by Tiriel

The day was cold and murky, the air filled with a dank, heavy mist – just the kind that might deceive an unwary hobbit into thinking that it wasn't really all that wet, until he took off his jacket, two minutes later, and realised that it was dripping all over the floor. Sam had taken one look out of the door to No.3 that morning, and decided that it might not be a bad idea to actually use the just-in-case umbrella that Mr Frodo insisted he keep there. As he splashed along, he had grumbled beneath his breath about the weather, and the disruption to his plans for the morning, and then, in an even lower tone (though the Row was deserted and no-one could possibly have heard him), he had uttered a series of whispered imprecations in which the words 'Gaffer', 'lasses' and 'oh dear!' seemed to revolve.

By elevenses, the kitchen of Bag End was very cosy; the lamps were lit, the range hot and humming, and the tantalising aromas of a morning's bake slid forth to permeate every nook and cranny of the hole. Sam had decided to replace his weather-thwarted garden activities with an extended baking session, but even the thought of Mr Frodo's enjoyment of the varied fruits of his labours, had failed to lift his spirits. The kettle filled the room with its cheerful singing, but Sam eyed it morosely as he lifted it to pour boiling water into the tea pot. He sighed as he took another batch-bake from the oven, and slid it onto the nearest cooling tray, to join the inviting array of cakes, pastries and biscuits which awaited Mr Frodo's selection of his mid-morning refreshment.

Frodo was watching him sympathetically, as he set out plates and cups. Always the same two cups: Frodo's, with its matching saucer, had been part of Primula Baggins' bridal set, a delicate, gilt-rimmed bone china, decorated with swirls of leaves, tiny violets peeping out from their midst. Sam preferred a strong earthenware mug, local pottery of Hobbiton clay with a honeyed glaze; he swore that he could taste home, as well as tea, when he drank from it.

"What has he said this time?" Frodo asked, as Sam slumped onto the chair opposite him.

Sam sat up, rather startled. "How did you know?"

"My dear Sam!" Frodo smiled. "You left here last night, still humming that song we found, not a miserable thought in your head. Since you arrived this morning, you've been gloomy and quiet, and sighing fit to blow out the fire. So, someone said something to you either last night or this morning. And since most people were already abed, because it was late when you left, it has to be your Gaffer who has upset you. What did he say?"

Put like that it was obvious, but Sam still couldn't quite shake off the thought that Mr Frodo could read his mind. It happened so often these days, that one or other of them would say something in reply to a thought that the other hadn't voiced. He supposed they had spent so much time together over the years – he almost smiled and then thought better of it in case his master followed him along that unlikely path – that they might have been a long and comfortably wed couple.

Which brought him back to the problem that was preoccupying him.

"Was he cross again, because you were here so late? I'll apologise to him, as it is my fault for keeping you out," Frodo said, as he reached over and helped himself to one of the ginger-nuts that Sam had made earlier. "Mmm, these are good. Elevenses and your baking are a match made in the stars!"

There it was again.

"Thank you, sir. No. Well, yes, but that's not... He doesn't like me staying up here so late, and that's a fact. He still says I'm getting ideas above my station with all this book learning."

Sam poured tea into their cups, wincing slightly, as usual, at the amount of sugar that Frodo seemed to think it necessary to add, for the full enjoyment of his. He would never understand how Frodo could be so slender, given his penchant for all things sweet. No matter how Sam tried in the matter of rich cakes and generous puddings (to say nothing of the more wholesome and succulent stews and roasts he would prepare), Frodo would eat heartily, as a hobbit must, but remain resolutely slim, though with plenty of wiry strength. With a slight shake of his head, Sam let the mystery slide once more, and lifted his mug to savour his own tea, sugarless and strong.

"We knew that, but I thought you had decided that you weren't going to let it stop you?" Frodo sipped his tea and crunched another biscuit, waiting patiently for Sam to come to the point.

"No more I am. It's not just that. He said…"

"Yes?" Frodo asked, after a pause in which Sam had also found the ginger-nuts quite satisfactory.

Sam took another, fortifying draught of tea, and blurted out the words which had been roiling in his head all the morning. "He said it were about time I stopped living with my head in the clouds, and started looking for a wife to keep my feet down on the ground. He told me – no, he ordered me – to get a move on, and get some courting done!" Sam's expression would have done more justice to a command to go out and fight a dragon.

