Notes: Falls between 'Seducing Sam' and 'Yuletide Pleasures' and before 'Lavender Mistress'.
A soaking late autumn rain had been coming down since mid-morning, but Sam worked without ceasing until he’d finished planting the very last bulb in the carefully prepared flower beds. Darkness was closing in and the temperature dropping with it when he finally pushed his wheelbarrow into the shed; but only after he’d methodically cleaned, dried and put away all the gardening tools did he return, wet through and shivering, to the smial. He let himself in through the back door, and to his surprise, Frodo was there waiting for him.
Keen blue eyes raked him from head to toes in a comprehensive glance that made Sam acutely aware of his bedraggled appearance.
“Beloved,” Frodo began and then simply shook his head, glossy curls catching the lamplight’s gleam like polished walnut. “Oh, what’s the use? Let’s get you out of those wet clothes.”
“Nay,” Sam exclaimed, stepping back as Frodo reached for a sleeve of his sodden jacket. “You’ll be all over mud.”
“A little mud won’t hurt me,” Frodo replied with a shrug, and took a firm hold of Sam’s jacket. “Stand still,” he added severely as Sam instinctively pulled away again, “and that’s an order. You’re dripping water everywhere.”
Meekly, Sam obeyed. A dingy puddle of brown gathered around his feet as Frodo stripped him with a ruthless efficiency quite unlike his usual method of removing Sam’s clothing.
“I’ll mop up soon’s I’ve put on dry clothes, Frodo,” Sam said apologetically, watching the puddle spread along the uneven flagstone floor.
“No, you will not.” Frodo’s swift riposte left no room for debate. “I am perfectly capable of wielding a mop, Samwise Gamgee. Lift your foot.”
Sam subsided. Frodo was in an imperious mood, and he’d learned there was no arguing with him when such a mood descended. He lifted first one foot then the other, and Frodo matter-of-factly tugged his mud-splashed breeches off and tossed them on the growing pile.
When Sam was naked, his chilled skin covered in goose pimples and his privates doing a fine imitation of a shrinking violet, Frodo retrieved a dressing gown from a hook on the wall and held it out. “Put this on.”
“But Frodo, I’m filthy,” he protested. Dirt—well fertilised dirt at that—liberally besmeared his arms, calves, ankles and feet, and the robe was one of Frodo’s, the fabric costly and more fitted for a king than a humble hobbit.
Frodo simply lifted one eloquently arched eyebrow, tapped a well-groomed toe and waited.
With a sigh, Sam stepped over his discarded clothes and slid his arms into the sleeves of the dressing gown. Frodo lifted it up and settled it over his shoulders then came around front and tied the belt snugly at his waist.
“Better, sweeting?” Frodo asked, smiling at him.
“Aye,” Sam said gratefully, enveloped by blissful warmth in equal parts from the softness of the cream-coloured wool and the softness of the glow in Frodo’s eyes.
“Good.” Frodo reached next for a bath towel laid ready to hand, and briskly dried Sam’s sopping curls. “And after all, beloved, what sense is there to owning a dressing gown if you are afraid to wear it?” He gave one last playful rub that made Sam grin and duck his head, and tossed the towel aside. “Now come along to the kitchen. I’ve made you a hot meal.”
The grin vanished. Sam couldn’t help it; his mouth fell open. “You—you’ve what?” he stuttered, too flabbergasted to protest as Frodo collected the sopping heap of clothes and picked them up.
That expressive eyebrow elevated again. “Don’t sound so surprised. I can cook, you know.”
That was news to Sam. In the months he’d lived at Bag End with Frodo, his love had never evinced the slightest interest in cooking, save to consume, with almost orgasmic pleasure and praise so slavish that it brought Sam to the blush, the dishes Sam made for him.
But he was too tired and too hungry to worry overmuch about it, and besides, he’d learnt never to underestimate Frodo Baggins. For one with a reputation for indolence and self-absorption, he was unexpectedly accomplished—and not solely in matters relating to the bedchamber.
