1. Prologue - Hangover
When exactly had Samwise Gamgee grown up? When had the delightful young voice singing in the garden deepened to this low melodious timbre humming something now just outside his window? When had the familiar soft childish features been sculpted into this bronzed and mature countenance that glistened with sweat in the morning sun? And when had the slender shoulders of the youngster broadened into this muscled expanse that rippled beneath damp clinging muslin?
The water that splashed over his neck did not seem the least bit icy, as he knew it should on this spring morning. He could swear that it sizzled on his skin, to little effect. Perhaps he could try a quick dip in the Water before breakfast.
“Frodo, I am beginning to worry about you.”
With a startled intake of breath, Frodo nearly dropped the pitcher he had lifted to pour more water into the bowl. He swivelled anxiously and almost gasped with relief when he realized it was not the object of his rather steamy thoughts standing in the doorway.
Bilbo looked meaningfully at the tangle of sheets on his young cousin’s bed, the sweat-soaked nightshirt and the damp dishevelled hair of said young cousin, and frowned.
“Have you taken ill, lad?”
Frodo’s gaze flew to the bed, hoping there was no sign of the result of his fevered dreams for Bilbo to chuckle over. It was bad enough to be forced to hide the evidence of his prurience from the laundress, but Bilbo was no fool. There were times when Frodo thought the older hobbit could actually see through walls or read thoughts, but at this point he did not need any good-natured ribbing about this particular dilemma.
“Frodo?” Bilbo walked toward him and Frodo turned quickly back to pour the water into the basin, looking down and hoping Bilbo hadn’t seen more evidence for humorous speculation in the obvious state of his rebellious body. He took a deep shaky breath as he leaned to set the pitcher back on the bottom of the stand.
“No sir, just too much wine after supper last night, I think,” he quickly dissembled.
“Indeed.” Bilbo was hovering at his elbow. “I heard you up prowling about. Did you cart a bottle of old Winyards up on the hill and fall into the sky again?” There was an indulgent smile on the older hobbit’s face. Bilbo had always given Frodo the space that he coveted to be and to do pretty much as he pleased, but he still fussed over his young cousin at times like a broody mother hen.
And what would Bilbo think if he could read thoughts? Frodo wondered, for only the briefest of moments, if he should seek Bilbo’s counsel on this situation.
Oh, yes. That would be a delightful conversation. With Sam not even a tweenager and he himself coming of age next year. The issue of class differences had already made the youngest Gamgee miserable. The Gaffer had made it clear how he felt about Sam’s relationship with someone who was so far above Sam's station and Sam's sisters, well, they took every opportunity to tease and torment him about aspiring to befriend the heir to Bag End. And he knew that his own family would have things to say about a relationship with someone they saw only as a servant. Things he could not even think without a painful twinge. He grimaced, reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose. The headache that had been dogging him for days and nights was making itself known yet again.
“Yes, I suspected as much. Well, I’ll go make some of our remedy for too much of the Old Winyards, my boy. You just plan to take it easy today,” Bilbo gave him one last look and then padded out of the room, “You have to learn your limits, lad!” he said loudly as he went down the hall.
Frodo leaned on the washstand wearily. “Limits. Yes. Limits,” he muttered. “That’s a good word.”
What would Bilbo say? What could he say? He had stepped in to defend the friendship between the two, even encouraged it. But this? This might be beyond even Bilbo’s ability to accept. He would tell him to go take that icy dunk in the stream, or to go find a willing lass or lad of the right age and disposition, or -- better yet -- go off with him on yet another trip across the Shire.
It wasn’t that he didn’t treasure the wonderful times spent with his cousin in their beloved countryside, but of late, Bilbo’s agitated demeanour and almost manic behaviour had disrupted the leisurely pace they had so enjoyed.
Frodo knew Bilbo had heard him prowling around the smials last night because Bilbo himself had been up until all hours puttering about with maps in his study. It was worrisome: Bilbo referring constantly to one last grand journey to see the mountains again, dropping innumerable hints about Frodo not needing supervision any longer since he was nearly of age, staring off down the road with his hand in his waistcoat pocket, his eyes vacant and oblivious.
Frodo felt the headache slide from a twinge to a throb and wished, not for the first time, that he really had the excuse of having imbibed entirely too much of the Old Winyards. That melodious humming continued unabated under his window and he nearly groaned, pressing his hand to his chest reflexively.
Just when had Bag End's flaxen-haired gardener innocently planted the cool seed that had suddenly blossomed into exquisite flame beneath Frodo's breastbone? And when had Frodo allowed that aching fire to burn completely through the barriers of his own tenuously held tranquillity?
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This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.