Frodo was taken aback. He had never given much thought to what might happen when Sam married, to this comfortable life, sharing books and walks and the garden, meals and quiet chats or easy silence over a pipe, He inevitably would marry – most hobbits did, didn't they? Though not Bilbo and himself, of course. And now that Frodo was suddenly forced to contemplate that probability, it became obvious that he could not expect Sam to spend any longer at Bag End than was necessary to complete his work, once he had a wife, and soon enough a family. It was even more certain that he would miss Sam's presence greatly when that day arrived.

Still, he shouldn't be selfish, especially not with Gaffer breathing down Sam's neck, so he said, encouragingly, "I suppose it is time you started thinking about it, Sam. I'm sure there's a nice lass out there just waiting for you to sweep her off her feet. Lots of hobbits your age are already well set with the lass they're going to wed one day." Frodo found the latter two words to be rather comforting. It was rare for hobbits to marry before they came of age, and even then there was no need for unseemly haste, which meant that with luck and a following wind, Sam's company might be mostly his, for at least another seven years and possibly a few more after that.

Sam looked at him in panic. "But I don't know how, Mr Frodo. I've never done anything like that!" It came out in a shamefaced rush.

"Sam, you're looking to the wrong one if it's advice you're after! I have never been so struck by any lass that I wanted to wed her, and I should have thought that if it was going to happen, I would know about it by now."

This was something Frodo had considered, though not for some time. Plenty of young lasses (and quite several older ones) had been more than willing to exchange kisses with him, and a number had been even more accommodating, in the past (especially after he had been adopted as Bilbo's heir). He would have had no problem acquiring a wife, had he felt so inclined; he hadn't, and still didn't. A nebulous feeling, that he might be missing out on something worth having, was not enough to persuade him to abandon his cosy way of life here at Bag End, with Sam there every day and most evenings.

"But you have done–" Sam blushed, "–kissing and stuff. I don't even know where to start."

"Well, yes, but not recently." Frodo replied absently, tracing a finger around the gold rim of his cup, and still pondering that vague sense of something mislaid. Suddenly, he realised what Sam had said. "You must have kissed someone, Sam, surely? You're twenty-six. You must have!"

Sam squirmed a little, and fiddled with second cups of tea. "No, sir." He could have pointed out that he spent nearly all his time here at Bag End, but decided that this might make his master feel guilty enough to send him off home of an evening. That was the last thing that Sam wanted, as time spent away from Mr Frodo somehow seemed like time wasted.

Frodo laughed. "Why ever not? There's plenty of opportunity at festivals, if nowhere else – everyone does it!"

"You don't, sir," Sam pointed out, with his usual perspicacity in matters pertaining to his master.

"No, but just because I don't, it doesn't mean that you have to follow suit!"

"But why don't you?"

"I don't know." Frodo frowned. "It simply never felt quite right when I did, and I haven't met a lass who made me think that it ever would. I never seemed to be completely at one with any lass – and certainly not sufficiently to want to share my life with her."

"Me neither. When any of 'em looks at me, I just feel like a snail that someone's dropped salt on. But it looks as though I'm going to have to try." Sam sighed heavily. "Gaffer said Rosie Cotton would make a good wife, but she always has so many lads around her, like bees on the thyme, I doubt she'd look at me."

"She's very pretty," Frodo offered, consideringly. "Curves in all the right places, and so on."

"You mean you've been looking?" Sam was rather surprised by this. Mr Frodo had never seemed to show much interest in any of the lasses who had been (to Sam's mind) overly keen to attract his attention, especially after he had become Master at Bag End.

"Merely observing. They don't do anything for me. I don't know why." And again, Frodo had that sense of indefinable loss. It was indeed true that his smial was more than large enough to accommodate both a wife and a hopeful brood of hobbit children, but it was not their lack that Frodo felt. When he thought of companionship, his mind settled immediately, comfortably, on Sam, who really was all the company he needed. A wife, no matter how curvaceous or attractive, did not seem to Frodo likely to provide anything he needed, that he didn't have already, with Sam.

Sam sighed again. "If you'll forgive me for saying so, Mr Frodo, you're not being much help." Nevertheless, he took out the tin containing a fresh and mouth-watering lemon drizzle cake, cut a large slice and eased it onto Frodo's empty plate.

"I did warn you. If you're expecting to reap much benefit from my experience of actual courting, you have come to the wrong person. Oh, my favourite! Sam, you spoil me." Frodo realised again that if Gaffer's courtship orders were to be obeyed, there was a limit to the time in which he would be the recipient of such spoiling. The thought made him even more aware of how much Sam did for and with him, well beyond the hours and duties officially designated for a gardener/cook/handyman – his cumbersome job description since Bilbo had left. Sam was the one person with whom Frodo could share his both his interests, and his daily life, and Frodo valued his quiet presence as much as his always thoughtful and often amusing conversation.

