Pippin's Education

"Oh, for love of little green apples -- no, Peregrin Took, it isn't anything you've done! It's because I don't like having to keep saying no!"

"Then don't," Pippin said stubbornly. He folded his arms over his chest and hugged himself tightly. He'd wanted answers when he hunted down Merry, answers about why he'd hardly seen Merry this entire visit, why Merry kept avoiding him. But not this sort of answers.

Merry sighed, looking anywhere but at Pippin. His bag sat open at his feet, mostly packed: he and his cousin Melilot were to leave, return to Buckland, in another hour or so. "Pip -- Pip, you don't even know what you're asking for."

"I do so."

That won him Merry's eyes back on him, dark and more serious than Pippin had ever seen them. "Then what do you want?"

Pippin opened his mouth, then closed it again. He wanted Merry, he knew that. He'd wanted Merry since he was little and didn't know any more than he liked it when Merry let him tag along on some mischief, or just roaming around. He liked Merry even better now. He had dreams about Merry, those kind of dreams, the sort that made him have to change his sheets. But they didn't come with words. How was a hobbit to know what to ask for if no one would give him the words? "A kiss," he said instead.

Merry laughed. At least Pippin thought it was a laugh. It was short and sort of cut off, almost like a groan. "A kiss. All right, then." He came around his bag, took Pippin by the shoulders, and kissed him. On the forehead. As Pippin opened his mouth to complain, Merry stepped back again, murmuring two words under his breath as he turned and bent back over his bag.

Pippin's own breath caught. "Frodo?" he repeated indignantly.

Merry looked up from his bag, cocking his head back so Pippin could see a sliver of his face. "What?"

"You said lucky Frodo," Pippin informed him, hugging his arms around himself even more tightly. "Is it Frodo Baggins? Are you lying with him?"

Merry shook his head slowly, breath coming out in a huh of startled laughter. "With Frodo? Frodo has his Sam. I'm not that much of a fool." Before Pippin could demand an explanation -- why lucky Frodo, if he didn't have Merry? What had Merry meant? -- Merry stuffed the last of his clothing into the bag, and slung it up on his back as he rose to his feet. "I have to go, Pip. I'll see you soon."

Pippin nodded, and made an inarticulate noise meant for assent. Merry was gone before he could find proper words, anyway.

Rather than go to the door and see Merry and Melilot off, Pippin retreated to his room, with a small detour to pick up a pot of tea and a few biscuits. Mother would be cross about the crumbs in his sheets, but it was better than trying to think at family tea. A few minutes of determined sneaking and Pippin curled up on his bed with a cup of tea and a biscuit to nibble while he thought.

So. Why wouldn't Merry say yes? Because he thought Pippin didn't know what he was asking: Merry said so, just now. That meant that if Pippin wanted a yes, he had to find the words so he could prove to Merry he knew what he wanted. And that meant finding someone to ask for the words.

Who?

His parents? His father always answered Pippin's questions, even the embarrassing one about why he was taking a bowl of plum sauce down to the bedroom he shared with Pippin's mother ('Well, my lad, when you get older, you'll find that playing with your food can be acceptable'). But they'd shake their heads over his love for his Merry, and tsk their tongues, and maybe have a quiet words with Merry's parents. No. Not his parents.

His sisters? Definitely not. He'd learned about moon-times from hearing them groan and seeing the blood-stained rags on the line, and about the Tea from watching Pearl fix it every morning, with occasional muttered comments she didn't realize her young brother could hear. But he'd tried asking 'Vinca about what the Tea actually did, and she'd made a face and bidden him ask their mother.

So that meant asking a friend. Anyone here at Tuckborough would just send him back to his parents or his sisters, so it must be someone outside the Tookland. But someone he could trust not to pat him on the head and send him home again. Someone like Frodo Baggins. He didn't know Frodo well -- not near as well as Merry did -- but Frodo lived close, and Frodo knew the words, Pippin was sure he did. If Frodo told him to ask his parents... well, then Pippin would think of something else. But he had a place to start now. He put down his empty tea-cup and threw open the door to shout down the hall.

"Mother? Mother, I'm going out. No, not to Buckland. To Bag End."

