The morning after...

“Time to wake up, Sam.”

Sam startled from a dream of Frodo to sudden wakefulness. After lying there sleepless half the night, he hardly remembered getting out of his clothes and under the covers, but there he was, and there Marigold was, in his room waving a lamp in his face. He fumbled to clutch the sheets up against him. “Goldy... get out... I’m naked!” She thought that was funny.

“Silly brother, I’ve seen you in your skin plenty of times.”

Not in a good long while she hadn’t, and she wasn’t about to see him like that, but she sat herself down on the edge of his bed and wouldn’t budge.

“Are you in trouble, Sam?”

Since she seemed sincerely concerned, he forbore just shoving her off, only tucked himself a little farther out of her way. “Nay. Da gave me a pipe.” Of course, the Gaffer hadn’t given him anything to put in it, but it was his very own first pipe, and he was feeling a little proud over that when all was said and done. Goldy leaned back against his knee, pushing it big time.

“Da’s gone already to do the Bracegirdles’ hedges... so you can tell me all about it.”

Sam tried feigning ignorance. “Tell you all about what?” She gave him one of those smiles of hers.

“You know, Sam... everything... like why’ve you been so chipper mornings, and why’d you come home all long faced last eve, and what did Da have to take you out in the lane to say... secrets.”

The secrets Sam had been keeping were far too huge and weighty to give to her. “I reckon you’ve got secrets of your own I’m not hearing.” She got a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

“You tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine.”

Daisy appeared in the doorway and put a stop to it.


He had to defend himself, still clutching the bedcovers to him. “It’s none of my doing, ma’am.” She shook her finger at them.

“Don’t you ma’am me, Samwise... Marigold... out!”

Marigold got herself up and bustled out, and Daisy gave him a look.

“It’s past time you were up.”

She stepped out and closed the door. Sam sank into his pillow, briefly. The pleasant glow he’d wakened with was long gone, but there wasn’t time anyway. He dragged himself out of bed, and washed and dressed. He wasn’t exactly humming that morning, but he knew with a fresh day everything would be alright up at Bag End again, at least for the time being. He tucked his pipe into his pocket, thinking if they got as far as reading in the parlour after supper, Frodo would likely spare him a little weed for it. At any rate, he’d have to show it off. Daisy had breakfast waiting for him and he downed it in a hurry. Dawn was breaking through the window already, and May was heading off to do her housecleaning work. Daisy came out from getting the laundry started.

“You’ve lost another kerchief, Sam. Must we tie them round your wrist?”

Sam told her he was sorry, between gulping down his tea and pushing himself back up from the table. Goldy brought him his lunch and a fresh loaf warm from the oven, and gave him a sly wink while she was at it, and he knew he hadn’t heard the last of that. She gave him a kiss on the cheek too, and since he was feeling quite a bit better he gave her one back, then he headed out up to Bag End.

The day was a fine one, but with no hint of clouds to promise the rain they could have used, which meant he’d have to water most everything, since he’d skimped on it the day before. He busied his mind with what else had to be done as he passed through the garden gate, and finally let himself in the back door, into the still quiet. He tiptoed past Frodo’s bedroom, then stopped in his tracks at the study door, which was open.

Frodo was there, half sprawled across the desktop, asleep? Sam’s heart beat faster. There was a mostly empty bottle standing there, and an empty goblet knocked over. It wasn’t like Frodo to visit the wineracks without company. He might have drunk himself into a stupor. He might not be breathing. Sam latched onto that as a more than good enough reason to take a closer look. He stepped into the room, and silently made his way to the desk. The candles were all burned down to cold stubs, but the window shutters were open, and there was daylight enough to see, Frodo’s delicate hand laying there limply holding his quill, a pool of ink staining the blotter where the tip touched. His other arm pillowed his head and his face lay mostly covered by his hair, but a glimpse could be just had of a lass’s long eyelashes feathered against the pale cheek.

Sam had to stop himself, and listen, to the faint soft sigh of Frodo’s breathing. Asleep he was, and Sam didn’t know quite what to do about it. He looked none too comfortable, was likely to have a krick in his back if nothing worse. Sam wondered if it wouldn’t be the kindest thing to wake him and suggest he go to his bed. He quietly stepped around behind Frodo’s chair, hands clasped behind his back just to be safe. There was a sheet of parchment there trapped under Frodo’s elbow, just a corner of it sticking out. Sam leaned over, craning his neck, just to see if it was elvish honestly, but it wasn’t, he could read it clear as anything, Dearest Sam. He stepped back, and just stood there stock still, trying to think if Frodo might know any other Sam but himself, trying to think at all. He couldn’t. He leaned over again, trying for another look, but the rest of it was hid under the tumble of Frodo’s dark curls. His fingers twitched, and he unclasped his hands and actually reached out.