Discussions with Sam could range from the best types of leaf to be had and where, through the inadvisability of bare fallowing on light land, to a digression into exactly why Rafe Brocklebank had left his post as second assistant in the local draper's shop and gone for a bounder instead; and might well end with one of Sam's wickedly accurate impressions – of Tom Cotton, say, doing his very best to pretend that he wasn't really sweet on Marigold, and was visiting Gaffer for the answer to a question that his own Dad could have given him; or perhaps Ted Sandyman, trying to weasel his way out of the consequences of scarcely veiled insults concerning a hobbit from Pincup visiting the Ivy Bush, when said visitor had stood, to reveal himself as taller, heavier and far more affronted than the miller's son would have wished him to be.

Frodo believed that Sam's talent for mimicry came of his ability to listen more deeply than most people; and just so could Sam still, to heed the secrets of the soil, transmuting them to flower and fruit. Frodo admitted freely, that Sam's contributions to his own endeavours were invaluable; his ear for cadence was an infallible aid to improvement in the flow of a translation, simply by altering the position of a telling phrase. Sam's presence enriched Frodo's life in so many ways that no amount of weekly remuneration could ever repay him; Sam was far more than an employee. Sam was his friend. And, he realised now, his dearest friend.

Having set his mind, to the problem that his Gaffer had given him, Sam was determined to face up to it; he was not to be diverted by culinary compliments, no matter how worthy of praise that sticky confection might be. He cut a slightly smaller slice of the cake for himself, and brought his master's attention back to the topic at hand. "But you have done kissing, sir – you could tell me how to do that, at least."

"I don't think it would be the same as actually kissing a lass, Sam!" Frodo almost choked on his cake, trying not to laugh, but stopped himself when he realised that Sam was genuinely bothered by what his Gaffer had said, that he really was asking for help. And Sam didn't often need help – he was more often the one doing the helping, not only for Frodo, but for anyone in need. Sam was like that, Frodo thought, and silently blessed his luck that Sam was prepared to share so much of his time with an otherwise lonely bookworm.

"Well, now, you don't just go straight into the kissing, you know." Frodo thought back to his own first experiences, though the circumstances had been somewhat different, and more conducive at the time to the free exchange of kisses. "You have to work up to it, gradually. You need to get her alone, first, of course."

"How do I go about that?" Sam was so worried by the thought that he merely toyed with his own piece of cake, delectably lemony though it was.

"The best way is to invite her to go for a walk with you – that is why courting is called walking out, after all. Twilight is a good time – people often do their wooing then, so no-one can see what they get up to!" This was experience too, of a kind; for Frodo had inadvertently disturbed many an embarrassed couple in the woods and lanes around Hobbiton, on those days when he had returned late from solitary rambles in his early years at Bag End.

"But that would mean I wouldn't be here with you," Sam objected.

"You see? Your Gaffer is quite right – it is all my fault that you haven't had time for any courting!" Frodo supposed that he should perhaps feel guilty for taking up so much of Sam's time, but he resisted, hoping that Sam enjoyed their companionable evenings as much as he did himself.

"I didn't want time," Sam grumbled, not only confirming Frodo's belief, but giving him a sense of quiet gratification.

"Well, you're going to have to make time, or your Gaffer will be up here wanting to know why not! Now, where were we?"

"Walking out." Sam was obviously not thrilled by the prospect.

"Right. If she says yes to walking out with you, it's a good start. Try holding her hand first, and if she seems to like that, you could work up to putting your arm around her while you walk. It might take a few walks before you get any further, but if she doesn't object to that, wait until you get to a nice secluded spot, and put both arms around her." Hazy images of Sam, dutifully following his instructions, made Frodo rather wistful, for some reason, but if he were to help Sam, he would have to wonder about that later. (Surely he could not be regretting the expiry of his own courting days?) He brought his mind firmly back to the advice he could give. "Just be careful where you put your hands, though, unless you're invited – you don't want her father after you with a stick for disrespect to his daughter!"

"I wouldn't do anything disrespectful, Mr Frodo!" Sam was rather shocked at the suggestion.

"You might want to, once you really get started – people do, you know! Now, what else?" He cast his mind back to his own amatory adventures, such a while ago, now. "A few compliments might not go amiss, before you get to that stage, though I should keep clear of the Elvish. It tends to make a lass nervous when she doesn't understand what you are saying to her." The experience here had been – well, if not bitter, then at the least unhappy. Frodo had wanted to share the lilting language that he loved, that his reading had encouraged him to associate with romantic situations. His partners would giggle at first, and then sidle away uneasily on being told the provenance of the words.