*

As Sam pulled the last of the errant seedlings from the lily bed, he heard someone coming up the garden path. Sam dropped his handful into the basket beside him, then sat back and shaded his eyes to look down the path. Mr. Merry and Miss Melilot stopped back, two weeks gone, on their way to pay a visit to their Took cousins: Sam hadn't thought they'd be returning through Hobbiton, but he'd not say no to another chance to learn the trick of Miss Melilot's popovers.

But the form that rounded the bend down by the roses wasn't Miss Melilot, nor Mr. Merry neither. It was Peregrin Took, heavy bag slung over his shoulders, and his eyes fixed on the ground. He walked slow as a stranger, as if he wasn't sure of his way between the vegetables and flowers.

Sam bit his lip, then sat up straighter, meaning to call out. But before he could do so, Pippin stopped and looked up from the ground for the first time. His eyes lit on Sam straight away. "H'lo, Sam," he said, polite as you please. "Where's Frodo?"

"Inside the hole, Mr. Peregin," Sam said, nodding toward the back door of Bag End, standing open not a dozen strides beyond where he knelt. "Fixing luncheon, as may be."

Pippin nodded, his eyes going to the open door, but he didn't say anything more. Nor did he move beyond where he stood. Sam watched him for a moment, silently totting up the wrinkled clothing, the sleep-shadows under his eyes, and the enormous bag over his shoulders. Argued with his kin, he thought to himself, and said aloud, "Is there anything I can help you with, sir?"

Pippin blinked, then looked down at Sam as if he'd forgotten he was there. "Oh. No." He opened and closed his mouth again, and shook his head. "No. It's all right. I'll -- I'll go help Frodo set the table. Or some such."

Frodo emerged from the back door, wiping his hands on a towel, just as Pippin trudged up to the stoop. Sam determinedly turned his own gaze back down to the ground. Weeding. He should be weeding, not nosing around in business not his own. They'd not gone inside yet, but Mr. Pippin had lowered his voice to a near-whisper, and Frodo's voice didn't sound much louder. Weeding.

For all his fine determination, as soon as the murmurs stopped, Sam couldn't help but look back over his shoulder. Mr. Pippin was gone inside, or at least not out on the stoop no more, but Mr. Frodo still stood there, arms folded about himself, towel held loosely in one hand. His eyes were fixed on Sam, but distant as the haze over the horizon. Sam pushed himself to his feet anyway. "Sir?" he said.

Frodo blinked, and his gaze focused properly on Sam again. "Luncheon's ready," he said. "Can your weeds spare you for a little while?"

"Of course," Sam said, relaxing a little. Whatever news Pippin had brought, it couldn't have been so terrible if Frodo persisted in his little jokes.

Luncheon proved to be a cold collation, red meat thick-sliced and laid out upon platters, hard-boiled eggs with salt and pepper to sprinkle on them, and crisp greens, just barely dipped into boiling water, with creamy butter to go on them. Sam paid the food, and the cold ale to go with it, better attention than he did their guest at first. He knew Peregrin Took to look at, and to speak of, but not to speak to. Once the first edge of hunger was sated, however, he dared to look up -- and found Pippin concentrated even more energetically on his plate than Sam had been.

Once they'd finished the meal, and pushed back from the table with contented sighs, Sam got to his feet. Frodo waved him back down. "I'll tend to the washing-up myself, Sam," he said, accurately guessing at Sam's thoughts. "And I think the garden can wait a little while?"

"A little," Sam said, though he obediently seated himself again. "Not much more than an afternoon, sir."

"I don't think we'll need even that much today. Pippin's come with a question for us."

Sam's eyebrows shot up despite himself, and he leaned back in his chair to wait for an explanation.

It didn't come immediately. Mr. Pippin sat up straight in his chair, and looked back and forth from Frodo to Sam as if seeking for an escape. Then he flushed from chin to hair, and turned to look Sam in the eye. "Are -- you're Frodo's Sam."

It was almost a question, not in the tone but in the way he phrased it. Frodo's Sam. Sam blinked a moment and restrained the urge to look to Mr. Frodo for an answer. "Yes," he said warily. They'd made no show, but neither had they kept it close secret among their acquaintance. "Yes, I am."

Pippin actually let out a breath and sagged in his chair as if relieved. Then he sat up straight again, and looked from Frodo to Sam and back again. "Then I want you to teach me the words."