Mercifully, he stopped himself short of touching. Whatever it was, whatever it meant, he wasn’t going to sneak to find out. If Frodo had wrote a letter to him, for some reason, Frodo would give it to him, or not. It felt like his insides had all turned to melted butter. His hand hovered, trembling, just wanting to feel if Frodo’s hair was as silky soft as it looked, but Frodo jerked suddenly and he jumped back with his breath caught. Frodo stilled again, and started murmuring in his sleep, things Sam couldn’t understand hard as he tried, and he’d taken all the chances he dared to. Holding his breath and making no slightest sound, he slowly circled on around the desk, and just left everything as it was, the bottle standing open, the glass tipped on its side, the tea things still there from the day before, and he quietly went out to get himself to work.

Frodo’s clothes were scattered all over the bath chamber floor, along with a good deal of water splashed over the side of the tub. Sam got a fire going in the hearth first thing and started the water heating, then gathered up the laundry and mopped the floor. By the time he got to the kitchen and found the cupboard doors all open and rummaged through, he’d seen signs enough that maybe Frodo hadn’t had any better a night of it than he had, and the Gaffer’s words came right back to him, that it might be his fault. The Gaffer accusing him of strutting about was a shame to him, because he never meant to be like that, but it was true he’d never tried to hide from Frodo the loving part of what he felt, and there were times lately he’d not been at all sure he was hiding the other part, and maybe... maybe Frodo was seeing it... and thinking about it... and maybe... wanting him too? He couldn’t ignore what else the Gaffer had said to him, because he’d been hearing it all his life, that he wasn’t good enough for more than digging in the dirt and seeing to his work, but Frodo didn’t think like that, never had, and because of that a part of him didn’t.

Frodo had wrote Dearest Sam on a sheet of parchment. Poor Frodo all alone and lonely, and needing him, and he’d been lying there in his bed all alone and lonely too. An enormous heart tugging warmth spread all through him. He wasn’t his father, and Frodo wasn’t Mister Bilbo either, and maybe it didn’t have to be like the Gaffer said. He went about tidying up with hope floating over him like a big bright sun. He made up the fires in the kitchen and cooked a special easy on the stomach treat for Frodo, creamed buttered porridge with a touch of molasses, and a special tea for the head he was likely to have after overdrinking like that. He didn’t often, and when he did, he seemed to suffer for it more than most.

Sam finally filled a tray, and went back to the study, where Frodo was still lying there like that, but kind of twitching a little, like he might be trying to wake. Sam set down the tray next to the vase with the blue and white flowers, then he quietly moved the other chair around to the front of the desk, and he sat down there and waited, for Frodo to finally stir and lift his head, and blink open those eyes. “Morning, Mister Frodo.”

Frodo almost dropped his pounding head back down, but he wasn’t in his bed and Sam was there smiling at him.

“Looks like you had a party last night, sir, all by yourself.”

Frodo seemed to remember drinking, and drinking some more, and not very much else. He seemed to be in the study, seemed to be lying across the desk. He pushed himself up, very slow and carefully, and a letter lay there, in his own handwriting, sort of, a letter to Sam... a heartfelt letter to Sam detailing his sins and wishes! He slapped his hand over it, fumbled open a drawer, and swept it out of sight.

Sam dropped his eyes. So it wasn’t meant for him to see, and maybe it wasn’t even a good thing, though he couldn’t see Frodo writing Dearest Sam and then saying something he didn’t want to hear. He made himself look up again, and Frodo had his elbows on the desktop and his hands over his face. Sam took the cup of tea from the tray and set it in front of him. “You have this, Mister Frodo. It’ll help, or so my Gaffer says it does.”

Frodo dropped his hands, one of them. The other he clasped over his mouth, staring at the muddy yellow green tea Sam was asking him to drink.

“It’s not as bad as it looks, sir, and I sweetened it for you with a little honey.”

Frodo forced himself, to pick up the cup and take a sip. It wasn’t that bad, though it smelled peculiar. It was warm, and it was wet. He took another swallow, and it settled without too much trouble. He took in a better breath, and finally found a shred of his voice. “Is it late?” He couldn’t quite make himself turn to the window and look.

Sam said, “Nay, Mister Frodo. You ought to just sit there and relax until you feel better.” He didn’t look like he’d be moving anywhere too soon. Sam reached over and uprighted the wineglass that was lying on its side, and he quietly moved the plate of stale uneaten honey cakes to the tray he’d brought, then he took out his pipe. “Look what the Gaffer gave me last night, sir.” He held it up, and Frodo looked at it and kind of smiled a little.

It was a rite of passage, and Frodo was sure it must mean a great deal to Sam.

“Did Mister Bilbo give you your first pipe, Mister Frodo?”

Frodo swallowed a gulp of the tea, running his hand through his tangled hair, trying to think around the dull thudding in his head. “No... Master Saradoc Brandybuck did, when I was... sixteen, I think.” He hadn’t taken to it until later. “Uncle Bilbo gave me my second.”

