West of the Moon

A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive

 

 

Spring Thunder
A lightning storm drives a frightened Sam into Bag End, where Frodo is more than happy to protect him. (pre-Quest)
Author: Fennelseed
Rating: PG-13

 

The sound of the wheelbarrow squeaking was loud in the afternoon stillness. Frodo, sweeping the floor in Bag End's front room, turned in confusion, wondering why he could hear it so clearly. Ah - of course - the window was open. He had forgotten, given the complete lack of a cool breeze or even the faintest stir in the air. Hoping for such a draft had been the reason he had opened it in the first place, three or four hours ago, but the heat and mugginess had not improved. In fact, they seemed to have gotten worse.

Frodo opened the front door, swept the dust outside, and stepped outside. It was no cooler out here, but he lingered, finding himself impressed by the clouds piled above the Blue Mountains to the west. They had been building all day, but were towering quite high now: thick, clotted, curdled masses, flat and grey at the base and brilliant white at the peaks. Thunderheads if he'd ever seen them.

Sam, the source of the squeaking wheelbarrow, came around the corner looking distracted. "Afternoon, sir," he muttered, and knelt with a pair of shears to begin dead-heading the roses.

"Have you looked at those clouds?" Frodo answered.

"Yes, sir." Sam didn't look up.

"I know it just rained last week, but it's so hot today I think I wouldn't mind if they brought us some more."

"Reckon they will." Sam did not sound happy. He went on snipping the wilted rose-heads and dropping them into a bucket.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we even saw some thunderstorms," Frodo went on. "Late spring, in the afternoon - it's the right time for them."

Sam only sighed, through his nose, his lips pressed shut. "It is," he admitted a moment later.

Frodo began to understand that his attempts at small talk were falling on uncooperative ears. He cast a quizzical look down at his gardener, who had made quick work of the rosebushes and was already getting up to dispose of the clippings. Sam had been decidedly less than talkative all day. Frodo experienced a moment's queasiness at the thought that maybe Sam was avoiding him. Maybe Sam had found out the kind of things Frodo had been thinking. Maybe Frodo hadn't been as secretive as he had intended. Maybe the scales had fallen from Sam's eyes and he had come to the unsavory realization that his master Frodo, now that he had the run of Bag End, was spending a lot of time wandering around in it and daydreaming about kissing his friend Samwise. (And doing rather more than kissing, if the truth were to be told.)

But that was a silly thing to think. Frodo had been very, very careful to look and sound normal all the months that he had been feeling these things, hadn't told anyone that he was thinking about Sam, and hadn't written it down anywhere, not even in Elvish. He had been a picture-perfect coward about the topic, in fact. The only way Sam could have known was if he had learned how to read minds - and while apparently some of the higher Elves could do that, Frodo felt assured that Sam definitely had not mastered the skill.

As he watched Sam carry the bucket to the wheelbarrow and dump the withered rosebuds into it, Frodo tested his assumption by sending a swift and definite thought in Sam's direction, one designed to startle him: *Bring that adorable arse over here, Sam. I've a mind to kiss you so hard your head'll be spinning till next Tuesday.*

Predictably, Sam did not flinch, jump, look at him, or give any other indication of having received the silent message. Frodo smiled at his own ridiculousness and returned to looking at the clouds.

Sam hoisted the handles of the wheelbarrow and rushed it off behind the house without another word, moving on to his next task like a small golden-headed whirlwind. Frodo plucked the front of his shirt and fluffed it repeatedly, hoping to stir a breeze to cool his humid skin. Involved with this, he turned on his heel and strolled back into the hole. Since Sam wasn't in a communicative mood, might as well sit down and read about romances that did work out, he thought.

He was doing just that, an hour or so later, sprawled over a leather chair and subconsciously resenting its stickiness against the warm skin of his calf, when the sweetest of unexpected sensations touched him: a breeze. A fresh breeze, from the open window. Frodo clapped the book shut, leaped up, strode to the front door, and swept it open. The wind was light but rode high on the air as if it had come a long distance. The sky overhead was now in motion, accumulating a mass of eastward-moving clouds. The afternoon was darker than it should have been, given the hour, and the land was eerily quiet except for the faint stir of the wind.