The words, Sam thought, even more confused. What words? Did he mean Elvish? But that didn't explain what he'd first asked --

"Merry won't lie with me," Pippin went on in a rush, "unless I know the words for--" He slouched, and waved one hand vaguely in the air. "So I'm asking you. Because he won't teach me."

It took Sam's mind a moment to clear, more than long enough for his heart to grow chill as he realized exactly what Pippin asked. His mouth shaped several objections, but he managed only one: "Now?" It came out as a croak.

"No," Frodo said, speaking for the first time since he'd bidden Pippin ask his question. "Not now." He caught Sam's eyes and smiled a little, hidden from Pippin. "You've still that weeding you wanted to get done, and I've the washing up to do. Come on, Pippin, you can wipe."

Sam shook his head, but Frodo and Pippin were already off into the kitchen. "Weeding won't take near long enough," Sam muttered aloud. "Not if you think I'm sharing you, Frodo-love, even with the Thain's son himself."

*

"No!" Frodo stopped plumping up the pillows and looked at Sam with a startled expression, eyes wide and mouth open. "Sharing -- no, Sam, I meant no such thing."

Sam breathed a silent sigh of relief, and returned his attention to his waistcoat buttons. "I didn't know what to think," he said, keeping his eyes on the smooth wooden rounds. "Not that I thought you'd do anything, er--"

"I've done rash things before, Sam Gamgee," Frodo interrupted. Sam could hear the smile in his voice. "You've heard Merry's stories -- and Bilbo's."

"I've seen it, too," Sam said, looking up despite himself. "But that's not the sort of rash I'm meaning, sir. It's more that -- sometimes you do things to try to help your friends, without thinking how we'd want to be helped."

Frodo leaned back against his dresser and folded his arms over his chest. "I'm not sure I follow you, Sam."

"I'm not sure I follow myself," Sam admitted. He draped his waistcoat across the back of a chair. "It's that -- Mr. Pippin isn't just asking for words. He knows the words, begging your pardon, unless the Took's kept him locked up in his room for all the past years. He'd asking for something more tangled up than that."

"A demonstration?" Frodo suggested dryly.

Sam blushed despite himself. "I don't care who sees me kiss you," he said, meeting Frodo's eyes. "But that's not what I meant, sir. He wants Mr. Merry, and he doesn't know how to get him."

"Ah -- I think I see," Frodo said, much to Sam's relief. "Pip's taken the notion into his head that we know whatever mysteries he needs to find out in order to convince Merry to lie with him." Frodo pushed away from the dresser with a shake of his head. "That's all he spoke of this afternoon -- not his sisters, not his parents, only Merry Brandybuck. If you're right, Sam, things could become very tangled indeed. Forgive me, but I hope you're wrong."

"No more than do I," Sam assured him, turning his attention back to his cuffs. "Words'd be a sight easier to teach -- and need less time, if you take my meaning."

A shadow fell between Sam and the candle-light, and he heard Frodo's familiar warm chuckle. "Poor Sam. I had promised you tonight, hadn't I?"

"It's all right, Mr. Frodo." Sam glanced up through his lashes, to see reassuring smoldering warmth in those blue eyes.

"No, it's not all right," Frodo corrected him ruefully. He reached up and began helping Sam with the buttons on his shirt. "Tomorrow night, Sam. Whether Pippin's still here or not."

"Tomorrow night, Frodo-love." The words came out on a near-moan, as Frodo's hands slipped inside his undone shirt to warm themselves against Sam's skin. Sam pulled Frodo closer, and allowed himself to forget their unexpected visitor until morning.

*

Pippin woke to the smell of blueberry griddlecakes and bacon and tea. Well, not really the tea. He didn't properly smell the tea until he actually sat down at his place at table and Frodo set a mug of it in front of him. "Drink," Frodo advised him. "Sam says it's raining, and likely to pour all day. We don't want you to catch chill."

Pippin drank obediently. Just the way he liked it, hot and strong with just a little cream and lots of honey. Merry must have told Frodo how to fix it. For the first time in what seemed ages, the thought of Meriadoc Brandybuck made Pippin feel warm rather than frustrated.

"Where's Sam?" he asked, lowering his mug again.

