West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
Frodo's first summer at Bag End gets better.
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Notes: Written for the Hobbit_Smut Livejournal
Community "I'm Doing Who?" Challenge. It has
been re-edited slightly since then.
Thanks to Elderberry Wine for a fast, sensible
beta-reading. Any remaining oddities or confusions
are all my own fault.
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Frodo paused one afternoon, during his first summer at Bag End, in the midst of reading his way through Cousin Bilbo's admirable library. He'd already read the few books about Men and quite a number of histories and memoirs by hobbits, and was presently working on the only one of Bilbo's books about Dwarves that Bilbo himself hadn't written.
A patch of angular Dwarven runes amid the Tengwar characters had Frodo stumped at the moment, and he took a moment to gaze out the study window. Gaffer Gamgee could be seen daily in the garden during the summer warmth, and Frodo saw that today he was accompanied by a tweenaged lad with a wheelbarrow. After a moment Frodo recognized the Gaffer's eldest son, a lad older than Frodo and usually away working on some or another farm with his Cotton or Brown cousins.
The Gaffer favored one arm today, and leaned on one of the garden sectioning posts while he pointed the lad -- Hamson, Frodo remembered -- at various plants for attention, voicing comments that drifted to Frodo as no more than murmurs in the haze of heat and the distance from the end of the garden. Nevertheless, the sight of someone not far from his own age held Frodo's attention for another moment. Hobbiton boasted more hobbits than Brandy Hall, true, but they weren't all in the town. Everyone lived in lanes and on rows and farms that might be a league or more away.
Frodo bent back to the page and all but forgot about the other lad in the fascination of deciphering the runes, which were not after all a new language, but only a different way of signifying the familiar sounds that made up words.
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Two days later, seated in the coolest part of the garden with a book of Westron tales, Frodo saw the Gaffer and his son again. Hamson had the family's gold-touched hair and wore a worn homespun shirt and breeches held up only by a woven rope belt. The two Gamgees were bent over the flourishing vegetable beds as the Gaffer explained something about roots. Hamson nodded at intervals, dutifully attentive, but when the Gaffer gestured him to a row of turnips, he yanked the first one out of the ground in a way that made his father wince.
"Have a care for the earth, lad. It's grown you that 'neep and 'tis rude to pull it so sudden. Work it free and draw it out easy. You want the whole of the root out."
Hamson pulled the next turnip more slowly, and the next, but he worked awkwardly, stiffer than his father even without a sore shoulder to shorten his movements. During one of the Gaffer's demonstrations, Hamson straightened up to look beyond the turnip bed, and his eyes met Frodo's and widened in surprise.
Frodo realized that if he barely recognized Hamson then the other lad might not know him either, but there was only a quizzical moment's regard before Hamson nodded at him, much as the Gaffer did: acknowledging and dismissing him at the same time. Frodo, unaccountably embarrassed at being caught watching the gardeners, looked back at his book while Hamson turned back to the turnips.
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The next day, Frodo carried one of Bilbo's books about Dwarven customs (especially those of Bifur, Bombur and Bofur) and a sack of apples into the patch of woods below Bagshot Row for an afternoon's reading. As he passed Number Three, he noticed Hamson again, feeding chickens in the side yard with a care and grace that all the vegetables at Bag End hadn't excited. Daisy came out the kitchen door as he watched and seized the bowl of scraps from Hamson, with a toss of her head and a word Frodo couldn't hear. It was then that Hamson's eyes caught Frodo's and this time they did not drop when Frodo returned the gaze forthrightly.
Frodo gave him a smile and went on past, and presently found a tree to sit against as he opened Tales of the Latter-Day Dwarves. There were no runes on these pages; the Dwarven accomplishments that Bilbo chronicled were far removed from writing, and Frodo was fast coming to the idea that Bilbo might have learned a few more things from the Dwarves than he put into his other written tales. Could he ask his cousin about it some evening, when they'd had enough wine that Bilbo might forget to be as circumspect as he had been in regaling the youngsters of Brandy Hall?
This notion, and the book's incidental accounts of Dwarven cooking and use of herbs, occupied Frodo for several apple's worth of reading before the shadows in the glade became too cool for comfort and Frodo realized the sky through the leaves overhead had darkened enough that he was missing suppertime instead of tea. And, that someone else was walking between the trees.
"Master Frodo?" called a voice in Hobbiton speech, the kind Bilbo called the Midfarthing accent when he was in a mood to overly refine his categories. "Are you here?"
"Over here," said Frodo. "Did Uncle Bilbo send you to look for me?" He stood up and shook the volume he'd been reading to make sure no grass or leaf-mold would be trapped in it to stain the pages.
"Yes, sir. Master Bilbo says you'll be needing your dinner."