"They don't like it? But it's so beautiful, even when you don't know what it means." Sam had enjoyed the liquid sounds of Elvish, long before he had been able to understand any of it, when he had simply listened eagerly to Bilbo, or later, Frodo, speaking song with every phrase. Even without Frodo's warning, though, Sam would not have considered using his limited store of Elvish endearments, garnered from the gentle tales of romance and adventure that he knew. A buxom hobbit lass, no matter how pretty, did not seem likely to call forth the need, for to Sam's mind, exquisite terms such as meleth should be bestowed only on a slender, elvish being. Delicate yet strong, with clouded hair and compelling eyes. If such existed outside the tales. Which, of course, they did not. Except perhaps in those dreams that faded so fast with waking, and left a hobbit somehow both comforted and bereft.

"What sort of thing do I say, then?" he asked, his brow furrowing as he tried to imagine exactly what might please those who could not appreciate the elegant music to be found within the language of the elves.

"Saying how pretty she looks by moonlight might be a good one," Frodo suggested. "And if it's Rosie, you could tell her how much you've always wanted to walk out with her, but with her being so popular, you never thought she'd look at you. And what lovely hair she has, or beautiful eyes, or whatever strikes you most about her."

"Walk, hold hands, arm round her, compliments, both arms." Sam recited the lesson diligently.

"You're making this very – impersonal, Sam! It's not something you do by rote, you know." Frodo could not have denied, though, that he was relieved to hear Sam taking such a very balanced view of the kissing of lasses. But there was no getting away from the fact that sooner or later, Sam would have to come down on one side or another.

"You will have to feel something for a lass one of these days, you know, Sam, or you will end up like me, a confirmed bachelor, and we both know how folk whisper about me behind my back." Frodo knew that in the eyes of most of his neighbours, his own comfortably single state was an affront to the general run of hobbit life, and most particularly to those with likely daughters to settle to advantage. Only his (reputedly vast) inheritance from Bilbo made such eccentricity acceptable (and even positively to be encouraged, by the Sackville-Bagginses – ever hopeful of Frodo dying unwed and intestate.)

Frodo was not so unworldly as to imagine that Sam would escape attachment for long, once his entry into the courtship lists became common knowledge. As a working hobbit with a regular wage and a secure position (and very likely perks from a master known to be generous), Sam could expect his advances to be welcomed in most quarters. When one added to those attributes, Sam's undoubted health and strength, his many and varied abilities and his sunny nature, it would be a wonder, Frodo thought, if the path to No.3 didn't have to be widened to accommodate the rush. He sighed quietly, and wondered if he might be getting a cold, for there was suddenly a lump in his throat and a definite prickle behind his eyes.

Sam realised that his master had turned suddenly pensive; he wondered if Mr Frodo were wishing on lost chances that had led to his solitary life, and vowed silently that, whatever Gaffer said, Mr Frodo would not lack for company whilst ever Sam could provide it. Though he was loath to disturb such thoughts, Sam did want to continue this vital line of instruction, so he coughed politely, and said, "I don't feel anything for any lass, Mr Frodo. Not yet, anyway. Perhaps once I've done the kissing bit, it'll be different. How do I do that?"

Frodo considered carefully, the best way to describe for Sam's benefit, something which was so much better demonstrated. "Well, to start with, you just put your mouth on hers, and sort of move it gently. Use your lips to take hold of hers. It's not easy to explain, but you'll soon get the idea. Then if she doesn't pull away, you could try running your tongue between her lips."

"What for? Don't it tickle?" Sam frowned – this kissing seemed a very odd way to go on, altogether. If it hadn't been Mr Frodo telling him, but their Hamson, say, he'd have thought he was having his leg pulled, but Mr Frodo wouldn't tease him like that.

"That's part of the point! If she likes you enough, she'll open her mouth, and you can slip your tongue in. I expect you'll know what to do after that. It's quite enjoyable, really."

"But you didn't enjoy it?" Sam asked shrewdly.

"I didn't exactly dislike it, but... I think I expected too much – oh, I don't know – like in the great love stories, overwhelming feelings and… and things." Frodo wasn't quite sure what things, as they had never happened to him. "Instinct is supposed to take over, but mine must be under-developed, or something – it never did. I was told several times, that I think too much." He shrugged slightly. He had got over that disappointment long ago.

When the other lads of his age had been swept up in the exciting realisation that lasses had changed suddenly, from giggling little nuisances into fascinating creatures with whom new and interesting activities might be undertaken, Frodo had just discovered the hidden treasures of literature. The library at Brandy Hall was singularly well supplied with books to suit every taste, and Frodo had plunged headlong into reading whilst his peers fell in and out of love.

