappeared with the breeze. Vanished with the zephyr. Left with the gusts...

Then anger simmered up in him. He seized Sam's arms, those lovely arms. "Sam, you must stay! Elbereth be my witness - " he gulped for breath, "I'll never let you leave me again!"

"You will though," said Sam, after a long pause. "And you'll break your heart, Mr. Frodo. I don't know if I can bear that."

"But I won't!"

Sam stared at him a long moment, then crossed the short distance between them and kissed him. Hard.

"All right, my love. All right. I'll stay with you."

Frodo almost laughed with relief.

"Sam - I wouldn't break your heart, not ever - but you mean - you'll stay with me - even if I did - I mean I wouldn't but I - "

Sam's tone was caressing and his hands slid up his bare arms, warm strong hands. "I love you, Frodo, me dear. And if you leave I'll follow you. But I'll not share your bed again. I'd have to marry or you will, one day. It'd break both our hearts."

"Oh!" Frodo burrowed into Sam's arms, feeling the heartbeat he loved best against his. "I can bear it, Sam. I will. I won't get married. And even if you do, or I do, I don't care. I just want you now. Now is all I want. Tomorrow is only another day."

Sam kissed Frodo's dark hair.

"If you're sure," he whispered. "If you're sure, me dear."

"I'm sure," Frodo whispered back. "And if tomorrow comes - why frankly, my dear Samwise, I don't give a damn."


 

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