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Winter games

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“But… but… what are you doing exactly with these things?” Sam exclaimed, staring at Frodo’s feet. His master and lover had fur-lined boots on, but Sam’s stupefaction was not caused by the unusual foot gear. Sam too was wearing boots, as every sensible hobbit surely did on such a day.

No, the reason for Sam’s amazement was that Frodo had affixed to his boots what looked suspiciously like a pair of staves.

“They’re rather impressive, aren’t they?” Frodo said, looking appreciatively at the bizarre devices adorning his feet. “You told me yesterday you had no use for the broken barrel in the corner of the tool shed, so I took the liberty of salvaging the intact staves.” He raised his left leg and shook his foot in demonstration, almost poking Sam’s eye out in the process.

“I can see that,” Sam said, dodging swiftly to avoid the curved end of the stave and trying to sound more patient than he felt. “But what on Middle-earth are you planning to do with them? I thought you went to the tool shed to fetch the sledge!” Frodo shrugged.

“You can take the sledge if you want to, Sam, but today I’d like to try something a little more… active, shall we say. I don’t want to be sliding down the Hill sitting on a sledge like a bag of potatoes on a wheelbarrow! I want to really be in control of my trajectory, and I believe it’ll be easier if I’m the one equipped with runners instead of the sledge itself. What do you think ?” Sam inhaled deeply, pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger and silently counted to ten. Frodo looked so proud of his invention, and so lovely with his cheeks pink with cold and his eyes bluer than the sky, that Sam found himself reluctant to dampen his lover’s enthusiasm by expressing his sincere and entirely negative opinion.

“I think you’d better choose some nice gentle slope to try these things for the first time, me dear. You look rather… well, unsteady, and you’re just standing still,” he temporised.

“Nonsense! I’ll need a slope steep enough to make certain my system’s working. Besides, you’re wrong. I’m very steady. Look!” Frodo shuffled slowly through the snow covering Bag End garden and grinned victoriously as he reached the gate without mishap. Barely refraining from pointing out that the garden hardly qualified as a steep slope, Sam sighed.

“I see, I see… But if you try out your “system” down the Hill, all Hobbiton will see, too, and you’ll never hear the end of it.” Frodo’s smile turned mischievous.

“You’ll have to find another argument, Sam. I’ve never cared what people think, and you’re in a position to know, I believe,” he said, a challenging glint in his eyes, and Sam could not refute him. Frodo was right, of course. He had been the subject of endless gossiping ever since his arrival at Hobbiton, and it had never stopped him from doing exactly what he wanted to do, even when his relationship with his gardener had set tongues wagging frantically.

“Another argument? What about the fact you might break your neck? And to tell you the truth, I was rather looking forward to sledging down the Hill with you!” Sam exclaimed. Frodo’s expression softened; he shuffled back to Sam and wrapped his arms around him, a little awkwardly because he had some difficulty in not kicking Sam in the shins with the staves.

“I promise I’ll be careful, Sam. And don’t worry, I’m planning on using the sledge today. But I’d like to try my invention first, if you don’t mind. Let’s go, before the snow starts melting!”

****

There was not any danger of thawing any time soon, they noted as they were climbing up the Hill, Sam pulling the sledge and Frodo carrying the staves on his shoulder. Winter had been mild and rainy, but on the day after Yule the temperature had dropped suddenly and the snow had begun to fall. It had been snowing continuously for two days, but now the sun was shining gloriously over a Shire Sam barely recognized. Roads, fields, trees, everything was covered in a thick mantle of immaculate whiteness, the familiar landscape transformed as if by magic into a glittering elvish land. Despite the sun, it was biting cold, and a thin layer of ice gave the snow an almost blinding sparkle.

The neighbourhood had not been discouraged by the inclement temperature, though, and there was a crowd of hobbits of all ages on the Hill, muffled up in brightly coloured coats, hats and scarves and equipped with sledges. Jokes and encouragements resonated loudly through the chilly air, and there was an unusual atmosphere of excitement and cheerful confusion as a steady stream of hobbits sledged down the Hill and climbed back up as fast as their legs could carry them. Sam and Frodo narrowly escaped being knocked over by a sledge steered vigorously, but a trifle haphazardly, by Window Rumble; she was whooping in joy, but her passenger –who, to Sam and Frodo's utter astonishment, turned out to be Sam’s Gaffer- was as green as his hat and clutched her ample middle tightly, eyes shut and an expression of dread on his face.

