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lullenny
The First Line Challenge
Name: Lullenny

Title: The Goat from Bree

Challenge: Hobbit Smut First Line Challenge

Word Count: 5971

Rating: Rating of story (from rating table)

Pairing/s: Frodo/male OC

Other pairing/s: None. Well, except Frodo/mushroom, and maybe Frodo/goat, but only if you squint --it's unrequited anyhow.

Warning/s: m/m slash

Summary: "Frodo thought he had considered every eventuality, but he hadn't taken the goat into account."

Notes: Thanks to nestra and aussiepeach for catching typos.



*

Frodo thought he had considered every eventuality, but he hadn't taken the goat into account. It was the newest milch animal at Maggot's farm, a beast on the scale of his dogs, and if it lacked the ferocity of Demon, Mace, or Talon, it proved to be sassy, sneaky, and had a mouth as nimble as fingers. As Frodo slunk from ditch to hedge to hawthorn bush it followed him, sniffing at his untucked shirttail, an ungainly and obvious nuisance. Worse, it developed an instant liking for his fine linen smallclothes, catching the slip that showed above his breeches and tugging.

Hiding in the bush, Frodo whispered, "Let go." He twisted to push the great forehead away from his backside, but to poor effect. With its teeth firmly set in the band of his drawers, the goat pulled the cloth up from under his breeches painfully tight. Frodo swallowed a squeak and pushed instead at the ground to move his hips with the goat and relieve the pressure on his groin.

The goat apparently approved of the upward movement and raised its head. Struggling to remain balanced on his hands and feet, Frodo kicked, but lacked both aim and force, and the goat only pulled him higher. He heard Maggot approach, swearing and calling. Palms sinking into the loam, head down, Frodo hoped that Maggot would ignore the goat, and that the tangled hawthorn was tall enough to screen his bottom pointed to the Sun. Sweat trickled up his neck and fell off his nose.

"I'll find you, you rascal!" Maggot yelled. "I'll tan your hide!"

The goat began to back out of the dense brush, forcing Frodo to spider awkwardly on his fingertips and toes or lose his smallclothes the hard way. He cursed through his gritted teeth, beginning with rotten buggered goat and sputtering into the vilest expletives he could remember or invent.

"There's something in the hawthorn, Mr. Maggot!" That voice was close, and Frodo heard a remote dog begin to bay. Desperate, he shoved with his hands and sharply twisted his hips. Cloth tore, Frodo dropped, and the goat pranced back, disgruntled and baaing.

Folded small in the dirt Frodo held his breath as the hobbit drew near. He could see dusty, dark-furred feet through the thinner foliage near the ground. They stopped short, and then the hobbit said, "Oh, it's just Vixen. Come here, girl. What are you doing all tangled up in the bushes? You'll miss milking time, and then where would you be? Complaining to me like it's my fault, no doubt." Hobbit and goat feet walked out of Frodo's view, and he began breathing again.

He remained silent, curled tight while the Sun slowly moved higher, tracking by sound where Maggot, with his brothers, dogs and hired help, searched until finally the voices retreated out of hearing and birdsong resumed. Satisfied with his success Frodo sat up and pulled a bag full of mushrooms from his shirt, opened it, and plucked out the biggest, most succulent mushroom. It was white, firm, and slightly moist: a perfect, swelling globe, and Frodo's mouth watered as he looked at it. He pressed it to his lips, the flesh cool and soft to the touch, and his eyes fluttered closed as he dabbed at it with his tongue. He opened his mouth to take it in, then set his teeth to it, groaning a little as he bit. With small hums he ate in blind pleasure, opening his eyes only when he sucked the last bite from his fingertips.

A likely young fellow Frodo did not recognize was crouched in front of him, watching. "I thought there was more snugged down in here than old Vixen."

Frodo gasped, gagged, and then coughed, sending the last bit of mushroom flying to hit the strange hobbit's cheek before falling to the ground.

"Hold on, now," he said, and then smiled. He was missing a bottom tooth. "I ain't going to tell Mr. Maggot."

Frodo swallowed and resumed breathing. "You won't tell?"

"Where's the point in it? Them mushrooms ain't good to anyone but you after riding all morning in your sweated shirt." He nodded at the bag in Frodo's hand and chuckled. "And it ain't as if he can't spare a few."

"He sits on them like a dragon on gold," Frodo agreed.

"You'd think he was guarding his lily white daughter, but then, his daughter ain't a lily or white, so maybe he's got the right idea guarding the mushrooms instead."

Frodo nodded, amused; though only just come into her curves and very pretty, Maggot's daughter was as brown as his younger brothers who lived with him, and twice as mean. "I would rather have one of his mushrooms than his daughter any day."