The kitchen was cheerful and bright with a fire on the hearth, a steaming pot bubbling over the dancing flames and a plate piled with fresh-baked rolls keeping warm on the hob. Sam’s stomach rumbled and his nose twitched appreciatively at the scent that rose from the pot, a mouth-watering scent that told him he’d been right to reserve judgment over Frodo’s ability to cook.
“Smells good,” Sam remarked, reviving a little. “Coney stew?”
“Yes, from a recipe Bilbo taught me,” Frodo said. He disappeared into the adjoining washroom to dispose of Sam’s soiled clothes, and re-emerged just as Sam was heading to the hearth to investigate the pot and its contents.
“Oh no, you don’t.” Frodo intercepted Sam and steered him to the table where a place for one was neatly set and the tea things laid out, along with a jar of honey, a crock of butter and a bottle of brandy. “Sit,” he ordered, and pushed him firmly into the chair.
Sam choked back a gasp of pain as Frodo’s hands pressed down on tender muscles strained by overwork and tight from the cold—but he wasn’t quick enough.
“Oh Sam,” Frodo exclaimed, relaxing his grip the instant he realised what he’d done. “Sweeting, I am sorry—although instead of apologising, I really ought to shake some sense into you, foolish hobbit. Whatever were you about, staying out in the rain all day? If your shoulders ache, it’s no more than you deserve.” He gave Sam the tiniest of shakes, barely enough to qualify as one, but his hands lingered in a soothing caress before falling away.
“Maybe I did overdo it today,” Sam allowed, though he hated to admit to any weakness in front of Frodo. “But that don’t mean you should be doin’ the same, love. ‘Tain’t fittin’, and that’s a fact.”
“Bah. What, am I made of glass that I can’t handle a little cooking and cleaning?” Frodo plucked the quilted flower-pattern cozy from the teapot and poured Sam a mug of tea, adding a large spoonful of honey and a finger of amber-gold brandy before pushing the mug toward him. “Drink this while I get your food.”
Sam picked up the sturdy ceramic mug—no delicate bone china cups here such as Mistress Lobelia had insisted on using and Sam had dreaded to break—and drank. The strong, brandy-laced tea burned a path down to the pit of his stomach and spread tendrils of delicious warmth there—much like the effect Frodo was having on him.
Eh, but his love was a sight, Sam thought dreamily, cradling the warm mug between his aching hands while he contemplated the comely form bending over the pot, ladle in hand. He was truly the essence of grace and beauty in hobbit form.
What Frodo didn’t understand was that it wasn’t a question of him being made of glass. Sam knew right well that for all his slender frame, and his face so fair he could pass for a lass easily enough if he wished, Frodo was no weakling, far from it.
But it was difficult, especially when his mind was so muddled by exhaustion, for Sam to articulate exactly why the idea of Frodo cooking and cleaning was such an affront to his soul. And then an image of shimmering, supple moon-silver metal popped into Sam’s mind: Bilbo Baggins’s corslet of chainmail in the mathom-house in Michel Delving. That corslet and Frodo were one and the same, Sam thought, each more beautiful than a hobbit’s imagination could ever conjure on its own, and each too fine, too special for everyday wear and tear.
Frodo returned to the table and set a large bowl of stew and the plate of perfectly browned rolls in front of Sam. “There! Your supper is ready, Sam.”
Sam’s attempted thank-you came out as an enormous, jaw-cracking yawn. “Sorry,” he said.
But Frodo only smiled and handed him his spoon. “Best eat fast, sweeting, before you fall asleep with your face in the bowl,” he teased.
“As if I ever would,” Sam protested, but he dug his spoon into the stew as his stomach growled again, imperatively. Frodo watched him with an expectant expression as he took his first bite.
“Well?” he prodded after a few moments. “What do you think?”