Sam and Frodo exchanged a startled look and burst out laughing as the surprising apparition kept charging down the Hill at breakneck speed.

“Well, that snowfall has weird side effects,” Frodo chuckled.

“You’ve said it!” Sam blurted out, trying not to stare too openly at Frodo’s equipment and failing, as Frodo’s knowing smile proved it. Steadying the staves on his shoulder, he continued climbing, and Sam heard him muttering something about timorous Gamgees under his breath. Piqued, Sam ran after him, the sledge bouncing in his wake. He caught up with Frodo and was about to mention the pigheaded Bagginses by way of counter-attack when he was interrupted by another near collision with a wayward sledge, and started wondering whether Frodo might possibly be not entirely wrong about the need to be in control of one's trajectory when sledging.

So he bit his tongue and kept trudging through the snow behind Frodo, hoping he would not have to fetch the healer before the end of the afternoon. As much as he liked Master Banks, holding Frodo's hand while the old doctor was patching Sam's reckless lover up was not the way he had planned to spend the rest of the day.

****

When they reached the top of the Hill, they were greeted by Fatty Bolger and Folco Boffin, a couple of snowballs, and some puzzled looks directed at Frodo's equipment. Ignoring his friends' playful inquiries about his mental health, Frodo fastened the staves to his boots with leather straps and began hopping clumsily toward the slope.

“He looks like a duck...What does he think he's doing, exactly?” Fatty whispered in Sam's ear, sounding slightly worried. Sam sighed.

“He wants to be in control of his trajectory, and he's convinced it's going to be easier that way,” he answered, hoping he did not sound as dubitative as he felt.

“Are you sure Cousin Frodo hasn't drained that barrel before demolishing it, Sam? I can't wait to see him trying to control his feet with those things attached to them,” Folco guffawed. At these words, a sudden surge of fierce loyalty to his lover ran through Sam. Nobody but Sam Gamgee was allowed to criticise Frodo Baggins! He was ready to give Folco a piece of his mind when an exclamation from Fatty warned him that Frodo had just started sliding down the slope.

Amazingly enough, Frodo managed to stay vertical for a good furlong, and he probably would have been able to cover another one if his feet had not encountered a very inconveniently situated bump. Sam bit back a cry of terror as he saw Frodo take off and execute a surprisingly graceful parabola before crashing inelegantly into a huge snowdrift, limbs and staves entangled.

Horrified, Sam ran to Frodo, followed close by Fatty and Folco. The young Boffin seemed unable to stop laughing, and Sam would have gladly strangled him. His heart was thumping wildly and despite the cold his hands were damp with sweat, but his dread proved to be unjustified. Frodo had gotten back on his feet -or rather on his staves- before Sam had even reached him, and he was wearing a self-satisfied smile that Sam found both reassuring and alarming.

“Did you see that, Sam?” Frodo cried, brushing the snow off his coat and breeches and adjusting his hat, which had slipped and was hiding his left eye. “It worked like a charm!”

“But... but... It didn't work at all, you fell!” Sam exclaimed with incredulity. Frodo shrugged and bent down to undo the straps.

“Of course I fell, I expected as much. I'm not hurt, so there's no reason to be upset. I'll just have to avoid that bump in the future, and maybe I need to modify my position a little... I've got the feeling I was a little too stiff,” he mused, straightening up and balancing the staves on his shoulder.

“Stiff as a board!” Folco chortled gleefully, which earned him a dark look from Sam. “It was very funny to watch, I must say, and I'm looking forward to witnessing your next attempts, Frodo. It's a lot more entertaining than sledging!”.

“Glad to be of service,” Frodo laughed, bowing to his cousin, then to the small crowd of curious hobbits who had gathered around them and were looking at Frodo with wide eyes. It seemed he had already got an audience, and Sam's shoulders slumped in discouragement. By the evening Frodo would be the tale of Hobbiton, and there was nothing Sam could do about it. He had the distinct feeling an army of Orcs would not have been able to stop Frodo from experimenting again with his invention. He would surely not be discouraged by a handful of gossips.