He had eventually been initiated into the mysteries of kissing (and well-schooled therein) by several of his remoter cousins, fired by the propinquity of liberal quantities of mistletoe. Other occupation was clearly called for, when the Brandybuck custom of endless Yule hospitality meant that Frodo would be ousted from the library for days on end, by the requirement for provision of yet another room, in which superfluous elderly relations might doze away the excesses of one generous spread of Yuletide fare, whilst awaiting the appearance of the next.

Mindful of his Aunt Esmerelda's instruction, that he should do all that he could in order to ensure a pleasurable stay for guests, Frodo had applied his well-developed learning skills to the acquisition of the amatory arts. By the close of each year's festivities, although his increasing level of achievement in technical proficiency could not be faulted, his lack of real commitment to the proceedings would serve to stall the interest of each of the hopeful lasses who had so willingly accepted the manner of his welcome. It was with quiet relief on all sides that the departure of said relatives set a halt to such indulgences. Frodo would return to his literary endeavours with a greater understanding of the practices of which he read, but without any desire for further pursuit. He could rise to the occasion, so to speak, when necessity called, but he suffered no compulsion to seek out such occasion, for no lass had ever engaged his heart and mind. Matters had stood thus until now, when it seemed that his abilities might at last be put to some useful end, through his assistance in Sam's dilemma.

"Would you show me how to go about it, Mr Frodo?" Sam asked, tentatively. "I think I'll end up doing it all wrong, and she'll just storm off, probably with a slap for my clumsiness. I could do with a bit of practice, like."

Frodo raised an eyebrow at him, quizzically. "It wouldn't be at all the same, Sam!"

"I know that, it's just that I'd feel better about trying it with a lass, if I knew the ropes, so to speak. Not tongues, or anything like that, sir, just the basic moves." He pulled a face which indicated quite clearly how off-putting he found the whole idea, whatever Mr Frodo said about enjoying it. "To get me started, as it were. You're good at teaching me things, and I'd feel plain silly, asking our Marigold. Please, sir?" Though he should have felt even sillier, asking Mr Frodo – his master, and distinctly not a lass into the bargain – somehow he did not. Mr Frodo had taught him so many things, and he was, to Sam's mind, a born teacher. A kissing practice with Mr Frodo as mentor would seem much more natural than practising with his sister.

"Well, so long as you remember that you're definitely not learning from a regular practitioner!" Frodo held out his hand, and Sam came around the table to him.

"Should I just–?" Sam gestured towards the sink, licking sticky, lemony fingers hastily. Frodo watched in fascination, as Sam's tongue chased a trail of softly wet, yellowed sugar crystals which had run down towards his wrist. "Mr Frodo?"

"Yes." Impossible to say more, as he couldn't begin to explain the gentle flutter that spilled suddenly down his spine. Frodo blinked into the silence, and then remembered Sam's question. "Mine are just as bad," he said hazily.

Of course, Sam couldn't allow that; he brought a damp cloth, to sponge away all evidence of just how stickily good the drizzle cake had been. Frodo submitted to the cleansing of his hands (having, inexplicably, to concentrate hard to still a faint tremor) until Sam dropped the cloth, almost reluctantly it seemed, into the sink.

Frodo gathered his wandering attention firmly back to the point (whatever could be so compelling about seeing Sam's tongue? Over the years, he must have seen it hundreds of times). He cleared his throat, and said, "Now, I'm the lass, Rosie or whoever. Put your arms around me. Not too tight to start with, Sam, you don't want to scare her off!" With his hands resting on Sam's shoulders, Frodo wondered vaguely that he had not noticed how very muscular Sam had become. "That's better. You might want to move that one up a little, to here. Good." It would be a very choosy young lass, he thought, who didn't appreciate such a protective embrace. "Just remember not to let your hands wander too much, or she probably will slap you! Now, how's that?"

Sam kept his hands respectfully still. If cuddling a lass felt as good as this, he suspected that he might even begin to enjoy it (and wasn't it remarkable just how well Mr Frodo seemed to fit within the circle of his arms?) "Mm. Nice. What next?"

"Right, then. I'll make the first move, just to show you, but you will have to, when you're kissing for real. She'll not want to seem too forward, no matter how much she likes you. Lasses aren't supposed to – they have to pretend to be shy, even when they most definitely are not! Now, you need to tip your head a little to one side, like this, you see? Otherwise you'll end up bumping noses, and she'll know that you're a novice. And then–"

While Sam was filing this away in his mind for future reference, Frodo brushed his mouth with his own, and Sam suddenly found himself breathing rather fast. "Oh!" he said.