The stranger blinked at that, and then tilted his head a little and looked at the bag in Frodo's hand. "You got that lot fair and square, but you have to know that I can't let you steal no more."

"Oh?" Frodo thought he saw respect and more than a hint of challenge in the other hobbit's expression, and he smiled. "Then perhaps you should know that I had no plans to ask your permission."

"I guess that's what I expected," he replied. His dark eyes crinkled at the corners from use, not age. "You've got a bit of a reputation round here."

"Do I?" Frodo warmed with satisfaction and fussed with his bag, drawing it tidily closed and patting it into his shirt once more.

"The worst threat in the Eastfarthing, or so says Mr. Maggot."

"Well, he isn't without his own resources," Frodo said.

"And you mean to keep trying 'em, don't you."

"I do." Frodo got his feet under him in preparation to leave.

"Then I guess it's up to me to stop you."

"You can try," said Frodo.

*

Frodo continued to harry Farmer Maggot's defenses the very next day. He waited until the late afternoon, when Maggot was known to enjoy at pint at the Golden Perch on Wednesdays while waiting for Mrs. Maggot to do some shopping in Stock. After the Maggots in their cart rolled away Frodo crept across the fields, down the lane, and across the yard toward the great, dark barn. From memory he knew flat trays stretched in the gloom inside offering ghostly white mushrooms blooming for those able to reach them without getting caught. Frodo thought of the new hobbit -- he remembered the challenge carved deep in the curlicue of his one-sided smile -- but it was the goat, Vixen, who discovered Frodo as he slipped out from behind an old waggon wheel leaning against the fence. She looked at him expectantly, as if waiting for a slip of apple.

He pushed her away. Though she was large as a Shire-pony, Frodo wasn't scared, but he was disconcerted that the creature could look him in the eye. And no matter its size the goat was hardly a dragon, but then, Farmer Maggot's mushrooms were hardly a mountain of gold, either, despite what imagined adventures might run through his head, rooted there by his favorite cousin, Bilbo. Frodo smiled at the goat, laughing inwardly at his own fancies and still wishing he could share them with Bilbo. Vixen began lipping his sleeve, but Frodo could not allow her to follow him into the barn and so pushed her again, harder. She bleated, a sudden strident burst that startled Frodo so much that he stumbled back and fell on his backside.

A hobbit rounded the corner of the barn: the lad from yesterday. Frodo looked wildly for concealment or escape, but he was yards away from anything handy. And then the hobbit was standing over him, hands on his hips.

"Look at you, heading straight to the barn, cheeky thing. I thought you'd have held back at least a few days before pestering us." He reached out a hand and pulled Frodo to his feet. "Did Vixen knock you down?"

"In a manner of speaking," said Frodo, brushing dirt from his clothes.

"Vixen wouldn't hurt a fly a'purpose, but she can be a terrible, clumsy brute." He caressed her droopy ears. "She forgets that Big folk and Little ain't the same size."

"She did me no harm; I am intact, fully sound, and more than able to be on my way -- no need to call Maggot." He began edging in the direction of the straightest line off Maggot's property.

"Well, I reckon I have caught you, but I ain't hardly about to chase you to the ferry." His smile eased Frodo's worry a little, and he stopped looking for the quickest escape. "I can be a reasonable hobbit about this."

"That is quite civil on your part. Thank you very much." Frodo bowed as gracefully as he could manage with yard dirt on his clothes. "Frodo Baggins, at your service."

"Rowan Mugwart, at yours." His bow was deeper, and he touched his brow and his breast with a quick, practiced movement. Frodo had been distracted at their first meeting, but he noticed again how Rowan's words came out more clipped than any Bucklander.

"Mugwart?" said Frodo. "What an curious name; I've never heard the like."

"There are more than enough of us in the hills of Bree," he replied sanguinely.

"Bree! That explains that," said Frodo. "I mean no disrespect."

"None taken. Just because you ain't heard of it don't mean it's rare, and that goes for both of us," said Rowan. "Can't say Baggins is a particularly common name neither, though I have heard it; Mr. Maggot made sure to tell me about you soon as I got here." He sunk his hands into his pockets and seemed to find Frodo's feet suddenly interesting. Frodo found his shy hesitancy oddly appealing, and when he next spoke his words softly blurred. "But I would have asked after you anyhow. There ain't many lads in Bree who walk past a pretty lass to go chasing after mushrooms. Uncle Hob was right about the Shire."

