Sam used to believe that Frodo didn't know.
He wasn't altogether certain how he'd gotten that impression. Perhaps because, one fine spring while clipping the verge, he'd been an involuntary audience to old Mr. Bilbo and Mrs. Sandheaver, the Hobbiton draper, discussing what fabrics and colors would look best on young Mr. Frodo, and Frodo right there sputtering. Certainly Frodo Baggins never played the dandy, not like some hobbits Sam could mention. Mr. Frodo wore sensible clothing, and if it made his skin look fair and warm as rose-petals, well, that was Sam's own noticing and no fault of Frodo's.
Not only Sam’s noticing, though Sam couldn’t say whether that made matters better or worse. Late one icy winter, Falco Boffin caught Frodo’s hand and swung him around on the slippery stones of the road, so Frodo fell into the bushes. Sam, just the other side of those bushes, started up from his knees to see what was what, and heard Frodo’s laughter, and saw the pale, fragile look in Falco’s eyes, not quite hidden behind his smirk. Or the spring Meriadoc Brandybuck came to visit, and followed Frodo through the garden, spoiling Sam’s neat flower-beds by picking this and that and presenting them to Frodo, who accepted them with an apologetic smile to Sam.
Sam stored up those smiles, and took them out of an evening as he lay in bed and told them over like miser's gold. One memory in particular – one miserable hot summer evening, Frodo had ducked out and down to the Hobbiton swimming hole in search of some relief: it was Sam who caught him coming back up to Bag End, wearing only his breeches and those clinging tight to wet skin. You won't tell Bilbo, will you? Frodo didn't know that Sam's strangled agreement wasn't tight from shock, but from something else. Sam watched Frodo inside the smial, then went and locked himself into the toolshed, and bit his hand as he came so Frodo wouldn't hear him shout.
No, Frodo didn't know. Because if Frodo did know, then he was... well. Sam knew names for that sort of behavior, and none of them were the sort of things he'd care to call his master.
Then came one winter's morning, not too long after old Mr. Bilbo's famous party. The ground had a proper covering of snow, for a miracle, and half the young folk of Hobbiton were out reveling in it. Sam spent a blissful hour with Tom and Jolly Cotton, flinging themselves down Bywater Hill on Tom’s rackety sled, and making snow-fairies with wings for arms and rather trampled skirts. Then he stood from his latest attempt, and looked around, and noticed that for all the crowd out and about, throwing snowballs and sliding down the Hill and going for a turn in Mr. Boffin’s pony-drawn sleigh, Frodo Baggins wasn’t among them.
"Hoy, Sam! We’re taking Rosie for a slide – d’you mind waiting this one?"
"No!" Sam waved his friends off, then found the Gaffer and told him he’d be back soon, only wanted to check up at Bag End. The Gaffer nodded absently and turned his attention back to his conversation about the proper way to keep turnips from spoiling in the cold, while Sam trudged up to Bag End.
Sam set himself to cleaning up the mess of breakfast, and not stare at the lovely drape of that fabric over Mr. Frodo's body. The one proved much easier than the other, especially as Frodo rose to his feet the instant Sam started on the tidying. "Sam, I can clean up for myself."
"Of course you can, Mr. Frodo. But I'm here anyway -- and besides, it's cold out, what with the snow and all," and you not wearing very much... oh, dear, he hadn't said that part out loud, had he? Fool’s jealousy was bad enough, without giving himself away that far. "--so the excuse to stay in the warm is welcome."
Frodo laughed aloud. "You’re all over snow, no wonder you’re cold! But you’re welcome to warm up in here if you please." He sat down again. "I warn you, if you do stay, I shall not scruple to set you to making luncheon. You're a better cook than I am, and I shall take advantage of the fact."
"So long as you aren't after one of those fancy Brandybuck recipes of yours, I don't mind being taken advantage of." With a great effort, Sam managed not to address that to the gap in Frodo's dressing gown. It had fallen open, proving that Sam had been right when he supposed Frodo wasn't wearing anything else besides the dressing gown, not so much as a nightshirt. Frodo's skin was creamy-pale all over, and his nipples had peaked in the lingering chill. Sam looked down at the table, and thought about warming them with his tongue, and what sort of noises Frodo might make if he did.
"I'll keep that in mind," Frodo said -- and didn't he sound like a cat with feathers about its mouth and another bird beneath the paw! Sam glanced over warily, because his cooking wasn't so fine as to bring that tone to Frodo's voice, but Frodo was already up again and heading toward the pantry, rummaging about on its shelves. "The butcher made his delivery yesterday: there's fowl, and beef, and I believe some fish as well. Some potatoes around here somewhere--"
"If you can't find some, I'll run down to Bagshot Row," Sam offered. "The Gaffer's got our root cellar fair to overflowing."
"Ah! No, no need to bother your Gaffer, I found some." Frodo emerged from the pantry, and Sam hardly knew where to look -- the dressing gown had fallen open complete, exposing things wet breeches had only hinted at. Materials for sweet dreams, to be sure, but if Mr. Frodo caught him staring he'd lose his place for sure. "I believe there's some greens in here someplace as well, but I shall leave further rummaging to you."
"Best you should," Sam said firmly. Let me hide in the pantry for a while! "Your tea's getting cold."
