This is a slash story, so don't say I didn't warn you. Thank you to all the people who offered suggestions/corrections to this story. These characters are the wonderful creations of J.R.R. Tolkien, and unfortunately not mine.
The sunlight splayed on his left shoulder, highlighting the creases of the cream fabric, sending a wave of warmth through the watching hobbit's body.
Whispers of dust motes danced in the rays of sunshine to a silent beat. The scents of lilac and lavender blended together in the fresh air, blown in by the cool draft from the open window. Shadows lurked in the corners of the room, becoming darker as the sun slid gently past the tumbling hills. Shallow sighs breathed from the room, mingling with the rustle of parchments and the scraping of a quill.
Peeping higher, Sam's nose rested comfortably on the sill, his fingers curled around rusty clippers. He knelt down and snipped the head off the scraggly verge before taking another surreptitious look through the window. The sight of his master aglow in such brilliance made him ache distressingly in a great many areas. He reminded himself firmly that he was supposed to be spying for Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin, not watching the softly falling light play on the curve of Frodo's flushed neck.
"Something's up with Frodo," Mr. Merry had told him, pulling him aside one dark night when Sam was walking down Bagshot Row after a rather hard day's work in Frodo's garden. "We want you to spy on our dear cousin; gather all the information you can."
Sam had protested indignantly. He couldn't spy on his master; it wouldn't be proper! Of course, Sam didn't mention that he had been darting quick looks at Frodo from the corner of his eye for many years now, or that he had once 'spied' on Frodo when he took a dip in the Bywater Pool one lazy summer's afternoon.
Once he had seen Frodo with neither shirt nor breeches on; he tried not to think about it too much, for it was a sight for sore eyes if he'd ever seen one.
Though thoroughly inappropriate, and a pool of moonshine, unsavoury thoughts nagged Sam's conscience, akin to the grumbling of one's stomach after a full day's gardening. And so he pushed his feelings deep, deep down to his toes -- just like the Gaffer said to do when you think above your station.
"You'll be our chief spy," said Mr. Pippin excitedly. His brown eyes flecked occasionally with gold darted around the shadowy path. A conspiracy certainly isn't a conspiracy if everybody knows about it. "We want anything you can tell us -- especially if you see a gold ring, or Bilbo's book. Don't let Frodo from your sight."
"I don't think that's possible, Mr. Pippin," said Sam, feeling himself blush up to his ears at the thought of watching Frodo every second of the day.
"Well, do your best," Mr. Merry had said. "We're counting on you. We can meet at the Green Dragon every Wednesday night to talk, all right?"
Sam had nodded bewilderedly, watching the two cousins scampering off to plot another queer plan, he supposed.
So Sam had been the 'chief investigator', though after Gandalf had caught him 'eavesdropping', Sam had thoroughly considered himself on parole. Yet Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin (who were very interested in Sam's report) convinced him to keep snooping.
Now he was watching Frodo, just like Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin had said. And, at least if they caught him, he would plead he was following their plans.
An itch of pain smote Sam's left knee, and he shifted position, careful not to make any noise. Frodo's head cocked, concerned for a moment, before he dipped the quill into the inkbottle and continued writing.
The nest of curls on Frodo's head darkened to an almost ebony colour as the light receded, sparking every now and then with a twinkle of gold. His white shirt hugged his hunched shoulders, the collar bent awkwardly on his pale neck. Nimble, deft fingers apt for writing elvish letters clutched a brand-new quill he had brought from the shops just last week. Naked brown feet swung to and fro under the table, skimming lightly above the polished floorboards.
Such was Sam's distraction, he failed to notice the icy chill that now blew in from the east since the sun had sunk below the hills.
Try as he might, poor Sam tended to become all flustered whenever he watched Frodo for a length of time, so much that Frodo almost (and occasionally did) catch him at times. Yet Frodo did not seem to suspect Sam of anything less innocent than being momentarily befuddled and tongue-tied by his master's piercing gaze.
A breath of a sigh escaped Sam's lips.