Frodo glanced at the tops of his feet, the thick hair dusty and unruly. He never brushed them as often as his many aunties would like, so it was hard to see what kept Rowan's attention. Half a step away Rowan's were dusty, too. The hair on them was particularly thick; it tapered neatly where foot met shapely ankle. Frodo looked up and up at every part of Rowan and stopped where his shirt lay open at his throat. The button hung by a few loose threads. "What in particular about the Shire does your uncle--?" he started to ask, but someone called from the farmhouse.

"Have you found the goat yet, Rowan?" A stout hobbit came round the corner of the barn: Maddox, Maggot's younger brother. His eyes widened, then narrowed, and he quickened his pace, rolling up his sleeves as he came. "Grab him, boy! It's that rowdy fool Baggins -- hold him fast for me, and I'll teach him a lesson."

For one brief moment Frodo watched Rowan consider him. Indecision flared and died quicker than a spark in his eyes, replaced by avid speculation that looked disconcertingly the same as a cat's as it considered a bird.

His face hot, Frodo ran.

*

After that, Rowan stood between Frodo and every mushroom on Maggot's land. When he did not, the goat, Vixen, did. Frodo tried to creep through the cornfield, but he soon heard Vixen shouldering aside the stalks loud as a mad oliphaunt. To avoid leaving a trail for the dogs Frodo tried wading up a streambed onto Maggot's back field but found Rowan, shirtless, sitting on a sunny rock and holding a pole, green suspenders on his bare shoulders. He flipped a cheerful wave at Frodo and dropped his loaded hook in the water. Frodo waved back before he abandoned his attempt to reach the barn, and left, aching a little and not knowing why.

Unlike Maggot's family and the other hired hands, who grew more discontented every time they saw him on the property, Rowan remained cordial; at each encounter, he drew Frodo into friendly conversation until one of the Maggots happened by and chased Frodo off, or his chores called him away. He talked about the goats his father raised and sold, trout fishing on Maggot's land, or the long miles between Bree and Buckland and his un-hobbit-like love for travel. One time he found Frodo hiding in the crook of a tree, climbed up and joined him. They sat jammed together giggling like the boys they were not so long ago. Rowan shared his buttered bread from Mrs. Maggot's kitchen, and Frodo shared the raspberries he had gathered along the road. Rowan took one into his mouth, made funny, elastic faces for a bit, and when he smiled, the berry was in the place of his missing front tooth, which made Frodo laugh nearly hard enough to fall. Frodo asked how he had lost the tooth, and Rowan said, "Bree-land gets some odd types come up the road sometimes. There was a Man thought he could pick on my friend and me, but he didn't count on being beat, seeing how he was bigger."

"But he got your tooth."

"He did at that," said Rowan, "but he had worst to show, given him by hobbits. He don't hold his head up none too high no more."

But just as he did each time they met, Rowan repeated how Frodo was not to have even a single mushroom. Rowan sounded regretful about that, as if disinclined to deny him, yet Frodo thought it best not to test his apparent sanguinity by pushing past him to take what he wanted. The restraint wore on him. After an afternoon spent hidden together in a great, dry culvert before Demon sniffed them out and sent Frodo running, Frodo let himself be drawn off the ferry into a pack of his little cousins from Brandy Hall; he taught them how to skip rocks into the river, remembering how that used to be enough even as he planned another raid on Maggot's farm. With every defeat, Frodo's subsequent attempts to get into the barn became more determined, but less effective. By the end of a fortnight, Frodo was languishing for even a bite of succulent white mushroom.

He devoted more time trying, and his Brandybuck relations noticed. Saradoc, the Master of Buckland and Frodo's guardian, mentioned it at the dinner table. "You'd best keep yourself to this side of the river, Frodo: you have been neglecting your chores; you even missed the post -- there was letter from Bilbo. But the worst thing is that Maggot has complained to me about your antics. If he should catch you, he as much said he would tan your backside." Saradoc spoke with annoyance and quiet concern mixed in equal measure. "If he does, that would save me the bother if you keep this up. I know you would hate for anything to mar your birthday with Bilbo. He wants to celebrate at Brandy Hall this year."

"Then I shan't get caught stealing mushrooms." At Saradoc's significant look, Frodo apologized and promised to meet his daily obligations. Frodo knew Saradoc would never beat him, but he also knew that Maggot, though not as powerful as the Master of Buckland, was as influential in his own way on his side of the Brandywine. He did not, however, promise to stay away.

Frodo left Buckland that night. The moon was little more than a sliver. The brown water of the Brandywine looked thicker in the light of a small lantern. It took many weary pulls on the rope to carry him across. He docked the ferry, wondering about his motivations and feeling melancholy as he handled the wet rope with the indifferent voice of the river filling his ears. He drew his hands along his thighs to dry the river water from them and walked on.