Sam watched him finish the tea at last, then uncovered the porridge and set that in front of him. He didn’t look at all happy about it, but Sam thought he knew better just then what was best. “You’ll have no complaint about the taste of that, Mister Frodo sir, and it’ll make you feel right as rain in no time. It didn’t look like you fixed yourself supper last night like you said you would.”

Frodo certainly couldn’t remember doing so. It was all rather mortifying now that his mind was starting to work again. “I’m sorry about this, Sam... I can’t think... what I was thinking.” He could actually, distressing as that was. He’d hurt Sam’s feelings, sending him home early, and here Sam was pretending he hadn’t done it, trying to take care of him. Sam set a spoon down by the bowl, and he didn’t say a word, just picked it up and ate the stuff, which was really very good once he’d gotten the first spoonful down.

Sam sat there with his thoughts all chasing each other through his head, while Frodo had his breakfast, and started looking like he felt more himself, and Sam finally couldn’t stop himself asking. “Mister Frodo... do you think Mister Bilbo loved my Gaffer?” Hearing how abrupt that sounded, he tried toning it down. “I mean... like I love you and you...” Frodo had only said that to him once, but he knew Frodo loved him, and maybe Mister Bilbo had loved the Gaffer, when he was young, when he was just Hamfast Gamgee the gardener. Maybe Mister Bilbo had just never known how to say it to him, or maybe the Gaffer had loved Mister Bilbo and never had anything at all back for it. Frodo was sitting there with his blue eyes wide open. It wasn’t a fair question. Frodo couldn’t know what Mister Bilbo had thought and felt, all that long time ago. So Sam balled up his courage, and asked Frodo a different question, one that was surely more to the point. “Do you think you’ll marry and have a family, sir?”

Frodo’s spoon clunked to the desktop. “I... I don’t know, Sam...” The truth, didn’t he owe Sam at least a little bit of truth? “I can’t really see it happening.”

Sam had a struggle to keep his wits. “Well, Mister Frodo, I know it’s what I’m supposed to do... when I’m of age and all... the Gaffer’s told me so enough times... but it don’t seem right for me neither.”

Frodo’s first stumbling impulse told him Sam didn’t know what he was saying, then a far more painful explanation struck him. He gripped the edge of the desk and dragged himself to his feet. “Sam... did you see that letter...” Sam looked at him shocked.

“Nay, sir, Mister Frodo, you were lying on it, you were...” Sam shut his mouth, but couldn’t leave an untruth hanging there. “I only saw what you wrote at the top, sir... dearest Sam.” His heart was racing. Frodo’s eyes held his and wouldn’t let go. “You don’t know another Sam... do you, Mister Frodo?”

Frodo started to put a hand to his aching head, and stopped himself. “No.” He sank back into his chair, knowing he had to deal with it then and there, if it wasn’t too late. “Sam... you know how much I care for you...”

In fact, Sam was still groping for an answer to how much, but he nodded. “Aye, sir.”

“And you know... I get to writing... and I don’t always think... where it comes from...”

Sam did know that, Frodo had told him so, though he wasn’t sure how that applied here, still, “Aye, sir...”

“Then you’ll know, I hope, that I meant no harm...”

In growing confusion Sam just followed his instincts. “Nay, sir, no harm I can see... I hold you dearest to me, Mister Frodo...”

With the weight of that choking him, Frodo still tried his damnedest to make light of it. “I got myself soused... and I was missing your cheerful smile... that’s all.”

Sam’s heart sank, and he dropped his eyes so Frodo wouldn’t see it, when he was looking like he felt bad enough as it was. He got to his feet again, not too steadily it didn’t seem, and holding a hand to his stomach. Sam put aside his disappointment, and got himself up. “Can I get you something, Mister Frodo?”

Frodo half shook his head, trying to hold his breath. “No... I’m fine... I think I’ll just go and... throw up.” It was surely unnecessary to have said that, but he had, and that was what he needed to do. He hoped it was excuse enough for just walking out.

Sam followed far enough to sadly watch Frodo stagger down the hall to the bath chamber, and heard him drop the latch on the inside. He went back into the study feeling a little desolate after feeling so heartened. He quietly gathered up the dishes and the wine bottle, and the handful of moonslip petals that had already fallen from Frodo’s posy, too fragile for cutting they were, but the colour of Frodo’s eyes when the light was in them, and not to be left out. On his way to the kitchen, he stopped at the bath chamber door, listening, and finally knocked softly. “I’ll make you some tea, Mister Frodo sir.” A faint ‘Thank you, Sam.’ answered him back after a bit, and there didn’t seem anything else he could do. He went on to the kitchen, to make Frodo’s tea, and clean up, so he could get himself out to the garden where he belonged.