Sam started, but couldn't draw his eyes away. The chair slowly turned around, and Sam found himself looking into eyes akin to a clear October sky. Blood pumped furiously through Sam's veins, rushing to his cheeks, and he ducked his head as a gentle chuckling effused from the study.
"Samwise Gamgee! Are you spying on me?" A head emerged from the window; Sam looked up red-faced and guilty.
"No -- no, sir! I was just--" Sam looked around wildly. "I thought I heard a noise, so I thought I'd check."
"That's the second time this week I've caught you, dear Sam. Have I done something that needs your attention?" Frodo spoke in a light tone, but Sam caught an air of seriousness, and felt his stomach somersault.
"No, sir! I --I--" Sam stuttered, tripping over his flapping tongue. Frodo raised one delicate eyebrow, biting his lip in an unsuccessful effort to keep from laughing.
"All right, keep your secrets!" smiled Frodo, laying a hand on Sam's shoulder through the window. The air seemed to still around Sam, hushing all because Frodo's hand rested lightly on his shoulder.
Sam swallowed the growing lump in his throat. "Did you want me to cook you some supper, Mr. Frodo? I brought some taters and carrots 'round today. They're down in the cellar if you want me to--" Sam turned to leave, but Frodo's hand tightened on his shoulder.
"Let's go for a walk," said Frodo, tucking a curl behind his ear with his other hand.
The twist and twines in Sam's stomach became even tighter, like vines fighting their way over and under a fence. "If you don't mind, sir," he said, eyeing Frodo's hand incredulously.
"Good." A triumphant smile lit on Frodo's lips. "I shall meet you on the step soon."
Frodo released his grip on Sam, much to Sam's mixed relief and regret. Sam stood gaping at the sill as he watched Frodo leave the study, then remembered he ought to change his shirt, which was stained with mud and grass stains and goodness-knows-what.
Half-running, half-walking, Sam made his way to the woodshed, taking a clean shirt from the pack he brought to Bag End every day. Quickly looking around to ensure no-one was looking (though the thought of Frodo looking didn't upset him too much), he unfastened buttons with shaking hands, pulled a clean shirt over his head.
Frodo was waiting on the step when Sam, and his shamefaced conscience, returned. He wore green velvet breeches, a yellow weskit and a brown jacket adorned with glinting gold buttons. The hand-me-down coat and dilapidated breeches Sam wore seemed even more so, and he reproached himself for even thinking Frodo would lower himself to someone of his station.
Orange and purple flames now broiled in the west, while ghostly slate clouds flitted across the sky. Already a chill wind clawed at skin and bone. For it was late April, springtime, yet the nights were quite frigid, and more often than not a layer of crusty frost covered the land in the morning. Sam hugged himself almost as if he would fall apart.
"It's going to be a rimy night," remarked Frodo in greeting.
"I dare say, sir. Are you sure you won't be too cold?"
"I'm fine, Sam. I need some exercise, and now seems a good a time as any. I was looking at myself in the mirror, and a rather plump hobbit seemed to stare back."
"Oh, no!" cried Sam, aghast. Perfection was Mr. Frodo in his eyes, and nor an elf nor a beautiful princess could surpass him. Not that Sam would ever say so, and right improper it would to do so as well.
"Shall we be off?" asked Frodo.
All Sam could do was nod. They walked down the path to the white picket fence, freshly painted by Sam only a month before. The gate squealed as Frodo pushed it open; Sam hurriedly promised to oil it first thing tomorrow morning.
It was now nearly dark. Friendly lights shone from the smials, and curls of smoke rose and twisted above chimneys. Puffs of bitter air came from their mouths as they walked down the road, feet crunching noisily on the gravel.
Trumpet-shaped lilies stood at attention next to picket fences, while violet crocuses and pale yellow primrose flowers huddled in front gardens. Daisies, yellow-centered and surrounded by white rays; and snapdragons, lips parted like their namesakes, fluttered in the early evening breeze. Even more waving flowers they could see: accumulations of poppies; climbing honeysuckles; shaded roses; and daffodils, cool and pale in the dusk.