Rowan waited for him at the tall, white posts that marked the access to Bucklebury Ferry, a hobbit-shaped shadow sitting on the fence that bordered the lane. "I stop here sometimes when I'm running an errand for Mr. Maggot," he said. "I stand for just a minute or two to look across the river and think about the best way to go back to Bree after the harvest."

"You've been here far more than a minute or two tonight."

"That I have."

Frodo climbed the fence rails and sat next to Rowan. "How did you know I would come?"

"As it was, I didn't, not for sure," said Rowan, "but I walked by and saw your lantern coming over the river. It looked like a firefly, blinking between the waves. No one else but you or me would fool around the river at night, looking and hoping."

"Looking for what? Mushrooms?" Frodo meant to be amusing, but as soon as the words left him he knew they were not. He knew they were wrong.

"More like looking for something you want, but can't have." Rowan tilted his face to the stars. "Because even if there is no having, looking is all right, I reckoned."

"Of course it is," said Frodo, "but there's nothing wrong with having something, either, if you want it."

"Like stealing mushrooms?"

"The mushrooms want me to eat them," said Frodo, "as much as I want to oblige them."

"I ain't quite sure if my wanting is welcome, and it makes me shy to do more than look."

"What is it that you want?" Frodo did not pause for an answer. "You can't know what is welcome unless -- " The words were too thick with meaning to leave him easily, so he made them low enough to slip out. "I don't want mushrooms."

Rowan put his hand on the back of Frodo's neck and drew their open mouths together. Frodo kissed him the same way they often talked about taking a journey to someplace new. Rowan tasted like he had eaten bacon and mushrooms cooked with strange spices from beyond Bree. Frodo touched with his tongue the neat hole where Rowan's bottom tooth was missing. Frodo liked the gap in Rowan's smile; it made him look both boyish and the least bit dangerous. He liked better to explore it, and then reach past it to discover the rest of Rowan's mouth, his entire body working hard like climbing a new hill. Rowan clutched him, helping the labor. Frodo's breath came faster, and under Rowan's hands the river-damp on his skin warmed.

Rowan withdrew enough to say Frodo's name against his lips. He said more Frodo did not understand, words made indistinct with the Breeland accent and muffled by their efforts to continue the kiss until they were dizzy and nearly fell off the fence.

"I dreamt of this," said Rowan. He slid off the fence and faced Frodo, resting his hands on Frodo's bent knees.

"So did I," said Frodo, though he only realized it in that moment. He had dreamed the week before of fishing with Rowan, dressed as Frodo had seen him in the stream: shirtless, his suspenders loose on his shoulders, and then Frodo dived into languid, warm water, swum up from the depths with intense effort and pleasure to burst into white sunlight. He had woken sticky. "Where can we go?"

"I sleep in the loft over the barn."

They ran one after the other, Rowan leading. They did not touch. Not quite as tall as Frodo, he was broader, and so seemed taller in the dark, but Frodo was faster, and kept up, hesitating only when Rowan pushed back the great double doors to the barn, and they creaked.

Rowan took Frodo's elbow. "The dogs are in for the night."

"But what about Vixen?"

Rowan leaned close so Frodo could feel his breath stir his hair. "She'll stay hushed for me," he said, and Frodo's ears flared hot. Rowan brought a lantern carefully into the loft, where he hung it on a nail high above the great bales stacked round forming thick walls. There was a small wooden chest, a book resting on a broken crate, and a soft pallet of many blankets on a deep bed of loose straw. Frodo knelt upon it, testing the softness, and then flopped back. Straw dust exploded up, golden chaff in the lamplight, and joy pushed a laugh from Frodo.

"Ah, you are the best thing I've ever seen on my bed, nor ever will again, most like."

Frodo wiggled his shoulders and the straw crackled beneath him. "You must have partners lined up back in Bree. Lads and lasses."

Rowan settled alongside Frodo. "Lasses, aye; they line up right quick enough, I suppose -- nothing I take much notice in. Lads -- not so much. Shy about it, I think, like me."

Frodo kissed the odd reticence from Rowan. He peeled away Rowan's clothes, and cast off his own. The blankets were layered thick enough to keep the straw from poking them, but that was a dim realization to Frodo: he made himself dizzy on Rowan's mouth; he tasted Rowan's skin; and the reality was fuller than any dream.

Rowan rolled Frodo under him, kissing and licking, not shy at all, and everything he did inflated a great stifling heat in Frodo. A wet swipe of Rowan's tongue over his nipple made Frodo bite his lip; a searching kiss into Frodo's navel had him twisting his hands in Rowan's thick hair; and when he opened to take Frodo into his mouth it seemed Frodo would choke on too much air. He gasped and shook, and his heels scrabbled for purchase on Rowan's broad back.