* * * * * * *

Frodo furiously splashed his face with cold water, then leaned over the basin shivering, thinking again that he needed to just leave, before he did something else that was utterly stupid and wasn’t able to weasel out of it. “He wouldn’t stop loving you if you weren’t here.” Frodo was sorrowfully certain he wouldn’t. “But he wouldn’t ever have to know that wasn’t enough for you.” He sank down to the hearth step and huddled there, agonizing. He couldn’t leave and never see Sam again. He didn’t have the strength to do that. But it couldn’t go on as it had. “You have to deal with it.” He had to. He’d started it all, and he’d dragged poor Sam into it, and Sam was owed a real honest explanation, regardless the consequences to himself, regardless of it forcing him to put a proper distance between them.

Wishing for a clearer head was no more use than wishing Sam didn’t care quite so much for him. That was the very worst of it, the risk of hurting Sam. But the lying and pretending had to stop. He took a deep breath finally, and pulled himself together as best he could. He looked like he’d dressed himself drunk, with his collar twisted and his shirtbuttons all done up one hole off, and Bilbo’s ring was just hanging there by its chain from his belt. He swept it up and thrust it into his pocket, and held it there a moment, like that might give him the courage he needed. It didn’t seem to help. He got his buttons redone, and his collar straight, and attempted to run his hands through his hair to put it in order, then he mustered what little he had and took himself to the kitchen, where Sam was on his knees at the hearth, bathed all in firelight and shadow.

Sam pushed himself up from feeding the fire, and Frodo was standing there in the doorway looking pale and unwell. Sam stepped around the table to take down a cup. “I’m sorry I made you feel worse, Mister Frodo. You just sit and rest a bit and I’ll get your tea.”

Frodo couldn’t make more of his voice than a whisper. “Sam... I need to talk to you.”

Sam looked at him again, and couldn’t figure out if that was a good thing or not. He took down another cup and poured tea for them both, started to set out bread and jam to go with it, but thought better of that. Frodo settled to the bench at the table like he had a great burden on him. With his own stomach hurting, Sam sat down across from him.

Frodo wrapped his nervous hands around his cup, and did his best to meet Sam’s steady gaze. “I’m afraid you’re going to think very badly of me... ” Sam opened his mouth, to assure him otherwise no doubt. Frodo stopped him. “You don’t know, Sam... but I’m going to tell you... because I can’t go on lying about it.”

Sam’s confidence was too shaken by then to think Frodo might have anything good to say to him, so he had to consider the worst, fearful and anxious. “Sir...” Frodo shushed him.

“If you don’t let me say this now, Sam... I may never be able to.” Frodo tore his eyes from Sam’s to stare into his cup, and just did it. “I’m sure your father has told you about lads and lasses and how everything is supposed to work... but sometimes it isn’t as it should be... sometimes there will be a lad who has feelings like that for other lads... and though he knows it isn’t right, it just happens, and there isn’t anything he can do to stop it... I know... because I’m...” His voice faded to where he could hardly hear it himself. “I’m like that, Sam... I don’t know why... I just am...” All he heard from Sam was dead silence, with worse still to come, “...and I know you’ve seen me looking at you...”

All the fear flowed out of Sam, his heart thumping hard and fast. He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but he did know what to say. “You’ve always looked at me like that, Mister Frodo... since I was just little.” Frodo looked up into his eyes, horrified, and he quickly finished what he’d meant to say. “You’ve always let me know you loved me, whether you said so or nay.”

Frodo’s chest tightened. “I’m not talking about love, Sam...”

Sam thought otherwise. “I do know what you mean, sir. I’ve thought about it all ways round, I have, and I think it’s just love that’s found the right place and the right time to bloom into something bigger and better. And I don’t know why you think it’s not right, Mister Frodo, but it breaks my heart to know you’ve made it harder for yourself than it needs be.”

Frodo was bitterly sure Sam wasn’t listening to him. “I’ve felt these things for you, Sam!”

Sam didn’t know how much plainer he could make it, but he did his best. “That day, Mister Frodo... you remember that day... that night sitting out front looking at the stars when you told me you loved me... well, sir, I don’t have words for what it made me feel like... like the light of the elves had come into me, you might say.” Frodo’s eyes were locked on his, as big and bright as if all the stars in the sky were captured there. “I had those feelings for you, Mister Frodo, I do still have, and I’m not ashamed for it, cause I don’t see how there can be bad in something what feels like that.”

Frodo was stunned, and awed, and so filled with love and longing it nearly tore him apart, because he was afraid too. “You’re too young, Sam...”

Sam took in a shaky breath. “I’m twenty three, sir.” Frodo just looked like he was in pain. He got up and stumbled over the bench, and walked off again, toward the front hall this time. A little bit terrified, but determined, Sam steeled his nerve and shoved himself up from the table to follow. The hall was empty, but he’d not heard the door. He quietly walked down to the parlour doorway, and found Frodo there sitting in his chair in the dark. Sam went in, to the window to open the shutters and let in some daylight.