"Outside." Frodo leaned back to look out the kitchen window. "He had some plants he needed to tie up, he said. He'll be back soon -- which reminds me!" Before Pippin could blink, Frodo bustled out into the hall, and returned with what looked to be an old blanket, which Frodo shook out and draped near the fire.

Pippin watched this in mild confusion. "Food?" he said at last, when Frodo seemed likely to fuss about the blanket all morning.

Frodo laughed. "One moment."

By the time Sam came back in, dripping on the floor, his clothing soaked through, Pippin had worked his way through one stack of griddlecakes and was three-quarters of the way through his second. Frodo glanced up from his frying pan, where he was pouring more batter into the bacon-grease. "Take that with you and go change," he said, waving his free hand toward the warmed blanket.

"Yes, sir." But for all he sounded deferential enough to Pippin's ears, Sam didn't leave immediately to change. Instead, he lingered in the kitchen for a moment, to pull off his shirt over his head and rub it over his hair enough to remove the worst of the damp.

Frodo looked up from the griddlecake, blinked twice, then frowned at Sam. "Go change, Sam."

"Yes, sir," Sam repeated, scooped up the blanket in his free hand, and headed out the door and off down the hall. Pippin wrinkled his forehead, not quite sure he'd understood that, but went back to devouring his griddlecakes and bacon.

Frodo flipped the final griddlecake out of the pan and onto the serving platter, then vanished down the hall himself as Pippin flipped the still-hot griddlecake onto his plate. Frodo returned a few minutes later, followed by Sam, wrapped in the warmed blanket and dry clothes beneath. "--enough bacon," Frodo was saying as he entered the kitchen again. "It's the blueberries that worry me. I think Pip's eaten all the blueberry griddlecakes."

Pippin looked down guiltily at his plate, which indeed contained smears of butter and blueberry juice and not a crumb else. He looked up again with his very best attempt at a 'but you wanted to give me all the blueberry griddlecakes!' smile. Sam didn't even notice, merely shook his head and smiled at Frodo. "Mr. Pippin's the guest, sir, and the bushes are still bearing. You and I will have chances enough to eat blueberries later, if you take my meaning." Frodo blushed and opened his mouth as if he wanted to object, but Sam went right on: "Now sit down and let your Sam finish the cooking."

"My Sam just got soaked through," Frodo said, voice steady and affectionate for all his blushing. "You sit down and have a cup of tea. I'll tend to the griddlecakes. Pippin, would you like any more bacon?"

They finished breakfast leisurely enough. Sam tackled the washing-up, blanket abandoned across the back of his chair. Pippin refilled his cup with the last of the tea, as Frodo at last cleared his throat and fixed Pippin with the familiar Look of an elder relative about to embark on something unpleasant but necessary. "Forgive me for inquiring, Peregrin Took, but what exactly are you asking of me?"

Pippin jumped. He hadn't forgotten the real reason he'd come to Bag End, but he'd been rather distracted. All yesterday afternoon, Frodo talked about anything except Pippin's question. "I -- er--" Pippin looked around, trying to find someplace safe to fix his eyes. The banked kitchen fire, the rain-streaked window, Sam's solid back bent over the washtub, Frodo's inscrutable blue eyes looking back at him over the edge of his tea-cup. "Merry won't --" Won't what? What could he say? "Merry won't lie with me," Pippin blurted out at last. He sounded like a child whinging over a favorite toy, and knew it, but he couldn't think of any other way to put it. "He says I don't know what I'm asking for."

"That's a start," Frodo said gently, setting down his cup again. "But it's not a true question."

"I don't know the words for the question," Pippin said, frustrated. "I don't know what lads do when they lie together!"

Frodo opened his mouth, then shut it again, glancing back over his shoulder at Sam. Sam's shoulders raised and lowered as if with a sigh, then he turned around from the wash-tub, wiping his hands on a bit of rag. "Begging your pardon, sir, but are you sure it's those words Mr. Merry is looking for? Lads, and lasses too -- they've figured out how to go on about it, even without words for what they're doing."

"Yes, but--" Pippin swallowed, and fixed his eyes on his teacup. If he tried meeting Frodo's eyes, or Sam's either, he'd never get through this. "I-don't-know-how-they-go-on-about-it."

A moment of silence. Pippin could guess what sort of look Frodo and Sam exchanged at that confession. At last Frodo murmured, "The Thain really did shut you up in your room."