Frodo walked out onto his front path and tipped his head back to smile at the burgeoning clouds. *Come on and rain,* he invited, trying out his telepathy skills on a target that was likelier to obey. True, from the look of things, it was going to rain, and rain hard, whether or not Frodo willed it, but it was fun to pretend he commanded the weather, as if he were a valiant wizard in a story.

Sam trundled past him, in a rush, with the wheelbarrow.

"Think our storm's rolling in," Frodo called to him, though he knew this was a statement of the annoyingly obvious to someone like Sam, who, being a gardener, paid much more attention to things like seasons and weather than most people did.

"Aye," Sam's voice drifted back, from the tool shed. "Just want to...get these things put away and get on home...before it hits...drat it, forgot those shears." He emerged from the shed and hurried back to the last hedgerow he had been working on.

A bright flash pulsed across the western sky, three times in quick succession. Frodo turned to look that direction, just as two consequent things happened: first, thunder broke and rolled across the land, low and echoing; and second, Sam shot past Frodo like a hunted rabbit and disappeared into Bag End.

The first had been expected, since thunder usually follows lightning, but the second bemused Frodo quite thoroughly. "So, why don't you come in, Sam?" he called, dryly.

Sam did not answer. Frodo walked back to his front step and peered into the hole. "Sam? Everything all right?"

Sam's head slowly emerged from the doorway to the kitchen. Judging from appearances, he had been standing in the corner, between the wall and the shelves of pots and pans, which was a particularly strange place to stand. "I..." Sam began. "I'm...a bit jumpy around lightning, begging your pardon, sir."

"Well, don't beg *my* pardon; it's no inconvenience to me. I just wanted to make sure you-" Frodo's reply was interrupted by a deafening bolt of lightning, which split a tree no more than five hundred feet away, from the sound of it. Frodo jumped, and turned to look outside, while the ground beneath his feet shook from the sound-wave. At that moment, the skies opened and the rain began pouring down. Frodo ducked inside and shut the door. "Well, then," he said, "I suppose you'll be wanting to wait here a little while, until it...Sam?" He got to the kitchen and found he had apparently been speaking to no one, as the kitchen was quite empty of fellow hobbits.

He went into the hallway and looked into each room as he passed. "Sam?" At the first bedroom - a small guest room he mostly used as a place to store out-of-season clothes - he noticed the closet door swinging ajar on its hinge, and went in to investigate. Another rumble of thunder rattled the windows in the front room. Rain spat against the panes. Frodo caught the edge of the closet door and swung it open to reveal Sam sitting on the floor of the closet, his shoulders in the hems of the hanging coats, his head hidden against his drawn-up knees, and his hands resolutely covering his ears.

Frodo stood a moment staring at this odd vision, his mind confusingly bringing up a time several years ago when he had found Sam in this exact same place during a game of Hide-and-Seek. But, as far as Frodo could remember, neither of them had suggested a game today, and they were rather too old for it in any case. And clearly Sam's motive in diving into the closet had not been to engage Frodo in play, but to escape from the storm. "A bit jumpy" started to look like something of an understatement.

Frodo knelt, and put his hand on Sam's shoulder. Sam, who had been keeping his eyes and ears blocked and therefore hadn't known anyone was next to him, nearly flipped upside-down at the touch. When he saw it was Frodo - a Frodo who, despite his best efforts, was starting to laugh at the reaction - he relaxed just enough to breathe.

"Sorry to startle you," Frodo said. "I didn't know how else to get your attention."

"It's all right," Sam said, then hugged his knees and hid his eyes again.

"What are you doing?" Frodo asked, though he was beginning to suspect that a rational explanation would not be forthcoming.

"I wanted somewhere safe."

"And you decided that this closet was the safest place in the house...how?"

