Finally finished trimming the hedge, Sam wanders into Bag End. When he first began helping his old gaffer with the garden, he would never dare go into the house without permission, but now he knows that Frodo’s door is always open to him. He’s sure that still applies on weekends when he’s not technically employed. He still likes to do what he can, and the hedge really couldn’t wait two days. He wipes his feet politely on the mat and announces himself. He greets as he walks through to the pantry, “Good afternoon, Mr. Frodo! I’ve just finished with—” He cuts off and doesn’t make it through his statement.
Frodo turns towards him, eyes wide and lips parted. Clearly, he’s been caught by surprise. His white shirt is in his hands, the entirety of his chest bared for Sam’s roving eyes. Sam’s never seen Frodo shirtless before.
More importantly, Sam’s never seen Frodo’s bare back before. Now he knows why. He gapes, utterly bewildered, at the trim brown wings that arch out from his shoulder blades. They blanket Frodo’s slender body, framing him perfectly, feathers perfectly even and well groomed. They look like the wings of a bird, though obviously much taller, yet not quite as long. They shrink back the longer Sam looks at them, finally flattening against Frodo’s pale skin. But they don’t disappear completely. Sam’s never been so wholly shocked in all his life.
Frodo suddenly lurches to life. He quickly throws his shirt over his head and fastens up the last few buttons, ruffling his hair in the process and hiding the wings. He splutters as he does so, “Sam, I... I can explain it...” Except when he looks up again, he lets out a long breath and amends, “Well, no... I can’t really... but...” he doesn’t finish, just trails off.
Sam asks, still stunned, “Have... have you been cursed, Mr. Frodo...?” If he has, Sam will find the wizard that did it and punish them himself. But Frodo laughs lightly and shakes his head.
“No, Sam. I’m afraid I was born with them, although I haven’t the faintest idea why. I have asked Gandalf to remove them for me, but he said it would be too sad a thing.”
Sam might agree with that. He couldn’t imagine cutting off any part of Frodo, even if it’s a strange, unnatural part that shouldn’t be there. His mind is thoroughly boggled. Frodo chews his bottom lip, and when it becomes clear that Sam isn’t capable of any more words, Frodo asks him, “Please, Sam. Don’t tell anyone.”
Sam numbly nods. He already knows he can’t. And he doesn’t mind that—he’d keep any secret for Frodo. Frodo explains anyway, “It would go over terribly. Everyone already thinks I’m different, which is one thing, but I can’t imagine what they’d do if they really knew how much. Frankly, I’d rather them think the rumours of hidden gold are the strangest thing about me.”
Swallowing thickly, Sam says, “I won’t tell. I promise.” Frodo smiles in obvious relief, and Sam trips up, stupidly babbling, “It’s a shame though, if you ask me, which of course you didn’t, but it’s just that they’re so very... well, they’re quite lovely, aren’t they? Like something out of an Elven song!”
Frodo looks surprised again. Then he laughs, “Sam, my good fellow. You are a rare hobbit indeed.”
Only from Frodo would that be a compliment. Sam knows it is. He can feel his cheeks flushing. He sheepishly admits, “I might’ve not thought so if I found out Lotho or Ted could fly about. But on you, well... begging your pardon, Mr. Frodo, but on you, most things...” He trails off, because he’s already said too much. His mouth clamps up, his whole facing heating red. Frodo’s smile only grows.
He murmurs, “You’re terribly sweet, Sam.” He even reaches out to pat Sam’s arm, giving it a little squeeze. Sam’s chest constricts. He wouldn’t be surprised if he found out one day that Frodo was some sort of Elven divinity. He’s certainly beautiful enough, at least to Sam. He’s much too good for Hobbiton. Maybe someday he’ll fly away, though Sam very much hopes he can hitch a ride if that ever happens. Bagshot Row just wouldn’t be the same without Frodo.
When Frodo’s hand drops away, Sam longs for more contact. Maybe just to draw out the conversation, he asks, “Is it difficult to hide them away like that?”
“Difficult? No, not really.” Frodo shrugs his shoulders, glancing over them. “It’s uncomfortable to keep them down all the time, but I must, in case someone comes in. I suppose I was careless today, although if someone had to catch me, I am glad it was you.”
Sam absolutely glows. He promises, “You shan’t have to now that I’m on the case, Sir. I can guard the front while I’m working and make sure no one enters, so you can keep them nice and spread.”
Frodo lights up, his eyes crinkling with delight: even more beautiful than usual. He laughs, “Sam... I don’t know what to say. Thank you.” He even steps in and envelops Sam in a sudden hug, one that makes Sam quiver with contentment. He could quite happily bask in Frodo’s arms all day.
But Frodo’s already leaving. He weaves around Sam and heads into the entranceway, where he drags a large chest in front of the door. It effectively blocks it off, impractical but acceptable. Then he begins unfastening the buttons of his shirt. Sam watches, awestruck, as the fabric falls away, and the dark feathers arch out again. Frodo tilts his head back, sighing in clear pleasure. The wings flex once, then settle, fully spread.
Returning his attention to Sam, Frodo asks, “Would you like some tea?”
Sam squeaks, “Yes, Sir, very much.” He dearly hopes he gets to see those wings much longer, and that he never has to leave.