*

He woke fully when Rowan sat up. "The sun is just rising," Rowan said.

Frodo rubbed his eyes and stretched. "Should I go?"

"I've got a small spell before it's time to start chores."

"I am famished," said Frodo. He squirmed into his shirt and underclothes. "Usually I don't even wake up until breakfast is ready. I think I smell it in my sleep."

"Might be you're smelling mushrooms. You're sitting over 'em right now."

"Do take note that I never once stole any in the night."

"You were too busy, but I'm just as happy you didn't go and take advantage of me."

"Not for your mushrooms, no," replied Frodo.

Rowan had to milk Vixen before she complained, and so they dressed and crept down the ladder. Rowan walked on to the front of the barn where the goat was kept, but Frodo paused to look in wonder upon what he had passed blindly by the night before: row upon row of low boxes rounded over with mushrooms. Many contained only frostings of white; others were overflowing with great, sultry mounds that made Frodo's mouth water. He was not tempted, though; he decided not to risk stirring trouble with Rowan's employer. He could hear him speaking cheerfully to the livestock and turned to join him, but a heavy hand landed on his shoulder.

"Frodo Baggins," said Farmer Maggot. His hand tightened painfully. "We have some unfinished business, you and I."

*

Maggot made him bend over the fence and used his belt on Frodo's bare back. A dozen ought to learn you, he said. He had dressed Rowan down severely for letting the rascal Baggins sneak right past, and now Rowan looked on, miserable, his feet twisting in the dirt while Maggot's brothers stood by making superior observations that the thief was getting just what he deserved, Brandybuck cousin or no. Frodo heard and saw it all until the belt hit the first time. The impact and pain forced a stifled grunt from him. He'd been switched before, and he figured Maggot knew his business well enough not to be vicious, but the lashes that landed on his back had months of frustration behind them. He bit his lip, silent for the remainder of his punishment as the sweat stood out and began to run down his face.

"You remember well this day when you think about crossing my land again," said Maggot. He threw Frodo's shirt at him; Frodo dropped it, and stooped carefully to pick it out of the dirt. Maggot whistled sharply, and his dogs came dashing into the yard, slavering. "Now you'd best start running and hope you find the ferry on this side of the river. The dogs are hungry." Maggot made some signal with his hand, and all three dogs rushed at Frodo, snarling and growling, their teeth white against their blood-red lolling tongues.

Frodo ran, terrified by the rending sound of their howls, and he didn't believe himself safe until he was on the ferry, halfway across the Brandywine. Only then did he think to put on his shirt, which ignited the pain of his whipping he had been too busy to notice before. He sagged to sitting on the rough wood boards, and watched tears dot his dusty lap while the river tossed him, indifferent to his pain as it always was.

*

Rowan met him in Buckland the next day. He did not come into Brandy Hall, but sent a note to Frodo, written in a large, careful hand, and Frodo came out to see him at the local inn.

"Does it hurt bad?" he asked.

"Not so much, no," said Frodo. "I'm sure it was harder to watch; by the end, my back was rather numb."

"I notice you ain't wearing suspenders."

"It just stings a bit, like I got too much sun. I'm sure I'll be fine in a day or two." Frodo shifted his weight on the bench. "I can make do without until then."

Rowan took his hands between his own. "I wish he hadn't caught you, Frodo."

"He did, though, and I am not going back. I'm more than half convinced his dogs would eat me if I did. I can manage without mushrooms." Frodo held Rowan's hands when he began to withdraw them. "But how often can you come to Buckland? I know you're kept busy most the day, but in the evenings, sometimes, perhaps? And on Friday, of course."

"You still want to see me?" Rowan frowned.

Frodo frowned, too, and let go Rowan's hands. "Don't you want to? Or --" Frodo's stomach twisted. "Did I get you into trouble with Maggot? He isn't going to sack you, is he?"

"No, not one bit of that," said Rowan. "I just though you -- I was surprised you came out to see me when I sent that note." He looked down at his empty hands. "It was my fault he caught you; I should have hustled you right out of there. I wasn't thinking clear, not at all."

"And I wasn't thinking at all, because my thoughts were all filled up with you." Frodo took Rowan's hands once more. "It was no one's fault."

Rowan smiled with his boyish teeth. "I'll come over the river to visit you as much as I can while the summer lasts."

"Yes, come as many nights as you can," said Frodo, "so we can make enough memories to carry me through until you come back to Buckland next year."

"Maggot said he wants to buy more of my father's animals; I could come back later this year. Yule maybe."