"There's no windows," Sam mumbled, pitifully.

Frodo's already-sympathetic heart softened further at this answer. He shifted so he was sitting beside his trembling companion, half in the closet and half in the room. "You know, I think we are going to live," he assured Sam. "True, we've probably lost a tree out there, and I left an apron on the clothesline which is undoubtedly getting very wet right now, but I think, somehow, if we're very brave, we'll manage to pull through."

His light tone did not appear to be having the intended effect. Sam kept his head covered, and mourned, "I've always hated it. Every time. Today when I saw them clouds, I knew it was coming. I've been dreading it all day and hoping by some chance it wouldn't..."

Outside, the thunder cracked and boomed again. The closet door shook in response. Frodo could see the glitter of the lightning reflected on the slate floors of the hallway. Sam whimpered and compressed himself into a tighter ball.

Although he knew it was bold of him, given his daydreams, Frodo found that he was putting his arm around Sam. Both arms, in fact. And saying "Shh" into his ear in a very soothing sort of way. Well, it was the kind of thing you couldn't help doing, when you had someone cowering in one of your closets in obvious need of comfort. He imagined - or hoped, anyway - Sam would reason it like that later, when the storm was over and he looked back on the incident.

"I don't remember you ever being like this before," Frodo mused. "And we've had plenty of storms."

"You never saw me during any of them," Sam pointed out. "Most likely 'cause I was hiding under my bed."

Frodo made a gentle click with his tongue, and rested his cheek on Sam's hair. Nice soft hair that smelled of rosehips and pipeweed smoke. Not that Frodo should be thinking about that. "Is there some reason you don't like the lightning?" he asked, cautiously, fearing a heart-rending story about a lost Gamgee relative who was electrified in a treetop or something.

But Sam shook his head. "It just always looked evil to me. Sinister. The way it flashes...the way it kills things...the way you don't know where it's going to strike..."

"Well, when you put it that way, I begin to see what you mean," Frodo said thoughtfully. "I always thought it was rather beautiful and exciting, before."

"It killed a whole party of hobbits, once. Seven youngsters having a picnic down in the Southfarthing. A storm came up and they hid under a tree, but the tree got struck. And they all died."

Frodo frowned. "When was this?"

"I don't know. A long time ago. My Gaffer told me about it."

"Well, we're inside, and we're mostly underground, and we're going to be fine, I promise you."

Just then, as if to mock Frodo's assurance, another bolt of lightning whip-cracked overhead. The sound of rain redoubled. Sam shuddered, and curled closer into Frodo, which Frodo found more gratifying than he wanted to admit. He tightened his hold, said something pointless like "There, there," and felt rather guilty for hoping that this was going to be one of those four-hour storms rather than one of those fifteen-minute storms.

"Does anyone keep you company, during these, usually?" Frodo asked.

"My mother used to." Sam was speaking into Frodo's shirt-buttons. "I'm too grown-up to be babied about it now, she says. And she's right."

"Oh." Frodo pulled away, an inch or two. "Would you prefer to be left alone?"

"No, stay." Sam tugged his arm, his words punctuated by a rumble of thunder.

Frodo was more than happy to stay. "Are you sure I can't lure you out of this closet?" he asked. "There are whole rooms here that don't have windows, you know. This one, for instance."

"Only if you shut the door."

"What?"

"The door, to the hallway. I don't want to see the lightning. It reaches in, from the other windows."

"All right," said Frodo. "Give me a moment; I'll need to get a lamp. It's getting darker outside, and will be quite black in here once the door's shut." He extricated himself from Sam's grip, hurried out of the room, retrieved matches and an oil lamp from his own bedroom, and returned. When he had gotten the lamp lit, and the door firmly closed, he said, "It's safe to come out, Sam."

Sam emerged from the closet, on hands and knees, and sat wearily on the floor, against the sofa that doubled as a bed. Frodo set the lamp on a small end table, then dusted off the sofa cushions, and sat down. "Sit up here, Sam. Plenty of room. You needn't stay on the floor."