Frodo did belt up the dressing gown again against the cold -- but he didn't leave the kitchen. Instead, he stayed and drank his tea and chatted with Sam about this and that: how Halfast was doing up north, did he think the Widow Tunnelly would finally make a match of it with Mogo Boffin. The familiar rhythms of chopping food for stew, the easy tone of Frodo's voice mingled with his own, and outside, the hush of new snow, as if Bag End existed in a private corner of the world that the rest of the Shire couldn't find or touch. Sam blinked, and found he'd been staring after all, drinking in the sight of Frodo without a thought for whether he'd be seen.
"Will you be much longer?" Frodo asked suddenly.
"No, sir. Only let me put this in--" A handful of herbs to flavor the stew, "--and it needs only the cooking." Sam rocked back on his heels, and swallowed hard. He could hear the distant shouts, now, Tom and Jolly and Rosie taking a header into the snow. Bag End wasn't some private corner where the Shire didn't exist, and he'd have to go back to Bagshot Row soon enough. "Is that all, sir?"
"No." Frodo ducked into the pantry again. Sam frowned -- he'd got everything needed for a proper stew, and if Frodo meant to go experimenting again... But what Frodo held, when he came back again, was a bottle of milk. This he set by the hearth, then returned to the pantry. He appeared once more holding a small jar of dark brown shavings, and the canister of sugar.
"Bilbo showed me how to make this once," Frodo said. He pumped water into a pan, then set it to boil. "Chocolate, melted and boiled with water, sugar, and milk. Watch and I'll show you."
"Not likely I'll have the chance to make it again," Sam said, sitting down by the hearth.
He felt Frodo's eyes on him, and looked up in time to catch a look like smoldering coals. "You will."
Slowly, deliberately, Frodo rose to his feet, and untied the belt of his dressing gown. He shrugged it back off his shoulders, and let it puddle to his feet.
Sam's eyes went wide as saucers. This was -- he hadn't -- oh, but Frodo was beautiful, pink and white and midnight like something out of a tale. Only tales didn't make Sam's breathing alter like this. He could hear his pulse in his ears.
"If I'm wrong, dear Sam," Frodo said -- not smug, not smiling, but gentle -- "then you're welcome to go."
"Go?" The word came out choked.
Frodo did smile at that, slow dawning in his eyes. He leaned forward, bracing himself on Sam's shoulders, and kissed him. Not a proper kiss, not the sort you gave your friend or your sister or even the lass you might be walking out with, not unless you'd gone far beyond walking. Frodo tasted Sam's mouth leisurely, as if he stood naked in his own kitchen kissing his gardener every day. Sam heard himself whimper.
At last Frodo stood up again. "Bring the hot chocolate when it's ready," he said, and left the kitchen before Sam could remind him that he hadn't the faintest idea what to do with the chocolate.
It took a little while -- not as long as he'd feared, though long enough for his heart to slow its pounding in his chest -- to mix the drink Frodo wanted. He checked the stew automatically, then set the hot chocolate along with two mugs on a tray, and went to Frodo's bedroom.
From there -- well, to own the truth, Sam never quite remembered all the details of what happened next. Frodo opened the door for him, he recalled that, and took the tray, too. They sat on the bed together, and Frodo poured the hot chocolate (a mite too hot in Sam's opinion, as he burned his tongue on the first sip). When Frodo lowered his cup, he had a smear of chocolate across his upper lip. Sam, greatly daring, leaned forward and licked it off.
From there, things went fragmentary. The tray of hot chocolate vanished somewhere, because the next thing Sam remembered clearly was the mingled tastes of Frodo and chocolate on his tongue, Frodo kissing him slow and deep as he undid Sam's shirt. He remembered Frodo's startled cry when Sam bent to taste one of those dark nipples. Sam pulled back, wary that he'd done something wrong, but Frodo pulled him back immediately: no, please, more! He remembered Frodo dropping words between kisses, twining himself around Sam like a sturdy vine: watched you so long, love, wanted you so long, could never think of a way until you looked at me with snow melting in your hair–- He remembered Frodo's hands and mouth on him, pulling his pleasure out of him until he shouted with it, and then turning that new-learned joy upon Frodo until Frodo closed his eyes and sobbed his name and came.
He lay with Frodo a little while, not quite dozing, wrapped in this glorious new thing between them. Then he remembered. "The stew!" He sat up and looked around for his clothing. No sign of it -- scattered somewhere in the corners of the room, he didn't doubt, where it would take proper hunting to find it again come morning. Crumpled and wet with snow-melt, too. With a sigh, he slid out of bed and walked to the door.
"The hot chocolate's over here," Frodo said behind him.
"No, sir, it's the stew. I'll bring it in here, if you're not minded to go to the kitchen." Sam looked back as he spoke, and the words nearly froze upon his tongue. There lay Frodo, flushed with loving, lounging upon the sheets like a wanton with a cup of hot chocolate in his hand, and a smile just for Sam upon his lips. A moment's pang of jealousy went through Sam, the memory of others looking at his Frodo. "Have you done this before?"
"No." Frodo's smile turned wry. "Only you."
Which answered everything. Everything except one question. Did you know? Did you mean to tease the life out of those who looked at you, Frodo-love?
"Stew, Sam," Frodo reminded him. He set down his drink and stretched as luxuriously as a cat, so his pale sweet body gleamed in the sunlight filtered through the window. "I'll keep the chocolate warm."
Sam went. Some questions were silly, and really didn't need answering.
– end –
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