"That would be perfect! I'll be busy after harvest helping my cousin, but by November, I'll be free to do as I please," said Frodo. "Buckland isn't so far from Bree. We could visit often. Maybe I'll go to Bree and visit you."

After a decisive foray by Frodo into the larder at Brandy Hall for food and a few old blankets, they snuck off to a soft meadow to scheme and plan when they were not undressed and kissing, careful because of Frodo's back. He and Rowan were well-matched between the blankets, both in terms of previous experience as well as adventurous exploration. Frodo found he had courage enough to put the bread oil to good use, and Rowan had more than enough to meet his challenge and promise to return the favor -- once they rested sufficiently. He mumbled sleepy Bree-flavored things as they settled together after, sentiments sounding suspiciously romantic. Frodo's gratitude for Rowan filled him, though he could find no words to say in return. Instead, he watched clouds drift across the fattening moon, Rowan's head growing heavy with sleep on his shoulder.

In the morning, covered in dew, Frodo watched Rowan awaken. Continuing his thoughts from the night before he said, "I think it's going to be hard waiting for you to come back."

"I haven't even left yet," Rowan said through a yawn.

"But you will."

"And then I'll come back." He yawned again and scratched his chest. "And you'll be here, waiting."

Frodo had no idea where his doubts came from, and so banished them until Bilbo came to Buckland. Frodo had been born on the very same day, September 22, and every year since his parents died, Bilbo had invited Frodo to celebrate at Bag End. To have the party in Brandy Hall was unusual, and when Bilbo arrived two weeks before, Frodo learned why.

Having walked from Hobbiton, Bilbo complained loudly to Frodo about his tired feet, his empty belly, and the rigors of the road as soon as he walked in the door. "I love you dearly, you know, but it's a long way to come for a visit."

"You like walking." Frodo took his pack and hung his walking stick. "Almost as much as you like to complain."

"Ah, but I am getting ever so much older," he said, "and aren't old codgers like me supposed to like complaining more than any other hobby?"

"You're not old, and you never will be," said Frodo.

"What a nasty thing to say!" Bilbo snatched his pack from Frodo's hand. "I will have you know I have every intention of beating out the Old Took."

"I hardly meant it that way." Smiling wide, Frodo followed Bilbo to his usual guest room. "It just seems to me that you'll never change." They stopped at the door, and Bilbo looked at it significantly. Frodo quickly opened it and followed Bilbo inside.

Bilbo set his pack on the bed, and then sat next to it. "Maybe I want to change, Frodo. Maybe I need to."

"Uncle?"

"Oh, don't mind my fancies. I am just worn from the journey." He laid his finger along his nose. "Bumped into the Sackville-Bagginses on the way and didn't run for the hills. My mistake, and one I won't make again."

Frodo sat on the bed and laughed along with him. "It's so good to see you, Uncle Bilbo. And it will be a long visit this time. I'm glad; I always hate to see you go."

"I feel the same way," said Bilbo, leaning close confidentially for all they were alone in the room. He sat up and continued in his normal way. "Worse than that, I despise traveling between here and Buckland just to see my favorite relation." He glanced sidelong at Frodo. "I am more than ready to dispense with such nonsense. You had better come and live with me, Frodo my lad," said Bilbo, "and then we can celebrate our birthday-parties comfortably together."

Frodo's perfect delight lasted until the next day when he met Rowan running an errand for Maggot in Bucklebury, and suddenly the realization of his most cherished hidden dream was tainted. He told Rowan to meet him on the Buckland side of the ferry that night after supper. Frodo paced while he waited, and when the ferry gently bumped into the dock, he dashed onto the deck and hugged Rowan tight before he could say hello.

"Frodo, Frodo," Rowan said when he could. "What's wrong?" And Frodo told him, there, by the Brandywine River, that he would not be waiting when Rowan returned in the spring. How he had missed Hobbiton, where he had lived until his parents died. How much he yearned for someone to step fully into the empty place his parents had left, and how he had always wished Bilbo would be the one to do it.

As he finished, he wept. Rowan's warm arm slung round his shoulders tightened in comfort, and wrung a sharper grief from Frodo because his weeping was not in sorrow that he would miss Rowan, but for relief and joy that Bilbo had claimed him, and how he knew his love for Rowan would never be strong enough for him to sacrifice anything dear for it. Those tangled thoughts did not manifest to clearly in his mind or heart, but infused him regret because he knew whether or not it hurt Rowan, he would go with Bilbo, even without a goodbye if needed, and he had hoped he was a better hobbit than that. Frodo was honest, though, and in all earnestness he said, "I wish you lived closer. Could you stay in the Shire?"