"Yes, sir." Sam climbed up and curled himself into the opposite corner of the sofa - which, in Frodo's opinion, was not nearly as nice as curling himself into Frodo's arms.

"You really intend to stay in here the whole storm?" Frodo asked.

"As long as there's lightning."

"It could be hours, you know."

"I know."

Frodo thought on this a moment. "Well then, the least I could do, as a good host, would be to take your mind off it. If I make tea, will you have some?"

"I suppose."

"And then how about I read to you, tell you stories, something like that?"

Sam nodded solemnly. "That'd be nice."

Frodo slapped his hands on his legs and stood up. "Then I'll get to it." More thunder rolled from one end of the sky to the other. Sam whimpered and hid his head under a throw pillow. Frodo paused to pet his back and murmur assurances to him, then hurried out to get the tea started. He was careful to shut the bedroom door behind him.

While the water heated, Frodo pushed through his bookshelves for the storybooks best suited to the situation, and took down a wide selection: pirate adventures, wizard adventures, comedic poetry, Elven travel tales, romances of Men. Every few minutes, the lightning lit up the panes of his windows, with loud thunderclaps and rain short on its heels, and made Frodo wince sympathetically. Poor Sam - he was probably getting lonely back there. Frodo bent his telekinetic skills on getting the water to boil faster.

Finally, balancing a tray with kettle, cups, and books, Frodo returned to the guest room. Sam was in the same position in which Frodo had left him, though a bit deeper entrenched into the cushions.

Frodo set the tray down next to the lamp, and nudged Sam with his knee. Sam peeked out from under the pillow, then sat up slowly to accept the cup that Frodo was offering him. "I chose the mint-flavored variety," Frodo said. "I find it soothing, myself."

"Thanks." Sam sipped the tea gingerly. "Still sounds right nasty out there."

Frodo resettled himself on the sofa. "Yes. We're lucky to be inside. Can you imagine if we'd been on the road?"

Sam shuddered.

His own mention of being on the road set Frodo's mind drifting sadly for a moment. He temporarily forgot about his schemes to get Sam to curl up against him. He absentmindedly wrapped a piece of his hair around his finger, and sipped at the tea without tasting it.

Sam's voice, soft, addressed him. "I'm sure Mr. Bilbo's all right, sir."

Frodo lifted his lashes and found Sam watching him. He quickly added another entry to his long mental list of things he liked about Sam: Sam knew when Frodo was worried, knew what it was about, and knew what to say. Frodo reached out and gave Sam's knee a squeeze. "Yes. Thank you; I imagine you're right. The Elves will take good care of him. "

Fresh thunder crashed around the hill. Sam inhaled unhappily, and looked at the ceiling as if dreading its collapse.

Frodo drank another swallow of tea, then set aside his cup. "Here, Sam." He picked a book from the stack on the tray, and leaned his back against the arm of the sofa, with his legs stretched out along the cushions. "Come read with me."

Sam moved over without argument. Frodo propped up one knee and gathered Sam between his legs, with Sam's head resting against his shoulder, so they could both see the storybook. Frodo's arms made a protective circle around him, and Sam seemed to relax a little.

"This is a book for slightly younger readers," Frodo said, "but the stories are quite good. Timeless sort, you know."

"The pictures are nice, as well," Sam commented, eyeing the open page in front of him as he sipped at his tea.

"Yes. Very expensive inks, I imagine. One of Bilbo's acquisitions for me. Better than I deserved, as always."

"Nonsense," scorned Sam.

"No, really, the inks are the most expensive part of such books."

"I mean it's nonsense that you don't deserve it," Sam clarified.

Frodo chuckled gently. "I know," he confided. "I was joking. You're very kind."

"Oh. Well." Sam bowed his head and focused on drinking the tea.

Kissing Sam on the ear-tip for his sweetness was a tempting idea, but an out-of-the-question one, unfortunately. Frodo flipped pages instead. "What shall we read? The sailor and the shark's song? The wizards who stole the endangered prince? The enchanted lady on the island?"