“Please leave it closed, Sam. I can’t...” I can’t think straight with the sun shining on you. It was just that much worse having to know Sam thought of him that way too, if he really did and wasn’t just reacting. Sam seemed to think it made everything right, but Sam wasn’t old enough to know what he wanted.

Sam stood there a little while feeling like he teetered on a cliff’s edge. He finally went to start a fire in the hearth, not saying a word, too afraid of saying the wrong thing with it come so close. But if nothing got said, they’d never get any farther than that, and that wasn’t a bearable place to be.

Frodo tucked his feet up and hugged his knees to his chest. Firelight wasn’t much better, too warm and lulling, and Sam came and sat on the footstool before his chair, looking up at him, loving him and not letting him think about anything else.

“Why do you think it’s wrong, Mister Frodo?”

Why? Frodo could hardly make his voice work. “It isn’t normal, Sam. It isn’t the way nature intended things to be.”

“There’s no harm in it, sir.”

Frodo felt harmed by it. “I’ve lived with it for a long time, Sam... and I’ve heard enough. Ask your Gaffer if it isn’t wrong... or Ted Sandyman... or the good ladies down at the candle shop. I’m sure any of them will be glad to tell you.”

Sam could argue that, quite well he thought. “As for my Gaffer, sir, I’m not real sure anymore what he’d say... and otherwise... it don’t matter what those people think. It only matters to me what you think, Mister Frodo. Do you think it’s wrong how I feel about you?”

That was so unfair, with Frodo’s will already shaken to its foundations. He tucked himself tighter into his chair. “You’re too clever for your own good, Sam.”

Sam was none too sure of what that even meant, beginning to think talking wasn’t going to get them where they ought to be, wanting to just reach out and lay a touch on Frodo’s knee, or his hand, to touch that hand and hold it. But when it came right down to the moment, it wasn’t an easy thing to do, not an easy thing at all, and Frodo wasn’t finished worrying it.

“You’re too young, Sam. When you’re older and you have some experience... when you’ve thought about it for a long hard time... then you can make such a choice. Not now.”

Sam figured if he was going to say something wrong, this was it, but he didn’t see any other way. “I have thought about it, Mister Frodo... and more.” He didn’t want to say, not at all sure he wanted Frodo to know that about him, but if he had to prove it, he could. He just couldn’t say it looking into Frodo’s eyes like that. He looked down and stared at his hands clasped on his knees. “I know plenty well how it is... cause Tom and his brothers and me used to go up to the loft at the Cotton’s farm and talk about things... and do things sometimes too... and once... me and Jolly... well, we did everthing we could think of to do... once.”

A fresh anxiety settled over Frodo that deadened the impact of knowing Sam wasn’t innocent at all. “I don’t know anything...”

It was barely a whisper, but it wept to Sam of need. He leaned forward, reaching out, and was taking Frodo’s pale soft hand in his.

Frodo closed his eyes, shivering, he couldn’t stop shivering. How could he not have felt that, he could feel it now, Sam wanting him, yearning and eager to show him everything he’d missed out on. He tried to pull away, but Sam wouldn’t let go, those strong gentle hands holding to his. He opened his eyes. He tried to face it. “You’re too young, Sam...”

Inside Sam was quaking, but he doggedly held his course. “I’m not.” He drew Frodo’s beautiful perfect hand to his lips, and he kissed it, and he held it trembling against his cheek. “I love you, Mister Frodo... and you said you love me...” He reached out and took Frodo’s other hand, and tugged just a little, trying to lure him out of the ball he’d got himself into, and he gave, with a soft sobbing catch of his breath.

Frodo slid from the chair to his knees on the floor, and he threw his arms around Sam and clung to him tight. Sam embraced and held him, shaking. Sam’s whisper touched his hair.

“I’ll try so hard not to make you sorry, Mister Frodo!” Perched on the edge of the footstool with Frodo in his arms, with Frodo’s cheek pressed against his thrumming heartbeat and his every muscle taut with anticipation, Sam slowly raised a hand and touched his fingers through the dark curls under his chin, fine and soft as thistle down they were. He had to think to breathe. “Is your head better, sir?”

Frodo caught a shivery breath. “Yes.” The pain had faded away without his noticing. “I’m sorry, Sam.”

Sam’s heart twinged. “Why would you want to say that, Mister Frodo?”

Because he was. It couldn’t be as easy as Sam wanted it to be. The words caught in his throat. “I don’t want you to be hurt.”

Sam let go just a little, maneuvering himself from the stool to his knees on the floor, and brought Frodo’s lips so near to his he had only to turn his cheek to have them, soft and trembling and parted on a breath. He’d only ever kissed Jolly Cotton like that, on the mouth, but not like that, not like that at all. He found his fingers twined in Frodo’s silky curls, a hunger roused in him the like of which he’d never imagined.

