So Priketh Hem Nature In Hir Corages

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote...
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem nature in hir corages)...

[When April with his sweet showers
has broken the drought of March...
...and small birds make melody,
who sleep all the night with open eyes
(so nature pricks them in their hearts)...]

Geoffrey Chaucer, THE CANTERBURY TALES, General Prologue

*

Frodo was watching him.

Not in a usual sort of way, mind. Mr. Bilbo used to come out every so often and watch Sam at his work. Sam heard from the Gaffer more than once, how Mr. Bilbo said Sam had such a fine touch with the flowers and Sam might now tend the boxes outside the windows of Bag End, or Mr. Bilbo said Sam seemed uncertain whether to weed the peppermint out from where it colonized the bed of spearmint, and the Gaffer would have to come take a look himself. Sam's Gaffer himself watched Sam all the time, came and peered over Sam's shoulder and near to made his hands clumsy at his clipping. He didn't flinch at telling Sam when Sam'd gone astray, neither.

Sam never heard anything from his Gaffer about what Mr. Frodo thought. And Mr. Frodo never said naught either. Mr. Frodo just watched.

First time Sam noticed, Mr. Frodo claimed 'twas just random chance. He'd been looking out the window of the kitchen, and Sam walked across his line of sight. Second time, he smiled and said his mind had wandered from the book that lay flat on his lap. "I came outside for fresh air, Sam, and found it fresher than I expected, that's all."

"If you're sure, Mr. Frodo--"

"You haven't done anything wrong," Frodo said, meeting Sam's gaze steadily. "My eyes followed you merely because you were, well, moving around -- like a cat pounces if you wave string in front of it, but won't notice you if you stay still."

"I can't stay still, not and weed the gardens," Sam protested.

Frodo smiled again a moment. "Nor would I ask it! No, go back to your weeding, Samwise. I'll choose another book."

Sam returned to the garden, though he hesitated over his discarded waistcoat for a moment, wondering if it would hide him better. In the end, he left it. Mr. Frodo wasn't a hunting cat, after all, no more than Sam himself was a fledging bird too silly to know to stop hopping about and chirping on the ground.

That first time he could ignore. The second might have been chance. The third time, Sam pulled on his waistcoat and followed Frodo inside.

"Tea, Sam?" Frodo didn't turn around.

"No, sir. I wanted--" What did he want? A true answer to why Frodo kept watching him, but that wasn't the sort of matter Sam could blurt out in the hallway of Bag End. "--a moment to speak with you," he ended lamely.

"Here I am," said Frodo, as he stepped into the kitchen.

"Not here, sir," said Sam, glancing around the sunny kitchen. The window stood open, and Sam could hear his Gaffer's voice outside, talking to some passerby. Sam's voice would carry just as well, and Mr. Frodo was too much the subject of idle talk already. "Some place private."

"Private." Frodo's shoulders rose and lowered with a deep breath, expelled in almost a sigh. "My study, then?"

Far too formal a room, to Sam's way of thinking, for all he had to say. But he'd no better suggestion to offer. He nodded, and waited for Mr. Frodo to get his cup of tea, and said nothing even when he thought Mr. Frodo was dilly-dallying over it.

At last Mr. Frodo had his tea just right, with two spoons of honey, and enough milk to fill half the mug. He stared down at it a moment, then straightened up and led the way again, down the hall to Bag End's study. The door swung open to reveal a room of dark woods and no light. Frodo set down his tea -- Sam heard the click of his cup on the desktop -- then ducked back out past Sam, unlit taper in his hand. Going to get a light for the candles, Sam guessed. He hesitated just inside the room, shifting weight from one foot to the other. The shadows surrounded him, thick and night-dark. Well, he'd wanted privacy.

Just before he lost his courage, Frodo came in again and touched the taper to the candles on the desk. "You said you wanted to speak to me, Sam." Frodo raised the taper again, glanced over at the wood laid ready for a fire on the hearth, then abruptly blew out the taper's flame instead. "Here's your chance."

Sam opened his mouth, shut it again, and wished he'd used his moment alone to invent some way of asking this proper-like. "Yes, sir. It's that... you've been watching me."

Frodo seated himself behind the desk, ignoring his tea. "Yes."

Sam's breath caught in his throat, and he stared at his master. No half-laughing explanation this time. Frodo's hands lay folded on the desktop next to his teacup, and he met Sam's gaze evenly, eyes dark in the candlelight.

"That's... that's all?" Sam said after a moment.

Frodo shrugged a little, eyes dropping to study his hands. "What did you expect me to say? I've been watching you." Another little shrug, as if Frodo thought the subject to be closed. But he didn't get up from behind the desk, or look up at Sam again.