"Aye, that one," Sam said, which rather surprised Frodo, for that story was one of the romantic ones. True, it had adventure; the hero had to fight sea-serpents and bears and a swarm of small goblins before getting to the center of the island and kissing the maiden; but that was the whole point of the story, getting to kiss the maiden and going on to live a long, happy, married life with her. There was an almost erotic illustration to go with it. Well, all right, the two characters were only kissing in it, but the hero's breeches were awfully tight, and the lady's bodice was awfully low-cut, and it just made you think certain things when you were an adolescent or a young adult looking at this book.

But it was a nice story and Sam's choice was perfectly acceptable to Frodo. He smoothed the pages open at the beginning, and they lapsed quiet as they both began to read. Frodo had originally thought to read aloud to Sam, but since Sam could see the book for himself, and was perfectly capable of reading, he thought it would probably come off as patronizing. Anyway, this arrangement had its advantages. Frodo read faster than Sam did, so when he got to the end of a page he could take a minute or so to dally and let his nose trail through Sam's hair, or secure Sam closer against himself with the imperceptible press of a thigh. Every time the thunder and lightning rattled outside, Sam would tense up, and Frodo would touch him in consolation - the brush of one bare foot against another, or the nuzzle of a cheekbone against a temple, or the rub of a knuckle on a kneecap. By the time they got to that kiss between the hero and the lady, Frodo was nearly purring. He wanted to melt all around Sam like warm honey.

The thunderstorm, bless its soul, was still raging. A particularly loud clap shook the ground as they reached the end of the story. Sam unhappily shut his eyes.

"It can't last forever, don't you worry," Frodo said. He took Sam's empty teacup and set it on the tray behind him. Then he re-snuggled Sam against his chest, thinking that since the storm couldn't last forever, he'd better make the most of it while it did last.

"You must think I'm an awful baby," mumbled Sam.

"Not a bit," Frodo said. "We all have our phobias."

"You haven't."

"I have so. Snakes."

"Snakes?" Sam was surprised. He sat up and turned a bit so he could face Frodo.

"Ugh, yes. I get a chill just thinking about them."

"But - but snakes are good. You want snakes in the garden. They eat the nasty rodents and things, that mess up the place."

"I know, and I let them stay just for that. But they're cold and disgusting and some of them are even poisonous, and you can't ask me to love them. I won't; I can't bear the sight of them."

"I shan't ask you to, then." Sam smiled. "Never knew that about you. I always thought you and Mr. Bilbo were the bravest hobbits in the world."

"Hah. Bilbo I grant you, but me? What have I ever done to be brave?"

Sam shrugged and looked at the book again, which was still open to the almost-erotic final illustration. "You just are."

Frodo gazed at the picture too. "Not as brave as that fellow."

"Aye, he's brave and lucky as well. Gets the glory, and the kiss."

Frodo made a hum of agreement. He let his fingertip trace the edge of the illustration, along the vines of wisteria or honeysuckle or whatever exactly the flowering plant was supposed to be, then asked, trying to sound whimsical, "Have you ever kissed anyone?"

"Not like *that*. Why? Have you?"

"Ye-es..." Frodo said slowly. "There was a girl, once. She didn't quite like my style, however."

"How do you mean?" Sam was leaning against Frodo's arm, looking up at his face. He seemed to have completely forgotten the storm.

"I didn't know what I was doing. I'd never kissed anyone - except the aunts, on the cheek. She had to teach me how to go about it. Spent two weeks giving me lessons."

One of Sam's eyebrows twitched upward. "Lucky you."

"It was a good two weeks," Frodo admitted. "But then at the end of it, just when I started to feel experienced, she got tired of me and that was it."

Sam shook his head. "Lasses," he said, in a dire tone.

"Lasses," Frodo agreed.

Thunder rippled, more softly, around the edges of the hills. The rain made a soft rushing sound.

Not looking at Sam, Frodo asked, barely louder than the rain, "Would you like to learn how?"