Frodo was just as surprised by the lightning dart that leapt, unbidden, from lips to… other places, but he was far from unwilling to continue the lesson. A quick glance at Sam's eager face, and he moved in again. This time, he took his own advice, and flickered his tongue along Sam's lips. Sam had always been a quick learner; his mouth opened, and he didn't seem at all put off, now, by the touch of Frodo's tongue, for his own desired to dance with it.

And Frodo suddenly knew why they said kissing was so enjoyable. The moves he had practised and performed so dispassionately, flowed now from his mouth to Sam's in a soft and perfect exchange, and his head swam with a heady influx of tenderness and desire.

"Instinct really does take over, doesn't it, sir?" Sam asked, some minutes later. He nuzzled into Frodo's hair with a sigh of contentment.

"Samwise!" Frodo's voice was more than a little unsteady, but as excuse, he had the distraction of what Sam's newly educated tongue was doing, by way of practice, just below his left ear. "S-Sam, I don't think – oh! – this is quite–" It might not be – definitely wasn't – what they had intended, but at long last and so unexpectedly, Frodo was experiencing feelings he had once hoped for and never found. Since his comment would therefore have been distinctly ungrateful, he gave up trying to be sensible, and instead gave himself over to the effect Sam was having on him.

Sam said quietly, "There's not a lass in the Shire with prettier eyes than yours," as he laid little kisses over Frodo's eyelids on the way back to his mouth; and there was nothing impersonal in the manner of his saying it, either.

A second deep and lingering kiss completely confirmed what Frodo had found with the first. But this time, his whole body was reacting to Sam's, held so tightly up to him that he knew that Sam was rising too. It took an enormous effort to break away, and move back a fraction – just enough to reduce the tantalising feel of Sam against him – to ask, "Sam, are you sure we should be doing this? It's not exactly what your Gaffer has in mind for you." There were definite drawbacks to being the one who should be old enough to know better.

For once in his life, Sam didn't care what his Gaffer had in mind – he was more interested in what he had in his arms. His hands (presumably safe in Sam's knowledge that Frodo no longer had a father to berate him) were wandering freely under Frodo's shirt (how had that come undone?) and venturing further down, to squeeze Frodo's rump and bring him back into full contact. Once he was sure that Frodo didn't think this disrespectful – quite the opposite, from the way he was moving against Sam – he asked in a tone that clearly invited a negative reply, "Do you really want to stop, sir?"

And now Frodo did stop. "Sam! When you are seducing me so thoroughly, please do not call me sir! And no, I don't want to stop, I just–"

"Is that what I'm doing? And here I just thought I was kissing you! But I'd like to carry on, if you really don't mind, 'specially if there's more you'd like to teach me. But I think we could make a better job of it yet, if we went somewhere more comfortable. The parlour, say, or–" Sam's instincts told him exactly where he would prefer to be (and a goodly number of hitherto unimagined things that he would like to do, besides) but he still retained enough of the ingrained sense of propriety (courtesy of Gaffer, of course) that wouldn't allow him to voice the thought. (On the other hand, though, he knew he had a lot to thank Gaffer for, right now.)

"–Or somewhere we could lie down to it?" Frodo completed the sentence for him. Had he been thinking with his brain instead of obeying more importunate parts of himself, he might not have made the suggestion, but it was eminently sensible, he realised, when his legs finally gave way completely and he collapsed onto his bed. Sam tumbled with him, their bodies thoroughly entwined, Sam having half-carried Frodo for most of the distance from the kitchen, unwilling as each of them was, to release either seeking lips, or fingers tangled in hair and clothing.

Emerging breathless from another kiss, Frodo managed to ask, "Are you sure you've never done this before, Sam?"

Truth be told, Sam's instincts were rapidly running away with him, but he rather thought that Frodo's weren't far behind. He lifted his mouth briefly from Frodo's neck to say, "Quite sure. Instinct's a wonderful thing – you were right. And it's giving me all sorts of ideas, Mr Frodo. I hope you don't mind?"

"I – mmm! – do mind, very much. Oh!" The last exclamation was of disappointment, for Sam had drawn back hastily.

"Sorry, Mr Frodo!" he began, unwrapping his hands from their purchase within Frodo's shirt, with a backwards scramble, and panic rising in his face. Frodo smiled and seized his wrists, tugging Sam back to him so that they lay facing each other once more. He took Sam's face in his hands, and laid a gentle kiss to his forehead, and Sam sighed relief that he could so have misunderstood the words.