“What do I think? I think you’ve been a-hidin’ your light under a bushel,” Sam declared, and was tickled when the usually unflappable Frodo Baggins actually blushed. “Why, this stew would do old Torman proud, him as I apprenticed under at The White Stag. And he could be a right bugger to please, too,” he added with feeling, recalling any number of painful raps across the knuckles from Torman’s dreaded wooden spoon.
He ate another bite, letting the savoury broth linger on his tongue. His experienced cook’s taste buds identified leeks, potatoes, onions, carrots, thyme, sage, bay and red wine, in addition to the succulent rabbit.
“O’course, had I been makin’ it, I’d have added a few sprigs of rosemary,” he said, giving Frodo his honest opinion, as he tried always to do, “but then, that’s simply a matter of preference, ain’t it.”
Frodo burst out laughing. “Oh Sam, if you’d found no fault with the stew, I’d have thought you were only saying you liked it to please me.” He picked up a roll, tossed it in the air with insouciance, and caught it. “But now I can believe you.” He grinned and bit into the roll.
Sam stared at him in some bemusement, while he wondered if he would ever truly understand the mystery that was Frodo Baggins. He hoped not. “If you ain’t the queerest hobbit in the Shire,Frodo, I don’t know who is.”
Frodo swooped in and planted a smacking kiss on Sam’s muddy cheek. “I’ll take that as a compliment,” he said, and straightened. “And now I am going to leave you to your meal, while I check on the water that’s heating for your bath.”
“My bath? Frodo, you shouldn’t ought to have…”
Frodo halted halfway to the door, set his hands on his hips and frowned at Sam. “My love, you grow tedious,” he said in his affected society drawl. “And you know that tedium is of all things what I most abhor.”
Then in the twinkling of an eye he was gone, leaving Sam alone with his dinner and a fervent wish that he wasn’t quite so bone-tired. Oh, but he would love to go after Frodo and prove to him that ‘tedious’ was the last word he should be using to describe Sam. But there would be time later… if he could stay awake, that is.
Despite Sam’s protestation that he would never fall asleep with his face in his bowl, he nearly did, what with the heat from the fire, the brandy in the tea, and his belly growing nicely full of hot buttered rolls and stew. His chin gradually sank to his chest; his eyelids drifted shut. There was a clatter as the spoon slipped from his lax grip and hit the floor, but the sound seemed dim and far off…
“Sam.” A familiar touch roused him, warm fingers stroking his cheek. “Wake up, my love. It’s time for your bath.”
Sam startled awake with a jerk. “Sorry,” he said, yawning and rubbing at his tired eyes. “Didn’t mean to go noddin’ off like that.”
“You’ve used up your portion of ‘sorrys’ for today. I won’t allow you any more,” Frodo remarked severely. He stooped to pick up the dropped spoon and set it on the table. “Come, I’ll help you up,” he added in a very different, very gentle voice, taking Sam by the hands and assisting him to rise.
Sam wasn’t so tired that he couldn’t manage the short walk from the kitchen to the bathing chamber under his own power. But the plain truth was that enjoyment of the novel situation was undermining his resolution not to let Frodo do for him. And what harm, after all, could there be in allowing Frodo to have his way if it pleased him, as it did, seemingly? So he made no protest when Frodo put an arm around his waist, but let himself be guided out of the kitchen, down the hall and into the bathing chamber. Wisps of steam rose from the surface of a large copper tub standing in the center of the stone floor, and the humid air smelled wonderfully of the scented oil Frodo had added to the hot water, a fragrant mixture of rose, geranium and lavender.
Sam had shared that tub any number of times with Frodo—it was more than sufficiently roomy for two hobbits—and countless delightful hours had been passed in playful or passionate sport. In the past a tub had been strictly utilitarian to Sam: a cramped space where he was forced to sitwith raised knees while he scrubbed himself quickly, before the water cooled or the hobbit waiting his turn outside grew impatient. He’d learnt differently since then… about this, and so many other things.