"I'm not completely ignorant," Pippin protested, though he didn't dare look up from the tabletop just yet. "I know lasses drink a particular kind of tea so they won't catch a babe. And I know -- I know about kissing!"

"Kissing's a good start," Frodo said gravely.

That wasn't helpful. Pippin squirmed uncomfortably in his seat. "Well... how did you and Sam become--" What did he call them? They weren't married, but 'lovers' sounded so, so poetical. "--whatever you are," he ended awkwardly.

Frodo put down his mug with a quiet click against the wooden table-top. Pippin dared to raise his eyes from his own teacup, and caught Frodo's smile over at Sam, who leaned against the windowsill, arms folded over his chest. "Sam asked me for a kiss," Frodo said softly.

Pippin looked back and forth between Frodo and Sam. Sam's hair was still damp and dark from its soaking, and he wore ordinary homespun clothes of dull white and faded brown, but when he met Frodo's eyes, he near to glowed. It must have been quite a kiss. "I've asked Merry for a kiss," he said, when he thought the look had gone on quite long enough. "He keeps kissing me on the forehead."

"You are young, Mr. Pippin," Sam said, looking away from Frodo at last. It didn't make Pippin feel any better: Sam had a way of looking at him that made him feel no more than a very small lad who'd didn't even have curls on his feet yet. But Sam's eyes were gentle this time. "Seems to me it's a matter of proving to him you're grown up enough to make that sort of decision."

"Yes, but how can I do that when I don't have the words?" It came out as almost a wail. Pippin stopped, took a deep breath, and tried again. "I like Merry. I love Merry." Just saying it made his cheeks heat, but he plowed on. "I want to be with him always, and make him happy, and lie with him every night, except I don't know how to do that, and I've told Merry this, but he just shakes his head and won't tell me how!"

Pippin ran out of breath at last, and realized both Frodo and Sam were smiling. Not at him, at least. Another of those Looks between them, and Sam's hand on Frodo's -- um, sort of at the nape of Frodo's neck, as near as Pippin could see, and Frodo patted Sam on the thigh, a gentle rub of his hand, familiar as if it were his own body he touched. It made Pippin feel all squirmy again, as if he were watching something he'd no right to see.

"Well, then," said Frodo, looking away from Sam at last. "Pippin, go use the outhouse. This conversation is likely to take a while. We'll be in the parlor. Sam, do we still have that bottle of 1299 Old Winyards?"

Sam's reply faded behind Pippin as he scampered out and down the hall.

He returned to the parlor, only to find it empty. The fire crackled invitingly, hissing every so often from a stray raindrop that made it down the chimney, but no candles were lit, no Frodo, no Sam, not even any Old Winyards. Pippin poked his head out of the parlor door, ready to call out and see if they'd gotten lost in the cellars. Then he saw them.

They stood in the shadows of the hallway: the only reason Pippin spotted them at all was because he heard the murmur of their voices. One of them chuckled, though Pippin couldn't guess who, and then Frodo reached out and pulled Sam close to him. Sam didn't seem to mind, leaning in for a kiss. His mouth was already open against Frodo's, and Frodo made a soft pleased sound that carried down the hall.

Pippin held his breath and watched. After a minute, they stepped apart again, and Pippin ducked back into the parlor. He was breathing hard, even though he hadn't really seen anything to breathe hard about, only a kiss. He looked around, then chose a seat by the fire. With any luck, he could explain away his flushed face by the heat.

Frodo and Sam came in a minute later. Frodo had three glasses in his hand, while Sam carried not one, but two bottles of Old Winyards. One bottle he set down by the fire to warm. The other he handed to Frodo, while he went to the fire and lit a taper. Frodo set the glasses on the floor, and poured them full of the dark red wine, as Sam moved silently about, lighting the candles. Pippin hardly dared breathe as he accepted his glass of wine from Frodo. The only sound was the rain pattering against the window, and the fire crackling upon the hearth. He felt as if he'd stepped through some sort of invisible door to a world outside the Shire, a world where only he, Frodo, and Sam existed.

"Either drink it or put it down, Pip -- it's not meant for spilling."

Pippin's breath caught in a startled sound, the illusion broken by Frodo's amused voice. He tipped his glass carefully back upright so he could take a curious sip. The wine was thick and dark with the metallic tang of alcohol, much stronger than the watered-down version his mother occasionally served with dinner. Pippin choked a little, then tried a smaller taste. Frodo was treating him as an adult. He must behave like one.