Frodo gripped Sam’s arms and just held on tight as the doubt and anxiety drained out of him. Sam stole his breath away, and gave him in return a bright spark of faith in what could be, the spark that lit the fire in him. He gasped a muffled cry, and lingeringly Sam’s mouth released his, brushing warm across his cheek, kissing his eyelids and his forehead and his nose. Sam held his head in both hands and gazed at him from so close all he saw were those big brown eyes full of love, and the heat flamed up in him, spreading out from his center to the very tips of his fingers and toes. He slid his arms around Sam’s neck, and Sam breathlessly laughed, and they kissed again.

Sam couldn’t say how it happened, but they ended up lying on the rug before the hearth, Frodo warming up to the notion, that was sure, touching him and holding to him, and kissing. Sam indulged him wholeheartedly in that, until they couldn’t either one get a breath for it, and finally lay there just hugging each other for a wondrous while.

Frodo pressed his face in against the warmth of Sam’s strong neck and inhaled the intoxicating scent of him, stricken nearly senseless by just the feel of their bodies together. If they could lie there like that holding each other until the end of time it wouldn’t have been long enough by half. But something wasn’t right. Frodo fumbled to catch Sam’s hand, to pull it up against his cheek. His voice shook. “Are you crying, Sam?”

Sam buried his face in Frodo’s sweet smelling curls. “Aye, sir, just a little... just cause I’m afraid I’m dreaming and I’ll wake up now... like I always do.”

Frodo drew back enough to look into his eyes, and Sam touched those fingers over his face and his lips, and with tears streaking his face in the firelight he smiled.

“Do you think we’re dreaming, Mister Frodo?”

Frodo faintly shook his head, never taking his eyes from Sam’s. “My dreams were never like this...” Sam slipped fingers into his hair and drowned him in a salty wet kiss, and he found his fingers fumbling with Sam’s shirt buttons, then Sam’s were at his, and they were getting nowhere but in each other’s way. Frodo tore his mouth from the kiss gasping. “Sam!”

Sam calmed himself as much as he could, caught Frodo’s shaking hands and held them and kissed them, and gently urged him to lie back. “I know what to do for you, Mister Frodo... and if you’d let me... you’d make me more happy than I’ve a right to be.”

Even in a less than sane state of mind, Frodo couldn’t let that pass. “You have as much right... to happiness... as anyone.” Sam leaned over him, and kissed him, and told him so did he, and he gave in and let Sam have his way, to undoing the buttons of his shirt and spreading it open and touching him.

So fair and fragile, Frodo’s perfect body, so soft and pale and lovely, and Frodo shivered so, catching at his breath and closing his eyes and throwing his arms over his face. Sam felt acutely how rough and coarse his hands were, but he couldn’t stop himself then and just went at it ever so gently, tenderly caressing his fingers over Frodo’s beautiful nakedness, and following along with his lips and his warm breath, not thinking, just doing what felt right to do.

Sam’s fingers... Sam’s hands... Sam’s mouth... blazing trails of heat and craving all through him until the ache in the pit of his groin threatened to erupt. Frodo shuddered convulsively, catching at his breath, threw open his eyes and fumbled for Sam’s buttons again. “I want to feel you!”

No more than Sam longed to feel him right back. With his nerves all aflutter, he caught Frodo’s hand and kissed his warm trembling lips, then he pushed himself to his knees and he slid one brace off his shoulder then the other, and pulled his shirt over his head, no need for messing with buttons.

Frodo watched with his heart pounding as Sam stripped off his clothes, all of them, sitting to pull off his breeches then kneeling there as naked as the day he was born, with a shy smile on his glowing face and the rich warm firelight dancing in his hair and in his eyes, a scattering of golden freckles across his muscled shoulders. Frodo couldn’t take his eyes any farther, a sudden nervous jittering in his stomach.

Sam saw that, and put aside any notion of showing himself off. This wasn’t him and Jolly fooling around in the hayloft for fun. He stretched out again and touched fingers to Frodo’s cheek, and only kissed him, long and slow and sweet, until Frodo finally slid both arms around him and pulled him close, and nothing felt like that. He slid the shirt down from Frodo’s shoulder, and let his hands wander.

Kisses and bare skin and Sam’s wonderful hands all over him, it was enough almost to drive Frodo over the edge that very moment, nervousness quickly forgotten. With a flash of courage that came out of nowhere, he slid his hands down over the smooth firm muscles of Sam’s backside and pressed himself tight against Sam’s frontside, hardness against hardness, throbbing and aching.

Sam urgently slid a hand down between them, trying to get to Frodo’s belt buckle, which was none too comfortable crushed into his belly like that, but Frodo wasn’t letting go for anything. Sam gasped, laughing for pleasure. “Mister Frodo sir... if you’ll just let me get my fingers in there...”