His family would likely say he was growing soft and spoiled living with a gentlehobbit, but since moving to Bag End, Sam had discovered and explored a world of the senses he’d never previously imagined existed. All his life he’d yearned for more, without understanding exactly what that more was or how he’d recognise it if and when he found it. Well, with his first look into Frodo’s blue eyes at Mistress Lobelia’s Saturday afternoon tea party Sam had recognised it, and there was no going back—nor did he ever want to.
Frodo untied Sam’s belt and helped him out of the dressing gown, which he draped over the back of a chair while Sam climbed in the tub. His legs felt surprisingly wooden and heavy as he swung them stiffly one at a time over the rim.
But as he sank slowly down into the sweet scented water that enveloped him like a lover’s embrace, he forgot his discomfort. With a moan of delight, he stretched out his legs, and let his head fall back against the side of the tub. Almost like magic, or so it seemed to Sam, the soreness and tension began to melt away under the water’s soothing warmth.
“Oh Frodo, this is champion,” he said, and gave a contented sigh.
“The water’s not too hot?” Frodo asked as he rolled up sleeves.
“Nay, ‘tis perfect.”
“Well, if you’re sure...” Frodo picked up a cake of soap and a flannel and knelt beside the tub. “And now, Sam, I intend to wash you, and if you dare to utter so much as a single complaint, I shall push your head under the water and hold it there.”
“I’ll be good,” Sam promised, though he knew of course that Frodo’s threat was idle. But he was rather looking forward to being bathed by Frodo—just this once, of course.
In a most businesslike manner, Frodo dipped the flannel in the water and lathered it with the soap, which smelled strongly of lavender, a scent to which Frodo was most definitely partial.Frodo’s touch was deft and sure as he scrubbed gently at Sam’s grimy skin. He paused frequently to rinse and re-soap the flannel, for he was thorough in his cleaning and left no spot untouched. Sam had half suspected that Frodo intended more than a simple bath, but it quickly became apparent that for once seduction was not on the menu.
There was in fact nothing of the lover about Frodo. He was intent and focussed, and the tip of his pink tongue peeked out the corner of his mouth as he concentrated on his work, putting Sam in mind of himself as a child, labouring over his letters.
Gradually, as Frodo worked his way up one side of Sam and down the other, Sam fell into an almost trance-like state of boneless bliss. It was remarkably similar to how he felt after aspectacular orgasm, in fact. He gave himself over wholly to Frodo’s pampering, obediently shifting his limbs to the low-voiced commands, and letting out soft grunts of pleasure when Frodo worked the knotted muscles in his neck and shoulders until they loosened and relaxed.
Only when Frodo finished washing Sam’s belly and moved intimately lower, reaching between his legs to clean his genitals, was Sam moved to speak.
“Eh, I never believed I’d hear myself sayin’ this,” he said wryly, “but not for love nor money could I get it up right now, even wi’ you a-touchin’ me down there.”
An impish light came into Frodo’s eyes at Sam’s remark. “You should know better than to offer me such a challenge, beloved,” said he, “for I never can resist.” And on the words, he took hold of Sam’s shaft with the flannel, and his oh-so-talented and clever fingers moved it just so. Sam let out a gasp and his cock quivered and jumped so that the pale cloth fluttered moth-like, as if it had grown wings. “Methinks there’s more life down here than you give yourself credit for, Sam,” observed Frodo, his voice trembling with suppressed laughter.
“I reckon you could rouse a dead hobbit if you was a-wishin’ to,” Sam remarked with feeling, and Frodo laughed aloud.
But to Sam’s surprise, instead of continuing what he’d started, Frodo released his shaft and raised the dripping flannel from the water. “It’s not my intent to exhaust you any more than you already are, my love,” he said. “So let us leave this particular challenge for another time, hmm?”