The five or six seconds of silence before Sam answered were some of the longest in Frodo's life.

"What, right now?" Sam said.

"O-only if you want," stuttered Frodo.

More silence. Sam wasn't flying out of his arms in an affronted panic or anything, and that was good. But it was still taking him an aggravatingly long time to answer.

"You'd...teach...me?" Sam said.

Frodo nodded. He glanced very quickly at Sam. It was hard to tell, with only one lamp lit in the room, but he thought that might be a blush on his gardener's face. He also thought his gardener's lips looked unfairly soft and full and inviting. He looked away.

"Why would you want to do that with me?" Sam asked. He sounded anxious, insecure. Maybe even hopeful.

Frodo looked at him again, and tried to put together an answer, but only got out a few incoherencies: "Because I...I think you're...you've always...well, it's just, if you want..."

Sam suddenly seemed to make his mind up. He nodded. "Aye. I'd like to."

Frodo's voice didn't work for a second. "All right, then," he eventually said.

"All right."

"All right."

They stared at each other. Frodo finally realized that the action was going to have to be on his side, since he was the one issuing invitations. He melted into a nervous laugh, which sent Sam into one as well.

Frodo plucked the book off their knees and closed it. "Well, I can't do a thing with those two staring at me." He dropped it beside the sofa, then took Sam's hand. "Let's see what you already know, for starters. Here. Give my hand a kiss."

Sam obediently touched the back of Frodo's hand with his lips. Frodo watched closely.

"Good," Frodo said. "Soft, but not sloppy. Being sloppy is a common mistake at first. I certainly did it. But - try adding a bit more pressure, like so." He placed a firm kiss on Sam's palm, lingering just long enough to let Sam see and feel what he meant.

"Ah," Sam said, as if he understood. He turned Frodo's hand and tried it again.

"Much better," commended Frodo. "Can you do it on the cheek, then?" Frodo tapped his own cheek with a finger, trying to keep a scholastic air about the whole business. Trying *not* to tremble.

Sam's eyelashes flicked up and down shyly, but he pecked Frodo on the cheek as instructed.

"The modesty is nice," Frodo said, "but don't be afraid to show a bit more...warmth, let's say."

"Warmth?" Sam asked.

"Take a little longer. This should be something you *enjoy* doing, so let it show that you enjoy it. See: move in with your lips parted, but not puckered, not yet..." Frodo demonstrated, hovering with his mouth close to Sam's cheek. "Touch a little first, maybe with the tip of the nose..." Frodo did just that, a light nuzzle, and marked how Sam's breathing shifted. "...And *then* the kiss." Frodo kissed that warm cheek, slowly, savoring it. He rather forgot to be scholastic for the moment.

He pulled back and cleared his throat. Sam was watching him with trusting eyes. "Want to try that?" Frodo asked.

Sam hesitated only a moment, then carefully brought his face close, and repeated the operation, move for move, on Frodo's cheek. "How's that?"

Frodo, who had closed his eyes in a half-swoon, opened them now, and swallowed. "Excellent. Yes. Very good. Now of course, what you really want in kissing lessons is, er, the real kisses. On the mouth. I assume."

Sam nodded, giving Frodo the necessary courage to teach this part as well.

"So," Frodo said, "it's basically the same..." He cupped Sam's face in his hand, leaned down, and kissed Sam's lips, which were parted, shallow breath flowing in and out. Sam's mouth moved, awkwardly, upon contact with Frodo's.

"It's rather like...eating a strawberry," Frodo explained, demonstrating with a slow capture of Sam's lower lip, then upper lip, then both together. "...but be gentle with the teeth, if you must use them."

Sam broke into a giggle, nervously. "I'll try not to," he promised, in an intimately close undertone.

"Using the teeth can be done right, if I recall," Frodo said. "Something like..." He lowered his head and nipped at the skin of Sam's neck.

Sam shivered all over, with another giggle.

"There, try that." Frodo tilted his head and bared his own neck for Sam.