"Sam, listen to me. I mind very much being called Mr Frodo, or 'sir' by someone who is loving me like this." He closed his eyes so that he could concentrate on what he needed to say, and to help himself resist the temptation to kiss Sam once more. "Please, don't think of me as Mr Frodo now, Sam. I want to love you, and for you to love me, and for nothing to come between. We have to be equal in this. Please, Sam?"

Sam shivered at the huskiness of Frodo's tone; this was definitely not the same voice that bid him 'Good morning' every day, that invited him to share a walk or a pipe or a promising new book. It was deeper now, richer and so very sensuous; it stirred Sam to his core. He gazed at the fringe of thick lashes on flushed cheeks, a dark tracery veiling the eyes that Sam had always known to be more beautiful than any flower he would ever grow. Frodo's mouth, generous even at rest, was rosy ripe and swollen, from the kisses they had shared. There was a truly sensual look to Frodo now, that Sam had never seen before. Gone was the quiet, almost reserved hobbit that Sam had known for so many years. This was a new person, the very one he had glimpsed and loved and lost, on the fringes of dream; one whom Sam would have to learn anew, for Mr Frodo was forever changed for him – no longer Mr Frodo, master, mentor and friend. This was suddenly Frodo, his love…

"Sam?" Frodo waited, eyes still closed, half convinced that Sam could not step over the gulf which custom set between them. He almost wished that he had not asked; but that would be dishonest, and there could be nothing but truth for Sam, whatever came of it.

Sam soothed the worry from his face with careful fingers. "Frodo," he murmured, and the name pulsed now to a new rhythm, urgent beneath his skin. "My Frodo?"

"Yes!" Frodo whispered in triumphant yielding, and he lipped his way from Sam's forehead into a kiss of such length and sweetness that it melted them together, and this check might never have been. Memory slipped back to the promise he seemed to remember in Sam's earlier remark, and when he had breath enough once more, he asked, "You–" the word was necessarily indistinct due to the position of Sam's mouth, "–you… mmm… mentioned ideas – Ahh! – what sort of ideas?"

"Well, like finding out whether that little noise you make when I do this–" Sam pushed him back into the pillows, and rested over him, to revisit with his tongue, the tender spot just behind Frodo's ear that he had noticed caused the involuntary sound. "See? – is the same as the one you make when I do this." He nibbled gently along the edge of Frodo's jaw, then dipped down to his throat; and, try as he might, Frodo couldn't stop himself from providing Sam's examples.

"Not quite," Sam said judiciously. "And anyway, your shirt is in the way. How can I follow all my instincts properly, if you aren't helping?"

Part of Frodo's mind knew this was unfair (just then, the rest of him didn't care), so the next time that Sam's lips momentarily left his skin, he wriggled provocatively under him, and gasped, "That's your fault – how can I take anything off if you're half on top of me?"

Sam didn't argue, nor did he cease his restless kissing of what skin was available, but Frodo knew he had made his point, for suddenly Sam rolled them both over (which caused wonderful friction) and pushed Frodo back a little. "Go on then, take that shirt off," he urged.

Frodo complied, but found it most unreasonable that Sam's own shirt should be still so primly buttoned. He proceeded to remedy the matter, fingers quicksilver fast in his need to caress the honeyed muscle, lightly thatched with gold, that he knew to be concealed beneath the fortunate fabric. Even in his haste, he recognised the sudden release of a long-buried desire to do just this, through all of those sultry summer days when Sam had tended the garden stripped to his breeches, strength rippling visibly across his torso. Frodo drew in a quick breath, and stroked Sam lovingly, from broad, smooth shoulders, over the mat of springy curls, and down, following the sparser scattering of hair, to where entry was unkindly denied by Sam's waistband.

With Frodo kneeling above him now, Sam's eyes and hands had access to much more of his body. Darkly tempting against pale, pale skin, copper nipples stood out, already hardening. They reacted so strongly to Sam's fingers gently brushing, that Frodo became temporarily incapable of anything other than throwing back his head to utter little mewling noises. Sam repeated the attention, fondling deliberately to provoke more of such appreciation, then trying the effect of rolling each one between finger and thumb Gratifyingly, Frodo's reaction was similar, but even less controlled – and quite a lot louder.

"Well I never! I always wondered why lads had those, seeing as we don't need them for suckling babies. Hmm." This had obviously started a new line of thought, for Sam raised himself on his elbows and darted his tongue at one hard nub. Frodo groaned, a rasp deep within his throat this time, and collapsed on top of Sam.

"Now, Frodo, this isn't getting us anywhere," Sam chided teasingly, as his hands, slightly roughened from his outdoor work, tantalised a delicate torture up the creamy expanse of Frodo's back.