Rowan shook his head. "My father needs me for the business. I was telling you how his partner up and moved to Archet; well, he's been training me to take his place, and I want to: I'll be traveling all through Bree-land, and sometimes here again, too, to buy and sell goats."

"I'm sorry; it was a silly thing to say." Frodo sat straighter, upright without Rowan's arm, and wiped his nose on his sleeve.

"It ain't silly," said Rowan, "but I can't help but think you might be making a mountain out of a molehill. Can't you ever visit Buckland again? And you know, I do like to travel. There could be some as far away as Hobbiton who might want to buy a great beast of a goat like Vixen."

"There could be," said Frodo.

"Then let's leave it to hope," said Rowan. "That might bear out more than we deserve."

They looked at each other for long moments in the gloaming. Rowan nodded, and then Frodo nodded, too. Rowan said, "We've got a fortnight left. I think we'd be the worst kind of fools not to make the most of it."

After that there was no more to say, and though he was pensive, Frodo slowly cheered. He and Rowan slipped into his room at Brandy Hall, barred the door and made the very best of the opportunity until, worn out, they slept sometime before dawn.

In his sleep vivid dreams came to Frodo. He dreamed of Bilbo; the old hobbit took a bottle of fine, old wine from Frodo's hands, turned away and disappeared. In another he saw a cradle with a golden-haired baby; his dream-self thought this must be the Thain's new son, but the cradle was in the kitchen at Bag End, and the baby was a girl.

In the last was Rowan, but Rowan was a gardener, not a goatherd, and he was dressed for his trip back to Bree, with cloak and pack and a walking stick. They kissed while standing in the center of Hobbiton's market, and Frodo was desperately aroused but inhibited by the hobbits milling about, doing their business, though none of the merchants or farmers or wives paid them the least attention. His teeth felt loose, and they slipped out from between his lips into Rowan's mouth, but as written words, not teeth: a string of words in Frodo's own script flowing into Rowan. When the kiss ended, Rowan began to speak, and those in the market stopped and listened to him, but Frodo was struck dumb.

The dreams disturbed him, but they faded as he woke to Rowan's real kisses that would live as honest memory, stronger than any dream or future sorrow.

*
26 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
claudia603 From: claudia603 Date: June 27th, 2004 05:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hi! I almost never read hobbit/hobbit slash, but, well, I was intrigued by the Bree thing. And I absolutely adored this fic. Absolutely adored it. I was riveted all the way through, it was hot, your OC was believable, and it had the saddest yet not sad ending. Thank you for posting!
lilybaggins From: lilybaggins Date: June 27th, 2004 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is hysterical, because *I* never read hobbit/hobbit either, but read it because of the Bree thing! Hi, Claudia! :)

This was lovely, Lullenny. I fell in love with your rascally Frodo, doing everything in his power to get the mushrooms... though we know he had ulterior motives.

And the ending was so sweet---enjoyed it greatly.
claudia603 From: claudia603 Date: June 27th, 2004 07:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Grrrate minds think alike...:-) hee hee
lullenny From: lullenny Date: June 28th, 2004 09:35 am (UTC) (Link)
So glad you enjoyed it -- thanks!!!
lullenny From: lullenny Date: June 28th, 2004 09:34 am (UTC) (Link)
I like the thought of Bree, too; it sounds sort of exotic after hanging around the Shire for so long.

Thank you sooo much for such very kind words!
lorie945 From: lorie945 Date: June 27th, 2004 06:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not sure it's fair to make me expect a funny, Fro vs. the Goat story, and instead give us a sweet OC and hot lovemaking and angst and Frodo's rescue and glimpses of future pain. Really.

Incredible story; thank you.
lullenny From: lullenny Date: June 28th, 2004 09:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, thanks very much!

I'm not sure it's fair to make me expect a funny, Fro vs. the Goat story,

Er, sorry 'bout that. My bad, since that story has already been written far better than I ever could: Teasel's "Frodo Hill". Go read it now for the hottest Frodo/goat action you'll ever see. Hee!
rubynye From: rubynye Date: June 27th, 2004 06:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
You write with such beautiful versimilitude. Humor and sadness and life. Rowan's so real I could expect him to walk off the computer screen.

Just beautiful.
lullenny From: lullenny Date: June 28th, 2004 09:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!! And I'm delighted you liked Rowan. ; )
abby_normal From: abby_normal Date: June 27th, 2004 08:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah, now this was a fic worth waiting for. A wonderful job you've done here. The entire story kept me completely enrapt and served as a lovely interpretation of two canon moments. Excellent work and the dreams at the end left me both chilled and warmed. Thank you so much for playing.
lullenny From: lullenny Date: June 28th, 2004 09:42 am (UTC) (Link)
I sure wish I'd managed to get it posted on time, darn it. But I'm thrilled you like it -- thank you!
malakhai From: malakhai Date: June 27th, 2004 08:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is an amazing, incredible story. The character of Rowan is very well done.