"But -- but why, sir?"

Frodo looked up, brows raised in silent question.

"Why stare at me? I've not been planting something wrong, have I?"

Frodo stared at Sam for a moment, then -- incredibly -- leaned back in his chair, smiling. His hands fell to rest on the arms of the chair. "No, Sam," he said. "It's not your planting."

"Begging your pardon, Mr. Frodo, but you're not telling me the truth." Sam's mind felt as if it had fallen into a wind-whirl, dizzy with confused realization. "You never stared at me before--" when had it been, that first time Sam noticed Frodo's eyes on him? "--before we started planting those new plants you got." Gnarled little seedlings they were, almost Elvish, and terribly hard to get into the ground properly so's they'd grow straight. Sam had noticed Frodo staring first when he'd looked up, hot and dirty and stripped to his shirt-sleeves, from wrestling the first into place.

Frodo shook his head. "Sam..."

"Even my Gaffer wasn't sure how they went, Mr. Frodo, and you wouldn't say--"

"Sam."

Hard to tell in the candlelight, but Sam thought Mr. Frodo's cheeks looked flushed. He'd not meant to embarass his master, but he plowed on doggedly. "It's not right to stare at a hobbit because he's trying to feel his way around, Mr. Frodo!"

At that, Frodo burst out laughing, and rose to his feet as Sam stared at him, feeling his own cheeks heat with a combination of anger and embarassment. "Sam, you dear idiot," Frodo said, rounding the desk. "I wasn't staring at you because of any plants, I was staring at you because of this!" He pulled Sam forward into a loose embrace, and kissed him.

Sam froze still, head in a worse whirl than before. Pillow-soft touch of Mr. Frodo's lips to his, then the dizzying moment as Frodo's mouth opened, warm touch of his tongue to Sam's lips and rush of cool air after -- Sam remembered to breathe, belatedly, out and then in, warm smell of lavender from Mr. Frodo's clothes and the dark reassuring smell of tea on his breath, blue eyes so close to Sam's. Frodo shifted his weight, as if he meant to move away.

Sam's arms tightened around Frodo, and he pulled his master back in, opening to Frodo's lips and tongue and clumsily trying to respond. He felt Mr. Frodo chuckle, a low vibration against his chest and mouth, and then Frodo's arms tightened around him, pulling him in so close Frodo's waistcoat buttons dug into Sam's chest, and a tell-tale warmth pressed against Sam's belly. This was why he'd watched Sam, not disappointment, not anything bad at all. Sam's belly burned with the knowledge, the fire rushing through his blood from where Mr. Frodo's hands rubbed his back and Frodo's tongue teased his mouth and Frodo's thighs pressed tight to his.

Frodo stepped back again, though not far. Sam's hands tightened automatically, trying to keep Frodo close; Sam felt his cheeks heat as he realized what he'd done, and he released his master.

"No, Sam." Frodo reached up, fingers cool and caressing on Sam's face. "Don't be ashamed."

Sam opened his mouth to protest, realized he had not the least notion of what he could say, and closed it again. He looked at Frodo beseechingly.

"If we kept on like that," Frodo said, stroking Sam's face and shoulder and arm as if Sam were a skittish horse to be calmed, "then we'd go farther than I think either of us wants yet."

"I wasn't minding, Mr. Frodo."

Frodo laughed again, soft and deep. "I 'wasn't minding' either, Samwise Gamgee." He pulled Sam close again, just for a moment, long enough for Sam to feel Frodo's arousal hard and yearning pressed against him. "But it's..." Frodo released Sam, and stepped back himself, around the edge of the desk, leaving a foot or two of space between them. "You aren't thinking straight, Sam, nor am I. And I won't have you decide..." Frodo hesitated, as if choosing words. Sam waited. "I won't have you lie down with me, and then regret it in the morning," Frodo said at last, meeting Sam's eyes again. His own were deep and dark, the same terrible calm Sam had seen earlier.

"Then what would you have me do, sir?" Sam ached. At that moment he wanted nothing more than to kiss Mr. Frodo again.

"I don't know." Frodo's voice shivered with something almost a laugh. He shook his head and looked away, down at the cup of cooling tea. "I thought I was being so subtle." He looked back at Sam. "Just -- decide. I'll be here, if you decide you'd like more of this." As if involuntarily, one hand rose and touched Sam's lips, featherlight cool pressure, then fell back to Frodo's side. "Think about it, when you can."

Sam nodded, and turned to go. He hesitated a moment more at the door, looking over his shoulder. "Will you be all right, sir?"

"Oh, yes." Frodo folded his arms over his chest, and leaned back against the desk. "I'll just drink my tea, and take a very cold bath."

Sam smiled despite himself, and left Bag End.