****
Frodo spent the next hours trying to find a position allowing him to slide on the staves without falling, which implied a lot of spectacular but thankfully painless tumbles, while Sam watched over him, forlornly perched on the sledge he had been looking forward to sharing with Frodo and did not feel like using alone. His hands and feet were getting colder by the minute, and his nose was running so much that he was beginning to fear it would end up adorned with a stalactite at the end of the day, but he still managed to find a smile somewhere and cheer every time Frodo succeeded in not falling for more than two minutes. Despite himself Sam had to admit he was quite impressed with such display of Baggins stubbornness, even if it deprived him of the pleasure of sledging with Frodo in his arms.

By the end of the afternoon, Frodo had reached his goal: he was able to stay on his feet and managed to have some control over his trajectory more often than not, although he was not exactly graceful. He had quickly realised that he would be better off attacking the slope diagonally, and keep his balance more efficiently if he bent his knees and leaned slightly forward. He had even managed to find a way to take a bend, and he spent the last half-hour before teatime zigzagging down the slope, slow but steady, under the admiring eyes of the half-dozen tweens that was all that remained of the audience; the less resistant onlookers, Folco and Fatty among them, had retreated to their respective home a long time ago, defeated by hunger and cold.

The sun was setting when Frodo finally rejoined Sam. He flopped down on the sledge with a happy but tired sigh and began removing the staves with some difficulty; Sam could see his lover's fingers were numb with cold despite his gloves, and the straps were frozen stiff.

“Well, I believe you were right, then,” Sam conceded after a moment's silence. Frodo straightened up, beaming at him.

“I was, wasn't I? And I had more fun that I thought. You should try it!” he said, laughing at Sam's horrified expression. “But not just now, though. I'm famished and frozen to the marrow. I've got snow everywhere, and I need a hot chocolate and a bath. What about you?”

“I think there's nothing in Middle-earth I'd like more than a chocolate and a bath right now,” Sam said fervently, rubbing his hands together. He paused for an instant, then asked with some trepidation:

“I know you're cold, and so am I, but... would you like to sledge down the Hill with me before we go home? Just this once?” Frodo sobered immediately.

“Of course I'd like to, Sam. I'm sorry I've been so selfish today. I just didn't realise it was getting so late,” he answered guiltily, wrapping his arms around Sam's waist. Sam threw a cautious look around and, relieved to see that the Hill was now deserted, returned the embrace, happy that they were alone at last and that he did not need to share Frodo's attention with half the population of Hobbiton and a couple of staves.

Frodo smelled of wooden smoke and damp wool, and the setting sun painted his fair skin with gold and gave the curls sticking out of his blue hat a rich coppery sheen. He felt marvellous in Sam's arms, solid and surprisingly warm despite his sodden clothes, and Sam began to think that maybe the day would end on a happy note after all. Frodo snuggled up to him and cold lips brushed Sam's mouth. Yes, things were definitely looking up.

****

A few hours later, the disappointment of the afternoon was nothing but a distant memory. The journey on the sledge, albeit short, had been truly magical, and Sam was certain he would never forget that exhilarating slide through the snow, under a clear sky sumptuously tinted with rose and purple, Frodo cuddled up in Sam's arms and laughing delightedly. The hot chocolate had been sipped as they were sitting cross-legged in front of a roaring fire in Bag End parlour, the contrast between the cold outside and the warmth inside making them feel pleasantly drowsy. A luxurious bath had followed the chocolate, an improvised but delicious supper had followed the bath, and now they were ready to go to bed.

Sam went into the bedroom to turn the bedclothes down while Frodo blew out the candles and banked the fires in the kitchen and the parlour and was putting his nightshirt on when he heard Frodo shuffle into the bedroom, groaning softly. Sam emerged from the voluminous garment in time to see Frodo sit down stiffly on the bed, obviously trying not to bend his knees.

“I never knew I had so many muscles in my legs!” he moaned, wincing and rubbing his thighs.

“Well, you used them in a rather unusual fashion today, it's quite normal they're complaining, I reckon,” Sam said reasonably. “I'll give you a good rub-down, if you think it won't be too painful.” Frodo's strained expression lightened up.