Frodo's dream at the end is what struck me....his words are the Red Book and everyone listens to Sam when he is the Mayor....and Frodo is gone....forgive me if I am wrong but this is how I interpreted it. This blew me away!
lullenny From: lullenny Date: June 28th, 2004 09:45 am (UTC) (Link)
this is how I interpreted it

That's what I love about reading stories -- everyone sees it differently. Yes, that is much what I had in mind, at the end. I'm so glad you liked it. Thanks!
inkpirate From: inkpirate Date: June 27th, 2004 09:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, that was *lovely*! On the surface, such a simple story, but you do so much with it so effortlessly, in your very own, unmistakable turn of phrase. The characters are so well realised, and there is a bittersweet, elegiac quality to the mood of the story, and a simplicity to the telling, that makes it sound almost as if this is Frodo himself remembering the irresponsible days of his youth! This is, to me, the pinnacle of challenge writing - turning out a whole, finished and self-contained story that could just as well not be the product of a challenge, yet is all the more impressive because it is. Fantastic.
lullenny From: lullenny Date: June 28th, 2004 09:46 am (UTC) (Link)
High praise -- thank you very much!
(Deleted comment)
lullenny From: lullenny Date: June 28th, 2004 09:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you ever so much. I value people's opinions of my writing and it always makes my day when people take the time to give it. Thank you very much for yours!!!
danachan From: danachan Date: June 29th, 2004 07:23 am (UTC) (Link)
I would just like to say that this story was fully worth waiting for, 'lenny. I mean, honestly, what a picture you painted us with Frodo and Rowan -- and, all right, the goat did have her part as well. *grin* But really -- such a believable OC, and the sad and the sweet and the hot and the guh.

All in all, am so in love. *nod*

Best line of the story goes to: "You'd think he was guarding his lily white daughter, but then, his daughter ain't a lily or white, so maybe he's got the right idea guarding the mushrooms instead."

*snickers*
lullenny From: lullenny Date: June 29th, 2004 08:31 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm thrilled you enjoyed it.

I've missed you online! Hope the move went well -- let's chat.
elanorgardner From: elanorgardner Date: June 30th, 2004 09:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes indeed, worth waiting for!

My favourite, being that I am in an angsty mood tonight - He sagged to sitting on the rough wood boards, and watched tears dot his dusty lap while the river tossed him, indifferent to his pain as it always was. A Frodo/Brandywine pairing of sorts here - in addition to the goat and the mushrooms. The lad has always had a love/hate relationship with that river.

Quite lovely. Enjoyed this perspective on the Maggot incident!

Thanks so much for participating!

EG
lullenny From: lullenny Date: July 1st, 2004 12:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you very much; I'm glad you liked it.
mariole From: mariole Date: July 1st, 2004 04:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Okay, who can resist a story about a goat? But the relationship that developed with Rowan was so sweet, and so honestly youthful, that you really had me hooked. The dream, where his words went into Rowan's (Sam's) mouth and left him mute, was extremely moving. Thanks so much for posting this.
lullenny From: lullenny Date: July 1st, 2004 10:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, goats are wonderful indeed; I'm glad you liked my story about a goat, and other things. Thank you!
singeaddams From: singeaddams Date: July 5th, 2004 11:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Aw, sweet story! Poor Rowan. This sort of begs for a 'reuniting' sequel in Bree when Frodo's on the run. Thanks, Lu!
lullenny From: lullenny Date: July 5th, 2004 02:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
A sequel? Oh, you flatter me (and that's okay! woot!) but heavens, no. Glad you liked -- thanks for saying so!!!

. . .though wouldn't things have been different if Rowan volunteered when Butterbur was looking for someone to deliver Gandalf's letter . . . la la la not listening!
From: strangerian Date: July 11th, 2004 09:22 pm (UTC) (Link)

better late than never

This was enjoyable as fanfic, and also enjoyable purely for the writing, the characters of Rowan and of Frodo as you show him, as a story on its own. Well-done OCs are harder, I think, than writing known characters -- different, certainly. I appreciate Rowan (and Vixen) even more as he's seamlessly integrated into the hobbits' setting. Thanks for another beautiful story!
lullenny From: lullenny Date: July 12th, 2004 06:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: better late than never

Feedback is never too late -- thank you!

I find writing original characters both easier and harder: easier because there are no restrictions -- one has total control -- and harder because . . . there are no restrictions, and one has total control, heh heh.
26 comments or Leave a comment