*

Sam thought the matter over, as Mr. Frodo bade him. Truth was, he couldn't stop thinking about it. The memory of the kiss, and what Frodo said afterwards, ran in the back of his mind like a babbling stream. He could ignore it while working in the garden only because his Gaffer worked right alongside him, and Sam was of no mind to share this particular problem with him. Back home, in privacy... Sam found the memory more of a distraction. When he could, he ducked into the stream down the hill. It contained snow run-off from distant mountains, the Gaffer always claimed. Sam didn't find it nearly cold enough to be helpful.

A week after, Sam stood up from his day's weeding to stretch, and saw Frodo not an arm's length away. "Evening, sir," he said automatically.

"Good evening, Sam," Frodo said, and for a moment Sam wondered if those minutes in Frodo's study had actually happened. Except Frodo didn't look at Sam straight-on: his eyes kept flickering away, to the grass, or the newly tended beds Sam had been working on, or the sky, as if he feared to look at Sam too long. And Frodo kept his hands clasped tight behind his back as he made polite conversation about how warm the weather was tonight.

"Ask me in," Sam said, before he could think better of it.

Frodo broke off in the middle of a sentence. "Have you decided?" he asked equally quietly.

"Yes, sir."

They stood staring at each other for what felt like a short eternity to Sam. The Gaffer broke into it with a cought. "Begging your pardon, Mr. Frodo, is something wrong?"

"No, not at all," Frodo said, at last breaking away from Sam. His hands came down to rest easy by his sides. "I've merely startled Sam a bit, I'm afraid. After all the work you and he put in on my undomilanor, I wanted to invite you both up for dinner."

"Hmm." The Gaffer rocked back on his heels and scratched his chin. "I don't mind saying I'm tempted, Mr. Frodo, that I am. I've always said the Bagginses set a good table -- Bagginses of Bag End, I mean, begging your pardon. But tonight my Daisy's promised me a pot roast of good beef, and I promised her I'd come home for it."

"Of course," said Frodo, as Sam's heart sank. "Some other time, Mr. Gamgee?"

"Thank'ee kindly," said the Gaffer, and bowed to Frodo. "Mind your manners, Sam, and I'll see you tomorrow morning." He nodded to his son, then trotted on down out of the gate and down Bagshot Row, leaving the two younger hobbits staring after him.

"What did you tell your father?" Frodo said after a long moment's astonished silence.

Sam felt his cheeks heat again. At this rate he'd never stop blushing. "Nothing," he protested. "He'll seek his bed immediately after supper, that's all, and expects to miss me."

He expected Mr. Frodo to laugh at that, and make some sort of jest, but instead Frodo merely shook his head, clapped Sam on the shoulder, and headed for Bag End's door.

Ever after, Sam could never remember what he'd had for that dinner. He remembered standing by the cutting board and looking up to see Mr. Frodo bent over a pot by the fire, and cold chills ran down his spine at the thought that soon, soon -- and he remembered Frodo's hand brushing his, and the chills only getting worse -- and he remembered Frodo's brow creased with concern. "What's wrong, Sam? You're hardly eating."

"Nothing, Mr. Frodo," Sam said, hastily swallowing a mouthful of... something. "Just, well, nervous."

Frodo's face relaxed into a reassuring smile. "Sam, there's nothing to be nervous over. You needn't do anything."

"I know, sir. I want, to do things. I just... don't know what things to do, if you take my meaning."

"Perfectly." Frodo rose, and took Sam by the hand, drawing him to his feet as well. "Don't worry, Sam," he said, gently pulling him out of the kitchen and down the hall. "I'll show you what to do."

But they didn't do anything at first, once Frodo had guided him into the master bedroom and shut the door behind them. Instead, Frodo stepped away from Sam and looked. Sam shifted uncomfortably, even more uncertain under the pressure of that gaze.

"Dear Sam," Frodo murmured. "You've no idea how beautiful you are."

"Sir?"

"Why did you think I stared so?" Frodo paced around Sam, pausing first to undo the buttons on Sam's waistcoat, then to tug it down his arms and off. "I looked out my window one fine morning, and saw you out there like this--" One hand stroked down Sam's shirtsleeve. "--your shirt clinging to your back, showing off--"

"Sir, I didn't mean--"

Frodo's gaze gentled. "I know." Frodo came back around to stand in front of Sam. His hands began to unbutton Sam's shirt: Sam felt them like a fluttering against his chest. He didn't look, couldn't look. Frodo's eyes filled his world, blue seas, blue fire that sparked and flared as one of Frodo's hands unseen tweaked Sam's nipple and Sam gasped.

"Beautiful Sam," Frodo said. "Come. Lie down."