Sam looked at him as if he was being offered an exquisite dessert he wasn't sure he was allowed to accept. Upon receiving an encouraging nod from Frodo, Sam leaned in. A second later, Frodo felt a warm-cool touch of lips and teeth on his neck, which caused a breakout of goosebumps all over him. "That's...quite good," Frodo complimented, when he could breathe. "Sure you've never done this?"

"Pretty sure," affirmed Sam.

"Now, a proper kiss is more than just a peck, of course," Frodo continued, adjusting his position slightly so that Sam was nestled against his side and they were both lying semi-horizontally against the arm of the sofa. "You want to find a nice pose, and hold it. Like this..." Frodo locked his lips to Sam's, and sank softly into the kiss over the course of ten or fifteen full seconds - it was getting difficult to gauge the accurate passage of time by that point.

They separated, and Sam let out a breath.

Frodo grinned. "You are allowed to breathe *during* it, you know."

Sam smiled bashfully. "I didn't even think..."

"Through your nose. Try again." Frodo leaned in and pressed Sam to the back of the sofa with a solid kiss. Their lips parted a bit more this time, and Frodo's arm twined around Sam's waist. Frodo exhaled gently through his nose, and a second later felt Sam breathe in response. "There you are," murmured Frodo, and immediately pulled Sam up and engaged him in another try. Sam's hand settled, a little shakily, on Frodo's back, and he gave a slow strawberry-nibble to Frodo's lower lip.

"My, you do learn fast," Frodo purred.

"Nothing in the world I wanted to learn more than this," Sam whispered.

"Just in general, or with me in particular?" Frodo asked, though the question came out sounding more anxious than he had intended. He hadn't quite realized until that moment just how important Sam's answer was to him.

"With you," Sam said - no hesitation this time, thank the heavens. "Always with you."

Frodo rewarded him by giving him a very long kiss that introduced Sam to the possibilities of contact between lips and tip of tongue. This time, when the kiss ended, Frodo hugged Sam tight against him, not caring that there were certain things lower down that Sam might feel and wonder about. Come to that, it felt like Sam might be in the same condition, though of course it was possible that a gardener would have all kinds of solid things in his pockets. No matter - there was ample time in the future to clear up that and many other mysteries.

Frodo chuckled, causing Sam to ask, "What?"

"You say you think I'm brave," said Frodo, lips moving against a lock of Sam's hair, "but the bravest thing I ever did in my life was asking you to do this just now."

Sam's fingers found Frodo's ear, and fondled the edges of it. "And it's braver than I could ever have been," he whispered, and gave the ear a kiss. "I'm glad you asked."

"Dear Sam, if I'd known..."

They slid down a bit further, approaching a parallel with the floor, and experimented with an extended series of kisses, mostly on the mouth and neck. By demonstration alone, without Frodo having to say a word (which was good, as he was finding it increasingly hard to construct sentences), Sam learned that small flicks of his tongue could elicit whimpers from Frodo. Frodo returned the volley with fervor, using his tongue to explore the line of Sam's teeth, and feeling a thrill more electric than lightning when Sam moaned in response.

"The things I want to do with you," one of them murmured, and Frodo was surprised to find it was Sam who had said it, since it was more or less the same thing he was thinking. Indeed, it was more or less the only thing he was thinking.

"I never learned how to do those," Frodo confessed. "I mean, I just know, academically..."

Sam nodded. His thigh had somehow gotten between Frodo's in the last several minutes, and Frodo had become more and more certain that he was not dealing with gardening implements. "It's true it's like eating strawberries," Sam said, "but with this, you get hungrier the more you eat. You want...more..." He twisted, serpent-like, against Frodo's body, from thigh to belly to chest to forehead.

"Mm...I know," Frodo agreed, and set about kissing Sam's damp mouth between words. "I want...more of you...though I don't even know...what exactly I want...oh, I just want to do this forever." He heard thunder echoing outside, and paused. "Has it been doing that the whole time?"

"Aye," Sam said.