The candles all lit, Sam tossed the taper into the fire, and came to sit by Frodo. He accepted his own glass of Old Winyards from Frodo, and leaned back against the far arm of the couch facing Pippin's chair. Even with the added candle-light, Pippin couldn't properly see his face. Frodo sat next to Sam, sitting upright so his face could be clearly seen in the firelight.

And the three of them talked. Of kissing --

"Why won't Merry kiss me?"

"Because he knows how I got Mr. Frodo's attention," Sam muttered.

Frodo coughed at that, eyes twinkling. "Er, yes," he said. "But he likely has other reasons as well." He sobered, meeting Pippin's gaze. "Kissing can be innocent, like you kiss your sisters and parents. Even between lovers, it can be..." He looked away again, over at Sam.

Sam reached out and took his hand, fingers moving in a caress of Frodo's palm. "...can be enough of itself," he finished for Frodo.

For a moment Pippin held his breath, half-expecting to see a demonstration. Frodo looked back at him instead. "But kissing is also used as a stepping stone to other things," he continued briskly. "More intimate things. And I suspect Merry doesn't want to pressure you."

"He wouldn't pressure me," Pippin objected. "I wouldn't mind his kissing me at all!"

Sam coughed, and Frodo shook his head. "Missing the point, Pip. I've heard Merry talk about you: he wouldn't mind kissing you, either. But he doesn't think it would stop at kissing."

"Oh." Pippin tried to imagine that -- imagine Merry's hands on his body while they kissed. It made him squirm again, and hide in another swallow of wine.

They talked of touching --

"There aren't names for every sort of touching... not that I ever learned." Frodo's voice was huskier, now, the result of nearly half the bottle of Old Winyards consumed between the three of them. He no longer sat upright on the couch, but relaxed back next to Sam. "There's the obvious -- kissing, touching, sucking, tupping -- but there are other things two bodies can do."

Pippin made a rude noise. The wine had relaxed him as well: he had one leg up over the arm of his chair, toasting his toes by the fire. "Back to words again," he said. "Do the Elves have names for it?"

"Probably," Frodo said, and chuckled at Sam's involuntary noise of startled protest. "They have names for everything else. It's not all twilight and starshine. I once asked an Elf what a particular word meant in a love poem, and he told me it meant the sound your lover makes the first time he enters you."

"Ooo." They had a word like that? From his hazy recollections of history, Pippin had always thought Elves were stuffy know-it-alls, good enough in a fight but not much else use. "To Elves," he said, raising his glass, and they all three drank.

And they talked of other, more complex things, as the rain pattered on the windows and the fire crackled on the hearth and the liquid level sank in the wine bottle.

"It won't be that easy, Pip."

"I hate waiting," Pippin said, putting down his empty glass. "Sam didn't wait."

"I was a year older than you are now before I said anything," Sam pointed out. He sounded entirely too sober for Pippin's liking. Pippin shook his head to try to clear it, and listened more closely. "I didn't ask for the kiss on purpose to turn his head, neither. Mr. Frodo knew where my heart lay, just as your Merry knows yours." His tone gentled, and one hand came up to stroke Frodo's hair. Frodo turned his head where it rested against Sam's chest, and kissed Sam's palm. Sam's breath caught, but he finished steadily, "Didn't expect anything to come of the kiss, to tell the truth."

"But it did," Pippin pointed out, waving at the way they lay on the couch, Frodo pillowed on Sam's body as though they could melt into each other.

"Because Frodo chose it would," Sam repeated. "Mr. Merry's known you love him for years -- you can't just trip him into your bed. It's like growing a garden. If you want more than a quick tumble, it takes time."

"I hate waiting," Pippin mumbled. He'd said that before, hadn't he? "And I can't grow things."

"You'll learn," Sam said, petting Frodo's dark curls. "If you love Mr. Merry as I think you do, you'll learn."

*

Frodo grimaced as he obediently held out his wrists for Sam to unbutton. "I don't know if Merry owes me the largest debt of his life -- or if I've just done the most foolish thing in mine."