Sam noticed Frodo was studying every feature they walked past -- the nodding flowers, the rough brick houses, the gently sloping path that led up the Hill. That Frodo would be leaving the Shire Sam knew, to visit the elves he had said. Long had Sam wished to see the elves in all their splendour and glory. Indeed, he had thought he had seen an elf in the woods once, singing sweetly and fair as springtime: a light among the dark whispering trees, clad in a snow-white raiment, fairer than all the blossoms and jewels in the world. Not, though, fairer than Mr. Frodo, Sam often admitted to himself.
Though Frodo displayed a bright exterior, Sam had often caught him sitting at the kitchen table with his hands over his eyes, shoulders trembling. It was at these times Sam wished he could push back Frodo's dark curls and lay a kiss on his forehead, a quiet moment to stifle all the darkness that seemed to be choking them. Too much was being asked of Frodo in Sam's opinion. He couldn't understand why Gandalf didn't just take the ring and leave Frodo in peace.
Sam had learned that Frodo was planning to move to a smial somewhere in the East Farthing -- a place seemingly miles and miles away -- to delay the tidings of his departure from the Shire. Buckland was a place he had heard Frodo mention more than once, and Sam felt his stomach heave at this news. His Gaffer had told him queer stories of Bucklanders -- almost as queer as the stories of the Took clan. And if they were half as excitable as Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin, well Sam didn't even bear to think of the schemes he would be involved in.
"I'm going to miss this," Frodo murmured, waving his hand around vaguely, then sweeping it down to his pocket, fingers fondling something Sam couldn't see.
"Aye, sir," said Sam, a little sadly. He would have to say good-bye to his dear old Dad, and Rosie-lass and her brothers, not to mention the homey comforts of the Green Dragon. It was difficult for Sam to stay the tears, thinking of all he would leave behind. And now his dear master would be going on a journey that would be dark and dangerous, and Sam now knew that there were worse things in this world than taters thick with fungus.
So Sam had promised himself that he would stick with Frodo through thick and thin, no matter how much he protested. And if Samwise Gamgee was anything, he was a keeper of promises.
"I won't miss the Sackville-Bagginses though," said Frodo, smiling wanly.
Sam grinned back, thinking of Lobelia and her face that could curdle milk. For years she had tried to occupy Bag End, Underhill -- even as far back as when Bilbo went on his venture to steal dragon's gold. Now, it seemed at long last, Lobelia would get what she (at the very least) thought she deserves.
"This quest -- it won't take too long will it? I'd hate to be gone in the winter time, if you take my meaning," said Sam softly.
"I hope," admitted Frodo, pulling his hands from his pockets and rubbing them together. "But Gandalf will look after us, of that I'm sure. I do not doubt that after we take the -- the heirloom to Rivendell we shall be able to return to the Shire and live in peace of mind once again."
Sam certainly hoped so, and nodded in agreement. The wise elves would know what to do with the Ring. Then, at last, Frodo would be able to relax in the garden without fearing some nasty creature would lunge at him for the treasure he held. And Sam almost allowed himself to imagine gardening at Bag End till the end of his days, while Frodo smoked a pipe against a tree trunk, aged and grey-haired, yet still hale and vital. To that dream Sam shook his head at the wonder of it all.
They walked in silence past a group of houses - owned by smiths, ropers and cartwrights -- until they came upon an open field. Long stalks of grass swayed in the breeze in silent harmony. Thistles and nettles tangled around their feet, and gnarled trees stretched over them like frail old men. The wind hissed in their ears, rising and falling, sometimes falling to nil, sometimes blowing great gusts that mussed their curly hair. The full moon gave the trees a grey-mist glaze, filling in the gaps of darkness.
Frodo stopped, breaths coming in short, shallow gasps. "Ah-h-h, that was good!" Mist curled around his lips as he spoke.
"Aye," said Sam, feeling his legs burn, contrasting with his hands that were bitter cold, and his nose that felt like a lump of ice. Taking his hands from his pockets, he blew on them, hoping to still the bracing chill.
"Sam, you're cold!" cried Frodo, and before Sam could protest, he took Sam's hands between his two own.