Sam was disappointed, although he was forced to acknowledge the wisdom of the decision. His lax body was gradually sinking in the tub, lower and lower, and any more of Frodo’s expert handling might result in him going under for the count—without Frodo’s hand on his head to help him get there.
The disappointment was of short duration, however, in light of what came next. Frodo rose, moved behind Sam, and bid him sit up. “I’m going to wash your hair now,” he announced, in a tone that promised dire consequences if Sam dared to object.
Sam didn’t dare, as it happened. Without a word, he levered himself up, then bent his head forward and rested his elbows on his knees. Frodo wet his hair, worked the soap into it until it made a rich lather, and then he massaged Sam’s scalp vigorously with the fingertips of both hands, inching them around his skull until Sam’s entire body shivered and quaked with almost unbearably delicious tingles that skipped and skittered down his spine.
Well, he thought dazedly, who ever knew that it could feel so glorious to have one’s hair washed?By the time Frodo stopped, Sam had been reduced to a state of mindless bliss in which ‘ohhhh… ohhhhhhh’ repeated over and over was the extent of his vocabulary. He sat limp as a gutted herring while Frodo filled a large pitcher with hot water from the copper, and rinsed Sam’s hair until it was squeaky clean. He handed Sam a towel to wipe the streaming water from his face, and then picked up a second, smaller pitcher.
“What’s in there?” Sam asked curiously.
“An herbal rinse I made from pot marigold and chamomile,” Frodo said. “It will bring out the golden highlights in your hair.”
Sam gawped. “The golden what?” he asked.
“Highlights.” Frodo’s lips twitched and he looked amused. “Don’t look so shocked, beloved. After all, females enhance their natural charms, so why shouldn’t we?” He hefted the pitcher. “Put your head down again, please.”
Well, he’d yearned for more, hadn’t he, Sam thought as he obediently lowered his head and Frodo slowly poured the herbal rinse through his hair, and here was just one more example. He only hoped Frodo wouldn’t want him to paint his toenails or tie ribbons in his foot hair, like he’d seen some of the fine ladies at Mistress Lobelia’s parties do.
“All finished,” Frodo declared a short time later. “Now up you get, Sam, for a final rinse off.”
The getting up part turned out to be problematic, for Sam’s obstinately disobedient legs kept folding beneath him, so that every time he tried to get up, he flopped down into the water again, like a particularly ungainly duck attempting a landing. This had dire consequences for Frodo’s shirt and breeches, and by the time Sam was finally upright, Frodo was nearly as wet as if he’d been the one taking a bath. Judging by the irrepressible giggles that escaped from him, however, Frodo was far more amused than perturbed.
“I d-do hope you can m-manage to climb out of the t-tub on your own, b-beloved,” Frodo said in a trembling voice as he poured the remainder of the water from the copper over Sam’s soapy body. “For I f-fear another such p-performance m-may result in me exp-piring from l-laughter.”
“Eh, well, I reckon there are worse ways to go, Frodo,” Sam commented, grinning sheepishly. He did indeed manage to climb out on his own, his recalcitrant limbs being finally under his control, and stood there dripping in the warm, steamy room while Frodo went for towels to dry him.
He worked with the same gentle efficiency as he dried Sam’s hair, and then carefully blotted the water from his face, neck and shoulders, making his way gradually downward. Sam hadn’t been towelled off after a bath by another hobbit since he was a fauntling, yet it didn’t seem awkward or queer, far from it. In fact, never in his life had Sam felt as cherished as he did right now. Every stroke of the soft linen across his wet skin spoke of Frodo’s love for him, and revealed, like petals unfurling in the morning sun to expose the hidden heart of a flower, a depth of caring that Sam suspected had never been shown to anyone by this complicated, quicksilver, passionate hobbit—until now.
It was only when Frodo knelt to dry Sam’s calves and feet that his conscience stirred, for the flagstones were hard and unforgiving on a hobbit’s knees, as he well knew, and besides, it wasn’t fitting for Frodo Baggins to kneel before anyone.