"If Mr. Pippin has to learn," Sam said, finishing with Frodo's wrists and pulling him in closer so he could push shirt and waistcoat and braces off Frodo's shoulders together, "if he must learn this from someone not his parents, better from friends like you and me, if you follow. All I had to go on was whispers and boasts from the like of Ted Sandyman."

Frodo tugged his hands free of the confining fabric, but didn't move back from Sam. "Do you regret how you learned better?" he asked quietly.

"Never."

Frodo smiled at that, and brushed an off-center kiss against Sam's lips. Sam caught him by the arms and held him there for another kiss, wet and open. He'd never tire of this, the tasting, the press of Frodo's body against his, the proof of Frodo's arousal hot and hard against his thigh. He moved into it without meaning to, and Frodo moaned against his mouth, then stepped back away. Frodo's eyes were wide and dark. "You're wearing too many clothes, Samwise," he said softly. "And so am I."

It took no more than a few blinks of the eye to strip off his own clothing and lay it away neatly on a chair nearby. He turned back to find Frodo leaned against a bedpost, as naked as he, watching with a gleam in those blue eyes. He held a flask of oil loosely in one hand.

Sam let his gaze dip to the flask of oil, then met Frodo's eyes. "So quick, sir?"

Frodo's smile merely widened. "No more than being prepared, as you keep telling me." He tossed the flask onto the bed. "Come here, Sam."

For all the oil, and the hasty undressing, they neither of them rushed things. There was too much pleasure to be found in slow exploration. If Sam already knew that Frodo moaned at the lightest brush of fingertips over his nipples, well, what of that? It didn't make him any less like to bend his head and take one of those sensitive nubs into his mouth, worrying it between lips and teeth until Frodo's breath came in uneven gasps and his body quivered against Sam's. And if Frodo long ago learned that the lightest dab of his tongue against Sam's belly made Sam cry out, why, it didn't mean Sam didn't fair melt into the sheets when Frodo did it now, delicate little cat licks against the sensitive skin between leg and groin.

"Turn over," Frodo whispered.

Sam did, going up on his knees and letting his head rest on his arms, folded in front of him. He felt the bed dip as Frodo moved to kneel behind him. And then -- the soft pop of Frodo opening the flask. Slippery sounds, and Frodo's gasp at the coolness of the oil. Slick pressure just there, Frodo's fingers smearing across him, then in and out, a tease far too quick. A moment's breath, then Frodo's hands gripping his hips, and firm, thick pressure. Sam closed his eyes and remembered to breathe as at last, Frodo slid inside him.

He stayed there for a long, long moment. This close, Sam could feel the fine trembling that held Frodo. Every time, Frodo once told him, it's as if I'll lose myself in you.

But they'd learned the way out again. "I love you," Sam whispered, and pushed back against Frodo's hips. "More."

Frodo's grip tightened for a moment. "Sam," he said, the name coming out in a long moan. And then he began to move.

Still slow, but deep. Each thrust burning through Sam, a terrible want that spread from groin out to the very ends of his fingers and toes. One of Frodo's hands let go of Sam's hips and spidered downwards: Sam caught it and brought it back. "No," he gritted out. "Just this. Just you. Frodo--!"

"Sam," Frodo whispered back, his thrusts at last beginning to speed up. "Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam--"

The pleasure came over Sam, not like fire, but like water, sinking under the surface slow as dreaming. As if from a distance, he heard Frodo cry out his release, and felt the heat deep within, even as he himself spent his seed on the sheets.

*

Pippin put another pillow over his head, and wondered if Frodo and Sam knew how loud they were.

Probably not. Who'd tell them? Not like Frodo had nosy, prudish sisters just down the hall. If he and Merry visited Bag End again, they'd have to ask for the far bedroom.

He and Merry.

Pippin cautiously removed a pillow. Voices and talk too quiet to be intelligible. They'd finished. Good. Bad enough to listen to them -- but he was used to those sorts of noises, no such thing as privacy at the Great Smial. No, the problem was that, after that conversation, he kept imagining what they must be doing. And replacing Frodo and Sam, in his mind, with him and Merry.

Pippin flipped over, and thought for a minute. He could, um, take care of things. Or he could hunt down pen and paper, and write to Merry, right now, while he still had the words.

With a wicked smile, Pippin slid out of bed, and headed for the door. Time for some letter-writing.

end

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