"I didn't even hear it," marveled Frodo.

"I heard it, but I didn't mind it so much."

Frodo smiled, stroking the beloved lad's hair, then grabbed Sam's wrist and got up. "Come on."

"Sir?"

"Come on, before it's over." Frodo pulled Sam up to his feet, and gave him a long, comforting kiss. "I want to show you how brave you can be."

Sam looked decidedly apprehensive, but let Frodo guide him to the door, out into the dreaded hallway, and all the way to the front room. It was now dusk outside, and quite dark inside. Faint bluish light drifted in through the rain-streaked windows. The rain still pattered down, but was not at full torrent strength anymore.

Frodo swung open Bag End's front door, keeping Sam close to him with an arm around his shoulders. The wet, clean-scented air rolled into the hole. Frodo placed Sam in front of him, so that they were both facing the mountains, and wrapped both arms around him. "Watch," Frodo whispered.

It was a minute or two before the lightning glittered again; Frodo passed the time by kissing the back of Sam's neck and listening to him sigh in conflicted happiness. At the bright bolt that flashed between the clouds, far away, Sam twitched, but Frodo held him tight. "Don't close your eyes," Frodo instructed.

Sam obeyed. Frodo continued kissing him, though he felt Sam trembling a little. More forks and flashes danced about the mountaintops. "Does it still look evil?" Frodo murmured.

"A bit," Sam whispered.

"But isn't it at least...impressive?"

"It is that," Sam admitted.

"Keep watching. Think about the lovely things it's done for us today."

"I do like that," Sam said shyly, intertwining his fingers with Frodo's, on his chest. "But if you treat me like this when I'm scared, why should I want to get over it?"

Frodo chuckled, and nibbled Sam's ear. "My dear, I would do this to you in any mood and any weather. Gladly. I only want you to be happy." The distant stormclouds pulsed with light and rumbled with thunder. Sam wriggled back against Frodo, murmuring in a tone somewhere between fright and fondness. This kind of treatment required maximum distraction, Frodo thought, so he began to move his hands on Sam in a slow massage, circling from fingers down to chest, down to thighs...

The sound of footsteps on the road separated the two hobbits fairly quickly. A few seconds later, the bulky form of Mr. Gamgee in a rain-cloak came into view and trudged up to the gate. Frodo hastily rearranged the front of his trousers, and was pleased (amid his panic) to catch Sam, out of the corner of his eye, doing the same thing.

Frodo rushed out onto the front step and called, "Good evening, Mr. Gamgee!"

The Gaffer swung open the gate and started up the walk. "Evening, Master Frodo. Quite a storm, eh?"

"Quite. We were just watching the last of it."

"Sam's here, then, is he? When he didn't get home by the start of the thunder, I knew he'd be in your cellar or under one of your sofas, by now."

Frodo blushed deeper at the mention of sofas, and Sam jumped outside and squeaked, "I'm right here, Dad."

The Gaffer stopped in front of him and looked his son up and down. "Well, you're still standing; that's good to see."

Frodo decided not to remark upon how Sam had actually been almost horizontal just a few minutes ago.

"I...didn't quite finish them hedgerows," Sam mentioned.

"It's all right," Frodo answered. "You can come back tomorrow. Can't you?"

Their eyes locked in the twilight. Sam nodded, with a subtle flicker of eyelashes that Frodo read as a very good sign. "I'll come round in the morning," Sam said.

"Well, I'll take him off your hands, then, Master Frodo," Mr. Gamgee said. "Many thanks for looking after him. I know he's a nuisance."

"Not at all. It was my pleasure," Frodo assured.

"Come along, my boy." The Gaffer started down the path.

Sam followed. "Goodnight, sir," he murmured to Frodo. "Sleep tight."

"I will." Frodo winked at Sam as he passed, with a special silent message in his mind: *I love you. I'll see you tomorrow.*

It was the strangest thing, but from the sparkle in Sam's eyes as he glanced back, Frodo was almost sure, that time, that Sam had caught the message.

 

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