Frodo fought to get a breath, letting go a little, and Sam’s hand was between them, fumbling at his buckle and pulling open his breeches, slipping inside and taking him in hand. Then he couldn’t breathe at all, tensed and trembling with his mind in a spin.

Sam reluctantly let it go, not to have it over before they’d hardly started. Frodo moaned a small protest, but clung to him and let him do it his way, and Sam got him out of the rest of his clothes, pushing down his breeches and his drawers until he could get a toehold on them to drag them off and out of the way, then having Frodo’s entire body at last naked against his, the both of them consumed with tremors.

From that moment it was just a matter of holding on for another second, and another, desperately wanting not to let Sam down. Sam pressed him to his back on the rug, on top of him and between his shaking knees, hot breath on his face and his neck and his shoulder, and set to sliding against him, slippery hardness thrust against his sweat slicked belly, his own against Sam’s, and it welled up out of him into an ecstacy he’d searched for and never found by his own hand.

Sam flinched as Frodo drove fingernails into his back and came, panting to breathe and groaning down deep in his throat. Sam was so near he could taste it, but he held on somehow, rolled them to their sides and caught Frodo close and tight as it shivered through his slight fragile body, and finally left him limp and trembling.

Excruciatingly aware that Sam was still aroused and in need, but too spent to do a thing about it, Frodo could only apologize. “I’m so sorry... Sam... I’m hopeless.”

Sam found his mouth and kissed him, gentle and loving, then just held him, so happy. “If we wait a little, Mister Frodo... I’ll bet there’s more... where that came from.” He tried wishing himself calm and cool, but he couldn’t stop his hands from roving, and Frodo’s began to wander over his back and his shoulders again, touching him with soft sensitive fingertips, like he was every bit as precious as an elvish word on parchment. Foolish tears came up in his eyes again. “I do love you so, Mister Frodo sir!” Frodo brushed warm lips across his cheek, and looked at him, blue eyes bright and shimmering.

“I love you, Sam... I’ll love you forever and always.”

Sam loved him back just like that, and if it had to stop there he told himself it would have been enough to last him the rest of his life. The fire was down, the light from it low and filled with shadows. Frodo’s pale face in it was so beautiful the sight almost burned his eyes, and Frodo leaned in close and kissed him, body twitching and wriggling against his, already rousing again and ready for more. Sam clutched him close, and Frodo clutched at him back, whispering at his ear, what he wanted them to do, then hid his face like he was embarrassed he’d said it. Sam hugged him tight, and gave him a whisper back. “Mister Frodo sir... there’s a word for that... you want I should tell it to you?”

Frodo caught a shaky breath. “I know the word, Sam... please don’t make fun of me...”

Sam rubbed a trembly hand over his back. “I wouldn’t, Mister Frodo.” As for what Frodo wanted them to do, about that he wasn’t too sure, because Jolly had wanted that from him, and it hadn’t gone as well as it might have. But Frodo had made up his mind seemingly, shoved a hand down between them and wrapped it tight around the slippery pulsing length of him. His heart thudded in his chest.

Before that twinging of doubt and uncertainty could talk him out of it, Frodo pushed Sam to his back and knelt over him. That was how Merry had told him it was done, and though it was all theory to him it made sense enough. Getting everything into proper position for it to work though was a trick. Sam laid hands on his bare thighs and lay there looking up at him with wide dark eyes, breathing hard and fast, and Frodo finally let it go and just leaned there with both hands on his chest, asking in a small voice, “Aren’t you supposed to help?”

Sam reached out to him, hesitating. Frodo sank down into his arms and Sam hugged him close and gentle. He’d hurt Jolly Cotton, but they’d not bothered using anything to ease the way. A little spit might have been a good thing, but he’d never in his life done that in front of Frodo, into his hand or otherwise, and truthfully between the two of them, between the sweat and Frodo’s come and his own so near to bursting it couldn’t all be kept in, they were already a sticky gooey mess, and to save his soul he couldn’t say nay, or let Frodo go to get himself up and find something in the kitchen. Frodo whispered against his shoulder.

“If you don’t want to...”

Sam buried fingers in soft curls, heart pounding. “I do, Mister Frodo... I do so ever!”

That was enough for Frodo. He pushed himself up again to his knees, and he gave Sam a smile, reassuring he hoped, since Sam seemed more unsure of it than he did. He had his shirt half on still, hanging at his elbows. He pulled it off and tossed it away, and reached for Sam’s hand to press over his heart, kneeling there gazing into those glimmering eyes. “You have to help, Sam.”

Sam didn’t need to be asked again. He splayed his brown hand over Frodo’s paleness, and reached between Frodo’s spread thighs to grip himself and do the guiding of it.

Frodo shivered as it found its mark, then pushed himself down and took it in, with a jolt of pain that had him gasping and shuddering, and Sam tensed all up and grasped his shoulder.