Frodo rolled away a little, desperately trying to catch his breath. "Yes it is," he panted, "and I shall be there without you if you don't give me a chance to touch you!"

"No danger of that!" Sam guided Frodo's hand to the proof of his words.

Frodo gasped, for his fingers upon Sam, and Sam's incredulous moan and sudden upward push up into his palm, into the stroking, flashed fire to Frodo's own arousal, as surely as if Sam were touching him. And if it felt this good with trousers on… Only that thought enabled him to leave Sam and deal swiftly with their buttons.

Sam's latest moan became one of complaint until he opened his eyes and realised what Frodo was doing. "Yes," he said, and raised his hips so that Frodo could ease his trousers out of the way, too.

The delightful sensation lingering in the wake of Sam's tongue upon his nipple, may have prompted Frodo to lean and run his own tongue along Sam's length, and swirl it around the head. Sam's eyes opened much wider, and the sound that he gave eclipsed anything Frodo had achieved, either in volume or in tone. It shivered deliciously through Frodo, and may have been responsible for the fact that his "Oh!" of vicarious pleasure coincided exactly with a thrust of Sam's hips. The result was as inevitable as it was stimulating, and Frodo hummed approval at, and around, this new development.

Sam's ability to vocalise immediately became limited to a high-pitched whistling of breath, as he struggled with the necessity to maintain the one activity whilst coping with the completely overwhelming effect of another.

He had always asserted that Mr Frodo could twist his tongue around the most difficult of linguistic combinations, and it became obvious to Sam now (though it has to admitted that the reasoning followed much later) that such exercise had not been in vain, as said nimble tongue proceeded to display an agility and breadth of repertoire which Sam swore (again, at a time far removed from the present moment) had to be unequalled in the annals of Middle-earth. (At which distant point also, Sam sent up heartfelt thanks to whichever mysterious entity had blessed Frodo with a love of languages.)

Sam now summoned every ounce of control left to him; he was never quite sure how he accomplished the feat, and though his mastery of reaction thenceforward was set to rigorous (and very regular) testing, he maintained ever after that this was his finest hour. He contrived, somehow, to emit a sound which actually did (faintly) approximate to "Frodo!" whilst simultaneously reaching down to pull his loving tormentor up to him. Once the searing contact was broken, some small measure of vocal ability returned, and he managed further words, though their grammatical connections were somewhat looser than might normally seem desirable.

"No more... I'll... you… kiss… PLEASE!" Sentence construction might be beyond Sam, but he managed to carry out the intention, and none too soon. Frodo's ingenious mouth, all musky now, met and mingled with Sam's, as his body descended eagerly upon him. Frodo moved and slid, and heat caressed heat and desperate hardness at last; it took but one thrust from Frodo to set them spiralling up and over the edge, in an exquisite harmony of voice and body.

They lay, panting, for long minutes before Frodo raised his head to kiss Sam tenderly, and if there were tears in his eyes, he was not ashamed of them. "Samwise, I always knew that I loved you," he said quietly. "I just didn't know I loved you like this. I didn't know I could. That we could."

"Nothing wrong with your instincts after all, was there?" Sam brushed the backs of his fingers along the side of Frodo's face "They were just sleeping, like bulbs in the ground waiting for spring."

Frodo smiled so blindingly that Sam blinked. "And you're my Spring!" He wriggled down so that he was lying beside Sam, his head on Sam's shoulder, lips drifting lovingly up and down his neck. "You have very well-developed instincts, Sam. Almost a gift for this, one might say! No one would believe that you were a complete novice just a short time ago."

"Aye, well, I had a very dedicated teacher," Sam said, appreciatively. He trailed his hands over every part of Frodo that he could reach, stroking gently, learning Frodo's skin with wondering fingertips. Frodo stretched and sighed, and Sam smiled happily. Fleetingly remembered dreams had scarcely prepared him for the startling reality, of touching now, his fantasy made flesh beneath his hands.

"I do think you should keep practising, Sam. You know what they say practice makes!" Frodo leaned up, to take Sam's mouth once more in a slow and sensuous kiss, then to bestow a scattering of tiny ones to top lip and bottom; Sam's response proved him to be fully in accord with Frodo's suggestion. "Although I doubt we would need much more, to find perfect, it will be very enjoyable to keep our skills well-honed." He snuggled against Sam once more, and they lay together, drifting in a haze of content.



"This a bit beyond courting, isn't it?"

"Just a little, Sam! You aren't regretting it, are you?"

"No, I never could. I just wondered – is it too late to call you meleth nîn?

"Oh Sam! "


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