If Sam could speak at that moment, not one word would make sense, he reckoned. And he was glad he didn't because a moan or two might have slipped past his lips as well.
Frodo's hands were warm, for he had a fleece-lined coat that kept the wind's searching fingers at bay. The coat Sam wore was rather frayed and worn down. It had been his brother Hamson's for many years before him, and the fleece that once lined it was now naught but a whisker of fur.
The smile on Frodo's face was full of hidden mirth as Sam ducked his head. "I'm afraid I'll only be able to hold one of your hands when we walk on."
"That -- that's fine, sir," stammered Sam, from warmness rather than cold.
"Good," said Frodo, gazing at the hill off yonder. "Shall we walk to the top of the hill?"
Stupefied, Sam mumbled something, looking at the glittering jewels that now sprinkled the sky. Frodo dropped one of Sam's hands (Sam desperately tried to hide his disappointment) and continued on.
As they walked up the hill, Sam became conscious of every nuance of the hand that held his. Sometimes Frodo's fingers twitched; sometimes they tightened around Sam's. Sam could discern patches of skin warmer than others, and patches that were softer, like a quilt with squares of many types of fabric, each one different from the next. He could feel the lines on Frodo's palms, love-lines and life-lines his sister had once told him. Frodo's fingers were strong and slim, perfect in a thousand ways that Sam could not describe.
Presently they arrived at the summit of the hill: it was certainly not high, but enough to make them puff and pant for several minutes.
They gazed at the twinkling lights of Hobbiton, and into the distance where all faded to black. Sam felt his bones would shatter from the cold, but he said nothing, ever conscious Frodo might suddenly loosen his fingers.
"It's so beautiful," murmured Frodo, turning his gaze from the view to Sam.
"So beautiful," whispered Sam, almost drowning in the starry pools that seemed to look beyond his brown skin and into his very soul.
Looking back across the hollow, Frodo muttered, "Shall I ever look down into that valley again, I wonder?"
"Nothing, Sam." Frodo forced a laugh. "Just an old hobbit's mumblings."
Sam shivered from the coldness in his voice.
"Oh, Sam, dear, you're still cold! I'm dreadfully sorry, I shouldn't have dragged you out for such a night-walk."
"No, sir, you--" Here Sam stopped, because Frodo was running his fingers over Sam's arm, almost without thinking.
A mist now blew in across the valley, making the lights below twinkle like stars. Dew-drops formed small beads on their faces and necks.
"You know," said Frodo thoughtfully. "If we huddled together, we might be able to keep warm."
It was the hardest thing he had done in all his six-and-thirty years, but Sam managed to half choke out: "All right."
So Frodo brought his arms around Sam's stout waist, and ducked his head to bring his nose against Sam's neck.
Sam could feel Frodo's icy lips drift across his neck, sending cool breaths to stem the warmness he felt in other parts of his being.
"Look, Sam!" Frodo drew away, clutched Sam's arm.
Ribbons and rivers of light streaked the night sky above. They lingered for a moment before fading away and diffusing into darkness. Thousands upon thousands of tiny flashes seemingly streamed across the blackness; every time one disappeared, another took its place.
"Shooting stars!" gasped Sam, tipping his chin to the sky.
"Star-spray," murmured Frodo.
"Oh, sir," said Sam, deeply moved. "Isn't it the most lovely sight you've ever seen?"
Frodo stopped, lowered his hand, closed his eyes. "No, in all truth, Sam, it isn't," he said so softly the breeze almost carried his words away before Sam could hear.
The queer tone of Frodo's voice made Sam all but forget the dramatic celestial display, and he glanced at his master quickly. Moonlight drizzled onto his face, giving his skin a milky-grey pallor. He seemed oblivious to the raining light, looking at his muddied feet, presently very cold and wet.
Sam could see deep lines of care and worry on the older hobbit's face, yet he seemed old and young at the same time -- like an elf. And he was like an elf, fair and learned, yet he retained a hobbit-like innocence about him that could leap from nowhere, like the time at Bag End, a number of years ago now, when they had drunk a bottle of Bilbo's wine till they both were sick.
