Originally written for the 2009 Baggins Birthday Bash. My recipient asked for ‘Sam’s hands and Frodo’s feet’
The gifting of foot-combs to an unwed hobbit on his birthday was a Fallohide tradition, or so the legend went. Sam didn’t know if it was true, but the proof, he reckoned, was in the foot-hair; and Frodo Baggins’s was silkier and more luxuriant than any hobbit in living memory. Some claimed Mr. Frodo was a throwback to the pure Fallohide blood of Marcho and Blanco, rumoured to have had foot-hair of unparalleled length and silken texture. Sam didn’t know if that was true, either, but the effect of Mr. Frodo’s foot-hair on other unwed hobbits (of both sexes) was undeniable and profound: they clamoured, nay slavered, for the privilege of combing those glorious strands.
Each birthday since he’d come of age, the Master of Bag End had been inundated with foot-combs from his ardent admirers. Combs made of horn, tortoise shell, or wood. Combs made of gold, silver or bronze. Ornate combs inlaid with gemstones or mother-of-pearl, nestled in pouches of satin or silk. Combs that cunningly folded shut for carrying. Combs with teeth finer than a fairy’s spindle. Combs with handles fashioned in the shape of fantastical birds or beasts. Combs crafted by Dwarves or even, some claimed (dubiously, to Sam), by Elves.
Each birthday since Mr. Frodo had come of age, an agonised Sam had watched as his master thoughtfully examined the comb inundation, while he wondered with a sick sense of dread if this was the year Frodo would at last select a comb—and a lover. For allowing another hobbit to groom one’s foot-curls was akin to a declaration of love; no deeper intimacy could two hobbits share (save one), and Sam’s dearest wish was to be the one who shared that intimacy (and the other) with Frodo.
To Sam’s relief, no foot-comb, however grand or Elvish, had yet met Frodo’s exacting standards (whatever they were), and his lush ebon foot-hair remained untouched by any save Sam, who in his fevered dreams plied a comb through the silken tresses to the music of his master’s soft sighs and guttural moans, until they faded into morning birdsong outside his bedroom window and the chivvying voice of his sister Marigold saying, “Time to get up, Samwise.”
The year Sam came of age, he was free at last to join the gifting. He spent weeks on his own modest offering, pouring every ounce of skill and love he possessed into its creation until the comb was as perfect as his humble hands could make it. On Frodo’s birthday, he crept quietly as a mouse into the Bag End parlour, and with trembling fingers slid the lovingly polished cherry-wood under the combs already piled on a side-table. Later he stood, heart lodged in his throat, as Frodo deliberately picked up and considered each comb, only to set them aside with equal deliberation, seeming oblivious to the crest-fallen faces around him.
“Impossible to please,” someone said.
“He’ll die a virgin at this rate,” someone else muttered, regretfully.
Not if I have anything to say to it, thought Sam.
Sam’s comb at the bottom of the pile was the last of all. Frodo studied it long, forefinger tapping absently against his full lower lip, before picking it up. He turned it over in his hands, testing the weight and balance on his palm. He ran the tip of his finger along the comb’s sleek length, down one finely tapered tooth, and pressed the point into the pink pad until it turned white. Then he smiled.
“I choose this one,” Frodo said, holding up Sam’s comb, and as a rippling murmur of astonishment at his choice ran through the room like a wavelet over pebbles, his eyes, dark as sloes, went straight to Sam. I choose you, they said.
“How did you know ‘twas mine, Mr. Frodo?” Sam asked. They were alone now, seated side by side on the sofa. Frodo’s right foot, its luxuriant curls a silken whisper of seduction, was resting on Sam’s thigh; Sam clutched the comb in his damp palm while he worked up the nerve to yield to their siren call.
“Mr. Frodo?” Frodo raised an elegant eyebrow.
“Sorry, s- I mean, M-, that is, Frodo,” Sam floundered, the tips of his ears burning. It was all so much easier in his dreams.
“Poor Sam—but you will catch on,” Frodo said sympathetically. “And to return to your question: I confess I was rather hoping to find a comb from you this year. I’ve waited long enough for you to come of age, and dreamt so often of this moment.” He added in a low, intent voice, “I knew the instant I touched the comb that yours were the hands that made it. You leave your mark on everything you touch, my Samwise.”
Sam blushed, goggled and blushed harder. “You were? You did? I do?” he stammered.
“But of course. Now, let me see…” Frodo patted his jacket pocket, reached inside and drew out a gleaming silver comb engraved with an intricate floral design. “Made by the Elves,” he said, his eyes laughing.
Sam grinned, but the grin was wiped clean away by Frodo’s next action. He grasped Sam’s left ankle and placed his foot on a taut, firmly muscled thigh.
“I’ve heard the pleasure is even greater when it is shared by both parties,” Frodo said. He sank the comb into Sam’s thick chestnut foot-curls and slowly, sensuously, drew it through them.
“Oh Frodo,” Sam gasped, his eyes rolling back in his skull at the intensity of the sensation, but then, recalling both his dream and his duty, rallied himself and wielded his own comb on Frodo to equally good effect, until the parlour swarmed with soft sighs and guttural moans that didn’t fly with the morning, but lasted… forever.