Something wrong, Sam thought hazily. His shirt was nearly off, leaving him in no more than his breeches, and there Mr. Frodo stood in waistcoat and all. But Frodo's hands on him left him no space for thought, as they went from lips to chest down to waist, taunting him with almosts. "Please--"

"Soon," Frodo promised, and knelt on the bed beside him, and kissed him.

Sam took the kiss gladly. That hadn't changed from the first time, Mr. Frodo's mouth sipping from his, Mr. Frodo's tongue slippery against Sam's. Only this time was better, because Mr. Frodo's hands didn't stay still: they wandered Sam's body, waking every bit of skin they touched, arms and chest and neck, and down --

"Ah!"

Frodo backed off and smiled down at Sam, caressing him through his breeches. "Like this?"

"Yes, sir!" What else was he to say? But Mr. Frodo was still dressed. Sam gathered the ragged tatters of his thoughts around him, and reached up to unbutton Mr. Frodo's waistcoat, at least.

Frodo caught his hands, kissed them, and put them firmly down by Sam's sides. "Soon," he promised, and kissed Sam's mouth, a quick pressure of the lips. Then he sat up and did it himself, stripping off first waistcoat, then -- and then --

Sam's ability to think fled again, as Frodo stripped off his shirt. Like a fine bone carving, he was, so beautiful. Sam tried to sit up so he could look his fill, and perhaps touch, but Frodo forestalled him, lying down on top of Sam. He waited until Sam met his eyes, then smiled again. "Hello," he said huskily

Sam's breath caught in something not quite a laugh. Before he could say anything, Frodo kissed him again, slow luxurious possession of Sam's mouth. His hands slowly slid down Sam's sides, and pulled their hips into alignment, hardness against hardness. Sam's own hands fisted in the bedclothes, and he bucked up against the pressure, wanting more, wanting closer, wanting... wanting something...

Frodo broke the kiss for a moment, closing his eyes as if concentrating on the press of their loins together. Sam seized the moment: he kissed along Frodo's jaw, feathering the light touch along the pale skin as Frodo had done to him, down Frodo's neck to the junction of neck and shoulder, where Sam gently bit.

Frodo froze absolutely still, so for a moment Sam could only feel his pulse, echoed at heart and groin. Then Frodo tilted his head to one side in silent, unmistakable plea. More.

Sam bent his head again, giddy with the rush of momentary power. The taste of Frodo's skin filled his mouth: lick, gentle kiss, slow suck just here, where it made Frodo moan against him --

Frodo pulled back abruptly, hands busy at Sam's waist. It took Sam a moment to realize what he was doing, then he raised his hips obediently so Frodo could pull his trousers down off him. It left him naked and exposed before the blue fire of Frodo's gaze, the licking flames of Frodo's fingers caressing him boldly. "Now," Frodo said. His hand closed around Sam and pulled at him. "Now, Sam."

"But -- Mr. Frodo--"

"Soon enough," Frodo promised, somehow understanding Sam's strangled protest. He bent his head and licked at Sam, once, twice -- "You first. Now." And Sam cried out as Frodo's hand and tongue and voice pulled a terrible pleasure out of him, more even than he'd known alone in the dark with his own hand.

It took him a while to regain his breath and his senses. When Sam opened his eyes again, Frodo was leaning on one elbow next to him, idly running his fingers through the mess Sam had made on his belly. As Sam watched, Frodo raised his fingers to his mouth and licked them. "Mr. Frodo!" Sam protested.

Frodo smiled down at him, almost but not quite the mischievious expression Sam had seen all his life. "But you taste good," he said innocently, and put his fingers back in his mouth.

To his amazement, Sam felt the embers stir again. It reminded him of what he'd momentarily forgotten. "Sir, you haven't--"

"I will," Frodo said, his smile tilting even farther, becoming something blazing. He swung his legs off the bed and rose to his feet, watching Sam as he undid his trousers and allowed them to drop off.

Sam's mouth went dry. Now he understood why Mr. Frodo had stared so long that Sam had caught him: he wanted to make Frodo stay there, long enough for Sam to look his fill, to examine Frodo's body by touch until he knew it by heart. But Frodo crawled back onto the bed, sprawling over Sam's body again, the pressure beginning to rouse Sam again. "Now," Frodo said, the word almost a plea.

Sam kissed his master, and touched him, and promised himself, as he lost his mind once more: some day, he'd look too. Some day, he'd show Mr. Frodo who was the beautiful one.

His hand closed around Frodo, who gasped and pressed closer, skin hot against Sam's, mouth open as he blindly kissed whatever of Sam he could reach.

But not today, Sam thought through the haze of pleasure as Frodo's hand caressed him. Not today.

end

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