Perhaps it was the coldness, or the flashing sky, or something else entirely, but Sam spoke his mind. "What is more beautiful, Mr. Frodo?"
Frodo muttered almost to himself. "Shall I ever look upon that face again? And if I shan't what would I say?"
"Mr. Frodo, I don't want us to leave!" burst out Sam.
"Go away? But, Sam, Gandalf said I must!"
"I know, sir, but I'm so..." Sam trailed off, tears mingling with the dew-drops on his cheeks.
Frodo was silent. "Me too, Sam," he said at last.
"But don't worry, Mr. Frodo, 'cause if you're going into danger, then I am too!"
"Oh, Sam," Frodo laughed suddenly, clear and joyful like a summer's morning.
"I'd rather have you accompany me more than anybody else."
"Do you really mean that?" He looked at Frodo curiously.
"Of course." There was a pause, then Sam burst into tears. He hastily drew a sleeve across his eyes. "Mr. Frodo, I ain't mean to cry."
"Sam...Sam, do you really think I could leave you?" Sam stopped, looked up into sympathetic eyes.
"I don't know if you -- if you feel--" Sam bit his tongue in embarrassment.
"No, I couldn't leave you, Sam. Because--" Frodo hesitated, thinking. A single tear rolled down Sam's brown cheek. Frodo raised his hand, brushing away the salty water.
Trembling at the touch, Sam whispered, "Sir, I will follow you, I promise, through thick and thin. No use planting taters unless you're going to eat them, as my Gaffer says."
Warmness clutched Sam's hand, and again he felt the velvet-like touch of Frodo's skin. "O Sam...this journey...it will not be easy. We will not be tramping across the Shire looking for mushrooms. The enemy…he has many spies."
"I know Mr. Frodo. Don't think I didn't hear what Gandalf said!"
"Oh, Sam!" Frodo smiled. "And today I caught you again at the window, looking as guilty as a boy in the larder."
"Please, sir," said Sam, pink-cheeked, "p'raps we should be heading back." Oh, if Frodo knew the thoughts in Sam's mind, well he wasn't sure what he would do, but it would probably involve a bed and soggy pillow.
"Sometimes choosing the right way or moment to say something is the hardest of all," said Frodo wistfully, to himself almost.
"There are right ways and there are wrong ways, sir. It's up to yerself to pick the right one."
Frodo sighed, and brought Sam's hand to his lips. He kissed it softly, a feather-like touch. "Am I right, or am I wrong?" he asked.
Sam tried to swallow, but failed miserably, so instead squeaked, "I don't understand."
"What would you say if I were to kiss your hands again?"
Words could not pass Sam's lips, and he stared agape at Frodo's bemused expression.
"Or what if I kissed you there?" Frodo reached for Sam with his other hand, drawing it along the cool skin above Sam's collar. Sam said naught.
"Or there." -- Here Frodo touched his chin -- "Or there." Frodo's fingers drifted across Sam's cheeks. "Or there." finished Frodo with a blush as he pressed a lone finger on Sam's lips.
Sam took a deep breath as Frodo dropped his finger. Not that he had ever seen one, but Sam reckoned his heart was beating faster than a hurtling oliphaunt. There was a teasing smile curling on Frodo's mouth, but his eyes were afraid. "I wouldn't be objecting, sir," he said at last.
"Neither would I," whispered Frodo. "Sam…I didn't...not till recently did I think you felt--"
"I do, sir…very much," choked out Sam.
"Sam, I -- I'm so scared…the Ring, I feel it already. And it is evil, I know. But, I am not sure if it is the Ring or not, but, Sam, please, my dear, understand, I've thought so long about this." Frodo faltered, and Sam felt Frodo's hand shaking in his own. Then he felt Frodo's curls brush his neck, and the smell of dew rising to his nose.
"Sir, for so long I thought..." Sam trailed off, feeling now warm lips press against the goosepimply skin of his throat.
"Me...too...Sam…years...and…years," said Frodo between wisp-like skims over Sam's neck.
"Hush, Sam. Let me--" And he met the corner of Sam's mouth with his own. Sam could smell a hint of cinnamon on Frodo's skin, and the rose-scented soap he bathed in.