“Mister Frodo...”

Frodo blindly reached out and clamped a hand over Sam’s mouth, sucked in a ragged breath, and bent down to replace it with his own, a loving kiss to make the hurt less, his and Sam’s both, and it worked, the pain eased and dulled and didn’t matter, with Sam’s big strong gentle hands tenderly caressing his trembling thighs, with Sam inside him filling him up with throbbing heat. He finally tore his mouth from the kiss, and managed a breathless whisper, and a smile to go with it. “Is this how it goes, Sam?”

Sam nodded without thinking about it, thinking he couldn’t do, but with Frodo smiling at him like that it had to be alright. He braced his heels in the carpet under them and gently gripped Frodo’s slender hips, and slid himself in deeper, as easy as he could do it, as hard as that was with it all built up inside him like floodwater spilling over a dam.

Shivering uncontrollably, Frodo closed his eyes and arched his back and just let it all out, “Sam... Sam... Sam...”, and Sam drove it deep and came inside him, and reached for his, gripping and stroking and driving him to a frenzy.

It was like fireworks in his belly, like Frodo catching him up and spinning him round and round as a lad until his whole body was dizzy and quivering, only hotter, and brighter. Sam nudged himself as deep as he could get into the clenching tight inside of Frodo, and gave to him everything there was to give, and Frodo wrapped both hands around his hand and rocked against him, coming too and gasping his name still, in a whisper finally, staring deep into his eyes, as a last convulsive shiver passed through him and dribbled wet and warm over their fingers. Sam caught a great gulp of a breath, and reached up to shakily touch the dark curls back from his face, and he smiled, a beautiful rosy glow across his fine high cheekbones.

Frodo rocked forward, sliding his sticky hand over Sam’s heaving chest, bending down to claim a breathless kiss, and the movement caused it to slip soft and sated from his grip. A faint groan came up in his throat and Sam gave him a sorry look, but there wasn’t anything to be sorry for. He sank down into Sam’s waiting arms, fulfilled beyond his most vivid imagining, and Sam hugged him close and warm and loved him, he could feel Sam’s love for him like it was in the air he was panting to catch. He lay there amazed and bewildered, that they could have come to this from the desperation of such a short time before.

Sam didn’t question it, it was just meant to be, Frodo’s dear body sprawled there in his arms against him, his to love and cherish forever. He hugged and cuddled it, adoring, and finding the breath at last to whisper, “I love you, Frodo.”

Still bathing in the glow, still struggling to breathe, Frodo lifted his eyes to Sam’s. “You said my name...” Sam gazed at him back.

“I say your name all the time.”

Frodo smiled a little, and sank back down to hug him again. “It isn’t the same, Samwise Gamgee.”

Sam tenderly stroked his silky hair, and tried it again. “Frodo.” Frodo pressed a warm breathy kiss to the side of his neck, and a question did come to him finally, one he felt the need to ask, a soft whisper at Frodo’s ear. “Thought you said you didn’t know anything, sir.”

Frodo closed his eyes. “I didn’t... Merry told me...”

Sam had to think about that, had to wonder how Master Merry could tell Frodo such a thing as that and then not do anything about it, but he couldn’t doubt what Frodo said, after all that had come to pass, couldn’t doubt that Frodo hadn’t ever had so much as a lover’s kiss before his. Still, it made him feel something he’d not quite felt before, jealousy. He told himself there was no reason for it. He knew Frodo loved him. He rolled them over to their sides, Frodo’s head pillowed on his arm, so they could look at each other in the low flickery light. “Do you think it’s wrong still, Mister Frodo?”

Frodo wasn’t sure what he thought at that point, but he knew what others would if it was ever found out. He would rather not have thought about it just then, and Sam seemed sorry he’d asked. Frodo slid a hand over his shoulder, touching his fingers through rumpled ginger curls. “Sam... you didn’t do this just for me... did you?”

In his mind and his heart everything Sam did was for Frodo, but he understood, that Frodo didn’t want to hear that. He smiled a soft smile. “Did it seem to you I might be pretending, sir?”

Frodo smiled, and shook his head, and snuggled in close for a big warm hug.

“I am so hungry, Sam.”

Sam smiled happily, holding him close. “I’ll fix you something.”

Frodo shifted back out of his arms a little to look him in the eye. “If you’ll let me help.”

Sam chewed his lip, debating with himself whether to say it, and finally did. “You can if you want, Mister Frodo... but it’ll take twice as long... if you don’t mind me saying, sir.”

Frodo laughed, feeling for the moment at least as if all the darkness had fled. “I don’t mind you saying, Sam... but I’m going to help anyway... then we’ll go outside and get your work done... then we’ll come inside and read our new books... in bed... maybe... by candlelight. How would that be?” Sam just pulled him close and kissed him again, hard soft warm wonderful body plastered to his, and they lay there together for an eternity longer.

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