"You're Hamson Gamgee, aren't you?" said Frodo. "Thank you for finding me." He joined Hamson in the path and they turned toward Bagshot Row. Hamson was barely taller than Frodo, but he was round as any tween should be and walked in a solid, easy way that made Frodo feel envious. "I don't think I've seen you much before. Are you living at Number Three now?"
"Aye, for the summer," said Hamson. "The plantin' season and the harvest need all the hands a farm can find, but there's a bit of summer between that's only good for lettin' it grow."
"Your father puts you to work, I saw yesterday."
"Aye." Hamson sighed. "Proper farmin' is a fair job, and I guess a garden is too."
"But do you like it?"
"I don't see plants personal-like, the way Dad does," Hamson admitted.
"What would you rather do?" The farm work had left Hamson very brown, and he nearly glowed in the last warm sunlight of the day.
Hamson looked down, away from Frodo. "You'd laugh if I told you."
"Why? Do you want to do something laughable, like reading all the tales in Bilbo's books?" Frodo waved the book he was carrying.
"That's not it." Hamson's eyes followed the book in Frodo's hand. "And I'm not laughin' at you. I can read some words. Mam taught me, when I was a tad."
"Words like this?" asked Frodo, offering the book to him. It was Bilbo's rough copy, bound with string and coverless, so the first page showed the title in large, plain letters.
"'Tales of the Later Day...' Hamson peered at the book and set a finger to counting over the letters of the last word in the title. "Dorvs."
"That's close. Dwarves," said Frodo. "Here." He stopped, and caught the warm, strongly-made hand where it still touched the paper over the D. Frodo found himself cupping his own hand around it to direct it to the letters. "Dee, oo, ah, reh, veh, and ess."
Hamson let his hand stay in Frodo's. "Dwarves," he said. "So that's it. What do the Dwarves have to say, Master Frodo?" They were standing close together now over the book, and his warm brown eyes flashed at Frodo in the westering sun.
Frodo thought of Recipe for a fish caught underwater and slippery, and Recipe for a fish caught on land and needing liquid, and the entirely too interesting, Recipe for fish to be caught in a cave and how best to get it out again whole, and felt himself blushing, though he hoped it might not be obvious in the deep, fading light. "It's full of Dwarven recipes," he managed. "For herbal mixtures, and the like."
Hamson studied him, head tilted a little. "Aye, I'll take your word on it. Mayhap you'd tell me a bit more about it, later."
They were both late for dinner and standing in view of all of Bagshot Row, and even so, Frodo had a feeling that Hamson could guess far too exactly the sort of things the book actually contained. "Maybe I will," he said. "Tomorrow. If you like. I'll be the same place as today." He met Hamson's eyes for a moment and felt a lick of sunset-colored fire run through him. Then they were pulling apart, one to Number Three and one to Bag End.
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Hamson appeared in the heat of the afternoon, at a moment when Frodo was engrossed in just how a fish of excessive size might be retrieved from even the narrowest and most clinging crevice with the aid of a tasty syrup of hyssop and yarrow leaves, well-boiled and blended into sheep fat. Just as the narrative was encompassing treatment of the head of the fish (or, in a previous similar recipe, axe), lightly oiled for ease...
"You're readin' that book awful hard," said a Midfarthing voice above Frodo's head.
Frodo uncurled his left hand from its clutching grip on the spine of the book, and tried to relax the other from a tight fist in the grass. "I suppose I might be. Recipes are exciting reading, you know."
Hamson sat beside him without being asked and gave Frodo a sidelong look. "Could be. Mam always frowns when she's tryin' to write one down."
The book remained open at the yarrow recipe, deliciously unfinished. Frodo had a feeling there might be an illustrative diagram on the next leaf over, and decided not to turn the page quite yet. "Was I frowning?"
"Not the way Mam does." Hamson peered over at the words and reached toward the book, or was it toward Frodo? "Mayhap you'd show me how the letters go again. Is that 'fish'?" He let a finger hover over the word. "Do Dwarves eat fish?"
"So they do," said Frodo, his stomach jittery. An earlier chapter had covered several techniques for the eating of fish. "I have to say that I don't think the book really means 'fish' when it says it."
"Oh?" Wide brown eyes met his, expectant. "What does it mean?"
Frodo wondered how to answer that, and then realized that his face must have answered it for him.
"Aha," said Hamson, "fish." He grinned with a flash of teeth. "No wonder y'were readin' the book so. Do you like fishin'? With another lad?"
"I think I might."
"Have you tried it?"
Frodo turned the page, nervously, and found that there was indeed an exceedingly explicit drawing of two Dwarves, one fishing the other, both depicted as enthusiastic in their pastime. Just as he realized that Bilbo must have drawn the sketch -- or at the very least, asked someone to draw it for him -- perhaps one of the very Dwarves whose habits were discussed throughout the book -- a strong brown hand closed around his, fingers sliding across his palm and thumb caressing his wrist. "Well -- that's rare!" It was not entirely apparent whether he referred to the picture or to Frodo's now-tingling hand.