“Frodo,” Sam said.
Frodo glanced up at him, his hands stilling on Sam’s left foot, and the words Sam had planned to say flew out of his head and vanished as if they’d never existed. For he was lost, struck dumb by a vision of unsurpassed loveliness.
Frodo’s dark hair was curling riotously from the humidity, and droplets of water spangled it like a net of glimmering stars. The warmth of the room had brought a rosy flush to his normally pale cheeks, and against them his eyes glowed with a light that surely had only ever before been seen in Arda.
Time seemed to hang suspended as Sam stared and stared, helpless to look away even had he wanted to. Does this wondrous being really belong to me? he marvelled.
“You looked at me like that the first time we met,” Frodo said softly.
“I thought I were asleep and dreamin’,” Sam replied. He huffed a small laugh. “’Tis a wonder I didn’t drop my tray, I were that gobsmacked.”
“That would have been a waste of some most delectable pastries,” Frodo said, but his whole heart was in his eyes, belying his light, teasing words. Then he grimaced and shifted. “This floor is deucedly hard on the knees,” he complained.
Sam couldn’t help it; he grinned. He wasn’t the only one learning how the other half lived, seemingly. “Best get on wi’ it then, Frodo,” he advised.
“You were the one who interrupted me, beloved, in case you’ve forgotten.”
While Frodo finished drying his feet, carefully dipping the towel between the toes, Sam’s mind drifted back to the moment when he’d entered the smial to find Frodo waiting for him. Therewas something he needed to explain, now, before the haze of exhaustion, temporarily pushed back but hovering on the fringes of his mind, overcame him once more.
“Frodo, I want the garden to be beautiful for you next spring,” he said simply. “To bloom like it’s never bloomed before. ‘Tis all I can give you, you see.”
“All?” Frodo cast aside the towel and sprang to his feet. He cupped Sam’s face between his hands, cool now and damp, and looked deep into his eyes. “Sam, do you not yet understand? You give me everything. Everything.” With exquisite tenderness, he kissed Sam on the lips then drew back. “Never doubt that, beloved.”
Then he took Sam by the hand, and led him, naked and unresisting, to their bedchamber. Here, too, a fire was brightly burning, though no lamp was lit, and by its flickering orange glow Sam saw that the bedcovers were invitingly turned down. The sight caused the exhaustion he’d been holding at bay to come crashing back again. To fall onto that gloriously soft feather mattress and into sleep was the height of Sam’s ambition at that moment. Oh, but he could sleep, he thought, sleep and sleep and sleep. A yawn escaped him.
“In you get, Sam,” Frodo said, holding up the covers.
Sam meant to slide into the bed; instead, he fell onto the mattress, ending up with his face buried in a thick goose down pillow. Sleep met him halfway, and he yielded to its inexorable pull, heading straight for oblivion. He had only time to mumble, “Leave the dishes for tomorr…” before he was gone.
Frodo bent and carefully (if a bit wistfully) pulled the covers up over Sam’s broad naked shoulders with their smooth golden skin and scattering of freckles that beckoned to be kissed.
“Sleep well, my best beloved,” he whispered, and placed a gentle kiss on the tip of Sam’s ear, peeking through his still-damp chestnut curls.
A soft snore was Sam’s only reply.
Frodo straightened but didn’t move. He stood for a very long time looking down at Sam, while a swell of tenderness vast as the sky and deeper than the sea rose up inside him. So this was what it was like to love someone truly, he thought, this desire, no need, to put their comfort and welfare before your own.
His knees, back and arms ached from the unaccustomed labour, his wet clothes felt uncomfortably clammy, his right hand stung where he’d burned the back on the stew pot, he was hungry and weary, but there were a dozen chores at least left to finish, including the dishes Sam wanted him to leave until tomorrow, before he could eat or take rest.
He’d never felt so happy in his entire life.