"Somebody might see!" Sam half-gasped, half-laughed as Frodo drew back with eyes aglitter.
"Does it matter?" asked Frodo huskily, placing his lips firm against Sam's mouth.
If Sam could think straight at that moment, he would certainly think so, but all his thought was on Frodo's lips snug against his own, and the hand that was running through his brown curls over and over.
They kissed. Sam saw streaks before his eyes, from the softness of Frodo's lips, or the shooting stars. He couldn't tell. Time seemed to stand still, frozen like tendrils of icicles, and when he looked back at that moment years later, he could almost feel Frodo's mouth pressing insistently against his lips once again.
It seemed to Sam that he was drowning in a vat of cream, like the one he had seen at the Cottons' farm once, and that its stickiness was flowing into his mouth, forcing the air from his lungs, and yet it tasted so sweet that he could not but help swallow more and more.
Eventually they parted, swollen-lipped and light-headed. Frodo looked up through thick lashes, eyes dark in the moonlight. Sam twined a finger around a chocolate-coloured curl, feeling hot and cold at the same time.
"Mr. Frodo, I--"
Another kiss from Frodo silenced Sam, and he decided he liked Frodo's reprimands much more than his Gaffer's. And this time Frodo's tongue slipped over his own, feeling like the warm water of the Bywater Pool lapping around his thighs on a hot summer's day.
Reluctantly Frodo drew away from Sam, and they bent their heads together, locking foreheads so curls entwined and cold dew-drops mingled, and it was if they were one and the same. No matter what the Gaffer or Sandyman or anybody else said.
One of Frodo's fingers traced its way up Sam's coat, pausing at the top button. Frodo played with the button, unfastening it, then fastening it back up again. A thought flitted through Sam's mind that involved Frodo's fingers much lower, but he dismissed it with a burning cheeks.
Keeping his eyes firmly gazing into Sam's, Frodo dropped his hand, first past Sam's chest, then his round stomach, finally coming to rest on the waistband of his breeches. Frodo stuck a thumb under the waistband, rubbed the coarse material between thumb and forefinger.
"Sir, me dear…please...no," squeaked Sam, pink on every patch of bare skin. If Frodo's fingers slid any lower, he did not doubt Frodo would realise that he was as hard as the scones Frodo had attempted to bake several weeks before.
"All right…later," sighed Frodo, and he clutched Sam tight to himself, leaving Sam in no doubt that he was in the same state as his spoilt scones.
And they rocked back and forth, chaffing each other's skin to keep warm. Not that Sam reckoned he needed it, for the (accidental in Sam's not-so-honest opinion) occasional grazes of each other's heats spread white-hot scorches from the fur on their feet to their tousled brown curls.
Cool moonlight shone on Frodo's face, and Sam couldn't help looking up and grinning from ear to ear.
"Sam, if you don't stop smiling, your face will split!" chuckled Frodo.
Sam took Frodo's hands between his two own, kissed each knuckle one by one. "That's because I'm the happier than a lad in a mushroom patch," he whispered.
"Me too," smiled Frodo.
They looked up at the sky and saw a green flash of light that slowly faded to nothing. Though they watched, no more shooting stars appeared.
"It's over," said Sam, swallowing his disappointment.
"No, it's not," said Frodo, tugging at Sam's hand, laughing at the hobbit's sad countenance. "Let's go home and sit by the fire. It is awfully cold out here."
"Do you mean that?"
"I do," said Frodo firmly as they walked down the hill. His voice became low and filled with feeling. "For stars spray across the sky for but a moment, yet love lasts a lifetime."
"Aye," said Sam, feeling those delicate fingers tighten around his own as if they would never loosen.
They walked down the road in silence, and hand in hand. The moon was now riding high in the sky; and though a frigid wind still blew, the two hobbits felt only a warm glow inside their bellies. As they stole shy looks at each other, they smiled and crimsoned, saying naught, but their glances told of long yearnings and dreams.
And when the reached Bag End, they found the fire crackling brightly; and the hearthrug soft on bare, warm skin.
~ end ~