"So that's what the hyssop salve is for," said Frodo, as though he hadn't known something of the sort must be needed.
"Is that what you like?" Hamson asked, sounding perhaps curious, perhaps encouraging, but not in any way reluctant.
"I rather thought the chapters on eating fish were more interesting." With his free hand, Frodo turned pages backwards. The picture he found was not detailed and might even have been mistaken for two bearded fish nestled on a platter, but to someone aware of the intent, it was perfectly plain.
"Aye, they be... that looks good," said Hamson.
"Good enough to eat?" asked Frodo, and was rewarded with a guffaw and a warm presence not merely at his side, but pressed against his back.
"There's eating, and there's other things. Weren't herby syrups and sauces in those recipes?"
The close-tucked body behind him shifted just enough that Frodo was distinctly aware of a ridge of pressure tucked up against his bottom, making him tingle all over.
"There were... ah, all manner of things," said Frodo, more interested now in Hamson than any recipe, even a Dwarvish one. He was being held from behind in an embrace that felt close and ready, and in a word, knowing. Hamson knew for himself what Frodo only read about.
"Do yon Dwarves dress their fish for the eating?" Nimble brown fingers toyed with Frodo's trouser-buttons, but did not unfasten them.
"It's more likely that they... undress them," said Frodo. "Please."
"Please?" said Hamson's voice, low in his ear. "I 'ud thank you if there's a chance of undressin' a fine fish today."
Frodo writhed in the firm embrace, gasping as two fingers outlined a light fish shape over his trouser-fly. "Oh, yes. Oh, please." He pushed back into Hamson until he was more than sure that his wasn't the only fish present, and with his free hand groped blindly at Hamson's breeches. "You too. You're..."
"I want a bit of doin' just as much, don't you fear." The voice in Frodo's ear had gone rough, and the body pressed behind him moved in counterpoint, rolling and rubbing against his arse.
Frodo, aching beyond care, grabbed the light-teasing hand and pushed it where he wanted more. Hamson chuckled and set to undoing the trouser-buttons in earnest. "Easy, or your fish'll leap out and fly away before I have a chance to taste it." He slipped a hand down to cup Frodo and stroke down, then up.
"Ahh... ta... tas..." Frodo couldn't feel anything but the cool fingers like water flowing over him, swirling over the head of him as easily as if they or it were oiled, and back down again. He could only wrap his arms, backward, around the lad who could barely read and yet read what the Dwarves had to say as well as he did, and moan as he was caught and skinned and basted and held in a fire that burned much hotter than he expected.
Frodo sat up from the patch of grass where he found himself sprawled half-naked next to Hamson, who was smiling at him, all white teeth and sparkling eyes in a ruddy face. He scarcely knew the lad, and he was already wondering if the taste of fish was as good as the Dwarves seemed to think. "That was the most fun I've ever had on dry land," he finally said, and lay back down where he could finger the rope belt snug around Hamson's waist. "Can I untie this?"
Hamson's grin broadened. "That depends. Can you?"
It took two tries, but Frodo could.
Some time later, when they were sprawled again on moss and grass and a knobby tree root that somehow hadn't been noticeable when he first rolled onto it, Frodo glanced around and made sure the book was safe in the shade of his reading tree, and then looked back at Hamson. "Did you like it?"
"That's a daft question. Think you, if you liked it."
Fair enough. It wasn't quite what Frodo wanted to know, anyway. "Do you often catch fish as fast as that?"
Hamson tilted up his head so as to smile directly at Frodo. "'Tisn't hard, when the fish wants to be caught."
"Will you come here again tomorrow? We could read another recipe or two."
"Aye," said Hamson. "You're a rare lad, and no mistake, even without the book-readin'."
"I'll read you something as rare, tomorrow." Frodo shifted to sit up, and discovered that the ridged root he thought he'd been lying on was Hamson's coarse-woven belt. "When I first saw you, I noticed this." The belt cinched at Hamson's waist had made even homespun breeches outline a fine figure of a lad. "Did you make it?"
"Aye, I spun it meself. Daisy has fits when I do her work, but I can spin faster than she can. Mam taught me that, too."
"Your mother gives you a lot."
"Aye, she's a grand lass." Frodo shot him a startled look. "M'father says it, and I'll not disagree. My sisters, now... they'll drive a lad up a tree and down the other side in a blink." He blinked at Frodo, lazily.
"But will you be staying in Hobbiton?"
Hamson shrugged. "For the summer. Until harvest. Then I'm off again."
"I'll be sorry if you go."
"Considering the sweet fishing hereabouts, I'll be sorry too."
"Will you come back, later?"
"Mayhap. There's talk I might visit my uncle who spins rope, and that could be a fine thing." He looked at Frodo. "Don't pine. Rope's needed everywhere. I'd bring you a hank."
Frodo tried to smile, and then succeeded. "Bring me enough twine to make a net. Maybe I'll catch a fish."
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