“I'd like that very much, Sam, thank you,” he answered, smiling gratefully.

“Don't move then, I'll fetch the liniment!”

A few moments later Sam was back in the bedroom with the bottle and a clean towel. Frodo managed to remove his waistcoat and shirt by himself, but he was so stiff and aching that Sam had to help him take off his stocking, breeches and small clothes and lie down on the bed. Sam knelt down between Frodo's legs and opened the bottle; after pouring some liniment into his palm, he warmed the oily liquid between his hands for a moment then set to work.

He began with Frodo's calves, massaging them carefully at first, then with more strength when Frodo's quasi-ecstatic oh yes Sam! Just like that! told him his efforts were crowned with success. He gave Frodo's thighs the same treatment, kneading them and digging his fingers repeatedly into the abused muscles for several minutes. He was so intent on his task that it took him a little time to realise that the quality of Frodo's moans had somewhat changed, and that the musky scent of arousal was starting to mingle with the pungent smell of liniment. Clearly, his working hard at relaxing Frodo's leg muscles had a rather stimulating effect on another set of muscles, as Sam noticed as he raised his head.

He was greeted by the lovely sight of Frodo's flushed and very hard cock a couple inches away from his face, and his instinctive reaction was to reach for it. Then he remembered his hands were covered in liniment and Frodo was not likely to enjoy having his most tender parts coated in an irritant substance that smelled like turpentine. Not knowing exactly what to do, he glanced up at Frodo's face and their gaze met.

There was not mistaking the heat and need visible in those half-closed eyes, and Sam did not hesitate any longer. Without taking his eyes off Frodo's face, he bent his head forward and slowly painted a wet trail on Frodo's cock with the tip of his tongue, eliciting a whimper and a breathless Oh please Sam don't tease! that made his own shaft harden almost instantly. It felt hot and heavy between his thighs, but he ignored it, favouring the one he had in his mouth instead.

Yielding to Frodo's plea, Sam did not tease. He alternated sucking energetically at the head with taking Frodo's whole cock in his mouth, relishing the silky feel and sweet taste of him on his tongue. The sounds Frodo was making were another treat, heated moans and soft gasps that seemed to travel straight from Sam's ears to his shaft, and more often than not made a detour through his heart. Finally Sam felt strong fingers grip his head, pulling his hair, and Frodo's hips bucked jerkily as a warm gush of bitter-sweet seed filled Sam's mouth.

He was expecting Frodo's exultant cry as his whole body tensed in pleasure, but the howl of pain that followed took Sam by surprise.

“Ow! My poor legs!” Frodo gasped, dislodging Sam and clutching his thighs. Then he collapsed back and lay boneless, eyes closed, his chest heaving and his legs trembling uncontrollably, so overwhelmed with pain and pleasure that he had to make several attempts before he could speak audibly again.

“...'M fine, Sam... Don't worry, I'll take care of you soon, I promise... Just need a minute...” he exhaled weakly, and Sam sighed in relief. He cursorily wiped his hands on the towel and lay down, gathering Frodo in his arms. His neglected cock pressed into Frodo's hip, but Sam decided it could wait. Comforting Frodo was more important than getting pleasure from him right now.

After a little while, Sam felt Frodo shift and sigh deeply against his neck.

“Sam...”

“Yes, love?”

“I... I'd like to apologise again for my behaviour this afternoon. It was very thoughtless of me. You're always so good to me, and I... Well, do you forgive me?”

Sam took Frodo's face in his hands and smoothed the furrowed brow with a kiss.

“There's nothing to forgive, and you know it, me dear. Besides, I rather like it when you get all enthusiastic about something, even if it's a bit frightening sometimes, or downright silly, like sliding down the Hill on staves when you've got a sledge in working order,” he answered with a wink. His mouth travelled down and brushed Frodo's.

“Now, I believe you said something about taking care of me...”

He felt Frodo's lips curl in a smile, and as nimble fingers began tracing patterns down his belly, then lower, reawakening his desire, Sam let himself go. No matter the strange place where his lover's next flight of fancy would take them, Sam knew that Frodo would make sure they reached the destination together.